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Prolonged Prologue

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Gabe: In the same amount of time it's taken me to get bored of Final Fantasy XIII, I experienced Uncharted 2's entire narrative arc. [...]
Kiko: Well, how far are you in FF?
Gabe: I don't know. Like, twelve hours?
Kiko: Come on! At least play through the tutorial.

It's common for a work to have a beginning sequence that is used for setting the scene of the main plot, aka the prologue. In visual media, it's not unusual to have a short sequence run before the opening credits.

This trope comes into play when said sequence is so long that it makes up a significant percentage of the work, and yet is "only" a prologue. This is also the case when, in a Video Game, after hours upon hours of fighting your way through hordes of enemies, and defeating their leader, the title screen appears, and it's all revealed to have been an Action Prologue.

Remember that Tropes Are Tools; this trope defies one of the standard rules of narration ("prologues should be short or non-existent", "get to the plot quickly") that modern audiences have come to expect. As with all rule-breaking and subversion of expectations, depending on the skill of the creators and the perception of their audience, this can come off as either brilliant or perplexing: a wonderful surprise, or a betrayal of trust. Viewers of films may be impatient that you aren't immediately giving them the thrills they paid for, Video Game players may feel cheated that the huge, effort-intensive climax they achieved is not the climax of the story at all; it may feel like you're Moving the Goalposts.

While Literature and Sequential Art readers may feel less worried if they know the length and structure of the work in advance (they can do so merely by glancing at the index), this does not hold true if the work is serialized, and experienced at the rate of its release. In that case, they may feel they have been cheated into emotionally investing themselves in a story whose apparent structure made them expect it to be much shorter than it really is; this is a violation of tacit consent in a fashion not unlike that of The Chris Carter Effect.

Related to The Teaser (aka Cold Open) and Slow-Paced Beginning. In music, an Epic Instrumental Opener might feel like this. When it's seemingly intended to be funny, that's an Overly Long Gag. In video games, the prologue's end may coincide with Opening the Sandbox. Compare Close on Title, when you don't see the title until the very end. Contrast Ending Fatigue, which constitutes a similar betrayal, but from the other direction; rather than a belated plot ignition, we get a climax that, instead of exploding, peters out in a disappointing and unrewarding way.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Berserk begins In Medias Res, takes a few chapters to set the tone of the tale and the current Status Quo, and then takes twelve volumes to explain How We Got Here: the Golden Age arc. Notoriously, the first anime adaptation Berserk (1997) doesn't get out of the flashback, closing with the Darkest Hour and leaving it there.
  • Dragon Ball Super: Broly takes a good twenty-five minutes to explain the backstory that influenced the remaining seventy-five minutes of the film. That is to say, 25% of the whole movie.
  • Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works], like the original visual novel, has a fairly long prologue. In this case, there are two double-length introductory episodes at the start of the series- one from Rin's POV and one from Shiro's.
  • Gungrave similarly spends 15 of 26 episodes on a flashback to before the plot of the video game it's based on to establish How We Got Here. It is said to be by far the best part of the series.
  • The Kotoura-san anime starts with Downer Beginning that is 10 minutes and 40 seconds long. Discounting the time used in opening and ending sequences, that's half of the first episode.
  • The first nine chapters of Oshi no Ko (adapted into the first episode, which lasts 1 hour 20 minutes) turn out to be the prologue of the story.
  • Pokémon: The First Movie takes about ten minutes before the opening titles appear, and 20 minutes if the "Mewtwo's Origin" segment is included.
  • By the time the anime adaptation of Re:Zero gets to the point where Subaru resolves to start his life in another world from zero, 18 of the 25 episodes (and only about a week in real-time) have passed. Of course, the series' gimmick (Subaru being sent back in time whenever he dies) means that a lot has actually happened during those 18 episodes, with Subaru repeatedly failing to save Emilia and co and suffering multiple Heroic BSoDs.
  • The first chapter of Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, which details how Lag met Gauche when the latter delivered him to Cambel Litus after Lag's mother disappeared, is extremely long for a monthly manga, so much so that it's split into two episodes for the anime adaptation. This is largely because it has a lot of ground to cover- not just delivering Lag to Cambel Litus, but establishing the setting, revealing Lag and Gauche's backstories, and setting up Lag's ultimate goals. After that's finished, there are several chapters/episodes before Lag finally becomes a Letter Bee and the story truly begins.
  • Vinland Saga is also impressive. You start off In Medias Res with a fortress getting besieged, then there is a flashback where you learn that Thorfinn (the protagonist)'s entire motive for being with the mercenaries is to kill their leader in a fair duel - because that man killed his father by holding Thorfinn hostage. Thorfinn is seriously that dangerously single-minded; he has a Quest, and one would expect the story to be about this quest, and conclude with him achieving it. This is not so; when everything is said and done and the protagonist's quest comes to a conclusion, and you think the story is going to end, you see the chapter title: "Chapter 54: End of Prologue." Given that it took a few years (both in-universe and out) to reach that point, expectations for the length of this story have been drastically reconsidered, with mixed reactions.
  • World Masterpiece Theater is famous for shows with glacial pacing that includes several-episodes-long prologues.
    • 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother is about a boy, Marco, who goes to South America to find his mother. The first 15 episodes are spent looking at Marco's daily life and waiting for letters from mother before he finally decides to go find her himself.
    • Porphy no Nagai Tabi is about two siblings torn apart by an earthquake and its aftermath. Said earthquake only happens at the end of episode 12. The previous episodes establish the siblings' simple but happy life with their parents.

