With the eighth generation picking up speed and the seventh generation effectively at a close, it’s time to look back at the seventh generation of systems and the games that defined them. Specifically, let’s talk about the 10 most shocking moments of the seventh generation of gaming.
Please be warned. This editorial will feature MASSIVE SPOILERS for various games that were released in the seventh generation of gaming. So how do you know if it is safe to read this article? Well, I’m going to list the games that are spoiled (in alphabetical order) right below this paragraph. If you haven’t played through these games yet, well, you SHOULD because they all happen to be 10 of the most best games (and some others that I mention) of the entire generation and in all of gaming in general.
So before reading ANY further, please check this games off your list:
Assassin’s Creed II
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto V
Red Dead Redemption
The Last of Us
Got it? Good. Now you can read the rest of this article without having to worry about spoilers. Again. MASSIVE SPOILERS beyond this point. Do NOT ruin those games for yourself. Go play them all! Right now! I demand it of you.
10. Goodbye brother… (Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons)
This is one of the more recent games on the list, but that doesn’t diminish the emotional punch that goes along with playing this game. Basically, Brothers is a tale about, well, two sons — a big brother and a little brother set off on an epic adventure to find the cure for their father’s sickness. It is an extremely innovative game, and the story that it tells is one of the most memorable in video game history.
Over the course of their journey, the titular “two sons” encounter a variety of heartbreaking events, lovable characters, and insane brushes with death. At the end of the game, bigger brother finds love in the form of a young girl about his age that they rescue from ritual sacrifice at the hands of a primitive tribe.
Well, as it turns out (and as is the case with most teenage girls), she’s actually a giant scary spider monster! During the battle with this monster, the older brother is mortally injured, stabbed by one of the spider legs. The little brother desperately attempts to revive him, but it is to no avail.
The reason that the big brother’s death is so powerful is because throughout the entire game, the big brother is always there at key moments for the little brother. He’s there to push the heavy objects. He’s there to lift the little brother up to the higher ledges. He’s there to help the little brother get across water, since the little brother can’t swim…
With the big brother gone, the little brother has to learn how to handle life without him, and he discovers that the strength to grow up and move on was within himself the entire time. Through a clever mix of gameplay controls and storytelling, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons packs one wallop of an emotional punch to the gut, and it left me and many others absolutely breathless by the time the credits rolled.
09. I’m not saying it was ancient aliens… (Assassin’s Creed II)
The Assassin’s Creed series has always been about futuristic technology and sci-fi elements to have the main character revisit dormant memories of his ancestors within himself in order to visit historical times throughout history. So even with a science-fiction precedent in the series, the shocker at the end of Assassin’s Creed II was still one hell of a shocker, and I don’t think anyone really saw it coming.
Basically, Assassin’s Creed II ends with Ezio discovering an ancient vault that, at the time, was heavily implied to be alien in nature. Think “Ancient Aliens” really, or the remnants of a civilization long gone. This startling revelation added more fuel to the assassin/Templar rivalry that frames the franchise’s plot, and it also left many gamers absolutely floored.
08. Booker is Comstock is Booker (BioShock Infinite)
The first of two BioShock nods on the list, this entry comes from the latest game in the series, BioShock Infinite. Because of the first BioShock, everyone expected BioShock Infinite to have a twist ending. Think of it as the M. Night curse, except Ken Levine and the team at Irrational Games actually delivered! BioShock Infinite’s story is, to say the least, absolutely mind blowing.
At the end of the game, players take a trippy journey through Columbia, Rapture, and other locations as Elizabeth (or a bunch of Elizabeths) explain that the story is basically just a giant infinite loop. Not only that, but Booker is actually Comstock, the main antagonist, albeit younger. Also his daughter got snatched from him through a wormhole thing. Yep.
I’m not going to dig much deeper into the insane BioShock Infinite ending because it is way too complicated to sum up nicely enough in this top 10 list. If you’re curious, just use Google and prepare to be amazed. And also prepare for a lot of reading.
07. Well, when you look at it THAT way… (Braid)
Braid can be credited with being the game that really helped kickstart the indie gaming movement that is so dominant in the industry today. Furthermore, Braid also set a number of indie game precedents, such as having the style be similar to retro games, and also by taking an artistic and meaningful approach to both the gameplay and the story. As one of the most innovative games that came out in the seventh generation, Braid definitely lives up to the hype, and here’s why.
Players assume, as they should when playing games, that they are the good guy. So when taking control of Tim, the tie-wearing protagonist of Braid, players think that they are trying to save the girl that is being apparently kidnapped by the bad guy. However, in reverse, that is not the case at all. The game seriously flips expectations on their head, and it takes the classic Mario Bros. tale of “your princess is in another castle” to a whole new, eye-opening level.
There are plenty of fan theories in regards to Braid, some that involve nukes (nukes are quite prevalent in this top 10 list, by the way), but interpret it however you wish and Braid is still a mind-blowing experience.
06. Wedding Driveby (Grand Theft Auto IV)
Grand Theft Auto IV has two different possible endings, and both of them are depressing as hell. And both of them are shocking as hell. No matter what choice the player makes, they wind up either losing their girlfriend, Kate, or their bowling obsessed cousin, Roman. Both of these characters are great, and losing them is a bummer of the largest magnitude.
Losing major characters in a game is always a big blow and a shocker. My experience with Grand Theft Auto IV was probably a bit more shocking than most, due to a glitch. After Kate died, Niko would still get calls from her, and she would ask him to pick her up for a date, though Niko would just hold the phone up to his face and never reply.
The icon to go pick Kate up for the date would appear on my map, but if I went to the location, Kate would never show up. Now that is creepy as hell.
