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Heel Realization / Video Games

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Heel Realizations in video games.


  • To some extent, the plot of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is one long, drawn-out one if you see the ancestor character to be a Villain Protagonist.
  • In Asura's Wrath, Yasha spent the last 12,000 years going along with the plans of the same people who killed his sister and his brother-in-law, enslaved his niece, and regularly slaughter people for their souls. All for the sake of the "cause" — preventing the complete destruction of humanity at the hands of the Gohma. He justified it by believing with all his might that it truly was the only way to save humanity in the long run. Confronting Asura again and seeing how much power he's attained without mass human sacrifice helps Yasha realize that Deus' plan isn't the only way to save the world. When Asura calls Yasha and the other Deities fools for killing seven trillion people as part of their plan to "save" the world, Yasha agrees.
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  • In Back to the Future: The Game, Edna Strickland is hit with one of these in the fifth episode, after admitting that she accidentally burned Hill Valley to the ground when trying to destroy a speakeasy in the 1930s.
    Edna: I'm a hooligan!
  • In Baten Kaitos, Kalas primary motivation from the beginning of the game was avenging the slaughter of his little brother and grandfather, but he went way too far and nearly doomed his planet, countless innocent people, and the lost ocean itself because of it. While he does angst about it quite a bit (though not enough in the opinion of some fans). His comrades do forgive him and don't mention his part in the current disaster much.
  • If the Arcade Endings of Blaz Blue Chrono Phantasma is any indication, then Litchi Faye-Ling finally had this. On top of being told that Kokonoe has not just abandoned her, but made her an enemy that she would not hesitate to kill, she is also told by Rachel that her efforts and insistence in saving Arakune and siding with NOL is going to bring the Day of Destruction, killing many people when she thought she wasn't planning to hurt anyone in her quest. On this realization, she broke down in tears, and we're gonna have to see if this characterization will stick in the console Story Mode, or ignored.
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  • Dawn of War 2: More of an Unwitting Pawn Realization: After finally being convinced that Chapter Master Kyras is actually serving Chaos as Cyrus has been telling him for the past twenty years, Diomedes has a breakdown, since it means a great many of the things he's done (for several hundred years) as the traitor's unwitting enforcer weren't for the good of the Imperium or the Chapter after all.
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the character Hugh Darrow, father of human augmentation, justifies his actions in driving every augmented person in the world violently insane with a mass produced 'upgrade' to their bio-chips, by claiming they were necessary to show the world the dangers of mechanical augmentation, wanting to end human augmentation so that future generations may grow up without being surrounded by dangerous cyborgs and the torture of having to rely on an anti-rejection drug or die a slow and painful death, and is unwilling to let the Illuminati he conspires with control humankind through his technology. If Adam can make him see his own flawed logic, showing him the scale of his actions and the possible genocide he has caused, he will recoil in horror of his actions and realize just how much innocent blood he has shed for his own selfish purposes. He gives Adam the code to the Hyron Project computer, making the final boss battle far easier, and meekly tells Adam to leave him for whatever may come next.
    • With a CASIE mod, you can take the realization a step further, pointing out that all of his stated reasons for destroying human augmentation are just rationalizations for a decision he had already made, and that he's really doing it out of simple jealousy: He has one arm and a bad leg, but, ironically for the inventor of augmentations, he himself is genetically incompatible with them. He's bitter that the rest of the world can use his gifts while he gets left out, and pointing this out to him causes him to realize just how petty he's being.
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  • In Devil May Cry, Trish is a demon sent to lure Dante to his doom. He shrugs off her attempts to take his life and goes so far as to save her from a falling column — and then calls her a devil and tells her that he only spared her because she looks like his mother. Trish's stricken look at that moment speaks volumes.
  • Devil Survivor has Well-Intentioned Extremist Keisuke, who only has this epiphany if made to realize they're Not So Different from the people they seek to punish: like them, he's looking for somebody to blame for conditions in the lockdown getting worse, and killing anyone he judges responsible.
  • If you spare Loghain in Dragon Age: Origins and increase his approval, he will eventually go through one of these. His last words if you allow him to slay the Archdemon make it clear that he knows his past actions are unforgivable, and all he wants is a chance to atone for them.
    • In the sequel, when you get Knight-Commander Meredith down to her last bit of health, she nearly has one of these, but unfortunately for her, the realization doesn't stick.
  • In Dragon Island Blue, many high-ranked Guild Trainers switch sides and join La Résistance after the increasingly ruthless missions that The Guild was sending them on convinced them that The Guild had become corrupted by power and turned despotic. The player is a fully-licensed Guild Trainer too, and rapidly rises to become their main enforcer (though the mass desertion of their elites might have helped with that) - and so, the player will likely have a Heel Realization at some point too... but you never switch sides, and indeed, proceed to effectively destroy La Résistance. Not because you aren't sympathetic to their cause, but because you feel that overthrowing The Guild in an armed uprising will only lead to unacceptable bloodshed.
