Best game spoilers of the decade

Spoilers are the lifeblood of story-based games. The twist, the reveal, the information you glean after the hours you spend in a title. Over the past decade, we’ve seen some of gaming’s best stories unfold. And some of those stories include moments best experienced for yourself.

With so many of these games moving on to become video game history — as we forge into a new generation of consoles and another decade — we wanted to take a moment to ruin all of them for you. But more importantly, we wanted to celebrate the twists and turns they took, and hopefully remind you why they’ll always be worth coming back to.

But what makes something a spoiler? Our criteria was anything you’d want a friend or loved one to experience for themselves. If you were sitting on the couch watching them play, what’s something you’d silently think to yourself “I can’t wait until they see this.” That’s a spoiler, and it’s one of our favorite things to talk about with games.

Note that this post obviously contains spoilers for a lot of different games. The list also isn’t organized in any specific order. All of these spoilers are equally good in our eyes.

Doki Doki Literature Club

Team Salvato

Purely narrative focused, and advertised as a dating simulator, Doki Doki Literature Club toys with your idea of what a video game story can be. When your first classmate unexpectedly dies, and you’re booted to the main menu and your save is deleted, it’s a genuine shock — not something you’d expect out of a dialogue-based anime game. The twist is dark, and sad, but forces you to engage with the product in a unique way — starting new runs to see how the story continues.

As the game goes on, and other students die, you learn the secret of your classmate Monika — that she’s self aware, and just deleted the save data for the other two students in the game. This of course leads you to delete Monika’s save data as well, diving into your own PC’s files to do so.

Doki Doki Literature Club disrupts all of your expectations, and makes you feel like you have no idea what will happen the next time you hit new game.

-Ryan Gilliam

God of War

SIE Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment

In God of War’s closing minutes, we learn that Kratos’ son Atreus’ giant name is Loki.

This moment is shocking for a lot of reasons — especially if you dive into some of Loki’s Norse mythology. Atreus is not only half-giant, he’s also predestined to bring about a lot of suffering in God of War’s new Norse setting.

In myth, Loki is the father of Jörmungandr the world serpent, which is probably why the snake thinks Atreus seems so familiar early in the game. And Loki also plays a huge role in Ragnarok, the Norse version of apocalypse.

A good spoiler makes you think about a game differently the second time through. The Loki reveal adds a more sinister air to a few of Atreus’ early interactions — and his mid-game temper tantrum isn’t quite as easy to dismiss as adolescence.

There’s a lot to this reveal, and we unfortunately won’t learn anymore until God of War’s unannounced sequel. But it’s given us a lot to think about, and made the wait for God of War 2 that much longer.

RG

Persona 5

Atlus

Persona 5 has one of the most mind-numbing twists we’ve seen this decade.

For the entire game, players return to a flash forward, the imprisoned protagonist telling the story of the famed Phantom Thieves to detective Sae Nijima. Toward the end of the game, players reach the flashforward point, and Nijima walks out of the interrogation room. All of a sudden, detective prodigy and supposed good guy Goro Akechi walks into your interrogation, gives you an evil speech, and shoots the protagonists in the face.

After a Kojima-length cutscene, it’s revealed that the Akechi was unknowingly in a palace — the game’s representation of someone’s psyche, manifested in a lavish alternate dimension. The hero isn’t dead in real life, and we now know Akechi’s evil plot. It’s a brilliant move for the Phantom Thieves, and a great way to defy player expectations.

A good flash forward is rarely as it seems, but this one tricked us pretty good.

-RG

Red Dead Redemption

Rockstar San Diego/Rockstar Games

The ending of John Marston’s story in Red Dead Redemption is one of the all time video game spoilers.

After dozens of hours with John, watching him betray his former life to secure a future for his family, you have to watch him die pointlessly by the hands of the very lawmen he’s helped. Rockstar doesn’t pull any punches either, and the final Deadeye attack — where you think for a moment that you can kill all these dastardly lawmen — is our last moment of hope for the cowboy.

As an end to the game, Marston’s death feels like an appropriately somber note on which to end Red Dead Redemption. But getting one final shot at revenge as young son Jack Marston really does make this final chapter of Red Dead Redemption one to remember.

