Sometimes in a video game you'll notice that the learning curve is more of a learning zigzag: you may find yourself in a level harder than you were expecting, followed by a level that is significantly easier. A logical application of the Sorting Algorithm of Evil would say that the two levels should appear the other way around.
A cynical explanation would be that the levels are out of order due to poor testing or time constraints in production. A more charitable one is that the easier level is a Breather Level, allowing the player to recover from the previous, more challenging encounter and (should they be a feature of the game) stock up on extra lives for the further challenges ahead. The aim may be to extend the tension over a larger part of the game, by opting to stretch and relax the tension rather than let it build up continually. Games from the arcade era explicitly put in bonus levels for this purpose.
Sometimes, a Breather Level exists to teach the player new skills that later, non-Breather Levels, will test the player on.
Compare the TV equivalent, the Breather Episode. The Breather Boss might be found in this kind of level... but on the other hand That One Boss might be there to balance out the drop in the level's overall difficulty. When there are quite a few Breather Levels between harder ones, you'll get Schizophrenic Difficulty. Contrast That One Level.
The grandaddy of Sonic breather levels is probably Casino Night Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The fourth level in the game, it had relatively few enemies, no Bottomless Pits whatsoever, many opportunities for extra lives and a series of slot machines that would have bankrupted any sensible casino. The presence of the challenging Chemical Plant Zone as the second level heightened the feeling of being a Breather Level.
The Casinopolis action stage from Sonic Adventure took this a stage further: Because the player was forced to collect 400 rings to complete the level, gaining at least four extra lives became almost mandatory. This is less of a Breather Level than some because the two preceding stages were not very difficult either, but it is most definitely a compulsory bonus stage. Of course, this only applies to Sonic's story; Tails is run through the Dilapidated Way section, and Knuckles is focused on Master Emerald shard collection.
Casino Park in Sonic Heroes (Team Chaotix missions) and Circus Park in Shadow the Hedgehog were similar compulsory ring collectors. The latter doesn't really feel like a breather level, though.
Other zones are not necessarily extra life buffets, but still provide a breather aspect by falling between two more difficult levels. Such zones include Star Light Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog and Sky Chase Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Labyrinth Zone was pushed back from being the second level of the game as it was deemed too hard. Sky Chase, like the Hidden Palace example below, is a partial set up for the start of the Wing Fortress Zone.
To many players, Spring Yard Zone is the breather level between the exhausting Marble Zone and the frustrating Labyrinth Zone.
Huge Crisis during Blaze's game in Sonic Rush, sandwiched between Altitude Limit (and its) boss and the first act of Dead Line. Huge Crisis isn't hard, throws lives at you, and has an easy (if annoying) boss to trounce. Similarly, Act 2 of Dead Line is somewhat overstocked for rings, considering its placement as the final playable act in the game, making it almost impossible not to rack up a few lives in preparation for the final bosses.
The Hidden Palace Zone in Sonic 3 And Knuckles has no enemies, a simple design, and a relatively easy boss (Knuckles). It exists mainly as the setting for a cutscene. Its Breather Level nature is especially obvious if you're playing as Knuckles, in which case it has no boss and in fact consists of a single room that contains no hazards of any kind (and it immediately precedes Knuckles's final boss fight).
Also in Sonic 3 And Knuckles, Mushroom Hill Zone. Since Sonic 3 & Knuckles is the combined game created by adding Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles together, Mushroom Hill Zone is the first level to Sonic & Knuckles and is thus a bit of a Green Hill Zone, while in the combined game it comes right after Launch Base Zone, the significantly harder final level of Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
Carnival Night Zone is difficult for Sonic/Tails due to the length and the numerous obstacles meant to waste your time. However, Knuckles' run through of the same zone is actually a lot shorter and easier with less hazards to deal with and Knuckles doesn't even fight a boss in act 2!
Sonic CD has Stardust Speedway Zone, which is the penultimate level of the game, but tosses few enemies at you, the Acts are relatively short, and it is basically a level to let Sonic "roll around at the speed of sound". Then it caps it all off with the one of the most memorable sequences in Sonic history, the race to Amy between Sonic and his metal doppelganger.
Quartz Quadrant, the fourth level, is mostly straightforward and short. It comes between the Underwater Ruins and the level where the floor bounces you high into the air while you try to jump on platforms.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 has the 2nd act of Casino Street Zone (console only). House of Cards is full of extra lives. It is not unusual to get 10 or more in a single run.
The iOS version is also simple as it's just a pinball machine in which you need to get points to complete the level with no actual way to die.
The main courses for Rooftop Run in Sonic Generations are explicitly noted to be "a quick breather" in the associated achievement. The Modern Sonic level in particular is much easier than thelevels it's sandwiched between.
In the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog, Scrap Brain Zone, of all Zones, is a Breather Level. Positioned between Labyrinth Zone and Sky Base Zone, it has few badniks and very easily avoidable obstacles, its main gimmick being that it's supposed to be a maze. Its status as a breather level is cemented by its first act, which is nothing more than a short walkway with a couple of easily avoidable bottomless pits, and its third act, which is the only third act in the game to have rings... and no boss battle at all.
Silent Hill 2 finishes with the Lakeview Hotel as its final area. Though it ends with two moderately difficult boss encounters, the Hotel itself is bright and sparsely-populated with monsters. The areas immediately preceding it, the Prison and Catacombs, are full of monsters, difficult puzzles, violations of space-time, and are definitely the most frightening and depressing locations in the game.
The outside streets in the Silent Hill games tend to be this too. The actual 'levels' of the game all tend to be claustrophobic death traps loaded with puzzles and monsters. The streets in between, while still loaded with monsters, are spacious and basically let you run from A to B with tons of room to dodge the monsters.
The final area of Metroid Zero Mission is the Space Pirate Frigate. You start off without your Power Suit and must avoid enemies, as you cannot kill them. It is the most intense, difficult part of the entire game, until, halfway through, you reacquire your Power Suit with its full upgrades, after which you are practically unstoppable. The second half of the Space Pirate Frigate is a breather level for the first half.
The enemy-less chapter "Black Mesa East" in Half-Life 2 comes right after you've fought your way through lengthy canals and down a river, with intense fighting the whole way. This is also the chapter where you get a gravity gun. And right before Ravenholm.
