Love for games with selectable stages


I’m a Mega Man junkie, always have been, and one of the main reasons I adore those games is because of the level select: being able to choose the order of the stages you tackle not only injects variety into every session, but it feels like creative expression. It’s not just ‘Do I go in weakness order or do I not?’ When you don’t have long to play, maybe you start with your favorite levels and stop after a stage or two. Or maybe if you want a challenge, you try the more difficult levels, or select them completely at random, without regard for weaknesses. Mega Man games, especially the original series, are my comfort food: I often play the Robot Master stages of one game, stop at the Wily Castle, and then move on to the Robot Masters for the next game in the series.

But I noticed something a little peculiar, after awhile. It’s not just Mega Man. Taking stock of the other games I really appreciate, I came to notice something unified them: the ability to choose which stage you play. My favorite shmup on the Genesis: Thunderforce III, where you choose which planet from which to start. My favorite action-platformer on the NES: Clash at Demonhead, which has a complex world map of interconnected routes. And despite my general lack of skill at the series, I’ve always adored the Darius games for their alphabetically-branching paths, where you choose the next stage to attempt after each aquatically-themed boss. I mean, I even really like 8 Eyes, though by all accounts it’s a pretty poor Castlevania homage… but it has a Mega Man-style level select.

So my question is this: does anyone else have a special place in your heart for games that let you select your starting stage or the sequence through which you play, and also, are there any recent games that have adopted this style of level-selection? It feels like there are fewer and fewer of these, maybe because of the design difficulty of letting you jump in anywhere and still have a satisfying experience, but I love 'em and want more of 'em!


Little Samson on Nes, its beautiful on characters and stage backgrounds (i love those mountains in LSamson´s stage)
about the stage select, it the tutorial to learn to control the 4 characters before the real game starts.


Nioh comes to mind as a recent game that does this. Still playing through the DLC. :smiley:


I 100% agree that Mega Man is fantastic in that you can just go in and play exactly the levels you want.

Also, not entirely similar but I really like games like Star Fox or OutRun, that has these in between stages selection process.


First thing I thought of was Dark Souls 1. Not really a stage select game in the traditional sense, but it absolutely didn’t steer me away from going places I should not have been at the level I was at. I beat Sif pretty underleveled after knocking my head against that fight for a few days and it’s a gaming memory I think back fondly on a half a decade later.


I remember hearing that there was an element of stage-selection in Nioh, but I assumed it was mostly level-gated, and would be very difficult to play the stages out of order. I’m intrigued!


You still have to do the acts (or regions, as the game calls them) in order, but you can do the stages themselves in a different order if you want.


I did that too, would get one shotted if I got close so I stayed on the run with a crossbow til it started limping then ran in and finished it off. Was one of the only bosses I remember the actual battle that took place. Also I spent several hours on the damn skeletons at the start :triumph:. By the time I found the undead burg It was a cake walk :joy:


I think this is probably the best way to do ‘choose your stage!’ while maintaining a consistent and (kinda) realistic world; I wish I was better at Souls games so I could do this, but it’s funny how even tackling the areas in the apparently recommended order can feel like you’re not!

I don’t think Ninja Gaiden Black let you play the areas out of order, but the way that you could sometimes see earlier areas from vantage points in the later ones seems like it could have been made Soulsy in this way. I also used to wish that the NES Ninja Gaidens let you choose different stages to go to, but obviously those games were doing something different with a story focus, so it makes sense that they didn’t. That second game would have been great for it, though, since each level had its own unique gimmick: wind, moving slime, darkness, etc.


One game that I played recently and loved was Mighty Gunvolt Burst. OP, seeing that you´re a big Mega Man fan you should play it immediately! It features stage selection with some awesome twists:

  • There are initially 2 playable characters with different movement and attack options, but the levels somehow manage to perfectly accomodate the different playstyles. What´s best, if you get the DLC you get 3 additional characters with their own characteristics, it´s crazy how the devs managed to design the levels so that everything worked so well.
  • There is a really deep weapon customization system which you expand by finding collectibles. This affects how you´ll play the levels, as challenges can feel completely different depending on your current weapon customization. But it also affects the order in which you tackle the levels, as you may decide to prioritize getting a specific part for your weapon, which will make you play a different level than if you decided to exploit the bosses´ weaknesses or go after a defense upgrade.

Another one which you´ll probably have played by now is Shovel Knight. I like that it restricts the selectable levels compared to classic Mega Man, because that allows for better balanced game design. I mean, in Mega Man you have a problem where any level could be a given player´s first or last, so there was no way to control the difficulty flow. Shovel Knights loses some freedom as it makes levels avaiilable in batches, but this allows to better adjust the difficulty related to the player´s growing skill and in-game abbilities. I think it´s a nice compromise which really pays off.


Not 100% the same but I remember playing Diablo 2 coop and jumping into the zone for the boss, killing and looting, only to reset and go again. We never really cared about the rest of the zones, just sprinting to the boss haha.


Mighty Gunvolt Burst sounds great… and it looks like it might be on Switch? If that’s the same game (or similar enough? Kinda hard to tell if it’s the same game or a spinoff) I’ll definitely check it out.

I’ve been preaching the gospel of Shovel Knight since the beginning, and double-dipped on it without hesitation. :slight_smile:


Hitman 2016.
I know it’s a modern case, but every now and then I just feel like dropping into Sapienza and doing some good ol’ murdering. Or sabotaging a heart transplant for the sake of it. Or just strolling through Paris as Helmut.

Man, I wish I had that jaw.


Yup, you can play Mighty Gunvolt Burst on Switch. There´s also Azure Striker Pack (which is Azure Striker 1 + 2), I liked MGB so much that I now have my sight set on that as well, but not before Mario Odissey!

BTW I also double dipped on SK, I like your taste! If you have any recommendation on any games of this style please share ´em :slight_smile:


I just wanted to jump back in to thank you for the recommendation – I picked up Mighty Gunvolt Burst for Switch and it’s everything I wanted Mighty No. 9 to be. It’s so great! The fact that they were able to make such a compelling game out of those stage themes (and bosses! and music!) kinda makes the problems with that game even more surprising.

And the way they reward you for replaying the levels, and encourage you to change your weapon designs, is so smart. I love it!


I uh, didn’t much care for Gunvolt Burst. it had enough interesting ideas to keep me playing but it got really frustrating at the start because you need to do a lot of grinding to get enough points to do anything interesting with its weapons. and after that you just can take like no damage and annihilate everything with like no effort.

I think the last boss being a giant meme lord is where I finally checked out.

then again I’m really into Rockman and Forte’s weird, way too hard stages and bizarre level select so who am I to talk