Bioshock Story Explained (Quick Version)

Bioshock - the much loved cult-classic horror game...

The story of Bioshock - a horror-based FPS with elements of RPG - is one of the things that makes it an unforgettable game. Through neverending twists and turns, you storm your way through the game, and you’re always left thrilled at every moment by the storyline.


1. The event that kicks it all off

The lighthouse looms above us...

Bioshock begins when the playable main character Jack, is involved in a plane crash. 

The year is 1960, and Jack finds himself lost in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The nearest landmark is a lighthouse, which Jack swims over to, and once in the lighthouse, he is lowered down into a completely different world. 

He now finds himself in Rapture, a  neglected underwater city. 

Jack then finds a radio, which he tunes into and he meets Atlas, a stranger who begins to guide him through the city to find his way out, and our journey begins.


2. All About Rapture

The city of Rapture in all its glory.

As Jack explores Rapture, he meets the monstrous mutants of known as Splicers, who he has to fight with regular guns and plasmids (serums which he can inject and upgrade to give him powers). They are lost, sadsouls, wronged and wandering the halls of Rapture seeking their revenge. 

Rapture was planned and created by Andrew Ryan, one of the game’s main antagonists. When constructing Rapture, ADAM - a gene-changing liquid created by sea slugs on the ocean floor - was discovered. Then, ADAM was used to create Plasmids (serums which can be injected to give users special powers). 

ADAM is almost like a character in the world of Rapture, as an important part of the gameplay and storyline.


3. The Little Sisters

The Little Sisters - terrifying yet adorable!

Another interesting character - or group of characters - in Bioshock, who are very much part of the storyline, are the Little Sisters. 

When making his way through Rapture, Jack encounters a group of orphans, also known as the Little Sisters, who were used by Fontaine (one of Rapture’s powerful inhabitants) to produce ADAM on a mass scale. Fontaine put the ADAM-producing sea slugs into the Little Sisters’ stomachs, as we learn in the course of the game.

Throughout Bioshock, we're always made to choose between saving or harvesting the Little Sisters - and these decisions will be important later…

The introduction of the Little Sisters also comes hand in hand with another set of characters which are iconic in the Bioshock games, particularly the first; the Big Daddies. Created by Ryan to protect the Little Sisters, the Big Daddies are genetically-modified humans who are grafted into gigantic diving suits. They protect the Little Sisters as they scavenge for ADAM from the dead.


4. Finding Andrew Ryan - and Jack’s true identity is revealed

Andrew Ryan with his golf ball and club.

As Jack travels through Rapture, meeting these new characters and exploring the new settings along the way, Atlas eventually guides him to Andrew Ryan’s lair. 

Ryan is still in his office, casually playing golf, when Jack enters, and he eventually explains Jack’s true identity.

Jack is Ryan’s bastard son, who Ryan’s mistress sold to Fontaine at embryo stage. Fontaine in turn had two of Rapture’s Doctors age Jack into adulthood.

From this point, Jack was used as an assassin. When he was no longer useful, Jack was smuggled to the surface and out of Rapture with memories of a normal life. Finally, he was called back to Rapture.


5. Would you kindly?

The gruesome death of Andrew Ryan.

One of the most quoted bits of dialogue in Bioshock is “would you kindly?” As soon as Ryan utters this word, Jack realises it's a hypnotic trigger that has been used against him in the past. He begins to remember that he caused the plane crash that left him stranded in Rapture.

Ryan then hands his golf club to Jack, telling him, “a man chooses; a slave obeys,” and Jack kills him with the golf club.


6. Who is Atlas?

No, really - who is he?!

The more eagle-eyed gamer may have seen a few “Who is Atlas?” posters hanging around throughout Rapture. Not only does this foreshadow what’s about to happen, it’s also a great nod to Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, which included the line “Who is John Galt?” Rand’s writing very much inspired the philosophy of Rapture. 

Well, really, Atlas is Fontaine, the con-man and criminal of Rapture who apparently died years ago - and he reveals it to us right when we think everything is over. 

Fontaine then takes over Ryan’s security systems and leaves Jack alone with potentially dangerous drones.


7. The Little Sisters To the Rescue & The Death of Fontaine

The Little Sisters with less glowing eyes this time...

Jack is saved by one of the friendly Doctors in Rapture - Dr Tenenbaum - and the Little Sisters. 

They accompany him deep into Fontaine’s lair, where Fontaine injects himself with a ridiculous amount of ADAM, turning himself into a superhuman creature. Aided by the Little Sisters in an incredible boss battle, Jack finally kills Fontaine.


8. Ending Option 1

The Little Sisters gather around an elderly Jack's bed.

Now this is where it gets fun. This is the ideal ending, for some. 

If you’ve decided to rescue all or all but one of the Little Sisters, playing as Jack, you get to take them back to the surface and adopt several of them as your daughters. Fondly narrated by Dr Tenenbaum, they live happy lives under your care. 


9. Ending Option 2

The less ideal ending...

This is the more interesting ending option. If you harvest more than one Little Sister, you turn on the Little Sisters in the end, harvesting their ADAM.

Dr Tenenbaum then narrates what happened; a Navy submarine investigating the plane crash becomes surrounded by Splicers who take control of the submarine. It is revealed that the submarine is carrying nuclear weapons. 

The amount of Little Sisters you harvest affects the game, too; the worse you are, the angrier and more brutal Dr Tenenbaum’s narration becomes.


Bioshock is a cautionary tale when it comes to philosophy and the idea of utopia. 

It’s clear that, when it comes to Bioshock, it’s the game’s captivating, immersive storyline that makes it even more of a joy to play. 


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With a penchant for impressive graphics and heart-wrenching storylines, I have had the pleasure of delving deep into the philosophy and storytelling of my favourite games through my writing.
Gamer Since: 2007
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: BioShock
Top 3 Favorite Games:BioShock, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, BioShock 2

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