Games of the Decade: Our favourite moments


To mark the end of the 2010s, we’re celebrating 30 games that defined the last 10 years. You can find all the entries in the Games of the Decade archive, and read our thinking about it in an editor’s blog. Meanwhile, here’s a little something extra.

Large or small, big budget or micro-studio, all games live in the memory as moments. Happy accidents, terrible last-minute defeats, glitches that wrecked a game but somehow made it brilliant at the same time.

We’ve been looking back at our favourite games of the decade this week, but that doesn’t really do a decade justice. So here are our favourite moments from the games that came out over the course of the last ten years.

Please be warned here: LOTS OF OUR FAVOURITE MOMENTS ARE SPOILERS.

Realising Archangel’s identity in Mass Effect 2

Spoilers!

If I could wipe my memory of any game to experience it again for the first time, it’d be Mass Effect 2. Mordin’s singing, that random mission where you play as Joker, the suicide mission! But of all of these, the one that really sticks with me is finding Garrus.

Your squad up to this point has only been Miranda and Jacob (and possibly Mordin if you chose to find him first), and despite their honesty and willingness to help you, both characters are from an enemy faction you know has done some unforgivable things.

But then you finally reach Archangel – the helmet comes off and you’re met with a friendly face that stuck by your side in your fight against the Geth, when an entire Galactic Council wanted nothing to do with you. Even though many of us likely suspected the blue-clad Turian sniper was Garrus, words can’t describe the relief and pure elation I felt when I was sure it was him.

Then he takes a rocket to the face. For a brief heart-stopping moment it seems the friend you’ve only just rediscovered is being taken from you, and the scene fades to black – then he comes sauntering in to see you on the Normandy.

“Shepard. How bad is it? No one would give me a mirror.”

Imogen Beckhelling

Controlling the spaceship in MirrorMoon EP

MirrorMoon was a game of glittering epiphanies, none of which should really be spoiled. But the giddiest revelation in the whole thing is also one of the very first. You’re dropped into a spaceship and faced with a complex control panel. How do you fly this thing? Well, you start by finding out what everything does.

This is trial-and-error gaming, and it’s glorious: every element of the dashboard has a beautiful tactile quality – a lovely piece of animation and a satisfying sound effect. It’s a much better teacher than a tutorial ever would be. Over the years since the game came out I’ve played through MirrorMoon about six or seven times. Each of those times has felt like a real event, and I think that’s due to the mastery I learned on my first leap into the cockpit. What a beautiful thing this is.

Christian Donlan

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Dimitri’s timeskip in Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Spoilers for Blue Lions route

It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security during the opening hours of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. You’re having cups of tea, fishing and gently mentoring students – and like Hogwarts, dramas are largely contained within the monastery walls.

If you take the Blue Lions route, one of these students is Dimitri – a royal heir struggling to overcome a horrific past and set a good example for his fellow students. As betrayals and fresh traumas occur, that mask begins to slip, and shatters completely when you vanish for five years amidst the chaos of war. When you return, you step over bodies to find him hunched in a corner – broken, haunted by hallucinations, and alone. It’s heart-wrenching stuff, and I felt genuinely anguished for being absent when he needed me most: the ultimate failure as a friend, and teacher.

Eventually, you’ll lead Dimitri down the path to redemption, helping him rein in his anger and manage his survivor’s guilt. But in that moment, he’s a young man who’s lost everything, including himself – and it’s utterly agonising.

Emma Kent

Saying goodbye in Toca Nature

I could have chosen almost any of Toca Boca’s wonderful children’s apps for this piece, but there’s something enduringly special about Toca Nature. Your job here is to take the tile of earth you’re given and transform it into an ecosystem, drawing out mountains, digging lakes and rivers, scattering forests and encouraging animals to thrive. You can spend hours making the perfect layout, but the genius of it is that you cannot save any of them. The moment you turn the game off they’re gone – and the next time you load it up you start afresh. Perfect.

