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

3. Batman: Arkham Asylum

The level: The second Scarecrow hallucination

Technically, we’re cheating a bit with this one. See, you never actually go back in time in Arkham Asylum. The flashback to the scene of young Bruce Wayne’s folks being done in is merely a hallucination brought about by Scarecrow’s (remember to say no to them, kids) drugs. If we were counting every intoxicated memory that didn’t really happen, Max Payne and God of War III would have both made the cut, too. The Bat’s flashback is so well done, though, we just had to make an exception.

Just before another nightmare sequence where the Dark Knight battles a 50 foot version of the sack-wearing baddie, Bruce finds himself inexplicably walking down a hall in Wayne manor. As you slowly stagger down it, the hall gradually transforms into a rain-swept back alley in Gotham. Before you can cry ‘holy repressed memories, Batman!’ you hear the cries of his parents as they’re mugged and shot. Their bodies then flash onto the screen, with a now ten-year-old Bruce on his knees next to their lifeless corpses. The game then forces you to keep walking down the alley for what seems like forever with the crestfallen mini crime fighter.

Above: If it's any consolation, you'll soon have a plane that's shaped like a bat, Brucey boy

Why it’s a fab flashback: It’s the one time Bats is truly vulnerable.

One of the main reasons Arkham was so damn good was it completely nailed the feeling of being Batman. Over the course of the night in the infamous nuthouse, you’re made to feel like both the World’s Greatest Detective, and it’s most lethal ass kicker. Nothing phases you. Not waves of insane inmates. Not poisonous plants. Hell, you barely break a sweat when you put the whammy of justice on a homicidal 15 foot crocodile. But battling Scarecrow is different.

Above: Yeah, 'cause having a couple of quid/bucks in your pocket is all you need to get over being orphaned

Where Bane and Poison Ivy just try to break your back or poison the hell out of your bat lungs, Scarecrow goes right for Batman’s mind. Targeting the only real chink in Wayne’s brilliant brain, he reduces him to a vulnerable, damaged mess, as he forces our spandex wearer to relive his darkest moment. The flashback is partly so amazing for helping inform who Bruce becomes. But also, because it broaches such a dark subject in a game that’s mostly about delivering a swift, righteous uppercut to mental patient’s criminal crotches.

Even with some crotch cruelty, this is getting pretty depressing. Here, have an image of Adam West using the Bat Phone to cheer you up.

Above: A sure-fire cure for the blues every time

2. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

The level: Snake’s MGS1 nightmare

Eh, Snake, mate? You’ve got something on your face.

Oh, our bad. Don’t worry, it was just some fugly PS1 textures.

The moment Snake wakes from his Shadow Moses circa 1998 dream is a great Kojima fourth wall-breaking moment. The actual flashback to the original game is even better, though. In a completely unforeseen twist, you’re shunted back to Metal Gear Solid’s helipad opening at the beginning of Guns of the Patriots’ fourth act. It’s a great chance to dip into some nostalgia-tainted waters, while also showing you just how far the series has come in a decade.

Above: We’ve come a long way, baby

As soon as you infiltrate the 32-bit compound, you’re snapped back to PS3 reality, where Snake must now sneak through Shadow Moses once more. Like our rapidly ageing hero, the Alaskan base is now in a heavily decayed state. So the moment you return to the helipad (which is now falling apart under a heavy snow storm, ten minutes after seeing it in all its former blocky glory), it really forces you to reflect on all the years you’ve spent with Snake’s series.

Above: Believe it or not, these were indeed the glory days

Why it’s a fab flashback: It’s the ultimate piece of fan boy-pleasing service.

If we’re honest, the entire mission on Shadow Moses essentially works like one giant flashback, not just the PS1 dream. Eh, except the fact it’s set in the present (or, by Metal Gear’s watch, the future). Even still, it’s dotted with little audio cues from the PlayStation classic. When Snake comes across specific areas, he hears a quote from his first Solid adventure, which jogs his senile brain cells.

One of the first and most effective, is stumbling upon an old surveillance camera. In MGS4 it’s falling apart (again, highlighting our hero’s dying plight), and just before if crashes to the ground, you’re given a flashback from the first game. These moments are dotted throughout Shadow Moses.

Above: Ah memories. Horrendous, 32-bit texture-sponsored memories

But even though we love coming across Liquid’s Hind D and briefly flashing back to the epic battle, nothing can quite top Kojima handing us a slice of unexpected playable PS1 brilliance at the start of the chapter.

Above: That said, we really do love reliving memories of blowing that 'copter to crap


  • Skykid - January 20, 2011 3:58 p.m.

    That one quiet moment between you and MacMillan in 'All Ghillied Up' was one of the few scenes in CoD4 that haunts me. It's the erie quiet, MacMillan's statement and the creepy laughter of children on the wind that still sets my nerves on edge to this day. *Shudders*
  • LizarDAZZLE - December 11, 2010 12:15 a.m.

