My most memorable game death would have to be when Ezio’s father and brothers were hanged in Assassin’s Creed II. To me it was incredibly impactful and it allowed me to connect with Ezio emotionally and help understand his reasonings for doing what he does throughout the game. It made me relate to Ezio because of his dedication to his family and friends. His desire to protect them and despite this tragic event he lives on and fights to not only avenge them but to carry on the legacy. It was this game that got me hooked onto the series and I am forever changed because of it!
This answer varies depending on when you ask me but today I’ve been thinking of the final battle in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
You have to fight and kill your mentor, The Boss, and it’s this beautiful fight in the middle of a field of white flowers. When you kill her, the flowers turn red. She has a scar on her chest that begins to move and turns into a snake that leaves her body. There is a lot of beautiful imagery and it’s super dramatic. I remember that scene affecting me a lot.
We’ve known Big Boss as Big Boss since the original Metal Gear released in 1987. Due to the chronology of MGS games, this moment is incredibly important because it is the moment in which Snake (Big Boss) earns the title of “Boss”, by killing his mentor. MGS3 was released in 2004 (and I didn’t play it until 2007 or 2008). 50 years later (in-game continuity) in MGS4, Big Boss admits to have basically died inside the day he killed his mentor. Also, he apparently struggled for years with actually adopting the title because he felt he wasn’t as good as his mentor.
So yeah, The Boss’ death in MGS3 was a big deal for me as a fan and it’s incredibly important within the Metal Gear series.
In all the years I’ve been playing video games the most memorable video game death I ever experienced happened in State of Decay. The stakes are high in State of Decay because death is permanent. I knew that was the case going in, but I didn’t actually believe it in a sense because I never experienced a game with perma-death before. I had put about 25 hours into the game when I lost my favorite character, Marcus Campbell. Due to State of Decay’s RPG-like elements I felt like I had personally been through so much with Marcus: battles where “I” almost died, scavenger missions where “I” almost didn’t make it back to camp, situations with impossible odds that “I” couldn’t believe “I” made it through, and so on. When he was killed by a zombie that “I” couldn’t defeat the sense of loss and grief was so deeply profound I actually wept. I felt like I had lost someone I knew in real life.
I tried restarting the game but it felt so hollow. It just wasn’t the same because I realized I wasn’t trying to “replay a game” I was trying to re-create the feelings and experiences the game gave me the first time around. I quickly realized I had to learn to live with it, grieve as needed, and eventually move forward rather than try to re-live the experience. As much as I enjoyed the game I never played it again after that. I’m not sad about that though because I felt like the game reinforced some incredibly valuable lessons no other game had or has since: life is precious, choices are important, people matter more than anything, and grief is a natural part of life. It’s not easy, but it can be survived, and when navigated appropriately it can serve it’s place in the natural process of healing and growth.
Hoo boy, time to put the spoiler tag to use!
There were a couple deaths in Final Fantasy 6 (aka FF3 in states) that greatly affected me. I first played the game when I was 8-ish.
First, General Leo. He also worked for the Empire alongside villainous Kefka but was the exact opposite: loyal, honorable, believing in a better world. About halfway through the game the player takes control of General Leo in a one-on-one fight against Kefka and is killed after being tricked.
Being in control of the character when he is slain (by a former ally!). We knew Kefka was evil, but didn’t expect him to slay another general.
Second, the (potential) death of Cid after Celes wakes up in the World of Ruin. Celes had been asleep for sometime (a year I think) after the Kefka destroyed much of the world, but Cid took care of her, ensuring her survival. After Celes wakes up, it’s her turn to take care of Cid. The player then has to catch fish to give to the bed-ridden Cid, but if one isn’t careful and gives him bad fish he will die. Additionally, Celes, devastated by his death and believing herself the last surviving person, throws herself off a cliff in an attempt to kill herself.
The first time I played this, I had no idea that I was supposed to only give him the speedy, healthy fish, so when he died (and it was my fault!) I was also devastated. To this day, even though I know how to save him, I dread this part of the game because of the slim possibility of his death.
Oh man I could just go on and on and on about that game!
One more quicky! This is for Suikoden II, first time I played it was in my late 20’s.
