Why Mass Effect 2 is one of the greatest games ever made

Which makes it all the more difficult to deal with the fact that Mass Effect 2 is a suicide mission. Shepard is instructed by the Cerberus leader, the shadowy Illusive Man, to assemble a team to travel through a mysterious Mass Relay (see: giant space portal) that might hold the answer to preventing the Reaper invasion.

There’s no knowing if you’re going to come back – hell, every indication is that you won’t – so Shepard is sent around the galaxy to collect the best team possible, and to convince them to potentially throw their lives away on a giant evil that most people don’t believe is actually coming.

Cue the montage.

Collecting different team members made for an incredibly memorable experience. Each character was given two massive missions to flesh them out, creating some of the most memorable characters in gaming. From the damaged-goods psychic warrior to the misunderstood assassin, each character earned a place in our hearts, which made the ending all the more powerful and horrific.

That ending – oh god, that ending. Mass Effect 2’s conclusion is as brutal and personal as we’ve ever experienced. The promise of Shepard’s endgame being a “suicide mission” was not, in any way, undersold, and the final hour or so could change completely depending on the preparation and choices of the player. Go in without upgraded shields and the Normandy might take so much damage during the initial approach that a crewmember could die before the suicide mission even begins. Send the wrong character back to help escort survivors and it might be the last time you ever see them.

In our initial trek through the game nearly our entire squad died during the mission, and each death hit us like a punch to the gut. We knew, without fail, that anytime we were asked to send someone to do something, there was a good chance that they’d never come back. We were holding back the tears as Jack, Miranda, Garrus, and other squad mates we'd fallen in love with were mowed down by reaper attacks. It was our fault, we were to blame, and no game had ever, ever made us feel that way before.

Though some have issues with the sequel, Mass Effect 2 stands represents near-perfection in the genre. The improvements to the combat, the robust, interesting story, and the absurdly powerful ending made for one of the most memorable gaming experiences we’ve ever had, and one that completely deserves its spot on our 100 best games of all time.

"Why _____ is one of the best games ever made" is a weekly feature that goes through GamesRadar's list of the 100 best games of all time and highlights different titles, explaining why they're on the list, what makes them so amazing, and why we love them so much.

Hollander Cooper

Hollander Cooper was the Lead Features Editor of GamesRadar+ between 2011 and 2014. After that lengthy stint managing GR's editorial calendar he moved behind the curtain and into the video game industry itself, working as social media manager for EA and as a communications lead at Riot Games. Hollander is currently stationed at Apple as an organic social lead for the App Store and Apple Arcade.