Top Five Emotional Video Games

Some games make you excited. Some make you angry. Some may even surprise you. But how many video games have you played recently that have really made you feel? Here I'm going to list the top five video games that are sure to tug at your heart-strings or stun you into silence. Here are five video games that will make you feel emotion on a level you didn't know video games could. I have attempted to omit major spoilers from this article but in order to properly explain why these games are so emotional I have found it necessary to vaguely mention some events that occur throughout the games, avoiding naming names so as to not spoil things for you.

5. Bioshock

Bioshock is a cross between a first person shooter and a survival horror game set in the Dystopian underwater world of Rapture. The game leads you on a terrifying journey through flooded corridors and desecrated shops, metro stations and hospitals, all populated by the horrifying Splicers – mutant humans who have destroyed their minds and bodies with genetic manipulation.

The highly controversial “moral choice”of the game is not, in my opinion, the most emotional part of it. The real emotions come from observing the splicers at a distance and collecting the games many audio logs, which haphazardly document the history and downfall of Rapture. One splicer is found singing to something in a cradle and it makes your stomach turn as you consider the possibility of a baby being in this horrifying place. As you draw nearer you see that the cradle doesn't hold a baby at all, but a gun. Moments like this make you feel pity even for the terrible creatures that are the splicers, still in fancy dress from the New Years Eve party where everything kicked off.

A Big Daddy attacks in Bioshock. Credit to
A Big Daddy attacks in Bioshock. Credit to

The audio logs themselves have many moments that will cause you to do a double take, with a particularly gruesome one involving a doctor performing some non-voluntary plastic surgery on a patient. On top of the horrific there is also the downright sad as you hear how this society of genius scientists and brilliant minds went from happily optimistic to terrible and broken.

The reason that Bioshock will make emotions run so high is that you discover the story yourself as you go along which immerses you to a truly impressive level. You can run past all the audio logs and ignore all of the scrawlings on walls and remnants of society, but you would be missing the point completely.

Click here for a full review of Bioshock.


GTA:IV launched the Grand Theft Auto series into the realm of serious story-telling. While GTA: San Andreas had tried to be a little more serious than previous incarnations of the series but was still absolutely bonkers. GTA:IV, while still retaining huge amounts of the series trademark humour, also dealt with a number of very serious, very contemporary issues. 

What GTA:IV does is draw you in to the world of Niko Bellic, an immigrant from an unnamed Serbian country who is deeply scarred by his time in his nation's army. Niko is a man who has honour at his heart and could have been a perfectly normal, kind, well balanced individual if he had have been born under different circumstances. As things stand he is close to being psychopathic and solves every problem he comes up against with violence – it being the only way he knows.

Niko Bellic stands by a fiery car in GTA:IV, but I promise there are a lot of emotions to go with the explosions!  Credit to
Niko Bellic stands by a fiery car in GTA:IV, but I promise there are a lot of emotions to go with the explosions! Credit to

GTA:IV forces you to care about this individual, his cousin Roman, and many of the support characters who surround Niko. Some of them are completely unlikeable hypocrites but others are like Niko – decent people trapped in a cycle of crime. At one point very early in the game Niko gets very angry at his employer and hunts him down, pulling a gun on him. As you stand there, weapon trained on this thoroughly despicable person, you don't want to pull the trigger. Niko's cousin is begging you not to, telling you that it's not worth it and that it will cause nothing but trouble for them. The ex-employer himself is telling you how his death is going to result in all hell breaking loose upon the two men. But you have to pull the trigger, and it's hard.

Throughout the game you are confronted by situations like this where the only choice is a terrible one. You spend the whole time wishing Niko would just make a change and do something different, deal with something without violence, but he never does. The final couple of hours of the game are harrowing to play through as, regardless of the choices you make throughout the game, someone Niko loves is taken away from him. After the final shot is fired and the last enemy lies dead at your feet you will feel disgusted with the life Niko chose and sad that you were a part of all of the carnage that preceded that moment.

It may not be an obvious choice for an emotional video game but if you take the story seriously you will find it impossible to not be touched by some of the events of GTA:IV

Click here for a full review of GTA:IV.

3. Final Fantasy X

Final Fantasy X drew me in and refused to let me go. It was the first Final Fantasy game on the PS2 and set the bar for presentation for everything that followed it. While many feel it was a weak entry into the series it stands strong against these critics with its exceptionally refined battle system, innovative level up sphere grid and amazing story telling. 

The plot centres around Tidus, a young blitz-ball player who has been thrown forward in time after a catastrophic attack on his home city of Zanarkand by the machine-hating monolithic monster “Sin”. In his “future” there is very limited use of machines, or Machina as the characters call it, but Sin continues to wreak havoc on the land as punishment for its previous use. This leads to individuals known as “Summoners” to go on quests to defeat Sin, giving the land a few years of peace before its return. Tidus finds himself embroiled in the life of one of these Summoners and sets out with her and her companions whose job it is to protect her on her journey. What follows is hours and hours of epic happenings.

