5. Soap Replaces Both Ghost and Roach (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2)
Well you have to give Call of Duty one thing, they sure know how to make an impact. Ghost and Roach, two of the main men for a good chunk of the game, seem like they’re going to be making a big splash as far as the plot is concerned. The truth is, it’s actually a different kind of splash all together. After a rather brutal level in ‘Loose Ends’, Ghost and Roach proceed to a landing zone where a one, General Shepherd is waiting for them. Handing off important sensitive information to the General, Roach finds himself on the ground after taking a bullet to the stomach. Ghost is immediately killed after and the plot switches to Soap for the rest of the game’s length. Whether you like it or not, there’s no denying that this was definitely a change-up for the ages.
4. Who’s Roxas? And Where’s Sora? (Kingdom Hearts 2)
The Kingdom Hearts series has a reputation of being a fairly surreal series. Dreams appear heavily throughout the franchise and many of the game’s environments feel a little beyond the normal limitations of reality. Roxas’s beginnings in Twilight Town are no exception. We follow Roxas and his friends on a quest to catch a quest, who has not only stolen something but the very word that represents that something. In pursuing what’s been lost, we learn that we’ve been duped; that we’ve been playing a different sort of main character all along. Roxas isn’t just Roxas, the quiet, somewhat shy boy from Twilight Town; he’s the Heartless reincarnation of Sora. It sort of makes sense when you put it all together—as an introvert, Roxas is almost the opposite of the charismatic Sora and his name is a close anagram of “Sora”—but the reveal is surprising nonetheless. In a sense, we play Sora the whole time, even if we do only physically play him some ways in. But at the same time that this bait-and-switch isn’t a real change, it also is. It’s also the kind of switch to make our heads hurt.
3. Elizabeth, the Real Protagonist (Bioshock: Infinite)
Bioshock Infinite has us assume the identity of Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent turned mercenary. As Booker, the player is given the task of finding a woman named Elizabeth, who is kept captive somewhere in the flying city of Columbia. Though Booker is the one we control throughout our exploration of this twisted metropolis, he is far from being the main character of this story. In fact, Booker’s handy ability with firearms and his special powers (gained through the use of Vigors) pale in comparison to those of Elizabeth, who is herself so powerful so as to be able to manipulate the flow of time itself. Booker oftens takes a backseat to the actions of Elizabeth, and without her help, Booker never would have been able to defeat the terror of Songbird or escape Columbia. And in a weird, open-ended final scene that reveals the relationship between Booker and Elizabeth, it’s quite clear that everything was always about her. Booker dies and the many different forms of Elizabeth go on to do… something. Live life, presumably.
2. 2B to A2 and 9S (Nier: Automata)
When the destructive Logic Virus rears its ugly head partway into Nier Automata’s third route, YoRHa android units 2B and 9S are forced to battle their way through their infected comrades in desperate gambit for survival. Crash landing on Earth during their escape, 2B slowly succumbs to the virus with her eyesight and hearing fading as the world fades to monochrome. As she tries to fight her foes in vain 2B is saved by A2, a prototype android and YoRHa defector. While she’s been mostly an enemy to 2B and 9S up to this point, it’s very clear that A2 does want to protect the world just as much as they do. 2B has only one option left to her. In the game’s most tragic sequence, 2B bequeaths her sword and her memories to A2, begging her to protect 9S and the world in her stead. What makes this sequence even more tragic is that poor 9S finally manages to catch up to 2B just in time to see her get stabbed (without the added context of her being too far gone to save). Ascending to the role of main character with a bloody blade and a tragic death, A2’s got her work cut out for her as Automata barrels into its gut-wrenching climax.