The first one in the series is, of course, the death of Mia Fey.
On a related note, in the new web musical being made for Ace Attorney, one of the songs ("I'll Be There") turns a funny moment into a pretty sad one. In the game, Maya tells Nick about the note Mia left for him, which says to take care of Phoenix if anything happens to Mia. Phoenix is puzzled, but then Maya laughs and states that Mia meant the office. The music at that point is really depressing and Maya and Phoenix sound so heartbroken.
In the first game's second case, when the time for Maya to pick a defence attorney before the state assigns her one is up, the player is given a choice - "Defend Maya" or "Go home". If the player selects "Go home", Phoenix narrates about finding out about her guilty verdict in the newspaper a little later, the high possibility of never seeing Maya again, and asking Mia if he made the right choice. He then falls silent, before angrily announcing that he won't let it happen, and the game picks up from the "Defend Maya" option.
The victory music is playing, the deductions are brilliant, and it was absolutely necessary to save an innocent man, but there's just something not right about making a second grader relive seeing his hero (who never loses EVER) die. The Ocular Gushers actually make it feel worse.
It's a bit of contentious topic, but some think that Dee Vasquez's story is a major Tearjerker. The man she loved was killed by a coworker, who claimed it was an accident. She doubted that, and set about ruining his life as revenge, dedicating her life to the studio. Then he tries to murder her and frame Will Powers for it. She freaks out and kills him in self-defense, and hastily tries hiding the evidence, accidently framing Powers even further. She never wished Will any ill will, and honestly considering what we've seen of Jack Hammer (the fact he was so jealous of Will his response was to frame his murder on him), the idea that Manuel's death wasn't an accident looks pretty likely.
When you see Edgeworth in the Detention Center, the first time he holds his arm and looks away with that extremely troubled look on his face is really quite sad. Up to that point, pretty much the only emotions he has shown are boredom, smug confidence, and anger. Also he believes that he killed his own father. The guilt has haunted him for 15 years, as has a nightmare that he has EVERY NIGHT. And when he initially tries to refuse Phoenix's help... When he says to Wright "I was the true criminal of DL-6. I killed my father." that's just too sad. Especially when you play it a second time, and you know that he's not responsible after all. And, in Rise from the Ashes (Case 1-5) when Edgeworth is considering resigning, even though the forged evidence he used wasn't his fault, and he had no idea. "I've always made my own decisions about what I can or cannot do... Forgiving myself is something I cannot do." He's really quite a tragic character.
This one piece of dialogue in case 1-4, when he's discussing the nightmare:
Maya: But...it's just a dream, right?
Edgeworth: That thought has been the only thing keeping me sane for these past fifteen years. But what if I'm wrong? What if it was real?
The only thing stopping him from breaking down for good was the fact that he could convince himself that his dream was just a dream. Just think about that for a moment.
Yanni Yogi's story. He was the suspect in the DL-6 incident, where Edgeworth's father was killed. Hammond, his lawyer and a man who cared not for his defendents, ordered him to fake brain damage in order to win the case. Following his orders, Yogi lost his job, his social life, and his fiancee, who committed suicide. All he could do was sit in hatred for 15 years, with nothing but a parrot by his side. For a crime he didn't even commit!
If you thought that was heartbreaking, watch the story's depiction in live action movie. Although many of the details stay the same, you see from his eyes how truly cold-hearted Hammond was, how badly the trial destroyed his life through the vandalism of his home, leading to Polly hanging herself. If that wasn't enough, the final scene with Yogi ends with him seeing the spirit of his wife telling him that she still loves him and he breaks down crying.]
It's even more tragic than that. Parrots have a tendency to repeat sounds or phrases in response to another sound or phrase that they've come to associate with it. Like saying "Hello?" in their master's voice when they hear a phone ring. Now, with that in mind, think about what this exchange must mean:
"I'm sorry, Polly..." "I love you, Yogi."
