The Twenty Most Mind-Blowing Plot Twists in Video Games (SPOILERS!)

Biggest Video Game Twists

Everyone loves a good plot twist, but video game plot twists are something special. Because we’re responsible for playing the game, we tend to be more engaged with the characters and their actions. So when the mask comes off the killer or the cake turns out to be a lie (so to speak), we’re not only shocked, we’re motivated.

This list of the 20 biggest video game twists is for everyone who’s shouted “NO WAY” at the screen. It’s for all the gamers who’ve had their mind blown when all the details fall into place. Sometimes the bad guy isn’t who we thought it was. Sometimes WE are the bad guy. And sometimes, the twist is so shocking, it changes our idea of what a video game can be. Keep reading to find out more.

And, it must be said: MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD.

20. Biggest Video Game Twists: Our Princess is in Another Castle (Super Mario Bros.)

Biggest Video Game Twists
Source: Flickr/Les Champs Libres

It may be difficult for some younger players to consider this a plot twist. It’s practically a meme these days—”sorry X, but our Y is in another Z”—but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a huge surprise back when Super Mario Bros. was first released. Back then, players didn’t expect their games to be longer than a dozen levels or so.

But when you finally make it to the end of the first world, you’re met not by Princess Peach (aka Princess Toadstool), but by Toad, who informs you there’s a lot more side-scrolling, platform-jumping action ahead of you before you get to rescue the Princess. This might actually be the oldest twist in video games, and it represents a great leap forward for the medium. 

19. Biggest Video Game Twists: To the Templars! (Assassin’s Creed III)

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For most of Assassin’s Creed III, assassin Connor Kenway fights to liberate the thirteen colonies from British rule. That’s not how the game starts, however. The first part follows Haytham Kenway, who the player is led to believe works with the series’ protagonist group, the fabled Assassins.

Lo and behold, Haytham is actually a Templar, the rival faction that fights against the Assassins. To make matters worse, he’s not just any Templar, he’s actually the main antagonist of the game! It makes you rue all the hard work you put in at the beginning of the game and helps motivate you to get back at the Templars later on. That’s some good story-telling!

18. Biggest Video Game Twists: The Real Monster (Shadow of the Colossus)

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In this beloved action-adventure game from Japan, the player takes control of a young man named Wander, who enters a forbidden land. In order to restore the life of a girl named Mono, Wander must travel across a vast expanse on horseback and defeat sixteen massive beings, known simply as colossi.

Seems like typical hero stuff, right? Well, as you’ll find with a lot of entries in this list, actions that appear to be heroic on the surface can turn pretty dark when examined more thoroughly. Ultimately, the player learns that the seemingly monstrous colossi are gentle creatures just trying to live peacefully on their own land, and you’re hunting them to extinction. You’re the real monster, after all.

17. Biggest Video Game Twists: Marston’s Last Stand (Red Dead Redemption)

Biggest Video Game Twists
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When John Marston managed to get out of his deal with antagonist Edgar Ross, the stage was set for him to ride off into the sunset, his wife and his son by his side. Instead, his family estate was ambushed by lawmen, leading Marston to be shot by Ross and his men. This is how one of the most iconic protagonists of the 2010s meets his untimely end.

In the game’s epilogue, set some years later, Marston’s son Jack hunts down his father’s killer and gets some sweet, sweet revenge. But as satisfying as that conclusion may be, it doesn’t soften the blow of having to watch your player character get gunned down in cold blood.

16. Biggest Video Game Twists: Kinda Creepy, Dude (Braid)

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Braid was one of the most delightful indie games of the 2000s, which made the surprise twist at the end all the more harrowing. At first, all we know about Tim—the ginger-haired player character in the game—is that he has the ability to turn back time and that he’s on a mission to save a princess from a villain that has kidnapped her. 

How romantic! How Mario-esque! Sadly, the player’s efforts to aid Tim in his quest took on an entirely new meaning when, in the last level of the game, we learn that Tim is the monster she’s been running away from this whole time. The villain is, in fact, the hero and the supposed hero—aka the player—is the villain! This twist made us reexamine one of the fundamental elements of video games: maybe the princess is in another castle because she doesn’t want to be with Mario.

15. Biggest Video Game Twists: The Elite Five (Pokemon Red and Blue)

Biggest Video Game Twists
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After using all your best Pokemon, all your Full Heals, and all your best damage-dealing attacks to defeat the Elite Four, you’re ready to ascend to the Pokemon Hall of Fame when Lance drops one hell of a bomb on you. There’s still one more trainer to defeat, and it’s the guy who’s followed you around half of Kanto.

More than a few Pokemon fanatics were shocked to learn they didn’t have to just defeat four highly skilled trainers at the end of Pokemon Red and Blue, but five. This twist resulted in a lot more grinding than we’d like to remember, but it made our eventual victory that much sweeter. 

