The Sonic the Comic adaptation has this in the second story. He pops up a few pages in, with a pair of black Cool Shades, and saves a guy. His entire look seems to set him off as being a "snobby 90s cool guy".
Since Sonic Adventure, the first time we see Sonic is usually in a cutscene that wastes no time displaying Sonic's speed and/or acrobatics, and his carefree, adventure-seeking attitude.
Halo establishes John-117 as a badass by having him snark at Cortana while the ship is being boarded, he is being hunted, and they have just found an artificial ring world floating in space. Meanwhile, Johnson is established as a badass who will make you laugh by having him give what's known as the Giant Hula-Hoop Speech. Gravemind is defined as an asshole by having him betray both the Arbiter and the Chief.
The Arbiter gets two. When we first see him, he's on trial for failing to protect Halo from destruction. First, we learn that he's a super-competent fighter (being a Zealot Fleetmaster (admiral) in a society where Asskicking Equals Authority and being a zealot alone means you've killed thousands). Second, we learn that he's also willing to ignore the Honor Before Reason mentality of his species for the good of his forces and the galaxy at large by focusing on the Flood, possibly saving the galaxy but sacrificing the Halo. Then, when he is to be tortured for his failure, he makes good on his promise not to beg for the crowd's entertainment by not making a sound even as he's being electrocuted to the point of smoldering. It takes a red-hot brand to the chest to get him to make a sound.
He gets another in The Cole Protocol (though we didn't know it at the time). First, he's been elected to basically king of his state (Asskicking Equals Authority again in play). Second, he stays up all night after his election in wait for any assassination attempts, then curb-stomps three of them without suffering a single wound. Afterwards, he tricks the guy who sent the assassins into confessing, gives him a Reason You Suck Speech regarding his failure to be remembered in the family saga, kills him, and tells his family to get the hell out of his keep or he'd put them to death as well.
In Halo: Reach all of Noble Team gets one. Near the end of the first level, Noble Squad gets ambushed by Elites with Energy Swords. Your character gets tackled by one (really emphasizing how big they are compared to you), avoids a stab to the stomach and then punches the enemy in the jaw. Of course, it only serves to piss it off and you get saved by Carter, but it does demonstrate Noble Six's Defiant to the End personality.
Your first meeting with Desther and Fenthick in Neverwinter Nights quickly and clearly sums up the two, with Desther snapping at you for your incompetence at showing up too late to save the creatures and Fenthick apologizing for Desther's behavior and making excuses.
Nathyrra's collected and somewhat amused attitude is cemented from her very first words of dialogue in Hordes of the Underdark.
The collection of fan-made modules isn't immune to this either. Tales of Arterra introduces Persey with a scene in a brothel that underlines her inability to think of herself as a person. Evanine is introduced in a temple in the grips of a deep bout of depression that can only be broken by a gift of flowers and a silly remark, foreshadowing just how much of an effect kindness can have on her. Montador starts out being belligerent.
A Dance with Rogues introduces Vico with a rape scene, typical of his character, but gives him a Pet the Dog moment right afterwards to show that he isn't that far gone. Anden is introduced when you break him out of a cell in the middle of a forest, establishing his role as the Damsel in Distress. Pia is introduced when she has to use the Princess as part of a test, then feels really bad about it afterwards. Gemli challenges you to a drinking contest.
In Mask of the Betrayer, Safiya has a rather tender scene as her Establishing Character Moment, foreshadowing the person you find under her businesslike shell. Gann has a rather comic scene of banter and wordplay, playing up his connection to the spirit world.
Kaelyn is introduced examining carvings in the temple of Myrkul, establishing her obsession with re-launching the Betrayer's Crusade.
Okku is introduced sticking to his duty, regardless of the cost.
Knights of the Old Republic effectively displays the Mission-Zaalbar sibling-like dynamic when you first meet them in the bar on Taris.
Bastila breaks herself out of her cage before she can be rescued, makes a typically self-righteous boast about being a Jedi, and helps you take down a major mob boss. Then proceeds to berate you for being sloppy, leading to a rather childish argument as to who was doing the actual rescuing. The Reveal makes this scene much more funny in hindsight.
Canderous is introduced intimidating a band of thugs.
A tip for you. One. Don't bother Calo Nord. Two. Or he will... Three. *POW*
Which can be subverted later in the game by the player. If you know where Calo will be standing, you can plant twenty of thirty mines right there, making him seem like such an idiot that his introduction is overhyped. Getting a piece of the roof falling on his head at the end of Taris didn't help either.
Carth talks you though a Sith-infested doomed ship, holds the last escape pod for you, drags your semi-conscious butt out of it, hides you, and nurses you back to health. Paranoia aside, this is one seriously Nice Guy.
Kreia in the second game appears to be dead, but then wakes up in the morgue, identifies your character as a former Jedi just by how you walk, and gives you snarky advice. Needless to say, she's like this the entire game.
In Half-Life, Gordon Freeman is shown to be a badass in the TUTORIAL by having him use the main gun and the 'nade launcher on a SMG or M16.
Some of the monsters (and the HECU) get one throughout Half-Life when you first meet them. For instance, the HECU grunt gunning down a scientist who comes running to him for aid, or the Gargantua effortlessly wiping out a squad of soldiers.
Id: That was pretty interesting. But dropping a warship on me is cheating... Take it back!
KOS-MOS of Xenosaga got herself an incredible entrance by blowing out an enormous metal door and kicking the asses of all the Gnosis that were previously making mincemeat of the people on the Woglinde. In other words, she was a Deus Est Machina.
Albedo gets his with the infamous Ma belle peche sequence. He had shown up a few times before, but it was this scene that firmly cemented him as a wild motherfucker.
In Final Fantasy VII, Rufus Shinra's introduction when he arrives in a helicopter to find his father killed by Sephiroth. Aerith/Aeris says of him "I've heard that no one's ever seen him bleed or cry." His appointment speech, along with fighting Super Soldier Cloud and surviving, and managing to escape by holding on to the helicopter with one hand while heavily wounded all perfectly establish him as the Bad AssCorrupt Corporate Executive that he is.
