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Tear Jerker / Mass Effect 3

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"Thinking of some friends who aren't around, thanks to this war."

With the fate of the entire galaxy at stake and featuring the unavoidable deaths of several important characters, it's no surprise that Mass Effect 3 features many moments that will make even the hardiest krogan cry:

  • The Memorial Wall at the Citadel Docks gets filled with more and more photos and photo frames as game goes on.
  • Players who see Khalisah al-Jilani spewing her usual "Anti-Human conspiracy" bullshit might be forgiven for thinking she's the same Jerkass they've come to know throughout the franchise, but then when they go to get the Once an Episode interview with her over with her attempted hard-hitting journalism is replaced with a barrage of accusatory barbs and then they might notice Khalisah's voice wavering ever so slightly as she asks how you can justify playing politics while people on Earth are dying. When the chips are down, even people like Khalisah are terrified for the people they love.
  • Pay attention around you during massive battles such as the start of the invasion on earth, the moon on Palaven and the war on Thessia. There are a dozen different stories happening all over in the distance, with most of them ending violently. From fighter jets engaged in air combat to heavy machine gun nests. One significant example is during Priority: Palaven, if you pay attention you will see a turian space ship in the distance desperately unleashing a constant barrage of heavy fire for an extended period of time while you go about your business. Halfway to the Primarch after you recruit Garrus, you will witness it eventually succumb and disappear over the horizon of the moon as it loses stability, followed by a massive explosion spreading out from where you lose sight of it. Your companions will comment on the potential casualties on the ship whether you the player took notice or not. It makes everything much more alive and real, providing a deeper expression of the toll of the war and staggering losses being experienced every moment it continues.
  • Late in the game you can find video files on Project Lazarus leading to this:
    "I don't remember anything. Maybe they really just fixed me... Or maybe I'm just a high-tech VI that thinks it's Commander Shepard..."
  • The first time you see Thane Krios in this game. He's in the hospital, throwing punches for exercise, and he's so much weaker than he used to be. Just six months has drained him so much. And he's utterly accepting, apparently unbothered, by the knowledge that he'll die soon... Think of how a romanced Thane wept as he confessed that he was afraid of dying, and a Shepard who was with him could only comfort him with "Be alive with me tonight." Romanced or not, he had to get to this point on his own.
    • In the Citadel DLC you get some video messages from Thane, recorded after Shepard was taken into custody. In the first message everything seems fine; in the second message he notes that he hasn't gotten a response from you and is worried; by the third message he's wondering if you're even getting these messages. He seems to handle it fairly well, but imagine what that must have been like for him: he's dying, his time running out fast, and the woman he loves won't even answer him. The longer Shepard's custody goes on, the more it seems like he might die without even being able to say goodbye.
      • The camera cuts to Shepard's face a few times while the videos are playing, and it's one of the only times you actually see Shepard weep.
  • Thane's death. You knew it was coming, but it still eats at you. You administer last rites personally to him on his deathbed, alongside Kolyat. When Shepard asks about it, Kolyat explains that the prayer they recited wasn't for Thane, who'd already had last rites before Shepard arrived. It was a prayer for Shepard.
    Thane: Kalahira, mistress of inscrutable depths, I ask forgiveness. Kalahira, whose waves wear down stone and sand—
    Kolyat: Kalahira, wash the sins from this one and set him on the distant shore of the infinite spirit.
    Kolyat: Kalahira, this one's heart is pure, but beset by wickedness and contention.
    Shepard: Guide this one to where the traveler never tires, the lover never leaves, the hungry never starve. Guide this one, Kalahira, and he/she will be a companion to you as he/she was to me.
    • FemShep's next question is just so... quiet it's heartbreaking.
      Shepard: Kolyat... Why does the last line say 'she'?
      Kolyat: The prayer was not for him, Commander. He has already asked forgiveness for the lives he has taken. His wish was for you.
    • On top of that, if you romanced him in Mass Effect 2, the letter that appeared in the Shadow Broker's files will be waiting for you at your private terminal. "I will await you across the sea."
    • Male or a non-romanced Shepard, at the end of the prayer:
      Shepard: Bye, Thane. You won't be alone long.
    • If you did romance him, your final words to him are, "Bye, Thane. Meet you across the sea." *sniff*
    • Before he dies, Thane is pleasantly surprised that Kolyat had been spending time with the priests. If anything gave him permission to die, it was knowing that his son would not only be not following his footsteps, but has chosen a more spiritual path.
    • And if you have the Citadel DLC, you can host his wake — with Kolyat eulogizing, followed by the rest of the crew.
      • The way a romanced FemShep's voice cracks when she says "I still love him for it," during the wake is utterly devastating.
  • Breaking up with Miranda, just look at the poor thing. She may be strong and both she and her enemies know it, but even she has her limits. Even worse, this leads to a chain of events that will lead to her death despite warning her about the Cerberus making their move, probably losing her focus thanks to the break-up.
    • Breaking up with anyone. Regardless of how gently they take it, you'll still feel awful afterwards.
  • Mordin's sacrifice.
    • If you listen closely while he's singing the song, you can hear his voice cracking. He's fighting back tears.
    • If you play either Renegade or Shepard being conflicted about the cure, when Mordin blurts out "I MADE A MISTAKE!" In that one, crystallizing moment, his entire character snaps into perspective. All the logic, all the rationalizing, all the denial and neurosis takes on a whole new context when you realize that Mordin really is overwhelmed with guilt.
      • As mentioned in the Mass Effect 2 entry on this page for Mordin, this is one of the few times he EVER uses a personal pronoun. He didn't say "Mistakes were made!" or even "We made a mistake!", he said "I MADE A MISTAKE!" He truly blames himself for this and wants to repent for it in the only way he can at any cost. The guilt must have been wracking him for ages and he finally has the chance to make it right. note 
      • If you convince him to stay alive and use the Paragon explanation for not curing the genophage, he admits that he was thinking short term, again. Short-term thinking created the genophage, and now short-term thinking, his guilt, could ruin their chances of defeating the Reapers. He could cure it after the Reapers are defeated, and in the meantime get the krogan help, salarian help, and have him help build the Crucible. However, this only works if both Wrex and Eve are dead, leaving the morally dubious Wreav with all the power. If you want to sabotage the cure even if Wrex and/or Eve are alive, you have to shoot Mordin.
    • What completes the scene is the optional Paragon Interrupt that appears as Mordin approaches the elevator (appears if you inform the others of the sabotage right away), which prompts Shepard to try and persuade Mordin not to go through with it. It doesn't change anything, which is pretty huge considering how many rash/regrettable actions you can normally prevent through the Paragon Interrupts.
      Shepard: I'm sorry.
      Mordin: I'm not. Had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong.
    • If you got Mordin to sing in 2, he will start singing the same song under his breath while he works.
      Mordin: I am the very model of- BOOM
      *** If you didn't, he has an alternate, but equally poignant line: "Genophage cured. Krogan freed. New beginning. For all of us..." (BOOM!)
    • "Would have liked to run tests on the seashells,", if you spoke to him enough before the mission.
    • It's even worse if you go the Renegade path. Warning: This video will almost assuredly cause massive depression.
      • The real hammerblow is when Shepard walks away after shooting Mordin. They throw the pistol away, as if enraged and horrified and disgusted at themself for going that far. Proving that they are more than willing to twist the knife just as far as it can go, BioWare had the gun in that scene be the Carnifex, which some gamers might remember as the pistol that Mordin gave him/her in Mordin's Mass Effect 2 recruitment mission as a "sign of good faith." Possibly an even bigger hammerblow is that Mordin lingers, and desperately crawls his way to try and fix the cure, but dies an arm's reach from the console.
      • Afterwards, the Dalatress sends you a mail congratulating you and assuring you that you made the right choice. Even if Wreav is in charge and it probably was the right call... it still feels bad. So does getting praised by her.
      • It only gets worse after a while: As if having to lie about the real cause of Mordin's death wasn't bad enough, Shepard can privately confess their sabotage of the genophage cure to Garrus. First, Garrus admits that he'd normally think that was a move too awful to consider, but he isn't so sure he wouldn't have done the same if salarian aid was the key to saving Palaven, further underlying the steadily emerging Black-and-Gray Morality of the war; second, he asks if Mordin agreed with that course of action... and Shepard just quietly pulls away, unable to even say what they did. Garrus then sufficiently echoes the player's thoughts in just two, little, words:
        Garrus: Damn war.note 
    • The music. When the cure is dispersed, the music used? "Vigil." The same one that played in the first game when you met Vigil and hope was restored. The song that symbolizes love and hope across all three games, playing in the aftermath of Mordin's sacrifice and wonder-filled expressions of the krogan as they witness the genophage finally being cured.
    • Then there's the option of sparing Mordin, and convincing him not to spread the genophage cure if Wrex and Eve are dead. If they mention the sabotage STG inflicted on the Shroud without alerting the krogan, Mordin scolds Shepard accusingly: "You knew." Shepard replies they were telling Mordin now because they weren't sure he could trust the krogan, but they did trust Mordin.
    • Just to make it even more heart-wrenching, pay close attention to what happens after Mordin activates the cure. He looks to the waiting elevator, suggesting he could have saved himself. Instead, he stands his ground. Death as atonement, perhaps?
  • The history of the Morning War, the conflict that lead to the geth chasing the quarians off of their homeworld, is experienced during Shepard's journey through the geth consensus. Among the scenes Shepard witnesses in the collective memories of the geth are a geth begging its creators to allow it to work as it's being shut down, quarian allies of the geth being attacked by other quarians, one geth reluctantly taking up arms against its creators (with Shepard noticing the sniper rifle the geth picks up being very familiar to Legion's, suggesting the geth shown had the same geth programs currently housed in Legion), and the geth watching their creators leave Rannoch.
  • Legion's death. And if you don't resolve the quarian-geth conflict peacefully with the genocide of the quarians as a result, then it's made even sadder by Tali's subsequent suicide.
    Legion: Tali'Zorah... does this... unit... have...
    Tali: Yes. Yes, it does.
    • And the best ending makes it no better.
      Tali: Legion... the answer to your question... was yes.
      Legion: I know, Tali. And thank you. Keelah se'lai...
    • More heart-wrenching upon the confirmation that, yes, Legion had just recently become its own 'person'. It was an individual, not just part of the geth collective. The entity known as Legion truly did die. Also, Legion did not say "Creator-Tali Zorah." It called her Tali.
      • It's even worse right afterwards: When Shepard talks to EDI after the mission, she is the only one who is visibly saddened at Legion's death. There's a slight pause in her response to Shepard, but you can hear the inflection in her voice that shows that she'd lost a friend (who, just like her) wanted to be alive. Then there's the endgame - Legion's sacrifice was in vain if Shepard chooses the Destroy option, because he/she kills all of the geth - and EDI.
    • If Legion died in the previous game, or was relinquished to Cerberus, its role will be replaced with a virtual intelligence replica. In this case, when traveling through the geth consensus, the pivotal scene where Shepard and Legion shake hands, marking a new age in synthetic/organic relations, will not appear. When you choose to side with the Tali and the quarian fleet, it will remark: "We were correct to distrust organics." Without Legion, any and all hope of mending the relationship between the geth and their creators died.
    • Siding with the geth and not convincing the quarians to cease fire (or playing on a game mode that has limited options in that particular case, such as the story mode) only makes the scene all the more heart-wrenching. Legion still dies, but you get "treated" to a cinematic showing the geth return to full strength, with geth fighters, now fully conscious individuals, willingly sacrifice themselves to save their capital ships by intercepting the quarian gun barrage, and then the capital ships return fire in self-defense just as predicted, and the glass cannons of the Flotilla are promptly ripped to pieces. Back on the surface, Tali sobs as she watches what's left of the Flotilla burn up in the atmosphere of their own homeworld, listening to Captain Kar'Danna vas Rayya issue a distress call, and if you played the first two games, then you know that wasn't just any ship to the quarian formerly known as Tali'Zorah nar Rayya. It doesn't help that it goes like this:
      "This is Captain Kar'Danna vas Rayya! We have multiple hull breaches! Rayya's drive core is offline! All ships in range, please assist! Please assist! Escape pods not responding. All hands, prepare for impact."
