We all enjoy an unexpected twist in a story. Villains, in particular, can become tiring when they’re fully revealed and presented outright from the beginning of the plot. That being said, some games try a bit too hard to surprise their audience.
If a villain’s identity and role are obvious, don’t treat the audience as if they’re idiots and have no idea. Well, unless you’re doing it for laughs and satire, and that’s what this list is all about. Here are our picks for the top 10 video game reveals we totally never saw coming.
*Warning: Spoilers (though obvious) ahead!*
Venom: Spiderman 2
Everyone’s wanted Venom to return to gaming in a big way. Sure, a brick version of Venom was in the Lego games, and Venom was featured in the Ultimate Alliance, but fans wanted something more. The ending of Marvel’s Spider-Man fueled the Venom hype with the symbiote-infected Harry Osborne encased away in a lab.
Even non-fans could tell you what would happen next. Marvel’s Miles Morales would go on to sprinkle in some more Harry Osborne Symbiote scenes. And then, Spider-Man 2 was revealed during the 2021 PlayStation Showcase. Peter and Miles are fighting side by side until a dark alleyway slowly uncovers Venom’s chilling voice and iconic face. From then onwards, fans looked forward to Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 featuring Venom in a big way.
Future trailers went on to slant it as if Peter Parker was going to become Venom, but we all knew who the primary host was from the first game. Consider us all shocked when Spider-Man 2 releases and Venom’s real identity ends up being exactly what the ending of Spider-Man 1 showed us.
Dragon Lord: Any Dragon Quest Game
Dragon Quest is as classic as JRPGs get. You have a typical save-the-world plot filled with tropes you’ve seen a dozen times. However, Dragon Quest started putting a spin on its usual hero quest with Dragon Quest IV and up. The villains weren’t firmly established at the very start like the Dragon Lord of the first three games. Now, there would be mystery and intrigue as to who’s really pulling the strings behind all the village burnings and monster hordes.
Well, as you can probably guess, the reveal of the overarching villain just ends up being the Dragon Lord from the first games again. Dragon Quest villains remained mostly absent of character depth until the eighth entry when we got to see some moments from the villain’s perspective.
The latest in the main franchise, Dragon Quest XI, still keeps the tradition of a Dragon Lord villain archetype alive and well. I still laughed a little when Dragon Quest XI revealed the villain in the first half of the story and treated it as a shock to the characters. To Dragon Quest XI’s credit, there are multiple villains and not just one Dragon Lord. The way these cartoonishly evil villains are revealed does have some merit, but man did it remind me of the early DQ games and their one-dimensional villains again, not that I’m complaining.
Shido: Persona 5
Persona 5 lacks subtlety in many different areas. The unabashed art style and bold colors are wonderful in their striking lack of subtlety, unlike some heavy-handed parts in the narrative. From the first moments in the game, you’re introduced to a total scumbag of a politician: Shido. The game hits you over the head about the circumstances caused by Shido constantly. You’ll begin to see certain scenes in your real-life dreams because of how often they get repeated in the game. Persona 5 is a game that loves to use flashbacks, and it really doesn’t hide that fact.
It’s absolutely hilarious, then, when the entire party is shocked to learn that Shido is indeed the one responsible for the main character’s predicament. What makes this particular villain truly meme-worthy is just how exaggerated his smugness is. The Japanese and English voice actors for Shido do a perfect job portraying that evil sleazy politician tone. There’s one sneering line in particular that gets repeated ad nauseam by Shido in flashbacks. Shido shouting, “Stupid brat! I’ll sue!!!” is a meme-worthy line that we’ll never forget.
Garon: Fire Emblem Fates
The villain of Fire Emblem Fates is even more cartoonishly obvious than Persona 5. The king of Nohr is a central antagonist through all three versions of the game. The three versions do, however, differ in what kingdom Corrin sides with, showing a different perspective with each. Birthright follows the Hoshido side of the conflict, while Conquest follows the more bloodthirsty Nohr. Regardless of the version/route, you’ll become acquainted with Nohr’s army and quickly realize who the main villain is long before it’s ever revealed. King Garon of Nohr is unabashedly dark and sinister, and the game doesn’t try to hide that fact.
It’s partially for this reason that many fans consider Conquest the more interesting route to take. Fighting the evil empire from the inside is just so much more fascinating and intriguing than fighting from the usual ‘good guy’ kingdom. Of course, Conquest gives a further glimpse at King Garon and just how stereotypical of an evil king he is in the game. To reiterate, Garon isn’t even revealed as the villain until chapter three of the campaign, a point at which we all got the hint already.
Jason Todd: Arkham Knight
Every aspect of Arkham Knight’s identity was built to be super obvious to fans very early in the game. Jason Todd isn’t really present throughout the previous games in the series, so the flashbacks with him and Batman tip the player off that he will get ample screen time at some point later in the game. At the same time, Arkham Knight is presented as the mysterious villain that will confront Batman later. The alarm signals were ringing very loud for the eventual reveal. It wasn’t just that the reveal had a lot of foreshadowing and obvious buildup though, there were also unintentional spoilers in the costumes.
