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

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  • 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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