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.


  • Vitreosity - May 17, 2011 9:08 p.m.

    Even though the game was spoiled for me, I still was incredibly surprised by Wheatley's betrayal. He's too awkward to actually begin hating Chell :(
  • Ninjasauce404 - May 17, 2011 9:09 p.m.

    poor wrex....
  • EnragedTortoise1 - May 17, 2011 9:27 p.m.

    The music for Wheatley's betrayal actually gave me goosebumps.
  • FVDub - May 17, 2011 9:28 p.m.

    I hate the options that Shepard can say after Ashley kills Wrex, they mostly boil down to "don't do that again" or "I could have handled it." Unless Shepard deliberately tells Ashley to kill him, he/she doesn't really doesn't seem mad at all that a party member was killed by a racist suddenly. And I forgot how big of a jerk Kain really is.
  • Hellhog - May 17, 2011 9:28 p.m.

    I wish I didn't read, I agree with the Mass Effect and GTA since I've played those (especially Big Smoke, what an ass!), wish I never read the Portal 2 one, haven't played it yet and was on the fence. Since I've already seen the Portal 2 co-op and have had more than just this for Portal 2 spoiled, might rent and thats it.
  • TheHungryLemur - May 17, 2011 9:44 p.m.

    Great article GR!...But I think you've spoiled Portal 2 for a few people... As for me, I completed it about 3 days after it was released! ^_^
  • dphoenix192 - May 17, 2011 9:48 p.m.

    I'm surprised that there is no bioshock, but I guess you guy were going with betraying you for a good reason or out of their control.
  • monkeyrevenge - May 17, 2011 9:50 p.m.

    WHAT?!?! No Jowy from Suikoden 2? Thats the one that got me more than any other.
  • dphoenix192 - May 17, 2011 9:55 p.m.

    No wait, Sinclair fits this article pretty well
  • NG14916 - May 17, 2011 9:57 p.m.

    You can't really call FFIV's betrayal heartbreaking since there isn't nearly enough character development for you to care. And a truly heartbreaking betrayal is one made of free will by a friend who really would rather not betray you and feels horrible about it but feels that it is the lesser of two evils. It's even worse when you know that, too, and can only feel sorrow rather than feeling angry.
  • SvAcAde - May 17, 2011 9:59 p.m.

    Erm, i kept Wrex alive.
  • garnsr - May 17, 2011 9:59 p.m.

    Does knowing part of a story for something really make it impossible for someone to enjoy it? People are so uptight about "spoilers" these days.
  • shadowreaper72 - May 17, 2011 10:06 p.m.

    Really, no Bioshock? When Atlas betrayed me and it turned out it was Fontaine I was so freaking shocked, too shocked for words. I just sat there and was like no freaking way!!!
  • RicePuddingUK - May 17, 2011 10:10 p.m.

    Where's Dark Side Bastila/Revan from KOTOR? The fact it is YOU carrying out the betrayal after a good 20-30 hours with your team-mates is heartbreaking.
  • paganpoet - May 17, 2011 10:12 p.m.

    Not sure if it counts, but I always thought the "betrayal" scene from Chrono Cross was pretty sad (where Serge stabs Kid), the way she looks at him with confusion. Although that's...not really a betrayal since it's the antagonist in the protagonist's body. Is it?
  • tomthespesh - May 17, 2011 10:21 p.m.

    Wheatley, the most loveable villain ever. I would've gladly kept testing under him.
  • AirickG - May 17, 2011 11:12 p.m.

    Oh Wrex, why did you have to be replaced by a dull beefhead in the second Mass Effect? Oh well, it was nice to see you trying to unite Krogan...
  • AirickG - May 17, 2011 11:18 p.m.

    PS. that's the first time I've seen Wrex die. I probably would have cried if that happened to me while playing...
  • FauxFurry - May 17, 2011 11:36 p.m.

    That Portal 2 spoiler brought something to light that most reviews seemed to glaze over if not outright ignore: Portal 2 has cut scenes?! How unlike Half-Life 2 of it. Since people are lobbing around spoilers with reckless abandon as is fitting for an article about betrayals, what about Liu Kang turning on Rayden in Mortal Kombat (2011)? It wasn't for power, money, sex, drugs or bragging rights. Liu Kang was just fed up with a crazy god whose hallucinations got the woman that he sort of had a thing for killed and put all of the warriors of Earth Realm through the wringer, one who he intended to stop from doing more harm with his own two hands.
  • p0wnd - May 17, 2011 11:37 p.m.

    How about Fontaine? Me wife Moria, me wee son Patrick. Greastest line ever?

Showing 1-20 of 54 comments

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