Games by Artix Entertainment tend to follow a sort of pattern in their stories: Introduce the player to a wacky fantasy/sci-fi world that invokes Better Than a Bare Bulb and Rule of Funny constantly, then slowly have it torn apart by ashockingly dark villain and ditch most of the humor during the serious bits. Then, once that arc is over, go back to a comedy focus, and the cycle begins anew. DragonFable skips the "slow" bit and rarely comes out of the dips in the Cerebus Rollercoaster, save for holiday events. After the first arc with Sepulchure wraps up, which already had Nightmare Fuel out the ass with many important and well-loved characters suffering horribly or dying, it goes straight into an arc dealing with the destruction of an entire planet and an Omnicidal Maniac as the villain. The third arc, although dealing with planetary stakes instead of universal ones, has much darker themes, even deconstructing The Hero that you play as in all the AE games. There are a lot of quests and events with a lighter or comedic focus, but virtually all of them exist outside the main story.
BioWare somehow managed to outdo even Dragon Age II's bleak ending with the ending to Dragon Age: Inquisition's Trespasser DLC, which stings all the more due to how optimistic and hopeful the main campaign's ending was. All of the Inquisitor's accomplishments in the main game are undone, Ferelden and Orlais have descended into political and military chaos, both countries are on the brink of war with both the Qunari and a revived Tevinter Imperium, Solas/Fen'harel is plotting The End of the World as We Know It, and the Inquisition itself is either severely weakened or disbanded. The game ends with the Inquisitor and their party grimly acknowledging that there is little to no hope that Thedas will be able to survive the rapidly approaching chaos. Indeed, Leliana goes from a playful ninja/minstrel/nun/hero to a grim and serious spy, and the Nightmare Fuel scenes in the third game are of the Formula 1 standard.
Mass Effect was rather serious and sometimes bleak to begin with. Mass Effect 2 didn't necessarily get that much darker, but where the first game only made hints, the second goes all the way. The very first scene is an absolute Curb-Stomp Battle, in which a voiceless and faceless enemy appears from nowhere and completely rips your ship from the first game apart, with you still inside it. Then your life is saved by a ruthless survivalist organization whose agents you killed by the dozens in the first game, and you join forces with them because there are much more pressing matters at hand. The game goes even further into Grey-and-Gray Morality than its predecessor, with missions including infiltrating a desperate joint-mercenary band effort to eliminate a vigilante you want to recruit, and then massacring all the mercenaries so that your recruit survives. In every space port you'll find a couple of people talking about sex, or have your team scientists give you advice for sex with aliens and mentioning something about zoophilia on the ship. The overall darkening can be best seen in the squadmembers. In the first, the worst was a principled mercenary/bounty hunter. In 2 the squad consists of assassins, vigilantes, thieves, a few homicidal maniacs, terrorists, and a member of the robot race that was an enemy in 1. Even the returning squadmembers are much darker and more cynical.
Mass Effect 3 has the Reapers arriving, and their first target was Earth. Remember, the events of Arrival delayed their invasion. And by the looks of it, the Reapers are not easy to destroy. The horrors of the war against them aren't exactly shied away from, and Shepard's general stoicism and calm gradually erodes during the course of the game.
Baldur's Gate II is definitely darker than it's predecessor, starting out with the main character and his/her party captured and tortured, two of the party killed, and another whisked away to an insane asylum for wizards. The main city of the game, Athkatla, is also a lot seedier than the titular city from the first game, featuring a bloody faction war between a guild of thieves and assassins and a horde of vampires. And Throne of Bhaal is quite possibly even darker, centered around 5 of the Bhaalspawn forming an alliance to wipe out all other Bhaalspawn (including the player,) with the body count escalating early on when they succeed in destroying the city where the other Bhaalspawn were taking refuge.
id Software did this. Their earlier publication, Commander Keen, was a lighter hearted game that was quite intended for children and maybe relatively more innocent hearted adults. Id Software is famous for popularising the first person shooter in the form of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. The Doom series itself gets progressively darker (literally) and edgier. The first game is quite colorful and most areas are brightly lit. Doom II and Doom 64 have an overall darker ambiance and a greater emphasis on horror. Doom 3 takes it to the extreme, with monochromatic textures, realistic gore, and many areas in total darkness. Strangely enough the characters of all these games appear to be related, as discussed here
The first game had your standard crime themes and motives for killing. Justice For All cranks it up by making introducing more complex themes and motives for the murderers; a con artist panics seeing a police officer nearby so he kills him out of fear, snapping the guy's neck from a fall. An overworked nurse accidentally causes 14 patients to die under her care. A woman who lost her place of power plans to pin a murder on her niece just so her daughter can take her place. A wheelbound circus actor plots to kill a young and childlike girl who accidentally caused his brother to go into a coma and she remains oblivious to the dire situation, but the killer accidentally kills his father figure instead by dropping a bust on him. A woman hangs herself after being dumped by an actor she used to date and then being dumped by another actor when he found out she used to date his rival, which also causes her confidant to commit suicide as well, but fails. And then there is the deconstruction of the series premise in the final case, where your client really is guilty but you still have to defend him or your best friend will die. And he is not a Sympathetic Murderer at all, but the sociopathicBig Bad. Yikes.
Trials and Tribulations continues the tread. In addition to having one of the darkest prosecutors in the form of Godot who eventually becomes a murderer and culprit, the game also introduced us to Dahlia Hawthorne, one of the darkest, most horrifyingly evil Big Bads in the series. It's also the first game in the series where we see a character die during the story, and not off screen or in flash back stills; what's more, it's suicide by poisoning (which includes blood dripping from his mouth). The series has never shied away from depicting and using blood as a plot point, but actually showing it on the usually quirky sprites makes it seem a lot more real.
Apollo JusticeseemsLighter and Softer, but things quickly take a turn for the worse. The justice system is shown to have gone from "merely" incompetent to outright corrupt, and the Big Bad Kristoph Gavin is a male version of Dahlia if her raving lunacy was replaced with cold, detachedsociopathy. Meanwhile, your clients might not be guilty of murder but they are also often morally ambiguous and guilty of a lesser crime.
Dual Destinies is the first game in the series to be rated M (ages 17 and older) where all games before it were rated T (13 and older). The first cutscene shows a full courthouse of people running for their lives as a bomb explodes and destroys the courtroom. You also encounter a witness who is so petrified of monsters that she starts hallucinating and believes she actually sees them. Then there's the finale where, through a flashback, you get to see a young Athena Cykes covered in her mother's blood as she tries to "fix" her with machines due to her naivety on how people get treated for injuries (luckily her mother was long dead before Athena used the machines). Due to the upgrade to 3D, all the grim details aren't left out. And the Big Bad, The Phantom Fulbright, is tied with Dahlia for the highest body count in the series and beats them in the category of highest attempted murders thanks to the above mentioned bombing. And of course, like Matt, Dahlia, and Kristoph, theyre a sociopath and is portrayed far more realistically as one too.
Spirit of Justice gives us the kingdom of Khurain, a Police State run by a Corrupt Church using a genuinely broken and corrupt justice system that sentences lawyers to death if they fail to prove their client Not Guilty; and everyone, including the Judge, the prosecutor and the gallery, despises Phoenix and thinks he is corrupt. The cases are also much darker, including multiple murders (most of which are not the result of a cold case being connected to the current crime like normal examples of multiple murders in the same case), emotional roller-coasters for the protagonists including crossing the Despair Event Horizon and a complete, total and brutal deconstruction of the effect that a system that discourages lawyers would have. The final case is the darkest of all: four deaths (the highest in a single case), one of whom we see die and is actually Durke, who we have spent most of the case thinking is alive and well and a Big Bad, Queen Garan, who combines the worst aspects of several previous villains.
In addition to having one of the higher body counts in the Ace Combat series, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown touches on some fairly dark themes such as the usage of convicts as military assets, the efficacy of drone warfare, and the utter chaos of war in general and its effect on the civilian population. As well as deconstructing the typical Ace Combat player through the character of Mihaly. This trope especially comes into play in the last act when the collapse of Usea's satellite network plunges Erusea into civil war, sparks refugee crises across the continent, and very nearly allowed two highly advanced drones to launch an apocalyptic Robot War. There is also a lot more swearing.
Advance Wars: Days of Ruin is clearly Darker And Edgier than the other three Advance Wars games, which sometimes bordered on silly. It pulls it off just fine, thanks in part that it's a brand new continuity, plus the fact that it recognizes that adult themes don't necessarily mean throwing out all humor. It works because the setting is After the End but the survivors are trying to make the best of things. The doctor exemplifies this, saying that it's times like this you need to laugh. The last mission is called Sunrise.
Aliens vs. Predator (2010) shows the full extent of Weyland Yutani's actions regarding the Xenomorphs and the Predators. People are shown being harvested en masse to create Xenomorph specimens, and it is heavily implied said specimens are tortured to learn more about their biology. The Predator campaign shows the company's staff being murdered because they know too much, and the Marine campaign makes it clear that these situations are incredibly common, while showing how sadistic and evil some Weyland Yutani officials are, something the films and the comics have rarely shown so directly.
Alone in the Dark: The first three games had streaks of goofy humor while still firmly entrenched in the horror genre. Perhaps the most outlandish bit is in the second game where you can dress up as Santa Claus (without a false beard) to fool a midget zombie cook. Yes, you read that right. From the fourth game onwards such odd moments were completely absent.
American McGee's Alice is almost a literal definition of this. It's a take on Alice in Wonderland where Alice was put into asylum after her family was killed in a freak fire that turned out to be a murder used to cover up Alice's sister being raped. And Alice: Madness Returns manages to top even that, what with all the Mind Rape and a surprisingly Anviliciouspedophile psychologist as the Big Bad.
Anarchy Reigns is much more serious than its predecessor, Madworld. There isn't as much humor, most deaths are played out seriously, electrocution is portrayed realistically rather than cartoonishly, Howard and Kreese (the announcers from Madworld) are gone, and there are several Tear Jerker moments during the campaign.
Army of Two - The 40th Day was a much darker compared to the original Army of Two, Morality decisions that is in the Black-and-Gray Morality section. A much darker plot and quite the number of people killed off. Then there's Army Of Two Devils Cartel which simply doesn't let up, showing the events of the 40th day had on Salem of all people.
Assassin's Creed III, the last one had a relatively good conclusion to Ezio's life but Connor's been dealt nothing but sorrow as in this series the morality of the Assassins Templar Conflict is of the Black-and-Gray Morality compared to the previous series where the Templars was incapable of anything but one atrocity after another.
Episode 11.5 and Part Iv Nirvana of Asura's Wrath are darker then the rest of the game, which already has a rather serious story as a whole despite the over the top action. It's also darker and edgier then a lot of Capcom's other IP's as well.
Inverted with Backyard Sports. The executives wanted to make the series darker and edgier by making the kids older and giving them new designs, but it became Lighter and Softer, and its audience's age went down.
Compared to the first Banjo-Kazooie, whose plot is simply about rescuing Banjo's sister Tooty, Banjo-Tooie is about avenging the death of Bottles (and later King Jinjaling), the destruction of Banjo's house and the overall sabotage of Spiral Mountain after Gruntilda was rescued by her sisters from the boulder that had her trapped for two years since her defeat in the first game. The game's levels are also less whimsical than those of the original, and in one of them there are sidequests involving the resurrection of deceased characters. Lastly, the game has more black humor.
Batman: Arkham Knight on the other hand, did not get away with a Teen Rating, making it the first Batman adaptation to get an adult-level rating. The game pushes Batman to his physical and mental limits more than any of the previous games, with the single darkest and most disturbing story yet. There's also a character specific example with Scarecrow, who goes from a minor villain and moderate threat in previous media appearances (and most comics), to a truly nightmarish Big Bad and No-Nonsense Nemesis whose plan involves breaking Batman in every way possible.
Telltale Games has Batman: The Telltale Series. A sign of the game being this compared to other Batman stories in open with the guard getting shot in the head. It also has coarser language like "shit" and "goddamn", and is Bloodier and Gorier including a crime scene involving a corpse that was torn to pieces by an explosion and another with a corpse with the eyes stabbed out. It also has both Thomas Wayne and Vicki Vale undergo Adaptational Villainy, with Thomas (an honest man in a corrupt city in the comics) in league with Carmine Falcone and Hamilton Hill and Vicki (an honest reporter in the comics) a revolutionary who plans to take down Gotham's elite because of Thomas having her birth parents, the Arkhams, killed. Additionally, this Vicki was also an abused child as the mutilated corpse missing its eyes was her adopted mother.
