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Clever games that trick you with double plot twists

You are Darth Revan. Samus is a woman. Wesker is the bad guy. James Sunderland killed his wife. "Would you kindly?"

Over the years, video games have been packed with cool, thought-provoking plot twists—but surprising the audience once is easy. Pulling the rug out from underneath players twice? That takes a lot of talent, and as such it's no surprise that few developers have attempted to pull off the elaborate double-twist.

Occasionally, however, a game doesn't just try. It succeeds. If you think you know where the following games are going, well, chances are you're wrong—just make sure that you're okay with spoilers before reading on. The best plot twists are the ones you experience for yourself, after all, and if you haven't played the following games, do that and get back to us. Don't worry. We'll wait for ya.

Final Fantasy VII

From the very beginning, there's something off about Cloud Strife, Final Fantasy VII's spiky-haired protagonist. He's gruff and self-centered, and while he helps the good guys, he claims he's only in it for the money. The stories that he tells Tifa about their shared childhood aren't true, and Tifa knows it. Later, when he faces off against the villainous Sephiroth, Cloud loses his mind. He attacks his friends and almost kills his teammate (and potential love interest) Aeris. When he fails, Sephiroth finishes the job.

And so, when Sephiroth reveals that Cloud is just a clone and his memories belong to someone else, it makes a lot of sense. Cloud was born in a test tube, and grew in a lab. Tifa isn't a real friend, and Sephiroth is his surrogate sibling. Sure, the revelation completely shatters Cloud's mind and turns him into Sephiroth's puppet, but at least the young mercenary (and the audience) finally has some answers.

Of course, this is Final Fantasy. Nothing's quite that simple. Later in the game, Cloud learns that he's not actually a clone—but he's not the elite soldier that he thought he was, either. While serving as a grunt in the SHINRA military, scientists subjected Cloud to brutal experiments, which damaged his mind. Later, he escaped with a soldier named Zack, who shared a close bond with Tifa. While traveling, a near-comatose cloud Cloud absorbed Zack's memories. When Zack died, Cloud took his place. But it's a lie, and it's only when Cloud accepts the truth—the full truth—that he's healed, and finally gets the strength that he needs to take Sephiroth out once and for all.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

The Metal Gear Solid franchise is famous for its complex and twisty storyline, and the second entry in the series, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, is possibly the most surprising. After Solid Snake emerged as one of video games' biggest stars in Metal Gear Solid, players couldn't wait to don Snake's eyepatch and take the super spy out for another spin in the sequel.

That's not exactly what happened. After Snake's mission goes bad in Metal Gear Solid 2's prologue, the hero is shuffled off-screen and pronounced dead. In Snake's place, players take control of Raiden—a lithe, blond-haired special forces member who's about as different from Snake as you can possibly imagine.

It's one of the biggest fake-outs in gaming history, and it gets weirder. When Raiden deploys to the Big Shell facility to rescue the President of the United States and other assorted hostages, the leader of the terrorist group, the Sons of Liberty, claims to be Solid Snake. That's not true—he's actually Solidus Snake, one of Solid Snake's fellow clones—and the real Solid Snake is masquerading as a Navy SEAL named Iroquois Pliskin. It's confusing and weird, but that's the point: mistaken or confused identities is a recurring Metal Gear Solid staple, and Metal Gear Solid 2 is just one of many times that fans aren't sure who—or what—they're actually controlling.  

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

The Professor Layton games always dabble in steampunk-style science fiction, so it wasn't a surprise when the third game in the first Layton trilogy, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, went all-in on time travel. After receiving a letter from a future version of Layton's adolescent sidekick, Luke Triton, the Professor and the present-day Luke discover a time machine and find themselves in a London ten years removed from the present. In the future, Professor Layton founded a criminal syndicate called the Family and conquered London. Future Luke needs Layton's help to take London back.

Along the way, Professor Layton teams up with Celeste, the sister of his late girlfriend Claire. But in true Professor Layton fashion, not everything is as it seems. After lots of adventuring—and even more puzzle solving—Professor Layton susses out the truth: he's not in the future at all. Instead, the so-called "Future London" is an underground city built to trick Layton, Luke, and others into believing that they've traveled through time as part of "Future Luke's" revenge plot.

Layton beats his rival (who's really named Clive), but even then, the story isn't quite over. Despite appearances, in Layton's world time travel actually is possible—and Celeste has first-hand experience. Celeste reveals that she's actually Claire, and that she was propelled forward through time during the lab accident that allegedly killed her. Unfortunately, time travel is unstable, and the trip is only temporary. As Claire prepares to head back to the scene of the fatal explosion, she gives Layton a goodbye kiss and disappears, breaking the professor's heart all over again.