Valve games do this on purpose and this is discussed in the commentary tracks in the subsequent episodes. After the player has just made it through one of the game's larger action sequences, they will typically come up against a complex jumping or physics puzzle as a change of pace. This is to prevent the player becoming fatigued. Valve optimise their games endlessly through playtesting before release to find places where the player was getting tired and giving them a different challenge.
In Advance Wars 2, the penultimate campaign level Hot Pursuit is typically regarded as a breather level between Great Sea Battle (where The Dragon is confronted) and Final Front (the final showdown with the Big Bad). Other, similar levels exist throughout the series. In this case, it is revealed that the level is intentionally easier as bait for the Big Bad's trap. In hard campaign however, Hot Pursuit is generally considered the hardest level in the game (along with Show Stopper, Sinking Feeling and Great Sea Battle).
Days of Ruin has Crash Landing, a straight forward battle that is opened and closed by the Unusual Euphemisms and antics (such as being the only one to care about the altimeter) of an unnamed IDS agent.
In Dark Conflict, the battle is still easy, but without the dialog.
Battalion Wars has Black Gold, which has pitiful defenses because the enemy units that are scattered all over the place, which this takes advantage of.
Pandora's Temple in the first God of War alternates between "maddeningly difficult" and "relaxingly easy"; the former describes most of the area's obstacle runs, the latter, most of the puzzles.
Super Mario Bros.: Level 3-2 is significantly easier than Level 3-1, allowing you to use the Koopa shells to easily plow through several enemies. Level 3-1 also has Hammer Brothers, which Level 3-2 goes blissfully without.
6-3 is the third-to-last level in the game and the second-to-last castle stage, and it is probably one of the easier castles in the game. After 3-3, 4-3, and 5-3, you'd expect 6-3 to be pretty tough, especially seeing that huge intimidating-looking gate you enter. You'd be wrong, unless you are stymied by a few Bob-ombs, a very mild bomb "maze", or a bit of vine-climbing and Hoopster-dodging. Except for the trickier Birdo and Triclyde fights, it plays out like a normal level. It doesn't hurt that you can actually bypass the entire level with a hidden shortcut.
7-1 comes right before the final level, 7-2, which is The Maze and a Marathon Level by SMB2's standards. 7-1, for the most part, is fairly straightforward.
4-1 is this after the Difficulty Spike that was world 3. Except for the part at the end with all the enemies, but when you go up the hill at the end preparing to fight Birdo, the crystal's already there as an Anti-Frustration Feature.
The game has World 4, Big Island. Coming between World 3 and World 5, it has noticeably fewer levels than the worlds that bookend it, pits you against comically oversized versions of the standard Mario enemies (no harder to kill than the standard ones), and along the way gives you two P-Wings and a Jugem's Cloud. Honestly, the closest thing this world has to That One Level is 4-3 with the giant hammer bros. In addition, the World 4 airship is one of the easiest in the game (as well as one of the only two to feature two power-ups, the other being World 7's).
The boss, Iggy Koopa, is also noticeably easier than the one before or after. Wendy O. Koopa of World 3 is That One Boss, with deadly candy rings that continue to bounce around the screen instead of vanishing. Roy Koopa of World 5 is The Big Guy and can make the whole screen shake when he jumps (stunning Mario). Iggy's gimmick? He fires his wand twice and can jump pretty high. That's it. His airship is pretty frustrating, though.
7-3 is this is very similar to 3-4, and by this point in the game, anything from world 3 feels easy in comparison to the Nintendo Hard Pipe Land, so it's nice to have a relatively easy level. Unfortunately, it's surrounded by a maze level in 7-2 and a Platform Hell underwater scrolling stage that throws everything you hate about water levels at you in 7-4.
The secret level Groovy is it, preceded by Tubular, Way Cool and Awesome. Groovy itself is an easy grass land level which is even featured on the title screen with the only hazards being the baseball throwing Chargin Chucks.
The first Special World level, Gnarly, fits even more so, being much easier than the Nintendo Hard Star World 5 and the Platform Hell Tubular that follows it. It's very short, with only five easy-to-handle enemies (the only ones that might be a little challenging don't get to stay on screen for very long). Funky might also qualify; despite the short time limit, it's nothing compared to the Platform Hell that is Outrageous.
7-3, also known as the giant Wiggler level. True, there are no checkpoints, but it's very linear and straightforward, has few enemies, and even gives you a Starman halfway through (which you can chain to last for the rest of the level). And for a World 7 level, there is very little danger of falling into a bottomless pit.
7-4. This level contains one enemy. ONE. One single red Koopa Troopa, which is far from huge threat. And the Bottomless Pit at the bottom of the stage is covered up by platforms in all but two single-tile-wide places. The level is also very short, and even then, the timer is probably more of a threat than anything else. Did the level designers just completely forget what they were doing partway through or something?
Snowman's Land due to it having an easy boss and much less of a focus on platforming than the others at that point in the game.
Lethal Lava Land. Outside the volcano, which you'll only need to go into for two stars (and the 100 coin star in all likelihood), it's geographically the smallest level in the game, has a quite simple layout, and the platforms are usually generous enough to make avoiding the lava pretty easy. All of the stars outside of the volcano are also quite easy, as two of them are simply fights against an easy boss, a borderline insultingly easy red-coin mission, and one that does involve some platforming, but can be worked around with the Wing Cap with relatively little effort.
In Super Mario Galaxy, this is the case with most of the beach themed levels. Beach Bowl Galaxy has no boss fights or tricky platforming and some ludicrously easy missions like passing the swim test, and Sea Slide Galaxy has mainly racing and item collecting missions with no real platforming or combat. Especially a breather considering the former comes before Ghostly Galaxy and Bouldergeist and the latter after the tricky Toy Time Galaxy. In Super Mario Galaxy 2, there's Starshine Beach, which minus an annoying green star it's again a rather sedate level with few tough enemies or jumps and a collectathon focus to it; meanwhile, Slime Spring Galaxy is little more than a subterranean river with few enemies and a relaxing music, ending with a beautiful hill at sunset.
