Almost every episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead is prefaced by the following statement: “This game series adapts to the choices you make. The story is tailored by how you play.” Not only does this indicate that no one player’s journey throughout this video game adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s zombie-ravaged landscape will be exactly the same, but that the decisions you make will all weigh heavy – nearly always in ways that you don’t see coming.
Meaningful choices like this are what has come to define a lot of Telltale’s games, but with the studio coming to an unfortunate close last October and The Walking Dead’s final ever episode just released, we thought we’d look back at some of the toughest. The following is a list of our picks placed in chronological order. However, with many people likely not yet having played The Final Season’s fourth episode, we’re leaving off any of those events.
To steal supplies from the car or leave it be (Season 1, Episode 2)
The Walking Dead’s first season placed you in the role of Lee Everett, an ex-con seeking redemption from his past life by looking after a young girl named Clementine. It isn’t too long before his morals are called into question, though, as the second episode – titled “Starved for Help” – sees Lee and the surviving group faced with the conundrum of stealing food, ammunition, and medication from a stranger’s car or leave it untouched and retain the moral high ground.
This decision is particularly difficult given the episode’s earlier events, wherein the group has just barely escaped the dinner plates of a cannibalistic family. Looting the car would mean guaranteed supplies for the next week, but little Clementine’s puppy dog eyes lead Lee to stop and consider whether doing so means screwing over another innocent group of survivors. This choice is notable because it goes on to play a crucial factor in the season’s finale. It’s also one of the earliest to substantially affect Lee’s relationship with Clementine in one way or the other.
To leave Lilly at the roadside or take her with you (Season 1, Episode 3)
Feathers are further ruffled in season one when, in an attempt to sniff out who among the group is a traitor, Lilly shoots either Carley or Doug (depending on who you saved back at the Chemist in episode 1). She’s understandably agitated since the death of her father Larry and her shooting an alleged traitor is done fully while having the best interests of the group in mind. Killing people without council, though? Not very cool.
What follows is a choice that has ramifications all the way up to The Walking Dead’s Final Season, as the group can either kick Lilly out of the RV and leave her at the side or the road or keep her in the group, albeit handcuffed so that she can’t cause harm to others. The twist of the knife comes from that neither of Lilly’s potential victims is, in fact, the traitor. Innocents will die regardless of your actions, and this was just the first of many examples.
To let Lee turn or show him mercy (Season 1, Episode 5)
All the way through season one, you as Lee have been doing your best to be a good example for Clementine – setting her straight and guiding her in this world. As what’s left of the group finally arrive in zombie-infested Savannah, this finally comes full circle when a bitten Lee has one last heart to heart with her before turning or dying.
The season’s final choice assures that no dry eye is safe, and this moment is almost certainly what earned the game countless game-of-the-year awards. Telltale’s The Walking Dead is the game that forced players to have a nine-year-old girl leave or kill her guardian angel. Regardless of your decision, the action is one that Clementine carries with her through to every future survivor group and bleak scenario. The Walking Dead paints a harsh, bitter world, and a hardened Clem is what steps out back into it once the deed is done.
To shoot Kenny or trust he’ll change (Season 2, Episode 5)
Kenny was a hot-headed member of the group from the first season that was presumed dead following an act of heroism in Savannah. Seeing him return at the end of season two’s second episode was a nice surprise, albeit one that was all-too-brief, as it soon becomes clear that the loss of his wife and kids has caused him irreparable emotional trauma. What previously kept him grounded in season one is no longer there, causing him to show a callousness that culminates when he repeatedly bludgeons an already-beaten foe named Carver to death in episode 3.
Fast forward to season two’s final scenes and Clementine is eventually forced to either kill her former friend, recognizing his soul can’t be saved, or let him live and trust he’ll change. The moment comes from where he and Jane (another member of the group) are wrestling on the snowy ground, with Clem raising her gun out of fear. She makes her choice knowing that whoever lives will need to help her raise an orphaned baby AJ.
To go with your family or defend their escape (Season 3, Episode 1)
The Walking Dead’s third season shook things up somewhat unexpectedly, having series mainstay, Clementine, take a back seat in favor of new protagonist Javier. What could have been an error of judgment is swiftly avoided, however, when season three’s first big decision makes you feel for Javier and what’s left of his family
It comes at the end of an opening two-parter titled “Ties That Bind,” where your search for supplies at a nearby shack results in the death of your niece – in quite a horrific way, we might add. From here your given the choice of fleeing with the rest of your family (sister-in-law Kate and Nephew Gabe) or holding off the attackers responsible alongside Clem in an intense shootout. Kate and Gabe get away either way, but it lights the spark as to what man your Javier will be.
To give in to David’s hate or keep your promise to your dad (Season 3, Episode 5)
Family plays an important role throughout Javier’s arc in season three. Nothing proves this sentiment more so than when he reunites with his long-lost brother, who now heads up a military outfit of raiders known as the New Frontier. Taking up refuge in Richmond, Javier and friends eventually expose the raiding activity New Frontier is responsible for, hoping to tempt David back into doing what’s right.
Javier and David are constantly at odds, culminating in a fight between the two around the mid-point of the season’s final episode. David wants to beat his brother to a pulp after learning that he has fallen in love with his wife Kate, but Javier can choose to rise above it and keep an earlier promise to his father by refusing to fight him. Three times players are offered the ability to have Javier lash out at David. The other choice? Continually saying that you’ll love him no matter what.
To let AJ shoot or teach him forgiveness (Season 4, Episode 3)
Season 4 of The Walking Dead sees Clementine back in the firing line, forced to take care of AJ, who is now coming of age while mirroring the guardian figure Lee was to her during the first season. At certain points in each episode, she asks AJ to recount certain rules and views she has taught him, all of which contribute to how he will act during the most heated of moments.
The best example of this is when Clem can have the scared youngster pull the trigger on the enemy or let them live in season four’s penultimate episode. All the way up to this point, survivors have been telling you how scared they are of the man AJ will eventually become but does this matter if it means giving the bad guys their due? Both outcomes look to have dire consequences in The Walking Dead’s last ever episode, available today.