Originally Posted by Pants
I would say that Mass Effect is really one of those series where you have to start from the very beginning (but 1 and 2 should be super cheap and I'm sure there's a pack you can buy). The gameplay in ME1 might seem a little outdated by now but the story-telling, the extremely detailed and well-explained back-drop will swallow you up into an amazing adventure.
The choices you make in ME1 carry over to ME2 and then ME3, but if you start at ME3, I think the game can just give you a default story.
Looks like the Mass Effect trilogy is available for $60. I might go rent the 1st one to see if I like the gameplay before I buy the series.