What, you didn't think this list was all about the big-budget blockbuster titles, did you? Indie games, while sometimes little more than pathetic cash-in attempts (Zombies + Massage + Girls/Avatars = Uh
win?) can also provide for great insight, critique and deconstruction of contemporary design. So it was with Braid, a Super Mario Bros-style platformer with the added element of time travel. Right up until the end, the game seems to be following step-by-step with its inspiration: a challenging romp with the end goal of rescuing a princess. Then time suddenly flows what is actually forward, revealing the princess to be a scared girl trying desperately to stop you from reaching her. Because you're a creepy stalker. Maybe if you just stared unwaveringly and told her you sparkle? Smoooooth.
Let's just go ahead and skip the part where Meg Ryan
sorry, Tidus learns that he's a dead, imaginary civilization's dream of sci-fi David Beckham (or
something like that) and look at the other big twist in FFX: you know, the one where you for all intents and purposes murder God. To give an (extremely) abbreviated version of this twist, it turns out that the being Yu Yevon, worshipped by almost all of Spira, is actually the soulless husk of an ancient summoner who infects aeons like a parasite, turning them into the immortal monster that terrorizes the world, Sin. So when Yuna and Tidus decide to screw the whole traditional summoner-suicide thing, they fight and kill Yevon directly, ending the cycle forever. Which is great. No more immortal Cloverfield whale demon. But they still killed God to do so, so it's weird that the people take it surprisingly well.
Okay, time to sound like a smug hipster douchette: The twist in BioShock, when Atlas reveals himself as the traitorous Fontaine who stole Andrew Ryan's son (see: you) and mind-controlled said child to become an assassin, programmed a la Manchurian Candidate to respond to the phrase "Would you kindly
" is not shocking for those reasons. It was a twist because it played on the expectations of an FPS, borderline mocking players for not considering or resisting the attempts of programmers to direct their actions. So you see, not only did Atlas bitch-slap the hell out of protagonist Jack, he bitch-slapped our souls as players. Result? Game of the Year.