- One of the early missions in the game brings you to an abandoned farm where you find a young woman had been murdered, hung from a well, and the place put to the torch. The woman had attempted to find a life free from the local lord with her husband. It gets doubly-painful when you realize the lord hadn't intended to hurt her or her husband, just take them back to their village. She refused and made a comment about the lord's son that was perfectly true, and he lost his temper. (The comment being that the lord's son was homosexual. When he learned his father knew, he hanged himself.)
- The alderman who attempted to bargain with the Nilfgaard commander finds that some of the grain bushels he brought them are rotten. Whether this was deliberate or accidental (on either his part or the peasantry's), he's subjected to fifteen lashes as a result. His screams can't help but convince you that this invasion is a nightmare. What's worse? This was a positively lenient sentence by Nilfgaard.
- Tomira the Herbalist has a pretty depressing story, which is a shame since she's one of the few genuinely decent people in the story. She was originally a nun in Vizima before she fell in love with a local worker and they had a short affair. Tomira was declared defiled forever and banished from not only the Temple but her family. She eventually found a home in White Orchard, but her best friend Claer (see above) was horribly killed. The worst part? Geralt can say the village has seen a lot of tragedy. She responds that it's not unusual in that regard, as long as you know where to look.
- The reaction Geralt gets when he attempts to intervene to save the White Orchard innkeeper from being beaten. Which results in him killing a number of locals. The innkeeper and the surviving drunk are terrified of him. Worse, the innkeeper bans him from ever coming back. It's doubly painful since the innkeeper was the one person who potentially welcomed Geralt to the village
- It gets worse when in Novigrad: she's visiting, calls you a murderer when she sees you, and even attempts to sell you out to the witch hunters.
Velen - No Man's Land
- How bad is Velen? Just walking through it is a Tearjerker. The entrance road is lined with lynched corpses, there are mad starving dogs fighting over bones, and the region is under the oppressive rule of "The Bloody Baron." The music makes it especially poignant as it is a mournful ditty that just brings home how hopeless the situation is. Half the map is covered in gloomy bogs.
- While seeking out the witches of Crookback Bog, Geralt stumbles across a group of children who've lost parents in the war. One of them can be asked what happened to his, only to find out that he'd watched from the bushes as soldiers cut off his father's head and then went after his mother. Geralt cuts him off apologetically.
- For that matter, the quest associated with the Baron is rather depressing. His wife and daughter have gone missing, and he blackmails Geralt into finding them by withholding information about Ciri's whereabouts until he does. From there it gets a bit convoluted, so point-by-point.
- Geralt goes to the Pellar (soothsayer) for information, and he learns that the Baron's wife, Anna, suffered beatings at the hands of her husband, and that she'd miscarried their child.
- When Geralt confronts the Baron over this, he finds the horse stable on fire and sees first hand how much of a mean drunk the Baron really is. After beating him back to his senses, he gets the full story - the Baron's daughter, Tamara, was the only one who could calm him down when he went into a rage. The Baron and his wife had gotten into a fight the night they left, as he'd been drunk for three days running - when he came to, Anna and Tamara were gone, and his miscarried daughter was laying in his bed. The voice-acting here shines, as the raging Baron shows genuine remorse for what he'd done, burying their child in an isolated spot... which unfortunately made it turn into a "botchling". When told of this, however, the Baron absolutely forbids Geralt from killing her, instead wanting to put her to rest as she'd suffered enough.
- The situation, amazingly, becomes worse. The Baron's daughter, Tamara, has joined the Church of the Eternal Fire as a witch hunter and found comfort there. So far, so good. But Anna? Anna asked the Crones to remove her baby in exchange for a year of service, which results in them assigning her to fatten up children for the slaughter while they slowly sucked the life from her until her body couldn't support her pregnancy. If Geralt destroys the renegade tree ghost, the children die and she goes mad - just as the Baron and his daughter come to rescue her, both with Geralt's possible help. If Geralt releases the nightmare from the tree, the children will live but Anna will be transformed into a water hag. Once the curse is removed and Anna becomes human again, she dies, and the Baron will hang himself.
- In Velen, we find out about a man who takes a bunch of women from a local village that was sacked by Nilfgaardians to a nearby mine. He's hoping they can find shelter there until they can figure something to do with them and keep them from being abused by the soldiers. They're all killed by giant spiders.
