The Mass Effect Trilogy is a series of Crowning Moments of Awesome.
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Mass Effect 1
The Citadel first approach scene. When you at first only get a short glimpse through the clouds, and then you see the Citadel in its full glory while the soundtrack orchestra takes it to eleven. Rivals the "Thank you, Mr. Scott!" scene in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
At the end of the game, Shepard and his/her party land in the Citadel by going through a mass relay. Not special? They do it inside the Mako (a six-wheeled moon-buggy tank), killing numerous geth in the process.
While under heavy artillery fire and running out of time to reach the relay, and only surviving the experience because they land upside down right on top of the armed guards on the other side of the relay.
And then the geth shut down the elevator to impede you. Instead of letting something trivial like that stop him/her, Shepardshoots out the glass and starts fighting an army of geth up the side of the tower. Complete with Sovereign steadily getting larger and larger, looming overhead as you fight your way toward the top. Then, when you reach the end, you get the chance to convince Saren to willingly shoot himself in the head.
The Intimidate option for this is especially awesome. The Charm option is pretty cool, convincing Saren to seek redemption — but if you choose Intimidate, Shepard rolls out of cover, stares Saren down, appeals to the soldier in him, and tells him there's still one way out, if he's got the guts. It's the moment when Shepard not only proves he's got what it takes as a Spectre, but the moment he surpasses Saren, his most dangerous rival, as a grade-A badass.
The very end, after you defeat Sovereign. Debris fills the room, fires are everywhere, and the rescue crews are working their way inside. They come across your squadmates, who are dazed, shocked, and look as if they've just had their world crushed. Quiet, sad pianos sound in the background, and Shepard is nowhere to be found. The camera pans up to show the shattered windows and the massive piece of Sovereign lying around, and it suddenly seems as if Shepard really is dead. Then the music begins to rise, you see boots running on the floor, and right as the music hits an intense, heroic crescendo, Shepard climbs up into view.
There's something extremely uplifting and heartwarming as Shepard climbs down from the rubble and smiles at his/her friends.
The famous moment where Shepard punches a nosy reporter on live galactic television.
And if you take the option in ME2, twice. It's even awesomer.
Captain Kirrahe's epic "We will hold the line!" speech. Quoted here in all its glory:
ďYou all know the mission, and what is at stake.
I have come to trust each of you with my life — but I have also heard murmurs of discontent. I share your concerns.
We are trained for espionage; we would be legends, but the records are sealed. Glory in battle is not our way.
Think of our heroes; the Silent Step, who defeated a nation with a single shot. Or the Ever Alert, who kept armies at bay with hidden facts.
These giants do not seem to give us solace here, but they are not all that we are.
Before the network, there was the fleet. Before diplomacy, there were soldiers!
Our influence stopped the rachni, but before that we held the line!
Our influence stopped the krogan, but before that, we held the line!
Our influence will stop Saren; in the battle today, we will hold the line!Ē
And Kaidan or Ashley earn themselves a spot in Valhalla with a simple expression of bravery in the face of certain death. "I don't regret a thing, Commander." Still sends shivers up anyone's spine.
Anderson unlocking the Normandy. If he goes for C-Sec, he headbutts a turian guard in the face without even slowing down. If he goes for Udina's office, he punches Udina in the face. Either way, someone's face gets smashed, and either way, it's awesome.
Joker gets one when he pilots the Normandy down to a planet to save the away party from a Collapsing Lair. A Collapsing Lair sinking into lava. He did some Lampshade Hanging when he asks if he's going to get a silver or a gold medal for that.
And again when, despite the rest of the crew's protestations that it's impossible, he maneuvers the Normandy close enough to ancient ruins to drop the Mako nearly right on top of Saren.
Bonus points for being the first time Joker understates his ability. His only comment is "I can do it".
It's worth highlighting the achievement here. Joker swoops from orbit to drop an APC through a gap in a collapsed roof into the middle of a street, without touching high walls either side, within spitting distance of Saren. It's like sniping with a spaceship as the gun and a tank as the bullet, which passes through a hole roughly three meters across while both it and the ship are traveling a few times the speed of sound. A flinch off course in any direction would have destroyed the tank and killed everyone in it. The Mako is completely unharmed.
Liara gets her own moment of awesome in that scene—she's the only party member present with the guts to agree with Shepard.
When confronted on trying to develop a romantic relationship on two people at once by said two people, Shepard can offer a thirdoption instead of choosing between them.
Each of the backgrounds has its own badass CMOA. War Hero has Shepard saving the entire colony of Elysium from an army of pirates and slavers by rallying the civilian population and then holding back an entire enemy platoonsinglehandedly? While only being on the planet for shore leave in the first place? Badass. Ruthless has you and your unit hunt slavers to the last man, despite taking immense casualties, taking a long time. Sole Survivor has you evade thresher maws after they wipe out your unit. This doesn't sound like much until you meet a thresher maw, which the military recommends you take on with tanks, and they are damn hard to survive even then.
The cutscenes in the Grand Finale when Sovereign takes control of Saren's corpse after it's been shot in the head and when the entire Alliance Fleet heading towards and collectively destroying Sovereign.
In particular, Joker zipping around in the small (compared to the rest of the Alliance fleet) Normandy, before flipping around and nailing the death blow on Sovereign.
Also, in one of the first of the final cutscenes, the mighty turian dreadnoughts all open fire. Sovereign simply rams the cruisers out of the way with such a force that the turian ships are destroyed immediately—and Sovereign is unharmed and continues as if nothing ever happened. It's hard to imagine a more effective way to emphasize how an evil Precursor like Sovereign sees the Council races as nothing more than insects.
The Renegade ending, where humanity gets a Crowning Moment Of Awesome, presenting the fact that they saved the universe as a good reason to take it over.
Any of the after-mission conversations with the Council where you opt to blow them off and "lose the signal." Doesn't seem that impressive? Keep in mind, you're blowing off the three most powerful people in the entire galaxy.
Disabling the Thorian-controlled colonists instead of killing them may be difficult (especially if you run out of grenades and have to resort to melee attacks), but seeing the "Paragon+ 32/Renegade+ 0" message at the end makes it all worth it.
Players who chose the Earthborn background get a visit from a member of their previous gang attempting to blackmail them, which presents the opportunity for a particularly awesome Renegade solution:
Finch: When we're through telling our story, the aliens will all know what the first human Spectre really is!
Shepard: No. They won't. *BLAM*
One of the other backgrounds has Shepard try and talk a slave out of suicide, having almost been a slave him/herself, which is a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming. Afterwards Shepard is asked by the officer concerned about the girl what the point is to fighting and we get this exchange.
Shepard: To make people who do these things pay. It's not the severity of punishment that deters crime, it's the certainty.
If you succeed in that mission, you get an equally crushing line.
Renegade Shepard's option to that same question is equally crushing, especially if you've been following all the Renegade responses, telling Talitha to fight, to be strong, and that survival means she's tougher than she thinks she is.
Shepard: I'm not going to lie to you. I don't know. But you're strong enough to face it.
The climax of the DLC campaign "Bring Down the Sky" as a Renegade—rather than let Balak escape to save the hostages, Shepard attacks his gang and he kills the hostages. After Shepard has defeated Balak's henchmen and has him cornered—unarmed, wounded, and with a gun pointed at his head—they have this exchange;
Though it is oft overlooked, Udina's speech to the council near the beginning may count as well. Shepard can even tag-team with him on calling the Council out on their crap with being so distrustful of humans.
Get enough Paragon points, and Admiral Hackett calls you up to neutralize a hostage situation involving biotic terrorists. Perform the mission the Paragon way, and when he calls you up again, there's this exchange.
Hackett: I didn't think it could be done, Commander. You managed to secure the base and neutralize the biotics without a single civilian casualty.
Shepard: Just doing my job, Admiral. I couldn't let innocent lives be lost.
Hackett: I wish every soldier had your definition of "just doing your job." You're a credit to the uniform, Shepard.
After fighting Saren on Virmire, he knocks Shepard down with biotics, picks him/her up by the throat, and dangles him/her over a ledge. Just before he can drop Shepard, Saren gets distracted by an explosion. He glances to one side, and Shepard punches him in the face. To reiterate in its full awesomeness: while being held over a cliff by his/her throat, Shepard punches an elite soldier with far more training than him/her and who is The Dragon to a race of Eldritch Abomination ships that wipe out all life in the galaxy on regular basisright in the face.
You know Ian Newstead — that crazy, rambling colonist in the tunnels on Feros? Think about it after completing the game.He's under control by the Thorian, but he knows he's being used by something against his will, so he gets away from people so he can't hurt them. He even tries to tell Shepard about the Thorian, and gets shocked by it. But he's strong enough to try again. And again. Finally, in order to prevent himself from being completely controlled, he regularly thinks about stuff the Thorian doesn't like, so it shocks him; this reminds him of who he is; or, as he puts it, "invoking the master's whip. Reminds me I'm still alive." That guy's got some serious guts.
Despite Saren being the Big Bad for most of the story, Shepard can still get him to have a My God, What Have I Done? moment and shoot himself in the head. Considering the amount of indoctrination Saren must have undergone, Heroic Willpower doesn't even begin to describe it. Even Matriarch Benezia wasn't able to resist it for long.
Mass Effect 2
The entire suicide mission, especially if you made/make all the right decisions regarding the upgrades and team duties. The team goes through the Omega-4 relay, which no one has gone through and survived. Joker not only navigates a debris field guarded by robotic drones, he does it well enough to make the drones crash. The ship that destroyed the original Normandy gets shot down with a weapon reverse-engineered from Sovereign. A team works their way through heating vents, trusting Shepard to open gates before they fry to death. Shepard saves his/her crew. A team travels through an atmosphere literally filled with seeker swarms, with a biotic managing to keep the swarms away before blowing a mass of enemies. While Shepard leaves to blow the base, the rest of the team holds off waves of Collectors. Shepard takes down a fetal Reaper, that thing that took just about every ship in the Alliance fleet to destroy, while on foot. As it knocks down the platforms, s/he saves a squadmate while both of them are sliding down the platform. Shepard's team runs out of the exploding Collector base, with just about every single Collector pursuing them, while Harbinger delivers an epic speech. As Shepard approaches the Normandy, Joker, who had trouble just walking in the first game, stands in the airlock, holding off Collectors with an assault rifle. The platform between the Normandy and Shepard collapses, so s/he jumps twenty feet in bulky assault armor to reach the door, followed by Joker and Shepard dashing for the cockpit to get away from the explosion, which happens right behind the Normandy as it zooms out of there. The Normandy returns from the Omega-4 relay, the galaxy saved (until Mass Effect 3), with everyone safe and sound. Awesome.
