The Top 7... Best Beginnings

Gamers are a fickle and impatient bunch. After spending our childhoods at the altar of a twitchy, flashy, interactive dream box, we tend to act a bit ADD. We borrow before we buy, we criticize more than praise and we discard anything that fails to blow our desensitized minds within the first few minutes.

The best games, however, can cut through this clutter right from the start. They dazzle us with cinematic spectacle or immerse us with unexpected realism. They overwhelm our eyes and ears with technological power or capture our minds with extraordinary storytelling. Within those first few minutes of play, they demand our attention.

And also? They don’t need outsourced, multi-million dollar CGI to do the job. Our top seven selections might include a cool cutscene or two at the beginning, but that’s not why we chose them.

What happens?

You are born. You grow up. You play and you study. You make friends, stand up to bullies and develop crushes. You go to school, go to birthday parties and go to your ol’ dad for fatherly advice. You try to find your place in society. All in all, you live an extraordinarily ordinary childhood. Shame about that nuclear apocalypse, though.

What makes it special?

Every RPG protagonist starts off as a slow-witted, limp-armed sissy. Molding that ineffectual lump of clay into a hero – strong, intelligent, agile, lucky and all the rest – is usually a dreary chore filled with never ending menus and snooze inducing statistics. Fallout 3, by placing you inside the hero from the very first moment of his or her existence, offers a better way.

Want to play a noble do-gooder? Behave like one. Share your gifts with the other kids and speak politely to elders. Want a nastier personality? Then act the part. Lie to your teachers, pick fights with your buddies and steal from your father’s desk. Seamlessly and invisibly, the game pays attention to your choices and shapes your character. No numbers necessary. And when you eventually emerge from that Vault, blinking in the brand new sun, Fallout 3 feels much less like an RPG and much more like your own personal epic.

What happens?

Waking up on the day of your kingdom’s thousand-year anniversary, you are in the exact right place at literally the exact right time. Go on... enjoy the Millennial Fair! Play a carnival game, join a drinking contest, bet on a race or visit a magic show. Experience your best friend’s latest invention or meet-cute with a charming yet mysterious new girl. The world is at peace and life is good.

What makes it special?

If you’ve ever played Chrono Trigger, you know that the new girl is, in truth, a princess and that the best friend’s invention is, in fact, an accidental time machine. Following an hour of pure innocence and whimsical fun, you’re sent hurtling through the ages, to past and future versions of the world where peace is but a dream and life is extremely difficult. In some, the kingdom is at war. In others, the kingdom is destroyed. In all, the people suffer.

As you travel through these eras, both backwards and forwards, the memory of that blissful beginning stays with you. Why can’t the dark and dreary Middle Ages be so happy? Why can’t the huddled survivors of the post-apocalyptic future be so hopeful? After all, they exist in the right place... just not the right time. As Chrono Trigger progresses, you realize that the original celebration was more than the game’s start. It was the game’s inspiration.


Top 7


  • Superchops - July 28, 2011 2:27 p.m.

    I'm going to be honest, if I could spend my life like the beginning of KH1 I would.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - December 3, 2010 11:21 p.m.

    I love Medal of Honor Frontline! I have so many memories, and that poem at the beginning is my favorite quote ever: "And when he gets to Heaven, to St. Peter he will tell,'One more soldier reporting sir,I've served my time in Hell.'" I don't know where it's from, though.
  • lukel127 - April 27, 2010 10:33 p.m.

    I ALWAYS do that thing in contra where you hold out the guns and fire shoots over you!!! I thought i was the only one. Also, the second level sucks. Just sayin..
  • narutofreak1 - December 13, 2009 2:09 a.m.

    totally true
  • random0midget - October 3, 2009 11:48 a.m.

    what about medal of honour rising sun. you wake up in the middle of the pearl harbour bombings
  • bonerachieved - August 20, 2009 4:43 p.m.

    You guys should've mentioned Indigo Prophecy, that had an amazing beginning
  • Ragingbull45 - August 18, 2009 7:56 p.m.

    whres GTA 4? it had a funny beginning
  • dreamgor - August 18, 2009 8:20 a.m.

    good list but what about kingdom hearts sure it pushed my mind over the edge but the kickass intro is epic an awesome song after you start the game and you get totally excited about the things to come ... that was mildly put sometimes i wish that i would have got ps2 but nintendo suits me better recaptcha: outdone mos- ... O_o
  • Shift - May 21, 2009 10:43 a.m.

    If anyone's reading my comment, don't tell anyone, but I think that Charlie Barratt is THE best writer of all articles
  • chuck17j17j - March 24, 2009 1:34 a.m.

    Bioshock Yes Completey true. U arent forced but u are how sweet is that. Btw one of teh BEst games ever
  • neoandreu - March 19, 2009 11:14 p.m.

    fallout was one of the most impressive intros ive ever seen
  • soren7550 - February 4, 2009 10:59 p.m.

    Isn't this pretty much the same thing Game Informer did a few months back? Pretty good anyway.
  • dynomit272 - February 3, 2009 8:19 p.m.

    sorry, was Solid Snake in one of them? :P
  • sharker - February 2, 2009 8:05 p.m.

    Frontline is one of my favorite medal of honor games, that first part is epic
  • jered1222 - February 1, 2009 5:10 p.m.

    every body says good artical but why not say ass kicking artical or something cool and does not make you sound like u r 3 years old it's like come on!!!
  • superduper93 - February 1, 2009 4:49 p.m.

    WTF where is the FFX intro
  • RedOutlive10 - January 31, 2009 7:32 a.m.

    The first two chapters of Half-Life really shocked me in terms of immersion. Looking at piles of scientist's corpses, everything destroyed, malfunctioning lasers ripping the entrails of bodies around, guards struggling to survive with their 9mm pistols, and having seen the places completely okay before, it just gave me the thought "hey it was way more than a flashy explosion, now I messed up big time!". Epic feeling.
  • blocpartier - January 31, 2009 5:11 a.m.

    Arrggh I want to play MGS again now!!11!!1 And I can't play Bioshock cuz my 360 is broken!
  • dahudge8 - January 30, 2009 11:23 p.m.

    oh man, contra 3 brings back so many memories. thanks for adding it charlie!!
  • noofer7 - January 29, 2009 9:42 p.m.


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