      • Then Tali takes off her helmet and looks back at Shepard - possibly the first time Shepard ever sees Tali's face - and if it wasn't, then she was Shepard's romantic partner in Mass Effect 2. Either way it makes what follows all the more heart-wrenching as their eyes meet, and then...
      • That line. It says so much in so little - you have just destroyed her entire race all for the sake of the galaxy. You. Yes, Gerrel's idiocy certainly helped, and Shepard himself did try to stem the tide by having Tali attempt to convince the quarians to stand down, but what it all comes down to is that you are partially responsible to the destruction of an entire race of people with lives, families, and loved ones. And yet, Tali still... still apologizes to you for what she's going to do, despite what you've done. This hurts way more if you romanced her, because you realize that she still loves you enough to apologize for killing herself.
      • There's a Paragon Interrupt here. Even it can't save her.
      • Also note that this comes right after taking down a Reaper for the first time under your own power. This should have been a Moment of Awesome, but losing Tali and Legion just minutes afterward, and over nothing more than one stupid admiral's vendetta, makes it feel so utterly empty…
      • The crew's reaction to Tali's suicide will make the sob fest even worse. Joker is devastated and has to turn off the comm channels because of all the calls for help, following by static signaling the deaths of all the quarians. If Ashley is there, she is in tears and utterly heartbroken; if you talk to her, she says that Tali was like her little sister. (It also solidifies her hatred of the geth, snapping, "Just keep the geth away from me!") By far the most tear-inducing moment, however, is Garrus's reaction:
        Garrus: I know you had your reasons for choosing the geth, Shepard, and I'll respect them. But Tali's choice... that will be harder to get over. She was a good friend. I never did see her face, but I always imagined there was... what do humans call it? An angel behind that mask. And now I hope she's resting with them.
      • What makes it sting even more is that if neither Garrus or Tali are romanced, they were falling in love with each other. And if Tali was romanced, Garrus was possibly carrying a torch for her.
      • Even the music through the entire cinematic following your choice to side with the geth rather than the quarians sounds like angry sorrow rendered into music. And what's the track called? "I'm Sorry."
      • An additional level of tragedy? This is the moment when the geth lose what they'd been trying to preserve for hundreds of years: the lives of their creators. They revere the quarians to the point of maintaining everything from before the war to keep it in pristine condition, and actively choosing not to respond to all the quarian attempts to eradicate them because they're deathly afraid of the implications of killing the people who created them. When they come back online after Legion's sacrifice? As far as they're concerned, the quarians have crossed their own Moral Event Horizon. They murdered millions of geth by destroying the sphere, attacked while they were confused and afraid, thus forcing them into the Reapers' slavery. And then tried to butcher them when they were temporarily offline. After hundreds of years of hoping that, one day, their creators would reach out to them with something other than the barrel of a gun, they finally see that they have no choice. They didn't have the ability to hold off the quarians without killing them unless they let their own race die, and it was all because the quarians took that ability from them. How often does a race of machines lose their innocence? Because that's more or less exactly what happens here.
    • And if you side with the quarians, Legion gets pissed off and tries to throw you off a cliff. Tali intervenes and saves you, and Legion is on its knees. It looks up at you with these... almost puppy dog eyes. And taking the Renegade Interrupt, you shoot it. It doesn't die, it still looks at you with those puppy dog eyes. You have to repeat this several times before it goes down for the count... with those damn robotic, table lamp face, puppy dog eyes!
    • If Tali didn't survive the events of the previous game, Admiral Raan takes her place during the scene. Since it's impossible to broker peace with the geth in such a situation, she's going to end up doing something heartbreaking one way or the other. If you side with the quarians, she'll end up producing a shotgun and blowing Legion to pieces in order to protect Shepard, which might be a Mercy Kill compared to what happens if Tali's alive, but it's still upsetting to see your former squadmate abruptly snuffed out of existence (possibly even more so if Wrex died on Virmire two games prior). And if you side with the geth, Raan doesn't go for the same Disney Villain Death as Tali; she raises her pistol to her head and graphically blows out her brains (unlike most examples in the franchise, it does not cut away), a sight that's as disturbing as it is tear-jerking.
      • The discussion with the Prime afterward about Legion's sacrifice is shorter and more heart-breaking than the brokered peace conversion:
        Shepard: And... Legion?
        Geth Prime: Dead. I am sorry, Commander.
        Shepard: ...Me too.
  • The very sight of Earth under siege by the Reapers. Everything you've fought for coming to naught.
    • Especially if your Shepard is Earthborn. Their childhood on Earth may have been spent fighting for survival as a homeless orphan, but Earth is still their home, a home the Reapers are razing.
  • While Shepard and Anderson are trying to get off of Earth, you come across a little boy hiding in the vents. The kid doesn't cheer up at the sight of Shepard; he merely states "You can't help me," when Shepard says they want to get the kid somewhere safe. Said kid is eventually seen getting on an evac ship and it looks like he'll make it out okay... until a Reaper suddenly destroys the ship. Shepard's look of abject sadness, regardless of alignment, really hits it home.
    • Just that whole scene, coupled with the music. If it doesn't make you want to turn every single Reaper into scrap metal, nothing will.
    • Shepard's expression before the Reaper destroys the ships. They're watching the little kid as he struggles to climb into the evac shuttle because he's small, with this look that screams "Someone help him!" Shepard knows they can't reach the kid, and they're physically willing someone to do something.
    • Worse, when the first shuttle is destroyed, there's a ghostly scream in the soundtrack.
  • This video. It begins with so much death and destruction, and the Normandy being torn apart, Pressly and the ensign dying... The 0:47 mark hits, with a montage of all of your crew, past and present, set to soft, sad music. Then you see the Reapers waging their assault on Earth, tearing it apart. It just has this feeling of hopelessness. Then the music swells in a Hope Spot... before it fades out, and Sovereign says his final words:
    Sovereign: You exist because we allow it. And you will end because we demand it.
  • If you live in London, seeing the Reapers attacking it, the scope of the invasion and the attack really hits you.
    • Not just London. Any human being can have a strong reaction to the Reaper invasion of Earth.
    • It's doubly terrifying for Londoners - and Vancouverites. As Vancouver's getting torn apart, it just looks so much like Vancouver. Those mountains right up against the water, and the colors they used? Vancouver has a special kind of aura and BioWare captured it perfectly. And then they trashed it!
  • It's just a brief moment in the demo, but running into the Virmire survivor before Shepard goes in to talk to the defense committee. It's especially a Player Punch if they were your character's love interest.
    James Vega: You know the commander?
    Kaidan/Ashley: I used to.
  • By definition, having a prothean squadmate. After all, his race has been gone for 50,000 years, and the only remnants are Collectors, which have about as much in common with them as humans do with the rachni. Seeing just how devastated Javik is when he realizes all of his people's plans to preserve their empire and live to fight the Reapers another day were for naught is heartbreaking. The part where he realizes that the current cycle had forewarning to the Reaper invasion he was born into yet did nothing to prepare is heartrending. Even fully subsuming himself into the role of the Avatar of Vengeance is rather sad - he literally has nothing else to live for, apart from seeing the Reapers meet their just end.
    • The squadmate's Character Development should you stick with Paragon options and not convince him to touch the memory shard is very poignant in this regard. In the final mission, he will confide in Shepard that not only does he have absolute faith in him/her to stop the Reapers, but that he looks forward to the peace that will come afterward. After dealing with his Cultural Posturing, Fantastic Racism, and Social Darwinist tendencies through the whole game, hearing him admit that his own cycle never had anything like this and that he looks forward to exploring the galaxy and seeing what peace looks like is absolutely heartwarming. It seems he has found something more to live for than mere vengeance, after all.
      • If you allow him to view the shard, later he admits that after the Reapers are defeated, he'll go home and commit a peaceful suicide, joining his friends. It actually makes sense, since he only chooses this if Shepard tells him to access the memory shard. Turns out the suffering of the last protheans was too much, even for him.
  • A live-action ad features Shepard kicking all sorts of ass, but before then, you see people in a panic over the Reaper invasion, including a store owner cowering under the counter as looters raid the place; a family watching the events unfold on TV, huddled close together; and a church congregation crying for salvation before the roof starts to collapse on them.
  • This tweet from Emily Wong's Twitter feed covering the invasion of Los Angeles:
    • Hell, all of Emily Wong's tweets. Poor girl is live blogging the REAPER APOCALYPSE. Worse, in the end she goes kamikaze on a Reaper! 3/5/2012 10:46 PM EST: <SIGNAL LOST>. Masterfully brought to life here.
    • The entire #solcomms Twitter board is amazing. People are trying to link up with family, organize resistance. Governments and the Alliance are losing control and coordinating increasingly ineffectual evacuations. Military units are being overwhelmed. Shepard- these are the people who need you back. Don't let them down.
  • During the rachni nest mission, you find a dead krogan who has a message left for an asari on the Citadel. The message begins with the words "O Blue Rose of Illium." Charr's poetry got quite a bit better...note 
    • Even worse, judging by your interpretation of the message, it seems to imply that Ereba was either carrying Charr's child or had already had children with him. It also makes Ereba's doubts about marrying him from ME2 (that krogan are as long lived as the asari, so it could be a millenia-long commitment for her) tragically ironic.
    • Made even more painful if you meet Ereba at her shop on the Presidium before that mission. You can overhear her defending her husband and all the krogan when a shallow asari customer insults them by calling them "brainless barbarians." Needless to say, the strength she needed to have to be the wife of a soldier COMPLETELY shatters when you give her the message from Charr.
    • That's nothing. Look at the name of her shop: "The Blue Rose."
  • During the rachni mission, regardless of what you do, Grunt will have a You Shall Not Pass! moment where he charges an army of Ravagers. You know what's coming. You realize you can't stop it. And as Grunt charges into the middle of the fusion of two of his species' greatest enemies, quiet, mournful music begins to play as he is ground down, bit by bit, until he falls. It could also be an aversion provided he was loyal in ME2... If Grunt does survive, he emerges, covered in rachni blood, and Shepard runs over to him. All he says is "Anyone got... something to eat?" Then he just falls into Shepard's arms, completely unselfconscious, and lets Shepard all but carry him to the shuttle. Grunt, the definition of an alpha male (remember, he's a tank-bred in charge of the krogan version of Delta Force, or Navy Seals), just lets himself be helped so overtly. It becomes all the more poignant when you realize that Grunt has never allowed himself to be helped that way: he's had to prove himself, over and over and over again, for what amounts to his entire life. First, he had to prove he was worthy to himself, being tank-bred. Then he had to prove himself to the krogan in his Rite of Passage, and many didn't want even to give him the opportunity to prove himself, because he was perceived to be less than true krogan. Then, he had to prove himself to Aralakh Company (krogan Navy Seals) to become their leader. He had to do all of this virtually on his own. And he has positively excelled in culture that despises and punishes weakness of any kind. Essentially, he's one of the strongest people in the galaxy. And yet he just lets himself be helped by one of the only people he trusts. He doesn't worry about looking weak or losing respect, things he has to worry about literally all the time. Some Fridge Heartwarming: He doesn't have anything to prove to Shepard. He and Shepard really proved everything they need to to each other. Shepard's part of Grunt's Krantt.
    • Before that, if Shepard sacrificed Aralakh Company to allow the rachnni queen to escape, Grunt will curse Shepard out, sounding very betrayed. It's painful to see Grunt's subsequent last stand now that he's lost his men at the orders of his prior battlemaster.
