The Loneliest Hearts in Videogames
Whether you call it St. Valentine’s Day, Singles Awareness Day, or just February 14th, today tends to turn a spotlight on relationships one way or another. For those not awash in chocolates, roses, and those chalky little hearts, here are a few characters whose Valentine’s Day is probably a bit more depressing than your own. Spoilers to be expected from this point, so proceed at your own risk.
Isaac Clarke – Dead Space series
Isaac Clarke, of Dead Space fame, has had his heart ripped out figuratively (and almost literally) in a fairly clear-cut manner. Obsessively cycling through his ex Nicole’s last message to him on the way to the USG Ishimura, Isaac finds himself thrust into a living nightmare as he works his way through the ship in an attempt to rescue her and stop the necromorph threat pouncing him at every turn. A grueling, uphill battle and several visions of Nicole later, we learn that Nicole has been dead all along, having taken her own life in the face of the initial, Marker-induced necromorph outbreak.
Things seemed to be improving for Clarke’s love life, with his post-institutionalization ordeal on Titan Station putting him at peace with his loss of Nicole and hooking him up with survivor Ellie Langford. Unfortunately, his reluctance toward further involvement in fighting the necromorph threat would end up separating them, with Ellie ending up with Earthgov captain Robert Norton before disappearing on Tau Volantis.
Isaac eventually finds himself dragged into a search for Ellie on the icy Tau Volantis, and the duo are reunited briefly, only for Clarke to find out the hard way that she and Norton are an item. Fate ends up forcing Isaac to shoot The Other Man, which normally wouldn’t win a guy any points, but as things take several turns for the worse, Ellie ends up admitting she still loves him. Unfortunately, in keeping with his luck thus far, the mission to destroy the Markers he’d avoided for so long ends up separating Isaac from Ellie yet again, as she peaces out in a shuttle (despite, admittedly, trying one last time to see if he’s alive) as he drifts through space.
If he survived the ordeal, and there’s another installment in the Dead Space franchise, there may be another shot for him, but man, can Isaac Clarke not catch a break or what?
Bonnie MacFarlane – Red Dead Redemption
Bonnie MacFarlane from Red Dead Redemption loses pretty big on the romantic front, despite the ordeals that likely fostered her feelings for protagonist John Marston in the first place. Initially saving John following his wounding at the hands of Bill Williamson by bringing him to a doctor, Marston finds himself in debt to Bonnie and agrees to help out on her ranch to pay back the doctor’s fee. Williamson’s gang eventually find out John Marston is still alive and well at the ranch, and after a raid in an effort to kill off Bonnie’s livestock, the gang cut to the chase and abduct Bonnie herself.
John finds himself facing down the better part of the gang in the town of Tumbleweed, drawn in on the false pretenses of a prisoner exchange of Norman Deek for MacFarlane, their hostage, and narrowly saves Bonnie from strangulation after a half-botched hanging attempt. After separating for a time following the showdown, Bonnie gets back in touch with John, seeking a delivery of corn to make up for a vermin-induced shortage. John Marston, being the charmer he is, shows up with his wife Abigail, much to Bonnie’s chagrin. Abigail herself even points out that Bonnie blushed something fierce upon his arrival, indicating MacFarlane had very likely developed feelings for John, but alas, even with all they’d been through together, it was not to be.
Bonnie may have taken a husband following the events of the game, and John’s son Jack is a welcome guest at the MacFarlane ranch, but it’s a shame what was sown between her and John never had a chance to bloom.
Max Payne – Max Payne series
When it comes to guys who’ve had a tough life, especially on the relationship front, Max Payne probably wins the award for Most Comprehensively Screwed Over. Firstly, he grew up his orphan, after his father’s violent tendencies ended up causing his mother’s death, and the drinking problem behind those tendencies killed off Max’s father not long after. Then, Payne’s wife and six-month old daughter were killed by a trio of drug addicts. A few years later, while investigating the drug, Valkyr, that fueled his family’s murderers, Max’s partner Alex gets murdered, and Max himself ends up being framed for it.
After clearing his name and wreaking some vengeance upon those who destroyed his life, it seems as if Max Payne may have another shot at love. Eventually falling in with Mona Sax, the hitwoman he’s encountered several times since the first Max Payne game, it turns out Max himself was one of her targets. Mona’s inability to fulfill her contract garners her a bullet in the back, ending her life and Max’s second chance at love.
Nine years proves less than enough time for Max Payne to heal old wounds, as he ends up turning to the pill and bottle for comfort, despite those essentially being the things that caused his heart-shattering past in the first place. His new-found bodyguard job ends up proving little solace as well, with the whole thing being orchestrated to pin Max as an illegal organ trader, and the entirety of the Branco family he was charged to protect ending up dead, save for Victor Branco, the mastermind behind the entire plot. Taking down Victor may have been a slight salve for Max’s suffering over the years, but it certainly doesn’t make up for everything he’s been through, and is far from bringing his family back.
