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Gaming Moments You'll Never Be Able To Erase From Your Memory

We've all had some great moments in our personal gaming histories, whether it's beating a friend in a close match of Halo or finally getting that last achievement to get the perfect 1000. Moments like those are what drive us to keep getting better at games. But video games have also given us some great memories we can share across our collective consciousness. From the earliest days of the 8-bit console wars to today's blockbuster titles, these memories unified gamers in the best ways.


Let's do the Warp Zone again

The release of Super Mario Bros. was an industry-defining event. More than a game, it set the pace for the future of Nintendo and every single platformer that followed. It was also the impetus for an entire generation's love of the medium. Running through the game world, stomping Goombas, and chasing Bowser through his many castles still brings back fond memories for just about every person that ever touched an NES. But one moment in particular stands above the rest: the moment you first discovered the World 1-2 warp zone.


It's one of those instances where either you saw someone do it while visiting their house after school, or somehow uncovered it thanks to messing up a jump at the right time. We were so conditioned to believe that the top and bottom of the game screen were impenetrable that we never thought to consider we could explore those areas. Not only that, but we could explore them to find cheats to later areas in Super Mario Bros.

It was you. It was always you.

Knights of the Old Republic, BioWare's first foray into the world of Star Wars, is one of the most celebrated video games in both Lucasfilm's and BioWare's history. Not only was its story one that fans hungered to witness, but the gameplay was so strong that it set a tone for BioWare's future endeavors.


Just being a great Star Wars RPG doesn't do enough to qualify you for this list, but Knights of the Old Republic doesn't disappoint one bit with the secrets it holds. The entire game places you in the role of a custom-created Jedi, set with the task of stopping Darth Malak from completing his former master Darth Revan's quest to power the Star Forge. With your special and inexplicable insights into the locations of items Malak would need, the Jedi choose you to finish the task first.

It's not until late in the game when you realize why you have these flashbacks: you are Darth Revan. The Jedi found you after you were betrayed by Malak, and used the Force to wipe your memory. The clues were there the whole time, but we never knew we were supposed to be looking for them. In hindsight it becomes painfully obvious, but that doesn't make the moment any less jaw-dropping the first time the truth is revealed.


The first zombie in residency

Before zombies overran Capcom's Resident Evil franchise in its more action-centric entries, they were the centerpiece of a perfectly paced survival-horror game. The first Resident Evil didn't have an actual zombies present for a lengthy part of the opening chapter. Sure, you probably already knew the game was about zombies thanks to advertising or gaming magazines, but the expectation of waiting to encounter your first walking corpse kept you on your toes.


After exploring a bit of the mansions with Chris and Jill and coming up empty, we're finally greeted with the moment we've been waiting for. A seemingly harmless man hunched over the body of another human, making some strange noises, and not answering our calls for attention finally turns to reveal a decaying face with hollowed eyes and a bloody mouth. We've met our first zombie, and Jill's and Chris's lives would never be the same.

The tension building to that moment more than makes up for the lack of encounters prior to this lone zombie. It was the first time we were truly surprised by our first meeting with a zombie in a Resident Evil game, and it was all anyone who got the game that weekend could talk about at school on Monday.


"Would you kindly" blow our minds?

When you talk to people about their experience with BioShock, there are three words that will automatically change the conversation. It's not hard to have an enthusiastic conversation about BioShock even all these years after its release; it was just that good. And nearly three-quarters through the adventure, BioShock spins everything on its head with one of the biggest twists in modern gaming.


At first, the phrase "Would you kindly..." seems like nothing more than an anachronistic way of speaking for our guide through Rapture, Atlas. He's a proper lad, and he asks for favors in a proper way. Or at least that's what we're led to believe–until we happen across a secret room detailing our entire lives, and how we've been brainwashed with the key controlling phrase, "Would you kindly..." behind it all.

Immediately, BioShock flashes us back to every instance this phrase was uttered, revealing that our guide's intentions may not have been as pure as we initially thought. The game we thought we were playing wasn't quite as straightforward as we thought, and BioShock had found a way to genuinely surprise all of us.


Modern Warfare changes airports forever

The Call of Duty franchise always had at least a few remarkable sequences. But Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare stories were something else all together. Redefining the franchise to take place in the current timeline rather than based on previous historical events, Modern Warfare crafted a clever narrative about a new Russian plot to overthrow America. And while the first Modern Warfare was a great game in its own right, Modern Warfare 2 built a brilliant story on top of the foundation laid just one game prior.


Modern Warfare 2 wasn't without its intense firefights, which has been a hallmark of the Call of Duty brand since its inception. But what set this game apart from its predecessors was its willingness to push first-person shooter narratives in new directions. Arguably the most divisive and controversial moment came during the "No Russian" mission, where you played as the terrorists you would otherwise be hunting.

