I’m a sucker for level design and design patterns, so when I came across this article (and paper) called “Level Design Patterns in 2D games”, I had to read it! Unfortunately it’s a bit wordy, so I thought I’d summarise it and throw in a bunch of pictures! Enjoy!
It’s taken a surprising amount of effort to gather these examples. If you know of any please let me know so I can add more!
Guide the player through the path they need to take.
Super Mario Bros. Super Meat Boy
Collectibles (a.k.a. breadcrumbing)
Donkey Kong Country 2 Granny Smith
Super Mario Bros. 3 Sonic 3
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Pokemon
Give the players a place safe from hazards so they can stop and think.
|Contra||The Legend of Zelda|
Partially introduce something new to the player, only to fully reveal it later. This can serve to teach the player, or encourage exploration.
New hazard that’s out of reach
Bare Knuckle III Golden Axe
New enemy that foreshadows a boss
New objects / obstacles that cannot be used until later, to encourage exploration.
Chrono Trigger Pokemon
Combining multiple objects to create new experiences, like a harder challenge.
Multiples of the same object
Raiden 2 Streets of Rage 3
Jackal Super Mario World
Giving the player different choices.
Branching with no restrictions - gives the feeling of exploration
Binding of Isaac: Rebirth Final Fantasy IV
Conditional branching - stimulates curiosity and may require backtracking
Super Metroid The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Risk-reward branches - encourages players to invest more time in the game by rewarding skill
Excitebike Sonic 3
Dramatically changing the pacing of the game - higher or lower tension.
Introduce difficulty (e.g. bosses) to increase tension
Decrease tension to let players enjoy other parts of the game, or learn a new mechanic
Mappy Street Fighter 2
Decrease tension to set up for a more dramatic increase later (e.g. just before a boss fight)
Megaman 2 Chrono Trigger
Controlling tension through level design
Jackal Gradius 2