[[quoteright:350:[[VideoGame/TheStanleyParable http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/twodoors_2869.png]]]]

Typically, games let you make choices. Some games let you make choices that have significant effects on the game world. The BigFirstChoice is an early player choice -- sometimes occurring ''before proper gameplay even starts'' -- that has a ''massive'' effect on the game.

Consider:

''You escape the enemy's dreadnought aboard your commandeered shuttle, with the rescued rebel leader in tow and mere seconds to spare before the explosive charges you planted crack the monstrous ship in half. Not a bad job for the tutorial level. As the adrenaline wears off, the rebel leader congratulates you for your courage and offers you a chance to work alongside her to help free the galaxy from the [[ReligionOfEvil Dark Order]]'s clutches. But your hero would have to give up his grand life as a space mercenary, an outlaw-for-hire: certainly he's no friend of the Order, and he's more than happy to fight them on his own time, but he chafes at taking orders from anyone.''

''You ponder the decision for a few seconds, then have your hero turn down the offer with characteristic nonchalance. You then spend the next twenty hours of this epic space opera being inadvertently dragged into one conflict after another, meeting the rebels under awkward circumstances, and generally making life hell for the Order. Finally, when all's said and done, you get to put a bullet between the eyes of the [[BigBad Shadow Prince]], collect your reward and fly off into the sunset.''

''Feeling good about your victory, you go online to discuss the game. But what's this? You don't remember an infiltration mission aboard a satellite. And a romantic subplot with the rebel leader? How come no one's talking about the [[{{BFG}} MX-6000 railgun]] that got you through the final stages, but they're all gushing over that [[MacrossMissileMassacre multi-missile launcher]] that the EliteMooks had towards the end? [[UnusableEnemyEquipment Certainly]] '''[[UnusableEnemyEquipment you]]''' [[UnusableEnemyEquipment don't remember getting one.]]''

''After skimming a few threads, you can't help but wonder: [[MindScrew did you even play the same game as everyone else?]]''

The answer: not quite. As it turned out, a lot more was riding on the rebel leader's innocuous first question than you ever could have guessed. By making one choice or the other, you determined the entire course of the rest of the game.

Not every game is quite as extreme as this example, but the BigFirstChoice (or second, or third) is a common way of extending the life of a game by making the player's choices at key points have a dramatic effect on the way the game plays out - perhaps even the way the game ''plays,'' period. Multiple playthroughs are absolutely necessary to wring OneHundredPercentCompletion out of games that feature such choices: sometimes the different paths will converge again at the end, but it's just as likely that each individual choice [[MultipleEndings will lead to a different ending.]]

