YouTube / MXE VIDEOS
YouTube / MXE VIDEOS

9 Shocking Video Game Twists

YouTube / MXE VIDEOS
YouTube / MXE VIDEOS

First, let's get this out of the way: This post is full of spoilers. If you haven't played the games below, the endings and/or best parts will be spoiled. You've been warned. Here are some of the biggest reveals in video game history, in chronological order.

1. Metroid, 1986

At the end of Metroid for the Nintendo Entertainment System, we learn that the hero, Samus, is female. While this should not be a surprise—I'd seen plenty of women as sci-fi protagonists (Ripley from Alien, Sarah Connor from The Terminator, Sarah Jane Smith from Doctor Who and later The Sarah Jane Adventures, etc.)—it threw me for a loop as a kid. I just assumed that Samus was a dude under the armor. This assumption was reinforced by the game's manual (PDF) referring to Samus as "he."

This is a great example of a "twist" that's both dated and sexist. As an eight-year-old in the mid-'80s it surprised me. Today (ahem, Chell in Portal?), it wouldn't be a thing. To make things worse, if the player completed the game quickly, the reveal would include progressively less clothing. Yikes.

2. EarthBound, 1994

In EarthBound you play as Ness. When a meteorite crashes near your house, you enlist the help of Pokey, your annoying neighbor, to check out the meteorite. Along the way, it becomes clear that the evil alien Giygas is in the process of destroying the universe. Thus begins a many-hour role-playing game.

The big reveal is that your annoying neighbor Pokey is really a villain, in league with Giygas. When Ness finally defeats Giygas, Pokey taunts Ness with a letter reading, "Come and get me, loser! Spankety spankety spankety!" In the sequel (Mother 3), Pokey has become an immortal time-traveler. And you thought your neighbors were jerks.

3. Final Fantasy VII, 1997

The Final Fantasy series is huge and sprawling; it's too complex to explain briefly. But one of the biggest moments in the series comes in the middle of the hugely popular Final Fantasy VII, when Aeris, a major character whom you have played for many hours, is suddenly killed. This comes as an incredible shock for the player, as she seems to be set up as an ongoing character. For many gamers, it was a surprisingly emotional moment, and not just because they had spent forever trying to equip and train the character—she was awesome.

The death is so legendary that GameSpot called it "the most shocking moment in video games, the most spoilerific spoiler of all time."

Game designer Tetsuya Nomura created Aeris (also known as Aerith due to the tricky translation from Japanese), and commented on her death in Final Fantasy VII:

"Death should be something sudden and unexpected, and Aerith's death seemed more natural and realistic. When I reflect on Final Fantasy VII, the fact that fans were so offended by her sudden death probably means that we were successful with her character. If fans had simply accepted her death, that would have meant she wasn't an effective character."

4. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, 2003

Throughout KOTOR, you play a Jedi with amnesia, trying to recover his memory. Much of the plot involves making light side/dark side choices, working up to a big battle against the evil Darth Malek, a former apprentice of the super-duper evil Darth Revan.

The big reveal is, you are Darth Revan. You've been brainwashed. When the reveal happens, it's mind-blowing.

5. BioShock, 2007

Throughout BioShock, you're guided through a crumbling underwater utopia by a man named Atlas, speaking over a radio. Atlas seems very helpful, telling you what to do and how to get it done—he's a key part of the game, and you build trust with him over hours of play. But Atlas isn't who or what he seems.

Near the end of the game, it's revealed that the protagonist, Jack, has been brainwashed, and he's been responding to a trigger phrase all along. That phrase is: "Would you kindly?" When the phrase is uttered, Jack does whatever he's told—including kill.

The freaky thing about this moment is that it recontextualizes the whole game. While Jack did have some legitimate choices in the game (for instance, to harvest or save the Little Sisters), for the most part he was being controlled by Atlas, who used the trigger phrase throughout the game to make him do things he might not have chosen to do, had he known what the real situation was. This brings up lots of interesting questions about free will.

