The 8 Ball 4.02.13: Top 8 Video Game Deaths
Posted by Marc Morrison on 04.02.2013
From Aeris in Final Fantasy 7 and Soap in Modern Warfare 3 to Lucy in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and more, 411's Marc Morrison ranks the Top 8 Deaths in Games!
Welcome to another installment of The 8 Ball. The topic this week is all about death, especially prevalent giving that it's just a day after Easter. I tried to come up with a decent list, with a few outliers that some people will likely be outraged about. I tried to craft a list partially about emotional resonance with me, but also importance of the death in the game, and the, perhaps, the industry at large. I also tried to avoid games where it's your choice to die. I picked mainly games where the story beat is a (or your) character's death. Let's begin:
8. Doug/Carley – The Walking Dead
There are a TON of deaths in The Walking Dead game, but to me, the most resonant one was with Carley/Doug dying in episode 3. I picked Carley, because who didn't really, and was kind of annoyed by her death in the game. It kind of came out of nowhere and you couldn't avoid it. For a game that is purported to be about choice, this mandatory event put me off something fierce. Especially since it was caused by a fairly unlikable character, and exacerbated by another one, that you learn later on. I would have much rather Lee grabbed the gun and shot Lilly then and there.
7. Lucy – Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
This was a good death in the game but it felt a bit awkward. While I liked it, it wasn't until AC: Revelations came out (and on the DLC for that matter) that you understood why Juno made Desmond kill her. It felt important because she was kind of a big face for the game prior to it. Her continuing relationship, really exemplified in Brotherhood, made you think she was going to survive for the long haul. I figured she would die in the series but it would have been trying to stop some Templar plot, or her saving the world, something like that. To have her killed by Desmond (Juno), and then later realizing that she was a traitor, gave the death a much more important feeling. Even if the games themselves didn't really deal with the fallout much, aside from William saying she got what she deserved. Thanks dad.
6. Soap – Modern Warfare 3
Like with The Walking Dead game, Modern Warfare has become littered with game character deaths that are meant to shock you. I was surprised by Soap's death in the third game though, just because it seemed like a wasted opportunity. He already took a knife at the end of Modern Warfare 2 in a heroic stand against Shepard. That was fine. If he had simply died then, that would have been enough. But they brought him back in MW3, and then unceremoniously killed him off seemed like a huge cop out. Still, to kill off such a previously important character was kind of a neat twist. Even though it barely mattered to anyone at that point.
5. Arshtat – Suikoden 5
This is probably not one that people were expecting, but I still found it interesting. I originally assumed that Arshtat would have just been the villain for the game. Her increasing mood swings and mania kind of spelled that out. I just kind of assumed that she would turn fully evil against your character, and it would be up to you to build an army to stop her. That's why I was fairly shocked by her dying about one third through the game. It led to a lot more political intrigue with the two houses vying for control, as well as other characters having their own agendas for the Sun Rune. The fact that her killer was Georg Prime was a neat twist as well.
4. Pottle – Vay
This is the other "not what people are expecting" entry on this list. More so in fact, because I'd wager 98% to 99% of you have never played, or even heard of the game. It was an old Sega CD game, a companion to the Lunar games. Regardless, I remember being blown away in 1996 when I was playing the game, to have the first party member you acquired being taken out in such a merciless fashion. It upped the ante from having Sandor trying to rescue his fiancée into making the quest actually personal to him (and the player) by letting Pottle die, but in a semi-heroic fashion. It looks laughable now, especially technology-wise, but it's one of the deaths that kept up with me the most.
3. John Marston – Red Dead Redemption
You pretty much always knew that it wasn't going to end well for John Marston while playing Red Dead. Rarely in Western-themed media does the hero end on a rosy note, and Red Dead is no exception. After you kill Dutch and you go back to your family, there is the brief respite that you think it's over. However the game keeps going and eventually the bottom falls out for John and his idyllic situation, as well as his life, is destroyed. You do get your revenge though, playing as Jack, so it does end on a bit of a high note. But still, the character that you spent dozens of hours with is now gone.
