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"Holy Crap!" Moments In Gaming

They get seared into your mind, leaving an indelible mark that lasts forever. Those moments that define not only your track record as a gamer, but why it is you pick up a controller in the first place. Simply put, they're the highlights---or lowlights, depending upon how you look at it---of your gaming career. So come take a walk with me down memory lane as I run through some of my favorite "Holy Crap!" moments in gaming...

Spoilers abound! You've been warned...



I still remember the day this bad boy was brought home. I'd never played Mortal Kombat in the arcades, but was fully aware of the hype surrounding its release on both the SNES and Genesis.

"You can rip a guy's spine out!" Hmm, that seems pretty interesting.

"This guy reaches into your chest and tears your heart out Temple of Doom-style!" You don't say?

"There's this one character that fries your head with electricity until it explodes and blood goes squirting everywhere!!" Dude.

Yep, being the ripe old age of 13, this game seemed beyond anything I had ever played, let alone seen on a TV screen. And somehow my brother and I convinced our parents to get it for us. And they did without question. Suckers. And as I've stated a number of times before, there weren't many advantages to my Genesis fanboyism, but this was one case where being in the Sega camp paid off. We got the real blood, the real gore, not the toned down crap that was thrown into the SNES version. And then the moment came when I finally executed my very first fatality. "Dig deep Kano, dig deep!" And out came Scorpion's still-beating heart. Now that was cool.

David vs. Goliath

I still remember climbing up that cliff. You clear the top of the ridge and then you see something. But what? The giant hooves crashing down, the rumbling of the earth, the trepidation of not knowing exactly who or what this monstrosity is. And then you really see "it" and my god is it a sight to behold. Never have I felt so small and helpless in a game. Never have I felt such a sense of wonderment as I stared in awe at this gentle giant lumbering around, unaffected by my presence. How was I supposed to take this thing down? Why am I doing this again? This is impossible. Holy crap, he's going to step on me. Welcome to the world of The Shadow of the Colossus, we hope you enjoy your stay.

This was and is a game built on beauty and grandeur in the most epic manner imaginable. If only all games were made this way...

The Ending to End all Endings

Or at least I thought so at the time. The ending of Square's Final Fantasy VIII (Spoiler Alert! Really?), from the final showdown with Ultimecia to Squall and Rinoa's long-awaited moonlight embrace, still resonates as one of the most thoroughly satisfying and thrilling finales I've witnessed in a game. The final battle, like most Final Fantasy games, is a tour de force showcase of just how *** your characters have become. And once Ultimecia finally succumbs to Squall's endless barrage of Lionheart Limit Break attacks, the game catapults into full-fledged summer blockbuster movie mode.

I just remember how it seemed like the ending would, in fact, never end. It just kept going and going; and I loved it. From one sequence to the next. Even the frickin' credits were a joy to watch thanks to the accompanying homemade movie that reveals a more candid side of many of the characters in FFVIII. Zell stuffing his face with food and subsequent outburst after being caught on camera is quite memorable in particular. And of course, who can forget the final scene with our two favorite lovebirds as they cozy up for the inevitable kiss we've all been waiting for. All while they and the rest of Balamb Garden gently fly through the night into what has to be the biggest moon I've ever seen. And did I mention the music fit the bill perfectly too? It just all came together to provide a very rewarding experience for those of us who put up with the madness that is the junction system.


At first glance, the original Dead or Alive didn't seem all that much different from the countless other fighting games out at the time. That was until you saw the thing in motion. Granted, the graphics were pretty solid for a PSOne outing and the unique counter system was clever enough, but it was a certain aspect, or should I say aspects, of the female characters that garnered the game of most its attention. And get my attention it did, and boy was it ridiculous.

To say that the female character's breasts bounced would be an understatement. They bounced, they heaved, they almost seemed to float at times and there was nothing you could do to stop it. It almost had a way of putting you in a trance if you starred too long. Combine the perpetual motion of these top-heavy female fighters with unlockable and sometimes quite skimpy costumes and you've got a teenage boy's wet dream. But man, it was weird and so over-the-top that it was almost comical. No, it was comical. Go YouTube it for yourself. Thankfully, or not depending on your outlook, they toned down the "bounce" in later installments so you could actually focus on fighting instead of ogling.

