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Water, Water Everywhere: 15 of the Best Water Worlds in Gaming

Posted on Wednesday, July 30 @ 14:00:00 PST by ryanbates

It's summertime, and the livin' is easy. Easy, that is, if you're an unbaked cookie on a tin sheet.

For the rest of us who are human beings, it's hot. It's too darn hot. As we speak right now, the temperature in Las Vegas is slated to hit 100° F (which, for us this time of year is considered “balmy”), and though the “dry heat” versus “humid heat” debate rages on, summer shows no signs of cooling down yet.

Fortunately, unlike unbaked cookies, humans can take refuge in water. From cold bottles straight from the fridge to pools private or public, from the wild thrills of water parks to the childhood joy of putting your thumb over the hose to fire a stream directly at unsuspecting siblings, water has always provided numerous methods of cooling ourselves, revitalizing our tired, heat-worn bodies, and enjoying nature in a less-hellish temperature. For video game characters, water has also provided numerous methods of DIE.

Water generally isn't your friend if you're a video game character, nor is it often a gamer's friend when a water level comes along. Water levels have a notorious reputation for artificially ramping up the difficulty by throwing the majority of game mechanics straight out the porthole (“window” for you landlubbers). Having fun going real fast in that Sonic game there? Bam! Hydrocity Zone. Cool your jets, hedgehog.

Even with everything stacked against it, I think water levels get a bad rap, and while most of them are unnaturally-placed, mechanic-altering, tempo-jarring piles of crap, some of them really can be quite enjoyable. In fact, I'd go so far as to say when a water level is done well, it's oftentimes one of my favorites in that game. It's not like they're ice levels. Now those can go straight to hell, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Plus, if you think about it, water worlds could be worse. Just add Kevin Costner. In order to define as a “water level” for this list, I've set the working definition as some form of self-contained section of gameplay where not only is water heavily involved, but also somehow influences the mechanics of the level. Simply the presence of water would not do, it had to play a major factor in the play of the level.

So in defense of water levels, let's take a look at fifteen of the best, completely Costner-free water levels in gaming. 

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