    Comic Books 
  • Frank Miller's Holy Terror doesn't get to its first plot point until halfway through the book.
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: Averted thanks to a positive example of Executive Meddling. In his first draft of the first issue, Don Rosa spent 7 pages (out of 15) on a dense summary of The McDuck family's history from the Battle of Hasting to the 1860's, cramming in as many trivia from the Bark stories he could muster. Egmont editor Byron Erickson sugested that maybe the first issue of something called The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck should, you know, actually star Scrooge McDuck. The gist of the scene was remade into less than a page of dialogue where Scrooge were told about his family history by his father.
  • The first issue of the New 52 Justice League is a Batman/Green Lantern story with a cliffhanger where they meet Superman, and the beginning of Cyborg's origin story. #2 adds the Flash, and #3 has Wonder Woman and a cliffhanger appearance by Aquaman. #4 finally has all the characters from the cover of #1 working together.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The movie 127 Hours doesn't reveal its title until 15 minutes in.
  • In After the Thin Man, the murder that forms the central mystery doesn't happen until halfway through the movie. Before that the film has an extended comic setpiece with Nick and Nora coming home to find a party, a comic scene with their dog Asta and Mrs. Asta, and another long sequence where Nick is dragged unwillingly to dine with Nora's family on New Year's Eve.
  • The Agony and the Ecstasy begins with a 12-minute mini-documentary showcasing Michelangelo's greatest works.
  • The Uwe Boll film Alone in the Dark (2005) is notorious for having the longest text scroll in film, clocking in at about 100 seconds, as in nearly two minutes of spoken word and text. The scroll was inserted into the film because test audiences couldn't make heads or tails of the film's plot, so they wrote the scroll to explain some of it. Audiences then complained that it was too boring, so they added a voiceover. It didn't help much.
  • The A-Team took about 20 minutes to get to the title drop!
  • The Taiwanese martial arts movie, Bloody Hand Goddess, has a 15-minute prologue before the opening titles, and serves as A Minor Kidroduction for the main character losing her family as a little girl and growing up to avenge their deaths.
  • Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet has an opening so long it's practically a film within a film.
  • Cloverfield spends the first 21 minutes just showing a party, a fourth of the film's running time! This part is mostly irrelevant to the rest of the movie. Depending on the fan, this was a good thing as it made the rest of the film all the more suspenseful.
  • The Deer Hunter has an extremely long first act showing the main characters' lives in small-town, working-class America before they get to the actual war.
  • The credits for The Departed don't appear until nearly 20 minutes after the start of the movie, by which time you've already seen a flashback scene, a Training Montage, and the first plot twist.
  • Descendants 3: A full seven minutes elapse before the movie's title appears, complete with the opening number "Good To Be Bad".
  • Drive My Car: The opening credits don't occur until about 45 minutes into the 3-hour movie.
  • The Empty Man has a 23-minute prologue before the title screen, depicting the group of hikers that discover The Empty Man's remains, and what happens to them over the next three days.
  • The opening credits of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind appear 18 minutes into the film, at the end of the first reel.
  • Fantastic Four (2015) was criticized for, among other things, having the characters gain their superpowers halfway through the film.
  • Fargo takes about 30 minutes, or a third of its runtime, depicting a complicated ransom plot that leads to three murders; it's only then that we meet Marge Gunderson, the police chief protagonist, who investigates the case.
  • Friday the 13th:
    • Friday the 13th Part 2 begins with a Cold Open that set an initial record for length. It follows the evening routine of Alice, the first movie's Final Girl, building up the tension with Jump Scares and Scare Chords until Jason finally gets her.
    • The 2009 remake hits the title screen so far into the film that the viewer is likely to have forgotten about the credits not being over several minutes prior. It takes 23 minutes for it to show the title screen, which is fully one fourth the running time of the entire film.
  • Good Time has an extended intro sequence featuring several locations before its opening credits roll.
  • Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later has the title screen about 22 minutes in.
  • In Hellboy, the first thirteen or so minutes introduce the villains and show how baby Hellboy wound up on Earth, leading to the title card. After that, it takes about ten more minutes before we actually meet adult Hellboy.
  • In the film Helldriver, the opening credits are approximately 48 minutes into the film.
  • Hugo has a very long prologue, which is awesome.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has what seems like an interminably long prologue set just before World War I, when Indy is a teen boy. This prologue serves multiple purposes: 1) to set up the Cross of Coronado as a Chekhov's Gun that turns up (a quarter of a century later!) in the film's real Action Prologue with an adult Indy; 2) to establish Indy's fleeting relationship with his father, which lends a certain weight to those characters' later scenes together; and 3) to explain how Indy acquired his trademark fedora, his bullwhip, the scar on his chin, and his crippling fear of snakes.
  • James Bond:
    • Most pre-title sequences in the series clock in at a few minutes, though there are exceptions.
      • The opening for The World Is Not Enough is nearly fifteen minutes long, and actually has a fairly clear cutoff point between its two scenes that could've been the act break. This is because that was originally going to be the end of the pre-title sequence, but test audiences felt that it was lackluster compared to recent Bond movies, so they stretched it out to include the next scene as well, which involved a lengthy, exciting boat chase.
      • The pre-title portion of No Time to Die is even longer, clocking at around twenty minutes (precisely 23 minutes and 47 seconds, if you count from the moment the gunbarrel opens until the final frame of the opening credits). The movie begins with a literal cold open in snowy Norway which focuses on Madeleine's childhood and her encounter with the villain Safin. Action then shifts to Matera, Italy with Bond and Madeleine as adults on a romantic getaway, picking up where the previous film Spectre left off. Then we finally get to see Bond in action after Spectre operatives attempt to kill him, and - after that epic beginning eventually concludes - the credits and title song.
    • From Russia with Love has not one, but two extended prologues. The first 25 minutes is made up entirely of exposition setting up the main story. Bond himself doesn't appear at all until 18 minutes into the film.note  The next 25 are spent on Bond waiting until it's time for his mission to recover the LEKTOR device and assisting his friend Karim Bay, by the time the main story finally kicks off the film is 50 minutes in; nearly half the movie's running time.
  • Jumanji, the prologue takes about 1/3 of the movie and is split into 3 parts, the first short prologue show how the game winds up underground. The second long one shows Alan's life and how he got in the game. The third introduces the kids and how they got the game.
  • The Longest Day begins with the Allied High Command planning the Normandy landing, the Nazi High Command discussing on whether the Allies will attack and where, and only by the 45 minute mark the soldiers are actually starting to raid France.
  • Peter Jackson's Middle Earth films as a rule usually take between 10 to 20 minutes to go from the The Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit title cards to the actual subtitle of the film in question. In the extended editions it sometimes takes even longer.
  • Love Exposure takes this to an almost absurd level. The title sequence doesn't show up until almost an hour into the film - almost a quarter of its entire running time. And it's worth noting that actually IS a prologue - that entire hour is necessary to set up the rest of the plot - and it is immediately followed by the "Chapter 2" title card.
  • Mars Attacks! has a very long prologue... which is unfortunate for those who want the aliens to hurry up and invade. Fortunately, the invasion in question proves to be very entertaining.
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life begins with "The Crimson Permanent Assurance," which was originally supposed to be just one of the sketches of the film, but grew into a 15 minute short film that got stuck at the beginning. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.
  • Pacific Rim has seemingly two prologues. The first is a montage narrated by the protagonist covering the history of the war with the Kaiju and Jaegers. The second is the first action scene of Gipsy Danger versus Knifehead. Then we get to the title.
  • The Phenix City Story begins with a completely superfluous newsreel wherein Real Life reporter Clete Roberts interviews some of the real-life people portrayed in the film and thus outlines the events of the film (or spoils them, if the viewer was not already familiar with the case of Albert Patterson). It takes up 13 minutes of a 100-minute runtime.
  • The Japanese black comedy R100 has the title card come up 41 minutes into the 99 minute film.
  • Raising Arizona begins with an accelerated account of how the main characters met, got married, discovered that they could not have a child, and hatched a scheme to steal a baby. The title screen rolls just as they're driving out for the kidnapping. Essentially the prologue is the first act of the film.
  • Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is a roughly 88-minute movie. The first 40 or so of those minutes are spent recapping events from the preceding movie. After that, another 25 minutes or so is spent explaining through flashback how the main character got to where he is at the beginning of the movie.
  • Sorcerer: The film takes over half its run time to actually get to the core story element of truck drivers hauling nitroglycerin. The film individually establishes each of the four principle characters through a sequence of seemingly unconnected vignettes that lasts half an hour, until they all arrive in the same place. The nitroglycerin isn't introduced until 50 minutes into the film, and the expedition doesn't start until 65 minutes in, out of a two-hour film.
  • Star Trek:
  • Suicide Squad's Troubled Production led to it having serious problems with this. Deadshot and Harley get an Establishing Character Moment of their abuse at the hands of the prison guards. Then what follows is a series of Intro Dump flashbacks, contextualised as Amanda Waller explaining her Task Force X idea over a dinner. Then there is another set of introduction scenes, including of previously introduced characters. The main plot only starts over halfway through the movie, and even that is padded with flashbacks. This is all an artifact of the heavy plot alterations, reshoots and re-edits that plagued the movie, meaning any interesting footage shot for cut plotlines was repurposed as flashback scenes.
  • An issue for many Superhero films, which can take a little over an hour establishing the main character's origin story. The Avengers made a deliberate attempt to avoid it by splitting the origin stories across several movies, so that it could begin the action from the start.
  • To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar opens with two Drag Queens from New York City winning a state-level Beauty Contest and gaining entry into a national pageant in LA, then deciding to take a younger losing contestant with them. To pay her way, they sell their plane tickets for an old but stylish convertible to drive the way down. The pageant intro, buying the car, and their road trip takes roughly half the movie, then the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, leaving the trio stuck in a rural hick town for a few days while replacement parts are ordered. This is when the real plot begins as the drag queens interact with the townspeople.
  • Wanted almost has one convinced that there won't be a title card... until its title finally shows up 24 minutes into the film as a newspaper headline. By then, we've seen two full action scenes, 10 minutes of character development, an introduction to the film's world and a scene of the protagonist quitting his job.

