Death is cheap in video games.While Dark Souls might penalize you heavily for dying, you are still allowed to respawn and try again. Super Mario gives you extra lives, Call of Duty lets you load your last save, and Pokémon doesn’t let you die at all (just your poor little Pokés).
In a game based around story, sometimes a character must permanently die as part of the plot. The Final Fantasy series is no stranger to such deaths among the cast. Heroes have died in the fight against evil, NPCs have given their lives so that the main characters can continue their quest, and former villains have sacrificed themselves in order to make amends for their deeds.
Some of the most memorable Final Fantasy moments of all time have involved the death of a character. We are here today to remember those who have passed on during the events of one of the greatest video game series of all time. From the doomed soldiers of AVALANCHE, to the one death that we spent our teenage years trying to undo, here are the 15 Saddest Final Fantasy Deaths.
15. Biggs, Wedge, And Jessie
During Sony’s 2015 E3 press conference, the long-awaited remake of Final Fantasy VII was announced. Before this event, fans had speculated on the reasoning behind the lack of remake. One of the major reasons was thought to be due to AVALANCHE.
At the beginning of Final Fantasy VII, the main characters are part of an eco-terrorist organization known as AVALANCHE. During the opening mission of the game, you take part in a mission that involves blowing up a power plant belonging to a corrupt corporation. Playing as terrorists who have no problem with human collateral damage probably didn’t sit too well with a lot of folks, so fans weren’t getting their hopes up for a full-on Final Fantasy VII remake. Thankfully, what little footage we have seen of the remake seems to contradict this theory.
AVALANCHE contains three non-player character members named Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie. They are an integral part of the team, and are responsible for ensuring the success of the early bombing missions. When Shinra decide to destroy the Sector 7 plate, the remaining AVALANCHE members are mortally wounded trying to stop them. Whilst Cloud, Barret, and Tifa manage to escape using a zipline, Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie all perish when the plate falls.
There was a Final Fantasy VII spin-off novel released in Japan, called Hoshi wo Meguru Otome (“The Maiden Who Travels the Planet”), which follows Aerith on her journey through the Lifestream after her death. She encounters Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie, and discovers that they are trapped in Limbo. As it turns out, they cannot pass on due to the guilt they feel for all of the innocent lives they took during their bombing missions. It’s debatable whether the novel is canon or not, but if it is, then it shows a depressing fate for the members of AVALANCHE.
Final Fantasy II is often regarded as the worst of the mainline Final Fantasy games. It was unable to leave behind the sort of legacy left by the first game in the series, and it was the first attempt at shaking up the gameplay style. It was also the first game in the series to introduce multiple party members, who join and leave as the story demands.
One of these temporary party members was Josef, a stern warrior, who turned his back on the Palamecian Empire and joined the rebellion against them. After the main characters save his daughter’s life, Josef joins the party. He provides the team with the sled needed to traverse icy terrain, so they can journey north to the Snow Cave and acquire the Goddess’ Bell.
After retrieving the Bell, the party defeats the evil general Borghen. As they attempt to leave the Snow Cave, however, Borghen activates a boulder trap and sends a giant rock hurtling towards them. Josef pushes the other party members out of the way, and is then crushed by the boulder.
In the early days of the Internet, lines from badly translated video games were quoted as often as classic Simpsons episodes. “All your base are belong to us” was the Budweiser “Wassup!” for nerds.
One of the most quoted lines during this era was “You Spoony Bard!“, a lame threat delivered by Tellah the Sage in Final Fantasy IV. Despite his tragic story and awesome death scene, Tellah will forever be known as the Spoony Bard guy. He is the Neville Chamberlain of the gaming world.
Tellah was once a powerful mage, but old age has caused him to forget most of his spells. After witnessing the death of his daughter during a bombing raid, he swears vengeance on the man who led the attack — Golbez. After having his memory restored at Mount Ordeals, Tellah remembers how to cast “Meteor”, the most powerful Black Magic spell in existence. Due to his age, Tellah knows that the stress of casting the spell will kill him. He intends to use Meteor on Golbez, and get revenge for the death of his daughter.
Tellah finally encounters Golbez in the Tower of Zot. Whilst Meteor does not kill Golbez, it wounds him enough so that his mind-control over Kain the Dragoon is broken. Casting Meteor costs Tellah his life, and with his last breath, he asks the party to avenge his daughter, a task he could not longer take on himself.
One of the first playable party members in Final Fantasy VII is Barret. He fights with a gun that acts as a prosthetic limb for his right fore-arm. Throughout the beginning of the game, no explanation is given as to why Barret is missing a limb. After he is framed for murder in the Gold Saucer casino, however, the truth of Barret’s past is revealed.
