Donkey Kong Country

Come on in, the water’s fine: 9 underwater levels that aren’t awful

When landlubber games go beneath the waves, it usually doesn’t end well. These levels manage to buck the trend.

By The Gameological Society Staff • May 2, 2013

1. Dire, Dire Docks, Super Mario 64 (1996)

An underwater level can mire an otherwise enjoyable game in a mess of slow movement and wonky gravity. It’s a testament to the tedium of subaquatic game worlds that they often turn the simple act of breathing into a chore. Many players’ first encounter with this scourge of game design came in Super Mario Bros., where the underwater levels transform Mario—that sublime avatar of running, jumping athleticism—into something more like a spastic, soggy yo-yo. Once Mario went 3D, his diving exploits became more tolerable. Dire Dire Docks is the smallest stage in Super Mario 64 (except for secret levels), but since moving through the water is slower and more methodical than above-ground adventuring, it still feels like there’s a lot to explore here. The coolest surprise is the discovery of Bowser’s submarine, which you can only reach by squirming through a tunnel below the lake’s surface—while Mario grows desperate for air. And it was a wise move by Nintendo to give Dire, Dire Docks such a tranquil, almost wistful soundtrack. All the better to soothe you when Mario 64’s persnickety camera makes swimming more of a pain than it ought to be.

2. Pilgrim’s Trench, Skyrim (2011)

Lakes and oceans are terrifying. Swimming in them is lovely when it’s hot out, but human beings are simply not supposed to go in there. For starters, everything from vision to locomotion is impaired when you dive into some green body of water. Plus, they’re filled with monsters. Mollusks, crustaceans, fish—these are nature’s nightmares. The Dragonborn’s stock-in-trade is fighting monsters while sauntering through the harshest natural environments in Skyrim, though. And any decent hero also knows there’s treasure everywhere, even in the briny deep. Pilgrim’s Trench, off the northern coast of the dragon-plagued country, doesn’t hide the game’s most vicious adversaries. It’s a ship graveyard, one of the only submersed areas of the game with interesting structures to explore. There’s not much down there to be afraid of, but diving into that chilly inlet captures the sensation of crippling water fear. It’s what might be waiting down there as you swim through the murk, keeping an eye on how much breath you have left, that’s so crippling. The Elder Scrolls games are full of fun and excitement, but gripping moments like exploring the Trench—moments that make you aware of your own human weakness—are rare.

3. The seventh colossus, Shadow Of The Colossus (2005)

Sometimes the only way to get ahead in life is to get a little wet and wild. That’s definitely the case with Hydrus, the seventh colossus in Shadow Of The Colossus. Dwelling in the murky depths of an ancient lake, Hydrus is a monstrous creature that resembles a cross between an electric eel, a catfish, and something you might scrape off your plate in a bad sushi restaurant. The fight has you grabbing onto his mossy pelt and holding on for dear life as he takes you for a wild ride both above and below the surface of the water. The result is a great underwater boss battle that proves sometimes you just have to take the plunge, even if it means inhaling a few lungfuls of water from a pissed-off electric seaweed monster.

4. Maridia, Super Metroid (1994)

Collect enough weapons upgrades in Super Metroid, and you’re liable to get comfortable running and gunning your way through alien caverns—to the point that methodical exploration falls by the wayside. It’s a good thing Maridia comes along, with its huge flooded caverns and pits of heavy sand to slow you down and force you to think about your next move. While the Maridia section of Planet Zebes may seem sprawling and rife with traps, it’s all pretty easy to navigate as long as you stop, look around, and plan your moves accordingly. Small inconsequential enemies become major hindrances when you’re fighting the gravity of both water and sand. Does it seem too hard to jump through those pits while beasts keep jumping out and spitting at you? Sure would be nice if you could freeze-ray those suckers and hop across their backs to safety. Oh, you can do exactly that? Good thing you stopped to think before you jumped in the sand and died.

5. Underwater, We Love Katamari (2005)

Underwater levels are usually cursed by bad controls and a sense that they exist purely for novelty’s sake, which is probably why We Love Katamari’s underwater level works as well as anything else in the game. The controls are identical to any other level, apart from a certain added degree of floatiness when you fall, and all of Katamari is dependent, to a degree, on the novelty of what you’re rolling up in an enormous ball. This underwater level offers a mix of the obvious stuff, like fish and scuba divers, along with some thematically appropriate fantastical items like mermaids. Then, because it’s Katamari, the game tops it all off with a heaping helping of the absurd—incongruous underwater items like a television set and tiger-skin rug. The underwater visual effect gives the whole thing a pleasant visual contrast to the rest of We Love Katamari. Just watch out for the fish hooks—they’re among the most annoying obstacles in the game.

6. Bubble Man stage, Mega Man 2 (1989)

Mega Man’s got mad ups for someone made of metal. His vertical leap propels him over many a precarious platform and angry robot in the old NES adventures, but you can see how his mass causes problems. He drops out of the air like a stone, and if he gets hit in midair by a stray bullet or, say, a robot baby frog, he gets knocked back hard. Based on what you see throughout the first Mega Man, you’d think water would only exacerbate the problem, but as robot master Bubble Man’s stage in Mega Man 2 proves, the Blue Bomber thrives under the waves. Turns out that water doesn’t weigh down robots like humans; Mega Man can somehow jump even higher and faster when he’s down there. Bubble Man’s hideout transforms the way players think and feel about Mega Man’s movement, and the level’s creators knew it. They filled the area’s ceiling with spikes that kill you in a single hit as a means to teach you control of all your newfound locomotive freedom. Underwater stages that set your character free, rather than constraining you with limited air or movement, became a staple of action games after this slice of blue heaven.

7. Down The Tubes/Tube Race, Earthworm Jim (1994)

With a focus on Tex Avery-style cartoon gags and a disregard for genre conventions, Earthworm Jim was unlike other video games of its time. This underwater section was especially unusual, thanks to the brittle glass submarine that Jim pilots through large sections of the area. The simulated analog controls feel smooth and delicate, giving players full 360-degree precision to their movements—provided they use a gentle hand and don’t crash repeatedly into rocks, cracking the ship’s hull and drowning poor Jim. An oxygen timer tricks players into trying to rush through these areas, but you’ve got plenty of time as long as you keep a level head and don’t freak out. As a bonus, the whole thing is capped off with perhaps the most anticlimactic boss fight in video game history, as Jim just knocks over a fishbowl and rockets away, leaving Bob The Killer Goldfish flopping around helplessly on the floor. Much of Earthworm Jim was (rightly) considered challenging to the point of unfair, but this underwater area is quite pleasant if you take it calmly and rationally—a counterpoint to the ‘90s “SEGA!” extremism that occupied the rest of the game.