  • Brave Story takes around a short novel's number of pages before Wataru finds out about Vision and starts on his quest inside Vision. Tropes Are Tools - the prologue has plenty of foreshadowing, and it provides a highly appropriate context as to why exactly Wataru would want to go into Vision to change his fate anyways. It manages to give the reader plenty of time to get to know who Wataru is before he is thrust into another world with a task to accomplish.
  • In The Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath's "Prologue" (mostly a defense of remarriage) is longer than her actual story. The Friar, who is supposed to tell his tale after hers, gets rather fed up with the lengthy backstory.
  • Epithet Erased: Prison of Plastic: The book opens with four prologue chapters, each focusing on a different group of characters — Molly Blyndeff and her friends, Trixie and Phoenica; her big brother mentor Giovanni Potage; her older sister, Lorelai; and her speech teacher, Naven — that mainly serve to reintroduce the main characters from the webseries it serves as a continuation of, in addition to introducing the newer cast members before the main narrative kicks in. All in all, the "main" story doesn't start until a sixth of the way in.
  • The prologue of Clive Barker's "The Great and Secret Show" is over 100 pages long, takes place 20 years before the main story, and concerns characters who play small but important roles in the plot. This prologue actually ends with the birth of the book's main characters.
  • Most of the Harry Potter novels spend quite a bit of time setting up the story before it really gets going. Philosopher's Stone doesn't even get to Hogwarts until halfway through the book. Then again, the beginning was absolutely necessary to set up the plot for the entire series. Compare with some of the other books that take even longer (page wise) such as Goblet of Fire which doesn't see Harry arrive until page 171. The most egregious is Order of the Phoenix where Harry and co. don't get to Hogwarts until page 200, and that's in tinier print than the other books. Not surprising considering it's the biggest of the books.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • In The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, an unnecessarily large amount of time is spent on the SOS Brigade preparing for a Christmas party that the audience doesn't even get to see. A few important plot points are established, but most of it can be seen as unnecessary padding. Kyon even lampshades it, observing that it was "too long for a prologue." The movie adaptation, despite mostly being very well made, makes it even worse, as very little actually happens until about an hour and a half into the film.
    • The Dissociation of Haruhi Suzumiya goes even further, with a prologue that takes up about a third of the book; half of it is spent recapping everything about the SOS Brigade and most of the side characters, while the other half consists of Koizumi walking Kyon through a Flashback and berating him for being Selectively Oblivious to Love.
  • The Icelandic Sagas generally tend to take quite a bit of time explaining the backstory and deriving the hero's genealogy before getting on with the main plot. This may explain a few things about both the Tolkien examples and Vinland Saga (see the Anime section), which derived considerable inspiration from them.
  • The first volume of INVADERS of the ROKUJYOUMA!? is dedicated to introducing the titular invaders. In the eyes of some, the first seven volumes (which includes the entirely of the 12-Episode Anime) are this, as they serve to set up the Blue Knight arc where the plot really gets going.
  • In Stephen King's It a (relatively) brief teaser chapter leads into the rest of the prologue, an over 100 pages long story about how the main characters start their return to Derry.
  • Journey to the West: It's evident that Sun Wukong/Monkey is the real protagonist because the first seven chapters are about his life story, set centuries before the ostensible main character Tripitaka is even born. After that, the novel sets up the other main characters and then introduces Tripitaka... with his complex backstory and lineage. Then the main adventures actually start.
  • Jurassic Park takes about half of its page count to get to the core element of dinosaurs running amok. The book has two actual prologues with characters who never return again. Once we meet our main characters, they take a short time to get to Jurassic Park and then spend a very long time on a guided tour before things finally start breaking down.
  • Keep a Lid on It, Pandora! begins with the creation of man and the story of Prometheus. Because of this, Pandora doesn't show up until the seventh or eighth chapter. The fifth chapter actually bears the title, "Where is Pandora?", and begins with Hades, the narrator, telling impatient readers when she'll come. He then advises them to "Keep a lid on it!" until her entrance.
  • Les Misérables has an especially lengthy one, setting up the protagonist's action that caused him to go to prison, that time in prison, his attempts to get a job after prison, his fateful meeting with a bishop, his reformation into a new man, his cunning climb to a successful mayor... and that's still just the prologue.
  • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is written as the autobiography of Tristram Shandy. It starts with Tristram explaining the circumstances surrounding his conception, rapidly approaching his birth. While his mother is in labor, the book mentions Uncle Toby who is sitting in a chair. Tristram goes on to talk about Uncle Toby's life and character, and how he was a soldier until he was wounded in the groin by a cannonball, and then how he went insane and constructed a small replica of the battlefield he'd been wounded on, which he then blew to bits with small replica cannons. Tristram Shandy is eventually born on page 92, when Uncle Toby suggests they ask someone to check and see if Tristram's mother is in labor. It's a incredibly funny and/or pointless book.
  • Life of Pi takes around a hundred pages just to get to the point where the blurb begins.
  • Even fans of The Lord of the Rings will admit that Tolkien takes his sweet time getting the hobbits out of the Shire.
    • Justified to an extent; it helps the reader appreciate what they're risking and fighting for; without it, the penultimate chapter lacks much of its impact. The actual prologue, on the other hand, is twenty pages of Info Dump (including a recap of some of The Hobbit, an essay on life in the Shire and one on the Hobbits' smoking habits). Interesting stuff, but you can certainly skip it the first time through.
    • It's even worse if you consider the penultimate chapter itself to be part of the corresponding Ending Fatigue. All together, depending how you define it, the story has between 80 and 200 pages of exposition, spanning several years (including the Time Skip in which Frodo spends years in the Shire not really doing anything.)
    • Another J. R. R. Tolkien example: The Silmarillion, which begins with a long, drawn-out introduction and a geneaology to boot. Though it does improve, many readers don't even get through that first part.
  • Often part of Mercedes Lackey's writing, as she is always interested in exploring the worldbuilding and the daily life of a given book's main characters well in advance of disrupting it, even though that disruption usually comes with changing locations and losing most contact with the other characters who were part of that daily life. One example, [1], is very front-loaded with a good half of the book being about Lavan and his miserable school life, leaving his life after being Chosen compressed in comparison and the war very squashed.
  • Parodied with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. First there is a dedication, then a prologue, an introduction, a forward, introduction to the preface, the preface, acknowledgments, a special edition introduction, translation notes, and finally notes about the typeface.
  • Older Than Feudalism: The Odyssey's first four books (out of 24) are sometimes called "the Telemachy," as they focus on Odysseus' son, Telemachus, as he deals with the suitors and learns about his father. Add that Odysseus' part starts In Medias Res and it takes a while before we get to the most famous parts of the story, where he and his crew sail around and encounter monsters.
  • The Overstory: A good third of the book is spent on stand-alone short stories telling the backstory of each of the nine protagonists.
  • The Scarlet Letter has what is called "The Customs House," an elaborate prologue detailing how the author discovered the manuscript. It's about a quarter-to-half the length of most printings of the book. Furthermore, the first actual chapter is called "The Prison Door," the entirety of which is spent describing a prison door and a rosebush beside it.
  • The first three volumes of the Seirei Gensouki: Spirit Chronicles serve as an Exposition Dump that establishes the new world setting of the story, alongside who the major characters are. It's only the arrival of the "heroes" does the narrative change dramatically; even the Manga adaptation Lampshades this, where the narration states the story has reached "the end of the prologue".
  • Most books of Septimus Heap take some time before even showing the main characters.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire is relatively punchy in pacing, despite its large cast. Having said that, it takes until, literally, the last word of A Game of Thrones for its main character to be positioned for their role in the Myth Arc (specifically, Daenerys hatching her dragons, which will presumably be instrumental in the war against the Others). With that in mind, one could make the argument that the entire first book is an 806-page prologue, and a similar one about the 10-hour first season of Game of Thrones.
  • The book Spring Moon starts with a prologue about the main character at the age of about eight, and recounting the despair and suicide of her servant and friend. It has no bearing on the plot, except for some symbolic and thematic value - but it is at least an excellent short story all by itself.
  • The prologue of State of Fear is one third of the book.
  • The first BIONICLE book, Tale of the Toa dedicates six chapters to describing how each of the Toa discover themselves, their surroundings, meet their people and each other, until they finally all come together and kick off the plot.
  • The Way of Kings (2010) (first book of The Stormlight Archive): The book starts out with a prelude, which acts as a prologue for the entire series, and takes place four and a half thousand years before the start of the rest of the book. Then there is the prologue, showing the assassination of King Gavilar from his assassin's point of view. Then the first chapter is Cenn's point of view, joining Kaladin Stormblessed's squad. Then finally the story proper starts on page forty-eight, with Kaladin's first chapter. The next book in the series has a prologue showing Gavilar's assassination from his daughter's point of view, but it dives into the story much faster.
  • The Wheel of Time series uses these from book 6 onwards to catch up on what the major players in the entire cast were doing. This would usually take upwards of 50 pages.
  • Dean Koontz's book Your Heart Belongs to Me was terrible about this. The summary of the plot on the back of the book explains the second half of the book. The entire first half is the prologue.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alias's prologues would frequently go ten to eleven minutes. The show is more radical in its first two seasons. Frequently episodes would end with the 3rd Act cliffhanger and the 4th Act would be knocked on to the next week where it would serve as an extended prologue pushing that episode's 1st Act into the 2nd Act's slot (roughly minute 11 to minute 22) the 2nd Act would then push the 3rd Act back so that the episode ended on the 3rd Act cliffhanger and so on...
  • All That started using these since the 2019 reboot, lasting from nine to eleven minutes.
  • A couple episodes in the third season of Daredevil (2015) really push it when it comes to delaying the title card. Episode 4, "Blindsided," takes eight minutes to get to the title card, with two scenes (Matt Murdock arrives at the prison, juxtaposed with Foggy being urged by Marci to run for D.A. to expose Fisk). Episode 9, "Revelations," takes 14 minutes to reach the title card, with three lengthy scenes preceding it (a flashback to how Matt's parents met, Matt confronting Father Lantom over withholding the truth from him, and lastly, Ray Nadeem visiting his boss with information about Dex, only to find out she's in Fisk's pocket).
  • The Classic Doctor Who story "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" is a six-part story, with the entire first episode being nothing more than a lengthy prologue leading up to a dinosaur appearing at the end.
  • Flashpoint's prologues are generally about five to six minutes, though in some cases up to ten.
  • Episode 3 of Good Omens (2019) showcases the backstory for Aziraphale and Crowley's relationship, clocking in at around half an hour before the title card shows up. This necessitates a five second blipvert to get you caught back up after the credits.
  • The Good Wife will routinely spend about ten minutes leading up to the title card in each episode.
  • Henry Danger started using these consistently in its final two seasons.
    • Its spin-off Danger Force does the same thing, with part 2 of "Down Goes Santa" lasting nearly thirteen minutes.
  • Legion (2017) has probably the most extreme example out there. In Chapter 12 (Episode 4 of Season 2) the opening titles are not shown until about 30 seconds before the episode ends.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: First season has a 17 minutes long prologue until the opening titles begin.
  • Madam Secretary opens every episode with a first act up to 12 minutes long before the title card.
  • In season 2, episode 9 of Marco Polo, the opening credits don't appear until almost halfway through.
  • One Monty Python's Flying Circus episode begins with a behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the movie epic Scott of the Antarctic that goes on for about two thirds of the show before we see John Cleese's BBC announcer and the opening titles.
  • The season 1 pilot of The OA ran for over 57 minutes, over 80% through the show, before the title and opening credits. (Likely also a Unique Pilot Title Sequence.) The closing credits begin less than 11 minutes later. The season 2 opening episode's title card and opening credits begin over 37 minutes in.
  • In the episode 403 Forbidden of Mr. Robot, the title card does not appear until about the 15-minute mark, almost a third into the episode.
  • Revenge takes about nine minutes to get to the title card.
  • Side Hustle is prone to having cold opens last from 5-9 minutes.
  • Later seasons of The Thundermans are prone to these.
  • Episodes of Warehouse 13 have opening sequences of anywhere from a couple minutes to over 10. The series premiere took over 20 minuted to get to the title, with Pete, Myka, and Artie's character's clearly established first.