-RG

Nier Automata

There are a dozen things to spoil around Nier: Automata, but the nature of the game itself is the biggest spoiler of all.

Nier’s story is bonkers and beautiful in a way that’s easy to love. But finishing the game only to launch into another, very different run is a shock, especially as its from a totally different perspective.

On a second playthrough, you lose control of 2B and play as her nerdy sidekick, 9S. But 9S is a hacker, which fundamentally shifts the way you see the world and perform combat. Instead of being the badass killer 2B was, you can hack the world around you, discovering secrets and learning more about the YoRHa, or 2B’s intentions.

It’s a wild way to shift perspective, and by the third chapter, you’ve watched beloved characters like 2B and 9S die of lose their minds. Nier is a linear, crafted story, and if you choose to press on and play second and third playthroughs, you see everything designer Yoko Taro wants you to see. And it fundamentally alters the way you view every in-game event in each of the three playthroughs. Even the credits add to the overall narrative of Nier: Automata.

-RG

Stories Untold

No Code/Devolver Digital

Stories Untold takes the player through a series of fun, spooky one-shot horror games, complete with a TV-style introduction. It’s adorable, and reminded me a lot of Stranger Things. There are still thrills and chills, but the episodic nature of the game means you tend to move on quickly.

Until the final episode, where the TV-style intro stops, and our character enters an interrogation.

It turns out there is a main character, and he’s been in the hospital, watching TV. The police are very interested in finding out what happened in the car crash that put him in that state. Through a montage of gameplay clips from the previous episodes, the horrible truth unfurls: the main character was driving drunk, hit a cop, killed the cop and his sister, and tried to pin the DUI on the dead cop.

Oops! Now I feel like an asshole!

This was just a really well done twist from top to bottom on top of an incredibly competent game. Stories Untold is criminally underrated, and most of that comes down to the twist.

Cass Marshall

Until Dawn

Supermassive Games

Until Dawn hits the slasher movie tropes hard in its opening chapter. There’s a remote cabin. Icy conditions. A group of teens up for a fun weekend. And of course, a mysterious figure with a penchant for devious, dramatic traps ( a la Jigsaw from the Saw movies) is torturing our heroes. But the masked maniac’s methods don’t always match some of the scary events our players encounter on this remote mountain getaway. So, what else is going on?

About halfway through the game, Until Dawn reveals the cabin’s owner, Josh, was dressing up as the masked maniac and torturing his friends for cathartic revenge, after a prank gone wrong the previous year resulted in both his twin sisters falling to their deaths. It’s a great twist, if not a little familiar.

But the true nature of Until Dawn hits only moments later. The mountain is also covered in Wendigo monsters, humans transformed to beasts after resorting to cannibalism. Unlike Josh, the Wendigos have no interest in playing catch-and-release with the heroes, and provide a deadly threat to everyone.

-RG

Warframe’s The Second Dream

Digital Extremes

I wrote in-depth about what makes Warframe’s The Second Dream quest so audacious and wild, but the long and the short of it is: after I sunk a hundred hours into Warframe, I completed a quest and finally unlocked my character creator screen. Turns out the titular Warframes are just mechs, and they’re piloted by sleeping children. You are one of those children.

This is a wild twist, executed perfectly, in a game that gave you no reason to believe you would be diving into such heady story content. It’s absolutely aces.

-CM

Portal 2

Valve

Portal 2’s single player campaign rules. From start to finish, it’s a hilarious, puzzle-solving romp. And its story comes with a wicked twist.

At the start, the small robot Wheatley comes to rescue Chel and get her out of the Aperture facilities. But first they need to shut GLaDoS down. When Chel manages to swap Wheatley and Glados’ bodies, Wheatley grows mad with power, and banishes Chel and the newly potato’d Glados to the abandoned factory.

GLaDoS is such a fabulous video game villain — still punchy and funny in 2019. Getting to spend an entire game with her because of Wheatley’s power grab is a delight. And it does a nice job of giving a non-combat game like Portal a hateable villain.

-RG

Soma

Frictional Games

Soma is a horror game that doesn’t rely on horrific monsters or tense combat sequences. Instead, the twist is much more simple — but profoundly terrifying. The protagonist goes in for a medical trial, then awakes over a hundred years later in a space nightmare. How did this happen? How can he escape?