When you use the Thanix cannon on the Collector ship that destroyed the original Normandy, Joker's exclamation of "How'd you like that you sons of bitches?!" was just pure awesome.
Overlaps with CMOH, but if everyone survives, Shepherd will walk past them all in the Normandy's cargo bay. Preparing weapons and kit, talking, healing wounds... and the look that they all give him. Or nod, or slight smile. As if all of them are saying, "We will follow you anywhere, sir. Hell, we just did..."
The opening sequence is a work of art: you control Shepard as the Normandy explodes around him/her, due to the damage sustained during the Collector attack. At one point, you must journey through a section of the ship that is exposed to space, and the game becomes eerily quiet as you look out into the void and pass several floating pieces of debris you can knock aside when you walk around.
Let's take one of your recruitable squad members in the second game, Archangel. You learn that due to his vigilante activities against the criminal element of Omega, the three biggest merc companies on the station have teamed up to take this guy down. He's holed up in a mansion and blown up all other options for them; the only access route they have is across the bridge, which means they're target practice for him. They tried flying a gunship over to attack him, but he shot it down. When you infiltrate the merc companies, you'll find dozens, if not hundreds, of mercs and freelancers trading bullets with him, but no one's getting anywhere near him. Once the operation starts, you stab the mercs in the back and make your way to Archangel in order to extract him... and find out it's none other than Shepard's old pal, Garrus. To sum it up: Garrus has been holding off three entire merc companies, the freelancers they hired, and all their resources for days, holed up in a mansion, singlehandedly.
Garrus's side-mission. It's longer than most of the other missions (Jacob's and Mordin's in particular) due to a mix of investigation, combat and dialogue, and even after you've already gotten the achievement for it, you get treated to a climax which involves an increasingly-deranged Garrus attempting to snipe Sidonis while you (in a Paragon game) talk with said target and keep your own head in Garrus' scope to save his life. Garrus listens to your conversation through a two-way radio, and when he finds out that Sidonis shows remorse for having wronged him, Garrus can't bring himself to pull the trigger. This entire scene also doubles as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
Very small, but he's even awesome as far as game mechanics go. The official guide for Mass Effect 2strongly recommends that if you're going to play on Insanity, Garrus is one teammate you should always have with you.
Khalisah al-Jilani returns in Mass Effect 2 for another round. If you punch her with the Renegade interrupt, Shepard says "I should have done that the first time we met!"
On the flip-side of that, you can also go the diplomatic route, and when she starts winding up to pitch the good ol' "aliens let humans die for their own skins" tripe, Shepard gets a particularly moving CMOA by cutting her off with a powerful, spine-chilling lecture:
Shepard: The turians lost twenty cruisers, figure each had a crew of around 300. The Ascension, the asari dreadnought we saved, had a crew of nearly 10,000.
After that little exchange is over as you walk away, you hear her mutter: "Great, bullrushed on my own show."
Or, if the Council died, Shepard states it was not a decision made lightly, and again makes the case that those who died deserve a lot more than the reporter's bias cheapening their deaths. No matter what, Shepard owns her, and if they're alive takes the Council to task as well.
S/he will say the same thing if s/he sacrificed the Alliance ships and you choose the Renegade response. You still get Paragon points for it.
The Renegade responses are just as awesome. Shep gives her a tongue lashing about the realities of command and disrespecting the dead that leaves Kalisah on the verge of weeping.
Thane's Establishing Character Moment. Shepard and company spend an action-packed level blowing stuff up and slaughtering their way to the penthouse floor of a business building to reach a Corrupt Corporate Executive who is said to be the assassin's next target and therefore the best way of contacting him. Once Shepard and Nassana start talking, a few strange noises rattle the remaining security, who get ordered to watch the remaining entrances. Unfortunately, Thane doesn't use doors—he drops from an airduct on the ceiling mid-sentence, kills the security guards, grabs one of their guns, catches his target, shoots her in the stomach, gently lays her on a desk... and proceeds to pray without looking at Shepard or missing a beat. All in about six moves. Even Miranda and Jack are impressed by that.
If you pay attention, Shepard actually looks up at the ceiling briefly before the bad guys realize Thane's there.
Legion's entrance. He's in a low-angle camera angle, with a mix of danger and awe-inspiring music, there's an absolutely awesomeSnipe The Husk moment, and then, his simple greeting: "Shepard-Commander."
Mordin gets one when you learn why the citizens of Omega are scared of him: when one of the deadliest mercenary groups tried to shake down his clinic, he killed their thugs singlehandedly and put their corpses on display as a warning. He did it again when another merc group was dumb enough to try the same thing. Really, if Badass Bookworm would be explained in dictionary, his picture would be included next to the definition.
In the Afterlife club, Renegade Shepard can talk the Patriarch into one of these by appealing to his nature as a krogan. Instead of hiding from the mercenaries, he chooses to die like a true krogan warrior, and charges an entire squad of heavily-armed mercenaries, and thus goes out in a blaze of (sadly offscreen) glory.
Remember Conrad Verner? In the second game, he shows up as an "extreme" mercenary. You can try to talk some sense into him, or, if you're a Renegade....
Shepard: Conrad, let me make this perfectly clear. (shoots Conrad in the foot) This is not acceptable.
He gets his own actual moment of awesome if Paragon!Shep talks him down from his little crusade. He starts a charity to help the victims and orphans of Sovereign and the geth attacks called..."Shepards". Well done man.
Everyone who took a certain Renegade interrupt action in the Urdnot camp said these exact words: "Did...Did I just headbutt a krogan? Not to mention, the shocked look on said krogan's face eloquently says "Did... Did a Human just headbutt me?"
A scene just a few minutes prior shows this to be a krogan dominance gesture, so if one is observant, they will immediately understand what the Renegade interrupt prompt is, and it is so right in context.
Shaman: Hahaha! I like this human, s/he understands!
You discover that Wrex had one around the same time you perform the feat yourself: He's the last krogan to kill a Thresher Maw on foot until you and Grunt come along.
Finding out from an asari woman on Illium that, if you made the decision to save the Rachni Queen in the first game, that she is repopulating her species, that you are revered as a legend by her race, and that when the time comes, she will bring her the entire rachni race to help you stop the Reapers. Oh, hell yes.
Each class gets some sort of awesome combat power (Invisibility Cloak, Bullet Time, etc), but the Vanguard's Biotic Charge has to take the gold medal, simply for the Refuge in Audacity moments it can provoke. Biotic Charge a Krogan. Charge a Geth Prime. Charge Tela Vasir. Charge Harbinger. Charge a YMIR mech. Charge The Shadow Broker. Charge the Colossus on Haestrom. You can't knock the last one off its feet, but using that power to kill it will top just about any moment in the entire game for sheer amounts of awesome. Vanguard Shepard laughs at the concept of cover. Even better, most of the enemies will pause for a moment after your charge even if you didn't knock them flying, as if they're still wondering if you were insane enough to do what you just did. There's a reason why the Vanguard's Fan Nickname is Manguard.
Far too much to say about Tali's trial on the flotilla. You could get her off the hook by a Paragon action (if you talked to the Admirals and found out their real motivations for dragging her in on a treason charge), or you could "Rally the crowd," prompting both Kal'Reeger and the still-traumatized Veetor'Nara (if you saved them both after meeting them) to come up and brag to the Admiralty Board about how much Tali has done for the entire fleet.
The Renegade solution to Tali's trial manages to be just as awesome, wherein Shepard probably shows more honest anger than s/he ever has up until that point in the series. Shepard gets pissed, tells the Admiralty Board the entire trial is nothing more than "political bullshit" (yes, those are his/her exact words) to their face, tears them down for dragging a member of his/her crew into something like this for their own agenda, angrily exposes their real motives behind the trial, gets the whole crowd on his side, renders the whole board speechless and shames them into finding Tali not guilty. Made even more awesome by the capper to Shepard's whole rant against the Admirals:
Shepard: Do whatever you want with your toy ships. But leave my crew out of your political bullshit! We have no new evidence. You can accept Tali's word or you exile the woman who saved the galaxy from the geth.
And Tali's reaction afterward.
Tali: It's fun watching you shout.
The final boss of Mass Effect 2 deserves a mention. Three words: Human-shaped Reaper Fetus.
During Mordin's mission, while on the krogan homeworld, a krogan gangster with delusions of grandeur starts ranting and raving about how his clan will destroy the forces of the galaxy when they get enough numbers. A Renegade quick time shows up and you give him a very satisfying version of Shut Up, Hannibal! using a fortuitously-placed gas main and two pistol shots.
When you get to the Citadel, if you nominated Anderson for Councilor, he puts Udina in his place.
Councilor Anderson (in the tone of a parent scolding a child): I don't answer to you anymore, Udina. Why don't you go to your office and think about that?
So Shepard, how does it feel to piss off an entire armada of Reapers to the point where all of them know your name? The answer, of course, is that it feels awesome.
At the end of the game, if you decide to blow up the Collector base, Shepard will say a completely character-defining line for Paragons:
Shepard: I won't let fear compromise who I am.
If Miranda is with you, this is where you finally get to give Cerberus the big middle finger: she will tell him that she's officially resigned, in a tone of voice essentially telling him to screw off.
Illusive Man: Miranda, do not let Shepard destroy the base!
Miranda: Or what? You'll replace me next?
Illusive Man: I gave you an order, Miranda!
Miranda: I noticed. Consider this my resignation.
This moment is made even better if you've been playing the whole game as a Renegade, due to how it makes Shepard look like s/he was playing the Illusive Man all along, coming off as a true Magnificent Bastard when s/he finally gets the upper hand and uses that moment to seize control of Cerberus.
Joker's return and the reveal of the Normandy SR2.
Shepard: You really trust the Illusive Man?
Joker: I don't trust anyone who makes more than I do. But they aren't all bad. Saved your life. Let me fly—and there's this. They only told me last night.
During Miranda's loyalty mission, a group of mercs will attempt to get her and Shepard to back off. As the merc talks, Shepard notices a crane moving an explosive cargo container. There's a Renegade interrupt. If taken, Shepard will reach forward and break the one merc's neck with his/her bare hands. Miranda will then shoot another at point-blank range as Shepard pulls out his/her handcannon and blasts the container to kill two more mercs. One merc remains, who can only look from the burning fire and back to Shepard in shock.
The Paragon ending to Zaeed's loyalty mission. After saving a factory full of slaves and costing Zaeed his revenge against his arch-nemesis of twenty years as a result, Shepard puts a gun to Zaeed's head, tells him he's damn well going to work as part of a team, pulls the man out from under the girder that's fallen across his legs—thus proving his/her point that no one can go it alone all the time—and through sheer force of will and badassery manages to gain Zaeed's admiration and loyalty anyway.
