BioWare cinematic designer John Ebenger tweeted last year that about 92% of Mass Effect players went full Paragon. Despite all the work the developers put into plotting out and designing Renegade options, most players never took advantage of them.
It makes sense if you think about it. Mass Effect's morality system rewards you for being as good (or bad) as possible, making you more charismatic or intimidating during pivotal scenes. So gamers typically go all-in on Paragon or Renegade, and it turns out more people are comfortable with being "good" in games.
We're all eagerly anticipating Mass Effect: Legendary Edition's improved graphics and mechanics — plus the chance to romance a new crewmate or rekindle an old flame — once it launches on May 14 for the Xbox One/ Xbox Series X, PS4/ PS5, and PC. But I have a hunch that many of you will end up making most of the same choices as in previous playthroughs. Why switch things up when you know what works?
Because of that, you'll miss out on some pretty epic scenes. And I'm not talking about hilarious Renegade interrupts like shoving enemies through a window or headbutting some jerk krogan — even paragons can do a few of those for fun. There are some genuinely emotional, painful, or shocking Mass Effect moments that most of you never saw because you'd have to make difficult or bizarre choices to encounter them.
Here are 11 rare Mass Effect scenes most players never encountered in their own playthroughs. New players, be warned: beware major spoilers from all three Mass Effect games.
1. Liara almost dies of dehydration (Mass Effect 1)
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Summary: After completing your missions on Feros, Noveria, and Virmire, you (Shepard) finally go to Therum, where Liara has been trapped in a protective barrier the whole time. Exhausted and dying, she believes you're a hallucination until you free her. Once you return to your ship, you tell Liara all about the Reapers, and she's devastated that she wasn't there to help study any of it.
Why you missed it: If a game gives you a recruiting mission, most people do that first. Anybody on their first playthrough isn't going to miss the chance to add a Prothean scientist to the team, and anybody replaying ME1 is obviously going to rush to get Liara.
Why it's impressive: Full props to Bioware for thinking to add this variation that almost no one would ever see. Poor Liara is trapped with no one but Geth for company for weeks, then finds out the story of the Reapers when normally she'd have discovered it with you.
2. Legion crashes Tali's Geth treason trial (Mass Effect 2)
Summary: Tali has been charged with treason due to her father's alleged experimentation on the Geth. You make the ridiculous decision to bring Legion along with you to her trial, leading to some tense confrontations and unique dialogue.
Why you missed it: You most likely completed Tali's loyalty mission before boarding the Derelict Reaper and recruiting Legion. After recruiting it, you typically only have time to complete its loyalty mission before the game wants you to start the final mission. Also, bringing a Geth along to a Quarian meeting seems needlessly risky and confrontational.
Why it's intriguing: Bioware programmed dialogue for Legion in almost all of the ME2 loyalty missions knowing that most people would never hear them. However, it's especially worth bringing Legion along for this mission. The Quarians' terror at its presence helps illustrate why their society would be so willing to go to war with the Geth, even in the midst of a Reaper invasion. It also gives more context to the admirals' opinions on the Geth, particularly Xen's disturbing plans for enslavement.
Alternative rare scenes: Geth VI, Legion's replacement if he dies in ME2, has all kinds of alternative dialogue that most people never saw.
3–4. Mordin lives... or you kill him (Mass Effect 3)
Summary: Mordin realizes the Salarians sabotaged the genophage cure and that you're letting them do so in exchange for aid. He wants to correct his mistakes, but you convince him that Udrnot Wreav will use the cure to conquer the galaxy once the Reapers are gone. Mordin reluctantly agrees to keep up the facade and go into hiding.
Why you missed it: To get this scene, Wrex must die in ME1, and you must destroy Maelon's data in ME2. Most players keep Wrex alive; plus, most save the data to have the option to use it later, thus preventing Mordin from seeing your side of things.
Why it's interesting: Wreav is the worst, and Bioware made sure that mattered. Other replacement characters for dead companions (like Mordin's substitute Padok Wiks) are stand-ins that don't change the story much, but Wreav's inferiority to Wrex as a moral leader makes it more plausible that Mordin the pragmatist could be talked down. It's just too bad that Mordin's survival doesn't really affect the story afterward.
