When it comes to first-impressions, not all video-games are perfect — and with good reason! Even the most basic games have to include tutorials and exposition to setup the story or get you accustomed to the in-game action. It’s rare for an introduction to truly wow us. That’s what sets apart these 11 awesome entries in the hollowed halls of gaming. These are games that get you hooked from the word go and keep you playing thanks to an incredible introduction.
There is no standard template for an amazing introduction in gaming. Some of these intros are literally cutscenes at the start of your adventure, while others are fully playable — and might even take an hour or more to complete! It all depends on the game, and what that game is trying to accomplish. Each game is trying to do something different, and the games on our list accomplish their goals with flying colors by truly investing us in their fantastic worlds.
Here are the best introductions in gaming, listed by the year of their release.
#1: Clashing Swords (Ninja Gaiden) – Released: 1988
The cinematic intro of Ninja Gaiden opened our eyes to a whole world of storytelling possibilities in video games. From the very start, the music and composition of the sprite-based slideshows present something gamers had never really seen before — a mature (for the time) action-adventure story that we could follow along. It looks incredibly crude today, but this game was blowing minds back in the late ’80s.
And the intro tells you everything you need to know. Two ninjas charge across an open field, lock eyes, leap into the air, and their swords clash. One ninja falls, while the other stands tall. It’s a perfect proof-of-concept, showcasing the quickness and ferocity of the game you’re about to play. This got us hyped to play one of the hardest games ever made.
#2: Ridley’s Reveal (Super Metroid) – Released: 1994
The superb opening music and text crawl that introduces us to the universe of Super Metroid is special, but the real intro is your visit to a derelict space station. The lab is unlike anything we’d experienced in an SNES game before — flickering lights, dead bodies (with blood?!) and a foreboding atmosphere. When heroine Samus Aran discovers the missing alien Metroid tank, we’re introduced to your nemesis Ridley.
This massive boss is a shock to the system, and temporarily defeating it leads to an exciting escape sequence. Alarms flare and the screen shakes while explosions rip the station apart. A timer counts down how much time you have before annihilation. Super Metroid showed us that games could have cinematic, exciting intros that were fully playable.
#3: The Bombing Mission (Final Fantasy 7) – Released: 1997
We’re jumping ahead to one of the most iconic intros in video game history. I considered including the incredibly detailed (and kind of pretentious) FF8 intro movie, but FF7 is just too huge to ignore. The entire opening sequence is so impressive, following Cloud and Avalanche as they infiltrate a giant energy plant. Due to the 3D modeled characters and rendered backgrounds on PS1, the camera cinematically swings around and moves in a way we had never really experienced before. It’s just insanely polished.
And the real reason I had to include it is because this intro was lovingly remade in FF7:Remake — down to the smallest details, and expanded with more content. One of the best introductions in gaming was made even better on PS4 — only 23 years later.
Watch more awesome intros on the next page.