Note: First full blog here so bear with me, thanks!
Video game storytelling has evolved quite a bit over the last 20+ years (Yes yes I know it's been longer than that but I need to convince myself I'm still young) In the SNES days, the saddest thing I'd see in a game was Yoshi getting hurt and running off somewhere. I'll admit that at 6 years old my idea of sad may have been more than a little shallow but in the subsequent years as hardware and creativity have improved, a modern sad moment makes a Yoshi death look like more of an embarrassingly humorous show of skill than tear inducing. Or maybe I was just too attached to that dinosaur but I digress, these days developers aren't afraid of killing off their own characters, destroying their meticulously crafted worlds or putting their protagonist through trials that would otherwise break an average man. So in honor of that, here's my list of saddest video gaming moments. Be warned however as spoilers are incoming.
1. The Truth Behind Laphicet's Death (Tales of Berseria)
In all fairness, there's a quite a few moments in this game I was considering like Eizen mercy killing his former captain, Komoana losing her mother or the night Artorius loses his wife but the revelation of Laphicet's death takes home the crown due to it's shock value. After finding out her little brother was not only a sacrifice but a WILLING sacrifice to summon Innominat, Velvet veers into hysteria, even more rage, insanity and denial. The truth leaves a profound effect on Velvet as she's not the ice cold goth queen she was before. But make no mistake, Artorius must die and she will not be denied.
2. 2B's Death (Nier: Automata)
Notice a common theme here? Yeah so do I. The bulk of Nier: Automata is spent playing as female android 2B, a sword wielding, machine-ass kicking dispenser of justice on the ruined remains of Earth. Keep playing through the game however reveals there's something not quite right going on with YoRHa and their bionic employees as most of them become infected with a virus, 2B included. You spend her last moments alive running away from robots you'd have mopped the floor with before as 042-your pod assistant-informs 2B about the various systems shutting down due to the virus spreading throughout her body. It all culminates in a meeting with renegade android A2, who kills 2B at her behest as her companion 9S looks on. The effects is felt immediately: 9S, already infected with the logic virus is driven insane, with designs on killing A2 and anything else that happens to cross his path, A2 becomes one of the main protagonists for the game's duration and in true Yoko Taro fashion, the storyline becomes filled with even more twists. It's rare for a character to continue to play a role of any kind even after death but her influence on the androids' motivations was well felt.
3. Shido's Manipulation of Akechi (Persona 5)
Goro Akechi is not well liked by Persona 5 antagonist Masayoshi Shido. Don't believe me? Just ask Shadow Akechi while you're traipsing through the shade wearing politician's palace. Responsible for the mental shutdowns in the years before the start of the game, Akechi murdered his way into Shido's inner circle for the chance to exact his revenge on the father who never raised him. Give him credit for making it as far as he did if you want, but in a twist, his Shadow version of him reveals Shido knew all about him from the start and was in fact, a tool he eventually planned to get rid of. You spend the majority of the game disliking him for siding against the Phantom Thieves (or for being better looking than you) and that doesn't change by time you face off against for the final time. But you come to understand his motivations and develop a sense of respect for him in his final moments as he sacrifices himself to aid you.
4. Getting the Band Back Together One Last Time (Mass Effect 3: Citadel)
Yeah yeah, there's plenty of sad moments in the original trilogy I could have used: Sacrificing Kaidan or Ashley on Virmire, Shepard dying in the beginning of Mass Effect 2, Mordin sacrificing himself to end the genophage in Mass Effect 3. But there's two other deaths on this list (And another one who ends up dying) and sad moments don't necessarily need someone dying to be sad. Sometimes nostalgia can be sad as is the case with the ME3 DLC Citadel. After dealing with an attempt on Shepard's life from non Reaper and Cerberus parties, you spend the rest of the DLC getting together with squadmates both past and present; from "starting trouble" with Miranda, watching a vid with Tali or shooting it up with Jack in the Armax Arsenal Arena, you come to remember what made you love these characters in the first place. Even Jacob, my least favorite character in all Mass Effect is made to be more tolerable. The sadness comes in the form of the scene with Shepard and friends standing in the docking bay overlooking the Normandy, with Joker or your love interest remarking on the journey they've been through, the feeling of nostalgia choking you at every turn.
5. Leaving Your Former Life Behind (Dragon's Dogma)
In a game not known for it's story, this particular sequence stood out for one reason: "killing" childhood friend Quina. You spend the game on a journey through Gransys on a quest to kill the dragon that stole your heart. Doing so however reveals there's more going on in the world than you originally thought. Additional questing through the Everfall unlocks the way to the Seneschal (the Dragon's Dogma equivalent of God) who gives three tasks to complete, the second of which involves you killing the illusions of everyone you met on your journey. The test is meant to prove your resolve and willingness to leave your old life behind. (Pro-tip: you can run past them if you want)It's a little ironic in that you're killing off the very people you sought to protect back home, the Seneschal in essence telling you the only way to advance is to let go of your earthly connections. I'll admit I paused a bit upon facing Quina, someone who not only stood by me but also became a nun to heal my heartlessness and I for one felt more like I was abandoning her than saving the world. Go me.
Honorable mentions include Noctis from Final Fantasy XV giving his life to end the Starscourge, leaving your parents to die in Dragon Age: Origins' human noble origin story, Soap's death in Modern Warfare 3,Joel's daughter Sarah being shot and killed at the beginning of the Last Of Us and the fates of Terra, Ven and Aqua from Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep.
Those are my saddest video gaming moments, which ones are yours? Feel free to share them in the comments!