|“||You are the best thing that's ever happened to me in my life. I want you to know that whatever happens, I love you more than anything in the world.||”|
— Ethan to his son, Shaun
Ethan Mars is one of the main protagonists and four playable characters (the other three being Scott Shelby, Norman Jayden, and Madison Paige) in Heavy Rain, and the central character of the game overall. Up until 2009, Ethan lived an idyllic and happy life as a successful architect alongside his loving wife Grace Mars and his two sons, Jason and Shaun Mars. However, Ethan's life took the first of two tragic turns when his son Jason was hit by a car and killed. Heavy Rain, set two years later in 2011, focuses on Ethan during the kidnapping of his second son, Shaun.
Ethan is voiced by and modeled after Pascal Langdale.
Little is known about Ethan's life prior to the events of the game. Ethan garnered fame throughout his architectural career; in concept art found in the game's artbook, it is stated that he was at one point given the title of "Young Architect of the Year." At some point, Ethan married Grace Mars and later had two sons with her; Jason and Shaun Mars.
Events of Heavy Rain
A normal day of Ethan's life is shown in "Prologue," where he helps Grace prepare for Jason's tenth birthday party. Then, in "The Mall," he and his family go shopping at a very crowded mall. Ethan agrees to watch Jason while Grace and Shaun go into a shoe store. However, Jason wanders off and finds a clown selling balloons. He begs Ethan to let him have one, and Ethan pays the clown $2 for the balloon after searching for the money in his pockets. Afterward, he discovers Jason has run off again, and searches through the mall for him. Ethan eventually finds Jason outside on the other side of the street. Hearing his father call out to him, Jason runs back across the street to him, not noticing an oncoming car. Ethan realizes the car is going to hit Jason, and he rushes toward him to try to push him out of the way. He is too late, however, and both of them are hit by the car. Ethan is plunged into a 6-month coma, while Jason is killed.
Two years later, at the beginning of "Father and Son," Ethan picks Shaun up from school. During this chapter, a rift is seen between Ethan and his remaining son; Shaun is quiet and melancholy, and Ethan is plagued by guilt over his failure to save Jason. At the end of the chapter, it's revealed that Ethan suffers strange blackouts where he loses consciousness, presumably as a result of the accident. He can later tell this to his psychiatrist in "The Shrink."
During "The Park," in an attempt to relieve both himself and Shaun of the sadness befalling both of them after Jason's death, Ethan takes Shaun to the park after school. He has the opportunity to play a few games with Shaun and buy him candy. Shaun eventually asks if he can get on the carousel, to which Ethan obliges and buys him a ticket. While watching Shaun ride the carousel, Ethan blacks out and awakens later to find the park empty, and Shaun missing. The next day in "Welcome, Norman," he reports Shaun's disappearance to the police and is asked questions by Carter Blake (and possibly Norman Jayden). Afterward, he has a short conversation with Grace.
Later, Ethan finds an envelope addressed to him containing a locker ticket for Lexington Station and a mysterious letter. Discovering that a swarm of journalists has crowded in front of his house, he manages to get to his car and drive off. Once in the station, he is overcome by his agoraphobia (intense fear of crowds) that he developed after the events at the mall. He attempts to make it through the crowd, but to no avail; his stress triggers a hallucination where he sees Jason running through the station looking for him. After recovering from the hallucination, he unlocks the locker and departs, checking into the Cross Road Motel instead of returning to his house. He begins to suspect that he has developed a split personality that is taking over and making him commit the murders.
In "The Motel," Ethan opens the box he found in the locker and discovers that Shaun has been kidnapped by the Origami Killer. Fortunately, Ethan has a chance to save his son by completing trials sent by the killer; each trial completed rewards him with a set of letters that will gradually reveal the address where Shaun is being held. With this knowledge, Ethan leaves to begin the first trial.
Ethan crosses paths with Madison Paige during "First Encounter," and she becomes his confidante over the course of the game, tending to his wounds after each trial. In "Fugitive," with help from Madison, Ethan can evade being captured by the police, who suspect him of being the Origami Killer. If Ethan is caught, he will be broken out by Norman.
