All aboard!

Trains have been used a lot in fictions, and who can blame someone from adding such a sequence? They’re dynamic, fast-paced, tensed and sometimes dangerous to enjoy. For instance, who can forget the train scene in Back to the Future 3? While movies had their share of train scenes, that spilled on other mediums. Dude, even Dungeons & Dragons had a campaign setting with magical trains and airships (Eberron). Video games were far from being excluded from train-themes levels and over the years, there were a lot of them, both based on the first version of the steam-powered locomotive to the modern monorail and subway train.

That’s right, I’m counting down the Top 10 train levels in video games. Here are a few rules:
- The stage has to feature a train, be a traditional one, a monorail, a subway train, or whatever. For this list, a “train” means a large vehicle on rails alone or towing several cart-like wagons with it.
- The stage has to be moving… or else it’s not as enjoyable if it’s stationary.
- The stage just need at least one segment with a moving train; it can be one where you chase a train, one where you hop on the train, one where you fight a boss on a train, etc... The train part doesn't need to be the ENTIRE stage.
- The stage can come from any game or any genre, be original or adaptation.

Considering the number of levels using a train, it’s going to be normal that I might not have your favorite character on my list. Furthermore, there’s a little of my opinion here, so it’s normal that you might not agree of my choices. Alright, take a seat, get out your tickets and enjoy the ride in these 10 trains.

I’m starting this list with possibly the worst case scenario: a zombie-infested train. Yup, this is what you were granted with when you popped in Resident Evil Zero… or Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, as it remade this first stage as well, this time in higher resolution.

The Resident Evil series is about a task force named S.T.A.R.S., which job is to stop an evil organization named Umbrella, which has developed biological weapons, including the T-Virus that kills and turns victims into zombies. It’s a survival horror series that has fixed cameras, quick-time events and a bunch of scary moments here and there. Resident Evil Zero is a prequel to the events of the first Resident Evil game.

Rebecca Chambers and the S.T.A.R.S. bravo team are investigating a series of murder in the Arklay Mountains region outside of Raccoon City. The investigation takes a turn for the worse when their chopper crashes in the forest and when they find a destroyed police convoy with mutilated corpses. Rebecca checks out an abandoned train nearby, but she unfortunately discovers that it is filled with zombies and bizarre leeches. She also finds Billy Coen, a former marine that was in the police convoy, and ends up working with him to explore the train, which also gets moving on its own.

In many zombie games, you have a lot of space to maneuver around and chop down moaning flesh bags. Here, however, you’re quite confined, as the cars aren’t spacious, with small aisles and corridors. You also get to climb on the roof to access the other cars, but the leeches and zombies are still present even at full speed. You eventually get close to the conductor car, but you have to kill a huge mutated scorpion first. While not a zombie, this vermin has dangerous attacks with its stinger and pincers, not to mention that its husk is quite hard to pelt with bullets. After exterminating the arachnid, Rebecca and Billy soon learn that the train is speed straight for a cliff. You then have a limited amount of time to apply the brakes and make it change course toward somewhere else. You need a magnetic card to apply the brakes, but it needs a code to activate. Hope you’re good in maths, because you need to punch the numbers so it adds up to 81 in 10 numbers, then you need to do the same with the numbers adding up to 36… all while the clock is ticking. The train changes courses and crashes in an abandoned facility, but both Rebecca and Billy make it out alive. For a first level, it gets your blood pumping.

So, for being a stressful undead transport as your first mission, the Ecliptic Express takes the 10th spot.

Here’s another good example of a train stage from Capcom: a stage with a major segment where you are on a toy train. This is the 3rd stage for the NES game Little Nemo: The Dream Master. Little Nemo: The Dream Master is a game about a boy who has adventures in his own dreams in Slumberland. His mission is to travel to the Nightmare land to save King Morpheus. As dreams are random, chaotic and wild, Nemo ends up in a forest, a garden, an ocean, his own house and even an inverted version of it. Like I said, he also has a dream about wandering in a bedroom filled with toys.

This stage is pretty straightforward: you go from one end to the other, collecting keys to exit the level (6 in this case), throw candies to kill enemies and avoid getting killed. This stage, however, has you land-locked on a toy train that moves forward. You have to collect passing keys while dodging toy planes that nosedive on you, toy blimps that drop bombs and flying squirrels. You also need to jump above little walls and platforms, as you don’t pass through them and can end up getting squashed.