Subverted by Super Mario TKO, a ROM Hack of Super Mario World. It seems like a Breather Level, on a calm beach, with the occasional multi-coin block. Then the timer hits zero and Mario dies. If Mario hits all those multi-coin blocks, he will not reach the goal in time. The level is too long, or the timer is too short.
In Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, the fourth Star Piece is on Star Hill, a very short dungeon with weak enemies and no platforming or puzzles. This is sandwiched in between a very long and involved side plot in which Mario rescues the Princess from Booster, and the Sunken Ship. This is the only Star Piece you get without even fighting a boss for it. In fact, the most tense moment is when you get scolded by Mallow for eavesdropping on people's — that is to say, his — wishes (which are scattered around the dungeon in the form of little stars).
In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, most of the cave areas have no enemies. Also, Little Fungitown, a village accessible only by elevator, has no overworld enemies or other hazards, until Mario eats an Invincishroom and contracts Bean Fever.
Professor Frankly: No fearsome monsters or dangerous dungeons, either! It's just a tourist attraction!
Of course, it is not as easy as Frankly says. There's still a pitstop at a dungeon and the obligatory boss fight, but compared to the last chapter it's less annoying. Just be careful of the Spiked Parabuzzies.
In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, the whole Ultibed Quest is this. Before it? Dreamy Driftwood Shore, the Elite Trio... and a whole bunch of somewhat difficult areas before that. Afterwards? Dreamy Wakeport take 2, Earthwake, Somnom Woods, and the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, complete with lots more tough bosses. The quest itself is just mostly exploring small parts of the overworld in already visited locations, a refight against the first boss and what's basically just a bunch of sidequests.
Bungie's Marathon had you teleporting from the eponymous human colony ship to the evil aliens' ship in later levels, since there was only one kind of alien weapon you could wield, this necessitated occasional trips back to the Marathon in order to load up on ammo for your man-made Hyperspace Arsenal.
Episode 6 from Sly 2: Band of Thieves: The three previous episodes took place in the Indian jungle, which was a complete maze to navigate, and Prague, which featured a confusing prison compound followed by The Contessa's ancestral home; the whole city is so dark and grimy that you can hardly tell the instant-death water from the dry land. Episode 6 sends the action to Canada, in which the map is not only much smaller and more straightforward, but also takes place in virtually broad daylight.
The sixth stage in God Hand comes after the nigh-impossible fifth stage, which ends with one of the game's toughest bosses, Demon Elvis. While it's not easy, it is a definite breather compared to its bookending stages, and has perhaps the game's easiest boss at its conclusion (Demon Shannon).
The level after the castle (The caves) in Resident Evil 4 is this, even with a Chainsaw Ganado, and two El Gigante to fight. (But fortunately, not at the same time.)
The raid in the Militia Camp is this as well, as it comes after the climatic and timed battle with Krauser, and you have Mike's helicopter do most of the dirty work, leaving you free to loot ammunition and medicine without fighting many enemies.
In Deus Ex, between the early missions you would go back to base, where there were (usually) no enemies, though you could get yourself killed pretty fast by trying to kill your comrades. There are similar areas later on, but they get more and more infrequent as your character becomes more badass (having started out with almost no special powers, skills, or equipment).
Though occuring at the mid-later stages of the game, the Du Claire mansion is almost entirely deserted, bar a few soldiers near the end of the level. Even the music is too peaceful to cause a Nothing Is Scarier effect.
Everett's hideout also qualifies, although the shady nature of Everett and the MJ 12 mechanic at the end of the level make it not quite as what it seems.
The Hong Kong level is somewhat less devoid of action, but plays this role in another way. After all the sneaking and shooting during your narrow escape from Majestic 12 clutches, you find yourself on a lively Hong Kong street, a step away from freedom. The change in the background music cements the effect.
Storming the enemy's doom-fortress in Drakengard is one of the harder levels of the game, as it requires a relentless assault on a well-defended stronghold out at sea on dragonback which happens to be reinforced with a fleet of battleships. When you finally break into the fortress, there's no one in it. Ominous as this is, it's the easiest level in the game; all you have to do is run to the end.
During the assault on Shrinra's HQ in Final Fantasy VII, after having fought and killed numerous soldiers, destroyed dozens of security robots of one variety or another, you reach a level of the skyscraper containing a gym, and can chat to the chief of security on a treadmill before taking a nap to recharge.
Chapter 6 of Final Fantasy XIII, with its bright and colourful scenery, pretty music and reasonably easy enemies. (Well, with the exception of Wyverns and Scalebeasts, though you're explicitly warned to avoid the latter.) It comes after Chapter 5, which was a bit of a difficulty spike (not helped by being forced to lead with Hope) and ended with a disgustingly hard That One Boss, and before Palumpolum, which is longer than both chapters 5 and 6 combined, has random enemies very capable of killing you if you aren't careful and ends with you fighting a freaking airship.
Likewise, Chapter 10 could be considered one, it's pretty short, and only the fight with Cid Raimes midway through is likely to give you trouble. It comes between the Disc One Final Boss and GranPulse.
Galaga: The "Challenging Stages" of the arcade classic feature non-firing aliens. Also, the sixth and certain other regular stages are just like the first level, with the enemy swarms simply flying into formation at the beginning of the stage (without extras trying to crash into the ship) and not firing upon the player until after all the formations are set.
Kirby Mass Attack has World 3, Dedede Island, whose levels are practically just minigames that just give away fruit to hog.
Block 5 of Super Castlevania IV is only two parts, short, and there's not even a boss. It's quite welcome after Block 4 which involves facing a series of rotating-blocks that send Simon to his death if he doesn't quickly jump across them and confronting the Sub BossPuwexil. Followed by a rotating room with spikes and Medusa heads. The third part of the stage involves outmaneuvering a falling floor. The last part consists of avoiding blocks that try to crush him against more spikes, and finally facing the stage bossKoranot.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has the inverted castle, which is a copy paste of the main one. The thing is, you are completely left to your own devices, and can do it in any order, which often means you find yourself struggling in some hard areas before getting to some of the easier areas later on. This is further exacerbated by how fast you level up in the inverted castle, so it often depends what level you are when you reach an area as to whether it's a Breather Level or not.
