10 Best Games With Storybook Art Style
Since the earliest days of writing, artists have been creating beautiful hand-drawn illustrations to coincide with fairy tales, legends, myths, folk tales, and religious texts. For this reason, the storybook art genre is filled with varying styles created by millions of different artists, but they generally share similarities such as the use of water-based paints, the incorporation of vibrant colors and the mix of simple patterns with ornate details.
Although storytelling is one of the oldest art forms, many developers are adapting the style to the video game medium. These games offer beautiful experiences reminiscent of the nostalgia of reading picture books.
Released at the end of 2017, story seeker is an atmospheric exploration game and one of the many great games available on Itch.io. Players take control of an unnamed cartographer who must explore the vast, hand-drawn world in order to create a map. As the player travels between unique areas, they will encounter many different creatures that will usually have a few lines of dialogue that slowly reveal the narratives that make up the world’s story.
Although the game seems like a cold march simulation at first, it becomes apparent that nothing ever changes in this stagnant world. If the player interacts with all the stone obelisks, they will find a secret that demonstrates the burden of simply being a storyteller in a doomed universe.
The cruel king and the great hero
Created by Nippon Ichi Software who also developed other storytelling games like The lying princess and the blind prince and the spooky PS Vita game htoL#NiQ, The cruel king and the great hero is a side-scrolling JRPG that was just released in March 2022 for the PS4 and Switch. The game follows a young girl named Yuu who wishes to become a great hero like her father with the help of her guardian: a recently reformed dragon.
After the great hero defeated the fearsome dragon, known as the Demon King, the hero led the dragon’s life and even helped the dragon heal, which led to the two former enemies becoming friends. When the hero was mortally wounded, his last wish was for the dragon to take care of his daughter. Years later, Yuu embarks on an adventure where she fights enemies, helps various creatures, and meets new friends who can help her overcome obstacles.
Minute of the islands
Released in 2021, Minute of the islands is a puzzle-platformer that follows a young mechanic named Mo who lives with her family on a group of islands in a post-apocalyptic world. After a poisonous fungus appeared, humans had to either leave the islands or adapt to survive. In order to exist on the island, humans must now use air purifiers created and powered by ancient giants.
But, those Purifiers have broken down, so Mo must now fight his way through various 2D platforming segments and puzzles in an attempt to save the world. While the gameplay itself is limited, it’s primarily there for players to explore this preposterously beautiful world and to support a narrative about the burden of having to be the one to bring a dying man home.
Created by Alientrap who had also developed the visually appealing obscure Metroidvania Apotheon, Wytchwood is a 2021 adventure game about a witch who must collect twelve souls for an evil goat in exchange for a beautiful woman who sleeps endlessly in a tomb in the witch’s garden. To do this, the witch must explore the vast world and decide the fate of the various characters she encounters.
The main gameplay loop allows players to find magical ingredients in the wild, create spells from those items, and then use the end product to get more ingredients, see more of the world, or complete storylines in NPC. With a dynamic world and plenty of references to classic fairy tales, players will truly feel like they’re in a picture book.
walk of the year
One of the best storytelling video games that take place during the winter season is walk of the year, which is a 2013 horror adventure game centered around an old Swedish tradition called “walking the year” that allows people to see into the future. Set in the 19th century, the main character, Daniel Svensson, decides to walk for a year so he can see a glimpse of his future with his lover Stina.
But, this divination activity is incredibly dangerous, and Daniel will have to solve various puzzles and interact with creatures from Swedish folklore before he can achieve his goal. Meanwhile, a modern-day man named Theodor Almsten, who specializes in Swedish folklore, learns the march of the year and attempts to warn Daniel of its terrifying future.
Another game with a storybook art style that came out towards the end of 2017 is Gorogoa, which is a puzzle game that uses its unique gameplay mechanics to tell the story of a boy trying to meet a divine beast. During each of the puzzles, the player is given a grid with four panels, and the player solves the puzzles by moving the panels, stacking them, and changing what’s inside by zooming in, zooming out, or Pan left or right.
As the game has no dialogue, the story is fully told through detailed illustrations. As players help the boy collect various items, he ages and the world is destroyed by war and later rebuilt.
child of light
Inspired by Grimm’s Fairy Tales, child of light is a 2014 RPG platformer about a young princess named Aurora who must save both her homeland and a magical new kingdom known as Lemuria. Set in 1895 Austria, Aurora is the daughter of a duke who recently remarried after the supposed death of his last wife. Shortly after the wedding, Aurora also dies, and the Duke becomes bedridden in despair.
But, Aurora then wakes up in a new realm called Lemuria, and she goes on a journey to defeat the Queen of the Night, Umbra, so she can return home. Along the journey, she will learn the truth about her past, make new friends, and experience the struggles of growing up.
The Banner Saga
Developed by former BioWar e employees, The Banner Saga is an epic trilogy of tactical RPGs loosely based on Norse mythology. Sometime after all the gods have died, the sun has stopped moving across the sky and an ancient race called the Dredge returns to kill all humans and the Varls, a giant-like race, that live on the planet.
During the games, the player controls a large caravan of different characters as they travel around the world and solve the mysteries behind catastrophic events. Depending on the player’s choices, any of the characters can die and events will change drastically, so each playthrough is unique.
One of the best storybook survival games is the 2013 Tim Burton inspired title Don’t starve which follows a scientist named Wilson after becoming trapped in a deadly parallel dimension known as Constant. After the main antagonist, Maxwell, tricks Wilson into creating the machine that transported him to this new realm, Wilson must now try to survive by managing his health, hunger, and sanity. In the story mode, Wilson eventually finds and confronts Maxwell.
Apart from the main plot, players can simply try to survive alone or with friends. As one of multiple unique playable characters, players will simply try to stay alive for as long as possible.
Besides being the first mario game to have Yoshi as the main protagonist, the 1995 SNES platform game Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is important for its unique artistic style for the time. Several years before the original paper mario Game, Yoshi’s Island already had a hand-drawn aesthetic that made players feel like they were reading a children’s fairy tale while playing.
The game follows the friendly green dinosaur Yoshi as he navigates through 2D side-scrolling platforming levels with Baby Mario on his back, who tries to save Baby Luigi from Kamek and young Bowser. Considered by some to be one of the greatest games of all time, this title led to two sequels and other Yoshi-centric games.
NEXT: 9 Best Yoshi Games, Ranked (According To Metacritic)
Everything we know about Pokémon SV’s new legendaries
About the Author