David Shute’s Small Worlds is an entry for JayIsGames’ “Explore” competition. It is a great example of simple storytelling in a game.
That might seem like a loaded statement when you consider that the entirety of the piece has no dialog, two lines of text, and features a protagonist that is three pixels tall. It’s mechanically simplistic too, only allowing you to move left and right and awkwardly jump. But that’s enough. Through your own explorations it slowly reveals the world and leaves it to the player to infer what happened and what is happening, building on all of that towards an effective ending. A simple story, but one well told within the confines of the system. And one that is told by the players’ own actions.
When I talk about narrative via gameplay, amongst the likes of Super Metroid and Left 4 Dead and others, this is exactly what I mean. It’s an extreme example, stripped down to the barest of elements, but a persuasive one.