Bayonetta 2 takes itself a lot more seriously than the first game did. With the world out of balance, the Infernal Demons are turning against Bayonetta, and her life-long friend Jeanne is killed in battle from one of these demons right within the first 15 minutes of the game, resulting in Bayonetta going on a quest to enter Inferno (Hell) and revive her before she's gone for good. We also get an insight into how and why Father Balder became evil, as well as witnessing the Witch Hunts for ourselves.
Blazblue Central Fiction is much, much darker than previous titles (which by themselves were fairly dark to begin with). The game takes place in an Alternate Universe; the real world lies in ruins and is facing an apocalypse, and the cast (with the notable exception of Ragna and Litchi) are "Entitled", battling to decide the fate of the world as Izanami drives tirelessly towards oblivion.
A much less successful video game example was Bomberman Act:Zero for the Xbox 360. That's right, Hudson tried to make Bomberman Darker and Edgier. To be fair, the original concept of Bomberman was rather dark (robot-like beings trapped in an underground arena and forced to kill each other with bombs) and the lighter feel of the original game was actually a compromise. However, none of the other games in the series make any references to Act Zero in any way, choosing to stick with the familiar Hello Kitty-esque Bombermen.
The Call of Duty series has the weird example of becoming darker and edgier three separate times throughout the series. Call of Duty 1, 2, and 3 were all T-rated World War II shooters which while showing the intensity and violence of war, weren't really that brutal or dark, all of them had happy endings for their protagonists. Call of Duty 2 and 3 were slightly darker and edgier versions of Call of Duty 1, but not by much only with minor cursing and intense hand-to-hand combat respectively. Modern Warfare amps it up with an M rated, major cursing, more violence, and a significantly darker story in which almost every major character dies, including one of the main characters by nuclear explosion and a lot more pessimistic view of things. And then Call of Duty: World at War comes out which amplifies Modern Warfare by two, with a curse word being in every second sentence, dismemberments and charred corpses being standard fare, the opening mission which has one of your squadmates brutally tortured and his throat slit by a Japanese officer, and enough war crimes to fill an encyclopedia, especially by the more sadistic Soviets who are also supposed to be the good guys.
Modern Warfare 2 tops that off with you getting to witness your character being burned alive FROM FIRST PERSON.
Modern Warfare 3 is also quite dark, simply put the moment the cover went from men heroically attempting to break past the enemy lines to a silhouette of a soldier with a gun was when the series became dark to the point of no possible return. Oh, and everyone except Price dies as usual.
Call of Duty: Black Ops goes even further, with the gore being amped to 11, in addition to the plot revolving around your teammates torturing you, and the scene were Weaver gets his eye dismembered and the infamous tunnel scene, among others. However, none of those top the fact that there is a torture scene, where YOU are the torturer!
While both can be equal in tone, the Treyarch games tend to be this, Bloodier and Gorier and more profane than the Infinity Ward ones aesthetically.
Radical Dreamers and subsequently Chrono Cross shifted dramatically in tone from the relatively lighthearted adventurous spirit of Chrono Trigger. The fact that the idealistic heroes from the previous game are strongly implied to have been unceremoniously offed is a pretty good indicator of the general tone of the games.
Compared to the precursor (Reader Rabbit, Super Solvers), 3rd grade was much darker, featuring some rather bizarre imagery and the in-game lore suggesting a monster was real. That didn't stop the occasional bits of silly humour from breaking through. The atmosphere lightened up significantly in 4th grade and Math, but then...
As the Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series has progressed, it gradually went from being a fairly dark modern world-war with Green Rocks mixed in to a brutal struggle to simply survive a planet that's dying under alien terraforming.
In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn, the worst thing to happen was one faction slaughtering a village and blaming it on the other; Tiberium was a minor nuisance when it was growing in the wrong place. In the third, Tiberium growth had reached catastrophic levels, over half of the world is in a state of anarchy, another world war breaks out and all that is topped by an alien invasion. How's that for Darker and Edgier? Though Word of God said that the fourth game is even worse with an Enemy Mine going on and YET ANOTHER visit from the Scrin on the horizon.
Super Robot Wars had a slightly Darker And Edgier tone with Z being that a famous hero of an original franchise is given an evil spinoff. You can't save both psycho girls from Gundam and the bad ending route is possible again. This is as far as they go.
It only gets really Darker And Edgier if you pick Setsuko's route. Rand's route has several Camp elements and mostly considered light hearted. But Setsuko's route is just throwing you lots and lots of Break the Cutie moments to the poor heroine, and in the end... she doesn't get completely better...
It is darker compared to past games. There are personality issues and infighting with nearly all the members or your team for most of the game, you are duped and betrayed several times throughout the game. The villain who does the worst things is arguably the kindest since he isn't a psycho in it for the evil. Also your team at one point splits into factions and tries to kill each other with no Brainwashing involved. And the ending is bittersweet as some people are lost. It's pretty dark.
You actually can save both crazy Gundam girls if you plan carefully. Compare it to SRW A, where you are forced to choose between Master Asia and Gai Daigoji and can't save both no matter how hard you try. The storyline of Z is still dark as far as SRW games go, though.
Conker's Bad Fur Day was originally going to be a kid-friendly platformer starring a cute little squirrel in a blue hoodie. Indeed, the predecessor Pocket Tales for Game Boy Color had that tone. Rare kept the cute squirrel and the platforming, but changed everything else, adding enough sex, gore, and profanity to make it perhaps the most perverse title ever released for the N64. Ironically enough, the port for the Xbox was less offensive due to enforced censorship on swear words.
EA released a game that plays like Diablo in a dark and gritty sci-fi universe. It's called Darkspore. Yes, thatSpore.
Darwinia, released by Introversion Software, centers around saving a race of small, green machine-intelligence entities known as Darwinians from a virus that has infected their computer system. However, in the process, the player introduces the Darwinians to a previously unknown concept: organized conflict. The result can be best seen in the slogan for the sequel, Multiwinia:
Multiwinia ~ Darwin is dead. Prepare for war.
Regarding DC Comics, they agreed to make a crossover game called Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, being a lot more violent than other games of the license (but less violent than the Mortal Kombat brand due to Executive Meddling). And if that weren't enough, then came Injustice: Gods Among Us, another DC game by the same studio, which is a sequel to MK vs DC. It doesn't have any Kombat characters or setting (or gore, for that matter), but it does have the darkness - the story, for instance, features half the heroes entering He Who Fights Monsters territory. The premise of the game is "What would happen if The JokerbreaksSuperman?"
Delta Rune, the spin off successor to Undertale, is a bit darker than what Undertale was, but downplays it so it's not completely gritty. While Undertale had characters that were mostly misguided and could be befriended with a bit of work, Delta Rune puts you with a school bully that thinks violence solves everything and relies on threatening people to get her way while also refusing to listen to you until she goes through some Character Development. Undertale gave you encouragement with how your choices matter and how you can ultimately resolve things peacefully. Delta Rune goes for a more "cynical, but grounded" route where you are told many times that your choices do not matter in the slightest and that sometimes violence is the only way to solve a problem if the people causing said problem will not listen to reason. Death is also talked about more frequently and is used as a threat more often in Delta Rune while Undertale rarely touched upon it unless you went for the No Mercy route. Also, there is more cursing in it than before. Ironically, however, Deltarune is never as dark as Undertalecan be, as you can never actually kill anyone, meaning there's no Genocide route.
Densetsu No Stafy 3 is much darker than the rest of the series. The environments and enemies are creepier and less upbeat, many of the new character designs lack the cartoony cuteness of the rest of the series, it has a intimidating and very evil new villain, and it has the death of Moe's father and Ogura, as well as confirming the deaths of the Puchi Oguras from the previous game.
Devil May Cry 2 was clearly made under the assumption that the overblown camp of the first game was a bad thing, and decided to play the B-movie setting straight, as evidenced by changing the stylish wise-cracking, cowboy-esque, demon hunter Dante to a generic, stoic badass who barely gets any lines. It might also have to do with the fact it was rushed into production without informing or involving the original creators. To say the least, it didn't turn out well. Capcom made up for it with a return to the appeal of the original with Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening.
Dm C Devil May Cry is an Alternate Continuity that takes place in Limbo City, a twisted world caught between reality and the demon world. Conspiracy and propaganda run rampant through the world as Mundus attempts to secretly govern society through unending debt. The people are secretly being drugged and subjugated without even realizing it. Dante is an angry, rebellious man with a mean streak and a meaner mouth and only joins The Order because putting Mundus out of business might help him get some sleep at night instead of constantly being hunted as one of the half-angel, half-demon Nephilim.
Each main game in the Doom series tries to one-up the original in different ways:
Doom 2 ups the stakes from the first game, where the demonic invasion was at least limited to a couple remote UAC bases on Phobos and Deimos. By the second game, the demons have finally invaded Earth itself.
Doom 64 puts more focus on establishing a creepy, unsettling aesthetic than the previous two games, with the soundtrack being more droning and atmospheric and the levels more moody and darkly lit.
Doom 3 is definitely darker in the literal sense, but it also includes a storyline and several PDAs one can find to expand on how Hellish UAC became. It also introduces a lot more Survival Horror elements and contains jump scares, and makes combat a bit slower.
DOOM (2016) is straight up Bloodier and Gorier, and introduces shades of Graying Morality with Argent Energy, which is harvested from Hell itself and obviously inviting disaster, but one character insists it's the only way to sustain an Earth that's exhausted every other possible energy resource. The soundtrack is also a hard barrage of metal mixed with industrial and dark synth.
Massive, massive change in mood between R:1 and R:2 in .hack. The good AI are dead or apathetic, and players have gone from dealing well with depression to psychosis. It's possible that the third "season" R:X is trying to regain the innocence.
Dragon Quest games are often pretty idealistic, but as shown by Dragon Quest V they aren't afraid to make the heroes work hard for their happy endings. However, Dragon Quest VII is easily the darkest Dragon Quest game yet, with the heroes almost always finding a part of the world that suffered (or is about to suffer) some kind of unspeakable tragedy that would wipe out everything. Normally they put a stop to this and manage to save the town (and that part of the world) but there have been instances where they were too late or there wasn't anything they could do.
Dreamfall has a definitely darker and more depressing tone than The Longest Journey. Both worlds have suffered following the end of the first game. Stark, the world of technology, has experienced the Collapse, throwing the technology levels back about a century and enforcing Big Brother Is Watching-type policies. Arcadia, the magical world, has much of the known world under the boot of the anti-magical Azadi Empire, which has taken over during the power vacuum created by The Horde's invasion. Only one Draic Kin remains (and she is supposedly killed later in the game). April Ryan, the protagonist of the first game, has gone from a wide-eyed art student to a cynical, battle-hardened rebel leader (and is apparently killed at the end of the game).
The general direction of Dwarf Fortress updates is that each is darker and edgier than the last, if it's more than bug fixes, to bring more Fun. Highlights include:
The .17 version of DF2010 came with the introduction of bogeymen that kill anyone who wanders alone at night, the Night Creatures who abduct innocent people to transform and breed with, and the spirits of improperly memorialized dwarves haunting, and sometimes murdering, the living.
The series in general has been all over the place in terms of this trope, often zig-zagging it between installments. To note some specific examples:
Arena starts off the series fairly soft. Aside from the Contemptible Cover art, it's a fairly light fantasy style adventure without much edginess.
Daggerfall, coming at a time when PC games faced very little in the way of censorship, flies down a darker and edgier path. It features nudity, graphic texts in books, insane dungeons, disease is instant death if not cured in time, etc... It's also possible to outright miss the main quest by not reporting to the initial quest giver in the given time frame.
Morrowind loses some of Daggerfall's edginess simply due to censorship, but the atmosphere is still quite dark. The setting is a Crapsack World backwater island district of the Empire, currently under the threat of the Blight and the CorprusDisease, creations of a deranged Physical God channeling power from the heart of a "dead" god. While not quite as edgy, the game has a very Eldritch atmosphere giving it plenty of darkness. Additionally, in terms of gameplay, Anyone Can Die, because you can kill them if you wish. It's possible to kill quest essential characters which can break the game in number of ways.
Oblivion zig-zags once again, with a much lighter atmosphere in terms of the game's brightness and wider color palette. However, it's largely a Crapsaccharine World that is quickly involved with an invasion by The Legions of Hell led by a Destroyer Deity. Oblivion also has the Dark Brotherhood faction questline wherein the player character can actually become an assassin who follows a Religion of Evil, with all that that entails. In terms of gameplay, Oblivion takes a step toward the softer side from Morrowind, making quest essential characters unkillable and quest related items undroppable.
