If you like Sims, Nancy Drew games, or anything similar in which you get to take control of the characters in exciting new settings, then interactive story apps are definitely for you. These apps are quite popular lately because you get transported into the story to play as the main character, which can be pretty fun. Throughout the book, you are offered different choices that could change relationships, the progress, and the outcome. So whenever you see a scary movie, and you are screaming at the girl on screen to watch where she’s going so she doesn’t trip over a root and get slashed by the killer or you tsk at the man the girl ends up choosing when the other one is way better, these apps will let you take control of the narrative–which is pretty awesome. Plus, you can do things you would never normally do, like slap someone instead of apologizing profusely or become the queen of an unknown country (yeah, most of the characters are women). However, while there may be a lot of these types of mobile apps lately, they can’t all be great, can they? So I found myself asking, “Which are the best interactive story apps?”
I decided, out of my love for the interactive story apps I’ve already been using, to check out all of them and see which ones are actually worth my time. I did not, however, play the apps that focus on literally one story (like City of Love: Paris, which is the only one I’ve tried so far). I also did not play the newer chat and text-themed stories. I downloaded the ones that have a collection of different books that range in genre, like a library, and tested the ones I have never played before. There are a total of five on this list, ranked from worst to best.
As a quick overview, most of the interactive story apps were similar when it comes to “tickets,” which let you play a new chapter; “diamonds,” which you can use to purchase special choices; and ads. Meaning, they just generally want yo money (of course). I mean, they worked on the games, so it’s not too far-fetched. If anything stands out specifically for the app (for better or for worse), I will mention it below. For the most part, I find it both irritating and amusing that they all want you to buy a special outfit… that you basically should have already for free? For example, a friend will say, “Hey! I made this outfit JUST FOR YOU. You want to wear it? WELL PAY UP THOSE DIAMONDS.” Some guy will be like, “Here’s this perfect dress I bought for you when I went shopping. You want to wear it?” and you’d have to pay diamonds even though… literally, he bought it for you. It’s right there. It’s not like you took the shopping route and have to pay for it yourself. Generally, all games allowed me to choose names, too, which I always have fun with (see below).
For more details and the ranking, check out which interactive story apps I liked and which ones I didn’t in the list below! You can download these interactive story apps on both iPhones (through affiliated links) and Androids (non-affiliated links).
5 – My Story
“I’m not human,” replied Mazikeen before torturing him in the devil’s chambers.
This was one of the interactive story apps I had never played before. I downloaded it on my Android tablet, and opened to find myself faced with two choices: Drama or Romance. Both looked like pretty cheesy options, by the way, so I was already less than thrilled–only to dive further into misery at the absolutely horrible graphics this app offered (by the way, you can just pick any option at the beginning and leave it right away to visit the main page for other, better options).
For the graphics, the characters looked like deformed Bratz dolls, and this confused me because I wondered what this app’s target demographic was. While the app seemed to cover mature content (love affairs, pregnancy, etc.), both the delivery and graphics looked quite immature. Maybe they’re trying to reach teenagers? If I had a teenage daughter, though, I would not want her to play these games.
Honestly, the game-play was not great, either. You’ll zip through a lot of short, frequent, generic dialogues while rarely getting to choose options, especially meaningful ones. There is nothing creative, witty, or original about any of the stories. Lastly, I like to sometimes take breaks from chapters, so I tested the option to exit out of the game, as in closing the app or turning off the tablet in the middle of a chapter. This app was not great for this, either. It couldn’t quite handle it because it would freeze, lag, force close, etc. It did pick up where I left off, though, when it finally restarted, which is a plus, but it definitely has some glitches.
The biggest problems I had with this app, which is why it landed in the lowest rank, were the graphics and the content that seemed no better than reality TV. The latter point is definitely a personal preference, though, so if you like a lot of drama, glam, and ultra cheesy lines, then add this to your list of guilty pleasures!
4 – Friends Forever
What? It said ‘Enter Name’ in the bar.
