5 Greatest Video Game Intros
First impressions are everything. Well... not EVERYTHING, but it's a strong enough statement that I wanted to include it anyway. From the very beginning, video game developers have strived to impress audiences with eclectic visuals, enjoyable gameplay and a sense of escapism. Video game intros, while not always a staple, are in my opinion an important aspect of the industry, as they give viewers a small taste of a world that captures our imagination and sets the tone for what we're about to sink countless hours of our lives into. And with that, I give you my top 5 greatest video game intros -
5. Musashi Samurai Legend
As an illustrator, I'm a complete sucker for classic animated intros, especially when I don't even see them coming. Musashi Samurai Legend kicks off with a dynamic intro that features vibrant hues and incredible character designs that come together in a flurry of hand-drawn mania that only Gainax Co. could produce. For me, this is one of those rare instances where the intro is actually far superior than the game itself, as nothing in the game matches the pace, tone or energy of the animated opening. The intro fills us in that our eponymous hero of the game, Musashi, has been whisked away to a mystical land, where he sets out on a trope-filled quest to rescue a series of maidens and defeat an evil corporation. Not particularly groundbreaking. But it's Gainax Co.'s unique style on full display that really whets the appetite. A series of fast-paced action sequences interspersed with a montage of shots featuring the main cast light up the screen and definitely feels like something straight out of an anime series. It's got excitement, humour and style; a trifecta of awesomeness which is everything a game like this could hope for with an intro, it's just such a shame the game itself feels absolutely nothing like this 1 minute 58 second visual bonanza.
Full disclosure - I hate racing games. So there's something to be said when one breaks into my top 5 intros. Though to be fair, Carmageddon is about as much an actual racing game as Super Mario Bros. is a representation of the intricacies of the plumbing industry. Sure there's a route and there are laps, but when wanton carnage can just as easily net you a win, there's simply no contest. Dripping with badass charm, licensed metal music, and that distinct 90s CGI, the Carmageddon intro forces its way through your senses and really preps you for the madness that you're about to have a hand in. Now, living in the UK, my version of the game was recut with zombies replacing civilians, but that didn't take anything away from the intro, in fact I quite liked the few scenes added in, and the brief narration that led into Fear Factory's blood-pumping Zero Signal. The intro serves as a sort've showcase of some of the deadly vehicles included in the game, ranging from a spiked 4x4, a souped-up Sedan and even a hearse. While it looks pretty aged now, the intro captures the essence of a time when total destruction was my juvenile jam, and when running over the flag-waver was the perfect way to round out the unforgettable intro to this "racing game."
3. The Last of Us
Watching an impressive intro unfold before your eyes is one thing, but actually playing through it is a whole other experience. You really have to hand it to Naughty Dog, they know just how to get you to like and feel for their characters in an incredibly short space of time. The game opens with a short, pleasant father/daughter interaction, but it doesn't take long for all hell to break loose. After some time navigating the daughter, Sarah around their house, you start to piece together that a zombie-esque apocalypse is kicking off. I want to stress at this point that Naughty Dog really has their shit down pat, as the way Sarah (and pretty much every character in this game) talks, walks, and reacts is so realistic that it's easy to become totally immersed. The carnage intensifies as Joel and Sarah escape with Uncle Tommy in his car. The trio start passing through heavily populated areas and inevitably, in all the chaos, crash the car. Up until this point everything has been from Sarah's perspective, but after they awake from the crash, you control Joel as you carry a scared, vulnerable Sarah through the town, with plenty of near-death moments peppered along the way. The duo finally escape intact, only to get shot at by army personnel, and while Joel comes out unscathed, Sarah gets mortally wounded. The music, the acting, everything comes together perfectly to create one of the most heart-wrenching 15 minutes in gaming history, as Joel can do nothing as his daughter dies crying in his arms.
2. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
Take a ludicrous plot, add a helping of industrial metal music, smother it in a mixture of cheesy live-action and early 2000s CGI sequences, and voila - you have yourself a Red Alert 2 intro. Running at a bold 3 minutes and 56 seconds, the game opens to an award-winning live-action scene between the US President and Russian Premiere as they exchange barbs over an impending attack from the Soviets. A few quote-filled moments later we're treated to our first look at the true mastermind behind it all; Chief Advisor Yuri, played to perfection by Udo Kier. What follows is one of the most memorable moments in the entire C&C franchise, as Soviet forces invade the United States with parachute troops, Kirov airships, V3 rockets and even giant squids, all to the sound of Frank Klepacki's thundering Hell March. The sequence really knows how to build up the tension, and is possibly one of the best examples of music and imagery working in tandem to create a hard-hitting intro. The whole thing can be seen as a double-edged sword, as the comical acting and quotes have made just as much of an impact as how exciting the invasion is to watch, though I don't feel that these elements are at odds at all, and just proves how Red Alert 2 manages to perfectly balance out its humour and explosivity.
1. Sonic CD
It's 1993: I'm 7 years old, the Nintendo/Sega console wars are battling out the 16-bit era, and the Playstation is nought but a dream. By this point, Nintendo was dominating the gaming industry with the undeniably brilliant Super Mario World, while Sega's own mascot was refusing to go out quietly with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Up to that point, FMV's were non-existent to me, but when I finally got my own Sega CD and an accompanying copy of Sonic CD, my world was unequivocally rocked. While I'd at that point felt spoilt simply by impressive intro screens, I was completely awestruck when witnessing Sonic sprinting across grasslands, drilling through boulders and dashing across lakes in all his slick, animated glory. Even by today's standards, Toei's Sonic CD intro is an impressive sight to behold, with the hand-drawn cel animation gifting the hedgehog a level of speed, attitude and character that no other game or cartoon series has even come close to. It's even telling that, 24 years later, Tyson Hesse's designs and animations for 2017's Sonic Mania were directly inspired by Toei's own, and they themselves have rejuvenated what was, until recently, a dying mascot whom many fans had consigned to chilli dog heaven.