Fire is one of the most difficult elements to recreate in video games. While many games attempt to tackle the inferno, the realism required for lava and the creativity behind it still lag behind. However, sometimes a game can nail a fire and lava level so exquisitely it can nearly make the player start to sweat. Fortunately, these stages can be played in the comfort of your living room without suffering from heat exhaustion. The following are the 10 best fire and lava areas in video game history. These levels epitomize the fiery theme while containing original and tremendous gameplay.
10. “Lethal Lava Land” – Super Mario 64
A series of platforms scattered across lava describes Super Mario 64’s “Lethal Lava Land.” The stage is not traditional in the slightest and is simply pieces of scattered debris that the player must navigate through. In this stage, players are always surrounded by lava. Touching the lava sends Mario on fire and out of control, making it difficult to return to the course before burning to death. The level also contains another entrance, which can be accessed by jumping into the volcano located in the stage. The volcano is its own separate area and in fact players can’t freely return to the initial stage once they have jumped down the volcano. “Lethal Lava Land” is essentially two levels in one, with the volcano presenting a variety of difficult platform jumping that takes inspiration from Mario’s two-dimensional roots. However, the fiery outer level is still the main attraction in this stage, as the majority of the stars are placed there. Surfing the lava with the blue shell like it was water is a thrill and cements this stage as one with attitude amidst the heat.
9. “Amazonia” – Twisted Metal 2
“Amazonia” is a stage where you begin enclosed in lava. The stage is a relatively simple map featuring a constrained space in a tightly-contested environment. That surrounding lava is the beauty of this strategically-balanced stage. A player’s car can temporarily sustain damage while driving over the lava. Since it’s oftentimes easier to push a vehicle into the lava rather than use projectiles, using the environment against your enemies becomes a key strategy. The stage is also known for having its boss appear rising out of the lava, as a demon named “Minion” drives a tank straight out of the fire in this epic fiery entrance. For ingenious use of fire as a surrounding obstacle and for the strategy involved, “Amazonia” is one of the best fire and lava levels in video game history.
8. “Cave of Wonders” – Aladdin (SNES)
When playing the 16-bit version of this classic Disney movie, make sure you are playing the Super Nintendo version rather than the Sega Genesis if you want to see an epic fire level. While games that were released simultaneously on both consoles were quite common, Aladdin is actually a different game entirely depending on which system you play it on. On the Super Nintendo, Aladdin is a platformer developed by Capcom that follows the movie quite well. The Genesis version was developed by Virgin Games and strays from the plot while featuring action-platforming elements; Aladdin is even given a sword as a weapon for the entire game. The Super Nintendo is the superior version, but both games still play well enough and are worth experiencing for the escape from the “Cave of Wonders.” After Abu touches the magic lamp, the cave begins to collapse and Aladdin must make terrifying jumps amidst a sea of magma. The level really picks up during the second half when the stage is taken over by the magic carpet and Aladdin must escape by air. A sea of lava comes from the left side of the screen as players escape toward the right. This terrifying and challenging section defines what a fire level should be.
7. “Lost City” – Shovel Knight
Shovel Knight is such a good game that it absolutely needs to be played by everyone. Fortunately, for adrenaline fire junkies, Shovel Knight also contains one of the best fire and lava areas in video game history. “Lost City” is a testament to just how much detail 8-bit graphics can contain. Dropping down to the “Lost City,” players learn to bounce on the underside of a giant beetle in a relatively safe area. Later in the stage, this bouncy technique that was introduced under lighter conditions is used during hectic, timed jumps. That is an amazing learning curve that needs to be implemented and used intuitively in more video games without the aid of grand and lengthy tutorial sections. The “Lost City” offers intense heat that firmly places it as one of the finest fire levels in gaming history.
6. “Solar” – Star Fox 64
“Solar” is a star whose surface is literally an ocean of molten lava. By containing no land and having the entire planet composed just of lava, the Star Fox 64 developers ensured “Solar” would be one of the greatest fire levels anyone could imagine. Just as important as the idea of “Solar” is the execution and “Solar” performs wonderfully in that aspect as well. Hinting at how intensely hot it must be, the player will lose health by flying too low to the ground. The heat from the lava is simply too much for Fox’s Arwing to handle, therefore players must fly higher, which is often dangerous. Indeed, players will be losing health constantly in this heat but flying lower to the ground increases the speed at which health is lost The level comes to a halt at the boss, “Vulcain,” a mechanical bio-weapon that rises out of the lava. Keeping cool in “Solar” isn’t possible but players will be eager to instantly replay it anyway.
