2020 was a transitional year for games. The one-two punch of new consoles and a global pandemic made getting the games we wanted a little too difficult. But, now that we’re deep into 2021, it’s time to finally look back and list some of our favorite spoilers of last year. And there’s nothing we don’t love more than a good plot twist. Plot twists are basically built into the DNA of video games — games teach us what to expect specifically to subvert it in gameplay. Sonic learns how to jump over a bottomless pit, only to reveal that the bottomless pit isn’t so bottomless. We’re always looking for ways to break from of the confines of the game world, and video game storylines are catching on.
2020 was packed with twists both big and small, and the twists just kept on coming in 2021. Before tackling our current year, we’re looking back. These are our favorite plot twists — in order of release date – of 2020. These are the twists that really took us by surprise, even when they’re not necessarily the most important part of the story. You’ll see what I mean pretty soon.
Before we continue, there are HUGE SPOILERS ahead for the biggest games of 2020. We tried to hit them all. Turn back now if you’re still crunching through your 2020 library.
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The End Of The Tojo Clan [Yakuza 7: Like A Dragon]
Here’s a question to ponder: is a Yakuza game a Yakuza game if there are no Yakuza in it? That’s the future we’re left with 75% into Yakuza 7: Like A Dragon. These games always have wild stories, but this is territory I never expected the games to wade waist-deep into — your protagonist basically negotiates the complete end of organized crime in Japan. The two biggest Yakuza organizations, the Tojo Clan and the Omi Alliance, cease to exist due to some political maneuvering. These are the two biggest plot threads in the entire series, and now they’re just gone! Where do we go from here?!
Yakuza 7 is sorta a refresh for the franchise. While all your main characters are crime adjacent, none of them are actually fully-fledged Yakuza anymore. Will we be getting new Yakuza organizations in the future to replace the old Tojo Clan? Will the games just be about building up your Japanese Confectioner’s business instead? Anything is possible in this crime-free future!
Changing Fate [Half-Life: Alyx]
The narrative of Half-Life stopped dead with Half Life 2: Episode 2. Valve’s strange idea of what constitutes a reasonable amount of time to wait for plot developments finally ended in Half-Life: Alyx, which is a VR-only spin-off, and also a prequel. So, you might be asking, how in the Holy Mother of Dr. Breen does Half-Life: Alyx provide twists on a story we’ve already been told? With a little help from the G-Man, of course!
The G-Man makes a surprise appearance at the end of the game. Alyx’s quest, as it turns out, was to free the G-Man from the Combine’s evil clutches. In exchange, the G-Man travels through time to save Dr. Vance from his grisly fate at the end of Episode 2, but he also removes Alyx from the timeline, recruiting her as a reality-traversing agent just like Gordon Freeman. That means future Half-Life installments (if they ever come out) will have a living Dr. Vance! If Half-Life 3 ever becomes a reality, there will be a lot of VR-less people saying “Huh?”
Literally A Remake [Final Fantasy 7 Remake]
Square-Enix very purposefully picked its name for Final Fantasy 7 Remake. What appeared to be a totally straightforward rebuild of the original JRPG classic turned out to be anything but. This isn’t a reboot or even a true remake — FF7R reveals itself as a sequel to FF7 in the end. Aerith’s connection to the Lifestream reveals she has memories of future events she isn’t meant to have yet. Same goes for the series villain Sephiroth. And they’re changing fate, summoning up dark forces to try and turn things right.
There’s a whole lot of strange stuff and surprises for FF7 during the Shinra Tower chapters. You’ll fight monsters that represent the correct course of fate — the heroes of FF7R are literally battling the canon story. By breaking through the apparitions and defeating Sephiroth in a much earlier encounter, you’ve essentially destroyed the original canon thread of fate. For future FF7R games, anything can happen. There is no limit to what can and will change compared to the original. I have to honestly say, no judgement good or bad, I never expected any of that.
Player Vs. Player [The Last of Us: Part 2]
Let’s rip off the big band-aid right away: the main protagonist of The Last Of Us 1, Joel, dies early in the game. Its a shocking sequence that still makes me sick a year later — but it’s also not the big twist we’re talking about here today. Much further in the game, you’ll actually play as Joel’s killer… and that also isn’t the twist, even though it absolutely counts as a major game-changer that was purposefully kept out of all the pre-release marketing material.
No, the big moment where I was left wondering where the heck this story was going is very late. After playing as Abbie (Joel’s killer) for a good portion of the second half, you’ll finally reach the big showdown — Ellie vs. Abbie. And you play as Abbie. This is deliberately cruel and distancing, and unsurprisingly the entire story is highly controversial for fans of the original game. The developers had some big brass cajones pulling dirty tricks on us like this.
Bobombs Don’t Come Back [Paper Mario: The Origami King]
The world of Paper Mario: The Origami King is a colorful papercraft utopia where nobody gets hurt and everything is adorably wholesome. OR IS IT?! The tragic reality of Mario’s adventures is revealed in a mid-game adventure with your newest pal Bobby the Bobomb. Bobby isn’t your average Bobomb because he wants to help Mario instead of blow him to kingdom come. Still, as we soon learn, every Bobomb has a cruel fate awaiting them.
At a critical point in the story, Bobomb explodes to smash a boulder blocking your path to the next major area. Your distract Papercraft fairy partner naively searches for Bobby — to no avail. As the sequence plays out, we’re left with the grim realization that Bobombs are FOR REAL DEAD after the explode. There’s no coming back for Bobby! Even his ghost appears to double confirm it. Yes, he’s totally dead. What does this mean for all the enemies Mario has mashed with his hammer? Or that Yoshi’s eaten? This sequence totally blows open a can of worms the Mario universe isn’t ready for!
