Nothing quite compares to a really good twist that was subtly foreshadowed to you in a narrative-heavy game. Even if you believe you know what’s going to happen, the plot might suddenly shift due to a surprise or abrupt redirection. When executed skillfully, it has the power to transform a decent game into a fantastic one or tie up loose story threads in a more gratifying way. To celebrate this narrative device we decided to put together this list of the best plot twists in gaming history!
This is the exact opposite of our Top 10 Worst Plot Twists In Video Games! When judging the twists we are looking for foreshadowing, the value that the twist adds to the overall story, and just how memorable the moment is!
In light of this, we decided to pick 10 of the best video game plot twists of the last decades. And I must underline, that this was HARD to compile. So many great games got left out, others made it by the skin of their teeth! I tried to be fair, but there is always some personal bias in play.
Anyways, SPOILERS for the following titles: Until Dawn, Final Fantasy X, God of War (2018), Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Red Dead Redemption 1, Spec Ops: The Line, Metal Gear Solid 3, Silent Hill 2, BioShock 1, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
10. Top 10 Best Plot Twists In Gaming History – Until Dawn (2015)
Fans of the thriller/horror genre will love Until Dawn as it is a true love letter based on its golden age. It also perfectly captures both its highs, as well as the lows. The game features a group of teens partying it up on private property high up in the mountains, on the anniversary of a tragedy that took 2 of their friends.
Pretty soon, the group encounters power outages, some paranormal stuff, and a bonafide masked maniac. After a pretty intense night straight out of a horror flick, it is revealed that the masked killer is not real. The whole thing was a huge, elaborate prank pulled by one of the in-game characters on the verge of a mental breakdown.
The reveal makes players feel a little silly and removes the bulk of suspension built up to that point. But suddenly it’s also revealed that the teens are not the only ones present on the mountain. The Wendigos, animalistic, possessed human beings with bone thin stretched-out limbs, are suddenly introduced. And all the suspense returns quickly in a classic horror movie style.
The combined impact of being lulled into a false sense of security and the creepy reveal of Wendigos with just the right amount of foreshadowing makes this quite the top-tier twist!
9. Top 10 Best Plot Twists In Gaming History – God of War (2018)
It’s no secret that Loki has amassed a sizable fan base since making his debut in the Thor movie from Marvel Studios. Since then, the figure has appeared in many popular fiction interpretations of Norse mythology. Even before that, Thor, Loki, and Odin were very popular figures in pop culture due to their significance in Norse mythos.
It comes as absolutely NO surprise then, that when players got their hands on the new God of War they were excited to meet iconic Norse gods and heroes. Just like the old GoW trilogy got us hyped for the greek god cameos. Of course, the big names make appearances or are at least mentioned, like Thor, Odin, Freya, and Jörmungandr. And then you have (I think) lesser-known figures who got a nice boost to popularity like Mimir and Baldur.
And every step of the way, millions of people thought to themselves “where’s Loki though?”, “oh my god, Kratos would HATE Loki the trickster” and such. Well, at the end of the game, Kratos and Atreus, the conflicted son and angry father duo discover a prophecy/record of things that happened so far. It’s revealed that Atreus’ mother called him Loki in the language of her people.
So the trickster god was always closer than anyone ever thought. This recontextualizes some of the interactions with Atreus in a pretty brilliant way!
8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
Call of Duty games frequently have fast-paced, linear campaigns that would fit a summer action flick that you will forget in two weeks. This rings especially true for the newer additions to the series… But even if they are somewhat multiplayer-focused games, there are a couple of SERIOUS outliners. With plots that will keep you guessing till the very end!
I was REALLY struggling to pick either The Black Ops 1 or Modern Warfare 2 twist. But in the end, it had to be this way, sorry Reznov!
The betrayal of General Shepherd is LEGENDARY in the gaming culture by now. Characters in Call of Duty series die, even protagonists. But never in the series up to that point have we seen something so upfront and brutal! Not only does this happen right AFTER the hardest mission in the game robbing you of the catharsis of actually getting to safety after all this hell. But one of the fan-favorite characters in the game, Ghost, gets offed too!
