Video games are fun. They’re great outlets for dealing with stress, they exercise our brains, they provide a link to distant friends via online campaigns and co-ops, and most importantly, they stave off complete boredom. Every now and then, we get so into the storytelling of a game that we develop an emotional connection to the characters. And then…something terrible happens. Something so awful that we are left either screaming in wounded anguish or sobbing our eyes out. Or sometimes we are just left trying to pick up our jaws back up for reattachment. Here are some games that have kicked us in the feels and kept kicking us in the “vulnies” until the bitter end.
WARNING! Major spoilers.
Someone once said that Journey is the Citizen Kane of video games. Argue amongst yourselves on that point, but no one can deny that this game evokes something deep inside you that you can’t help but take a moment to collect yourself.
First off, Journey is an indie game produced by Thatgamecompany. It’s rather short, only a couple hours long, but you don’t even care once you press start. The artwork, the music, and the overall gentle flow of the game draws you in. You play a lone, nameless character who must traverse through an expansive desert, and the ruins that lie in between, to reach the light at the top of the mountain across the way. There’s no dialogue, just images that tell a story. It’s both basic yet complex at the same time. Eventually, you watch your character stripped of all its accomplishments (i.e. your scarf) and you are left alone finish the last few steps upward. It’s so simple that you don’t even notice the visceral reaction in your gut until the credits start rolling. It’s hard to explain exactly since any one emotional experience is so unique among different players.
2. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
There are two sad moments in Brotherhood that spoke to us: Cristina’s death and Lucy’s stabbing. Cristina was Ezio’s one real love throughout the time depicted in Assassin’s Creed 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, even though they were never really together once Ezio began his journey towards becoming an assassin. Cristina is mortally wounded towards the end of the “Bonfire of the Vanities” storyline. With her dying breath, she admits that she has always loved Ezio more than her own husband of 16 years.
By now, we’ve been right behind Ezio on his path for revenge against the Templars. We’ve seen him bloodied and beaten, and we watched him watch his family die. But never did we explore another part of his life before playing his repressed memories of Cristina. She was, at the time, his gateway into becoming a full human being, even if only from a distance. Then she dies, and so does a little bit of Ezio.
The second saddest event in Brotherhood is when Juno takes over Desmond and stabs Lucy in the stomach. I don’t know about you, but this totally blindsided me. Throughout the course of the series, the player watches Desmond and Lucy grow closer. There are no outright declarations of love, not even an “I like, like you.” But you know the connection is there. If you totally forget that Lucy went missing for a while, it will probably never even occur to you that she might be doing something shifty. Like, Templar stuff kind of shifty. Still, you probably never saw this particular moment coming. Immediately right after Lucy’s death, Desmond is so overwhelmed by the hostile takeover, and equally distraught over what he had just done, that he slips into a coma.
Do I even need to describe the emotional whiplash from watching this scene unfold? Sudden twists like this happen all the time in movies and television. Now, for those of you who’ve never played the game, imagine yourself watching your favorite supporting character get stabbed in the final seconds of a season finale, then black screen. Bam, you just got cliffhanger’d.
3. Beyond: Two Souls
I don’t particularly care for Beyond: Two Souls as a game, but I do give props to Ellen Page for giving a magnificent performance as Jodie. As a whole, the organization of David Cage’s storytelling is a mess and should only be reserved for when you have multiple cast members to keep track of. When you look at each chapter individually, however, you start appreciating that one particular story a bit more.
All that aside, there are plenty of sad moments to go around in Beyond. In fact Jodie’s life is one tragedy after another; it makes things hard to pick which sad moment is better. Whether or not your choose to let Jodie cross over to the other side, the next saddest scene in the game is when Jodie discovers that had killed a kid’s father. On a covert mission for the CIA, Jodie is tasked with assassinating a man whom she is told is a terrorist trying to rise to power. Along the way, she befriends a little kid who becomes her guide through the most tumultuous parts of the city. They part ways once Jodie is close enough to where her target is hiding. The kid enters just after Jodie kills everyone in the compound where he finds his father dead on the floor. Angry, the kid threatens to shoot Jodie and chases her off.
There are no words for what Jodie, nor we as the player, feels after realizing the kid was probably leading her to that compound because he thought she might help their cause rather than completely annihilate it. The final blow came when Jodie discovers on the plane ride home that she had just assassinated a revolutionary seeking freedom for his people, not some warlord, terrorist, bad guy. I’d jump off a plane too, if I found that out, with or without Aiden there to protect me.
4. Heavy Rain
I have a sneaking suspicion that Quantic Dream and David Cage really want you to feel as crummy as humanly possible. In Heavy Rain, it’s practically a sure thing. Each player’s run through the game is different. It’s a game that bases itself entirely on your choices as well as the consequences of your failures.
The most agonizing scenes in this game are when Ethan Mars, a father whose son is kidnapped by the Origami Killer. The Origami Killer gives Ethan life-threatening tests to prove just how much he loves his son. Let me tell you, failing those tests makes you feel like the worst parent in all of humanity. I inadvertently failed my first test, but it was another test that truly put me in a morose state of mind a for a few minutes. As Ethan, I had to navigate through a long crawl space to find the next room. Not so bad, right? Wrong. Not only are you inch worming your way through, but you also have to do it over broken shards of glass. The sound department really knew what they were doing when it came to simulating glass rubbing against concrete, breaking under your weight, and tearing into your clothes and skin. After all of that, you have to navigate your way through an electric maze. I failed this test miserably and was forced to take the emergency exit labeled “Coward.”
This. This will be the reason why I’ll never have children.
