Video games are always meant to be fun, but they can bring a wide range of emotions alongside just happiness. More and more, playing games are similar to watching a movie or a TV programme - except you can become even more invested in the characters after being with them for over 100 hours or putting yourself in their shoes as you control them. It means that the emotions attached to their story and fate are quite strong, be they happy feelings, or sad ones. Wait, did we just say sad feelings? While playing video games? You got it! Actually, there are a lot of video games with stories that can make you cry, and they feature some very tragic characters.
Whether it's their background story, what happens throughout the game, or their fate at the end, some video game characters are nothing less than tragic with tales that can bring tears to even the strongest person's eyes - or at least melt an icy heart a tiny bit. So whether you're looking for a game to give you an emotional roller-coaster ride when you play or the total opposite and you're looking for tragic characters to avoid, we picked our Top 10 Tragic Video Game Characters.
Be aware that this article is full of spoilers since a lot of these tragedies are set at the end of the game, or are revealed through backstories as you play.
10. Clementine from The Walking Dead
- System/Platform: Android, iOS, Kindle Fire HDX, OS X, Linux, Microsoft Windows, Ouya, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Publisher: Telltale Games
- Developer: Telltale Games
- Release Date: Apr. 24th, 2012 (Episode One release)
Clementine is a young girl and one of the playable characters in The Walking Dead, a game series based on the TV show of the same name. She begins the game as an innocent, remarkably intelligent, and optimistic child. She is the group's moral compass and holds on to faith in the good of humanity despite the zombie apocalypse happening all around them. Even when her parents die, she remains strong, quickly adapting to life in the post-apocalyptic world and serving as a valuable member of the team. Lee, an older man in the group, becomes like a father figure to Clementine and even teaches her how to shoot. She looks up to him a lot and believes in the good of the group.
Things take a turn for the tragic when Clementine is suddenly kidnapped. While trying to find her, Lee is bitten by some Infected. He is able to eventually save her, but as there is no cure for the infection, he has the choice to ask for Clementine to kill him or to die and wait to be reanimated. Either way, he dies beside a grieving Clementine. What remained of Her innocent childhood seems to die as well, and she becomes a more hardened person who spends a lot of time alone. She goes through losing more people that she cares about, bite scares herself, and difficult choices of letting people live or die. It's all more than a young girl should ever have to face and she is dragged through this apocalyptic zombie hell, and Clementine loses the childhood she more than deserved to have.
9. Sarah from The Last of Us
- System/Platform: PlayStation 3
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: Naughty Dog
- Release Date: Jun. 14th, 2013
Sarah is a twelve-year-old girl from The Last of Us and is the first playable character in the game. The Last of Us is set in a city devastated by The Outbreak, and Sarah has to face this apocalypse alongside her father, Joel, and her uncle, Tommy. The game begins on a positive note, with Sarah and Joel celebrating his birthday together. But their happiness is very short-lived. When the Outbreak occurs very suddenly, Sarah is taken away by these two men in an attempt to save her. With the Infected hot on their tail, the three attempt to flee by car. But when their car crashes, Sarah is injured and forced to be carried as they have to continue on foot.
Sarah's beginning in the game is already a sad one as a young girl forced to endure a zombie outbreak. But it only gets more tragic. While the three attempt to escape the Infected, they are saved by a soldier only for him to be ordered to kill them. Joel believes he is able to shield Sarah from the man, and Tommy kills the soldier before he can kill Joel. But then the reality of the situation is revealed - Sarah has been shot in the abdomen. She dies there from her wound with Joel unable to do anything to save his daughter. Joel is never able to move on from her death and let it go but goes on to rarely talk about her if he can help it. Sarah may not be in the game long, but she gives the story a very tragic beginning, and her death affects the rest of the game.
