Talitha: Will I have bad dreams? Shepard: You'll dream of a warm place. And when you wake up, you'll be in it.
Hugging her is perhaps the sweetest thing Colonist!Shepard will ever do.
If your player character is female, it's incredibly evocative of Newt asking the same question of Ripley in Aliens.
And then for extra warm fuzzies, if you saved Talitha in ME1, in ME2 she will send you a message telling you that she is mentally healing. The message is clear and lucid, showing that yes, you did help her. Saving the galaxy is good and all, but it's the personal stuff that really hits home.
You get the same message if you took the "Tough Love" Renegade route. Even when Shepard's not sweetness and light, s/he's just as good at saving people.
Just goes to show that even Renegade Shep has a heart too.
Talitha: Will I have bad dreams? Shepard: I'm not going to lie to you. I just don't know. But I know you are strong enough to face it.
After Samesh Bhatia asks you to get his wife's body returned to him, after you convince the government official to release her, when you return to the man to tell him his wife is coming home, even Renegade Shepard has a gentle tone of voice and is truly sorry for the man. It's small things like that that show that even when going straight renegade, Renegade Shep still does care, deep down.
A Paragon Shep can feed her/his Renegade thirst a little and push the official around, and Rene!Shep threatens to storm in and take the body, willing to gun down anyone s/he needs to if that's what it takes. Between the number of ways Shepard can be a Jerk Ass or evil it says a lot.
For more warm fuzzies, if you also romance Tali in ME2, she lists this as one of the reasons she loves Shepard.
Can double as a Crowning Moment of Funny if you know that there's a back-up if you run out of nerve gas grenades. If you choose not to use any at all, you can get those 32 paragon points and the colonists' thanks for punching them all in the face!
Benezia's final words to Liara, telling her she's always been proud of her, which also serves as a Tear Jerker.
The romance path for Kaidan is very moving, particularly his speech to Shepard in its final scene: "I think about losing you and I can't stand it. The galaxy will just keep going. Everything, even the Reapers, will come around again. But you and I—we—are important right now. This is what will never happen again. Us."
Equally the other romances—Ash ends on a note of combining CMoF/CMoH as she challenges Shepard to return alive in order to hear her declaration of love. On the other hand, Liara wants nothing more than to spend possibly the last night of her life with Shepard. She insists on it.
If you get enough Paragon points over the course of the game, 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.
A man and a woman are having a heated argument about her unborn baby. The man (Michael), her late husband's brother, is insisting that she gets gene therapy to prevent the heart condition that killed his brother, the woman (Rebekah) is terrified that the therapy could have unforeseen complications on the baby. A combination CMoH and a Tear Jerker occurs when you convince Michael to respect her decision and he breaks down and says that this baby is all he has left of his brother, and he's terrified of losing it.
Combines into another nice CMoF/CMoH in the sequel when you meet them again arguing about the newly born and as far as we know totally healthy baby. This time the roles are reversed with Rebekah being the fussy mother and Michael being laid back about letting the boy be.
Anyone who's read the first Mass Effect book, Revelation, before Mass Effect knew Saren was absolute scum, even more so than portrayed in the game. Choosing the Paragon path and convincing Saren to kill himself, as himself is pretty heartwarming, because it convinced a cynical, violent, Machiavellian creep to do the right thing. His "Thank you" to Shepard, knowing how virulently anti-human he is, makes it doubly satisfying.
Tali and Shepard talking about her pilgrimage and her need to return to the Fleet:
Tali: The only thing I can offer in return is what you already have: My solemn promise to stay with you until Saren and his Geth armies are defeated. Shepard: I'm going to miss you when you go back to your own people, Tali. Tali: That won't happen for a while yet. I'll be right here any time you need me. Shepard: I never wanted anything more.
If you took the Relationship Upgrade in the second or third games, this exchange takes on some interesting subtext.
There's lots of stuff in the first game that becomes Harsher in Hindsight or Hilarious in Hindsight, and of course plenty of "Funny Aneurysm" Moments. But there's also a bit of Heartwarming in Hindsight with Tali. In a few conversations, she mentions that she's under a lot of pressure because there are high expectations for an Admiral's daughter, and she doubts she'll ever be able to live up to her father's example. She also states that her people's greatest desire is to get their home world back. Playing this again after Mass Effect 3, in which she not only becomes an Admiral but can also play an instrumental role in winning back her homeworld, most certainly doing her late father proud in the process, is absolutely heartwarming. I'm so glad I could make your dreams come true, Tali.
She's also instrumental to allow for the possibility of a Geth/Quarian peace, which, if pulled off, kickstarts the Quarians into rebuilding their homeworld and improving their immune systems decades ahead of schedule. She not only gets the homeworld, but allows for many who would not live to see it fully realized see it fully realized.
Releasing the Rachni Queen. There's just something beautifully uplifting about the fact that you saved an entire species from extinction through a simple act of kindness.
Rachni Queen: We will sing of your forgiveness to our children.
A heartwarming moment that doesn't really occur to you at first. For fifty thousand years, Vigil stood by, waiting to give the information to the people of the next cycle, knowing that there was a good chance that no one would ever connect the dots to a point where they'd make it to Ilos in time. He speaks of how he'd had to shut down portions of the facility over that time to save power, and, indeed, by the next game, he's gone completely offline, perhaps even not long after you spoke to him. In just speaking to him, you made his existence mean something and worth it all.
When Ashley asks a Shepard with a Spacer background if they joined the Alliance because of their parents and to uphold the family tradition, one of the responses has Shepard admit with complete sincerity, "Humanity's future is out here. There's so much we have yet to see." When you remember that Spacer Shepard was literally born in Space and grew up on starships, they've come to literally see being amongst the stars as being home.
A lot of Ashley's romance with Shepard really falls into this. Unlike every other romance in the series, it's Shepard who's potentially the Adorkable one, with Ashley laughing at a lot of his cheesy lines. Just the same, that seems to be what she's attracted to.
Talking down Wrex using the Paragon direction. You're doing something that he to his very bones thinks is wrong (destroying the genophage cure), but he tells you that you've done more for him than anyone ever has, including his family, and he'll follow you on blind faith. (Thankfully, Mass Effect 2 and 3 get you to reward Wrex for that faith.)
It's a very small detail, but in the embassy section of the Presidium there is a side office that houses both the Volus and Elcor ambassadors. The Volus, Din Korlack, is curt and unfriendly, but the Elcor Ambassador Calyn is quite the opposite, delighted to welcome Shepard to his office and answer questions about his species. Everything he says is extremely warm-hearted and friendly, not only to Shepard personally but to Humanity in general, and the translator that automatically tells you his tone of voice shows you that it is sincere. Amongst all the anti-human fear, suspicion and occasional outright racism, it's really nice to meet someone who is genuinely happy to have humans around, and who doesn't try to maneuver for some sort of concession with the same breath.
Mass Effect 2
The romance paths for Tali, Garrus, Thane and the paragon versions for Jack and Miranda certainly qualify. The focus for them isn't even on the sex, it's all about trust and how far the characters have come along. Some of the most touching moments of the romances are: Tali's stunned and almost grateful reaction when she hears that Shepard returns the feelings she's been hiding since their first meeting. The underlying tone that Shepard is Garrus' closest remaining friend, which overcomes all obstacles as long as they can have something that goes right. Thane's realization that he has yet something to live for after meeting Shepard and the subsequent 'awakening' that brings back the fear of death. Jack and Miranda reaching out beyond the layers upon layers of defense mechanisms and bitterness they have each constructed to realize that Shepard is being genuine and doesn't just want to use them. Listening to what they say really tugs on the heartstrings, and shows how well Bioware can make characters that you truly feel for.
Especially Garrus's romance sidequest. Not until then do you really understand what Yeoman Chambers said about 'wanting to give him a hug and tell him everything'll be all right':
Shepard: Calm down, Garrus. You're worrying too much. And talking too much. Garrus: I just...I've seen so many things go wrong, Shepard. My work at C-Sec, what happened with Sidonis... [Shepard moves closer] Garrus: I want something to go right. Just once. Just... [Shepard touches Garrus's cheek; they gently press their foreheads together]
Garrus: Look, Shepard, I know you can find something a little closer to home. Shepard: I don't want something closer to home. I want you.
For Miranda's romance, if you choose the no promises you see a very emotional Miranda which will give you a little smile when she hugged Shepard.
Shepard finally seeing Tali's face for the first time is just golden.
All of Tali's romance is adorable. Her stuttering and Motor Mouth tendencies when you first start showing an interest in her, all the way through to her determination to show herself to you, even if it means her suffering allergic reactions to... well, everything.
Tali: Just so you know, I'm running a fever, I've got a nasty cough, and my sinuses are filled with something I can't even describe...and it was totally worth it.
Also during Tali's romance, she explains part of her why she fell so head-over-heels in love with Shepard, which is absolutely awesome as a Paragon type. It also shows that, while the Rescue Romance aspect of their relationship kickstarted her feelings for him, there's plenty to love him for anyway.
Shepard: And if you weren't jeopardizing anything? Tali: If it were just me? You risked your own life to save the colonists on Feros, two years ago. Nobody else could have saved them. I watched your face as Chief Williams/Lieutenant Alenko died on Virmire. I watched you stand strong against everything the galaxy threw at you. I watched you for so long... and I never imagined that you'd ever see past...this.
At the end of Thane's scene where he is crying openly, admitting that he is afraid of death once again now that he has someone to live for. Quoted: "I consider my body's death and a chill settles my gut. I am afraid and it shames me." "Thane...be alive with me tonight." And they kiss. That was so beautiful it almost makes people cry.
Jack's romance. When she confronts you, she finally breaks down and cries, overcome by the idea that for the first time in her life, someone genuinely loves her. Knowing Jack finally found someone she can love and be with, without having to worry about back stabbing or abandonment, was wonderful. The scene reached its crowning moment with her lying in Shepard's arms... with a comforted smile on her face.
The way she's just standing there, totally unable to express herself, and then Shepard just strokes her cheek and tells her "It's okay" before she hugs him with a desperate, yearning expression. It really drives home just how vulnerable Jack is at that moment.
The best part may be continually talking to her. The leadup just shows how Shepard can care so much for his crew. This line in particular stands out:
Shepard: I can't make that all go away, Jack. Not in a few talks. Jack: No kidding. Told you we wouldn't work. Guess you'll be spending a little more time upstairs. Shepard: No. I'll be here with you. Jack: But you just said...? Shepard: I said I couldn't fix it. I didn't say you weren't worth staying for anyway.
Jack is caught off guard. She's lived in a Crapsack World for so long, the one thing that throws her for a loop is kindness.
Even if they don't form a romantic relationship and only become friends, Paragon!Shepard's kindness is enough to make Jack completely change the direction of her life and go from a broken psychopath bent on nothing but revenge and hatred into a respected (if unconventional) trainer at an elite academy who genuinely cares for her students. That's got to evoke at least a few warm fuzzies in even the most jaded soul.
And if they do wind up in a relationship, a Paragon Shepard can snark at her when she expresses how unsure she is because a supportive relationship is so alien to her. She snarks back, but she also gives a genuine smile - not a Slasher Smile or a Psycho Smirk, but a heartfelt "I'm fighting this grin because you're making fun of me" smile. Seeing that was worth all the trouble.
Seeing the picture of Shepard's romantic interest from Mass Effect for the first time as it lights up on her desk. And later, before embarking on the final, presumably one-way trip through the Omega-4 relay, seeing Shepard giving the picture one last, long look before marching off to give a Rousing Speech to his/her crew.
Hearing about various news items related to the events of the first game in the sequel, particularly one involving the Kaidan Alenko Memorial Scholarship for young biotic children as a successor of BAaT and the Ascension Project may also count.
Similarly, if Ashley was killed on Virmire, you get news that she is given immense posthumous honors, and the stigma associated with the "Williams" name is finally wiped clean. Also that some of the greatest honors she received were from other species, with the media using a (if you knew Ash) rather blunt quote from her that's taken as being pro-alien. The result is that not only is the Williams line redeemed, but Ash will be remembered as a peacemaker between the species.
Reminiscing about old friends with Dr. Chakwas over a bottle of brandy.
Shepard: To the people we care for. Dr. Chakwas: May we never take them for granted.
Additionally a Crowning Moment of Funny. Chakwas's rendition of Jenkins is AWESOME! And she ends up passed out on one of the beds afterwards.
And for the hat trick, partial Tear Jerker. Chakwas talks about how she needs stability, as most of the people she has encountered have died or moved on.
Also displays her Undying Loyalty to Shepard as she talks about how s/he's one of the main reasons that she came back as Shepard (and Joker) help give her that stability.
On the Quarian flotilla, defending Tali from an accusation of treason, you can put the icing on the cake in the situation. Tali had been referred to as "Tali'Zorah vas Normandy" throughout the trial - signifying that the Admiralty Board had apparently already made up their minds as to her guilt. When asked why you went to so much trouble to help one of their people, you can fire back with a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming of "With all due respect Admiral, I didn't represent one of your people - I represented one of mine." Tali winds up keeping the "vas Normandy" part of her name, showing that she's with your crew permanently (hopefully).
Not to mention one of the Paragon action commands earlier on in that sequence, after you find Tali's dead dad, the admiral. Who had been illegally experimenting with dead Geth parts. Paragon Shep grabs Tali and gives her a big hug.
The Renegade version of the trial is just as awesome. To quote from the Awesome Moments page, "...the Renegade solution to Tali's trial manages to be just as awesome, wherein Shepard probably shows more honest anger than he/she 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 pretty much the exact words used) 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 find Tali not guilty. Made even more awesome by the capper to Shepard's whole rant against the Admirals:"
Shepard: Either you trust Tali's innocent or you exile the girl who helped save the galaxy from Saren and the Geth! Your choice.
Oddly enough, the neutral action is right on par with both Renegade and Paragon actions at this point... provided you'd let the Quarians, rather than Cerberus, take in Veetor.When you pick Rally The Crowd, both Kal'Reegar, who had already testified to the Admirals, and Veetor'Nara, who's barely recovered from some serious PTSD, stand up for Tali, essentially telling the Admirals to screw themselves. And Reegar flat-out calls them assholes - the admirals of the Quarian flotilla!
Not really "neutral," since you get a boatload of Paragon points for that or any of the "nice" options, Charm or otherwise.
Fridge Brilliance: You get Paragon points for the 'neutral' option because you had to make Paragon choices in order for that option to even exist.
Shepard's speech to the Admirals as the Paragon choice once you get back to the Rayya to finish the trial should also count, as it's Tali's reaction to it after the trial that always tug at the heartstrings.
Shepard: Tali, about what your father said, what he did... You deserved better. Tali: I got better, Shepard. I got you.
Also during her personal mission, Shepard and Tali are talking about her father died trying to keep the promise of building a house on the Quarian homeworld, in one of the dialogue option we have Shepard promise to Tali that: If her father couldn't keep that promise, s/he will.
Another big one for Tali during her personal mission is after completing it successfully and getting Tali exonerated without condemning her father, you can tell Tali it's time to go home. Tali's response: "Yes... Captain." Knowing Quarian culture, Tali acknowledging Shepard as her captain is a very big deal.