Isn't it great to be a guy? 


The Man With the Golden Gun

Man was this game fun. Goldeneye 007 for the N64 was one of those moments where I thought it really couldn't get much better than this. PC gaming notwithstanding, the graphics of this gem was something I'd never seen before. You could shoot bullet holes in anything! Look! I just shot up the toilet! Everything looked so crisp and real, unlike the jaggy mess I was dealing with more often than not on the original PlayStation. You may and probably do laugh now, but Goldeneye really was a treat for the senses back in 1997.

I also loved how the game followed closely with the movie it was based off of. Every time I see Goldeneye on television I can't help but think back fondly of my time spent with this game.

And the multiplayer? Forget about it. The one true legacy of Goldeneye 007, in my mind, lies in the infinite wealth that is its multiplayer modes. Two- and four-player deathmatches were as addictive as a mother and something that occupied most of my time when not going to class. Other modes such as The Living Daylights, The Man With the Golden Gun, and License to Kill ensured Goldeneye 007 would stay firmly entrenched in the N64 for months to come. And to think this was all delivered on a home console---unheard of at the time.

Anyone up for some "slapping"?

I Wanna Rock!

Ah, the allure that was Guitar Hero. The pinnacle of the series for me was the second iteration which, coincidentally, was my first real exposure to the GH franchise. I distinctly remember walking into our local Best Buy and, after seeing the in-store demo countless of times in prior visits, finally decided to give the game a try. And boom goes the dynamite. I played one song, The Butthole Surfers' "Who Was In My Room Last Night?", and I was immediately hooked. As corny as it sounds now, I really felt as though I was playing lead guitar in the song. It was a totally immersive experience and I loved every second of it. Everything from the collection of songs to the "realistic" gameplay mechanics of the guitar-based controller to the desire to get five stars for each and every tune, it all came together in one super addictive package. And when you added a second player into the mix? It became the showcase for any and all parties to come; the sole reason to get together with a group of people and play a bunch of songs on dinky little plastic guitars. It was, in a word, brilliant.

Nowadays? Not so much. I can't even remember the last time I even picked up a guitar. Sad. But for that short period of time during its heyday, Guitar Hero enabled me to be the rock star I've always wanted to be.

Make 'Em Bleed

NHLPA 93 was a staple for me growing up. Having played hockey most of my young adolescent life, it was only natural I'd want to take my love for the game into the digital realm. And NHLPA 93 was the gateway.

While I had played a good deal of the original NHL Hockey on the Genesis, NHLPA 93 was where the series really took off for me. It came down to one factor, blood. Oh yes, in this installment, a nicely timed bodycheck would not only park a player flat on his back, but it would also have the lovely added effect of cracking open his skull as well. A nice little pool of red blood would come oozing out and said player would be effectively removed from the game. It was also the first hockey game that allowed you to break the glass with a vicious slap shot. Sweet.

The game was also known for another interesting trait. In the vein of other classic sports titles such as Tecmo Bowl, NHLPA 93 had its share of indestructible bionic players that would single-hadidly win games with ease. And while players such as Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, and Mark Messier all had an enormous amount of talent and inhuman grit (Lemieux was way tougher than he was in real life), it really came down to one player, Jeremy Roenick. My god, #27 was an absolute beast. He was fast, had a crazy wicked slap shot, and could knock any player into the next decade whenever he delivered a check. He was unstoppable. I remember using the Blackhawks in a number of games because I knew I could, at the opening faceoff, simply charge ahead instead of going for the puck, knock the opposing center flat on his a**, take the puck straight ahead, split the two defensement, put the classic NHLPA 93 deke move on the goalie, and score every time. It was almost comical how well it worked. I once reeled off nine straight goals that way against my opponent once. Poor guy. But yeah, Roenick was that good, just an unstoppable man beast. So my friends and I had to start instituting a "can't use the Blackhawks" rule just to make things a little more fair. If you knew how to use that team, you really couldn't be beat.

