The Worst Opening Scenes In Video Game History

A bad opening can wreck a game. Of course, if it's bad in all the right ways, it graduates into "so bad it's good" territory, as we see in Bad Dudes ("Ninjas have kidnapped the president") and Zero Wing ("Somebody set us up the bomb," "All your base are belong to us," etc) and many, many others. This list isn't about those games, though. This list is about games with beginnings so bad they're intolerable, so bad that they drove away gamers en masse.


What gamer old enough to remember the marvelous Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines can forgive Kalypso Entertainment's DARK for getting the "vampires in nightclubs" trope so completely wrong? Throbbing with weapons-grade dance music, haunted by ghastly dialogue, and starring a fourth-rate Max Payne impersonator given to clumsy phrasing and intrusive narration, DARK's first sequence shines an unflattering strobe light on its worst qualities. A bouncer who is not trying to seduce your character compliments him on his "nice" dance moves—you know, like bouncers are wont to do. This happens in a dance club whose vampire underworld looks and sounds like Blade (pulsating EDM, silly one-liners, aggressively flickering visuals) yet feels like Twilight (over-hyped, under-realized, no tension).

The one game that DARK needed to avoid ripping off, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines's nightclub scenes are sort of annoying. So, in its opening moments, DARK reminds gamers of the least interesting moments of the game about vampires and then fails to measure up. In a parallel universe without the Vampire: The Masquerade games, DARK probably has a higher Metacritic rating. Spend five minutes in this drab DARKness, and you'll want to go full Old 97s and burn the nightclub down.

Kane and Lynch: Dead Men

In Kane and Lynch: Dead Men's opening scene, Kane is writing a letter to his daughter Jenny. He is on death row for being a "mercenary." It's a generic, unapologetic criminal take on Con Air's approach to character development. Only, instead of today being the day he goes home, today's the day Kane dies. Brian Bloom does what he can with a dull script, but it's not enough to save this bland sequence. Kane is loaded into a prison van, presumably to be transported to the Death House. En route to their final destination, Lynch, the psychopath sitting across from him, tells him to keep his head down.

Suddenly, there's an ambush, and the prisoners are freed! Jeepers! Cue a sub-par implementation of stale third-person shooter tropes, pointlessly profane dialogue, and strictly linear design decisions. There's no logic to it. "Kane, you owe us, so we broke you out of prison but first we kidnapped your daughter and wife, and now you have to do as we say—or else! Oh, and this here's Lynch, he's your 'handler.'"

"It'll probably be tough for you to find anyone to latch onto and care about," wrote Jeff Gerstmann in his infamous Kane and Lynch review, which would be his last for Gamespot—well, until Gamespot acquired Giant Bomb (it's a long story). Perhaps Gerstmann would've been kinder if the beginning had been more than just a bunch of unapologetic moping, stale dialogue, machinegun fire, and profanity without purpose.

Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero

From the moment it puts the definition of "mythology" onscreen, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero breaks all the unbendable rules of single-player platformer development. In these opening moments in the Shaolin Temple, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub Zero plays like a fourth-rate Ninja Gaiden or a third-rate Shinobi—and it never improves. Virtually every frame of animation feels recycled from other Mortal Kombats, badly rendered mocapped fighting game assets crammed into the world's least interesting Metroidvania game. Your idle animation, acceptable for a fighting game, looks utterly ridiculous when you're standing in front of an environmental hazard.

If you complete this brief prologue, you're made to suffer a full motion video of bad actors acting badly, as Quan Chi intimidates Sub-Zero. Despite the Zoobilee Zoo-makeup effects, nonsensical plot line, and all the dramatic tension of a Bulk and Skull-focused episode of Power Rangers, the actors all seem intent on playing it straight. Few gamers have persevered beyond the first FMV cutscene.

Although the years haven't been kind to it, this game was garbage from the word go. Notoriously lenient IGN gave the FMV-filled Playstation version a 3/10 in 1997. While conventional wisdom suggests a video should make for a better opening than a textblock, the FMVs make Sub-Zero's lackluster plot even harder to follow.

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

You're Yaiba Kamikaze, a not very classy swordsman who measures fights in "ninjas," references ball gags in the middle of battle, and drops the F-bomb before falling down dead. Ryu Hayabusa, the hero of the Ninja Gaiden series, cut you down. You've been reanimated as a cyborg by the mysterious Forge Industries. The Russian military show up randomly. (Why not?) Also, while you were busy being dead, a zombie outbreak hit its stride.

Honestly, this cutscene would be awesome if not for the title card. Cut Ninja Gaiden from the name, and it's just a twisted little ninja versus zombies action game. As a Ninja Gaiden game, though, it's a tone-deaf waste of a property that once stood for action-adventure excellence. For this garbled nonsense to bear the same name as Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden for the NES and Team Ninja's miraculous reinvention of the franchise for Xbox and later PS3 is tantamount to heresy.

The Witcher 2

One design flaw can make a near-perfect game nearly unplayable. Just ask the legions of gamers who couldn't get through the prologue of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. All lore and no fun, the prologue piles on more info than you'll ever need about Geralt the Witcher, Foltest the king of Temeria, Maria Louisa La Vallette, Triss, and Vernon Roche.