- There's a quest called Towerful of Mice. It tells you a story of a lord of Fyke Isle and his family, who got slaughtered by peasants who thought the rich are withholding food from them. Which is about the least depressing part of it.
- Depending on your choices, this particular quest can end either on a sadly bittersweet note as Graham sacrifices his life to break the curse, or on tragically disastrous one, when Anabelle kills him out of revenge and goes to spread disease across the land as a pesta.
- How Anabelle died is horrifying itself. The Mage living in the tower gave her a sleeping draught to protect her from being possibly raped and killed. She was to drink it when she saw no way out during the attack. She did drink it and the people thought she'd taken poison, including her beloved. She wasn't dead, just unconscious, and when she came to she was paralysed and helpless to prevent herself being eaten alive by rats.
- "Wild At Heart", a quest you can pick up, involves a hunter named Niellen, who asks you to find his wife, Hanna, who wandered off into the woods and never came back. You track her down pretty fast... She's been ripped apart by a werewolf. And since this is The Witcher we're talking about, it's all downhill from here. You track the werewolf to its lair under an old cabin and fight it for about a minute, but before you can finish it off, Hanna's sister, Margaret, runs in and stops you; it turns out Niellen is the werewolf and Margaret knew, but she still fell in love with him and planned to lead Hanna out to his lair so she would see him change. This would prompt Hanna to leave him, and Margaret would have Niellen all to herself. She just never counted on Niellen getting loose and killing his own wife, and Niellen is NOT thrilled about this revelation at all. The quest can one two different ways here, and neither of them are a happy ending. You can finish the job and stop Niellen before he kills Margaret, but she'll be left with no one and possibly hating you forever. Or you can let Niellen slaughter Margaret in revenge and then Mercy Kill him since he won't put up a fight any more. ...You still feel like a badass, nigh-immortal monster slayer now?
- Geralt and Keira discuss the fairy tale Cinderella. Turns out it was based on a true story with a tragic twist... Cinderella was a princess who got eaten by a water monster and all that was left behind was a single shoe.
- Remember Kalkstein, the whimsical alchemist who helped you out big time in the first game? Ever wondered what happened to him? Well, wonder no more: He was taken by the Witch Hunters and burned at the stake in Novigrad.
- When talking to Dudu, who'd helped Ciri while she was in Novigrad, Zoltan urges him to shift to look like her. If Geralt agrees, the Doppler does so only for Geralt to immediately regret that decision when he realizes just how much time had passed since he last saw his daughter.
- The plan Triss cooks up to get to Caleb Menge can become this. She wants to be put in chains, so Geralt can get inside the Witch Hunters keep Trojan Horse style. As the most wanted person in Novigrad, she can bet all her coin on being brutally tortured as soon as Menge's men put their hands on her, but volunteers anyway, because it's the only way she sees to get critical information for Geralt's search for Ciri. And unlike other cases of this particular ploy, this one can, under right circumstances, succeed without a hitch. While there's way over a dozen chances for you to step in and stop the plan at any moment, the player can indeed see it through to the end. Geralt's quiet anger during the dialogue with Menge can be hard enough, but if you keep the act all the way, you find out that despite their entrance being staged, the pained screams and begging coming from the room next door were entirely genuine. One can't help but share Geralt's sheepish guilt afterwards.
- When Geralt and Yennefer break Margarita out of prison, they find her cell mate, Sile de Tancarville, if Geralt saved her from being torn apart by the megascope in Witcher 2. Sile is badly injured and dying, being one of the first sorceresses to be captured after the massacre at Loc Muinne. The once-proud sorceress begs to be put out of her misery, proving that Letho was correct in saying that by sparing Sile from being torn apart, Geralt condemned her to a fate worse than death.
- The quest, A Final Kindness, which involves retrieving the body of Keira Metz, the sorceress who helped Geralt in Velen. She sought out Radovid to trade her notes on a plague in hopes to exchange them for mercy. Radovid was not open to bargaining, and had her executed, via impalement. The sad part is that Geralt is able to prevent this horrible fate much earlier in the game. Even fighting her to the death would have been mercy.
- While walking around Novigrad, Geralt encounters prostitutes of all kinds, most of whom will proposition him (the game never affords the opportunity to respond). At least one will proposition you while holding a baby.
- While wandering the world, you can meet an old soldier, Nidas, intent on recovering a black pearl for his wife, promised to her ages ago. When the quest is over, he sadly describes his wife as suffering what is clearly Alzheimer's, and he hoped that the old, old joke between them would spark something in her. It didn't. Even Geralt looks bummed out by this development.
