10 Plot Twists That Hurt Video Games (And 10 That Saved Them)
Like movies, video games use plot twists to shock and give you pause to remember if you potentially saw it coming. The difference between video games and other mediums is that you invest much more time in a video game. The average video game playtime length is around 12-15 hours. With that amount of investment, the plot twists should be worth it.
For the most part, video game plot twists in some of the popular games have enhanced the storyline. Some have even set up plots for future sequels (Resident Evil, for example). When a good twist is presented, you know in your gut if playing the game was worth it up to that point. A good twist builds on subtle clues left throughout the game and involves a deception where the game guides you into thinking one way, and it throws the twist at you out of the blue.
But there are some games that give you a twist which makes no sense or seems random, without any previous setup. In those instances, the supposed payoff hurts the video game. In some cases, finishing the game isn’t even worth it.
The list below contains major spoilers. Some of the twists occur in the middle of the game, but most of them happen at the end of the game. If you haven’t played any of the games, skip the entries if you don’t want to find out what happened in that particular game.
Here’s 10 Twists That Hurt Video Games (And 10 That Saved Them).
20 Hurt: Final Fantasy 7
Considered one of the most shocking scenes in video game history, Aerith’s passing in Final Fantasy 7 actually hurt the game. About halfway through the game, Aerith passes away, which confused gamers as the game had been setting her up to be one of the main characters of Final Fantasy 7.
Players were mostly upset because it felt like their time investment up to that point wasn’t respected.
Remember that Final Fantasy games aren’t short ones, and Aerith’s passing occurs at the end of the first part. Most players found her powerful enough to keep her in the party and upgrade her skills and equip her with the right weapons.
Perhaps if this event happened right ay the beginning, it would have been tolerable.
19 Saved: Resident Evil (Original)
There have been over 20 games released in the Resident Evil series. But the first game - released in 1996 - provides one of the best plot twists of that decade.
Throughout the game you interacted with Albert Wesker, who is the leader of the STARS group. Or so you thought. STARS was the Special Tactics and Rescue Service affiliated with the Raccoon City Police Department. However, Wesker is revealed right before the game’s end to be a double agent working for Umbrella. He had always planned to betray his STARS team.
Wesker turns out to be the main bad guy in subsequent Resident Evil games until number 5, when he’s finally dispatched by Chris Redfield.
18 Hurt: Far Cry (Original)
Far Cry felt like a hurried game with so many generic clichés. This caused a very confusing and convoluted plot.
It starts off normal - at least for Far Cry standards - with moving around and eliminating bad guys left and right. Clues are presented that something is off about this island - that maybe something else is there, too. At this point, bothersome monsters come at you in hordes as you fight your way to learn the secrets of the volcano.
It turns out there are some The X-Files style experiments going on.
At least Far Cry 3 gave the franchise enough redemption to forget the original.
17 Saved: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
When the name Call of Duty is spoken, most people think of the multiplayer aspects. The Call of Duty games did include single-player missions, but the one that surprised most fans was Modern Warfare.
Near the end of the game, you’re given a mission with instructions to stop a nuclear bomb from going off. The only problem is that no one can do anything about the bomb. You are not able to stop it. Instead, you and your colleagues are pitted against the Ultranationalists in a shootout.
Gaz is eliminated, Griggs is dispatched, and Soap is badly hurt. Soap still gets off some shots to finish off the Ultranationalist leader Zakhaev. But you don’t know what exactly happened to Price and Soap. The screen fades to white.
16 Hurt: Fallout 3
It’s hard for Bethesda to go wrong with the Fallout series. By attending to every little detail in the environment and story, the developers make it impossible not to enjoy a Fallout game. Except for one moment in Fallout 3.
The end of Fallout 3 has you taking on a self-sacrificial mission to stop Project Purity. To do so, you will have to enter a control room that is flooded with massive amounts of radiation. You won’t live.
You do have the choice of sending whatever character you want in there.
The developers forgot that your sidekick Ghoul has been with you this whole time.
He’s immune to radiation. Now would be the perfect time for him to step up and shut down Project Purity. This plot hole endured until the expansion fixed the error.
15 Saved: Bioshock
BioShock takes everything you do and warps the in-game reality to give you one of the best twists in video game history.
