There's one big advantage video games have compared with other media - they can put you in the middle of the experience like nothing else can. Hollywood can throw giant screens, bigger speakers, 3D, moving seats, and every other gimmick. Still, they're not going to reach the level of interactivity that video games offer. Naturally, gaming is capable of dishing out some shocking moments, and nothing like a good video game twist can pull the rug from under you so effectively. With that in mind, we made a list of the video game moments that left gamers worldwide stunned, shocked, baffled, jaw-dropped, shell-shocked, and all other forms of extremely surprised.
10. Metal Gear Solid - Psycho Mantis' Mind Games
Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear Solid is considered one of the best games in the series and among the most influential games of the modern generation. MGS is brim-full with Kojima's unique elements, and the most obvious example is the fight against Psycho Mantis, a floating, leather-suited, gas mask-wearing psychic. It starts when your colleague Meryl suddenly pulls a gun on you, and you become suspicious. It turns out she was under Psycho Mantis' control, and soon you two face each other. Demonstrating his abilities, Mantis makes assumptions about you based on your play style, reads your memory card, and moves your controller with his mind.
It's an irregular and clever bit that blew the collective minds of children and adults back in 1998. It took a while to realize the only way to beat him was to unplug the controller and plug it in the player two port. Despite all the fantastic evolution in technology, there's still no boss fight as unique and memorable since.
9. Batman: Arkham City - The Last Laugh
Rocksteady put Batman games back on the map with the great Arkham Asylum. It made an even more excellent follow-up with Arkham City, giving players an entire section of Gotham to fly over and beat up thugs in. Here, Batman has to find Joker to discover Hugo Strange's Protocol 10. Yet, he discovers his greatest enemy badly deteriorated due to illness but still determined to poison Gotham, starting with Batman. Now The Dark Knight has to find a cure, and the clock is ticking.
After confronting a slew of his enemies and destroying Lazarus Pit, ultimately thwarting Joker's plan, Batman is left with the last vial of the antidote. Using his moment of hesitation, Joker stabs Batman, causing him to drop the vial and shatter it into pieces. Batman admits he would save Joker nevertheless, on which Joker has a laugh and dies. It was a truly surprising turn of events, especially considering the love of the status quo both comics and video games share. Joker returned in infamous Arkham Knight, but as a figment of Batman's mind distorted by the fear toxin. Real Joker was still very dead, which was emphasized by the scene of his cremation.
8. Spec Ops: The Line - White Phosphorus
At first glance, Spec Ops: The Line looks like another run-off-the-mill military video game trying to ride on the popularity of Call of Duty. It's a cover-based third-person shooter, seemingly as generic as they get. It even has Nolan North, one of the most popular voice actors in the business. All this was a deliberate lead-on to make you think you are playing the usual shooter. And then there comes the scene in which your character, Captain Martin Walker, and his company come up against a major enemy camp. As Walker orders his troops to attack the area with white phosphorus, you control it while throwing poisonous gas on targets.
Once the attack is over, the game makes you walk through the mayhem you caused and see all the horrors you did, including 47 dead civilians, women, and children. The intentional Call of Duty style lulls us into a false sense of familiarity before striking us painfully with the message that war is hell. There are no heroes but murderers with all those taken lives burdening their souls.
7. BioShock - Would You Kindly…?
When it came out in 2007 (time flies, we're old, et cetera), the first BioShock made quite a stir. That was when game developers seemed to be moving away from single-player experiences to focus on online multiplayer. Suddenly, out came BioShock to prove that well-crafted personal stories weren't going anywhere. You lead a guy without a name or face who ends up in the underwater Art Deco Objectivist sanctuary, led by a man named Andrew Ryan. Things soon go downright south in Rapture, and society kind of implodes, leaving most of the residents either dead or violently insane. Even worse, there are also lumbering monstrous figures in diving suits called Big Daddies roaming the city.
While you explore Rapture and kill the remnant of Rapture's population, you start to realize you're not a stranger to this place. Furthermore, mind control techniques you learned during the game were used to manipulate you into dealing with the rest of the Rapture's denizens. The moment of realization you've been controlled was one sharp shock, throwing the idea of the player's free will and agency out of the window. You killed people without thinking twice just because the game told you so, being played like a gullible accordion.
6. Final Fantasy VII - Don't Level Aerith
Honestly, you expected this one, didn't you? This is one of the most famous moments in video games, a total sucker punch in the death of the most loving character in the game thus far. The main protagonist is Cloud Strife, a mercenary who finds himself in Midgar slums after a reactor explosion. There he meets Aerith, a charming and sweet flower girl, and agrees to be her guardian. Being a conflicted character, Cloud starts to develop a feeling of purpose as he grows fond of his party, especially Aerith.