6. Portal, 2007

Portal includes another unreliable character communicating via voice; this time it's GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) guiding protagonist Chell through a series of tests with the promise of "cake" when they're complete.

It becomes obvious early on that GLaDOS is not a friendly machine, but a murderous one. Because of this, it would be reasonable to assume that the cake is yet another lie. After the final fight that leaves GLaDOS in charred pieces, there are two twists: First, the cake was real (despite seeing "the cake is a lie" scrawled on walls earlier), and GLaDOS is "Still Alive":

When Portal 2 was in the works, the ending was changed slightly, retconning in an abduction of Chell. (Arguably a third twist?) The unseen robotic abductor thanks her for "assuming the party escort submission position."

7. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, 2007

In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, a first-person shooter, you played from the perspective of two people: a Marine and an SAS commando. The game swaps perspectives routinely, so you get used to occupying these two guys' points of view. What's shocking is that, in the middle of a mission, one of them is killed off.

In the game, it's a shocking moment—we hear that a possible nuclear threat is nearby, then seconds later the city is nuked and the shockwave crashes the helicopter we're in. The player dies after seeing the mushroom cloud from the ground. His team is also dead. It's the kind of real-world logic that is often defied in video games. We expect that the protagonist of the game will find some way to survive this moment, but nope, that's it.

8. Braid, 2008

In Braid, you play Tim, trying to rescue the Princess from an evil knight. The game is brilliantly complex, and users employ game mechanics related to reversing time to get through puzzling levels. As a platformer, there are many nods to the Mario games, though Tim is no cartoon plumber.

In the stressful final level of the game, the Princess is rescued by the knight. In other words, Tim is the monster pursuing the Princess; he's not the hero—the knight is. It's a bit of a gut-punch. And there's a deeper level to the puzzle, if you go into the epilogue and read up on your nuclear history (I'll leave you to Google that).

9. The Silent Age, 2012-2014

The Silent Age is a point-and-click adventure featuring Joe, a janitor living in 1972. The game begins when Joe discovers a dying man with a time travel device. Joe uses the device to visit 2012, only to find that the future world is a wasteland, devastated by some plague. Throughout the game, you use the time travel device to solve puzzles—jumping between time periods, you can access areas that are blocked in one or the other era.

There are two episodes of The Silent Age, and the biggest twist comes near the end of the second one (released in 2014—the first episode arrived in 2012). The plague is a strain of the flu. What makes it interesting is that Joe was Patient Zero in a global flu pandemic, caught in the future and brought back in time. As he feels the flu beginning to affect him (back in the 1970s), he uses a primitive cryogenic chamber to both freeze and isolate himself, to prevent the pandemic. He wakes up in 2012 to find that although his flu is easily cured (and has not destroyed the world), the world of 2012 is no better than the world of 1972; he still works a boring job, and little has changed for him, despite saving the world. It's a moody game, and the twist makes it that much more delicious. (Note: there are even more twists if you factor in Frank, another janitor who visits the far future, and some details about Dr. Lambert, working on the flu treatment, but it gets very confusing very fast. There's also a suggestion that Joe has been through this whole time-travel trip multiple times.)

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Shout! Factory
10 Surprising Facts About Mr. Mom
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

John Hughes penned the script for 1983's Mr. Mom, a comedy about a family man named Jack Butler (Micheal Keaton) who loses his job. To ensure their three kids are taken care of, his wife, Caroline (Teri Garr), goes back to work—leaving Jack to fight off a vacuum cleaner and learn why it's never a good idea to feed chili to a baby.

In 1982, Keaton turned in a star-making role in Ron Howard’s Night Shift, but Mr. Mom marked the first time he headlined a movie, and it launched his career. Hughes had written National Lampoon's Vacation, which—oddly enough—was released in theaters the weekend after Mr. Mom. But Hughes himself was still a relative unknown, as it would be another year before he entered the teen flick phase of his career, which would make him iconic.

