At this point it is no shock to anyone to hear that Game of Thrones is a depressing series. Fans have grown used to their favorite characters being killed off time and time again in ruthless fashion. That kind of high stakes storytelling is no doubt part of what has made the show so popular, since this is truly unpredictable television where so few characters feel safe. That being said, it doesn't get any easier for fans to see the characters they've grown to care about die off.
You could fill a credits list just using all of the characters who have died on the show. Some deaths are extremely satisfying, like seeing Ramsay Snow be killed. But others still tear fans up to this day when they remember the loss. So we're sorting through the dozens who have passed on to look at what demises were the hardest to see happen. These are the 15 Most Heartbreaking Game of Thrones Deaths.
15 NED STARK
What else could we open with but this loss? This was the moment when fans realized that Game of Thrones was going to be a different kind of fantasy show than what they were used to. So many people viewed Ned as the main character of the series, but the rug got yanked out from underneath tons of people when Joffrey refused to allow Ned to join the Night’s Watch. Instead, Joffrey defied the wishes of his mother and ordered Ned to be beheaded in front of everyone.
This death still rankles even years later because Ned was one of the few characters of the series who you could truly call a good person. Ned had honor and a sense of duty, but those same admirable traits are ultimately what got him killed. Giving Cersei a chance to admit to her infidelity just allowed her time to plot a counterattack against Ned. It wasn't intentional, but Cersei cost Ned his life.
Considering how far the show has come and given us so much worse, few would probably consider this the hardest death to witness now. But by the standards of the first season, when many people didn't know how dark things would soon get, this was the first major sad death. It certainly didn't help that this was the death of an animal, and a lot of people take the loss of dogs in particular harder than the loss of humans.
An excellent example of that comes from this same incident, since Arya's friend Mycah was also killed as a result of Joffrey getting hurt. But how often does anyone besides Arya mention the Hound being a bad person for killing Mycah? Everyone remembers Lady though, and how she was unfairly killed due to Cersei demanding a price be paid for her son being hurt. So Ned took it upon himself to end the direwolf's life.
13 CATELYN STARK
Catelyn Stark truly is one of the most tragic characters in all of the show. Her family suffers so much and she lives to see much of it happen. Bran is paralyzed in her own home, and then her husband Ned is killed. Then Sansa is taken as a captive by the Lannisters, and Arya disappears without even getting to say goodbye. Catelyn is a woman who has nearly lost it all, but is still managing to hold it together. The Red Wedding was the straw that broke the camel's back, though.
When the wedding was revealed to be a trap, Catelyn begged Walder Frey to let her son walk free of it all. Instead, Roose Bolton shoved a sword into Robb. Catelyn used the last of her strength to kill Lord Walder's wife, but Catelyn was already gone mentally even then. Catelyn's physical death was just a formality by then; after losing Robb, Catelyn stood empty and accepted her death since without her husband and children she had nothing left to keep her going.
12 RICKON STARK
With how unfortunate it is to be a Stark you'd think Iron Man would be getting a little worried by now. As the Battle of the Bastards showed us, even when it seems like the Starks can't possibly suffer anymore, life (by which we mean death) will find a way. Fans were initially excited when Rickon showed up again and appeared to be on the cusp of having a reunion with Jon Snow. But of course Ramsay wasn't going to allow that.
Though we had grown used to the Starks dying, Rickon's death was still sad because he was the youngest of the family. We first saw Rickon when he was little more than a toddler, and when he showed up in the clutches of Ramsay, he was on the brink of looking like a man. Ramsay had no qualms about snatching away that potential though, and killed the boy with an arrow in the back.
11 GREY WIND
Of all the deaths at the Red Wedding, it would be hard to call Grey Wind’s the saddest. The betrayal from the Freys meant the end of the North's claim in the war, and it meant the Starks were nearly wiped out, so what's one wolf on top of all that? Well, part of what makes Grey Wind’s death sad was that he was one of the few who knew to distrust the Freys, which is what led to him being locked up outside the wedding in the first place. If Robb had trusted his wolf, he might have actually survived.
Beyond animal deaths just being sad in general, Grey Wind’s death was also brutal because he didn't even have a chance to fight back. Grey Wind was locked up and defenseless as Walder Frey's men killed him. He at least deserved the chance to die in battle defending his master.
10 SHIREEN BARATHEON
For many fans the death of Shireen may have been even harder than the deaths of many of the main characters. Shireen was just a child and had never done anything wrong to anyone. She was as innocent as a person could get in the show. Even worse was that she was already suffering from Greyscale, which left her physically disfigured with unsightly numb patches on her body. And yet her own father made her life even worse.
Melisandre said that her god needed a sacrifice from Stannis, and Stannis' plan to unite the kingdom and appease his new god mattered more to him than even family. As Melisandre's god was one of fire, Shireen was given up to the flames to burn. She never did a thing to deserve such a fate.
9 MARGAERY TYRELL
The Tyrell family knew Cersei's game as soon as they laid eyes on her. We had seen plenty of characters in Game of Thrones who were skilled warriors, but the Tyrells were a match for Cersei politically. It looked like Margaery and her family might just be clever and vicious enough to outwit Cersei and bring her down. Unfortunately, they didn't count on how dark Cersei was willing to go to win that battle.
Anyone who thought shaming Cersei with a naked walk through the city would be enough to take her out of power really hadn't been paying attention to how conniving the Lannisters are. One of their mottos is "a Lannister always pays their debts," after all. And Cersei definitely felt she owned the Tyrells and the Sparrows for what they did to her. So she had all of them killed in a huge explosion of wildfire.
