Favorite Nintendo Winter Wonderlands

The east coast of the US has been warned: hunker down and stay inside.  You know what they say: winter’s coming.  To be precise, a big winter storm is careening their way.  It’s a good day to stay inside and play some good ol’ video games.  Nintendo games have a good track record at creating levels or areas in the winter.  So, let’s take a look back at some of their most-iconic winter-themed locations.

Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum’s Snowpoint City

Pokemon Diamond and Pearl were the first Pokemon games to have a snowy area.  In the Sinnoh region, you must exit Mount Coronet and onto Route 216, where a sudden influx of snow awaits you.  As you march upwards to Route 217, the snow deepens and slows your movement.  It’s pretty miserable, and that’s why reaching Snowpoint City is such a relief.  Not only does it house the game’s 7th Gym Badge, but it also has the Snowpoint Temple, where the powerful Regigigas awaits capture.

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Super Mario 64’s Cool Cool Mountain

Mario games have many snow levels, so it’s proven hard to come up with memorable winter playgrounds in each game.  An early Mario 64 level, Cool Cool Mountain, has plenty of fun moments to that point.  As you start at the top of the mountain, you’re presented with many opportunities.  You can carry a baby penguin to it’s mother down below, you can climb down a cabin’s chimney and race down an icy slide, or navigate a snowman’s head to it’s owner.  There’s so much diversity in what you can do, you almost forget how scary it is to fall over the edge of the cliffs and into the abyss below.

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Super Mario Galaxy’s Freezeflame Galaxy

The two Mario Galaxy games have a few snow levels between them.  One of the best is Freezeflame Galaxy.  It’s not only a hard level, but you can’t help but admire the view.  You ice skate on a ring of ice in space, you’ll navigate an icy lake, and ultimately climb the summit in a perilous journey upwards across all it’s Stars.  Why is it called Freezeflame?  Because you not only get to turn into Ice Mario, but you also will burn enemies as Fire Mario.  That’s pretty cool contrast!

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Donkey Kong Country’s Gorilla Glacier

Developer Rare did a great job giving Donkey Kong Country a feeling of cohesion and sense of place.  One of the winter-themed levels that do a good job demonstrating this environment creation was Gorilla Glacier.  Taking place on a mountain road, you begin the level under peaceful pretenses.  But as things progress, a blizzard kicks in, blurring your vision and hindering your progress.  There’s a great deal of atmosphere in this tricky level, and it looked great in 1994, it’s an example of winter-is-dangerous in a platformer.

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Kirby 64’s Shiver Star

Not a level in itself, Shiver Star is actually a hub for Kirby 64’s collective winter levels.  The snow levels themselves have challenging platforming, where Kirby rides a bobsled and ducks into icy water.  But what makes Shiver Star stand out?  There’s an internet conspiracy that this planet is actually…post-apocalyptic Earth.  If you look at it, the shadows on the planet look an awful lot like Earth’s continents.  Guess Earth froze over, and Kirby’s just visiting.  It’s one of the darker ideas to grace the otherwise-sunny Kirby series.

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Animal Crossing’s Festive December

December in the real-world means holidays like Christmas come out to play.  So too does this apply to the entire Animal Crossing series (except, oddly DS’ Wild World).  Your town’s trees will be adorned with holiday lights, and holiday items like a menorah and Christmas tree will be available for sale.  But the real treat arrives on Christmas Eve, aka Toy Day.  The reindeer Jingle comes to town, dressed as Santa, and he needs your help delivering presents to the towns folk.  And after that, there’s a colorful New Year’s Eve countdown to partake in.  These real-world touches help connect you to the Animal Crossing experience.

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The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask’s North Region

The world of Termina in Zelda: Majora’s Mask starts out as grim and dead in winter.  The land of Termina is said to be based on the stages of death, so the northern region matches up with that of fear.  Link enters the region where Gorons freeze and starve, afraid that an endless winter will lead to their deaths.  With the advice of the Goron ghost Darmani, it’s up to Link to restore the land to springtime.  It was all very hard, but you can’t say it isn’t picture-esq and emotional.

Elite Beat Agents’ You’re the Inspiration

So, this one’s not a typical “level”, but a song you play to.  Elite Beat Agents is a remarkably fun game on the DS, and possible contender for the best game on the DS.  For all the fun, energetic songs you perform wacky stunts to, none are as emotional as that of Chicago’s track, You’re the Inspiration.  It recounts the somber story of a mother and daughter who wish their father would just return home for Christmas.  Unfortunately, he passes away in an accident.  As the level goes on, the mom and daughter miss him so much, his spirit permeates their everyday business, culminating in a Christmas where his ghost seems to visit them one more time.  Just try playing this level without breaking down into tears.  It’s arguably the most tear-jerking stage in a rhythm action game.

Written by: Alex Ir Esq

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