There are moments in games that break the entire reality of the setting and slap us in the face with some of the weirdest stuff we’ve ever seen. When all logic breaks down and we’re shocked by something totally unexpected, we’re left with a WTF moment. These moments are largely completely separate from the plot. They aren’t huge reveals or story twists. For the purposes of our list, this isn’t about the best shocking moments in stories, or even stuff that is surprising.
These moments are all about being one-and-done. Small moments in video games that are usually left uncommented on. They’re weird, they’re funny, they’re mind-blowing, and they usually leave us asking more questions. Great twists in games usually have some setup, some clues you can slowly pick apart to discover the truth. These WTF moments are the opposite of that. They’re usually completely optional, fly in the face of the tone of the rest of the game, and make no impact on the main story whatsoever. WTF moments are like getting punched in the dark — it’s a victimless crime.
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#10. Russian Roulette [Killer 7]
When a game is as weird as Killer 7, it has to have something truly wild to really stand out. This is a game with ghost gimps, exploding-head cult leaders, grenade launcher wielding luchadores, and a full Power Rangers team boss fight. Killer 7 is overflowing with off-the-wall moments of pure madness, but nothing makes us yell WTF like the singular, the sensational, and the unforgettable Russian Roulette scene.
The leader of the team of assassins, Garcian Smith, faces down a presidential hopeful in Russian Roulette. If you win, your opponent will give Garcian the secret to hitting on women with 100% success. If you lose, you’ll have to kill the president. Sounds like a fair bet — and the situation just gets weirder. Benjamin Keane is only just introduced in this very scene. You never see him earlier, and he (seemingly) has nothing to do with the plot until this moment. The entire scene is insane even in context, making it one of our favorite WTF moments ever.
#9. Impromptu Opera [Devil May Cry 4]
Is it even possible to explain what’s going on in this infamous scene from Devil May Cry 4? The fourth game in this absolutely crazy action game introduces new hero Nero, but you’re back in Dante’s shoes about halfway through the game. Dante doesn’t take all the supernatural shenanigans seriously at all, and the game takes a fourth wall shattering turn when Dante encounters evil scientist Agnus in the Opera House.
Instead of a standard talking scene, the two characters express themselves in heavily stylized lyrical dialogue as if they were on stage. Like a play, the music crescendos and the spotlights focus on each character as they prepare for battle — and it is just absurd. There’s nothing else like it in this game. Why does the world suddenly become a staged opera performance? It’s like Capcom is just throwing out all the rules and making themselves laugh. Well, it worked.
#8. Tricycle In Hot Pursuit [No One Lives Forever 2]
No One Lives Forever 2 isn’t exactly well known today. The FPS series of spy spoofs hasn’t seen a real sequel since 2002, but NOLF2: A Spy In H.A.R.M’s Way is a wonderful spectacle, even if it is almost twenty years old now. The most absurd moment happens in India. Heroine Cate Archer is on the trail of a devious secret project, and runs afoul of a murderous troupe of mimes. After a showdown, their leader escapes on a unicycle — it turns out he’s much smaller than his initial appearance suggests.
Instead of chasing him like a normal person, Cate Archer rides on her ally’s back while he steers a tricycle. You’re chasing a mime on a unicycle while riding on a Scotsman’s back a tricycle. The slow speed chase takes you through the marketplace as you fight through swarms of French mimes armed with Tommy Guns. It sounds random, but this is one weird, silly sequence that actually makes a lot more sense in context. It’s just all the game’s assorted weirdness piling up in a surreal tricycle crash of stupidity.
#7. The Gold Pagoda [Yakuza 2]
Say goodbye to objective reality! What starts as a grounded crime story, Yakuza 2 briefly takes a detour into the insane with the Osaka Castle chapter. Most of the time, the Yakuza series exists in a heightened reality that’s at least plausibly set in some version of the real world. All that goes out the window when the player must confront the richest criminal in Osaka. He doesn’t just have a standard criminal HQ — this guy has a gold-plated pagoda castle that pops out of a different ancient castle that was already there. How?! Why?!
Inside the ancient castle, you’ll have to fight fully-decked out samurai warriors, ninjas from hidden secret panels, and an actual tiger. Somehow the tiger fight is the least ludicrous thing to happen in Osaka Castle. How did a criminal build all this! I don’t care how rich he is, this is next-level absurd. It’s also completely awesome, and one of the most memorable moments of the entire series.
#6. Vampires Attack [Red Dead Redemption 2]
Red Dead Redemption 2 leaves all the weirdness to the periphery. Search the vast wild west wilderness of RDR2’s deep simulation, and you’ll find time travelers, escaped robots, UFOs, and cannibal mutants. They’re all weird, but our favorite mind blowing encounter is unique to the big city of Saint Denis. If you pay attention and explore all around the bustling city of Saint Denis, you can find five odd writings. After marking them all in your journal, it’s possible to find the serial killer culprit in the middle of his dark deeds in a lonely back alley at night.
