Raidant Historia was unique in that it was a branching storyline game that let you use time-travel to experience all of the branches at once. Early on, you had to make a serious decision that would uncontrollably change the future. This would split the timeline into two, and only by harnessing the power to travel between these two timelines were you able to change the future. Allies in one timeline could be enemies in another. Using this knowledge, you were able to unravel a giant conspiracy that threatened to undo history itself.
As hilarious as it is to make fun of Shenmue ("Have you seen any sailors around here? I'm looking for some sailors."), this game sure knew how to do a branching storyline well. It was largely cinematic. Who you talked to and how well you completed quick time events changed the story around you. In the end, there was a good ending for players to search for, but simply immersing yourself in Shenmue's changing world was half the fun for most people.
Tactics Ogre was way ahead of its time. At four different points in the story, you were asked to make decisions that would change the very history of the world. This makes, literally, every single subsequent level different. This means that a single playthrough of the game only shows you about a fourth of the game's content. This also affects what character classes you had access to, which weapons you would find, what allies you would have, and more. The only constant was that your childhood friend would always side with the faction that you sided against, no matter what it was. What a jerk!
Heavy Rain was an attempt to make a game more like a movie. Surprisingly, it actually worked. The game was entirely controlled via dialogue and quick time events. Unfortunately, the mysterious "Origami Killer" was the same no matter which path you took, but depending on how you played the game, the outcome could vary dramatically. Everyone could potentially survive to have a happy ending, or everyone could die in horrible torture-based scenarios. In fact, you may have even skipped chapters entirely because the character you would have controlled in that chapter had drowned or something.
999 is one of the best games that you have probably never played. In fact, it might even be one of the best games of all time. You and nine other victims were trapped on a sinking ship. You had nine hours to get off the ship before everyone died. Unfortunately, a psychotic murderer had placed bombs in all of your stomachs to force you to play a game, much like Saw. You had to obey his rules or end up as a bloody splatter against the wall. What this meant, most of the time, is that you'd have to choose which of your party members would live or die as you wandered through the game. There were many bad endings and only one good ending, but each time you got a bad ending, you'd actually receive clues as to what you have to do to reach the good ending. Frankly, if you haven't played 999 yet, you are missing out. Go get it, today, and see how branching storylines should be done.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
Date: March 15, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*