Video Games have come a long way since this:
The first video game, Pong (1972) consisted of a bunch of white dots on a screen. The instructions consisted of “Deposit quarter, ball serves automatically, avoid missing ball for highscore.” To say that games have progressed since then would be a massive understatement. Within the next fifty years, video games have managed to conquer pop culture. Games now often have larger production budgets that feature films from large studios and the most successful game franchises manage to rake in even more money. The most watched channel on Youtube started off as primarily a let’s play channel. That’s right, a large portion of Youtube’s demographic visits the website to watch other people play video games. However, movies still win out when it comes to telling an engaging story, right? Wrong. Certainly in the earlier life cycle of the video game industry, the draw for gamers was realism in visuals and gameplay mechanics. Story was merely an afterthought. John Carmack, lead programmers of some iconic games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, and Quake was once quoted as saying, “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.” This was true in the 90s, even if the creators of a game had a great story and brilliant characters in mind, the technology that existed did not allow them to tell these stories. Although, this is true of movies as well. In the late 19th century, the beginnings of the movie industry, films didn’t have stories either. It was realism that was the draw for movie-goers as well.
This film by the Lumiere Brothers had people stampeding out of the theater.
They actually thought a train was about to hit them (I’d laugh at them, but VR horror games scare the crap out of me even today.)
Times have changed now and technology has progressed. Game developers can now tell the stories they want to tell with with compelling plotlines and interesting characters. One of the best parts of a story is an insane twist. Video game stories have twists that would have M. Night Shyamalan needing a new pair of pants. So I’m going to drop a SPOILER WARNING here and talk about the 10 plot twists that had gamer’s jaws on the floor.
10. Revan Reveal – Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic
Throughout the game the player is sure that they are either playing as either good or evil based on their own choices. You form a battle party to take on the supreme dark lord of the Sith, Darth Malak. However the big twist is that you are Darth Malak’s brainwashed apprentice, Darth Revan. You have been a Sith Lord throughout the entire game!
9. Portal’s Cake isn’t the only lie.
Valve’s experimental puzzle game is infamous for its ending. “The cake is a lie.” has become a huge internet meme since its big reveal. Players control Chell, armed with the portal gun in an abandoned facility. Guiding you through all the experiments is an artificial intelligence named GLaDOS. She delivers hilarious sarcastic exposition and the promise of cake at the end of all the various test chambers Chell makes her way through. In the third act of the game, it is revealed GLaDOS is an evil AI that is bent on killing you. You see “the cake is a lie” written all over the walls and realize that GLaDOS has been playing you the whole time.
8. The Origami Killer’s Identity – Heavy Rain
Heavy Rain is a great psychological thriller, it follows the lives of a number of characters in the midst of a series of child murders. The player is given control of many of these people, allowing for the opportunity to see things through their eyes and piece things together. The murderer is dubbed the Origami Killer, and his true identity comes as a complete shock. It turns out the entire time investigator Scott Shelby was investigating the murders, he was the Origami Killer! This mind-bending twist comes complete with a harrowing final showdown that has different endings based on player’s decisions throughout the game.
7. Clayface is Joker – Batman: Arkham City
At the end of Batman: Arkham Asylum, The Joker was mutated by a special serum called Titan which turned him into a massive monster. When he returns in Arkham City, Joker is back to normal, but dying from the serum. He forces Batman to develop an antidote and save his life, which he eventually accomplishes with the help of Mr. Freeze.When everyone thinks the Joker is cured. Except that he wasn’t. When Batman clashes with Joker in the final boss fight, it is revealed that he was actually the shape-shifting villain Clayface playing a healthy Joker the whole time. Not only a great twist, but also a great introduction of a favorite villain from the comic into the game’s story.
6. The Nuke Goes Off – Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Now most people play Call of Duty for the multiplayer, but Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare also had a great single-player campaign with a top-notch story. As you hurtle towards the end, you’re tasked with stopping a nuclear bomb from detonating, except unknown to you at that point, there’s nothing you can do about it. Not only can you not stop it, you all end up in a shootout between our heroes and the Ultra-nationalists. The bomb goes off and the player character dies. Not what anyone was expecting…
5. Spec Ops: The Line
Throughout the game, the protagonist Captain Martin Walker has been speaking to the exiled Colonel John Konrad on a small handheld radio. Throughout the story, Walker commits many atrocities, with Konrad questioning the morality of his actions. However, as the game nears its final act, the twist is revealed. Walker stumbles across Konrad’s decaying corpse, and it turns out Walker has been suffering from dissociative identity disorder that used the hallucination of Konrad to rationalise his actions. It’s one of the most shocking twists in gaming history and definitely earns a place on this list.
4. Silent Hill 2
James Sunderland travels to the house at Silent Hill to meet Mary, his wife. When he arrives he is tormented by monsters and a strange apparition of a woman called Maria, who looks very much like his wife Mary. What’s even more sinister is that James later finds a video tape that shows him killing his terminally-ill wife Mary before the game even starts. As it turns out, the entire game has been a trip into the protagonist’s psyche and an exploration of his guilt over killing his wife. Crazy…!
3. John Marsten’s Fate – Read Dead Redemption
The really sick thing about the twist at the end of Red Dead Dead Redemption was that the story was over. All loose ends had been tied up and our hero John Marsten was ready to hang up his hat and guns and leave the outlaw life behind, or so we thought. He goes back to the ranch where his wife and son are waiting to find an ambush. He manages to fend off several waves of attack by the law but is eventually shot several times and killed.
2. Samus Reveal – Metroid
This twist shows that you don’t need breathtaking visuals or cinematic cut-scenes to pull of a great plot twist. Metroid came out in 1986 for the NES. You play a badass inter-galactic bounty hunter Samus Aran. You hunt alien parasites and space pirates while wearing awesome sci fi power armour. However, at the end of the game, when the final boss is defeated. Samus takes off the armour and the protagonist was revealed to be a woman. Samus was one of the the iconic NES characters, ranked with the likes of Mario and Link. This reveal blew the minds of gamers all over the world at the time.
1. Would You Kindly? – Bioshock
This twist happens toward the end of Bioshock, before the major fight between the player character, Jack, and Andrew Ryan, the supposed big baddie in the game. It turns out Jack is the illegitimate son of the game’s main antagonists, brainwashed and experimented on and by Atlas, the rival of Andrew Ryan, to be a weapon, bent on destroying everything that Andrew Ryan built. It turns out Atlas has been instructing the player to do his bidding throughout the game with the phrase “Would you kindly…” to trigger your mind-control. You’ve performed all these pre-determined brutal and unpleasant tasks throughout the story with no real ability to make your own choices. It’s almost as if you were playing a video game… Incredibly meta!
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