The 8 best countdowns in video games

As you're counting down the seconds to midnight, remember these eight games with great countdowns!

As you're counting down the seconds to midnight next New Year, remember these eight games with great countdowns! At 11:59:50 on New Year's Eve, most of the world's population will take place in the most traditional countdown known to man. The New Year's countdown is one that's often filled with joy and hope, but gamers know countdowns in a completely different context. Filled with fear and suspense, the following eight video game countdowns mean the difference between life and death.

8- Final Fantasy VIII

In Final Fantasy VIII, Squall and company have less than 30 minutes to escape the robotic clutches of X-ATM092, a mechanical spider five times the size of Robocop's Ed-209. This scene was particularly memorable because of how intense it was-you had the run away from your metal aggressor, down mountainsides and across bridges, fighting the thing off you and your gang whenever it managed to catch up. The following clip is what's shown after you successfully flee X-ATM092.

7- Prince of Persia

A decade and a half before the Prince entered the third-dimension in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, the royal adventurer was faced with a countdown of great consequence in the olive-green hued original game for the Apple II. At the beginning of the game, an hour glass is turned upside down, giving the Prince only 60 minutes to escape a dungeon riddled with deadly booby-traps and save the Princess from Jaffar who plans to murder her if she does not agree to marry him after the hour is up.

6- Portal

There's lots of gaming elements that are completely new in Portal--the gravity-based puzzles, the unique narrator/antagonist--that we'll forgive the game for busting out the cliche "final boss countdown clock." Unlike most countdown clocks, however, this one will probably take a couple of times to defeat the enemy within. As long as we're going to hear some more of GLaDOS' crazy meltdown speak, this is a countdown we don't mind expiring a few times.

5- Dead Space

Some of the coolest moments of the gruesome sci-fi horror game Dead Space are when you find yourself outside the ship where there is no gravity. Once you're in space, a timer pops up, counting down how much oxygen you have left in your suit before zero gravity crushes your insides like a thousand-pound mallet. Everything, from the grunts of pain you make as your lungs are getting squeezed by the lack of air to the distortion of all sounds, make this one of the best depictions of space in a video game.

4- Metal Gear Solid

After disabling Metal Gear Rex at the end of the first Metal Gear Solid game, your British-accented girlie-haired brother Liquid gets out of the damaged hulking mech and then sticks a device on the backside of Meryl that's synced up with a nuclear explosive. The bomb's timer is set to about two and a half minutes, but if Meryl dies the bomb will also go off. Snake then decides to handle the situation and save his girl from being deep fried via a nuclear blast by fistfighting his bro bare-chested!

3- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

The entirety of Majora's Mask takes place under the imposing 72 hour (54 minutes in real time) countdown until the moon crashes into the mysterious world of Termina. Wth the ever-present clock slowly counting down and the moon drawing ever closer to obliterating the planet, every second of Link's second N64 quest was frought with fear. Do you press further in your quest in order to collect a mask or important item? Or do you play the Song of Time and head back to the beginning of the cycle? Time travel has never been this intense.

2- Super Mario Bros.

The quick three-second tune that plays when the timer reaches 100 in Super Mario Bros. has sent shivers down the spine of even the most adept gamer. With the many memorable Mario tunes playing in double time as the timer ticks down, most players entered panic mode, bypassing power-ups and avoiding enemies in order to hop on the flag or send Bowser plunging before the count hit triple zero.

1- Super Metroid

Just about every single Metroid title has an escape sequence (Super Metroid has two), but none can match the intensity of the final escape after the defeat of Mother Brain in Samus' SNES adventure. Having just been saved and given super strength by a martyring Metroid larva, Samus has only three minutes to escape Zebes before the planet explodes. For many, the first time this countdown was the ultimate nerve-wracking experience. Combine the surprise with the excellent escape tune and the look of a quickly destructing planet, and you've got the perfect ending to what many consider the perfect game.

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Dave Rudden and Patrick Shaw

GamePro (online)
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