Video games started years ago with a simplified heroic concept: defeat the bad guys and save the world/princess/family member. And those games brought us a lot of joy and satisfaction over the years, in the form of Super Mario, and Final Fantasy, and a dozen other franchises.
But as gaming has evolved so have the stories, and while we all like to see the heroes triumph, sometimes the best and most satisfying story isn’t the one where they ride off into the sunset.
Sometimes the heroes in question don’t get to ride off at all. Having taken care of their last duty, occasionally they are forced to sacrifice themselves for the betterment of the world they protected. It’s a bummer, but it’s an honorable end for any warrior.
We put together our list of the best times your character did what was right even at the ultimate personal cost. Spoilers below, clearly.
1. Red Dead Redemption
The sad story of honest man John Marston’s eventual death at the hands of a two-dozen-man firing squad on his own land.
Your character, in his last minutes of gun-slinging bad-assery, decides to face the end like a man to buy his wife and son time to escape the gang of thugs that terrorized him all these years. In the falling action and the years thereafter, we see his son come back and repay the favor, finally putting the family demons to bed for one last dirt nap. While we get some satisfaction out of those loose ends being tied up, it’s Marston we cared about all along, and if we need to see him meet his end, it’s best he does it taking half of them with him.
2. Halo: Reach
Halo is a series about being the ultimate in indestructible badasses, and a juggernaut force of interstellar vengeance. So when you kick the bucket at the end as Master Chief precursor Noble Six, it’s on your own terms.
Those terms are an all-out survival blood frenzy of Covenant mass murder, until such a time as you finally sustain enough damage to activate the cinematic. People of course have played this level to see how many kills and how much time they can rack up before keeling over, but the fact that our hero says, “No I’ve got this,” and goes on to take the invaders on solo was rewarding in and of itself.
3. Mass Effect 3
How many times have you saved humanity at this point? At least three right? It’s getting exhausting making all these sacrifices, and you start to wonder whether they even appreciate all the work you do. Still, when you finally have the chance to make all this reaper crap come to an end finally and stop letting some batshit A.I. play god with all of humanity, it looks like Shepard’s time to step up. Again.
No matter which ending you choose, you get to do the whole sacrifice-your-body thing for the good of the world, leaving your corpse charred beyond recognition and your legacy preserved for eternity. You die, but your fame gives a boost to stamina — that’s a good deal, right?
4. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
You’re literally the force in its most unleashed form. As a force user with a murky understanding of good and evil, you spend the game surprising everyone with your power, even the ruthless and intimidating Darth Vader. But at the end of the game you fight even despite the knowledge that your power will be inadequate to win, and your life will be lost.
Whether you chose the light side or the dark throughout your adventures, you will sacrifice yourself in the end, and either end up the martyr of the rebellion or its undoing. Either way, your legacy will live on.
5. Shadow of the Colossus
You spend an entire game killing gigantic ancient beasts at the request of a suspicious mystical creature in order to bring a young girl back to life, and your reward for that is to be possessed by the creature in question, and have to sacrifice yourself to save the girl and prevent the creature from taking over.
It’s a huge Romeo and Juliet-style bummer, especially since your character (known simply as Wander) never gets to see the girl in question after she wakes up. Yet you still have the sense there at the end that all your efforts were worth it, get a happy ending, if not the one you might have hoped for.
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