SPOILER WARNING for the write-up of this category. Big spoilers for Final Fantasy VII Remake, Hades, and lesser spoilers for Paradise Killer.
The existence of Best Moment categories is partially a reaction to how long games are. Sure, people will highlight a specific scene from a movie for props, but it’s not THAT big a deal to just watch a movie. On the other hand, the prospect of playing a whole game to see one cool moment is a lot to swallow, so we’ve become good at singling out and promoting those moments.
There’s a negative way to read this: that games are just too long, and we are boiling down the enjoyment in a way the developers didn’t manage to. But I prefer a more positive outlook: the moments where a game really does something remarkable are the icing on the cake. They draw the eye, they entice the viewer. How often do you hear about a moment and then go “well now I HAVE to play it?” I hope we can elicit that response in some of you with this list.
Breaking the Timeline (Final Fantasy VII Remake)
This is sort of the obvious pick, but we didn’t really have a choice either. When the game reveals that the weird ghosts that have been hanging around are (essentially) the incarnations of fan expectation, and you have a huge battle where you kill the concept of destiny, and then you and Sephiroth (momentarily) work together to change the future? Goddamn.
Where do we go from here? Nobody knows. Not even Nomura, I promise you. If Kingdom Hearts has taught me anything, it’s that when he writes a twist, he has NO IDEA where it’s leading, and it will probably disappoint you. But in this moment, before the other shoe drops? It’s the moment of the year.
Theseus’s Tantrum (Hades)
I have to imagine that Theseus is the most hated character in Hades. That’s certainly what he’s there for: a smug entitled pretty-boy king who talks no end of shit regardless of how often you kick his ass. He accuses you of cowardice for dodging when he’s the one fighting two-on-one, he refuses to acknowledge his own defeats, and he’s just so… UGH. I hate him. We all hate him.
And when his self-absorbed ego finally shatters, it’s soooo good. Hearing him piss and moan to his best friend that he’s done, he’s got no chance, and that you might as well kill him again and move on, was delicious. And when it turns and he starts to get his confidence back, it’s amazing… because at no point did I feel sorry for him, but I was also onboard with his regained composure. Welcome back, King. Get ready to die again.
Skinning a Ship (Hardspace: Shipbreaker)
You owe Lynx a billion credits. A BILLION. That’s so much money it doesn’t even make sense. And it’s so much that the idea that you’ll pay it off, while obviously possible, doesn’t even seem conceivable. It’s far beyond the horizon. And because your debt is so huge, it’s actually freeing. You’re making progress towards paying it off, and the speed doesn’t matter, because none of it feels real. You work because you must, you improve at it because you can.
And when you finally get good enough that with a hard time limit, breaks to refill oxygen and repair tools, and an assortment of hazards built into each ship, you still manage to finish breaking a ship down completely in one shift… wow. It’s sublime. It is the feeling of honest labor done well. Sit back, drink a space iced tea. You’ve earned it.
The Trial (Paradise Killer)
I have played every Ace Attorney game released in the West. Jen has played some inspired games like Aviary Attorney, to boot. We know our way around a digital courtroom. But the way The Trial plays out in Paradise Killer is second to none. It’s freeform, allowing you to make accusations as you see fit and never telling you “no that’s not the script.” Characters put up fronts, they crack, they turn on each other. During my trial, as I laid out the crimes of certain folks in VERY specific detail, I could feel the ones I chose to not accuse squirming.
I don’t wanna say too much more, as this is the one we decided not to spoil of our finalists. Play Paradise Killer, gang. It’s so good.
In 2020, the defining moments for us were breaking the constraints of destiny, watching a spoiled brat squirm, bringing justice to the rich, and doing some honest manual labor. Man, if that ain’t a mood. If you wanna hear how these finalists were picked, check out the discussion over on the Scanline Talks podcast feed. We have one more category for today, so please stay tuned!
A big thank you to Zwimmy (@zwimmy on Twitter) for our Game of the Year art!