The 10 Most Emotional Moments in Video Games


Take a look at Cameron’s most emotional moments in gaming. If you can relate, share the feels.

In honour of the (what I am going to assume is to be the) gut-wrenching, and depressing, last act of the second season of The Walking Dead game, I decided to go head on into the emotional roller coaster of heart-tugging video games. So below, I decided to make a list of the most emotional moments I have encountered in my gaming history. Now I have a long, full history of gaming; however, I have not played many games from my childhood in quite some time, so this list will mostly consist of modern games. That does not mean any older games have not had an emotional influence on me, that simply means it has been a while and their effects have since been replaced by more modern titles. That being said. MASSIVE, GIGANTIC SPOILERS.

Each moment listed does not need to be scripted but rather designed into the game either as an element of gameplay/progression, or can be an actual linear event. Either way, I am limiting the list to one moment per game (not series), otherwise this list would be entirely made up of Mass Effect, and Walking Dead related moments.

Runner Up: Party Snapshot – Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC

In the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3, at the end of the content you host a giant party for all your friends (the live ones). Personally, that party is my favourite moment in my video game history. The bow to top it all off, at the very end you and your comrades have to pose for a group picture. Once everyone is set and the picture is taken, you are treated to about ten seconds of this still image of you and your group, and that one picture perfectly capitalizes your relationship to those characters both living and dead. In that moment, you know that this is going to be one of the last times you will see these characters, and that after that you all are off to die in what is likely a lost cause. With smiling faces, you and your crew celebrate what is likely to be the last moment of being together that you all will share, making it one of the most bitter sweet moments in my personal gaming history.

One last moment with your best friends in the entire universe.

One last moment with your best friends in the entire universe.

10: Companions – Portal

I would argue that this is the oddest entry on the list, but it’s so well done that I can’t ignore it. One of the most oddly depressing moments, is when you must destroy your only friend, The Companion Cube. Leading up to this, The Companion Cube is nothing but helpful, and somehow adorable. In an entire facility full of unfriendly turrets and an oppressive A.I, the delightful Companion Cube is a very much welcomed addition to your adventure. Unfortunately, your new found friend isn’t with you for long. After a few testing chambers, GLADOS demands for you to throw your friend into the incinerator, assumingly killing it (as much as you can kill an inanimate object.) This affected me to the point where I spent near hours trying to find a way around this, but eventually, I knew my friend’s fate and threw him to his untimely demise. To this day, that moment still sits unwell with me everytime I play through it.

Getting used to being alone again will be hard.

Getting used to being alone again will be hard.

9: Silenced Song – BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite is a highly emotional game in many senses, but one of the most bitter moments comes with the death of Songbird. One of the few main antagonists of the game, meets its end underwater, as Elizabeth and Booker are transported to Rapture in a call back to the older games. In that moment, SongBird follows along with them, but not inside the safety of the pressurized cabins, but instead outside in the water. As the pressure slowly crushes the poor thing to death, Elizabeth is having a clear emotional conflict with what’s happening. Her guardian and protector, now turned pursuer, dying before her eyes simply for a promise of freedom makes a very emotional scene, where the player should feel triumph, but instead feels a great sense of sorrow.

Can't help but feel bad during this part.

Can’t help but feel bad during this part.

8: Lifeguarding – Heavy Rain

For the entirety of Heavy Rain, the climax is constantly foreshadowed during every scene of the game. For Ethan Mars, the big payoff happens to be him saving his own son from a water death. At the very last possible moment, Ethan pulls his son out of the trap designed for himself, but, at what seems to be, a moment too late. As Ethan is pounding on his son’s chest hoping to bring life back to him, the player can hear the sobbing cries of desperation from Ethan. This moment was so moving and powerful to me that I actually shed a couple tears over the father’s love for his son. There have only been a small hand full of moments to make me cry (hint: most of them are on this list), and this is one of them. For that reason, this game rightfully so deserves a spot on this list.

The worst feeling a father can have, is when he is about to lose a child.

The worst feeling a father can have, is when he is about to lose a child.

7: White Phosphorous – Spec Ops: The Line

Very rarely do we get a game that actually depicts war as a bad or serious thing. With that said, it’s an even more uncommon thing to see a game where we see the negative side effects of war. Spec Ops: The Line is that rare game, and it treats its material with the proper and mature manner it deserves. This is ever more clear during the aftermath of the White Phosphorus segment of the game, where the player gets to use a military designed weapon to clear out a large area full of enemies. This weapon sends White Phosphorus down from the sky, ultimately burning everyone alive that is unfortunate enough to be within its perimeter. In the aftermath, you find the charred remains of a mother holding her young daughter close. In this moment, you finally see the full effects of war, and the monster war morph you into. This moment alone is an amazing example demonstrating the cost of war, so much so that I remember it vividly even after two years since playing it.

The cruel  side effects of war.

The cruel side effects of war.

6: The Reunion – Walking Dead Season 2

This may be an strange entry, especially this high on the list, but I think it is still a powerful moment nonetheless. In the episode two of the second season of the Walking Dead game, we are surprisingly reunited with our long lost friend, Kenny. With a game series so heavy; so filled to the brink with heartbreak and depression, this moment was so refreshing and such a surprise that I actually was in tears for about five minutes. This game series does such an amazing job with progression and building a connection with the player, that something as simple as a reunion between friends feels so special. To be honest, when I saw Kenny for the first time in this season, it was like I had finally seen a friend I haven’t seen for years. It was so nice to just have this one non-soul crushing moment, in a game so full of such weighted emotional moments. This moment means so much to me that when I replay it or even see it over again, I still tear up.

Seeing an old friend again is always nice, especially when you have no one.

