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In our lives as explorers of virtual worlds, we’ve all come across our fair share of shocking moments. Whether it is the death of a beloved character, a plot twisting at the speed of a hurricane, or a moment that takes you by complete surprise, gaming has a way of making us go “HOLY SHIT”. This is a top 10 list dedicated to those very moments, from my own Point of View.

I’ve compiled a little spoiler list, in alphabetic order, so you won’t get any unpleasant surprises, though the newest game on the list released in 2013. We’ve got some MAJOR spoilers in here so you might want to check the list, just to be on the safe side!

[toggle title=”SPOILERS FOR THE FOLLOWING GAMES ON THE TOP 10 LIST” state=”close” ]IN ALPHABETIC ORDER:

Batman: Arkham City, Bioshock, Bioshock: Infinite, CoD 4: Modern Warfare, CoD: Modern Warfare 2, Fallout 3, Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid 3, Metroid, Red Dead Redemption, Spec Ops : The Line, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, The Last of Us. [/toggle]

If you’re all good with the spoilers, then join me for a stroll down memory lane!

 


Number 10:

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – A Mortal Protagonist

Shock and Awe Cod 4 modern warfare death

Sgt. Paul Jackson and his squad-mates are coming to the rescue of other military forces as they attempt to capture the big baddy in some vaguely described middle-eastern country. All is going great, at least for a time, however the mood quickly changes as all forces must be evacuated on the basis of a nuclear threat. You haul all your asses back to the helicopter to get the hell of Al-sha-Dodge, but as you think your mission is successfully completed, you see an all too recognizable sight in the distance.

The nuclear bomb goes off, your helicopter crashes horribly… But there you are! Sgt. Paul Jackson, bravely climbing out the wreckage among the bodies of your fallen comrades. Surely, you’ll get on your feet and live to fight another day… Surely!!

This, however, was not the case, which became clearer and clearer as the world seemed to slowly fade away. Previously in the FPS genre, the hero of your game was always invincible. An unkillable machine of mass destruction. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare presented us with a rude awakening, presenting us a plot tool they would use multiple times in the future. However, this very dramatic death, and the desperate crawl of a dying soul, has not been forgotten.


Number 9:

Fallout 3 – Nuking Megaton 

Megaton explosion power of atom

 

Very few images of shocking moments are, perhaps, as instantly recognizable as the very moment represented above. The quest, aptly named “The Power of Atom”, was one of the moments that cemented the power of choice that the player had at his disposal in Fallout 3. Having the destructive force of a nuclear bomb available at the tip of your finger, having the choice of permanently razing a city to the ground, effectively killing all the NPCs inside, was an incredibly tempting situation.

Making, what was arguably the most morally horrific decision in gaming for a mere 500 bottle-caps (1000 if you pass the speech option at the start of the quest) and a disappointing suite at the Tenpenny Tower, was… Well, it was definitely something.

Not until the button had been pressed and the nuclear warhead had been armed did I fully understand the consequences of my actions. Seeing the mushroom cloud stretch towards the skies above the place where Megaton had once resided was a horrific (yet oddly beautiful) sight that I will not forget anytime soon.


Number  8:

Metal Gear Solid 3 – Firing the Boss 

Death of the boss MGS3

Metal Gear Solid is a series filled with insane moments, all fueled by the brilliant (and crazy, but in a good way) mind of Hideo Kojima. After a very confusing story-line filled with betrayal, regular agents, double agents, triple agents, and god knows what other kinds of agents, MGS 3 had me wondering what the hell was going on. There was one moment that was easily understood, though.

The death of The Boss at the hand of her apprentice Naked Snake was one of those moments that’ll stay with you. After fighting The Boss in a beautiful field of flowers, you would stand above her, while the game ruthlessly waited for you to pull the trigger. There was no way out of it. It had to be done.

The flowers turning red was a fitting addition to a shocking and sad, yet very beautiful and poetic scene, and though the story makes little sense to me when looking back on Metal Gear Solid 3, this is a moment that anyone can feel the weight of.


Number  7:

Red Dead Redemption – The End of John Marston’s Journey

John Marston death

Seeing John Marston get shot to bits and pieces at the end of Red Dead Redemption was traumatic. The man had (in my playthrough) found redemption and was finally turning his life around, trying his hand at being a regular rancher. But the past has a way of catching up with you, as John Marston had to realize as he faced his destiny by way of gunfire.

Guiding his son and wife to safety, he walks through the barn door without fear, looking his executioners in the eyes. Impactful is not even the word, and avenging Marston as his son (whom you get to play as when John dies) is more satisfying than it has any right to be.


Number 6 :

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – No Russian 

No Russian elevator sceneFew scenes in gaming have ever been as widely discussed, criticized, advocated against, or perhaps even mentioned in mainstream media as this one. The “No Russian” mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 rivals the controversy of even the biggest media darling ‘Grand Theft Auto’. And sure enough, this was one hell of a moment, introducing you to what is a brilliantly paced campaign, filled with awesome set-pieces and high-octane action.

But the sheer insanity of the situation, being undercover, shooting a plethora of unarmed civilians in an airport with a bunch of Russian terrorists, all in a lifelike environment most of us have found ourselves in, was… Shocking!

COD: MW 1 and 2 represent the golden age of Call of Duty, revitalizing the shooter genre, spawning clones left, right, and center, making every FPS ape the systems that had proven ridiculously successful. Many have called out Activision and Infinity Ward for taking the safe route over the past couple of years, however, people seem to forget this scene in MW 2.

It is, by far, one of the most memorable moments in a first person shooter. Even now, 5-6 years later, most are still afraid to do a scene like this. Met with controversy from seemingly everywhere, it was brave, new, horrifying, unexpected and unbelievable.


Number 5:

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Darth Malak’s Reveal

KOTOR Revan Reveal“You know that evil Sith Lord whose tracks you’ve been following throughout the whole game, right?” “Yeah what about him?” “You’re that guy”

So, that happened, and it was incredible and insane. My young self was absolutely gobsmacked at this discovery, firmly establishing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic as one of my favorite games of all time. It is a classic Bioware RPG, featuring choices galore, and you were left with some very important choices in the end. Whatever you chose for the end of your adventure, one thing was certain: you weren’t going to forget that reveal for some time, and the second playthrough was definitely interesting. I felt quite a bit less guilty for turning to the dark side of the force, knowing that I was actually a powerful, and arguably evil, Sith Lord.

Going through the game, tracking down leads to follow Darth Revan through much of the known galaxy, and then finally confronting the ultimate evil, Darth Malak, only to have the world turned upside down. A brilliant moment that completely changed my perception of the game, not unlike what we would later see in Bioshock  and Bioshock Infinite.


Number 4:

The Last Of Us – The End

The Last of Us Hospital End

The climactic, hectic, stressful, and emotionally charged ending of The Last of Us was as heart-poundingly wonderful/horrifying as anyone could have hoped. After spending hours with the characters of the game, a medical procedure, with the goal to save all of humanity, was threatening the strong bond that had formed between not just us gamers and the on-screen characters, but also the bond between the characters themselves. Through the seasons, in the winter snow, with great danger threatening both their lives, our two unlikely heroes had braved through all manner of dangers, but they found themselves threatened by the very goal they had fought to achieve all along.

The undeniable love between Joel and Ellie, their father-daughter relationship… It was vibrant, interesting, humorous, exhilarating and most important of all: human. Faced with the loss of the only person he had allowed himself to love since the death of his own daughter, Joel made a choice that has been heavily debated by gamers around the world. Choosing to save Ellie from a medical procedure that would kill her, but give the Fireflies a chance (however slim it might have been) to cure the fungus that had torn the world apart, was an extreme action.

Going through all the effects of shock, I saw no option but to shoot all the doctors that had planned to end the life of what had become a dear friend of mine. Fleeing through the halls of the hospital with a weakened Ellie in my arms was one of the most incredible moments of my gaming life, and the confrontation in the parking basement was absolutely insane, however, it would not be the end. Seeing Ellie waking up in the car was incredible, and the infamous “last conversation” was an absolute masterclass in videogame storytelling.


Number  3:

Bioshock – Would You Kindly? 

Would You Kindly

Entering the waters of Rapture for the first time is something that most of us have yet to forget. The atmosphere of the original Bioshock is second to none, and the unique world that Irrational Games crafted was an absolute pleasure (though it often scared me to death) to traverse through. It is one of the few games that had me so captivated with the world and the story that I listened through every single audio log I could find just to get another tiny taste of what the world had to offer.

