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Tear Jerker: Fallout 3
Sure the Wasteland is a horrible place to live. Sure, 90% of the people you meet want you dead. Sure, you can play the game as the most evil person in the history of reality. But even the strongest heart of steel can be moved to tears by some of the simplest interactions in the game.
The unique dialogue choices you get if your companions are there after you agree to go into the Project Purity chamber. This troper, sap that he is, went to tell Dogmeat he was a good boy one last time...and discovered a new line that read "I think it's time for us to say goodbye, old buddy. Take care of yourself, okay?" Honestly, I nearly bawled.
Returning to Vault 101 in 3 and rescuing its inhabitants from the new draconian Overseer, only to be told that because I'd killed him I'd have to leave, never to return, by the character's childhood friend and possibly sweetheart was almost too much for this troper. He had to stop playing for a while.
Even if you convince him to give up peacefully, she still kicks you out.
As a little bit of meta-text, talking either side down doesn't end the quest yet. The final mission objective reads "Leave Vault 101 forever".
"If anyone can hear this, this is Bob Anderstein. [My] family and I have taken refuge in a drainage chamber not too far from a radio relay tower outside of D.C. My boy is very sick, needs medical assistance. Please help if you can. We're listening for your response. 3950 kilohertz." This troper had to turn the game off for a while after this encounter...
There's a certain house with a Mister Handy that can be programmed to do several different things. If you make it read a poem to the family's children, you can follow it and witness it reading the story to two tiny skeletons. What makes it worse is that the poem is "There Will Come Soft Rains," which is a lecture about how nothing in the world would miss the human race after it's gone. This is actually the title to a Ray Bradbury short story, which in turn was named after the real-life poem by Sara Teasedale.
Hell, almost the entirety of 3 is enough to make me sob. Specifically, the very sad background music that plays when you wander the wasteland; it almost makes you wish something will attack you so the confrontation score kicks in (or you could just use the radio). Even worse than that, though, is the bit with the player's father. Damn, just damn. You have to do so much just to see him again after you leave the vault, and on top of that, he dies soon afterward.
Liberty Prime's death. "I DIE...SO THAT DEMOCRACY...MAY...LIVE."
Made slightly better when you realize that the Brotherhood of Steel are working to rebuild him. It will take decades to do it, but someday Liberty Prime shall walk alongside humanity once again.
The log entries of the nurse in Germantown. Even up to the very end, running out of medication and dying of acute radiation exposure, she and her colleagues still went out every day and did everything they could for their patients, even if all they could offer was whiskey and painkillers. Her last log details her dismay that she couldn't have been the last to die, as she knew there were still people out there that needed care. This troper found herself experiencing two very intense emotions at once: professional pride and heartache.
Moira Brown in Megaton is normally an extremely cheery person, but for the first time I actually clicked on a few dialogues that I've never listened to when I didn't have some sort of MP3 playing. Her heartfelt explanation for why she wants you to help her create the Wasteland Survival Guide made me tear up, something that never happens:
Moira: Well, look around at the world we live in. It may be okay to you, but I've read about what it used to be like, and this isn't it. So we all need something that keeps us going, despite all the terrible things around us. For me, it's things like this book... did you ever try to put a broken piece of glass back together? Even if the pieces fit, you can't make it whole again the way it was. But if you're clever, you can still use the pieces to make other useful things. Maybe even something wonderful, like a mosaic. Well, the world broke just like glass. And everyone's trying to put it back together like it was, but it'll never come together the same way... the Wasteland Survival Guide isn't much towards that lofty goal, but it's an important one. And that's why I need your help. [voice cracks a little] I don't think I can do it alone.
This troper was absolutely crushed when he heard Three Dog completely bashing Moira's book and calling it the most useless piece of dangerous trash ever. Moira's dream was forever ruined, and I had no one to blame for it but myself and my own laziness. I immediately restarted the game and did her quest RIGHT, because the last truly good and innocent person in the Capital Wasteland deserved better.
Just remember that if you hear Three Dog saying this, it's a What the Hell, Player? moment: Three Dog is insulting the book only if you did the quests badly !
Here's one for Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can talk Moira into not writing the book at all, which gives you the Dream Crusher perk. Moira also stops being cheery if you take this path.
I had to stop playing my evil game for a while after crushing Moira's dream. It didn't help that I went to see Leo and heard him being all pissed because I made him my dealer. I realized that the world had already gone to Hell, and I was just making people's lives everywhere worse. It's still hard to hear, every time I visit Megaton, how sad Moira is. The game makes it worse by having her THANK YOU for it, and giving you bonuses. I can easily go throught Tenpenny Tower and kill evey single person there, but this was just too much.
In that same house is a second, smaller room next to the above, filled with darts and baseball gear. This troper was rummaging for lootable goods and thinking "Damn, just junk" when she went into first-person to make sure she hadn't missed anything. Then she noticed the roller skates by the bed and it hit her: This was a kid's room. The skeletons next door were his parents. But there was no child-sized skeleton nearby, so one can only assume the child died before his parents, who buried him before taking their own lives. What happened to that child, and what must the parents have been going through?
Even worse: What if the kid were still in school? Notice how all the pre-war clocks seem frozen at late morning/early afternoon? The parents probably had a relative or a friend quickly drive to the school to pick the kid up so they could all die together. Obviously, the kid and the relative/friend didn't make it back home...