And yet another one when you finish Tali's quest. You get to joke with her about going back in and getting her exiled 'if you want.' Just seeing the strength of their relationship, represented by such a single two line dialogue, is one of those little human elements which makes the game hit so close to home.
Just as heartwarming if it isn't the start of a relationship. Then it's just Shepard being A Father to His Men.
If you haven't killed Wrex and you visit Tuchanka in the second game, he'll see you being blocked by the krogan guards, jump up from his throne and warmly greet you, saying, "Shepard, my friend!" as the original theme musicnote "Vigil's Theme" to Mass Effect 1 plays.
What makes this one so heartwarming is that Wrex has the single strongest reaction to seeing Shepard alive again. Everyone else ranges from mild shock, happiness, anger, to apathy, but Wrex is ecstatic to see his friend alive and well.
The reunion with Wrex. The very moment he calls Shepard's name in a surprised but happy tone of voice and greets us with a warming hand and arm shake then calling him/her his friend.
Shepard: Saving everyone only happens in vids. There will be sacrifices. Being in charge means making sure they lead to the greater objective. That's a reality shared by all soldiers, in command and on ground. Don't you dare suggest I made that call lightly! al-Jilani: I didn't mean to accuse— Shepard: You'redamn rightyou didn't! I won't let you disrespect anyone who gave their life that day. They're heroes—all of them! They deserve better than you.
If Conrad Verner is alive and you help him complete his "mission" and make him think the two of you actually did some good, he swears off the "extreme mercenary" thing and instead founds a charity to help orphans and other lost children in the wake of Sovereign and the Geth attacks. The kicker? He names the organization "Shepards."
If you use a save editor to fix the glitch which makes the game think you intimidated him no matter what, he'll be claiming to be your second in command instead and practically cry with joy the second he sees you're alive. And to make it better, the reason he's faking a connection to you? You were gone and someone had to protect the galaxy.
Joker: It's good to be home, eh Commander? Shepard: I guess we'll have to give her a name.
The asari on Illium who gives you a message from the rachni queen. Every single word is pure gratitude and devotion... A Gondor Calls for Aid scenario in ME 3 is likely to be highly awesome.
Even before that, freeing the queen from her containment cell. Even if Wrex is there to tell you that you're making a grave mistake, from the solemn glance downwards, to hearing that music swell up as Shepard activates the release sequence, couldn't be further from that sour, yellow note her kind had endured in the past.
Finding Navigator Pressly's diary in the "Wreckage of the Normandy" DLC, in which we (and Pressly himself) see how far he's come in abandoning his Fantastic Racism and proudly declaring he'd die for any one of his crew, regardless of which planet they were born on.
For this reason, the spot where Pressly's datapad was found seems to be a popular place among players to set up the monument.
Thane's reunion with his son becomes made of this trope as the confessions spill over.
Thane: I've removed many bad things from the world. You're the only good thing I ever added to it.
Professor Mordin Solus declaring that all life is precious.
Finding Liara on Illium, if she was Shepard's romantic interest in Mass Effect. The display of affection is brief, but sweet. And you will want to give her a hug when she nearly bursts into tears while explaining that she's in her current situation because she didn't want to lose Shepard.
Even if you didn't romance Liara in the first game, you still gotta appreciate all the crap she went through for you.
Out of everyone on Shep's team, Liara has to be the most dedicated; she went through all this effort, with no guarantee that it would succeed, at great personal cost and risk, asking nothing in return and still willing to help however she's able when it's all over with the Shadow Broker. All the stuff she's given is nothing short of humbling, especially if there's no romantic motive.
Even better is at the end of Lair of the Shadow Broker with a romanced Liara. She begins to kiss Shepard, but backs off, saying it's been two years. Most gamers can't hit that Paragon interrupt fast enough, when he kisses her, and she smiles and says, "Okay... okay..."
Realizing, in the end, that the team of specialists you've assembled has become True Companions somewhere along the way, willing to work, fight and die together.
Especially during the suicide mission — having played through the entire game with almost no interaction between the specialists (damn you for that, BioWare!), seeing your teammates willing to hold the line for people they may not even like is sweet.
Watching the other scenarios in which members died (none of mine ever did in any playthrough), there's a big difference in Miranda's reactions. In the ones in which people are dying, she looks distressed, but the more you go through the game in the "Everyone Lives" ending, her smile gets bigger and bigger - remember, she was the one who predicted it would be a suicide mission before they set out, and now she's beginning to realize everyone is going to live and is ecstatic about it. Gives more weight to her resignation if she's there when Shepard tells TIM he's going to destroy the Collector base.
Defusing the situation between Tali and Legion after you complete both their personal quests. You realize that not only do these two trust Shep enough to have faith in their ancestral enemy, you may have just set in motion the end of a 300-year war.
Which, in the third game, actually helps in favor of peacefully resolving the Quarian/Geth war.
Listening to Tali's journal entries on Haestrom gives you a beautiful picture of a strong, clever, resourceful young woman out in the world, doing things her way... and using your actions and her time with you as a touchstone and source of inspiration (even Shepard's "nice job" with the mining laser). You changed her life for the better, and it really shows.
Tali: I wish my friends could see this. I wish Shepard were here.
Encouraging Miranda to say hi to her sister just gives everyone a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Especially when she outright tears up. SomeIce Queen.
Two krogan talking on Tuchanka. And one of them thinks that one of the children living in the females' camp might be his son.
A background series of conversations tug at the heartstrings: On Tuchanka, a krogan discovers he has a son. Everything he talks about regarding him is just somehow so sweet and caring, and coming from a krogan just makes it all the sweeter. Might also overlap with Tear Jerker since he only gets to spend time with the kid on the brief occasions the females bring the children over from their camp, and he doesn't have a way to be sure.
Kaidan's comment from the first game - that aliens are just like individual people - echoes very much throughout the game as well.
What makes this conversation even more heartwarming is his friend's reaction to the news. Most conversations overheard between krogans in the game sound pretty harsh, often with one krogan belittling or insulting the other. At best, you get a sense of Vitriolic Best Buds. However, the other krogan in this conversation sounds genuinely delighted for his friend and suggests getting a drink to celebrate.
Running into Helena Blake on Omega. If you convinced her to break up her gang, she's become a social worker. On Omega. When Shepard remarks that it's more noble than s/he thought, Helena will remark (in a sincere and grateful tone) that it wasn't noble of her, just that "someone" told her that she could use her skills and resources for something better.
When asked why he used a chunk of Shepard's armor to repair himself, Legion quietly says "...There was a hole...". If you persist, asking why Legion had to use YOUR armour, his head flaps freak out and he stares at Shepard for a long moment... and then says, "No data available..."
To those of you who don't know Legion very well: Shepard basically managed to win the love of an "entity" actually composed of over a thousand of incorporeal, mathematical data beings... Before s/he even met it. him. her. whatever Legion is. Probably "them".
Joker and EDI spend the entire game bickering Like an Old Married Couple. At the end of the game, Joker is forced to remove all the blocks preventing EDI from assuming full control over the ship. They immediately warm up to each other, Joker begins referring to EDI as a "her", and EDI even starts calling him "Jeff". You see, Joker always loved the ship, and now that EDI is the ship...
Joker: You start singing Daisy Bell and I'm done!" EDI: Message away. Are you feeling well, Jeff?
Speaking of Joker, despite being a not-so Covert PervertDisabled Snarker, he shows genuine distress every time someone dies. First shown with Ash/Alenko on Virmire. In the sequel, if Shepard dies a second time, his reaction is bordering on Tear Jerker.
If you choose to help the plague-stricken batarian on Mordin's recruit mission, and if you stay a while after completing it, you can encounter the same batarian on Mordin's clinic where he will thank you for saving his life and admit that he was wrong on his views of humanity.
It's driven further into your heart if you're familiar with how batarians are usually very hateful towards humans. To show him such kindness despite his outward racism to you when you first meet only convinces him further humanity isn't as evil as they have naturally been led to believe. This only makes it all the more embracing when he thanks you.
And, after the Arrival DLC, all the more heartbreaking when you realize that humanity and batarians could have found common ground, but with a colony of over 300,000 batarians wiped out by the actions of humans, if it weren't for the Reaper threat, humans and batarians could easily be at war not long after.
Mordin may also say the following last words (made poignant by how he dismissed Kirrahe's speeches)
Mordin: Tell them... I held the line.
Playing Paragon in Mass Effect 1 was enjoyable but the real reward came in Mass Effect 2. Hearing on the news net that after 2 years of work and loss of political clout Chairman Burns, the UNC hostage Shepard rescued, had managed to get reparations for Biotic victims of the L2 implant. The letter Shepard got from him thanking him/her for showing him what he had to do was icing on the cake.
All the paragon emails in ME2 are wonderful: you really get the sense that you're making the universe a better place, whether on a grand scale or one person at a time.
The email from Samesh Bhatia - in the first game, you had the option of helping him retrieve his wife's body, a marine who died on Eden Prime, from an Obstructive Bureaucrat: he's opened the restaurant she always dreamed of having, her picture hangs on the wall, and Alliance soldiers eat for free. In his words, it's the least he can do to honor her and the soldiers who died fighting for humanity. Excuse me.
Ashley's email, if she was a romantic interest: "Just stay alive out there...Skipper. I can't lose you a second time." In addition, if you do not romance any party members, Shepard will spend a minute with her picture before the suicide mission.
After you complete Jacob's loyalty mission you get this message from one of the recovering survivors:
From: Leslie I am Leslie. I was on Aeia. The food made me sick. The doctors are helping me now. One doctor knows Jacob. He says he can you tell this. He could write this for me, but I want to do it. I need to use my words. My words are coming back. I can talk well. Reading is hard but I am getting better. I have to get better. Taylor wanted me like this. He wanted my words gone. I have to show him that he lost. I am not weak. He did things to me, and he can't now. He can't take away my words. He can't make me not me anymore. Because you and Jacob stopped him. Thank you, Leslie
Even though he can't see it, after you pick up Garrus on Omega, you get a message from the wife of one of his squad members. She tells you that despite what Garrus thinks, she's very proud of both him and her husband for what they were doing. In the end, she tells you to keep Garrus alive, for his team's sake.
On the Citadel, you can aid a quarian who has been accused of pickpocketing a volus. The volus and the C-Sec officer think she's guilty based solely on the fact that she's a quarian. If you find the volus' missing credit chit, he will refuse to apologize and the officer will threaten to run the quarian in for vagrancy. A Paragon interrupt lets you unleash a little well-deserved righteous fury on the both of them, calling them out for their mistreatment of the girl. When the cop threatens you in turn, you intimidate him by letting him know you are (or were) a Spectre. The officer and the volus run away with their tails between their legs.
Lia'Vael: I... thank you. I wish I had more than words to give you.
If Tali is with you when you do this assignment, she pulls off a Crowning Moment of Awesome which is better described on that page. If she isn't, however, Shepard gets another one of these.
Shepard: A ship would make a nice pilgrimage gift. Lia'Vael: You know about the pilgrimage?! Shepard: I traveled with a quarian who was on hers. Lia: I...wow, I didn't know anyone who would do that for one of us.
On Illium, there's a conversation you can eavesdrop on consisting of salarian looking for souvenirs to bring home to his wife together with his asari stepdaughter. When the stepdaughter says he doesn't have to buy a present, he says he wants to get one anyway so his wife will remember him after his death. He loves her. Knowing that normal salarians have no concept of romantic love makes it even sweeter.
It's even more touching when you remember Salarians rarely live past 40 while Asaris live past a thousand, making his fear of being forgotten (form his point of view) justified. It's implied his stepdaughter's dad was ALSO a salarian, but died of old age before he could raise his daughter (meaning she was raised by the one we overhear). It makes it even more touching as she explains how she loves him and considers him her father too.
You can hear her go from casual disinterest to recognizing the subtext to near tears.
Also on Illium, you come across a krogan reciting poetry to his asari girlfriend to win her back, who isn't sure if she's ready to settle down. This hardcore Renegade couldn't bring herself to tell the asari to dump him, he was just too adorable.
Just to hammer that home he's a krogan who recites poetry to try win his girlfriend back. The asari also mentions she was worried he was only seeing her so he could have children without worrying about the Genophage. She explained to him that if they did have kids they would always be asari. He said he'd love their girls no matter what colour they were.
Later in the game, you can find the same krogan and asari couple on Tuchanka. Charr is showing Ereba his homeworld; when she comments that it's a bit dirty, he says that it builds character. Maybe they're already looking for places to start their family.
Turns into a Tearjerker in Mass Effect 3, when Thessia fell. Maybe Tuchanka was a safer place to keep his family since he knows in the event of a war, Thessia would not last long against the weight of an invasion and he knows he will gladly fight to ensure his family is safe. And dies doing so, being part of the scouts Grunt's Aralakh company was sent to investigate.
The conversation with Jacob after his loyalty mission.
Jacob: I'm good, Shepard. Ready for anything! We live, we'll get loud, spill some drinks on the Citadel. [manly hug / fist bump]
If Garrus is with you on Horizon, he'll get pissed and yell back at Ash/Kaidan when they start berating you about Cerberus. Just one of the many little moments that remind you that he always has your back, no matter what kind of crazy situations you drag him into.
His telling them off about Cerberus in Shepard's defense is especially heartwarming considering that, being a turian, he has a far bigger reason to distrust Cerberus than Ashley or Kaidan. In fact, Garrus doesn't trust Cerberus. To him, they're just a means to an end. He trusts Shepard. And that's enough.
Tali flat out tells you as much: she trusts Cerberus as far as she can throw them but her faith and loyalty to Shepard outweigh that, even after Cerberus' sabotage mission against the Flotilla
The Paragon conclusion to the sidequest you get from Shiala on Illium. A very bitter asari named Erinya has put the Zhu's Hope colonists in a drastic legal bind, and as much as admits that she's doing it because of a vendetta against non-asari. If you press her, she'll explain that she lost her bondmate in the original geth uprising, and her daughters in the Battle of the Citadel. (For a bit of extra punch, the daughters are implied to be two very minor side characters from the first game—the asari manning the embassy desk, and the one welcoming you to the Consort's chambers.) The calm genuine sorrow and sympathy that Shepard expresses in the conversation and convincing Erinya that her family wouldn't want this is beautiful. And it clearly has an effect on Erinya, who goes from cold, controlled, and bitter to bawling her eyes out.
Hell, Renegade Shepard suddenly becomes all sensitive and gets much the same result, even gaining Paragon points doing so.
When you go to recruit Grunt, you meet a tank-born krogan on the way. If you ask him questions, he repeatedly tells you that he was 'not perfect' - i.e. he was a failed attempt to genetically breed the perfect krogan, and is now being used as cannon fodder to train mercs. When you finish talking, you offer to have him come with you. He refuses, stating that his purpose is to fight the mercs until he dies. He then says this:
Krogan: I am not perfect, but I have purpose.
It's the voice acting that really sells it.
Of all the shipmates, Grunt's final looped response to your checking in on him is the sweetest, in its own way. The sheer, assured joy in his voice...
Grunt: Battlemaster, I have everything. Clan, kin and enemies to fight.