8. Vashj’ir, World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm (2010)
World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm

Swimming was no fun in the original World Of Warcraft. You moved slowly, and most characters couldn’t hold their breath for long, so you’d be terrified of getting lost while trying to complete whatever cruel objective sent you into the water. It wasn’t until the Cataclysm expansion that Blizzard turned water from an annoyance into an asset with the aquatic zone Vashj’ir. Characters there get the ability to breathe water and swim quickly, plus a sweet seahorse to ride around. With all the inconveniences of underwater exploration hand-waved away, you’re left to appreciate the stunning landscapes like sunken cities, dark trenches, and vibrant reefs—all populated with sea monsters that need killing.

9. Coral Capers, Donkey Kong Country (1994)

To swim is to place your trust in the fact that, despite all odds, you can float. Easier said than done when there’s water—unbreathable water—as far as the eye can see! Capable of killing you at any moment! Coral Capers, the first underwater level in Donkey Kong Country, begins by tempering that fear. There are colorful coral reefs dotted with incandescent fish, and a calming musical score that feels like it was ripped from a Planet Earth sequence about the tranquility of sea life. Still, the giant ape Donkey Kong and his less giant sidekick, Diddy Kong, are incapable of more than rudimentary dog-paddling, so the beauty of Coral Capers can’t be fully enjoyed as they squeeze through narrow passageways and around pointy octopi, desperate for air. Luckily, these land-faring mammals are saved by a helpful sea creature—in this case, a swordfish with the grin of serial optimist Joe Biden. Riding on the fish offers a sense of control and the ability to see the lush sea life around you. Plus, you can skewer unwanted sharks through the face. Screw physics. Swordfish riding is the only surefire way to master the underwater domain.

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177 Responses to “Come on in, the water’s fine: 9 underwater levels that aren’t awful”

  1. O Superman says:

    I’m glad the person in that Katamari video is playing as Foomin, who was always my favorite of the Katamari cousins.

    (Yes, I have favorites among the Katamari cousins.)

  2. PugsMalone says:

    I hate Dire, Dire Docks because it had something like 106 coins in it, and you needed to get 100 coins in every stage to get every star. The 100-coin stars should’ve ended up on the cutting room floor.

    • I liked the 100-coin stars. They really forced you to scour the stages from top to bottom. 

      • neodocT says:

         I preferred the way the Banjo-Kazooie games did it, where you had to collect all of the musical notes, but you didn’t have to do it in one sitting. So if you left the level and came back later, you only had to collect the notes you left before.

        Then in DK64 you had to do that five separate times with five separate monkeys, and the whole thing got out of hand.

        • PugsMalone says:

          Actually, you did have to get them all in one sitting in the original BK (although they fixed it for the remake). That was definitely a stain on an otherwise great game.

          In Banjo-Tooie, there were just 16 clusters of 5 notes and one of 20 in every stage. I’m guessing that them resetting in the original game was due to memory issues, and that dealing with 17 pickups in each stage was easier than dealing with 100.

        • neodocT says:

           @PugsMalone:disqus Yeah, seems I was kind of wrong for the original BK. Apparently, you only had to collect each note once for the overall collection, that counted for opening doors and everything, but the game couldn’t remember the collection state in each individual level, so every time you went back into a level they were reset.

          Though the execution was flawed in the original BK, I like this idea better than the way Mario 64 handled it.

    • drunkconquistador says:

      Who else spent the entire time reading the article trying to second guess the author by figuring out if there were any smaller stages? 

      • Fabian Gross says:

         Hm, I’m pretty sure the Bowser levels are shorter, and they’re not secret stages. Gotcha!

        I disagree with the write-up anyway – underwater levels became much more frustrating once Mario went 3D, and the controls and camera in Dire, Dire Docks are especially awful.

    • fieldafar says:

      I hated Dire, Dire Docks (as a kid) because of that freakin’ eel.

    • CrabNaga says:

      The 100 coin star in Dire, Dire Docks is one of the more impressive ones to see in a speedrun. They don’t even bother with activating those poles that move along the ceiling. When Siglemic streams he has an entire split dedicated to “DDD100.” 

  3. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    Maridia.  It’s hard to express what a wonderful, revolutionary reveal that level was when first playing Super Metroid.  Just like my father trying to impress upon me the importance of Ernie Kovacs and just how I will try to impress upon my daughter the importance of the first eight seasons of the Simpsons; So much has been built off of the ingenuity of the level design it’s difficult to articulate that original thrill.
       From the first glance provided of Maridia, functioning as it’s own perfectly sound ecosystem existing entirely without the player’s interference (seen through a variation on one of Metroid’s signature door tunnels), to the unconventional way Samus can utilize a power-up to access the level.  But even further, that you can explore the level without even being sufficiently equipped to do so, only to unlock a further power-up that lets you feel liberated and capable in a way only the best power-ups can.
       I still think about Super Metroid all the time.  It is the muzak that plays in the elevator of my mind.
       Which was designed to hide my incredibly long load times.

    • aklab says:

      Yes. Super Metroid is one of my favorite games ever. One of my favorite things about the game is the sense of… being in a place where you don’t belong. When you can power-bomb the glass passageway in Maridia to get there too early, or run around in Norfair before you have the Varia suit, or making it to the Wrecked  Ship… part of the genius of Super Metroid is that even when you’re exactly where you supposed to be, it feels like you’re not supposed to be there. You know?  

      • Hermetic_Zeal says:

        Man, the Wrecked Ship.  What a great game.  

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Well put.  The main theme around the Metroid franchise is isolation, but that doesn’t provide enough depth to the subtext that the isolation is due to Samus being an interloper.

    • aklab says:

      Also, literally LOLing at the person in the video taking 3 or 4 tries to get the speed-boost/super-jump placed exactly right, just to get that one missile. That is so familiar. 

    • Sleverin says:

       Speaking of muzak and Metroid, I remember a particularly creepy and well done rendition of the Maridia theme on OCRemix.  Creepy as all hell and totally worked, which I can’t say for all of the OCremixes.

