What is your (or one of) all time favorite srb2 level/s and why?


want to know what people think, anything is on the table, vanilla modded etc
I want to know what personally makes a level great to you, what makes you really love a level above all others, what are some traits you really appreciate in a stage, etc
If I had to choose one level from all of SRB2 history to pick as my favorite, sphere's Seraphic Skylands would be it. It's just such a beautiful and mesmerizing experience from beginning to end from the gameplay to the aesthetics. Seriously, how was that level not added to the game.
Hot take, but Castle Eggman Act 2 from the Final Demo era. A lot of people don't really like the "Button hunt" style, but I personally really loved playing through that level. I'd play through it over and over trying to best my own fastest times. I still have my old route memorized. Even when not trying to go fast, the level basically amounts to a really fun playground of exploration and setting up for cool tricks such as there being a bunch of great places to nuke enemies with a shield. It's not some kind of expertly designed level or anything, but I feel it benefits a lot from its simplicity and is just a lot of fun to be in.
Back in 1.09.4 there was a pack of Match/CTF levels from Jazz called well, Jazz Attack and among them was a very fun club themed level that even had an easter egg that allowed you to change the music playing in the level between three Sonic 3 references. You'd often get people fighting in there and it was a pretty good time altogether.
want to know what people think, anything is on the table, vanilla modded etc
I want to know what personally makes a level great to you, what makes you really love a level above all others, what are some traits you really appreciate in a stage, etc

To give other people context for the opening of my accidental essay, I'll have to show the original question I was asked in DMs:
That's partly why I don't mention any of my own stages in this post :p
Links included because I like GIVING RESPECTS TO OUR COMMUNITY MODDERS muahahahah.


Ahah, I always have trouble answering "all time favorite" questions, because I always categorize things in my head in a more nuanced way. Like, separate categories for what parts I enjoy, and examples of each of those categories, if that makes sense.

I love levels that, if explored and taken in their environments well, provide a long and, most importantly, immersive experience:
My bias is that I'm actually really unbothered if I spent 15 minutes in a level if the experience was fulfilling in and of itself, and the first time I ever experienced this was in 2.1 with Castle Eggman 2, which I thought was a really well constructed level that fit with the aesthetics of the game at the time, and seemed to (at least in my head) pay homage to its doom roots. I have memories of being a young child, 10 or 11, and being incredibly immersed in that stage for up to an hour, actually, secret hunting and exploring the miscellaneous bedrooms and dining areas. It set a foundation for what I actually enjoy in an srb2 stage

In that regards, my favorite stage of that era was without a doubt Seraphic Skylands Zone by sphere (2014), which he's actually recently ported to 2.2
My other favorite immersive experience of the era would be Abandoned Airbase by Ice, which was in SUBARASHII for 2.1 and also got a 2.2 port

There are older levels though, from the 2.0 era, which I really enjoyed as highly complex and fun to explore, even if 2.0's controls suck and make these levels hard to play, the ones which have always stood out to me the most are Oceanic Cove by 123 Runite (2010), and Thompson's three OLDC singleplayer levels; Twilight Isles (2010 OLDC), Clockwork Grove (2011 OLDC), and Sparkling Icecap (2011 OLDC)

There is another type of level I must discuss first though, action stages! Stages designed less around immersing the player in a vibe, and instead giving the player engaging obstacles and gimmicks and stringing them along a fun and exhilarating ride. DrTapeworm during the 2.1 era was incredibly consistent in creating levels like these. There's something crazy about how well designed from a gameplay perspective alone all of his released singleplayer levels are, those being Gravity Garden (2014 OLDC), Haunted Heights (2014 OLDC), and Nova Shores (KIMOKAWAIII)

Another great example of well designed and well implemented gimmicks in an action stage is Glacier Gear by Toaster, which came from the same 2014 OLDC that Seraphic Skylands by sphere did.

