We at Godisageek like to think we’re tough, that we can handle the odd emotional knock and keep on going. But the truth is, we’re all big softies, really – and games are just as capable of reducing us to quivering wrecks as any other medium. This week on Staff Picks, we had a look back at the games that have hit us nice and hard in the feels, and then we’ve opened up to you about it, like in therapy.
Warning: this will contain spoilers and manly confessions. Bring the tissues.
ADAM COOK, EDITOR
I’ve had discussions over the opening section of The Last of Us with a few people now. But I actually cannot play it any more. Replaying it for the fourth time to review the PS4 re-mastered version was the final time. I don’t know if it’s the parent in me, or if it affected everyone in that same way, but that section was not only a surprising twist, but it had me in pieces. It’s not the first game to do it, sure, and it probably won’t be the last, but seeing your absolute worst fear borne out in front of your eyes… well, it destroyed me.
Many games have done it, but none in such a believable fashion. It’s a clever narrative technique, because from then on, I was Joel. I could understand him, his initially cold attitude, and that his eventual decisions which, morally, may not have been the right choices, were done out of a deep loss, a scar that can never truly heal. Sensational storytelling, and a piece of a game that cemented Naughty Dog at the very top, for me.
STEPHEN DUNNE, STAFF WRITER
I don’t think I have ever had a heavy tear-jerking experience in gaming (tough nut to crack and all that), but the one that came as close as any other was The Last Of Us – in particular the opening sequence. Those moments after starting the game are as intense and as gripping as any other game, TV show or movie you care to mention and it does one hell of a job setting up what the rest of the game will deliver.
As hard as it was for me, I can only imagine what it is like to have children and experience that. There are more moments throughout the game that also delve into that territory – moments that allow players to get hooked, emotionally, and keep them deeply invested in the story and its characters, but nothing will touch those first few minutes, that some never want to play through again.
JAMES BOWDEN, STAFF WRITER
There are a few games that have set my tear ducts into action but no throat lumps have been as, well, unexpected as the gut punch that is Elite Beat Agent’s “You’re the Inspiration” stage. Elite Beat Agents is a DS game about tapping circles to make a trio of sharp dressed men bounce around to inspire people in life through the medium of pop/rock cheese, so the last thing I was expecting was the manliness-testing tale of a child and her mother trying to cope after the sudden loss of the tyke’s father on Christmas.
Set to the lethargic wails of Chicago’s song of the same name, You’re the Inspiration, your success in the rhythm action has a direct impact on the resolution that the family finds, so doing well and seeing the girl’s persistence to honour her father through the year rewarded, is humbling stuff, and far beyond what anyone expects to find in such a title.
And yes, I know the original Japanese version, Ouendan, had Over the Distance, but I played Elite Beat Agents first, and Over the Distance is as creepy as it is touching so Chicago gets my nod.
SEAN SMITH, SENIOR STAFF WRITER
I am a proper hormonal, bleary eyed sap at heart, despite my tough-guy image and natural gypsy swagger. I cry at the most ridiculous things, and often. If I watch “Up” with the kids I need to summon the most macho, badass thoughts in my arsenal (Steven Seagal cock-punching ninjas – ON FIRE) in order to prevent the teary onslaught.
So naturally some games can trigger my complex emotional side, too. The Gears of War series has had some good moments, and I will readily admit to blubbing at certain points in the Legend of Zelda mythology. But without question, the one time that a game thwacked me hardest with an heartstrings-affecting roundhouse to the feels came courtesy of Level-5 and their Studio Ghibli-flavoured classic, Ni No Kuni.
Just like Pixar’s spellbinding Up, Kuni goes straight for the jugular by presenting a tragic, profoundly moving scene early doors. Without wanting to spoil things for those readers who may not have sampled its delights, the preamble to this grand role-playing adventure is a supreme bit of child separation anxiety straight out of the Miyazaki playbook, preceded by a series of beautifully observed vignettes of family life, where something as simple as a mother serving her son a bit of breakfast becomes a poignant set-up to the horror that is about to follow. Before you know it, you are grizzling into your controller, until the appearance of the fantastic Mr Drippy brings things full circle and there is some laughter through the tears, a ray of sunshine, and a renewed sense of hope for young Oliver as he embarks on his quest.
