Perhaps it's because making an audience genuinely believe a main character is in peril can be hard, but torture sequences have often been the go-to technique to make a protagonist feel vulnerable. While they might not be able to die, a main character can definitely become disfigured or be completely internally broken before a story is out.
However, while these scenes have been present throughout movies and TV for decades, video games are uniquely equipped to make these sequences even more harrowing than they may otherwise be. By putting players into the shoes of the torturer or the victim - or allowing us to take direct control of the characters - developers have been able to create some brutally violent and ridiculously intense torture scenes over the years.
Some games have gone further than others, and have created sequences so outlandishly over-the-top that you get the sense that they must have been competing against each to see who could create the most gruesomely violent scenarios imaginable. They've resulted in moments that have kept players up at night still wincing at the mere thought of them, and they've set the bar for general uncomfortableness going forward.
10. Splinter Cell: Conviction's Bathroom Interrogation
In the run up to the release of Splinter Cell: Conviction, one scene in particular kept making the rounds. Focusing on protagonist Sam Fisher cornering a goon in a Trainspotting-style bathroom, the scene showed the multiple brutal ways that players could interrogate him for information.
With the environment at your disposal, Conviction put an emphasis on torturing the thug by slamming him into the sinks, urinals, and just generally throwing him around the small environment until he was a broken mess.
While gory, the focus on the scene was very much a way of Ubisoft establishing that this wasn't the same old Sam Fisher fans were used to. Instead, this was a guy who wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty, and was more than happy to beat the living daylights out of bad guys like he was Batman or something.
This torture/interrogation mechanic actually appeared a few times throughout the title, and it just got more violent every time it showed up.