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Darkness Induced Audience Apathy / Video Games

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  • Top-down shooter 12 Is Better Than 6 is a game set in a very dark and gritty Wild West where nearly every character is a sleazy criminal, a corrupt sheriff, a manipulative cult leader or just a good old-fashioned unlikable racist asshole. Even the main character — a Mexican outlaw — is violent and abrasive, with the majority of the bad things happening to him being his own fault, and while his racism against "gringos" could conceivably be understood by being surrounded by people who are just as racist towards him, he also makes racist remarks against Native Americans, and ultimately shows no remorse for any of his actions. The end of the game is one big Kill 'Em All event, with the protagonist triggering a landslide that kills the various factions that he angered into hunting him down, but he himself is killed by the same landslide, with the implication that the people he was working with are killed as well, and it's hard to really care about any of this.
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  • This is one reason why the 2009 installment of Bionic Commando is so divisive. Nathan Spencer is difficult to root for due to taking several levels in jerkass, and the plot revolves around a conflict between an awful Police State and an equally awful terrorist group. The Reveal that Spencer's wife was killed and used to make his bionic arm seals the deal.
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts has virtually no likeable characters. Logan is a blank slate who follows his father and brother with Blind Obedience, Elias sends his children out into warzones without the slightest hint of concern for their safety and put them through Training from Hell at a very early age, Hesh is a Flat Character with terrible voice acting, Merrick is a murderous Blood Knight who executes unarmed workers, Keegan's sole burst of characterisation is his execution of an unarmed soldier begging for his life, Ajax is the Token Minority who dies moments after we first meet him and is completely forgotten ten seconds afterwards, and Kick is a Mauve Shirt with no personality whatsoever who doesn't even need to die to be forgotten about. Rooting for the Empire is also off the table, as the villains are all genocidal racists who want to murder all Americans for reasons never elaborated on, and the only one of them with any development is Rorke, who not only has a crappy motivation (he had been a member of the Ghosts, but one of the others had to drop him from scaffolding that would have given out under their weight and killed them all if he didn't, so he wants to kill all of them for it), but is also an Invincible Villain with Plot Armor so thick that even when you kill him in the finale by shooting him directly in the face with his own Hand Cannon and leaving him to drown in a train that crashed into the water, he ultimately wins by literally coming back from the dead with no explanation five minutes later. All of the one-off playable characters are just as silent and undefined as Logan, leaving perhaps only Kyra Mosely and Lieutenant Collins as even approaching likeable - and the former is killed off after five minutes. At the very least, there's always Riley.
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  • Children of Zodiarcs is basically a game about adolescent serial-killers raised as cannon fodder by a bastard terrorist trying to start a bloody revolution in a walled-off dystopian city that has seen far better days. Your enemies include corrupt nobles, overaggressive guards, bandits, cannibals, cannibal priests, rival gangs, and your own party members. At this point you're better off skipping every cutscene you come across no matter how cute and lovable the protagonists pretend to be.
  • Criminal Case: There's almost no saint victim. In virtually every case, the victims are loathed by more than one suspects for one reason or another, regardless of whether they deserve to be treated as Asshole Victims or not. In fact, the game shamelessly depicts murder victims in a negative light, and the suspects openly thrash-talk them as if they never learned how to not speak ill of the dead.
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  • The trailer for Dead Island has a little girl thrown out of a hotel window by her father after she becomes a zombie and bites him when her parents are fighting a losing battle against zombies. The trailer for the quasi expansion/sequel Dead Island: Riptide has a loving couple blow themselves up just as zombies are about to tear them apart. The Virus stems from the very real kuru disease that stems from cannibalism, which can lead to a zombified state, making it if not a true Real Life threat then more plausible than other portrayals of a Zombie Apocalypse. Creepy voodoo type imagery is strewn through the games. Death, despair and suicide are very much a focal point of the games, there are not really any type of Hope Spot. Most of the characters are fairly unlikeable. The proposed Big Bad is simply tragic and set up. The games themselves are good, enjoyable, if flawed, but they are dark dark dark and can be too depressing for some gamers.
  • Dead Space: Even if the player succeeds in any of the games the endings seem bleak, as somehow more markers keep popping up in each game. Very few of the characters in the game are helpful, and most are either driven insane, or are Stupid Evil. DS3: Awakened hammers the final nail in hope's coffin with the awakening of the Brother Moons.
  • The Dead to Rights games can sometimes fall into this. The series takes place in an all-around Wretched Hive where every single person is either a criminal or being victimized by those criminals and every single authority figure is either corrupt or killed off by those who are. Jack Slate, although the story claims he is a good cop only trying to solve his father's murder, generally solves all of his problems by killing the people causing them and usually doesn't come off all that much better than the criminals he's fighting against. Every single one of Jack's allies is only in it for themselves and either ends up betraying him at some point or dead. The only characters in the first game who aren't even hinted at being either corrupt or a jerk in some way are Jack's father, whose murder kicks off the entire plot, and the preacher Jack meets in prison, who only appears very briefly. At the end of the game, the chief of police and both mayoral candidates are dead and Jack decides there's nothing he can do to fix Grant City and decides to just walk away and let it rot. About the only thing that keeps the games from being soul-crushingly bleak is the Narm Charm surrounding the ridiculous and over-the-top action and Jack's dorky one-liners.
    • Dead To Rights: Retribution, being a Darker and Edgier reboot, may be even worse in some respects. Jack's father gets some scenes before his death and he, much like Jack, generally opts to kill criminals instead of even attempting to arrest them, despite the game's claims that they're both good cops. Jack himself is less into the dorky one-liners that made him even a little endearing in the first game and now just screams and curses at everyone. Even Jack's dog generally acts more like a bloodthirsty beast than a police dog this time around. About the only thing that prevents this game from being as bleak as the first game, despite taking itself much more seriously, is the fact that Jack's goals are more obviously heroic and the story doesn't get far enough into the politics of Grant City to show whether it's quite as corrupt as in the first game.
