Ray of Light – Five Memorable Video Game Sunrise Moments

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As it happens pretty regularly here in Canadialand, it’s been a hell of a long winter. It was such a long winter that we were considering making Let It Go our new national anthem. Thankfully however, the end is in sight. Along with warmer temperatures, we’re becoming increasingly blessed with more sunlight.

I’m of the belief that a sunrise is one of the most miraculous and beautiful things a person can witness in the everyday world. It is not only a beautiful phenomenon, but it signals the beginning of something and endless possibility. With modern video games, a common feature is a day/night cycle which allows characters to experience the miracle of a sunrise. Other games have one scripted for effect. Listed below are some of the more impressive and memorable sunrises in video games.

Sunrise Crysis

Crysis

The sunrise in Crysis appears a few minutes into your first mission, and its sole purpose is to show you just how freaking beautiful this game is. It’s a transparent show-off moment to be sure, but CryTek gets a pass on it for one reason: It works. Everything about this sunrise; the beams of light, the way shadows fall, the shifting colors on the terrain and ocean, is absolutely stunning. In many ways, that sunrise serves as a statement of intent: It is showing off CryEngine 2, presenting a vast game world, and sending a not-so-subtle message to the consoles at the time that as pretty as they were, they’ve got nothing on PC horsepower. The sunrise at the beginning of this game is so beautiful, it could make a grown man…er…cry.

Sunrise Vice City

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

There are admittedly a lot of Rockstar games that could be on this list, and many people could argue for Red Dead Redemption. I kept it off however because I don’t own any consoles and haven’t played it. So, Rockstar Games, let that be a lesson to YOU for not putting all your games on PC. *Waits for apology and assurance of PC port*

Anyway, most of the GTA games since 2001 have featured memorable sunshine effects that go a long way towards creating a real sense of place in the universe. While Vice City was not my favorite game in the series, it was the first one where I really noticed the day/night cycle. As opposed to the dour and cloudy Liberty City, Vice City was sun-kissed and bright. While driving into the glare of the sun can be annoying in real life, it always feels…cinematic in this town; cruising along, turning a corner, and being enveloped in sunlight as it creeps up over the ocean horizon. You could practically feel the heat bouncing off the hood of your car as you cruised down Ocean Beach looking for trouble, and the laid-back Miami vibe made this a city you wanted to really get to know.

Sunrise Starcraft 2

Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty

Starcraft 2‘s campaign is full of great individual missions featuring gameplay twists so sneaky they could have been developed by Steve Jobs (“There’s just….one more thing…”). One such mission is Outbreak, in which you hunt Zerg-infested Terrans by day, but hunker down and withstand their onslaught by night. This mission is classic risk-and-reward as you push troops forward to wipe out enemies, but always with an eye on the clock. Once night falls, it’s a mad dash to get yourself back to base and ready to hang on for dear life.

You don’t actually see a sunrise in this mission, but you damn well feel it as the Infested burn up in the light of the rising sun. The sun of this world however doesn’t provide heat so much as relief. In fact, I’ve never been so happy to see the sun come up in a game…well, except for…

Sunrise Minecraft

Minecraft

Minecraft is a game that wastes no time running you through the gamut of emotions on your first in-game day. You begin in an untamed, idyllic world that facilitates endless creativity and unparallelled possibility. Your first day is one of wonder; seeking out interesting landscapes, discovering rare materials, exploring around…and then the sun goes down.

Considering how peaceful the first day in Minecraft can be, the first night is terrifying. Zombies, spiders, and creepers converge, and if you haven’t built a fortified shelter with plenty of torches you are in serious trouble. There is no feeling of relief quite like seeing the sun come up over the horizon and watching enemies burn in its presence. With your new lease on life, you resolve to focus on finding materials that will protect you from the next night’s horrors.

Until you discover a really cool cave and decide to check it out…Surely there’s plenty of time until the sun goes down…Right?

Sunrise Simon's Quest

Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest

Simon’s Quest is one of the first games I remember playing that had a day/night cycle. It was more than cosmetic as well; at the prompting of Simon Belmont’s plea, “What a horrible night to have a curse.” shops and houses would shutter their doors and enemies would become far harder to kill. The best case scenario was to wait out the night in a town, but all too often I’d get stuck in the wilderness with an endless swarm of jacked up monsters out for my blood. With a combination of luck, skill, and care, you can hold out. Seeing the immortal phrase, “The morning sun has vanquished the horrible night,” scroll across the screen is one of gaming’s true ‘exhale’ moments.

Are there any sunrises that you prefer? Let me know in the comments.

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About Author

(Senior Writer)

Born in 1844, I bring a lot of gaming experience to the table. In my day-job, I work for a public library which carries, amongst other formats, video games. I'm very interested in observing and documenting the growing pains this industry is experiencing as it is dragged kicking and screaming towards something resembling maturity. Join me!

  • Jason Mounce

    No Infamous SS?

    • MikeEaton

      I don’t have a PS4 so I haven’t played it. What I’ve seen of it looks pretty nice however.

  • Jamic

    Kinda hoped for FC2 to beon the list.

    In general, FC2s enviromental effects rival most modern games and blow FC3 out of the water. TOD was always so clear and african sunrise was beautiful.

    • MikeEaton

      For sure. I loooove Far Cry 2 (and 3 for that matter). In fact, I recently reinstalled it and started a new campaign, and it remains a unique experience. I left it out of this article because I’ve written about its visuals before and thought I’d focus on some other titles.

      Thanks for your comment, and for checking us out. :)