Plot twists are a great way to shake up a narrative structure, and video games follow that rule through and through. The number of times a video game story has included a plot twist is uncountable and possibly even overdone at this point.
However, not all such twists land, especially if the delivery and/or execution is not done well. Sometimes, these incoming turns are predictable because they’ve been done before, or the characters are too iconic to be left behind.
Whatever the case may be, it can be safely said that video games (just like any form of media) have a varying degree of success when it comes to plot twists.
Note: This article reflects the writer’s opinions.
Five video game twists that stunned
1) Resident Evil
The original Resident Evil video game, released in 1996, saw a group of special agents from the Racoon City Police Department, known as S.T.A.R.S., deployed to the Spencer Mansion during a multiple murder investigation.
This team included now resident evil stalwarts Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, weapons specialist Barry Burton, and leader Albert Wesker.
Throughout the video game’s story, the team enters the mansion, gets separated, and learns that the Umbrella Corporation is behind all the murders near the estate. They have been using human subjects in their genetic engineering experiments.
However, towards the third act of the title’s story, players discover Wesker in one of the labs inside the mansion, where it is revealed that the head honcho of S.T.A.R.S. is a double agent who works for Umbrella.
When this video game was released, this surprise was a shocking development, as users had no reason to distrust their captain until that point. It also helped that Wesker was just a few features short of looking like Val Kilmer from Top Gun in the live-action cutscenes of the game.
So when this dashing, cool captain, who wears sunglasses at night, turned against gamers, it was quite the surprise.
From an old video game to a relatively new one, Control by developer Remedy was released in 2019 to quite the acclaim. It followed protagonist Jesse Faden as the search for her brother led her to a building in Manhattan, New York, which turned out to be a junction of various planes of realities, under attack by a supernatural force known as the Hiss.
While the video game has a few mind-blowing moments, the most shocking so far was possibly when the game ends. Towards the story’s conclusion, an incident leaves Jesse particularly vulnerable to the Hiss, and she is overcome by it, followed by the credits rolling.
Then follows a few moments of sheer panic as players wonder if they did something wrong or if the game was supposed to end this way?
However, a closer look at the credits reveals that not all is what it seems, and soon, the letters themselves start to distort. Still, the twist is far from over, as when gameplay resumes, Jesse is now in a modern office environment and has to perform mundane tasks there as a new hire. The game finally brings the story back to the actual narrative through a few repetitive actions, and things move more coherently from then on.
3) Red Dead Redemption
The original Red Dead Redemption saw video game protagonist John Marston trying to live his life peacefully on his ranch, having put his outlaw days behind him. However, his past eventually catches up to him, as the FBI agent Edgar Ross kidnaps his family to leverage him to hunt down members of his old gang.
The plot then revolves around John hunting down three of his old gang members, including Bill Williamson, Javier Escuela, and Dutch van der Linde. Once this is completed, John is reunited with his family and returns to his ranch.
However, it isn’t a happy ending as Ross betrays John and shows up with an army of agents at his ranch.
John allows his wife and child to escape by deciding to hold off the forces of the FBI at the ranch. What follows is one of the boldest twists in video game history, as John steps out to face the enemies and meets his end.
The title even lets users go into Deadeye mode, giving them the hollow hope of trying to shoot down all attackers, which is ultimately not possible. As the shots echo, the video game switches to John’s son, Jack, who gamers can play as in the endgame setting.
4) Bioshock Infinite
Bioshock Infinite follows Booker DeWitt as he is sent to rescue a young girl from the hands of a tyrannical ruler. The girl, Elizabeth, is held in a tower by the dictator known as Comstock in the flying city of Columbia.
While Booker is initially successful, Comstock becomes wise to this and sends his followers after him.
Using her powers to jump between realities, Elizabeth helps them escape, eventually leading to the revelation that she is Booker’s long-lost daughter, taken from him by the Comstock of another reality.
This is a big enough twist in its own regard. Later on, Booker and Comstock come face to face, and after an argument, the former drowns the villain in a baptismal font.
However, a little way down the story, it is revealed that Comstock is actually Booker. After being unable to come to terms with his actions in the war he took part in, he becomes religious and changes his name to Zachary Hale Comstock after a baptism.
This is followed by Elizabeth and alternate versions of her drowning Booker to erase all versions of him and Comstock from existence in the video game.
5) Heavy Rain
Heavy Rain is an interactive drama action-adventure video game by Quantic Dream. Its plot revolves around a serial murderer known as the Origami Killer, who kidnaps victims, kills them, and leaves an origami figure nearby.
The video game has four different protagonists that move the story forward at various times. These include Ethan Mars, whose son has been kidnapped by the killer; Norman Jayden, an FBI profiler investigating the Origami Killer; Madison Paige, a journalist looking to write an exclusive about the killer; and PI Scott Shelby, also looking into the murders.
