The secret, true finale, sweet gift of a level

Sometimes you find these by doing something weird. Sometimes you gain access after doing everything else possible in a game. Whenever I learned of such levels, I would make a point to earn them, no matter the difficulty.

Sonic Adventure 2 sticks out the most in my mind because almost never got to see it. I almost destroyed my Gamecube because I thought it was broken. I also thought the three emblems I was missing were impossible to get. It took years of wisdom before I finally won and it’s a good thing that winning is its own reward because the extra level is not so fun.

Green Hill Zone in Sonic Adventure 2

Wario Land II has a great final level that’s horrific and bizarre. You have to use techniques that aren’t explicitly demanded anywhere else in the game.

The Really Final Chapter in Wario Land II

This stage just feels good.

Lakeside in Sega Rally Championship

Please share your favorites. There are so many that I can’t think of right now.


The newer 3D Mario games all make a point of having one of these. They each have a big “thank you” shape near the end


I like these but the lack of checkpoints stresses me out!


the randomly generated “x cup” tracks you get by completing all of the f-zero x cups is a neat idea, though more fun in theory than in reality


Oh yeah! That reminds me of all the work I put into unlocking the AX cup in GX. So good!

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“The Challenge” in The Witness


This tradition of special worlds in Mario games extends all the way back to SMB2j, which had 5 extra worlds beyond the ending in World 8. In the All-Stars version, they were just more levels that you could play after World 8, but in the original FDS version they were contextualized quite differently.

Worlds A through D were essentially a second quest that you could play after clearing the game 8 times and holding down a button when starting a new game.

World 9, on the other hand, was something more special:


Your reward for completing a warpless run of the game was this “Fantasy World”, which was a dream-like tribute to the minus worlds of SMB1 (source). The color palettes are strange, the level design incoherent, and you are given only one life to take it all in. It is an easy world that runs completely counter to any of the logic the game had established by this point, and is all the better for it.

(skip to ~3:45 for “9 World”)

When you beat the world, it sends you back to 9-1, looping indefinitely. When you inevitably get a game over, you are greeted by this screen.


The phrase “You’re a super player!” went on to be reused in the final level of SMW’s own special world.


Fei’s Final Problem in Shiren, a 99-floor dungeon where you start with nothing

Cosmic Ocean in Spelunky 2, a 99-floor dungeon that you access by killing the true final boss in a special way


There’s a Wario Land 3 callback to this which I completely forgot about.

A recent example I thought was cool is the final level of Part-time UFO. Most of the stages are just physics puzzles where you have to stack a bunch of objects. After doing all your part-time jobs the UFO gets to go on holiday but it turns out to be a mini dungeon-crawler where you can get treasures and fight an evil submarine captain.


Is this only in the Switch version? I don’t remember this at all!

I think there’s some bonus stuff for Switch. Never played the iOS version so not sure what’s new and what’s not.

smw’s special zone is some seriously cathartic shit, possibly my favorite ever example of the secret world. the game has some difficult moments, but special zone really ramps the challenge up over most of the main game and has absolutely wild level designs

the level names are really great english interjections and phrases that in sum made me think of some kind of hippie surfer dude - gnarly, tubular, way cool, awesome, groovy, mondo, outrageous, funky

if you wait on the map screen for a few minutes the brief special zone loop switches to the ground theme for SMB1, in a cool arrangement. this really blew my mind as a kid!


Recent Kirby games always have one of those

Star Allies in particular is a small quaint recreation of Green Greens from Kirby’s Dream Land, with a monochrome filter to simulate a Game Boy, nothing special

But what this video doesn’t show is that when you activate the switch to summon the giant statue of Kirby, this happens:

It’s a cute use of the joy-con rumble

But my favorite has to be Planet Robobot’s. It’s a stage filled with hazards that you can’t do anything about as just Kirby, and when you reach the end of it, you get the Robobot Armor and get to do the stage in reverse, destroying all of it in an amazing cathartic recalling and last showcase of all of the game’s new mechanics in comparison to earlier Kirby games in a final sendoff (4h, 36m and 20s into this longplay. couldn’t find an isolated video of this level)

(the reason why this isn’t at the very end of the longplay is that while it is intended as a final level and a sendoff to the game, you can totally do it out of order and do it before the final boss and before getting into the many other extra modes)

This level’s also full of secret easter eggs that reward knowledge of prior Kirby games and the secrets in them, it’s very very cute.


aw dang i wish this had been spoilered! can we spoiler this maybe? the game is still really new and lots of people haven’t played it

I love when the last secret level is a paradise-like garden

There’s the extremely well hidden secret garden in Shadow of the Colossus

The optional final world in Bomberman 64, which IIRC is very difficult to unlock and leads to your best ally betraying you

« Hidden Palace Finale » in Super Mario 64 Star Road unlocked after getting 120 stars. Hellish level that looks like Peach castle’s exterior except way up in the sky


The bonus dungeons in the newer versions of the final fantasy games

Cave of Trials in Final Fantasy 4

Kaiser Dragon in the Dragons’ Den. Not just a recolor of the Blue Dragon, sprite was given more detail

Humans and your insatiable greed… Your lust for power leads always to a lust for blood… This place is a sanctuary for wayward souls… What business have you filthy creatures here? You slaughter my brethren, and befoul their rest with the profanity of your continued existence…



The other day while walking the dog I remembered how many early Genesis games had tricks like this and I decided to ask the internet when I got back inside but I forgot all about it until now

Wild to see there’s an actual predecessor for it and it’s fuckin’ Super Mario Bros


wow, it’s like people building Game Genies out of other games


this is hilarious

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the classic