The mission put you in the role of an undercover operative in the terrorist organization, with no choice but to gun down as many innocent lives at an airport as you could in order to keep your cover. It was disturbing on a number of levels, but as part of one of the most successful games of all time, it's a moment that's seared into the brains of millions of players.


The Master Sword in the stone

Few franchises are as beloved as The Legend of Zelda. Though its releases are sporadic, the arrival of a new entry is often cause for celebration. Such was the case with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the first 3D Zelda game, and the first to arrive on the Nintendo 64 console. Like Mario 64 before it, Ocarina of Time wasn't just anticipated as the next entry in a fan-favorite series. Ocarina was the first in a bold new realm for the franchise and gamers.


We'd been on these journeys with Link a handful of times previously, but all those games were still pixelated adventures that kept players above the action with cameras far removed from Hyrule. Ocarina of Time put us right over Link's shoulder, as if we were there in Hyrule's forests, temples, and dungeons with him.

Surviving to the point where you first enter the Temple of Time always felt like an absurd challenge. How much damage could a little boy with a wooden sword and a slingshot do? But those who made it through the Temple to actually find the Master Sword resting in its stone display were rewarded with a brief cutscene of Link pulling the iconic blade from its hold. We all held this blade once before, but never was the moment so real as it was the first time we grabbed that hilt in 3D.


The death of innocence at Naughty Dog

Prior to the release of The Last of Us, Naughty Dog was better known for lighter platforming fare like Crash Bandicoot, adventure games like Jak and Daxter, and the action blockbusters in the Uncharted series. The Last of Us was a departure of sorts. Though the game stayed firmly in the third-person action genre of Uncharted, The Last of Us was decidedly more somber, more mature, and much, much more serious.


The tone was set almost immediately. The Last of Us begins at the onset of a viral outbreak that has the world in a panic. We're transported to a day in the life of normal dad Joel and his daughter Sarah. It takes a turn for the dramatic amid all the chaos in their rural town. Along with Joel's brother, the trio attempt to evacuate, but they're too late to make a good run. The military is already setting up blockades, and sneaking past is the only option.

With the world in a tizzy, even the normally collected soldiers aren't quite as even-keeled as they should be in a national crisis. An indecisive soldier shoots Joel's daughter Sarah, killing her almost immediately. As she dies in Joel's arms, players are tipped that The Last of Us isn't going to be a jolly escapade with a roguish lead. Instead, Joel is a tortured father figure with a cynical take on the new world order, and players are left stunned that such a thing could ever happen in a Naughty Dog game.


Square-Enix breaks the limit of our tears

Final Fantasy VII was a game-changer for the PlayStation and Square-Enix, then known as Square. Before the release of Final Fantasy VII, Nintendo had been the only home for the acclaimed RPG series, and even those had been limited to a single cartridge. Fans who snagged the original PlayStation and a copy of Final Fantasy VII were elated to find three different discs of gameplay awaited them, with the first disc delivering on all the hype and hope. It was a gorgeous game with incredible design, and it was filled with amazing, memorable characters.


But what truly made Final Fantasy VII a legend was a singular moment late in the story that changed everything. We all believed Cloud Strife would get to live his life with Aeris once they stopped Sephiroth and Jenova from destroying Midgar.

Square had other plans though. Those devious jerks on the writing team sacrificed the last good person on the planet in order to raise the stakes even further for our heroes. Aeris' sacrifice was not in vain, but that didn't make it any easier to swallow.

Psycho controller, qu'est-ce que c'est

Metal Gear Solid has always been known for its over-the-top bosses: case in point, Solid Snake's encounter with the mind-bending Psycho Mantis.

At first, Snake's fight against Mantis is one of the most frustrating battles in video game history. Nothing you do seemingly works, and Mantis is able to best you at every turn. Then you discover that Mantis knows what you're up to because he can "read" the PlayStation controller you're using in the Player 1 slot. By plugging in a second controller, you take away Mantis's ability to sense Snake's attack strategy, and can finally put the creepy telepath down.


As more friends picked up Metal Gear Solid, the battle against Psycho Mantis became a point of rallying. No game had ever tested gamers like that before, and few games have done anything like that since.

Die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain

Time-bending platformer Braid is still revered as one of the best indie games to ever grace a console. Arriving on the Xbox 360 in 2008, Braid spun familiar platforming tropes on their heads to deliver one of the most puzzling and satisfying games of the decade. It would have been received just as well on the merits of its gameplay alone–but Braid's final level revealed a twist that dropped gamers' jaws.


After spending the entirety of Braid trying to save the princess from an evil monster, players finally reach the fair maiden, only discover that she's not interested in being saved  at all. The reason so much of the game takes place in reverse is not just a clever game mechanic, but also a major part of the plot. We saw all the events out of context and order, and only after reaching the final palace do we learn the truth. The hero was the monster the princess was trying to escape.

