From worst to best, these games built me in their own special ways, and I am forever grateful.
I’m crazy for this one.
This goes out to Raul who, after hearing that I’d finished what may very well be the last Telltale game I’ll ever play, asked: “so now you gotta do a definitive ranking, right?” Naturally, I took that as a challenge. I consider myself a die-hard Telltale fan, and I took their closure very personally. However, in making this list I realized just how many I haven’t touched. Sam & Max will not be covered on this list, nor will things like Poker Night or Strong Bad. 7 Days to Die will certainly not be touched, but that’s just because it’s atrocious. Trust me, I played that one. So after searching high and low for every Telltale property I have experienced firsthand, I made a ranking, from worst to best.
Feel free to hate me for my opinions – I am more than ready for it – but I’ve still done my best to explain each decision (albeit in brief detail). Furthermore, the big caveat is that some of these games I haven’t played since release, so don’t be mad about my choices based on nostalgia from nearly a decade ago. It is what it is, and what this is meant to be, is a love letter to Telltale, expressing the impact they had on my gaming career. So before we get into it, let me just say thank you to every Telltale employee who put every fiber of their beings into creating every piece of art on this list. From worst to best, these games built me in their own special ways, and I am forever grateful.
Batman: The Telltale Series
Kicking this list off, we have the first season of Telltale’s Batman. Released in 2016, I remember playing this one while working for my first big site. The reviewer had given it one of the worst scores I’d seen thus far, and at the time I couldn’t figure out why. But thinking back on it, I recall a lot of forgettable moments, in that I have forgotten a lot of its plot. The primary antagonist was extremely ridiculous, the Penguin story felt like an excuse to force more parental death down our throats, and the only compelling character, Two-Face, got the short end of the stick in terms of the overall development. This game set up a dark, inviting universe for the eventual sequel, but at its core, Season One of Batman is just a lackluster romp through a glitchy Gotham, and definitely one worth skipping.
The Walking Dead: Michonne
Telltale’s Michonne miniseries wasn’t exactly disappointing, but its appeal only came from being an extension of the comics. Meant to explain Michonne’s disappearance between issues 126 and 139, the three-episode arc from 2016 felt like a strange departure from the Clementine storyline. For fans of Telltale’s other Walking Dead games, this was an easy pass, as it included characters that had never appeared in the mainline narrative. In a way, this alienated fans of the franchise, but personally I enjoyed it for its dedication to the comics. The story looked back at Michonne’s life pre-apocalypse, with her job as a lawyer, her two daughters, and her struggle with the ghosts of her past. All in all, though, this miniseries was just that, a short distraction that could’ve been explored in many other ways than a Telltale production, and its existence will forever feel a bit unnecessary. I will mention, though, that a Michonne review served as my application for Mr. Allan Muir, and got me my initial job working with this wonderful team. So I will be forever grateful to this miniseries for that reason.
Tales from the Borderlands
This is where the hate begins, I just know it. Ever since its release in late 2014, Tales from the Borderlands – lovingly referred to as “Tales” – has been considered one of the best games in the Borderlands franchise, and it’s not even a mainline game. In fact, it was so popular that when its characters made it into Borderlands 3, a riot damn near broke out over the omission of Rhys’s original voice actor, Troy Baker. From the very beginning, I couldn’t understand all the hype for this game. It’s a perfectly “fine” series, but what turned me off almost instantly was the umbrella of assumed perfection looming over every episode. Personally, I started the series a year or so after its initial release and then took a long break. Upon returning, I played it out and felt fairly satisfied. The voice acting is great, characters are quirky enough, and the story isn’t too hard to grasp for a non-fan of Borderlands. But the gameplay was a bit exploration-heavy, and there were a lot of overwhelming “wtf” moments that took me out of the story, and for this, I couldn’t find myself holding it in high regard.