Turns out that he’s a clone, and the original protagonist lived out the rest of his life on Earth, unawares. The only way the protagonist and his ally can survive is via another clone; their road ends aboard the spaceship, no matter how hard they try. If your consciousness lives on within a clone, does that make the terror of your inevitable end any less sickening? There is no escape, no happy ending. Soma is horror on a profound level, offering the kind of dread that sits in your gut for days.

-CM

Batman: Arkham Knight

Rocksteady Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

The identity of the titular Arkham Knight is the central mystery of Batman: Arkham Knight. Toward the end of the game, players discover that the Arkham Knight is actually Jason Todd, the second Robin. In the game, Batman thought the Joker killed Todd years ago, but Todd survived to harbor a grudge against the caped crusader.

This isn’t entirely different from Todd’s arc in the Batman comics — although Todd comes comes back not as a villain but the anti-hero the Red Hood. Instead, Arkham makes the cut because of how players discover the reveal.

Joker spends the entire game dead, living on inside Batman’s head. The visions he shows the player of Todd’s supposed death are brutal. Players really get to empathize with the suffering of Todd before his villain ever takes off his mask. The framing of Joker’s actions help solidify the Arkham Knight as a tragic figure, rather than one of Batman’s usual foes.

-RG

Gone Home

The Fullbright Company

Gone Home spends a lot of time pretending to be a ghost story. It makes sense. Like protagonist Katie, if I found my family home abandoned after a trip abroad, I would be freaking the hell out. It’s not just that the house is empty and the lights are flickering from a storm. As Katie finds clues left behind by her family, there are multiple references to a seance that her sister Sam wanted to hold. When it’s revealed that Sam is gay and was struggling with her home life, I was no longer just afraid of ghosts — I was afraid of what might have happened to my sister. In the end it’s revealed that there are no ghosts, and Sam has simply run off with her girlfriend. A relief, no doubt, but one that hasn’t aged as well for me as other big twists in games.

-Simone de Rochefort

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’s story isn’t as strong as other entries in the Metal Gear series. But the reveal that you’re actually Big Boss’ trusty pilot, not the legend himself, 50+ hours into the game somehow improves on Kojima’s own badass Solid Snake to precocious Riden character swap in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.

You never play as the famous Big Boss in The Phantom Pain, only his shadow. At the start of Phantom Pain, doctors transform you into Venom Snake, and lead you to believe that you’re the legendary hero from operation Snake Eater, Peace Walker, and the Ground Zero mission.

It’s not until the very end that you discover Ishmael, your savior in the first mission, is the real Big Boss, and has been on a secret mission while you’ve been galavanting with the Diamond Dogs. The twist itself is fun to discover, but even better on a second playthrough. Everything reflects the secret. Even one of the game’s opening songs, David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World, is a cover — just like Venom Snake.

-RG

Her Story

Sam Barlow

Her Story has an incredibly engrossing narrative, which makes it all more shocking when a fucking face appears reflected on my screen in the late-game. It’s a tactic that Sam Barlow adopted for Telling Lies, except in that game the reflection represents the character that I’m playing from the beginning. In Her Story there was no indication that I was anyone other than a nosy version of myself (so, myself). At least until that face showed up. It scared the shit out of me. The further reveal that the character doing the searching is the daughter of the woman who appears in all those police interviews. It’s a neat way to put a bow on the story.

-SR

Frog Fractions

Twinbeard Studios

Frog Fractions is one of the most bizarre video game experiences of the last decade. Built to look like a simple education game, you start as a frog gobbling up fractions on a lilypad. Each upgrade feels like a triumph, until you unlock the turtle.

Suddenly, the nature of Frog Fractions changes. The game gets much stranger from here, but this is the first moment where it seems like there’s something truly weird going on in this game. From here, players move through a maze, to a text-only adventure game, to a courtroom. Frag Fractions is one of the only games where you truly feel like anything could come next.

-RG

Superhot

SUPERHOT team

Superhot is the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years!” I got this message from a friend on Steam the day Superhot released. It wasn’t until I finished the game nearly four days later that I realized what it meant and why he sent it to me.