This parrot remembers a lot of conversations he and Polly had that went like this. Yogi probably had a tendency to blame himself for troubles. His fiancee's response? Not "That's okay," not "I forgive you," just simply "I love you." I've already forgiven you, because I love you, and nothing will change that. "I love you, Yanni Yogi." Then one day he gets caught up in a murder case, and only escapes punishment by convincing the world he's gone insane. Then Polly kills herself. Could she not forgive him this time? Yogi must have blamed himself. He's regretted it every day of his life, wishing he could tell her how sorry he is. And every time he says "I'm sorry, Polly," the parrot says "I love you, Yogi." In her voice. It's the only thing that's kept him going.
When asked to identify himself in the game, he reveals that he is indeed Yanni Yogi and is stoic throughout the entire scene, saying that he is indeed the same person who stood in court 15 years ago and doesn't regret his actions. In the movie, however, he lacks the composure of his game counterpart. When asked the same questions, he yells "I didn't do it! I didn't kill Mr. Edgeworth!" The viewer can feel all the pain and sorrow he's dealt with for over 15 year with just those four words even before the flashback begins.
After Phoenix and Maya get tazed. When Maya says she wishes she hadn't woken up at all after giving a short speech about why she sucks.
Maya's departure. She certainly couldn't hold back the tears.
The 'final photo'. Not just because it has the main cast of the game- Phoenix, Maya, Edgeworth, Gumshoe, Larry and even Mia in spirit form, but particularly, Edgeworth's face. For the first time in the game, he's smiling. Not the trollish smirk kind he does in court, but actually smiling. Plus with the 'FREEDOM' banner...
The ending to 1-4.
And so my story ends. Time to turn a new page... and say goodbye to the novice defense attorney that I once was... Now a new story begins... With the same old crazy cast of characters...
From the movie, there's Edgeworth's flashback to seeing his dad in the Evidence room. Not only does he see his dad seemingly steal inconvenient evidence to destroy it, but then he watches Yani Yogi beat his dad up. And when Edgeworth steps out, his dad has this horrified look, like he desperately doesn't want his kid seeing this. And unlike in the game, Gregory actually sees Edgeworth pointing a gun, which makes his lying from the afterlife to protect Edgeworth even more tragic.
Rise from the Ashes
Remember Lana, everyone's favorite Defrosting Ice Queen? She finally smiles. "It's been a long time, your honor."
Lana and Ema hug at the end. Their relationship was so touching throughout the entire case.
And earlier in that case, as the realization hits as to exactly what the evidence in Gant's safe implicates, and why Lana has acted the way she has: Neil Marshall appears not to have been killed by Joe Darke at all, but in a tragic accident was pushed to his death by her own sister. Lana has spent two years taking the fall for Gant to protect her sister from this knowledge. And then Phoenix has to make the accusation in court to prove Lana innocent. It somehow becomes even more heartwrenching when Ema was willing to accept this truth if it could save Lana. Just... no. Of course, it all turns out to be a plot by the real murderer, Damon Gant, to gain control over the Prosecutor's Office. Exposing Gant as the real murderer is very satisfying.
Also, when Ema tells you that she became a budding scientific investigator to give the police lots of evidence so Lana wouldn't have to forge it. D'awwww...
There's a reason everybody remembers the SL-9 case with a mix of sadness and anger. Ultimately, it caused the deaths of two good police officers and send several people into prison or at least caused them to loose their jobs, which most of them seemed to be greatly dedicated to. Not to mention all the emotional suffering it caused for all the various participants. The worst case of Fridge Tragedy, is about Damon Gant. As much as he's an evil manipulative bastard with a stare of death, it's noticeable that, after his big breakdown, he doesn't act like a sore loser at all. Plus, he once WAS the ace of the police force. The judge also remembers him as a different person. While he doesn't get any Freudian Excuse, just the implication that Gant may actually be a bit of a Fallen Hero makes the thing a whole lot sadder because the reasons he went evil are so simple, pointless and banal. This gives the whole thing a feel that it all could've been avoided so easily...
