Winter's here, and that means one thing: snow. Well, snow and Kevin McCallister's annual abandonment by his neglectful, emotionally-abusive parents. Luckily, we all have videogames to entertain us during the horrible weather (fact: 99% of winter deaths occur while not playing videogames). Weirdly though, sometimes the best escape from the frozen tundra of the outside world is the digital frozen tundra of a videogame. Here's our tribute to the 13 greatest snow levels of all-time.
After a few levels of blasting through endless hordes of asteroids, enemy ships, and Slippy's pleas for help, Fortuna was a welcome relief. Finally you could engage in dog fights with some worthy opponents: The lazily-named Star Wolf (since all space teams in this universe are composed of 4 random animals led by some sort of canine). As if Star Wolf relentlessly hunting down your teammates (who all have no idea how to turn around or defend themselves in any way) wasn't enough, there's a bomb that will blow if you don't defeat the enemies in time. Not that it's too big a deal either way, since apparently no one else in the entire universe is at all concerned about that evil monkey head but you.
As anyone who remembers this game will attest, completing this level was a badge of honor. Missile-shooting snowmen? Check. Random holes to fall into? Check. Meteor-tossing rat-dude final boss? So check it isn't even funny. Also not funny this level wasn't even in the original arcade version: They added it at Nintendo's request, so more kids would break their controllers in frustration and have to buy new ones. If you had any less than two busted controllers and no sudden desire for Pizza Hut, you are clearly some sort of robot.
The red-headed stepchild of N64 mascot-heavy racing games had some pretty great levels, few better than Walrus Cove. The goofy Christmas music and unique level design were great, but being able to race on a hovercraft instead of a race cart was the real selling point. With a hovercraft on the slippery ice, you could reach speeds so fast you would be able to forgive the game for making you work so hard just to be able to play as a giant clock.
While it's pretty easy to get sick of Rare's insistence of filling their games with endless collection quests, it's hard to deny that they know how to design a delightful level. The giant snowman, the decorated tree, the presents if only there was a drunken uncle trying to steal your baseball card collection and trying to hook up with his ex's sister, it would be the most authentic holiday experience in a videogame ever. And there was even the Ice Key a stand-in for the present you'd get that looked awesome until you realized you had no use for it.
The first level in Shadows of the Empire was enormously cool at the time so much so, that it got summarily re-made a thousand times in subsequent Star Wars games (rough estimate). Probably because it's the only major Original Trilogy battle to take place on land (and not involving adorable teddy bears throwing rocks). Actually being able to knock down AT-ATs in full 3-D was incredible, as was the vast, stark white environment of Hoth. Then again, it drew even more attention to the poor thinking of Vader's battle plan. Between this, the Death Star's exhaust vent, and the Death Star 2.0's perfectly Millenium Falcon-sized tunnel to the core, we all sort've accept that "doing anything right" was never the Empire's strength.