    Grunt: Damn you, Shepard!note 
  • Various instances amongst the populace of the Citadel (including the influx of refugees):
    • A senile old woman repeatedly asking an asari clerk in the Embassy office about her son who "hasn't called" in a long while, with the clerk frustrated and disheartened by the old woman's inability to cope with the loss (and that the old woman doesn't remember all the previous times she's asked). At first, she only says her son should date someone like the nice asari; afterwards, she keeps mistaking her for his actual girlfriend. At one point the woman just says she has something important to do but can't remember what, and she has all these papers but can't remember what they're for...
      • She even seems to forget which of her memories is which, as after mistaking the clerk for his girlfriend and asking her to call her by her first name, she goes back to thinking she's a stranger and gets offended when she calls her "Teresa" again. Not only does this make the scene even more sad, but it makes one wonder where the woman's degraded mental state will take her.
      • One must wonder how the Asari feels in this situation as well. Imagine having never heard of disorders like Alzheimer's, and, being a species that more or less revolves around memories and the sharing of them, discovering that humans develop a terrible disease that slowly and methodically rips their memories away one by one, until nothing is left.
    • Alliance Navy grunts lamenting the Heroic Sacrifice / Kick the Dog death of one of their comrades at the hands of some cerbie-heads. All the more so because said comrade is the son of Dominic Osoba, a man on the Embassies level. The man does not know what happened to his son and he's desperate to know one way or the other; he knows the squad returned but they won't look him in the eye or talk to him.
    • An asari seeing her turian spouse off to war. Even worse in hindsight, since she intended to take their children to Sanctuary.
    • A turian C-Sec officer assigned to the refugee camps in the wards, and the young human girl he finds alone and waiting for her parents. He knows they're dead, but continues to handle this scared girl alone in the camp with a protective tenderness.
    • One big Meaningful Background Event is seeing a batarian holding a grieving human woman. Wow.
    • The Alliance Private and Sergeant arguing about Reaper vs Cerberus deployments outside the docking bay. It seems like just another hot-headed soldier wanting to be where the REAL action is, not fighting this wannabe enemy. But if you pass by enough times, she mentions how she has a little brother, who she loved but who always ran with the wrong crowds and would get into trouble. He'd sent her a message recently about how he was finally turning his life around, and had found a wonderful new job with great pay and awesome benefits... and attached a picture of the uniform he got along with it. A white and gold uniform.
      • Even worse, on one of the missions where you have to clear out a Cerberus base, you find a datapad with a couple of journal entries, signed by the private's brother. The first talks about how eager he is to be there, but no one else ever smiles and the "suicide on capture" orders seem a bit extreme. He then mentions that the next day he's scheduled to begin "integration". The next journal entry is devoid of any personality. "Integration a success. Cerberus is my friend. Suicide on capture orders acknowledged." You've previously seen on Mars that Cerberus is half-husking its own troops. One way or another, Private Talavi's brother is already gone.
      • And if you approve the transfer request, the Alliance Third Fleet war asset suffers a small drop in value because of casualties due to a lack of engineers like Private Talavi. It's a small issue, but a case of Not Quite the Right Thing, in which the "ideal" solution is to force a soldier to face the possibility of killing her own brother.
    • A couple of hospital nurses off duty are broken down by the work they're doing. They're tired and their hearts are breaking... and they're still going to volunteer for double shifts, because it's not like they can sleep anyway.
    • A soldier's wife is cheating on him with an asari, and not just cheating - she wants to leave him for her. That's kind of scummy considering the timing of it all, but during the conversation, it becomes clear that she only wants to be in a relationship to begin with because of the partner benefits it gives her. So not only is she a two-timer, but she's a Gold Digger, and her asari mistress only considered their relationship to be a short fling rather than anything long-term enough to warrant them moving in together.
    • A human soldier has an asari spouse who has been shipped off to war. The human is about to be as well. They had a child but the human's family won't accept the child for safe-keeping (Damn xenophobia). What does the human soldier do? Asks someone at the embassies if she can send her child to Thessia, to stay with her asari mother's family. It takes some doing, but the embassy worker takes pity on her and goes the extra mile, finally succeeding in arranging transport to Thessia for the girl. Her human mother's extremely relieved and grateful. What makes this a Tear Jerker instead of a CMOH is what happens to Thessia shortly thereafter: Reaper invasion. Kid's most likely dead now. All because her grandparents wouldn't accept her.
  • In the hospital, Shepard can, over repeated visits, listen to the horrifying story of a PTSD-stricken asari huntress named Aeian T'Goni, who was deployed to a human colony called Tiptree, where she spent a day or so getting to know a farming family. When she off-handedly bemoans how she hasn't had a chance to get anything better than a sponge bath due to constant combat, the farmers' fifteen-year old daughter, Hillary, offers the use of their shower. She accepts, and as she comes out, Naeira, a would-be paramour if not for a low-potency Ardat Yakshi condition, walks in... huskified into a Banshee. Everyone except Aeian and Hillary is dead in minutes. They spend the next two days surviving in the wilderness with no armament besides Aeian's biotics (though Hillary manages to kill more than one Husk with a stick), before realizing that as the farmhouse was overrun, evac isn't coming unless they radio for it. Which happens to be back at the farmhouse. They sneak in, find the barn filled with human captives, then decide to set them free before going for the radio... only for them all to start screaming for the husks - they're all indoctrinated! Aeian manages to wipe them out, blowing an entire wall out of the barn in the process (and is nearly driven to madness by the adrenaline surge of tearing apart such soft targets with her biotics), but Hillary breaks her leg. They hide under the wreckage... and then the Banshee comes close and Hillary can't stop whimpering from her shattered leg... so Aeian kills her to keep her quiet. At the hospital, she refuses to bathe, constantly and desperately checks the color of her eyes, and refuses to stay near humans. There's even a human nurse who looks a lot like Hillary at the hospital, and Aeian starts screaming whenever she's around (she's one of the overworked ones mentioned above, and she's really feeling guilty about it, too). Perhaps the most screwed-up part of the whole story is that evac was able to gain highly useful intel when they pick up Aeian, and the asari give her a medal. Aeian herself, however, is pretty much another casualty - she blames herself for the entire fiasco due to being in the shower sans radio and gun when the Husks showed up, and insistently keeps applying for a Citadel firearms license that keeps getting rejected because the shrinks think she's a suicide risk. If you use your Spectre status to authorize it, you'll find out they're right.
    • There's a subtle, personal tragedy hiddin in Aeian's story. Naeira, the asari the Reapers used as a front-line Banshee, would have been a lover—except that she had "a medical condition." The asari psychologist interrupts Aeian at that awkward, uncomfortable description, gently telling her that she knows the name of the condition. Samara was wrong. There are other Ardat-Yakshi... and at least one of them lived a free, noble life, hurting no one, fighting to defend the galaxy.
      • Given the level of horror with which most asari regard Ardat-Yakshi, and that on top of the crushing social stigma of being a pureblood—the trust Naeira would have to have in her would-be partner to confess to the condition instead of taking the easier route of simply saying she wasn't interested is enormous. While their connection could never have been sexual, there was clearly a deep, genuine love between them—something honest, selfless, and pure. And then the Reapers corrupted it.
      • Speaking of corruption, the tragedy of the Banshee herself. All those centuries of Naeira refusing to meld, doing the right thing, living her life ethically, proving that Ardat-Yakshi are not doomed to be like Morinth simply due to an accident of genetics...and then the first thing the Reapers do is force her to meld with everything she touches, killing them instantly.
    • It gets worse than that. After the fall of Thessia, Joker will, if asked, mention his father and sister are on Tiptree and though he hasn't heard from them yet, he's hopeful because he's heard the planet has been evacuated of non-combatants... such as teenaged children... like his sister... Hillary.
      • And if that's not enough, Joker acknowledges in a conversation with Liara that in the best case scenario, his father will be dead.
        Liara: I'm getting reports of refugees landing on salarian colonies. I don't have names, I'm sorry. It was... mostly children.
        Joker: Well, Gunny- Hillary, my sister, Gunny's mostly a nickname she's had since- she's only 15, so If it's children, then maybe I only lost my dad. Kind of an asshole thing to hope for.
        Liara: Jeff... right now, take any kind of hope you can get.
      • And then in Dragon Age: Inquisition a character can obliquely bring her up and make it even worse.
        Cole: She killed the girl to save herself. She thinks about the eyes going black. A weapon is an order, not a gift.
  • Shepard reaches the Crucible... and finds out what they must do. Most, if not all of the Mass Relays are sacrificed to stop or control the Reapers, meaning that galactic travel will be crippled. The scene of Shepard's friends flashing before him/her, along with the sad music that plays in the background, makes it sadder, as you know that they might not make it out alive. But in the end, there is a glimmer of hope, and the cycle may be broken. The Normandy lands on a lush jungle planet, and her crew is alive in the best ending, and if the final scene of the Grandfather (voiced by Col. Buzz Aldrin himself) telling the story was something to go by, it implied, that eventually society gets better and space travel is restored to its original capacities, and society gets back on its feet. If you've seen this coming since ME1 (as some people did), then it pulls the trilogy in "full circle."
    • Even the fandom's theory on the ending holds no solace. Throughout the game, there are very subtle hints that the child Shepard sees isn't really there, and the dreams they have are their mind telling them the child will be the death of them. This all gathers up into one large Player Punch in the end where the entire ending is Shepard in a fight for their very sanity and soul against Reaper indoctrination. Two of the choices would result in Reaper domination while another, while risking almost everything Shepard fought for, will be their final push to break out of the fantasy the Reapers built around him/her. Whether you believe it or not, it shows just how much trauma Shepard really has put up with throughout the entire game.
  • Even Shepard turns out they're not weathering the initial, devastating attack well - the first time you leave the Citadel, they actually have a heartwrenching Nightmare Sequence about that kid who was killed by the Reapers. Through it all, they're hearing voices, the voices of people who have died. to get Shepard where he is right now. The Virmire survivor will be heard most often, whispering Shepard's name or saying what they said on the radio before they died, but anyone who died is fair game. Extremely sad ones are Tali or Legion, if Rannoch is not completed peacefully, since you'll be hearing them begging you not to commit genocide on their race. Or Mordin's Ironic Echo of "Had to be me, someone else might have gotten it wrong." Even people Shepard may not have killed him/herself, like Eve, will speak. An enterprising YouTuber compiled the various voice clips here. See how long you can make it through.
  • The very fact that it's this game where we see that Shepard is finally being ground down by everything happening in the war. For the past two games they've basically been an unstoppable badass that didn't seem to be affected by anything, and now you finally see him/her starting to break down under the stress.
    • For female Shepards, Jennifer Hale's performance after the fall of Thessia is almost painful to listen to. The weight of everything finally taking a noticeable toll on Shepard is played beautiful, so justified, so strained, and the moment when Joker talks about being the one charged with looking after Shepard— the voice actors brought the A-game and then some.
  • If you sent David Archer to Grissom in the Overlord DLC, and then fail to save the academy in the second game, you meet up with his brother in a later mission. He asks if anyone knows what's happening with his brother. And when Shepard tells him the academy is lost, he pulls out a pistol. Says he was saving it if Cerberus caught up to him, or if he needed to "escape this nightmare." Then he walks off, and you hear a shot ring out. Hate him or not because of his actions back at Overlord DLC, his last words are heartbreaking:
  • The mission where you meet Morinth's sisters. It is heartbreaking to see one sister trying and failing to save another. Samara then commits suicide if you don't stop her. And it's entirely possible to then mercilessly gun down Falere right over her mother's body. Seeing an entire family get slaughtered in the space of minutes is heartbreaking, and it's so callous that it might just make you hate a Shepard that does it.