Alternative rare scene: Padok Wiks fantasizes about how krogan mate. It's... awkward.
Summary: Wrex and Eve are alive and ready to rebuild the Krogan people, but Mordin discovers your sabotage plans. He shouts that he made a mistake by helping to perfect the genophage, and that he won't go along with this. You shoot him and throw your gun away in disgust, while Mordin crawls to fix the sabotage but dies right before he can.
Why you missed it: You probably didn't get this because adding the Salarians doesn't have a major impact on the Crucible project, and because betraying Mordin and Wrex is a bridge too far even for some Renegade players.
Why it's (painfully) awesome: Mordin's heroic sacrifice scene is powerful in its own right, but Mordin's pain-filled "I made a mistake!" speech takes many of the same lines you know and adds so much more emotion behind them. You see how his decision to sterilize the Krogan people has grown to haunt him and how even the threat of death won't stop him.
Alternative rare scene: Here's a palate cleanser for that painful scene: Mordin singing "Krogan Queen", which most players missed unless they visited him in the Medbay several times.
5. Shepard kills Wrex (Mass Effect 3)
Summary: Wrex discovers your betrayal and confronts you. You can try to justify yourself or gaslight him, but he isn't fooled and attacks you. Either you or Citadel security kills Wrex.
Why you missed it: Assuming Wrex didn't already die in ME1 (a more common occurrence), most Paragon players wouldn't have the heart or stomach to betray Wrex and trigger this moment.
Why it's what Renegade players deserve: Tricking the Krogan to throw their lives away to save Earth with no chance of repopulating is monstrous, no matter the justifications, and Bioware provides a fitting punishment for your pragmatism by making you kill Wrex.
Alternative/ awful rare scene: Tali commits suicide as the Quarians are wiped out. Feel free not to watch it unless you want to cry.
6. Major Kirrahe gives an inspiring speech on Earth (Mass Effect 3)
Summary: Before the final battle on Earth, Major Kirrahe speaks to Salarian troops, imploring them to fight. He tells you they will hold the line.
Why you missed it: Wrex must survive ME1 and Thane must survive ME2. Then, you must sabotage the genophage cure, killing Mordin/ Padok and Wrex in the process.
Why it's awesome: Kirrahe gives good speeches, and this one lives up to "Hold the line." Getting to hear it almost makes up for the series of betrayals it took to get Salarian aid. Almost.
Alternative rare scene: Wreav "jokes" before the battle on Earth that he plans to own Australia.
7. A small romantic moment with Samara (Mass Effect 3: Citadel)
Summary: After saving Samara at the Ardat-Yakshi monastery, you invite her to your apartment to reminisce. You declare that you still have feelings for her, and despite her fears, you can kiss or hold her.
Why you missed it: In ME2 (assuming you didn't recruit Morinth), you can attempt to woo Samara, but she mostly rebuffs your advances. She wasn't a romance option in ME3, so rekindling the romance only became an option with the Citadel DLC, at which point most people had moved on to other characters.
Why it's sweet: The Citadel DLC gave plenty of fanservice to players who romanced ME2 companions that didn't return as squadmates in ME3. This small scene rewards Samara fans for their patience. While its short length may be disappointing, it nails the justicar cautiously, finally opening up to you, and is pretty touching.
Alternative rare scene: Shepard slaps Jacob for cheating on her.
8. Engineer Shepard isn't some stupid grunt (Mass Effect 3: Omega)
Summary: Cerberus eneral Petrovsky uses Omega's reactor to power force fields protecting his troops. Shutting it down will also shut down life support for Omega citizens. If you're playing as an engineer class, you bypass this tough decision and immediately reroute the power while shutting down the force fields. Aria praises your quick thinking.
Why you missed it: In theory, 1 in 6 players would choose Engineer out of the other classes. In practice, more players chose other classes that give you biotic abilities, cloaking tech, or improved shooting.
