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The 10: Most Tragic Heroes in Gaming

Posted on June 6, 2012 AT 07:01pm

At the root of every story, there are two final categories – Comedies and Tragedies. Traditionally, a tragedy ends with death and bad news, though by today’s standards it’s taken on a less literal tone. This is not to say, however, that tragic events do not still exist. The following list contains the most tragic characters in gaming. I must stress that these are in fact opinions. Also, HUGE spoiler warning – if you see a game title that you’ve not finished and don’t want spoiled, I’d skip over it.

 10. Tim – Braid

Braid is one of the prettiest games in the last few years, so it’s a bit surprising when you realize how dark the undertones are. Tim is a little fella with a happy expression traveling through flamboyant levels while manipulating time and other natural energies to reach his goal. The diaries before each level tell a story of Tim and his quest for a princess, though their relationship is extremely vague and the player is mostly left to assume Tim is fulfilling a simple Mario-esque rescue. The diaries end up delving into some of the darker emotions of human beings and make mention of a mistake Tim is trying to escape or atone for. When you reach the end of your journey, you follow the princess through a level and it seems you are helping her escape from the knight. Then the level rewinds and you realize the princess is running from you. It’s depressing to think that maybe Tim is confused as to why he’s the monster, and how he genuinely wants to help or be with the princess. Of course the story is up to many interpretations, but none of them really pan out for poor ol’ Tim.

9. Bolvar Fordragon – Warcraft Universe

This is important, we’ll call it a bookend. Bolvar was a loyal soldier for the Alliance and acted as regent while Varian Wrynn was missing. He was one of very few people who believed Varian was still alive, and he guarded Anduin Wrynn with his life. He fell under Lady Prestor’s charm briefly (better known as Onyxia,) but for the most part maintained a level head. After Varian’s return, he traveled to Northrend to spearhead an attack against the Lich King. While fighting he succumbed to the scourge’s disease and was set ablaze by a dragon’s fire. Though he appeared to have died, he was found alive and taken to the Lich King where he was tortured. When Tirion Fordring and the rest of the warriors finally defeat the Lich King, Bolvar is on the throne, a mangled, charred version of himself. He convinces Tirion to place the Lich King’s helmet on him, as there must always be a Lich King. As the throne becomes encased in ice, he tells Tirion “tell them only that the Lich King is dead,” but his voice then takes on the demonic echo caused by the helm’s corruption, before saying “And that Bolvar Fordragon died with him.” It’s all rather foreboding, and so we wait to see if he is able to truly hold off the corruption. It remains that Bolvar is a hero…or was, perhaps.

 8.  Link – The Legend of Zelda Series

The Zelda games never really break barriers when it comes to storytelling. That is, each game individually. When you take into account all of the incarnations of Link, likely holding the same “spirit” and carrying the Triforce of courage through different lifespans, it actually becomes rather sad. He is never allowed to live a normal life – he is always plucked from his childhood and designated the “chosen one” to save the world from an evil so ancient, it has survived for an unimaginable amount of time. And he always succeeds, only to be forgotten. Though his deeds have been enough to loosely scribble of his legend, he, as a person, is never rewarded. He’s been abandoned, forgotten, banished and obsolete of his purpose. I can’t help but think of a quote from Futurama, stating “If you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”

7. Loghain Mac Tir – Dragon Age: Origins 

This one requires a little extra effort, but stay with me. Loghain is one of the main antagonists of Dragon Age: Origins. Your first hint of his ne’er-do-well behavior is that he orders his troops to pull out of a very important battle – sacrificing the king of the nation in the process. He appears to be a madman somewhat bent on power, though the truth could not be less true. When Loghain was a teenager, he happened along Maric, the rightful heir to a throne that was preoccupied by a foreign country. With his father’s last wishes, Loghain helps Maric escape and, eventually, raises an army and reclaims Ferelden. The two become close friends, though Loghain shares a mutual love with Cailan’s eventual queen. When all is said an done, Loghain is simply petrified that Cailan is going to hand over the nation he worked so damn hard to liberate. In truth, he was always a hero and died as such. His hard life led to an overbearing paranoia and depression caused by his true love becoming unavailable. He truly and honestly believed with all his heart he was doing what was best for a nation.

6. Marcus Fenix – Gears of War Series

Sure, he’s a total badass, but if you look him over thoroughly enough, you’ll catch nothing but despair. Through much of the series, his only rock is Dom, his best friend. He has very few of those, in fact, not because of his social skills, but because the life he leads forces him to refrain from getting too close to people. He’s served time in prison for treacherous actions and is summoned to fight only as a last resort. He loses his comrade and brother when Dom sacrifices himself to have his squad. His father, whom he believed to be dead, was found only in enough time for Marcus to watch him truly die. At the end of the trilogy, the humans stand victorious, but Marcus feels nothing for this victory. He is only a husk.