2. Andrew Ryan – BioShock
Given the glut of all things BioShock related the past few weeks, I almost didn't mention this game. But come on, the death was so pivotal, that it needed to be on here. This is where the game really started going, as the bottom fell out for your character. The interesting part is that Andrew Ryan, as a man, is far less impressive than him as an ideal. Throughout the first part, you're given flashes of him, and what he's done, but you don't really know much about him, on a face to face level at least. When you do finally meet him (for the first and last time), you see a bit of what he's like as a man (despite him constantly ranting about it in the game). Plus, it's an incredibly brutal death which does make an impact on the player.
1. Aeris/Aerith – Final Fantasy 7
Finally, all you Final Fantasy sheep can quit complaining, since I'm putting this game on here, and at number one. I said in an earlier column that Aeris death always seemed like an inevitability in the game, sort of like Lucy in AC:B. When I played, I always thought it would be her death as the cost for summoning Holy, or something along those lines. While this is partially true, she did manage to summon it with no problem. Only to be struck down by Sephiroth's long, phallic-looking sword. While her death was hugely impactful in the game (and really, in video games everywhere at the time), the actual scene is a bit laughable. Aeris gets skewered by a 5 foot long sword, and not a drop of blood in sight. Even a decade and a half ago, I was like "Huh, the sword pierced her chest or stomach; you'd expect to find some blood there." Still, ratings issues aside, Aeris death was an important one for the game, and for the gaming world.
The Better Half
Hey all! I'm back from the tooth beavers! Marc let me change the topic on him last minute this week, and for that, he deserves cookies and hugs! My picks for Top 8 Video Games Deaths reflect the fact that not all violent games are created equal, and there can be meaning and depth in interactive storytelling, despite all the smarty pants college profs who make way too much money telling us otherwise. This is by no means a complete list, but these deaths had the biggest impacts on me. Some spoilers will follow, but I tried to stick to things that are, by now, mostly in the public consciousness.
The obligatory pre-list caveast: No. Bioshock Infinite does not contain any great deaths. All of you saying it's one of the greatest game stories ever are just wrong, but this is the wrong place to get into why. Also, I almost put Wesker on this list... but I'm not convinced he's really dead!
8 -- The Hydra in God of War: There's been a lot of awesome dying in the God of War franchise, but this boss fight was so fantastic that God of War: Ascension pays tribute to it. The over-the-top, drawn-out quality of the gradual execution of this three-headed sea serpent set the tone for the Kratos awesomeness that was to come, and I was laughing hysterically by the time I finished it. Even now, bashing that sucker's head into the ship's mast over and over is highly satisfying.
7 -- Jenny Ramano in The Darkness: If I were to teach a course in the psychology of violent video games, Jenny's horrific murder would definitely be a required experience. Despite Jenny's death falling into "women in refrigerators" territory, it effectively crystalizes how thoroughly revolting the game world of The Darkness is. The "kill the girlfriend" shtick is no guarantee of emotional resonance in a game, but Jenny's death is well-handled, and rises above the standard HBO snuff porn of the mobster genre. This entry had originally ranked higher, but then I had a crisis of conscience in overly rewarding a convention that is admittedly horrifically overused in games. Too many girlfriends get killed for the sake of appealing to male players, but I think that hyper-competitive female gamers don't mind the jolt to their Electra complexes either. That crap has to stop.
6 -- Nicole Brennan in Dead Space: Poor Isaac Clarke. The guy has had a lot of rotten things happen to him, but the worst thing might be his girlfriend's suicide. Despite dying before the beginning of the first game, Nicole manages to be a character throughout the first two Dead Space games and the chilling, bloodless deliberateness of her death sets it apart from the various murders and dismemberments the franchise is known for. Nicole's tragedy creates an emotional core for Dead Space that is critical to the success of any survival horror game, and was notably missing in Dead Space 3. Without her, "Make Us Whole" was missing something.
