Winter is here, and with 2020 now behind us, there’s a lot to look forward to in the world of video games. Although, before we can get to the next big releases, there’s still some waiting and a cold season of weather to contend with in the meantime. So how better to pass the time than by wrapping up warm and getting cozy with some of the most joyful winter moments Nintendo has to offer? Here are five of the most memorable winter-themed levels in Nintendo games.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – Snowpeak Ruins
The long and arduous journey to this dungeon is part of why arriving here is one of the best moments in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The chilly mansion hanging precariously off the edge of a snow-covered cliff is already a strange enough sight to induce some chills down your spine, but what’s inside is even better. Much like the best dungeons in the Zelda series, Snowpeak Ruins introduces some unique enemies, puzzles, and mechanics all its own.
There are Wolfos and Freezards that take advantage of the icy floor to attack you, cannons to blast open new paths, and a new ball-and-chain weapon to break frozen obstacles. The friendly yeti-like inhabitants are cozied up by a fireplace or ready to serve you some hot soup and only further add to the great atmosphere the dungeon creates. As the cherry on top, the post-boss cutscene involving the now-safe yeti creatures is sure to pull on your heartstrings.
Super Mario 64 – Cool, Cool Mountain
Everyone has their own favorite memories of Super Mario 64 levels, and Cool, Cool Mountain is often among them. As the fourth level in Super Mario 64, you start on the summit of the frozen mountain and are tasked with a variety of challenges involving the slippery surfaces and deadly drops that litter the level. It’s more difficult than the levels that precede it but also more rewarding when you can grab those elusive stars.
In particular, having to find an adorable lost baby penguin for the second star is one of the more memorable moments in the whole game. Not just because of its difficulty, but also for how easy it was to simply throw the baby penguin off the mountains when you inevitably get frustrated with the task, as most of us did. The warm, inviting cottage and sliding race against a big penguin are further highlights to what is one of the best winter-themed Mario levels.
Animal Crossing (any) – winter season
Whether it’s the appearance of snow, unique villagers and items, or even some limited-time events to take part in, the Animal Crossing series knows how to make the best out of the winter season. Most recently in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the appearance of winter brings along with it a snow-covered map and a host of new activities to take part in. Unique fish and bugs can be collected, while snowballs can be used to create living snowmen or igloos.
Seasonal villagers such as Jingle the reindeer appear to give presents to players, while CJ the beaver host a fishing tournament. If that weren’t joyous enough, the players are also allowed to buy time-limited cosmetics such as the Midwinter Sweater and Aurora Wall wallpaper to get into the perfect mood for the occasion. Nintendo has a fair share of great winter-themed levels across its franchises, but few can match the heartwarming vibes that the Animal Crossing series achieves for the occasion.
Super Mario Odyssey – Snow Kingdom
In a fun twist, the Snow Kingdom initially deceives its players. Plopping Mario onto what seems to be barren tundra with nothing but deadly conditions, such as harmful icy water and a raging blizzard that all but blinds you, is a great way to let players believe that they’re in for a tough time. Yet, not too long after the wintry region has been explored, a secret tunnel drops Mario into a bright safe haven, providing the welcome respite that both the player and Mario needed.
It’s here in Shiveria that the game introduces the adorably timid Shiverians and lets you explore a wonderfully cozy new village with these kind NPCs and their unique customs. If the colorful environment and friendly locals weren’t enough to warm your spirits, then the Bound Bowl Grand Prix mini-game offers a fun race with a unique mechanic, perfectly suited to heat you up while you compete for a record time.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze – Donkey Kong Island
As the final world to tackle in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Donkey Kong Island pulls out all the stops. Returning to DK Island and seeing familiar landmarks like Donkey Kong’s treehouse in ice is a strange site, making it all the more satisfying knowing that you’ll soon be restoring the island to its normal state. Though in the meantime, the ice-themed adversaries still have some obstacles for you to contend with.
Not content to rest on a single new mechanic for this world, the game imbues each level of Donkey Kong Island with its own unique winter twist on the gameplay. Some levels will have you breaking ice to maneuver to different platforms, while in others you’ll be avoiding frigid water or pulling handles to lift entire platforms out of said water. In more levels, you might have to avoid sharp snowflakes and bounce off jump pads with frozen and slippery vegetation. Donkey Kong Island makes the most of its cold setting, offering up a variety of challenging and beautiful winter-themed levels to become engrossed in.
What are some of your favorite winter-themed levels in Nintendo games?