  • Many players and critics felt this way about Deus Ex: Invisible War as well, considering two of the options are largely the same as in the first game, and one of the two remainders goes along the same lines). All the factions have questionable goals and are willing to kick a few dogs to achieve them. It's telling that you're given the option to Kill Them All and let God sort them out. Which backfires horrifically.
  • On one side of the central conflict in Dragon Age II, we have Knight Templars led by an iron-fisted extremist. On the other, we find blood mages and demon consorters. A lot of players have ultimately found it difficult to find much reason to support either. Combine that with the bleak fates of several characters: Hawke loses one family member after another and there is no way to prevent it; no matter what you do, Anders blows up the Chantry and everything goes to hell; and any potential Reasonable Authority Figures are either killed off, annoyingly passive or turn out to be batshit insane hypocrites. Arguably this is part of the game's Central Theme—sometimes both choices you have in front of you really suck that much, and trying to find a third option isn't always possible.
  • Drakengard: Between the incredibly bleak world and characters who have few, if any redeeming characteristics, it's practically impossible to find hope or optimism in it. Similarly, the sequel, NieR, which has the strangest ending of Drakengard cause an apocalypse, and all four endings of which involve the extinction of humanity. Good thing there's Drakengard 3 to partially undo the downers. This was actually intended by Word of God to try and make it stand out against all the other RPGs that were out at the time.
    • The sidequests of NieR: Automata can fall into this. 90% of the quest-givers either die (as a result of the sidequest or just as a consequence of the main plot,) get driven mad, or turn out to be awful people you shouldn't have helped, and the ones that don't go that way are usually deeply bittersweet at best.
  • This trope is actually invoked in Dual Destinies, which reveals that the sheer scale of corruption and Jury and Witness Tampering in the Phoenixverse has led to a widespread lack of faith in the judicial system, and therefore prosecutors are free to engage in ever more creative and elaborate shenanigans because they're already in The Tyson Zone and nobody is going to care.
  • Many Dwarf Fortress players start of as attentive rulers, who care about their dwarves deeply. Sometimes so deeply, they'd rather resort to Save Scumming (which is highly ashamed by veteran players) than let a single dwarf die from unnatural causes. But with the game being what it is, sooner or later such players either quit or become the memetic Dwarf Fortress players. The latter view all their little people as mere resources required for bringing the so-called "FUN". Sometimes this reaches such ridiculous proportions, that even the creator gets horrified.
  • Elemental Gearbolt is one of the darkest and bleakest Light Gun Games you'll ever play. The protagonists are dead to begin with, only being revived as living corpses to destroy the kingdom they once considered their home. By the end of the story, Bel Cain himself is dead, along with the rest of his kingdom, and Tagami, having planned the whole incident, is unable to leave World 4 in the aftermath. To top it all off, you already know what happens at the end due to the entire game being a flashback. Needless to say, this game is not for the faint of heart.
  • The lore of EVE Online can be summed up with: "Everything sucks. And then you showed up." It's so bad that the writers have to tell the readers when the ending is not a bad ending. Gameplay-wise? A perpetual Hopeless War for territory between pilots who can never die eventually becomes hard to tell apart from a Perpetually Static galaxy.
  • Fallout
    • The Tenpenny Tower sidequest in Fallout 3. On one side, there's Alistair Tenpenny and the inhabitants of Tenpenny Tower, the former being a rich, eccentric old man of ambiguous evilness (he's racist against ghouls and wants to blow up Megaton, but he also wants the latter done after the inhabitants are evacuated) and the latter being a bunch of ghoul-hating racists with a few good eggs mixed in like Herbert Dashwood. On the other side is Roy Phillips and his band of ghouls, who initially looks like the put-upon good guy in the scenario due to not being allowed to live in the tower despite being able to pay for it. However, it quickly becomes clear that he's just as racist as the tower's inhabitants, and is chomping at the bit to murder every human inside and take it over for himself (and is even on board with nuking "that smoothskin shithole" Megaton when Burke wants to keep trying.) Even if the player manages to convince Tenpenny to let Roy and the other ghouls in without any bloodshed, the ghouls will still kill all the humans in the tower at the first provocation. Complicating matters further is that Roy is a Villain with Good Publicity, with Three Dog convinced that he's is the hero in this scenario, so if you kill Roy you'll not only lose karma (even after he's killed everyone,) but have to hear Three Dog chew you out for the rest of the game. It's not uncommon to hear people just abandon the sidequest entirely since there's no truly good solution. note 
  • Far Cry:
    • Far Cry 2 can be seen this way. Both the UFLL and the APR, as well as the Private Military Contractors working for them, are complete bastards. Even the Player Character and his buddies are pretty reprehensible people; for every mission one of your buddies sends you on to prevent an attack by destroying fuel, take out ammunition stores that would give one side leverage over the other, destroy a quack doctor's fake medical supplies, or kill drug dealers who are selling to children, they also have another one where they send you out to kill a salesman for petty revenge over The Alleged Car, eliminate an arms dealer so your buddy can make a big sale in his stead, destroy a stockpile of passports that their current owner is trying to price-gouge citizens on rather than give them away or sell them more cheaply, or mutilate the corpse of one faction leader's recently-deceased brother to send a part of it as a "trophy" to the other, and this is to say nothing of the fact that one of the easiest ways to gain diamonds to buy weapons and equipment before you start on the actual story missions is straight-up assassinating people. Ironically, The Jackal can be seen as the most sympathetic character in the game by some, if in a Well-Intentioned Extremist way. Every one of them is dead by the end of the game, though the player's fate is left open to interpretation if the player chooses to take the case of diamonds to the border.
    • Far Cry 4 concerns the fictional nation of Kyrat, which can end up with three possible leaders. None of them can be called good. Sabal becomes a religious fanatic who forces the Kyrati to convert or die, Amita becomes a ruthless child slave driver, and Ajay, while possibly being the best out of these options, is still vulnerable to the corruption that seeps into the other three candidates, especially since his path to power is littered with bodies and possibly assisted by previous dictator Pagan Min.
