You know, people are constantly discussing whether video games make children more violent or not. We see young kids – maybe 10 or 11 – enjoying themselves in GTA Online. They’re running wild, shouting obscenities over the mic, and holding down the trigger button. It’s just another day in the world of online gaming. What most people forget, however, is the emotional attachment and toll a video game can bring on the right player. A single-player experience, for example, can be either a tedious waste of time or a significant investment in your mental state and well-being. Imagine befriending such characters as Commander Shepard or Cole Phelps in real life. These are larger-than-life heroes who step forth to do good in the world. Then their untimely death occurs. It’s enough to leave a grown man crying. I’ll be honest with you; I cried like a baby when some of my favorite characters died in-game. It was simply too much to handle, but that is what makes a good game great. When the writers, designers, and developers can craft a compelling, meaningful cast of characters – complete with their own goals, dreams, and emotions, their deaths can be exceptionally difficult to cope with. Video games are becoming more meaningful and ever-improving.
Some of the video game characters on this list cater to a very particular type of player. You may not be a fan of every genre or even every game involved in this article, but the deaths of each character meant something to someone.
I don’t think it needs to be stated, but I will anyway: there are immense spoilers involved in this article.
15 Mass Effect – Ashley Or Kaiden
The world of Mass Effect has always been incredibly fleshed out. Its stories can be retold and remembered for years to come (bar the most recent release, of course). The original trilogy managed to introduce a whole cast of characters worth their salt in the universe. Two such characters were Ashley and Kaiden.
I know, it’s kind of cheating to include two characters as one item, but you must select which to save and which to sacrifice. To this day, Virmire is still one of the most difficult choices to make in a video game. You’re tasked with the ultimate decision: who will remain at the bomb site and set off the explosives, dying in the process. This decision has a lasting impact. Ashley will become a decorated soldier and flashbacks will haunt Shepard. On the other hand, Kaiden will always have a place in the captain’s headquarters in a photograph.
14 God of War III – Kratos
Kratos is, literally, the epitome of a badass. The warrior has ravaged both the heavens and the planet with his might. He has killed Gods. Destroyed Titans. The man is seemingly unstoppable; at least he was at one point. In God of War III, Kratos’ legend finally comes to a close. He is left alone, gasping for air, laying in a pool of his own blood. There is no one surrounding him. No friends, no family. Kratos fought alone and he died alone.
Kratos’ death comes at the hands of Athena. Athena, seeking the power hidden within Pandora’s Box, claims Kratos is a liar, as he had discovered the box was completely empty. Calling him out, Athena grows irritable. After a lengthy boss fight, Kratos’ power is simply not enough to defeat Athena, which is odd considering the foes he has bested previously. Ultimately, his death came by his own hand. Is this truly the end, though?
13 Metal Gear Solid 3 – The Boss
It’s fitting that the last moments of The Boss were spent with Snake. Of course, Snake was the individual pulling the trigger in this instance. So, maybe “fitting” isn’t the right word here. Her protégé – the man she spent so many years and countless missions training – is the triggerman. Anyone who has endured this particular death scenes knows of the emotional turmoil that Hideo Kojima managed to coax forth.
While The Boss played a significant role in the overall story of Metal Gear, she was overshadowed by our main protagonist at all turns. Her end, however, was still worth noting. Laying in the middle of a field of white flowers, Snake standing over her with his machine pistol. It’s certainly not a sudden death, but a lasting one.
12 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – John “Soap” MacTavish
Say what you want about the Call of Duty franchise, but they’ve managed to create a few very likable characters amidst a sea of copy/paste AI. One such character is John “Soap” MacTavish, the leader of Task Force 141. Unfortunately for him, being wounded in action multiple times is quite bad for your health.
While Price and Yuri desperately rush Soap to a safe house, tidbits of backstory seep out from the dying soldier. Namely, Yuri’s relationship with Makarov. Everyone around the body is in denial. No one thought this day would ever come. As Soap lays motionless on the table, the war ravages on outside. The player (that’s you) has absolutely no time to mourn the death of their commander. There is simply too much at stake. As a lasting reminder of his sacrifice, Soap’s full name was inscribed on the Hereford Clocktower, where fallen SAS veterans are honored.
