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Bonus levels don't feature in games as much as they used to. With Hollywood-style narratives and ultra-realistic graphics and physics, there's little space for a sudden warp to a magical place filled with cherry pick-ups and score multipliers. Which is a shame, because bonus levels have given us some of our fondest gaming memories. So join us as we celebrate the finest examples of this dying art.
1) Street Fighter 2 Car Smash
Ken's left his Beemer unattended in the parking lot. What a silly thing to do when E Honda's got his best jock strap on and nobody to fight with. The very idea of smashing up an expensive car with martial arts moves is appealing enough, but the fact it only pops up once per game just makes this rare treat all the more special when it arrives.
Above: High kicks? Nooo! Won't somebody please think of the children?
2) Sonic 2: Final special stage
Sonic 2's pseudo 3D special stages were designed to be the best-looking thing on any console and, for a time, they were. The final stage (Emerald 7) is grey and looks pretty dull at first. But the third section features a sprinkling of rings all over the tube. The effect is magical, and when you finally nail the ring target on the third checkpoint, the background goes all psychedelic – perfect reward for a substantial gaming achievement. Ba ba da do do dooo!
3) Super Monkey Ball
The beauty of this one is just its simplicity. You've got 60 seconds to collect as many bananas as you can. The sight of all those spinning bananas just waiting to be collected is mouthwatering. Yes, even if you hate real bananas.
Above: The camera swoops in and we're just as excited as Gon Gon
4) Donkey Kong Country
These are proper bonus levels in that the screen is absolutely filled with collectables. Whether you're a rhino, fish or frog, there's an abundance of bonus loveliness to enjoy. Better still, there's a huge 2x multiplayer icon hidden in each one. What could be more bonus-y than a massive golden statue of yourself to find?
5) Cool Spot
The star of this 16-bit platformer was supposed to be the red spot behind the logo of fizzy drinks brand 7Up, but the deal fell though, probably as the company wanted to push Fido Dido instead. But the green bottle bonus stages were great. There was little innovation in the bonus collection and time limit, but each red spot added to your 'cool' percentage. Get them all and you're 100% cool. Hell yeah.
Above: We've got a soft spot for Cool Spot. OK then - a soft, cool spot
Aladdin's little simian friend Abu has two great bonus stages in the Genesis version of the game. They're incredibly challenging – one hit and it's all over. The descending extra life is a huge distraction in the first one, and the second just gets crazy with falling boulders filling the screen. Check out this video of a perfect run through both.
7) Super Mario World
When Mario reaches Donut Plains 1 and you realise he can fly with his cape, there's only one outcome the first time you find the bonus room – a timeout. It's just too fun to zoom around collecting the hundreds of coins, so you neglect to actually reach the end of the level in time. That's the brilliance of Mario – gratification like this has to be rationed carefully or it'll cease to be special. And this certainly is special.
Above: Just look at all those shiny coins! Mario's a rich man
8) Crash Bandicoot
The great thing about Crash's bonus stages is that they're essential if you want to save your progress. They also hark back to old-school platforming with their left-to-right 2D plane. Of course you can still fall off if you venture into the screen too far. There's a ton of skill needed to ace them too, but the rewards are great, especially in the harder to access ones.