It’s the holiday season, so what better way to celebrate the season than by whining about snow/ice levels? Between the limited vision, slippery footing, and freezing waters they tend to be a pain to play through. That’s not to say there haven’t been some great ones: next Wednesday I’ll be tackling the top ten greatest snow levels. But for now, let’s address the lesser ones.
10. Snow Kingdom – Super Mario Odyssey
This one’s low on the list because it really isn’t all that bad, as far as ice levels go: it just falls victim to being a bland level in a game that was otherwise filled to the brim with creativity and fun.
When you first arrive at the Snow Kingdom you’re struck with freezing winds that make it difficult to see; I figured right off the bat I’d be in for the worst area of the game. Luckily you’re not expected to wander around with low visibility for long; you quickly make your way into the underground village of Shiveria, where you progress through the story and eventually clear up the winds outside so that you can see, which is appreciated. But once you go back outside and behold the landscape, you just see a small, plain snow level. Nothing special about it. You’ll still slip along the ice and the water will freeze you to death too, so that standard ice level annoyance remains. Luckily it doesn’t take long to collect the few moons in the outside section of this tiny little Kingdom.
Shiveria is aesthetically pleasing, but it’s absolutely tiny. You go through a few obstacle course challenges while progressing through the main story and beyond that there isn’t much left to do except Bound Bowl Racing, which is an unfun minigame that I hear gives people a lot of trouble. I myself beat both versions on the first try, but I’ve complaints about having to try it over and over. Either way it’s a poor minigame.
As I said, I’d consider it the worst kingdom in Odyssey, but there are far worse levels to come on this list.
9. Snowman’s Land – Super Mario 64
Remember the ice level from Super Mario 64? No, not the fun one with the penguins and the slide that everybody remembers. The second one with the Snowman. No? You don’t remember? I don’t blame you.
This stage just feels like filler. It’s an excuse to pad out the game’s playtime by reusing assets from an earlier, superior level. It’s got all the trademark ice level negatives: snow in the way, slippery running, cold water… but it’s not especially bad. Just mediocre; for that it has to place low on this list.
8. Valley of Repose – Pikmin 2
If asked the question, “What is your least favorite type of level in video games?”, I would either respond with “snow levels” or “tutorial levels”. The Valley of Repose functions as both! I do enjoy me some Pikmin 2, but I hated the tutorial segment in this level. Having the Onion sitting by itself at the end of a long, narrow path could be pretty irritating. The Pikmin would take forever to carry enemies and pellets there and back. And waiting on them to carry that Duracell battery? UGH. And then there’s the tutorial cave, which was our introduction into the polarizing(HA) cave mechanic.
Beyond the tutorial area you’ll find a level that isn’t particularly well-designed. It’s probably got the most forgettable layout of any Pikmin stage. And the Frontier Cavern and Subterranean Complex are filled with frustrating, unfun floors(the water-filled level where you get the Skippy peanut butter is a nightmare) that have to be delved through. Though the Subterranean Complex DID have the Man-at-Legs, so the Valley of Repose has that going for it.
7. Chilly Ride – Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon
This is the final mission of the Secret Mine. While the Secret Mine as a whole is actually quite good, Chilly Ride is the worst boss battle in a game that only has one good boss to begin with. This boss fight is just frustrating. If you played Dark Moon, you remember. You no doubt had the exact same experience of making a little slip-up, causing the machine you’re riding to overheat, and having to start the whole thing over again. There isn’t a whole lot to say, just that it’s a really poorly designed boss fight.
6. DK Summit – Mario Kart Wii
I always hated this stage. It’s boring, both in terms of the track layout and visuals. The pink-striped snow that slows you down was always a huge pain in the rear as well. Just a really annoying track that would always induce groans whenever it came up. It’s also a blatant ripoff of DK Pass, which was another uninteresting snow-themed track with Donkey Kong’s name slapped on it from Mario Kart DS. But hey, at least that one wasn’t a knock-off.
5. Snowpeak – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
No, not Snowpeak Ruins. That was one of the best Zelda dungeons. I’m talking about the area leading up to it. The completely generic mountain area that is Snowpeak.
There’s barely anything there. It could not possibly BE any blander, and it looks even worse juxtaposed to the dungeon that follows it. I was glad that I was able to go into scent mode and follow the Yeti’s trail so that I could effectively ignore the painfully plain surroundings. You might point out that Snowpeak did have the snowboarding segment, but racing Yeto was mildly amusing at best, so it’s not enough to save the area from shame.
4. Hebra – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild did a good job of providing a variety of interesting environments to explore. Except for the Hebra region. Hebra is awful.