As the train moves along, it will also move up and down, meaning that enemies can get a clear shot at you and that platforms can get out of reach as the altitude raises and lowers. Later, there are spiked ceilings that limit your jumps and that can drop on you, so you need to navigate them carefully. If you have collected 6 keys when the train stops, you clear the level. There is no boss or end-level challenge, it’s just a test of skills here.

So, for being a simple playground turned into an obstacle course, the House of Toys takes the 9th spot.

We’ve seen an example of a train stage as a first level, which has been done several times. However, rare is the time when a train level serves as the final stage of a game. This is the case of Chapters 7 and 8 of Act 5 from Gears of War.

Gears of War is a third-person shooter series about Marcus Fenix, a member of the Delta Squad, fighting off a monstrous specie called the Locust on the planet Sera with his comrades. Sera is a planet similar to Earth that has an energy resource called Imulsion, which serves as a power source. As it got colonized by humans, it turned into a war for several years as nations fought over the control of Imulsion. The Coalition of Ordered Governments, or COG, won the war by using a powerful weapon called the Hammer of Dawn, and ensured humanity peace and protection for the rest of existence. One day, however, creatures called Locusts started emerging from the ground and attacking humans. The COG’s soldiers, known as Gears, took arm and defended what they could, but they are at a significant disadvantage.

The story focuses around Marcus, who was imprisoned after leaving his post to save his father, but failed. The Locusts being active again, Marcus is freed from prison and brought back into the Gears squads. Their mission is to seek a device called the Resonator, which can map digitally anything it scans, including a system of underground caverns, called the Hollows, where the Locusts are nesting. With this in hand, they will deploy a nuke, called the Lightmass Bomb, into the Hollow to eradicate the Locusts.

The Delta Squad has to get the Resonator’s data to the bomb on a train, but the Locusts stand in your way. In the nick of time, Marcus and Dom Santiago jump on the train and try to activate the bomb while en route for the Hollows. It will not be easy. The train has many open cars and closed cars, each with cover spots and plenty of Locusts to gun down. The first segment has Marcus and Dom mowing down Locusts soldiers on open cars, before being stuck on a locked wagon to proceed. While the door gets hacked to open, a berserker is dropped to attack the Gears. You can either shoot it down or lure it into an empty car and disengage it, but either way, the berserker is a reckless attacker.

You then make your way into closed cars with soldiers blocking the corridors. This is a rather enclosed space and while cover is aplenty, you need to move fast before being cornered. After this, you are tasked to mount turrets to take down flying reavers. While you can take them down with your standard weapons, mounting a chain gun with infinite ammo is still satisfying. You then enter a tunnel and need to fend off wretches from cutting the train’s power. Once that has been cleared, be prepared for the climax. You need to get the data to bomb… which has been “guarded” by Locust soldier General RAAM, a towering bestial humanoid with a swarm of small Locusts around him. He takes a lot of bullets to take down and his swarm can annoy you a lot. Once killed, Marcus activates the bomb, jumps to the chopper in mid-flight, the bomb explodes and the Locusts get fired. Mission accomplished.

So, for being a climactic setting for a climactic battle, both Chapter 7: Train Wreck and Chapter 8: Pale Horse take the 8th spot.

Well, it was kind obvious that this game would get a mention, since its main focus is being on trains and controlling one. In this alternate timeline, Link has been a sailor for 2 games, Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass, has been split into 4 clones in Four Swords Adventure and being shrunk small in Minish Cap. This time, he takes the conductor cap and his own train.

Link is about to earn his train engineer certificate from Zelda when at the ceremony, Zelda tells him that the tracks are slowly disappearing and that she wishes Link to escort her to the Tower of Spirits. On their way, they are ambushed by Cole, Zelda’s advisor who ends up being a demon in disguise, who separate Zelda’s soul from her body and take the body away. Link, after recovering, happens to be able to see and hear Zelda as a ghost, and goes on a journey to restore the Spirit Tracks and Zelda’s body.

Near the end of the game, Link and Zelda have all the tools they need to battle Cole and Malladeus, an evil spirit that is looking for a vessel, like Zelda’s body. Before fighting Cole, Link has to rev his train to fight a Demon Train. The battle takes place on 4 tracks and Link has to get to the locomotive to defeat the train. The first part has Link shoot cannonballs at the last wagon’s cannons. After a few blows, the Demon Train will shift tracks, so you will have to look for a cross point to shift too. The second part has you shoot and dodge laser cannons from the next wagon. Once again, after a few shots, the train will switch rails. The third part consists of you shooting at cannons again, but the tracks will have purple flames on it, prompting you to switch tracks. The last segment finally lets you attack the locomotive directly. You need to shoot the laser-firing gems to stun the train before speeding up to hit it on the face. Shoot it down a few more times and you’ll come out victorious.