Back to the Future: The Game
Back to the Future was not only one of the first Telltale games I remember playing but also one of the first Telltale games to introduce the episodic format. Originally console-exclusive to PlayStation 3, I didn’t get my hands on this until the Wii release, and even then it wasn’t right away. I recall it being strange, playing a game that had been released as individual episodes as a finished product. Being able to “binge-watch” a video game was something I’d never experienced before. Back to the Future was a delightful romp, with the classic ridiculousness the series is known for, as well as some returning cast members like Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown and even Michael J. Fox in a cameo role. But the game was most memorable for its story, taking Marty back to time periods not explored in the films, like the gangster era of the 1930s. New characters like Trixie Trotter made this plot as captivating as it was fun, and roaming around the environments was a blast. While the voice acting was a little disappointing and the art style was muddy, I’ll always look back on this one as a low-key favorite in my heart.
Minecraft: Story Mode – Season Two
Now we come to the most emotional installment on this list. I say that because Minecraft Story Mode – Season Two was the most recent Telltale game I played, and most likely the last made by the original team. While it was a thrilling story, and I’ll admit I cried a little, this season brings up two factors that make it a low pick. First of all, the First Season was vastly superior. I’ll get into that when the time comes, but let’s just say the focus on character development left me more emotionally invested the first time around. On top of this, the second season of Story Mode may very well have been the final nail in the coffin for Telltale. I remember reading how sales had dropped significantly with this season, and Netflix’s partnership regarding the Minecraft property – while an exciting thought for fans of Story Mode like me – brought about some changes in the company that pretty much sealed their fate. This makes the series as a whole leave a rather sour taste in the mouths of fans, and I can’t allow it to go any higher than where I’ve put it. But if it’s any consolation, the story on this final game was really dang good. Rest in peace, team.
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
Now we’re getting into the real nitty-gritty of this list, with my first mention of Telltale’s Walking Dead. While doing some research on this list, I found that not a lot of people really like the franchise’s third season. This was most likely due to the introduction of Javi, a brand new protagonist that forcibly took Clementine out of the players’ hands. Fans were saddened by the loss of her reins this time around, and instead of basing her actions on your choices in Season Two, it felt more like she followed her own premeditated path in the background. Personally, I really enjoyed Javi and the struggle he encountered with this brother. The family was the crux of A New Frontier, and it brought about some unique conflicts, never before dealt with in The Walking Dead. Not to mention, Jesus appeared out of nowhere, and he’s a badass in both the comics and the television show, so… why wouldn’t you love that? I didn’t have a problem with Season Three, per se, it just felt like the weakest overall. Its lackluster reception doesn’t do much to help its ranking, either, so it finds itself a bit lower than most.
Minecraft: Story Mode
See? I told you we’d be talking about Season One before too long! It has to be said that Minecraft Story Mode is not perfect by any means, and I think that’s apparent by its place on this list. Does it deserve to be higher than Tales? Well, that’s something you can yell at me about in the comments. This all being said, Story Mode is certainly not one of the worst Telltale games, and it is absolutely not deserving of the hatred it gets from so many. I have a buddy who despised this series, and played it with his roommates just to laugh at it. Now that ain’t cool. That ain’t fair. That ain’t appreciating the franchise for the art it is. Minecraft Story Mode genuinely has heart. It has a lot of good ideas. It was the only Telltale series to have eight episodes – including an add-on DLC pack of spin-offs. It’s got deep characters with emotional backstories and the voices of famous actors like Patton Oswalt and Martha Plimpton. Come to think of it, nearly every one of The Goonies is in this game. It’s fast-paced, whimsical, and it just might make you cry, too. So truly, give it a shot, if you can find it.
Batman: The Enemy Within
Superior to its first season in almost every way, Batman: The Enemy Within provided so many changes to the Telltale formula that it makes the impending shutdown an even harder pill to swallow. From the shifting relationship system to the massive improvements in the realm of quick-time events, to the sheer focus on mature themes like mass deaths and torture, Season Two of Batman brought about a much darker side of Telltale than ever seen before. The Joker’s presence brought about one of the most terrifying renditions to date – expertly voiced by Anthony Ingruber – and his constant emotional back-and-forth with Bruce Wayne kept players on edge throughout the entire season. I simply could not get enough of John Doe, or really any of the characters in The Enemy Within. From Lucius Fox’s daughter, Tiffany, to Harley Quinn, Bane, and the rest of Batman’s Rogues Gallery of villains, every performance is spectacular and a joy to watch onscreen. My only gripe is that The Enemy Within would be a much better film than a video game, as its exploration segments feel like a chore most of the time, and The Riddler’s puzzles really bring the action to a screeching halt. But on the whole, this season is a gem and it makes me miss Telltale even more.
