Players normally expect a decent story-line when it comes to their games, especially when it comes to RPGs and most newer releases - after all, it's what helps separate titles such as Gears of War and Halo. Nobody wants re-skinned versions of older games that are slightly upgraded being released year after year; we're not all Call of Duty fans, obviously.
With a great story however, comes some emotional baggage on the side of characters and their over-arching plot; times when the character has to go through emotional anguish in order to move their story forward in some way. And it's times like these where gamers collectively got something in their eye. We totally didn't cry, we swear. We just, uh...the sun was in our eyes. Bit of dust, maybe.
Obviously, spoilers ahead. And you might need a tissue, for all of that 'dust' in your eyes.
15 Aerith's Death - Final Fantasy VII
You can't have a list of emotional gaming moments without bringing up Aerith's death in Final Fantasy VII - at this point, it's almost a cliché. However, there's a reason why Aerith's death is almost always brought up - for many, it was the first big emotional moment they experienced in a video game and it hit deep.
Throughout the course of FFVII, players formed an emotional bond with almost all of the main characters you'd find in the game, running the range from a seething hatred of Sephiroth to a slight jealousy of Barrett and his gun arm. And that hatred for Sephiroth had to be borne out of something, with his typical 'I'm going to destroy the world!' motives not being nearly enough for gamers.
Clearly something had to be done for players to care about Sephiroth meeting his end and that seed of hatred sprouted with his heartless murder of Aerith. The fact that he took the life of one of the best healers in the entire franchise only adds a sense of irony to the death.
14 Max Finds Peace - Max Payne 3
When we first meet Max Payne, his life is on the verge of being upended and left in ruins. As we start off the first entry in the trilogy, Max is about to find his wife and child murdered, with a slew of assailants ready and waiting to ambush the titular hero. It's from here that we follow Max through the seedy underground in a booze and pill fuelled quest for vengeance.
All throughout Max's story, we expect him to succumb once he finally takes out who he feels is responsible for his wrongdoings, with years of rampant drug and alcohol abuse finally taking its toll on the protagonist. By the time the finale of Max Payne 3 hits, Max has been haunted by the death of his family, as well as the disturbing story that followed, which he holds down with his abuse of painkillers and alcohol.
After years, we wouldn't expect Max to finally keel over once taking out the bad guys; however, what we get is Max, finally after getting the vengeance he rightfully deserves, walking off into the sunset, beginning the new, quieter life that he so painfully needs.
13 John Marston's End - Red Dead Redemption
When it comes to a Western - be it in games, TV or movies - many of us are hardwired not to trust anybody, especially those who wield any sort of power. With Red Dead Redemption, however, cliches were turned on their head enough for us to start to believe that this wasn't your prototypical Western. We started to believe that the tropes that made Westerns Westerns weren't overtly at play throughout the game.
Once lulled into the false sense of security, however, Red Dead Redemption pulled the stunt that we all should have seen coming, but naively believed wouldn't; when John Marston finally believes that he's repaid all of his debts, and given his family a secure life, he's brutally taken down.
What makes this one of the more emotional moments in gaming is its unexpectedness; Marston - and ourselves, by extension - are led to believe that he'll live a happy life with his family, right up until the very last second. Edgar Ross and his men were able to out-wit even the best of us, which makes Marston's son's revenge that bit sweeter.
12 Cortana's Death - Halo 4
Throughout the Halo franchise, Master Chief and Cortana went together as well as an HD TV and a new console; they fit together seamlessly, and once you have them together, it's hard not seeing one without the other. But that's exactly what 343 Industries decided to give us with Halo 4, the first installment in the franchise's second trilogy.
The finale of Halo 4 was shocking, but not entirely so; after spending years with Master Chief - and players - Cortana is succumbing to Rampancy, the AI version of Dementia, and players are expecting either a mournful bowing out on Cortana's part or Master Chief to find a cure, as he promises throughout the game.
343 still manages to bring a twist to the installment, however, teasing a death of Master Chief that never actually happens, before Cortana turns herself into a sacrificial lamb in order to ensure that our protagonist is able to continue defending the galaxy, albeit defending it without his chief confidant.
11 Argo - Shadow Of The Colossus
Even though many games can be played alone, players never actually feel alone; NPCs and other characters make it seem that we're in the company of dozens, or hundreds, of friends. It's because of these NPCs that we can find ourselves lost in a world for hours at a time. In the case of Shadow of the Colossus, however, the only companion we have is Wander's horse Argo.