  • "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" by George Thorogood doesn't reach the chorus for the first time until three-and-a-half minutes into an eight-and-a-half-minute song. Up until then, the narrator of the song loses his job, gets kicked out of his apartment, espouses on his now ex-landlord, and tries to sleep over at a friend's place, only to get rejected by the friend's wife. Nothing having to do with alcohol until the chorus itself, when the narrator orders the titular drinks from a bartender.
  • Played with in Stan Freberg's cover of "Rock Island Line," which begins with a long yarn about an incident that supposedly happened on the line, repeatedly interrupted with Studio Chatter telling the singer to cut to the song.
  • Pink Floyd's pechant for an Epic Instrumental Opener sometimes leads to this. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" has about 8 minutes of music before there are any vocals.
  • Clan of Xymox's Matters of Mind, Body, and Soul has a 7-minute symphonic intro track, which serves as an Epic Instrumental Opener to the first proper song.
  • Porcupine Tree's 35 minute epic "The Sky Moves Sideways" takes 5 whole minutes for the singing to start.
  • The first track of Death Cab for Cutie's Narrow Stairs, "I Will Possess Your Heart", has a 5-minute instrumental buildup.
  • The Offspring's "Pay the Man" is eight minutes long, but everything up to the 5th minute is this - mostly an Epic Instrumental Opener with a Middle-Eastern tint and some sparse lyrics.

  • The 1919 musical Apple Blossoms had a first act sometimes listed as a prologue. The male lead did not appear until the middle of the next act.
  • The Ring of the Nibelung: Wagner considered Das Rheingold to be a "prelude" to the Ring Cycle proper. Although it's the shortest of the four parts, it's still a full-length opera with a running time of over two and a half hours. In fact, Wagner originally planned to just do Götterdämmerung, but had so much backstory that he added a prequel...and another...and another.
  • Into the Woods begins with a musical sequence introducing the characters (and setting up the plot) that lasts for 12 minutes on the original cast recording. Seeing as that takes out several lines of dialogue, it could be even longer.
  • Love Never Dies originally had one set several years after the main action. It's 8+ minutes long and establishes that the beautiful Coney Island Amusement Park Phantasma was a wonderland ruined by the treachery of Madame Giry. Unfortunately, the main action starts by reestablishing how wonderful Phantasma is, so it's another six-plus minutes before any of the leads turn up. The Australian production of the show threw most of this out in favor of using the Phantom's "Till I Hear You Sing" as the prologue, followed by the original opening's "Coney Island Waltz" to establish the new setting. As it is, it's still full quarter hour into the show before Christine's arrival is mentioned and the main thrust of the plot begins.