In the original The Legend of Zelda, Level 7 in the first quest, and (even more so) Level 8 in the second quest. Despite being so late in the game, these dungeons are mostly filled with Goriyas, an enemy who first appears in Level 1, as well as a rematch against the bosses from Levels 1 & 2. The only real challenges these dungeons present are finding the entrances, and then finding your way through them. There's also no particular reason that the levels have to be played in order, so many smart gamers will get them out of the way earlier. The fact that level 8-2 contains the Magic Key (which greatly increases one's ability to progress swiftly through dungeons) adds to the incentive to do this. In fact, the only levels one has to have visited to get the Magic Key in this quest are levels 2 and 6 (although doing the levels this way will make it impossible to complete level 6 at this point, which makes that route sub-optimal for speedrunning).
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link has the Sea Palace, which is filled with surprisingly few high-level enemy recolours, all of whom have more HP and some of whom have higher AI, even though you've been facing armies of the shield-fantastical blue Iron Knuckles in the previous dungeons.
Turtle Rock is a fairly straightforward romp with few difficult enemies that is more an exercise in puzzle-solving than ardent combat (And is also one of the few dungeons in the game with a mid-level break and an opportunity to complete a Heart Container midway), topped off with a boss that's Colour-Coded for Your Convenience with regards to its initial weaknesses. The preceding dungeon? The aptly-named Misery Mire. The following dungeon? The last one.
Blind's Dungeon (Thieves' Town) qualifies as well, even if activating the boss is somewhat of a (simple) puzzle. Before, you have Skull Woods with a complicated layout, Wallmasters, Pikits, and Mothula. After, The Ice Palace with one of the most difficult puzzles of the game, which itself is wrapped in even more enigmas.
The game has the straightforward Fire Temple after the confusing Forest Temple, and straight before the even more frustrating Water Temple.
Once you've developed a sudden need to sleep with every light in the house on after the hell that is the Shadow Temple, there's the blessedly simple and uplifting Spirit Temple. Easy monsters (except for the Iron Knuckles, but with the Biggoron Sword they're not too bad), conveniently placed fairy fountain, no block puzzles, pretty music, no creepy dead things everywhere, couple tricks with a mirror to take out the witches, and bam, you're done. It's even got a nifty little shortcut that you get pretty early in the temple.
In Master Quest, which makes most of the dungeons three times more difficult, you may be surprised when you blow right through the Water Temple. It was made to be much easier than the original as an apology to gamers for having to endure the original one.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has the Temple of Time. The level right before it is the more difficult Snowpeak Ruins, a labyrinthine mess of an ice level with lots of annoying enemies that don't drop hearts at all and sliding block puzzles. The level after it is the City in the Sky, an even worse Marathon Level full of Bottomless Pits and bunches of Clawshot maneuvering, plus the very long Fetch Quest required to enter. The Temple of Time, on the other hand, is a very linear levelnote You basically go up the tower, fight the mini-boss, and use the dungeon item to take a statue to go right back to the bottom floor to unlock the door leading to the boss room with simple enemies, relatively easy puzzles, and interesting music (plus an easy boss to finish it off).
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has the Ancient Cistern, which is surprising for a water-themed dungeon. Water isn't even the most prominent element, as it's also shadow-themed. In comparison, the dungeons before and after it are the Lanayru Mining Facility and the Sandship, which are more complex because of the Timeshift Stone puzzles.
An older example is Pac-Man and its spinoffs. The amount of "blue time", where monsters can be eaten, decreases as you progress through the game. But it occasionally ticks back up: in both the original Pac-Man, and Ms. Pac-Man, this happens after levels 6, 10, and 14 (and also 18 in Pac-Man). Most of these levels are immediately after a cutscene.
The mission "Devil" in Trauma Center; you only have to kill a few bugs to pass it. The previous mission introduces Paraskevi, one of the hardest strains of GUILT, and the next mission introduces Savato, the hardest strain of GUILT. There's also the "nanomachine" puzzles. You're given a few hexagon-made shapes and have to fit them all into a certain area. You get this twice. Even before that, you have the "master the Healing Touch" level.
The chapter "Training" takes places before the most annoying chapter in the game, the desert chapter, where you have to try and kill as few enemies as possible, while your own units have shit for movement. It is a fairly easy chapter with plenty of XP.
The Feral Frontier (the desert chapter) can also be another breather level- an EXP bonanza if you want to take it (forgoing the BEXP) with a boss who has no ranged attacks and doesn't move, allowing anyone with a ranged weapon to easily farm experience off of him, immediately following a Fog of War chapter and two chapters before the four-part swamp slog (even worse movement than desert, and your magic-wielders are affected as well) that is Day Breaks.
10 has 4-5, the most XP rich chapter in the entire series, right before the "endgame" levels.
Chapter 29x/31x in Fire Emblem 7 came directly after a huge castle defense map, and was basically a shopping trip for which you were given 30,000 gold. Granted, it was optional and had a five-turn time limit.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent has an emotional breather level. After the heart-stopping panic of the water demon in the cellar Daniel arrives at a peaceful (if slightly bizarre) chapel-like room. Then it turns From Bad to Worse. So much worse. Also main Cistern area and where you meet Agrippa in the Nave, which works as a breather room
In Bliss Stage, after flying a mission, the player characters are granted Interlude Actions, giving the players a chance to heal and roleplay. This is the main mechanism by which the characters Level-Up at Intimacy 5.
Tetris: The Grand Master has your drop speed decrease once you clear level 200, but from that point onwards, your speed will increase all the way to what Tetris fans call 20G—that is, blocks will fall 20 lines per 1/60th of a second—that is, they hit the bottom of the stack instantly.
Mother 3: Following a decidedly irritating dungeon and boss in chapter 5, chapter 6 is just one long Heartwarming Moment for which all you need to do is hold left. Then comes chapter 7, the longest in the game.
