The Top 7... Best Beginnings

What happens?

If you’ve read a history textbook, watched Saving Private Ryan or played any World War II game since, you already know what happens. The Allied army storms the beaches of Normandy in a dizzying flurry of boats, bullets and blood. Slow motion and stirring orchestral accompaniment drive home the point – this is some deeply significant shit.

What makes it special?

Never before had the mood and intensity of a videogame scene so closely matched that of a movie scene. The claustrophobic naval craft, slicing through the storm of spray and the nausea of waves. The soldiers, nervously chatting and then suddenly dying all around. The crashes, the explosions and the horrifying submersion. The brutal march across the sand, with shouted orders and pained cries fading into an unnerving and unnatural quiet.

Everything that you had witnessed in the opening of Saving Private Ryan, you were now playing in the opening of Medal of Honor: Frontline. Everything Tom Hanks’ character saw, you saw, and from a much more direct perspective. Console gamers had never experienced anything so stylishly cinematic and viscerally immersive at once – no surprise, since the level was lifted from the middle of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault on PC. Which, arriving full circle, was created by Steven Spielberg.

What happens?

Holy crap, what doesn’t happen? In less than a second, you’re somersaulting over alien robots and demonic dogs, blasting assault rifles from both manly hands and exploding everything you see – walls, cars, buildings, power ups – into screen burning bursts of neon orange pixels. A second later, you’re crashing down the street in a stolen tank, and a second after that, you’re ducking as a missile firing jet fighter appears to literally fly out of your television. Before the end, you’ve annihilated a giant, three-story turtle (yes, turtle) with lasers and extraterrestrial maggots shooting out of its orifices. In the first level!

What makes it special?

As soon as you started Contra III, you understood why the Super Nintendo itself was so special. The console had launched eight months earlier, and the newest Mario had obviously proven its worth, but Contra III threw down the technological gauntlet. Complex background layers. Ultra destructible environments. High-quality music and realistic sound effects. Scaling, zooming, rotation and Mode 7. Mounted vehicles and massive bosses. A laser turtle, for God’s sake.

Contra III wasted no time. Contra III made no apologies. The SNES was the superior system of the early ‘90s and this starting level singlehandedly proved it.


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.


Showing 1-20 of 105 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000