    Video Games 
  • The Massively Multiplayer game Aion has the player character rise fully one fifth of the game's level structure before they're even allowed to become the Daeva that the game is clearly building you up to be. Somewhat less annoying than other examples, because the first world players find has plenty to do with little repetition, but it can still take up to a day.
  • Advent Rising lets you witness the destruction of Gideon's Doomed Homeplanet through his eyes. It takes pretty long.
  • Assassin's Creed III: The first three sequences have you play as Haytham Kenway, Connor's father; once control switches over, you still have a while before Connor becomes an Assassin proper. Overall it's several hours in that Connor finally puts on his Assassin's Robes. Less hated than most examples though since Haytham is likeable in his own right and it allows for more justified tutorials while still jumping into the action.
  • In Breath of Fire III, the first few missions take place in a very small portion of the map with very limited access to shops, fishing spots or masters, and after raiding McNeil Mansion, your two alliesaren't seen again until the second half, and any Level Grinding you did with them is wasted. After that, you're sent on a very linear mission that only allows you access to one part of the map at a time while you assemble your team, and it isn't until you defeat Balio and Sunder that you have full access to the majority of the continent and can start properly building your team.
  • Clock Tower (1995) has a slow narrative of the girls being walked to the Barrows Mansion, and then forces you to walk around and talk to the girls repeatedly to get an understanding of the game's controls before letting you leave the foyer and having shit hit the fan. However, the game also has the best feature ever in the form of "Quick Start", which skips the entire narrative and puts you in the foyer, after the entire prologue when the girls have gone missing. Very helpful in a game that banks on its replay value with Multiple Endings and some randomly-generated events and layouts.
  • The Gaiden Game Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls continues the Danganronpa tradition of long prologues. After the introductory cutscene, a Monokuma chases Komaru Naegi out of her apartment, and she's given a Hacking Gun to use against the Monokumas and fights them in a restaurant across the street before getting captured while trying to escape via helicopter. Then there's a brief sneaking section on the villains' airship, and they introduce themselves before dropping Komaru onto a hospital roof, where Chapter 1 finally begins.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Dragon Age: Origins has a unique prologue for each character, generally about 45 minutes to an hour to play and then a second prologue that all characters share. Now, some if not most of the prologues are widely considered by many to have better plots than the whole rest of the game; the follow-up prologue at Ostagar as a Grey Warden recruit? It's considered to be below par with the rest of the game, with being forced to replay it once per playthrough hardly helping.
    • Dragon Age II, in the meantime, opens with Church Militant Cassandra interrogating smooth-talker Varric about the whereabouts of his friend Hawke. The game starts with A Taste of Power (quickly rescinded by Narrative Backpedaling), a Tutorial Level, and a second "prologue" in the Kirkwall refugee camp—all interspersed by cutscenes—before Hawke finally meets Varric one in-story year after the tutorial, and the main story kicks off. For that matter, the entire game serves as a Prolonged Prologue to Dragon Age: Inquisition. The reason Cassandra is interrogating Verric in the first place is to find out how the Mage-Templar War got started and to see if Hawke can lead a new Inquisition to restore order. The game's ending leads right into the beginning of Inquisition.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition itself has a rather obvious "Disc One" of the game where you attempt to close the Breach, reform the ancient Inquisition, resolve the Mage-Templar War, close the Breach for real... and only then, about 15 hours in, you encounter the real villain for the first time, and the game proper begins after you establish yourself at Skyhold.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • Dragon Quest II started the trend, with the game detailing the fall of Moonbrooke Castle and its Sole Survivor walking slowly to Midenhall, followed with an Exposition Dump, before you could make the Prince of Midenhall do anything. Back in the days where other games let the player control their character almost immediately after starting the game, Dragon Quest II made the player wait nearly 10 minutes before the player could do anything.
    • Dragon Quest IV, If you're going to take the Hero's arc as the real start of the game, the whole 4 chapters before that will be just the prologues or background stories to you.
    • Dragon Quest VII has an entire story arc and dungeon before your first battle. Its not that long proportionally (yes, 2 to 4 hours long, but generally a 100+ hour game), though, given that the game itself is one of the longest around.
  • Endless Frontier EXCEED is split on chapters. The first three are named "Prologue 1", "Prologue 2" and "Prologue" 3 and take an hour minimum each (Note it's a long game, especially for a portable system), during which you take control of several characters, defeat several bosses, get plot and exposition going off just fine and gameplay elements are introduced and explained.
  • Fallout 3's lengthy Justified Tutorial follows the protagonist through their formative years in Vault 101. However, the game autosaves and allows you to reconfigure your character just before leaving the Vault, so the tutorial can be skipped on subsequent playthroughs.
  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon begins with an on-rails shooter sequence, followed by the title screen and a lengthy Forced Tutorial mission, and you can't even save the game until after completing said mission.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy has the first mission which can take a decent amount of grinding to accomplish (most FAQs recommend getting to level 5) and is implied to be the primary goal, but then you get the real start and a new opening scroll.
    • The 3D remake of Final Fantasy III has a significantly longer prologue than the original game. In the Famicom version, the prologue concluded at the end of the first cave, when the four orphans defeated the Land Turtle and discovered the Wind Crystal. In the remake, only one of them is present for this section of the game. The prologue is extended to introduce the newly fleshed out heroes one at a time, and they don't get the Crystal's powers until they're all together and defeat the second boss, Djinn.
    • Final Fantasy V really begins after completing the Wind Temple dungeon and unlocking the job system, usually about an hour or so into the game. Even then, the actual plot of trying to save the other Crystals doesn't start for another half an hour.
    • Final Fantasy VII doesn't start properly until you're out of Midgar, which can take anywhere between four to five hours, during which time the city is introduced, characters are met, vital exposition is dumped, and villains are introduced and killed off. Most players don't seem to mind, though, because even though the Midgar sequences are very linear, it's chock-full of action and intrigue relating to Shinra and AVALANCHE, to the point where some players feel that the opening is the high point of the entire game.
    • Final Fantasy VII Remake: The aforementioned Midgar section is stretched out into a full-length 40-hour game, although the Wham Episode that is the Twist Ending sees to it that there's much more to the Remake than meets the eye.
    • Final Fantasy XIII is basically the same as VII, but so, so much more. Instead of growing your characters during the absurdly slow paced opening city level, as you do in VII, you are restricted to only physical attacks and area effect stuff for the first few hours. It all plays like an extended cutscene until you finally get to the crystal lake, where you finally unlock the roles and the Paradigm Shift (and even then, some of your characters have to unlock their 3rd role through story progression). Most of the early hours maintain the use of In Medias Res. However, out of 13 chapters, it's not until the beginning of chapter 11 that you will be able to choose your leader, customize your party as you see fit (the remaining roles being finally unlocked for everyone during this chapter), and finally be able to explore areas which aren't just long corridors. Because of this, a lot of people considers the first eleven chapters as part of an extended prologue. First time players interested in understanding what the characters were just talking about can check a reference guide on the main menu and find quick summaries of not only the plot (scene by scene), but relevant background information on locales, individuals, and organizations.
    • Final Fantasy XIV:
      • The technical tutorial lasts from level 1 to around level 15, when you finish off the first plot arc and gain the ability to travel between city states, but things still don't really get started until around level 22 when you kill Ifrit and join the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, kicking off the main plot you'll be following for the rest of the game. On a first playthrough, this could take several hours depending on which class you pick starting off.
      • Much of the A Realm Reborn portion of the game involves setting up lore, plotlines, enemies, and allegiances that are the focus of later expansions, as well as unlocking basic features and mechanics for the player, basically making it a prologue in its own right. Post-expansion quests also often act as long prologues for future expansions.
  • Examples from the Fire Emblem series:
    • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade has Lyn's Tale, a prologue + 10 chapters that deals with a plot completely unrelated to the main story (save some Early-Bird Cameo and Foreshadowing), which takes place one year later and stars a different character (either Eliwood or Hector). Like many examples, you can skip it on a second or subsequent playthrough... but doing that is a very bad idea, as characters from Lyn's Tale retain their level-ups when they rejoin in the main game. By skipping it you're effectively robbing around a third of the cast of up to 10 chapters worth of Exp gain. At least playing it on Hard Mode cuts out all the tutorials.
    • Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon has a prologue that lasts 4 chapters that, to the shock of many players, actually requires you to sacrifice one of your party members to progress. The entire prologue is skipped on any of the Hard Modes, in which case Canon Foreigner Frey will be assumed to have been the sacrifice. (The next game went with this as canon.)
    • Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem has a prologue lasting 8 chapters, unskippable this time though most of them are very short. It serves to introduce your player-created character to the world of the game.
  • GoldenEye (1997)'s prologue is greatly extended from the film's, with several original stories in the nine-year gap between the Dam operation and the film's present day, such as visiting the incomplete Severnaya bunker, and an Early-Bird Cameo by Ouromov in a nuclear silo.
  • Golden Sun:
    • The first game starts with a sequence where you play as a child escaping a crisis that leads up to a Hopeless Boss Fight. After a Time Skip, you have to sit through a good deal of Expospeak before heading on to the tutorial dungeon. While this segment does feature the event that kicks off the plot; it still takes until you've finished the dungeon, returned back to the village, and sat through even more dialogue before you actually set out on your quest. The whole prologue can easily take over an hour of playtime to get through.
    • According to Camelot, the story shared by the first game and Golden Sun: The Lost Age is the prologue to the Golden Sun series and Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is the first part of what they planned as the main story of the series. So the Prolonged Prologue is 2 whole games around 40 hours each. This is especially bad since it took 8 years for the first "main" game to be released after the two "prequels", and it's been 10 years since then with no word of another title.
  • Guild Wars:
    • In Nightfall, what is more or less the prologue of the story takes you most of, if not all the way, to the max level. In fact, you figure that when you catch up to the Big Bad, you're going to stop her from releasing the Sealed Evil in a Can, or maybe just fight it as the really Final Boss. No, you fail to prevent her from causing the Nightfall, which you spend the rest of the game dealing with.
    • In other campaigns. Prophecies begins in an idyllic map of decent size with several zones, hours of gameplay (if you do everything), and enemies up to level 10 (of 20). Many were entirely surprised when this turned out to be set 2 years before the ACTUAL game, which begins after that idyllic land is destroyed by magical crystal meteors, and maybe the size of 10% of the real game's map. Factions was similar to Nightfall in that it brought characters to near-maximum level before the prologue ended, though story-wise it was clear that you had only begun to uncover the real threat.
  • Harvest Moon:
  • The beginning of Heavy Rain has you going about your ordinary life for several hours before the actual plot starts.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • The term "Longest Prologue Ever" is popularly used to describe the first part of Kingdom Hearts II, and was even a former Trope Namer. The game's prologue with Roxas takes between three to five hours to complete. Some of it is skippable, including the cutscenes, but even skipping all of the optional stuff still leaves at least two hours before reaching the title card. As for its importance and interest, it will depend exclusively on how many games the player has played so far. While the story presented in the prologue does little to set things up for the actual plot and main character Sora, it is quite important to conclude the first part of Roxas arc. Problem being Roxas' story was done in a game released four years later (which is why many players didn't care for the prologue when II was released). If you know the story of 358/2 Days before playing II (as creator Tetsuya Nomura strongly suggests to do nowadays), then you'll be much more attached and invested on what's happening in the prologue.
    • The first game isn't quite as bad, but there's still plenty of stuff you can do on the Destiny Islands that can take quite a bit of time. Most of it is optional, though.
    • Kingdom Hearts χ. After 400 stages (about 3 months if you started at opening day), you get the opening title and the plot starts.
  • Knights of the Old Republic has the very long section on Taris, exploring three levels of the city, dealing with Sith oppressors, swoop gangs, outcasts and slavers, before the planet is destroyed and the plot starts. What makes it worse is that you still have a non-Jedi class before you get to Dantooine, and you'll probably want to hold off leveling until then, to get more Jedi levels.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords gives you Peragus. Big, almost depopulated mining station. That's really big (it takes almost three hours to get through) and really depopulated (save for two people and two droids, everyone and everything you meet is a holographic recording of a dead guy or a berserk mining droid). If it wasn't bad enough already, half the time you're running in your underwear, with little more than a mining laser for defense. And except for Kreia's voice in your head and Atton over a com link, you're entirely on your own for the vast majority of it. To make things worse, it's immediately followed by Telos, where you lose your ship and (temporarily) all your equipment, and have to jump through a lot of hoops to get off the boring-looking space station and onto the actual planet. Just so you can recover your ship and actually explore the rest of the galaxy. Yay.
  • The Legend of Dragoon: The real plot of chasing Lloyd and trying to keep him from getting the Divine Moon Objects doesn't begin until the very end of disc one. Up until that point, the plot is about the Serdian civil war, something Dart only gets involved in due to one side kidnapping Shana and razing his hometown.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: You can't explore the overworld in the game until the tutorial (obtain sword/shield) and first dungeon (Deku Tree) are finished.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. The opening sequence requires you to play through 3 in-game days (roughly 2 hours) in which you are essentially item-less and aren't allowed to leave the central hub town, and until you do so, you can't even save.note  By the way, if you fail to do all of the required tasks within the 3 in-game days, you have to start over from the first day, when you arrive at the town. At least you still can talk to a scarecrow to fast-forward the remaining time until the last hours after you've done everything it takes to reach the conclusion of this prologue.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: The beginning of the game is quite different from the rest of it: you start on a tiny island with no weapons, hang out with a cast of pirates and are carted around on their ship, lose your equipment and have to spend about an hour doing a Stealth-Based Mission (the only one in the entire game), and then have to do several fetch quests for various townspeople. It's only about 3 and a half hours into the game when you finally have your equipment and your own boat that the game catches its stride.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: You spend the first few hours learning your controls as Link and Wolf Link. You don't have any idea of what's going on until the end of the segment, and you're not free to explore the overworld until after the first major dungeon. Even then, the amount of places you can explore is limited since most of the world is still covered in Twilight, which isn't fully dealt with until after the third dungeon.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was apparently intent on averting this, though there was difficulty concerning a scene where Zelda saves Link, as this was important to show their relationship. So they cut out many scenes.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild meets you halfway: You're limited to the Great Plateau until you complete all four shrines and get the parasail from the Old Man, but you're free to explore the whole plateau and do the shrines in any order you please.
  • The Lord of the Rings Online has this, and has it bad. Immediately after character creation, you are placed in an introduction instance. Then you're placed in either Archet or Thorin's Gate — another introductory instance. Then the game proper begins...and your epic quests are introduced in the form of a prologue. Only when you finally finish said prologue at ~Level 15 (which will likely take several hours' worth of gameplay, at least) are you FINALLY put into Epic Volume 1, Book 1. (It's actually possible to skip the prologue and go straight to Bree to begin Epic Book 1, but you miss valuable experience points by doing so.)
  • Lufia & The Fortress of Doom's prologue was so amazing, it became a prequel!
  • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team: The game starts with a tutorial boss fight, then a few minigames and battle tutorials, lasting about 20 minutes. The next areas ancient Pi'illo Castle and its dream world, which mostly serve as tutorials to ensure you're getting used to the gameplay mechanics. The game gives you more freedom in the second area, Mushrise Park, which is three hours in.
  • Occurs in all three parts of the Mass Effect trilogy.
    • Mass Effect begins with a fairly long introduction on the Normandy, then the Eden Prime mission, then you have to go to the Citadel attending a Council meeting and having discussions with Anderson and Udina, running around doing a bunch of required missions (and a fair number of optional side missions). It's only after you meet Tali and attend the second Council meeting that Shepard becomes a Spectre, is given command of the Normandy, and is finally free to go out into the galaxy and do things.
    • In Mass Effect 2, there's the extended prologue where the Normandy is destroyed and Shepard killed, then fighting to escape the Project Lazarus station, then meeting the Illusive Man and agreeing to work with Cerberus, then the Freedom's Progress mission. It's only after Freedom's Progress that Shepard is given the SR-2 version of the Normandy and finally, like the first game, has freedom to go out into the galaxy.
    • Mass Effect 3 starts with a really long, unskippable cutscene of Shepard and Anderson attending an Alliance military meeting, then escaping the Reapers invading Earth. Then you're given control of your character, and you play a short tutorial level, with lots of autodialogue, lengthy cutscenes and minimal dialogue choices. Things get better on Mars, but the game will render the Normandy as a cutscene only location. After this you're taken to the Citadel, but much like the Normandy there are large parts of it that are locked off in order to railroad you along the story. It isn't until after you leave the Citadel, a good hour and a half into the gamenote  that the game truly opens up and you can do what you want.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is the first example in the series, with its Tanker Chapter. Reportedly, director Hideo Kojima intended the ship to be the setting for the whole game before concluding it was too small. There's even an option, after completing the game, to play just the Tanker section, and it has its own set of post-game titles.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has the Virtuous Mission, which sees the player visiting multiple areas of the game and introduces most of the cast along the way, all before the titular Snake Eater mission which comprises the bulk of the game's runtime (and plot).
    • Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes takes this to an extreme, to the point where the game in its entirety, including the extra missions, is a prologue for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Ground Zeroes was just large and ambitious enough that it was initially sold separately (albeit at half the usual retail price) from The Phantom Pain. Later re-issues of Metal Gear Solid V contain both parts together.
    • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain itself has a prolonged prologue that features the main character awakening maimed and in a weakened state after a long coma, trying to escape from a hospital. The game walks the player up to new mechanics as the situation demands, and as the character regains the requisite strength.
  • Microcosm had an Opening Scroll that explained the star system the game was set in, the Megacorps that ran them, the struggles between them and the current covert shenanigans, and a short movie panning over the cyberpunk city, showing aircraft landing and setting up the plot at length. All told, ten or twenty minutes of prologue for a Rail Shooter that would hardly pass muster as a free web game.
  • In Milya[broken], you spend about 20 minutes simply walking forward and reading text boxes before you get your first puzzle. Afterwards, the game finally throws puzzles and navigation at you.
  • Mother 3 is divided up into eight chapters. The first three happen over the course of three days, and cover the perspective of three different characters. Story-wise, they're important, but the gameplay suffers somewhat. It improves after the Time Skip.
  • Overwatch was in a really awkward state of this, beginning with the titular team, long ago disbanded, starting to come together... then taking 4 real-world years to properly depict them together on their first mission for the semi-sequel Overwatch 2, with pretty much all the comics, cinematics, and Events in and around the first game have all being character origins, worldbuilding, and history. This was greatly based around the fact that Overwatch was created strictly as a PvP Hero Shooter where canon and stories are largely just context to set up gameplay, and the potential of tying them together into a proper PvE experience wasn't considered as a viable endeavor until Blizzard experimented with short Archives campaigns (which as suggested by the title, take place during the backstory), which were well-received, but weren't the story-driving events fans wanted. This would end up making the game's case of this trope a very meta one, as with Overwatch 2 being developed as an overhaul/attached expansion with proper story campaigns as a main feature, additional prolonging of the prologue was required to actually get the rest of the story made. Then Overwatch 2 got delayed without any new release window, meaning that 2021's biggest plot beat was one of said former team members reclaiming his birth name.
  • Paper Mario 64 takes about an hour or two to get to its first chapter. Mario battles Bowser and gets knocked into Goomba Village, gets his hammer and fights a tutorial boss, meets his first partner, is introduced to badges, fights the Goomba King, makes it to Toad Town and Shooting Star Summit, finally learns Action Commands, fights another tutorial boss, and then he can finally start the first chapter. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door pulls this too with things like a tutorial boss, having to retrieve half of Mario's coins and fighting a massive Blooper before you go down the Warp Pipe to start the first chapter.
  • Persona:
    • Persona 3 has a little over an hour of cutscenes (and one battle sequence) between the start of the game and when you first get to fully decide what to do with your day. You get a taste of Tartarus as well, but you don't get your full ability to explore just yet.
    • Persona 4. It takes between two to four hours before the game takes off the rails and lets you choose what to do with your day (the real meat of the game). In terms of the Dungeon Crawling gameplay, the first battle is a brief Hopeless Boss Fight, the next two (including the first boss) are entirely tutorials, an hour or so later and you get to the first real dungeon... which throws you into a boss fight and boots you out after the first floor. After all that, you're finally allowed to explore dungeons freely.
    • Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth doesn't become a Crossover between the above two games until after completing the first dungeon. If this doesn't sound like much, this is an Etrian Odyssey inspired game, so the dungeons are huge.
    • Persona 5 takes about an hour before you reach the first palace, another half-hour to get through all of the tutorial sections, and another half-hour after that before you can start managing what to do with your time freely.
  • EPISODE 1 in Phantasy Star Online 2, which contributes to complaints that the story drags until late into EPISODE 2. From the start of the story through Chapter 8, the game introduces you to a large bevy of allies and supporting cast members and fleshes out the planets that the game takes place in. This is done through hours and hours of cutscenes; there are very few playable portions, and most of the playable portions are egregiously short. Of the hours and hours of cutscenes that the game presents to you, approximately 10% of them have anything to do with the actual plot that kicks off at the end of Chapter 7 when a Sword of Plot Advancement gets stolen by the antagonists.
  • One of the most common complaints leveled against Pokémon Sun and Moon is just how much the game holds your hand in the beginning. It doesn't really start to back off until you've reached the second island of four. It also takes you much longer to get your starter in this game than in previous titles, which means you spend a fair amount of time running around without any Pokémon whatsoever. This was a particular pain for people who wanted starters of certain genders or natures, as the average time to getting your Pokemon was half an hour and you would have to restart entirely to get a different loadout. The remakes Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon toned this down by having you rescued by the starters and choosing yours much earlier—while you still have the rest of the prologue, you did already have a Pokémon with you. In addition, the game changes the first battle against Hau to this new prologue and alters the event where the player rescues Lillie to battle one of the Spearow.
  • Radiata Stories has Player Character Jack Russell spend the beginning of the game in a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits amongst the Radiata Knights. This takes up about 3-4 hours of the overall game, during which most of the plot gets set up. Until the prologue is over, you cannot change armor, take on side missions, or issue orders to any of your computer-controlled party members.
  • You do have some room to wander and explore Densel Town during Chapters 0 and 2 of Rakenzarn Tales, but it takes until Chapter 3 to get into the meat of the game and be able to do things like recruit party members, freely explore and take side quests. If you speed read and known what to do, the prologue and Chapter 1 aren't too bad, but the near Forced Level-Grinding in Chapter 2 can hamper your speed.
  • Riviera: The Promised Land's tutorial is somewhere between an hour or two in length, depending on how fast you go through it. This includes when you replay the game, despite already knowing what to do. Fortunately, you're given a very powered Crutch Character that allows you to get through battles easily.
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time takes five to six hours before you are dumped on an actual planet most of the remaining game takes place on and start real fights.
  • The story mode of Star Wars: Battlefront 2, Rise of the Empire, involves various missions centred around a group of clone troopers liberating various planets from the droids and eventually taking part in Order 66. A cutscene after that event shows Vader's armour and an ominous image of the Death Star while the central character explains what the squadron did after the battle, which could be a perfectly valid ending to a game that's already full enough to be a game itself. Then the second opening crawl starts, finally introducing the actual Rise of the Empire storyline.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic finishing the Prologue gets you though 15 levels (out of vanilla 50) and two full planets of the game. The class stories about evenly divided between the planets being separate prologues (with the first having a self-contained plot arc) or stages of the same one.
  • The exposition for Suikoden V takes about eight-to-twelve hours.
  • Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy take their sweet time in setting up their plots. In both cases, it can easily take upwards of 15 minutes to complete the tutorial level, including cutscenes. Notable in that most main-series Super Mario Bros. games have little more than an Excuse Plot at best.
  • Unlike most other SRW titles, where the player faction forms early on in the story, Earth Fleet Tenku doesn't form officially until Scenario 40 in Super Robot Wars V (the entire game is 52 scenarios long), so the "prologue" takes up nearly eighty percent of the entire story.
  • The first chapter of Tales of Graces concerns several of the main characters as children. Chapter 2 takes place after a Time Skip and mostly revolves around setting the scene and getting the group back together now that everyone's grown up. Nothing that could possibly be construed as the main plot kicks off until roughly the end of the second chapter and start of the third. Thankfully, you can skip the first chapter in a New Game Plus. It costs 10 GRADE to do so, but a full playthrough can easily rack up over 1000 GRADE, so the cost is barely a factor.
  • Tibia had you spend your first 8 levels on the island of Rookgaard before you could even chose your vocation. Hitting level 8 could potentially take weeks and quite a few players (nicknamed "The Rookguard" by the wider community) actually chose to stay on the island and call it their home rather than take the one-way trip to the mainland and "start" the game. Later replaced though with the much more streamlined Island of Destiny where hitting level 8 is way faster and lets you play around with the vocations from level 2 already.
  • The Trails Series is rather infamous for this, with the first game in each arc serving as essentially a prologue for the rest of the arc. This is the most obvious in The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, where the entire first game acts as a prologue for the rest of the series.
  • The unskippable intro to Valkyrie Profile last for thirty minutes if you don't bother reading any of the text. If you want the complete intro, you have option of watching it on the main title with that being twenty minutes.
  • Vampires Dawn II: Ancient Blood is right up there with Kingdom Hearts II in terms of prologue length. Watching Valnar and Alaine starting a new life, Jaina's and Nyria's backstory, Asgar's reappearance, the World Sundering spell, the heroes reclaiming the castle and getting acquainted with the new situation takes a while. It's even worse if you follow the traditional RPG routine of talking to everyone and searching everything, which a completionist will inevitably have to do given that all the prologue locations are inaccessible upon moving on.
  • Warframe: The actual tutorial only takes a few hours, but the fact that you don't get to customize your actual character until the end of the "the Second Dream," hundreds of hours into the game, has led to players joking that the game has the longest tutorial in history. Even from a story perspective, that's not quite wrong; the story is noticeably light until that quest, where some of the most basic details of the story and setting are revealed.
  • The Wild ARMs games have a tradition of giving each character an individual prologue before joining the core party.

