WARNING: Today’s nominations are spoilerific. I have highlighted the game nominees rather than the actual “emotional moment” so you can avoid spoilers for any game you haven’t yet played. Still, be advised, if you haven’t played Life is Strange, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Ori and the Blind Forest, Fallout 4, Batman: Arkham Knight, Undertale, Everybody’s Gone to Rapture, or Telltale’s Game of Thrones, tread lightly.
We hope you had a Merry Christmas (or whatever Holiday you celebrated). While we’re all still playing with our new toys and/or nursing hangovers, we have a great award category for you today going into our final week of 2015: the Most EmotionalMoment of 2015. We waffled long and hard about whether to call this “most memorable” or “most emotional” or even just “best” moment of 2015, but in the end, we decided that the best and most memorable moments are probably going to be the most emotional so…semantics aside, most of these moments are extremely memorable and, as I mentioned above, spoilery. So be careful if you intend to play (and don’t want spoilers for) any of the aforementioned games.
Lance Roth, Editorial Writer (@RPGameX) – Throughout this end-of-the-year wrap-up I’ve been pretty consistent in advocating the merits of Life is Strange, and I will probably do it again at least once more this year. My first WTF moment with Life is Strange, and there were a couple, was at the end of the aptly named, Episode 3: Chaos Theory.
What started as a genuine attempt by the main character, Max to make her best friend, Chloe’s life better, quickly reminded us all of how much worse life could actually be. Yeah, Chloe didn’t have her real dad anymore, and her new step-father was a douche, but a possible alternative to her father dying in a car accident was that she was actually the one injured in that car accident. To make things worse, Chloe was actually dying from her resulting condition and instead of Max making Chloe’s life better, Max now had to decide, whether or not to end her friend’s suffering and stop the life support machine that was keeping her alive.
While Life is Strange certainly isn’t the only game to tackle “Chaos Theory,” or the “Butterfly Effect,” the way it is handled in the game is, by far, the most impactful of any game that I’ve ever played.
Rhys Cooper – News and Editorial Writer (@Dizzee_Rhyscal) – Another tough one, this and every year. Life is Strange is a good shout, especially what Lance said above as well as the true enemy reveal. Batman: Arkham Knight had a couple of great moments, including the Joker reveal as well as ‘The Killing Joke’ towards the end of the game. Fallout 4‘s ‘Last Voyage of the U.S.S. Institution’ quest also involved an amusing narrative and selection of robotic characters, but its finale was brilliant. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (which I cruelly neglected from the ‘Best Setting’ category) also included some wonderful moments upon the end of each chapter – the most memorable being in the Church at the end of Jeremy’s chapter when the orchestral music kicks in while the lights dim and the candles lead the way. Just falling into second place is the emotional kick in the gut beginning to Ori and the Blind Forest.
What I will remember the most from this year however is, surprise surprise, from Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The ‘Bloody Baron’ quest, with its (in my playthrough) incredibly sombre and grizzly end will stick with me for a long time. The quest was made up of many different arcs, including a run-in with the Ladies of the Wood and the Orphans of Crookback Bog, and, at the center of it all, was Phillip Strenger himself, better known as the Bloody Baron, who sits atop his throne in Crow’s Perch having lost his wife and daughter.
They are not dead, just missing, and it’s up to Geralt as always to solve the mystery. Unfortunately they both left because of Strenger’s anger and his own fist. In the end, (for me) his daughter Tamara stays in Oxenfurt and wants nothing to do with him, and Anna, his wife, has become crazy under the influence of the Crones (Ladies of the Wood), transformed into a monster after defying them, and eventually dies.
The finale of the quest line (taking maybe ten hours?) means returning to the Bloody Baron’s castle only to find him hanging by the neck from a tree. The true devastation of the event became too much even for him and suicide seemed like the only option. This was my most memorable moment of 2015. When summarizing the first Act, Geralt remarks that he had no idea how things would turn out when making his decisions, therefore inferring that the quest has a lasting effect on the ’emotionless’ Witcher. Incredible storytelling.
Nick Calandra, Owner (@OnlySP_Nick) – Boy, this year has had quite a few memorable moments for me, but after doing this sort of work for seven years now it’s sort of hard to pick just one. I’d have to say overall, though, that the Horizon: Zero Dawn announcement was probably my favorite moment of the year.