    • zebbart says:

      Although I was hardcore into Nintendo at the time I missed Super Metroid. So I played it the first time this winter and I can say the whole game and the awesomeness of Maridia hold up without nostalgia today.

      • Bakken Hood says:

        Yuuuuuuup.  I discovered Super Metroid in 2006, and wanted nothing more than to go back in time, confiscate whatever crap twelve-year-old me was playing, and leave a copy of this goddammed masterpiece in its place.

    • Hermetic_Zeal says:

      Yeah, man.  That reveal still kind of blows my mind.  The idea that there’s an entire world, just barely below the surface of a location you’ve passed over and over, is pretty incredible.  

    • PaganPoet says:

      Cracking that glass tube with a super bomb is one of the most memorable moments of gaming for me.

      For the longest time, I wasn’t aware that you could use your grappling hook on the electrical outlets during the fight with Draygon to electrocute him and have him drop you. I always thought he was uncharacteristically hard for a boss in that game (although Phantoon is rather difficult as well).

    • PutSomeRanchOnIt says:

      Best game ever made, really. Thank you and all of the people who replied for giving me reasons to think about Super Metroid. I could live in Zebes and be just fine.

  4. caspiancomic says:

    With your blessings, fellow commenters, I’d like to be completely predictable and take the conversation here. Sonic has featured water levels of some description in pretty much all of his games, but most people associate them with this cheerful ditty and the frustration and terror that comes along with hearing it. Hydrocity Zone from Sonic 3 kind of nails the Sonic Water Level, though, because the parts of the zone in which you’re totally submerged without access to the surface are relatively short and intense, as opposed to in other titles where you would be submerged for several full minutes at a time. Mostly the water was there as a kind of punishment for players who ballsed up the above-water platforming, and if you played your cards right and kept your momentum up you could run along the surface of the water and bypass most of the level’s drowning hazards altogether.

    Related question: speaking of water, are there any sandbox/RPG type games that allow you to explore underwater, a la the submarine parts of Final Fantasy VII? I always loved those bits of that game, and the more I think about it the more I’m surprised more games don’t go that route. Most JRPGs are happy to go the on foot > car/bicycle > boat > airship route, how come we haven’t seen any more submarine sections?

    • drunkconquistador says:

      Best I can do is Serpent Trench from FF VI. Neglecting to go out of your narrative way prior to accidentally triggering the game-changing world destruction sequence, then finding your completion loving self unable to have one of Mog’s environment based Dance techniques, was the spiritual precursor to the pain in the ass sequence of getting Great Gospel for Aeris in FF VII.

    • Flying_Turtle says:

      I’ve only played the first couple of Sonic games, so I’m probably not the best person to weigh in on this (as if that were going to stop me), but I hated the underwater levels in those games. Taking a character defined by speed and turning him into little more than a sinking stone is challenging, to be sure, but I never found it fun. The “I’m going to drown!” music from those games, though, is panic-inducing for sure. The level you posted looked like a big improvement, because, as you said, it’s more of an avoidable penalty.

      As to your related question, off the top of my head, both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas have small parts of underwater exploration. (SPOILERS, I guess, but I kind of doubt it) Fallout 3 allows you to gain access to the broken-off piece of the aircraft carrier that houses Rivet City by going underwater, but it was not a big deal to skip it. I think there was a flooded Metro station too, but I think it was just a structure you couldn’t enter. In NV, you had a couple of vaults with significant flooding (and there’s nothing to add to the spookiness of a vault like filling part of it with radioactive water!) and if you decided to befriend the Boomers, you had to take a swim into non-radioactive Lake Mead. Of course, if you bothered to get the rebreather at Nellis, drowning was not an issue, which took away some of the terror.

      • SamPlays says:

        I’ve been through the entire Sonic series (well, just the Genesis games and a Game Gear title) and the underwater levels were always a slog for the exact reason you mentioned – a character built on beig speedy, sloshing his way to the next precious air bubble. It was particularly bad in the earliest games but the later sequels introduced water currents and a better mix between underwater and land-based platforming to help move things along.

        For my money, the best underwater level I’ve ever played was in Rayman Origins. It’s highly reminiscient of the 2-D Mario water levels but much smoother and extremely enjoyable. It was like Ecco and Mario hooked up and made the cutest baby underwater level ever. Like butter!

      • Afghamistam says:

        Note: Before reading this post, let’s listen to this:

        Subtle differences in the three original Sonic games.
        In Sonic one, the underwater level sapping your ability to speed through it is the entire point – it’s a labyrinthe.

        In Sonic 2, the sections of the levels that feature water are for the most part to be avoided – ending up in water therefore, is to be viewed as a punishment for not choosing the right route.

        It’s only in Sonic 3’s Hydrocity that – like the dude said – nailed the balance. Though not particularly because they were short, but because they were intense. The level itself propelled you through the water sections as fast as if you were on land. Not stopping was the key to getting through them unscathed.

      • I think people tend to miss the point of the water levels in Sonic games. Sure, the game is built on speed, but the idea is that you can’t be fast all the time and survive. They’re there because it teaches gamers to slow down, think, and concentrate. Sonic wasn’t Mario but platforming areas were relatively solid.

        So yeah, even in the water, the idea was to keep moving and get out as fast as possible. Water aside, a big percentage of the game is waiting, jumping, timing, and careful decision making. Hell, there’s barely any speed-running in the second level of the first game.

        • Flying_Turtle says:

          I think it’s true that Sonic games are about the judicious use of speed, and as you point out, going full-bore is not going to work for very long. For my part, I probably tend to play too cautiously, and I can lose momentum, which can be pretty inconvenient. I prefer the way that theme plays out on land, but I see what you’re getting at.

    • Anspaugh says:

      Final Fantasy V and Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals both have submarines, I can’t think of any more though.

      • PugsMalone says:

        Final Fantasy III (the NES game that was remade for DS) also has a submarine. There isn’t a whole lot to do underwater, though.

      • BobbyBrownGoesDown says:

        Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals is one of my favorite games of all time. That is all.

      • TheKingandIRobot says:

         FF VII had a submarine as well.  Pretty awful though.

    • Xenomorph says:

      @caspiancomic:disqus Just Cause 2 has some gorgeous underwater environments.

