The 10 most shocking game moments of the decade

In the second day of our 'Decade in gaming' mega-feature, we're looking at the most downright abominable gaming moments of the last 10 years. Just to clarify, we don't mean 'shockingly bad'. Or in the other sense of the word, 'surprising'.

What we're looking at here is when games made us jump out of our seats and say, "Woah, did that really just happen?!". Moments that were transgressive, scandalous, exploitative or downright offensive.

Some of these instances were lambasted by the moral majority, demonised by the press and held up as gaming witchcraft, while others were less publicised. One thing unites them all - they broke gaming taboos. Bask in their illicit thrills...

WARNING: The videos and accompanying text in this feature deal with themes and imagery that some may find offensive and are definitely not suitable for anyone under the age of 18. Please note that all videos are age-gated.

The Darkness | Jenny's Death | 2007

Gamers talk a lot about emotion in games. But without the benefit of real humans portraying real human emotions, it's undoubtedly a tough challenge. Shit, with movies we choke back the tears on a regular basis. But with games? We've yet to weep for any of the supposedly heart-wrenching tragedies that we've been put through over the years. That said, the brutal execution of Jackie Estacado's girlfriend, Jenny Romano, in The Darkness demonstrated that video games really can make us hurt with sadness.

Beneath the demons and mob violence, The Darkness is a touching love story. It's impossible not to let out a little 'aaaaawwww' as the couple snuggle up on the sofa and watch a movie together. They look genuinely happy. It's sweet, it's touching and it's completely believable. Sitting on the couch and having a cuddle with your lady is something that many of us do every day. It establishes Jenny as the only normal thing in Jackie's extra-ordinary life.

So when Jenny is captured by bent police chief Eddie Shrote and mob boss Uncle Paulie, it's no wonder that we - as the player - desperately want to rescue her. Once the grim realisation sinks in that it isn't going to have a happy ending, the sense of panic and helplessness is paralyzing. There's nothing we can do but watch. Which is exactly all Jackie can do, as the darkness restrains and holds him back.

Once Jenny's brains have been splattered, the urge to run in and make a bloody mess out of the perpetrators is overwhelming. But, of course, Jackie is grief-stricken by what has happened. Games are great at doing death, but rarely do they even attempt to deal with the emotional fallout. Still, when we do finally catch up with Paulie at the end of the game and he's on his back begging for mercy, putting a bullet in his head is mighty satisfying. And the reward? One last moment with Jenny...


Resident Evil 4 | Getting decapitated by Doctor Salvador | 2005

What’s that noise? Sounds a bit like whirring to us. Ah well, we’re sure it’s nothing. Oh look, here comes a fat chap with a bag on his head. What’s that he’s got his hand? Best shoot him. Shit, we’ve missed… AAAHHHHHH, holy f**k! That’s pretty much an accurate recounting of the first time we’ve ever got our head torn off by Resi 4’s Doctor Salvador and his rusty chainsaw.

A clear homage to Leatherface and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this sociopathic Spaniard with decidedly dodgy medical credentials is perhaps the most iconic baddie of the decade. It’s not just the act of him dislodging Leon’s head from his neck that’s shocking, either – although the agonisingly slow nature of the tiny whirring blades slicing through the hero’s neck is horrendous. No, it’s the build-up that’s actually more off putting.

Just hearing the noise of the dull instrument of death in the distance growling at you like an aggressive pit-bull, long before you can see Salvador, is hugely unsettling. In a series built on suspense, the sense of dread that’s drilled into you at the sound of the doctor’s weapon is unmatched. And for the sheer nerve-wracking build-up and genuinely shocking gore – that the game revels in with its close up death cams – this merits a place in the list.

Silent Hill 2 | Pyramid Head raping mannequin monsters | 2001

Oh dear God. We had to watch this about three times before we could finally make out the soul-souffléing terror that’s going on in the above Silent Hill 2 scene. When you actually clock what Pyramid Head’s doing with that razor-sharp bonce of his, there’s simply no question that this one of the most shocking moments of the past ten years. The vigorous gyrating, the fact his helpless mannequin victims can’t scream because they’ve got legs of where their mouths should be; it’s just a shocking moment of sexual violence.

The emotionally-loaded subject of rape has never really been dealt with in games before or since Konami’s survival horror. While we applaud the Silent Hill team’s for being confident enough to broach the subject, it’s not exactly something we’re in a rush to see again. Still, even though it’s a hugely disquieting moment, there’s no question it further adds to Pyramid Head’s mystique as one of the most terrifying video game villains ever.

