Pixelitis Picks: Biggest tearjerker endings

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Has a videogame’s ending ever make you cry? It’s okay, you can tell us. It’s perfectly normal.

Many of us get emotionally invested in our media, be it film, books, comic books, graphic novels and of course games. We have a lot to thank for that: excellent writing, believable acting, visual flair, not to mention music. Every so often there comes along a game that defies our expectations and blows us away with an incredibly emotional ending.

We feel the urge to share a few of these with you (and find a shoulder to cry on), and in turn, we’d love to hear your own favorite tearjerker videogame endings.

Oh, and in case you didn’t expect it, there are spoilers to be had. You’ve been warned. Bring a tissue just in case.

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Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals

There’s a basic formula to be had with RPG’s. Save the town, save the girl, save the world. Rinse and repeat. But how often do we take into consideration the stakes if we were to lose? The dominion of an evil empire doomed to rule for all eternity, the massacre of millions of innocent people and the destruction of life as we know it are the typical outcomes of a failed hero’s journey. But when you think about it, these horrific catastrophes are more or less impersonal, with no real sympathy going out to the nameless NPC’s of the game. Lufia 2 breaks that mold in an interesting way.

We all know the price of defeat, but what happens when the price of victory is also steep? Maxim, the hero of Lufia 2, teams up with his wife Selan and his friends Guy and Artea in order to save the world from malevolent gods called the Sinistrals. The journey is fairly cookie-cutter up into the final boss, where the formula deviates from the norm.

The party is successful in defeating the Sinistrals, but Selan is mortally wounded in the process. Instead of the last minute deus-ex-machina where everyone gets to live, we are treated to a desperate Maxim sacrificing his life to save his hometown and son. Again, we expect a happy ending to come out of it. In reality, we watch the departed souls of Maxim and Selan fly across the globe, seeing how their loved ones have escaped harm, and finally saying one last goodbye to their son.

These were the heroes of the story, but that didn’t make them immortal. Through their mortality, I really understood what was at stake when they fought so hard to save the world. It wasn’t for the faceless thousands; it was for the happiness of all those who helped them and for the smile of their infant son.

Now where are my tissues?

- Tom Farndon

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Red Dead Redemption

John Marston’s life was a troubled one. He lived the life of a self-righteous outlaw. After leaving his life of crime at a time when the Wild West was slowly losing ground to the Industrial Revolution, he was eventually coerced by the U.S. Government to root out his former gang mates in exchange for amnesty and a reunion with his wife, his uncle and his son Jack.

What makes this game one of the most heart-wrenching in recent memory is the game’s two distinct endings. After Marston drives his former gang leader named Dutch van der Linde, over a cliff to his death, he finally gets to live the life of a rancher with his family.

For a little while, players were no longer tasked with killing bandits and instead were busy herding cattle. It may not have been the most amusing part of the game, but it drove home the fact that despite the lack of action, Marston was happy to be home.

Unfortunately, it’s that happy feeling that makes the government’s eventual betrayal all the more painful.

Led by Agent Edgar Ross, the Bureau of Investigation raids Marston’s farm. After getting his family to ride off to safety, the ill-fated outlaw peeks out his barn doors to see a dozen men with guns at the ready. Breathing a sigh of reservation, he opens the door and the game goes into slow-motion, giving the player a chance to try to take out as many of those treacherous bastards down before Marston is brutally gunned down.

Shortly after the altercation, Marston’s family returns to find him lying in a pool of his own blood. They bury John on a hill in his ranch, with a somber version of “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie” playing.

And that’s not even the worst part.

The game cuts three years into the future. Jack, now a young man, is standing over the graves of his parents on the farm in the pouring rain. With no family left, he sets out for revenge.

He eventually finds Ross in Mexico. After gunning him down in a dramatic duel, the game finally ends with an all red title card and Jack’s face as he walks away from the duel.

It’s only then that the game reveals its even darker outcome. Jack has started down the path of the outlaw – something his father died trying to make sure didn’t happen.

- Andrew Martins

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Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater may be the beginning of one Snake’s end, but Metal Gear Solid 4 brings the end of both Snakes, and closes the chapter for two of the world’s greatest soldiers.

After a lifetime of fighting, Naked Snake and Solid Snake reunite one final time at The Boss’ grave. Both were used as pawns of the government, and both aged old with plenty of regrets and sorrows.

Solid Snake is left to watch as his “father” dies in his hands from the new strain of FOXDIE that was placed in his body. The true death of this once great savior/threat to the world closes a big chapter in the Metal Gear series.

On a happier note though, before Naked Snake dies, he reconciles with his “son” and finally gets his wish to be at peace with The Boss. Afterwards, Solid Snake, now old due to advanced aging in his cloned DNA, vowed to live the rest of his life in peace.

This emotional ending proceeds following the final fight against Ocelot, which is also very emotional in a different way. As you fight, both Ocelot and Snake transition through their personalities and melee combat style from each Metal Gear Solid game they appeared in, with the music in the background matching the game it is associated with.

This throwback to great gaming, along with the depressing ending, make Metal Gear Solid 4 in my opinion one of the biggest waterworks in videogame history.

- Allain Richard

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Mother 3

That Mother 3 commercial which depicts a sullen Japanese woman describing her experience with the game isn’t that far from the truth at all. In fact, I’ll say it outright: Mother 3′s ending made me cry.

