Adrenaline-Fueled Video Game Moments That Test Your Mettle

Many games have their share of intense moments, often when the difficulty shifts gears or a surprising moment crashes in. They catch the player off guard with narrative implications, gameplay, or both. Some games are nerve-wracking all the way through, but the most memorable moments happen when those nerves spike over preexisting levels.



The most memorable moments are often the ones that make players sweat and grasp their controllers with white-knuckled anxiety – but in a good way. They have players not just on the edge of their seats, but standing right out of them. Any game that gets this reaction from its audience has done its job, cementing itself as a great game the player won’t soon forget, for that moment alone if nothing else.

9 The Last Of Us 2 – The Rat King


The Last of Us 1 and 2 both have their fair share of intense sequences. (Honorable mentions go to Joel’s hospital rampage and Ellie and Abby’s final showdown.) However, the confrontation with the fused multi-infected abomination, The Rat King, is not just intense. It’s also the horrifying culmination of the game’s iconic brand of fungus zombies. The Rat King is the magnum opus, patient zero from ground zero. It is the oldest infected the player comes across, mutated accordingly.

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Not only is the rat king grotesque and horrifying to behold, but fleeing from it and fighting it are some of the most intense feats in gaming. It’s massive, super strong, and creepy, and the player has to contend with it in a dark hospital basement. It’s a close-quarters showdown that could give anyone nightmares.

There’s nothing so dramatic as sacrificing oneself for loved ones and for the greater good of humanity all at once. Although actually, maybe there is. It could be more dramatic and nail-bitingly tense if the noble hero had to climb through a microwaving corridor to do so. This is exactly what Old Snake has to do in Guns Of The Patriots, in order to inject a virus that will eliminate a nuclear threat and a potentially disastrous AI.

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Unlike Bruce Willis’s tear-jerking sacrifice in Armageddon, the player will have to live Old Snake’s experience by motivating him through. They have to smash the triangle button as Snake limps, crawls, and vomits his way through to the other side. Meanwhile, those he cares about are displayed real-time via split screen sequences that tug on the heartstrings, accompanied by a soundtrack of wailing, emotive singing. If that all doesn’t get the heart pumping, nothing will.

7 Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – The Sea Of Corpses

Senua walking between walls of dark arms in The Sea of Corpses, in Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

What could be more invigorating than a journey through the bowels of Hell? Maybe cutting down endless hordes of demons whilst trying to reclaim a lost love and suffering the multitude of voices in the player’s head. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a dark and unapologetically gritty saga of facing one’s demons that is captivating from start to finish.

It’s in the end sequence that this blood, sweat, and angst reaches unfathomable levels, as Senua enters Helheim and the ‘Sea of Corpses.’ The Hellscape is apocalyptic and imposing, and within it Senua has to grapple inner and outer demons in a sequence that will be burned into the player’s psyche long after playing.

6 Cuphead – The Entire Game

cuphead and mugman in a boss fight

Any level or boss fight in Cuphead is going to keep players alert and wired constantly. Otherwise, they perish. Well, they’ll perish many times anyway, but if they are ever to succeed, it will be with an unwavering laser focus.

Cuphead is a fantastically designed 1930s-style cartoon that leaps out in stunning high definition, with jaunty foes relentlessly assaulting the player. It’s a game of trial and error, learning the move sequences of one brilliantly designed and jovial menace to the next. Despite its charming aesthetic of times gone by, this game is not for the faint of heart – but that’s the other half of its appeal.

5 Dark Souls 3 – The Nameless King

Potentially any Dark Souls or Soulsborne boss could take the title of most adrenaline-pumping, as well as a few adversaries that aren’t bosses. There are many lists ranking the most difficult, but in the end, it’s a subjective categorization. It simply depends on which boss gave that particular player the most grief. There will always be one standout that almost brought them to tears.

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What makes the Nameless King yet more intense, however, is the epic, lock-evading dragon he rides in on. The Nameless King circles the player airborne, raining down lightning astride the great wyvern. This elevates him (literally) to unprecedented heights and makes the player feel even more dwarfed and helpless than some of the largest Soulsborne bosses. The experience is made even more nerve-wracking by the wyvern being difficult to lock onto and evade effectively. And that’s all just the first phase. The Nameless King himself, once downed, is no picnic either.

4 Resident Evil Biohazard – Mia

mia resident evil 7 (1)

The Resident Evil franchise has had some cracking jump scares and true horrors in its history, but none so distilled as Mia’s turn on Ethan. Not only is it the stuff of nightmares to find Ethan’s beloved crawling up the stairs with dark hair covering her face, but the sequence that follows is some of the most intense gameplay known to humanity.

As if having to personally confront The Ring’s Samara (pretty much) wasn’t terrifying enough, it’s no simple matter of fleeing or dying mere moments after her reveal. The player has to go toe-to-toe with this living nightmare defending death blows left, right, and center, delivered by a horrific being that was meant to Ethan’s lovely damsel in distress.

3 Crash Bandicoot – The High Road

Crash Bandicoot Crash on a rope

There are plenty of levels in the Crash Bandicoot series that have players grinding their teeth and glaring at the screen, and The High Road is definitely one of them. There’s something about the chill silence of the level that makes it more intense, as it’s just the player and the sound of their own sweaty fingers crushing the controller. The misty heights make it further intimidating, despite the fact that falling off makes the player as dead as on any other level.

Its predecessor ‘Road To Nowhere’ was tricky enough, but The High Road cranks up the difficulty with its impossible range of breakable bridge planks, slippery frozen ones, and the endless, endless tortoises that love to see the player fail. Some players even resort to walking the rope handrails in a circus tightrope feat that’s seemingly just as difficult and nerve-wracking.

2 Super Smash Bros. Melee – Events 50 & 51: Final Destination Match & The Showdown

Super Smash bros Melee Mario Final Destination

Anyone who’s played a Super Smash Bros game will know it’s an adrenaline-pumping experience. Players flit about small maps lightning quick, colossally smashing or being smashed by other characters. In one-player mode, there are various levels in which the player has to confront a multitude of aggressive enemies at once that can have them pulling their hair out.

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Events 50 & 51 see the player first confront Master Hand and Crazy Hand, two unique opponents who take no knockback and tag team the player with some seemingly impossible-to-dodge attacks. In event 51, the player must fight Ganondorf, Mewtwo, and whopping great Giga Bowser who takes up half the level. Each of them has three lives. These matches take place on the final destination stage, which is simply a flat surface with nowhere to hide.

1 Halo 3 – Warthog Escape

Halo 3 Chaingun Warthog

The last sequence of the original Halo trilogy was something to behold. The three games had built up to this final moment of Master Chief and the covenant’s Arbiter hightailing it in one car across a Halo ring during its self-destruction sequence. It’s an epic undertaking accompanied brilliantly by Martin O’Donnell’s dramatic orchestral score. The undertaking is yet intensified when shared with a friend, for an unforgettable co-op experience.

These two franchise legends must floor it, gunning through droves of flood, sentinels, and falling or exploding structures on the Halo ring. On harder difficulties, the tension is magnified, and if the warthog derails, expelling both Arbiter and Chief, they are left vulnerable to the constant planet-wide pandemonium.

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