Red Dead Redemption II is arguably the saddest game ever made. Sure, there have been a lot of sad games made throughout the years, but no mainstream title has quite had the emotional impact on audiences that Red Dead Redemption II managed to elicit. Maybe it's the length of the story. Maybe it's the quality of the writing and acting. Maybe it's the very character of Arthur Morgan himself. Either way, audiences love to hate this story, as it is exceedingly well-told but devastatingly heartbreaking.
These are the ten most heartbreaking moments from Red Dead Redemption II.
10 Arthur's Diagnosis
Arthur's diagnosis is one of the most surprising moments in gaming history. Throughout the early parts of the game, Arthur develops a bit of a cough, and although we certainly noticed it, we didn't tend to think too much about it. However, upon riding into Saint Denis, Arthur collapses in a fit of coughing and is taken to a doctor, who immediately diagnoses him with TB. Of course, TB was incurable, and Arthur realizes that he has just been given a death sentence. We can't help but feel Arthur's pain, and the way in which the moment is told places us within the utterly devastated and totally surprised mind of a condemned man.
9 Arthur's Death
Well, let's get this one out of the way while we're at it! There are two endings to Arthur's life, depending on your actions throughout the game. If you remain evil, Arthur is stabbed in the back by Micah and succumbs to his wound. However, if you're good, Arthur will simply lie down and watch one final sunrise as he succumbs to his wounds and TB. It makes for a gorgeous visual, as Arthur's body is placed in the foreground while the gorgeous sunrise slowly illuminates the image, almost as if Arthur is entering the afterlife. Too bad we couldn't see it through our tears.
8 Mary And Arthur's Goodbye
Arthur is given a wonderful backstory with a woman named Mary. From what we can gather, Arthur and Mary were a couple when they were young, but Mary's family (specifically her father) intervened due to Arthur's outlaw lifestyle. Mary later contacts Arthur for help with her brother, and the two briefly rekindle their relationship. Everything seems to be going well, and Mary even suggests that they run away together, but Arthur decides to stay with the gang instead and make more money for their life together. It's a shallow excuse, and Mary realizes that Arthur will never leave his outlaw ways behind.
7 Kieran's Death
If there's one death that rivals that of Arthur, it's Kieran's. Throughout the game, Kieran is accused of being an O'Driscoll, and Arthur initially treats him like crap before warming to him after Kieran saves him from certain death. Mary Beth also takes a liking to Kieran and seems genuinely concerned when he goes missing. It creates some nice drama and pathos, and players (and Arthur) are left utterly devastated when they see Kieran's corpse riding back into camp holding its own severed head! It's a disgusting display of brutality, and it was certainly not the end that Kieran deserved.
6 Molly's Mental Decline
Like Arthur and Kieran, Molly has a very tragic death. First, she is left devastated and confused at Dutch's slow descent into insanity, as they were once lovers. She turns into a drunk, and one night, falsely states that she turned on the gang and went to the Pinkertons. This is a lie, but it is also a desperate cry for attention. However, you could also interpret it as a suicide attempt, as she knew the rules regarding betraying the gang. Her intuitions turn out to be correct, as Grimshaw shoots her with a shotgun in retaliation for "turning" on the gang.
5 Strauss's Final Missions
Even if you're playing Arthur as a good person, the Strauss missions are brutal to partake in. Strauss is a loan shark, and his entire idea of a paycheck is to cash in on exorbitant interest rates. He sends Arthur as his crony to collect on these payments, essentially forcing you into beating up poor, helpless people. It's REALLY tough stuff, but it gets even worse near the end of the game when you are forced to confront a family fleeing from racist bigots and a widow whose husband worked himself to death. Luckily, the game practically forces you into helping these people, but still, their stories are pretty darned rough to witness.
4 Arthur's Son
Throughout the game, we are led to believe that Arthur is an evil man due to his upbringing with Dutch's gang. However, the end game pulls a massive rug out from underneath the player and reveals that Arthur once had a family. Despite continuing his outlaw lifestyle, he often visited his son and his son's mother every few months to check up on them and give them some money. That is, until he returned one day and found them dead, the result of a violent robbery. It was this moment that permanently altered Arthur's psyche, and he began to see the world as a dangerous and heartless place, resulting in his cold, defensive demeanor.
3 "You Can't Fight Gravity"
One of Dutch's most memorably lines is "you can't fight gravity." This is spoken as he and Arthur escape from the Army, right before they jump off a massive cliff to evade the Army's advances. However, players of Red Dead Redemption may recognize it as one of the lines Dutch says right before he jumps to his death. It's likely that as he said it to John, he was remembering one of the last times he and his son Arthur were together as a unit. And with one simple line, Dutch's character is given even more gravitas and weight. It's incredible stuff.
2 Arthur's Horse
As if the game isn't punishing enough, it just had to go and kill the horse! While escaping from the Pinkertons, one of the agents decides to shoot Arthur's horse out from underneath him, leading Arthur to kneel by its corpse and issue somber words of thanks for its service. It's a heartbreaking sequence, especially for those of us who kept the same horse throughout the entire duration of the game. Geez, the end of this game is a real tour de force of tear-inducing tragedy, isn't it?
1 The Entire Epilogue
It seems like Red Dead Redemption II has a happy ending, as Arthur's death and sacrifice allows John to have a happy life with his family. However, those of us who played the original game know better, and the entire epilogue is given a bittersweet atmosphere because of it. We know that John will eventually die saving his family from the law, and we know that Jack will grow up to become an outlaw just like his father and Uncle Arthur. At the end of the day, there are no happy endings with Red Dead Redemption. It's a Western tragedy for the ages.