5 Best RPG Moments That Aren't Bullets, Swords, and Mayhem

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Picking the highlights from a vast catalog of RPGs is an almost impossible task. Sure, I could roll out that scene in Final Fantasy VII, or talk about Link obtaining the Master Sword in Ocarina of Time before he was actually ready, but some of the best RPG moments have actually been the simplest ones.

As I'll demonstrate, the act of opening a door, simply sitting on a bench, or discovering the truth about yourself can have as much impact as skewering a character on a sword.

So here are five role-playing scenes that hold a lot of personal meaning to me for very different reasons -- and don't involve bullets, swords, or mayhem.

To The Moon -- When Johnny Meets River

If I had my way, I'd put pretty much the entirety of To The Moon in this list. It's one of the most beautiful and moving games ever created, and it's filled with dialog that taps into the ordinariness of everyday conversations, while simultaneously making each one feel special. Also.... that music.

But the scene where Johnny and River meet for the first time on a park bench and talk about the origin of their names, the stars, and the carnival prize John won -- which he gifts to River -- is just wonderful. With echoes of the equally lovely Before Sunrise, it's capped off by the pair arranging to meet at the same time, in the same place, the following year. Tissues at the ready.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic -- Darth Revan Revealed

[SPOILER WARNING!]

BioWare's sprawling space opera was the ultimate fan service to Star Wars lovers. It was also a damn good RPG filled with memorable characters. But as anyone who has ever played it knows, the pivotal moment in the game was finding out that Darth Revan -- responsible for all manner of atrocities across the galaxy -- was actually... you.

Since your mind had been wiped and then brainwashed to the Light side by Bastila, the twist came late in the game and ultimately led to a choice of agreeing to help defeat the Sith or ousting the current leader of the Dark side, Malak, and taking his place. The revelation was unlike any that BioWare had offered up before, and it secured KOTOR's place among the greatest RPGs ever made.

Fallout 3 -- Leaving The Vault

Though the Fallout series has its share of incredible moments, there's nothing quite like the sense of wonder and potential that greets you upon opening the door to the outside world from Vault 101.

The horizon laid out before you, a wasteland of immense scope awaited your exploration and you finally realized that, after the isometric viewpoint of the first two games, this was the perspective you had craved all along -- the sense of total freedom to go and discover -- and to see the world through the eyes of the dweller. It was a momentous feeling.

Mass Effect 2 -- The Suicide Mission

Far and away the pinnacle of an altogether stellar series, the ending of yet another BioWare space adventure -- this time its own IP -- proved to be a profound departure from the norm. Faced with the prospect of an overwhelming fight to infiltrate the Collector base and take out the Human Reaper within, you need to select the team who will accompany you, as well as other members who are assigned different tasks.

ME2 pulled no punches, and if the team members you selected in each instance weren't loyal or strong enough, or if you'd failed to make the appropriate modifications to the Normandy, there was every possibility of seeing your comrades fall. The pressure of trying to do the right thing and keep your team safe under impossible circumstances was one of the standout moments from the series, and the devastation you felt if any of them failed to make it to the end was heartbreaking.

Planescape: Torment -- What You Did To Deionarra

[SPOILER WARNING!]

Among a multitude of sad stories and poignant asides, Deionarra remains one of the most tragic figures in Black Isle Studios' masterpiece. She appears as a ghost at the beginning -- a former lover of you, The Nameless One -- but it isn't until the end, in the Fortress of Regrets, that you discover her true fate.

One of your splintered states, the Practical Incarnation, lays out the facts bluntly: Deionarra was manipulated into loving you and then sacrificed. The Practical Incarnation knew that her intense love for The Nameless One would compel her to remain as a ghost awaiting The Nameless One's return, unable to pass to the afterlife. It also knew that her tormented soul would act as a link to the Fortress, just as The Practical Incarnation needed.

Deionarra was nothing more than a tool to be used and discarded, and this devastating reveal was the depressing cherry on the gloomy cake of your time in the Fortress. Arguably the best-written RPG of all time, Planescape: Torment is finally getting a deserved successor in Torment: Tides of Numenera, and if it contains moments anywhere near as heart-wrenching as Deionarra's tale, we'll be ecstatic. And in tears, obviously.

I'd love to hear your choices for best RPG moments -- so leave a comment and let me know which ones had the most significance for you.

Published Feb. 24th 2017

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Lover of stories. RPGs, yeah? Plans to write until there's nothing left to write about.


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