Parasite Eve has one. In day 2, you spend most of the day in Central Park, which is a huge "dungeon" with save points pretty spread apart. In the start of day 3, you're in Soho where you get to stock up on guns, armor, ammo, tools for tune ups, stat boosting items, curing items, and recovery items (although some of the really good stuff are practically invisible). You then go the museum to advance the plot. Why such a generous break? The NYPD precinct is under attack by Eve's minions after you come back to from the museum. The monsters have beefed up considerably (and you'll be dealing with monsters that can either lower your defense or cut your HP in half per hit) compared to the monsters you fought in day 2 at Central Park, due to being in a small building.
In the second Subspace Bomb Factory stage, you'll eventually find yourself in a small room that consists of nothing but three Heart Containers and a long drop of an exit. This says nothing about the fact that the area is sandwiched between an autoscrolling area filled with hazards and enemies, and a boss fight with a timer. Of course, when you first play through this level, the Heart Containers would be redundant, since the area will be immediately followed by a movie introducing the boss, and you will have to choose a new lineup of characters, and when that happens, your health completely refills anyway.
Metal Gear Solid 2 has two "chapters", Tanker and Plant. They can be played separately, but when playing the game straight through the first few objectives of the Plant chapter function as a breather level—they're essentially tutorials on controller functions which the player has already been using throughout the Tanker chapter.
Metal Gear Solid 4 has the Surface Tunnel. After fighting your way through hordes of cyborgs, hundreds of scout robots and a complicated boss, you get to use a Metal Gear to destroy enemies which give you massive amounts of points, with a very lenient time limit and little chance of dying on most difficulty levels.
The AI Director was intended to do this in theory—it would send nastier hordes at you if you were doing well and ease up (while giving extra items) if you were getting thrashed. In practice, it's hard to notice a difference, but there are almost always sufficient lulls between attacks by hordes and special zombies to get your bearings and heal up (except during finales and setpieces).
The elevator ride in the 4th map of "No Mercy" is a mini breather level. As you ride up, no infected will come in to attack you, regardless of the hole in the elevator's ceiling. In VS mode however, this luxury is kind of taken away since actual people are controlling the special infected and could choose to jump through the hole and attack.
Any area where a crescendo event takes place will be devoid of zombies no matter how long you hang around until you start the event, including the finales. This is to give the players some breathing space and come up with defense plans as they recover.
In Max Payne 2, you have a tourist attraction; Chapter 6 'A Linear Sequence of Scares' was just a stroll through a funhouse ending in a shower scene with The Dame. Oh, and a batch of goodies. It's mainly there to serve as character development, and actually stands out as one of the most memorable levels in the game. It also serves as an opportunity for the player to familiarize themselves with the layout of the map, as he or she will have to return to the location twice - once while fighting enemies, and once while the building is on fire. As the funhouse has the most complex and disorienting level design in the game, this level serves as a dry run before the player has to overcome challenges inside it. All of the dream sequences in the game also function as breather levels, in contrast to the two dream sequences in the original game, which were That One Level.
No More Heroes: Letz Shake. The level is the world's longest hallway, with about six dual-lightsaber wielding Darth Vader ripoffs scattered far in-between, a health pack or battery recharge at almost every enemy, all the trading cards are in plain sight, and the boss gets killedright before the battle starts. The only actual challenge is that the enemies are a little spammy.
In No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, both rank 3 and rank 10. Rank 3 consisting only of a motorcycle drive with no enemies and no obstacles, while rank 10 is hyped up as a battle royal of assassins but instead consists only of a single battle. With Letz Shake, no less.
None of Portal is insanely difficult, but testchamber 16 features the first appearance of enemies that are actively trying to kill you. It's kind of nice to go back to combat-free gameplay in chamber 17.
Portal 2 plays this for laughs: near the end Wheatley, having replaced GLaDOS, starts putting you through test chambers again. The first one requires you to push a button to win, and that's it.
The first Destroy All Humans! game has a couple of missions focused solely on destroying as much as possible, which usually come after some of the more difficult missions which typically involve stealth and tricky maneuvering or are escort missions. Most notable is the level where you get the Quantum Deconstructor, the most powerful weapon in the game; the mission simply consists of leveling an entire town using it. It comes directly after Furon Down!, which is one of the largest and most involved missions in the game, wherein you have to bust out of containment, regain all your weapons, sneak onto a secluded island, and collect a bunch of things to fix your saucer.
Fallout 3 has one quest that is incredibly simple. You just have to follow Dad's orders, which mainly consist of "go here and press button". Just before this was Vault 112 which was simple but annoying to complete. And straight after this quest the Enclave attack.
These are frequently featured in campaigns of Battle for Wesnoth to allow the player to build up gold and experience for their units in between scenarios with loads of casualties.
World of Warcraft had Mount Hyjal and the first parts of the Black Temple after those two bosses, Lady Vashj and Kael'thas Sunstrider. Similarly, Sunwell had The War Sequence after a gauntlet of three bosses fought in rapid succession. There's also the Chess event in the middle of Karazhan, and the Gunship Battle in Icecrown Citadel (not that the bosses before Gunship were particularly difficult, but Gunship was almost impossible to lose, giving it the name Lootship).
Any Story Mode stage in Wangan Midnight Maximum 3 set on Hakone. How easy are they? You can set your horsepower to the lowest possible setting (beyond stage 40, that's 600 horsepower out of the maximum of at least 800). and still win by at least 100 meters. Ironically, Hakone is That One Level in all other modes.
Retro Game Challenge has one during the Rally King SP set of challenges; the second challenge is a moderately difficult time trial on the hazard-ridden desert stage. The third challenge, on the other hand, is simply to get a turbo boost off the starting line of the first stage. Lampshaded by Game Master Arino in that he claims he just gave you that challenge to stall for time because he couldn't think of anything.
In the freeware Rogue LikeTranscendence, they give you St. Katherine's Star. It's a peaceful place, with only a few small enemy bases scattered throughout the encircling Asteroid Thicket. There's a cluster of Corporate Enclaves and even a fully stocked Commonwealth Station. The one that came right beforehand was the incredibly manic Charon system, and it is the point at which the game goes from playing fair to adding such favorites as the Sung, the Marauders, the Sapients, the Dwarg and the Ferian Miner Colonies.
