T-McBee’s Top 10 Winter Theme Levels

Winter; whether you love the season or despise it, winter plays quite big in the North American region like hockey, Christmas, and Cool Runnings. This time of the season may annoy people who loathe shovelling snow on the driveway or driving on icy roads, but it can also present a magical scenery to those who had a fun experience with winter in the past. There can be a fun and beauty side of the winter season and I think video games can show that same kind of feeling in their winter levels.

Well, I finally got snow in my hometown (which I barely got any on Christmas Day) and I, T-McBee, will be listing down my  Top 10 Winter Theme Levels for the month of January. Here are the rules.

1. One level per franchise.
2. The choices have to had brought an impact of my gaming experience or has satisfied my time with the level.
3. The following levels I’ve chosen are personal favourites. So please be aware that this is my opinion list and not yours.

To get this countdown going, lets grab our snow gear and clothing and slide down towards my favourite winter levels in video games starting with number 10.

10. Big Snowman – Snowboard Kids

Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing were among the superior racing games to play on the Nintendo 64, though there was another game that played like those two titles, but with snowboarding in the picture. Snowboard Kids for the Nintendo 64 was another racing title that I’ve played a lot in the late 90s and I couldn’t get enough of Big Snowman. A racetrack that was long, but fun in results.

I could have added any racetrack with a winter setting from this game series, even ones from its sequel Snowboard Kids 2. However, there’s a huge increase of nostalgia I have with Big Snowman whenever I think of Snowboard Kids. Its mainly because I remember playing this racetrack the most. It’s not the creative looking snow/winter/ice level from the series, but I had to add this one on the list just for the level’s awesome music track. It’s one catchy tune that wants you to play Snowboard Kids even more.

A great track from an underrated game!

9. K3 – Donkey Kong Country 3

Okay! I’m sure anyone reading this are possibly shocked that K3 from Donkey Kong Country 3 made it to this list rather than Gorilla Glacier from Donkey Kong Country. While I did like the visual and ambient presentation of Gorilla Glacier from the first game, I’ve realized that the gameplay doesn’t hold up well today, especially Snow Barrel Blast. Man! I LOATHE that level so much that I wish it was dead. But moving on, K3 from DKC3 provided enough challenges and some solid gameplay to make the experience enjoyable, though not every level had a winter look to them.

I am not exactly sure why I liked playing K3 from Donkey Kong Country 3 a little more, but I guess the level’s music track brought me both a 90’s and wintery comfort feeling when I first tried out the game last year. And yes, I am aware that some people had a hard time with some of the levels in K3, like Tearaway Toboggan for example, as being the level people talk about for its difficulty. Sure, it was tough the first time I’ve played it, but from my experience with Tearaway  Toboggan, at least I wasn’t loosing lives like crazy unlike Snow Barrel Blast from Donkey Kong Country 1.

After hitting the checkpoint in Snow Barrel Blast, my enjoyment for Donkey Kong Country immediately decreases.

Though K3 from Donkey Kong Country 3 doesn’t reach higher on the list for having a couple of levels and its boss fight set in the winter, but from all the winter levels or over worlds that were presented in the Donkey Kong franchise, the K3 section is by far my favourite.

8. Planet Freon – Ristar

Ristar was one Sega mascot that fade into obscurity too soon all because of the release of the Playstation back in 1995. But for anyone who has played Ristar remembers the stages from Round 5, also known as Planet Freon. And boy! It literally was one excited snow themed level.

From my experience with Planet Freon, I remember having a really fun time getting through these snow levels, except for the sliding icy platforms. I found that there were too much of it, especially in the second stage. There are quite a variety of things happening with this round, including one mini-boss fight that’s design like a snowball fight. I wish I can see more boss fights like those in more future games. Plus the final boss was surprisingly fun. Tough at first, but it becomes fun once you understand the learning curve of the obstacle.

As much as I like to put Planet Freon from Ristar higher on the list, though I had only experienced this level once due to the excruciating moments I had with the 4th boss in Planet Sonata. Guess I was lucky to finally beat Awaueck on that day…

 … &#@% YOU AWAUECK! You annoy me with your lousy music notes and deadly feather.

7. Surface – Goldeneye 007 (N64)

Despite my hatred towards the single player campaign of Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64, I do have to admit that there were some missions that I had a fun time playing through. The game’s first snow level segment Surface was by far my most enjoyed experience of a winter theme stage I had in a first person shooter.

I am aware that there is another snow level called Surface 2 in Goldeneye 007, though it was basically Surface 1 but set at night-time. However, I found myself to have a clearer memory in playing the first Surface level a bit more. The satellite building, the level’s music and that nice colour palette on those skies are the biggest highlights for me with the level. Plus, it had a cool ending with Bond entering the bunker ground silo, but it wasn’t as epic as Bond jumping off the dam from the Dam level. But hey, at least you get a good laugh at the parka James Bond was wearing.