Both Paragon and Renegade solutions to Legion and Tali's argument over her Omni-tool. Renegade Shepard will squash both of them flat while backlit by the hall light.
Shepard: What the hell were you thinking!? Are you trying to undermine this entire operation?! You can either fight by my side, or get crushed under my heel, but you will not stand in my way!
Paragon Shepard will actually get Tali to say a few friendly words to Legion; probably the only ones ever uttered between the two species in 300 years.
If you bring a nonhuman party member into the plague zone on Omega, they get sick. When you reach Mordin's clinic, he looks up, notes they're sick, and casually makes the infection go away with a press of a button. Beforehand, you knew Mordin was a hell of a doctor, but the fact that he developed a cure specifically for each species that works that fast immediately proves his awesome scientist cred.
An option most people probably missed shows up during Samara's loyalty mission. When hunting for Morinth in Afterlife's VIP lounge, Shepard comes across two would-be turian muggers. With a bit of Intimidation, Shepard provokes both of them into attacking (as actually throwing the first blow would get the Commander thrown out too early to lure the target) and promptly crushes each of them with two blows in a total of five seconds.
Speaking of Samara's loyalty mission, when you manage to convince Morinth to take the bait and start seducing you, she will gaze into your eyes and tell you to tell her that she owns you, and can do whatever she wants with you—clearly about to do with you what she did with her previous victims. If his/her scores are high enough, both Paragon and Renegade Shepard can essentially tell her, "Nope. Sucks to be you." The dawning moment of "Oh Crap..." on her face as Samara walks in the door and blasts her is priceless, and the idea that Shepard has so much Heroic Willpower that s/he is able to resist the brainwashing of an Ardat-Yakshi is yet another checkmark for his/her awesomeness.
Another awesome renegade option to get Morinth's attention is to insult the Krogan at the bar. As they exchange a few harsh words, they trade their best intimidating gaze—Renegade Shepard's looks downright predatory.
The mission itself. Samara gives Shepard bucketloads of motivation to help hunt down and kill a space vampire. Finding her latest victim however leaves both of them fighting to not just storm where she is.
If you saw that scene, you know:
Thane: Amonkira, Lord of Hunters, grant that my hands be steady, my aim be true, and my feet swift. And should the worst come to pass, grant me forgiveness.
Paragon Shepard at the end of the game. With the Illusive Man nearly frothing at the mouth about the destruction of the Collector base and accusing Shepard of biting the hand that fed him/her, Shepard will, in a very calm voice, "pleasantly" inform him that s/he's doing things his/her way now, and the Illusive Man, one of the most powerful humans in the galaxy, had better suck it up and fall in line. Then s/he'll tell Joker to cut the connection in a manner reminiscent of the Council from the first game, or alternatively...
The Illusive Man: I made you, Shepard! I brought you back from the dead!
Shepard: And I'm going to do what you brought me back to do. I'll fight and win this war without compromising the soul of our species.
It's pretty awesome to hear Shepard rub his/her moral superiority in his face, showing that s/he knows damn well who the good guy is.
During Thane's loyalty mission, you are tasked with tracking down his son and stopping him from killing a corrupt politician (you can get him arrested later) and following in his father's footsteps. Once you finish tracking him down, you end up in a standoff with him holding the gun to his target's head. Rather than the typical tense negotiations, a Paragon interrupt has the Commander shoot a lamp to distract Kolyat, then punch some sense into the kid. Resolving the entire situation in four seconds without any complications and showing that good guys don't have to deal with nonsense.
The Renegade interrupt is no worse. You show Kolyat he's in no position to negotiate by shooting the scumbag of a hostage yourself.
Kolyat: All of you, back off! I'll kill him!
Shepard: No. You wonít.
Kolyat: ...oh my gods!
Shepard: Hostages only work when your enemy cares if they live.
Thane: Interesting solution.
Firing the Cain. No matter when you use it, no matter who you use it on, and no matter for what reason, every single time you fire the Cain is epic.
Special mention to using it on the Geth Colossus. Remember that hard slog of a fight to kill the thing? You can end it five seconds after it reveals itself by blowing up the Colossus with the Cain, along with every geth in the vicinity.
Garrus: I think it's going to stay dead this time.
During the mission to recruit Samara, Shepard runs across a volus swindler who lets slip he has a copy of the passcard into a mercenary base. Shepard reacts by cracking his/her knuckles, which is enough to get the swindler to hand it over.
The over-arching CMOA for the Paragon Shepard over the course of two games: if you played as a Paragon in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, it means you have the rachni, geth, krogans, and quarians all backing you up for Mass Effect 3 against the Reaper invasion, which, ironically, allows you to tell the Council to screw off even more than a Renegade Shepard could.
Not to mention the Shadow Broker. Plus, a fully Paragon Shepard could probably convince the Blue Suns, Eclipse, and the Blood Pack to do some Pro Bono work and convince Aria to drag Omega into the war. The Reapers are going down. Hilarious in Hindsight because that's a distinct possibility regardless of Shepard's alignment in Mass Effect 3, depending on the outcome of certain missions.
Learning from Samara that she faced off against Nihlus. Nihlus had killed some civilians for some Spectre-related mission, Samara's Justicar code demanded that she kill him. Nihlus not only managed to avoid her initial assault, but in the end actually managed to escape her by pulling a Friend or Idol Decision on her by making her choose between saving an innocent or catching him, basically using her own rules against her. Keep in mind Nihlus was probably only a Spectre at that time for maybe a little longer than Shepard was, and Samara is a centuries-old warrior with massive biotic powers as well as extensive training. The galaxy lost a damn good Spectre on Eden Prime.
An understated one on Tuchanka, after completing Grunt's loyalty mission and killing the Thresher Maw on foot Grunt is inducted into Clan Urdnot. The shaman starts listing off the things Grunt can do now that he's an adult, the last of which is 'you may now serve under a battlemaster'. Grunt's reply: "Shepard is my battlemaster, (s)he has no match." The Shaman's response? A semi-grudging "Indeed." Think about it.
If Wrex is still alive, this is more meaningful, given Shepard's role in the rise of Clan Urdnot. Given that Wrex is a krogan battlemaster himself, who was the last to destroy a Maw and served under Shepard...
Renegade Shepard staying calm and completely dominating Grunt after opening his tank, even while he has him/her pinned to the wall.
Shepard: My enemies threaten galaxies. Everyone on my ship has earned their place.
This is even more awesome when you realize that Grunt is actually shocked that a human would speak that way to him.
Grunt: Nothing in the tank imprints indicated that humans could be so forceful. You talk as though you've earned command.
Arguably the Paragon route is just as badass in that scene. Shepard calmly and pleasantly convinces Grunt to accept him/her as his leader while the latter has him/her pinned to the wall. Than the camera pans out and shows that while this was happening, Shepard armed him/herself and had a gun pointing straight at Grunt's chest the whole time. And Grunt didn't even notice until Shepard mentioned it!
Grunt: Huh... Offer one hand, arm the other. Wise, Shepard.
Tali gets two crowning moments if she's in the party for the "Crime In Progress" assignment. After the volus accusing another quarian of pickpocketing him refers to them as "clanless" one too many times, she'll say;
Tali: I am clan Zorah, crew of the starship Neema — and you are an idiot.
Then, if Shepard says he's not worth it;
Tali: My brain agrees with you. My gut says to jack his suit's olfactory filters so that everything smells like refuse!
If Garrus is the third party member, he'll speak for us all;
Shepard isn't exactly a slouch in this scene either. The Paragon interrupt was absolutely perfect.
Shepard:[shoving the volus] You falsely accused this girl of stealing from you — and all you have to say now is that she could have stolen it?
Volus: Now just a minute!
Shepard:[grabbing the cop] And you! She gets harassed and insulted by this guy, and you throw in a threat to run her in for vagrancy?
Cop: How about I run you in for obstruction of justice?
Shepard: You think you're gonna run in a Spectre? I think both of you should get out of here.
Cop: Son of a...
Able to be seen in all its glory starting at 3:00 and resuming to the end of it at 8:00. If you prefer Femshep, see here.
It's even better if you aren't expecting it. If you always picked the top-right dialog choice in the first game, Shepard almost seemed impossible to anger. The shock of seeing a Paragon Shepard just lay into those two is surprising and satisfying.
Shepard's speeches (s)he is able to give during the suicide mission are suitably epic, including some powerful music and dramatic finger pointing. Additionally the speech can focus on giving the Collectors some serious payback or focusing on saving lives, depending on if the player is going for Renegade or Paragon.
There are two or three segments to each speech, and you can independently choose Paragon or Renegade segments of each speech. Starting with Paragon (i.e. Why We're Here) and ending with Renegade (i.e. 'Now let's go kick some ass!') is immensely satisfying.
This gets great subtext if playing as a Paragon Colonist Shepard with the War Hero backstory. You lost your entire family when your colony was invaded, it was probably what drove them to single-handedly save Elysium from a similar attack during the Skyllian Blitz. Also in the first game, this would have been their determination to rescue everyone on Zhu's Hope. Honestly, what were the Reapers even thinking by attacking Human colonies?
If you're a Renegade who saved the Council in the first game, during their little chat with you in Anderson's office (because, come on, who picked Udina for Councilor?) they dismiss everything you stirred up in the first game and then condescendingly offer to reinstate you as a Spectre, clearly meant to placate Shepard and remove her as an annoyance by sending her back into the Terminus Systems. You can say that you'd be honored, or tell them to go screw themselves.
Shepard: The Council offered to reinstate me as a Spectre. I told them where they could stick it.
If you picked Anderson, he complains in the second game that he never wanted to be a politician. It would've been nice if we had more choices than "tired old soldier" and "jackass."
The right person leading the distraction team gets one during the suicide mission after the first segment. "Suppressing fire! Don't let anything through that door!"
A loyal Jack or Samara will get one at the end of the barrier sequence. Blowing away every Collector and seeker in the room.
The Collector ship raid is somewhat of a CMOA for EDI; before that point she's mostly there for exposition purposes, and then she hijacks the Collector ship to save you, very quickly deduces important information on the Collectors and both works out and reveals the fact the raid was set-up by her creators. Considering that it was Harbinger who was behind the attack, EDI defeated him in cyberwarfare.
If Jack survives the suicide mission, as you walk by her as she helps with repairs to the Normandy, she gives you a respectful nod, and you realize she's gone from being an emotionally scarred, near-psychotic sociopath to someone who actually gives a damn about the rest of humanity.
Kasumi gets one at the end of her loyalty mission. She and Shepard are fighting Donovan Hock, who's using a gunship that regenerates shields too fast for the two of them to destroy it. Once Shepard clears a path through Hock's Eclipse Mooks, Kasumi jumps onto the gunship, disables its shields, smiles at Hock and flips off to resume the fight.
