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Epic video game fakeouts that messed with your head

Sometimes, video games aren't merely content with challenging you or even downright scaring you. Occasionally, they have to go the extra mile and give you something entirely unexpected. Now, this is different from a plot twist. No, the entries on this list are all times when some of our favorite games pulled the rug out from under us entirely, delivering an experience that went beyond a simple narrative.

Some of these fakeouts were done for the sake of a gag, playing on audience expectations in a way that simultaneously amuses and infuriates. Others are done as part of a long game on the part of the developers, purposefully misdirecting the player to lead them into a false sense of security before either ratcheting up the tension or revealing that everything is going to work out fine. A fakeout can be a beautiful thing when it's done well, so let's take a look at some of the best ones.

Satan's trap - Ghosts'N Goblins

Ghosts'N Goblins is a straight-up evil game. Not in a "think of the children, they're being corrupted" kind of way, but in a "this game was literally made to upset people" way. Outside of its grueling difficulty, the game has one more insidious trick hidden up its sleeve for anyone skilled (or lucky) enough to defeat the final boss, a trick that Kotaku called "the meanest thing Capcom ever did."

After conquering Satan (seriously, the main villain of the game is literally the Devil himself), players are told that the first playthrough was simply an illusion. In order to truly beat the game and see the legitimate ending, you are required to play all the way through again, only this time with a higher level of difficulty. In other words, not only is the game evil, but it revels in surprising the poor gamers who fight their way through its challenges.

Guardian Ape isn't monkeying around - Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

In maybe the most gruesome fakeout on this list, we have the terrifying boss battle against the Guardian Ape in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. This fight gets kind of gross from the start, as one of Guardian Ape's attacks involves it throwing its dung at the player character, Wolf (which does much more damage than you'd expect). The battle seems to culminate in Wolf decapitating the creature, which falls to the ground. After that, you're treated to the "Shinobi Execution" screen, which usually indicates that the battle is truly over.

Unfortunately, the Ape doesn't stay on the ground. After a few moments, the creature stirs, then rises to its feet. Then, in maybe the most genuinely scary moment in Sekiro, Guardian Ape picks up its own severed head and the sword used to remove it. The monster lunges at Wolf and the battle continues. The moment has become so infamous that it prompted its own reaction compilation video of noted streamers getting the fear of the Guardian Ape put into them.

Grundy wakes up - Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City's boss battle with Solomon Grundy is like something out of an old school Frankenstein movie, complete with several high voltage resurrections for Grundy over the course of the fight. After being dropped into a pit below the Iceberg Lounge, Batman is informed by the Penguin that he's been keeping Grundy chained up as a way of disposing of unwanted guests. 

The fight is a gruesome one, even by the standards of the gritty Arkham City, with each successive electrical charge burning away more of Grundy's chest. It culminates in Batman cutting off Grundy's power supply and putting a beatdown on the undead menace. When Grundy falls, bats fly away from the beaten zombie and Batman is awarded experience points, usually the two indicators that a fight has come to an end. However, when the player is prompted to "finish" Grundy, the creature suddenly snaps awake, fully recharged and ready for one last match. Even fans of the comics who know of Grundy's habit of coming back to life were likely given one heck of a jump.

Hades breaks the credits - Kid Icarus: Uprising

Kid Icarus: Uprising was a third-person shooter for the Nintendo 3DS and the third game in the Kid Icarus series. In Uprising, the lead character Pit is sent to battle the evil Medusa and save humanity from her dark plans. That's literally the goal of the entire game, as Pit takes down each of Medusa's underlings before facing off against Medusa herself. Once Medusa falls, there's a brief celebratory cutscene as the credits roll.

Unfortunately for our heroes, the credits are interrupted by Hades, the lord of the underworld, who tears through the credits with a cocky grin. Revealing himself to be the one behind all of Medusa's plans, Hades challenges Pit to one last fight. Not only that, but it's revealed that there's one full level left to fight through to get to Hades. Though the rest of the game has a pretty wacky sense of humor, it was still a surprise to see the fourth wall so completely broken like that and for there to still be so much for our hero left to do.

Ned's not dead - Borderlands

What's up with surprise bosses ripping through the end credits? That's what happens at the tail end of The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, a DLC chapter for the first Borderlands game. In a story told by Marcus Kincaid, the Vault Hunters are tasked with saving the workers of Jakobs Cove, many of whom have been turned into zombies or other disgusting and unholy creatures by the evil Dr. Ned.