DJMAX Portable Black Square's Club Tour mode has missions that gradually become more difficult with each passing area. By the 5th area, Kingdom of Rock, many of the missions you face demand extremely high scores while chaining Fevers, or large combos. However, one mission in Kingdom of Rock, held by DJ EGGBIN, offers some relief: the objective is to clear "Sweet Shining Shooting Star" on 5-Button Normal with at least 95% accuracy. If you've been able to make it this far in Club Tour, this mission is a complete walk in the park. It helps that SSSS is one of the more relaxing songs in the game.
In DJMAX Portable Clazziquai Edition's Club Tour mode, after about an hour of two of grinding songs just to have a high enough rank to challenge and defeat enough opponents in the 6th area's last club, the final club, Clazziquai, is an easy Music Club with 6 songs, all of which are Crowning Music of Awesome composed by the band Clazziquai. Upon completing all 6, you are presented with the ending movie.
Stylish first-person shooter The Darkness has a level around the middle of the game where you visit your girlfriend's apartment and sit around watching old black-and-white movies on the couch with her until she falls asleep or you leave. No, really.
The first monastery in Hype: The Time Quest is significantly easier to complete than its preceding level, the dungeon.
In Thunder Force III, Haides, a stage full of moving terrain, several guaranteed ways to die (or lose shield), and a speed section, is followed by Ellis, a sparsely-populated stage with few sudden hazards. Or if you started on Ellis (which makes Haides the last of the first five stages), Haides is instead followed by the Cerberus, which is even more fair than Ellis.
Dynamite Headdy follows Stage 6 with "Headdy Wonderland", a surreal but peaceful area full of cows and birds with no threats whatsoever until you reach the boss. Even the boss is a relaxing matter, as Heather shows up and attacks the boss from above while you distract it.
Prince of Persia has two, Levels 9 and 11. The even-numbered levels are far harder.
Knights of the Old Republic - First game has Dantooine, second game has Citadel Station. In the first case, you spent a lot of the time at the Enclave first. When leave the Enclave, you've leveled up enough to take on most of the local wildlife without much trouble. In the second game, Citadel has VERY minimal combat until you cross the Exchange. Furthermore, Dantooine is a beautiful environment; all grasslands and rivers, set to a permanent sunset. Compare with Taris, which was all dilapidated Durasteel from the Upper City down, and generally a festering pit of corruption and hatred. Bastilla even invokes this trope, calling Dantooine a place of "physical and spiritual healing".
In Serious Sam - The First Encounter, Sewers is one of the examples. It's fairly short level with relatively few enemies.
The Ultimate Skatepark Skate Station Alpha in Backyard Skateboarding, the final level, is a Breather Level because there are no Pro Challenges and the level is small compared to the preceding one (the Medieval Castle).
Jet Force Gemini has the Water Ruin area, which has no enemies in sight; the only intelligent life on it are Tribals that you need to collect and a bear who has you go on a Fetch Quest. There are two Ship Parts to collect here as well (the only other level that has more than one is Mizar's Palace), making it a very profitable level overall. Gem Quarry is also free of enemies, but there is a gem-scooping Mini-Game to do there.
Level 7 of Air Fortress is considerably easier than level 6—the approach has only two squads of moving enemies; all others are stationary and don't fight back. Navigating the fortress itself is also much easier in level 7 than level 6.
Silent Hill 3 starts off with a terrifying dream and then gives you a rest when your character visits the bathroom to escape from the local detective. The rest of the game? Not so much as a cigarette break.
Ikaruga Chapter 5, which is substantially easier than the previous two chapters and has extremely simple chaining. Even the Bosses in Mook Clothing that show up at the end of the pre-boss section that fire massive bullet storms only fire in one color, allowing you to absorb these bullets easily to charge up your homing attack. But then you fight Tageri.
Aquaria gives us The Veil, with beautiful, open areas and very few enemies compared to earlier levels.
Chiyo's level in Calling is brightly lit and almost serene. Ghost won't attack you unless you ignore the black cat's warnings, and there's none of the oppressive, paranoia-inducing atmosphere of the previous levels.
In Dilbert's Desktop Games, one of the mini-games required you to climb up to the top of the corporate headquarters skyscraper. To complete a level, you had to collect donuts, while avoiding the boss and other obstacles. The various levels were named after departments such as "Marketing", "R&D", "Software Engineering", etc. When you got to the level named "Employee Benefits", it was totally empty, except for a single donut that you had to collect, and the sound of wind echoing through the deserted halls.
The Glutton's Kitchen cavern from Pikmin 2 counts as it's one of the few caverns during that point of the game to not have any dangerous hazards like Bomb Rocks, explosions and falling boulders. It's especially noticeable for players who come here after having played the later, more difficult caves of Awakening Wood and Valley of Repose (and fully paying the Poko debt in the process). The boss is also very easy, as it's a King Mook version of a harmless enemy whose only annoying factor is stealing treasure/corpses. In fact, you can kill it by tug-of-war.
The Entrance Hall in MediEvil, which is sandwiched between the extremely difficult Ghost Ship and Time Device levels.
Lampshaded in Hydorah. The level description for the third level is "Upgrade your weapons."
Super Robot Wars Original Generation has a climactic battle in which both Maier and Julia are fought for the final time and Sanger is also fought, and like most such levels, the following cutscene has a major reveal. Then the following level is just a rush of enemies that most of your units can probably one-shot.
In just about every main game, the seventh gym leader is a bit of a cake walk compared the main story Big Bad, the eighth gym leader, and then the Elite 4. The only notable exception is Tate and Liza in Emerald, who are probably the single most difficult battle in the game on an unsuspecting player, especially if they played Ruby or Sapphire and thought they'd be an easy battle.
The game, Nintendo Hard is the phrase of the day throughout most of the game, but the level where you first get Rambi is not only a cakewalk, it's an empowering one; Rambi Took a Level in Badass since his last calling, and is now more or less an unstoppable horn-tank of pain, including being able to destroy spikes by touching them. But after having a breezy level with Rambi, it's back to the fiery pit of borderline Platform Hell.
World 5, Forest, is this after the very difficult World 4.
