Many games conclude with your character’s death, but few let you control that character’s death. These stories end with a choice: spare your character, or let them die. Not all the games on this list end with such choices, but most games that let you kill your character only give you that opportunity at the story’s end.
Technically, most games let you “accidentally” kill characters. From jumping off the nearest cliff to letting enemies devour you, you can die in a variety of ways. However, these deaths pass without incident or significance. The games on this list draw attention to your death. The storyline gives you several choices, including your character’s demise—and your choice leads to the appropriate cutscene.
Half the games on this list offer death through sacrifice. If you don’t sacrifice your character, the world suffers on their behalf. Should you defend your own life, or should you die so others may live? If you wish to protect the world and your character’s loved ones, you must kill your character.
Whether you’re sacrificing your character, pursuing a violent alternate ending, or using one of your characters to kill another, these games allow you to murder your own character.
15 Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 has a notoriously terrible ending. Even though you can choose four alternate endings, your choice accomplishes nothing. Every ending results in the Reapers getting what they want, making your actions throughout the game completely meaningless.
The only significant part of Mass Effect 3’s ending is your fate. If you want to keep Shepard alive, you choose the Control ending, in which Shepard uploads his/her consciousness into the Crucible. Your body disintegrates, but your mind remains as you take control of the Reapers. The Synthesis ending is pretty similar, but Shepard completely dies in the process. If you choose the Destroy ending or try resisting the Catalyst, Shepard dies fighting the Reapers. Although if you complete a high percentage of the game, Shepard miraculously survives in the Destroy ending.
14 Portal 2
When Wheatley fails to kill you with traps, he turns to his last resort: words. As you walk away from his final trap, he asks you to “come back, please.” Most players continue onward, but those who stay behind witness an entertaining scene. Wheatley voices his surprise and slowly comes up with a new plan. Realizing that you’re standing in front of a bottomless pit, he asks you to jump into the pit. If you choose to follow his instructions, you fall to your death while he exclaims, “Oh! Wow! Good! I did not think that was going to work.”
Wheatley’s reactions are reward enough, but the game also recognizes your bizarre suicide with the “Pit Boss” achievement.
Singularity’s conclusion presents you with a choice: shoot Demichev or shoot Barisov. If you kill the latter, you and Demichev take over the world and eventually compete as two dictators. If you kill Demichev, Barisov realizes that Demichev must also die in the past. Because you previously went back in time to save Demichev, you created a singularity that will destroy the world. In order to prevent the singularity, you must travel back in time and shoot your past self.
Considering how often you travel through time in Singularity, it’s hard to believe that one event caused the singularity. Singularity toys with a fascinating premise, but major plot holes ruin the ending.
You can also unlock a hidden alternate ending by shooting neither man. If you wait long enough, Demichev shoots you instead.
12 Dragon Age: Origins
To save the world of Dragon Age: Origins from the Archdemon, you must either battle the Archdemon or perform a bizarre ritual with Morrigan. Whoever kills the Archdemon must die, so you choose who delivers the final blow. Only a Grey Warden may permanently slay the Archdemon, so you can choose a Grey Warden companion or volunteer yourself. If you sacrifice yourself, the epilogue includes your funeral.
Morrigan offers an alternative: if a male sleeps with her, she will transfer the Archdemon’s soul into her unborn child. The Archdemon’s soul lives on, but nobody dies in the process. If you play as a male character, you have the option to sleep with Morrigan—although turning your child into an Archdemon seems more selfish than sacrificing a companion’s life.
11 The Walking Dead: Season One
Throughout the first season of The Walking Dead, you determine who lives and dies in the zombie apocalypse. Whether you’re sparing an enemy or killing friends before they become zombies, you control the lives of several different characters—including yourself. At the game’s end, you choose whether Clementine shoots your character (Lee) or lets him live on as a zombie. Lee comforts her either way, and Clementine visibly suffers regardless of your choice.
In the end, your choice depends on how you view life and death in a world dominated by zombies. Do people “die” when they turn into zombies, or are they trapped within a body they can’t control? Even if you’d prefer death to life as a zombie, should you let Clementine kill her father-figure?
According to Telltale’s records, 62 percent of players choose to kill Lee.
At the end of Bastion, you have a choice. You can either live on in the post-apocalyptic world or rewind time. The latter choice returns the world to a time before the apocalypse, but you—and everyone else in the world—probably won’t remember anything from the “future.” While Rucks isn’t certain whether you’ll recall the game’s events or not, the credits suggest you remember nothing.
Some people may not classify this as “death,” but it’s pretty much the same concept. You erase an entire timeline from existence, destroying yourself and the people around you. By rewinding time instead of changing the past, you trap the world in an endless cycle. You fail to prevent the apocalypse, and you perpetually erase the post-apocalyptic world.
9 Ninja Gaiden 3
Many competitive online shooters allow you to commit suicide with grenades or cliffs, but none address suicide directly like Ninja Gaiden 3. In Ninja Gaiden 3 and a few other shooters (such as Halo), suicide doesn’t reward the opposing team with points. If your demise seems imminent, you have the choice to die and respawn.
While other games include suicide as an unspoken feature, Ninja Gaiden 3 recommends it. You can commit seppuku at any point to prevent the enemy from killing you. As your health bar lowers, the game tells you to press a button “to die with honor.” Fighting to the very end might seem more glorious, but by sacrificing your personal honor, you protect your team and inhibit the enemy.