- Skjall's fate. An ordinary young man starts his ordinary morning, then suddenly gets to rescue a strange girl from the sea, offers his and his family's hospitality... and then everything promptly goes to hell when the Wild Hunt shows up and he ends falsely accused of cowardice, dying in the attempt to restore his honor. And that's before the necromancy part.
- It can get particularly gut-wrenching if Ciri expresses attraction to him, because then he's just a shy kid who receives a kiss from a pretty girl, and gives up his honor and name to keep her safe.
- After completing "The Last Wish" which breaks the djinn's magical bond between Geralt and Yennefer, Geralt can tell Yen that "the magic's gone for me". Despite her prickly nature, she looks crushed upon hearing this.
Hearts of Stone
- In Hearts of Stone just about all of Olgierd's backstory. Due to unfortunate circumstances he loses his estate and the right to marry the woman he loves. In desperation he calls upon Gaunter O'Dimm to get them back. He does, but sacrifices his beloved brother to do so. It turns out to be all for naught, as the pact causes Olgierd to lose every ounce of his humanity and causes his wife to die in despair. Depending on Geralt's choice his story may end with his soul taken by O'Dimm to be tortured forever.
- Vlod is not exactly a good guy, he's dumb and stupid, and a creep to Shani, yet despite that there's something sad about him having the time of his life in Geralt's body at the wedding in "Dead Man's Party". He seems truly happy and at peace to embrace the little distractions and party atmosphere, and even Shani admits that while he respects no boundaries, he's not entirely a bad person. Seeing him insulted and humiliated by Gaunter and then banished back into the afterlife feels quite undeserved and over the top. It gets especially sad when you learn that Olgierd traded his brother's life when asked to Kill the Ones You Love by Master Mirror, and even in the afterlife Vlod remains ignorant of his brother's actions and continues to be his Hero-Worshipper.
- Seeing the fate of Iris and Olgierd's relationship is sad as hell, mostly because despite the fantasy bits and so on, it's a fairly realistic look at how a loving marriage breaks down over time. Talking to Iris von Everec after the scene in the mansion. Iris believes there's Nothing After Death and that when she gives the rose away, she will fade as will all memory of her. This is a woman who had an artistic sensibility, talent, and a capacity to love and saw all of it wasted by Olgierd. When Geralt moves out of The Painted World back into the real one, he sees the painted world fade, and when returned sees the painting gone too, symbolizing that Iris' art and her legacy is also gone.
- Downplayed however if you do a bit of snooping during the Open Sesame! quest. You will find a note in the upper floor of the auction house revealing that Iris' maiden name was von Roth, and that she is the mysterious painter whose work you can buy and sell to the book dealer, who was huge fan of hers. Someone will remember her art and legacy after all.
- The fate of Professor Shakeslock. Shakeslock delved too deep into forbidden lore in search of the true identity of Gaunter O'Dimm, and so attracted the entity's attention. Shakeslock was rendered blind and trapped in a twenty foot wide chalk circle in his office, which he believes protects him from Gaunter O'Dimm's evil. And yet O'Dimm still manages to torment him with horrible nightmares every night. One night, he presented Shakeslock with a beautiful and witty daughter and over the months Shakeslock came to look forward to sleeping as being with his imagined daughter was the one thing that gave him pleasure... and then one night he entered his dreams to find his daughter covered in boils of blood and pus, and she died in his arms. Gaunter O'Dimm can take everything from you and still find ways to take more. And when Geralt goes to see him, the moment he imparts some advice on how to beat O'Dimm and expresses joy at being helpful for the first time in a long time, a falling beam causes the professor to stumble outside the magic circle; he falls over a bottle and breaks his neck in the fall.
- The ending. If you see Olgierd damned for all eternity, you see a guy who did horrible things but is capable of goodness forever doomed to suffering under O'Dimm's care. If you choose to save Olgierd's (and Geralt's) soul, you get to see Olgierd having an epic Heel Realization has he realizes that while he's free from O'Dimm's bargain, he has lost everyone and everything he loves and has to live for the rest of his life in regret and repentance for his evil deeds.
Blood & Wine
- Dettlaff had made friends with De la Croix, yet he was forced to kill him while being blackmailed. Overcome with grief and rage, he ended up cutting off his own hand for it.
- Dettlaff murdered people on the belief that his lover had been kidnapped, only to learn that Syanna had been using him. He... takes it poorly.