Nanami’s death at the end of the game was a gut-punch that I thought might happen but still didn’t want it to. Throughout the whole game, Nanami (main character’s sister-like companion) is right there with you. She isn’t an essential part of your party, but I always had her because her character is so fun and she is definitely a big sister to the main character. After 50+ hours of her constant presence, having her suddenly removed put a damper on the mood of the game and made ending the war serious business
Yikes, this post is long…but I hope it’s helpful!
My most memorable game deaths are both Mass Effect related. Both of them, I experienced from two different perspectives because I played a good and a bad run of each game. I usually play as the good character first because it comes a lot easier to me.
Mass Effect 2:
When I played as the good character I did not spend any time repairing or upgrading the ship. I think it’s because I probably skipped through the dialogue or tutorial text explaining how important this was for the end of the game. So by the time I got to the end where a lot of people die if you did not prepare appropriately for the last battle I was in shock. I saw how most of my crew was decimated in a suicide mission. I didn’t know I could have prevented it, I thought this was just how the story went. So I saw the people I held dear to me die, one by one and I had to mourn their deaths. By the end, I loved the ending, I felt the sense of sacrifice that everyone subscribed to on that suicide mission and marveled at the heroism. It was only after I go on the message boards that I learned things could have been different. And that’s what got me the most. My previous pride turned to shame. I could celebrate their deaths as heroes, but the fact still stands, I could have prevented it, I was negligent. I was responsible for their deaths. I got a lot out of that experience. I thought about redoing the whole game, undoing my mistakes, but later I chose not to. Ironically my good character was destined to fail through his negligence and I had to accept that part of him. The part that was so idealistic that he didn’t prepare for war.
When I played the bad character I already knew that I had to upgrade the ship and I got to save everyone. It was a lesson on celebrating the sacrifices of others while taking responsibility for your role in those sacrifices and asking yourself what you can do better.
Mass Effect 3:
My most emotional moment in Mass Effect history was Mordin Solus’ death. He was the person who participated in the production of the Genophage, a biological weapon used in a previous war to sterilize the Krogan race after the Rachni wars (?) because the Krogan were considered dangerous and volatile. Throughout most of the series he held his position that the genophage was necesary otherwise the Krogan would have enslaved or destroyed all other cultures. A lot of
the conversations revolve around the ethics of developing the genophage. In ME3 Solus sees the cruelty of the genophage as well as the potential in the Krogan race for good. And in a heroic moment he decides to risk his life to undo the genophage. Here was a person willing to die in order to fix his mistake. To me that was a beautiful act of redemption and I was sad to see him go. (Some of the story of the Genophage kinda resonated with me because at the time I was studying bioethics and how the US used Puerto Rican women to experiment with sterilization procedures. Puerto Rican women were rounded up and told they had bad genes and that they could prevent the spread of bad genes by submitting to their medications and procedures without notifying them that they were sterilization procedures.)
This was my hardest choice EVER in video game history playing the bad guy. Mordin Solus tells you not to stop him, that he has to do this to make amends for his mistake you tell him ok. But then the Renegade symbol pops up and I knew what was going to happen. As Mordin turns around you shoot him. Essentially killing a man on his way to redemption and dooming a race to extinction. That decision stuck with me sooooo much. the utter cruelty, it made me feel bad about myself even though I knew I was just playing a game and I was just picking the worst decisions to get a desired evil result. But I think it just goes to show the aesthetic value of conscience. The person on the other side of the screen doesn’t have to be real. It doesn’t need to be complex, even if it is just a set of programmed scripts and CGI I still felt for it, the decision still felt bad. It still stuck with me as I was going to sleep.
I haven’t played a single Metal Gear game but, man, I am a sucker for Mentor vs Pupil narratives. Wether it’s a fight to the death or an argument, I think there is something to be said about the moment we find out that the people we learned from and we use to hold up on a pedestal are flawed. Or the moment the pupil surpasses the master. I think you also discussed this with the representation of parents in works like the Runaways. I think not enough works like to delve en the necessity for the old to give way to the new. And conversely there’s the narratives of the new trying to overthrow the old while devaluing it and ignoring it. There should also be stories about when pride can lead us to believe we have surpassed our mentor when really it means we have just begun.
