Story-Based Video Games

When not mentoring an FRC team, I am an English teacher. I am lucky enough to work at a school that allows me to design some of my own courses. This coming year, I am excited to teach a course called Storytelling Through Game Design. It is an English course, but will have both analysis and creation (e.g. writing and programming) components.

For the analysis portion, I am thinking about asking students to play through one story based game during the semester.

I have a few questions though.

  1. Does anyone have any recommendations of free story-based games (preferably that are school-appropriate and good) that would be compatible with a chromebook?

  2. If a teacher asked you to do this, would you feel like it was an annoying and daunting task (the games I play are huge)?

Thanks for reading.



Finding a game that fits all 3 of these is going to be a little tough, and i cant think of any that checks all the boxes, namely being able to use on a chromebook without the installation of a couple external programs (and if a chromebook can even run said programs natively.)

This mostly depends on how much I like the game. Something like Minecraft Story Mode would bore me to death because the writing sucked, and so did the gameplay. Trying to do an assignment on it would be like pulling teeth compared to something like the Portal series.

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For 2 it depends on a variety of factors from days given to play it and how fun the game is. When you decide the game I would suggest contacting a student you trust and asking them to play through it to see how to make it work well for your class

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Thanks. I forgot to mention, 1 and 2 are not necessarily directly linked. I would assign this as a choice. Students could choose their game and I am even considering letting them defend it. Many games my students play have a story mode, but I am not sure I would enjoy it or even classify the game as story-based.

As for question 1, I am thinking some of my students would not be gamers and not have resources to find a game. I also would not be able to rely upon them to have a console or computer powerful enough to play a good game.

It seems that they are condiering making Steam natively compativle with Chromebooks, but I am not holding my breath.

Thank you all for your answers. I was a bit worried this was too off-topic for CD as I have previously only posted robot-related things.

Edit: I could totally see myself choosing FF and getting half-way through the semestet and realizing I was not half-way through the game. So, I should probably consider that scenario…

I agree with mik that it’s gonna be very difficult to find something that fits all of these. If I were to give a recommendation that’s a bit different from what you wanted I think it would be cool to look at a walkthrough of the stanley parable (it’s about an hour and a half long) and analyze that. It doesn’t have much in the way of gameplay mechanics but the story is fantastic.


I wouldnt hold my breath either. If you could find a way to make a small Linux box for kids to borrow, this may be a better option (though the free part is still another fairly large barrier…)

This one wouldnt be a bad idea honestly, both the game specifically and having them watch walkthroughs in general. Hitting #2 though, watching someone else play starts getting into the “pulling teeth” area, but YMMV with your students.


Thank you. I have heard of that, but It fell off my list a while ago. I am totally aware that even free and fun is not necessarily a thing (Although, I am one of the few who did like Blades), let alone adding in Chromebook compatible.

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A text Rogue-like game might be a good option. There are ones that can be played just in a browser, eg


Yes. The other thing I should have mentioned was, I am thinking that this is an independent play-through. I am not going to ask students to watch each other play through an entire game in class.

@Peter_Johnson Thanks. That is an excellent option. I totally forgot that. Also, MIT has some (Including Zork).

This looks incredible. Thank you.

Warning: Larn can be quite addictive!

Also, would something like the online emulated versions of The Oregon Trail match what you’re looking for? I’m not sure if they run in Chromebooks though.

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All of the various SCUMMVM games should be available around the web and I’d be happy to help track some down if you need it. A lot of them have been made freely available at this point.

They are all mostly point and click adventure games and mostly from the early days of LucasArts. Some of my favorite story based games.

If you’ve got a phone then they remastered Full Throttle a while back and it was quite awesome.


On the topic of watching playthroughs, Firewatch is an excellent story-based game that doesn’t have a ton of different outcomes. I believe there’s an alternate ending, but that’s it if I recall correctly. If you wanted to have a safe option for students who didn’t have game consoles/sufficient computer/games that fit the bill, you could have a default option of “Watch this Firewatch playthrough”. Unfortunately, the game is only 3-5 hours long, so maybe not fitting for an entire semester.

With regards to games that can be played online, are free, and can run on a Chromebook, there are two I can think of: A Dark Room and Depression Quest.

A Dark Room is largely a game designed to “unfold.” The story is relatively sparse in its telling, and takes a decent amount of attention to get. I wouldn’t call it high literature, per se, but it’s by and large interested in storytelling through gameplay and context.

Meanwhile Depression Quest is interesting in that the method in which it tells its story is unique to how the game plays out- it would have far less of an impact if it were provided in any other medium.

You can play them both for free here:

Honestly, and I know that this isn’t going to be totally compatible with everything, but Firewatch is an excellent game. That Dragon Cancer is also an amazing storytelling game, but includes some very heavy themes. If you’re willing to go PG-13, Emily Is Away is also a great short story. Florence is a little short, but still a great game too.

If you haven’t noticed by now, this is kind of one of my favorite genres of video games. The games I play the most though are the ones that blend story and action, i.e. Fallout 4, The Outer Worlds, and the games that got me hooked, the Batman Arkham series. (Most of these are probably not really appropriate for high school classes, although the writing in them is still fantastic)


On the continued topic of things that don’t necessarily meet all the criteria, I’d put Tacoma, To The Moon, Finding Paradise, and Marie’s Room on a list of pretty good, relatively short narrative games.

There are a ton of great narrative games out there that I’d also recommend, but they get longer, more expensive, or further from “school friendly.”

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Thank you everyone for your recommendations. I am in the middle of wrapping up the school year so am not able to respond as frequently as I would like, but I am taking furious notes. It is odd, I have not heard of many of these, and as such, am ecstatic.

I am well-aware that there could be excellent offerings that do not check all of the boxes, and I am willing to discuss them with my students. I talk about Watchmen in my Graphic Novel course and one of my students did an incredible thesis project on Baby Driver and the Grand Budapest Hotel in my film studies course. However, I felt that if I could not discuss at least one that checked all three boxes, it would be a non-starter for this particular project. I am going to discuss some of my personal favorites, some of which are rated mature.

Thank you all again, there are so many gems here. I am going to share them. Many of my summer plans fell through due to COVID (My state and school are still under a stay at home order), but the upside is I will have more time to read, play games (some of which you all suggested too), and create a beginning robotics and prototyping curriculum for our team (It may become the topic of another thread).

Thank you for the warning. That is not always a bad thing although, if we are in school and students are playing in other classes, I could see that being an issue. Upon my shoulders, it would surely fall. I like the Oregon Trail idea too. Some of the History teachers were talking about it a bit ago, so it may be compatible.

They are mine too. I started thinking of this course a few years ago after playing Beyond Two Souls (I know that studio has a host of problems, I did not at the time) and realizing that it was better literature than the novel I was reading. I also wanted to find a way to improve computer literacy in students that were not on our team.


Although it isn’t free and would require some additional work to be installed on a chromebook, I would still like to recommend Undertale because it is a pretty amazing game. It like a RPGs but with some twists. The story is heartwarming and the characters are well developed. I also really loved the Undertale soundtrack, which perfectly fits the game’s narrative and allows gamers to feel some quite intense emotions. Here is an IGN review that probably describes the game better than I could. I feel that Undertale fits the needs of your course very well, so I hope you could check it out!

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Thank you. This looks incredible.