5 Moments From Gaming That Outshine Big Budget Movies


I want to say what I know many gamers have thought, but few say for a fear of a backlash. I truly believe that gaming has surpassed Hollywood in terms of storytelling and set pieces. Though it can only be said about a handful of titles, video games immerse you a great deal deeper than watching films, because with gaming, for the most part, you are in control. You are part of narrative process by dictating what happens next, even if the game held your hand to get you there.

And the other element that propels gaming past movies, for me anyway, is that gaming makes it easier to suspend disbelief. Gaming makes the worlds you find yourself in more believable. We are not trying to digest the fact that the worlds in these games are shoddy CG pasted on top of real life. With games, we know they are CG, and coding, and I think we tend to be more forgiving for that reason. And again, I feel the need to stress that my views on gaming surpassing films is really only applicable to a handful of games and moments, which I will talk about here. But I can tell you that these moments dropped my jaws in ways that films can only dream about, and this is coming from a guy who makes his living talking about films.

And something essential that everyone reading this needs to understand is, the rising up of one medium will not kill the other. Gaming will never render Hollywood and big budget films obsolete, and I truly believe at some point, both mediums will figure out how they can interact to maximize their potential. And if these great gaming moments help set up Hollywood and silicon valley for a true merging, I am all about it. And I am not talking about computers being used to make special effects or to use dead actors (they already pretty much do that and it sucks), but more so, games and films interacting in ways only Philip K. Dick could have imagined.

For now, I can safely say that, in my opinion, these five moments from gaming outshine Hollywood in terms of scope and the overall sense of raw emotion (be it awe or sadness) that they instill in all who witness (or partake in) them.

Comments (86)

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  1. King O' Killer Cookiessays:

    Sam and Henry from The Last of Us. That bit made me shed a few man tears.

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      1. Newsboysays:

        Free viruses! Get your free viruses here!

      2. Jj Bizzlesays:

        We don’t need your stinkin’ spam bs here.

  2. Gamersays:

    Shadow of the Colossus.


    1. Remy Carreirosays:

      Yes, that whole game is more beautiful, moving, and more epic than most films. Thank you for pointing that out in a fairly kind manner.
      Usually I get something along the lines of “You left out Shadow of the Colossus” so you are obviously a virgin with AIDS and your Mom should be beaten and raped by bears.
      This was a nicer alternative to that, and I agree, so thanks.

    2. Chesays:

      *Spoiler Below*
      Absolutely. Terrific game- the moment when Agro dies to save your life is absolutely gut wrenching. Especially when you consider this is an absolutely barren world were your only companion was Agro.
      Also, defeating every single colossus in the game gave me epic-win-tingles each time.

      But other than that, great list.

    3. Michael Bristowsays:

      Good call, the bit which sticks out for me what definitely the first Colussus. The steady slow paced horse ride building up to something… Then when you first enter that closed off mountain and see the size of this MONSTER that you have to defeat… I wish the HD version came to xbox.

    4. Just Some Video Game Fansays:

      Heck yeah! That game told such a grand story with almost no dialogue! Only video games and movies can do this, and video games do it best!

  3. Blacklash5says:

    When John Marston had killed Butch, and rides back to his family, and Compass by Jamie Lidell starts playing, I was almost in tears. Much stronger moment. Speaking of things that could outshine movies, what about the ending?

    1. jesus v.says:

      Right it was so much better

  4. Mtoombsays:

    Max Payne 3- when Max enters the airport at the end and the huge gunfight cracks off, that awesome song builds up in the background until you’re gleefully bullet-timing baddies straight to digital hell. Or GTAIV when Nico and Packie come busting out of the bank in mid town Algonquin with assault rifles blazing a la Heat by Michael Mann? Or any Dead Space game- The eyeball surgery? The floating graveyard? Or Tomb Raider when Laura kills a man for the first time and pukes? Or Arkham City when you’re jujitsu-ing through a herd of 20 bad guys and you come out victorious? Or Super Mario Bros 3 when Mario takes flight in the raccoon suit for the first time? Or the final fight between the Reapers and, well… Everyone else in the galaxy… In Mass Effect 3? All those awesome ships duking it out? Or have you ever tried to fly anything you shouldn’t through lowsec in Eve Online only to jump into the next system to find a gate camp? Talk about heart-pounding out of your chest! There are no saved games in Eve! You lose a 5 billion dollar ship, it’s gone for good.

