Developers love making video games that present the player with a Big Choice, whether it’s deciding the fate of an alien race or just giving up a person you’ve grown to love. Writing moral dilemma into video games is no simple feat, so we think it’s worth celebrating the few games that have done it right. Check out these games that forced us to make hard choices that kept us up at night.
Warning: Spoilers (obviously) so get out while you still can!
Long-time fans of this classic RPG series will have met the character Harold in a previous trek through post-apocalyptic California. Last we saw him, Harold had a plant-like tumor growing out of the side of his neck named Bob.
In Fallout 3, Bob has grown beyond Harold’s control, consuming his entire body and rooting him to the ground. Trees sprout forth from the ground around them and the soil is fertile enough to farm in. A community, too, has sprung up around poor Harold, and its people worship him as a god. But Harold can’t stand being stuck to the ground. He’s bored of the prayers and sick of the people, and he wants nothing more than for you to end it all. After a bit of talking, Harold begs the player to kill him.
The small settlement that relies on Harold to sustain them are caught up in their own dilemma. They understand that Harold and Bob are a fount of life in an otherwise barren wasteland, but they’re wary of letting others know of their powers. They need an outsider to help decide for them: will they keep Bob and Harold a secret or will they risk sharing his bounty with other survivors?
The world is shattered and broken after the Calamity, a manmade world-ending event. There might be a way to save it, though; collect the Cores and activate the mysterious machine hidden within the Bastion. Led along by the husky-voiced Ruckus, you explore the floating fragments of the City’s remains on a quest to save the world. Maybe.
See, the Bastion can turn back time. It can bring you back to the days, weeks, months before the Calamity. You might just be able to stop it all from happening. But even Ruckus can’t guarantee you’ll remember any of this when you go back, and your choice could doom the world to a self-destruct cycle for eternity.
Life Is Strange
Nothing is the same after Max Caulfield turns back time to save the life of her best friend Chloe. Her dreams are haunted by dark visions of a frightening storm laying waste to her childhood home, Arcadia Bay. And the more she uses her ability to manipulate time, the stranger things get; animals around town suddenly drop dead, freak snowstorms in the middle of spring, and a sinister double moon hangs low over the Arcadia Bay skies.
It all ties back to those fateful first moments. The storm from her dreams is real, and it’s coming to destroy the people of Arcadia Bay. Max must choose: allow the city to be swallowed up or go back in time and give up Chloe’s life.
Yoko Taro, the mind behind the endlessly strange Nier: Automata, takes “genre-bending” to new extremes by ending the game with a credits scene that you play like an old arcade shooter. The enemies are the developers’ names.
There’s too many for a single ship to take on alone, but if you stick with it and prove your resolve death after death, you’ll receive a message offering backup. Suddenly, you’re no longer alone, accompanied by a squadron of friendly ships, each one made up of save data from another real-life player somewhere in the world.
Once you’ve beaten this last sequence, the game asks you a simple question. Do you want to save your game, or will you upload your data to their servers so that you can assist another player? Choose the second option and prepare to be shocked. Your entire save is deleted, all the progress and upgrades gone in a few moments so you can go on to help someone complete the final moments of their own game.
Games with some sort of moral system are a dime a dozen, but with some great storytelling and meaningful characters you can do a lot with a binary choice. These were just some of our favorite examples of video games that forced the player to make a hard choice, what are yours?