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Top Games Where the Hero Dies

Top Games Where the Hero Dies

During a playthrough it is perfectly normal to fail at something, or even die and need to reload from a save point. It happens so often that dying is a staple feature of gaming at this point (don’t read too much into that). Fortunately, the death of a game's protagonist is often not permanent, either being caused by a narrative fake out or by human error. There are, however, exceptions; to that end, I’ve compiled this list of the top games in which the hero dies at the conclusion of the story. In terms of order I’ve tried to list them from the least to the most emotional for the audience/player.

Halo: Reach

During the events of Bungie's 2010 release, Halo: Reach, the player takes on the role of SPARTAN-B312 otherwise known as Noble Six. Before joining Noble Team, B312 had a reputation as an efficient lone-wolf assassin. However, over the course of the story you engage in multiple operations with your teammates to defend Reach (a human colony in the Epsilon Eridani system) from Covenant forces. As events progress you begin to see your fellow teammates slowly die one by one throughout the game. Eventually, Noble Team is given orders to secure a UNSC AI (which turns out to be Cortana) and deliver it safely to Captain Keyes aboard the UNSC Pillar of Autumn. With the planet under heavy assault by Covenant forces, the remaining members of Noble Team: Noble Six and Noble Four, proceed on foot to their objective. Finally, they make it to the Pillar of Autumn, but not before Noble Four is stabbed in the back by an Energy Sword. Noble Six proceeds to hand over the package containing Cortana, then decides to remain behind, preventing enemy gunships from overwhelming the Pillar of Autumn as it escapes — and avenging Noble Four and the rest of his team. Fans of the Halo franchise will know that Reach was then glassed (bombarded) by the Covenant fleet in orbit, and Cortana went on to be joined with SPARTAN-117 otherwise known as the Master Chief.

Halo Reach

Resident Evil Village

In the opening moments of Capcom’s Resident Evil Village, we see Ethan Winters and his wife “Mia” trying to embrace a fresh start on life. They now have a baby named Rose, and a beautiful new home — gone are the horrors that plagued their lives during the events of Resident Evil 7. However, this life of bliss does not last long. Soon bullets shatter the windows and ring throughout the house. Mia is killed by Chris Redfield, confused and angry Ethan and baby Rose are abducted by Chris’s strike team. Upon regaining consciousness, Ethan discovers the team moving him and Rose have been ambushed; the vehicle now lays overturned and Rose is nowhere to be found. Thus begins a father’s journey to rescue his newborn daughter, and find out just what the hell is going on. As the game progresses Ethan discovers many disturbing things, but the most unsettling for him would be that his daughter is currently in four separate pieces — though she can still be saved. Eventually, Ethan meets up with Chris Redfield again; this time Chris is in the mood to explain himself. It turns out the woman he shot was not Mia but an imposter. The two join forces against the main antagonist Miranda, who wants to use Rose as a vessel to revive her long dead child. In the final act Ethan is critically wounded, he passes the restored Rose to Chris and asks him to protect her. Ethan then stays behind to detonate an explosive capable of destroying the Megamycete (a giant fungal organism). As Chris boards his team's evac transport, he hands Rose over to Mia, and she asks him where Ethan is. Chris confesses he could not convince Ethan to come with him, a moment later they witness the explosion engulf both Ethan and the Megamycete.

Resident Evil 8

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

Square Enix recently released Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion, a remake of the original PlayStation Portable exclusive. The story is the same however — and it’s a long one. Players find themselves in the role of Zack Fair, a member of SOLDIER, the elite fighting force of the Shinra Electric Company. At the beginning of the game Zack holds the rank of 2nd Class and is under the mentorship of Angeal (the current wielder of the Buster Sword). The two have a strong almost brotherly bond. Soon they are assigned to hunt down another member of SOLDIER, a man named Genesis, Angeal’s childhood friend who has turned traitor. As events escalate, it appears for a time that Angeal too has turned against Shinra. Zack and he do join forces again for a period before Angeal forces a confrontation. As Angeal passes away, he gives Zack the Buster Sword and instils him forever with his legacy of SOLDIER honour.

