Created By: AlexSora89 on February 18, 2012 Last Edited By: AlexSora89 on November 20, 2014

Level Thumbnail

A small image used as a preview of the level you are about to enter.

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Pictured: an example from Mario vs. Donkey Kong.

Almost an Omnipresent Trope in Video Games, this trope is about any kind of visual aid that helps players telling levels apart with a small image depicting a part of the one they're about to access. Imagine a postcard for a level.

The Level Thumbnail can show up in The Hub, in a level selection screen, and even in a World Map (although more rarely).

This being such a common trope, listing examples might even be redundant, but notable ones are still welcome.

Level Diorama Preview ( only a not-yet-launched ykttw at the moment) is a Sub-Trope, about a more specific and more detailed variant of this.


  • Generally averted in the Mario Kart series except in Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart Super Circuit, where the thumbnails are scenery-only screenshots in the former and actual - and sometimes humorous - drawings in the latter.
  • The image above comes from the level selection screen in the first Mario vs. Donkey Kong. Notably, without these, the levels' names would make telling them apart nearly impossible, thanks to the "1-1"-like naming pattern the Super Mario Bros. series is famous for.
  • Some of the paintings in Super Mario 64 (like the one for Tall, Tall Mountain) act as this. Some don't, like the one for Shifting Sand Land.
  • Both Yoshi's Island and its DS sequel used these.
  • Mega Man used the Robot Masters' faces as these.
Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • February 18, 2012
    Here it is at last! The Super Trope to Level Diorama Preview, the other YKTTW in this very page. Now we're almost in business, I guess.

    However, as you can imagine, the first sentence of the draft was supposed to be the caption for the page image. The actual "article" - so to speak - kicks off just one line below.
  • February 18, 2012
    • Borderlands does a limited job of this. Each map has only 1 image associated with it, in spite of numerous access points that might need their own image.
  • February 18, 2012
    • Super Mario 64 loved this trope. Bowser, who stole all of the magic stars, gave them to his minions, who in turn hid in paintings. So to get to each level, the player would guide Mario to the correct painting, and then jump in.
  • February 18, 2012
    Interestingly, the Super Mario All-Stars versions of Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros The Lost Levels feature these, while the original versions don't.
  • February 18, 2012
    @ nman:

    Super Mario 64 also averted this with Shifting Sand Land, which comes off as a minor case of Guide Dang It.
  • February 20, 2012
    This is gonna be massive. I'll volunteer GoldenEye 64.
  • February 26, 2012
    • Nexuiz has either level snapshots or map thumbnails in map choosers, both local game GUI and server extension for voting on the next map.
  • February 26, 2012
  • March 12, 2012
    Bump, alongside the subtrope.
  • March 12, 2012
    Call it Level Preview, expand to cover any of the ways the game can show you the upcoming level, like the panning thing mentioned in the comments to the other YKTTW. As is, you've got a relatively narrow supertrope and a very narrow subtrope, both with very few examples to date. If you accumulate a ton of examples, you can consider splitting.
  • March 15, 2012
  • March 15, 2012
    Would abstract forms of levels count, like in the Kingdom Hearts games?
  • April 3, 2012
    @ Dragon Quest Z:

    Yes, and no. Don't get me wrong, your example works - but that's a subtrope that's also lingering in the YKTTW, known as Level Diorama Preview. Check out the YKTTW list.
  • April 8, 2012
    YKTTW Bump. Yeah, I'm bumping most of my old why-kay-tee-tee-dubyas today.
  • April 29, 2012
    Bump and Up For Grabs.
  • April 29, 2012
    • Visible from the Campaign Lobby of Halo.
  • April 29, 2012
    • Most modern Real Time Strategy games have a level thumbnail, showing the layout and spawn points. This is usually combined with the Mini Map.
    • Worms series. In Worms 2, it shows a monochrome thumbnail, and sometimes doesn't display everything in the thumbnail.

  • April 30, 2012
    Hmm, I'm not sure the Mario Vs Donkey Kong makes such a good page image. The size is decent, but there's just so much interface cluttering up the key elements.
  • November 19, 2014
    Some versions of Lemmings show a preview of the entire level on the screen with the level stats.
  • November 20, 2014
    Level Diorama Preview is more tropable than this. This strikes me more as People Sit On Chairs