Levels are the staples of most video games, new and old. Throughout my life, there are video game levels that are so iconic that they have left a permanent imprint on who I am as a gamer. Whether it’s the challenge, the design, the music or the sheer fun factor, the best video game levels manage to be both memorable and entertaining, thrilling gamers for hours on end.
In this new regular feature, The Video Game Level Hall of Fame, we induct a few of our favorite video game levels of all time to an ongoing list. Since there are too many awesome levels from video games past to include, we thought that would be a good way to handle it.
So, here are the first five video game level inductees into our Hall of Fame, in no particular order.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Casino Nights Zone
While any number of levels from the Sega Genesis Sonic titles could be included, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had some of the more memorable ones. In particular, the Casino Nights Zone really sticks out in my mind as the most fun level to play in this great, great game. For a 16-bit entry, it was rich with colors that you didn’t always see in gaming, and the music really set the casino mood for the whole zone. Combining the speed of the Sonic games with a setting that allowed you to bounce around like a pinball really paid off, and stands out to me as one of the better side-scrolling levels ever made.
Halo: Combat Evolved: The Maw
Once again, great games tend to have multiple great levels, but The Maw is a really special one in the first Halo game, and the whole series in general. One of the things that made Halo such a unique FPS for its time was the vehicle physics, which up to that point had only been tackled with mixed success in previous attempts. To end an epic first person shooter with a ridiculous driving sequence was not only ballsy, it was cool as hell. Driving away from the explosions and through the Pillar of Autumn was a remarkable sequence, and set a new standard for FPS games in terms of vehicles.
Elite Beat Agents: You’re the Inspiration
I know, it sounds kind of crazy that a Chicago song in a handheld game would make it into the Video Game Level Hall of Fame, but don’t knock it until you’ve experienced this heart-touching stage for yourself. Elite Beat Agents is a DS music game that has you touching the stylus to the screen with the beat of the song. The Agents are trying to help people out as you do this in (typically) hilarious cut scenes.
However, this song features a little girl whose father has passed away. While her and her mother deal with this loss, you as the player are to make sure their memories are happy. Every time you fail, you feel like total crap as the two cry and miss this man that meant so much to them. It really is pretty gut-wrenching, but is incredibly rewarding when you complete the song and see them watching the father walk off into heaven. Check the video out if none of that made any sense.
Link to the Past: Link’s Uncle
The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past is arguably one of the best games of all time, and it’s intro is completely befitting of a game of that caliber. The game starts with Link awakening in his bedroom, and his uncle leaves on a mysterious errand. Once you choose to follow him, you wander through a village during a stormy night.
After some exploration, you fall into the sewers and find your dying uncle, who bestows you with the sword and shield that will guide you through the game. What follows is a battle in the wind and rain, which for that time were unbelievable graphically, and running through the castle’s dungeons in order to find the princess. It’s an epic start to the game, and one of the best openings of all time, as well.
Call of Duty 4: All Ghillied Up / One Shot One Kill
If you’ve played Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, you totally know what “the sniper level” is. As the game sends you back 15 years, you find yourself in a ghillie suit in the heart of enemy territory, darting to cover silently and taking soldiers out with the utmost skill. The mood in this level is simply stunning, and I remember holding my breath while running through open areas, getting around enemy strongholds as you move closer and closer to the goal.
Eventually, it culminates in a couple of heart-pounding moments, including a group of tanks rolling past you, taking sentries out in tandem, and assassinating someone from nearly a mile away. It’s honestly one of the best levels of a video game I’ve ever experienced, and might even be the best of this generation.
So there you have it, our first inductees into the Video Game Level Hall of Fame. Have you guys played the levels on this list? What are some of your favorite video game levels for future consideration? Go!