    Ahhh video games… 🙂

    1. Shayne Thomassays:

      Max Payne 3 is a gem. So beautiful and well done.

      1. Ryan Ferrell Edmund Girardotsays:

        To be honest, I couldn’t get into Max Payne 3. I liked the dark philosophy in the first game, but the more I played three, the more it seemed like he was just bitching. I beat the first one and played part of the second, but despite the beautiful scenery… I just couldn’t connect with Max anymore. It’s bad when I have more of a connection with a psycho like Trevor from GTA V than with Max Payne, a former cop wrecked with a deep emotional loss and a bad addiction issue

  5. James Thompsonsays:

    I must admit that I have only played RDR and I agree completely. I am just glad that it wasn’t some Final Fantasy fanboy claiming that Final Fantasy has the greatest story ever. Every gaming article that makes it to Zergnet is always about Final Fantasy. I am glad that you can recognize a good story when it is put in front of you, unlike Final Fantasy fans.

    1. BionicPidgeon .says:

      I honestly don’t understand why Final Fantasy games get so much shit.
      Sure, the newer ones aren’t that great, but the older games in the series are amazing and they do have a good story.
      I love Final Fantasy but I really appreciate story driven games like The Last Of Us and things like that. Red Dead Redemption was my favorite game this/last gen.

      I also love Metal Gear Solid.

      So don’t be a ass and act as though we’re all the same just because we like the same things, I will admit though that FF fans can be fucking retarded at times.

      1. James Thompsonsays:

        They don’t really get that much shit. Most people have huge erections for it, saying it has an amazing story and amazing characters. All of the characters are Mary Sues, which annoys the hell out of me personally. It’s a writer thing…

  6. Busternutsays:

    Gears of War 3. When Dom loses it and drives the petrol tanker away before riding back into the battle scene and blowing him and the truck up wiping the horde out. The simple piano music from Gary Jules’s Mad world was simply brilliant along with the destruction caused by the slowed down explosions. It was more emotional than the moment Dom found Maria in GoW 2. Only just, only just.

    1. Nutter Buttersays:

      You realize that his intention the entire time was to sacrifice himself to kill the stalks right? When he threw down his shotgun he looked at the car, and in a heroic moment, he decided that that way the only way to save the rest of his team.

  7. Tylersays:

    As a filmmaker this has to be one of the most idiotic articles ever. Way to pull Michael Haneke out your ass you hack

    1. Remy Carreirosays:

      Wow, you sound threatened. You must be one of those people who makes AWFUL films, or maybe you would name some here. So if this article offends people like you (who obviously wrote Sharknado) than good. In the meantime, you EVER want to go toe-to-toe about Haneke films with me, I am right here. And on my site. And on Unreality. And on Stylequirk. And about a thousand other places, so let’s dance, my friend.
      I will put a gag in your mouth and shove you off a boat while you still think you have a chance.

      1. Kevinsays:

        Wow… calm the fuck down man. Dudes like that don’t even rate a response. Great article, by the way

  8. m3ltD0Vvnsays:

    The first Call Of Duty had some amazing buddy moments for its time. So many bandwagoneers hate on that game…. but it was brilliant when it was first gen.

  9. pauljsays:

    Thinking of GDI mission 7 intro in C&C Tiberium Sun, makes me laugh!
    But does a cutscene count? Link if you’re that interested…
    There was some nice stuff in the first Max Payne too…
    “Seen from this height the night seemed to stretch on to eternity, a hint of desperation had crept into the storm. As if it was trying to get it all out before the end.” Very theatrical! And there was that awesome voice over when you got to a certain point where Nicole Horne says.. “What do you mean he’s unstoppable? You are better trained than he is, better equipped, you outnumber him at least 20 to 1… Do your job!” I loved that it was, well talking about me y’know, immersive gameplay and all that. Lolz no film ever said I was “unstoppable”!

