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


  • Fishow753 - January 27, 2009 12:52 a.m.

    A Charlie Barratt article with no mention of Gabriel Knights, gasp. Great article by the way.
  • hass100 - January 27, 2009 12:56 a.m.

    room for riddick maybe?
  • thunderrjatyahoocom - January 27, 2009 1 a.m.

    Call me a scaredy cat but the part in the Half Life intro where you visit another dimension scared me crapless, so much so that I shut down the game application.
  • Jbo87 - January 27, 2009 1:18 a.m.

    Preys beggining was actually quite amusing. Just running around in the bar. Then you twat some drunks. Then aliens arrive and you twat them as well. Ahhhh memories.
  • HEYpoleposition - January 27, 2009 1:32 a.m.

    Great top 7. Love Half life openings, even blue shift, opposing forces, 2... absolutely extraordinary. (+ agree w/ Jbo, Prey's whole first few intro levels pretty great, Don't Fear the Reaper)
  • SuperScuttles - January 27, 2009 1:34 a.m.

    Great article Resistance 2 opening was sweet even though the rest felt so linear. Oh yeah. Theres a fly in the ointment. Shit has hit the fan. The lion will speak
  • HEYpoleposition - January 27, 2009 1:38 a.m.

    (srry for double post *embarrassed*)
  • sl33pythyme - January 27, 2009 1:41 a.m.

    this has a great opening
  • bron1417 - January 27, 2009 1:48 a.m.

    man bioshock,fallout 3 and MoH:Frontline are the best 3 in my mind i will never forget these beginnings truly epic.
  • revrock - January 27, 2009 2 a.m.

    hows 'bout Final Fantasy 3? That long slow march and the soundtrack were pretty sweet.
  • Gourdmaster - January 27, 2009 2:17 a.m.

    This article is 100% correct. i believe in every single game on this list couldnt have written it better
  • ManBearPig - January 27, 2009 2:25 a.m.

    Awesome list. Though I prefer Half-Life 2's intro much better. "Wake up and... Smell... The ashes..." Such a great opening monologue. Not to mention the initial of realizing how screwed up this world became in the time you've been gone. Still haven't played Bioshock yet (shame on me!) but that one's coming soon. But yeah, agree with everything on that list.
  • sourpunch - January 27, 2009 2:51 a.m.

    My favorite opening is still final fantasy VIII. It sets up the storyline amazing.
  • nicksayswatzup - January 27, 2009 3:22 a.m.

    kinda sad about no SSB but i understand :)
  • game-thugsta - January 27, 2009 3:42 a.m.

    I thought doom 3's somber intro before hell was quite the memorable one... or niko comin off the boat in gta, seeing what it's like to be an imigrant and such
  • bioshocker - January 27, 2009 4 a.m.

    I agree with manbearpig (one of my favorite episodes) I played hl2 before hl1 but still it kept me in the game and I beat it in a couple days I feverishly await for episode 3. I can't agree more with your decision of fallout 3 on the list either. Is it just me or do most of these games have you start out as "just another guy"? reCAPTCHA: khaki day
  • magicwalnuts0 - January 27, 2009 4:03 a.m.

    I would contest the Bioshock one, but otherwise this is a good one. Although I don't know why you guys put MGS2 instead of MGS cause Metal Gear Solid's beginning was mega awesome.
  • Revanofsith - January 27, 2009 4:06 a.m.

    Shoulda showed Devil May Cry 4 some love. No game before has, in the beginning, made me feel like a badass. And watching Dante and Nero, it was without a doubt, my favorite game intro. Even the singing goes well.
  • alexg223 - January 27, 2009 4:43 a.m.

    "Because you received a lengthy and immersive tour of his office before the extraterrestrial shit hit the interdimensional fan..." Priceless!
  • netlatnu - January 27, 2009 4:46 a.m.

    The intro to FF8 was amazing at the time. I hope it was at least considered.

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