How many times have you caught yourself screaming “HOLY S***!” over the course of this gaming generation? If you’re like me, it’s certainly been more than a few. The best games are often filled with jaw-dropping moments from beginning to end, but what about the beginning of the games? They have to draw you in. As with any fiction story, the opening is crucial. We’re introduced to characters, worlds, situations, all in effort to help suck us consumers into the world of the story. Without a strong opening, the player will often feel like they have to play catch up, and will more often than not, drive players away from caring at all.
So, I came up with a list of games that immediately grabbed me from the second I hit the START button (and sometimes, even just the START menu). Be warned, there are some SPOILERS ahead.
7 ) Mass Effect 2
I was initially reluctant to add this one to the list, but, it does deserve a spot thanks to it being such a gutsy way to open up the sequel. As far as gameplay, essentially, all you do is walk down a corridor (for which you get an achievement? Seriously? We didn’t do anything!), but, the context of the scene is what makes Mass Effect 2’s intro stand out. Especially if you played the first game and have already invested countless hours into your crew and the Normandy. To see that all destroyed and Shepherd killed, with your crew’s fate unknown, you’re left with your jaw on the floor. Personally, I have a problem with how the game just glosses over how Shepherd is resurrected from the dead, but, that still doesn’t take away from the impact.
6 ) Dead Space
Hello, Dead Space. I’d love to play you again, but I’m going to need to save up money for all the new pairs of underwear I’ll need. Once you start the game up, you’re immediately slapped with great visuals and sound design (by far, some of the best we’ve seen this generation). We get a brief intro into why our character, Isaac, is journeying to the broken ship, a little backstory on some strange goings-on, and, as we board the seemingly empty Ishimura, it doesn’t take long before the lights go out, the necromorphs start attacking, and you’re left alone to run for the closest elevator. A great way to kick off one of the better horror games in the history of the genre. A slow creepy build, to a underwear-filling-ly scary explosion. The game’s scares kind of die as they become a bit repetitious about halfway through, but that intro is sure to stay with anyone who dares to try it.
5 ) Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Before you even begin the game, you’re warned that “the game plays you as much as you play it.” Strong words, Silent Hill, strong words. Immediately, the game fades in, and you’re on a psychiatrist’s chair, and introduced to Dr. Kauffman. Then, he hands you a form that you need to fill out, and the questions are quite probing; questions about your drinking habits, sexual preferences, and the like. It’s a great way to introduce you to the game’s mechanics and learning about how the game will shift according to your decisions and lifestyle. It also gets you immediately questioning who’s point of view this is from. The main protagonist, Harry Mason? You, yourself? A third character altogether? How will this tie into the parallel story of Harry Mason searching for his daughter in Silent Hill? And finally, how is something this mature only on the Wii?
4 ) Left 4 Dead
Since there isn’t much of a story, it’s hard to say what the best opening sequence is with Left4Dead, but, let’s just go with the first time a wave a zombies hits you. It’s hard to think of a more intense and panicky situation. You’ll be walking around, maybe picking off a zombie here and there. Then, the music kicks in. What’s that sound? Oh…wait, HERE THEY COME! And immediately, your surrounded by hundreds of zombie of all different kinds. The tension racks up even higher when playing the game on expert difficulty. Just stick together. You’ll make it through that way. No need to be a hero.
4 ) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Fans of the original Uncharted knew they were in for a hell of a ride once they finished the first chapter of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Nathan Drake wakes up on a broken down train, with a bullet in his belly, and disoriented. Where is he? Wait, he’s been shot? OH, AND ALSO, THE TRAIN IS HANGING OFF OF A CLIFF. You then take control as he climbs up the train, heading for safe ground as the train begins to collapse above him, with some great one-liners from Drake as he freaks out. A+ tension, A+ music, A+ dialogue. Where can it go from there?
3) Fallout 3
Fallout 3’s first playable sequence starts off with a vagina point-of-view shot. Let me repeat that.
A vagina point-of-view shot.
If that doesn’t grab you, I’m not sure anything will. I’m not even sure I need to say anything else. It’s a brave way to start off a brave game.
2) God of War 3
Once God of War 3 was finally released, a resounding “HOLY ****!” was heard around the world as gamers started it up, and took on Poseidon. To start a game off with such an incredible looking sequence of Kratos climbing up the titan Gaia’s body, as Gaia herself climbs the cliffs towards Zeus above. With the scene ultimately culminating in one of the most violent and brutal deaths in gaming history, the opening to God of War 3 will make you need a cigarette once it’s over.
1 ) Heavy Rain
Say what you want about the rest of the game, but, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who wasn’t impressed with the first chapter of Heavy Rain. Serving as A) a tutorial for the controls, B) an introduction to main character Ethan Mars; and C) a totally original way to kick off a game. Instead of introducing the player to weapon mechanics, we control Ethan as he wakes up, admires his back yard, brushes his teeth, showers, does some drawing, plays with his kids, and, at the end, unsuccessfully attempts to save one of his sons from getting hit by a car and killed. Immediately, we recognize that this was something we’ve never seen before in a game. For a few brief moments, we get to see Ethan’s strong connections to his wife and sons, and then, we see that all shattered in an instant. Yes, we all probably giggled at the “JAAAAAASOOOOOOOON!” part, but, I certainly shut up once that red balloon started floating up to the sky. Whether the rest of the game lives up to the opening chapter or not, that’s up to you, but, for me, Heavy Rain provided the most original and touching intro to happen in any game that I’ve ever played.
So there you have it. Some of the most intense introductions to games. I’m sure I’m missing a ton, and I know this article looks like it sways to a certain console’s exclusives, but, this is just my list. What are some of your choices? What are some games that kick down the door, guns blazing? Or, toothbrushes blazing?