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Can you remember your absolute favorite video game atmosphere? I’ve been playing video games since I was around five years old. I’ve played good games and bad games. There are games that I can play through and not remember the next year, and then some that I can only complete a small portion of and remember vividly.
What do we all play video games for? If you’re a fan of RPGs, maybe you’re into storyline. FPS lovers are looking for balance, design, strategic value, etc. With all of that taken into consideration, you wouldn’t care for any game if it didn’t incorporate memorable visuals. Super Mario 64 wouldn’t have been worth a play if the game’s atmosphere was flat and boring, right? Let’s look at five video game levels that we should all remember forever.
GoldenEye 007 – Facility
Thinking back of my days with my N64 and GoldenEye 007, the first level that came to my mind was Library. Library was the level that you’d always play in four-player matches, because it had such a perfect numbers of rooms and angles that worked for both competitive and strategic play.
I came close to calling that the best level in GoldenEye 007, and one of the best of all-time, and then I remembered Facility.
I actually hate first-person shooters. I’m bad at them and don’t enjoy the experience. Nonetheless, if you didn’t get a kick out of GoldenEye 007 on the N64 then you aren’t a normal gamer. There’s so much to remember about this level. Make sure you have your sound on, because I know you’re going to recall this music!
You always knew someone was going to be camping in the toilets, because the 10-year-old version of all of us thought that was just the perfect hiding place. This is an amazing level for setting up proximity mines, too. There are vents, doors, turns, and more. You’re going to blow someone up if you put those mines just about anywhere.
This is the defining level of one of the most historic FPS games of all-time.
Final Fantasy VII – Midgar
There’s a whole slew of things that makes Midgar such an amazing environment for a game that could be argued to be one the best RPGs in the history of consoles.
Looking at the above video, I wouldn’t be surprised or offended if your initial thought was that it doesn’t seem all that great. To someone who hasn’t played Final Fantasy VII and actually experienced Midgar, I’m sure it doesn’t. Here are some things to consider:
- The game starts with a 30-second cutscene, then you’re thrown off a train and immediately running through Midgar. It’s one of the fastest starts to an RPG I’ve ever played through.
- To first-time players, Midgar seems absolutely grueling. It should take anywhere between three and six hours to get through the game’s first city.
- Escaping Midgar is an absolutely beautiful thing. The entire atmosphere of Midgar is grim and depressing. When you finally escape, the underlying mood of the game changes, and it’s thrilling to see that there is an entire overworld out there for you to explore.
- In the third disc of this game, you’re given the opportunity to return to Midgar. You’re right at the end of the game, and before your final battle you get the chance to once again experience what started it all.
Getting through Midgar is an achievement that I guarantee anyone who has played this game will fondly remember.
Banjo-Kazooie – Treasure Trove Cove
Okay, so Mumbo’s Mountain was good. Freezeezy Peak and Clanker’s Cavern were really nice. However, Treasure Trove Cove is just something special.
This world is more full of life than any other N64-era platformer level I can think of. It’s so beautiful, and that music (much like the music in every single part of this game) just wraps it together so nicely.
You can’t help but enjoy running through this level, climbing up the ship, jumping off the spring pads, and everything else that’s possible here. There’s even a part of this level that allows you to enter cheat codes to affect the rest of the game.
While all this sounds cheery and fun, there’s one thing: do not go too far out in the water. That shark is actually terrifying when you’re just a kid.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Water Temple
It almost feels criminal to compliment and appreciate Ocarina of Time’s sixth dungeon because of how disgustingly difficult it is. This is a level that gives gamers nightmares. It makes players quit in the middle of a playthrough. I don’t know how anyone manages to complete this dungeon without using a walkthrough, map, or some third-party lifeline that steers you in the right direction. It is insane.
This dungeon is filled with puzzles that send you in every direction and leave you exhausted. You’ll find yourself locking and unlocking doors, raising and lowering water levels, fighting some pretty annoying enemies, and finally facing the Water Temple’s boss.
Outside of the gaming community, “Water Temple” is even a phrase that people use to describe problems that are difficult or impossible to solve. It’s that big of a deal. You can literally spend three hours aimlessly venturing through traps, mazes, and getting tricked by illusions and you’ll still have made minimal progress. Don’t do it to yourself. This level itself makes Ocarina of Time one of the hardest video games I’ve played.
Sonic the Hedgehog – Green Hill Zone
Green Hill Zone is the first and best level in the first ever Sonic the Hedgehog game. This level was the reason kids wanted a Genesis.
Sonic the Hedgehog brought an entirely new twist to the platformer genre, and this level was the perfect way to introduce newcomers to what they’d be in store for. You’ll speed your way past spikes and blocks, jump over enemies, collect coins, and do everything that you can expect to do in future levels of the game. It’s a great way to prepare for what’s to come. This level trains new players to understand what a Sonic game is all about, and it does it perfectly.
This one level did beautiful things for an entire genre, the Genesis console, and the Sonic brand that would eventually have many games to follow. If you’ve played it, you remember it.
Looking at these games, I can confidently say that none of them would have been as huge as they were without these amazing areas. A single level or environment can make or break a game. It can be the difference between whether you rent it or buy it. Level design is such an important thing, and these five games did it right (at least once, that is).
What are some of your favorite and memorable video game levels? Drop me a line in the comments section below, and I’d love to talk about it with you!