Since their creation, video games have always put the player in the role of a hero. A princess needs saving, a war needs to be won, you get the drift. No matter what the plot, you can be sure that whoever you’re playing as, you’ve got the guts and the gumption to lead your world to victory and/or restore peace. Along the way you’ll encounter all kinds of challenges that will test your skills to the limits, but the satisfaction of saving the world will be worth it.
What if that wasn’t your goal, though? What if all this time, instead of saving the world, you’re, instead, intent on destroying it? Granted there are some games that see you take this role such as Twisted Metal or Grand Theft Auto, but those aren’t the type of games I’m referring to.
Instead, have you ever played a game where, after some serious thought or a plot twist, you realize that you’ve been working for evil this whole time? Maybe you were tricked or you actually thought you were trying to save the world. Whatever the reason, your actions are in a morally gray area if not flat-out despicable.
There’s no question that we’ve played several of those games, and after some serious thought, we’ve been able to find 15 video game heroes that are actually the villains of their own stories. Some take a bit more in-depth thinking to realize that, but when you put two and two together, it starts to make sense.
15. Scott Shelby- Heavy Rain
When games begin to tell a gripping story, that’s when you become most involved. The PS3 game Heavy Rain tells the story of detective Scott Shelby as he utilizes every tool in his arsenal to find the mysterious Origami Killer. In the game, there are many ties that Scott has that make this investigation quite personal- the Origami Killer was responsible for the death of his partner’s son. It is also revealed that Scott has had a pretty screwed up childhood that led him to become a private investigator. He lived with an abusive father, and this unfortunately played a part in the untimely death of his brother John. After being put in a foster home, Scott managed to make a new name for himself and do good by the world’s standards. He seems like a pretty clean cut individual, but when the end of the game rolls around, you’re left in nothing short of shock. It is revealed that Scott himself is actually the Origami Killer, and throughout the whole game you’ve been attempting to cover your trace so that no one would ever discover what you had done.
14. James Sunderland- Silent Hill 2
The Silent Hill franchise is one full of horror and mystery, and the sequel continued that trend. Protagonist James Sunderland received a letter from his wife, stating that they needed to meet at their “special place” in Silent Hill. Sunderland acts very frightened by this, and when asked about it, he states that his wife has been dead for about three years. As such he decides to go an a little expedition to Silent Hill to see what in the world is going on. Like any good horror game, Sunderland is faced with all kinds of hellish entities that nearly make him lose his mind. Considering the player controls James, we too are questioning the various bounds of reality within the popular game. Much like Heavy Rain, though, we are treated to a bit of a shocking development at the end of the game. It was revealed that Mary, when she was alive, was diagnosed with a disease that would eventually kill her. James slowly became depressed seeing his wife in such a weak state, which caused him to snap. As it turns out, he killed his wife Mary and returned to Silent Hill so that he could kill himself to be reunited with her.
13. Booker DeWitt- Bioshock Infinite
Unlike the previous entries in the Bioshock series, Bioshock Infinite allowed players to control a protagonist that actually had a personality. This character’s name was Booker Dewitt and had quite the history on his hands. He was originally a happy man and even had a wife named Annabelle. After she became pregnant, there were complications while she was giving birth and she died in the process. The child lived and was named Anna in honor of her mother. This screwed with Booker, however, and he was sent into spiraling depression. He coped by succumbing to gambling and amassed a large amount of debt. The debt became so problematic that he ended up selling Anna to wipe it all clean. It is revealed throughout the play-through of the game that the girl Anna actually grew up to be was the companion Elizabeth. As it turns out, DeWitt then decides to kill a man named Comstock- an alternate version of himself. In the Burial at Sea expansion, another version of Booker is the player character and he does some pretty messed up things that get him killed by a Big Daddy.
12. Isaac- Golden Sun
Nintendo isn’t really one for gigantic plot twists, but you’ve got to give them credit when it comes to Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age. The first game sees you taking the role of Isaac, a bright and young individual. It turns out that their land of Lemuria is in trouble and it’s up to Isaac and his pals to bring hope. The overall goal of the game is to stop the Eternal Lighthouses from…well…lighting again, so he and his companions do everything they can to accomplish this goal. In the journey, they are fought by some primary antagonists, whom Isaac ends up killing in the end. All seems fine and dandy, until the next game, that is. You play as one of Isaac’s friends and it’s revealed that everyone was wrong about the Lighthouses in the first game. As it turns out, they need to be lit in order to prevent the destruction of Lemuria. Now all you have to do from this point is count the blood that’s on Isaac’s hands from the first game. It was all for a cause that ended up harming the world.
