Gamers are familiar with the concept of death. Whether they’re taking down hordes of faceless enemies in a FPS or squishing cartoonish villains by jumping on their heads, most gamers dish out death without much thought. However, death in video games can be used to great effect, and there’s nothing more shocking than having your favourite character die unexpectedly.
10. Yoshi – Super Mario World
Super Mario World added a new gameplay element by introducing Yoshi, and riding on the back of the dinosaur made a big difference to how the game could be played. However, players quickly learned that they could sacrifice their trusty companion if needed to. Mario jumps off Yoshi when he makes a dismount, so it’s easy to access hard to reach areas by effectively doing a ‘double jump’ which dooms Yoshi but saves Mario. It’s shocking to think that the lovable dinosaur was introduced as a new member of the Mario family, but the game essentially encourages players to kill him if they need to.
9. Aeris – Final Fantasy VII
Aeris’ death in FFVII is one of the most infamous gaming moments of all time. The story and events leading up to Aeris’ death are complex and not easily summarised, but all that really needs to be said to those unfamiliar with series is that it was massive, pivotal moment in the game. Her death is completely unexpected and it affects the rest of the game in a shocking way.
8. Eli Vance – Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2 is a big, cinematic shooter which rolls along at a breakneck speed. However, the game also offers plenty of character development and an emotional core courtesy of Dr Eli. Vance, his daughter Alyx and their robotic pet dog. Eli is an old colleague of Gordon Freeman and, though he has aged since the events of the first game, he is an active fighter in the resistance against the Combine. Valve continued Half-Life 2’s story with two episodic instalments, but the developers left players with a huge cliffhanger at the end of Episode 2. Just when players think they have dealt a blow to the Combine by launching a rocket at their portals, machines break into the compound and impale Eli through the brain. The screen fades to black as Alyx cries over the lifeless body of her father. Fans have been waiting 7 years to see what happens next.
7. Mordin Solus – Mass Effect 3
The Mass Effect series is all about choices, and it’s one of the few video game franchises which truly lets players influence how the story plays out. Of course, this means that some players may have to experience one of their beloved characters dying early in the series (the deaths even carry on between games) while for other players their lucky squad mates make it to the very end. Although the series has some big shocking moments, one of the most touching deaths in the game is that of scientist Mordin Solus. Mordin sacrifices himself curing the Genophage; a biological weapon he had worked on years ago which he still felt guilty for. Singing sweetly under his breath as the chamber explodes around him, Mordin’s death is a big, cinematic ending (it’s made even more dramatic if players choose the Renegade path of events where Mordin is shot in the back) which is both triumphant and a real downer.
6. John Marston – Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption is Rockstar’s acclaimed take on the Western genre, and the game is a much more entertaining and rewarding gaming experience than most of the GTA titles. John Marston is a former outlaw trying to start a more peaceful life, but his violent past catches up with him and he is dishonourably gunned to death by the evil government agent Edgar Ross. Although the game skips ahead a number of years and players get to finish the story as John’s grown up son Jack, the loss of John is a huge gut-punching moment and it’s jarring playing as a different character.
5. Joker – Batman : Arkham City
The Joker is the most famous villain from Batman’s ‘rogue’s gallery’, so it makes sense that the eccentric psychopath would be a large focus in the recent Batman games. In Arkham City, the Joker has been left critically ill from the overdose of the Titan virus from the first game, and he persuades Batman into recovering an antidote to cure him. Most gamers assumed that the game would end with Batman curing his arch villain and throwing him back in jail. However, the game ends with The Joker dying after he accidentally breaks the antidote trying to wrestle it from Batman. The bleak, unexpected ending shows a sombre Batman carrying his nemesis out of the gates of the city.
4. Bill – Left 4 Dead 2
Valve scored a surprise hit with their zombie cooperative game Left 4 Dead as it proved to be an innovative spin on team death match and horde style gameplay. The ‘Sacrifice’ DLC added a new campaign to the game, and the final level can only be completed by topping up a generator with fuel to drop a drawbridge which leads to safety. At the end, one player has to go and restart the generator so the others can escape but this leads to their character’s death. However, as it’s the last level of the game, this really has little impact on the outcome as long as at least one other player survives. In Left 4 Dead 2, it is revealed that the ‘permanent’ death (in terms of the series’ canon) is grumpy old veteran Bill. Revisiting the generator room as the new set of characters, players can follow a trail of blood which leads to Bill’s slumped over corpse. It’s a surprisingly shocking visual as Left 4 Dead only had a basic story and each character was only defined by their appearance and brief snippets of dialogue. However, as with any multiplayer game, it’s easy for gamers to get attached to characters when they spend hours and hours playing online. Seeing Bill’s corpse was an unexpected, definitive end to the events of the first game and it was some closure for its characters.
3. Sarah – The Last of Us
The Last of Us is another mature take on the post-apocalyptic setting, and the game explores the concept of humanity in an unconventional way. Sarah is the young daughter of the game’s protagonist Joel and players take control of her during the game’s prologue. When a mysterious infection breaks out, Joel and Sarah’s everyday life is instantly turned upside down. Joel manages to get Sarah to a military checkpoint, but soldiers open fire on the pair when they mistake them for infected survivors. Joel manages to dive to safety but Sarah dies from a bullet to the stomach. The death of a child is always shocking in video games, but Sarah’s death is the catalyst for the character development of Joel. The death of his daughter is what turns Joel into the determined, ruthless guardian of Ellie, and it affects many of the murky moral choices he is forced to make later in the game.
2. Lee – The Walking Dead
When Telltale Games adapted the popular Walking Dead franchise as a series of point-and-click episodic video games, the studio received universal acclaim for their powerful narrative and storytelling ability. Although the game has a bleak setting (it is a zombie apocalypse, after all), it finds a powerful emotional core in its two protagonists Lee and Clementine. Both characters have lost their family to the zombie outbreak, and Lee takes eleven year old Clementine under his wing and keeps her safe throughout the events of the series. Lee is bitten by a zombie in the last episode and players are given the choice to either convince Clementine to shoot Lee or leave him to turn into a zombie. Although Lee’s death feels inevitable given the fate of most characters in the Walking Dead, both endings are still a tragic and poignant way to close the game.
1. Vaas – Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 is a surprisingly mature action-adventure game which veers into some seriously dark territory with issues like slave trafficking, rape and torture. Players control Jason, an American tourist who is trying to rescue his friends from dangerous pirates. The pirates are led by the charismatic but deadly Vaas who is a classic scenery-chewing villain. However, the portrayal of Vaas is never over the top, and he always feels like a real, unhinged person. Throughout the game, it seems like Vaas will be the main villain of Far Cry 3. However, Vaas is killed relatively early in the story and his boss Hoyt takes over as the main antagonist. Although it’s a deserved, satisfying death for the character, the rest of the game doesn’t really cope in his absence.