    • Cloks says:

      Spoilers, but Golden Sun eventually takes you to Atlantas iirc.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Going underwater in Terraria can be pretty fun, especially when that underwater is deep in the bowels of the earth and in total darkness. Dropping a glowstick and suddenly finding oneself surrounded by monsters while gasping for air is definitely nerve-wracking.
      That said, with an Adamantium sword and Scuba Gear, it gets a bit better. Still, I died 3 times trying to dive down a particularly deep underground lake and once I had found the Scuba gear I decided to drain the bitch all the way down to the hellish bottom layer.
      I’ve tried draining one of the oceans on the edges of the game-world before, but even with a massive cave dug below it only managed to drop the water-level by a few feet.

      • djsubversive says:

        When we made the Gameological Castle and were mining down looking for sand, I had a couple “splashing in the dark” moments. Not having anything cool as far as gear (except a couple of glowsticks I’d found hidden in some pottery), it was a race to get a wooden platform ladder up to the surface before my air ran out.

        Of course, once I got up and set up some lights and stuff, it became “drain this fucker so I can mine the iron down at the bottom.” But yeah, running out of air, in the dark, with an unseen monster throwing itself at you is pretty creepy for a 2d retro-looking sandbox.

    • colostomiraptor says:

      Breath of Fire has a fishman character who gets the party gills and can later turn into a big fish so you can travel faster underwater. You also visit his underwater city. 

    • Chalkdust says:

      Lost Odyssey has a submarine!  There’s something about that game, whether the mood or design or pacing, that makes it feel like a missing PSX-era Final Fantasy, which is appropriate, considering it’s by Hironobu Sakaguchi.

  5. The_Helmaroc_King says:

    Underwater levels? There’s something about them in 3D games that gives me an indescribable sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I think it’s the way that they put take away the ground beneath my feet; it always feels like I’m seconds away from being swept into the abyss and eaten by something that I can’t escape, if I’m not simply crushed by uncaring forces beyond my comprehension.

    Fun stuff!

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      That level from Shadow of the Colossus is a good example of what I’m talking about. I don’t know which part was more nerve-wracking, fighting a serpent a hundred times my size, nearly drowning every step of the way, or the part that came after I killed it: swimming desperately to reach shore, some ethereal tendrils reach up from the bottom of the lake and simply invade my body, which is left floating listlessly underwater. That crunching sound they make? Ugh.

      The only other underwater 3D level that comes to mind and isn’t on this list is the first one from Super Mario 64, Jolly Roger Bay. Even when that eel isn’t going to leave its cave, I don’t want to turn my back on it; I’m in its environment and it could come at me from anywhere, faster than I could possibly escape.

      Such a wonderful feeling of dread; have there been any underwater horror games? Other than Deep Fear?

      • Merve says:

        That eel in Super Mario 64 always scared me. So did the clams. If you weren’t fast enough at stealing the coins from them, they would snap shut on you.

      • CrabNaga says:

        The eel Colossus happened far enough into the game that I was already expecting to be attacked by the death spaghetti immediately after beating a boss. In fact, after beating that Colossus, I just swam around in circles until the tendrils came and whisked me away to safety.

    • SamPlays says:

      I haven’t played Skyrim (yet?) but it reminded me how awful the water was in Fallout 3. There was one area in a cave under a school or something and it had extremely deep, irradiated water. I suppose if I had the right perks I could have made it to the other end but moving under water in that game was a horrible, suffocating experience – I guess they nailed the sensation of drowning.

    • Fishbone Method says:

       Me too! In Fallout 3, there’s a raider camp that can be stealthed into very easily by diving off the back of the Jefferson Memorial, swimming the river, and killing any mirelurks that follow you up the beach. The sensation of “looming void” when swimming underwater in Fallout 3 is… gha *shivers*

      • SamPlays says:

        What’s jarring about “swimming” in Fallout 3 is that your character moves exactly like he/she would on land, only much slower and with limited visibility. There’s no visual cue that you’re in a completely different element – other first-person games (CoD games as one example) use a bobbing camera to at least make it seem like your body is moving with the water surrounding you. In Fallout 3 you’re like a statue.

      • djsubversive says:

        Similarly, one of the Wasteland Survival Guide missions sends you to the Anchorage Memorial, I think. Moira wants to get mirelurk sex tapes or something, I wasn’t completely listening. Anyway, one of the ways in is a partially-flooded office area full of ‘lurks, and the “stealth route” is a submerged area of the memorial that requires a bit of underwater navigation before you find room to surface. Both ways can be nerve-wracking (especially if you’re trying to find the underwater door at night, and accidentally go the wrong way and stir up other ‘lurks).

    • Groofus says:

      I’m exactly the same way. Going underwater in any video game makes me start panicking. I feel like I’m going to be swept away into the middle of the ocean and never find my way back and drown. I think I it’s because I’m so scared of drowning in real life.

    • trilobiter says:

       My girlfriend and I have been playing through Super Mario Galaxy, and I’ve let her take the lead on most of the levels since she’s never played it before.  But she invariably ends up handing it off to me if she has to get in the water for more than a few minutes.  And I can’t really blame her, because my own approach to water levels is less precision control than educated fumbling.

      I get that same disoriented feeling in a lot of first person shooters.  Not all of them, but depending on the controls and the way the character moves, I can feel lost in straightforward levels.  I honestly don’t know how I survive from behind my own eyes.

  6. aklab says:

    Donkey Kong County and Super Metroid in the same article? How did you know my birthday was coming up?

  7. vinnybushes says:

    The underwater levels in Rayman Origins would be pretty decently fun even if they weren’t already breathtakingly beautiful. I guess that’s the virtue of having flawless controls.

    • zebbart says:

      And they have maybe my favorite music of any video game. I can’t not smile in those levels because of that music (except when I am cursing.)

    • SamPlays says:

      It’s the perfect controls that make you want to keep trying (because the game isn’t always easy).

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Thank you. This is what I was looking for. Great controls, fantastic music, and some hair-raising escapes. Just wonderful.

    • neodocT says:

       Rayman Origins is fantastic. I remember playing the Wii version of the water world challenge level (those where you had to chase a chest). Me and a friend must have played that level hundreds of times, and could never beat it. I then found out that the Wii version has a bug on that level that blocks you from winning. Next time I see it cheap, I’m getting the game for the PS3 and finishing this.

      • vinnybushes says:

        The ps3 version has the same bug. I don’t know that it’s ever been patched.

        • neodocT says:

           Oh well, guess I’ll just stick to the surprisingly great iOS runner, then… Until the sequel comes out, at least. 

