On this Memorial Day, we take time to remember the soldiers who have given their lives to protect and serve this country. As we think of their sacrifice, our hobbies and barbeques on this day may seem trivial. Maybe, this is the point. The sacrifices of soldiers across generations have allowed me the freedom to sit and write about games and the industry that I love. To ignore my freedom and the happiness I find in writing would be a disservice to their memory. So, on Memorial Day I remember the sacrifice of all the soldiers who have fought for this country and especially, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you.

Spoilers for Multiple Games Will Follow (The Walking Dead, Red Dead Redemption, BioShock 2, Mass Effect, Gears of War 3, God of War 3, and L.A. Noire)

Death and selflessness combine to create some of the most emotionally impactful moments in games. There is something powerful about sacrifice. The ramifications for doing the right thing and saving lives often come at the greatest price, and video games have no shortage of great examples of sacrifice. Here are my Top 7 Sacrifices in Gaming.


#7 Ashley Williams/Kaiden Alenko - Mass Effect

In the first entry in the Mass Effect series, Commander Shepard is making positive moves toward stopping Saren. You get word that Saren's base is on the world Virmire. During the course of this mission, you are presented with the first truly harrowing decision in the Mass Effect series. A Geth Dropship leads an assault on both squad mates who are in different areas of the facility. When attacked, Kaiden and Ashley choose to arm the bomb so no matter what happens the base will be destroyed. You only will have time to save one of your friends and everyone knows this. Kaiden and Ashley insist that you save the other, and the decision is yours alone. Regardless of your choice, one will be saved and leave Virmire, the other will not.  


#6 Subject Delta - BioShock 2

At the beginning of BioShock 2, you are introduced to the connection that Big Daddies have to Little Sisters in a new way. You are Subject Delta in 1958. You are protecting your Little Sister as she goes throughout Rapture gathering Adam. Unfortunately, she runs ahead of you and is attacked by Splicers. You fight the Splicers away until one of them hits you with a Hypnotize plasmid. Sofia Lamb, a psychologist creating a "Family" of Splicers, then forces you to shoot yourself and the last word you hear is from your Little Sister. She screams, "Daddy." While not the typical sacrifice, this scene was a great addition to the BioShock series and provided perspective on Big Daddies and their dedication to their Little Sisters.


#5 Kratos - God of War 3

At the end of God of War 3, Kratos sees the destruction that he has caused the world. However, Kratos believes he has a way to give humanity a chance and separate their fate them from the whim of gods. As a product of opening Pandora's Box, Kratos was filled with Hope as Evil spread through earth and the heavens. To recompense for his past, Kratos pierced himself with the Blade of Olympus and released the power of Hope in the mortal realm. It is a beautiful story, but one could argue that even this selfless act was rooted in his anger toward Athena.


#4 Dominic Santiago - Gears of War 3

Dom is the classic soldier, and the best example of sacrifice on this list. Distraught from the knowledge of his wife's death and put into a situation where he could save Delta, Dom gets behind the wheel of a truck and runs full speed into a tanker which explodes killing the Locust and Lambent who were overrunning his fellow soldiers. The cutscene shows his squad diving to safety as the enemy force is burned to the ground. It truly is a Mad World.


#3 Lee Everett - The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is a heady game that does not shy away from forcing the player to make hard choices. Lee's truest sacrifice comes from taking a little girl named Clementine under his wing in a world where she will never see her parents again. Lee Everett world is changed by this girl, and I believe that he would do anything for her. The story of The Walking Dead really should be experienced personally with your choices making the narrative more important to you. Lee sacrifices for Clem in more ways than throughout the series and that earns him a place on this list.


#2 Cole Phelps - L.A. Noire

The plot of L.A. Noire is a deep one that I cannot do justice here. A story of murder and corruption unfold as you delve into the dark side of L.A. The events of L.A. Noire lead Cole and some of his friends to eventually running from corrupt police officers through river tunnels. Cole helps Elsa and Kelso get out of the tunnels alive leaving him the only one left below. Before Phelps could reach safety like his friends a powerful surge of water came and swept him away. After his death, Cole's name was cleared of accusations of wrongdoing and the last thing that he did was save the life of his friends at the cost of his own.


#1 John Marston - Red Dead Redemption

John Marston was not a saint. He ran with the wrong crowd, and when the true nature of his choices came to light, he decided to run, and he left the life that he had chosen. He took his wife and settled down trying to live the life of a common cattle farmer as far away from the sins of his past as he could. However, forces beyond his control caused him to have to return to that old life and finish the task that he had committed to long ago. When that task was done, he returned to his wife and son and believed peace would be his for the rest of his life. But, this was not to be. In a final act of valor, John Marston stands against a barrage of bullets and protects his wife and son.


There are many more sacrifices in games that could be included on this list. I hope that you enjoyed my Top 7, and if there are any games that you think have greater character sacrifices, please let me know. Try to stay away from overt spoilers in the comments because you never know what fellow gamers have and have not played or plan to play.