Skyrim zig-zags back to the "Crapsack" feeling of Morrowind. You're the last hope of the mortal world facing down the Beast of the Apocalypse, all set during the Grey and Gray Skyrim Civil War, with the Aldmeri Dominion (led by the fascistic Thalmor looming in the background) In terms of gameplay, it is also zig-zagged. The quest essential characters and items from Oblivion remain, and the only ways to truly fail a major quest are to die or encounter a bug. However, the combat is quite a few shades darker, with Skyrim introducing "kill cam" style finishing moves including beheadings and neck-snappings.
Outside of the main series, the Battlespire spin-off is probably the darkest ES game. Unlike virtually every other game, you're utterly alone, trapped in a horrific Oblivion Realm filled with equally horrific monsters just waiting to tear you to pieces. Throughout the game, you are subjected to various nightmarish imagery, forced to fight against seemingly impossible odds as the Big Bad viciously taunts you the entire time.
Epic Mickey for the Wii had concept art of creepy steampunk cyborg versions of both Mickey Mouse◊ and Goofy◊. The artwork really speaks for itself◊. For a Disney game, that is pretty damn dark. But in the final product, it had a different kind of dark to it. Rather than dealing with Body Horror robotic chimeras of our favorite Disney characters like first expected, it's about the consequences of Mickey's irrationality and how he must make up for it.
Although the Fallout series isn't exactly cheery to begin with (what with being set in a post apocalyptic wasteland and all), it still manages to play with this trope a lot.
The first game mainly focuses on various towns and civilizations rising from the ashes and trying to rebuild, and contained a lot of humour and pop culture references, albeit of a fairly dark sort.
Fallout 2 zig-zags the trope. It is considered the silliest game in the series and has an abundance of wacky humor, but is also not shy about showing aspects like slavery, rape, prostitution, child killing, drug addiction and cannibalism, which were only hinted at in the first game. Also, the villains in Fallout 2 are far more sinister and powerful than the Anti-Villain that was the main antagonist in the first game.
Fallout 3, on the other hand, was much darker by comparison, being set in and around a sparsely populated and desolate Washington D.C., which was directly hit by the bombs, where every day is a fight for survival as towns and groups barely manage to stay alive. Because of this, it is generally considered the darkest and most depressing game in the series.
Fallout: New Vegas, however, swung back to the other side with a more populated, civilised area with a clear blue sky and various vegetation, full of different factions vying for control of the titular area, which was barely hit by the bombs at all. Because of this, it has more of A World Half Full feel to it instead of the pure grimness of 3. It also brought back a lot of the zany humour that was largely absent from 3. It's definitely not the lightest game in the series though, due to a large dose of Grey-and-Gray Morality in its main story, and some of the terror-filled DLC's released with it, especially Lonesome Road and Dead Money.
In a wider sense, the canon itself is supposed to be Darker and Edgier. However, since the comedic moments do draw a portion of their fanbase and the game is, in part, a dark satire of the 1950s, they have relegated some of the zanier comedy to noncanon status, never mentioning it in future games, glossed over it Broad Strokes style, or, in the rare case it is plot relevant, downplayed as much as possible
Despite the Commonwealth merely getting grazed in comparison to the Capital Wasteland, Fallout 4 manages to be even darker. Everything Played For Cynical Laughs in previous games is suddenly Played for Drama - with a healthy dose of Adult Fear and conspiracies beyond the main character's control or comprehension at work as their life quickly changes forever, their spouse murdered and their child snatched in front of them while they can only watch helplessly from a cryonic suspension pod.
Fallout 76 zig-zags this. On the one hand, Appalachia is practically untouched by the Great War, so the region is flush with forests and greenery. On the other hand, however, there is a virulent plague that nearly wiped out all of humanity in the region, transformed the survivors into semi-feral madmen, could possibly drive humanity to extinction, and can only be stopped with nukes (which West Virginia is actually replete with). All this on top of being stuffed to the gills with mutated beasts from brahmin and molerats to cryptids like the Beast of Grafton and even the Mothman!
Far Cry 2 and its sequel were considerably darker. Tackling the futility of war and how it dehumanises everyone, the player included.
The Final Fantasy series isn't known for being the happiest, but these examples stand out;
Final Fantasy VI opens with a crashing organ riff and thunderbolts while the Opening Scroll informs us that magic has died. The Empire has been experimenting on a sentient race, and at one point we're shown them literally being used up and thrown away. The amnesiac main character, when knocked out, experiences a particularly horrifying recollection about being enslaved and forced to burn people alive. Previous lead villains in Final Fantasy games were shown using dark magic, killing individuals, torching towns and then trying to end existence - the lead villain of VI, Kefka, is depicted as a slaver, imperialist and war criminal before gaining godlike power, after which he miserably potshots towns for want of something to do.
Final Fantasy VII is, in some ways, even darker than VI, combining the grittier tone of VI with Tetsuya Nomura's 'edgier' designs and a grungy dystopian Cyberpunk setting. The main cast go from being rebels, a Final Fantasy archetype used in II and VI, to being explicitly identified as terrorists whose hopes of changing the political situation come across as naive. One faction of villains are evil capitalists, and the other villain is a Gaslighting undead madman with the ability to possess people and a desire to drive the main character mad. The heroes are a complete Dysfunction Junction and the possibility is seriously floated that saving the world might involve killing all of humanity.
Final Fantasy Tactics is unusually dark and cynical, even by Final Fantasy standards. The setting and tone of the story is much less fantastical and much more gritty than most games in the series, with much more blood and on-screen death, a lot of moral ambiguity due to the political nature of the plot, and the most chilling and frightening Eldritch Abominations in the series as antagonists.
Final Fantasy Type-0 is easily one of darkest games in the series, and definitely its darkest spin-off. The game takes place in a world plunged into war, with the opening animation sparing no expense in showing a violent, vaguely Nazi-esque army viciously slaughtering Child Soldiers. The hits don't stop there; shortly into the game, players are treated to a heart-rending scene of one child soldier and their chocobo dying painfully in a pool of their own blood, and it gets worse as the game continues. The dark subject matter, in conjunction with violence the likes of which the series had not seen before, made this game the first M-Rated Final Fantasy in the series's long history.
The base game of Final Fantasy XIV takes place after a devastating apocalypse, but depicts civilization being rebuilt and the people being hopeful for the future. Once the expansions move beyond the Eorzean mainland, however, the world is shown to be a dark and imperfect place. Heavensward takes place in Ishgard, a theocracy with Urban Segregation between the nobles living in posh neighborhoods and the downtrodden commoners, caught up in a Forever War against dragons which is eventually shown to have been caused by the Ishgardians' ancestors. Stormblood focuses on efforts to liberate the conquered nations of Ala Mhigo and Doma, both shown to suffer gravely under imperial rule to such a degree that the people have grown accustomed to the horrors of occupation and fear reprisals from any rebellion. Shadowbringers takes place in an alternate reality where the forces of Light have defeated the forces of Darkness, only for most of the world to be completely destroyed by Light. The two major settlements in Shadowbringers consist of a resistance base where people gather to fight back against the light, and a Crapsaccharine City whose citizenry have welcomed the coming apocalypse, some of whom are even fighting to ensure the world ends.
Square Enix announced that Final Fantasy XV will be the darkest game in the series, even when Tetsuya Nomura (known for Kingdom Hearts and The World Ends with You, both games on the idealistic end of the scale) was the director. Tabata took over, but he did not disappoint in delivering a game that truly forced the protagonist to work for his happy ending as the world gets worse and worse. What's more, He didn't even get that happy ending to boot. Given that Tabata's resume includes two games featuring the protagonists dying at the end (And the aforementioned Type-0), this does not disappoint.
The Final Fantasy XV DLC campaign, "Episode Gladioulus", brings us a new rendition of Legacy Character Gilgamesh. In previous games, Gilgamesh is a dimension-hopping goofball searching in vain for the ultimate sword. Here, however, he's an immortal warrior who is feared across Eos as the "Blademaster", having slain every warrior hoping to challenge him.
Taking pages from Genealogy, Fire Emblem: Three Houses heavily deconstructs many of the series' staple character archetypes and story settings. Unlike Marth, none of the house leaders are completely good people and basically every faction falls into Grey-and-Gray Morality. The traumas that many of the cast experience, thanks in part to the game eschewing the series' traditional gratuity of High Fantasy in favor of a disturbingly, grounded approach rooted by its focus on blurring the lines between factions, are frighteningly realistic for a fantasy series, and unlike Fire Emblem Fates, there is no Golden Ending. At least one of the main house leaders will die, if not more. And of those students you don't recruit, you'll likely be forced to fight and kill them despite being decent people. The game is considered by many to be the darkest game in the series since Genealogy and the darkest modern Fire Emblem game.
Five Nights at Freddy's 3 is when the series became Darker and Edgier as a whole. Not only does Springtrap look far worse than any of the previous animatronics (that's not even getting into the fact that Springtrap has a rotting human corpse inside the suit), but Fazbear's Fright in general appears abandoned and bleak. Justified somewhat in the sense that the new owners of the place are turning it into a horror attraction.
Five Nights at Freddy's 4 is the even darker, as the animatronics are the scariest yet, and you're a little kid instead of a grown man. There are also no cameras.
Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location is the darkest FNAF game. Two nameless technicians are killed and hung in plain sight on rafters, a child is murdered by Baby on-screen, and in the Bad Ending, the main character gets 'scooped' (i.e., disemboweled) and Ennard, a Body of Bodies made up of the rest of the animatronics, wears his skin as a disguise to get out of the building. Oh, and Ennard doesn't leave the skin suit until it's rotted purple, and you get to watch it slowly decay in 8-bit 'glory'. If you have read The Silver Eyes, you already know from the start that things are going to be bad when it is spelled out to you within the first minute that these things were designed by Mr. Afton. He is Purple Guy.
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is darker and edgier than its predecessors. Weyard in the two previous games was largely at peace, and the only characters who tended to kick the bucket were the villains. Now Angara, and very likely the other continents of Weyard, is full of budding countries who frequently war with each other, and once the the Grave Eclipse is activated, townspeople start dropping like flies in the face of an overwhelming monster horde, with even a few named characters both good and bad getting Killed Off for Real.
Grand Theft Auto III is easily one of the darkest GTA game of the entire series. New generations of gamers who come to this game after playing the next games might be surprised by how this game is less sentimental. As for the storyline, the entire plot is about a remorseless, callous killer looking for the psychotic woman who betrayed him. Furthermore, there's a gritty atmosphere, dirty streets, rains and cloudy time.
Grand Theft Auto IV replaces the cheesy crime dramas with an immigrant story wrapped in a crime drama, while retaining the humor. If anything, people complain because Niko wasn't dark enough. However, his backstory is the darkest backstory ever in the series. Every GTA game before this lets you get away with anything and people will rarely question your actions. In GTA 4, Niko's actions and decisions during certain missions will alter who you see later on and you may even get reminded about what you done, especially if it was a bad choice. The final missions also changes based on what choice you make and the outcome affects Niko greatly. Decided to take Dimitri's deal? Your girlfriend dumps you because you're greedy for money and Dimitri kills your cousin at his wedding. Did you decide to kill Dimitri instead of taking the money? The mafia gets their own revenge by killing your girlfriend.
The Lost and Damned DLC turns the Grim Dark Up to Eleven, with the protagonist Johnny partaking in a series of events which leads to the death of his best friend Jim at the hands of Niko, being betrayed by childhood friend turned Big Bad Billy Grey who tries to have Johnny and Jim killed during a drug deal and later attempts to sellout everyone to save his own ass after said drug deal gets him arrested, and said arrest leading to a civil war that wipes out more than half of the Lost. Once everything is over with Billy dead, Johnny and the survivors of the whole ordeal (One of whom happens to be a paraplegic crippled in an accident caused by Billy's carelessness) decide to just burn down the clubhouse to put it out of its misery after it and the club have been ruined over the course of the game. This leaves the player with a single, run down safehouse that is in one of the most run down areas of the city and used to belong to one of the Lost members Johnny had to kill in the civil war.
Grand Theft Auto V. Ironically enough, this game is edgier than IV in some ways. While it's MUCH less serious, its content is much more explicit, dirty, violent and graphic and the sheer amount of Black Comedy and Comedic Sociopathy. To give a short description of how much darker this game is, we have one of the protagonists of IV killed in a gruesome manner with his organization collapsing soon after, players enacting Cold-Blooded Torture, one protagonist betraying another in the backstory, the HD Universe's answer to Catalina as one of the protagonists, as well as 2 of the 3 endings ending in the deaths of either Michael or Trevor, generally regarded among the franchise's darkest moments. That said, this game also has vibrant gameplay and world, an enviable night life, rewarding heists, and the other ending being one of the happiest endings in the franchise. If anything, this is a Reconstruction of the Lighter and Softer trope and Michael (or even Franklin and perhaps Trevor)'s backstory in this game is by far less dark than Niko's backstory.
