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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

  • DannyBlaze - April 20, 2011 11:18 p.m.

    Great article.....I rememeber playing infamous and saving trish finding out she is a dummy and then going back playing it again and saving the doctors thinking trish was there....I was very confused at that point
  • bigwill1221 - April 20, 2011 11:19 p.m.

    Why isn't heavy rain in this?!
  • RicePuddingUK - April 20, 2011 11:19 p.m.

    How does Far Cry 2 make it on here? Yet Mass Effects Ashley or Kaiden decision or KOTOR's Lightside/Darkside doesn't? Boo!
  • ColonelKc - April 20, 2011 11:21 p.m.

    Wheres companion cube! I could have just quit the game and stop playing. But, i really liked portal and i *sniff* killed him/her!
  • JBizFoShiz - April 20, 2011 11:25 p.m.

    I didn't read every game decision (because I haven't played every game), but I thought this was a very cool article. The trolley problem - I learned something new today! That being said, it really depends on the game universe I'm in. In Bioshock, I had no issues wanting to save the Little Sisters (even on Survivor difficulty), but in inFamous, I had no issues letting Trish fall to her death. Maybe it was because I never liked her, but the doctors just seemed like the more obvious choice (on the "Good" playthrough, of course) I mean, when you choose to save her (which btw, you have to go OUT OF YOUR WAY to do - the tower with the docs is right in front of you), she basically tells you off BEFORE she dies! Bitch.
  • p0wnd - April 20, 2011 11:31 p.m.

    Surprised Fallout didn't get into this list
  • The_King_of_Nothing - April 20, 2011 11:33 p.m.

    You forgot to mention at the end of GTA 4 if you choose the peaceful side and Roman dies, Kate won't ever talk to you again because you didn't listen to her. Makes the decision much easier, I let that bitch die. Bros before hoes.
  • spencertucksen - April 20, 2011 11:34 p.m.

    @DannyBlaze ...I felt the exact same thing, buddy. lol
  • tomthespesh - April 20, 2011 11:37 p.m.

    The dog in Fable 2!!! I almost cried when he died then chose the cash as I didn't think he would come back! Thank god for the knothole island DLC meaning I could kill someone to resurrect him. I would also do that in real life as my dog is more important to me than anything.
  • RedKirth - April 20, 2011 11:38 p.m.

    How about The Witcher? Every decision in that game left me sitting at my computer staring and debating for at least 15 mins. a piece.
  • S135 - April 20, 2011 11:41 p.m.

    @RicepuddingUK Mass Effect isn't on here because everyone knew right away to save ashley, because kaiden wasn't even half as cool.
  • FOZ - April 20, 2011 11:43 p.m.

    BioShock is hardly even a choice. If you save all of the Sisters, you are guaranteed not only free Plasmids, money, and items, but you will definitively have more ADAM by the end of the game. You can get an extra 40 right there, or wait 5 minutes and go to the next Garden to get... 200 bonus ADAM. Yeah, real hard choice there. On hard mode, you don't care about the plot because you've already seen it, so sure, harvest all of those kids. What did they ever do for you? According to captcha, somebody named Frafters has an issue with this post.
  • Overlord153 - April 20, 2011 11:54 p.m.

    Iremember a side mission in inFAMOUS it was either save the girl's brother or take the power crystals they hold. The girl got pissed when you let her brother die. But it was worth it.
  • FauxFurry - April 21, 2011 midnight

    Gaming's most difficult decisions are no decisions at all. Nicely done. Now I'm left wondering if I made the right choice to read that article. Branch 1. Avoid reading article which draws attention to the fact that most game stories are on-rails (which makes the reference to the Trolley Problem all the more apt) but in the process missing out on its observational humor. I eventually make the same observation without having read the article, anyway yet have no fun in doing so. Branch 2. Read the article and have a hearty laugh, shaking my head in disappointment all the while.
  • onewingedantista - April 21, 2011 12:02 a.m.

    Sorry to say this, but this has already been done: http://www.gamesradar.com/f/the-top-7-gut-wrenching-choices/a-2009050410717660001
  • NotBraze - April 21, 2011 12:04 a.m.

    I actually thought that BioShock 2 had much more meaningful choices than the first game did. Sure, Ken Levine and company came up with the idea, but Jordan Thomas and company fleshed it out and made it a much more difficult decision with way more impact on the story. I aslo think that the Mass Effect games, particularly Mass Effect 2 have a lot of tough decisions that should have been on this list. I seriously had to sit and think for several minutes before deciding what to do about the Geth in ME2.
  • D0CCON - April 21, 2011 12:16 a.m.

    Not a single Bioware game listed, huh? KOTOR, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, it doesn't matter which, but something by Bioware should have come up (probably Mass Effect though, imo). I was also expecting a companion cube reference, but that technically isn't a choice. You have to do it to keep playing.
  • Yeager1122 - April 21, 2011 12:29 a.m.

    I let Kate die in Gta 4 just so i could go Bowling with Roman or Play darts ahhhh good times.
  • angelusdlion - April 21, 2011 12:31 a.m.

    I had to laugh as my Itunes account is totally TMBG and OCremix and I couldn't bring myself to harvest little sisters in Bioshock. Good call.
  • BlitzIzDaShitz - April 21, 2011 12:49 a.m.

    Pretty good article, still can't believe you guys gave Infamous a 7. One of the best PS3 exclusive games out there.

Showing 1-20 of 60 comments

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