Tidus stands in the shallows of Besaid in Final Fantasy X. Credit to
Tidus stands in the shallows of Besaid in Final Fantasy X. Credit to

All of the characters are very strongly developed and none of them are one-dimensional. Final Fantasy X forces you to care as you see how important the journey you're going on is by walking through the trail of destruction left behind by Sin. A particular point in the story reveals the terrible fate of one of the main characters and you will find it impossible not to let out a stunned “no!” at this moment. The relationship between Tidus and the Summoner, Yuna, is used brilliantly to give you a reason to really hope everything goes okay and some of the more subtle side moments consider ideas of death and rebirth in a gentle and beautiful way.

Final Fantasy X may not have the fan following of Final Fantasy VII but it certainly competes with it in terms of tears people have shed over the characters. This story is delicately and intricately told and is not to be missed.

Click here for a full review of Final Fantasy X.

2. Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain is an extremely atypical video game. It is similar to it's predecessor, Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in North America) in that it is more of an interactive movie than a video game in the conventional sense. The game centres around the protagonist Ethan Mars, a man who witnessed the death of his eldest son, Jason, and has now had his second son, Shaun, kidnapped. His life is in tatters and before Shaun is kidnapped he is completely despondent and ignores most attempts at conversation his father makes. The kidnapper is known only as the “Origami Killer” and he is known to drown his victims, all young boys, in rainwater. You also control three other characters trying to get to the bottom of the mystery – a private investigator, a reporter and an FBI agent.

The emotional connection with the characters is originally forged with an hour or so long prelude to the main game where you play as Ethan with both of his children still alive. This gives you a chance to figure out the games unconventional mechanics and gives an insight into Ethan Mars' day to day life before the accident that killed Jason. The contrast between the bleak, rainy world of the main game and the bright, sunny joy of the prequel section is a great tool used to foster an atmosphere of depression and sadness throughout.

Ethan Mars stands in a downpour in Heavy Rain. Credit to
Ethan Mars stands in a downpour in Heavy Rain. Credit to

The crux of the emotional involvement in Heavy Rain is the fact that, at a number of points throughout the game, any of the characters you can control can die and never come back. While exploratory or investigatory scenes are controlled using the left and right analogue sticks and a shoulder button, the action scenes of the game use something more akin to quick-time events. These quick-time events task you with pressing and tapping buttons and spinning the sticks. These motions correspond to on-screen activities and if you mess up enough times your character can easily die. During almost any of these action scenes. There are no checkpoints, no “I'll just try that again”. If you mess up, you lose a character and the ending of the game will be changed. This forces you to care about the characters considerably more than in the majority of other games.

Another facet to the emotional rollercoaster ride that is Heavy Rain is seeing exactly how far Ethan is willing to go to get Shaun back. You get to decide what he will or won't do and some of the decisions are extremely harrowing, including one scene involving a simple choice: scissors, knife, axe, pliers or saw. Add in the extremely realistic motion capture on the characters faces that means that you can see the emotions in their eyes and you're onto a winner.

Some of the scenes in Heavy Rain are delivered in a heavy handed manner and not all of the voice acting is stellar, but a lot of moments in the writing are truly inspired and I guarantee that this game will make you care for these characters like few other games ever have.

Click here for a full review of Heavy Rain.

1. Shadow of the Colossus

By far the most subtle of the games listed here, I also believe Shadow of the Colossus is the most emotional. Shadow of the Colossus is a stunning video game in which you play as a boy known only as Wander who has travelled to a forbidden land in order to bring a girl, named Mono, back to life. The game equips you with a sword, a bow and a horse and, as a trade with a mysterious power called “Dormin” for bringing Mono back from the dead, leaves you to vanquish sixteen Colossi that roam the land. Wander doesn't speak (apart from when calling his horse, Agro) and the only enemies in the game are the Colossi. In fact, the only life apart from Wander, his horse and the Colossi are the occasional bird, tree or lizard scurrying around.

The game is primarily a platformer, though the platforms you're climbing on are the Colossi. Each Colossus has a number of weak points that must be stabbed in order to kill them. Each Colossus acts as a puzzle – how do I get to the weak spot to stab it? Wander clambers happily all over the Colossi who truly are colossal, the first and smallest being easily the size of a house.

Wander faces off against an airborne opponent in Shadow of the Colossus. Credit to
Wander faces off against an airborne opponent in Shadow of the Colossus. Credit to

The emotions in the game come from a few different sources. Firstly you have the single minded determination of Wander in his quest to save Mono. He is willing to battle and kill sixteen gigantic creatures in order to save her life, which is a testament to love if ever there was one. Following on from that is the fact that the Colossi don't particularly seem to be evil. Most of them will attack you but often it seems only to protect themselves, and some won't hurt you at all. They seem like Guardians of the land. The moral grey area of the game is pervasive throughout, but never once mentioned. There is effectively no story beyond what I have relayed to you.