Also, as sort of a GTA honorable mention, there’s a pretty shocking moment in Grand Theft Auto V as well. When players are first introduced to the extremely violent psychopath that is Trevor, he kills a main character from Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty, Johnny. Seeing an integral character from the overall GTA IV experience kick the bucket in such a gruesome manner was a serious shock to fans of the games.
05. Bye bye Megaton/Tranquility Lane (Fallout 3)
Fallout 3 is full of shocking moments, but for the purpose of this list, I managed to narrow it down to just two. The first of which I will talk about is the destruction of Megaton. Megaton is a quiet town that is encountered very early on in the game, and it just so happens to have a huge nuclear bomb in its center.
Since Fallout 3 is all about player choice, players get a choice when it comes to Megaton as well: blow it up, or keep it safe. Choosing the latter option keeps Megaton around for collectibles and quests and everything, but choosing the former is a lot more interesting, albeit diabolical, sadistic, and absolutely shocking.
The explosion that destroys Megaton is incredible. Seeing the mushroom cloud bloom as a city that was once full of people is completely decimated and wiped off the Capital Wasteland map forever is one of the most powerful moments I’ve ever experienced in gaming. But that being said, there’s another pretty shocking moment in Fallout 3, and it involves a little place called Tranquility Lane.
Tranquility Lane tasks players with entering a virtual reality simulation that some vault dwellers have purposefully trapped themselves in so that they can live ignorant of the terrors of the real world. During this journey, players are forced to do some pretty messed up crap, including murdering people, breaking up marriages, taunting children…there’s even a short spree as a child serial killer just to cap it off. Tranquility Lane is the stuff of nightmares.
04. Nuclear explosion (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare)
The Call of Duty series has its fair share of shocking moments, so much so that it is practically a staple of the series at this point…though they’ve gotten less creative and less shocking over time. When the series first started to push these insane set pieces in Call of Duty 4, however, the concept was still fresh and very powerful.
Killing off main, playable characters is not a common practice in gaming. Most of the time it just never, ever happens, so when it DOES happen, it always comes as a serious shock. In Call of Duty 4, a nuclear explosion goes off in a town, and players have to deal with not only the explosion, but crawl through the aftermath of it.
There’s another pretty shocking moment from the Call of Duty series that I would’ve included on the list if I had enough room, and it is from Modern Warfare 2. It is an infamous level called “No Russian”, in which players take the role of an undercover Russian terrorist that is forced to slaughter large groups of civilians in an airport. This disturbing scene earned Modern Warfare 2 a lot of controversy, and it resonates still today as one of the most shocking scenes in video game history.
03. The beginning and the end (The Last of Us)
The Last of Us is a sequence of shocking moments, all beautifully built up with atmosphere and thought provoking storytelling. My personal game of the year for 2013, The Last of Us is one of the games that I am going to cherish for the rest of my life, and because of that, I can’t just mention one of the shocking moments in the game.
The beginning of The Last of Us is one of the most intense openings in any video game I’ve ever played. In it, players take control of Joel’s daughter as all hell breaks loose across the country. She winds up shot and killed, and seeing Joel’s heartbreak is a truly powerful moment.
Of course, it just ramps up from there. Instead of hitting all of the details throughout the game though, I am going to stick to the extremely polarizing ending. At the end of the game, Joel decides to run off with Ellie instead of allowing her to be used to cure the terrible plague that has transformed humanity into a legion of ugly monsters.
Ellie realizes that something is fishy about Joel’s story as they head back to rejoin Joel’s brother, but Joel deliberately keeps it a secret from here. He straight up lies to her face in the game’s final moments. I personally found this the perfect ending to the epic saga that is The Last of Us, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Of course, it would be nice to see where the characters are at now in a sequel for PlayStation 4, so please get on that whenever you have the chance Naughty Dog…
02. “Would you kindly…” (BioShock)
BioShock is one of the games that defined the seventh generation early on, and it pushed a lot of people to go with Xbox 360 over PS3 since it was only available on that console (and PC). BioShock itself is considered one of the best games of the generation for numerous reasons, mainly it’s amazing story that can only be effectively told through the medium of video gaming.
In video games, players do what they are told by NPCs all the time simply because that is what moves the game forward. So when NPCs are telling the main character Jack to do this or that for them, players go along with it out of necessity.
It is discovered later that Jack was actually part of some twisted experiment, and he is wired to obey anyone that utters the phrase, “Would you kindly…” before a request. This means that Jack has effectively been a mindless drone from the start of the game. He also finds out that his “father” is Andrew Ryan, who forces Jack to beat him to death with a golf club. If that wasn’t bad enough, the guy that was supposed to be the “good” guy all along? Yeah, not so good.
01. John Marston’s death (Red Dead Redemption)
The death of John Marston in Red Dead Redemption is the most shocking video game death that I have ever witnessed. Killing off main playable characters is ALWAYS a huge deal, but it’s an even bigger deal when it is a character that is so likable like John Marston.
Killing him off was an extremely ballsy move by Rockstar, and the event is a serious jolt. It is preceded by a really calm, purposefully boring series of farm chores. Jumping from farm chores to the death of John Marston left me with my jaw hanging open and it still hasn’t quite closed yet.
There are big boots to fill with the next Red Dead, but if anyone knows about meeting and surpassing expectations, it’s Rockstar Games. Will the eighth gen Red Dead have a moment that is just as shocking or even more shocking than the death of John Marston from Red Dead Redemption? Probably.
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Any other shocking moments in the seventh generation that you felt deserved to be on the list? Sound off in the comments below, but remember to have your posts appropriately marked for any spoilers, naming the game that is being spoiled before saying anything about any possible plot details!