The Inverse Awards

The Best Video Game Death Scenes of 2023, Ranked

Death comes for us all — especially in video games.

Originally Published: 
Inverse; Larian Studios, Capcom
The Inverse Awards 2023

Death is all around. Death rustles through thinning branches above the sidewalk, knocking eggs from their nests, and holding the world in its shadow the way a hawk overtakes a moth.

But that’s only reality. In video games’ infinity, death isn’t intimidating — it’s a distraction keeping you from cracking open that sick loot crate box you wanted. It’s annoying. It still feels unfair, but it's only temporary. And, you know, a lot of the time, it looks kind of awesome, especially in 2023’s video game releases.

That’s partly my evolutionary interest in predators talking, making me hypnotized by sheets of loose skin and blood, looking like they were squirted from a toothpaste tube. But it’s also just a fact — 2023 games like Dead Island 2 and Final Fantasy XVI mastered the death scene, turning what can often feel like an irritating gameplay setback into an eye-popping spectacle. You don’t want to look away from deaths like these, and you don’t have to — check out Inverse’s list of the 10 best video game death scenes this year.

10. Mortal Kombat 1, Geras’ Fatality

Time is a flat circle...

NetherRealm Studios

I must mention Mortal Kombat 1, NetherRealm Studios’ reboot of the 31-year-old franchise, in my list of best deaths. The fighting game series was one of the earliest to show audiences sensational death scenes, and MK1, for all its balance issues and minor aggravations, is no exception.

But out of all the game’s hair-yanking, physics-defying, entrail-pulling Fatalities, time-manipulator Geras’ second Fatality deserves special attention.

The fighter opens a portal to the future to tear off his opponent’s head, leaving a good chunk of spine dangling at the bottom so it looks something like a chicken leg or a hammer. He uses it as such, clobbering his enemy with so much force, their jaw flies off in a dark storm of blood. Graciously, Geras places the skull into his enemy’s hands, making them confront their destiny while another portal opens and Geras from 10 seconds ago tears their head off for the first time. It’s a death loop, and it makes me feel totally, brutally trapped.

9. The Outlast Trials, Leland’s brutality

The Outlast Trials, developer Red Barrels’ first addition to its cult-classic survival horror series in six years, is nasty business. The online multiplayer forces you into a depraved, Cold War-era medical trial, discouraging you from friendship and surrounding you with monsters and monstrous people.

The worst of the latter is police officer Leland Coyle, who appears to be oozing from his face and is aroused by his sizzling stun baton. If he captures you, he’ll swing his baton up to light a fat cigar. He puffs on it, forming swirls of smoke while pressing the electric tip into your groin, and your first-person vision fills with blood spots until finally going black. It’s brief, but memorably obscene.

8. Dead Space, The Hunter hunts


Motive Studio

Dead Space gained notoriety for its hard-to-kill space zombie enemies when it was originally released in 2008, and this year’s remake honors those tentacled brutes in high-fidelity, grisly graphics. It lets you better appreciate the game’s many hard-hearted death scenes, in which protagonist Isaac Clarke gets his head chopped off, or his arms chopped off, or maybe his torso is completely cleaved from the rest of him.

But I’m especially in awe of the scene that triggers if you die to the third-person shooter’s Hunter boss, a mega-mutated behemoth with pincer arms. It thrusts both of those knife-sharp needles into your belly and lifts you over its head — Isaac becomes a human kebab. The Hunter shoves its arms into him repeatedly, getting blood everywhere, until finally severing his neck with one decisive swoop. We get a sickening peek at Isaac’s raw flesh, exposed and glistening inside metal spacesuit like a clam torn from its shell, but the Hunter’s violent hunger isn’t satiated. It punches Isaac’s body to the ground, splashing around even more blood, and it’s nauseating.

7. Dead Island 2, corrosive death

Zombie apocalypse Dead Island 2 stinks with death — mostly everyone in its nightmare LA is at least half-dead, rotting, and planning on sinking their teeth into your yummy, perfect flesh. But I was most impressed by the action role-playing game’s deaths caused by caustic weapons, or weapons that leak green, steaming acid.

When you knock a zombie around with a caustic meat cleaver, for example, things get particularly gross. Thanks to developer Dambuster Studios’ “flesh system” layers, acid makes zombies first lose thick layers of skin, then pieces of bubbling red flesh, until they end up a mangled, leaking bone tower. I’m glad I now know what that looks like.

6. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, chainsaw death

You’d think Gun Interactive’s asymmetrical multiplayer Texas Chain Saw Massacre — heavily based on the 1974 movie of the same name — would have predictable deaths. It’s in Texas, there’s a roaring chainsaw, and it’s a massacre. But it's hard not to be unsettled by movie villain Leatherface executions.

There’s unconstrained power in his swings. No matter what finishing move Leatherface decides on — plunging the saw into a victim’s stomach until their body shakes with the force, opting for their face, instead, and shaving off a few inches of bone — it’s most chilling to see him grab, hold, and hit, seemingly without ever thinking twice.

5. Resident Evil 4, Chainsaw Man

You can find pieces of what makes Leatherface’s death scenes so shocking in Resident Evil 4, too, if you fail its infamous Chainsaw Man boss fight. The plague-infected aggressor stalks hapless heartthrob protagonist Leon with a whirring, blood-soaked chainsaw, making the sprawling Spanish village you’re trapped in feel more like an airless cardboard box.

If Chainsaw Man manages to land a hit, your death is guaranteed. First, he uses his weapon to slice a gash in Leon’s neck, splashing blood everywhere, and then, while you’re distracted, he sinks it into Leon’s stomach. After a few agonizing seconds, the chainsaw blade pops out through Leon’s back, and enough blood to fill a kiddie pool floods out of his body. Poor, handsome Leon. You’ll get ‘em next time, buddy.

4. Amnesia: The Bunker, stealth kill

The nameless beast that stalks players in Amnesia: The Bunker, the newest installment of Frictional Games’ seminal psychological horror series, is best at suspense. The death scenes it triggers, then, aren’t notable for their gore — there isn’t much of it, anyway, the mangled monster just knocks you to the floor and tears you up off-screen. No, what makes death in The Bunker unforgettable is the anticipation.

The monster produces the most inhuman, phlegmy snarling: hiss, wheeze, you hear it echoing throughout the concrete World War I bunker you’re stuck in. And then there’s the pattering — the monster uses a tunnel network to scamper around you constantly. You never feel at ease. When you die, it’s almost a relief.

3. Diablo IV, Lilith’s defeat

I have mixed feelings about Diablo IV demon mother Lilith’s death cinematic following her boss fight. Look at her intricate regalia and black painted nails — is she not too slay to die?

She dies nonetheless, but I’m glad that it's in such an aristocratic way. Blood plods helplessly from her nose onto the ground, slow like the red leaves tumbling in the air around her. Then blood streams insistently from her eyes and, with one hand still outstretched for help, Lilith turns to gray ash. Her horns, her body, her gown — they collapse like a forgotten sand castle. I’d be more disappointed if it weren’t so gorgeous.

2. Final Fantasy XVI, Ifrit vs. Phoenix

Final Fantasy XVI is filled with fun magic and crystals, but the action-role-playing game is much more grim than any other title in its 36-year-old series. Its deaths are viscerally painful, especially an early altercation between godlike Eikons Ifrit and Phoenix.

In this apparent death scene, the demon Ifrit peels himself off the ground to suddenly pounce on the weakened, but still beautiful, Phoenix. He straddles the great fire bird and stabs him with his claws over and over, until the bird’s cries become hoarse and strained. Even then, the screen turns black, but you still hear the incessant, muffled, wet pounding of Ifrit’s fists into the Phoenix’s feeble body.

The screen fades back in, and we see the summons again, but the sounds continue with more pulling, tearing, bursts of purplish blood. Protagonist Clive cries out from the center of his soul for Ifrit to stop, but all Ifrit responds with is more revolting pounding. It’s complete destruction, and it’s truly difficult to watch.

1. Alan Wake 2, Alan vs. Art

I don’t feel as bad for protagonist Alan Wake when he dies in the psychedelic survival horror Alan Wake 2, since he’s capable of writing his reality. But I’m nonetheless disturbed by the hatchet-wielding shadow people that populate his personal hell, the Dark Place, and how suddenly they can kill me.

Once Alan’s dead, I witness an eerily realistic death screen — a flickering photo of Alan with blood spilling from his nose and skull. In typical Alan Wake 2, fourth-wall-breaking fashion, seeing this screen usually knocks me out of the game and back into my fragile reality. At least it’s not the worst way to end the year, being reminded of life’s preciousness.

This article was originally published on

Related Tags