  • In Fallout this is how the Talking the Monster to Death solution to the Big Bad works — Once you prove to him that his plan could not work and the Utopia that would Justify The Means can't exist, he realizes that he's simply been doing evil and is Driven to Suicide by the revelation.
    "I...don't think I can think that I can continue. Continue? To have done the things I have done in the name of progress and healing. It was madness. I can see that now. Madness. Madness? There is no hope. Leave now. Leave while you still have hope..."
  • Also in Fallout: New Vegas, Joshua Graham, co-founder of Caesar's Legion underwent this after his attempted execution. After he survived, he became a Mormon once again (albeit very militant) and rejoined his church.
    Eden: Perhaps...Perhaps there is a problem. I—I am unsure how to proceed.
  • Pretty much the catalyst for Final Fantasy IV. Dark Knight Cecil begins the game by questioning his loyalty to the king who raised him like a son but recently began a campaign of conquest. He justifies it by trying to convince himself he did what he had to do, but it's clear he doesn't really believe it. He finally draws the line when after he's unwittingly used to burn down a village of innocent summoners, his friend Kain points out that in order to execute the King's full orders, they will have to kill Rydia, the only remaining summoner and a 7 year old child, which Cecil adamantly refuses to do (the quote from the DS version is "Any man who'd wish for this is no king of mine!"). The next part of the game involves him trying to atone for the awful things he did as a Dark Knight in Baron's service.
  • God of War:
    • In the original God of War, Kratos, when flashing back to the day when he cried out to Ares for help, thus starting the whole cycle of events that lead up to the present, says to himself "By the Gods, what have I become?" This is the only time we ever see Kratos expressing sorrow and regret for something other than being tricked into killing his wife and daughter.
    • In God of War III, Kratos goes through this due to a combination of The Reason You Suck Speeches given to him as well as developing a Morality Chain with Pandora, a girlstatue given life who clings to hope in a world that Kratos is systematically destroying. By the end, he decides to relinquish the power of Hope via a Anti-Heroic Sacrifice, though by that time, it's far too late to fix anything.
  • This "Let's Play" of Galactic Civilizations 2 was intended to be a peaceful attempt at attaining galactic superiority through advanced culture. Halfway through comes the realization that something has gone terribly wrong:
    God, look at me. This was supposed to be my quest for peace, and I've become addicted to destroying suns.
  • In the Flash game King's Ascent, the entire game is the King's own sorceress and general's plan to force the King to face his flaws and mistakes. The King eventually agrees that he wasn't a very good ruler and throws away his crown to spend the rest of his days as a farmer. The sorceress has a Heel Realization of her own. She acknowledges that she was being driven by anger and hate, and refuses to take the now empty throne.
  • Yuthura in Knights of the Old Republic was a former slave and Jedi Padawan who became a Sith to free other slaves, but has lost sight of this, caring only about gaining more power. The player can make her slowly begin to realize this, and if spared after turning on them be made to admit it, and convinced to return to the Jedi Order.
    • Towards the end of the game you can learn that you were the amnesiac Sith Lord all along.
  • An example from Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords comes from a conversation between Kreia and Jedi Master Atris, during which Atris realizes that she had fallen to The Dark Side some time ago through her resentment of those she feels betrayed her. Atris subsequently embraces the role of Darth Traya, although the Jedi Exile has the opportunity to redeem her.
    Kreia: "It is such a quiet thing, to fall... but far more terrible is to admit it".
  • Infocom's Leather Goddesses of Phobos: Disarming Thorbast/Thorbala then returning his/her sword causes him/her to realize that he/she is the bad guy. This doesn't cause a moral crisis so much as it makes the character realize that he/she doesn't have a chance of beating you, so best to just save time and commit suicide.
  • White Knight Leo from Lunar 2: Eternal Blue is a Knight Templar who's really a Knight in Shining Armor at heart...which is why he flip-flops between Heel and Face. By the time he's mostly sided with Hiro, he's had to accept that the Althena he served was a fake goddess, put into position by the real dark god, Zophar. Oh, and that he's slaughtered an untold number of other innocent people by unquestioningly following the orders of his false goddess. It's a tough pill to swallow.
  • At the end of Mass Effect, it's possible to talk Saren Arterius into this, making him realize that he's been Brainwashed and Crazy all of this time. After this, he proceeds to take a pistol and shoot himself, thanking Shepard with his last words. This is approached somewhat differently than usual, as he's already figured out he's the bad guy, but thought it to be the only way for anyone to survive the Reaper invasion. The player's contribution is to get him to realize that that's the indoctrination talking.
