Gaming is always seen as the new frontier for telling stories. The main thing that sets it apart is the interactivity and the emotional investment of the characters. While film can make us care for a characters, and some books can have a level of interactivity (see “The Unfortunates” by B.S. Johnson, where you can read the chapters in any order), gaming is purpose built for those telling a story where we feel just as invested as the characters (as they are our avatars), and we each have our own story from the different choices presented to us.
Narrative and stories have always been in the game industry, even back when that story was “Save the Princess”. But with shinier graphics allowing for full facial mapping and developers wanting to tell deeper, emotion-filled stories, it’s an exciting time to be a gamer. I’ve always been drawn to the unique stories gaming provides; I’m definitely a story over graphics kind of player, and I’ve bought games that are sometimes over two generations old, just because of the story. And as a game maker myself, I always start with a story and create the game around that.
I wanted to do something a bit different from a simple list of the “best story games” or “best quotes in games” because we’ve all seen those lists before. Instead, I wanted to do best dialogue sequences, because sometimes there are games that are terrible aside from one or two moments of eloquent dialogue. The idea is to go past one character speaking and to have two or more characters having a conversation.
These are in no particular order, but I’ll keep it to five.
- Connor Meets Haytham from Assassin’s Creed III
This is one of those “not-that-good-of-a-game” examples that I mentioned, but the dialogue between the father and son duo of Haytham and Connor Kenway makes what was a slog of a game just that little more bearable.
Connor Kenway was the worst protagonist of an Assassin’s Creed game, while Haytham (for the brief time we played as him) was one of the best. After faffing about for a good third of the game, the newly minted Assassin meets the Grand Templar Master. Tensions run high due to the differing ideologies and the absent parenting. The two form a truce, leading to an interesting conversation on whether the two opposing tribes can work together. And having Haytham the charisma machine bounce of Connor’s steely exterior never fails to bring a smile to my face.
- Ezio and Sofia’s Walk to Masyaf Castle from Assassin’s Creed Revelations
I promise this whole list won’t be Assassin’s Creed games, but I’ve been on a bit of a binge of the series and it’s sometimes easy to forget the excellent craftsmanship that created one of the most saturated series in gaming history.
Revelations saw the conclusion of Ezio Auditore’s role as the protagonist of the series, which cemented him as one of the best original characters of the last generation. While AC2’s Ezio had some playful banter, and Brotherhood’s Ezio’s Cristina Memories brought a tear to my eye, it’s Ezio’s blossoming romance with Sofia Sartor that takes the crown.
The duo’s walk to the now abandoned Masyaf Castle is catharsis incarnate. I got emotional because I was a die-hard AC1 fan, so seeing my favourite Assassin return to where the series started was a big deal. But the dialogue between the couple makes the scene stand out.
Ezio breaks down the Creed and its mantra for Sofia, hinting that with old age, Ezio has had time to think on his time as an Assassin and the idyllic life that was taken from him at such a young age. Ezio’s monologue to Desmond that finishes the Masyaf scene is also a highlight, but as it is only Ezio talking, it is disqualified from this list.
(The dialogue is 1:25-5:08).
- Sam Fisher and Anna Grimsdottir discuss their personal history in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory.
I promise this won’t be a list of Ubisoft games either, but while the other two dialogues on this list have been central to the story, this is some fun, punchy lines written to make the player have a bit of a chuckle.
On a mission to break into a Panamanian bank, secret agent Sam Fisher tells handler Anna Grimsdottir that he has visited this bank once before. During his early career as a SEAL, Sam raided the bank to secure and confiscate money connected to drug trafficking.
Sam reminisces on old memories, while Grim mentions that the report makes it sounds like Sam was on vacation. Fisher replies with yes, because the rest of the year he was sleeping in a ditch in the middle of the desert in the Gulf War. It’s a funny throwaway line, but then Grim responds that her year wasn’t that good either. Sam asks for her why, to which she replies, “I was in 10th grade”.
The scene continues, with Sam rappelling down into the bank. Grim notifies him to a power surge, indicating that the bank’s laser grid system has come online. Sam and Grim then discuss whether lasers are more of a 70s spy thing or a 90s invention, leading Sam to chastise Grim for making him feel old.
(Dialogue is 1:12-2:17).
- Joanna Dark and the President of the United States/Trent Easton and Mr. Blonde from Perfect Dark.
The semi-pseudo-sequel to Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64, Perfect Dark is often forgotten due to its better-known sibling.
With the shackles of James Bond restricting them no longer, Rare went on to make a game of their liking, with a female lead and full of X Files-esque conspiracies and interplanetary wars.
The scene here takes place at the end of the Alaskan section of the game. Joanna Dark has saved the US President from sinister dealings from rogue elements of the NSA, now aligned with mysterious blonde-haired men in white coats. What makes this scene so great is the introduction of the Skedar; the main antagonists of the game. We’ve already learnt about aliens in a previous mission, but the Skedar are a totally different breed of E.T.s to the friendly Maians.
Joanna muses, “Trent has a lot to answer for, but I don’t think we’ll find him now.” (my favourite line of the entire game). Then we cut to Mr Blonde morphing into his Skedar form, making short work of their “flawed” human contact, Trent Easton. The dialogue is delightfully hammy, but something about the delivery, along with the tonal whiplash from light and jokey to serious sci-fi and murder makes the scene work.
(Dialogue is 30:36-31:55)
- Cole Phelps Interrogating Grosvenor McCaffrey in L.A. Noire.
I know I said these weren’t in any order, but this scene is my favourite dialogue of all time.
This scene is during the penultimate case on the Homicide Desk of L.A. Noire. We’ve got two suspects, each having their own means and motives for killing the victim, a film studio secretary. One is the victim’s pseudo-boyfriend, who is breaking down in tears at the thought that he might have killed her (he was drunk on the night in question so can’t remember if he did it). The other is a smug neighbour, Grosvenor McCaffrey, who was verbally abusive and threatening towards her.
Throughout the interrogation, Grosvenor is a slippery suspect. At first he denies any involvement, then confesses to helping the other suspect dispose of any evidence. There isn’t any concrete evidence that can pin him to the crime. You leave the interrogation and notice the phone icon on your mini map. Once you find a receiver, Cole asks R&I for any previous convictions for McCaffrey. R&I give you his wrap sheet; McCaffrey was dishonourably discharged from the military for beating women.
With this evidence in your hip pocket, you return to the interrogation room. You ask him about his time in the war, and Grosvenor waffles on about the things he’s seen. You know he’s lying, and when you press him on it he tells you to prove it. You choose the recently divulged information…and McCaffrey goes off the rail.
Just watch the scene, the dialogue is great, but the delivery seals it. And McCaffrey’s final line of “And she got what was coming to her,” gives you enough to put him away for good. Catching criminals has never been so satisfying.
I’ll round out with some honourable mentions. I know I bang out about Remember Me a lot, but the scene where Nilin bumps into a shopping robot has a nice back and forth, especially in French (3:53-4:14). Another Splinter Cell scene comes to mind, this time from Conviction. Near the finale of the game, when Sam learns the truth about his daughter’s death, it is a high point of not just the game, but also the whole series. I already mentioned Ezio’s monologue, but another is Rak’s taunting in 007 Bloodstone. I know it’s a monologue and therefore doesn’t count, but just listen to this guy, (0:07, 9:56, 11:48, 12:07, 12:46, 13:47, 15:37 and 19:32), I absolutely love it.
Do you have any favourite moments of dialogue from games? Have I missed out any that should have been featured? Place you ideas in the comments.
Banner Photo Source: lanoirewikia.com.