Freezeezy Peak (Banjo-Kazooie)
There aren’t many games that pull off the winter wonderland feeling better than Freezeezy Peak did in Banjo-Kazooie. You’ll be taking part in sled races, helping cute Christmas tree lights not get gobbled up by evil ornament hating monsters, and scaling a giant snowman. And, like many of the games on this list, it features excellent music that perfectly puts you in that snow level mood.
However, Freezeezy Peak will give you a permanent and real hatred of snowmen for the rest of your life. God those snowball chucking snowmen that you had to perfectly dive bomb into to defeat them were the worst. And that laugh they made when they hit you, UGH #$%#$.
Cool, Cool Mountain (Super Mario 64)
Who can forget their first time spawning into Cool, Cool Mountain from Super Mario 64, and meeting that big sad penguin. Sure, finding and returning her baby was kind of a pain in the ass, but seeing them reunited was worth it. Also, by hopping down the chimney, you got to partake in another iconic snow level moment: racing the big penguin down the perilous slide.
Unlike Banjo-Kazooie and their battles against those evil, EVIL snowmen, Mario has to help out a poor friendly snowman head that was detached from the rest of his body. Poor guy. Also yeah, more amazing snow themed music that kind of gives you that snow cabin/mountain feeling.
Un-Bearable (Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back)
Whenever Crash Bandicoot faces you in the opposite direction to start a level, you knew things were about to get really real. Un-Bearable was probably the most terrifying of all the Crash Bandicoot chases. Crash made use of a small polar bear as speedy transportation and that didn’t go unnoticed by some of its bigger family members. Instead of an Indiana Jones boulder run seen in other levels, you had to escape from a giant ferocious Polar Bear with an appetite for Bandicoots.
Crash Bandicoot talked a lot of trash to Mario and Nintendo back in the 90s and hell maybe he was right. Let’s see Mario try to run towards the TV screen from a giant evil polar bear while dodging pitfalls, electric fences and 1-shot kill nitro boxes.
Sherbet Land (Mario Kart 64)
Mario Kart is known for providing tracks to test your skills as well as piss off your friends. But not many did the job quite as well as Sherbet Land from Mario Kart 64. This glacial track provided multiple threats to your success: icy roads that kept you slipping and sliding, huge cracks you can fall into, snow caves with winding turns, and penguins that just wouldn’t move out of the damn way.
There was no better feeling than sending someone slipping and sliding into oblivion after a well placed shell or a strategic bump. Just watch out because those penguins we mentioned earlier like to dive towards you for some reason.
Battle with Mr. Freeze (Batman Arkham City)
While it isn’t a level in the most literal sense of the word, the Batman Arkham City boss fight against Mr. Freeze is one of the best snow/ice instances in any video game. Many of the encounters in the game used unique mechanics, but Freeze’s use of ice throughout the entire battle provides the most depth and was extremely memorable.
Freezing routes, disabling ledges, and making the floor extra sensitive kept you on your toes. Mr. Freeze will also use ice to block against repeat attacks of the same type. It’s an evolving ice level that proved to be one of the most rewarding
Snowcloak (Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn)
Let’s get a little bit of MMORPG love in here too with the beautiful Snowcloak dungeon from Final Fantasy XIV. Surprisingly, despite having an entire area covered in snow (Coerthas), it took a while before fans of the MMORPG got a proper snow themed dungeon.
It was worth the wait though because Snowcloak is probably one of the most fun dungeons to date. It takes full advantage of its snow/ice theme and features elements such as avoiding gusts of snowy wind that deal damage over time while fighting enemies. The boss fights feature rolling giant snowballs to damage a Yeti, staying warm against a giant ice golem enemy that tries to either freeze you and your parties members or if that fails, blow you up with the ice bombs under his command. Also you’ll go toe to toe with the classic Final Fantasy enemy Fenrir. You’ll have to dodge icicles as they fall from the ceiling and hide behind them to avoid his ultra attack.
World 4 (Super Mario Bros. 2)
World number 4 of the dark sheep of the Mario series, Super Mario Bros. 2, stands out as it’s where you end up if you take the secret warp from World 1. It’s an icy world that features slippery ice platforming over a presumably cold sea, rockets, and of course, the whales. There’s just something about those whales that look so cool. Perhaps it’s because they were just so different than everything else we’ve seen in Mario games to that point.
You’ll have to hop across icy platforms and use the water that shoots up from the whale’s blowhole to move across the stage. There are also the unique snowman-like Flurry enemies that love harassing you while you try to make difficult jumps. What’s interesting about the Flurries is that for the most part, they have remained unique to Super Mario Bros. 2 over the years.
We can’t put our finger on it, but there’s just a certain mystique about World 4 that makes it an iconic icy level.
Winter (Animal Crossing)
Animal Crossing is one of the few games that follows the real world seasons. It’s a pretty magical feeling to wake up and see blankets of snow suddenly cloaking your town in Animal Crossing, augmented by the fact that you don’t actually have to shovel any of it.
Every day you’ll find a few snowballs littered around your town. With some patience and precision, you can roll these snowballs up in the snow until they’re enormous. Gather up several of them, and you’ve got yourself a snowman. It’s a nice little diversion from the standard outdoor activities you’ve been doing all year. Make sure, though, that they’re properly proportioned. Otherwise, they’ll seriously hate you and themselves for it. If you do it correctly, you’ll be thanked in spades. Either way, it’s hilarious.
On top of the snow and the snowmen, Winter in Animal Crossing brings unique furniture, new types of fish and creatures to catch, and new commentary to hear from your fellow animal neighbors. With plenty of changes, it’s no wonder why the snowy months are so nice to look forward to in Animal Crossing. Unless you’re big into gardening. In which case, may your flowers rest in peace.
Ice Cap Zone/White Park Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog)
One of the OGs of snow levels, Ice Cap Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is one of the retro gold standards for a change of pace snow or ice level. The level begins with a bad ass snowboarding section which, as a kid in the 90s, absolutely blew your f’ing mind. Seriously, Sonic never really had anything like that to this point, so having that come out of no where was iconic as all hell.
Also the rest of the level is awesome too, complete with music that fit perfectly and enemies that wanted to freeze you out of your rings. You spend most of the time inside in an icy cave, but the few times you’re outside, you’re treated to a really pretty looking background that has a 16-bit Antarctic feel to it.
Although Ice Cap Zone is undoubtedly the most iconic Sonic snow level, a quick shout out to White Park Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II which also did a pretty smash up job as far as snow levels go.
Great Glacier (Final Fantasy VII)
Just like Ice Cap Zone came out of f’ing no where and blew your socks off in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, so did the snowboarding section in Final Fantasy VII. It will probably remain one of the most memorable mini-games in video game history and certainly one of the most fun. There was a certain peaceful silence to it as you dodged obstacles and collected balloons on your way down.
Once you reached the end, you were treated to Great Glacier proper. An iconic JRPG dungeon of sorts filled with gorgeous landscapes, secrets, and alternate paths that probably frustrated many without a strategy guide or the internet over the years.
What are some of your favorite icy levels?