Penny, from Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. At first, she looks like some sort of insane child in command of an army. Her insanity actually comes from the fact that her father kept experimenting on her brain, leaving a lot of damage. And she's aware of how ravaged her mind is, without even being able to reasoning beyond it.
She sure looks like a cute 6-years old child in-game, right ? Until you see her full art and realize she's a grown-up teenager.
Ezio Auditore in Assassin's Creed II watched helplessly as his father and two brothers were executed as part of a conspiracy, and spent the next twenty years hunting down those responsible. It's painful to watch his transformation from the carefree, wise-cracking son of a banker into a revenge-driven assassin, and he only barely manages to avoid becoming just like his enemies. The execution scene is especially heartrending, because as soon as Ezio shouts "I'll kill you!", you know there is no going back to the way things were before.
Also, his girlfriend Cristina was shown to be killed in Assassins Creed Brotherhood in one of the flash-back missions.
Speaking of AC, Connor (or Ratonhnhaké:ton, if you'd prefer) of Assassin's Creed III deserves a mention. We first play him as an adorable 9-year-old kid, who then gets attacked by armed colonists and has to watch his mother slowly die trapped in a burning building. Like Ezio, he spends most of the game trying to track down those responsible and get revenge. The fact that he's just so Adorkable and such a genuinley good person only makes it worse.
Imoen from Baldur's Gate. She starts off as a chipper and upbeat girl until she, along with the protagonist and a handful of other characters, are captured by Irenicus in the second game and tortured mercilessly. Then, when she finally escapes to the city of Amn, she makes the mistake of using magic against Irenicus, who comes to stop your group (using magic in Amn is strictly forbidden without special permission.) She and Irenicus are arrested and sentenced to Spellhold, a nuthouse for crazy wizards, where Irenicus takes over the building, and then tortures Imoen even more, eventually violently tearing out her soul, leaving her a broken, babbling mess by the time you catch up to her. She eventually heals...
But then she finds out she's one of the Bhaalspawn, and then has to deal with her newfound murderous impulses (she tells the protagonist at one point that during the last battle she suddenly had the urge to tear out the bad guy's throat with her bare hands.) Needless to say, she's not so chipper or upbeat anymore. Although given that it's Imoen, that's relative to herself, not anyone else. As one character notes well after she's found all this out, she "reminds [him] considerably of a squirrel on a sugar high with a death wish."
It is implied at several points that Imoen's continued cheer is partly an act meant to cheer the PC (who arguably suffered less than she did) up. Which just emphasizes how absurdly nice Imoen is - it is noted at one point that not even having a fragment of the God of Murder in her could stop her from being a nice person. Essentially, the plot tries very hard to break Imoen, but never fully succeeds - even though she is badly traumatized (which she only admits in a few, often hard to trigger dialogues), her desire to help others and cheer people up never wavers.
In the middle of the "Throne of Bhaal", your party will encounter a wraith that impersonates Gorion and chews your main character out. While your character can take it, they will target the NPC your character is romancing and will proceed to break them down, hard. For example, if your character is romancing Aerie, the wraith conjured an image of her Avariel mother, and then said image told her how she tried looking for her daughter, then was captured with much more brutal slavers and killed, then pinned the blame on Aerie, who caused her to fly down to the ground and get caught in the first place. It's a lie, but that was enough to break her down into tears and sobbing.
Aerie's background story in the first place: A sweet, innocent little winged girl is living happily with her parents in a wondrous city. She loves to fly, but one time she sees a group of humans being attacked by slavers on the ground. Her taught fear of earthborne creatures overcome by her empathy, she swoops down to rescue a fleeing child. However, she is shot down, captured, caged, sold into a circus, kept on display, and held in such a small space she has no room to move. Her precious wings become infected and are crudely chopped off to save her life, leaving her crippled both emotionally and physically, having lost her home, sense of identity and ability to fly.
There's some Fridge Logic here though when you realize that she eventually learns the incredibly powerful Wish spell, and has a high enough Wisdom score to word her wish correctly. Restoring her wings would count as a very simple use of the spell.
Lyude from Baten Kaitos is a good candidate. Let's see... yes, he's real cute, he's got red hair, and a somewhat naive and/or innocent view on the world, claiming he stands for justice and all. I will try to explain best I can on the "Break the Cutie".
It always appeared to me that he had shaky confidence, but after he gets hypnotized by one of the Big Bad's men (not sure when it happened, but it happened), causing the group to lose a valuable Plot Coupon, he gets pretty depressed. To paraphrase his words "What should I do? I can't return to my homeland...but they used me. Manipulated my thoughts as a tool for their plans. Why would I even want to go back?". And his little bouts of depression don't stop there.
When we finally reach said big bad empire, we meet his foster nurse Almarde, and his brother and sister...only to see, in a span of not even five minutes, Lyude unable to return to his brother and sister's side (who were threatening him at gunpoint), and Almarde get fatally shot and die in Lyude's arms. And this is someone who supposedly is his ACTUAL mother! That's another blow to his confidence.
Finally, much later on into the game, we learn of a phantom ship with ghosts calling out to Lyude. When the group goes to visit said phantom ship, it's filled with the ghosts of Lyude's old friends and fellow Imperial solders. They constantly put the blame on Lyude, accusing him of betraying Alfard and leaving his former family and friends to die. The ghost of his former commander terribly chews him out. The ghosts of his older brother and sister very much start the breaking of Lyude, saying he was always hated by them and unworthy of their attention.
... And finally... the fake ghost of Almarde shows up herself, saying terrible things to him. Then she teams up with the former commander, his brother and sister, and tell Lyude that he is a coward and has no right to love or be loved by anyone. Poor kid breaks down and actually cries, asking through tears what he should do. The fake Almarde ghost nearly pulls Lyude into the dark side...until the ghost of the real Almarde shows up, saving Lyude from any more break-ness just in the nick of time. Cue a huge monster showing up, a monster that is a manifestation of Lyude's self-doubt, self-hate, low-confidence, and broken status.
