100 Memorable Gaming Moments (SpoilArs!) (WIP)

The items in this list are responsible for the 100 most memorable gaming moments during my gaming lifetime, or at least, as best as I can remember them. (This feeble brain has trouble retaining things.) Where I couldn't find the entity in question, I resorted to just using the game from where it came.

List items

  • After defeating Azala and witnessing the crash-landing of Lavos, the party steps through a time gate only to be greeted by a desolate, blustery ice age. The few people you encounter are huddled together in rags, starving and trying to keep warm. Along with the vision of the future, it's one of the most depressing moments in the game. Then, you stumble across a teleporter and--as the game starts playing a peaceful and beautiful Indian-themed tune--you're whisked away to a gorgeous floating kingdom with lush greenery and a majestic mountain. The absolute mood shift and unforgettable music sent shivers up my spine the first time I came across it; to this day, I still get chills during this moment.

  • The Game Boy Advance was the first--and only--videogame system I ever purchased before its U.S. launch. I put in an order with Upstate Games to import the blasted thing, and when I saw F-Zero Advance running--with a blazing sense of speed and beautiful colors--on a handheld system, before any of my other non-import-savvy vriends could, I was stunned. (Nevermind that I eventually became frustrated with that game.) I have a great time with every system I buy at launch, but because I got the GBA early, and it was the biggest leap from its respective predecessor, it will always be the most special unboxing to me.

  • The very first Fatality I ever saw was in a large dollar store in Flushing, NY on an original Mortal Kombat cabinet. The screen went dark, Sub-Zero reached over to his opponent's head, yanked hard, and removed the head--complete with spine dangling loosely below. It was gross. It was also awesome.

  • For many people, seeing how Soul Calibur re-invented the arcade original's graphics was mindblowing. For me, the opposite was the case. When I first saw Soul Calibur running on a projector after hours in the office where I worked, I swore that I couldn't see any improvements. That was until I went back to the videogame shop that had the Soul Calibur arcade machine in the corner to have a good look at its attract mode. God, was the arcade version ugly. Instead of seeing how much better Soul Calibur on Dreamcast looked at first glance, I saw how ugly Soul Calibur in the arcades was on second glance.

  • Final Fantasy Legend II was the first role-playing game I had ever seriously played, though I had dabbled with the original. My friend, who introduced me to the game, somewhat spoiled the last boss--The Arsenal--by showing me his savegame and all the crazy monsters you encounter in the last maze before the final battle. But it was this area, his party's stats and equipment, and the beasts he countered which sucked me into this world of strange monsters, magic and technology, and ultimately into a genre which I had previously cast off as dorky.

  • By all accounts, because of how much more lenient the timing is in Guitar Hero III than it is in Guitar Hero II, Jordan--the hardest song in the latter--is a tougher song to beat, and the euphoric feeling of completing that song is much higher than when it is when beating Through The Fire And Flames, the "last" song in Guitar Hero III. However, the moment of beating Through The Fire And Flames was more memorable for three reasons:

    1) I had just come back from the gym, and my arms were (supposed to be) dead tired.

    2) I did it with a friend watching while another friend was in the shower.

    3) I did it again, on camera, after the friend in the shower was done with the shower so I could show him.

  • Believe it or not, Super Mario World was the first Mario game I ever beat. I never beat the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, or Super Mario Bros. 3 even. I got up to the last stage of Super Mario Land but a friend had to beat it for me. So, figuring out how to beat Bowser in that floating clown face was a triumphant moment for the little 10-year-old that was me.

  • The second Zelda game for the NES was drastically different, adding 2D platformer elements to its traditionally top-down structure. Link was jumping all over the place, and as if to emphasize this fact, the first boss character you face--Horse Head--was vulnerable only to strikes at his face. Horse Head, mind you, was very tall, and the combination of ominous boss music and the warped nature of a dude with a horse head made this--at the time--one of the most unsettling first boss experiences of my young lifetime.

