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For anyone on the Northeast of the US, the shovels are out and in the snow. Up to three feet of snow fell during a winter storm and thankfully it wasn’t as bad as newscasters led us to believe. Everyone is grumbling about making it to work through hazardous roads. Meanwhile the kids across the street are building a snowman, and a pretty good one at that. I makes me wonder why I don’t enjoy this weather as much as I used to… probably because calling out of work is harder at my job. Or because my gloves have holes in them. No matter! It’s time to make the snow fun again! Here’s our Top Five Best Ice Levels in Video Games!
5.) Noveria (ME)
Of all the paradise planets we could have gone to…
Kicking the list off with a modern classic, Noveria from the original Mass Effect mostly takes place inside a corporate tower and the labs of Binary Helix. Your first trip outside shows you why: too long in the cold and it’s game over. Oh, and the Geth don’t freeze over. Why can’t the roads be made of these things? Well, at least there’s no shoveling minigame. A great section of the Mass Effect, featuring Marina Sirtis of Star Trek TNG fame as Matriarch Benezia and a powerful choice to save or extinguish a powerful, ancient race.
4.) Winters (EarthBound)
199x: A year without cellular phones
The introduction of Jeff, Bubble Monkey, Brickroad and Dr. Andonuts all take place in this delightful snow-covered town. Town may be kind, as all there seems to be is a boarding school, a shop, a cave and a laboratory. And snow. Lots and lots of snow. But it’s listed in the Teleport menu, so it counts! In addition to the intros, a dungeon and a Sound Stone location are inaccessible when you first arrive and two additional plot-building trips make this one of the more interesting maps in the game.
3.) Surface 1 & 2 (Goldeneye)
What will we have to blow up here?
Who doesn’t remember this incredible level? First off, it’s one of the biggest open maps in the game. Second, the enemies blend into the background slightly and can see you at a decent distance, meaning there’s more challenge than the fish-in-a-barrel scenarios of other games (See any Hitman kill-everything video for reference). Finally, the second time you visit it, the darkness gives you a feeling of being stalked even as you do the stalking. It perfectly projected that feeling of emptiness the cold brings with it and the loneliness of less people being outdoors when they escape the slush. Scared the pants off me the first time I got attacked on it.
2.) Shadow Moses Island (Metal Gear Solid 4)
Best. Segment. Ever.
Although the entirety of Metal Gear Solid on PSone took place on this island off the coast of Alaska, Guns of the Patriots brought strong memories of the original to the surface. The map has the same layout, flashbacks remind you of all the moments of the first game, and shows the snow-covered remains of the destruction you brought in MGS. Did I also mention the fight between the wrecked Rex and the more powerful Ray? No? This game wrapped up the series beautifully, bringing it back to where it began and brought a wonderful nostalgia with it.
1.) Battle of Hoth (Rogue Squadron 2)
Done before, but never better
This level has been done to death. The Atari version had it, the NES tried it and the SNES version did it too. The first time it was done well was in Shadows of the Empire, where it felt like you were really a part of the Battle of Hoth in a good way. Although the first Rogue Squadron on the Nintendo 64 did this well, the second game was the perfect version, including the classic AT-AT fights, the best graphics, and John Williams worthy sound quality. This is what everyone should think of when they remember their favorite ice levels in video games.
Honorable Mention: Phendrana Drifts (Metroid Prime)
A great level, barely inched out of the Top Five, but worthy of mention. When Samus jumped into the third dimension and Retro Studios showed us it could be great as an FPS, it also brought us a great ice level to blast Space Pirates in. Tallon IV has many areas with their own environmental themes, but the Phendrana Drifts are easily one of the best of them.
Did you miss reading about your personal favorite? Drop a comment below to let us know about it!