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Gimmick Levels are parts of a videogame where some aspect of the game, such as the visuals or the layout, is radically changed, but the general gameplay remains the same. (If the gameplay does change, then it's a Mini-Game or an Unexpected Gameplay Change.) These sorts of levels can exist in any game, but they are far more likely in action-oriented games, where they serve to break up the normal gameplay and keep it from getting stale.


Though there are innumerable ways that a level can be called a "gimmick", they generally fall into two categories:

  1. The "Technique level". This forces you to master a little-used or barely challenged ability to get through the stage. Some examples would be utilizing Wall Jumps to scale a tall cliff, or using a sonar sensor to find your way through a pitch-black maze. This form of Gimmick Level doesn't require a change in coding or visuals, just a change in the layout and placement of objects. This often happens in a level in which you first acquire the power or equipment to use said ability.
  2. Some aspect of normal gameplay is twisted or altered, such as super-bouncy platforms, reverse-gravity levels (in games where this would be more complex than just turning the screen upside down), or your weapon being replaced with a whip. If taken too far, the Gimmick Level may end up being an Unexpected Gameplay Change.


Slippy-Slidey Ice World, Lethal Lava Land, and other themed stages can also fall into this, depending on if something is needed to traverse the level, and how far they lean into it.

Stage-long Interface Screws and Stock Videogame Puzzles could also be considered Gimmick Levels.


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    Action Adventure 
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild:
    • Eventide Island. Upon landing on the shore, the voice of the resident Sheikah monk informs you that in order to access the shrine, you must activate the three keys while deprived of all the weapons, armor, and other items you have collected up to that point (though you keep the Sheikah Slate and its runes). This means you must forage and steal items from enemies just like the Great Plateau at the beginning of the game. This is especially tricky when getting the key from the resident Hinox. Once you activate the keys, you get all your stuff back. Notably there's a way to Rules Lawyer your way around the restriction by leaving gear on the raft before coming to shore, as it will still be there after losing your stuff for you to pick up (you technically picked it up after the challenge began). Just make sure to drop it back on the raft before finishing the challenge, as part of the rules also mean you lose everything you found during the challenge when it is completed.
    • This game features 120 shrines, a majority of which rely on specialized techniques or concepts. For example:
      • Levels requiring you to roll a ball through a maze with motion controls.
      • Levels centered around updrafts.
      • Puzzle levels forcing you to find the solution, which are all unique.
      • Solving riddles to find the shrines.
      • Stacking blocks with Magnisis to climb around.
      • Abusing Stasis to throw items into a target.

    Action Games 
  • Shinobi III has horseback and jet ski riding levels.

    Action RPGs 
  • In Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded, every pre-boss level plays as a different video game genre. For instance, in Olympus Coliseum, fights are turn-based RPG-style.
  • Monster Hunter:
    • Hunting Jhen Mohran and Dah'ren Mohran in Monster Hunter 3 (Tri) and Monster Hunter 4 respectively, and their corresponding rereleases, is much different than hunting most large monsters. In almost every other case, the monster would spawn somewhere on a sprawling map and you chase them down. The Mohrans are instead fought in two phases on a single part of the map: the first is a Battleship Raid style, where you attack the leviathans with ballistas and cannons while preventing them from destroying the ship you ride, and occasionally leaping on top of them to deal damage or gather materials from their back. While most enemies have a roulette of attacks, the Mohrans' attacks are largely scripted in the first part. The second phase is an Advancing Boss of Doom where you're on solid ground and have to stall until time runs out or you manage to kill it, occasionally using the ship's defenses to prevent damage to the ship. Even the other Elder Dragons in the series whose battles involve Tower Defense-based sequences (like Lao Shan Lung in the first generation of games and Ceadeus from the same third generation as Jhen Mohran), as well as the crustacean Shen Gaoren in the second, are fought with closer gameplay to the usual formula.
    • Monster Hunter: Rise: The Rampage quests operate in a different way from standard hunting quests. The objective is to use the weaponry used in Kamura to protect the village from incoming threats in order to defeat the monsters that approach your vicinity and prevent them from breaking the gate that leads to the village. All of these monsters are guided by a powerful monster (usually an Apex monster), which has to be dealt with in the last part of the quest as well to succeed.

