|Best Levels Hub||Best Levels of 2010|
Welcome to the What Is The Best Level of 2009 List, formerly part of the general What Is The Best Level Of All Time list.
The most influential movement a creation can set are its baby steps. Everyone and everything has to start somewhere, and these levels were the cornerstones that form what level designing has become. It’s incredible how even in the weeks after it opened to the public we were already finding and creating unforgettable sights, experiences and adventures. From 2009, you could say it only got better, but maybe there is some truth in the ideal that nothing beats the classics. Judging by the entries here, the future has a challenge on its hands.
Volcove assisted with writing these up, namely entries 2, 3 and 5.
Thanks for reading. ~MessengerOfDreams
#1-The Final Rush by 24MurphEdit
Ticket to fame: The penultimate piece of 24Murph's Level Series, which is among the world's most famous.
Level Type: Final Challenge, Platformer, Space
Most Memorable Moment: Flying with the Turbo FLUDD over the chasm of rainbow colored bullets.
Quite an odd choice for the best level of 2009, correct? The 5 levels preceding this won all of the recorded LDCs that took place in 2009, and even some 7 and higher introduced a technological marvel or gameplay element used today or brought inspiration to the greatest designers of today. What makes 24murph’s Final Rush, the simplistic platforming pre-finale piece of 24murph’s legendary level series collection, so brilliant to top the other 14 preceding it?
This simple statement- Final Rush is perhaps the perfect platforming level. Every single jump, every obstacle, every single press of a button is electric, because this platforming level is flawless. It uses all 3 FLUDDs and all 3 Stars, but it's nearly impossible to cheat. It's a 10/10 difficulty, but it's hard to die. And everything is just energizing, it brings a rush unlike any other level. Not many techniques and elements are repeated or reused from this level, if any, for a very specific reason- 24murph captured a vibe in this level that could never be repeated by anyone else.
Just try it. Even play some great, fast paced music with it. You can't help but get into it, become enthralled and engaged by it. It's intense, pulse pounding, blood pumping, gripping and energizing and that's nearly impossible to accomplish whatsoever. And you can play it over and over and over without ever getting sick of it. It's the absolute, inherent fun factor that surpasses every other level to make its way on the top of the list. This is level perfection, and it doesn't need flash to it. This is why 24Murph is legend. This is EXACTLY what levelmaking is about.
#2-Ethereal Mansion by FourinoneEdit
Ticket to fame: The winner of the 4th LDC (Halloween) ran by Suyo
Level Type: Halloween, Candy Collection, Haunted House, Boss battle
Most Memorable Part: The final boss battle, along with the fantastic ending
You thought that desert oasis was amazing? It barely holds a candle to this masterpiece, and it is why that the Ethereal Mansion ranked higher in the end. After all, it is a perfect embodiment of Halloween, and while it is technically traditional in its basis, it breaks so many barriers that it is well beyond the expected norm. Considering it won in the first place while getting one of the best LDC scores ever, though, that probably isn't a surprise either.
Perhaps it follows a similar flow as the previous Arid Desert winner did, because it certainly has a similar vibe that has proven itself quite well. The entertaining introduction and storyline behind it, along with the early reveal of your (supposed) goal hints at this, but once you actually get into the mansion, things change entirely. It also offers one of the best early uses of a pure black background to compliment a haunting level, and paves the way for many other levels to use a similar style. The numerous obstacles are, again, all quite fantastic, and many new and original tricks are used to keep the player on their toes all the more. I don't recall an earlier use of being frozen in fear (and thus being locked to only jumping until a certain point is reached) or the springboard blocks that make for massive jumping potential.
To top it all off, there's not only a secret ending to be discovered, but a main ending that leads to one of the best block boss fights even to this day. After all, it is a truly interactive battle that fits the Mario style of bonking the creature on the head three times in order to defeat it, which in turn leads to a fantastic conclusion of... well, you'll just have to see it for yourself. Assuming you haven't already, anyways.
#3-Arid Arid Desert by fourinoneEdit
Ticket to fame: The winner of the 3rd LDC (Desert Oasis) ran by Suyo
Level Type: Desert, Oasis, Catacombs, Puzzle
Most Memorable Part: Sand-diggers, hands down.