Rufus Shinra:That's right. I'll let you hear my new appointment speech...My old man tried to control the world with money. It seems to have been working. The population thought that Shinra would protect them. Work at Shinra, get your pay. If a terrorist attacks, the Shinra army will help you. It looks perfect on the outside. But, I do things differently. I'll control the world with fear. It takes too much to do it like my old man. A little fear will control the minds of the common people. There's no reason to waste money on them.
The whole Nibelheim Incident flashback was one big coolness-establishing moment for Sephiroth. Everything in it...even the way Sephiroth always walked when others ran in cutscenes, even though the running was just a convenience to get movement from place to place over more quickly and we probably weren't expected to really think that most characters were in the habit of running around like hyperactive chipmunks all the time.
The real establishing moment for Sephiroth cannot, however, be anything other than the fight with the dragon. At this point in the game, the first-time player might feel like a badass for doing over 100 damage with a single attack; then you get to this fight, wherein Sephiroth runs forward, swings his sword, and hits for over 3,000. After that when Cloud says, "Sephiroth's strength is unreal. He's far stronger in reality than any story you might have heard about him," you damn well know he's telling the truth.
Zack in Crisis Core is introduced to the player by jumping out of a helicopter in mid-air, land perfectly fine on a train riding at high speed below and running along it, preparing to take down some baddies. When they shoot at him, he says "Well, hello to you, too!" and dodges all bullets, does an impossibly long jump and separates two traincars from each other by stabbing the connection with his sword. He's the hero of the game, alright.
Auron in Final Fantasy X is introduced in a way that officially sets up his "Cool Old Guy who knows a lot more about what's going than he tells people" credentials: He climbs up to a high place and seems to welcome Sin as it comes closer to Zanarkand without a word. He then walks calmly through the street as a wave of water approaches the city and begins to disintegrate it, and when he shows up later to help fight off monsters, once again without losing the cool head, he's officially established as the resident Deadpan Snarker / Samurai.
He has another one when he actually joins the party. He stares down a lizard the size of a horse and then proceeds to kill it in a single turn.
Played with by Seymour in the same game—he invokes the trope deliberately by slaughtering attacking fiends in the most overkilltastic way possible, intending to establish himself to the population of Spira as an incredibly powerful savior figure. However, the moment that establishes his real character for the player's convenience happens a little bit later, in just six words: "Then pretend I didn't say it."
Zero of Mega Man X establishes himself as a badass on his first appearance during the prologue stage when he blows the arm off Vile's mech as Vile is preparing to finish off X.
Ashe's introduction scene/stage in Mega Man ZX Advent shows her credentials as an Action Girlbefore becoming Mega Man Model A, and how far she'll go to get what she wants. She jumps off the side of an airship and lands unscathed after at least a kilometer's fall, for starters, fights her way through a force of mavericks and a boss with a simple blaster pistol, you know, the kind that only Red Shirts in the series would use, and the series' resident Psycho for Hire is the only one who manages to stop her. Then it's implied that she survived a multi-kilometer fall after that. No, she's not a robot, she's human. Oh, man.
All of the Mega Men in Advent have nice moments as well. They only consist of standing there and talking, but they explain who they are, what they want, how they are going to get it and why they really do not like you.
Gears of War: You know the Cole Train means business when his first appearance is taking on about 10 Locust on his own, not even bothering to take cover. In the second game, he first appears coming to your rescue - while making a squad of Locust about to kill you run away scared.
Fawkes from Fallout 3 is first introduced by talking to him through a speaker. In a shocking departure from the usual Super Mutants you've encountered throughout the area, he is not only intelligent, but articulate, polite, and surprisingly friendly. After letting him out of his cell, he helps you for a while by tackling assorted enemies and helping you retrieve your mission objective, and then politely departs. His establishing character moment meets its climax later on when you find him jumping out of the side of an aircraft with a giant laser minigun, screaming various battle cries...and he's still polite to you when you talk to him.
Butch Deloria starts showing his true colours at the player character's tenth birthday party: having missed out on cake thanks to Andy's screwup, he demands that you hand over the sweetroll you were just given as a present. Rather tellingly, one easy way to get Butch angry enough to beat you up (apart from just refusing to give him the sweetroll) is to call his mother an alcoholic. Equally tellingly, he's almost instantly reined in by the nearest guard.
Assuming that the offer to blow up an inhabited settlement in exchange for a hefty payoff didn't indicate exactly what kind of person Alistair Tenpenny is, accepting the offer pretty much seals the deal: after being invited to his penthouse suite at the only luxury hotel in the entire wasteland, you find him lounging around on the balcony in a silk robe, enthusiastically watching Megaton vanish in a nuclear fireball - and then paying you with a ton of caps and the deeds to a suite of your own. Stick around a little longer, and it's revealed that the only reason he had the town blown up was because it was spoiling his view - and he spends his spare time firing a sniper rifle at random into the wasteland below. Wealthy, powerful, and completely and utterly batshit.
Godot in Trials and Tribulations has one when he is first presented to the courtroom. He sips his coffee, throws out a coffee-related quip, and generally acts like he owns the place.
Franziska's entrance into the plot involves whipping Gumshoe.
Matt Engarde's real appearance.
Engarde: (brushes back hair to show scars, smirks, holds up a brandy glass and swirls it menacingly) How do you do, Mr. Lawyer? I'm Matt Engarde.
Kay introduces herself to Edgeworth by jumping into the room through a high window (which she can't get back up to, effectively trapping her in the room) with a great flourish and proudly introducing herself as the second Yatagarasu, a great thief of justice. This tells you most of what you need to know about Kay.
Manfred Von Karma's first line in the first game involves him, instead of telling the Judge a standard "The prosecution is ready, Your Honor," saying "Fool... You seriously think that I would stand here were I not completely prepared?" showing his arrogance (which, admittedly, is backed up by extensive preparation).
"Hey! The temperature rose 5.7 degrees when this man came in!"
Professor Aristotle Means of Dual Destinies introduces himself with a terrifying grin that unnerves Athena before going on to espouse his "ends justifies the means" philosophy with regards to battles in court, securing victory at any cost. This lets you know that this guy is not nearly as wholesome as he appears even before anything goes wrong, as per usual.