    Adventure Games 
  • Future Wars ends with two lengthy arcade sequences instead of further puzzles.
  • The middle section of a Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Licensed Game is a series of boxing matches. However, these can be bypassed in a few ways, one of which was the source of the "I'm selling fine leather jackets." line used in many later Lucas Arts games.
  • The Immortal has a level with flame jets emerging from the floor and fireballs shooting from the walls — all relatively easy to avoid on foot — but you can't traverse the level on foot. The floor is infested with giant worms, so you have to fly on an insanely difficult to control Flying Carpet. Two levels later (in most versions), this happens again, with a levitation spell that has mechanics identical with the carpet's.

    Beat'Em Ups 
  • The Battletoads series was largely built around rapid-fire Gimmick Levels, where the titular amphibians do anything from rappel down pits, to climb giant snakes, to ride wall-clinging unicycles while being hotly pursued by a Negative Space Wedgie. And there there's the speeder bikes. The damn speeder bikes…
  • Streets of Rage 3 had plans for a level where the cast rode on motorcycles; this was scrapped during development, but through cheat codes the level can still be partially accessed.

    Fighting Games 
  • Skullgirls:
    • Double's Story Mode requires you to beat all other playable characters in a row. Fitting, since it's the last one of the main eight unlocked.
    • Fukua's Story forces you to fight all the DLC characters as well as the normal ones and Bloody Marie, all in reverse order and culminating in an SNK Boss against Filia that is blatantly stacked against the player.

    First-Person Shooters 
  • Metro 2033 has the "Child" level, where a kid is riding on your back, making your look controls drift strongly. By the way, there are still plenty of mutants around, and they still want to eat you.
  • TRON 2.0 has lightcycle races in a few parts of the game. Then again, they were in the movie.
  • The level "We Don't Go To Ravenholm..." from Half-Life 2. Designed primarily to show off your shiny new Gravity Gun (though it's also a pretty good Survival Horror-style level). There's even an achievement for beating it using nothing but the Gravity Gun.
  • In the first Marathon game, there was one vacuum level. You have an oxygen meter that constantly drained and you couldn't use your assault rifle, but everything else was the same. After that, everything went back to normal for the rest of the game.
  • Doom 2 features the level Barrels o' Fun. As the name suggests, the level is stuffed with large amounts of barrels, and the first two areas feature you running through rows of barrels to safety as a monster emerges behind you, attacks and inadvertently sets off a chain reaction of exploding barrels.
  • Shadow of the Wool Ball has the "Windy Warehouse" level which has no enemies, and instead has you avoiding spike-covered walls in a long shaft, while being pushed by ventilation fans.
  • Halo:
    • There's usually a "Warthog level" in each game. While the vehicle in question doesn't necessarily have to be a Warthog, some missions (such as the trendsetting last mission in Halo: Combat Evolved) have long driving sequences where the main obstacles are the terrain, not the enemy.
    • Starting with Halo 2, there was at least one major flying sequence, too. By Halo: Reach, some of those flying sequences were in space.
    • Combat Evolved has quite a few gimmick levels for its multiplayer mode. You have "Boarding Action" (Two open ships side-by-side, with a bottomless pit separating them and teleporters to connect the two halves), "Chiron TL-34" (A series of small rooms connected by teleporters), and "Longest" (Two long narrow hallways connecting each base, this one would be remade as "Elongation" in Halo 2). "Boarding Action" is a unique case because it was designed with the jetpack mechanic in mind; you can fly between the two sides of the map. When jetpacks were cut, the layout didn't change with it.

  • Gauntlet II has stages where the walls were invisible. The first game has a whole world of invisible-wall stages, though only a small chunk of said stages actually have invisible walls.
  • Diablo II has the Secret Cow Level. It's a secret level, full of cows. They are armed with halberds, walk on two legs and there are lots of them. In the original Diablo, there were rumours of a secret cow level that did not actually exist. So they made one for Diablo 2 to shut the fans up.note 
  • Diablo III:
    • The game has Whimsyshire, an extension of a previous Take That! to complaints that the more colorful visuals in III would "ruin the atmosphere" of the game and series.
    • Set dungeons are designed around class armors which modify how skills function and are meant to test a player's ability to exploit these changes. As a result they have unique objectives which require more finesse than usual.
  • No More Heroes: The game features the motorbike sequences in the last two standard stages (the ones respectively leading to the Rank 2 and Rank 1 fights). Travis has to defeat his enemies by running over them instead of slashing them with his beam katana. The Rank 1 scene also has an area where you have to exit from an illusory forest, killing more enemies in the process.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: The Rank 23 stage is a Stealth-Based Mission, though being spotted doesn't make you fail the level - you simply have to deal with enemies much earlier than planned.