So, for a heated battle between 2 trains, the Demon Train boss fight takes the 7th spot.

DO A BARREL ROLL” – Peppy Hare

Ok, shameless plug aside, this stage is a little special, because you’re not actually on a train, you’re chasing one. This can be considered a train level because it involves a moving train and the major enemy in this level is the train itself. This is what we were granted in Star Fox 64, with the planet Macbeth.

Star Fox 64 is a major upgraded sequel to Star Fox on the SNES. It featured better graphics, better music and better controls and even had voice acting as well, which was rather hit or miss, but still... Upon pursuing Andross’s forces across the Lylat System, Fox McCloud and his team travel from planet to planet in order to reach planet Venom. Along the way, they fight off opposition in Corneria, explore an abandoned space station, square off against Star Wolf on a snow planet, help protect a temple on a sand planet and even explore the Sun. At one point, Star Fox needs to disrupt a supply train on the planet Macbeth, a rocky planet. However, instead of going with the Arwing, Fox uses the Landmaster, a tank. This is one of the two stages which the Landmaster is used; the other stage is Titania, a desert planet where you need to go to rescue Slippy Toad. Considering how annoying and useless this guy is, it’s not very rewarding (seriously, all he does is to give you the boss’s health gauge; at least Peppy gives you tips and Falco is efficient in combat, this toad can’t even defend himself properly.).

The stage starts with Fox, in the Landmaster, cruising in right next to the supply train. You need to shoot at the wagon, one by one, while dodging huge boulders that the wagons spill out. In the meantime, Venom aircrafts come in to shoot you and your comrades. Keep shooting at the train while evading the rest and you’ll eventually come up to a tunnel. The train gets faster and the tunnel is slowly closing on you with iron bars for you to slalom and hover over. After this part, you’ll come across a series of gates that you can shoot to open their doors to reveal rings, bomb ammo and switches. This is where the level becomes interesting. Y’see, many of the game’s stages have 2 ways to clear; the switches on Macbeth are one of them.

You’ll be able to shoot flag-like switches and there are 8 of them in total. The problem is that at this point, the level’s boss shows up, Experimental Weapon Mechbeth, a kite-shaped robot attached to the train. The robot attacks by launching huge spears at you. Now there’s your chance to change things around. If you hit all 8 switches, a switcher will appear for you to shoot. Shoot it, and you’ll make the train and boss crash right into the supply base, destroying it completely. Should you miss it and want an alternate path, you have the choice to take down the robot. You’ll need to hit its fake head off first, but once you do, the robot will shoot powerful laser beams. You’ll also have to shoot the train’s power source so it can stun the robot for you to take him down. Either way, it’s still a satisfying victory.

So, for a rocky chase with 2 outcomes, Macbeth takes the 6th spot.

It’s one thing to travel on a train or to chase a train, but it’s another to fight on a train. Many medias have done epic battles on top on train cars or as a climactic battle for a train level, but what about fighting on a train as a primary level? That’s what Darkstalkers 3 did with one of their stages, Iron Horse, Iron Terror.

Darkstalkers is a Capcom fighting game featuring cartoonish/anime-ish versions of classic horror movie monsters. You have a voluptuous succubus (Morrigan), her young and premature alter self (Lilith), a classy vampire (Demitri), an artistic catwoman (Felicia), a werewolf martial artist (Jon Talbain), a mummified pharaoh (Anakaris), a Frankenstein monster (Victor), a yeti (Sasquatch), a zombie rock star (Raptor), a possessed samurai (Bishamon), a merman (Rikuo), a half-vampire hunter (Donovan), a Chinese zombie (Hsien-Ko), a sadistic Red Riding Hood girl (B.B. Hood), an ancient robot (Phobos), a bee woman (Q-Bee), a fiery alien (Pyron), a classy demon (Jedah), a shadow (Shadow) and a killer puppet (Marionette), all duking out against each other. The stages are in the same veins of wackiness, as you have a night time back alley, an Egyptian desert, a forest, a mansion, the side of a skyscraper, the inside of a womb (no kidding) and of course, a demonic locomotive.

