Death. It's such an emotional subject, and quite a human topic. Because of this, death is often a central theme in fictional works. After all, what's not to love/hate about vicariously living someone else's death? Put together right, it can tug the heartstrings of even the most veteran players. At its worst, it's made to seem cheap and unappealing. So many of our favorite characters have died, due in part to the recent trend of 'got 'em!' snags, that many have grown tired of death. In the world of video games, the interactivity and longevity of the player's time are key, leaving the 'Death Is Cheap' trope to be put to the test.
We have seen our favorite characters, die, revive, die, and revive again, all for the sake of either giving a better closure, trying to please an audience or, in most cases, because a company happened to murder their good old cash cow. But when is dead, well, dead? These characters push the line on what it actually means to be dead and how far the boundaries can be pushed. And oftentimes, when one dies, it doesn't mean a complete goodbye. Their ensuing resurrection can mean either great or bad news to a franchise. All being said, characters dying multiple times in a franchise only to come back has been a heated topic over the medium, and to celebrate this here are the Top 15 Video Game Characters Who Have Died The Most.
Kratos, while only being killed off once in the series, is here for the standing ovation of how a resurrection can kill an integrity of your character.
Long story short, Kratos was set up to be a tragic figure, much like the pantheon of the Greek tragedy. In God of War, Kratos was set up to kill Ares to redeem himself from being tricked into murdering his family. When he realizes that his journey was all for nothing, he is seen falling off of a cliff. However, Kratos is resurrected back from the dead to kill the gods and get his vengeance. While it may seem like a thrilling return, it, and the countless sequels, has made a lot of players ask what the point of this revival is. Furthermore, without Hades to resurrect him, there's really no point as to why Kratos keeps being resurrected throughout the series.
BioShock sets the perfect pace and tone for dread. From the walls to the hallways, you feel as if nowhere is safe. Especially in the hospital, with baddies popping up everywhere and with Splicers travelling not just in small groups but swarms. It makes sure you know that everywhere you go, you'll be a sitting duck, until you regenerate.
Considered to be the ultimate example of "death is cheap", the regeneration vaults within BioShock completely turns the game from terrifying to annoying. After all, what worse price is there for death than the abominable... backtracking? This was fixed within later games, having them be more pricey and having to outright deny regeneration if you didn't have enough money. Just one of the few mechanics that stumbled, thankfully this wasn't one that completely crippled the game.
13 Borderlands 2
What's worse than having a regeneration mechanic? Having a regeneration mechanic so broken and riddled with plot holes, the main writers retconned it.
At the start of Borderlands 2, your crew is assassinated by Handsome Jack, the CEO of Hyperion who hired you to go out and treasure hunt. Being the sole survivor, you decide to get some good ol' fashioned revenge. Much like BioShock, once you're dead, you'll be able to revive over in the New-U machines... which are built by Handsome Jack. This has created so many plot holes, that, through the Word of God, the New-U's were retconned in the later games, with even the lead writer, Anthony Burch, stating his disdain for the machines and the unique lines written for them.
12 Sylvanas Windrunner
Resurrected twice, Sylvanas Windrunner also shows how you can make death and resurrection an important pinpoint in a character's development. In Warcraft III, Lich King Arthas Menethil not only kills Sylvanas Windrunner but destroys the Sun Well, the well of all Blood Elf magic, and infects her with the plague. Resurrected as the Banshee Queen of the Undead, the later half of Warcraft III and the remaining titles up to World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, see her preparing and planning revenge for her death and the destruction of the Sun Well.
However, after the Lich King is considered to be dead, Sylvanas has an epiphany. Not knowing how to live on after what seems to be a lifetime of vengeance, she falls off a cliff. While falling, a group of archangels show her what is to be expected for her afterlife and decides to be resurrected, yet again, in order to keep surviving and not face the dark abyss. One of the best characters in which resurrections motivate actions, Sylvanas Windrunner shows developers how to revive characters and what it means.
11 M. Bison
Oh, look, another recurring villain! M. Bison has been an intimidating character on the Street Fighter roster since the franchise came out. With his sleek and iconic design, immediate presence, and some of the toughest moves around, M. Bison is still seen as up to par with the likes of Ripley and Bowser. Taking that into consideration, it's no wonder that not even death can put this bad boy down.
Dying in both Street Fighter II and in Street Fighter III, he was resurrected in the Capcom Versus continuity, along with Charlie Nash. However, unlike Charlie, who is presumed dead in the main continuity, M. Bison came back for Street Fighter IV and V, taking over another body. Comes to show that with Street Fighter, death is just temporary.
10 You (Dark Souls)
I think we all knew this would come up at some point. While recurring heroes and villains are one thing, no one does death and rejuvenation like Dark Souls. Whether through traps, enemies, or one-shot bosses, you'll always be back on your feet in no time.
And while there are some games, even on this list, that also have a revive feature, none require the painstaking effort and backtracking that a Dark Souls game requires you to have. After dying, a player then has to go to the spot where they once died and obtain the souls they once had. This requires players to be careful and focused, unless they want all their souls gone. This has been quite a game changer, with several roguelikes using this as a stepping stone for their games as well.