  • While most World of Warcraft bosses have somewhat unique combination of abilities very few manage to get to the level of "gimmicky". The list for Wrath of The Lich King:
    • Heigan the Unclean - "Heigan's dance" - you have to move around the room in the fixed pattern to avoid getting one-shotted by flames.
    • Malygos - at the end of encounter all the raid gets on red dragons and you have to use dragons' skills to finish him off. For some reasonnote  a lot of people suck at that and the fight ends up as That One Level.
    • Flame Leviathan - get on various tanks and battle a really huge tank.
    • Yogg-Saron - steadily decreasing sanity level and the need to refresh it or kill him before it runs out.
    • Twin Valkyr - switching between light and dark attributes to counter their attacks and deal more damage to them.
    • Profssor Putricide - one of you has to turn into a monster and eat up the poisonous goo he splatters around.
    • Valithria Dreamwalker - you have to deal with numerous mooks while healing her (with massive buffs for your healers).
    • There are a few from other expansions.
      • To defeat Lord Rhyolith in the Firelands, you must attack his feet to make him turn so that he goes over the volcanoes (which results in him getting a Damage-Increasing Debuff), and he does not reach the lava at the edge (which results in him spewing magma and wiping the raid). Do that for long enough, and you get a standard burn phase, though.
      • To win in the Spine of Deathwing encounter, you must force the Hideous Amalgamations to eat up the residue left by Corrupted Bloods, and after they absorb enough blood, kill them near the plates to expose the Burning Tendons, which you must then destroy.
      • Garalon from Heart of Fear has a completely different approach to tanking. He will follow a person with pheromones (who must pass it to someone else every so often to minimize raid damage), and both tanks must stand in the frontal cone attack he does to prevent him from getting a damage increasing buff. Everyone else must destroy the boss's legs and stay out of the purple circle underneath the boss, to avoid him using Crush on everyone.
      • Dark Animus from Throne of Thunder is quite complex. At the start of the fight, the small golems fill with Anima, and every time you kill one, its anima transfers to a nearby golem. Your goal is to consolidate the anima into one or two of the Massive Anima Golems before activating the Dark Animus, then destroy the Dark Animus before it absorbs all the Anima and uses a raid-wiping ability.
  • Guild Wars 2 features the Super Adventure Box, a yearly "game within the game" platformer dungeon with an 8-bit theme.

    Party Games 
  • Mario Party 7: Grand Canal is the only board that involves the players chasing down a Star as is traditional. The other boards all have a different gimmick:
    • Pagoda Peak is a linear board with the Star Space at the very end. Each player who reaches the top can buy a Star, but the price goes up 10 coins every time someone buys it. It starts at 10 coins and goes up to a maximum of 40 before returning to 10, but the stage has several gongs that the player can ring to change the price to any of the four values - if they can land on the ? Space to trigger one.
    • Pyramid Park has each player begin the game with 5 stars, and the board has no Star spaces. In order to get Stars, you have to pay Chain Chomps, who will let you ride them and steal Stars from any other players you pass.
    • Windmillville features several windmills, each worth 1, 2, or 3 stars, that the players can invest in. The player who's put the most coins into a windmill owns it and is considered to have its Stars.
    • Neon Peak features three treasure boxes guarded by Koopa Kids on the board instead of Star spaces, and you can pay 10 coins upon passing one to open it. One will contain the Star, one has coins, and the last one drops a Bob-omb on you, launching you back to the starting area of the board. You have no way of knowing which one contains what until you buy one, so it comes down to luck.
    • Bowser's Enchanted Inferno, at first, looks like it brings back the traditional method of reaching the Star to buy it and then looking for the next one elsewhere, and for the most part that's true. However, there's a catch: Every five turns, wherever the current Star is will sink into the lava, taking not only the Star itself with it but also burning all players present there and sending them back to the board's start with their coin budget halved; the Star is then relocated in another region. This also means Bowser Time is entirely dedicated to this gimmick, so Bowser won't do anything else in this board.

