Many games give you subtle and not so subtle moral choices. Be the good guy, be the bad guy. Every game handles it a little bit differently and some better than others. Today we’re specifically talking about some games where being the good guy, doing the right thing, is actually punished in some ways.
Some games do it and over the top ways, some do it more subtly and some kind of just fail. Nothing is really black and white here. We’ve got 10 interesting games on how they handle it to talk about today, so let’s get started off with number 10. Now, in “Vampire” or “Vampire,” you assume the role of Dr. Jonathan Reid.
Fresh from coming back as this field medic from the front lines of World War I, he returns to a London that is being ravaged by the Spanish Flu. The only thing is is that he wakes up in a mass grave in a gutter, suddenly craving blood. So yes, he’s a vampire. That’s the big paradox here. He has to satisfy his thirst for blood, but he’s also a famous doctor and a surgeon, pioneering new research in phlebotomy, meaning he literally specializes in blood.
So in the game, it’s your job and the game incentivizes you to take care of the citizens of this side of flu ridden London, but you also want to progress and grow stronger as a vampire. So, the game doles out experience points for doing quests and fighting enemies and discovering stuff, but you get the biggest jumps in experience if you munch on an NPC, if you suck their blood and kill them.
You have to tend to NPCs, taking care of them with medicine or learning about their life or routines through conversations or side quests and then the more maxed out they are, the more XP you get if you kill them off. The game does get you from instantly killing off everyone by having a mesmerized level you need to increase in order to hypnotize people and lure them into a corner where no one is watching so you can feed.
The caveats are that a person may be more significant than you’d expect and if they’re noticed or their death is noticed, maybe they have a family or friends, the stability of that map region will decrease. If it decreases too much, the environment becomes more hostile and enemy characters will kill off NPCs and you’ll lose out on characters and quest and of course that valuable XP.
The game does a really good job of making a lot of the citizens likable or just clearly having a lot of reasons to stay alive. Sometimes, making the choice is tough if you’re really into like role-playing and trying to go as a proper good guy play through. If you really wanna be the good guy doctor, who just happens to also be a vampire and you feel bad about killing a lot of people, avoiding drinking blood means you’re weakened and ultimately, you’re getting less XP, meaning you’re not unlocking as much as the cool stuff
to use during combat and enemies just take longer to kill. Now this isn’t as hardcore simulation as you’d expect. It’s still an action adventure game. It’s arguable gameplay and stats wise because you’ll still be able to grind a bit to still become somewhat awesome, but the framework is a really cool idea.
Even if it doesn’t technically punish you as hard as it could for trying to be a nice guy vampire, it still gives you some ramifications and it makes you think about it. It next over at number nine, let’s talk “Frostpunk.”
This game is it’s rough, man. You’re in charge of the last city on earth and in a world that is entirely frozen over, heat is what matters most and that’s what you’re constantly working towards here.
You’re keeping your citizens warm, fed and alive. The game is a huge fan of just kicking you while you’re down though, oh my God. “Frostpunk” is a game all about risk. Every decision has a big consequence, sometimes good, sometimes bad, mostly bad. You can send out a search party to find supplies and they may come back with supplies and survivors to add to your workforce or they could all die.
And even having more survivors on your workforce, means you have more mouths to feed and more homes to heat. To succeed in the game, I guess you’re trying to be the good guy. You have to use your sense of right and wrong to move forward, but the game is happy to show you that everything can be a gray area or that doing the right thing often ends up having unintended consequences or maybe doing the right thing actually can mean going too far.
(04:03) Maybe people keep dying. The citizens demand you build a cemetery and then maybe too many workers freeze to death burying the bodies or the graves make nearby people sick. For every good guy decision, the game screws you over in some way. It is the literal personification of between a rock and a hard place. Like, oh, you managed to build some more shelters and heat for people, well, famine just hit again and everyone is dead and you need to use child labor now, have fun.
Or if you don’t pay attention, people are gonna start a cult or they’re all gonna rebel against you. It is just like a turbo evil way of making you feel like this politician in a very divided landscape. You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t. “Frostpunk” looks really cool on the surface as like a, oh cool, it’s like a city building strategy game.
