The Top 7… games with fantastic flashbacks that give amnesia the middle finger

If shitty daytime soap operas have taught us anything (other than comas are never permanent and don’t trust evil identical twins with moustaches), it’s that flashbacks rule. The same logic also rings true in games. Some of the best levels we’ve ever played occurred as memories from our playable character’s past. And whether it’s having blocky PS1 nightmares or having a budding bromance in Chernobyl, the following flashbacks totally bested anything from that show with the polar bears and smoke monsters.

Warning: There’s a steaming pile of Heavy Rain spoilers ahead. So if you don’t want to ruin the game for yourself, we advise clicking away from this here page.

Honourable mentions

Curse you number seven. Why couldn’t you instead be eight, or even better, the number nine? That way, we wouldn’t have to mercilessly cut some genuinely great flashbacks from our list. In the spirit of giving games really brief credit, we doff our jarnalistic monocles to Final Fantasy VII’s flashback, which sees Cloud and Sephiroth working together for SOLDIER. Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations’ clever case that sees you defending a young Wright of murder. And pretty much all of the ace Sly 3: Honour Among Thieves, which recounts Sly’s past adventures as his life flashes before his furry peepers.

7. Splinter Cell: Conviction

The level: Highway of Death, Iraq

We hated Conviction’s Iraq flashback during its opening five minutes. Awkwardly fumbling behind bombed out cars, we had no idea how we were supposed to sneak through the decimated road without alerting attention.

Above: Now this is living

But then you discover that’s the whole point. The game doesn’t want you to succeed through stealth: it wants you to go loud and put the homicidal hurt on everything in sight.

Above: Like this

It’s a hugely liberating moment when you realise the shackles have been taken off and the game is now actively encouraging you to fill men’s faces with AK shells, as you use the buttery smooth cover system to dart behind vehicles and other bits of debris. And we’ve not even mentioned the killer setup yet.

Above: Hint - it involves saving a certain Michael Ironside-voiced, mysteriously youthful pensioner

Why it’s a fab flashback: You save Sam Fisher’s gravely-voiced ass.

The best part of the Iraq mission, is not only are you not controlling Sam, but you’ve actually got to rescue his usually indestructible backside. You’re playing as his old Navy SEAL mate Victor Coste when they were both working together in Operation Desert Storm, y’see. Why not take a few seconds out of your <cough> busy work day <cough> and view the exact moment when Coste saves Sam…

It only gets better after the daring rescue, too. For the rest of the mission, Coste and Fisher create their very own, really shooty buddy comedy, where they proceed to send digital Iraqis to their virtual makers in a violent shootout. They’re then extracted with a small piece of the Middle East blown to hell and with your heart very much in that thing that you wolf down food with.

Above: Who needs Gibson and Glover when you can have Fisher
and... eh, Coaster?

6. Halo: ODST

The level: NMPD Headquarters

Excuse the chin-stroking, but ODST really is the most structurally interesting game in Bungie’s series. Starting in the hub world of New Mombasa, you sleuth your way around the city as the mute Rookie, looking for clues to help you find out what happened to the rest of your unit. Cleverly, when he finds an item belonging to one of his team, the game flashes back to the member’s last mission before going AWOL. The best of all these flashbacks is Romeo’s.

Above: In Romeo's mission, there is no 'i' in team... unless you're a truly awful speller

A sniper with a heart of gold and a ranch in Iowa (note: both these things are definitely, probably not made up) you make your way through New Mombasa’s rooftops with ODST leader Dutch. Shooting the galactic guts out of Brutes and Grunts with your trusty rifle, the mission elevates itself to one of the Halo greats during the last epic set-piece. Having to defend your position on a rooftop construction site until your extraction arrives, it’s an awesome battle that reunites the whole ODST squad, as they fight near endless waves of Covenant Banshees.

Above: We can barely spell Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, but we can sure as shit down a Banshee

Why it’s a fab flashback: Explosions are dang purdy.

Throughout much of ODST, you scavenge the Covenant-plagued streets of New Mombasa struggling to find ammo, and generally trying to avoid conflict. So the moment the game finally lets you unload with some serious toys (specifically, an endless supply of rocket launcher and machine gun turrets), it’s not only cathartic, it’s also really explodey.

Above: What? Explodey is almost a word

Really, is there anything sweeter than seeing a squad of helmeted men take out alien ships with a rocket launcher? The answer is, naturally, yes. Because taking Banshee after Banshee out with a Spartan Laser is very much that sauce some humans describe as awesome.

Above: Mmmm, delicious

Oh, and the hectic battle totally ends with some ODST bonding. Mainly revolving around sticking pointy things in Brute Chieftains’ necks.

Above: Awww, he looks like a little dead angel, doesn't he?


  • CH3BURASHKA - December 6, 2010 10:27 a.m.

    Not only is the article, as usual, awesome, the title is fantabulous as well. I'm trying to think of other games that fit similar criteria, but nothing is coming to me. Good job, GR, making up crazy-ass topics and then finding 7 games that fit them. Actually, I finally thought of one: Max Payne 2. The entire first section is technically a flashback, because the first 5 minutes are in the "present", the next half of the game is from before. It sets up a question immediately, and then proceeds to answer it by putting what you thought you know on its head (although you could have seen it coming a mile away).
  • EvidentDead - December 6, 2010 10:33 a.m.