11. Haytham Kenway- Assassin’s Creed III
Players of Assassin’s Creed III were a bit confused when they started out with a character who looked more like a British sailor as opposed to an Assassin. However, his complexion was similar to the guy on the cover, and he had all of the Parkour abilities necessary to be an assassin, so people didn’t think more of it. This man’s name was Haytham Kenway. In his adventures (while you play as him), you are joined by a man named Charles Lee. Why is this important? Because Charles is trying to prove himself to be a member of their group. However, once Kenway brings Charles into the fold, players were shocked to find out that he was a leader of the Templars, the organization that seeks to get rid of the Assassins. Then the rest of the game has you take control of Kenway’s son Connor as he seeks revenge on the Templars for the death of his mother. Players couldn’t help but feel a sense of brutal responsibility, as it was their actions playing as Kenway that led to Connor being thrown out of his home. Say what you will about the game itself, that twist was marvelous.
10. Player Character- Knights Of The Old Republic
If you’ve read any of our Star Wars stuff, you can probably see where this is going. Knights of the Old Republic sees the Jedi in the middle of a brutal war between the Sith, led by the villainous Darth Malak. Your character, whom you can customize as you please, is then trained in the ways of the Jedi in order to confront this powerful Sith Lord. There are many references throughout to Malak’s master, Darth Revan, but you never really see him in action. Eventually you discover why that is the case. The reason is that you yourself are Darth Revan. How can this be, you ask? Well, Darth Revan was captured by the Jedi and his memory of being a Sith was wiped from his brain. Having no recollection, he was put on the Light Side once more. While in the game you are free to choose what allegiance you desire, the fact that you’ve been playing as the skilled mentor of Darth Malak this entire time was a plot twist worth mentioning. If you choose the side of good, you will end up in a personal battle with your former apprentice.
9. Solid Snake- Metal Gear Solid
There are several reasons why Solid Snake deserves to be on this list, but you could also make the argument that it isn’t purely his fault why he ends up being the bad guy. After all, he’s just following orders. Throughout the Metal Gear Solid games, you are tasked as a secret agent to take down the Metal Gear machines and kill whomever is orchestrating their production. That said, we don’t ever really know the crimes of the “big bads” in each game that necessitates their murder. In the first Metal Gear Solid, you are tasked with killing Big Boss, who hasn’t caused any problems. His only motive is trying to create his own city that is not controlled by the corrupt governments of the world. As such, the Patriots send Snake in to take him out, but aren’t they kind of proving his point by doing so? Furthermore, in Metal Gear Solid IV we discover that the revolver-wielding Ocelot is not the bad guy in all of this. He has in fact been working for the side of good and seeking to destroy the Patriots after all this time. That really makes you wonder about all of that espionage.
8. Frisk- Undertale
I will admit that you are presented with a choice in Undertale whether to kill monsters or spare them. Now that the game has been out for a while, that’s pretty much common knowledge, so this entry shouldn’t technically be on the list. However, I am presenting the argument that when the game first came out, nobody knew how it worked and essentially killed beings like Toriel and Asgore because they didn’t know any better. Once it was discovered that you could’ve instead spared these beautiful monsters, the horrible reality set in about the atrocities you have committed. Furthermore, if you decide to do a Genocide Run, you are met with the all-powerful Sans as the final boss. He tells you that EXP actually stands for “Execution Points,” and that you’ve only been labeled as a murder because of your killing spree. Undertale is an amazing game because it takes the classic RPG formula and throws it on its head. Whereas most people would be killing all of the bosses on their first run-through, you can actually spare them, and the game presents that as the morally upright thing to do.
7. Tim- Braid
Indie games are all the rage, and Braid is just another example of that. Telling the gorgeous story of how a man who can manipulate time seeks to save a princess, players don’t need to know anything else. All that’s important is that you appreciate the journey you’re about to embark on. At the end of the game, you are presented with a sequence where it seems that the princess is helping you get to her so that the two of you can finally reunite. However, it’s revealed that this was actually the real events but played out backwards. You play through the sequence again but in reverse, this time, the true meaning becomes clear: the princess is trying to get away from you, and she’s doing everything she can to kill you so you don’t get to her. The real kicker is at the very end when she screams for help and a burly knight in shining armor saves her as they climb up the vines away from Tim and away from danger. It’s an excellent way to flip the “save the princess” formula on its head, and it really makes you feel guilty for all of the creatures you killed in your journey.
6. Steve- Minecraft
Minecraft is an amazingly creative game, full of open worlds to explore, endless structures to craft, and more creatures than you can wave a diamond sword at. It seems like a harmless kids’ game, but once you start digging beneath the lines, it becomes a bit more sinister. Picture this, you enter a world with it’s own ecosystem and creatures, but you decide you want to build a house. Immediately you begin cutting down forests and slaying every animal in sight so you can have more than enough resources to build. Then you dig down into caves and kill many of the slimes and spiders that live there after disrupting their calm lives. If you want to be a proper farmer, you cage up all kinds of different livestock and force feed them to inevitably force them to breed with one another. That’s not even mentioning all the kinds of animals you get killed because you take them in as your pets. Then if you’re a bit scarce on resources, you simply travel to the nearest village and steal much of their hard-earned sustenance, and you might even take one of their houses.
