Ah, video game plot twists! They can turn an otherwise great story into a brilliant story (think of the original inFamous here for a moment). Most of the time, however, plot twists in video games are just plain bad. Sometimes so bad that they lead to a lot of hilarity. So let’s talk about the elephant in the room; this top five is about the worst plot twists in video games…
I often see Aerith’s death appearing on many “best video game twists” list, which is followed swiftly by my brain melting and dripping out of my ears. No, really! Not only is this a bad twist because it had already been done before, but it’s a bad twist because nobody should care. There, I said it! I understand the death of characters is meant to pull at the heartstrings of series fans everywhere, but it’s kind of hard to pull that off when your characters are so flat that they could slip under a door like your Monday mail. Seriously, Aerith is such a cardboard cutout character that Sephiroth didn’t even need to drop on her from the sky with an enormous sword; he could have shanked her with a butter knife and cut straight through her. Call me cruel, but I applauded when Sephiroth killed her. Why? It meant one less vapid character to deal with in a game just brimming with too many to begin with.
Not only is this a bad plot device, but it gets extra points for being remembered “fondly” by then-fourteen-year-olds everywhere who thought that most JRPGs had good story telling. So rather than continue to remember this atrocious mess of a plot device, I will now dazzle you with song and dance!
Now DANCE! DANCE! DANCE UNTIL YOU DIE!
Anybody who is familiar with Greek mythology knows the story of Pandora. Curious woman gets mystical box, is told not to open it, opens it anyway, brings all ills into the universe, then closes the box just in time to keep a single thing inside that will help humanity. Never you mind that the box inexplicably has a billion different evils and only one good thing (Who packed this box, Al Qaeda? ). Never you mind that curiosity got the better of Pandora; in patriarchal societies it is clear that if women are not making sandwiches then they are destroying the world (I’m looking at you, Eve!). So if you’re reading this article and you’re a woman, please get back to your kitchen. I don’t want you destroying the entire internet with your woman-ness. I jest, I jest!
But I digress. This isn’t about some political or social stance, this about bad story twists and God of War III’s twist with Pandora’s Box is near the top of this dishonorable list for several reasons. Let me get this straight: you drag me through three games of Kratos raging as if he just got face rolled by a Death Knight in World of Warcraft and your final plot device is hope?! Really?! Hope?! I get that this is technically correct in the Greek mythological sense, but when Kratos ended the first game by killing Ares and taking his position as The God of War, all accuracy went out the window. This plot device sucks because it’s lazy and predictable.
See, God of War is a series that doesn’t succeed in the action department and is therefore heavily reliant on good story telling to be worth playing. The series already reinterprets the entire Greek mythological canon and changes many things in order to make the story entertaining, so why not Pandora’s Box? I legitimately expected the box to have something different inside, something that would completely change my view of God of War III and make me a believer in the cleverness of its writers. But no. Bad story and bad character development in general aside, God of War III even fails miserably at creating a proper plot twists of any kind. Anybody remember how cool the plot twist of the original God of War was like? I do. This plot device is the cherry on top of this (excuse the pun) God awful mess of a game.
That up there is what I think of you and your stupid box, God of War III!
You remember how everyone went on and on about how bad the story elements of Metroid: Other M were? Remember how I defended the game endlessly in another article and even pointed out that the story really wasn’t that offensive? Well, here is the thing: there is ONE part that IS horribly offensive from a writing standpoint. People like to complain about Samus’ portrayal as a weak character, the random plot holes like Adam not authorizing Samus to use her suit’s abilities to protect herself from extreme heat, etc. But nothing, and I do mean absolutely nothing, compares to Adam’s death scene.
So here is this character that Samus admires and sees as a father figure she never had. There is a whole lot of back story about their relationship and how much Samus appreciates him. Apparently, this character by the name of Adam taught Samus a lot of things, which is great if you want to know how to needlessly kill yourself while trying to save the universe. In the climatic scene where Samus loses the last thing left to her in the form of human support and care we see Adam make a great sacrifice to keep the rest of existence from being consumed by Metroids. Except that he didn’t actually have to do it at all. If anyone has paid attention to that scene they would know that Adam clearly states that in order to destroy the Metroids in Sector Zero he simply needs to cause that area of the Bottle Ship enough damage for it to detach itself from the rest of the other sectors and explode. Rather than doing the logical thing and tossing all kinds of grenades into this deadly area of the ship Adam decides that the greatest course of action is to lock himself inside of it…with a gun…possibly to open tiny air holes in the ship’s reinforced metal walls and pray for the best outcome.
