Some trends are strangely cyclical. The earliest computer games were heavily based on table-top games, and tended to be open-ended and expansive. In the late 80s and early 90s, new technology led the industry to 'chase' Hollywood, and openness was frequently dropped in favor of linear titles with elaborate live or animated cutscene driven stories. In many ways, this last generation of hardware has seen the open world return, with a few merciful lessons learned about respecting player's time.
Japan seems to be the only place that's still making games that are chasing films. I was recently exposed to a game, 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (999, Chunsoft, 2009, Nintendo DS), that's part of a genre that epitomizes this: the 'visual novel'. Think of classic PC adventure games (e.g., King's Quest or Maniac Mansion) with even less interactivity. Basically, you watch long stretches of non-interactive text or video, broken up with choose-your-adventure style choices. Eventually the story presents you with puzzles whose completion begins the cycle anew.
The pay-off is that your choices influence the course of the linear narrative leading you to a series of different endings. The encouragement to play through all of the various paths is the acquisition of different pieces of information about the game's overall plot (mercifully you can quickly page through sections that you've completed in a previous play through).
Based solely on my personal gaming preferences - including my stated hatred of cutscenes - I should have hated 999. And yet, when I pulled it out during some long flights, I ended up playing through the entire thing.
It's difficult to explain 999's plot, especially without 'spoilers'. The titular nine people awake to find themselves trapped in an ocean liner that's been outfitted with all manner of weird puzzles. Each member of the group wears a bracelet with a different numeral and is told that they've swallowed a bomb. If they don't follow the rules of a 'Saw' style game based around the numerology of their bracelets, they will be killed. The rules dictate how they can move through the ship and provides their only means to escape.
999's success stems from its plot being surprisingly well-written. Everything about your circumstances is continuously thrown on its head: it's revealed quite early that one of the 9 persons is the master-mind behind the maze... but whom? By the end, (almost) everything you thought was a plot-hole is explained and even the need to play through 4 'bad' endings to get the 'true end' is explained as part of the plot. It's all stupid Japanese thriller nonsense, but I still enjoyed it.
I suppose that my appreciation for the game, despite its cutscene driven nature, is its use of the medium to do something that couldn't be done well in film or book. As I've said before, if I wanted non-interactive movies, I'd watch a movie, and if I wanted to read reams of text, I'd get a book. It's not perfect, but because of its branching paths, multiple endings, and how they're all integrated into the mind-bending plot, it ends up being something that neither book nor movie could accomplish.
However, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some of the game's glaring imperfections - almost all of which seem to plague Japanese games despite endless volleys of criticism. Why, oh why must the text scroll so slowly? I can read much faster than this, so why not just let me tap along at my own pace? Thankfully you can 'fast-forward' through sections that you've already seen in subsequent play throughs, but why should I have to waste time replaying those sections at all? Why not just let me go back to a previous branch-point in the story and play from there?
In order to see the 'true' ending, you must encounter all of the 'bad' endings (this requires at least 5 play throughs). Thankfully, the endings you've seen and the choices you've made are highlighted, so it's pretty straightforward to try something else. Now, some of the choices are only cosmetic - they lead to different dialogue options with the other captives, but don't influence the ending. However, this is not true of the 'true' ending. In this final play through, choices that were previously cosmetic now matter, but nowhere does the game tell you this. Without the aid of a walkthrough (which I highly recommend), you may be playing the 'true' path several times in order to figure out what arbitrary choices you need to make in order to survive. This isn't good design - it would've been considered stupidly frustrating in classic adventure games, and given how much the medium has progressed, it's unacceptable now.
Somewhat shockingly given 999's ending, they've made a sequel: Virtue's Last Reward (yay ridiculous Japanese naming). I've heard that it fixes some of the issues I have (such as the ability to 'warp' back to previous branch points so I'm looking forward to playing through. I just hope that the writers are able to craft such an interesting tale again.