      • zebbart says:

        What are you talking about? The pirate ship one or the later one, number nine? Number nine, was hard as fuck, maybe the hardest level of a game I’ve ever played, but I didn’t have problem with a glitch. The pirate one I remember being a fun challenge but not extraordinarily difficult.

        • vinnybushes says:

          This one: it auto scrolls and kills you every time.

        • neodocT says:

            @vinnybushes:disqus Yeah, that’s the one. And we didn’t retry the levels so many times because it was so hard, but because we were sure we were doing something wrong in the end. We didn’t know it was a glitch!

        • zebbart says:

          I must have just unknowingly done one of the tricks to beat it. It was a while ago but I’m guessing I hovered by the right mast on the last jump instead of jumping to the left mast. I went and tried it just now and got camera killed so I see what you mean. But it is beatable on Wii because that’s how I beat it without knowing about the glitch.

        • You just have to jump very early or very late. It was annoying but you should be used to repeating those levels a million times til you got lucky anyway

      • Uthor says:

        Just keep playing it and jump at the wrong times.  I hit that glitch and somehow manages to stay right at the edge of the screen while just barely avoiding the fire.  Such a happy moment.

        The game was great for making me sweat and fume with frustration, but look forward to playing some more when I finally beat whatever was stumping me.  I generally couldn’t play more than a 2-3 levels at a time before needing a break to get my adrenaline down.

  8. Dikachu says:

    Y’all forgot to mention that the Bubble Man stage of Mega Man 2 has possibly the best NES music ever made.

    • drunkconquistador says:

      The argument could be made that underwater stages bring out the best in game composers. Mario 64 and DKC really stand out. I mean, the music was going through my head the second I saw them mentioned in the article.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Mister, you ain’t wrong.

    • duwease says:

      If game soundtracks were akin to albums, Mega Man 2 would be the top of the heap.  I have like 5 of those songs in my music library out of a total of about 9.

      In fact, I went to a fantastic show once where a band covered the Mega Man 2 soundtrack while a guy beat the game on a projector screen.. sniff.. it was beautiful.

      (For those wondering, the 9 songs are the 5 Mega Man 2 songs, Chrono Trigger – Zeal, Final Fantasy VI Theme, The Song of Storms, and Duck Tales – The Moon.)

      • Hermetic_Zeal says:

        I was, indeed, wondering.  The show sounds awesome.  And someone beat the game in real time?

        • duwease says:

          Yep, without dying.. he even jumped over the extra life!  Such a blatant disregard for safety.. such a rockstar lifestyle *swoon*

      • Dikachu says:

        Yeah, MM2 has some outrageously good music.  It’s really amazing what they could squeeze out of those archaic machines.

        The only other games I can think of that has music THAT memorable and collectable were Chrono Cross and Katamari Damacy.

        • duwease says:

          You’re right.. I used to have most of the Katamari soundtrack to round out those 9 songs, but when I started using Mog to listen to music, they didn’t have it.  Maybe I should dig up that old hard drive..

    • WayofThePun says:

      And that it was ridiculously easy after you did Metal Man’s level

    • TheKingandIRobot says:

       That would be true if Mega Man 3 didn’t have opening theme music.  I was listening to it before your post, just incidentally.  It’s that good.

    • TaumpyTearrs says:

      Just in case anybody here hasn’t heard Mega Ran, the rapper Random’s alias when he raps over Mega Man music:

      I really like Splash Woman from his Mega Ran 9 album.

  9. GhaleonQ says:

    1.  Man, I thought I didn’t find underwater stages as intimidating as most people, but I thought about Super Mario Brothers 1 and how many it had, and I was off by 3.  They must just loom large in my mind, even though the only music more leisurely than its is the New Super Mario Brothers subseries’ .  The contrast is too much!

    2.  I say that the entirety of In The Hunt/Grand Seafloor War makes for 1 of the all-time great shoot-’em-ups.

    3.  Let’s not forget Gwarhar Lagoon from Mario And Luigi R.P.G. 1/Superstar Saga.  In addition to being very weird for a water/underwater/beach level and utilizing many of the brothers’ powers, they also threw in for the 1st time since Mario Clash, and the boss is a fun battle, a lisping crab that makes a Christmas tree on its shell for no apparent reason.  Oh, and he’s also a reference to Tomato Adventure, which I and 99 percent of other people at the time did not understand.

  10. Brainstrain says:

    Vashj’ir is one of my favorite places in any game, ever. It NAILS the feeling of an underwater adventure. The music is epic, the landscape is gorgeous, and the story is fascinating. A lot of zones in WoW (in Mists especially) don’t have much of a cohesive zone story, but Vashj’ir is the pinnacle of a self-contained adventure which is still consequential to the world as a whole.
    You get a constant sense of progression as you move from hub to hub, movement is lightning-fast, and the zone is huge, so you never feel like you’re traipsing back and forth across the same old landscape. I take every one of my characters through Vashj’ir. It’s my happy place.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      I liked Vashj’ir fine as a Warlock (who never needed to breathe anyway), but as a melee class it was… less exciting.

      • Hermetic_Zeal says:

        Agreed.  Went through as a ret pally first, then a shadow priest.  The spriest was more fun.

      • Brainstrain says:

        I had a blast taking my warrior through Vashj’ir. I’m not sure what difference it makes. Just because it can be hard to tell how far you are from a target? 

        And I had a rough time on my shadow priest. That might be more to do with the class than melee vs ranged though. Shadow was underpowered while leveling for most of the time I played it. So great now though <3

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          Yeah, it was the out of range and pulling stuff that bugged me, I think it was with my Paladin. My Warrior never got there, though he’s very close. My Warlock had a fine time there overall, especially once he had his might steed.

      • TheKingandIRobot says:

         Oh dear god try it as a druid.  It is the tits themselves.  In a fight and don’t want to be?  Aquatic form!  Zip away at 360% speed!  No combat restrictions! 

        That place was the greatest druid experience since the first day of flight form and just jumping off of cliffs to freak out the other classes.

    • Hermetic_Zeal says:

      Cataclysm did a lot of things wrong, but it did Vashj’ir right.  The zone feels varied, the movement feels unique, and – you’re right – the increased mount speed makes a huge difference.  