I think the most impactful one for me is in Mass Effect 3, Mordin Solus. I’ll never forget his last words “Because I’m the only one who could do this.” Unlike seemingly most people, I wasn’t as huge a fan of Mass Effect 2 as I was 1 and 3. But Mordin I liked despite almost never having him on my party. But when he had to sacrifice himself and I couldn’t do anything to save him, I felt powerless. Despite all of my previous Triumphs I couldn’t save a friend. And I couldn’t dispute him either. He was right, someone else might mess it up and make everything up to that for naught. I was heartbroken when it was ended. It truly felt like a Pyrrhic victory simply because he died. It was then that I truly understood the weight of an individual life.
Another more recent big one for me is actually in Nier:Automata, 2B’s final death. The game plays a lot with the idea of what it means to be human, and mortality and the fleeting lives we all live. While Nier:Automata got a lot of media attention because of how intentionally “sexy” 2B was designed, the story really was something else. 2B canonically dies at an earlier part and all of the camaraderie she built with 9S is wiped from her memory. She constantly tries to keep her emotions muted but when she finally feels like opening up, she has those memories essentially deleted. It’s a bit of a sour point for both of them from that point on but they still remain comrades and friends. But when 2B gets irreparably damaged by the virus and 9S has to watch 2A kill her, I felt like a thousand lifetimes were spoken in that moment. All of the other Yorha units who died because of the virus, 2B wanting to tell 9S that she did care about him as more than a partner, 2A feeling like she’d failed Yorha because in the end, she wasn’t able to accomplish her mission fast enough and so much more. Nier:Automata really did an amazing job selling its story through both gameplay and just plain good writing. I actually uninstalled the game after getting the final ending because I didn’t want to “soil” my memories by being tempted to go back to a story that was truly finished in my heart. I’ll probably come back to play it in 5-10 years but the death held so much story impact for me that I still feel it now just typing it all out. There’s so much philosophy and such strong conviction held in the entire game that I felt like I needed to lay down for an hour and sift through it all in my head. That death had meaning for me because it felt real, I felt the same sorrows as the characters and I needed to see it through to the end after that. I needed my answers, I needed a rationalization, I needed closure.
Yes yes yes ditto ditto ditto on Nier: Automata.
Regarding the ending I did NOT delete my save, and I have regretted it ever since. . I’ve been meaning to go back and play through it again but that game gave me some serious emotions; I’m not sure I’m ready for it again.
Here’s another experience that just happened. It’s from Detroit: Become Human…
I’m only a few chapters in but these experiences have really impacted me so far. Content warning: child abuse.
In the first chapter, playing as the android Connor… I died. I had the option to sacrifice myself and I took it. No big deal, I’m the hero. CONNOR DIED. I saw in the flowchart that there are other options so I’m sure he could have survived. In the first chapter, I lost one of the main characters! Now, you get to play as him again later, at an earlier point in time but it still surprised me.
The truly shocking one is a little later when you play as another android named Kara. Todd, your owner, hits his young daughter Alice and tells you to stay where you are. So I decide to play the role of an obedient android, even though I have the opportunity to disobey. I stay still, I let go of the controller. Todd is high and chases Alice upstairs. It sounds like he’s beating her and it was incredibly difficult for me to do nothing. After the noises stopped I eventually went upstairs. The game didn’t prompt me to do anything but I figured it had been long enough. When I enter the room, Alice was dead. Todd had beat her to death. Now, this hasn’t impacted me just because it was child abuse and is shocking but because I could have stopped it and chose not to. I stood by and did nothing. And I’ve never felt so horrible about doing nothing in a game. When Todd realizes that you are there, he blames you and apparently attacks you. The screen faded to black so I had no idea what happened after. Well, guess what? There is an android called Chloe who acts as the Siri/Cortana/Alexa of the game, she is the main menu, and she talks to you sometime, unprompted. When I returned to the main menu after playing for a while, I see this…
Spoilers in video:
So yeah, the whole experience with Kara and Alice has me wanting to start over. I saw scenes of them traveling in trailers. I HAD NO IDEA THIS WAS POSSIBLE, so it’s surprising but it’s also shocking. Again, I could have stopped it and I didn’t. My inaction is haunting me. I didn’t attempt and fail, I just stood there. To add to the to the experience, Chloe scolds me, she seems angry but also sad about it. She seems to be hurting too. AND before Alice died I built a relationship with her to the point in which she trusted me. I still need more time to process this.