Christian Donlan

Fortnite’s black hole and Chapter 2 return

Our perception of time slows around the edge of a black hole and indeed, those two days Fortnite was offline – the entire game just a holding screen perfectly designed to create anticipation – felt like an eternity. Who knew what would emerge when all was said and done? An infinity of futures lay in wait.

And then, just as suddenly, Fortnite was back. A whole new game, near enough, brought into existence via a theatrical scene change on a scale it felt like only Epic could muster. Loading in for the first time took you from a cutscene – which resolved Fortnite’s story cliffhanger, reintroduced its world, established what was new, reassured and reorientated fans that much still remained the same – and into your first match, all within 60 seconds.

The direction of the cutscene, its misdirection of Fortnite’s lead character leaping from the Battle Bus mid-song and the sudden discovery that yes you were now playing, the realisation Fortnite had been quietly matchmaking you in while getting you up to speed… it was a breathless return, pitch perfect stage-setting, and a reminder Fortnite effortlessly pulls off things others only dream of.

Tom Phillips

Learning how to use Clone in Clash Royale

What’s better than one hot air balloon? Two hot air balloons – and the second one is sort of a weird ghost.

Christian Donlan

Arriving at Skyhold in Dragon Age: Inquisition

I don’t think Dragon Age: Inquisition is a game of the decade. While it’s a wonderful entry to BioWare’s series, it doesn’t really do anything new that its other titles haven’t done already. But it has one memorable moment that deserves a special mention: discovering Skyhold.

Fresh from wandering in the snow after a climactic fight against Corypheus’ goons, you end up stranded with the rest of the Inquisition in the Frostback Mountains. All hope seems lost – until Solas takes you aside to give you a gentle nudge in the right direction.

The music, the cinematography, and the wonderfully delivered narration by Solas’ voice actor, Gareth David-Lloyd, comes together to make a truly epic sequence. It almost feels as though the game is starting anew, providing a solid home for the Inquisition, and the hope of being able to fight back after everything’s been taken from you.

Imogen Beckhelling

Painting with archipelagos in From Dust

From Dust may be the game I’m saddest to have bumped from the top 30. It’s a wonderful hymn to the sheer power of change, as lava meets water to create new landscapes of rock, and as fire rages through grasslands removing options and maybe creating new ones.

It’s at its best, I would argue, towards the end of the campaign, on a map called Emergence, in which you must guide your followers from A to B across a scattering of islands lost in a calm blue sea.

At first, it’s hard to work out how you’re going to get anything done, so isolated is each individual landmass. Quickly, though, you’ll start to think like a god, which means reimagining a promising mini-volcano as a kind of ink well that can be used to paint in new land in lines and cross-hatchings of rock.

It’s a relatively simple level to complete, but that’s never the point with From Dust. Instead, this is a toybox to explore, to set in motion, to neglect, to revisit and to ponder over. From Dust is a game that really makes you feel like a god – and a game that proves that even gods can be surprised.

Christian Donlan

Sea of Thieves’ final secret

Seriously: SPOILERS

Somewhere out there on the Sea of Thieves, we’re told, among the endless churn of its inky waters, lies the treasure to end all treasures, Athena’s Fortune. Its discovery, only possible for those that achieve Pirate Legend, is as much of an ultimate aim as Sea of Thieves’ free-spirited pirate sandbox ever really allows. Between the initial animated intro and that final goal, however, is one hell of a grind. But it’s all worth it for Rare’s one last little joke. It’s hard not to chuckle when it becomes clear, in the grating of stone, the swell of supernatural light, and siren’s chorus that accompanies the gorgeously orchestrated big reveal, that the goal you’ve so valiantly sought was right where you started all along.

Matt Wales

When Assassin’s Creed Origins takes you to Giza

The Grand Gallery, right, looks like part of a machine whose mechanism and purpose defies understanding. I can’t remember where I read that, but when I stood in the Grand Gallery at Giza, deep inside a pyramid – this was the mid-90s – I was struck by how true it was. Then I left, and I realised that I would probably never return.

