Some of the best levels of all time

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Pretty simple. We all like games, but we like some levels better than others. FacilityGoldeneye

No. For me.

This level worked not only as a killer multiplayer level, but as a hell of a singleplayer mission, too. It’s where you first learned about shooting hats off people’s heads, that scientists are fun as hell to shoot, and how to get the most out of remote mines. Remember when at the beginning of the level, as you look down into a bathroom stall, that you had to be careful to shoot the soldier’s HEAD, and not his hat? Because if you shot his hat it’d just fly off and the soldier would notice you and you’d look like an idiot? Good times.For more fun: Shoot, but don’t kill, as many scientists as you can. Every once in a while one will pull out a grenade—a GRENADE, of all things—and throw it at you, but will probably end up missing and just kill a bunch of his scientists friends.Full list after the jump.RavenholmHL2

We don't go to Ravenholm. Except to hang out with the insane priest.

It’s a well-documented fact that the undead are loathsome, despicable creatures who must be exterminated at every possible opportunity. This is what makes Ravenholm so great. Whether you’re lighting zombies on fire, dropping cars onto them, gravity-gunning saw blades into their torsos or blowing off their heads with shotguns, this level satiated the collective zombie-killing lust all gamers feel. Until Dead Rising came out, I played this level over and over, experimenting with different ways I could dispatch the undead. God, I hate zombies.For more fun: Design a nonlinear zombie survival mod for HL2 using the source engine. Then send it to me.Wario StadiumMario Kart 64

I decided to use the most boring picture of Wario Stadium I could possibly find. Except not.

The second longest level of MK64, but undoubtedly the best. Without relying on gimmicky obstacles such as strolling penguins, jumping moles, or sliding Thwomps, Wario Stadium still manages to provide legitimate driving challenges. You have to navigate a muddy track, a section with a dozen rolling hills roughly the size of tanks, and a 180 degree turn right before the finish line. If you lost on this course, you couldn’t blame it on luck, or item use, or course hazards; it was all on you. For more fun: When you hit the big ramp, drop a fake item box whilst in midair. When somebody hits it, they lose all their forward momentum, plummeting them to the ground and forcing them to redo about a third of the course just to get back to where they were.Bark at the Moon – Guitar Hero

I'm almost definitely better at Guitar Hero than you are. Just putting that out there.

This is the Guitar Hero song you bust out when you want to impress your friends. Speaking as someone who has beaten the game on Expert, I don’t really know why it was the last song in the game: apart from the second solo, which you can survive through strategic use of Star Power, the song is relatively easy. I personally have a much harder time getting through Cowboys From Hell. Nonetheless, the near-constant barrage of notes and chords and hammer-ons and hammer-offs make you look like a total badass, assuming you can pass it. And if you can’t, well, there’s always Ace of Spades.For more fun: Try to get through the second solo without using star power. And in this case, by “fun†I mean “controller-throwing irritationâ€.Hyrule Castle final battle with GanonThe Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

So Ganondorf is human, but what race is he supposed to be? He's like the only brown human character, and he's the incarnation of evil. Coincidence?

Epic. A fantastic end to the single greatest entry in the Zelda series. Not only was the end fight with Ganon/dorf satisfyingly fun, but the buildup to the battle itself was everything it should have been: drawn out, dark, and suspenseful. After a long and challenging game, finally being able to once and for all lay the smackdown on Ganon felt better than what most gamer nerds imagined sex to be.For more fun: Spend six hours trying to find the “hidden Triforce†that everybody used to think existed. Turbo TunnelBattletoads

GOD DAMN WALLS

As Poopface Morty put it in the official forum thread, to enjoy this damnably hard level is downright masochistic. And yet, like a car crash, it was too horrible to truly enjoy, but too awesome to put down: of all the dozens and dozens of stories about the Turbo Tunnel levels, no one is ever indifferent about it. Nobody ever says, “eh, I played it a couple of times and couldn’t beat it, so I played something else.†No, anyone who confronted this level tries it over and over and over again, convinced that it has to end at some point. Just one more try. They keep playing, convinced that they can beat it. Which, of course, they never can. To this day, I haven’t seen level four of Battletoads for the NES. But every once in a while, when I’m feeling adventurous and a little stupid, I’ll load it up and try to conquer that goddamned level. Just one more try.For more fun: Use an emulator to beat it and then brag to all your friends on how you (technically) passed the level after one try.Level 1-1 – Super Mario Bros.

Boing.

While there are more challenging, varied, and interesting levels in the original Mario Bros, none are so memorable as the first level of the first world. Anybody who’s anybody can probably breeze through the level with his eyes closed. No other single level has been so iconic in its design: regardless of whether or not you’re aware of it, you probably know exactly which box holds the invulnerability star, which pipe leads to the secret coin room, and exactly when you need to jump in order to reach the highest point on the end level flagpole.For more fun: Try the “play with your eyes closed†thing on the last castle level of the last world (the runner-up for best Mario level) and get your ass handed to you.Jade running from the Alpha Sections – Beyond Good and Evil

I'd apologize for constantly mentioning this game, but I'm not sorry, so I won't.

