Ever since Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic introduced Light Side points and Dark Side points, so-called moral choices have become a standard mechanic spanning the medium. Previously, the concept had mostly been relegated to PC RPGs - always a relatively niche genre - but KOTOR normalized the concept for good.
Then, somewhat ironically, it was BioWare who streamlined the whole concept. Since then, moral choice is less about being a hero or villain, and more about playing good cop/bad cop opposite yourself.
Even worse is when a game offers rewards for min/maxing your morality, requiring you to be a two-dimensional goody two-shoes or thug if you want to experience some of the game's best content. More often than not, moral choices are primarily material, negating the very concept of morality entirely.
Fortunately, that is not always the case. Occasionally a game presents a choice that impacts the world and its characters, sometimes even for no material benefit at all. They simply ask you to look inward and decide who you really are - or who the character you're portraying really is.
In that spirit, here are ten of the hardest moral choices we've had to make in recent games, for no gain other than testing our own values.
10. Pascal's Fate - NieR: Automata
Anyone who played NieR was probably prepared for some weighty moral choices in the sequel, NieR:Automata. The first NieR was universally praised for heavy moral themes on the harsh responsibilities of parenthood. However, the tragedy of Pascal takes this to a whole new level.
Pascal is one of the rare friendly machines, the antagonists of the game. Secluded in the woods, he leads a village of similarly pacifistic machines, dreaming of a peaceful future.
Tragically, his village is destroyed by a signal that causes his friends to turn berserk and cannibalize each other. As a result, he flees with the children - built so he could raise them as independent blank slates. One thing he teaches them, for their safety, is fear.
While fighting off machines with protagonist 2B, Pascal returns to the children to find that, in their fear, they killed themselves. Feeling responsible, Pascal begs the player to erase his memory. Or, if you choose, you can leave him be.
Select the former and he returns his village as a merchant, ignorantly selling the scrap parts that were once his loved ones. Or the latter, where you abandon him to wander the Earth in his guilt.
There is no happy ending for poor Pascal.