The video game franchises with the best lore

The developers behind these games used their keen attention to detail and expert storytelling abilities to create entire universes

Planets and nebula background in pixel art style.
Gamers are swept away while exploring the intricacies of these in-game universes
(Image credit: PixelChoice / Getty Images)

Besides great gameplay and visually appealing graphics, the most alluring thing about video games is their capacity for storytelling. Some games have been around long enough to have developed a deep and complex lore that has captivated players for years, while others have had a leg up because they are based on existing IP, like "The Witcher" franchise or the recent "Hogwarts Legacy." Here are 5 video game franchises with the best lore.

'The Legend of Zelda' (1986- )

When you think of iconic video game characters, the cast of the "Legend of Zelda" franchise is up there with some of the most beloved. Since the first game was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986, the franchise has blossomed into several successful games that expand upon the history of the hero Link, the eponymous Princess Zelda, and their eternal foe, Ganon. Sometimes you can even find Easter eggs that refer to past iterations of the games. The series is "well worth diving into if you like the idea of trying to wrap your head around multiple diverging timelines," The Gamer wrote. Multiverse nerds could have a field day trying to piece together the deep history of Hyrule and its battle against evil.

'Destiny' (2014- )

You might not automatically associate storytelling and lore with multiplayer games focused on gameplay, but the lore and worldbuilding of "Destiny" are notable. The series has spent nearly a decade continuing the story of the Guardians and the mythology that comprises the constantly evolving world. But the game's worldbuilding did go through some growing pains — the franchise used to be "so bad at in-universe storytelling that you essentially needed YouTubers and wikis to explain it to you," wrote Forbes. In the past few years, especially with expansions to "Destiny 2," the game has "dramatically improved how the story is told there, in cutscenes, live conversations, mission dialogue, lore books, and more."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

'The Elder Scrolls' (1994- )

With the "Elder Scrolls" series, video game publisher Bethesda delivered five lore-rich games that bring worldbuilding to another level. The depth of the lore in the universe is only accentuated by the sheer number of in-game books players can read throughout the series. Each game covers a different aspect of the universe and its diverse races, each with its own deep history that adds to the overall tapestry of the series' lore. The fifth installment, "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim," has become massively popular, in part due to the "sheer depth of fascinating history players can uncover in the titular Tolkien-inspired high-fantasy land," ScreenRant reported.

'Fallout' (1997-2015)

Bethesda also played a significant role in developing the in-universe lore of the "Fallout" series (though it didn't develop the first two iterations). The games are set in an alternate timeline "where the USSR is still kickin'" and where China remains deeply communist," WatchMojo described. This post-apocalyptic version of Earth deals with the aftermath of the international tension that led to the Great War of 2077. Much of the lore can be gleaned from the smaller details of the game, such as the diary entries of survivors strewn about the world. The lore of "Fallout" is "heartbreaking and eerily rooted in society's greatest fears: war, disease and total destruction," WatchMojo said.

'Diablo' (1997- )

The "Diablo" series has been around for decades, with a massive fanbase that is obsessed with its immersive world-building and lore. That is a large part of why the series is the "most popular dungeon-crawling RPG series to date," Game Rant reported. "Diablo" has been around since the 90s, but the game's universe expanded with 2023's highly anticipated "Diablo 4." Along with cinematic cutscenes and the game action, "fans can discover tons of lore and information as they fight through the demon hordes," Game Rant noted.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Theara Coleman

Theara Coleman is a Staff Writer for The Week. A New York native, she previously served as a contributing writer and assistant editor for Honeysuckle Magazine, where she covered racial politics and cannabis industry news. Theara graduated from Howard University and New York University, receiving her BA and MA in English Literature, respectively. She has a background in education as a former High School English teacher. She brings her passion for reading, writing, and all things nerdy to her work as a journalist.