One of the things that keeps gamers coming back for more is a powerful and engaging storyline. Some of the best video games have heartwrenching stories that draw you in and get you so emotionally invested you might cry.
I consider a story lacking if it doesn’t make me cry because, honestly, it’s not that hard. But a compelling game will make even the more stoic among us shed a tear or two with the emotional weight of its storytelling and true-to-life themes. These 10 games have elements that will make you feel the need to reach for the tissues.
Don’t worry; we won’t give away any plot spoilers here, just a general sense of what makes each game so powerfully emotional.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 follows a gang trying to survive in the Wild West, and while you may not think of a heartfelt tearjerker when you think of Westerns, this game pulls it off.
You play Arthur Morgan, an outlaw who completes various missions that move you through the main story. As the game progresses, the stakes rise, as does the tension between the main characters. RDR2 has an Honor system that tests your morals as you make decisions, which can add to the stakes and keep you invested. There are some tough choices that have truly impactful results, making this a consistent top-ranking tearjerker in the world of video games.
Often billed as a cozy game, Unpacking is unique because you never directly meet or play as its protagonist. Instead, you follow them throughout their life as they move to different places.
As you unpack and arrange their belongings, you get a strangely intimate sense of who they are and what they’re going through. This way of seeing what stays and what gets left behind can draw you in, making Unpacking a deeply emotional game that leaves many gamers in tears by the end. For those who’ve moved often throughout their life, there’s an additional layer of bringing up your own memories of different places that can give Unpacking even more weight.
In Spiritfarer, you play as a ferrymaster to the deceased, which is immediate grounds for some tears. Throughout the game, you get to know several different spirits, but of course, you ultimately have to say goodbye to your friends to fulfill your job of helping them reach the afterlife.
Spiritfarer is so emotional that many players say they had to put it down for long periods of time to recover. Because Spiritfarer tackles grief and death head-on, it can be a heavy playthrough, but one that feels worth it if you’re looking to explore these themes in a robust way.
Final Fantasy X
Let’s be honest; we could probably put most of the Final Fantasy series on this list, but I’m getting personal with this one because, hands down, I can confirm I cried when playing it.
Final Fantasy X finds our main character, Tidas, trapped in a world that isn’t his own with no clear way of returning. As the story unfolds, he also becomes part of a star-crossed love story that can’t end with anything but pain due to the circumstances. The characters we meet along the way are all fighting battles of their own in a world plagued by a terrible destructive force. There’s a hopelessness to so many of their lives that makes you feel for them. If the difficult battles with final bosses don’t make you cry, some of the big revelations in this game almost certainly will.
Baldur’s Gate 3
A more recent release, Baldur’s Gate 3, leans hard into the stories of your companions in a way that can be truly devastating at times.
Each of them has a pretty tragic backstory, and as you play through the game, you see your party go through some tremendous, life-altering experiences. More minor side characters aren’t safe in this world either, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s shed a tear for that NPC I just couldn’t save during a significant combat. With so many different backgrounds, most players will likely connect with at least one character’s arc in a way that will leave an impression long after that first playthrough.
Life is Strange
This series comes from Final Fantasy developer Square Enix, so it’s no surprise that these games are also emotionally powerful.
Life is Strange centers around a character who can rewind time, which is triggered by a traumatic event at the beginning of the game. The rest of your adventure centers on trying to use that ability to fix the past and prevent bad things from happening, which puts you in a space for tears from start to finish. This game is full of difficult choices and challenges that make you weigh the impact of your decisions in a way that’s impossible not to get emotionally invested.
The Last of Us
The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic survival story where a smuggler has to try and get a teenage girl to safety in a world that’s anything but safe. This game was released in two parts, and they’re both pretty intense at times.
Your main character, Joel, goes through a lot of loss at the start of the story, and there are only more challenges ahead when he’s tasked with safely transporting a young girl across the country. Watching the two of them bond as they try to make it out alive makes it easy to become emotionally invested as you get to know them. The central cause for the apocalypse, being a worldwide infection, also hits pretty close to home these days, giving the game an extra layer of impact for players. The Last of Us has the kinds of storytelling chops that make it perfect for a successful translation to TV, which is often tricky for video games.
Night in the Woods
Night in the Woods centers on Mae, who drops out of college and returns to her hometown, hoping to reconnect with the life and friends she loves, only to find that things have changed beyond recognition. While the animated characters may seem cute, this game takes itself seriously and will force you to do the same.
The game hits close to home for many of us who’ve left home and come back to see that either it had changed or we had, making things not quite fit the way they did before. In this case, there’s the added layer that something truly strange is going on in the woods, and that spookiness combined with the real-world relatability gives Night in the Woods a truly tear-inspiring feel.
If you thought a game where you play as a cat can’t make you cry, you thought wrong. In Stray, you play as a cat who gets separated from its friends, falling into a world full of robots.
As you try to make your way home to a more familiar place, you navigate a sad and lonely world where robots have become self-aware and are trying to make the most of a dangerous place. This game will get you where it hurts as you learn more about the strange world you’re trying to escape.
Cyberpunk 2077 is set in a world full of conflict, and you play as V, a mercenary trying to survive within that world.
Throughout the story, V experiences the types of losses and betrayals you might expect in a violent, lawless world. As you see these difficult moments through V’s eyes, it’s hard not to get attached to your character and feel for all the awful things that happen to her. Players begin to feel just how hopeless the situation is as they play, and no matter how you approach the end, you’re likely in for some tough feelings along the way.