    Visual Novels 
  • Aselia the Eternal - The Spirit of Eternity Sword is billed as a visual novel / RPG. For the first three to five hours of the game you are reading straight dialog with no branching and no battles.
  • The prologue of each Danganronpa game is used to introduce the setting, premise, and each character individually, which takes a considerable amount of time considering the number of characters each game has. Throw in some odd events which foreshadow late game reveals, and you have a long prologue to get through before the killing game begins. The first game's prologue isn't quite so long since all of the students are introduced in one room, but later games have the the main character going around the entire starting area introducing themseves to everyone. Danganronpa 2 goes so far as to have a fake title sequence in the middle of the prologue, and Danganronpa V3 outright lampshades the prologue length.
  • Fate/stay night can easily take three hours to reach the title screen, during which you "play" a different character from the game proper (with a notably different writing style), and focus mostly on characters who are unimportant or completely different from their depictions in the rest of the game. That's in scare quotes because you don't make any decisions in this part of the game.
  • Flowers (2014) does this kind of weirdly: most visual novels open with a long common route that allows you to get to know the characters and pick choices indicating whose route you want to be on, before branching out into the routes themselves (generally, at least three, and as many as six aren't uncommon). In Flowers however, the 'common route' takes up the majority of the game, after which there are only two routes, one of which is much shorter and clearly non-canon.
  • The common route of The Fruit of Grisaia is famously long among visual novel fans, taking up a full third of the full novel's already very long running time (especially considering that there are five full-length character routes) - it can take over 20 hours just to complete it alone. And while Grisaia gets to some pretty action-filled places in the character routes, the common route is almost entirely Slice of Life with very little narrative continuity, merely showing random scenes featuring the daily lives of the characters over the course of a few months. However, the comedy in these scenes is normally considered to be very good, and some consider the common route the best part of the game.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend wins the crown for the Visual Novel category: the entire game is an extended prologue until you complete all the dating routes. Then a new route with the actual story opens up, and that's where things get weird (which is saying something when you consider this is a game about dating birds).
  • Minotaur Hotel: The part where you are able to decide what you can do with your time and where most of the story branching happens? That won't come until after Chapter 13. Until then, your time is spent deciding on how you'll treat Asterion (which will decide what route you'll be locked into), understanding the mechanics of the game, and getting the hotel back to action. It avoids the trapping of this trope, however, by making the first 13 chapters entertaining with how it sets up the story.
  • Narcissu Side 2nd spends the first four chapters (out of 19) introducing the main characters, before the opening movie plays.
  • Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair, being a murder mystery visual novel with some horror elements, takes some time to get going. Much of the prologue and first chapter are spent introducing the cast, and the first murder or what the cast thinks is a murder, takes place near the end of Chapter 2 (out of 5).
  • In contrast to Spirit Hunter: Death Mark, which drops the player immediately into the supernatural and has them tackle the first chapter within the first hour or so, Spirit Hunter: NG takes longer to establish Akira's relationships and mundane life. It's only after he does so, faces a tutorial spirit, and meets Kakuya that the plot really gets rolling.
  • The second demo of Starswirl Academy covers the prologue in its entirety. It takes about two hours to get through the entire thing, during which there's very few story branches. It's mostly a massive Info Dump on the school, what you can expect to see, and a brief introduction to every character.
  • Umineko: When They Cry. The airport. Unlike previous (or later) installments of the "When They Cry" series, which introduce us to the characters within the context of the overall story, thus keeping the plot moving, Umineko's first episode has Battler, the main character, meet two thirds of the entire cast in an airport, where you get huge infodumps about them.


