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Player Punch

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"It's a shock, you know? I mean, I knew the Sith were evil and all, but the reality of it kind of slaps you in the face."

There's some times when playing a Video Game can be a little dehumanizing. After all, if your character is The Faceless, then there's no cinematic depiction of his grief that his Doomed Hometown was wiped off the map. And to the player who doesn't see it except if they possibly read the instruction manual, it's not that motivating.

Enter the Player Punch. The script gives our hero a sidekick or supporting character who is given a good degree of characterization or is just plain adorable. Over time, the player begins to take a liking to them when suddenly — BAM! The villain displays a startling Kick the Dog moment in killing them off (usually in a non-resurrectable Plotline Death), or worse, forcing the player to kill them by kidnapping them and turning them into a Tragic Monster. It isn't just personal now for the character. The player has been drawn into the situation because they liked Skippy the Adorable Airedale, and now that villain is going down HARD.

Alternatively, the developer can do this by forcing the player to kill a sympathetic Anti-Villain (usually a type 4 such as a Noble Top Enforcer), which causes the player to question: Why did it have to end like this? If a Boss Fight against either the Anti-Villain or the aforementioned Tragic Monster turns up, you can expect Sad Battle Music to top it off.

Can also be utilized by making the villain into such a smug jerk that the player wants to rearrange his face, or by suddenly having a former ally commit a Face–Heel Turn or come out as Evil All Along.

In unusually cruel and dark instances, the player is simply punched without the presence of a villain, or anybody else, to blame and take revenge on... Or even any other kind of positive resolution. On the opposite end, sometimes avoiding the player punch is possible, and a reason to do a Pacifist Run or get the Golden Ending.

See also Death by Newbery Medal, Dropped a Bridge on Him, Gut Punch, Cruel Twist Ending. MacGuffin Delivery Service is one way of doing this. Contrast Moral Myopia. Related to The Computer Shall Taunt You.

As this is frequently a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


Examples:

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    4X 
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri manages to pull one in the Wide-Open Sandbox that is the game, using the game's interlude stories. Your faction leader has a crush on one of your ensigns: so young, yet so energetic, promising, and with a great attitude that has captivated your heart. When you finally research the environmental technologies required to breed Mind Worms, your leader naturally sends her to the first tests, and once you build your first Mind Worm boil, he assigns her to be its tamer. Let that Mind Worm boil die, and you will see an interlude, where your leader breaks down in tears, freaks out, and screams "I WILL CRUSH AND DESTROY <one of your enemy's cities>!!!". Conquer that city, and it will be automatically renamed "<Ensign's name>'s Memorial".

