Top 5 Shocking/Saddest Video Game Deaths - IGCritic
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Top 5 Shocking Video Game Deaths

When people speak of the most shocking video game deaths or the saddest video game deaths, it’s a sure bet that these five will be near the top of their list. After all, we spend hours upon hours with these characters; learning their nuances, warming up to their personalities, and when the time comes to say goodbye, it’s hard.

There have been numerous shocking and saddening video game deaths over the years, moments that reduced even the toughest of gamers to a whimpering ball of tissues and hot cocoa. It’s a testament to the power of the medium that these animated characters can have such a profound effect on our emotions, and that’s what this list of shocking deaths in video games will celebrate.

So, without further ado, here are our top 5 saddest video game deaths that shocked us to our very cores. Oh, and it goes without saying, but major spoilers lie ahead!

  1. Roland – Borderlands 2

Roland surrounded by purple at scene of death

If there was one Borderlands 2 character that seemed least likely to perish, it was Roland. As a ripped, hulking mass of bullets, cool one-liners and expert combat ability, it appeared that the only thing that could end this guy would be if the planet itself blew up. And even then, he’d probably ride the debris like a surfboard. A space surfboard.

Odd extraterrestrial sports aside, Roland was a true warrior. Playing through Borderlands 2, it’s a great comfort to know that he’s on your side, and it makes plowing through soldiers, aliens and animals all the more easier – and that’s why this is one of our saddest video game deaths in recent memory. The fact that my favorite Borderlands 2 character perished meant that the fight was all but lost, the fight you’d spent hours upon hours working on. It wasn’t just sad to have to lose a friend; it felt like you’d just lost a war.

  1. Ethan Forrester – Telltale’s Game of Thrones: Episode 1 ‘Iron From Ice’

young boy with cut throat on bed

Developer Telltale are well-known for their controversial storytelling, so joining forces with HBO on Game of Thrones seemed like a [bloody] match made in heaven. And, as IGCritic can attest to, it most certainly was. A dark first episode ended on a note that virtually nobody saw coming, with the teenage Ethan Forrester being brutally stabbed in the neck by the villainous Ramsay Snow.

In terms of shocking/saddest video game deaths, it doesn’t get any more so than this. The Game of Thrones episode started out on a dire note, with most of the key Forrester clan presumed dead, and things seemed to be getting better before Telltale ran a cold blade through proceedings. Not only was it shocking because of Ethan’s young age, but it was a disappointment that we didn’t get to spend more time with such a strong, promising Game of Thrones character. Iron from ice!

  1. John Marston – Red Dead Redemption

John shot down on his knees

When Rockstar took a slight break from Grand Theft Auto and unveiled their epic western adventure, gamers around the globe scoffed. “It’ll never be as good as GTA,” some said. “Can I still murder prostitutes?” enquired others. And yet, when the dust settled and Red Dead Redemption had been out in the open for a few days, it came as a wonderful surprise to discover that Red Dead Redemption possessed something Grand Theft Auto never had; heart.

John Marston’s death was an incredibly touching, poignant moment in a game that was full of them. His final moments, where he bids farewell to his wife and son and walks out in front of a dozen guns – knowing full well what’s about to happen – are hard to watch, and John Marston’s bravery in the face of death makes this one of the saddest video game deaths in modern history. If not, the saddest death in a video game. 

  1. Sarah – The Last Of Us

young girl with cut in chest dying

The developer of 3D platformers like Jak & Daxter have certainly come a long way from their bandicoot and ottsel days. In fact, with The Last Of Us, they crafted one of the greatest video games of all time, a major landmark for video game storytelling, characters and atmosphere.

Naughty Dog are well-known for their fantastic opening sequences, from Uncharted 2’s train wreck to Uncharted 4’s epic boat deathmatch, and The Last of Us was no exception. The only difference here is that this opening is much more quiet and personal, the tension slowly being ramped up before the developer stabbed an ice cold revelation through the heart of the player, to create what is one of the most shocking deaths in video games.

You thought those bullets had missed, didn’t you? It’s ok, you weren’t the only one. Young Sarah’s whimpering breaths of pain as she scrambled to hold onto those last drops of life managed to create one of the most shocking video game deaths in existence. Combine this with the frantic yells of her father, Joel, as he cradles his dead daughter in his arms, and The Last of Us was able to achieve a level of emotion that not many video games can touch.

  1. The Joker – Batman: Arkham City

Joker death in batman

Deaths in video games are extremely common; just look at the thousands of goons slaughtered by Nathan Drake, Ratchet, Commander Shepherd, any Call of Duty protagonist, and even Mario. So, it takes a special game, and a special story, to create a moment that’s both logical, heartfelt and saddening in equal measure.

And that’s exactly what Batman: Arkham City managed to achieve back in 2011. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from watching the recent influx of comic-book movies, it’s that nobody really dies. Sure, the odd villain here and the occasional civilian there, but for the most part, our heroes and their opponents walk away unscathed.

And that’s why this is one of the most shocking gaming deaths ever put to screen. The Joker, Batman’s arch nemesis for years and years, shouldn’t be allowed to die. It feels wrong! And yet, the fact that Rocksteady had the guts to kill off arguably the most popular villain in pop-culture history was a decision that was well-made. Arkham City ended on images of Batman carrying his old foes’ corpse out onto the streets of Gotham, and this sent a message to gamers and the in-game characters themselves; heroes need compelling villains in order to stay relevant.

And that just about does it for our top 5 shocking deaths in video games! Tissues primed and ready, I expect. I suppose we gamers should be thankful that developers take our hobby seriously enough to inject games with this kind and gravity and resonance. So, the next time you’re bawling at your screen over the death of a pixelated character, just remember; your tears are probably running at 60fps.

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