When Being Bad In Video Games Is Better Than Being Good

When Being Bad In Video Games Is Better Than Being Good

The idea of choice in video games has been touted as a desirable feature for some time, and even though your choices don’t always have meaning, it doesn’t look like they’ll be going away any time soon. As much as some games give you the choice to be delightfully evil, most people will still feel the urge to do the ‘right’ thing. Just this week, many have been intrigued by Fallout 4’s ‘sarcastic’ dialogue option — while not everyone actually dares to press it. So here for your benefit, I’ve rounded up some of the top moments where making the ‘wrong’ decision actually results in a more interesting experience.

Warning: This post may contain spoilers.

Bioware is a studio that is notorious for enabling players to create evil characters — the morality system in Knights Of The Old Republic let you join the dark side just like Anakin, Mass Effect had its paragon and renegade system, often giving renegade players the option to punch a wide variety of characters, while most of the Dragon Age games straight out let you be a dick without even measuring your morality.

Knights Of The Old Republic

This is an easy one. Turning to the dark side in KOTOR will let you ultimately usurp the Sith Lord Darth Malak, taking control of the remaining Sith forces. While the light side Jedi are all well and fine, they’re all a bit boring when it comes down to it. Mastering your emotions, avoiding attachments, it really must suck. Besides, who wouldn’t want to shoot lightning out of their hands?

Dragon Age Inquisition

While the most recent instalment in the series was a bit disappointing in the lack of truly evil decisions available, it was also the first Dragon Age game to include two unique and mutually exclusive quest paths depending on the decisions you made — unfortunately, most people picked the wrong one. Throughout the series, the Templars are seen as one of the ‘evil’ forces of Thedas, usually pitted against the oppressed minority of mages. In Inquisition you are once again given the choice to choose between the mages and the Templars, and while there are no official stats on which side most players chose, some fansite polls suggest less than 30 per cent went with the Templar storyline. Putting the mage vs Templar debate aside, I found the Templar storyline to be far more interesting — despite being the option that a majority of players will never experience.

Why is it so good? To begin with, you get to encounter a super creepy Envy demon. It looks like something straight out of Silent Hill, and it wants to get inside your Inquisitor to use the Inquisition as a force for evil. The quest involves an alternate future (just like the mage storyline — but better), showing what harm an evil Inquisitor could do to the world. What’s more, you get introduced to Ser Barris, one of the most decent Templars you’ll ever meet. This guy is a wonderful human being, and if you complete the Templar quest, he gets put in charge of the Templar order.

Siding with the Templars also means that way down the track you’ll meet one of the best characters in the entire game — Calpernia, Corypheus’s 2IC and the leader of the Venatori, who replaces the Red Templar Commander Samson.

She’s a former Tevinter slave and powerful mage who has been travelling through Thedas, freeing slaves left right and centre. You don’t even have to fight her if you play your cards right. She’ll turn on Corypheus, going to confront him on his treachery and risking her life to buy your Inquisitor some time.

Dragon Age 2

A similar dilemma happens in Dragon Age 2. Act 3 asks you to choose either mages or Templars to support, and while this decision ultimately has little impact on the gameplay, the ending is different enough to warrant choosing the unpopular option — which, again, is the Templars.

If you side with Meredith (at least until the point when she goes lyrium-crazy and turns on you) the game ends with what remains of the Templar Order bowing down to Hawke and ultimately making her/him the next Viscount of Kirkwall. Kirkwall is still a bit of a shithole, it’s true, but who doesn’t want to wear a cool crown and order everyone around?

Dragon Age: Origins

And then there’s Dragon Age: Origins. This was a game where you could shank a wounded soldier just because you couldn’t be bothered to help him back to camp, or kill a man in a cage just to steal some low-level loot. It’s a game where, over the course of the storyline, you’re given the chance to kill at least half of the people in your roster of companions.

Opportunities for mayhem in Origins are ripe, and all of it tends to lead to some interesting dialogue options. One of the best ‘evil’ decisions, however, was convincing the werewolves to attack and slaughter the Dalish — whereby you gain the cursed pack as allies instead. Not only is it a completely immoral option, it also required a certain level in persuasion, and thus was one of the rarer decisions that could be made. If you do it, nobody really wins. The werewolves don’t get cured, the Dalish are slaughtered — but the Warden gets a sweet army of werewolves to join them for the final battle.

Mass Effect

Oh Mass Effect, how I miss your renegade interrupts. Despite how very satisfying it is to sass the council, Udina, multiple random NPCs and pretty much anyone who dares to question Shepard, Bioware has revealed that only 35.5 per cent of players played a renegade Shep. If you’re among the majority who chose the wrong alignment, here are a few key moments that you may have missed out on.