During the fourth trial, Ethan confronts a man named Brad Silver, whom he has been ordered to kill. Brad attacks Ethan and shoots up his own apartment to defend himself from him, but Ethan eventually corners him in a bedroom, where Brad reveals that he is a father like Ethan - the bedroom belongs to his daughters Sarah and Cindy. Ethan can either shoot him or spare him. Either way, Ethan becomes distraught over his action or inaction in his next chapter. Madison, if she is alive, arrives to comfort him, and Ethan has the choice of kissing her or not. If he chooses to kiss her, they make love. If he doesn't kiss her, Madison apologizes and leaves. If he kissed her, he will discover her notes when trying to leave, and this will lead to him arguing with Madison. Ethan then has the choice to forgive or reject Madison. Regardless of his decision, Madison leaves. After she leaves, Ethan must flee the motel to avoid getting caught by the police again. If he is caught and Norman is dead or if he was caught twice, Ethan will be in police custody for the rest of the game. If he escapes, he goes on to complete the final trial. Depending on whether or not he has completed all of the trials, he may have to guess the correct location where Shaun is held. If he completed them all, he will automatically go to the right location. In Madison's chapter "Killer's Place," if Ethan isn't in police custody, Madison can choose to call him if she found the address. If he doesn't already have the address, Madison will give it to him.
Ethan has the most possible endings (7) of any character. These are, from worst to best, all his endings.
- Helpless - Ethan is imprisoned after he is accused of being the Origami Killer, and is completely devastated over Shaun's death. Filled with remorse and severely depressed, Ethan hangs himself in his cell. In his cell, there are dozens of origami figures; it is possible that he went mad with grief after losing Shaun and made the origami figures himself.
- Origami Blues - Ethan sits alone in a motel room, with neither Madison or Shaun at his side. Filled with grief over Shaun's death, he shoots himself in the forehead with the pistol from the shoebox. As in "Helpless," there are dozens of origami figures in his room.
- Tears in the Rain - Ethan and Madison visit Shaun's grave. Madison begs Ethan to move on and start a new family with her and he asks her for a moment to say goodbye. Madison complies and goes off to wait in the car, but turns around just in time to see Ethan draw a pistol out of his pocket and shoot himself in the head. Unable to stop him, Madison cries hysterically over his body as the scene zooms out.
- Ethan's Grave - Shaun and Grace mourn over Ethan's grave. If Scott and/or Madison are alive, they'll be seen separately in the background, quietly observing them.
- Innocent - Ethan is released from prison after his name is cleared. Shaun and Grace greet him at the police station and it is implied that Ethan and Grace will try to re-establish their relationship.
- A New Start - Ethan and Shaun move into a new condominium together and both look genuinely happy for the first time in years.
- A New Life - Ethan, Shaun and Madison move into their new condominium. It is implied that Madison and Ethan are married/dating. Madison tells Ethan that, with time, they'll learn to forget the horrible things that happened like they were just nightmares and that they've earned the right to be happy.
It should be noted that Ethan will always commit suicide if Shaun dies.
- The Mall
- Father and Son
- The Shrink
- The Park
- Where's Shaun?
- Welcome, Norman
- Lexington Station
- The Motel
- The Bear
- First Encounter
- The Butterfly
- The Nurse
- The Lizard
- Fugitive (can be arrested)
- Under Arrest (non-playable; only if arrested in "Fugitive" or "On the Loose" for the first time)
- The Shark
- On the Loose (can be arrested either temporarily or permanently)
- The Rat
- Killer's Place (voice, if called by Madison)
- The Old Warehouse (can be killed)
- Epilogue - Ethan's Grave (dead)
- Epilogue - A New Start
- Epilogue - A New Life
- Epilogue - Innocent
- Epilogue - Helpless (commits suicide)
- Epilogue - Origami Blues (commits suicide)
- Epilogue - Tears in the Rain (commits suicide)
- Epilogue - Dead Heroine (if Ethan survives)
- Main article: Trials
During the game, Ethan must partake in five trials to obtain groups of letters of an address that will ultimately lead him to his son's location.
- The Bear - Drive against traffic on the highway for five miles within five minutes.
- The Butterfly - Crawl through a tunnel filled with broken glass, then go through a maze of electrical capacitors.
- The Lizard - Cut off the last section of one of his fingers in five minutes.
- The Shark - Kill a man. (In Ethan's case, the target is a drug dealer named Brad Silver.)
- The Rat - Drink a bottle of poison that will kill him in 60 minutes/one hour. (The poison doesn't really kill him and is more a test of will from the Origami Killer to see if he is capable of making the sacrifice of himself to save Shaun.)
- Brad Silver (if he chooses, after avoiding Brad long enough for him to run out of ammo)
- Scott Shelby (if he arrives at the warehouse without Norman; if he arrives alone, he must choose to kill Scott)
- Himself (if Shaun dies)
- The Old Warehouse - If Ethan does not receive Madison's warning, he will be shot to death by the police at the entrance to the warehouse.
- Epilogue - Helpless - He will hang himself with a rope inside his prison cell.
- Epilogue - Origami Blues - He will shoot himself in the head inside a motel room.
- Epilogue - Tears in the Rain - He will shoot himself in the head near his son's grave.
- Main article: Madison and Ethan romance
Ethan can develop an intimate relationship with Madison Paige, and the player later has the option of consummating their relationship. If (forgiven) Madison and Ethan survive and Shaun is saved, Ethan will be married to Madison in "A New Life" and purchase a home, the three of them living happily ever after.
- Ethan's French dub voice actor, Bernard Gabay, is also the French voice actor for Genji in Overwatch and has also voiced Zhao in the French dub of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
- Ethan's zodiac sign is Virgo.
- Ethan is the only main character to share a birthday with the actor portraying him.
- Ethan's first name means "firm, strong, enduring, and long-lived." His last name, Mars, means "war," as it is associated with the Roman god of war.
- Ethan is similar to Lucas Kane from Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit. Both are the central protagonists, are being pursued by the police for crimes they didn't commit, and can develop a romance with the female protagonist. (Madison Paige is optional, but Carla Valenti is fated.)
- Ethan's storyline is similar to that of Kara in Detroit: Become Human. Kara's character trailers also evoked Heavy Rain's driving question, stating "How far am I prepared to go for love?".
- Pascal Langdale and Bryan Dechart (who portrays Connor in Detroit: Become Human) have stated that Ethan and Connor are similar because the player has the greatest control over who they are as protagonists compared to the other characters.
- Ethan is the second of four Quantic Dream protagonists to go on the run at some point in their games. The other three are Lucas Kane, Jodie Holmes, and Kara. Of them, Ethan is the only one able to be permanently arrested; getting arrested is a fail ending for Lucas and will force the player to restart, Jodie will use Aiden to help her escape each time she is caught, and Kara will die if the player fails to escape.
- Two years before the release of Heavy Rain, Ethan's house was depicted as being much smaller.
- On the PS4 remaster of Heavy Rain, Ethan's eyes and hair appear darker.
- The loading screen for "Father and Son" is different from any others that Ethan appears in.
- Ethan, being a family man, is not a trained fighter and gets involved in fewer fights than Madison Paige, Scott Shelby and Norman Jayden. He fights Brad Silver, a team of police officers, a taxi driver (briefly, to steal his car and escape the police) and Scott Shelby (briefly, if only he and Madison are at the warehouse).
- Out of the four main characters, Ethan has the lowest number of deaths in the game, although he has the highest number of epilogues ("Helpless," "Origami Blues," and "Tears in the Rain") in which he dies. The only chapter in which Ethan can die is "The Old Warehouse."
- Ethan has the lowest number of causes of death. Three of his four possible deaths involve getting shot and two of those involve him shooting himself.
- The only death that does not involve Ethan getting shot occurs in "Helpless," where he hangs himself with a rope.
- Three of Ethan's deaths involve him committing suicide. The only one that doesn't occurs in "The Old Warehouse," where he gets shot by the police if he goes to the warehouse alone or if Madison fails to warn him when all three characters go.
- Notably, Ethan is the only playable character who cannot be killed by another playable character, as well as the only one who can intentionally take his own life when not being controlled by the player. (The dialogue in "Smoking Mirror" suggests that Norman's fatal overdose is accidental.)
- He is one of only two main characters (the other being Scott) who cannot die before "The Old Warehouse." However, unlike Scott, he can end up skipping one chapter: "The Rat" (if he is imprisoned). This leaves Scott Shelby as the only main character who cannot skip a chapter (not counting "Goodbye Lauren").
- Ethan crosses paths with Madison numerous times, Norman four times, and Scott twice: once in "The Mall" (which is revealed in the final chapter) and once in "The Old Warehouse," although the latter chapter is the only time Ethan confronts Scott in person.
- Ethan is the only playable character who does not introduce himself using his full name at any point in the game.
- Ethan is usually called by his last name (Mars) by the other characters except for Madison and Scott, who always call him "Ethan." Blake, Ash, and Norman call him "Mr. Mars" during "Welcome, Norman," and Grace can also call him this if the player tries to flirt with her during the prologue.
- Ethan is 5' 10" (1.78 m) tall and weighs 164 lbs (74 kg). Of the four playable characters, he is the second shortest.
- Ethan possesses greater physical endurance than most of the other playable characters, aside from Scott. Throughout the course of the game, he can survive a three-story fall without causing much injury to himself if he chooses to jump off the Cross Road Motel's roof to evade the police in "On the Loose," and survive getting shocked up to four times in the second trial with only burns and a fever without experiencing any of the other typical symptoms of electric shock (such as seizures, muscle spasms, or vision problems) as well as have enough stamina left to drive himself back to the motel and remain conscious (though he is in too much pain to talk) while Madison treats his wounds. He can also survive being shot up to six times (once by a policeman if he refused to cut off his finger in "The Lizard," four times by Brad Silver, and once by the Origami Killer in the "Ethan and Madison" scenario). In the aforementioned scenario, off-screen he is able to run across the docks and climb a crane (despite briefly collapsing from blood loss due to his bullet wound) to rescue Madison just as the Origami Killer is about to finish her off.
- The only chapter where Ethan appears as a non-playable character is "Under Arrest."
- Ethan appears to like basketball, as he has the option of playing basketball in the backyard of his house during "Father and Son" and states in his thoughts that shooting hoops helps him clear his head.
- Ethan mentions in his thoughts during "Prologue" that the house he lived in as a child had a tree in its backyard that was much like the one in the backyard of the house he lived in with Grace, Jason, and Shaun.
- Ethan owns a 1986 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale, and will also drive a 1995 Pontiac Sunfire (and possibly a 1995 Chevrolet Lumina) throughout the course of the game.
- During the early stages of Heavy Rain, Ethan's blackouts were originally going to be caused by a psychic link formed between himself and the Origami Killer during the accident at the mall, and there would be playable segments consisting of Ethan swimming through a submerged house and discovering the body of one of the killer's victims. However, David Cage wanted the game to remain centered in reality, so the concept was removed a few months before development finished.
- It is implied that Ethan attempting to save Jason was what gave the Origami Killer the inspiration to begin the murders. The murders began in September 2009, according to a file Norman can look at while using ARI. No date is given for when Jason died, but dialogue in "The Old Warehouse" if Ethan is present implies that the murders started after the accident.
- Ethan is the only playable character not to appear in the Blue Lagoon nightclub.
- Ethan is one of two main characters (the other being Madison) to be playable in other characters' chapters. He is playable during one of Norman's chapters ("Welcome, Norman") and three of Madison's chapters ("First Encounter," "The Nurse," and "Fugitive").
- Scott is the only main character not to have Ethan make a playable appearance or even a cameo in his chapters.
- Ethan was voted #11 on Game Informer's "30 Characters Who Defined A Decade." He was also featured on one of the covers for the December 2010 issue.
- Even though Ethan suspects himself of being a schizophrenic, the symptoms he describes are actually more typical of dissociative identity disorder or very extreme cases of PTSD - the former of which is often wrongly associated with schizophrenia. However, he is never given a definitive diagnosis throughout the game.
- Ethan is playable in 20 chapters, the most of the four protagonists of Heavy Rain (compared with 16 for Scott, 13 for Norman, and 10 for Madison).
- Seven of the epilogues are based around him. He also appears in one of Madison's epilogues, "Dead Heroine," in which he will be seen mourning near her grave if he is alive. This gives him the largest number of endings, even though three of them revolve around him committing suicide.
- It is often believed that Ethan's storyline is the saddest, most depressing, and the most likely to induce crying. Some surveys have shown that 35% of women and 10% of men who played Heavy Rain cried at least once.
- Ethan is the only playable character who cannot be directly killed by the Origami Killer. He is also the only playable character who doesn't fight Scott when he confronts him at the warehouse (though they get into a brief struggle over Scott's gun if Madison is present and Norman is not).
- Ethan is the only playable character who will die no matter what if he goes to the warehouse alone.
- Ethan shares his first name with two protagonists who lose a finger (or a hand) throughout the course of their games: Ethan Thomas from Condemned: Criminal Origins, and Ethan Winters from Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.
- Ethan is similar in both personality and appearance to Harry Mason from Silent Hill. Both of their storylines revolve around rescuing their children. The outfit Ethan wears in "Father and Son" is similar to the outfit Harry wears throughout Silent Hill.
- Ethan and Madison are the only playable characters who can take a shower in the game (though Norman Jayden, during one of his chapters, can resist his Triptocaine addiction by sitting in a running shower).
- Ethan only murders two people, neither of whom he is required to kill. This makes him tied with Madison as the least murderous of all four characters (not counting the events of The Taxidermist).
- Ethan's penis can be fully exposed through an unusual glitch during his shower scene.
- Ethan's, Scott's, and John Sheppard's graves are the only ones shown of the central characters in the game not to have an inconsistency on them. Madison's grave lists her birth year incorrectly, Shaun's grave lists his date of birth incorrectly, and others (such as Lauren's or Norman's) are not shown at all.