    Platform Games 
  • Earthworm Jim loved these sorts of stages.
    • The first game, along with several genre changes, features levels where you lost your power suit and have to crawl around as an earthworm, a level where you were in pitch blackness, and could only see the eyes of the hero and his enemies, and the first part of the final stage has you slow-fall (by using your head as a helicopter) down a long, narrow spiked chasm. The Bungee-Jumping level, and the Bathysphere portion of the Water Level border more on You-know-what.
    • Earthworm Jim 2 has many other variations, such as a level where you play a blind cave salamander swimming through an intestinal tract (and briefly answering nonsensical questions in a mock quiz-show at one point), a level where you have to burrow underground with your modified gun, an isometric shooter level where you push a crate of dynamite tied to a balloon so you can use it on the level's boss and one where you inflate your head to float upwards through the level. The Earthworm Jim series is known for its surreal craziness.
  • The Donkey Kong Country series has had more and more of these as it went on.
    • Donkey Kong Country: There are levels with unique setpieces or concepts, though they're in the minority when compared to later games in the series. Standouts include the Minecart Madness levels, a level where you have to constantly fuel up a moving platform, or even a level with Stop & Go Barrels that toggle the effects of its features.
    • Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest: The game's level proportion is roughly half-and-half (half gimmick levels, half traditional levels).
    • Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!: By the time this game came out, the traditional levels began being in the minority. Some of DKC 3's more memorable examples include a mostly swimming level where your left/right controls are reversed while in the water, a level with significantly decreased gravity, a level where through the entire thing an offscreen enemy is shooting at you, a difficult level where lightning is constantly trying to strike you, and a level where a hungry fish is constantly following you and have to feed normal fish enemies to him to keep him from attacking. Even the "normal" platform levels in DKC 3 usually feature some sort of one-off gimmicky enemy seen nowhere else in the game.
    • The Game Boy Gaiden Game, Donkey Kong Land III, averts this by having no gimmick levels at all, possibly due to engine limitations.
    • In Donkey Kong Country Returns, World 4 is notoriously dedicated to levels based on Minecart Madness and Rocket Ride. These levels appear much less often in the other worlds in comparison, including the sequel Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.
  • Metroid Prime Trilogy: Every game except Hunters (where the powerup in question is absent) has had at least one "Freaking Huge Spiderball Maze" that the player must navigate. One such maze makes up for the boss battle against Power Bomb Guardian in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Many of the games have a level with bumpers and plungers (e.g. Casino Night Zone). Sonic Spinball excepted, of course: it featured pinball stages as its whole schtick.
    • Wacky Workbench from Sonic CD. You'll probably spend less than half the level on solid ground.
    • The last level of Sonic & Knuckles (when playing as Sonic) breaks from the standard platforming of the previous levels by having Sonic start off as the invincible Super/Hyper Sonic. This is necessary, as the whole level is spent in outer space; if Sonic doesn't keep collecting rings in order to stay invincible, he'll become regular Sonic again and immediately fall to his death.
    • In Sonic Adventure, Sonic's version of Casinopolis has a Chaos Emerald inside of a large vault that's on a platform too high for Sonic to jump onto. To reach the Emerald you need to fill up the vault with rings so the floor is high enough to jump off of, and to get the rings you need to play pinball (with Sonic as the ball) instead platforming.
    • All of the Sonic Unleashed stages in the 360 and PS3 version that comes directly after a main daytime stage requires heavy use of one of Sonic's skills. For instance, Windmill Isle's stage tested the player's ability to use rails, Savannah Citadel's tested the Sonic Drift, Rooftop Run's tested the Homing Attack, and so forth. These were always Nintendo Hard. This would return, toned down in difficulty, in Sonic Generations, and uses stage gimmicks rather than abilities.
    • Sonic Lost World has at least one strange gimmick level per world, which is possibly a response to the Gameplay Roulette-based approach of other 3D Sonic games. There are Mine Cart Madness-esque levels where you have to dodge obstacles whilst continuously grinding rails, levels where you have to guide giant fruit towards blenders, a stage where Sonic becomes an awkwardly-controlling snowball that you have to carefully maneuver through the stage and a stealth-based level where you have to avoid being seen by a spotlight, among many others. Fans and critics debate on whether the gimmicks add gameplay variety, or if they make the whole game feel unfocused.
  • Super Mario Bros. examples:
    • Super Mario Bros. 2: World 6-2 is based on a bird-mounting ride (the otherwise aggressive Albatosses are simply flying in migration form, and have no Bob-ombs to attack anyone with), instead of the usual platforming.
    • Super Mario Bros. 3: World 5-3 is unique for featuring the Goomba Shoe, which is the only powerup that cannot be carried over upon completing the level where it appears; there are a few more levels with the shoe that didn't make it into the final game, but can be accessed through hacking. There are also levels that rely on solving some sort of puzzle instead of featuring a platform-based design (such as taking a Koopa Shell at the top of World 6-5 to break the blocks that obstruct the exit, or looking for a Tanooki Suit to fly to the boss area of World 7's first Fortress).
    • Super Mario Land: There are two levels that take the form of side-scrolling shoot-'em-ups: one which is set underwater and has Mario driving a submarine (Marine Pop), and the final level which takes place with Mario in a plane (Sky Pop).
    • Super Mario World:
      • The second standard level of Chocolate Island is uniquely designed to make you progress according to how many coins you collect, how much time is left, and how many Dragon Coins you've gathered. Notably, one of the areas whose access is tied to the current time limit leads to a secret exit.
      • Several of the Star World and Special Zone levels have unique gameplay mechanics to increase the challenge. There's one level where Mario has to use the spin jump to drill through a large body of blocks until reaching the bottom (which leads to the exit). There's also the level Tubular, where Mario needs to be in balloon form through the whole level or die very, very quickly. Yet another level, Mondo, revolves around the water's level rising and lowering periodically.
    • Super Mario Sunshine has many levels in which Mario is left without the F.L.U.D.D. to navigate through them. Although if you beat them you can come back with F.L.U.D.D. for a new challenge.
    • Super Mario Galaxy has several Gimmick Levels, the most recognizable ones being those involving the Wiimote's motion-sensing abilities to control different actions, like balancing Mario on top of a rolling ball, riding a manta ray around a course, or using a fan to blow a bubble around an electrified maze of doom. This makes the game better because you hardly ever do the same thing twice (though those types of levels do appear at least twice each: One where you can practice with them, and then the harder variations that appear later).