Barret once lived in a mining town called Corel. The Shinra Company offered to build a Mako Reactor in the town, one that would supply Corel with energy, but force them to give up their coal mining operations. The only opponent to this plan was Dyne, Barret’s best friend.
Due to some unexplained incident, the reactor is destroyed. Shinra destroys the town of Corel, as they believe the residents are responsible. After being chased up a cliff, Dyne falls off the edge, and is being held up by Barret. The two are shot in the arm, and Dyne falls off the cliff.
Dyne did not die, however. He had a gun-arm attached like Barret, and goes on a massacre inside the Gold Saucer casino. After being defeated in battle by Barret, Dyne refuses the offer to join the party on their quest to defeat Sephiroth. He instead chooses to end his own life, due to the guilt he feels over the deaths he has caused.
As with Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie, Dyne is encountered by Aerith in the Lifestream during the events of Hoshi wo Meguru Otome. Aerith is able to free Dyne from his guilt, and allows him to pass on into the afterlife with his wife.
The closest most video games ever come to having a Game of Thrones–style story is Final Fantasy Tactics. (We are including most of the actual Game of Thrones licensed games in that list — except for maybe the Telltale one.) Final Fantasy Tactics tells an epic story about the struggle between several noblemen who drag an entire realm into war as a result of their scheming to become King.
In Final Fantasy Tactics, you play as Ramza Beoulve, the youngest son of one of the most respected noble houses in Ivalice. He is accompanied by Delita, a commoner who is brought into the Beoulve household after his parents die of the plague. Delita’s sister, Teta, also joins him, and becomes friends with Ramza’s sister.
Teta is kidnapped during an attack on the Beoulve household. She is held for ransom, as her kidnappers believe that she belongs to the nobility. Ramza and Delita rush to Fort Zeakden, where Teta is being held hostage. Her kidnappers use her as a human shield. No attempt is made to save Teta’s life, as Algus, the son of a noble family, shoots her with a crossbow bolt, as he had no regard for the life of a commoner.
The death of Teta is one of the most profound moments in Final Fantasy Tactics. It’s what convinces Ramza to begin his quest to uncover the truth about the people pulling the strings behind the events of the war, and it pushes Delita on to the bloody path tobecoming the King of Ivalice.
When most Final Fantasy characters die, it usually happens on-screen, so as to evoke as much of a reaction as possible from the audience. The death of Vivi Ornitier is something only implied during the ending monologue of the game, but it’s this subtlety that makes his passing all the more effective, as Vivi’s story is all about learning how to cope with the knowledge of your imminent death.
Vivi Ornitier is a Black Mage, and is actually a magical construct. He is the prototype of a race of Black Mages, who were created to use their magic as a weapon during an upcoming war. Vivi fell off of his transport ship, and was taken in by Quan the chef. Unlike most of the other Black Mages in the game, Vivi possesses sentience and has his own personality.
Throughout the course of the game, Vivi learns that all Black Mages have a limited shelf life, and are not able to survive longer than a year. Vivi continues his quest to help the party save the world, and intends to live the remainder of his short life to its fullest potential.
During the ending of Final Fantasy IX, the closing narration is spoken by Vivi, who is saying goodbye to the friends and the world he has left behind. Even though Vivi’s time has come, we see that he has been able to reproduce, and has created more Black Mages in his image. He had discovered a way for the Black Mage race to exist beyond their original purpose, and to form their own destiny in the now peaceful world.
9. Cyan’s Family
The Final Fantasy series first reached mainstream success with the release of Final Fantasy VII in 1997. There were three other Final Fantasy games released in America before this one dropped on Nintendo consoles (I, IV, & VI), and while they were highly acclaimed, they did not have the commercial success of VII. This is one of the reasons that VII is often considered the most highly regarded game in the series.
It is because Final Fantasy VII is so well-remembered that the villain of the game, Sephiroth, is often lauded as the most memorable antagonist in the series. It is a shame that Final Fantasy VI was not the breakout hit of the series, because if it was, then Kefka would be the villain that everyone loves to hate.
Kefka is first introduced to the players as a bumbling despot. The first encounter with Kefka at Figaro Castle treats him as a comical villain, who makes his soldiers clean the sand from his boots (even though they’re in the desert). When Kefka is encountered at Doma Castle, we see him perform one of the most evil acts in the whole series, and the comedy stops right there.
