Gaming is why we are here, and it's memorable scenes like the 25 Most Astonishing Moments in Video Games which remind us why we love writing, reading, thinking and reflecting about the emotions we have felt with a controller in our hand. These scenes have made us laugh, cry, hate, and, most importantly, smile at what we have witnessed on the pixelated screen. So saddle up with us and try to account for every breathtaking spectacle as we explore the 25 Most Astonishing Moments in Video Games.
Chased by a Dragon
In this 1979 Atari 2600 classic, you had to locate a sacred chalice and return it to the golden castle. But procuring the chalice was no easy task as players had to explore three castles with varying degrees of mazes to navigate in each room. As players explored these three castles, they would encounter dragons, which would chase your character and fly through all the obstacles you had to navigate around until it would finally eat you. While gaming was relatively simple in the late '70s, Adventure was fairly complex when compared to its contemporaries. Being chased by a dragon was one of the first instances of incorporating frenzied-panic into gaming. The fright brought on by the dragons of Adventure, and its visible influences throughout the medium (like the Phantos key-guardians in Super Mario Bros. 2), are only a few reasons why Adventure kicks off our list of the 25 Most Astonishing Moments of Video Games.
Kill Screen / Glitched Time Limit
The competitive nature in which some people play Donkey Kong can be downright obsessive. Unfortunately, there are game-breaking glitches, which are ironically called "Kill Screens", still plaguing arcade editions to this day. In Donkey Kong, there is a kill screen which occurs on level 22. Both G4 and The King of Kong documentary each filmed professional competitor Steve Wiebe as he attempted to break the Donkey Kong world record, but was unfortunately cut short both times by the level 22 kill screen. Donkey Kong's kill screen breaks the game by a calculation error which breaks the bonus score and sets it to zero (which is also the time limit), whereas the bonus score would normally wind down the longer it took Mario to reach the highest platform.
Marion is no Peach
Princess Peach might not mind having both Mario and Luigi each be her main man, but Marion isn't planning on two-timing the Lee twins. Double Dragon arcade players were surprised to see that they had to fight each other at the end of the game for her affections. For a girl who was punched in the stomach by a gang leader, Marion sure had a gang-like mentality in forcing Jimmy and Billy Lee to fight each other to the death in order to decide who would take her to the police station/hospital/mental ward.
One of the greatest PC titles of the eary '90s, Lemmings put a unique twist on puzzle games through its unique mechanics. Players had to guide a group of Lemmings through a level by using their variety of abilities. A percentage of your Lemmings could climb, float, bomb, block, build, bash, mine and dig in order to reach their destination. At any time, players were able to set their Lemmings to self-destruct, for both purposeful reasons (clearing a path, catch-22 scenarios, etc.), and, most importantly, sadistic mischief.
Fighting Batman and Spider-Man
The Revenge of Shinobi
Even though it was a sequel to the original arcade hit, Revenge of Shinobi was the first Shinobi title for the Sega Genesis. For many of us, this was our first time playing as Joe Musashi. In a blatant act of copyright violation, Sega decided to put both Batman and Spider-Man as the end bosses of level six. While we can understand the inclusion of Spider-Man since Sega developed the Spider-Man arcade title that came out a year later, Sega had absolutely no reason or justification to use Batman's likeness in Revenge of the Shinobi. Nevertheless, players were in for one heck of a surprise when they had to consecutively fight two of comics' greatest superheros.
Resident Evil 4
Survival horror had to make our list of 25 Most Astonishing Moments of Video Games somewhere, and it comes in the form of the Chainsaw Ganado Leon Kennedy encounters in rural Spain. These maniacs are scary, relentless, and are hardly phased when shot. In Resident Evil 4's opening shootout, many of us were shocked by the insta-death that occurred when we failed in taking the Chainsaw Ganado down. When the Ganado hold a town meeting to discuss the topic of immigrants, apparently no one hold back, especially the bag-faced lumberjacks. At least they gave Leon the chance to share with the Ganado what was going on in his head.
Welcome to Rapture
BioShock broke expectations and redefined the FPS genre. Much of the innovation behind BioShock can be attributed to its stellar and unique use of locale, story and atmosphere in its contribution to the FPS experience. But we were not prepared for the overwhelming magnitude of what we encountered as we sank down into the depths of Rapture.
Rez is a graphical delight. This is more so evident in the fifth and final level which shatters the expectations of the player. Levels one through four did not try to hide the fact that the player is in a game: you control an avatar made up of multiple shapes shooting at polygonal enemies throughout wireframe-like environments. But the fifth level of the game starts off from a white backdrop and keeps on evolving to the point that Rez's level design and graphics starts to reflect the growth and development of life itself; starting from nothing, then to simplistic shapes, to in-depth creations, and finally, complex organisms and fully-detailed environments. Combined with the music's silence, change and evolution, the effect is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. Rez's final level should not only be played, but lived.