9 Ridley (Metroid)
Ridley has been in almost every Metroid game, and has died in pretty much all of them, as well. Kind of. He's defeated in Metroid, seemingly for good, but comes back in Metroid Prime as Meta Ridley, a sort of robot version of himself. Presumably, he was brought back to life. When he's defeated in that game, it's off-screen; the player doesn't get to see it themselves. This starts a never-ending trend of him "dying" and then coming back again, making reappearances as a clone, a parasite, the guardian of a pirate world... he just won't stop coming back! It's like Jason from Friday the 13th; you might think you can put him down for good, but it seems that he'll always find another way back up.
8 Dracula (Castlevania)
One of the most recognizable monsters, it's no surprise that Dracula has rained terror over Transylvania as well as Castlevania. With the exception of the first and the last two games, Dracula is considered the big baddie of the series and one of the remaining threats to the Belmonts. However, after what seemed like sequel after sequel, Dracula was assumed to be dead, with his remaining family members sealing away his regeneration cycle. However, that hasn't stopped some rascally cultists from bringing him back from the dead, having him reincarnate as the new Soma Cruz. There's no limit to what cultists will do to bring back a favorite villain.
Considered the grandfather of roguelikes, Rogue is as persistent as it is difficult. Unlike the other entries on this list, Rogue doesn't have a coherent narrative or story. In the game, players would have to traverse through an unmapped dungeon and obtain loot, either through treasures or monsters. Afterward, players would find the Amulet of Yenor and head back to the surface.
Persistent in its execution, one of the major learning curves are the graphics themselves. Being a text-based adventure game, much of the sprites are built of either letters or numbers. However, while the graphics may be considered dated, the mechanics laid the foundation that would define the roguelike games we know today. And with the monsters getting harder and harder with each level, it was only a matter of time before an untimely death.
Not all reviving is a wanted thing, and this is where Sigma lands. The main antagonist and usually the final boss of any game in the series, Sigma is the main evil-doer with a straight face in Mega Man X. With more robotic parts than all the Apple and Google factories combined, Sigma has kept on reviving.
However, there are several moments in the series where Sigma is revived outside of his own will, sometimes in an unfinished state. Not only has this added depth to the antagonist but shows the moral grayness of the world that Mega Man X was trying to showcase. It comes to show that even big fishes can be seen as tadpoles in a bigger pond.
5 Wild Dog
Head of the mercenary organization group Wild Dog Organization, Wild Dog is as ruthless as he is cunning. Being one of the the major antagonists and arch rivals of the Time Crisis series, there's reason as to why Wild Dog keeps appearing, even after death. However, there are certain deaths that can be plausible to come back from, and then there's the back flips that development teams will go to bring some characters back from the dead.
He has died not once, not twice, but a grand total of FIVE deaths throughout the series. Also, it hasn't been just tiny flesh wounds he's been getting either. Much like a magician's puff of smoke, Wild Dog usually gets away from self-detonating bombs, sometimes on accident but occasionally on purpose. And other than his metal hand, he seems fine. Guess reviving costs a finger in the Time Crisis series.
Ah, Bowser, gaming's most iconic villain. Bowser is very much Mario's Pete or Bluto. Bowser is just as important as the little red mustachioed plumber, which is why it's no surprise that he has taken the biggest punches since debuting on the NES. Almost every Mario title, with the exception of Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins and Super Mario Bros. 2, Bowser has served as the main antagonist and the final boss.
Either at the end of a stage or boss battle, Bowser is usually defeated and in most cases implied dead. Still, even after a controller snapping, tail swinging battle with the Koopa King, he'll always manage to get back on his shell and continues to take the punches. After all, how could one play tennis or soccer without being alive? And that, ladies and gentlemen, is sportsmanship.
Completing the Triforce of Power, the thing that puts Ganon/Ganondorf on a higher rank than Bowser is while Bowser is assumed defeated, the end of the final battles in the Zelda series tend to explicitly imply Ganon's demise. Even the cell-shaded, most cartoon-like game in the series, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, has him impaled by the Master Sword, and is considered to be the most explicit death scene from the franchise. The remaining games in the series have you either destroy him with a bomb, your Master Sword, or transporting back to different dimensions. And somehow, through either subtle trickery, clumsy resurrection, or just simply popping up for no reason, there's no denying this tough cookie.
Considered the "dark, grim, and grittier" revival of the Mega Man series, it's no wonder that this character has died more times than we can count. He's the villain turned anti-hero of the franchise, and in every installment of the series, and with each death, somehow, he's rebooted back into the world to either fight evil or fight with evil. However, with the release of Mega Man Zero 4, the creators stated that the edgy little robot would be using his plasma gun for the last time.
Apparently, last time means something totally different in the world of video games. His body completely dead, his data and armor were then changed into a rock, returning to Mega Man ZX as the mysterious Biometal Model Z.
While this may be a bit of a stretch, as he has never been considered canonically dead, Mario without a doubt has died the most out of every video game character. After all, with almost three decades' worth of games under your belt, you'll have to have some creative ways of dying. We've seen it all at this point. Through mushrooms, shells, fires, pitfalls, hammers, and even time itself, everyone and everything seems hellbent on separating our lovable little plumber man from his fair maiden Peach.
Nowadays, there's a bit more ease to the series, but we can all remember being so frustrated that we would throw a controller across the room after playing Super Mario Bros., especially when we were told that our princess was in another castle. He may be little, but he's got a big adventure... and an even bigger body count.