Over the past 15 years, Gears Of War has had over nine entries in the franchise. While the game is known for its large muscular soldiers, chainsaw guns, and blockbuster action sequences, the series also delivers a handful of moments that hit you right in the feels and tug on those heartstrings. So get those tissues ready as we dive into my picks for the top emotional moments in the Gears Of War franchise.
In Gears of War 2, you discover that the Locust Horde has returned stronger than ever. They are sinking entire cities while pushing closer each day to humanity’s last stronghold, Jacinto. To ensure the city's safety, the COG launch Operation Hollow Storm, an all-out attack on the Locust. This takes the fight straight to their home beneath the surface. As the story draws closer to the end, you find out the Locust are planning to sink Jacinto. This will flood the hollow and wipe out not only the COG but also a new threat that has emerged, the Lambent. The COG decides the best course of action is to evacuate and sink Jacinto themselves, flooding the hollow first to put an end to both the Locust and the Lambent. It is a bit devastating to witness humanity destroy its last major city after spending so much time trying to protect it. They may have finally defeated the enemy (as far as they know) but it came at the price of now being stranded without a place to call home.
Early into the Gears 3’s campaign, you play as Augustus Cole with his squad returning to Cole's hometown of Hanover in search of supplies. One of the areas you come across is Hanover stadium, which is home to the Cougars where Cole was a major Thrashball star (similar to football). It's here where you stumble into Cole's old locker room. As he approaches his abandoned locker and opens it, he starts to have flashbacks of the days where he is gearing up for a big game. His teammates and coaches hype him up as he’s walking out to a stadium of fans chanting his name. It's a powerful scene where we get to see the man behind the armor and the life he was forced to leave behind to fight for survival in a war nobody saw coming.
As Delta Squad barely makes it out of the town Mercy alive, their junker runs out of fuel just as they arrive in the nearby city of Char. They set out on foot in hopes of finding any stranded willing to trade. Advancing their way through the city, they discover the remains of citizens who were not able to escape the hammer strikes when humankind scorched ninety percent of the planet in hopes of slowing down the Locust invasion. Char was ground zero for one of the strikes and thus the city was filled with countless victims frozen in time, covered in ash, and trying to flee from an inescapable fate.
Early into the Gears 2 campaign, the Leader of the COG, Chairman Prescott delivers a speech intended to rally his fellow Gears and citizens as Operation Hollow Storm begins. The scene sets the tone for the rest of the game as it shows how high the stakes truly are. The COG is backed into a corner and if they intend to protect their last beacon of hope, the city of Jacinto, they will have to take the fight directly to the Locust Horde. The scene succeeds in rallying the player to feel like they really are the last hope to save humanity. Between the excellent dialogue delivered in the speech and the outstanding musical performance by Steve Jablonsky, the scene will go down in video game history as one of the greats.
War has not been kind to Dominic Santiago. When the Locust Horde first arrived on Emergence Day, Dom lost both of his children during the initial attack on the surface. His wife Maria was left in denial and she fell into a depression where she eventually went missing. Dom searched everywhere for his wife throughout the years with no luck in finding her. That is until he gets a lead about a group of stranded that were taken prisoner underground by the Locust and placed in pods. Marcus and Dom are able to locate the pod where Maria is being held. She is released only for Dom to find out that she had been left in a vegetative state due to being tortured and scarred beyond repair. With nothing they could do to save her, Dom had no other choice than to make the difficult decision to put an end to his wife's suffering and finally give her peace. He would carry this burden with him until the end of his days.
After abandoning his post in the middle of a crucial battle during the Locust war to try and save his dad Adam Fenix, Marcus comes up short as his father is assumed dead from being crushed under falling debris. Six years pass and Marcus receives a message where he finds out that Adam is still alive and is currently being held prisoner by the Locust queen. Adam is being tasked to finish making a weapon that will destroy the Lambent parasite that is destroying the planet. By the end of the game, Marcus and the rest of the Delta Squad are able to reach the island Azura and fight to where Adam is being kept for which father and son are reconnected for the first time in years. This moment is cut short however as Delta Squad must hold off the incoming Locust and Lambent threat heading their way. Adam tells Marcus that the Imulsion countermeasure that kills the Imulsion cells inside any being (the weapon he has been working on) will not only wipe out the Lambent but will also take out the Locust as well due to overexposure to the substance. They are able to hold off the attack long enough for Adam to activate the device. Once the countermeasure has been started, Adam reveals that in order to test the machine, he had to inject himself with Imulsion, confirming that he too will perish. Marcus cries out in disbelief that he is not going to lose his father again. In his final words, Adam tells Marcus that he was glad to see him again and to go and live for him. The weapon goes off and Adam is instantly disintegrated, turned to ash leaving behind only his COG tags which fall into the hands of Marcus as he now is left to cope with losing his father for the second and final time.
