Image Source: BioWare
Image Source: BioWare

10 Iconic Moments in Mass Effect We Won’t Forget

I'm Commander Shepard, and these are my favorite moments from Mass Effect!

The Mass Effect trilogy became BioWare’s sci-fi crown jewel that still holds as powerful a spot in video game pop culture today as it did when Commander Shepard’s story came to a monumentally emotional close back in 2012. It set a new standard for what storytelling could achieve in the science-fiction gaming genre, with a fantastic cast of unique characters from different walks of the universe that all came together perfectly to defeat a terrifying threat unlike any other seen on screen.

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It goes without saying that all three games (sorry, not sorry, Andromeda) produced some truly exemplary scenes that players still remember word-for-word to this day. While there honestly are far too many to squeeze into just one list, we carefully picked what we feel are the 10 most iconic moments in Mass Effect that we won’t forget.

Choosing to Save Ashley or Kaiden (Mass Effect 1)

Mass Effect 1 why saving Ashley or Kaiden is an iconic moment
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The Mass Effect series is rife with game-altering decisions that Shepard is forced to make, often on short notice. This brings a unique source of tension and quick thinking for the player and makes the overall experience you choose all the more special. These choices range from the comical to the most dramatic moments imaginable, and one of the very first of the latter that you’re sucker punched with is during the mission to destroy Saren’s base on Virmire.

During the infiltration mission, you, along with Ashley and Kaiden, are tasked with setting up an explosive device to blow up the entire base. However, while one of your two partners (either Kaiden or Ashley) accompanies you to help with the bomb, the other who goes with Captain Kirrahe will contact Shepard, claiming that they’re under attack. Your bomb partner insists you help them while they finish the job. To twist your arm further while going to lend assistance, whomever you left with the bomb will soon come on comms to say that Geth are swarming the site.

This is where the pivotal moment requires you to choose whether to rescue Ashley or Kaiden from their life-threatening predicament. In other words, one will die while the other lives. This choice and its consequences have a lasting impact on the rest of the trilogy, making one of the most unique decision points in the series from the get-go. No pressure.

Meeting Sovereign (Mass Effect 1)

Mass Effect 1 why the first meeting with Sovereign is an iconic scene
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Just when you think that Saren is the true threat to find and eliminate, while on Virmire, you stumble across something you likely didn’t expect to find—a Reaper. Or rather, the imposing red silhouette of one. Via a strange link inside Saren’s base, Shepard communicates with the AI consciousness of the Reaper known as Sovereign. Not only does it turn out that Sovereign was psychologically manipulating Saren into doing its bidding, it reveals, in its beyond-menacing baritone voice, the chilling truth of what’s actually occurring as war rages everywhere.

Described as “eternal” and evidently having existed for countless millennia, the Reapers were so named by the Protheans as sentient, invincible entities that control the evolution and extinction of all life. Not only that, they were the true creators of the Citadel and the Mass Relays. Given that they only emerge once every 50,000 years from the deepest reaches of space to enact mass genocide on an unfathomable scale, the generations living within that enormously long cycle dismiss their existence as little more than a fable. Eerily, that’s also because those who lived before didn’t survive to pass on the experience of such a terrifying event.

Either way, the iconic scene plays out with Sovereign coldly declaring that the latest extinction event is at hand and that their incomprehensible existence, power, and purpose deems it all but inevitable, no matter how organic life may try to resist. It suddenly raises the stakes of literally everything in the series to a terrifying level and is undoubtedly one of the most unforgettable moments among fans.

Sovereign Attacks the Citadel (Mass Effect 1)

Mass Effect 1 why Sovereign attacking the Citadel is an iconic moment
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While speaking with the entity known as Sovereign established an entirely new threat to the galaxy and every race living within it, only the crew of the Normandy (and those willing to listen like Admiral Hackett) truly understood the credibility and danger behind it until Sovereign itself appeared via the mass relay to attack the Citadel at the end of the first game.

Easily overwhelming the station’s defenses and planning to bring it down from within, Sovereign’s sudden presence solidified the impending danger of the Reapers and their plan to return for yet another unprecedented genocidal cleansing of the entire galaxy. The entire scene of the Reaper, a terrifying omen of death, easily invading the Citadel they created, plays out so ominously and perfectly. A gigantic station full of life and prosperity that enormously dwarfs the Reaper itself and yet faces certain doom and worse. Like a monster unleashed within a cage it built.

Luckily, Commander Shepard and his/her crew come just in time to stop Sovereign before it effectively initiates the Reaper invasion outright. We players feel relief and it buys humanity and countless other races some time, but the threat very much still looms.

Meeting the Illusive Man (Mass Effect 2)

Mass Effect why meeting the Illusive Man is one of the most iconic moments
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Mass Effect 2 raised the bar on so many levels for the trilogy as a whole, and one of the most noteworthy additions was the introduction of the Illusive Man, arguably the most fascinating antagonist of the story.