14. Biggest Video Game Twists: Going Nuclear (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare)

Biggest Video Game Twists
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Guns firing and bombs exploding is nothing new for the Call of Duty franchise. In fact, it’s pretty much what the series is built on. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, however, kicked it up a few notches. As part of a mission to topple a despot in the Middle East, you must race to prevent a nuclear bomb from detonating. Pretty standard action franchise fair, right?

Except, shockingly, you don’t succeed. The bomb actually detonates in-game, killing you and your team. You actually have to live a few moments in the post-bomb ruins, stumbling along helplessly before the screen fades to white. The game then transfers you to another character for the resolution but… the damage has been done. Rarely do plot twists get as explosive as this.

13. Biggest Video Game Twists: Kessler’s Motive (Infamous)

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In Infamous, the player controls Cole MacGrath, a bike messenger who gains electricity-based superpowers thanks to an explosion that devastates the fictional Empire City. As the story unfurls, players can use Cole’s powers to make karmically positive or negative decisions, which in turn affect the game’s narrative, as we witness the reaction of the City’s populace towards Cole.

The “twist” arrives when the antagonist, Kessler, kills your girlfriend, Trish. Big deal, players could have seen that coming, right? Well, surprise! The REAL twist—revealed in the final battle—is that Kessler is actually a future version of you that has traveled back in time. This major WTF moment sets the entire Infamous series down a cool new path, as it gives Cole an even bigger threat to prepare for later on.

12. Biggest Video Game Twists: Nathan’s Mentor (Life is Strange)

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Throughout most of Life Is Strange, the series points to the wealthy and villainous Prescott family as being responsible for the tragedies in Arcadia Bay. The player is led to believe that Nathan Prescott, in particular, could be responsible for hurting Rachel, Kate, and Chloe in various timelines… right until the dramatic conclusion of the fourth episode, which turns (almost every) fan theory on its head.

Turns out, the supposedly innocuous photography teacher Mr. Jeffries has taken Nathan under his wing as he kidnaps and kills young girls. He’s the real villain that must be stopped, but even that comes with its own ramifications. This is the kind of plot twist that makes us want to replay the game to find all the clues pointing to the big reveal.

11. Biggest Video Game Twists: Father and Son (Fallout 4)

Biggest Video Game Twists
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In the pre-nuclear-apocalypse prologue of Fallout 4, you can visit your infant son, Shaun, as he rolls around in his crib. After the bombs are dropped, the vaults get sealed up and America devolves into a factionistic hellscape. You then watch helplessly from your cryogenic chamber as some bad guys kidnap Shaun.

The rest of the game is spent talking, fighting, and exploding your way through post-apocalyptic Boston as you search for your missing son. At the end, however, you learn that your infant son has actually grown up to become “Father”—the leader of the sinister institute, which has been kidnapping Boston residents and replacing them with synths. That should make for a pretty awkward family reunion. 

10. Biggest Video Game Twists: Joel’s Change of Heart (The Last of Us)

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For most of The Last of Us, Joel doesn’t really want to be around Ellie. After losing his daughter when the crisis hits, he’s clearly not ready to make emotional attachments again. But his hand is forced, and he ends up taking Ellie all the way across post-apocalyptic America. Along the way, he keeps her safe and slowly begins to warm up to her.

How sweet, right? Turns out, Joel’s just a big softie! Except… when he finally gets Ellie to her destination, the rebel group known as the Fireflies plan on risking her life in order to find a vaccine from becoming infected. Joel then takes down the rebels—even killing their leader—in order to save Ellie. Now, not only is he a murderer, he lies to Ellie! Oh yeah, and he may have just doomed the entire human race.

9. Biggest Video Game Twists: Wheatley’s Betrayal (Portal 2)

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After the original Portal delighted fans with its challenging and innovative puzzle mechanics and its dark, irreverent humor, it was natural to expect the sequel would expand on the premise. But who would have thought to replace the game’s antagonist, the psychotic AI GLaDOS, with a new villain? GLaDOS has to be the bad guy again, right?

That’s what players of Portal 2 thought until the climax, which—surprise!—turned out to be only halfway through the game. Once you replace GLaDOS with your ostensible sidekick—a bumbling, powerless bot called Wheatley—the newfound power immediately corrupts him, meaning you’ve got a whole new enemy to fight. GLaDOS, meanwhile, becomes your new sidekick, and you actually end up bonding with her. Aww!

8. Biggest Video Game Twists: Good Cop/Bad Cop (Heavy Rain)

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Though Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain is technically full of plot twists, the one at the center of the story is the plot twist that sticks with us the most. Several clues point to the identity of the Origami Killer, but for most players, the truth only comes to light when starting the chapter named for the murderer. 