11 Half-Life 2: Episode 2 – Eli Vance
Dr. Eli Vance. A physicist, researcher, and loving father. Apparently in his fifties or sixties, the gray-haired genius was known for his prosthetic leg and resolve. As a survivor of the Black Mesa Incident, Vance has, literally, been through hell and returned for a second helping.
The old man played a significant role in the world of Half-Life. His death came as no surprise to anyone who had been following the story, of course. It only made sense at the time that Vance would never survive his trials. The worst part of the whole ordeal, however, is that we had to watch the entire scene play out. This was no off-screen death. Hearing the desperate pleas of Alyx made the whole scene so much harder to handle.
10 Mass Effect 3 – Commander Shepard
This one may cheat a tad. Depending on your particular method of playing Mass Effect 3, Commander Shepard may very well have survived. At least, one ending to the game hinted at such an occurrence happening. Of course, a mere hint doesn’t mean the universal hero is actually alive. In fact, most facts point to him being quite dead in the overall scheme of things.
His method of dying, however, was actually quite cool, all things considered. Commander Shepard – the hero of the entire universe – had to go out swinging. He couldn’t play it cool. Instead, the man we followed through three video games saved the world one more time. By sacrificing himself, Shepard, literally, rescued every single sentient race. His death was, once again, fully portrayed for the player to experience.
9 Final Fantasy X – Auron
Auron was the ultimate badass in the world of Final Fantasy. Ask anyone who has played the series who their favorite characters are and chances are that Auron is on that list. The red-cloaked, sun-glasses-wearing man dons a pretty sweet sword and hairstyle throughout his time in-game. Of course, being such a formidable character, his end was already written in stone. Sometimes, Square Enix can be quite predictable.
Angered by Yunalesca, the evil witch, who turned Jecht into the Final Summoning, Auron cannot contain his rage. He attacks the evil being, but cannot overcome this particular obstacle. She mercilessly slaughters Auron, who does not immediately die of his wounds. Instead, he drags himself to Mt Gagazet, where his dying wish is for Kihmari to care for Yuna. A true gentleman to the end.
8 Gears of War 3 – Dom
Dominic Santiago, your battle brother through countless conflicts against the Locust, is a hardy, outgoing soldier. In the early days of the war, it is Dom who rescues and recruits our hero Marcus from Jacinto Maximum Security Prison. His loyalty to Marcus is unrivaled.
Like a true warrior, Dom goes out fighting the Locust. While cornered with his squad, Dom chooses to sacrifice himself to save Marcus and his teammates. Saying one last farewell, Dom climbs into the seat of a massive truck, preparing for one final ride into battle. The music in this scene is especially dramatic and emotional. It truly sets the mood. As the world explodes around them, Dom’s friends and battle group are forced to take cover, knowing Dom just risked life and limb for their safety and security. If anyone deserved a medal, it was Dom.
7 L.A. Noire – Cole Phelps
There are some who will argue that Cole Phelps was a horrible protagonist. You may even claim that he was boring, bland, and a cliché wrapped in a suit. All of those very descriptive terms for the man could be true, but his valor and bravery stood out amongst a vast cast of characters. Cole was out to do the right thing. He stood for the good of the law, for the people, and for the city.
Of course, like any brave soul, his death was untimely and rough. While rescuing Elsa and Kelso during his final case, Cole is swept away by a wall of water. The worst part of the whole thing is that Cole knew his time was up. He was aware that those above him could not rescue him from the wave of water. He uttered a final goodbye, then gave his life for duty and service.
6 World of Warcraft – Arthas Menethil
Arthas Menethil, Crown Prince of Lordaeron and Knight of the Silver Hand, was trained as a paladin by Uther the Lightbringer. His destiny was to do good in the world of Azeroth. Despite this upbringing, Arthas became the most powerful, deceptive, and truly evil being in the world. Upon acquiring the Frostmourne – a cursed runeblade – he became the Death Knight. He merged with the Lich King, ruling as the dominant being.
