If you’ve played a lot of video games, you’re trained not to expect big twists in the story — and it’s all for a very simple, elemental reason. Twists take a whole lot of development effort. Usually that means new characters, new artwork, new enemies, and new locations. That stuff is normally at a premium in games, but some of the most memorable stories in history featured completely unexpected twists.
Sometimes the plot goes in wild new directions, and today we’re going to list some of our favorites (and not-so-favorites) in no particular order. These are the games that slap us in the face and forge an unexpected path. To truly belong on this list, a game can’t just have an unexpected ending — it has to be a significant chunk of the game. Whether it’s the second half or the last level, if a game takes a turn for the bizarre, it belongs on this list.
This list will contain major plot spoilers. Read on at your own risk.
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“I need scissors! 61!” [Metal Gear Solid 2]
If we’re talking about plots completely losing control, then Metal Gear Solid 2 is the poster boy. Very few games have the audacity to go this far beyond our expectations, delivering something that’s all metatextual madness. This is a game that already pissed everyone off by secretly sneaking in a new protagonist to replace Solid Snake — you have to give it to Hideo Kojima, he wasn’t just trying to please fans with this one.
Near the end of the game, you discover that a mysterious conspiracy lead by a group known as “The Patriots” have built a giant weapon called Arsenal Gear. You also learn that the entire Big Shell Incident was designed as a training program to generate a new Solid Snake — and the Colonel Campbell you’ve been talking to is an AI program. One that starts to glitch wildly, spouting strange non-sequitors. It’s a jarring experience, and then there’s Arsenal Gear itself.
Once our new hero Raiden infiltrates Arsenal Gear with Solid Snake, things only get weirder. The insides of Arsenal Gear are named after body parts — Solid Snake has infinite ammo due to his bandana, and the strange interiors look more like a VR simulation than a real place. Is anything real anymore? That’s what makes the end of MGS2 such a disorienting experience.
Flying Kung-Fu Fights [Indigo Prophecy]
If Metal Gear Solid 2 confused fans, the last quarter of Indigo Prophecy just blind-sided us with nonstop madness. What starts out as a pretty down-to-earth crime thriller with a supernatural twist takes a completely bizarre turn later in the story — your hero gains Neo (Matrix) powers, and kung-fu fights living embodiments of AI. There are multiple secret societies and clans. The world is ending due to a sudden onset ice age.
I don’t even know how to summarize this one. Just watch the cutscene above and try to soak all that in. Sometimes weird is good! This? Let’s just say we’re glad David Cage decided to tone down the flying kung-fu battles in his future games.
Explore more twisted game stories that go in unexpected places on the next page.