    • Far Cry 5 puts Hope County's conflict against Eden's Gate cult, who believe that society is falling apart and that the world will soon end, and it is depressing enough with not much in the way of lighthearted brevity. It examines the nature of faith and "end-of-the-world" predictions, and no matter how much the player does to stop the cult, the Collapse is inevitable. In the canonical ending, nuclear war is sparked between the USA and Russia for no particular reason, completely catching everyone off guard, proving that Joseph Seed was right the whole time. With The Deputy's buddies dead and the fates of Hope County residents remaining unknown, The Deputy and Joseph Seed are the only survivors. The other two non-canonical endings aren't much better; the 'Walk away' ending has Joseph Seed's brainwashing trigger in the Deputy and it's implied they kill all of the people they rescued, while in the secret ending where the player just waits in the opening and doesn't arrest Seed at all, it just ends with passing the buck to someone else who will presumably end up the same way it does normally. These endings even ended up overshadowing the entire rest of the game and considerably hurting its sales. Thankfully, its follow-up Far Cry: New Dawn, set 17 years after the Collapse, reveals that most of Hope County's residents have survived nuclear armageddon and it ends on much more positive note, giving Hope County a Bittersweet Ending after all the trouble they went through, with Joseph Seed truly defeated this time.
  • While the story isn't the main draw of the game, For Honor is still pretty bleak. To keep it short, the goal of the Big Bad is to instigate a Forever War, she manages to manipulate the three factions into succeeding her plan, the last level ends with the truce between the Samurai and Knights broken, the last scene of the game has the three leaders agree to try to bring peace, while fully knowing they might not succeed and die in the attempt, and considering Word of God states that the multiplayer happens after the single-player, the senseless Forever War is truly here to stay.
  • Every faction in Geneforge, with the possible exception of the Barzites, has some supporters who'll argue in favor of it on the Internet. Every faction also has some haters who argue that the misdeeds it commits render it unworthy of power. The only one that doesn't cross the Moral Event Horizon at least once is the faction of Wide Eyed Idealists who canonically get massacred by the fourth game.
  • In God of War it sometimes becomes hard to say why you should care whether Kratos kills that god/saves himself/kills that other god and all the rest too. It's not as though Kratos being in charge would be an improvement given how he acts. As it turns out, the game does manage to make them all lose, leaving the victimized humans as the ones left. Shame Kratos messed up the sun, sea, seasons, and sky before he died. And even then, he didn't. The only consolation is that he decided to release Hope into the world, hope to give humanity a reason to continue on. The ending slightly implies that the world can start getting back on its feet. Fear of this overtaking the series may be a reason for God of War (PS4) turning Kratos from a violent sociopath into more of an Anti-Hero and giving him a Morality Pet son.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories can invoke this feeling. In contrast to the rest of the 3D-Era games, the story is very bleak and it's one of the few video games of that era to have a Bittersweet Ending. It doesn't help the fact that one of the main characters (Lance Vance) is an incompetent, childish idiot who only causes problems for his brother, with the only truly positive from his presence being that, as the game is a prequel, we know he gets his comeuppance later on.
    • Grand Theft Auto IV:
      • The game runs the risk of provoking this reaction towards players and especially GTA fans by being a Deconstructor Fleet of the GTA series. The game is relentless about showing how unrealistic and flawed are concepts like Evil Pays Better, Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster! and the anti-heroic characterization of your usual GTA protagonist. The problem is that all this negativism and cynicism comes from a GTA game, a game known for its over-the-top portrait of organized crime.
      • As for the storyline: Niko Bellic moves to the United States for a fresh start at life, but it goes down the toilet when his cousin, Roman, gets him roped up in his debt and antics. The entire story shows Niko doing nothing but trying to please his selfish cousin who always seems to get himself into trouble, while Niko always bitches about it as he continuously helps his cousin out. It eventually leads to Niko being hunted down by a mobster throughout the game, but it doesn't build up from there; Niko just continues doing side jobs for random people while still complaining about his cousin's gambling habits and debt. On top of this, nearly every person Niko meets is either a backstabber or suffers from attachment issues, making nearly everyone unlikable and leaves the player wondering why they should care about a bunch of crazy people.
      • One of the selling points when the game was released was that you can make choices that will impact the story. The problem is, this isn't the case. Almost every choice you make does nothing to the plot, and the choices as to who to kill always have an obvious "right" answer (from a gameplay standpoint if nothing else). The only choice you make that actually changes anything is the Deal or Revenge choice that sets up your ending, and someone at Roman's wedding will still die either way.
    • Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned. Even more than the main game. A constant criticism towards the game is that it is so negatively depressing, that you almost feel that everything you did in this game was in vain. It doesn't help that, five years later, we learn of the eventual decline of Johnny and his entire gang.
    • Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars suffers from the same problems as Grand Theft Auto IV: the criminal lifestyle is portrayed as unglamourous and dangerous and all of Huang's superiors are shallow, smug dumbasses who constantly treat him with contempt even though he's the only thing keeping them from being killed or imprisoned. While Huang does end the game in a better position than he started, the amount of crap he went through to get there means that player will likely be as unsatisfied as he is.
    • Grand Theft Auto V is even worse in this regard, with some players stating that they found no sympathetic qualities to the protagonists, who do their job mostly to get paid, as opposed to Niko committing crimes due to circumstance. The supporting characters are just as bad. Almost every NPC in the game is either selfish, an idiot, abrasive, violent, or some combination thereof.
      • There's a meta-example in this game as well. Outside of the heists, very few missions offer satisfying rewards. Financial rewards are slim for most missions, gameplay rewards (such as unlocking guns, vehicles, new modes of play) are rare outside of the main story missions and the ones that do show up in side missions tend to be jokes at the player's expense, which means that the missions aren't rewarding in a third way: from a dramatic or gameplay perspective. Examples of this include unlocking an antique tractor for a long string of intentionally mind-numbing missions, or a joke car for collecting 50 hard to find spaceship parts hidden all over one of the largest sandboxes in GTA history. After completing just a few Side Jobs or Random Encounters, going out of your way to undertake a new one will begin to feel like an exercise in masochistic futility.