The Baby [Amnesia: Rebirth]
The big twists of Amnesia: Rebirth aren’t really twists at all. If you’ve played the original Amnesia, you’ll already know the source of the life-giving vitae — it is produced by torturing the innocent to death. You already know what the twisted ghouls are, too — they’re gatherers, meant to capture human subjects to produce more vitae. You’ll even learn very early in the game that your main character passes a debilitating disease onto her children that causes them to waist away and die.
With all this information, the big twist is that you get to make a choice at the very end. From another dimension, an immortal queen drains the vitae of an entire population of a lost society, and she has the answer to saving your quickly growing daughter. If she stays in the twisted, hellish capitol of the Gatekeepers, your daughter will live a full life. But she’ll also be trapped in a living nightmare. Take her away and you’ll have a few happy years, but things won’t end well in the long run. Or you can just ruin everything by pumping the Shadow into the Queen’s Chamber — the Shadow is a weird meat growth from yet another dimension, also found in the original Amnesia.
It’s all up to you, and getting a choice in your destiny is a pretty big twist for these games.
Everything [13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim]
Where do you even start with 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim? This is a game with more plot twists than actual plot — there are 13 playable characters, and each of their stories is packed with wild twists than culminate in the final big twist of the game; you’re all stuck on a big space station.
No, you’re not actually travelling through time, you’re just teleporting to different decks of the giant spaceship, each living space designed to exactly mirror a different time period in modern-ish Japan. The giant kaiju robots that are rampaging through the city? They’re out-of-control terraformer machines, and the ship just keeps producing them. The underground “UFO” you visit beneath the city isn’t a UFO at all. It’s just the lower section of the ship where terraformers are continuously produced. There are so, so many more twists though. Some characters constantly swap identities. Some characters have evil friends that only they can see. Sometimes you’ll have to deal with clones, or Men-In-Black, or aliens, or evil cats sending you on assassination missions… this is a game built on plot twists. The most important twist seems kind of mundane when stacked up against all that.
You’re The Dark Lord, Guy [Doom: Eternal]
In the fall of 2020, Doom: Eternal got a singleplayer expansion called The Ancient Gods: Part 1. And it ends with a doozy of a reveal — the Dark Lord, basically the big-time evil god of everything bad — is revived specifically so the Doom Guy can kill him. And it turns out that the Dark Lord is you! Or, at least, the Dark Lord took on your appearance. Or did you take on the Dark Lord’s appearance? The lore of these games is surprisingly complicated.
We shouldn’t even discuss The Ancient Gods: Part 2, because that’s technically a 2021 release. But it also reveals a big Dark Lord twist. Even though the entire plot hinges on The Dark Lord being mad at the Father (creator of everything), it turns out that it was The Dark Lord himself that created everything! Like, as in, he created Urdak, Hell, Earth… and we can just kill him in a boss fight. He’s pretty hard, I guess. Maybe more plot isn’t actually what we need in these games.
Your Best Enemy [Spider-Man: Miles Morales]
Late in the year, we got one of the first big PS5 exclusives — Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and this bite-sized adventure delivered a real spectacle, running at a silky smooth 60 FPS while swinging wildly through a fully-realized New York City. It’s kind of like a side-sequel to Spider-Man on PS4, continuing where that game left off and letting us take the reigns as Miles Morales, a pluckier hero with his sights on more mundane adventures… until the plot really kicks off.
There are two big reveals in the game. One is well-known for anyone that saw the animated Into The Spider-Verse movie. Midway through the story, Miles learns his uncle Aaron Davis is actually supervillain The Prowler. That’s just a big part of Miles’s story in the comics.
The real big twist here is that your old childhood friend Phin Mason is The Tinkerer, a supervillain that can generate programmable matter and outfits a legion of followers called the Underground. It isn’t that big of a twist — it doesn’t matter what Spider-Man you are, you’re going to realize a close friend is actually an enemy. That’s the Spider-Man curse. Still, it’s an effective moment in a great game, so we’re slotting it in here whether you like it or not.
The Truth Shall Set You Free [Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War]
That there is a plot twist at all is kind of a big surprise in the campaign for Black Ops Cold War. You get hints that something is off right from the start — a strange room in your headquarters that you’re not allowed to visit, weird invasive thoughts, and an innate ability to perfect read Russian. You don’t even start the game with a name. All very weird details in a Call of Duty story, but it culminates in one of the most memorable missions of the entire franchise.
After a failed attempt at recovering one of the nukes stolen by a rogue Russian agent, your team of CIA spies attempts to get your player character to remember the details of their previous infiltration mission. Instead of finding the nukes, a different truth is revealed — your character is actually a brainwashed Soviet spy, made to believe he works for the CIA, and drugged into compliance through some brainwashing program. The revelation turns the story on its head, and with this information, you can choose to betray your handlers or go along with the mission to stop nuclear Armageddon in Europe. Even if you follow through and try to stop things, your CIA handler thanks you with a bullet to the head.
It’s one of the darker twists in one of these games, and depending if there’s a Black Ops Cold War sequel in the works, it’ll be interesting to see which ending is “canon”. Veteran developers Raven Software finally got a chance to work on a campaign, and they managed to put just a little magic into it. Maybe one day Raven will get to make a game of their own again… that’d be a real plot twist I’d love to see.
That’s all the biggest plot twists of 2020, and we’ll soon cover our favorites from 2021. Not even the lockdown can keep plot twists from coming at us fast!