Memorial Day List – 5 Video Games About The Ultimate Sacrifice

This Memorial Day, while we’re BBQing and enjoying time with our friends and families, we’ll also be taking some time to remember the sacrifices made by the soldiers who gave their lives for their country. For those who haven’t served it’s impossible to know what war is really like, which might be why our popular culture is so obsessed with trying to portray it. Countless movies and television shows have attempted to tell the stories of our wars, and of the soldiers who fought them, and the very best have done so with respect, admiration and above all, understanding of the tremendous burden we ask of our men and women in the armed forces.

It’s no surprise that as video game technology has advanced, games have attempted in their own way to do the same. Not every attempt is successful – no surprise since for every Band of Brothers there are 20 Commandos – but a few games have managed the difficult task. With that in mind, In honor of Memorial Day, here are 5 video games about sacrifices of soldiers that didn’t botch it.

5) Mass Effect – Sacrifice of Ashley Williams/Kaiden Alenko

It might be just a sci-fi game, but it managed in one scene to cause a genuine struggle for players. At the end of act two in Mass Effect, Commander Shepherd is unable to retrieve all members of the squad before evacuating to escape a nuclear blast. That forces the player to make the very difficult decision of choosing who to leave behind – Ashley Williams or Kaiden Alenko – knowing that by doing so you’re sending them to their death. By the time you reach this point you’ve invested many hours getting to know these characters, and deciding whom to sacrifice is difficult.

Here is where Ashley makes the ultimate sacrifice.

4) Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway – Death of Lt Col. Cole

The Brothers in Arms series has never shied away from gut-churning depictions of the horrors of war, but in Hell’s Highway they escalated the heartbreak deftly. Hell’s Highway is set during Operation Market Garden and follows the exploits of 1the 01st Airborne Division in The Netherlands and Germany. Yes, that’s the same unit and campaign dramatized in Band of Brothers. Attempting to wring new drama, in a video game of all things, out of something that has already been definitively portrayed had to have been difficult to pull off.

The death of Lieutenant Colonel Cole is painful. It’s not Oscar-worthy, but it manages to be respectful rather than exploitative, and you feel the impact on the other characters.

3) Medal of Honor (1999) – Normandy Invasion

The First game in the Medal of Honor series was a spectacular triumph in its day. Produced by Stephen Spielberg, it serves as a kind of bridge between 1998′s Saving Private Ryan and 2001′s Band of Brothers. As with those two other works, it refuses to shy away from the fact that many, many people die when we go off to war, and for that reason is the first video game that successfully pulled off a genuinely terrifying, somewhat realistic depiction of war.

Here’s the scene for which it’s most well known, the excruciating recreation of the Normandy Invasion.

2) Brothers In Arms – Death of Leggett

My grandfather served in the European front after the invasion of Normandy and for the rest of his life he was incapable of describing his experiences without breaking down. He served honorably, but suffered survivor’s guilt his entire life. That kind of guilt was worse for people who broke under the pressure of war and whose actions may or may not have gotten their fellow soldiers killed.

The point is that while we all hope should we find ourselves in such circumstances we would be heroic, war breaks people. It isn’t easy to deal respectfully with that painful truth, but this scene from Brothers in Arms manages. Here, Private Leggett finally accepts how his prior actions killed two of his unit, and in a act that was shockingly common, he essentially commits suicide by enemy fire.

1) Medal Of Honor (2010) – Rabbit Dies

Set during the earliest days of the war in Afghanistan, Medal of Honor (2010) ends with a wrenching moment that illustrates the bond between soldiers and the horrible risks they incur, while also managing to be surprisingly touching. During the single player campaign, characters Mother and Rabbit are separated from the squad and captured by insurgents. Rabbit sustains multiple gunshot wounds during their capture and spends the remainder of the game incapacitated. They’re successfully rescued, but that victory is tainted when, as shown in this wrenching scene, Rabbit succumbs to his wounds and dies before the the squad be evacuated, ending the game on a brutal, bittersweet moment.

When you’re not gaming, take a moment to visit some of these organizations founded for the benefit of the veterans we’ll be thinking of this weekend:

* Wounded Warriors.
* Disabled Veterans Charities.
* Disabled American Veterans.

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