As a pastime enjoyed by many all over the world, gaming has offered us some of the most impactful moments ever experienced. Whilst TV and film are perhaps still the more popular forms of entertainment these days, video games allow us to engage with characters, events and stories in a far more immersive way.
Thinking about some of these games brought me to this: a list of my top ten gaming moments. Yes, there are omissions that will make you want to kidnap me and force me to re-write this article like that It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia episode, but a list like this is almost completely subjective. There are moments here that defined genres and ones that are purely iconic, though there are also moments that affected me as a gamer the most.
So, here are what I believe to be the top ten gaming moments…with some spoilers!
Few games blend humour and ridiculous gun-slinging as successfully as Borderlands 2 does. Constant comedic scenarios and lines of dialogue combined with a choice of over a “bazillion” guns prevent the game from falling into generic territory. However, no single point in the game brings all of these aspects together better than the final boss battle between the player, the Vault Hunter, and the egotistical Handsome Jack. Upon defeating his secret weapon ‘The Warrior’, the player is inundated with a plethora of new loot and the sound of ‘How You Like Me Now?’ by The Heavy. The song in particular suits the game perfectly and I’ve played through this final boss many times just to watch my allies strut their stuff to the music as I snatch up that precious rocket launcher. Proving that games don’t need to be serious or make any sense to be fun, Borderlands 2 takes the number ten spot here.
9. TimeSplitters 2 – Multiplayer
The TimeSplitters franchise is one that is close to my heart as a gamer. Many an hour has been spent with my friends and relatives playing on the wacky multiplayer modes across all three of the games, and still I await the announcement of a long-overdue fourth installment.
The best, though, is undoubtedly the second game. Want to play as a squid against a group of flare gun-toting ducks? You can. Want to pit two teams of gingerbread men together to fight over zones around an outer-space station? Sure, why not. The possibilities are endless here, and the ability to unlock even crazier characters through a challenge mode just adds to the games’ longevity. Take into account the multiplayer map maker and you’ve got probably the most established and definitive first person shooter since GoldenEye.
8. BioShock Infinite – Lighthouses,Lighthouses, Lighthouses
From a gameplay standpoint, Infinite is flawed. But that’s another story. The plot’s writing is mostly superb and totally intriguing; the game gives almost no obvious clues as to where the characters are headed until its final act, and it’s close to impossible to even take a stab at the mind-boggling conclusion that has won Booker and Elizabeth’s journey so much press. Arguably the ending is a bit too brain-destroying than thought-provoking, sending most people to internet forums for answers rather than to an insight into their own being, but it’s hard to debate that Infinite‘s story is – despite the flaws – a masterpiece in an industry suffocated with bland, unimaginative shooters.
7. Gears of War – Multiplayer
This one’s probably quite controversial. Sure, Gears takes a lot of flack for its testosterone-fuelled super-soldiers taking on big alien grunts with huge…everythings, but the first game in the series (released at the beginning of the Xbox 360’s generation) has a brilliantly tight and competitive online multiplayer that is hard – or maybe not so hard – to put down.
But that’s what’s so good about it. Gears of War is a game that takes skill to play; one that doesn’t cater for the jack of all trades. Get to grips with the staple weapons – notably the Gnasher shotgun – and you can have some of the most adrenaline-inducing fun in any video game out there. If the slightly generic campaign doesn’t tickle your fancy, please don’t be put off. Pick up the online multiplayer and stick with it. You won’t be disappointed.
6. Amnesia: The Dark Descent…Or At Least What You Can Bear Of It
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years then you’ve still probably heard about Amnesia: The Dark Descent. An indie game that has taken the PC by storm – and spawned an upcoming sequel – is up there as one of the most chilling experiences in gaming history.
The atmospherics of the castle in which the game takes place, coupled with the vulnerability of your character and his lantern companion, play in unison with your mind as you attempt to avoid jaw less monsters that roam the corridors. Your only defence against the mutants are wooden doors and boxes to barricade yourself in ‘safe’ rooms to wait out their investigation. No game before Amnesia (or since) has filled me with as much dread, and if you can make it past the first few encounters with the inhabitants of the castle, then don’t expect to last much longer. It’s these meetings with the undead that take the number six spot.
5. Red Dead Redemption – “The Last Enemy That Shall Be Destroyed” (SPOILERS)
As a fan of Westerns, I was amazed at how well Rockstar did with Red Dead Redemption, considering they’re not exactly known for storytelling. From the setting right down to the story arc, the gameplay to the voice acting, everything was next to perfection, and its unabashed-but-classic Sergio Leone plot was carried by the best character development I’ve seen in a game. Many would argue that Infinite did this better with the relationship between Booker and Elizabeth, but I honestly didn’t feel the same way about them as I did about John Marston.
The ‘final’ mission of the game – in all its paralysing shock – is a somewhat apt fate for John as he comes face-to-face with the law that he has so often evaded. It’s not just the unexpectedness of his fate that places this moment at number five, however. You become John Marston over the course of what is a lengthy game, and to see him fall to his knees in the manner that he does to protect his family is tear-jerking. Aided by some excellent pacing by Rockstar, John’s final moments in Red Dead are some of the most grief-ridden in gaming history.
An honourable mention here should also go to John’s entrance into Mexico about halfway through the game. As he rides across the open desert on a horse, the sun sets and a fitting acoustic track by Jose Gonzalez foreshadows the game’s conclusion.
Crash Bandicoot 2 was the first console game that I ever played. Just for that reason, it’s got a place on my list. But not only was it my introduction to video games, the franchise has gradually become one of my all-time favourites. (If you don’t like Crash Bandicoot then you need to think yourself over).
As a platformer it was kind of a big deal; it was looked upon as a defining game in its genre as it took what the first outing did and made it ten times better. The controls were more fluid, the levels more visually and physically engaging and the boss fights more memorable. And that’s where I chose to look for its highlight.
I couldn’t really pick between the mid-warp room encounters, but I distinctly remember the showdown with Tiny Tiger being deceivingly difficult. The goal was to jump from platform to platform as the Cheetos dude followed your moves and, when the ground gave way, hope that he went down with it. Other boss fights were fun, but it was extra rewarding watching Tiny finally fall down the hole that I had plummeted down so many times before him. Oh, and not to mention the games’ AWESOME soundtrack.
3. Super Mario Bros. – Level 1-1
I don’t know if people would call this game the greatest of all time, but the first level of Super Mario Bros. is surely as iconic as they get. From the introductory Goomba to the final jump to the flag, this level in particular will bring back memories for people of many generations. Don’t forget the hidden 1Up!
2. Pokémon – Does Anyone Pick The Grass Type?
Picking your sidekick in whichever version of the game you’re playing is the most important decision you make in Pokémon as a child…or as an adult. I fell in love with Pokémon Silver when I was about seven years old, and as I watched my Totodile evolve into a level 100 Feraligatr I witnessed the creation of eternal memories in the process.
Seriously though, Pokémon is a game that is constantly evolving like the creatures that bring it to life. One that transcends time and is still adored to this day. Most importantly, that strange feeling of determination you get as you come face to face with the champion of the Elite Four all stems back to what could be the most magical moment in any gamer’s career.
Whether you choose the fire or the water Pokémon (nobody chooses the grass type), just make sure you cherish that moment forever!
1. Tomb Raider – The Palace Midas Trap
My number one moment is another one which I’ll probably get called out on, but let me explain.
The Palace Midas level comes fairly early on in the original Tomb Raider game and by this point players are probably accustomed to the shocks and unexpected obstacles that are thrown at them; or at least they think they are.
Upon entering one of the level’s first rooms, Lara Croft is greeted by a fallen statue of none other than King Midas from Greek mythology (who was both blessed and cursed with the power to turn anything he touched to gold) – one of the stone hands lies on its back. Some more attentive players will see an obvious trap; others will kick themselves as they jump into the statue’s hand and allow Lara to meet her fate. The halting of the room’s eerie music leaves us with one final, haunting moan from Lara as she watches herself gradually turn to gold.
Perhaps the appearance of the T-Rex earlier in the game is more iconic, but this utter stroke of genius on the developers’ part is my personal favourite gaming moment of all time. I guess you could say it wins the gold…