It’s a type of level we’ve all seen before, one where your character runs toward the screen and must keep up with the pace of the camera as you dodge obstacles (see also: The Warriors, Mickey Mania), but no game has done it as well as Beyond Good and Evil. As Jade exits a section of a factory, she is suddenly chased by the evil Alpha Sections (a slightly cartoonish alien Gestapo). Like many things in BG&E, it’s really hard to explain what’s so great about this level without playing it for yourself, but suffice it to say that its integration into the rest of the game is literally seamless, the controls are tight and responsive, and the cinematic, context-sensitive camera movements are incredible. The moment the camera seamlessly goes from a side-scrolling viewpoint into sudden slow-mo, zooming around Jade as she jumps over an explosion, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the game. For more fun: Play the rest of the game. Seriously. If you haven’t by now, there’s no excuse.Burly Brawl (Hundred Smiths Fight) – Path of Neo

I thought about cropping out the watermark. Then I realized that my first name isn't Eric.

Say what you will about the rest of the game, but this level is fun as hell. Considering the scene basically looked liked video game footage in the actual movie, it’s not surprising that it did a good job of translating into a video game level. The otherwise choppy fighting system somehow feels great when you’re surrounded by a hundred different Smiths (even if you can only fight five of them at a time), and, even though the real movie scene (and the rest of the movie, for that matter) totally sucked ass, it’s hard to deny that executing Neo’s “watch in awe as I plant my stick in the ground and run on the Smith clones in a horizontal circle†move feels really satisfying.For more fun: If you time your button presses correctly, you can grab two Smiths and use them as nunchucks to beat a third to death. Then try to figure out why anyone would choose a name as ridiculous-sounding as “Burly Brawl†to describe a fight scene.Traditions of the Trade – Hitman: Codename 47

Wet, naked, and dead.

Picking a “best†level from a series made up of nothing but self-contained, nonlinear, genius examples of level design is no easy task, but the sheer badassery of Traditions of the Trade made the decision a little bit easier. While you’re essentially castrated at the beginning of the level—the presence of a metal detector forces you to drop everything but your fiber wire—some clever item drops left for you by the agency turn the mission from potentially frustrated to extremely fun very quickly. Re-enact a scene from Terminator as you pull a pump shotgun from a box of flowers. Jump from balcony to balcony in order to sneak into a hotel room and strangle the naked man inside. Lock a gangster in a sauna and watch him suffocate. While these kinds of kills became more common later in the series (Blood Money especially), their novelty and usefulness was an incredibly fresh breath in the first game of the series. For more fun: After passing through the metal detector, open the console and give yourself all weapons. Then, proceed to engage in an enormous hotel gunfight which, thanks to the engine’s ability to produce bullet holes in every wall, object, and person (an added touch of fun realism which is somehow missing from every single “next-gen†game), is just as fun as playing through the level regularly. Especially when you shoot the fat masseuse chick and she goes all ragdoll.Stalingrad – Call of Duty

NOT VONE STEP BACKVARD

Considering the fact that it’s almost a line-for-line ripoff of the opening scene from Enemy at the Gates, it’s unsurprising that the first level of the Russian campaign in the original CoD is one of the most cinematic levels ever made. As Call of Cthulhu’s spot on this list can attest, gaming can actually be more fun when you’re denied a weapon as opposed to given one. As Jude Law—I mean, your character—runs up the docks dodging machine gun fire and Russian sergeants intent in executing anyone who runs away, shells explode around you, characters die, and it never feels like you’re basically playing through one big-ass scripted sequence, even though that’s exactly what you’re doing. For more fun: Turn on Enemy at the Gates at the same time you start this level, and see just how goddamn closely the two coincide in terms of dialogue and explosions.Colossus #5: Avis Praeda – Shadow of the Colossus

If only I could figure out how to take decent screenshots from my own TV, I'd have used a picture that wasn't complete crap.

Roughly translated from the Latin, “The Colossus That Flies Over The Lake And Stuff.†In addition to the fact that this is the first colossus you meet that doesn’t immediately attack you, it’s also one of the most majestic and beautiful: its sleek design, the way it watches you with a strange curiosity, and the graceful way it glides over the water, all make this colossus an amazing character and level unto itself.Then you stab the everloving hell out of its wings and it dies, clumsily. The first time I beat Velivolus, I literally put my controller down and said aloud: “Jesus. I am such an asshole.†For more fun: Use this level as a litmus test to judge whether or not a friend or family member has a soul. If they feel no remorse after killing the colossus, it is highly likely that they are a robot.The Whore/The Priest – Mafia

There aren't many screenshots of this game readily available on Google Imagesearch. Expect a Games that Time Forgot article on it sometime soon. Jesus, does anyone even read these?