And last in my discussion of 2.1 (in which I missed out a lot of good stuff, but these are mainly just the levels that have stuck around in my memory as incredibly quality) is a level by VAdaPEGA from SUGOI, Fudge Canyon Zone. This level always stood out to me as a display of environment building, as it succeeds in building an environment that is INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT to execute properly in SRB2. This level is impressive after you've worked with SRB2 modding for a few years

Of course, once 2.2 released, nothing could have prepared me for the carefully crafted expertise that is 2.2 Castle Eggman 2. It improved upon and excelled in everything I loved about the 2.1 version into an experience that I'll never forget. That seems hyperbolic, but I was 14 so I experienced everything in a hyperbolic manner. If I absolutely had to choose a singular favorite level, this would be a good choice.

2.2 also opened the floodgates for a lot of extremely well crafted stages, which started to surface in early to mid 2020 or so, with the ULDC giving people a call to action to finish some great stages.
The most jaw-dropping one for me was Neo Palmtree by GoldenB4, a stage that is incredibly rich which level design and paths at every step.
Another favorite of mine in Azure Paradise by MK (Originally from KIMOKAWAIII) although IMO it's way too short and I would love to live in its vibes for a few minutes longer.

Azure Paradise displayed another interesting thing happening at the time, extremely well made remakes of SUGOI/SUBARASHII/KIMOKAWAIII levels, partially inspired by the creators desire to port, and partially inspired by Sal allowing remakes/updates to sugoi series ports

Scarlet Palace by Jazzz (Originally from KIMOKAWAIII) is one of the most well crafted vibes ever made for an srb2 level and I'm not even kidding This is an emerald hunt level, so you can take it at your own pace, but the real magic comes when secret hunting and inspecting every room in which tons of care was put into every corner. The aesthetic, the design, and the music come together to create an enchanting experience

Another level with incredible care put into all of the aesthetic is (and Dave will KILL ME FOR THIS) Cosmic Valley by DaveLite/AcePremier. Again, the music and the progression, all come together to create an immaculately chill and immersive stage. There’s a ton of care put into the architecture and the worldbuilding as a whole. Dave hates this stage, but that’s just because he’s too hard on himself, it’s great.

Last, but certainly not least of these, Palace Peaks by Garrean is a technical marvel. While not the most immaculately decorated, it's simplistic and effective, and it's all pulled together by the gameplay and the music. This level nearly hits the linedef limit, and uses the entire srb2 grid space (before the game didn't cry when you did that). And becomes incredibly exhilarating.

In mid 2020, the Official Level Design Contest was revived, which created a new selection of really well built stages that could constitute as some of my favorites:

From a pure design perspective, Wild West 2 by Dead from the Summer 2020 OLDC may be one of the best crafted levels for the game. It's not a flashy level, but play it a few times and you'll realize that every path is balanced somehow so that when you're at the temple, the music slows down. Every gimmick from this level was carefully placed, every secret makes you feel intelligent. It's one of the most underrated levels for this entire game, in my opinion

There are a few other notable levels from OLDCs that always stood out to me
Alabaster Fountain by BronsoKip from the Autumn 2020 OLDC, I believe accidentally turns itself into a liminal space. The strange architecture, the focus on waterflows, pools, and fountains. The endless amount of vaguely practical completely desolate concrete structures, the contrast between dull white brick and bright blue sky. The extremely calm music (which currently doesn't play because it uses an old level header option) ties this all together into this strangely enchanting experience which I have gotten encapsulated in the vibes for upwards of 40 minutes before. On top of all of this, the actual gameplay behind it excels in flow and understanding of the players movement. It uses it's very simplistic obstacle set in extremely creative ways.

Falcon Emissary Zone by InferNOr from the OLDC 2021 Round 1 is another stage with a lot of jank due to rushing a deadline, but still creates, in my opinion, the most quality airship stage ever released for SRB2 (Cloud Convoy by Toaster (fantastic level by the way) doesn't count that's a TopDown level in disguise and you CAN'T CONVINCE ME OTHERWISE). The color scheme, the creative obstacles, the level progression with a STORM IN THE MIDDLE. It's an exhilarating and exciting experience all tied together by the extremely well made visuals. Sometimes I feel bad that I invalidated 6 months of his hard work by making Hollow Hill with Inazuma in 1 week, and so InferNOr had to live with second place. But I think that's really funny, actually.