    • Super Mario Galaxy 2: In addition to bringing back the rolling ball idea first seen in the previous game, Galaxy 2 also adds flying on a bird (Fluzzard); its levels revolve around performing a test aerial race in the first mission, and then an official race against one or more rivals in the second. Passing through certain rings will allow Mario or Luigi to grab a Comet Medal near the goal.
    • New Super Mario Bros. Wii has levels where the Wiimote operates something the characters ride in, like a movable platform.
    • Super Mario 3D World has the Captain Toad stages and the Mystery House challenges. In the former, you have to guide Captain Toad through a diorama-like stage as he collect stars; in the latter, you have to complete several successive minigames based on a particular topic (like an A-to-B Racing Minigame or a Multi-Mook Melee).
    • Super Mario Maker, being a Game Maker, is naturally chock-full of them. Even the built-in levels have a few gimmicks. Super Mario Maker 2 has even more, thanks to Story Mode.
  • The fourth episode of Commander Keen has an underwater level, where you must swim rather than jump.
  • Rayman
    • A level with a first half where you can't stop running and its second half where the controls are reversed.
    • There is, in addition, the level with the clearly evil clone that followed your every move several seconds behind.
  • The Crash Bandicoot games have levels where the player has to run away from a rolling object of death and towards the camera. The series has also the character riding atop ever-running animals, and vehicle levels.
  • Wario Land has quite a few of these in the series, with most of the levels in general introducing a new gimmick needed to proceed. Such as the board game and casino levels in Wario Land 4 and Shake Dimension, and also Launchpad Labyrinth in said Shake Dimension game.
  • This is the point of Jumpman and Jumpman Junior - every single level has a unique gimmick for you to deal with, from floating platforms to invisible floors to moving bombs to an alien invasion.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures on the SNES is mainly regular platform levels of one sort of another, but halfway through the game it has an American-style football stage where you have to run, jump and tackle your way with the ball to the goal line within the time limit. There's also a Tiny Toons sports game on Genesis where each level has a different gimmick. Besides a basic gym, there is a field with spots where the characters can trip, Monty's house has vehicles hit you, etc.
  • Apogee's Monster Bash has the second-last level of Part 3. You can fly on a broom and shoot lightning bolts in that level, in addition to the normal gameplay mechanics.
  • Jett Rocket has the Jett Ride level, which takes place on a wave racer course filled with mines. It's also the only non-glitch place in the game you can get the "Speed Run" award, with a little trickery.
  • Spyro the Dragon features this in the form of "Speedway" levels.
  • This turns up fairly frequently in the main Mega Man series.
    • In Mega Man, Guts Man's level is almost entirely moving platforms that will drop you off at certain points.
    • In Mega Man 5, Gravity Man's stage has constantly switching Gravity, and Wave Man has a waterski shooter level.
  • A lot of Rockman 4 Minus Infinity is made up of these kind of levels.
    • Skull Man's stage is mostly bottomless pits and the only way across them is to use the various gimmick platforms to cross them.
    • Pharaoh Man's stage has the pyramid's curse, which manifests itself as a constantly changing Interface Screw.
    • Bright Man's stage. The first half is a Blackout Basement and the second half has the Semi-Yoku Blocks.
    • Toad Man's stage has only frog or toad-based enemies.
    • Cossack Castle Stage 1's second half is a SHUMP stage with the Balloon Adapter.
    • Cossack Castle Stage 2 has Mega Man use the Wire Adapter for its second half.
    • Cossack Castle Stage 3 took place in a sewer with various gimmick-based liquids.
    • In Wily Castle Stage 1, Sniper Joe-themed enemies are the only enemies found there.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day has several parts with their own unique gameplay, including riding a pitchfork, driving a hoverbike in a race, riding a dinosaur in a boss battle, fighting a Dracula-inspired boss while turned into a bat, etc.
  • Puggsy which is usually a puzzle/item based platformer, has a level where you are in a tiny spaceship and have to avoid all of the walls to get through.
  • A common feature in early Super Nintendo Entertainment System titles was a level to show off the fact that the system's hardware handled rotating backgrounds. Such levels included:
  • Many Super Mario World ROM hacks. A short list includes:
    • The entirety of Brutal Mario, which is literally nothing but Gimmick Levels.
    • The entirety of Super Mario LD, which (until the author vanished off the internet) was basically a long string of gimmick levels and bosses, including the somewhat infamous Gradius inspired stage shown here.
    • The VIP series. All five (six?) of them.
    • The Kouhai series (three Platform Hell gimmick hacks played by raocow).
    • The Ore World series (basically a poor man's Brutal Mario).
    • Super Mario :p:p:p, which has a weird puzzle game like level and a Final Fantasy inspired Iggy Koopa battle.
    • The entirety of The Mario, which has level gimmicks like laser shooting Mecha Koopas and giant Thwomps.
    • The entirety of SMW YEAHH.
    • Many levels in the Touhou inspired Scarlet Devil Mario series.
    • S Mario. Gimmick in this case means stuff like random wind that pushes you around, power ups that immediately kill you or... the one and only case of 'go left or spin jump and die on the spot while sliding around on ice and dodging homing missiles'. You can see the latter here as raocow nearly breaks down playing it.
    • Just about all levels in the Brutal Mario inspired Mario End Game hack.
    • Or to be honest, about 40% of all hacks on SMW Central and about 80% of all hacks on Japanese ROM hacking sites are nothing but these. Whether that be shoot em up levels, bullet hell inspired levels, Blackout Basement style levels or ones with such things as 'go right or spin jump and die on the spot' is dependent on the game in question.
  • There are several gimmick stages in Blender Bros, such as a Gravity Screw level and some stages that are Racing Minigames, but the biggest and most notable is the world of Shelltarl. Most worlds in the game consist of three regular levels and then a boss. Shelltarl is one massive level that has to be played and beaten all at once. It's also timed, and the boss assaults you in the middle of the action, meaning you have to fight him while the clock is ticking down.
  • Every chapter in A Hat in Time has a gimmick, to the point that each chapter feels like it came from a different game. Mafia Town is a straight-forward area, Battle of the Birds is heavily non-combative and focuses on stealth or puzzles, Subcon Forest determines which goals you accomplish next based on your own ability and luck in exploring the area and getting rid of barriers, Alpine Skyline is a free-roaming area where you're free to do whatever you want in any order, Arctic Cruise is heavily Fetch Quest and Collect A Thon themed, Nyakuza Metro focuses around finding money to purchase curative items and access to new areas, and the various Time Rifts focus heavily on platform/jumping skills.