The Wolf Among Us
Nearing the coveted Top 5, The Wolf Among Us is beloved by virtually every Telltale fan on the planet. So much so, that its notable cancellation upon the company’s demise sparked others to snatch it up, breathe new life into the franchise, and finally produce a second season as the Telltale rebranding’s first property on the horizon. Deservedly so, I must say, for The Wolf Among Us was one of the most memorable series Telltale ever created. Unique in premise and art style, this franchise built off the Fables comic book series and brought the twisted fantasy world into the video game spotlight. I even started reading Fables, at the time, just to know more about this intriguing world. I wanted to soak up everything on offer involving Bigby Wolf and his eccentric colleagues, and upon finishing the season and experiencing that final plot twist (you know the one), I was left feeling things no game had ever offered me before. The Wolf Among Us takes your heart, mind, and spirit for a traumatizing joy ride, and its crime-solving gameplay mechanics help it stand out in the crowd even more. Not much displeasure came from this one, and I look back on it fondly, which in turn fills my heart with hope for the second season to come.
Game of Thrones
It’s probably clear that the rest of this list won’t include much negativity, seeing as it only continues to get better as we go. Telltale’s Game of Thrones will forever be the biggest heartbreak in my cache of gaming memories. The blatant and resounding “no” that the world has given in return for requesting a second season reverberates through the bowels of my heart on the regular. I can vividly recall wrapping up this series, after playing the final battles of the season’s exclusive sixth episode. I loved each and every character I had taken control of, and I could not wait to see where each adventure would lead in the future. But then sales failed to take off, players panned the series as a whole, and I was left with only negativity in the face of my steadfast love of these characters and this world. I will never hate Game of Thrones, no matter how many people shoot me down when I bring up how gripping and emotional its story was, or how vivid its set pieces were and how spectacularly the web of narratives meshed together. This is a genuine favorite of mine, and I would love to see a return to this property in Telltale’s new future.
The Walking Dead (& 400 Days)
Who can’t look back on The Walking Dead‘s first season and smile? Just thinking about it spawns memories of Lee and Clementine, Kenny and Duck, fuckin’ Lilly and that nerdy jock guy. This property not only birthed one of gaming’s most influential and unforgettable narratives in history, but we tend to forget just how unique it was at the time of its creation. The world had barely seen episodic games before, certainly not on such a massive commercial scale. Waiting for months to see the story unfurl was like watching an entire television season, and its focus on making choices allowed for differentiating paths and one-of-a-kind stories to talk about with friends and coworkers while waiting for the next installment. The Walking Dead was gritty, emotional, bloody, and thought-provoking. Its story has left an impact on so many across an entire decade, and its strong characters reflected diversity in terms of age, race, and gender. Telltale put themselves on the map with this franchise, and it still holds up eight years later. If you have never tried a Telltale game on for size, this is without a doubt the place to begin. It’s impossible to come away disappointed. Even its one-off DLC episode, 400 Days – which sets up Season Two – is full of relatable characters in risky situations, making for an even more engrossing, thrilling story as a whole.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season
No Telltale game was more expertly crafted than the final season of The Walking Dead. Having to wrap up four seasons of unforgettable narrative across an entire decade – with the perfect ending – is hard enough. Now, try doing all that in only four episodes, split between two studios amidst a company’s downfall. Telltale went under halfway through The Final Season, but surprisingly, the story flows perfectly with very few hiccups overall – you’d barely even notice the absolute chaos going on behind the scenes. While talented people were losing their jobs without notice or severance pay; while intellectual properties were being juggled by clowns in business suits, desperate to find an angelic investor; while fans the world over watched in awe as one of gaming’s most outstanding companies crumbled before their eyes – The Walking Dead pushed on with its inherent purpose: tell the tale. Though it may have taken longer than expected, Clementine’s story wrapped in March 2019, after bringing some of the most heart-pounding, nail-biting action, and even sprinkling on a bit of that unsettling Enemy Within charm. The Walking Dead‘s final season brought the series into new territory, making even a finale seem exciting and new.
