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12 videogame stories that jumped the shark

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


Bionic Commando

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.


Halo 2

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.

66 comments

  • pikachu2000 - August 13, 2009 5:14 a.m.

    I own and played Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future on the Dreamcast (and still got it). Stopped playing back in mid 2001 and still got the save. The moment Ecco the Dolphin turns into a SPACESHIP to stop the FOE from screwing up the balence between dolphin and man is the moment the deep sea adventure turn into deep shit. Believe me, that adventure is an absolute bitch!!! After you undo both man's (A really screw up future) and dolphin's (a bright but still screwed up future) futures you will have to go to the FOE's hideout and face even MORE screwed up crap. And don't get me started on the lies that the crystal will give you.
  • ShadowMantis - August 12, 2009 3:02 p.m.

    WTF?! A talking plant.Fighting naked?Are they high when they are writting this?Just like the LOST writters.
  • gatornation1254 - August 10, 2009 9:15 p.m.

    Holy shit the end to Beyond Good and Evil was EPIC. LOL
  • Felixthecat - August 10, 2009 8:37 p.m.

    I agree with Sonic completely. I mean, why would some weird girl even TRUST a fully grown, male, blue Hedgehog?
  • dweller - August 10, 2009 7:36 p.m.

    I really wanted to like Indigo Prophecy. Cue apocalyptic snow storm and the rest was a chore to go through.
  • wkdtkd - August 10, 2009 4:22 p.m.

    I kinda liked THUG at the time...*blushes* Though I have to say...the thing that made me go WTF?!? must about Fahrenheit was when Lucas and Carla "did the business" even though they only knew each other 5 mins!! :O Where on earth did that come from!??!
  • Makk_Mizzy - August 9, 2009 8:54 a.m.

    OMG! GTA4 SET THE BAR SO HIGH! I LIKE RIDICULOUSLY MURDERED COUNTLESS INNOCENT PPL AND I FELT THIS WEIGHT RELEASE OFF OF MY SHOULDERS AND IT IS AMAZING HOW CREEPY THAT SOUNDS, LOL! IM JUST JOKING!
  • lovinmyps3 - August 8, 2009 11:14 p.m.

    I admit to being one of the people who brushed aside Beyond Good & Evil (despite owning it) due to its strange settings and characters. I wish I still had it because I've heard so many good things... other than the dumb ending.
  • crumbdunky - August 8, 2009 8:34 p.m.

    Anyone who's had the very dubious honour of actually finishing one of the Halo "novels" will understand me when I say that the plot of Halo2 is NOTHING to worry about. There's some complete nonsense dressed up as average Sci Fi literature right there! The only reason I finished one is because it was reccommended by a friend and I cannot start a book(or game) without finishing it before moving on to the next!
  • SuperBadnik - August 8, 2009 8:04 p.m.

    Um, the "Evil Lara" is fully explained in Tomb Raider: Underworld...
  • jar-head - August 8, 2009 2:43 p.m.

    wtf Gr? The Whole Franchise of Halo is that, history repeats, until the MC was like "Oh F*** That!" and Gears of war 2, Jumped the shark when the Imulsion, lava/energy/i0l stuff starts to Infect The Horde! How did you not choose moving liquid over a worm?
  • oldgrammastinkyfeet - August 8, 2009 2:57 a.m.

    Lol... Cavebam. Jack*ss is awesome.
  • phoenix_wings - August 8, 2009 2:27 a.m.

    I played San Andreas a little while ago. It finally got to a point in San Andreas where I wanted to say "You've got James Woods" whenever Toreno would show up.
  • Master_Leep - August 8, 2009 2:11 a.m.

    I never thought about CJ's humble origins whilst flying around in a jet pack, mowing down rival Ballas. He came along way, baby.
  • sgloomy - August 8, 2009 1:11 a.m.

    every time i read something about PoP: warrior Within, it makes me very happy that i didn't play it!
  • NanoElite666 - August 8, 2009 12:31 a.m.

    I nominate "Star Ocean: Till the End of Time" for this list as well. The big plot twist in the game certainly made me stop and go "Wait... what...?" when I played through it a while ago.
  • Red - August 8, 2009 12:24 a.m.

    I enjoyed reading this one.
  • Vagrant - August 8, 2009 12:12 a.m.

    That MGS2 bit was one of the best bits of the game! I'd say the shark jumped after the combat gauntlet with Snake. Wherein gameplay consisting entirely of two boss fights before the end of the game were surrounded by the craziest of cutscenes. Including not one, but THREE plot twists about what "S3" is. And the Gears of War worm thing was cool and wasn't that crazy, for my liking. I'm pretty sure the dodgy bullpoo cliffhanger ending at the start of the first game was where it jumped the shark. Aaaaand I think it's safe to say that Fahrenheit didn't completely go off the rails until crazy AI monster that was the internet or something appeared.
  • gmilf71 - August 7, 2009 11:49 p.m.

    I'm sorry. I just don't agree with any of these conclusions.
  • TURbo - August 7, 2009 11:41 p.m.

    Halo 2's talking plant was really stupid.

Showing 1-20 of 66 comments

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