  11. Mr. Glitch says:

    While I personally feel all underwater levels are a blight that should be wiped from our collective consciousness, I’d like to suggest that Blaster Master handles its singular underwater level rather masterfully. When you first arrive, your cool sports tank lacks the ability to swim, so it just sort of sinks impotently to the bottom of the screen. You can’t proceed any further in it, so you must abandon your tank and explore on foot, and you quickly realize that the enemies you so effortlessly dispatched with your tank are damn near impervious to you now. Once you’ve finally fought your way to the level’s boss & defeated it, you’re rewarded with an upgrade that gives your tank the ability to swim. It’s only at this point–after you’ve defeated the boss–that you can explore the underwater level in its entirety.

    • Tyler Mills says:

      Yes, the realization I had to swim around ‘on foot’ was kind of startling and frighting  but getting that power-up from the boss was a huge releif.

  12. Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle says:

    *Mass Effect 3 spoilers*

    The Mass Effect Leviathan DLC finished up with an underwater section. I don’t know why I spoiler tagged this because the spoiler is actually right there in the name of the DLC. Anyway, that bit was only so so, but not awful.

    *end Mass Effect 3 spoilers*

    *Bioshock spoilers*

    Bioshock and it’s sequel, Bioshock 2, are both set underwater. Most people don’t know that.

    *end Bioshock spoilers*

    Also San Andreas had the oyster collectibles you had to dive for, but who, apart from a depressed @HipsterDBag, would even bother with those?

    • CNightwing says:

      I felt that Bioshock used the underwater nature of its setting just perfectly. For almost all of the game it didn’t matter, but it was still obvious, with water dripping from ceilings, windows out onto the rest of the city, and some great cued animations of bad things happening outside. They could have gone overboard with sections flooding and more than one requirement to go out into the deep, but there were just one or two instances of each, and they weren’t until the sequel.

  13. “Year 3” in Grim Fandango took place mostly underwater, and it was awesome. 

    • doyourealize says:

      Man, I’ve been trying to get my hands on that game for years. It’s a video game regret of mine that I’ve never played it. I may someday have to suck it up and spend $130 for a copy from Amazon…one that might not even work on my PC.

      • Girard says:

        You can definitely get it to work. There’s ResidualVM, from the folks who did ScummVM, for one. I think someone also made a new installer/launcher you can run to get it to install on newer systems without an emulator.

        Really, I don’t think it’s worth $130, especially since zero of those dollars will go to anyone involved in the game. If you’re more interested in playing it than collecting it mint-in-box or whatever, it looks like there are used copies on Amazon for around $25-$30, which are totally worth it.

        And honestly, and this is just me talking, the fact that such a seminal game is only available on the secondary market, at inflated prices, and in ways that will never support the creators or company behind them or communicate to them that there is a market for those games, I wouldn’t judge you for just downloading a copy. As I’ve said elsewhere, I think it’s more culturally important that games like that be played and remain a living part of the conversation than that folks on eBay get their $150 for lucking into a copy 15 years ago and sitting on it. Then buy a legit copy when Disney does an HD re-release to tie into Pixar’s upcoming Dia de Los Muertos movie (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that were actually a possibility?).

        But, yeah, play it however you can. Pick up a cheap used copy. It’s pretty rad. A little over-rated, but pretty rad.

        • Destroy Him My Robots says:

          Just to add insult to injury, Grim Fandango had a full cardboard box re-release in Germany as recently as 2007. A new copy is 10 bucks or so on Amazon, but of course it’s dubbed. It’s like they put sales charts from 1998 on a prayer wheel and now there’s a nightly procession of ancient dudes waving incense and muttering “Only Germans buy adventure games” somewhere in a basement and no one dares to question their wisdom.

        • doyourealize says:

          I did dl a copy a while ago, but I hit a brick wall during the installation, and couldn’t figure out how to bypass it. Most likely due to lack of know-how. It’s the reason I haven’t bought a used copy. Afraid it won’t be playable.

      • I loved Grim Fandango, but it is HARD. It doesn’t use a point-and-click interface, and a lot of the puzzles are timed and contextual (not unlike Majora’s Mask.) Schaefer took full advantage of the hardware to create a living world, where the characters don’t always sit around for the player’s convenience.

  14. ToddG says:

    Though quite short in duration, the underwater section of Half Life is quite harrowing.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Yes. The immediate scene after the Resonance Cascade or whatever sciency word that was drops you in the black, alien waters of some extra-dimensional ocean and faces you with a titanic monsterfish snapping for your head, luckily only for a second or so. It was a great moment of horror and indicator of things to come.

    • “Apprehension” is the aptly-selected title of that chapter.  It may have actually caused a fear of prolonged underwater exposure in me that was never present before I played that game.  Those cramped spaces, those tiny leech things, an appropriately-jarring chord on the soundtrack upon your first encounter with one of those giant carnivorous fishes…I get this tight sensation in my chest just thinking about playing through it again, which is probably why I’ve avoided doing so in the times I’ve fired up Half Life since then.  I just play through the fun hide-and-seek-and-shoot-and-ride-the-train level, and then, when the Special Forces sabotage the tracks with the bomb that sends you flying into all that water, I’m all, “aaaand we’re done here.  No need to relive this drowning nightmare again.”

  15. doyourealize says:

    On it’s original release, I played Earthworm Jim all the way through, though I’m sure it took quite a bit of trial and error. I recall loving every second. I recently downloaded the HD version on PS3, and was just frustrated with how hard it is, I think putting it down during the water level. While I didn’t get there on my more recent playthrough, the “boss battle” with the fish was excellent. A nice reprieve from a tough level, and goddamn funny. Compare that with (Fable 2 spoilers!!) the final “boss” of Fable 2, who does “the world is mine” speech and then you shoot him in the face and it’s over. I think you can even interrupt the speech. And if you don’t? Don’t worry, someone else does it for you! End spoilers

    Joke bosses can be a welcome addition to a game, but it has to be an intentional joke.

    PS – I realize Fable 2 has nothing to do with underwater levels…it’s just where my mind went.

    • Tyler Mills says:

      The Brain Alien bosses from Gradius comes to mind. Most of them hardly put up a fight, you just shoot them a few times and they die. Funny stuff.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      It may just be that I personally hate boss fights, but I was plenty pleased with Fable 2’s final boss.  It had an Indy vs. the Cairo Swordsman vibe that I still get a kick out of.