NieR: Automata

NieR: Automata defies conventions from the start when the alleged third-person action title suddenly transforms into a bullet-hell shooter. That's just the beginning. Over the course of three playthroughs (yes, you need to finish the game three times to get the whole story), NieR: Automata's seemingly simple story undergoes so many twists and turns that by the end it's practically unrecognizable.

Look at the game's deceptively straightforward premise, for example. In NieR: Automata, aliens and humans battle for control of Earth by using mechanical soldiers to fight in their centuries-long war. The humans deploy lifelike androids (including the game's two main characters, 2B and 9S) as their proxies, while the mysterious aliens dispatch robots to fight on their behalf. Almost immediately, something seems off: the robots, who are supposed to be cold and emotionless, are developing feelings. Soon, 2B and 9S discover why. While infiltrating the aliens' underground base, 2B discovers that the robots murdered their alien masters years ago and now run the whole show.

It's a twist that changes everything, but NieR: Automata is just getting started. During the second playthrough, when players control 9S instead of 2B, the plucky android learns that humans died out even longer ago, and that the upper levels of the android army have kept the war going because they need a reason—any reason—to exist. In other words, the entire alien-human conflict is meaningless, and the mechanical creatures are fighting each other for absolutely no reason, aside from the fact that they're programmed to do so.

Assassin's Creed

While the bulk of the Assassin's Creed series—you know, the fun part—takes place in the past, the series has a big science fiction side-story as well. Technically, when you play an Assassin's Creed game, you're not actually visiting ancient times. Instead, you're playing through one person's memories of ancient times, as genetically passed down to them by their Assassin ancestors.

In the first Assassin's Creed games that living memory bank is Desmond Miles, a New York City bartender who's captured by Abstergo Industries, the modern-day front for the Assassin's long-time rivals, the Templars. At Abstergo, scientists Lucy Stillman and Dr. Warren Vidic force Desmond to relive the life of Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad as the Templars scour his memory for a map that'll lead them to the powerful Pieces of Eden.

But when Abstergo decides to kill Desmond, Lucy reveals that she's an undercover Assassin and helps Desmond escape. Later, in Assassin's Creed 2 and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Lucy assists Desmond when he needs to access memories from another ancestor, Ezio Auditore da Firenze. And then, Desmond kills her. Technically, Desmond is possessed by Juno, one of the ancient beings known as the First Civilization, but it's Desmond's hand that holds the knife, and the resulting trauma is enough to put Desmond into a coma.

Don't worry, though. Despite her claims, Lucy was actually a triple-agent. She worked for the Templars the entire time. So Lucy has it coming, and Juno is totally in the right to kill her, and everyone ends up okay—well, except for Desmond, who dies a few games later, but that's an entirely different story.

Deus Ex

Deus Ex's conspiracy-riddled world makes it difficult to know who to trust. The government is out, for obvious reasons. So are major corporations. Activists usually have an ulterior motive. Underground criminal syndicates aren't much better. Your co-workers and friends have their own secrets. Even family will betray you, if the situation is right.

JC Denton, the hero of the very first Deus Ex game, learns that the hard way. At the beginning of the game, JC works alongside his brother, Paul, as an agent for the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition. Paul gives orders, and JC carries them out, and together the two brothers help UNATCO in their ongoing fight against the National Secessionist Forces terrorist organization.

And then, betrayal. After a mission led by Paul goes bad, JC meets his brother at an airfield. There, he learns that Paul is a double-agent and NSF employee. Unfortunately, JC's bosses learn that too—both JC and Paul have cybernetic implants, which makes it easy for their bosses to eavesdrop—and activate a killswitch embedded in Paul's body, giving JC's brother 24 hours to live.

Next, UNATCO deploys JC to Hong Kong, but he defies his orders and travels to New York City instead, where Paul hides out in his own apartment. That's where the second twist takes place: Paul convinces JC that UNATCO is compromised, and JC turns on his bosses to save Paul's life. As it turns out, Paul is totally right: UNATCO is part of an Illuminati-founded organization called Majestic 12, which is aiming for nothing less than total global domination as its end goal. Paul didn't betray the good guys and become a terrorist—JC was one of the bad guys, while Paul joined up with the real heroes.