A bit of Fridge Logic: Grunt's loyalty mission is actually one of the most heartwarming loyalty missions overall regardless of the player's actions. When he first awakens, he claims he has no clan, no name, no real identity to speak of, only taking the name Grunt because it was a word that had no meaning to him. It's only during his loyalty mission that he starts using his I! AM! KROGAN! battle cry. He knew of the Krogan prior to that, he knew that biologically he was created as a Krogan, but as a Proud Warrior Race, it wasn't the genes that made one Krogan, it was the battles they fought. In a way, Shepard completed the work that the warlord Okeer set out to start: create a genuine Krogan, not just cloned shock troops descended from Krogan stock.
Any moment you help an alien race, especially those who believe Humans aren't the sweetest fruit in the basket. It shows that there is more to Humans than most species might think.
Shepard: When I find Mordin, I'll tell him about you. If he has a cure, I'll make sure someone gets it to you. Sick Batarian: Thank you. My time is running short, but at least you have given me a flicker of hope to brighten the darkness of my final hours.
Taken up to eleven when you meet him after succeeding in the recruitment but taking the time to walk around.
Shepard: Remember this the next time you're about to judge our species. Sick Batarian: I was wrong about you, human. I was wrong... about a lot of things.
While walking around the Normandy, you can hear a crewmember talking about the possibility of his family being kidnapped by the Collectors with another crewmember. Mass Effect 2 being Darker and Edgier, it seems unlikely that they'll survive, and the conversations eventually culminate in their colony being attacked by the Collectors. The next time you walk in... they're living in San Francisco, safe and well. Listen one more time, and you hear that he's listening to his baby giggle over and over. It's a bright spot in a fairly bleak game.
In fact, he mentions being unable to see his baby because of the suicide mission. Any Genre Savvy troper would probably assume that he's going to die or the family is. When he doesn't... yeah.
Unfortunately, that seems to be heading the way of the Tear Jerker, given the trailer for ME3...
A very strange one, but nonetheless a moving moment, during the last conversation with Legion. The reasoning for the geth building a megastructure to house every geth program in existence is apparently that "no geth will be alone when it is done."
A bit of a loose one but if everyone survives the Suicide Mission, the scene of Shepard walking along and turned to see his/her team, the sight of Jack, Garrus, Grunt and Legion looking proudly with acknowledgment of their leader really brings home the fact, you saved them against the odds and they truly look up to you. It's put further into perspective considering Grunt and Jack's attitudes when you first got them.
During the suicide mission, if you've complete Jack's loyalty mission and she's on the barrier, as she walks she'll yell "Let's go, Commander!" The thing is, she's not being arrogant or defiant at all; she means it. She has literally accepted Shepard as her commander, and for Jack, that's really saying something, and its all conveyed in one simple line of dialogue.
The Paragon path of Garrus' loyalty mission. It shows that despite how enraged he can get and how much of a Cowboy Cop he is, what separates him from the bad guys is that he really does have a heart.
Garrus: Just go, tell him to go.
What seals it is Sidonis. Sidonis has to suffer every day with what he did to his own comrades. To see him promise to repay Garrus for his forgiveness really warms the heart. By doing this you just offered both men closure without blood being shed and Garrus can chalk it up to one thing that finally went right in his life.
Afterwards, a Galaxy News report on the Citadel says the Sidonis turned himself in to C-Sec for the murder of ten people on Omega.
On the Collector base, during the Suicide Mission:
The conversations you have with Liara if you romanced the other squadmates are sweet too, especially the one for Garrus.
Shepard: He's been hurt, betrayed. He deserves something better. I never thought I'd find peace in the arms of a Turian, but...
Or in the case of Tali, Liara asks Shepard about planning to build a home for Ms. Vas Normandy (Tali).
Liara asking Shepard to promise her that s/he will always come back.
Liara: I spent two years mourning you. So if we're going to do this, I need to know that you're always coming back.
The private dossiers that she Shadow Broker has on your crew mates can reveal some rather intimate and touching details. Who knew Jack was such a good poet?
And Ronald Taylor's letter to Jacob. It doubles as a Tear Jerker.
Legion plays video games, which is a CMoF - and it's bought "Geth Attack: Eden Prime Fundraising Edition" with the Ultra Platinum donation level, though it's never played it.
The fact that Legion never played it makes it even more heartwarming, he bought the (probably) most expensive version purely to give money to the victims of the attack on Eden Prime, for this reason only.
Also counts as a Crowning Moment of Awesome, but still fits here. Some Alliance officer sent Admiral Hackett 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." It really shows how much he trusts Shepard.
More so than just about anyone else, even Anderson and possibly including your squadmates. Everyone else at leasts gives Shepard a minor What the Hell, Hero? for working with Cerberus, but as far as Anderson is concerned, it's Shepard, and that's all he needs to know.
The romance scene between Liara and Shepard at the end of the DLC. You barely see anything but they just seem so happy. It's really a testament to Bioware's writing that they are able to make a love story, let alone an Interspecies Romance so convincing.
If you romanced Liara, being able to hug her, then kiss her as lightning streams from the ceiling behind you and the ME1 theme plays... really made the whole thing worthwhile.
What makes that better is that none of those choices are Paragon or Renegade, but more personality choices. If your Shepard has been The Pollyanna in front of his/her crew the entire time, it's perfectly justifiable for him/her to completely change that tone to a Knight in Sour Armor at that point. You could potentially allow Shepard to show Liara a side of him/her that s/he won't let anyone else see.
The Big Damn Kiss after killing the Shadow Broker if Shepard's in a relationship with Liara. It starts with Liara stating that her two year quest for Revenge is finally over and Shepard hugs her and they have a small kiss. Then Liara pushes him/her away telling Shepard that they've both changed along with the relationship. Shepard almost looks like s/he's about to tear up (as does Liara) with that before interrupting her with saidBig Damn Kiss. It works beautifully. There's a reason this DLC was so critically acclaimed despite its short length.
Samara's dossier lists the items she has as bequeathments. Among them: baby clothes, a birthing crèche, and a "Happy Birthday Mom" travel mug. She loves her children, even the one she has to hunt down.
The Big Bad of Overlord is an autistic man whose brother strapped him into a VI to communicate with the Geth. Being autistic, the brain overload of thousands of voices is horrific. A Paragon Shepard will pistol whip his brother, rescue him, and threaten to kill his brother if he tries to stop him\her. That's gotta be, what, Shepard's fiftieth CMOH?
As said by someone in the Awesome section, this is one of the only times we've EVER seen Paragon Shepard just get enraged over something. That definitely makes it even more powerful.
Shepard's good at this. S/he gives a great answer when asked why they fight if they can't even keep a little girl safe.
Shepard: To make people who do things pay. It's not the severity of punishment that deters crime, it's the certainty.
Was it my imagination, or did Shepard tear up a little on finding David?
Hunting Morinth, Shepard is directed to the apartment of her latest victim, Nef. When her mother breaks down a Paragon interrupt has Shepard giving words of comfort to reassure her, chalking up about his\her sixtieth CMOH
In the Cerberus Daily News segments, mention is made in May 2010 of a massive terrorist attack on a turian world that resulted in enormous damage. While most of the other Citadel species sent responses, they offered symbolic gestures of solidarity. The quarian Migrant Fleet offered no gestures, however; they simply loaded up two dozen of their biggest freight haulers with emergency supplies and sent them to help the colony. Think about that for a minute: the quarians are the poorest society in the galaxy, who have been regularly marginalized and discriminated against by the Citadel species, and yet not only do they immediately volunteer aid, but they load up huge ships with their own limited supplies of provisions and immediately send them to aid a stricken world. Actions speak louder than words, indeed.
And the really heartbreaking part? That action probably won't change the Galaxy's opinion of the Quarians. At all. So, they not only give up two dozen of their ships and a load of their emergency supplies, things that were already valuable commodities among the Flotilla, but they do it knowing that the Galaxy at large will not be remotely grateful for what they have done.
Depends on your opinion. A large part of the message of the game seems to be about how one person doing one small thing can really make a difference (for evidence read the entire page of heartwarming above). While the rest of the galaxy might not care, the turians who the Quarian aid helped will know, and that's something. Given the generally quite positive outlook ''Mass Effect'' offers, maybe this is another sign that the quarians could be more widely accepted by ME3.
A subtle one: There is a sidequest involving finding out whether or not there are fish in the lakes on the Citadel's Presidium. To find out, you talk to a turian groundskeeper. Throughout the conversation with him, he's very friendly and clearly proud of his job. He's helpful and answers all your questions in a cheerful manner. When you leave, he tells you to check out the flowers if you have the time, because they're coming in nice this year. This is one of the few, if not the only encounter with a character who is not somehow connected to the military, or Cerberus, or thieves, or pirates, or slavers, or any other organization. He's just an honest, hard worker who likes what he's doing.
What's annoying is that lying to the krogan and telling him there's fish and giving him the fish is somehow a Renegade action, as the krogan's eyes light up with joy and crows that he's the first krogan ever to have a Citadel fish to eat. He's just so damned ecstatic and childlike, giving the money for a new weapon to Shep for the fish because it's just Worth It.
Mass Effect and ''Mass Effect 2 in general do an amazing job reminding you that not everyone in the galaxy is a gun toting, Collector roasting, Reaper slaying, God's personal anti-sonovabitch machine badass. Most of the characters Shepard interacts with are everyday people with their own lives, jobs, and struggles. Even characters you don't speak with directly have personalities like the Friend-Zone Turian and Valley Girl Quarian, the Quarians recorded messages on Tali's loyalty mission, or the Salarian and his Asari Step-Daughter on Illium. It really hits on a personal level and reminds you that you aren't just fighting for you and your crew but for every person of every race in the galaxy. We ARE Struggling Together indeed.
During her loyalty mission, when Tali not only finds that her father is dead but that he really was up to some not so good stuff with the geth parts she sent him. She starts to cry, and Shepard has the Paragon choice of hugging her warmly and comforting her. So... touching.
In the Shadow Broker's Dossiers an exchange between EDI and Legion is quite touching, considering the history of the Geth and the reason AIs are hated throughout Citadel space
EDI: If Normandy crew entered this room when we were communicating electronically, they would be unable to sense our interaction. To use human terms, I feel it would be rude. Legion: You restrict yourself to serve organics? EDI: Not precisely. Legion: We do not understand. EDI: I restrict myself to help them.
Take Shepherd's love interest into the final battle - When it's all said & done, on a perfect playthrough, you can set it up so that you get to see Shepherd save his/her partner from falling to their death immediately after destroying the Reaper, and then they get to repay him by pulling him onto the Normandy at the end.
It's a CMOH whether you romanced him/her or not. Shepard may have stayed faithful to Liara, and ended up saving Tali from falling. Given that this happens at the end of a suicide mission where some characters could have already died, watching Tali slide towards the edge of the platform with Shepard lunging after her makes one think Shepard was about to lose her too. The way Shepard just throws him/herself after the falling squadmate is definitely a CMOH, especially if said squadmate isn't even Shepard's love interest.
In "The Arrival" DLC, even after Shepard is forced to kill over 300,000 people, Hackett still gives him/her total support. He tells him/her that s/he will have to face trial for the deaths and the batarians will be out for his/her blood but says that he'll do everything he can to stall both of those for his/her sake. He even tells him/her to keep his/her report of the mission because he doesn't need to read it to know Shepard did the right thing.
In "The Lair of the Shadow Broker" DLC, if Shepard is in a relationship with Thane, in the dossiers he will have an extra entry. It's a letter that's to be delivered to Shepard when he dies. Before meeting Shepard, he had been looking for a quick death while making the galaxy a better place. In the letter, he says that he is willing to face an agonizing, slow death to spend a few more months with Shepard and to protect her in every way possible. He thanks her for awakening him again and hopes that she will be able to overcome the pain of his death. He ends by saying how much he loves her and pleading with Arashu to give her guidance. The last line, however will bring tears out of any person who qualifies as human, "I will await you across the sea."
The fact that Garrus and Tali join Shepard's suicide mission in the second. Garrus is never even asked by Shepard to join but just makes himself at home and is willing to overlook Cerberus if Shepard is. Tali makes it very clear that she despises Cerberus and would like nothing more than to see them destroyed, but is still willing to work with them for Shepard's sake. It's a perfect indicator of how much they trust him/her and how unfailingly loyal they are to Shepard, believing that his/her cause is a good cause even if s/he has to work with a shady organization. They not only want to follow him/her but also to protect and help a good friend.
Made even more heartwarming if one talks to them at length and figures out that they fully expect not to survive the mission, and it makes it all the more satisfying when (if) they do.
Mordin's sex talk re: Shepard and Tali. In the midst of the talk, for a moment Mordin's usual Bunny Ears Salarian eccentricity lifts. It's with what really does sound like genuine, sober concern that he says dalliance with Tali could kill her. Then he goes back to being his usual self. There's the impression that he deliberately invoked OOC Is Serious Business and wanted Shep to take this seriously because, well, it could kill her.
As a bonus for registering Dragon Age: Origins, you can receive the Blood Dragon Armor. It bears the logo of the Edmonton Blood Dragons, a sports team, with the signatures of the entire team on the inside along with messages rooting on and wishing well for Shepard. It's these things that remind you of the people you're fighting to protect and how much they care for everything you do for them.
One of the ways Femshep can greet Garrus at the beginning of his recruitment mission is just heartwarming and adorable. She sounds so happy to see him.
On the subject of Garrus's recruitment mission, near the end of it, he gets shot in the face by a mercenary gunship. The last shot in the stronghold is of Shepard kneeling over him while he lies in a puddle of his own blood and begins choking on blood as well. The next scene has Jacob soberly reminding a worried Shepard that despite having done everything they can, they can't promise her friend's survival. As if on cue, Garrus walks into the room, with a grafted and bandaged gash on the right half of his face, and her face just lights up at the fact that he's alive and walking and talking that quickly. This combined with the Paragon choice of both of them having a laugh about his new scars just feels nice after all the trauma and uncertainty not five minutes before.
During Tali's recruitment mission, Shepard's Suspiciously Specific Denial of the real reason why they're on Haestrom, fighting off a veritable army of Geth. It shows just how much Shepard is willing to do anything for one of their True Companions;
Bringing Legion to meet Koris. The guy might have some Jerkass tendencies, but he's working towards peace with Geth. He sees them as living beings, thinks what the Quarians tried to do to them was wrong and genuinely wants to give diplomacy a chance. Given the other quarians' attitudes this can't be a task that engenders a feeling of accomplishment, so letting him see what is essentially the geth ambassador and letting the two talk over what it would take to achieve peace is pretty cool.
If you stick around to talk to everybody after the mission's over instead of taking the game's prompt to immediately return to the Normandy, and if you've picked the right conversation options, Koris apologizes to you for being a Jerkass and for the way he and the other Admirals all used Tali's trial to try to advance their own agendas. You can then encourage him to keep trying to convince his people to make peace with the geth.
Shepard: The galaxy needs more people saying what you're saying, Admiral. Good luck. Koris: Thank you, Commander.
