The bodies of dead little boys, the impact of extinction, the vicious torture of two of video game's least likable characters and hundreds of death by spike... these are, strangely, my most memorable video game moments of 2010.
Some of them are even my favorites, despite how gloomy and violent they were. It's a good thing my personal list of great video game moments from last year includes at least one choreographed dance number.
Note: This list is not ranked. There are some spoilers below, including some that discuss the endings of Red Dead Redemption, Bayonetta and BioShock 2.
The Benefits of Civilization (Red Dead Redemption) It's already been discussed by Kotaku's own Luke Plunkett, who ranked this moment as one of his 2010 favorites, but rarely have I been so surprised by video game music. Red Dead Redemption's soundtrack switch from minimal Western moodiness to Jamie Lidell's "Compass" during John Marston's ride home to his ranch altered my expectations about the power of video game music. Little did I know, at the time, that I was due for so much more from this game, including a change of perspective on how a game should end.
The Birth of the Conservationist Movement (Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare) Two worthy moments in the same game? Sort of. Red Dead Redemption's zombie-filled expansion, Undead Nightmare, featured a surprising, unsettling, even saddening run in with a species on the brink of extinction—the Sasquatch—that could have (or should have) been great comic relief, but instead wound up being... touching?
Potential For Anything (VVVVVV) Magnus Pålsson's wonderful soundtrack to Terry Cavanagh's thrilling VVVVVV is rich with great, catchy tunes. And I'll cop to not fully remembering at what point during VVVVVV the song "Potential For Anything" kicks in, but I do remember it as a moment that I stopped playing to start listening. Had I made good on my threat to write a list of my favorite video game music from 2010, this song would have been near the top of that list.
The Message To Yourself (BioShock 2: Minerva's Den) After playing through BioShock and BioShock 2 within the same two weeks, I'd effectively burned myself out on Rapture in short order. When the expansion Minerva's Den arrived, I approached it with a grumble. Stupid Little Sisters. Stupid Big Daddies. I'm sick of 'em! But Minerva's Den's story unravels—and finally concludes—in such a refreshing way, thanks to the last words of Charles Porter, that Rapture was redeemed in a third, once again plot-twisting visit.
The Lost Boys (Limbo) The horror of Limbo reaches a zenith early when the boy meets the game's other inhabitants. In a world already fraught with danger and gloom, the other lost boys who show you nothing but cruelty makes this world a sadder place. Worse was the realization that to survive the trip through Limbo, you would have to debase yourself to their level—and use their corpses as video game devices, platforms.
Strangling A Man Naked (Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days) Not to say that this was a favorite moment, but it certainly was memorable, even when we knew about Kane & Lynch 2's excessive nudity well in advance. Suffering from the pain of hundreds of small cuts—not to mention the brutal killing of a loved one—anti-heroes Kane and Lynch travel through a Shanghai hell bloody, beaten and completely naked, ratcheting up the abrasion of this unsavory adventure to its maximum.
Whatever Ending This Was (Bayonetta) In this carnival ride game brimming with ridiculous moments, from riding motorcycles into space to fighting monolithic bosses with angel wings and tentacles for tongues, it was Bayonetta's bizarre stack of endings that culminated in a three and a half minute-long dance sequence that managed to stand out.
The Betrayal of Kerrigan (StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty) Is it cheating to use a pre-rendered cut scene? Even if it is, Blizzard's retelling of a key StarCraft event in this beautifully rendered short helped to ground me in the universe's fiction in a powerful way. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty ended on a similarly vivid way, a turn of events that wouldn't have had the same impact if it weren't for this gorgeous flashback.
Those were my favorite video game moments of 2010. Throughout the week, we'll be publishing the favorite moments of other writers on the Kotaku team. And at week's end, we'll want you to sound off.