    Web Original 
  • The Cold Opening to episode 1 of Battle for Dream Island Again constitutes the majority of the episode. No seriously, a whooping two to three minutes pass between the opening sequence and the end of the episode.
  • A tried and true tactic of CinemaSins, when he's not already sinning the opening credits for being too long, is to sin movies for taking too long to get to the titular premise while discounting everything that came before as a prologue:
    (On Batman Begins): It takes 56 minutes for Batman to begin
    (On Tomb Raider (2018)): This is not a drill, people! 80 freaking minutes into the movie and we have officially started raiding a tomb! All hands on-deck, it's go-time kids!
    (On Godzilla (2014)): Yeah, better cut over to the boring humans and see what they're up to. I sure didn't want to see the big monsters fighting after 98 fightless minutes of movie have passed!
  • The Gungan Council typically has roleplays to introduce new characters. They are are supposed to be simple in order to get a new character instantly acquainted to two or more established characters. Roughly 200 words is enough per post. Some have start with 1,000, and keep this amount up through over 15 posts and essentially almost writing enough to create a novella off the bat.
  • Discussed by The Nostalgia Chick in her first episode, where she comments on how it takes seven minutes for Pocahontas to introduce the title character (which she notes is about 10% of the average Disney film's run time).
  • The Nostalgia Critic, as of Season 6 and beyond, has added long prologues to his reviews where he and his friends dress up as characters and put on skits. They tend to run between three and six minutes long, often comprising as much as a third of the actual review. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends entirely on whether you find the skits funny or just wish they'd get on with the feature presentation already and has been discussed to death and back. The record for longest time to get to a review is his review of Alien³, which begins 7 minutes in and the intro didn't even appear until 3 minutes in!
  • Screen Rant Pitch Meetings: In the pitch meeting for Wonder Woman 1984, the Producer agrees that the flashback to Diana's childhood would quickly establish the message of the film- that cheating is wrong, but finds that it's actually 11 minutes(out of the movie's 150 minute runtime).

