War Is Hell: Video Games


  • In the simulation game Afterlife (or rather "Hell Is War"), the most advanced hell building for the wrathful is a war where the damned are forced to fight endless battles, and if they are killed their bodies are regenerated and sent to fight again and again.
  • In the backstory to Another Code, both of the Edwards brothers got drafted into World War II. Henry manged to recover despite losing an arm, but Thomas turned into a Shell-Shocked Veteran and lost his trust in others, setting up in the tragedies that would befall the Edwards family.
  • The snippets of story that accompany Armor Alley emphasize this theme.
    I don't recognize any of the guys I'm with here, and I don't know if it's because they're green troops and all my friends are dead, or because I'm losing my mind.
  • Of all works, Army Men: Sarge's War has this as its theme. The fact that the characters are only Living Toys doesn't make the ending any less of a Tear Jerker.
  • If there's one thing many of the named protagonists in BlazBlue can agree on, it's that this trope applies to the Ikaruga Civil War. Here are a list of reasons why:
    • While Jin Kisaragi ended the war in a matter of days once he was let loose upon the battlefield, his life was made miserable as a result of it by being Kicked Upstairs with Noel Vermillion assigned as his secretary. His memories of the war are vague due to a second dose of mindrape from Yuuki Terumi - the first instance being Ragna's Dark and Troubled Past.
    • The survivors from Ikaruga lost their land to the "ruthless dictators" of the Novus Orbis Librarium, with a number of them fleeing to settlements like Kagutsuchi's Ronin-gai to build anew. While Bang leads them in their labors and helps defend the people from lawlessness, even he feels the war was "a foolish quarrel in which neither side was innocent". Slight Hope reveals that not every timeline ended the war swiftly wth Jin's arrival, and Lord Tenjou Amanohokosaka's death by explosion shockwave turned the affair into a total meatgrinder that saw Ikaruga completely destroyed.
    • Not even the NOL is free from the sin of the war. Many neutral parties view the NOL as becoming more tyrannical as a result of the war, and the inhabitants of Orient Town are unduly resentful. House Mutsuki even voiced complaints to the war's necessity, and were delegated to the Ikaruga reconstruction effort for their trouble. Lord Tenjou's other disciple, Kagura Mutsuki, was disgusted by the utter lack of regard for the sanctity of life involved, and has been planning a coup to install the rightful heir, Tenjou's son Homura, to the throne.
    • While the official reports say that the people of Ikaruga violently revolted against the NOL, Makoto reveals that Ikaruga attempted diplomacy first, but the NOL insisted upon bloodshed anyway, with the intent of causing as many casualties as possible ("The more death, the better!"). Likewise, Jin reveals that NOL dissenters to the war save House Mutsuki were summarily executed for treason against the throne.
    • This is where things take an even darker twist than the norm for this trope: the entire war was waged by then-Imperator Hades: Izanami, Relius Clover, and Yuuki Terumi for precisely three purposes - first to clean up (we mean murder) former Imperator Tenjou, second to close the net on Kushinada's Lynchpin and Nox Nyctores Houyoku: Rettenjou, and third to use the souls of the war victims to create a new Black Beast (the goal was still Kusanagi) with which to destroy Master Unit: Amaterasu, using Yuuki Terumi and Boundary Interface Prime Field Device Number Twelve (aka Noel Vermillion) as the final components; while Terumi was willing to commit to the merge for the power to destroy, the remnants of Saya within Noel were not, which gave Take-Mikazuchi the time it needed to destroy Ibukido. The Library for Chronophantasma also suggests that Terumi founded both the NOL and Ikaruga's backers in Sector Seven to perpetuate an everlasting war for his own benefit. With Doomsday averted and the world's seithr neutralized by Kushinada's Lynchpin, the world's only hope for survival lay not just in terminating the villains, but also preventing what's left of it from erupting into yet another large-scale conflict...
  • The Brothers in Arms series started with a fairly strong anti-war message and has been gaining in intensity since then. Hell's Highway is particularly not only kills off or maims established characters, but depicts PTSD (sometimes in frightening ways.)
    Leggett: Well, this looks familiar.
  • Call of Duty lately has been sporting a coat of anti-war paint with some of its quotes. Ever knew how much a Tomahawk missile cost? War ain't cheap.