Our first sight of Erol in Jak II: Renegade has him telling a shackled, chained-down Jak on a Dark Eco injector slash torture device, "I'll be back later," after being told to finish Jak off that night. Daxter's first appearance in any game features him making the wisecracks. Ashelin enters the games by dropping from a tree and holding a gun to Jak's head. Gol and Maia enter the picture telling a Lurker army to destroy a village. Yeah.
In Tsukihime, Nero/Nrvnqsr Chaos's first scene is meeting Shiki late at night while dogs howl and it's made very clear that Shiki is about four seconds from death. The next time we see him, he's just eaten every single person inside a hotel before attacking Shiki and Arcueid. The manga skips the first scene and shows Chaos' entrance into the motel, where he brutally murders everyone including a pair of cowering children. Apart from Makihasa Tohno (who's already dead) he's the easily the least sympathetic character introduced in the entire game because everyone else is a gigantic woobie. Even Especially the next baddie, SHIKI.
Fate/stay night has the most deadly Servant Gilgamesh turn up, kill Caster and show clearly that he is even worse. And then he leaves because he thinks that Shirou's mansion (one of the biggest in town) is too low class a place for him to fight. Oh, and he refers to Saber as his property near constantly.
The very first thing we see Blackwatch do in Prototype is save an innocent woman from a horde of Infected...only to kill the woman immediately afterwards. This is arguably meant to show that Blackwatch is willing to kill anyone with any contact with The Virus, even if they're not even infected themselves.
The opening gameplay segment features Alex raging against Blackwatch, carving tanks and men apart, fighting giant infected behemoths, taking out helicopters, then tracking down an officer, slamming him to the ground, and pounding his skull into paste.
A less violent but just as telling introduction comes in the very first line we ever hear Dana Mercer speak, which is "Let go of me, you goose-stepping motherfucker!"
Rachel from the Xbox remake of Ninja Gaiden appears staring down a fiend larger than herself and One Hit Killing it. This particular type of fiend is one that remains annoying even with later health and weapon upgrades. Cutscene Power to the Max or not, it nicely makes her out to be some BadassAction Girl...so it's funny how Ryu ends up having to save her repeatedly, eh? From the same title, Gamov shows himself by speaking up from a hitherto unseen corner, making some cryptic comments and then showing a capacity for Offscreen Teleportation that leaves our Ninja protagonist befuddled, clearly setting up his Mysterious Watcher role.
Murai's words at the end of the prologue mentioning how it's a shame the Black Dragon Blade's power is sealed away by Ryu's clan rather than being used foreshadow that he is the true Big Bad of the game.
Sukuna-Hikona? "The one called Munakata no longer exists..."
In Kingdom Hearts, Kairi is introduced (after the opening) with a detailed close-up of her teasing Sora and giggling, seeing her up as the girl Sora has a crush on, and Riku is introduced confidently tossing logs around and being the responsible, hardworking one, setting him up as the guy Sora wants to be.
Still in the first game, King Mickey is introduced right by the end on the other side of Kingdom Hearts. He appears warding off countless heartless with the light of his keyblade, then looking over his shoulder to say some inspiring words to the heroes. He only gets better in the sequel.
In the first God of War, the player quickly learns all he/she needs to know about Kratos if he executes a Grab attack on the initial zombie Mooks: Drive them to the ground and stab them repeatedly, impale them on his chainblade and whip them around, or tear them in half with his bare hands. Whatever is about to happen that will make him hurl himself off a cliff in the intro, Kratos clearly begins as a man not to be trifled with.
A more accurate moment probably comes from his treatment of the hydra. It swallows a man with a key he needs. After killing the beast in badass fashion, Kratos stalks into its mouth to retrieve the key. The key is around the neck of the ship captain, who thanks him for coming back. Kratos' reply? "I didn't come back for you." He then proceeds to rip the key off him, then send him down the hydra's throat for no reason whatsoever. Kratos: Mighty warrior, and complete asshole.
In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Ganondorf's first appearance is in a dream and his second is faking loyalty to the king. However, in his third appearance, he knocks Link to the ground with a single attack and says, "I am Ganondorf! And soon, I will rule the world!"
Also, the first time you hear of Ganondorf's actions, you find out that he was the one who put the death curse on the Deku Tree for not giving him what he wanted.
The very first thing you hear Neku say in The World Ends with You is, among other things, "I don't get people. Never have, never will." This sets up his initial antisocial behavior, and sets him up to learn The Power of Friendship.
Beat's impulsive and aggressive nature is emphasized in his first appearance, in which he accuses Neku and Shiki of being Reapers and tries to start a fight with them.
Sho's first scene involves him showing up late to a meeting, using "affectionate" nicknames on Kitaniji and Konishi, then walking out as soon as he's lost his interest, effectively setting him up as the maverick among the Reapers and The Starscream.
Zell is seen shadowboxing and doing a backflip in the entry hall of Balamb Garden, establishing himself as an excessively energetic kind of guy.
Selphie falls down a hill and does a cheerful "silly me" gesture, but her character is established before then when she collides with Squall while running late for class.
Irvine is shown lying on his back, holding his hand up so steadily that a butterfly lands on it.
Squall's initial appearance in the opening FMV illustrates that he's a Determinator, but it's his scene in the infirmary with Dr. Kadowaki and the walk to class with Quistis that really establish his personality. Likewise, Rinoa's appearance at the SeeD graduation ball when she succeeds not only in getting Squall to dance with her, but getting him to relax enough to dance well, establishes her character.
Lightning of Final Fantasy XIII is first seen in the intro calmly pointing her gun at a group of soldiers whose weapons are all trained on her, setting her up as an Action Girl. She later appears holding an oversized, delicate dandelion in her hands, watching it with her usual stoic expression, managing to not disturb the fluff until the wind blows it away, showing her Hidden Heart of Gold.
The other characters have this as well. Sazh comforts a frightened child when his chocobo pops out of his afro, Snow and the rest of NORA talk about heroism, Hope crawls away in fear when he's offered a gun, and Vanille playfully says "bang" when she gets her own gun.
Wes of Pokémon Colosseum has the best introduction of any character in the series, handheld or not—he blows up a criminal hideout with dynamite. As the only non-Kid Hero playable, he already stood out, but it was that moment that marked him as one of the best human badasses in the series.