8. Noble Team from Halo: Reach
- System/Platform: Xbox 360
- Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
- Developer: Bungie
- Release Date: Sep. 14th, 2010
Our next entry isn't just one person, but actually, a group - Noble Team from Halo: Reach. This group of elite super soldiers had been through countless battles and survived, proving their strength and ability to work as a team. Even suicide missions couldn't stop at least some of them from always returning. While most of Noble Team consisted of SPARTAN soldiers, they often worked with non-SPARTAN personal due to their high personal ranks. After the Fall of Reach, though, is when things started to go downhill for Noble Team.
When it seemed that Reach would be lost forever and wasn't worth the continued fight for it, Noble Team stepped in. They were able to deliver a high priority package and ensure that the ship it was on was able to escape the war zone safely. In doing so, Noble Team ensured that humanity would at least have a chance against the Covenant - but almost all of the team lost their lives in this sacrifice. This includes the main player character in the game, Noble Six, who also dies in action. In fact, only one of them survived. Noble Team sacrificed everything to save humanity, and that is a bold, but very tragic, story.
7. Max Payne from Max Payne
- System/Platform: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Mac OS, Gameboy Advance, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
- Publisher: Rockstar Games
- Developer: Remedy Entertainment, Rockstar Studios
- Release Date: Jul. 23rd, 2001 (first release)
Max Payne is the main character of the neo-noir video game series of the same name. Max himself goes through many changes throughout the series. He begins as an NYPD officer, but that all changes when he is framed for the murder of his family and his partner. Max goes onto become a vigilante, and later, a bodyguard. When Max begins the game series, he's a happy extrovert who is living a life he enjoys. But as the series progresses, he becomes an introvert with a questionable grip on reality as he suffers death and betrayal over and over again. He goes between over-thinking situations and making a lot of mistakes, to finally taking action and accomplishing a lot.
Because Max Payne is a neo-noir series, Max has to take the role of the "fall guy," just like in the classic movies. It's never a happy role to have. He's an anti-hero, doing a lot of things out of a lust for revenge and vengeance for how much he is wronged. Max goes through losing a lot of people and often being blamed for things that are not his fault, and he loses the entire happy life that he used to have. Eventually, he ends up an angry drunk, morbidly cynical, and struggling to find a way to settle with his life again. Max has a hard time getting any kind of a break as it's just one thing after another, and most of what happens to him are irreversible. He's definitely a tragic character.
6. Kratos from God of War
- System/Platform: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, Java ME
- Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment, Sony Pictures Digital, Capcom (2005-2009)
- Developer: SIE Santa Monica Studio, Ready at Dawn, Javaground/SOE-LA,
- Release Date: Mar. 22nd, 2005 (first release)
Kratos is the main playable character in the God of War game series, which has been loosely based on Greek mythology (though the newest instalment will be Norse). He is a Spartan warrior who is tricked into killing his own family by the god Ares, who he eventually defeats. Later, Kratos learns he is actually a demigod himself, and his father is none other than Zeus. Kratos spends all the games trying to change his fate and exacting revenge on his enemies and isn't afraid to do acts of moral questionability and extreme violence to accomplish this. He is the epitome of an anti-hero as you spend the games cheering for his success - but whether or not he's actually a good person is very questionable.
Kratos' tragic story spans across all of the games he stars in. It begins when Ares tricks him into killing his wife and their daughter in service to him. This horrible act left Kratos marked - literally, as the village, Oracle turned his skin white as a curse. Because he breaks his oath to Ares, Kratos finds himself tortured for years. When given the chance to save the spirit of his daughter, he turns it down because he knows it will forever separate him from his family. When he tries to save his brother that was kidnapped by the gods when they were children, his brother is killed in the process. Kratos finds himself shunned by the gods and falsely accused of murdering the god Argos.
Eventually, he acquires the power of Pandora's Box and commits suicide to spread the ultimate power to all the people much to the chagrin of Athena. Ancient Greece is known for its tragedies and with one thing after another, Kratos fits the bill. Poor guy hardly ever gets a break.
