The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game History

Most "game over" screens are pretty self-explanatory. They generally say the word "game" and then indicate to you that it is, in fact, "over." That is all that is needed to communicate your failure without being a total dick about it. But that's not enough for some games. When a simple handwritten "Fuck you, player" would have sufficed, these jerks built a laser, carved the letters into the moon, then bombed NASA so nobody could ever erase it.

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5
Capcom Ends 90 Percent of Arcade Games With Absolute Murder

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryCapcom

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Arcade games have to strike a fine line with their "game over" screens. They need to get the message of defeat across while still convincing gamers that they should put in another quarter and try again instead of giving up and going to a rival machine. Lots of games accomplished this with an encouraging message, but apparently it used to be official Capcom policy that kids should be confronted with the grim specter of death whenever possible.

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For example, in the beat-'em-up game Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (weren't the '90s great?), defeated players literally had a gun shoved in their face as the countdown blared.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryCapcom
"Are ... are you mugging me?"

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Fail to ante up and you get shot right in the face. You thought this was a fun-filled romp through a land of big reptiles and even bigger cars? This is serious, life or death shit, kid.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryCapcom

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At least the villains of Final Fight disposed of their defeated enemies in a suitably cartoonish fashion.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryCapcom
"Please, God, I swear this will be the last time I check the Casual Encounters section."

This wouldn't necessarily have been traumatizing on its own. It's no worse than a Bugs Bunny cartoon. But there's something about the way Haggar tried to blow out that bomb's fuse. There's so much fear and panic in his face -- you know he wants to live, and it is only your miserly quarter-guarding that is dooming him.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryCapcom
"Mayor Haggar is survived by his daughter and his mustache."

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Then there's the Punisher arcade game, where the Punisher's sidekick frantically attempts to resuscitate his boss' battered body. It does not appear to be working.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryCapcom/Marvel Entertainment
"This is the most cardio work I've done in a decade."

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That's because what the Punisher's dying body really needs is a 25-cent infusion, stat! We know it's only a handful of pixels, but if you squint at just the right moment, you can watch a man's heart break as his friend and mentor dies right there on the street.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryCapcom/Marvel Entertainment
"YOU CAUSED THIS! JUST LIKE YOUR PARENTS' DIVORCE!"

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4
Lose in Wing Commander IV and Your Character Becomes a Washed-Up Alcoholic

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryElectronic Arts

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Mark Hamill has had a long and varied career, but he'll always be remembered for playing a single iconic role: an ordinary farm boy who grows up to be one of the greatest space fighter pilots the galaxy has ever seen. We are of course referring to Christopher Blair from the Wing Commander series.

One of the selling points of Wing Commander IV was a storyline that branched based on your decisions, actions, and accomplishments. By this point in the franchise, Blair is already a bona fide hero to humanity, but continued failure to meet your objectives leads to the worst fate a fighter pilot can suffer: a poor performance review from Malcolm McDowell.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryElectronic Arts
"So, it's come to this. Your performance, I mean, not our respective careers."

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McDowell lectures Hamill with the exacting precision and terrible viciousness that only a man who looks like Sting from the future can muster. At the end of the berating, Hamill is stripped of his commission.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryElectronic Arts
His dignity having already been stripped by signing to this franchise.

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Ever the gentleman, Hamill offers a farewell handshake, but McDowell has to be all McDowelly about it.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryElectronic Arts
You should be used to getting shot down by now, Blair.

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That should be it. That's waaay more than enough humiliation for a simple "game over" screen. You've taken your lumps, and you're ready to jump right back into the game to- no? It's still going? Jesus, is this a tactical space fighter or a disappointed mother-in-law simulator?

The humiliation continues on, as the scene jumps to a desert bar on Blair's home planet. The bartender pours him a generous splash of space booze, and the utterly defeated Blair slumps into a drunken depression that surely ends with him placing the business end of a blaster in his mouth.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryElectronic Arts
"Blair, want a shot?"
"No ... That's later."

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3
Spider-Man and His Wife Get Melted if You Lose in The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistorySega/Marvel Entertainment

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The finale of The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin has the titular villain dangling Mary Jane over a kiddie pool of acid. Here's what happens if you lose the fight.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistorySega/Marvel Entertainment
The Kingpin hasn't been this happy since the McRib came back early.

Oh no! Clearly you're about to be dipped in acid. Well, you get the gist, time to hit "continue" and try again ... just as soon as you finish watching both your favorite hero and his sassy lovable wife melt into a fine slurry.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistorySega/Marvel Entertainment
"... the hero was dissolved into an unrecognizable meat-goo. In other news,
McDonald's has suddenly announced the return of the McRib."

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There was nothing unclear about that first still. Nobody lost that boss fight, saw Spidey and MJ up there about to go skinny dipping in the deepest end, and thought, "I wonder what happens next?" And yet they showed us anyway. The act itself isn't graphic. There's no blood or gore, but you definitely see Mary Jane's bare legs being submerged in acid, leaving little doubt that your favorite superhero and his wife died a horrific and agonizing death because you personally failed him. That's maybe a little heavier than we were prepared to deal with when we popped in our cutesy cartoon Spider-Man game. It made for some pretty philosophical Saturday mornings, all staring gloomily into our Alpha-Bits and only seeing the words "inevitable" and "mortality" spelled out there.

