In gaming, stories and character development are usually afterthoughts but in some games they stand at the forefront of what we remember about the game. That's why this list is about the most surprising twists in some of our favorite titles.
Warning: There are a lot of spoilers ahead so if you haven't played any of these games, turn back now.
Also before getting started... as an honorable mention I think Square Enix's Nier deserves a quick shout-out for the twist in the middle involving a character who was a hermaphrodite. Weaving that element into the story -- as someone struggling with their identity and doing it in a smooth way was top notch stuff. Also, minor shout-out to Final Fantasy V and the Faris cross-dressing switcheroo, as well as Max Payne 3 for the grizzly but not entirely unexpected fate of the family that Max was supposed to protect. But now it's time to get on with the list and discuss some of the more shocking twists that we definitely did not see coming.
Resident Evil: Comrade's BetrayalResident Evil games have always tried being a lot smarter than what they actually are, but there's no denying that the original Resident Evil had a serious twist when it was discovered that the leader of the STARS, Albert Wesker, was actually a double agent for Umbrella and was set on betraying the team for a piece of that Umbrella pie. This set into motion the long running reign of Wesker as a villain throughout most of the entire series leading up to his final epic showdown an on exploding volcano where Chris has to punch through a boulder and kill Wesker, no joke. Wesker's betrayal wasn't telegraphed so a lot of gamers were taken by surprise when it happened way back in 1996 when storytelling was oftentimes used as just an excuse to shoot things.
BioShock: You're Not In ControlThe first and third BioShock had some interesting plot twists, but the first game was easier to wrap our heads around. In BioShock 1 about two-thirds through the game you discover that you've been strung along the whole time to carry out the bidding of criminal overlord Frank Fontaine; a guy who was pretending to be your pal under the guise of someone named Atlas. It was all a ruse to get rid of Andrew Ryan, the founder of the city of Rapture. Players would do the bidding of Fontaine/Atlas whenever he would say “Would you kindly”. It was a real twist finding out that you were actually the bad guy in the game sent to do the bidding of another bad guy.
Knights of the Old Republic: You're Actually EvilNo matter how you cut the cloth your character in Knights of the Old Republic was the sole reason the galaxy was thrown into turmoil. Before there was Emperor Palpatine and Anakin Skywalker there was Revan and Malak. Except when you started the game you didn't know that you were evil – you were just an adventure who lost their memory and had some mad Force powers. Except, midway through the game a bombshell is dropped and the player discovers that they are actually Revan, a powerful Sith who was on the verge of taking control of the galaxy. The twist was cleverly handled, changed the entire scope of story and even the way teammates reacted to your character. Very clever writing by BioWare.
Heavy Rain: Saving People Still Makes You A KillerI still can't get over this one. Heavy Rain was a complex and convoluted title at times with intersecting stories featuring four playable characters. One of those playable characters was a seemingly burned out but good-natured private eye, Scott Shelby. The guy seems like the typical investigator down on his luck at times but trudging through the grime in the world to do the right thing; heck there's even a segment where he can talk down a robber and save a few people in a convenience store. So imagine the shock and surprise when it was revealed that this private eye was actually the dreaded “Origami Killer" who kidnaps and kills little kids. It's crazy stuff and a crazy twist that no one saw coming. In fact, some gamers were kind of frustrated with the reveal because they felt like it didn't make much sense. Well, that's David Cage for ya.
Red Dead Redemption: Marston Bites The DustRed Dead Redemption is heralded as a western masterpiece. It's a game about a former outlaw, John Marston, being contracted to hunt down and kill his former posse. He travels the expanse of the great west, carrying out various missions and actually attempting to avoid getting into too much trouble since his whole purpose is to return to his family who is being threatened if he doesn't get the job done. Imagine the shock and surprise when Marston fulfills his duty, brings a bit of justice back to civil society and attempts to live out his live in peace when the men he was working for come and fill him up with bullet holes right in front of his family. So yeah, you get to play the rest of the game as his son since Marston bites the dust. On the upside at least the son manages to get revenge.
Call of Duty: Everybody DiesI don't know if you can accurately sum up a twist from just one Call of Duty. It feels like each of the games have one blockbuster twist that leaves everyone's jaws on the floor and their eyes stretched wide open. From Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's shocking “No Russian” mission that results in one of the undercover operatives the player is controlling ending up getting killed even after he tried proving his worth by killing a bunch of innocent civilians, to Soap McTavish – one of the series' regulars – dying after getting blown up in the middle of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3; each Call of Duty game has one (or two) big twists. However, Lt. General Sheppard's betrayal, resulting in the death of “Roach” and “Ghost” ranks up there as one of the biggest twists in the series, along with Reznov from the first Black Ops being a hallucination of the protagonist Alex Mason. That was only trumped by Mason being potentially killed by the player character in Black Ops 2 in another one of those crazy character story twists. Only Call of Duty.
Hotline Miami: It's About NationalismHotline Miami is a fast-paced, brutal, no-holds-barred violent romp through the underbelly of 1989 Miami. The story unfolds in completely incoherent way but finally all makes sense in a sort of post-gameplay segment featuring a character named “Biker”. It turns out that the hotline telling people to carry out grizzly murders was all done for the sake of nationalism. Seems crazy right? Well, that's just part of it. The whole thing was devised to create tension between Russia and the U.S., and was a cold war tactic to escalate things in America. Basically, home-bred terrorism. The whole thing is so shocking that I was personally left completely dismayed and still confused about a lot of it. Hotline Miami goes down as an absolute cult classic for being able to tie such a strange and compelling plot twist in with such gruesome and surreal gameplay.
Metal Gear Solid 2: I Have No Idea What's Going OnThe Metal Gear Solid franchise has enough crazy plot twists to fill up this entire list. However, special attention should be paid to ending of Metal Gear Solid 2. Raiden infiltrates a base filled with terrorists only to find out that his entire mission was actually orchestrated by a secretive group called the Patriots. The Patriots had staged the operation so it would mold Raiden into a super-soldier on par with Solid Snake. Then, Raiden finds out this was just misinformation. The real purpose of the fake mission was to collect data for Patriots' artificial intelligence so they can better control the civilian population. The ending is so insane that the vampire, giant robots and possession via severed limb elsewhere in the game seem ordinary by comparison.