Daves Compendium of Level Select Screens

I wanted to make a collection of good/different level select screens for developers or anyone that wanted inspiration, if you want to send me any to add you can do so here or on Twitter.

I wanted to do Super Mario Land 2 early on this list. I’m sure it wasn’t the first game to do any of these things but it was the first time I saw them so it was truly revolutionary for me.

Super Mario Land 2 Level Select

Super Mario Land 2

First off you can walk around the level select screen, this felt so immersive. Not only was everything super cute but it made the game feel less abstract. The second thing that was very apparent was you didn’t need to do the levels in a particular order. This really helped with the story aspect (because you had to collect 6 coins in any order), but also meant the difficulty curve was interesting because if you got stuck on a level you could go and try a different level until you learnt the skills needed to do the others.

Paper Please doesn’t really have a level select system, it does allow you to roll back your save file to a different point in time and that itself was so interesting that I thought it was worth mentioning.

Papers Please Level Select

Papers Please

Bad North uses generated levels, however the level select screen becomes part of the game as you see older islands become inaccessible as they get invaded and fresh maps with new items and characters become available.

Bad North Level Select

Bad North

Not only does Scribblenauts look adorable but it features many worlds each with many levels inside each one. You must complete tasks that give you stars that you use to unlock new worlds. These Starites can be collected in any order so players are encouraged to explore levels, I found most of the time I would accidentally collect enough just having a look around each level which really made the pacing of the game feel very relaxed (and I guess family friendly)

Scribblenauts Level Select

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes has you looking at a book at your office desk, it makes me feel you are looking at past missions that have either been successful or not, levels you don’t have access to yet are struck out and levels are given slightly humorous and memorable names.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes Level Select

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Quake has a great level select screen, it basically starts you ingame with 3 doors in front of you, those doors are the difficulty selection and I remember clearly not being able to get across the lava that blocked the door marked Hard as a child, this was perfect because it shows that hard would have most definitely been too hard for me. After that you go into an area where you select the level, each room is themed appropriate to the level and portals on the wall will start that level.

Quake Level Select

Quake

Dungeon Keeper 2 had a nice 3D level select screen, as you hovered over parts of the map they would lift up with a satisfying mechanical clunk. It doesn’t really need all the text and information that would be given in a modern game but the pure simplicity makes this a very clean select screen. You play as the bad guy so as you go through the game the map gets more and more scorched to show you are doing a good job.

Dungeon Keeper 2 Level Select

Dungeon Keeper 2

Ultimate Chicken Horse – Is a multiplayer game where everyone can vote by moving their character to stand on a voting system, this a great way to stop one person from dominating and always picking the level they want, also harder levels are put higher up so it's less likely new players will accidentally vote for those that are above their skill.

Ultimate Chicken Horse Level Select

Ultimate Chicken Horse

Lots of competitive FPS games like Killing Floor don’t allow you to pick a level or have some kind of voting system. These seems to immensely annoy the players however it is a way to make sure players see many levels and don’t become experts at a single level or location on a level.

Killing Floor 2 Level Select

Killing Floor 2

Surgeon Simulator, even though I found it infuriating to use it is a good example of what you are about to get into. The whole concept of Surgeon Simulator is having to individually control the fingers and the hand of the doctor and in the menu it is no different. It also gets bonus points for having easter eggs and other things laying around to play with so I’m sure lots of people god enjoyment just from messing around on the menu.

Surgeon Simulator Level Select

Surgeon Simulator

Lots of board games also need to have players select a level, here in Imperial Assault you get a deck of card that have a level on each card, these are convenient for players that want a shuffle for a random card or to hand around for someone to select. They have a summery and link to a paper version with a map and rules changes on.

Imperial Assault Level Select

Imperial Assault Level Select Cards

Mario Kart has always listed older retro levels at the bottom and new levels at the top, and from right to left they go from simple to complex even though all levels are unlocked from the start.

Mario Kart 8 Level Select

Mario Kart 8 (2014)

Mario Kart DS Level Select

Mario Kart DS (2005)

Mario Kart Double Dash Level Select

Mario Kart Double Dash (2003)

Mario Kart 64 Level Select

Mario Kart 64 (1996)

Mario Kart SNES Level Select

Mario Kart SNES (1992)

Space Station Silicon Valley unlocked the first level in each of the 4 themed worlds, this meant that when players got stuck they could just keep progressing in one of the other themes until they had the required skills to complete that level. The player had to get to the end of each of the 4 quarters before it would unlock the middle harder levels.

Space Station Silicon Valley Level Select

Space Station Silicon Valley

Not real level select screens but would make a good one or uses some kind of mechanic to pick what you do next.

Slay the Spire makes choosing their path part of the game, it shows you a few choices of path you can take that weave between each other and have different enemies and prizes down each one. The player has to then select a starting path hoping that it has the best risk vs reward for them.

Slay the Spire Level Select

Slay the Spire

Her Story To find the whole story about what happened you need to view all the recordings. These can be done in any order so the player is given a search box that they can use to load a new part. It was very satisfying having to guess what you were looking for and then type it into a search box. I don’t know if that really is a level select, but it counts for me.

Her Story Level Select

Her Story

Borderlands – Allows you to teleport between worlds where you pick up and do quests. This might not really meet the criteria because it's far more of an open world game, however when you break it down there are actually just loads and loads of optional/main missions that take places on a limited number of maps.