Superhot’s plot involves a complicated series of reveals about the nature of reality and what exactly a game is. At some point Superhot insists it has control over you; anytime you complete and objective it congratulates itself. Questioning our own agency as players isn’t new. . But where Superhots’ real twist comes in is during the post-credits sequence. The game instructed me to spread Superhot to as many people as possible. To do this, I should send the worlds, “Superhot is the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years!” over social media, on Steam reviews, or over Steam messages.

On the one hand, this is a pretty direct and kind of hilarious marketing tactic. The game literally tells you to give it your word-of-mouth support. On the other hand, it was one of my favorite twists in a game because it changed the way I felt about a real-life conversation the game asked my friend to have, which is actually pretty unsettling.

-Austen Goslin

Bioshock Infinite

The final hours of Bioshock Infinite reveal a lot about the game’s world and Elizabeth’s power. But no reveal feels more significant than the lighthouses, specifically the identity of Zachery Comstock.

It turns out that Booker DeWitt – you, the player character – and the game’s religious villain, Zachery Comstock, are the same man. And Elizabeth is your daughter, stolen from your timeline and taken to another. It’s a clash of two Bookers – one who lost his daughter only to steal another, and one whose actively repeating the same path.

But instead of perpetuating the cycle, leading more Bookers to more worlds and creating more Comstocks. A group of Elizabeths come together to drown their father – you – in a shallow pool.

Like the original Bioshock, Infinite showcases these story moments through gameplay. Landing in Rapture and discovering how the first Bioshock ties into Bioshock Infinite, or walking between the lighthouses is an unforgettable story moment from this decade.

-RG

The Dragon Age Games

Bioware/Electronic Arts

The two major Dragon Age games of the 2010s offered the juiciest of friend opportunities: Watching your buddy pick The Romance That Ends Poorly.

Both Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition each contain a romanceable character who, in the end, turns out to be the game’s… well, not villain, exactly. Like most of Dragon Age lore, it’s complicated. Take Inquisition’s elvhen apostate, Solas.

He gives you a pet name in your ancient, shared language, and he’ll take you on literal dream dates. Then the Trespasser DLC reveals that he’s the legendary elvhen trickster god known as the Dread Wolf, and his ultimate goal is to destroy civilization as we know it. Also he cuts your left arm off at the bicep.

Rewind farther to Dragon Age 2, and it’s entirely possible to romance a man, let him move into your home, and then get blindsided by his radicalization into a pro-mage terrorist who blows up a church and instigates a full on Mage/Templar war.

Yes, I romanced Anders on my first playthrough. I don’t know how my friends kept quiet about it.

-Susana Polo

Mass Effect 2

BioWare/Electronic Arts

About halfway into playing Mass Effect 2 with my wife, she started to get frustrated. “Who the hell is this final companion slot for?,” she asked me. I told her she needed to wait and see. We’d played nearly 30 hours of the game, and we were still missing one of the game’s key companions.

When we entered one of the final missions, we briefly encountered a strange looking Geth, wearing a piece of N7 armor just like us. As I played, my wife paused for a moment and said, “That’s not the final dude, is it?” I was beaming. I’d waited through all of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 for this moment.

After my Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 playthroughs with her (my dozenth, her first), we killed hundreds of Geth units together. The mystery of the soulless seeming robot not only saving you but wearing your armor was so exciting for her — just like it was for me back in 2010.

Legion — the Geth in question — finally rounded out our crew, and taught us so much about this race we’d previously only thought of as foes.

-RG

Outer Wilds

Mobius/Annapurna Interactive

As a puzzle game, there are many parts of Outer Wilds that you could consider a spoiler, but the biggest in the game isn’t about realizing how to solve a problem. It’s about realizing that you’ve never been working towards solving it in the first place.

The tone of the game — from its ruined cities to its central time loop-death-time loop mechanic — is unrepentantly elegiac. But still, as you unlock more and more secrets of Nomai technology, you might cling to a scrap of hope. Their ancient experiment has malfunctioned, and is making your solar system’s sun go supernova on the day of your first spaceflight. If you can figure it out, you can fix it.

