No matter what they say, people play video games for the story and connections. Sure, graphics and gameplay are important, but it’s the characters and their stories that draw people back in again. Why else would we sink hundreds of hours into pixels? We follow these characters through thick and thin without a second of hesitation. Because we’re enraptured by their stories. These characters and stories put us through intense emotional roller coasters, often times ending in a devastating crash. Here are the top ten moments in video games that had us sobbing grossly and clutching our controllers.
10. Persona 3
The game starts with protagonist returning to Tatsumi Port Island. He is placed into a special dormitory where he discovers the information about Shadows, Personas and Tartarus. His abilities, or her if you play the FES version, make him quick candidate to lead the group, called SEES, in their fight. Growing their ranks through the game with the goal of reaching the top of Tartarus and ending their fight. If only it were that easy. Toward the end a choice is poised between killing a character so they can live in ignorant bliss until the world ends: Or not kill him and take the chance that they can prevent the end of world.
The canonical ending is the later choice. Climbing to the top and encountering Nyx, who will bring the world’s end if not stopped. At the end of the battle the Protagonist will call upon their social links to put an end to Nyx’s plans. Not without sacrifice. Live returns to normal with SEES members forgetting their hardships and the protagonist. As they are finishing school they realize what was forgotten and rush to the Protagonist. They are on the roof of the school with Aigis. And the game ends with the Protagonist drifting off to sleep and dying.
9. Final Fantasy VII
Few games in my personal childhood impacted me on the level Final Fantasy VII (and VIII) did. The narrative swept me away without ever allowing me a glimpse back at the lifeless games of my past by introducing lovable characters, an intriguing plot, and a certain plot element that devastated 5th grade Evan. Nearly every gamer of my generation knows of Aeris’ (Aerith’s) fateful journey to the Forgotten Capital where she prayed for the life of the planet. Cloud, distraught by his confliction of character, and in a moment of weakness, nearly cleaves Aeris with his Buster Sword; luckily, his companions are with him to prevent the deed. However, as soon as you spare Aeris her life, Sephiroth falls from the sky and impales her on the seven foot long Masamune. Not only was I devastated that one of my favorite characters had actually died (perhaps for the first time in my gaming experience on such a personal level), but she was also my highest level character on that initial playthrough.
8. Heavy Rain
Yet another Playstation exclusive has found itself on our list (it only makes sense!) Heavy Rain follows the story of the Origami Killer through the eyes of four different protagonists. The game opens up during the 10th birthday of the Ethan’s, the first protagonist, son Jason. Ethan and his family are off at the mall shopping as families are wont to do. His wife Grace and his youngest son Shaun run off to buy new shoes. While waiting for Grace and Shaun, his eldest son Jason wanders off in search of more fun things to do. Ethan catches up with him and ends up buying a red balloon for his son. Jason then wanders off again. At this point the game begins to become more frantic. Ethan searches for Jason throughout the entire mall, you can really feel the anxiety while playing through this part. Eventually Ethan finds Jason outside and across the street from the mall. And like all stupid children, Jason runs into oncoming traffic to meet his dad. Ethan also darts into the street in order to save his child. Unfortunately, he is not able to save Jason and subsequently falls into a 6 month coma. When he awakes his whole life has been ripped from him. Grace and Shaun are estranged when he awakes and he now suffers from agoraphobia. Don’t run into oncoming traffic, kids.
7. Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season One
Having heard that Telltale’s The Walking Dead was “really good” by nearly every individual and reviewer worthy of his/her salt, I decided to give the game a go (the easy platinum didn’t hurt, either). What ensued was a powerful story driven experience where I was forced to make heartbreaking decisions time and again. The story of Lee and Clementine attempting to survive in a zombie-strewn world was intense enough, but the closing episode is where the heartstrings are really pulled. Prior the final episode, Lee is bitten by a zombie in his attempt to find Clementine, who ran away from the group. After trying to save Lee by sawing off his infected arm, we all came to the conclusion that he probably wasn’t going to make it. In the final moments of Season One, Lee has Clementine chain him to a radiator before he turns. And in a heart wrenching moment of painful decisions, Clementine has to choose whether to shoot Lee – the man who rescued, fought alongside of, and became a father figure to Clementine.
6. Shadow of the Colossus
With a story centered around reviving a lost love one, Shadow of Colossus already contains heartbreak. Wander with the hope of reviving Mono, who sacrificed in believe that she had a cursed destiny. Seeks out Dormin, who is rumored to have the ability to revive the dead. He does this against the rules of Lord Emon a shaman. Dormin agrees on the condition that Wander must successfully defeats the 16 colossi in the lands.
Once that final colossus is defeated, most would expect a happy reunion between Wander and Mono. The arrival of Lord Emon is too late to stop Wander. It is revealed that Wander had only been used by Dormin to release the parts of him that were separated into the multiple colossi. Dormin takes over Wander’s body. Lord Emon opens a portal to suck up Dormin and ultimately Wander. You are able to play and struggle to try to escape, but there is no getting out of it. It gets even more bitter as Mono awakens only after Wander has been sucked in and gone.