Hell, anytime Kasumi uses Shadow Strike is awesome. Watching this little Japanese girl punch a Humongous Mecha in the back never gets old.
In the suicide mission, if you choose Jacob to lead a distraction team, Miranda will say something about how he'll finally be able to prove he's able to command. Yes, his first command job comes in a battle to save all sentient life in the galaxy. Even considering the fact he's in charge of the B-team that fights off-screen, that is awesome.
What makes it better is that Jacob is one of the right choices. He succeeds in his first command job in a battle to save all sentient life in the galaxy!
At one point during the game before the suicide mission, if you ask Garrus his opinion on the success of the mission, his response really drives home the fact that you are literally too important to be allowed to die.
Garrus: The Collectors killed you once, and all it did was piss you off. I can't imagine that they'll stop you this time.
The end of Zaeed's loyalty mission. If Vido gets away and you still ask Zaeed to join you, you get this:
Zaeed: And what's going to keep me from blowing you away in your sleep?
Shepard: You know that's not gonna happen. You're a badass, Zaeed. But remember who you're talking to.
Shepard knows and lampshades that s/he's the biggest badass of them all.
Shepard is asked to hand over whatever weapons s/he has when visiting Purgatory prison.
I'll relinquish one bullet. [others draw their weapons] Where do you want it?
Observing Wrex's political savvy on Tuchanka. If you compare his actions to Urdnot Wreav's, there's no question who the greater warlord is.
After Mordin's mission, Shepard had decimated Clan Weyrloc; Wreav used that to just wipe out the rest of the clan. Wrex took in the women and children, and made them part of his tribe.
He turned down a possible cure for the genophage because the experiments on living krogan were too cruel. Keep in mind, a genophage cure would be the "I win" button for any krogan clan. Wrex turned it down on ethical standards.
He invited a small, mildly weak (by Krogan standards), clan into his inner circle. Why? Because the clan has a direct lineage to a legendary krogan warrior and he can use the name to bolster his own ranks.
Clan Urdnot has a rather talent scientist who was very good at making things that went boom. What's Wrex having him work on now? Crops, irrigation, farming, and medicine.
Wreav just gives grudging permission for Grunt to take the rite and join Urdnot just to gain a new warrior. Wrex lets Grunt decide for himself if he wishes to join Urdnot, praises him when he says yes, and welcomes him into the clan after the rite with near fatherly pride. (More so if Grunt and Shep killed the Thresher Maw. He's actually amused that someone upset his record as the only one to do it.)
Wrex and a female established an actual neutral ground. On Tuchanka. They created, with his own hands and in two years, the equivalent of a snowman in the Sahara...and kept it from melting.
The entire Paragon ending of Overlord is equal parts this and Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, both due to the above, and because itís one of the only instances in the series where Paragon Shepard is clearly enraged.
Shepard: You even think about coming after your brother, and this bullet will be waiting for you! THEN we'll see who's "too valuable!"
Badass and Good Is Not Soft indeed. Hell, the middle of the road option makes Para-Shep even angrier, as if s/he's going to execute Gavin Archer right there.
Not many would have seen the renegade ending where Shepard gives up David, but it is no less awesome.
At the end of the first mission, Shepard and his/her team destroy the satellite dish to prevent the VI from uploading itself off-world by destroying its supports from the inside. This unbalances the entire dish and causes it to slowly start tipping over. To get out, Shepard and his/her squad run up the inside of the dish and leap from the edge onto a narrow walkway. Did we mention all this is taking place on a cliffside, very high above the ground?
Ahh, where to begin with Lair of the Shadow Broker?
Liara T'Soni, formerly a meek, quiet asari scientist, taking about seven levels in badass. When you first meet her, she's threatening a recalcitrant client by channeling her mother, Matriarch Benezia. It only gets better from there on out, culminating in her Shut Up, Hannibal! to the Shadow Broker himself, transitioning seamlessly into a Breaking Speech of her very own.
Broker: It's pointless to challenge me, asari. I know your every secret, while you fumble in the dark.
Liara: Is that right? You're a yahg, a pre-spaceflight species that was quarantined to their homeworld for massacring the Council's first contact teams. This base is older than your planet's discovery, so I'm guessing you killed the original Shadow Broker 60 years ago, then took his place. I'm guessing that you were taken from your homeworld by a trophy hunter who wanted a slave - *smirks* or a pet. How am I doing?
The regular renegade option (wound the hostage) is also badass.
"Smart move, hiding behind a hostage. A Spectre would do whatever it takes to get the job done. But you're forgetting something... I'm a Spectre too." BANG!
Walking across the hull of a spaceship in the middle of a planetary wide lightning storm.
Shepard squared off with the Shadow Broker in single hand-to-hand combat not once, not twice, but thrice. The Shadow Broker is a yahg who happens to be at least two times bigger than Shepard in every way, has a maw with three rows of gnashing jagged teeth, and would give the krogan a run for their money in terms of strength, ferocity, and brutality.
Liara becoming the new Shadow Broker. Thus giving Shepard another force in his/her corner.
One of the videos you can watch on the Shadow Broker's ship shows Kalisah al-Jilani getting an uppercut from a krogan. Another video shows her kicked by a volus. Other videos show the asari bartender on Illium headbutting a krogan, and attacking a volus with biotics. Anderson shoots a krogan and punches Udina. Gavorn on Omega kills a couple of vorcha with a grenade.
Admiral Hackett gets one in his dossier. Some Alliance officer sent him a proposal to take Shepard into custody and interrogate him/her about Cerberus. The proposal is a page long. Hackett's response? Two words: "Request denied."
He also gets one of these off camera as Liara reveals that he's the one who gave her Shepard's dogtags to return to the Commander, after the mission's over.
Liara: "Do you remember Admiral Hackett? He gave them to me, so I could return them to you. He sends his best, and hopes you're okay."
Morinth gets one if you bring her along. The Shadow Broker will comment that he finds it odd that Liara brought "the Justicar" along, given her "changed agenda". This implies that even he doesn't know that Morinth killed Samara and took her place. That's right - Morinth is so convincing she even fooled the Shadow Broker.
Garrus' dossier lists an assortment of awesomely ironic deaths for various criminals on Omega, i.e. sabotaging a saboteurís environment suit so he suffocated, killing a weapons smuggler with a smuggled weapon, etc. but the very best? Garrus confronting a quarian serial killer whose weapon of choice was viruses...and killing him by coughing at him.
The batarian drug dealer who died of red sand overdose due to direct contact with all four eyes, implying that Garrus pressed his face into the stuff.
The only one that didn't get this treatment was Kron Harga... who got:
-Gunshot wounds (all extremities and primary organs) -Rifle butt fracture to face -Third-degree burns to most of body (explosive crate)
Veetor. It's stated in game that he has trouble talking to people in individual conversations, much less a crowd, and that his sanity has more than a few cracks in it from what he experienced. But when Tali's ass is on the line, if you make the right choice, what does he do? Charges right through the crowd, confronting the Admiralty Board themselves, and delivers a Shut Up, Hannibal! and Character Witness testimony that helps prevent her exile. Considering all he's been through, that's awesome in its own right.
The Shadow Broker himself gets one. He managed to kill the original Shadow Broker and manage his network for years.
He also has a dossier on the Illusive Man, of all people. You know, the guy who's supposed to be so untrackable that he's actually called the Illusive Man. The Shadow Broker monitors him so closely that he even knows what suit he's wearing and what food he eats.
TIM: I should have known you'd choke at the harsh decisions, too idealistic from the start!
Shepard: I know what you are, and the price of working with you! Harbinger is coming, humanity needs a leader who's looking out for them! You can either fall in line or step aside, but don't get in my way!
Even the initial Paragon response is subtly awesome;
There's one in the background information of a planet you go near while heading towards the derelict Reaper. The people that fired that mass accelerator weapon managed to kill a Reaper. Sure, they were probably wiped out either when the weapon fired or after the Reapers figured out what had happened, but still. Hell of a way to go.
Anytime Shepard beats down a krogan with his/her bare hands. Double points if you do it on Insanity.
When Joker makes his way to the A.I. Core to flush the airlocks and clear the Normandy of the Collectors. If you talk to Zaeed afterwards, he not only says that he's impressed with Joker for managing to do that, but that if he had Joker's "glass bones" and had to do that, he'd literally be in pieces right now.
Jacob's loyalty mission has a particularly awesome and powerful moment if you choose to go with the Renegade approach to bringing Ronald Taylor to justice. After spending several minutes chewing him out for his crimes, Jacob hands him a pistol, at half-charge. At his incredulous response, Jacob simply says "My father owned his mistakes." Nothing else needs to be said.
Taking out all five waves in the battle by Object Rho. This nets an achievement/trophy, and is a testament to how badass Shepard is if the player pulls it off. The Indoctrinated Project members realize that they aren't capable of taking Shepard down and call in a Heavy Mech...which Shepard, despite bad cover and dwindling ammo supplies, promptly destroys. The only reason Shepard loses is that Object Rho knocks him/her out. It's especially awesome on Insanity. They can hit you with whatever they want. It won't stop Shepard.
The entirety of Jack's escape from Purgatory. You see this little, tattooed girl come out of the cryo pod, then she rips off her metal restraints, kills three Humongous Mecha robots by ripping them to shreds, and smashes through the nearest wall.
If you didn't hit it off with any of the love interests by the time you hit the Omega 4 Relay, Miranda confirms with you if you're ready or not to head to the Collectors. Regardless of your choice of dialogue, she assures you she believes you're up to the task and gives you a salute for the very first time, signifying her level of trust and respect for you.
During Miranda's loyalty mission, if you interrupt and spare Niket, he'll immediately get killed by Captain Enyala, then Miranda picks her up with biotics and tosses her.
One mission in the Hades Nexus system has you defending the sole survivor of a crashed Quarian ship against wave after wave of varren. At the end, when a rescue shuttle has landed at your location and the Quarian is limping toward it, two larger and meaner varren arrive. The Quarian gets on the shuttle, Shepard shrugs and gets on too. One of the varren charges and Shepard kicks it in the face as the shuttle takes off. To quote any Krogan at all, it wasn't worth killing.
In the final moments of the final cutscene, you see Shepard looking out a window into space. Then, far beyond the Galaxy's edge, you see Harbinger, and then the rest of the Reapers come into view. Not dozens, not even hundreds. Thousands. It's at this point that you realize that despite all of the awesome that came before, when the Reapers finally arrive, they'll be a lot harder to take down than the Collectors.
Most games of this style had a Silent Protagonist, or mostly silent for dialogue options. The first game had speech for Shepard during cut scenes and the second expanded this to full on conversations, greatly expanding the character and making it much more natural as a whole.
