As much as most video games understandably cast the player in the role of the hero, there is clearly an audience that loves to play the bad guy – hence the popularity of the Grand Theft Auto franchise above all else.
But sometimes games will have you playing the villain without you even knowing it – at least for a good while.
These 10 games all had players convinced that they were playing the hero(es) of the story, only for the game to violently pull out the rug and reveal that, alas, you were the antagonist all along.
It’s a tricky twist to get right, if only because it has the tendency to be either predictable or nonsensical, and there are always going to be those players disappointed that they’re not the hero they thought they were.
The quality of the narrative execution certainly varies across these 10 games, but in each case, the developer played a dirty trick on unsuspecting players, often resulting in an instantly iconic gaming moment…
Jonathan Blow’s indie hit Braid was one of the cornerstone titles of the indie game revolution, an expertly designed puzzle-platformer in which player character Tim attempts to rescue a princess who has apparently been kidnapped by a horrible monster.
A self-reflexive riff on the conventions of the genre – especially Mario, clearly – Braid is best defined by its novel inclusion of time-manipulation mechanics, which play a major role in the game’s own manipulation of the player.
In Braid’s final level, everything apart from Tim himself plays in reverse, appearing to show the princess escaping from a knight while working with Tim to avoid obstacles on her way home.
Except of course, when time reverts forwards, it’s revealed that the princess is really running from Tim, who is the monster himself, while the knight is actually the real hero.
This was a masterful subversion of both the game’s established mechanics and also the seemingly prototypical “save the princess” narrative gamers have been conditioned to expect for literally decades.