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10 Hardest Choices in Video Game History

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Hardest Choices in Video Game History

Choice-driven narratives have made gaming more immersive. They give you the power to influence the outcome of the story. But sometimes that power comes at a cost. More often than not, you’ll find games giving you easy-peasy choices. Like asking questions to know more about a character or where you want the protagonist to go. These often lead to multiple endings, which encourage replayability too. On rare occasions, though, video games will put a time limit on how fast you can make a decision that will completely change the course of your journey and likely keep you up at night. 

Perhaps you killed your own father to save your life. Or abandoning a mission you’re heavily invested in to save a life. While some games will offer an easier alternative, there are some choices that are all wrong or will lead to bad outcomes either way. Today, we’re looking at the hardest choices in video game history. Which one will you choose?

10. Saints Row IV – Cure Cancer or Let Them Eat Cake

Saints Row 4: Cure Cancer vs World Hunger [HD 720p]

So many films depict the day-to-day life of the President of the United States. I have to say, I don’t envy him at all. Yet, Saints Row IV places you in the shoes of the President, forcing you to make all the hard choices. 

Without giving you time and space to warm your new seat of power, Saints Row IV ushers in the Vice President, who tells you of two hard choices you need to make fast. The first is passing a bill to cure cancer, while the second aims to end world hunger. 

Both choices will no doubt make a huge difference in people's lives. But you can only choose one. So, which will you choose? Fortunately (or unfortunately), an alien invasion strikes Earth soon after, rendering either choice you made useless.

9. Fable II – One of Three Wishes: Sacrifice, Love, or Wealth

Fable 2 Sacrifice Ending

Have you ever imagined which three wishes you would choose if you were Aladdin? Fable II is similar, except the game already has three wishes. Your job is to choose which of the three you want to go with. And, on top of that, the choice you make will affect all of Albion. 

The first wish is called “Sacrifice,” which resurrects thousands of innocent people murdered in the making of Tattered Spire. However, if you do so, you’ll never see your family again. The second is called “Love,” which ensures you see your family again. And the third is called “Wealth,” which instantly makes you a millionaire worth one million gold coins.

To put the three wishes into context, earning one million gold coins is easy while playing the game. In fact, some players may have already earned it. Also, all “sacrifice” does is put up your statue in Bowerstone Old Town and send a “thank you” letter from the people of Albion. Yet you don’t actually see your good deed come to fruition. While “Love,” in addition to seeing your family again, also returns your cute, loyal dog to you. So, which wish takes the day?

8. Grand Theft Auto V – Method of Torture

GTA V: Controversial Torture Mission(18+)

When someone is tortured for information, it’s likely you’ll forget about the scene by bedtime. But in Grand Theft Auto V, players torture someone in the infamous “By the Book” mission, which probably gave them sleepless nights. What’s worse? They must decide which torture method to use. 

There’s no way around it. You must choose which torture instruments you want to use to complete the scene and finish the game, with some of the methods including fuel, pliers, shocks, or old-school beating to get information from the captive. 

Although GTA is popular for pushing the boundaries of gaming, they may have gone a bit too far here. Massive controversy poured down from all sides, with many people saying they may have missed the satirical mark by a long shot.

7. Mass Effect – Save Ashley or Kaidan

Mass Effect Guide: Should You Save Ashley Or Kaidan On Virmire?

As a rule of thumb, no man is left behind. Well, at least when you’re part of a squad. Imagine, though, if you had to decide which of your squadmates to save. Who will you choose? Perhaps assessing either character’s personality. At which point you’re likely to save Kaidan. However, Ashley makes a good case for an interesting plot. 

Ashley constantly discriminates against non-human species throughout the game. On the other hand, Kaidan is the dullest character ever made. It’s a tough decision that ultimately depends on which character you identify with the most (or not).

6. Fallout: New Vegas – Save the Few or the Many

The Fallout series has its fair share of hard decisions. But Fallout: New Vegas takes the day. It’s a scenario that often plays out in films, which still doesn’t make witnessing it any easier. In a place called Vault 34, a nuclear reactor leaks radiation into the earth, thus affecting the crops that feed the people in the Wasteland. It’s an easy decision: disable the reactor. 

However, you find out that a group of people are trapped in an inaccessible area of Vault 34. And that they depend entirely on the reactor to run their generator, which provides them with food and water to survive. If you disable the reactor, they will die. However, you can save them if you reroute the controls, helping them to open the trapped doors and escape. But if you do so, the crops will die, instigating widespread famine throughout the Wasteland.

