Not long for this world
Death is usually no big problem in video games. All it means is reverting back to the last checkpoint and trying again, all the wiser for your previous misfortune. But sometimes games like to remind us of our own mortality by killing off a party member/love interest/your own dang character for good, with no takesies backsies. Usually it's pretty obvious that they're going to croak throughout the course of the game - but you're just not quite sure when.
Even if the character's pending demise isn't plainly telegraphed by the game itself ("Say, you seem to have fewer polygons than all my other party members and don't have any voiced lines"), you've probably gotten good at sniffing out the stink of death on some other common elements. With that in mind, join me in a celebration of all those characters who were clearly on the chopping block from the moment you met them.
7. Remember Corporal Jenkins from Mass Effect? No?
If your last name is Jenkins you may want to rethink any impulse to enlist with the armed forces. No offense to anybody named Jenkins reading this, it just sounds pretty disposable. Like your surname is wearing a red-and-black Star Fleet uniform, or about to charge headfirst into the Rookery in Upper Blackrock Spire. You may have guessed by now that Corporal Richard L. Jenkins lives (dies?) up to this legacy. And if you noticed that there was only one non-descript white dude squadmate in all the trailers (hi Kaidan!) you probably saw this coming even before you knew his name.
Minutes into the first mission in Mass Effect, Jenkins lies dead before you. His killers? A couple of wimpy Geth drones that you'll pop as part of the combat tutorial. No, not even real Geth troopers, just the drones. What's worse is that, even though Jenkins is the first soldier to die under Shepard's command, nobody besides the ship's sawbones Dr. Chakwas seems cut up about it. You don't see Jenkins' face flash before your eyes in the final moments of Mass Effect 3 - or poor Nihlus, for that matter, whose badassitude can't save him from an off-screen death.
6. Jason from from Heavy Rain should've seen it coming
Remember Heavy Rain's opening? Ethan Mars clowns around with his two boys in his impeccably clean suburban home, teaching players how the game's unusual control scheme works as he swordfights and flexes to the delight of his kids. Everything is so idyllic and happy and goddamn saccharine that you know something horrible is about to happen.
It probably won't befall Mrs. Mars, since she gets like a minute of screentime. No, that wouldn't be nearly tragic enough. That leaves the boys and as soon as Jason disappears in a crowded shopping mall, betting is closed. Maybe he was just trying to get out of school by throwing himself in front of that car? His schoolmates must mock him for being the only one without an indeterminate European accent.
5. Isaac Clarke's crew in Dead Space is so much necro-meat
It's not really all that survival-horrifying if you get to spend the whole game in the company of three trained security personnel (and a computer specialist who turns out to be an ace shot with that little pistol of hers). So it's really a matter of when every member of the USG Kellion will meet his or her untimely end, rather than if. For poor Johnston and Chen, you barely have time to ponder the question before they're chopped into their constituent gibs.
I can't really blame Dead Space for being predictable here - it's damn near an essential part of sci-fi horror to kill off a crewmember or two early on to demonstrate the threat. But it really does feel more like a box being checked than an unexpected tragedy when Johnston and Chen get torn apart by the first necromorphs you see. At least Hammond and Daniels hold out for most of the campaign.
4. Ioreth is yet another dead wife
Talion's fair bride survives her first encounter in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, but that's only because it's actually a harmless tutorial for the stealth system. She doesn't fare as well when her family is detained by the forces of Sauron a few minutes later, and her (and her son's) throat is slit. The son getting offed so early in the campaign may be a bit of a surprise, given the love affair that games have had with father figures in the last five years or so, but Ioreth is just the latest in a storied tradition of dead wives.
Just ask Kratos, or Max Payne, or Asura, or Dom from Gears of War, or James from Silent Hill 2, or You catch my drift. Chances are if a video game's male lead is happily married at the start of the game, his wife won't outlive the tutorial prompts. Sure, technically Talion is killed as well, but at least he gets to come back as a near-immortal ghost warrior. Ioreth is just dead.
3. Far Cry 2's protagonist doesn't take malaria seriously
Far Cry 2 lets you choose who you'd like to play from a literal rogues gallery of mercenaries, but they all have a few things in common: a healthy love of money, an itchy trigger finger, and a severe case of malaria. One of the first things your character experiences in Far Cry 2 is a fainting episode from the disease which killed 584,000 people in 2013. In other words, a medical emergency that should be taken very seriously.
But instead of calling off his contract and seeking hospitalization, your character decides to just push on. Maybe, if you're an optimist, you figure he can tough it out long enough to kill black market arms dealer The Jackal then take a few weeks off for some rest and rehydration. Here's a tip that doubles for Far Cry 2 and real life: if every half hour your vision turns yellow and you topple over, you should probably call in sick. Amusingly, it's not the malaria that kills him in the end, but it would have if he'd lived much longer.
2. The Carmines are hazardously faceless
You'd think Anthony Carmine would be more likely to survive a firefight than Marcus, Dom, and the other Gears in Delta Squad, right? He's the only one who actually bothers to put on his helmet. Unfortunately, he didn't realize that the anonymizing effect of the standard-issue headgear makes him a prime target for an early demise and neither did his brother Benjamin in Gears of War 2. You could see the gears (hohoho) turning in the writers' heads as soon as the poor, faceless Carmines joined the squad: "Now we can add some more tragedy without having to render more faces!"
It would have been the same for their older brother Clayton in Gears of War 3 if developer Epic Games hadn't put his fate up to a fan vote. The people showed him mercy, and his noggin remains miraculously unpopped throughout the entire campaign. Don't give Epic too much credit - it wouldn't have even been an issue if they'd just let him take the damn helmet off.
1. Empress Kaldwin is too good to live
Empress Jessamine Kaldwin is the just and level-headed ruler of Dunwall. Even as the mysterious rat plague rots her city from within, she refuses to institute harsh quarantine and deportation measures, hoping instead to retain normalcy as scientists work on a cure for the epidemic. She's also a devoted mother to Emily, who is remarkably well-adjusted for being a royal heiress.
It's perfectly clear that she's way too good for the dirty, dangerous, and socially stratified city of Dunwall. She's doing her best to change all that, but if you expect her to be able to follow through on her good intentions you're either adorably naive or just not paying enough attention. Then again, the unresolved romantic tension between her and Corvo might be enough to make you think she'll live past the first act. Which is technically true, if you consider the 15-minute prologue the first act.
It's enough to make you feel clairvoyant, isn't it? Like you could foresee the death of anyone... as long as it's plainly telegraphed. What are some of the characters you knew were doomed from the moment you saw them? Use your future-seeing to see what you'll suggest in the comments below, then write it in the comments below.
Fancy some more tragedy? Check out our list of the saddest video games that will actually make you cry, and video game characters with the most ridiculously tragic pasts.