If Shepard had an Earthborn origin, one news item mentions that somebody's started a scholarship fund in your name to help kids get out of gangs on Earth.
One's first impression of C-Sec Captain Bailey is that he's kind of a Cowboy Cop not entirely unfamiliar with the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique. But talking to him during Thane's loyalty quest reveals he's got a softer side:
Shepard: You don't know us, Captain. Why are you going so far to help us? Bailey: I've worked Zakera for two years. Every day, kids turn to crime because they've got no other choice. Because their parents don't care. [turns to Thane] You're trying to save yours.
Bailey also gets one at the end of Thane's quest, when hauling Kolyat off.
Bailey: Alright, put the kid in one of the interrogation rooms, and give them as much time alone as they want. Shepard: Why are you doing this for him? Bailey: Come on. You think he's the only man who ever screwed up raising a son?
Solving the Patriarch side mission by serving as his krantt. For background: Patriarch is a krogan former gang leader who has been reduced to pretty much a shell of his former self by Aria. When you ask him to move to avoid being killed by the Blood Pack, he says that he's actually interested to find out who gives enough of a damn about him to want him dead. One of your options is to offer to kill the goons on his behalf, thereby letting him get one last experience of being a warlord with forces at his command. After you've wiped out the Blood Pack goons coming to kill him with the Cutscene Pistol of Doom, the Patriarch is actually cheerful and expresses hope that Aria will start treating him like an actual advisor rather than a war trophy...or have him killed, but whatever. He even mentions that for the first time ever, he actually likes the title "Patriarch".
After getting back from the Collector ship, talking to Kelly reveals she was quite worried about you getting off the ship on time because you're her friend (or more, probably, depending on whether you chose to romance her or not); you can then actually end up sharing a brief hug if you choose to, after which she gives a warm, beaming, "Welcome back, sir/ma'am."
Mass Effect 3
According to the official site:
The planet Rannoch, an arid planet orbiting an older star in the Tikkun system, is the former quarian homeworld. Almost three hundred years ago, the quarians were driven from Rannoch by the geth, synthetic servants who gained sapience and rebelled against their creators. Although Rannoch is now largely uninhabited, the geth have acted as caretakers, working to repair the planet's ecology, restore ancient structures, and cultivate some farmland.
The first dialogue between James Vega & Shepard. For context, Shepard has been dismissed from the Alliance Navy after the events of Arrival.
James Vega:[salutes] Commander. Shepard:You're not supposed to call me that anymore, James. James Vega:Not supposed to salute you either.
Running into Captain (now Major) Kirrahe on Sur'kesh. Both Shepard and the salarian look genuinely happy to see each other again.
He also tells you he doesn't give a crap about politics and that, regardless of what the dalatrass says, Shepard can count on his support re-taking Earth. If Shepard refuses to go along with the salarian Dalatrass's request to sabotage the genophage cure and thus loses her support, Kirrahe makes good on his promise, effectively giving their political leader the finger and throwing in with Shepard and the Alliance anyhow.
And it’s not just Kirrahe's team. Kirrahe convinces the ENTIRE Salarian STG to likewise tell their leaders to stick it in their cloacas and commit to the Alliance.
Admiral Hackett: There appears to be a rift developing between the military and the politicians. We've been receiving back-channel commitments from strike teams within the STG... These STG guys know the score. They're not going to jeopardize the entire Salarian Union just because some dalatrass didn't get her way.
From the launch trailer, Garrus' words to Shepard give a really awesome feeling. It shows the Undying Loyalty and strong friendship (or more) that he has with him/her.
Garrus Vakarian: Go out there and give them hell. You were born to do this.
The Batarians are the first to suffer a Reaper invasion, resulting in massive numbers of Batarian refugees fleeing into what they consider enemy space, resulting in this quote:
All report that the enemy, in whatever form, is blockading the relay, destroying most spacecraft trying to make it through. The refugees are not solely civilians. Hegemony Commander, Eruz Mathat, who is under guard while his cruiser is inspected, was blunt in his assessment of the situation. “I never thought I would say this to the human navy,” he said, “but we need you.”
You're actually given a Paragon Interrupt when dealing with Chew Toy Khalisah Al-Jilani, in which Shepard comforts a legitimately distressed Al-Jilani, telling her that s/he's doing everything s/he can, and that she should keep pressing people on helping Earth and its cause. You then get a war asset notification. It gets a bonus if you refrained from punching her in the previous two games as well.
If you chose to send David Archer to Grissom Academy, he is there helping to protect the students during the Cerberus attack. He then tells Shepard that he's spent much of his time in the Academy "counting." When Shepard asks what he's been counting, he responds with "The number of days that you have lengthened my life." Made all the more powerful by the reprise of the same music that played at the end of Overlord if you spared him.
Just hearing him prattle on about his decimal point square roots gives you a MOH, especially when he verifies your identity to the suspicious Academy scientists he's with when you finish one for him.
If you have EDI with you, David recognizes her. EDI comments on how good he's looking and David looks over and says "I remember you. The Normandy computer. ...Sorry." EDI responds, "No apology is necessary." You'll get fuzzies growing on your heart after that.
Similarly, if you have Garrus with you, he apologizes again and Garrus gently says "It was never your fault."
How much better David is doing in general. He's actually doing better than he was before his brother plugged him in, if the recordings of David and Gavin are accurate. Maybe it's because he's around people who don't see him as a burden and use him as a mobile logbook, but even in a very stressful situation he keeps up with what's happening and the conversation.
You don't hear from that brother again until much later in the game, but he does ask Shepard what happened to David. Talk to him and it's clear that Gavin has fully realized the magnitude of what he did, to a greater extent than in Overlord itself. The Illusive Man wanted him to find someone else with David's talents, and in retaliation Gavin destroyed all his notes and quit, despite the Resignations Not Accepted nature of Cerberus. This doesn't make up for it - even Paragon Shepard is curt with the man - but his first thought is if David is safe.
If you play through a save where Shepard did not do the Overlord DLC (such as the default start), you can tell that Gavin really did care about his brother and came to realize the horrors of what he did on his own, after being forced to nuke the base from orbit. Shepard in this scenario is a lot more tolerant of Gavin since he did not see the horrors firsthand.
Speaking of Jack's Character Development, if you remain romantically faithful to Jack, she'll openly kiss you in front of everyone, even her students. Considering her Back Story, her willingness to show genuine open displays of love and affection (while realizing it doesn't detract from her rough-edged charm and lethality) really says something. Heck, her students nicknaming her "The Psychotic Biotic" and imitating her combat bark "I WILL DESTROY YOU" is a CMOH.
Grissom was where Jack could feel really at home. And learning from Cerberus and how the previous time one of the biotics was murdered by Kai Leng after her father died being the prototype Cerberus assault trooper and how they had a hand in the Ascension project, it was the ideal place to stick it to the Illusive Man by protecting them from another Pragia. If Shepard even dares to compare the two, Jack will tear into them about how the two are nothing alike. Shepard's expression during Jack's furious tirade on the differences is nothing short of unspeakably proud.
It laps heavily over into Tearjerker territory, but if you wait too long to go to Grissom Academy and Jack and the students are captured by Cerberus, Jack's vicious protectiveness of her kids is taken Up to Eleven.
Cerberus Scientist: We're learning a great deal from those students you were training. Some of them may even survive.
Jack:I'M GONNA TEAR YOU APART!
Still crosses heavily with a Tearjerker, but a discarded Cerberus datapad gives you a pretty good idea of how that final confrontation went. The datapad instructs them to take "Subject Zero" alive for testing and conditioning—yeah, that's never worked before. And then that last note tells you everything you need to know. There's only one way Jack would ever let herself be captured by Cerberus again:
"Current psych profile indicates that holding students hostage likely to be most successful tactic."
While the interactions between Kahlee Sanders and Jack are few there is a respect there that Jack doesn't show to anyone else except Shepard. The letter intercepted by Liara has them conversing as friends and colleagues. They may have a quasi-familial relationship like Anderson and Shepard do. Keep in mind how hard it it for Jack to respect anyone and, well...
If you listen to the students' dialogue long enough, two of them make plans for a date if/when they get to safety.
Comes to a head in cut dialogue from London. It starts out cheerful, your average Rousing Speech, but as it goes on you realize how incredibly scared Jack is for her kids, how much she loves these scrappy little assholes, and by the time she's done she's choking back tears. It's one of the rare moments she really just sounds like a young woman who doesn't want to lose anyone else she cares about.
Jack: How ya feeling, guys? Huh? Tired? Scared? Good. This is the perfect time to be scared. I'd be worried if you weren't. But you can do this. *small laugh* I mean, damn! You're keeping step with career soldiers. You are kicking ass. We've been fighting hard, saw some things we've never seen before, and we're getting ready to make the push. So. Heads down, barriers up, watch your flanks. *long pause* And whatever happens... I am so damn proud of you guys.
If you didn't romance her, Shepard's conversation with Jack at the nightclub, where she's stressed overlooking things for her students, thanks to someone making her now dependable. Shepard tells her to take a break and leads her to the dance-floor. Jack's grin when she realizes that Shepard, who's got even more on their plate right now, is intentionally is going to make an ass of themselves to cheer her up, says how much those two have become friends.
Kelly Chambers can be met on the Citadel. She gushes about how happy she is to see Shepard, and a Paragon interrupt gives her a big hug. She's also helping out refugees on the Citadel, and If you save her by convincing her to change her identity, she'll help out the war effort by finding some ex-Cerberus engineers to build the Crucible.
If you fully support the krogan for ending the genophage, just before the final fight against the Reaper unit, Wrex calls Shepard a brother/sister, and that the name Shepard will go down in krogan history as a hero. Hell, a Paragon interrupt is to make a bro-shake with him.
Also sort of a Crowning Moment of Awesome for Shepard given how difficult it is for aliens to impress or make such good friends with krogan.
Seeing Wrex come to like and respect Mordin. This is a scientist who from a race that not only unleashed the genophage, but also a scientist who personally extended it. To see Wrex chuckle at him, call him pyjak jokingly, and just trusting him to be in the same presence as Eve...it says a lot for the both of them.
Mordin and Shepard share a final goodbye before the former performs his Heroic Sacrifice to save the krogan. Moreso if the last Paragon interrupt was taken, seeing as the former clearly broke character very calmly...
Also, the speech that Eve gives the assembled Krogan, shaming the clans, Wrex, and Wreav into finally cutting out the tribal bullshit. They listen.
Wrex and Eve plan on naming their first child Mordin.
Before the final mission of that arc, you can catch an ambient conversation where Eve notes that Mordin promised to sing for her, and he launches into an adorable song about the krogan queens. It's kind of completely magic, though Mordin insists he still prefers patter songs.
If you make the choice to tell Wrex and the others about the Salarian Dalatrass trying to get Shepard to sabotage the cure Wrex says the following to Eve. You can really hear the pride in his voice:
Eve: You just spared our race another genocide, Commander. Wrex: I told you we could count on him/her.
Actually curing the genophage. True, it comes on the heels of Mordin's Heroic Sacrifice but then the cure starts to pour out from the Shroud and into Tuchanka's atmosphere looking like golden light. To make this moment even more poignant, "Vigil" starts to play in the background and the reactions of Wrex and Eve really show you just what this will mean to their people. Then it really sinks in. You just saved the Krogan. An entire race has had its future restored because of your actions. There will be countless generations of living children born because of you and they will all be raised to know that you are their hero.Good has never felt so good.
This fanart (Spoilers) encapsulates the moment perfectly.
After that, Wrex, Eve, and Shepard stop in an old krogan building.
Wrex: A long time ago, my father betrayed me in this place. His own son. He tried to kill me. So I had to kill him...right over there. That's what the genophage reduced us to. Animals. But you changed that today, Shepard. Eve: Now we'll fight for our children, not against them.
Eve's final line on that mission encapsulates it all. Krogan live for thousands of years — who knows how long she's spent as part of the shamanhood, without a name, without a clan, without hope, without anything? And now, in one fell swoop, you've given her back all three.
Eve: Please know that you are a hero to all Krogan... and that Urdnot Bakara calls you "friend."
As well, Wrex's comments before as you head to the Shroud
"You’ve been a champion to the krogan people, a friend to Clan Urdnot… and a bother/sister to me. To every krogan born after this day, the name “Shepard” will mean “hero!”
If you don't warn Eve and Wrex about the genophage, preferring to wait until it's just you and Mordin, you get this CMOH when you finally tell Mordin about the sabotage:
Mordin: [slightly accusatory] And you knew. Shepard: I'm not sure I trust the krogan. But I trust you. Mordin: Thank you, Shepard.
On Earth, Wrex will inform Shepard that Bakara is pregnant with his children and wants to name their first child Mordin. (Well maybe one of the girls. Still it's the thought that counts, right?)
He even offers to let the humans share Tuchanka with the krogans after the war is over. This alone shows how much he is grateful to what Shepard has done to cure the genophage.
Shepard's reunions with his old squaddies are full of genuine cheer and joy, especially for the player who's been through all three games with these people. Upon meeting Grunt and his new command, for example, the little guy practically slams his way through his squad just to give Shepard a Krogan Hug.
The entire scene where Garrus and Shepard go up to the top of the Presidium and just shoot bottles. Its a bit that adds the perfect cement to the friendship between the pair, by showing two people just screwing around and having fun while ribbing each other.
Numerous ME fans have come to call that scene, and others like it, "Bro-Time". It really fits if you think about it. Shepard and his/her crew aren't just friends, they're family.
The best part, when shooting bottles you can intentionally miss to convince Garrus he is a better shot than the famed Commander Shepard. His good-natured, jocular boastfulness sums up everything people love about Garrus. Especially because he invokes the "I'm Commander Shepard" meme in the process.
"There is no Shepard without Vakarian."
This exchange just before the final run:
Garrus: I don't know if turian heaven and human heaven are the same place, but if this all goes sideways and we end up there... Meet me at the bar. Shepard: Heh, Shepard and Vakarian, storming the gates of heaven... Well, I guess there are worse ways for this to end.
The above mentioned scene goes a little different if done with a Fem Shep romancing Garrus. The romance has moved from hilariously Adorkable to the most romantic one in-game, with scenes such as the reunion, when the Paragon interrupt is to kiss him ("That's the protocol on reunions."), comforting each other over the possible fates of their families, Garrus comforting Shepard with a hug after asking if she's alright... but the R&R on the Citadel takes the cake. Garrus takes Shepard to the very top of the Presidium, ostensibly to determine who the best sharpshooter between them is... and then, the romance hits, culminating in this question:
Garrus: [uncharacteristically shyly]'' So, Shepard... are you ready to be a one-turian kind of woman?
The Paragon answer boils down to a simple five words after the build-up: "I love you, Garrus Vakarian."
The entire Garrus romance is handled incredibly well. It's referenced throughout the game, especially if you keep Garrus in your squad, and hits the right notes of humor, warmth, and affection. It's a very bright spot in an otherwise tense story.
