Video games have the potential to tell great stories, with compelling narratives and well-developed characters who can keep players invested. The protagonist also plays a huge part in this experience, as that is the character who users will connect with the most.
Sometimes, though, video games go a step beyond by introducing a twist in the narrative that can flip the perspective of gamers. This comes in the form of the protagonist being part of a collective or group whose actions are irredeemable.
This might be shown as a late-game realization, or give individuals a questionable standpoint from the very beginning of the game.
Note: This article reflects the writer's opinions.
Five video game protagonists part of the wrong side
1) Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
The video game Star Wars: Force Unleashed started with players taking control of Darth Vader for a brief moment, which was cool, but no one thought they would be playing as a sith. Yet, as the game starts in earnest with series protagonist Starkiller, users take on the role of Vader’s secret apprentice.
While Starkiller seemingly changes allegiances midway through the story, he still only does it as a double agent, seeking to please Vader. This eventually leads him to be betrayed a second time by his master.
It is only by the final mission of the video game that Starkiller truly turns to the light.
Even then, he ends up either dead or fully under the emperor’s control in each of the two endings, seemingly paying for his misdeeds. Star Wars fans might say that playing as a sith is fun, which might be true. However, serving an empire of space Nazis just isn’t cool.
2) Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5’s main antagonist is Joseph Seed, a religious cult leader convinced that humanity is on the verge of collapsing as it relies too much on authority and government. He despises politicians and their politics, professing that they will bring about the end times.
In contrast, the video game’s protagonist, the player-created Deputy, a marshal of the US government, is a straightforward individual who simply wants to bring down this chaotic individual, whose cult members are causing quite a lot of problems in Hope County. By the end of the game, however, one of these parties is proved to be in the right, and it turns out it's not the protagonist.
In the ending, where the Deputy finally arrests Seed, a nuclear missile strike occurs nearby, destroying a major part of civilization. It was a result of the political unrest and the unstable government, which had been foreshadowed by seemingly harmless radio broadcasts throughout the story.
3) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
While Skyrim mostly does a great job of justifying the actions of the Dragonborn (the protagonist of the video game) for most of the larger questlines, there is one small side mission story that users have little control over.
In the main quest, they encounter two parties that help them defeat Alduin, namely the elder dragon Parthunaux and the members of the Blades.
While the dragon is simple enough to understand, the Blades are an ancient group of dragon hunters, which the Dragonborn becomes a part of through the main quest. However, once Alduin is defeated, the Blades give gamers an ultimatum. To remain a part of the group, they must kill Parthunaux.
They make a good case for this, pointing out that he was once Alduin’s brother in arms and might rise again. But killing a being who has done nothing but help individuals throughout the title based on something he might do is crossing the line.
To make this right, players have created mods allowing the Dragonborn to assert their right over the Blades and insist that Parthunaux lives. This was the only right decision.
4) Shadow of the Colossus
The protagonist in the video game Shadow of the Colossus is Wanderer, who wants his beloved Mono to return to life. To do so, he is tasked by a mysterious spirit known as Dormin to destroy 16 monolithic giants scattered across the world.
As players start taking on these titans, they can’t help but feel like they’re simply hunting down innocent creatures who want to live in peace. This is because Dormin was using Wanderer to unknowingly release his spirit, which had been sealed in idols inside these creatures.
By the end of the video game, when Wanderer has destroyed the last Colossi, Dormin finally takes over him, completely, turning him into a shadowy demonic figure. A third party eventually manages to seal the combined form of Dormin and Wanderer in a sacred pool for eternity.
5) Spec Ops: The Line
PTSD is a serious mental health issue that should never be ignored and given priority for treatment. This seems to be the lesson at the end of the video game Spec Ops: The Line.
Protagonist Martin Walker starts the story as a military veteran seeking to bring to justice a fellow soldier, John Konrad, who has gone rogue and taken control over a war-torn Dubai with his infantry battalion.
Throughout the title’s story, Walker leads a band of soldiers on his mission and is finally successful in locating Konrad at his fortified penthouse. However, once he reaches the would-be villain, Walker realizes that Konrad had been dead for a long time, and his battalion had left long ago.
Under normal circumstances, this would have been fine if Walker hadn’t already justified many irredeemable acts as a means to an end to finally bring Konrad down. One of these acts included releasing white phosphorus on a group of innocent civilians.
With Konrad being dead, it would seem Walker had hallucinated much of the narrative, meaning his entire mission had been meaningless from the start.
Note: This article reflects the author’s views.
Q. Do you enjoy morally gray stories in video games?
I prefer a clear divide between the good and bad
I don't mind indulging in gray situations
41 votes so far