The Top 7... gut-wrenching choices

The choice: You expect a big, tough, game-changing decision near the end of most titles, or at least the halfway mark. One franchise, however, has the cruelty to stump players before they’ve actually begun. Picking a Pokémon starter may seem like a simple thing – an innocent, childlike preference for penguins over monkeys, or green over blue – but the long-term complexity and far-reaching impact are enough to give even grown adults a headache.

The paralyzing thought process: Special attack, elemental resistance, move variety, evolution speed, gym advantage, trading appeal, breeding capability… Why pretend that we know what any of that means when we can have Carolyn Gudmundson, GamesRadar’s resident Pokémon expert, take us inside the madness instead?

“Well, the toughest starter choice is definitely in Generation I. Bulbasaur immediately jumps out as a frontrunner, because my kneejerk reaction is that a dinosaur is an automatic win. Grass type is also my favorite, and IMHO is the strongest type overall. Bulbasaur’s only drawback is that his evolutions are easily the ugliest of the bunch, and Venusaur has pretty much no charm at all. Evolution should be a time of joy, but I was sad when I finally let my first Bulbasaur (BulboBgns) evolve into Ivysaur.

"Then there’s Squirtle, who always comes off the coolest in the TV show. He was in a gang of badass feral Pokemon called the Squirtle Squad for crying out loud, how can you not pick him? He even wears sunglasses sometimes! And even though he’s a turtle, he’s totally bipedal, which adds another layer of irresistibility. His final evolution, Blastoise, makes up for his loss of cuteness with total hardcore water cannons sticking out of his shell. Being a Water type though, Pikachu can kick the crap out of him any day, which seems kind of shameful.

"Charmander, Charmander, Charmander. He seems kind of pitiful at first because he always wears his feelings on his sleeve (his flaming tail burns according to his mood/health), but out of the three he probably has the coolest final evolution. While Charizard is a dual Fire/Flying type, he has an awe-inspiring dragon-like majesty that’s hard to-….”

That'll do, Carolyn. That'll do.

The aftermath: Pokémon’s developers spend an extraordinary amount of time crafting and perfecting each game’s starter types. Part of that process is ensuring all three are balanced. Still, when your friend’s Chimchar is evolving faster than your Turtwig, it’s impossible not to second guess. When the internet is flooded with hints and guides and FAQs on which type is best, it’s impossible not to worry. And when you’re stuck with that creature for the next 50-500 hours… well, that’s as gut-wrenching as gaming choices get.

Here are other games with meaningful choices, dilemmas and story branches that almost made our countdown. Did we miss anything else? Take us to task in the comments below!

May 4, 2009

The Top 7... Bad guys you didn’t want to kill
The virtual murders that left a bad taste in our mouth

Gaming deaths that actually made us sad
Death in games is cheap. Here are five bereavements that really mattered

The Top 7... Games you either love or hate
If you’re in the middle, you’re in the crossfire


Top 7


  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - April 21, 2011 11:24 a.m.

    What about Mass Effect? I chose to save Ashley instead of Kaiden.
  • shravanraja - January 30, 2011 3:18 p.m.

    Infamous had a lot of choices to make too which greatly affected the games outcome. For example, you could have either give a group of hungry people food, or zap them and take it all for yourself. =P
  • Voltaire - December 9, 2010 5:13 p.m.

    I dont remember any choice in Shivering Isles
  • Gsindahouse - June 8, 2010 1:07 a.m.

    Or just pick nobody and get the Cocona Ending! But good luck beating Raki before the game freezes w/o anyones super song magic/Replakia.
  • dannage805 - October 19, 2009 11:04 p.m.

    portal has meaningful choices and dilemmas? lol i just blew up megaton 2day, dat shits unreal
  • petrolboy - September 21, 2009 11:50 a.m.

    What about Half Life one. That's pretty defining...
  • GameManiac - September 15, 2009 2:48 a.m.

    The number one pick could not have been more one-sided. And I know that from experience.
  • KayRedd - August 31, 2009 8:25 p.m.

    One choice I had to make was in Lost Magic (NDS). The choice comes halfway through the game, where you either give the bad guy the wand (which your father told you was the only thing which could stop her) and save your friend (bad guy's sister) or keep the wand and let her die. I obviously thought you HAD to keep the wand, i didn't know there was a real choice! So I gave her the wand, she kills your friend, you start going crazy, bad guy turns you into a phsycotic mess with clever word-play, and ends up turning you into a slave for which you spend the rest of the game killing all the friends that helped you..... FUN!
  • MassEffectfan - August 17, 2009 4:57 p.m.

    Mass Effect should have made it on here. Its choices are totally better than some of these. Like Kaidan or Ashley or the Council or Soverign. Plus the effs of these choices effect the second game.
  • zuse315 - August 9, 2009 12:21 p.m.

    How is Mass Effect NOT in here???
  • Black_X_1111 - August 6, 2009 12:33 a.m.

    You forgot Black & White, and to a lesser extent, all the other strategy games out there. And a lot of mmorpgs.
  • 11englj - July 20, 2009 3:37 p.m.

    I always kill Francis McReary because that asshole always deserves to die, or atleast in my mind he does
  • Warhead1997 - July 19, 2009 8:12 p.m.

  • theodo1997 - July 15, 2009 9:41 p.m.

    they should have had fire emblem, whether to restart when one of your guys die or to continue on without them. that bugs me every time!
  • _D-Man_ - June 24, 2009 6 p.m.

    lmfao pokemon got number 1 captcha: times rein
  • baconfacemilomonster - May 28, 2009 5:11 a.m.

    damn that ghoul is moira is HOT! love me some of that bald dead chick action
  • HRhuffnstuff - May 27, 2009 8:10 p.m.

    I believe the other choices in Grand Theft Auto aer much greater than the two yuo've chosen. Kill a ghost that has haunted you or let him lead his miserable life? Get lots of money for you and Roman or get revenge on some who wants you dead? Those were way worse than the others.
  • deathhunter - May 18, 2009 3:20 a.m.

    you guys forgot about Silent Hill Homecoming. When your in the jail and you find your mother tied to a machine straight out of a Saw movie. You either shoot her between the eyes, or watch as shes ripped in two pieces screaming in agony.
  • xXxKohakuxXx - May 17, 2009 8:33 p.m.

    in GTA 4 kill play boy,you get his house and dwayne will be your freind Dwayne's ability is to send you two gangsters that will protect you (also you get an outfit that the main character wore in GTA 3)
  • Blinder - May 12, 2009 11:59 p.m.

    You forgot The Suffering

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