But besides the Roenick factor, the game was just flat out a blast to play. Although it didn't have the NHL license (hence the title NHLPA 93), you could still easily make out which teams were which. The gameplay was lightning-quick and ultra-responsive and the ability to set and save your lines was great for customizing your squad. Late-night tournament play coupled with mammoth amounts of Coke and pizza were the norm back in the NHLPA 93 days. Quite honestly, no other hockey game since (ok, NHL 98 came really, really close) has sunk its teeth into me the way this one did.

So Pretty...

There was really only one factor that pushed me over the edge when it came to purchasing a Dreamcast: its graphics. I had seen previews for some of the launch titles that would be available on the infamous day of 9-9-99. NFL 2K looked crazy good, Sonic Adventure seems pretty cool, and a little quirky title named Power Stone had me fairly intrigued. But it was the insane beauty and silky smooth animation of one Soul Calibur that really got my attention.

I had never seen a game look so, well, good on a home system. The backgrounds were rife with detail and the character models seemed to jump off the screen at you; Soul Calibur looked exquisite. There was no way I was going to miss out on this. When September 9th finally arrived, this game became the showpiece for what the Dreamcast could do and rightfully so. My friends would sit and stare in awe as the action unfolded before us on screen. I would then cruelly wake them from their visual stupor with a devastating blow via the most *** character in the game, Cervantes! Gotta love them pirates.

A true testament to the game is that to this day, it holds up incredibly well. I gave Soul Calibur a spin about a year ago and was surprised and just how well the title still looks and plays. A classic in every sense of the word.

The Flower Girl

Yes, you can call this a predictable and/or unoriginal (or even down right stupid) choice all you want, but that doesn't change the effect the most shocking moment in Final Fantasy VII had on me. And you know what they say about opinions...

I had always preferred Aeris (or Aerith, take your pick) over Tifa. I dunno, there was just something about her gracious, plucky persona combined with her lineage as an Ancient that drew me to her. And as such, she was always in my battle party. You think I was going to have dumbs*** Cloud take Tifa out on a date? Never, Aeris all the way. A lot of good that did me. Regardless, never once did I envision her not being by my side throughout my entire journey. And then she got a nice big, fat sword impaled through her midsection. Hmm, that wasn't supposed to happen.

I never saw it coming. The sight of Sephiroth suddenly swooping down and plunging his ridiculously long sword into Aeris' back was a stunning move and one that I hated. WTF! A character I had grown rather fond of (in what was my very first experience with a JRPG, mind you) was now suddenly laying lifeless in Cloud's arms. Bleh. Stupid Tifa. Why couldn't she have been the lucky recipient of Sephiroth's blade? 

It was the first time I had ever really become emotional over a character in a videogame. It was a dramatically touching moment. As much as I hated losing Aeris, I'll always give Square credit for pulling off such a daring move. It elicited a strong reaction out of me and, like countless other gamers, propelled Aeris into an almost mythical status. Hence the public outcry and subsequent rumblings of a way to actually revive her in the game, which proved to be false, unfortunately. Her death does however provide for a immensely satisfying, if somewhat bittersweet, ending to the game. The little flower girl still had some tricks up her sleeve after all.

And even to this day, Aeris is still my favorite Final Fantasy character of all-time.



Hello Mushroom Kingdom

This is the game that started it all for me. It goes without saying, but the original Super Mario Bros. was probably responsible for me getting into gaming more so than any other title I had played up to that point. It was a watershed moment for me and one that, to this day, I look back on with warm, fuzzy memories. There's really not much that can be said about this game that hasn't already been uttered before. It could very well be the closest thing to perfection the videogame world has ever seen. And when you're only 10 years old, that's a great way to get things started, eh?

Would You Kindly?

The phrase that cemented BioShock's legacy. Everything about the game was pure splendor. But for me, it was the way in which the story of Jack and the dystopian city of Rapture he found himself in unfolded.