Borderlands 3 Level Select

Borderlands 3

Borderlands 2 Level Select

Borderlands 2

Borderlands Level Select

Borderlands

Smash Bros Ultimate – One of the reasons I included this when it is more of a map select is when you are playing with many people you can pick how you want the map to be selected; you can set it to winner picks, loser picks, everyone votes, anyone can pick. I think that’s a great way to make a competitive game like this have extra long-term strategy.

Smash Bros Ultimate Level Select

Smash Bros Ultimate Map Select

Smash Bros Ultimate Level Select

Smash Bros Ultimate Story Select

Theme Hospital – This is hardly a level select screen because you can’t interact with it so it's more of just an indicator of what level you are playing, however growing up I was so impressed with how 3D it looked I wanted to include it on this list.

Theme Hospital Level Select

Theme Hospital

Two Point Hospital

Two Point Hospital Level Select

Two Point Hospital

Honourable Mentions

Overcooked

Overcooked Level Select

Overcooked

Overcooked 2

Overcooked 2 Level Select

Overcooked 2

Goldeneye 64

Goldeneye 64 Level Select

Goldeneye 64

Beat Cop – I quite like how the Beat Cop level select screen looks, it's not very practical but it is very in theme and branded as if you are rewinding time.

Beat Cop Level Select

Beat Cop

Undercrewed

Undercrewed Level Select

Undercrewed

Cuphead

Cup Head Level Select

Cuphead

Bomber Man 64

Bomber Man 64 Level Select

Bomber Man 64

Superhot PC

Superhot PC Level Select

Superhot PC

Superhot VR

Superhot VR Level Select

Superhot VR

Battleblock Theater

Battleblock Theater Level Select

Battleblock Theater

Orcs Must Die 2

Orcs Must Die 2 Level Select

Orcs Must Die 2

Orcs Must Die

Orcs Must Die Level Select

Orcs Must Die

Tetris Effect You would have thought Tetris didn’t need a level select, especially one this pretty, however each level has a very distinct feel. Not only does it change the theme but mixes up the speed blocks fall in entertaining ways. Some start slow and get faster, some give you waves of incredibly fast falling speeds.

Tetris Effect Level Select

Tetris Effect

Baba Is You

Baba Is You Level Select

Baba Is You Overworld

Baba Is You Level Select

Baba Is You

Hotline Miami looks super pretty and in a good retro theme, but it's not so practical to use as you have to keep pushing left and right to get to the next level. One thing it does have going for it is the 3D model of the level which really helps you know if it's the level you want.

Hotline Miami Level Select

Tetris Effect

Toad's Treasure Tracker

Toad's Treasure Tracker Level Select

Toad's Treasure Tracker

Dance Dance Revolution - While DDR doesn’t have a spectacular level select screen it is very practical, remember that this was mainly used in arcades so you have a very flashy screen that is attractive and then each song you can play is on a huge list that you scroll through, it shows the scores and difficulty of those levels and changes the song as new ones are selected. It's a great way of conveying information to the players looking at it (either beginner or advanced players) and it's appealing for anyone watching behind.

DDR Level Select

Dance Dance Revolution

Company of Heros 2

Company of Heros 2 Level Select

Company of Heros 2

Diddy Kong Racing – Has an overworld that you can drive and fly around to get between the levels, the levels are grouped together in themes and the harder ones are better hidden so you find them later. Growing up I would spent hours flying around looking for new levels.

Diddy Kong Racing Level Select

Diddy Kong Racing

Besiege is here because it's super pretty, super smooth, super tactile and lovely to use.

Besiege Level Select

Besiege

Big Pharma groups its levels so it's very easy to see the difficulty and starting conditions. When you hover over a level it shows the tasks you need to do in that level. Once you have completed one you get the bright strip next to that level.

Big Pharma Level Select

Big Pharma

Braid has you going through levels finding puzzle pieces so you can unlock the next set of levels, each level has many puzzle pieces to find but it's designed so that you are unlikely to have the skill required to get all of them the first time you come to a level so you will have to go back and collect them when you have gained the knowledge on future levels.

Braid Level Select

Braid

Braid Level Select

Braid

Spelunky normally intends for you to start at the first level every time you play, however if you can show them that you are very good at the game by performing some astonishingly hard tasks like taking a particular item to the end you can unlock shortcuts that allow you to bypass the starting levels.

Spelunky Level Select

Spelunky

Bridge Constructor Portal

Bridge Constructor Portal Level Select

Bridge Constructor Portal

Mario Maker 2 - Story

Mario Maker 2 Level Select

Mario Maker 2

Mini Metro

Mini Metro Level Select

Mini Metro

Roller Coaster Tycoon 2

Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 Level Select

Roller Coaster Tycoon 2

Roller Coaster Tycoon

Roller Coaster Tycoon Level Select

Roller Coaster Tycoon

Can we learn anything from this?

This is about the worst way to do stats where I count things from a selection of my choosing, this is really bias, I might like games more that have branching paths around a game. But I still thought it was interesting to categorise them.

How do you get new levels?

Type Number Percentage
Consecutive levels 49%
Unlocked in groups 15%
Branching levels 4%
Multiple start points that converge 7%
Everything unlocked from the start 18%
Unlocks in the order you find levels 5%

How are levels displayed?

Type Number Percentage
Menu list 57%
Selecting on map 24%
Moving around like ingame 18%



Easy Difficulty
Game Development
By David Strachan