There’s something rather magical about being emotionally attached to a good narrative. It’s somewhat rare these days — what with the ninety-per cent filler cap that many players would prefer for their hard-earned money. But it’s those short and sweet stories that bypass the lengthy side plots and aim straight for the heartbreaking conclusions that dazzle me. And, if containing a fascinating cast with genuine backstories, that timely climax can prove to be all the more intriguing.
We’ve seen dozens of story-driven games over the years — all of which have tried to pull on our heartstrings ten times over. And yet, only a few have managed to extract a genuine emotion after spending hours of building to that all-important final showdown. And, it’s those heartbreaking finales that I want to explore in further detail. It’s these very five that pull on our strings effortlessly as we turn the final page in silence.
Of course, as with any article based on video game endings, we have to alert you that there are indeed spoilers ahead. Go forth with extreme caution, people. You have been warned!
5. A Way Out — The Showdown
It’s true, co-op games are on the decline, and solo campaigns are piling up more and more with each passing year. Thankfully, A Way Out diverted from the best-selling route and opted for something a little more nostalgic. With its two-player story that can be experienced through split-screen, both you and a friend can work together to break free from prison. Only, as you draw to the conclusion after spending hours relying on one another, you are faced with the worst showdown of them all. That’s right — each other. The cell opens — but only one can fit through the bars and embrace freedom.
Not only are you required to face one another — but also forced to watch a series of emotional cutscenes showing what each character could lose should failure be on the cards. Of course, this makes pulling the trigger both heart-wrenching and thought-provoking. Also, depending on your second player, it can also lead to a change of heart and the ultimate sacrifice. Or, you know, it could be a rather simple decision with zero regrets whatsoever. Either way, we can’t fault a good old-fashioned stand-off between friends.
4. Kingdom Hearts 2 — Sora vs Roxas
While Kingdom Hearts can often leave us completely clueless as to where the plot is going or what characters relate to which story — this one definitely didn’t need an explanation in order to snap a few heartstrings. At first, tucking into the challenging battle with the hooded member of Organization XIII wasn’t something we’d think twice about. After all, up to that specific moment we must’ve encountered at least six or seven other members — all of which we defeated without even a shred of emotion. But then, when Roxas made his appearance as one of the final bosses — we couldn’t help but feel that familiar throbbing pain in our chests.
Of course, if none of this makes even the slightest sense to you — then we can only suggest you play through the series yourself. Though, in short, Roxas is Sora. Or, a small part of Sora at least. And, what makes this battle even more difficult is the fact that Roxas isn’t actually a bad guy in the slightest. He is, however, a necessary foe that blocks the path to banishing Organization XIII for good. Plus, don’t even get me started on the music. Talk about adding salt to the wound. So, you know, thanks for that Square Enix.
3. Ghost of Tsushima — Jin V Lord Shimura
As one of the most visually-stunning open-world games we’ve seen in recent years, it was only fitting that Ghost of Tsushima possessed an emotionally warming tale to follow alongside it. Sadly, it’s the showdown between our hero and the renowned family member Lord Shimura that tore us apart in the closing sequence to the Japanese-based smash-hit. Talk about a curveball, though.
Not only did Shumura himself raise our beloved character, but also put him on the righteous path of the Samurai from beginning to end. However, when wires are crossed and the way of the warrior becomes compromised under the pressures of the war-torn island, the two family members are forced to settle matters on the sacred grounds that forged their very relationship. This proved to be one of the most heartfelt battles in gaming history, and will forever be remembered as a boss fight we just didn’t want to have to face. Nicely done, Sucker Punch.
2. Red Dead Redemption 2 — Arthur’s Final Ride
After saddling up and riding through forty-plus hours of the Western story, Arthur Morgan was quick to become our new favourite outlaw. Even John Marston, who we all believed to be the finest cowpoke in the West. Even he didn’t quite come close to matching Morgan’s charm and charisma. Sadly, that’s what made playing through those final few chapters of Red Dead Redemption 2 an incredibly difficult challenge. We just didn’t want to release the reins of our new favourite protagonist.
As the fading outlaw on a quest to bring justice to those who tarnished the family, it was clear from the get-go that the curtain call wouldn’t be anything short of emotional warfare. With death knocking on Arthur’s door, it made our hearts beckon for one more adventure before reaching the melodramatic climax. Unfortunately, that final journey came in the form of taking one last ride across the county in preparation for departure. Of course, that led to a whole new wave of emotion and memories from our time with the hero. Plus, with a perfect soundtrack echoing through the winds, Rockstar managed to hit us right in the feels like never before. Well played, R*. You nailed it.
1. Final Fantasy X — Final Battle
After sinking at least fifty hours into the tenth instalment of the Final Fantasy world, it’s understandable that we’d feel some level of attachment to the characters. Thanks to Square Enix and their artistic design and character development, players are led on an emotionally-captivating journey that never falls short on immersive elements. And so, when we reached the ending, we kind of didn’t want to have to say goodbye. Instead, we just wanted to idle in limbo and swat any potential endings away. But sadly, that just wasn’t an option.
In the run-up to the lengthy conclusion, Tidus, Yuna and the remainder of the team face Sin and the all-powerful roster of Aeons. With Tidus’s father bound by spirit and the whole of Spira in jeopardy, you are faced with banishing the creature and returning peace to the crumbling world. However, it’s what lies within the belly of the beast that truly sparks a raw emotion or two. But we strongly suggest you experience this one for yourself. You’ll want to see this one up close. Trust us.