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Gaming's most difficult decisions

Grand Theft Auto IV

The choice: GTA IV protagonist Niko Bellic's two in-game best buddies, titties-happy Roman Bellic and titties-having Kate McReary, counsel two different courses of action in the game's final act. Will you follow the bloodthirsty advice of Kate, who comes from a long line of Irish-American stereotypes, and can thus be inferred to possess more than her share of earthy wisdom? Or, after Roman's suggestion, will you choose a peaceful resolution that somehow results in just as much tragic death and histrionic soul-searching for poor Niko?

The stakes: In a ten-thousand-spoons-level dose of irony, the character whose advice you choose to follow will end up dead. Embark on Kate's roaring rampage of revenge and Niko's girlfriend will become the victim of a drive-by shooting, leaving Niko disillusioned with an America that would let him end the game still hanging out with Roman. Choose the latter's peaceful path, though, and it's Roman himself who's clipped, prompting Niko to fear for his very soul. Suggesting that he has never actually met Roman.

Your best bet: The wheels of GTA IV's narrative turn on the engine of Niko Bellic's self-loathing disillusionment, but the game also follows a strict action-movie code of ethics: losing a girl is a bummer, but losing a buddy is a living hell. And because the worse things get for Niko, the better the game's script becomes, choosing “Make a Deal” and sacrificing Roman is the obvious choice. He's ogling American titties with Jesus now.


Super Street Fighter II

The decision: The one-on-one genre's weird attitude toward story – utterly superfluous, yet fully-developed and packed with details about everything your character does when you’re not actually playing the game – is highlighted by finishing SF2 with Chun Li. Whereas series favorites Ryu and Ken get to punch a waterfall and marry a blow-up doll, Li completists get to choose where the plucky teen goes after defeating Bison: enjoy a carefree life in the hedonistic paradise of Communist China, or continue her career as a detective?

The stakes: Here’s the cruel part. Examining this heartless illusion of choice reveals a grimly fatalistic twist: both endings are almost exactly the same. The only things that change are the clothes Chun Li's wearing and the dialogue between herself and the poor schmuck she's whalloping. The implication: life, for Chun Li, is a callous simulacra of free will, leading to more conflict whichever path she falsely believes herself to be choosing. Which, yeah, she's in the next two games, so no shit.

Your best bet: Choosing the “normal life” prompts a weak vision of what the SF2 designers thought nightclubbing was like in the 90s (an episode of Miami Vice as written by Beyonce Knowles). Whereas, as a detective, she taunts villains with the superb threat, “No one can escape from my mighty legs!” a line sadly cut from the script of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li. Assuming it was ever in there, we mean.


Final Fantasy VI

The choice: Faced by two characters hanging from a ledge – a cuddly moogle or an ignoble thief – the game's characters can only save one. Will this be the arbitrary single moment in every Final Fantasy game when death suddenly decides to be irreversible? Is there a deeper moral about not judging a character just because they're down with OPP? No, it's Final Fantasy, just save the moogle. Have you not played a video game before?

The stakes: The thief turns out to be carrying a vaguely valuable item that might save you ten minutes of level-grinding later down the line. The moogle, on the other hand, is Mog, who's basically the John McClane of moogles. You'll get to recruit him later (turns out this isn't the game's arbitrary-irreversible-death moment), but if you don't snap him up at the cliff face, you'll never be able to bring the character to his full potential.

Your best bet: Obviously, save the moogle. Let him fall and, when you eventually meet up with the character again, you'll never be able to teach the character his most powerful special attacks. And years from that moment, when your grandchildren ask if you've done all that you could with your life, you'll have to wistfully tell them that you have not. Plus, “impossibly cute thing” wins out over “asshat who steals stuff” pretty much every time on the whole “characters who deserve to not die” scale.


Far Cry 2

The choice: Far Cry 2's story is a relentlessly bleak litany of factional warfare and uncomfortably topical genocide. As such, it's little surprise that the game's non-linear, multi-pronged story always manages to wind up the same way: putting you in a shack with the game's enemy-turned-ally, The Jackal, choosing whether to take the detonator for a home-made explosive or a briefcase full of blood diamonds. Look, if you wanted an upbeat take on the subject matter, you should have gone with Resident Evil 5.

The stakes: Pick the explosive and the mission is to blow up the enemy's path to their daily dose of genocide, with the unfortunate side effect of blowing yourself up also. Choose the diamonds and your task becomes bribing airport officials to let a mission-critical group of civilians out of town. After which, Far Cry 2 slams the brakes on its game-long policy of player agency, forcing you to shoot yourself in the head to make some hazy sort of political point.

Your best bet: If you choose the diamonds, you never actually see your character die (whereas the “explosives” ending leaves things fairly cut and dried) – so if you're that attached to your FC2 character, feel free to concoct a lengthy narrative in which your guy lives on beyond the vaguely ambiguous ending. On the other hand, if you're down with this being the end of the game, just blow everything up and start again on a higher difficulty level.

60 comments

  • projecd843 - April 24, 2011 4:38 p.m.

    I remember when my dog on fable 2 died...I was kinda sad for a second but i tried not to be selfish and picked to save the people.. but i regretted it later. lol
  • buminyaface - April 23, 2011 11:32 a.m.

    the ending to singularity is quite the tough decision, although since im one of the 7 people to play that game, im not surprised it isnt on the list
  • elchamber - April 23, 2011 9:43 a.m.

    Fallout 3 had some, but I know that there was one that, no matter what I choose to do, it sucked. It was at Tenpenny's place. Help the zomb... ghouls(smart) get into Tenpenny's Suites. Eventually, the ghouls eradicated everyone, the good and bad. If I decided to let them in though the backdoor, the human people would be attacked with no mercy, but I got a ghoul mask. The third option was to just take out the Ghouls. I get money and, at least, another place to kick-back and sell for more stuff.
  • ViolentLee - April 22, 2011 7:36 p.m.

    Trish was an annoying bitch. My wife agrees. I didn't want to save her, but ended up "choosing" her by accident because the game gives no indication which building houses which group to save. I quickly reloaded and let the bitch die.
  • therawski - April 22, 2011 6:19 p.m.

    In FF VI you gotta wait for Shadow!
  • punkmetalmage - April 22, 2011 4:48 p.m.

    @mrm1138: I stopped reading the article after he said that if you listen to Maynard you will most likely kill the little sisters which is UTTER BULLSHIT! Anyone with half a brain cell can hear the great compassion Maynard has on the world around him. Clearly you do not listen to music (I'm not insinuating that if you don't listen to Tool or APC you don't listen to music but that if you don't take the time to understand the music you're listening to what does that say about you?). Next time you're going to talk about something that's out of your element (Donnie), maybe research it first. I'll probably just skimp through this article now.
  • JayBeat - April 22, 2011 9:51 a.m.

    very well written article, with interesting links (the trolley problem!). For me, when i read the headline the choice in mass effect 1 of saving the rachni race on noveria instantly came to mind, its a doozy.
  • CitizenWolfie - April 22, 2011 8:45 a.m.

    I'm sure you guys only think of these articles to talk about Bioshock some more. Nice to see FarCry 2 get a mention, I was among the few who enjoyed it I think. I went for the explosives in the end as it seemed the right thing to do. As for inFamous (and why so harsh?), I was playing through the "evil" route so I went to save Trish. Only problem was I hadn't been paying much attention at the time and climbed the wrong building. Autosave and bang - one "good" trophy to all the other "evil" ones. D'oh!
  • Siion - April 22, 2011 3:14 a.m.

    Good article, thanks.
  • TriforcePlayer - April 22, 2011 12:45 a.m.

    I find your lack of Fallout 3 disturbing
  • Sleuth - April 22, 2011 12:42 a.m.

    Without choices from the Mass Effect series and Kotor series, this list is critically incomplete.
  • mrm1138 - April 22, 2011 12:10 a.m.

    Hmph. I don't have any They Might Be Giants or Primus on my iPod, but I do have Tool, A Perfect Circle and Nine Inch Nails. Despite this, I saved all the Little Sisters in both BioShock games. Your reasoning is flawed.
  • Skykid - April 21, 2011 8:46 p.m.

    About my previous post: Both of those guys screwed with your life big time, it was all down to who did a better job f*cking it up.
  • DizzyDial - April 21, 2011 8:43 p.m.

    FVDub - 17 hours 32 minutes ago Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle. Hardest decision of my life in grade school. This.
  • Skykid - April 21, 2011 8:34 p.m.

    @bigwill1221 Heavy Rain is a whole GAME that is based off your decisions. Ohhh, I remember Force Unleashed 2's decision: Let Vader live or get stabbed in the back by your evil twin. Not really ethical in the decision. Force Unleashed: Kill Vader or Kill Palps? either way, Starkiller got f*cked up, living or dead.
  • kyle94 - April 21, 2011 7:40 p.m.

    Did no one play Alpha Protocol? Or was it just me who thought those were some of the better decisions in games? Yea, the game wasn't that good gameplay-wise, but those were the toughest decisions I had. Actually, I think the reason why I liked those choices is because *spoiler* in most cases, no matter what you chose, the bad guys win. All you can do is decide what might be the lesser of two evils. Do you let the president of Taiwan die, destabilizing the entire region, or do you let the Chinese be blamed for starting a pro-Chinese riot that kills several people and also destabilizes the region. That's why I liked that game. Most games let you gain power at the expense of others or be kind and give up that power, or choices like that. In Alpha Protocol, no matter what you did or what you chose, the bad guys get their way. Even if you ruined their original plan, the consequences still increase their power. In fact, Alpha Protocol was one of the few games that had me say "I wanted a longer story and game!" after I beat it.
  • FauxFurry - April 21, 2011 5:46 p.m.

    It seems as if a lot of people missed the point that the choices presented here either lacked any real weight, palpable sense of benefit or consequences or were harder for the writers to make than for the player. Not to be left out, I shall make a complaint,too. Why is there no mention made of choice of gender or race in the games where it has no bearing whatsoever on the story?! Those choices are even more frivolous than any of these at their worst!
  • FOZ - April 21, 2011 5:25 p.m.

    The Pitt decision was ridiculous. But I don't see why the baby would die, if the kid dies they're just as screwed as ever. There's no reason for them to kill the baby.
  • Evernight57 - April 21, 2011 4:42 p.m.

    I felt The Pitt DLC for Fallout 3 had one of the best decisions in gaming: Kidnap infant who will be more than likely killed to (potentially) save a bunch of slaves (led by a jackass) or spare the infant but screw the slaves in two ways (by crushing the rebellion AND letting them die of disease) and also keep the dictator in power. Its obviously more complicated than that, but I suggest playing it out to get the whole story
  • MancisFrorkYorgan - April 21, 2011 4:38 p.m.

    I had absolutely no problem with killing the Little Sisters in BioShock. Does that say something about me?

Showing 1-20 of 60 comments

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