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The Most Brutal NPC Deaths

The following article contains references to suicide.

Video games and death often go hand-in-hand. No, not real-world death, though gaming has led to its share of actual tragedy. The medium often relies on high stakes to push players forward, whether they come in the form of personal survival or saving the planet from certain doom. This results in a number of heart-wrenching or intense scenarios, some of which culminate in the demise of a title's own protagonist. More often, the Grim Reaper comes for the player character's closest companions, leading to devastating losses that haunt gamers for the rest of their days.

Of course, not all in-game deaths have the same level of impact. In many cases, death merely functions as a marker of failure, encouraging the player to better master the mechanics of a title. Skill or choice may allow a gamer to avoid certain losses, while others arrive with a crushing sense of inevitability. Some of these instances stand out for their sheer brutality, viciously dispatching NPCs and reminding players just how cruel and dark the world can be.

Jacob Temple - Dead Space remake

2023's "Dead Space" remake brought gamers no shortage of brutal death scenes. Many of these moments involve the passing of protagonist Isaac Clarke himself; however, he also witnesses his fair share of horrors aimed at others aboard the USG Ishimura. One such horror involves a sequence between fellow engineer Jacob Temple and antagonist Dr. Challus Mercer. After Temple refuses to help Mercer and tries to stop him from doing any further harm, the scientist traps Temple in Stasis.

Clarke arrives just in time to see these events unfold on the other side of a glass wall, echoing a similar grisly situation at the start of the game. Unable to intervene physically, Clarke attempts to stop Mercer from executing Temple by engaging him in conversation. While the distraction works for about a minute, Mercer ultimately circles behind Temple and shoots him with an iron bolt. Clarke can only watch as Temple's head explodes in a slow shower of gore. Mercer makes sure to point out "It's a slow death, in Stasis," indicating the prolonged agony experienced by the victim of such a demise.

Rat swarm - A Plague Tale: Requiem and the Dishonored series

Diseased swarms of rats have become something of a trend within the gaming world, likely due to their real-world historical inspirations and the visceral terror they inspire. In "Dishonored" and "Dishonored 2," Corvo Attano gains access to the Devouring Swarm ability. As the name suggests, this power unleashes a wave of ravenous rats that attack and consume anyone in the area of effect. While an awful way to kill someone, Devouring Swarm's utility, especially when it comes to getting rid of corpses, makes it a staple of lethal playthroughs.

"A Plague Tale" offers a similar brand of rat horror, though it takes a greater place of prominence in the overarching narrative. Though death by rat plays a big role in the first entry, "Requiem," the sequel, ratchets up the brutality by giving Hugo, Amicia's young brother, the ability to control the rat horde. While using this power, players get a first-person perspective as the swarm sets upon and devours various NPCs. The fact that "Requiem" places a kid in the driver's seat of this living wave of destructive hunger makes these moments even more brutal.

Cutie the Elephant - It Takes Two

"It Takes Two" combines thoughtful co-op gameplay with a touching examination of love, personal identity, and relationships. This winning combination saw "It Takes Two" bag Game of the Year at The Game Awards 2021, along with a number of other accolades. Given its family-focused nature, the inclusion of one of the most brutal NPC deaths in gaming may come as a bit of a surprise. However, it's the otherwise wholesome tone that makes this particular scene so horrifying.

In the third chapter of "It Takes Two," dual protagonists Cody and May continue to search for a way to return to their human forms. They get the idea that causing their daughter Rose to cry will do the trick and set out to destroy her favorite toy: Cutie the Elephant. In the doll version of the world that the duo has found themselves trapped in, Cutie has also come to life, presiding over her own mini kingdom. When Cody and May reach Cutie, she welcomes them with open arms, making their plot all the more sinister.

In the battle that follows, Cody and May cause Cutie's body to rip apart in multiple places. She cries, cowers, and tries to stop them until the pair ultimately kill her by pushing the anthropomorphic stuffed animal off the top of the cabinet. Cutie's state elicits the tears they were after, but their daughter's pain doesn't restore them to their human bodies. This renders Cutie's suffering and demise pointless, which just makes the situation feel even worse.

Joel - The Last of Us 2

Joel transitions from the role of protagonist in "The Last of Us" to supporting NPC in the sequel, making his death both memorable and hard to stomach for many. Abby, one of the title's two playable characters, murders Joel early on. She surprises him with a gunshot to his leg before another member of her crew beats Tommy, Joel's brother, unconscious. Ellie arrives just in time to watch Abby finish what she started by bludgeoning Joel to death with a golf club.