To be fair, this first, infamous scene was one that a lot of paragon Shepards also overcame their better nature to experience — really, who could resist punching that nosy and obnoxious reporter, Khalisah al-Jilani? In fact, it was such a popular option that Bioware let players do it in all three games:

Mass Effect 2

A lot of the renegade options throughout the series were fairly violent, but that isn’t always a bad thing in this universe. While taking Grunt to Tuchanka to experience puberty in Mass Effect 2, one of the renegade interrupts in a conversation with a doubting krogan allows you to interrupt him mid-sentence — with a headbutt. Rather than pissing them off, this actually gains Shepard the respect of many of the krogan. It’s gotta hurt, but Shepard plays it off, true to form.

Mass Effect 3

The ultimate renegade action of the Mass Effect trilogy comes at the very end of the series, however — and it wasn’t even available in the original cut of Mass Effect 3, only being introduced in the Extended Cut DLC. The so-called refusal ending has Shepard shooting the Catalyst, denying the choice it has given her/him and deciding not to decide at all. For your average renegade Shepard, this ending could actually be considered far more in character than any of the red/green/blue choices. The Catalyst’s pissed off “so be it” is pretty satisfying too.

Fallout 4

While some people have complained about the vague nature of Fallout 4’s dialogue system, whereby you have absolutely no idea what the ‘sarcastic’ response is actually going to entail before it comes out of your characters mouth, some of the best dialogue comes from taking a chance and picking this option. After all, what better time to be a sarcastic arsehole than in a post-apocalyptic world gone to shit? NOTE: There are no spoilers in this video, though it does show some early dialogue.

Far Cry 4

This is an interesting one. By going against what the game wants you to do, you can actually get an entirely different ending smack bang in the intro segment. Far Cry 4 starts by giving you an objective to sneak out of main antagonist Pagan Min’s house when he leaves, saying he’ll be right back — but if you stick around at the table for 15 minutes, things take an entirely different direction.

It turns out Min isn’t actually the bad guy: he wants to help you scatter your mother’s ashes as you intended to do in the first place. He even reveals that he is the father of player character Ajay’s half sister, Lakshmana, and leads him to the shrine where her ashes are kept. Ajay leaves his mother’s ashes there as well, and Min invites Ajay to join him to “shoot some goddamn guns”. Pity the poor player who left their game unpaused for 15 minutes to make a cup of tea and returned to find the game already over.

Until Dawn

To me, Until Dawn is a prime candidate for a game where the good ending is not actually the best ending. What kind of horror movie has all the teenagers living through to the end, after all? As something that is arguably based more on the decisions made than the actual gameplay, Until Dawn has many more interesting moments hidden within the labyrinth of its butterfly effect system. With the ability to turn on ‘global stats’ and see what percentage of people chose (or didn’t choose) a certain option, it’s also possible to pinpoint some of the most unpopular decisions.

One of these comes early when Chris and Ashley are exploring the basement. At one point, Ashley has the option to split off from Chris and investigate a figure she saw walking around another part of the basement. By all the rules of horror this is a bad, bad, bad idea, but it actually leads to a cool little scene where Ashley spies on the psycho in his workshop. Even though the scene isn’t dangerous — with no decisions or even quick time events, only 22 per cent of people chose this option. Because you miss out on seeing the doll on the meat hook through the main door, Chris will also scare her with it when she re-enters the main room. Jerk.

One of my favourite true arsehole moments in Until Dawn comes when you’re playing as Matt, however. When Emily is hanging off the edge of the fallen fire tower with a huge fall into the mines beneath her, Matt can either comfort her, or confront her about her overly close relationship with her supposed ex-boyfriend, Mike. Surprisingly, only 29 per cent of people made Emily suffer before abandoning her to her death. If you do decide to push her about it, here’s how it goes down:

While some of these options have included doing some pretty nasty things — even if the recipients are only video game characters — but there’s one virtual dick move that easily trumps the rest of them in pure malevolence. That is, of course, Tabletop Simulator’s table flipping option:

While I’ve covered a few examples of this phenomenon here, there are a plethora of games out there that reward you in some way for being bad. What are your favourites? Tell us in the comments!


  • I still remember zapping all the good guys with force lightening in KOTOR after going bad. Was a great moment in gaming. Also I let emily fall in until dawn I also shot her without hesitation because she was so damn annoying

    • I finds Emily annoying too! She’s bossy, loud-mouthed, ungreatful, and pissing annoying in general. I did what you did

  • The Fable series’ pure evil look has always been the coolest look for any character I’ve made. For me, the choice is never about good and evil, it’s always about “What abilities do I want?” or “What look do I want?” or even “What ending/characters/events do I want?”

  • I.. I… I just can’t! I’ve tried to play a bad person in a few games, and every time after a few rounds of dialogue I come out feeling like an asshole and end up re-rolling a nice character instead. I feel like I’m missing out but I just can’t handle those sad looks NPCs give you.

