As any M. Night Shyamalan film might’ve taught you, pulling off story twists is a tough feat. Video games and its narratives are perfect for writers to flex great and unexpected twists, with some of the best narrative-driven games utilising it. These ten games stand among the best in terms of having knockout endings or plot reveals. From Metroid and God of War to BioShock and Knights of the Old Republic, here’s ten of the biggest twist endings in video games.
Before we continue any further, be warned that we will be discussing major spoilers for all listed games. If you don’t mind being spoiled of some great twists, keep reading.
The 10 Biggest Twist Endings in Video Games
10. The Last of Us
Less of an earth-shattering twist and more of a shocking turn of events, The Last of Us‘ ending is brilliant. Throughout the game, protagonist Joel works his way through a post-apocalyptic landscape while escorting a young girl named Ellie, who is believed to hold the cure for the deadly pandemic sweeping the world. Joel eventually leads Ellie to the Fireflies under the assumption that they will help, but as it turns out, the process of creating this cure involves killing Ellie.
Joel, after forming a close bond with Ellie, has none of it and ends up slaughtering the Fireflies in what is one of gaming’s most memorable moments.
Nintendo rewrote the book with Metroid‘s famous twist ending. Throughout this action-platformer, players assume the role of bounty hunter Samus Aran. Since most video game protagonists at the time were male, players just assumed Samus was a male too. As the twist ending reveals, Samus was a female the entire time. Nintendo went above and beyond stereotypes and conventions to deliver this great slice of video game history, introducing a now iconic female gaming protagonist in the process.
8. Nier: Automata
Nier: Automata is a complex piece of work as its existential story revolves around battle-ready androids 2B and 9S who monitor a post-apocalyptic Earth overrun by an alien threat. The idea is that humanity has dwindled down to a fraction of its population, with the remaining survivors holding onto hope. The ending of the game crushes players with the revelation that humanity has actually been extinct this entire time, leading its curious android protagonists on a journey of self-reflection and nihilism.
7. Final Fantasy VII Remake
The big revelation at the end of Final Fantasy VII Remake quite literally redefined the term “remake.” Players assumed that this would be a simple retelling of Final Fantasy VII, but throughout the game, we’re introduced to Whispers, strange spectres that weren’t present in the original. When we get to the end, the rug is pulled from beneath our feet as the Whispers are revealed to be timeline keepers with the goal of making sure every event and moment from the original game played out exactly as it previously did.
Naturally, Cloud and company disrupt these events, leading to a truly bizarre “multiverse” fracture point that spins the timeline drastically off its predetermined course. Yes, Final Fantasy VII Remake literally remakes the original game’s story, seemingly creating a divergent timeline where anything can happen going forward. It’s pretty much a sequel as much as it is a traditional remake.
6. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain might’ve been surrounded by controversy, but the game (as unfinished as it was) still managed to churn out one of the best – and most divisive – twist endings in video game history. Players start the game by creating a character, which is quite an odd choice given that we simply play as Big Boss throughout the entire game. Or so it seems.
Thanks to some hypno-therapy, your character is brain-washed into believing that they’re the real Big Boss when they’re actually just a no-name medic who saved him from Ground Zeroes‘ helicopter crash. In terms of execution, it was one of the most cinematic twists in gaming. Yet it also directly answered a big question left over from 1990’s Metal Gear 2. How Kojima brought it all together was a stroke of genius, depending on who you ask.
5. God of War (2018)
2018’s God of War is a masterpiece of storytelling, spectacle and big-budget game design, offering up plenty of memorable moments. However, the slight but impactful twist ending saw Kratos’ son, Atreus, revealed to actually be Loki, the Norse god of mischief. We’re given some clever clues throughout the game, but nothing could’ve prepared players for the idea that Kratos’ son was someone that significant and potentially incredibly powerful.
4. Silent Hill 2
Konami’s Silent Hill series dives into its multi-layered narratives, but Silent Hill 2 had a whiplash ending that fit very well with the game’s themes. Protagonist James Sunderland visits the titular town after receiving a letter from his deceased wife, who died of a terminal illness, telling him to come to Silent Hill. James arrives and the town sinks its claws into him, manifesting his grief and regret through the monsters and people that inhabit it.
In a daring twist, it’s revealed in the end that James was actually responsible for killing his wife in an attempt to euthanise her. It’s a dark and heartbreaking revelation that recontextualises the entire game, making subsequent playthroughs much more meaningful and tragic.
While some fans might gravitate towards the meatier twist ending of BioShock Infinite, the first game’s twist can’t be understated either. Playing as Jack, players discover the underwater city of Rapture where a mysterious figure named Atlas guides you through the labyrinthian utopia via telephone and speakers. As it turns out, Atlas was an imposter and he had been mind-controlling you the entire time, using the phrase “would you kindly?” to carry out his sinister objectives. It’s an ending etched in video game legend.
Jonathan Blow’s terrific indie game Braid tells a story as old as time: a hero sets out on a journey to rescue his beloved. For most of the game, you’re fighting with the intention of saving the princess but what awaits you at the end completely flips the story on its head: you’re actually the villain of this story, a stalker who the princess has been trying to evade. The concept might seem a bit obvious today, but Braid was the first to successfully pull it off, becoming a highly influential game.
1. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
We finally arrive at what many consider the peak of video game twist endings. BioWare’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a phenomenal RPG with a great narrative, telling the story of a custom-created character who becomes involved in a plot surrounding the Jedi, the Sith and a mysterious Sith Lord named Darth Revan, a powerful former Jedi hero who fell to the dark side and seemingly disappeared from the galaxy.
BioWare’s masterful storytelling is on full display here as it’s revealed that the player character is actually Darth Revan, who had their memories wiped by the Jedi after they were captured. Knights of the Old Republic can confidently stand on its own as a great Star Wars RPG, but this well-executed twist ending made it a masterpiece.