Masterfully set up and executed betrayal. Wish it had a little bit more of a build-up thought the game, but I can let it slide for the sheer boldness of it!
7. Red Dead Redemption 1 (2010)
Red Dead Redemption 1 shook up not only anyone who played it but the approach that Rockstar has for its games. Throughout the game, you play as John Marston on a quest to hunt down members of his previous gang for the US government agents who are holding his family hostage. After hunting down each one, the government agents come for Marston himself keen on finishing the job.
This is the part where he makes a badass last stand, and runs off into the sunset to live in hiding, right? Well… this ain’t that kind of story sadly. After sending his wife and children away and buying time for them. John indeed makes a heroic last stand, but there are too many people gunning for him.
This was a true and utter shock! Up to that point, only one Rockstar protagonist actually ever died. But this seemed to really affected Rockstar. Nowadays we have Cole from L.A Noire, Arthur in Red Dead 2, Johnny from GTA IV‘s DLC, and in GTA V depending on the ending you go for, you can kill 2 of the 3 protagonists. And it all seems to have started with John in 2010…
6. Top 10 Best Plot Twists In Gaming History – Final Fantasy X (2001)
One of the series’ strongest stories, Final Fantasy X is chock-full of amazing twists and turns. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, from the realization that Yuna and one of her guardians must give their lives to give Spira a little reprieve from Sin. To the conclusion that Auron was slain after confronting Lady Yunalesca and is an unsent. But this ride’s last surprise is the one that has the biggest impact.
The Fayth are awakened from their sleep and their dream ends when the group prevails in the last fight. It is also revealed that Tidus, the protagonist of FFX, was a part of a dream given form by the Fayth, and ordered to destroy Yu Yevon and Sin with him. Thus, with the destruction of Sin, and the awakening of the Fayth he will cease to exist, as their slumber is finally ending.
Tidus quickly became one of the fan-favorite characters thanks to his personality and interactions with other characters. It was genuinely a bittersweet end to see the party lose one of their friends after finally having saved the world together.
5. Spec Ops: The Line (2012)
I hate talking about this game, because it’s truly one of the greatest entertainment experiences that I had, and you are SERIOUSLY better off not knowing anything about it. But here we go…
Captain Walker leads a small squad into Dubai ravaged by hellish sandstorms in the hopes of finding survivors. But they soon learn that Colonel John Conrad has assumed leadership over of the local military force and went directly against his orders.
Walker and his men set out on a search for Konrad to get some answers. Committing crimes against civilians and fellow American troops along the way in an endless loop of deception, miscommunication, and madness.
In the end, it is revealed that Konrad died before Walker and his team made it to Dubai and that Walker simply deluded himself into believing that Konrad is behind it all. Effectively pinning all HIS crimes on a dead man, and refusing to face reality.
4. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)
Okay, let’s get this out of the way. Metal Gear Solid 2 had better plot twist(s), and it deserves this spot more than MGS3. But I feel like every single list of any plot twists always features MGS2, and I’m kinda sick of it. So forgive me this once when I switch out the best twist in the Metal Gear franchise for the second-best one!
The famous soldier known as “The Boss” defects to the Soviet Union, betraying the United States after years of selfless service. She also gives up some dangerous technology in the process. The protagonist Naked Snake, protégé of The Boss, is also betrayed and left behind. In order to prevent a nuclear exchange between the two countries, Naked Snake is asked to eliminate The Boss together with her unit and disrupt the nuclear threat.
After a battle to the death between Snake and “The Boss”. He discovers via EVA that the Boss was ordered by the US to act as a traitor in order to clear America of any involvement on Soviet territory. Naked Snake, now known as “Big Boss,” would become more enraged at the world as soon as it became clear that the Boss was never a traitor. She was a true hero and a truer soldier to the very end. And she was as instrumental as Snake was in stopping nuclear armageddon.
3. Silent Hill 2 (2001)
One of the all-time greatest plot twists belongs to the second installment in the Silent Hill franchise! The brilliant twist uses the groundwork laid by the first game masterfully to elevate the experience. In the first game, you play as Harry Mason trying to save his daughter from becoming a victim of a cult dwelling in the misty town of Silent Hill.