Alternatively - and much more heartbreaking - it's possible their child was one of the kids on the trip to Little Lamplight, meaning that their child survived the nuclear exchange and was alive all along, but they never knew.
Somewhere in the outskirts of the Capital Wasteland is a little area with empty Nuka-Cola bottles lined up in a row, BB ammo scattered about, and a smaller-than-adult skeleton with a BB gun and full Nuka-Colas lying beside it. A short distance away is the blackened earth of a bomb impact. This kid went out for some leisurely target practice and probably never saw it coming.
Wandering through the dead and barren wasteland and having "America The Beautiful" come on the radio squashed this British troper like a bug.
Similarly, standing on a bluff after "Trouble on the Homefront," having lost both your father and the place you grew up in, and looking out over the blasted remains of America as "Way Back Home" plays was bitterly, bitterly ironic. The countryside Crosby's singing of doesn't exist anymore, and you've got no home to go back to.
I talked President Eden into destroying the Enclave at Raven Rock. My radio was off, and as I was fleeing the base and watching the security robots vaporize the Enclave soldiers, the background music turned into something that sounded like "Taps" played. I didn't bat an eyelash at anything else in the game, but this broke me. I kept wondering if those people under the armor were just Punch Clock Villains.
One of the Enclave scientists at Adams Air Force Base has a holotape from her big brother telling her that he was being transferred over to the Satellite Relay Station. The player likely killed him and if the player got the holotape, you probably killed the last surviving member of that family.
Fallout: New Vegas implies that something like this did occur. Dr Whitley, the kindhearted creator of E-D-E was one of the personnel working at Adams Air Force Base in 2277 and is mentioned as being utterly devastated when Autumn cruelly ordered that his Eyebot "children" be scrapped and melted down into Hellfire armour. While his fate is unknown, it's speculated he most likely died atthe hands of the Lone Wanderer.
Arkansas of Minefield, an old man still patrolling the settlement of his youth, which was wiped clean of life when slavers captured or murdered everyone save Arkansas, including his family. Now he's dedicated to killing anyone who tries to despoil the ghost-town that's left, and you can't even help him if you try; too many years in the Wasteland make him regard everyone as an enemy. He's just gonna keep his post on that tower until he dies, or someone kills him, or you sell him into slavery. It just seems so... heartbreakingly lonely.
Sort of Fridge Logic, but talking to people in Rivet City tells you that Trinnie, "loose" alcoholic, came from Lamplight. After running the Big Trouble in Big Town quest and realizing just how unprepared Lamplighters are when they're forced to leave, it kind of makes you wonder if bright, mature Lucy or adorable little Bumble could wind up like Trinnie someday.
Watching the sun rising from Arlington Cemetery, with the blasted district spread out below and your PipBoy playing "America the Beautiful," is oddly affecting. Thank God "Taps" wasn't on the playlist.
Going back to the Disaster Relief Station in the Point Lookout DLC after getting the Krivbeknih and finding that Marcella, the humble, goodhearted missionary you just met barely a few days ago, was murdered while you were gone. The ending of the audio recording you find with her, where she tearfully begs God for forgiveness even as she's bleeding to death, is just twisting the knife. The only indicator that I headed straight to Blackhall Manor after I found Marcella was a trail of corpses ending with Obadiah himself.
Vault 87 is mostly straight up terror, but there's one moment that fits here as well if only for how horrifyingly effective it is. Early on in the vault, you find the log of a man named Peter Stevens whose son Jason has died. This hit him really hard, to the point that when he heard the children of Little Lamplight in the tunnels outside the vault, he went completely insane. This on its own would be bad enough, but later on you can find a medical computer with a "Fatality Records" option to click. Doing so will show "Natural causes: 4. Unknown/Unexplained: 87." And then it lists them. All of them. You just keep clicking through pages and pages and pages of the dead, almost all with that "Unknown/Unexplained" marker. The cherry on top? The second name on the list is Jason Stevens. This troper had to sit back from the screen after that.
It's a common misconception that the reason you can't harm kids in this game is because of the obvious moral and legal issues with allowing players to do that. No, the real reason is so you can hate yourself forever if you take the evil path and kill their parents/guardians. Take this line from Maggie if you talk to her after you kill her guardian, Billy Creel:
Maggie: Billy always said that I get too friendly with people I don't know, and it's dangerous... I miss him.
When you activate the Purifier at the end of the main quest, the water inside the Rotunda chamber begins to bubble, swirl, and finally clear up. Standing in the center of all this is the classic statue of Jefferson, which becomes visible as the water gets less cloudy. But just for a moment, before any features are visible? It looks just like James, watching his child willingly make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. I did my best, dad.
I was doing the Temple of the Union quest, and it glitched to where the group was heading all over the map. eventually I'd lost them. Figuring them dead, I... I kinda gave up. I went to that lake in front of the Memorial, and let the radiation kill me. Before I died, I pulled out my trusty hunting rifle, looked to Mr. Lincoln, and shot all 5 shots into the air. I was just reloading when I died... only to respawn and have the Temple completely okay.
This game can be hard to play if you're from the DC-Metro area. It's one thing to be moved by seeing the iconic Mall in ruins. It's another thing entirely to see Farragut West Metro and think "that's where my best friend lives" or knowing Rivet City is at the remains of your dad's office.
For bonus points, try finding your own house in the ruins.