Mass Effect 3
The entire turian species gets one if you read the Codex page for the Battle of Palaven. With only fifteen minutes warning, the turian admiral in charge came up with a plan to defend his homeworld. They used the Reapers' size against them by using a precision FTL jump to land behind the Reaper fleet. The codex says that they managed to destroy several of the Reaper capital ships, the kind of dreadnoughts that took the combined Alliance 5th fleet and Citadel Defense Fleet to bring down even after Sovereign had lost much of his power when you killed robot-Saren.
Gets even bigger when you read the section about the ground war. The Reapers arrive at Palaven in full force, destroy cities with their capital ships and land hordes of husks. All the codex has to say is that "Much of the turian fleet is still operable, and the citizenry is heavily armed. The turians refuse to be intimidated."
The battle on Palaven itself. The Reapers swept through the Mass Relay with overwhelming force and begin bombarding the Turian homeworld and its moon. Numerous Dreadnought-sized Reapers enter the atmosphere of both. At least a day after the start, the Normandy arrives. Not only is the Turian resistance still continuing, they've still got air support, there's still a chain of command, it takes them less than five minutes to sort through their casualties and determine the highest survivor in the line of succession for Primarch, and the battle in space appears to be stalemated.
"The Miracle of Palaven" is the highlight of the entire turian campaign against the Reapers. First the Turians have a dreadnaught fake a drive core malfunction in order to present a juicy target of opportunity to the reapers who break their siege line of Palaven to go destroy it. Turian and Krogan insurgents use the breach in order to smuggle WMD's onto Palaven's surface and into reaper capital ships and processing centers. In a simultaneous strike the insurgents detonate the bombs (sacrificing themselves to avoid the possibility of them being turned by indoctrination) and the rest of the military forces on the planet counter-attack reaper forces on multiple fronts. Several Reaper capital ships are completely annihilated, the conversion rates on Palaven drop significantly, and large swaths of territory fall back into turian control.
And they hold out for much of the rest of the game, even if just barely. All the way up until the Fall of Thessia, where the enormous casualties that the Reapers inflict force them into a total retreat.
Every time one of your Paragon decisions from the earlier games pays off.
Either seeing it in person, or reading about it like hearing that Shiala is leading the Zhu's Hope semi-hive mind colonists in a successful pushback, learning that Kal'Reegar sacrificed himself and his squad to hold a turian communications outpost, hearing that the guy you had Jack spare on Pragia brought down dozens of husks to save fleeing transports full of children, the list goes on and all of it is fist pumpingly awesome.
Hell, anytime a Renegade decision pays off, from a previous game or from this one. Bioware understands that Good Is Not Nice. Didn't go full Paragon when you encountered Kelly Chambers again in ME3? Good for you, you saved her life. Killed Rana Thanoptis? Congrats, now she won't gun down asari officials on Reaper orders. Tell Javik not to take the shard? He'll be writing a book with Liara, or travelling the galaxy, or living like a king with the Hanar, instead of killing himself.
A subtle one, but when talking to your squadmates between missions, the Paragon responses are you opening up how bleak and desperate the situation is and how little hope and chance there is of victory. The Renegade ones show you hiding these emotions, because someone has to be strong, dammit.
Thane vs Kai Leng. Kai Leng and Shepard's squad are circling each other with the Salarian councilor trapped in the middle... and then Thane appears out of nowhere with his gun pointed at Leng's head. He proceeds to hold his own against Cerberus's cyborg poster boy despite being a Dead Man Walking (three months to live nine months ago), at one point launching him across the room with a biotic pimpslap.
Making this even more impressive is that, with the exception of Thane's modest biotic abilities, everything he pulls off is through skill, experience, and physical fitness, against an opponent who is both incredibly skilled and augmented with the best cybernetics Cerberus can afford.
Tying into that is if you take the Renegade interrupt after your own (successful) fight with Kai Leng - Shepard breaks Kai Leng's sword with his left fist as the Omni-Blade pops out, stabbing into Kai's side. Cue Shepard saying "That was for Thane, you son of a bitch".
Thane himself sums it up pretty well:
Thane: That assassin should be embarrassed. A terminally-ill drell managed to stop him from reaching his target.
Grunt will choose to do an epic You Shall Not Pass moment to hold off a small army of Ravagers by himself. He charges into them, shooting and punching and kicking and beating, before falling off a cliff into darkness, followed by more Ravagers. Weep those Manly Tears for the greatest krogan warrior ever to live. Then he comes out of the cave, covered in blood but still alive, and asks for something to eat. The best part of it all is the music during this scene: while Grunt is fighting off the Ravagers, the music is quiet and sad, a piano solo that confirms that our hero is fighting his final, doomed battle. And when Grunt survives, the music is a reprise of the triumphant, rising orchestral crescendo at the ending of the first game when Shepard crawls out of the wreckage, battered but alive.Needs to be seen to believed.
Adding to that the requirement for him surviving is that next to saving the Rachni Queen in 1 you had finish his loyalty mission in 2. Which was to help him gain maturity and a clan, essentially giving him a "family" and to learn how to control his rage. This means he survives because he learned how to use his rage when necessary and have something to come back for. He must have had a major determination moment down there.
From the same mission, you can see Grunt's squad pinned down by a group of Husk's. Grunt proceeds to grab a Ravager, lift it completely over his head, and fling it into a chasm. What does he say while doing this?
Sovereign: We are legion. The time of our return is coming. Our numbers will darken the sky of every world.
Reaper vs. Thresher Maw. They are riding out to complete another mission but have to contend with a Reaper tank, all hope seems lost. Shepard is forced to go on foot when the Krogan convoy is taken out, travelling through an ancient Krogan city talking about the Thresher Maw to end all Thresher Maws on Tuchanka. When conversing with Wrex about it, they realize that Tuchanka is its' home too and won't like a Reaper stomping around. So, as shown during Grunt's rite of passage, they decide to summon the Thresher Maw and point it at the Reaper. The end result is insane. Shepard is literally running underfoot of the giant sentient spaceship trying to hit him/her with a beam of molten metal fired approaching the speed of light. S/He dodges and weaves through the incoming fire, avoids things that pop out of the ground too fast for you to even get a good look at them, and then narrowly avoids being stepped on by the Reaper. Then the drums are sounded, and you know the Maw is angry. The Maw lunges out of the ground and tackles the Reaper, wrestling for a minute before the Reaper gets an angle to shoot at it, only to miss because it went underground again. Then it resurfaces and wraps itself around the Reaper, crushing it and dragging the thing underground. James Vega gets it right pretty early in the video: "Holy shit!"
The brief dialogue at the end of the E3 trailer, between Shepard and the Defense Committee:
Committee Member: What can we do?
Shepard: The only thing we can do: We fight or we die!
Par for the trope, the Normandy's Gunship Rescue as Shepard escapes Earth with Anderson.
Anderson actually volunteers to stay behind on Earth and help the surviving humans. This alone is pure awesome for that man.
A video at E3 shows Shepard at a geth base. You call in the Normandy to blow up a base, but then discover it's actually a Reaper. A Reaper who's now a little annoyed at you. You run onto a small ship piloted by Legion, and start running away with the Reaper running after you, as you fire at it from a turret on the top of the ship. You stay away long enough for the quarian fleet in orbit to fire on the Reaper, apparently hurting it. Then it gets back up. Holy crap, this will not be easy.
In the actual game, the orbital strike hits the firing chamber and does put it down, but the jamming signal means the fleet can't target precisely enough to hit the weak spot on purpose. Shepard's solution? Sync the target painter to the entire flotilla and face the Reaper on foot. Repeat: you aim a laser at it for the quarian fleet to fire at from orbit. You need to do this four times. The last time, the thing is right on top of you.
Take the Renegade option when Shepard talks to the dying Reaper afterward and take the Renegade Interrupt. Shepard pulls out the laser again and aims at the Reaper's eye.
Bonus points for the reapers reaction, it will stare at Shep for a moment when he/she aims the beam and then look up at the arriving orbital strike as if it was thinking "oh cr..."
The Special Forces trailer. Itís like Commander Shepard has an army of the most well trained soldiers in the galaxy, second only to his elite team, ready to clean up the remnants of the Reaper forces after he's done.
During the second demo mission, you help Mordin and Wrex get an important Krogan female off the Salarian homeworld. After you've held off the Cerberus forces attacking you, Wrex offers his hand to help Eve out of the containment pod she was in the entire mission. When two more Cerberus mercenaries show up out of nowhere to attack, Eve, instead of taking Wrex's offered hand, grabs his shotgun and blows them both away. With one hand. Krogan women kick ass.
During the mission on Sur'Kesh, Shepard can run into Captain (now Major) Kirrahe, who, when Cerberus forces deploy heavy armor forces and drone guns, he blows them up with a sticky grenade launcher pistol. By himself. Garrus wants to know where he can get a cool toy like that.
Garrus: How do I not have one of those?!
You can get one a little bit later in the mission. It is just as awesome as it looks in that cutscene.
Mass Effect 3's launch trailer sells it for us just like Mass Effect 2 yet again, with an incredible soundtrack, amazing visuals and fantastic directing all around. It all feels like the ending of a saga, but makes you prepared to make the final march to save the galaxy. Be careful, Shepards.
You want to see how a human dies? At ramming speed.
Another, more subtle one for Emily. Her live reporting provided a treasure trove of Intel on how the Reapers operate. There's no telling how many lives she might save.
Two words: Prothean. Squadmate.
Wrex's quote to oncoming Ravagers as Shepard and his/her squadmates get ready to hurry to cure the Genophage."I am Urdnot Wrex. And THIS IS MY PLANET!"
Mordin sacrificing himself to get the genophage cure into Tuchanka's atmosphere. His responsibility to the end.
Shepard: I'm sorry.
Mordin: I'm not. Had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong.
His final words before the control room explodes around him. The calm conviction in the face of death.
Mordin: Genophage cured. Krogan free. New beginning...for all of us.
Gets even sadder if you try to stop him. Shouting "I MADE A MISTAKE!", and then if you shoot him, he dies literally trying to crawl to the control panel. It was supposed to be his moment of redemption.
For added effect, this is probably the only time Mordin uses the first person pronoun "I" when not performing; he really feels that it is his personal responsibility to cure the genophage. And he will do it if it costs him his life.
Also a Call Back. Mordin claims that it is a new beginning for everyone just before dying. In Mass Effect 2, he expressed a believe in reincarnation. He literally believes that this is his chance to come back and do better.
If you have a save file from Mass effect 2 where you got Mordin to sing his "Scientist Salarian" song he sings it to himself to keep his nerve in an exploding tower. His voice cracks up with emotion when the cure is dispersed and he has a faint smile on his face
Conrad saving the life of Shepard, could wind up as a Heroic Sacrifice or a subtle Big Damn Heroes moment when the Cerberus contact tries to kill Shepard (who no longer travels across the citadel in armor but rather casual outfits).
