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What is the single, best designed level in any game?

genesisblock

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Super Mario 64: Bomb-omb Battlefield. What appears to be a straightforward level becomes a sandbox the more you discover moves and tricks in the game when you come back to collect the rest of the stars.

This is what makes a damn good level, you're not just giving the players an experience, you are allowing them to discover of taking ownership of how you approach goals

Tomb Raider 1 - Saint Francis' Folly


God damn it. One of the most memorable levels ever.
 
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Barry Burton

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Many of my favorites have been mentioned already:

- RE1/REmake: Spencer Mansion (this is the best)
- Tomb Raider 1: St. Francis Folly, Cistern
- Goldeneye 007: Facility
- Ocarina of Time: Water Temple
- Thief II: First City Bank & Trust
- Metroid Prime: Phendrana Drifts
- Half-Life 2: Ravenholm
- Resident Evil 4: Village
- Psychonauts: Milkman Conspiracy
- Demon's Souls: Boletarian Palace 1-1
- Bloodborne: Central Yharnam
- Hitman: Sapienza

Some others that I want to nominate:

- Resident Evil 2/remake: RPD Building
- Thief 1: Constantine's Mansion
- Deus Ex: Area 51
- Majora's Mask: Stone Tower Temple
- Silent Hill 2: Wood Side Apartments
- Metroid Prime 2: Torvus Bog
- Vampire The Masquerade - Bloodlines: Ocean House Hotel
- Psychonauts: Waterloo World
- Shadow of the Colossus: Malus (final colossus)
- Twilight Princess: City in the Sky
- Hitman Blood Money: A New Life, A House of Cards
- Super Mario 3D World: Champion's Road
- Dark Souls III: Lothric Castle/Grand Archives
- Hitman 2: Miami
- Sekiro: Ashina Castle
 
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SonicVolcano

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Hitman: Blood Money

A New Life level

One of the smallest, but most fun sandbox maps, set in a suburban, typically American neighbourhood
Many ways to take out the target
Hilarious outfits (Clown!)
Funny easter eggs
You can shoot the female neighbour from a tree house and dump her body in a garbage truck

 
Feb 24, 2015
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To me, simplicity and intricacy doesn't necessarily make designed maps the "best". It's more so how they feel, they flow, and how memorable they are overall. We all have seen a TON of incredible and well made levels. But which of those are TRULY memorable. Not what happens IN the level entirely or memories surrounding it, but the level's construction itself.

It's really hard to choose one, but off the top of my head when I think of memorable levels I think of...

Super Mario Bros. - 1-1
DOOM - E1M1
Quake - Level Selection and E1M1
Quake 2 - The Edge
Quake 3 - The Longest Yard
Super Mario 64 - Peaches Castle & Bob-omb Battlefield
UT - Facing Worlds
Team Fortress - 2Fort
Counter-Strike - Dust
 
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adamosmaki

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Oct 9, 2019
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For me most likely is Dark carnival from blood. Blood and duke nukem had some of the best level design. In fact most early fps game are great on that department.
 
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Gifmaker

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Probably nostalgia but I loved this level, simple but memorable.

This unironically came to my mind when I read the thread title. Good that I am not alone. I don't think it's the best designed level in any game ever, but damn, it's gotta be one hell of a first level if one from a 24 years old single stick fps comes to mind that quickly.
 
Jan 29, 2019
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It was pretty good but the game was pretty glitched for me even after patches, so my overall experience was mixed.
Maybe it was your PS3.

Anyway, that boat level was pretty amazing.

I recall the forest level in thunder force III, and the first track of the Queen's league in f-zero SNES.

The crazy taxi city as well, that was amazing all they squeezed in so little memory!
 
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Orta

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Apr 26, 2018
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This was absolutely amazing back in the day, The Snipers Last Stand from Medal of Honor Allied Assault. The person playing it in this video storms through it but on the first ever play you slowly inched yourself through the rain soaked desolate bombed out village eyeing every pixel on the screen, totally tensed up and afraid to move at times as solitary German bullets whizzed over your head. I'd imagine the devs took a lot of inspiration from the sniper scene in Saving Private Ryan.

