In the world of video games, the one thing we either love or loathe is intro and opening sequences. A bad one just makes us want to hit the start button to get right to playing. A horrible one means we can’t hit that start button fast enough. A good one though will not only make us not mash start until things start happening, but actually will get us into the right mood, the right mindset for the game experience we’re about to partake. These are the good ones, and the ones we carry with us as we continue to play, and maybe even after we’ve put the controller down.
So important is it to make a solid opening sequence, that’s it’s only right to countdown the top ten openings in the gaming world, or at least the ones I’m aware of. This is my personal list composed of the top ten openings of games that I have played over the years. It may not be my forever and ever list, but it is my list up to this point.
My criteria for this list can be described with a few honorable mentions. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars has a pretty good opening — introducing the characters and gives you a good idea of what is going on in the game in terms of visuals and effects. It ended up not making the top 10, because it tends to drag and at nearly 5 minutes long, it unfortunately will get skipped more often than not.
Another honorable mention is Killer Instinct Gold. Killer Instinct Gold has a great soundtrack, it’s opening track being the greatest among them. It also gets you pumped and ready to face down a bunch of opponents. However, Killer Instinct Gold cuts to character data and gameplay demos too early into the song, and doesn’t allow you to get your fill of the opening theme in one go.
The last honorable mention here is Street Fighter X Tekken. This opening does have strengths Super Mario RPG and Killer Instinct Gold had. The music is good and gets you pumped to get into the action. It introduces many of the characters and settings. It also shows some pretty awesome visuals; however, it suffers from the problem of feeling very disjointed. The music doesn’t really go well with what is on screen – which is not surprising as all the footage is taken from various trailers. In addtion, the song also has little to do with the game itself, which is another point against it that knocked it from the list.
So, the openings on this list have to fulfill the following criteria. They must to get you into the proper mindset to play, whatever that may be. They must introduce something about the game – for example, characters, setting, etc. They must keep your attention, but not overstay their welcome. So, without futher ado…
The Top 10 Video Game Opening Sequences
10) Turtles in Time arcade
An indulgent choice on my part, but it serves a great promo for an arcade. Being that this released in the 90’s when arcade cabinets were starting to go the way of the dodo, it needed some pizazz to attract customers to come over and play it. The opening borrows from the Ninja Turtles first movie promo, with the name scrolling in big letters. It shows images of the turtles doing things you expect them to be doing in a big arcade beat-em-up – fighting foot soldiers and munching on pizza. “Pizza Power” plays as the title theme for the arcade machine, which was an interesting cross-promotion for the concert series they did as well. Overall, it just screams commercialism, but it’s so well well crafted for such a short intro, it deserves some respect.
9) Donkey Kong Country
Anyone who played the game, knows this one by heart. It was the first time many of use remember seeing the Rare icon, and it’s played with just as much fanfare as the title. The intro proper has Cranky Kong (the original Donkey Kong according to lore) and the classic scaffolding being shoved aside by the new, hip Donkey Kong and his jungle set. It illustrates Rare’s goal to bring a new and fresh take on Donkey Kong, and it inevitably changed the series forever. It doesn’t really tell much about the game otherwise, but for most part it didn’t really need to.
A gem that went over-looked at it’s release. Coming from the makers of the Dynasty Warriors series, this was by far one of the most challenging rhythm games during the Playstation 2 life span. It had some awesome music, and the title song “Soft Machine” is no exception. The opening shows us a little of what the game is about, introducing the characters, music, and some of the themes of the game as well. If you play the game, and go back to watch the opening, there is just so much more that you pick up on.
This one would have made it much higher on the list, if not for a couple of snags. One is that it does go on bit longer than most of those in the top five. Also, “Soft Machine” while a good song, is nowhere near the best song on the game’s soundtrack. I’d likely skip this to jump into one of my favorite stages from the game than watch the opening all the way through.
7) Dynasty Warriors 7
Given the other topics I’ve spoken of here, it’s no surprise that one of the Warriors games made it to the list. Dynasty Warriors 7 doesn’t do anything too out of the ordinary in terms of visuals – Zhao Yun beating up a bunch of guys is nothing new for him. However, it is full of nods for those who are familiar with the series.
To begin with, this is first game in the main series since Dynasty Warriors 2 to not use another version of Lu Bu’s theme as the opening track. Also, much like Dynasty Warriors 2’s opening, Zhao Yun is shown here picking up and carrying baby Liu Shan to safety. In addition, it also tries to incorporate new aspects of the game, like Zhao Yun switching weapons throughout the fight.