Lieutenant Victus, son of the Turian Primarch, gives his life to disable the Cerberus bomb that they stole from the Turians threatening to destroy a high population center in Tuchanka. His sacrifice gives Shepard valuable time to solidify an alliance between the Turian and Krogan states.
Victus: Victory... at any cost.
A seemingly random minor sidequest on the Citadel to track down someone using batarian diplomatic codes can end with Balak, villain of Bring Down The Sky having a gun pointed at the back of Shepard's head, blaming Shepard for the destruction of the batarian civilization. Shepard can then convince Balak to not only put the gun away but to add his fleet to Shepard's cause. Repeat: Shepard entered a situation with a gun to the back of his/her head by an enemy s/he personally defeated and who blames Shepard for the death of his society, and Shepard turns him to his/her side.
Or, if you don't have the Reputation chops (or just hate the murdering SOB that much), you can casually knock the gun out of his hand and blow him away. Pay Evil unto Evil, indeed.
The Renegade response is just oh, so worth it, as Shepard doesn't plead, doesn't negotiate, doesn't even provoke Balak, but simply flat-out states that if Balak kills him/her, the alliance Shepard's been building will crumble, the Batarians will be wiped out like everyone else, and Balak knows this.
During the final part of the Rannoch mission, it's just you, on foot, dodging blasts that can level buildings so you can point the targeting laser at a Reaper's weak spot so the entire Quarian fleet and the Normandy can blow it to hell.
Paragon Shepard's speech to the Quarian fleets if you opt to resolve to make peace between the two warring species. Succeeding when you have Admirals Tali and Zaal'Koris's assistance is the complete icing on the cake, of course. And you realize at the end that Shepard's invocation of the common quarian phrase is literal here: s/he wants to see his/her homeworld someday in the future, too.
Shepard: All ships. This is Commander Shepard. The Reaper is dead. Stand down. [...] The geth are about to return to full strength; if you keep attacking, they'll wipe you out. Your entire history is you trying to kill the geth. You forced them to rebel, you forced them to ally with the Reapers! [...] The geth don't want to fight you! If you believe that for just one minute, this war will be over! You have a choice. Please.Keelah se'lai.
The Renegade intimidation speech to the Quarian fleets will also result in peace between the two warring species, with a much more pragmatic flair to appeal to Han'Gerrel's sensibilities.
Shepard: All ships. This is Commander Shepard. If you don't want to be blown out of the sky in about half a minute, stand down now. [...] The geth are about to return to full strength; if you keep attacking, they'll wipe you out. A few years ago I saved you at the Citadel, just recently, I saved you from the Geth dreadnaught, but I'm through saving you. If you don't stand down, I will stand by and watch as Geth lay you to waste. It's your call. Keelah se'lai.
A Renegade Interrupt involves Shepard approaching Han'Gerrel, the quarian admiral who was gung ho about starting a war with the geth in ME2, was one of the ones who pushed for the war with the geth to start now, in the middle of the Reaper invasion, and then opened fire on the geth ship where Shepard was on a mission to and destroying it just before Shepard could escape, and punching him in the stomach for his reckless endangerment of Shepard, demanding he get the hell off the ship.
Even a Paragon Shepard would be tempted to take that option. Recklessly endangering civilians and/or Shepard's squad are two things you should definitely never do when s/he's around. Combined with the Paragon interrupt you get with Xen a few minutes later, it gives the impression that Jesus Shep has finally had enough of this crap.
When Admiral Xen, who wants to enslave the Geth, asks how Shepard was able to get Geth Primes to join the cause, he smiles and answers, "They volunteered" in such a way you can translate his response as "Screw you."
Best Interrupt in the game (even more than shooting Udina) - Kai Leng, battered and broken after your fight with him, picks himself up off the floor, grabs his sword and approaches Shepard. S/he turns, shatters the sword, and impales Kai Leng with the omni-blade.
Another alternative? Don't take the interrupt. Paragon Shep will dodge the blade, spin around and gut Kai like a fish anyway. With the same lines as mentioned earlier.
It's worth noting that the Soldier and Sentinel classes are the only ones that use the standard omni-blade as their heavy melee attack. The other four use something very different. Is it developer laziness? Or is it those four classes deliberately using the omni-blade once in the entire game just to invoke a Karmic Death?
The war to retake Earth is on par with the battle of freaking-Armageddon. With enough planning you hit your cybergod enemies with the might of an entire galaxy. This includes elements from every state and alien government, AIs, pirates, mercenaries, dinosaur-riding krogan and enough dreadnought fire to burn a hundred worlds to ash. Seemingly invincible kilometer long Reapers are torn to shreds by the sheer weight of numbers, Shepard kills not one but TWO additional destroyers on foot, every surviving crew member takes part in the ground battle, and the Mako returns. This is the scene that each player had been working towards for 3 games, 100+ hours, and five years. Truly, it is the battle for all time.
Someone actually did this and edited out the dialogue. It makes a fantastic scene even better. Check it out.
Particularly that the way the Reapers literally double-take, almost seems to suggest that the following is crossing their mind:
Reapers: Shepard will fail, they have no cha- Oh Crap! HOW DO WE STOP HIM/HER?!
On top of all that, the music that plays is the main theme for Humanity, the Normandy and Shepard that was played during the introduction on the Normandy, Shepard's induction and the victory against Sovereign in Mass Effect 1. Not counting Vigil from the main menu and Saren's theme from the character creator, it's the first main theme the player hears in the trilogy, and while it does feature in Mass Effect 2 and 3, the last time it was recognizably played was at the end of the first game when Shepard declares his or her dedication to stopping the Reapers. And now it blares here, representing the full force the galaxy has brought together for their survival, effectively acting out Shepard's promise.
"Stand fast, stand strong, stand together. Hackett out."
Samara's daughters at the Ardat-Yakshi monastery. The older one, Rila, resists indoctrination and transformation into a Banshee long enough that she can set off a bomb, blowing the place, and the biggest stockpile of banshees, to hell. Morinth, you are no longer Samara's strongest and bravest daughter.
EDI's cyberwarfare and IFF system is sophisticated enough to fool Reapers into thinking that the Normandy is a friendly Reaper intelligence. The funny part? To EDI will then say that simply sounding like a Reaper isn't enough anymore. She actually imitates a Reaper, complete with her voice suddenly dropping several levels to the point that it almost sounds like Harbinger talking on the Normandy's bridge.
EDI: Reaper interrogation signals do not simply look for a friendly transponder code, they look for a friendly intelligence. The extra keys help me seamlessly swap in simulated intelligence identifiers from divergent synthetic origins. Adams: I see. So we need all the copies to seem like a living Reaper. EDI: Yes. I tried saying, "humans are dust in the stellar wind," but apparently that is no longer sufficient.
During the mission to save the Cerberus Scientist defectors, Shepard gets taken down by mech while trying to get to the escape shuttle. Cue Jacob jumping out the shuttle to save Shepard, taking out several Cerberus Soldiers and the same mech with just an Assault Rifle, all the while suffering from a bullet in the gut.
The Rannoch Missions if Shepard manages to make peace between the geth and the quarians. Let me repeat, Shepard managed to end a conflict that all others thought was unresolvable. Messiah much?
Even better is the fact that it is the biggest middle finger you can give to the Reapers' philosophy.
Shepard taking down the Reaper on Rannoch and their subsequent conversation firmly cements Shepard's status as The Dreaded.
Dying Reaper: Shepard?!
Shepard: You know who I am?
Dying Reaper: Harbinger speaks of you.
Depending on your choices in the conversation, Shepard can take a Paragon or Renegade interrupt. Paragon involves giving a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, during which Shepard shoots down the Reaper's claim that the Reapers are preserving the long since harvested races by pointing out that those races supposedly preserved are still dead. Renegade has Shepard pull out the targeting laser once again.
Heavy weapon use is dialed down a bit in 3 - instead of carrying them with you, you tend to find them on specific missions and can only use them there. During the siege on London in the endgame, the Cain makes a triumphant return when Shepard uses it to take out an anti-air Hades Cannon. Click...BOOM.
Even better - If you look in the wreckage of the crashed shuttle, you'll notice there's a second Cain. Provided you don't screw up the first shot, you can pick it up and use it to One-Hit Kill the Banshee that turns up. And considering if Morinth survived Mass Effect 2 and Samara didn't, she turns up as a Banshee as well, it's a hell of a dose of Laser-Guided Karma.
At Huerta Memorial Hospital, you can overhear a PTSD-stricken asari explain what happened to her. She was on a human colony and was staying with some farmers and using their shower when Reaper forces arrived. She fled and took the farmers' daughter with her... who then proceeded to kill several husks with only a stick. One human girl, frightened, takes down husks with a stick.
What do you expect? It was Joker's sister.
This painfully veers into TearJerker territory when the soldier explains the real reason for her PTSD: she had to kill the human girl while they were hiding because the girl broke her leg and her pained whimpering was threatening to give away their position to the husks.
When Cerberus attacks the Citadel and Shepard is having a standoff with the council and the Virmire Survivor everyone is slow to believe Shepard's claims that Udina is staging a coup. Then, after three games of apathy and condescending crap, the Asari councilor finally points out that they haven't trusted Shepard before and each time, it's come back and bitten them in the ass.
To make it even better, if you've talked things out with Ashley/Kaidan, she/he will make the decision to trust you and turn on Udina. Hear that? That was the sound of all the leftover trust issues from Horizon shattering.
Even if you have not spoken to them, you can still pull out the charm, provided you still have some clout with them. A Renegade choice will have you tell them you would regret shooting them for the rest of your life, but you would do it if you had to, and that the ball is in their court. Paragon, however, will have Shepard tell Ashley/Kaidan that they know in their heart Shepard is right, that they always do the right thing, no matter what, and they need to trust their own instincts. And either way, they put the gun down.
Shepard: You've always stood true to what you believe in. I admire that most about you. Trust your gut, Kaidan.
It's even better considering that the whole reason for the conflict between Shepard and Kaidan/Ashley is because the Illusive Man attempted to drive them apart for his own plans. This one moment proves that their bond is stronger than that.
Not just that, but the memetic jerkass Councilor Sparatus (Ah, yes. "Reapers") personally thanking Shepard. His tone just sounds so sincere.
The Illusive Man gets one in an archived video at Cerberus Headquarters. Right before he's about to undergo the most likely excruciating surgery that would let him control Reapers he asks for no anesthetic. He often looks like a callous bastard and he's extreme even for a Well-Intentioned Extremist, but you get the sense he wants to feel every sacrifice done in Humanity's name.
Talking TIM into killing himself at the ending. Another indoctrinated pawn of the Reapers falls at the Citadel, much like Saren.
