Before I launch into my list of shocking moments in video games (patience you must have my young Padawans), it's important to point out that the majority of them are no longer shocking, especially given that we live in the age of the Internet. However at the time of their release, these jaw dropping reveals were a huge deal - well, they were for me.
Some of these moments were perhaps more surprising because I didn't have Internet access until 1998, which in itself is relatively shocking - or so kids these days tell me. I often wonder if we didn't have access to the kind of information we do now, would games, films and TV shows appear different? Might we be on the edge of our seats more? Eagerly awaiting new releases and having absolutely no fear of spoilers?!
Speaking of spoilers, it goes without saying that if you haven't played the games I mention below then be prepared for them. So without any more pretence, here are 7 of the most shocking game reveals;
Admittedly I didn't play this game until way after it's release date in 1986, but I enjoyed the series immensely and I absolutely love it. I used to borrow games from a huge game library on wheels that used to drive down my road, later in life I would come to realise that this was probably a bit dodgy. I have a suspicion that these games probably fell off the back of a van in East London one day but I choose to feign ignorance because I was child back then!
I didn't know much about it and discovered from the box that it was a 2D side scrolling sci-fi shooter, well...let me tell you that child version of me was sold on that fact alone. I thoroughly enjoyed the game and raced through it, upon completion came the shock...in a reveal which blew my mind at the time (especially as a young female gamer), it turned out that Samus Aran, the badass protagonist was a woman...clad in a sexy bikini but then, that didn't matter to me at the time.
What did matter is that I was playing a female character. I can't tell you how excited that made me, this was in a time where male protagonists dominated eeeeeverything, except for maybe the Aliens franchise. In fairness, this is still a problem that exists now, female games characters are rarely the central focus if games - but that's a discussion for another time.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
Zelda, the eponymous character of the The Legend of Zelda Series is her usual damsel-in-distress self in Ocarina Of Time and is forced into hiding as our courageous protagonist, Link must save her and Hyrule from the evil Ganondorf. Nothing out of the ordinary here, right?
Wrong...while playing this game Link meets the last surviving member of the Sheikah clan, his name is Sheik or at least you assume he is male because let's face it, this was the 90s, people were still coming to terms with gender issues and in the game Sheik wore traditionally male clothing. That said, I suppose Link does wear tights and a tunic.
Fashion digressions aside, Sheik played the lyre and helped Link along the way by teaching him various songs that aide him in his quest. Near the end of the game, Sheik uses the Triforce of wisdom and transforms into Princess Zelda - it was Zelda ALL ALONG! That moment blew my mind because at no point during the game did I have even the tiniest inkling that Sheik was Zelda in disguise!
3. Final Fantasy VII
There are plenty of moments during the Final Fantasy series that are unexpected but the most jaw-dropping scene of the franchise is one that a large number of gamers (myself included) still get teary eyed over today almost 17 years later.
Our protagonist, Cloud Strife meets a number of other characters who join his party throughout the game, one of these is an unassuming flower girl, Aerith (or Aeris depending on release) who is being pursued by Shinra, the very corporation that Cloud and his AVALANCHE group are rebelling against. Oh, happy coincidence!
During the game, Aerith chooses to pursue and confront the games antagonist, Sephiroth on her own and the others knowing she is in danger set out to find her. The group eventually catches up to her but they are too late, while she's praying quietly for the planet, Sephiroth literally out of nowhere straight up kills her.
This is without a doubt the most shocking moment I have ever experienced in my lifetime of gaming because it was so unexpected and it takes place at the end of the first disc (Yep, it was the 90s, games sometimes needed multiple discs)!
The whole thing was made all the more heart-wrenching by Nobuo Uematsu's beautifully tragic score playing over the cut scene where Cloud lays her to rest. Oh God, I feel a lump in my throat...
4. Silent Hill 2
Oh, Silent Hill no matter how much I try to dispel it, the image of freaky contorted nurses will forever haunt me and while the series features plenty of unexpected jump scares and shocking imagery, nothing compares to the overwhelming surprise and sheer terror of the games biggest reveal.
Throughout the game, you play as James Sunderland who is searching for his wife in their "special place" which happens to be Silent Hill, a great place for a romantic getaway if your idea of romantic is a hellish nightmare. Whilst playing as James you are fearful for what untimely fate or hideous monster your wife might have fallen to and you genuinely fear for her.
