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.


  • KillDrone - August 7, 2009 8:35 p.m.

    Wow, making fun of Beyond Good and Evil? Hasn't that game suffered enough after such a dismal market?
  • skyguy343 - August 7, 2009 8:41 p.m.

    i didnt find halo very confusing
  • mastersword369 - August 7, 2009 8:42 p.m.

  • GoldenMe - August 7, 2009 9:16 p.m.

    I hate Sega and Sonic Team for ruining my favorite franchise. The only way they can bring them back is Sonic 4. Anything else is unacceptable.
  • iKOemos - August 7, 2009 9:45 p.m.

    Hey I finally get the wife arm joke! Yer I never finished Bionic Commando. I thought you meant he beat his wife with that arm.... but never mind she's dead... And please God let there be a Sonic 4, and let it be awesome!
  • Jacob816 - August 7, 2009 9:59 p.m.

    FYI, the chick with Bionic legs had to sacrifice her sister, or mother or other female relative. It was a female first name (I don't remember the actual name), and the same last name as the Bionic chick.
  • Pr0fesserCha0s - August 7, 2009 10:05 p.m.

    WHAT \'0'/ the arm is his wife?!?!?!?!?
  • CARLINNIT - August 7, 2009 10:31 p.m.

    haha, i knew Fahrenheit would feature. Still one of my favourite games ever though
  • farsided - August 7, 2009 10:31 p.m.

    absolutely terrific final 'shark' article! hopefully shark week becomes an annual deal because this was great!
  • dante1924 - August 7, 2009 10:36 p.m.

    It's like konami and sega were on drugs while making those games! I can never wash off the stains of a naked Raiden or a person kissing sonic. ReCaptcha: Nixon's misdeeds (these were misdeeds alright! They just weren't Nixon's!
  • PinkLenny - August 7, 2009 10:54 p.m.

  • Johnny6Gun - August 7, 2009 11:01 p.m.

    Thank the god that Indigo Prophecy is on the list. That plot fell apart like a K-Mart Huffy.
  • tito22 - August 7, 2009 11:37 p.m.

    who would play Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future... its dumb and mgs 2was a little weird
  • tito22 - August 7, 2009 11:38 p.m.

    i rather have mario over sonic anyday
  • GamerTagsSuck - August 8, 2009 12:21 a.m.

    Isn't beyond good and evil getting a sequil? I'll have to get the first one.
  • Cyberninja - August 8, 2009 2:12 a.m.

    wow this games did jump the shark and the shark ate them all up and if i dont sonic 4 i want to see sa3 cuz the first two were ok or a sonic rush 3 minus the boat but all 3 would be nice
  • Yeager1122 - August 8, 2009 4:01 a.m.

    Ha sonic what a fail he kissed a human girl i mean who thought that was a good idea??!?!?
  • Defguru7777 - August 8, 2009 5:27 a.m.

    Eh, Gravemind is kind of hit and miss with me. I see why he's important to the plot, but the story could have progressed without him. But I thought the "poetry" he said was kind of cool. I kind of agree with Gears of War 2, but I absolutely love the Riftworm. Going through his whole body and getting covered head-to-toe with blood? Awesome in my book!
  • silvereye - August 8, 2009 2:11 p.m.

    I think sonic team has secret meetings to discuss how to lower the next games metacritic score lower than the last and pretend it was a one off
  • RCTrucker7 - August 8, 2009 4:55 p.m.

    I was just curious how both Good and Evil and GTA: San Andreas are listed here and on the list of the 15 games with the best all time stories ( both lists citing several of the same factors for being listed?

Showing 1-20 of 66 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000