Shooting him yourself is just as satisfying.
As is executing the greatest possible "Fuck You" to TIM when invading his base:
The "Eye of the Hurricane" achievement; or rather, killing a Brute as it charges at Shepard? Badass. Try killing a Brute as it charges at Shepard, by using the Biotic Charge.
You want even more awesome? Do that in multiplayer with your level 20 character and no Bullet Time.
How about the final fight? Shepard's team completely alone defending their last missiles, while the bulk of Hammer is falling, and any victorious reaper forces going against you, the only things you can hear are the banshee's screams, and the sound of the reaper's beam and scream. And then, if you hadn't enough with too many banshees for your own good, the reaper destroyers starts targeting you. And only then the music starts.
Renegade Shepard's speech convincing the Quarians not to open fire on the Geth was particularly amazing. "A few years ago, I saved you from the geth at the Citadel. Just recently I helped you take out that dreadnought. But I'm through saving you. If you keep attacking, I will stand and watch as the geth lay you to waste." They listen.
Paragon Shepard's interrupt when Admiral Xen starts talking about how she wants to run tests on Legion:
Xen: This is a fascinating prototype. With some study, I may be able to use it to find a weakness in the Geth consensus.
Shepard: Legion helped me in the fight against the Collectors.
Shepard: (interrupting) I don't think you want to continue this line of thought, Admiral. Legion is my friend, and more importantly, he's our best source of information on the Geth.
Xen: The scientific benefits-
Shepard: Are off the table.
This scene becomes doubly awesome if you just took the Renegade interrupt to punch Han'Gerrel in the stomach for firing on the dreadnought while you were still inside. There's a heavy subtext of "I just punched one Quarian admiral and threw him off my ship. You want to make it two?"
It's especially impressive if you can then bring about a peaceful end to the Morning War. You have managed to seriously piss off fully half of the Quarian Admiralty Board, and still get them on side.
Eve, full stop. All we've seen among the Krogan are bloodthirsty idiots. Wrex is Gandhi by comparison, but Eve - it seems that she's the real leader of the Krogan. To wit, she made the most subtle power grab in the galaxy and almost no one saw it. She accepted Wrex's plan to consolidate all the females - and in doing so, she turned the genophage into a biological Lysistrata Gambit. She's clearly intelligent, has no use for idiocy, and is willing to let the male Krogans play their games. She also knows why the Salarians and Council created the genophage, and won't repeat that mistake again. She may allow the Krogans to regenerate en masse to fight the Reapers, but she broadly hints that she's going to make sure the Krogan limit their reproduction (and generally, mothers don't want to deal with a dozen kids anyway.)
To say nothing of Eve snatching away Wrex's shotgun during the rescue, uses it to mow down two Cerberus shock troopers, and then tosses the shotgun back at Wrex and mocking his overly polite chivalry at the same time. Also doubles as a Crowning Moment of Funny.
Post-ending flashcards, if Wreav is the Urdnot leader but Eve survived, have one of Wreav building a krogan army... and one of Eve facing him with an army of her own.
Say what you will about the endings, but The Stinger, where the trilogy is implied to have been a story an old man identified as "Stargazer" is telling his grandson, will blow minds upon realizing that the old man is voiced by Buzz Aldrin.
Boy: Did all that really happen? Stargazer: Yes, but some of the details have been lost in time. It all happened so very long ago. Boy: When can I go to the stars? Stargazer: One day, my sweet. Boy: What will be there? Stargazer: Anything you can imagine. Our galaxy has billions of stars. Each of those stars could have many worlds. Every world could be home to a different form of life. And every life is a special story of its own. Boy: Tell me another story about the Shepard. Stargazer: It's getting late but, okay... one more story.
Speak to Kirrahe before going into the STG labs. He promises Shepard that, regardless of the decisions of the politicians, the salarian STG will help when called. Particularly if you later cure the genophage, pissing off Dalatrass Linron and causing her to revoke the official salarian support for the fleet to retake Earth, seeing an entire branch of the salarian military essentially telling their leaders Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right is pretty damn awesome.
Cerberus are revealed to be semi-huskified and heavily indoctrinated. Check out their reaction to Shepard showing up on Mars;
Miranda gets one for appearing to be the only person in the entire galaxy who doesn't expect (or ask) Shepard to solve her problems. Every time you meet her you can offer to help her, and every time she tells you that you have bigger things to worry about. Sure, she ends up needing your help in the end, but that doesn't detract from how far she got on her own.
There's also her badass biotic takedown of her own father Henry Lawson if you should succeed in persuading him to let Oriana go.
The Alliance cruiser SSV Shanghai pulls off an insane off-screen rescue mission; evacuating a colony in the span of an hour.
On the battle for Earth, EDI gets her's as she personally guides two Thanix Missiles directly into the "eye" of the poor Reaper Destroyer guarding the beam, ensuring its destruction. Her post mortem one-liner is just as awesome: "Destroyer terminated!"
As you're firing the Thanix Missiles on Earth at the Destroyer defending the Citadel beam, the cutscene will show your squadmates defending you. Depending on who you have and what weapons equipped can sometimes alter what happens as they shoot incoming Cannibals and Husks. Such as Tali shooting a Cannibal point blank in the face. With a Claymore. One handed.
Shepard:No. I'm going to end this war on my terms.
Catalyst:Then you are going to die knowing that you failed to save everything you fought for.
Shepard:I fight for freedom, mine and everybody's. I fight for the right to choose our own fate. And if I die, I'll die knowing that I did everything I could to stop you. And I'll die free.
Catalyst:SO BE IT!
EC turns the original, of-questionable-quality endings into actually pretty badass endings. Special mention goes to the Control ending, where Shepard becomes all of the Reapers and essentially names himself/herself as GOD-EMPEROR OF SPACEKIND.
The Destroy ending. The Reapers are utterly defeated, with races all of the Galaxy celebrating with their burnt out carcasses in the background. The relays and Citadel are damaged, but quickly repaired, and the ending implies that the Citadel takes root above a restored Earth, now the epicenter of galactic politics. Yes, the geth and EDI die, but they die because Shepard chose to reject, as they did, the Reapers as a source of progress and advancement, instead giving life a future utterly free of them. On top of all that, Shepard lives, and will likely be reunited with his crew very soon.
The Destroy ending has an additional, awesome implication: The Catalyst makes it clear that it believes that the cycle of organic conflict with synthetics will continue if you go with this option. In other words, the Catalyst is willing to let you destroy the entire cycle, millions of years of maintaining this process of genocide and construction, and take your chances on a cycle that it believes is inevitable, simply through virtue of the fact that Shepard united the galaxy and brought the Crucible to the Citadel. The Catalyst is willing to let you destroy everything it created, and in the process invalidate the entire purpose that it followed unwaveringly for millions of years, because Shepard is just that badass.
The Synthesis ending is just as good, in a different way. You get to bring all organic life to a higher state of existence and the Reaper's archive of all the millions of years worth of diverse civilizations, culture, and knowledge that they harvested can live once again among the newly ascended species. Itís a Singularity gone right.
The Control ending: Shepard basically becomes God; uploading into the Citadel basically supplants the Catalyst as the controlling entity of the Reapers and his/her perspective expands to an incomprehensibly vast scale. Using the Reapers, which are now implements of his/her will, Shepard repairs the Relay Network, and goes about restoring the damage done much like how the Synthesis-Reapers do in the Synthesis ending, and then wards over galactic civilization. Essentially, Shepard's chosen method, be it Paragonic or Renegade, is basically saying "You're doing it wrong" to the Catalyst.
Not as big as most moments listed here, but Paragon Shepard admitting to Wrex, Eve and Mordin about the Salarian Dalatrass wanting him/her to sabotage the Genophage cure. Even if Shepard needs the help of the Salarians, s/he won't betray Wrex's trust, is also a Crowning Momentof Heartwarming.
Using the Renegade interrupt after Liara's "father" mentions the possibility of the Matriarchs ordering a hit on her, if she's your LI.
Shepard: That's not going to happen.
Aethyta: (slightly taken aback) No argument here. I only took these crap jobs to keep the matriarchs happy she's under control.
Aethyta: (laughs) Maybe you're good enough for her after all.
The aftermath of the Extended Cut could be seen as a CMOA for BioWare itself. The fact that it was able to end one of the biggest fan backlashes in video game history without fundamentally rewriting the ending is pretty impressive. Of course, there's still a Broken Base but considering the enormous scale of the controversy, this is a massive acomplishment. Good job BioWare.
Doubles as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming that they even bothered to do the Extended Cut, and that they brought back every person who did voice acting for the game in some measure, and made the DLC free.
At the end of Grissom Academy Shepard finds an abandoned Atlas Mech. Given the difficulty of the mission and what Cerberus had turned into it's a wonder s/he and Jack were not jumping up and down in glee. The player most certainly will be though, stomping around nigh invulnerable gunning down Space Nazis.
On Rannoch Shepard badassfully mans the turret on the Normandy's shuttle. A Geth fires a rocket at it and it goes through the open hatch on one side and out the other. Whoa.
From the launch trailer, Shepard turns their back on a husk, completely dismissing them to instead go and perform a flying take down of a Brute, with a look on their face that clearly says, "Finally, at least they gave me a challenge!"
The description/Codex entry for the planet Cyone. "The three species are so determined to defend Cyone that integration issues have been negligible."
In Leviathan, we discover that The Remnant of the Leviathan race have watched the Reaper's harvest civilizations for millions of years and in all the many Cycles, nothing has ever changed. However, the Leviathan go on to refer to Shepard as "An Anomaly", having not only become the first serious threat the Reapers have ever faced, but the first thing they've seen the Reaper actually fear!
Finally, a little moment, but when Shepard gives his/her final words to the Leviathan about joining the war effort against the Reapers, the Leviathan actually goes silent. It's avatar in Shepard's mind stops walking and just stands there, saying nothing for about 10 seconds, thinking on Shepard's words, before finally admitting to understanding why the Reapers fear this seemingly Puny Earthling.
As you're leaving Despoina, a Reaper dreadnought — the big two-kilometers-long Harbinger-class, mind — drops out of orbit, straight at your shuttle... and Leviathan just turns it off.
The creator of the Reapers and their cycles? Yeah, you change its mind on the Reapers. It is even willing to help you destroy the Reapers, even though doing so leaves its problem of organic/synthetic conflict unaddressed. Shepard's been shown to be very charismatic throughout the series, but never before have they persuaded someone that Shepard's goal is more important than the very reason for its existence.
Aria's paragon speech to the Omega population is a callback to "I am Omega!"
Aria: WE. ARE. OMEGA.
