A cutscene is often a respite for the gamer, often taking place after hard-fought battles or ground-breaking climaxes. However, with the advent of newer hardware, many cutscenes are now playable and the intensity is increased tenfold. Brutal games before are more brutal now and cutscenes have become a way to hand more agency to the player while also fleshing out more context to the story. Many of these cutscenes are deeply integrated within the gameplay, therefore, allowing the player to feel more as they play more. And boy do you feel more; from executing enemies to experiencing shocking plot developments.
Kratos makes quick work of Helios – God of War 3
Although Kratos nowadays can be mostly found gallivanting through the Nordic woods with his enthusiastic son Atreus and showing him the ropes, there was a time where Kratos was simply not messing around. He was less merciful, less considerate and full of relentless rage. Not many kills through Kratos’ god-slaying career exemplify his sadistic lust for rage more than this scene. Needless to say, you’d be hard pressed to find a list like this and not find Kratos doing something unsavory.
It doesn’t get more brutal than this, God of War 3 has you finally confront Helios head-to-head after an epic showdown and it all culminates into you the player having to tear Helios’ head off with your bare hands. It’s savagery is still a controversial topic in gaming and one that is often discussed among gamers. As if tearing his head off wasn’t enough, the player actually uses Helios’ head as a game mechanic so you are constantly walking around with it like a tool belt. Now that is brutal.
Auditioning for Hitler – Wolfenstein: The New Order
Wolfenstein: The New Order is filled to the brim with action-packed set pieces but it also doles out quite a bit of brutal, memorable moments. Most notably, in this scene where the player somehow travels to the planet Venus to find Hitler audaciously hosting a series of auditions for a film and it quickly goes south when our main character enters the fray. The scene is a masterclass in building tension while also maintaining a tightrope of misdirection.
Up to this point in the story, a bunch of wild things have happened but this one takes the cake. How did we end up in Venus? What is going on here? As the player is bombarded with these internal questions, the scene plays out slowly and methodically and you pretty much know how it will end but you’re not sure how. Once it’s your turn to show Hitler and his crew your acting chops, things get even weirder as they get more violent. It is truly a hallmark of the Wolfenstein franchise.
Dutch Takes a Shot – Red Dead Redemption 2
After a perilous trek up a snowy mountain and surviving standoff after standoff, the player finally makes their way up to Dutch’s camp and is met with a surprising turn of events. With you in his sights and Micah holding Sadie at gunpoint, Dutch does the unexpected and elects to shoot Micah instead of you and what follows is a roller-coaster of shock and emotions. This scene is rife with tension and it does what many great Westerns do, it delivers a satisfying conclusion.
The standoff reminds me of that great scene in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, beautifully edited and executed flawlessly. You almost root for Dutch for doing what he did but you know he’s a terrible, manipulative person and must be put down. Why did he shoot Micah? After all, Micah was a loyal follower and quite possibly his most trusted henchman.
Ellie and Joel come to blows – The Last of Us
Not every brutal cutscene involves death and gore, some brutal scenes can simply be conversations fueled with emotion and context. In this poignant scene, Ellie learns Joel was just going to drop her off at Tommy’s and every truth finally bubbles to the surface. Well, not every truth but enough to sour things between these two. The scene plays out like a fine drama on television; two characters in an impossible situation trying to reconcile.
Ellie is right, Joel wants to just dump her and move on because he’s lost so much already. Ellie reminds him that she too has experienced loss. The dialogue here between these two hits as hard as any kill or brutality because feelings are at stake here, relationships are at stake. It all manifests itself in this brief, heart-wrenching scene. Unfortunately, the scene is interrupted just as the tension swells and we’re left with these two characters having to bottle all of this in. I’d like to see if there was an extended cut of this dialogue somewhere on the cutting room floor.
Shiho takes a leap – Persona 5
You barely get enough time to get your bearings in Persona 5 before one of the most shocking moments in the entire series occurs. Ann’s closest friend Shiho, after a tumultuous and abusive relationship with the school’s track coach, decides to take her own life by jumping off the roof of the school. It’s a moment that truly solidifies that Persona 5 is finally here and it’s not all fun and games.
Persona 5 often mirrors the social and political issues facing Japan and Shiho’s attempted suicide is a prime example of that. It is a key moment in the game and a moment that fuels the fire in apprehending Kamoshida, the abusive track coach. Luckily, Shiho survives this giant leap but the message here is greatly felt. Anne feels responsible for this. She wasn’t there for her friend. It’s a character moment for Ann that fires her up and motivates her further to stop Kamoshida and his abuse.
Quiet shall not be silenced – Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
In one of the harsher depictions of wartime cruelty ever seen in a video game, Quiet swiftly breaks from a waterboarding incident and absolutely wreaks havoc on a platoon of soldiers. She does most of this while having her hands tied behind her back. It is beautifully choreographed and as brutal as it gets. She’s out for blood and she does not waste any time in dispatching these poor souls.
The part where she bites that guy’s ear off? Yikes. It’s amazing how creative she gets with some of these brutal take downs. While much of her character has been criticized, there’s no denying that this fight is a sight to behold and definitely one of the better moments of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain bar none. It is just too bad we couldn’t actually play it.
Caroline Loses Her Head – Wolfenstein: The New Order
There’s quite a few of beheadings on this list and Wolfenstein: The New Order cracks the list yet again. In this chilling scene, our fearless leader Caroline is viciously beheaded by Nazi general Irene right in front of you. She even dangles her head in front of you, taunting you with her dead cold eyes. By the way, this is how the game roughly kicks off. You become used to this kind of sadistic violence because as the character BJ Blazkowicz, you unleash similar dread and carnage to the enemy in return.
Like Kotaku said, “The cycle of violence repeats” and you become numb to it, you accept it. Even Sigrun, Irene’s somewhat sympathetic daughter, gets humiliated and lambasted for her laziness and diet during this scene. It is all around tragic and all you can do is watch this dysfunctional family brutally execute one of your closest allies.
Shovel Man – Resident Evil 7
Resident Evil 7′s campiness almost peaks with this one incredible kill. After you thought you were successfully escaping the crazy house through the garage, a cop seemingly out of nowhere stops you to investigate only to meet his untimely demise. Crazy hillbilly Jack Baker shows up behind him with a shovel and literally shovels his head right through his skull and the player is left stricken with panic and fear.
What follows is a terrifying encounter in an enclosed space. This is a great moment that reminds you that your nightmare is just beginning and there’s no way out of this. I just feel bad for the cop, although shouldn’t he be more aware of his surroundings? Part of what makes Resident Evil 7 so effective is the first-person perspective. This kill happens right in front of you and you’re expected to react almost right away. It is quite exhilarating.
So what did you think? One heck of a ride huh? What are some brutal cutscenes that stand out for you? Mortal Kombat fatalities do count by the way. Leave your comments or list down below while we grab our popcorn.