Not long into the game, after the Normandy is ambushed and destroyed by a Collector ship, and Shepard is literally killed in the vacuum of space, the Illusive Man uses the impressive resources of his off-the-grid organization, Cerberus, to conduct the Lazarus Project, effectively resurrecting our protagonist over the course of two years. After awakening, we’re granted the opportunity to meet him for the first time, and it’s a surreal experience.

The Illusive Man, who is as mysterious as his name suggests, presents himself as a very practical and objective officiator of an agenda to not only protect humanity from the Reapers and any other threats but to bolster the power and ascension of humanity itself over other alien life by any means necessary. Despite his clearly human-centric bias, he establishes himself as a very powerful ally for Shepard for much of the game, knowing that they both aim to eliminate the Reaper threat. However, there comes a point when the Illusive Man clarifies his intentions, as he insists on Shepard recovering Reaper technology for human study and use.

Either way, this initial meeting between our beloved hero and a multi-layered villain kicks off what becomes a fascinating arc of the overall storyline. Martin Sheen lending his voice to the character only makes it all the better.

Garrus Revealed as Archangel (Mass Effect 2)

Mass Effect why Garrus revealed as Archangel is an iconic moment
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One of the first tasks that the Illusive Man sends you in Mass Effect 2 is recruiting a mysterious mercenary commander known as Archangel. Deemed a tactical genius and infiltrator, they’ve gained a reputation for becoming a serious thorn in the side of numerous criminal enterprises on Omega, even enough to get the attention of Aria T’Loak. With the help of Omega’s de facto queen, Shepard is able to pinpoint Archangel’s location, which happens to be in the middle of a firefight.

As Shepard infiltrates the base and confronts Archangel, in a dramatic and entertaining moment, after popping another helpless mercenary in the head, they remove their helmet to reveal their true identity. It’s none other than your old smooth-talking comrade, Garrus Vakarian.

The encounter seems almost too coincidental, but apparently, even the Illusive Man had no clue of who Archangel actually was. Turns out that Garrus went into hiding from Cerberus after Shepard’s initial death, to the extent that he fell off everyone’s radar and assumed a new, albeit temporary, identity. He sought to enact his own brand of justice against criminals, and it seemed to have worked well up to then.

The whole reunion was an exciting one that definitely had many players cheering, ourselves included, and served as a moment of levity amidst the looming threat of the Reapers.

Reapers Invade Earth (Mass Effect 3)

Mass Effect what the Reapers invading Earth is an iconic scene
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The last time a Reaper physically appeared to devastate a human civilization was at the Citadel at the end of the first game, and the second installment focused on the role of the Collectors in facilitating the impending extinction of humanity. Despite eliminating the middle man (or alien) in the Reapers’ plans and stopping the harvesting of human colonies, it only caused the Reapers to step up their pace.

The beginning of Mass Effect 3 barely has time to re-establish Shepard’s whereabouts on Earth and their present comrades before word comes in from Europe that the Reapers have invaded, immediately embarking on a warpath of ruthless destruction. Among them is Harbinger, the first of the Reapers ever created that first made itself known to Shepard in the second game.

The chaotic feed cuts off just in time for players to see multiple gargantuan Reaper machines descend from the skies, dwarfing the civilization below them as they begin their latest cycle of genocide.

The entire scene is nothing short of terrifying, as everything in the story has now come to a head, with the fate of humanity and multiple other alien races in the balance. Your only choice at the moment is to escape the planet, as Anderson helps guide you. Unfortunately, along the way, you have to watch as countless civilians are killed while trying to escape as well. It’s a harrowing moment of terror that’s hard to relive with every playthrough.

Mordin Cures Genophage & Sacrifices Himself (Mass Effect 3)

Mass Effect why Mordin curing genophage is an iconic scene
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While so many crew mates aboard the Normandy are memorable in their own ways, Mordin Solus has probably the most emotional redemption arc of all, provided it’s what the player chooses. We first meet the Salarian scientist in the second game, known for his work in helping with the creation and alteration of the genophage, a biological weapon subsequently used by the Turians against the Krogans on their homeworld of Tuchanka during the Krogan Rebellion.

While it didn’t kill them outright, the genophage altered the Krogans with a genetic mutation that would severely limit their ability to reproduce. Essentially, it was a very slow and torturous path to near extinction, intended to keep the species in check to the most extreme measure.

As a scientist who firmly believes that the ends justify the means, Mordin initially felt that his work brought peace after a terrible war. Over time, however, he began to question the morality of it all, something he’d never factored in before. Wrought with guilt, he decides to retreat to Omega to help cure those infected by a plague. Shepard meets him here, and he comes aboard the Normandy to provide his intelligence and scientific skills to help put a stop to the Collectors.

In the trilogy’s final chapter, Mordin reunites with Shepard and works on creating a cure for the genophage, having realized that the survival of the Krogans is imperative to the survival of everyone against the Reapers. Not only that, he feels it’s entirely justified to fix the genocidal destruction he helped cause. Especially considering that despite their quarrels with other races, namely the Turians, the Krogans did help eradicate the threat of the invasive Rachni once upon a time.

