Powerful scenes that take our breath away or make our jaws drop are rare. They serve to add a dose of shock and awe and/or to bring interest back into a story. Writers have dazzled us throughout gaming’s history with tales of wonder and suspense but only few have captured that mystical feeling of a dramatically powerful shift. Back in the 90′s during the PS1 era, cutscenes were all the rage and most games employed them in some way. Final Fantasy titles were known for their great positioning of cutscenes to help give a visual aid to a turn of events. The PS1 Final Fantasies are lauded for their amazing scenes of battles, summons, and tragedies. Things only escalated from there as the next generation saw better technology bring us closer to the characters than ever. Fast forward to today and we can almost see the pours in faces as cutscenes and cinematics blur the line between movies and games.
It was hard for me to go through my gaming collection and memories trying to find the best of the best for this topic. I know I missed some but I feel confident that the following scenes are among the best cutscenes, cinematics, or trailers we have ever seen. Some are strong in terms of graphical prowess. Others may find their edge in scope. However, it takes the best to make our emotions come out and feel sadness, goosebumps, or a sense of hype that so few games that give.
#15 Final Fantasy VII, Weapons Awake
The tragedy of the planet in Final Fantasy VII took a head when it began to fight back against Sephiroth and Jenova by unleashing the Weapons. A Weapon is a gigantic creature created by the planet to help it survive a catastrophe. There are seven Weapons in the Final Fantasy VII series but five were initially introduced in the main game. When they awoke, they not only destroyed the original Northern Cave with their escape but came with a great cutscene. With the Highwind airship hovering above the crater, we witness the five Weapons crawl (and fly) out of the crater and even get up close and personal with Ultimate Weapon.
#14 Halo 2, Return to Sender
Halo 2, the sequel to the “game that made the Xbox” Combat Evolved, was a media juggernaut. So much hype around its release resulted in Slurpee Cups and a bunch of other garbage. The game’s story was great and very cinematic. In one of the most badass moves in gaming, Master Chief saves a ship by hordeback riding a bomb off the dock and into space. He not only rides it but uses it to propel himself to a different human ship to be taken down to the surface to fight in the war. This guy never quits and he just doesn’t give a crap.
#13 Mass Effect 2, Omega-4 Relay
As a selling point for the franchise, your decisions made all the difference in Mass Effect. Commander Shepard was yours to shape and mold and that rang very true to his ship, as well. The Normandy has gone through some really crappy battles and been destroyed once. In order to fight back against the Collector’s in Mass Effect 2, you and your team had to do a crazy stunt: go through a Mass Relay that thousands of ships have gone through and never returned. You can do this pretty quickly once you get to that point in the game but it is highly, highly recommended that you upgrade the Normandy’s shielding and weapons systems. Doing both, one, of none would change this cutscene due to your decisions. You directly influence how this scene carries out and that is pretty awesome.
#12 Final Fantasy IX, Alexander vs. Bahamut
This mega cinematic takes place over an entire event in the game. It isn’t just one scene and done. When Kuja, the game’s big baddie, summoned the furious Bahamut, the dragon attacked the city of Alexandria. During the assault, our main characters come into play and set things up for a massive summoning. Around the castle itself, the gigantic Alexander manifests and protects the city. A battle ensues between the two mythical creatures that not only looks awesome but has an epic feeling to it. Watching these two Final Fantasy mainstays duke it out was very impressive.
#11 Halo Wars, Trailer
I tried not to include trailers in this list but Halo Wars had such an impressive one that it couldn’t be left out. We’ve always been so focused on Master Chief in the Halo franchise that we sometimes forgot about the other soldiers fighting the Covenant. Halo Wars gave us a chance to see a full scale Halo universe battle in action. It is the only console RTS that I would recommend with its superior controls and use of the license. It was a shame this game never had a sequel.
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