A strong opening sets the tone for the game. Well, for any medium really. But a good game needs more than a bombastic intro. It needs an area to stand in, one that commits itself to memory.
There are plenty of games with strong openings that are pulled forward by the characters or action, but ultimately leave the setting aside. But sometimes the area you first land on can leave an even stronger impression, so it’s important to make sure it’s worth your time.
10 Resident Evil 4 – The Village
Sometimes a game knows what it wants to be. Resident Evil as a series is full of ups and downs, but when they work, they work so damn well. Spencer Mansion in the original, police station in the sequel.
And then there’s the village section of Resident Evil 4. It’s already one of the most iconic openings in gaming in terms of how much of the game it crams into one section, but the village itself is the real highlight. It really seems (from Leon’s perspective) something foreign and unfamiliar. This is terrifying.
9 Breath of the Wild – Great Plateau
It’s been said a lot in Breath of the Wild over the years that you’re probably deathly hard of hearing. After all, every Zelda game has a great starting area. Kokiri Forest, Skyloft, Outset Island and much more. The Great Plateau does something special.
The entirety of Breath of the Wild is designed to be seen at a glance, and Great Plateau turns that into a microcosm. Nothing intense happens, the tutorial is very light on scenarios and you receive very little guidance. Instead, you can see the Great Plateau as unforgettable as a mini Hyrule – it’s your entire adventure at the tip of a pin.
8 Kingdom Hearts – Twilight Town
Kingdom Hearts has never been anything but surreal. From the very foundations to the number of interconnected games, everything is whimsical and wonderful in a way that only fans can appreciate (and even they will hate aspects of it).
Perhaps one of the most famous parts of Kingdom Hearts is Twilight Town, especially as it was featured in Kingdom Hearts 2. This city is the eternal sunset, the end of summer vacation, the slopes and slopes of winding streets. It seems huge to you, a location that you can’t help but remember.
7 Final Fantasy 7 – Midgar
It’s hard to pick a single starting location in a Final Fantasy game that you’d say is the best. The group in Alexandria FF9, the fall of Zanarkand in FF10, or the slow approach of FF6. But when people think of the actual area, Midgar most likely comes to mind.
A good portion of Final Fantasy 7 takes place in Midgar, but the entire city feels like nothing more than a prelude to a larger story. Nevertheless, it leaves the strongest impression. It’s a city that tells much of its story in how it’s laid out, in the people who inhabit it, and in the dramatic class divisions between top and bottom. It’s a glitzy, seedy city that sets the scene perfectly.
6 Destiny – Cosmodrome
Destiny launched in 2014 and has had a long journey. Lots of twists and turns in the series, confusion about where to take the game and what is expected of it. In any case, games have always had stunning art direction.
Destiny is actually an example of a game with a pretty weak opening in terms of story, but amazing vibes when it comes to the environment. Everyone remembers their first steps at the old cosmodrome. This opening was so popular that Bungie even brought it back to Destiny 2 a few years after launch.
5 Nier Automata – Abandoned Factory
Yoko Taro’s works became popular with Nier Automata, and his previous works have been given to devoted fans. Still, Nier Automata is a game that deserves it. He just knows how to use the medium to tell a story. His characters are deep and nuanced in ways that are only revealed through multiple perspectives, and the bleak environments only accentuate that.
Take his opening for example. Yes, it’s a mad rush through an abandoned factory with non-stop action that will probably make you question what’s going on, but that’s the point. ‘What are you even doing?’ is the question at the heart of the whole game. The dreary, dilapidated state of the factory contrasted with the gleaming black and white androids running about it. Everything works in tandem to show a world deeper than its ruins.
4 Sonic – Green Hill Zone
Sonic is a character that has far surpassed the games at this point, almost to the point where the games aren’t even the main selling point anymore. There are movies, shows, toys, and lots of other merchandise, so it would be understandable if someone wasn’t first introduced to Sonic through games.
But what do you think of when you hear Sonic? It’s the speed, the momentum that takes you over the Green Hill area. Green Hill Zone is especially popular because almost every game makes you so familiar with them. That’s where Sonic started and that’s where he starts again and again. The Green Hill Zone is the heart of Sonic.
There are few games in this world, especially at the triple-A level, that are willing to be as blatantly open with their politics as Metal Gear Solid. Obviously, there are politics in every game, but Metal Gear doesn’t want you to miss them. Games open with them consistently, creating a world heavily influenced by reality.
For all its flaws, Metal Gear Solid 5 is off to a flawless start. There is always a lot going on in this hospital. Invaders to take it from the British, assassins to destroy the Serpent, and demons of the past. It all takes place in a terrifyingly claustrophobic hospital where you can almost smell the sterile environment.
2 Bloodborne – Central Yharnam
FromSoftware has always had a good hand at creating openings. Sekiro ran to Kuro’s Tower, woke up in an asylum in the original Dark Souls, and much more. Among them, Bloodborne stands out, throwing you into the depths of an urban city.
Central Yharnam feels like a horror movie when you enter. You fall asleep during the operation and wake up in an abandoned city. Beasts roam the streets, crazed townspeople patrol with torches, and you just get lost in the tangled streets. It’s a horror unlike many other games, especially given how Bloodborne uses its environments to further unravel its story.
1 Pokemon – every starting place
In many scenarios, openings and tutorials go hand in hand. They introduce the mechanics and basic plot and then leave you to your own devices. Sometimes that opening is nothing more than tutorial fodder. And Pokemon makes sure you’re always attached to that introductory village.
From the first game to today, Pokemon has made you go on a great adventure from home to catch them all! But you can never really leave home. From Pallet Town to Twinleaf Town, from quirky to more vibrant, each town has a little spark of individuality. It’s your home, where you always feel safe and comfortable when you start and when you return to it over time.
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