I’ve previously written about some of my favourite single-player missions/quests in games. Whilst these provide memorable stories, characters and gameplay quirks it got me thinking about what lies on the other side of the fence.
Some multiplayer levels can make just as many memories as a single-player offering and for the most part those memories are worth more when you’ve shared them with friends. Many of the multiplayer levels you’ll find in games are throwaway offerings that leave no lasting impression. Even the top developers will create maps that are – for lack of a better word – garbage. However, some of the multiplayer levels I’ll be talking about today are pinnacles of good game design. Some are incredibly iconic and some are competitive masterclasses that frequent eSports scenes.
Keep in mind that this list is all down to personal opinion. There will be notable omissions as well as some you might not have thought about. So, in no particular order, here are eight of the best multiplayer levels I’ve played on over the years.
Overgrown – Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Just as All Ghillied Up/One Shot, One Kill was the best single-player level in the original Modern Warfare, Overgrown is one of the finest arenas in Modern Warfare’s multiplayer. Both follow a similar design, taking place in a decrepit, abandoned and overgrown (go figure) Soviet era settlement..
Overgrown was perfect for sniper gameplay with long sightlines and plenty of cover in the long grass. Spend too much time out in the open and you were likely to catch a bullet. There were also a handful of buildings which offered up close and personal combat.
Overgrown was so universally loved that it was brought back in Modern Warfare 2’s first map pack, though it lost some of its charm due to the addition of new items to the sandbox such as infrared scopes and overpowered killstreaks.
Blood Gulch/Valhalla – Halo: CE/Halo 3
I’ve lumped these two maps together as they’re very similar from a design perspective. Taking place in an enclosed canyon with two bases at either side and with hilly terrain breaking up sight lines and cave systems down one side of the maps, Blood Gulch and Valhalla are probably the most iconic classic Halo maps.
Blood Gulch in particular became incredibly iconic due to its recurring appearance in the popular machinima series Red vs. Blue.
The two maps were great for objective play, with capture the flag being a firm favourite of mine. Valhalla also added gravity lifts and man cannons to the Halo sandbox allowing you to throw yourself across the map quickly – with the drawback of exposing yourself to sniper rifle users and vehicles.
Both maps are so popular that they’ve been remade in almost every single Halo game since their debut. Blood Gulch was remade as Coagulation/Haemorrhage in Halo 2/Reach and Valhalla was remade as Ragnarok/Viking in Halo 4/5.
Facility – GoldenEye 64
Another fan favourite, Facility is an asymmetrical map from Rare’s GoldenEye game on the Nintendo 64.
I spent much of my childhood hiding in the bathroom stalls on Facility whilst my friends would screen watch trying to figure out which one I was hiding in. Facility was one of the easier maps to memorise as well as one of the smaller maps which meant you were always able to locate other players quickly.
Facility was so popular that Rare ported it to both Perfect Dark and Perfect Dark Zero and many mod communities brought it to games such as DOOM and Quake. Facility also recently made its triumphant return in the stellar GoldenEye: Source mod for Half-Life 2.
Final Destination – Super Smash Bros. series
No items, Fox only, Final Destination. Memes aside, Final Destination is the premier competitive stage for tournament play in the Super Smash Bros. series.
It’s a flat stage with no environmental hazards, dangers or obstacles, but it’s arguably one of the best if you’re looking for a straight up clean fight.
Whilst the first three games only had a single Final Destination stage, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS took Final Destination to the next level. Every single stage in the game has a variant that lets you turn it into a flat Final Destination stage.
Final Destination is also the only stage where you’ll be able to face off against Master Hand/Crazy Hand – the so-called bosses of the Smash Bros. series.
Not only that, but the level has arguably the most epic theme tune across all of the games.
Strike at Karkand – Battlefield series
Urban warfare on a massive scale. That is what Strike at Karkand from the Battlefield series represents. It has close quarters alleyway fights, building to building skirmishes, long sight lines for sniper gameplay and a linear design which makes it perfect for game modes such as Rush.
As well as the infantry combat there’s also a smattering of vehicles to keep players on their toes whilst moving from building to building. Tanks can easily pick off people who are clumsy enough to expose themselves, but if they get caught in tight quarters with buildings around them then players with RPG’s can easily despatch them.
Strike at Karkand made its debut in Battlefield 2, with a snow covered follow up making an appearance in Battlefield 2142 as well as also being released in the Back to Karkand expansion for Battlefield 3. It’s safe to say that Strike at Karkand is one of the most popular Battlefield maps to date.
Gridlock – Gears of War
Yet again, this is another universally loved map. Gridlock is featured in every single Gears of War game (we don’t talk about GoW: Judgement) and there’s a good reason for that. It’s a great competitive multiplayer map as well as a co-op map for horde.
Each iteration of the map has a different aesthetic, whether it’s at night, overgrown, covered in ash, or by the sea. However the basic layout of the map has remained unchanged over the years.
Both teams spawn at either end of the street with symmetrical buildings and obstacles on either side with a Boomshot and Longshot spawning in the middle of the map.
In horde mode you’re able to bunker down effectively in the spawn areas or in the rooms that give you the high ground and longer sight lines to pick off the pesky locust/swarm.
Good level design, flow and aesthetic charm makes Gridlock the one Gears map I’ll always come back to.
Dust II – Counter-Strike
You’ll be noticing a trend here. Most of the maps I’ve listed are universally loved and popular by their player base. Dust II is no exception to this, being one of the most common Counter-Strike maps you’ll see played, even today.
First debuting in 2001, Dust II is popular in competitive and casual play and has an iconic and easy to understand layout that allows players to get to grips with locations and choose which roles they’d like to play, whether that’s acting as an entry fragger or watching mid with an AWP.
There was a dose of controversy surrounding the map earlier this year when it was removed from the rotation in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s competitive play. Pro players and casual players alike reacted in different ways to the decision, with many disappointed to see it go in place of Inferno.
2fort – Team Fortress 2
Symmetrical, simple and a hell of a lot of fun. I have so many memories playing with friends on 2fort from Team Fortress 2. 2fort itself was also an incredibly buggy map – at least on the Xbox 360 version of Team Fortress 2 – and most of the bugs still haven’t been fixed to this day.
Whether it’s getting outside of the map as the Engineer and building turrets in annoying places or sneaking into the BLU spawn room as a Spy and fraternising with the enemy, I got a lot of angry messages from other players during my 2fort shenanigans.
The map itself consists of two identical bases linked by a bridge in the middle. There are many different access points to the bases depending on which character you’re playing. Scout can double jump across the top of the bridge to easily reach the first floor of the enemy base whilst Demoman and Solider can grenade/rocket jump to flank enemies and sneaky players can infiltrate through the sewers.
There was so much variety to 2fort, and no two games ever felt the same to play. If I had to pick one map from this list that was my definitive “favourite” this would probably be it.
There are many multiplayer levels that hold a special place in people’s hearts. These are just a handful of my favourites, but I’d like to know what yours are. Let me know in the comments down below.