While there's a million possibilities as to why a video game might stick in your memory for years to come, one of the simplest and most common reasons is because it had a killer opening level to set the tone for the rest of the experience. If a game can grab you by the throat within its very first level, act, or mission, it's bound to be one of the best games out there. This theory is bolstered by the list below, an eighteen game parade of the medium's heaviest hitters that all happen to have some of the most memorable intro levels in gaming.
Whether it be an unforgettable musical theme, insane narrative twist, or utterly impressive gameplay section, all titles on this list know exactly what it takes to hook players right from the get-go. The question is: Which among them is the most captivating? That's for you to decide. Vote up the most memorable opening levels on this list and establish which games truly stole the world's attention with nothing more than a killer intro.
This opening level went on to define cinematic storytelling in video games. Starting off on the Polar Express from hell, you awaken on a train that's dangling over a snowy mountain edge. From there, it's your duty to escape before the whole thing tumbles into the abyss below, which involves a whole lot of death-defying platforming and deep breathing.
This intro is pulse-pounding, interactive storytelling at its finest, and is the reason why game development studio Naughty Dog has gone on to become a household name.
- Photo: SEGA
Though no longer quite as iconic as the mustache-clad plumber's first level, there was a time when Sonic the Hedgehog's opening zone was king of the hill in terms of worldwide recognition. Green Hill Zone Act 1 is a 16-bit tropical island level that virtually any gamer can hum the tune of – etched into the memories of millions thanks to its iconic loop-de-loops and hundreds of golden rings.
It's action-porn of the finest quality, showcasing all of Olympus's greatest gods going up against the might of Kratos and Gaia, the mother spirit of the earth. It's incredible. Players climb Mount Olympus on a giant tree monster's shoulder and single-handedly murder Poseidon on the way up – all in service of reaching and killing Zeus.
It's one of the most incredible, bombastic opening levels in gaming history, and easily one of the most memorable.
- Photo: Ubisoft Montreal
Unlike its outrageous predecessor, Far Cry 4 manages to craft an unforgettable opening for much different reasons. Whereas the former was campy, loud fun, Far Cry 4's intro is perplexing, dark psychological horror. The main villain abducts the player and another character from a tourist shuttle bus, has you both sit down for a crab rangoon brunch inside his palace, then proceeds to stab his fork into your fellow captive's back.
It's intense, unsettling, and more than enough of a reason to never forget Far Cry 4's first level.