Doma Castle is under siege by the empire, but it is being defended by Cyan, a powerful Samurai, and his loyal men. Kefka wants the battle over with quickly, so he poisons the water supply of Doma Castle. Everyone within the Castle (except for Cyan and another sentry) dies the next day. Cyan comes home to find his wife and young son dead from the poison.
Death might be cheap in video games, but it is especially cheap on Spira, the world of Final Fantasy X. If a dead person’s soul is not “sent” by the dance of a summoner, then that spirit may linger on in the world. Most of these people become monsters, but some of them are able to keep their corporal form, and remain on the planet as “unsent”.
During the events of Final Fantasy X, the game steals the twist from The Sixth Sense, and it is revealed that Auron has been dead all along. Auron died during the pilgrimage he had taken with Jecht and Braska in the past, and was able to remain on Spira due to the weight of his many unfulfilled promises.
After Yu Yevon is finally defeated at the end of the game, the threat of Sin is over for good. With all of his oaths completed, Auron is allowed to let go of the world and finally pass on to the Farplane where he belongs.
Some might say that Tidus’ death during the ending of Final Fantasy X was a lot more tragic than Auron’s. We might be inclined to agree with you… if not for the fact that Tidus can be resurrected at the end of Final Fantasy X-2.
The tutorial of Final Fantasy XII follows Reks, the older brother of Vaan (the main character of the game). He is a soldier under the command of Captain Basch, who is leading his men into an attack on Nalbina Fortress. Basch has learned that their King has been led to the Fortress in order to sign a peace treaty, but it’s actually an assassination plot. During our brief time with Reks, we learn that he joined the army in order to protect his younger brother from a possible occupation from the evil Archadian Empire.
As the battle wages within the Fortress, Reks is separated from his men. He finds them all dead, along with their King. Reks is then stabbed by Basch and falls into unconsciousness, with the knowledge that his commanding officer was a traitor. Reks was misled, however, as the King’s killer was actually Basch’s twin brother, Gabranth. The whole mission was intended to set up Basch for the murder of the King.
Reks is mentally devastated by the events. He is able to (incorrectly) accuse Basch of treason, before succumbing to his wounds. Don’t feel sorry for Reks, though, as his suffering has ended. Feel sorry for the player instead, as they are about to start playing as Vaan, the most annoying Final Fantasy protagonist of all time.
A lot of video games have a plot that involves something trying to destroy the world. In almost all cases, it’s only the player that’s actually doing something about it.
In Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth’s plan involves crashing a meteor into the planet. If someone can get inside the Northern Crater and kill him, then his plans will be foiled. Nobody even tries, however. The mighty Shinra Corporation manage to destroy the shield around the Crater… and then just sit on their asses for the rest of the game. None of the nations of the world bother to assemble an army to try to stop Sephiroth.
You do have one proactive ally in Final Fantasy VII, however. In Cosmo Canyon, the elder of the village is named Bugenhagen, a cool old man who flies around on a floating green orb. Bugenhagen is one of the few people who is actively trying to save the planet, and he comes up with several plans for the main characters that work towards achieving this goal.
But should the party return to Cosmo Canyon after defeating Diamond Weapon, then they’ll discover that Bugenhagen is dying. He has one final touching scene with his adopted grandson, Red XIII, and returns to the planet where he belongs.
Final Fantasy II opens with the main characters being annihilated in a battle against the forces of the evil Palamecian Empire. They are brought to Minwu, a powerful White Mage, who uses his magic to heal their wounds. Minwu is a member of the Wild Rose resistance movement, and he joins the party on several occasions throughout the game in their attempts to thwart the Empire.
Due to the bizarre way in which Final Fantasy II dealt with gaining levels (i.e. by getting rid of them), it can take a long time before the main characters are strong enough to carry out the first quest. You will end up fighting goblins and giant wasps for hours on end in order to gain some stats. When Minwu joins the party early on in the game, he is way more powerful than the other characters, and he can ensure you survive long enough to become stronger on your own.
As the Empire grows more powerful, Minwu decides that more desperate measures must be taken in order to stop the war. He joins the party one last time, as they travel to the Mysidian Tower. There, they discover the tome containing the most powerful spell in the world, Ultima. The Ultima tome is protected by a powerful magic seal, and Minwu uses up all of his life force in order to bypass it. It is through his sacrifice that the party gains access to Ultima, the spell that might give them an edge in the battle against the evil Emperor.
One of the biggest twists in Final Fantasy VII is the revelation concerning Cloud’s true identity. He was never a member of the elite fighting force known as SOLDIER, as he had been telling everyone throughout the game; he was just a lowly Shinra grunt soldier. After the Nibelheim incident, Cloud was captured and experimented on by Shinra scientists. His memories were mixed up with those of Zack, a member of SOLDIER, who was also kidnapped after the incident. The two manage to escape and make their way to freedom, and Zack later gives his life to save Cloud from Shinra troops, leading to the latter’s memories becoming distorted as a result of the trauma.
