As games continue to evolve, their capacity to tell great stories expands. Over the last decade or so we've seen some of the absolute greatest stories told in the history of the gaming industry.
While a game with a crazy twist is not a prerequisite for a great story, it's hard to deny that mind-blowing plot developments that come out of nowhere leave a significant lasting impression, and go a long way in keeping a game stuck in one's mind long after the credits roll.
There have been plenty of plot twists in countless video games over the years, but these 10 twists stand out as the most surprising, shocking, and significant. Before reading on, please be warned that this list will contain substantial SPOILERS for the following games, so proceed with caution:
- Metal Gear Solid 2
- Heavy Rain
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
- Final Fantasy 7
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
- Red Dead Redemption
- Batman: Arkham City
10. Raiden is the Main Character - Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
The Metal Gear Solid franchise has a multitude of twists to choose from, but the staggering controversy over this one helps it stand out. After a brief prologue mission in which the player controls usual hero Solid Snake, the rest of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty has the player in control of Raiden, a completely new character that is absolutely nothing like Solid Snake. The story twist took most everyone by surprise, and while it certainly doesn't detract from the overall quality of Metal Gear Solid 2, it certainly rubbed many people the wrong way.
Due to stunts like this, fans have come to expect the unexpected as it pertains to Metal Gear Solid. In fact, there's already plenty of rumors and speculation surrounding possible twists that could occur in the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, including a rather intriguing theory about head transplants.
9. Origami Killer Revealed - Heavy Rain
Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain is a thriller through and through, following the lives of numerous characters as they coexist 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 better piece together the mystery.
The murderer in question is named the Origami Killer, and his true identity comes as a complete jaw-dropper. As it turns out, the entire time investigator Scott Shelby was investigating the Origami Killer, he was the Origami Killer! This mind-bending twist comes complete with a harrowing final showdown that has a variety of outcomes based on the way the player went through the game, and while plenty may change in one playthrough of Heavy Rain to the next, Scott Shelby is always the terrifying Origami Killer.
8. Shepherd's Betrayal - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
While shooters nowadays are filled with stories that mainly consist of cookie cutter characters and a random betrayal, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was one of the first to shock gamers with an out of nowhere turn, courtesy of the game's supposed leader, General Shepherd.
After fan favorite characters Ghost and Roach manage to successfully raid a compound, they are set to make their escape via helicopter. But before the two make can reach safety their commander, General Shepherd, mercilessly guns them down as the player watches on helplessly. This event shakes the foundation of the game's plot and drives the characters towards Modern Warfare 2's memorable and satisfying finale.
7. Tim the Monster - Braid
Braid is a game that can be interpreted in an exhausting number of ways. There are many theories regarding the game's plot and what it's really about, but regardless of how one interprets Braid's story, the ending is pretty clear.
Throughout the whole game, players are led to believe that primary protagonist Tim is really trying to save the captured princess from an evil knight, but the game's trademark time-traveling mechanics are then used to make the mind-boggling reveal: Tim is the villain the whole time. That's right, the princess was actually fleeing from Tim, and the evil knight was actually trying to save the princess from Tim throughout the game's story.
6. Aerith's Death - Final Fantasy 7
One of the most iconic scenes in gaming history is the death of Aerith (or Aeris) in Final Fantasy 7. While every gamer is likely aware of Aerith's death at this point, at the time it came as a significant emotional blow. Gamers were forced to watch as one of the game's most popular and likable characters was stabbed in the back and murdered without remorse by Sephiroth.
While Aerith's death can't be considered a surprise again in the upcoming Final Fantasy 7 remake, there may actually be a new twist, such as Aerith not biting the dust at all. Square Enix has promised that the Final Fantasy 7 remake will have plot and gameplay changes, which could very well include alternate story paths wherein Aerith lives to heal another day.
5. Darth Revan Revealed - Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Before BioWare had their own gigantic sci-fi universe to play in with the Mass Effect games, they cut their teeth in the RPG genre with the innovative and engrossing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
Throughout Knights of the Old Republic, players learn about a defeated Sith named Darth Revan, and are none the wiser to the fact that the player character actually is Darth Revan the entire time. Revan was brainwashed and had his memories wiped by Jedi so that he would no longer seek to destroy the galaxy, and this revelation is not only a major twist, but also makes one look back on the entire journey thus far in a much different light.
4. John Marston's Sacrifice - Red Dead Redemption
As the primary protagonist of Red Dead Redemption, John Marston is one of the more nobler characters Rockstar Games has ever conceived. He declines sexual advances, works towards noble goals, and keeps razor focused on keeping his family safe. However, it is in an effort to keep his wife and son safe that Marston meets his inevitable end, with players helpless to prevent his fate.
Marston's death was such a jarring twist because players had built up such a connection with the character. This incredibly gutsy twist is just one part of a fantastic tale told within one of the most well-crafted video games to date. Let's just say there's a reason fans are demanding Red Dead Redemption to be one of the first games to receive Xbox 360 backward compatibility on Xbox One.
3. Clayface is The Joker - Batman: Arkham City
While playing Batman: Arkham City, players have various encounters with The Joker, or rather who they assume to be The Joker. As it turns out, The Joker of Arkham City - or at least the one who is pestering Batman for the bulk of the game - is actually Clayface in disguise, and the real, Titan-infected Joker has been lying in wait.
The scene in which the real Joker reveals himself is downright extraordinary and leaves one breathless, as it is a series of reveals right after another. First, Batman's love interest Talia al Ghul stabs who is believed to be the real Joker. Then the actual Joker kills Talia, and the "dead" Joker is revealed to be Clayface in disguise.
2. Samus is Female - Metroid
Coming out of E3 2015, Nintendo was bombarded with hate from fans and the press alike, due to an extremely lackluster digital event, among other controversies, including the fact that newly revealed The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes doesn't allow for female characters. The backlash was so bad that Nintendo openly acknowledged their E3 failures, and admitted to letting down their fans. However, it didn't always used to be this way, and in fact, Nintendo was one of the first to feature a female protagonist in games.
In the 1980's, most video games had players controlling vehicles, talking animals, or male characters, the latter of which would usually be tasked with rescuing any female characters in the game. However, Nintendo made the decision to make the main playable character in their sci-fi platforming game Metroid a female named Samus Aran, but they didn't tell gamers that at first. Once Metroid is completed, Samus' helmet is removed and she reveals herself, which resulted in plenty of shocked and confused 80's kids back in the day.
1. Would You Kindly? - BioShock
BioShock's twist is arguably one of the most shocking and brilliant twists in video game history, and it's one that could really only effectively be done in the medium of gaming, making it all the more special. Throughout the entire game, Atlas asks Jack, the player-controlled character, to perform a variety of tasks, always prefaced with the phrase, "Would you kindly?" However, as it turns out, "Would you kindly?" is actually a trigger phrase that forces Jack to do whatever is asked of him, not unlike how players are forced to complete objectives to continue the game.
Thanks to the unbelievable twists and turns in games like BioShock, BioShock Infinite, and System Shock 2, creator Ken Levine has cemented himself as one of the premiere storytellers in the gaming industry. While he's done with large games like BioShock for the time being, Levine's next game will be narrative focused, and hopefully it has another shocking twist or two that will have gamers discussing it for years.
There have been plenty of other mind-blowing twists besides the ones listed here, but these 10 stand out the most. From Samus's gender surprise to heartbreaking death of Aerith to the unbelievable BioShock reveal, these moments continue to blow away gamers discovering them for the first time.
Any big twists or surprises that you think should've made the list? Sound off in the comments below and let us know which twists throughout gaming history left you with the largest lasting impression!