The last few seconds are what stick with you, as the main theme proper finally plays as Xiahou Dun and Zhao Yun clash on the bridge. This main theme will come up periodically in other songs as you play through the game, linking the opening to the rest of the game in a way none of the other games on this list do.
It’s major flaw is being a tad on the ridiculous side (though Dynasty Warriors 6 is far worse in this regard), and it definitely loses a lot of it’s weight for those new to the series. Still, it shows the game is firmly planting itself in the series’ past, while trying to expand to the future.
6) Megaman X4
Just about everyone would put Megaman 2’s opening on a list like this, and I probably would too, but I don’t really have that much of a history with Megaman 2. No, my Megaman was Megaman X. So, my Megaman opening is Megaman X4.
The first anime-style opening I’d seen in a game at the time, it was also an anomaly when CGI was becoming so popular in American culture. The game was full of fun and interesting characters, and many of them were first introduced to you in this short opening video. The music was also an awesome rock-n-roll theme that suited the series namesake (Rockman).
When I was playing this regularly, I could not get enough of this opening. Even though I don’t think it has aged very well today, I still get goosebumps watching it, and makes me want to jump in and blow things up.
5) BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger
This one is a bit of an anomally on this list. When I first set out making this list, I didn’t really think of this one until very late, and it started fairly low on the list. After listening to the theme and watching and rewatching it, it has managed to claw it’s way into the top five.
The factors that turned me off about it was the song, which I’m still not very fond of. However, when I thought on my judging criteria, I realized that this opening fulfilled most of them very well. The visuals flow with the sound well. It introduces pretty much the entire cast, as well as gives you a glimpse of their stages, which you fight them in. It then shifts into gear, with the various characters fighting it out as the song picks up. It does everything very well, but still doesn’t quite hit the mark needed to pull it ahead of the other four on this list.
4) Devil Kings
If you want to get pumped, Devil Kings is the opening to do it. It’s loud. It’s bright. It’s fast. The music alone gets me in the mood to pull out the game and bust a few heads. It starts up slow, giving you a text scroll describing the land being in chaos, and then it throws you into the hyper-charged fury of Azure Dragon and Scorpio tearing up a battlefield. It doesn’t just show these two, though, as it introduces a good portion of the cast, before ending on the ultimate goal – the Devil King himself.
The opening is still a bit long, but unlike most longer openings, it never makes you feel like it, as it’s always introducing something new. This was my benchmark for what an opening should be like. Thankfully, I remembered three that managed to surpass it.
3) Mischief Makers
This one is interesting, as I had to embed the 60fps version of this opening to get it to load the way I remembered. That’s right, an emulator just doesn’t cut it for Mischief Maker’s opening. The opening is fairly short, but it says so much in that amount of time. It shows you the heroine, Marina Lightyears, and her relationship with the lecherous Professor Theo. It introduces the villains, as well as the various grunts. It even shows you the main mechanic of the game – grabbing and throwing things. For such a short and sweet little intro, it packs everything neatly into it’s little package. The music is light-hearted, yet exciting, fitting with the tone of the rest of the game as well. There is so much this little game had to offer, I couldn’t help but recognize it.
2) Soul Calibur 2
This opening does everything I expected, and just a little more. It shows off nearly the entire roster, while giving you some idea who they are. It shows a number of different fight locales. The music not only matches the opening, but shifts to match the tone of what’s on screen. The movie also never feels as long as it actually is either. Why does this get so much higher on the list then?
Simple, it gives you the plot as well. Unlike Devil Kings or BlazBlue, this opening takes the time to even show you what everyone is fighting over – the pieces of Soul Edge that the characters are finding throughout the opening. It’s the first, and possibly only fighting game opening that explains it’s story without a single word spoken or sung.
So what can top an opening that says so much with an opening movie? Prepare yourself, because I’m about to blow your mind.
1) Fallout 3
What? But it’s just a title screen and music playing behind it. How is that a good opening? While Fallout 3’s opening isn’t going to appeal to anyone looking to get psyched for the next big battle, that’s not what Fallout is about. Fallout puts you into a 1950’s nightmare of a radioactive wasteland and asks you to survive. Everything you need to know about the setting of the game is told with only a few short screen crawls and few short foreboding notes. The start screen has a character in a gas mask staring you down, effectively asking you if you think you’re ready for this. It sets the mood and tone of the game, allowing you to immerse yourself in the experience, and it barely has to try. For doing so much, with practically nothing, it earns the top spot on this list.
So with that, I turn it to you. What are your favorite game openings? Anything on this list you would have ranked higher? Let me know in the comments below.
*Note: I do not own any of the franchises, trademarks or titles of these games, and do not intend to make money off of them. I also did not produce the youtube content on this page, but hope to add to their viewership.