11 of the best introduction levels in video games

Your first few minutes in a video game can create a lasting impression. It’s why developers generally put so much time and effort into what will ultimately become the benchmark for how you judge the rest of the game. Some games have done it with grace, others with shock and some create an unbelievable twist right from the outset. Here are 11 games that got that introduction right.

Please note: Obviously there are spoilers below for those who have never played some of these titles, so please skip those entries if you don’t want those first few moments spoiled.

Mass Effect 2 (2010)

The original outing, in my humble opinion, hasn’t aged anywhere near as well as most might think. It’s the sequel that has held up really well and it’s probably thanks to that explosive introduction that it remains one of the most important scenes in this industry. You get to witness the SSV Normandy being destroyed and your hero, Commander Shepard, drifting away into space, ultimately dying. It’s a horrifying moment for fans of the series and created complete panic. By now you should know the outcome, but it’s an intro I’ll never forget.

The Last of Us (2013)

What starts off as a beautiful moment between a father and daughter later moves into one of the most heartbreaking scenes in a video game. It’s just another normal night for Joel and his daughter when things are turned on its head. After numerous scenes of chaos, where the town is turned into a scene out of a horror movie, Joel runs towards safety with Sarah in his arms. Stopped by a security force she is shot and killed. The fact that players got to control Sarah for a few moments leading up to that scene is enough to turn your stomach inside-out and sets the stricken world up for what is to come.

Medal of Honour: Frontline (2002)

Are there any moments as memorable as D-Day in war? Probably not, and in Medal of Honour Frontline it is that exact moment players get to experience it in the eyes of an American soldier. It’s hard to capture just what soldiers must have felt like on that dreadfull day in humanity’s history, but this game somehow managed to paint the fear on the faces of all soldiers involved. Landing on Normandy beach was a momentous occasion in the war and in this game it had players fighting their way through the Nazi defence. Likely one of the best intros to a first-person historical war game to date.

Half-Life (1998)

The sequel followed with an introduction that dropped players right into the thick of things in City 17, but it’s the original game that introduced us all to the mute protagonist, Gordon Freeman at his day job, before everything turned sour in the laboratory where it all started. Your introduction starts on the transit system for the Black Mesa compound. Players get to see the entire facility in this six-minute introduction, paving the way for what is to come and setting the tone unlike any FPS game before it. It was lengthy, but kept gamers captivated throughout it all.

Bioshock (2007)

Video games have given birth to some of the most amazing worlds, but there is nothing quite like the introduction to the world of Rapture. Set in an alternate 1960s history, your plane comes crashing down into the ocean. Jack, who you play as, makes his way to a nearby lighthouse where he discovers the underwater wonder world of Rapture. The art style and overall setting created a mood like no other in any other game – even to this day. Your mind will take a snapshot of the beautiful architecture of a once-flourishing city and will likely remain in your memory for eternity.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2008)

If ever there was an underappreciated game in existence it’s likely this Star Wars outing. Whether you’re a fan of the Star Wars universe or not, there is much to enjoy in this game. What made the introduction such an amazing one was the fact that you got to play as Darth Vader in the introduction level. He invades Kashyyyk with all the various powers you’ll get to play with in the game, but at the height of his strength. Unfortunately you don’t get to play as Darth Vader for the remainder of the game, but that intro made it exceptionally enticing to continue this quest as his apprentice.

Super Mario Bros. (1983)

You should be humming that intro song by now and in your head you should visualise that first question mark block and a Goomba that stands between you and the mushroom you’re trying to collect for the first time. For many of us this was the game that tested our ‘button pressing’ abilities for the first time. To this day it’s considered one of the best introduction levels ever. The level design was fantastic, but the fact that not a single word was written to explain to gamers how to progress, makes it the template whereby many game developers to this day compare their games when introducing a new player to their world. A timeless classic.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)

Drake wakes up to find that he’s staring death in the eyes. He’s on a train carriage that’s hanging off the side of a cliff. How he got there is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure – Drake needs to get out of harms way real quick before this carriage plummets to the depths below. Normally you get to take your time to come to grips with the controls, but Uncharted 2 decided that it was best to give players a heart attack and battle with challenges as soon as the game kicked into action. It set up just how fantastic the rest of the game would be with one of the best set scenes in this industry. Another Naughty Dog classic.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1999)

The sequel is arguably the best game in the series, but the basic Warehouse was the best introduction level the series could have ever hoped for. As soon as you press and hold X you’ll skate down a ramp and into either a halfpipe or up your first ramp where you’ll get to experience your first ollie or, if you were brave enough, flip or grab move. Getting to perform your first grind or rail had first-time players scream with delight and since then it’s become one of the most beloved games of that era. The Warehouse was simple, but it had everything in it to showcase why you should continue playing this game until your eyes bleed.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Son’s of Liberty (2001)

Oh Hideo. You and your nasty little tricks. You never quite know what to expect with Hideo Kojima and never did he play us all as he did in Metal Gear Solid 2: Son’s of Liberty. The tanker was such an integral part of the game. It became the playground to test out all the new moves for Snake, which at the time was exceptionally revolutionary. Guards could see your shadows, Snake could view and interact with objects from a first-person point of view, the number of ways that you could toy with your prey (guards) were astounding and the interaction with the surroundings was just on another level. There’s a reason that this tanker level launched as a demo with Zone of the Enders at the time. Unbeknown to us all at the time it was the only area where you would play as Solid Snake, but it was a real memorable one.

Prey (2017)

Heading into Prey without any knowledge about the narrative whatsoever ended up being a highlight for many gamers. Morgan Yu is recruited by his brother to join his research team on Talos I. There Morgan witnesses a Typhon attacking another researcher and in all the chaos he also gets knocked out. He waked up in his apartment, that has a beautiful view of the city skyline. It’s a stunning modern apartment that has the best that the world can offer… when he discovers that he’s actually in a simulated environment and that he’s been there for three years. The moment that you realise that you’re actually on a spacecraft and nowhere near earth, with monstrous beings and mimics out for your blood – it changes the entire perspective of the game. It’s an awesome moment and intro.

There are many more fantastic intros, these are just some of my personal choices. Let us know what intro you enjoyed to a game you loved.

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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