Following an anticlimactic confrontation with Dr. Ned, the credits will begin to roll. However, they are ripped away by the reborn Undead Ned, now a towering monstrosity with horrific claws. This is when the real final battle begins, as you follow Ned and his zombie hordes into an underground cavern that is literally filled with blood. The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is already an over the top splatterfest in just about every way, but the biggest shock of the DLC comes from how unexpected Ned's reappearance is. 

Fake game crash - Batman: Arkham Asylum

While its sequels got progressively bigger and wilder in scope and tone, Batman: Arkham Asylum's strongest moments are arguably the more intimate ones that get into the psychology of the Batman and his enemies. Many of these sequences come to the narrative courtesy of the Scarecrow, who doses Batman with his fear-inducing toxins and sends him spiraling into a series of hallucinations. 

The most harrowing of these doubled as a shock for players. While walking down a hallway, Batman hears a voice over the asylum's intercoms ask, "Did anyone catch the game last night?" He passes a busted pipe that is spilling some kind of gas and gives a small cough when everything … stops. The game's movement stutters to a halt and the imagery becomes garbled before everything cuts to black, simulating a total console crash.

The screen will eventually come back up, now playing a twisted nightmare version of the game's opening cutscene. In the time of the dreaded "Red Ring of Death," this was a brilliantly mean fakeout to pull on players who were expecting a run of the mill action game. 

It's your funeral - Hitman: Blood Money

Fans of the Hitman series were likely shocked when Hitman: Blood Money seemingly ended with Agent 47's handler, Diana Burnwood, stabbing him with some kind of a syringe and leaving him for dead. More than one player certainly set their controllers down in disbelief as the scene shifted to the somber setting of Agent 47's funeral and the sight of Diana kissing Agent 47 goodbye, just before the credits began to roll.

However, players were in for one more surprise, as Diana's kiss actually administered the cure for the drug she gave him to slow his heart rate. If players act quickly enough, they can revive Agent 47 for one last mission: to kill everyone at the funeral, leaving no witnesses to his miraculous survival. The credits will then abruptly stop and the scene will come back into focus as 47 rises from the slab and continues his work. In a game with a plot full of double crosses and secret plans, the best secret was undoubtedly this surprise epilogue.

The boss battle that won't end - Bayonetta

From the titular character's moves to the gigantic, screen-filling boss battles, the Bayonetta series is one that revels in excess. With that in mind, let's be honest: the final battle against Jubileus in the first Bayonetta is easily the wildest part of the whole franchise. Boss battles that happen in phases are nothing new, but the Jubileus battle just keeps ramping up, with the divine entity transforming into different forms every time you think you've whittled its health down. Once the dark god falls, though, it really falls … and that's where the best fakeout in Bayonetta comes in.

A cutscene rolls, showing Bayonetta standing on Jubileus' massive stone corpse as it falls into the Earth's atmosphere. The credits start to play as it appears that Bayonetta and many unfortunate people on Earth will meet a fiery end when the creature lands.

Then, you'll be given control of Bayonetta again, destroying Jubileus' remains as the credits continue to roll. If you don't finish the job, you'll actually fail the final mission. Only Bayonetta would have the audacity to bury its final mission objective during the end credits.

Saved by a rubber tree - The Secret of Monkey Island

The Secret of Monkey Island games don't just break the fourth wall; they frequently enjoy grabbing the fourth wall and snapping it over their knees, leaving players with hilarious questions. For instance, the twist ending of the second game has been the subject of much debate over the years. However, the Monkey Island series also enjoys subverting expectations in smaller ways, like in this memorable sequence from the first game in the series. 

If players move the game's hero, Guybrush Threepwood, too close to the edge of a certain cliff in the game, the edge of the mountain will crumble. Guy brush will then fall off the screen in the style of Wile E. Coyote, delayed reaction and all. A text box will pop up on the screen, telling you that "You've really screwed up this time!" Regardless of what you click, Guybrush will then bounce back up onto the cliffside, completely unscathed. His only explanation of how he's survived being the words "Rubber tree!" 

Scaring the heck out of unsuspecting players for the sake of a dumb pun? Now that is some classic Monkey Island humor.