It's a difficult decision that even Fallout: New Vegas hesitates to put to rest. It's like deciding whether to switch the lever and run over one person or to forge ahead and kill five people tied to the train tracks. I mean, is there a right choice there?

5. Bioshock – Kill or Rescue Little Girls

There are a few games that build up the consequences of a string of choices over time. Take Bioshock, for instance. It features little girls who run around Rapture collecting dead splicers to harvest ADAM. ADAM is like a currency that gives you the power to alter your mind or body. 

If you kill the little girls, you grow stronger. Specifically, you receive 160 ADAM. However, if you save them, you receive 80 ADAM. There are around 20 little girls in Bioshock. Will you kill or rescue them all?

4. Telltale Games: The Walking Dead – Chop Off Your Arm or Risk Getting Killed

Clementine Chops Sarita's Hand Off (Walking Dead | Carlos Death | Telltale Games)

You know, the scene where a poisonous snake bites a character, forcing them to chop off their arm to stop the poison from spreading? Telltale Games: The Walking Dead has a scene like it where a walker bites Lee. Except this time, you’re unsure whether chopping off your arm will do the trick. 

Even worse? How will you survive on one arm in a zombie apocalypse? You cannot climb walls or fight well. Or protect Clementine to the best of your ability. And then there’s the severe loss of blood.

It’s a rollercoaster scene of emotions running wild, yet there are only a few seconds to decide. If you chop off your arm, you’ll be weaker. However, if you keep it, the infection will continue, ensuring your death. It’s perhaps the worst decision in that area because you had the odds stacked against you the minute the walker bit you.

3. Spec Ops: The Line – Use White Phosphorous or Stealth

Spec Ops: The Line - White Phosphorus

Military shooters often have you taking down numerous bad guys with no consequence. But the reality of war is far more damaging than most games depict it to be. In Spec Ops: The Line, players see the more realistic side of war. From the harsh realities of civilian casualties to the toll it takes on the soldiers’ health. 

At one point in the game, you can choose between using white phosphorus on enemy territory or stealth. Some will choose white phosphorus to finish the mission as fast as possible. However, it’s an extremely toxic gas for humans. Not to mention the possibility of civilian casualties. On the other hand, stealth will take more time but have the fewest casualties.

A major twist unravels in the end that the people at the camp weren’t soldiers but innocent civilians. Determined to put their point across, players who chose white phosphorus are forced to walk amid a sea of burning flesh, including witnessing a heartbreaking scene of a burned mother with her child held in her arms. 

2. Life is Strange – Save Chloe or Arcadia Bay 

The classic “save the few or the many” plays out again in Life is Strange. Players must choose whether to save Chloe or Arcadia Bay. For context, Arcadia Bay is a town filled with thousands of people. But Chloe is also a character you’ve grown to love, who’s already had to endure so many deaths.

Whenever Chloe dies, you can reverse time to save her. However, each time you use your powers, the tornado grows more dangerous. At this point, you have already made lots of changes to the timeline. But it’s still tempting to stop using your powers to save Arcadia Bay. Even if all the work you did to save Chloe was pointless. You might as well have chosen not to save Chloe from the start.

1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Stormclock or Imperial

Joining the Imperials vs Stormcloaks

One of the hardest choices in video game history that jumped over to the internet was the “Stormclock or Imperial” debate in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. To this day, no peaceful resolution has ever been achieved, with gamers often splitting both ways. 

During the Bethesda civil war, players choose whether to side with the Stormlock or Imperial factions. The Imperials banned Talos' worship. They also gave Thalmor free reign. On the other hand, the Stormcloaks are racist. Plus, they have an undying thirst for power. Both sides pose sound arguments, both morally and strategically. Which also means that whichever side you choose would still be right; it’s all a matter of preference.

Further, with these types of games, the faction you choose only affects the game’s mechanics. That is, the uniforms, a few dialogue pieces, and damage to either Solitude or Windhelm. Otherwise, the overall mission and final outcome remain the same. In the end, the faction you go with wins the war. So, no love is lost, regardless of the side you’re on. Still, the “Stormclock or Imperial” debate makes for some good arguments over family dinners. So thank you, Skyrim.

So, what’s your take? Do you agree with our hardest choices in video game history? Are there more hard choices you have come across while gaming? Let us know over on our socials here.

Evans I. Karanja is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything technology. He is always on the lookout for interesting topics, and enjoys writing about video games, cryptocurrency and blockchain and more. When not writing, he can be found playing video games or watching F1.