5. Ethan Mars from Heavy Rain
- System/Platform: Playstation 3, PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: Quantic Dream
- Release Date: Feb. 18th, 2010 (JP), Feb. 23rd, 2010 (NA)
Ethan Mars is one of the main, playable characters in the cutting edge game Heavy Rain. His story begins normally enough and without any tragedy as he is a successful architect with a happy marriage and two sons. Things start to take a dark turn when his son, Jason, is killed when he is hit by a car. The accident also leaves Ethan in a coma for six months, and he awakens full of guilt and with an intense fear of crowded. The events of Heavy Rain began when his other son, Shaun, is kidnapped two years after the accident. Ethan has to solve the trials set by the Origami Killer to rescue Shaun, who hasn't been killed yet, and prove how far he is willing to go to save his son.
Ethan's story is tragic no matter how you look at it; he has lost one son already and feels responsible for it, and his other son's life is now on the line. Ethan even contemplates suicide after Jason's death, and only Shaun keeps him alive. Heavy Rain is a game full of player choices and decisions though, so what happens to Ethan depends on the player. Some of his endings are more tragic than others. If Shaun dies in the game, Ethan will commit suicide in one way or another, either hanging himself or shooting himself. In some cases, he is even falsely accused of killing his son. Ethan can also die himself in the story, leaving behind Shaun to grieve for him.
However, it is also possible for Ethan to save Shaun and the two to start a happy life together leaving tragedy behind. So just how tragic Ethan's character is will be in your hands!
4. James Sunderland from Silent Hill 2
- System/Platform: PlayStation 2, Xbox, Microsoft Windows
- Publisher: Konami
- Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
- Release Date: Sep. 24th, 2001
James Sunderland is the main playable hero in the horror game Silent Hill 2. When the game begins, James' wife Mary has already been dead for three years. And yet, James receives a letter in her handwriting asking him to meet her in Silent Hill. James follows the mysterious letter's request and heads for the town, only to find himself caught up in the nightmare that exists there. As the game unfolds, though, you begin to learn the disturbing truth. Mary hasn't been dead three years; in fact, it's been only a few days at most. And due to her illness that made her violent towards James, he murdered her and was taking her back to Silent Hill. Once there, he intended to commit suicide himself.
That's already tragic, and as you can imagine, any main character in a horror game is going to have a hard time of things. James really doesn't handle Mary's death well at all. He's stricken with grief and guilt, sexually frustrated from years of her being sick, and feels useless. There was nothing anyone could do to help with Mary's disease, but James always thought there would be. And when he couldn't do anything, he killed her and put her in the backseat of his car in his grief. He has to face the reality of what he has done as he comes to terms with Mary's end and faces a wide variety of horrible monsters in Silent Hill. James disappears at the end of the game, but depending on your choices, he may be dead. Nothing about James is anything less than tragic.
3. Zack Fair from Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
- System/Platform: PlayStation Portable
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Square Enix
- Release Date: Sep. 13th, 2007 (JP), Mar. 24th, 2008 (NA)
Zack Fair is the main character of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, the prequel to FFVII. He is a young member of SOLDIER, a paramilitary organisation of genetically enhanced super soldiers. He is assigned to find one of these SOLDIERs who have gone missing, his superior Genesis. But as Zack tracks down what has happened to Genesis to try to find him, he learns the secrets of Project G and how it also affects Sephiroth, and his main mentor and father figure Angeal. As Zack reveals more and more of the truth, he must face what it means to his superiors, friends (including the young man Cloud Strife), and himself - and how important it is to stop it from destroying their world.
During his time in Midgar, the main city in the game, Zack falls in love with an unlikely girl named Aerith. She sells flowers in the slums under the main part of the city. It takes quite a long time to romance her slowly, but finally, he successfully wins her heart. Before he leaves for his big mission to Nibelheim to try to finish things, he asks her to wear pink for him when he returns instead of her usual white dress. Things don't go as planned in Nibelheim though, and Zack and Cloud become part of the horrible experiments Zack was trying to stop. When they try to escape, they make it almost back to Midgar before Zack sacrifices himself to save a semi-conscious Cloud. He fights all the way to his death, and you as a player have to control the dying Zack until the inevitable end. And from then on when you see Aerith in the FFVII franchise, she is always wearing pink for Zack to return to her.