Meanwhile, a fallen hero, Sephiroth, tries his best to corrupt the planet and become a god. While Cloud and Co. manage to temporarily stop him, Aerith decides to confront him herself and ends up being impaled on Sephiroth's Masamune. Everything about this scene is a kick to the soul, especially Sephiroth's smug, self-satisfied smile. Hope you're all ready to do some high-definition sobbing in your next-gen tissues when the FF VII Remake comes to this part.
5. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - No Russian
Call of Duty games are rarely mentioned when people talk about the games with a great story. These titles started as World War II-themed first-person shooters, later turning toward contemporary affairs in Modern Warfare. In the first Modern Warfare, one mission involves escaping from the city hit by a nuclear bomb. The sequel continued the same way and doubled down on controversy.
Furthermore, the fourth mission in Modern Warfare 2 puts you in the shoes of the undercover agent infiltrating the Russian terrorist group. As the group arrives at the Moscow airport, they start shooting at everyone. Obviously, the subsequent massacre is one of the most disturbing moments in the franchise. It's brutal, graphic, and absolutely unrelenting. Naturally, there were huge controversies about this mission. But the thing is, you could skip it entirely without any repercussions.
4. Red Dead Redemption - The Last Stand
Red Dead Redemption is among the most beloved gaming franchises despite consisting of just two games. The main character is John Marston, a former outlaw working with the infamous Bureau of Investigation. He hunts and dispatches the former members of his gang, led by Dutch Van der Linde. In return, he would be abolished, and he could return to his family on the farm.
Unfortunately, the Bureau keeps increasing the needed work, using Marston for its dirty deeds. When Marston finally gets released from the contract and comes back home, he realizes he's been betrayed by The Bureau. After buying his family time to escape, Marston gets gunned down by the Bureau agents and lawmen, tragically robbed of redemption he was looking for. Luckily, Marston's son Jack continues the father's job and exacts revenge on the people who betrayed him.
3. Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic - Revan-lations
The arguably best Star Wars game of all time is the result of Lucas Arts and Bioware joining forces as two eminent gaming studios. The Knights of the Old Republic, or shorter KOTOR, is set 4000 years before the prequel trilogy, in the age of the Old Republic. The main character wakes up with amnesia in the middle of the attack of Darth Malak on their ship. Our hero survives the attack, escapes the ship, and travels all over the galaxy to stop Darth Malak and his master Darth Revan.
Our MC finds the Force powers through the adventure and grows in strength. However, after the discovery of Star Forge, the source of Malak's power, the game drops a bridge on you. The main character was Darth Revan all the time. Then, the player needs to decide what to do next. Revan could continue the path of the Jedi and destroy Siths, or he could return to his Sith throne and conquer the galaxy. This masterfully crafted twist is one of the most legendary video game moments, whatever the choice might be.
2. Silent Hill 2 - Pillow Talk
Remember when Konami didn't destroy their own gaming franchises? Yeah, it was a long time ago. A way before Konami's name caused a combination of rage and nausea, they produced some of the most successful game franchises in the business. One of their headliners was Silent Hill 2, remembered as one of the best horror games of all time. The main character James Sunderland receives a letter from his wife Maria, in which she calls him to come to Silent Hill. The catch is, Maria is long dead.
James wanders through the city populated by horrific creatures and tries to see the reason behind all this. Later, he finds a videotape of him and his sickly wife. The gentle talk between the two is suddenly interrupted by James suffocating Maria with the pillow. This unsettling scene made us realize that James created Silent Hill creatures by feelings of guilt and desperation. This scene is one of the finest examples of toying with the player's perspective.
1. Metroid - Samus is a Woman
Back in the 80s, video games didn't pay much attention to the story. The narrative was there just as a backdrop for the gameplay, giving you a simple task or motivation to make you push through the game. We can't talk about plot twists if there's no plot, can we? However, that changed when Metroid came and offered the biggest plot twist in the games. Additionally, it was uncovered only to players good enough to earn it.
If you managed to go through the game in less than five hours, you would get a special ending. Except for the usual congratulations screen, the main character, Samus Aran, would take off the helmet to reveal that she was a girl all along. Better times would give you better outfits, like the famous orange leotard. This was a huge deal back in the day because women were rare even as video game characters, let alone protagonists. Furthermore, Samus' gender was never mentioned in the game, and the manual referred to Samus as male. It was also a great way to prove that you had beaten the game soundly to your friends.
Video games have a significant advantage over other media regarding players' immersion. They put people in the middle of the story with their own acts deciding their own destiny. Therefore, whenever something shocking happens in a game, it's felt more emotional than in the movie, comic book, or any other form of story-driven entertainment.
What are some of the most shocking video game moments you've experienced? How did they make you feel?