Mass Effect 2 loves to not outrightly reveal the major characters, but rather all you are given is a name and a very vague description of the characters skill or occupation. As you are on your way to find them, you will have several encounters with people who will give you a few more pieces of information about the person you seek, and each time the mental image you get becomes more and more outrageous and horrifying. Then comes the Big Entrance, which usually even much more badass than anything you would have imagined.
Grunt is introduced by bursting out of his tank, demanding some kind of purpose. When he backs down, he notices that Shepard has had a gun to Grunt's chest the whole conversation, and he just laughs. That's Grunt right there. It also shows the enormous amount of respect he has for Shepard from the very beginning. It establishes that he WILL follow him/her into Hell itself.
Urdnot Wrex in the first game shows up for the first time making a series of Badass Boasts to a Krogan bouncer in Chora's Den. If you happen to miss that scene, you meet him at C-Sec headquarters after he's been detained for making the aforementioned boasts. To make up for the player having missed the scene, he makes a series of Badass Boasts to the officers instead.
Tali'Zorah nar Rayyah is introduced in the first game trying to get a direct meeting with the Shadow Broker, then blowing up the thugs who ambush her at the meeting site, establishing that she is not only somewhat naive about the workings of the galaxy but that if you mess with her you willexplode.
Dr. Liara T'Soni is introduced in the first game after having accidentally gotten herself into a stasis field that the Geth can't figure out a way past, which foreshadows both her raw power and the fact that she's in way over her head.
Cowboy Cop Garrus Vakarian is introduced in the first game complaining to Da Chief about how the regulations are getting in the way of him arresting Saren. If that wasn't enough, he gets another Establishing Character Moment a few minutes later, when Fist's thugs try to hold Dr. Michel hostage. He pops out of the other side of the room and deals a clean headshot to the thug holding Michel. Shepard can then either compliment his aim or call him out for putting the doctor in danger if he missed.
In the second game, you join an alliance of three badass mercenary bands who try to take out Archangel, a lone wolf vigilante who has been cornered in a building and killed dozens of mercenaries who had tried to get at him for the last few days, to the point where the mercenaries are bringing in battle robots the size of small mechs and a heavily armored gunship to try to take him down. In case you're wondering, Archangel is none other than Garrus.
Though she appears a twice beforehand and is heard over loudspeaker and in a few video clips, Miranda Lawson's first real introduction is when Wilson opens the door to the room she's been hiding in, promptly shooting him with a sarcastic quip, insisting that he's a traitor, and ignoring all of Shepard's counterarguments and stating "I'm always right." Quickly establishing everything you need to know about her. Or not, depending on your point of view. It certainly tells you everything you need to know about Cerberus, if you haven't played the first game. If you read the Shadow Broker dossiers you acquire after completing Lair of the Shadow Broker, it confirms Wilson really was a traitor and Miranda was right.
When buying Jack from a private high security prison ship, you can talk with one of the prisoners who begs you to free him as well and take him with you. But when he hears that you've come for Jack, he decides he rather stays in the safety of his cell. We then have a shot of Jack's prison cell opening, to reveal (instead of the giant hulking brute earlier dialogue was gearing you up to expect) a young woman, who promptly starts screaming in rage, tears open her restraints, and rips apart three YMIR mechs with her bare hands. The rest of the mission is chasing her through the wreckage left behind by her rampage through the prison ship.
Samara has a short fight (in which she utterly dominates the poor Eclipse merc) finishing with a precise Neck Snap and a good deal of Dissonant Serenity, before establishing just how strict her code is and how she works with any possible loopholes to advance the greater good.
On the derelict reaper, you first hear signs of a lone sniper taking on the husks all by himself. Later Legion is introduced sniping a group of husks that try to sneak up on Shepard and saying his/her name, establishing his combat specialty, the fact that he is different from other geth (as he can talk) and his obsession with Shepard quickly and efficiently with the shot of the N7 armour he used to patch himself. His first full body shot also is accompanied by one of the games moments of Crowning Music of Awesome, that is just short of being pretentious.
Furthermore, upon spotting Shepard alive and well, the audience witnesses Legion do a clear double-take and raise one of his eye-flaps in an approximation of a Fascinating Eyebrow, demonstrating a range of expressions that come off as far more "human" that other Geth previously encountered, who were inscrutably robotic in almost every way.
From what you hear about Mordin Solus, he appears to be a completely psychotic butcher who slaughters the local gangs by the dozens with both weapons and science, but also runs a free clinic for the poor. When you finally meet him, it turns out that the stories were not exactly wrong, but he is nothing like anything you would have expected.
Shepard's reintroduction cements their character direction and progression throughout the sequels. S/he start ME2 with the Normandy exploding around them, refusing to leave until they rescue everyone they possibly can, are killed in the attempt, is resurrected and dropped right back into the fray... then picks up a gun and goes straight back to work. Not even death itself can stop Shepard from being a force of nature.
Joker first appears at the beginning of the first game making a near-perfect mass relay jump, then griping about not getting the recognition he deserves, demonstrating his great ability and his justifiable arrogance.
Ashley gets two in the first game; first you see a moment of shocked horror as she sees what the geth are doing to the civilians on Eden Prime before she gets back up and gets right back to shooting, then her first proper conversation as a party member is questioning Shepard's decision to let alien nationals to have free-reign to roam around their top-secret military warship.
Transformers: War for Cybertron: Most people know Megatron as a megalomaniac, and as someone not to mess with. In the very first stage, he commands his flagship to ram into a space station, casually shoots a subordinate decrying the plan, then as the ship and the station section it crashed into collapses, he simply charges out of the wreckage with two lieutenants and starts massacring Autobot Mooks left and right while he lets Soundwave organize any survivors strong enough to live.
Similarly, when you start the Autobot campaign, the first you see of Optimus is him being a Big Damn Hero and saving Bumblebee from a group of Decepticon mooks.
Dragon Age: Origins does this with...well, everyone. Aside from those characters who are more than they appear to be in their first scene, what you see is what you get.
In the various Origins, Duncan appears to be almost preternaturally self-possessed, afraid of nothing and able to make people feel either threatened or comfortable, as he chooses, with nothing more than polite small talk.