A villain? You may be asking yourself how a villain’s death could be chilling or particularly noteworthy. Well, Arthas was more than a villain. Horde, Alliance, and Ashen Verdict forces came together to defeat the Lich King. As he lay dying, his connection with the Lich King was broken. Arthas once more returned to his former self – a young man of noble upbringing.
5 Red Dead Redemption – John Marston
Red Dead Redemption is, hands down, one of the most impressive open-world video games currently available to play. With the upcoming release of Red Dead Redemption 2, there has never been a better time to go back and play through the western adventure. Of course, anyone who has played through Rockstar’s third-person game already knows the extreme hardship one must experience late in the game.
The death of John Marston hits particularly hard. This is a man who fought for what he loved: his family. He went through all this trouble: fighting bandits, rescuing maidens, and performing tasks as a ranch hand. It was a tough journey. We all thought this man, a man who had defied all odds, would certainly make it out alive in the end. Of course, the law had other plans. When Marston steps out of the barn, our hearts dropped. It was all over for our gruff, worn hero.
4 The Walking Dead: Season One – Lee
Lee Everett, the main protagonist of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead: Season One, was a convicted murderer before the end of the world occurred. While traveling to his prison for his life sentence, things got a bit hectic. His world was turned upside down. It’s not long after that we’re introduced to Clementine – a young girl at this time.
Lee, despite his original tale, is a great man. He rescued this little girl – torn from her family – and helped to raise and defend her through the atrocities of a new world. The two go through thick and thin, meeting new friends and survivors, surviving countless excursions and adventures. In the end, no one can survive the zombie apocalypse. Lee succumbs to a bite. It is Clementine who must choose whether to shoot him or leave him. We all know how that goes.
3 Left 4 Dead – Bill
William “Bill” Overbeck is one of the playable survivors in Left 4 Dead, Valve’s original co-op zombie shooter. A Vietnam veteran who served in the Special Forces, Bill is a hardy, battle-trained individual who is more than capable of standing against a horde of undead. He’s known for the lit cigarette constantly in his mouth, the green beret, and army coat.
Our final moments with Bill are during ‘The Sacrifice’ – an additional campaign added to Left 4 Dead. In order to escape, the four survivors must raise a bridge and block off the infected. Of course, being a veteran and brave man, Bill volunteers for the role. Inside the generator room, Bill is overrun by the undead. His last act on this planet was to rescue those he traveled with through countless fights.
2 The Darkness – Jenny
If you’ve never played The Darkness, you’re sorely missing out on an enjoyable experience. The first-person shooter never received too much attention, but those who played it found a cult classic. In this mafia-filled world of demons and darkness, Jackie Estacado loves very little. In fact, he’s not far off from a demon himself, even without the raging tentacles and dark powers. His one love, however, is Jenny Romano – his long-time girlfriend.
Knowing of this love, Jenny is kidnapped by Uncle Paulie and Eddie Shrote. She is whisked away to St. Mary’s Orphanage, where both she and Jackie grew up together. Here, she is beaten by Paulie, who then forces her against the door between Jackie and them, and shoots her in the head. It’s a physical, grimy death that brings about an unspeakable rage in both Jackie and the player. That anger is unleashed through gunfire and demonic powers.
1 The Last of Us – Sarah
Sarah is a supporting character in The Last of Us. Joel’s only daughter, Sarah is just 12-years-old when the outbreak occurs. Her death is, honestly, one of the hardest to witness as a player. At least, it was for this grown man. I cry like a baby in this scene, even after nine playthroughs. It’s hard to watch.
While escaping from the city, Joel and Sarah manage to avoid the Cordyceps Brain Infection outbreak. They make it to relative safety, only to find the military has implemented a shoot-first quarantine. A lone soldier opens fire, hitting both Joel and Sarah. Unfortunately for her, Sarah cannot withstand the gunshot like Joel. The bullet tears through her insides. She dies, crying in agony, while Joel holds her baby girl one last time.