But I did! In Assassin’s Creed Origins we can all explore these magnificent buildings. And better than that, they have been empties of crowds and filled with proper secrets to uncover. Despite all this, they somehow retain their mystery, their power to confound. These buildings are ancient. They’re so ancient that by the time Bayek arrives, they’re already ancient and a thing of myth. (In the game’s best joke, he mentions that he’d imagined the Sphinx would be bigger.) The Grand Gallery already feels like part of a machine whose mechanism and purpose defies understanding.

Christian Donlan

That bit in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Time has dulled my memory of Brothers, but what I do remember is bursting into tears. It was that bit when you press that button, of course. Suddenly after 10 hours of meandering story and sometimes quite fiddly manoeuvring, the reason behind everything I had been doing – everything I had been made to do, as the game’s younger brother – came thundering into focus with a clarity that left me speechless. I tried to put into words the hows and whys of what I had just experienced and found it profoundly difficult to explain.

There’s something physical about loss – an absence of something you used to be able to reach out and feel, a sense the ground has moved from under you and you’re left staggering to compensate. Brothers captures this in a moment of devastating simplicity, but one which marries it in a sense of strength. Loss is an absence of something, this moment shows, but also an acknowledgement what is gone once existed – and we are all stronger for remembering it.

Tom Phillips

Titanfall 2’s Smart Pistol reveal

What does a giant robot keep right inside its head? It turns out they keep the best weapon from the first Titanfall – the Smart Pistol, that selects targets pretty much automatically and sort of tethers you to them with lines of virtual fishing wire.

The Smart Pistol defined the first game for me – I am terrible at shooters – and I have to say I really missed it when Titanfall 2 kicked off and it was nowhere to be seen. I should not have worried. The designers were saving it for a late-game flourish in which you’re suddenly moving at a wonderful clip and finishing people off with this magical gun that makes you feel invincible.

Songs often have a bit towards the end when the main theme is sort of inverted or twisted, and then you end up back in a chorus except everything’s leapt upwards in terms of energy. This is the power of a middle-eight, and Titanfall 2’s middle-eight is something I will never forget.

Christian Donlan

Pathologic 2 rings an end to it all

Pathologic 2 is a game of death and misery with a little bit of hope thrown in. You know how it’s going to end from the start, the first few minutes leading you on a stately tour of its strange secluded town, gasping its last breath in a biblically apocalyptic rain of fire and disease.

Before all that though is dawn, and a return, in which for a while at least, you’re encouraged to explore, to reconnect with long abandoned friends. And somehow, despite the torturous survival rhythms as the world begins its slow decline, you’ll find an unexpected warmth, a sense of belonging among this doomed little community, and something worth fighting for.

But on the third day, when the plague finally breaks free, a sudden bell begins to ring an end to all that once was as you walk the streets that now feel a little something like home. And as the bell continues its interminable drone, realisation strikes that hope, like much else in Pathologic 2, has merely been used as a cruel tool to further your despair.

Matt Wales

Control’s filing cabinets

Control’s one of those beautiful lavish games that is really about simple things handled with care. You chuck things about with your mind, and the pay-off always feels fantastic. Concrete crumbles, office doodads go flying, papers erupt from a printer as you heave it into a wall.

All of this is great, but nothing is so deliriously engaging as the way filing cabinets work when you smack something into them. Reader, they ripple: the doors pop out and then sink back in, an expanding circle that shudders out from the point of impact. Control has so many good things in it, is it weird to focus on a humble filing cabinet? No, it’s perfect. What a game.

Christian Donlan

Mordin’s big moment in Mass Effect 3

Spoilers!

I still find it hard to play Mordin’s mission in Mass Effect 3. The morally complex standout companion in Mass Effect 2 is allowed to come full circle – if you’ll let him – in a poignant send-off for one of BioWare’s best characters. Once so certain of his viewpoint, the operetta-loving pragmatist has since been shaped by Shepard’s actions and influence through dozens of conversations across multiple games. It all leads to a stand-off at the base of a tower on Tuchanka, and whatever you choose, whatever you have chosen, you get the feeling this living, breathing, singing scientist salarian has fulfilled his destiny, however devastating it might be.