Atlas is your guide that always says, “self-sacrificial mission.” An instruction always followed and you'd always obey. Except that beginning phrase has a darker meaning. “Would you kindly” is the trigger phrase Atlas uses to get you (the protagonist) to do everything he wants you to. No matter how polite you think Atlas is, he’s evil.
From the moment you undertook Atlas’ first task, you followed a path of his servant, being brainwashed early on to perform any type of assignment -- noble or evil.
14 Hurt: God of War 3
God of War 3 was going to tie in the first two games by revealing why Kratos existed.
In number 3, Kratos reaches Pandora’s Box. The expectation of what’s inside is something so powerful that it will save humanity -- like a physical weapon or even a person with magical powers. But it was neither. What will save humanity is the intangible concept of Hope.
How do you expect Hope to destroy Mount Olympus and Zeus, which was Kratos' plan from the beginning?
It was such a letdown that gamers have stated God of War 3 is the worst in the franchise.
13 Saved: Assassin's Creed
Sometimes the best plot reveal is the one shown to you right at the beginning of the game. This is what happened in Assassin’s Creed.
Once you load into the game, you’re treated to a surprise that informed you everything is a computer simulation and there’s much more to the storyline.
The trailers for the game before release gave every indication Assassin’s Creed took place during the Crusades in game and not through a simulation.
This computer simulation trope might be a tired one if it would have occurred later in the game - or at the ending. But the developers and writers decided to do it at the start, which many agree worked for the game.
12 Hurt: Resident Evil 5
While the first Resident Evil had a great story and emotional twist, Resident Evil 5’s twist was boring from the start.
Even the in-game characters have little interest in the twist.
Early in the game you come across a hooded figure meant to be mysterious and aloof. From the get-go, it’s clear this figure is Jill. Fast forward to the end of the game and it’s revealed that this figure is none other than, you guessed it, Jill!
To actually call this a plot twist, when you pretty much suspected who it is from the beginning, is to give the game too much credit. At most, the Jill reveal is a weak method to move the story along.
11 Saved: Red Dead Redemption
Do you like endings that are happily ever after? Then don’t play Red Dead Redemption.
In the end, John Marsten - the character you play - has battled to get out of his dealings with Ross. Thinking all is good, John goes to the ranch where his family, his wife Abigail, and his son Jack, wait for his arrival.
It’s not that simple. John has promised Ross that he won’t pursue the life of an outlaw anymore, but it doesn't matter. Ross leads a surprising and shocking attack of lawmen, government agents, and soldiers. John survives enough to get his family safe, and you think everything is just fine.
But it’s not. John is shot a number of times by Ross and his men. Some gamers are still sad to this day about John’s passing.
10 Hurt: Final Fantasy X
Another Final Fantasy game hurt by a plot twist was Final Fantasy X. It hurt the game in the same way that Final Fantasy 7 was: the time you spent playing the game was not worth it when the reveal occurred.
You play the character Tidus, who finally falls in love after there were so many hints that he had a love interest. It’s a nice, tidy ending to that subplot, right?
You learn that everything is just a dream.
That plot device is hands down the worst attempt at a twist in storytelling, no matter what medium.
By the time you get to that point, you’ve sunk 40-50 hours into the game just to experience “a dream.”
9 Saved: Silent Hill 2
Video game reviewers and other gamers claim the twist in Silent Hill 2 is one of the best ones of all time. James Sunderland goes to Silent Hill to meet up with his wife, Mary. When James gets there, he’s suddenly tormented by weird monsters and the ghost of someone named Maria. Maria oddly looks like Mary.
James goes through Silent Hill-ish puzzles and fights, only to find out what really happened to his wife. Some time later, James finds a videotape that shows him ending the life of his wife - who was terminally-ill. This event happens before the events in Silent Hill 2 begin.
Everything that happened to him in the game was because of his massive guilt over dispatching his wife.
8 Hurt: Metroid
As you played Metroid and fought through level after level of bad guys and platform jumping, Samus Aran’s gender wasn’t entirely clear. The character was just a powerful being in a spacesuit that could do some amazing things.
After you defeat Mother Brain, Samus took off her helmet. You find out Samus is a woman. This twist isn’t what hurt Metroid, rather it was the sexist endings you could achieve.
Depending on how quickly you beat the game, Samus would remove her clothing.
First was the normal ending with the helmet removal. Then came the helmet and spacesuit, which showed her in some kind of skimpy bodysuit. If you completed the game in less than an hour, you’d see Samus standing in her bra and underwear.
