The Top 10 Video Game Openings
In November of 2008 we ran our top 10 list of best intro sequences in the biz. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a movie must be worth a million. Check out our original list below, and feel free to add your top contenders in the comments.
The beginning of a game can set the tone for the entire experience. Whether it’s an opening cinematic, the first level, or just the first bit of gameplay, a good intro should grab your attention. Some even tat it to the next level, getting you invested in the action, characters, or story in mere minutes. While there have been dozens of great video game openings throughout the years, these are our picks for the best of the best.
“All good things of this Earth flow into the city” are the words emblazoned above the entrance to Rapture, but the crumbling paradise tells a different story. After surviving a plane crash and listening to an inspiring speech about the underwater city’s creation, you quickly realize that the situation is not as advertised. We wish we could play BioShock again for the first time just to experience the terror, confusion, and dawning comprehension that accompanies your initial descent, introduction to Andrew Ryan, and first encounter with a Big Daddy.
2: Final Fantasy VIII
Back before every RPG had a music video before the title screen, Final Fantasy VIII set the standard with this amazing cinematic. Haunting choral music and a shot of a serene beach starts things off slowly, but it develops into a barrage of images full of foreshadowing and glimpses of future events, culminating in a wicked fight (with gunblades!) between Squall and Seifer. Say what you want to about the rest of this game, but the intro was awesome.
Some dude named Tommy sitting around in a crummy bar may not sound cool at first, but things get crazy when “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” kicks in on the jukebox. As Blue Öyster Cult rocks out, the entire bar is sucked into an alien spaceship. Players watch in horror as Tommy’s friends and family are systematically (and brutally) processed, and that’s when Prey really begins – with Tommy alone on the labyrinthine craft armed with only a wrench.
4: Half-Life 2
City 17 is not a happy place. From the second Gordon Freeman steps off the train and sees the Combine-controlled capital, things look bleak. The opening minutes of Half-Life 2 perfectly convey the oppressed desperation of City 17’s denizens, the suffocating power of Dr. Breen’s regime, and how badly the world needs a crowbar-wielding hero.
5: Mega Man 2
Not every game needs an elaborate backstory. Even with a set-up as simple as “Dr. Wily made some robots, and you need to kill them,” the intro to Mega Man 2 gets you ridiculously psyched. Some text appears under a static shot of a building in a city, but once the “plot” is explained, the camera sweeps up the tallest building. As the pump-up music swells and you see the top of the building, who’s standing there in all his majesty? Hell yeah! It’s Mega Man!
As old-time music plays (“Maybe” by The Ink Spots), the images on a black and white television tell the story of life before the apocalypse. Soldiers murder citizens in the streets, cars cost $200,000, and there is a promise of a better life by sealing yourself away in an underground vault. Then, Ron Perlman begins his chilling narration: “War. War never changes.” Now that’s how you establish a setting.
7: Metal Gear Solid 2
As if destroying a bipedal tank weren’t enough, Snake’s boarding of the tanker in Metal Gear Solid 2 establishes him as a *** of the highest order. Smoking a cigarette and strolling across the George Washington Bridge in the rain, Snake suddenly breaks into a run. Then he throws off his raincoat, turns invisible (!), and dives off the bridge, landing on the ship below. If only we had gotten to play as him the whole game…
8: God of War II
Not only does the intro show Kratos decked out in his godly glory, but the entire first level is a boss fight against the legendary Colossus of Rhodes. You beat up on regular chumps, and just when you think you’re safe, a foot the size of a dumptruck bursts through a wall to crush you. When Kratos finally beats the giant statue, Zeus shows up to strike the new god low. Good thing Kratos isn’t the revenge-seeking type, right?
9: Medal of Honor: Frontline
You know all that stuff you’re kind of tired of in World War II games these days? The Medal of Honor series did it when it was still inventive. The first level in Frontline had players storming the beach at Normandy on D-Day, conveying intense combat and abject fear similar to the beginning of Saving Private Ryan. The level also appeared on the PC’s Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, though that title didn’t open with it.
10: Indigo Prophecy
Before you even gain control of Indigo Prophecy’s main character, you watch him murder a man in a diner restroom. The game thrusts into action immediately afterward, forcing you to frantically clean up the scene and hide evidence as the threat of discovery gets higher and higher. It generates tension and urgency, and introduces you to the game’s core mystery right away.
Anything we miss that makes your list? My personal favorites include Onimusha 3: Demon Siege, Resident Evil Code: Veronica, The Beatles: Rock Band, and Mass Effect 2. Oh, and the Skate openers aren’t to be missed. Share your favorites below!