Alistair's first appearance has him honestly trying to fulfill his duties as a messenger, and quickly falling back on snark in response to the hostility of the mage he's talking to.
A gracefully-aged older woman stands apart from her fellow mages, watching a Chantry sister bless some soldiers in preparation for the upcoming battle. When you speak to her, she asks you gently probing questions to determine how much you really know about what's going on and offers advice to fill in the gaps. Later, you find she survived the slaughter: when you meet her then she's just singlehandedly killed a demon to protect some of her fellow mages and a group of children. Paraphrased: "Oh hey, it's you, nice to see you again, now step away from the kids or I will end you!"
Morrigan appears mysteriously, from nowhere, questioning your motives and deflecting the questions you set her in return, or responding positively when you are polite to her.
A Chantry sister tries to talk down two sides about to fight, and when that fails immediately pulls out two knives and starts cutting her way through the people who oppose her. Oh, and hi, my name's Leliana, and don't worry about the blood, I know from experience that'll come right out!
A huge, powerful man sits in a cage, looking for all the world like he's strong enough to bend the bars and escape...but he doesn't. Instead, he sits, chanting softly to himself in an unknown language, and when you approach, does not tell you to go away but merely that he is not there for anyone else's entertainment, so he is not there for yours either. He responds with polite but grateful surprise to courtesy, and answers freely (almost) any question you ask him. He tells you he is Sten...which, you learn later, is not even his name, but his rank. And he seems almost eager, when he learns you are a Grey Warden, to enter your service to fight the Blight.
Zevran ambushes you and tries to kill you; when that fails, he anticipates that you'll want to interrogate him and cheerfully volunteers to save you the trouble by spilling every bit of relevant information you might want to know and a few you probably don't, and shamelessly hitting on you in the process.
Oghren is first seen in the Diamond Quarter, all but picking a fight with a government official due to his argument that someone needs to go look for Branka, his wife. He tries cajoling, threats, even reason, but all are shot down, leading him to trudge back to Tapster's Tavern, where you find he has already begun drowning his sorrows, assuming they aren't gently bobbing facedown in an ocean of alcohol already.
Your own character gets several choices for dialogue (and actions) in the Origins that can set up how you want to play them, from killing the humans in your territory to politely doing as your father tells you to do to flirting with your cousin to snarking with your cousin that she doesn't care what's going on, she just wants the excuse to drink.
In the Awakening expansion, your first minute with Anders tells you three things: he's a powerful mage, he has a really weird sense of humor, and he hates Templars.
Dragon Age II does the same thing for many of its primary characters.
Varric gets two early on. In his first actual appearance in the game, he proves to be a storyteller who loves to over-exaggerate everything to make the stories more interesting, even while being interrogated by the Chantry's equivalent of the Inquisition. Later on, when Hawke first meets him (chronologically, ten years before the interrogation) he spots a pickpocket, pins him to the wall with his crossbow, berates the pickpocket for his lack of skill, and returns Hawke's money, before making a business proposition, establishing his role as a deadly marksman and cunning rogue/businessman. Mark of the Assassin later confirms Hawke's suspicion that he was waiting there specifically to run into them, hoping to run into them before Bartrand.
The first scene with Anders shows him healing a sick person, then taken over by Vengeance when Hawke enters, perceiving him/her as a potential threat, establishing the duality and inhumanity (but also kindness) of his nature. Anders also gets an indirect one before he's introduced, with many of the Ferelden Refugees that he has been helping making it clear they're prepared to die to protect "The Healer" from the Templars.
Merrill's first scene has her sitting apart from the other Dalish, cradling something glowing and secretive, followed by sudden embarrassed babbling at encountering Hawke, establishing her status as a mysterious mage, her distance from her people, and a quirky Cloudcuckoolander all at once.
Isabela's introduction involves smashing some faces in the Hanged Man - never once does she seem intimidated by her foes, though they outnumber her three-to-one, going so far as to talk seductively to keep one off his guard before kicking the crap out of them. When they're gone, she goes back to her drink without a qualm. This also serves as a Call Back to her similar introduction in Origins, where she fought off three men who accused her of cheating at cards, before introducing herself to the Warden.
Fenris' first scene involves him striding around the corner, having eliminated Tevinter bounty hunters offscreen, and shoving a glowing hand through the Tevinter captain's chest - without leaving a mark. Mysterious supernatural warrior cred established.
Aveline is introduced by knocking a darkspawn off her husband, beating it with her bare hands, and cutting off its head with a sword wielded like a paper slicer. Then she helps her husband to his feet.
Sebastian's first moments involve him placing a bounty on the head of the mercenaries who killed his family, while arguing with the Grand Cleric about the need for justice. When she pulls down the bounty posting, he pins it back up with an arrow fired from his bow. His second comes when Hawke later learns from the Grand Cleric that Sebastian is not only a Prince, but a Priest.
Hawke's various personalities gets introduced during Varric's prologue depending on dialogue choices. Paragon!Hawke quickly establishes themselves as a born leader, Aggresive!Hawke takes the role of a vicious Blood Knight, while the middle choice, Snarky!Hawke shows themselves to be a charismatic snarker.
Hawke's siblings, Bethany and Carver, are first introduced slaying Darkspawn, before going right back to arguing. Bethany quickly shows herself to be diplomatic and introverted, while Carver is brash and argumentative.
The relationship between Hawke and their siblings similarly is established quickly in the Prologue. Hawke and Carver seem to butt heads constantly, while Hawke's protectiveness towards Bethany is shown when they immediately stand in front of her and give a Death Glare to Ser Wesley, after he identified her as an Apostate. With a Mage Hawke, this also shows that they are willing to put themselves in the line of fire to protect her.
From Mark of the Assassin, Tallis is introduced mowing through a bunch of assassins like a chainsaw, casually revealing she was the person Varric's contact was hired by, squees at Hawke and then offers them to join her on a heist to rob an vault, surrounded by traps, protected by an army of Chevaliers, in a impenetrable fortress, on a mountain, surrounded by monsters!
