There is no better way to end GamesRadar’s Shark Week than by preying upon sharkdom’s oldest and greatest catchphrase, “Jumping the Shark.” Popularized by the literal jumping of a shark in a 1977 episode of Happy Days, the colloquialism is now used to describe something veering into absurdity or lesser quality.
Games may still be growing as a storytelling medium, but that hasn’t stopped various writers and producers from interjecting implausible, outrageous and downright stupid ideas into plotlines that were already taxing our suspension of disbelief. Collected here are some of our very favorite, most egregious examples.
Contributing editors: Chris Antista, Charlie Barratt, Brett Elston, Henry Gilbert, Matt Keast, Mikel Reparaz
The basic plot: Guy with bionic grapple-arm enters warzone to save the day and search for clues about his wife’s disappearance.
Jumps the shark when: You find out the bionic grapple-arm IS his wife. Yes, you read that right - the huge mass of metal hanging off his shoulder somehow contains the “essence” of his long-lost spouse. It turns out that bionic appendages need a strong emotional bond to function, so she sacrificed herself to the robo-gods so you could pretend to be Spider-Man.
It’s one of the most forced and ridiculous “twists” we’ve ever encountered, needlessly complicating the existence of bionics. Before this absurd revelation, the arm was just an arm. Wasn’t that good enough? Doesn’t this mean the girl with two bionic legs had to blend both of her kids into bio-juice so she could walk again?
Metal Gear Solid 2
The basic plot: Elite military operative has to sneak, alone, through an offshore oil facility that’s been taken over by high-tech terrorist army.
Jumps the shark when: It’s tempting to say MGS2 went off the rails the second its designers pulled their infamous bait-and-switch and gave us pretty-boy Raiden as a hero instead of old familiar Solid Snake, but no. That would be too easy. Instead, we’re going to fixate on the moment when – near the end of the game – Raiden is captured and forced to escape completely naked. Not just because he’s running around with his hands over his junk at all times, but mainly because it was here that Col. Roy Campbell – who’d been directing Raiden’s actions the whole time – turned out to be a computer simulation of the real man. And a garbled, malfunctioning simulation at that.
This also marks the point at which the plot turned really confusing, as bizarre chatter about virtual-reality training and fourth-wall-breaking moments started to cloud what had already been a convoluted story, and by the time you were forced to fight a small army of Metal Gear Rays, a lot of us had given up trying to figure out why.
Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future
The basic plot: Star-headed dolphin beats up sharks and travels through parallel timelines to restore the noble personality traits of dolphins, which were stolen by aliens.
Jumps the shark when: The mysterious Foe aliens travel back in time to disrupt the cooperative relationship between humans and dolphins (which has been strong for about 500 years in Ecco’s 30th-century world), resulting in a series of broken alternate realities that Ecco has to repair. What was up until that point a somewhat believable undersea adventure suddenly thrusts players into a dark future dominated by enormous, decrepit machinery, and then into a slightly brighter, dolphin-dominated one with skyways made up entirely of water.
The sudden shift in tone isn’t such a shock if you’ve played through the earlier, weirder Ecco games, of course. But once it happened, the relatively bright, plucky game you thought you were playing disappeared forever, replaced by something much more sinister.
The basic plot: Aliens want to destroy humans… again. Only our galactic military, led by a super soldier known as Master Chief, can stop them.
Jumps the shark when: A talking plant gets involved. Until Gravemind showed up, we were pretty sure we understood the Halo series’ story. Good versus evil. Man versus extraterrestrial. A simple, classic and easy-to-follow science fiction formula. The Flood was kind of weird, but we could write that encounter off as a fun zombie-hunting side mission.
Nothing could prepare us for their leader, a giant, drooling Venus flytrap with tentacles and a tendency to spout philosophical drivel like “I am a timeless chorus” or “I am a monument to all your sins.” Great, the plant can speak English and it has an ego.