Video games are one of the best forms of escapism, as they take the player wherever the developers deem possible. Video game locations are varied, ranging from cities to outer space. They can take players to lost lands, across vast mountains, and to the depths of the ocean. The only limits are the imagination of the developers and the technology at their disposal.
With so many locations, it’s also not uncommon to see transportation between these locations take center stage from time to time. Take trains, for example, which have appeared countless times in games and created excellent levels in their own right.
ten Wrong side of the tracks (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas)
Technically it might not be on a train, more beside a train, but this mission in grand theft auto san andreas is notorious enough for spawning memes based on his infamous failing line of “all you had to do was follow that fucking train, CJ!”
The goal is to ride a Sanchez motorcycle alongside the train so that protagonist CJ and his friend Big Smoke can take out a group of rival gang members. It’s notoriously difficult, but it’s a thrilling pursuit that’s one of the San Andreas‘ more memorable missions. This isn’t the only time trains feature in the game either, as they feature in two other story missions and can be driven around the map as part of San Andreas‘ many additional activities.
9 New Hyrule (The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks)
It’s not so much a level as the whole world of the game, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is heavy on railroads, with the game’s main objective of collecting railroad maps that bring back the titular Spirit Tracks, a network of railroads that connect the various kingdoms of Spiritual tracks‘ distinct version of Hyrule.
The Spirit Train acts as the player’s primary source of transportation throughout Spiritual tracks, and can be upgraded throughout the game by adding additional weapons, freight cars, and parts. And it’s such a remarkable train that it’s even been turned into a stage in the Super Smash Bros. series.
8 Train (Goldeneye)
In the mission simply titled “Train” in Tourniquet 007 for the Nintendo 64, James Bond must infiltrate a Soviet train and disable its braking mechanisms to reach his ally, Natalya.
One of the most linear missions in the game, it also requires good use of doors to avoid enemy fire, as there aren’t many places to hide in the tight wagons. It also notably ends with a tense countdown where Natalya has to hack into the villain’s computer while Bond opens an exit hatch.
seven Charge Man Stage (Mega Man 5)
Load the man scene in Mega Man 5 is a standard mega man level in its layout, with one notable feature: the player gradually boards a train and moves through the carriages to reach the boss. The camera even sways a little occasionally to indicate that the train is moving in the most efficient way the NES was capable of.
What makes this a truly remarkable train level is that Charge Man himself is also a train. With attacks such as charging Mega Man with his cowcatcher traits and throwing flaming coal, he leans heavily into the theme, creating a fight with a train on a different train.
6 Jesse Faden in “Swift Platform” (Control: The Foundation DLC)
Control is a game full of mysterious altered objects, capable of changing the reality around them. In the DLC expansion The foundation, protagonist Jesse Faden can find an old movie camera resting on a railroad platform used by the Federal Bureau of Control to transport items into the facility. And touching that camera brings the railway platform to life and triggers an unexpected chase.
Running through the facility’s train tunnels, Jesse must jump between platforms on parallel traps to avoid being diverted by sudden walls. All of this while battling enemies and a tough “Third Act Villain” set to a catchy ’80s synthwave track. It’s an unexpected moment but ends up being one of the DLC’s greatest moments.
5 Desert Railroad (Tomb Raider: The Final Revelation)
Before grave robber earned a gritty new reboot with survivalist Lara Croft, the classic grave robber games have seen Lara in a wide range of globe-trotting antics with no regard for her personal safety. And nowhere was this contempt more visible than the Desert Railroad level of the fourth game. The latest revelationwhich saw Lara jumping and climbing around a moving train.
It’s a short level, but there’s a lot going on. Gunfights with enemy thugs, perilous climbs up the side of the train, smashing crates along the way for supplies, and culminating in Lara using a crowbar to pull out the carriages and stop in Alexandria with no problem. A fun break between two trips to the dark caverns around Egypt.
4 Our Best Self (Red Dead Redemption 2)
A lot of Red Dead Redemption 2 features trains, with protagonist Arthur Morgan being part of the infamous Van der Linde Gang. Among their crimes is train robbery, which they commit multiple times throughout the game, so there are plenty of train missions to choose from here, in both story missions and side-activities.
But the game’s final train mission is the most chaotic and action-packed, with the stealth approach collapsing, a train car that catches fire and explodes, and a Gatling gun shootout with a troop of soldiers from the American army. It’s a big climactic moment for the game, and therefore worthy of inclusion here.
3 Wood Mission (Final Fantasy VIII)
In Final Fantasy VIII, protagonist Squall and his friends are part of an elite team of mercenaries known as SeeD. After passing their entrance exams at the start of the game, they are sent on their first real mission: to help rebel forces in the occupied town of Timber seize President Galbadian’s wagon.
The mission is complex, built around unhitching and recoupling carts using stolen codes while stealthily avoiding guards. This all culminates in a confrontation with the President, who turns out to be an undead clone. A thrilling mission with lots of twists that establishes Squall and his friends as a force to be reckoned with.
2 Ecliptic Express (Resident Evil 0)
Evil resident 0 is a prequel to the series that opens with an abandoned train in the woods. The Ecliptic Express is a vehicle owned by Umbrella that raced near Raccoon City and became the site of another outbreak of Umbrella’s experimental zombie-creating viruses.
Rebecca Chambers of STARS Bravo Team ventures onto the train, accompanied by escaped convict Billy Coen, as they lead him safely to the Umbrella Executive Training School while avoiding zombies and giant leeches. It is an important part of Evil resident 0with multiple floors and an ornately decorated interior that makes for a striking opening segment.
1 Locomotion (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)
The train chapters Uncharted 2 make one of the most iconic appearances of a train in any video game, with the aftermath even found on the cover art. Nathan Drake hops on the train thinking fellow grave robber Chloe Frazer has been kidnapped and needs to be rescued.
What follows is a long trek through multiple train cars, battling enemies, climbing sides avoiding passing signs, and battling with a chase helicopter that ends up destroying parts of the train. It’s the kind of technical marvel that Naughty Dog is known for, and one of the most exhilarating parts of Uncharted 2.
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