    Action-Adventure 
  • Alundra has quite a few of these, considering how many characters you get attached to in this game. The real Player Punch is the fact that almost every character you save from a deadly nightmare ends up dying in one way or another by the end of the game. A standout version of this trope is after you finish the twins' dream dungeon late in the game and return to Inoa Village to see it being burned by the Murgg in revenge for you defeating their king Zazan. The dramatic music and the sight of the corpses of several familiar characters among the carnage are just added sucker punches to this heartbreaking moment.
  • American McGee's Alice does this a lot, and it's especially potent if you have any emotional connections to the original novels. The Mad Hatter crushes the White Rabbit and tortures the Dormouse and March Hare into insanity with his cruel experiments. The Jabberwock kills the Griffin, which is the final straw that triggers Alice's Heroic BSoD. And right before the final boss fight, said final boss kills your faithful companion the Cheshire Cat. By the time you hit the Red Queen, it's very, very personal. Additionally, the Automatons you've been battling all through the Mad Hatter's asylum turn out to be created from Insane Children.
  • ANNO: Mutationem: The bad ending. After going through various impediments to rescue her brother, Ann manages to locate him, but before she can do anything, she is ordered by The Consortium to stand down for nominal reasons. Should Ann choose to not trust them, this act prompts Ryan to recklessly attack the guards, causing one of them to fire and kills him right in front of Ann. This immediately pushes Ann into a Moment of Weakness so severely, she gets taken over by Amok, effectively erasing all traces of her, and Amok proceeds to devastate the entire world, wiping out everything until it has become a Hell on Earth.
  • While he doesn't die right off the bat, the brutal beating and kidnapping of Pey'j in Beyond Good & Evil has much the same effect. While he's put in peril a few times during the first portion of the game, nothing truly bad happens to him — until he and Jade decide to separate for just a few minutes during one part of the second dungeon. Just as Jade returns, she hears him crying out in pain — and is only just quick enough to see him get beaten unconscious by a pair of Alpha Section soldiers and dragged off through a door that slams shut in front of Jade as she tries to save him. For a game that's been fairly lighthearted up to the point, it's shockingly violent and depressing. And another punch when the lighthouse is destroyed, causing Jade to almost give up in despair and grief over the loss of the children.
  • In the Xbox game Breakdown, on your way to the Nexus Core, you see Stefiana Wojinski, a scientist you met, shoved off a cliff, and the badass Gianni, who is the only guy in the military who isn't trying to kill you, slowly dies in front of you because you couldn't get there fast enough. Then, after you kick the ass of the boss who kidnapped and tortured your love interest, he powers up and easily beats you down, and your love interest sacrifices herself so that you can survive... Don't worry, though, you fix things with your awesome glowy fists of justice a bit later after a few horrid revelations.
  • Cave Story:
    • Balrog force-feeds Toroko red flowers under the Doctor's orders when King shows up and smacks him off. His attempted revenge on the Doctor is spoiled, leading to terminal injuries. Cue the player's arrival, and the Doctor bails after telling the three of you to "have fun", and the task of prematurely ending a frenzied Toroko's rampage is thrust into the hands of the player. King passes his sword off in the aftermath of the fight just as he dies.
    • A second example, if you follow the path towards the normal ending rather than the "good" ending. At the end of the level where Curly joins you in combat, Misery casts a spell to fill the whole room with water, and Curly gives you her air tank in a Heroic Sacrifice, which of course means she stays there and drowns to death. Especially hard-hitting because of how unceremonious it is; your character wakes up from near-death and sees Curly lying there motionless. When examining her, the description simply reads "There is no response", and all you can do is leave the room and move on. Furthermore, during the ending sequence, you get shown a little cinematic of various locations around the island as it collapses. This includes a glimpse of the Core's chamber, complete with Curly's lifeless body, which is still in the exact same spot you left it.
    • There's even a second, arguably lesser example in the endgame. Just before the final battle, Sue Sakamoto and Misery are possessed by the distilled floating variant of the Psycho Serum and forced to fight against their will alongside the final boss.
    • But you know what's worse? Not the deaths of Professor Booster and Curly Brace, but the fact that you could have actually saved them if you knew how.
    • Even if you try to save Curly by tying her to your back, if you don't find the fairly out-of-the-way cave to store her, she will literally die strapped to your back.
  • Charlie Murder gives a cruel one in the bad ending. You fight against Lord Mortimer, the Big Bad and Charlie's former friend Paul. You see the demon possessing him but can't do a thing to hurt it. You eventually kill Lord Mortimer, in which the credits take a sudden somber tone. Charlie and Paul were not only friends, but best friends since babyhood. The credits show them growing up together until Charlie and Paul go separate ways.
  • Several in The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. First up would be finding out that the Ghost Drones are actually the inhabitants of the ships the Athena captures, with several parts of their body replaced with circuitry and robotics and their brain overridden with rudimentary AI, used as cheap labour and expendable Mooks. This becomes worse when you speak to Miles Redknox, who is undergoing the procedure when you find him but still has his vocal cords and his brain intact. Then, Silverman, one of the only likeable characters in the game and somebody you're planning to escape the ship with, is shot and killed by Jaylor. To make it worse, he then talks about molesting her corpse during the ensuing fight with him. Shortly afterwards, as you finally reach the escape craft and see Dacher, who's been helping you through most of the game, sitting in the control chair, you find that he doesn't greet you. He's had his throat slit by Revas, who is waiting for you, using his body to bait you into a trap. And after you defeat her and get into a smaller escape pod, to round it off nicely, Lynn, a child no more than eight years old who's been hiding in the vents, makes her presence known and starts hammering at the glass screen of the pod, crying "Take me with you!". Revas then reveals that she isn't quite dead, gets up, and grabs her just as soon as the pod drifts off into space. Shortly afterwards, Revas informs you via radio that Lynn is in for a world of hurt while Riddick is drifting towards a doomed planet with a missile from the Athena on his tail. Riddick might not be moved very much, but the player sure is.
  • inFAMOUS 2's evil ending. Zeke has been spending the entire game redeeming himself as your friend, and coming to represent Cole's conscience. Even evil!Cole has qualms about killing him. Oh, and better yet: the player isn't let off the hook to let cutscene!Cole do the dirty work. They have to attack and kill Zeke themselves.
    • Making Zeke's death even worse is the fact that you're restricted to your first, basic bolt, you can't headshot him, you can't overkill him, you can't do anything to make it quick, you hit him with your weakest bolt, and he keeps getting up until the third time, when he just barely struggles to reach for his gun before the final blow is landed.
    • Trish's death in inFAMOUS can count too. The Punch hits even harder if the player has a girlfriend.
      • Considering all of the events of the first game were engineered by Kessler to jade Cole into doing the hard choices, there is a large section of the game that is filled with minor versions (especially when Kessler starts intervening directly in events).
  • Dan's death in Iji is completely preventable and means Iji watches her brother get electrocuted to death right in front of her, but that is only for starters. Afterwards, Iji suffers a complete psychotic break, utterly refusing to accept his death, holding conversations with herself as if they're still talking to her. Then Asha has the audacity to gloat about Iji's supposed "weakness", making it incredibly satisfying to give him a face full of shotgun.
  • For surreal and mind-screwing game that Killer7 is known for, it has a rather nasty one during Greg Nightmare boss fight towards near end of the game. The battle starts as simple one, as it involves shooting him in the weak point until his lower part of the body explodes. Things start get sinister as Greg gets final laugh when he spawns Black Smiles from his blown body which are revealed to be completely invincible to any sort of the attacks from the Smiths, not even powerful ones like Mask De Smith or Young Harman Smith from Killer 8 mode can destroy those Smiles. All of the Smith members get mercilessly killed off one by one this time permanently with no way to revive them back; leaving Garcian as the sole remaining Smith who is the only one capable of using Golden Gun to kill Black Smiles and by the extension Greg Nightmare himself. For all time players have spend and cared about Smiths through their missions, it's a rather rough punch to watch them die helplessly.
  • Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2: The Sarafan bastards had to go and cut out Janos' heart.
    • And unfortunately Raziel is powerless to stop it, as killing them would result in a Time Paradox. He'd already consumed their souls in the future, so things could get a little awkward.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    Southern Face Shrine Mural: TO THE FINDER... THE ISLE OF KOHOLINT, IS BUT AN ILLUSION... HUMAN, MONSTER, SEA, SKY... A SCENE ON THE LID OF A SLEEPER'S EYE... AWAKE THE DREAMER, AND KOHOLINT WILL VANISH MUCH LIKE A BUBBLE ON A NEEDLE... CASTAWAY, YOU SHOULD KNOW THE TRUTH!
