While SimCity 2000 was generating terrain for a new game, it told you it was “creating hills” and “carving water” and “reticulating splines”. This became a running gag, and every game in The Sims series has mentioned those dang splines on the loading screens alongside nonsense like “extrapolating empire eigenvectors” and “making manic mansions”. It’s become a signature, something to lighten the mood while we’re waiting for The Sims 2 to finally start.
What game has loading screens that don’t suck? Whether it’s one with useful tips or a joke or just something that looks real nice and doesn’t last too long, what’s your favorite loading screen? Ones you add via mods, like the many Skyrim load screen replacers, totally count.
Here are our answers, plus a few from our forum.
James Davenport: Destiny 2. They’re still too long, but getting served a gorgeous animation of your fireteam’s ships rolling together through the cosmos, then slowing to gawk at whatever gorgeous planet you’re about to visit kind of make you forget you’re about to farm materials and activities in convoluted exotic quest for the next four days. I honestly believe that without these loadings screens, this connective tissue, Destiny 2 would feel like a much more hollow game.
Phil Savage: I agree, but for completely the opposite reason to James. Granted, Bungie is very good at creating pretty planets—the game’s skyboxes are the best—but the real triumph is that I don’t ever have to look at them. While loading, you can still access Destiny 2’s menus, letting you swap your weapons, check quests and bounties and, in competitive modes, check out the loadouts of your teammates and opponents. Being able to do useful admin to prep for the next engagement helps soften the blow of its frequent and sometimes lengthy load screens.
Dave James: Commodore 64 games. OK, so the fact that you literally had to wait 10 minutes for a game to load was a real pain, and sometimes the mere act of breathing would cause it to fail, but when you could play a whole other game while waiting for the main event to load it was ace. Invade-a-load was a wee clone of Space Invaders that popped up shortly after you started loading from a cassette… yeah, seriously. We used to load games from cassettes. No bull.
Christopher Livingston: Fallout 76, because it uses the screenshots you’ve taken in photo mode for the loading screens. Which means if the loading screens suck, it’s your own damn fault for taking terrible pictures.
The downside for me personally is sometimes I have to go into Fallout 76 specifically to take a photo of a specific thing, like a bow and arrow, for an article. And so I take roughly 50 pictures of it just to be safe, and then my loading screens wind up being about 99% bow and arrow shots that are more or less identical. So, I need to go clean out that folder now and then. But I really like the feature, it’s nice to see my own photo album while I’m waiting for the game to load.
Jody Macgregor: Darkstone is one of several late-90s action-RPGs I played a bunch of, like Revenant, that’s largely forgotten today. Between areas you’d see a tree-lined road bounce past as if you were walking along it between town and the forest, a chill 30 seconds of Windows screensaver journeying that made you feel like you really were setting off on an adventure, or returning home from one.
It’s installed on my SSD now and those loading screens vanish before they’ve even properly appeared.
Frindis: I’m having a hard time remembering any good, so I’ll mention one from the latest games I currently play: The loading screen from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is totally fine. There is a nice fire going on and tips/tricks are cycled through. It also loads pretty fast, so I’m happy with that too.
Johnway: loading screens that entertain or engage the player are the best. I’m talking about interactive loading screens that allow for me to mess around or practice like Bayonetta, Okami or assassins creed (for the latter they really need to add an enemy in for me to bash around).
Inspireless Llama: I always liked “Rome: Total War”s loading screens with quotes from ancient philosophers. Some were pretty deep too.
“In peace sons bury their fathers, in war fathers bury their sons”.
Pifanjr: Any loading screens where you can still play the game are great, even if it’s in a limited capacity like in Assassin’s Creed. They’re even better than “hidden” loading screens (looking at you, Mass Effect elevator).
I will also never forget the loading screen from Black & White that said “Throwing villagers around is great fun!”, with a picture of a villager soaring through the sky.
Spvtnik1: I’m a big fan of the Fallout/Skyrim loading screens that show different objects and characters. It was always cool to get a static, up close view of any new textures modded in.
Zloth: Just started playing Kenshi and got this one. I think I’m in for a wild ride.
Crushto: For all its faults, MGSV has a great concept going for its (hidden}loading screens. The travel sequence inside the helicopter that drops the player off to start his mission/journey can create a nice build up towards the gameplay. The chopper showcases the progress made in the story, as well as showing off w/e customizations or upgrades the player has built. Also enforces the concept of an open world setting via the travel to the destination.
Lets not forget the best part of it all. Being able to set our own music that plays as we approach the drop zone. It was just a joy to find the right track with a beat that synced perfectly to the drop off point. That alone made makes up for the fact the loading screen is a pain for anyone not using an HDD. As they cannot be skipped or toggled on/off for people with fast storage.
Side note: Kinda tricky to compare loading screens nowadays given most people have SSDs. Its been yrs since I had the chance to appreciate loading screens. Besides the ones that are forced on us like what I described.
McStabStab: The grand theft auto games always have great artwork in their load screens and at least a few of the images have become iconic.
Aside from that I don’t pay too much attention to loading screens cause they don’t last very long (NVMe gang where ya at?)