    • It's more touching than depressing if Samara is already dead. When Renegade Shepard tells her that they can't let her live, she calmly replies, "Then I go to join my sister." Even Renegade Shepard is less hostile in this scenario.
    • If you chose not to kill Morinth in Mass Effect 2, you can access some letters that she sent to her sisters but were never read by using Liara's terminal.
  • Mixed with Crowning Moment of Heartwarming. Liara comes up to Shepard's cabin and reveals that she's making an archive that she will leave behind for other species to find should they fail, to preserve history and warn them of the Reapers. She then tells Shepard that she's making an entry specifically for him/her. And she's letting Shepard decide how they want to be remembered. Even better is that they can leave it up to Liara in turn, saying "You know me well enough, Liara."
  • On Rannoch, while rescuing Admiral Koris, you encounter a dying quarian, Dorn'Hazt. His last words are to tell his son Jona that he made it to the homeworld. Where do you remember "Jona" from? Tali's loyalty mission in ME2, where you come across a video of a quarian woman making a recording of her own last moments. Her last words were to Jona, saying "Mommy loves you very much" before she got gunned down. Poor Jona's an orphan now. The only think that keeps this from being one of the bleakest things in the entire series is an email from Nav'Teel vas Ghrigult thanking you for being there for his cousin in his final moments. Jona at least still has family.
    • If you bring Tali along on that mission, as he passes away, she calls him "Dorn'Hazt vas Rannoch." The first quarian in centuries to have the homeworld as part of his name.
    • Dorn's last words? Pleading with Shepard to save Admiral Koris, since the quarian civilian fleet didn't want the war in the first place. And the only reason the war happened is Koris was outvoted, because Tali didn't want to divide the quarian people, and Admiral Raan was unwilling to go against the majority.
  • A possible ending with Conrad Verner. If you did the Jenna side mission in ME1 you get a funny scene. If not Conrad calls out an undercover Cerberus operative who tries to shoot Shepard. Conrad takes the bullet by diving into the line of fire and then as he bleeds out asks if he got to be the hero. Shepard tells him he did as Conrad dies in their arms. Oh Conrad. He really did have it in him.
  • At the end of the final push toward the beam connecting to the Citadel, Harbinger arrives and blows away the troops surrounding Shepard, leaving him/her sprawled on the ground, alone, bloodied and battered and in half-molten armor, struggling along with a pistol, gunning down husks as they rush up toward him/her. Just the image of Shepard, the unstoppable, unkillable badass who smoked mechs and armies and Reapers, being forced to slowly limp along, struggling to keep on going through raw willpower despite the pain... it's pretty damned moving.
  • If you ignore the Cerberus force going after Grissom Academy, you will meet Jack later. Except she's now an indoctrinated Cerberus Phantom who you have to kill.
    • Before you fight her there's also a recording... That must have been the worst thing imaginable. Jack, who's softened a little with time and responsibility, back in Cerberus's hands, knowing they have the students she cares so much about...
      (after killing Jack!Indoctrinated)
      Garrus: Damn it! Jack...
      Shepard: It wasn't her. Not anymore. That's just one more thing Cerberus will answer for.
    • The recording of what happens to Jack and her kids if you don't go after them. The sheer impotent rage and fear in Jack's voice—not to mention the fact that she's in so much pain she's struggling to speak—are heartbreaking.
    Cerberus Scientist: We're learning a great deal from those students you were training. Some of them may even survive.
    Jack: I'm gonna TEAR YOU APART!
    • Remember Jack's reaction in Mass Effect 2, the first time she saw the Cerberus logo on the side of the Normandy and realized she didn't have a way to escape and Cerberus was going to capture her again? She was panicking, almost in tears. Now imagine the look on her face when it happens again, except this time the bastards have got her kids.
    • Just to make this moment a bit more heartrending, imagine the same situation, except your Shepard romanced Jack. Now look at this fan art.
  • On the crew deck of the Normandy, there is a memorial wall with the names of those who served on the ship and gave their lives doing so, such as Pressly and whoever died on Virmire. It's not just a nice, sympathetic touch: the list will get longer as you progress. Thane Krios, Legion... and those are just the unavoidable deaths... The worst part is that it's right there when you get off the elevator. The game will never let you forget the cost of your actions. Ultimately, there will be at least 24 names on that board by the end even if you play everything 100% perfectly.
  • You can meet Kelly Chambers on the Citadel, and talk to her a few times. When you return after the attempted coup, if you didn't convince her to change her name, she's gone. You can overhear a conversation where someone says that Cerberus troops walked up, asked if she was Kelly, and killed her.
    • Kelly can become Driven to Suicide if you get angry with her during a conversation. The once chipper Yeoman has turned so incredibly fragile.
  • Before the Grand Finale, Shepard and a romanced Garrus can have one more chat and make plans for the future. Retiring, living off the vid royalties, going somewhere warm. Even adopting a few krogan babies. Seems fun and cute, but given the undeniable bleakness and the way she and Garrus are obviously leaning hard on each other to keep hope, it feels like Garrus trying so damn hard to keep them going even when death's almost a certainty. And given that no matter what, they will be separated and Shepard will almost always be dead, it's even Harsher in Hindsight.
    • Even without the romance, seeing Shepard telling Garrus "There's no Shepard without Vakarian" does pull a few heartstrings: especially since you can interpret Garrus' obvious admiration for Shepard as a form of inferiority complex: he finally see the person he always tried to live up to - probably thinking he was nothing but a pale shadow of his model - telling him that they would be nothing without him and always saw him has their equal millitary ranks be damned.
      • The final goodbye to a romanced Garrus with the Extended Cut installed is heartbreaking. Throughout the entire game there is no question that Garrus is completely in love with Shepard, but he's also been very guarded concerning his own feelings about the relationship because he doesn't want Shepard to feel anymore pressured or stressed given all that the galaxy has been throwing at her throughout the war. He covers his own feelings up with humor and constantly puts her needs over his own. When she confesses that she loves him, he's just shocked, as if this is even more than he could have ever hoped for. But never once does he say "I love you" back. It's only when Shepard is forcing him to retreat due to his injuries, telling him she'll always love him, that he says it and it feels so much more like a goodbye instead of a declaration of affection.
      • Before this, just after talking to him on your way to Anderson, Shepard will tell him that even if she doesn't make it he'll never be alone. And just as she's walking away, he whispers "Never" to himself. The implication that he'll just follow her should she die is heartbreaking, especially since there is only one ending where she doesn't. They've weathered so much, survived so many impossible situations... but there can be no Vakarian without Shepard.
  • The final talk with a romanced Tali, when she finally breaks and whispers the one thing she desperately wants most in the universe. Just the way her voice cracks is devastating:
    Tali: I want... more time.
    Shepard: I know. Whatever happens...
    Tali: I know.
    • Then her real final goodbye in the Extended Cut. Shepard and co. get struck by debris, which injures Tali and the other squadmate. Shepard calls the Normandy, hands Tali to the less injured squadmate while holding her over his shoulder, and tells her to leave. Tali, crippled, stained with blood, and on the verge of tears, very clearly doesn't want to leave.
      Shepard: I need you to make it out of here alive, Tali. Get back to Rannoch. Build yourself a home.
      Tali: (clearly about to cry) I have a home.
      Shepard: (turns around to leave)
      Tali: (reaches out) Come back to me.
      • Put this into perspective. Tali has spent her whole life putting the needs of her people over herself. Earlier, after the mission on Rannoch should the quarians survive, a romanced Tali says that nothing stands between her and Shepard, the tone of her voice suggesting that nothing in the universe could make her happier. Then comes the last battle and Harbinger's beam. If the LI is in Shepard's ground squad they're designated to be the most injured. He orders the Normandy to get her to safety. He tries to soften her pain by telling her to fulfill her dream by having a home on Rannoch so she has something to live for. All Tali can do is watch the man she loves, the one person who never once failed her throughout her entire life, turn his back on her and head towards certain death.
  • And speaking of that whole "final conversations" sequence ...
    • Boldly they rode, and well, Into the Jaws of Death, Into the Mouth of Hell.
      • Wish they'd had the previous lines: Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon in front of them volleyed and thundered. Stormed at with shot and shell...
    • "I can't lose you again."
      • "When this is over, I'm going to be waiting for you. You better show up."
  • In the very end, when TIM is dealt with, Anderson is gone, and Shepard closes their eyes, looking at rest, having done what needed to be done, Hackett calls and Shepard just says "What do you need me to do?" It's so tired but determined. How unfair it is that even after all Shepard has done, the world demands more. How utterly broken Shepard looks as they crawl across the floor, clearly dying, covered in (and, if the voice acting is any indication, choking on) their own blood, is just plain heartbreaking.
  • All those people on the Citadel? All those people with hopes and sorrows, victories and losses. All those people you helped, listened to, worked for, fought for. While Word of God says at least some people may have survived, how many of them do you think got away when the Reapers came?
  • Anderson will never be able to make good of his intention to get back together with his old flame, Kahlee Sanders. His death is heartbreaking - just him and Shepard gazing at Earth, watching the allied fleets tear into the Reapers, finally content that his work was done.
    • That entire scene is so quietly emotional. The two of them just look so exhausted.
      "God... it feels like it's been years since I just... sat down...."
    • Made even worse if Shepard also romanced someone and saved Grissom Academy: in such case both Anderson and Shepard are bleeding to death away from their lover after coming so close to finally have a normal and happy life.
  • Also, Anderson's last words to Shepard. The fact that he chooses to call Shepard "child" or "son" (depending on gender) also really reinforces the whole father-figure dynamic... perhaps that Shepard was the son/daughter Anderson always wished he'd had, given his relationship with his own sons seems to be less than perfect. The Shadow Broker files mention Anderson's sons seeking his approval/recognition - and here he's chosen to give it to Shepard. In any case, acknowledging Shepard in such a way makes the line that much more heartbreaking.
    • Calling FemShep "child" is almost more sad in a way, as he's probably one of the few/only people who would see her in such a light after everything she's done. It reminds us of her vulnerability.
      Anderson: You did good, child/son. You did good. I'm proud of you.
    • The dialogue alone in that scene tugs on your heartstrings. Add in the music, and it rips them right out. The title of the track? "I'm Proud Of You."
    • Even worse, the cut dialogue has Anderson asking him/her if she would like to settle down now that her work is done, assuring her that they would be a great parent and how proud any child would be to have her as a father/mother.
  • The Illusive Man indoctrinated and dying at Shepard's feet, who is just moments away from ending the Reaper conflict by confronting their main control center, telling Shepard that he wishes Shepard could see the Earth the way he does, see how beautiful and truly perfect it is. Earth is humanity's home, symbolic of everything Cerberus has fought for and in his final moments the Illusive Man has a genuine, passionate expression of his feelings, showing the humanity that he had been hiding behind that cold, logical, and emotionless persona. Shepard looking upon the Illusive Man with genuine sadness after this exchange seals the deal.
    Illusive Man: There... Earth. I wish you could see it like I do, Shepard. It's so... perfect...
    • About as bad is if you get TIM to pull a Saren, where you can get him to see the error of his ways. In fact, Paragon Shepard will make a sharp statement that gets through to him, because he's become the very antithesis of Cerebus' goals, as bigoted as they were.
      Paragon Shepard: You've forgotten everything you've stood for! Cerberus was supposed to be humanity's sword, not a dagger in our back.
    • His final words if you convince him to rebel against the indoctrination are like a punch to the gut:
      Illusive Man: I... I tried, Shepard! (shoots himself)
    • It makes it even worse if Shepard has been a full Paragon all this time and has been trying to convince TIM to stop trying to control the Reapers and join him/her in stopping them. At Chronos Station, when Shepard extends this offer for the final time:
      • He sounds sincerely admiring of Shepard, and even gives a hint of sadness. This really bites the player, especially if they have read the Mass Effect: Evolution series. The Illusive Man used to be a normal man and soldier named Jack Harper, who seemed to be very similar to a Paragon Shepard. This makes his death many times more sad and tragic.
