The opening levels from video games are incredibly important. They are the first hand that comes in and grabs you by the collar, hoping to keep you in its grasp for the entire game. There was a point in gaming when you knew that the last levels of video games were going to be the best levels, but those times have changed. Now, game companies aim to make games that open in the strongest parts of the experience, because how else will they get you to play? In some ways, it kind of sucks because you realize that it might only get worse from here, but it is also awesome because in playing big budget games’ first levels, you actually get a pretty solid feel for the best aspects of the game itself. Here are five examples of opening levels from games that were so good, it was almost difficult for the rest of the game to live up to those first few hours.
I can tell you, the experience I had playing Bioshock: Infinite’s opening was transcending, to say the least. Something about stepping into the Columbia for the first time just took my breath away. I know the descent into Rapture from the first game has that same feeling, but Colombia just felt more alive to me. More real and fully realized.
As I walked along that boardwalk in the first hour, I swear I could smell popcorn popping in my living room. I could feel the soft, warm breeze wafting on my face as I walked out onto the beach. I could feel the buzz of the excited people around me.
THAT, my fellow geeks, is how you properly open a video game.
Last Of Us
I have shown the intro of Last of Us to non-gamers and had them beg me to keep playing so they could see how this ‘movie’ plays out. Yes, the intro is THAT good. Though it starts off as a cinematic that revolves around the world going to shit, you quickly assume control and are running down the streets with your little girl in your arms while mayhem erupts all around you. But anyone who has played this game knows, that is just the start.
Maybe the only opening level in games that can actually get players to cry, the start of Last of Us buckles us all in for the amazing ride that is about to come (and never lets up once).
God of War 3
God if War 3 actually kinda messed up in some ways here in my opinion. I know some will argue, but they came out swinging TOO strong. The first two to three hours of God of War 3 is nothing short of jaw-dropping. From the scale of it to the graphics, it is pure insanity in the greatest ways possible. Even the first boss fight is so stunningly spectacular you almost want to put your controller down.
But, for me, it felt the rest of the game kind of lost steam. Don’t get me wrong, it was still amazing. But it could be said that NO other boss battle in the game, and no other level in the game, can match that first few hours.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Why, oh why did you not play this f*cking incredible game from Team Ninja for the 7th game generation? Do you even understand how awesome the game was, the story was, the acting was? Even if you have never heard of this game, I implore you to watch the opening cinematic above and not be pulled into this world. I wont even ruin what the game is about for the thousands of you who know nothing about it.
I will simply tell you that Andy Serkis (Gollum) did the mo-cap work and voice work for the main character, and just let that whet your appetites enough to make you go pop out the ten bucks this game probably cost now so you can experience it.
Oh, and it has one of the greatest game endings of all time. Just saying.
Sonic the Hedgehog
And here you people thought it was going to be all 7th generation games. Nope. I wanted to end the list with one of the first opening levels that ever jawed me. When I started playing Sonic one my Genesis and saw the Green Hill Zone, it genuinely felt like I was playing a cartoon. Hell, I even put the controller down and Sonic’s ‘annoyed’ animation came up. I was in awe. Once a geek, always a geek.
Truth is, this level is still pretty awesome to this day, which is why I am rounding out the list with it. By the way, you noticed Sonic is naked, right? I ask because…..