When Losing A Game Actually Means Something

Death or defeat in a video game is normally something to be glossed over, brushed aside as you continue (or repeat) a stage on your way to inevitable victory. A quick "GAME OVER" screen, maybe a prompt or two, then you're back into the action.

Where's the realism in that? The sense of consequence? Life doesn't give you instantaneous do-overs. If you make a shitty bed you gotta lie in it, so I always appreciate when a video game does the same.

2012's XCOM, above, had a good "game over" sequence that really revelled in your failure, but these day's such sadomasochism is rare. And that's a shame.

It used to be much more prevalent in games to really see the results of your failure, show you the things you were trying to save/protect burn to the ground. Maybe it was the stick behind the "happy" ending's carrot, maybe it was just a form of punishment for sucky gamers, but it really helped to lend your actions more weight when your losses were as celebrated (at least in terms of production value and cutscene length) as your victories.

The masters at this were probably Chris Roberts' Origin flight games, whose emphasis on story and player choice meant that each game's story had to be seen to the end, even if that story had an unhappy ending. Witness Wing Commander III's "bad" ending, below, which came about if you failed too many missions. It's about as far from a basic GAME OVER screen as you can get.

What's your favourite game over screen or sequence? One that actually gave you a proper end sequence?


    Favourite game over screen?

    Definitely MGS for obvious reasons.

    Also RE2...seeing your corpse fall to the ground as zombies lay waste to your flesh always sparked a 'oh man..' reaction.

      Not really a game over screen, but State of Decay does something similar to RE2 when one of your survivors dies... Standard anim sees a swarm slowly rip the body into two pieces (with intestines dangling between the halves for extra gore). I cringe every time I see a survivor get ripped in half, even if the death was deliberate =P

        Still yet to get State of Decay >.<

        Cursed classification!

    Most recently I would mention Tomb Raider for its "I sure don't want to see that happen again" thing (didn't bother me so much, just bringing it up). It still suffered from today's hand holding checkpoint every 30 seconds type deal in a lot of areas but it made you not want to die.

    Outside of that, I would say Chronotrigger when you were on the last boss and it gave you an end of the world ending if you died and probably Banjo Kazooie/Tooie/DK64 for their game over screens.

    Oh, and any coin operated arcade game, nothing sucks more than a screen telling you to pay more money to continue because you were terrible at a game.

    Showing my age here, but I have to say my "favourite" death screen was from the old pc game Powermonger.
    It just says "You have been defeated" and has a person lying on the ground, bleeding out of their mouth and grasping at a sword being plunged into their chest.
    There was never any doubt about it ... I'd lost.

    I don't know if I'd call it my favourite ending (or, rather, endings), but I did like the way that Heavy Rain also made you follow through to see the consequences of your choices / failures rather than just giving you another shot at the same section again.


    I like what the Arkham games did. Short and sweet little scenes that really made you want to go back and do it right.

    Thanks for that, I played WC3 but it was too hard for me as a kid.

    It's a bit off topic but I find I rage most over dying in FTL. This roguelike idea is hardcore.

    I am a sucker for permadeath. That is real immersion.

    So what's really being said is that JRPGs are better games because they still have the concept of bad, good, and true endings? ^_-

    Although my tongue was firmly planted in my cheek, one of my favourite series, the Suikoden series, did multiple endings really well. It may also be no surprise to hear I'm a fan of movies that do those "Where are they now?" bits at the end.

    For some reason I remember Starlancer. If you died, you saw a funeral scene. If you outright fail certain missions, you see yourself get dismissed from your squad. If you commit treason (kill a friendly) you saw yourself executed.
    That game loved telling me I'd failed.

    Anyone play princess maker? That had heaps of endings........so I heard, I never played games like that :P

    Absolutely DayZ.
    There is nothing more jolting or crushing then taking a risk and being sniped or otherwise.
    That initial shock of being hit, and then the startled cry of "oh shit, I'm hit, i'm hit, run!!!!!" before collapsing onto the ground and watching the accursed hourglass slowly tick away...
    And then: "X was killed".
    You slump into your chair and sigh, sadness evident at the fact that someone is picking your body clean.

    Yeah, pretty crushing.

    Other than DayZ, the game that always made me cringe with Game Overs was definitely Dead Space. Those animations made me actively avoid death to a pretty hilarious degree...*shudder*

    Fade To Black

    Good article. I hate the new breed of piss-weak games that you cannot lose or fail at. Add some consequence to your decision making in games

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now