Shadow of the Colossus - Colossus #13: Phalanx
Up to this point, my first time playing through Shadow of the Colossus, I was already pretty sure this was my favorite Playstion 2 game ever. However, the second this mile-long massive monster towered out of the sand, tore off into the sky, and soared above the dunes, I was like “Yep. This is pretty much the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in a video game.” Then, once I figured out the death-defying feat that is bringing this thing down, I was like “Okay, I take that back. This is the greatest thing ever!” This was truly the epic highpoint in one of the most impressive video games ever conceived.
Illusion of Gaia - Drifting
The 16-bit era didn’t have a lot going in the form of cutscenes. Illusion of Gaia was about as cinematic an experience one could have at that time, and the point where Will and Kara are shipwrecked, drifting alone in open water on a piece of debris was a story point that elevated this Enix classic to more than a game, but a sort of interactive movie. The event takes place over several days, marked by trigger events where you have to interact with different objects to progress the time (there’s a point in the game that takes place in a prison cell that is similar but not as dramatic). Each moment the two young heroes situation grows more and more dire, and we feel for these characters in a way that we would not experience for another four years with the release of Final Fantasy VII.
Contra 3 - 3rd Boss
You arrive in a very small room with two hanging robotic Terminator skeletons. They drop down and attack you, interestingly, they die as fast as they fell. There’s silence, then the boss music kicks in as eight fingers break through the wall behind you, tearing it open and revealing a very big Terminator skeleton who’s head takes up most of the space you have to move around. This fight, once you know the mechanics, isn’t really much of a challenge. Still, the introduction is one of my favorite boss reveals of all time.
Final Fantasy X - The Wedding
At this point, we already know many of the truths about the Greek tragedy that is Final Fantasy X’s story. Still, the Guardian’s love for and duty to the future High Summoner Yuna is unbreakable, and when they hear she is to be wed to the vile Seymore, you want them to blow Bevelle temple right into the stratosphere. It doesn’t happen that way, of course, and the events that begin with the characters grinding down the steel anchor supports form Cid’s airship, landing amidst hundreds of Yevon’s soldiers, and facing the evil Maesters at the top of the temple’s epic staircase is intense. The point at which Yuna builds up the courage to jump off of the top of the tower, summoning Valefor on the way down to rescue her from a messy gravity-induced death, is breathtaking.
Half Life 2 - Meeting Alyx
Down the hall of a decrepit building, you get owned by a Combine baddie and get knocked out. Don’t worry you’re not dead… wait… Is that an aaaangel???? No. It’s Alyx Vance, all around butt-kicker-chick with a dopey headband. She greets you, introduces herself, and becomes an important ally throughout the game’s story. This is a simple, quick moment, but Alyx is such a great character, it’s impossible not to include her.
Psychonauts - The Milkman Conspiracy
Psychonauts is an epically funny game, and the Milkman Conspiracy level is one of the most bizarre examples of Tim Schafer’s brilliance. It’s bizarre because it has creepy zombie girl scouts going on about some Milkman as if they where headed to an oil drum filled with laced punch, it’s brilliant because the street turns upside down while you walk on it. This hole level is counted as a moment because it is one the greatest examples of strange humor and ingenious level design.
Uncharted 2 - Chole meets Elena
Uncharted 2 is a wonderfully cinematic experience. It’s probably the best written game of the current generation and the character’s interactions are so natural, it’s easy to forget they aren’t real. Drake works with Chloe early in the story, and in the city you bump into good old Elena Fisher, reporter and all around pain in the ass, but you still love her. When the two meet for the first time, it is a very awkward moment as Nate is trapped between the new girl and the last girl. Elena even introduces herself as “last year’s model,” completely unsurprised by Nathan Drake’s finding of a new “leading lady.”