I understand your feeling on that one. I did actually delete my save to help other people. I didn’t get every single ending before doing that which I regret, but it just felt too right to do that. I couldn’t have made it without other people, so it was my choice. I’m with you on not being sure if I’m ready to go back to it yet. I told myself I’m not allowed to play it again until at least 10 years from now so that I can truly appreciate it again. I felt both haggard and incredibly inspired by the end.
Halo 3 when you think master chief is dead. That might be the hardest I’ve ever cried in my life. That series meant so much to me. Losing him, and ending that story, felt like a death irl.
Final Fantasy 12
When Dr. Cid is consumed by the mist I felt it in the pit of my stomach but I just kept playing. I didn’t realize how much it affected me until later. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and didn’t know why at first.
I could write an entire article on this so, TL;DR It wasn’t so much the death, but what that death meant to Balthier and the parallels between his life and mine.
I won’t go too dark, but
CW: alcoholism, emotional abuse (also some FF12 spoilers)
My father has struggled with alcoholism for almost all of his adult life. When I was 11 my older brother got his first job so he stopped going to visit dad on Wednesday and was rarely there on the weekend. Unbeknownst to me, my dad’s alcoholism got a lot worse at this time. Every Wednesday I would sit on the couch waiting for my dad to come pick me up to take me over to his house. He was supposed to come at a specific time, but somedays he would be an hour late, or two hours late, or not show up at all. He never bothered to call. He never explained or apologized.
Sometimes I noticed there was something ‘off’ with him but couldn’t have said what (now I know he was intoxicated.) He’d never done this when it was me and my brother and it was happening more and more. In the back of my mind I knew something wasn’t quite right with my dad, but I blamed myself for his behavior. I was convinced he wasn’t showing up because he wanted nothing to do with me.
That was also the age I started having problems with anxiety. I would have panic attacks before school and by the time I’d calmed myself down I’d missed the bus. I’d usually end up calling one of my grandmothers, but eventually they both stopped coming. I didn’t know what a panic attack was, I assumed that’s just what it meant to be a loser and a bad kid. I got labeled a ‘bad kid.’
For the record, I got good grades and never got in trouble at school except for the morning truancy.
I was also rarely disrespectful to my parents. I would fight with my mom about certain wearing certain clothes (jeans are way to scratchy) or cleaning my room (I didn’t know how to organize things and would get so overwhelmed I’d freeze up).
My paternal grandma eventually told my dad about my truancy. I was living with my at the time. (To my memory, my mom would send me to live with my dad for a little while when she got overwhelmed with me, she remembers it as me asking to be sent there) he came home slapped me and called me an ungrateful bitch. I started struggling with suicidal thoughts, but I also started wondering if ‘he’ had a problem. I was only 12 at this point, but the moment he hit me I knew he’d crossed a line. That day my parents and I went to meet the vice principal who insisted I tell him who was bullying me. (I wasn’t be bullied, school life was fine, but he was so adamant that it had to be bullying I eventually named someone who’d been mean to me in the past and made up a story.) The school’s only response was to threaten to call the cops on my parents. I was stupid enough to believe them and I did NOT want to cause my parents trouble. I my mom I needed help so she took me to a therapist, but after a few weeks of questioning she concluded I was depressed and I should go to the doctor for antidepressants. (Like all the other adults she completely missed I had an anxiety disorder.) She mentioned my dad was an alcoholic, so I started learning about it.
By 14 I couldn’t take it anymore. He was emotionally abusive and/or drunk when I was around him, and that was when he bothered to come around. I tried to stage a one-girl intervention, which ended in me telling him I wasn’t going to have contact with him anymore until he dealt with his alcoholism.
Not too long before playing FF12 I had a brush with death and it got me thinking about mortality, a lot. If my dad died, would I forever regret how little I’d tried to repair that relationship? Alcoholism is a disease. He was sick. But that didn’t mean I had to let him hurt me. I searched within myself and realized if he died tomorrow, I would be sad but I’d done everything I could. Maybe it made me a terrible person, but there it was. All these years later I still feel that way. I’m still not sure if that makes me a little bit of a terrible person.