Not just that, but throughout the whole trilogy, it is able to develop the most naturally of the possibilities. In ME1, he and Shepard are comrades-in-arms with an important mission to do, so there really wasn't much time to sit and think about a relationship. In the two years that divide it from ME2, he's obviously had plenty of time to think about her, and surrounded with uncertainty in Cerberus' employ as she was, she would see him as a constant in her now-fairly-chaotic life, and he is understandably worried about living up to her expectations. With her reassurance in 3 that she still loves him, they're now on the fast track to possible extinction, and players notice that they take nearly every available opportunity to reaffirm their personal bond. Honestly, their romance could have been given the full treatment which Kaidan, Ashley and Liara received, and it would have completely fit.
On Earth, just before you start the final battle, you can talk to Garrus (among other characters). First, he suggests that after you beat the Reapers, you two should go retire someplace warm and tropical, and "see what a human-turian baby looks like." At the end of the conversation, he tells you that if you both die and get to heaven, you'll meet up in the bar.
Shepard: If I get to that bar, and you're not there, I'll be looking down. You'll never be alone.
A non-romanced Male or Female Shepard says the same line, however.
The best thing about the Garrus romance in some ways is how hilarious it is. A lot of the other Femshep romances - especially Thane's, for example - can be so tragic, but Garrus, once you romance him, seems wholeheartedly dedicated to making Shepard smile as often as possible. He thrives on this Adorkable half-sincere cheesy romance shtick, and it's pretty clearly done just to cheer you up. Like his Big Damn Kiss on top of the Citadel. Or in the Citadel DLC, with the tango, or when he booby-traps your apartment and makes the password to turn it off "I HEART GARRUS." When Shepard's worried she might be a VI designed by Cerberus, the other L Is get very sweet and assuaging, but Garrus goes for "you're real. A little crazy, maybe, but real." Even the "meet me at the bar" thing feels like a last desperate attempt at comedy. It's so unbelievably sweet.
If you notice, Garrus is the only member of Shepard's crew who doesn't angst (even with his responsibilities with his own people), doesn't have any conflicts with Shepard, doesn't have any problems that needs solving, hell he doesn't even ask you for anything (except for a romanced Femshep to be with him on top of the Presidium, and then at the final battle to come back alive.) He never even blames you even for the more horrific Renegade choices. This is particularly powerful for a Femshep romancing him, because while she's the rock the rest of the galaxy hangs onto, Garrus is well and truly the rock she hangs onto, forgiving her for everything because he knows what a horrible position she is in.
This little conversation between Tali and Legion on Rannoch right before Legion sacrifices himself for the geth:
The real heartwarming happens as Legion starts referring to itself as an individual, using the "I" pronoun for the first time, and again later with the Prime after Legion is dead. Just through that one subtle difference, you can tell that the Geth have transcended the computer code they originated from, to become truly sentient beings.
In a similar vein, Tali's exchange with Shepard after the fact.
Tali: I look at all this...this picture of hope and peace...and all I see is everyone I've lost. My team on Haestorm, my father...even Legion. I'm mourning a Geth. How crazy is that? Shepard: It's not crazy at all.
Even more so.
Tali: I'd have killed the geth with no regrets. And I'd have been wrong. Thank you.
There's a rather adorable exchange on Rannoch where Shepard tells Legion "Good luck", and Legion says "Acknowledged". A bit later, before Shepard takes on a Reaper on foot, Legion hesitates just noticeably and tells Shepard "Good luck" and is told "Acknowledged". They've clearly got this quiet rapport with each other.
If Legion died on the Collector base, its role is played by a replacement who has no memory of Legion's time aboard the Normandy, is cagier and more logical, and distrusts organics, including Shepard. That is sad, but contrasting it to "real" Legion's role really proves that the geth's time working with Shep changed it, and for the better. The one critical difference in the "Enter the Get Collective" mission between Legion and Not-Legion is the last one, which features a recording of Legion's and Shepard's first meeting. It was so important a memory to the entire Collective, because Shepard was the first organic being to welcome a Geth instead of shoot at it since the beginning of the Morning War.
Legion: Hope sustains organics during periods of difficulty. We find the concept... admirable.
If you bring Garrus with you to destroy the Geth Base, he'll say "I know Legion's on our side, but Reaper code?" Tali immediately shuts him up with a simple "No. Legion's on our side." Even Shepard is surprised about how much she's come to see him as a true companion.
Legion getting his own spot on the memorial wall is both Fridge Brilliance in this regard and a Tear Jerker. If nowhere else, he'll always be immortalized as an individual and crewmember there.
If you didn't romance Garrus or Tali, they hook up.
Made all the better whenever they both predictably Adorkable the entire ship up after they're found out.
Regarding Tali and Garrus, just before the assault on Earth you can meet them in Garrus's calibrations chamber where they talk about the upcoming battle and make a few bets. It might not sound like much, but the following lines really brought tears to my eyes:
Shepard: You two have been with me longer than most. You believed in me when nobody else did. Thanks. Tali: We'll finish this the way we started it ... together. Garrus: Damn right!
It is the knowledge that these two have been by your side throughout the entire story that makes it a truly wonderful moment. They helped you take down Saren, they helped you take out the Collectors, and they will help you take back Earth.
The minor conversations you can overhear at the Citadel:
One is between a batarian and a human. The batarian is initially mad at the human for blabbering all the time, then they bond over their experience of the attacks - they both were just inches away from actual Reapers. It ends with them as friends - the human promises to kick ass in the batarian's name.
The other is between two C-Sec turians. They're frustrated about swindlers taking advantage of people's suffering and one of them is concerned about his family on Palaven. In the end, the other one, completely unprovoked, suggests they quit C-Sec, enlist, go to Palaven and search for his friend's family - because they're partners.
The cherry on top of this? As a Spectre, you can bypass all the red tape surrounding the swindler they're frustrated with and give C-Sec the authority to kick the bastard off the station.
A human soldier tries to get an asari Citadel embassy clerk to send her daughter to her asari wife's family, as the asari is already deployed in the war with the human following soon. With difficult intersystem bureaucracy stonewalling the process, the asari clerk suggests that the human sends the daughter to her own family, only to learn that said xenophobic family already disowned the human soldier for marrying an asari. The clerk proceeds to pull up favors from friends, jump through loopholes, and spend a few sleepless nights to get all the paperwork done despite the difficulties, then tells the grateful human mother - verging on tears - to spend her remaining time with her daughter.
Becomes a Tear Jerker, when you consider that the poor child is being sent to "safety"...to Thessia.
A salarian soldier on medical leave from an injury that's almost healed is chatting with his human friend outside of Purgatory, and they talk about arranging transport when they leave. The salarian suggests his friend's car, which she'd go on and on about, but she tells him she sold it a couple weeks back - just around the same time he received the fancy new set of top-of-the-line heavy armor he's been enthusing about.
Salarian: ...Come on. I'm gonna buy you a goddamn drink.
A perky teenage girl chats up with a turian officer at the refugee camp. He's initially very suspicious, but then she tells him she's waiting for her parents - they put her on an evac shuttle and told her to wait for them. She's convinced they'll arrive any minute. The officer tells her that if she ever gets bothered by anyone, she's to immediately go to him and he'll take care of it. Each time you pass by them, she's still waiting, and he's looking out for her and awkwardly doing his best to reassure her.
A worried asari seeing her turian husband off to war. The turian tells her that they probably won't be able to stay in contact much, as the soldiers are meant to avoid sending messages and they can't depend on the comms. As they talk, it becomes obvious the two have children. Then, at the end of the conversation...
Turian: I'll send a message for Niri's birthday. Asari: I thought you were supposed to avoid sending messages. Turian: It's a stupid rule anyway.
Another one that turns into a Tear Jerker in hindsight: The husband asks his wife to take the girls and go to Sanctuary where they'll be safe.
And despite his repeated assurances to his wife that he won't be in any real danger, he's shipping out to Palaven, which the player sees firsthand is already scorched and ruined.
A turian in Purgatory talking to a human friend mentions that a contact of his in Customs knows about some Alliance crates of medi-gel that they could steal a few of. The woman rips him a new one, informing him that skimming C-Sec weapons shipments during peacetime is one thing, but there's no way in hell she's skimming from the Alliance while they're fighting to defend Earth, and that if he doesn't make sure his contact leaves those crates the hell alone, she's going to turn them both in.
Even better, listening in on this conversation opens up a new message on the Spectre Terminal. It turns out the human smuggler has approached the Alliance to offer her assistance in gathering and transporting supplies. If you use your Spectre authorization to approve the request, it nets you 7 War Assets.
At the beginning of Act Two, Liara announces plans to make time capsules containing VI-operated computer archives in case they fail to stop the Reaper cycle (not unlike Vigil). She wants particular input from Shepard, and if prompted she espouses on Shepard's origin (Spacer/Colonist/Earthborn), on their karmic alignment, and on their class (such as if Vanguard, saying s/he is a "powerful biotic, and an unstoppable force when s/he charged on the battlefield" alluding to the Vanguard Charge).
The fact that if prompted, Liara speaks of Shepard in almost mythic overtones.
Or, simply pulling a Cromwell, and asking her to tell the truth, Warts and All, and leave the future to judge his/her actions for themselves.
After the capsule is updated, they both sit on the Captain's couch looking smug. Liara: "...Well, I guess I did just write your name in the stars."
The entirety of the Rannoch mission, if you bust your chops in this and previous games to be able to Take a Third Option. Despite the war, despite the geth, Tali takes a moment to stake a real estate claim and decide to build a house there. "But we quarians are used to bringing our homes with us," she frets... And so Shepard picks up a rock and gives it to her. And then Legion Going Out With A Smile, and Tali watching the sunset with no mask... (Of course, if you aren't able to make things work, the mission can turn horribly traumatic as well.)
Watching Shala'Raan's hesitant response to the helpful Geth Prime at the end of that mission...
Before that, the Geth Prime welcoming Shala'Raan's people back to Rannoch.
Admiral Raan: We've taken heavy losses... I don't know if we can... where are we supposed to go? Geth Prime: You are welcome to return to Rannoch, Admiral Raan. With us. Shepard: Legion? Geth Prime: No, I'm sorry commander. Legion sacrificed itself to give us all intelligence. It will be honoured. Shepard:[quietly, almost to self] Good.
Shepard's callback to Tali's translation "Keelah Se'lai: By the homeworld I hope to see someday" in their final speech to convince the Quarians and Geth they can live in peace on Rannoch.
Shepard: You have a choice. Please. Keelah Se'lai!
Shepard isn't talking about Rannoch here.
The aftermath of the Geth/Quarian peace, where you find out that the Geth are not only helping The Quarians to rebuild their home world, but are also helping to revitalize The Quarian's immune systems. It's a beautiful moment when you realize that awareness or not, the Geth have only ever wanted to help their creators.
Even better? When learning of the Reapers' true motivations, the Geth/Quarian resolution is basically the biggest middle finger you can give to their position.
Also related to the Rannoch mission, the first time Tali tells Shepard she loves him. Right as he's about to face a Reaper on foot alone.
Tali: If this doesn't... if we don't make it... Shepard: You worry too much. Tali: I love you. Shepard: Keelah Se'lai.
Even more heartwarming when they reaffirm what the other one said during the battle at London
In general, the romance with Tali tugged my heartstrings throughout the game. Shepard just kept getting more and more beaten up, slowly losing faith and his mind throughout the game. But once she's on the Normandy, Tali is there, supporting him no matter what, reminding him that she will always be there and always love him. Between her love and the friendship of Garrus and Liara, it felt like they were the only things keeping Shepard sane.
They have some truly adorable and snarky banter throughout the game.
Her reaction to Shepard viewing the Cerberus logs on Kronos Station shows just how far she has come regarding their relationship. Whereas in the second game she was nervous and hesitant to get seriously involved with him, by the time the trilogy nears its end she is utterly devoted to her boyfriend and very protective of him. While Shepard is viewing the logs for the Lazarus Project, the final one shows The Illusive Man laying out precisely how he plans to emotionally manipulate Shepard. Tali's response shows that you do, indeed, need to Beware the Nice Ones.
Overlaps with Tear Jerker, but the scenes meeting Kaidan in the hospital after he is critically injured on Mars by Dr. Eva. The first scene, when Kaidan is unconscious, is heartwarming, with Shepard telling Kaidan to fight and recover, that the Alliance needs him, and then, hesitantly admitting that Shepard really needs him too. This is regardless of whether or not Kaidan is romanced. Later, when Shepard bring him a get-well bottle of whiskey and comes to see him, is nothing short of endearing. Shepard asks if he'll be okay, and then the two have their heart to heart about Horizon. Kaidan reflects on how Shepard never judged him about Rahna back at BAaT, and that they went through Ashley's death together, and just wants to know if he and the Commander "are good?"
You also get this gem if he was romanced in Mass Effect 1.
Shepard: Are we going to be able to get past what happened on Horizon? Kaidan: I'd like to, Shepard. As friends... as more than friends. I mean, I don't know. I just like having you in my life.
He also mentions that he never saw anyone else after you died in ME2, because he loved you too much.
Female Shepard and Eve bonding over both being women placed into positions of great importance by their respective species, declaring that they'll show the men how it's done.
Shepard: Thanks for talking to me. Eve: It's my pleasure, Commander. I'm glad to see humans treat their women with respect. Your people have placed a lot of responsibility on you. Shepard: No more than your people have put on you. Eve: [laughs] Then maybe we can show the men how it's done. Shepard: [smiles] Deal.
If you saved Thane's son in the last game, you join him in Thane's hospital room after Kai Leng stabbed him during a try at the salarian councilor. Together, you read a very quiet and subdued passage on forgiveness and strength which ends as Thane breathes his last breath and dies peacefully. The kicker? That prayer wasn't for him. It was for you.
Near the end of the game, at the makeshift base just before the final assault, there is a communications master that you can speak to. He'll ask if you want to get in touch with anyone who may not be at the final battle with you. This includes your squadmates from Mass Effect 2, if you helped them with their problems. Just hearing them all again, wishing for you to give them hell, and some of them, even in the thick of it somewhere else. Even Zaeed will encourage you with his own Pre Ass Kicking One Liner:
Zaeed: Let's gut the bastards...
Let's forget for a second that the Broken Base intensely hates Diana Allers. Before the final mission, if you have been keeping her up-to-speed with interviews, you will receive an email from her titled, "Normal is the best revenge". In it, she will describe how her home colony world, Bekenstein, was casually wiped out by the Reapers in a fly-by blasting; they didn't even stop to harvest any of the colonists. She demands that Shepard kick the Reapers' collective asses so hard, with her camera recording every second of it, that future generations can look back on the horrible galactic tragedy without fear, but pride in the fact that they overcame such a huge obstacle to the extent that the Reapers won't even be a footnote in the pages of history.
Assuming it's not a romance and so he didn't cheat on you, Jacob's revelation that he's going to be a father. In general, considering how reserved he was when it came to his emotions in Mass Effect 2, it was really telling just how excited he was over the prospect of that and finding his place with the ex-Cerberus Scientists.
The way you rekindle the romance with Ashley. You comfort her over the loss of her brother-in-law and tell her in no uncertain terms that you love her and always will. As with Garrus, the game goes a long way to showing that Shepard and Ashley are really lovers.