The emptiness of the land is also a cause for pangs of sadness. Nothing is there. The world is beautifully rendered with mind blowing (at least for the time, and it still looks gorgeous today) draw distances and a total sense of loneliness. You soon forge a link with your completely obedient only companion, your horse. It happily rides into battle with you, content to face the monsters that loom far above you because it trusts its master so. The ending of the Shadow of the Colossus is a tour-de-force of emotions and probably one of the most powerful of video game history.

Shadow of the Colossus is generally considered to be one of the greatest games ever made, especially from an artistic standpoint. The musical score is harrowing beautiful and Shadow of the Colossus will leave you wondering, once all is said and done, who the real monster is.

Click here for a full review of Shadow of the Colossus.

So which do you think is the most emotional of these five games? Have your say in the poll below, and if you think I've unfairly overlooked an amazingly emotional video game, feel free to tell me in the comments section.

Which of these five games do you think is most emotional?

  • Shadow of the Colossus
  • Heavy Rain
  • Final Fantasy X
  • GTA:IV
  • Bioshock
See results without voting

Buy these amazing games now!

Shadow of the Colossus - PlayStation 2
Shadow of the Colossus - PlayStation 2

Shadow of the Colossus for PS2.

Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy X

Final Fantasy X for PS2

Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto IV

GTA:IV for Xbox 360

Bioshock - Xbox 360
Bioshock - Xbox 360

Bioshock for Xbox 360


Comments 20 comments

jack 6 years ago

HAHAHAHA you missed out mass effect 1 and 2, idiot.

now you have credibility, mass effect truly is amazing, and EMOTIONAL.

CraigKeeble profile image

CraigKeeble 6 years ago from England Author

I haven't played Mass Effect 2 yet, and Mass Effect 1 was pretty emotional. If I had have thought of it it might have made this list. I didn't. I guess that's telling of how emotionally connected I felt to it.

It's ridiculous to call someone an idiot because they have different opinions to your or overlooked something that you feel is important. I think that you are, in fact, the idiot.

Blerg 6 years ago

I found Fable 2 pretty emotional, especially at the start.

UnknownUser 5 years ago

Most people probably won't agree, but we are all entitled to our own opinions. And I know a majority of my list is more recent video games, but I believe emotion and story-driven games are becoming more and more prevalent in video games today.

1. Mass Effect 2- Only if you have played the original, and own all the DLC

2. Heavy Rain- Possibly the best stand alone game made

3. Red Dead Redemption- It's subtlety sneaks up on you

4. Majora's Mask- Probably only applies to my personal tastes

5. Mass Effect- Amazing character development

Blerg 5 years ago

Limbo on xbox arcade

Wtf 5 years ago

How could you leave out Mother 3 ? How can it NOT be on a list like this? The writer in question should do his research before writing garbage like this.

CraigKeeble profile image

CraigKeeble 5 years ago from England Author

In my research not a single person mentioned this old game boy advanced game (a console I never owned) that was only ever released in japanese. This is an opinion piece which relies on me having played a game to have felt an emotional connection with it for a game to make the list, so grow up


KILLIAN 5 years ago

I thought fallout NV had its sad parts, just finished lonesome road dlc

Ivan_dksd 5 years ago

Nice. You should check DreamFall The longest journey. You really get involved whit the plot and every character´s history.

nim 4 years ago

definitely check out red dead redemption. I'm not the most emotional person out there, but this game made me downright cry at the end.

Nosmont 4 years ago

i agree with most of them... except 4 and 3, GTA? really? maybe its personal choice on that one, but no Final fantasy 10 shouldn't induce any sort of emotion, its terrible, with worse voice acting, and insufferable characters

Misskitty 4 years ago

What about Earthbound?

None 4 years ago

What about the Kingdom Hearts series very emotional and by far my favorite series, the first one is a little kiddy and so it the whole disney effect to it. However, the story is unreal, and by far the best ive seen.

CooldudeEx 4 years ago

Why isn't To the Moon on here?

juansanchz 4 years ago

The Walking Dead

nosmont 3 years ago

You know all the questions you ask about why arent these games which are much more emotional not on here? because the author only plays mainstream games apparently. maybe he should stop writing about video games because it seems he has only a surface understanding about them, opinion piece or not

CraigKeeble profile image

CraigKeeble 3 years ago from England Author

Hey, guess why games like To the Moon, the Walking Dead, Red Dead Redemption and Fallout New Vegas aren't on here?

Because this article was written over 2 years ago before any of those games were released, and before I got a gaming PC allowing me to play indie games. I wrote the list based on the games I had played at the time and have not updated it.

And nosmont - go fuck yourself you smarmy prick. I'm not gonna justify myself to you, I'm just going to tell you to fuck off.

VLaszlo 3 years ago

Metal Gear? not even in the list ...

Jake 3 years ago

Ignore the critics. I think you did a good job.

SimilarSam profile image

SimilarSam 2 years ago from Australia

Heavy Rain and BioShock definitely pulled on a few heart strings for me.

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