Gaming distinguishes itself through interactivity, allowing its products to free themselves of the burden that is storytelling, and excusing many lazy endings.
That being said, I am a lover of good stories, gladly playing through an average game for a great narrative, and particularly of wonderful endings. I particularly enjoy being surprised, shocked or deceived, something entertainment from every area tends to fail at. In other words, I want to have to set down the controller in shock as the credits role by, and these are just three of the titles that made me do precisely that (with the appropriate spoilers for each).
Assassin’s Creed II
AC II introduced the one and only Ezio Auditore da Firenze, the single most memorable character to ever grace any Ubisoft produced videogame, and just about one of the most charming characters to cross the gaming industry. But the sequel to the flawed but promising adventures of Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad didn’t shine just in the excellent character development, nor in the revamped gameplay or in the rich and vibrant world that was renaissance Italy.
In its final breath, the first chapter in Ezio’s trilogy introduced both the player and the characters to a much larger story arch, which surpasses the fight between Templars and Assassins, and the plots of revenge or honor that guide our characters.
After defeating Pope Alexander VI in the heart of the Vatican, Ezio accesses the Vault, by using two pieces of Eden. Inside, he is faced with a futuristic setting and the holographic figure of Minerva, who uses the legendary assassin as nothing more than a messenger pigeon, as she explains the existence of the first civilization, the temples and the coming catastrophe, opening the Pandora box that would make for Demond’s saga until Assassin’s Creed III.
While she addresses Desmond, by name, for a moment, when she looks into the camera, ignoring your virtual avatar, it feels like she is talking to you, the player, breaking the fourth wall in a manner so natural and decisive, that it appears to be real, creating and ending that leaves you wondering exactly what you got yourself into.
Bioshock is a piece of beautiful atmosphere, that leaves you enamored with a society and a civilization that you reconstruct from the broken pieces left after its fall.
Many mysteries present themselves to you throughout the game, but no reveal is as absolutely shocking as the moment you become aware of your true identity and motivation, in an intense satire of gaming’s objective system.
After fighting your way to Andrew Ryan, you expect a final boss fight, maybe an evil monologue, and a glorious victory. Instead, you get know the man you prepared yourself to kill is your father, who witnessed your birth a mere 4 years ago.
Even more shocking then this, you exist only to serve the interests of first your father and then Atlas, as a pawn in the fight between them. One in which you can’t even choose to participate, as your actions are dictated by mental triggers, of which the most famous is “Would you kindly?”, a sentence which preceded many of the commands you obeyed throughout the game.
More than that, it is the phrase that compulses you to violently murder Ryan with a golf club, at his request.
The Walking Dead
Telltale’s narratives are known for presenting you with tough choices, in which there is no winning, and the game that brought the American studio into the mainstream ended with the hardest of them all.
Throughout the first chapter of The Walking Dead, we play as Lee, but Lee plays for Clementine. Our choices are in her best interest, not in ours. So when we understand that we have reached our end, it is her faith we worry about.
As the story of Lee and his protégé unfolds, Clem’s new father figure is bitten by a walker, shortly after her kidnapping. The infection of the protagonist leads to many haunting choices, but none is as painful as the one in which the experience culminates.
After retrieving our all-but adopted daughter, we realize there is no escaping our doom, as we helplessly collapse amidst our escape. With no way out, we restrain ourselves, so as not to attack Clementine after turning, and are left with one last choice. Let the innocent girl we taught to survive shoot us down, or make her leave before our conversion. Either way, it is a bitter goodbye, and one which is bound to scar the player as much as the characters.