Why it's bittersweet: This scene shows the missed role-playing potential of the Mass Effect series. In most action cutscenes, you just run and shoot. You never use your biotics to freeze a hostage-taker, activate camo to sneak behind monologing enemies, or bull-rush Kai Leng with a Vanguard charge. Your pre-service background as an orphan or colonist also never comes into play for dialogue options.
That's why this small cutscene reward for Engineers is a welcome exception.
Alternative rare scene: Shepard touches an orb that transports you into the mind of a Cro-Magnon hunter.
9. Renegade Kaidan breaks up with you (Mass Effect)
Summary: If you're a Renegade FemShep who romanced Kaidan while criticizing the council at every opportunity, you've convinced him that the Alliance should be in charge. If you change your tune and say that's too extreme, he questions how honest you are and decides to take a step back from your relationship.
Why you missed it: Even if you romanced Kaidan and played as a Renegade, most people would keep choosing Renegade options all the way through, not suddenly switch tracks.
Why it's unexpected: Like the variation with the trapped and exhausted Liara, this dialogue shows how much effort Bioware put into ME1 to make sure you could make even the most nonsensical of choices, resulting in real consequences for your character.
10. Hook up with Javik or James (Mass Effect 3: Citadel)
Summary: As FemShep, you've made it through all three games without any romantic partners. That sort of ends after the party at your apartment in the Citadel DLC, where you have a drunken one-night stand with Javik or slowly corner James into sleeping with you. (Here's the link to the James scene)
Why you missed it: You need to be single during the Citadel DLC, by which point most people have chosen a partner. You may also need to use Javik or James as your squadmate more than any other teammate to trigger the option, then hold an energetic party. You can flirt with James at the party to trigger things, but the Javik scene just sort of happens.
Why it's bad: The James "romance" involves repeatedly flirting with him while he's clearly uncomfortable and uninterested, before he eventually gives in to his superior officer. Yikes. As for Javik, his scene triggers automatically without any "We'll bang, okay?" dialogue choice, so someone playing Shep as asexual could be in for a rude surprise. These are rare scenes that I'm glad most people never had to see.
11. Everybody except Joker dies (Mass Effect 2)
Summary: You travel through the Omega 4 relay, but through a series of bad decisions, all of your teammates die one by one. As you rush to the ship, you have no teammates to defend yourself from the Collectors, and you fall to your death. The Illusive Man speaks to Joker about the coming attack. Joker supposedly prepares to take Shepard's place in ME3.
Why you missed it: To get this scene, you have to avoid loyalty missions, refuse to upgrade your ship, wait to go through the relay so the crew dies, and neglect to recruit either Zaeed or Kasumi. You also have to make bad tactical decisions like taking Jacob up on his silly offer to be an engineer. If you get this ending, you meant to get it.
Why it's so hardcore: Bioware gave us its opinion of speedrunners with this absurdly bleak ending. Ignore the needs of your crewmates for the sake of the mission and everyone dies. There's no way Joker unites the galaxy to rebuild the Crucible, so the Reapers win by default and you can't continue this playthrough. You likely never saw this outside of YouTube, but the fact that you could trigger this ending is pretty great for adding tension.
Alternative rare scene: Shepard, an idiot, decides to embrace eternity with Morinth.
Experience these rare scenes for yourself
Someone else might have gotten it wrong
Ready to start a new Mass Effect trilogy playthrough and save the galaxy? The new and improved version comes with almost all of the DLC, graphical improvements, loading time reductions (no more awkward elevator rides), combat and Mako improvements for the first game, and more.
Learn more secrets and tips for Mass Effect Legendary Edition.
- Mass Effect 3's ending revisited
- The ultimate Mako showdown
- Best and worst decisions you can make
- Can these aliens be pets?
- Rare scenes you probably missed
- What the Mass Effect Legendary Edition enhances
- What can the next Mass Effect learn from the remaster?
- Why we'll miss the multiplayer
- Now it's Dragon Age's turn
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Michael is the Senior Editor of VR and fitness tech at sister-site Android Central, but happily lends his help to the Windows Central team for games coverage.