Knight-Commander Meredith is first properly introduced at the end of chapter 2 by casually walking up behind a Sarebaas about to zap Hawke, nullifying the spell it was preparing, and stabbing it; she then spends the remainder of the mission insisting on being in charge, insisting on taking the most straightforward approach to everything, and deferring only grudgingly on either point.
Similarly, her reaction to Mage Hawke is essentially, "Yes, I know you're a Mage. I'll deal with you later, Qunari first!" Her willingness to overlook Hawke being an apostate in the face of the current crisis so that while authoritarian, she's still reasonable. Which only highlights how paranoid and off the deep-end she becomes later.
Flemeth's reintroduction has her rescue Hawke's family from the Darkspawn in her High Dragon form, transform into her new valkyrie-esque appearance, whilst walking through the fire completely unharmed. She then offers her services in getting past the Darkspawn, in exchange for Hawke delivering something for her to a group of Dalish elves outside of Kirkwall.
Minor villain Pascal Grentzer from Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword asserts his status as perhaps the vilest individual in the game when, upon being released from prison, he attempts an I Have You Now, My Pretty on his liberator...who happens to be a Dark Magical GirlManipulative Bitch mom who could quite easily turn him inside-out with magic. She quickly asserts control over him, but what he would've done to anyone less willful is disturbingly clear...
Granted, Ike had his time during his own Fire Emblem games, he earns himself another one in his first appearance in Super Smash Bros.. Brawl's Subspace Emissary. You've just seen Marth and Meta Knight fail to stop the Ancient Minister and his bomb. He flies off, thinking he's won. Suddenly from behind you see a BFS slowly rise from behind him as epic music starts to play. Ike then jumps up to catch it for his signature move Aether (he yells "Great Aether" just because it's cooler that way) and easily slices down the bomb the Ancient Minister was carrying, disarming it (becoming the only character ever to do so) and he strikes a pose as the Ancient Minister flies off into the distance.
It takes most of Yggdra Union for Gulcasa to finally get one of these, but when he does it's very powerful. In the very short scene in question, a scout arrives to tell him that his little sister Emilia is dead. He accepts the news and dismisses her rather than opting to Shoot the Messenger...and then once she's out of the room, he breaks down crying. Rather than rage against the Royal Army for their role in that character's death, Gulcasa blames himself for lacking the power to save her. And once he's managed to pull himself together, he goes right back to rallying his men to defend his capital from your attack. Each of these actions has a story behind it, but simply seeing them for what they are is enough to succinctly explain what kind of person Gulcasa is outside of battle.
Golden Sun and the sequels have a large cast of characters, most of them flat. As a result, their characterization is established immediately upon meeting them, and there's not much development afterward.
Garet gets one in the prologue: "What, Isaac? I'm trying to save my stuff! ...it's too dangerous? All right, I'll go with you." And a few moments later: "It's times like this that we men have to stick together!"
Mia's first scene shows her using her powers to help a sickly old man, and fretting that someone has broken into Mercury Lighthouse, which she is bound by her familial duty to protect. Duty-driven White Magician Girl. Next!
Felix, at Level 5, calls out the first game's endbosses over kidnapping Sheba, and later jumps off Venus Lighthouse to rescue her when she falls. Always Save the Girl much?
Sheba starts the game by telling Felix and Jenna that she's destined to help them, forcing her way into the player party and refusing to take "no" for an answer. This shows her development from the previous game's Distressed Damsel (there were two) into this game's snarky, pushyBlack Magician Girl.
Piers is first seen as a Play-Along Prisoner in Madra after being wrongly arrested for a pirate attack. He has an alibi, and he could just break out using his Psynergy, but the latter would be misusing his powers and the former would raise more questions, so he decides to wait for the mayor to prove his innocence by other means. In the meantime, he tolerates abusive guards, and mentally kicks himself after lashing out at one with his Psynergy. Secretive and mysterious, but kind, patient, and law-abiding, with a strong sense of responsibility.
In the same game, Karst's first appearance is standing in the middle of a busy city, asking everyone she sees if they've seen her (late) Cool Big Sis. Sure enough, she takes the news badly.
A rather surprising one for Issac comes late in The Lost Age. Being a Heroic Mime in the first game, players were free to imagine what his personality was like, and official guides suggested he was a total Nice Guy. In The Lost Age, he starts speaking for himself, and the first time we encounter him is after Garet and Mia have been caught in a trap set by Agatio and Karst. One the first things out of his mouth is a rather curt "If you're not going to help us, then get out of our way", then displays very little hesitation in drawing his blade when it becomes clear the two are hostile. The whole scene shows us that A) He's under a lot of stress, and B) He's quite willing to be confrontational.
Karis and Tyrell are established at the beginning of Dark Dawn with their actions - Karis yelling at Tyrell to get off the roof before he breaks the soarwing, and Tyrell flying off of said roof thinking he could just use it despite being an inexperienced Mars Adept.
Rief is introduced trying to get a better look at a giant Psynergy Vortex. Great for book smarts, not so much for common sense.
Sveta is first seen as a faint figure in Te Rya who flees every time she's seen, then later in Teppe Ruins showing you where to go and leaving some of her climbing gear for you. By the time she actually introduces herself, she's shown herself to be shy, considerate, and very athletic.
The first cinematic in Tomb Raider, in which Lara reveals herself for the first time to the player by cutting the rope that holds her, tossing off her shawl, drawing her guns, and firing a few shots at the wolves attacking her guide before she hits the ground.
The comic book starts with her being caught trying to escape some Middle Eastern town under a burqa after stealing a necklace. Once she's caught and exposed, she makes a few jaunty quips while escaping in a hail of gunfire with an Indy Ploy. But for her butler arriving in a chopper, a bit late, she would've died. Acts like she doesn't need others, but she still does. That's about all you need to know if you haven't played the games.
In Fallout: New Vegas, from the very beginning of the game you are told about Caesar's Legion, a brutal band of slavers and raiders that aim to conquer the Mojave, and how they're some of the worst scum in the world. However, it's not until the sacking of Nipton that you realize just how cruel and depraved they truly are.
"You're late, Prince Kael'thas. I thought you Elves take pride in your punctuality".
The first time we see Jaina in action was when she fought back an ogre by herself. Arthas even tells his men not to help because they'll just get in the way.
