1. A family brought full circle in The Last of Us.
Without a doubt, the warmest part of Naughty Dog's ultra-bleak post-apocalyptia is the relationship that blossoms between gruff survivor Joel and spunky teen Ellie. Taking a note from the Turner and Hooch Book of Odd Couple Conventions, the two have a rather rough go of it at first, with Joel still too shell-shocked by his late daughter's death years ago to open up to his new companion. But by the game's bullet-riddled end, things come full circle in the most tear-jerking manner imaginable, and the duo's formed a bond far deeper than any circumstantial zombie survival team.
2. An unexpected reappearance in Star Fox 64.
You'd think it'd be hard to grow a deep emotional attachment to a talking fox in sunglasses.
Right after upstart star commando Fox McCloud fires the final round into maniacal mad scientist (and giant floating head) Andross, there's an enormous explosion, his surroundings begin to collapse, and everything fades to white. Cut to: James McCloud, the long-thought-dead O.G. Star Fox, who appears out of nowhere and leads his son to safety one last time.
3. A quest completed in Journey.
ThatGameCompany's made a name for themselves with their unconventional works that tend to defy traditional labeling. Last year's Journey was no exception, asking gamers to quest across a stunning, serene landscape towards a towering mountain with another anonymous explorer by their side. After struggling through a suddenly harsh, snowy climate, your robed figure reaches the warming light of the mountain's summit at long last. We can't tell you exactly what it means, but darn if we don't cry every time.
4. A noble sacrifice in Super Metroid.
After felling the Metroid queen at the end of her second outing, franchise heroine Samus Aran meets a headstrong young hatchling — believed to be the last Metroid in the universe — who imprints the bounty hunter as its mother. But after an incendiary series of events kicked off by rival Ridley, the Metroid hatchling ends up sacrificing its life for its "mother" — a devastating blow to the woman who's made it her life's work to rid the universe of the parasitic menace. Oddly enough, we always happen to be chopping onions when that scene in Super Metroid rolls around.
5. The bad guy wins in Final Fantasy VI.
It's often taken for granted that the Good Guys are, you know, obviously going to feed the Bad Guys their own steel-toed boots by the end of act three. The world will be saved, destiny re-routed, yadda yadda. And then there was Kefka, the baddest bad in the Final Fantasy 'verse, who shockingly succeeds in destroying the game's world in its third act. An apocalyptic year passes, and gamers are left to explore — and redeem — the shell of the world they've spent so much time with.
6. A teary turn of events in Heavy Rain.
It's not often that a game will hit you with a soul-crushing gut-punch before the credits even roll. But hey, that's Heavy Rain for you. A casual day out at the mall with his perfect family goes very, very wrong for poor Ethan Mars, leading him down a rabbit hole of despair, drama, and about 20 boxes of tear-stained tissues.
7. A hero rediscovered in Pokémon Gold and Silver.
Countless seasoned Pokémon trainers have filled the shoes of Red, the original hero from the very first game in the uber-popular monster-catching franchise. But what happened after we became the collective Very Best (That No One Ever Was), and those end-game credits came a-rollin'? Pokémon Gold and Silver let a new generation of Poké-trainers track down — and duel with — the trainer that started it all, now the undisputed Pokémon Master, and even explore his own hometown of Pallet Town. Talk about nostalgia overload.
8. A heartfelt farewell in The Walking Dead.
Haven't you heard? Zombies are over. The media's so over-saturated with those undead brain-eaters, and there's no originality or emotion in the zombie genre and... and... oh, hello, The Walking Dead: The Game, aka, That Time You Ugly Cried and Ate An Entire Gallon of Dreyer's in the Dark. We'll miss you, Lee.
9. A family reunited in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
Majora's Mask is a fantasy epic with a countdown clock. After three short days, a malevolent — and enormously spooky — moon will crush down on the kingdom of Termina, wiping out the world as we know it. So it's to plucky hero Link's credit that he can spend those three days not finding a way to save his own pointy-eared bacon, but by reuniting a couple of star-crossed lovers. With one minute to spare before impact. THOSE FEELS.
10. A wolf meets her match in Metal Gear Solid.
Say what you will about its hefty slatherings of melodrama and science psuedo-speak, but one thing that's kept the Metal Gear games near and dear to the hearts of so many gamers is its incredible characters. When tragic villainess Sniper Wolf meets her end at the hands of hero Solid Snake, gamers were immediate witnesses to her blood-soaked final words in the snowy fields of Shadow Moses.
11. A final realization in Alan Wake.
Eponymous author Alan Wake has made quite a career for himself out of mind-bending prose, making his readers question the waking world and what lurks in the shadows. But it's Alan Wake's final line — and fleeting punctuation — that left players to pick their jaws off the floor. Before they rushed to message boards and posted a million thoughts about what it all means, natch.
12. A destiny fulfilled in Shadow of the Colossus.
It's hard to pick just one emotionally overpowering moment in Team Ico's masterpiece, but the game's tearjerker ending is pretty darn high on the list. After slaying the final Colossus, a tattered and weary Wander is felled by a group of warriors, then possessed by the mystic force whose help he once sought. What happens next is, well, emotionally draining, and better experienced than explained.
13. A sorrowful goodbye in Final Fantasy VII.
Like you didn't see this one coming. True, it's kind of a trope in the ol' pantheon of video game tearjerkers, but it's to Final Fantasy VII's enduring credit that Aerith Gainsborough's emotionally exhausting death still sticks in our minds whenever the subject is broached.