The first game's credit's theme has a feeling of "The show's over, but there's more to come!" 1-5 has a spy-like feel to it. Justice For All has a moving piece. Then there's the credits theme to Trials and Tribulations, which will hopefully make you feel (mostly) satisfied with the Phoenix Wright trilogy.
Detective Gumshoe, having gone through a lengthy series of pay-cuts throughout the game, feels betrayed in 1-5, when allowing Phoenix and Ema into Gant's office gets him fired. The guy never gets a break, despite doing everything he possibly can to support the prosecution and catch criminals.
Justice for All
The Lost TurnaboutReunion, and Turnabout
Mimi Miney's story. There isn't really anything that tells you that Mimi actually wanted to do all that. She fell asleep while driving because of being exploited by Dr. Grey? True, it was an accident. She said she took her purse and got of the car as fast as she could? True, though with the panic she could as well had taken Ini's. Dr. Hotti said that they used her car licence photo to reconstruct her face? True, but he also said that the car license was burnt with the rest of the car. The doctors could perfectly have made a terrible mistake. And finally, did she take the place of her sister? Yes, she did. But she had no other choice. And it's not like she liked, either. She breaks up in tears when saying how much she hates her life, how much she hates the occult and how sorry she is for everything. And spending a whole year doing something you hate, without being able to complain because you're meant to love it? No wonder she promised revenge against Grey. And actually didn't break her promise.
The death of Ini Miney, a little airheaded but pure sister of her? Nobody can say that that isn't sad at all.
When Maya is arrested in Case 2-2 for the murder of Dr. Grey, she's convinced that she is the one who killed him, and emphatically tells Phoenix that he can't take her case, because she's a murderer and he'll lose. Phoenix tells her "Stop it!", making it clear that he will not abandon her. That's when she breaks down into tears.
Maya: ...Help me...
Maya: Nick, help me... I'm scared...
Turnabout Big Top
Though many loathe the case, the end of Turnabout Big Top where Acro bursts into tears during his Motive Rant almost made the player do the same.
Russel Berry and his tragic death. His wife died, he was a single father to Regina, adopted Acro and Bat, treated the whole circus like his family, and was an all-around good man. Then he died accidentally, and he wasn't even the intended victim.
To put it fairly, almost everyone involved in the case was hurt in one way or another. Russel Berry for his death, Acro for killing his father figure by accident, Max for being implicated through a series of horrible coincidences, Moe for having to introduce Regina to the cruel truth and Regina herself for unknowingly instigating the whole mess.
Farewell, My Turnabout
Accusing The Witness takes a decidedly non-comedic turn in the fourth case of the second game, where you are forced to accuse Adrian Andrews, who by this point is woobie-tastic, just to buy time. If that's not bad enough, you know full well that you're buying time to defend a bastard so magnificent that he produced a glass of cognac from Hammer Space just to swirl it in your face as he taunts you, the player. The game also forces you to press the button yourself, a la the end of Metal Gear Solid 3, to increase your complicity that much more. Bet you never thought you would agonize so hard about a "choice" in a strictly linear game without multiple endings.
Farewell, My Turnabout. This case really TESTS your morality. Maya's kidnapping, the near conviction of the innocent Adrian Andrews, trying to prove the GUILTY AS HELL Engarde innocent, the gallery's reactions, the multiple close calls on Maya's situation, the Sadistic Choice where there is little hope for Taking A Third Option, and the Bad Ending. Easily one of the best cases of Phoenix Wright and one of the most heartbreaking as well.
In the middle of this stressful case, you're on the verge of rescuing Maya only to discover that you're too late and the villain has made his getaway. All that's left is a message from Maya, bravely telling you to forget about her safety and get the scumbag convicted. And as you're reading it, Maya's face appears on the screen in a visual voiceover, and thenthe slow version of her theme starts up...
