Ah, N7 Day. One of my favorite game-related holidays…really, my only game-related holiday. Mass Effect has been a milestone in both gamer culture and science fiction since it was first released by Bioware in 2007. Well, I can’t fight like a krogan or run like a leopard, but I can count to at least seven! And this N7 Day, Geek Girl Authority is remembering the 7 best moments of the Mass Effect series. The epic battles we fought, the moments that dropped our jaws, and the romances we loved. It was incredibly hard to narrow it down to just seven from four expansive video games, so I hope you’ll forgive us if your favorite moment, character, etc. wasn’t included. That being said, let’s begin!
7. The Attack on the Normandy (Mass Effect 2)
First on our list is the unquestionably epic opening to Mass Effect 2. The SSV Normandy had been introduced in the first Mass Effect as a state-of-the-art ship. With a cutting-edge stealth system to hide its heat emissions, Normandy was considered the pinnacle of both Alliance and Council technology…until it encountered the Collectors. Gamers were left stunned as the Collectors’ “Black Ark” cruiser managed to knock out Normandy’s shields and weapons with a single hit. The player doesn’t even have an opportunity to process the Normandy’s destruction, as gamers like myself watched in horror as Commander Shepard began losing oxygen from their suit. As their ragged breathing faded, Shepard’s body began to enter the atmosphere of the planet below. It adds to the utter disbelief the player feels that Shepard is able to be revived as the prologue continues. Understandably praised as one of the greatest openings for a video game, Mass Effect 2 set the bar high and immediately raised the stakes for the coming battle against the Collectors.
6. Habitat 7 (Mass Effect: Andromeda)
Alright, calm down Mass Effect: Andromeda haters: it’s only on this list once. And it’s a pretty impactful moment for the series as a whole. Andromeda’s opening mission thrusts Ryder into a new galaxy by crash-landing on Habitat 7. Originally surveyed as a lush and tropical world perfect for human settlement, Ryder perfectly sums up the so-called “golden world” with a single assessment: “No way is this home.” Intense magnetic activity has produced highly destructive electrical storms. Hostile aliens (later identified as the kett) attack at every opportunity. Even the AIR is hostile, due to the planet’s unbreathable argon-nitrogen atmosphere. In a universe as diverse as Mass Effect, being able to make another planet feel truly alien is no small feat. The impressive visuals of mountainous rocks suspended in midair amidst constant bolts of lightning set a definitive tone for the player’s first steps in the Andromeda Galaxy.
5. Aria T’Loak (Mass Effect 2)
The first time in the Afterlife club on Omega is really an experience for any player. But what makes Afterlife a signature moment is easily one of the best character introductions of the Mass Effect series: Aria T’Loak. This asari is the de facto ruler of the lawless asteroid, or as she puts it, “I’m the boss, CEO, Queen…if you’re feeling dramatic.” Aria is an awesome badass crime lord, voiced by an amazing performance from Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix trilogy). The whole scene is accompanied by the energetic song Callista by Saki Kaska. It’s genuinely good music to dance to (just don’t dance like Shepard). It’s impossible not to become a fan of Mass Effect 2 (if not Aria herself) when meeting Aria in her signature club.
4. Miranda Lawson’s romance (Mass Effect 2)
Wait, here me out! Yes, Miranda Lawson is a very obvious sex symbol in video games, which has been a source for countless memes (mostly revolving around questionable camera placement). But Miranda Lawson takes my pick for not just one of the best parts of the Mass Effect series, but also one of its best romances. “But what about Garrus?!?” I hear you exclaim as you slowly aim a M-23 Katana at my head. Look, put the shotgun down and allow me to explain. It’s not just because of Miranda’s physical appearance (though I need to confess, that was a factor). It’s also because of the dichotomy between Miranda and Shepard. Miranda has spent most of her life with the expectation that she is perfect: as the genetically perfect heir for her father, and later as the future of human advancement for Cerberus. Those high expectations led to a lot of pressure, and much of it self-inflicted by Miranda. It’s those feelings of insecurity and self-doubt that an elite N7 like Commander Shepard can easily relate to. With each other, Miranda and Shepard can just be normal people without the outside idolization or judgments. There may be romances in Mass Effect that are cuter or even stronger, but Miranda’s felt like the more realistic relationship.
