Melty Molten Galaxy - Lava Spire - Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
This impressive and difficult level starts out with Mario needing to avoid steam that shoots out from the planetoid he starts on. Lava bubbles pop up from the ground, lava creatures can be shot down with some star bits, and some wicked wall jumps come to save the day. A few star transporters shoot Mario up into the wild red wonder with a volcano erupting right behind him. Following this section is a part of the level where Mario must carefully grab onto pull stars as he flirts every so closely to lava streams bursting from miniature lava planet to miniature lava planet. After surviving this maze, Mario finally finds solid ground. Unfortunately to continue he must collect five star piece shards to unlock the way to the final section of level-- a lava spire (hence the star name) which is slowly being submerged into the lava. Mario must reach the top, avoiding enemies, and making precision jumps to collect his coveted star prize. If that doesn't sound arduous, just wait for the daredevil run of this very level where Mario cannot get hit once.
Forest Temple - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)
The creepy forest temple, an area of the game with enough tricks and turns to make for an exciting dungeon. There's all sorts of vile creatures to contend with from werewolf-like enemies to wallmasters that will bring Link back to the beginning of the dungeon if he gets caught in their grip. Who can forget walking through that spiral room, or quickly darting through a room where the ceiling tries to crush Link, only offering a few holes of protection? The goal of this dungeon was to find and defeat four specifically colored Poe ghosts to open the way to the boss' door where a phantom of Ganondorf on horseback awaited Link. An extremely ambient dungeon, the Forest Temple remains to this day one of my favorite dungeons of Zelda series fame.
The Bunker - LittleBigPlanet (PS3)
Talk about a shocker! This level in the Wilderness area of the game features plenty of electrifying obstacles to persevere against. From spiraling platforms to shocking enemies that briefly alternate between their weak point and their danger zones, this level is the ultimate challenge in LittleBigPlanet. The whole level is fiendishly designed to trip the player up and keep them on their littlebigtoes. The final portion of the level is the cruelest. It's one gigantic circle that spins slowly with electrified floors. If you're too slow, you risk becoming a ragdoll of death. If you're too fast, you risk the problem of sliding off into death. Case in point you want to have a good rhythm in this almost-impossible section of level. Boy, did it feel good to ace this baby!
Rith Essa - Jet Force Gemini (N64)
A level set upon cliffside, Rith Essa is a gorgeous planet with a purple sky and wonderful foliage to gaze at. Too bad all those nasty drone soldiers and other buggy pests get in the way of the picture-perfect view. There's three areas to Rith Essa. One is the main path along the cliffside, another is a near-flooded waterway where you must find all of the Tribals hidden inside, and the third is a cavern setting with motion sensor bombs waiting to blow you and the Tribal captors up. Plus the music is just excellent. While some hated the idea of going through every level again to search for Tribals, I loved it. Jet Force Gemini remains one of my favorites from the N64 era, and Rith Essa is a testament to that philosophy.
The Cave of Trials - Star Ocean: The Second Story (PS1)/Second Evolution (PSP)
The ultimate dungeon in one of my favorite JRPGs, the Cave of Trials is a multi-floor dungeon with no save points. Each level of the dungeon features harder enemies and a boss to each floor. Some of these can easily one hit kill you while others are too fast to target. The final boss after making it all the way to the bottom gives you one of the best items of the game. To make it to dungeon you must reach the top floor of the final dungeon in the game, talk with an elder in the coliseum via private action, and answer that you'd like to go back in time. Not only does this make the Cave of Trials accessible, but it also makes the final boss infinitely more powerful and agile. Definitely not for the weak of heart.
There ends the second edition of Best Levels in Gaming History. What are your personal favorites? Just give me a tip in the comments section.