Tom Phillips

The Monolith in Painty Mob

Games don’t come better than Painty Mob, do they? Run around, explode paint everywhere, repeat. But early on I unlocked a new avatar – it was only the numinous Monolith from 2001! Suddenly a great game was even more thrilling.

Christian Donlan

Play of the Game in Overwatch

Play of the Game taps into our human desires. It puts me back on the football field as a kid, wanting to prove my worth. Most games go by and there’s a default “good game” return at the end. But every so often… This one time, edge of the box, I curled an absolute pearler into the top corner. I couldn’t believe it. My team definitely couldn’t believe it. I was about 14 years old and even now, two decades later, I can see their stunned faces as they turned from goal to me. For one glorious moment, I was brilliant.

Play of the Game is that feeling. It’s your name in lights. It’s everyone else watching you do something they really want to do, and you feeling brilliant because of it. Like you belong, like you’ve got the gift the game requires.

Play of the Game fuels Overwatch. It’s what’s in the back of your mind when your Ultimate charges, it’s how the community communicates their achievements to each other. There’s even a kind of language and decorum to it, as you spray a wall after pulling of a wall you deem good enough to make the cut – making it look like, yeah, you do this all the time.

Play of the Game is everything. I can’t imagine Overwatch without it.

Robert Purchese

Technology and nature in Breath of the Wild

Stalactite! The translation – just googled it so might be wrong – is “that which drips”. Man! What a thing. That which drips!

And stalactites are at the heart of everything I love about Breath of the Wild: it’s weird, weird, weird relationship between nature and technology. You have a tablet in Breath of the Wild that appears to be a tablet of stone but is also a tablet in the iPad sense of the word. You update it by placing it on a plinth beneath a stalactite. At which point that which drips proceeds to drip. Code courses down its sides and forms a tiny glittering drop of dew that falls into the tablet and voila – a download!

This is just the surface of it, of course. The relationship between nature and technology runs very deep here. But it’s something that, hundreds of hours of playing later, I am still trying to untangle.

Christian Donlan

Meeting Paarthurnax in Skyrim

Spoilers ahead

I have a bit of a thing for dragons. I think it’s been there ever since I read the Hobbit, or maybe Tales of Earthsea, and I definitely remember it being there when I played the Neverwinter Nights expansion Hordes of the Underdark. That’s a great expansion by the way. What I remember about all those renditions of dragons was they were smart. They were ancient beasts with way more wisdom than I, and they could talk. They weren’t just big dumb things to kill for prestige.

Cue Skyrim, a fantasy game about being dragon-born. God I was excited when Bethesda shared that pitch. But I was worried too. What if the dragons were what I always feared: nothing more than combat encounters? And for a chunk of the game, that worry was played out. But then, Paarthurnax, the secret at the top of the world. A talking dragon. An ancient and wise old beast who held the key to a mystery, as a dragon should. The build up, the reveal, the encounter: it was epic. It was unforgettable, and I was very satisfied.

Robert Purchese

Going you-know-where in Code Name: S.T.E.A.M

Spoilers ahead!

Towards the end of Code Name; S.T.E.A.M you go to Oz. Oz. Srsly.

Christian Donlan

Becoming a god in Atomega

You start off so small, and then you grow in scale, an amoeba, a dinosaur, a gorilla. At the top end you’re a god, a shuddering zapping thing of pure electricity. You’re powerful, but you need to keep eating in order to stay alive. And all the time your whole body is shaking and juddering with the sheer terrifying potential you contain. Fantastic!

Christian Donlan

Dying in 30 seconds in Torment: Tides of Numenera

I like pushing games to see what they’ll let me do, but normally I do this safe in the knowledge they won’t push back. I trust that designers won’t let me sabotage my game that easily. I played this game of chicken with Torment.

