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59 levels to play before you die: S - Z

Super R-Type (SNES, Virtual Console) | Giant ship level
Old-school shooters were all about odds - one against a million, usually. But R-Type turned the tables every so often, pitting your one ship against one enemy. The catch? That one enemy was actually the entire level, a capital ship that filled multiple screens and required several passes to destroy. Any given R-Type will deliver, even the arcade original, but we chose the SNES version for its less-annoying sound effects. It's one thing to stop wave after wave of flimsy fighters; it's quite another to successfully obliterate a shadow-casting hunk of space metal.

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (PSone) | Mission 1: Punish the Evil Merchant While the original Tenchu was a pretty cool game for its time - being the first to introduce us to realistic ninja stealth action - we never had quite as much fun with it as we did in its first level. The objective was simple: quietly infiltrate the rich merchant Echigoya's castle-like compound, track the fat bastard down and stab him in the throat. But the compound was big, pretty, open to exploration and filled with dark spots to hide in, and we were free to tackle it however we liked. Granted, that almost always involved sprinting across its rooftops and zipping around on a grapple line, but we were also free to creep through its buildings and alleyways, dodging or stealth-killing Echigoya's idiot guards - or just fighting them head-on, if we were feeling suicidal.

Pre-Metal Gear Solid, this was unlike anything we'd ever done before in a game, and it was incredible. Compound that with Tenchu's uniquely moody music and the satisfaction of killing Echigoya himself - a fat, vile, gun-toting slob who's chasing a terrified woman around when you confront him - and not even the game's prototypical pirate vs ninja level could keep us from coming back to this one over and over again.

The Darkness (360, PS3) | Jen's Apartment
This is just a beautiful, heart-warming moment. An unexpected slippers-and-snuggles snapshot of the relationship between goth-headed mobster Jackie Estacado and his doting girlfriend, Jenny Romano. A new apartment, a birthday cake, closing a window, cuddling on the sofa, watching TV, kissing, needing to pee... the whole scene is dramatically mundane and anyone who has ever been in love will be able to relate to the tender interplay between the young couple. It seems such a shame that it all has to turn so totally shit-shaped for Jackie and Jenny...