    1. mboehm123says:

      The scene from The Godfather (the game) where FrankieMalone gets killed by Bruno Tattaglia, even though you try your hardest to save her. Little tear wrenching, I must say.

  10. Sir Poosansays:

    Thank you for remembering that scene in the Darkness. Personally, it’s my favorite campaign ever and it often gets forgotten as it went under the radar for most people when it came out.

  11. TronSheridansays:

    Mass Effect. Lots to choose from there.

  12. ReinEngelsays:

    The long walk down the hallway in Silent Hill 2, while a conversation you had with your dead wife on her death bed plays quietly in the background. There’s nothing stopping you from hauling ass down the path except the weight of the moment. Listening to the whole thing earns you a better ending.

    It’s capped off nicely by the “Red Pyramids” song that plays while you battle against two Pyramid Heads at once, and seeing nine save points all huddled together in a game that was stingy with them let you know how serious shit had become.

    That entire game is a masterpiece and I can honestly say that standing still in a dark room, scared to death at the thought of pushing the analog stick forward, is a memorable “moment” for me.

    GTA: Vice City deserves a special mention, too. The first time I hopped on a PCJ-600 with “I Ran (So Far Away)” playing on the radio, I had a moment that can only be described as pure euphoria. After beating all of the missions I made a save file that allowed me to run outside, hop on a bike, switch to the right radio station and have that song start up every single time. From that point on I always started playing on a high note… it was great. I’d cruise to the nearest Maverick or Hunter and fly around doing jack shit. GTGM.

    1. Jj Bizzlesays:

      How about the first time you run into Pyramid Head OMFG I just about Shat my self, scared the bejesus out of me.

  13. Rossisays:

    Amen.. Couldn’t agree more… to the point of tears I swear.. all 3 (I think) moments within Red Dead Redemption which have a song come on are amazing… but something about the Far Away sequence….. too good for words.

  14. XiahouDun1225says:

    I have to point one out.
    Red Dead Redemption: Marston’s end.
    That moment…Many manly tears were shed.

  15. Coaster26says:

    In well…most of the Uncharted series, there were some amazing moments. Funny, ironic, sad…I particularly was taken with (In no particular order) Sully doubting he can do this anymore, and Drake facing that possibility, with Drake realizing how much he does care for Elena, and the heart wrenching bare souled time where you think Sully is dead, Elena has left him, and he feels that he really does kill/damage everyone he cares for.

    I’m a sucker for a good story any day.

  16. The Regretfulsays:

    Anything can outshine anything, really, be it from a book, play, movie or videogame.
    It’s the story and execution that really matters, not what medium it’s performed on.

  17. gamer7says:

    How close was the uncharted 2 train sequence to the uncharted 3 plane crash sequence?

    1. BionicPidgeon .says:

      The problem with Uncharted 3’s plane crash sequence is that it’s in every promotional piece for the game so that when you finally get to it, it’s not as amazing. For me anyway. It was still great though, but I would say that the Uncharted 2 train sequence was better.

      1. Trey Latimersays:

        The plane sequence from Uncharted 3 has been the most adrenaline pumping thing I’ve ever played. I love the Uncharted games with all my heart, the train sequence is also amazing, but I’ve never felt like I just cheated death myself from a video game quite like plane scene.

  18. Tinnazsays:

    100% agree with this RDR scene being epic! I went replayed the whole game after a few months just because of this chilled out relaxed scene. Totally captures the enormity of John’s situation and his quest, which can be lost in the fast travel. Perfect song for it as well.

  19. Dingus Khansays:

    Spec Ops: The Line when you blast the city full of white Phosphorus and you see the civvies in the building, with the daughter dying in the mother’s arms and the characters freak out.

