It’s no secret that an incredible video game narrative is only told with authentic and memorable video game characters, some of whom are so abruptly taken from us that the pain of their deaths linger in our hearts forever. This month, the Doublejump Discord community elected to see which character deaths our staff still mourn to this very day, and uncover the aspects of their personas that made them so memorable. Grab your tissues and your sad songs playlist, and let’s embark on this emotional journey together!
PLEASE NOTE: Given its nature, this article obviously contains a number of spoilers! Tread carefully!
Alex: The Great Deku Tree — The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
It’s somewhat rare to hold a character whose appearance in a game was so short lived to such a high standard, but exceptions are granted when these characters hold bigger representations than their physical appearances suggest. Through meeting the Great Deku Tree, player-character Link begins to understand that there is a greater world beyond the reaches of his homeland, the Kokiri Forest, and that this world contains evils that would threaten to harm everything, including the forest’s peaceful existence. The Great Deku Tree reveals in the same breath that he has been cursed by the evil Ganondorf for protecting the forest’s spiritual stone, and sends Link inside of him on a mission to break the curse.
Despite successfully breaking the curse, Link learns that the Great Deku Tree is still doomed to die; a fate that the tree knew from the very beginning. Even still, it used what time it had to impart its wisdom upon the child who was destined to grow into the Hero of Time, and prepared the boy as best he could for the journey ahead. The Great Deku Tree then passes, drastically opening up the explorable regions and, by extension, the rest of the adventure. Fittingly, a Great Deku Tree Sprout is grown later in the game after a fully-grown Link overcomes the nearby Forest Temple, symbolising a rebirth of the forest’s guardian and, perhaps, even a return to peace.
Ayden: Booker DeWitt — BioShock Infinite
The narrative that shook gamers around the world. Bioshock Infinite is renowned for its complex and emotional story. At the frontlines of this intriguing tale of political espionage, debt-wiping and skyhook-riding is Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth Comstock. The player sits shotgun as they watch Elizabeth and Booker try to escape the floating city of Columbia. But as the story begins to unravel, possibilities that are seemingly unbelievable start to occur. Booker and Elizabeth’s relationship begins to change and the very dynamics of reality start to shift.
The player is left in a state of complete shock as the final moments of the game have Booker pay for his sins — not just as Booker DeWitt, but also as the political tyrant and holy man, Zachary Hale Comstock. As the doors to countless parallel universes open, the player sees the constants and variables that have moulded the path the duo have taken throughout their whole lives. The death of Booker and the end of the game only leaves questions for the players, one of the most poignant being: “Will the circle ever be unbroken?”
Cai: Joker — Batman: Arkham City
Batman is nothing without the Joker, and the Joker can’t exist without Batman. Their unique dichotomy has been discussed and debated for years, both in-universe and out. No matter how many times he’s imprisoned, the Joker always returns to wreak havoc on Gotham City once again, and Batman is always there to stop him. Rocksteady stayed perfectly true to this dynamic throughout the first two Arkham games, with the Joker acting as the perfect opponent to the Caped Crusader. It felt like they were equals, squaring up against each other time and time again, with neither truly emerging victorious.
This is why his death at the end of Arkham City is such a gut-punch. Decades of Joker stories had left him as a constant in the Batman universe, and Rocksteady swept the rug out from underneath everyone by killing him off. Countless fans flooded the internet with theories of how he could survive, because the idea of Batman without the Joker was so unimaginable that it couldn’t possibly be true.
Batman carrying the Joker out of Arkham City is powerful imagery, acting as both the perfect reflection of their relationship and the final confirmation of something that seemed impossible. Joker was dead, and everything else was fair game. It’s how he would have wanted it.
Cav: John Marston — Red Dead Redemption
As reformed Old West bandit John Marston, you’re finally happy again. Released from your servitude to ruthless Fed Edgar Ross, you’ve helped eradicate the members of your old gang and earned the right to continue the quiet life that you hope will allow you to become the man you want to be, rather than the killer who’s always glared back at you in the mirror. It simply takes the tolling of a bell to shatter that illusion.
You already know that it’s Ross. It just makes sense: the guy’s too driven to allow even one of the Dutch van der Linde Gang to continue walking the earth, and too much of a bastard to let any moral trifles like honour spoil the coup.For a while, you actually make a good job out of defending your homestead, cutting down wave after wave of Ross’s posse. It’s ugly fighting, savage and desperate, but it’s enough to allow you to fall back to the barn, get your wife and son on a horse and off to safety. After that, there’s only one thing left.
You open the front barn doors to find a good fifteen or twenty guns pointed at you — Ross and his men, waiting, as you are, for the inevitable. It’s at this point that the game puts control back in your hands, the screen flushing with the now-familiar tint denoting the Dead Eye mode. You know, as does Marston, that not even gunslinger bullet-time will be enough to defeat this mob, and, like Marston, you don’t care. You just want to put down as many of these bastards as you can get in your sights before it’s done.