In the meantime, Mr. Mom hit home for a lot of viewers, as the economy was on the downturn and more and more women were entering (or reentering) the workforce. But some people think that the movie's ending—which sees the couple revert to traditional gender roles—sidelined the movie's message. Still, on the 35th anniversary of its release, Mr. Mom remains an ahead-of-its-time comedy classic.

1. IT'S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Mr. Mom producer Lauren Shuler Donner came across a funny article John Hughes had written for National Lampoon. Based on that, she contacted him and the two became friends. “One day, he was telling me that his wife had gone down to Arizona and he was in charge of the two boys and he didn’t know what he was doing,” Donner told IGN. “It was hilarious! I was on the floor laughing. He said, ‘Do you think this would make a good movie?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, this is really funny.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have about 80 pages in a drawer. Would you look at it?’ So I looked at it and I said, ‘This is great! Let’s do it!’ We kind of developed it ourselves.” In the book Movie Moguls Speak, Donner mentioned how Hughes “had never been to a grocery store, he had never operated a vacuum cleaner. John was so ignorant, that in his ignorance, he was hilarious.”

The players involved with the movie told Donner and Hughes they thought it should be a TV movie. Hughes had a TV deal with Aaron Spelling, who came aboard to executive produce. “Then the players involved were upset because John was writing out of Chicago instead of L.A.,” Donner said in Movie Moguls Speak. “They fired John and brought in a group of TV writers. In the end, John and I were muscled out. It was a good movie, but if you ever read John’s original script for Mr. Mom, it’s far better.”

2. JOHN HUGHES REJECTED THE IDEA OF DIRECTING MR. MOM.

Stan Dragoti ended up directing the film, but only after Hughes turned it down, because he preferred to make his movies in Chicago, not Hollywood. “I don’t like being around the people in the movie business,” Hughes told Roger Ebert. “In Hollywood, you spend all of your time having lunch and making deals. Everybody is trying to shoot you down. I like to get my actors out here where we can make our movies in privacy.” Hughes remained in Chicago and filmed his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, there.

3. MICHAEL KEATON GOT THE ROLE BECAUSE OF NIGHT SHIFT.

In 1982’s Night Shift, Keaton’s character works at a morgue and starts a prostitution ring with co-worker Henry Winkler. Donner had an agent friend, Laurie Perlman, who represented the not-yet-famous actor. She contacted Donner and pitched Keaton to her. “’Look, I represent this guy who is really funny. Would you meet with him?’" Donner recalled of the conversation. "So I met with him. Usually I don’t like to do this unless we’re casting, but I met with him because she was my friend. And then she said, ‘You have to see this movie Night Shift that he’s in.’ So I went to see Night Shift, and midway through I couldn’t wait to get out of that theater to give Mr. Mom to Michael Keaton. Fortunately, he liked it."

Keaton told Grantland that he turned down one of the main roles in Splash to play Jack Butler. “I just remember at the time thinking I wanted to get away from what I’d just done on Night Shift,” he said. “I thought if I do it again, I might get myself stuck. So then Mr. Mom came along. So I said no [to Splash] so I could set up this framework right away where I could do different things.”

4. THE FILM BROKE NEW GROUND.

Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Taliesin Jaffe, Frederick Koehler, and Martin Mull in Mr. Mom (1983)
Shout! Factory

In 1983, more women stayed at home than worked, so it was a novelty for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. Today, an estimated 1.4 million men are stay-at-home dads, and 7 million men are their children's primary caregiver. “Mr. Mom became part of the vernacular,” Donner told Newsweek. “Mr. Mom represented a segment of men who were at home dealing with the kids who, up until then, really hadn’t been heard from. That’s what really told me about the power of film, because it spoke for a lot of men. It also helped women, because I think that women sometimes, if you’re a housewife, you’re not really appreciated for what you do. This sort of made women feel better about what they did because they knew that men were understanding it.”

