3. Mass Effect 3 - Shepard watches a child die
With all the controversy surrounding the ending of Mass Effect 3, it's easy to forget the opening moments, which for me, is the single most heart-wrenching imagery I've ever been witness to. It's not just because the moment itself is forlorn, but the music that plays alongside the scene is truly harrowing.
As Commander Shepard sets off on a journey to save the inhabitants of Earth, he has to leave his home planet, while watching it fall under a devastating attack from the Reapers. This alone is hard. As gamers we aren't used to having to run from a fight for the greater good. We stand our ground and we don't ever flee.
What makes this whole ordeal worse is that as Shepard's shuttle is taking off, he's sees a child. The child appears to have avoided the Reaper armada and collapsing buildings, and has made it to a shuttle to take him out of harm's way.
As the shuttle takes off and makes a break for freedom, it is hit by a Reaper laser, spirals out of control, and ultimately explodes, killing all on-board.
The act of watching a child die is distressing enough, even more so if you're a parent, but what makes this scene so chilling is the soundtrack from Clint Mansell. There's something about piano pieces that add a sense of agonising anguish to an already emotionally charged scene. Something that Mass Effect 3 does tastefully and beautifully.