    Puzzle Games 
  • Hotel Mario has these in every hotel, with Mario and Luigi having to point them out in each of the introduction scenes for the hotels. Of course, the elevators have a habit of switching directions on you in later levels.
  • Marble Madness has the Silly Race, where "everything you know is wrong." Instead of rolling downhill to the goal, you're going uphill, with a section full of small enemies you can run over for extra time.
  • Gruntz has various, but a special mention goes to the one in the High Rollerz world where you race against a rolling ball (in order to activate switches so that it continues rolling) for the whole level; a deliberate aversion of Take Your Time.
  • Maze Burrow:
    • 7-5 (Factory). Unlike most levels, where your echidna can directly move the boxes, 7-5 has you pushing around linked boxes to indirectly push down switches.
    • 7-B (Rock Barrage), the game's Bonus Boss. No puzzles, just a small army of moles firing deadly rocks, which you'll need split-second timing to get past.
  • Oh No! More Lemmings has two:
    • Wicked 2, Inroducing SUPERLEMMING, only has you guide one lemming to the exit, but that lemming moves and acts at double speed. This makes for a lot of rapid-fire skill selection and assignment near the end.
    • Havoc 10, Flow Control, only sees one skill assignment in the entire level, but requires constant adjustment of the release rate to save enough lemmings.