The fact that both Ellie and the player have no idea why Abby decided to take Joel's life in such a callous manner contributes to the brutality of the scene. "The Last of Us 2" later reveals that Abby carried out the killing to avenge the death of her father, Doctor Jerry Anderson, who Joel murdered at the end of the first game. Joel took out Anderson to stop him from operating on Ellie, saving her life while depriving Abby of her beloved parent and humanity of its best chance of survival in the process. While it adds context, this doesn't lessen the shock or violent nature of Joel's killing, a decision that ultimately divided the fanbase.

Deputy David Anderson - Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

"Resident Evil 7: Biohazard" racks up a sizable kill count, with the list of total deaths reaching over 60 people. The entry follows Ethan Winters and his search for his wife, Mia, on a seemingly abandoned Louisiana plantation. Winters finds out the hard way that the infected Baker family occupies the grounds and that their condition has twisted the formerly kind individuals into cannibalistic murderers. Of course, he's not the only character who finds themselves trapped in the Bakers' web.

David Anderson, a local deputy sheriff, is one such unlucky individual. Anderson encounters Winters while poking around the Baker property in the wake of some disappearances. Winters tries to warn Anderson about the Bakers, but he remains skeptical. The two eventually rendezvous in the garage, where Anderson continues to dismiss Winters' story. During this exchange, Jack, the Baker patriarch, sneaks up on Anderson and kills him by forcing a shovel through his head, slicing off part of it in the process.

Adding to the brutal nature of Anderson's death, Winters later discovers the deputy's body displayed on a meat hook in the basement of the Baker house. He observes Jack working to turn the deceased man into a Molded. In another scene, Winters encounters Anderson's head in a refrigerator, and he eventually has to stick his hand into Anderson's corpse to obtain a key. A gnarly fate all around.

Keira Metz - The Witcher 3

Geralt runs into sorceress Keira Metz while on the hunt for Ciri in "The Witcher 3." By this point, Keira has gone into hiding in a swampy area and is desperate to return to a higher quality of life. As part of her optional questline, she concocts a scheme to get into the good graces of King Radovid – one that involves using a spell to make Geralt fall asleep and stealing some notes. After Geralt catches Keira in the act, the player has an important choice to make that determines whether the sorceress makes it to the end of the game.

In one scenario, Geralt kills Keira himself. However, she faces a much more brutal demise if the player decides to let Keira take the notes and meet with Radovid. While this death happens offscreen, the secondary quest "A Final Kindness" reveals what befell the sorceress. It turns out that approaching Radovid was an extremely bad idea, and he had Keira impaled on a stake. Adding insult to injury, he displayed her body in public as a message to other mages.

Players get a good look at Radovid's handiwork when Geralt helps Triss recover Keira's corpse. Triss cradles what's left of Keira in her arms before departing to lay her friend to rest. This moment is made even more heartbreaking by the fact that Keira would have survived if Geralt had instead persuaded her to abandon her plan and travel to Kaer Morhen.

Chris Walker - Outlast

The survival horror title "Outlast" sees Miles Upshur attempting to escape a psychiatric hospital. An investigative journalist, Upshur finds himself trapped at Mount Massive Asylum after following up on an anonymous tip. Unfortunately, he's not alone and must contend with the location's homicidal inmates (or "Variants"), a lineup that includes former military policeman Chris Walker. Incredibly large and strong, Walker has a penchant for pulling off peoples' heads.

Upshur encounters Walker multiple times throughout the game before the latter finally meets his grisly end at the hands of the central antagonist: the Walrider. Rather than a patient, the Walrider takes the form of a malevolent cloud of nanites. Late in the narrative, just as Walker is about to kill Upshur, the Walrider appears and scoops up Walker. From there, it beats and tosses the Variant around before using an air grate to mince Walker into a mess of blood and flesh. Upshur can only watch as this unfolds before moving on to meet his own unfortunate fate.

Henry Tomasino - Mafia 2

As the name suggests, the "Mafia" series gives players a taste of the organized crime lifestyle. Set in the fictional Empire Bay, the franchise's second entry centers on Vito Scaletta, a youthful mobster attempting to navigate the crime families who call the city home. Vito's good friend, Joe Barbaro, joins him in his misadventures, along with Henry Tomasino, another Mafia member. Unfortunately, Tomasino meets a brutal end after word gets around that he worked as an informant for the feds.

In the back half of "Mafia 2," Scaletta and Barbaro head to Lincoln Park to rendezvous with Tomasino. Upon arrival, they find Tomasino under attack by a cluster of Chinese Triad members. The pair hear Tomasino's tortured cries as they approach and discover the Triads relentlessly hacking at him with meat cleavers. They dispatch the assailants, but it's too late for Tomasino. Even Barbaro recognizes the brutality of the execution, asking "Who ... does something like this, Vito?" The two see Triad enforcer Zhe Yun Wong driving away from the scene, and they follow him to his base of operations, killing him and his guards. This results in a host of new problems, but they at least avenge Tomasino's savage murder.

