Few video game series have had the same impact as Square’s Final Fantasy. For thirty years the franchise has made players around the world feel a variety of emotions. From the joy of beating a very hard boss to the rage of continuously losing in a certain part of the game, Final Fantasy fans have felt it all. Most importantly, the games have at points made gamers cry. It is a testament to the series that players could have such emotional investment in the games, with many of the series’ most infamous scenes being the saddest moments of the series
Aerith’s death is definitely the most infamous, and rightfully so, yet there are many more pivotal moments across the franchise. Since the saddest parts of any Final Fantasy games are usually my favourite parts in the games, I will be looking at the some of the saddest moments in the franchise. I won’t bring up Aerith’s death as I’m sure everyone is tired of hearing about how important it was for gaming (which it is). I’m also excluding Final Fantasy X and Crisis Core since those sad scenes have also been discussed at great length. Instead, I’ll be going through the slightly more obscure parts in the franchise that we are afraid to also admit crying too.
It is interesting how Aerith’s death is often seen as a major turning point in video game storytelling and how it manipulates players’ feelings within a narrative of a game. It is interesting because Aerith’s death wasn’t the first time the series killed off a major character. In fact, she wasn’t even the second! The Final Fantasy series has been killing major characters since Final Fantasy II. If truth be told, several main characters meet their end within the II’s story. All the death scenes in II are actually pretty primitive when compared to how the series handles death scenes in later instalments.
Still, the deaths started a trend that the series would repeat throughout the main numbered series. The most devastating death in II is Minwu’s death, as Minwu was one of the more active supporting characters in the game. As a white mage that works with the Rebel Rose, the main heroes of the game, Minwu was one of the characters that had the most agency to the plot. Sacrificing himself to open a seal that would lead to the Ultimate Tome, the loss of Minwu would be the most upsetting moment in the game. From there, all the main Final Fantasy games would have a major character die up to VII. In III, Aria dies. In IV, Tellah dies (along with a lot of fake-out deaths). In V, Galuf dies. In VI, General Leo dies. It is a trend that started with II, and Minwu was easily the most distressing death in it.
Golbez’s Backstory (DS Remake)
Throughout most of Final Fantasy IV, the evil sorcerer Golbez has been position as the main antagonist. Trying to conquer the planet with the crystals and activating the Giant of Babel, it is later revealed that Golbez is actually the pawn of the real villain of the game, the evil alien Zemus. In another bizarre twist, it also turns out Golbez is the main protagonist Cecil’s older brother! It is then shown in a tragic flashback that Golbez was born Theodor, and his father was actually from a race of ancient beings from the moon.
His father brought magic and advanced technology to the planet, though was sadly killed by villagers who disagreed with his teachings when Theodor was a kid. Not long later, Theodor’s mother would pass away giving birth to his little brother. Resenting his brother for their mother’s death, the evil Zemus (who is the same species as Theodor’s father) would then manipulate his thoughts and feelings. He would later abandon his baby brother and take up the name Golbez. The backstory is not only tragic, it also makes Golbez a far more sympathetic character. It makes his redemption at the end of the game more believable and even heartwarming when Cecil finally forgives his brother.
Final Fantasy VI’s Locke Cole is one of the best characters in the franchise, period. A goofball thief, the instant he saves de facto protagonist Terra at the beginning of the game he has already endured himself with players all over world. Underneath his silly attributes and his occasional flirting, Locke has a very tragic background. Having lost his love Rachel to the evil Gestahlian Empire, he has made it his personal goal to save every woman in need. This is what sets him in saving Terra in the beginning of the game, which initiates the main story. When the party comes across Rachel’s old house,
Locke’s retelling of his tragic love affair with Rachel is both heartbreaking and subdue.
Later he would find the Phoenix Magicite (material that allows the characters to use magic), which can bring back anyone from the dead. He uses it to revive Rachel, but only for a few moments. She tells him how much he made her happy, and encourages him to move on. She then dies once again. Fortunately, Locke is able to move on thanks to her words and finally gets with his main love interest throughout the game, Celes Chere.
Tidus Fades Away
Whether you like Final Fantasy X’s Tidus or not, the reality is that he plays a huge part in the game – and ultimately his fate is one that lingers heavily long after the final credits role. The entire construction of the game’s ending is bitter sweet – offering closure and sadness in equal measures.
From the way the scene opens with Yuna whistling for Tidus (which in itself was heart breaking) through to the last lines of the game – which carry multiple meaning for everyone involved. When Yuna tells the crowd to never forget what was lost “or the dreams that have faded”, you know she’s really thinking of Tidus. Of all his dreams which never came to pass, or the reality that was snatched away. It’s a heavy ending note for the game to end on, but one that proves just how powerful this entry in the series could be when it knew what it was doing (We can just pretend X-2 didn’t happen and conveniently undo this awesome moment).