The reality is much more dire: Your sun is actually undergoing its natural heat death. It was merely your and your people’s misfortune to be born at the end of the universe. I felt humbled by this realization, but not in any way shocked by it. And that the game’s spectacular finale could be so satisfying and hopeful is a testament to the careful craft that went into every inch of Outer Wilds.

-SP

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus

MachineGames / Bethesda

In Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus B.J. Blazkowicz is in a sorry state, both physically and mentally. He spends the entire first act of the game monologueing about his upcoming demise, and how useless he feels in his broken body.

When he gets captured and is set for execution, you wonder, “can this really be it for B.J.?” And then the game gives you a breakout sequence, where it seems like you’re about to save yourself! But it was all a dream. And when B.J.’s head falls from his shoulders, you start to wonder who you’ll play as next.

The reveal that the resistance creates a plan to grab B.J.’s severed head, keep it alive in a jar, and attach it to a Nazi super soldier body is one of the dumbest, coolest spoilers on this entire list. It’s such a rush of emotions. Machine Games turning B.J. Blazkowicz into a character that you could genuinely care for was a ridiculous feat in 2014. But making me cry over his potential death in the sequel is something I’ll never forget.

-RG

Fallout: New Vegas

Obsidian Entertainment

Fallout: New Vegas puts the player in the middle of four factions: the new-American NCR, the libertarian machinations of Mr. House, an independent “fuck you, got mine” New Vegas… and the brutal Caesar’s Legion. Caesar’s Legion is the bad guy choice, no question, as the Legion engages in crucifixion, slavery, rape, and other atrocities as they sweep across the Mojave Wasteland.

But their leader, the charismatic and intellectual Caesar, is the one who keeps the entire Legion functional. After exploring all four options, you find that Caesar has a brain tumor. He’s dying. It’s a fascinating wild card thrown into the middle of a political pressure cooker, and it changes the trajectory of the game and the player’s choices perfectly.

It also unlocks one of the cruelest choices in gaming, where you can save Caesar… by giving your pacifistic, intelligent, awkward scientist follower over to the Legion as a makeshift surgeon. Years later, as a result of your cruelty, he will disembowel himself with a scalpel. That’s a gutpunch you can’t find anywhere else in gaming.

-CM

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Intelligent Systems, Koei Tecmo Games/Nintendo

Fire Emblem: Three Houses offers a mid game reveal that makes you question everything you’ve done in the previous 20-odd hours. After so much build up about the dreaded Flame Emperor, Three Houses reveals that Edelgard, the head of the Black Eagle house, is actually the Flame Emperor. The game gives you the choice to join Edelgard … or fight against your former student.

But Fire Emblem: Three Houses never makes you feel evil for joining Edalgard. In my first playthrough, I felt like there was no way I could abandon my students. I’d come to trust Edelgard, and I knew she had a reason for becoming the Flame Emperor. The game never really breaks it into good or evil. All the houses and both sides of the conflict make compelling arguments for their point of view, based on the information you’re given.

A good spoiler begs you to experience the story again, knowing what you know. But Fire Emblem: Three Houses makes you believe that your choice, your story is the only true one — while also leaving you with a tinge of doubt, begging you to explore a different perspective.

-RG

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Ubisoft Quebec/Ubisoft via Polygon

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey allows you to choose to play as either Alexios or Kassandra. As part of my chosen character Kassandra’s Tragic Flashback Sequence™, we learn why she lost her family. Loyal to the Kings of Sparta, Kassandra’s father agreed to sacrifice Alexios by throwing him off a cliff when he was a baby (cool!). Kassandra rushed in and tried to save him, and they both fell off the cliff — only Kassandra survived.

At least, that’s what I thought, until I infiltrated the secret cave headquarters of the evil Cult of Kosmos. The cultmembers whispered about Deimos, their demigod secret weapon who would help them rule the Greek world. And then in walked Alexios, all grown up, looking a bit worse for wear and angry as hell. Reader, I gasped! My baby brother! Evil now! In that moment, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey gave the fight against the cult with real heft and stakes. Deimos dogged my footsteps through the game, resisting my help — and I knew that if in the end I failed to save him, Kassandra’s mother would have to watch her son die all over again. Absolutely unacceptable — this twist gave me a real reason not just to beat the game, but to win.

-SR

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