Iron Horse, Iron Terror takes place on a locomotive that came out of a nightmare. There’s a giant eye at the front, the whistle is a mouth and there’s even a grinning mouth on its side. If you move to the right, you’ll see the skeletal conductor who’s just looking straight ahead. The train is also running inside a reddish limbo, which makes it more surreal. While, it might not have the same scale as other entries on this list, it is still nice to see that Capcom went with a chaotic locomotive design instead of making it on a standard car roof. Oh, and the music is pretty sweet too.

So, for being a scary-looking stage for horror-themed fighters, Iron Horse, Iron Terror takes the 5th spot.

*screams*AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! No! This isn’t happening! There’s no reason for me to go on! Wha-WHAT AM I FIGHTING FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOR! ” - Zero

(Sorry, mandatory cheesy meme is mandatory.)

The Mega Man X series is a sequel series to the classic Mega man game that features a more mature and violent look to it. Many of the Classic elements remained, like 8 bosses that you can fight in any order you wish, a series of weapons to obtain and that bosses are weak to, energy tanks, multi-staged final level, name it. This time, the series added animal-themed bosses, alternate endings, secret bosses, armor upgrades, and additional playable characters. So, of all the Mavericks that X and Zero must fight, which one had a train? That would be Slash Beast from Mega Man X4. Mega Man X4 was the first PS1 game of the series, and it brought a few things, such as updated graphics and music, 2 fully playable characters (Zero wasn’t that much playable in past games until this one), animated cutscenes and unfortunately, cheesy voicework. If you can get pass that last feature, you should be fine and enjoy this game a lot.

X and Zero have to stop a Repliforce supply train, which is pretty straightforward… with a catchy theme as well. However, the train is heavily armed. You have to navigate cars with enemies tossing grenades and missiles on you, take out red cars with laser cannons and, in Act 1, jump from wagon to wagon as enemies will toss grenades to detach cars. At the end of Act 1, after the detached car, you will face the mini-boss, which is a locomotive that will strike you with 3 spear-like pistons and a laser orb-shooting cannon. Destroy all 3 pistons and you’ll clear the act. In Act 2, you’ll start off on a speeding train as well. This time, you will encounter Ride Armors who can really hurt you badly. Fortunately enough, you’ll get an empty Ride Armor for yourself. Use it to destroy the red wagons and one of them will have a Heart Piece, which upgrades your health gauge. After a while though, the train will stop and explode, leaving you to keep going on foot on a destroyed railroad with bottomless pits and narrow platforms. You’ll then board another train for you to plow through until you reach a flat open car, and then the WARNING sign appears and your path is cut off by unbreakable cargo crates. Note that the scenery changes from a clear sky to a sunset sky as the stage progresses.

A lion-like robot, called Slash Beast, or Slash Beastleo in Japanese, will outrun the train and jump on the car, taunting you that stopping the train was a mistake and you’ll be his prey. Slash Beast is a fast fighter, as he’ll charge you with an energized claw, which makes you drop from the walls, throws rapid flash kicks that sends crescent blades (Yes, I assume that Guile was an inspiration) and jumps to stomp you. He’ll also roar… which does nothing, but at his health goes down, he’s start guarding attacks and he’ll starting jumps to grab you and smash onto the crates. His weaknesses are the Ground Hunter and the Raijingeki. The Ground Hunter is X’s weapon taken from Jet Stingray. It will send sliding missiles along the ground and it will make Slash Beast lose his footing and trip. The Raijingeki is Zero’s weapon technique learned from Web Spider. It is a long saber stab with a lightning-empowered blade and while it will not trip Slash Beast, it will damage him more than any weapon. Once defeated, X gets the Twin Slasher, based on the flash kick, and Zero gets the Shippuuga, based on the claw dash. Congratulations, you have stopped a supply train.

So, for being a heavily armed transport with a ferocious hunter guarding it, the Military Train takes the 4th spot.

P.S. Is it me, or did I just have a 4th Capcom game on this list?

TMNT: Turtles in Time, shortly referred as Turtles in Time for now on, is considered to be the best arcade beat-em-up ever made as well as the best TMNT game ever made (followed closely by Manhattan Project) by video game fans and turtle fans alike. Who can deny them? The game uses a lot of characters from the TV show, it has nice graphics, the turtles are all playable and the soundtrack is great. Before I explain the train level, let me just explain the different versions, as 2 versions were made from the original arcade game.

