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It was with gritted teeth and DETERMINATION that I slayed Toriel, the sweet, mother-like figure who only wanted to guide me through the ruins and keep me safe.
She wasn’t difficult to destroy. It took one hit. There was no heroic fanfare upon her death, no flashing text congratulating me on my victory, no epic loot, and there shouldn’t have been. The sight of Toriel’s heart breaking in two was all the reward I got for my efforts. I wasn’t a hero. I was a murderer.
Before you completely write me off as a monster, let me explain how I got there.
I’d already played through Undertale’s pacifist route, going through the game without killing a single creature, talking my way out of battles and making friends with monsters. The most endearing characters in the game (i.e. all of them) became my companions in the adventure, and I grew attached to each of them; from Papyrus, the skeleton with a heart of gold who just wants to be tough enough to join the Royal Guard, to Alphys, the reptilian creature with a fondness for anime who stutters her way through conversations, to Mettaton, the robot who hosts a popular TV show in the Underground—I loved them all.
And I killed them all. Because there was more story to be learned from making a genocide playthrough, and I must know ALL THE THINGS. The things that were… the things that are… and some things that have not yet come to pass. Like a serpent was offering me an apple, I was tempted. I had to know. ALL OF IT.
The scenes in the game became drastically different compared to the first time I visited the Underground. Monsters heard about a rampaging human in their lands and fled. Villages that I had previously visited, full of creatures I could talk to and befriend, were now completely empty.
Those monsters who had been my friends looked at me with hatred and fear instead of welcome.
“You’re going to have a bad time,” Sans warned me as I continued my murderous rampage. And he was right.
Undertale is a game that asks a lot of difficult questions. Is mercy worth the effort it takes to give? What is the power of a soul? What are the repercussions of mercy or violence? Who’s really the monster if the “enemy” is only acting out of fear?
There are consequences for the choices you make in the game, but it doesn’t appear to be holding some standard of morals over your head. The game lets you choose.
So I chose death, and that’s exactly what I got.
Oddly enough, I came to respect and love the characters even more as I went after them with my tiny stick (and eventually frying pan and dagger). Faced with an apocalypse, these creatures showed their true mettle.
Papyrus decided to stop being so desperate to prove himself, and offered me friendship and forgiveness even as I dealt him the killing blow; he perished giving me encouragement, assuring me that I could still change for the good. Undyne leapt in front of a monster child I was about to destroy, protecting him from harm and then putting up a fight of fights in the attempt to stop me. Alphys took on the responsibility of leading as many monsters as possible to safety. Mettaton, surprisingly, stepped up to face me in order to protect his people.
And Sans… Oh, Sans.
The skeleton who never lifted a finger against me in my original playthrough, well… he gave me a bad time. I can’t blame him. I had killed his brother and was destroying everything he loved.
And it was the fight of my life. But I killed him, too.
Battling my previous friends was a saddening experience. It was not just a matter of striking blows; they talked to me as I fought them. Some of them showing courage, some pain, some even forgiveness (bless your heart, Papyrus).
But I had come this far.
It wasn’t until almost the end that I realized there might be no going back. Undertale has this terrifying way of remembering your actions, even if you restart. I plowed forward anyway.
I got to Flowey, the only character I knew of whose evilness might match mine. Sure, I thought. Let’s pair up. Let’s be best friends. The two of us can be evil together.
But then I sliced Flowey to bits.
What? I hadn’t meant to do that! The game hadn’t asked me permission, given me the usual “Fight,” “Act”, or “Mercy” options. He was just gone. The option to see him transformed and give him a huge hug had been taken from me, taken by the game’s true villain, Chara. I had awakened her through my actions, reminded her of her lust for power. And now she controlled my soul.
“It was you who led the world to its destruction. You think you are above consequences,” Chara told me.
All this time I’ve been calling them monsters. The truth is, in my desire to know all the things, I became the monster. And I can never take that back. Now every time I see Chara’s glowing red eyes, I’ll remember that.