All those traps we evaded to help her were actually being set by her to keep us at bay. The knight chasing her down was actually trying to protect her. We were evil the whole time, and it wasn't until that final moment arrived that most players could even comprehend such a thing. 


That's gotta hurt

Back when couch co-op was the only way to play together, few games brought friends together on a Saturday afternoon like Madden NFL. Before it became the juggernaut it is today, Madden NFL was still a very good football game. It definitely had a bit more personality than it does now, though, as the National Football League wasn't always quite as demanding with what you could and couldn't get away with in a video game.


In the entries prior to Madden NFL 2001, there was one moment in particular that still stands out. Seeing that little ambulance come onto the field to cart an injured player off was just so comical and ridiculous, it was hard not to enjoy it, regardless of whether or not your player was the one getting wheeled to the hospital. Yes a man was hurt, but look at that little ambulance.

Since the NFL began cracking down on glorifying injuries and making light of the brutal nature of the sport, such antics are never seen these days. It's probably for the best, but we'll never forget that little virtual EMT team and all the hard work they accomplished.

Elizabethan drama

BioShock Infinite attempted to surpass its predecessor with some late-game dramatics, and in the eyes of many, it worked.

As Booker DeWitt, players were tasked with saving a young woman named Elizabeth from the vile Comstock, a nasty old man who built a colony in the clouds called Columbia so he wouldn't have to deal with what America had become in the early 1900s. After many battles with the robotic Songbird, guardian of Comstock's Columbia, Elizabeth uses her powers to transport herself and Booker to Rapture, the very same city from the original game. Shocking as that was, it was only the beginning of Infinite's biggest twists.


It's in Rapture Elizabeth reveals this reality is one of many where various Bookers and Elizabeths are trying to stop Comstocks, and she explains there's one more place they have to visit to put an end to Comstock forever. Suddenly, players are taken to a baptism in a river, which Booker recalls attending to absolve himself of the sins of war. The moment that follows changes everything we thought we knew about Booker, Elizabeth, and the world of Infinite, and cements this sequel as one of most memorable games ever.

No living man am I, you look upon a woman

The early NES games weren't always keen on telling impressive stories. While they often had narratives to explore, the limitations of the platforms left much to the imagination. That didn't stop some games, like Metroid, from taking a chance or two along the way to deliver unexpected revelations.


After battling Metroids left and right, players threw down with Mother Brain and Ridley, all in the name of saving the universe. Though the heroic Samus had a gender-neutral name, the expectation that the game's hero was male wasn't crazy. There were very few leading roles for women in video games in that era, with today's games only now barely picking up decades' worth of slack. Still, Samus's gender barely played any part in the game or story at the time, as the main goal was just to be the hero that saves everyone else.

It isn't until the credits roll players discover Samus has actually been a woman the whole time. As one of the first female gaming heroes, Samus goes on to have quite the career and fanbase. And it all started by subverting expectations way back in '80s, before most gamers even had expectations to subvert.


My darling Clementine

Telltale Games' adventure titles were already a good time before the developer snapped up The Walking Dead license. But the first season of that zombie-centric thriller showed Telltale had more up its sleeve than some good jokes and quick-time events. Setting a game in the world of The Walking Dead was a risky venture not because of the brand itself, but because Telltale's game would explore characters created from the ground up specifically for its adventure.


Lee and Clementine, along with the survivors from that first season, were instantly memorable, and fit right in with the universe crafted by comic book creators Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, and Tony Moore. The journey to reunite Clementine with her parents wasn't easy, and was fraught with tough choices and even tougher consequences. All of it culminated in a final act that wrecked the emotional states of everyone who played.

At the end of the game, Clementine must put a bullet in Lee's head before he succumbs to the zombie virus. That's an ending we haven't forgotten, one we won't forget, and one we hope we don't ever have to relive.

And then there was darkness

Based on the comic of the same name, Starbreeze's The Darkness was a wonderfully crafted game that combined some fantastic writing with excellent new twists on familiar first-person shooter elements. The writing was really a standout though, as Starbreeze tapped comic writer Paul Jenkins to help bring some depth to Jackie Estacado, his girlfriend Jenny Romano, and their mafia family.


Early in the game, Starbreeze spends time developing Jackie and Jenny's relationship, giving players even more attachment to this couple. Relationships like that aren't the focus of first-person shooters, and just having the two of them able to sit and watch a movie together (in its entirety) was something different and small enough to go a long way in bringing this pair's loving partnership to life.

But Jackie and Jenny were not to be the happy couple that overcomes all odds to find happiness. Soon after getting his Darkness powers, Jackie's own uncle kidnaps Jenny and murders her while Jackie is unable to stop him. It's a harrowing moment, and one that doesn't quite escape the concept of "fridging," but the pacing and unexpectedness of the move has stuck with anyone that played The Darkness to this day.