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Unreliable Narrator / Video Games

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  • The Portopia Serial Murder Case (1983) is the Ur-Example in video games. The story is told through Second-Person Narration. In the game's twist ending, it is revealed that the narrator was the culprit all along.
  • The Final Fantasy series has several examples:
    • The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII has given no less than five different retellings of the Nibelheim Incident, each one slightly different than the last. Cloud, in particular, seemed to have several retellings on it. The base game eventually dives into his subconscious to figure out what really happened. Cloud's narration of the events is completely accurate, in terms of events that took place. The only unreliable aspect is that Cloud told the story as though he was in Zack's place. The rest of the retellings in other games in the compilation also get the major events correct, but elaborate on points that weren't there before.
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    • In Final Fantasy X, much of the game is told as a flashback by Tidus as he reflects on the journey before entering Zanarkand. While not necessarily deceptive, Tidus also does not reveal a number of key points. This parallels his process of discovery; the player isn't told anything explicitly until the point in the story where the narrator himself first learned them.
    • There is a very, very subtle hint that this is how the story of Final Fantasy Tactics is unfolded. When Ramza meets Orlan Durai for the first time, the latter is shown capable of seriously overpowered magick ("Galaxy Stop!") while fighting the thieves that caught him spying in their guild; but Ramza and co must save him anyway as he's outnumbered. Such magicks are the domain of inhumanly powerful wizards, but Orlan is just a spy; in fact, later he can't use the same magick to stop Delita from (not-)executing him. Thus, a more likely explanation is that it's the narrator, Alazlam Durai, who exaggerates the power of his ancestor.
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  • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001), is revealed that some of Raiden's past memories are questionable. The Colonel, who is an instructional narrator, also turns out to be a deceptive narrator.
  • In Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, the Pirate Queen's Quest DLC has Big Bad Risky Boots explaining what "really happened" and why she failed. She insists that the ending, where she nearly conquers the world only to have her doomsday device explode, was because her minions Failed a Spot Check. In any case, Risky insists that none of her downfall was her fault.
  • The Portal franchise has two of them. In the first game, GLaDOS talks to you while you navigate your way through the facility, and in the second game, it's mostly Wheatley telling you where to go. Both are pretty unreliable, as GLaDOS is a pathological liar and Wheatley is an idiot.
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  • Drakengard is known for having a rather odd case of the unreliable narrator trope, in which the basic plot attempts to paint Caim and his "acquaintances" as heroes destined to save the world, and the original ending is by far the closest one the game has to a happy ending. However, further endings end up painting a progressively darker picture about what's really happening. And since its sequels have taken different endings as canon, the truth about what's really going on remains ambiguous.
  • Dragon Age II has an unreliable narrator in the form of Varric. On several occasions his interrogator points out his lies and he retells a section of the story. It doesn't help that in the game he tells Hawke that he is a compulsive liar. In fact, the game allows you to play through his exaggerations: for example, in the prologue, Hawke and his/her sibling are fighting a group of darkspawn, and are able to one-shot Hurlocks left and right, even curb-stomp an Ogre, before he's called out on it and the player replays that section at level one. The second time, the gang is raiding a mansion, and Varric bursts in through the front door and is able to mow down all the guards Scarface-style with his Automatic Crossbow.
    • In addition, in Varric's prologue, Bethany seems to have gotten some upgrades...
    • "Bianca", his Automatic Crossbow, initially appears to be an example of this, since its ability to reload makes it unlike any other crossbow that exists within the setting. It's later clarified that it really does exist and was built by a friend of Varric's who was trying to corner the market on these kind of weapons, but "Bianca" was the only one that he could get to work. In the third game he gives one of several explanations of it's origin at random, and the prototype explanation is revealed to be just another lie. The truth is finally revealed as the real creator could easily make more but thinks Dwarven culture would tear itself apart if they were mass produced, so he agreed to cover that detail up.