  • Stage 5 of Double Dragon II--the bane of my existence, with disappearing platforms abound. This works fine for Mega Man, but in a game where the jumping is tight and the focus is on fisticuffs? It took me and my friend multiple playthroughs to finally get it down pat, and when I finally made it across and up the complicated pattern at the end of the level, my friend slipped at the last second and lost her last life. Bummer. But at least I made it.

  • Final Fantasy III (more properly, Final Fantasy VI) for the Super NES opened with one of the most memorable sequences in my experience. There's a slow introduction to our first protagonist--Terra--who doesn't utter a word, as the peons accompanying her talk about her (and the premise of the game) as if she's not even there. It then shifts to a slow, dreary trudge through the snow with the perfect music accompanying it (a depressing version of Terra's theme song) and--get this--opening credits. Not too many games by that time tried to open up with a credit roll like that. A big thing today? A big thing in hindsight? Maybe not, but at the time, it blew my mind from an aesthetic standpoint.

  • Rydia's return in the second stanza of Final Fantasy IV was one of the most spine-tingling moments of any of my RPG experiences. The U.S. instruction manual pretty much handed you a walkthrough for the first half of the game, and being the simple-minded fifth-grader that I was, I ate it up, so pretty much every major story event up until the Underground world was ruined. Not Rydia's comeback. The fact that she (a) duffed Golbez out with awesome summon magic and (b) appeared all grown up culminated in a huge, fist-pumping sense of, "Holy SHIT, she's back, bitches!"

  • In Final Fantasy Legend for the Gameboy, there's a skyscraper late in the game that your party has to climb in order to find and defeat SuZaku, one of the four fiends in that game. Up until after I had beaten its direct sequel, and Final Fantasy II for the Super NES (aka Final Fantasy IV), I had never gotten this far in this game. Now, I'm a sucker for playing around with musical themes and continuity between series / franchises, so when I heard that the music sounded very similar to the music in Final Fantasy IV's Tower of Bab-Il, I almost shrieked inexplicably. Two good things: (a) I was by myself and (2) I didn't actually shriek.

  • I was always awkward at taking the reins of a fighting game in an arcade, and when Joey's Pizzeria by my school started carrying fighting games which attracted me and all of my friends, we found ourselves in a comfortable environment to learn with good-natured heckling. The first time I successfully executed a 20-plus hit Ultra Combo in Killer Instinct, it was with Fulgore. Forward, Down, Down-Forward, and light punch was the key to my first truly exhilarating experience with KI.

  • Back in junior year of high school, my friend introduced me to the dark, illegal arts of videogame emulation and ROMs. Now, I fully stand behind the principle that it's wrong to pirate videogames, but at that time, there was such a wealth of hands-on knowledge to be gained about the history of videogames and videogame lineage from game emulation. When I first saw the flood of translated games from Japan running on my friend's PC--Final Fantasy III (Famicom) and Final Fantasy V (Super Famicom)--for the first time, in ENGLISH, I knew right then and there that there was so much more to be learned about this hobby which I loved. (At the same time, don't get it twisted, kiddies: Please support this industry by purchasing games.)

  • Ok--when I turned nine years old, I got Super Mario Bros. 3 as my birthday present. Sneaky little bastard that I was, I knew what my gift was and I opened it stealthily, played level 1-1 with a former friend of mine, and then put it back. Later that day when more friends came over for my birthday, the guy with whom I played the now-sorta-sealed copy of Mario 3 intentionally ratted me out to my sister, who didn't do anything but give me the stink eye and some terse words. Needless to say, "former friend" is truly the right terminology for that kid.

  • The first time I saw Bald Bull downed by a well-timed body punch during his Bull Charge, it was on a 48" screen television in the late 1980's. I had never seen such a big character, especially not blown up on such a screen, go down so easily, and furthermore I was simply amazed at the player's timing. This sold me on Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, and at school the next day I asked all my friends about everything they knew about this insane "boxing" game.

