TT Top Five: Intros and Prologues

By Brandon Fusco,
Not all game intros are created equal. Some start with a massive gut punch or an amazing sight that stays with you long after the final boss, but nothing establishes tone and gets players interested like a great intro. In honor of the action packed intro of the recently released Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, here is a list of five awesome games that nailed their intro. Note that both story driven and gameplay driven intros qualify, though obviously doing both is preferred.

This is your official spoiler warning. While these are early on in their respective games, they tend to have a big emotional impact. You have been warned.
Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit
Indigo ProphecyA little more vanity would have saved this man.

It's snowing outside of a little diner in the city. You wake up in a bathroom stall with a stinging pain in your left forearm and a knife in your right hand. You jerk upright, stagger towards a man with no control of your body, and then stab him to death with the knife in your right hand. No longer possessed, you now need to cover up a murder that your body committed without you.

It's an interesting situation to be in. This opening leaves a remarkably tense feeling as players try to find a way to clean up the mess before making a getaway. What's particularly interesting is that something that happens quite frequently in games, the wresting of control from the player, is now part of the story. The idea that you could be forced to kill a person against your wishes is a plot element that has to be dealt with. It's unsettling, and that feeling sticks throughout the entire game as the situation gets more and more surreal.

Uncharted 2
Uncharted 2 introThis opening is about as impactful as box to the head.

Nathan Drake wakes up in a train car to discover he is bleeding profusely. After taking a moment too long to collect himself, he discovers that this train car happens to also be hanging off of a cliff. Almost as striking as the surprising situation is the question of how he got there in the first place. There's not enough time to really think about it because the car is about to fall and Nathan needs to get out. After a scene like this, it's going to be pretty hard to forget the climbing skills you learned.

Mass Effect 2
ME2 IntroWorst day at the office ever.

Mass Effect 2 is unique in this list because it's the only one that starts out with you dying. Yup, that's right. In the first couple minutes of the game, Commander Shepherd ends up as cold and lifeless as the space he is floating through. It's a shocking intro, and the medical revival process gives players the chance to alter the character while also integrating him (or her) into a new RPG system. The death and the prolonged process of revival are interesting even if the action in the prologue is a little by the numbers.

Bioshock IntroAnd psychopaths. Lots of psychopaths.

The original BioShock (PS3) starts off strong, putting you in an old plane that sets the year around 1960. After the plane crashes, there’s the bright light of flames all around the dark water and night sky as you swim towards a looming lighthouse. Inside is a giant statue of Andrew Ryan and a banner declaring “No Gods or kings, Only Man.” As players descend into Rapture, they learn a little about the philosophy of this place before being attacked by a psycho with hooks on her hands. The entire opening casts hope against disaster, begging the player to ask what people hoped to accomplish here and what went wrong.

The franchise gets bonus points for mirroring this prologue in BioShock Infinite (PS3), but with the character starting at a personal rock bottom, taking a boat to the lighthouse, and then soaring up into the sky to find, on the surface at least, an idyllic society.

The Last of Us
CarouselNope, this isn't from that scene. If you've played it, you don't need a picture. If you haven't, then you need to.

The first few hours, and particularly the first few minutes, of The Last of Us (PS3) are arguably good enough to justify the purchase of the full game, though you’d be doing yourself a disservice to not complete the game. Most games show an adventure where the main character takes a dramatic turn towards heroism by the end. Here, we see the kind-hearted man that Joel was and how he became the grizzled, selfish, and dangerous survivor seen in the rest of the game. If you don’t well up a bit, you have no soul.

Honorable Mentions

Parasite Eve
Parasite EveWho needs a gas can when you have an audience full of people?

Squaresoft, creators of the well-known Final Fantasy series, took a slight detour from the RPG series in 1998 when they released Parasite Eve. The game starts off simply enough with NYPD officer Aya Brea attending an opera on what is definitely turning into a rather bad date. In a dramatic turn for the opera-goers and fans of Squaresoft alike, mid-way through a female singer's solo, the theater and audience begin to erupt into flame. Because the obvious answer is that the person who caused this to happen must obviously be the only other person in the room who didn't turn into a pile of ash, the game sends players chasing after the mysterious Eve, fighting off grotesque mutated rats in an otherwise ordinary theater.

Parasite Eve also gets kudos for an awesome scene almost immediately after the prologue where everybody in central park is melted into a red goo and absorbed by Eve.

Half-LifeAnd then things went wrong.

Half-Life is the game that really set the template for a fantastic prologue, establishing a peaceful and even mundane scene that still allows you to get an idea of the basic locomotion of the game. It’s just another day at the lab until everything explodes and goes sideways. Many games have done similar things, but few have managed to successfully set up a sense of place as well as Half-Life established the Black Mesa facility.

The Final Fantasy VII Tech Demo for PS3

This is kind of a cheat, but it's still a good reminder of the power of a strong intro. Before people started getting teary eyed at the announcement of the Final Fantasy VII remake coming to PS4, people were convinced that Final Fantasy VII would be remade for PS3. Sony and Square teamed together to make a tech demo for the PS3 that showed off just how powerful it was, but they did such a good job that, try as they might, many spent years believing that a remake announcement was just around the corner. After a reaction like that, it's no surprise that the two finally partnered once again to make those dreams come true.

Sticking the intro is key to setting the tone for a great game, and unsurprisingly many of the games on this list fall into that category. There are a lot more games that have awesome intros or prologue levels that never quite made it. What are some of your favorites? Let us know below!
Brandon Fusco
Written by Brandon Fusco
Brandon is an Editor and TGN's Host with the Most. The most what? The most opinions, the most understanding wife, and the most *funny cat videos. Previously Host of the Trophy Talk Podcast. (*Not Verified)
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