  • Cannon Fodder, despite being the Trope Namer for War Has Never Been So Much Fun, is ultimately this, using cutesy graphics and the cheerful intro satirically to show just how horrible your actions are and keeping track of all the Player Mooks you got killed during the game.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition goes to great lengths to show the effect that the now continent-wide Mage-Templar War has been having on those involved and the unlucky people caught in the middle of all of the fighting. Most of the sidequests early in the game deals with trying to find as much relief for the refugees as possible. The worst part is that the only ones still fighting are the zealots and lunatics on both sides who don't really care if refugees are caught in the cross-fire.
  • Eternal Darkness features a chapter set in a Creepy Cathedral used as a field hospital in Amiens, France, during the Battle of the Somme, with all the gruesome sights and sombre atmosphere that one might expect of such a setting. It is even implied that Pius and his acolytes manipulated events towards the war just so that there would be more death to harvest. Mind, given that this is a Lovecraftian horror story, there are far more horrific things than war in the cathedral...
  • Fallout has a famous quote that starts "War... war never changes." that paints war as an indelible curse of mankind. See the quotes page for the full version.
  • Far Cry as a series. Far Cry 2 has you hunting the Jackal, who understands that the geopolitics of Darkest Africa make it impossible for any meaningful peace to be made there, and trying to fight back against this fact will simply see you consumed by the same violence yourself. In Far Cry 3, your character begins as a young adult who's never fired a gun outside of a shooting range, desperately scrambling to survive. In the end he's approaching the same threshold of madness crossed by the villains, reveling in bloodshed and obviously suffering violent psychotic episodes. In Far Cry 4, Ajay handles murder like he was born for it, but ends up helping the wrong people - either Sabal will betray half his comrades at the end of the war (the half that chose not to worship Sabal's religion) and begin a crusade against most of Kyrat for its 'heresy', or Amita will start forcing children to work the opium fields and fight against the remnants of Pagan Min's military-grade army. By the end, Ajay has to deal with the fact that he used 'justice' or 'sanity' as an excuse to murder people indiscriminately and have fun doing it, all because civil war has no absolutely good side.
  • In Final Fantasy IX, to prevent Princess Garnet from experiencing this is exactly why Steiner doesn't want her to get involved with investigating whether her mother, Queen Brahne, was responsible for an attack on Burmecia.
    Steiner: War is a terrible thing! You must never experience it like I have.
  • Final Fantasy Type-0 pulls no punches in showing how horrific and brutal war can be right from the start.
    • Its opening cinematic features the graphic death of Izana Kunagiri and his war chocobo from injuries as Ace, Queen and Jack stand helplessly (and all Ace can do is weep for him). There isn't much that could make war seem less glorious than showing Machina's older brother reduced to the level of complete freakout from his pain and fear of dying.
    • Then it goes downhill from there... on all four sides of the war. In Rubrum thousands died (including all of Class Zero save Machina and Rem), and the ending reveals that the entire nation was left ravaged and would only recover after at least fifty years under Machina and Rem's guidance. On Milites thousands of soldiers and mechs died serving a charismatic leader who was Dead All Along, possessed by an Omnicidal Maniac, including those reduced to Phantoma by Alexander, the summoning of which required the Heroic Sacrifice of hundreds of Rubrum cadets, as well as instructor Kurasame Susaya and Alexander's main summoner, Caetuna. Lorica was totally destroyed, its king, Gilgamesh, left to wander Oriense without a purpose in life. Concordia was shaken by its queen's death, and the revelation that its (mostly ceremonial) king, long scheming for a return to a patriarchal rule, had a hand in it.
  • Even Fire Emblem uses this trope, especially in Radiant Dawn when the war causes the Tellian equivalent of the Apocalypse.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening somehow manages to play this straight and for for laughs at the same time. Sociopathic dark mage Henry is a former soldier for Plegia, who your party just fought in a war. So naturally, child soldier Ricken is curious about how Henry feels about fighting alongside those who killed his former allies. Cue Ricken falling into a depression while Henry happily talks about the (suddenly less sinister) bosses you fought:
    Ricken: Remember a while ago, when you told me that you served under Gangrel? It made me wonder... Have you fought against anyone you knew?
    Henry: Yeah, sure! You've cut down a few of my former comrades. You interested in who they were? Lemme see if I can recall... Well, there's Vasto. I liked him! Always ready with a joke or quip.
