Because sometimes it's good to be bad.
Games based on the time-honored Alien franchise typically fall flat—here’s looking at you, Colonial Marines—but Rebellion’s Aliens vs. Predator presented something truly novel with its three-tiered campaign. Such a setup allowed players to control the Predators, the Xenomorphs and the Colonial Marines—each with their own individual plot and gameplay mechanics—that came together to form a single, overarching narrative. Because who wouldn’t like to be placed in control of a marauding Xenomorph capable of destroying anyone and anything in its path? Game over, man!
In honor of Battlefront II, Star Wars: TIE Fighter is another great example of shifting the focus over to the baddies, not least because it’s essentially a reskinned version of Star Wars: X-Wing. Under the command of Darth Vader, players are left scrambling across Lucasfilm’s far-away galaxy to hunt down the Rebel insurgents. Indeed, TIE Fighter deserves a special mention because it was the first Star Wars game told through the lens of the Galactic Empire.
“Do I want them to love me…or fear me?”
This one is admittedly a little ambiguous — not unlike the moral compass that underpins Sucker Punch’s series — but with inFamous, players were left facing countless conundrums, as that all-important Karma meter swayed from guardian to criminal…from hero to infamous. Guiding Cole MacGrath (and later Delsin Rowe) along that path proved incredibly engaging, too, and the fact that an ‘evil playthrough’ was encouraged only makes inFamous all the more unique. Granted, Star Wars: The Old Republic is also a fine example of this trait in that BioWare’s licensed title allowed players to toe the line between the dark side and the light.
Though it may err on the side of hyperbole, Manhunt is arguably one of the most controversial games ever made. Rockstar’s stealth-heavy thriller was mired in controversy from the outset, when many countries outright banned Manhunt for its over-the-top (gratuitous?) violence. But still, it persisted, and even earned a sequel in 2007. Story-wise, the original Manhunt had you play death row prisoner James Earl Cash, who was forced to cameo in a series of snuff films—films in which a person is actually murdered, or commits suicide. It’s chilling stuff, but Rockstar’s incredibly violent, blood-splattered opus still deserves an honorable mention.
Though it proved to be a casualty of THQ's bankruptcy, Destroy All Humans was a wacky, wonderfully tongue-in-cheek series that dialled the action up to 11. Taking control of a pint-sized E.T., players were able to pulverise puny humans without so much as a care in the world.
Rolling back the years to a true arcade classic, Midway’s Rampage put players in control of three super-sized monsters: George, an impossibly huge gorilla that would give King Kong a run for his money; Lizzie, the Godzilla-like lizard and byproduct of a radioactive lake; and Ralph, a massive werewolf capable of tearing down everything in its paths. Oh, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will headline a film adaptation of Rampage in 2018 by way of Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema. So there’s that.
Call of Duty: WWII may be the talk of the town, but cast your mind back to 2009’s Modern Warfare 2 and you’ll likely recall the controversy that stemmed from Infinity Ward’s “No Russian” level. Opening in Zakhaev International Airport, players were given the choice to open fire on a sea of innocent civilians, which would later trigger World War III. It’s a relatively small portion of an otherwise excellent campaign, and the “No Russian” level was later referenced via flashback in Modern Warfare 3, when the player-character tried in vein to stop the sadistic Makarov.
Rockstar Games really shook up the formula with the release of Grand Theft Auto V in 2013; after all, this is a sandbox title that lets you control not one, not two, but three fully-fledged avatars in Michael, Franklin and Trevor. And it’s the latter who resonated the most with fans. Brought to life by an excellent Steven Ogg (The Walking Dead, Westworld), Trevor was the undisputed wild card of GTAV, and Rockstar’s three-tier character wheel put players in control of an unhinged maniac. Hell, any time you switched to Trevor, Ogg’s in-game psychopath was usually stumbling out of a bush or lying next to a lake completely wasted—and that’s ‘wasted’ as in drunk, not the GTA definition of ‘wasted’.