Mordin uses the Shroud tower on Tuchanka as the tool for dispersing the cure, and it’s an incredibly emotional scene to watch as he ensures the cure spreads far across the planet, singing away his fears all while the tower explodes after being initially sabotaged. His actions ensured the long-term survival of the Krogan species, absolving the tragic mistake he’d made years before.

Killing a Reaper to Save the Geth and Quarians (Mass Effect 3)

Mass Effect why saving the geth and quarian races is an iconic moment
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During the third game, a critical mission takes Shepard to the planet of Rannoch, the devastated former homeworld of the Quarians. Driven from their planet three centuries prior by the Geth they created, the Quarians were forced to survive as nomads within a large fleet of ships. Since then, both races have understandably been at odds with one another, especially since the Geth started working with the Reapers (though not entirely willingly) and set up a formidable base on the planet.

Shepard comes face-to-face with a special type of Reaper on Rannoch known as a Destroyer and is tasked with bringing it down to ultimately uproot the Geth stronghold and help broker peace between two warring races. After the Reaper’s defeat, a riveting scene plays out between it and Shepard, with familiar dialogue about how humanity is fighting a losing battle and that the cycle must continue. Shepard shuts down the conversation as the Reaper does in turn, and then the situation turns to an even more pivotal moment—the fate of the Geth and the Quarians.

Depending on some of the player’s decisions, there’s an opportunity for resolution between the two opposing races that doesn’t have to end in tragedy for either side. The sentient Geth named Legion and Quarian comrade engineer Tali each act as the faces of this carefully conducted treaty, with Shepard as the broker. With the best outcome, it’s a beautiful scene to watch as the Quarian and Geth start on a path to co-exist with one another on the planet they once fought over.

The Suicide Mission (Mass Effect 2)

Mass Effect why the suicide mission is an iconic moment
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Mass Effect 2 remains the pinnacle of how emotional and impactful a final encounter with astronomically high stakes can and should be in a game. The aptly named “Suicide Mission” is an absolute marvel. The tension leading up to the mission is pulse-pounding as Shepard’s crew finally embarks on the supposed one-way trip through the Omega 4 Relay that no other ship has ever returned from.

There’s no telling what lies on the other side of the relay, leaving players with a foreboding sense of uncertainty. The Reapers supposedly dwell within this notoriously dangerous region of space, along with the Collectors working for them who nearly killed Shepard on more than one occasion.

Upon traveling through, the Normandy crew comes face-to-face first with a floating graveyard of decimated ships, confirming the ominous stories. In the center of it, however, is the Collector hub, where their ships originated and the kidnapped human colonies were taken.

This all kicks off an adrenaline-inducing sequence of scenes and events that take Shepard and their unflinchingly loyal crew to the heart of the Collector hive. All fully knowing that they very well may not make it out alive, and those decisions ultimately fall into the hands of the player. Who lives and dies is entirely up to you, and it makes for some genuinely heart-tugging moments at the game’s climax.

Normandy Crew Parties Hard in the Citadel DLC (Mass Effect 3)

Mass Effect why the party in the Citadel DLC is an iconic moment
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The final DLC released for Mass Effect 3, The Citadel, was unique, to say the least. It included an interesting side mission detailing a conspiracy against Shepard by a private military organization that you had to briefly gun your way through. It also features the biggest and most important task of all, which is…throwing a party for your crew. After all, the Normandy is down for repairs, and everyone could definitely use a drink or two.

That’s right, before the final showdown against the Reapers, it’s time to throw the biggest party this side of the Milky Way galaxy, with your crew as the primary attendees. It’s not anything especially crazy or over-the-top, but what ensues is perhaps the most entertaining and somehow much-needed comical sequence in the entire series. Above all, it serves as an enjoyably goofy and fond farewell to the trilogy, to the characters that all made it such a rollercoaster of the story, and includes emotional tributes to those who, by that point, didn’t make it.

Aside from drunken flirting and some hilarious dialogue, it’s the perfect moment to sit back and watch the characters you’ve spent so much time with up to now let loose and enjoy a moment of happiness together before jumping back into the Reaper pit to save trillions of lives.

That concludes our top 10 iconic moments in Mass Effect we won’t forget. Just as in the games, we had tough choices to make with so many moments to pick from. Let us know which ones you liked seeing on this list or which you felt should have been added.

Be sure to check out the latest news on the Mass Effect franchise, including information about the latest teaser for the next game.

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Stephanie Watel
Stephanie Watel is a freelance writer for Twinfinite. Stephanie has been with the site for a few months, and in the games media industry for about a year. Stephanie typically covers the latest news and a variety of gaming guides for the site, and loves gardening and being the bird lady of the neighborhood. She has a BA in Writing from Pace University in NY.