5 – Donkey Kong Country: Gorilla Glacier
Yep, another side-scrolling entry from the early ‘90s. But unlike Sonic, the original DKC did a great job of making each location look, feel and play moderately different from the rest. By the time you ascend to the top of Kong’s sycophantic island, you’re well-versed in the game’s platforming demands and wholly capable of traversing its treacherous snowcapped peaks.
Above: Rock Donkey Kong vomiting a forest, we guess?
What begins as a typical level covered in slippery snow gradually transforms into an all-out blizzard. For the time, it was a dramatic showcase of environmental hazards and weather effects, easily standing out from contemporary offerings that were usually regular levels with a white tint.
Above: Blanketed trees, grey skies, comfortably dreary
Above: Whoa! Halfway through it explodes into a snowstorm
The effect is both beautiful and distracting, making the subsequent bout of perilous platforming all the more difficult. Combine this with music that begins tranquil and, as the storm swells, becomes more and more intense and foreboding, and you have one of the best 2D snow levels of all time.
~Wind chill bonus!~
Super Mario Bros 2 wasn’t the first Nintendo-made snow world (that’d be Ice Climbers), nor was it even the first Mario ice level (World 6-3 from the first SMB), but it’s a damn load more fun than either of its predecessors.
4 – Twilight Princess: Snowpeak Ruins
Hyrule doesn’t appear to deal with winter all too much, so the search for the best Zelda snow level isn’t a hard task to take. Even with a shallow list to choose from, Snowpeak Ruins climbs our ranks remarkably fast by being one of the most clever and unique Zelda “dungeons” in the series, as well as a great example of what it’s like to finally find shelter from the harsh outdoor elements.
Above: PS – it’s owned by a yeti
When you first arrive, there’s no indication that this ornate home is going to be a classic Zelda challenge. Instead, it’s set up as a stop in a lengthy sidequest – after all, how could you make a whole dungeon out of someone’s home?
Above: So cozy, so inviting, so different from anything before
Turns out that rotund lady’s health is fading, so you’re supposed to investigate her mansion’s many hallways, courtyards and basements in search of the cure. Ah, now this is starting to sound like a true Zelda dungeon, albeit an uncharacteristically comforting one.
Above: Look at that warm glow. Jeeze, we wanna take a nap
Above: And we got this yeti makin’ soup in the next room!
Once you’re into the guts of the place though, it retains the same aspects of a typical Zelda adventure. Snow-based enemies assault Link from all sides while walls of ice block your path, forcing the usual bouts of puzzle solving and critical thinking.
Above: Knee-high snow makes dodging these wispy wolves a pain
It’s not just a remarkable dungeon. You’re also getting new weapons, new monsters, new friends and, most relevant to this article, a great juxtaposition of freezing your ass off and coming inside to the safety and warmth of home. Y’know that feeling when you walk inside and brush off a layer of snow, pull your boots off and relax by the fire? It’s like that.
Above: Plus you get to race the yeti
~Wind chill bonus!~
Like Zelda, Metroid rarely visits areas of deep snow. That changed with Metroid Prime’s Phendrana Drifts, a serene whitescape filled with gorgeous, reflective surfaces and music that’s equal parts enigmatic and melodic.