The Walking Dead: Season Two
When ranking Telltale’s Walking Dead titles, it is without question that Season Two belongs on top. I placed this game in my Top 3, not only for its rich, memorable characters and a story that brought Clementine to the brink of madness but mainly because it holds a very special place in my heart. The Walking Dead: Season Two was the first game to ever bring me to tears. All these years of gaming, I’ve heard of people being so emotionally prodded by a narrative, they’d find themselves with tears in their eyes. Personally, I had never experienced this reaction and only reserved crying for movies and bouts of pubescent hormonal depression. But in this season’s final moments, an interaction between Clementine and Kenny – which I will not spoil for fear of negating the emotional gut-punch on offer – delivered one of the most bittersweet video game scenes I had ever laid eyes on. Telltale transcended games into art on a regular basis, but the handling of this scene, performed by two of my favorite characters in the whole franchise, really messed with my emotions and left me a crippled, sobbing heap in my chair. I will never forgive Telltale for supplying me with these feelings, while simultaneously, I cannot thank them enough.
Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series
If you missed out on Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy series, you have my utmost pity. As proven by this list, the series was one of my all-time favorites, blending humor with action and a whole lot of surprising emotional depth. Not only was the plot completely original, utilizing every Guardian fans know and love from the movie – and Mantis – but it also explored Peter Quill’s origins alongside the present-day narrative, which made for an even meatier package. What sent me over the edge with excitement, however, was the inclusion of contemporary music in its fight scenes. One of my favorites had Drax fighting an enormous worm creature to the tune of Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy.” This whole quick time event culminated in a really heavy, emotional moment between him and Star-Lord, but it’s the seamless flow between action and sadness that show off Telltale’s brilliance in storytelling and make this series one of the best. Unfortunately, Guardians worked hard to create a narrative that branched more than any Telltale game before it, and its massive cliffhanger makes the pain even worse, looking back on it. But one thing’s for sure, I do not regret making this my Game of the Year back in 2017; not one bit.
Jurassic Park: The Game
Chances are you’ve never even heard of Telltale’s Jurassic Park game. This game flew under the radar, releasing between Back to the Future and The Walking Dead in late 2011. it originally came to Xbox 360, and while it was episodic, every episode was included in the initial release, without any waiting periods between them. This formula only strengthened the narrative, however, and kept me glued to my seat as I flew through this game. Jurassic Park explains what happened to Isla Nublar, following the events of the first film, though it is not considered canon. This game introduced instantly lovable characters, like Gerry and Jess Harding and Nima Cruz, and its story brought them across the island, encountering multiple dinosaurs along the way. There are so many scenes that come to mind when I think back on Jurassic Park, and being one of the earliest Telltale games I ever recall playing, it just fills my heart with joy and amazement when I go back to that nostalgic place. I strongly urge you to find this game, wherever possible. It just can’t be missed, and it’s been sitting atop my personal list ever since I played it. There’s a certain kind of magic flowing through Telltale’s Jurassic Park that makes it undoubtedly the best game they ever brought to life.
From Batman to Jurassic Park, Telltale worked tirelessly to produce quality content that stood apart from every other video game company. Even since their days of Monkey Island and Sam & Max, the talented employees and dreamers created episodic narrative adventures the only way they knew how: with teamwork. This overall familial nature was the most unfortunate aspect of Telltale’s closure, but Skybound found a way to intervene and bring on the crew to finish out The Walking Dead, which they all cared about so deeply. In the end, a new company rose from the ashes; a brand new Telltale for future generations. Will it include these old dreamers? Will it offer up the same tenacity and magic of old? This all remains to be seen. But what we do know is the joy and memories that Telltale once instilled in us all will never die. As proven by this list, there are plenty of unforgettable games in this world thanks to those who worked their lives away to give them life. To those dreamers, I say thank you, and please don’t hate me too much for my rankings.
Furthermore, if you’re a fan of Telltale’s Walking Dead franchise, you might want to stay tuned to VGU in the coming months. We have a special project in the works that’s sure to excite fans and newcomers alike. We’ll update you with info on that soon enough! Thanks for reading.