It’s kind of hard to take James Bond seriously in wearing a coat like that. Bet him and Kenny from South Park would make the best of friends!

6. Snowpeak Ruins – Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

I’ve always had mixed feelings whenever I reached towards winter locations and dungeons in any Legend of Zelda game. However, when I first played The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and experienced Snowpeak Ruins, I literally felt satisfied with a Zelda winter dungeon that had character and was fun to play through, even if the overall environment looked gritty as hell.

Snowpeak Ruins had a lot of random moments, challenging puzzles, great interior details and a unique setting that somehow was fun to explore, though it did had a bit of some obnoxious backtracking that felt like a chore at times. For example, bringing food ingredients for Yeti to make soup for his sick wife Yeta. This part did make the dungeon experience a bit slower, though it didn’t entirely ruin my satisfaction since Yeti’s silly humour made the dungeon a little more exciting. And of course, I cannot forget about that one scary moment before fighting the final boss Blizzeta. This scene caused a lot of gamers to jump out of their seats when this scene first played, including myself.

THE FOLLOWING VIDEO CONTAINS SPOILERS AND A FRIGHTENING SCENE  

Seriously! How can she turn her face around like that? And don’t tell me that it’s magic!

Ice Cavern from Ocarina of Time was a lackluster dungeon. Snowhead Temple from Majora’s Mask had its annoying obstacles. And the Ice Palace from A Link to the Past was a NIGHTMARE to accomplish. However, Snowpeak Ruins from Twilight Princess, gave me quite a comfort feeling when I went inside this cosy mansion which satisfied my experience with this Zelda game… except for its strange moments, hazardous rooms and quite eerie vibe.

5. Snowy Mountain – Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy

There are some snow levels that have presented such magnificent winter sceneries in 2D or 3D. Snowy Mountain from Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy somehow makes its snow level set through night and day quite gorgeous to explore around and making it one level to remember.

Other than having a calm feel and a stunning scenery, Snowy Mountain is one snow level that provides some neat and standard challenges in a 3D platform game, though I thought the level’s platforming was quite annoying to wander around. About 75% of the time, the player in Snowy Mountain is sliding on icy platforms while the rest of the percentage is walking comfortably on the snow (just exaggerated percentages I’m throwing out there readers). While I didn’t mind the ice physics on some icy platforms, but for ones set in places that could make the player feel overwhelm were a bit frustrated, especially the many times I would die from bumping into enemies by mistake. Plus going through Snowy Mountain for the first time felt really confusing for me to figure my way around the level.

Despite the flaws and  I had with Snowy Mountain in Jak and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy, it is still one winter level to at least experience with its stunning atmosphere, some fun missions and mysterious sounding soundtrack.  Speaking of soundtrack, why don’t we all gather around and listen to it’s ambient tune now, shall we?

        

Ahhh…. now that is one tune I can listen to while getting all warmed up in my igloo.

4. Kamui of the Northern Lands – Okami

Okami is one gorgeous looking game with its celestial brush appeal, cel-shaded designs and vivid environments. But does Okami can look incredible in a winter setting? From my experience with Okami, I say “Yes”, and its snow location Kamui of the Northern Lands was one unique level with its epic music and one heck of a story plot that made me continue playing when reaching to this part of the game.

What really surprised me about Kamui in Okami is how much content and events that are happening through this segment. Since this is the last location before fighting off the final boss Yami, I can see why there was a lot of things to do and stuff going on with this level. I won’t spoil the story for those who haven’t played it, but all I can say that it will leave your jaw dropped. With a variety of tasks to accomplish, a unique dungeon setting and its boss fight against Lechku and Nechku  (which kind of reminded me of the boss fight from the Spirit Temple in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time), I had such a fun and epic time when playing this part of the game.

Does this track make you feel like that you’re in an epic movie montage of climbing the highest snow mountain in the world? That’s how I felt when exploring Kamui.

The things I could nitpick about Kamui from Okami would be the ice physics on some sections and the level’s weird placement of platforms. Also, I found the Yoshpet forest part was possibly my least favourite part of Kamui. Time limits, plus icy platforms, plus enemies in the way will equal a bit of annoyance, but at least it was a section that’s possible to complete. Other than the few flaws I had, it was one of the most intriguing moments I had with a snow level and I probably wouldn’t mind going back to it again.

3. Freezeezy Peak – Banjo-Kazooie

Do you get a Christmas vibe whenever playing a snow level in a video game? There’s one snow level that immediately makes me think about the holidays, which is Freezeezy Peak from Banjo-Kazooie. There was also a winter level in Banjo-Tooie called HailFire Peaks, but since that winter level was combined with a lava environment, I don’t count that as a full winter level.