It is a mind-blowing opening, delivered with such panache, graphical style and expert scripting, and one that will stay with me forever.
MICK FRASER, DEPUTY EDITOR
There’s a small section in Starbreeze’s The Darkness, fairly close to the start, when protagonist Jackie Estacado goes to visit his girlfriend Jenny. This is before his betrayal and the subsequent manifestation of the Darkness within him, when he’s just a low-level hitman doing the only thing he knows how to do and dreaming of building a better life for him and Jenny. During this moment, which you can breeze through if you’re of a mind, is the option to sit, as Jackie, and watch an entire movie with Jenny, listening to their quiet conversation, hearing the clear, undeniable chemistry between the two performers and falling all the way in love with Jenny yourself.
But Starbreeze put this scene in for that very reason: to make you love Jenny as much as Jackie does, to make you care about her and her wellbeing, and to guarantee the maximum emotional impact when, a short while later, they force you to watch as Jackie’s Uncle Paulie, in a fit of rage, brutally executes her right in front of you. It’s a savage, degrading, heart-wrenching murder that forces a devastated, destroyed Jackie to take his own life in almost that same instant. It was the first time a game made me sit bolt upright, breath stuck in my throat, unable to blink or look away as the act played over and over in my mind. It’s a moment I’ll always remember, too, as not only a powerful tool to make you emotionally invested, but as a piece of fearless storytelling by Starbreeze.
ROBIN PARKER, SENIOR STAFF WRITER
Rockstar games, despite their obvious success, can be very divisive among gamers. They haven’t always had the most gripping storylines and well-developed characters, which has definitely lost them points with many fans. But Red Dead Redemption changed all of that – and while it maintained the signature Rockstar sense of humour, it told a much more human story.
Being far and away the most mature title that Rockstar had ever released, Red Dead told an epic tale of loss, revenge and, of course, redemption. The lead character John Marston may start off as your stereotypical gunslinger gone good, but by the end of the game you will have become attached to him and his seemingly endless plight to satisfy the federal agents for whom he has been strong-armed into working. But the tear-jerker of the piece is the pay-off at the conclusion.
Having successfully completed all of the tasks he was given in order to earn his freedom, John finally returns to his wife and child – after years of separation. The following missions that focus on a sedate family life are our reward for safely guiding John through his trials. But there is a tragic inevitably hanging over this whole sequence – it surely can’t last? And of course it comes to an end in a shocking and bloody way, with the player helpless to stop it. There is still time for more redemption in the epilogue, but it is the futile last stand of John Marston that tugs on the heart strings, only amplified by the beautifully fitting and haunting song “Deadman’s Gun” that plays after. It proves that the good man doesn’t always survive.
MIKE STUBBS, STAFF WRITER
The first game that made me cry was Guitar Hero World Tour when I dropped the massive box on my foot and ended up going to A&E. That really really hurt. But for the purposes of this piece, it doesn’t really count. So I’ll talk about Halo Reach instead.
You think the game is over, you have completed the objective, a message from Bungie pops up, thanking players for everything and saying goodbye to the Halo universe for the final time. Then a final mission starts: dropped into a barren and burring landscape your only mission objective is “survive”. Not realizing there was no chance of winning, I ran and fought off the enemy for a good couple of minutes, only to be heartbroken once I was finally caught and destroyed.
I’m not sure why, but this really got to me, I remember dropping my controller (fortunately avoiding my feet) and just sitting there for a moment or two. It was the first game that made me feel emotional in this way. There have been others since, I suppose, but man, I almost cried at Halo Reach. What the hell is wrong with me?
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
What are the games that pulled your heart strings? Did you blub at Gears of War 3? Did LoK: Defiance’s final sacrifie choke you up? Do you cry like a little baby whenever Mario is learns the ever-elusive Princess Peach is in another castle? Let us know in the comments below to win a signed box of used Kleenex.*
*This is a complete lie. There is no prize for being a pansy.