I remember going into the game not knowing much about it since I had dodged all the press info on purpose. What I found was an absolutely amazing experience that opened many an eye to what games, as a medium, could do in terms of story-telling that no other form of entertainment could pull off.

What I found was one of the cleverest storylines I had ever witnessed, and I was amazed when the secret was finally revealed. Discovering the truth behind the the origins of Jack Ryan (the protagonist), that Jack was the son of Andrew Ryan (The visionary behind Rapture), and that you are only 2 years old  (pumped full of Adam by Dr. Tennembaum and shot into adulthood… Shocking stuff right?) sent to the surface only to wait for the signal to return. You then crashed your own plane, went to Rapture to kill your own dad, kill the guy who made you who you are (and the guy who guided you through your entire journey, called Atlas, who turned out to be Fontaine all along!). Fontaine had been controlling Jack, using the now legendary phrase “Would you Kindly?” as a mind control technique.

A shocking end to a shockingly great game, which is widely regarded as a modern classic, and a big part of that, I suspect, is down to the reveal at the end.


Number 2:

Batman: Arkham City – Death of the Joker

Death of the Joker Batman Arkham City

“Confusing, isn’t it? I know I’d want to know just what the hell is going on if I were you” – Mark Hamill as Joker in Batman: Arkham City

There are those that deny this ever happened, but I’m in the camp that believes the Joker dies at the end of Arkham City. Figuring out that the guy you thought was the Joker was really Clayface all along, after the real Joker shoots your girl, was confusing in itself. What followed this reveal was an awesomely designed boss battle with Clayface, chopping him to little icy pieces. The battle is then taken underground as Batman fights Clayface (in all his different shapes).

It all culminates in an unbelievable cutscene, showing the final moments of a character that is, arguably, the most iconic villain of all time. As Batman carries his nemesis out of the theater, through the crowds of thugs, through the gates to the police cars on the other side, the choir is singing and light envelopes the silhouette of the caped crusader and the body of his best and worst enemy. Lying his corpse on the police car next to Gordon, Batman silently walks away.

The death of such an absolutely iconic character that many of us have grown up with was a bitter pill to swallow. Some argue that Joker is not really dead, but no matter what the truth is, this moment was absolutely chilling, seemingly impossible, and heartbreaking, all at the same time.


Number 1:

Bioshock Infinite – The Comstock Reveal

Elizabeth drowning Booker Bioshock InfiniteIf the ending of the original Bioshock made your brain hurt, then you must have found yourself in a world of pain around the time Bioshock Infinite closed it’s curtains. Like its predecessor, Infinite had a wealth of memorable moments. I, for one, can still clearly remember the barber shop quartet singing Beach Boys’ beautiful “God Only Knows”, CCR’s “Fortunate Son” blasting through tears and the mouth of an old lady, the very first kill of the game, but more vividly than anything else, I remember the death of Booker DeWitt, or should I say Comstock?

There were a lot of confusing things about the ending of Bioshock Infinite. The parallel universes, the time-traveling, the whole lighthouse presentation. I’ll admit, I had to look up that part of it afterwards, but there was one thing that was as clear as the water I was drowned in. Booker DeWitt was Comstock, the illusive figure I had been chasing throughout the game. The big bad antagonist and the good ol’ warhero protagonist were one and the same. This realization came swiftly, struck my jaw, and left it dangling inches above the ground as I, in silent amazement and horror, watched a number of different Elizabeths hold me beneith the waters that had once baptized me, ending the never-ending cycle.

I might use the saying “my jaw dropped” a few times while writing, just occasionally, but this is probably the only time my jaw actually dropped and was left completely loose and numb. I still remember the feeling of complete helplessness and surprise. And that is why Bioshock Infinite gets the Number 1 spot on My Top 10 Most Shocking Gaming Moments


Honorable Mentions: Final Fantasy VII (The Death of Aerith), Metroid (The Reveal of Samus Aran), Gears of War 2 (Dom’s wife. You know what I’m talking about) 

I chose these moments exclusively from games that I have played, so I might have missed some of your favorite moments because I simply haven’t played the games (Such as Spec Ops: The Line, for instance). Instead of making a definitive top 10 list, I wanted to give you my take on the most shocking gaming moments of my gaming life. My very own Point Of View. I hope you enjoyed the list!

*Thanks to Stephen Snook for fixing the featured image! It is much appreciated!

What did you think about the list? Would you like to see me do more POVs? Did I miss your most shocking gaming moment? Tell me your most shocking gaming moments in the comments below!


Marc Henriksen

I played my first video game when I was 4 years old and I haven't looked back since. If you can't find me playing videogames, writing, or playing music, I'm probably dead.



  • Guest

    Just a heads up. The Red Dead alternate ending video is a fake.

  • Marc Henriksen

    Well that is disappointing 😀 Thanks for the heads up though.

  • Yosharian

    Gears of War 2? Really? 0-o

  • BoB

    I think part of what made Red Dead Redemption an amazing ending was both that it was interactive, and what preceded it. You could do all your little tricks, kill a bunch of dudes … But there is no way you are making it out of that barn alive. And what preceded it was like, half an hour (or something really long like that) of very simple “life on the farm” gameplay. The game really lulled you. And just about the time you’re starting to wonder if this is how the game ends, it jerks that rug out from under you.

    (That’s also why I’m taken aback to see Bioshock: Inifnite on the same list as RDR haha. That game was … not good.)

  • Marc Henriksen

    If you’ve played Gears 2 you’ll know why it’s in here. We have a game about Bros murdering aliens, and all of a sudden *SPOILERS* Dom, trying to save his wife, finds that she is nothing but a husk. And he has to put her down.

    A seriously dark, shocking moment in a game that keeps it somewhat light (though it is gritty). That’s why it’s so shocking. I don’t think anyone was expecting something that disturbing or deep from a 3rd person bro shooter. But maybe that’s just me 😀

  • Anonymoose

    And all of them only within the last 12 years?

    Plebeian.

  • Inquiring

    Interesting list, don’t share your opinion about some of them —for example, I found the KotOR reveal to be insultingly pandering, as well as most of the game, since its “creativity” was composed completely off “Don’t you remember something like this from the movies?!” like a shitty Family Guy episode— but to each their own.

  • Boatly

    Here’s a random sampling of some of my favorite moments in gaming:

    Final Fantasy Tactics (PSX)
    This game is just full of crazy plot twists and incredible character character development. I remember the first time I played through the game and Cardinal Draclau uses the Zodiac Stone to transform into Lucavi… I was absolutely terrified. I was so scared for my party. I had grown very attached and I watched them all die. Gah, I love that game.

    Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
    When Terra and the others gather for the peace conference between themselves and Emperor Gestahl and Kefka, only to be betrayed by them, I was shocked. When Kefka killed Gestahl and tore the world apart, I was horrified. Exploring the aftermath of Kefka’s madness, the scarred and blasted world that remained, I committed, as a human being, not a player, that I would not let Kefka get away with it. I became so personally attached to that game’s world, that I swore vengeance on a digital, fictional character. To this day, I believe Kefka to be the best villain I’ve ever encountered in any type of fiction.

    Homeworld (PC)
    I believe the first time I was ever moved to tears was one particular scene in Homeworld. The Mothership returns from testing its hyperdrive, ready to begin its journey to the Hiigarans’ homeworld, only to find that their current world, Kharak, is burning – everything destroyed except for a handful of cryo trays with sleeping people. The music and overall presentation of this scene and mission were simply overwhelming. The level of pathos that Relic managed to pack into that scene is unbelievable.

    Descent: Freespace – The Great War (PC)
    Freespace awed me in so many ways when I first played it. This is the game that showed me what video games were capable of and what I could expect to see in the future of the industry. The first time I saw an Orion cruiser jump into the system, I was absolutely dumbfounded. The sheer size of the thing was amazing. I probably spent half an hour just flying around the damn thing.

  • Yosharian

    Lame moment from a lame series, but just my opinion.

    Just seems out of place amongst these other games.

  • Well… yeah. Looking back on it now the twist isn’t so impressive, but in the context of gaming at that time, it blew my little mind. Knights of the Old Republic 2 on the other hand is fantastic and still holds up (because of course it does, Obsidian made it), but its ‘one moment’ is a ten minute dialogue and exposition showdown where all parties reveal their cards. Doesn’t exactly imprint itself in the head of a kid. In fact I didn’t really love that game till many years afterwards. Being constantly berated by a parent figure? Teenagers play games to get away from that!