The 10 Best Level Selection Screens in Video Games
Time and again, the focus seems to revolve around "open world" here and "fast travel" there. What has become of a good old practical level selection s...
Time and again, the focus seems to revolve around "open world" here and "fast travel" there. What has become of a good old practical level selection screen? Show it, click on it, and there you are. Sometimes it's a simple 2D world map where your characters roam around, perhaps it's a chapter or character selection screen with entertaining animations or background music. Sometimes, the level selection itself becomes a level!
Despite being a dying art form, level selection screens still have much to offer. Hidden areas, visually appealing backgrounds, and crucial game statistics are all features of great level selection screens. Sometimes, it's also the catchy tune in the soundtrack that prevents you from clicking on that level for just a few extra minutes.
10 Plan Out Your Journey In Slay The Spire
The map of "Slay the Spire" provides you with all the tools you need to plan and anticipate the challenging path ahead of you. Despite all your preparations, you will likely still lose half of your health to a Jaw Worm on the first floor, but at least you have some say in what ultimately kills you.
The map serves as your level selection, showing you upcoming elite enemies, rest stops, and even the boss you will inevitably face. You have limited control over navigation, but knowing is half the battle. The other half is succumbing to the Act 2 Slavers.
9 Baba Is You, Map Is Win
"Baba is You" utilizes logic-based rule sets and Boolean operators to alter the functioning of objects in the game. It will have you shouting phrases like "Crab is Win!" and "Wall is Stop!" at the screen. The logical rules also apply to the titular character Baba, who, if you believe the name of the game, is you.
Baba's level selection screen looks fairly standard: you navigate between numbered stages without any real impact on the story. It appears simple until you realize that the logical rules within the overworld serve a purpose. Actions in later levels allow you to manipulate and alter the logic of the map itself.
8 Take A Break From Shooting In Cuphead
The overworld of Cuphead resembles an extension of the Candy Land board game, complete with hidden coins, swinging rubber coffins, and cartoon characters from Saturday morning television, both helpful and malicious. It is a colorful adventure that provides a moment of respite from the relentless wave of bosses that make up the rest of the game.
Take note of the unassuming entrances to the boss levels. A cruise ship, you say? I bet there's some kind of sea monster here. Oh, it's actually tag team boxer frogs that transform into an enraged, sentient slot machine? Of course, Cuphead, of course.
7 Pick Your Battles In Mega Man
You can remove the level selection from video games, but you can never take the "Mega" out of the man. The original Mega Man level selection screen is legendary, using the bosses of each level as the sole glimpse into what awaits you. The guesswork, however, isn't too difficult. Hmm... I really wonder what Fireman's level is all about.
Nearly every Megaman title follows this pattern, although the sprite depiction has come a long way since the particularly grumpy Iceman in the first game. It's a clear case of success with the formula from the beginning. If it's not broken, you know the drill, right?
6 Catch The Setlist In Guitar Hero 3
Mainstream rhythm games reached their peak with Guitar Hero 3. With the bulky guitar-shaped controller, you could step into the worn-out shoes of a hardcore rocker and rock out to Alice in Chains in your mom's basement. The series sold the illusion, and it achieved success, not least due to simple additions like its thematic song selection screen.
This installment adopted the "Setlist" screen from previous games to select songs and showcase high scores but also made some minor improvements. Artist credits and release dates were added beneath the song titles, so you'll never forget who sang Barracuda.
5 Warp Between Worlds In Crash Bandicoot 2
Crash Bandicoot 2 reinterpreted the linear level progression of the first game and designed it as a kind of mini-hub, complete with groups of five levels and a nostalgic old-school boomerang save point. It was always enjoyable to decide how to tackle the stages, and the entrances showed you exactly which hard-to-find gems you could collect in that level.
These hubs were a safe place to practice game controls, and the second set of stages even included a cute and cuddly baby polar bear that rewarded you with extra lives... if you jumped on its head enough times.
4 Pipe Down In Super Mario Bros. 3
The overworld in Super Mario Bros. 3 felt like an organic part of the game itself. It encompassed multiple worlds with different themes, branching paths leading to boss levels, and a variety of obstacles, including locked doors and rocks. Nothing that an experienced plumber couldn't handle.
Experienced players were likely familiar with the World 9 Warp Zone, which could be accessed through magical flutes. World 9 served as a central hub to reach other worlds and existed in a time before the internet, when secrets like this were truly impressive when discovered on one's own.
3 Beat A String Of Levels In Kirby's Epic Yarn
Kirby games haven't always used traditional level selection systems, but Kirby's Epic Yarn surpasses those that do. The level design of this game resembles a stroll through the craft section of a local department store, only with more Waddle Dees and crochet rocket-shooting robots.
The charm of this part also extends to its overworld, which is full of NPCs, level entrances, and backgrounds that were likely all made from materials found in a cheap thrift store. Everything comes together to sell the fairytale aesthetic of the game, with the level selection screen being just one of many imaginative areas.
2 Dodge Random Encounters In Final Fantasy Tactics
Final Fantasy Tactics combines captivating gameplay and gripping storytelling into an adventure that can rival the best of what the Final Fantasy name has to offer. The game's map emphasizes visual experiences rather than interactivity and serves as a simple level selection screen instead of a fully modeled world map.
The map of Ivalice exudes flavor, and there is a certain thrill in trying to navigate from one side to the other. Simply advancing and unlocking new areas makes one ponder on how many places they can fit on this comparatively small screen.
1 Aim And Shoot In GoldenEye 007
Many players fondly remember GoldenEye 007, even though the control of the first-person shooter felt like a bag of wet noodles. James Bond's foray into the 64-bit territories included a typical chapter selection screen one would expect in a narrative-driven game like this.
The aesthetically perfect background with the 'classified' Manila folder look was ideal for cutscenes between levels and various menus. The level selection screen even had the clever twist of being able to shoot the chapter you wanted to play with the crosshair. And honestly, who can forget the music on that screen? It was much catchier and more memorable than legally allowed.