The average Joe, Harry Mason, has to go through hell to save his daughter, and he eventually does. Becoming a hero with a noble heart. A victim of the demonic town that overcame it. Fastforward to Silent Hill 2, and we are playing as James Sutherland, another seemingly average Joe on a noble quest.
James has been a widower for 3 years after his wife Mary had passed. But suddenly, he gets a letter signed by her, asking him to come to visit her at Silent Hill. James is still in grief at the loss of his wife, and the circumstances of her death haunt him constantly during his “stay” in Silent Hill.
Despite all this adversity, he pushes through and ends up at Lakeview Hotel, the couple’s “special place”. Mary is nowhere to be found, but James does find a VHS tape that could hold clues as to her whereabouts. But when he plays it on a TV, his memory “plays” on it instead. A memory of him suffocating his wife to death with a pillow.
Mary has been dead for 3 years, James says so himself in the opening of the game. But the fact that James murdered her out of frustration comes as a shock. And it recontextualizes the entire game. James is being trialed and punished by the city of Silent Hill, he’s a horrible person, a villain of this story.
Later installments would lean heavily into that aspect of “Silent Hill”, that people who end up there are not good people. But right off the heel of Silent Hill 1, this was a SHOCK. The realization that you have been playing as such a monster the entire time often stays with people for the rest of their lives! Making this twist one of the most memorable ones in the history of video games!
2. Top 10 Best Plot Twists In Gaming History – BioShock 1 (2007)
No list of best plot twists in gaming is complete without one of the BioShock games! And to me, the standout game is definitely BioShock 1. The phrase “Would you kindly?” will forever be immortalized as one of the most shocking and subversive turns in video games.
After escaping a plane crash, the main character of BioShock, Jack, navigates the decaying underwater utopia of Rapture with the assistance of someone named Atlas. Atlas leads you through each objective and helps you determine what has to be done.
Knowing videogames you immediately assume this is the game “holding your hand”, and that this is some kind of in-game explanation to keep you going in the right direction. One of Atlas’ favorite expressions is “Would you kindly,” however it usually goes undetected until you eventually meet Andrew Ryan, the founder of Rapture.
Here you learn that Atlus has not only been pretending for the whole time but you are also his sleeper agent, carrying out his will even before the game’s events ever take place. Atlas reveals himself to be Frank Fontaine, Andrew Ryan’s sworn enemy. Through mental suggestion, Frank is able to control the protagonist’s actions by using the activation phrase “Would you kindly.”
This makes you reflect on each time you heard Frank’s sinister wording and it makes every decision you made up to this point a part of his master plan. It’s a startling revelation that sheds fresh light on many of your choices made during the game, and it creates a dramatic turn of events remembered well decades after the game came out.
1. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)
Many people believe that Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is the best video game based on the renowned space opera franchise created by George Lucas. It also features one of the best plot twists in all of gaming history.
Knights of the Old Republic plot centers on the task of retrieving your forgotten memories and destroying Darth Malak, a Sith Lord threatening the galaxy. He learned his ways from the all-powerful Sith Lord, Darth Revan, who helped him achieve his objectives.
Through your journey, you learn quite a bit about Darth Revan, his evil campaign to destroy the galaxy, and just how all-powerful he seemed to be. But the accounts of his whereabouts, his fate, or even if he’s alive or not differ from person to person.
Once you come face-to-face with Darth Malak he reveals that the protagonist is Darth Revan. Following a chaotic battle, Darth Revan was captured and brainwashed by the Jedi Order to fight for the light side. Since the Jedi cherish all life, and couldn’t stop him through any other method. Allowing you to step into your role as the brainwashed and memory-less Revan.
So, you’re actually the bad guy! And you were responsible for the creation of the Sith Lord who you are now trying to stop. You must then choose between sticking to the light side by stopping Darth Malak, or giving into the dark side and regaining your full strength to conquer the galaxy.
That’s all folks!
And this concludes our list of the best plot twists in gaming. There are a bunch more games I would like to include. Inside, Portal(s), other installments from franchises featured on this very list. But there’s only so much I can put on one list! And speaking of lists, why don’t you check out some of our other top 10 for more of that delicious gaming content!