You paint your targets, hit fire. For a split second, you get to enjoy the thrill of your handful of enemies flung to the ground under your almost inhumanly fast gunfire. But a split second is all you get, and then your final act as Marston is snatched away from you. The game takes back the reins, wrenching back to cutscene as Marston is brutally peppered with bullets. He has enough life remaining to stare down his murderers, eyes like hellish coals of defiance. But then those eyes soften as the sadness takes hold, and his broken body expires. Ross enjoys a cigar as he watches our hero die and, with a dismissive shake of the head, leaves him to the buzzards.
In the immortal words of Jack Burton: Son of a bitch must pay.
Damon: Vaas — Far Cry 3
Although the gameplay was solid and the plot was intriguing, it was Far Cry 3’s villain, Vaas Montenegro, that pushed the game to greater heights. Every second of his presence was felt like a tremor; he was sick and twisted, and was so unpredictable that one could never quite prepare for what was coming next. So profound was his impact on the game’s narrative that many – myself included – would want to rush through the game’s campaign just to reach Vaas’ next appearance. Unfortunately, though, just as players become invested in Vaas as a truly riveting villain, he’s stripped away in a blatantly unserviceable fashion.
Vaas is killed off far too early in the campaign, and it’s only then that players begin to realise the magnitude of the character’s brilliance. As soon as Vaas dies, things begin to fall flat; the game turns from a solid entry with an interesting story – driven by an interesting antagonist – to a bland and rather cliché experience, almost overshadowing the spectacle that Vaas was. Although his death isn’t one that will make players well up with emotion, you’re sure to feel the impact of his departure as you run through the rest of the story and wonder how much more interesting it could have been.
Emily: John “Soap” McTavish — Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
As a major character in the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series, players watched John “Soap” McTavish defy death on seemingly countless occasions, avoiding bullets, explosions and sinking ships among a litany of situations that any normal person would rather die than even try to navigate. That’s why his death in Modern Warfare 3 came as such a shock, and will go down as arguably the most depressing moment in any Call of Duty campaign.
Soap is finally bested when he’s caught up in an explosion while on a mission to assassinate Inner Circle leader Vladimir Makarov; although his friend and mentor Captain John Price manages to carry him to safety, he succumbs to his wounds, leaving Captain Price utterly devastated and demonstrating that emotion does, in fact, have a place in the Call of Duty franchise. In a series best known for its online multiplayer action, the emotion surrounding Soap’s entirely-expected demise goes to show the tremendous impact he had on the series’ often-forgotten campaigns.
Jake: Sarah — The Last of Us
There are very few — if any — moments in film, gaming or television that have tugged on the heartstrings quite as hard as watching Joel hold his daughter close as she died in his arms, rocking her back and forth and begging her to wake up. That moment becomes even more poignant when one considers that it happens in the first half-hour of — and in many ways, sets the tone of — what went on to be one of the finest games of an entire console generation.
Although Sarah’s death wasn’t a major event in terms of the game’s story, the scene was never designed as such. Instead, it was designed as the only backstory players really need to see in order to learn and explain a lot about the Joel that players get to know twenty years later: his jaded, emotionless demeanour, his lack of trust and reluctance to “let anyone in”, and his fatherly love and fierce protection of Ellie as the story wears on, are all explained in that brief, heart-wrenching moment, and it helps us to understand a character who would otherwise come across as a bit of an asshole.
On top of all of that, from a storytelling perspective, eliciting such an emotional response in a player so early on is a fantastic way to ensure that they are invested in the characters and what’s playing out; that scene was a major, major factor in the game’s incredible success.
Rhys: Vesemir — The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
It’s one thing for a character’s death to affect the player directly, but for that death to have a detrimental effect on the game’s other characters is another thing entirely. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt deals with consequences in a variety of different ways, but the player often has a certain level of control over their actions to begin with. I didn’t mean for Keira Metz to die in my driest playthrough, for instance, but my decision to trust her resulted in my being required to kill her. That was annoying, given that she is a powerful ally to have, but I knew that my choices – and nothing else – ultimately sealed her fate; that knowledge allowed me to accept her death and move on.
All of that accountability went out the window in the game’s penultimate big moment, though, as I really wished I could undo Vesemir’s death. Vesemir was always a quasi-father figure to Ciri and a mentor to the game’s protagonist, Geralt of Rivia. Seeing him killed unceremoniously while trying to protect Ciri from Imlerith, all while watching on helplessly, still hurts even after seeing it so many times; especially having read many of the Witcher novels, which further flesh out just how important Vesemir is to both Ciri and Geralt.
Of course, Vesemir’s death wasn’t entirely in vain, as it gave light to one of the game’s most badass scenes when Ciri loses control over her immense power and almost decimates the entire Wild Hunt in her grief. It’s still one of my favourite scenes in video games, even if it does bring a tear to my eye every time.
There are plenty more characters whose untimely deaths deserve recognition, and we’re interested to know which one stood out most to you that we may have missed. Be sure to share your thoughts with us in the comments section or on our social media via the links below!