Back in the day, walls of text followed start screens and stood as the best intros gamers could hope for. For the most part, you were dropped into a level and pointed towards the exit. Nowadays, it takes a lot more to deliver the narrative potential of a video game.
Introductions mean a lot.
That’s why we decided to sit down and bust out our top 10 favorite introductions to the video games of this current console generation. These selections represent some of the best framing gaming has seen in years, and they stand as lead-ins that we’ll never forget.
Who can forget your first trip down into Rapture? After a unexplained plane crash, you see a lighthouse in the distant past all the wreckage. You swim over to the island and climb up a massive spiral staircase to finally find a door leading inside. You’re greeted with a simple, yet poignant message: “No Gods or Kings. Only Man.” The pretty much sets the stage right there.
But then developer Irrational Games hits you with one of the best speeches in gaming, courtesy of Rapture architect Andrew Ryan, as you travel down below the depths to finally gaze upon Rapture, in all her destroyed beauty, off in the distance.
It’s at that point that BioShock has you hook, line and sinker.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
The game starts with you, Batman, escorting Joker to his most recent stint in Arkham Asylum. Players follow the depraved madman as he babbles incessantly through his bindings and guards. Your given a brief introduction to the matter at hand, a small slice of Arkham and a nice, heavy dose of the Joker’s antics. You’ll even see an old enemy along the way.
If nothing else, this entry serves as one of the more iconic, simple, villainous interactions with an insane foe.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
While not exactly the opening moments of the game, we call this credit scene part of the opening stance of Modern Warfare. Sure, slight us for ignoring the training and boat sequences, we don’t mind.
Being drug through the streets of some middle eastern nation rooted in combat from the first-person perspective was incredible the first time around. Players were hauled into a car, forced into a seat and driven to their own executions. It wasn’t until well after the scene that you found out exactly what the hell happened, but, in the moment, it was a completely awe-inspiring opening.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
The train sequence. You can’t forget the train sequence. A lot of the marketing materials for the game’s pre-release centered around footage from the train crash featured at the onset of Uncharted 2. The game started with this monumental crash scene, Drake was forced to warily climb his way out of a wreck, fight off some baddies and continue on his journey… then gamers were flashed to the story as it lead up to the crash.
It was definitely unique.
Red Dead Redemption
You board a train bound for Armadillo as a prisoner, you arrive as a free man. This may be the slowest opening sequence in our list, but the onset of Red Dead gives players a sense of the environment around them. You hear about the industrialization of America, the fall of the wild west and the sins of mankind. You’ll eavesdrop on gossip as the train crawls from one station to the next, and you have a pretty decent understanding of the game’s central themes by the time you arrive. This ain’t just a standard shooter.
You wake up in a quaint-looking bedroom and get a simple movement tutorial. You’re asked to look up and down, say the word “apple”, and are told to look at a piece of art to feel rejuvenated. Then you go back to sleep.
Flash forward 9,999,999,999 days later and the nice bedroom you were once staying in has now turned into a mold-filled, dusty abomination. It’s at this moment that your little robot tour guide, Wheatley, bursts into the room to whisk you away on a portal-hopping adventure. But not before you break out of your room by slamming it through the side of a wall, wrecking-ball style.
Super Mario Galaxy
Okay, sure, the Super Mario franchise isn’t exactly known for its epic staples and riveting storylines, you got us there. But, we absolutely loved the beginning of the original Super Mario Galaxy. Yes, screw the damn children’s book theme, we’re talking about the opening gameplay sequence. You’re on your way to a celebration at Peach’s castle when Bowser flies in and decimates the landscape. It’s war, in a way only the Mushroom Kingdom can achieve, and it works to set up the large scale of the rest of the game.
Mass Effect 2
Who would be crazy enough to start off their game by killing their lead protagonist? Answer: BioWare, because that’s precisely what they did to kick off Mass Effect 2. Not only that, but they destroyed Commander Shepdard’s ship, The Normandy, as well. Two birds with one very massive, alien stone.
But the unanticipated twist served a purpose towards getting the plot of Mass Effect 2 rocketing forward. Not only did Shepard’s “death” and subsequent resurrection explain why he was in league with Cerberus, but it also helped justify in the context of the game why you were given the option to redistribute experience points and pick a new class type even if you were transferring over your save file from the original title. Pretty smart thinking on BioWare’s part.
God of War 3
The final chapter in the God of War trilogy begins with Kratos scaling the back of Gaia while the massive Titan climbs Mount Olympus on a quest to get revenge on Zeus. Just writing that sentence made me grow hair on my chest. The opening to God of War 3 is one of the most epic, cinematic re-introductions to a universe I’ve ever had the fortune to play. It was made even more impressive by the fact that the environment constantly shifted to correspond with Gaia’s movements up the mountain, making the entire 20-minute sequence quite the roller coaster ride.
Much like the introduction to Batman: Arkham Asylum, Half-Life 2’s opening was more about setting the stage by giving you a tour of City 17 than it was about shoving a gun in your hands and telling you to “Go!” You aimlessly wandered around, picking fights with security guards and kicking cans as you slowly pieced together how far the world had fallen into shit since your disappearance. The introduction to Half-Life 2’s City 17 made the place feel like a real, occupied place instead of just a digital backdrop to wage war in. And as the first true blockbuster game of this generation in 2004, damn if Half-Life 2’s City 17 wasn’t absolutely breathtaking.