5. “Hailfire Peaks” – Banjo-Tooie
“Hailfire Peaks” is one of the most original level designs ever created. The uniqueness of this Banjo-Tooie level is that it is divided into two parts. Half the level is an icy wonderland while the other half is a giant volcano. It’s this wonderful fire and ice juxtaposition that raises “Hailfire Peaks” into the elite discussion. This one-of-a-kind level has players jumping back and forth between fire and ice sections while fending off twin dragons that shoot fireballs and snowballs. The elements are on full display on the fire side in this platforming masterpiece. By foot and by flight, Banjo must search through the various obstacles surrounded in lava while fighting off a fire-breathing dragon. Of course, for standard Banjo humor, an excellent throwback is made to the incredible original game Banjo-Kazooie. In that game, a camel named Gobi is rescued then becomes irritated several times. Upon the final encounter with the player, Gobi states that he is seeking refuge in the fire world. Well, Banjo-Kazooie didn’t have a fire level and players will have a sly grin upon realizing that Gobi resurfaces in the sequel.
4. “Norfair” – Super Metroid
“Norfair” features tight obstacles and rising lava. Wall kicks will come in handy throughout the stage and for players who have yet to master the technique, “Norfair” represents a huge spike in difficulty level during Super Metroid. The insanely-hot area requires the use of the “Varia Suit” in order to comfortably explore its depths. The extreme conditions house some nasty enemies that can withstand the heat. Fire lizards and filthy aliens populate the area but it’s the 8-eyed boss “Crocomire” that will define this magma-filled area. “Norfair” has since become a classic stage in the Super Smash Bros. series and has managed to maintain its legacy for over two decades.
3. “Iron Keep” – Dark Souls 2
In “Iron Keep,” the action catches the player immediately. Upon entering, a giant fortress is being sucked into a pool of lava. This comes to define the stage, which as you can expect from a Dark Souls title, is insanely difficult and has many challenging enemies and bosses. The “Smelter Demon” is a particularly nasty foe that offers a real challenge, while the final section and boss contains “The Old Iron King,” an intimidating foe that sets the pace for this fire level by appearing in the lava. The Old Iron King” can be difficult at first but fortunately, he looks tougher than he really is and has predictable patterns. This level requires braving the elements and understandably, a Dark Souls world collapsing into lava is about as scary as it gets. Therefore, “Iron Keep” is a stage that needs to be experienced in all of its fiery glory.
2. “Fire Temple” – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The entrance to Ocarina of Time’s “Fire Temple” is in the middle of an active volcano. In order to even survive “Death Mountain’s Crater” players need a special tunic; it doesn’t get much hotter than that. The temple itself provides an immensely enjoyable dungeon that finds the perfect amount of balance. As this is the fifth temple in the game (and the second that Link visits as an adult), earlier dungeons are relatively simple and easy for series veterans. The temple to follow this is the infamous water temple which provides hours of frustration. Thankfully, the fire temple is just right, offering plenty of challenge but nothing tedious. Link encounters his initial shield-eating slug here, which can prove quite a shock. Walls of fire encase the surroundings and lava pits and geysers are plentiful. When players finally gain access to the boss room (which was directly at the entrance behind the enormous stone wall the whole time) it’s a very satisfying moment in this amazing fire area.
1. “Barrel Volcano” – Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
On their search for missing star pieces, Mario and company literally jump into the heart of a volcano. After entering “Barrel Volcano,” and jumping across hot lava, a dual-boss will arrive and challenge newcomers who are not anticipating two bosses in a row. The first boss is the transforming “Czar Dragon” which is a challenge on its own. However, what’s to follow is one of the greatest moments of the game: the infamous encounter with the “Axem Rangers.” Featuring hilarious dialogue that goes beyond their obvious satirical take on the “Power Rangers,” the “Axem Rangers” are genuinely funny. Also featuring some of the best music in the game, “Barrel Volcano” is a thrill to play. It’s cemented as the greatest fire and lava area in video game history when the fun is placed in conjunction with the exhilarating entrance to this inferno.