Many games are filled with in-game choices now. Though most titles do indeed follow through with giving fans freedom to decide certain outcomes, many choices feel like they have little to no consequence on the overall plot. While it doesn’t usually make a game’s story bad, some of these choices don’t have many meaningful results or fail to change to narrative at hand.
Beware that the following entries contain spoilers.
Your Choices Don’t Matter – Firewatch
Firewatch is a thought-provoking game. Told from the eyes of a fire lookout named Henry, it sees players unwrap a mystery surrounding Shoshone National Forest, eliciting a lot of personal conversation between the protagonist and his supervisor, Delilah. Dialogue options allow Henry to romance his partner via walkie-talkie, though this ultimately doesn’t lead anywhere. Delilah is presumably nothing more than a friend to the main character by the time the credits roll. If you’re sick of your love life not going anywhere, this may not be the game for you.
Your Choices Don’t Matter – Saints Row IV
Most people in the United States today agree that national health issues like cancer and hunger suck. Luckily, Saints Row IV allows players to completely eradicate one of these crises during the game’s opening segment in an incredibly hilarious Saints Row-esque take on narrative choices. What are fans rewarded for this momentous decision? Nothing but that’s probably the point. Characters don’t speak of your revolutionary choice to instate a cure of cancer or feed the hungry ever again. Though players are busy gaining superpowers and fighting hordes of alien soldiers from that point on, a nice pat on the back every now and then wouldn’t hurt.
Your Choices Don’t Matter – Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham City is a fairly linear game. As the Dark Knight, players are tasked with gliding across a quarantined part of Gotham City to take down a series of infamous super-villains. Though there are few choices to be made throughout the experience, the title’s Catwoman DLC plays a little differently.
Given the burglar’s strained relationship with Batman, players are allowed to either escape with briefcases full of money or rescue the brooding hero from a humiliating death. Should fans choose the first option, they’ll see Catwoman exit the vault, then rewind right back in. Arkham City forces players to save Batman, negating the whole point of offering fans a choice to begin with.
Your Choices Don’t Matter – Fallout 4
The Fallout franchises prides itself on the vast amount of choices it offers players. At the very beginning of Fallout 4, fans are gifted an array of customization options to craft their own personal post-apocalyptic hero. They’re also allowed to build the look of their spouse, which is neat for people who are sick of settling for ugly suitors in real life. A little later in the game, one’s ideal mate is shot dead inside a capsule, rendering all that time spent choosing the right eye color for one’s husband/wife pointless.
Thankfully, Fallout 4 doesn’t restrict the number of mates one can have in the Wasteland. Unlike most other RPGs, players can romance many of the game’s companions simultaneously. One’s decision to date Curie won’t affect one’s relationship with Preston Garvey, and vice versa. The game doesn’t judge you for your choices, which makes polygamy just another choice. With the death rate so high, it actually makes perfect sense.
Your Choices Don’t Matter – Pokemon Go (And Every Modern Pokemon Game)
In the original Pokemon games, players are tasked with choosing one of three starter monsters to join them on their quest to be the best trainer in the region. This choice of grass, water, or fire Pokemon could not be altered throughout the main game, as these creatures are unable to be caught in the wild. A sense of permanency is placed on aspiring trainers from the get-go – something that today’s fans don’t have to worry about.
The current generation of the franchise supports global and local trade functionalities, allowing players to exchange starters almost immediately. Pokemon Go makes these creatures available to trainers as soon they boot up the game, making the initial decision pretty meaningless in hindsight. One could really well choose Charmander as his or her starter, then catch a Bulbasaur right across the street. Back in my day, you had to walk four miles uphill in the snow to link to your friend’s Game Boy to get a Squirtle and Bulbasaur.
Your Choices Don’t Matter – Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 may have some meaningful choices in the actual meat of the game but the ending sure made some loud fans feel as though their decisions were meaningless. Players spent five years carefully developing relationships with extraterrestrials only to have three choices available to them by the third entry’s conclusion. Red, blue, and green lasers are all that players get after saving entire races from genocide and befriending alien species from across the galaxy.
The romances and camaraderie one may have developed throughout the trilogy are insignificant, as players don’t even learn what happened to these characters after Shepard’s sacrifice. Fans are treated to near identical endings no matter their playstyle. Developer BioWare introduced more endings to the game after launch to ease the tension, but there are Mass Effect fans out there today who are still seething in anger over the whole fiasco. While Mass Effect 3, as a whole, is seen by some as a culmination of choices throughout the series, it didn’t stop some from viewing it as a game that didn’t respect decisions.
The games on this list aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. Most offer players a rich assortment of choices, many of which have consequences later on. Ultimately, however, these decisions bear no significance on the overarching narrative, which is also fine if the context is right. It’s nice to witness side characters complete their own unique story arcs, but protagonists often encounter prearranged fates that are apathetic to what players want. Not all choices need to impact the ending but, given the medium, a little bit of consequences can go a long way.