Top 7... Momentous elevator rides in games

Is this your floor?

Oh elevators. When youre all open and ready to walk into, I feel a tingle of trepidation. Danger almost certainly lies ahead. Yet, when the enemy is nipping at my heels and shooting my face off, you take an age to arrive. Seriously, its like youre doing that shit on purpose--where's the urgency, elevators? Even in benign, peaceful situations, your tiny metallic walls foreshadow the promise of horrific action or bum-prickling terror.

So, yeah, elevator journeys in video games have become something of a clich. Theyre used to disguise loading times, increase tension, and restrict the player to a smaller space in order to ratchet up the action a notch. As such, many have learned to love the humble lift. And it's about time these contraptions got some respect. Here are the Top 7 momentous elevator rides in games

7. 'No Russian' (Modern Warfare 2)

Thing is, nothing actually happens in the airport lift during Modern Warfare 2s No Russian level. Nyet. All you see is a bunch of military dudes talking about a plan and reiterating: Remember, no Russian. You dont even get to press any buttons or jump / spin around like a madman as you wait for your floor (which I know you do in EVERY other game you play).

Thing is, this elevator ride represents the quiet before the storm. To be more precise, its the quiet before the immense video game / media shitstorm that this stage became. No Russian is the most controversial moment in all Call of Duty, and one of the most morally divisive scenes in all of video games. And because it starts in the small, enclosed space of an elevator, you dont get an inkling about whats actually happening until its far, far too late.

6. Where it all began (Elevator Action)

This is where video games love-affair with elevators all began. In EA you play as Otto, a spy tasked with retrieving secret documents from a multi-storey building. Agents track our hero through each level, so he needs to dodge, fight or squish them to make his escape. As the title suggests, that means a lot of zipping around in elevators in a kind of Benny Hill-style attempt to evade capture.

Despite being a 1983 game, Elevator Action offers players some surprisingly sophisticated gameplay options, which include leaping between elevators to change direction, and even using lifts to squash unwitting enemies. Sadly, the game only ever appeared in arcades, although the naughty among you can find online emulators fairly easily.

5. To the cells (Batman Arkham Asylum)

The start of Batman Arkham Asylum really sets the tone for the whole game. The Joker is captured, and the Dark Knight is accompanying him to his maximum-security cell. As you descend through the asylum in various elevators, you really get a sense of the world Rocksteady has created. And you just know that its all going to go hideously wrong very, very soon.

What youre definitely not prepared for is when you take the journey a second time, with the roles reversed. Now youre in the wheelchair, being admitted to the asylum. Its a smart gameplay flourish, and it raises some tough questions about how different Batman and his insane enemies really are. Does Batman actually deserve to be admitted to Arkham himself? The answer isnt as black and white as youd assume. Yup, ever since that memorable, first scene, the quality of Batman games has been (straightens tie)... going up.

4. Elevator of death (Streets of Rage)

There are plenty of games that trap you on a so-called elevator of death. Halo, Ninja Gaiden Sigma if youre looking for a quick difficulty spike, the EOD comes in handy. However, the most famous of these is stage 7 in Streets of Rage. Youre riding a bizarre freight elevator to the (not quite) top of a skyscraper to confront the final boss. Its you vs 50+ enemies, which appear in exponentially larger numbers as you near the top.

This stage is tough. There are no health pick-ups, no real breaks in the action, and the foes that drop in get increasingly more difficult to beat as you reach the summit. Even the best players lose a life here. The solution is to keep spamming a move that flings them off the side of the platform. In game design terms, its pretty lazy, and the sudden difficulty spike really (straightens tie again) pushes my buttons.

3. Making small talk (Mass Effect)

The elevator rides in the original Mass Effect are used to disguise load-times as the player navigates the citadel. At first it feels like a clever technique, especially as you hear news bulletins about your heroic deeds while youre travelling between floors. Shep occasionally makes small-talk with his crew. Its nice.

That is, until youve stepped into the same elevator for the 100th time. Now youre just craving a loading screen with some fancy concept art and a useless game tip. BioWare mixes things up more as the Mass Effect series develops (largely because fans started to make fun of the lift sections), and in ME3 you actually fight through a lift-shaft when Cerberus invades the citadel. And who can forget the choice youre forced to make when you finally emerge through those elevator doors?

2. Trick or treat? (Silent Hill 2)

Frankly, youre a little disappointed. Youve climbed into plenty of lifts in Silent Hill 2, and nothing sinister has happened. The rest of the town is massively FUBAR, but for some reason the elevators--which look really shitty--are a haven of sanity. That is, until youre descending to the depths of St Marys Hospital, and suddenly a maniacal voice crackles in over the speakers and starts quizzing you about Silent Hill.

Uh-oh. Have you been paying attention so far? Or did you just scan all those newspapers and blood-stained messages because you wanted to progress the story quicker? Perform well in the quiz, and you get some useful items when you input your answers into the strange box on the 3rd-floor. Answer poorly, and youll lose health. Harsh, utterly random, and never explained--it fits perfectly into Silent Hill 2s insane world, even if its sudden, unannounced appearance can feel like the game is (straightens tie yet again) shafting you.

1. Stolen stealth suits (Metal Gear Solid)

One of the greatest surprise moments in games. After several hard hours of stealthing Snake gets into a cargo elevator. Hes alone, but still the weight alarm sounds. Odd. He then starts chatting to Otacon, who starts jabbering about some experimental stealth suits. Apparently theyve been stolen. Yeah, 4 of them. And OH-GOD-THEYRE-IN-THERE-WITH-YOU.

Now, you have to suspend disbelief a little here. The guys in stealth suits only uncloak after Snake has chatted to Otacon for a couple of minutes, when theyd probably have offed him the second he entered the lift. But its still a great reveal, and a genuinely challenging fight, as all 4 bad guys remain semi-visible throughout the fight. Which is, to make matters worse, inside the enclosed confines of an elevator.

Actually, I'll take the stairs

Bit of a curve-ball this Top 7, but I hope you enjoyed it all the same. It was actually suggested by one of you (GR reader, mack535), and I openly invite all you guys and girls to make suggestions about what youd like to see given the Top 7 treatment. Leave them below, along with the usual mix of insane ramblings, whip-smart suggestions, and assertions that Ive missed loads of obvious examples.

Want more slightly insane Top 7 features? I quite like this one about the Top 7 Reasons It's Awesome To Be A Gamer (opens in new tab). And heres one I wrote earlier, about the Top 7 Games Where The Bad Guys Win (opens in new tab).