In BioShock Infinite, Elizabeth starts off as an incredibly adorable, cute, sweet and good-hearted girl, who sees wonder in everything. As the game progresses, she starts to see how cruel the world really is, and her personality changes radically after she kills Daisy Fitzroy. In Comstock House, after going through months of torture, she is nowhere like the girl she was before, and is now a cold person.
Almost every, single, girl in BlazBlue gets broken, reassembled by Hazama to his wishes and then possibly broken again for fun and profit, with the only exception being Taokaka who gets physically broken, unlike the others who were subject to Mind Rape.
On the male end of the spectrum, there is Carl Clover, who witnessed his sister being turned into a machine by his father, and was scarred for life.
Ragna went through this in his backstory. He loses his home, his foster mother, his sister, his brother to insanity, and his arm — all within about five minutes, ten tops. He only survives the last one by unconsciously merging with the remnants of the Black Beast that become his new arm, and that causes even more problems for him.
Litchi went for two tiers. The reveal that the corruption was getting to her in a quick succession that she could effortlessly beat down Tager shocks her, but on the reveal that Kokonoe just plain refused to help her drove her further to the deep end, now knowing that the only one she could think of to help just plain refused her and left her to slowly wither and die. And then, the rest is taken care of by Hazama. Her rant towards Rachel after signing up to NOL shows just how broken she is and is trying the best to keep herself together with just no one to help... and Rachel's response and reprimanding, practically saying what the Hate Dumb perceive about her that she's just plain obsessed and selfish, did not help at all...
To top it off, in the Chronophantasma Arcade End, she found out from Rachel, that in her insistence to save Arakune has finally tipped off Kokonoe completely that she went from 'refuse to help', into 'declare her an enemy that needs to die', yep her mentor finally considered her a complete lost cause... oh and her involvement in NOL was instead ushering a doomsday scenario planned by Relius himself, and possibly, Lotte Carmine, the subject she's trying to save, was trying to further that plan instead. Said involvement includes confronting Bang Shishigami, a friend of hers, who ends up having his prized possession taken away by Relius, and it turns out to be the doomsday device he's looking. On that multitude of realization that she screwed up so badly, being manipulated to destroy many that she loved, is it any wonder that this woman broke down crying?
City of Heroes Mission Architect Arch ID: 266877....title: The Most Important Thing.
Jin from Dead Island. She starts as a Tomboy/Wrench Wench of unstated but clearly juvenile/young adult age. Her introduction as an NPC is occasioned by the revelation that her father was bitten by a zombie and has mere hours to live. She is a near-stereotype of the annoyingly naive Wide-Eyed Idealist (which has earned her no small amount of hate from online fans of the game). Then, in short order: she is forced to join the Player group by said father in a Heroic Sacrifice; she naively takes supplies to a gang, who immediately kidnap and (it is heavily implied) rape her (from which the Players must rescue her); she nearly faces the same situation from a gang of renditioned terrorists/prison inmates; she must kill her now-zombified father (and decides she must do it by herself in a Narmy cutscene); and finally, she is shot by the Big Bad just to make him more of a Jerk Ass, and left for dead by the Players as the game ends.
Isaac Clarke, the protagonist of Dead Space. Granted, he is not a cute anime girl with big eyes and bright hair, but still, he is your average 40 years old guy trying to earn his salary and get some news about her former girlfriend on a supposedly routine repair job, and he gets stuck facing off against horribly mutated undead creatures, some of whom he knew, the people who try to help him stop the necromorphs being brutally murdered, he gets betrayed by one of his own teammates and at the end it's revealed his girlfriend killed herself before he arrived and he's been driven insane by a fake Artifact of Doom. When he finally gets a break from all the massacres and bloodshed, he seems to be coming to terms with the loss of his girlfriend... then he is apparently attacked by her. Luckily for him, according to the creators of the game, he is still alive.
You can find even more breaking events in her bio, it seems his father abandoned him when he was young and his mother preferred to spend the money which could have been for his education in to buy a good position in the Church of Unitology.
In Dead Space 2, it obviously gets worse, and Isaac confirms the above example in a short speech early on:
Isaac: Why are you doing this? Why can't everyone just leave me alone?!
Diablo III's Leah suffers this throughout the course of the game. During the course of Act I, she's proven completely wrong about the demons and is forced to watch as her beloved adoptive uncle Deckard Cain is tortured and killed by Maghda right in front of her. Things begin to look up for her in Act II when she finds out that her mother Adria is still alive. But then comes Act III, and the start of things going From Bad to Worse for her. First, she personally goes through a hellish vision from Azmodan to lure her to Arreat Crater, during which he reveals to her that he knows of her plan to trap the Great Evils in the Black Soulstone and that he's sending an army of hellspawn to get it so that Azmodan can become the Prime Evil. And then she's forced to keep the Black Soulstone together with her power throughout the course of the act so that the Evils cannot escape, which is incredibly painful and draining for her. And this is all beforeshe gets betrayed by her own mother, who uses the aforementioned soulstone to use her as a vessel for Diablo to be reborn as the Prime Evil himself. Poor girl...
Die Anstalt has most of the patients you need to help undergoing a big enough dose of this trope before the game itself starts to leave them needing therapy, though the exact events aren't known at first. And some of them need to be broken again if you want to help them out.
Reversed (not averted) with Leliana from Dragon Age: Origins. Introduced as a chirrupy religious type who's a wee bit bonkers but handy with a blade - then if you speak to her enough to raise her approval she eventually reveals that her former mentor sold her out to save her own skin to the Orlesian guards, who tortured her mercilessly and she resigned to dying a traitor's death. Considering some of the implements seen in the Arl of Denerim's dungeons during Rescue the Queen, it's safe to assume that the execution would have been pretty agonizing as well. In the DLC (only-just-canon), this breaks Leliana so thoroughly that she can barely summon the will to escape her cell, even with a little help. It doesn't stop her going on a homicidal rampage after Raleigh though. By the time you reach her in DA:O, she's had two years to start pulling her life together; and that hasn't healed everything.
As if that isn't bad enough, her former mentor comes after her again in an effort to cut off all loose ends, absolutely certain (and absolutely wrong) that Leliana is working towards revenge. This little side quest is all it takes to completely shatter the life that Leliana had pieced together for herself and send her back into her old ways, unless you convince her not to.
