It probably goes without saying that there is a lot that goes into making video games. Many aspects of a game’s design may not be as appreciated as other more notable and obvious elements such as level design, music, gameplay, story and all that jazz. So for this piece today, we’re scoping in on a specific element — or more accurately, a single screen.
So here are 10 of our favourite title screens and main menus in video games. Here’s to the screens that give players their very first taste of what a game has to offer. It’s what makes our first impression of a video game, after all, unless its cover art does the job for you that is.
Let’s have some fun with this one! If your favourite didn’t get covered, feel free to let us know about it down in the comments!
You could blame this one on nostalgia completely, or you could probably just accept that this title screen right here filled many of our childhoods with an unrivalled amount of excitement. Upon booting up the game for the first time, we’re confronted with our cute, tiny purple dragon hero, and regardless of whether or not you’re already familiar with him, his dismissive attitude towards the chaos happening around him speaks volumes. Major props to the soundtrack, too, with the classic first level tune “Glimmer” being an absolute banger.
It’s also well worth noting that its title screen takes place within arguably one of the most popular levels within the Spyro universe, or at least the most adored level within Spyro 2: Skelos Badlands. It leaves the player more than eager to dive right into the adventure, and it remains one of my most cherished title screens to this day for its humour, on-screen antics that add characterisation, and memories related to the level itself. Well played, Insomniac Games.
You can play the original game on the PS2, or digitally via the PS Vita store. Alternatively, it is available as a remaster in the Spyro Reignited Trilogy on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
Another childhood favourite game, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee once filled me with overwhelming delight thanks to its interactive title screen.
The deal with this one is that by pressing on certain buttons you’ll hear Abe make the commands he uses to communicate with his fellow brethren through the main game and story. It’s a simple yet delightfully charming mechanic, and of course the fart button is present and correct. Never change, good old Abe.
The whole screen’s appearance is uncomfortably oppressive, with Abe barely managing to lean over and reach out to “us” to assume control of him in his quest to save Mudokon-kind; the penetratingly eerie music track certainly helps the sense of atmosphere, too. But everything about it makes the experience of playing the game even better once you dive into the terrifying yet eccentric story; this title screen perfectly captures a sense of the game. It’s clever, memorable and would be sorely missed if it were absent.
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee is available on the PS1 and PC, with a remaster titled Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! being playable on modern consoles, including the Nintendo Switch, Wii U, PS Vita, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux and OS X.
8. Olympia Soirée
Despite being my favourite genre of video games, otome games tend to have fairly barebones title screens. But that just makes it all the easier to identify the ones which stand out from the crowd.
Olympia Soirée‘s title screen is simply stunning. Its idyllic landscapes, soft colour palette and gentle music makes for a well earned break from the game’s darkest and more dramatic plotlines. It’s also an example of a title screen that changes according to your game progress; other localised otomes that feature a dynamic title screen like this include Taisho x Alice, Code: Realize and Dairoku: Agents of Sakuratani.
Olympia Soirée just beats out the rest for having two especially appealing attributes: the love interests have different voiced lines that play if your most recent save game is on their route, and the lines change throughout your playthrough; and the landscapes will match your own local time, depicting different times of day. It makes the whole thing feel rather cosy, with the game welcoming back by matching its pretty visuals to your own time of day.
Olympia Soirée is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch.
7. Wii Sports
Once again, nostalgia hits hard with this one. I’m not one to shy away from admitting it: the only reason I begged for a Wii as a young teenager was to be able to play Wii Sports after having had a brief taste of what the game had to offer when I visited a friend’s place.
Its main theme music would, from then on, never leave my memory. The iconic tune will always live rent-free in all of our minds as Internet users for being a highly significant part of meme culture, solidifying it in the e-history books until the very end of our time. Everything about the game is simple, yet remains wildly entertaining, as I’m sure the majority of us are already well and truly familiar with — so I think I can feel more than secure in having picked it here and now for those reasons alone. It’s Wii Sports, c’mon!
Wii Sports is, understandably, exclusive to the Wii — though the Nintendo Switch reimagining is available now, too.
When I think about horror games — or more specifically which title screens in the genre scream out to me as being exceptionally brilliant — only one immediately comes to mind. Alien Isolation is a truly horrifying experience, where players are ruthlessly hunted by the iconic H.R. Giger Alien while trapped in their spaceship; said spaceship is depicted ominously and sadly drifting in deep space on the title screen.
This title screen features an entirely oppressive and desolate atmosphere, made to sound even more uncomfortable thanks to its accompanying music track. You know what you’re getting yourself into as soon as this title screen appears. All I can say is either run away fast from experiencing it if you’re faint-hearted — or stick to hiding as much as you can if you brave it!
Alien Isolation is available to play on Microsoft Windows, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Linux, OS X, Android and iOS.
It’s getting harder and harder to rank these from hereon; each one will doubtless continue to be shuffled around in my mind long after publishing, because each is at outstanding as the last. So let’s look at Portal 2 first: the game’s a classic and shouldn’t need much to be said that hasn’t been said before, but let’s talk about its title screen specifically.
