Video games sometimes have a trailer problem. The point of a trailer should be to pull you in and give you an idea of what the game is all about. A lot of the time though we end up getting CG trailers that don’t really say anything about the game except the setting.
In that same vein, a video game’s opening should pull you in. You’ve already got the game, and now it needs to prove it’s worth your time. Game openings can sway from the stylish to the bombastic, but some convey the game’s everything so well that they’re just as memorable as everything else. Here are some of the best video game openings of all time.
10 Kingdom Hearts 2
Kingdom Hearts is quite the series that, despite almost everything being available in one neat little package, can feel so incredibly daunting to get into. The Final Fantasy and Disney crossover plays heavily on nostalgia, and getting into it late can give a serious feeling of missing out.
That’s part of why KH2’s opening is so strong. It takes you away from Sora for hours and makes you play as someone else entirely new. You’re forced to live out the summer life of a group of friends who just want to go to the beach. Those nostalgic pangs of childhood mixed with the desire to return to familiarity are what make Roxas such a beloved character.
Skyrim doesn’t really need an introduction, we’ve all played it and it’s been ported almost as many times as the original Doom at this point. Skyrim is a gorgeous game with such long-lasting appeal, and the opening is, for better or worse, unforgettable.
Memed into oblivion, the opening begins like almost every Elder Scrolls game: You are a prisoner being transported somewhere. Yes, the opening has instilled a fear in everyone for a bleary-eyed awakening to a moving carriage, but it does set the scene so well in those moments of silence while being guided to your execution, only for everything to go awry.
Bayonetta is something so incredibly unique. Gaming has plenty of overly-sexualized female characters, but none who’ve owned it quite as strongly as Bayonetta has. She’s a character who isn’t afraid to make an entrance, and the original game’s opening is a testament to that.
Hovering amidst the tombstones is a set of funeral rites being performed by a bespectacled nun, when quite literally the weapons open and those saintly garments are seductively cut away and an act that can only be classed as blasphemy occurs as Bayonetta rains hell upon the angels. It’s an over-the-top display proving that Bayonetta puts the fun in funeral.
7 Nier: Automata
Nier: Automata was not the first Nier game, and far from the first game in that universe either, though that knowledge was hardly required for Automata. The story and characters now are massively iconic, and something Square Enix refuses to let rest, but the opening itself was dazzling.
Opening with a soliloquy by 2B, you are put into a top-down perspective in a ship, before transitioning to a tilted-cam mech bullet-hell, then shot into the main combat of the game. Throughout the factory, the camera constantly changes angles and the speed of your encounters never slows down, culminating in a display that showcases the cyclical nature of the whole world.
6 Yakuza 0
Yakuza 0 shot the series into international acclaim, and deservedly so. Yakuza is one of the few series that actually knows how to take from movies, and the openings for both Kiryu and Majima are proof of it.
Opening in The Lot, we see Kiryu being uncharacteristically brutal considering prior entries, neon lights gracing every avenue. This is a world of glitz to hide the grit. Majima’s opening mirrors this, a man who would be later known for his maniac nature handling a cabaret tussle with ease, a showman hiding his shame. They’re both incredibly powerful introductions to the world.
5 Final Fantasy 7
The original Final Fantasy was a major step into 3D for the series, but also in storytelling, establishing a tale that few have managed to surpass since. With iconic characters and settings, why not also have an iconic opening?
Then came Final Fantasy 7, showcasing the various areas of Midgar, the camera zooms through the city before catching up with Cloud and Avalanche aboard a train. Such a beloved scene, Square Enix recreated it in Crisis Core, and seeing it again in the remake was enough to send shivers down our spines.
4 Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect is often heralded as one of BioWare’s greatest series. Being a single, connected trilogy, it tells an intimate story of characters who grow with each game, one of the strongest aspects of BioWare’s writing.
ME2’s opening channels this. You’ve grown to love Shepard from your first outing, and so when the Normandy is suddenly attacked, you’re forced to help your crewmates evacuate while Shepard is left to the cold of space, proving that though they’re a hero, they’re far from invulnerable.
3 The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
Breath of the Wild seems to have awakened something in the game industry. For Nintendo, famed for utilizing the same series for literal decades, to make such a drastic departure from its formula, then perhaps others could follow suit. Though few have yet emulated that feeling.
Breath of the Wild had a strong sense of what it wanted to be. Rather than treading old ground, the game has you awaken into this vast world. Stood atop that cliff you feel unstoppable, and yet insurmountably small. With that simple shot, the world was given so much character of its own.
Kojima has always had a flair for the cinematic. There’s the general love of films that gets incorporated into his works, but also the incredibly indulgent cutscenes that border on being films in their own right. Metal Gear Solid 5 goes for a different style of camerawork, and so much of it shows in the opening.
Picking up after Ground Zeroes, Snake wakes up in a hospital in Cyprus that’s suddenly under attack. Where the rest of the game lets you meticulously plan out your actions, here you are nothing, barely able to walk. Blaring lights obscure your vision while the supernatural occurs around you. The camera makes sure you see what it wants, and makes no attempt to hide it. It’s confident and manages to make such a scripted event feel like more than a chore.
1 Resident Evil 4
The Resident Evil series has reinvented itself more times than most other series, jumping from survival-horror, to action game, to pure horror and back again. You can never foresee what each entry will be, and each can thankfully be enjoyed independently.
However, Resident Evil 4 set a precedent. That over-the-shoulder precise aiming that’s become so common now was popularised here, and that slow prowl through the village before it all upends itself is exhilarating. You have more options than ever before, yet every shot still counts. Those options make you tactical, and the village lets you feel your strengths and weaknesses all in one.