Elden Ring. Horizon: Forbidden West. Inscryption. These are just a few notable games from the last year that pull off an incredible magic trick with their story telling. In Elden Ring‘s case, using FromSoftware’s trademark indirect lore, you have a world-changing event in the late-game that may or may not blow your mind depending on how much you bother to even pay attention to the game’s story. With Horizon, you have a game whose story is the point, but whose twist pays off in dividends if you invest in the game’s amazing side quests. And with Inscryption, you have a game designer who has trained the player to watch for the big twist in his games and is still able to hit them with multiple big surprises. It’s like watching Paul Rudd dupe Conan O’Brien multiple times in the same interview.
The thrill of a well-deserved turning point in any storytelling format is a high like no other. Especially if it was ever so subtly foreshadowed. And with games, these twists and turns often have a direct effect on how the game plays going forward. I’ve tried my best to dance around the nature of these games’ big reveals, so I won’t spoil the effect they have on my examples. But taking it further, once the shock of a good twist subsides, the writers and designers have their work cut out for them. Is the payoff going to keep the player coming back? Or will it feel like the story – and therefore the game – should have ended on a shocking note? Short story writers and novelists alike often struggle with this: Just how much denouement does the plot require? And will my audience go there with me? Game designers on the other hand, mostly just need to save the baddest-assed boss fight for the very end. But when they pull it off, surprise twists can make for the most memorable games you’ll ever play.
So, what games have the best turning points in your experience? Does the gameplay change as well? If possible, be careful with spoilers. And give us your best twists in the comments or over at the Boss Rush Discord!