While a lot of games out there have choices folks can make, there are often complaints that the decisions don’t really determine anything. That perhaps the things people do never really influence the actual outcome and ending. Also, they might not make being bad super appealing. But there are plenty of games that do give you a lot of freedom to choose and even make being a villain seem pretty good!
We’re kicking things off with Alpha Protocol because frankly, it’s one of the choice-based games that offers people the most actual options. It also, unlike most titles, offers players the change to make decisions that fall into varying shades of grey, rather than black and white bad or good options. All the nuances mean there are lots of different endings based on who you killed or spared, who you romanced, who you trust, and who you betray. It really makes you think.
Mass Effect 2
We’re kicking things off with Mass Effect 2 because, well, it feels like the one entry in the series where your choices actually matter. Shepard’s paragon and renegade decisions can change your appearance and reactions to situations. It also alters how people react to you and shapes your relationships with them. Which, in turn, could combine with the loyalty missions to determine if people actually survive the final suicide mission or not. It’s one of the times a BioWare actually made it seem like your choices matter.
BioShock 2 is one of those choice-based games where it is really easy to end up with good or bad endings as a result of Subject Delta’s actions. Some of these involve determining whether to protect or harvest Little Sisters you come across. However, deciding to spare or kill notable people also influences the course of the game and decisions Eleanor, Delta’s Little Sister, will make when she finally reaches the outside world. It shows how an upbringing can influence children.
The Fable series is one of the series that put choices on the map. You can be good or bad to most people. Your appearance will change as a result. You’ll have a reputation among different characters and in the world. In some games, you’ll even have a pet that changes its look alongside you. Maybe the final ending will be a bit stereotypically simple and good or bad, like the major MacGuffin will be preserved or destroyed, but these games have always been about enjoying the ride.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
One of BioWare’s classics, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic shows what a difference alignment can really make. Your choices determine if you use the light or dark side of the Force. You have different equipment, powers, class bonuses, and different endings occur. As a nice touch, people who identify with the alignment you aren’t pursing will react as you would expect when you do bad (or good) things, with “good” characters even trying to stop you if you turn to the dark side.
The InFamous series is another one that has always had fun with morality. In each game, whether it stars Cole or Delsin, you have a chance of making selfless or selfish choices. These alter your reputation and end up influencing your characters’ abilities as you accrue good or bad karma from your actions. You might only see certain missions if you attempt to be a villain. Naturally, certain endings also only occur if you decide it is good to be bad too. While there’s not as much nuance, there might be some situations where the “wrong” choice could be tempting.
The Witcher series isn’t one you’d typically think of when it comes to karma, but the games offer a surprising amount of delicate situations. Geralt makes many choices throughout entries like The Witcher 2 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt , and you won’t always know if what you are doing will help or hurt people until after you’ve done it. (Or if you consult a guide.) While major decisions, like killing or saving Aryan in The Witcher 2 or choosing who to side with in its third chapter to determine what the Nilfgaardians do, might have more obvious connotations, it’s a situation where Geralt is more siding with certain people, attempting to be neutral, going out of his way, or sticking to the job. It makes you think more about the consequences, his actions, and what kind of man he really is.