There's also a good chance (and outright implication) that she was gangraped as part of the torture she went through. Break the cutie indeed....
There's also Alistair, an insufferably wise-cracking smartass who, overall, is a pretty decent and purehearted guy. At some point he learned that he has an older sister and asks the Warden if they can visit her. It does not go well. And nothing you say to him eases the pain of rejection he feels. You can use the opportunity to harden his naive idealism into a more realistic view, for some changes to the ending pertaining to him.
Merrill in Dragon Age II has a lot of this in her backstory, and more in-game, especially if you take the Rivalry path.
Hawke him/herself can qualify, especially if he or she is played as a helpful diplomatic type. Dad dies early on, then his/her village gets overrun with darkspawn, then one sibling gets taken out by an ogre, then the other sibling dies or gets hauled off to the Grey Wardens, and then Mom is horrifically killed by an insane mage, and then Hawke's friend/best friend/lover blows up the Chantry and starts a massive civil war... it's a wonder Hawke isn't catatonic post-game.
This may sound like a rather odd example, given his role and the system, but Psaro of Dragon Quest IV surely qualifies, right? He's a humanoid demon with a lovely elf girlfriend named Rose, and generally a Friend to All Living Things, despite his heritage. Well, one day some enterprising merchants got a hold of Rose, based on rumors that her tears formed into valuable rubies, and being the profit-seeking humans they were, they took her into the middle of a field and brutally beat her. Needless to say, Psaro isn't very happy about this, finding himself so overcome with grief that he kills the merchants. He responds by founding Rosehill Village, which is a tiny settlement around a huge tower he builds to keep Rose safe. It's at this point that Psaro begins considering killing off all of humankind, but Rose begs him to give humanity a change to peacefully coexist, so he resists the urge. A fellow demon, Radimvice/Aamon, has Rose captured and killed to further his own fiendish plots, namely taking control of all monsters. Radimvice/Aamon is able to prey on Psaro's trust of all monsters and claim that it was the humans that captured and killed Rose. This manipulation ends up sending Psaro so deep into despair that he usurps Estark's position as King of the Underworld, becomes the Big Bad of the game, and ultimately harnesses the very power of evolution to become a huge green version of Estark that provides the Ur Example of the Sequential Boss, all to take revenge against the humans that had wronged him so. Even with all this, he's not quite an Omnicidal Maniac, since he still values the lives of everything else...you know, just not humans. (The DS and PS1 version adds a 6th chapter in which Psaro recovers from his defeat and does a Heel-Face Turn by saying that he can make up for his mistakes and take revenge with the party on Aamon. But only AFTER they resurrect Rose and make her calm him down.)
Mercedes Marten from Dragon's Dogma. You are first introduced to her as the competent, and confident commanding officer of the Recruitment Corp, she even helps you repel a Hydra when it tries to destroy the encampment. However, it's when you get to meet the Duke that her insecurities show themselves. She's the daughter of the lord of Hearthstone, and was sent to help stop the Dragon and aid the Arisen. In reality though, it turns out he only sent her there to be rid of her, and so that one of his favourite sons wouldn't go to get killed instead. Lord Julien's speech to her during their duel completely stops her cold. If she survives she heads back to Hearthstone, to ask for a real army from her Father to help the Arisen.
In Fallout: New Vegas, this is a possible fate for Veronica Santangelo. A member of the Brotherhood of Steel who wishes that the Brotherhood actually uses their technology to help others, if she's encouraged to leave them and join the Followers of the Apocalypse, she'll be told to wait a day before they sign her up. One day later, she returns to find the Followers and their patients dissolved into ash, with Brotherhood Paladins stating that they've come to kill her for spreading knowledge to outsiders. After they're dealt with, she ends up blaming herself for causing the death of innocents.
In Fallout 3, if you nuke Megaton, Moira survives, but is mutated into a Ghoul. Furthermore, you can break her psychologically by talking her out of writing the Wasteland Survival Guide with a Speech test. This causes negative karma but earns you the Dream Crusher perk.
Far Cry 3: Good God. Considering that the plot is that you and your rich friends who have likely never picked up a gun in your lives are captured by pirates and intended to be sold into slavery, you can't really expect things to be bushels of daisies at any point. The cake goes to the Player Character, Jason Brody, who goes from a sweet innocent boy with little direction in life into a monster who would kill without a second thought and torture his own brother.note Thankfully, it was all an act so that he wouldn't blow his cover, but he still found it disturbingly easy to carry out In the end, if he leaves the island with his friends, he admits to himself that he's become a monster.
As a bonus, he is frequently referred to as a Pretty Boy so he's definitely a Cutie that's getting broken hard.
Fatal Frame series take it bad, canonically giving all the female protagonists sad endings regardless of how much they had to go through. This is even part of the plot in the third game, where we see the two previous protagonists still suffering for losing their loved ones, and because of thatthey get cursed!
In F.E.A.R., the cute and innocent one, an incredibly powerful psychic girl named Alma, was broken from birth. Born with the ability to sense and react to negative emotions, she was so bat-crazy that she was able to drive other people insane from simply being in proximity to them. This is before the evil faceless corporation studying her locked her away in a forced coma at the age of 8, then years later used her teenage body as an incubator for psychic Super Soldiers. To add to the whole mess, she develops an intense attachment to her unborn children, which are then promptly taken away from her before she's sent back to the psychic vault she's being imprisoned in. Needless to say, when she gets loose with all that pent up rage, the crap really hits the fan.
Final Fantasy VI: Terra starts out the game broken. Celes tries to commit suicide after finding herself alone (Cid is dead or dying then) on a deserted island.
