WARNING! MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS FOR CHARACTER DEATHS FOR CYBERPUNK 2077, LIFE IS STRANGE 2, THE LAST OF US, MASS EFFECT 2 AND 3, TELLTALE’S THE WALKING DEAD, AND RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
(Although if you haven’t played at least five of those titles, where have you been for the last eight years?!)
I finally got round to blitzing Cyberpunk 2077 last night – yes I am one of those fools who will carry on playing it on console rather than get my refund… After the opening missions, V finds themselves slowly dying in a pretty brutal way. Their mind will slowly be deleted and replaced with that of Johnny Silverhand, ex-terrorist, and all-round very angry guy.
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This got me thinking, how many other games are there where you play as someone who is dying? Or who gets it in the final cut scene? Lets run down on five great characters we got to play as, who sadly didn’t make it to the credits.
Mass Effect 2/3: Commander Shepard
Now I have to admit, when I first played Mass Effect 2 as a nerdy teenager, I was blown away by the opening to ME2. I was psyched to fight some bad guys and go zooming around space with my buddies from Mass Effect 1. And then Shepard died. And it wasn’t even a glorious death. No, you hear them gasping for breath and struggling as their oxygen leaks out into space.
Now, between this moment, and the end of the series, Shepard can die again in a few ways. At the end of Mass Effect 2, if you really screw up, it is possible for Shepard to die along with the rest of their teammates. As the Collector Base is counting down to destruction, Shepard falls to their death leaving Joker to warn the galaxy of the impending doom.
This is clearly not the ending BioWare wants you to get as you cannot sync your save up with the beginning of Mass Effect 3. Shepard has to be alive and kicking for the last installment. But the poor first-human Spectre can bite the bullet yet again at the end of the game. This time though, it’s seen as the ‘right’ choice to make as everyone else survives and maintains their free will. It’s a fitting end to a great leader who went through so much to save the galaxy.
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Life is Strange 2: Sian Diaz
This is another lovable character who also does not have to die. Like the rest of the games in the Dontnod Entertainment series, its all about the choices you make. If you select decisions that are morally bad, then things take a pretty dark turn in the last episode.
As the two brothers attempt to cross over into Mexico, they are stopped by armed police. If Sean decides to surrender, Daniel can get angry. This is if Sean hasn’t been a particularly good brother throughout the game, encouraging Daniel to steal, swear, and hurt people. As character deaths go, this one is particularly brutal as Sean will take a bullet for his brother. Just to pour salt on the wound, the ending shows Daniel growing up in Puerto Lobos as a criminal.
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The Last of US: Sarah Miller
Oh Sarah, sweet baby girl. Another child taken far too soon. Now whilst you play as traumatised father, Joel, for most of the time, you do open the game as Sarah so I’m including her in the list. Mostly because this is just such a brutal opening to any game, and still upsets me with every replay.
The first time I played The Last of Us – which I had deliberately not researched beforehand – I was thinking, “oh so I’m playing the game as this girl? Cool? Wait… Hang on. This isn’t the girl on the cover. Oh no…”
Sarah is such a cool girl. She skateboards, has won soccer awards, she can even joke about selling “hardcore drugs” with her dad. She is just so innocent and sweet. So her death, not by infected, but by a soldier who is ordered to shoot civilians, is brutal. This has a hell of an impact on Joel, unsurprisingly, and basically sets up the entire rest of his character arc.
Another zombie (I know we don’t call them that in TLOU but that’s basically what they are) related one now. As character deaths go, this one comes out of nowhere. After realising Clemantine is gone, Lee looks for clues for her whereabouts. As he reaches for her walkie-talkie, a walker grabs hold of him and deals the infecting bite. It’s a great jump scare and a plot move no one saw coming!
Lee then has to make several choices about revealing his slow death to his companions, whilst also deciding how to rescue Clem. He can even choose to cut off his arm to try and slow the infection – that’s how dedicated he is to this kid! This demise was such a shock to players as Telltale were only just setting up the franchise and it was assumed Lee would continue as the main character. Instead, that mantle is passed to Clem as she uses all Lee taught her to continue surviving.
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Red Dead Redemption 2: Arthur Morgan
Now, I don’t know if it was the 100+ plus hours I’d put into the game, or the slow redemptive arc Arthur goes through, but this playable-character death hit me hard. Early on in the game, fugitive gang member Arthur contracts TB from a man who owes the Van der Linde Gang money. The main part of the game ends with his death from injuries/disease depending on how you’ve chosen to behave whilst playing.
What’s pretty cruel about this demise, is that Arthur is not the one who deserves a painful death – I’m looking at you, Micah. Although not a perfect man, he tries to do good, even by the widow of the man who infected him. He slowly becomes disillusioned with the group he once saw as family, choosing to save John Marston and abandon Dutch who had always been a father figure to him.
The kindest ending for Arthur involves helping John escape and passing away as he watches the sun rise. Not a bad way to go, but still heart breaking.