In World of Warcraft, when Alliance players get a quest that is supposed to direct them towards the Alliance's main base in the Dragonblight region, they are supposed to deliver a critically important letter that contains the names of traitors and spies that work for the Cult of the Damned. When the player arrives and hands the letter to High Lord Halford Wyrmbane he crumples it and throws it aside, then points towards a bunch of corpses hanging from the arch of the main gate... He had already dealt with all the traitors without even needing the list. That's just how badass the 7th Legion is, of which he is in charge.
Invoked intentionally with Team Fortress 2 and the "Meet The Team" videos. You can learn everything you need to know about the individual classes by watching them. Most notable is Meet the Pyro, who being The Unintelligible, was only assumed to be mysterious and a pyromaniac. To the other characters, The Pyro's an Omnicidal Maniac, frightening even his/her/its teammates. However, through "Pyrovision," we learn that the Pyro is a schizophrenic that sees the world as a Sugar Bowl within seconds.
In the first game, in the middle of you getting a dubious and quite possibly suicidal mission briefing from Seth (who comments that "Power shifts quickly in the Brotherhood") Kane's hand appears in the corner of the screen holdinging a pistol, which he uses to blow Seth's brains out. Then he comments that "Yes, power shifts more quickly than some people think....", issues the player his orders, then congratulates the player on his promotion.
On the GDI side of the same game, Kane's introduction involves the player getting a series of routine reports from various news agencies on various topics, and in the middle of the reports Kane suddenly hacks into his data stream, tells the player that his/ EVA unit cannot help him, that his army is penniless and emasculated, that he is doomed to failure, and that he knows where you live and implies he has assassins on the way to kill you. Then he bids you a good day.
In addition to showcasing his personality, it also started a habit of his for GDI campaigns: introducing himself by hacking a communication system to gloat. He does it three times out of four.
In Tiberian Sun, Kane's first appearance on the Nod campaign occurs when Anton Slavik has captured General Hassan and is holding him on a massive stage with a huge screen behind him. Slavik starts chanting "In the name of Kane!" and the crowd responds with "Kane lives in death!" On the third repition, the screen erupts to life with Kane's face and he shouts "KANE LIVES!" Then he turns to Hassan and reminds him that "Rule of thumb, Hassan: you can't kill the Messiah."
In Tiberium Wars, Kane's first appearance on the Nod side has him stepping out of the mists in a chapel-like room and greet the new commander like a combination of proud father-figure and fiery holy man. On the GDI side, the player is hit by images showing the orbital command space station being nuked, multiple GDI regions where bombers are attacking, warnings of incoming invading forces, and finally Kane hacking the global news network to issue his taunting declaration of war.
In Grand Theft Auto IV, shortly after Niko kills his subordinate Vlad, he and Roman are kidnapped and wake up tied to chairs in the basement of Russian mob boss Mikhail Faustin who immediately establishes himself as violent, unconcerned with human life, and batshit insane:
Mikhail: [Pointing a gun at Niko] You think it's okay to kill one of my employees?
Modern Warfare makes sure we know where each of the primary villains sit.
Imran Zakhaev is introduced at the same time as Khaled al-Asad at President al-Fulani's execution. However, the scene makes the relationship between the two quite clear with a remarkably subtle gesture: when al-Asad appears, Zakhaev points a pistol at him, in the middle of a courtyard filled with al-Asad's soldiers - and al-Asad is the one who stops in his tracks, obviously surprised and worried. Then Zakhaev hands him the gun, and al-Asad executes al-Fulani, establishing who is in charge, and who is the subordinate.
Vladimir Makarov in the second game has an entire mission serve as his establishing character moment. It starts with him and his cronies machinegunning an airport (and you have to follow and help him). It ends with Makarov casually turning and shooting you in the head, revealing he knew you were a spy the whole time. And he gets worse from there.
In Kenji's second scene, he starts theorizing that Yamaku having mostly female students is proof of a feminist conspiracy trying to take over the world. He even suggests that Hisao is a possibly psychic spy based on him saying "It's me".
Hanako's first time interacting with Hisao in the library has her incredibly nervous at merely having his attention, eventually getting up and running away while saying "Ivegottogodosomething!"
Emi runs into Hisao in the hall, late for an errand because she went running, then defuses any anger he might have felt with puppy dog eyes.
Rin is introduced sitting on a table in the art club, eating with a fork held in her foot. Her conversation with Hisao, with topics ranging from asking what to call a meal between lunch and dinner to suggesting that his disorder is "in (his) pants".
Hideaki's moment in Lilly's route is when he guesses that something is wrong with Hisao's heart just by looking at him (and reasoning that there are no external deformities and he would not be attending Yamaku with a mental disorder), showcasing his intelligence and bluntness. In his introduction to Shizune's route, his competitive streak, which is more prevalent in that route, is showcased when he argues with Hisao over how much either is like Shizune.
In Jigoro's first scene, after introductions, he starts insulting the Yamaku student council for being lazy compared to the student councils of his childhood, and reacts to Hisao's politely asking what he does for a living by asking "Are you some kinda tax man, boy?". Things go downhill from there.
In Alan Wake, Agent Nightingale in his first appearance tries to shoot Alan Wake, completely ignoring the risk of hitting the innocent bystander who stands right next to Alan.
Viridi shows up after the action of one chapter is suddenly interrupted by a massive bomb that destroys the battlefield Pit was overlooking. Her first lines?
"Hahaha! Nice shot, if I do say so myself. Good riddance, human scum! The world's better off without you!"
Pyrrhon showcases his overly boistrous, superhero-esque personality almost before he is seen onscreen.
"Villains are no match for Pyrrhon!
Very early into Prototype 2, when James Heller first catches sight of Alex Mercer, he slits the latter's throat. It doesn't take, but it and the subsequent dogged pursuit firmly show that if anyone can take Alex down, it'll be James and his depleted uranium balls.
The Guardian's introduction during the intro to Ultima VII, where he taunts the Avatar through his computer back at home on Earth and tells you exactly what kind of entity he is.
