#3. BioShock Infinite -- Its Twists Are Stolen from Star Wars, and It Blatantly Tells Us So
The latest entry in the BioShock series is the classic, oft-told tale of a man rescuing a girl from evil racists who live in the sky. Oh, and he has a magnetic hook arm and can shoot crows from his hands, because a friggin' hook arm just isn't enough sometimes.
Of course, this wouldn't be BioShock without a crazy twist; in this case, you discover that Elizabeth, the girl you're rescuing, has the power to open up holes to other realities. Also, she's your daughter all of a sudden. Also, you're the bad guy. It's all very confusing, but, if you were paying close attention, you may have been able to figure it out from the very beginning.
The key hint comes right when you first meet Elizabeth. As you're secretly watching her in her dressing room from behind a one-way mirror (you don't know she's your kid yet, so it's OK), you get your first glimpse of her opening a portal:
"Ugh. A stupid space film. This place sucks."
So she's in France, about to go see a Star Wars film? Yes, but not just any Star Wars; that bit of French on the marquee translates to "Revenge of the Jedi," which was Return of the Jedi's original name until George Lucas changed it before release. This foreshadows the later revelation that the portals she opens are gateways to alternate realities.
But the Star Wars thing also subtly reveals how liberally the game (and series) borrows from the Skywalkers' twisted family tree. Like, we all know Luke is Vader's son, and Leia is Vader's daughter (uh, spoiler, we guess?). Well, BioShock and Infinite have basically the same damn twists. At the end of BioShock, you learn that the main character is the son of the main bad guy who runs Rapture, the underwater city. He was separated at birth and raised in some faraway location, only to confront and defeat his father in adulthood -- just like Luke.
Here she is doing it again later in the game. This time in English.
And at the end of Infinite, you learn that Elizabeth is the daughter of the bad guy who runs Columbia, the flying city. Just like Leia. It's the same damn twist, and this game was more than happy to let you know as much.
#2. Spec Ops: The Line -- Numerous Hints at How Crazy You Are
At first glance, Spec Ops: The Line seems like a run-of-the-mill wartime shooter. As Walker, the leader of an elite military squad, you must make your way through Dubai, rescue survivors, and make the enemy pay for daring to be your enemy.
But things go south once you start shooting American soldiers and killing unarmed civilians with white phosphorus (a horrific substance banned for that use by the Geneva Conventions). Near the end, you learn that Walker is completely insane and that the main bad guy, along with most of the game, is a series of hallucinations brought on by PTSD suffered in Afghanistan. The final boss is you deciding whether or not to blow your own brains out.
It's a mind-bl- uh, jaw-dropping twist, but if you were paying real close attention, once again the whole thing was hinted at from the very beginning.
The game is packed with little hints and symbolism. Some of it is outrageously subtle (one character speaks Farsi, which is spoken mainly in Afghanistan and only occasionally in Dubai), while others are more straightforward, such as this one face that shows up basically everywhere:
No, that's not the game watching you while you masturbate with your free hand: That's Konrad, the supposed bad guy (and actual dead guy) of the game. He was your former squad leader, so why is Dubai worshiping him as the God of Everything? Well, they're not. You're the only one who sees this dude's mug.
Other hints are so subtle that they initially seem like mere glitches:
Or targets, depending on how bored you are.
See the streetlights in the distance? Well, step closer and ...
As with the giant Konrad faces, nobody else sees the bodies hanging from the lights like incredibly morbid pairs of sneakers. But wait, there's more! Later on, you walk past a blooming tree and, if you turn around, you'll see it immediately wither away and die.
"Wait, I think this means I'm Jesus!"
Again, nobody notices this but you, because it doesn't exist. Nothing does. The tree, the hanging bodies, the bad guy, and pretty much everything around you are figments of your fucked-up imagination. Something the game takes great pains to remind you of, again and again.
#1. Batman: Arkham City -- A Painting Gives Away the Fate of the Joker
Arkham City has three things going for it: Batman once again displaying his ability to violently punch criminals in the face all the live-long day, the awesomely nightmarish scenario of every criminal locked away in Arkham Asylum escaping en masse and turning an entire island into their own personal playground, and the shocking ending involving the death of the Joker.
Unless you count Tim Burton's bullshit (and it's so non-canonical that there's really no reason to), Bruce Wayne's legendary archrival finally kicking it was unprecedented, and completely out of the blue. Of course, if you're an art aficionado, then the twist was right in front of you the whole time.
Don't worry, you can stay in your living room for this one.
Halfway through the game, you switch to playing as Catwoman, sneaking around Arkham City while making off with as much swag as possible. One of your missions requires you to steal something from a safe, which is hidden behind this painting:
"But there's only one set of footprints."
The title of the painting, "Cain and Abel: The Duality of Man," obviously refers to the biblical story of Cain murdering his brother Abel because God liked him better. Whatever -- it's a pretty picture and all, but it's just window dressing, right?
Well, here's Batman, carrying the Joker's lifeless body in the exact same manner.
Nice touch with the marquee.
Then you remember the name of the painting and say "Ooooooh, right." Almost from the beginning, the Joker and Batman have had the most twisted brotherly relationship imaginable, each symbolizing an extreme of human nature. The Joker represents anarchy, chaos, and lawless animalism, while Bats stands for justice, law, and orderliness. The only way that painting could have been more blatant would be if the Joker had killed Batman, since he and Cain are both evil and all. The nerdrage on the Internet might have made such a tragedy well worth it.
The Cain and Abel stuff doesn't end there, though. Abel's murder was (according to the Bible anyhow) the first death in history; likewise, Joker's final laugh represents the first death in which Batman has had anything resembling a direct hand. More or less.
For more from Adam, you can check out his website or follow him on Twitter. J.F. Sargent is writing a comedy sci-fi action horror novel that you can read for free! He also has a Twitter.
For more ways games get creepy, check out 7 Creepy Video Game Easter Eggs You'll Wish Were Never Found and 8 Creepy Video Game Urban Legends (That Happen to Be True).
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 Ways Technology Is Exposing the Horrors of Restaurants .
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Extra Credit: Did you know one close-up on a payphone revealed Fight Club's shocking twist way before it happened? Click this link for that and more hidden clues in famous flicks. Take things back into gaming territory with a look at these terrifying hacks of famous video games. Next, let Winston Rowntree explain what makes video games a unique artform. Finish off your nerdgasm by dreaming of an open-world biking game and six other incredible premises that will never be made.