Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Tuesday 10s - Winter Wonderlands of Gaming

Today is a Tuesday, and it is also officially the Winter Solstice as well. Putting two and two together, we're going to have a special Tuesday 10s here on SuperPhillip Central. How so? Why, we're going to dedicate it to ten of the best winter wonderlands within gaming. Some of these even have some holiday window dressing as well, so that ties everything together nicely like a Christmas present to be placed underneath the tree! It's our gift to you this year. With so many wonderful winter levels and areas to select from, there are bound to be some glaring omissions. After you've checked out the picks here, let us know which picks of yours we missed by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below.

Freezeey Peak - Banjo-Kazooie (N64, XBLA)

Let's begin this winter-themed level-centric edition of The Tuesday 10s with an old favorite from Banjo-Kazooie, still one of the most stellar 3D platformers around (at least in this writer's opinion): it's Freezeey Peak. Between the jolly music that plays throughout this winter world, to the various points of interest and locales that are strewn about the level, Freezeey Peak isn't just a wonderful winter world in Banjo-Kazooie, but a wonderful level in general. The previously alluded points of interest include the Christmas tree that needs lighting by the bear and bird, the bear-despising Wozza and his cave, a winter village to the east, and finally, of course, this all surrounds a sprawling, gigantic snowman monument resting in the world's center. A fantastic way to get into the winter mood, Freezeey Peak starts off our list.

Frosty Village - Diddy Kong Racing (N64, DS)

Not satisfied with leaving Rare's bounty of Nintendo 64 games behind, we now enter the driver's seat with some Diddy Kong Racing. Snowflake Mountain is the collection of winter-themed tracks within Diddy's racing outing, and the best of the bunch of these races is Frosty Village. The titular village may be within winter's cold clutches, but the whole track delivers a nice, warm and cozy vibe to it regardless. After making the first turn and heading past a rocky overpass, which serves as the village proper's entrance, a downhill drive leads into the village itself, followed by a sharp right into a tunnel. This somewhat lengthy tunnel leads to an outcropping where tall trees sit (in fact, you can can't even see the leaves on these, they're so tall) and lampposts light the way to the final section of track before the finish line. The track's song, once again exhibiting the composers of Rare's masterful musical abilities, is an absolute bop as well.

Gingerbread Joyride - Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (Multi)

First things first: F**k Activision. Secondly, we move from one racetrack to another, this time to the game Diddy Kong Racing inspired--at least with its Adventure Mode. It's Crash Team Racing, and we'll be talking about the remake, Nitro-Fueled. There is a handful of winter tracks to choose from in Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled's roster, but the absolutely incredible and all-new addition to the track roster, Gingerbread Joyride, serves as the greatest and one of the best tracks in the game bar-none. Whether you're racing through the opening town made of gingerbread houses with its tight turns and 90 degree curves, or blasting through the countryside, perhaps taking a shortcut via a well-placed snowbank, Gingerbread Joyride is true to its name--it is a joy of a ride. Just watch out for rogue gumdrops!

Ice Cap Zone - Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (GEN)

From one platforming mascot with a small amount of 'tude to another with the Sonic the Hedgehog and his third numbered outing on the Genesis: Sonic the Hedgehog 3. The Ice Cap Zone is a delightful zone, and it starts with an awesome, albeit non-interactive snowboard ride down the slopes. Heck, it looks cool, and that's all that matters, right? From there, true to Sonic the Hedgehog, multiple routes through the level are available, offering an outside path on the top and a more subterranean one on the bottom. Act Two completely takes the icy fun underground, offering plenty of obstacles, hazards, and enemies for Sonic to get the best of if he wants to make it out to see sunlight once more. Loop de loops, ice bridges that break upon standing on them, and the awesome music make Ice Cap Zone just like an ice cream sandwich--a way past cool treat!