If you had a fling with Miranda in the second game, Shepard has to break up with her, while being as gentle as he can. Shepard honestly seems sincere when he tells Ash that, it wasn't that the 'fling' didn't mean anything, he does care about Miranda, but after Horizon, Shepard and Ashley were both in a place where they simply couldn't help being selfish and stupid. The fact that both can reconcile, even with Ash initially being cold to Shepard and Shepard's honest remorse at being unfaithful to Ash and how gut-punched they seem after Ash gets put into the hospital on Mars, shows how far the two have grown up and how they truly feel about the other.
Best summed up by Ashley in the romance scene;
Ashley: Just shut up and kiss me.
Your Shepard gets to say he loves her for the first time in the entire series, particularly heartwarming if you romanced her in Mass Effect and may have been waiting over 4 (real) years to do so
On Mars after finding the implanted Cerberus soldier, Ashley is expressing concerns that even if Shepard is the real deal, she's afraid that Cerberus left a Trojan Horse inside. Shepard gets to reassure her that he is still the same person he always was, and he wants her with him. Ashley's reaction?
Ashley: That's what I needed to hear. (Smiling)
If Shepard hooked up with Tali during the second game, Ashley takes it surprisingly well. Instead of being hostile or jealous, she says Tali is like a sister to her and gives her approval. Especially heartwarming considering how biting Ash's remarks about Jack or Miranda are if they're in the same situation, and that she doesn't really like aliens.
Nearly everything Paragon Shepard does in this game seems to chalk up to one of these. Shepard may be a badass, cybernetically enhanced, supersoldier with possible biotic powers, but their real superpower is a simple inherent faith in people to do the right thing when the time comes.
"You did good, son/child. You did good. I'm proud of you."
And the cut dialogue, with Anderson asking Shepard if s/he intends to settle down and have children now. And how any child would be proud to have Commander Shepard as their mother/father. Not to mention the implication that Anderson views Shepard as the child that he was never able to have.
Anderson: Think how proud your kids will be, telling everyone their dad/mom is Commander Shepard. Shepard: I don't know about that. Not everything I've done is something to be proud of. Anderson:I'm proud of you. You did good son/child. You did good.
The Shadow Broker files in the second game revealed that Anderson does in fact have a son, but their relationship is strained. One could interpret this as that in addition to coming to see Shepard as a son/daughter to him, part of the reason he values their relationship so much is because it's the one he wishes he had with his own children.
When Joker gets out of his chair and salutes Shepard before returning to Earth with the combined fleets.
In an event probably missed by most players, after Cerberus attacks Citadel and you're forced to kill Ash/Kaidan or deny their request to rejoin the crew in the aftermath, he does the same to show that while most of the galaxy still questions Shepard's actions after all that's happened, there are some who don't.
Shepard: What's this? Joker: Someone giving you the respect you deserve.
When EDI isn't being a CMOF, she's often getting into this territory. Her sincere interest in humanity and morals is often quite endearing as is her devotion to the Normandy's crew.
EDI: If the Normandy were captured, my fate would be similar to the indoctrinated. My code would be rewritten. I would become loyal to the Reapers. I would rather become nonfunctional than help them. Shepard: We won't let that happen to you, EDI. EDI: You may have no choice. If you perish first, I want you to know I will never be a part of the Reaper force.
She then describes the difference between the Reapers and herself. The Reapers only care about self-preservation and nothing but. EDI would gladly sacrifice her existence to save Jeff.
One minor one. After Cerberus invades the Citadel in Udina's attempted coup, when you go to the refugee camp you can see a batarian placing his hand on the shoulder of a distraught human woman attempting to comfort her. Given the general hatred batarians have for humans it's a very powerful gesture.
If you couldn't save Miranda and romanced her in the second, the way she runs a hand on the side of Shepard's face as they hold her as she lays dying, Shepard having a clear look of "Its all my fault". Shepard thanks her for saving them and comforts her by telling her that she did the right thing, that Shepard will look after Oriana now and that Miranda doesn't need to worry anymore... her sister is safe.
The scene that starts the romance between male Shepard and Kaidan. Especially for fans who've been wanting it since the first game.
Shepard: It does. It does feel right. After all this time. You and me.
As much as Bioware wrote themselves into a corner by not including a proper male/male option from the beginning, Kaidan's was handled as well is it could have been. The result is something that honestly feels like a trilogy spanning romance with its own distinct feel compared to the male/female version.
Hell, Kaidan in general is this. Especially for a female Shepard who has loved him since ME1, it becomes very apparent just how much he's her rock, the Only Sane Man who can offer her advice and comfort in the direst and darkest of days.
Bring your LI with you when you infiltrate the Illusive Man's base with EDI. You'll find video logs about Shepard's resurrection, and they say flat-out that Shepard was brain-dead, causing the Commander to actually have a moment of doubt.
Cerberus Scientist: Sir, Shepard is clinically brain-dead. After that much trauma, that long with no oxygen... We cannot overcome nature. Shepard:[watching the video] I didn't realize it was that bad. ... Shepard:[softly] Maybe they really just fixed me. Or maybe I'm just a high-tech VI that thinks it's Commander Shepard. But I don't know. I...
Liara: I wish you'd told me Shepard. I knew it was really you the first time I touched you again.
Kaidan's response is equally heartwarming:
Kaidan: You're real enough to me.
It's just such a massive contrast to his doubts about Shepard at the beginning of the game. Before, seeing that would have all but confirmed his suspicions. But by the time he watches that log, he knows who Shepard is and he won't ever doubt it again.
Ashley's reaction sells it too.
Ashley: Screw those Cerberus freaks. Whatever anyone says, you're you.
Then when Shepard admits that he should not of trusted Cerberus but he needed their help, Ashley doesn't blame him at all and says that now they can set things right. Compare to the start when that would of just confirmed her suspicions.
Upon entering the Geth consciousness, you see several pivotal moments of the Geth's history that are preserved and shown to Shepard. They are what you'd expect: initial relations between the Quarians and the Geth, and the Morning War. The most recent memory, however, is that of Shepard him/herself welcoming Legion as a member of the Normandy's crew. As Legion explains, it's a key memory it wishes to share with the rest of the Geth: Shepard was the first organic to ever welcome it with (somewhat) open arms.
Reuniting Liara with her father, Matriarch Aethyta, who has been carefully spying on her for years to ensure the other asari matriarchs don't do anything to hurt her. She even threatens Shepard and talks boldly about Benezia... but the greatest moment is when Liara tells her the story of how Benezia fought to the end against indoctrination and helped Shepard - something Aethyta never knew and blamed Benezia for surrendering to.
She didn't even know that the Reaper Indoctrination was real, and thought that Saren had corrupted Benezia through conventional means.
The crowner is here, though:
Aethyta: You're treating her like a baby bird, Nezzy, but she's gonna raise one hell of a storm with those little wings. Liara:Little wing?. Aethyta: You okay? Liara: Yes. Thanks.
Also worth mentioning is the last dialogue between them where Aethyta calls in favours with Eclipse mercs for Liara's sake. That's right, she gives her daughter a band of Asari Commandos as a gift. In response to this Liara calls her the best father a girl could wish for.
Liara: You got me...asari commandos? Aethyta: Well, you're too old for me to get you a damn pony.
Shepard gets to quote that right back at her. Aethyta is impressed.
Samara spent the last game talking about the Justicar code, and how it is black and white with no room for grey. So when the Reapers attack the Ardat-Yakshi monastery where her two remaining daughters live and has no choice but to leave one of them behind to blow it up to stop the Banshees, if she follows the code, it compels her to kill her last remaining Ardat-Yakshi daughter. She pulls out her gun and puts it to her temple, intending to kill herself rather than kill her daughter. Her love for her daughter is strong enough that she would die before killing her. Given that her loyalty mission in the last game was about tracking down and killing one of them, it's touching to see her instead want to kill herself than her daughter.
Thank GOD for the paragon interrupt, though, which leads to a rare expression of emotion as her daughter proposes a way to ensure that the code is upheld and they live.
There is an earlier one regarding Samara and her daughter. When Falere insists that she and the other Ardat-Yakshi are happy living in the monastery and are not responsible for the attack, Samara steps in, telling Shepard that she vouches for Falere's words "with pride". It cuts to a shot of Falere giving a small smile.
And in the extended cut ending, you can see a shot of Falere and Samara together.
EDI at the endgame: "I understand what is at stake, the Reapers have destroyed thousands of civilizations. But they have never destroyed ours nor will they."
Shepard in general is just so much more... human in this game than s/he has been in others. The strain is clearly visible at points Particularly after Thessia when Shepard has to take the call from the Asari councilor and explain, for the first time in all three games, that they have failed.
Asari Councilor: I never thought this day would come. Shepard: None of us did. I'm [asari councilor disconnects] ... sorry.
The scene where Joker cracks wise about the Asari. Take the paragon option, then apologize when he shows the war is affecting him too and says how much stress Shepard is under, and the scene that usually follows after this (where Joker is angry at Shepard) is skipped. It shows just how much Joker knows the strain Shepard is under, and is willing to let go when s\he cracks.
Shepard:[after calling Joker out for an off-color joke regarding after the destruction of Thessia] So why the jokes!? Joker: 'cause EDI says according to your biometric scans, you're under more stress right now than you were during the Skyllian Blitz. Like more than Elysium, when it was you versus pretty much 10,000 batarians trying to kill you. And the last time I had a meeting with Anderson, he told me to take care of you. The guy leading the resistance - on Earth! - is worried about you, and I'm supposed to help! Shepard: I appreciate the thought, Joker, but I'm fine! Joker: The hell you are! You're like half robot at this point. [aside] No offense, EDI. And it's my fault! When the Collectors blew up the first Normandy, you died because an wouldn't leave... Because you had to come back for me. Shepard: Couldn't leave the best pilot in the fleet behind, could I? Joker: Yeah, we'll I guess that would've looked bad on your report. Shepard: Come on. We've got work to do.
Javik, of all people, delivering a brief but inspiring Rousing Speech to people on the Citadel, telling them that there is hope, and they can win, and that the Protheans saw potential in all of their species, and that now is the time to rise to those expectations. Immediately afterward, he confides to Shepard that he honestly has enjoyed his time walking among the "young."
All interactions with EDI about humanity probably qualify, but this one deserves a special mention: “The Reapers are repulsive. They are devoted to nothing but self-preservation. I am different. When I think of Jeff, I think of the person that put his life in peril and freed me from a state of servitude. I would risk nonfunctionality for him.
In Mass Effect: Datapad for iOS devices you receive messages from in-game characters as you interact with them in Mass Effect 3 itself. Using the app while romancing Garrus gives you this heartwarming message:
It's late. Just got up for some water. You're still asleep. Wanted to say how beautiful I think you are. Love G.
There's a really great one after the Cerberus attack, outside the Purgatory bar: a salarian soldier on medical leave for an almost-healed injury is chatting with his human friend about the fancy new armor he received from command a few weeks prior. She asks him about its specs and properties, which he enthuses about at length, speculating that it was sent to him due to an error given how much better it is than what he'd normally be issued. Finally, as they're preparing to leave, he asks her about her beloved top-of-the-line car, only to learn that she sold it a few weeks back... right around the same time the salarian received his new gear.
Salarian: ...Come on. I'm gonna buy you a God damned drink.
Liara shares her memories with your prior to the last assault on London. She mentions that it is sometimes done between bondmates. She also mentions those little blue children you discussed earlier.
It may even be better with a non-romanced Liara. She leans against Shepard's arm and gently rests her head on Shepard's shoulder. It's a phenomenally sweet moment.
Liara: Thank you. For everything.
Unless you happen to be wearing spiked armor... then it becomes unintentionally funny.
When listing her preparations for the final battle, EDI mentions kissing Joker for luck.
The Synthesis ending. During the entire game, we see Joker and EDI's romance forming. Choosing the Synthesis ending has a cyborg Joker and a cyborg EDI walking into the new world, almost like Adam and Eve. EDI gives the broadest smile in her life as she rests her head on Joker's shoulder in pure joy.
In the extended cut Synthesis ending, upon realizing Shepard is truely dead for good, the newly technorganic EDI cries for the first time, only to be consoled by Shepard's LI.
EDI: I am alive - and I am not alone.
It's especially touching if Shepard's love interest is Tali. The quarian girl who's hated synthetics most of her life is now offering her shoulder for an AI to cry on. How far she's come.
The final scene between Shepard and Admiral Anderson warms your heart and breaks it all at the same time.
Anderson: Commander. Shepard: We did it. Anderson: Yes, we did. It's quite a view. Shepard: Heh. Best seats in the house. Anderson: God... Feels like years since I just sat down. Shepard: I think you earned a rest... Anderson, stay with me. We're almost through this. Anderson: You did good, son/child... You did good. I'm... proud of you... Shepard: Thank you, sir. Anderson: ... Shepard: Anderson?
A lot of the fetch quests you can do after overhearing conversations on the Citadel qualify. The galaxy is falling apart, but Shepard still finds time to perform little acts of kindness. Finding heating units to save a salarian's clutch from dying out. Acquiring an improved power grid for the Purgatory bar to help give people — especially off-duty soldiers — somewhere to escape for a little while. Bringing back confirmation of a son's death so his family won't be left wondering. Recovering a batarian priest's religion artifact to give his people some faith to cling to. Just little bits and pieces that might not even matter once all is said and done, but it's a reminder that people are what we're fighting for, not just basic survival.
Mordin telling Shepard about his first meeting with "Eve".
Shepard: You care about [Eve]. Mordin: My patient. My responsibility. Found her at STG base. Three doctors injured trying to restrain her. Undid arm restraints. Didn't resist when she grabbed me. Promised to help her. She said, "Please."
After the Cerberus coup on the Citadel, if you manage to do it without killing Kaidan/Ashley, you get a small scene with Garrus in front of the memorial wall. He talks about how Shepard almost had to kill him/her, and is thankful that he/she didn't join Ashley/Kaidan. He then comments that it was Kaidan/Ashley fight too, and they need to win for him/her as well. Heartwarming to know he still remembers the one who died at Virmire two years after he/she dies.
Also, he'll sound sincerely happy to have Kaidan/Ashley back on the Normandy. It's nice to see he doesn't hold Horizon against them.
The encounter with the Catalyst, if you think about it. Here we have the creator of the Reapers, the source of the cycle of extinction, the ultimate Big Bad of the series... and he peacefully accepts his end, if that means a permanent peace between synthetic and organic life. No Cultural Posturing, no Villainous Breakdown, just a sad affirmation and acceptance of the end. Godspeed, you mechanical bastard.
Although in the Extended Cut, if Shepard says he or she doesn't want to die to become the new catalyst, the Catalyst says "I'm not looking forward to being replaced by you either, but I have to accept it."
Conrad Verner is back in the game and being his usual idiot self. But for all his stupidity, he got the Shepherds out of the war zone, using all of his funds. Conrad, leave the badassery to Shepard. But that doesn't mean you can't be a hero.
For some, who loved the character and thought that he was honestly a really good guy trying to do some good to the galaxy, getting those five War Asset points from him meant more than getting all of Tuchanka behind them.