    I tried to stay in the dark about any MGS4 levels when it was coming out. So I had no idea about Shadow Moses being a flashback level. So for me, it came to a big surprise when I started playing as MGS1 snake. THEN I wake up as old snake in a airplane only to have my old ass dropped into a snowy mountain. You walk a little ways to suddenly find yourself above Shadow Moses! It looked just liked it was supposed too! Falling apart and covered with snow. But what sold it for me, was when you move Old Snake to a place when a conversation happened in MGS1, the audio plays over as a memory in Snakes Head in MGS4. That was it for me. Hearing Meryl Silverburgh guide you through the factory through your head was nostalgic and depressing. The only part I would say was more "fantastic flashback-y" was during the kinda lame final fight with Ocelot and his life bar changes from MGS3 to MGS2, to finally MGS1; with the themes of each game playing for each life bar. This was a fun read, by the way!
  • EvidentDead - December 6, 2010 10:38 a.m.

    Im sure I have the life bars out of order with the Ocelot fight that I mentioned. But you guys get the point.
  • The4X - December 6, 2010 10:44 a.m.

    Just another title for you: Condemned^ Criminal Origins
  • tareq - December 6, 2010 11:22 a.m.

    That's a ludicrously long headline lol
  • WrathLord03 - December 6, 2010 11:33 a.m.

    I'm not sure about the first half and a bit of Uncharted 2 being a 'fantastic flashback that gave amnesia the middle finger' but its the only one I know. Now that my possibly horrible sugestion is finished, great article as usual GamesRadar!
  • SausageLozenge - December 6, 2010 11:58 a.m.

    Speaking of amnesia
  • StrayGator - December 6, 2010 12:22 p.m.

    But... but Price was a leftenant then!
  • Clovin64 - December 6, 2010 12:51 p.m.

    Great choice for No 1. Like all the best support characters, Cpt MacMillan made me feel all safe and cosy under his protection. Even though I failed that mission maaaaaaaany times on my first playthrough. The accent rocks too, obviously.
  • PRISTIAN - December 6, 2010 1 p.m.

    hey kids, remember Planescape Torment? AKA the nameless one remembering who he is along the entire freaking game? Right, right, apologies accepted.
  • KnightDehumidifier - December 6, 2010 1:20 p.m.

    A good acknowledgment for a fantastic flashback is Mass Effect 2's Cerberus Network's side-mission where you had to recover dog tags of those that died in the Normandy crash. A cold and desolate planet with scattered remains of your once brave ship, along with brief static images of what fought off Saren and the Sovereign forces. Also, dead Mako.
  • monsterhunter3rox - December 6, 2010 1:40 p.m.

    wait,what is that "el boner" in the final fantasy pic?
  • Vulneratus - December 6, 2010 1:45 p.m.

    MGS4 gets it for me... simply too nostalgia-laden And Rab C Nesbitt would definitley not have gotten shot and left your bemused ass fighting wave after wave of soldiers and dogs and dog soldiers (I may have made the last one up) beside a goddamn ferris wheel in Chernobyl!!!! I was in a fit of rage doing that section on Veteran, when my girlfriend rang me for a lift... she doesn't let me play it anymore... And could MacMillan really philosophise over a pint?? Or rock a string vest???... okay lets stop this now
  • Cutter9792 - December 6, 2010 2:55 p.m.

    on paragraph 7 of the cod 4 flashback, it starts with: "Unlike, Black Ops, you..." It should read: "Unlike Black Ops, you..." Comma fail.
  • WickedSid - December 6, 2010 3:11 p.m.

    Great article, and fucking All Ghillied Up/One Shot, One Kill was so fucking difficult on Veteran.
  • AnonymouZ - December 6, 2010 3:29 p.m.

    i bought cod4 like a year ago (still way late to the party but) that sniping mission was the one that sticked to my brain. also, the kid dying had my sister almost crying. only game i've ever seen her play/finish is heavy rain xD
  • ExcessGiraffe - December 6, 2010 4:20 p.m.

    Ugh, ONE god damn chippy in Scotland makes the news with their deep fried Mars bars are everyone thinks it's the bloody national dish... All rage aside, great article!
  • mattchew86 - December 6, 2010 4:33 p.m.

    I'm glad they included the Shadow Moses flashbacks in MGS4. The second I walked out onto that helipad.....*whew*....I got goosebumps like you wouldn't believe. Total nostalgia overload.
  • Defguru7777 - December 6, 2010 4:36 p.m.

    Favorite among these was Halo 3: ODST's. Even though Romeo was my least favorite character, that mission was awesome. It was so much fun endlessly wrecking Banshees and Phantoms. Oh, and the ODST leader wasn't Dutch, it was Buck. And HOLY CRAP was All Ghillied Up/One Shot One Kill hard on Veteran. So proud I actually got that Achievement.
  • Crabhand - December 6, 2010 5:37 p.m.

    I was kind of surprised to see ODST on this list, I thought I was the only one who actually enjoyed the storytelling in that game. I had never played any Metal Gear Solid games, but even so I find the MGS4 entry to be a very cool one. I love it when developers throw the fanboys a bone and this is one of the best examples I've seen.

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