      • doyourealize says:

        Maybe I’m some kind of buzzkill, but I didn’t take it as a joke. If I did, I would have enjoyed it a lot more.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Yeah, Fable only ever let you swim around the surface of water. Which is a pity. One of the strengths of that franchise was the design and I think some submerged cave or something would have looked great there.

      • doyourealize says:

        As I wrote this, I was trying to remember if the franchise ever went underwater, just to make it relevant. Couldn’t think of anything, but yeah, that seems like a shame.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          Well, you could “use” diving spots, which were essentially underwater-chests. No diving otherwise.

  16. Oh, and “EVO: the Search for Eden” opened with a water stage that played somewhat differently from the rest of the game. 

  17. Zach Adams says:

    Now find nine good Minecart levels, I dare you.

    • neodocT says:

       Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga had a pretty good minecart minigame, where the brothers were in separate tracks. Luigi was in the background, and you pressed a button to make him jump, while Mario, in the foreground, had a flashlight that lit Luigi’s path (that you controlled with the D-pad). It was pretty clever, and surprisingly fun.

      Also, I kind of liked the Donkey Kong Country minecart levels…

    • I will say that the only minecart sequence I hate with a true passion is in Super Mario RPG. Seriously, Square, what the Hell?

    • WayofThePun says:

      I really enjoyed that one part of Red Dead Redemption when you steal the machine gun.

      Oh, and that level in Medal of Honor Frontline.

    • Moonside_Malcontent says:

       My brother and I must have died forty times on the minecart level in this rather mediocre Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures game we had for the SNES.  Frustration topped in that game only by the final boss, Donovan, who apparently didn’t drink from the “crumble into dust with your NSDAP pin pointedly gleaming amidst the bones” false grail but instead drank the “turn into a flying hell-lich” grail.  It’s in the Gnostic Gospels somewhere.

    • Afghamistam says:

      Does the carpet ride level/Can’t Wait To Be King from Aladdin/Lion King games count?

      Because fuck them.

  18. JohnnyLongtorso says:

    I’ve never understood why people get so freaked out over the water. I’ve always been fascinated by it, it’s the closest thing we’ll get to exploring an alien world.

    Bubble Man’s stage was my bane as a kid. I was terrible at getting the jumping right without hitting the death spike-lined ceiling.

  19. DrFlimFlam says:

    I can think of so many more frustrating water levels than good ones. I can think of good underwater games, but they’re entirely underwater, like Sub Rebellion and Critical Depth.

    The aforementioned Rayman Origins has perfect underwater levels.

    I also did like subbing around in Final Fantasy VII. I remember the abject terror when Emerald Weapon would show up out of the gloom and I would haul out of there as fast as possible.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      The underwater setting has been pretty abandoned.
      I remember that Aquanox had some great ideas, even if it basically was a space-sim under water… then again, with space-sims pretty much on the backburner until Star Citizen is going to occupy my time for the foreseeable future, you sort of have to take what you can get.
      I liked the idea of living under the ocean, with the sunlight tantalizingly piercing through the surface, but never being able to see it, due to radiation or viruses or whatever.

  20. Thomas Clark says:

    Dire Dire Docks has the most gorgeous music.

  21. CrabNaga says:

    In Fallout 3’s Point Lookout DLC, there was a point (hah!) in which you have to swim out off the coast and board some submarine that is just chilling slightly beneath the surface of the water. However in Fallout 3, you couldn’t see beneath the surface of the water from above, and this absolutely terrified me when I saw my little quest marker on the HUD’s compass going crazy as I was treading water on the surface. I couldn’t bring myself to actually cross the threshold of the water’s surface when I knew there was something just underneath me, and I just paddled around ineffectually for about a half hour.

    I ended up looking up the console commands for quest manipulation and manually set my quest progress to be one step further along the chain so I would never actually have to go into the sub.

  22. Girard says:

    I don’t remember that Earthworm Jim level being forgiving at all. My last memory of playing that game is giving up on that level because even with emulation and save states to keep my bubble from breaking, I invariably would run out of time.

    • neodocT says:

       I was thinking the same thing. I also played this game on an emulator with save states, and doubt I could have finished the bubble level without save states.

    • TheAngryInternet says:

      The level is maddening, it’s basically one of those Jetman-type “realistic physics” multidirectional shooters except you can’t shoot and the player craft is about 20 times larger than it should be

    • Michael Chondria says:

      Yeah, I could never get past it. And since Earthworm Jim was the last game I ever bought for Genesis I’ll just go ahead and blame that level for the next 12 years where I didn’t buy any new console or games.

    • PaganPoet says:

      I remember it being frustrating as well. That along with the damn level of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES stick out in my mind as the most controller-breakingly difficult water levels in gaming history.

      • TaumpyTearrs says:

        I’m sure its been said a million times before, but fuck the water level and those fucking bombs in TMNT. I think because they put it so early in the game, everyone who played the game experienced it and the majority of people either never passed it or got so frustrated doing so they didn’t try it often.

        And the Earthworm Jim level doesn’t belong on this list, that shit is still frustrating as an adult. Never would have passed it as a kid if not for level skip cheats.

    • Choochester says:

      I found out years after the fact that there was a non-obvious oxygen refilling station that I didn’t know existed.  With that knowledge, the level played as described in this article.  However, playing without that information, this was a terribly unforgiving challenge that you could beat only if you blazed through at close to top speed, with very few errors.  Originally, I considered this to be the hardest level in the game.

    • Afghamistam says:

      Man, we really have pussied ourselves these days. I played all the way through both Earthworm Jim games no problem (relatively speaking) back in the day.

      …and yeah, would probably need save states today.

  23. blue_lander says:

    At first I was surprised they didn’t mention the Starfy series, but that’s more of an underwater platformer with some above water levels rather than vice versa.

    • neodocT says:

      Hey, I found someone else who played Starfy!

      • Chalkdust says:

        I’m one of those someone elses too!

      • blue_lander says:

        Did you play any of the Japan only releases on the DS or GBA? They’re all really easy to play without any knowledge of the language. Maybe one or two levels confused me, but you can always find a guide online if you get stuck. The 2nd Starfy on the DS is probably my favorite, it’s a bit more difficult than the DS game. Still too easy, though.

        • neodocT says:

          No, I only played the DS one that was released in the US. I’m generally
          somewhat intimidated by Japanese games, ever since I tried to play
          Umihara Kawase. Something about Japanese characters in a somewhat
          difficult sidescrolling puzzle game really traumatized me into thinking
          all Japanese games are very difficult.