In 2007, Square Enix released a Final Fantasy VII prequel on PlayStation Portable. It was called Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, and it followed the life of Zack after he became a member of SOLDIER. The game fills out a lot of the backstory of the world of Final Fantasy VII. The player will likely grow attached to Zack, as he is a likable hero with an outspoken personality (basically, the opposite of Cloud). Those who have played Final Fantasy VII know that Zack’s life ends in tragedy, and will spend the entire game waiting for the moment to happen.
The depiction of Zack’s last stand happens differently between the two versions we are shown. In Final Fantasy VII, Zack is defeated by a few Shinra soldiers. In Crisis Core, he fights the whole Shinra army. As he is slowly overwhelmed, Zack’s memories of those he met on his journey are shown to the player. The last one we see is Aerith, the woman he had grown to love.
After giving one final message to Cloud, Zack gives him his Buster Sword, and passes away. The city of Midgar is shown in the distance, and the story of Final Fantasy VII begins…
One of the most common criticisms of video games that have resurrection items (like Final Fantasy), is that they allow characters to die in cutscenes without anyone attempting to use said items on them. There are usually some justifications for this, such as Life spells and Phoenix Downs actually only being able to bring people back from the brink of death, or only being able to heal certain kinds of wounds. All of these justifications are usually pretty lame, and the correct answer is “because the developer said so”.
Final Fantasy V has one of the best character death scenes of all time. One of the reasons for this is because the game actually explains why the usual methods of resurrection don’t work in this instance. The character is Galuf, and he gives it his all during his final battle.
After all of the other main characters are overwhelmed by Exdeath, Galuf manages to stand up and fight, even though he is at zero hit points. He engages in a solo battle against Exdeath, and manages to resist defeat (as he has no health to deplete). Exdeath is agog at how Galuf can keep on fighting, and he flees.
When the other characters awaken, they attempt to use every healing spell and item in the game, but none of them work. Galuf pushed himself beyond his limits in order to rescue the party, and was now beyond saving.
2. General Leo
The evil Gestahlian Empire of Final Fantasy VI is ruled by Emperor Gestahl. He seriously needs to improve his company hiring abilities, as his three highest ranking officials all betray him. General Celes Chere joins the rebellion, General Leo Cristophe almost joins the rebellion, and Kekfa the court mage actually kills Gestahl as part of his plot to take over the world.
General Leo is an honorable man who attempts to resolve situations peacefully. General Leo is responsible for creating a truce agreement with the Espers in the town of Thamasa. Kefka, of course, shows up and murders all of the Espers before battling Leo. Despite the fact that he is an absolute beast in combat, Leo is overwhelmed by Kefka’s magic, and perishes. He is buried in Thamasa, and you can visit his grave at any time. The player is left wondering whether General Leo would have joined them, if given the chance.
In the early days of the Internet, many fan pages were filled with false methods for resurrecting General Leo. These rumors would be replaced by similar methods for finding Schala in Chrono Trigger. When the PlayStation era came along, both the Leo and Schala rumors would soon be forgotten in the aftermath of the death of another famous character…
The death of Aerith Gainsborough was intended to be one of the most shocking twists in video game history, though its effect has been somewhat dulled over time, as it’s become common knowledge amongst gamers. Aerith’s death still manages to be a powerful moment, depending on how much the player grows to love the girl who sells flowers in the slums.
Aerith leaves the party for the last time after you finish the Temple of the Ancients. Cloud and his companions follow her to the Forgotten Capitol, a city once owned by the mysterious Cetra. They find Aerith in prayer, as she attempts to use the mysterious White Materia in order to stop Sephiroth. As Cloud finally reunites with Aerith, a figure resembling Sephiroth descends from the ceiling, and drives his sword through her body, killing her.
One of the biggest misconceptions about this scene is the identity of Aerith’s killer. The deed wasn’t done by Sephiroth alone. At this point in time, Sephiroth was still trapped within the Lifestream. He was manipulating one of Jenova’s body parts into taking his form and killing Aerith.
The death of Aerith sent shockwaves through the video game world. A character whom players genuinely grew to care about was killed in a surprise attack. From that point on, both players and developers knew that everything had changed, and no one was safe from a permanent death anymore. While Aerith was not the first Final Fantasy character to die, her death was by far the most important.
What other Final Fantasy deaths had you reaching for the tissue box? Let us know in the comments.