After Nyreen makes a Heroic Sacrifice, Aria goes on a short but very satisfying Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Highlights include using her biotics in such a way itís only been seen in cutscenes before, some of which are strong enough to stagger Shepard. And when you do get to Petrovsky, Aria- who's probably one of the most potent Biotics seen in the series- foregoes all of that to choke him to slowly to death.
A collective CMOA for Shepard and Nyreen in Omega if playing full-Paragon. Throughout the mission, various characters (including Aria herself) keep telling Shepard that no matter what you do, Aria will never change her die-hard Renegade ways. However, if you stick to the Paragon's path, Aria lets Petrovsky go—something she would have never even considered before journeying with Shepard and Nyreen's sacrifice.
Aria's entire shift into Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory is brilliantly written, since you see it slowly dawn on her why Paragon Shepard and Nyreen have such Undying Loyalty from their respective teams. Instead of treating the people of Omega like mere cannon-fodder for Cerberus, by acting diplomatic and trying to prevent unnecessary civilians casualties, she has gained an loyal army of followers, ready to fight and die for her.
Meta-example: After Bioware's attempt to improve the ending with Extended Cut DLC evidently failed to impress some members of the forums, some dedicated gamers got together, put their skills to use and created their own original ending; while it's not perfect by any means, it's damned impressive from a group of amateurs, and also a CMOA of a different kind considering that they elected for this rather than some of the... lessthan appropriate reactions of some fans.
The reintroduction of Wrex in Citadelis GLORIOUS: A shuttle full of troops drops down and opens fire on Shepard, only to have Wrex krogan airdrop down on it hard enough to force it to the ground, jump inside, shoulder tackle a CAT6 mercenary, causing the entire shuttle to rock back for a moment, and start tossing guys out. Wrex does this without pulling out his gun even once. Kind of easy if you're a krogan, weigh a metric ton, and are in melee range with humans who didn't turn their shields on, but still.
During the attack at the Sushi restaurant in Citadel, a biotic Shepard finally uses his/her biotics in a cinematic.
Likewise, Shepard's rescuer will use a character-appropriate means of taking out a pair of mooks. Ashley and Garrus simply shoot them as they would be expected to. Tali zaps them with her omni-tool. Kaidan and Liara use their biotics, and like Shepard, this is the first time Kaidan uses his biotics in a cutscene.
"Citadel" lets Shepard and Wrex team up one last time to kick some major ass.
Glyph's Big Damn Heroes moment. Shepard and their crew are trapped inside air sealed containers with only an hour before they run out of oxygen. As the camera slowly zooms out and reveals just how many containers there are and how slim the chances of escaping/getting discovered in time are, Shepard calls for Glyph. And suddenly you see this tiny blue ball of light appearing in a sea of darkness and containers, floating to the exact container Shepard is trapped in. Hadn't it been there, Shepard and their crew might've had no hope of surviving.
Made even more awesome that while some of the squadmates are worrying about their currentpredicament and the limited amount of oxygen, Shepard's too busy worrying "Do I Really Sound Like That?". When they ask him/her to take the situation seriously, Shepard reveals that they knew Glyph was outside and could get them out at any time!
Also, the player gets to see her preparing to break the handcuffs out of sight... then she stops, realizing the futility of it.
If Shepard doesn't shoot her, your squadmates are more than happy to do the deed. Complete with their own unique Bond One-Liners. Hell, they even use unique weapons depending on who takes the shot (i.e. Garrus uses a sniper rifle, Tali uses a shotgun, etc).
Joker: (into communicator) Maintenance to the shuttle bay.
Traynor finally defeating her rival, T'Souza. The latter is left catatonic from how badly she got her ass kicked. Or from the game's pain feedback mechanic.
Shepard:(dramatic closeup)Kick her ass.
The Citadel DLC as a whole is a giant CMOA for Shepard's teammates and close allies. As noted above, even GLYPH gets his moment to shine at the end of a mission which involves everyone fighting alongside Shepard for a change, not just two people. Which is also ultimately what allows Shepard to triumph over his/her clone.
Let's face it, the Citadel DLC is one for the entire production team. It's basically a 6-7 hour long love note to the fans and goodbye to the trilogy and its almost universally beloved cast of characters. It's really hard to think of DLC getting much better than this. Whether BioWare or the voice actors, all of them delivered their A-Game and really sent the trilogy off on a high note.
The fact that they do the logical thing and have every playable character come along for once. Sure you only have two in your personal squad, but this aversion of Arbitrary Headcount Limit is glorious both in that it is logical, and in just how it shows off whyWe Cannot Go On Without You. Shepard still does almost all the work.
If you saved the Geth but let the Quarians die, when you speak to the Geth Prime before the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, it tells you that the Reapers contacted them once after Rannoch, and they flatly refused to give up their newly acquired sapience, with no compromise. Yes, the Geth finally gave the Reapers the finger once and for all.
LI!Garrus and Female!Shepard dancing the "Vakarian Tango" on the Citadel. The in-game crowd's reaction says it all.
Doubles as a Crowning Moment of Funny as well, considering Shepard's initial reaction.
Garrus did the impossible. He made Shepard dance well.
At one point, Shepard and his/her two squad members get surrounded by CAT6 mercenaries. The two squad members go up a ladder while Shepard covers them, however they barely get up and there's too many for Shepard to risk climbing up. Cue the entire Normandy ground team plus Wrex coming in for a Big Damn Heroes moment and unleashing hell on all of the CAT6 mercs in the vicinity.
Mysterious Figure: You're just cybernetics! Scarred, worn-out Cerberus tech!
Shepard: You know where I got those scars? Feros and Noveria and Virmire and Ilos! At the Collector Base and Palaven and Tuchanka and Rannoch and Thessia! I earned these scars protecting the galaxy! You got yours from a petri dish!
The Armax Combat Arena - Shepard and (if the player chooses) two squadmates take on simulated enemies. Pretty cool, right? Well, the squadmates available are everyone who's ever been in Shepard's squad and hasn't died, so the player can have Shepard being backed up by both Wrex and Grunt, provided they're still alive. And the enemies? Geth, Reapers, and Cerberus (Now bolstered by Dragoon troopers), and the Collectors. Hell yes.
All topped by the fifth enemy. The player classes. The first round sends you up against the Soldier, the Engineer, and the Adept. The second round sends you against the Vanguard, the Sentinel, and the Infiltrator. The final round sends you against all six. If you somehow manage to win, the series' final achievement says it all. The One and Only.
Also of note, odds are good that at a certain point you'll get a score of 10,000 or over. The issue with this? The score board only goes as high as 9999. You get a message from the arena staff saying that Krogan Battlesquads haven't been able to get that high. Shepard and crew are so awesome, they broke the game!
The final stage of the "Unusual Scores" mission in the Armax Combat Arena - You go in, expecting the Spin Cycle arena and Super Elite Geth troopers (Read:Geth Primes and Pyros), only for the arena to be a mess of unfinished digital scenery and flashing red "FATAL ERROR" text on the walls and for Collector Praetorians and Abominations to turn up instead. Make it through that, and then the Geth troops turn up, followed by Cerberus Dragoons and Atlases, Banshees and Marauders, and finally, Banshees, Geth Primes, an Atlas and a Praetorian - all at the same time.
After throwing the party at Anderson's apartment in the Citadel DLC, the Normandy's war asset contribution will increase by 35 points (To put things into perspective, the Turian Spec Ops Team is worth 40 points, and a group of Asari Commandos is worth 20). Meaning that by throwing a party and relaxing, Shepard and his/her crew is still contributing to the war effort more than half a fleet worth of firepower!
During the Missing Krogan Scouts mission, you'll constantly run into the deceased members of the scouting party, who are all conveniently carrying flamethrowers and ammo for you to pick up. About a third into the mission, you'll learn that this is the result of a Thanatos Gambit pulled off by the entire squad. They were done for anyway and they knew the next team would need all the help they could get against the Reaper modified Rachni. Every scout charged into the nest and made it as far as possible, deliberately not using their weapons (or at least as little as possible), so that the next team wouldn't be without ammo or firepower, no matter how deep they were in the nest.
In Citadel, Steve shows what he can do when he's piloting something that flies more gracefully than a brick. By Joker's direction, he had to stay within thirty degrees of the Normandy's front to prevent it from jumping to FTL, which put him directly in the line of fire. When he kept dodging that, the Big Bad sicced the shuttle on him to take him out. He kept dodging that too. And he was doing all this in a sky car, while dodging skyscrapers and arguing with Joker.
Steve: It's nice to fly something more maneuverable than the Kodiak for a change.
3 giving you not one, but twoGay Option romances in Steve and Traynor. Despite some Fan Dumb, both characters have been incredibly well received.
Not to mention all the Bi the Way romances- primarily Kaidan, who single-handedly gives that section of the fanbase something that at least feels like the trilogy-spanning romances the m/f and f/f options got.
Cortez is one of the only members of the Normandy support crew to actually fight with the main team- at the climax of the Leviathan DLC, and during Citadel, where he helps the crew in the overall Curb-Stomp Battle against Cat-6.
In the second game, Kasumi will mention she got Shepard into Badass Weekly. The writer for the real life Badass of the Week thought this was the crowning moment of his career and was so flattered he had to write an entry for the site. Guess who.
The only reason it didn't come out earlier was because the author wanted to finish the trilogy first.
In the prologue of Revelation, a young Anderson (recently promoted to N7 status and still a Lieutenant) had a conversation with Admiral John Grissom about the hostilefirst contact with the Turians. In which in a Call Forward, he basely gave a massive middle finger to Saren's "Is submission not preferable to extinction?" philosophy in regards to the Reapers (And perhaps in a way, advocate the 'refuse' ending for Mass Effect 3).
Grissom: Every military engagement has only three options, Lieutenant: engage, retreat, or surrender.'
Garrus gets one in the Mass Effect Genesis DLC comic retelling the events of the first game. What does he do? Well, when Shepard's describing the time when he and his team (Garrus and Tali) are charging up the Citadel, Garrus is flying through the air, dual-wielding pistols and firing at Husks left, right and center.
Tali is also dual-wielding at the time, although she's on foot rather than jumping around.
There's an app that can be downloaded to smartphones that will track your progress in game and send you messages accordingly, as though you are Shepard in real life. How cool is that?
Unfortunately, in Summer 2013, the app was removed. So far, the messaging function hasn't been available elsewhere.
Shepard has, like, half the entries on this page. Well if one were to look at the character page s/he has one all to themselves. Detailing Shepard's exploits. How many characters full stop have their own page? It's a testament to just how awesome s/he is that Naruto, Batman, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Buffy Summers, or anyone else had not hit that level of Troper Critical Mass.
The character designs are so popular that people have recreated them in real life. Thisand this are pretty CM for Mass Effect Coplay. Though it'd probably be better called special effect artists play dress up.