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The 9 best plot twists in PC games

Flipping the script

Hello, it's the list goblin. Every month I bring fun lists to share. My hideous goblin features and desperate hunger for SEO crumbs hide a generous heart. People don't expect kindness from a creature such as I. But life is full of twists, and so are video games.

Remember when BioShock pulled the rug from beneath you so hard you cracked your head on the wet tiles? Remember when the dragon scales fell from your eyes during The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim? Here's the 10 best plot twists in PC games. (I've limited it to games that are at least a couple of years old, still, don't be sad if you read spoilers.)

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The assassin's error - The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

A hooded man stands inside a dark archway in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

There's a line of quests in Oblivion in which you join the Dark Brotherhood, a league of fearful assassins. Your handler, a scurrilous spook called Lucien Lechance, leaves notes for you in dead drop locations, instructing you on your next target. But after a few smooth murders you are accosted in the streets by your death daddy, who is panicking and furious. You've been killing the leading members of your own organisation, you fool! The cleverness of this is that the first few contracts are genuine. When it comes to twists, doing things authentically a few times serves to lull your mark into a false sense of security.

Would You Kindly - BioShock

BioShock's late-game turnaround is fondly remembered, and results in the most violent golf minigame in FPS history. It turns out Atlas, the family man with the nice brogue who has been guiding you through the game as a classic radio voiceover, is actually elusive baddie Fontaine. And he's been commanding your every move with the control phrase "would you kindly". I still don't know how 2K managed to hypnotise every player back in 2007. Player manipulation has evolved a lot since then. But it was impressive technology for the time.

The truth of war - Spec Ops: The Line

You spend a long time shooting your fellow human beings in this third-person Dubai 'em up, just a regular video game day taking out soldiers who have gone rogue in a collapsing city full of sand and gunfire. But persevere through the judicious bullet admin and you'll be struck with the mother of all curveballs. It turns out this war is actually quite bad, and according to some emotions stirred up by a scene in which white phosphorus is used to kill civilians, it transpires that maybe ALL war is bad. It's an intriguing doubt, subtly seeded.

Jester - Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid games have always had strange antagonists to fight, but Jester was a huge surprise for even seasoned experts of classic Kojima villains. Late in this stealth game it's revealed that all higher-level geopolitical decisions are being directed by a resplendent Jester wearing a militarised yet still recognisably mediaeval garb. Voiced by German actor Christoph Waltz, he soon appears as an underwhelming boss, juggling sausages, beer, and hand grenades, laughing and shouting nonsense like "a wurst for the thurst, the first is the worst", as he throws these items at you.

It's not your house! - Gone Home

Some of us know the intense embarrassment of spacing out on the walk home, and realising as you struggle to fit your key in the lock (why won't it go in?) that actually, oh no, this is not your front door. Hold onto that cringing feeling for a moment. Gone Home is a game about coming home to suburbia after a long time away. But the house is empty. As you flip through your old belongings, knock over canisters of 'Ape Rule Fuel' in the garage, and look lovingly over photos of your family, you begin to have certain doubts. Was your father always moustached? Did they renovate the kitchen? It all comes to a head when you reach the loft and realise, hang on. This isn't your creepy multimillion-dollar manor! Your mansion has corpses in the attic! How mortifying. You'd better leave.

The real killer - Return of the Obra Dinn

Sailors brandish guns below deck in Return Of The Obra Dinn
Image credit: 3909

Scurvy. Plain old scurvy finished off the whole crew, who'd have thought it? The sailors just didn't have enough lemons. Excellent twist.

A seasonal reveal - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

When you climb High Hrothgar to speak to the CEO of Dragons, fighting through blizzards and frost trolls to reach the freezing summit, you are not necessarily expecting the grand batlizard to tell you, actually, this is Spring. This is what Springtime looks like in Skyrim. Isn't that weird? You file it away in your head as you storm through the rest of the RPG, smelting ore and getting married and burping loudly at imperial legionaries, the snow never abating. And then true winter comes. Or "Megawinter" as it is called in Elder Scrolls lore. Many critics complained about the game's climactic moments, in which you are forced to eat your own children and wife to survive, finally becoming the hunched "Dragon of Whiterun" feared by neighbourhood kids and parents alike. Bethesda famously changed the ending after public outcry, setting the precedent that would be used years later when Mass Effect 3 players became equally upset with Commander Shepard, who also committed familial cannibalism.

You are an orc - Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

This was such a shock. You were an orc all along. It explains why you could be such good friends with them all. Still, you know what they say: "better an orc than a… goblin". A goblin.... Hm. Goblin. Lists. Something isn't… something isn't right here…

The goblin's true identity - Rock Paper Shotgun

"This month's list is weird," you think. "What the hell is happening?" And then it comes to you all at once, like a frying pan across the head. You see the clues now. God, it was so clear! A jester in Metal Gear Solid V? Skyrim in Spring!? You don't remember any of this… You scroll back to the top of the article, heart swimming in adrenaline as revelatory music swells around you from an unknown source. You scroll past the clues, glaring now (Ape Rule Fuel???). The voice of Christoph Waltz echoing in your head. "A wurst for the thurst, the first is the worst!". You mouth the words aloud, the red strings of your brain putting it all together. You feel like you've lived this moment before, a part of you has always known. You scroll up and scroll up and see it there, next to the byline on the offending article. Your suspicions confirmed, your life shattered.

April 1st.

It was all a lie. You hear the distant laughter of a goblin, long gone now, impossible to trace. Not the creature of lists you know and cherish. But another monstrosity altogether, that foul thing, lord of the shitpost. This is not the work of the List Goblin. This was…

The Twist Goblin.

One Off The List from... the small NPCs who became big

Last time we gathered up 9 minor NPCs who became major characters. But one of them veered too far out of their lane. It's... Dr Kleiner from Half-Life 2.

"I'd say Kleiner should be removed," says digital human purger 'Saravis' with cold logic. "While the roles of Eli and Barney become more significant to the story, Kleiner's is pretty much the same from the first game. He's still just a side character that you cross paths with, he opens some doors and tells you to go someplace."

Release the man-hacks. Judgement has been passed. I will see you all next time, goblin fans. I promise to be sensible.

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