Boss Rush Banter: Should Video Game Franchises Use Multi-Game Narratives?

Storytelling is a popular attribute in many video games.

There is no shortage of fantastic story arcs told through games, but with great stories comes a balancing act.

If franchises embrace a story that extends past a single game, they start to run the risk of alienating newcomers while rewarding new longtime fans. This approach can become hard to follow and may make it difficult to jump into a franchise.

On the other hand, longtime fans become more devoted to a series, potentially making up for any lost players.

This approach isn’t always common, but it is there in gaming. So, should video game franchises utilize multi-game narratives?

This question pops up because Trails Into Reverie is set to release in a few days, adding to its long-running Trails series with an epilogue to several arcs. What makes this series so unique is all titles are connected and players should play all of the games to fully grasp the story.

This is really a different approach as other franchises such as The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Tales of opt for a more standalone approach. Sure, there are sequels at times in these franchises, but each one does a good job at keeping them to a minimum.

While Final Fantasy largely embraces the standalone concept, it does have a few sequels such as the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. (Image Credit: Square Enix via The Gamer)

The Trails series, on the other hand, unapologetically embraces its long-form narrative despite the risk of alienating newcomers. The payoff, however, is a rich world that is meticulously crafted and fleshed out. This is unique in gaming.

A common complaint in video games is that some titles don’t build out their worlds enough or have skinflint lore. Sometimes, that’s difficult to do in standalone games.

Other games have embraced the idea of keeping the world the same while minimizing connecting story beats so players can enjoy a fleshed out world without playing numerous games.

Looking at both approaches, both have their pros and cons. I’ve always had an interest in the Trails series but every time, I’m intimidated with the sheer amount I have to play to understand the story.

That said, there are times when I’d love to return to a specific world or characters. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is my favorite in the franchise and I’d love to see characters and settings from the game return.

But what about you? Should video game franchises embrace a multi-game narrative similar to the Trails series? Do you prefer the standalone approach with minimal sequels? Let us know in the comments below or head over to our Discord channel to join the conversation.

Featured Image: Nihon Falcom (via Steam)

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2 thoughts on “Boss Rush Banter: Should Video Game Franchises Use Multi-Game Narratives?

  1. I love it when it’s done well, but even a single bad (or even weak!) entry in a multi-game story can be disastrous. Yakuza 6 only exists in the form it does because executives demanded another game starring the long-time protagonist Kiryu, and the team scrambled to figure out how to involve him in another plot after 5 conclusively ended his story. Because of that one game in the series, they’ve spent three games gluing things back together just so they can send Kiryu off into the sunset again.

    On the other hand, when it works it’s beautiful. The Colorgrave team has been doing this with their games and it’s fantastic.

  2. I loved Trails of Cold Steel II, but III and IV felt a bit like misfires for me (especially IV. The amount of filler and open season approach to the romance options was insufferable). Particularly, I think the Crossbell games suffered by the weird localization decisions to bring the Cold Steel games over first despite them happening in tandem with/after the Crossbell arc. And unless you played the Japanese or fan translations of Crossbell before those games were only recently localized AFTER the Cold Steel series already finished up, it meant you were missing a huge chunk of the story.

    I really admire the Trails approach to storytelling and its interconnectivity, but as time has gone on, it makes the series harder and harder for newcomers to engage with. At least with the MCU those movies are 2-3 hours long, so while it will take time to catch up, it’s not untenable (and if you skip some of the non-essential films, even better). The Trails games being 120+ hours of content I think is a hard sell. Here, play this game series where each one is 100+ hours and you really need to play almost all of them to appreciate the story and characters. That’s SO much time to invest in a video game series! I don’t know if I’m super excited for Reverie, but I’m sure I’ll get around to playing it.

    Hah, sorry for this long comment. But I have some strong opinions about the Trails franchise!

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