Though Halo started off fairly grim in the first place, as the series progressed it went ever deeper down the tunnel. By Halo 3 there's some serious nastiness going on, especially regarding the Flood and the terror inherent to some of Cortana's messages.
The story goes that the original script for the original trilogy's ending had a much lighter tone, with all the main characters returning to Earth to a hero's welcome. Marty O'Donnel, Bungie's musical director, thought that this ending was too light and soft and didn't portray the grim consequences of being a "hero" in a 30-year war. Subsequently the script was re-written to have a much Darker And Edgier ending in which several main characters die and Master Chief is stranded in deep space with Cortana, presumed dead by the rest of humanity.
Halo: Reach, Bungie's farewell to the series, was intended to be the darkest and most depressing entry yet, since you already know everything that will happen to you, your comrades and the planet itself . It's about the heroism and sacrifice of those people on a doomed planet watching their friends and everything they love fall. Even look at the medals when you perform a feat (Double Kill/Triple Kill; in Halo 3 they were bright and brightly colored, while in Reach they are darker and look metallic. Yes, even these meta-game symbols are darker AND edgier.
Despite giving humanity a shinier and more high-tech aesthetic in the post-3 games, 343 Industries has gone even further than their predecessors did into exploring the shady and amoral side of Halo's humans.
Hard Truck series started out as a trucking simulation game. Then Hard Truck Apocalypse spinoff was released where events take place in post-apocalyptic Europe.
The "Wonderful Life" subseries of Harvest Moon are extremely dark compared to the other games. For one, unlike the other HM games, once you've chosen who to marry, the game clearly spells out to you that the lives of the other potential brides are now completely, irrevocably ruined. For another, characters age in real time, which means the end of A Wonderful Life is a wonderful death. The game features a darker colour palette and more realistic animals as well. The game pushed its E rating with its themes of infidelity, character death, alcohol, and some sexuality.
There's also Harvest Moon: Animal Parade, which states very early on that things suck for everyone in the town because of the Harvest King not being around. Soil has begun to grow barren and fish are not as numerous in the water as they should be, which leaves fishermen to worry about their livelihood, meaning that if the bells aren't found and rung soon, the town may very well become abandoned because of nothing being able to grow anymore. And the circus' animals have run away, too. The game also features some darker character backstories than other games, such as Jin being a widow.
Harvest Moon 64 is one of the darkest titles in the game and is a definite step up from the original game. The game starts with your grandfather - the original protagonist - dying and you inheriting his farm. Behind the cutesy Super-Deformed visuals is a surprisingly somber game. For example, the local vineyard is just about to close, its owners have a broken family, and Karen is one step away from leaving town (and will if you don't befriend her).
Compared to the rest of the series, Hitman: Contracts is the darkest. All of the missions take place at night and it's usually raining. The game also has really haunting background music, and at least 4 of the missions have already dead bodies, one who was horribly butchered.
Homeworld Cataclysm. Although we don't witness it directly, the Beast easily trumps the Taiidan in terms of brutality; at least the Taiidan stopped at annihilating a planet, the Beast only cares about making more of itself in a gruesome and, by the sound of it, REALLY PAINFUL way.
The shift in style between Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy and its successor, Jak II took place during the opening cinematic. In the original, the tone was light, the hero was a Heroic Mime, his rodential sidekick joked all the time, and the combat was minimal and hand-to-hand. At the beginning of Jak II the heroes traveled forward in time, released an extra-dimensional evil onto the world in the process, then skipped over two years of Jak being tortured under lab settings. After that, Jak got an ability to speak, a sardonic attitude, a gun, and became a card-carrying Phlebotinum Rebel; Daxter got some dirtier jokes, and was dropped from the title. This Time Travel based change was a plausible way to change the world of the game drastically in one scene. Jak 3: Wastelander reverses the tone a little bit. The world is notably brighter and more colorful.
While the first Killzone wasn't sunshine and roses, it didn't have the feel or atmosphere of a dark game. Killzone 2 plunged right through that and made everything dark and gritty, with dark and oppressive vistas of muted colors, increased character death rate, blood everywhere and a general feel of hopelessness in the fight. Quite like with Jak and Daxter, going dark and edgy was a good choice here.
King's Quest: The entire series has a sort of history of being considered one of Sierra's darker, more serious titles (despite many attempts to advertise it as a whimsical and humorous 'cartoon' series filled with slapstick comedy). The Two Guys from Andromeda went onto make Space Quest because they considered King's Quest to be too somber and medieval for their tastes and wanted to do something light and silly. Each additional game after King's Quest 1 has been accused of being darker than the last with perhaps the exception of King's Quest 8 (although it has some dark elements as well, but is usually overshadowed by its silly cartoon-style animation). King's Quest 3 got accused of being dark and satanic, King's Quest 4 was accused of being dark because of its examination of Graham's mortality, King's Quest 5 because of family kidnapping, and some satanic imagery in the villain's castle, and its more realistic artwork. It was King's Quest 6 that saw the biggest accusation of being 'overly dark and most ominous' of the entire series at the time of its release and was acknowledged by Roberta Williams in her interview with Donald Trivette. Some see King's Quest 8: Mask of Eternity as going even darker than King's Quest 6, taking the series the series in a direction that embarrassed some of the Sierra's designersnote Ironically considering her own game had been accused of being overly dark and ominous some years before, and yet both games include whimsical bee-like characters (pollinating wisps fill in the roll in King's Quest 8).. Among them were Jane Jensen, who wrote:
"Me and my poor befuddled brain, trying to fathom a Sierra where... the most recent King's Quest involves killing things? Whatever happened to saving the cute little bee queen? HAS THE WORLD GONE MAD?"
Ven: I'm asking you, as a friend. Just... put an end to me.
The takes on the Disney films also tend to make their plotlines either darker or lighter than the original story. The most noticeable examples are Cinderella, TRON: Legacy, and Frozen (2013); the first has the evil stepfamily try to murder Cinderella before they suffer a Karmic Death at the hands of the very monster they summoned through The Power of Hate. The second has Sora being forced to fight Tron, which is a Player Punch given how close they've become in II. Oh, and Clu then murders Tron in cold blood right in front of Sora! The third features Hans going One-Winged Angel and attempting to destroy not only the heroes but also Arendelle itself after being prevented from killing Elsa.
Kirby: Planet Robobot is noticeably darker than previous entries in the series. A lot of the music has a harsh techno feel to it, most of the standard enemies have some form of cybernetic implant (Whispy Woods' mechanized form looks downright monstrous), and the story is more complex than most other games, including such features as the main villain wanting to see his presumed dead daughter again and being rewarded with having his body, mind, and soul deleted by a computer bent on destroying all life.
While Zelda II: The Adventure of Link lacks the details to properly show it, the game is a bit darker compared to The Legend of Zelda. The reason there were no towns or settlements in the first game was due to everyone evacuating and moving up north to avoid Ganon's forces. Despite the move, Old Kasuto is completely abandoned by its people once Ganon's minions found them; going there has no NPCs (save for a hidden one that teaches you a spell) and there's invisible enemies everywhere that you cannot see unless you picked up the Cross. Thankfully, Old Kasuto's residents moved to a hidden area in the woods that you can get to once you reveal the location. On top of this, one of the town's children was kidnapped by one of Ganon's minions, which you do get to rescue. There's also the fact that all of Ganon's minions are actively hunting down Link where it's not just for revenge, but for Link's blood specifically, which is needed to revive Ganon. Get a Game Over and you see Ganon rise again as he laughs.
Ocarina of Time is darker than the preceding games, dealing with subjects such as war, devastation, and even death (it's more prominent during the future era, when Ganondorf successfully takes over Hyrule).
Majora's Mask goes further than Ocarina of Time with its apocalyptic concept of the moon falling into the land of Termina in three days. It also features themes of death and despair, as many of the characters in the game are put through endless suffering. If you run out of time, you actually get to see the moon fall, where it explodes into a huge ball of fire that rolls across all of Termina, including Link himself who can't do anything to stop it as he too gets destroyed.
Twilight Princess rivals Majora's Mask as the darkest entry in the franchise. While the tone is slightly less bleak, the violence and frightening imagery is boosted Up to Eleven in comparison to OoT and MM (it even has a more edgier art style to go along with it). As a result, Twilight Princess became the first Zelda game to receive a T rating as opposed to its usual E rating.
Spirit Tracks is this to Phantom Hourglass, which is reflected in that it's one of the only two Zelda games in the Toon Link style to not receive a regular E rating, but rather E10+ (the other game being the HD remake of Wind Waker). The antagonist is a twisted, corrupt politician who is actually a demon in disguise, and the story features one of the shortest, but creepiest plot points of Twilight Princess as framework for a huge chunk of the story: Princess Zelda's empty body being possessed by a male Sealed Evil in a Can.
Skyward Sword is in the middle between the darker style of Twilight Princess and the lighter style of The Wind Waker, which is evident by both the visual style and the storyline. Played literally with the final boss' weapon: a black Master Sword with a Serrated Blade of Pain.
Breath of the Wild has a light visual style that mixes the tones of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. Its plot is also in a middle ground between the two games, with a lean towards TP level of darkness. Link has been in a coma for the last century and is presumed dead. Unlike him, most of his group of friends didn't make it out alive. In that period Hyrule has turned into a desolate wasteland full of monsters.
Would you believe LittleBigPlanet 2? It's still a fairly light, silly game, but... well, the previous titles were about traveling an imaginary world, helping people. This one is about stopping an Eldritch Abomination from destroying an imaginary world, complete with some genuinely creepy levels and enemies.
While Mabinogiisn't exactly one of the cheeriest games around, its prequel game Vindictus, focusing on humanity's war against the Fomors to reach The Promised Land (Mabinogi's original setting Erinn) is as violent as all get-out and has a lot more serious themes. In the third major episode, a young cadet that you spent the first few episodes getting to know is viciously murdered, and as the game goes on, we learn it's only the beginning of how bad things are getting. It doesn't help that the cutscene where he's killed is right before the boss fight in a mission. And it's unskippable. Given the luck-factor in finishing quests, it's not uncommon to see him murdered over and over and over again.
Mafia III. While Mafia II was already quite dark, Mafia III seems to have made things Up to Eleven. Lincoln's adoptive family is betrayed and murdered in front of him, the place is extremely racist and hostile, executions are excessively brutal, there's a lot of mass murder and disturbing content, and the antagonists are even more despicable than before. Interestingly, Mafia III has much more muted colours in pictures. Heck, an upcoming DLC titled "Sign of the Times" doubles with Bloodier and Gorier.
Max Payne gets progressively darker and more serious through each installment. And it already started bleak with the murders of his wife and daughter. This is apparent with the decreasing amount of humour - in the first game it might still be pretty goofy and comical at times (particularly the unintentional humour). The second one still has humour, but it is more caustic and somber. The third game is almost void of it, were it not for some in-universe funny quips.
Within the Medieval II Total War expansion, the Teutonic Campaign deals with the fact that the Teutonic Knights are a bunch of bloodthirsty zealots who see their enemies as less than humans and are merely Hiding Behind Religion to justify their actions. The Kingdom of Lithuania faces the brutal choice of choosing to abandon their traditional religion or be exterminated by the Teutonic Knights, and Poland is left horrified at what the Teutonic Knights have done, given that they asked them to deal with the pagans in the region in the first place, and they decide to go to war to atone for the crimes they allowed the Order to commit.
Rather than an adorable Astro Boy-esque android, the Blue Bomber of Mega Man X is a morally conflicted hero. Similarly, the comical Dr. Wily was succeeded by Sigma, a ruthless (and seemingly indestructible) robot bent on the total annihilation of the human race. It was still done rather well, Capcom Sequel Stagnation aside. Still, apparently Capcom knew when enough was enough, as a later series in the franchise, Mega Man Legends, significantly dials down the angst with less hard-edged artwork, a more reasonable difficulty level, and a comical cast of characters.
Within the X series, Mega Man X4 is where the series got even darker, with brutal on-screen dismemberments with High Pressure Reploid Blood, Character Development for Zero and the exploration of his dark past with Zero's storyline ending in Zero being forced to kill his love interest Iris's brother and then Iris herself, and first time in the series that the Maverick label is used on non-Mavericks.
The Mega Man Zero series was hands down the darkest in the franchise, what with the hero being on the losing side of the war (at first), giving the players the "pleasure" to see countless allies die. Plus the horrible backstory (bridging this series with X), which later gets incorporated into the main plot, and a truly evil Omnicidal Maniac as the main Big Bad.
