Gaming's most heartbreaking betrayals

Some do it for gold. Some do it for love. Some do it for patriotism. Some do it because the developers decided they needed an arbitrary twist. Whatever their reasons, there are few ways to make a previously loved character universally despised faster than having them turn traitor.

Above: Was this really necessary? 

While some betrayals you can see coming a mile away, and some just make no sense, this list is a tribute to the traitors who really hit home. Whether they shook us to our core, or were just so sympathetic that we couldn’t harbor any resentment; these characters did more than break our bodies…they broke our hearts.

Urdnot Wrex (Mass Effect)

From the first time we laid eyes on the hulking, battle-scarred krogan there was no question we wanted him on our side. His brusque demeanor and zeal for blood letting was a refreshing change of pace from the other Chatty Cathys aboard ship. There’s just one problem: just because he doesn’t talk much, doesn’t mean he is without an opinion… or feelings. When Commander Shepherd leads the team to Virmire, Wrex will take issue with the fact one of the objectives is to destroy a krogan cloning facility. Yes, it’s producing ‘evil’ krogan, but it could just be the answer to the ‘genophage virus that has all but sterilized the krogan populace. So passionate are his convictions, that he’s willing to put a bullet in Commander Shepherd’s head to stop the mission – except Chief Williams puts a bullet in Wrex’s first.

The most heartbreaking part of Wrex’s betrayal is he didn’t want to do it. He wasn’t evil all along or even being coerced. He simply believed bringing the krogan back to their former status was more important than Commander Shepherd’s mission – or even Commander Shepherd for that matter. If you play your cards right, you can avert this entire crisis, but if you’re lacking in Paragon points… it’s a sad day to die.

Zevran (Dragon Age: Origins)

Born to a prostitute and sold into slavery, Zevran’s story is a real tear jerker. Mere survival was all that mattered in his formative years. He never wanted to be an assassin and he really never got anything out of it; he simply had no other choice and happened to be quite good at it. Surprisingly, such circumstances had not dimmed his outlook on life. Even as he finds himself at the sword-tip of the very Grey Warden he was sent to kill, he asks for mercy in a charming devil-may-care aplomb. None is more surprised than Zevran when the Grey Warden grants him the mercy he requests, and he endeavors to make himself a useful ally in the Grey Warden’s party.

But bad habits die hard. Despite the fact he witnessed the Grey Warden fell ogres, hordes of dark spawn and similarly outfitted mercenary bands, when offered a chance to rejoin the Antivan Crows –the assassin guild that had enthralled him in the first place- Zevran keeps with his character and makes the choice he believes is best suited for survival. It was the wrong choice, but it what made it hurt was the fact he felt he had no other. This hurt more than other betrayals because Zevran was delivering himself right back into the very arms of those who had denied him his childhood, his freedom, and his purpose in defeating the Blight. Stockholm’s syndrome at its finest.

Big Smoke (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas)

It’s hard to make a sympathetic character out of a gang-banger, but Big Smoke was just… fun. Always sporting a hat that would look absolutely ridiculous on any other head, the delightfully rotund lay-about was the life of every party. He always kept his cool, making sure to polish off his food (and everyone else’s) even when under heavy fire. Everyone was happy for him when he moved out of the Grove Street cul de sac…though the fact he had no visible means of support should have raised some red flags from the get-go.

As it happened, Big Smoke’s taste of the good life came courtesy of a corrupt LSPD C.R.A.S.H. unit, and the price was to instigate a street war between the Grove Street families and the ‘Ballas’ street gangs. The price was indeed high, as it required him to play a part in the murder of the protagonist’s mother, and stay silent as his childhood friends fell victim to a brutal ambush from their rival gang.

While certainly motivated by greed, Smoke was also after something else: self preservation. For him, there was no longer any point in risking life, limb and freedom for the sake of ‘turf,’ particularly because the end result would probably be him dead in a gutter or keeping a tight grip on the soap in a federal prison. His betrayal wasn’t just an ‘upgrade’ in status; it was a logical choice. His one mistake, however, was failing to finish the job. And all the multi-storied penthouses, 10-foot statues or bulletproof vests in the world couldn’t stop a determined Carl ‘CJ’ Johnson from returning the favors in kind.

And yet, once the mortal wound was struck, CJ and Smoke sat and talked for a bit. Smoke confesses power and the prestige got the best of him, and falls just short of an apology. And even with the dying words of “The whole world will remember my name!” we couldn’t help but notice he was still wearing his Grove Street greens. In the end, Smoke didn’t die a villain – but yet another unwitting pawn (along with CJ) in Officer Tenpenny’s schemes.


  • torre-sims - October 3, 2011 8:37 p.m.

    as far as GTA:SA is concerned i was more shocked by ryder's betrayal then big smoke's which i saw coming a thousand yards away.
  • Sinsational - May 19, 2011 12:14 p.m.