[spoiler]Before they confront his father, Balthier opens up a little bit to Ashe about his past. He used to be a completely different person. He hints he lived a life he didn’t like to try to please his father. Then his father started a voice he called Venat. Cid started ignoring his son to indulge in his ‘hallucinations.’ Balthier couldn’t take it anymore and ran away from his father and his entire life.
When Balthier watches the mist consume his father he doesn’t have a big reaction. Cid’s last words to his son are derogatory. Even to the end Cid can’t accept Balthier for who he is. He chooses Venat over his son, even if it means death. But Venat was so manipulative, was it even really a choice?
Throughout the game Balthier is disgusted/angry about his father’s decisions. Nobody else seems to see (or they choose not to see) what’s wrong with his father. But also, his father hasn’t seemed to have mistreated anyone but Balthier.
His last words to his father are something along the lines of ‘was it all worth it’ and his father basically says yes, tells him to run if he’s going to keep running and calls him a fool.
Even if he wanted to, Balthier doesn’t have the time to really react to the death. A new disaster happens right after the death, I think it’s within the same cutscene.[/spoiler]
There’s so much of this that resonates with my own life: Having to decide between my dad and my own sanity. Having other people refuse to see how destructive my father’s alcoholism was. Wondering why me? (My dad was awful to my mom, but she didn’t let me see it. My brother didn’t go through the emotional abuse I did.) Not being able to really get away (me and my dad pretend to be father-daughter on holidays for appearances sake but other than that he only contacts me when he’s drunk to tell me I’m ungrateful or a failure.) Questioning reality (Balthier thought his father was hallucinating but Venat was real. I know my dad has a serious problem but some of my family refuses to see it, including my brother who claims that because he wasn’t abused, I must not have been either.) Balthier’s reaction to his dad’s death is a little sad, a little angry, but mostly he seems to have accepted the inevitable. My dad’s not dead, but to me he kind-of his. Emotionally, I’ve completely let go and I’ve made peace with that.
I can’t remember if this was hinted at in the game or comes from a fanfic, but part of the reason Balthier runs is because he fears going crazy like his father. Sure, he hated his life, but it wasn’t about trying to find a happier path, it was about not losing himself.
After a decade of trying to manage mental health issues that had left me homebound as a teenager (I finished hs and an associate degree online) I decided the only way I could get better was to run away and try to become a new person. I decided to go as far away as I could and get a degree in psychology so I could help prevent other kids from going through what I did. I got a choir scholarship to a university in Hawaii, and (with a lot of financial help from my mom) traveled almost 5,000 miles to live with a dorm mate I’d never met (even though up until that point I couldn’t maintain friendships and my fear of leaving the house was so bad I couldn’t even go to the grocery store). I didn’t change my name or even my hobbies but I was trying to be this outgoing person who loved being center stage. It was who I thought I’d be if I wasn’t ‘sick.’ My first try ended in almost dying from an inflamed gallbladder that was misdiagnosed as panic attacks, but I eventually was able to go back and finish that degree. It’s a long story. I want to go on to graduate school, but… that’s probably just a dream now. I work as an unpaid caretaker and the agoraphobia has come back. I don’t know how I could afford graduate school now. But I’m getting too far from the point.
The move happened a few years after playing the game (though I was obsessed with it and read/wrote fanfiction for years). It obviously wasn’t the catalyst for the move, but I wonder how much of an impact identifying with Balthier, who abandoned everything and became something new, had on the decision. Maybe that doesn’t have anything to do with Cid’s death, but Balthier’s relationship with his father was part of the reason I love the character so much.