ZX was lighter than Zero... except for the backstories of the four protagonists, the general atrocities caused by the antagonists, and Giro falling victim to Zero's death curse. It was still done well.
Super Adventure Rockman was this to the Classic franchise. The story involves Mega Man trying to stop an electronic field that shut down all power around the planet, a horrifying load of Game Over cutscenes the player could get, ranging from Dr. Wily taking over the world after killing Roll, to Shadow Man destroying Mega Man with an arm cannon. Quick Man also has a death. A legitimate death, not an explosion, he even gets buried by Mega Man, and though he comes back for the climax, Shadow Man couldn't be rebuilt, so in a way Shadow Man is really the one who gets Killed Off for Real.
Mega Man Star Force was definitely darker than its predecessor, Battle Network. Geo Stelar starts out being understandably depressed about his dad to the point where he won't go to school... But his depression quickly lifts the longer The Power of Friendship thing hangs around (Then it hits a roadblock when Pat betrays him and Geo goes into a short-lived fit of Wangst).
Star Force 2 contains one of the darkest plotlines in the series. The Apollo Flames "second quest" involves an alternate universe After the End scenario where every human has been killed off thanks to the Precursor To Ruin.
The third Star Force game has some decidedly un-cheery plot elements, such as two war orphans trying to use an Eldritch Abomination to destroy the world's technology, a corrupting, quasi-Hate Plague, and one character being killed before Geo's eyes (Luckily they turn out to be Only Mostly Dead).
The original Metal Gear is a light, fun action game that uses some cool elements borrowed from movies, and its major twist (that Big Boss was the commander of Outer Heaven) is played almost like a joke. Its sequel Metal Gear 2 had a significantly more morally ambiguous and interesting plot, with Big Boss's goals being sympathetic and many of his men having good reasons to follow him, and some genuinely sad death scenes. Then the sequel to that, Metal Gear Solid, is much more mature again, with Snake getting a much more nuanced personality and visibly struggling with the morality of what he is doing, and the game overall having a much moodier tone (going from a multicoloured palette with bright anime aesthetics to shades of blue-grey, and replacing the campy proto-Synthwave soundtrack with brooding 90s cinematic music and a One-Woman Wail).
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is this to a very heavy level, which is understandable, since it concerns Big Boss and his fall from hero to villain. It includes torture (present in every MGS game, but never to this level), surgery performed without anesthetics, explicit portrayal of Child Soldiers (only discussed or implied in previous games) and heavily implied gang rape, and that's just what's been shown in trailers.
Metal Slug 5, at least in comparison to the other games in the series. Series Big Bad Morden and his Dragon Allen O'Neal, as well as the Rebel Army, are not in the game, and instead, you fight a different group of enemies ranging from veiled terrorists to armed mecha. As a result, the game lacks some of the humor found in the other games (though part of this comes from the game being a rushed Obvious Beta with a lot of Dummied Out content.) However, most of the enemies in the game are all edits of Rebel soldier sprites. The game also features a heavy metal soundtrack.
Metal Slug 6 as well. It features Marco and his team joining forces with both the Rebel Army and the Mars People fighting against a new, dangerous threat that not even the Mars People themselves can handle.
Although the Metroid series is already more mature than most Nintendo franchises, within it are games that take it further:
Super Metroid took the franchise to terrifying places with spooky music and some very disturbing enemies.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is aesthetically less dark than Echoes due to the lack of a Dark World, but the plot involves a wide-scale war, Samus witnesses the death of several fellow hunters by her own hand, several planets (not just one anymore) are affected by Phazon, most of the worlds have heavy destruction and loss in their backstories, one area takes place in the remnants of a merciless attack towards a GF ship, and Samus herself becomes gradually corrupted by Phazon, with the threat of death constantly looming over her.
Metroid: Other M tried for a darker take on the series. The normal music is subdued and ambient and battle music is heavy on "Psycho" Strings and intense percussion, the setting is more artificial and constricted, and the story tries for heavier themes such as betrayal, past pain, conflicting loyalty, government conspiracy, and sacrifice.
Metroid Fusion, compared to the previous games. Super Metroid was darker than the previous series, but this game is almost a Survival Horror game in tone. Samus is on a run of her life should she encounter the SA-X, who possesses her upgrades and Ice Beam. And the Nightmare is one of the most horrifying bosses in a Game Boy Advance game. Even the formerly benevolently portrayed Federation is shown to have shady goals that force Samus to turn on them, which she realizes will make her viewed as an enemy.
Momodora always had some rather dark themes, including heroes becoming villains due to their own failings, flaws and obsessions, but overall was a fairly idealistic series. This is not the cause for IV. In stark contrast to the lively, vibrant worlds of the first three games, the world of IV is dark, decrepit and decayed, full of bloodthirsty monsters and selfish, opportunistic people. Nearly every character, including heroine Kaso, is deeply flawed and has a tragic past. And to top it all off, Neither ending results in a victory. Either Kaso fails outright and is murdered by the Underworld Queen, or succeeds at the cost of her life, only for a new Underworld Queen to rise years later and start the whole conflict over again. And since this game is a prequel, the latter ending is canon.
Minoria. The basic plot is that the Saintly Church your character works for is trying to defend the world from evil witches, and the Church's Princess who holds the key to defeating them has been kidnapped. Except its all a lie. The Church isn't saintly at all, but rather an intolerant, fascist regime that defines "heretics" as "anyone who doesn't do exactly what we say". The Princess you've spent the entire game trying to save turns out to be a psychotic, genocidal fanatic who is willing to quite literally burn the world down if it means killing a single "heretic", and the witches are just trying to defend themselves from psychotic murderers, their leader turning out to be the Princess's own sister whose only crime was wanting the fighting to stop. And just like Momodora, neither ending actually has the protagonist accomplish anything. Either the fanatical Princess takes over the world and ushers in a new era of bloody theocracy, or the protagonist manages to oust her from power, but loses her closest friends in the process and the status quo isn't actually changed at all.
In regards of Mortal Kombat itself, the ninth installment took the gore, violence and the tone and drama of the story mode to a whole new level, which already says a lot for a series that was already Nintendo Hard and Bloodier and Gorier than most games of the genre. Mortal Kombat X ups the ante even more still, with a darker palette and overall an even more visceral tone than 9. In addition the game is set after the events of 9, which means it's after a story that was nothing but From Bad to Worse all the way through.
The Mother series falls under this. Mother 1 was a bit dark compared to Mother 2, which is the most cheerful and funny of the series, and despite being a pretty dark game, it obscured it with bright colors and witty dialogue. Then comes Mother 3 where the protagonist's mother dies (in the first chapter of the game, no less), his brother goes missing after trying to avenge his mother's death (although it's implied the main character thinks he's dead), his father dedicates his life to finding him, his brother is used by the Big Bad to pull the seven needles which if he gets more than half the WORLD ENDS, the Big Bad is an insane person who is thousands of years old and has the mind and body of a kid, and in the end the protagonist's brother kills himself in order to rejoin his mother in the afterlife. Amazingly, it still retains the humor of the previous games. In addition, what little Itoi has talked about the Nintendo 64 version shows that it was going to be significantly darker, and Dummied Out cutscenes and sprites (of which there are plenty) show that even GBA version was somehow going to be more depressing and dark still.
Muv-Luv started life as an intentionally-cliched spinoff of Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien. Then came Muv-Luv Unlimited and Muv-Luv Alternative, which drop the protagonist into a parallel universe where aliens are invading earth, killing off large swaths of humanity (violently), and kickstarting a war between the invaders and Humongous Mecha-piloting teenagers.
Hyperdimension Neptunia was a fun light-hearted Console Wars game filled with a fun cast and a happy game overall. The second game starts off with the four goddesses on the receiving end of a curb stomp, piracy monsters are rampant, and in one of the endings murdering fellow goddesses to power up the sword, only to find out that Nepgear was being controlled by the Big Bad.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 also certainly qualifies. Despite not being at the same level as mk2 in terms of edginess, this alternate retelling of the first game seems to take itself a bit more seriously than the other games, and even establishes Arfoire as a legitimate threat to Gamindustri, moreso than in any other incarnation, except for her role in mk2, where she was an Eldritch Abomination. This game is also arguably the one and only game where she becomes evil against her will.
Megadimension Neptunia VII is the darkest Neptunia game to date, surpassing both mk2 and Re;Birth1 in terms of dark atmosphere. Unlike its lighthearted and wackierpredecessor, this installment takes itself more seriously than previous games by introducing a leadership crisis within Gamindustri, and it helps that most of promotional material gives off this vibe, although it's justified since the vast majority of it focuses on the Zerodimension. In the actual game, however, has a good balance between seriousness and comedy, but it is definitely darker than the plot of the previous titles; you can expect something bad (or worse) to happen at the beginning, middle, and the end of each Story Arc. The Big Bad of the game is more than just a generic Omnicidal Maniac like Arfoire or Psychopathic Manchild like Rei Ryghts, but an intelligent yet ruthless mysterious girl who is very manipulative.
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer compared to the original campaign. So much so that some people wonder how the same company could have created the lighthearted Troperiffic romp through the Sword Coast, then turned around and created an original, dark, atmospheric campaign in MotB.
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is a darker followup of the first game. While it still retains the quirky, paradoxal, fourth wall-breaking, Tarantino-esque qualities of the first game, it continues the series theme of revenge that was only brought up at the end of the first game, a noticeably angrier Travis, and the brutal murder of Travis' friend Bishop, with his severed head in a paper bag being thrown through Travis' window at the beginning of the game. Interestingly, the second game also features some actual Character Development, with Travis starting to get sick of mindless killing and eventually deciding to quit the UAA because it disgusts him, as opposed to the first game, where he was just a violent, foul-mouthed Blood Knight. The darker tone of the game is echoed by the ambiance of the levels, most of them being explored during dusk time, representing an important transition for Travis and the characters supporting him.
Pac-Man World 3 exchanges the colorful and cartoony atmosphere of the other games for a grayer and grittier look and feel with a story about preventing the universe from being destroyed.
Painkiller could be said to be the dark cousin to Serious Sam. Both are FPSes recreating the old-skool style of gunning down massed Mooks in War Sequences, but where Serious Sam's levels are bright and colourful with fantastic and cartoonish monsters, those of Painkiller are grim and subdued with hellish dark fantasy-style beasts. It is worth noting, though, that the two titles are done by different companies of different nationality (Croatian Croteam for Serious Sam and Polish People Can Fly for Painkiller), though, so this comparison may be the fault of a mind that thinks too much.
Parappa The Rapper was lighthearted and grounded in reality. The spin off Um Jammer Lammy manages to be both darker and Denser and Wackier. The wacky parts come from Lammy going through a series of unfortunate events that delay her from getting to her concert gig on time (learning how to put out a fire, fly a plane, make a new guitar from a tree, etc). The more mature themes involve Lammy dealing with the concept of labor and newborn babies and at one point, dying and being sent straight to hell (the North American version changes the scene from going to hell to being sent to an island with Lammy being alive).
Patapon 3 is a rather mild example. The art style is much darker in this one and music has lots of heavy guitar riffs in it.
The sequel is notably darker, instead of leading an army of Patapon, the Patapon are left to 4 survivors who are tossed into a dimension filled with dark demons and must fight them off with masks that can corrupt them.
The original Phantasy Star was your standard science-fantasy affair, starting as a revenge story before turning towards saving the universe from an ancient evil. Things took a turn for the dark in Phantasy Star II, however, with the destruction of one of the three planets in the Algol system, then the subsequent destruction of the supercomputer that had transformed the hostile desert world of Motavia into a habitable paradise, followed by The Reveal that said supercomputer was made by a race of people from a planet called Earth as part of their plan to take over the system. By Phantasy Star IV, Motavia has reverted back to a hostile desert planet, with monsters running rampant and technological progress starting to regress.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon:Explorers of Time/Darkness. While the first game's offered a character that simply tried to ruin your protagonists' lives and was a cosmic Jerkass, the sequel goes further by sending your protagonist duo to the literal End of Days, having to face down a legendary Pokémon that has become an evilly subverted primal force of nature, and a Big Bad who not only traps children in unending nightmares, but also poses as an "ally" who suggests that it's all your fault and the best way to fix things is to kill yourself.
Gates to Infinity is similarly dark in tone, taking place in a world that's lost hope to the point that the negative emotions of Pokemon in the world have created an Eldritch Abomination that threatens to destroy everything. The resident team of villains is also rather similar to a suicide cult, having grown so sick of the world that they're trying to protect the aforementioned Eldritch Abomination (By hunting down and "defeating" the humans that were called to the world to destroy it), feeling they have nothing left to live for and that a better world could be born from the destruction. Their leader gets extra points for essentially committing the cold-blooded murder of a kind, lovable Pokemon, and nearly killing the hero immediately after.