    Ricken: That guy?! He tried to stop us when we headed east that one time.
    Henry: He was really excited about that posting—it was his first major command. Ha! He used to talk about his mother all the time. "Best knitter in Plegia," he'd say!
    Ricken: Oh. That's...nice.
    Henry: Then there was Mustafa. He always gave me a bag of peaches whenever I visited. He said I reminded him of his son and that I should consider myself part of his family.
    Ricken: ......
    Henry: Oh! And Campari used to make little birdhouses for homeless—
    Ricken: Actually, Henry? I don't think I want to know about your comrades after all.
    Henry: Aw! I thought you were interested.
    Ricken: I was, but now everyone seems more...normal than I expected. They're not maniacs or monsters. They're just like us, except they're dead.
    Henry: Yep. Dead as driftwood, they are. And it was you Shepherds who killed 'em! Their friends and families are probably still crying their eyes out.
    Ricken: .......
    Henry: What's wrong?
    Ricken: Henry, it's my job to kill Plegian soldiers... So I have to believe they deserve to die. But now you've reminded me that they aren't faceless blobs with axes. They have friends, and families, and... H-how am I going to fight them if I know that? What if I hesitate?
    Henry: You're weird. I don't see the problem here at all.
  • This manifests as an entire realm of the netherworld in Folklore called Warcadia, a place built from humanity's contemporary fear of death, where people go who died suddenly or without explanation end up. The place is under a constant state of warfare without reason or any possible outcome. This is quite literally meant to be a hell of unending battle.
  • The Gears of War Expanded Universe had local big dude Tai, upon finding his village razed to the ground, remarking that, "Some people have said 'War is Hell.' War is not Hell, for in Hell, innocence is spared."
  • Halo - While they were serious from the start, it wasn't until the third game it became clear that this is the main aesop. Yes lovable main characters were killed in the first game, and the second game became more uglier about the situation, but that was out-shadowed by awesome playstyle, story, weapons and a badass player character. But by the time of third game, all of that were thrown right out of the window. Halo3 was not afraid to show how shitty a three-sided war between Humanity, a galactic empire made of genocidal, fanatical aliens and a parasitic species of undead monsters would be; Anyone can (and will) die, even main characters as Sgt. Johnson, Miranda Keyes, 343 Guilty Spark, Prophet of Truth, etc, cities are burned to the ground, billions are killed, even the most Ineffectual Sympathetic Mooks become ferocious, bloodthirsty warriors after they had been through wars long enough, people suffers from psychological damages of the whole thing, and not just biological creatures but also supposedly unliving machines such as Cortana (whose torture at the hands of Gravemind almost breaks her into a depressive Empty Shell), 343 Guilty Spark (whose isolation for the last 100,000 years and status as the canon scrappy becomes to much for him to handle and snaps into a dangerous killing machine), and Mendicant Bias (whose 100,000 years of overwhelming guilt because of his treason against the Forerunners cause him to sacrifice himself to help Master Chief), and Master Chief, The Hero of the story, ends up in no-ending space without any way to get back to Earth. Plus that great civilization that was destroyed due to the 300 years war against the said undead monsters, which forced them to kill themselves in a massive sacrifice in a attempt to take their enemies with them — only it was All for Nothing.
  • Halo: Reach. All the other main games had the knowledge of the Halo rings as hope, or at the very least a game changer, not the same old stalling against an unstoppable more technologically advanced horde of intergalactic aliens who deem your entire people heretical. Halo Reach is that, each subsequent mission just makes it more and more clear that despite Reach being the most advanced colony and the one with the greatest military presence it will still repeat the same fate of its bretheren, and all you are doing is trying to save the most people you can/and or kill the most Covenant. The last two missions you do in a way find out about the rings, and you give it your all and sacrifice almost of Noble Team (meaningful name) to take it on the last transport leaving Reach. Yay you did it, all those missions, all those kills, all the obstacles passed by a hairline, now you get your long deserved reward right? Except somebody needs to fire the gun. You are left on Reach, with scattered unorganized resistance as its being glassed. And no matter how hard you fight, you will die. Halo Reach is game that shows that even if you give your all and be a good soldier, hope is not guaranteed.