    • In the Legacy DLC, he openly admits to making up the conversation between Hawke and Leandra's spirit (unless the quest was completed before her Plotline Death). In this case, it was just because he wanted to imagine that his best friend got some closure, even though he knows they didn't.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition reveals just how unreliable he really was. The whole spiel about Hawke vanishing? He made that up. He knew all along where Hawke was, but kept it a secret to protect his friend.
  • World of Warcraft creators tend to cite unreliable historians — making it slightly easier to explain away various retcons — to the point "canon" is usually refered to as "lore".
    • Humorously demonstrated in the Badlands zone post-cataclysm where the player meets a trio of characters who each tell a story of their encounter with Deathwing as he carved the gigantic gouge across the landscape. Each tale is filled with ridiculous exaggerations and Blatant Lies, the other characters constantly calling out the tall tales and even invading upon the third one' story, interrupting his "epic confrontation" to keep on perpetuating their own bragging. And it's absolutely hilarious.
  • Interestingly, this only happens Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time if the Player Character dies. Since the Prince is the one telling his story, yet somehow fails to remember HE DIDN'T DIE until he actually says that he did.note 
    • As Yahtzee put it: "And then I wall-jumped at the wrong time and fell down a chasm and died. Oh, sorry, I'm thinking of something else. What really happened was... I wall-jumped at the wrong time... and fell down... no, wait, hang on. In actuality I wall-jumped at the right time, then accidentally pressed circle instead of X and fell to my death - I'm not boring you, am I?"
  • Also used this way in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. Guybrush spends most of the game narrating his story to Elaine, and if you fail to escape from the torture chamber in time and are killed then she points out that this is impossible since you are talking to her.
  • Common in Interactive Fiction, where it can be used for comedy, as in Infocom's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ("Okay, I was just joking, you really can't go west."), or for suspense, as in Andrew Plotkin's Spider and Web, (where the entire first half of the game is a spy's "confession" under interrogation, and he's trying to mislead his interrogator).
    • In Photopia, the narrator of the fantasy segments turns out to be a babysitter who is telling the story to a little girl with her as the protagonist.
    • More than one puzzle in the aforementioned Hitchhiker game relies on the player working out that some of the room descriptions are lies. The game eventually gives in and admits the truth if you look at it hard enough.
    • Make It Good relies heavily on this. The player plays as a hardboiled detective, send to investigate a murder scene, but various little clues eventually reveal the PC was directly involved in the murder, and the goal changes from identifying the murderer to subtly meddling with the evidence and getting the blame off yourself.
    • The Interactive Fiction game Fail-safe's main gimmick is that you are giving the regular Interactive Fiction commands via a communication device to someone on a falling-apart spaceship. At the end of the game, he asks for the code to a laser in order to help prevent the ship from crashing. It turns out, however, that he was lying to you about him being a survivor of the attack and that he is really an enemy alien who boarded, and you handing him the laser codes has enabled him to attack and help his fleet. On the player's second playthrough (or the first if he or she catches on to the twist beforehand), you can instead give him the code to target the enemy ships and thus ruin his plan.
  • In the video game Pirates Of The Caribbean The Legend Of Jack Sparrow, most of the game is Jack recounting his adventures. Being Jack Sparrow, he exaggerates things quite a bit, which is sometimes lampshaded by having other characters point out factual inaccuracies in his stories. This allows the game to include giant spiders, frozen vikings, and a very different version of the events of the first movie.
  • Viewtiful Joe features a narrator attempting to make Joe's actions look heroic. The truth is Joe is having a blast being a superhero, completely forgets about his captured girlfriend, and more or less arrives where she is accidentally.
  • The World Ends with You has Hanekoma writing about the Fallen Angel throughout his secret reports—seriously, why would anyone teach Minamimoto the Dangerous Forbidden Technique?! Well, of course Mr. H was the Fallen Angel all along.
  • In Hitman: Blood Money, the game takes place in flashbacks being told in an interview by former FBI director "Jack" Alexander Leland Cayne, who's account contains multiple inconsitencies with what actually happens in the game. It turns out that Cayne founded "The Franchise" and was behind The Agency's destruction and part of a plot to assassinate the President so that he couldn't forward his pro-cloning policy, allowing for Alpha Zerox continued monopoly on cloning. At the end of the game, Diana revives 47 in the funeral house and 47 kills everyone on the premises, including Cayne and the reporter performing the interview.
    • It's employed in other ways during the series as well. Several missions in the original Hitman: Codename 47 were remade for the third game, Hitman: Contracts, but in the latter instances the level architecture is different, some events play out differently from the originals, and all of them take place at night in dismal weather. The disparity is explained by the Framing Device of 47 having been shot and going through a near-death experience in which he recalls past missions; it's never made explicit whether the original version of the missions is unreliable, or the remade versions.
  • The Framing Device of Tales from the Borderlands has two unreliable narrators each telling their side of the same story. They both frequently embellish details to make themselves look better and them disagreeing on what happened leading to bickering amongst themselves is a minor Running Gag.
  • Every character in Twisted Metal: Black narrates their tale during the three cutscenes (opening, mid-game flashback, and ending). However, at least two of them find that the truth is far from what they thought... and neither get a happy ending.
  • The Silent Hill series has two unreliable narrators: James in the second and Alex in the fifth.
  • Captain Qwark in the Ratchet & Clank series has a high tendency of telling bogus stories about his heroics that were either actually done by someone else or never actually happened, in order to cover up his cowardice (always unsuccessfully). This is actually a major point in the Secret Agent Clank spinoff, where there are entire gameplay sections based on Qwark's ridiculous narrations. Amusingly, one of Qwark's apparent fabrications are "robotic pirate ghosts"... until Tools of Destruction revealed the existence of robot Space Pirates and Quest for Booty featured undead Ghost Robot Space Pirates, thus making his story seem much more plausible.
    • Qwark's narration is the basis behind Ratchet & Clank (2016), whose premise is Qwark recounting the movie after those events have long since happened. Predictably, there are several moments where he's called out for obvious fabrications, such as the Brain-eating Zombie T-Rex. He is however surprisingly honest when it comes to his own shortcomings, which aids his Character Development.
  • Haldos follows this trope closely in both Nexus War games, although despite plenty of Kick the Dog behavior on his part and the fact that he openly admits to learning what he knows directly from the Big Bad, there's nothing to actually disprove his claims.
  • Lampshaded in Penny Arcade Adventures where the narrator right at the start sets doubt in the player's mind as to his identity and motivation. "Please, do not dwell on my... mysterious identity. You're dwelling on it, aren't you?"
  • In Tales of Legendia, whenever the player sees Stella during a flashback from Senel's perspective, she seems to be a Purity Sue. However, Stella appears a lot less than idealized whenever the flashbacks are from Shirley's perspective. There's a reason for the discrepancy: Senel was madly in love with Stella. and also deeply guilt-ridden due to the role he played in her death. Shirley, meanwhile, was in love with Senel, and jealous of her sister because Senel was so infatuated with Shirley.invoked
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, given that she gives you a lot of exposition, from background of the Mandalorian Wars to the whys of the Jedi Civil War to the reason the Exile was... exiled by the Jedi Council, Kreia fits this description.
    • Making Kreia possibly unique as a party member in RPG history — she is always lying about something.
  • This trope is an excellent summary of Touhou. Each of the various routes in the games (depicting different characters or even the same character experiencing similar, slightly altered events) are all canon simultaneously. The universe compendiums are written by a reporter who hasn't even heard of journalistic integrity, a racist historian relying almost entirely on conjecture and second-hand reports with a massive dislike of the local youkai populace and who readily accepts bribes to smear and stroke egos, and a hyperactive thief obsessed with explosions. Even ZUN himself is prone to blatant contradictions, messing with the fans, really messing with the fans and outright lying. Inevitably, the Fanon is truly massive.
  • The Resident Evil Chronicles games depict the events of previous games through records and word-of-mouth. This results in some things that happened either glossed over or misinterpreted.
  • Is Super Mario Galaxy 2 a retconned take on Super Mario Galaxy (based on what happened at the end of the first game) or a storybook?
  • The near-entirety of Cry of Fear centers around and takes place within Simon's book as a personification of himself, making you wonder what inspired the events inside or otherwise aside from the obvious causes, like his insanity and being able to walk in it. Whatever caused them is (likely intentionally) left open to interpretation by those who play.
  • Rucks in Bastion doesn't lie, but his recounting of the game's backstory comes off as selective and self-justifying, including some whitewashing of aspects of Caelondia's history and culture.
  • Dear Esther's narrator talks about events that aren't actually happening to the player. It turns out that most of what he says is either a blatant lie or a metaphor for what really happened. It doesn't help that he's slowly slipping into a delirium due to some kind of infection.
  • In Deadly Premonition, the main character, York, has an Imaginary Friend named Zach who is, for the most part, a stand-in for the player's influence over him. In the third act, however, it turns out the York was the imaginary one (sort of), created to help Zach forget numerous traumatic facts about his past, such as how his parents really died, what attacked him, and even what he truly looks like.
  • Jennifer from Rule of Rose is the King of this trope. Everything that happens in the game, when taken literally, is simply a metaphor for things that did happen. And when you think about the game's story like that, it makes even less sense.
  • In Spec Ops: The Line, some cutscenes Fade to White instead of Fading to Black. Those are the scenes in which the protagonist, Cpt. Martin Walker, is in some way deceiving himself, via hallucinations, delusions or other doubtful perception - and since he's the Player Character, that means he's lying to the player, too. This leads up to a pretty massive reveal at the end of the game.
  • Black. The intensity of the game is a reflection of Keller's recollection of combat under intense psychological pressure - both in the battlefield and in the interrogation room. So the winding levels, seeming endlessly respawning enemies that take a lot of damage to kill, ambushes, useless/missing squadmates that randomly drop in and out with no mention of where they went, labyrinthine level design, etc. are just how Keller recalls each mission, not how it actually was. This also explains the disjointed, almost non-existent story, as that doesn't matter to Keller as much as the accomplishing the mission does.
  • SpaceQuest runs on this trope quite nicely. He has little to no confidence in Roger Wilco during most of his adventures. Oh, and two games have actual voices for the characters, and who else would be picked to be the narrator than the famous Gary Owens?
  • Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist: The old guy who starts narrating the game does this even in death scenarios. "You're talking to a ghost, wooooooooooooo!"
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Many of the series' in-game books must be treated as unreliable for a variety of reasons. Even historical in-universe statements and texts need to be treated this way for a variety of, often justified, reasons (just like in real life). To note:
      • The writer in question is drawing from incomplete sources. There are some 5000+ years of history in Nirn that have passed before the main series even takes place. Before that, there was the Dawn Era, very much a Time of Myths before linear time even applied. Historical details have been lost, along with entire cultures and races, in that time. In many cases, something you find or do in-game turns up new and contradictory information than what is recorded in the "official" histories.
      • The writer in question is drawing from biased sources and widespread propaganda, telling only one side of a story and/or omitting certain details while anything to the contrary is heavily censored. Historical accounts Written by the Winners and containing Historical Hero Upgrades provide plentiful examples.
      • The writer is deliberately lying, telling half-truths, and/or is telling Metaphorical Truths. The Dunmeri Physical God Vivec positively embodies this, but there are plenty of other examples as well.
    • Another complicating factor is the prevalence of Time Crash events (during which Reality Is Out to Lunch) in the setting, as well as numerous groups and individuals with Reality Warper abilities. means that it is entirely possible that a piece of narration is only reliable at the moment.