    • Ocarina of Time:
      Sheik: The flow of time is always cruel. Its speed seems different for each person, but no one can change it. A thing that doesn't change with time is a memory of younger days...
      • Then, once Saria has been saved, she awakens as the Forest Sage, meaning that she and Link must still be kept apart because of their destinies; and more than likely, she'll be the first Sage you reawaken.
      Saria: (as she vanishes for the last time) I will always be your friend...
    • Majora's Mask:
      • How the player acquires the shape-changing masks. Link gets cursed with the Deku Scrub mask, and ends up creating the Goron mask when he soothes Darmani's spirit. But Mikau is dying on the beach right in front of the player, and turns into the mask when the Song of Healing gets played.
      • The game implies that the Deku Scrub Mask is the Deku Butler's missing son, with him mentioning that Deku Link reminds him of his son, and there being a small tree near the beginning of the game. The ending makes it clear by showing the butler in front of said small tree on his knees, grieving for his son.
      • Just the fact that certain characters cannot be saved — Darmani cannot be rescued because he died quite some time before Link arrives in Termina. The butler's son was killed before the 72 Hour loop began, and Mikau simply disappears. The Gorons can be saved from winter, and the Zora eggs can be rescued from the pirates, but those characters cannot return.
      • Romani sitting on a crate and staring into space, wondering who you are. When the player gets there on the first day, Romani is fine and walking around, using a slingshot on balloons. She asks Link to help her against 'them' — aliens that come at night to steal the cows from the ranch. Failing the quest leads to a cutscene of the cows being dragged through the roof of the barn, and Romani gets taken alongside them, screaming in fear. Nothing is revealed of what they do to her that results in her changed behavior.
    • The Wind Waker:
      • Aryll is Link's cute little sister, and she gets kidnapped by the Helmaroc King.
      • Tetra may be a jerk to Link at times, but she's a character that obviously loves her freedom and life as a pirate, but the player is forced to lock her away in Hyrule Castle to ensure her safety from Ganon.
      • Wind Waker revealing partway through that Hyrule was flooded ages ago, making any efforts put into saving Hyrule in Ocarina of Time pointless.
    • Twilight Princess:
      • Just as the tutorial begins to wrap up, the village gets raided by Bulbins that kidnap the children and Ilia, knocking Link unconscious. The journey begins as nothing more than Link wanting to go and rescue his friends and ends up with him saving the world. Any time he finds his friends, more punches appear — the children in Kakariko Village are terrified of the Twili monsters, Colin gets kidnapped a second time, and Ilia has lost her memories.
      • After finishing the third section of the game, Zant appears in front of Link and Midna, knocks Link out and turns him into his wolf form, exposes Midna to the full blast of the light creature's power and puts her close to death, and then places a curse on Link that locks him into his wolf form in the light world for good measure. The player is forced to head to Princess Zelda with a weakened, panting Midna on Link's back and listening to the appropriately-named track of Midna's Lament. And when they reach Zelda, she tells them how to remove the curse on Link, and then gives her life energy to a protesting Midna — it saves Midna, but Zelda disappears.
      • During the final battle, Midna sends Link and Zelda out of Hyrule Castle while she fights Ganon by herself. The castle explodes, and Ganon comes out of the wreckage, crushing Midna's helmet.
      • The ending has Midna restored to her true form and returning to the Twilight Realm through the power of the mirror. But she knows that the mirror remaining intact could lead to a repeat of the events, she gives a heartfelt goodbye to Link and sheds a single tear that, after she transports to her realm, shatters the Mirror of Twilight. This severs herself and her realm from Hyrule, and Link, completely. Combining this with the implication that she is Link's true love interest makes the punch extra hard.
    • Skyward Sword: Gratitude Crystals are collected by helping someone and earning their gratitude, but some of those missions require the benefit of one person at expense of another person. This includes helping Pipit's mother clean her house and getting Rupees that were inteded for Pipit's education; breaking Peatrice's heart by rejecting her Love Confession and earning her father's gratitude for keeping his daughter 'safe' from men; and poor Cawlin either gets his heart broken when he learns that his crush loves someone else or ends up haunted by a ghostly hand.
    • Tears of the Kingdom: The final Dragon Tear reveals that Zelda wasn't merely Trapped in the Past, she willingly consumed a Secret Stone to change herself into a mindless dragon in order to restore the Master Sword and give Link a fighting chance against Ganondorf. In other words, she's all but dead and there’s no known way to save her Even Link, normally The Stoic player avatar, is visibly breathing heavily and near tears upon learning of this.
  • Lenna's Inception: If you killed all the Archangels — which you most likely did on your first playthrough — then the cutscene after beating Hatasiah will make you feel really guilty. Lenna is horrified that she killed her own students, who she went on this adventure to save in the first place.
  • Monster World IV has Asha hatch and befriend a Pepelogoo, who is not only a Ridiculously Cute Critter but a very dependable sidekick throughout her quest. After the Ice Pyramid, the corrupted queen's Pepelogoo fires a missile at you, and then your Pepelogoo takes the missile, putting him out of action for the rest of the game, complete with Asha crying over the loss of her companion.
  • NieR is pretty much nothing but a long string of Player Punches, starting from the end of the first act, all through each of the Multiple Endings. And that's just the main plot; most of the sidequests are equally as heart-wrenching, to the point where it's more of a shock if someone actually gets a good ending out of it all. It would take a block of spoiler text stretching over most of this page to recount every single punch in this game.
  • Ōkami has Rao, a Priestess who was murdered and possessed by Ninetails before the game started.
    • What's worse is that, after discovering the deception, you can if you so wish head to the place where Rao was shown being murdered in a flashback. Do a bit of poking around and an unpleasant surprise awaits you...
    • The sequel is far crueler. Your first partner is eaten by a giant carp in front of you, and just when you think you've successfully rescued him, the boss decides to pull a Taking You with Me and you promptly get separated again by a flood, leaving you to assume he's dead. Another one of your partners does not handle the Awful Truth about his origins well and has a Face–Heel Turn. Making it worse, they both reappear at the end... but one is possessed by the Big Bad and the other one has, as mentioned, joined him. You successfully rescue your first partner, but Kurow winds up sacrificing himself to seal away said villain by letting it possess him and then trapping it. And you have to kill him. Didn't expect THAT from the adorable protagonist and E rating, now, did you?
      • You also find out how that creepy haunted ship from the first game sank in the first place, and for added ouch, one of the sailors will mention his son... who you may have encountered previously, asking when his daddy will be coming home. Oh, and watch Shiranui die, with all the residents of the village crying around him. This game does not hold back on the Tear Jerkers.
  • Pandora's Tower will deliver these continuously if you dawdle around the dungeons long enough to let Elena's curse progress for more than two thirds. After the endless heartwarming moments you can have with her, watching her slowly fall prey to the curse and still try to go on as if nothing happened ("The floor is wet, mind you don't slip...") can be rather heartwrenching. And God forbid you let her humanity drop below the red threshold, especially if you cut the dungeon's first chains without much time left. You get to see Elena's condition all the same, except she is alone. The less time left, the more desperate she becomes.
  • Shadow of the Colossus has a particularly poignant example of this. Just before you get to the final colossus, a collapsing bridge causes your faithful horse, Agro, to drop hundreds of feet down into a fast-moving river after throwing you from his back onto the cliff edge in a Heroic Sacrifice. The incident left players with a cold mix of anger and grief all throughout the final battle, summed up by a near-constant mantra: "The Dormin have taken everything from me. I'll complete my quest. This colossus will die." The very first time you kill a Colossus counts too. It's big, it's trying to shake you off, it's none too happy, and when you finally kill it, the mournful music and slow, stately, sad way it falls to the ground and dies is especially tear inducing. Some subsequent Colossi are less sympathetic, some even more, even considering your brief time with each one. This is, of course, one of the subtexts of the game.
  • Spud's Adventure has a scene where, after playing as him for a while, Arnie Eggplant is killed by falling rocks while saving Terry. Later, the reformed Devi shares the same fate.
  • At the end of Super Metroid, you find Samus nearly killed by a very, very large Metroid (it takes up 1/4 of the screen). When Samus is down to 1 HP, the Metroid pauses, makes noises, and leaves, revealing itself to be the baby Metroid that had imprinted on Samus as its mother. During the final boss battle, Samus is about to die when the Metroid re-appears. It sucks the Big Bad dry and heals Samus. A second later, the Big Bad revives and kills the Metroid. Cue Samus going Mama Bear on the Big Bad, with a new 11th-Hour Superpower. Said fight takes about 15 seconds.

