It’s one thing to see an awesome thing happen in a science fiction film, but then you’re just passively watching and cheering and maybe gushing about it to your friends later. And sure, the Death Star Trench Run and Roy Batty’s speech about seeing things we people wouldn’t believe and Ripley’s unconventional use of a loader frame were all great, but we as the audience never got to do those things – to feel them most viscerally. Only video games can offer that precise kind of experience, and there are many moments from sci-fi games that players can never forget.
The Wyzen Fight (Asura’s Wrath)
Capcom’s Asura’s Wrath is an action game that almost isn’t a game at all. It’s often described as an “interactive anime,” and yes, it’s a beat-‘em-up that you’ll want to play for the story, because the story is absolute nuts. Our hero and player character Asura is one of eight demigods fighting to preserve a futuristic world that blends high technology with Buddhist, Hindu, and Shinto religious and mystical concepts. All is going swimmingly as Asura heroically beats back the pernicious and animalistic Gohma monsters, but then he’s betrayed and goes on a roaring rampage of revenge, fighting his ex-colleagues one at a time. To say much more would be to spoil far too much, and indeed spoiling any of the epic boss fights that the game is structured around would be a crime, but the first proper one, about an hour in, is in all the promotional material anyway. Your opponent is Wyzen, who is only called that because he’s essentially a boisterous fat incarnation of a Buddha and a game where you beat the tar out of Hotei wouldn’t go over well in East Asia. Anyhow, Wyzen wields power over mass and gravity and the first time you beat him, he comes back as a hundreds-of-feet-tall stone statue, and then when you still easily hand him his butt on a platter he does it AGAIN only now he’s the size of a PLANET. Again, the ending of that battle has to be experienced for oneself, but suffice it to say nothing makes you feel powerful like beating a guy that big and strong barehanded.
Building Your Lightsaber (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)
BioWare’s epic turn-based Star Wars RPG using a D20 engine is hailed as one of the best Star Wars games, and indeed one of the best RPGs, of all time. It was a pioneer in the kind of branching story choices that are now common in large-scale RPGs, where your actions in conversation and battle determined whether you shifted more towards the light or the dark side, which in turn determined the ending. All in all it is enough to make one feel like a Jedi with all the force at one’s fingertips, blazing a path through the galaxy and choosing one’s destiny just like Anakin and Luke. Sealing the deal is one of the most rewarding customization systems in any video game, simply because of the awesomeness of what you’re making – when you go to the Jedi Academy on Dantooine for training, naturally one of your tasks is to make your own lightsaber. You have to acquire all the parts, like lenses, power cells, and hilts, all of which have different gameplay and cosmetic effects, and can build something to reflect your personality – straightforward and powerful, graceful and deadly, or just so eccentric that no opponent can get a read on you.
Your First Leap of Faith (Assassin’s Creed series)
CAW! If you know what I’m talking about, you’re probably hearing the sound in your head right now. Ubisoft’s loopy, time-skipping stealth-action series deals with a millennia-long conspiracy by the Knights Templar to control the world using artifacts from another dimension (and to go on would be both spoileriffic and way confusing), and the only ones who can stop them are the Assassins, white-robed righteous killers who pass on their training through bloodline memory. When our hero Desmond Miles uses an Animus device to inhabit the mind of his first ancestor, the medieval Arab Altair ibn la’Ahad (which means Eagle No-one’s-son, meaningfully enough) he discovers that Altair had a number of extraordinary powers. Chief among them is a kind of extrasensory perception called Eagle Vision, which allows Desmond-Altair to scan cities for things no one else can see, as well as to detect spots where he can make a Leap of Faith and jump from any height without fear of harm, with the Eagle Vision’s subconscious certainty that something at the bottom will break his fall. It’s hard to really replicate the mental experience of having superpowers in video games, but the Assassin’s Creed series does succeed at giving a taste of what it is to be more than human.
Finding the Right Boss Weapon (Mega Man series)
Unlike the other entries on this list, at least at the beginning, Mega Man’s story was very simple. You are a robot and were created by a good scientist, Dr. Light, and now a bad scientist, Dr. Wily, has made bad robots sort of like you to conquer the world. You must beat these guys with their ridiculous outfits and supervillain power sets and themes (Leaf Man, Cut Man, Pharaoh Man, yadda yadda), and then, using one of the most famous video game mechanics ever, steal their weapons. Here’s the extra wrinkle: Every boss is resistant to some of the said weapons and extremely weak to one in particular, and there’s no restriction on which of their levels you approach first. This means part of the puzzle here is meta: Which boss lair do you dare brave first so that you can score the weapon needed to kill that robot’s rival? And of course, there’s nothing as satisfying as figuring out the right solution without having cheated and peeked at a game guide.