My most memorable death was in Journey (spoilers, I guess?). Ive"died" in video games countless times. Mostly, it’s an annoyance that is usually over quickly so I can get back to the game (I’m side-eyeing ‘Too Human’ for that garbage Valkyrie cutscene), and I use the term to describe losing a game more than a life. With Journey it was different. I actually felt life in that game. I’ve related to characters in other games, I’ve had emotional reactions to scenes played out, but when I trudged up that mountain, it was so brutal. When I realized that it didn’t matter how hard I pushed the joystick, that no jumps or chirps or anything could change how fast I could go, I knew something was…not wrong, but rather important. Something important was happening. I had to make it to the peak, I had to, but a part of me knew I wouldn’t. When my character collapsed, I was devastated. The ending to that game was the most moving thing I’ve experienced. Seeing my spirit get beamed out, it gave me hope. I was around 25 (29 now), and walked to see a group of friends out right after finishing it, and I’ve yet to be able to describe to them the way it made me feel. I don’t think I can play that game again; it was an experience that I can’t recreate.
I’ve been thinking about this, and for me Red Dead Redemption. I felt I got to know Jack Marsden so well. You feel like you have reunited his family, do quests related to building the family relationships, feels like life is good… and BOOM! You think you can save him, but no. It was hard to swallow. But then the revenge was soooo sweet.
Okay, I tried doing my last post on my phone and got the spoilers so mangled I couldn’t fix it so take two.
Full disclosure, I didn’t play video games growing up, so I don’t know if this will help your research. Some people have two left feet, I have two left thumbs and could never figure out how to do anything other than run around in circles and fall off of cliffs. However, my sister plays video games and I would watch her and get invested in the story that way. One of the only games I attempted to play was Persona 3 which is has what I would consider my most memorable death in a video game. At the time I was struggling with depression and social anxiety so the question “Do I really make an impact in my relationships?” was on the forefront of my mind while playing this game.
Persona 3 and Persona 3: FES
CW: Discussion of suicide
The main character (who you play as) death at the end of Persona 3 was really emotional for me. The opening cut scene of the game features a high school girl trying to work up to shooting herself in the head. We learn that the “gun” wasn’t really a gun, it is an “evoker” used to call out your friend’s and your main power, the persona (a play on the idea of the masks we present to the world). Still it is kind of disturbing at first. But over the course of the game you see your friends and your character shoot themselves in the head probably thousands of times to call out their personas. Your character’s death at the end of the game is different though and is a sharp contrast with all of these other “deaths”. After defeating Nyx the final boss, the game goes on for another week as your watch your character slowly dies of whatever they did to sacrifice themselves to lock him away. As your character is slowly dying, all of the friends that you made and fought alongside forget you, except one, Aigis. The last cut scene features them remembering their final promise to you and going to find you, but you die before they ever make it. The idea of being forgotten and dying alone but for a good cause and happy like your character seemed to be was really emotionally jarring for me at the time.
In the sequel, Persona 3: FES lots of themes of grief are played out now that the rest of the friends have remembered your previous character. I suppose this isn’t technically a “death” but it is still one that stuck with me in a significant way. In P3FES we meet Metis another droid who claims that she is Aigis’s sister. After the final boss battle we learn what actually went down in the final battle of P3; Nyx is a manifestation of the depression and suicidal ideation of everyone in the city and your previous character died to lock Nyx away so that everyone could learn to appreciate life and thus weaken Nyx on their own. Aigis learns that Metis is not actually her sister, but her emotions and humanity that she discarded in her grief. When Aigis accepts that emotions, including negative emotions, are a part of being human and integrates Metis back into herself, Metis in a sense “dies”. I’ve always loved this metaphor because it feels like a good mirror of my own experience in learning to accept my depression and emotions and draw of those experiences as a source of empathy and strength.
That was a lot from someone who doesn’t even really play video games, but I hope it’s helpful.
The persona series are amongst the best games I have ever played in my life. Definitely the best JRPG. I love how all of them have such a strong emphasis on interpersonal relationships and their core themes. P3 is about death and existentialism. P4 is about truth and the dark truths about ourselves we chose to deny (literally the Juangian definition of shadow/persona). P5 is about Freedom and justice, about what happens when we have the freedom to speak out against an oppressor either internal or external. All persona games have deep psychological themes ( true to its name) and is a jrpg that gets me to care about everysingle charcter / side character.
The death you mentioned was definitely very impactful for me too, I havent played FES ! But this game is my fav in the Persona series because of the way the world changes throughout the world is so insidious, so existential… Ive never seen a game world spiral as the persona world does and its a wonderful metaphor for resilience in the face of existential dread. Its just such a beautiful masterpeice!