The Colossi were Innocent
Shadow of the Colossus
Shadow of the Colossus' premise appeared to be simple: kill skyscraper-sized monsters for the sake of saving your girlfriend. But the narrative of the game suggests something much more thought-provoking, "What if we are wrong about these creatures? Why do we kill first and ask questions later, simply because a creature does not conform to our paradigm of what looks or does not look acceptable?" In the end, Wander paid greatly for living under such assumptions. And we were shocked to find out that the giant beasts we had to slay throughout the game were innately innocent and were simply... giant wildlife. Oops.
Tyson's One Punch Knockdown
Mike Tyson's Punch Out!!
You may have beaten Piston Honda, Glass Joe, Bald Bull, Don Flamenco and the rest of the Punch Out!! cast with relative ease, but once you reached Iron Mike himself, you found out why he is the baddest man on the planet. Every single punch Mike Tyson lands on Little Mac during the first 90 seconds would knock him down. Combined with Tyson's aptitude for blocking and ducking, this meant that Little Mac had to cherry-pick every single punch he threw, from a light jab to a haymaker, in order keep dodging Mike's relentless attack.
Finding World 1-2's Warp Zone
Super Mario Bros.
We're only 10 entries into our list of the 25 Most Astonishing Moments of Video Games, and we have already reached a pivotal moment in learning how to game. In level 1-2 of Super Mario Bros., Mario was able to ride floating platforms and land atop the ceiling bricks which span the entire level. This shortcut Mario took not only circumvented many obstacles and enemies, it also led us to the first major secret of gaming: the warp zone. The 1-2 warp zone started the habit of swapping game secrets between players nationwide.
The Inverted Castle
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
So you fought through all of Dracula's castle, got to his throne room, fought a possessed Richter Belmont, freed him from his curse, but where was Bela Lugosi? It isn't until you reach a portal beyond the throne room that shoots you up into the sky when you find out that you're only halfway through the game. Hidden in the clouds above Castlevania is actually ANOTHER castle that is mysteriously suspended upside down! So after all those hours of exploration, Medusa-head slaying and platforming, Alucard was hardly prepared when he found out that the upside down version of Castlevania was much more methodical and relentless in its design. It was that first moment when we saw the twisted reflection of Castlevania in the sky that our hearts sank in knowing that the adventure was far from over, it was only the halfway mark.
Tanks, but no Tanks
Grand Theft Auto 3
Anyone that has ever played Grand Theft Auto has experimented with causing random chaos. Heck, that's one of the reasons we factor into buying a GTA game in the first place. But the Rhino Tank of GTA 3 (which most players unlocked via cheat codes), proved to be a source of endless fun. The tank was nearly indestructible, had infinite explosive rounds and could make a vehicle blow up simply by running into it. Nothing was more astonishing than the incomprehensible amount of damage a player could cause with the Rhino Tank in GTA 3, and it became a series staple for future titles of the popular franchise.
Darth Revan... Unveiled!
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
It's one thing to play as a Jedi who was surprised to know that he had an affinity for the Force, but it is a completely different story when you turned out to be the Dark Lord of the Sith! Bioware took a staple of JRPG storytelling (a voiceless protagonist suffering from amnesia), and our expectations were turned upside-down when we found out the true history of our player-created protagonist. The shock that our character was actually Darth Revan made us thoroughly more intertwined and involved with the story of the war for the Star Forge. And it's a prime example of how Western RPG developers learned to adapt and evolve which we pointed out in our list of 10 Changes Needed in JRPGs.
Big Boss' Salute
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Naked Snake is the grizzled veteran and master of war, which is why we can't wait to play as him one last time in Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. But the heartbreaking story of why his mentor, The Boss (whose Cobra Unit attributed to much of the Allied Forces winnings of World War 2), double crossed the United States. This event left us all stifling back tears and made us question our definition of heroes and patriots. We honored The Boss in our list of the 10 Most Patriotic Video Game Characters, so it's only right that we acknowledge Snake's sad epiphany and the apathy he held afterwards.
Our Princess is in Another Castle!
Super Mario Bros.
Who knew that Toad's 10 words of dialogue from the 1985 classic would become one of gaming's most famous lines? Levels 1-3 of Super Mario Bros. was a walk in the park compared to the hell Mario encountered in 1-4. After avoiding all sorts of firey death and finally dropping Bowser in the lava, we were shocked to see that the damsel in distress was really a legles, chubby guy in a diaper, who then told us that the princess is in another castle. Little did we know that this cycle would repeat multiple times until World 8-4, which is why we added Toad's message to our list of 25 Most Astonishing Moments of Video Games
Booker and Elizabeths' Final Scene
BioShock Infinite's ending is on par with Metal Gear Solid 3's for the greatest video game ending of all time. Nevertheless, Booker and Elizabeths' final solution to the problems of BioShock Infinite is melancholic and bittersweet. Combined with the player's sense of choice and repeated religious imagery throughout Infinite, we were left astonished.