8 TOMMEN BARATHEON
For as much as everyone discusses how awful the Lannisters were, they did still have a few members of their family who were decent people. Despite how horrible his brother and his mom were, Tommen was actually a surprisingly good kid. How he eluded the dark influence of growing up in such a family is a bit of a mystery, but he might have actually made an okay king with Margaery ruling at his side. Cersei was never going to allow that though.
We have discussed how Cersei gained her vengeance against Margaery and the Sparrows, but an unfortunate casualty of Cersei's efforts was her own son. It might not have been what Cersei intended, but her actions finally caught up to her and Tommen couldn't take it anymore. With his family in chaos and so many of the people he cared about having died around him over the years, Tommen finally succumbed to the pain and leapt out of a window to his death.
When Hodor was first introduced into the show he appeared to just be a funny character who only knew how to say a silly word. It was easy to assume he was nothing more than some giant guy who had a disability. No one questioned it too much because Hodor was always good-natured and was able to help transport Bran around. But as the danger increased and Bran became a target of the white walkers, we finally learned the story behind Hodor's name.
As Bran made his escape from the army of the white walkers following him, Hodor fell to holding the door to keep the monsters locked in. Bran had warged into Hodor during this time and was witnessing a young Hodor while the white walkers were attacking in the present. The young Hodor fell to the ground having convulsions and uttering the name we all knew. It was the moment viewers and Bran both knew that Bran helped warp Hodor's mind from the past and turn him into what he was, constantly repeating "hold the door" (Hodor) until his death.
Things were always destined to end badly between Jon and Ygritte. Even though Jon began developing genuine feelings for her, neither of them could actually betray their allegiances. Even the most gullible Game of Thrones fans couldn't have bought into this romance having a happy conclusion. So Jon soon abandoned the Wildlings to race back to the Night Watch and warn them of what was coming.
When the battle finally came to the Wall, there were huge casualties on both sides. Initially, all Jon knew to grieve over were the deaths of his fellow brothers on the Wall. But as the fighting began dying down and Jon went to investigate the damage on the ground, he found Ygritte taking her last breaths. It was the moment everyone had been expecting, but it didn't make it any less sad.
5 OBERYN MARTELL
After the death of Joffrey it looked like things might finally be turning around in Game of Thrones. Maybe fans thought the villains of the show would finally begin to fall and get what they deserved for all the pain they inflicted. It certainly sounded like that when the Martells arrived from Dorne seeking vengeance against Gregor Clegane. The Mountain was another one of the most evil characters on the show, so who wouldn't want him dead?
Come time for Oberyn to fight the Mountain, it looked like Oberyn had the fight well in hand. But the Dornish man's desire to hear an admittance of guilt from the Mountain about the crimes he had committed was the downfall of Oberyn. Even with Gregor repeatedly stabbed and poisoned, he found the strength to bring Oberyn down, gouge out his eyes, and crush his skull. It was one of the most grisly Game of Thrones deaths, and dashed the hopes of many fans.
It might have been overshadowed in the heat of the moment with so many characters dying at once, but when the white walkers attacked Bran, there were several sad deaths. We have already discussed Hodor and he no doubt is the one that everyone remembers. But we also saw Summer lose his life just moments before when the direwolf leapt to attack the white walkers to defend Bran.
Obviously Summer was not some deep character with tons of personality since he was just a direwolf, but this had been Bran's protector since the very first season. Summer had saved Bran when an assassin tried to murder him when he was still comatose from Jaime throwing him from a building. The death of Summer was the demise of one of the last individuals who had cared for Bran from a young age. There's no replacing that.
3 JON SNOW
You might argue that this death should not count since it was not permanent, but the emotional affects of it were real. With the death of Jon Snow the show was now in uncharted territory from the books, so nobody knew for sure if Jon was actually coming back. Sure, most people figured he would, but there was no guarantee. So, fans had to wait until the next season and just hope for the best.
For newcomers who binge-watch the series once it's finished, Jon's death likely won't have the same sting it did to everyone who had to wait all those months to find out the truth. But for the millions who have eagerly awaited each new episode, Jon's demise could have been the final nail in the coffin for the Starks getting revenge.
2 ROBERT BARATHEON
There is no doubt that Robert was not an ideal king. He was stubborn, ill-tempered, and liked to drink too much. But one thing you could say about him was that he at least cared about trying to be a good person. He wasn't out just for personal gain, and he really did try to do his best to rule justly. With Ned at Robert's side, the kingdom might have turned out okay.
Unfortunately, once Ned revealed to Cersei that he knew of her infidelity, all bets were off. Cersei did her best to arrange for Robert to have a hunting accident before he could return and hear Ned's allegations, and Robert was left barely alive after being gored by a boar. Had Robert survived, so much might have been different. Robert the person wasn't the saddest loss, but realizing his death meant so much trouble to come was a sad thing.
1 ROBB STARK
And fans thought it could not possibly get any worse than losing Ned. This was the moment the book readers had been waiting years for because they had gone through this loss long ago, and now they wanted to delight in watching their friends see it in the show. People who exclusively watch the show no doubt felt confident that while Ned had been a fake out as a protagonist that Robb was the legitimate hero of the story from now on. Then the Red Wedding proved otherwise.
From the moment the Starks entered the hall of Walder Frey, the danger of the night was palpable. Many died in the shower of crossbow bolts, and as discussed earlier, Catelyn Stark and Grey Wind were two of the casualties who died by blades. But Robb's death was harder to take because he had so much promise to triumph in the war and avenge his father. The death of Robb wasn't just the loss of a hero, it was the loss of the North's king and their stake in the war.
Were there any other deaths more gut-wrenching than these? Let us know in the comments!