    I remember that I managed to hit the terrorist guy in cod4 on my first try. I was pissed because I also managed to curve the bullet into what was clearly right in the face, but of course, that somehow only shot his arm off.
  • sternparez - December 9, 2010 9:40 a.m.

    Clearly MGS is the best one! Gave me chills when I first played it
  • josuerosales - December 9, 2010 4:20 a.m.

    ahh nm, someone already said something
  • josuerosales - December 9, 2010 4:18 a.m.

    for the ODST part, isn't the captain of the odst team Buck and not Dutch?
  • ClassicCreation - December 8, 2010 8:44 p.m.

    The Batman: Arkham Asylum flashback was beautifully done. It's no fluke that it remains my favourite game.
  • Mode - December 8, 2010 5:54 p.m.

    MGS4 man...I love MGS, and Shadow Moses did it for me. “Sacré bleu! Come quick my American papa! Ma seebling eez drowning!” This article is hilarious.
  • bass88 - December 8, 2010 12:52 p.m.

    The greatest Scotsman accolade goes to Connor MacCleod. Piss on MacMillan.
  • pizzasmellslikechrisantista - December 7, 2010 10:06 p.m.

    gamesradar should do a top 7 of psychedelic hallucinations. I nominate fallout 3: point lookout
  • dfhrfktk - December 7, 2010 9:10 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.
  • crumbdunky - December 7, 2010 8:34 p.m.

    MGS4 is still this gens besst all round gaming experience for me-tying up all the loose ends of that story(seemingly MADE of them_) was amazing on it's own. That Kojima did it while still allowing some amazing interactive touches and his usual eye for anal detail was just mindblowing and the old to new(but old, natch) Snake after the Moses flashback was one of the best in a great game. I never replayed MGS1 until AFTER playing Guns sol the original jerk to the mind of suddenly being back there DURING MGS4 was a lever touch for me personally and to think some people are daft enough to knock the game as little more than cutscene after cutscene is really, really sad to my mind-just a great example showing exactly why Kojima -and the series-are so great. So, though All Ghillied Up is among my favourite FPS levels ever, I'd have made MGS4 number one. Thing is, to this day, the missus, who likes to snipe sometimes, still can't drop a guy before whispering "Oi! Suzy!" in a Scots brogue first. A level that leaves an impression and that's for sure, great stuff up there with anything from more affecting games in the genre like HL or Bioshock and definitely worth inclusion.
  • sleepy92ismypsn - December 7, 2010 8:26 p.m.

    Even though I played MGS4 before MGS1,2 and 3, I really liked that flashback level. I wish more developers would pay homage to the predecessors of a beloved series.
  • waffman11 - December 7, 2010 8:10 p.m.

    I was expecting Reznov's flashback from Black Ops to be in here, that was the greatest piece of fanservice I have ever seen. It also had quickscoping with the scoped Mosin-Nagant in the level (a bonus easter egg as it mimics almost perfectly CoD2 sniper rifles), just so Treyarch can say, "No, there's still quickscoping in Black Ops, just play the campaign."
  • philipshaw - December 7, 2010 5:58 p.m.

    Couldn't agree more with number 1. Also MGS4 is the only time that I felt proper nostalgic in a game
  • MJHAYLETT - December 7, 2010 2:10 p.m.

    'All Ghillied Up' was awesome and I am not the world's biggest FPS fan. MGS4 takes the No. 1 spot for me though, it was pure magic having Act 4 start off PSOne-Era MGS only to be woken up and have his face revert from old Snake to um Old Snake :D
  • quincytheodore - December 7, 2010 6:19 a.m.

    lol I see you used the pistol-in-chicken-ass trick too for the Meat King.. Yeah.. those were the times.. If only I had grenade or something.. Agree with no.1.. It was the best mission of COD, I played it in veteran I think. My first FPS in X360, I still fumbled the controller back then and then came the helipad defense, I went Rambo, floated like butterfly and stung like bee, after maannnyy retries, I finally nailed it. Man, did I screamed that times.. Then my friend told me there was a sweet camping spot OTL..
  • TeaserTuesday - December 7, 2010 6:12 a.m.

    This is the best Top 7 in quite a while, I agree with pretty much all of the entries (the ones I played anyway). Plus it's true, these moments are all the best parts of these great games.
  • Jamahl - December 7, 2010 3:52 a.m.

    That CoD mission was the best CoD mission ever. No exceptions. If only all of them were full of missions like that.
  • soren7550 - December 7, 2010 1:57 a.m.

    @KnightDehumidifier - As awesome, atmospheric and epic it is, I don't think it counts since the only flashbacks that happen are quick pictures that pop up from ME1.
  • mrm1138 - December 7, 2010 12:55 a.m.

    How about almost the entirety of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time? "No, no, no, that's not the way it happened!"

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