Spoilers are an issue with trailers and pre-release promotion today, but rarely are they used to enhance the experience. Usually, trailers give away the final shot, cameos and plot twists. On top of that, games coverage is so comprehensive that very little is left to the imagination by the time a title comes out. On the opposite end of the spectrum, spoilers can be hidden right under your nose via clever box art and smart storytelling. There are times when the promotional material—such as trailers, posters, and box art—contain the biggest spoilers, with you never knowing until you have context. Below are some of the games that had major spoilers and plot points that were under our nose the whole time.
Warning: Spoilers for all the following games!
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus – The cover and promotional art for The New Colossus features BJ in his varsity jacket looking ready to take down Nazis on a grand scale. But, at the start of the game he is wheelchair bound and requires a special suit just to walk due to taking a grenade to the chest at the end of the first game. Players spend a majority of the game with a diminished health bar until they are captured and executed. BJ’s head is cut off during a public ceremony, which leads his allies to attach his noggin to an enhanced, superhuman body. With his new body, BJ dons his jacket and starts the rampage. On the cover, he is clearly shown with the attachment that keeps his head on his body and is not crippled in any way, a spoiler that was hidden in plain sight.
Dead Space 3 – The cover of the game features Isaac with what looks like a crumbling moon looming behind him. The ominous planetoid wasn’t just a stylish image for the case, it also serves as the antagonist of the series. The brother moons are Lovecraftian cosmic entities that cause the hallucinations that Isaac and many other characters have suffered throughout the series. They sent the markers to planets before consuming all sentient life on that celestial body and eventually the solar system. The moon of Tau Volantis serves as the final boss of the game, and this is a huge reveal for the series. It is an absurd reveal that totally fits the theme of cosmic horror that the series is based on and ended up being a major plot point that snuck past everyone.
Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess – Newcomers to this Wii U re-release got two major spoilers on the cover. The box art features Ganondorf, who is revealed to be in the game as the driving force behind Zant. The Twili villain was originally seen as the only antagonist and a new enemy in Zelda, but his manipulation by Ganondorf was a twist revealed late in the game. The other spoiler on the cover is Midna’s true form, as she spends most of the game cursed in a cherubic body. For much of the story it assumed this is how she looks until you find out about the curse. Both of these aren’t obvious spoilers since it is assumed at this point that Ganondorf will be in a Zelda game, but people who played the original release got to enjoy that surprise.
System Shock 2 – Before BioShock there was System Shock 2. Looking Glass Studios and Irrational Games’ sci-fi shooter featured a famous twist that the “would you kindly” moment from BioShock would mirror eight years later. Shodan is the major antagonist of System Shock and System Shock 2, and her return is an iconic moment. Surprisingly, Shodan is front and center on the cover. Any fan of the original would have seen the cover and assumed Shodan returns, even though that moment is meant to surprise and shock. She acts as a hidden antagonist, but the box art showed her intentions from the beginning.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – When MGSV was first shown at the VGAs, under the pretense that it was a new game called The Phantom Pain by fake developer Moby Dick Studios, the original trailers featured a character who went by the name Ishmael. That character was voiced by Keifer Sutherland, who would later be announced to be playing Big Boss. In hindsight, this was a huge deal because the final twist of the game reveals that Ishmael was the real Big Boss the whole time and your character was a double — Someone who has been duped into thinking they were Big Boss as a way of protecting him. The fact that Sutherland played Ishmael should have been a dead giveaway originally, but it wasn’t until looking back that one would realize the implications.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – The cover of the game shows the villains Morag and Vandham, alongside other boss characters who the player fights at various points in the game. The cover treats these enemies like other party members, flanking the main character along with your other allies. Defeating them allows them to join your party, and the art gave away that eventually these characters turn to your side.
Final Fantasy VII’s European Cover – The back of the jewel case for Final Fantasy VII shows Cloud laying Aerith to rest after her death at the hands of Sephiroth. Any real scrutiny would have revealed her death to the player, luckily most people avoided it or didn’t realize the meaning. It seems like obvious spoilers being used as promotion was an issue even back in 1997.
Metal Gear Solid – This is not really a spoiler so much as something fun; the back of the game had Meryl’s codec code, and checking the case was the only way to contact her in the game. It was one of the many ways that Metal Gear broke the mold with its fourth-wall shenanigans and innovative mechanics. God forbid you lost the case or only had the disc for some reason, but it was awesome that there was something important to the game directly on the back of the jewel case.
Nier Automata – In Nier Automata, players must complete several playthroughs to reach the “true” ending, and the title starts to play with the way games work and which characters you inhabit. In much of the early trailers and footage, the game showed off a character who wasn’t playable until after you finished the game and got to Route C, which is basically a third playthrough of the game that features new content. The reveal of A2 snuck past people because she looked very similar to 2B, the main playable character from the first playthrough. Fans had no idea how Nier would play with their expectations.
Hopefully you gained some newfound appreciation for secret spoilers and well-thought out promotion for games. For more spoiler related content, check out our interview with the God of War writers.