5. The Walking Dead
Let’s face it, anything associated with The Walking Dead series will never be sunshine, rainbows, and happy-fun-time. It will forever be about people surviving a world ravaged by zombies long enough to see the sun rise the next day. There are so many heart-wrenching, and colon-clenching, moments in Telltale’s The Walking Dead, but there are two specific events that I simply must talk about.
The first is the creepy stalker you meet in Episode 5. Through the course of the series, Clem is secretly communicating with someone claiming to know her parents, who were in Savannah during the initial outbreak. Eventually the stalker kidnaps Clem, luring Lee to a face-to-face confrontation alone. At first you think this is just some weird guy from the evil community out to get you for some reason. Then he tells you his back story. This is the guy whose car you found abandoned at the end of Episode 2. If you took his supplies, the decision I made, he’ll blame you for his misgivings since that day. So very few games, movies, or TV shows make me actually gasp aloud when I’m alone in the room. This made me not only gasp, but I also exclaimed, “What the WHAT?!” And by this time, you’re already so attached to Clem and Lee, that the thought of those two in danger like this gets your nerves jumping in a hundred different directions and have you panicking like Tina from Bob’s Burgers.
The second is when Clem finally finds her parents. On the brink of death himself, Lee is trying to wade Clem through a horde of zombies. They’re successful for the most part…until Clem spots her zombified parents. The chances of Clem’s parents being alive once the group got to Savannah were next to nothing, but there was always the sliver of hope. However, as per our expectations befitting the world of The Walking Dead, that hope was immediately ripped away from us and Clem.
6. Final Fantasy X
Pretty much everything about the end of Final Fantasy X is extremely sad. Not only do we find out that Tidus is just a corporeal illusion dreamt up by a phantom Zanarkind, but he and Auron and Jecht, unsent spirits who died a long time ago, must disappear with the fayth whom they freed after defeating Sin and Yu Yevon. The whole send off is quite sad. If you were a 13 year old hopeless romantic like I was then you may have been crying buckets of tears. And that hug! Tidus was already disappearing when decided to embrace her goodbye!
7. Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 was, in a lot of ways, a huge send off to some of our favorite team mates. Probably the most soul-crushing goodbye for some of us is Tali’s. If you couldn’t make peace between the Geth and the Quarians in the second game, you will most certainly step into an all-out war amidst the struggle to save the universe from the Reapers. In the final push to retake Rannoch, the Quarian home world, Tali enlists Shepard and company’s help to save her people. If you choose to side with the Geth, however, the Geth deliver a devastating blow that ensure’s the extinction of the Quarians. As a result, Tali commits suicide.
This…killed me. As soon as I saw her body fall below the horizon of the cliff, I knew that was it for her. As soon as I was able to, I paused the game and gave myself a breather…and maybe several chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk. Comfort food.
Oh man, don’t even get us started on the scene where Thane dies. No…just…I can’t.
8. The Last of Us
This will probably not be the last love letter you see me write on The Last of Us here on Agents of Geek. It’s that good. There are so many fantastic moments in this game that it’s really hard to choose which is better. The entire winter chapter of The Last of Us was one intense ride and another. Joel is wounded to the point he can’t move, it’s the dead of winter, and they’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s literally up to Ellie to keep them both alive. There’s just one problem, a group of hunters they tussled with a while back have caught up with them and they want revenge. I have to give it up to Nolan North (Nathan Drake, Uncharted) for giving an absolutely creepy and menacing performance. I almost didn’t recognize his voice. There is a part in the chapter where Nolan’s character, David, is hunting Ellie inside a fiery restaurant. He’s creeping behind booths whilst talking to Ellie in attempts to psych her out.
Up to this point, Ellie, while helpful ever since she learns to shoot a gun, was still this helpless little girl. Something inside of her awakens in this chapter. She had to become more ruthless, less compassionate. She had to become a survivor. All of that comes to the surface when she finally brings down David. Watching her beat on David without remorse and with so much anguish changes your view of Ellie a little bit. Then you find yourself right there with her. You’re just as terrified and angry at the hunters as she is that you have to pull yourself away a little bit, just as Joel does, to take a breather. On the flip side, whenever Joel is in a scene alone, you don’t fear for him. You fear for the guy tied to a chair in the room with him.
Then there’s the ending. We’ve known all along that Ellie holds the key to creating a vaccine against the fungus. What we find out later is that her immunity won’t be found in her blood but in her brain. Joel definitely has a problem with that. Let’s get one thing straight first. Joel is a selfish character, save for Ellie, he is definitely not the kind of guy you should expect to lend a helping hand out of the goodness of his heart. He’s a survivor, and he’ll do whatever it takes. Ellie is all he has left in the world; she’s his last chance at having any kind of life at all in this unforgiving world. He’s not about to give that up, not even if it means saving the human race. Because, guess what? Human’s are shitty, shitty people and don’t deserve to be saved. That’s how he thinks.
At the very end, Ellie asks Joel if the Firefly’s attempt at a vaccine was a bust is really true. Joel lies and says it is. Ellie breathes and simply replies, “Okay.” Cut to credits. That interaction alone, knowing what Joel knows, is so poignant and perfect. You have to take a step back again and wonder if you would have done the same thing or let the girl, with whom you too have forged an emotional bond, perish for the good of the human race. This turns into an internal debate, then a struggle, and then an all-out battle with your true nature versus the idealization of yourself, both of which you’re never sure you are. It’s not an easy ride to say the least, and that’s just what Naughty Dog was aiming for. [slow clap]
There you have it. Eight games that have completely rendered us emotionally damaged and unable to function as a human being for a couple hours, at least. What games have made you curl up into a sobbing ball of sadness? Let us know in the comments section!