- Ethan is given a stainless steel Taurus PT92 by the Origami Killer to use in the Shark Trial.
- If Ethan arrives at the warehouse alone and chooses to shoot Scott, he will have a justified expression on his face after killing him, showing that he does not feel remorse for killing Scott. This is in stark contrast to the Shark Trial, in which Ethan will vomit from the shock and gravity of killing a man if he chooses to shoot the drug dealer, and later be upset to the point of crying about it in "On the Loose."
- In the trophy list, 24 trophies are directly related to his chapters. This gives him the most trophies connected to him.
- "One second. The blinking of an eye. A breath. Enough to change the course of a life. We only know how much we love someone when we know what we're willing to sacrifice. I never asked myself that kind of question without knowing why, without asking myself how far I would be prepared to go for love. Sometimes...it's better not to know." - Ethan's narration in the Gamescom 2009 "For Love" trailer.
- "Everything I did, I did for love."
- (Choosing not to kill the drug dealer.) "I'm a father too... But I'm no killer."
- (Choosing to kill the drug dealer.) "I'm a father too... But I have no choice."
- "Where are you Shaun?"
- (To Madison, if she tells him that he seems to lead a dangerous life.) "It's not the one I chose."
- "I gotta get out of here, I gotta save my son."
- "I don't know what to say."
- "I thought I meant something to you."
- (After discovering Madison is a journalist and kept notes on him and the case.) "I should have guessed. All this time, and I had no idea...."
- "You're a pretty good nurse for a fucking journalist!"
- "You lied to me, Madison! All this time you fucking lied to me! I thought you wanted to help me, but you were only thinking of writing a fucking book?"
- "What kind of article were you going to write? 'My life with a serial killer?' No, no, 'How I caught the Origami Killer?' Maybe you'll get a book deal. I hope it was FUCKING worth it!"
- (If he rejects Madison after discovering she is a journalist.) "You lied to me. I trusted you and you used me. I will never be able to trust you again."
- (Apologizing to Madison for his anger towards her.) "Listen, I'm sorry I didn't trust you. I was only thinking about Shaun and I thought...."
- (To Madison.) "If you want to help me, leave. Leave me to do this on my own."
- (To Madison, if they are the only two at the warehouse and he rejected her or didn't kiss her earlier.) "What are you doing here? Still looking for a story?"
- "You had a right to be angry, I wasn't nice to you either."
- "To the last Origami figure, the last letters then I know where Shaun is."
- "The last Origami figure, the last trial."
- "I'll find you Shaun, I'll figure out a way, and I'll come and get you."
- "I'm nowhere and I'm out of time. Damn fucking shitty letters from this fucking, fucking address. Come on! There's gotta be a way to do this!!!"
- "Several different addresses fit these letters... God. They're scattered all over the city, I don't have time to check them all."
- "I may only have time for one address. If Shaun's not there, I'm done. It's a crapshoot."
- "If I succeed I'll get more letters for the hangman. It's my only lead. No turning back now."
- "I can do it, I'd do anything to save my son."
- "No one's gonna stop me from saving my son."
- "All those murders, just to find a father capable of saving his son?"
- "You got what you wanted. I finished your trials, now let us go."
- "Shaun! Shaun, can you hear me? Daddy's here. I'm gonna get you out of there."
- "I finished your damn trials, now give me back my son."
- "Cut off a finger?! No way!"
- "I kidnapped my son. But I can't remember what happened."
- (To Blake about Shaun's whereabouts.) "I told you, I don't know. I would already have saved him if I knew where he was!"
- "I'm the only one that can save him. If you keep me here, Shaun is going to die."
- "You're mad! You're completely FUCKING MAD!"
- (About Scott.) "I'm not his judge. I leave him with his demons."
- "Jason, NOOOO!!"
- (To Madison, if he chose to spare the drug dealer in the Shark Trial, or failed the trial altogether.) "I couldn’t do it. I was supposed to kill him to save Shaun, and I couldn't do it."
- (To Madison, if he chose to kill the drug dealer in the Shark Trial.) "I......I killed a man. I had no choice.....I had no choice!"
- (To Madison, after she tells him that she can prove he is not the Origami Killer.) "That changes nothing. Saving Shaun is all that matters now."
- (To Scott, if he chooses to spare him when he goes to the warehouse alone.) "You manipulated me but now it's over. I have my son. You have no power over me anymore. You're going to have to face up to your nightmares on your own, now."
- (To Shaun in one of his endings, when he asks Ethan to promise he'll never leave him again.) "I promise, son....I never will again."