  • Of course, in Halo Wars Spartan Red Team tries to make this trope work for them:
  • Homefront portrays war as savage, brutal, and inhumane affair where good people die for no reason, as well as driving home just how easy and potentially horrific friendly fire incidents can be in one of its more intense and memorable sequences. It also makes the point that, as horrible as war is, sometimes there really isn't a better option.
  • Iji features a Mêlée à Trois between the title character representing the last surviving humans on Earth, the invading Tasen, and the genocidal Komato, who the Tasen invaded Earth to run from. There are complicated sympathetic characters (who aren't immune to plot-related death) on the latter two sides even though they're both the enemy, and trying to solve the situation with violence means the player can watch Iji slowly break over the course of the game, going from shakily apologizing every time she kills to practically turning into a full-on berserker. It also manages to avoid the Do Not Do This Cool Thing cognitive dissonance that some Call of Duty ripoffs have, as well as the But Thou Must hypocrisy that Spec Ops: The Line's white phosphorous scene was hit with, by letting the player go through the game without (technically) killing anyone, and you end up with a slightly better ending for doing so.
  • Killer7 - Word of God states that one of the messages of the otherwise unfathomable Killer7 is about the futile, cyclic nature of war. Emphasized by the ending: the entire conflict between Harman and Kunlan is nothing but a game meant to help the two immortals pass the time. The two have even switched roles.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, it is shown that the war in the previous game has had absolutely devastating consequences for the Republic. Most of the playable characters, including the protagonist, are Shell Shocked Veterans who have lost family, friends, limbs, and sense of self. Throughout the game you meet refugees, embittered ex-soldiers, and traverse planets that are still physically and culturally ravaged five years after the war's end while the galactic government collapses slowly.
  • Lost Odyssey, when a completely immortal guy has lived for 1000 years just to see mortal people killing each other in war, you can really feel how much it makes him want to be freed from it. Yet he can't.
  • Mass Effect 3 is built around this trope. When you see a soldier both frustrated and heartbroken over a woman who keeps inquiring about her son, you'll understand why.
    • From the very beginning, as the Reapers are laying waste to Earth cities, you rescue a young boy and put him on an evacuation shuttle, only to watch as a Reaper calmly blows it out of the sky. For the rest of the game, Shepard is haunted by nightmares of the boy being consumed by fire.
    • Once upon a time, an Asari took a shower without her gun.
  • The Metal Gear series is about many things, but its most fundamental theme is that there's nothing glorious about war, and everyone involved suffers a lot, one way or another. It does so by playing its tropes so straight they end up deconstructing themselves once they get to where they're going; Child Soldiers, for example.
  • Metal Gear Solid condemns nuclear proliferation.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty rejects the glorification of soldiers like the previous Metal Gear's protagonist by having some New Meat go through similar trials and come out emotionally scarred.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is an unflinching look at war and what it does to its soldiers. The Big Boss is forced to assassinate The Boss, the greatest hero of World War II and the single most important person in his life, all because factions of the Philosophers are fighting over money. The core message is that there is no such thing as an enemy in absolute terms, and that our allies today might be our enemies tomorrow. This is because our enemies are human beings, just like us. The game hammers that point home with the subtlety of an anvil, but it's a very effective message.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots shows how bad things can get if war isn't Hell. The nanomachines inside people suppress the psychological and physical stress that brutal warfare normally inflicts on them, and the entire world has become engulfed in a pointless War for Fun and Profit. When the system goes off-line for good, all the soldiers in the world collapse and become sobbing wrecks as the trauma the nanomachines suppressed catches up to them.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is looking to take this Up to Eleven, showing Big Boss giving into his darkest demons for no other reason than revenge. This includes using Cold-Blooded Torture, Child Soldiers and executions, all portrayed in the most serious manner possible, to the point where Big Boss admits that he's become just as bad as the people he's fighting, but keeps on going anyway.
  • We get a second coat of Call of Duty anti-warpaint in the Modern Warfare series. Fancy dying in the Middle East from a nuclear explosion? How about you and your unit being killed so close to completing your objective? Or infiltrating a terrorist cell for the CIA where you have to gun down people at airports, before being killed as a spy? Or the world entering a third world war and you being branded a traitor for killing the people responsible?