If Phoenix holds his head down on the defense bench, you know someone's heart just got strangled. In 2-4, the case comes to an end on the first day before Phoenix could get a complete acquittal. Phoenix sits there, even when the judge has left the court, believing Maya to be murdered.
Adrian Andrews' and Celeste Inpax's tragic past is one big tearjerker: after being discarded like a napkin by Matt, Celeste fell in love with Juan... and Matt, asshole that he is, told him all about his former relationship with Celeste so he'd abandon her over his neverending feud with Matt, driving her to suicide. The shock was so great that Adrian tried to kill herself as well. You've got to wonder what it's like to be the manager of the nasty bully that led to your mentor's suicide.
The Bad Ending: If Phoenix Wright fails to pick the one evidence (the videotape) and witness (Shelly de Killer) to convince Matt Engarde a Guilty verdict, the judge finds Matt Engarde Not Guilty. Although Maya Fey is no longer a hostage, Phoenix never sees her again, Adrian Andrews later gets tried and found guilty, and this failure is eating Phoenix so much that he quits being a lawyer. The Miracle Never Happen.
What really makes accusing Adrian hurt so much is after de Killer claims that she's his client, and the Judge is about to declare Engarde Not Guilty, she panics and starts telling everyone that she didn't do it, even looking at Phoenix for help.
Case 4 is not only full of tears, but SO MUCH nerves. Just playing through the first trial, knowing you have to finish it in a day, and then failing to do so, we get to see Wright's head-in-hands sprite for the first time, and it's just soul-crushing, because you know just how freaked out and worried he is for Maya... and the first time he gets called by De Killer and finds out she's kidnapped, he TOTALLY freaks out, almost passes out, is willing to pay anything... You can just imagine him screaming at the phone every time he gets a call. Poor Phoenix.
And the worst part? This sort of thing could actually happen in real life: DA's could get a client who is guilty as sin, and are forced to prove their innocence. The only difference is, the miracle will never come.
At the end of Justice for All, when Franziska breaks down in tears after Edgeworth returns her whip.
Hell, Franziska in general once Fridge Horror kicks in. Her beauty mark is under her eye, which in Japan is meant to imply her as a tragic character, someone who has a lot of deep internal sadness, as the beauty mark under her eye represents a tear. Note that Mia's beauty mark is on her chin, despite Mia being the one who dies. When you realise Franziska is probably an extremely lonely person who also just lost her father recently, it gets quite depressing.
Simply this line from Edgeworth, where the entire screen has gone black and all you can see is his sprite and the text box: "And if you don't...you cannot change the ending of this story." It doesn't seem like he's talking to Phoenix, but rather you, the player. It's your decision now. You're the one who has to save Maya's life for Phoenix and get Matt Engarde convicted. YOU must change the outcome of this story if you want a happy ending. That line just makes you go "Woah"...
Turnabout MemoriesThe Stolen TurnaboutRecipe for Turnabout
In 3-3, making Viola Cadaverini confess that she knows the man she claims to love may not feel anything for her. Making that slightly creepy, ghostly looking girl cry... god damn you, Furio Tigre. You and your seizure inducing breakdown. What makes it worse is that her crying animation is the exact same one used for her creepy laughter. It makes you wonder if all those times, she was just trying to hold back tears...
In retrospect to Ace Attorney, it becomes apparent the attorney Mia wanted Maya to go if she got into trouble wasn't Grossberg but Diego Armando, but Diego was already in a coma at that point, and Mia knew it. This possibly makes it even sadder, in that she almost certainly would have wanted to leave Maya in Diego's care, but she can't.
The end of Case 4 in which Terry Fawles kills himself.
There's also this speech by Diego Armando, given if you cycle to the end of Terry's testimony, that details how tragic the situation is, and indicates just why Mia blames herself.
Armando: I know it's obvious, but... he's clearly lying. He's been cursed... by Dahlia Hawthorne. He'll probably go to his grave still believing in her. Even if you can show he's lying, the poor guy will still be cursed... You'll still have to point out the contradiction anyway. That's the curse of being a defense lawyer, I guess...