  20. Nicksays:

    I think you’re being WAY too hard on movies, especially when you’re talking about GoW. There were TONNES of times when I thought, “HOLY SHIT!” when watching a movie, or “god damn! IS HE GOING TO MAKE IT?!” and butterflies were flapping around in my stomach.
    Unfortunately, this has never happened to me in a game. My heartbeat ramps up because I am excited when near-death. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to kill this boss or if it’s going to kill me, and I’m desperately trying to dodge out of the way of his attacks, or perhaps remember a combo, but generally that’s about it. Out of all the games I’ve played, only AC3 made me feel the way you’re describing, when the half-breed (sorry, I can’t remember his name – it’s been ages since I played the game) is being taken to be executed after a stint in prison, when I was on the edge of my seat, my heart racing as I wondered how he was going to survive.

    But then again, I’m only a casual gamer concerning single-player games/gameplay. It’s only when I’m playing multiplayer or something like a Total War/Age of Empire game that I really get serious (and then there’s no plot, so I can’t get the feelings you describe).
    Don’t get me wrong, I love plot, much more than most gamers (I wouldn’t be such a bookworm otherwise), but for me games are sub-par in this, and it’s rare that I get a game purely for its storyline.

  21. BamBamsays:

    I have to say, the ending of Red Dead Redemption almost made me cry. Such an astoundingly beautiful game, all the way through.

    1. Jason Crainsays:

      Man! Makes me happy to see so many people saying this about RDR. When he pushes the barn door open, you know there’s only one way this is going down. No other outcome is possible. I just sat there, staring at the TV, my eyes all watery. What a perfect game.

      1. PS4 and X1says:

        100% agreed. I haven’t played the game in SOOOO long, and after reading this article, I’m actually seriously thinking about restarting the game again today after work. RDR is such a great game in so many ways!

    2. bradsays:

      No fucking doubt man that was some epic shit.

  22. thatguysays:

    Mass Effect when you have to make the choice on who to save

  23. John Doesays:

    Couldn’t agree more about that Red Dead scene. I have said the same thing about it. You can probably set up a camp if you wanted but I don’t know why anyone would want to.

  24. Constantine1985says:

    I would, definitely, add a scene from Last of Us. I don’t remember a movie, recently, that made me feel so emotionally invested as LoU.

  25. dave birneysays:

    you couldnt just put all these on one page? i have to click through 5 different pages to find this shit out? no thanks

  26. LORD KAYOSSsays:

    I thought for sure you were gonna talk about the ending of Red Dead. The moment you speak of didn’t really effect me, but various moments of the game did, very much so. I agree this is one of, if not THE, best games of the PS3/360 era.

  27. Adssays:

    The joker dying in Arkham was pretty good, unexpected anyway.

  28. Michael Bristowsays:

    I have to say that I thought Far Cry 3’s intro was the best I have seen in a long time. I felt genuinely scared and concerned for my character which doesn’t happen often when I’m playing games.

  29. I don’t know if anyone would agree with me, but Enslaved had a few profound moments too. Toward the end when Trip decides to remove the headband from Monkey’s head, and he insists that she leaves it. Also, in the end when you realise the entire remaining population of the world is locked in a matrix-like-device. Definitely some emotions flying around.

  30. James Lockettsays:

    RDR is the best game I’ve ever played. The story, the soundtrack, the game play the graphics. All of the elements fit together so perfectly. That moment you mentioned, when Marston rides down to Mexico, is a strong case for video games as an art form. In those minutes when you’re riding you as a player have time to reflect on the events that have passed and anticipate what to come. It was moments like that that made the ending so moving and the epilogue so satisfying.

  31. Giorgos Kypraiossays:

    red dead redemption is such a beautiful game…one of my favorite moments is in the undead nightmare DLC when you heading to the big city in Mexico to stop for good the curse and while you gallop with your horse a song start playing…amazing… (sorry for my bad english)

  32. Shreavsays:

    Agreed with every opinion… The Darkness was emotionally tough when Jenny died. The music was also just sad. Great game, don’t know how they lost the plot with The Darkness 2.

  33. Mohammad Jackson Shweikisays:

    I totally agree!! rather than R.D.R there’s so many games I can’t start talking about their stories and their endings!
    Devil May Cry 4 has amazing story line and amazing scenes specially when Nero start smashing the ground after Keirieh is taken away!

  34. Ronsays:

    You are 110% right about RDR. It was the best game of this generation. It’s my favorite game of all time. The characters, the setting, the enemies. It all felt classic and right. The End. Wow. The only bit of crap was his whiny little son at the end.

