Best Video Game Moments is a series about memorable moments and mechanics in video games.Spoiler alert: This post may contain spoilers for the video games it references.
Robbing the Cradle …For Thief 3: Deadly Shadows
A late game mission of considerable acclaim, Robbing the Cradle sends our titular thief to a haunted asylum in search of secrets you wish had stayed buried.
This unforgettable level is spent wandering around the Shalebridge Cradle, reading unsettling journal entries, and witnessing the dying words of ghostly spirits. The tension builds like the first Alien movie, as players don’t encounter another lifeform here for the longest time.
Much like the rest of Thief 3: Deadly Shadows, the gameplay wears thin before long, as the supernatural enemies you do eventually meet can’t be dealt with easily. But then again, that’s the entire point: this is a nightmarish place you’re not meant to feel comfortable in.
Even if you do need an FAQ guide to navigate its labyrinthine collection of spooky steam rooms, abandoned nurseries, and blood-soaked operating theatres, the heavy atmosphere and constant menace of unspeakable things lurking around the corner, makes this easily the most memorable and fascinating moment of a very middling whole.
Liberty Prime takes it back! …For Fallout 3
The final mission in Fallout 3 has players assembling the titanic defender of democracy himself, Liberty Prime.
Prime is a humongous robot who stomps mutant heads while tossing nuclear bombs like they were soft balls. What makes this moment so enjoyably silly is Prime’s frequent quipping, as a giant robot who annihilates everything it lays its sensors on apparently wasn’t enough, because of course it has to talk trash and spout propaganda while doing so.
“Probability of mission hindrance: ZERO PERCENT!”
Rachel kisses Chloe …For Life is Strange: Before the Storm
This prequel to the original Life is Strange tells the backstory of Chloe Price and her relationship with the enigmatic Rachel Amber. There is a hidden intimacy level between the two women, and if players raise it high enough, they can see Rachel and Chloe kiss in a dramatic scene of soaring sexual tension.
I didn’t actually see this in my own playthrough, as I liked the idea of Chloe requesting Rachel’s bracelet more than just a fleeting smooch. Reviewing it later though, made me realise how well the “kiss” scene is done. It doesn’t feel exploitative or tacky in the slightest — this is a genuine moment of two women expressing feelings for each other in a way that feels natural in the context of the story. It does right by the original Life is Strange in that sense, and suggests video games might just be able to handle mature themes after all.
The unmasking of Emperor Junon …For Dragon Force
Dragon Force is a game begging for the full retrospective treatment. For now though, I’ll have to make do with this subtle moment where the shadowy emperor of the tundra-bound Tristan empire reveals her true face.
What’s that? The fabled “Black Knight of Masked Death” is actually a woman? This won’t feel like a big deal today, but in the mid-Nineties when I first played Dragon Force, it was rare to see a female character presented in a such an ass-kicking role like this. OK, we have to address the fact that underneath that foreboding mask, Junon is a smoking-hot babe, but what makes her attractive is not just the symmetry of her face because that alone would be boring, and Dragon Force is anything but boring.
Junon is a well-developed character. She’s an angsty queen who seeks revenge against the rival monarch who murdered her father, and she must weigh the need for that revenge against the needs of her people, while a cursed sword whispers dark promises in her ear, and vile warlords appear every day with another threat of invasion, or after she takes the mask off, another threat of marriage!
If you chose Junon during your first campaign (like I did once upon a time), her gender is revealed early on in a suitably casual manner. But when another monarch encounters her, Junon unmasks in a dramatic cutscene where she declares, “They will fear me as they have no other woman before.”
Whether it’s in the throne room or on the battlefield though, Junon loses none of her regality or ferocity upon taking the mask off. She’s still the same ass-kicking queen of the harpies who rains literal meteors down on anyone foolish enough to cross her. All these years later, I still adore her for it.
The “real” Matt Engarde …For Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice for All
“I think it’s time for you to meet him now, Mr. Lawyer dude.”
Ten years removed from Dragon Force and we have a similar identity twist in the second Ace Attorney game. Here, Phoenix Wright defends the lovably air-headed Matt Engarde from a murder allegation. However, over the course of one tremendous mid-chapter scene, said client reveals he’s been putting on a facade all this time because the “real” Matt Engarde is actually a sinister mastermind who threatens everything Phoenix Wright holds dear.