    • Anyone who has read the Mass Effect: Revelation prequel book will know that he was an asshole with an agenda even before his indoctrination. He would abuse his Spectre status and openly lie to prevent Anderson from becoming the first human Spectre.
  • At the end of Mass Effect 3, Shepard can convince the Illusive Man into committing suicide by convincing him that he has become indoctrinated and that his delusions of controlling the Reapers are just the tool they're using to control him. The method of doing this is more subtle than most of the other reputation-related checks in the game: you have to consistently pick Paragon or Renegade options during every single conversation with him over the game to successfully convince him how far he's fallen.
    • The Paragon Ending of the Citadel DLC has the Clone Shepard end up being Driven to Suicide after witnessing Shepard's squad rush to help them from the ledge both are dangling off of, while their own ally Maya, callously left them to die. Without a word, you can see the realization slowly sink-in, answering their earlier rant about what it was that made Shepard so special and not them? The very thing that Clone!Shepard derided the real one over when they first met face to face: Shepard has friends.
    • The ultimate villain of the Overlord DLC, if you chose the Paragon solution, seems to have realized between 2 and 3 how horrific what he did actually was, and erased his notes and left Cerberus when he was asked to repeat it.
    • Miranda Lawson originally wanted to implant a Mind-Control Device into Shepard's brain when she brought him/her Back from the Dead. The conversation in Mass Effect 2 where she reveals this shows that she is not happy that the Illusive Man rejected the idea. By Mass Effect 3, she has come to the realization that doing so would have both made her exactly like her hated father, and also have cost her someone who would eventually become a great friend. She all but begs Shepard for forgiveness for simply considering it.
  • One of the Mooks in Max Payne discusses this in a bit of Enemy Chatter, he's not a bad guy, he's just trying to provide for his family and is in over his head but can't get out. Of course, you have to kill him anyway.
  • In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, when Monsoon tries to break Raiden by talking, Raiden actually agrees with him when he says that he's a natural-born killer: that in spite of his talks of being a champion for the weak and his sword is a tool of justice, he is, and will always be, Jack the Ripper.
  • Big Boss in Metal Gear Solid 4 on their deathbed. With the final moments closing in, they think upon their relationship with Major Zero and their other cohorts and acknowledge that their respective ideals, as well as their attempts to create societies devoted to them, were foolhardy. Just before dying, they acknowledge to Snake that, had he been in that situation, he might not have made the same mistakes.
  • Quite possibly the entire reason Raiden attempts to change history in Mortal Kombat 9, coupled with Shao Kahn's victory. His revival of Liu Kang is one of the key events shown in the flashback message he sends to his past self.
  • The main villain of Parappa the Rapper 2 has one of these during the last verse of his own rap, which, humorously enough, is a phrase that Parappa has to copy:
    Colonel Noodles: Then why do I love noodles so dearly? It makes no sense, I must've sounded really eerie!
  • Throughout Persona 4, Namatame (manipulated by the real killer) has kidnapped people he saw on the Midnight Channel and thrown them into the TV to protect them from a Serial Killer. He sincerely believes that the TV is a safe place, and he can retrieve them once the killer's found. What he doesn't realize is that they can't escape on their own, and once the fog lifts, they will be killed by Shadows. Once he himself enters the TV to escape police pursuit, it hits him just how wrong he was, and he does everything he can to assist the party as atonement... assuming you aren't cruel enough to kill him.
  • In Persona 5, those who have their hearts stolen by the Phantom Thieves will eventually be overcome by immense guilt and feel an intense desire to atone for their crimes. For the major targets (all of whom are people of high status in society), this usually results in them publicly confessing their crimes and begging the people for forgiveness.
  • In [PROTOTYPE] Alex Mercer gets one when he discovers Alex Mercer has been dead all this time. He was actually The Virus in an Alex Mercer suit. He at least takes some consolation in the fact that as bad as being The Virus is, the person he thought he was before that was even worse.
  • Skullgirls: Let's face it, Cerebella is a very sweet girl, so sweet that she has Incorruptible Pure Pureness. So why is she on this list? Because she's working for a mafia responsible for many murders, yet she faithfully stays with them because she considers them family, and seeks the affections of the mafia boss she considers a father. Only when she ends up crushing a Cat Girl to death to retrieve a stolen jewel does she start to feel remorse for her actions.
  • During the final confrontation in Spec Ops: The Line, the ending choice decides just how much Martin Walker comes to realize, or perhaps acknowledge, what a terrible person he's become. With the way the final encounter with Conrad is set up, Walker's full acknowledgment of his own guilt causes him to commit suicide.
  • Donny Vermilion in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty spends most of the game as a propaganda mouthpiece for Emperor Mengsk until Raynor's Raiders broadcast the truth about the fall of Tarsonis. Upon learning that Mengsk was responsible for the Zerg invasion, all he can do is mutter to himself about his brother who died on Tarsonis during a live broadcast which is immediately cut short. The next time you hear about him he's apparently had a sanity break and was unable to handle the realization that the government he's been defending was the villain all along.