The Curse of Monkey Island

Guybrush Threepwood is many things. A competent and fearsome pirate is not one of them. While the wanna-be swashbuckler proves his worth by the end of Tales of Monkey Island—Threepwood's last official outing—in The Secret of Monkey Island, Monkey Island 2, and The Curse of Monkey Island, Guybrush tends to get by on his confidence and wit alone.

So, as you can imagine, when a pirate challenges Guybrush to a duel in The Curse of Monkey Island, Guybrush doesn't stand a chance. As a result, neither does the player. While the challenger presents Guybrush with a number of guns to choose from, every single one of them will lead to Guybrush's demise. His only hope? Ignore the weapons entirely and select a banjo instead.

Alas, Guybrush's opponent isn't just an expert marksman. He's also a masterful musician, who easily beats Guybrush in the following banjo duel. That leaves Guybrush with only one option: go back to the guns, pick one up, and shoot the banjo out of the pirate's hands. That's stone cold, even for a pirate. Threepwood's challenger agrees, and decides to join Guybrush's crew. After all, if Guybrush is capable of that kind of trickery, there's no telling exactly how low he's willing to go.

Uncharted

Uncharted borrows more than a little inspiration from the Indiana Jones franchise. Both series star wise-cracking treasure hunters who explore exotic locations in search of ancient artifacts and lost civilizations. Both also start out as reasonably realistic adventure stories, only to veer into the weird and supernatural before the tale's conclusion.

But after Uncharted: Drake's Fortune introduced a surprise zombie horde as the game wound to a close, developer Naughty Dog decided to play with the audience. If zombies are on the table, what isn't? And so, when yetis appear in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, it's hardly surprising. In Uncharted, mystical beings are par for the course.

Except Uncharted 2's yetis aren't really monsters: they're men in suits who are trying to scare intruders away from the city of Shambhala (also known as Shangri-La). Now, granted, these are men whose skin has been turned blue and who have super-strength and endurance and seem to live forever, but they're definitely not yetis.

The twists continued. In Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, monstrous djinn start possessing enemies and make them burst into flames—but this time, it's a ruse. The djinn are simply figments of Nathan Drake's imagination, produced by some toxic water that Nathan drinks (of course, this being a game, you have to fight and kill them anyway).

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End takes things even further. Experienced Uncharted fans spend the whole game waiting for a supernatural twist (especially since Nathan's wife, Elena, can't stop joking about ghost pirates), and then the credits roll, delivering absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.

Second Sight

Superpowers can be tricky things, as Second Sight hero John Vattic knows all too well. When Vattic wakes up in a prison cell with no memory of who he is or how he got there, he's stunned to realize that he now has psychic powers—and that he's a mass murderer. Whoops!

That's not the twist, by the way. That's just the set-up, and it's fairly typical by video game standards. No, things start to get weird after Vattic begins investigation what exactly happened to him. As he skims through records detailing his past, Vattic starts experiencing flashbacks. But there's a catch: not only can Vattic relive his past, he can change it. By altering events during his flashbacks, Vattic alters the future, bringing deceased colleagues back to life and recovering valuable research.

The back-and-forth time travel dynamic fuels Second Sight's action-packed plot, but as the game wears on, Vattic learns that he's got everything all wrong. See, Vattic has another power, one that he's totally unaware of: in addition to telekinesis, possession, and psychic healing, Vattic can also see the future—and he's been using this ability the whole time. What he thinks is the present is actually just one possible future, while the "flashbacks" take place in the present. As a result, Vattic manages to stop the bad guys before he murders everyone and gets locked away, thereby saving the day—at least for now.

Chrono Trigger

Years before Ned Stark lost his head in King's Landing, Chrono Trigger busted out the biggest of all plot twists: partway through the time-hopping adventure, the main character dies. It's not some fake-out cliffhanger, either. Crono confronts Lavos, the alien invader that plagues Crono and his buddies throughout numerous centuries, and sacrifices himself to save his friends. He is gone. Deceased. No longer living.

Then again, Chrono Trigger is also all about time travel. After it occurs, Crono's death is historical fact, so the princess, Merle, and the rest of Crono's gang can't just swoop in and stop Crono's death from taking place—but they can cheat a little. The answer to their conundrum rests at the Millennium Fair, which players explore at the very beginning of the game. By playing a Simon Says-like carnival game, players can earn a "Doppel Doll," which looks exactly like one of the party members, Crono included.

And so, Crono's buddies win one of the dolls and use the eponymous Chrono Trigger to travel back in time to the moment of Crono's demise, swap him out for the doll, and simultaneously preserve the prophecy that they inadvertently created and allow the main character to cheat death. Nice work, guys.