Now a 1st Class member of SOLDIER, Zack continues the hunt for Genesis. He and Sephiroth make their way to the village of Nibelheim, accompanied by Shinra guards, one of which turns out to be a young Cloud Strife. The group is led to the Nibel Reactor by a girl from the village named Tifa Lockhart. Once they arrive, Sephiroth discovers the truth of his mother, a being known as JENOVA — as well as the flawed nature of his birth. Falling into madness, Sephiroth proceeds to torch the village, killing everyone he can find. He cuts down Tifa and defeats Zack's attempt to stop him. Cloud, seeing Tifa and Zack fall, takes up the Buster Sword and engages Sephiroth, though he is critically wounded, Cloud does manage to defeat him. Their bodies in a beaten and broken state, Zack and Cloud are collected by Shinra’s Professor Hojo. He injects them with some of Sephiroth's cells, in the hope of testing his Reunion Theory. It ends up being a failure and the two are left sleeping inside experiment tanks for four years. Zack, being resistant to the effects of Mako, has the strength to escape once he manages to regain consciousness, Cloud however is left in a catatonic state.

Now on the run from the organisation they once served, Zack and Cloud flee into the countryside, with Cloud still in a crippled lifeless state. Zack manages to figure out where Genesis has been hiding this whole time and confronts him, putting an end to the mission he was assigned so long ago. Finally, Shinra’s forces manage to catch up to Zack and Cloud. Like a true hero, Zack defends Cloud in a last stand, killing countless enemies in the process. Ultimately, he falls mortally wounded. It is at this point that Cloud begins to recover from his catatonic state, and sees his friend laying on the ground dying. Just as Zack did for Angeal, Cloud becomes Zack’s living legacy as he inherits his honour and the Buster Sword.

Crisis Core

The Walking Dead: Season One

In Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead: Season One, protagonist Lee Everatt is sitting in the back of a police car listening to the ramblings of its driver. Our hero is convicted of having killed a state senator who was sleeping with his wife — an understandable crime of passion. Suddenly, a person wanders onto the highway causing the car to crash. The vehicle goes through the side railing and down into a wooded area. As Lee escapes the wreck he soon finds the world is going to hell — almost literally. Eventually, he comes across a house which he decides to take shelter in. Discovering a radio, Lee begins a conversation with an eight-year-old girl named Clementine, whose parents own the house but are out of town. Clementine is hiding in the backyard treehouse; as Lee makes further inquiries he is attacked by the zombified babysitter. With Clementine's help, Lee manages to bash the zombie’s head in with a hammer. From this point on, Lee becomes Clementine's protector and adopted father. He teaches her to shoot and cuts her hair so that it can’t be grabbed as easily. You can really feel the bond growing between them as the story progresses. Sadly, Lee gets bitten, and even if you make the choice to amputate his arm, he eventually succumbs to the infection after saving Clementine from a madman. The final moments between them are heart wrenching, and end with Clementine putting a bullet in Lee’s head.

The Walking Dead Season One

Red Dead Redemption (Both Games)

I would never be able to forgive myself if I failed to include Rockstar’s epic western Red Dead Redemption on this list. However, for this last part we will need to discuss both the first game as well as the second.

For the sake of continuity let us first cover Red Dead Redemption 2 (I know, why call it that if it's a prequel, right?). In this entry, players find themselves filling the boots of Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang. At 14 years old Arthur was adopted into a life of crime by Dutch van der Linde and Hosea Matthews, both of whom became surrogate fathers to Arthur. When he was 22 he got the closest thing possible to a little brother, this occurred in the form of 12-year-old John Marston also being inducted into the gang.