Master Chief – Halo series
Upon his introduction to Xbox audiences, Halo’s Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 was already on the lonesome side. Having been abducted as a child for induction in the SPARTAN-II program, then left, to the best of his knowledge, the last survivor of said program thanks to the Covenant wiping out the bulk of the SPARTAN force in their attack on planet Reach, Master Chief’s friend list had been whittled down to his companion AI, Cortana.
Sure, John had his share of battlefield alliances, and there were a handful of other SPARTAN-IIs still on active duty, but between the secrecy of some of their missions and Master Chief’s own one-man battle against the Covenant threat, chances are, he was never made aware of their survival. With the deaths of Sergeant Major Avery Johnson and Commander Miranda Keyes in the fight to prevent the firing of the life-eliminating Halo rings, and his separation from his Sangheili brother-in-arms, Arbiter Thel ‘Vadam, Master Chief finds himself adrift in space with Cortana, the one constant in his life thus far.
While more explained in the expanded lore than the games, Master Chief and Cortana have been serving together as far back as John’s training days. Having been chosen by the AI herself, when given the option by her creator, Dr. Catherine Halsey, the duo had been working in tandem for the entirety of Master Chief’s operational career. Unfortunately, thanks to their stranding by the destruction of the Halo-creating Ark, that career has spanned eight years by the time the sleeping Chief is awoken by Cortana upon encountering a Forerunner shield world. By most standards, a “smart” AI like Cortana has, at best, seven years of life before they go “rampant,” faced with the likelihood of self-destruction.
Thusly does Master Chief’s fight across the vistas of the planet Requiem become a two-fold mission, with both the cessation of the newly awoken Didact’s threat running in tandem with Master Chief’s personal quest to get Cortana back to Earth, to someone who may be able to save her. The Didact’s persistence in his quest for vengeance and the less-than-cooperative nature of the captain of his ride home, the UNSC Infinity’s Andrew Del Rio, both prove to be frustrating delays, and despite making it back to Earth for a final stand against the rampaging Forerunner, Cortana gives her “life,” as it were.
His voice cracking for the first time in his recorded (and playable) career, John gets one last chance to say goodbye to his glowy blue ladyfriend, after she uses the last of her energy stores to envelop Master Chief in a hardlight bubble, in order to shield him from a nuclear blast. Despite easily being humankind’s greatest hero by this point, Master Chief is now running truly solo for the first time in his life.
Sephiroth – Final Fantasy VII sub-series
Stabbing a flower girl in the back and trying to destroy the world tends to give a man a bad rap, but in all fairness, Final Fantasy VII’s Sephiroth had a rough time for the entirety of his existence. Infused with cells extracted from the extraterrestrial, Jenova, while he was still in utero, and then ungracefully torn away from his mother upon being born, Sephiroth never had any contact with his mother, Lucrecia, and was never told his father was the scientist Hojo, whom he disliked immediately. Raised to be a super soldier, the boons granted by his Jenova cell infusion quickly boosted Sephiroth to the rank of SOLDIER First Class.
Eventually, Sephiroth is sent to track down his friend and SOLDIER defector Genesis Rhapsodos, a mission he refuses as he considers leaving the SOLDIER program, despite being widely lauded as a hero for his prior service. In an inspection of the Nibelheim Mako Reactor, Sephiroth ends up finding a canister labeled “JENOVA,” which bears the life form that enabled his superhuman abilities and whom Sephiroth had been told was his deceased mother. Genesis then resurfaces, feeding Sephiroth some of the truths behind the Jenova Project which spawned him, which pushes the silver-haired SOLDIER into some research of his own.
Thanks to misconceptions on the part of the scientists working on the Jenova Project, Sephiroth’s findings end up convincing him he’s the last surviving descendant of the ancient Cetra race, and in his rage and confusion, he decides it’s his role to avenge his supposed ancestors. This fury-fueled quest for vengeance would bring about the death of the true last remnant of the Cetra, Aerith Gainsborough, at Sephiroth’s hands, nearly destroying the planet, but the ex-SOLDIER’s plans would eventually be foiled by another SOLDIER and survivor of the Nibelheim incident, Cloud Strife.
Sephiroth’s will had been steeled by his trials to the point that he survived, non-corporeally, in the planet’s Lifestream despite his apparent defeat, the Geostigma plague infecting the planet following the destruction of Meteor being an extension of his remaining power. After a last-ditch attempt to reconstruct a body with the last remains of his sort-of-mother Jenova, only to be defeated again by Cloud, and once again returned to the Lifestream. Sure, he may have tried to kill everyone ever, but to be fair, he’s at least got a handful of reasons why.
By no means is this list comprehensive, as there are plenty of characters over the history of gaming that qualify as forever alone. For starters, some of the other candidates that were nominated by VGU.TV staffers included Kratos from God of War, Dead Rising 2′s Chuck Greene, and Otacon of Metal Gear Solid fame (at least, prior to bro-ing it up with Solid Snake). If you’d like to discuss someone we missed, feel free to do so on our forums or in the comments section below.
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