Characters That Died Under Our Watch

by Dan Ryckert on Apr 27, 2011 at 10:08 AM

If you're a gamer, you've watched your in-game character die thousands of times. You've fallen down pits, been riddled with bullets, exploded, and decapitated, but most of the time your character respawns at the last patch of safe ground. However, a playable character dying as part of the game's story is something that's become more and more frequent over the last couple of generations. As the industry's storytelling methods have progressed, we've seen several instances of a protagonist's death as a plot device. Take a look as we remember some of our fallen heroes.

Major spoilers ahead, obviously.

Sgt. Paul Jackson - Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

You may not remember his name, but you definitely remember Sgt. Jackson's death in Call of Duty 4. During his company's attempted escape of a deadly LZ, a nuclear blast causes their helicopter to crash. Jackson initially survives the crash, but the sluggishness of the controls as he crawls indicates to the player that he's in very rough shape. He dies on the ground while looking at the wreckage and mushroom cloud that the nuke created. Gamers loved this moment, and apparently Infinity Ward did too considering they did the same thing twice in the sequel.


Commander Shepard - Mass Effect 2

While this is simply a possible outcome, it's a permanent one if it happens to be how Mass Effect 2 ended for you. If certain conditions are met during your playthrough, the commander will barely make a jump onto the Normandy SR-2 as you escape with Joker. Realizing he's not going to make it, he tells Joker to leave him and pilot the ship. Shepard's grip loosens, and he plunges to his death below. If you go into Mass Effect 3 after this happens, you'll essentially be starting from scratch without any of your previous Shepard's decisions affecting the new game.

Crono – Chrono Trigger

Since Crono is a silent protagonist, players find it easy to put themselves in his shoes and imagine that they are the ones hopping through time. That kind of identity projection works great when Crono’s saving the world…but not when the spikey-haired hero gets vaporized by the world-consuming Lavos. Getting erased from time isn’t typical gamer wish-fulfillment.

John Marston - Red Dead Redemption

There is more than one false ending in Rockstar's western, but Marston's end is final (unless you count his return in the non-canonical Undead Nightmare). Knowing the enemy is fast approaching their land, John tells his wife and son to escape on horseback as fast as possible. Holed up in a shed, he opens the front door to face his enemy and make his final stand. With only six shots in his revolver and over a dozen men aiming their guns at him, most gamers knew what was going to happen no matter how many Dead Eye locks they made. Marston gets gunned down by the federal agents and their hired guns, and it's up to the player to control his son Jack and exact revenge.

Aerith – Final Fantasy VII

Though Aerith (or Aeris) wasn’t the first Final Fantasy character to kick the bucket,  her death stands apart as one of the most memorable moments in the series. By making her take a sword in the back, Final Fantasy VII proved that being the main character’s love interest isn’t always a free pass out of mortal danger. It also proved that Sephiroth is one stone-cold dude.

Nathan Hale - Resistance 2

You won't be playing as Nathan Hale in the upcoming Resistance 3, and there's a good reason for that. At the end of Resistance 2, Hale started going full-on bonkers thanks to the Chimera virus that infected him. Squad member Joseph Capelli watched as Hale stared at the sky with glowing red eyes, ranting about the war being "just the beginning." Knowing Hale was beyond rescue, Capelli ends him with a single gunshot to the head. It turned out to be a wise career decision for Joe, because he's the star of the next game in the series.

Liu Kang - Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance

This Shaolin Monk was one of the original seven playable characters in Mortal Kombat, and he was one of the most loved. That's why it came as such a shock to see Shang Tsung snap his neck cleanly in two at the beginning of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. Ed Boon and his team kept Liu out of action for the entire game, but he was unlockable in its sequel after completing a ridiculous amount of tasks. The only catch? He's a zombie, naturally.

Jin – Xenosaga: Episode III

Weirdos are dying left and right in the final episode of Xenosaga, but Jin is the only one of your party members to contribute to the mounting bodycount. The selfless samurai fights alongside KOS-MOS in the game’s final moments, giving new meaning to the phrase “Live by the sword, die by a monster’s sword out in the cold void of space.” That’s a phrase, right?

Everyone - Heavy Rain

Like Commander Shepard, this is only a possible outcome. Every playable character in Heavy Rain can die, and the game will continue forward without them. With the game's variety of quicktime events, there are plenty of opportunities to mess up and send your character to an untimely death. Those with quicker thumbs can avoid all of these deaths, leading the entire cast to live happily ever after. Except for you know, that whole kid-killer on the loose thing.


With contributions by Joe Juba