CAUTION: Spoilers ahead for Halo, Assassin’s Creed, Red Dead Redemption, Gears of War, and Final Fantasy 7.

Everyone has those video games that we love, either because of the storyline, the characters, or purely because of how well the game plays. And because of that, we invest countless hours of or time into playing these games, learning the characters’ personalities, figuring out what motivates them, what their hopes and dreams are once everything is all said and done.

We connect with these characters. We want to see them succeed, if they’re the good guys, or fail miserably, if they’re the bad guys. These fictitious characters become our friends and enemies for a time. But then they game suddenly, almost mercilessly, decides that we, the players, haven’t been kicked in the heart enough by the storyline, and throw us a curveball by way of killing off one of our favorite characters.

And these deaths shall forever haunt us. They kept us up at night. They made us cry, and yell and throw our controller to the floor in anger. But we keep coming back to see if, hopefully, these characters somehow managed to survive the impossible. Here, you’ll find some of the biggest video game deaths that kept us up at night. Needless to say, major spoilers ahead.

7. Halo Reach – Noble Team

Every single member of Noble Squad gave his or her life in the hope of saving Reach from the Covenant invasion. From Jorge’s valiant sacrifice at the onset of the attack, to Kat being shot down by a sniper, to Carter’s suicide bombing of the Covenant Scarab, each and every loss was felt tremendously by those playing. Perhaps the most shocking of all though was the player’s own sacrifice as Noble-6. Virtually the last man left standing on the planet, Noble-6 took on as many of the Covenant forces as he could as the ship containing Master Chief escaped Reach. It was quite a way to conclude a video game, and Bungie definitely went out on a high note.

6. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood – Lucy Stillman

Lucy Stillman helped Desmond escape the clutches of Abstergo. She was by his side when they had to flee the country to Italy, where they had a better chance of tracking down more clues to find the Apple of Eden. As the final chamber door opened beneath the Colosseum, Lucy stood by as Desmond reclaimed his destiny as the savior of the human race.

Unfortunately, Lucy was also a double agent working for Abstergo the whole time, and the celestial being guiding Desmond on his journey took her out of the equation. No one knew Lucy was a spy until after Brotherhood concluded, and watching helplessly as Desmond (not in control of his body), stabbed Lucy. It was another major shock in a series full of dramatic conclusion.

5. Red Dead Redemption – John Marston

Never has a game caused so many curse words to ring out in the air than Red Dead Redemption. Just when it looks like John Marston will finally get to live the life he deserves, his past comes catching up to him in a terrible way. If RDR taught you anything, it was to never trust the word of a lawman, no matter how convincing he was.

Maston doesn’t even get to go out like a hero, and is instead gunned down by the very men who swore to ensure his freedom. Did Marston deserve what he got after all those years as a bandit? Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

4. Assassin’s Creed 3 – Desmond Miles

Through the Animus, we’ve stepped into the shoes of the greatest assassins of all time. Altaïr, Ezio, and Conner are the characters that get most of the credit, but Desmond is the one who ties them all together. We have watched him evolve from the scared and oblivious Desmond of the first Assassin’s Creed to the confident and capable Desmond of Assassin’s Creed III. Not to mention that he picked up some awesome assassin skills along the way.

At the end of Assassin’s Creed III, Desmond has a choice between letting the Earth burn (courtesy of a solar flare), or protecting it from the flare by releasing an ancient being named Juno who will cause issues for humanity later. He chooses to save the planet and deal with Juno later, but is killed when he grabs the console to release her.

3. Gears of War – Dominic “Dom” Santiago

Gears of War may be known for being a bro-tastic shooter, but that doesn’t mean the franchise doesn’t have its heartfelt moments. After finally discovering the tragic fate of his wife in Gears of War 2, which was also one of the most shocking scenes in the series, Dom is a shell of his former self by the time Gears 3 rolls around. That said, he still sticks by Delta Squad’s back, making sure to find a way to end the Locust menace.

Unfortunately, the team finds their backs against the wall in a fateful battle, and with no other visible option for survival, Dom sacrifices himself so that others may live. At least Dom could finally be reunited with Maria, even if he did have to blow himself up to do it.

2. Halo 4 – Cortana

She’d been by Master Chief’s side for years. When no one else could understand what he was going through, or what it was like to be John-117, she was there to comfort and console him. It wasn’t until Chief faced off against the seemingly unstoppable Didact that Cortana was faced with the one decision that will no doubt haunt John for the rest of his life.

Without her help, Chief would have died at the hands of the Didact, but knowing she was deteriorating at an incredible rate, Cortana sacrificed herself to ensure Chief would live to see Earth once more. It was one of the more heartfelt moments in the series, and one we hope 343 Industries will stick to, other wise Cortana’s death will have been meaningless.

1. Final Fantasy 7 – Aerith/Aeries

Death happens all the time in videogames. In Call of Duty it’s a slap on the wrist, in Dark Souls it’s education, in Pac-Man it’s another coin for the machine. In Final Fantasy VII, though, one death is a genre-defining moment: Aerith Gainsborough’s.

Of Sepiroth’s long list of atrocities against Cloud, this is the most personally devastating: his words might be simple (“What about my pain?”), but they’re no less effective for their paucity. But what hit so hard about Aerith’s death wasn’t just empathy for Cloud – it was the fact that you, too, had known her, had invested all that time and energy in her, only for her to be suddenly taken away. There is no moment in gaming’s emotional journey from kids’ entertainment to modern storytelling medium that has endured as strongly as this.

How did each of these video game deaths affect you? Do you think any of these characters should have died? Think we left out any shocking video game deaths that kept you up at night? Let us know!

  • Alana Fearnall

    I would disagree with Desmond’s death being ‘good’. The modern timeline got almost no limelight, despite being the key element of Assassin’s Creed. I would of loved to see a continuation of some of the other characters, rather then switching to some odd abstergo view in IV.

    Assassin’s Creed had just revealed something huge to the franchise. The fact that Haytham was a templar, yet the player agreed with a lot of the Morales? that should of been explored into a lot more before axeing off Desmond.
    At the very least, I feel like III should of been the final Assassin’s Creed, with the killing of Desmond.

    And – spoilers for dying light – I think Jades death, and perhaps even her younger brother, should of been included in the list. Both of the deaths helped move the plot forward, and were not thrown in for ’emotional factors’.

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