The SNES version of the arcade game is named Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4: Turtles in Time.
- The game has 2-player support, instead of 4, due to the system’s controller ports.
- The game has compressed music due to limitations, but the soundtrack still sounds the same.
- The game features a 2-part Technodrome stage, with Tokka and Rahzar for the 1st part bosses and Shredder himself for the 2nd part.
- “Prehistoric Turtlesaurus” features Slash as a boss instead of Cement Man.
- “Skull and Crossbones” features Bebop and Rocksteady as bosses instead of Tokka and Rahzar.
- “Sewer Surfin’” and “Neon Night-Riders” went from standard beat-em-up sections to bonus games with bosses at the end.
- Rat King was added as a boss for “Sewer Surfin’”, while the Pizza Monsters were relegated as standard enemies.
- “The Final Shell Shock” has you fight Super Shredder instead of regular Shredder.

The PSN/XBLA version of the arcade game is named Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-shelled:
- The game is a straight port of the arcade game, not the SNES game.
- The game has 3D graphics and custom shaders.
- The game also has 3D battles instead of 2D battles.
- The game features the voice actors from the 2003 series.
- The music has been changed completely.
- The game features online co-op.
- The game is no longer available, as Ubisoft lost the license for TMNT.
- The game was a downright disappointment… except for the voicework IMO.

The plot is rather… weird. A giant Krang steals the Statue of Liberty and the Turtles have to stop Shredder to get it back. After dealing with Shredder in the Technodrome (I’m using the SNES version for this entry), the Turtles are beamed back in time and have to fight their way back to current time. I have a lot of questions:
- Why is Shredder stealing the Statue of Liberty?
- Why is Krang huge, or rather his mechanical body, when it steals the Statue and in the first stage, but back to normal size in “Neon Night-Riders”?
- How is Shredder sending the Turtles through time without a time machine? The portal he uses is linked to Dimension X only.
- Why are there foot soldiers in the past stages?
- What are Slash, Bebop, Rocksteady, Leatherhead and Krang doing in the past?
- How are the Turtles being able to beam forward in time without a time machine?
- Why don’t the Turtles’ actions affect the space time continuum?

However, the answer is quite simple: “WHO CARES!? IT’S JUST A VIDEO GAME! XD”. The different time periods make for interesting stages for the Turtles to fight in, and one of them is a Western-themed train stage, named “Bury my shell at wounded knee”.

The train stage starts with a rhythmic beat with forest scenery and the Turtles being beamed on the last wagon. As they move forward, they have to deal with rolling barrels and plenty of foot soldiers and rock warriors. The cars have nothing special really, just the occasional horse riding foot soldiers that jump on the train to attack you. You also have to deal with soldiers that come out of hiding from cloaked mannequins. You can also set off dynamite creates to cause a few KOs as well. The boss in this stage is the Cajun mutant crocodile Leatherhead.

Leatherhead is no pushover. He’ll throw knives, punch you, throw lobsters at you and sprint on all four from one side of the screen to the other. You can reflect his knives back at him, but you’ll have to dodge the rest of his attacks. After a few hits, Leatherhead will be ejected from the train and you’ll be beamed to the next stage. Overall, the setting, the music, the scenery and the action make this stage worth playing… even though some elements are holes in the plot XD.

So, for being a totally radical train stage with a gnarly track and boss, “Bury my shell at wounded knee” takes the 3rd spot.

It’s not rare for fantasy RPGs to feature trains in their games. Some mix magic and technology together for some great effects. Truth be told, rare are the games that have trains as actual enemies. That’s the case of Final Fantasy VI with the Phantom Train.

Final Fantasy IV is about a young woman named Terra Branford who struggles with her Esper nature. She also gets involved in a large conflict with Kefka Palazzo, a jester-like character who wants nothing more than to cause chaos and become a god. It is also one of the few Final fantasy games where the party is separated into multiple smaller groups. Sabin, Cyan and Shadow have just fled the Imperial Camp, responsible for the Siege of Doma, Cyan’s home, and the trio ends up in a dark forest, ironically called the Phantom Forest. They find an abandoned train nearby, but upon inspecting it, the train departs.

The segment is called the Phantom Train. It’s a transport of dead souls to the land of the dead where they can live peacefully. As such, the train is loaded with ghosts. Some will help you by selling you items and even joining your party for the segment, but some will also attack you. The trio will also encounter the thief Siegfried who will fight them over a treasure chest. The men eventually reach the locomotive and discover that the train is sentient, not a machine. As they try to get off and escape it, the train revs up and start chasing them.