 
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Quazar77

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Jan 7, 2018
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Many of my favorites have been mentioned already:

- RE1/REmake: Spencer Mansion (this is the best)
- Tomb Raider 1: St. Francis Folly, Cistern
- Goldeneye 007: Facility
- Ocarina of Time: Water Temple
- Thief II: First City Bank & Trust
- Metroid Prime: Phendrana Drifts
- Half-Life 2: Ravenholm
- Resident Evil 4: Village
- Psychonauts: Milkman Conspiracy
- Demon's Souls: Boletarian Palace 1-1
- Bloodborne: Central Yharnam
- Hitman: Sapienza

Some others that I want to nominate:

- Resident Evil 2/remake: RPD Building
- Thief 1: Constantine's Mansion
- Deus Ex: Area 51
- Majora's Mask: Stone Tower Temple
- Silent Hill 2: Wood Side Apartments
- Metroid Prime 2: Torvus Bog
- Vampire The Masquerade - Bloodlines: Ocean House Hotel
- Psychonauts: Waterloo World
- Shadow of the Colossus: Malus (final colossus)
- Twilight Princess: City in the Sky
- Hitman Blood Money: A New Life, A House of Cards
- Super Mario 3D World: Champion's Road
- Dark Souls III: Lothric Castle/Grand Archives
- Hitman 2: Miami
- Sekiro: Ashina Castle
Fine list 👍

My vote’s RE1 Remake mansion
 

Retinoid

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Dec 13, 2019
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Painted World in DS1. The amount of content and verticality packed in such a compact area is mind boggling and should be taught in Game Dev courses.
 

niilokin

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Feb 21, 2019
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Doom had so many amazing levels... my favourite might be e2m4 (deimos labs), so much variety and atmosphere in a single level...
 
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the_master

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Barcelona, Spain, Europe.


Either that or boring & barren open worlds.
This conclusion is wrong because msking a level look beautiful is way more expensive than making its level design.
Compare the cost of one designer vs several 3d artists, environment artists, lighting artists, postpro, etc...

If rhe levels of a new videogsme are simple is is because:
1-The game is aimed at a broader audience
2-A complex level may not make thst particilar game better
3-There are other tools to make the game interesting than placing 150 coppy pasted rooms with doors and keys and levers to walk it all several times.
4- They just fucked it up.

Most first levels of great games are excellent.
Also, Silent Cartographer of Halo & Mario 64 come to mind. But they come to mind all the time :)
 

Tesseract

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nothing specific comes to mind, too many greats

svencoop, natural selection, dystopia, metroid prime, dark souls, portal, dishonored, hl2, majora's mask, deus ex, blood money, diablo 2, phantasy star online
 
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01011001

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I just got Amiga games running on Series X so I am currently playing Lionheart again. haven't played it past the first level in ages...
but damn man, the second world (The City) that shit is really nice. some really cool gameplay elements and a very Dark Souls esque feeling throughout. not only the style but also how you have to watch every move and your attacks have to be on point.

Such a great game. weird control scheme (especially if you play with a 1 button joystick, less so on a 2 button pad) but also kinda brilliant with its 3 attack hights and the 180° attack (which also comes into play through an enemy type that will block you if you don't surprise him)

with the Turrican collection out today I really hope some more Amiga classics get this treatments.
with some modernisation Lionheart would be totally at home today with its methodical gameplay that people in the industry would of course instantly compare to Dark Souls xD but that's
not without an ounce of thruth tbh.
 
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Laptop1991

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Apr 3, 2018
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2 from Dishonored 2 come to mind for me, Stilton's manor and Jindosh's mansion, great levels, i loved them.
 

Zannegan

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Feb 20, 2018
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The 3D Mario games have delivered so many amazing levels, I'm having a hard time picking one, or even just one from each game.

I'll second the Cradle level from Thief 3. Amazing shift in pace and tone that felt telegraphed but not obvious. I really need to play that game again
 

TrainedRage

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Dust from CS source
That Halo map with two bases on opposing sides from the first game.
Facility in Golden eye
Nuke town
 

Silvawuff

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Click Clock Wood from Banjo-Kazooie. Such a memorable area with an interesting mechanic switching seasons to solve puzzles, open up new areas of the map, etc.
 

ACESHIGH

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The first proper level in super mario galaxy. Everything just flows and the stellar music by koji london is the icing on the cake.
 

Kadayi

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Difficult question. I guess just in terms of how it's arranged and how well-conceived I think Undead Berg is a pretty amazing level, acting both as a hud as well as a starting point.
 
Feb 20, 2021
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Don’t know if it’s the best but Silent Cartographer from Halo: CE is up there.

I'm playing through CE on the Collection, and its amazing how simultaneously terrible and amazing the level design in that game is. It's confusing, samey, and often times disorienting, but the open design leads to some incredible shootouts and chances to improvise. The series never went back to that scale. I like them all, but I still think CE is the best. I prefer fast paced chaotic FPSs like Doom, Shadow Warrior, Unreal, etc. though.