3. The Fall of Earth (Mass Effect 3)
We knew it was coming. EA had advertised for almost a year that the story for Mass Effect 3 was that Earth had fallen to the Reapers and we needed to take it back. We knew it was coming…and we were still not ready for it. While Commander Shepard awaits trial in the North American megalopolis of Vancouver, the Reapers arrive. Mere minutes after arriving through the mass relay, the Reapers land their cybernetic, reanimated foot soldiers as the Reapers themselves begin bombarding Earth’s cities. Normandy manages to evacuate Commander Shepard, though Admiral Anderson insists on remaining behind to organize human resistance on Earth. As the Normandy departs, Shepard sees a boy clamber onto an Alliance shuttle trying to evacuate civilians. Just like it seems the boy’s shuttle might get away, it is shot down by a Reaper destroyer. The emotional opening is expertly scored by Clint Mansell, with somber music blasting over the screams of helpless humans and the falling wreckage of the Alliance Fourth Fleet. It’s a scene that truly helps Mass Effect stand out from the rest of the sci-fi crowd. In another sci-fi game like Halo, Earth might have held out for months. In Mass Effect 3, Earth fell within HOURS. Truly underlining the Reaper threat, it is a powerful scene to see Earth, humanity’s home…OUR home…be the first to fall.
2. The Fleets Arrive (Mass Effect 3)
You’ve seen Earth fall…now take it back. As humanity makes its final preparations to bring the might of the Milky Way Galaxy to bear on the Reapers, the many races must stand together and prevail against a merciless and terrifying enemy. So how do you boost the morale of gamers as they ready their forces for the final battle against the Reapers? Show the player just how many forces they have brought together. Accompanied by an epic piece by Clint Mansell, the fleets of the united Milky Way races arrive…all of them. A rolling thunder is heard in the scene as thousands of warships exit the Sol Relay: human, turian, asari, quarian, and more. As the fleets approach Earth, the Reapers start moving into position. At Shepard’s command, the fleets erupt into a chorus of mass accelerator fire. The Reapers blast an angry mechanical roar as they are bombarded. It is a sci-fi space battle to rival even the most successful of Hollywood films, and to see so many ships go toe-to-toe with the seemingly-invincible Reapers is a truly awe-inspiring scene.
But even the greatest space battle in galactic history can’t compare with our pick for the #1 best moment of Mass Effect…
1. The Suicide Mission (Mass Effect 2)
You’ve earned your squad members’ loyalty. You’ve upgraded the Normandy SR-2…and you had to mine half of the planets in the frickin’ galaxy to do it! Now it’s time to take the fight to the Collector Base! In what is undoubtedly the most epic ending of a Mass Effect game (if not the most epic ending of any video game), Commander Shepard leads the team you have recruited through the Omega 4 Relay to rescue the crew of the Normandy and stop the Collectors once and for all. It is a literal suicide mission riddled with moments of heroism for Shepard and their squad members. It helps to have epic music scored by Jack Wall to fight to: there’s a reason Suicide Mission is included on almost every “Greatest Video Game Music” list. Your choices throughout the game determine whether those heroes live to fight another day, or sacrifice themselves for the good of the mission. And the final boss of the game is none other than a Human-Reaper larva. It helps emphasize the literal scale of the Reaper threat, as Shepard squares off against the titanic Reaper made from hundreds of thousands of processed humans. Mass Effect 2 is interesting in that should Shepard lose too many of their squad, it is possible for Shepard to die. This death is considered non-canon, but it helps underline that failure and death are very real possibilities for humanity’s greatest champion. And even should you get the best possible ending where everyone lives? Your feelings of success and hope are immediately replaced with awe and excitement as a final cutscene shows Harbinger and the other Reapers emerging from dark space…setting the stage for the Reaper War and the trilogy’s conclusion in Mass Effect 3.
What do you think of our list? What was your favorite moment from Mass Effect? Keep an eye on Geek Girl Authority for more N7 Day stories! Until then…I should go.