Several weeks have now passed since the chaotic releases of the now current-gen consoles, to rather mixed receptions, some glowing, others less so. The main gripe that people have had so far revolves around the lack of hard hitting exclusive games on each platform. This is not terribly surprising since launch titles are never usually the best a console will offer. As we head towards the New Year and a 2014 filled with brand new gaming experiences I’m sure that both platforms will step up with a whole host of games filled with exquisite gaming moments. In honour of the occasion I have compiled my top ten gaming moments, moments which remind you why you love gaming in the first place. This list is obviously only my opinion based on the games I have played but I would love to know which moments make your top ten.
10. First exploration of Peach’s Castle in Super Mario 64
This is one of the first games that I owned on the excellent N64 and remains a favourite to this day. The game is filled with many great moments but for me, the most stand-out moment is entering Peach’s Castle for the first time. This is one of the first games to use a 3D explorable hub as a means of moving from level to level and, I must say, did it beautifully. The sense of space and scale was incredible. Seemingly infinite rooms branching off in all directions, massive gardens (filled with Boos) and basements to work through, and huge Mario themed artworks festooning the walls, all enjoyed to the backdrop of a regal musical accompaniment. The levels themselves are perfectly designed, but the addition of the hub lends a wonderful cohesiveness to the game.
9. Arrival in Oblivion/Skyrim
I have put these two together because the positives that they have are identical. As you emerge from the sewers (damn sewers) or dragon ravaged towns to emerge on the main world map, the feeling of freedom within the game is brilliant. You are given vague directions towards a main goal but equally you are free to just wander off wherever you like. Not many games have done this as well as the Elder Scrolls games. In Oblivion you are faced with a vast beautiful expanse full of colour and burgeoning possibilities that just demand to be explored. It is the same for Skyrim although, of course, the world seems harsher and starker, but no less beautiful. Both games offer a huge and, at first, seemingly overwhelming amount of freedom and choice, and this is most apparent when you first venture out into the vast wilderness.
8. Finding the last mask in Majora’s Mask
This game was slated by many fans of the series for being too small as it only contains 4 traditional Zelda dungeons. However, this game was far from small. Every mask that you had to collect involved the telling of a mini story, which gave a real depth to the world of Termina and its inhabitants. They became real people with real problems and not just irrelevant NPCs to interact with. By the time that you have found the last mask out of 20, you have completed 20 mini side quests, helped dozens of people, performed a complex array of tasks, and travelled back and forwards in time more times that you could possible count. You have changed the world of Termina for the better. The attainment of the last mask is the end of a long and immersive journey, and never fails to feel well earned.
7. Defeating the Elite 4 and Lance the Dragon Master in Pokémon HeartGold
Defeating these opponents feels hugely satisfying. You started out with one weak level 5 starter Pokémon, but through innumerable battles and showdowns you have raised it and at least 5 other Pokémon from humble beginnings to fully evolved and strong Pokémon. As such you really care about the Pokemon under your command and the sense of achievement is strong as you face down and defeat the very toughest trainers that Johto and Kanto have to offer to take your place in the Hall of Fame.
6. Defeating the first boss in Dark Souls
This game is littered with amazing moments so picking just one is particularly hard. I initially thought that the showdown with Lord Gwyn at the end of the game, but after reflection settled on the killing of the first boss. At this point you are new to the game, still finding your feet, cutting down hollows and knights, but still dying a lot. At first the demon boss occupying the bridge seems to be an unbeatable foe, but after many attempts you learn the skills to take him down and kill him in a furious and hair-raising struggle that leaves you out of breath and exhausted but full of triumph. If you haven’t played this, go do so, you’ll see what I mean. The sense of victory against impossible odds is great.
5. Becoming adult Link in Ocarina of Time
After opening the Door of Time Link steps forward and grasps the Master Sword, and makes videogame history. The moment that Link awakens and realises his adult self is stunning as you transform from a child to the Hero of Time, Master Sword in hand, is one that I, and many others I’m sure, will never forget.
4. Defeating Bowser for the final time in Super Mario 64
After climbing the previously infinite stairway, the final confrontation with Bowser awaits. You have explored numerous worlds, collected 120 stars, and defeated countless numbers of Bowser’s minions. The moment when Bowser starts moving towards you to attack sent a thrill down my spine. You have chased him across worlds to this point, but you both know that there is no escape for either of you at this point, it’s the final confrontation. The feeling of elation when you throw Bowser into a bomb for the last time is huge; the last act in an amazing game against the most iconic villain in video-game history.
3. The village scene in Resident Evil 4
Like Dark Souls, this is a game which is crammed full of great moments, but for me the best moment has to be Leon’s first trip into the village. So far only a handful of Ganados at a time have been attacking you and you’re thinking, this OK, nothing I can’t handle. Then you go through the gate and suddenly a whole village is after you, your safe refuge being broken into by a huge maniac with a chainsaw and a bag over his head, intent on beheading you. This was shit scary the first time. It feels as if there is nowhere to hide from a whole village full of pitchfork wielding locals all trying their very best to kill you. This scene exemplifies the qualities that make this game great, it’s fast paced, action packed, scary, brutal, and makes you feel terribly alone against overwhelming odds. Surviving it makes you feel like a hero. Only 900 more Ganados to go, eh?
2. Killing Trevelyan in Goldeneye
This is the climax to one of the best games ever and really feels that way. You have finally cornered this shadow, this phantom that you have been pursuing for the whole game. The race through the cradle is brilliant, and, is actually still tricky on the higher difficulties. The enemies are numerous with powerful weapons, infinitely respawning. You have little ammo and limited health, and all the while you have to keep pace with the fleeing figure of Trevelyan, trying to damage him enough to make him take his final stand and trying to keep yourself alive. It’s not easy. Hence the elation when you finally blast him off the satellite. How many times did you die before figuring out not to use the ladder?
1. Ganon Attacks! (Ocarina of Time)
So, you have freed all the sages, cleared all the temples, stormed Ganondorf’s castle and tower and defeated the man himself. So its over now, yes? No. Just as you go to make your escape the figure of Ganondorf emerges from the ruins of his castle and uses the power of the Triforce to transform into the monstrous Ganon, revealing the actual final showdown of the game. It’s a huge moment in video-gaming and was actually surprising the first time through, his appearance enough to quash the triumph that you were feeling at defeating Ganondorf. The Master Sword is knocked out of Link’s hand making you feel utterly defenceless against this huge monster. Perfect.