There’s no way to describe how cool this mission is without going through it step by step: you’re sent into a brothel in order to kill an enemy of your boss, Salieri. You walk up to him, hit the action button, and Tom tells him that “This is what happens when you cross Don Salieri.†You then pump a few bullets into the poor bastard—he falls to the ground, but he’s still alive. He attempts halfheartedly to crawl away until you unload a few more shots into his back (this is all fully interactive, by the way—at no point has the game gone into cutscene mode). Then his guards arrive, and you have to fight your way to the top of the brothel, blow up the manager’s office, and escape, from the rooftop, to a nearby church. And when you get to the bottom of the church, what do you find? A funeral for a gangster you killed earlier in the game, complete with his entire mobster family, all of them armed, and all of them more than a little pissed at you for whacking their golden boy. What happens next is like the climax to John Woo’s The Killer, but in the 1930’s—and if you’re a fan of that era, as I am, then the entire level is one big gaming orgasm.For More Fun: At the top of the church scaffolding, there’s a bucket. Shoot it, and watch what it lands on.Waking up and running from the entire town – Call of Cthulhu

I'll take "Untapped Potential" for 200, Alex.

The main character has spent the entire day walking around the more-than-a-little-creepy town of Innsmouth. He’s been denied any information from pretty much every single character he’s met, and still hasn’t got any real leads on the disappearance of a young city boy. So, what else to do but go to sleep in the local motel? Suddenly, in the middle of the night, you’re awoken by nearly every single person in the village beating down your door with an intent to kill you. Considering you don’t actually have a gun at this point of the game, you’re forced to run from room to room, barricading and locking doors in a frantic attempt to hold off your attackers. I can say with confidence that this level is one of the most intense I have ever played: from the music, to the sound effects (not only of the townsfolk’s murderous screams, but also your character’s terrified, labored breathing) to the way the doors shudder from each pound, you literally become terrified for your life as you attempt to flee from the crazies.Then a few hours later, you’re given a gun and the entire game goes to hell. But still, that one level is really goddamn good.For More Fun: Sit quietly and try to imagine what the rest of the game would have been like had the developers not been forced to turn it into a generic FPS halfway through.Any given battleship level – Mario 3

GET THE MAGIC FLUTE! IT'LL TAKE YOU TO THE WARP!

Another “try to keep up with the camera†level. Mario 3’s “boss†levels were both inventive and challenging: dodging bullets and trying to make sure you don’t fall of the edge of the screen may sound like pretty boring attributes to base a level around nowadays, but at the time of Mario 3’s release, they were pretty damn cool. Not to mention how much easier (or harder) those levels could be depending solely on which costume you wore going into it. Walk in as a raccoon, and you’re set. Start the level with the fireball upgrade, and prepare to die about twelve times before you get the timing down just right.For More Fun: Play through the entire game with a totally blank expression on your face and pretend you’re the retard kid from The Wizard. For extra realism, surround yourself with soon-to-be-has-been actors and Jeff Bridges’ younger, possibly autistic brother.Pre-credit sequence – Resident Evil 4HIJO DE PUTAThe entire portion of RE4 that takes place before the title shows up is a work of genius. Literally. No exaggeration. The game starts off reasonably small (one zombie), then ups the ante a little bit by telling you can leap through windows and aim for specific body parts. It starts out violent, but doesn’t show all of its gore cards right away: the first twelve or so zombies can be killed with headshots, but their skulls don’t explode. They just moan a little before falling down. Then you reach the main village, and the zombies go buck-goddamn-wild. Suddenly a dozen zombies attack you at once, you can shoot their projectile weapons in midair, their heads explode from headshots, and best of all, you can barricade yourself inside a house. You think you’re safe for about five seconds, before A GODDAMN CHAINSAW-WIELDING PSYCHO WITH A BAG ON HIS HEAD cuts the front door to pieces and you’re forced to run upstairs, pushing down the ladders the zombies are trying to breach the windows with. You run from rooftop to rooftop, ladder to ground, trying to find a safe place to stand——And then suddenly, the church bells ring, the zombies leave, and the title screen comes up. All of the gameplay up to that one scene in the village was just foreplay. You’ve just creamed your pants. Resident Evil 4 has made you its bitch.For More Fun:Keep playing, and get kind of disappointed that the rest of the game never seems to measure up to that one scene.—This post was based off an old Gamespy forum thread, and a more recent Destructoid Thread. Post in the Dtoid thread, or email me with your own additions to the list, and there’ll probably be another installment of this type of article.

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Anthony Burch
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