I finally finished my paper! Thank you all so much for participating, you’re amazing.
Here is a link to the paper, for any of you who would like to read or share it
I also just recorded a Headshots episode with Josué about it, so listen to that when it comes out (especially if you don’t want to read my 25 page academic paper, lol).
Thank you, again! And please keep telling me about your memorable game deaths! I loooove hearing about them <3<3<3
That was a good read and well written Lauren! It didn’t even feel like it was 25 pages by the time I finished with it. I was impressed by how well you were able to break down all of the information into really easily digestible chunks and analyzing them in ways that connected to the overall topic but still manage to be informative in their own right. It’s got me thinking about video game deaths all over again.
It may be because I’ve just been watching/listening to a channel on it but something I just thought of that I’m surprised I didn’t bring up myself is the music during deaths. Anyone who has played the Donkey Kong Country games probably remembers the jingle from dying and the differently paced and toned death screen music in the original Super Mario Bros. Music can be so impactful and sometimes during deaths there’s so much going on that the music can almost feel like a background and yet it plays into the tone of the entire moment as well. I wonder if asking for video game music tracks specifically would show any particular trends as well such as death music or all the other themes taking the forefront.
Reading through it as well reminded me of a death in a video game that’s been on my mind lately and because the series was brought up in the paper as well. I love the Fire Emblem series, I’ve played most of the games and have fond memories of it as well as some painful deaths and map restarts. But the very first game that was localized for the Western market was Fire Emblem 7, just known here as Fire Emblem. It’s actually a prequel to the previous game, Fire Emblem 6, The Binding Blade where the famous Roy comes from. Having experienced FE7 first gives a very different perspective on the two games together. Played in chronological order, the villain of FE6 is probably very surprising and the general way the story goes may seem to be very hopeful when in fact it leads to another war within the generation that is born proceeding it. But on the topic, there’s a few very notable deaths in the two games.
Fire Emblem 6/7The one that’s been on my mind a lot is Hector dying. He’s often touted in the fandom as one of the most powerful lords and typically seen as nearly unkillable in game. His combination of being an armor unit as well as a Lord and being the Hard Mode story of the game lends to him feeling extremely powerful. Not to mention his high flying feat of “helicoptering” his legendary weapon Armads above his head during a crit animation. But Armads had a legend behind it. That whosoever wields it, would be destined to die on the battlefield. After finishing FE7, I thought it was just something to raise the stakes as Hector lives to the very end canonically. But, Zephiel, King of Bern, kills Hector with his Eckesachs weapon. It’s no glorious death, it’s very one sided as Hector is overwhelmed and dies in order to defend his country, just like his brother Uther. In the mobile game, Fire Emblem Heroes, there’s currently 4 different incarnations of Hector. But a common theme for him is his enjoyment of battle and dealing with death. In his original incarnation he has a quote that is simply “So… I’m going to die on the battlefield huh?” During a special event called the Tempest Trials, it was modeled after Hector’s fate. It was titled “Die on the Battlefield” and the mini-story about it tells of a legendary Berserker deep within the tempest, imbued with its power. And it’s an incredibly powerful version of Hector, far stronger than you can actually make in game. At the end, Eliwood and Lyn both remark that the Berserker looked a lot like Hector and they were worried for him. He brushes it off saying there’s no way it could be him since he won the fight. He then asks ‘Marth’ if he really will die, and ‘Marth’ responds yes, he will die as Armads foretold. He remarks that he already accepted that fate and requests that ‘Marth’ doesn’t tell Lyn or Eliwood because he doesn’t want to make them worry. His most recent incarnation, Brave Hector, is a younger Hector from the beginning of FE7 wearing the armor of his brother Uther, who dies at the beginning of the game. In FEH, we see a side of Hector that is mostly tossed to the wayside in the actual game. A large portion of quotes from this Hector are mourning the loss of his brother. “My dream was to one day grow wiser so I could sit at my brother’s side and aid him.” as well as “My brother Uther was the Marquess of Ostia. He was a great man… Someone you could truly respect.” Even his death quote is “Uther! I…” It’s interesting to be seeing how much the death really affected this mighty, hot-headed warrior, and it paints his approach to obstacles in the game differently. He comes off as frustrated by his own lack of ability to use politics and speech to create peace, he has to accept that his prowess on the field is all that he can do, he accepts Armads just to avenge his brother. I’ve always talked up how great Hector was and while the deaths in both games didn’t affect me greatly, I can’t quite stop thinking about them as of this week.
