5 video games where the protagonist ultimately lost
Video game protagonists tend to be the focal point of the story. Standing in as the player’s avatar in the game, the protagonist will undergo the game's events and, more often than not, come out on top. Some character developments might also accompany this, which is just the icing on the cake.
There are instances in video games, however, when the protagonist does not come out on top. In these instances, whether due to self-sacrifice, being manipulated by the villain, or some other reason, the protagonist might end up on the losing side.
While it might be a sadder ending than what players are used to, sometimes it's how the story needs to go to allow for some depth. So here are 5 such times in video games when the protagonist didn’t win in the end.
Note: This article includes spoilers and reflects the writer's opinion.
5 video games where the protagonist ended up losing
1) Shadow of the Colossus
Shadow of the Colossus sees video game protagonist Wanderer trying to revive a girl named Mono back to life, though at whatever cost it takes. The story starts with Wanderer carrying Mono’s body to a powerful spirit called Dormin, who is known to be able to revive the dead.
Dormin instructs Wanderer to defeat the 16 Colossi that roam the forbidden lands, which are the physical incarnations of idols that need to be destroyed to return Mono back to life. Wanderer sets out to do just that and, in time, accomplishes the arduous task.
However, it is revealed that each Colossi contains a portion of Dormin’s spirit, which is absorbed into Wanderer every time he slays one of the creatures. By the end of the game, Wanderer is fully overcome by Dormin’s spirit and is possessed, leading to him being sealed away in an ancient pool to keep Dormin at bay. Mono is revived, although Wanderer can no longer be with her.
2) Spec Ops: The Line
Spec Ops: The Line starts as a normal military video game, with protagonist Martin Walker leading a squad of soldiers to overthrow a local warlord who used to be a US soldier named John Konrad. Konrad has taken over war-torn Dubai, which Walker and his team plan to stop. So far, so good. Throughout the story, Walker is forced to make many tough decisions that cost a large number of innocent lives.
Towards the end of the campaign, Walker finally infiltrates Konrad’s stronghold and faces him in the penthouse, although it is revealed here that Konrad has been dead since before the game’s beginning. And that Walker had been hallucinating most of the game’s setting, including Konrad and his martial rule.
Learning that he was responsible for many needless deaths, Walker has a couple of options at his disposal, which the players can choose from. He can either end his own life, turn himself over to US authorities or fully give in to his actions and take up the rule of Dubai himself.
3) Far Cry: 5
As opposed to previous Far Cry video games by Ubisoft, Far Cry 5 sees players take control of an unnamed protagonist referred only to as The Deputy. They are a Junior Deputy for the United States Marshals Service who combat the forces of religious cult leader Joseph Seed. The gameplay is similar to past games in the series, with players taking control of strongholds and outposts back from the cult members.
At the end of the game, the player finally faces off against Joseph Seed, who has captured some of their allies and is holding them hostage. Seed offers the player the opportunity to escape in peace with their allies unharmed and leave Seed to his own devices. The player may also choose to resist.
Both options end badly for the player. Leaving with their allies later triggers brainwashing while in a car. The screen cuts to black, heavily implying that the player possibly killed their friends off somehow. On the other hand, choosing to resist results in a fight against Seed which the player can win, however, a bloody nuke gets dropped nearby, killing everyone but the player and Seed.
4) Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Arguably one of the more fun video games in the Star Wars franchise, The Force Unleashed saw players play as Starkiller, a secret apprentice of Darth Vader, who was so strong with the Force that he could force grab a spaceship from the planet's surface and bring it down.
Throughout the video game, Starkiller changes sides, defecting from the Empire to help aid the newly hatched Rebellion. Although he did so to get back on Vader’s good side, after his master betrayed him, he firmly fixed his goal to save the founders of the Rebellion who had been captured.
So the final mission of the game sees Starkiller infiltrate the Death Star and arrive to face off against Darth Vader. Once Vader is defeated, though, players are given two options: finish off Vader or save the Leaders of the Rebellion. If the leaders are given priority, Starkiller ends up giving his own life to let them escape. If, however, he chooses to finish off Vader, the leaders are killed, and Starkiller turns to the dark side.
5) Red Dead Redemption
The original Red Dead Redemption featured one of the saddest character endings to video games ever. Protagonist John Marston starts off the game, living a quiet life on his ranch, having put his outlaw days behind him. However, FBI agent Edgar Ross found out about John and kidnapped his wife and son to leverage him into helping them capture members of John’s old gang.
The game’s story sees the above coming to fruition as John delivers Bill Williamson, Javier Escuela, and Dutch van der Linde to justice. He is reunited with his family as well, with Edgar Ross seemingly honoring their deal.
However, such was not the case, as Ross later showed up at John’s ranch with an army of agents, letting him know that there was no way they could let him go. John hurriedly gets his wife and son out of the ranch so that he may hold off the attackers. But his actual plan was never to come out of the encounter alive. As John steps out to meet his end, he is shot by about fifty agents. One of the saddest character deaths in video game history.