A lot of games try to epic. The important word being try. Alas, it takes more than impossible odds and motion for something to be truly epic. Real feats of epicness come from the emotional resonance one feels when seeing something or someone they care about going through something intense. Here are my top five favorite epic moments.
5. God of War II: Battle with Zeus
Now granted, upon close examination the story of God of War II isn’t the best. The explanation behind Zeus’s douchebaggery barely works in God of War III and for the most part the game just served as an excuse take Kratos out for another round of carnage. But what a round it was! While many would argue that the original God of War is probably the best in terms of balance between gameplay and story, the second game easily topped it in terms of spectacle. The first battle with the Colossus of Rhodes is still classic and served as a great precursor to the epic scale that God of War III would arguably perfect.
My favorite portion of the game though is easily the end battle with Zeus. Many preferred Aeries from the first game, but I’ve always liked Zeus. It’s a much more straightforward brawl, but I like that. It’s just two powerhouses beating the hell out of each other. Moreover, whereas the first game openly said that opening Pandora’s Box would give Kratos the power to kill Aeries, in God of War II he’s just a mere mortal. Granted, we learn some more details about his god-slaying abilities in God of War III, but it is nonetheless pretty clear that Zeus is perfectly capable of handing Kratos’ lightning scorch ass to him with relative ease. The only thing that drags down this sequence is that you don’t actually kill Zeus. The game cops out at the last second for the obvious purpose of a sequel. God of War III was awesome no doubt, but they could have been a might more creative than sending us to kill Zeus, again.
4. Castlevania: Stairway to Dracula
In the intervening years since the original Castlevania released on the NES, most every Castlevania game has had some version of the final staircase to Dracula. It’s become one of the hallmarks of the franchise. Come hell or high-water you’re going to fight Dracula at some point. Because of the now common nature of the moment, it’s been somewhat diminished.
It’s easy to forget just how cool this scene was and is. Think of it this way. Back when Castlevania was just starting off and the series was still new there was no tradition. It was totally new. Now imagine you’ve been playing through the game, potentially leaving your NES on for days just to make it the end. This game was hard; it has whooped you silly at most every turn.
Then you reach the stairs. It’s clear that this is it; the light at the end of the tunnel is near. You walk up the steps, the pale moon glowing in the 8-bit background. Stained glass windows line the halls above. You are filled with anticipation, and no small amount of fear. This game has worked hard to drive you insane. Some bosses likely had you tearing out hair. What is Dracula going to be like?
He was hard, and this sequence was awesome.
Seriously though, if there is a game deserving of epic props, it is Homeworld. Not only did it manage to make you care about what are essentially a faceless and nameless characters, it also managed to be probably the best fully 3D space RTS games ever. It was like having a personal Star Wars simulator at your fingertips. Whether conducting high speed duals between squadrons of fighters, or directing fleets of capital ships in glorious battle every ounce of the game just wreaked “Battle of Endor” awesomeness.
The coolest thing to do in the game was easily to lock the camera onto one fighter and watch it fight for survival in the midst of the chaos. No matter if it was just a one on one dual between scouts or a full blown capital assault with ion cannons raging and death erupting anew every instant it was always fun to watch.
2. Final Fantasy V: Death of Galuf
Final Fantasy V is generally not renowned for its storyline. This is an assessment I would agree with for the most part. It’s not that it’s especially bad, it’s just fairly standard. You and your pack of rag tags need to journey the world on a quest to stop a villainous baddie from destroying elemental crystals. It get’s the job done, but it rarely rises above satisfactory.
When the rare moment finally does arise however it is a doozy. Late in the game you and your party encounter main villain Exdeath. He just utterly annihilates you. Your party’s health reduced to zero, the obvious assumption is for the fight to be over. It doesn’t end though. Galuf, the oldest character out of the group refuses to give up and keeps fighting. Through sheer force of will he single handedly kicks Exdeath’s ass.
Unfortunately, being a bit on the elder side and having literally fought past the point of defeat means that when the battle actually ends, so does Galuf. Despite your party’s desperate efforts to revive him (literally using most every healing item and spell in the game, big and small) Galuf dies, passing his abilities on to his granddaughter Krile.
It is a moment generally forgotten in the shadow of flashier deaths in the series. It’s a shame because unlike some Final Fantasy characters that shall remain nameless, Galuf doesn’t let himself be gutted. He goes down in a blaze of glory.
1. Metal Gear Solid 4- The Microwaves
I tend to try and make it a duty of mine to avoid going with obvious picks, especially with Top 5’s. There’s so many of these damned things floating around that they just get very repetitious at times. That said, there are times when an obvious choice is called for.
Snake’s stroll through the microwave hall is one such moment. You’re nearing the end of the game. You and your allies have launched one last desperate assault on Liquid Ocelet’s stolen Arsenal Gear, but the odds are against you. Arrayed against your tiny force are slews of soldiers, artillery and of Metal Gears. With defeat all but guaranteed it all falls on Snake. He has to stop Liquid before it’s too late. Before he can though, he has to pass through a hallway lined with microwave emitters.
His body already failing and his battle wounds visibly ailing him he steps into the hall and the pain begins. At first it’s just a slow walk. You can see the heat, imagine the pain. As he progresses though, it becomes more intense. This tired, old man is soon on crawling on his knees and then when he’s too weak for that, pulling himself forward, never giving up, never surrendering. All the while the player is driving him forward. At first with direct control and then with button prompts. As you near the end you’ll be hammering the triangle button so hard your thumb will hurt.
“Get up, Snake!” cries Otacon. And he does. Battered, abused and having taken more than any man could possibly take, Snake rises above to complete the mission.
If there’s one reason why people play Metal Gear Solid, it’s not because of the graphics, gameplay, or convoluted stories. It’s because Solid Snake is a complete and utter bad ass.