We’ve all played those games that “start out slow.” You can’t seem to get into it, but everyone keeps telling you that it “gets better.” On the other hand, there are those games that just nail the opening level and hook you straight away. Our community chose these eight games as perfect examples of getting the first level exactly right.

Thanks to Escapist community member Barbas for starting the thread!

Think we missed one? Tell us what it is in the comments!

Devil May Cry 3
First mentioned by bliebblob

Devil May Cry 3 is all about dropping you into the thick of things right of the gate. After watching the opening cutscene, you’re dropped into a room with your weapons and a slew of enemies already posed in the positions you saw them in when the cutscene ended. Don’t hesitate, or you’ll find yourself losing heath quickly. Hope you’re ready for it.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
First mentioned by WhiteFangofWar

Most games hand you some basic weapons, drop you into a tutorial, and ease you into the game slowly. Not Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Instead, it has you replay the final battle from the previous game. You can’t lose, because Maria is there to keep you alive (although you get rewarded for beating him without her help). Once that’s done, you get to start the game with all the Alucard equipment before having it unceremoniously taken away shortly thereafter. It’s a shock, but it also gives you a chance to ease into the game and feel awesome at the same time.

Homeworld: Cataclysm
First mentioned by Happyninja42

Tutorials are usually simple battles that serve only as educational for the player. However, that’s not the case in Homeworld: Cataclysm. The first mission has you answering a distress call, and when you warp into the space above your home planet, there’s a pitched battle raging. While the game helps you learn along the way, it certainly didn’t feel like a tutorial mission.

Resident Evil 4
First mentioned by Silentpony

When you’re talking about intense first levels, you have to include Resident Evil 4 in the discussion. You find yourself walking into a village where the people are obviously unwelcoming. Pretty soon, you’re frantically barring doors and windows, but the enemies keep coming. You’ve got limited ammo, and somewhere out there is a chainsaw-wielding madman. It’s stressful, frustrating, and probably the very best moment in the game.

Timesplitters 2
First mentioned by The Enquirer

Timesplitters 2 is a classic, and you could see how great it was going to be right out of the gate. Like most of the game, it was challenging, but it also included a wide range of gameplay. Stealth sections, sniping sections, and head-on shootouts all make an appearance. You’ll not only fight guards, but you’ll also have to be on the lookout for zombies and a helicopter boss fight. It’s a lot to take in for just one level, but it’s worth the effort.

God of War III
First mentioned by Extra-Ordinary

If you’re looking for an opening level that lives up to the word “epic,” God of War III is it. You start out riding on top of the Titan Gaia, fight a bunch of enemies, then you climb Mount Olympus, battle a Leviathan, and ascend to the top of Gaia’s head. As if all that wasn’t enough, then you go head to head with Poseidon. That battle culminates with one of the more over-the-top death scenes from any video game, as you gouge out the god’s eyes while watching from his perspective. To finish it off, Zeus blows you into the River Styx. Now that’s an epic first level.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
First mentioned by Shoggoth2588

While you might think of the first level of Deus Ex: Human Revolution as the prologue where Adan Jensen isn’t augmented yet, the first level is really your initial mission after he returns from his near-death experience. It’s a solid effort, combining instructions on how to use your augments to proceed, as well as demonstrating all the possible ways to approach the level, be it stealth, head-on assault, or a combination of the two. Unlike many early levels, you can make meaningful choices about how you proceed, and if you spend too much time goofing off in the level, it can have a surprising effect on the outcome.

Oblivion
First mentioned by bartholen

Any level that starts you off with an encounter with Patrick Stewart is going to be a good one. After the Emperor escapes through your cell, you’ll find your way through the sewers. As you progress, you’ll learn more mechanics, gather more gear, and fight more enemies. Once you make your way through, you emerge into the wilds. While they may not look amazing by today’s standards, in 2006 that wilderness was mind-blowing. You’ll continue to grow and learn throughout your adventure, but you’re set on your path perfectly by a great first level.

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