Gaming has always been a unique medium, in the sense that often games are split very deliberately into levels, missions, or sequences that are often announced to the player as they happen. Many games will mix incredibly compelling levels with boring, mundane, or even broken levels. Here are some of the best levels, missions, or sequences that I have encountered through years of gaming (without spoilers).
Call of Duty 4: “All Ghillied Up”
One of the most talked about levels in the smash hit Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, this level mixes stealth and action and provides an interesting background to one of the story’s main characters. Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that the level includes some breathtaking and very satisfying stealth sections and assassinations. In addition, parts of the level are action packed and challenging, but not to the point of frustration. “All Ghillied Up” represents a standout level in a standout game.
Uncharted 2: “Locomotion” & “Tunnel Vision”
Train levels are always tough to nail, and developer Naughty Dog created masterpieces in these two chapters that found Drake on a train full of bad guys. In terms of gameplay, the combat situations are very interesting as the mechanic of aiming while the train is moving and shifting makes combat more difficult and fun. But where this sequence really shines is in its technical achievements. Perhaps the most remarkable part of these levels is the fact that if you just hang on the train and watch the scenery, it will never repeat. This amazing dynamic generation alone makes this sequence worth playing, and combined with the interesting combat, it becomes a must-play.
If you haven’t played Psychonauts yet, shame on you. Every single level in this game displays amazing uniqueness and creativity; I could’ve easily filled this whole list with Psychonauts levels. But, for the sake of variety, I chose “Lungfishopolis”, probably the most charming and creative level on this whole list. In this level, you play as a Godzilla-sized version of the protagonist Razputin as he terrorizes the aquatic city of Lungfishopolis, trampling down poor lungfish along the way. The level ends with one of the most interesting and funny boss fights I’ve ever experienced, but I won’t spoil it. Suffice it to say you will be laughing at some very effective gamer inside jokes.
Final Fantasy X: “Mt. Gagazet”
Final Fantasy X is my all-time favorite game, so I had to include it on this list. Mt. Gagazet is one of the last areas that Tidus and company visits in the game, and is a haunting and atmospheric area. The sequence begins with a great mano-a-mano boss fight where players truly realize the value of a certain party member. After a long trek through the mountains, accompanied by one of the best musical pieces in the game, the sequence is capped by another quality boss fight against someone who should be very familiar by this point. Overall, this sequence is one of the best in the game, as some characters have their roles pushed to the narrative forefront to go along with the great boss fights.
There are many great levels in gaming history, and this list is certainly not definitive. Since my first console was the Gamecube, I could not include some levels from traditionally “classic” games (your Marios and Zeldas), as I have never experienced them. That being said, feel free to tell me why those levels blow any Call of Duty level out of the water in the comments below.