Pressing the start button is fine. You get to play games and stuff. But you shouldn't be quite so hasty - you might be missing out on some of gaming's most enduring scenes. Perhaps it's not quite as commonplace these days as games don't have to advertise themselves like they used to in arcades in the 1990s, but there's a lot to be said for the old 'attract mode'. In fact, we toyed with calling this feature 'the dying art of the attract mode', but about three people would have known what the hell we were talking about. So... yeah. These are the games that are most awesome without pushing the Start Button.
Super Street Fighter II
Nothing looked as good as the intro to this game. Nothing. It starts off dark (pictured), with only lightning flashes and the outline of a fighter. The lights come on and a screen-filling Ryu sprite scowls into the camera. The Turbo edition may have added Chun Li and Cammy (the latter poking her tongue out for no obvious reason), but that only diluted the simplicity and drama of this original version, which concludes with a first person rendition of what it looks like to have Ryu throw a Hadouken fireball at your face. Cue the electricity around the title logo and the prompt to push start/insert coins. HAVE ALL MY MONEY.
Super Mario World
This is such a short loop of demo gameplay, but how many memories is it deeply ingrained into? The emergence of Yoshi from his egg, the apple-eating, the multi-coloured koopa shells… and then the iconic one-segment-at-a-time eating of poor Pokey. How many times has that dude been eaten in the past 19 years just for our enjoyment? Too many. But one more won't hurt...
Virtua Fighter 2
Dan dan chugga dan dan! Dan dan chugga dan dan! DAAAAN. And so it begins. Not only do you get to see incredible martial arts moves on display (in lovely new texture-mapped 3D), but they're representative of the game itself. Whether on Saturn or in the arcades, being amazed soon turns to being entertained, as Shun Di demonstrates being totally drunk and falling over a lot. And so we would stand there in the arcades of 1994, pockets emptied of change, waiting for this to roll around again. Dan dan chugga dan dan…
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
This is probably the most beautifully understated attract mode ever. With its haunting melody, lazy evening light and simple scenes of Link riding Epona across Hyrule Field, it doesn't really have much 'action' at all. If anything, it gets even more understated as it progresses, seeing Epona pawing at the ground by a river. Sure, you get a prancing bit (pictured) but this is the intro of a game that knows it doesn't need to show off. And it hasn't lost any charm in its recent leap into 3D for the 3DS version.
The original Time Crisis looks pretty dodgy these days. But the intro does the best it can with the crude 3D that was available at the time. It's got explosions. It's got Hollywood-style freeze-frame close-ups. It's got... some guy with a ham over his left eye (or similar - we still can't tell exactly what it was supposed to be). But it's also got this dude, who goes to run his fingers through his hair, then... BOOM! He's pulled three throwing knives from his bouffant. Amazing, and still memorable all these years later.
Ya ya ya ya ya! And so, with a jump cut for each of Dexter Holland's ‘ya’s, the craziest of all the taxis zooms into view and straight into your heart. The blue skies, the 60fps frame rate, the phone booths and crates flying everywhere… it’s ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ by the Beach Boys in videogame form. "She got her daddy’s car and she cruised through the handburger stand now". May as well have been singing about leading lady Gina. And by the time the demo taxi is leaping from the second floor window of the multi-storey car park, you're already hoping it'll pick you up for a ride.
The House of the Dead
Back in 1998, rendering a desk with a telephone on it was still a big deal. But that’s just the beginning. The abruptly cut-off message of "Help! E... everyone's getting ki..." sets the scene for one of gaming’s finest intros. The spooky organ music, the camera swooping through dank sewers and lingering on dead people (in perfectly Persil-white clothes) is great enough, but that’s before you get to the action hero poses from the lead characters, Tom Rowgun and G. And the instructional screen that picks a zombie apart until it’s just a torso on legs says ‘Put your money in. It’s OK - you’re going to enjoy this’.
Resident Evil: Code Veronica
The intro to 2000's first truly 3D Resi game must have cost a lot of money. A LOT of money. It's a CG render with previously unseen production values. Claire Redfield gets chased through a facility first by guards, then by the bullets from a minigun-equipped helicopter. It's reminiscent of Terminator 2 and equally ace. Then there's the fake surrender, fiery explosion and lock of hair falling across her face in this stalemate... It's exemplary. Funny how the quality of the CG gets worse the further you get into the game, even switching from this high-detail version of Claire to the in-game model in the same CG cutscene. But hey, we'll always have this intro.
Wave Race 64
The best water effects ever seen in a videogame (at that time), anthemic and charmingly synthesised electric guitar music, a lingering lens flare money shot… AND A DOLPHIN. We want to take a holiday in the intro to Wave Race 64.
You know you're in for something special when a game begins with a cinema rating card lookalike. And something even more special when a 'down the gun barrel' James Bond intro begins, just like in the movies, with a virtual Pierce Brosnan shooting at you in impeccable motion-captured 3D. And then the gameplay demo begins and everything's right with the world.
"Wait! Why didn't you mention..."
Perhaps you happily sit there and watch the Donkey Kong rap go round and round. Maybe you do. We don't. But that's OK - everyone has their favourite intro. Perhaps one they stood and watched in a shop before they got given a 3DO for Christmas. It might have happened. So let us know what your favourite game is for sticking on and not pressing Start. We promise we won't laugh.
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