The Final Fantasy VII Compilation seems to be one long telling of how they broke the character Cloud, glued him back wrong, broke him again, then fixed him for real. Sort of. Specifically, this included being blamed for an accident that injured his childhood crush Tifa, which results in him being forbidden from seeing her, failing at the only dream he ever had (joining SOLDIER), watching his mother die (oh, and knowing she was killed by his idol, aka Sephiroth), watching his other idol - Zack - get shanked by Seph, getting shanked himself, being experimented on for four years straight, and all of this culminates with watching his beloved Zack get gunned down after being dragged across the country by him for a year because the experimentation had left him nearly comatose. Then it gets worse. Unable to cope with all that has happened in the past years, he recreates his memories so Zack never existed (well, he thinks he's Zack, but same thing). And then Final Fantasy VII happens (in which we see him actually break and go comatose again). After the game Cloud settles down with Tifa, only to contract the incurable disease Geo-Stigma, which leads you down a slow and painful death. Towards the end of Advent Children his troubles are finally solved, however.
Final Fantasy VIII subverts this beautifully by having Selphie look at the graves of all her recently deceased friends at Trabia Gardens, and instead of teary mourning instead she talks to them saying how proud they would have been of her. Turning what would be a cliche Tear Jerker into a moment where you see her spirit will not be crushed. Many tears ensue.
In Final Fantasy IX, poor Princess Garnet suffers so many traumas in a short space in time like watching her mother die, becoming the queen and never being able to see her love Zidane again, only to have her kingdom nearly destroyed by Bahamut that she goes completely mute for a good section of the game.
Vivi. Finds out he's a prototype model of mindless magical soldiers, watches his own kind get killed or sacrificed like cannon fodder, and then learns that all the black mages have a very short lifespan and his time could come any moment. No wonder he's The Woobie.
It's also heavily implied that his "Grandfather" was planning on eating him.
Zidane, too, surprisingly. His androgynous looks aside, he's The Cutie because he is relentlessly cheerful and upbeat throughout the entire game. The few times that his optimistic demeanor vanishes are usually when it's replaced with righteous anger, like upon seeing enemies slaughtering helpless civilians. Just like Vivi, though, he learns that he's actually nothing more than a weapon. A highly complex and specialized weapon, but ultimately meant to bring war and destruction to the planet that is his home. This causes him to completely lose hope and march slowly towards his death during the famous You Are Not Alone scene.
The above is subverted, actually. When he discovered the truth, Zidane declared he would do what he was meant to do; by killing Garland. Garland then decides to rip Zidane's soul out of his body, causing his Heroic BSOD.
Vanille from Final Fantasy XIII was a genuine cutie pre-game before she became a l'Cie. The trauma she experienced thereafter (guilt over forcing Fang to become Ragnarok alone, becoming a crystal statue and then waking up on Cocoon) ended that. Everything she's done since the start of the 13 days (i.e. guilt over Serah and Dajh, the Purge, Hope's mother - which all wouldn't have happened if she didn't lie to Fang) has only added to the stress of maintaining the mask, making her a rather extreme example of this. She gets better.
Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War has Tailto, a young thunder mage originally portrayed as a Tsundere-ishgenkiRebellious Princess. But things start to go downhill for her when her leader, Sigurd, is killed. She survives the battle only to be separated from her husband (who may be either dead or alive, depending on who did she marry), and although she once managed to fled in Silesia with her kids Arthur and Teeny, she gets taken back to her destroyed homeland, is separated from her son by force, and she has to withstand mental and physical abuse from her power-hungry bitch of a sister-in-law Hilda, with her king and older brother Blume not interfering with the abuse since Tailto is seen as a traitor by her people, all while protecting her daughter from said abuses by taking them on herself. Eventually, the poor girl cannot become a genki mother as she was before, cries every day, and eventually dies in sorrow after getting sick.
Averted with Cheerful Child Nino from Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword. Having a manipulative, evil woman like Sonia as a mother would be enough to drive a little girl over the edge, but things find a way to go downhill from there. First, her mother orders her killed in order to make a scapegoat for an assassination plot. After a narrow save by her best friend (and possible love interest through supports), she later confronts Sonia, only to learn that Sonia actually murdered her birth family when she was a baby, and would have killed her as well if it wasn't for orders from the Big Bad. Then, she has to witness the murder of one of her adopted brothers, one which she tried her best to prevent. After watching the Black Fang fall apart, if you keep her around for the final boss, she has to fight the animated corpses of said adopted family: not only her brothers, but her father as well. Yet in spite of it all, Nino presses on and, despite having her small breakdowns, never fully gives into despair.
Ninian and Nils, also from Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword, are no slouches in this either. Children of a human druid and a female dragon who disappeared during the Scouring? Check. Had to pass through the Gate when Dad went missing too? Check. Missed home so much they jumped at the call when they were invoked, only to be trapped by the Black Fang whose leader is hinted to be their now-amnesiac and power-hungry father? Check. Had to run away for years, with the Black Fang on their heels? Check. Recaptured, befriended Eliwood's Disappeared Dad only to be partially guilty of his death? Check. Ninian falling for Eliwood but being unable to tell him because of her heritage? Check. Ninian being forced by Nergal to return to her dragon form, only to be slain by Eliwood? Check... and Nils' Heroic BSOD that comes soon after.
Also averted with Lucius. Being orphaned at a young age, teased all his life for his feminine appearance, and mistreated by a teacher shaped him into... one of the most faithful and reverent characters in the entire game. When he meets the now-reformed killer of his father and he breaks down crying and begging for Lucius' forgiveness... he does.
Pelleas.Holy SHIT, Pelleas. Shy orphan boy who made a deal to become a spirit charmer? Check. Being though of as the lost prince of Daein? Check. Having his life suck BALLS since then due to his father and his broken smother of a mother? Check. Being tricked into making a blood pact to help his country, only to have things go even wronger than they were? Check. Ultimately asking Micaiah or Tauroneo to kill him so the pact will go away, only to see that it's useless? Check. It takes a LOT (re: more than one playthrough) to even get the chance to try rebuilding this cutie's heart.
All of the future children in Fire Emblem Awakening can qualify. Their parents are all dead with the possible exception of Lissa, their world's been overtaken by a dark god and his unholy minions and the present world they've time-traveled to runs the risk of the same thing happening unless they can destroy the dark god. That's not even going into the troubled relationships some of these kids have with their parents, especially Noire's with Tharja and Severa's with Cordelia. Or Laurent actually landing three years in the past before the others did, which almost drove him into insanity.. And yet they manage to press on.