Many years later, during the events of Red Dead Redemption 2, we see Arthur and the gang fresh off a ferry heist gone wrong. Over the course of the story, Arthur and the rest of the gang are on the run from the Pinkertons (a private bounty hunting and detective agency), as such they require large amounts of money to escape the country. Unfortunately, a man named Thomas Downes owes the gang a debt, Arthur is infected with tuberculosis while beating Mr. Downes in an attempt to collect — to top it off Mr. Downes and his family are destitute. Following that event, Arthur can find Mrs. Downes (now a widow) and her teenage son several times throughout the game — each time in a more desperate state. However, despite his life of crime Arthur is not truly a bad man, and learning of his tuberculosis, resolves to try and leave the world in a better place. During the final act, Arthur saves Mrs. Downes from a life of prostitution and her son Archie from working himself to death in a coal mine. He then turns his attention to the fracturing gang, having already lost most of its members including Hosea; Dutch has become completely unhinged after so many failures, and believes a traitor is among them.

When Arthur faces the gang, he tells Dutch the traitor's identity, that being Micah Bell — who has been working with the Pinkertons for some time. While Dutch is thinking things over, John Marston arrives and accuses Dutch of having left him for dead during a recent heist. Dutch, now faced with his countless mistakes in leadership, joins Micah against Arthur and John. As the two brothers flee from Dutch and the pursuing Pinkertons, Arthur tells John where his family is, then provides cover while John escapes. Exhausted and beaten after fighting both his illness and Micah, Arthur passes away on a rocky hilltop watching the sunrise.

Red Dead Redemption 2

John Marston survived Dutch and Micah’s betrayal, and thanks to Arthur's sacrifice he was able to reunite with his wife Abigail and son Jack. When John later learns of Micah’s whereabouts he takes his revenge.

It was not easy, but eventually John put the past behind him and built a ranch called Beecher’s Hope. Fate, however, has something else in mind, twelve years after Arthur's death, federal agents take Abigail and Jack hostage. John is given a choice, take up his guns to help hunt down the remaining members of his old gang, or he and his family go to prison. Throughout John’s journey, he works alongside U.S. Marshal Leigh Johnson to help protect the people of Armadillo, aids Abraham Reyes in a Mexican revolution, and saves a bank full of people in Blackwater from his former gang leader. In the end, John succeeds in fulfilling his part of the deal, having tracked down and killed Bill Williamson, Javier Escuella, and finally Dutch van der Linde. For a time, all seems well, Abigail and Jack are returned home, and John can now focus on family life and maintaining his ranch. Then, the worst happens, it appears the federal agents from the Bureau of Investigation had no intention of letting John live in peace. They, along with the U.S. Army launch an attack on Beecher’s Hope. John mounts a last stand, giving Abigail and Jack a chance to ride to safety. Despite his best efforts, John Marston is gunned down by the overwhelming forces against him.

Red Dead Redemption

That concludes our list for the Top Games Where the Hero Dies. Did any of these entries give you the feels? Was there a game you think we missed? Feel free to make your voice heard in the comment section.

Jase Taylor

Jase Taylor

Staff Writer

Explaining things thoroughly and also too much

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Jbumi - 12:31pm, 17th January 2023

Also (sometimes) Tactics Ogre.  Depending on your choices, you may get assassinated at the end.  :(

JaseTay - 09:51pm, 17th January 2023 Author

Harsh, but hopefully you have to make some bad choices to get such an ending. 

markconner842 - 09:45am, 8th November 2023

The blog provides a compelling overview of video games where the protagonist meets an untimely demise. The death of hero of Resident Evil Village serves as a powerful plot device. The protagonist, Ethan Winters, faces relentless challenges and sacrifices everything to protect his loved ones. His eventual demise adds a layer of emotional depth to the story and leaves a lasting impact on players. The costumes reflect the characters' personalities and the game's diverse environments. You have successfully highlighted the impact of character deaths in video games and the unique storytelling opportunities they present.