Main character deaths are a common narrative device across all mediums. The hero will often sacrifice himself to save humanity or those they love. There are several games where the protagonist dies, definitely more than 10, but some are more iconic – for better or worse – than others.
Most of the time, these deaths are well intricated into the story and character development. Sometimes, though, the deaths can lead to controversy among gamers as they come out of nowhere or don’t live up to the built-up hype. Major spoilers will follow.
10 Assassin’s Creed 3
Desmond was the main character for the first five Assassin’s Creed games as gamers explored his ancestry through the animus. Assassin’s Creed 3 finished a major portion of the first civilization storyline, which came to a head with an end of the world threat.
Ultimately, Desmond had to release Juno, an Isu scientist, to save the world but he died in the process. This death was a bit of a dud because the present-day storyline was convoluted, making it less impactful than it should have been.
9 Infamous 2
Every superhero is required to have a noble sacrifice, and Cole MacGrath is no different. During the “good” ending, which is the canon ending, Cole uses the RFI to kill The Beast and several other conduits including himself.
In this ending, Cole sides with humanity and saves the world. Though many fans thought Cole was alive after a lightning bolt hit his coffin, there was no mention of him in Infamous Second Son and the developers confirmed that he is indeed dead.
8 LA Noire
The death of Cole Phelps comes out of nowhere. After uncovering the suspect of a series of arson cases, Cole and Jack Kelso confront him in a sewer system. They capture and end up killing the suspect, but Cole is unable to escape the sewer before floodwaters pound into him.
This is a rather fitting ending for a flawed character who obsessed over personal glory. It adds to the tragic ending that illustrates the power and the endurance of corruption.
7 Mass Effect 2
In a bit of a twist, the main character dies at the beginning of the game. When the Normandy explodes, Shepherd is sent spiraling into space. His helmet malfunctions and he dies alone, floating in space. The good thing is that there is a whole game to play.
Cerberus finds Shepherd’s body and resurrects him. It’s true, Shepherd dies many times throughout the series including at the controversial end of Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect 2 takes the spot for its intense and surprising start to the game.
6 Halo Reach
Halo Reach’s ending is a standout for its culmination of storytelling across the game. After a devastating attack by The Covenant, Noble Six stayed behind to ensure The Pillar Of Autumn’s escape.
Because of this noble sacrifice, Noble Six is one of the last soldiers grounded on the enemy-covered planet. He fights valiantly but is eventually overwhelmed and killed in battle. His helmet remains as a relic of the battle.
5 Bioshock Infinite
The convoluted time-traveling of Bioshock Infinite reveals that the main antagonist is one and the same as the protagonist. In order to stop Comstock from being born, Elizabeth drowns Booker, effectively eliminating the game from existence.
The playable Booker is dead, but the Booker from an alternative universe is alive and well. The one that never sold Ann to Comstock, which initiated the game in the first place. At least, the gamer can infer that’s how the game ends if they want a happy ending. Just play the game. Maybe it will make more sense… maybe.
4 Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
This death is special because it has a lot of meaning for Final Fantasy’s signature character, Cloud. Zack Fair has to defend Cloud against an army of Shinra infantry but ends up getting mortally wounded.
Right before he dies, Zack gives Cloud the famous Buster sword. The scene ends with Cloud’s cry of grief as his friend sacrifices himself to save him.
3 Shadow Of The Colossus
It’s hard not to get emotional when a colossus falls to its death. The player can’t help but think they are doing something wrong by slaying these giants. After killing all sixteen colossi, Dormin is released and takes over the boy’s body.
He is possessed and turns into a shadowy beast. The game ends with the birth of a baby with horns. This may be some form of Wander but the Wander we played as is long gone.
2 The Walking Dead
Lee’s death is one of the more emotional moments in gaming. His relationship with Clementine is one of the most heartwarming developments in games.
They are forced together by the apocalypse but they build an impeccable bond. That’s why it was so saddening to watch her kill Lee after he is zombified.
1 Red Dead Redemption
John Marston hunted down his old gang for the chance to see his family again. After a long journey of murder, John finally gets to stay with his family.
Everything is looking up until the law comes knocking. John stays back so his family can escape. He sacrifices himself, getting shot multiple times in one of the most iconic and sad moments in gaming.