If I had to guess, I'd say that this level served as one of the biggest turning points for level design, for the sheer depth behind it remains absolutely amazing even to this day. It offers just about everything you could want from a level, yet does it all in a package that remains easy to load despite the size it boasts. I mean, let's consider all the aspects:
- Amusing storyline and interactive, believable characters. - Secondary objective for extra replay value, along with an intuitive hint system behind it. Even if it doesn't lead to a shine, it remains quite the challenge to figure out. - Large variety of obstacles, both simple (giant cactii platforming) and complex (elevator-based obstacles), to keep the player engaged throughout the playthrough. - Well placed checkpoint system; always a great addition in a level of such a size - Balanced difficulty level; hard enough to be a challenge, yet not enough that it becomes frustrating - A vast catacomb dungeon with a history behind it, along with a pair of puzzles to figure out - One of the earliest and best custom enemies: sand diggers. They're particularly impressive because they actually pose a threat by hurting the player without a shred of glitchy behavior which in itself is far better than what most do even to this point.
I still wonder what it would have been like had the intended final boss been added. Would it have ranked higher? Who knows.
P.S. Also, when he says "under his own feet" he means it. Keep that in mind. ~MoD
#4-Space Colony by Krazy321Edit
Ticket to fame: The highest scored LDC entry of all time, dominating the 5th LDC (which revolved around expanding on a barely finished template 24Murph started you with) with a score of 18.375/20.
Level Type: Space, Exploration, Silver Stars.
Most Memorable Part: Standing under the bio-dome.
If Runouw were to go through the levels that have been made, looking for one to place inside Super Mario 63, for whatever reason, without a shadow of a doubt Krazy321's Space Colony would be the perfect Super Mario 63 level. With five silver stars with five missions and a nearly perfect execution, Space Colony is the long lost Super Mario 63 level.
Now that I've beaten the shit out of that analogy, to the level! It revolves around five missions around a colony placed on a spacebound planet untamed by Earth. Complete each five missions without dying, you win. Trust me, it's a pretty tricky challenge, but it's just remarkable. There's a ton to explore to get the missions done and a ton of work to get them done, a ton of detail into everything about this level. It was created by a levelmaker who decided to shit it all and exceed all possible expectations and just made the biggest, baddest level they could. And they succeeded in their quest.
#5-Bowser’s New Castle by 24murphEdit
Ticket to fame: The winner of the 2th LDC (Bowser's New Castle) ran by Suyo
Level Type: Castle
Most Memorable Part: EVERYTHING! (in reality, its hard to say, but maybe the secret library?) MoDEdit: I have to say the starting point with the sling and the waterfalls always gets me.
You can tell that it has an early days vibe from the start, yet it is its simplicity that makes such a level so genuine and enjoyable. It has the same feeling that one would get from playing the main game, and it is likely that Mario feeling that allowed it to win in the first place, even if it has a few smudges in its perfection here and there. It goes to show that a well structured level that uses a balance of obstacles, powerups and storytelling can triumph over something over elaborate and complicated when done properly.
Well, it isn't entirely simplistic; the level uses one particularly noticeable trick for one of the rooms, but even that is so well executed that it simply doesn't break the flow at all.
#6-Bowser's Volcano Lair by Krazy321Edit
Ticket to fame: The tied victor of the 2nd LDC (Bowser's New Castle) with 24Murph.
Level Type: Volcano, Castle, Boss
Most Memorable Moment: A tie between finally nailing those hard jumps or encountering Mechabowser.
Where to begin with this level? This is where Krazy was launched into level folklore. There's so much to love about it, and so much that still holds up to today's standards for one of the first noted levels ever. From tricky but fluid platformings to an epic pre-boss room bearing semblance to SMW's Bowser Valley 2 (and has been oft repeated in levels today) to the final boss, one of the first block based bosses ever pulled off as an element to the level (instead of the sole element to the level), there's a timeless quality to this level that was ahead of its time but still a full level you could get into today. You can almost see the hallmarks in this level of what makes levels what they are today, elements that are oft repeated in levels today. It's a fluid, lovable level that stands the test of time, and that's what makes a Best Level.
#7-Power Plant Level by Level4Edit
Ticket to fame: Level4 was one of the pioneers of modern day levelmaking.
Level Type: Showcase, Mine, Cave, Factory
Most Memorable Part: Starting instantly inside the plant and gazing upon it in wonder.
Let's get this straight. This doesn't really qualify as an actual level. No obstacles, no intentional risk of dying. There's no winning, just completing it. It's a showcase, but oh my god, what a showcase it is.
