Role playing games often push boundaries that other types of game can’t, simply because they have more tools to tell better stories. The death of a main character is a tool that role playing games can use that many other types of games can’t. There are a few exceptions, like Red Dead Redemption, but for the most part, killing a main character in any other genre of game ends the game immediately. This tool, when used well, can tell an amazing story. The following are the top five best role playing games where a main character dies.
4. Phantasy Star II – At the start of the game you control just one character, Rolf. Within minutes you add a second character to your party, the mysterious Nei. Her story seems to be central to the narrative. And while that is true, that story also ends roughly 1/3 of the way through the game, when she is killed by her dark alter ego. It may be the first RPG to kill a main character and it was shocking at the time. As a player you were so certain that she would be on your party for the entire game and then she was gone permanently. To this day the moment still holds up as one of the defining moments of the genre, even if the game itself is horribly dated.
3. Final Fantasy V – While the impact of Nei’s death was stunning in terms of story, the impact in terms of game play was nearly trivial, since you had a stable of other characters to replace her. When the old man Galuf dies in Final Fantasy V, it is devastating in terms of both story and game play. According to the story, he is one of the four destined warriors. Without him, it seems impossible to win the game. In terms of game play, there is no character to replace him and the hours of work you put into building his classes have gone to waste. Both concerns are resolved a short time later when he passes his powers to his granddaughter Krile, but until then you are on the seat of your pants. The game itself is considered the best of the Final Fantasy games to include job systems, so if you like that play style, it is worth owning.
2. Final Fantasy VII – This game often tops the list of best Final Fantasy games for a reason. The mixture of high fantasy and future technology elements form a near perfect balance and the villain is one of the best ever created. Part of what makes him such a great villain is what he does halfway through the game. During a truly famous cut scene, he kills the main character Aeris with a single strike of his sword. Just like Nei, this is a character that has been with you since almost the start of the game but with an even more fleshed out personality and obvious feelings for the other main character, Cloud. Unlike Nei, she wasn’t killed due to a rivalry between the two characters, but rather to make another character suffer. It is a stunning death that helps build an epic story for a game that already had excellent game play and a strong storyline.
2. Chrono Trigger – Final Fantasy VII may have killed off a main character, but Chrono Trigger literally kills the title character about halfway through the story. In a sequence that you can’t possibly avoid, Crono dies while facing the presumptive final villain of the game. This is shocking given that he is the one character you can’t remove from your party up until that point in the story. As the plot progresses, you have the option to restore him to life, but you can also choose to finish the game with him still dead. This is one of many reason that Chrono Trigger is considered one of the best role playing games ever made and if you haven’t played this time jumping epic, you should grab a copy off PSN and give it a shot.
1. Planescape: Torment – This game actually starts with your character awakening from death. But that isn’t the only time your character dies in the game. In fact, your character will die repeatedly throughout the game and there are even portions of the game where you can only progress by dying. This RPG is unique because instead of treating death like failure, it treats it as simply a mechanic to further the story. The game itself is an old isometric game that uses early action RPG mechanics. An eerie setting, a constantly growing story, and some of the strangest companions to ever appear in a role playing game make it a classic game that belongs on the shelf of any RPG enthusiast.