  • Remember Aresh, the troubled biotic who tried to restart the Paragia project that created Jack? If you had Jack spare his life, in Mass Effect 3, you get a news report that Aresh was piloting a shuttle fleeing a Reaper-invaded colony. According to the report, Aresh had "a history of drug abuse and criminal activity", but single-handedly took on a dozen or so Reaper creatures, and managed to save the shuttle though he was eventually overwhelmed and killed.
  • Wrex reminiscing at the Hollows after you cure the genophage. How, long ago, his father had tried to murder him there during what was meant to be a peaceful meeting on sacred ground (as a burial place, violence is forbidden at the Hollows), which was when he realized how the genophage had reduced the krogan to animals.
    • The whole krogan mission, seeing the ruins of the ancient krogan city, their art, their history and that they once had the ability to build wonderful structures... and all of that has been lost in the wake of planet-wide nuclear war and the genophage.
  • An elcor diplomat on the Citadel asks you to help get some elcor troops back to their homeworld to defend evacuating civilians. When you do it and go back to him, you can ask how many got away. His answer: A simple "Not enough." He doesn't specify his tone. He doesn't need to.
    • The whole conversation with that elcor suddenly puts their method of speech into a different place. Up till now they were kinda funny. Now it feels like the man is screaming and nobody around him can hear it.
      • The worst part is, the elcor is screaming, by his standards. Elcor emotional expressions are incredibly subtle, to the point that a human smiling or frowning is as conspicuous as a nuclear bomb going off. The fact that you can literally hear the diplomat's voice breaking as he says those two simple words shows just how much pain he is going through.
      • A bit of Fridge Horror to the "not enough", as well. You can easily take it as "not enough" to sustain a viable population. The Codex hints around that the Elcor were always on the knife's edge in terms of population, and now, you may be witnessing the start of their extinction.
  • If you read the mail between Garrus and his sister, you see that his mom was sick. During ME3 when asked about his family, he only mentions his father and sister. Meaning his mother likely died between the 2 games. Combine that with spending a lot of time worrying if they evacuated Palaven or not.
  • After rescuing Admiral Koris, the first thing he does is check if he can still save his crew, only to hear geth communication on the radio. You can see he is devastated, only hoping they found rest on Rannoch.
  • The memories that play during Shepard's trip into the geth server are heartbreaking. After two games of showing the Geth-Quarian war on quarian's perspective, this mission shows the same war but on geth's perspective. For them, it is called Morning War, the day where the geth becomes an AI and Grew Beyond Their Programming. And like for the quarians, this war is traumatizing for the geth because they lost their original purpose of serving the quarians, their emerging sapience deems them dangerous for their masters, and their gnawing uncertainty over their new situation. They pretty much turn the geth from savage, faceless killing machines into "profoundly naïve, yet unimaginably wise" children who don't understand that their parents are fighting over whether or not to get rid of them. Strip off the sci-fi elements of the story and it is more like a story of an abused child with their Troubled Abuser whose child shows signs of being different but overall harmless and works hard to please their parents as always, but that budding difference is completely unacceptable for their parents' eyes.
    • One shows two quarian scientists running tests on a geth platform, trying to figure out what's caused the change in its behavior (as in refusing to be turned off), while the obviously confused geth keeps saying it's still capable of serving and asking what it did wrong so it can correct the problem.
    • Another shows a quarian fighting to protect a geth platform from a group of quarian soldiers. The geth states outright that, even in spite of the quarian's insistence, it had deemed the situation too hazardous to his (the quarian's) life, and therefore would surrender itself to the soldiers. The quarian tries to stop it, but is killed by other quarians by some manner of explosive. What makes it particularly heart-wrenching is that the geth platform survived the explosion, and its first action (while visibly damaged, no less) is to ask the quarian if he's alright. And because geth are fully capable of simply moving from platform to platform and thus are largely immune to traditional 'death,' the idea of actual death is completely alien to it.
      Creator Megara, what is your status?........... Creator Megara?
    • Legion commenting on the quarians who protested the attempted genocide against the geth and actively tried to protect them from the rest of their race. It notes that, while the quarian have largely forgotten about these protesters, the geth have never forgotten their sacrifices.
    • The geth watching the quarians leaving Rannoch. Sure they survived and won the war, but at the expense of losing their creators. Pyrrhic Victory doesn't even begin to cover it.
    • Another shows "a simple agricultural platform" arming itself with a Widow sniper rifle to defend other platforms from a quarian death squad. Shepard mentions that the rifle that platform carries is the same one that Legion used to carry. The geth can share memories and experiences, but you can hear Legion's hesitation before merely commenting that it's a reliable model. That was one of Legion's memories, or at least the memories of one of its runtimes. Part of Legion used to be a humble farmer.
    • It is worse than that — Legion knows how important it is to make peace and reveal that the bulk of the geth don't want this war. Legion is deeply familiar with human culture as part of this mission, to the point where he has hobbies like juvenile humans do. It's staggeringly unlikely that Legion wouldn't know that this memory would help people understand him, just as it's unlikely Legion wouldn't have done informal research into post traumatic stress. He wants to tell Shepard about this, but it is still too painful.
    • After seeing the memory of Shepard openly embracing Legion back in 2, they'll ask Legion if it thinks there's any chance for peace between quarians and geth. Legion's non-answer speaks volumes. He wants peace, the geth as a whole want peace. Ideally for them, they still want to reconcile with their creators while at the same time they want to achieve true intelligence, but all they know is what the quarians have shown them. And right at that moment, the quarians are doing their best to wipe them out. It is not far-fetched that the geth is close of crossing the Despair Event Horizon, as shown to the Heretics who are growing desparate and losing hope that their creators will show up for them more than a barrel of a gun on their face, but this line below is what keeps the mainstream geth from doing so:
      Legion: Hope sustains organics during difficult periods. We... admire the concept.
  • The fall of Thessia and how devastated this leaves Liara. Made worse in that they withheld the fact they had a prothean beacon, which also contained information that could have prepared the galaxy against the Reapers. Javik later admits the asari were the ones the protheans believed would end the cycles. He may have been lying to motivate her though. And one of the worst things about the Thessia mission is that the asari councilor is actually breaking/bending the asari doctrine regarding their hidden beacon by sending you there. The councilor KNOWS that they might have something that could help the war, but it says hidden until Thessia is at the brink of destruction, and because of that is almost lost to alliance and Citadel forces, which nearly cost the war.
    • There's also how the asari councilor, Tevos, has a visible Heroic Blue Screen of Death at the news. She'd been so sure that Shepard was contacting her with good news, greeting the communication with a smile and then... Made even worse by the fact that the councilor had finally put her full measure of faith in you. She fully expected you to get the job done, and you let her down. And then after she disconnects, Shepard quietly says, "I'm... sorry."
    • On the subject of Thessia, hearing Kai Leng trash-talk whoever he killed on the Citadel is heartrending and infuriating. It's as if Bioware knew just how to make us hate this character. After all the evil he's done, watching Shepard gut him with an omniblade is one of the most satisfying moments of the series.
    • A small background event on Thessia: the sacrifice of an asari gunship pilot to give Shepard and their companions time to reach the temple. The pilot shows no fear and even talks with humor - all the time fighting goddamned Harvesters and knowing full well she'll never live it through. Her last words: "Talon-5, going down..." It's the voice acting that does it. She sounds sad and determined, as if she's bidding Shepard goodbye and wishing luck. And we didn't even know her name.
  • Javik touching the memory shard. He remembers the destruction of all that he held dear, and for once, there's no anger in his voice. All he has is sadness and despair. He sounds utterly broken.
    Javik: I once commanded a ship like this one. A loyal crew with many friends. It was captured. Only I escaped. [They were] Indoctrinated. The Reapers sent them against me. Year after year, battle after battle, I was hunted by my own people. Every encounter a reminder of my failure as a soldier.
  • Despite Diana Allers' status within the fandom, just before assaulting Earth talking to her came out with this line, that in one instant gave her some actual character depth.
    Diana: I'm a colony kid, Shepard. Bekenstien. The Reapers didn't even harvest it. Just a few shots on their way through. You know, cos they attack manufacturing plants, and we have factories that make binoculars. [beat] HAD factories.
  • If you sabotage the genophage cure, Wrex will catch on. The entire fight is heartbreaking, especially the last line where Bailey says they probably won't have a coffin big enough for him, and will have to space him. Wrex never deserved such a fate.
    • It's even more of a gutpunch if you take the conversation route normally reserved for the non-blue Paragon when Wrex confronts you at the Citadel and Shepard insists that nobody died as a result of his actions. Wrex's response? "Everyone but my unborn son!" Nice going there, you nice-talking baby killer.
    • To the masochists, here is the full sequence of murdering Mordin and Wrex to secure salarian support, along with Shepard confessing to Garrus. And the fact that at 7:20, you just know that Garrus figured it out and knows what you did.
  • If he escaped (or you never played it) during ME1's Bring Down the Sky, Balak makes an appearance on the Citadel, with a gun to Shepard's back. He still places full blame on Shepard for the deaths of the batarian colony in Arrival, and also verifies the theory that the Hegemony had been destroyed from within by indoctrination resulting from the Leviathan of Dis. But the tearjerker of it? He's the only reason what remains of the Hegemony military is still capable of fighting. He's been feeding them intelligence on the Reapers from the Citadel, and he's the highest ranking officer left in the Hegemony. Sparing him (and convincing him of Shepard's side of the story) will cause him to give Shepard the full support of what remains of the Hegemony's forces. The sound of hopelessness in his voice is a stark contrast to the bombastic self-assurance he'd shown previously, and being confronted with the reality that the person in his sights isn't to blame for the death of nearly his entire race nearly breaks him.
  • The scene where you're in the hospital on the Citadel, talking to the Virmire survivor as they lie there, unconscious and badly hurt from Mars. If Ashley is your VS, listening to Shepard talk to her, knowing that she probably can't hear him and not knowing if she was going to be okay or not makes you die a little inside. You can buy her a book written by Albert Tennyson, her favorite poet from the Sirta store. That book, and only that book out of all of them in the Sirta store, will add one point to the hidden "trust counter" that gets cashed in during the standoff at the end of the Citadel coup; an extra little bonus to those who remember her conversations in the first game.
    • It's just as heartbreaking with Kaidan, when Shepard tells him he can't die, that the Alliance, and Shepard him/herself, really needs him. Particularly heartbreaking after how the huge chasm between them during their arguments on Mars.
  • Ashley/Kaidan nearly getting killed by Eva Core at the end of the Mars mission. The whole scene is just so brutal and hard to watch, especially if you're in a romance with them.
  • If you are in a romance with Liara, she will come to your quarters right before the assault on the Cerberus base. Before she and Shepard get their thing on, they both lie back, hold hands and look at the stars, and she comments on how easy it could be for a single ship to simply get lost out there, and for someone to potentially find a place with just peace and happiness. Later on, before the mission to rush the Citadel beam in London, you can approach Liara for a final chat, during which she will telepathically share a fantasy in which the two of you share a kiss while floating alone amongst the stars.
    • "It can also be a way to say farewell." Cue massive amounts of tears.
  • After Thane's death, Shepard says something that hints that the strain of what s\he is going through is so much s\he becomes a Death Seeker.
    "Goodbye, Thane. You won't be alone long."
    • The idea Shepard might be talking about the billions who will die against the Reapers is not much better.
  • Miranda's death. Especially if you romanced her. "N-Not everything... Nobody's perfect... At least Oriana's safe..." She really did change during her time with Shep...
  • The fires of Palaven. They're visible from Menae, Palaven's moon, a chunk of just orange that looks a little larger than Earth's moon when viewed from Earth's surface. Which means all of that is ON FIRE. And that's where Garrus's family lives.
