Top 5 Emotionally Scarring Video Games

Get the Kleenex at the ready, because we're counting down the saddest video games ever.

Paul Tamburroby Paul Tamburro


WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

As Christmas is just around the corner, we thought what better way to celebrate the coming of a day intended to promote love and happiness than to feature a list of games that will turn you into an emotional wreck. 

Here are the top five emotionally scarring video games.

 Red Dead Redemption

As a whole Red Dead Redemption wasn't all too sad, but the ending? My god. 

John Marston was one of the most likeable lead characters in video game history. He was rough 'round the edges and not all too smart, but he also had a good heart and throughout the game's story he struggled tirelessly to piece his life back together in the face of overwhelming adversity. 

So after hours of fighting in order to return to his wife and son, his happiness remains brief when corrupt Bureau agent Edgar Ross decides that, despite Marston having done all that they had asked of him, they're still not going to allow him to live a peaceful life. In fact, they aren't going to allow him to live at all.

Watching as Marston hides away in the barn, with Ross and a bunch of government agents waiting outside to shoot him dead as soon as he shows his face, is truly upsetting after investing so much time into helping him rejoin his family. The fact that upon his death you are then placed in the shoes of his son Jack, who is a far more embittered and joyless character than John was due to the loss of his dear ol' dad, makes RDR's ending all that much more difficult to bear.

 Heavy Rain

If you play Heavy Rain properly, and by that I mean you do not shoot for the 'good' ending by restarting checkpoints and the like, it can be a pretty bleak experience. 

Central protagonist Ethan Mars' story is one of tragic loss, as he struggles to cope with the guilt he feels as a result of the death of his eldest son Jason, whilst he simultaneously attempts to rescue his other son Shaun from the clutches of the anonymous 'Origami Killer'. Along the way you may make some morally reprehensible decisions as you try to save Shaun, but in the end it may not be enough, as all it takes is one misstep for Shaun's untimely death to be an awful result of your error.

Aside from Ethan's trials and tribulations, Heavy Rain also allows you to unwittingly spark up a romance between the Origami Killer himself and the mother of one of the children he has killed, who remains unaware of his identity until the game's climax or, depending upon how you play, doesn't learn of his identity at all. The fact that Heavy Rain's story remains so emotionally engaging even with its gameplay revolving entirely around silly quick-time events is a testament to just how much Ethan Mars & Co. pull on your heartstrings.

 Shadow of the Colossus

When you scale the first giant in Shadow of the Colossus it's truly an immense feeling. However, as you finally manage to clamber onto its head, you feel a real sense of guilt as you plunge your sword deep into its skull. As it attempts to shake you off, desperately fighting for its life as a fountain of blood gushes forth from the open wound, you almost feel sympathy for it. 

The growing sense that the colossi aren't your real enemy is enhanced as you play through the game, as none of them prove to be much of a threat to you until you come charging at them with your sword. Although Shadow of the Colossus' ending is open to interpretation, the prevailing theory is that, yes, the colossi weren't actually baddies, but rather you were selfishly slaughtering them in order to save the girl you fancied. However, when you do eventually save her, you're punished for your sins by being cruelly transformed into a baby, meaning that you can't explain to her the hardships you went through in order to do so. If that wasn't enough of a kick to the groin, then you also have to watch your trusty horse fall to its death. An all-around downer.

 Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill isn't the happiest of locations in the world of video games, and never has this been more apparent than in Silent Hill 2. If it wasn't enough that the environment itself is one filled with blood-smeared walls, mutilated demonic creatures and unsettling sexual imagery, then Silent Hill 2's story of a man coming to terms with killing his wife will certainly leave you in a rather fragile state of mind as you watch the end credits roll.

While the narrative and its conclusion are certainly enough reason for Silent Hill 2's inclusion on this list to be warranted, it's the horrors that you'll face along the way that will stay with you long after you've finished playing. From Pyramid Head's libido through to a room solely intended to depict the sexual abuse received by one of the game's female characters at the hands of her father, Silent Hill 2 is an intentionally unenjoyable game to play through, offering players no respite as they travel from one disturbing scene to the next.

 The Walking Dead: Season One

Season one of the episodic The Walking Dead gives you just one objective: to keep a little girl safe from harm in a dangerous post-apocalyptic world. Unfortunately, in order to do this you'll be forced to make some morally ambiguous choices along the way, from deciding who of your fellow hungry survivors gets to eat the remaining rations, to choosing who you'll save from the hordes of the undead and who you'll leave to face their untimely demise. 

Over the course of the game's five chapters you'll be forced to make many decisions in the heat of the moment, meaning that oftentimes you'll do something that you'll later learn to regret. This is the beauty of the game, though, and as it draws closer to its heartbreaking conclusion, you will have already witnessed a number of your comrades fall under your command.

But the real emotional drama of The Walking Dead lies in the relationship between protagonist Lee and young Clementine. Often in video games you are tasked with ensuring the safety of a non-playable character and doing so is little more than an annoyance, but that's not the case with Clementine. You'll want to protect her. 

Unfortunately, after Lee suffers a bite from a zombie in the game's concluding chapter, he realises that he won't be able to protect her forever and, as he steadily becomes just another walker, he will likely eventually come to harm her. The final moments Lee shares with Clementine are heartbreaking, as he comes to accept his fate yet still doesn't give up on keeping her from out of harm's way, guiding her into making one last difficult-but-necessary decision before he finally bows out. 

Although The Walking Dead is not as relentlessly hopeless as Silent Hill 2 or as subtly moving as Shadow of the Colossus, the bonds you'll make with its characters and the heartwarming relationship between Lee and Clementine ultimately make the concluding scenes that much more difficult to endure. A masterpiece that, regardless of your age or gender, will ultimately leave you reaching for a box of tissues.

Paul Tamburro is the UK Editor for Crave Online. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTamburro.