I’ve never been one to get overly demonstrative with my games, but I was recently reminded of just how powerful a single event in a game can be. Whether it’s a moment that makes you laugh, makes you cry, or makes you scream out in joy or anger, great games have them. Sometimes our reactions to them are severely personal. Other times they reflect inclusiveness and a sense of community. What’s bringing out this list from me, now, is the Mass Effect trilogy, which I recently completed (yay!). While I had played the three games at the times of their releases, not until now had I played them back to back. While doing so didn’t change any of my sentiments towards the games (they are all-time favorites), it did change the way I viewed the story of my Commander Shepard. The process, and one singular moment made me reflect, and then write. So here’s my top five most emotional moments in my personal gaming history.
Spoiler alert! Seeing as how most emotional moments in any form of media tend to come at the end of things or reveal major plot points, this list is rife with spoilers of all sorts!
5. Captain Anderson’s finale salute in Mass Effect 3
So here’s the moment to blame for this entire post. But what a moment it is. It can be difficult sometimes to represent death in a game without it feeling hokey and contrived. Death happens frequently in the Mass Effect universe. And maybe there are moments that feel a bit more personal than this one, especially since the game allows you to get up close and personal with your teammates. Captain David Anderson isn’t one of your teammates, but he is a character that permeates all three games. Sometimes he’s in the driver’s chair, and sometimes he’s in the backseat, but he’s always there, and he’s among your biggest supporters. His demise at the end of the third game isn’t exactly a shocker, but he says some incredibly heartfelt words to Shepard just before his death, and that’s what brings on the waterworks.
4. Getting all 120 stars in Super Mario 64
Finding all 120 stars in Super Mario 64 wasn’t the first I found myself both supremely happy and relieved in a game, but it was the first time that I actively strove for a single goal in a game. And it’s not like getting all the stars got you some sort of “tangible” reward…though, okay, you got to meet Yoshi who gives you a bunch of extra lives, so that was cool. But what really came with it was a fantastic sense of accomplishment. It also marked the first time that I sought to get all of something in a Mario game. Because previous game like Super Mario World has special coins to find, but I never remember caring much about going after all of them. Something about those stars in Super Mario 64 called out to me. And I just had to have them all! (And I got them!)
3. The Joker‘s death in Batman: Arkham City
I will freely admit that I did not expect to get caught up in Batman: Arkham City’s story. My knowledge of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego didn’t extend much beyond the 1960s TV show and the movies that later followed. I also thought that because I hadn’t played the first game, Batman: Arkham Asylum, I’d probably miss out on lots of story references. However, I ended up latching on unexpectedly tight to the Joker’s plight/self-imposed situation, which was amazingly told and remarkably poignant, in Arkham City. The devil really is in the details of the game, and when Batman carried the deceased villain out of his lair and into the daylight, I choked up. The whole scene felt alive with tragedy and, and a strangely respectful way, triumph.
2. Shulk and Fiora reunite in Xenoblade Chronicles
Xenoblade Chronicles is a game filled with powerful moments. But the first one that really hit me right in the feels was seeing protagonist Shulk and his close childhood friend Fiora back together again. Shulk and Fiora’s relationship is sweetly set up at the game’s beginning, and then it takes a very tragic turn with her death early on. From then till the reunion, Shulk’s actions are driven in part by Fiora’s untimely demise. When he finds out the truth about Fiora, that she’s not only alive but has been “reincarnated” as a mechon (the game’s primary antagonists), it’s all he can do to save her. After a formidable and intense battle, the two wash up on a beach together. For much the scene, Fiora is out cold, and Shulk does his best to help revive her. Much as with any good fairy tale, he ends up “kissing” her (in an effort to transfer to her some water), and she wakens. Considering what the two of them have been through, that moment is awash in nothing less than tears of joy.
1. The end of Super Metroid
The battle ensues and feels hopeless. There you are, as Samus, battling the final form of Mother Brain, the worst and most deadly cohort of the space pirates. You’ve used up all your missiles trying to defeat her, and you are exhausted. And that moment when Samus as nothing left, she strikes. Mother Brain lets loose with a terrible death beam that repeatedly saps away your energy. And just when you think you’re about to “walk into the light,” a savoir appears. It’s a metroid! Not just any metroid, but the one you saved right at the start of the game, only now it’s full grown and mighty powerful. It remembers you; it wants to help you. So it latches onto Mother Brain just as she’s about to release her final ray of death, and it proceeds to drain her and the beams’ energies! Once done, the metroid transfers all that new-found energy to you (and with it comes a powerful new weapon). However, during the process, Mother Brain comes back to life. As the metroid works with Samus, Mother Brain begins to heartlessly pummel it. The metroid finishes, and just as it is about to strike again, Mother Brain kills it. You have no time to mourn, for with the metroid’s help, you are able to defeat Mother Brain and make your final escape.
Folks, even after twenty-two years, that ending gets me every time. It simply does not get any better than that.
What are some of your favorite or most memorable emotional moments in games?