Boss Rush Banter: Do You Prefer Linear Stories in Games or Decisions and Multiple Endings?

Due to their interactive nature, video games are able to explore different forms of storytelling such as branching dialogue and multiple endings. Even in more linear games, the agency that a player has can allow for more immersion. In some games without a story, such as Minecraft, players can create their own narratives and characters. Despite this wide variety of options, many games still opt for a traditional linear story experience as it allows the creators to ensure the story is coherent. As a player, do you prefer linear stories in games or do you like to make choices that result in one of many different possible endings?

Many video games take a traditional storytelling approach, with a straightforward linear narrative that the player experiences in small segments between gameplay portions. There are several reasons that this is a popular choice. Many players enjoy this approach, and it allows the developers to carefully craft one story that, ideally, makes sense and has good pacing. While in theory multiple endings and branching stories are appealing, it can be hard to have all of the possibilities feel satisfying or well crafted with the same beginning. When a player gets an ending that is one of many, they can be left with the feeling that they didn’t get the “true” ending. For this reason, many gamers prefer one well crafted narrative to branching choices. 

A character in Undertale asking if the player protagonist likes anime. IMAGE CREDIT: Toby Fox / Undertale

However, for some players, the ability to select dialogue options, make choices that have an impact, and influence the outcome of the story is a big draw. In fact, it’s one of the more unique possible offerings that video games provide. Given interactivity and player agency, many different types of games, including open world RPGs, visual novels, and more allow a player to select their character and make other choices that influence the story and endings. While games may not have completely mastered this interactivity to perfection yet, without experimenting and pushing branching narratives forward, there can be no progress to make games that are more sophisticated in this way. For some players, if they want to just experience a simple story, they could watch a show or read a book. They want to engage with, and play, a game where they can influence their character and the broader world to see what the final results are based on their choices.

The character creation screen in Baldur’s Gate 3. IMAGE CREDIT: Larian Studios

As for me, I believe that choices and multiple endings are a lot of fun, and that while they may not always be as well crafted as a singular story, without the industry trying different things and exploring different ways for players to influence a narrative or experience, games won’t fully push the boundaries of storytelling in the medium. That said, many of my favorite games are linear experiences, showing the strength of that traditional approach.

How about you? Do you prefer a tight, controlled narrative experience or do you like to make decisions and discover where it takes you in a game? Let us know in the comments below or join the Boss Rush Discord and be a part of the discussion there.

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The Boss Rush Podcast is the flagship podcast of Boss Rush Media and The Boss Rush Network. Each week, Corey, LeRon, Stephanie, Edward, and their friends from around the internet come together to talk their week in games, entertainment, and more while also bringing topics for conversation, answer listener and community questions, and cover major news and events happening in the video game industry. Watch The Boss Rush Podcast live on Wednesday Nights on Twitch at 8:30PM ET / 5:30PM PT or on Monday mornings at 7AM ET on YouTube and podcast services everywhere. Thanks for listening! You can also get this episode one week early on Patreon.

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