It’s quite clear early on that one of the game’s ongoing antagonists, The Masked Man, is Lucas’ long-lost brother Claus, who disappeared shortly after their mother Hinawa’s death at the end of Chapter 1. The thing is, Ness’ old arch nemesis Porky fitted him with a helmet that has brainwashed him, so Lucas and crew are forced to fight him in order to stop him from pulling the final needle that would cause the destruction of the world.

For the whole battle, Lucas refrains from hurting his brother, who’s mercilessly making short work of the party. Eventually, Hinawa’s ghost pleads with Claus to stop fighting. Eventually, a flashback occurs of the two still in cribs, with Hinawa and her husband Flint talking about a bright future for their newborns.

Claus finally comes to after much debilitating, and unmasks himself. He then does the unthinkable: he fires a bolt of lightning at Lucas, knowing full well that it will reflect off his Franklin Badge and come right back at him. This mortally wounds him. As Lucas embraces his dying brother, Claus apologizes for his actions (though they were out of his control), and thanks him for being with him in his final moments.

Then the ultimate tearjerker occurs: As a melancholic version of the main theme plays, the following line pierced my heart like a bullet: “Claus gave his final breath.” I proceeded to let those pent-up tears go.

The thing is, we don’t really get to know Claus that well since he’s MIA for a good portion of the game. Nevertheless, I felt a connection with Lucas right there because I was able to project my own brother onto Claus. Mind you, I haven’t experienced a death in my immediate family, but I was so deeply moved by the events that unfolded that I couldn’t help but feel for Lucas and the tragedy that came into his life.

What follows after is debatable, but Lucas pulls the final needle and the world in turn gets destroyed. But if the invisible characters the player can speak to during the mysterious “END?” screen give any indication, it seems that Lucas wished for the world to be reborn, with everyone from his island seemingly safe. Whether the “END?” screen hints at an afterlife or a safe haven from the ruined world is left ambiguous, but I can tell you that having such a dark ending follow after a tragic death only screwed with my emotions even further.

I completed Mother 3 during a late night of gaming during a family cruise. After closing my DS and drying up my tears, I turned my head to my loudly-snoring brother on his bed and was glad to have him.

- Patrick Kulikowski

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Author: Pixelitis Staff View all posts by
  • Miffy

    I have two that may seem small and insignificant compared to these big tearjerkers, but they always hit me close to home. When I was younger I had a small supply of video games as I didn’t come into my geekness until a bit later in life. One of my favorites was a PC game called Lego Island. It’s basically just a free roam kind of world. You make a car, you can drive the car around. You make a jet ski you can drive the jet ski around. Etc etc. You spend a lot of time talking to the townsfolk and being neighbourly. At one point the mom and pop pizza place asks you to deliver a spicy pizza to the jail. The Brickster is the only legoman in jail. He uses the spicy pizza to melt the bars (oh Lego, you crazy bastards). He escapes and proceeds to steal as many bricks as he can get his hands on! As far as a difficulty curve goes, this one was crazy steep. Suddenly you’re in a mad rush to chase him down and stop him. I could never do it. So, there a cut scene showing the entire island, the buildings are nothing but foundations with a few sparse legos, your neighbours are devastated, and YOU ARE TO BLAIM. You single handedly allowed an entire island to be destroyed by one angered Legoman. The worst part is your neighbours, they say they aren’t too upset and that it may look bad but it can always be rebuilt. Too deep of an ending for a 90s lego game if you ask me.

    A more recent one was Borderlands 2. SPOILER ALERT. I played through Borderlands as Mordecai, the Hunter. I spent the whole game sniping enemies from afar and sending my trusty bird friend, Bloodwing, to tear the heads off people I didn’t like very much. We were like a team. I talked to Bloodwing like he was another pc. “Yeah, Bloodwing! Bird, if I could high five you without being mauled, I would do so.”. So, when Borderlands 2 came along I was excited to learn that the characters from the first game were going to be in the storyline! Mordecai and trusty Bloodwing! But, it was not so. Turns out the big baddies kidnapped Bloodwing and turned him into…well, a big baddie. A huge bird, attacking you. A former friend, now forced foe and fighting you off with every power that use to be on your side. And by the pained wails of Mordecai, he was just as upset as I was. Mordecai manages to sedate her and everything seems ok for awhile, until Jack, that bastard Jack, detonates an explosive collar. I don’t quite recall what happened directly after because I was too busy yelling at the screen in unison with Mordecai (unfortunate for my friends on live whom I was playing with). I think this one really struck close to home because I played with no one else except Mordecai and put all my level up points into Bloodwing’ s skill tree. The real tearjerker came during the credits where you see a sketch of Mordecai holding an egg that’s just hatching. R.I.P. my murderous friend.

  • John Benfield

    Seriously, guys? After all the love that you gave The Walking Dead game elsewhere, you don’t mention that it has THE SADDEST ENDING TO ANYTHING EVER? I’ve never felt so much as a sniffle from any game in the past (though I’ve yet to play Shadow of the Colossus, and I hear there’s a sequence with a horse that is heartbreaking) but the last 10 minutes of The Walking Dead had tears *pouring* down my the sides of my face. An unforgivable omission, unless that ending is the reason you’re doing this piece in the first place.