I fell from a moon base at the very beginning of the game and refused to slow my descent. It’s the beginning of the game, for heaven’s sake – tutorial territory – they’re not going to let me die. But oh boy was I wrong. Splat, into the ground, and the credits rolled. The credits! This was no accidental outcome, this was a baked-in trap to catch out cocky players like me. I was delighted. Well played, Torment, well played.

Robert Purchese

Scoring a Meld touchdown in XCOM: Enemy Within

God, XCOM is brilliant. And with the expansion Enemy Within, it got even better. Enemy Within introduced mechs, which were always going to be good, but it also introduced Meld. And Meld was… well…

The thing about XCOM is you can play it quite conservatively. You can cluster your forces and take things really slowly. But then Meld turns up, an extremely valuable resource that doesn’t stick around for long. As soon as you discover it, it starts to tick down, headed for its own destruction. So suddenly you need to make daring dashes across the map, overextending yourself and maybe ending up in a tragic situation. Meld took a great tactical game, in other words, and turned it into American Football. And it all fits together so beautifully.

Christian Donlan

Finding the treasure realm in Diablo 3

Seeing a treasure goblin in Diablo 3 is always an exciting moment. They’re loot on legs, mini-Santa Clauses. If you can race after them and smash them to pieces before they teleport off, you will be showered in treasure. But where do they come from? How do they get so much loot? I’d never cared until a portal to the Treasure Realm randomly appeared.

Understand, this is a very rare occurrence. In hundreds of hours playing Diablo 3 I have only been there once, yet I have battered hundreds of treasure goblins. I didn’t even realise a portal like this existed, to be honest, but all of a sudden it was there, a golden portal to The Vault.

I stepped through and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was in what looked like Smaug’s lair, or Aladdin’s cave – a chamber stacked floor to ceiling with sparkling treasure. Now understand Diablo is a game all about treasure, about greed, and you can imagine the effect this has. I was in heaven.

Through the chamber I went, filling my pockets, until I was faced with the guardian of the realm: Greed. Literally, Greed. And when I defeated Greed – that’s an odd thing to type – I was rewarded with the biggest chest I have ever seen and a volcanic eruption of loot.

I couldn’t stop talking about it afterwards. I couldn’t stop trying to get there again. But I never have.

Robert Purchese

When The Witness’ puzzles finally break free

Spoilers!

For a while at least, The Witness is a prickly little box wrapped in a beautiful bow. It’s all very admirable, as it reaches into to your head and squishes your brain, but there’s a cold detachment to its puzzles, their isolated conundrums steadfastly maintaining their distance from the breathtaking world around them.

But then, as you roam its sweeping meadows, its coastal plateaus, its sun-dappled forests, something catches your eye, a somewhat unnatural shape in the clouds, an awkward line in the sand. And with a step, everything changes; suddenly it dawns that those funny little boxes strewn awkwardly about are but a small part of a dizzyingly vast, all-encompassing machine.

Matt Wales

Everyone remembers the moment when they discovered there was something beyond the ‘simple’ line puzzles in The Witness, the revelation that – spoilers ahead – the flow of joining two points in the hundreds of two dimensional line puzzles scattered across the island was a trick you could also apply to the world itself.

And once you knew it, it was everywhere – in cracked walls, jagged rocks, and even distant horizons, staring you in the face but not quite revealing themselves until you lined up things just right. For me, I discovered it by accident, staring at a cliff face a dozen hours in while resting my wracked brain. I know for others, they spotted it within minutes of starting the game, a revelation I imagine then completely reshaped their experience.

In a game about perspective, it was fitting everyone came across it in their own way, and made the island – a beautiful place that felt like excessive window dressing at first – a puzzle in itself.

Matthew Reynolds

Reaching the Nether Realm in Minecraft for the first time

I’d played Minecraft for a long, long time before I ever cared about getting to the Nether Realm. My son and I would spend whole Sunday afternoons starting again from scratch, surviving our first night, going on our first big dig together, smelting our first sets of iron armour. This kept us busy for years.