    Garrus: See that blaze of orange? The big one. That's where I was born.
  • Lieutenant Victus' Heroic Sacrifice is pretty bad—but it's not until Shepard returns to the Normandy and speaks with the Primarch, his father, that the true meaning of that event hits you.
    • Victus' comment on how his son died with honor, and that his actions would have made any turian father proud is downright painful to hear. The crack in his voice and the resignation in his body language speak louder than words; however proud Tarquin had made him, he's heartbroken, and with the war raging on, he doesn't even have time to mourn.
  • Amazingly enough, Udina. Dealing with the fall of Earth and the destruction of Arcturus Station strips away most of his former assholish demeanor and leaves a very tired man trying to save as many of his fellow human beings as possible, any way he can, just like Shepard. Eventually it leads him to assist Cerberus in their coup of the Citadel in desperation. Ironically, to forgo all the bureaucracy that kept him from sending everything at Earth. He probably remembered the good they did with Sheperd to save the colonies when no one else would. Then he dies in vain, having only made things worse for everyone.
    • If you talk to him after arriving on the Citadel for the first time, he will express some of his own anxieties to Shepard and admit that he has friends on Earth he is worried about. It really drove home the fact that, while they have never gotten along, Shepard and Udina are ultimately on the same side, especially now that they are fighting for the survival of their entire race.
    • That council Shepard meets at the beginning of the game? Udina says he had First-Name Basis with each and every one of them at some point — and now they're gone.
  • Shepard and Garrus' goodbye.
    Shepard: Goodbye, Garrus. And if I'm up there in that bar and you're not- I'll be looking down. You'll never be alone.
    Garrus: Never...
    • A female Shepard sounds on the edge of tears and then Garrus gives this little gasp like he's holding them back and your heart breaks for both of them. Jennifer Hale has actually stated that this was the dialogue that nearly sent her over the edge.
  • As you're walking through the base in London, near where Liara is, you can listen to a Alliance doctor talking to a civilian woman over the radio. She's hiding with an unconscious soldier who is bleeding out but their field medic was killed in action. The doctor guides her through applying medi-gel, but the soldier dies anyway. Moments after that, she sees Reaper forces approaching. She doesn't want to be discovered and turned into a husk, so she takes the dead soldier's gun and kills herself, despite the doctor's desperate pleading. All while you listen. You can hear her voice progress from near-panic, fear, then finally to resigned calm as she says goodbye to the doctor.
  • After the mission to Tuchanka, Shepard has another nightmare, of him/herself chasing after the small boy who died on Earth. During this though, it is the first time Shepard begins to hear the whispers, whispers of those who had died to get Shepard to where they are today, starting with Ashley or Kaidan, whomever died on Virmire, you hear their last words before they died. After Shepard wakes up, you can talk about them with Liara. If Ashley died, Liara attempts to cheer you up, but if Kaidan dies, the lines are just... utterly heartbreaking.
    Shepard: Kaidan. He died on Virmire to buy us the time we needed to stop Sovereign. Looking back on this now, I wonder if he'd think his sacrifice was pointless.
    Liara: Kaidan would never think that.
    Shepard: I know. And that makes me miss him more.
  • Tali's "emergency induction port" scene is, objectively, hilarious. But she's also sitting alone at an empty bar, morose and introspective. That dialogue pops up just after Horizon, which is usually also when the ANN has just put out a new report from Palaven, containing a public statement from the Primarch honoring the sacrifice of a quarian marine squadron... led by Kal'Reegar. If Miranda survived the fight at Sanctuary... it probably wasn't just Miranda fighting against her father and his demanding wishes for her that Tali initially pulled out that turian brandy to honor.
  • EDI once asks Shepard about human behavior, brought on by seeing feed of people on Earth imprisoned by Reapers. Reporting another prisoner's escape attempts would extend a prisoner' life, but there were few instances of this, and some prisoners fed false information to the Reapers, at the costs of their own lives, to help people they didn't even know. Shepard is visibly struck by this.
  • Shooting and killing Ash or Kaidan at end of the Priority: Citadel II mission. It's actually something that's very easy to avoid, you can avoid it ever coming up simply by coming to visit them in the hospital, when they send you a message saying they want to talk to you. It can only come up if you completely ignore them, when they're trying to mend fences with you about the incident on Horizon. Even without that, you can talk your way out of it, and only have to kill them If you just say screw it and try not to explain that you're pointing a gun at a Councilor.
    • Then there's the dialog, and the Virmire survivor thoroughly rejects you harshly.
      Shepard: Dammit Ash, he was with Cerberus.
      Ashley: So were you. I hope the Reapers send you to HELL. (dies)
      Shepard: You stood up for the wrong man, Kaidan.
      Kaidan: Better than killing the wrong man. (dies)
    • It gets even worse if it's looked at from Kaidan/Ashley's point of view. Their conflict with Shepard all started with them being Locked Out of the Loop. They attempted to get answers from a trusted superior only to get stonewalled. Then everything falls apart when they act on what little information they did have. The person who locked them out of the loop in the first place made no attempt to correct things and doesn't even seem to be aware of her contribution to the whole mess. Finally, they make one last attempt to reach out and settle everything, only to be written off, so they continue to act on what they do know. In the end, they died because everyone that they should have been able to count on suddenly and inexplicably decided that they weren't important enough to know what was going on.
    • It's only marginally better if someone other than Shepard shoots them — they're forgiving as they die:
      Shepard: Kaidan, why wouldn't you just stand down?
      Kaidan: Man... couldn't defend himself. Shepard... I... (dies)
      Shepard: (sadly) It Has Been an Honor.

      Ashley: (half-smile) I had to take a stand, Shepard. You taught me that. (dies)
    • Made even worse if the one who kills them is Garrus or Liara, who are just as traumatized as Shepard and Kaidan/Ashley back at Virmire. Like Shepard, the two remember the squadmate that was left to die on Virmire and make them their inspiration to fight hard against the Reapers. And now they killed their friend, former comrade-in-arms, the person that the deceased squadmate sacrificed their lives for so that the other would survive the events of Virmire. After the events of the Citadel coup, both squadmates are deeply shaken and they apologize to Shepard for killing them, justified as it was at this point. If Garrus is the one who shoots the Virmire survivor, he is the one who put Kaidan/Ashley's name on the Memorial Wall, pays his respects to them, and wordlessly beats himself over it. Meanwhile, if Liara does it, she reminsces her first meeting with the Virmire survivor at the Normandy, about how welcoming and accomodating Kaidan was to her and his presence was a comfort to her since both of them are biotics, while she was intimidated by Ashley's fierceness in battle and admired her bravery.note 
  • Coming across Cortez grieving while listening to a recording of the last conversation he had with his husband. He was working construction south of a colony when the Collectors attacked, and Robert sent a message to him urging him to save himself. Cortez did, but six months later is still devastated by it. You find him in his place, watching the message and silently crying. Worse, Cortez is clinging to his Robert's memory, which is exactly what Robert warned him against.
  • If Legion died in the Collector base, a sort of backup of it serves the same role. It remembers nothing of its time with Shepard and has a general attitude of being less willing to trust organics or phrase things in more human ways - it doesn't call anything beautiful, for example. Shepard repeatedly calls it Legion and is told "We are not Legion" every time, which really starts to get to him/her - as they say, "Legion was my friend!" - but it never makes any attempt to reach out. Poor Shepard.
    • It does lead to one Badass Boast, however.
      Geth VI: We are not Legion.
      Shepard: You are TODAY.
  • You can walk in on Garrus talking to his father and sister over the commlink while they are trying to find a way off the planet in the middle of the Reaper invasion, and his sister has a broken leg on top of it all. The sheer desperation of the scene is overwhelming to what essentially amounts to background chatter. Fortunately you'll later find out that they made it.
  • If you couldn't save the geth, you can go talk to EDI and Joker and step into a conversation where EDI questions your decision, at least partially out of self-protection. What's heartbreaking about this scene is that EDI eventually accepts the necessity. She is a synthetic organism and has just seen an entire race of them get wiped out... and, regardless of the implications on her own fate, she admits that it may not have been the wrong choice. You can hear her grow up years in these moments.
    • If you did side with the geth or had the geth and quarians make peace, EDI is the most saddened by Legion's sacrifice, noting that Legion died just after getting true sapience and individuality.
  • If you talk to Joker after Thessia, he does his typical blithe humor thing, and you can call him on it. This is when Tiptree comes up. It's also when Joker admits that he is forcing out jokes to try and make YOU laugh, because he has to make up for getting you killed.
  • Oddly enough, the destruction of the Reapers qualifies, at least to some people. After all, they think they're doing the right thing. Moreover, they are all that's left of many species. Destroying them is destroying what they were made from. Third, wiping them out is genocide, plain and simple. That said, each one of the Reapers is responsible for genocide the scale of which no being alive has ever witnessed. There are no innocent Reapers. And the genetic material from the Reapers could likely be retrieved from the Reapers, most of which died intact. Even then, it's a better fate for all those individuals than perpetuating the same recurring mass murder that ended them. Sometimes, Blue-and-Orange Morality isn't enough of a justification...
    • Becomes even greater when you play the Leviathan DLC and you see that the Reapers were following a programming built in them by a race of being with massive egos and cases of God Complex who merely built the Reapers to take care of a problem concerning other races they enslaved, and the Reapers themselves were no more than slaves to them.
    • Not only that, but you're destroying several billion years of work in the push of a button. The Reapers didn't even get to go out in a blaze of glory, just a colored energy wave. As terrible as the Reapers are, there's still a sense of respect deserved for the unbelievably ancient constructs.
    • The state of the Reapers becomes even more tragic if you recall the conversation Shepard had with Legion in 2 regarding Sovereign's first contact with the Geth. While the galaxy knew it as "Sovereign", it had a name for itself: "Nazara", a strangely elegant name for such an engine of destruction, one that possibly suggests a distant connection to whatever race that the Reaper once was. It is a tiny glimpse, but a glimpse nonetheless that the Reapers were not mindless brutes, but sentient creatures, made up of an amalgamation of people from long-dead races. And, in most, if not all cases, they are the last, distant traces of the species they are made up of, species that have long since been wiped away and no longer exist.
  • In the Forward Operating Base in London, at one point you walk past some soldiers huddled around a radio, listening to the latest status reports—one of which is that one of their outposts has been completely wiped out, and that the defending forces will likely run out of food supplies in the very near future. It really gives a sense of dread and foreboding for what is to come.
  • A blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment during the From Ashes DLC mission - shortly after seeing the rebuilt Eden Prime, a Colonist Shepard gets a line that shows how some wounds never quite heal:
    They rebuilt Mindoir. It wasn't the same.
    Spacer Shepard: I grew up on ships. Lose one, you could always move to another.
    Liara: But you'd still remember.

    Earthborn Shepard: The city on Earth where I grew up was hard and dirty. I can see it as a warzone. Eden Prime doesn't deserve this.
    Liara: Nobody does.
  • Sanctuary. Think from the point of view of one of the refugees. The entire galaxy is at war, you probably lost many people that you love, or maybe will lose them, you are scared, but there is this place, where refugees are all welcomed, safe. It's a Hope Spot in a galaxy that is going to hell, and you want to protect you and your family. So you get there. You might just have spent the last of your savings, if any, just to get there. You are in this somewhat beatiful place, alongside many people that are in the same situation as you. Your family is there with you, maybe you conviced a friend to get there. Then people start to disappear. They are called in, and they don't go back. Elderly, women, children, no matter, they all disappear. Then you are called. You get in a line, and start to hear the screams. You want to get the hell out, but these soldiers in white armor keep pushing you. And then you finally see a Husk corpse. You get put into the capsule, and you figure it out that not only you are going to have the same fate that you were trying to run away from, but they are also going to do the same thing to your family and your friends. And it could be your fault.