Black and White definitely qualify, too - the game does not in fact end with the Champion as in the previous four generations, the villainous team takes a much heavier role in the plot than before, the plot itself is much less of an Excuse Plot, and on top of all that we also have the single most despicable villain in the series.
X and Y give us several mentions of war and death and villains that want to commit genocide in the belief that they are the only ones worthy of living in the world. The postgame side quest also revolves around a homeless girl.
Sun and Moon really sets the bar high. Pokedex entries that do not try and hide the Fridge Horror of past entries and a villain that is genuinely insane and has a much more tragic backstory than past villains. The postgame ups it even further; you are fighting Ultra Beasts, a group of Eldritch Abominations from another world that are more dangerous than any other Legendary Pokémon and the game does not hide the dangers they pose. It is specifically mentioned that one of the Ultra Beasts has killed someone in the past marking the first mention of a death in the franchise that is not just implied. However, these elements are mostly put on the backburner for these games, which are generally Lighter and Softer in tone...but they get pushed to the forefront of Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, which are a textbook case of both Darker and Edgier and Sequel Difficulty Spike.
Even though it is lighter in some aspects, Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness is even darker then Colosseum. The Shadow Pokémon experiments have taken an even harsher form of experimentation, the biggest example would be the mascot Pokémon, Shadow Lugia. While the other game had Legendaries, they could be purified just like all the rest, this one is an experimental Pokémon that COULD NOT be purified (at least by the original methods). It's permanently lost its compassion and shows this through its twisted appearance. And in the ending, while the Big Bad surrenders with some persuasion by one of his sons, the other son vows to restore the organization to its former glory, and make you his first target afterward. It is also the only game in which the evil syndicate implicitly commits mass murder. It isn't shown on-screen, but Shadow Lugia picks up a ship from the ocean in the opening scene, and later you find the ruins of this ship in the desert. There are no suggestions anywhere in the game that any of the crew survived or that the two we see get swept overboard were found.
Seriously impressive considering that the R-Type series had you fighting the embodiment of evil from the start, but it wasn't until Delta that the graphics were advanced enough to really drive the point home.
Darius Force has a dark and moody tone in comparison to the other games of the Darius series.
The Professor Layton series escalates in terms of the amount of violence with each installment.
The first game had precisely one death, which happened before the start of the game, setting the plot in motion. The second game was the same, but also had a more sinister feel to it, referring to things like pregnancy and murder. The third game ramps this up absurdly, involving a Bad Future ruled by a crime syndicate and a backstory involving a horrific accident. During the plot's climax, Clive's Humongous Mecha demolishes a good chunk of London, seemingly killing hundreds of people. The fourth game was significantly less dark than the third, but still had quite a bit of violence, especially during the Spectre's scenes. The animated film wasn't quite as dark as the games, but the plot was started by the death of a young girl, and the premise of the Anti-Villain's plan was very disturbing. The thing that prevents this film from matching the level of violence of the games is that, when the Crown Pettone is destroyed, it is at first implied that everyone aboard it was killed, but it is later revealed that the Evil Minions had loaded them into a submarine and sent them back to shore. Then the fifth game had a creepy masked man as the antagonist and set up things for the sixth game, where the characters battle against a terrorist organization, Laytons birth father is its leader, Laytons brother is one of his enemies, Laytons assistant is The Moleraised by said organization, the backstory involves an ancient civilization that was wiped out by abused golems, and the main cast end up sacrificing themselves to save the world (it doesnt stick, but still).
The crossover with Ace Attorney is dark by both series' standards. To mention one example of how hardcore this game can get: young girls accused of witchcraft are sealed inside a cage that looks disturbingly similar to an Iron Maiden, screaming and begging for help all the way, then plunged into a pit of fire. This is already horrifying by itself, but what makes it worse is the people's reactions. Because they are overly scared of witches and easy to refer to anything they don't understand as magic, they are quick to accuse any girl of witchcraft, rush their trials, and stubbornly refuse to listen to them. This leads to many innocent young ladies being burned to a crisp. Though it later turns out that the fire pit is fake and no-one convicted of witchcraft really dies, the real truth of the game is even worse. The event that kickstarted the plot was two childrenaccidently killing the population of a village by fire. One was traumatised so badly her father tries to make up the story about witches to convince her she wasn't responsible, and the lies piled up to the point where he had to brainwash a town with drugs into thinking they were a medieval society. It's also part of an elaborate experiment funded by the British government, which has very disturbing implications. Once one of the girls remembers the truth, she attempts to kill herself. In front of everyone, and in the middle of gameplay, no less. Moreover, both Layton and Maya seemingly die at certain points in the game, and Phoenix crosses the Despair Event Horizon as a result.
Psycho Soldier was your fairly typical and uncomplicated action game that brings us the team up of to Athena Asamiya (descendant of the original Athena) and Sie Kensou, who would become famous through The King of Fighters. Athena: Awakening of the Ordinary Life, however, introduces a more complicated storyline with dinosaurs, a Government Conspiracy, and quite the bit of Break the Cutie for Athena herself.
While most of the Puyo Puyo series are lighthearted and comical, the fourth installment, YON, features a serious storyline, reminiscent of the Madou Monogatari games (the series which the Puyo Puyo characters originated from), and a Knight of CerebusBig Bad, Satan or rather, Doppleganger Arle.
The seventh is similar, with an apocalyptic plot, which would similarly be used in the eighth. Both of them involved Vile Villain, Saccharine Show antagonists who threatened the entire world with destruction.
Speaking of Madou Monogatari, the PC-98 ports of the original trilogy are easily the darkest games in the whole series, with grim, realistic enemy designs, an illusion of melting faces, terrifying new bosses, a headless (and far crueler) Schezo, Arles fingers bleeding after overusing a spell, Arles face bleeding, and even fatalities Arle can perform on certain enemies (such as burning a werewolf enemy alive).
Madou Monogatari S features a real Downer Ending, a rarity in the series. Puyo Puyo Gaiden: Puyo Wars features a larger scope than before, a more shonen and serious design sense than usual, and horrifying ex-human monstrosities as the main enemies. Madou Saturn featured a horrifying Eldritch Abomination villain brainwashing everything in sight, and decent amounts of drama between the heroes.
Quest for Glory IV. The first two games were pretty lighthearted even when things got serious, and after proving himself in the first game the hero always had allies close by to rely on, and his reputation frequently preceded him. Even in the third game, which was Bloodier and Gorier and slightly darker than before, the Hero still had Rakeesh and Uhura to count on. This time, he's completely cut off from everyone in a strange land where no one knows who he is, nor do they take kindly to his presence. He's then tasked with stopped an Eldritch Abomination in a very moody setting with lots of creepy characters and backdrops and plenty of tragic backstories to go around. Fortunately, it also manages to still retain the humor from the previous games, and is still considered possibly the best game in the series.
Ratchet's new outfit hides his tail (and head throughout most gameplay) and makes him look suspiciously like Samus or Master Chief. (Likely intended to be the latter, considering the era it was released in.)
Clank, although still having a major role, had his name removed from the western titles, partly to make the game seem less friendship-themed (but mostly because he's relegated to Mission Control for the entire game).
The humour is less reliant on slapstick situations compared to the first two entries.
The weapons are often considered more "realistic" than those in the rest of the series, although that does not say much (even by sci-fi standards).
The American subtitle is not an obvious innuendo like the previous two games.
The original Rayman was packed to the brim with cheery, bright colours, silly characters and all sorts of silly things that make its sequel, Rayman 2: The Great Escape, look extremely grim in comparison. Fortunately, the latter also added an additional sense of mystery and wonder, and consistency, to Rayman's world, so it all works out. Afterwards, the slide is balanced in Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc, which has dark visuals but lots of comedy, and pushed beyond the cheeriness in the Raving Rabbids series and Rayman Origins. Then Rayman Legends contains the same zany humor as Origins, but adds in a few dark and serious elements, as well as a whole series of levels that pay homage to Splinter Cell.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard takes the series back to focusing on horror rather than action. There's a lot more violence compared to previous games, the plot is immensely grim and disturbing, and the main character gets his hand sawed off in the first minutes of the game.
The Resistance series is completely bleak from the get go and only gets worse with sequel for humanity.
Telltale's Sam & Max: Freelance Police games went from being a collection of lighthearted (but satirical) stand-alones in the first two seasons, to the much more serious and epic Season 3, The Devil's Playhouse, which (while still a total comedy) had a strong overarching plot, was less satirical, and deconstructed the Black Comedy stuff into more serious and emotionally-affecting Black Comedy. It went down really well with the fanbase, though.
Samurai Shodown started getting gradually darker starting with the third game. Whereas the first two games were fairly lighthearted (aside of the occasional killing of your rival if you give the last slash in the right moment and spot), and the protagonist role is split between a fairly easygoing guy who just likes to get in fights (Haohmaru) and one of the poster-children for Moe characters in video games (Nakoruru), the third features the Kid Hero Shizumaru with a Dark and Troubled Past who may or may not be suffering from Demonic Possession. Further games would start introducing characters like a psychotic vengeful spirit (Basara Kubukiri) and a giant man-eating youkai (Kusageredo), while the games also started getting Bloodier and Gorier, featuring staight-up and personalised fatalities starting with the fourth game. The sixth game actually reversed all this, though, removing all fatalities and blood (though it all came back for the next installment.)
Sengoku Basara is a game series that's known for being ridiculously over-the-top with all its character designs, Engrish, attacks, plotlines, ham, silly humour, cheese and the tendency to ignore actual history. Everything was turned Up to Eleven, and it was awesome in its own way. Then along came Sengoku Basara 3, kicking the previous poster boys out of the way and taking over with new serious plotline. Capcom also decided to be more history-accurate, making them NPC/killing off important characters along the way. Result? Previously "LET'S PARTY!" -characters overrun with angst.
Within the later Shin Megami Tensei: Persona titles, Persona 5 goes considerably darker than Persona 4 and its spinoffs, with characters receiving visible, bloody injuries, regular use of Body Horror, the heroes being Anti-Hero thieves, and antagonists who play entirely on Adult Fears. For example, an early game plot point involves one of your potential party members' friends being physically abused by one of her teachers, including implied sexual abuse, to the point she leaps to her death off the top of a school building, in full view of all her friend and other classmates. The ending is still more optimistic in tone than the decidedly bittersweet conclusions of Persona 2 and Persona 3, with the protagonist accomplishing his goals and surviving the plot.
The Sims Medieval is darker than the older Sim games as it breaks the three rules of Simology which is no religion, no murder (you can kill people in swordfights and executing them) and no alcoholism. It also introduces some things such as breastfeeding, for instance.
Sin and Punishment is this for Nintendo as a whole, as they wanted to produce a game that would appeal to the teens-and-up audience that Nintendo is notorious for not catering to, especially in Western markets where older gamers prefer their games to be more "badass" than "cute".
Not even an obscure series like Snowboard Kids can escape this trope, with the DS installment gutting nearly everything that gave the earlier games their quirky charm for the sake of appealing to teenagers. Neither the critics nor the small but dedicated fanbase were amused, which ultimately spelled doom for the franchise.
Sonic 3 & Knuckles, despite being very bright and colorful, is terrifying in many ways compared to the previous games that were more on the whimsical side. The very first level, taking place in a jungle, has one of Eggman's mechs napalm the whole jungle, forcing you to press on in what is now a firestorm where even the blue skies in the background is replaced by an orange haze from the fires. If you are playing Sonic 3 alone, the Final Boss battle has the skies grow dark as menacing music plays for the fight. (The same music also plays for the second to last boss fight in the complete version of the game.) Sandopolis Zone Act 2 takes place entirely inside a pyramid, with ghosts floating around you who grow bigger and more menacing as it gets darker, until they grow demonic horns and start spawning and attacking you from all directions nonstop. The Lava Reef Zone boss battle has you falling into a volcano with the Death Egg ominously looming high above you face down with a creepy shading. As soon as you land on a platform just a few feet above the lava, huge blinding death rays shoot out of the Death Egg's eyes, burning parts of the platform and igniting the volcano, forcing you to escape through a burning inferno. If you collect all Chaos/Super Emeralds in the complete game, the climax of the battle between Sonic and Eggman takes place in outer space with Super or Hyper Sonic giving chase as this music plays. Should Sonic run out of rings here, he dies by falling to the Earth. Knuckles' final boss fight itself isn't horrifying, but the background event during the fight is; Angel Island is tilting side to side as if it's struggling to stay in the air and is slowly falling down as the fight drags on. The 10 minute time limit you usually get for each level also doubles as the time limit for the island before it falls down completely. Yikes.
