It’s a simple question, but a difficult answer to find, what is your all-time favorite level in video games? I’ve been gaming since the early 90’s, so I have quite the track record of video games that I’ve played, and for the most part, games standout as an overall performance rather than having a level stand out in a game. While thinking about this question, a few really stood out to me. Super Mario Bros 1-1, Sonic the Hedgehog’s Green Hill Zone, Uncharted 2’s Train, and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s Water Temple, but the one that stands out above the others is Summit from Celeste.
Celeste is widely known as one of the best indie titles to date. You take control of your protagonist Madeline, who has been fighting her inner demons, to climb Mt. Celeste in an attempt overcome her self-doubt and anxiety. Climbing the mountain is very much a central metaphor for a surprisingly deep story, but in trying to climb this mountain, Madeline’s insecurities manifest into an evil version of Madeline called “part of me”, or unofficially known as “Badeline”, who ends up being the antagonist for a good portion of the game. Madeline tries rejecting this side of her, but she cannot succeed in climbing the mountain until she accepts that this “part of me” is indeed a part of who she is.
Unlike many video games I play where you must save the world from destruction or evil, the stakes in Celeste are low. Madeline could just walk away and not climb the mountain, the same as you just putting the game down and not finishing it, but the sheer determination of finding Madeline’s resolve forces you to press on, and in the end, it feels like you both made it together. This is where the level Summit really shines.
You can do this.
Summit is the ultimate final exam level. Each section takes the obstacles and gimmicks from the previous 6 levels and packages them into different sections, but this time with double dashing. Each section of the level is divided by meters, and these sections give you the greatest challenges of the game yet. You are expected to have mastered the gimmicks and obstacles for each level to beat these sections or Summit. Celeste is a forgiving game in the sense that you can virtually pick up right where you left off after a death, so even the greatest challenges in this game never become too overwhelming or frustrating, but man, getting through these sections is so satisfying.
Not only is the gameplay incredibly fun in Summit, but the music fits the level perfectly. Summit opens up with the same piano music that you hear during the beginning of the game, but now it has an upbeat background that gives you the sense of excitement and hopefulness. I posted the song that plays during Summit below, the 7:45 mark gave me literal chills when playing the game because I knew that this was it, this is where we reach the summit of Celeste.
Overall, the structure of the level was symbolically great, and gave me such satisfying closure to the story. This is why Summit is my favorite level in gaming. What’s your favorite level in gaming? Let us know in the comments section or on Discord!