Day 16: The Game with the Best Cut Scenes

The 30-day game topics…thingy continues with a seemingly straightforward one.  The game with the best cut scenes.  At first, I took several things into consideration as I made my decision.  Games with the best graphics.  The best voice acting.  The best humor.  And my initial pick was Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time.  Following along with my original criteria, the game looks like a Pixar movie.  The voice acting is superb.  And the humor?  Hilarious!  Nevertheless, something just didn’t feel right.  This post…was too easy.  Was I really going to just settle with the obvious?  Or could I do better?

Turns out, I could, and after careful consideration, the game I choose is Portal 2.  Yes, I understand your confusion.  Portal 2 has no cut scenes.  In fact, no Valve game I’ve ever played has had cut scenes.  While that list encompasses a grand total of three games, Portal 1 and 2 and Half-Life 2, I still think that’s enough for me to throw out a little word here that I think describes Valve’s take on games pretty nicely.  Immersion.  What better way to break the illusion that a good game creates than a cut scene during which we have no control of our character and there are subtitles on the bottom of the screen.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t lose control of my body and see words floating before my eyes whenever I have an important conversation with someone.  That would…be weird, to say the least.

That is the very reason Portal 2 has the best cut scenes of any video game I have played to date…because it doesn’t have any cut scenes.  Valve does a great job of immersing us in their games because not once do we ever have to relinquish control.  A first-person perspective coupled with the ability to walk around freely during what, in any other game, would have been a cut scene is the perfect combination to ensure that we are never reminded that this is, in fact, just a game, and we are actually sitting at home on a couch next to a bag of cheetos.

Of course, there are indeed moments in the game that would certainly have been cut scenes had Valve been like any other developer.  When Wheatley first shows up.  When he then accidentally wakes up GLaDOS.  And then again when he takes over and GLaDOS is reduced to a harmless potato battery.  Or tater battery, if you’d prefer.  Tatery?  Potattery!

Ahem…  Just citing the moment when GLaDOS’ power is restored, this scene is that much more frightening when you remain right there in the moment and don’t have some silly widescreen black bars in your way to signify, don’t worry, it’s just a game.  Eat your cheetos and behold our mad CGI!  Rather, you find yourself in the crazy AI’s grip, unable to do anything else but watch your would-be murderess and wonder with dread what she plans to do with you!

That’s what I love about Portal 2.  It is so much more than just a game.  Valve, in a way, broke all the rules when it came to gaming.  No cut scenes.  No tutorial.  And no dialogue dump to explain the story to you.  In the real world, no one’s going to sit you down and explain all the key points of your life and offer to repeat it if you didn’t listen the first time.  And neither is Valve.

But I digress.  A lack of cut scenes is just one of the many things Portal 2 does right, firmly cementing it as one of the most unique, memorable games ever made.  That’s why I nominate it for this “award”, so to speak.  The best cut scenes may very well be no cut scenes at all.

Duck Scenes are Fine, Though

Screenshot by Flickr User: PlayStation.Blog


  1. Cutscenes have a time and a place, I think, but I also think we’re still finding that balance. While storytelling wisdom advises “show, don’t tell,” I advice “do, don’t show” in a video game, which is what Portal 2 does very well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. duckofindeed says:

      That’s a good way to look at it: “do, don’t show”, as you say. Video games are a very unique medium thanks to their interactive qualities, so of course players are going to want the opportunity to engage with their games as much as possible. The more we are forced to sit back and do nothing, the less we feel like a real part of the game. If I had just wanted to watch a movie, then I would have done so.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An interesting take on cutscenes and I do agree with you that Portal 2 is better without them. Allowing a player to look around with freedom whilst an event is occurring allows a player to examine and immerse themselves in what is unfolding before them.


    1. duckofindeed says:

      Portal and Half-Life are the only series I can think of that allow players to move about freely during what would normally be a “cut scene”. Valve is definitely one company that knows how to make their games stand out from the crowd.


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