Used mainly as the primary mode of transportation, as well as somewhat of a teammate during some battles, Argo's biggest contribution to the game is making it feel like the game world isn't as lonely as it actually is. Argo quickly becomes our friend, the only one we can say we have during the entirety of Shadow of the Colossus. While enemies are scare in the game, friends and NPCs are even more of a rarity.
This is why it's so shocking and emotional when Argo meets him doom at the hands of a collapsing bridge, throwing his master to safety as his final act, leaving Wander - and the player - friendless in an almost empty world.
10 Dom Finds Maria - Gears Of War 2
The first two installments of the Gears of War franchise had a surprising amount of backstory and overall storytelling for a franchise that gamers expected would be a gorier, and more violent version, of the classic shooters of the past. Gears of War 2 expanded on secondary protagonist Dominic 'Dom' Santiago's backstory and motive behind his Horde hatred by revealing that the Locust had kidnapped his wife, possibly killing her.
While that seems like just about enough of a backstory for most shooters, Gears of War 2 took it to a whole new level by revealing that the Locust had been keeping their hostages alive for years, torturing them while leaving them extremely malnourished. Players got the first glimpse of this when Tai Kalisto was found suicidal after several hours of torture.
With Dom's backstory and Tai's obvious suffering, players had reason not to have hope for Dom's wife Maria. And that's when we were hit with one of the most emotional moments in gaming history, let alone in a shooter; Dom finding Maria in an almost catatonic state, being forced to do the compassionate thing and put her out of her misery.
9 Vesemir's Death - The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Vesemir is one of the few characters throughout the entirety of The Witcher franchise that players can safely say they can count on; in a world where almost everything we meet is either actively hostile towards us, suspicious of us, or trying to kill us - or all three - Vesemir is one of the few friends that Geralt can rely on.
Throughout the entire time that we spend with Vesemir, he proves to be an endless source of entertainment and knowledge, constantly guiding Geralt and the player throughout the ever changing world that both Witchers inhabit. This continues throughout most of The Wild Hunt, ensuring that Geralt is poised to both find Yennefer, his true love, as well as battle those who seek to end the Witcher race.
It's in this defense of the Witcher's that Vesemir finally meets his end, battling against the Wild Hunt in order to protect the defenseless Ciri. With his death written in stone, the character's funeral only looks to deepen the emotional scars made by the character's sudden departure.
8 The Last Joke - Batman: Arkham City
Since The Joker was first unveiled, both he and Batman have been two sides of a coin; one designated justice and order, while the other stands for anarchy and chaos. The relationship has played out like this across a variety of media, from comic books and movies, to the small screen, and most recently in video games with the Arkham series.
Throughout all this, Batman and The Joker have never been able to end the other's life, feeling that without one, the other simply cannot function properly; there isn't a yin without a yang. Which is why is felt so emotional when, at the end of Arkham City, we see the Joker lose his life at the end of a climactic battle with Batman - whether or not it was Batman's fault is up for debate.
The relationship between the two is driven home with a reference to a painting of Cain and Abel, alluding to the duo being two brothers locked in combat, destined to be at odds for eternity. While subtle, the allusion helps hammer the emotional nail behind Mr. J's death.
7 The Life Of Solid Snake - Metal Gear Solid 4
Throughout the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, many players can see the final events of the game unfold before they even happen; as the game seemingly takes pains to show, it looks as if Solid Snake is set to die, with the rapidly aging agent seemingly accepting his fate. He knows he's dying, with nobody being able to tell him how, or why, and the fact that his aging is accelerated is only making things work.
Over the course of Metal Gear Solid 4, however, Solid Snake - as well as the players themselves - begin to accept this fate, with the protagonist deciding that, once the mission is over, his time is done, regardless of what causes it. By the end, we're not only expecting his demise, but looking forward to how it will actually unfold; possibly a shot by Revolver Ocelet, or maybe even Big Boss himself.
However, Solid Snake decides that he's tired of waiting for his days to run out, or for someone to finally be able to take him down, deciding to turn his own gun on himself. And that's where the twist comes; Big Boss turning up and actually managing to talk him out of dying. It's not the almost death that's emotional, it's the fact that Solid Snake has been relegated to a life that he doesn't want and doesn't like that really brings a tear to the eye.
6 Canon Ending - Life Is Strange
Since we first arrive at Arcadia Bay, emotional bonds are formed between us and the characters; the choices we make have repercussions and every decision counts, leading us to pick our words carefully and heavily invest in each of the characters. We take our time to ensure that we make friends with as many of the characters as possible, ensuring the emotional bonds run deeper and deeper.