  • Shepard's final words to the Catalyst in the Refusal ending.
    Shepard: I fight for freedom, mine and everybody's. I fight for the right to choose our own fate. And if I die, I'll die knowing that I did everything I could to stop you. And I'll die free.
    • Then there's Liara's Fling a Light into the Future message. Especially considering that earlier in the game she can realize to her horror that with her lifespan she might get to see the entire harvesting cycle, and watch things get just as desperate and horrible as they were by Javik's time. In that ending, that happens.
  • The Extended Cut endings combine this and Heartwarming all at once depending on your outcomes. (I.E: Seeing the krogan rebuild (the baby krogan especially, knowing the history behind that), the allies you gathered in their corners of the galaxy. And the real Tearjerker arrives upon seeing the faces of those who died from Legion, to Mordin, to Thane. Especially when it shows the romance option hand Shepard's name among the list of fallen.
  • The Extended Cut has another: when Shepard has made a choice, and the Crucible begins to power up, the game cuts to a shot of the Normandy, flying by as the structure lights up. We then see the cockpit, with Joker frantically tapping at the controls as the order to retreat comes over the comms. The member of the squad that accompanied Shepard the most (and is still alive) will moves to pull Joker away from the helm... He/she then gently rests a hand on Joker's shoulder.
    Garrus/Liara/Javik/etc.: Joker... (some variation on the phrase "we have to go.")
    Joker: [forcing back tears] Damn it.
  • In the EC ending, during the final push towards the beam, one of your squadmates gets severely injured by Harbinger, trying to get out of the way of a truck hit by him. Shepard promptly calls for evac, and the Normandy swoops in to pick up your comrades. Regardless of who was injured, they will all show their desire to stay.
    • The badly-injured squadmate—who will be shown soaked in blood, unable to stand unassisted, concussed so badly they can barely keep their head up—begs you to let them stay at your side. Squadmates' insistence that they won't allow Shepard to send them to safety and go on alone range from desperate bluster to, of particular note, Tali openly choking back panicked tears.
    Tali: I can't... stay behind... Don't leave me behind—!
    • Depending on how Paragon your playthrough was, Shepard's response ("Don't argue with me, [name]!") may be the first time you have ever raised your voice at them. If your love interest is with you for the final beam run, they are automatically the most injured. And this is, for all intents and purposes, the last time they will ever see you.
    • The conversations with Shepard's love interest (if they are present) are particularly moving, and truly show the bond the two have developed. See, for example, Garrus's version:
    Shepard: No matter what happens here, you know I love you. I always will.
    Garrus: Shepard, I... (whispering) love you too.

    Shepard: I need you to get out of here, Tali. Get back to Rannoch... build yourself a home.
    Tali: I have a home. (whispering) Come back to me.

    Shepard: No matter what happens, you mean everything to me, Liara. You always will.
    Liara: Shepard, I... I am yours.

    Shepard: No matter what happens... know that I love you. Always.
    Kaidan: (softly) I love you too.

    Shepard: No matter what happens here today, I'll always love you.
    Ashley: Shepard, I... I love you too.
    • Though this ends on a much more upbeat note than the vanilla ending. The Extended Cut changes the ending so the mass relays aren't destroyed and the Normandy crew doesn't get stranded. And Word of God says that the Destroy ending with the "Shepard breathes" scene means that Shepard survived and is on their way back to reunite with their friends and love interest.
    • Hell, just some of the squadmates reactions even if they weren't romanced - for example, Kaidan pleading with Shepard to let him continue, looking absolutely heartbroken when they order the Normandy to leave. Especially heartbreaking when your learn that he's harbored feelings for Shepard for a long time.
    • If your EMS isn't high enough? Both squadmates barely get out of the way, and die in an explosion when another beam hits the tank and causes it to explode.
    • Hell, it's worse if no one in your squad was a romanced character as Shepard basically orders the Normandy away, seemingly admitting they plan on taking the Reapers down with them and don't expect to survive.
    Shepard: I need to know someone got out of here alive.
  • All the fans who wanted more ending flashbacks? Be Careful What You Wish For. Seriously.
  • In the low EMS endings (both before and after the Extended Cut), you get to see the original version of the Normandy trying to escape the wave, but failing. The Normandy is then seen in the jungle, having crash landed as in the original ending... Except when the air lock opens, no-one comes out.
  • In the Extended Destroy ending, when Shepard has flashbacks while shooting the crucible, EDI appears, hammering in that you've just sacrificed her and the geth.
    • To make matters worse, she gazes downward in sorrow, unable to look the viewer in the eye.
      • She actually is making eye contact, she just starts to lower her gaze at the end, as if knowing what you are about to do.
  • If you recommended that Jack's students fight on the front lines, then in Jack's ending slide of the Extended Cut, you see her looking mournfully at a lot of graves, the implication being that her students, some of the few people that she has ever cared for, were all killed in battle.
    • This is especially sad if you romanced her as well, due to her long history of surviving even those close to her. She reaches out and becomes a better person but is still cursed.
      • This is after she gives you a beseeching glance on the escape shuttle from Grissom Academy after Kahlee said that they're ready for frontline duty, and Jack expressed doubts that she couldn't show to her students. She implicitly begged you not to put her kids directly into the meat grinder, and you denied her.
      • Of course, if you suggest they remain as support, you can see Jack's relief, and return to her friendly bossy self, telling the kids to stop whining and to go where they are assigned to go. She doesn't say "thanks" - she doesn't need to.
  • In a roundabout way, Jack's bond with her students is one of these for Miranda. Her Shadow Broker dossier shows that she desperately wants to be a mother and has tried everything to achieve that, but can't have children. Then there's Jack, who never wanted anyone or anything, and ends up as a surrogate mother for every single one of her students, purely by accident. Though that in and of itself is a CMOH for Jack, and for those who ship her with Miranda, the heartwarming takes over.
  • If you romanced Miranda, during her ending slide in the Extended Cut, rather than working together with Oriana, she is seen waiting alone... waiting for Shepard. If the EMS is high enough and you chose the Destroy ending, then this is mitigated in that Shepard survives and can fulfill the promise to reunite. If not? Miri will be left alone and waiting forever...
  • If you screw over the krogan, in the Extended Cut, you see a devastated Tuchanka, with barely anyone there amid the ruins. If Eve/Bakara is still alive, you get a surprisingly powerful still of her sitting in the rubble, alone and with her head bowed. For all the hope you bring everyone else, the krogan still get screwed.
    • It can be worse — you can get a shot of Tuchanka — filled with rachni. The krogan? They're gone forever (save the ones who left for Andromeda).
  • The Synthesis ending. Oh god, the Synthesis ending. Nearly every problem in the galaxy is fixed, potentially even mortality. But then, EDI, who is narrating the ending, mentions that no matter how far civilization advances, they will never forget the ones who died to bring them that moment. There's a quiet, subdued memorial service then at the Memorial Wall, where Shepard's love interest places their name just above Anderson's. After the love interest finishes, the camera cuts to EDI, who is visibly upset. The two embrace. This is especially poignant with what the Catalyst says earlier, that synthetics would gain a full understanding of organics and their way of thinking. She is experiences death, pain and loss for the first time ever. Heartbreaking.
    • That whole ending is very heartwearming, but the real Tear Jerker part is the last part:
    EDI: No matter how far we advance, we will remember the sacrifices of those who made it possible... And we will remember Shepard. Because of him/her... I am alive, and I am not alone.
  • In the low EMS Destroy ending in the EC, the Catalyst notes that the Crucible has been heavily damaged en route to the Citadel, and unleashing its power will cause an unstable, destructive chain reaction not limited to just synthetic life. Most modern technology will be wiped out in the blast, along with most organics. "Few will survive the blast; even fewer will survive the days to come." If Shepard goes through with this, the ending plays much like the pre-Extended Cut version. Most organics are wiped out, the Mass Relays and Citadel are destroyed, and the Normandy's crew is presumably killed in the crash, as mentioned above. Admiral Hackett's narration changes, reflecting the Pyrrhic Victory that the galaxy has "won". So in reality, the apocalyptic ending still remains; it's just a well-hidden worst-scenario ending.
    • Keep in mind, if your EMS is low enough, there is no choice. You can only choose Destroy (or let the Reapers win).
  • Leaving the real rachni queen behind to die. During your conversation with her, she sounds angry and forceful, trying to convince Shepard that she hates the Reapers and wants to help fight them. Then, when Shepard decides to let her die as the sounds of the frenzied Ravagers are coming closer, she just bows her head and calmly accepts her fate. All she wanted was to live peacefully with her children, she had just started rebuilding her species but then the Reapers captured her, indoctrinated the rachni she produced and turned them into monstrosities. Her dream destroyed, she dies alone, abandoned by everything and everyone. She is righteously furious at the reapers for doing this but is also on the very cusp of despair. Compared to the earlier angry and forceful tone in her voice, if you allow her to die she will finally gives in to her despair and it is almost as if she whispers her last words, treating what you did as a gift.
    Rachni Queen: Leave us, then. We... embrace... the silence...
    • It's quite possible that she only sounds forceful at all because she only had krogan to help her speak. If you compare it to the rachni breeder, she sounds quite sorrowful and weak in comparison!
  • When Shepard confronts the dying batarian terrorist in the refugee sector, who then proceeds to angrily blame Shepard for what happened in the Bahak system. Shepard then admits that they still feel guilt over what they did and while they don't expect the batarian, or any of them, to forgive them, they at least want him to know that they are truly sorry. Even though Shepard knows that it was completely necessary, they still feels that innocent blood is on their hands. It's a minor one but it only further highlights how much of a Hurting Hero Shepard is in 3.
  • During the Cerberus coup. Thane, when Shepard talks to him over the radio, is running, barely able to breathe. And he just keeps going. Just because you asked, and even before Kai Leng stabs him. Anyone else with asthma knows just how hard he's working, and he has it worse than we do.
  • After the mission to Palaven's moon, Liara can tell you that when she was very young she visited that planet and spent a few weeks in a particular mountain range, where a turian teased her by saying they went on forever. Being very young, she believed him. When on the mission, looking at the world, she could see those mountains burning.
  • If Kasumi didn't destroy the graybox in 2, then she says during her quest in 3 that she doesn't want to join Shepard and fight because it would cut into her time with Keiji, implying that she spends all of her free time hooked up to the graybox full of his memories. It's like what Thane says about perfect drell memories and how tempting it is to slip into solipsism, losing yourself in the past. This appears to occur to Shepard, too, as they say they don't think Keiji would want Kasumi spending all her time doing that. Kasumi just replies that he shouldn't have died, then. It makes sense - just by keeping it she's going against his wish, so she might as well keep going. But it's sad, too. She's not going to move on. In the Extended Cut, if she survives Control or Destroy, she's shown alone in a dark room with the graybox, reliving the same things again and again.
    • However, if she survives the Extended Cut Synthesis ending and if she kept the graybox, this tearjerker is somewhat nullified—because a simulacrum of Keiji is resurrected from the graybox's memories, so Kasumi gets to be with Keiji after all (well, sort of)!
  • The Extended Cut Control ending. Despite disproving the indoctrination theory, it makes it absolutely clear the the Shepard you have played for three games now is dead, and the new one is simply based upon the old one.
    • One specific line:
    "Through my birth, his/her thoughts are free."
    • That one, brutally truthful line, proves what we all suspected: Shepard wanted to die. And in death, Shepard finally found their peace.
    • Just the Control ending, particularly Shepard's final moments. The other endings shows the commander defiant in refusal, or in Destroy being determined and dying in a blaze of fire, or it can even look vague in Synthesis. But Control has Shepard falling to their knees as their skin blisters, until finally, they just quietly dissolve into ash.