Many players found out the identity of Arkham Knight from the costume screen. You could be at the beginning of the game innocently browsing the different costumes for Batman when you come across an alternate costume for Red Hood as Arkham Knight. Whoops! Talk about a ruined reveal moment.
Seymour: Final Fantasy X
Has there ever been a more obvious musical cue for a villain in all of fiction than Seymour in Final Fantasy X? It’s really hard to beat the blatantly sinister “Dun, DUN, DUUUUNNNN!” music playing as the menacing Seymour Guado walks toward the party. Seymour’s Theme is pure villainy in musical form, so hearing it for the first time attached to this new ominous character raises the alarm bells. Plus, Seymour’s hair resembles devil horns and his Anima summon remains one of the creepiest designs in video games. Everything about Seymour screams, “Look at me, I’m super evil.”
Yet, Final Fantasy X tries to keep Seymour’s true motive mysterious until the reveal. To the game’s credit, Seymour isn’t instantly hostile to the main protagonists and has a quiet and reserved personality. He’s quite cordial and polite early on, but the presentation of music and character design screams villain a mile away. Actually, I take that back, his quiet demure personality made us all the more suspicious of his true nature.
Lysandre: Pokemon X/Y
Pokemon X/Y’s Team Flare is what you get when you combine the cartoony tone of Team Rocket with the sobering philosophizing of a madman. The leader of Team Flare, Lysandre, goes on cartoonishly evil monologues but isn’t cartoonishly evil in his intent. No, he’s straight-up evil, with plans to wipe out the population and commit mass genocide. This dichotomy places Lysandre as someone who doesn’t fit in either category, inherently weakening the character as a result.
We’re supposed to take him seriously, but he’s presented so cartoonishly it’s impossible to. But what puts him on this list isn’t his tropey presentation, it’s how the protagonists react to him. The party is actually surprised when it’s revealed that Lysandre is the evil leader of Team Flare. Um, duh? I know Pokemon is written with a young audience in mind, but at least be more creative with the reveal, y’know?
Wesker: Resident Evil
The first Resident Evil pulls off the traitor trope well, even if it is glaringly obvious from the start. Resident Evil 1 starts off with three surviving S.T.A.R.S. members investigating a haunted mansion. The leader of the group, Wesker, goes off alone while Jill and Barry team up to search the humongous mansion.
You go many hours without a trace of Wesker’s whereabouts. But then, things start getting suspicious as Jill overhears Barry talking about a plot to overthrow S.T.A.R.S. …and something about his family being threatened. Jill runs into Wesker later on and he doesn’t seem phased in the slightest, nor does he seem all that worried for his teammates.
These are all good indications that there’s a betrayal among the characters, but there’s more. Jill comes across a photo of Umbrella scientists with Wesker clearly in the shot. Wesker’s name is also mentioned in an Umbrella report further implicating him in the heinous organization’s crimes. When the reveal finally comes and Wesker makes Barry aim his gun at her, Jill is shocked to learn the truth. We can’t blame Jill for being stunned in such a stressful situation, but the stilted voicework and graphics still make it seem painfully ham-fisted and anvilicious. In a good way, of course.
Dr. Wily: Mega Man 4
A classic among classics. Mega Man 4 was the first game in the series to introduce a main villain that wasn’t Dr. Wily … until the very end of the game. Wily was thought to have been dead since the events of Mega Man 3. Mega Man and Dr. Light now have to contend with a new evil Robot Master, but this time he’s Russian. The biggest indication that Cossack was a red herring of a villain was how he popped out of nowhere. Even the illustrious Dr. Light wasn’t familiar with Dr. Cossack when he got the message from this self-appointed genius.
Mega Man 4 is perhaps the very first example of a fake villain trope in gaming. It’s just a shame that Cossack didn’t have any lead-up or characterization to establish himself as a main villain other than, “Trust me, bro. I’m the big bad … and somehow a genius that the scientific community has never heard of.” Still, Wily using a puppet proxy is a pretty cool concept, even if the reveal isn’t surprising in the least.
Kain: Final Fantasy IV
We end this list with another true classic: Final Fantasy IV. This was the first FF game to go for a more cinematic and plot-rich narrative. You start out as a soldier of an evil empire and your first mission is basically razing a village with your best bud named, you guessed it, Kain. The name itself is a dead giveaway of how traitorous this friend would become. But biblical allegories aside, the fact that you start out burning villages should be enough of a hint that the Dragoon Captain Kain would be trouble down the line.
Final Fantasy IV can’t really be blamed for being derivative and trope-infested; after all, it established what story-driven RPGs looked like in gaming. But it can’t be overlooked that the party somehow is shocked to learn that Kain betrays them and joins with the enemy (again). With evil-looking dragon armor and a name synonymous with traitor, Kain’s habit of betraying his friend Cecil should come to nobody’s surprise.
That’s a wrap on the 10 video game reveals we never saw coming. This satirical compilation isn’t intended to mock the games herein but rather to celebrate and honor the tradition of surprises and twists in video games. Of course, many of these examples were less than subtle in the way they handled the surprise reveals, but some were intentionally obvious and fun. If you’re curious, we’ve got more features and fun top 10s here on Twinfinite, such as our list of most gruesome Mortal Kombat fatalities.
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