The Phantom Train, as a boss, is particular. It has mediocre magic attacks such as the Acid Rain and Saintly Beam, but a powerful ability known as the Diabolic Whistle, which afflicts the party with a random status. It has 1,900 HPs, but as an undead, you can kill it in one shot with a Phoenix Down. Finally, but not the very least, it is large and imposing, but you can kill it in one shot again by using Sabin’s Meteor Strike ability, which is special as this special attack doesn’t work on large enemies and bosses. For all its ghostliness, the Phantom Train surprisingly comes out as a pushover. Then again, suplexing a huge train does have its share of awesomeness.

On a side note, the Phantom Train is featured as a stage in Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy.

So, for being a necromantic vehicle with a strange weak spot, the Phantom Train takes the 2nd spot.

Our last stop is actually from a current-gen game (2009; 2013 as I’m writing this list) and believe it or not, that stage set the bar for upcoming train stages. It’s that good and that memorable from a gameplay and a design stand point. I’m talking about Chapters 13 to 15, from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

The Uncharted series is about a daredevil archeologist named Nathan Drake, similar to Indiana Jones. In the first game, Drake’s Fortune, Nathan goes on a search for the mythical El Dorado, more specifically for a golden statue described in Sir Francis Drake’s journal, who happens to be Nathan’s ancestor. He soon learns that other hunters are seeking the statue as well, creating a lot of conflicts with multiple groups, but ends up leaving the statue as Nathan learns that the statue was cursed. In the sequel, Among Thieves, Nathan is on the search once more, this for the mythical kingdom of Shambhala. (Ok, for those who are asking and for completion’s sake, no, Nathan doesn’t search for the lost city of Atlantis in the 3rd game, Drake’s Deception; he’s instead led to the lost city of Ubar). This 2nd game starts on a unique note: Nathan wakes up wounded in a train car, which is about to fall down a cliff in the Himalayas. Nathan must muster his strength and quickly climb his way back up the cliff before falling to his doom. That was your tutorial level. After reaching the cliff, Nathan painfully walks in the snow. He manages to find a dagger he sought after, but passes out of exhaustion. That segment leads to a flashback of how Nathan ended up in such a mess.

Nathan stole a Mongolian oil lamp from a museum. That lamp was once owned by Marco Polo and it contained a special resin that once lit aflame, would reveal a map to Polo’s shipwreck, which in turn contains a special stone that would lead straight to Shambhala. Unfortunately, Nathan is double-crossed by one of his partners, Flynn, and he gets the map taken from him. A while later, Nathan learned that Flynn was working for a Russian warlord, named Zoran Lazarević, who’s interested in the stone in order to get to the city as well. Nathan managed to infiltrate the Russian group and learned that stone was never found, but he also discovered a dagger, called a phurba. Going a wild chase to a temple in Nepal, Nathan uses the phurba to learn Shambhala’s location in the Himalayas. Lazarević soon learned the location as well and Nathan tries to stop him by following him on his train. That’s Chapter 12.

Chapter 13: Locomotion starts with Nathan hanging from the side of the last passenger car, outside of the said car. You can to climb in the car to get a better footing on the car, obviously. You then need to get further. I’ll try to go bit by bit. You have 2 cittern cars to cross while hanging on its sides, then a flat car with weapons for Nathan to pick… which means trouble is up ahead, then a cargo car for you to climb on the roof and take out an armed goon, a flat car with a goon, a passenger car where an armed dude drops from a window, as a scripted event, to assault you for a fist fight before you need to get out of the window to get to the roof, a flat car with a goon to sneak attack, 2 passenger cars with 3 armed goons each and even a metal shield and a breakable window ceiling, a charcoal bin car, a closed cargo car where the game adds obstacles like metal gates for you to avoid by hanging down on the sides, a flat car with a chained tank, a cittern car where the game you need to avoid light posts on the sides and a closed cargo car with a few goons.

After that, Nathan jumps on a wagon, but the roof collapses. After getting up, Nathan realizes something worse: a heavily armed chopper is trying to kill him and the first thing it does to fire at the car he’s in, causing a fire. This is where the level become challenging, because Nathan can’t survived multiple gun shots from a chopper, so you have to take cover. Not only that, but the chopper will also launch missiles to destroy the cars Nathan is standing on. You’ll get 2 flat cars with goons, then a closed cargo car where the game also makes you dodge metal gates in addition of the chopper’s machine guns, 2 flat cars with goons on them and then an opened container car with a rocket launcher. Do I need to tell why, or do you get the general idea? Get the launcher to shoot the chopper and then Nathan has to open a door while the chopper launches a missile. After he gets out, he jumps on a flat car, the container car explodes, Nathan is blown by the blast, nearly falling of the car, but as the container car tumbles toward him, the train enters a tunnel and the container car is stopped.