      • What makes it worse is that at least part of this is intentional. The game is a big Deconstruction of Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!, showing how petty, self-destructive and selfish anyone would have to be to behave like a GTA protagonist, along with how ultimately futile the lifestyle itself is. The trouble is, it's doing all of this in a video game series known for playing most of those tropes straight, so it comes across as condescending towards the very people who buy the GTA games. Couple that with a few blatant stereotypes about people who play too many video games, and you've got a game that almost feels like it's trying to alienate its audience. Just to top off how confusing this game's messaging can be, the online multiplayer takes the tropes the single-player deconstructs and plays them straight again, making the player feel like even the game can't make up its mind.
  • The Half-Life mod trilogy "Halfquake", can be very difficult to sit through due to its bleak message of "Life makes no sense, everyone hates your guts and it's all your fault, you may as well just kill yourself" it tells you from the get-go, aggressively supported by an extremely limited monochromatic pallete and by its similarly downbeat soundtrack. However, each of the three mods themselves carry varying degrees of darkness that can be difficult to sit though just by themselves:
    • The first mod, HalfQuake, stands as the least darkest part of the trilogy, but that really isn't saying much considering that you won't see much of anything that isn't either an enemy, concrete and/or steel, or lava. It also happens to be the only part of the trilogy that gives you a HUD, as well as the classic run/gun action of Half-Life. The theme of not being able to escape the facility is made clear in a section where you sneak through the backrooms and into a house, only to be dumped right back into the trap-laden path unceremoniously with a message aptly saying "you cannot escape, dumbass (sic)". You also end up getting killed right after you defeat the boss of the mod, Somos, setting the bar for the ending of the next two parts.
    • The second part, Halfquake: Amen, marks the series's swan-dive right into darkness. Most of the time spent throughout Amen will be either though the recurring life or death chambers, mostly barren atmospheric environments, and/or the deadly traps/puzzles the first game uses. Whilst the captors in the first game made humourously dark remarks about the situation you're in, Amen ramps up the "dark" part, but not the "humorous", leaving you to deal with cruel and unpleasant people after cruel and unpleasant people. The darker tone of Half-Quake can be seen most in "patience", an almost-empty level where you do nothing for 20 minutes, anything that you are able to do being completely pointless, and is where you captors outright suggest you commit suicide early on. Amen's music for most of what you're going through (best showcased in its ending song, "Half-Quake Theme) are rather downbeat, both in music and lyrical content.
    • The third entry in the series, Sunrise, gameplay-wise, is where the series starts to become an exercise in futility, the deadly puzzles and trap-laden hallways ramping up and becoming more merciless in this iteration. The few splashes of color that the previous two games had, aside from camoes near the end when part of the facility falls apart, are now entirely gone, save for a really light blue. Story-wise, aside from the final boss and a few disembodied voices you hear from panels cheerily describing ways to suffer and/or die, there's no NPCs to interact with in Sunrise at all, your only form of breaking this emptiness being a "Victim Message Box", which introduces to the only 3 people you'll be hearing from consistently throughout the mod: A guy voice who wants you dead and taunts you about it, a crazed man rambling about a cogwheel named "Mary", and getting angry at you when you're unable to find her, and a lady who really hates you and wants you dead. The pitch-black atmosphere of Amen is also present as ever here, and save for the few spots of pitch-black humour, doesn't stop for any moments of levity.
  • Halfquake's spinoff, "Personal Halfquake", is directly based on Amen and a bit of the original Half-Quake, as well as having updated to support some of Sunrise, and it proves to be just as dark as the main game. Most of the game is spent stealing people from what's implied to be places that haven't done any wrong, and placing them in similarly made trap-laden hallways the Half-Quake trilogy features. Most of the places you go to are all managed by slaves, who have either been broken beyond repair, or are jerks who loathe your guts. The "Chosen Victim" mechanic involves kidnapping one of your victims, and inducing Stockholm Syndrome in them, allowing you to do particularly cruel things to them.
  • Literally the only "plot" Hatred has is a blatant Excuse Plot for the sociopathic protagonist to kill as many innocent people as inhumanly possible. Top it all off with a dark, gritty, grey and red aesthetic in the style of Sin City and you've got a real bummer on your hands. Reviews thrashed the game for its grimdark-ness even before it was released, claiming that the gameplay wasn't deep or fun enough to really provide the excitement of the game's ultra-violent ilk and noting that the game isn't dark to tell a story or make a sociopolitical statement, but seemingly just to be "edgy" for its own sake.
  • Homefront, compared to its contemporaries Call of Duty and Battlefield, is an extremely dark and depressing game (the introduction scene in the first level doesn't help). The main characters are anti heroes at best, and the villains are among the worst monsters you encounter in any kind of game, and watching what happens in the game tends to provoke nihilism rather than attachment.
  • One of the main criticisms of the plot of Hunt Down the Freeman is that it was needlessly bleak, even by the standards of Half-Life 2's setting. The main character is an unlikable Villain Protagonist willing to screw over all of humanity for the sake of petty revenge he's been stewing over for 20 years, other characters have little personality and get killed off left and right, often for little particular reason, the game persistently pushes the idea that humanity has no hope against the Combine, and the player spends much of the game either making little impact on the world, or outright making things worse. It doesn't help that the game plays heavily to Adaptational Villainy (even the Resistance is at the level of hanging their enemies and leaving the corpses to rot, closer to something an edgy 13-year-old would make in Garry's Mod than anything the Resistance was even hinted at doing in Half-Life 2 proper) and even reintegrates content that was cut from Half-Life 2 proper specifically because it would have made that game too bleak.
  • Many found the lack of the "Prime" heroes in Injustice 2 to have detracted from the story, which is set entirely in the Injustice world and sees an Enemy Mine between Batman and Superman's respective forces against Brainiac while still hostile to each other.
