In the beginning... there was darkness. Then a small white circle raced across the darkness only to be rebounded by a white rectangle into another white rectangle and back again. Thus was the world of video games created, and for a long time it was very hard to deeply identify with your characters or feel bad when they died. At first, they were simply too small and pixilated to generate a sense of empathy. Later on, even characters as revolutionary as Mario did little more than shrug and make an "Oops" face when his life was snuffed out.
However, as graphics and storytelling capabilities grew, so did our bond with these little electronic friends and enemies, and even though video game death is usually as permanent as comic book death, we can name at least five that altered us forever.
Mortal Kombat 3 made the radical change from palette-swapped ninjas to robotic palette-swapped ninjas. Despite this being the kind of plotline a 12-year-old would come up with, it's played out well over the years.
In Cyrax's MK3 ending, he is reprogrammed to hunt Shao Kahn, and because he has no soul and thus isn't detectable by the emperor's magic, he manages to get in a sneak attack, thus ending Kahn's invasion and saving the entire Earth.
His reward for this is to malfunction and to wander out into the desert blindly searching for home. True, later games have him found, resuscitated and even re-ensouled to become a force for good, but that image of humanity's savior being swallowed by desert sands in a fatal determination to return home remains haunting and sad.
We've gone on and on before about the utter brilliance of the Legacy of Kain saga, which is the last great vampire story told, in our opinion. Centering on a vampire named Kain that fate itself attempts to trick into sacrifice and genocide of his own kind, the convoluted, time-warping story all boils down in the end to a confrontation with a gluttonous god that consumes the souls of all the realm's inhabitants.
Kain refused the sacrifice, and spends centuries trying desperately to find a way to both survive and save the realm. This included the apparent murder of his son Raziel, who would be reborn as a wraith and agent of the Elder God. Raziel pursued Kain across time and space over the course of three games, but in the end, it was he who sacrificed himself willingly on Kain's sword to empower it with the strength necessary to kill the Elder God.
The look on Kain's face when he realizes that he's been tricked into killing Raziel, losing someone who was both kin and friend, all in order to end the plot of some pissy, fat, squid beast, is deeply sad. It's clear he never wanted this, none of it, and has been forced to use increasingly brutal means to survive against the plots of the Elder God. It takes Raziel's death to finally shatter the careful, arrogant armor Kain maintained throughout the series, and show the man that was there underneath.
It's not always the heroes we mourn. In modern times we've come to expect our villains to be more nuanced, deeper and with motivations we can understand. This of course leads to liking them, and in some cases killing them can be damned hard not because of their difficulty, but because you don't want to lose them.
Metal Gear Solid was chock full of those characters, but none better than the beautiful and deadly Iraqi-Kurdish Sniper Wolf. Rescued by Big Boss from her war-torn country, she joined up with FOXHOUND and later went rogue with the team. Solid Snake manages to bring her down with a lung shot in the course of the game.
As she dies, she tells Snake about her life, why she became who she did, all while snow falls around them and a beautiful soundtrack plays. She dies a true warrior's death, and the scene has stuck in our mind despite our not having played the game since it first came out.
Twisted Metal has tried to do it many times, but they have never, ever managed to recapture the brilliant style in their second outing. With its distinctive animation, diverse characters and intense demolition derby play, it still holds up as a great game, albeit one a bit too gruesome for the Mario Kart crowd.
Playing with Krista's car Grasshopper was very difficult. Her special was devastating, but hard to hit, and her armor was otherwise crap. Still, if you managed to get through the game, the reward was one of the best endings in video game history.
Krista is actually a living bomb, and the daughter that the Twisted Metal host Calypso thought was dead in the same car crash that burned him so badly. The L.A.P.D. rebuilt her knowing that she would be the only one who could get close enough to Calypso to kill him. He recognizes the plot instantly, but when Krista asks to be held because she's frightened the explosion will hurt, he simply can't refuse to embrace her.
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Aeris gets all the attention when it comes to deaths in the Final Fantasy series, and her murder at the hands of Sephiroth as she prays for the magic to stop him destroying the planet is a really great scene. However, it has always overshadowed another truly amazing loss in the game, that of Barret's friend Dyne.
When Barret and Dyne were friends before the game stops, they were both caught in a massacre of their town by Shinra forces. Both of them were shot in the hand, and Dyne fell over a cliff, leaving Barret to raise Dyne's daughter.
Years later, during the course of the game they encounter Dyne as the boss of a desert prison. He's had a gun grafted to his stump, and has become a complete nihilist, wanting the destruction of everything, including himself. After battling the part, Barret tells Dyne his daughter is still alive, which comforts him some, but not enough to heal his shattered soul. He says a brief goodbye before leaping to his death. In his suicide he manages to sum up the total evil of Shinra, and the lives they ruined through their greed, and no one remembers it because of Aeris. He ends up forgotten.
Except by the guy who made that video. He put together a ten-minute look at Dyne's entire story. High five, bro!