  • Errand combines this with Interface Screw to show that the main character phantasizes seeing e.g. a hungry dragon when it's really a complacent dog.
  • Despite BattleblockTheater's "eccentric" narrator, it surprisingly tends to avert this. What he tells you seems to be what's legitimately going on in the game.
  • The Narrator from The Stanley Parable isn't just unreliable, in some endings (such as the Countdown and Video Games Endings) he's downright hostile. In the "Confusion" ending he's just as baffled about what's happening to the game as Stanley is.
  • In The Stanley Parable's follow-up, The Beginner's Guide, Davey may function as an unreliable narrator. One example of this is when he cites the lampposts at the end of many of Coda's games as evidence that all the games are connected. In the last game, Coda writes to Davey "Would you stop changing my games? Stop adding lampposts to them?"
    • Also, when you enter the Housekeeper minigame, Davey tells you that the house and the door represent the two doors puzzle. However, the only thing behind the second door is the aforementioned lamppost. He later mentions that originally the minigame wouldn't end, that you would originally do chores forever, one of his "changes". If that is true, it seems likely that the second door wouldn't exist at all, lacking any purpose, and the two doors metaphor, like the lampposts, is one that he interpreted from the content he added to Coda's game.
    • The whole game is probably one long example of this. From the beginning it's insinuated that Davey is narrating the game as himself, but the further the game progresses the more likely it seems that this isn't true and that he's instead playing a fictional version of himself. It also seems fairly unlikely that Davey would release a collection of Coda's work against his wishes and charge money for it since this would constitute egregious copyright infringement and could end up being a very costly venture if Coda decided to sue.
  • Venom Snake from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has elaborate, vivid hallucinations and delusions during the game, most notably when he thinks Paz is alive. He also has memory issues and "remembers" the events of the prologue Ground Zeroes differently throughout the course of the game. His unreliability as a POV character is enough to spark a fair amount of Epileptic Trees about the game's twist ending. Namely that he isn't actually the Medic from Ground Zeroes as the ending tells you he is, but rather that he's either a split personality of the "real" Big Boss, or the masked man from the helicopter in Ground Zeroes who was missing from most of the flashbacks of the scene througout The Phantom Pain.
  • In Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, the story takes the form of Silas Greaves recounting his past adventures to several bar patrons, embellishing heavily due to getting progressively drunker as well as just all-around bullshitting. This explains why he's somehow fought alongside or against almost every renowned gunslinger in the west and also leads to scenes where Silas will tell a story, only to stop halfway and rewind to clarify. At the end, it turns out that at least some of his embellishments are his way of testing Ben, AKA Roscoe "Bob" Bryant, the man he's been hunting his entire life to see how he'd react.
  • Minecraft: Story Mode: The one narrating the prologue was lying about the "Legend of the Order of the Stone" never fading into myth and becoming a lie.
  • Played for Drama in Chapter 5 of King's Quest (2015). The previous chapters of the game are King Graham telling stories to his granddaughter Gwendolyn, but with his chapter, King Graham is dying, and his mind is fading fast. The gameplay reflects this. Whole areas change depending on what he thinks was built there. Some areas are just incomplete hunks of level in an empty void. It took his granddaughter reminding him to remember that one of his first friends in Daventry is a Bridge Troll, not a talking bridge.
  • An In-Universe example in Prey (2017), given The Stinger. That is, Alex explains that the scenario was a "reconstruction" that was "based on Morgan's memories," meaning that the events were tweaked to fit the desired scenario. Moreover, the actions of the employees seem too sympathetic to be true. Almost all of them knew nothing about the Typhon experiments, and almost all of those who did know rejected the testing outright. Some employees committed suicide over this knowledge, while others plotted against the Yus. Furthermore, the portrayals of the Yus seem too unsympathetic to be true. Both of them are eager to experiment on the Typhon, and the employees reveal their incompetency, and Alex went so far as to forcibly remove neuromods from employees to keep them from knowing about the Typhon experiments. Alex and the Operators made Morgan and him scapegoats.