    Western Animation 
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes: The Avengers don't officially form until the end of the seventh episode. Furthermore, Captain America doesn't join until the ninth episode, Black Panther doesn't join until the eleventh, and Hawkeye doesn't join until two episodes after that, meaning that the core team of eight Avengers that make up the first (26 episode) season doesn't assemble until the end of the thirteenth episode. However, the first seven episodes feature plenty of action by the heroes working solo and do set up the season nicely, so this is a case where Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • Due to the logistics of the production, the first season (Book 1: Air) of The Legend of Korra is a version of this trope. The show was initially produced as a miniseries but was turned into a full show when it was too late to change anything. Seasons 2-4 are their own stories with their own villains but are interconnected and build on each other without really touching on anything from Season 1. It is basically a prolonged introduction to the characters and the updated world that comes from 70 years passing In-Universe from the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  • The Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian" opens with a Title Card saying, "Hamton as 'Fléche de Lard'", but with no production credits. The entire first act is a behind-the-scenes story where Buster and Babs go to Steven Spielberg to complain that Hamton gets an episode and not them, still with no real title or credits. The second act starts with another minute of behind-the-scenes material in which Buster calls the writers about being put on a plane, and afterwards the episode's real title sequence and story begin.

Alternative Title(s): Longest Prologue Ever