Solid Snake kicks a load of ass, that’s what. Solid Snake free falls off a city bridge in the dead of night. Solid Snake infiltrates a naval carrier with nothing but a tranquilizer gun. Solid Snake battles a pregnant Russian terrorist with an abundance of armpit hair and emerges victorious. Solid Snake braves rain, lightning and cold to locate and document the new Metal Gear. Oh yeah, and did we mention that Solid Snake was in this?
What makes it special?
While the other opening levels on this list are unique, memorable and even groundbreaking, none had the power of Metal Gear Solid 2’s. This thing made money. This thing sold consoles. This thing may very well have cemented the PlayStation 2’s success and ensured the Dreamcast’s failure. When gamers first experienced the beginning of this game, as a demo in early 2001, they knew which system to bet on.
The graphics were gorgeous. The atmosphere was amazing. The extra gadgets and improved aiming were incredible. “If this is just the start,” we thought, “What will the rest of the adventure be like?” You probably know the answer to that question...
Raiden, and with his reveal as the actual protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2, the cruelest twist in gaming history. Fans would have to wait another seven years to play Solid Snake, which made them appreciate this short intro sequence that much more.
You crash. With no explanation, and almost no dialogue, you find yourself floating in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s dark, it’s cold and it’s lonely. Nobody’s going to rescue you and only two options for escape exist – a burning plane that could sink or explode at any second and a mysterious lighthouse beckoning in the distance. Huh... what are the chances of crashing so close to something like that?
What makes it special?
BioShock doesn’t force you into its underwater house of horrors. You choose to enter. You choose to swim to that lighthouse. You choose to walk through the pitch black doorway. You choose to activate the elevator, having absolutely no idea where the contraption might take you. While you obviously can’t go anywhere else, the game never pushes or prompts you. Quietly, patiently and sadistically, it waits for you to make those fateful and final decisions on your own.
What follows – the rollercoaster ride through Rapture and the first close encounter with an angry Splicer – are incredibly memorable. The true brilliance of BioShock’s beginning, however, is revealed in a twist much later. (spoiler!) You chose that beginning path because you were programmed to do so. You are essentially a slave, manufactured in this hell and doomed to return. The plane crash? Not an accident. The other passengers? Your victims. The lighthouse? The first subconscious step towards home.