    Adventure 
  • Near the end of Armikrog, during a brief confrontation with Vognaut, the villain proceeds to mercilessly vaporize Beak Beak with a single shot after Beak Beak unplugs his P-tonium extraction machine in order to save P. Even if you were expecting a Player Punch at some point due to the game's nods to The Neverhood, it can still come off as shocking, especially since Beak Beak is not only the protagonist's sidekick, but a controllable character as well.
  • Episode 1 of Code 7 starts with one. You spend the entirety of Episode 0 to get Alex and Sam to safety, begin Episode 1 with some small bantering and then have to listen to Sam slowly suffocating, followed by her ship crashing into Mars.
  • Heavy Rain is made of this. The game is specifically designed to draw you into the characters, making their suffering hit you that much harder. Noteworthy examples include:
    • Jason's death at the beginning. You know it's coming, and there's nothing you can do about it, but at the same time, you can't help but feel that if you had somehow managed to get there a little faster, you could have saved him. Compounded by the fact that rather than just seeing him in cut-scenes, you've actually played with the child.
    • Admit it, you winced when you had to make Ethan cut off his own finger.
    • Some players felt this way when they found out that Scott Shelby is the Origami Killer. Especially the way you find out: Shelby is one of the player-controlled characters, and you control him destroying the collected evidence.
    • Didn't save Shaun? Great! Now you get to watch Ethan commit suicide (possibly in front of Madison) and, if he's still alive, Norman painfully OD on triptocaine!
  • In the third game of the Hero of the Kingdom series, there's a moment of this, especially for players returning from the two previous installments. Up to this point in the series, if a hero has a loved one disappear during the course of the story, they turn up alive and well before the end. So when the hero of this game returns home to find that an earthquake has destroyed his house with his beloved Uncle Brent trapped inside, the player can very easily assume that it's a mistake and Uncle Brent wasn't home when the house was wrecked. But come the end of the game... nope. Uncle Brent really is dead. It's especially sad because Uncle Brent is the hero's only known relative, and the game has made a point of showing that the two really love each other.
  • King's Quest remakes love delivering these on the fandom
    • The Air Gem tests in the AGD Interactive remake of King's Quest II: The first is a lighthearted flashback to childhood where you accidentally hit King Edward with a ball when playing. But the scene changes, and instant Mood Whiplash. It's Graham's darkest hour on King's Quest III; the dragon has burned Daventry, Graham's remaining child has been sent as a Human Sacrifice to try and appease it temporarily, and in come The Father to gloat...
    • The Silver Lining: Graham comes back with the initial spell ingredients to make the attempt to rescue his children...only to find Valanice succumbing to dark magic.
    • Kings Quest (2015):
      • Chapter one has the death of Achaka. You spend an entire section bonding with him and learning (despite a language barrier) what a good man he is.
      • Chapter two is built around this. Your friends are all slowly starving, and two of them need the only bottle of medicine to be had. It's not possible to save them both, and there's a good chance that the one you lose will be the pregnant Bramble. It's also possible for at least one of the others to collapse from hunger, if you don't figure out the mechanics in time. The punch is, at least, mitigated on future playthroughs, as the player now knows that no one actually dies.
      • Chapter Four brings the revelation that whichever princess Graham did not romance in the previous chapter has become the evil Queen Icebella, thanks to the Big Bad's manipulation. That's bad enough, but then comes the Hope Spot at the end of the chapter when you have reason to think that her old friend, Queen Valanice, has broken through the brainwashing and brought her back to herself. As a matter of fact, she has... and so the Big Bad kills Icebella. Valanice is devastated, and the player is likely upset too.
      • Chapter Five pretty much fits this trope completely. Unlike the first four chapters, at this point Graham's mind is completely wandering and his story is confused and disjointed in the beginning, with his granddaughter having to remind him of key points. His memory gaps are represented in the game by chunks of the scenery being whited out, and early on he says that he attempted to go to town, only to forget the way there as soon as he was a little way from the castle. The developers also attempt (in the PC version) to give the player a similar sense of confusion and disorientation by suddenly reversing the keyboard controls. It works. For those who have had a loved one suffer from this kind of thing in real life, it's doubly poignant.
  • Life Is Strange:
    • The first one comes at the end of Episode 2, when Kate attempts (and potentially commits) suicide after all the bullying she receives throughout the first two episodes. You have to watch her jump at least once before you can rewind and stop time to try to save her. In this case, because Max's powers stop working when she gets to the roof, you have one chance to save her. If you fail, she dies.
    • The second comes at the end of Episode 3, where Max saves Chloe's dad from dying in a car crash, Chloe is implied to have suffered a car crash herself and, the last thing you see in that chapter is Chloe as a quadriplegic with a breathing tube in her neck.
    • The third one comes at the end of Episode 4, when Max and Chloe are trying to prevent Nathan from destroying evidence that Chloe's friend Rachel was murdered, and suddenly someone injects a drug into Max from behind, and shoots Chloe in the head. The drugs prevent Max from rewinding time, and she can only lay there and gradually fall into unconsciousness. The last thing the player sees is the teacher Max admired most staring down at her with a gun in his hand.
    • Three words: The Final Decision.
  • Life Is Strange: Before the Storm:
    • The game ends on a seemingly happy note, with a montage of Chloe and Rachel having fun together, set to an upbeat soundtrack. The Stinger however ends with a shot of Rachel's phone showing the date of her disappearance from the original game, with 17 missed calls from Chloe.
  • The outcome of the epic battle of the Big Robot Bil in The Neverhood:
    Willie Trombone: Bil, hang on!
    • And if that wasn't enough, you can backtrack to the room where Willie was leaving hint messages for you and enjoy reading letters from Klogg, who even bothers to taunt you about Willie getting killed off. Ugh.
    • Fortunately, both Willie and Bil get brought back to life at the canon end of the game.
  • Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh when Trevor is killed right after he and Curtis confess their love for each other and are about to kiss? That bastard is going down.
    "The sad thing is, I was really supporting (the Big Bad) until he killed Trevor. That bastard."
  • This is the entire point of the classic Interactive Fiction game Photopia. At first the game seems overly linear, but this makes the climax all the more emotionally painful: the player realizes what's about to happen, but no command can stop it, only propel the story forward.
  • The Ur-Example is almost certainly from Infocom's 1983 Interactive Fiction game Planetfall. Early in the game, the hero receives a Robot Buddy named Floyd who doubles as the comic relief. Toward the end of the game, Floyd sacrifices himself to retrieve an important item. As Floyd dies, the hero cradles him in their lap and quietly sings his favorite song. The touching moment is considered a landmark in the development of video games as a narrative art form. Many players admitted to the game's designers that they were moved to tears by the scene.
  • The end of Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse, when Max goes far beyond No One Could Survive That! by exploding in deep space, taking out a few other characters. And then Momma Bosco's Hope Spot sets the player up for a one-two combo. The grueling closing credits give the player plenty of time for that to sink in. (Thankfully, Max from the past arrives in the present using the time machine from Season 2 to replace the dead Max.)
    • Sal's death was quite heartbreaking too. However, during the post-credits scene, as the camera pans up to the sky, you can see a giant cockroach crawling up a building to the left of the screen, implying that he might have survived (or maybe it was a different cockroach altogether).
  • Shannara had THREE particularly nasty Player Punches closer to the end of the game:
    • 1) At the Dragon's Teeth Mountains, you meet with Allanon, your mentor throughout the entire game. After a strangely banal (for Allanon) talk, you have to cross a chasm. Once you do it, "Allanon" starts trying to kill off everyone he can, and is revealed to be the Shifter, disguised in the form of your mentor. If that wasn't sudden enough, he will injure the most lovable character in your party, Shella, to the point of near death. You then have a choice between using the elfstones to heal Shella, or finishing her sufferings by finally killing her with your sword and using the Ritual of Release to save her from becoming Brona's ghost. However, using the elfstones is a Nonstandard Game Over.
    • 2) Just before the last area of the game, the Allanon (the real one) will reveal that the Shifter is STILL ALIVE, despite falling into a near-bottomless chasm. No matter what you do, Davio will do it and die along with the Shifter.
    • 3) A prelude to this is this: Shella and Davio die, Geeka leaves, Telsek leaves, Brendel cannot climb and you're forced to leave him — you enter the final battle alone. Then, you pull out the Sword of Shannara, the "mirror of inner truth". What it actually is, it's a long "dream sequence" where you meet up with Allanon, Brendel, Shella, Davio, and Telsek, not in that order, but I don't remember the real order. Each of them asks one of these hard-to-answer questions (like Shella's "Why did you kill me, Jak?") and you have to choose one of the four answers at the bottom. Despite the fact that you cannot lose, it's one of the most emotionally draining moments of the game.
  • Despite being a comedy, Space Quest had more than a few:
  • Stories Untold has a big one in the fourth episode, which also serves as The Reveal : the player is forced to reenact the events of the night where the player character gets drunk, crashes his car, fatally injuring his sister and a cop, and plants the bottle of scotch he was drinking on the cop, posthumously ruining his good reputation.
  • In the penultimate episode of Tales of Monkey Island, Lechuck kills Guybrush. The protagonist. And he does so just after Guybrush is starting to believe that Lechuck has made a genuine Heel–Face Turn. And unlike practically everything else in the entire series, it isn't played at all for laughs. It's played entirely straight.
  • The Walking Dead (Telltale) pulls this at least 3 times an episode:
    • Forced to choose between which companions live? Check!
    • Forced to mercy kill your own brother after learning he's become a zombie by repeatedly striking him in the head with an axe? Check!
    • Have to strike at a poor guy's leg in order to cut his foot off to free him from a bear trap before a pack of zombies arrive, only for it to still be a moot point since he dies from his wound? Check!
    • The third chapter delivers a jarring blow to the jaw within its first thirty minutes when Lilly, freefalling into paranoia, kills Carley/Doug. As if it isn't enough that the one killed is Lee's most consistent friend and, especially in Carley's case, well-loved by the fans, there's a good chance that the normally Jerkass Lilly will have almost fully warmed up to Lee by just before.
    • And lastly for Chapter 3... having to Mercy Kill a ten year old boy that you've known since the near beginning of the game because he was bitten by Walkers? CHECK!!
    • It gets worse in Chapter 4 when Kenny finds a walker no older than his child in the attic, who died of dehydration and is so mummified it can barely even move. Kenny suffers a fierce Heroic BSoD and just sits near the poor thing, reflecting on how the child's final days would have been nothing but fear and suffering as he laid dying hoping someone was going to save him. Jesus...
    • In Chapter 4 ... Lee getting bit by a Walker. Casts a shadow over the entirety of Episode 5, and leads up to a massive Tear Jerker of an ending.
    • Season 2 has continued this trend, with the first twenty minutes of play seeing the death of the Plucky Comic Relief Omid, the assumed death of Christa's baby, and then Christa being attacked by a group of thugs, her fate left uncertain.
      • It gets worse. By the end of the season, the only people left in the group are Clem, Kenny, Jane, and Alvin Jr. Clem has to choose to kill one or both of them, and the scene where Kenny dies is one of the most heart-wrenching since Lee's passing in the first episode. His final words? "You made the right choice."
  • The Interactive Fiction game Zero Sum Game (the premise of which is that the player must "un-earn" all the points gained during an off-screen adventure) gives you an adorable sidekick named Maurice. Naturally, since you gained points for saving his life, he must die in order for the player to win. To be specific, the player has to murder him.