Bridge to the Turnabout
While the last two cases of Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations have a number of tragic moments, there's one line in particular: "I'm the assistant manager at Wright & Co. Law Offices." To elaborate, this is the profession stated by Maya on the witness stand after finding out about the death of her mother. Note the complete lack of the phrase "spirit medium" much less the "new Master of Kurain".
In the last part of 3-5 at the sudden, awful realization of what really happened at Hazakura as soon as Maya says she saw a man in the darkness. Godot carries on the trial to convict himself and finally, there's the big reveal of Godot's past. "I hope you remember... my name is Diego Armando." Then they throw the tears of blood at you.
Iris confessing that she, not Dahlia, was the one whom Phoenix dated for six months. Does Phoenix, having been deceived all that time, react with anger? No - instead, he tells her, "You really are the person I always thought you were. Even after Dahlia Hawthorne was found guilty... I still believed in you." Iris' response: "Thank you", with tears in her eyes. Only made better by this line being the exact cue for the Trial theme to start.
Phoenix: "She'll always be with me, until the day I die", huh... Maya: ...? Phoenix: There's a rule or something all Masters are to follow, isn't there? To never take the charm off until the day you die... . Pearl: Th-That's the Master's Talisman... Phoenix: The thing that Misty kept by her heart and would never take off... Phoenix: It wasn't the container that was important. Rather, it was the contents. The talisman is opened to reveal something inside Bikini: Th-That's...! Pearl: A photo? Maya: Ah...! M...Mother... [The photo is revealed to be a childhood photo of Maya as a toddler, and Mia as a kid, trying to fix the broken sacred urn, with Maya bawling on one side and Mia with a shocked look on her face at getting caught red handed. Misty carried this around with her for her whole life.]
And the scene that followed, with Turnabout Sisters' Ballad playing once more and with the whole 'Maya Fey is much stronger than we think' and telling Franziska who Maya is being strong for. Going with that, the implications that Franziska doesn't understand love or anything like that, owing to the implication that she felt never earned her own father's love due to being second best to Miles all the time since she was just two.
And just when you think the game's going to let up, the ending credits include a shot of Mia, Misty, and Diego looking happy together... in heaven, it is heavily implied. Also a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, even more so when you realize that it's a shot of Larry's sketchbook.
The sketch as a whole. it has every main character of the Ace Attorney series up to that point, plus Misty. Phoenix, Maya, Pearl, Edgeworth, Gumshoe, Franziska, Mia, Godot and Misty. And every single one of them have an expression that simply says 'Peace at last...' You know that this is the end of the Phoenix trilogy. You look at that photo, you're reminded of what you played through, and you can now move on to Apollo Justice.
Case 3-5, at the very end. Don't forget that he evidently started crying just moments before, and that he said the exact same to Mia earlier in the game.
Godot/Diego: You'd do well to remember this. The only time a lawyer can cry is when it's all over.
One that doesn't strike until you've replayed the game is the first encounter with Elise Deauxnim. Once you realize who she is and why she's on the mountain, the first time you run into her with Maya can be rather sad. She has to keep her facade up as Elise even though this is the first time she's seen her daughter, who is now 19, since she was two.
The notion that the usually selfish and icy Franziska decides not to prosecute Iris's case, even though she greatly desires to defeat Phoenix in court. Instead, she stays out with Sister Bikini at the Inner Temple. She works without sleep to break five nigh-impossible locks and rescue Maya, on a freezing cold mountain, all to rescue someone she barely knows. Her Character Development is phenomenal.
In 3-5, when Dahlia taunts Phoenix (and the player) by suggesting that Maya, stricken with guilt from killing her own mother, killed herself. The aforementioned "Phoenix holding his head down on the bench" sprite comes into play again. Fortunately, Maya didn't kill Misty nor did she off herself, but Phoenix hasn't come to that conclusion yet.