The Top 7... Best Beginnings

What happens?

At first, nothing at all. A title card, possibly the most understated in gaming history, flashes on screen. The darkness fades and we open on, of all things, an employee commuter tram. You’re now in control, but not of a soldier or superhero – merely a scientist, heading into work. Chatting with colleagues. Waving to security personnel. Listening to company announcements. Riding elevators. Visiting lockers. Just another, ordinary day at the office.

What makes it special?

Gordon Freeman may start Half-Life as just another, ordinary scientist on just another, ordinary day, but that normalcy is deceptive and doesn’t last long. While you guide him through his daily and relatively dull routine, you discover that Gordon is actually a “theoretical physicist” researching in the field of “anomalous materials.” And as you might guess, such occupational pursuits can only lead to total, unmitigated disaster.

Sure enough - and before long - a strange laboratory specimen opens a rift in the time-space continuum. Aliens arrive, of course, slaughtering every scientist and security guard in their path. Gordon, naturally, must become the hero, stop the invasion and save humanity. In other words, exactly what one expects out of a videogame. Masterfully executed, but predictable nonetheless.

That first hour of gameplay, however, has a powerful and lasting effect. Because you experienced the hero’s life before he transformed into the hero, he always seems real. Because you received a lengthy and immersive tour of his office before the extraterrestrial shit hit the interdimensional fan, the crazy stuff that occurs there seems real, too. Because of that groundbreaking opening, still copied by competitors to this day, Half-Life seems real.

Hear more about this article in TalkRadar.

Jan 26, 2009

The Top 7... Toughest Opening Levels
Uncompromisingly and unapologetically hard from the get go

10 Worst Game Intros of All Time
Watch the most awful openings ever without having to play the games

The Top 7... WTF?! Endings
When cursing and confusion are your only reward


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.

Showing 1-20 of 105 comments

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