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What you thought you did: Defeated a vicious dragon and delivered a signet ring to the village said dragon was terrorizing, all on the orders of your king.
What you actually did: Murdered a little girl’s mother and burned an entire village to the ground, effectively killing all but one of the inhabitants.
Wait, what!? Unlike most games of the 16-bit era, Final Fantasy IV opens with the main character (the dark knight Cecil) committing an atrocity by stealing a precious crystal from a bunch of defenseless villagers. Deeply upset by the orders he was forced to carry out, Cecil probably should have known right there and then that something fishy was going on with his king.
Instead, he questioned the king to his face, was stripped of his command and then got slapped with a seemingly menial task: kill a monster and deliver a ring. Well, at least it didn’t involve murdering anyone and stealing their treasure, right?
After traveling to the cave where the monster was supposed to hang out, Cecil and his friend Kain were repeatedly warned to leave by a mysterious voice. That voice turned out to belong to a giant mist dragon, which the two heroes easily killed. Despite the victory, there was something weird about the dragon that Cecil couldn’t quite put his finger on. Still, it wasn’t quite enough to convince him that he was on the wrong path.
The second they set foot in the village beyond the cave, however, Kain and Cecil found out the ring they were delivering was more than just a token of the king’s appreciation. It exploded with monsters, which immediately set about torching everything in sight.
Making matters worse, the dragon that they’d killed was tied to a local woman, who had summoned it to defend the village from Cecil and Kain’s unwitting attack. When the dragon died, the woman died as well, which didn’t make her little daughter too happy.
Thankfully, his unwitting act of genocide was enough to finally shock Cecil out of his misguided sense of loyalty and decide that the king was maybe not a person worth obeying. He was thus set on the path to eventually becoming a paladin, uncovering the truth behind the king’s behavior and traveling to the moon to save the world.
Of course, that was small comfort to Rydia, the LITTLE GIRL WHOM HE’D JUST ORPHANED.
What you thought you did: Bombed an armory into which enemy soldiers had fled.
What you actually did: Incinerated hundreds of women and children who ran into a temple for shelter from your attack.
Wait, what!? A few levels into Lair, it was impossible to not realize that the dragon-riding hero, Rohn, had been fed a huge line of bullshit about his enemy, the Mokai. Said to be a godless race of cave-dwelling savages responsible for a plague of volcanoes, the Mokai actually turned out to be reasonable, technologically advanced civilization. Meanwhile, Rohn’s home country of Asylia was a theocracy run by an opportunistic zealot known as The Diviner. It wasn’t too hard to see which way the wind was blowing.
Above: Never take orders from a man who makes this face after his palace is bombed
It got even less hard when, not too far into the game, one of Rohn’s comrades (apparently) went rogue, murdered an Asylian diplomat AND a Mokai general, and was subsequently appointed Rohn’s commander.
Still, nothing quite prepared us for Rohn’s final mission for the Asylian side, an all-out aerial bombardment of the Mokai capital. Once you’d softened up their defenses, your treacherous new commander pointed out a huge tower that a bunch of screaming people were running into. The people were Mokai troops, he said, and if you didn’t bomb the armory they were all running into, they’d re-arm and attack in minutes. So Rohn grudgingly did as he was told, reduced the building to a flaming ruin and then swooped in to survey the damage. What he found wasn’t pretty.
Yep, that’s a lady turning to ash at Rohn’s touch. Oh, and look at that, she was holding a baby. And both of their skulls somehow survived being reduced to dust along with the rest of their bones.
As Rohn quickly realized, the building had been a temple, and he’d just exterminated a group of refugees that included women and children. Shortly after he made this discovery, Rohn was joined by his evil bastard of a commanding officer, who was surprised by Rohn’s insistence that mass murder wasn’t an incredibly awesome thing to do. So surprised, in fact, that he slid a knife between Rohn’s ribs.
Above: Rohn’s expression proves that you should never argue with murdering fanatics
Naturally, Rohn survived to switch his allegiance and fight against the Diviner, but this was still one of the more dramatically bleak side-switching twists we’ve seen.