These emotional bonds come back to scar us once we reach the finale of the episodic game; the storyline leads us in choosing to sacrifice Chloe, a character that we've come to care for deeply, or save Arcadia Bay from one of the worst storms in centuries, possibly leading to dozens of more deaths.
The choice comes down to that of selfishness; do you sacrifice the woman that you love and watch her die, or let a natural disaster occur? With the canonical ending, we sit through one of the most emotional deaths ever played out in a video game, with characters letting their love die for the sake of Arcadia Bay.
5 Jenny's Death - The Darkness
Normally, when a protagonist gains supernatural abilities, they're able to use those abilities to save the ones they love; think Spider-Man saving Mary Jane. With The Darkness, however, things don't seem to go exactly to plan, with the game getting somewhat of a nice twist in that, instead of being a Spider-Man-esque character, protagonist Jackie gains powers more in line with Venom - a somewhat living organism with sentience living inside Jackie's body.
This all comes to a head when, after his mobster uncle kidnaps his girlfriend, Jackie is held back by his own powers and forced to watch as Jenny is brutally slaughtered by his own uncle. Driving the emotion to a head is the fact that despite gaining superpowers - or in spite of those powers - players can't help but feel powerless as to what's playing out on screen.
4 Dom's Final Act - Gears Of War 3
With his wife's death being the emotional high point - or low point, depending on your outlook - of the previous entry, the developers of Gears of War 3 really needed to outdo themselves when it came to concluding the trilogy's storyline. While the eradication of the Locust was obviously a must, the developers needed to wrap up some individual storylines first, with Dom and chief protagonist Marcus' stories being the most vital.
While Marcus needed to find and save his father, Dom needed redemption; he needed to not only do his duty as a soldier, but also as a widower grieving over the loss of his wife, and trying to single-handedly take out the Locust Horde seemed his only way of doing that.
With him making peace with his wife at her family grave, Dom needed to redeem himself in his own eyes, doing what he can to ensure the Locust were defeated. With his team cornered and no other options, Dom saw only one way to ensure the defeat of the enemy; taking an armored car and driving it through several dozen Locust before it explodes in a mix of Locust entrails, leaving the soldier dead, but joining his wife in the afterlife.
3 More Harm Than Good - Spec Ops: The Line
Most shooters don't tend to have too much depth to them, with only some standing out; chief among these are the Gears of War franchise and Spec Ops: The Line, both of which have an amount of depth that's rarely explored in games, regardless of genre. It's because of the fact that it's a shooter that Spec Ops: The Line manages to surprise gamers, as well as play with their emotions slightly.
During most shooters, players never get to see the consequences of their actions, whereas Spec Ops: The Line pays close attention to exactly what happens once you pull the trigger, or even push the big red button. This hits an emotional nerve when players are given a chance to bomb a number of terrorists, unwittingly unleashing a ton of White Phosphorus on civilians.
Throughout the following cutscenes the gravity of the situation is shown in painstaking detail, with the developers showing the reality of war and what to expect should soldiers unwittingly push the wrong button.
2 The End - The Last Of Us
The ending to The Last Of Us was one that not many of us saw coming; after losing his daughter at the start of the game, many expected lead protagonist Joel to walk off into the sunset with Ellie, whom he now sees as a daughter figure - with Ellie reciprocating the father-daughter feelings.
Throughout the game, the two form a powerful bond, leading to the father-daughter feelings that are self-evident by the games end. At one point, the relationship gets to the stage where Joel promises to teach Ellie how to play the guitar, something which he seemingly always wanted to do with his actual daughter.
Then, at the end of the game, Joel has to decide whether to save the world or Ellie. He choose Ellie and it's one of the most powerful moments in gaming history.
1 Lonely Clementine - The Walking Dead (Season 1)
Throughout the entire first and second season of Telltale's Walking Dead series, we're shown just how vulnerable Clementine is; after all, she's just a child stuck in the middle of the apocalypse, heavily dependent on her older saviors. During this time, though, we see her grow as a character and, while not completely dependent on her own wits, she's able to handle herself when she needs to.
As much as we see her grow, it's unavoidable that we'd see her stay vulnerable while she's still a child, and nothing drives this home harder than the end of Season 2. Though choices matter throughout the entire franchise, one fatality is unavoidable no matter what decisions are made; Lee, Clem's only guardian left has been bitten and needs to be put down before he becomes a zombie. With all she has learned throughout the series, Clementine manages to do what she must, but her reaction to a number of shadowy figures drives how just how scared and alone she is.