The wonderfully written story comes to its dramatic pinnacle when Jack finally confronts Andrew Ryan, the founder and leader of Rapture, in his office. Finding out that your character's embryo was genetically modified and subsequently sold all in an effort to overthrow Andrew Ryan---who, it turns out, is your father---is heavy stuff. The icing on the cake came when you found out that part of that whole genetic modification you went through was to obey any order preceded or followed by the phrase "Would you kindly...". My mind was blown. Jack was nothing more than a pawn. All the events that led up to you confronting and killing your father, Andrew Ryan, were set in motion from the moment of your conception. What you thought was happenstance was anything but. This is your destiny and there's nothing you can do about it.

And while BioShock tends to falter as you progress towards the end, there's no denying the impact this revelation has on you. This is storytelling at it's finest.

Now would you kindly move on to the next item in this blog post please?  


Slaying the Beast

Ah, this is an easy one. So much of what I love about the Legend of Zelda games can be found in the final battle between Link and Ganon (or should I say Ganondorf) in Ocarina of Time. This is quite possibly my favorite battle/sequence in the entire series and for good reason. It kicks a**!

The build-up to your confrontation with Ganondorf is epic enough, but the ending is through the roof. Scaling the spiral staircase, slowly hearing the ominous organ music beckoning you to your fate, entering Ganondorf's chamber to find a helpless Zelda encased in a magical crystal, the frantic back-and-forth volley between Link and Ganondorf, the mad rush to escape the collapsing castle; it doesn't get any better than this. Or so I thought. 

I remember getting to the bottom of the castle, with Zelda in tow of course, and thinking how great of a finale that was. Just as I was getting all relaxed after having defeated that fool with the giant nose Link gets stopped in his tracks by a wall of fire. Then the rumbling begins. This can't be good. It was right about this time that my brother, after having just congratulated me on beating the game (as he had beaten it a few weeks earlier), ran back into the room to more or less "punk me" and see the look on my face when good 'ol Ganon rose from the rubble. My lord, what a sight.

Totally unexpected and worth every penny. The image of that giant behemoth standing before Link, wielding two swords with the lightning crashing behind him is something I'll never forget. This was the reason I played videogames. When Link delivered the final blow, thus defeating Ganondorf once and for all, I knew right at that moment that this game had just become my favorite of all time. And it still is to this day. In my mind, nothing can best the greatness that is Ocarina of Time, and that final battle with Ganon is a big reason why.

So there you have it. Some of my most memorable "holy crap!" moments in gaming. Maybe you agree, maybe you disagree. The ball's in your court...

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  • i was too yound to remember some of these games. i was poor and most of the games i played consisted of PS Underground demos ($5).

    Pokemon was one of my "Holy Crap" moments. i cannot remember what drew me into the franchise first: the ability to battle with these cute creatures, seeing them "evolve" into monsters, leveling to 100, or catching Mewtwo! it was and still is my favorite handheld game. and it was my first rpg. one of my best experiences.

  • Another big "Holy Crap!" moment for me, which is also a game in your pile of shame if I remember correctly, was trying to learn how to use a joystick to move Mario.  Real 3D platforming?!  

    Mario 64 stopped me in my tracks at every Wal-Mart, mall, friend's house, etc. display I could get my hands on until I got my N64 a few years later.

  • I agree with many of your picks, but a more recent inclusion would be the final boss fight to Twilight Princess (and even Wind Waker had an epic OMG final boss conclusion) and the nuclear bomb in the original Modern Warfare left me without a voice for a bit as well.

  • Ganon in Ocarina of Time is one of my all time favorite Boss Battles. The slow, eerie music, Zelda's screams when you get hurt, seeing only his glowing eyes when you get far away from him... That sticks with you. Truly an incredible moment of game design and proof that Miyamoto is the greatest.

  • very nicely done list that you have compiled. These were the days of OMG moments.

    Thanks for the Blog.

  • All of these "Holy-Crap" moments deserve every positiove word spoken of them.

  • Hey look, something Bioshock related. This is my kind of blog.

    Bioshock aside, I think WW deserves to be at least mentioned for it's badass finisher. He stabbed him in the head!! That alone blew my mind.

    Also, the Hallway and Morgue levels in Batman: Arkham Asylum deserve to be up there. They tripped me out. A lot. I guess the same would go for Eternal Darkness. Two games that literally scared you, the gamer.