  • The soldier sim series Operation Flashpoint pits you in the role of a completely ordinary, completely vulnerable and completely replaceable young soldier... who's fighting in a small scale conflict that could easily spark World War III... No heavy-handed condemnation of war or sombre thoughts of your squadmates are ever heard, but the depiction of modern warfare in the game (subtle, yet straightforward) says more than a million words : It's nerve-wrecking, unpredictable, often completely absurd. Virtually Anyone Can Die... And they do - all the damn time...
  • While it never outright says it, Red Orchestra never flinches from the fact that combat was often short, terrifying and brutal.
  • Sabres Of Infinity
    • Demonstrated by the town of Noringia, which has been heavily bombed and looted by Tierran forces, should you explore the town, you see that starvation and poverty is rampant amoung the refugees still living there.
    • In the final battle, If you successfully repel the Antari assault, the aftermath shows you surrounded by the corpses of the majority of your men, possibly including your Staff Sergeant, and most of the survivors badly wounded, at that point, a horribly maimed Cazarosta suggests piling the corpses into a makeshift barricade to repel the next attack, War Is Hell indeed.
  • Spec Ops: The Line: The protagonist and his men become increasingly violent, unstable and shell-shocked as the story progresses. It doesn't help that both sides of the conflict, the CIA and the Damned 33rd Infantry Battalion, are busy killing each other - and civilians - in a hopeless struggle to reassert some sort of order in Dubai's ruin. Later in the story, the Damned 33rd begin to use white phosphorus on insurgents. The player then uses white phosphorus on a refugee camp, unknowingly. The CIA blows up the city's only water supply, dooming everyone in order to keep the world from learning about what happened in Dubai. Nobody comes out of the story looking good. Or sane. Or, in some endings, at all. The worst part is that the situation didn't have to escalate that far. The main reason it did is because Walker, and by extension the player, wanted to play hero. What makes this whole situation even more tragically senseless is that it isn't even set in a war. This is a simple recon mission gone horribly wrong. All Walker had to do was report on the situation and leave. Walker treating it like a war story and acting like a war hero anyway makes everything worse.
  • Skyrim has this in spades. One NPC mentions that there are no innocents, only the guilty and the dead.
  • War is always the main theme of the Suikoden series. Many characters get involved in different wars, and more often than not they end up traumatized in a way or another.
  • Suikoden II:
  • It is stated often and sometimes shown in Tears To Tiara 2. Hamil considered accepting the enslavement of his entire people to avoid war. Saul was willing to let slide agents from The Empire buying slaves and dead bodies to prevent war. Until Hamil points out to him that he's only prolonging the inevitable, which he knew, and said agents took Artio which would cause war to erupt anyway.
  • The entire This War Of Mine is all about this trope. With the war raging all over the city, supplies continue to dwindle, forcing the survivors to starts scavenging for their needs. However, as the war continue to get worse and food getting scarcer, the city descends into anarchy with rampant crime, looting, and soldiers of both side committing all sort of war crimes. Forcing the player to take more morally dubious choices. You are a group of survivors of a Civil War trying to survive, however you have to deal both with the rebel army and the military while trying to scavenge for anything to survive. Choices will be made whether you will raid an elderly couple for their belongings while they beg you to stop or not, hand over precious medicine to children or not, or either play hero and try to rescue a woman who is about to be raped by a drunk soldier or use it as a distraction to gather materials to survive the Civil War.
  • Most if not every entry in the Total War series has some degree of this (compare Medieval II: Total War to the first one for example) , though Total War Rome II really drives the point home. "How far will you go for Rome?", if that's not enough, Total War Attila manages to surpass its predecessors in its bleackness by not only being the most realistic of all the games before, but by its very setting, the Late Antiquity, just before the fall of Rome.
  • Valiant Hearts is set in the World War One, so this trope is not suprising. At one point you need to hide from machinegun fire behind a pile of corpses, as you are watching your friends die one by one.
  • While the Vietcong series doesn't demonize war, its hard difficulty, not to mention its focus on realism screams this trope at the top of its metaphorical lungs.
  • World of Warcraft: The Bolvar/Wrathgate cutscene, where a standard piece of Heroic Fantasy fighting is unexpectedly interrupted by a poison gas attack and followed up in game with all of its horrific consequences.
  • Yggdra Union. Any war game that pits you against an enemy army of genuinely good people and points this out to you repeatedly is gonna hurt.

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