It’s kinda like snow pierce or sweet, but it is pure pain. The decisions are really hard and coming out morally good feels almost impossible. Next, over at number eight, let’s switch gears and talk “Infamous.” Now this is a simple one and one that’s debatable, but we wanted to talk about it here in the “Infamous” games, there is a morality system.
You do good things, you get good guy points. Do bad things, get bad guy points. A lot of games do this. We talk about “Fable” a lot here, but we wanted to highlight “Infamous” today because we really like it and in these games, Cole McGrath or Delsin Rowe reflect the players’ choices.
(05:25) Visually, they look more good with lighter clothing or more evil with darker red, badass clothes and their powers are different. Good guy powers are more focused on healing and accuracy and controlled power where the bad guy powers are about chaos and destruction. There are legitimate benefits to both and it’s usually just a matter of taste as to what you want to do for fun.
But for today’s sake, let’s play devil’s advocate. For a lot of folks, man, it’s just not as fun to be a good guy in these types of games. Worrying about about civilian casualties and having to run around carefully and revive people and all that is lame. Worrying about restraining enemies is tedious and nowhere near as cool as just the outright chaos and destruction you can cause with all those bad guy powers, right? The game saves all the coolest stuff for the bad guys.
They even look cooler and that’s why we think this game actually can punish you a little bit for playing good because you don’t really get to see all the really cool stuff. Again, it’s debatable. A lot of people like playing as good guys in these games. My first play through, I certainly did, but yeah, let’s debate in the comments.
Next over at number seven, let’s talk about the PC classic “Pathologic.” Now, try to save people in this game is hard, especially if you don’t know the gist of the game and you just kind of go into it. It’s kind of just a misery simulator if you ask me, but you’d go into this game thinking you have to help this plague, disease ridden, strange, vague town, but it is much trickier than that.
“Pathologic” and it’s sort of remake too aren’t clear cut games and they are weird, experimental and not for everyone. But if you ask the people who like it, man, they really like it because it’s different, but it’s also not really a game for nice guy play throughs. I’ll actually use the developer’s description because it’s so well worded.
Basically, morals and good deeds are meaningless in the face of raw despair and endless need. The way the game kind of goes down, like I said, you choose from two and then eventually three characters, thinking that you can kind of help people in this town, but you quickly realize how much you’re really gonna need to put in just to even save yourself.
And every decision ultimately starts to amount to screwing someone over. There’s a lot of meta to it. There’s all little things to discover with how these games play out. There’s a reason people love them, but they are not black and white games for sure. Next, over at number six, “Mass Effect.
Mass Effect Series
” It’s not a series that immediately comes to mind in one where you think of it punishing the player for trying to be the good guy, but there’s little things worth pointing out. So for context, the paragon/renegade system is like the thing, right? Everybody knows about it by now. Paragon is the good spaceman choices like, be mister do-gooder of space, like a Buzz Light year.
Help folks make the right decisions, save the world. Renegade is kind of the loose cannon cop choices. Be a dastardly cool dude who, if it’s “Mass Effect 2,” you get a really cool scary face. You kill people who stand in your way. You bend the rules. You just do whatever it takes to get the job done.
And if you’ve played their previous games, “Nights of the Old Republic,” you know what the deal is. But choosing paragon doesn’t always mean you are perfectly good. Sometimes, the quote unquote right decision can actually lead to something bad happening. While the game technically doesn’t ever totally screw you over for being the good guy, it can make some of those choices hard and sometimes, the ramifications of your choices don’t really rear their ugly head until way later.
I wanna highlight some of like the lesser known examples, the smaller stuff, “Mass Effect 3” Kelly Chambers. This is someone who you’ve met before who is doing humanitarian work, but Cerberus is still looking for her. The good guy choice is to tell her to continue doing her good work because it’s important and it helps the refugees on the Citadel.
But the renegade choice is to give her the advice of changing her identity and fleeing and going into hiding to be safe. That doesn’t usually seem like your typical paragon, renegade choice, right? Well, good guy telling her to stay and do her thing, means she ends up getting killed. The game doesn’t show it, it’s not in your face, but you can hear NPCs talking about it on the Citadel later on where she was doing her thing and Cerberus found and walked up to her and said, hey, are you her? And then bang, they shot her dead.