Gwen from Guild Wars, you first meet her at the beginning of the first campaign Prophecies as a cute, cheerful and lovely little girl, soon after her (and yours too) hometown is destroyed by the Charr and Gwen's fate is unknown, until years pass and you meet her again as a young woman in the expansion pack Eye of the North, it is revealed that she was brutally tortured and enslaved by the Charr and she bitterly harbors hate and desire of revenge against them.
In Halo, the third installation, Cortana is captured by the Gravemind, and it tries to force her to give up information. It then starts pushing her into insanity. There is a lot of speculation about what precisely it does, but that she is tortured and, to some extent, violated is made obvious by her fetal-position posture when the Master Chief finally rescues her.
A computer program in fetal-position? That can't be good... I mean, she (it?) is a freaking computer program. Maybe Gravemind messed with her (its?) core programs, i.e. raped her?
Despite being a borderline Villain Protagonist, Kane from Kane and Lynch goes through this after his wife is shot in the eye right in front of him, not to say of either of the endings or his son's death before the game even starts. By the time the sequel rolls around, he is a shell of himself, growing a Beard of Sorrow and generally looking glum. Not that Shanghai gave him anything to smile about.
Pit from Kid Icarus: Uprising goes through hell during chapter 18. Pit's entire faith in Angel Land and fighting for justice is destroyed in a blink of an eye, the people that considered him Captain are now attacking him, and the Brainwashed and Crazy Palutena calls him a "puppet" and says she doesn't want to deal with him anymore. He gets over it (for the most part) in the next chapter, but it doesn't change the fact that those words will probably stick with him for a long time.
It gets worse. Chapter 19, Hades and Viridi constantly lay the smack down of insults on him and without Palutena to support him, Pit progressively gets quieter with the chapter (but he does get louder when he's asking Viridi if he's at the top of the tower yet). And then comes Chapter 20, where some of his insecurities are let lose as Palutena continues to berate him for being useless and naive. When he finally saves her from Chaos Kin though, he has to watch as her soul is ripped out of her and she turns to stone. And when he spends chapter 21 trying to get it back and succeeds with the help of Dark Pit, Chaos Kin wanted to make sure Pit suffered and tried to take Dark Pit down with him. Pit's response is to dive in and save him causing his wings to burn up in the process. though chapter 23 treats Pit's Sanity Slippage moment lightly, given what happened in the previous chapters, it's not hard to think he actually lost it.
Kingdom Hearts does this to several characters, most notably Roxas and Xion. Roxas is a curious case in that he's broken posthumously and only to the player's point of view. He's established as a normal kid not unlike Sora who just has fun hanging out with his friends during summer until the Keyblade enters his life. Then 358/2 Days came out, and it turns out Roxas spent his entire life as the Organization's Unwitting Pawn, and besides Axel and Xion no one cared about him and in fact they frequently insulted and abused him. That blissfully ignorant week where he had his memories erased and replaced with fake memories from Namine was the happiest time in his life—which by the way, was barely a year long.
Ventus starts as an Adorkable, cheerful little boy who "views every day as a new discovery". By the end of Birth by Sleep, he's nothing but an Empty Shell, and he was a Death Seeker for a brief period of time before that.
The King of Fighters gives us Kula Diamond. A little girl raised as an test subject for a good part of her life by the NESTS cartel, in KOF 2000 she realises how terrible the group is, and decides to fight back and destroy the Zero Cannon, saving the Earth. After that, she plummets to Earth and is saved by Robot Girl Candy... who is destroyed so Kula can live. Her end has her cradling Candy's robot head, which murmurs "friend... my friend..." From then on, however, she starts getting better.
Leona Heidern once was a quiet young girl living in a small village. Then, a man named Goenitz arrived there to talk to her father, the village leader. Then the man turned and spoke to her. And then she blacked out... and woke up splattered with the blood of her parents and everyone in her village. And she was the one who killed them, under Goenitz's More Than Mind Control. She completely shuts down from then on, and while she somewhat recovers after being taken in by Heidern and trained as a Child Soldier, it takes her years to even start smiling again...
Knights of the Old Republic subjects Bastila and Mission to this treatment. Most of Bastila's occurred off-screen, while Mission's experiences having her home planet glassed and her brother, the only family she had left, revealed as a lying scumbag give her a much nastier temper than she had at the beginning.
And yet, despite all of this, Mission is still one of the most pure hearted characters in the game, as is obvious in the scenes where the player reveals that they are Revan and her attempt to bring you back to the Light if you go Dark near the end. She gets broken, but inevitably bounces back to her feet. Unless you do go Dark Side, in which case the only option is to kill her.
Visas in the sequel, and arguably Kriea (assuming she was ever cute to begin with) are revealed as having this trope as a prime ingredient in their Dark and Troubled Past. Watching as her two "sons" fall into darkness and while one could probably get better, the other completely falls into the darkness. She tries to make things right by raising a "child" in the form of the Exile who could "fix" her by living up to her expectations and not make the mistakes her sons did.
A variation of this in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time involves breaking a large group of lovable characters called the Gorons. A peaceful, friendly group, they just want to live in peace and harvest their crops, but are content to welcome outsiders as well. However, when Ganondorf shows up and demands they turn over their spiritual stone, they refuse to do it and he punishes them by sealing off their primary food source. Later in the game, when Ganondorf takes over, he has several Gorons locked up in cages in the Fire Temple, and is going to feed them to a dragon as a warning to those who might oppose him. Once you get to the Fire Temple, you see the Gorons trembling in their cells, evidently terrified, begging for mercy, and not being given any. This is arguably the most likely candidate for Moral Event Horizon on Ganondorf's part in the entire game.
Mass Effect isn't nice on anyone and nobody makes it through the series without marks (literally with Garrus, who loses half his face), but following the themes of the series, they all learn to cope with it. Because there really is no choice. Some have it worse than others, though:
While Liara T'Soni takes the death of her estranged mother, Matriarch Benezia, reasonably well, she is barely recognizable after Shepard's return from the dead two years later. From a hopeful and socially awkward scientist, she has become a hardened and occasionally ruthless information broker and the head of her own spy ring, taking several levels in badass. And in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, she upgrades to one of the most powerful people in the known galaxy after taking the place of the Shadow Broker.