This app, by Games2Win, gives you quite a good start with what you would think are basically 18 “tickets” and 50 “diamonds.” However, this app is quite different from other apps, and in an interesting but not necessarily good way. The “tickets” are actually “moves” and the diamonds are actually “coins.” You do not pay a ticket to play a chapter of a story–rather, you have to use the coins to purchase, essentially, an entire story, and some stories are more expensive than others. From what I can tell so far, you get 5 coins for completing a chapter, and it costs one move to start a new one. This is an interesting take on the classic ticket/diamond format. I can’t tell if it’s better or worse… I’m leaning a bit towards the latter because you have to pretty much pay for both the story and each chapter, and if you want to go back and forth between stories, you have less freedom to do so since you won’t get more coins to purchase more stories until you finish the ones you already have. At least there don’t seem to be any choices you have to pay for, right? But as a result, the choices are pretty insignificant, giving you less power and influence.
Moving on, the graphics are a vast improvement from My Story, although similar in that you see the full bodies and the characters moving. The main page is pretty clean-cut (although I don’t get why I have to tap on the first screen to get to the main page), and there was less lag than in My Story–but there was still lag. I do not like the font because it seems rather flowery and fancy when a Serif or Sans Serif font would have been easier on the eyes. There is no real customization of the characters–you get options for three fully planned out looks. This is not bad, but if you prefer picking the face, hair, and outfit separately…well, that’s not gonna happen here.
One of the biggest problems for me is the stories. They’re not riveting at all, meaning they don’t make me want to keep playing, and they don’t offer summaries so you don’t know what you’re in for until you spend the coins and start the story. The characters and dialogues are flat. The chapters don’t end on cliffhangers–they sometimes end rather abruptly with no impact whatsoever (make me want to keep playing!). Each chapter also feels short and insignificant.
Another big problem is that this fails my test for exiting mid-chapter. This results in lag and having to start over from the beginning. There are also random mini-games I’m not interested in that borrow from other mobile apps, like looking for objects in a room within a certain amount of time. Lastly, there are banner ads which some may find distracting, but I actually didn’t mind. The quality of the graphics isn’t great enough for the banner ads to be a scar on the aesthetics.
3 – Chapters
Tess said casually.
Crazy Maple Studios‘s interactive app is called Chapters, which lets you start off with five tickets and no diamonds (oh, joy). The format of this one is unlike the previous two and more similar to the app, Choices (floating heads matched with dialogues and settings). Customization for the main character is a bit limited, but you do get to choose things like the hair. For the most part, the graphic and animations are pretty sweet–like the TV turning on in the story, Hide and Seek, but they lack a bit in the movement between dialogues. My eyes hurt from the quick back and forth between two characters talking, as the screen swings left and right with the dialogue boxes fading too slowly in and out.
Depending on the story, there may be a lack of decision-making. I found that Starstruck started off with not much action required on my part while Hide and Seek gave me plenty of chances to choose the character’s reaction, which is always fun. Still, there lacked some actual, meaningful choices. As for the exit test, this one passed with no lagging!
I also like what the company is doing with this app by cultivating a nice space for creatives. It recently started an Open Story Playground, which enables their readers to send submissions for new stories by email (without them having to do crazy hands-on coding like with Episode). Crazy Maple Studios also plans to allow original music submissions in the future! These projects are definite pluses for me.
Overall, though, this app was in the middle–not the worst, but not the best.
2 – Episode
I’m featured in this one as Lady in Bed!
Episode was the first interactive story app I ever played. It is like My Story and Friends Forever in that the characters actually move around. It’s been fun watching it develop and change over the years. The graphics have gotten a lot better (although you will still get stuck with some questionable artwork in the older stories), they actually give you quite a lot of tickets (I constantly have 8+ these days), they have the most extensive customizing options (lip shape, lipstick, eyebrows, eyes, nose, hair, etc.), and probably the biggest collection of stories because they have a pretty popular contribution program (that can even pay you if you do well enough). I tried it, though, and let me tell you–it was like learning to code. It’s very complex, and they need to find a simpler way to do things, but it was also a fun challenge. You can check out my story here.