    @Boomaga: Yeah, but at least you were able to experience that. The reason why I'm so pissed about it is that I KNOW it would have blind-sided me completely, and I would have loved the game more for it. I mean, every other game on here is at least 3-4+ years old, but Portal 2 JUST came out. I love the franchise dearly, but I just haven't had the cash to pick up the game yet, so to have such an awesome moment ruined for me feels like an even greater betrayal from the GR staff. The best way I can put it is this: Having someone tell you that Aerith gets killed by Sephiroth RIGHT BEFORE you yourself are there in the game. You cannot begin to fathom the amount of nerdrage I witnessed because of that.
  • Genericpenisjoketista - May 19, 2011 3:35 a.m.

  • Genericpenisjoketista - May 19, 2011 3:34 a.m.

    Here's a twist: what about Eddie's betrayal of Ophelia in Brutal Legend? Though you play as Eddie, I felt genuinely sorry for Ophelia as everyone, including herself, was tricked into believing that she was a tear-drinker. She became a total bitch until the very end of the game when she's redeemed, but during that transitional moment, Eddie and Lita's betrayal of Ophelia was a rough one. Although we all knew it coming from the start, what about Flynn's deception in Drake's Uncharted 2? Also, Big Smoke's betrayal was... fair enough, I suppose, but the worst GTA betrayal (in my opinion) was Dimitri Rascalov's. He went from a sympathetic character to someone that I genuinely wanted to murder in an instant. Although it's happened before, it's not often that I feel such animosity towards a game character. Dimitri was, in all senses of the word, a dick.
  • sdavala - May 19, 2011 12:58 a.m.

    WHat cheesed me off was when that lion guy from wing commander 2 or something betrayed you.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - May 18, 2011 11:48 p.m.

    I always had high paragon points in Mass Effect, so I've always been able to save Wrex. However, I'm starting to understand why everyone thinks that Williams is a bitch.
  • GayforGilbert - May 18, 2011 11:11 p.m.

    Zevran didn't betray me in my playthrough. Not sure how it would come to that, actually.
  • Rinaldvonizeburn - May 18, 2011 7:58 p.m.

  • Boomaga - May 18, 2011 6:18 p.m.

    Tee Hee. I'm coming from the opposite of the folks who are whining that there weren't MORE spoiler warnings. At the beginning of the article I said to myself, "Wheatley better be in this goddamn article!" Sure, I was betrayed by Atlas in Bioshock, and countless times by Kain in FF4 and even by The Boss, but you didn't feel so much from her until after MGS3 was over. But Wheatley, when Wheatley turned against me and changed such a happy, carefree moment into something so much darker and sinister, I just sat their dumbfounded as I stared blankly at the screen. I couldn't believe what just happened, that my bumbling little British robot buddy would so readily turn against me. I haven't felt betrayal in a game like that ever before. It also wasn't the only time I sat dumbfounded in awe at an event that had just transpired in Portal 2, but I won't spoil the rest.
  • Sinsational - May 18, 2011 5:03 p.m.

    Fuck! You know, I understand you put the spoiler tag in the beginning and it's my own god damn fault for reading, but come on! Portal 2 JUST came out! I mean, what the fuck?! Not even a, "Hey, this has some recently released video games in the mix, so be warned." God damn it, man. Thanks-a-fucking-lot, GR! .....
  • SteelerPsycho - May 18, 2011 4:59 p.m.

    Dude.....Master Li in Jade Empire?!?! That was some harsh betrayal right there.
  • slimjim441 - May 18, 2011 4:35 p.m.

  • bedelicious - May 18, 2011 4:33 p.m.

    For me, the biggest betrayal ever was :SPOILERS: Atlas in Bioshock. I knew he will, but it hurt nonetheless, I liked him. Pretty much the same goes to Wheatley.
  • QWERTYCommander - May 18, 2011 4:25 p.m.

    GLaDOS's scream sounds like Ke$ha. Also, I didn't feel bad at Wheatley's betrayal because "I caused it", I felt bad because I was just starting to like him.
  • jackthemenace - May 18, 2011 3:22 p.m.

    Luckily, I was never betrayed by either Urdnot Wrex, or Zevran. But man, Bioware do seem to REALLY like betrayals. Oh? And GLaDOS bit? No matter how many times I watch that video, it STILL sounds like someone trying to smother T-Pain.
  • rob619 - May 18, 2011 2:06 p.m.

    Missed a certain one. Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater. Eva betrays Snake at the end, uses him to steal the philosphers legacy, as she was an agent for China. I doubt anybody saw that one coming!!
  • minimaxi - May 18, 2011 12:55 p.m.

    you should've added another spoiler warning before Portal 2 :( oh well need to play it soon, but asian psn is still down *sad face*
  • philipshaw - May 18, 2011 11:48 a.m.

    Great feature and I'm still pissed at Big Smoke for his betrayal only because he was my fav character in the game before that happened
  • EvilNinjaSquibidyflop - May 18, 2011 11:02 a.m.

    PORTAL 2 SPOILERS!!!! Please put a damn warning in next time?
  • lozarian - May 18, 2011 10:56 a.m.

    One of the worst betrayals I can think of is grumpos matavastros from Anachronox. He's just a grumbly old granddad, and always was one of my favourite characters in one of my favourite games, and his betrayal genuinely surprised me.

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