Do a Barrel Roll!: The Best First Level of All Time

It’s Debate Day here on Trope and Dagger!  Today we’re politely discussing the very best First Level Ever in a Video Game!  If you’d like to read up on Andy’s misguided nonsense, go here: Inside the Deku Tree: Best First Level of All Time.  Now, let me tell you why that’s complete hogwash, and I’m right!

We all remember the first level of our favorite video games.  They stick with us, through all the distractions of adolescence and adulthood, the trials of romance and rejection, the hurdles of disappointment and adaptation.  Though we may not realize it at the time, we actually recognize the hurdles in real life in every game that we play.  And that rings true for the best first levels of every game that we play, as well.  Each first level is like Kindergarten for us, whether we like it or not.  Though some are better at teaching us the basics than others.

Yes, even against the locust
Yes, even the Locust = The Alphabet People

Some might say that first levels are useless.  Some might say that they are pointless wastes of time.  Some might say that they are nothing more than tutorials for the greater game that is about to come.

They all might be right, in one case or another.

Some first levels are simply intros.  They are storytelling tools, only serving a narrative.  Not to say that they are bad, but simply telling a story is not a grand first level.

For example, the first level of Mass Effect 2 is extremely exciting, cinematic, and ends on an amazing cliffhanger, but that does not make for an incredible first level.  There is literally nothing you can do to influence events in this level.  You play through pre-ordained events and execute the story.  While it may be a cinematic marvel, that does not make it an amazing first level.

No avoiding this, really.  And no fighting it.  Soooo.....
No avoiding this, really. And no fighting it. Soooo…..

And you might argue that this is the case for most first levels, so why should I shit on Mass Effect 2 because they go this way?  I’ll tell you why.

The gameplay, while similar, is still very different than the rest of the game.  You move around like you do in the rest of the game, but in this first level, you are severely handicapped and have no chance of fighting outside of the limited movements you are granted.  It is thrilling, heart-pounding, frightening, and at a moment, beautiful, but the first mission of Mass Effect 2 is lacking.  It doesn’t let you know how the rest of the game is played, which is important for a first level.  A first level needs to inform you how the rest of the game will handle, and ME2’s first level simply does not accomplish that.

So if Mass Effect 2, one of the most jarring and surprising openings in any video game doesn’t make the cut, what does?

Oh, Fuck
Oh, Fuck

Yes, the answer is Star Fox 64.

I’m not going to lie, I love this game.  It is masterfully crafted, from the beginning to end.  While there are other games that eclipse it in one way or another, there is no doubt that the first level of this game is the best first level in any game ever.

So what makes it so great?

I contend that the thing that makes a first level great is the way that it not only introduces you to the mechanics of the game, but the way that it also gets you very excited for the rest of the game.  And the Corneria on Star Fox 64 does both of those in spades.

The game definitely holds your hand through the first level of the game, explaining how to fire bombs, do loop-de-loops, brake, and boost, but it does it in a natural way, having your wingmen give advice to you.  While you are leader of the team, it still makes sense that your teammates want to shout out advice once in a while.  Also, the game lets you know the charcters’ personalities by how they behave.  Simply by playing the first level we know that Peppy is the older, wiser character.  Slippy is clearly there to fill an affirmative action quota, because how the hell else is that useless fuck going to get on the team?  “Oh, he invented a submarine?  How fucking useful is that in a SPACE battle?”  And holy shit, why is Falco still on the team?  Fucker has no respect for Fox and should have been booted out long ago.  I really don’t care how good a pilot he is, Fox should have no tolerance for his bullshit.  But still, now we know their personalities, which is important for the game.  I guess.  Wait, yes, it is.

Whoa!  Help me!
Whoa! Help me! (Fuck you)

It really is, though… I guess (Fucking Hell, Slippy).  Now that we know their characters and how the game plays, we can really delve into the game and enjoy everything that is to come.  Not only does the level introduce us to all the fantastic mechanics, it introduces us to the awesome world of Star Fox.

Don't ever give up, my son
Don’t ever give up, my son

Actually, just go ahead and forget that nonsense.

You can also acquire double lasers and hyper lasers!  Then there are also the multiple pathways that you can discover in this level.  You can play through the linear path that is laid out for the gamer, but more experienced players can complete challenges and gain access to new parts of the level!  It ups the replayability of the first level, and also gives an insight into how the rest of the game will play.  By realizing that there’s a second area in the first level, you understand that there may be secrets in later levels, as well!  That is why this level is elevated above other first areas in games.

You, sir, are delightful.
You, sir, are delightful.

It harkens back to the SNES Star Fox and is more difficult, to boot!  This is how bonus areas should work, people.

And seriously, it gives you an important heads up about how useless of a shit Slippy is.

The first level of Star Fox 64 level is fast, informative, and fun as hell.  You cannot deny it, the first level of Star Fox 64 is the best first level of all time.

So who do you think is on the money today?  Is Aaron your winning horse or is Andy?  Sound off in our poll below!

3 thoughts on “Do a Barrel Roll!: The Best First Level of All Time

  1. When does one decide where the first level in a Zelda game start and end? The first dungeon? The point from control to the entrance of the first dungeon?


    1. I would say the first level would comprise of the first dungeon. In this argument, the Deku Tree, ending when you defeat Gohma and can get the heart container.


      1. So the first level is a hollow tree filled with spiders with skulls for shells, a weird one eyed monster for a boss and ends, if you extend it a bit, with the tree dying as it tells you to save the world…hell of a first level.


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