In a similar vein, Brave Ephraim was released alongside Brave Hector. Four units were chosen by a voting contest by players and these were the top two male characters. Ephraim’s entire character has been about his peerless tactical prowess on the field and his overwhelming aptitude with the lance. He takes an entire castle with a 4 person force in Sacred Stones and he’s modeled himself after his father who was known as a Warrior-King. But Brave Ephraim is, again, the first time he’s shown to be reflective of the deaths in his life. The very first thing you see when you summon him is “I am Prince Ephraim of Renais.
My father, Fado, met an untimely death… In his place, I vow to protect the people. Every last one.” Where Hector is mourning his brother’s death and regretful of what he did, Ephraim is very hopeful for the future. He wants to make up for his mistakes by leading the way he thinks his father would have wanted. He spends some time doting on the player character stand in of the Summoner. Which he mostly only did to his sister Eirika, but now he’s worried about everyone. He has a large quote when he reaches max level in the mobile game.
After my father’s life was stolen… After our homeland was stolen… After everything I knew fell away…
That’s when I vowed that I would protect my kingdom in my father’s stead.
When my father was alive…that thought would never have crossed my mind.
I know that something I once said disappointed him greatly.
You see, I said that Eirika should succeed the throne while I lived the life of a mercenary, lance in hand.
What would my father say if he could see me now? Would he be satisfied with the man I’ve become?
I’m sure he’d upbraid me. “You have a long way to go,” he’d say. He would be right.
I want to do what I can to become a good king—to get ever closer to the ideals he upheld.
For no other reason than to not disappoint him once more.
He keeps thinking about how he wants to “make up” for the death of his father, and become the King that he believes his father would want him to be. Considering how much Ephraim and Hector are often pointed to, alongside Ike, as the “classic masculinity” archetypes for Lords in the Fire Emblem series, it’s been very refreshing and touching to see them both be open with how much the deaths of their family have affected them. While death of player controlled units is a constant threat within the series, canonical deaths and deaths out of the hands of the players are still such large moments even in such a large scale war.
Linked episode 51 Memorable Game Deaths to this thread.
I just listened to this episode and I’m interested in reading that paper. I have a couple of pretty impactful ones that came to my mind that are more for the aftermath of the death.
Life is strange
Kate’s suicide probably caught a lot of people off guard and it feels all the more permanent that this time reversal power that has been established throughout the game has been temporarily taken away from you. What I found more shocking was how everybody seemed to captalise on her death by making it all about themselves with how much of a good friend they were when in reality prior to her death they seemed to relentlessly bully her. I have not played this game in a long time and I believe there is a narrow way to avoid this but it happens in most peoples experience with the game.
Doki-Doki Literature Club
This game is so unique. Everything about Sayori’s death is disturbing, the suddeness, the image, the change of music and how the game just ends on that. Then it is just so startling when you reload the game from the start with every trace of her gone and nobody acknowledges her existence at all. Its like groundhog day with an essiental foundation missing, the absense makes everything feel completely off. You spend so much time getting to know this character and it seems all the more affecting that you got a sense of her thoughts from the time spent reading her personal poetry. The utter powerless way when you try to reload a previous save to find that those too have been wiped. With narrative games like these the player manipulates the system to try and get a disired outcome but its so refreshing to have a game that flips that dynamic back around onto the player. The way Monika dies is so original, how you have physically open up the games files and delete her from the game. I also really like how you can finally hear Monika sing in the credits about the themes of the game after constantly hearing that melody & only ever reading dialogue, its such a nice way to close it off.
Also as a bonus just for fun there is a cutesy little puzzle platformer called Mr. Karoshi where the goal is to die. Avoid 'em smooches at all costs because those deadly spikes will turn into flowers! https://youtu.be/DgQ5XwPUCaI