This year marks the 9th birthday of the Xbox 360, with the PS3 just one year behind, and players have seen their games mature and grow up in term of emotional storytelling. With PC, Xbox One, and PS4 now dominating the game landscape the end of the 360 and PS3 is not far behind so what better way to prepare for a tearful goodbye with a few heartbreaking moments?
Dark Souls – Like everything else in Dark Souls this moment is rather difficult to complete, let alone find. First you have to buy the “Artorias of the Abyss” DLC then find the Broken Pendant in The Duke’s Archives and then you have to drag your broken and bleeding character all the way through the DLC up into the last area where you then have to find all the invisible walls in order to save a young wolf pup. The wolf pup grows up and becomes Sif, a boss you have to beat in order to advance the story but if you rescued him in the past he will remember you as you prepare to fight; to make matters worse when Sif’s health gets low he will start to limp away from the player. Prepare to cry indeed.
Halo 4 – For a decade old franchise involving a near-silent mean, green alien killing machine you wouldn’t expect many emotional moments nor that its best game is its most recent but that is what Halo 4 delivers. Players have been with Master Chief and Cortana across countless adventures from one end of the galaxy to the other but now after the end of the Human-Covenant war a new enemy has emerged, one the Chief and Cortana are not prepared to fight. “Halo 4” finds its heroes broken beyond repair as Cortana begins pass her expiration date but instead of allowing himself to run rampant she sacrifices herself to save the Chief and players everywhere lose an old friend.
Fallout 3 – What isn’t heartbreaking about the Wasteland? The game starts off with your father running away and from there you enter a world that long ago lost any hope and it’s up to you to either give it back to the people or crush any chance of it returning. The player can blow up towns, rob strangers, and generally lower the population of the Wasteland; even compassionate players will find it near impossible to save everyone. The end of the game presents a lose-lose situation forcing the player to choose between sacrificing themselves to save the wasteland population or being a jerk by turning their back on the dying land. The Lone Wanderer can change a lot of things in the Wasteland but war, war never changes.
To The Moon – A case study in minimalism, “To the Moon” recalls the days of 8-bit glory as the story resolves around a dying man who is granted one last chance at happiness. There are no guns or monsters to be found here but instead the story is driven by themes of regret, memories, and lost love as the player progresses the psuedo-time travel plot. “To the Moon” is a quiet achievement with it’s beautiful soundtrack and surprisingly funny moments but it’s the heartbreak that players will linger on with players; a great short game if someone wants to be emotionally distraught for an evening.
The Walking Dead – Having exploded in popularity, “The Walking Dead” has become synonymous with emotional abuse and every comic or episode seems to feature the death of a beloved character. Telltale studio’s “The Walking Dead” is possibly the best use of creator Robert Kirkman’s universe as it follows escaped convict Lee’s struggles to protect the young girl Clementine in a world gone wrong. Spanning across five relatively short episodes, tough life-or-death decisions are constantly thrown in the player’s face, often with no chance for a happy outcome. With tension building until the absolutely heart wrenching ending, “The Walking Dead” sets a new standard in video game story telling and in reducing players to a blubbering wreck.
Mass Effect 3 – The conclusion to a legacy, Mass Effect sees the ending to Commander Shepherd’s saga; a journey that had given players an unprecedented amount of control over. The Mass Effect series had giving video games some of its most memorable characters and in the third and final chapter players start to lose these dear friends. The universe has gone to hell now that the nightmarish Reapers have invaded and Commander Shepherd is all that stands between all sentient life and extinction; make the right choices and you can save all but a few of your friends while the wrong choices lead to the death of most life in the universe. Far and away the death of Mordin Solus, the singing alien scientist from “Mass Effect 2”, is the most shocking moment in a game filled to the brim with destruction and loss.
Heavy Rain – If the movie “Se7en” were ever made into a game then it would look pretty similar to “Heavy Rain”. Set in a decaying city permanently enshrouded in rain four individuals must race to find the Origami Killer who has been preying on children. The game could be seen as an intense meditation on family and fatherhood as one of the main protagonists Ethan, a father who has already lost one child, rushes to save his other son from the Origami Killer. Of all the connecting stories Ethan’s is the most desperate as he limps and claws his way through “Saw”-like tests to prove himself as a father, all orchestrated by the Origami Killer. The ending of the game is determined by how well he and the other characters fare and a bleak ending is almost unavoidable; one of the bleaker endings finds Ethan committing suicide after the death of his son as the rain continues to fall uncaring from the sky.
Gone Home – It’s a dark and stormy night and after years away you come home to find it mysteriously absent of your family. If that sounds like the recipe for any number of horror movies “Gone Home” quickly upends any expectations. Players take the role of the oldest daughter of a family who after several semesters abroad comes home to find the lights on but no one around to greet her. The story unfolds through found letters and audio recordings and loneliness soon creeps into the player as you realize how much this family has changed in their daughter’s absence. For anyone who has experienced coming home to find friends and family turned into strangers then this game will definitely hit close to home.
Red Dead Redemption – A Western video game that is better than a majority of Western movies, “Red Dead Redemption” is a beautiful and heartbreaking ride across the Wild West. There is not much happiness to be found across the West but the saddest moment comes at the cruelest moment. The bulk of the story revolves around former outlaw John Marston as he hunts down his former outlaw partners so that Marston can be reunited with his family but he has been misled. After an all-too short reunion with his family on their farm government agents, who had forced Marston into killing his former partners, come to the farm to tie up one last loose end: Martson himself. Marston manages to get his family to safety but stays behind and players are given one last chance to slow time and take aim at the soldiers but it’s not enough; there are simply too many and Marston is gunned down on the farm that he had been promised. In the end there are no heroes left to ride into the sunset in the world of “Red Dead Redemption”.
Braid – For a game inspired by early Mario games “Braid” sure packs an emotional sucker punch. Like any number of “Mario” adventures, players spend the game chasing a princess who been stolen away by an evil knight but the twist here is that players can control time. As the protagonist Ted chases after the princess the player realizes little by little that all is not right and in the end the whole story is turned upside down as it’s revealed that the whole game has been played backwards by the player and in fact the princess was trying to escape Ted in order to be rescued by the knight. For anyone who has gone through a messy breakup or unrequited love “Braid” hits hard and true with the realization that not all princesses are asking to be rescued.
Photo Source: Halo 4