  • Kane and Lynch: Dead Men is this for quite a few people. On one hand, Kane's trying to save his family. On the other hand, he's a bastard who betrays people, takes people hostage, and does generally bad things to accomplish his goals. In fact, the only reason that the bad guys captured his family was because he betrayed them and they wanted revenge. And let's not even get started on the Ax-Crazy Lynch, who has no middle ground between making things worse accidentally from his mental issues and making things worse on purpose by willingly being as unpleasant as humanly possible.
  • The Trails Series started off as optimistic with The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky and while it had some dark moments, especially the ending of the first game, it still kept up an idealistic tone. Then the ending of Ao no Kiseki happens and while the heroes did get some sort of happy ending, the overall tone of the end is very dark but still did shine some ray of hope. Cue The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel where the endings in Cold Steel I just ended up being heart-wrenching, shocking, and feeling hopeless, Cold Steel II ended on a bittersweet note that makes one wonder if it was a gigantic waste of time, and Cold Steel III just ends on a really dark note, making players wonder if The Hero of the story will actually die without even accomplishing any of his goals when the fourth game comes out. Especially since Cold Steel III has the highest number of plot important characters that just end up dying all over the place, sometimes in the most anti climactic fashion. At this point, half of the fanbase is already skeptical whether the series can even deliver or not. Fortunately, Cold Steel IV manages to turn things around by revealing that several characters who were apparently killed in the previous game actually survived. To make things even better, some villains defect to the heroes' side, the heroes from the previous arcs show up to help out, and Rean finally gets his closure.
  • One of the biggest criticisms of the story in The Last of Us Part II is how unflinchingly dark it is. In the first game, there was still enough hope that players were still able to get invested in the world and its characters without getting turned off by it, with Joel and Ellie's relationship playing a big part in that. This game, however, was criticized for being much darker while also lacking the same ray of hope that the first game and its Bittersweet Ending gave off. Joel's brutal death early on in the game, in particular, is a point where some players stopped caring about what happens in the story, and it doesn't get better from there. Through the game, Ellie is consumed by hatred, and countless people die in her ensuing Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Abby, the character responsible for Joel's death, is a protagonist and playable for half of the game and her sections are nearly as dark as Ellie's with it being practically impossible for most players to sympathize with or root for the woman who so callously and brutally murdered such a beloved character as him. As a result, the game's story was criticized for its incredibly dark narrative rather than praised for it.

    In addition to the dark story, a closer look at the environments and flavor text shows that the world appears to be getting worse instead of better. All hope of a cure or vaccine is dead because Joel apparently killed the last brain surgeon alive in the previous game. Unlike most zombies in fiction, Infected actually get stronger over time by mutating into tougher and deadlier forms, and every attempt at rebuilding civilization is thwarted by either the Infected, warfare or internal strife.
  • The Laura Bow games involve a large cast of characters, all of which are nasty egotistical stereotypes. The main goal of the game is to spy on all of them to learn their little secrets, such as who is blackmailing who and who has had an affair and such. And then they all die like mayflies, slaughtered one by one by a serial killer, which you cannot prevent, making it hard for the audience to care about any of the characters.
  • Life Is Strange is a "Shaggy Dog" Story populated mostly by unlikable people. Arcadia Bay is a dying tourist town in the Pacific Northwest, where nearly every character is struggling with some serious financial or psychological issue. The Prescott family runs just about everything, enabling the violent and twisted behavior of their troubled son Nathan. Drugs and decay are prevalent in town, and most folks are just struggling to get by. Blackwell Academy, the local prestigious art school, isn't much better. The students at Blackwell are petty and cliquey, the adults in charge are clueless and ineffective, and everyone's favorite teacher, Mark Jefferson, is secretly a sociopathic Mad Artist who tortures his most innocent students. Max's childhood friend Chloe is an abrasive delinquent who frequently guilt-trips Max into helping her, and whose only real redeeming quality is loyalty to her missing friend Rachel. Max isn't all that great of a person either, having dropped out of Chloe's life years earlier to pursue her photography studies without so much as saying goodbye. When Max makes use of her time-travel powers to try and make things better, she ends up eventually making things worse instead: her mucking around with time and space actually breaks reality, creating an apocalyptic storm that threatens to wipe out Arcadia Bay. And the only way Max can stop the storm is to allow Chloe to die in the incident that first causes her powers to emerge, wiping the main plot of the game from existence. The player can choose to spare Chloe and allow the storm to destroy the town, but that is implied to kill off just about every other character in the game, leaving Max and Chloe to flee the destruction into an uncertain future. So the player's choice is to save one unpleasant person, or save a whole town full of unpleasant people. Furthermore, because allowing Chloe to die appears to be the dramatically "correct" choice, doing so means that Max's superpowers never manifest in the first place, which renders the entire story moot. So there was no point to any of it at all.
  • LISA: Brad Armstrong sets out to find his adopted Buddy, the last woman in a post-Gendercide world, where literally every surviving man is either a rapist, a murderer, a dangerous mutant, suicidal, or an idiot. Along the way every character that doesn't just want rape Buddy gives Brad grief including Buddy for wanting to lock Buddy away, and Brad never defends his actions. Admittedly Brad is doing it for selfish reasons, but it is hard to care about a story where an entire hopeless land of awful people are telling you that you are in the wrong for wanting to keep Buddy restricted, but safe. The follow-up, Joyful, is just as bad, if not worse: you play as a mentally broken, drug-addicted and near sociopathic Buddy who has come to the conclusion that the only way she can survive is if everyone else is dead. You can count the number of sympathetic characters on one hand, and they all end up dead, of course.
  • Mad Father: When you get the True Ending and complete a New Game+, you'll know that everyone is irredeemably awful in some way. The eponymous father tortures and kills people, all to create lifelike dolls - and it's all practice for when he does it to Aya. Maria willingly goes along with the Doctor's plans, if only to save her own skin. Aya and Maria continue the Doctor's work since "it runs in the family". And Monika, who appears to be the only good character, is actually pushing Aya to become just like her father. Even Alfred is disturbed by this. It's also probably the reason why Alfred was trying to turn Aya into a doll in the first place: he doesn't want to see Aya becoming like him (and thus sullied), unlike what Monika wants.