Chapter 14: Tunnel Vision starts with a flat car, then a cittern car with a platform on top where you can get a sniper rifle, a charcoal bin car with 2 goons, 2 cargo cars, 2 passenger cars, a flat car with chained jeeps and a locked passenger car. The scenery then changes to a snowy mountain, as goons spot you to shoot you. You’ll get 3 passengers with goons to shoot on the roof, a flat car with crates, 2 flat cars with chained jeeps… and Nathan witnesses a soldier with a chain gun climbing up. Interestingly, the soldier is on a pile of strapped tree logs and Nathan can shoot the straps to make the logs fall off the train dragging the soldier with it. You can proceed to the now flat car, but you also have to face the chopper again. Nathan has to race through the cars… until he finds a jeep armed with a chain gun. You then engage in a firefight with the chopper, pelting it with bullets while shooting down the missiles. This is just pure mindless fun to just let it have it, and Nathan seems to enjoy it as well.

After the chopper crashes on a cliff, you keep on going with a passenger car with goons and then you get to fight the boss, who’s the Russian commander who commanded the goons. He takes a lot of bullets, but shooting him will make it easier to KO him with punches. Nathan comes out victorious… until the commander wakes up and tries to choke Nathan to death, but Nathan is saved by Chloe who kills the commander for good. After an argument, however, Nathan is shot by Flynn and tries to flee despite his wound. Hiding behind a passenger seat, he spots a pile of propane tanks, shoots them with his pistol and the explosion causes the pursuing goons to get wiped out in addition of making the car where Nathan is, as well as the rest of the train, derails off the cliff, thus bringing you back the Chapter 1, well kinda.

Chapter 15: Train-Wrecked starts exactly like the first level. Nathan has to climb out of the dangling wagons and upon reaching the cliff, he finds the phurba again. However, instead of passing out, he spots a bunch of soldiers arriving with jeeps. Nathan has to navigate through crashed and burned cars while dealing with gun-toting soldiers, although oddly enough, his bullet wound doesn’t seem to incapacitate him much. After a few fights, Nathan wanders in the blizzard and passes out. Fortunately for him, he wakes up in a nearby village, where a citizen helped him and nursed him. After such an ordeal, Nathan can finally take a moment to breathe.

My God, that has to be the longest entry I’ve ever written, but then again, considering the actual length of the train level, which is in fact 3 long levels, I kinda had to explain the whole thing. This level was surely inspired by action movies, because you have everything. You have an explorer fighting for his life, you have a variety of cars to navigate through, you have soldiers that want to kill you, you have obstacles you need to avoid and you have 3 major scenery changes: a jungle, a tunnel and a snowy cliff. Speaking of the scenery, during the whole chapters, you have an ever-generated jungle, metal and wooden bridges and rivers, rocky cliffs, ponds, tunnels, waterfalls and snowy cliffs. Here’s the catch: the level doesn’t change if you don’t move forward. If you decide to stay on a certain car for an unlimited time, the level, all in 3D need I remind you, will never run out of stuff to show, the level is essentially a huge endless loop of assets. Technically speaking, the loop changes assets according to the car you’re currently on. I’ve described you a good chunk of cars, so that can tell you how many level loops the game can handle. In 2D, it doesn’t really matter, because it’s just a repeated texture, but in 3D, that’s a whole different story with the models, textures and maps. Furthermore, during all the level, Nathan is wisecracking constantly. He jokes about getting the dudes’ tickets, he complains about the situation and the soldiers, he jokes when he sees the chain gun and he jokes when he’s climbing the wagon. Nolan North really did a fantastic job with the voice work and the role here for Nathan. Finally, it is also surprising that the first level of the game ends up leading to a flashback, but in the end, it works beautifully. I don’t know how developers can top that, but they need to surpass this train level in order to make theirs even better.

So, for being a challenging ride with everything pushing both the hero and the game system to his and its limits, the Chapters 13, 14 and 15 all take the 1st spot of the Top 10 train levels in video games.

