By Melody Klink
Aaaaaaand we’re back! I promised I’d bring you some iconic moments Pre-2000, and I’ve finally compiled my list. To be honest, there are so. Frickin’. Many. Moments that I want to include, but we gotta cut to it and pare it down. Stroll down memory lane with me, and let’s kick this off!
***AS I SAID IN MY PREVIOUS POST, THIS IS STRAIGHT UP SPOILER TERRITORY.***
Our Princess is in another castle - Super Mario Bros.
Everyone knows the famous scene: you rush through a crazy, randomly-lava-filled castle, smash the boss, and proceed to what you assume is a room holding the Precious Princess Toadstool, a.k.a. Peach. But no. There’s a Toad(stool*), excitedly waiting to tell you,
“Thank you Mario! But our Princess is in another castle!”
A cliffhanger for the ages, the OG Super Mario Bros. had us running through some pretty wild situations, all in pursuit of Ye Lovely Maiden Princess. Eventually (eight worlds in), Mario finally finds said Princess, and his quest is deemed over… unless you wanna press B and annoy yourself by changing all the mobs in the way along the path to your destiny.
*It’s weird how many people think Toad is named after the frog… it’s a Toadstool mushroom, so…
“It’s Dangerous to go alone” - The Legend of Zelda
A modern meme for the ages, the now-classic line spawned from Link’s original adventure back in 1986.
In the midst of a forest, the brand-spanking-new adventurer eyes a cave- one that houses a mysterious old man, who insists “it’s dangerous to go alone! Take this!” and offers the player a sword to battle with.
I mean, if curiosity didn’t get you to enter that cave, I’d hate to see you play the next screen.
Link receiving swords is a slew of iconic moments in its own right; one that didn’t make the list in particular is the scene from Ocarina of Time, where the young boy pulls the Master Sword from its stone recess. Despite not being so involved story-wise until later, The Legend of Zelda heavily relies on the series’ lore, which is what makes these moments so important. We always look forward to a new incarnation of the Hero, and his adventures to gather the ancient Hylian tools used to save Hyrule.
Beating Mike Tyson - Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!
Despite later dropping Mike Tyson’s name from the title, we all know that Punch Out!! is made by its titular boss. Little Mac is an up-and-coming fighter, headed for the top; which, if it’s 1987, the kind of the ring is Mike Tyson, and he doesn’t go out easy.
While the OG games weren’t as big on the “celebration” part of victory, beating Tyson made you BEAST MODE BACK THEN. It’s not something everyone was able to do; I think, as a kid, the only person in my household that beat him was my big brother, and that wasn’t without a million tries. (Oh, YE OLDEN DAYS OF THE BIGGER SIBLING BEATING ALL THE HARD PARTS~)
That Rabbit Head… - DOOM
The game turned a still-young-but-more-responsible 25 last year, and its mania keeps on chugging: DOOM, the insane PC game your parents wanted you to stay away from, revolutionized First Person Shooters with intelligent surroundings that adapted to your playstyle, all while throwing gore and imagery of the occult at your face. Robots? Check. Demons? Yep. Monsters? Got it! Secret Paths? DOOM had it all, combined in a freaky weird package.
DOOM’s final boss is a Robo-Spider (not named Geoff, sorry Battleborn) that takes an irritating amount of shots to finally take down. Afterwards, our, uh, “hero” is treated to a lovely view of Earth! With cute bunnies! Oh happy day, everything’s normal… until the camera pans, and there’s a decapitated bunny…
Nope, we’re not done here.
I remember playing this game, being both fascinated and weirded out by what I was seeing… I also remember getting in trouble for it. DOOM certainly earned its M for Mature, but that didn’t stop us!
Finally Beating The Stampede - The Lion King
Another “OH MY GAWD I FINALLY DID IT MOMENT” came with beating The Lion Kind’s Stampede level. While not a big crazy moment in-game, it was HUGE when you finally did overcome the anguish-inducing stage that made Hard Game History.
Cuphead fans, take note: this shite was stupid hard. And unforgiving. And you should try it if you haven’t before. I had the game on Sega Genesis, but the Disney titles did release on a few other systems.
“Bloodlines” - Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
This is technically a remake of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood’s ending, but it only makes sense in Symphony of the Night context; this epic back-and-forth between Richter Belmont and Dracula only happens at the very beginning of SotN, bridging the events between the two games.
Also, it’s one of many game speeches I have memorized by heart, can recite in my sleep, and am always willing to perform for anyone, anytime. I will do both parts with gusto.
Okay, maybe I have *all* of Symphony of the Night memorized, because it’s my favorite game of all time. ANYWAY.