Zeus - God of War 3

The "God of War" franchise delivers a number of brutal deaths over the course of multiple entries. Among these, the downfall of Zeus stands out due to his status as Kratos' father and a cunning, if macabre, mechanic included by the developers. Kratos takes on the Olympian god king at the conclusion of the series' third installment in a vicious, multi-stage boss fight. Part of this encounter takes place inside another deity, the Primordial Gaia. Kratos impales Zeus against Gaia's heart using the Blade of Olympus, seemingly slaying both gods in the process. While a rather gruesome conclusion on its own, it turns out that Zeus' demise didn't quite take.

Kratos ends up in a rematch with the spirit of Zeus, who almost manages to take his son out. After receiving some outside aid, Kratos forces Zeus to return to his weakened physical form. Seizing the opening, Kratos charges in and pummels his father to death. This unfolds from a first-person perspective and the game prompts the player to deliver the blows by repeatedly pressing the circle button on the controller. The prompt doesn't reveal that the player can stop hitting circle at any time to conclude the scene, leaving many people with the unsettling realization that they had continued to unleash their fury on Zeus long after he had already died. Quite the devious little design, Santa Monica Studio. One Reddit user even reported punching the king of Olympus for eight full minutes.

Tai Kaliso - Gears of War 2

Some brutal NPC deaths take the form of haunting tragedies. This was the case for Tai Kaliso, whose story comes to a shocking and heart-wrenching conclusion in "Gears of War 2." Though a Gear soldier, Kaliso embodies aspects of the "Gentle Giant" archetype, in part due to his philosophical approach to warfare. He has a notable history with player character Sergeant Marcus Fenix, with both having prevented the demise of the other on multiple occasions. These details only add to the devastating nature of Kaliso's death.

During Operation: Hollow Storm, Kaliso's entire squad dies. He manages to escape their destroyed rig and regroup with Delta-One; however, his luck later runs out when the Locust general Skorge defeats Kaliso and takes him captive. While in captivity, Kaliso endures multiple rounds of torture, including having his body suspended from hooks. Delta Squad eventually frees Kaliso and Fenix hands him a gun, clearly unaware of how the torture had impacted his friend's mental state. Before anyone can stop him, Kaliso shoots himself in the head. Though shocked, Fenix collects Kaliso's COG Tags before the squad leaves his body to continue their mission.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Carlos and Jessica - Saints Row 2

"Saints Row 2" picks up where its predecessor left off, following the player character as they work to restore the 3rd Street Saints to power in Stilwater. They must contend with rival groups along the way, including The Brotherhood, which is overseen by a man named Maero and his girlfriend, Jessica. After the Saints injure Maero, Jessica has Saints lieutenant Carlos captured. The Brotherhood then chains Carlos to a truck and drags him behind it as they drive at high speed around the local docks. Carlos sustains severe injuries in the process and, after rescuing him, the protagonist shoots him to spare him further pain.

To avenge Carlos' murder, the protagonist retaliates by orchestrating a brutal killing of their own. Thanks to a tipoff, they manage to take Jessica hostage while she's making a bank deposit. The player character shoves her into the trunk of her car before driving it to University Stadium and leaving it in a row of vehicles slated for destruction in a demolition derby. Maero happens to be taking part in the event and unknowingly kills his girlfriend when his monster truck lands on her car. The Saints leader takes great pleasure in revealing exactly what Maero has done.

Hamlet - Illusion of Gaia

"Illusion of Gaia" is a classic JRPG from the Super NES era that offers a darker tone than many of its fellows. That doesn't mean it's without its lighter aspects, with one such bright spot coming in the form of Hamlet, the adorable pig companion of party member Kara. Hamlet travels with the core characters as they make their way across an alternate version of Earth, visiting a robust lineup of locations along the way. Though this starts out as a quest for answers, it eventually becomes clear that the fate of the world hangs in the balance. But that doesn't stop "Illusion of Gaia" from exploring some more personal stakes and sacrifices, which leads to one of the most devastating moments of the game.

During their quest, part of the group comes across a village littered with skeletal remains. While it appears abandoned at first, the party soon discovers that some inhabitants remain – very hungry inhabitants. It turns out that the village has fallen victim to a famine, and that many of the locals have already died of starvation. Faced with this harsh reality, Hamlet makes the ultimate sacrifice. After taking a moment to bid Kara goodbye, the baby pig throws itself onto the nearby bonfire, offering up its own body as life-saving sustenance for the emaciated villagers. The party, and the player, look on in shocked horror as Hamlet burns to death in a moment that has stuck with many gamers for years.