Losing your mind - Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem

Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem is pretty much the king of the fakeout. Heck, it's practically a gameplay mechanic. In Eternal Darkness, players have a Sanity Meter, which depletes when encountering the various monsters in the game. As the player character's Sanity drains, the game finds more and more ways of manipulating the player and the game world for maximum stress.

The screen will sometimes go completely black, creating the illusion that the player's television has turned off or that the game had crashed. You can sometimes open your inventory screen only to find that it appears empty, momentarily tricking you into thinking you've lost all of your supplies. Maybe the most infamous example of these is a pop-up that may occur while you save your game, which says, "Are you sure you want to delete all of your Saved Games?" The game will then tell you that all of your saves have been deleted. 

Of course, they haven't actually been deleted, but that might still be the cruelest way a game has ever frightened anxious players.

The cake really was a lie - Portal

Throughout the trials of the first Portal game, lead protagonist Chell was continually promised cake if she managed to complete all of the test rooms she's been put through by the mad artificial intelligence system known as GLaDOS. However, Chell also frequently found the meme-worthy phrase "The cake is a lie" scrawled upon the walls. While players likely knew something odd was waiting for them at the end, they may not have expected things to turn out quite the way that they did.

After the "final" test, Chamber 19, GLaDOS congratulates you for completing the trials and then says her goodbyes, leading the player to believe it's all over … after which GLaDOS activates a massive oven. It turns out that the plan was to dispose of you all along. Not only is there no cake, but there are still a few chambers to go before you face GLaDOS and repay her for her "hospitality." It's a bait-and-switch of the highest order, and it makes navigating the final rooms that much more intense.

Mr. Resetti lives up to his name - Animal Crossing

The mole named Mr. Resetti may be the orneriest of the Animal Crossing series' cutesy characters. As mentioned by the Animal Crossing Wiki, "His job is to make sure that all players save continuously throughout gameplay. The more the player resets within the Animal Crossing games (or turns off the power without saving), the harsher he gets." He's not joking around, either, as players of the original Animal Crossing found out.

Essentially, if you switched off or reset the GameCube without saving your game, Resetti would be hanging around outside your house the next time you turned it on, with increasingly angry warnings against doing that again. After ignoring his warnings enough times, he'll take matters into his own hands. After a threat that the player is about to lose all of their progress, the screen will go completely black for a few moments, giving the illusion that the game has reset itself. 

Luckily though, it's all a prank from Mr. Resetti, who will laugh at your concern and give you another of his usual warning. Let this fake out serve as a lesson: always save your game.

A last minute rescue - Dead Space 2

Unlike some of the other entries on this list, this Dead Space 2 fakeout actually comes as a welcome surprise. Dead Space 2 follows series protagonist Isaac Clarke's efforts to destroy the Site 12 Marker, a massive structure that has caused an alien outbreak on a space station called Sprawl. In the game's final chapter, after outrunning packs of hideous creatures and defeating a manifestation of the previous Marker's influence in his own mind, Isaac seems to accept that he will not be able to escape the Marker's destruction. Isaac slumps to the ground as the entire structure crumbles around him and the credits begin to roll. Pretty bleak, right?

Not so fast. The credits are interrupted as Isaac receives a message from a fellow survivor named Ellie. She rams a ship through the ceiling, and the space station's gravity switches off, prompting an exciting antigravity escape sequence that has caused more than a few players to scramble for their controllers so they could guide Isaac out of the exploding Sprawl.

THIS is your main character - Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

The mere existence of Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is one of the biggest fakeouts in the history of gaming, not to mention one of the most controversial. As GamesRadar once put it, "Metal Gear Solid 2's bait-and-switch is practically legend at this point."

Following an extensive marketing campaign that included footage and a demo of usual series protagonist Solid Snake up to his normal shenanigans of sneaking around and shooting enemies, anticipation for the sequel was at an all-time high. However, it all turned out to be a huge misdirect. The action seen in the trailers and the demo was all from the first chapter of the game, a mission which ends with Solid Snake apparently drowning after an explosive mission gone wrong.

Following this mission, players are introduced to Raiden, the true lead character of the Metal Gear Solid sequel. Fans were blown away by the revelation, and mostly not in a good way. The debate over whether or not this particular fakeout deserved the flak it received continues to this day.