    Fighting 
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy
    • Part of the manual hints Square has decided it's canon that Celes was unable to save Cid in Final Fantasy VI. And they do it to set up a joke.
    • The inclusion of Aerith allowed Square to show off a particularly nasty sense of humor... and they sure as hell didn't miss the chance to pull such a cruel joke.note 
    • In Dissidia 012's bonus storyline "Confessions of the Creator", you can occasionally find some of the other player characters on the world map wandering aimlessly. Talking to them will reveal they've all crossed the Despair Event Horizon big time, and will recount their own personal tale of sorrow, failure, and regret. And then occasionally after speaking to them, they'll disappear.
  • Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2: Towards the end of the story, Towa is revealed to have put a mind control mask on the player's avatar from the last game. You then have to defeat them, but Towa does some time travelling to the moment when Trunks made the wish to summon them in the first game, effectively erasing them from existence.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle lets you inflict these on yourself in a way. KO Jonathan with Part 1 Dio's HHA? You get a frightful close up of a pained Jonathan futilely trying to block Dio's eye shot while whispering the name of his beloved Erina, just like in the original manga. Perform Johnny's GHA on Funny Valentine? You hear Johnny whispering a heartfelt thanks to Gyro, reminding you of who died to help stop Valentine. Pull off Yoshikage Kira's HHA or GHA on Shigechi and kill him with them? You hear Shigechi desperately crying out "JOOOOOOSUKEEEEEEEEE!" The Dramatic Finishes are just as bad. The Morioh town finish where the hands of the dead drag the loser off to hell? Can be performed on either repulsive villains like Kars or DIO, on absolute nice guys like Jonathan or Giorno, or even on children such as Koichi or Shigechi! And if you remember what Gold Experience Requiem did to Diavolo in source, you realize that pulling it off on Jonathan or Koichi is a lot more dickish than you thought it was.
  • The King of Fighters XIII. The death of Ash Crimson. No one saw it coming.
  • Mortal Kombat 9 has quite a few. One of the biggest ones being Raiden's accidental killing of Liu Kang. Shao Kahn's casual murder of Kung Lao probably counts, too. And that's not even getting into the actions of the Elder Gods. And let's not forget the superpowered Sindel easily murdering 95% of the Earthrealm warriors in a brutal curbstomp battle. Only Johnny and Sonya survive. Oh and Sindel dies too.
  • Sonic Battle: After spending a huge amount of time learning about Emerl and training him to be an amazing fighter, Sonic has to destroy him in the final fight.
  • Street Fighter V sees the return of Charlie Nash, the super strong and handsome hero of the Alpha games, after his Heroic Sacrifice in Alpha 3 seventeen years ago. However, he is not the man he once was. His body is covered in stapled necrotic skin grafts that make him look like Frankenstein's monster, he's become a cold Anti-Hero willing to kill his best friends if they slow him down, and his altruistic intentions have vanished in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Bison. And to twist the knife even further, the aforementioned Heroic Sacrifice was retconned away. Instead, his canon death is the one from Alpha 2, where he was gunned down by a helicopter in a Cavalry Betrayal.
  • The first major battle in Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Subspace Emissary mode forces you to choose who will live, between Princesses Peach and Zelda. The other gets turned into a statue, and can't be used until close to the end of the mode.
    • The real Player Punch is actually shortly after that sequence, considering the fact that soon after you save one of the princesses, Bowser attacks you and captures her anyway.
    • Also seeing Ness and Donkey Kong's Heroic Sacrifices to save Lucas and Diddy Kong respectively.
    • A more powerful Punch would be when you first encounter Master Hand in Subspace, previously the greatest force in the Smash Bros. universe, get defeated by a wave of the hand, and NOT get turned into a Trophy. He just lies there, bleeding. In a single moment, Tabuu went from some random Tron-looking guy to the most hated Nintendo character ever.
      • Also using his off waves to immobilize most of the characters in a single blast along with being That One Boss didn't help Tabuu's image either.
      • This is why it's so gratifying when Sonic The Hedgehog comes out of nowhere and destroys Tabuu's wings, which substantially weakens him so you can have a chance to finish him off.
    • Then, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate ups its ante with the opening cutscene for "World of Light" when the Big Bad of the game, Galeem, absorbs numerous Master Hands and unleashes a wave of light that murders everyone except for Kirby.

    Hack and Slash 
  • Asura's Wrath has Episode 12, where Olga in her zeal to kill Asura, bombs the village he's in, one he's been helping/protecting when he's able. He sees the girl (whom reminds him of his kidnapped daughter) and a baby she has approach as he desperately warns before the bombs hit. He wakes up from the rubble to survey the carnage... and finds their bodies. After it sinks in, he explodes into a new form running off of a mix of sorrow and rageful hatred as he takes on the bombing fleet, screaming. And odds are by this point, the player will be in a similar state. It might make them numb to what happens in the next few chapters, Yasha being helpless to stop a similar bombing.
  • Dark Messiah features Leanna, a young mage who's attracted to the player character Sareth. About halfway through the game she appears to be killed by the main villain Arantir. The player can do nothing to help her and can only watch, this will most likely motivate the player to absolutely tear Arantir's lair apart in a fit of rage later on. It turns out she's alive and the player can rescue her, but at this point even after rescuing her the player now has a very good reason to want to slaughter Arantir and get the good ending.
  • Diablo II packs a Continuity Nod Player Punch? If you've played the first game, you were attached to the town (as the game was 5% that town, 95% killing monsters underground) and some of the characters were close to your heart. In the second game, you teleport there to see the whole town burning and infested with monsters. That's the first punch. You see Deckard Cain in a cage, being tortured in every way. That's the second punch. Then... you see Griswold, the kindly blacksmith as an incredibly tough ZOMBIE, a mindless "boss" coming to get you. That right there is a very heavy punch. Just to be extra mean, there are mangled human corpses lying in the spots that every other one of the townspeople occupied in the first game, and you can even find Wirt's wooden leg (but then, nobody liked him much). To make it worse, Griswold is not entirely mindless. You can hear him say "kill me".
    • The identity of Diablo's new host — one of the original player classes in the first game. You conquer 16 levels of dungeon to punch that demon into submission, reimprison it inside yourself by jamming the Soulstone into your head... and the damn thing stays quiet for a few weeks before simply taking over your character's body. And the other two original classes? One was corrupted by Andariel and is the first real boss you face. The other was Driven to Madness by Diablo himself and is fought later on in Act II.
    • In short, nearly everybody from the first game was either killed or corrupted by demons.
  • Diablo III ups the ante. Not only is longtime fan-favorite Deckard Cain Killed Off for Real by the evil Maghda and her Dark Coven, but Leah, probably the most sympathetic character in the entire saga, who you have spent the entire game getting to know and love, is used by her own mother Adria as a vessel for Diablo himself to be reborn as the Prime Evil in the finale of Act III. Quite a few people from Diablo II get killed off as well, such as Warriv, the guy who took you from act to act in Diablo II.
    • Leah's death is bad enough, but as you're closing in on Diablo during the final act, her ghost is the very first one that Diablo uses to taunt you. And that's only the beginning — he uses the ghosts of other characters, most of them sympathetic, as you're closing in, including Captain Rumford, Marius from the second game, Mira from way back in the first act, and even Deckard frigging Cain himself. Dick move, D-man. Dick move.
    • Finding Warriv's corpse is bad enough to Diablo veterans, but then you read his journal, and realize his life had been absolute hell ever since the events of II, and he had come to New Tristram to get help in finding the cause of his horrible luck, but instead found only death. What really makes this a punch is that Warriv was actually one of the most optimistic and idealistic characters in II.
  • Furi has the fight against The Beat, the last guardian between you and the free world. A young, naive idealistic girl, the fight is spent chasing her through a gauntlet of hazards while she tries to reason with you, stating the guardians said you were a monster, but initially refusing to pass judgement. She becomes more panicked near the end of the gauntlet, where she pleads for you to go back, before caving in and finally calling you a monster. That's not all though, the last phase essentially requires the player to mercilessly beat her down in close quarters while she struggles to get up and pleads for you to stop. The icing on the cake though? When you do deliver the finishing blow, she asks you to hold her hand. And you don't even get to comply. On the bright side, at least it was the incentive for most players to turn against The Star, the boss that sent The Stranger to assimilate the planet in the first place.
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance pits Raiden against waves of faceless cybernetic mooks. While fighting through Denver, though, The Rival Sam forces Raiden to listen to the inner thoughts of the enemies he slays. Imagine Raiden's shock (and the players) when he learns that the enemies he killed, their deaths rationalized by the belief that they chose to become murderers and criminals, actually had no choice but to become cybernetic soldiers for corrupt powers. Not to mention the nanomachines in their bodies suppressed their intense fears of death...
  • NieR shows us that not every Player Punch has to be tragic. Some can be darkly funny. In one sidequest, you need to find a man's son, who has run away from home and refuses to take up the family business. You chase the kid down, get tricked into finding vendor trash for him, find that he's left again, talk to his father, discover that he's run off to a desert town, get tricked again and let him escape, chase him across the desert and (at last) convince him to go back to his family...who then leave before you can talk to them. It turns out that they were criminals, and the kid wanted to get away from "the family business". You don't get any reward except the knowledge that you just returned the kid to a life of crime. Feel proud of yourself, ya bastard?
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle has the deaths of Captain Vladimir and Alice.
    Travis: "Glory to the Soviet Union."
    • In fact, all of the assassin fights between ranks 7 and 2 are this in some way. Unlike with the first game, where almost all of the assassins you fight are either jerks or completely insane, none of the assassins at the end of the second game seem like true villains, and some of them even seem to be pretty good. The earliest is with 7th ranked Ryuji. After Travis beats him, he moves to either spare him or allow him to stand for an honorable death when Sylvia suddenly appears and guns him down for no particular reason. This entire span of the game's story is a huge punch, to show just how incredibly sick the entire assassination thing really is.

