Nothing is more important than a first impression and video games are no exception. The opening scene or introduction of a video game is meant to hook the player into the game and keep them wanting more. We all know that poor introductions bore us quickly and can even turn us off from a game completely. As gamers we probably experience more opening sequences than ending sequences since we start more games than we finish, on average. This list is meant to point out a handful of my personal favorite video game introductions of all time, the introductions that wound up being the most unforgettable for me out of all the games I have played.
**Spoiler Warning! If you have yet to play these games or watch their introductions, beware of the video links I provided and what I have written about each game’s introduction.**
Irrational Games seems to have a knack for creating magnificent video game introductions. All three games in the Bioshock series showcase outrageously beautiful opening sequences, all of which involve a slight amount of gameplay and a large helping of atmosphere, story, and general amazement. I think I personal favorite in the series is the opening to the first Bioshock game as I found it to be the most awe-inspiring in the series.
Something about it just grabbed me, it was one of the first games I played that actually blew my mind at the beginning rather than at the end. Part of it is the mystery. Where am I and what is going on? Heading to a city under the water is mind-boggling and insanely beautiful at the same time. Pair all that with Andrew Ryan’s opening speech? Forget about it! It’s a definite classic. The runners-up would be Bioshock Infinite, which is a close second to the original Bioshock’s introduction, and of course Bioshock 2. All of the opening sequences in the series leave the player in a state of sheer amazement, it’s very difficult to only favor one of them.
The Last of Us has an introduction that caused me to be roped in the story and character plight almost immediately. It was so visceral and real. This introduction is mostly gameplay mixed with some cutscenes and a car ride, which makes it all the more interesting. Instead of sitting back and watching something you are actually going through the motions on a physical level. You are placed into Joel and Sarah’s shoes in their most trying times. The emotional rawness of the entire sequence paired with a bit of confusion and the connection to the characters makes this introduction simply brilliant and ultimately heartbreaking.
If you don’t at least feel somewhat sad at the end of that, you have no heart. I myself was in tears. The rush of escaping the horde and maneuvering through the streets while trying to save Joel and his daughter Sarah was turned into gut wrenching emotional pain as Sarah’s life is taken by a soldier who we all assumed would help, not hurt. It sets up the game and its main character, Joel, perfectly. Without ever having to show us or tell us in great detail, Naughty Dog was able to help us understand where Joel comes from and what he has experienced. It’s a fantastically mind-blowing opening sequence worthy of great praise.
Tomb Raider is one of my favorite video game series, hands down. The newest game in the series, which was released earlier this year, happened to be a reboot and featured a younger, more inexperienced Lara Croft on her very first adventure. The game starts with an amazing opening sequence in which the ship Lara and her friends are on comes across a debilitating storm in the Dragon’s Triangle and crashes on an island surrounded by other shipwrecks. Lara tries to escape the ship with the help of Conrad Roth but doesn’t make the jump and falls into the sea. As Lara pulls herself onto a nearby beach she is knocked unconscious and kidnapped. Once the cutscene ends the player gets to control Lara as she escapes from a cave full of horrors and dangerous, unknown enemies.
From beginning to the end of the sequence, Lara get’s beaten up and battered, survives a shipwreck and a stab to the side after a long fall, and makes it through all kinds of other painful and life threatening situations. It sets up the theme of the game perfectly as Lara is constantly pushed throughout the game through perilous scenarios in order to simply survive, hence the tagline “A Survivor is Born”. It’s a great game overall, but the introduction is definitely one of my favorites out there.
Of course I have made it plenty obvious that I truly love the Mass Effect series. It also happens to be another series full of great introductions. Like the Bioshock series, each game has a unique yet equally awesome opening sequence. In the first game players are introduced to characters like Commander Shepard, David Anderson, Jeff “Joker” Moreau, and other staples in the series. It also sets up the storyline for the series with Saren, the Reapers, and the Prothean beacon on Eden Prime. Mass Effect 2 begins with the Normandy being destroyed and Commander Shepard dying then being rebuilt by Cerberus and escaping their base with the help of Miranda Lawson and Jacob Taylor. My favorite in the series though is the introduction to the third game.
