As video games have evolved, so too have the moments that define the medium. Primitive 8-bit explosions have made way for intense and elaborate action set-pieces, and narratives are no longer driven by simple blocks of poorly translated text, but rather crafted by teams of writers and portrayed using expensive special effects. The landscape of gaming has changed, but CraveOnline is here to walk you through the memorable moments that have helped define it, both past and present.
Here are the 50 most memorable moments in video game history. Be warned: some spoilers follow. And if you disagree with our choices, sound off in the comments below with your favorite moments.
50. The Sinner’s Sandwich – Deadly Premonition
Depending upon who’s speaking, Deadly Premonition is either awfully amazing or amazingly awful. While it’s difficult to explain it in a mere paragraph, the “Sinner’s Sandwich” cutscene goes some way to summarising the extent of its oddness.
Sitting in a café, protagonist Francis York Morgan is greeted by Harry Stewart, a 73-year-old, gasmask-wearing mute who is confined to a wheelchair, and Mr. Stewart’s assistant, Michael Tillotson, who speaks only in rhymes (it is never explained why he does this). Tillotson orders a turkey, strawberry jam and cereal sandwich for Mr. Stewart. “Sound like the ‘sinner’s sandwich’,” says Francis York Morgan. “Self-inflicted punishment to atone for past sins. He’s setting an example.”
Much like the rest of Deadly Premonition’s dialogue, this admission is as confusing as it is nonsensical, and what follows – a scene that depicts Francis York Morgan tasting the sandwich for himself – is hilariously awkward.
49. The Twist Ending – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Although fans of the series had varying opinions on this reboot of the beloved Castlevania series, there were very few who denied just how mind-blowing the ending was. Witnessing Gabriel/Dracula being thrown through a stained glass window by Zobek and landing in the middle of a bustling modern day, 21st century city ranks as one of the very best cliffhanger endings in gaming history, and while its sequel unfortunately failed to live up to what was set up here, when admired on its own merits it was truly
48. “What Am I Doing?!” – Duke Nukem Forever
This list doesn’t just contain good memories, y’know…
After a long and infamously troubled development history, Duke Nukem Forever finally saw the light of day in 2011. Unfortunately, time had not been kind to Duke. Although he’d still retained his trademark puerile sense of humour, we were forced to come to terms with the fact that maybe we no longer found fart and penis jokes as funny as we did back in the ‘90s. This was no more evident than in the game’s opening scenes, where we found ourselves in a military base, throwing faeces at soldiers. Our teenage selves would’ve probably loved it, but then again, our teenage selves were idiots.
47. Getting Out of Prison – Mafia II
Sentenced to 10 years imprisonment at the tail-end of World War II, Mafia II protagonist Vito Scaletta is released in 1951 into a brighter, optimistic new world. The transition from the dreary hopelessness of the open-world environment you experience throughout the first portion of the game, to the beaming young faces and rock ‘n’ roll radio stations that greet you when you exit jail, served as an interesting curveball thrown by developers 2K Czech.
46. Cantina – Super Star Wars
While the Cantina in Star Wars: A New Hope wasn’t the most welcoming bar in the galaxy, it was nothing compared to the one depicted in Super Star Wars. With hordes of enemies jumping out at you from all angles, you’ll be lucky to survive – and that’s before you go head-to-head against the level’s nigh-on impossible boss. But the brilliance of the level doesn’t lie in its relentless action, but rather its perfect replication of the atmosphere of the Cantina. With both the foreground and background populated by the odd alien faces that made the setting so memorable in the movie, and the infamous music of the Cantina band receiving a 16-bit makeover, you won’t find a more charming level throughout the sci-fi series’ long history with video games.
45. The Two Doors – The Stanley Parable
The Stanley Parable was a game that explored a player’s free will, or rather the illusion of it. Guided by an acerbically witty narrator who condescendingly attempts to guide you along a linear path, directly addressing you whenever you attempt to stray from it, the first example of the complexity of its themes came when you’re faced with two open doors: one which the narrator is beckoning you to enter, and the other which when entered will see him mock your quiet act of rebellion. Not so much breaking the fourth wall as directly acknowledging (and indirectly conversing) with the player, The Stanley Parable is one of the most unique games you’re ever likely to play, and this particular scene is the player’s first inkling that they should prepare themselves for an odd ride.
44. Asylum Demon – Dark Souls
Saying that Dark Souls is difficult is something of an understatement, and players learnt this the hard way after their first encounter with the Asylum Demon. The Asylum Demon was essentially developer From Software’s way of letting us know that we were in for a brutal ass-whooping from there on out, as no sooner had we been handed our first primitive weaponry and a brief set of instructions, were we thrown into an arena with a huge, ugly beast that very swiftly transported us to our first ‘You Died’ screen. But the Asylum Demon served a greater purpose than to simply hand our backsides to us – it prepared us for the long, exceedingly challenging journey that lay in store for us.
43. Using the Lawnmower – Dead Rising
Venturing outside of the mall in the first Dead Rising was a difficult task. Filled with both zombies and villainous humans alike, braving the great outdoors without a weapon would often lead to frustration and, if you didn’t traverse the terrain quickly enough, death. However, waiting for you across the grassy terrain was the most fun weapon in the entire game – the lawnmower. Revving this baby up and rolling it over the bodies of unfortunate zombies remains the most fun way to deal with the undead in gaming and, considering the wealth of zombie video games, that’s pretty high praise. It also helped that it was more than vaguely reminiscent of a scene in Peter Jackson’s cult exploitation flick Braindead.
42. Mad Hatter – Batman: Arkham City
The best thing about the open-world sequel to Arkham Asylum were the chance encounters you’d have with a whole host of Batman’s enemies, many of them thrown in as side-missions or hidden Easter Eggs. The greatest of the bunch was your impromptu meeting with the Mad Hatter, who drugs you, kidnaps you and places you at the head of the table at one of his surreal tea parties. Then things get really odd, as you begin to hallucinate and wind up fighting a bunch of human-sized rabbits on the face of a giant clock. It’s a wonderfully weird moment that comes from out of the blue, and the haunting image of Batman’s contorted, Frank the Rabbit-esque mask is an excellent little surprise thrown in by developer Rocksteady.
41. Moose Hunters – Mickey Mania
One of the most terrifying animals in gaming is a moose in a Mickey Mouse video game. We aren’t making this up.
The finale of the ‘Moose Hunters’ level in 1994’s Mickey Mania tasked players with running away from a rampaging moose. As the moose charged towards you in the background, you had to jump over a barrage of oncoming obstacles which, once hit, would bring the moose closer and closer towards you.
The reason why Moose Hunters is so memorable is because it was so unexpected. Up until that point, the game had been nothing more than your average side-scrolling platformer, but then you were suddenly faced with an entirely new control scheme and the ominous image of an enraged moose charging for you in the near distance. It was this sudden change of pace that made the level so terrifying, and left it lingering in the memory long after you had (finally) managed to escape the wrath of the stampeding moose.