5. TODAY, “MR. MOM” IS CONSIDERED A PEJORATIVE TERM.

More than 30 years after the film’s release, stay-at-home dads feel the term “Mr. Mom” should die. The National At-Home Dad Network launched a campaign to terminate the phrase and instead have people refer to men as “Dad.” In 2014 Lake Superior State University voted to banish “Mr. Mom” from the lexicon.

“At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn’t know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade,” wrote The Wall Street Journal, after declaring “Mr. Mom is dead.”

6. TERI GARR DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A MESSAGE MOVIE.

The movie redefined gender roles, but when the producers pitched the premise to Garr, they hid the plot reversal. “They just told me it was about a guy who does the work that a woman does, because it’s so easy,” she told The A.V. Club. “And I went, ‘Oh, yeah. Ha ha.’ It’s so easy. All the women I know who stay home and take care of their kids, they go, ‘Oh yeah, this is easy.’ Hmm.”

7. MARTIN MULL IMPROVISED THE “220, 221” LINE.

The quote everyone remembers from the movie comes from Jack, holding a chainsaw, standing next to Ron Richardson (Martin Mull) and discussing what kind of wiring Jack will use in renovating the house: “220, 221, whatever it takes,” Jack says.

“We’re doing the scene and it was okay,” Keaton told Esquire. “And I remember saying to the prop guy, ‘Go find me a chainsaw.’ When he comes back with it, he says, ‘You wanna wear these?’ And he holds up some goggles. I go, ‘Yeah.’ You know, they make me look crazy. And when Martin shows up, I know I should look under control, I’m not sweating it. I’m a dude. So we’re standing there, Martin pulls me aside and says, ‘You know what you ought to say? When I ask about the wiring, you oughta just deadpan: ‘220, 221.’ I died. It was perfect. I may have added ‘whatever it takes.’ But it was his.”

“That was a little ad-lib that we just threw in, but every carpenter or construction person I’ve ever worked with, they’re always quoting that line from Mr. Mom,” Mull told The A.V. Club.

8. MR. MOM OUTGROSSED HUGHES’S OTHER 1983 SUMMER MOVIE—VACATION.

Mr. Mom only opened on 126 screens on July 22, 1983, but managed to gross $947,197 during its opening weekend. Once the film went wide a month later to 1235 screens, it hit number one at the box office and spent five weeks at the top. By the end of its run, the film had grossed just shy of $65 million, making it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1983 (just between Staying Alive and Risky Business). National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes’s other film that summer, came out July 29 and ended its theatrical run with $61,399,552 (at its height, it showed on 1248 screens). Vacation finished the year in 11th place.

9. THE MOVIE LED TO HUGHES BEING CALLED “A PURVEYOR OF HORNY SEX COMEDIES.”

During a 1986 interview with Seventeen magazine, Molly Ringwald asked the writer-director why he never showed teen sex in Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. “In Sixteen Candles, I figured it would only be gratuitous to show Samantha and Jake in anything more than a kiss,” he said. “The kiss is the most beautiful moment. I was really amused when someone once called me a ‘purveyor of horny sex comedies.’ He listed The Breakfast Club and Mr. Mom in parentheses. I thought, ‘What kind of sex?’ Yes, in Mr. Mom there’s a baby in a bathtub and you see its bare butt.”

10. MR. MOM WAS MADE INTO A TV MOVIE AFTER ALL.

In the beginning, producers wanted Mr. Mom to be a TV movie, not a feature film. But a year after the film came out in theaters, ABC produced a TV movie called Mr. Mom, with the same characters and premise. Barry Van Dyke played Jack and Rebecca York played Caroline. A People magazine review of the movie stated: “They and their three kids are immediately likable … But it goes downhill from there as the script lobotomizes all its characters. Here’s a textbook case in how TV takes a cute idea—and a script that does have some good lines—and leeches the wit out of it.”

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Central Press/Getty Images
Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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