But then, you discover that our brave protagonist is more of a psychopathic antagonist. You see, James Sunderland killed his wife. Whaaaaa?! And Silent Hill is a kind of hell, made real where he has chosen to kill himself (in one of the endings) for his crime. The moment I realised I was playing the villain I felt terrible and it was the first time a game had stung me with a moral lesson, reminding me that good and evil are relative and humans are well...just the worst.
5. The Walking Dead
No other contemporary game has as many twists and turns as this one and it's fair to say that a lot of this game and many of the situations in each episodic season are shocking but there is one moment in particular that really had hold of me. The group, led by main character Lee find themselves in the home of friendly farmer types who offer them shelter and food.
What seems as a haven to begin with is quite the opposite, as Lee soon discovers they are crazy cannibals who are about to feed human meat to his friends. Despite being a fan of the TV and comic series, I was somehow unprepared for this!
The game only gives you limited time to react and you burst into the dining room just as everyone is raising forks to their mouths, remember, this is the first time they have had a hot meal in a very long time and if you so much as hesitate, the young girl that Lee is caring for takes a bite and your relationship with her is never the same.
6. Assassin's Creed II
For a title which started out as a Prince Of Persia game the ending of Assassin's Creed took an interesting turn. Having said that, the supernatural element felt kind of at home with the Prince of Persia franchise. That is, until the denouement of Assassin's Creed II.
Playing as Ezio Auditore, you have hunted down the architect of your family's demise (Rodrigo Borgia, now Pope) and prepare to exact revenge. Suddenly the supernatural element goes full-pelt science fiction when it bombards the player with a mountain of exposition and pre-cursor race alien speculative history. All the hints and light touches cluttered throughout ACI and ACII outright grip you by the shoulders and scream into your face, "It's all aliens man, ALIENS!".
This is where a lot of players split into two factions. Camp A (A for 'Assassins') jumped wholly onboard, enjoyed the development and cried out, "that totally makes sense." Camp B (B for ... can't think of anything for B. Budgies?) watched the credits roll, stared in disbelief and quietly murmured, "Wait, what?." Since that time, these two factions have divided further and further from one another, creating loyal fans and detractors who accuse the series of being too convoluted. Either way, it's a development few saw coming.
7. Red Dead Redemption
This game places you in the life of John Marston, a cowboy of sorts who finds himself in various bar fights, heists, showdowns and all manner of Wild West scenarios and of course, you'd expect nothing less from a game set in the West during the late 1800s.
During the game, after killing old gang members who want him dead, he assumes all is well and decides to settle down on a ranch with his wife and son, thus giving up his rooting, tooting ways. I also assumed this was the end of the game and figured the 'ranch missions' were just some extra end of game DLC to keep you occupied as you finished off all of the hunting quests. Open world games like this often do this so things were normal.
Well, I was wrong because while spending his last days on the ranch, a firing squad finds him and shoots him down. While unexpected, this wasn't the main shock because after his death, John's son, Jack becomes the secondary protagonist of the game.
So, after assuming the game was over not once, or twice when John dies, I was actually wide eyed and slack jawed when the game continued with his lacklustre son, Jack, who avenges his father's grisly death but like all good vengeance and Western flicks there is a sense of futility to the act, shooting an unarmed old man fishing by a lake.
So, that's my Magnificent 7!
Obviously I have omitted some other key shocking video game moments mainly because I'm lazy and couldn't be bothered...that's untrue, I just like the number seven. Batman: Arkham Asylum came very close to making it as one of my chosen seven because of it's wonderful introduction to the Sandman, in which the game itself begins to distort and seems as though it has frozen (in a time where the red ring of death was rife, nothing was more terrifying to an Xbox 360 owner!).
In the same vein, before Arkham Asylum there was Eternal Darkness on the Gamecube (excellent game by the way!) which utilised similar techniques, messing with both the screen and controls as the character become more and more insane. One other game I let go from the list was BioShock Infinite, it's ending was a 'shock' alright...oh, dear. Well, I'd say that's my cue to finish.
Let me know your most shocking video game moments in the comments, hopefully they will contain less bad jokes...