Same goes with his co-conspirator Relius Clover. When he was only mentioned by Carl in Calamity Trigger, all we know is that 'he lacked compassion'. Come his first appearance in Continuum Shift, he shows what that really means: Callously turning Carl's sister and mother into automatons only for advancement of science without even care, and eventually hammered home in his own story in Continuum Shift Extend: He just sees people as things. From that point on, Relius is more known as both Mad Scientist extraordinary, and the worst father ever.
Final Fantasy IX brings out one for almost every single character introduced- hero or villain:
Zidane, having already proved himself a talented fighter, thief and actor, turns out to be something of a Handsome Lech when he's sent into Alexandria castle to abduct the princess- only to end up getting distracted by an attractive woman.
Garnet mistakes Zidane and Blank for palace guards and makes an impressive escape from them on foot. And when she realizes that Zidane's actually there to kidnap her, she changes tune and formally requests to be abducted.
Captain Steiner gets a whole segment of the game's earliest level to prove himself a laughingstock: not only is he constantly upstaged by Beatrix, forgotten by the Queen and saddled with the dumbest unit of soldiers in the entire Alexandrian military, but he's also a pompous twit with a habit of jumping up and down in impotent rage. But at the end of this segment, he sees Garnet being chased across the castle by Zidane; believing her to be under attack, he immediately grabs a rope and swings after them. True, he almost immediately crashes into a wall, but there's no denying the man's dedication.
Having been introduced as an advisor to Queen Brahne, Kuja proceeds to make as big a spectacle of himself as possible: overdramatically commenting on the weather, providing details on the Burmecian retreat using some oddly cryptic word choices, bragging about the magical power he'll use to defeat the Cleyran defences, and referring to Brahne's black mage army as "his." Then, when Beatrix has kicked the asses of Zidane and co, Kuja stays behind to examine them... then without saying another word, he departs on the back of a silver dragon. Hammy, melodramatic, weirdly-dressed... and the realpower behind Brahne's invasion.
Yuri is introduced looking awesome in the Lower Quarter. Within his first few lines he reveals his Flynncentric inferiority complex, then leaps out the window to go rescue the district while snarking at his dog.
Raven, when you first meet him in the castle dungeons, is telling a factually suspect tale to one of the guards, not unlike the false info he tends to feed you. He also helps Yuri out unexpectedly, and the intro even hints at his connection with the Imperial Knights when Alexei comes to get him out of prison.
Estelle is roaming around the castle looking like your stock helpless Princess...but then she threatens a bunch of guards with a sword and, after Yuri defeats them, tries to whack him over the head with a vase. Estelle in three words - impulsive, brave, and Adorkable.
Same deal with Tales of the Abyss, although the characters are usually so multifaceted and complex that they need a few scenes to get their essences across.
Luke is introduced staring out the window of his bedroom. He gets a mysterious headache, sasses a few maids and then sits down to dinner with Van and the Duke and Duchess Fabre. During that conversation he makes it abundantly clear that he thinks the world revolves around him.
Luke gets another one later on when he accidentally murders a guard during the Tartarus invasion. It sends him into minor Heroic BSOD mode and establishes that for all his self-centered behaviour, he is a Reluctant Hero who really doesn't like to kill.
Anise, like Luke, gets two important moments. One is her first appearance at an inn in Engeve, in which she complains about Ion running off again. Later, on the Tartarus, she immediately becomes MUCH friendlier with Luke when it's revealed that he's got money and a title.
Guy is introduced earlier, but his proper establishing moment is when he rescues Luke from the Tartarus...by leaping off the top of the giant landship, deflecting bullets with his sword, and declaring "Enter the amazing Guy!" with a cheesy grin. A few moments later, he gets a secondary moment when he panics because Tear tries to shake his hand.
Natalia is actually a perfect example of the importance of first impressions, as this establishing moment quite seriously misrepresents what her characterends up beingall about, but by the time she actually shows her true colours the damage may have already been done.
Presea enters carrying a piece of Sacred Wood that Lloyd and Genis can't even lift. She answers every question in a monotonous robot voice.
So you made it to the final level of Super Street Fighter II Turbo: The Ultimate Championship and about to thrash M. Bison for the umpteenth time. Then a shadow zooms ahead of you, grabs M. Bison, screen goes black, blows are landed, screen comes back and M. Bison is laid out by this new challenger. Meet AKUMA.
In Dead Space 3, Norton's first action was to have Carver break down Isaac's, take him hostage, and proceed to forced him to rescue Ellie. He relays on Isaac's good nature and love of Ellie to do it. Of course, he "forgets" to mention he is dating Ellie.
Tiny Tina is introduced singing a (heavily modified) nursery rhyme before blowing up a bandit with a stick of dynamite.
Breath of Fire IV starts somewhat innocuously, but firmly establishes the otherwise taciturn Ryu as a hero by having him jump off a cliff without hesitation to rescue Nina, a girl he just met, after she falls. It also establishes him as a bit naive when he passes her on the way down because, hey, her wings aren't just for show, causing him to Face Fault.
Most of the characters in Final Fantasy VI get at least one moment early on which showcases their personality, but the blue ribbon almost certainly goes to Kefka, who's introduced as he slips a mind control device on Terra (and somehow gets even worse from there.)
Chiaki in Our Two Bedroom Story is first seen receiving a gift of homemade cookies from a female colleague, which he accepts happily... and then dumps in the trash as soon as he thinks no one is looking.
The cast of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors are designed to emulate certain stereotypes, so that the player will be surprised when they show their Hidden Depths. Their appearances are actually quite different from their true personalities, as first displayed when...
...Lotus does the Cold Equation and asks everyone to choose who they're going to sacrifice, as the Deadly Game's rules dictate that at least one person will have to be left behind. We know from this scene that Lotus is intelligent and coldly pragmatic.
...Seven recounts a memory from his past as a P.I, when he tracked down a group of kidnapped children and unsuccessfully tried to save them. This shows us that Seven is smarter and more heroic than he looks, as well as giving us vital information on the plot's backstory.
...June enters the incinerator room for the first time. Why she's there and what she does in it is vital for understanding her character.
In Nancy Drew: The Curse of Blackmoor Manor, you first hear Jane eagerly talking to her tutor about how excited she is to have a stranger (you) visiting the castle, and asking if they can play a game. We learn Jane's favourite hobby from this, and that she is lonely and easily bored.