Heartstrings and Joysticks: The 10 Saddest Deaths in Video Game History

Video games are experiences - intense and often emotional, taking players on journeys filled with action, comedy, horror, romance, and, understandably, tragedy. The impact of a well-scripted and meaningful character death goes beyond simple gameplay and can touch players deeply, often leading to tears. In this article, we look at the top 10 video game deaths that have left us heartbroken.

1. Aerith Gainsborough - Final Fantasy VII

Arguably one of the most iconic scenes in gaming history, the death of Aerith in 'Final Fantasy VII' shook players worldwide. This gentle girl and one-time party leader meets her end when she's impaled by the game's antagonist- Sephiroth. This sudden and unexpected death in the middle of the game left many players in shock and tears, setting 'Final Fantasy VII' apart as one of the darker entries in the series.

2. John 'Soap' MacTavish - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Lieutenant John 'Soap' MacTavish is one of the main characters in the 'Call of Duty' series. His death in 'Modern Warfare 3' after a fierce fight against the antagonist Makarov leaves players shaken up. The personal loss deeply affects his comrades, especially Captain Price, providing a poignant narrative spin on the usually action-focused world of 'Call of Duty.'

3. Lee Everett - The Walking Dead

Telltale's 'The Walking Dead' is filled with tragic deaths, but none are as heart-wrenching as Lee Everett's. The relationship developed between Lee and Clementine throughout the game makes his inevitable death in the final scene a tear-jerker. His final moments, instructing a weeping Clementine on surviving, are a powerful testament to his role as her protector and mentor.

Lee Everett from The Walking Dead

4. Sarah - The Last of Us

The emotional weight of 'The Last of Us' is established within the game's first 20 minutes with the death of Sarah, protagonist Joel's daughter. Her unexpected loss in Joel's arms following an outbreak-induced catastrophe is genuinely gut-wrenching. This tragic event shapes Joel's character journey throughout the rest of the game, making it a painful yet narrative-defining moment.

5. Dominic Santiago – Gears of War 3

The death of Dominic Santiago in 'Gears of War 3' is one of the series' most emotional moments. His sacrifice to save his comrades, including his best friend, Marcus, is both heroic and tragic. The scene is only more heartbreaking when you take into account Dom's search for his missing wife throughout the series, culminating in this final act of selflessness.

6. The Boss - Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

The death of The Boss in 'Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater' is a mixture of respect, sorrow, and betrayal. As the mentor and maternal figure to Snake, The Boss's death at his hands is a climactic moment filled with intense emotions. The following revelation concerning her loyalty amplified the impact of her death, making it one of the most profound moments in gaming.

The Boss - Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater

7. Cortana - Halo 4

The bond between Master Chief and his AI companion Cortana is a significant aspect of the 'Halo' series. When Cortana sacrifices herself to save Chief in 'Halo 4,' the loss is deeply felt. Her emotional goodbye and John's somber reaction to losing her demonstrate the depth of their bond and leave a haunting mark on the player.

8. Maria - Gears of War 2

The search for Dominic Santiago's wife, Maria, forms an emotional subplot in 'Gears of War 2.' The moment Dom finds Maria in a dehumanized state, imprisoned by the Locust, is heartbreaking. Her eventual mercy-killing at the hands of Dom himself is equally disturbing and sad, elevating the already grim atmosphere of the series.

9. Zack Fair - Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core

Prequel to 'Final Fantasy VII', 'Crisis Core' tells the poignant tale of SOLDIER First Class, Zack Fair. Though players enter the game already aware of Zack's destiny, his final stand against an army is a turbulent emotional ride. His dying words to his protegé, Cloud Strife, coupled with the game's theme, 'Price of Freedom', playing in the background, compounds the emotional impact of his death.

Zack Fair - Final Fantasy VII

10. Chloe Price - Life is Strange

In the final episode of 'Life is Strange,' protagonist Max Caulfield is forced to make a dreadful choice - sacrifice her best friend, Chloe Price, or let the town of Arcadia Bay be destroyed. Choosing to save the town results in Chloe's death, an extremely melancholic event as it undoes the entire bond players have built with Chloe throughout the game.

The emotional weight carried by these characters' deaths is a testament to the stellar narrative and character designs that the developers put into these games. Emotionally charged moments like these distinguish a good game from a great one, demonstrating how games, just like books and films, can move us deeply.