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What's the best game opening of all time?

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Everyone remembers the great game endings, the ones that make you cry, or feel hopeful, or - if you're a little unhinged - write angry tweets at the game creators. But what about the amazing beginnings? The introductions that set the scene? We asked the GamesRadar+ crew for the starts that took their breath away. 

This is the latest in a series of big questions we'll be interrogating our writers with, so share your answers and suggestions for topics with us on Twitter.  

Mass Effect 2 

(Image credit: EA)

The most goosebump-inducing opening I’ve ever come across is undoubtedly in Mass Effect 2. As commander Shepard aboard the Normandy, you’re thrown into the thick of it from the get-go when the ship comes under heavy fire seemingly out of nowhere. As the ship you got to know so well in the first game is destroyed before your very eyes, you have to walk your way through the Normandy to get your lovable pilot Joker to abandon ship and get to safety. One of the most atmospheric moments is when you walk through the part of the ship that’s been obliterated and exposed to the depths of space, expunging all sound and air with it. Then, with the final blast, Shepard is sent hurtling into the stars, and rapidly loses oxygen. As Shepard disappears out of view, the music's first beat kicks in with that all too familiar Mass Effect theme and the title appears. Every single time I play it, I get the same chills. It’s the perfect set up for what is easily the best Mass Effect entry. Heather Wald

Marvel's Spider-Man

(Image credit: Insomniac)

For me, the best game openings are the ones which don't waste any time in handing players free reign of the controller. They let them do the thing they bought the game for in the first place - play. Bloated, creeping openings that throttle the full potential of their gameplay until hours later (looking at you, Assassin's Creed 3) can put me off a game for good, but Marvel's Spider-Man is the polar opposite. Within the first few minutes of booting up Insomniac's super sim, you're doing whatever a Spider-Man can, namely swinging around New York city in hot pursuit of the Kingpin. The entire sequence is exhilarating and empowering, but the cleverest part is that, secretly, this whole chapter is a tutorial, and we're just having far too much fun to notice. The fact that it could easily be the final climax to any other game is precisely what makes it such a surprising delight, and testament to Insomniac's understanding of a good first impression. Alex Avard

Assassin's Creed 2

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

My affections for the heartthrob that is Ezio Auditore da Firenze did not skew this decision, I swear, it's just a brilliant game opening. After learning all about the centuries-long battle between the Templars and the Assassins through Desmond Miles' voice over, you realize the future of the world is at stake if he can't escape Abstergo, a corporate conglomerate acting as a front for the Templars, and the Animus technology they're using to make Desmond run errands in his ancestors' pasts to find more keys to global domination. Luckily enough, you're immediately broken out of their clutches by Lucy (hey, Kristen Bell), who appeared to be working for them in the original game (she's not). 

Before you leave, however, you have to dip back into your ancestor's memories, but this time you get to meet your Italian one - enter baby Ezio and a weird quick time event where you make his little baby legs and arms flail about. You take over Desmond briefly as you and Lucy escape Abstergo to hide out in a cool Assassins loft, just to re-enter the Animus again and pick up with a brilliant scene that re-teaches you how to use the game's controls - Ezio and his brother racing across the rooftops of Renaissance Italy. When you as Ezio lose the race and your brother's hand reaches down to hoist you onto the roof, the camera pulls back into the iconic Assassin's Creed bird's eye view shot. Cue the beautiful score and title credits. It is, in short, bellissimo *chef's kiss*. Alyssa Mercante

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Maybe it’s the waves gently lapping against the shores of Outset Island, the jaunty tune that plays as you enter your grandma’s house, or the Absolute Unit of a pig snorting his way around a neighbour’s garden, but, for me, there’s no better game opening than Wind Waker’s laidback affair.

It serves as not only as a perfect way to dip your toes into Wind Waker’s new, water-filled world at a leisurely pace – you can explore every nook, cranny, and pig pen for hours on end if you so wish – but the low-key intro really helps drive home the stakes of the story. The opening eventually unravels and (spoilers for a 16-year-old game, I guess) your sister is kidnapped. Outset Island becomes a mere speck in the distance; the waves turn choppy, the soundtrack gets sharper, and then you and Young Link alike are forced to forget about the sun-kissed home to step into the well-worn shoes of the Hero of Time. Perfection. Bradley Russell


(Image credit: Irrational )

For me, the sign of a great game opening is when instructions and tutorials go out the window and the main focus is on world-building and narrative setup. And there is no doubt BioShock is one of the greats here. Forget about the buttons, controls and actually how to do things for a moment, and concentrate on this movie-like opening scene that beautifully sets up a whole new world for you - one that will totally immerse you in its sense of place. The plane crash, short voice-over, and the music of BioShock’s first few moments begins to introduce a world to you, and then the bathysphere part actually sets up the semi-believable nature of Rapture. It grounds the Atlantis-like setting through Ryan's monologue, an art and architecture style, a philosophy, and one of the best grand reveals in modern games. You know a game's got a great opening when it comes up down the line, as it does in BioShock when it expertly reveals the true nature of the plane crash towards the end of the game. Ah, yes, it is time for another playthrough: would you kindly reinstall BioShock on my PS4? Rob Dwiar

Beyond Good and Evil

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

The intro to Beyond Good & Evil does more and better world-building and stakes-setting in about four minutes than some games do ever. A snippet of a news broadcast establishes your home planet as a backwater world threatened by aliens. Sunrise tai chi establishes the serene beauty of this podunk planet, and the calm grace of our hero Jade. The aliens invade, and when Jade goes to power on her orphanage's force field, it fizzles out, an electronic voice informing her that her electrical bill is overdue - establishing that capitalism sucks even in this cartoon sci-fi world. Immediately trapping a bunch of orphans in freaky monster pods and making Jade fight to free them may be a bit over-the-top, but it makes for a dramatic introduction to the combat system. Almost two decades later, many games could still learn a lot from the way Beyond Good & Evil's intro makes us care then instantly kicks our ass into gear. Connor Sheridan

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Rachel Weber

Between Official PlayStation Magazine, and Rolling Stone I've picked up a wide range of experience, from how to handle the madness of E3 to making easy conversation with CEOs and executives of game companies over seafood buffets. At GamesRadar+ I'm proud of the impact I've had on the way we write news, and now - as managing editor in the US - the huge traffic successes we're seeing. Most of all I'm proud of my team, who have continued to kick ass through the uncertainty of 2020 and into 2021, and are what makes GamesRadar+ so special.