The title screen of one of Valve’s greatest creations shows just how amazing Portal 2 is. The image captured here is the title screen for just the first act, with each new act featuring different sound and design to complement the arc’s events. The opening act projects an eerie and ominous feeling, and as you progress through the game we see our dread being confirmed as legitimate when the haunting act 3 title screen shows up. And it all comes together with the sob-inducing act 5 title screen, featuring a distorted lullaby.
It’s fair to say that Portal 2’s menu screens are as much a part of the entire experience as the rest of the game — and that’s surely saying something!
Portal 2 can be played on the Nintendo Switch, PS3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Linux and MacOS.
Katawa Shoujo will be a name undoubtedly familiar to almost everyone who is scrolling down this very page because of its legacy as one of the greats of the indie visual novel sphere. Its title menu might seem nothing unique or unusual for a visual novel initially, but as you progress you’ll see that it makes creative use of the conventions of the genre, ensuring that the game continues to pull at your heartstrings, even after it has come to an end.
As you progress through the game’s routes, you’ll slowly build up the title screen from a blank “board” background to feature an assortment of tiny sketches of the main cast. These little snippets of memories from the routes and depictions of its lovable characters provide a satisfying and emotional send-off once you’ve finally completed the game. It’s simple stuff, but very special and memorable — made all the more charming with the gentle title track “Wisona” playing in the background.
Katawa Shoujo is playable on Microsoft Windows, macOS and Linux.
There will likely be no surprises in my top 3. While Persona 5 happens to be the only JRPG pick to make it into my personal top 10, we all know that Persona 5 oozes style, and it never stops looking consistently amazing.
The title screen carries the game’s main colour motif of reds and blacks, helpfully covering up the character designs until they actually appear in the main game. Their positions on screen tell us when we’ll be meeting them, since the characters who join your team the earliest are all easily seen in the forefront, whilst the much later additions can barely be identified way, way in the back.
Given that the camera sweeps around according to your selections, you may find that you need to select various options to find everyone; both Haru and Akechi are well-hidden. What a way to actually make us spend some quality time in the menu!
It’s all just so aesthetically pleasing, what with the subtle animations of each character when the underground train is speeding past, and the clock Mona’s taken as his spot depicting the player’s current time. This title screen was a sight to behold when it first released, and remains a delight to this day.
Persona 5 is available on the PS3, PS4, and PS5 with its enhanced rerelease Persona 5 Royal being available on PS4 and PS5.
The Last of Us 2
I’ll probably say this more than once: as divisive as it is, The Last of Us 2 is superior to its predecessor. It’s an unforgiving, cruel and hard to play experience, but ultimately, the tried and true message of revenge being an endless cycle of misery left me deeply and profoundly moved.
The writers made some brave narrative decisions in service of that revenge premise — and that resulted in a lot of players despising the game — but we’ll save those discussions for another time.
So, the title screen. It does the same job as its predecessor, setting up an ambient screen depicting symbolic imagery that continues to change as you progress through the story — this time to complementing Ellie’s journey and growth. The tragedy she is quickly faced with in the game’s story is represented by her being “locked down” in the title screen, with the boat unable to move anywhere and the cold, disturbed ocean representing her inner turmoil. It’s murky, foggy and unclear, just like her own future.
After a rough and emotionally exhausting 10 hour campaign, we’re treated to a brighter and calmer image of the boat having finally arrived at its destination. The sun is now rising, the waves are gently crashing along the shore, and the sky has cleared up. It hits two birds with one stone so far as symbolism goes: the boat was used by Abby and Lev, who have physically reached their own destination as part of the story, while Ellie has recovered mentally and is moving on.
The Last of Us 2 is playable on PS4 and PS5.
Detroit: Become Human
Detroit: Become Human really stands out as an example of a game where storytelling is carried over into every aspect of the product; it sets a magnificent impression, and was the main reason I wanted to make this list at all.
The woman who welcomes us every time we return to the game is a cyborg called Chloe. She never fails to pick up on suspicious details, what with her being an AI. She’ll comment on how long you’ve been playing, recommending a break here or there — or perhaps how long you haven’t picked the game back up for, or even the decisions you’ve made during the game.
It goes even further than that, though. You take a couple of surveys with Chloe across your playthrough, and the final one concludes with your own thoughts and perceptions of the experience you’ve just had after completing the game. She’ll then ask you if she can be freed from her duty, having experienced the game’s events alongside you, and having grown as her own character in the process.
It’s ultimately up to the player to make the decision, and this has consequences; free Chloe and she will indeed walk off the screen, never to return. It relates nicely back to the main theme of the game, wrapping up its core messages with a neat bow.
It’s a title screen that not only excels at being memorable in its own right, but also demonstrating how a good title screen can add another layer to the game itself.
Detroit: Become Human is available on the PS4, PS5 and Microsoft Windows.
What are your favourite title screens and main menus? Let us know down in the comments, via the usual social channels or on the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page!
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