Crystal Caves in Donkey Kong 64, at least compared to the surrounding levels. It's much smaller than Fungi Forest or Creepy Castle and nowhere near as confusing. Most of the bananas are close together (There are two hubs for the Kongs to snag their bananas from, as opposed to just one, if you're lucky) and/or easy to get to (except the beetle race, of course). And most of the puzzles are just the Kongs helping each other out. Even the boss is just a slightly harder version of the first boss. The only drawback is the constant earthquakes caused by an enemy at the top of the level, but it can be dispatched quickly if the player knows where to go.
In Final Fantasy Tactics A2, you have 'The Dig', the very next storyline mission after the one where you faced off against Illua. There are only about six mostly-average monsters to contend with, and none of them pose any significant threat.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy: In the final required story mode, Shade Impulse, chapter three is, for a normally-leveled character equipped with the best available (which isn't much, beating Shade Impulse unlocks the courses where you can get trade goods for the passable-to-good stuff), absolutely brutal. Then once the player scrapes through that, the short final chapter four is a breeze, with straightforward board/level designs and very easy-to-dispatch enemies. ...Of course, the Final Boss at the end of chapter four is a textbook SNK Boss, but you can't win them all.
The Mountain Realm in Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, but there's a reason for it: Dark Legacy is more or less an expanded re-release of Gauntlet Legends, with more characters and extra worlds added on to the beginning and end of the game. The Mountain Realm was the first world in Legends and got bumped up to world 2 to make way for the new Town Realm, but little else about it was unchanged; hence why it has some of the shortest and breeziest levels, and the easiest boss, in the game.
In the last level of Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, after getting a defence that can overcome the Tech 2 raids, you can basically build tons of experimental units from all 3 playable factions (plus the Serraphim themselves if you capture an engineer or factory) and buildings before finishing the first objective. Once you've got enough, you can wipe everything off the map each time it expands with them, most notably with the T3 aeon rapid-fire artillery and the experimental UED artillery (which can both bombard anything on the entire map).
The mission "The Devil's Playground" is a joke even on Brutal difficulty; you can collect the required 8000 minerals and simply build troops to defend your base from light Zerg offenses, or you can go and trump the enemy's buildings, only to find adversity within the last base, which contains a Brood Lord and an Infestor as well as standard defenses. In fact, at that point you can collect the minerals and keep your units near the last base so you can fend off the attacks easily.
The mission "Breakout". You only control one unit, and do relatively little micro-ing, even on Brutal difficulty. Only sheer recklessness is the way to fail the mission, as with Tosh you can consume an infantry unit to regain energy and stand next to Medics constantly to heal yourself.
Media Blitz, which concludes the main storyline of the Rebellion branch, is also very easy compared to the missions that precede it.
Starcraft I had at least one with Brood War's Terran Mission 6. The previous mission had you facing a nuclear barrage or a massive Battlecruiser armada at the outset, before fighting your way through a sprawling, heavily-defended Terran base. The following mission is a tactical scenario with limited units in a maze-like, trap-filled installation where you race against the clock while fighting hordes of enemies. But Mission 6? You get a substantial starting force, access to plenty of resources, numerous initial buildings and free upgrades, an incredible defensive position surrounded by fortifiable ridges, and Protoss and Zerg opponents who attack each other as much or more than they attack you. You can take things slow and enjoy a leisurely campaign, or finish the objective in less than a minute if you know the right trick to use.
In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon's second installments we have Mystifying Forest. A very easy forest themed level that the player must go through in order to graduate from Wigglytuff's Guild after the main story. It's chock full of low-leveled bugs, Rattata, and other such Com Mons (aside from the occasional Torterra), and comes right after the Demonic Spider infested Temporal Spire. The battle at the end isn't as easy as the rest of the dungeon, though.
Empire Earth's Russian campaign has a ridiculously easy third level after the Nintendo Hard second mission: the player must go to each garrison on the map to get forces and release them on the enemy fortress in the center in the map. Did anyone mention you have a Humongous Mecha at your side that fires both rockets and lasers and has ridiculous damage resistance?
In the Atari 2600 version of Frogger, the difficulty slightly zigzags (1, 2, 3, 4 increase in difficulty, 5 is a bit easier than 4 but harder than 3, and 6 is pretty tough), but following a tough Level 6 you get an easy Level 7 which is either the third or fourth easiest level in the game. By this time you're in rhythm enough that it's a breeze (the fast moving snake being the only obstacle still easy to avoid). Then comes Level 8 which makes Level 6 look like a warm-up level. Level 9 is slightly easier than Level 8, but 10 and up continue to increase in difficulty as the game wears on.
Final Fantasy Tactics features a battle where you take on five chemists, and practically all they do is heal each other. This also makes it That One Level just due to the annoyance.
The Inquisition in Catherine is without a doubt one of the shortest nightmare stages there is. There are only two levels, and the first is very simple compared to the rest of the game, using no special or challenging blocks that result in death. Afterwards comes The Child, who is quite simple compared to Immoral Beast before him. After this is the far more annoyingQuadrangle.
The arcade version of Gradius III is famous for being brutally Nintendo Hard, but Stages 6 (Bio) and 8 (Plant) are considerably easier than the rest.
The plant stage was originally planned to be Stage 3, which might explain its situation somewhat.
In many Wipeout games the hardest track is right near the end, but not the last one, and the last track is usually a lot easier if you got through the previous tracks. In every game with 8 tracks, the hardest track is either number 4 or 7.
The Twisted Metal 2 battlefield difficulty curve: easy -> moderate -> very easy -> moderate -> very easy -> hard -> INSANE -> moderate.
In Drakensang after some pretty hard times of stealth and hard fights in the castle ruins in the Blood Mountains and the siege of Grimtooth castle, Tallon feels pretty much like this. Except fot the hidden Linnworm Bonus Boss and the Dragon Jafgur near the end.
Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures has the maze at Pankot Palace in the "Temple of Doom" portion, with its slow pace, relative lack of tough enemies and abundance of easy-to-get power ups and extra lives. And considering it's followed by some of the hardest levels in the game, you'll need all the lives you can get.