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2
Beat Batman: Dark Tomorrow and You Still Destroy the Planet

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryKemco/Warner Bros.

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At the end of Dark Tomorrow, Batman corners Ra's al Ghul in his stronghold, where the villain reveals his plan to blow up the North Pole, which will cause massive tsunamis that wipe out Earth's coastal cities. Ra's sensibly uses a multimedia presentation to explain all of the advantages to his plan, but Batman is notoriously unswayed by even the best designed of villainous PowerPoint presentations and attacks. This leads to a climatic sword fight, and if you lose, Batman gets run through and you get to watch him die while the world floods. It's grim, but this is Batman, not My Little Pony. Rainbows aren't going to shoot out of his gaping chest wound.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryKemco/Warner Bros.
"Talia ... I've always loved boob."

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Don't wanna watch Batman die? Don't lose, sucka!

So you hit "continue," grit your teeth, step up to the bat (ha!) again, swing for the fences this time, and win! Here's one of the endings you might get: Ra's acknowledges his personal defeat, but the celebratory Batoosi is interrupted when he whips out a gigantic TV remote to activate his doomsday device.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryKemco/Warner Bros.
And delete Bruce's DVR.

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That's the North Pole exploding. Generally considered "a bad thing" by fans of the environment and breathing oxygen instead of water. Then you're treated to a montage of city after city being devoured by tidal waves.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryKemco/Warner Bros.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryKemco/Warner Bros.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryKemco/Warner Bros.
Somewhere a young boy named B.P. Exxon vows to fight the oceans that killed his parents.

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Batman watches with growing slack-jawed horror as the world dies, eventually falling to his knees and screeching out a "Nooooo!" that would make Darth Vader proud. The game even throws a spotlight on him from out of nowhere, you know, in case you were having trouble appreciating the dramatic significance of the apocalypse.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game HistoryKemco/Warner Bros.
Fin.

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Aaaaand roll credits. Congratulations! You ... won?

Gamers were understandably confused as to why Batman's adventure "successfully" ended with a global disaster. Unbeknownst to them (because the game didn't bother to mention it), the player has to disarm a signaling device before starting the final boss fight, so that Ra's device can't send its signal. Oh, you didn't think to search out and block potential radio signals before your big boss fight? Psh, the real Batman would have.

1
X-COM Writes a Damn Novel About How Much You Let Down Humanity

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game History2K Games

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Winning at X-COM, a strategy game about humanity repelling an alien invasion, requires both tactical prowess and mastery of the raw thrills of budget management. Fail at either and it's game over, because extraterrestrial threats are no excuse for deficit spending. If you lose, you're treated to a slideshow that explains, in specific and seemingly infinite depth, what your failure meant for mankind exactly. First you learn that your failure means humanity will have to accept alien invaders, then you're told that the aliens have no intention of honoring their treaties, then it's further explained that the aliens began to exterminate humanity by poisoning the air and water (at ... at a slightly quicker pace than we're accustomed to, we guess).

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game History2K Games

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game History2K Games
"Detroit, Cleveland, unaffected."

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A normal game would have thrown up the "retry" option after the first screen. But X-COM ain't even finished yet. It's not enough to tell you that humanity has devolved into terrible mutants. You need to see and learn about those mutants and their awful fate, and be further reminded that the whole project was for nothing, and that the entire Earth is screwed because of your failure:

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game History2K Games
"Us remaining mutants speak great legends of you, the one they call Asshole."

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When the game was ported to the PlayStation, they actually set aside some dollars and a good chunk of their employees' time to rework the failure slideshow into a full animated cutscene. Because X-COM's entire core gameplay philosophy is and always has been "Fuck you, the player, personally and with great vigor." That extra dev cash could've gone to new game modes, better graphics, or a fuller score -- but no. X-COM got their hands on that sweet port money and shunted it right off into the "Make the Player Feel Like Shit" fund.

First we see a sinister UFO hovering over the United Nations Building.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game History2K Games

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Inside, humans and aliens sit across from each other at the negotiating table. Well, OK, it always sucks to be on the losing side. But they're signing some kind of treaty, indicating that the aliens have at least the barest respect for their defeated opponents. Maybe there is a bit of hope after all.

And that's when a group of armed aliens burst into the room ...

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game History2K Games

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... and put a gun to the already defeated delegate's face.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game History2K Games

And you watch his blood drip straight onto the peace treaty.

The 5 Most Sadistic 'Game Over' Scenes in Video Game History2K Games
The aliens then use the blood to finger paint a picture of you getting gang-probed on it.

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X-COM took the abstract concept of subtlety out to the shed and bashed its face in with a shovel, then burned the shed down and pissed on the ashes.


Gavin hopes the SimCity novelization prequel reveals how the mayor gained earthquake and tornado powers. He has a Twitter.

Related Reading: Video games tend to have a history of disappointment. Just ask anyone who enjoyed the awesomeness of GoldenEye, only to battle the equivalent of a child at the end. Or had to suffer through bizzare Tekken endings. Sometimes, though, they do hit the mark, like these games that created truly horrifying enemies.

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