7 Saved: Heavy Rain
Although gamers disliked the massive focus on the Quick Time Event mechanic in Heavy Rain, the story’s progression and theme were the hit of the video game.
Heavy Rain had more than one plot twist, most of them minor. The one twist that surprised a lot of people was the reveal of the ultimate villain. Several clues were littered throughout the game as you played, but they weren’t clear until the 50th chapter.
It’s sort of throws you off to learn Scott Shelby is ultimate villain. It ties in all the blank spots in the plot, and the reveal forces you to think back on all the clues and how you could have missed the identity of the Big Bad.
6 Hurt: Bayonetta
Bayonetta isn’t the smartest lead character and the game's story is weak and two-dimensional.
Sometime during the middle of the story, Bayonetta rescues a girl who looks like the main character. Well, she shares Bayonetta's glasses and lollipop obsession.
There’s more story that goes by, but you’ll eventually learn that the little girl is Bayonetta.
One problem: Bayonetta has been stuck in a coffin for the last 500 years. The writers must have completely forgotten this important fact.
Worse, when Bayonetta finds out the girl is her, she is sadly indifferent. Even she must have wanted out of the game.
5 Saved: Spec Ops: The Line
Spec Ops isn’t as well-known as Call of Duty or Battlefield. There was a 10-year gap from Airborne Commando (2002) and The Line (2012), which contained an amazing twist.
As you progress through the game, Captain Martin Walker communicates with Colonel John Konrad over a handheld walkie. Konrad is like a live conscience, constantly questioning Walker’s dubious actions. The final scenes approach, which is where the plot twist occurs.
Walker eventually comes across Konrad’s lifeless husk. The Captain has been using Konrad as a hallucination to justify his actions and decisions in the game. But it doesn’t matter: Walker manages to “see” Konrad lift a gun to Walker’s head, asking Walker to take the blame for the Dubai events.
4 Hurt: Bionic Commando
Bionic Commando flew under the radar in the video game world, but if this major plot twist is anything to go by, the radar didn’t miss much.
Playable character Spencer is being controlled by a shady government to infiltrate and eliminate a terrorist organization. To help him, Spencer is outfitted with a bionic arm. He’s promised that if he succeeds, he will be rejoined with his wife, who’s been supposedly lost for some time. In a way, he’s been with her the whole time.
His bionic arm is his wife.
The ending tells you that a soul needed to be inserted into the arm to connect with the owner. It was a quick and lazy way to explain the arm, and the follow-up scene didn’t explain anything else about it.
3 Save: Castlevania: Lord of Shadow
Nostalgic gamers have a fondness for the Castlevania series.
In Lord of Shadows, did you ever wonder where the most iconic vampire - Dracula - was during the game? You fought every supernatural being known to man, like werewolves, vampires, and demons, but where was the granddaddy of them all?
It turns out, you learn where Dracula is after the credits screen. In fact, you are Dracula.
This scene is set about 1000 years in the future (the present days according to the game), and you are trying to stop Satan, who’s looking to destroy Earth and exact his revenge on you. Lord of Shadows 2 continues Dracula’s mission.
2 Hurt: Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time combines great mechanics into an all-encompassing RPG. It had an expansive world with the potential to have unlimited gameplay, but the twist stopped all that in its track.
You are Fayt, and your crew goes to a lost world with an evil entity, the Executioners. They rip the place apart. Your party must destroy whoever is controlling the monsters. The only problem is they are in another universe.
A port is discovered, and after stepping through, you learn that the characters are in a simulation.
That’s right, the Star Ocean world is a game being played by kids. Nothing mattered at that point since the ending had no relation to the actual gameplay. Just another “Oh, you’re in a simulation” plot twist.
1 Saved: Braid
On the surface, Braid is a platformer in a similar vein as the Mario games. You have a straight-forward mission: you must save your girlfriend. Traveling through strange worlds - which are done beautifully - you search for clues to the location of your “princess.”
Hold on, though. When you get to the end, you find out that you weren’t trying to save her. She’s been trying to escape you. Stalker-status engaged.
Except that’s not all either. The princess is really an atom bomb. The whole story in the game is a vision in his head. Tim, the main character, was hoping he could take back his work on the atom bombs that were used on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
What video game plot twists did you love? Let us know in the comments!