A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about how I didn’t like scary games…surprisingly, I wasn’t alone as a number of the replies indicated a similar attitude. Today I’m going to blog about surprises. I love surprises. And by surprises, I don’t mean things that pop up on your TV or monitor trying to startle you. By surprises I mean things that happen in the game that leave your mouth gaping open as the gears in your brain grind to a screeching halt trying to figure out what just happened.


To put it in perspective, I’m not talking the Norman Bates Psycho Shower Scene kind of surprise…I’m talking the Star Wars “Luke I am your Father and Princess Leia is Your Sister” kind of surprise.


I’m the kind of person who watches a movie or plays a video game or reads a book and tries to figure out the ending…or the unknown. When I guess right, my head swells a little…and when I guess wrong…well then I tell myself my way was better and the way it should’ve been.


But sometimes, every now and then…something will happen in game that I totally didn’t see coming and I’m dumbfounded. Flabbergasted. Speechless. Stunned. Shocked. Amazed.


So, let me highlight a few moments in gaming history…some recent and some not so much…that I thought were pretty spectacular and left me just sitting there with wondering what in world just happened. I’ll keep it to five examples, in no certain order of impressiveness or level of shock and awe.


1. Super Mario Brothers.  Back in the old days, around the time I was playing Super Mario Bros., we didn’t have the Internet or forums to go find all the walk thrus, Easter Eggs or hints…you either found it on your own or hoped you knew someone who told you about it. So imagine the mouth dropping moment of finding the first hidden warp on Level 1-2.


I remember walking past the “end of the map” and continuing on until I found the warp. I was giddy with excitement (heck, I was only 13) and wondered if I found something that no one else had found yet (obviously I hadn’t). As big as surprise as that was, it paled in comparison to the minus world. Ah, the infamous minus world.


2. Modern Warfare. We don’t expect the stories to always have a happy ending, but when a story not only doesn’t have a happy ending, but winds up killing off one of the main players…it can be a bit of an emotional experience. I remember in the first Modern Warfare when Sgt. Paul Jackson dies, I was speechless.

However, just as they begin leaving the city, a nuclear device goes off and Jackson's helicopter crashes. He survives the crash but dies a few moments later after seeing the aftermath of the explosion due to injuries sustained from the crash. Sgt. Paul Jackson was one of 30,000 personnel who lost their life under General Shepherd's command as is revealed in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.


3. Portal. I’ve blogged a couple of different times about Portal and the profound affect it had on me when I played it. It’s such an amazing game, I had several jaw dropping moments. But the one that really stunned me was very much like the Mario scenario, where you feel like you’re doing something that you shouldn’t be doing, and you’re surprised it’s actually working. In Portal, this moment occurs near the end of the “training cycle” when instead of just standing still and riding the platform into the flames…you create an escape portal and a whole new “behind the scenes” world is revealed.  I was stunned. I’m stunned even now just thinking about it. Portal is one big jaw dropping experience.


4. Halo. While this particular move wasn’t necessarily a “surprise” per say, the whole experience was pretty spectacular. The final scene, racing the Warthog through waves of the Flood and Covenant forces while trying to safely navigate the various turns, bends and jumps until you make that final jump. The first time I ever played the scene, I actually successfully accomplished it on the first attempt, but each time I played it after wards, I invariably screwed it up. So that first run was pretty special. I sat there thinking, “Holy Crap that was amazing! That just happened!”


5. Metal Gear. This is an amazing game but unfortunately one that I haven’t played very much of. I tend to favor Sam Fisher and Splinter Cell for all of my “spy – secret agent” style games. But I do think the whole series is awesome and I’m always amazed at the cardboard box…


"Cardboard Box? Are you moving house or something?" -Big Boss to Solid Snake, during Operation Intrude N313


The Cardboard Box is one of the trademark items of the Metal Gear series. It is used to help hide the main character from the enemy or surveillance cameras.


It never gets old. And every time I used it I’m amazed it works at all. It’s one of the few “surprises” that’s as comical as it is effective.


So, what about you…what kind of surprises have you encountered that left you stunned?