    • That’s why I always had two playthroughs of the Mass Effect games. Once as FemShep, full paragon and friend of all living creatures, and once as BroShep, the douchiest douche who ever graced the Galaxy. No one could control his sass!

    • Haha, me exactly. When I tried to play ME as a renegade I stopped after the very first line of dialogue; I can’t handle Joker thinking I’m a belligerent asshole, let alone doing something like killing Mordin in the third game.

      • I play renegade but there are just some things my Shep doesn’t do. I am planning on doing a dude Shep darkest timeline playthrough once though where I make all the choices I otherwise couldn’t.

    • I know that feel…

      I can’t be mean to these not-people who don’t exist! THEY WILL BE SAAAAAD

  • I play as the arsehole in Mario games. If someone appears on screen, you’d better believe I’m going to fuck their shit up.

  • It is so much easier to play evil as most evil choices involve doing nothing, or next to nothing

    Good: Travel to these 3 locations, fight the bosses, collect the objects, travel to this location, do this task, then return to and get good karma and a shiny coin

    Bad: Kill the quest giver, take their stuff, get bad karma and 2 shiny coins

    The only thing that usually compels us to do the Good quest is that as a functioning member of society we are inherently good and feel bad about doing the evil thing. In game it is easier to be evil, but as the person playing the game, the internal conflict often compels us to be good.

    I often struggle to do the evil path and stay on it and usually end up neutral or good because there are some Good quests that are more rewarding than the Evil alternative.

    • I also struggle with the bad options. I usually pick the underhanded good guy though in older games like Ultima or Fallout. Cool yep I’ll do your quest and save your town.. I’ll also sneak into your room and rob your safe, or in ultima viii i remember casting an invisible spell in a jewellers house, robbing it when she went to bed then selling her inventory back to her. Mysterious hero stranger by day, cat burgler by night.

  • I find it so funny that I got the secret Farcry 4 ending without even knowing about it.
    Started the game up, get to the table scene and get called away for dinner. Forgot to pause the game, so after grabbing my dinner and eating it in front of the console, suddenly Pagan Min wanders back in and takes me to the shrine.
    I now don’t want to play through the game normally where he’s the antagonist.

  • For me the best way to play KOTOR is as a Neutral Female. The Bad dialog options are funnier and trying to romance bastilla is hillarious. Yet you still get to impact the galaxy on your own terms, as opposed to following along with a predetermined path of either Good or Bad. which seems much more true to what the player character is meant to be like

  • I know they’re a little old now but BLACK&WHITE! Playing evil in those games was hilarious and pretty much easymode.

      • Getting your creature to fling poop for good was hilarious, doubley so if your villagers saw it (they either ran for their lives or collectively went ‘oooohhhhhhh!’).

  • My first play through I always just try to do as I would in that situation.

    Because of this I always find it funny when games try to present a difficult moral choice and then assign “right” and “wrong” to each option, particularly when it then demonstrates your “evilness” on an “evil bar” (Mass Effect/ Fable/ KOTOR style).

    As someone who considers himself somewhat of a cold-hearted, well-meaning rationalist it’s always slightly funny to be told you’ve made an evil choice when you’re just trying to do the right thing.


    This was further compacted by the Mass Effect series and it’s short but open descriptions of “choices”. I remember once I selected the ‘renegade’ option during an interview with a female journalist.
    BLAMMO! Shepard punched that b*tch right in the face!

    I generally have a rule the I don’t reload and change my decisions if things go south, but I was so horrified I had to go back and do something softer. I had every expectation that he was going to tell her to go to hell…. but not that!

  • I liked that Mass Effect was more “badass” than “bad” but there were still ways to be truly evil.

    For the record if you shot Mordin for any reason other than curiousity about whether it was possible and didn’t feel horrible because of it, we can’t be friends.

  • There were two points in the first Mass Effect game where I took the “needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” style option and then was a bit surprised to get Renegade points for them. I think the Renegade vs Paragon options can be a bit simplistic in some cases.

  • There were no interrupts in the original Mass Effect. Pretty sure they were introduced in ME2.

  • One of the reasons why I loved ME was the fact it allowed me to play a mix of paragon and renegade due to how the new game+ system worked. It was this reason that I played through one Shepard profile three times I get the choices I ultimately wanted. It’s also why I was so disappointed with 2 because it didn’t allow me this option.

    I think youll find the stats, while leaning towards one side or the other in numbers, are a little more complex than that. Most people like to play complex characters, people who play pure characters are in the minority, at least that’s what I predict. While most Shepard’s went paragon the the case of the ME series, I can say my Shepard for one was more 70/30 paragon to renegade.