So what makes Freezeezy Peak such a wonderful stage in Banjo-Kazooie? I mostly enjoyed Freezeezy Peak for the colourful and simplistic design. It wasn’t too difficult to get yourself lost with all the objects and buildings set in the world, whereas HailFire Peaks in Banjo-Tooie, I was getting myself completely lost most of the time with its massive space and quite bland-ish setting. Freezeezy Peak was also a great snow level for its fun missions, catchy soundtrack and ridiculously fun humour. The things I could complain about the level are the evil snowman enemies and the second race with Boggy, which requires the player to get a power-up outside of the world. In other words, Freezeezy Peak requires a bit of backtracking.

Sir Slushes… Winter’s biggest jerk asses.

There’s a reason why many people like this winter level from Banjo-Kazooie, though I wanted to expect a bit more content with Freezeezy Peak as I was having a fun time playing this world from beginning to end. However, for what the developers Rare did back in the 90s, it sure was one of the finest winter levels that they have ever presented.

2. Canada (Episode 6 and 7) – Sly 2: Band of Thieves

Oh Canada! My home!  And speaking of Canada, it was awesome that the Sly Cooper franchise had two levels set in the northern part of Canada in Sly 2: Band of Thieves. I’ve seen levels in other games that had Canada set in the winter season like Tony Hawk’s Pro. Skater 3 for example, but there was something about Sucker Punch’s interpretation of Canadian culture and winter in Sly 2 that was massive and pretty fun to play through.

Both episodes 6 and 7 of Sly 2: Band of Thieves captured the calm cold mountain settings well with missions that were pretty fun, such as the train missions, distracting Carmelita to rescue Murray, and the boss fight against Jean Bison. There may have been a ton of missions that left me pretty satisfied, though not every mission was fun and easy to get through, like the Canada Games missions. I found those were a bit annoying and even though the concept was great with great humour from Jean Bison and the judges, it was how the missions were played felt slightly tedious at times. But hey, at least this segment had one enthusiastically epic track that captured the mission perfectly.

I would definitely pick this song as the national anthem for the winter Olympics.

Overall, Episode 6 and 7 in Sly 2:Band of Thieves was a pretty laid back experience with a variety of missions and a nicely detailed level. Some people may think these two levels are filled with many Canadian stereotypes, though me being Canadian, I didn’t get that same feeling as I found the content relating to Canada pretty enjoyable. After all, sometimes its good to get a good laugh from the country you live in at times, eh?

1. The Entire 7th Chapter Segment – Paper Mario

Paper Mario has got to be one of my favourite games on the Nintendo 64 and I was even more surprised that the entire 7th Chapter titled “A Star Spirit on Ice” was my favourite winter level I had witnessed in any video game. From the surprising weird story in Shiver City to the mysterious puzzle solving in the Crystal Palace, there were many fun and magical things happening with this chapter, which became my personal favourite.

The music, the level designs, and the puzzles in the 7th Chapter of Paper Mario were pretty unique and wandering this snowy area was great because it had no ice physics troubling your gameplay experience. Yes, I do know that game developers use ice physics to capture the characters walking on icy platforms realistically, but controlling the character in obstacles like those can feel really stiff or way too slippery. These slippery physics can annoy players and I’m glad that there weren’t any (or barely at least) in Paper Mario. Oh, did I also mention that this chapter had a pretty sweet boss fight, cute baby stars and a “Penguin Murder Mystery” story?

Huh…I’m surprise that no blood was involved in this murder case.

Every location in the 7th Chapter of Paper Mario will always remind me both of the winter season or even Christmas at times. I always get a calming vibe every time I get to this part of the game with its soothing, fun, and magical ambience and storytelling. Now you guys know why I’ve chosen every location from Chapter 7 in Paper Mario as my number one choice for winter theme level(s) in video games. Sure, there has been other great snowy worlds in other Mario games, but they never got that same cosy feeling as Paper Mario did. Ice physics can sometime kill the enjoyment for a gamer.

*glares at Frosted Glacier from Super Mario Bros U*

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2 Comments on “T-McBee’s Top 10 Winter Theme Levels”

  1. thehande Says:

    Nice. Interesting to see the GoldenEye stage there, but I liked that level too. =) I would have definitily put either one of the two ice levels from Super Mario 64 up here and also Frost Man’s stage from Mega Man 7 (I love the main theme, makes me think of Christmas). Keep on being awesome!

  2. A. Chapman Says:

    I think the coat James Bond wears in Goldeneye’s Surface level is meant to be like the coat Roger Moore wore in the pre-title sequence of the Bond movie, A View to a Kill. That also had a furry hood.


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