The Most Beautiful Opening Stages In Video Games

A video game's opening stage or starter zone has an extremely important role: it sets the tone for the rest of the game. Getting it right is essential. Below, we've collected some of the best-looking and most iconic starting zones, first stages and opening missions.

Green Hill Zone in Sonic

Central Highway in Mega Man X

Welcome to Rapture in BioShock

Contra III Stage 1

Metal Slug Mission 1

City 17 in Half-Life 2

Make Eggs, Throw Eggs in Yoshi's Island

Comix Zone Chapter 1

Ikaruga Stage 1

Post your picks for the most intense, best made and most beautiful first levels below with visual support.

sources: SEGA Wiki, ThePressStartProject, BioShock Wiki, Primeevi's LP, Gustavo Costa's LP, SectorW, Ericthestickman, VideoGamerParadox, kirgeez


    Skyrim opening near Helgen, GTA:SA - Los Santos at dawn, Vietcong intro flying to Nui Pek over the jungle, First level of Starcraft II...

    Last edited 04/03/13 2:04 pm

    I wouldn't say it was beautiful, but the opening for Mass Effect 2 was awesome!

    Metropolis in Ratchet & Clank and the Tanker level in MGS2 (at the time)

      Tanker is still awesome! I really appreciated the HD remake for Crysis 3 recently ;)

      Metropolis isn't an opening level, but it's certainly one of the most impressive levels I've seen to date. On that note, there are a few awesome levels in Psychonauts, although the opening one isn't that amazing.

    Uncharted 2 - max thrills, pretty snow, half-bloodied Drake climbing up a falling train. Hands down. :-P
    The God of War games usually have good openers too.

    And I dunno about anyone else, but when I first played Doom 3 on release, mars city was amazing; from the scanners at the very beginning to the massive airlocks and the planet outside - not to mention the game's shadows/lighting were pretty groundbreaking at the time :-P

    Last edited 04/03/13 2:35 pm

    Its not really a stage but in Fallout 3, the first time you exit the Vault. Never have I been blown away by anything that spectacular.

      Was gonna say that. That vista blew me away more than any other games have.

      That was a good one. The landscape itself wasn't necessarily stunning in my eyes, but the way you got momentarily blinded and everything fades in was a really great effect.

    The opening of FFXIII was beautiful.

    Probotector 2: Alien Rebels

    Going through a Jump-Gate for the first time in Freelancer! WOW!

    PS: And fitting as today is Freelancer's 10th Birthday! :-D

      For serious?! I have to play me some of that when I get home. Cheers for reminding me that I still have it!!

      And yeah, there was nothing about that game that wasn't gorgeous!

    I'm gonna go ahead and say it... the first mission of Crysis3. Battlefield3 SP first mission. The opening race of Forza4/Horizon. I'm sure there are more but that's what I can think of right now. Oh and any cutscene from any Final Fantasy game pre XI.

    After having played it for a while it would seem tame, but the starting zone for my first character in WoW.

    There was just this massive feeling of... "Right. Where to now?"

    That first level of Crysis, where it starts off at what the time was amazing character graphics. You parachute to the island, its dark, not very open. You play a little bit of the level, and then you head over that hill, and the sun rises over that bay, fucking stunning!!!

    Alan Wake, BrightFalls

    I'll add Red Dead Redemption: great atmosphere from the music and the moment where you first hop off the train to hear the chatter and piano sounds from the distant saloon combined with the dust drifting across the street; I knew the game would be something special (and it was).

    Another is Fallout 1 where you get pushed out of the vault with the only journal entry being: "find water chip," without a clue as to where to start - Oh theres also a countdown timer before the vault dies of not having said chip, so you better starting walking.

      RDR was the most... engrossing game I have played, I adored everything about it and the intro, like you said, just solidified the kind of world you were entering.

      Comix Zone was also bad-ass.

      I will also do a shout-out for X-Men 2: Clone Wars for Sega Mega Drive. That first level, where you instantly spawn when the game is turned on and have to fight your way through a snowy wasteland full of ninjas as a random X-Man... ba'dass!

    Is there no love for Ocarina of Time.
    The jump from 2D to 3D was incredible and we had no idea what we were getting into.
    When Navi did the fly-through of Kokiri Forest I guarantee that everyone thought "This is gonna be epic"

      Personally the moment that got me was later on when you first hit Hyrule Field. After Mario 64, I wasn't as blown away by the very start area as I was when the more expansive fields were hit a few hours later.

    Spec Ops the Line

    I prefer Half Life 1's intro to City 17's personally. I felt there was a better sense of scale to it all.
    Donkey Kong Country's first level to me was stunning in the day.
    Landing on the beach in the original Far Cry
    Mario 64's start too is another I feel was great and has aged well

    Oh wait I got another...the beginning of that one mission from any of the WORLD WAR 2 Medal of Honor games. Those new ones were craaaap.

    The opening stage of Halo was impressive on the Xbox. Seeing a FPS on a console of that quality was a pivotal moment in gaming too.

    I always loved the opening to FFVII, the way the scene portrayed Midgar with the final pan to the train, and then followed the scene with cloud looking up at the Shinra building.

    More recently, the opening to mass effect 3. (Everything about it really set the scale of the rest of the game) and the ice citadel in Darksiders 2.

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