There’s an argument to be made about games being the greatest power fantasies created so far. It’s quite clear to see, after all, what with controlling virtual gods of destruction and creation, capable of bouncing back casually from even the most grievous wounds after a ritual called Quickload Invocation.

There are, however, times we allow the badass façade to drop a little bit. Sometimes the game catches us off completely guard, sometimes we sign up fully aware of the emotional ride we’re about to begin. Either way, there are moments in gaming, when games hit us right in the feels, twist the knife, and make us emotional wrecks for hours and days to come.
This time we’re giving you just five games, because ten would be just too cruel.

Oh, by the way.

SPOILERS for the following games:
Red Dead Redemption
Spec Ops the Line
Final Fantasy VII
The Last of Us
The Walking Dead Season 1
So, you know, you read at your own risk. Because SPOILERS!

5. Red Dead Redemption

Redemption isn’t for the living

Red Dead Redemption is probably the closest thing we are ever going to get to a video game adaptation to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. The tale of a reformed bandit forced to relapse back into old ways to protect his wife and son was an immediate hit, and it’s easy to see why.
Rockstar struck gold with this game, and gave us a compellingly flawed main character, an amazing open world of the late 19th century American West to explore, and that goddamned ending.

John Marston’s last stand against people who used him is gut-wrenchingly tragic and heroic at the same time. Especially since the game tricks you into believing you have a chance by triggering its very familiar by that point face-off system, making John go out in a blaze of glory.
It’s great stuff, and easily among the greatest moments across all Rockstar productions. If the upcoming sequel does something even half that powerful, we’ve got a new legend coming our way.

4. Spec Ops the Line

Mirages of our own minds

Remember how we wrote about being immortal gods of destruction in the opening paragraph? It’s still true in Spec Ops the Line. What changes, however, is everything else about it. Spec Ops plays with some really heavy topics, including war crimes, justifying your actions, and coping mechanisms you develop when faced with extreme adversity.

Some of the decision you made during the, you’d think, normal shooter playthrough come to bite you hard towards the end. Suddenly a somewhat standard fare shooter is presented in a new light, and your sense of accomplishment is ripped apart when you learn that all the cruel decisions you, the player, made during gameplay were based on hallucinations the protagonist’s mind created for him to make the whole endeavour bearable.
Of course you could have expected as much, when you’re dealing with a video game inspired by Coppola’s classic Apocalypse Now, itself inspired by The heart of Darkness, an outstandingly uncomfortable novel by Joseph Conrad. One hopes that Spec Ops’ writer managed to do something just as memorable for Star Wars Battlefront 2‘s singleplayer campaign.
Buy Spec Ops: the Line now.

3. Final Fantasy VII

Medice, cura te ipsum

Yes, it’s kind of beating the dead horse here, but come on. No list of heart-breaking moments in video games would be complete without mentioning the one death people kept trying to find ways how to prevent or undo. Alas, that was not to be, because Cloud was too stupid to use Phoenix Down. Although the alternative would be disturbing.

Regardless, the scene of Aerith’s death is of the most iconic moments in all of gaming, and marks Sephiroth as one of the few gaming villains who actually manage to kill someone from the core team, instead of an inconsequential tutorial character or an NPC we barely talk to. Well done, you Goth fallen half-angel, you. Now we don’t have a healer.

Buy Final Fantasy XIV Complete now.

2. The Last of Us

Take a jaded man, broken by seeing his own daughter die in his arms. Add an adolescent girl born after the zombie-making plague has already taken root in the world, who has gone through some tough stuff in her past. Sprinkle it with a dose of a travel plot, and what you get is a game which will tear your heart asunder: The Last of Us
We could write about the cutscene showing the death of Joel’s daughter. Or we could show you Joel lying to Ellie’s face at the end. But that would rob you of the experience, especially with a PS4 remaster being available and a sequel being in the works, as announced by the following incredible trailer:

In the end, it’s the performances of the two leads, Ashley Johnson as Ellie and Troy Baker as Joel that make the dynamic between the two broken people convincing enough to let emotions surface. Great stuff.

Buy The Last of Us Remastered now.

1. The Walking Dead Season 1

Telltale Games have a thing for creating compelling narratives, even as they struggle to handle action scenes. They gained recognition with The Wolf Among Us, but it was with their earlier game, The Walking Dead Season 1.
Striking a similar chord TLoU did, with an unlikely companionship between a young girl (Clementine) and a bearded man with criminal past (Lee) trying to survive in a zombie-infested remains of United States.
What nets TWD Season 1 a place here is the final scene, where the player, controlling Lee, shares his final words with Clem. Which wouldn’t be so heart-breaking, if there are his literal final words, because Lee lies bitten by a walker, and he needs to decide if Clementine should kill him herself, or leave him be to become one more degenerated nightmare roaming the world. That some hard decision, considering Clementine isn’t even ten years old yet. The entire scene is properly tragic, with no good decision to make, and all of them bringing grief and suffering on everyone involved.

No matter what you do, Clementine will remember this.

Buy The Walking Dead Season 1 now.

It’s over

We can be happy now again

Done, see? We didn’t want to torment you for too long, especially since we may have triggered some of your own memories with playing these games. We’re not monsters.
What are your own heart-breaking, horrifying, or just plain depressing moments delivered by video games? Let us know in the comments, we’re stronger together.
Besides, we need to build an army for Skeleton Wars and we need you at your best.