Level4 was Jesus, okay? Jesus. He was the first to show us that there was more to designing levels than met the eye. He used blocks and items and codebreaking to create masterpieces that were eons ahead of their time and still cannot be replicated today. This was the best example. It's indescribable- there's really no better way to explain than to play it yourself. Load it up and drool over the wonder that was the Power Plant.
#8-Newer Super Mario Bros 3-1 by Kirby859Edit
Ticket to fame: Newer Super Mario Bros is the most prolific level series and one of the most followed that has ever existed. 3-1 was the most acclaimed level of the series.
Level Type: Cave, Puzzle
Most Memorable Moment: This is really one of those levels where when everything falls into place you feel accomplished.
There's a certain mystique to this level, that's very hard to place. It's such a simple looking level, not among the prettiest or most evidently grand. But there is quite a grand quality to this level, a very calculated puzzle level where everything is there for a reason. You don't know why things are there until you have to use them.
I asked several fans of the series to pick out their favorite of the Newer Super Mario Bros Series, and the nearly unanimous response was 3-1, and it's easy to see why. Even as simple as it seems, Kirby mastered the type of puzzle that you'd see and welcome in an actual Mario game, and for that we commend him.
#9-Halloween Special by DemonikEdit
Ticket to fame: It was the surprise silver medalist of the 4th (Halloween) LDC, because it was made entirely in the 30x50 grid space and was entirely simplistic, a feature never seen in another prizewinning entry since.
Level Type: Horror
Most Memorable Part: The haunting first person narration by “David”
This is, without a doubt, the most polarizing item on the list during the debate. Some judges loved it for the same reasons the other judges disliked it. It’s by far the odd duck on this list, a 30 by 50 level with minimal decoration and elements that could have been made in a half hour. But there’s some touches that bring this story to an inimitable level.
The story. The story is the level, the level is the story. Sound weird? It kind of is, but instead of it being a level driven by a story, the level exists for the sole purpose of being a backdrop for the story. That’s why the bricks are one color and the decorations are sparse, the story. It’s something that is incredibly hard to pull off, and it won’t gel with a lot of people, but if you can go more arthouse for a bit, you’ll laud this level as one of a kind.
#10-Lake of Eternal Silence by AyrayenEdit
Ticket to fame: Although it came in fourth place (behind six other placers) in the 4th (Halloween) LDC , its influence can still be found today in levels, notably by Republic , who used its styling in a section of The Great Sanctuary.
Level Type: Adventure, Mansion, Sewer, Exploration
Most Memorable Part: Swimming through the green-walled sewers and trying to find your way out. Ayrayen was one of the few considered to be designing royalty through 2009. He had an acclaimed level series with notably high difficulty, and he was respected just below the level of the holy trifecta of the pioneer years (24, Krazy, Four). Surprisingly, though, this entry to the 4th LDC came in fourth, tying with MICrophone and coming in behind three bronze medalists, two silver medalists, and of course Fourinone. Still, this is the kind of level that can be seen as a precursor to the story driven type of levels that are still a rarity to find today.
To elaborate, there are plenty of good levels with considerable story, such as both of Fourinone’s early LDC winners. However, Lake of Eternal Silence is helmed by its plot for the level to work properly- constant scene changes and plot twists designate where you go next, and it’s not always where you think. Whether or not it worked for the best is debatable, but it’s a good element to draw you in. You’re not just playing to get to the end, you’re playing to find out what happens. It’s not a common element pulled off well in levels, but Ayrayen was able to make it work pretty damn well, and that’s why he’s here.
#11-Freezeflame Galaxy by BrandobrawlEdit
Ticket to fame: This level has been buzzed as the potential winner of the first ever LDC, but it wasn’t submitted in time. Nevertheless, it’s gone down in levelmaking folklore.
Level Type: Space, Fire Field, Ice, Puzzle
Most Memorable Part: That aha moment when you find out how you can pass that insta-kill block at the beginning.
Could this level have won the 1st LDC? It’s hard to compare; the 1st LDC was run on the freeforum that the Runouw.com of today is based off of so the levels are hard to impossible to find. But even though this level shows its age clearly, it’s an intelligent puzzle level taking influence from a Super Mario Galaxy level of the same name.
Brandobrawl pulls out all the stops, bringing you through an unclear, nonlinear path through both fire and ice as you make your way to the sprite. Keep your eyes peeled and your brain sharp, and don’t worry- there’s plenty of platforming to go around still. Bugs and all, this level shows clearly what was hot when the level designer was first used, and it’s still a fun play today.