8 Spec Ops: The Line
Spec Ops: The Line has four endings, two of which involve Walker’s death. In the first, you directly murder Walker by committing suicide. In Walker’s final hallucination, he sees himself and Konrad in a mirror. If you point the gun at Walker’s reflection, the reflection holds a gun to his own head.
If you wait too long, Konrad’s reflection will shoot you instead. This results in the same ending cutscene, in which Walker commits suicide in the real world.
The other three endings become available if you shoot Konrad’s reflection. After the credits, a group of soldiers come to Walker’s rescue. You can go peacefully with the soldiers, kill the soldiers, or die fighting them. So even if you don’t commit suicide at first, you can arrange Walker’s death during the epilogue.
7 Heavy Rain
You play multiple characters in Heavy Rain—including the villain. Since the villain will murder the protagonists if they don’t murder him, you have no choice but to kill your own characters. Your actions determine which characters survive. If you fail certain missions, the protagonists end up dead or in prison. The villain usually perishes, but if you play poorly (either accidentally or intentionally), he escapes punishment.
Since the game revolves around the mysterious, murderous villain, the ending in which he wins is depressing. He murders Ethan’s child, and Ethan hangs himself in prison. Fortunately, players seeking a happy conclusion will probably miss this ending: you have to play very, very badly to unlock this alternate ending.
6 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
The Force Unleashed ends with the iconic struggle of Star Wars: you must choose between the light side and the dark side of the Force. After Starkiller’s master, Darth Vader, tries to murder him, Starkiller seeks vengeance. The Emperor, of course, encourages violence, but Kota (a Jedi) interrupts and tries to kill the Emperor. When Kota fails, Starkiller chooses to save Kota or give into his hatred and murder Vader.
In the light ending, Starkiller spares Vader and battles the Emperor. When Starkiller also spares the Emperor, the Emperor renews his attacks and kills Starkiller as the rebels escape.
Even when you lean toward the dark side, Starkiller remains virtuous. He kills Vader but refuses to murder Kota at the Emperor’s request. The Emperor responds by wounding Starkiller and slaying the rebels. Starkiller survives, but he’s trapped within a suit of armor that bends him to the Emperor’s will.
5 Fallout 3
Fallout 3 ends its linear storyline with a choice: either you or your companion, Sarah Lyons, must die in order to better the world. You or Lyons turn on a purifier that, once activated, distributes pure water across the District of Columbia. High radiation levels surround the purifier, killing anyone who approaches it.
Despite its low stakes (pure water is nice, but the world’s survived without it for 200 years), the ending requires a character’s death. Since Lyons won’t back down, you can volunteer yourself to save her life. Strangely, you can’t ask Fawkes—a Super Mutant immune to radiation—to activate the purifier for you. Bethesda tried to fix this plot hole with their “Broken Steel” DLC pack, which lets Fawkes walk in, activate the purifier, and walk out unscathed. The narrator oddly blames you for not “selflessly” sacrificing your life, so Bethesda failed to give us a genuine moral dilemma.
4 Grand Theft Auto V
GTA V generally lets you customize your characters, but the single-player campaign uses three premade characters. These three protagonists—Trevor, Michael, and Franklin—sometimes work alone and sometimes work together. At the game’s end, you step into the shoes of Franklin. Two men approach Franklin: one demands you to murder Trevor while the other asks you to kill Michael. If you want to kill your character, you may only choose one. Michael even helps you kill Trevor, whereas Trevor refuses to kill Michael. Either way, the survivor distances himself from Franklin, leaving Franklin to deal with his guilt alone.
Alternatively, you may kill neither character. All three protagonists team up, defying all odds and destroying their enemies. When they finally part ways, they agree to be friends.
3 Blood Omen: Legacy Of Kain
After hours of hunting the corrupted Guardians of the world, you discover at the end of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain that you are the last Guardian. Kain only agreed to hunt the Guardians to cure his vampirism, but the only cure is death. If you die, the world returns to a peaceful state with new Guardians.
You can also choose to live, turning Kain into a corrupt Guardian who rules the world as a self-proclaimed “dark god.” Kain keeps his vampirism, granting him immortality and the greedy desire for flesh.
Even though Blood Omen offers two choices and endings, the sequels only follow the selfish ending. In Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Kain lives on as a tyrant who will do anything—including killing his own children—to survive.
In order to kill your character in NieR, you must play through the game three times. Endings A and B act as the linear endings to your first and second playthroughs. On your third playthrough, you choose between Endings C and D. After defeating Kainé, you can either kill her (and thus end her inevitable suffering) or sacrifice yourself for her.
NieR takes sacrifice to a new degree of selflessness. Rather than merely dying in front of those you love, you cease existing. You disappear, and nobody remembers you. Cavia makes this apply to both the game world and the real world: after choosing Ending D, your save data vanishes. If you make a new save file, you can’t use the same character name as before. Your character disappears forever and leaves nothing behind—not even a legacy.
ZombiU treats hardcore players with intense combat. Moving through claustrophobic hallways filled with ruthless zombies, you’ll have a hard time surviving—and your character will permanently die. If you die, you respawn as a new character. The gear you worked so hard for remains with the dead character, who comes back to life as a zombie.
While you can technically bypass your undead character, more often than not you have to fight every zombie you encounter. If you want to eliminate all threats—and if you want the good gear you left behind—you must murder your previous character.
By making you battle yourself, ZombiU wonderfully explores the physical and psychological horrors of the zombie apocalypse. If you die and become a zombie, you hurt not only yourself but also the people around you.