Icicle Inn - Final Fantasy VII (PS1)

Welcome to the quiet and quaint winter resort town known as Icicle Inn from Final Fantasy VII, where snow is an all-year-round affair. The sunlight shines brightly onto the glistening snow, and the warm light produced from each cabin in the town help bring about a lovely and cozy feeling to anyone who makes the trek (whether by foot or in Cloud's case, snowboard) to and/or from the town. Located in the Icicle Area of the Snow Fields, and in close proximity to the North Crater, Icicle Inn is the perfect place to rest up for an arduous adventure ahead.

Merry Mountain - Mario Kart Tour (iOS, AND)

One of the most recent levels/tracks on this list comes from Mario Kart Tour, a game I originally maligned. However, multiple improvements have made what was once a dud of a racer more of a stud of a racer. Debuting last holiday season in Mario Kart Tour was Merry Mountain, the first completely original track (i.e. not referencing a real world city) in the game. It's a very, merry mountain indeed, with all of the holiday lights, gigantic presents and Christmas tree at the top of the track, and flying sleighs that sprinkle coins onto the track. It's a delightful track that never fails to put other racers and me into the holiday spirit, and just a plain old enjoyable winter-themed track as well.

Phendrana Drifts - Metroid Prime (GCN)

Few areas in games can scream and properly convey the words "cold and isolated" out loud and visually all at once, but Metroid Prime's Phendrana Drifts does just that, taking players into its cold, frosty, frigid domain. Its beauty is undeniable as an area, whether it's the gorgeous architecture and natural environments, the snowflakes that fall onto and pass by Samus's visor, or the music itself. Either way, underneath all this beauty is a hazardous fjord both above ground and underwater where something nefarious lurks. When you have highlight after highlight, which Metroid Prime consistently delivers to players, it says a lot about how first stepping into the frozen reaches of Phendrana Drifts is one of the game's top moments in a game full of memorable ones.  

Shiveria - Super Mario Odyssey (NSW)

Another modern Mario winter wonderland is that of Shiveria, the Snow Kingdom, in Super Mario Odyssey. The kingdom starts out cold to Mario's cold, with blistering winds and incredibly low visibility due to strong winds and the subsequent snowstorm. However, once Bowser's troops have been routed from Shiveria, not only does the sun peek out onto the surface, brightening and calming things down considerably, but the races return to Shiveria's two circuits. Shiveria is a level of three parts: its surface (the most expansive place to explore), Shiveria Town (home to the cute and cuddly Shiverians), and the subterranean caverns and areas below that, housing various platforming challenges for Mario and Cappy to tackle and take on together. Shiveria in the Snow Kingdom is equal parts winter wonderland and dangerously cold area, but no matter where Mario ends up within the kingdom, it seldom fails to put a smile on my face.

Snowpeak - The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii, GCN)

Snowpeak in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is on the outskirts of Hyrule, and it is a bit of a barren area. What makes it so enjoyable, however, is twofold: 1) There is an extremely cool snowboarding mini-game (I'm noticing a trend here with snowboarding...) that Link can engage in, which is always a good time, and 2) The region features one of the most creatively themed dungeons in a 3D Zelda game. The dungeon, Snowpeak Ruins, takes place within a mansion complete with open, outdoor central courtyard, and plenty of rooms to explore. It feels like a lived-in home, and that's because it actually is being lived in. Or at least WAS, as the boss of the dungeon is the current occupant of the mansion, a Yeti who has succumbed to the dark Twilight. Bad news for Link, good news for us, as it gives us the opportunity to enjoy one of the most entertaining dungeons within Twilight Princess and the Zelda series as a whole.

Snowy Mountain - Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (PS2)

Located high, high above the Volcanic Crater stands Snowy Mountain, a picturesque area blanketed in snow, and unfortunately for Jak and Daxter, infested in some parts with lurkers and worse, home to a bounty of Yeti. These latter creatures seem to pop up one after another, no matter how many are defeated. The mountain itself is home to an abundance of interesting places to explore: from a fortified outpost where enemies call their base, to a dark cavern literally infested with lurkers (where only having some Eco will protect Jak and Daxter from a grisly fate). While not exactly the friendliest place in Jak & Daxter, nor on this list of ten winter wonderlands, it certainly does give off a decidedly delightful winter feel and mood regardless, perfectly fitting for this list.