Moral dilemmas are nothing new and video games and have been the topic of debate before Grand Theft Auto even existed. Which characters to save, which factions to align with, who to betray, and who to remain loyal to are just some of the difficult decisions that players are tasked with making. Sometimes there are consequences for violence, sometimes not so much.
Then there are the games that outright reward the player for killing innocent NPCs. Often the decision to kill NPCs has some kind of negative consequence as well, but once in a while, the player receives lavish rewards and zero punishment for their random violence. In imaginary worlds where the player isn’t bound by law or other restrictions, things can go off the rails pretty easily. Here are some games in which the player is awarded for killing innocent NPCs.
Vampires are some of the most morally complicated characters in fiction. Saddled with immortality that is both a blessing and a curse, they must navigate worlds to which they no longer truly belong, often deciding the fates of the surrounding mortals with impunity. Vampyr explores this trope in a beautiful way, putting the lives of countless civilians in the player’s undead hands.
With the Spanish Flu ravaging London, things are already looking bleak before a vampire takes to the streets. Players who resist their vampiric temptation to feed face a much tougher road than those who give in to their murderous instincts. Draining NPCs of their last drop of blood levels the character up faster makes them more effective in combat, and makes blood draining easier. While it does give the player the bad ending, killing innocent NPCs makes the game itself far easier and arguably more fun.
4 Trover Saves The Universe
Trover Saves the Universe was made by Justin Roiland, one of the creators behind Rick and Morty, so players should immediately know the kind of world they’re getting into. To call the game strange would be an incredible understatement, as this fourth-wall-breaking story does everything it can to mess with the player and make them laugh.
Though Rick and Morty is exceptionally violent at times, Trover Saves the Universe isn’t. At least it doesn’t have to be. The main character is a basically decent person who just wants to rescue his dogs, so murder isn’t the first thing on his mind. Players who decide to kill an NPC will receive the “You Didn’t Have To Do That” achievement. If the player goes a step further and murders every single NPC in the game, they receive a second achievement “Worst Guest Ever.” Though an achievement may not be as cool a reward as a fancy new weapon or cosmetic, it’s fun to see a game not only call players out for their unnecessary bad behavior but also reward them for it, not once but twice.
Superhero stories are almost always power fantasies of one kind or another. Part of their appeal is seeing larger-than-life characters using their impossible powers to change the world as they see fit. Infamous is an action RPG where the player takes the role of a superhero or supervillain, depending on their disposition. Players who are taking a beating in a fight have two options: escape long enough to rest or find a nearby civilian and murder them to recover more quickly.
When the player reaches full Infamy, their power even receives an upgraded form that grants him temporary invulnerability, rewarding players for their string of unnecessary murders and allowing them to drain future NPCs even more effectively. It’s a satisfying and genuinely useful mechanic, which makes it attractive even for players who didn’t necessarily intend to take the evil route. The higher the pile of bodies, the more powerful Cole becomes as he cuts a path of destruction across the city.
2 Hitman: Blood Money
The star of Hitman: Blood Money is series protagonist Agent 47, a dispassionate killer of unrivaled stealth and precision. The franchise is known for the numerous ways in which players can choose to dispatch their targets and any bodyguards who might be getting in the way. Suffocation, shootings, stabbings, and explosions are just a small sample of the ways in which Agent 47 can dispatch his targets.
The only way to be rewarded with the “47 Kills” achievement is to kill exactly 47 NPCs on a given level: no more, no less. The catch is that missions only have three or four actual targets. The remaining 40 or so kills must be other NPCs who are guilty of nothing except being in the general vicinity of a serial murderer with an extremely specific mission. Getting this achievement requires the player to wade through innocent blood for nothing but an achievement, which at least is in keeping with Agent 47’s killer-for-hire mentality.
1 Fallout 3
Even players who are okay with killing innocent NPCs in some circumstances might balk at doing so in other situations. If the killing will be too gruesome or offer up only a small reward, some players will pass on it, valuing the NPC’s life more than whatever the player would receive for taking it. Despite the huge mismatch between crime and reward in some games, there will always be some players who push the button.
There are few better examples than Megaton City in Fallout 3. The city is built around an undetonated nuclear bomb, and the player is given three choices: ignore the bomb and let the city carry on as usual, disarm the bomb and spare the citizens from potential catastrophe, or detonate the bomb, killing everyone in Megaton City but appeasing the snooty millionaire whose balcony view was obstructed by the city.
Players who detonate the bomb receive a swanky tower suite in exchange for the death of an entire city. It’s probably the case that most players just want to see the bomb go off and don’t care that much about the suite in the first place, but either way, Megaton City stands as a testament to player choice, for better or for worse.