To us, the Nether Realm something other people went to. A legend. To get there, you needed obsidian, and to mine obsidian you needed a diamond pickaxe, and we’d always have trouble finding diamond. We usually got bored by then and ended up starting again.

But one weekend we persevered, and bit by gruelling bit we put up the obsidian blocks we needed until our crowning achievement was there, a monument to playing Minecraft seriously. My son stepped forwards to perform the last part of the procedure. Flint and steel in hand, he lit it. Vomf! Fire caught hold and an undulating purple portal was there. A doorway to another world.

That afternoon, we stepped through together.

Robert Purchese

Putting a Skylander on the portal for the first time

Don’t knock it! I thought it was a load of old nonsense until I tried it. But there’s magic in those toys, I tell you. You try putting one on a Skylanders portal. You wait until you see the rush of light and the toy suddenly appearing, animated, characterised, ready for battle. Then swap it for another one. Whoosh, it’s there. Another one: whoosh, it’s there.

It breathes life into them. Makes a child – and an adult-sized child – see a bit more in them then is actually there. And because they save your progress on a chip within them, you begin to form attachments with them as they grow.

Soon, I guarantee, you’ll be as hooked on collecting them as I was – under the veil of buying them for my son. Question is, what do I do with this sack of toys now?

Robert Purchese

Discovering the secret storyline in Hatoful Boyfriend

Spoilers!

On the surface Hatoful Boyfriend is exactly what it claims to be – a wacky dating simulator where the objects of your attraction are birds, rather than people. You can romance your best friend Ryouta, the pompous Sakuya, pudding Okosan, the surprisingly violent Shuu and Nageki, who’s a ghost, among others. In search of love you’ll find yourself looking for magic pudding, working in a cafe, not worrying about where all the other humans are, buying bird seed, living in a cave and joining the student council.

Eventually, however, when you start a new game, you’ll be asked if you want to fulfill a promise. If you decide that you do, the game will begin as normal – you’re Hiyoko who’s excited to start her second year at St PigeoNation’s Institute, as its only human student. Until, one day, you visit Ryouta in the infirmary. The game will fade to black and, for some reason, you’re now playing as Ryouta. He arrives at class to discover a box in his classroom containing a human’s head – Hiyoko’s head.

It’s at this point that the humorous tone of Hatoful Boyfriend is stripped away, revealing the psychological murder mystery that lies at its heart. The school becomes a prison, built above a secret laboratory, and you’re chased down secret corridors by a scarecrow-like robot. Slowly you discover this seeming bird utopia has been built on the rubble of multiple wars, deadly viruses and terrorist attacks.

This change of genre works so well, because it transforms jokes that originally appeared to be exaggerations of the dating simulator tropes into major plot points. Nageki the ghost bird, for example, died from self-immolation in an attempt to prevent the creation of a new super virus. It makes replaying the dating simulator storylines worthwhile too, because you’re able to find the plot points, which hint at the darker undercurrents of the game’s story.

Hatoful Boyfriend draws you in with its humour and ridiculous premise, but leaves you pondering over the ramifications of war and highly unethical science experiments.

Lottie Lynn

That speech in Far Cry 3

I missed seeing Ubisoft’s E3 2011 press conference live but I was out in L.A. at the time and I felt a strange buzz in the air as word of mouth spread about a certain Far Cry 3 promo that had just aired

Later that evening at an industry party, I listened as people described its focal point, Vaas, as one of the most threatening, disturbing video game villains they’d ever seen. After the party I watched the trailer in my hotel room and I was blown away by the performance of Michael Mando, whose ‘definition of insanity’ speech was delivered with such malice and mischief that I felt a shiver run down my spine. Never before had a video game character felt so real or so intimidating to me and a lot of that was down to the way Mandol delivered his lines.

According to interviews with Mando, Vaas didn’t even exist before his audition for Far Cry 3, the character and his infamous speech were improvised and workshopped around the actor and his likeness. In the end, Far Cry 3 received stellar reviews, including a 10/10 (reads like an Essential) from Eurogamer, and while a lot of that was to do with the gameplay, it’ll always be Vaas and that incredible monologue that stick in my mind.