  35. MrGarfieldMansays:

    So many sad games…

    If 16bit games are in the question – Final Fantasy 6 Opera Scene with Celes, just so good.


    And of course RDR Marstons Death


    The ending to The Walking Dead. I have only cried 3 times from video games and this was one of them. The others were John Marston’s death and Joker’s death.

  37. Redmagmasays:

    What about when you leave the hall of heroes in skyrim to defeat alduin for the last time

  38. Ranivussays:

    Enchanted Arms
    The last two hours of the game starting with the loss of a main character that i hated 98% of the game, made me genuinely emo all the way to the end. This is truly the last final fantasy game we will ever play.

  39. EricMsays:

    The opening sequences to Last of Us… where you start as a little girl and end as her father watching her die… gut wrenching.

    Much of the new Tomb Raider, just the whole story arc/production values were unbelievable and better at telling that kind of life changing/growing up story than hollywood can.

    Portal 2 ending…. ’nuff said.

  40. JBlancosays:

    All of Heavy Rain, especially the opening cut scenes. The happiness that’s built into the beautifully animated opening part of what is effectively the tutorial only to be stripped at the loss of the main characters son’s, his divorce, and the sadness that the rest of the game entails as you struggle to save the other son from a kidnapper. You get a better sense of the different characters desperations throughout the game better than any movie.

    1. Cherriessays:

      Agree with you wholeheartedly. Never has a game left such an impression on me. You actually feel what the players are experiencing, the pain, the anxiety….. Wish there were more games like this.

  41. Ryan Ferrell Edmund Girardotsays:

    Kingdom Hearts 2, when you’re about to fight 1000 heartless. Looking back now, it seems kind of cheesy. When you played it shortly after the game was released, however, and you felt like an action hero.

  42. superderk100says:

    red dead redemption. my favorite video game. i hope the inevitable sequel will bring the imersive story, fun gameplay, and moments of great emotion that the first (technically second in the red dead series) had brought

  43. Droosays:

    One of the most heart wrenching moments for me was when Dom finally found Maria in GoW 2

  44. Saren Crimsonsays:

    Marston’s death was a HUGE deal for me. RDR was in my opinion the best 360 game out there. Another for me was after beating Peace Walker in MGS: Peace Walker. All those cutscenes that had flashbacks with the Boss and also the threat of the United States getting ready to just destroy everything due to the fake nuke data from Peace Walker only to have the Boss sacrifice herself again in order to save everything, not to mention that beautiful song that Peace Walker sang as it was going into the ocean. Maybe it’s just me but MGS 3 and Peace Walker were both games I’d play any day along with RDR

  45. Marc Bridghamsays:

    I am totally with you regarding RD being the best game of this generation. As an older gamer I have found it the most dead on in terms of difficulty in gameplay, not easy but not out of my twitch ability. As open-world games are my favorite genre I am quite happy to ride around and just experience the environment, even repetitive hunting and rescue missions. My favorite moment of many was the first time I discovered the big waterfall on the main river (my age prevents me from remembering the names from where I sit :). I just walked my horse to the edge of a cliff and watched it roar for minutes. Beyond that this is also the most satisfying, a protagonist in any game (one of my disappointments in GTA especially the later ones is that I just don’t like playing the main characters). The storytelling and visuals are just superb. I believe in this place, even traversing multiple ecosystems in a single ride (Hey,you can do that in Madeira).

    1. Jeffsays:

      i agree and understand wholeheartedly. i too am an older gamer and could spend days looking at visuals. the desert in red dead got me, as did looking at damascus and jerusalem in assassins creed for the first time. some of the most breathtaking scenery ive see. paired with accompanying haunting sound is skyrim. i recommend either of those if you havent played them

  46. Marc Bridghamsays:

    Oh, and because of a hard drive conversion I lost my RDR game so I get to ride into Mexico and savor that moment again! And will watch for it specifically thanks to you.

