Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation, 1997)
You start Symphony of the Night just before the end of its predecessor, Rondo of Blood, setting the scene for the game proper. When the new game finally starts, you leap across the rising drawbridge and through the gates of the castle as the doors close, sealing you inside as you take control again. UNLESS you use the 'slide' move immediately to the left, in which case you can get through the doors before they close. You're outside the castle and can get on the roof. But you're not meant to be there and it's all broken. And you can't ever get back inside. D'oh.
Chance of finding it first time: 2%. It's unlikely anyone would dash left, but the door is closing, not closed, and you have already been able to use the dash move in the preceding segment. So in theory, a quick-witted gamer could do it. But obviously that's not me. Cos I didn't.
Tomb Raider III (PlayStation/PC, 1998)
Remember the slope at the start of Tomb Raider III? The one that killed you with its spikes halfway down? Bet you didn't know you could have had a shotgun in your inventory before you even stepped onto it! The very first screen is pointing at the 'secret' route that lets you go onto the green area you can jump to, then jump back across the slope and youll land on a platform just under the leaves. Happiness, thy name is shotgun.
Chance of finding it first time: 2%. There are two methods of finding it, but the first thing most people pushed was 'forwards', immediately starting the unstoppable slide. Plus that texture obscuring the platform means you'd never see the shotgun or the platform unless you were combing every inch of the level. No surprises here: I didn't.
Streets of Rage II (Mega Drive/Genesis, 1992)
And finally, the inspiration for this feature. Did you know about the 1Up hidden behind the bin on the first screen? Me neither, until I played it in two-player recently with arcade sticks, pressed all the buttons in turn to see what was assigned to what, then heard the extra life chime. Daft, really. Now I know it's there, I realise you can even see it when the camera scrolls on, thanks to the parallax. Tsk.
Chance of finding it first time: 5%. If you've played the original Streets of Rage, then it's possible you might check behind things with the punch button. But basically, you'll be wanting to head right and play the best game on Mega Drive.
Got any more?
Ironically, despite the running theme of me not finding stuff, I did happen upon Jon the Programmer's Squinky Tennis on Game Gear, by holding down Start while turning on Micro Machines for some unknown reason. But I didn't have a link cable so that was the end of that. Great success! So... got any more first-screen secrets I missed? Let everyone know in the comments.