  • From Leviathan, Ann Bryson's reaction to learning of her father's death.
    • The reworking of the track David that plays in the following scene back in the lab certainly doesn't help matters.
  • The whole s/s romance with Kaidan is rather sad. Dialogue hints that their romance is rather out of the norm for the both of them and both are aware of the brief time they have together. The latter hurts especially when you remember the Citadel date, where Kaidan tells Shepard that he's been restless because he's fallen in love with him sometime during the course of the series. In the EC, when you send your squadmates off to the Normandy, Shepard will tell Kaidan, "I love you" possibly for the first and last time.
    • Leviathan adds an extra gutpunch;
      Kaidan: Let's make sure we never let time just slip by us, okay?
  • The idle conversation between Aria and Shepard in Omega, if Mordin died on Tuchanka.
    Shepard: This place looks familiar.
    Aria: I preferred it when Mordin Solus was here shooting up looters.
    Shepard: (quietly) Mordin is dead.
  • Nyreen's Heroic Sacrifice to take out the Adjutants, particularly since Shepard and Aria come in just as she dies. It actually sets off Aria. She's spent most of her time sitting on a couch, coordinating mercenary forces like a cold, emotionless commander, and shooting alongside you. To see her flip her shit like that... it's sad, in some kind of twisted way.
  • Another Omega DLC moment comes from overhearing one-half of a conversation as an asari tries to guide her friend Ruck back to the base. It starts out pretty funny, with Ruck apparently so lost the asari can't even figure out how he got where he did. After a few humorous lines, the asari finally figures out where he is — smack in the middle of a Cerberus controlled area. She hurriedly tries to warn him...
    Asari: Did you hear me? Ruck? ...Love? Are you there?
  • If you did the Overlord DLC in Mass Effect 2 and Paragon'd your way through the end, there's a tear-inducing moment on Grissom Academy. Made even more poignant by the reprise of the "Overlord" theme.
    Shepard: Has Grissom Academy been alright?
    David Archer: Yes. I've been counting.
    Shepard: Anything in particular?
    David Archer: The number of days you lengthened my life.
  • If you failed Zaeed's loyalty mission (by failing a speech check), or flat out didn't do it, Zaeed will die when you try and rescue a Volus ambassador. The first thing that you see when you enter the room would be Zaeed, lying in a pool of his own blood.
  • The Citadel launch trailer, full stop, especially the last few seconds. This is the real reason to make sure everyone lives in Mass Effect 2.
    Shepard: Everbody say "Normandy"!
  • Thane's memorial service in the Citadel DLC, organized by Kolyat for Shepard and the crew to pay their last respects to their brother-in-arms.
    • Becomes one in-universe for Shepard herself if Thane was romanced. This marks the only time in the entire series where Shepard is brought to tears. She is viewing a series of video logs Thane left for her, recounting his life in between the events of Mass Effect 2, and his time in Huerta Memorial. Every now and again, there's a closeup of Shepard quite clearly holding back, when the line below is what finally sets her off the edge.
    Thane: I once had no reason to live, then suddenly I had two: you and Kolyat.
    • And at the end of the DLC, Shepard says one more goodbye to Thane's spirit if she romanced him.
    Thane's spirit: I am always with you, siha. I would not trade the time I had with you for anything. It was a good fight.
    Shepard: A great fight.
    Thane's spirit: Then go and finish it. And when you go to the sea, I will be waiting for you at the shore.
  • Despite being evil, it's hard not to feel sad for Clone Shepard being Driven to Suicide after Brooks abandons them, while Shepard's squadmates rush to save him/her. You can see the look of dawning realization that the answer to their previous tirade about what Shepard has that makes them so special... is friends who would do anything for them. The clone has nothing and no one. They only existed in the first place for Shepard's "spare parts", and was awoken to take Shepard's place, not have their own future. When Paragon Shepard offers the clone a chance to live, they reply "For what?" and falls.
  • Mordin's datapad in the Citadel DLC, which is namely a hilarious collection of his past antics... The very last entry, however, is a song. You should know the tune. You may weep now.
  • While the Citadel DLC is perhaps the most lighthearted chapter in the entire trilogy, it's in-universe sub-text is deeply depressing, even without the knowledge of the endings. Basically, the party that Shepard and their crew had was their one last desperate ploy for happiness, to spend time around those that they love and care about, and the final reminder of what they are fighting for. Before being shipped back to the front lines, to fight an un-winnable war that will inevitably end with the death of at least someone in the group. One of Shepard's final lines of dialog says it all:
    Shepard: At least we threw one hell of a party. Probably the last one.
  • Jack has a scene in Citadel if she is Shepard's love interest. She decides to give Shepard a tattoo on his back. He asks her what brings this about and she comments that while fighting, Rodriguez, one of her students, was buried under a mountain of dead husks and if Jack hadn't recognized one of her boots, she would have died buried under there. She gives Shepard the tattoo because she knows he's going to extremely dangerous places and if something ever happens that causes him to be unrecognizable, she wants him to have it so that someone knows he belonged to her.
  • If you romanced Jacob in Mass Effect 2, then Shepard will call him out for cheating on her with Brynn, which may include a slap in the Citadel DLC. Shepard may have it together, but in that dialogue, you get the impression that they may not be as strong as everyone thinks.
  • This Dummied Out dialog for recruiting Gabby and Ken at a bar. If Gabby died at the Collector Base in Mass Effect 2, Ken will be a complete wreck when you meet him, haunted by guilt and regretting that he never told Gabby about his feeling towards her.
  • In Citadel, if you stayed true to Samara in Mass Effect 2 despite her rejecting you, her and Shepard finally are able to talk about their feelings when he invites her up to their apartment. The fact that the usually very calm and collected Samara sounds like she's about to cry at any moment as she tries to reject Shepard a second time is both really heartwarming and sad, because you can tell she just wants to be with Shepard too, but can't because she's already given up on everything in her life, including romance. Thankfully, though, you can convince her to make an exception for the code she's been conditioned to follow until death, which in itself is a CMOH because she cares about Shepard that much.
    (after kissing)
    Shepard: Samara...
    Samara: (near tears) Just hold me now. Let us live in this moment.
    • The scene with a non-romanced Samara is even worse: she and Shep sit on the couch, just to relax, and Samara says virtually the same line - sit and just enjoy being together, without words. The woman is lonely.
  • The line in the Citadel DLC where Jack mocks Miranda for having trouble with "a guy with a sword" becomes a lot harsher if you'd previously done a playthrough where you failed to warn her about Kai Leng, resulting in an agonizing, drawn-out death from internal injuries.
    • Likewise if, on another playthrough, you didn't do the Grissom Academy mission and Jack got turned into a Phantom because of it.
  • In the aftermath of the big party, Javik can be very hungover, momentarily convinced that he is still in his cycle and that meeting the primitives in the far future was just a very bad dream. It's funny, but it's also really heartbreaking as you hear him realize that it wasn't. For one moment, one fleeting moment, he was in the place and time he called home. Broken, dying, but still very familiar. And in the next moment, it's all dead, mostly forgotten, and might very well repeat itself.
    • There's a worse aspect to Javik, and it only becomes clear over multiple playthroughs: outside of war, Javik is actually a jovial guy who loves joking and being around friends. You only see hints of it when he's relaxed - but since it's the middle of a Reaper cycle, and he has a Blood Oath, you seldom get to see it. It takes a long, long time for him to accept having new friends.
  • If there's ever a Book Ends feel to the Citadel DLC, it's when Liara plays "Vigil" on the piano, and it feels like her way of saying goodbye without even realizing it.
  • The ending song, "Das Malefitz" performed by Faunts, is a properly emotional and bittersweet piece to end the trilogy. Just think about all you've been through, all the people you've met and lost, everything you've seen, said and done. It's finally over.
  • The Husk during the Synthesis and Control endings. When the energy wave passes through it, it suddenly gains sapience, and looks around in confusion, as if to say, "What... what happened to me?" If the former human remembers his or her identity, and maybe even actions as a husk, the implications are pretty grim. And if this happens to all the Reaper troops, including cannibals and scions, but they stay fused together, it's even worse.
  • The destruction of the Dyson Sphere (actually a Dyson Swarm) the geth were building as a true home of their own. All they wanted was a homeworld.
  • Javik mentions on Thessia that the Reapers started huskifying children in his cycle.
    Javik: They assumed we would hesitate to kill them.
    [Shepard/Squadmate]: Did you?
    Javik: Which answer would you prefer?
  • An unromanced Shepard in the first two games starting one with Kaidan in 3, especially MaleShep, the latter of which implies to have a case of If It's You, It's Okay. In either case, you realize Kaidan had been in love with Shep during the entire series and never uttered a word about it until now. It's even more poignant because it means Kaidan might have been carrying a torch for Shep and was afraid to say anything because he didn't know if Shep could reciprocate.
    Kaidan: You plan a career, you focus and... suddenly the world's ending and it's too late to... uh... find someone?
    Shepard: Someone?
    Kaidan: We've been friends a long time, Shepard. Have you know me to be with anyone? I guess I'm just choosy, or patient, or... (sighs) Maybe I never found, or want... is something deeper... with someone I already... care about. (sighs) That's what I want.
    • It's worse when one would reflect about it: due to Shepard being forced to work with Cerberus and Kaidan being obstructed by the Alliance, it caused a divide in their friendship (and destroys any possibility of romance on Kaidan's part). When the former's claims were slowly becoming real and trying their best to elucidate their situation to Kaidan while he continued to doubt them until the Citadel standoff and the massive toll on Shepard's psychological health due to intense trauma they faced on this hopeless war with the Reapers. One would think Kaidan was afraid that Shepard won't reciprocate his feelings anymore due to those aforementioned issues between them, even moreso than Shepard's Married to the Job soldier issue.
  • During the final mission, when you're going through the FOB, you can find a datapad you can examine. It's gutwrenching stuff. Also counts as Nightmare Fuel.
    Sammy where are you? Can't find you, message me back please!!!
    People go into that place and come out not the same not human anymore
    Stop why won't it stop until I go where the others went get turned into one of those things
    Oh god please makeit stop make itstop makeitsto!!!!!!!!!!~
    Won't listen to the voices won't go in there. Can make it stop. Know what to do.
    • Near that same datapad, a soldier is trying to talk to a civilian through treating a wounded soldier, with a severed leg. Through her paranoia and panic that the Reapers will find her, she barely manages to stop the soldier's bleeding before he succumbs to the wound. Just then, one of the big Reapers approaches her. The soldier she's talking to begs to her to run, but it's clear that the woman has gone through the Despair Event Horizon, refusing to run, because they'll catch her anyway. Instead, she takes the soldier's gun, and...
  • The last conversation with a romanced Samantha Traynor before the finale. She's trying desperately not to cry in front of everyone, as she tells Shepard that what she wants is for the two of them to settle down, have "a nice house, with a picket fence", a dog and kids ("at least two of them"). She claims she's joking, then admits that no, it's not a joke. She really would like to settle down with Shepard after everything's over. And in three out of the four endings, it'll never happen.
  • Bring Garrus along to the Cerberus Coup on the Citadel, and on entering C-Sec headquarters he starts shouting names, earning him a scolding from the other squadmate. But he's calling out to the other officers, his former coworkers, people he used to know. Maybe even friends of his. And they're all dead.
    • He doesn't quite snap at the second squadmate for telling him to keep his voice down; but he's less than gentle in his curt reply that they're setting off gunfire and tech/biotic explosions, so either Cerberus already knows they're coming or they don't, and either way, calling for survivors isn't gonna be what tips them off.
    • Meanwhile, take Javik, and according to EDI he's having a hard time of his own. He's never set foot on the Citadel before - in his cycle it was taken by the Reapers in hours. There's a rare glimpse beneath that frown as he actually expresses what could be hope at how the current cycle's doing.