There’s nothing like popping in a video game and playing through it for the first time, and seeing a level that introduces you to the kind of world that you can expect for hours on end. Granted, not every game is like that – sometimes the first level is actually the best part of the game.
And that prompted a few fans over at NeoGAF to get into a hearty discussion about some of the best first levels ever in video games, and it really got us thinking about which ones really set the mark for some of those iconic titles.
So join us as we look at five (okay, six) games that had some of the greatest first levels ever made. They may not have been the ultimate gaming experiences as expected, but, damn, did they leave a good first impression on us.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
This return to the Call of Duty franchise, but with a modern twist, proved to be a very worthwhile one for Infinity Ward and Activision, with plenty of awesome moments, like the first-person execution or the nuclear bomb that leaves everything destroyed in its wake. But it’s the opening level that gets us, as you make your way to a ship in the middle of the ocean, gather intel, shoot down enemies and then barely make your escape when it goes down sinking. In fact, if it wasn’t for Captain Price, you’d be swimming around Davy Jones’ locker right about now…
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
While the rest of Shadows of the Empire didn’t quite live up to players’ expectations, it still proved to be a very fitting chapter in the ongoing universe. And with that, it really opened up perfectly. You basically head out into the open world of Hoth, shooting down smaller AT-ST’s and attack droids while, at the same time, setting up AT-AT’s for a mighty fall by wrapping a tow cable around their legs. The feeling of being able to nail this without crashing into their appendages was pretty awesome, and watching them go down was met with a great deal of satisfaction.
Resident Evil 4
Considered one of the greatest horror games ever made, Resident Evil 4 started off on just the right foot, putting Leon S. Kennedy into a test for survival against various traps, before leaving him in the middle of a village with raging townsfolk, stopping at nothing to try and kill him. The openness of the level really gave us a strong idea of how much Resident Evil had changed for the better, and, on top of that, the moment the chainsaw dude came on-screen, you actually felt real terror as he came after you. The whole game’s a lot of fun, but Resident Evil 4 really started off on the right foot.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Whoa. Just when we thought that Naughty Dog was going to save some of the best stuff in its Uncharted sequel, it throws us for a complete loop. The sequence opens with Nathan Drake literally hanging on for dear life from a train that’s collapsed over the edge of a cliff, with every move he makes bringing him that much closer to falling to his death. He barely makes it, but then has to face off against a few soldiers while still recovering from the shock. The more games we get to open with an amazing action sequence, the better – especially if they’re on the level of Uncharted.
Sonic Adventure 2
Okay, so Sonic Adventure 2 had some disappointing moments, like forcing Knuckles to dig around a level for gems while someone rapped in the background. Ugh. But, man, did it begin just right with the City Escape. Sonic basically makes his way through a chaotic city, snowboarding down the streets at one point and then attempting to outrun a rather oversized truck. It was a world of difference from how the first game started – or, for that matter, 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog – and we hoped that Sonic Adventure 2 would keep up that momentum. Alas…
Be sure to check it out now for GameCube, Dreamcast, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3!
BONUS: God of War Saga
Okay, this one’s a bit of a toss-up, so we threw all three of the God of War games in there. The first battle from God of War I is memorable because you basically slay serpents big and small, while looking like a complete bad-ass. God of War II upped the ante triumphantly with a battle against a nearly unstoppable colossus, who followed Kratos around the city and stopped at nothing to squash you. And the third culminates in a big battle with the mighty Poseidon, who literally throws everything at Kratos in an effort to stop him – but eventually failing. They’re all so good, we can’t really pick just one. So we’ll go with three!