Seeing an old friend again is always nice, especially when you have no one.

5: Daddy’s Girl – The Last of Us

I will be honest, I am not the biggest fan of The Last of Us, mostly due to its control scheme. However, I give credit where credit is due. In the beginning scene where Joel loses his daughter after a run in with the military, it was such a moving scene that I had to put my controller down. I knew nothing about the game going in, so this sudden outburst of such brutality and hopelessness came as a surprise in every way possible. The fact is that I am not a father, but the game does an amazing job at putting me in that position, as if I had just lost my daughter, and such a realistic feeling of sorrow and dread that follows. While The Last of Us has many emotional moments, this one is the shining example the game has to offer.

A father's worst nightmare turned reality.

A father’s worst nightmare turned reality.

4: A Walk to Remember – Journey

Journey is a very special game for many reasons ranging from its beautiful aesthetics, to the way the game handles its progression. Journey handles nearly everything it does with such grace and beauty to the point where that (almost) final moment is so special. As you finally reach your destination alone or with friends, you fight your way up the snowy mountain top whilst being blinded by the snowstorm you have found yourself in. As you make your way, you start to move slower and slower, and your eyes begin to droop more and more with every step. After ten minutes of fighting to make it, you fall to your knees and close your eyes, finally accepting that you have failed to reach your destination. It is this determination and the journey itself that makes this moment so hard to watch. As you struggle to make it one more step in the snow, a small part of you realizes that this is the end. With this acceptance of death, you begin to realize that even though you may not had made it, it was the trip (or “journey” what have you) that was what made this entire thing worth it, along with the possible friends you may or may not have made along the way.

Even death is beautiful in this game.

Even death is beautiful in this game.

3: The Funeral Process – Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

One of the only games to actually physically feel loss is this one right here. The entirety of the game is played using both analog sticks with one of the two brothers mapped to each, almost like a single player co-op game. Throughout the game, subconsciously you grow in unity with the two brothers until you can move both of them like clock work. Yin and Yang, there is no one without the other. That is until the final act where your big brother dies, and you are left to take care of the body. The person you have been with side by side through the entire game is dead at your feet, and the game forces you to go through the long and emotional process of digging a grave, dragging your brother, and burying him. After the deed has been done, you feel that missing component, the fact that you are not controlling both brothers feels incredibly wrong, all while this overwhelming sense of dread and depression looms over you, to create one of the most heartbreaking moments in my gaming history.

The worst moment is when you realize you are alone.

The worst moment is when you realize you are alone.

2: The Very Model of a Scientist – Mass Effect 3

This was an incredibly hard choice because the entirety of Mass Effect 3 is just basically crying and depression through most of it. Whether it be a character’s end, or just the end of the story, there are plenty of moments worthy of making this list. At the top of that list, is one of my favourite characters in any video game out there, Mordin Solus. The man who helped design and spread one of the deadliest viruses in the entire universe, spends his final moments to try and stop that very same virus, all because of his new found friends and clearer sense of his repercussions. What makes it hurt so much more, is that there was no convincing him to do so, he willingly went through with his choice, with a smile on his face to the end. We always knew Mordin would do the best for science, but this time he did the best for  the people. Singing that song that endeared us to him in the second game all the way to his end. All while we sit and watch, tears in our eyes, as we say goodbye to our beloved friend.

An honorary mention goes to Thane’s prayer of salvation, and Legion’s “Does this unit have a soul” moment.

Even in death, Mordin smiles for a brighter future.

Even in death, Mordin smiles for a brighter future.

1: Journey’s End – Walking Dead Season 1

One of the most talked about games in the last generation is arguably The Walking Dead Season 1, and rightfully so. The game is emotional, heartbreaking, and engrossing in almost every possible way. After 6 hours of protecting the young and adorable Clementine, we know that our journey is at it’s end. In the entirety of the last episode, I never feared death but rather I feared for Clementine. I knew my fate, but I didnt know hers and not being there to help her was the fact that hurt me the most. In Lee’s final moments, all you can do to help her is to restrain yourself for when you do finally pass as to not attack her. Seeing Clementine afraid and you unable to help was heartbreaking in every sense. For once you can’t help her, and all you can do is say goodbye. With your final breath, and one last goodbye, you leave Clementine alone, scared and crying. In reality, you are also (probably) alone, scared, and crying.

Saying goodbye is always hard. It's even harder when its permanent.

Saying goodbye is always hard. It’s even harder when its permanent.

I hope you enjoyed this top ten list, I had a depressingly fun time writing it and reliving all these moments over again. If you liked this list, make sure to check out my past and future works. Every other Wednesday I examine the moral choices in specific games, and last week’s was The Walking Dead Season 1. On the off weeks, I am likely to put up anything. So make sure to remember my name and follow my work if you enjoyed this. Please stay amazing and have a wonderful week!

Editor: Abby Ryan.

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There are 4 comments

  1. Nick Verboon

    Excellent list. My emotional response to Kenny’s return was confusion, though. I could have sworn I’d seen that guy die. And maybe I’m broken inside or something, but I thought incinerating the Companion Cube was comedic genius. GLaDOS’ insistence on encouraging you to form a bond with an inanimate object was hilarious to me and her abuse after forcing you to incinerate it to progress was even funnier. Chell don’t give a damn, sister. She got freedoms to get.

    Like

  2. cameronjrussell

    I thought everything else in the Gears of War games kind of out measured the few touching moments the game actually had. To me its really hard to get emotionally involved with a game full of hilariously over muscular men, spouting one liners every minute. Sorry bud.

    Like

  3. Maniac

    Mass Effect 3: the moment when the united fleets arrive at the Sol relay to fight their last stand side by side.

    Like

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