One method of StoryBranching. Compare MultipleGameOpenings, where the the story branches even ''before'' you make the first in-game choice, and LastSecondEndingChoice, where you play through ''most'' of the game before a major and [[PointOfNoReturn irrevocable]] plot split.
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!!Examples:
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[[folder:ActionRPG]]
* The first thing you do in ''VideoGame/{{Nox}}'' is pick your CharacterClass, which also decides which one of three largely different storylines the game will follow.
* Played with and {{lampshaded}} in SuperPaperMario. Your first choice of the game is whether you will accept the challenge of saving the world. If you say no three times, you don't save the world and automatically get a Game Over.
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[[folder:AdventureGame]]
* At about the end of the first third of ''IndianaJonesAndTheFateOfAtlantis'', the game splits into one of three possible paths depending the player's choice: the combat-centric "action" path, the self-explanatory "puzzle" path, or the "team" path where Indy travels together with Sophia. These paths all converge at the last act in Atlantis, and beating all of them is required for [[HundredPercentCompletion the maximum Indy Quotient points]].
* In the Adventure scenario of ''Videogame/{{Clonk}}'''s "Metal and Magic" pack, you can either choose becoming a mage or a paladin, and both choices lead to quite a long story...or you can become a roadsweeper, which ends the story in about five minutes.
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[[folder:EasternRPG]]
* ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsI'' and [[VideoGame/KingdomHeartsII its sequel]] ask the player to choose which skills to emphasize and de-emphasize (strength, magic or defense) and how quickly they level up at the start of the game. Woe to the player who might unknowingly choose to level up slowly at the start.
* In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX2'', at the beginning of Chapter 2, you have to decide which of two factions to give an important MacGuffin to. This affects which faction-related sidequests will be available to you later.
** This is also an especially notable example as it also determines whether you can get OneHundredPercentCompletion or not - one path does, the other maxes out at around 97%, no matter what you do. Of course, with the perks of NewGamePlus, full completion is actually somewhere around ''145%''.
* At the start of ''VideoGame/TalesOfXillia'' you choose whether to follow Jude or Mila's story. This affects who's perspective you see when the party splits up, and each story has several exclusive events and bosses. (At one point, Jude travels through [[SlippySlideyIceWorld an ice themed dungeon]] while Mila take on a [[LethalLavaLand lava-themed one]], for example) [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking They also get different battle music.]]
* In the ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'' series, your choice of starter Pokémon determines your rival's starter as well: if you choose the Grass-Type starter, he'll choose the Fire-Type; the Fire-Type starter, the Water-Type; and the Water-Type starter, the Grass-Type (i.e. whichever you choose, he gets the one that's strong against it). Yellow is an exception: there, your starter is always the Electric-Type Pikachu, and your rival's Eevee will evolve into Vaporeon (weak against Electric), Flareon (neutral against Electric), or Jolteon (strong against Electric) depending on how often you lose to him. Your rival's starter (or his starter's final form) will also determine his final team.
** Also, in the ''[=FireRed=]'' and ''[=LeafGreen=]'' remakes, your choice of starter determines which of the Legendary Beasts from Generation 2 will roam the Kanto region: choosing Charmander will cause Suicune to appear, choosing Bulbasaur will cause Entei to appear, and choosing Squirtle will cause Raikou to appear.
** In PokemonBlackAndWhite, your choice of starter Pokemon determines both which gym leader you fight in the first gym (as with your rival, it will always be the one with a type advantage), and also which one of three Pokemon you receive as a gift prior to the battle (which will always have a type advantage over the gym leader).
* In ''VideoGame/RadiantHistoria'', one of your earliest decisions is whether to stay with Heiss in Special Intelligence, or join your friend Rosch in his new brigade. Due to the [[TimeTravel nat]][[AlternateHistory ure]] of the game, of course, the paths are not ''truly'' mutually exclusive, and because of some [[TimeyWimeyBall interplay]] between the two diverging timelines, it is not only possible but ''necessary'' to experience both.
* ''VideoGame/FrontMission 3'' has quite possibly the most extreme example in all of gaming: an innocuous choice at the beginning (whether or not you want to hang out with an NPC for drinks) determines your ''entire path'' through the game. There are two complete storylines with wildly different results throughout, all hinging on that little choice.
* Very early on in ''VideoGame/SoulHackers'', the PlayerCharacter is asked what his very jittery companion Hitomi is normally like. The answer given changes one line of her dialog... and [[BodySurf Nemissa's]] ''entire skill tree''. All the possibilities are about equal in the end, but you're given no indication these two things are related until you answer different next time and wonder why on earth one of your party members is learning wildly different skills.
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[[folder:SimulationGame]]
* The very first thing the player must do in ''VideoGame/{{Spore}}'' is decide whether his character should be a herbivore or carnivore.
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[[folder:StealthBasedGame]]
* At the start of ''MetalGearSolid3'', the player will be asked to choose their favourite game in the series. Picking ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' makes Snake's stamina decrease more slowly; picking ''MetalGearSolid2'' starts the player wearing the Raikov mask in the very first cutscene; and picking ''MetalGearSolid3'' unlocks a "Peep Theatre" cutscene.
* In TheNamelessMod, after leaving the starting area, the player has the option to join either PDX or World Corp. It affects the entire plot of the game, most of the missions, and even which locations you encounter.
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[[folder:SurvivalHorror]]
* In the first chapter of ''EternalDarkness'', you have to pick up one of three artifacts. Which one you take determines which of the three Ancients will be the BigBad of your playthrough, which also affects which of three attributes (Health, Magick, and Sanity) the protagonists are particularly strong/weak in.
* A decision made early in ''[[{{Saw}} Saw II: Flesh and Blood]]'' determines who survives at the end of the game.
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[[folder:VisualNovel]]
* VisualNovels as a genre tend to have this at their core, especially if they have multiple largely independent storylines branching off early in the story, depending on a few innocuous choices early on.
* In ''VisualNovel/{{Tsukihime}}'', a few less than obvious choices during the first two days of the story determine which one of five branches it will follow for the rest of it. It doesn't help that some options and branches only become available after you clear other endings.
* In ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'', you are given a few choices regarding how you follow your day as an OrdinaryHighSchoolStudent... and the answers you give determine which route you follow for the rest of the game.
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[[folder:WesternRPG]]
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'' has its eponymous Origin stories: class/race-specific pseudo-tutorial missions, the consequences of which come up again and again throughout the rest of the story.
* In ''SidMeiersPirates'', your choice of nationality and era determines your starting ship, crew, and home port. The era chosen also determines the balance of power among the four nations on the game map. You are also given a choice of one of four different skills, each of which make a different aspect of the game easier to manage.
* In ''VideoGame/AlterAILA'', the choice at the end of the prologue determines which faction you (and by extension Green) will side with for the first chapter, and determines who your allies will be.
* ''VideoGame/Fallout3'' gives you the option of nuking the town of Megaton fairly early on. If you go through with it, you kill off many characters and lock yourself out of any quests there that you haven't completed yet, which can be quite extensive. If you refuse, you miss out on a free penthouse apartment, which is snazzy-looking but not particularly gameplay-relevant (especially since you can get a functionally equivalent pad in Megaton instead).
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