This opening scene (contains NSFW content) is more like an opening chapter, including cutscenes, dialogue trees, and gameplay. It's a so-called prologue, and yet it's longer than some games. Although it's full of meaningful decisions, clever dialogue, thrilling set pieces, and complex characters, the prologue feels oppressively linear to play. "Featuring several hours of largely linear play, the prologue [fails to] convey the complexity and sheer size of the world that the game has to offer," as PopMatters put it. The prologue's malicious difficulty didn't do it any favors, either. Luckily, with The Witcher 3, CD Projekt RED rebalanced the combat and wasted no time getting to the open-world awesomeness.

Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones

Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones starts out like it owes you an apology, and by the end of this overlong "epic" pre-rendered cutscene, it will. "We all make mistakes," says the voiceover.

When you think Prince of Persia, what do you imagine? Boats? Majestic shots of water? A soundtrack only John Williams could love? More aerial shots of the ocean and two lovers on a boat, clearly inspired by "I'm the king of the world!" from Titanic? That's what you're getting with this dreadful unskippable video.

"He chose to free me from my destiny," says Kaileena, the soon-to-be-dead narrator. "In doing so, he set me free, and doomed us all." Then, suddenly, as she and her prince approach Babylon, they discover that it's on fire. (You mean they didn't see or smell the plumes of smoke?) There's an ambush, the ship is destroyed, and, as the Prince resurfaces, he discovers the body of Kaileena lying on her back a piece of floating debris. That means she's dead, right? ... Or does it?

The video is tedious enough. Once the gameplay starts and Ubisoft throws yet another of its obnoxious tutorials at you, you'll consider calling it quits on this (eventually pretty great) adventure.

Sewer Shark

Hoo, boy, Sewer Shark starts out bad. You're a hero from the Gordon Freeman School of Silent Heroics (class song: "Don't Speak" by No Doubt) who just sort of coasts through six minutes of your coworkers trying your patience.

Written by the late Kenneth Melville, Sewer Shark is a vaguely interactive on-rails shooter with a silly series of FMVs. You're a "sewer jockey." You fly around shooting mutant rats, but mostly, your comrades in arms just condescend to you and pick on you without provocation. Then Ghost shows up and yells into the camera for four minutes. He yells when he greets you. Hell, he yells through his slideshow mission briefing. He's a G-rated variant of the old R. Lee Ermey drill instructor cliché. "Climb aboard, Dogmeat!" That's your call sign. Classic, Ghost.

You gotta cringe through the bafflingly bad beginning scene and first level to get to the good part, once the villain appears onscreen, eating a sandwich, ten minutes in: "Remember, a clean sewer is a happy sewer!" Sewer Shark's villain Commissioner Stenchler Costanzo is portrayed by the consistently great Robert Costanzo, who went on to voice Joe Barbaro in Mafia II and Detective Harvey Bullock in Batman: The Animated Series and other DC properties, such as Batman: Arkham Origins.

Academy Award-winning special effects supervisor John Dykstra (Star Wars, 1977) directed Sewer Shark for the Hasbro NEMO, a canceled VHS-based video game system. From the tacky dialogue to the fumbling camerawork, the early moments of this cult classic virtually dare you to shut off your Sega CD and play something else. Hideo Kojima's Snatcher, anyone?

Crime Patrol 2: Drug Wars

In this beginning cutscene of the long-forgotten FMV shooter Crime Patrol 2: Drug Wars, the actors are definitely having fun, but the overall effect is of an amateurish cross between an After-School Special's kitsch and the shaky-cam "realism" of Cops. "Ayyy, tough guy! Are joo looking for me?" Hey everybody, it's Lopez The Narcotics King, everyone's least favorite Tony Montana ripoff! He's the sort of gangster who gestures with guns in his hand while lounging by the pool surrounded by cokehead sycophants.

"You know somethin' stinks in South America," says the folksy Texas lawman, "and it's the stench of drugs, and you can smell it [from here]." Really, cowboy? If only there were voice input, so you could tell him, "Who smelt it dealt it," and watch him sweat.

A montage celebrates the horrors of an out of control police force, with imagery of armed bandits being gunned down and blown up by heroic cops. These cops have terrible trigger discipline. "Shoot first and go to lunch later," one threatens an unarmed suspect at gunpoint, and they all show only contempt for those whose lives they destroy. Too real for you? Context is important. This trash was made and released at the American Drug War's height.

Then there's Mr. White Suit, who tells us the "two things the [drug] cartel understands: guns and huevos," echoing, in a rare moment of semi-realism, an observation by the late, great Juarez-based reporter Charles Bowden. "In the drug world, you have to keep your deals 'cause," as Bowden put it to NPR, "in the drug world, the only enforcement is force."

It's "so bad it's good" YouTube gold—and little else.

The Lawnmower Man

The Lawnmower Man is a dumb horror flick about virtual reality starring Jeff Fahey and—wait, Pierce Brosnan, really?

The licensed game is hauntingly accurate in its predictions. Consider this, from one of the beginning scene's textblocks: virtual reality "will let you create worlds as unlimited as your imagination itself." Just like VR today. All you need is your imagination and ... wait, that isn't how VR works at all.

The game's music sounds like a funeral dirge performed by Flock of Seagulls, as heard from inside the casket. The scenes, seemingly adapted from the movie, features all your un-favorite 1990s science fiction tropes, such as Star Trek beaming that turns people into CSI chalk outlines before making them disintegrate, a black light live action sequence that looks like it was filmed inside a laser tag arena, and, of course, fully digital animated sequences running at twelve frames per second. It's not all bad, though. The plot is narrated to you by some sort of '90s Siri-prototype, saving you from having to watch the movie.