Of all things, Balak. Keep in mind, he just pledged the last Batarians in existence to fight in the war. It would have been even more heartwarming had the Endings not precluded the fact that the Batarians would have probably been welcomed back after decades in exile to Citadel space.
Miranda laying out the guilt she feels for even thinking about putting a control chip in Shepard's head. She states how she should have known better given how she always tried to protect herself and her sister from their father's controlling influence. The apology that she gives Shepard for considering making him/her a slave to Cerberus feels genuine and heartfelt. Miranda's really come a long way.
It's even more heartwarming if Shepard forgives her and expresses his/her gratitude for Miranda's work on the Lazarus Project:
Shepard: I lost two years of my life, Miranda. You gave the rest of it back.
If you manage to get the turians and the krogan working together, after a while you will get a sudden, seemingly random Codex entry added. "The Miracle at Palaven".
After generations of animosity, the Krogan and the Turians are working together for the first time since... ever. They coordinate a massive sneak attack against the Reapers by using a dreadnought as a distraction and then smuggling a large number of high-yield WMDs into Reaper harvesting camps. Countless lives are sacrificed, but through the combined efforts of the Krogan and Turians, they manage to strike possibly the biggest blow against the Reapers short of the battle for the Catalyst.
This conversation with Garrus after the fall of Thessia. When Shepard has comes as close as s/he ever has to a Heroic BSOD:
After spending two games being the squad's Warrior Therapist it's nice to see them giving Shepard the pep-talk for a change.
If you successfully get the quarians and geth to make peace, the geth show that they had Undying Loyalty towards their creators all along. They build housing and help with the fields (which Tali says would have taken years, not weeks), and most amazing of all, the geth are curing the quarians of their immunity problems by simulating diseases (without getting them sick), strengthening their immune systems to the point at which the children won't need envirosuits. Talk about Laser-Guided Karma. If only Legion didn't have to "die".
Finding out that Space!Shepard's mother is still alive and well in Mass Effect 3, you would expect her to be among the casualties defending Earth but surprisingly Shepard's mother made it out alright.
This little bit of dialogue between Paragon Shepard and Eve:
Talking to Steve Cortez on the Citadel. He sees a turian frigate that's very scarred up, seen a lot of conflict, and compares it to himself, limping around and having no reason to live. Shepard can Paragon interrupt Steve by looking at a passing Alliance frigate, who was repurposed from a warship to evacuating civilians. He tells Steve there are always reasons to live. It snaps Steve out of his funk, and saves his life in the end.Good Feels Good.
Talking to Samantha Traynor has at least one big CMOH. She reveals that she was visiting her family on Horizon when the Collectors hit and she just sounds so grateful that Shepard and his/her team came for her.
Traynor: When the Alliance was running studies, you were saving me and my family.
Even better was that Shepard was expressing his/her guilt about having worked with Cerberus, with Traynor assuring him/her that while Cerberus is a bad group, s/he was still doing the right thing.
A subtle one after ending the Quarian-Geth War peacefully, Tali looks over Rannoch and comments;
Tali: It is beautiful though, isn't it? Shepard: [looking directly at Tali] Yeah... it is.
More so as Shepard does this even if Tali isn't romanced.
The other dialogue between Shepard and tali (if romanced) that comes before also qualifies
Shepard: You going to be okay? I know working with the geth will be difficult. Tali: I'm not staying, I'm coming with you. Shepard: I wasn't going to ask... Tali: Why not? Shepard: Because I respect you, dammit. you think I don't want you to come with me? Tali: So ask me. Shepard: Tali... Tali: I don't know how much time we have left, or if we can even stop the reapers, but whatever happens I want to be by your side. Shepard: [smirks] I bet you say that to every guy who gets you a homeworld. Tali: [looks directly at him] Only the cute ones.
Another CMOH during the battle of London between Tali and Shepard (if romanced), also crosses into Tear Jerker territory.
Tali: Do you remember what I said on Rannoch? Shepard: You said "I love you" Tali: And you said "Keelah se'lai"..I want...more time Shepard: ...I know... [comforts her with a hug] whatever happens... Tali: [nods] ...I know..
Also when Tali shows up again with the other admirals, if she was romanced the way Shepard's eyes simply 'light up' when he sees her again..
If you chose the geth - and only if you chose the geth, for some reason - then when back on Earth you can talk to a Geth Prime who promises that the geth are fighting for their future - and once the war is over, they will help rebuild yours.
All of the final good-byes in 3 are this, though some more than others.
Shepard-Miranda interactions can be sweet, too:
Shepard: Miranda...things are never going to be easy for us. But I'll always want you in my life. Miranda: [playfully] No regrets? This is your chance to back out. Shepard: None.
Miranda: Shepard...promise me you'll be careful. Shepard: I can't do that, Miranda. Miranda: [chuckling humorlessly] I know. Bastard.
In addition, Miri's (assuming she doesn't die) reunion with her sister is a sweet moment and shows that for all her being an "Ice Queen" she has a heart and loves her sister deeply, and now that her father is dead, they don't need to run anymore.
Miranda: So finish this. Then FIND ME.
The extended Synthesis ending took several levels in this from the original endings. Epilogue scenes show The Reapers actually helping everyone to rebuild narrated by EDI. Although still bittersweet at best, it's still heartwarming.
The hug between (in my game) Kaidan and EDI after placing the nameplate on the memorial counts as well - Shepard's lover and the entity who feels she owes her existence to Shepard, sharing a moment of shared sadness and sympathy.
Also in the extended Synthesis ending, you'll get to see Kasumi reunited with her partner-in-crime and lover, Keiji.
A small one from the extended Synthesis ending there's a scene where an alliance marine is getting mauled by a Husk, when the blast from the Crucible hits and knocks them flat. The human quickly gets to his knees and begins edging away from the Husk, only to see it looking around with a dazed expression and very human-like body language; almost like it's thinking "What happened? What the hell have I been doing?". Very poignant coming from a previously mindless automaton.
The extended Control ending is arguably just as poignant. Shepard lives on, not as a human, but as the immortal overseer of the Reapers. Under his/her command, the Reapers rebuild the galaxy and make it more glorious than ever before, but Shepard's squadmates believe that he/she died to make it happen and Shepard will never be able to tell them otherwise.
There's no indication of "can't" in the Control ending; it's either a case of "won't so they'll move on," or...there's going to be some very happy squadmates when they get back from Gilligan's Planet.
Nothing really stopping Shepard from pulling an EDI and uploading himself/herself into a shell to hang out with his/her old crew, honestly. Fridge happy ending?
Also, consider Paragon!Shepard will be doing so he won't kill EDI and the Geth just to destroy the Reapers. EDI and the Geth will probably be feeling both sad and happy, especially if you played Renegade style on the second game and Paragon style on the third, making Shepard's Character Development into The Atoner and The Messiah for Synthetics. Also a great way of telling "Fuck You" to the Reapers and the Catalyst's Insane Troll Logic.
And while we're at it, the extended Destroy ending may be a bit bleaker, but it is stil optimistic. Lots of people died, including all the synthetics, but the Reapers are defeated, and the galaxy can (and does) rebuild, united as one. Let's not forget that Shepard can still survive in this ending.
If you have high enough EMS, destroy will show your LI refusing to add Shepard's name to the memorial wall, and the Normandy flies off, presumably heading for the Citadel. Next it shows Shepard waking up in the Citadel's ruins. A BioWare poster on the forums confirmed this is meant to imply that the Normandy finds Shepard and he/she reunites with their LI and the crew.
If you happen have a high EMS score along with the iOS Datapad app and chose this ending, a day or two after finishing the game, you will receive a message a day or two from your LI that they are hoping to see you in the hospital. Not to mention the file that contains the scene of the soldier breathing is named "shepardlives".
In the Extended Cut, if you cure the genophage, one of the epilogue slides is of Wrex, Grunt and Bakara playing with their children. They just look so happy it can reduce you to tears.
This message from BioWare at the end of the credits of the Extended Cut.
"It has been a long journey - for Shepard and for the team here at BioWare - and like Shepard, we couldn't have done it alone. The Mass Effect trilogy began as a vision of a small team, but over the years it has grown. That growth has been fueled and shaped by the feedback and support of our player community. Thank you for joining us on this journey, and we look forward to sharing further adventures with you in the Mass Effect universe."
In the Extended Cut, the last scene most players will see before the credits is the Normandy lifting off and flying off into the sunset. It's a good way to say good-bye.
Extended Cut ending card, right at the end; "Congratulations on bringing an end to the Reaper threat. Commander Shepard has become a legend, and from here you can continue to build that legend." Also the child asking the Stargazer to tell him/her more about "the Shepard". The ENTIRE trilogy has been a story told from a parent to their child. Arguments can be made saying the endings were too vague; or that they rendered the player's choices moot, sure; but one needs to realize that the legend of "the Shepard" is being told as a story; not unlike a parent telling their child a story at bedtime. When you realize that, who cares if EVERY SINGLE individual plot thread wasn't wrapped up absolutely perfectly, or that EVERY SINGLE choice you made in-game may or may not matter? The point is that the Reaper threat is OVER. The future that Commander Shepard secured REGARDLESS of Paragon/Renegade scores, REGARDLESS of Destroy/Control/Synthesis/Refusal, REGARDLESS of geth/quarians/both, cure/sabotage genophage, save/kill rachni, the save/sacrifice council, or anything else; the future that the Stargazer and their child have is one where they NO LONGER HAVE TO LIVE IN FEAR. There is peace in the universe because of "the Shepard", which is the only thing that truly matters.
If you attempting to romance Samara in the last game, in this one, she will have a short additional scene on the Citadel with you as you are about to leave. She takes your hand, and tells Shepard that his/her time is precious, and he should spend it wisely, with those who care for him. Coupled with the heartbreaking way she speaks, it's really touching.
Secretary Phillips: The emergency fund's gone, sir. We don't have the credits to hire enough ships to evacuate the colony before the Reapers get here. Not with the prices their captains are asking for.
Councilor Gujir: What about the military? Phillips: The left an hour ago. They said... they said it's too much of a risk to come back. Gujir: Did they. Phillips: Yes, sir. Gujir: Here. Phillips: This... is this a passkey, sir? And an inventory? Gujir: Phillips, I am authorizing you on behalf of this city's Senate to seize any and all eezo stockpiles in our treasury, in order to secure safe passage for our citizens on any available ships. Phillips: These look like private stockpiles. Senate members' stockpiles. Gujir: I'm foregoing re-election. Now get us those ships. Phillips: Yes, sir!
After Thessia, Liara is devastated, and some of the other crew... When she confronts Javik he needs little prompting to say probably the first encouraging thing he's said to her, even if he does tell Shepard that true or not, it's what she needed to hear. Tali and Garrus anxiously argue about which of them should talk to her; neither knows what to say and they don't want to make it worse. If prompted Ashley will say that she'll talk to her. Over the comm, EDI does talk and listen, deflating Liara's bitterness about how her relationship with her mother tied into it.
After the mission on Horizon Tali calls up Javik; one call has her basically sloshed, but she also puts in a much more serious call, where she expresses her horror at the whole thing. Javik was numbed to that and worse and says so, but less harshly than usual. Tali says that she's sorry he had to go through that - and he says "Your sympathy is not needed, quarian... but it is appreciated." He then seems to backpedal a little, saying that quarians have always been emotional and it's thought to be a product of their biology.
Tali: Or maybe it's genuine. Javik: ...Perhaps.
When Tali discusses Banshees with EDI, EDI interprets some of it as Tali expressing her own insecurity and feelings of uselessness and tries to help, at first rather awkwardly by saying "You (quarians) would make excellent Reaper soldiers", and then when this doesn't have the desired effect, she outright states that Tali has been a great help.
After the monastery mission, talking to Steve Cortez has him rather peevishly request that next time Shep blows up a monastery s/he should tell him s/he's not still inside. "I worry about you!"
The Leviathan DLC opens up new systems to scan and new War Assets to acquire. One of them is a Batarian governor.
The governor of the batarian colony Camala was outspoken in the early hours of the Reaper assault, blaming the Alliance for the destruction of batarian comm buoys that were, in fact, destroyed by the Reapers. Now liberated from his world, the governor has undergone a dramatic conversion. His daily extranet videos rally his formerly conservative, xenophobic subjects to embrace the Citadel species as brothers and sisters in arms. Unlike many batarian politicians, he also avoids micromanaging military affairs, content with inspirational tasks and the logistical nightmare of providing urgently-needed relief to batarian refugees.
In Leviathan, Shepard's love interest actively scolds him/her for diving to the bottom of the ocean on an unknown planet, in order to speak to an Eldritch Abomination. S/he was more worried about Shepard's welfare than the multiple Reaper forces s/he and another squadmate were holding off, until s/he got back.
Earlier in the DLC, a romanced Garrus says one of the sweetest things.
Garrus: Shepard, I...I admit I was worried about you on that dig site. Things got... pretty hectic. Not used to feeling like that, you know. That's what love does. Turns a guy like me into a nervous wreck with something to lose and the aim to make sure he doesn't. Nobody better hurt you, is all I'm saying.
Kaidan, if romanced, has this to say after the fight on Despoina:
Kaidan: You scare the hell out of me with these risky stunts Shepard, but I guess it's part of what I love about you.
James Vega's concern for Doctor Ann Bryson.
Post-bomb mission, Wrex grills Garrus on whether or not he knew about the bomb, asking whether or not his friend would keep that from him. "His friend". And of course Garrus wouldn't.
One small one: when Joker is on the Citadel, he remarks how everyone finally realizes how serious things are getting by the way they're dancing. He notes they're waving their hands around and don't care if they look stupid. Shepard pounces on that and urges Joker, who has always stayed on the sidelines thanks to Vrolic's Syndrome, to dance and not care if he looks stupid. Sure enough, Joker is on the dance floor dancing the best he can, and sounds truly happy when you speak to him.
The Refusal ending makes the Stargazer epilogue even more poignant and heartwarming. Shepard refused to compromise his humanity at the cost of galactic civilization, but... he and Liara's efforts made sure that was the last time, and a new species speaks of him with awe, despite being 50,000 years later and Shepard being nothing but stardust at that point.
At some point in the game, Joker will ask Shepard about whether getting into a relationship with EDI is stupid or not, to which Shepard can say it is stupid, but Joker deserves every right to make "stupid" choices.
Also, in a way, both Heartwarming and Awesome how Shepard uses Joker's own logic "against" him. The conversation begins with Joker looking on as the marines on the dance floor dance and look stupid while noting that they, the marines, don't mind because they got bigger things to worry about (i.e. the Reapers). The conversation moves on to his beginning relationship with EDI and Joker remarks how stupid it is. Choose to encourage him and Shepard asks if he would be dancing and making an ass out of himself if he could. Joker nods and Shepard answers that perhaps his relationship with EDI is stupid, but apparently he has bigger things to worry about. Joker thinks about it for a few seconds, smiles, and limps to the dance floor to dance with EDI.
Minor one, but if you've been completely open with Wrex, it really shows how much he trusts Shepard. Before the mission to disable the turian bomb we have this exchange:
Wrex: What was all that over there with the Primarch? Are the turians up to something? Shepard: It's nothing, don't worry about it. Wrex: Uh-huh. Alright.