DOOM II MAP19, "The Citadel" can be considered disappointingly easy since the level's difficulty contrasts its epic style (the level is a friggin' castle, for Pete's sake) and music ("Shawn's Got the Shotgun", the same BGM used in MAP07). The enemies are generally limited to light sprinklings of lower-level Mooks, and when hordes of them are thrown at you, it's always in areas where you have an environmental advantage. It does help the player absorb the overall atmosphere, though, and is a nice preparation for the downright Nintendo Hard MAP20.
Mass Effect 3 has the Geth Fighter Base, where Shepard is sent into the Geth Consensus to destroy the Reaper code controlling a squad of Geth. There's no real combat, and it mostly serves to give some insight into the events of the Morning War.
Then there's the Citadel DLC, the second half of which - outside of a game within a game - is mostly comedy and watching your teammates interact.
Billy Hatcher and The Giant Egg has 'After The Blizzard', the third mission in Blizzard Castle. It's a fairly simple mission in a small area with few enemies, and consists of building a head for a snowman. It comes right after Blizzard Castle's boss, Moles, who can be a right sod to beat.
The Disgaea games usually have periodic maps where the Geo Effects are all beneficial (particularly in regards to XP boosts), and the enemies are arranged in such a way as to be all killable with a single wide area attack. Basically these are designated spots to make Level Grinding more quick and painless (which, in this series, is a godsend).
The entire "Vivi's Funeral Salon" sequence in Brain Dead 13, in which you encounter over a minute of dialogue before an easily-avoidable death by spider. From then on it results in more dialogue and pretty much less of the "Press X to Not Die" scenes, one of which (the "deadly manicure" scene) is pretty difficult to master without noticing Vivi's clumsy finger-pointing clues. Otherwise, it's a bit of a relief in this level.
Level 8 in P.N.03 is the shortest and easiest level in the game, with only 5 rooms and a pushover boss.
Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II have the Hundred Acre Wood, where Sora doesn't have to worry about fighting any Heartless and spends his time playing games and solving puzzles for the wood residents. Even the command normally labeled as "Attack" is changed to "Hit", letting the player know that they won't need to be entering any stressful battles here!
Level 5 of Rabbit Rampage (called "Level 2001" in the game) takes place on an alien world. There are only a few different enemy types, the platforming is pretty easy, the only instant-death hazards are the bottomless pits (and getting shrunk and squished by the Martians), there are several 1-Ups and plenty of checkpoints available in the level, and it's one of only two levels in the game that doesn't have even the semblance of a boss battle. Really, about the only remotely threatening things this level has to offer are the occasional moderately small platforms and the rather confusing layout of the floating platforms. This one's status as a Breather Level is especially noticeable because the game's level 4 is long and full of annoying enemy types, some of which can easily knock you right off a platform into a pit, and level 6 is That One Level, with no checkpoints, a somewhat annoying platforming segment, and a rather tricky boss.
The repurposed Onett map in The Halloween Hack has nothing except disturbing but harmless enemies that drop great healing items. The boss, on the other hand...
Dark Forces features the "Fuel Station" level in between the levels "Imperial City" and "The Executor." Imperial City is a brutal slug fest against multiple Dark Troopers, hordes of Imperial troops and droids, as well as Boba Fett himself, a lightning-fast jetpack-wearing rocket spammer. The Executor is a pitched fight against even more Imperial troops, lots of Dark Troopers, and some unpleasant puzzles. By contrast, "Fuel Station" has lots of ammo, relatively weak enemies (again, save for the one or two Dark Troopers on the station), lots of Exploding Barrels to shoot to wipe out enemy squads, and no particularly cruel instant-death puzzles.
Following seven extremely long and challenging levels, Jedi Knight 2 gives us two consecutive breather levels. In the first one, you do absolutely nothing, just walk from point A to point B and then to point C. In the second (force training), you need to use the force to solve a few puzzles. You need to try really hard to even die.
In TaskMaker, a Fetch Quest RPG for the Macintosh, the seventh task is one of the easier ones. You have to navigate through a bunch of force fields in Fierce Fold, and even those are easily thwarted with the right spell. Then once you get to Dripstone, where the item in said fetch quest is located, the town is very small (about the size of the town that holds the first task), so finding all the switches to unlock the path is easy.
It's based on score, not on levels, but the old arcade game Star Castle would inexplicably slow to a crawl after scoring a specific (and very large) number of points. One way to learn the game was to have an expert player get you to that point, allowing you to play against stupidly easy enemies with, most likely, hundreds of lives to spare. Just be sure to pass the controls back before it snaps back to normal ...
BioShock Infinite, after the action-packed first level, sends the player to Monument Island — which has no enemies to fight and no obstacles at all, but lots of Scenery Porn and a proper buildup for meeting the deuteragonist.
The Final Part in The Secret of Monkey Island, titled Guybrush Kicks Butt consists simply of using the Root Beer you acquired in the last part to kill all the ghost pirates in your way, and finally use it to take out Le Chuck. None of the brainbending puzzles that characterized the previous parts, just a chance to unwind and enjoy the ending.
Clive Barker's Undying: The Monastery. Non-threatening human enemies MUCH less dangerous than the fast, monstrous Howlers AND tons of health and ammo? Ahhhhh....
Croc: Legend of the Gobbos has Hard Levels, Easy Bosses, but the boss stages can get fairly brutal as they're not Boss Only. But in between the hell that is the last half of the third island and the first levels of the final island, there is Cactus Jack's Ranch. In addition to an easy boss, the stage is the easiest since the first island, with only two stage rooms involving some very easy jumps, a grand total of three non-threatening enemies, and two free lives. Breather indeed.
In Rage Racer, once you unlock Class 3, you gain access to the Extreme Oval course, which unlike the other three courses is a simple three-turn oval course with an emphasis on speed. Once you purchase one of the Assoluto cars, a victory on this course shouldn't be too difficult compared to doing the same feat on the other courses. It's also the highest-paying course of the four, so you can grind this course again and again to rack up tons of money. It's still the highest-prize course in Class 4, but once you get to Class 5, it becomes the least paying course out of the four.
In The Adventures of Lomax, the space levels can feel like this after The Wild West levels. The enemies are back to being destroyed after a single hit, as opposed to the cowboy enemies, who take two hits and shoot walking bullet enemies, which explode on contact and are the only enemy immune to your spin attack. Also, no Obstructive Foreground.