5 Psychedelic Moments in Gaming that Bent my Mind

moonside earthboundPsychedelia is beautiful thing. It’s a phenomenon that comes from a completely uninhibited state of mind where creativity flourishes and the bizarre is embraced. Some of the most critically acclaimed art ever made could be considered psychedelic because it dared to take risks on unconventional concepts for the sake of artistic progression. And, unfortunately, it’s something that we don’t see too often in games.

However, those times when games do veer on the side of the psychedelic tend to be the most memorable; or at least for me they are. It’s those wtf moments that catch me off guard and ring my brain out like a dirty dish sponge that tend to do the best job burning themselves into my memory.

Raiden… Turn the Game Console off Right Now!

mgs2 turn off the game console
It’s kind of nice that this AI is so concerned about my eye sight, but it’s also eerie and creepy.

I remember sitting in my basement with the lights off while my mind was being warped by the insanity that comes towards the end of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. I was only 12 years old, but no matter how old I was, nothing could prepare me for the mind fuck that ensues in the closing moments of Raiden’s mission. When rogue AI versions of Campbell and Rose break the fourth wall and bombard you with codec messages commanding you to turn off the console and step back from the TV so you don’t ruin your eye sight, it’s disturbing because it feels like they are speaking directly to you and not the character you are controlling. To add to the strangeness, Raiden is ass naked when this is all going on.

This Blood… It Tastes Like Mr. Ulmeyda’s

cloudman blood rain killer 7
Suda 51 really knows how to make some unsettling, yet brilliant games.

Killer 7 is hands down the weirdest game I’ve ever played in my life. In fact, I could probably make a list of five psychedelic moments from this game alone. While there are many to choose from, none stuck with me as much as the events that occur during the Cloudman chapter, especially the part when Andrei Ulmeyda’s blood rains from the sky. Aside from that, there’s Ulmeyda’s outlandish monologue about infecting himself with viruses and wanting to be killed so he can achieve heaven smile, and the part where his head pops off his shoulders and is propelled upwards by a geyser of blood. But the most mind boggling event of all is when Clemence stands in the blood rain and remarks, “This blood… it tastes like Mr. Ulmeyda’s.” The game does explain how he would know this, but it’s still a freaky thing to hear.

How Dare you Interrupt my Ascendance

shodan system shock 2
Shodan showing its true form for the first time in the closing moments of System Shock 2.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of playing System Shock II, I recommend you stop reading this article, drop whatever game you’re playing, and download it now. It is by far one of the most unique and interesting games I’ve ever played, and its ending is one of the most strange and memorable I’ve experienced. Sure, the soldier’s infamous “Nahhhh” quote and the cutscenes that follow are extremely tacky, but seeing SHODAN’s freakish true form and learning that it had been using you to execute a plan to merge real space and cyber space the whole time is extremely jarring.

They All Lead to the Same Place… Where it All Started

bioshock infinite lighthouse ending
Many lighthouses that all lead to the same place; where it all began.

Ken Lavine does a masterful job of shocking his audiences with strange, mind-melting finales. Just when I thought he couldn’t top Bioshock’s “Would You Kindly” twist, he proved me wrong with Bioshock Infinite’s lighthouse ending. Walking through a sea of connected lighthouses and seeing mirrored versions of Booker and Elizabeth traversing from one to another is an astonishing sight that is only the beginning of a shocking unveil that left me befuddled and made my jaw hit the floor. When Elizabeth ties it back to the original by stating “There’s always a man, always a lighthouse, always a city”, and when I found out Booker and Comstock are the same person, my poor little brain nearly shut down. It’s one of the most surreal moments in gaming and provided me with plenty of reading material for a week.

Hello… And Good-Bye

earthbound moonside
There’s something off about the citizens of Moonside.

Earthbound is another game with many bizarre and psychedelic moments, but none compare to the strange neon city of Moonside. What’s most strange about this community is that it’s not a physical place, but rather a psychic illusion manifested by the Evil Mani Mani statue. The citizens are completely incoherent, frequently inverting the meaning of words and uttering “Hello and… goodbye!” when you approach them. They also break the fourth wall, referring to game elements like Ness and Jeff’s hit points. The colors of the streets and buildings are heavily distorted, strobing on and off as you walk the black streets. Even the enemies are freakish, ranging from Dali’s clock to and enraged fire plug. If I were to use one word to describe Moonside, it would be madness, and man do I love it.

Are you a fan of the bizarre, peculiar, and psychedelic? What are some of the most mind-melting, brain twisting moments you’ve ever experienced in gaming? Share your experiences in the comment section below!


7 thoughts on “5 Psychedelic Moments in Gaming that Bent my Mind

  1. Funnily enough, the original Metal Gear featured a similar scene wherein Big Boss commanded you to turn off your MSX in the underground fortress housing the titular superweapon. This was likely meant to be a callback to that, though in Metal Gear, it was probably just meant to be a joke. It’d be funny if someone back in 1987 actually did as the game commanded, though!
    I felt the ending of System Shock 2 was poorly handled. It could have been intended as a sequel hook, but considering how poorly the previous installment fared against Doom, it was a very ill-advised move. If it had a better ending, I could’ve recommended it. As it stands, I find it a tough sell, which is too bad because the rest of the game was pretty good.
    After playing some of Ken Levine’s works, I feel one of his major weaknesses is that he doesn’t seem to know what to do after the big reveal, often leading to weak endgames. This is why I think of his games, BioShock: Infinite probably had the best structure because he ended the game on the earth-shattering twist. The endgame was still somewhat shaky, but it was a step up from those of System Shock 2 or BioShock.
    Earthbound is a great game, and that Moonside sequence is definitely one of the highlights. A lot of imagination went into it, and it had a profound impact on the medium once everyone else caught up to what it was doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, I never played the original Metal Gear, so I didn’t know that. Learn something new every day!

      I kind of agree with you about Levine. I will say that SS2 had a horrible end game past the big reveal. It completely took me out of the whole experience. I never looked into it much, but I have no idea how that was approved by anyone. However, I didn’t mind the end game as much in Bioshock. I know a lot of people had issues with it, but I kind of enjoyed the fight against Fontaine. To each their own with that one I guess.

      Earthbound IS a great game. Perhaps my favorite game on this entire list. My roommate just picked up an SNES Classic, so I’m hoping to revisit Moonside soon once he gets bored with it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually, the battle against Fontaine I didn’t mind so much. The escort mission that precedes it, on the other hand, was quite tedious – even if there isn’t really a material consequence for failing to keep the Sisters alive.

        I would agree that Earthbound is the best game on the list.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ya, I remember getting goosebumps with Metal Gear 2. Side note, I should have known I liked boys when I found I really enjoyed naked Raiden and did all I could to see if there was an angle I could see the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is too funny. I almost spit my coffee out all over my computer monitors. Raiden is a pretty handsome dude as far as video game characters go, so I can’t say I’m surprised to hear of someone ogling him :).

      Like

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