          I haven’t played with my DS in a while, but I’ll look up the other Starfy games when I have time!

        • blue_lander says:

          None of the Starfy’s are anywhere near as hard as Umihara Kawase. Even the most challenging Starfy  is still pretty easy by adult standards. I’ve imported more than a few SFC games and hardly any are as difficult as that Umihara Kawase.

  24. neodocT says:

    There’s a DS game called “The Legendary Starfy” that is basically Kirby underwater, that has awesome swimming controls. Starfy is a relatively big Nintendo icon in Japan, from what I’ve heard, but aside from this game and a trophy in Smash Bros., he’s pretty unknown here.

    As far as 3D water levels go, I’d like to add that I loved the swimming controls in Zelda: Skyward Sword. I am aware that people had different experiences with the motion control in this game, but I always liked it, and using the Wiimote to shift Link’s position underwater worked pretty flawlessly for me.

    • neodocT says:

      Oh, not to mention that the Ancient Cistern, Skyward Sword’s water dungeon, is absolutely amazing. Not only is it beautiful, but its level design is a retelling of Akutagawa’s buddhist short story “The Spider’s Thread”. Not the dungeon’s plot, mind you, but its level design.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Indeed.  There are babby games, but the best kind.  I’ve also long been torn between Stafy and Shiren The Wanderer: The God’s Eye And The Demon’s Navel ‘s Banana Prince as Cutest Yellow Thing In Video Games.  Watt from the Mario role-playing games may be up there, too.

  25. Elijah Fly says:

    You better love Coral Capers, because it repeats like 5 more times, getting worse each playthrough. 

  26. NakedSnake says:

    Let’s talk about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle underwater level for the NES. What was the deal with that? Does Konami just enjoy the idea of children crying? I can beat it pretty consistently now, but it was certainly an unpleasant surprise for the second goddamn level of the game.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

       Eventually I had it down to a science and it was fun to show off.

      I never got very far past that level. What a brutal game.

      • NakedSnake says:

        What I remember most about the rest of the game was wandering around aimlessly, trying to figure out what to do next while encounter after encounter increasingly took its toll against my team of turtles. Ultimately, they were usually all killed, when, out of desperation, I tried to fight through one of those sewers/buildings that had a full pizza in it. Never go for the whole pizza.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        Yeah, the only thing more terrifying than realizing, after you’ve mapped it in your head or on paper, that it’s really easy is realizing that the rest of the game is much, much harder than that.

        I read Hardcore Gaming and Scroll’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles retrospectives, but Konami, going even farther than most of the era, didn’t even write down who made the game.  So, no one can ever interview the jerk who made those choices.  IT MUST REMAIN 1 OF VIDEO GAME’S GREAT MYSTERIES.

  27. Fluka says:

    Joke’s on you, Skyrim!  I played an Argonian!  Hell yeah breathing underwater!  I used to wait underwater for guards to turn their backs so I could shank them.

    (It’s like when I did Namira’s quest, and they were all “And now you must eat human flesh!”, and I was all “Joke’s on you, Namira!  I’m not human, I’m Argonian!” and then I ate some guy.  My character was kind of a monster.)

  28. dmikester says:

    I found the water in Shadow of the Colossus to be particularly menacing; I could always imagine something lurking at the bottom of the various lakes, and not being able to move the camera enough to be able to look below you when underwater (and not being able to dive) only added to that fear.  I remember when the eel battle happened I thought I would finally be able to see SOMETHING, but nope, only murky and unknown.  I can’t think of another game where I felt that way about the water.

  29. inamine says:

    The Water Temple is one of my favorite dungeons.

    There. I said it.

  30. Are you kidding?! That EWJ level SUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS!

  31. No Sonic? For shame. 

  32. djsubversive says:

    Pretty much all water in Skyrim is a dicey situation for me, since I use the Frostfall mod (it’s subtitled “Hypothermia, Camping, and Survival,” and it was the reason I gave in and bought Skyrim). I don’t have frigid water as lethal, but it’s an option. It still hurts (mostly excessive stamina drain), saps away at your warmth, and when you get out, you’re wet, and that makes you colder even faster. 

    I’ve had a few situations where I was wet, cold, hungry, and drunk (alcohol provides a minor warmth effect, but when it wears off, you take a bigger penalty, so the solution is easy: stay drunk all the time), and had to stumble into an unknown cave or fort because hypothermia was setting in. I’ve even broken into a guy’s house to use his fireplace to warm up and make some stew (soups/stews give a bonus to cold resistance). I wasn’t going to steal anything, but he had mead just sitting on his table and him and his wife were asleep. What was I supposed to do, not drink his mead? He left it on the table!

  33. Andy Lopez says:

    Dire, Dire Docks and the water Colossus both terrified the living shit out of me. The dread I got from those levels is unforgettable.

  34. RyanTheBold says:

    Anyone played Alice: Madness Returns? No? Just me? Well, you should because it’s a pretty awesome platformer, with a pretty great underwater level. You don’t have to worry about running out of breath or anything; it’s just creepy and watery, with darkness, shipwrecks, and odd lights everywhere, and an inexplicable town of eerily silent, semi-anthropomorphic fish wearing Victorian formal wear.


      I actually plan on playing it soon as a matter of fact 

  35. KB says:

    Thanks for doing a post on underwater levels–I love them.  I enjoyed the water in Tomb Raider 2 so much I ended up having these awesome vivid dreams that I was swimming (as cool as a flying dream).  Thankfully I never dreamed that I ran out of air which was harsh in the game the way Lara tries to suck in and contorts–scary. 

    My favorite underwater level, though, besides the entire Blue Ocean game, is in Capcom’s Dino Crisis 2.  You put on this suit–kind of like a space suit– with this cool heavy breathing sound and the entire screen wavers.  The suit is weighted so you slow motion walk and use these jets to propel you over gaps.  All the while these alligator-things attack you and you get to fight a Plesiosaurus–so immersive and fun!   

  36. When I think of why I don’t like water levels, it’s exactly the levels on this list that I have played that come to mind.

  37. Tom Jackson says:

    Totally disagree with Coral Capers, that shit drives me insane.


    what about Jolly Roger’s Lagoon in Banjo Tooie? that level was fucking awesome!

  39. HyperSpiral says:

    Wait, there are people who did not find Tube Race to be a massively frustrating, utterly unforgiving cockblock?