It's hard to overstate the importance of a good beginning. The first five minutes of any video game must work especially hard to not only grab the attention of the audience, but also establish the game world in the minds of players in a way that makes sense. Sometimes this means introducing a gorgeous fantasy world through an opening cutscene or introducing the characters you'll be spending countless hours with through dialogue. At other times, this could mean simply introducing players to the basic mechanics of the game.
Either way, this generation has given us some especially memorable game beginnings. We have scoured our game collection to bring you the ten beginnings that have left the biggest impressions on us. Without further ado, here are our favorite game openings of this generation.
Heavy Rain brought an emotional impact that few other games have ever managed to, and the fact that we were in for a dark and gripping ride was apparent within the first minutes of the game. The piano and strings music coupled with the sad faces of people out in the rain really hit us hard. There was something both familiar and intriguing about the various images we were shown. The insertion of credits text as if it were a part of the environment was just icing on this gorgeous piece of emotional cake.
Portal 2 accomplished a lot within its first minutes. We saw the decay of the Aperture science facilities over the course of a hundred or so years. We met Wheatley, an A.I. personality who very quickly became one of the most hilarious video game characters of all time. We were shown that the game viewed us as nothing more than rats in a maze. For science. We even went through a brief tutorial that allowed us to play with the game controls a little bit. And all of this happened in under two minutes. However, we didn't realize how hard the game was working, because we were laughing too hard to notice.
Red Dead Redemption's intro was brilliant. It briefly showed us John Marston getting onto a train, but we couldn't shake the feeling that something was "off" here. Once he boarded the train, he just sat there, overhearing the conversations of his fellow passengers. The reason this setup worked so well was that there was a real sense of irony to the things these people said. More subtle, though, was the fact that these conversations made the player feel like an outsider. Modern day audiences most likely feel uncomfortable with talk of racism, religion, class warfare, and politics. And that's why Red Dead Redemption threw all these in our faces within the first minutes of the game. It told us we weren't welcome here, and we were going to have to deal with that. That was when we became John Marston.
LittleBigPlanet surprised us. When we popped that disc into the PS3, we expected to be greeted with something lighthearted and cartoony. Instead, we got a live-action video of people sleeping. As strange as it seemed, when combined with the relaxing music and Stephen Fry's soothing narration, it hypnotized us with its promises of a world filled with creativity and magic that we knew we wouldn't want to leave for quite some time.
Why is old-timey music so disturbing when paired with images of ruin and despair? Fallout 3 opened with something of a fake-out, showing us the inside of a bus and playing some low-fi tune from our grandparents' era. ("I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" by the Ink Spots, in case you were wondering.) As the camera slowly zoomed out, we saw images that seemed to point to a World War II setting—army enlistment posters, for example—as we heard some bombs go off somewhere in the background. Continuing the zoom, we saw a destroyed city and a person in power armor, realizing this was the unsettling place we were going to spend the next hundred plus hours of our gaming lives.