Not every game has a happy ending. Instead, it seems like many video games have a level of bittersweetness that keeps their endings somewhere between too perfect and too tragic. But these are the games that lean into tragedy to create the 10 most heartbreaking game endings.
10 Game Endings That Will Leave You Heartbroken
10. Link’s Awakening
Link’s Awakening doesn’t end with outright tragedy. However, the implications are heartbreaking. The entire island and everyone Link met there were part of a dream. Maybe they weren’t real, but they felt real while we interacted with them. But in the end, Link is alone with his memories. Marin, in a way, got her wish to fly away from the island with its disappearance, but that’s the only true bright spot.
9. Ghost of Tsushima
The Ghost of Tsushima’s ending makes you question how much honor is worth. Jin is asked to kill his uncle and father figure, giving him an honorable death. But Jin has been at odds with his uncle throughout the game, so he has the option to ignore his uncle one last time and force him to live in dishonor.
If you kill him, Jin has no family left, but he fulfills his uncle’s final wish. If you spare him, he’s forced to live in dishonor, which implies Jin will always be hunted. I feel like I lose no matter which option I pick, and neither one seems any less tragic than the other.
8. The Last of Us Part 2
The ending for The Last of Us Part 2 is underrated, especially since you must pay attention to the background to feel its true significance. The posters on the wall and the records that Ellie looks at are likely Joel’s, and the last scene is her final farewell to him. We see her leave behind the guitar as she makes peace with Joel’s death and puts her desire for revenge to rest with any unsaid words between them.
He was her father figure, and she was at odds with him for a while. But she cared about him. We watch a flashback to her trying to forgive Joel, but he’d die before she had the chance to. As a result, she returned to the farmhouse and picked up the guitar to play once more, but couldn’t play Joel’s favorite song with her missing fingers.
7. Red Dead Redemption
After John has the chance to live peacefully with his family on the ranch, it’s taken away from him. The ranch is attacked by soldiers, John’s uncle dies, and John dies in an effort to protect his family. Rockstar gives us a moment where we think John and his family will have a happy ending, only to rip it away shortly after and kill John in a final shootout. It was both an unexpected and a heartbreaking moment.
6. Halo Reach
Like Red Dead Redemption, Halo Reach ends in a hail of bullets. Six wanted to ensure Autumn’s escape, and the only way to do that was to stay behind and fight off the Covenant to buy time. The entire ending sequence is heartbreaking. No matter how hard you try, you can’t survive the battle. Enemies spawn infinitely, growing more aggressive. Your only option is to take as many of them down with you.
5. Cyberpunk 2077
V doesn’t have a happy ending in any of the endings. Live out their final days as themselves or let Johnny Silverhand take control of them, which essentially kills them by erasing their consciousness. While there are variations of these endings, they all feel just as heartbreaking when you know there’s simply no way for V to live longer than a few months. The best you can do is decide how V lives out their last days to the fullest.
4. Telltale’s The Walking Dead
The death of a heroic character is hard. But it’s heartbreaking when that character dies in front of their surrogate daughter. Or potentially asks her to pull the trigger and kill him before he becomes a zombie. However, that’s the tragedy that Telltale drops on us in The Walking Dead.
After Lee went through so much with Clementine and did his best to care for her, he got infected and asked her to complete an impossible task. Kill him, or leave him behind while he slowly turned into a zombie. Either choice is heartbreaking for her, and she has to live with the consequences.
3. Metal Gear Solid 3
The ending of MGS3 reveals a lot that changes the entire game. Snake is forced to kill his mentor and mother figure, believing she defected and became a traitor to the United States. However, he learns after killing her that it was all part of a mission, and she was never a traitor. She simply played the part of one to complete her mission, knowing she’d never be remembered as the patriot she was.
And Snake, knowing the truth, has to live with the knowledge that he can never clear her name. All he can do is remember what she did and everything she risked for her country. All while carrying the guilt of being the one who killed her.
2. Red Dead Redemption 2
After freeing his gang members from Dutch, Arthur hunts down Micah, who betrayed the gang. Diagnosed with TB, Arthur’s in his final moments. Moments that are even more heartbreaking if you have a high bond level with your horse, which shows a scene of Arthur comforting it while it dies.
But even without that, if you play even semi-honorably throughout RDR2, you get a scenic ending after dealing with Micah. Arthur can’t fight off the TB anymore, and he lies on the ground, dying as the sun sets.
1. Final Fantasy 10
We know that Tidus doesn’t fit in the world throughout FF10. His memories of Zanarkand don’t match the world we see, and we just have to accept the explanation that he was left confused by Sin. Then, we learn that Zanarkand is a dream of the fayth. He still does everything he can to help Yuna fight Sin without sacrificing her, proving that his feelings are real even if he isn’t.
Then, we have the heartbreaking scene of Tidus fading away after the final battle. Yuna tries to grab him but falls since he’s no longer corporeal. All she can do is tell him that she loves him while he fades away.
And that ends my list of the 10 most heartbreaking game endings. I’m always amazed at how the storytelling of a game can be powerful enough to leave me in tears at the end of it. But for some lighter topics, check out the 10 best games to speedrun or 10 upcoming early access games.