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!
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – A Mortal Protagonist
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.
Fallout 3 – Nuking Megaton
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.
Metal Gear Solid 3 – Firing the Boss
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.
Red Dead Redemption – The End of John Marston’s Journey
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
Few 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.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Darth Malak’s Reveal
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.
The Last Of Us – The 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.
Bioshock – 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.
Batman: Arkham City – Death of the Joker
“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.
Bioshock Infinite – The Comstock Reveal
If 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!