It turns out that the Origami Killer is none other than Private Detective Scott Shelby. This revelation puts a number of missing links between events in place and allows the player to see the full picture that Heavy Rain has been painting. Even some of the best cinematic twists pale in comparison to this one. 

7. Biggest Video Game Twists: Adious, Aerith! (Final Fantasy VII)

Biggest Video Game Twists
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This is perhaps one of the most infamous plot twists in video game history, and it’s no coincidence that this is also probably the saddest twist on our list. Near the middle of Final Fantasy VII—undoubtedly one of the finest games in the long-running franchise—the player witnesses the death of the beloved flower girl, Aerith.

But her death isn’t like most video game deaths. This wasn’t some ancillary NPC; Aerith was a member of your party. The player spent a lot of time and effort building her up, and then, without warning, she is killed in a cutscene, robbing us not only of a valuable party member but a beloved character. Heartbreaking! 

6. Biggest Video Game Twists: Wesker’s Employer (Resident Evil)

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We take it for granted now that Albert Wesker is essentially the Resident Evil franchise’s primary antagonist (at least until getting killed by Chris Redfield in Resident Evil 5). However, back in the original title, when we knew him as the leader of the STARS, his betrayal seemed almost unfathomable. Oh, how innocent we were in those days.

It turns out, Wesker was working for Umbrella Corporation all along and pulling the strings behind the scenes. This double-cross cemented Resident Evil as a franchise worth continuing, and the developers have always kept us guessing since then. At least now we know not to trust guys who wear sunglasses indoors. 

5. Biggest Video Game Twists: Darth Revan (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)

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Centuries before the storyline seen in the Star Wars movies, Knights of the Old Republic allows you to play as your very own Jedi. Throughout the game, the player hears about Darth Revan, a Jedi hero who traveled beyond known space, only to return with a mighty Sith invasion force. You’re tasked with retracing his steps as you hope to save the galaxy.

Even all this time after its release, it’s heralded as perhaps the best story told in the entire Star Wars franchise. A lot of that acclaim has to do with the big twist. It turns out, dear player, that YOU are in fact Darth Revan, whose mind was wiped clean by the Jedi, and you are actually bringing about the evil that you’ve fought so hard to prevent. Whoops!

4. Biggest Video Game Twists: The Secret in the Fog (Silent Hill 2)

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After playing the 1999 original, most gamers probably thought they had a good handle on Silent Hill 2. After all, the sequel brings us back to the same creepy, fog-covered town. What hidden horrors could they throw our way this time? Turns out, quite a few… and besides the monsters, there’s something even more sinister hidden in the fog…

It turns out, the whole town and the creatures lurking within it are a manifestation of protagonist James Sutherland’s guilt. He’s being hunted and tortured by his own remorse, which comes to a head as James finds a videotape that shows him killing his terminally-ill wife Mary before the game even starts.

3. Biggest Video Game Twists: Samus Unmasked! (Metroid) 

Biggest Video Game Twists
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Fans of the Metroid and Smash Brothers series probably take it for granted these days that Samus is a badass female character, but back when the very first Metroid game was released, her gender reveal was a pretty big deal. This was the mid-80s, before gaming was a hundred-billion-dollar industry, and before a lot of game developers thought to appeal to women.

After defeating the dreaded Mother Brain, Samus removes her helmet. With this act, female protagonists took a dramatic step forward in the male-dominated industry. Samus remains one of the best characters in video games all these years later.

2. Biggest Video Game Twists: “Would You Kindly” (BioShock)

Biggest Video Game Twists
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Video games are supposed to be about choice. You choose which faction you want your character to side with, you judge the best time to jump from one platform to another, and you decide for yourself what path to take to make it to the end of the game. That’s why the twist in the original BioShock was so, well… shocking. 

When we, as the player, learn that the phrase “Would you kindly” is a trigger causing us to enact the will of BioShock’s antagonist, we begin to call into question every action we’ve committed in the game. Ultimately, we had to commit those actions to progress in the story, which calls into question the very concept of “freewill” in video games. Pretty trippy.

1. Biggest Video Game Twists: The Whole Game (Doki Doki Literature Club!)

Biggest Video Game Twists
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There’s really no twist that can compare to this one. What starts as lighthearted (if not a little cliche and dorky) becomes… altogether different. Initially, Doki Doki follows a male high school student who joins the school’s literature club and interacts with its four female members. That’s a standard anime game plotline if we’ve ever seen one.

But gradually, this dating simulator becomes a metafictional, psychological horror game. One of the characters is so much more than a high school girl, and she begins to manipulate the other NPCs towards suicide. The player must navigate a world of violent insanity in search of a “good” ending, which is no easy task. 

Ultimately, this isn’t a plot twist, it’s a plot vortex that distorts the story of Doki Doki Literature Club! into something entirely unrecognizable. That’s why it’s at the top of our list.

Featured image: DepositPhotos © iLexx

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