When the game was originally rumored, it was one of the most intriguing game ideas I had heard of in a long time. It was a game that, in the back of my mind, didn’t really seem possible. For whatever reason, when a game seemingly matches up with everything you could possibly want in a dream game, it never ends up being real, or falling short of expectations.
When Horizon: Zero Dawn’s first trailer was shown off, it was captivating, beautiful and got me more excited for a new game than I had been in a long while. We haven’t seen much of the game yet, but the little glimpse of the game we saw at E3 2015 was enough to sell me on the entire experience.
James Schumacher, Lead Reviewer (@JamesInDigital) – If you haven’t been warned sufficiently yet, then SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS! Some of the most memorable moments are clearly bombastic action set pieces, but it’s often the scenes that hit us in those fabled “feels” that really stick. You may always remember that time you hit the shot in the big game, but I’m willing to bet the first time your heart was broken is right there with it.
Rhys and Lance have covered several of my most memorable moments already, but they’re worth mentioning again. The suicide of the Bloody Baron should leave no doubt as to the commitment of the The Witcher 3‘s writers to a story that is firmly grounded in the real world when it comes to character development. Morality is not always a clearly black and white thing, and redemption is more of rarity than we like to believe. The Baron, to whatever degree you succeeded in your playthrough, was not able right his wrongs, nor live with them. It’s a powerful realization, and the cold reaction from surrounding parties helps reinforce the tone for this very bleak world.
The alternate reality Chloe in Life is Strange was memorable, not only for the shock value, but for the way it addressed real-world issues head on. Essentially, this became an uncomfortably close look at a “right-to-die” situation. Max’s dialogue delivery mirrors our struggle with a choice that is supremely difficult to make. As powerful as that scene is, the Kate Marsh storyline hit me so much harder. As I mentioned in my review, I did something that I just don’t do for a first playthrough, I replayed the end of the episode that ends with Kate Marsh standing on top of the dormitory building, poised to jump. My first time through… she did. I couldn’t handle it. That was too real, too raw. I had to go back and fix this. Now imagine any number of first responders, be they suicide prevention hotlines operators, police officers or what have you. They don’t get to hit the rewind.
On the lighter side of things, the previously mentioned “Last Voyage of the U.S.S. Constitution” is perhaps my favorite thing in Fallout 4. It simply made me smile. Robots inhabiting a ship lodged on top of an old bank building in the harbor, have been programmed by their Admiral, “Ironsides,” to speak as pseudo pirate/high-English naval officers. They seek to gather parts for their “voyage” while combating nearby raiders. Only near the end does the player begin to realize what this final voyage will be, but you’re not sure if they’re going to be able to pull it off. And then they do… it’s both glorious and comical at the same time, and was really close to being my final pick.
However, I’m going to take this good feeling back down. My pick for most memorable moment goes to Ori and the Blind Forest. The entirety of the intro sequence is magical. As has been mentioned in previous categories, it definitely has a Studio Ghibli feel to it, right down to the moment where it rips out your heart and stomps on it. Ori’s friend and caretaker continually sacrifices as the world around them decays into darkness. With barely any food available Ori is offered sustenance first. Later when Ori returns the favor, the offer is met with silence. No movement. Ori nudges at the motionless figure, which slowly slumps over. There were several heart-wrenchers this year, but that one got me, and is one of the most emotional and my most memorable gaming moment of 2015.
Reid A Gacke, Editor in Chief (@OnlySP_Reid) – In the end, this decision really came down to two for me: Ori and the Blind Forest, which I finally got around to beating, and, of course, Undertale. Ori delivers a powerful opening sequence in which the titular character’s caretaker sacrifices (her?)self so that Ori can survive in a slowly dying world. It was touching…but this moment pales in comparison to my winning nomination. I’m not saying it fails as an emotional moment – it’s very clearly my runner up – but it’s just too early in the game and events later counter it too much for it to be the gut punch it wants to be. Not that I’m not happy about those later events. The ending of the game is brilliant and heartwarming and beautiful. But it weakens the emotional blow somewhat.
No, my nomination for Most Emotional Moment this year is good old, reliable Undertale. Now, the outcome of this moment may vary depending on your playthrough, but I’m willing to bet most of the people that went into this game blind (like I tried to do) had a similar experience to mine. After the lengthy “tutorial” sequence in the ruins, Toriel (a.k.a. Goat Mom) tries to deny the main character, Frisk’s, request to leave the ruins to find their way home. Toriel knows that Asgore, King of Monsters, needs only one more human soul to leave the underworld and take revenge on the humans…and, in doing so, will kill Frisk as he has six other humans before them. But when you insist upon leaving the ruins, Toriel stands in your way.