  47. DrZanzsays:

    You don’t have to stone the interracial couple in BS:I… just sayin’

  48. jamessays:

    In the start of homefront, witnessing the korean’s actions toward civillians. It doesn’t happen often for me but I felt enraged and when I finally got the control, I was more than ready to kill them.
    also the end of halo; reach standing alone with one objective, survive.

  49. Lamar Daviessays:

    The prologue/beginning of The Last of Us was so perfectly done that I, as a father, teared up. It’s unfortunate that the rest of the game didn’t carry that kind of weight for me (better to climax at the end), but it stands out nonetheless, since no movie or book has ever managed to have that effect on me.

    1. Jj Bizzlesays:

      I’m a father of two and had that same experience. I have to pause the game for about 15 mins. Thinking to my self what would I have done, would I still be able to continue on.

  50. Mathieu Rodrigues Michaudsays:

    The Darkness whole feeling was something no movie ever can reproduce and while i dont like 100% of your list that one is spot on and i’m saying that after having played multiple FF, God of war, devil may cry, dark soul ( demon soul ) skyrim etc…gripping scene heavy-loaded on emotions

  51. The Smith guysays:

    The moments in Red Dead Redemption are classic. I used to get so caught up in that game, that I sometimes lost touch with reality and sense of time playing it so much. Probably didn’t help that I always played it when i was high as a kite, but that made the game soooo much more awesome. No, seriously…it did. I actually knew exactly what Seth was always saying when riding along side him and talking with him on one of the missions. About “How do you know you’re even really alive? ” That was deep. Great game!

  52. Scrittysays:

    Near the end of Max Payne 2. His last escape from the hospital. The music added so much to that.
    Red Dead is right up there. A brilliant game from start to finish. I loved GTA5 (couldn’t stand GTA4 – always wanted to pu8nch the main character in the face – HATED Playing as him, and the car physics was just annoying. Not too hard, not “challenging” just cr&p) But RDR was the best Rockstar game I’ve ever played.

  53. readerofoldbookssays:


  54. Mario Luigisays:

    My number one moment is when the giants stop the moon from crashing into clock town in Majora’s Mask.

    1. Mario Luigisays:

      Also when Link learns the oath to order from the first giant.

  55. SpartanWarrio_628101says:

    I agree Red Dead Redemption is the greatest game.

  56. Jj Bizzlesays:

    Two things here first off where is the intro for The Last of Us, that was by far one of the best intro’s to a video game period. I would say Uncharted 2 and Bioshock would have been honorable mentions in my opinion. Second The Darkness, when that game came out I knew absolutely nothing about it, it looked cool I picked it up on a impulse purchase. This was one of my favorite games for a long time and still is. My most memorable moment was going back to your GF apartment turning on the TV and watching the full movie yeah a full 1+ hour movie that played witch was pretty bad A$$.

  57. Skodesays:

    Yeah that Darkness moment got me raging, i actually did want revenge because i was so emotionally driven. I had not felt that in a video game since Aeris was murdered in Final Fantasy VII.

    I also give heed to another couple of games not on your list. Mass Effect… it was one of the few games i had to stop and think… where i actually put the controller down as i didnt know which call to make, with moments where there genuinely seemed no “right” choice to make and that my decision would effect so much to come. A series of games which made you play the “hero” who was out to save the galaxy but reminded you that one man alone would not be able to suffer grave losses along the way to succeed in such a desperate essential goal against insurmountable odds.

    Also Walking Dead (Telltale episodes) finale to season 1… we knew it was coming but it was such a moving moment seeing how our story and our experience of guiding Clementine would come to that finale climatic action and whether or not she would be the one to do it.

  58. saywhatuwillsays:

    I know this is an old article, but I wanted to add that the game Outlaws from Lucasfilm was one of the best games made. It made sniper scopes common place.

  59. Real Rick Grimessays:

    Without a doubt the opening to Bioshock was the best moment in gaming I’ve ever seen, just epic. The Uncharted 2 train scene is also in my top 5. Jenny’s death in The Darkness was awesome and the tension was thick.

  60. red&deadsays:

    RDR. I didn’t know that getting off the horse stopped the music. It was too late to go back. Biggest regret in my gaming history. Don’t get off your horse.

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