Kelly Chambers is dead. – Oh no, what happened? – Cerberus found her during a Citadel coup. Shown her where she stood. – Oh, that’s terrible. She seemed really nice. – So, she died doing the right thing, but it’s murky. It reminds me of a random bit in “Mass Effect 2” on Illium where you let some mercenary lady go.
If you know you have the choice, you let her free, you believe her, but then later on, you find a journal that says she was lying and killed a bunch of people. There are little instances like this. There are a couple of bigger ones that people like to kind of argue or debate about, but it’s worth pointing out that “Mass Effect” paragon isn’t always as clean and good guy as you think.
Red Dead Redemption Series
Next over at number five, let’s talk about “Red Dead Redemption.” Now this is going to be completely subjective, this is all a matter of opinion here, but I wanna point out that playing as a good guy in “Red Dead Redemption 2,” going the honor route is nowhere near as fun as going with the dastardly low honor route and really just being able to do all the rootin-tootin cowboy stuff you want to do.
In “Red Dead Redemption 2” maintaining a high honor, means like you’re helping travelers, you’re giving them free rides or just helping out whatever they have going on out in the world. You’re giving money to beggars and stuff like that. You get little things here and there. People respond to you positively.
(10:50) You get discounts at stores. You get little bonuses here and there when you come across people that you helped in the past, which is nice, but you gotta really keep that up and it is nowhere near as fun as low honor Arthur, who is running around, robbin’ banks, stage coaches, shooting whoever they want, stealing whatever they want, doing whatever they want and just getting into cowboy hijinks.
You can experiment more, you can get into trouble more and that’s what makes the game so much fun, if you ask us. The role-playing aspect of being a do-gooder is great and ultimately, I like Arthur’s character in the writing as a good guy, but this is just a fun game to play as a crazy person. It’s like Rockstar games.
It’s just like “Grand Theft Auto,” it’s way more fun to get into car chases and go crazy and crash into the cops. There’s always room for that role playing and trying to do the right thing. But “Red Dead Redemption 2” is so much more fun when you’re tying people to railroad tracks, hog tying dudes, flinging them around, throwing dudes off cliffs, antagonizing innocent people, getting into fights.
That’s the way to play if you ask us. And even “Red Dead Redemption 2” takes it in some interesting ways too in story ways. There’s like a side quest I remember where you buy a lady from a sex trafficker, but then you go back later and the game actually had the guy murder her anyway. So while there’s a lot of gameplay stuff, there are little snippets here and there in Red Dead that show that the world isn’t black and white and sometimes, doing the right thing doesn’t ultimately help everybody out.
But really to me it’s, I just wanna be a rootin-tootin bad guy cowboy, dammit. Next over at number four, let’s talk the original “Bioshock.” You probably know the setup by now. Essentially, you need to harvest atom in the game to access special powers and the only thing that contains atom are the little sisters.
The little sisters are of course guarded by these big hulking big daddies who you have to fight in some pretty difficult battles and then you’re faced with the little sister and you’re faced with a choice. Save the little sister and be a good guy or kill the little sister and harvest her for her atom and get access to more abilities and just more power and generally have more fun in the game.
This is an interesting one that we wanted to bring up because it’s not really a straightforward as it actually seems. A lot of people crunch the numbers back in the day and it turns out, fun fact, that it’s like a diminishing returns thing. The first time you harvest a little sister for her atom, you get a ton and then over time, the benefits kind of level out the more you do it.
So really, it’s down to that first choice and then you have to stick with it because it’s all really about a good ending and a bad ending at the end of the day. Save that first little sister and then continue that for the rest of the game, you get the good ending. Be a bad guy, you get a lot more atom, but you get a not so great ending really.
It makes things kind of weird. And we had something floating around on the internet, we couldn’t source it for this video, but there was talk back in the day that the developers initially wanted this punishment to be harsher, the divide between harvesting the sisters and not to be bigger, but ultimately, it kind of hampered the gameplay and they had to tone it down.
If I could find that source, I’ll link that in a description down below. But either way, it’s just a weird handling of the situation. I don’t know if it’s like really punishing you for being good, but it just felt a little flat. I mean, the fact that you’re basically a sleeper agent, you’re kind of mind controlled as jack means you don’t really have any autonomy to begin with, so how good can you really be there? Anyway, I digress.