  • Riddle me this. In 1993, what was the best home port of the arcade smash-hit fighting game, Mortal Kombat? "The SNES version had the most faithful graphics!" "The Genesis version had the blood!" You could say one of those two, but you'd be wrong, because somehow, the PC version was far and away the best home port, with the violence AND juggle-happy gameplay intact. In fact, I was astounded at how good it was--running on DOS no less--that experiencing such a faithful port of this game has stuck in my mind as one of my most memorable gaming moments or experiences. Considering how innocuous such an "event" this would be otherwise, I think that says a lot about the quality of the port and how little we expected from our PC's where mainstream games were concerned.

  • Golden Axe was a huge hit in the arcades when I was in grade school. With the help of a family friend, I finally beat this game in an arcade in the Resorts hotel arcade in Atlantic City, NJ, only to see the gruesome image of Death Adder's axe flying up in the air, spinning about, coming to land on his...well...private parts.

  • The first glimpse I had of anything related to the Mega Man franchise was a picture of the gigantic angler fish in the underwater segment of Bubble Man's stage in Mega Man 2. It was in Nintendo Power and the caption read, "Denizens of the deep." I thought it was awesome to see such a large enemy, and when I finally saw it during gameplay a year later, I was in awe. Of course, my friend and I went on to try beating Wood Man with Metal Man's metal blade, thinking that a saw should be able to cut through wood, duh.

  • Budokan was one of the first "hi-fi" DOS games I'd ever been privy to. By that I mean, it was one of the first DOS games I played that had: (a) a visual aesthetic that trumped the likes of the original Commander Keen and the original King's Quest and (b) deep, almost unapproachable mechanics in a genre that wasn't space sim, strategy, or otherwise. What really stuck with me was that second item, because the memorable moment comes from the first time I did a reverse spinning aerial jump-kick. 9, 4 Shift key. Which was very awkward on a keyboard. And looked way awesome. Take that, Street Fighter! (This is what I said at the time. I promptly retracted this statement when I actually learned how to play Street Fighter.)

  • Ok, so forget for a minute about how embarrassingly excited I was for a fighting engine as supposedly deep as the one in Budokan (see above). Sango Fighter was where it was at. This game actually DID play like Street Fighter, only with... one punch and one kick. But with the addition of super moves and just smooth gameplay all around, the memory of playing this game for the first time has stuck with me throughout. And people wonder why I bitched about Super Street Fighter IV not coming out on PC... what can I say? I love fighting games on my PC.

  • This memory is not of the first time playing the game, as it is with so many of my other memories. Nope, the memory that stands out for me about Link's original adventure on the NES is the one where I made it up to the final room in the 9th dungeon, about to face off with Ganon, hearing his monstrous screams behind that door, and promptly dying before I could face off with him... followed by two weeks of not touching my NES for whatever reason I had (school? vacation away from home?)... followed by THE BATTERY PAK DYING AND MY SAVES BEING ERASED. Yeah. That is the memory--and the story--of how I never beat The Legend of Zelda.

  • This one's easy. My sister beat Street Fighter II on the SNES on Difficulty Level 7 before I did, using Chun Li. (From then on, she did it ROUTINELY.) How is this memorable? Because I got SEVERELY upstaged--not because she was a girl, mind you, but because she was someone who played videogames far less than I did, not to mention someone who didn't even know how to throw a Hadoken, and someone who couldn't beat Glass Joe in Punch-Out!!. Yeah.

  • When I was 10, my sister's high school friend once came over and showed me the original ActRaiser for the Super NES. By that time I had already been floored by the graphics of F-Zero, and my brain was still tingling from the gameplay in Super Mario World. What makes the ActRaiser show-and-tell one of my memorable gaming moments was Yuzo Koshiro's fantastic, orchestra-inspired soundtrack. I had never, ever heard anything like it before on a videogame system. There were pieces inspired by baroque, classical and romantic music, sure. And by this time there was high fidelity sound. But until ActRaiser, I had never heard an orchestra coming out of my videogame system.

