Video games have come a long way. Today, many titles feature riveting narratives filled with dramatic twists and turns that players can’t see coming. Characters come alive with convincing goals that are far more sophisticated than claiming victory or sowing destruction. The push and pull between heroes and villains sometimes culminates in shocking betrayals that fans never expected. The following are some of the greatest video game betrayals that left players sad, heartbroken, and motivated to win. Be warned that major spoilers can be found below.
Greatest video game betrayals – Lucy Betrays Desmond (Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood/Revelations)
Lucy’s death in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is shocking considering how important she is in Desmond’s life. She’s just as capable of taking down Templars as Ezio or Altair, and even saved the protagonist more than once from the evil organization’s clutches. This may have all been a ruse, however, as in Revelations it’s revealed that Lucy actually may have been a Templar spy the entire time.
The moments she had “saved” Desmond were all carefully orchestrated to convince him that she could be trusted. Though Lucy’s death is depressing to watch, knowing that she may have leaked information to the enemy is even more devastating.
Greatest video game betrayals – Atlas Betrays Jack (Bioshock)
Towards the end of Bioshock, protagonist Jack is brought face-to-face with Andrew Ryan, the villain who had supposedly brought about the end of Rapture’s civilization, at least according to Atlas. After murdering Ryan with a golf club, it’s revealed that Frank Fontaine was really the mastermind behind the underwater utopia’s downfall and that he had been secretly masquerading as Atlas just to trick players to do his bidding.
He had purposefully kept Jack captive in the city until everything he wanted had come to pass. All of this makes it easy to wonder whether or not Rapture could have been saved if only Jack was a little more suspicious.
Greatest video game betrayals – Vincent Betrays Leo (A Way Out)
Throughout A Way Out, players are encouraged to help protagonists Vincent and Leo realize their goals of escaping prison and becoming free men again. Though it’s not the most original narrative ever, the title succeeds in portraying the humanity residing behind each hardened criminal, as both men frequently stop to talk about their respective life in the real world. As they share their experiences with one another, fans witness Vincent and Leo as they cultivate a brotherhood.
This bond ends when Vincent reveals he was a police officer the entire time, using Leo to get revenge on his brother’s murderer. By the end of A Way Out, one of the title’s two protagonists will die despite whatever hesitation players may have. Vincent’s betrayal is something players won’t be able to shake after the game’s credits roll, especially after knowing each character’s backstories and becoming invested in their escape together.
Greatest video game betrayals – Kendra Betrays Issac (Dead Space)
Dead Space‘s Kendra Daniels is kind of ruthless. She helps protagonist Issac Clarke navigate the Necromorph-invested ruins of the USG Ishimura in hopes that they’ll find his girlfriend Nicole. Towards the end of the game, however, Kendra reveals that Nicole has been dead the entire time and that she had contacted Issac only to have him find a mysterious piece of alien technology called the Marker. Like Frank Fontaine, Kendra uses Issac to do all of her bidding for her, essentially rendering the bereaved engineer with no shoulder to cry on in the vast expanse of space.
Greatest video game betrayals – General Shepherd Betrays Roach and Ghost (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 culminates with the start of a global conflict. Heroes Roach and Ghost have just procured valuable intelligence that may prevent World War 3 from happening, though their mission is cut short by their own nation’s military power, the face of which is General Shepherd.
The United States essentially becomes the player’s enemy alongside Russia, all for the sake of motivating more recruits to join the war effort. Though Soap and Price ultimately get their vengeance and murder Shepherd with a knife to the head, there’s no denying that the odds are stacking against this tiny mercenary group going into the series’ next installment.
Greatest video game betrayals – Wheatley Betrays Chell (Portal 2)
Sometimes power can get to your head. In the case of Portal 2, it certainly corrupts Wheatley’s programming. Before he switches places with the series’ villain, Glad0s, the spherical British robot helps players navigate through corridors and avoid hazards scattered throughout the facility’s many test courses. For the most past, he’s a delightful companion to have along Chell’s journey and has enough to say both for himself and the silent protagonist.
However, when Glad0s is defeated and turned into a potato, Wheatley decides that the human test subject hasn’t been put through enough hardship and tosses her back into the facility to complete more challenging obstacles. This betrayal is shocking given the little robot’s bouncy demeanor. It goes to show that technology can never be trusted.
Greatest video game betrayals – Edgar Ross Betrays John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)
One of gaming’s most despicable villains is Red Dead Redemption‘s Edgar Ross. He is the Bureau of Investigation director that tasks protagonist John Marston with taking out criminals across the West in exchange for the safety of his family.
When players conclude Ross’ bidding and are allowed to return home to spend time with Marston’s wife and kids, the former outlaw is met by an entourage of government agents who mercilessly murder him with a volley of gunfire. Ross casually lights a cigar as all of this happens. It seems like he couldn’t care less about his betrayal, thus making the situation hard to bear.
Becoming attached to someone only to have that person stab you in the back is painful. This applies both to real-life and fictional characters, as video game fans today can invest a lot of time into developing relationships only to have these bonds quickly sever. The titles above make us feel broken inside, wishing that things would have turned out differently.
Despite this, each is crafted carefully to make audiences more intrigued about the conflict at hand. If anything, they provide a stunningly realistic portrayal of human relationships and serve as evidence for gaming’s ability to immerse players in drama. It’s a departure from the simplistic narratives of yesteryear and a step in the right direction for the medium.