And it’s a literal vampire! Like, this isn’t just a glimpse of a UFO or a dead robot. This is a fully fledged vampire NPC — like, it’s a living Nosferatu in-game that tries to bite you. Luckily you don’t need a wooden stake to kill this thing. A few bullets works just as well.
#5. A Brush With Death [Oblivion]
One of the more surprising quests in Oblivion, for me, is “A Brush With Death” — located in an old manor, it’s your job to solve a locked door mystery. After a little investigation, you learn that the lost artist never left his studio. Interacting with the weirdly realistic painting drops you into another world, with vibrant colors and splotchy painted textures replacing the normal graphics. You’ll have to fight Painted Golems and navigate the strange forest to end the nightmare.
The best part of Oblivion and all The Elder Scrolls games is just how off-the-wall surprising some of their quests are. You might enter an inn and get roped into a murder mystery. One quest has you buy a cheap house only to discover its haunted by killer ghosts. You never really know what you’re going to walk into, but I never guessed I’d be walking straight into a living painting.
#4. The One Place That Hasn’t Been Corrupted By Capitalism [Red Alert 3]
This moment is WTF in a different kind of way — it isn’t a sudden shock of weirdness or completely different from everything else in Red Alert 3. It’s more like a grand crescendo of madness. Just watch the clip above. It requires no context. Even a pro like Tim Curry can’t stop himself from breaking. There’s a reason this is a meme.
Okay, let’s dig into some context. During the final mission of Red Alert 3 in the Allied Campaign, your forces must storm the fortress at Leningrad. While destroying the final boss, the Premier of the fictionalized USSR attempts to escape by revealing a giant spaceship. You’re under a time limit to stop the Premier (played by Tim Curry) from escaping. But… where is he going to escape? Just space? This plan does not seem foolproof.
#3. Former [CONTROL]
One of the most shocking moments in CONTROL comes from a completely innocuous source. While exploring the vast Oldest House and fighting a chattering paranormal force that’s possessed and twisted the Federal Bureau of Control, you’ll enter a prison-like area filled with weird altered artifacts. After meeting up with an agent staring at a fridge, you’ll unlock the doors and return later to investigate. This malevolent fridge has to be dealt with, and when heroine Jesse interacts with it, you find something completely unlike anything else in the game.
The fridge transports Jesse into a dark astral plane with the weirdest interdimensional being in the game. A giant eye with spider-like legs descends from the sky, and if you shoot it, initiates a boss fight. Okay, here’s the thing — there are no real “monsters” in this game, just altered human enemies. This is the first legitimate creature from beyond space and time you’ll encounter outside the Board, which is just a giant reverse pyramid. This is also a legit boss fight with a boss health meter. There’s nothing else like that in the game up until this point! And this is all optional!
After 10 hours in the Oldest House, seeing the nightmarish FORMER descend from the sky is absolutely a huge WTF moment. And this is all optional!
#2. Quantum Moon [Outer Wilds]
Outer Wilds is a game about discovery. You’re sent into a vast galaxy to uncover the mystery of a star going supernova. You don’t have much time to solve it either — each time the star explodes, time resets and you’re given another chance to figure things out. Some of these mysteries are straightforward, and some of the mechanics are completely mindblowing. The Quantum Moon is probably the weirdest, most shocking discovery you’ll make right at the start of the game.
The Quantum Moon is everywhere and nowhere. It can appear circling over any planet — but it will disappear when it is not being observed. The moon is surrounded by a thick fog that blocks out your vision, so if you try to land on the Quantum Moon, it will simply blink out of existence. Figuring out that you have to observe it while landing (using a camera probe) so it doesn’t move is one of the weird, unforgettable moments in Outer Wilds. And then you learn how to make the Quantum Moon move around while you’re still on it…
#1. Senator Armstrong Is [email protected]&#king Insane [Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance]
This is it. The mother of all WTF moments in video games. Playing through all of Metal Gear Rising is an experience — the game is full of Platinum Games silliness and Metal Gear Solid melodrama, but none of that prepares you for the final encounter with the surprise villain of the game.
After hunting down each of the leaders of the terrorist Desperado organization, you finally encounter their true leader. Senator Armstrong is an evil politician with a chip on his shoulder — and he appears in a gigantic Metal Gear robot, espousing his desire to start a false flag war in the middle east for all the basic reasons we’ve heard before in every conspiracy video game / movie. It’s exactly what we’ve all come to expect from boilerplate action stories with a very slight political bent. There’s no reason at this point to suspect anything else will happen.
Then you destroy Metal Gear and face Senator Armstrong himself. When I first saw this scene, I was stunned, shocked, confused, and crying from laughing so hard. There are cartoon sound effects! Armstrong punts the player like a football, and a stock arena cheering sound effect pipes in! The absolute wonderful absurdity turns this grim story into a surrealist delight. It’s like a parody of a Metal Gear plot, taking everything to such a dramatic extreme that it is completely impossible to take seriously. I could write a novel about this one scene. That makes Senator Armstrong’s nanomachine reveal the #1 WTF moment in video games for me.