    Was going to write some more on game morality systems but I’ll leave it at that haha. Phone keyboards have their limits.

    • ME1 was the best Mass Effect for me (i.e. it came closest to the vision of the game and universe I had) and my favourite over all, ME2 was the best game but the story was rubbish and thereby was my least favourite with ME3 sitting happily in the middle on all three counts (story, gameplay and Mass Effect-ness). I’m really hoping ME4 leans more towards ME1’s style (inclusions of the Mako and a focus on planet exploration gives me hope) because something was really lost moving from ME1 to ME2. Honestly I never much liked the morality systems in any of them because I’m so stuck in a Paragon mindset that chosing something other than the top option felt like a betrayal of my character even though I might have chosen differently if the Paragon/Renegade system wasn’t organised as clearly and rigidly as it was.

      • For me, 2 lost pretty much all the world building and immersion elements found in 1. The mission structures, map layouts, weapon simplification just ruined a lot of things. The beauty of 1 as you say, was its ability to craft a believable and breathing world. The alien cultures, the technology, the politics. For someone who has always loved space fantasy/sci-fi but wasn’t really into either Star Trek or Star Wars per se, ME1 made itself MY universe to love. Definitely hoping ME4 can try and deliver that magic that was found in 1 again.

  • The sarcasm option in Fallout 4 seems to be pretty well made. Depending on the character you talk to, it can be worth using.

    I wasn’t using sarcasm at all in game, but a person I met said something that I would’ve answered sarcastically to in real life. So I hit the button and made the NPC laugh, tell me they thought I was a pretty cool person and gave me a little something for making them smile.

    Edit: Every time people mention Mass Effect, I’m reminded that I’m probably the only person in the universe who thinks ME2 was a mechanically bland Gears of War clone with bullet sponge enemies and almost zero RPG elements. 1 was the best RPG and 3 was the best gameplay-wise.

  • Look, I’m not a writer, I’m only reasonably educated but I’m curious as to the combative and arrogant tone to a glaring number of articles appearing for the enthusiast press, today. I’m not posing a question, or presenting a perspective because this exists based upon the conventions of the English language and literature, there is no debate, there is no “I don’t think…”, there’s no “you’re wrong” – you people just agree with the perspective – totally cool but irrelevant to the point. If you are educated in English, ESL or English lit, you know the conventions. What I’d like to know is; If these conventions were created upon the basis of effective, considered and holistic communication – why are they not used? Because as soon as I start reading, arrogance appears due to a glorification of one’s own perspective and an overgeneralisation of others with no empathetic, researched or even holistic anecdotal meaning or reasoning attached.

    I’m just very confused as to why or even how a presumably educated person with a writing job would be so careless and narcissistic with their perspectives and engagement towards other people that they would attempt to define one, sole accepted truth about any issue, idea or concept without scaffolding the information for them or challenging yourself with an alternate perspective. Doesn’t this imply the perspective is worthless – since it isn’t tested, just assumed and appropriated? Doesn’t this kind of undermine the relationship between the work and the audience? If the work was meant to inform and entertain based on an idea, yet is solely a representation of the writer’s thoughts and emotions without any empathy (existing in the writing at all) for the audience, then what motivation does the reader have to let it inform him or her and how effectively does it entertain them if their perspectives (unconsidered) lie at odds with those expressed in the writing? If the perspective were informed, the audience member might be inclined to discuss the dissonance they feel – when it is not supported or informed, however, it’s simply combative and/or ignorant. Taking this into account, isn’t the reader under no philosophical onus to consider the way they engage people with the topic – because the consideration expected of the writer was not afforded to the audience?

    There seems to be a lot excuses floating around this topic, some saying that no matter what – there’s no excuse for the way the audience generally acts. There isn’t. We aren’t talking excuses, however – we’re talking reasoning, why do writers show such little respect for people’s perspectives, today? You can read any gaming culture article from say, 6 years ago and it will blow you away with the information they cover, the perspectives considered, how well it’s written and how much fun it was to read. Culture has changed, we value different things, now – I’m just consistently trying to understand why a functional and integral part of written communication and creative writing – challenging yourself with alternate perspectives – has been replaced with narcissistically appropriating them? There is no expectation to change a perspective or any of the content – merely to add to it and I’m not sure why that’s an issue for people.

    I feel like this level of consideration and responsibility produced some amazing, fun, informative and insightful writing – articles today feel like someone wants to tell us something because we’re all stupid and need to be told. Have you ever been at school, work or any situation of dissonance where just telling someone a series of perspectives without scaffolding the information or consideration for whom you are talking to EVER worked? Since when has stating something controversial and walking away with a smirk been successful as communication? Why are so many headlines outlandish, subjective perspectives presented as fact? Something has been lost in the enthusiast press over recent years and it’s basic respect for the audience.

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