Winter isn’t for everyone. Cold mornings, runny noses, and icy roads are only some of the problems the season causes for people all over the world. Though we do have video games to help pass the time, some titles insist on making their snowy stages just as brutal as what fans are used to experiencing in real life. If you’re not a fan of the year’s frosty months, check out our picks for the worst winter levels you should avoid until it’s safe to go out again. Don’t forget to bundle up!
Worst winter levels – Iceberg Lounge (Batman: Arkham City)
The Iceburg Lounge in Batman: Arkham City isn’t very inspired. It gives players a bunch of Penguin goons to take down, then leads them to a large open room that’s inundated with water. Fans have to use one of the Dark Knight’s gadgets to freeze a tiny section of the pool and create a raft. From there, they have to pull Batman across the area using his Batclaw.
Breaking the icy platform sends the caped crusader straight into the murky depths beneath him. If he doesn’t climb out in time, a monstrous shark gobbles him up and it’s game over. This section isn’t bad because it’s overly difficult or unfair. Like most of winter, it just feels boring.
Worst winter levels – Snowboarding Section (Final Fantasy VII)
Final Fantasy VII is, for the most part, a great game. It elevated the JRPG genre to new heights when it released for the original PlayStation back in 1997, excellently combining quick turn-based combat with a gripping story that literally kickoffs with an explosion. The title’s main weakness, however, lies in its racing segments.
This is evident in the snowboarding minigame that has Cloud speed down a snowy mountain while avoiding evergreen tress, Moogles, and mounds of debris. Controls are wonky and some of the hazards are impossible to see at times. Overall, the course is more annoying than it is fun. It’s probably a good idea to avoid snowboarding entirely and just continue with the main story.
Worst winter levels – Bumper Balls (Mario Party 2)
If you want to lose a lot of friends this winter, Mario Party 2 for the Nintendo 64 may be what you’re looking for. Though the game as a whole offers plenty of challenging mini-games to infuriate players of all skill levels, none compare to the infamous bumper balls.
If you’re not familiar with this trial, four players are tossed atop a slippery peak and tasked to knock opponents out of the ring before the timer hits zero. Indeed, the game makes you send your friends to an icy death while you laugh above on your bright star ball. Between this and all the tax fraud, Yoshi can become quite a despicable green dinosaur.
Worst winter levels – Gorilla Glacier (Donkey Kong Country)
What makes Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System so challenging is its expertly crafted level design. Players need to perfectly time their jumps if they want to reach certain platforms and get to the end of a stage in one piece. It’s fair until fans enter Gorilla Glacier, a cold, horrifying region that’s constantly pelted with snowstorms.
Glacier’s slippery slopes make hopping across gaps harder than ever before, as everything is covered in a layer of ice. The weather even sometimes obscures what players can see on the screen. The whole experience is like driving on a highway in the middle of a blizzard with broken windshield wipers. That’s always a good time, right?
Worst winter levels – Winterhorn Ridge (Odin Sphere Leifthrasir)
The image above makes Odin Sphere Leifthrasir‘s Winterhorn Ridge look sweet and accommodating. In reality, it’s an unforgiving tundra that inflicts damage onto players every second they dare to venture higher up the region’s peaks. Adventurers need to either constantly drink Warmer potions or wear an Iceproof Charm to delay the effects of the brutal cold, but the dangers of Winterhorn don’t stop there.
Its boss is Wagner, a huge dragon that can summon ice spirits to freeze players in one hit. Alongside tornadoes and fire, the beast has a devastating headbutt move that inflicts a huge of damage if fans don’t move out of the way in time. Winterhorn Ridge may be just as painful as living in an icebox all winter. That might be a slight exaggeration, but you get the point.
Worst winter levels – Ice Zone (Ecco the Dolphin)
At first, Ecco the Dolphin is a fun Sega Genesis game. It gives players nice open areas to swim around in with little to no obstacles stopping them from performing cool flips above the water’s surface. Then the Ice Zone arrives.
The once calming sea is now infested with malicious sharks and crustaceans eager to chomp away at the sight of Ecco’s innocence. The open areas have mostly frozen over and are now punctuated with sharp, icy daggers ready to cut our sweet ocean mammal right open. Ecco the Dolphin becomes a hellish experience in the blink of an eye. Don’t let it fool you.
Worst winter levels – The Miraculous Winter (Company of Heroes 2)
Company of Heroes 2 successfully recreates the tension of World War II through a real-time strategy environment where players must constantly monitor enemy troop movements and react accordingly. The dynamic weather conditions introduced in The Miraculous Winter mean that fans have to also keep an eye out on how cold their soldiers are, plus predict which direction the wind will blow next.
This mechanic can be thrilling for people who love realistic war simulations, but a bit tedious for those who aren’t as familiar with the genre. Commanding your forces to hide in buildings or huddle around a fire instead of focusing on the battle at hand can be more tiresome than intriguing. This particular level starts off with one less squad than usual by the way, which automatically puts fans at a disadvantage.
Winter does have its good moments. The holidays bring family and friends together one last time before the year ends, and it’s always nice to sip hot chocolate in front of an inviting fireplace. Most importantly, there are a ton of new games to play, be it blockbuster titles from AAA publishers or long-awaited releases from independent developers. Even if it’s cold outside, it’s always important to look on the bright side. In the case of winter, I mean that literally.