  • 100%

  • Great blog, I have to agree with everything that you have said though the opening to FFVIII alone was a WTF moment for me.  I'm sorry but even now that still stands as one of the best openings to any game ever with the sound, visuals, and everything coming together perfectly to give you a perfect description of the game as well as showing you just how good the PSone was in its time.  It is still the only opening to any video game that I can never watch too much.  

    Recently though the WTF moments have been very lackluster on the games I have.  I'm probably in the minority but when Templar died in KZ2 that was a big WTF moment, especially with how big he was in the series.  

  • Staff

    @ Matt

    I agree completely, the final boss battles in Wind Waker and Twilight Princess were epic, but nothing got to me the way Ocarina did. It set the standard, especially for Zelda games in my opinion.

    @ Nancy Carlson

    Unfortunately no, I didn't see the whole Sheikah thing coming. I was completely clueless as to who she/he was. Looking back now, how foolish I was.

    @ Black-Xero

    I would have included more "modern" titles, but I don't get to play as much as I used to. The number of quality titles I've missed out on over the past couple years would make you cringe. It makes me cringe!

  • I also agree with the Ganondorf/Ganon fight in OOT, it was not terribly difficult as much as it was never ending....you thought you were done and then bang! Also, running through the fortress as it crumbled to pieces was so adrenalin filled. Another "Holy Crap" moment was the ending of FFX...I never imagined Tidus disappearing like he did. Now that I have more experience with the franchise it was more obvious, but at the time I played it that was one of my very first experiences with the Final Fantasy series.That kinda ending didn't even cross my thought process.

  • I love this article I laughed so much because Jeff wrote it so well, with so much enthusiasm. I loved his brother story on OOT. That was great!

  • @Sean L

    I completely agree with you there.  Seeing mario in 3D was absolutely breath taking.  One of things I loved doing was sliding down the snowy ramp and trying to catch the penguin, trying to catch the rabbit, and obtaining the wing hat and doing an epic air battle with the vulture in the desert level. I managed to get all the stars and got to see the surprise at the end.  (Hello my old green lizard friend)

    This game I was completely addicted to, that was until goldeneye rolled around.

  • Mine has to do with Mass Effect.(minor spoiler no specfics) The moment you learn just what exactly it is you are going up against was crazy. All this time thinking it was some just stupid group and then BAM universe ending.

    Also Fable 1 where your mom comes when you try to break out of prison was pretty cool too.

    O and can't forget the first time I was jumped by a hunter or startled a witch.


    One of the most crazy "Holy Crap!" moments in recent memory for me was actually in Modern Warfare 2.  There were a ton of memorable moments in that game (which was way too short, by the way), but by far the most shocking was the part after you upload all those files off of Makarov's computer.  After barely making it off of the man's estate, General Shepherd (your freaking teamate!!!) says "Thanks" and shoots you in the face.  What's more, he sets you on fire!  That totally caught me off guard and I was going WTF well after that happened.

  • Here's my moment: I was playing through Mirror's edge for the first time, right after chapter 8 ends, you seem to have rescued Kate, who goes back to Merc's place. When Faith gets there, Kate is gone and Merc is dying. You learn that Kate was brought to the Shard(tallest building in the city, with some odd architecture,) and the level starts, and this wonderful, blissful music is playing, and you know it's just you against the world; that this is the final test.

  • The SoTC Holy Crap! moments were plentiful in that game. Every time you faced a new colossus, there would be something about it that just made you say, "oh NOW what?" crazy.

  • Modern Warefare 2 was just one long holy crap moment for me.

  • Staff

    Shouldn' there be a statute of limitations regarding Modern Warfare 2?? Come on guys, the game just came out!!

    Spoiler alert indeed...

    @ Bwhit056

    I completely agree with regards to SotC. Every colossus was a sight to behold. I think it was #13, the one that flew around and you had to jump on it and scale its back while it's cruising through the sky, is still probably my fav.

    @ Matt & KK

    Thanks for the nice comment. Yeah, the ending to FFX was pretty crazy. I won't spoil anything, but I never thought Tidus would do what he ended up doing either. That's probably part of the reason I was so obsessed to get the "good" ending for FFX-2. That helped make up for it a bit.