5. Gabriel Belmont – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 

Doesn’t take too long to realize that Gabriel is the strong silent type, only conversing when necessary. His goal is a simple one – free his deceased wife’s soul from the clutches of purgatory. Okay, maybe not that simple. With each step toward his ultimate goal, Gabriel’s mind falls deeper into darkness, his sanity mimicking the qualities of a swamp. It is not until the final moments of the game that we find he has been manipulated constantly through the use of a Devil Mask by his only comrade, Zobek. Gabriel, to his dismay, realizes that he killed his own wife. A large battle ensues in which Gabriel is named victor, though the definition of such a word is now blurred and torn. As though such a perilous adventure wasn’t enough, he is at some point consumed by the darkness that flooded his mind, transforming him into Dracula, the Castlevania series’ greatest foe. Makes for one nasty bad day, if you ask me.

4. Ezio Auditore da Firenze – Assassin’s Creed Series 

Ezio is ripped from the comfort of nobility at a young age, a transition that was forced by the unjust killing of his father and brothers. What starts as a quest for revenge is apprehended by his uncle, where he is enlisted into the assassin order. Reluctant to enter into this life contract, he wants only for his sister and mother to be safe, but it is not in Ezio’s fate to live peacefully. He embarks on a perilous journey, ending the lives of many people and chasing legends at the request of others. At the climax of this adventure, he is revealed to only be a puppet used to relay information to the currently-living Desmond. Not only does this happen once, but two more times, the third of which he finally declines as he realizes he’s effectively wasted his life for something he doesn’t understand.

3. John Marston – Red Dead Redemption 

The past always catches up with you, so they say. For John Marston, his past has not only caught up, but lapped him several times. No matter how hard he tries to retire to a peaceful life, the cloudiness of his past always says “nope.” With a family to protect, he is forced into work by a corrupt agent and sent to rid the world of his former gang brethren. While trying to accomplish this task, he is constantly tangled up in other problems that vary in their importance to him personally. Though he keeps his end of the bargain, complete with politeness and poise throughout this job, he is betrayed because of his roots in the gang. In the last moments, a crushing realization lands with him, and he realizes he will not be making it out alive. He sends his wife and son away for their safety and calmly walks into a firing squad. It seems his fate had been etched in time since his birth, with the Strange Man standing on his soon-to-be-grave and stating “this is a fine spot.”

 2. Kaim Argonar – Lost Odyssey

If you could live forever, would you? Kaim would tell you ‘no.’ For him, immortality has become nothing but a curse. For over a thousand years, he’s had many wives and children and outlived all of them. He’s been ‘killed’ numerous times, only to rise from an unconscious state, even surviving a direct hit from a meteor. Through the Thousand Dreams mechanic, we catch glimpses into Kaim’s life over the years and much more often than not, it’s tear jerking at the least. A particularly sad memory, to me, is that of his time in a bar talking to a fellow soldier. The soldier explains how he is nervous to return home because of the atrocities committed at war. He has found a gemstone that was originally beautiful but became black with time and his dark actions. He says, maybe, if he saves a life, it’ll become shiny again. Then, a young punk charges in and tries to shoot Kaim, and the soldier intervenes and takes the bullet, unknowing that Kaim is immortal. With his dying breath, he asks if the gemstone is any clearer, and Kaim ensures him it is, though it was just as black as ever. This is just ONE of the many heartbreaking memories he must confront. To remain the same while the world around you changes drastically may be one of the heaviest punishments I can think of.

1. Arthas Menethil  - Warcraft Universe

The golden child, a promising young man who would surely become king and rule with the true leadership a nation deserves. His expectations were insurmountable, but he proved to be a skilled paladin and warrior, defending his city when it needed to be. But it all changed when the scourge came along. When word reached Arthas that grain, infected with the plague, was already distributed through Stratholme, he ordered his men to slaughter the city in an act of “mercy.” This could be seen as the tipping point – Arthas became infatuated with defeating this evil and sought out a legendary blade known as Frostmourne. It was then that Ner’zhul whispered to Arthas, luring him to the frozen throne. After grand fight between Arthas and Illidan, he was able to claim the throne for himself, where he was engulfed in ice. The Lich King then was truly born. Arthas, the most promising candidate for Azeroth’s success, was now the greatest danger, controlling hordes of the undead.


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