#12-Secret Within The Desert Sands by VolcoveEdit
Ticket to fame: One of many second placers in the 3rd LDC (Desert Oasis), this level stands out as being Volcove’s first of many silver medals and for subtly introducing the ability to ‘transform’ levels.
Level Type: Desert
Most Memorable Moment: The transformation of the desert into a grassy oasis.
Volcove’s rise to becoming the top designer of the current age was definitely a slow burn. While he was turning out great levels before, he was quite the underrated designer in 2009. As it turns out, though, even then he was ahead of the game.
Secret Within the Desert Sands (not to be confused with his 13th LDC entrant “Secret Within the Sands”) was perhaps the first notable level to employ the technique of ‘transforming’ levels; that is, to take a level and apply a process (in this case, loading a second edited code) to turn the level into a subtly different atmosphere. The desert is dry and hot with many abilities to kill, but if Mario can reach the other side he could bring life back to it. This simple, innovative concept was rarely mirrored again until around 2011, but even in 2009, coupled with great gameplay and exquisite graphics, it was a gem in its own right.
#13-Bowser’s New Castle by FourinoneEdit
Ticket to fame: Only placing in a tied third during its LDC (aptly named Bowser’s New Castle), the legacy of this level is still counted as an influence to many creators today.
Level Type: Castle
Most Memorable Moment: The beginning, with a fitting tribute to Mario games past and a wicked sense of humor trademark of its creator.
Even with creators like 24murph being remembered as the most outstanding designers of the age of design, it’s safe to say that the genesis year of level designing still belonged to Fourinone. Even if this level was his least successful contest entrant, it leaves as much of a legacy as the two winners of its LDC. Good old fashioned Mario fun can be found here, with platforming reminiscent of Mario games past and techniques to be reused in SM63 levels of the future.
There are many elements memorable to this level, a level which inspired future memorable creators like MoD and Killswitch. Humorous lines to be remembered, platforming which at the same time was innovative and classic, a nice puzzle element and a clean, flawless and exhilarating final boss. Allow me to repeat that as far as LDCs go, this was Fourinone’s lowest placing legitimate effort. If that’s the case, then it was certainly no surprise that he had far greater achievements ahead in his future.
(at least, no surprise to anyone except Fourinone, whose response to his 3rd LDC victory was a surprised “Not expected/10, seriously. O.o”)
#14- Lava Lair by RunouwEdit
Ticket to fame: One of the first levels Runouw released as an example of what the SM63 designer could do.
Level Type: Lava, Castle
Most Memorable Moment: Observing the incredible tile schematic.
In case anyone had any doubts as to whether Runouw could work well with his own designer, he was sure to dispel them with a few sample creations released with the Super Mario 63 designer and new portal. They’re tricky to find today but still worth a play, especially this creation- a gorgeous level with design way ahead of its time and good old fashioned platforming goodness.
There’s not too much to this level as it was a short sample play, but as the creator of the game it is clear that Runouw could pull off an incredible level with little effort at all. The tiling still influences designers today with a brilliant patchwork grid that gives the level a truly unique feel. The gameplay is short but enjoyable, bringing influence from game straight to his designer. Something tells me that if Runouw were to design levels today… well, he’d probably have a lot of competition on his hands from designers he raised with his own creation. After all, without Runouw and his game, there would be no incredible levels.
#15-Amusement Park by Yoshi16Edit
Ticket to fame: Spending its entire lifespan on the portal within the top 25 for nearly three years straight.
Level Type: Amusement Park, Red Coin hunt
Most Memorable Part: Getting off the Ferris Wheel and waiting for the Roller Coaster.
Now this level isn’t flawlessly made. It has cutoff and some lag and isn’t the most gorgeous or extraordinary level around town. What’s extraordinary is the massive influence it’s had on the designing community. This level has maintained a score of 4.1 in the Portal for at least two years, enough to keep it in or around the top 10 for its entire lifespan, and with it being backed up by more than 1100 voters, not even the cheapest of downraters can knock it from its perch. Many designers have claimed it to be the level that started their careers in designing (Avo, Star king) and it’s still lauded today as a pioneering level.
Not that the level itself deserves to be overlooked. Flaws and all, it’s a fun, enjoyable experience with simple, enjoyable ideas to create the atmosphere of a Theme Park without overdoing it. For its time, it was certainly an innovation, and today most imitators can’t outdo it. For a level that still transcends time to become an eternal legend for generations of levelmakers, Amusement Park is a level that deserves the #15 spot.
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