“You want to leave so badly?” She says. ” Hmph. You are just like the others. There is only one solution to this. Prove yourself… Prove to me you are strong enough to survive!”
The battle with Toriel is the first (maybe second, depending on your definition) real fight in the game. It’s difficult, with the sheer amount of attacks to dodge, and has one of the best music tracks of the year. And it’s emotional too. Toriel refuses to speak with you and is seemingly merciless in her determination to stop you from leaving the Ruins. In my playthrough, despite trying to spare her, it truly seemed like an infamous “must-lose” battle, the sorts that are fairly common as set pieces in JRPGs. Except this time, it seemed like the game was forcing me to kill my beloved Goat Mom to pass. And I did. And it broke my heart. Her dedication to saving my life was so strong that she gave her own to ensure that I was strong enough was so powerful that it broke my heart…and then Flowey rubbing it in afterwards was just the cherry on top for me.
Ori‘s moment was powerful in its own way, but I just feel like the agency the player has in the fight against Toriel makes it all the more powerful. And the fact that you still have Toriel’s number in your cell phone…but no one ever answers. Of course, there is a way to spare her, which I found out later (and I’m sure some people deduced from the contxetual clues), but I’m glad, from a storytelling perspective, that I had this absolutely tragic moment to kick off one of the greatest stories of the year, if not video gaming history.
Adam Railton, News and Editorial Writer (@Mr121Adam121) – So I’m going to have agree with James on this one. Having played Ori and the Blind Forest a lot later in the year than most, I went into the experience expecting an emotional and breathtaking journey. Fortunately, my high expectations were met and outdone. Ori and the Blind Forest is Studio Ghibli through and through, and takes it players on a remarkable journey. The harrowing, yet beautiful, image of the owl chasing you through this strange and mystical landscape is something that will stick with me forever.
The entire aesthetic of the game is something that I couldn’t help but marvel at. The game doesnt allow much time for this however, and keeps you on your toes constantly. By the end of the experience you are tuned to the dangers that await you, and truly grow more receptive of your surroundings. However, as James said, nothing could compare you for the heart-wrenching scene that you are left with at the beginning. Your ‘bodyguard’ of sorts has been by your side from early on and you grow a fondness for it’s presence. So, the scene in which he lies lifeless really hits you where it hurts. For this reason, my most memorable moment has to go to Ori and the Blind Forest.
Kayvon Ghoreshi, News Writer (@kayvonghoreshi) – I’ve made sure to skip my colleague’s posts above me, since many of the games they talk about are in my backlog and unfortunately I was not able to enjoy them in 2015, but hope to do so soon and don’t want anything spoiled. Of the games I played this year, my favorite moment had to be the Joker reveal in Arkham Knight. It was one of those few moments in gaming this year that hadn’t gotten spoiled for me previously or been a predictable twist that I saw coming a mile away (for example, the Arkham Knight reveal). It came at such an unexpected time and I still remember just the raw feeling of complete shock and confusion as to how it was even possible for the Joker to appear in the middle of Scarecrow’s toxin factory.
And although it wasn’t a moment in a game itself, I also have to give a shout out to The Last Guardian announcement at E3 this year. I thought the game was dead and it brought such a smile to my face to not only hear the game was still very much alive, but to also see some gameplay.
Sep Gohardani – News and Features Writer (@SepGohardani) – As you might have been able to guess, my moment of the year comes from a Telltale game, namely Game of Thrones. It’s a pivotal moment of the story which makes it spoilerific, so perhaps stop reading now if you’re still planning on playing the game, but I’m diving straight in.
The game’s fifth episode has already been a tense one as all the Forresters scramble to aid their ailing house, and it all builds to a powerful, intense, and wonderfully-executed conclusion that leaves you with the most difficult decision of the game: The choice between Rodrik and Asher. The strength of Telltale games is that they make you care for all the main characters, accentuating their flaws but also their strengths as human beings, which makes it so that even when you have a preference it is difficult to come to terms with the certain death of the other character.
Telltale know their way around these dramatic and nerve-shredding situations and this one is no different, that sense of impending doom bearing down on you as you make a choice that will shake a family you have come to care deeply about to its core.