Symphony of the Night brought the 2D sprite platformer genre to full force on the Playstation back in 1997, and was the first game I ever owned for the system. It’s a beautiful game, and the soundtrack is amazing; in my opinion, it’s the pinnacle of the Castlevania series. But enough talk! (Sorry) This iconic video game moment was supposedly the final battle between the Belmont clan and the prince of darkness himself, Ozzy Dracula. We of course later learn that Dracula’s Castle returns, and with it, their dark lord arises... but the moment is epic all on its own. Dracula questions whether or not his actions are any different from the religions of the world, and Ritcher has a retort for the ages: your words are as empty as your soul. Mankind ill needs a savior such as you! This enrages Dracula, and a fight ensues. If you’ve never played Symphony of the Night, I highly recommend you pick it up; it’s a free title with Games with Gold on Xbox until July 15th!
THAT Character’s Death - Final Fantasy VII
In a moment that hardly needs an introduction, the world lost its collective mind when the sweet, innocent Aerith Gainsborough was run through by Sephiroth in Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII. It was a shocking moment that no one expected, and set the stage for future Final Fantasy titles to pack that emotional punch.
While debate is big over the popularity of VII (many folks think it’s overrated, but they get to see it through a modern lens and not one of 1997), there’s no denying the impact of this pivotal moment. Aerith was the kindest and most gentle party member of Cloud’s rag-tag brigade, and her death spurs them on even harder to defeat Sephiroth, a maniac bent on becoming a God. (Aren’t they all?) Cloud’s suffered a lot in his life- his last name is Strife, after all- and the loss of Aerith haunts him long after the original credits roll.
The Hero of Time and the Princess - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Ocarina of Time is arguably one of the biggest and most popular Legend of Zelda titles, and its ending packs a punch that takes a little time to understand the brevity.
With all of the powers Hyrule has to offer, Link and Princess Zelda defeat the mighty Ganondorf/Ganon, sealing him away once again. The realm is restored to peace, but there’s a caveat: Zelda plays the song of time, and Link is sent back to his childhood, causing one of the most heartbreaking “goodbyes” ever. That’s the curse of the hero- he saves the day, but hardly ever gets to indulge in his victory. And maybe that’s what real heroes do. But it doesn’t make the ending any less bittersweet, knowing that Link would be returned to his lonely childhood, losing the almost-but-never affection that seemed to blossom between he and Zelda, starting the cycle over again. It seems lonely and forlorn, being a constantly reincarnated Hero but never experiencing the fruit of your labor…
(And if you’re lacking in LoZ knowledge, your best bet is the Hyrule Historia, a great book outlining how the cycle of Hyrule works!)
Psycho Mantis fight - Metal Gear Solid
In one of the most clever fights in gaming history, Konami tricked us all by allowing Metal Gear Solid boss Psycho Mantis to not only read our memory cards, but also our controller ports. He could prattle off your game saves (Konami titles, Castlevania came up a LOT for me), how many times you overwrite your saves, etc., AND he can make your controller vibrate… WITH HIS MIND!
The key to beating Mantis, of course, was switching your controller to the other port, blocking him from reading your move input.
You’ll see this moment pop up in pretty much every great gaming list ever, and rightly so; it was an innovative moment, clever as hell, and has rarely (if ever) been replicated since. Take note, though: this moment doesn’t happen in the remasters of the game on PS3 and such, as they don’t have the same reader slot technology, which really takes some of the oomph out of the playthrough. Do yourself a favor, and go PS1 version.
Entering the Otherworld - Silent Hill
Rounding out the millennium was the launch of Silent Hill, a game series that would ruin many a night’s sleep for me and millions of others. Truly the first horror series to give Resident Evil a run for its money, Silent Hill holds nothing back when it comes to shock and awe. Though I list the moment as “entering the otherworld for the first time,” it’s truly EVERY FREAKING MOMENT IN THERE that makes this so iconic.
Playing as troubled, distraught Harry Mason, you venture into the quiet vacation town of Silent Hill; after the death of your wife, your daughter Cheryl insists that you need a vacation, STAT. Of course, nothing is quite right in Silent Hill, and a car crash sends his life tumbling into darkness. The realms of reality and the darkness collide here, and Harry is tossed into a nightmarish landscape of gory monsters, spectral apparitions, and psychological torture.
When it comes to Silent Hill 1, I only have a few words to conjure the horror and madness:
Both of these areas were torture to play, being both disturbing and frightening in small, boxy spaces with tight camera angles. The “Silent Hill nurse” was made famous here, a monster that would keep on truckin’ throughout the series. The entire series strings from this line, people perpetually dealing with the dark abyss that sprawls forth from Silent Hill, and from within themselves. It’s fantastic psychological horror, if you’re into that sorta thing! (I am, and also am deeply terrified, so it’s a tightrope walk.)
And that’s that! Between the two articles, I’ve listed 20 huge moments that defined genres, series, and gaming history itself. What are some of your favorite moments? We have a lot to wade through, so let me know!