As players take the role of each of these characters, certain flashbacks occur, hinting at the killer’s true identity, although not explicitly. Finally, it is revealed toward the end of the title that Scott Shelby, the character users had assumed the role of at times, is the actual killer.
This was possibly one of the first times in video games where gamers were revealed to have been enabling the villain’s actions while trying to work against him. For most users, this twisted reveal hits them like a truck, leaving them with an uneasy feeling, knowing that inadvertently they’d stepped into the shoes of a killer.
Five video game twists everyone anticipated
1) Batman: Arkham Knight
When Arkham Knight’s trailers showed off a new villain for the video game series’ final outing, many people were pleasantly surprised. However, as extra details emerged, things became more and more familiar.
For comic book fans, at least, the demeanor and style of this new Arkham Knight were very reminiscent of Jason Todd.
When the video game released and players got their hands on it, their suspicions were all but confirmed when it started throwing in hallucination sequences showing the fate of the second Robin, Jason Todd. Seemingly having died at the hands of the Joker in the title’s version of the story and the comics, fans were ready for the final reveal ages before it was delivered.
In the video game’s final act, when Batman faces off against the titular villain, the face under the mask is revealed to be Jason Todd himself. However, despite Kevin Conroy’s superb delivery, players were not nearly as surprised as the world’s greatest detective was by that point.
2) The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Wind Waker was a fun change-up from the previous Legend of Zelda video games, as it showed off Link in a more cartoony setting, with him taking on the role of a pirate and setting sail on the Great Sea. The story featured Ganon as the big bad, and Link was assisted by a new character named Tetra.
Tetra and Link get on many adventures together in the title to defeat Gannon. They venture out onto the sea on the ship known as King of Red Lions, and Link even discovers the master sword.
Finally, they come face to face with Ganon, who somehow recognizes the new character Tetra. This is because Tetra was not a new character, and she was revealed to be Princess Zelda, Keeper of the Triforce.
It did not shock any Legend of Zelda fans because this exact reveal has been done in Ocarina of Time, with the character Sheik. What was that saying about fooling people twice?
3) Mass Effect 2
As the events of Mass Effect 2 start in earnest, after Commander Sheppard is restored to life, the old crew from Normandy is nowhere to be seen. The Illusive Man then tasks Sheppard to form a new team, providing him with new dossiers of potential recruits.
While Sheppard wants to rely on people he once worked with, the Illusive Man replies by saying that those people’s whereabouts are unknown and they can’t afford to waste time.
One of the potential recruits goes by the codename Archangel, a vigilante delivering some much-needed justice in the space station, Omega. However, as soon as gamers learn that Archangel is an expert marksman who can take out targets from a mile away, things about his identity become clear.
So later on, when they finally get an audience with the vigilante, and it is revealed to be none other than Garrus Vakarian, expert marksman and old friend of Sheppard, it was a happy revelation, although not particularly surprising.
A chance encounter with Ashley or Kaiden (depending on ME1 choices), recruiting Tali down the line and a meeting with Liara mean that the Illusive Man has lots of intel.
4) Portal 2
The original Portal video game saw protagonist Chell being subjected to various tests by the AI personality core known as GLaDOS, later revealed to be a psychotic murderous machine.
She had killed everyone in the Aperture Science Facility and wanted to see Chell dead. The title ends with GLaDOS destroyed, as evident from her broken remains.
Yet, GLaDOS returns to the stage in Portal 2 once more, a surprise twist that many might have seen coming. Due to one little feature at the end of Portal, this reveal of GLaDOS being alive was not so much a surprise. It is something that almost anyone who played the first video game should have expected.
This was, of course, the song at the end of the credits of Portal. Sung primarily by GLaDOS, players might initially assume that it’s just a fun little ditty to enjoy for completing the game.
However, as the track progresses, the lyrics become more and more evident that GLaDOS is actually “still alive,” with her singing that phrase multiple times, with the song even hinting that in the credits.
5) Halo Infinite
Halo Infinite’se’s campaign starts with protagonist Master Chief being shown what it’s like to be the underdog by fellow series mainstay Atriox, the brute, or Jiralhanae. This guy slaps Master Chief around the hanger of the UNSC Infinity and casually drops him out into space.
And for users hoping to settle the score in the main story, it was a sad surprise to learn that Atriox was somehow dead six months after the opening cutscene. And yet, as the video game’s main campaign ends, with Master Chief taking down two substitute antagonists to replace Atriox, the brute shows up in a post-credit scene, seemingly setting up the plot for a sequel.
The lack of an actual body, combined with any pertinent details of his death, was reason enough to be reasonably sure that Atriox would factor into the endgame somehow. However, Halo fans were assured that this fan-favorite Jiralhanae from Halo Wars would never be killed off-screen.
Atriox is too important a character to the Halo universe to disappear without any explanation.
Note: This article reflects the author’s views.
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