  • Mad Max: Max is an absolute asshole, none of Scrotus' atrocities are Played for Laughs, the first two allies you find are jerks and the last one is insane. There are only three people you can really root for in the game and, by the end of it, two of them are dead.
  • Mafia II, due to its protagonist, Vito Scaletta, already being a criminal and a jerk before the game opens and the plot is about him... well, joining the Mafia. Of course, if someone's played the original Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven, it doesn't help that Chapter 14 reveals that Vito was the one who said "Mr. Salieri sends his regards," to that game's hero Tommy Angelo before Vito's best friend Joe shoots Tommy, meaning in this game, they've been playing as one of Tommy's killers all along.
  • Max Payne 3, due to abandoning the Heroic Bloodshed tone of the previous games. From the beginning, the vast majority of the characters are excessively shallow and materialistic, while Max himself won't stop whining about how terrible his life is while making little effort to change it. Most of the characters he saves die horrific deaths soon afterwards. It's hard to care about anybody when they're one-dimensional and it's likely that they'll get killed with little fanfare. And it only gets worse when the villain's scheme is revealed as exploiting the poor for an organ-harvesting ring.
  • One of the big flaws with Mercenaries 2. In the first game, each playable character has their own distinct personalities (Chris is the closest thing to The Hero, Jennifer is the Lady of War, and Mattias is the Comedic Sociopath). In the sequel, all three are written as if they were Mattias taken a step further, going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge and tearing Venezuela apart because... the Big Bad shoots him/her in the ass. On top of that, while the factions in the first game are a mixed bag, in the sequel all of them are completely selfish Jerkasses; even the Allied Nations, who were the good guys in the first game, ran humanitarian operations, and were very reluctant to hire a psychotic mercenary, loses whatever noble intentions they had in favor of "We want that oil, dammit!" for no real reason other than the developers had an opinion about what they saw on the news.
  • This is one of the many reasons why Metroid: Other M is polarizaring among the fandom. Samus is recovering from the events of Super Metroid in which the baby Metroid sacrificed itself to save her life. Through the entire story, she angsts a lot about her past and her broken relationship with her mentor Adam Malkovitch. Said mentor is meant to be her caring father figure but comes off like an abusive and careless jerkass thanks to his questionable actions, which makes his Heroic Sacrifice lack any emotional impact to many players. As if the dangers on the Bottle Station were not enough, there is a traitor who starts killing off members of the squad. Inexplicably, Samus has a Heroic BSoD upon confronting Ridley despite the fact that she had faced him multiple times before. By the end of the game, everyone but Samus, Anthony and Madeline is dead and the authorities behind the events of the game get away and erase all evidence by blowing up the station.
  • As a fanservicey Magical Girl Genre Deconstruction RPG game, this is why players tend to ignore some stories from MGCM, especially the DX version and is also one of reasons why this game still doesn't have an anime adaptationnote . However, some player still like the game because of the game's vivid and adorable characters and the players' Play the Game, Skip the Story habits:
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Across from the obviously bloody and gory nature of the series, it's really hard to sympathize with the characters when a large majority of the protagonists are either anti-heroes or partial jerks at best. It also doesn't help to note that the majority of the heroes were killed off in the reboot and later became undead servants of Quan Chi, with some of the characters (particularly Kung Lao, Liu Kang, and Kitana) accepting their fate as being undead and taking pleasure in being evil. Then, Raiden becomes Dark Raiden (yet again), this time being corrupted from his exposure to Shinnok's dark essence while purifying the Jinsei Chamber. While he might be more "effective" in the defense of Earthrealm, it makes him a bit... harder to cheer on him judging on how brutal and absolutely merciless (and gleeful) he can be. Although for some, Kung Lao and Kitana might come off better because they act more on the combined factors of justified anger at Raiden and being enslaved by Quan Chi: Kung Lao is capable of acting more decent towards Jax who just got out of the enslavement and his Arcade Tower ending implies that his good side is still struggling to take dominance, but remains suppressed until Kung Jin personally pays him a visit and helped him. Kitana in her ending turns out to have received a vision where things would have gone better if Raiden hadn't interfered, thus justifying her anger. Liu Kang, on the other hand, has it the worst: It's implied that shades of his Drunk with Power self from his (non-canon) MK9 Arcade Ladder ending linger, as Liu plans to conquer other realms, including his former home, out of selfish ambitions in his MKX ending and even tried to recruit Jason Voorhees for that.
    • For several fans, this extends to the entire series due to the implication that Armageddon cannot be stopped no matter what the heroes do. In the original timeline, the Battle of Armageddon ended with the deaths of (nearly) everyone and Shao Kahn's victory, negating all of the heroes' victories up to then (read: 6 games' worth, 7 if you include Mythologies) and forcing Dark Raiden (a borderline-Omnicidal Maniac Knight Templar at this point in time) to try to avert a cataclysm by slamming the Reset Button and (poorly) clueing in his past self on events to come. Things don't pan out all too well, with the triumphs in MK9 and MKX being largely pyrrhic in nature. And though the course of history greatly diverges with the events of games two through four (particularly the Outworld invasion and Shinnok's escape from the Netherrealm), nothing hints at the endgame itself changing, so either the various kombatants will continue to grow in power and inadvertently destroy the fabric of reality, the One Being will be reformed through the merger of all the realms (which would cause its dreams—all of existence—to cease), or some other great threat will put all life in the cosmos at risk. Again. It doesn't help that, as seen with Armageddon and 9, Evil Only Has to Win Once for all of the realms to get hosed. And 11 has Kronika trying to induce History Repeats. That said though, many characters do eventually find some degree of closure, with Liu Kang and Raiden in particular eventually patching things up with each other and, via a Fusion Dance that turns the former into a Physical God, do manage to defeat Kronika, though the fact that everything except her defeat was undone by her rewinding time does leave a dampener on things. Then again, there's still the chance that Liu Kang (and Kitana if you managed to beat Kronika without losing a round) can rebuild the timeline from scratch into a hopefully better one, but still.