Ian Higton

The magic beach in Grow Home

When you drop something into the ocean here, it isn’t lost. After a few minutes it washes inland again at the magic beach. Delightful!

Christian Donlan

The first time everything goes to hell in Monaco

Monaco is a game about planning and precision and sneaking around. Which means it’s also a game about improvisation, blundering, and smashing your way into a room only to find out it’s full of angry dogs. The genius of Pocketwatch’s beautiful burglary sim is the way it manages to abstract a lavish, busy world down to the level where it can all be delivered in 2D, and in this process, absolutely none of the potential for chaos has been lost. You may pick your way through the first few missions with care, but there will always come a time when things go wrong and the game – along with Austin Wintory’s glorious dynamic silent movie score – is there to support it all.

Christian Donlan

An esports legend is born, with the xPeke backdoor at IEM Katowice

I fall in and out of love with esports. It’s imperfect and immature, and always seems to be on the brink of some identity crisis, but every now and then it presents you with a moment of pure magic.

Enrique “xPeke” Martinez is a professional League of Legends player from Spain, and at this particular moment, in 2013, he is twenty years old. It’s a make-or-break game at some stage of the IEM Katowice finals – I forget what exact stage it was, esports tournaments all tend to blur into one in for me – and xPeke’s team, Fnatic, are on the ropes. The game’s been going for 53 minutes – a marathon – and it’s now wide open.

Fnatic hold on against the push from their opponents SK, and counter. SK hold on themselves – just – and Fnatic are pushed back once again. It’s leggy, deep-into-added time stuff. If it were football players would be dropping with cramp, boxing they’d both be bloodied and swaying. SK are patched up and lumbering down the mid to try and close things out. Fnatic look spent, scattered and ready to crumble and – hang on! – xPeke has just appeared inside SK’s base. So follows maybe ten, eleven seconds of complete, sporting perfection. Chaos, as he dances around their final structure, chipping away at it one teeny tiny incy wincy bit of damage at a time, opponents running around it in circles, dogs chasing each other round a tree. SK are scrambling, most of their players are halfway across the map. There’s one back but he’s a tank, slow and clumsy and unable to catch a slippery champion like xPeke’s Kassadin. Every time they get near to xPeke he pops up somewhere else. Chip chip chip goes the base’s health. SK are too furious for dread, it’s too fast, happening too sudden. Another one’s made it back now but needs to land a devilish skillshot to slow xPeke down. He gets one! Kassadin’s slowed, his health is low, SK catch up to him but – no! – he’s away again. A few more chips and its gone. Disaster. The commentators are screaming, the poor SK players who just couldn’t-quite-land that final hit are seeing all the nightmares come to life, in real time, on the biggest stage. Heads are in hands, headphones are flying, there are tears. Catastrophe and euphoria.

Sport! The real deal, for just a single, spellbinding minute. Unforgettable.

Chris Tapsell

The relief and nostalgia of playing Shenmue 3’s demo

Shenmue narrowly avoided missing this decade with less than two months to spare, and even I, an ardent fan of the series, was surprised it made the finish line. And I was probably more surprised that, against all odds, it was actually good.

I discovered this sooner than that, though, thanks to the demo – a short slice of the game’s opening given to Kickstarter backers, and something I’d admittedly forgotten about until a code arrived in my inbox, possibly in anticipation of having my heart broken.

But playing the demo confirmed I everything I dared hope a new Shenmue would be, and that was more of the same – the pacing, the attention to detail, the night-time transition scenes, the stilted dialogue – all stuffed into a modern engine more comfortably than you’d expect. And then I played it again, and again, discovering new details and small touches – something I hadn’t done with a demo in decades, itself its own form of nostalgia.

For days, this demo was all I could think about – days which turned into months as I then waited for the full game to come out. Yes, Shenmue 3 was good. Yes, Shenmue was back!

Matthew Reynolds



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