Final Fantasy V is probably the most underappreciated game in the main franchise. The main characters are charming and the gameplay is really solid. The game suffers from a forgettable story and even less memorable main villain. If V did anything right in its story, it would be the relationship with the main playable characters. With only five playable characters in the game, the bonds between cast feel more earned and enduring. One of the main characters was Galuf, an old man that came from a different dimension via a meteor. He was wiser than the other characters, though he also had his childish moments. He was with the player since the beginning of the game, so his unexpected death when the story was around two-thirds over was particularly devastating.
Lead villain Exdeath (who, believe or not, is supposed to be an evil tree in human form) attacks the party, easily subduing everyone. In one last ditch effort, Galuf was able to get back up and faced Exdeath alone. It was established earlier in the game that Exdeath was extremely powerful, yet Galuf was able to push him back. Exdeath questions how he was able to have that much power before he leaves. Galuf would then collapse; what makes this scene feel even more depressing is that the rest of the cast then tries to revive him through spells and Phoenix Downs. They do not work, and he dies with everyone around. It may sound cliché, but it works in the context of the story. His death was both tragic and heroic and was probable the series best death until Aerith’s.
Vivi’s Closing Monologue
Underneath Final Fantasy IX’s whimsical characters and cartoonish designs, there is a very existential story. Many of the main characters wonder where they came from, and actively seek out anything that would justify their existence. Vivi, who acts and behaves like a young child, finds out the reason he was made. It is revealed that Vivi was a black mage created by the game’s main villain Kuja to serve as his puppet. He is one of the dozens of other black mages; all the black mages have a limited life span of only one year. Even though he was ostensibly just a child, Vivi had to deal with the fact that he would die within only a few months. He accepts his fate, and soldiers on towards the end of the game.
When the final scene plays out, a mysterious narrator speaks about the events that happen after defeating Kuja. It is strongly suggested that the narrator is Vivi, and his closing statements all but confirm he moved on not long after the events of the game. He says goodbye to his friends, with his closing thoughts being about how he will be part of the skies now. Keeping a dry eye throughout the closing monologue is nearly impossible, as Vivi is without a doubt the breakout character of IX. His implied passing, though incredibly sad, at least isn’t tragic. Matching with the overarching theme of mortality and existentialism, Vivi was able to accept his life and realize where he belongs in the world. Not long after the closing narration, the final scene of the game has the main character Zidane reveal to his friends and the love interest that he survived the events of the last battle. He reunites with his beloved, and the tears of sadness caused by Vivi’s passing are soon replaced by tears of joy of Zidane’s survival. It is a bittersweet ending, which perfectly encapsulates the message of Final Fantasy IX.
Final Fantasy VIII is one of my most cherished pieces of art since I was five; I adore the game with all my heart. I say this, yet even I admit the story is kind of weird and unnecessarily confusing at parts. One of these puzzling parts is the constant flashback to Laguna. You see, the game mostly centres on teens that are part of this mercenary school that has to defeat an evil sorceress. Despite that, the lead characters would have inexplicable visions of the past. That is where Laguna and his party come in; his character journey takes him from his humble beginnings as a soldier to his eventual becoming of the mayor of the most advanced continent on the planet.
The characters of VIII were never the games strong suit – nonetheless, Laguna was one of the more well-rounded characters in the cast. A goofball with a heart of gold, Laguna story was at times more engaging to witness than the main party’s narrative. One of the main plots in Laguna’s story is his love story with the woman named Raine. After healing him from wounds he received as a soldier, he stays with her and her adopted daughter Ellone for several months. Their relationship was mostly implied until the very end when it is revealed they wed. It was a charming subplot in an overall charming story of a man who would one day be king.
Since his story took place in the past, in a town called Winhill, the main party can visit the town in the present. It is there that the players find out that Raine passed away a while ago. Even worse, Laguna would later admit he was never able to go back to Winhill after becoming mayor. He was not able to be with Raine in her last moments. Sadder still, it is very strongly suggested she died in childbirth, meaning her and Laguna’s child, along with Ellone, were sent to an orphanage. With enough deductive reasoning, it seems as if the game is implying that the main character Squall is Laguna and Raine’s child. Squall is an orphan, and Ellone claims to be his older sister. The implications of Laguna being Squall’s father makes the flashback have a stronger connection to the main narrative. (Side note – Squall, Laguna, and Raine are names that relate to water).
Everything about Raine’s death is tragic, possibly the most realistic portrayal of death in the series. There is no melodrama involved with it, she simply dies with little fanfare and her children are left parentless. Sometimes in life that is unavoidable, tragedies befall people all the time with no rhyme or reason. I remember finding out about Raine’s death as a child and how upset I was that we never see her die; her death maybe the most human tragedy in the series. It has been something that has stuck with me since then and is definitely one of my most memorable video game moments.
Be sure to give our dedicated gaming Twitter a follow over at @GamesCritics for all the latest games content from Screen Critics!