An opening sequence of a video game should ideally blow the player away and set the stage for the rest of the game to take place. An opening sequence, much like in TV or film, must be able to accomplish a significant amount of things in a relatively short period of time.
Like TV or film, the burden on a video game opening sequence is to introduce players to the core mechanics of the game as well as its central themes. To that end, an opening must subtly teach players about the basics of the controls as well as drive the narrative forward in a meaningful way.
While it is ultimately down to taste, there have been some great opening sequences that blew players away by just how incredibly effective they were. Here, we take a look at some of the best opening sequences in video games and what makes them effective.
What are the best video game opening sequences in history?
#5 God of War III
As a franchise, God of War is known for just its epic scale and artful violence.
All of those qualities are reflected in the first 20 minutes of God of War III as Kratos leads the assault on the gods of Mount Olympus alongside Titans. The entire opening sequence is absolutely jaw-dropping.
Within the first 20 minutes, players would slay gods, lay entire cities to waste and get crushed by Zeus.
#4 Doom (2016)
Doom is one of the most revered game franchises in history purely because its revolutionary nature. However, it began to lose steam after the rather misguided Doom 3.
When the trailer for Doom 2016 dropped featuring a pace and aggression that was rare in today's FPS landscape, fans couldn't wait to play the game. The title lived up to the hype with a brilliantly paced and simple opening sequence.
After the Doomslayer (the player) is woken up, guarded by demonic forces, they are put right in the middle of the action. Doom wastes no time to get going, and the player immediately learns that this is not going to be a slow affair.
What makes this opening effective is just how much it is able to do without many bells and whistles. It teaches the player about movement, the HUD, the basic controls and enemy types, all while making them feel as mean as humanly possible.
#3 Final Fantasy 7
There are certain game openings that are forever going to be talked about. Final Fantasy 7 is right up there with one of the most influential games of all time, and its opening sequence is simply one of the best ever made.
After a couple of aerial shots from the city of Midgar, the camera brings the player down to street level alongside Aerith. It all seems quiet until the camera begins to pull out, and footage of a train moving at break-neck speed is spliced in with shots of the city.
The absolutely iconic score then begins to swell, and players meet Cloud and a few members of his party. From that point on, players know that something epic awaits them.
The mission that follows is something players should experience for themselves as it is one of the best opening levels of all time.
#2 The Last of Us
Naughty Dog was almost at peace with the fact that 2013's The Last of Us might never achieve Uncharted's numbers due to its nature as a much more subdued experience. There weren't going to be big explosions, cars being flipped over or Nate running through a collapsing building.
Instead, the game had a much clearer focus on the characters and the emotional weight of their actions and consequences. It was simply not designed for big explosions or massive shooting galleries. Instead, its quality would shine through in the quieter moments.
The opening scene would go on to define Joel's character for the rest of the game and leaves players in shock at what they had just witnessed.
#1 Uncharted 2
There is a reason why a train dangling off a cliff is what comes to everyone's mind when they think of Uncharted.
Video games have come a long way from being rudimentary titles trying to emulate what works in other mediums such as film or TV.
What truly makes a game effective is not just watching what is unfolding on the screen, but playing through it. Watching Nathan Drake run through a burning building isn't nearly as exciting as playing him in a game.
The opening to Uncharted 2 wastes no time in letting players know what kind of experience it is going to be. It is rightfully regarded as one of the best opening sequences of all time.