Gaming

You probably missed the most unforgettable video game moment of 2021

A quiet moment amid all the explosions.

Square Enix

As I wandered through the multicolored markets of Knowhere, I happened to spot Drax standing at the edge of an observation deck, staring out at the blinding lights of the Rift. Since I was trying to explore every nook and cranny of the city, I decided to head over. Little did I expect to find the most poignant and emotional scene of the entire year, in any game.

Marvel’s Guardian’s of the Galaxy puts a huge emphasis on storytelling, and it’s easily one of the biggest surprises of the year. Each member of the Guardians gets their own unique arc, and the way the team comes together by the end is truly heartwarming. But what’s most surprising is how the game makes Drax so emotionally complex. The MCU movies have mostly reduced the character to comic relief, which is why the game version is such a stark change of pace.

The conversation starts off awkward. Drax’s literal way of thinking causes the usual headaches. But as the two ease into the conversation a truly remarkable moment unfolds, with each character talking about the family they’ve lost, the trauma left behind, and the struggle to move beyond it.

“This is by far the best version of the Guardians we’ve ever seen.”

It’s a fascinating look into two characters that usually put up fronts, Star-Lord with his cool-guy act and Drax with his tough-guy act. What’s most important about the scene, though, is that it gives us something we don’t often see in video games — two male characters opening up about trauma to each other and not shying away from their emotions.

Drax can be found at the Rift observation deck in Knowhere.Square Enix

Despite all the progress games have made over the years a lot of stories have a hard time portraying their male protagonists as anything more than masculine and stoic. It’s so rare to see two male characters admitting they have trauma, let alone talk about it with someone else. I can’t think of a single scene from any video game this year that feels more personal and emotional.

Having lost family unexpectedly, the writing team at Eidos has absolutely nailed the way it sticks with you, stuck in the back of your mind at all times even as you carry on with life normally. The trauma that Star-Lord and Drax experienced has shaped them into who they are, and this scene shows that they acknowledge and embrace that, instead of trying to ignore it.

“It gives us something we don’t often see in video games — two male characters opening up about trauma.”

While strong writing is the foundation, the presentation of the scene also allows it to become something truly special. The camera angles are mostly close-ups of Drax and Star-Lord’s faces, which lets the stellar facial animation really shine. The light from the Rift sets a moody tone, and particles in the air almost look like snow falling. Stellar performances by Jon McLaren (Star-Lord) and Jason Cavalier (Drax) make the scene feel that much more poignant. It’s a perfect example of why this game won Best Narrative at The Game Awards.

The game version of Drax feels much more complex than his film counterpart.Square Enix

The whole shtick of Guardians of the Galaxy is that the group is a bunch of deeply flawed misfits. There are many conversations and story sections that reinforce that idea in the game, but it’s especially bold for a completely optional scene to embrace it the most. To be fair, the story does encourage you to seek out Drax, but you don’t have to. It shows how much thought and care has been put into the characters of Guardians of the Galaxy, on every level. The game consistently does a great job of ping-ponging between zany high-octane action and quieter, more thoughtful character exploration.

This is by far the best version of the Guardians we’ve ever seen, and a stellar example of how to make characters more emotionally complex. If you haven’t played Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy you owe it to yourself to do so, and if you happened to miss this scene, it’s worth jumping back in to watch.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is out now on Nintendo Switch, PC, and PlayStation, and Xbox consoles.