5: Prey (2006)
Prey begins with our protagonist, a Cherokee named Tommy, cursing his lot in life in the toilets of his local drinking hole. Events rapidly escalate from an argument with his girlfriend to a violent bar fight before the jukebox ominously starts playing (Don’t Fear) The Reaper while an overhead alien spacecraft starts sucking up the bar, its patrons and the cars outside. Poor Tommy’s day gets substantially worse as he’s deposited inside an enormous, labyrinthine spacestation floating above Earth before his granddad is horribly killed in front of him. And that’s the first five minutes.
4: Half-Life (1998)
It may look underwhelming now, but fifteen years ago Half-Life’s tram voyage deep beneath the ground into the Black Mesa laboratory was a jaw-dropping opener. Full of little details, including the first glimpse of mysterious series stalwart the G-Man, hero Gordon Freeman’s haunting journey seems to take forever and leaves you in no doubt just how far you have to go to escape when things go badly wrong.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001)
Released relatively early in the PlayStation 2 cycle, Hideo Kojima’s stealth shooter features a mammoth introduction set onboard a disguised oil tanker. Due to a frustrating twist, this is the only part of the game where series protagonist Solid Snake is controlled by the player before the real hero is revealed to be a sulking blonde emo called Raiden. Still, it’s a technical tour de force, introducing a massively complex control system that enables players to approach the mission however they choose.
2. Mass Effect 2 (2010)
How to open part two of a trilogy with a bang? Kill off your beloved protagonist in the first few minutes. Mass Effect 2 opens with Commander Shepard and his/her spacecraft the Normandy under fire from an unknown assailant. After various crew members are dispatched without mercy and the Normandy is ripped apart, Shepard is asphyxiated by his torn spacesuit and unceremoniously cast into the orbit of a nearby planet.
1. Bioshock (2007)
It’s 1960, and after crashing in a passenger jet, you struggle to the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. A nearby lighthouse offers hope, although what lies beneath is an immense dystopia ravaged by tyranny and populated by warped denizens called Splicers, and Big Daddies (genetically enhanced humans grafted into armoured diving suits). Rapture, Bioshock’s magnificent underwater city, is reached through a bathyscaphe, its vast Art Deco architecture stretching out during an awe inspiring journey from the surface.