This app used to be annoying (which is why I stopped playing for months) because at one point it was so inundated with video advertisements it felt like I was sitting through a 5-minute commercial break while watching TV. That’s been fixed since, though, as the ads before each chapter are much more bearable now.
Another thing that is great is that Episode quite cleverly partnered up with popular movies, like Mean Girls, Clueless, and Pitch Perfect, to make books based off them. Episode even partnered up with Demi Lovato. The partnerships are definitely fun and exciting with the best storylines and graphics (the characters look so much like the real people it’s uncanny–except…Regina George; I don’t quite get her face). The option to live inside your favorite chick flick was a great addition and strategy by the company. Each chapter is also a decent length, so you don’t feel cheated out of your ticket, although this depends on the author, of course. For the partnered up stories, the chapter is worth it length-wise, and the book is updated with batches of chapters at a time rather than just one per week. This also passes the exit test, continuing right where I left off with no problem.
One problem I have with Episode, however, is that a lot of the choices require a hefty amount of diamonds, and you only earn one diamond per chapter. You have to play maybe 22 games to choose one premium option without purchasing more with your own money. You can get by with never using diamonds, but that leaves the experience a bit duller than you might like. Also, it may have the most stories, but not necessarily the best. A lot of it is basic teen drama and overused tropes (my story included ’cause that’s what the audience likes!).
1 – Choices
Me every winter when I’m not in a hospital bed hating everything
I was playing Pixelberry Studios‘s High School Story and Hollywood U when I noticed those apps had ads for a new one the company was crafting–and it was a similar one to Episodes! I was pretty excited and downloaded it right away–and it is my absolute favorite one for a lot of reasons.
Firstly, the graphics are great! You sometimes get special effects that are never cheesy and everything is in pretty clear HD. What I really love about Choices are the high quality content, however. It has a vibe that exceeds all of the other ones on this list because each story is actually very heartwarming, thoughtful, and quite classy. It doesn’t have the typical drama the other apps have (and even if some stories do seem recycled, they’re done so in a refreshing way), with most of the characters behaving maturely and learning throughout the story. I think this is the best one to recommend, especially to a younger audience like teenagers, because there are some truly wonderful moments of friendship, family, and love, no matter the genre–and there are quite a few different ones. To be honest, I was disappointed in the crime mystery and the superhero novels. I love the genres, but the excitement of both did not translate to the interactive stories. I’d still give them a try, though!
They are made better by the fact that your choices actually have consequences! If you choose one thing, it could improve or worsen your relationship with another character. You could impress a queen. You could choose to not forgive an estranged cousin. Some are timed, which is both stressful and exhilarating! There are legitimately a lot of options, especially in the romance genres. You really can pick whomever you want, and all of the men (and women!) are stand-up love interests who actually know how to treat you right.
I actually got that bittersweet feeling from finishing the story LoveHacks on Choices, just like when I finish a good book, I kid you not. It’s also fun because you can replay a chapter or a whole book to see what other paths the story can go down depending on the different choices, and a lot of the stories have multiple perspectives so you’re not always playing one character (you can even play–gasp–a man!). The voices are great, leaving you with witty and smart dialogues. These actually read like well-written books with well-developed characters, unlike all of the other interactive story apps.
Despite my love for Choices, I do have to mention negatives like I did with all the other interactive story apps. There are many times you are going to want to use diamonds, and like in Episodes, you only earn one per chapter. This can get quite frustrating, but it is also understandable (and better than Episode in that not all options are always 20+). You earn a new ticket every hour, which is not the best, but it is sufficient because… there isn’t that much content yet on this app. Pixelberry Studios definitely goes by quality over quantity, and this is both a negative because I’m left wanting more (I have to wait a whole week for one chapter like I’m watching a TV series) and a positive in that quality should always come first, so the wait is worth it. They are getting better at this, though–they released two new stories just this past week!
If you want me to also review and rank the other kinds, like the one-off stories or the text-based stories, let me know! Check out other reviews here. Also write below which interactive story apps you already tried and liked/disliked or which ones you plan to test out.