Yeoman Kelly Chambers is probably the minor character for which Cutie is the most appropriate. In the third game you can find her again and she refuses to set foot on the Normandy due to PTSD following her ordeal at the hands of the Collectors from the second game in which she comes this close to being liquified alive, but she still manages helping refugees who had it as bad as her.
Talitha, one of the few minor characters that you can comfort, and given what she's gone through — being captured from Shepard's village by Batarian slavers at the age of 6 after watching her parents burned alive and spending 13 years as a slave during which she was abused severely — she definitely needs it.
Metal Gear Solid: Oh, Otacon. Otacon, Otacon, Otacon. He's an Adorkable nerd-boy who loves all things nerdy and Japanese, is enthusiastic about his work, and genuinely believes in people. Also, he's a statutory rape victim, his father committed suicide, he's inadvertently responsible for the creation of one of the deadliest weapons mankind has ever known, his crush was shot, his long-lost sister was killed, his other crush was killed, and his Heterosexual Life Partner/possible lover, the only person who's ever stuck by him, is doomed to die of old age at forty-five. This series might as well be called Metal Gear Horrible Things Happen to Hal Emmerich. It's to the point where the ten years of happiness he gets with Snake between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4 feels almost like a slap in the face—"We're giving you a break from your horrible life. Enjoy it while it lasts, 'cause it's not going to last long!"
Speaking of MGS4, this is revealed to be in the backstories of all the Beauty and the Beast unit girls after they are defeated. One girl was forced to kill off her people while laughing. One accidentally smothered her own brother to keep him from crying after escaping a raid and then killed a refugee camp's worth of kids while hallucinating that a wolf did it. One found herself among kids that were kidnapped, abused, then abandoned to be eaten by ravens, somehow ended up being cut free instead of raven food, and hunted down the soldiers responsible, innocents be damned. And the leader was the only one who didn't kill anybody before being turned into her B&B self, but it's not like she got off any better. She was forced to run for her life after her village got burned to the ground, eventually got herself locked in a torture chamber, and only survived through the horrible conditions and the screams of villagers by drinking dirty water and hallucinating about a mantis teaching her to block out sound and feed like it. Combine all that with their gratuitous good looks, it's enough to make someone wish the Metal Gear-verse were destroyed emphatically.
MB in Metroid: Other M. O boy, was she broken. Hint: It set up the events of the game.
Poor Lucas from Mother 3. His mother dies, his twin brother Claus disappears and believed to be dead, and his father suffers from Deus Angst Machina going off everyday to look for his missing son ignoring the one he has left in the process. All of this within a few days game time.
After the three year time skip, things don't improve for the poor kid. If anything, it gets worse. His father still goes out searching, the beloved village slowly changes from a into a more modern town before being abandoned completely, it is revealed that everything he knows has been a elaborate lie to prevent another Armageddon, and that game's final Big Bad? His missing twin brother, now a Brainwashed and Crazy cyborg.
The above, while certainly not a high point for the said character, is only the beginning. Dread Queen Morag's sending false visions of her god abandoning her and the ensuing self-doubt/loathing is likely much more damaging to her already weakened psyche. So much for the Paladin's high will save...
And all of that doesn't even include all of the torments she underwent trying to rebel against Mephistopheles while in hell...
In NieR, Gideon from the Junk Heap is broken badly during the Time Skip by the death of his brother that he unwittingly caused. In the same game, Emil very nearly breaks after he is transformed into a skeletal robot after his Fusion Dance with his sister but Nier, Kainé, and Weiss' unwavering friendship keeps him aloft.
Yukari Takeba and Mitsuru Kirijo in Persona 3. Mitsuru falls into Heroic BSOD after Chairman Ikutsuki murders her father right before her eyes. Yukari herself falls into deep depression when she learns that her much adored Disappeared Dad had a hand in creasting the Shadows... and that's before she loses it upon the death of the MC and almost has a Face-Heel Turn in The Answer.
Marona of Phantom Brave gets broken, put together, then broken again throughout the game due to her ability to manifest ghosts, which everyone hates her for. Poor Marona...
For instance, in Episode 2, she is refused a reward for her monster hunting job because someone who openly admitted to being a professional job thief (who didn't really DO anything) pointed out to the client that she was possessed. Without proof. Yeah, people don't like her.
How about The sweet little girl who loved The Nameless One? Who was willing to do anything, anything at all for him? Even become a ghost inside a horrible, horrible place... Only, damn, the guy she loved had intended for her to die and become a ghost * as a way of spying on his adversary* and that was the reason he talked to her in the first place. When you meet Deionarra she's understandably very bitter about it. Gets even more heartbreaking if you are evil though.
An odd example is the Night Hag Ravel, somehow proving that even someone so incredibly creepy can be a Woobie.
From Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia, Isaac is a surprisingly good example. He was tricked by Kincaid, his teacher from Ranger school, into working for Team Dim Sun, thinking that they were the good guys. During his time there, he made the Miniremo units you have to fight against throughout the game, as well as working on most of the Altru Tower's design. (It turned out that Kincaid was only teaching at the school to find the kind of genius that could do those things.) He was understandably hit hard when he found this out. To make matters worse, it was Kincaid who broke it to him, and not too kindly, either. A short Heroic BSOD ensues. It gets worse, though—afterwards, his little sister Melody is kidnapped by Team Dim Sun and used as bait to get him to finish the machine. In the end, though, he seems to be just fine.
Gloria developed an abandonment complex after her mother sent her to a Boarding School of Horrors to turn her into a star - said mother's Bastard Boyfriend had promised to deliver letters between the two of them. Guess how that turned out. She could have gotten past that, since she did grow into a famous actress, but her mother became depressed, implied largely from their estrangement, and killed herself, causing Gloria to snap and sending her to the asylum for severe bipolar disorder.
