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Game villains who don't know they're bad guys

Gaming's best unreliable narrators...

Early spoiler warning!

Storytelling in games rarely exceeds 'go there and kill him', but sometimes a developer will toy with your expectations and hit you with a twist that makes you question everything up until that point.

It doesn't happen nearly enough, but when it does it's always memorable. Below are some of the best examples of games where your character isn't everything they appear to be, using the classic cinematic and literary technique of the 'unreliable narrator'.

Alex Mason
Game: Call of Duty: Black Ops
Dev: Treyarch
Format: Multi
Villainy rating: 4/5
Mason might seem like an all-American war hero at the beginning of the game, but we soon learn exactly why he's being held in that shady prison cell. He's actually a deranged maniac, programmed to kill in a sinister experiment, and likely responsible for the assassination of JFK. We didn't see that coming. Well, only a bit.

James Sunderland
Game: Silent Hill 2
Dev: Team Silent
Format: PS2
Villainy rating: 5/5
James visits Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his supposedly dead wife. But there was no letter: he killed his wife as she suffered from an illness he could no longer deal with, and is lured to the town by demonic forces to face his own personal Hell. We don't find that out until the end of the game, and it's a real shock.

The ISA
Game: Killzone, Killzone 2, Killzone: Liberation, Killzone 3
Dev: Guerrilla
Format: PS2, PS3, PSP
Villainy rating: 4/5
Dig into Killzone's surprisingly rich mythology and you learn that centuries ago the ISA ejected the Helghast from the lush garden planet of Vekta, forcing them to live on the stormy nightmare world of Helghan. This is why they're so angry at them, the supposed 'heroes' of the Killzone series. We don't blame them.

Tim
Game: Braid
Dev Number None, Inc
Format: Multi
Villainy rating: 3/5
Yes, that's right - charming hand-drawn hero Tim from avant garde puzzler Braid is a bad guy. For anyone who solved all of the game's puzzles, it's revealed - although not explicitly - that he is in fact a nuclear scientist working on a destructive atom bomb. Remember the eerie burning cityscape you walk past on the title screen?

Wander
Game: Shadow Of The Colossus
Dev: Team ICO
Format: PS2, PS3
Villainy rating: 4/5
On the surface, Wander's cause seems noble: bringing a dead girl back to life. But are the lives of 16 creatures, innocently minding their own business in a land where they've existed for centuries, really worth that of one girl? The genius of SOTC is that with every gentle giant you topple, the guiltier you feel.

Let us know if you think we've missed any in the comments below.

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