There you have it. That was actually a pretty hard list to do because there are a lot of levels to choose from and that it took a lot more time to sort everything out. I’ll just list briefly other characters as runner-ups:

Mission 10: the Carrier of Love (Killer is Dead): From a very recent game, as I’m writing time, Mondo, the suit-wearing hired killer with a sword and a cybernetic arm, has to brave a train that is pulled by a demonic locomotive. Weird? Not really, considering that this game was made by Suda 51, the guy who make Killer7 No More Heroes, Shadows of the Damned and Lollipop Chainsaw, y’know, THAT insanely talented guy.

Circus Train (Batman Returns (SNES)): A game that adapted the second Tim Burton Batman movie, Batman, near the end of the game, has to stop the circus train, which the bad guys used to kidnap children. He has to fight clowns on top of its cars while dodging gates and lights and has to fight the conductor boss at the end, which was the clown with a music box and a pet monkey.

Charge Man’s stage (Mega Man 5): Mega Man has to stop a human-shaped locomotive robot, but he first has to brave a huge robot train. The stage isn’t that memorable and the Charge Kick is forgettable. Fortunately, Charge Man got a conversion in Battle Network 6 Gregar and his design is much better.

Guile's stage (Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max): The console version of Alpha 3 added Guile, T.Hawk, Fei Long and Dee Jay to the roster, and Capcom gave Guile a stage where you fight on a train car’s roof, while a second train speeding next to it with cheering soldiers and a chopper with cheering soldiers as well.

Karai's stage (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters (SNES)): Another fighting game example, Karai is the last boss of this TMNT fighting game, and you need to fight her on a bullet train speeding through Manhattan, with the Channel 6 helicopter filming the whole thing.

Psylocke's stage (Marvel Super Heroes): Yet another one, Psylocke is fought on a speeding bullet train through a city as well.

Monorail (BlazBlue): One last stage from a fighting game, I promise, this is Ragna The Bloodedge's stage where you fight him on an ascending monorail car.

Central Railway (Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel): An original story for Edward and Alphonse Elric, the first stage of this anime game has the Elric brothers fight off alchemist hijackers on a train.

Rail Canyon and Bullet Station (Sonic Heroes): Be with Sonic, Amy, Shadow or Espio as your lead character, you have to chase Eggman’s troops in a huge canyon filled with rails and trains. You get half of your usual train level while the rest is just grinding on rails.

Valua Train (Skies of Arcadia): As Vyse and Aika try to rescue Fina from a Valuan warlord, they soon need to pick up the pace as Galcian is slowly walking towards them, and fighting him this soon in the game is suicide.

Battle Subway (Pokémon Black and White... and Black 2 and White 2): As you take the subway from one location to another, you’ll be facing various trainers during the trip, including the conductors.

Train, May 9th, Darkness (Persona 3): As a first mission for Makoto (or Minato), Yukari and Junpei, the trio has to fight a Shadow inside of a speeding train… and there’s a time limit… that goes down even in battle.

Act 4: Neo Arcadian Train (Mega Man Zero 2) : Zero has to protect a supply train from enemy forces. He gets to fight the leader of the operation, Panter Flauclaws, on top of 2 speeding trains.

File R-01: Coup d'etat (Metal Gear Rising: Reveangeance): On the first stage, Raiden chases a dangerous swordman named Blade Wolf on a speeding train, after his quarry gets killed by him. However, Raiden gets mauled by Blade Wolf.

The Khallos Express 1969 (TimeSplitters: Future Perfect): From a rather humorous FPS, Sergeant Cortez travels back in time to stop the Timesplitter race from being created. One of his stops is in 1969, where he teams up with a hippie gunsman named Harry to stop a guy named Khallos and rescue Harry’s girlfriend. Please also note that since it’s about time travels and paradoxes, Cortez gets to help his future self to take down a chopper.

Mission 3 (Metal Slug 2): In this shooting platformer, your soldier has to brave a cargo train to rescue prisoners of war. You also get to pilot a fighter jet to take out a tank-like arachnid.

Parsley Woods Train Level (Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3): Wario has to brave 2 train levels in search for treasure and coins. Please also note that for one stage, the train scrolls right to left, while the second scrolls left to right.

Semper Fidelis (Battlefield 3): In this flashback first stage, Staff Sergeant Henry Blackburn manages to break into a hijacked train, loaded with explosive charges and terrorists. This level also served as a demonstration of the new Frostbite 2.0 engine and it ended with a cliffhanger that takes a while to be connected to the main plot.

Ok, I’ll stop there, because the list goes on for some more, but I hope you enjoyed my list.

I’ll see you next time :)

List by Rollerbob (09/05/2013)

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