C’mon, a dude that goes around molesting other monsters? It may be seven different shades of wrong, but it undoubtedly makes him one of the scariest characters ever to grace the medium. We’re used to our foes murdering and maiming, but throwing the sexual element into the equation adds such an uncomfortable rawness that this moment easily out shocks almost every other act of violence from the last decade.

Next: Full-frontal nudity, snuff movies and pissing on people...

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  • KishouTenpi - August 16, 2011 7:07 p.m.

    SPOILERS BELOW SPOILERS BELOW! Nanako's death in Persona 4? It had me and my friend in tears when we realised she was going to be kidnapped, let alone her death Child death is no laughing matter
  • DrillurSimpson - June 1, 2010 12:37 a.m.

    I was gonna comment but this is 6 months old. ... wasting my time. Still wasting it.
  • batmanboy11 - May 29, 2010 5:20 p.m.

    The first time I was decapitated by DR. Salvador I was so suprised and shocked I almost crapped my pants. The same thing happened with the Nuke in CoD 4: MW but it wasn't quite as shocking.
  • eee - April 30, 2010 5:30 p.m.

    Lol sorry Cepzeu mabye we will be in a real war soon and even though America does not kill civis. would that make you feel better. (sarcastic statement) (damn just a game)
  • eee - April 30, 2010 5:27 p.m.

    Lmao I loved no russian it was awsome ececuting people and watching others crawl to get shot by your buddies. Lol I even used the grenade lancher
  • ryno - January 19, 2010 4:27 a.m.

    pyramid head creeps me out
  • Cepzeu - January 11, 2010 4:43 a.m.

    no russian is really f****n sad. I (being a russian) think that it was the most sad moment ive seen in any videogame. F*** you Infinity ward F*** you!
  • deathrebellion - January 7, 2010 11:41 p.m.

    No nooooo manhunt the torture, the twisted savagery gahhhhh dats one on the worst games i've played (sick worst) and that tune that plays in the background is forever engraved in the back of my skull >_< Dr. Salvador wuz one of THE most nerve cracking enemies EVAR, just hearing the noise of the chainsaws after getting my head sliced for the 1st time wuz soooo creepy , used to keep turning around each sec to see if he wuz behind me XD
  • rocklee - January 4, 2010 4:23 a.m.

    poor leon
  • Romination - January 2, 2010 3:57 a.m.

    i'm calling bullshit of GTA 3. it's like you somehow didn't have a shocking moment left. crap.
  • PiscesIscariot - January 1, 2010 7:58 p.m.

    I laugh at people who think that No Russian will convince kids to go around shooting airports. I for one, laughed my ass off during that scene and I shot everyone I could. Why? Because you don't do that in games. You just don't.
  • BertTheTurtle - December 31, 2009 11:36 p.m.

    I even KNEW about that Pyramid Head thing before I saw it (due to my horrible mistake of reading pretty much everything about the game before I played it) and it still shocked me. Somehow I figured that moment would make this list.
  • GMAN2 - December 31, 2009 8:12 a.m.

    The END to Modern Warfare 2 was by far the most emotional a video game has ever gotten me. It was freakin' awesome.
  • DriveShaft - December 31, 2009 2:38 a.m.

    Hey, Pyramid Head's got needs too? I'd love to see the children x] Evidently I'm the only person who wasnt shocked by RE4 chainsaw <_<
  • mentalityljs - December 31, 2009 1:49 a.m.

    @NotBraze Well said!
  • aguilanthony - December 30, 2009 5:55 p.m.

    I must say I shit myself on the first encounter with chainsaw man in Resident Evil 4. I used two pistol clips on his head, threw a incenidary grenade and then a shotgun to the head and I still died.
  • onewheeled999 - December 30, 2009 5:49 p.m.

    Great article, as always. But I can't help but feel like the first time you see colossus in Shadow of the Colossus should be on this list. That was like the ultimate "Ohhhhh shiiiiit" moment.
  • Ironarm - December 30, 2009 5:48 p.m.

    Good choices, but I would have liked to have seen the whole Raiden in MGS2. That was HUGE! I mean look at the facts...when Kojima showed the demo and trailer at E3 he went so far as to EDIT Raiden out of game and place Snake in his place. Talk about shocking when you popped that game in.
  • WrathLord03 - December 30, 2009 2:16 p.m.

    I think I finally understand how the Australian economy works. Movies have been around for a long time. Games haven't. Therefore, movies are for adults - for example, the Hostel and Saw movies were allowed here. Games are for children. That's why we don't have an R 18+ rating for games. That's why a lot of games that had nothing worse than either Hostel or Saw got either banned or censored here. That's what the Australian government thinks, anyway. Adults play video games too, Australian Government!
  • dreamgor - December 30, 2009 12:09 p.m.

    for once i'm glad the videos doesn't work :( srsly... i don't think i could handle all that