  • In the original Street Fighter, Sagat had beaten Ryu but was permanently left with a deep scar across his chest when Ryu's dark side took over and he got sucker punched with a Satsui no Hadou-powered Shoryuken after the fight. From that moment Sagat vowed revenge against Ryu and took any measure up to and including joining the criminal syndicate Shadaloo run by M. Bison to get that revenge. However during the events of Street Fighter Alpha 2, Sagat was met by Dan Hibiki, a guy whose father he had killed years before in a fight that cost him his eye. Dan was out for revenge and, seeing that Dan shared the same thirst for blood that he had for Ryu, it made Sagat rethink his choice to align with Shadaloo just to get back at Ryu. Sagat let Dan win in order to satisfy Dan's revenge and then Sagat left Shadaloo to pursue Ryu on more honorable terms, eventually leading to a legitimate Friendly Rivalry between the two by the time of Street Fighter IV.
  • In Tales of Phantasia, the main characters' primary motivation the entire game long is avenging the slaughter of their hometown, but they go too far and they end up nearly dooming a planet because of it. There are a nice few minutes of angst (not quite enough, though) right after the Final Boss fight.
  • Examined in Undertale.
    • Asgore declared war on mankind of out bitterness years ago, but has since had a Heel Realization after the shock of his son's death wore off and his wife left him. Unfortunately, the hope it gave to all the monsters and the fact that the souls of human children were the only way he knew to escape the Underground meant he now felt he'd trapped himself in this course of action. He refuses to accept mercy if you defeat him in battle. The weight of his sins is so heavy that if you try to spare his life, he will commit suicide.
    • If the player attempts a Genocide run and seeks to murder every single monster in the Underground, a few characters will change tactics from the original game. Papyrus will not attack you at all but will make a speech appealing to what's good inside you and how everyone can change, with the intention of making the PLAYER have a Heel Realization. If you ignore him and continue your killing spree his big brother Sans will also attempt this, but he's not afraid to throw down if you're too dense to take the hint. Should you accept Papyrus' spare, the game aborts the Genocide route entirely and, while you cannot get a True Pacifist run without a restart, Papyrus will become friends with the player like normal, and the game will progress normally with Sans defending your action to change your mind and thanking you for it.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles one of the Imperial generals, Jaeger, realizes that even though he's fighting to liberate his own country, his participation in the invasion of Gallia makes him a hypocrite. Inspired by the zeal and dedication the Gallians show in defending their homeland, Jaeger decides to abandon his post and leaves the Imperial army.
  • The Bonus Boss Algalon in World of Warcraft has a significant though somber Freak Out! when players defeat him. He considers the countless worlds he's Reoriginated and wonders if the million million lives he's destroyed all had free will and loved life as much as the players. As a result, despite his orders dictating Azeroth be Reorginated, he gives you the "all is well" code to send to the Titans.
  • Xenosaga has Canaan, who actually does this twice: first as Lactis during the cellphone game Pied Piper, then a hundred years later during Xenosaga III: Also Sprach Zarathustra as Canaan. Both times, Redemption Equals Death. Reincarnation is fun, kids.
  • Inducing this in the game is how you win You Find Yourself In A Room. If you mention hatred or anger as emotions you will be better off without, the game realizes that it is not the superior emotionless being it thought, as it's filled with hatred and anger. This drives it into a despair in which it simply lets you go, finding no more meaning in its tortures.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Ulfric Stormcloak has one while in Sovngarde, the Nord equivalent of Valhalla. Despite his best intentions, the rebellion he led gifted Alduin the World Eater with a surfeit of souls to devour and played right into the hands of his hated enemies the Thalmor. They had used him as an unwitting agent to weaken the Empire through civil war, distracting them from the bigger threat of the Thalmor themselves.
  • Kingdom Hearts I: Riku, after destroying his world, serving Maleficent, getting Dark powers, and controlling Heartless gets one around the time that Ansem possesses him. The rest of the series is him becoming The Atoner.
  • Super Robot Wars X: Zigzagged by Catherine Vuitton in the DLC Beautiful Blue Water, after she kidnaps Marie and learns her tragic backstory. In one breath she wonders how she can possibly be holding such an innocent child hostage like this, and then in the next declares that even if she does have a conscience, she's still going to do anything to get what she wants!
  • Fallen Hero Ace Hardlight in Ratchet: Deadlocked, during the fairly brief interval between his boss fight and his death, seems to realize how badly the wealth and fame of killing other heroes in Vox's Gladiator Games had corrupted him.
    Ace Hardlight: Don't let Vox do to you what he did to me.


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