Bricked Busted Zone by Mikhael Blur from the OLDC 2021 Round 2 is one of the most passionate level design projects I've ever seen. This level just makes me HAPPY TO PLAY. It's an exciting romp that goes on for way longer than you'd expect it too, which in my opinion is okay (I love long levels). The biggest downside is how punishing it is if you fail (it kills the flow of the stage and will break your heart) but this stage creates one of the best srb2 gameplay experiences with its sprawling paths, interesting secrets, and inescapably happy vibe created by the toy kingdoms and the music (Composed by SRB2 composer clairebun herself!). There's an improved version of this level with an aligned skybox and fixed design, but it got deleted from the message board because Mikhael Blur sucks

One last stage I'd like to talk about that I believe appeals to me as a zone builder user, and probably not to the regular srb2 player is Egg Machine Zone by nickls2002 from the OLDC 2022 Round 1. This stage's visual and obstacle design is fascinatingly memorable to me. The obstacles are extremely experimental in the sense that they use very complex linedef effects, a la vanilla Egg Rock Act 2, in place of standard object and enemy based obstacles. It uses camera angles, 2D mode, and zoom tubes to create this aura of vast complexity, as well as immaculate use of lighting and contrast, with the rare use of mostly pitch black w/ added contrast which can be stunning when executed properly. There's a lot of jank, however the vibe this level creates, as well as its length and it's really rewarding difficulty curve, makes this one of the most standout levels to me in recent years.

That's enough of me rambling about srb2 stages I like, I hope you enjoyed reading this haha, maybe it puts some of my own design choices into perspective, or can help you enjoy levels in a new light. Or hell, maybe this was just entertaining to read, I'm cool with that too!
Haunted Heights has always been a favorite for me since 2.2. Back in 2.1 it was probably Arid Canyon 1 or Castle Eggman 1.
I don't know what my favorite is so I'm just going to rate the levels
Greenflower Zone: 9/10, really good but the boss is kinda hard for newbies
Techno Hill Zone 7/10, I mean, it's really easy and the boss is just way too easy, by time you're almost done with him you have to watch your back or he'll jump into you
Deep Sea Zone 💀/10, if it can keep me up until like 1:40 AM and I start at 11:46 or smth then forget coffee
Will update this as soon as I do the other levels
In terms of singleplayer, Seraphic Skylands and Abandoned Airbase are some of my favourites. I don't have a favourite map from the vanilla line-up.
Some of my favourite circuit maps are Speedy Ruins and Mystic Marsh.
I will only talk about Vanilla SRB2, because i don't have strong memories on custom levels. Even though some of them are great, i played them very little.

Single Player: Castle Eggman 2, Arid Canyon 1 and Red Volcano 1;
Match: Meadow Match and Infernal Cavern;
CTF: Lost Palace, Twisted Terminal and Clockwork Towers.
May be a bit of a strange opinion but Prismatic Angel Zone 1 is one of my favorite stages in SRB2. Dunno if it's because I'm a masochist or what, but it's always been really satisfying to me to master that level with less vertically-inclined characters, like Sonic, Amy, Fang, etc. Breaking it with OP characters like SMS and Rose Gold Amy is also pretty fun-- just speedrunning it in general, really.

Vanilla-wise, hard to pick, honestly. Maybe between AGZ and ERZ2? This is from a Sonic perspective, at least. Been a thok enjoyer since I was a kid, and using it to platform uber precisely and skip large sections is always an adrenaline rush.
Lemme see… Abandoned Airbase is up there, 2.0 Neo Aerial Garden, 2.0 Egg Rock 2, 2.0 CEZ1 or CEZ2, even ACZ. And ofcourse Blue Mountain Zone Act 2 from the latest OLDC.

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