    • This polarization was then later exacerbated by the Aftermath story expansion in Mortal Kombat 11, which pulls a Happy Ending Override on the main game's story. The fallout of such ultimately leads to the Forces of Light being utterly ruined before they could even reach Kronika's keep and EVERYONE either being left dead or wishing they were. The story still ends in roughly the same bittersweet spot as before... except the bitterness is multiplied tenfold, making some wonder if it was worth the effort.
  • Mother 3, when compared to its two predecessors, is a lot more overtly tragic. From the very start, Hinawa is Killed Off for Real, Claus disappears in his attempt to avenge her becoming the Masked Man in the process, and Flint becomes obsessed with searching for him, resulting in his neglect of Lucas. Not even the revelation that Fassad who is actually Locria, the last Magypsy took care of a mouse in his home holds any weight, as he not only tried to kill the heroes on multiple occasions, but he gleefully (and repeatedly) zapped Salsa with a shock collar. Combine that with the townspeople being Brainwashed by the Pigmasks, the Masked Man being Driven to Suicide while being forced to fight his twin brother, the Big Bad's ultimate motive (Porky was bored), and an openly Ambiguous Ending, and it can be hard to feel like it's worth playing this game.
  • This was one of the primary criticisms leveled against Outlast II. While the first game was definitely bleak and gory, the sequel ups it with depictions of rape and the death of innocent children. With how much gore and graphically disturbing content that the game throws at you, it's easy to grow desensitized to it all. Not to mention, the actual situation deteriorates to the point where it can be difficult to tell what's going on anymore, leaving many players to feel like the entire journey was pointless in the end.
  • The four main factions of Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire can suffer from this if one finds the shades of grey in the game's Grey-and-Grey Morality too dark. The Huana are trying to defend their way of life, but one look at the Gullet is enough to make many players question whether that way is worth fighting for. Rautai is an oppressive, authoritarian colonial power that wants to enforce their "superior" culture. The Vailians are mostly Only in It for the Money, save for a few who operate For Science!, even if it means experimenting with souls pulled out of luminous adra. The Principi are the only ones whose endgame quest doesn't result in the player either killing a sympathetic character or a bunch of people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but they're pirates, and not the nice sort either: your choices are a violent anarchist or a slaver who masquerades as a man of honor.
    • This is further exacerbated in the party system of the game itself. In a genre of games where there is typically significant emphasis on the personal development and outcomes of party members, three of the four new main characters introduced to the game are each associated with one of the major factions. Due to the fact that these factions are explicitly and exclusively opposed to each other, without some prior knowledge on how the endgame quests intersect, you will be losing at least 2 party members that you may have invested a great deal in, and your decision will have negative impact for any of them whose faction you did not support. No amount of bonding etc will keep the team together past the point of no return. This has made it difficult for some players to empathize with the plot or story at all.
  • A direct example of this in action can be seen with the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time series. The first game had great reviews but sold poorly; the sequel Warrior Within aimed a little more mainstream, making every character a violent Jerkass, darkening the settings, and replacing the Arabian-inspired soundtrack with heavy metal. Fans responded negatively, particularly to the Prince going from a charming Guile Hero to smoldering with generic angst. Ubisoft pulled an Author's Saving Throw for the third game, The Two Thrones, bringing it more in line with Sands of Time and explaining away the Prince's mood shift by giving him a Superpowered Evil Side.
  • In [PROTOTYPE], the "hero" is a sociopathic, people-eating, viral monstrosity driven by little more than a desire for revenge on those he thinks made him into a monster. The only possibly redeeming feature he has is his desire to protect his little sister. His enemies are a military splinter cell comprised entirely of sociopaths and an even more destructive viral monstrosity. None of the above are all that concerned about the civilians or sane military personnel caught in the crossfire. And then you find out that the real Alex Mercer was so bad that even his viral doppelganger is disgusted with him. But, this is up to the player via Gameplay and Story Segregation. Canologically, Alex is much more redeemable; he's not specifically shown killing any innocent bystanders in the story, including there being an achievement for going throughout the game without doing so (the eating innocents part is entirely up to the player). He's shown to be very caring over New York, as shown by the final mission where Mercer ends up performing a Heroic Sacrifice (but he survives) to stop a nuke from destroying the city. Note that "eating civilians" is something that isn't compulsory - you can solely consume Blackwatch and not have major problems with the game, but players ignore this.
    • The sequel takes this to its logical conclusion, with Alex Mercer perplexingly now a complete sociopath. The new protagonist isn't any better as far as the Gameplay and Story Segregation goes and he'll still eat half the population of New York before game's end, but the plot tries to construct a sympathetic backstory for him to show Even Evil Has Loved Ones and paint him as the lesser evil out of the five or so evils running around in total. How well it works is matter of personal taste.
  • Red Dead Redemption: Despite John himself being portrayed as a sympathetic character, very few of his good deeds go unpunished. The only sympathetic character of all of the cast who didn't get apathetic is Jack, John's son. But by the time the game's ending came around, he just became as bad as John himself after he killed Ross, and basically became the very man John didn't want him to become. That said, in Grand Theft Auto V, you can find a book called "Red Dead", whose author is one J. Marston. If canon, it could mean that Jack eventually did abandon that life and become a writer like he always wanted to.
  • This was one of primary criticisms of Resident Evil 6. Anybody who's not an important character ends up dying, making it really difficult to care about any of them in the end. The campaign where you can play as either Chris or Piers is a little better about this, since it kills off its characters to show just how deadly the enemies really are and the impact it has on Chris, rather than for the sake of emotional turmoil.