There are complaints that Breath of the Wild’s overworld is empty, and while it’s true that there are areas that feel like they could use more in them, most areas don’t feel truly desolate; there’s still some worthwhile exploration to be had. The only exceptions are the Gerudo Highlands and the Hebra region, both of which happen to be snow-themed.
But I can give the Gerudo Highlands a pass for at least being visually interesting. Hebra, on the other hand, is as generic a snow level as can be imagined. It’s just a vast expanse of snowy, mountainous terrain. There’s no point to it. The most reason you ever have to be in there is to go and perform an archery minigame for Teba, but that only takes place in a tiny segment on the outskirts of the region. Why bother with the rest of this area if nothing’s going to be done with it? I WOULD say that it just feels like the developers wanted to cross “snow region” off their list of obligatory environments, but there’s ALREADY other snow regions. The Gerudo Highlands and Mount Lanayru fit that purpose. Hebra has no business existing, at least not in the capacity that it does.
3. Ice Climber
This one isn’t a level so much as it is an entire game; yeah, remember when the Ice Climbers used to be in Smash? Remember how they’re pretty much the prime example of a character/franchise made recognizable solely because of Smash? Well, there’s a reason that nobody would remember Ice Climber otherwise; it sucks. There isn’t one thing the game does well; the controls are poor, the character designs are bland, and as it turns out, constantly jumping upward doesn’t make for particularly compelling gameplay. Even the music is just… godawful. The updated renditions that can be found in Smash sound fine, but hearing the chiptune variant is likely to induce earbleed. The pair-up mechanic that made the Ice Climbers interesting in Smash isn’t even present in the game; you just play as one of them. The only way you’ll get both on-screen is if you’re in 2-player mode, but let’s be honest: who the heck are you going to find that wants to play this trash heap?
I think the biggest testament to the game’s crappiness is that despite the frequent demand to bring back forgotten classic Nintendo franchises, Ice Climber is rarely, if ever, brought up. There’ll be no Uprising-esque remake for Ice Climber! This game is best forgotten and left to freeze over in the annals of history.
2. Icicle Mountain – Super Smash Bros. Melee
Oh, you thought we were done with the Ice Climbers, did you? Well, as it turns out, their chilling influence is enough to take both the second and third spot!
I cannot STAND Icicle Mountain. Growing up my brothers and I would play Melee constantly, and we’d find some enjoyment out of each and every stage. That is, except for Icicle Mountain. The vertical ascension stages are just plain irritating; it’s not even a matter of players fighting each other so much as it is just trying to keep up with the constant motion. Nobody enjoys them; I assume that’s why Smash 4 had not one of these across both versions.
And even ignoring the verticality of the stage, it’s still crap. It’s the most bland, uninspired snow-covered mountain aesthetic you could possibly imagine. And the platforms just come across as haphazardly thrown together rather than expertly designed to craft a proper stage. At least Rumble Falls had a personality and some traps for players to use! Icicle Mountain is not only the worst snow level Nintendo has ever produced, but the worst Smash one as well. Add to that the fact that it’s based on the shoddiness that is Ice Climber, and you’ve got a level that more than earns its place near the top of this list.
1. Fahr Outpost – Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
I KNOW, I KNOW, The Thousand-Year Door is a masterpiece, how dare I besmirch its glory, yadayadayada… look, the game IS a masterpiece, but dealing with this location is easily the low-point of the game.
When you first emerge from the pipe leading to Fahr Outpost you’re forced to go through a few screens of snow-covered land filled with nothing but irritating enemies that you have to either (probably unsuccessfully)avoid or fight through. Those Frost Piranhas are practically enough to land Fahr Outpost on this list by themselves!
Eventually you do reach the town, and what you find is a very small, bland settlement. Not much personality. The locals are just a bunch of Bob-ombs with a Russian dialect. Easily the weakest town in the game.
But that’s not the problem. The problem is the wild goose fetch quest that the game decides to send you on; this involves having to travel back to each area you visited prior in order to track down an NPC, only to find yourself in a “your princess is in another castle” situation again and again. Eventually you find him asleep in his bed back at Fahr Outpost, where you have to try and smack him awake, which is just another pointless and lengthy task. This part of the game is mind-numbingly tedious and had no need for existing; it was just filler. After waking him you DO get an awesome sequence involving launching Mario to the moon with a giant cannon, but that doesn’t erase Fahr Outpost’s crimes. Fahr Outpost earns its spot on the top because it prevents The Thousand-Year Door from approaching perfection. This part of the game is a blemish on what might otherwise be considered a flawless experience.
Amusingly enough, there isn’t anything about it that would necessitate the snow aesthetic. It could just as easily have been a desert level, thus saving it from being put on this list. But it IS a snow level, which is deliciously appropriate as it adds to Fahr Outpost’s general badness.
It says a lot that the best part of this area is being launched away from it.