In recent years, creating video games has become one of the most fulfilling art forms for many around the world. Those that are lucky enough to get their hands on an expertly crafted game are generally in store for plenty of fun, and occasionally, a complex emotional adventure. Games utilize everything at their disposal to make gamers laugh, stare in awe, and even shed a few tears.
While there are plenty of sad moments that come from digging into the deeper lore of a game’s world, some of the most impactful moments come from the incredible cinematic cutscenes featured in various titles. Things are made all the better when players have some degree of control during what otherwise would be a standard cutscene, involving the gamer’s action into the overall narrative in a moving way. Fair warning, there are spoilers ahead.
Updated August 1, 2022 by Jacqueline Zalace: As new games are released, we get to experience new stories, packed with emotion. Because of this, we've updated our list with more games that will make you cry.
13 The Last Of Us
One of the most soul-crushingly emotional titles in recent years comes courtesy of Naughty Dog with the award-winning The Last Of Us. While any gamer could point to plenty of tear-jerking moments throughout the game, one of the hardest moments hits players right at the start.
As players control Joel Miller as he attempts to protect his daughter from the pursuing infected, a soldier steps in. That soldier fires on Joel. He survives, but unfortunately, his adorable daughter Sarah does not. The performance of the actors is iconic and heartbreaking at the same time.
12 Twilight Princess
The Legend of Zelda games are generally not among the most heart-wrenching titles around despite their incredible stories. But one of the series' saddest moments came from Twilight Princess after Midna is injured by the nefarious Zant.
After Zant curses Midna to enter the realm of light, effectively killing her, it’s up to the player to seek help from Princess Zelda. Seeing Midna’s weakening form combined with the haunting piece of music is not only likely to get players' hearts pounding, but also bring a tear to their eyes for fear of losing their sassy companion.
11 Gears Of War 2
Most gamers may scoff at the idea of a standard third-person shooter potentially having any kind of especially emotional moment, but those gamers would be missing out. Gears of War 2 features one of the hardest scenes to watch in all of gaming.
There are a number of things that make this scene so hard to watch. The incredible outpour of emotion from Dom for his beloved Maria, the dark atmosphere, and even the fact that Marcus shows some real emotion all go into making this one of the hardest gaming moments to sit through.
10 Life Is Strange
Anyone who’s played Life Is Strange knows what an emotional rollercoaster the game truly is. There are some iconic and shocking moments from the game, but one of the saddest moments comes after Sam meddles a bit too much with the flow of time.
Seeing the once carefree Chloe change into the shell of the person she once was is upsetting enough, but things get worse. Chloe’s paralyzed state leads her to some dark places during the short time the player spends with her, and it serves as one of the game's greatest reminders that even slight changes can have serious repercussions.
9 Spec Ops: The Line
While many gamers skipped out on Spec Ops: The Line, there’s a reason that the game is so widely talked about. The game features some of the most horrific actions ever carried out by the player themselves, which only adds to the emotional weight of the game’s toughest moments.
At one point in the game, the only option is for the squad to call in a white phosphorus strike on their enemies in order to progress. With this comes a horrific realization as the player discovers that their actions resulted in the shocking deaths of nearly fifty innocent people.
8 Telltale's The Walking Dead
Not shedding a tear during the final moments of Telltale's The Walking Dead Season One is an incredible feat. The entire season sees the player following Lee and Clementine as they form a beautiful bond.
The closing chapters of Season One sees Lee winding up bitten and slowly turning into another member of the undead masses. He spends the remainder of his time saving Clementine before the player is given the option to have Clementine end Lee before he turns. In a game filled with emotional moments, this stands leagues above anything else the series managed to do.
7 Red Dead Redemption
With how cinematic the Red Dead Redemption games are, it would have been surprising if they didn’t have any emotional moments sprinkled throughout them. The final stand of John Marston is one of the most emotional moments of the entire series.
The many actions of John Marston were bound to come back around at some point, and in the closing moments of Red Dead Redemption, they do. John stands alone against an armed force as his family escapes and despite the player's best attempts, he is gunned down.
6 Final Fantasy 7
It’s possible that the death of Aerith is the most talked-about video game death of all time, and for good reason. The entire scene comes out of nowhere and it happens completely outside of the player’s control.
While players have full control over what abilities their party utilizes, it’s safe to say that most people used Aerith as their dedicated healer. When Sephiroth suddenly flies out of nowhere and cuts her down, the player can’t repay the favor and is forced to watch as one of their main party members leaves forever.
5 The Last Of Us Part 2
While the Last Of Us helped to set the standard for what a cinematic game could be, The Last Of Us Part 2 decided it wanted to hurt fans of the original title. No wrong decision can go unpunished in the world of The Last Of Us, and Joel learns that the hard way.
After gamers built a serious connection with Joel through the events of the first game, the way he goes out in the second isn’t heroic. His death isn’t even exciting. His death is brutal and painful to watch. No one would blame any gamer for shedding tears at the loss of such an iconic and beloved character.
4 Majora’s Mask
It’s rare for Nintendo games to really delve into darker themes, but that was pretty much the entirety of Majora’s Mask. Rather than one singular moment, the entire game world during the third day sets a heart-wrenching scene.
Any player who’s wandered around Termina speaking to NPC’s on the third day knows how dark a gaming moment it can be. Some NPC’s live in denial, but others sadly accept their fate and essentially drug children so they won’t feel the pain of death. Needless to say, there are plenty of other equally heartbreaking moments.
3 Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker
Final Fantasy 14 has been out for more than a decade, with plenty of tear-jerking moments in the story. At the end of 2021 though, we were given Endwalker, the final expansion in a long-running story.
While this expansion didn't have a completely tragic ending, it was definitely emotional for those that have been following the story since the beginning. Rather than crying out of sadness, you may shed a few tears due to the connection you have to every character.
At first glance, Spiritfarer is a lighthearted game about exploring islands and customizing your ship. Behind this cute exterior, is a game that deals with accepting death.
In the game, you play as Stella, a ferry master to the deceased. You will get the chance to meet numerous recently-dead characters and complete tasks for them, before eventually taking them to the Everdoor. In a short amount of time, you form bonds with these characters, which makes their departures very emotional. It's highly likely that you will end up sobbing while taking each character through the door.
1 Arise: A Simple Story
Arise: A Simple Story is a beautifully short game where you play as an unnamed protagonist, navigating through ten different levels. Each of these levels involves a different stage of the protagonist's life, taking you through all of his ups and downs.
With practically no dialogue, this game can get incredibly serious. Through these stages, we learn about the loss that the protagonist suffers, and how he struggles to cope. At the end of the game, we see him accept this loss, which is an emotional experience as well.
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