14 Video Games That Are As Emotionally Dramatic As Any Movie

List Rules

Vote up the video games that get surprisingly emotional.

Pong brought video games into the mainstream, and with it came a whole lot of frustration and elation. The early technology was crude and expensive, but interacting with your TV was an exciting new frontier. Nowadays, developers look to extract emotion through epic storytelling, relatable characters, and intense difficulty. In between exasperation from frustrating mechanics and modern psychological manipulation lives a gaggle of video games that cause extreme reactions.

There are emotional video games that make you sad and introspective, like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and there are scary video games that freak you out like Outlast. Whether you're an everyday gamer or a part-time mobile enthusiast, there's plenty out there to push your buttons.

SPOILER ALERT: There are a few startling plot twists and dramatic deaths in this list, so don't be surprised to find some spoilers here and there. You've been warned.

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  • 1
    632 VOTES
    The Last Of Us
    Video: YouTube

    The Last of Us is a beautifully told drama set in an action-packed, post-apocalyptic infected wasteland. Developer Naughty Dog got famous with Crash Bandicoot and the Uncharted series, but really turned up the emotions with this one.

    You play as Joel, a smuggler tasked with accompanying a young girl, Ellie, who is believed to be the key to a cure for the outbreak. Along the way, you encounter wave after wave of infected enemies that vary in difficulty to kill and gross-out factor. The most unnerving of them all are the Clickers, named for the horrific nightmare-inducing sound they make as they stumble blindly about the environment. That sound still triggers an intense anxiety in many, many gamers.

    All of those feelings of stress are window dressing around the emotional devastation at the core of The Last of Us. The game opens with Joel and Sarah having a compelling father-daughter moment as the world begins to fall apart around them. By the end of the chapter, Sarah gets shot and Joel carries her dead body around in his arms. And that's just for starters. 

    632 votes
  • The Walking Dead
    Video: YouTube

    Nobody asked for an '80s-style point-and-click adventure set in Robert Kirkman's popular comic universe of The Walking Dead. Thankfully, Telltale Games made one anyway. The game mechanics are nearly non-existent, adding up to not much more than a digital Choose Your Own Adventure book. But the characters, story, and difficult choices that make up the narrative are surprisingly compelling considering the now well-worn territory.

    You play Lee, a former university professor and convicted felon, guilty of killing your wife's lover. On the way to prison, the zombie outbreak happens and all hell breaks loose. You find yourself a "free" man, and come across the 8-year-old Clementine who joins you on your journey. Along the way, you're confronted with tough life-and-death choices that significantly influence how the story plays out. No matter what happens, though, Lee gets bitten and Clementine has to decide how to let him die: watch him suffer while turning into an undead ghoul, or put a bullet in his brain. Good times.

    462 votes
  • Red Dead Redemption
    Video: YouTube

    Many people believe that Red Dead Redemption is one of the greatest games ever made. Rockstar Games applied the brilliant open-world gameplay they perfected in Grand Theft Auto to the Wild West and came up with this masterpiece.

    Set in the Texas-Mexico border circa 1910, you play John Marston, a reformed outlaw on a mission to take down the members of his old gang. The FBI promised Marston amnesty if he completes his dangerous task, allowing him to return home to his wife and family.

    After gunning down the final boss, you return home to your ranch and loved ones, but the game isn't over. The last few missions task you with tending to your animals, bonding with your son, and falling in love with your wife all over again. Then the Feds show up and murder you in cold blood. It's honestly one of the most heartbreaking experiences in all of gaming. 

    374 votes
  • Shadow Of The Colossus
    Video: YouTube

    What starts out as a tale of love and adventure ends up bleak and dark in Sony's brilliant Shadow of the Colossus. You play Wander, a young man trying to revive Mono, a maiden with a cursed future (or something). Little information is given at the start of your adventure, but as the story progresses, you realize you're killing innocent beings - the Colossi - at the behest of the main "antagonist," Dormin.

    Dormin inhabits Wander's body at the end, and even though you play as the all-powerful demon, your death is inevitable. Ultimately, you slowly transform back into Wander and are sucked into a vortex, never to be free again. That is, until Mono wakes up and finds a baby with horns, which ends up being you. So now the love of your life will become your adoptive mother, and neither of you will have any idea what happened. That's some bone-chillingly evil stuff.

    186 votes
  • Final Fantasy VII
    Video: YouTube

    Final Fantasy is one of the greatest RPG franchises of all time, and most consider FFVII to be the pinnacle of the series. In this entry, our brave hero saves flower seller Aerith Gainsborough from a gang called The Turks, and she joins the crew on their adventure. Beyond being a love interest for the protagonist, Aerith is also the key to saving the Planet, Gaia.

    One night, she inexplicably heads out into the Forgotten City alone. Cloud and the crew find her kneeling at an altar just in time to watch Sephiroth turn Aerith into a freaking kebab. Cloud carries her body to a lake in the Forgotten City and releases her energy back to the Planet.

    There will be no second life; there will be no resurrection. If you didn't cry during this scene, you should probably seek immediate medical attention. 

    307 votes
  • 6
    250 VOTES
    Heavy Rain
    Video: YouTube

    From the outset, Heavy Rain was developed to mess with your emotions. Developer Quantic Dream even marketed the game as an "interactive drama" so there would be no confusion. The game forces you to make terribly macabre decisions throughout the story, like if you should cut off your own finger, or deciding whether or not to kill the drug dealer begging for his life.

    All of that is secondary to the opening sequence of the game, however, which tasks the player with controlling protagonist Ethan Mars in an attempt to find his lost son at the mall, only to watch him be hit by a car and killed. Oh, and Ethan's other son is kidnapped, setting the events of the game in motion. Mr. Mars probably shouldn't be allowed to raise any more children.

    250 votes