2. Jon Marston from Red Dead Redemption
- System/Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360
- Publisher: Rockstar Games
- Developer: Rockstar San Diego
- Release Date: May 18th, 2010
Jon Marston is the main character of Red Dead Redemption, a game with a setting in the old American West. He has a hard beginning to his life, raised by a single immigrant father who was killed when he was only 8, and spending his days in an orphanage after. Eventually, Jon becomes an outlaw in a gang, until he meets his eventual wife and the two have two children together. His family is kidnapped by Edgar Ross, who works for the Bureau of Investigation and is trying to "clean up" the Old West by getting rid of the gangs there. Jon can only save his family if he helps Ross out and begrudgingly complies.
Eventually, Jon is able to defeat the gangs in question and reunited with his wife and son (their daughter has passed away prior to the game beginning) on their ranch. But their happiness is short-lived when Ross himself double crosses him. Jon sends his wife and son away from the ranch, promising to join them later - but he knows the only way to save them is to sacrifice himself. Jon faces death with a noble attitude and takes out as many with him as he can. Ross smugly stands over him as he eventually lays dying, pumped full of bullet holes, before eventually leaving his body lying on the ground. Jon spends the entire game trying to save his family and protect them from his past, and in the end, he has to do so with his life.
1. Thane Krios from Mass Effect
- System/Platform: Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, iOS, PlayStation 3, Android, Windows Phone, Wii U, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios (2007), Electronic Arts (2008-present)
- Developer: BioWare, Edge of Reality, Demiurge Studios, Straight Right
- Release Date: Nov. 20th, 2007 (first release)
Thane Krios is one of your party members and a possible romance option in the popular franchise Mass Effect. He's a highly skilled assassin who always prefers to kill his targets up-close and personal rather than from a distance. He began his Assassin training at age 6 after his parents gave him to a group called the Hanar, undergoing intense exercises and getting his body into top physical shape. Somewhat contrary to his profession, Thane is very spiritual, always praying for success before missions begin. He also prays for forgiveness after every life that he takes. Despite doing this to try to soothe his conscience, he is able to remember every kill he has ever made and feels guilty all the time.
Thane's tragic story begins when he was still working for the Hanar, and fell in love with a woman who tried to sacrifice herself to save one of his targets. Thane left behind his assassin life to be with her, and they had a son named Kolyat together. Eventually, Thane's wife was brutally murdered as revenge for one of his past targets, and Thane returned to his old lifestyle to find her killers, leaving Kolyat with family. When he joins Commander Shepard in the main game, Thane reveals he is slowly dying from Kepral's Syndrome and hopes to die on the mission against the Collectors. He doesn't, however, and eventually begins to succumb to his disease.
Eventually, Thane is stabbed while Bellingham Shepard was on a mission, and isn't able to have the life-saving surgery due to his condition. Both Shepard and Thane's son are with him when he dies a painful death - saying one last prayer not for himself, but for Shepard. If you want to make this sad story even more tragic, try all of this but with the added tragedy of having romanced him.
If you haven't already been moved just from reading about these tragic characters, wait until you play the games. We guarantee at least one will melt even the iciest heart - and if you're already prone to emotions, get ready for feel some strong ones. Video games are able to give players arguably even stronger emotions than movies due to the amount of personal investment and time players have in them. So that means when they're tragic, they're TRAGIC. So grab a box of tissues and get ready for these tragic game characters - or now you know which ones to avoid if you want to keep your heart in one piece!
Have you played any of these games? Who are the most tragic game characters m you can think of and why? Do you think we are missing someone from our list? Be honest, did any of these characters' stories make you cry? Tell us all about it in the comments below!