Sunday Conversation: Games That Made You Cry

By Mark Delaney,
It's okay to cry. Sadly, much of society the world over considers crying a sign of weakness, especially among boys and men. People are told to choke back their tears, not let others see them so vulnerable. Most progressively minded people would agree that's an antiquated viewpoint, and everyone cries sometimes. Still, it can feel uncomfortable to let our guards down in such a manner, can't it? A well told story connects to us, though, and you can't always help but let the dam collapse. Video games, as they've matured and progressed over the years and despite still being in their relative infancy compared to other storytelling mediums, have the ability to get those waterworks going, sometimes when we least expect it. We previously looked back at some of games' Top Five Tearjerker Moments, but such moments in games are plentiful and can be very personal and very memorable.

These aren't just some sad moments in games. These are the times when we couldn't hold back the tears anymore. We thought it would be interesting to share some of our own memories of when it was raining on our faces, and we invite you to let your guards down and do the same.

Note: It should go without saying that many of these memories will touch on spoilers for various games. Proceed at your own risk.

Chanse had trouble saying goodbye to a close friend of Chief's

14/4/12 Screenshot 2

One of my saddest moments in gaming actually came at the end of Halo 4. After four games together Cortana is, for all intents and purposes at that time, 'killed' in order to save Master Chief.

It was heartbreaking for me to go through that. The entire game featured her descent into rampancy and the self-destruction of this close companion, which by itself was difficult to see, culminating in a surprisingly sad end that set a new tone for the Halo series to end on. This, paired with the poignant voice acting and orchestral score, made it one of my saddest gaming memories.

Kevin intervened in a generations-old struggle


I'm not one to cry for just anything, in games especially. Despite having played through many games that are often cited as heartbreaking, I managed to keep my eyes dry. But Mass Effect 3? It's amazing. I nearly cried when Mordin Solus made his sacrifice, but it was the finale of the Geth/Quarian war that sent me over the edge. The Geth were villains throughout the series, but Legion showed me they could be something more. The Quarians at first seemed to be betrayed, but through my journey I realized they had started the conflict in the first place.

In the final scene, I was faced with a choice: end the Geth or allow the Quarians to destroy themselves. An entire race could be wiped out by my choice, and at face value the only choice was harm to some machines. But the Geth were something more than that. When the choice came up, I sat for literally five minutes trying to decide what the right choice was. Were the Geth alive? If they were, they deserved to live even if it damned the Quarians. I chose the Geth.

My eyes got all watery during my favorite game of all-time


I definitely would've cried during both seasons of Telltale's The Walking Dead, but I played them with a room full of invested spectators, so I choked back those tears as I'm sure they all did too. My most memorable tear drops came during a replay of The Last of Us. When I first played it, the game was just beautiful, stunningly so. I loved it. But the paternal relationship Joel forms with Ellie didn't connect as deeply with me until I played it again after I had a son of my own. Then I was better able to feel as he felt, see the world through his protective eyes. Parents will do anything for their kids, and it was especially resonant with me that Ellie is not his biological child, like my son is not mine. It didn't matter to Joel, and it doesn't matter to me. We love them all the same.

I love stories in games, especially when they can be so cathartic, so moving. Few games have ever put me in that place the way The Last of Us did, and that's partly why it's my all-time favorite video game. If you've never taken the time to play it on a Sony console, that too is reason enough to sob, in my opinion.

Sam eloquently summarized the end of an era

ass creed

“What is a man but the sum of his memories? We are the stories we live! The tales we tell ourselves!”

Nothing is more bittersweet than tracing the threads of human lives against the vast tapestry of time. Excluding the First Civilization nonsense, the ending of Assassin's Creed: Revelations is among the more emotional moments I’ve had with a game. It all comes down to man’s attempt to make an imprint, to pass the torch of knowledge on into the future in the hope that it will make a difference. Underpinned by a haunting melancholic score that still chills me when I hear it, the poignant moments arrive in quick succession.

We have Subject 16’s desperate message as he sacrifices the final scrap of his existence for Desmond, and Altair’s lonely end as his home and entire reason for being vanishes from the history books, telling his son and Ezio to choose life and love over the endless fight. Ezio learns the lesson, realising after thirty years that he will never understand his role in the larger game. He lays down his blades and finally accepts that inner peace means letting go of finding an ultimate purpose. A final fatherly message to Desmond is the last we see of a man we’ve followed through most of his life over the course of three games. Ezio's trilogy coincided with a difficult soul-searching odyssey in my personal life, so when the credits rolled on Revelations I definitely had something in my eye.
We also had several staffers, including the big man himself, chime in to report a leaky faucet during The Walking Dead. The point is, video games have arrived as touching narrative vehicles. Not every game seeks to make us shed tears, nor should they, but the fact that they can do so is a testament to part of what makes them great. When did a game or games leave you red-eyed and sobbing? Don't be shy about it!
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for GameSkinny, Gamesradar and the Official Xbox Magazine. He runs the family-oriented gaming site Game Together.