  • Once upon a time in '92, I was browsing in a stationery for school supplies when I came across a bin of computer disks. A great many of them were shareware games, selling for a mere $5. Two of them caught my eye: Duke Nukum (now spelled and better known as Duke "Nukem") and Wolfenstein 3D. I honestly can't remember what criteria I used to make my choice, so I'm just going to say that I randomly decided to spend my Lincoln on Wolfenstein. I honestly had no idea what to expect, as the only screenshot on the plastic disk holder was the title screen. I booted it up and was floored at the fact that I was playing something in three whole dimensions. Obviously it's better known now as 2.5D, but my god, this was gameplay like I'd never seen before. I was actually playing an action game from the first person perspective, and not just moving around in pre-set distances, like in Myst or Wizardry. It was because of this perspective that this was the first game that was truly "scary" for me to play--I couldn't see behind me, and yet was expected to survive ambushes. What an excellent innovation.

  • ... ... ... I'm sorry, did anyone really need an explanation for this one?

  • There was no entry for the ATI All-in-Wonder 128, so I'll have to go with the device's creator: ATi Technologies. When I was getting ready for college, I wanted a video card that played games decently, but also let me watch television and play my consoles on my PC as well in case my roommates wanted the TV for something. The one device that fit my needs was ATi's All-in-Wonder 128, which took its Rage 128 chip and combined it with a TV tuner and inputs. Thus began my love affair with ATi video cards, including its All-in-Wonder Radeon line, broken only by my brief sojourn into nVidia territory with a pair of 8800 GTS's, and rekindled with my current ownership of a Radeon HD 6850. The gaming memory came at very instant that I discovered the card's capabilities in full, hands on, seeing it run Quake 3 and UT flawlessly and playing back video footage I had captured of my PSone games. For all the moments of playing Unreal Tournament, Silent Hill, Chrono Cross, and Final Fantasy IX all from one box, and being able to capture video from the latter 3 games, I thank you, ATi.

  • This isn't so much a memory about the NBA 2K franchise itself as much as it is a great but entertaining moment of embarrassment for me. In sophomore year, I dormed with a few friends--one of whom thought it was a good idea to have our Dreamcast sit on a table with a stack of CD's. While playing 2K1, and on a fast break, I managed to run down my opponent's scorer and block his dunk. Elated, I jumped to my feet and yelped, "GET IT OUT!" while raising my arms up in victory. Unfortunately, I raised my arms so fast that the wire from my controller caught a corner of one of the CD's sticking out of the stack on the table... and knocked all of them over. There were six other friends watching. Thank god for wireless controllers.

  • I didn't see the point of Steam when it first launched with Half-Life 2. I thought it was a ridiculous barrier to entry for what ended up being one of my favorite first-person shooters, period. That all changed one day in mid-2007 when one of my co-workers excitedly told me that id Software's catalog was available on Steam. I was flabbergasted moreso because of the historic Valve-id competition, but I realized that "it" had begun: Buying "real" games, playing them right after they downloaded AND managing them from a centralized source was truly a reality. Only after I experienced the ease of the new Steam experience did I dare venture into the depths of other services like Direct2Drive... and came right back to Steam.

  • Watching the opening cinematic to Final Fantasy VII floored me--no doubt about it. I will never forget the chills I got up and down my spine. Unfortunately, it was also this cutscene, paired with the gameplay that came after, that planted the seeds of cynicism in my brain about the "cinematic" direction that games were heading--non-interactive storytelling and visual splendor over the gameplay that I knew and loved. Of course Final Fantasy VII is, for all intents and purposes, still quite a good game, but only in recent years have I learned to accept and "tolerate" how directors lavish non-interactive stories upon their games.