I’ve always really enjoyed playing games that constantly require me to think and consider the storyline. A good video game is a lot like a good movie, and that’s especially true in 2013 when gaming is as cinematic and intense with visuals as ever. The best single-player video games make you feel something. They’re an experience for us to play through, enjoy, and hopefully remember.
When it comes to gaming, one emotion that seems incredibly tough to tap into is shock. How many video games have actually shocked you? How many games have made you set down your controller and ask, “What in the hell just happened?” If not many, I’d like to introduce you to five of them that will. Be advised that this post is filled with spoilers. Read at your own risk!
Super Mario Bros. – “But our princess is in another castle!”
This is the original video game plot twist. As we all know, Super Mario Bros. was the premiere title for the NES. It involved a protagonist named Mario who would race through the Mushroom Kingdom, fight Bowser (the antagonist) and his forces, and eventually save Princess Peach.
Having never beaten the game, you’re going through every castle and defeating one of Bowser’s decoys with the assumption that you’re finally going to find the princess and save her. However, this line gets repeated over, and over, and over.
By the fifth or sixth castle, the player is beginning to grow exhausted. You’re getting angry and disappointed. You’ve just achieved something, but what do you get out of it? A quick tune and a slap in the face by Toad. You’re effectively being “trolled” before such a word was even popular vocabulary. The original Mario game introduced us to a harsh new style where you’re teased and taunted throughout the game and then finally given this expected reward by World 8-4.
Metroid – Samus Being a Girl
Metroid hit the NES as one of the most hyped and exciting games ever. Today, it’s a legendary classic. Samus Aran ends up being the gaming world’s first (and best, in my opinion) female protagonist, and we never saw it coming.
In the original Metroid, there wasn’t the slightest hint that Samus is a female. It’s almost natural to assume that, in a game like Metroid especially, the main character in any given game (if gender is never mentioned) is a male. We’re guys. We play games. We’re used to seeing this. The original instruction manual for Metroid made Samus out to be a really tough bounty hunter, which definitely seemed pretty manly.
Then, you beat the game. Samus removes her helmet and there it is. Long blonde hair. It’s such an unexpected and random thing to hit us in the face like that at the end of a game. Metroid games always include a feature where you’d be treated to a different ending based on how fast you complete the game. If you beat Metroid in under an hour, Samus actually removed her Power Suit to reveal a swimsuit.
Metal Gear Solid – Master is Liquid
Metal Gear Solid is one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. It’s either this game or Final Fantasy VII (which we’ll get into later) that I’d give the crown as best game for the PlayStation to.
Eventually during your adventure through Metal Gear Solid, you deactivate Metal Gear Rex to put a stop to the nuclear threat that it poses. Right after, you get a codec call from Master Miller. Master Miller breaks it to you that your group has been using you this entire time. Colonel breaks through into this codec call, interrupting to let you know that the real Master Miller has been dead since before your adventure even began. This entire time, Master Miller has actually been Solid Snake’s genetic twin and leader of the terrorist organization, Liquid Snake.
It’s a very well-executed plot twist, because it makes the player reconsider a few events that happened earlier in the game. Shocking moments like this have been executed pretty effectively in games before Metal Gear Solid, but this one felt so right. You almost knew that this twist was coming, yet it still has an effect.
Final Fantasy VII – Aeris’ Death
This is the spoiler heard ’round the gaming world. It’s a shame that some of you were never able to experience it without prior notice. I did, and it both confused and shocked me. My favorite RPG of all-time was completely changed when one of the characters I had worked hard to progress ends up being killed by the game’s main villain.
Video game characters have obviously died in games before Final Fantasy VII. In yet another amazing RPG classic, Crono dies in Chrono Trigger. The thing is, he’s brought back during a time travel experience. It’s not like that in Final Fantasy VII. Aeris dies, and she is no longer a part of the game. That’s tough to accept. You worked hard to grind experience with that character. You grew attached to her playstyle. You even had weapons and armor that, since equipped to her, are lost forever.
It’s a loss to the player in both ways. You’re losing such a crucial piece to the game’s story, and you’re losing one of the party members that you relied on to safely guide you through this game. If you haven’t witnessed the death of Aeris, it’s something worth seeing.
Braid – The Princess is Running
Like Aeris’ death, this piece of Braid’s storyline has been discussed so much and so openly that it’s tough for a new player to experience it first-hand.
Through Braid, Tim is clearly obsessed over this princess. You get to the last level of this game assuming you’ll be reunited with her like a page out of the Mario series, and it hits you.
This entire time, the princess was running from you. These puzzles are obstacles that she has put in your way to escape you. The knight that you’ve been working to save her from is the person she finds the most comfort in. The ending portrays Tim as a selfish and shallow man, and it makes Braid out to be even more of a work of art than the graphics and playstyle ever could.
This list features huge games that all feature moments that are just as huge to the history of video gaming. Moments like these are why we keep playing. We look forward to the unexpected. If you’ve not played these five games, then I’d highly recommend any of them. Even if you’ve already had the big surprise spoiled, they’re all fantastic.
What about you? What are some of your favorite shocking moments and plot twists from video games? I know there are plenty more, and I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!