Edgar was his school's liked and respected wrestling team captain in his teens when he fell in love with a girl, at once and a-most completely. They were boyfriend and girlfriend for a while until she very abruptly dumped him for a Prince Charmless male cheerleader, which caused him to completely lose focus and cost him an important match. The whole school turned on him for it, and he made a shift in attitude from apparent Manly Man to obvious Sensitive Guy, became isolated, and switched hobbies to painting, also ruined when at some point he became obsessive-compulsive and couldn't make himself paint anything but bullfights as a metaphor for his high school blues. Conscious anger management issues possibly unrelated or part of the package.
Happens to Xopi as well, who, as another Sikohlon child, is quite identical to how Dehl used to be.
Lisa Trevor of the Resident Evil remake. Her mother is murdered with a virus and her father is killed by Umbrella after building the Mansion. Then Umbrella discovers that she is nearly immortal, and begins injecting her with insane viruses just to see what would happen.
She was broken even before that point, as Lisa was also experimented on with the Progenitor virus, breaking her mind to the point that she killed a woman impersonating her own mother by tearing off her face. Thirty years later when she finds her mother's remains, she moans 'mother' before grabbing her skull and leaping into a bottomless pit.
Oichi in Sengoku Basara, in her story mode (she didn't break in other stories). Starting out as an introverted woman with casual dark powers, she got a very sadistic son of a bitch for a brother that is Oda Nobunaga, who tried to kill her, and then her husband AzaiNagamasatakes a deadly shot from Nobunaga meant for her. And then he forcefully drafts her into his army and makes her do many killings in his name, careless if she feels really guilty on the mass murdering. And she finally snaps, taken over with her evil side and kills her brother and his subordinates, all with a twisted Evil Laugh. She finally returns to her gentle self and cries over her atrocity, but even fate wants to break her. So, the ceiling in the temple where she killed her brother finally falls on her and the whole temple is completely consumed with fire, killing her.
Lili from Senko no Ronde is such a case. Apparently having been given to a laboratory by her family prior to the events of the game she still acts rather cute at first. She's shy, very insecure and easily scared... until she battles Ernula and it triggers something within her, causing a 180° turn in her personality and transforming her into an insane, blood-thirsty killing machine obsessed with beautifully destroying everything she can. As she gains an utterly evil look and an insane laughter she first starts by just beating up foes until she eventually resorts to even attacking her own comrades to satisfy her urge to destroy. She returns back to normal though when Mika defeats her in combat and she dies.
This happens to Sera, the cute and innocent Mysterious Waif of Digital Devil Saga. Whilst undergoing a series of experiments designed to exploit her psychic powers to talk to "God", she slowly falls in love with the lead scientist. When she simultaneously discovers that he was actually a Magnificent Bastard using her for his own ends and witnesses the murder of the only person who genuinely did care for her, her resulting emotional backlash causes The End of the World as We Know It.
This could be the reason Henry Townsend is so unemotional in Silent Hill 4. The guy was trapped in a tiny - and drab at best - apartment for at least a week before the game starts when chains appeared on the inside of his door, he has horrific nightmares about being killed by a ghost and words written in blood keep appearing everywhere. That's not even getting into what happens in the actual game. Poor guy must be traumatized.
This is what your character does, over and over again, to the remaining cast of Soul Nomad & the World Eaters if you choose the evil path. Usually with hilariously morbid results. The exception to this is Tricia, whose breaking (or pre-breaking, as it is in the evil path) is not particularly hilarious in either storyline.
Sergeant Lugo in Spec Ops: The Line. Lugo starts off as a fairly lighthearted comedic character, but quickly becomes more and more disturbed as the story progresses. When the player unknowingly orders Lugo to use whitephosphorus on a refugee camp, Lugo goes through a Heroic BSOD. The player really gets a sense of how far his mind is gone when he without flinching kills an unarmed man by shooting him point blank, a few seconds after having a casual conversation with him about radio tech.
If Lugo was alive, he would probably have PTSD. So, really, he is the lucky one.
Star Wars: The Old Republic: A dark side Sith Warrior can do this to Jaesa Wilsaam in a very visceral application of this trope, after doing the same thing to her master who succumbs to anger so thoroughly that it leaves her quite disillusioned about the Jedi.
And of course, dark side characters in general can do this to multiple cuties throughout their stories.
The universe of Suikoden loves to make us remember that War Is Hell and that it will break people, especially the cuties:
Suikoden II: Pilika. Dear God, poor Pilika. She is only a five years old little bubbly girl, and is a gut-wrenching example of how war can destroy a young life. First, her hometown, Toto, is destroyed and her parents are killed, making her one of the few survivors. Jowy, who was previously saved by her and who deeply cares about her, decided then to take her under his wing and to become her uncle. Alas, the protagonists are attacked by Luca Blight's army at Viktor's fort, and his mercenaries are overwhelmed, prompting Luca to invade the fort himself, where he stumbles upon a very frightened Pilika. He then proceeds to effortlessly kill Polk, a young mercenary, in front of her. Riou and Jowy try to stop him, but are easily beaten by Luca, who is about to gleefully cut Pilika in half, while a panicked Jowy is shouting desperatly at him to stop. They are only saved by the timely and rather rash actions of Viktor who more or less blow up the fort. Following these events, Pilika's portrait is altered for the rest of the game, replacing her previous happy expression by a deeply sorrowful one, and the events traumatized her so much that she became mute. She is then forced to flee to Muse along Riou, Jowy and Nanami, but Muse itself became the target of Luca's armies, and, worse, Jowy decided to turn traitor by killing himself the mayor of Muse, Anabelle, and opening the gate for the enemies, in order to get close to Luca and eventually usurp him as King of Highland. Pilika is then left alone with Riou and Nanami, away from her new parental figure. She briefly meets him again at Greenhill, but they are separated. It is not until the death of Luca Blight that she is able to reunite with Jowy, during a peace treaty conference... In which Jowy was about to kill Riou and Teresa in order to force the states of Dunan to surrender. In fact, the only reason his attempt failed was because Shu, Flik and Viktor correctly guessed what was going to happen, and organized a rescue party. Pilika was brought along only to serve as a human shield and emotional bargain against Jowy, who could not bring himself to kill his former best friends in front of her. At that point, after months of war and deep silence, she recovers her voice. However... She is once again separated from Jowy following the fall of L'Renouille, and sent to Harmonia along with Julia under new identities in order to begin a new life. It is not revealed if she meet him again in the future, and if she managed to really recover from the events of her traumatising childhood.