  • Both In-Universe and out of universe, Last Scenario lies to you. The opening text describes an absolute Cliché Storm of an RPG setting, but then the truth is revealed throughout the course of the game. This actually makes sense - you learn it as the characters do, since the lie in the opening text is the lore as the characters know it In-Universe.
  • Heavy Rain depicts four different player characters investigating a serial killer, and switches between their perspectives across different chapters of the game as it unfolds. It turns out that one of the characters you've been playing actually is the killer, and has been collecting evidence of his past crimes in order to cover it up, rather than to investigate.
  • Discussed in Fazbear and Friends. Several times over the course of the game, Thomas wonders if something in the abandoned pizzeria hasn't caused him to go mad and hallucinate, and the disappearing and reappearing front door only serves to confuse him further.
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief's End has Nate Drake surprised by the return of his long-lost brother Sam. Sam talks of how he was in prison in South America, broke his way out but now owes a ruthless crime boss named Alcazar. The fifth level is all a flashback as Sam talks of how he broke out with Alcazar and then basically bargained with his life to find a treasure the Drake family had been searching for for decades. Nate joins Sam as they clash with Rafe, a more ruthless treasure hunter. Held at gunpoint, Nate tells Rafe that they're willing to help him in exchange for a cut for Sam to get out from under Alcazar. At which point, Rafe asks "what the hell are you talking about? I got Sam out." It turns out Alcazar was killed in a shootout months before. The entire "prison break" never happened as Rafe just bribed the warden to let Sam walk right out. Nate is rocked to realize his brother was working with Rafe only to double-cross him and lied to get Nate to help him with the treasure hunt. Creating an entire level for an event that never really happened really takes the trope to the extreme.
  • The Park features young mother Lorraine Maillard heading into Atlantic Island Park after closing time to retrieve her son Callum, who supposedly ran back inside to retrieve a lost teddy bear. Throughout the game, Lorraine narrates various details of her life: that the park is Callum's favorite place in the world, that the park actually opened on the day Callum was born, and that Lorraine had a "fairy-tale" relationship with Callum's father, Don, among other things. In fact, the one bit of photographic evidence that Callum ever visited the park before today, he's clearly terrified and trying to drag Lorraine away from the gates; according to The Secret World, the park was permanently shut down barely two years after it was opened for the first time, meaning that the obviously five-year-old Callum is actually exploring an abandoned amusement park - and as the endgame reveals, has actually been kidnapped by the Bogeyman; finally, a apology note from Don reveals that he was suffering from emotional problems and he didn't want to see Lorraine until well after work, when he was sure he was back in his "right mind." In fact, the finale reveals that Lorraine is under the influence of both the Bogeyman and Atlantic Island Park's emotion-siphoning power, making just about anything she says highly suspect.
  • Shadow from Sonic the Hedgehog has two contradicting memories of Maria's death. In Sonic Adventure 2 Maria was shot after putting Shadow in an escape pod, while in Shadow the Hedgehog she was shot and killed while running with him in a corridor.
    • It gets even worse for the Ultimate Lifeform. His own game suffers from a chronic case of this trope because the Chaos Emeralds always tell him a different story depending on which ending you've unlocked. He could be anything from a flesh-and-blood organism to an android, and whatever he "learns" from the Emeralds is defined by whatever he's just been told about himself. Thus Shadow, and by proxy the player, actually learn nothing about his past.
  • Most of the story of What Remains of Edith Finch is you reading a journal narrated by the title character, who in turn finds various chronicles from different members of her family. While Edith herself seems to be mostly reliable, she does have her own personal biases and she notes that it's likely that not all of the documents depict an accurate reality (i.e. Barbara's story is a comic book that Edith says is likely exaggerated, Molly might have been delirious when she wrote her diary entry, and so on).


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