See? This is why I don’t even blink when Adam doesn’t tell Samus to use her suit abilities to protect herself from the heat. It’s because Adam is a f***ing moron and the writers for this game share the same mentality as this character. What gets me is that Other M, gameplay wise, is one of the absolute best games of this generation, but my God if the writing isn’t bad…
Everything. Yes, I said it. Everything about Kingdom Hearts is a bad plot device. The light and dark themes that have nothing to do with one another, the inclusion of the Nobodies, the lack of cohesive reasons for the separate worlds existing, the inclusion of a billion new characters that are unrelated until it’s conveniently necessary that they are, etc. Here’s the thing about Kingdom Hearts: the original had a bad story, but it was enjoyable for what it was. It was fun because it didn’t take itself too seriously and we all knew that everything was just an excuse to get to play alongside our favorite Disney and Final Fantasy characters. But Square-Enix is just never content with a series until it crashes and burns in spectacular fashion, preferably by the inclusion of obtuse gameplay mechanics that are the real life equivalent of running an airplane with bicycle pedals (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy XIV!).
Fast forward to Kingdom Hearts 2, when Square-Enix decided to try to make a cohesive plot out of an existing story that has more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese. I could go into detail on how bad the series started to become at this point, but I think it’s easier to show you. Visual aid time!
The first two front flips are Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. The third front flip is the rest of the entire f***ing series.
I swear to God, it’s like Square-Enix hired fifty different writers for all the seven hundred different Kingdom Hearts games and kept them all separated in sound proof glass cubicles. Having the writers mime to each other the overall plot points of the Kingdom Hearts series seems about the only logical explanation for such a cluster f**k of a story. Once in a while, Square-Enix would probably forget to add air holes to one cubicle, which is as good of an explanation as any for the rest of the brain damaged writing that permeates Kingdom Hearts as a whole.
Stop it, Bioware! Just plain stop it! You’re better than this!
Here’s the thing: I adore Bioware. I’m a late comer to the Bioware fandom, having only started my love for the company with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. But I still love them for pretty much everything they have made since then, not the least being the Mass Effect series. The first Mass Effect is my absolute favorite game this generation for more reason than I can enumerate and, although lagging behind Dragon Age II and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I very much love Mass Effect 2 to death. Which is why this plot device is the absolute most offensive on the list: it’s not simply bad, it’s a skid mark in the collective underwear that is Bioware’s awesome story telling. If there is one thing that can be said about Bioware is that they have some of the best writers in the industry and that, aside from Irrational Games, nobody can come even remotely close to creating such good stories, three dimensional characters, plot twists, worlds, etc. Bioware is just king in this department.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t falter, and Shepard’s death and resurrection in Mass Effect 2 is probably the worst written and implemented plot device in any game to date. It’s not simply that Shepard’s death was an unnecessary and contrived form of letting new players create a Shepard and change his or her appearance, it is the magnitude of his or her death and the subsequent handling of the million and one questions it brings. Not only is it annoying that Shepard’s former team mates react to his return with as much apathy as the Zoloft ball shows for everything, but the writers create the cardinal sin of simply sweeping the entire ordeal under the rug. Shepard never seems to care that he or she has died and returned to life, there is never a question of what he or she experiences during “death” or even if he or she remembers. Furthermore, Shepard doesn’t seem even slightly traumatized. Even when removing the question of an afterlife (because this is, after all, science-fiction), the writers never go out of their way to explain how Shepard feels about everything that has happened.
Shepard may be the savior of the galaxy, but he or she is still human. I’m sure he or she must have had some thoughts when he or she was spaced and knew death was imminent. Moments of guilt, memories of loved ones, past mistakes revisited, etc. It’s ridiculous that this gets neglected, especially considering that Bioware even went out of its way to provide a psychologist for the Normandy crew during the events of Mass Effect 2 (Kelly Chambers). Was it really that difficult to give Shepard a line or two about his or her take on the entire thing? What really kills everything is that this plot twist and how it was handled really cheapens Shepard as a character. Shepard’s humanity falters here and it is never displayed for the player to be able to identify with him or her. Some people might argue this doesn’t matter but one of the most important points of good science-fiction is to place characters in extreme situations that test their ability to be human. This line is clearly drawn and the ME team failed miserably here. Hell, now that I think about it, Shepard doesn’t display his or her humanity much in the entire series thus far. It’s a little frustrating…
…and now it becomes a lot more clear why I have always felt that Hawke is a superior protagonist to Shepard in every way imaginable.