5 -- Andrew Ryan in Bioshock: Not many people would pick "death by golf club beating" as their exit of choice, which is why Andrew Ryan could be one of the most well-conceived video game antagonists ever. His "Howard Hughes meets Ayn Rand" character template leans heavily toward inherent hypocrisy, but in death, Ryan becomes the most terrifying of opponents: a true believer in a radical ideology. "A man chooses. A slave obeys." is Ryan's crowning philosophical victory, and ending his life by being bludgeoned by a status symbol is poetic in its literal and metaphorical brutality. It's such a strong moment that the final boss fight against Frank Fontaine pales in comparison, as does all the subsequent drivel the Bioshock series has spewed in its struggle to find a character who is Ryan's equal.
4 -- Monster in Papo & Yo: Okay Monster is a metaphor so he can't exactly die, but the "letting go" part actually brought tears to my eyes. In a world where we're obsessed with winning, the need to let something go instead of triumphing over it is something that very much has to be re-taught, and shown as difficult and noble. This was the point in the game where I realized that Minority had actually gone to the precise place that so many pundits claim is off limits to games: nuance. Releasing guilt in a metaphor evocative of an Arthurian funeral barge was incredibly refreshing, and brought me a sense of validation for my own real-life choices that games so rarely achieve.
3 -- Dominic Santiago in Gears of War 3: :( :( :( We were all pretty sure that at least one of the Gears guys was going to die, and Dom was probably the right choice because you acutely felt that loss. Arguably the most well-developed latino character in video game history, Dom was the heart of Delta Squad, and the bittersweet quality of him joining his lost wife in death was as poignant an element of Gears of War as Marcus' not-so-subtle struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dom's soft-spoken, loyal, purity of spirit, redefined the military meathead character in a way in which the whole military shooter genre will ultimately benefit.
2 -- Duncan in Dragon Age: Origins: This one's going to be difficult to explain because it's such a "you had to be there" scenario. Duncan is the single constant in each of Origins, uh, origins, and he's immediately likable due to his grim, weary nobility. Unlike other Grey Wardens you encounter, Duncan has a pragmatic approach to sacrifice, and seems to understand that there is no glory in it, only necessity. He makes such a strong impact, so fast, that I kept hoping he was going to come back after an ogre turned him into hamburger, even though I was aware of how much that would suck. Of course, then Bioware put out a prequel novel so we could get more Duncan, and I devoured it like a rabid badger.
1 -- Commander Shepherd in Mass Effect 3: I have never seen gamers revolt over an ending like the ending of Mass Effect 3, which is part of the reason I loved it. The character is named "The Shepherd", in a clear Jesus reference. Jesus was not really Jesus until he died. While the original endings could have used an extended narrative and the Renegade ending implies Shepherd isn't quite completely dead, I think that the power of Mass Effect's chosen ending came, in part, from how many people it upset.
The big thing about my list is that I tried to avoid populating it with games/characters where deaths could be avoided. Like in Mass Effect, except for either Ashley or Kaiden, most of the characters deaths can be avoided in ME 2 and 3, if you swing it right. That's my big caveat out of the way. Anyway, here's my list: Noble Team, Cole (Infamous 2, in one ending), everyone else in The Walking Dead, everyone else in Modern Warfare, Dom/Dom's Wife (Gears), Joker, Zack Fair (which actually was sad), and James (Fallout 3).
The General Roundup
A lot of the comments from last week were of the joking variety. I almost did put Mark Whalberg down for his EPIC "game", Make My Video. I didn't count Michael Ironside, because dude has been other video games, Time Shift, and Run Like Hell, both winners for sure. Also, Patrick Stewart has been in a few games, Oblivion, and about a dozen Star Trek-related games. Dennis Hopper/Billy Bob Thorton was also a very good pull. I (like most everyone else) forgot about that game, but it was really neat.
Instead of doing the voting thing, which no one was really voting on, I'm just going to dictate a column topic. So next week is: