The launch trailer with the reading of Thomas Wayne's last will is incredibly sad and moving.
"In death, I will love you forever. Your father, Thomas."
The entire thing is depressing, because the trailer poses the question of whether or not Bruce actually did what his father asked. Was becoming Batman actually worth it compared to the other ways Bruce could have helped Gotham?
It becomes moreso in hindsight of the end of the game. Batman's identity is outed, he says goodbye to all his friends and allies, blows up Wayne Manor, and either dies in the explosion or goes underground. Either way, the Wayne legacy is gone.
The game opens up with this statement from Gordon.
Gordon: This is how it happened. This is how the Batman died.
In a very weird way, Joker's cremation in the opening sequence. It had already been confirmed that the Joker was Killed Off for Real in this series, and the comics already showed this event, but seeing it actually unfold onscreen truly cements the fact that the Joker isn't coming back. Even though he established himself as a horrible person, he understood Batman in a way that few other people did - and as Gordon notes, Batman just isn't the same person after all is said and done. Just to make it worse, the cremation isn't just a video - the player has to start the flames. For those who grew up with Mark Hamill's Joker, this is a real punch to the gut. The New Game Plus makes it even sadder by having him open the game with this line:
Joker:This is how it happened. This is how the Joker died.
Damn near EVERYTHING about the Joker Infected is this. They were normal people before they got Joker's TITAN poisoned blood, which drove them insane and had them acting like the Joker. They all end up dying, right after it's revealed there is NO cure for their condition.
The sequence in ACE chemicals where Batman deploys neutralizing agents to reduce the blast radius of the fear toxin bomb so it won't cover the Eastern coast. The canisters are extremely unstable and so the player has to move incredibly slow to transport them, meaning there's no time for Batman to escape the bomb himself. Alfred knows this, and is continually trying to talk him out of it in a state of panic, while Batman calmly continues his work, convinced his life doesn't matter at this point, slowly succumbing to the hallucinatory effects of the fear toxin being released. And this all happens before the Joker Jump Scare.
The very end of the Man-Bat side mission. Once placed in a containment unit at the GCPD, Kirk Langstrom, now cured of his affliction and once again the innocent scientist he used to be, immediately asks Batman where his wife is, terrified she's been hurt. When Batman softly replies that she's dead, Langstrom breaks down, sobbing uncontrollably, knowing he killed her. Even the normally stoic Cash is worried he won't recover.
When investigating his laboratory, it's obvious that Kirk is socially inept, and is very dependent on his wife when interacting with others. Well adjusted men with a healthy social life have a far better hope of overcoming trauma than those who don't, but Kirk is not and does not. He has lost the only person in his life because of the very research that gave him purpose, and lacks the skills and confidence needed to build new bonds with other people. The poor man might have been better off if Batman hadn't saved him.
When you realize that a huge motivation of his research was regaining his hearing so that he could keep hearing his beloved wife's voice. And now that he has accidentally killed her, he can never hear or see or feel her again.
Made even worse when Batman returns to the lab and finds that Francine is still alive, implied to be transformed into the She-Bat. Kirk's wife is coming back for him...but not the way he imagined. Her last written message reading "Forever my love".
The whole scene where Batman reveals to Gordon what happened to Barbara. Everything about it is heartbreaking: the flashback where we see Barbara getting crippled; the guilt-tripping messages, Gordon punching Batman in a fit of rage and ordering him to stay away from him and his daughter.
Related to that, Tim Drake's reaction when he learns about what happened to Barbara. He also gets angry at Batman and orders him to go away.
In general, the game is quite the guilt-trip. Everything is focused around Batman being little less than a Failure Hero, and this movie represents everything falling down on his life.
It's hard not to feel some pity for the state Jason ends up in at the end of his boss battle. For all his hatred and rage, at the end of the day he's just a broken man who needs help, and is reduced to sobbing upon Batman neutralizing him.
Watching the hallucination/flashback drive home how tragically screwed up Jason is. Seeing how the Joker systematically kicks him off the Despair Event Horizon, beats him half to death and mutilates him, with the end result being a dull, blank shell is hard to watch.
Although that's nothing compared to the audio log. His conversation with Barbara begins with Todd in his cynical, totally in control, Arkham Knight persona, but once he opens his visor, allowing Barbara to see who he really is, the tragic, utterly broken, barely sane young man who is on the verge of cracking rises to the surface with a vengeance.
The audio log also features Jason awkwardly asking how Alfred is, and Barbara says that he still misses Jason. However, partly because of Jason's actions in helping Scarecrow unmask Batman, Alfred and Batman are forced to blow up Wayne Manor to ensure no one will target Bruce Wayne's loved ones in reprisal. Either Alfred committed suicide with Bruce, or faked his death and cut off all ties with his allies. Either way, Jason will never see Alfred again, and it's partly his own fault.
Dialogue from the militia states that Jason had a complete breakdown after his boss battle. The last they saw of him was him running away, sobbing.
After the battle, Batman calls Alfred to inform him of what just happened. It's...difficult to listen to, to say the least.
Batman: Alfred, it's...I've found Jason...
Alfred: Excuse me sir? I-I must have misheard you, for a second there I thought you said you'd found Master Todd.
Batman: You heard right.
Alfred: My God! Is he all right?!
Batman: No. No he's not.
When encountering the first hallucination/flashback to Jason's torture, standing next to the chair without pressing the required button will trigger several lines in which Jason goes from slightly hopeful to frightened and in tears to absolutely desperate to a heartbreaking Hope Spot.
The end of the Penguin sidequest, where Nightwing and Batman work together, has Batman trying to tell Nightwing that he suspects he won't last the night. Nightwing doesn't believe it, and takes off before Batman can finish what was becoming suspiciously like a goodbye speech.
This one dialogue with Officer JT Wicker, the corrupt cop who was working for Riddler.
Officer Wicker: It used to be funny, you know, you'd haul Eddie in and he'd sit in his cell lecturing anyone who'd listen about how stupid you were. And then one day, it just wasn't funny anymore. It was pathetic. He stopped taking care of himself, got that crazy look in his eyes. I swear man, he's broken. You broke him. And now you threw me in here for feelin' sorry for him. Screw you!
And to an extent, he's not really wrong. Eddie does have a marked decline all through the series, taking his path from Origins to Knight. In Origins, he's cocky, confident, and Batman's victory over him is just stopping his plan, while Eddie gets away. By the time of Knight, he is SO messed up, he's created robotic servants who he's programmed to have a religion to worship him, and, during the final fight with him, he yells about his father. Of course, this isn't really Batman's fault - Riddler's still putting people in danger in his attempt to be the smartest, so Batman is just the focus and target of Eddie's mental illness, but it's still a reminder that Eddie is mentally ill, and in Gotham... Really, there's never been much support for that (I mean, just look at what happened with Arkham).
There's an option to tell Tim about it as well, who becomes absolutely consumed with grief, screaming at Batman about how he "decided" to let her die while keeping him captive. Joker twists the knife further afterward, delightedly mentioning that since the research trials on Henry Adams were completely pointless in the end, Robin wasted his time when he could've been helping keep Barbara safe instead.
If you tell Tim that Barbara has died, it's also possible to later let him know that she's alive, and he just sinks to his knees and cries, not even speaking to Bruce.
This line from Joker.
Joker: (faking empathy) He heard you. He's wondering how he can live with himself.
The game—and series—seems to end with the death of Batman. As with The Dark Knight Rises, it hurts to see the hero you grew up with and loved die—and unlike Rises where it turns out Bruce faked his death, it's left ambiguous so it's possible that Bruce Wayne really did die in the game. And considering Kevin Conroy's voicing Batman, as with the Joker, it is a punch in the gut to those who grew up with him.
More than any other version, even if Bruce is hiding, this adaptation emphasizes that Batman has cut off all ties from his old allies and friends. He and Catwoman definitively end the Ship Tease between them with Batman telling Selina, after one last kiss, that nothing will happen between them and he's going to disappear and never call her again. Commissioner Gordon, Tim and Barbara have a life without him ever being a part of it. The fact that his identity is revealed to the world means that the Bruce Wayne persona is gone forever and whatever life that Batman has will be as a figure in the underground cut off from any allies and friends from his old life.
What makes that final scene between Batman and Catwoman particularly painful is Selina's reaction to Batman saying that the city needs someone worse than him and that someone can only rise from the ashes of the Batman. Before kissing him, she reminds him that there are things that nobody should do on their own and then she calls him by his real name. She does this even before Batman's secret identity is revealed to the rest of the world. Catwoman's interview tapes from Arkham City mentioned she didn't know who Batman was and the fact that he knew her real identity but wouldn't allow her to know his hurt her, so it's suggested that despite Bruce's guilt over Talia's death, he's allowed Selina to become a Secret Keeper at some point between the two games. It only makes his rebuff of her after that final kiss more heartwrenching.
Tripling as a Heartwarming Moment and a Moment of Awesome, Poison Ivy's heroic sacrifice. Merging with a giant tree, Ivy uses the full extent of her power to dispel the fear toxin around Gotham, but the action took everything she had and she dies in Batman's arms. In one final, noble act, one of Batman's most misanthropic enemies showed a level of humanity that she herself probably never realized she had. Her final Badass Boast made the moment all the more powerful.
Poison Ivy: Nature always wins...
Batman comforting Poison Ivy in his arms during her final moments, admitting that deep down she was a good person after she disintegrates. Leaving behind a single flower where her corpse was.
As noted below, this really hits home when you remember that Ivy was the only other person Harley Quinn was really close to. It's hard not to shed a few tears for Harley at this point, too.
The final hallucination Batman has near the end of the game shows Killer Croc, whose mutation has grown significantly worse. He is unable to speak and now resembles something akin to a Kaiju, with spikes, frills, and a long tail. Hallucination or not, it's a tragic reminder of how bad his incurable condition can get.
Even worse, it's been implied in other games that his mutations are extremely painful, and one of the reasons he's so aggressive. His appearance in this game proves that his mutations are getting worse and more painful with every passing year. It will continue for as long as he lives, and there isn't anything he nor anyone else can do about it.
And for an even bigger Tear Jerker, His appearance in the Season of Infamy DLC shows that this isn't a future prediction, it already happened to him. There's also the reasonbehind said transformation. Karmatic? Yes. But it's also another reminder of how his mutation has well and truly fucked over any chance Jones has had of ever having a normal life.
In a strange way, Joker's final fate qualifies as this. Again, hallucination or not, you can't help but feel sorry for him when Batman literally locks him away from his memory, left to be forgotten by him and all of Gotham.
Joker: No! Bruce! Don't leave me! Please!! I need you...
The whole sequence is one for Joker as it showcases his greatest fear: the fear of anonymity. Deep down, underneath his nihilistic tendencies and sense of showmanship, the Joker fears that he will eventually fade into obscurity, his name no longer feared and despised by the city he's tormented for so long. No matter how many people he murders, no matter how much chaos he inspires, no matter how much damage he inflicts on Gotham, people will eventually move on and put the horror of his atrocities behind them. And unlike his other defeats, he can't come back to bedevil Gotham or Batman ever again. He's gone for good this time. He's nothing but a bad memory locked in the mind of a dying man. The fact that the Joker, who had arrogantly taunted Batman for the entire game, is reduced to tearfully begging Batman not to leave him truly hammers it home.
Here's one: depending on how you view the nature of the Joker blood infection, it's easy to see the end of the song as Joker finally being purged from Batman's mind as the fear toxin finally neutralizes the tainted blood. He's truly dead and gone now.
By the end of it all, he seems a little desperate to get one last laugh out of everybody after finishing the song, still sounding depressed himself.
Joker: *sigh* You're a great crowd. I'll be here all week. Try the veal.
Visiting the evidence locker in the GCPD, Batman can then interact with the Talia al Ghul display. Instead of having Cash narrate the first time like the other displays, Bruce presses a hand against the glass and states an apology to Talia, implying that either she never recovered from her death in City or she was resurrected and Bruce doesn't even know.
Batman: Talia...I'm sorry.
Even more so, the player can leave him standing there as long as they like. Given Batman is such a stoic, these rare lapses stand out even more.
It gets worse with the Season of Infamy DLC. While exploring the hospital during "Shadow War", you pass through a morgue filled with victims from the diner at the start of the game. One of the lockers, however, has Talia's name on it. And it's empty...
Arresting Fire Chief Raymond Underhill for his collaboration with Firefly at the end of the "Line of Duty" side mission. Unlike so many of the other criminals Batman puts away during the game, Underhill was a respected civic official with a wife and child, just trying to keep his men from lapsing into obsolescence during the crisis, and always made certain the buildings he targeted for Firefly had secretly been cleared of personnel before the attacks. Nonetheless, for aiding and abetting a known arsonist, and putting his men in unnecessary danger elsewhere, the disgraced man is locked in the maximum-security holding cell with the rest, ashamedly admitting he deserves it. Joker even crows that Raymond will likely become a real career criminal in Blackgate, forced to swear gang allegiance and turning to drug abuse.
Occasionally you can get a game over screen of Alfred.
Alfred: Master Bruce, I had hoped it would never end like this. Rest in peace.
Should you visit Two-Face in the cells after Batman identity has been revealed, the Harvey Dent persona will have a final talk with Bruce, lamenting how he tried to be a good man, but was ultimately destroyed by Gotham, and that anyone who tries will be consumed by the city as well - showing that even after all of this, there's still Harvey in him, worried about his old friend.
Harvey Dent: I wanted to help people, but Gotham wouldn't let me. Good men don't last here, Bruce. Not when everybody knows who they are.
Cash's comment on Two-Face's display in the evidence storage is also pretty sad, in contrast to the others which are mostly comical.
Cash: I hate booking in Harv. Guy's messed up but you still see pieces of the man he used to be. And then he flips that coin... and turns on you.
Also, while most of his dialogue in City was ranting about killing Catwoman, here it mostly consists of both Harvey and Two-Face blaming Batman for what happened to him. The worst is when Batman captures him.
During Harley Quinn's story pack, occasionally, at certain points while using her equivalent of detective mode, a voice will ask her a question or comment on her actions, such as telling her to stop, almost like Harley has a regret to what she's doing for Joker, the worst part? The voice is labeled Harleen as in Harley's name before she was seduced by Joker. There is still a part of Harleen left, but Harley will almost never listen to her.
It could be interpreted as a heartwarming moment. It took 6 months, but without the Joker around, a shred of Harley's sanity has returned. Who's to say it can't grow stronger?
Also during her detective mode there's words scratched into practically every surface that functions as a wall, usually ramblings of her psyche. Some sentences are highlighted and larger so they're easier to read, usually funny observations or musings. One sentence, with none of the other wall scratchings next to it, simply reads, "Dear God...I'm alone."
Harley's reaction to seeing Henry kill the Joker infected and then shoot himself. She attempted to free the infected as a twisted tribute to the Joker and now, in her mind, she just watched the Joker die four times over.
It's hard not to feel bad for Harley at the end of the game. With both Joker and Ivy dead, she's all alone. Even Joker's pet hyenas that she'd loved were killed and stuffed on Penguin's orders back in Arkham City.
The fact that Arkham Asylum and the former Arkham City district are now abandoned; written off and condemned, they're now quite literally visual reminders of Batman's failures in a game that already questions his efficiency in all-new, all-intense ways.
Similar to Dr. Hugo Strange and the ultra-secret Protocol 11, Batman's Knightfall Protocol requires a voice authorization command. While Strange chose "Wayne", what did Batman choose? "Martha".
The secret history of the amusement park in A Matter of Family can be very hard to listen to. The founder of the park, a distant parent too involved in work, discovers that his daughter has cancer. While she's in treatment, the father goes to see a therapist to help him cope with the stress. His doctor, Dr. Quinzel, suggests that he commit more to being a good father, put aside work, and start doing nice things for his little girl in her hour of need. Nice enough, right? So Dr. Quinzel introduces the father to a man in a purple suit named Jack White, who suggests doing something extravagant for his daughter. She likes the ocean, why not build her an aquatic-themed amusement park? The father spends millions buying an oil rig, building ocean-themed rides and attractions while "Jack" refers the daughter to a specialist, Dr. Penelope Young, trying out a new treatment called TITAN that might be able to cure her cancer. As the daughter dies a slow, painful TITAN induced death, Dr. Quinzel flat out tells the father that the pain and grief he is feeling will never go away, and that it will only get worse for as long as he lives. So he gathers up all of his daughter's drawings in his office, and does his final diary entry before killing himself with the pills that "Jack" gave him. He was told they were quick and painless, but they're actually Joker Venom. He spends his last few minutes howling like a lunatic before he finally dies, leaving "Jack" the rights to his amusement park...
Quincy Sharpe's epilogue. After being possessed and driven halfway insane by the spirit of Amadeus Arkham, and manipulated and driven the rest of the way insane by Hugo Strange, he's all alone rotting away in prison. One day, a vision of Strange appears, and Sharpe is overjoyed to see his master again. The vision explains that he was programmed into Sharpe's brain by Strange himself. He then starts instructing Sharpe to kill himself. Presumably Strange did this in case Sharpe was detained at any time during or after the enactment of Protocol 10 (presuming it had actually succeeded), and this was his way of keeping Sharpe from giving it all away. But given that by this point Strange is long dead, poor Sharpe's suicide is completely pointless.
Nightwing observing the destroyed Bat-Signal in the GCPD Lockdown DLC.
Playing in the post-game city. The dialogue from everyone just hammers in that this is Batman's last night.
Officer Owens fate, if he shot up the diner. He's traumatized, but looking like he'll get back on his feet if he didn't, but here he'll be wracked with guilt, and has a high chance of losing his badge. He doesn't think he'll be able to look at his family the same way again either. It's made worse by the 'False Dawn' city story, where things were starting to look up for him.
Mr.Freeze's epilogue. He's been blackmailed by the Militia (who captured Nora to that effect) to take down Batman, which he refused. By the time Batman comes, Freeze has turned into a mere shadow of his former self, drowning into Despair Event Horizon. When Batman finds Nora, she was out of cryogenic stasis for so long that she woke up. But Nora wishes to live the few days of her life she has with Victor, rejecting her survival, if the survival costs Freeze his sanity. In the end they both disappear from Gotham to live Nora's remaining life together. It's implied that Victor is turning off his own cryogenic suit, meaning he'll likely die with her.
Victor: I don't want you to die, Nora...
Nora: Then let me live.
Made even sadder by the fact that it has been 10+ in game years, since Origins to now that we have seen Mr. Freeze do everything he could to save the love of his life and cure her of her ailment. And he completely and utterly fails.
Very minor, but the "Shadow War" side mission shows the waitress (Sharon) and the "that guy over there is smoking" guy from the intro in the morgue, just another statistic in all this horror.
Minor detail, easily overlooked on a first playthrough given its gruesome context: one of the last voluntary acts of Anthony Lund, the first victim of Professor Pyg whom Batman examines, was to swallow a wedding ring bearing his ex-wife's name, so his captor couldn't take it away from him.
The end of that plotline is actually pretty sad as well. On the one hand, you've got the survivors and surviving victims, who've been affected/mutilated in such a way that'll haunt them for the rest of their lives. On the other, Pyg himself actually seems genuinely insane. The perp wants to do good, needs to do good, but can't comprehend that their methods are harmful. What the hell happened there?
The whole of the Knightfall protocol. Ignoring the aforementioned voice password being the name of Bruce's dead mother, when the final cutscene begins, Batman slowly removes the cowl, takes one last look over Gotham, bids Jim goodbye and grapples up to the Batwing, leaving only the cowl. As the Batwing flies away, the Batsignal explodes. Throughout the whole thing, Bruce just sounds so crushed- he truly enjoyed being a hero. As Bruce arrives back at Wayne Manor, swarming with reporters, he enters the front door, confirming with Alfred that he has to do this. The door closes... BOOM. Regardless of the speculation fuel that was the final scene, the ending confirms that Batman is well and truly gone. In a certain way, the bad guy wins.
Batman: It's done. Gotham is safe. Jim: Thank you, Bruce. For everything. Batman: (sadly) Goodbye, Jim.
Look after him, Jim. Look after them all.
You've been a good friend. The best I could ask for.
You were there at the beginning. And now...you get to see how it ends.