59 levels to play before you die: S - Z

StarCraft (PC) | New Gettysburg
The second-to-last mission in the original StarCraft's Terran campaign gives you a strange directive: while you're supposed to wipe out every trace of the hyper-advanced Protoss aliens, you're specifically ordered not to bother the swarming, bestial Zerg situated right near your base. What happens once you carry out those orders affected us in a way we never knew a real-time strategy game could. Once the last Protoss is dead, a massive wave of Zerg sweeps across the screen, obliterating everything you've built in a matter of seconds. Making matters worse, one of the main characters - Sarah Kerrigan, a psychic Ghost operative you've gotten to know over the last nine missions - gets caught in the destruction and is apparently devoured by the Zerg horde. And it only happened because your boss wanted to weed out anyone who might be a threat to his power.

Of course, StarCraft fans know what really happened to Kerrigan, and why it's integral to the rest of the game's plot - but that's perhaps a story for another article (or, you know, Wikipedia). In the meantime, though, you can see the crushing horde being stopped in its tracks by one determined player who probably cheated like hell to put all that hardware at his disposal.

Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (PC) | The Falling Ship
This was the first Star Wars shooter to hand you a lightsaber and enable dueling in the first person perspective. And yet, amazingly, that was wasn't even the coolest thing about Jedi Knight.

What could possibly be better? Racing through a ginormous, exploding, collapsing space ship as it plummets through the atmosphere and crashes toward the surface below. Dodging through tunnels, fighting past droids and evading terrorized crew as the entire environment spins around you, the walls becoming ceilings and the ceilings transforming into floors.

Lightsabers were expected. The Falling Ship was an ingenious surprise.

Stretch Panic/Freak Out (PS2) | First level
Most games on this list are here because they’re good, if not great – not so with this surreal actioner, which really kinda sucks. But you’ve got to try it simply because there’s no other game that looks or plays anything like it. And there probably never will be.

You play Linda, a little girl with a whole herd of obnoxious, vain sisters. One day, your sisters are all turned into bizarro cartoon caricatures of the thing they were most interested in. So, one who loved her own face now looks like a Mr Potato Head, and the ones who were into big boobs now have yabos like weather balloons. You got off easy and just bonded with a demonic scarf that grabs things. See a door you want to open? Use the right stick of your controller to guide your scarf’s “hand” and open it. Wanna damage a boss? Grab it, pull back (everything is stretchy, like a rubber band) and let go, and the resulting snap back will mess her up. This combination of one-of-a-kind gameplay and psychotic art design creates an experience you’ll enjoy just for its uniqueness, if not for its great gameplay.