  • Ride to Hell: Retribution: The Devil's Hand are almost cartoonishly evil, but Jake himself doesn't seem much better thanks to his reckless disregard for collateral damage. Case in point: his solution for an electric fence blocking his path is to beat up a bunch of truckers, steal a tanker truck, drive it into a powerplant, and then blow it up-possibly leaving millions of people without power-instead of just finding the switch, or even using the truck to plow through the fence (or even as support to jump over it).
  • While Saints Row 2 is not as bad as other examples, it can happen due to the Boss being a violent jerkass and some of their actions that have left some players wondering about the Boss' morality (especially in the Brotherhood's story arc). It's not helped that in the bonus mission where the Boss confronts their former mentor Julius, they get called out for this, Julius justifying his reason for betraying the Saints as them having become as bad as or worse than the other gangs they fought instead of putting end to gang violence in Stilwater. The Boss in response declares that they don't care, as the city is theirs and they'll do whatever they want, before murdering Julius in cold blood. However, it seems that Volition took note of this as the later games toned down the Boss' sociopathy into a less cruel and more comedic Anti-Hero, cementing the series' reputation as the Denser and Wackier substitute to GTA.
  • Some are turned off by Sine Mora's cynical and nihilistic tone. The characters are all a Dysfunction Junction, the setting is a Crapsack World, one of the characters is a victim of rape and cancer, and the game ends on a very dark note, even if you get the Golden Ending.
  • Silent Hill: Downpour is easily one of the most depressing games of the Silent Hill franchise. The protagonist Murphy Pendleton has been locked up in prison so he could avenge the death of his son by killing his child's killer from within prison. After doing the deed, the state prison decides to send him off to death row because they fear he's too dangerous. However, the bus transporting him to his execution takes a slight detour through Silent Hill, where he faces the mental torture the town is known for placing upon its residents since the town feasts of off guilt. It also doesn't help that, in all but one of the game's six endings, the true Big Bad gets off completely scott free for placing Murphy in his horrendous situation in the first place.
  • This is a common complaint from people who didn't enjoy Tales of Xillia 2. The plot set up is explicitly designed to give the main characters the worst chance of success possible without making success impossible outright, and every time the characters accomplish something, a new twist comes up that negates it or takes all the wind out of their sails. The returning characters from the first game often feel like they're only present to fill party slots, and the worldbuilding frequently contradicts itself in the name of being Darker and Edgier.
  • Tekken 7 is where the Mishima saga concludes, which means Heihachi and Kazuya get more characterization and screentime than anybody else. Much of the story is about them trying to one-up each other in terms of villainy, and none of the heroes being able to stop them. Even Akuma comes off as more sympathetic than the Mishimas, at this point.
  • Much like its books and the television series, Telltale's Game of Thrones is plagued with nothing but hopelessness and depression. All of your main characters will suffer in their war with an overpowered kingdom while witnessing every friend and ally you make getting slaughtered before your very eyes. But the real kicker is the finale, where you lose in the end despite all of the choices you've made throughout the game. The twist is that there was never any hope for you to win in the first place. Instead, it just wanted to tell you the story of why these characters never made it into the main story. The only thing that makes it less depressing is that you can choose which characters can survive your crushing defeat, and whether they die or live with honor and dignity.
  • The 2012 reboot of Twisted Metal, in which all three characters you control in Story Mode are mass-murdering psychopaths. With no sympathetic or Anti-Hero characters to play as like in previous games, always playing as an utter monster tends to make the story too bleak to really care about the outcome.
  • Valkyria Chronicles 4: You play as the Atlantic Federation, fighting back against an invasion by the East Europan Imperial Alliance. So far, so good. However, over the course of the game it becomes apparent that your leaders are somewhere on the spectrum between ruthless and evil (Powered by a Forsaken Child says hello!), which reduces the feeling that you're fighting for something worth defending.
  • The Walking Dead has many likable characters, but with the way that minor characters get introduced just to get killed later on and major characters are made to suffer as long as possible before being killed, it's nearly impossible to remain attached to anyone and you might roll your eyes as a new character is introduced.
    • While season 1 ended on a somewhat hopeful note (Lee dies, but manages to save Clementine, who still has a chance of finding Christa and Omid), season 2 pretty much trampled on all of it right out of the gate. Omid is killed in the first ten minutes, Christa is heavily implied to lose her baby in the following Time Skip before she and Clem are separated for the rest of the game, the camp the survivors from 400 Days joined turns out to be a militaristic cult... Clem survives, of course, but whether she finds the safe haven Christa is talking about at the beginning of the game, secures her own living place with another character, or stakes out on her own, there's nothing to give us hope that the entire depressing cycle won't repeat itself.
    • A New Frontier continues the grand tradition of putting Clem through the wringer, largely outside of the player's control. Whoever you chose to stay with at the end of Season 2 dies in a flashback in Episode 1 — Jane is Driven to Suicide after discovering she's pregnant with Luke's child. Kenny is devoured after Clem crashes their car and he's thrown through the windshield. Wellington is overrun and Edith is shot as Clem and Alvin Jr. escape. By the time Episode 5 rolls around, a long string of supporting characters — potentially including up to two members of Javi's family — are dead. Notably, Telltale (seeing the backlash caused by the flashback deaths in Episode 1) added more flashbacks and character development of the dead characters in an effort to avert this criticism.
    • The games in general when it comes to choosing how you respond to other characters or what actions you take. When someone's life is on the line, saving them usually means they just die anyway in a later scene. Responses to other characters boil down to them just remembering what you said should it be brought up later without the story itself changing much. Should a character get angry over what the player character said or did, trying to choose a different option upon replaying those scenes will either still have the character mad at you or get angry at you for a different reason. An example of this is in season 2 where Kenny's girlfriend, Sarita, will die to a walker no matter what you do to save her and Kenny will blame you for her death.
  • Many players accuse Watch_Dogs's protagonist Aiden Pearce of having no moral compass whatsoever. Additionally, the toxic behavior of the city's populace, made evident through privacy invasions, casts a heavy blanket of melancholy that lasts throughout the game. It seems Ubisoft listened when they made the sequel.


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