With the massive competition happening in the video game industry, it’s important for each new title that it provide a solid first impression for gamers. That first impression often comes, in almost all cases, from the game’s opening level, where players either fall in love or lose interest and move on.
Considering the impact opening levels can have on gamers, we polled our writers to see what games they thought have the best start. In our list below, we’ve selected games whose first level impressed us, challenged us, and sparked within us a love for gaming.
Considering the subject matter, there are spoilers ahead.
Super Mario Bros.
It’s quite possible that the opening level in Super Mario Bros. is the most-played in video game history. Even gamers too young to remember the game’s original release have the opportunity to run, jump, and stomp their way through the game’s first level.
Despite its simplicity, the opening level in Super Mario Bros. will be remembered as the one that introduced millions of gamers to the red-clad Italian plumber, and the level that ignited a love for gaming in the hearts of gamers around the world.
The Last of Us
For many PlayStation gamers, The Last of Us was the best game on PlayStation 3, and its current-gen re-release is one of the best so far on PlayStation 4. For the most part, gamers praise the game for its impressive story, which started off with a bang.
From the first few minutes of The Last of Us, players get the feeling something big is going to happen – and they don’t have to wait long for confirmation. At the end of the first level, players witness the death of a key character, which affects the rest of the game’s story and provides players with a heart-wrenching opening.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim kicks things off right, with a dragon. Rather than just have players select the equipment they want and starting them off running around the vast open world, the developers at Bethesda instead throws players right into the action, letting them make character and gear selections as they go along.
With an opening like that, it’s hard to imagine a more impressive start to the next Elder Scrolls game. Of course, they could always just start things off with two dragons, right?
Medal of Honor: Frontline
Without a doubt, the most iconic battle in World War II was D-Day at Normandy beach. So it makes sense that the most epic opening to a historical military first person shooter would take place on those blood-soaked beaches.
Medal of Honor: Frontline takes the heart-racing action of Saving Private Ryan, and gives players a chance to storm the beach themselves. Despite the dated graphics, gamers that play through the game now can’t help but feel the overwhelming dread, fear, and sense of duty as they sprint across the beach.
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 wastes no time throwing players into a frenzied panic as they watch the iconic SSV Normandy get torn apart by enemy laser blasts. While a few of the ship’s crew are able to escape, most are killed or lost to space, including our hero, Commander Shepard.
The mission ends with a massive twist that easily leaves many gamers speechless and wondering how the game would progress after the death of the game’s protagonist. Fortunately for players, Mass Effect 2 is a sci-fi game, where state-of-the-art technology is able to bring Shepard back to life and allows him/her to continue his/her mission.
Resident Evil 4
In its opening sequence, Resident Evil 4 is able to instill in players a basic backstory, as well as a deep sense of dread and anticipation. Those who played the previous Resident Evil games know what’s coming, but even for veterans of the franchise, the opening mission is a great welcome back to the world of Resident Evil.
Gamers barely have an opportunity to get their bearings before they’re launched into the game’s world, which is full of mystery, intrigue, and hostiles. It’s definitely a good start to what many consider to be the best game in the series.
In the first Uncharted game, players got to know protagonist Nathan Drake and play out his ridiculous adventures. But with a lot of that leg work done, Uncharted 2 launches right in with a death-defying sequence that hooks players for the rest of the journey.
In addition to an impossible situation – that of climbing a busted train as it dangles over the edge of a cliff – Uncharted 2 does more than just push players to hustle. It provides just enough vertigo to conjure up an immersive queasiness.
Anyone who’s played Bioshock remembers their first descent into Rapture, where they battle enemies both real and imagined. But rather than just drop players into the underwater city, developer Irrational Games lets players experience the feeling of being lost at sea after a horrific plane crash. Then, they are given a unique opportunity to enter the mysterious world of Rapture, where nothing is as it seems, yet things are done kindly.
The ominous and mystical opening to Bioshock sets the stage for an adventure unlike any other in entertainment. Bioshock is easily among the few games that many wish they could experience again for the first time.
Developer Valve dashed many gamers’ hopes and dreams when they failed to produce the third episode to the wildly popular Half-Life 2. The disappointment cuts extra deep when players realize they have yet to see a conclusion to a game with such a brilliant beginning.
In an opening reminiscent of the first game in the series, players start out on a train. However, unlike it’ predecessor, Half-Life 2’s train car doesn’t deposit players at a laboratory, but instead at City 17, where the game’s fast-paced, frightful action takes place. It’s a wonderful day when players “wake up and smell the ashes.”
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
After an extremely disappointing launch for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, many fans of the franchise are undoubtedly reflecting on a time when virtual skateboarding was at the top of every teenager’s weekend to-do list.
And when it comes to virtual skateboarding, who can forget the Warehouse in the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater? So much time, effort, and frustration was leveled at that simple map, as siblings and friends dueled it out for the highest score, only to outdo an opponent by a few points captured at the end of a round. Even though the graphics are far behind the current-gen standard, just the thought of visiting the Warehouse once again is enough to make one want to dust off the PlayStation or Dreamcast and launch into the action once again.
What do you think of our list? Are there any other video game opening levels you would recommend? Let us know your picks in the comments.