The Death of Aeris
Final Fantasy 7
What is there to say about Sephiroth killing Aeris which hasn't been said already? Except for maybe telling Cloud that he should have focused on saving Fort Condor before the end of disc 1 so he could have had the Phoenix materia ready. But on a more serious note, we were thoroughly surprised and saddened to see such a positive and loving party member die without being able to do anything to stop it.
Fatalities in Fighting Games
Ed Boon and John Tobias made video game history in 1992 and sparked a controversy which still exists to this very day. The violence brought out by the original Mortal Kombat shocked us all in the early '90s. With only the multiple versions of Street Fighter 2 to compare it to, Mortal Kombat's introduction of blood and death into the fighting game arena reminded the world that adults are gamers too. Most of us here at Arcade Sushi still remember the first time we were amazed seeing Kano pull a still-beating heart out, Raiden electrocuting someone to death and, most importantly, Sub-Zero ripping someone's head off with the spinal cord still attached.
Crono's Death and Resurrection
Final Fantasy 7 may have surprised us in letting Aeris die, but we were more shocked in Squaresoft's sacrifice of Chrono Trigger's protagonist as Crono selflessly tried to fight Lavos on his lonesome for the sake of protecting his friends. CT lightly played with the concept of going back in time to prevent the death of a party member in the beginning of the game with Marle and her ancestor. But when Crono died, much more intricate and stellar plot devices were used in order to bring him back to life. And the pictured scene when Crono is brought back by his friends is one of the happiest moments in video game storytelling.
Encountering Psycho Mantis
Metal Gear Solid
As we approach the summit of our 25 Most Astonishing Moments of Video Games, we must tear a few walls down, the fourth wall in particular. Solid Snake's encounter with Psycho Mantis is, arguably, the most unforgettable boss encounter in the history of gaming. First, he possesses Meryl Silverburgh and sadistically teases at Snake through sexual advances until Snake knocks her unconscious. Then, Mantis unveils himself and displays a few examples of his psychic power. Based on the Konami games you have saved on your memory card, he would comment on your previous gaming history. If you had a dualshock controller (which were relatively new at the time), he would tell you to put it on the floor and move it around via its vibration. Don't forget the "Hideo" television setting, because this was an astonishing moment where the player was actually acknowledged by the game itself during Snake's serious quest to stop nuclear-equipped terrorists.
Celes' Opera Scene
Final Fantasy 6
Celes' opera scene not only showed that you do not need a disc-based game to reproduce a melodic voice during the 16-bit era, it was also one of the greatest plot devices in the history of video game storytelling. The opera scene was a giant foreshadowing of Celes' attempt at suicide after Cid's death on the deserted island. With Kefka destroying the world and all of her friends presumed to be dead, Celes gave up and leapt off of a cliff, hoping to die. This scene is foreshadowed by Celes during the opera as she threw her bouquet over the side of the castle and sang about being unable to be with the person she loved. Acknowledging these intricate plot details are just some of the reasons why FF6 made it to our list of the 10 Best RPGs Ever.
In 1986, project directors Satoru Okada and Yoshio Sakamoto shocked the world with the ending of Metroid. The surprise at finding out that Samus Aran is a female bestowed a sense of female-empowerment to the medium of gaming. Unfortunately, games have over-sexualized women throughout the years (including Samus in her Zero-Suit form and picture-perfect blond aesthetic), but Metroid's ending was still a big hoorah for feminism.
Removing the Master Sword
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The magical and spectacular dungeons and adventures we went through during the first act of Ocarina of Time paled in comparison to what awaited in the future after Link removed the Master Sword. Taking the sword was a visible message of growth and triumph, which unfortunately forced Link to grow up way too early in order to adequately handle himself. There are metaphors to be said about childhood here, but we'll just leave it at saying that this was one of the most amazing moments ever to be experienced with a controller in your hand.
Mario Jumps to 3D
Super Mario 64
The most awe-inspiring moment we remember as we finish our 25 Most Astonishing Moments of Video Games list comes in the form of Super Mario 64. Seeing Mario's capabilities in the third dimension evoked a sense of amazement that we have never felt anywhere else throughout the history of gaming. Younger gamers may take the camera controls for granted, but we here at Arcade Sushi give credit where credit is due. Super Mario 64 set the standard for every 3D game to ever follow it. To this day, games are still using the dynamic camera system Miyamoto created. Comparing the 2D games of Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn and Super Nintendo, to the outside of Princess Peach's castle, is the definitive sign of growth, evolution and a much needed-change for the video game format.
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