Sonic the Hedgehog CD has Bad Future versions of each of its zones, and creepy unlockable artwork. Also, the American release had some very scary boss and game over music, in contrast to their upbeat counterparts from the JPN/EUR release.
The Sonic Adventure series goes beyond Sonic games prior to it in intensity as the games adopt a more cinematic feel. The first ends with the large-scale destruction of a modern city by a creature reacting to atrocities committed by an ancient civilization led by a tyrannical, abusive father. The second surpasses that by dealing with use of "weapons of mass destruction" (and yes, they are actually called that in the game) to threaten whole countries, a military conspiracy involving the deaths of numerous innocents in a space colony, and threats to the survival of the world from anguished people with a vendetta against it. A case can be made for this game's 'Final Story' being the grimmest part of any game in the Sonic series. Gerald Robotnik's diary detailing his reaction to the loss of his granddaughter Maria is pure horror, containing such lovely lines as "I lost everything, I had nothing more to live for, I WENT INSANE!" (this part is helped by the fact that Gerald's voice actor was actually really good).
Shadow the Hedgehog takes place during an alien invasion with Sonic's rival Shadow suffering from amnesia and caught in the middle of a four way conflict between Sonic, Eggman, the military, and the aliens. The game expands upon the space colony incident from Sonic Adventure 2 and Shadow can choose to be Good, Evil, or Neutral with branching endings and a Karma Meter based on the missions you choose to complete. The game is also a Third-Person Shooter hybrid and features Shadow uttering mild swear words like "damn" and "hell" when he gets hit.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) attempts to toss Sonic into a hyper-realistic world, where he protects a princess who is the container of Iblis, one half of Solaris, a time god from Eggman. Along the way, he, Shadow, and Silver deal with a conspiracy where it is revealed in the final storyline Sonic dies to upset Elise to release Iblis ancient monster from her body, allowing that and the other villain, Mephiles, to merge to form Solaris, slaughtering the space-time continuum in the process. And then Elise kisses Sonic, reviving him with the power of the Chaos Emeralds, and restoring the space-time continuum from the damage dealt by Solaris, in the process.
Playing the first few games of the Soul Series, you think that the Soul Calibur is the "good" sword to the evil of Soul Edge, right? Not as of IV - Calibur is Knight Templar, just as evil as Edge. Previously-sympathetic characters like Taki become major bitches. Justified as Soul Calibur was made from a purified shard of Soul Edge.
The unofficial patches for Spacebase DF-9 by Derelict games brings the game into this territory. The villain is switched out from "Space Pirate Megafleet" to "Malevolent Dictator of the Galaxy", it turns your security guards murderous (kills civilians who break down into a tantrum instead of just incapacitating them, no questions asked), and introduces raiders who try to trick you into letting them approach your base. Also, lots of gratuitous body horror.
Spec Ops: The Line is an example of this both for the Spec Ops franchise (of which it is a kind of Continuity Reboot) and for the modern military shooter genre in general, for which it serves as a Genre Deconstruction by examining in detail the brutality and horrors of war that more straightforward entries in the genre tend to overlook.
Splatoon 2 is this to Splatoon. It plot involves Callie having gone missing months ago and her cousin Marie trying to find her. Callie has been kidnapped and brainwashed by the Big Bad. And that's not even touching the Octo Expansion; the list starts with "you have a bag of cyan ink strapped to your back at all times" and goes around the block to "you and Captain Cuttlefish narrowly avoid getting blended into primordial ooze" to "the Final Boss requires you to save the world from a giant statue of a human head with a Wave-Motion Gun designed to wipe out civilization as you know it".
Spyro the Dragon, when you remember that the original games have a cute dragon fighting hilarious freaks who mostly ran away from him, and you regained health by collecting butterflies, it's difficult to see how it progressed to the level of Grim-Dark in The Legend of Spyro. However, Spyro has since moved to Skylanders, which is on the lighthearted side for the most part, and fully returned to the series' more goofy and whimsical roots with the Spyro Reignited Trilogy.
Star Fox 2 is dark by the fact that interplanetary ballistic missiles are used to destroy Corneria. To top it off, the game is on a time limit of sorts. Don't take out the missiles, and Corneria is hopelessly glassed.
Star Wars: Republic Commando is dark to the point where some people complained it wasn't very Star Wars-like. For starters, no Opening Crawl is present, and there is blood and gore in heavy levels for a T-rated game. It's a first-person shooter in which you play as a clone trooper, and the scale, far from epic, is outright tiny.
Streets of Rage wasn't a lighthearted game by any means since it involved fighting gangs and beating them with weapons like bats and pipes. The third game takes the edge up a few notches by making the graphics more gritty and realistic, making the soundtrack more subdued, and having the plot involve terrorism by destroying a city with bombs. Should you fail to beat the Final Boss in time, the bombs go off and, if playing in the Japanese version, you get to see a picture of the aftermath.
The Mario RPGs as a whole tend to be darker and more dramatic than most of the main series Mario games;
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is noticeably darker than the first Paper Mario. Set in the crime ridden town of Rogueport, the first sign of many that this game will be darker than the last is probably the gallows in Rogueport's town square. This is also a game in which Mario does jobs for the Mafia. Nonetheless, the whole thing is fairly cheery and innocuous.
Super Paper Mario is even darker, what with Mario and company saving the multiverse from an Omnicidal Maniac whos also a Tragic Villain with a really heart wrenching backstory and his dysfunctional flunkies. Worst of the lot is Mimi, whose transformation into her true form is accompanied by sickening cracking sounds while her neck spins around, and Dimentio, who is basically the Mario version of The Joker. In Chapter 6, an entire dimension even gets wiped from existence before Mario and friends can save it, theyre forced to trek through the empty remains while eerie music plays that sound more befitting of a horror game, and Dimentio kills Luigi, then kills Mario, Peach and Bowser. The level immediately after is a thinly-veiled version of Hell.
Before Super Paper Mario stole it, the title of darkest Mario game went to Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. It is based around an alien invasion of the past Mushroom Kingdom and has places like Toad Town and Princess Peach's Castle turned to ruins by the Shroobs with some rather creepy things as background detail and music. It actually introduces a Christmas-themed village solely to destroy before Mario and Luigi even get there. Toad Town is just pieces of rubble tossed around; compare it to Toad Town of Bowser's Inside Story. Even Peach's Castle from the latter isn't as devastated and dangerous as Shroob Castle.
And then you get to Dream Team, which by the plotline SHOULD be Lighter and Softer, but is actually darker and edgier than even Partners In Time. The game starts off not too bad, then you get to Dream's Deep (which is a surreal area where you read Luigi's thoughts) and meet Antasma, who teams up with Bowser, who seems like his regular comic relief self and they soon steal the dream stone together. However, most of the darkness is in the second half, Antasma uses the dreambeats to induce sleep and steal their dream energy, Bowser uses his new castle to destroy the nearby barrier islands, the island is in a panic, and it just gets worse from there. And then there's the ending part of the game where Bowser betrays Antasma, anticipating that he was planning on doing what earlier villains did, then later Bowser eats the dream stone and becomes a rainbow-coloured Eldritch Abomination with plans to Take Over the World.
Despite Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam being an Affectionate Parody with Better Than a Bare Bulb humour, it still features Bowser (both of him) at his darkest. The Bowsers kidnap Toads and make them into their slaves, nearly kills everyone when they destroy Peach's Castle with their latest weapon and then try to send the Bros. into the Paper world and then destroy it and everyone in it. Remember, this is in a Mario game.
Mario Strikers did this among the sports branch of Mario games, albeit in a rather tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top way. The sequel, Mario Strikers Charged invokes this in universe as the games have gotten so violent that metal body armor is now mandatory for all players.
Not that the main series Platformers can't get darker from time to time, New Super Mario Bros. actually deconstructs the iconic "Bowser on the bridge" scene from SMB1. This time when he falls into the lava he get's his flesh completely melted off! He comes back to life latter as a Dry Bones thanks to Bowser Jr.. In (Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2) Bowser tries to take over outer space. Notably, the first Galaxy game also features gruesome death animations for Mario, a not-so-happy backstory about Rosalina, and a surreal ending.
Super Smash Bros. in general is darker than some of Nintendo's cuter franchises by way of featuring them in a fighting game. To count the examples;
The first game was a cartoony fighting game with cute Nintendo characters and cartoony sound effects, and the artwork was done in a comic book style. The sequel, Melee, is not as cartoony, has more realistic sound effects, the characters have more realistic appearances, and truly villainous characters are playable for the first time (not counting Donkey Kong); it also introduced twisted and bizarre bosses like Crazy Hand and Giga Bowser. The second sequel, Brawl, goes as far as to portray the characters as more aggressive, even the happy-go-lucky ones like Yoshi and Mario. Two of the newcomers have stuff that may be considered "inappropriate" for a Nintendo game: Wario with his potty humor flatulence attack, and Solid Snake not only comes from a game series known for its violence, one of his grab attacks is actually similar to a garrotte take-down, and his Final Smash is a grenade launcher.
In Melee, Adventure Mode is a short 12-level story in which the selected character goes through various different universes, fighting characters in each of them. The whole Adventure Mode in Brawl, in comparison, is a very intricate 31-level campaign that consists of the Subspace story, where mysterious villains detonate shadow nukes in order to draw large pieces of the world into a mysterious void. The first enemies you meet crawl out of a black mass, looking eerily like zombies at first. Some cutscenes are very dark, such as the one where Ness is kidnapped by Wario in an abandoned park, the one where the ROBs look sadly down because they have to blow themselves up in order to trigger the nukes, the one where characters get possessed, and the one where Tabuu takes out all the heroes in one attack. And finally, Ridley from Metroid manages to top even his primary appearances in violence, by grabbing Samus and then grinding her against a wall in an attempt to crack her Power Suit. Her head rattles violently back and forth, and she is clearly helpless. This move was wicked enough to later make a canon appearance in Metroid: Other M.
The Adventure Mode for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has one of the darkest opening sequences in the series history, such that it has drawn comparisons with Avengers: Infinity War: all of the characters face off against a mysterious entity known as Galeem and it's army of Master Hands, only for the hands to suddenly convert into energy bolts and launch out at the heroes, wiping out almost the entire playable castand every other living being in the entire universe. The Sole Survivor is Kirby, who just barely managed to escape with a Warp Star, but now he finds himself alone in a desolate universe, his friends forced to make a clone army for Galeem, and nothing but disembodied Spirits for company. That alone is dark enough, but it's not even getting into the second half of the story mode that sees the story and title of Big Bad getting hijacked by Galeem's dark counterpart Dharkon, who is quite possibly one of the most terrifying-looking villains that Nintendo has ever created, and the two bad endings you receive if you defeat Galeem or Dharkon but not the other. The losing Big Bad is violently finished off by the surviving one, who then goes on to destroy the heroes and the rest of the world. Galeem's ending is more of a Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending where Galeem finishes what he started, this time with not even Kirby able to escape. Dharkon's ending features a shot of Mario silently dropping to the ground (either in despair or dying) all alone as the universe around him decays and falls into eternal darkness.
Syphon Filter was already rather dark to begin with, but Logan's Shadow especially turns upthe angst factor, with the IPCA shut down, Logan sent on a botched mission by corrupt bureaucrat Robert Cordell, Lian accused of treason by Cordell, and Logan's and Teresa's possible death at the end. Ironically, it has a T rating, as opposed to the M rating of previous games.
Tales of Monkey Island. For starters, the sex jokes and double entendres are more frequent and overt. The comedic, silly deaths from previous games are mostly replaced by gruesome, occasionally-tragic deaths. LeChuck tones down his Large Ham persona. There's almost no fourth wall breaks. Oh, and Guybrush DIES...he gets better later on, but still.
Tales of Rebirth has a more grim atmosphere and serious story than its predecessors and successors (doesn't mean that the game doesn't have humor, it's just in smaller amounts). The game isn't universally considered the best of the franchise, but it's pretty high up there; so, an example of the trope working.
Tales of the Abyss. It followed the much Lighter and SofterTales of Legendia and more idealistic Tales of Symphonia series. (Including Phantasia, which received a Game Boy Advance release months before Abyss was.) The game's Wham Episode involves Luke being tricked into causing a mining town full of people suffering from Miasma-poisoning into the Qliphoth. Those who didn't die in the initial fall then sank into the mud and died. Nothing quite like that happens (unless you include the mass-Suicide of the Replicas) later, but almost all the characters wind up losing someone important to them or going through hell to earn their happy ending... and they got a Gainax Ending. Plus the characters themselves. Jade is the only one who doesn't go through some kind of traumatic event. And given that Jade kind of created a Humanoid Abomination and nearly killed himself when he was younger...yeah. As with Rebirth, though, this trope mostly paid off. While not an all-time favourite like Symphonia or Vesperia,Tales of the Abyss is considered by many to have the best plot and Character Development in the series, and it also created one of the mostbelovedcharacters in the series' history.