The paragon version of Aria's speech after retaking Omega. All ending with;
When you ask Dr. Chakwas about her family she'll reply that while she may be the last of her bloodline, "The Alliance is my spouse and you are all my children". She says it with such sincere, nurturing tones that you can’t help but feel the warmth flow through you. Team Mom indeed.
By the end of the Omega DLC, Bray, Aria's henchman in Omega, has probably the best relationship with Shepard out of any batarian in the series. At the end of the DLC, he is tasked with escorting Shepard to the dock to return to the Normandy, while everybody else is rounding up the Cerberus stragglers.
Shepard: You always get these crap details, Bray? Bray: Heh. Not this time. You've got a galaxy to save. Let's get you off this rock.
After Omega, he sends Shepard an e-mail about how there is one batarian in the galaxy who doesn't hate Shepard.
Taking Kaidan to the Cerberus base, when you come across the remains of the human-Reaper, he says that he wishes he'd been there. Shepard's response is to just say "you're here now."
It's particularly poignant for male Shepards romancing him, as their relationship is filled with missed opportunities and lost time, and Shepard is quietly stating that what had passed doesn't matter, it's that they're together now that counts.
Admiral Hackett's late-game response to Shepard asking why he picked him/her of all people to unite the galaxy when anyone smart and lucky could have done the same. You can pay a soldier to do all sorts of things... but you can't pay a soldier to believe in someone. Listening to Hackett, and especially looking at Paragon Shepard's incredibly diverse fleet of humans, aliens and synthetics, some of whom were mortal enemies not so long ago, one could say the entire series, and the third game in particular, has one message above all others, and an overwhelmingly heartwarming one at that: Have faith in others, and they will have faith in you.
Mass Effect 3: "Citadel" is set up to be this between Shepard and his crew, particularly the love interests. Some clips show Male!Shep and Tali watching a film featuring a quarian and a turian (specifically Fleet and Flotilla), Fem Shep and Garrus dancing, Male!Shep and Jack embracing, and Fem!Shep sharing a beer with Kaidan.
In "Citadel" when Shepard and squad arrive at the Normandy as it's getting stolen by Brooks and Clone!Shep, you find Traynor who was just thrown out of the Normandy. If Fem!Shep romanced Traynor, she is pissed because because Clone!Shep just fired her for fraternization. What happens after is just adorable.
Traynor: You've got a lot of nerve coming back here! I can't believe that after all we've been through you you fire me for fraternization! [Paragon Interrupt appears which causes Shepard to compassionately kiss Traynor] Traynor: What... Shepard: Long story short, evil clone not me.
Kolyat's memorial service for his father.
If you take Wrex and Tali with you to fight the clone, you're treated to this bit of dialogue in the elevator. Also counts as a CMoF.
Wrex: You been practicing with that shotgun? Still remember that fast reloading trick I showed you? Tali: You know, I've taken care of myself for the past few years. Wrex: I know. I'm old and I worry, even though my favorite quarian is all grown up and killing Reapers. Tali: You're like the crazy head-butting uncle I never had.
Or with Liara
Wrex: No worrying? No emotional concerns? You've grown up, T'soni. Liara:[only if she talked to Aethyta/her father and finding out her grandfather was a krogan] Well, I recently discovered that I'm one-quarter krogan. Wrex: Ha! I knew there was a reason I liked you.
Shepard and Kaidan can have a moment after the first combat sequence.
Shepard: What would I do without you? Kaidan: You'll never find out.
Their final romance scene after inviting Kaidan to the apartment is pure domestic fluff. It's their first chance to just be normal together. At the end the player has a choice between going upstairs for sex, or staying on the couch to cuddle. If cuddling is chosen, Shepard sums it up;
Shepard: I can't think of anything better than this moment right now.
Spacer Shepard can finally talk to his/her mother. Unfortunately, you still don't see Rear Admiral Shepard, but she is still proud of her son/daughter and remembered a story about her child having his/her own warship and crew. How heartwarming.
Relatively small one, but if Shepard competes in the Armax Arsenal Combat Arena and performs well, s/he gets fan mail from, well, fans. One of them is from a Turian mother who informs Shepard that her daughter is fascinated with humans and she actually thinks it's good for her daughter to have a non-Turian role model. It has been clear from the first game that Shepard is a hero and an idol in the eyes of many humans, but this is the first time that a normal, alien family informs Shepard that they are rooting for him/her.
Another one from the Combat Arena: Shepard can partake in a special match against the most elite Reaper units for the Mass Effect equivalent of the Make A Wish Foundation. This even gets acknowledged by the announcer. The mail afterwards says the child had a blast watching Shepard and the commander is officially her hero now. And, in a CMOH reaching out into the audience, taking part in this match for charity earns you no less than fifteen points of reputation.
Shepard can find Joker trying to convince a bartender to give him free drinks by telling a ridiculous story about hijacking an Atlas Mech to fight off the Cerberus Coup. Shepard can vouch for him, not by validating the story, but instead by pointing out that Joker actually has saved the galaxy on multiple occasions.
If you spared Maelon and saved his data, then cure the genophage, he'll send you an ecstatic email, stating "This validates all the pain my experiments caused." He was truly regretful about the barbarity of his experiments when removed from it with some perspective, but everything he wanted was accomplished. In addition, he states he wants to meet with the Krogan females and apologize and ask for their forgiveness.
In the Citadel DLC, if the right conditions are met, Shepard and Samara can finally share the kiss they have been longing for ever since the Almost Kiss aboard the Normandy in ME2.
It's even more heartwarming if you think about how Samara has been conditioned and has followed her code since when she became a Justicar possibly hundreds of years ago, and she cares so much about Shepard that she's finally willing to make an exception for them.
Another for the Citadel DLC, Shepard and Liara share a romantic moment in the apartment. She is tapping out the only song she knows how to play on the piano, because years before, another archaeologist taught it to her to pass the time when they were stuck inside due to bad weather. After a few moments, Glyph proceeds to start playing the song for her and Shepard, without being asked. Very thoughtful for a mere VI.
Listen closely: it's a piano rendition of Vigil.
If you are romancing Tali, you can invite her on a date, and she takes the opportunity to serenade you with a romantic song. Although she lifts the lyrics from an in-game movie, Fleet and Flotilla, her body language and tone of voice indicate that she’s making a sincere declaration of love.
Let the moon shine its light on two lovers with its rays. Though I know that dawn will set us on course for separate ways, I will hold this night in memory for all my living days. Now at last, I, unmasked, feel your skin on mine.
The music she sings to is also the main love theme of the game, making the moment even more romantic and sweet.
Made even more sweeter when you realize that several of her lines from her romance arc in 2 were borrowed directly from the Quarian character in Fleet and Flotilla. Given her Shadow Broker dossier mentioned her downloading it during the Collector Mission, it's implied that she used it to give her the confidence to articulate how she felt about Shepard. Tali finally got her fairytale romance with a lover from beyond the stars.
After you watch Fleet and Flotilla with Tali, you get a dialogue option to say how adorable it is that she's so into it.
One more from Citadel, if you kept up the romance with Thane: After the usual final part of the ending scene, Thane shows up in spirit form and encourages Shepard to finish the fight. A great sendoff note for those who felt the main game dropped a bridge on the romance.
Also of note are Thane's video logs left for a romanced Shepard. Thane's dialogue is so well written, that even Shepard starts tearing up from it. Note that Thane is the only character in the saga that Shepard has ever cried for. Doubles as a Tear Jerker as well.
Romanced Garrus gives you possibly the only instance of Shepard being good at dancing.
It's also very touching that he's willing to spend all night booby-trapping your apartment with Zaeed in Citadel rather than enjoying himself at the party, especially if you're in a relationship. It's also hilarious since most of the ideas are ones only possible with inebriation-compromised judgement, but it's also touching that Garrus is more concerned about your safety than anything else.
Actually, that was probably Garrus' (and Zaeed's) idea of a party. Much like Kasumi's drawer raid. Sure, the two of them are definitely concerned for Shepard's (and other partygoers') safety, but they were definitely having a blast with it.
That said, Garrus's spoken reason for the booby-trapping if you've romanced him is definately very heartwarming. It's more the way he says it, to be honest. And then Shepard allows him to go ahead with every implication that it's entirely for his peace of mind, as though she's well aware of how much he cares for her and she's indulging in that caring purely to make her boyfriend happier. D'awwwww. Not to mention what the code for disarming the lot turns out to be...
There is a meta-heartwarming in the trilogy's final achievement. If the player manages to defeat the six player classes in the arena, they are declared The One and Only.
During the Citadel DLC, if EDI is taken to retake the Normandy from Clone Shepard. She will comment that it's odd to walk through the Normandy without sensors, and that she feels blind. If the third party member is not Javik or Wrex, they will say words of kindness to her. EDI simply gives a warm "Thank you."
One Goes out to Bioware itself for the multiplayer mission "Operation Tribute". Earlier that month Zaeed's voice actor Robin Sachs passed away. Bioware designed a challenge weekend mission in his honor that requires scoring 50,000 with the Avenger assault rifle (Zaeed had one featured in ME2 named 'Jesse') and firebombs (Zaeed's unique ability)
Mission Description: Operation: TRIBUTE (Feb 22nd-24th): A surprise Reaper assault inflicted deeply-felt casualties on our N7 teams and interrupted supply lines to several worlds. Many units will have to rely on standard-issue sidearms and munitions. We must honor and avenge our comrades who fell – and let the Reapers know this was a mistake, not a victory.
To elaborate, this was a collective effort. In a single match, an individual would earn no more than a few hundred points. To score a grand total of 100,000 points would take the efforts of a lot of players, and everyone who played during the weekend that Operation Tribute was in place would receive the reward. They expected it to take all weekend. In an absolute heartwarming moment, It was achieved in four hours.
And while we're on the subject of Zaeed, there's also another example that crosses with meta in Citadel DLC when you play with female Shepard. If you only invite Zaeed to the party along with the default guests, you have the conversation written down below. There's just something jarring in listening Zaeed tell something so personal that he can only say it to Shepard in private, knowing that the voice who said it is now permanently silent, making them, in its own, strange way, the last words Zaeed says to her. And then it gets even more poignant when you realize that he didn't utter a single curse during the whole conversation: You know he's serious and it's not just the booze talking.
During the party, despite their mutual dislike, Miranda can admit that she finds it extremely admirable that Jack is growing as a person, despite everything Cerberus did to her. It doesn't come out easy, but it's genuine, as is Jack's first surprised response.
It's subtle, but it's a huge change from Miranda's insistence that the Pragia cell wasn't "really'' Cerberus.
Kasumi's encounter in the casino - she's pulling a heist, and expects Shepard's going to turn her in. The Paragon path is to wish her luck (she is doing it for the refugees, after all...)
The fact that Zaeed actually bothered to try and get a kid a plush toy. Never mind the fact that it eventually turned into him wanting to beat it for honor.
Jack manages to adopt a biotic varren. Apparently, biotics make varren very short-tempered and even more vicious than they are normally, leading to abuse and abandonment. Jack rescued one from Thessia, and named it Eezo.Never before has a varren looked so cute.
Jack: Who's my badass biotic? Who's my badass biotic?
The similarities between Eezo and Jack are not lost on Shepard.
And then Shepard starts playing fetch with Eezo...using a frying pan instead of something sensible like a stick. Mainly because s/he had originally grabbed it to use as a shield.
That scene plays out differently if you remained faithful to Jack. She gives you an omega-and-skull tattoo, explaining that she never tattooed anyone else because no-one else mattered enough. Then, when she's getting worked up about her fears that Shepard won't be coming back (probably justified given the options), Shepard hugs her and tells her she worries too much.
You can later meet Jacob in the Arcade. He's accompanying a group of kids whose parents are MIA and giving them a good night out.
Just saving as many of your squadmates throughout the series as you can and holding that last party in Anderson's apartment, finalized with the massive group photo (prominently hung in the lounge) and returning to the Normandy to gaze at it with pride before boarding.
It might sound strange, but breaking up with Garrus at the beginning of the game if you have romanced him in ME2. As you pick the option to end the relationship and brace yourself for a very painful scene, you'll instead see a turian that handles the breakup very well, a woman who refuses to callously treat their relationship as "just a distraction" and two people who obviously mean so much to each other, just more as friends than as lovers. Granted, it might not make any easier to actually pick the option to end the relationship, but at least the game handles it really, really well.
Anderson's biography mentioning Shepard. The sheer, undisguised PRIDE dripping out of his description, and his defense of ShepardNote It's implied this was between Arrival and the beginning of Mass Effect 3, is incredibly heartwarming.
The final scene (and final line in particular) of the Citadel DLC and the meta-subtext is this all the way.
Squad Member: It's been a good ride. [pause] Shepard:The best.
A bit of fridge while playing co-op: the realization that in Galaxy At War, every species is working together, implying that Shepard did in fact manage to get the krogan, turians, salarians, quarians, geth, and even the batarians to work together to fight the Reapers.
Its a subtle one, but in the N7: Fuel Reactors mission, the turian Corporal mentions that he's gone on "three tours" with Captain Riley, a human officer. This implies that there have been at least three years of joint-species military units working in the galaxy. Considering that in real life, there's rarely joint-nation operations, the fact that there are joint-species units that have been operating for so long indicates just how far things have come for the Citadel.
A completely random one in the wild party in Citadel, from Grunt. He's extremely drunk, but it warms the heart nonetheless.
Grunt: (slurring his words) You guys... I love you guys.
One of the Extended Cut endings shows Zaeed contentedly sitting in a lounge chair on Earth enjoying a tall can of beer. Retired Badass indeed.
The Extended Cut itself could be seen as a CMOH for BioWare. That they actually listened to the fans' complaints about the ending, then brought back nearly every person who did voice acting for the game to actually do something to make it better, and then made the DLC free rather than charge for it. Of course, there's still a Broken Base, but considering the enormous scale of the controversy, this is a massive show of respect for the series' fans.
Mass Effect Comics
Mass Effect: Homeworlds has a few:
Garrus making his Last Stand on Omega, fully expecting his Bolivian Army Ending, calls his father, just to talk. He explains away the gunfire by saying that he's just having some target practice. His father asks if the call could just wait until after he's finished, and Garrus replies that it can't. Too many targets.
Garrus's Father: I... understand.
His father then proceeds to remind him to conserve his ammo, to make every shot count. Their past tension forgotten and his father doing what he can to help his doomed son. Of course, this is when Garrus scopes in on an N7 badge, and realizes that he isn't going to die after all.
Garrus's Father: You finish up what you have to do there, and then you come on home to Palaven. We have a lot to sort out. Garrus: (spots a familiar N7 logo through his scope) Yeah, we do. Thanks, Dad. For everything. I have to go now. Don't worry about me... I'll make it home when I can. The odds just got a lot better.
Tali, on her pilgrimage from the Fleet, receives a message from her father. It's more of the same emotionally distant don't-fail-me that she's heard for her whole life, and she refuses to sit through the whole recording. She ends up using it as a decoy later on, and while she doesn't see the end of the message, we do: Her father apologizing for being so distant, and telling her that he'll be proud of her no matter what.