Suikoden V: While the Godwins fail to break Lymsleia, the same can't be said of Miakis, given that she's forced to watch as the Godwins use Lymsleia under threat of being stripped of her guardianship of her. When Lym refuses mourn her parents deaths (to deny the Godwins the satisfaction of seeing her cry), Miakis does so in her stead. She's eventually removed as Lym's guardian anyway, following her coronation and denied access to her; which causes Miakis to become increasingly despondent. Gizel finally orders her to aid Alenia in Doraat's defense; a calculated move to isolate Lymsleia from all support, aware Miakis would likely switch alliances and join Frey's army. But not before buying Alenia time to escape, resulting in this.And we all cry with Miakis.
Latooni Subota from Super Robot Wars Original Generation is a pre-broken cutie who was traumatized in the School, a Federation institute that turns children into pilots. Everyone in the Latooni class except for her died. She was constantly experimented on by Adler Koch and Agilla Setme. Finally, she was forced to undergo an intense experiment that caused her to suffer a kind of androphobia where she could barely talk. Over the course of the game she gets better, and starts making a full recovery. After the Divine Crusaders are defeated she becomes The Woobie.
In term of being broken, it looks like Latooni has been topped by Setsuko Ohara of Z, it starts off with her mentor and boyfriend as a team at first but as soon as Asakim the evil alternative Masaki shows up. Things go downhill for her, her team gets killed, evil Masaki takes a special moment to physically abuse her a bit and presumably traumatize her with showing her dead comrades remains and she is only subjected to more abuse later on, even having to fight her seiyu's idol Kira Yamato a few times. To make things worse, she can't get back at Not-Masaki by killing him, because that's exactly what he wanted, killing him will give him satisfaction and ends her in defeat, so she either has to admit defeat by killing him, or let him live... and break her even further.
And her endings aren't exactly happy either In her average ending, she is stranded alone and eventually dies due to using her mech too much when it's been revealed that it eats up her life (but at least she's happy knowing that she saved the world), worst ending places her in a world of eternal strife (and she gets to die first) and while the best ending reunites her with her team, they do not know her as Setsuko at all
Poor Guybrush Threepwood. He starts off as Adorkable and happy-go-lucky in Tales of Monkey Island, but then he sees his wife Elaine seemingly willing to trust a human LeChuck over Guybrush's objections. As if that wasn't bad enough, he ends up getting his hand cut off by Morgan LeFlay; breaks down in grief after failing to protect her from being fatally stabbed by LeChuck; gets stabbed in the back (and in the chest) twice (or maybe three times if you count the Voodoo Lady); and suffers a Heroic BSOD when it looks like Elaine has done a complete Face-Heel Turn to leave him for LeChuck. It all ends with one terribly brutal beatdown from LeChuck that leaves zombie Guybrush in such physical agony he can't even joke anymore. The poor dear really just needed a hug at the end.
Tales of Rebirth had this done to Hilda Rhambling. First off, she's been branded as an impure because she's a Half-Human Hybrid, so she went out of her way to hide that fact, with Nice Hat and tearing up her horn. However, after a failure in her job, Tohma blew her cover away and gleefully boasted on how dirty she is. If that wasn't enough, later in the game, just when Hilda could have come to terms with her estranged mother, she made a Heroic Sacrifice in front of her, killed by Tohma, and after she realized she never once called her "mother" and she's now dead, she broke down crying. Truly one of Tales Series' biggest woobies.
Genis Sage from Tales of Symphonia. Where to even start? Perhaps with the Fantastic Racism against his race everywhere you go, including people wishing all half-elves would die... in the starting village, in the first couple hours of the game, to his face (if you have him set as the display character) or to the face of one of his few friends. It only gets worse from there: racism against half-elves just gets worse and worse as you proceed through the game, including Genis and his sister Raine being sentenced to death simply for being the half-elves in your party of criminals, there's a village where racism against half-elves is so bad that even the racists passing through are uncomfortable and a boy in the armor shop flat-out says they're not allowed to sell to half-elves, all of which contributes to him getting more and more bitter about humans as the game progresses. With racism aside, Genis considers himself a murderer for the death of one of his few friends, which also caused him and the main character to be banished from their home; he falls in love with a girl who clearly thinks of him as a child; and the first half-elf friend he makes is actually THE VILLAIN OF THE GAME IN DISGUISE. Someone really, really hated this poor kid.
Izebel from Tears To Tiara 2. She was a very beautiful and talented soldier and bureaucrat. Very serious, by-the-book, adorkable, and kind (well at least to people not of her own generation). She loves Hadrubal, is his secretary, is guardian and a Cool Big Sis to his son Hamil. Then she betrays Hasdrubal, takes his burnt corpse to The Empire to replace him as Governor General of Hispania, becomes probably the most hated person in the province, and fights Hamil when he grows up. And the whole thing was on Hasdrubal's orders before he took his own life due to political machinations far out of both of their control. All the while she has to pretend to be loyal to The Empire while helping La Résistance behind the scenes, without even La Résistance knowing they're being helped. All for a cause that she herself didn't really believe in. But she continues to follow Hasdrubal's last orders because she loves him that much.
The traitor in Wing Commander II tries to do this to Spirit. She retaliates by blowing up the space station her fiance's life was threatened over, in an interesting way.
Albedo attempts this on MOMO in Xenosaga. Debatable whether or not it worked.
Atoli of .hack//G.U. She's already depressed and suicidal in real life due to being bullied and rejected by her "friends" and parents, despite her happy and perky online facade, and then Sakaki mind rapes her with false guilt and infects her with AIDA, causing her to snap, and forcing Haseo to beat the crap out of her to save her. Then, he has to slap her and give her a harsh wake-up call back to reality. It did her good in the long haul, but still.