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The top 10 video game betrayals

by theScore Staff Jun 12 2017

The medium of video games provides an interesting avenue for betrayal narratives. After all, when a character betrays the protagonist in a game, they're also stabbing you — the player — in the back.

With that in mind, theScore esports decided to take a look at some of the most memorable and heartbreaking (non-anime) betrayals in gaming.

Ahoy! Thar be SPOILERS in these waters!

10. Delita - Final Fantasy Tactics

History is written by the winners. Just ask Delita Heiral, the wise king of Ivalice who got to his position by betraying, backstabbing and murdering everyone he could.

Originally the main character's — Ramza's — best friend from their days in military academy, after his apparent death he returns as a member of the Knights of the Southern Sky with plans to rise to the top of the food chain by any means necessary.

After framing you and your ally for a murder, Delita does do you a solid and let you go on to defeat Ultima before he can destroy the world ... but then he takes all the credit for it, becomes king and basically erases your role from history for about a thousand years. #SquadGoals.

9. Kreia - Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II

From the start of KOTOR II, there's something fishy about the mysterious blind Jedi Kreia. Unlike Obi-Wan Kenobi or Yoda, Kreia is ruthless, chastising your character for both selfless heroism and YOLO cruelty. As far as she's concerned, any action that doesn't further your goals is short-sighted and a waste of time.

However, if you spend time with her and learn her lessons, you'll discover that she was once Darth Traya, teacher of Revan and Mistress of Betrayal for the Sith Triumvirate. She was (ironically) betrayed and left for dead by her former allies.

True to her title, in the last act of the game Kreia turns against you, revealing that she wants to destroy the Force entirely using the "Force Wound" your character carries, which sucks the Force out of living beings.

To be fair though, you should probably have seen it coming.

8. Cortana - Halo 5: Guardians

Throughout his many adventures, Master Chief has always had his small computer girlfriend Cortana at his side.

At least until Halo 5: Guardians, where the tiny digitized lady turns against MC after coming back from the dead by awakening the titular Guardians in a bizarre bid for galactic peace by forcing disarmament.

Just like in the seminal 1999 film The Iron Giant. Fun fact: Vin Diesel voiced the giant.

7. Arcturus Mengsk - StarCraft

In the end, the biggest monster in the StarCraft series wasn't any Zerg abomination or ancient evil, it was a greedy, duplicitous man by the name of Arcturus Mengsk.

Leader of the rebel group the Sons of Korhal, Mengsk was Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan's ally in the war against the oppressive Terran Confederacy.

However, Mengsk crossed the line when he used psi emitters to summon Zerg swarms to destroy the Confederacy's capital world Tarsonis, allowing him to create his own oppressive regime, the Terran Dominion.

If that wasn't bad enough, he also left Kerrigan — his most loyal subordinate — to die on Tarsonis, inadvertently causing her transformation to The Queen of Blades.

6. Teyrn Loghain - Dragon Age: Origin

From the outset of 2009's Dragon Age: Origins, the land of Ferelden has enough problems on its hands, what with the plague of Dark Spawn encroaching on its borders and all. However, the situation gets significantly worse when King Cailan and his army are killed during the Battle of Ostagar after his mentor (and father-in-law) holds back his armies in order to take control of the country.

While it was very easy to see it coming — if only because Teyrn is a sinister looking bastard — the betrayal complicates the rest of the game significantly with Loghain launching a smear campaign against the remaining Grey Wardens and siccing an army of assassins on you.

However, even worse than what Teyrn Loghain does to you, particularly ruthless players have the option to spit on the sacrifices of your fellow Grey Wardens, including your own mentor Duncan, by inducting Loghain into the order and letting him join your party. Though you can't do that without killing or alienating your long-time ally and rightful king Alistair, forcing you to either kill him or exile him ... with hilarious results.

5. The Boss - Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Suiting a Cold War narrative, MGS 3 is a game replete with betrayals and double-crosses, starting with Naked Snake's mentor, The Boss, switching sides at the outset of the game, joining the Soviets along with her super-powered comrades, the Cobra Unit.

After slaying the Cobras, stopping the psychotic Colonel Volgin and his Shagohod, Snake finally confronts his erstwhile mentor in a field of white flowers.

But after killing her and winning the title of "Big Boss," Snake discovers she was never a traitor to begin with. The Boss had been under orders from the CIA to infiltrate Volgin's organization and then to sacrifice herself so the US could feign innocence in the international incident.

Rather than betraying her country, The Boss had been betrayed by her country.

4. Edgar Ross - Red Dead Redemption

Arguably, John Marston is the true traitor of Red Dead Redemption, hunting down his former gang after the US government takes his family hostage.

However, after winning his family's freedom and returning to his life as a mild-mannered rancher — for several agonizingly boring missions — Marston discovers there's no such thing as a fresh start when he and his family are attacked by an army of US Marshals.

That inevitable betrayal led to a climactic last stand every bit as sad and cathartic as anything out of The Wild Bunch or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

3. Arthas - Warcraft III

A wise man once said you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. Arthas Menethil did both.

As Prince of Lordaeron and Knight of the Silver Hand, Arthas protected the realm from orcs, necromancers and all manner of evil. However, when he attained the cursed runeblade Frostmourne in an attempt to kill a demon lord, he became a Death Knight and an avatar of the Lich King.

With his newfound power over the undead, Arthas murdered his mentor and returned to his kingdom where he killed his own father.

The Lich King's reign of terror would continue into World of Warcraft, where it would take several of the Horde and Alliance's bravest members (and Tirion Fordring) to take him down.

2. Joel - The Last of Us

At its heart, The Last of Us is a story about two damaged people learning to trust each other while killing fungal zombies.

The relationship that grows between Joel and Ellie is one of the richest in gaming, replete with depth, humor and sympathy. Their bond is so strong, Joel slaughters a hospital full of freedom fighters trying to use Ellie's brain to create a vaccine to stop the virus.

However that bond is tarnished at the end of the game, where Ellie — who was unconscious during the hospital assault — asks Joel what really happened.

1. Atlas - BioShock

"Would you kindly?" — the phrase is still enough to send shivers down any Bioshock fan's spine. Throughout the first half of the game, your character —Jack — traverses the ruins of the Objectivist utopia Rapture at the behest of former resistance leader Atlas.

However, it's not until you confront the city's demented patriarch Andrew Ryan that you discover that your character wasn't going through this nightmare just because a kindly Irishman asked nicely.

As it turns out, you're Ryan's son and Atlas was actually gangster Frank Fontaine who kidnapped you and conditioned you to obey any order preceded by the phrase "Would you kindly?" The order is engrained so deeply, Ryan commits suicide-by-estranged-son, asking you to kindly beat him to death with a golf club.

More than just a shocking in-plot betrayal, players had a visceral feeling of being betrayed by the game. Suddenly, any illusion of agency was stripped away and they became all too aware of being puppets strung along strings.

Honorable Mention: Griffith - Berserk and the Band of the Hawk

Gotcha! This was an anime betrayals list all along!

Based on the long-running manga by Kentaro Miura, the Dynasty Warriors-style Berserk and the Band of the Hawk follows Guts, a mercenary with a really big sword, and his will-they-won't-they relationship with his leader Griffith and second-in-command, Casca.

However, when Griffith offers his comrades' souls over to demonic entities for unholy power, Guts escapes (sans an eye and an arm) and swears vengeance on his former friend.

Though of course, the real betrayal is the poorly rendered 2016-17 CGI anime adaptation of the series.

What do you think? Were there any particularly odious betrayals we missed? Chime in on Twitter or Facebook!

Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

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