Welcome to spoiler city. As the list moves on you can expect a MAJOR SPOILER in every part. I am being careful not to show too much in the titles and the pictures but if you are sensitive to this stuff you have been warned.
Counting down from 14-10
14. Freedom of Destruction (Just Cause 2, 2010)
When you break them down, video games are a simple case of problem solving. What makes them fun is just how many ways you can come up to solve the problems and how much the game can let you get away with. Measured in this degree, Just Cause 2 can be considered the most fun game in existence. Acting like a coked out frat brother most of the time, the amount of things you can do in this game is overwhelming by nature. Hang on to a car door while blasting at a helicopter with a grenade launcher then grapple to said helicopter proceed to fistfight the pilot and then parachute off it, all on your way to the next mission. If my 360’s disk drive broke and had Just Cause 2 stuck in there forever, I would not have a problem.
13. Dom and Maria (Gears of War 2, 2008)
Every hero needs something to fight for. In the case of Dom, it was his wife Maria. Though he may have been a secondary character, his devotion for his wife was the most potent cause to fight the Locust in Gears of War. When her fate is discovered, controllers everywhere were dropped. There are many ways to present a character’s downfall, but the death of Maria, especially after the short, imagined reunion, is the clear catalysts for Dom’s actions later in the series. Throw in the fact that Epic actually makes you pull the trigger on her can bring ever the most grizzled of gamers (the Gears of War crowd) to shed a couple of tears of emotion.
12. Joel’s Decision (The Last of Us, 2013)
I always knew the ending of The Last of Us was not going to be pretty. From the first five minutes of the game it became clear that there is no light at the end of this tunnel. Joel is a character who has lost a piece of himself in a world that will not forgive nor blame him for it. As it dawned on me that the Fireflies would have to end Ellie’s life in order to try and save humanity, my young, naïve mindset was all for it. Yes, I had developed the obligatory little sister protective arch over her after spending fifteen hours trying to save her life, but I understand that the needs of the many outweigh those of the few. What Joel did in those final moments is not something I can relate to. It is not something I would have done. He was a man who had lost everything he cared about and it became obvious that the scar was still fresh twenty years later. Those last words he said to Ellie made me feel empty inside. Can he really live with such a lie? I can’t answer this question right now; maybe when I have a kid of my own. Even placing you in Ellie’s shoes during that last little bit of gameplay, having her ask him for help to get up on that hill. It is those small details that make me wonder what Naughty Dog wanted me to feel during this part. Her reaction, as subtle as it was, held so much weight. Something I am sure about is that this ending, as hard to swallow as it was, can stand as one of the best of the last generation.
11. All Ghillied Up (Call of Duty 4, 2007)
The dreaded stealth level. In the generic first person shooter checklist you will always find that developers manage to squeeze in an awkwardly built stealth level as a means to change up the pace in gameplay. Gamers always saw it as an unavoidable steppingstone into better things. Call of Duty 4 changed that. In what has to be the best scripted level I have ever played, Infinity Ward built a mission that made me want to not get noticed, yet got my heart racing as any explosive firefight. From synchronizing with your Captain to down two enemies at once, to sneaking by an entire Russian platoon in the middle of Chernobyl, to finally going guns blazing as you await extraction, All Ghillied Up proved that the formula can be changed. It will stand as one of the best levels ever made for a video game.
10. What to Do With the Geth (Mass Effect 2, 2008)
Choice played a big role in the last generation. Diverging story paths and difficult decisions seem to have sneaked their way into many of the pivotal games of the era. Yet the choice that resonates with me the most came near the end of Mass Effect 2, when I had to decide what to do with the Geth consciousness. I had the ability to either destroy them or rewrite their consciousness to make them a potential ally. While on the surface it looks like a simple choice (more numbers against the Reaper invasion = better chance of survival) when I thought into it, there was something very sinister about it. As the folks on Extra Credits broke it down, it is more evil to completely change the way somebody thinks than to let them die for what they believe in. Revolutions are fought by people who are willing to put their lives for a mindset. The Geth were just that, revolutionaries. Who am I to suddenly change the way they all think as a means of benefiting my own cause? If I were the Geth, I would want to die in honor rather than live on without a purpose. All this conflict over a few paragon or renegade points.