Here's a fun statistic for you. In Tales of Symphonia, the protagonists are horrified to find out that there's a bridge powered by ten thousand Exspheres, because Exspheres are made of people. In Tales of the Abyss, the party is given the option to sacrifice ten thousand replicas and the protagonist in order to eliminate the miasma. And they do, despite the fact that they've already racked up a body count of over ten thousand from Akzeriuth alone. The game is so much Darker and Edgier you can actually calculate it!
Later on, Tales of Xillia 2 was outright stated by the creator of the series to be the darkest entry yet. It really shows, between the much higher amount of blood in the cutscenes, the grisly deaths multiple characters suffer, and the endings being bittersweet at best (Excluding the non-canon joke ending), and downright horrific at worst (That being the bad ending, where Ludgerkills the rest of the party and dooms the world and himself in the process).
Tales of Zestiria is not without its share of dark elements, but its prequel Tales of Berseria is even darker. Berseria's protagonist is Velvet, a broken woman dead-set on killing Artorius for murdering her younger brother three years prior. She starts a prison riot to use the other prisoners as bait, so that she can make a get-away and basically destroys the entire economy of a town (which was based on illegal smuggling, but still)... and that's just the very beginning of the game. The death-count is incredibly high, all of the characters have personal issues that they have to face including confronting your brother or former teacher as your enemy, your belief in the world's pseudo-religion completely destroyed and even the antagonists have horrors like parental abuse or neglect as part of their characters. The fact that it's a prequel to Zestiria and expands on certain characters like Maotelus, as well as Eizen and Zaveid, before turning into a dragon and becoming cynical, respectively means that not even they can be ascertained a happy ending.
Team Fortress 2 parodies this somewhat; in contrast with the increasing violence and realism seen in many current online FPSes, all the characters look like they're from a Pixar movie. It's gory, yes, but a game where the standard infantry character was rejected from the army during WWII and got on a plane to Poland, going on a Nazi killing spree (in 1949) and awarding himself medals that he made for himself can't be anything but outlandish and silly.
The Tekken games have both been an example and subversion of this trope. While the games have become more story based and darker (What with Jin's Wangst and all) they've at the same time introduced increasingly ridiculous elements like kickboxing kangaroos, endings where people are launched into space or blown up with bow ties, and training dummies that communicate through nonsensical clicking noises.
The unreleased PlayStation game Thrill Kill is the Darker and Edgier form of Mortal Kombat. Yes, that is possible. The game was never released because it got an AO (Adults Only) rating for being too gory and sexual (AO-rated games are not allowed on consoles), and because Virgin Interactive was bought up by EA Games, who refused to release something like this.
Tomb Raider went this direction. The first game had Lara Croft simply hunting for artifacts and getting into shootouts for self-defence. As the games progressed the character became darker and more violent, with the player being unable to avoid killing in order to proceed with a level in some cases. One game's cutscene has Lara cold-bloodedly allowing a man to fall to his death, while a mission in Tomb Raider Anniversary chronicles Lara's first killing of another human being. (See Literature for how Lara got even more darker and edgier.)
The reboot of the series takes it a step further. It follows Lara on her first archeological expedition, just after college. She ends up stranded on an island occupied by crazy, homicidal cultists and must learn to survive and kill, or die. Features copious amounts of physical and psychological trauma.
Tenchu isn't exactly a family friendly game but its prequel, Birth of the Stealth Assassins, elaborated on Rikimaru and Ayame's tragic back story.
The two darkest titles so far have been Subterranean Animism, during which the playable characters had to go to the Former Hell of Blazing Fires, a Fantastic Ghetto inhabited by youkai that not even other youkai want anything to do with, as well as Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom, which revolved around the protagonists attempting to prevent the Lunarians from purifying Gensokyo in order to relocate there after they were driven away from the Moon by Junko, a resentful divine spirit, and Hecatia, the Goddess of Hell, both who were after the Lunarians' hides after they caused the deaths of Hecatia's husband and Junko's son. Incidentally, these two titles are also wildly regarded to be the hardest ones in the series.
Among the official written works, Forbidden Scrollery is by far the darkest one in general tone (with only the below-mentioned ZUN's Music Collection topping it), partly due to being primarily told from the perspective of Kosuzu Motoori, a human villager and a bookworm who has recently developed an ability to read any language and has no combat abilities whatsoever. It also deals with the darker sides of living in a Fantastic Nature Reserve as well as the darker parts of Reimu's job. Humans are Bastardsand the Real Monsters along with Secret War of sorts between human and youkai are recurring elements of the story, as humans treats any youkai as dangerous and alien, which is a stark contrast to Wild and Horned Hermit, which emphasizes the ways humans and youkai are equal and how they can coexist. By the end of the manga, Kosuzu realized that humans and youkai are closer than she thought, and much to her rejoicing, Reimu and the others accepted and welcomed her as a part of Gensokyo society.
Also, among the official side materials, ZUN's Music Collection is not only darker, but also more cynical and bleaker than the core series, to the point of being the darkest story of the series as it deals with loss, fate and insanity. Some stage themes and character themes in these albums have a much moodier and grim tone. This is especially true of Dolls in Pseudo Paradise with a Kill 'Em All-style ending, complete with gruesome deaths and further examination of what happens to those who get spirited away to Gensokyo.
In terms of fangames, Koumajou Densetsu fulfills this trope among the fangames by putting the characters from Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil and Perfect Cherry Blossom into a Castlevania-inspired universe. Another darker fangame is Concealed the Conclusion which serves as a What If? scenario: what could happen to Gensokyo if something wrong happened to the current shrine maiden of Hakurei, which is crucial to Gensokyo's existence.
Transistor is much darker than its spiritual predecessor Bastion. Bastion takes place After the End, but Transistor takes place while the end of the world is occurring. Bastion has a rather light and colorful artstyle while Transistor has a much darker style and color palette. Bastion's OST is filled with generally up tempo songs that are a fusion of western and Asian styles of music while Transistor's OST is mostly dark synth. And biggest of all, in Bastion all the main characters can survive and can set off to find a new place to live within the world, while in Transistor no matter what you do, EVERYONE dies including the main character who kills herself to be with her lover inside the Transistor.
Done well for the nightmarish Twisted Metal: Black. To put this in perspective, Twisted Metal began as a series about a burn victim inheriting genie like powers, and putting on a no holds barred kill or be killed destruction derby in densely populated areas between maniacs with heavily armed vehicles. They went darker from there.
The idealistic Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar was followed up with Ultima V, which involved resisting an oppressive tyrant using twisted versions of the very virtues the previous game was founded on to keep power. THAT was followed up by Ultima VI: The False Prophet, which STARTS OUT with the hero narrowly avoiding being sacrificed as part of a terrible interspecies war.
And that trilogy was the Age of Enlightenment. Let's not get started on the Age of Armageddon. Ultima VIII, for the first time in the series, requires the Avatar to commit evil acts.
Wario Land 4 is considerablyDarker and Edgier (although also considerably Denser and Wackier) than the previous games in its series; the game's soundtrack contains some very-genuinely dark and disturbing songs (along with several extremely badass ones), the setting that the game takes place in feels (and often is) surprisingly unsettling and haunted, many of the game's bosses (Spoiled Rotten, Cuckoo Condor, Catbat, Golden Diva, and arguably even Cractus) are grotesquely deformed and astonishingly creepy (not to mention the fact that nearly all of the game's bosses are ghosts), Wario is able to actually die (outside of the game's final boss fight), levels such as Crescent Moon Village and The Toxic Landfill are featured in the game, and the game's level-escaping sequences (on Super Hard Mode, at least) involve Wario desperately struggling to outrun the quite-literal ends of the worlds that he visits in the game's levels.
Wipeout started out with a subtly alien setting and enthusiastic optimism after the discovery of anti-gravity technology. The sequel Wipeout 2097/XL was set in an environment that resembled Blade Runner and you could actually kill other pilots now. Then the N64 semi-port had a track set on an active volcano because the audience was getting bored and a pilot was quoted as saying "We race, we die. There is no beauty anymore". Then Fusion featured widespread corruption, sabotage and murder; the only team still dedicated to the "beauty of the sport" was publicly mocked by their competitors. This lasted until the Pure reboot, which restored the old clean and high tech futuristic setting and the series stuck with it ever afterwards.
In the 90's, the space sim genre dominated by X-Wing and Wing Commander wasn't exactly sunshine and rainbows to begin with. But then FreeSpace appeared with a much more serious tone, but it also got far surpassed by FreeSpace 2, which was even darker and edgier and comparable in mood to Halo: Reach, if anything.
Telltale's The Walking Dead, as the game goes on. Chapters 1 and 2 start out as no better or worse than a lot of Zombie Apocalypse stories, but from that point on, the darkness just goes up and up. Example: Chapter 1 has only two on-screen major character deaths, both at the hands of zombies. Chapter 3 has one major character being murdered in cold blood after a heated argument, one character committing suicide, and the on-screen death of a child. By the end of Chapter 5, nearly every character in the group has either left or been killed off, including Lee himself. The tone of the characters shifts dramatically too: Lee gets bitten and turns into an angry and determined dead-man-walking who doesn't care if he lives or dies, Kenny descends into alcoholism and depression and seemingly gets eaten just as he finds hope, pregnant Christa is seen downing a bottle of liquor in an implied attempt to kill her own baby, and Clementine ends up wandering lost and alone, grieving the loss of both her parents and Lee.
Wave Race: Blue Storm is quite a bit darker than 64. In addition to the much steeper learning curve, the mood is also decidedly less cheerful in Blue Storm: The color palette is dimmer, the almost overly enthusiastic 64 announcer has been replaced with racer-specific announcers that are usually far more direct and blunt, and the soundtrack replaces the cheery J-Pop of 64 with a more rock/techno influenced style.
Wolfenstein: The New Order is far, far darker than previous Wolfenstein games. In the events ofThe New Order, the Nazis' experiments with super-advanced technology have come to fruition and not only has World War II dragged on for another three years but the Allies are so horribly outmatched that the war in Europe is all but lost and only a desperate assault on Deathshead's compound can turn things around. This attack fails and a few days later the Nazis drop a nuke on New York, forcing an Allied surrender. Several years on, the free world is a distant memory and the victorious Third Reich has almost complete control, with only a scant La Résistance desperately fighting a losing battle against the fascist maniacs. In the previous games, and indeed many World War II-set games, the exact nature of the Nazis' brutally racist and reactionary worldview was glossed over, but here, they're fully on display to horrific effect.
In Vanilla, there was less focus on evil villains as opposed to the player factions.
In Burning Crusade, there were some rather frightening demonic areas.
In Wrath of the Lich King, there was some more creepy undead areas. The player even has the option of becoming a death knight. They start out working for the villainous Lich King. The quests force the player to some things more disturbing than normal, like torture soldiers with pointy metal spikes with red hot tips. The more personal story of Arthas and the Lich King were brought to the forefront.
In Cataclysm, the villainous Deathwing the Destroyer makes all Azeroth more Darker and Edgier. His Cataclysm was able to ruin signature Vanilla questing areas like Auberdine in Darkshore, causing a giant volcano to sprout in Ashenvale, splitting the Barrens through the middle, and making a line of destruction across the Badlands called Scar of the Worldbreaker. And that isn't even considering how the war between the Alliance and Horde is escalating and how the factions hate each other so much they fight each other even in the face of the world being broken.
Legion is easily the darkest entry of World of Warcraft ever. Gul'dan survived the events of Warlords of Draenor and traveled to Azeroth orchestrate the third invasion of the Legion. Not only that, but the leaders of the Alliance and Horde are killed during the invasion, leaving both it total disarray. Just to make things even worse, the Emerald Dream and the Green Dragonflight are corrupted by Xavius, and Ysera is killed trying to save it. Suramar takes this Up to Eleven - the supremacist elvish city is being ruled by demons and demon-sympathizing Nightfallen (which are explicitly shown kidnapping and corrupting Nightfallen children) and a near-Withered resistance group of exiles is the only thing that can save them. One of the scenarios even features Velen accidentally killing his own son Rakeesh - who turned into a demonic general long ago. "Kingdoms Will Burn" indeed.
Zork Nemesis was a black sheep in the series, largely eschewing the light-hearted, satirical nature of the rest of the series for a dark, grim story set in an abandoned and ruined temple, where the only characters to interact with are four self-aware corpses and the Eldritch Abomination who killed them, and that's just the first area.