5. Captain Olimar- Pikmin
Captain Olimar is on this list for many of the same reasons that Steve is, except the terrible acts are a bit harder to ignore this time around. After all, Olimar, with his trusty ship, lands on a strange planet to conduct some research. In his adventures, he discovers the little critters known as Pikmin. He then proceeds to enslave them to do his bidding by having them carry fruit and dead animals to his ship for resources. Oh yeah, don’t worry about any of the animals you come across because Olimar will use his Pikmin slaves to kill all of them. Once again we have an example of an outsider coming to a strange place and disrupting the ecosystem. I will say that it’s a bit more excusable in Pikmin 3 simply because the crew is on a rescue mission, but even then, they should be prepared to deal with the surface’s dangers without taking lives and using indigenous creatures as involuntary help. Don’t get me wrong, though, the Pikmin series is still incredibly fun and worth a play or two. I’m not entirely cynical at the end of the day!
4. Samus- Metroid
Samus’s story in the Metroid series seems like a pretty straightforward one. Or is it? What exactly is her objective? A quick Google search states that it’s to stop the space pirates from stealing the power of the Metroids. While that’s all fine and well, a game where that was the only purpose should look a lot different than the Metroid games. First of all, she explores all kinds of planets and annihilates everything in sight. We do see our fair share of space pirates, but overall it’s small in comparison to the other creatures. Furthermore, Samus often kills the very Metroids that she’s trying to protect. What makes this even more sketchy is the fact that Samus is a bounty hunter, but we’ve never actually played a game where she’s done any bounty hunting. Or have we? There’s evidence to suggest that this entire time we’ve been bringing down all kinds of monsters, Samus has been doing so simply to collect a bounty. Why is Ridley her greatest rival as established by Other M? Perhaps it’s because he is the greatest bounty of all and it’s become personal ever since, similar to how Captain Ahab desires to bring down Moby Dick.
3. Wander- Shadow Of The Colossus
Team ICO’s Shadow of the Colossus is a nearly perfect game. You take the role of a man named Wander who is trying to revive his girlfriend. The only way to do so is by killing all of the sixteen monstrous colossi that reside in different parts of each land. In the game, you are guided by a spirit known as Dormin. He points you to the different colossi, and they are some of the greatest fights ever seen in video game history. However, with each kill, you notice Wander’s physical appearance change slightly. He becomes a bit darker, with various markings appearing all around his body. By the time the final colossus is reached, Wander is stopped by some soldiers. Apparently, this whole time, the colossi were targeted by Dormin, who used Wander to kill them. In doing so, Dormin was able to be released and possesses Wander to become a being of immense power. The soldiers work together to stop Dormin, but in the process cause Wander to disappear as well. From that point on, the land of the colossi becomes a barren wasteland once more without any of the once magnificent creatures roaming the world- all because of your actions as Wander.
2. Mario- Super Mario Bros.
The Game Theorists hit on this topic several years ago on their channel, and I personally think they were on the right track. Mario is actually an antagonist of the Mushroom Kingdom. While he has saved it from Bowser on multiple occasions as well as rescued Princess Peach numerous times, the means that he uses to accomplish these goals are questionable at best. First of all, according to the Super Mario Bros. instruction booklet, the various blocks that Mario breaks were once people of Mushroom Kingdom who were transformed by Bowser. There are countless other offenses he has in the series as pointed out by the same video, but for purposes of originality, I won’t go into too much detail. Mario is also the entire reason that Donkey Kong kidnapped his girlfriend in the arcade classic. He allegedly wasn’t good to the ape, which caused him to rebel. After Mario ended up finally saving his girlfriend, he then became a villain by placing Donkey Kong in a cage, leaving it up to the little Donkey Kong Jr. to save his father. There was an actual game where Mario was the main antagonist.
1. Joel- The Last Of Us
I’ll admit that the world of The Last of Us is a brutal “kill or be killed” type of environment. The actions of Joel could, in the context of that world, be somewhat justified. He often finds himself on the wrong end of somebody’s gun or wooden board, so he simply reacts in a manner that will save his life. The end of the game is where his actions get a bit more questionable. He makes it to the Fireflies, who decide to examine Ellie to find some kind of cure to the zombie plague. However, he is told that Ellie would most likely die in the process. As a result, Joel decides to bust Ellie out and prevent the surgery from happening. Naturally, the Fireflies attempt to stop him, but he kills every last one of them, even his previous ally Marlene. When he gets to the operating room, he shoots a doctor that tries to stop him and carries Ellie out to safety. Then to top it all off, after Ellie recovers from her coma, she asks Joel about the events, only for the audience to find out that he had lied to her. It’ll be interesting to see how that factors into The Last of Us Part II.