Let’s move on to a more interesting one, “Papers, Please.” This is a great one. It’s a really kind of low-key game where you play as an immigration border official in this fictional country called Arstotzka in 1982. You were a part of a seemingly oppressive regime and it’s up to you to just man your post every day, checking everybody’s passports and travel documents and it starts off as you just trying to cleanly process as many people as possible, just in kind of like a spot the difference type mini game,
just making sure everyone’s documents follow the proper rules and you just don’t wanna mess up and you wanna process as many people as possible because it results in a better score at the end of the day and more money in your pocket. But the requirements get stricter and more complicated as the days go and your livelihood can be affected because like I said, in this time limit you have, you need to correctly process as many people as possible, but there are so many hurdles because this life in this fake country just gets more
and more oppressive every day. To the point where even you at the end of a day, like you’re getting your score tallied up and you’re getting money, but you’re losing money, thanks to the many facts of life living here. It gets even more complicated when people start coming to you and asking for help.
Drug traffickers will try and get by. People will bribe you. Sick, old people will ask for you to turn a blind eye to their issues with their documents and stuff. Resistance folks will ask for things, they’ll ask for your help. So it all comes down to walking a line between trying to do what is right, but also just protecting and feeding your family at the end of every day or in this case, round.
(car horn honking) (crashing) (alarm buzzing) Ultimately, you can only progress in so many different ways, but it’s really one that just gets you thinking and it’s worth pointing out. Next, over at number two, we have “This War Of Mine.” Now, this is another one that’s kind of like “Frostpunk” where it’s just absolutely rough and emotionally devastating.
This War of Mine
You essentially manage as survivors of war, living in the bombed out remains, desperately trying to survive. And it’s all about you keeping your survivors alive, while also interacting with other survivors. And that’s where things can get kind of nasty because you’re managing supplies, food, keeping everybody healthy, but some other people might come along and make things even more complicated.
There are benefits and risks to taking people in, telling people to screw off. And basically, as much as you’re trying to do good and do the right thing, the game will make you feel bad. It’ll make those decisions really hard for you as do gooder as you try and be. (dramatic music) The little one’s expansion makes it worse because it starts to involve children and some different conditions that you have to deal with with them and things just feel even more bleak.
“This War Of Mine” is not for the faint of heart for sure, like “Frostpunk,” but this brings it down to a more granular level where you really feel the emotions sometimes. It’s not really just numbers and spreadsheets here, it’s victims, it’s survivors and it’s fascinating.
It’s worth checking out if you’ve never played it. Now, down to number one, let’s talk “Tyranny.” This is a game from 2016. It’s a lesser known from the RPG heavyweights, of course, Obsidian. This is on the surface of pretty traditional, isometric story driven RPG, but it’s got that Obsidian flair for tons of decisions to be made and branching storylines and stuff.
And in it, you’re actually playing in a world where the tyrannical overlord has already won and you work for them. Kyros, the overlord, is the undisputed ruler of this fictional northern empire and you are a fate binder and this kind of war leader, the maintainer of law and order and this is a game of gray areas, straight up.
You can enforce the will of the mysterious leader. You can side with a rebellion or just kind of screw over everyone. All of it is questionable. Is it important to maintain the status quo, so things don’t get worse? Can you maybe change the bad regime from within? Can you try to help with the rebellion or maybe even be bad and sabotage that from within? What makes this game challenging to be good is that it’s like, what is good, really? The game plays with this stuff.
Some will say going the kind of neutral path is the most good, and it can also be argued that trying to be straight up morally good ends up not being as great as it can be because you’re still gonna have to make some hard decisions that might not leave you feeling great. Really, this is a difficult one to play absolutely good because it can be a little subjective and ultimately to many, it’s a game about choosing between the two evils, with one being the lesser of the two, but still just not clean.
To make good decisions, it often feels illogical or counterintuitive and when you wanna just not be super evil or brutal, you’ll face resistance. Plus, I mean, you’re going up against the ruling force, the regime that already won. There are some really good threads debating all of this and the good decisions in this game and however you play it, it just proves that it’s a truly underrated Obsidian RPG.
But hey, those are 10 games where playing as the good guy means you miss out on things or you get hurt or whatever. Let’s talk, there are so many other games to point out, so we’d love to hear your guys’ opinions for a part two. A lot of this stuff is up for debate. Like I said, we had some hot takes here, so let us know what you think.
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