The opening scene sets up the Reaper invasion on Earth and leads into gameplay in which Shepard must escape to the Normandy with Anderson. The game is perfectly set-up in this sequence. The Reapers attack fast, throwing everyone off guard and Shepard is bestowed with the unspoken responsibility of saving everyone in the galaxy, which is obviously impossible. My favorite thing about this is the message set up early on when Shepard meets the child in the vent while heading for the Normandy. She/he tells the child to come out and come with him/her and the child replies “You can’t save me” then disappears after Shepard is distracted by Anderson. Before the sequence ends the child’s escape shuttle is destroyed by a Reaper in front of Shepard, thus proving the “You can’t save me” part. This message becomes a recurring one throughout the game, showcasing Shepard’s guilt and struggle with the pressure put upon him/her. Bioware continuously does a great job with the opening sequences of their games, I am bringing up the Mass Effect series now but the Dragon Age games also have great introductions that are worthy of note.
One game that I felt was severely underrated due to “fan” response this year was the reboot of Devil May Cry (DmC). Not only was it a great game, it had an amazing opening sequence that I truly loved. DmC’s introduction sets up the character of Dante, who he is and what he is all about. Paired with “Throat Full of Glass” by Combichrist, this introduction also sets the mood for the game. I appreciate Ninja Theory’s ability to make fantastic games and DmC is no exception – from the opening sequence to the final cutscene, this game rocks.
In this opening sequence we see Dante’s personality as well as his combat prowess. Storylines are established and so are side characters like Kat and enemies like Mundis. It’s the complete package, and for that I must give it some recognition. In the beginning of the game Dante is somewhat immature, cocky, and careless but cannot stay that way for long. Towards the end of this sequence we see a change in him, he becomes an actual character with an actual motive. Like I said above, this is a great game and I truly love this opening sequences. It’s one of the best out there, in my opinion.
Another series that consistently showcases stunning opening sequences is the Uncharted series. It looks like Naughty Dog has made it on this list twice, but they definitely deserve it. My favorite Uncharted opening sequence happens to be the introduction of Uncharted 2. In the introduction of Uncharted 2 we find Drake injured and trapped on a train which is falling off a cliff in some sort of snowy area. Once you play through the scene and escape the train it flashes back to a time before, only returning to the snowy part with the train later on towards the end of the game.
The first Uncharted game as well as Uncharted 3 feature great introductions as well, but I really like the direction that Uncharted 2’s introduction takes. I tend to be a sucker for this sort of flash back style opening sequences, and Uncharted 2 did it marvelously. It set up the theme as well as introduced the story and a couple of new characters while keeping the player on their toes and interested. It’s another high-five for Naughty Dog from yours truly.
I would like to point out one last series that includes some great opening sequences – The Batman Arkham series. With Arkham Origins due out in a couple of months, these games are high on my list for plenty of reasons, one of which being the awesome game set-ups that both of them feature. I chose Arkham City as my favorite of the two since I really liked the jump into action and the introduction to the theme of the game and what Arkham City is. Playing as Bruce Wayne while making your way to a Batman suit drop was a great touch, and Rocksteady made sure it was done well.
The very beginning also allows you to play as the ever so lovely Catwoman for the first time, which is probably my favorite part of Arkham City. This introduction sets up characters and story while exhibiting gameplay from both Catwoman and Batman, plus all sorts of other fun stuff. Arkham Asylum also featured a really cool opening sequence which began with Batman bringing The Joker to Arkham Asylum after having captured him. Batman walks him through the asylum which is full of familiar faces and psychopathic criminals, then Joker springs the trap that the game is based around. This forces Batman to stay on Arkham Island to stop Joker. Both games are amazing, and their opening sequences are worthy of note.
That’s it for my favorite opening sequences. There are obviously more games than just the ones I brought up that feature great introductions, but these just happen to be my favorites out of the plethora of games I have played and enjoyed. Some of my major runners-up would be Borderlands and Borderlands 2, Portal 2, the Little Big Planet games, The Elder Scrolls Skyrim and Oblivion, and Heavy Rain. What are some of your favorite video game introductions? I’d love to hear about some more great opening sequences that I may have overlooked or that you just personally enjoyed more than I did. Thanks for reading and be sure to keep an eye out for my upcoming article about my favorite video game endings.