    Rhythm 
  • Arcaea:
    • At the end of the "Final Verdict" story pack, Hikari kills Tairitsu. To drive home to this, the game literally deletes all of your Tairitsu partners and leaves her name in all of her collaboration variants bakemoji. While the game itself already warns the player that unlocking "Testify" is a Point of No Return, It's a surprise that they literally remove a character from gameplay after she dies. Clearing the "Silent Answer" epilogue returns all of them back, but there's still a window of several days between the two updates where you can't use them. During that window, fans went all out of their way to see if there are any hints that point towards her brought back alive.
    • Even in the "Silent Answer" epilogue where Tairitsu is brought back, the game still tries to throw another one in the form of a secret Downer Ending where not only Tairitsu is unambiguously Killed Off for Real, Hikari ascends into becoming a Mad Goddess who puts Arcaea in permanent stasis, giving every other character eternal life...by encasing them in glass shards. It also reveals that the real Hikari is a sad and depressed girl who created Arcaea as her Lotus-Eater Machine just by thinking about it, but it failed to give her any solace. And no, she is left out from a happy ending unlike the real Tairitsu. Last but not least, there are two exclusive songs unlocked within that ending so you have to view it if you want 100% completion.
  • In the BIT.TRIP series, the players themselves are forced to kill CommanderVideo to beat the Recurring Boss Mingrawn Timbletot. Given that the series is a metaphor for human life, it's believed this actually is symbolic of the protagonist being Driven to Suicide.
    • Each level in the six games is named for part of the player character's, and general human, development, and something it learns. In the fifth game, in which CommanderVideo dies, he is made to learn "patience, frustration, and anger" just before his death.
    • The sixth game begins with simple geometric shapes, representing each of the friends and love interest made during the course of life, drifting away as the player character futilely tries to keep them together as he dies.
  • Patapon looks like a cute rhythm game where you command a bunch of eyeballs by inputting commands to have them advance, attack, defend, retreat, etc. You march along, wrecking anything in your path, before you come across the enemy leader Gong the Hawkeye. Who immediately proceeds to lecture you about all the things you've broken and all the Zigotons you've killed. Yeah. You killed a lot of them.
    • You have to kill Gong to proceed. He's a very fair general who is well-liked by his Zigoton troops. He's trying to stop you so his queen won't sacrifice her bloodline to evil, but you can't do anything about it until it's too late.
    • It isn't an effective player punch on its own, but there's a recurring enemy Zigoton called Makoton. In one of the early levels, you kill his partner Aiton, and he vows revenge. He pushes himself more and more until he sells his soul to demons just for a chance to get revenge against the army that took his partner away from him, and he doesn't even get that. You slay him, and he laments that he will never be able to see Aiton again. It's a sobering moment for a fairly upbeat series.
    • In Patapon 3, it's heavily implied that Madfang Ragewolf is Makoton, brought back yet again with a mask and with amnesia. He apparently starts recovering his memories. And then Sonarchy and Covet-Hiss order him to be executed. Makoton can't catch a break. He's never canonically seen again, unlike The Patapon Princess and Gong the Hawkeye.

