10 Greatest Video Game Bonus Levels
One thing that you never see in modern day games anymore is the bonus level. There’s something incredibly fun about a mini-game completely separate from the rules of the main game that lets you earn tons of point and 1-ups. These 10 Greatest Video Game Bonus Levels rewarded fast fingers, good memory, and twitch reflexes, but in the end they didn’t really matter. You could totally pass them over and still beat the game. They were there for fun, and fun only, and that’s why they were so awesome. Take a look at these 10 Greatest Video Game Bonus Levels.
Shinobi was a halfway decent side scrolling platformer, but that’s not what people remember it for. The arcade attract screen always played the bonus stage, which let you throw ninja stars at high speed from a first person perspective. Few people actually ever got to this bonus stage, but it’s still easily the most memorable part of the game and that’s why it’s on our list of 10 Greatest Video Game Bonus Levels.
The name of the game in Super Monkey Ball is rolling to the goal without falling off the edge of the stage. However, Super Monkey Ball’s bonus levels put up bumpers at the edge of the level allowing you to roll around to your heart’s content picking up bananas along the way. It was a huge relief to just bounce around a stage at breakneck speeds when normal stages require you to inch along at a snail’s pace.
Before Mortal Kombat became a household name in fighting games it was that cool violent game in arcades. Since we really had no idea what we were doing in terms of actually playing the game back then, the Test Your Might stages were your chance to brag. Every one of us knew a kid with lightning fingers that was able to tap the buttons fast enough to break diamond on the last level, and that kid was the coolest.
After a hard day of delivering papers, what do you want to do? Shred some awesome moves on a BMX course, that’s what you want to do! The “training course” level took came up at the end of every stage, and was easily the most fun part of the game. We want to live in the city that has BMX course at the end of every street!
16-bit games loved to play tricks with perspective. The Andy Asteroids level in Earthworm Jim is one of the best examples of this. The wormhole that extended deep into space was an awesome effect back in the day. It didn’t matter that you were actually just watching a Youtube visualizer and controlling a stationary sprite.
The animal power-ups were some of the coolest parts of Donkey Kong Country, but they were also the easy to lose. One hit and your animal companion simply runs away. That’s why the animal bonus levels were so cool. Donkey Kong didn’t even enter into the equation. You just used your animal abilities to collect tiny trophies of yourself in order to rack up one ups. It was a stress free power-up experience and it made you feel invincible, and that’s why it’s on our list of the 10 Greatest Video Game Bonus Levels.
Super Mario Bros 3 had a ton of bonus levels. There were the slots which gave you one ups, the end of the level random item acquisition, mini boss fights, and even a full remake of the first Mario Bros. arcade game. But the bonus level fans loved the most was the Match Game. It showed up randomly on maps and gave you the ability to rack up tons of power-ups, which were oddly rarer than 1-ups depending on how you played.
This was another one of those bonus stages that rewarded fast finger tapping, but when you were playing a four player game of The Simpsons in our local arcade, you loved being the winner. This bonus level was very craftily put at the end of stage 1, which means almost everyone was likely to see if even if they had only a few quarters to spend. That’s why we remember it so well.
The Sonic series had some amazing bonus levels. The pachinko like levels from Sonic 1 were awesome and the ball collecting levels from Sonic 3 even had their own standalone appearance when you hooked Sonic and Knuckles up to a non Sonic game. But the half-pipe is what most of us remember because it was very prominent in the commercials at the time. “OMG Sonic in 3D” we thought, even though these bonus levels were just another perspective trick.
The top of our 10 Greatest Video Game Bonus Levels list is probably what most people think of when you ask them to think of a bonus stage. The “beat up the car” levels in Street Fighter II had absolutely nothing to do with the real game. Heck, you could just spam your normal attack button and beat it. But it was so much fun! We had no idea why we were beating up this guy’s car, but it was just so cathartic. Maybe he cut us off in rush hour or something.