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8 Worst Opening Levels in Video Game History

VO: Adrian Sousa WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
Great games can still get off to a rough start, and terrible games we're probably terrible right out of the gate. Maybe it's an overly long tutorial or just a complete nonsense beginning, these are the worst first levels ever.

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Worst Opening Levels in Video Games

Welcome to MojoPlays and today we’ll be examining some of the worst opening levels in video games.

Chapter 1: The Evacuation
“Spec Ops: The Line” (2012)

This game may not have the recognition of some of the big shooter franchises, but its story offer a surprising amount of depth, as well as some unexpected twists and turns. However, you wouldn’t know it from playing its introductory level, which is so utterly generic that it does a poor job of setting the stage for the greatness that follows. Evacuation in a helicopter from a desert country with a turret section and then standard shooting gallery in junkyard? Far from getting us hyped, this level only serves to make us yawn and try to get through it as fast as possible.

The Bridge Screen
“Dragon’s Lair” [NES Version] (1990)

When crafting a video game, opening levels should generally operate by introducing the player gradually to how the controls and gameplay work, while also being pretty easy. “Dragon’s Lair” comes from a different, more sadistic, school of thought. The player is thrust onto a deceptively simple screen that necessitates that they enter the castle’s door through a drawbridge guarded by a dragon. However, the stiff controls, flying bat, dragon, a hidden pitfall in the bridge, and even the door itself all conspire to kill the player with incredible ease and regularity, ensuring that many players never even make it past the first screen of the game!

The “Test”
“Driver” (1999)

Oh great, this again! Somehow this always ends up on our lists. Actually, we know how: it’s bad. Before players can get to the actual game, prospective “drivers” must pass a test in a parking garage where they must perform a series of maneuvers in their car to supposedly demonstrate their abilities. This wouldn’t be so bad, except the game doesn’t spell out how to do these moves or what they entail in any way, beyond words on a checklist. So unless you knew what these terms meant when this game came out, you essentially had to experiment until you passed. Or you were stuck on the first level forever. We’re still not sure what slalom means…isn’t that something you do in skiing?

Settling Down
“Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” (2016)

Nathan Drake’s buildup of relaxing into a peaceful life is both beautiful and painful at the same time. On the one hand (Upbeat tone:) it perfectly captures a reminiscent settled down life, but on the other hand; (Downbeat tone:) it perfectly captures a reminiscent settled down life too well. Also Drake’s flashbacks where he breaks out of his orphanage isn’t very enjoyable due to a lack of urgency, while the prison sequence needlessly has too many shackles on the gameplay to feel as enjoyable as the previous 3 entries. In fact, said shackles aren’t really released until at least 3 hours into the game, this being the 4th entry of an established series. The rest of the game is absolutely amazing don’t get us wrong, but all of this could have been done in half the time.

The Longest Tutorial Ever!
“The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” (2006)

Adventure games, especially story focused ones, often take a while, but ideally that length is due to the actual adventuring aspect of the games. “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” defers the beginning of its adventure longer than most gamers prefer. The initial village tutorial drags on and on, with unskippable cutscenes, long dialogue trees, and just like Uncharted 4 prior, it assumes the player’s first game is “Twilight Princess.” While that may be the case for some young players, for most of us, this isn’t our first rodeo. “Skyward Sword” while not as frustrating also had a lengthy tutorial that dragged on for way too long, but these lessons did have an upside by giving us the best tutorial ever in “Breath of the Wild”. Hey Yoda was right. (“The Greatest Teacher Failure Is”)

Mundane Real Life
“Heavy Rain” (2010)

The first part of “Heavy Rain” largely consists of the player performing everyday tasks using simplisitic quick time button prompts. David Cage’s games are pretty infamous for this, and while “Detroit: Become Human” does this with Kara & Marcus’s stories too, at least it started with an amazing hostage negotiation sequence with Conner. Not so with “Heavy Rain,” as Ethan’s mundanity really doesn’t endear us to the game, while we’ll concede there may be an audience for tooth brushing or fridge opening. Even so, we do enjoy a bit of “press X to ‘Jason!’”, though not as much as the folks who turned it into a meme.

“Superman 64” (1999)

Another favorite of our less-than-stellar video game lists, “Superman 64” is a notoriously bad game and that begins with its first level. Superman is charged with flying through a “maze” of rings against a ticking clock. If the player can somehow navigate them, despite the unintuitive and difficult controls, the foggy draw distance, and the unreasonable time limit, they’re immediately given a new challenge that they have 5 seconds to complete! These ring segments are only in the first level of the game, but since this sequence is painfully impossible to get through, its easy to think they’re a staple of the game. Yet believe me when I say that this is only the appetizer for everything that comes afterward.

Basically a Tunnel
“Final Fantasy XIII” (2010)

“Final Fantasy” games are notable for their diverse settings and engaging turn based gameplay. However, the opening portion of the series’ thirteenth installment is rather light on both. The first few hours of the game take place on a high-tech highway, meaning that the only direction to go is forward. This, plus the bevvy of (admittedly well-animated) expository cutscenes and the battle system that practically plays itself, makes the opening to game feel more like a mildly interactive film than an actual RPG. Unlike Superman 64 however, this handholding linear corridor process DOES make up a majority of the game and it never really opens up until you’re at least two thirds of the way through the adventure. And when you’ve done something worse than Superman freaking 64 … you’d dun goofed big time.

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