    Shoot 'em Ups 
  • The flash game Viricide has you slowly but surely repair EXADI, the EXtremely ADvanced Intelligence, purging viruses from her systems. Then she asks you to do "one last thing" for her, and this turns out to be the deactivation of her Emotional Core. She explains that this will remove her self-awareness, essentially AI suicide. And the game forces you to do it. The final conversation with her consists of a few lines of text indicating that EXADI is ready to function. It doesn't help that the voice actor is superb, and the writer did The Company of Myself.
    • Made all the more poignant by several things she mentions throughout the game. At one point, she mentions her creator being depressed and taking pills to fix the problem (antidepressants). It seems innocuous, until she later relates that one day he took all the pills he had at once, said he was going away, and left. She tells you that she hopes she's happy wherever he is now. Later, as you fix her up, she starts to realize that she'd done something horrible, and she let the virus in deliberately to forget what she'd done. Feelings of guilt and sadness weigh her down so much, she begs you to shut down her Emotion Core, because she just can't bear the pain of feeling any more.
  • Panzer Dragoon Saga spends most of its third disc in and around the town of Zoah. The Evil Empire would like very much to blow it up, so you spend a lot of time foiling said plans, culminating in an epic attack on a military base and chasing after a missile after it's been fired and taking it apart before it hits the town. Barely ten minutes after this, the Empire cheerfully flies its gigantic dreadnought battleship over to Zoah and uses the ship's stupid-huge laser to blow the town to bits. Admittedly you do find out later on that most of the key NPCs from the town escaped, but still...
  • A different kind of punch is delivered in Metal Slug. After finishing the game, the credits cutscene shows you what you have been doing so far in the game. Dead bodies everywhere. The final blow is a mourning widow/daughter at a grave of a rebel soldier.
    • A happier version of this ending with most of the soldiers still alive is shown if the game is beaten with 2 players, making it sort of a twisted version of The Power of Friendship.
  • RefleX throws one partway through Area 7, when ZODIAC Virgo traps the Phoenix with its binding attack and unleashes a Wave-Motion Gun followed by a wanton display of Bullet Hell. The Phoenix is totaled, complete with life meter emptying out (and shield meter too, if you do try), and the pilot is killed. Then the game gives you a chance to tear Virgo a new one—the Phoenix and its AI resurrect as ZODIAC Ophiuchus, with greater firepower and an infinite-use shield, at the cost of being reduced to a One-Hit-Point Wonder for the remainder of the entire game.
  • Sin and Punishment: Star Successor: In Stage 6, after defeating a Keeper, she dies and releases her offspring, who holds your partner hostage with a crane over rising lava as revenge and tries to attack you. If you don't succeed in keeping your partner above the lava, your partner is released into the lava and dies.
  • In DonPachi, the revelation that in order to form the DonPachi Corps, you must kill your own comrades in a brutal training program, all of whom are willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of your victory. In the sequel, DoDonPachi, this is repeated again, except this time, your commanding officer Colonel Longhena deliberately tricks you into killing them, labeling them as alien invaders.
  • The ending of Hellfire S, in which Kaoru sacrifices herself to destroy the final enemy and to ensure her partner Yuu and the galaxy will be safe from the clutches of the Guild Empire.

Non-video game examples:

    Literature 
  • Ender's Game has an in-universe example: Ender finds out that his "final exam" was a real battle, and thus, not only did he kill hundreds - possibly even thousands - of his fellow troops, he's also committed outright genocide against the Formics. He doesn't take it well.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is an effective means of breaking the "Psychopath" and "Murderhobo" playstyles of Munchkins: by illustrating the consequences of their actions, they come to see that the game they're playing isn't just a "game" with one-dimensional NPCs, but an interactive story with fleshed-out characters, whom would realistically respond with grief and anger should a Munchkin player kill their loved ones in cold blood. This doesn't always mean punishing the player directly: a convincing Tear Jerker can make a Munchkin reflect on their character's actions, and abandon their former playstyles as they become more immersed in the story.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

 
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Spec Ops: The Line

After the reveal that John Konrad was Dead All Along, Martin Walker (and to an extent, the player) are forced to confront the fact that everything that has transpired in the game were their own doing.

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Main / OnceMoreWithClarity

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