After a cryptic introduction featuring a man and a book falling into a crevice, you, a nameless Stranger, find yourself in possession of said book. Opening it, you see a curious panel on the front page (think of the moving photographs from the Harry Potter saga) which shows a sweeping overview of an island. Touching the panel has the effect of physically taking you there. Exploring your environs, you come across a crumpled letter in the grass, written by a man named Atrus to his wife Catherine, instructing her to find and listen to a message he’s left for her. Once you achieve that, the story slowly begins to fall into place. Atrus has the ability to write linking books: each describes a potential world in the multiverse in great detail, and, if that world exists, has the ability of taking people there. Atrus had a library on Myst island, but, as you quickly discover, most of the books have been destroyed in a fire. He managed to salvage and hide four linking books, and suspects one of his two sons as the culprit, but he himself is nowhere to be found. On the other hand, his sons have been confined inside special prison books: a red one and a blue one, which you are able to consult to communicate with them. Each of them claims innocence and urges you to help him: the links in their books are broken because of missing pages, scattered over the four remaining ages. Fitting the pages back into the books will gradually repair the link and, eventually, allow you to use them. It then becomes a matter of locating the four linking books, visiting the four ages, retrieving the missing pages, and, based on what you can piece together, decide who is guilty of arson (among other things).
The presentation of the storyline is decidedly atypical, since you start out…with no information at all. You have no idea how (or where) you found the Myst linking book, no idea who Atrus is, no idea why a linking book does what it does, etc. This effectively encourages exploration, since there’s no other way for you to figure out what you need to do or which devices you’re supposed to use. Thankfully, everything you need to know is right there around you; it’s just a matter of finding it.