Gears of War 4 is set 25 years after finally defeating the Locust and finding peace on planet Sera. Our protagonist is Jd Fenix, the son of war hero Marcus Fenix and Anya Stroud. A few chapters into the game Jd seeks out Marcus in hopes he can help with a new threat. You can tell there is tension between the two and that they do not seem to agree on anything but he decides to join up with you after a short firefight occurs where the majority of his home gets destroyed. You travel together through Fort Reval, a ruined historical site to make it to an abandoned mine that is on the other side. Here you get ambushed by a group of Snatchers which are large creatures that strike Marcus with a quill then scoop him up and take him back to their hive where he is placed into a pod to transform into another creature referred to as a Juvie. Now it’s up to Jd, Kait, and Del to save Marcus. After traversing deep into the hive where Marcus was being held, they find his pod and cut it open only to discover that they may have arrived too late as the body of Marcus falls to the floor and lays motionless. It’s a difficult moment to watch as we see Jd in disbelief and as he starts to break down. He pounds his fist continuously on his father’s chest to try and save him until he finally comes to terms that his dad is gone. Fortunately for Jd (and us the player), Marcus comes to a few moments later gasping for air and coughing up all the liquid that was trapped with him while podded and he gets the chance to fight another day. This was such a relief as my poor heart couldn’t handle the thought of losing our grumpy, old, tomato-loving war hero.
If you ask any Gears fan what moment in the series rocked them to their core the most, I'm sure ninety-nine percent will tell you it was Dominic Santiago's death. Delta Squad makes their way into the town Mercy to stock up on fuel for their journey to Azura. Mercy is the hometown of Dom's wife Maria Santiago who unfortunately met her demise in the previous installment. Shortly after arriving, they discover that most of the townsfolk had been overexposed by the Imulsion parasite in the area causing them to turn into Lambent humans known as Formers. As they venture further through Mercy, there is a touching scene where Dom visits his family's gravesite and leaves his COG tags and Maria's necklace behind. It's not too long after that where things start to go from bad to worse. Upon returning to the fuel pumping station after turning the fuel pumps on, Delta squad finds themselves surrounded and outnumbered by the Lambent and the Locust Horde. With not many options left, Dom jumps down into one of the trucks they brought along and takes off. Once he gets a good enough distance he makes a u-turn and starts speeding his way back. He radios his teammates to get out of there. The song “Mad World” by Gary Jules starts to play in his final moments as he drives the truck full speed into a tanker of Imulsion, causing an explosion big enough to finish off the rest of the enemy threat. It’s a heartbreaking scene where you realize not only has Dom already lost his wife and kids but that the only thing he has left is his best friend Marcus to look after. So he sacrifices himself so Marcus can live to fight another day and find a way to end the war once and for all.
The final chapter in Gears 5 leaves the player with quite the ultimatum. The newly awakened queen of the swarm Reyna captures Kait’s companions, Jd and his best friend Del. You are forced to choose between the two on who to save while the other gets their neck snapped instantly. After you make this dreaded choice you manage to escape and regroup with Marcus where you sadly inform him on who did not make it. Two very gut-wrenching scenes play out depending on who you chose. If you chose to save Del, Marcus asks where Jd is. Kait takes out his COG tags and hands them to Marcus where you instantly can see how devastated he is. Throughout the series, Marcus has lost just about everybody he has ever cared for, and to see him lose his only son is so heartbreaking (it chokes me up every time I think about it). On the other side of the coin, if you chose to save Jd instead, the following scene takes place. After Kait informs Marcus that Del didn’t make it, we see Jd completely broken as tears run down his face. Marcus notices the pain in his son and can relate as he also unexpectedly lost his best friend over 25 years ago. They both share a hug with each other resulting in a sad but beautiful scene where father and son are brought closer together after being distant for so long.
The ending of Gears of War 3 in my opinion, is truly the most emotional send-off to a series I have ever played. Moments after finally winning the war against the Locust Horde, our hero Marcus Fenix makes his way down to an empty beach. After 3 games in the series, he, at last, removes his doo-rag (which definitely needs a good washing) and sits upon a rock to reflect on everything that has happened. He lost his mother at a young age, he lost his best friend that was like a brother to him, and just a few moments prior he lost his father right before his eyes. Fellow Gear and love interest Anya Stroud approaches and tries to comfort him in which he asks the question “What’s left Anya? What have we got left now?”. “Tomorrow, Marcus, we’ve finally got a tomorrow!” she replies as she takes his hand. Marcus pulls her in close and we see the camera pan out showing the rest of Delta Squad watching from the distance as the sun sets on this astounding trilogy.
Do you have a game that plays with your emotions? What are the most emotional moments in the Gears series for you? Let me know in the comments down below and I’ll make sure to pass the tissues.