- Regis ultimately has to kill him. He's speechless with horror and grief, having forever destroyed the person who gave him his life back and therefore rendered himself a pariah among his own kind.
- Syanna's last target? It was her sister. She was going to have Anna's neck broken and then her heart ripped out.
- Roach losing her ability to communicate with Geralt. She laments that she has so much more to tell him, then her speech start's changing into hors-ish in the middle of the sentence. The expression on Geralt's face is heartbreaking, you get to see regret and loss. It's like seeing him lose a friend, someone who potentially made his lonely work witchering about less so.
- The game confirms that Jacques de Aldesberg, the Big Bad of first game is indeed Alvin. The reason of his insane plan? He tried to destroy the White Frost, but failed, which made him desperately seek some other means to save humanity. It lead to his crossing of Moral Event Horizon and death.
- Vesemir's death in the Battle of Kaer Morhen, as he forces General Imlerith to snap his neck so that Eredin can't use him as a bargaining chip to get at Ciri. His funeral is one of the saddest moments in video game history.
- Combined with Heartwarming. If you allow Ciri to return to Skjall's grave, she finds that he's simply been thrown in a pit. Ciri promptly reburies him respectfully. When the villagers come to harass her over it, she proceeds to PUNCH ONE IN THE FACE then give a massive The Reason You Suck speech about Skjall's heroism. Not only saving her but leading the Wild Hunt away from the village. The villagers then have a collective My God, What Have I Done? moment when they realize that not only did they dishonor one of their clansmen but they led to his death. They agree to leave the grave alone from that point on.
- Watching Geralt, the tough-as-nails badass with a gravel pit for a throat be consumed with grief and breaking down when he finds Ciri's lifeless body, is one of the most difficult things to see in the entire series.
- The Ciri Dies ending, where Geralt has become consumed with grief. His final mission is to go to the Crookback Bog and get his daughter's medallion back. When he does, he just collapses on a bench in the Crones' Shack with the wolven pendant grasped tightly in his hands while monsters close in on him. His fate is omitted from the final list, hinting quite clearly on what has transpired. Although, the Blood And Wine expansion does make things better.
- Made even worse by the fact that to get this ending, you have to have been essentially the worst possible father you could be to her, meaning that the montage of her memories of you is full of sad, bitter recollections. The last thing Ciri ever feels is resentment for you.
- The Empress Ciri ending, where Ciri leaves Geralt behind to go to Nilfgaard, taking her place as her father's successor, in the hopes that she can change things. You can hear the heartbreak in both their voices, after having spent so much time looking for one another, they now have to separate again possibly for good.
- Made all the more poignant by Geralt joking about how he's going to work her hard, planning to complete her witcher training, before he finds out, and Ciri wishing they'd had more time to train together at Kaer Morhen.
- This becomes even more heartbreaking if Ciri insists that they don't have to say goodbye and Geralt responds that they do, and that it's time to go their separate ways. Geralt can only look away as Ciri begins sobbing as she realizes this really is their last goodbye.
- The voice-acting and Visual Effects of Awesome shine through in this scene - pay close attention to Ciri's eyes, which are bloodshot and welling with tears as the pair have their final in-game conversation, possibly in-universe as well, and she's practically begging him to stop her from leaving.Geralt: Is this what you want?Ciri: Yes. You'll not try to stop me? (voice breaking slightly) Take me to the Blue Mountains by force?Geralt: Traveled half the world to find you, but I never intended to force anything on you.
- Geralt himself, in spite of having his ability to emote all-but removed by the Trial of the Grasses, briefly looks pole-axed when he sees the Nilfgaardian escort when they get back to the town. As one reviewer put it, he looked exactly like a father who knows he has to let go, but isn't quite prepared to yet.
- Crach an Craite goes toe-to-toe with Eredin and dies in battle like any Skelliger would desire, but his death goes unremarked upon by the characters or the ending narration.
- After the main campaign end (whichever it is) you start in Kaer Morhen, which is empty save for you. It was probably unintentional, but it kind of serves as a sign that a chapter in the witcher's "family" has closed. After Vessemir's death, Lambert leaves with his new lover, and Eskel says outright that he will winter elsewhere because there's no point in staying with Vessemir gone. So in a way, Geralt ends up as the sole inhabitant of Kaer Morhen. Combined with the bittersweet "Empress" ending it leads to a rather sad note.