Shadow of the Colossus (PS2) | Phalanx
The melancholy beauty of Shadow of the Colossus makes all 16 'levels' a compelling experience, but its the 13th beast - the Phalanx - that leaves the biggest impression. The Phalanx erupts from the desert and soars gracefully overhead, but never once makes a hostile move toward your character. So you fill its poor belly with arrows and give it the old stabby-stabby. Nice.
Mounting the colossus is great fun in itself. Once you've peppered the airbags beneath this lazy mammoth and brought it closer to the ground, you spur your horse Agro into a high-speed sprint beside the monster's wings, before standing up on Agro's back and leaping onto the colossus in one fluid movement. We even purposefully jumped off again, we loved getting back on to the beast so much.
And, once you've struggled up to the monster's furry spine and stuck it in the hurty place a few times, the Phalanx takes you on a aerial rollercoaster ride, spinning and corkscrewing in mid-air as you cling on for dear life. The views are amazing and the sensation is so dizzying we feel a little green just remembering it all. If only we didn't have to murder the ruddy thing!
Silent Hill 2 (PS2, Xbox, PC) | The Silent Hill Historical Society
SH's most disturbing moments come when you're not fighting nameless horrors in the dark. James Sunderland's descent into the town's subterranean depths through the Silent Hill Historical Society is an overwhelmingly ominous example, and while there's plenty of action it's the quiet moments that really hold atmospheric power.
First, a series of shudder-worthy paintings plant mental seeds of nightmares. Then, a startlingly long staircase leads down, down into the gloom, leaving you with no company but your own imagination, by now peppered with distressing memories and thoughts, for over a minute. James climbs ever deeper beneath Silent Hill during this section and every leap into pitch blackness, every step downwards is accompanied by the sensation that there's now absolutely no way of getting back to the surface.
In this section Silent Hill's fondness for psychological metaphors is at its most glaring. Your continuing descent is a plunge into James' monstrously dark past, exposing and battling the literal demons that he hides beneath the surface of his conscious mind. Well, that's one way of looking at it. Another way is that being underground for so long, and being forced to go always deeper, really screws with our heads in the best possible way.
SSX3 (PS2) | The Back Country
You coast effortlessly over the shimmering, pristine snow. You gently ebb and bob with every playful undulation of the mountain. Your ears are awash with gently pulsing electronica or simply the soft rush of air and the distant call of birds. In every way you are at one with your surroundings.
Then the whole world drops away, and in a breathtakingly serene moment you are suspended, looking down at the universe’s finest-crafted snowglobe as infinite beauty and potential adventure rolls out silently as far as your eyes can see. Simultaneously flying, floating and falling, you return to Earth to soak it all up, and the meditatory adrenalin rush begins once again.