    Racing Games 

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne has a bonus level inspired by the custom-made "Tower Defense" maps. Instead of building a base as normal, you have to line up special towers only available in that mission along a maze to shoot down attackers. 2 regular levels also took inspiration from custom maps to mix things up. And then there was the Orc campaign, which was an RPG. A rather simple one since it still used the same interface, but still pretty good. And that is just the (official) tip of the iceberg of uses of the game's engine and powerful editor, which people have used to create all sorts of games. One of them, Defense of the Ancients, has become a game of its own.

    Rhythm Games 
  • Rhythm Games with scrolling notes have some charts in which the scroll BPM changes. Sometimes it's justified, as the song actually does change tempo, but other times, the song isn't actually changing speed at all and the BPM changes are just there to screw with the player. Some examples:
    • "SOFT LANDING ON THE BODY" from beatmania IIDX alternates between 80, 159, and 318 BPM. The jumps are notorious because the song itself never actually changes BPM, making this a case of Fake Difficulty. This song led to the coining of the term soflan, which is used to refer to sudden BPM changes in music games.
    • "CHAOS" in DanceDanceRevolution is notorious for having over 40 pauses within the chart, which can trip over many players.
    • Once again in DDR, "Elemental Creation" alternates between 106, 212, and 424 BPM; its true BPM is 212. In all other BEMANI games that it appears in, the song simply scrolls at a constant 212 BPM, making its DDR charts stand out.
    • "KIMONO♥PRINCESS" from DDR has a half-BPM section and a few pauses during that section, but of note are its Popn Music charts. On difficulties up to and including Hyper, the chart retains the half-BPM section but that section stays at a constant speed. The EX chart throws in two parts where the chart momentarily drops to 11 BPM to simulate the DDR charts' pauses.
    • Notedrop outright averts this by normalizing all charts to scroll at a set tempo; the scroll speed is influenced purely by how much you increase the speed multiplier.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Quite a few examples across the Final Fantasy series:
    • There are a couple of "miniature dungeons" in Final Fantasy III which the characters can only enter with the "mini" status effect, which aside from making them small reduces their attack and defense stats to 1. Thus, it becomes a lot more beneficial to make everybody a mage.
    • Final Fantasy V has the sunken Walse Tower. The dungeon is completely underwater, and Bartz can only hold his breath for 20 minutes. Fortunately, you can pick up a refill partway through.
    • Final Fantasy VI has plenty:
      • Multi-party battles. Different mechanics for them. In the first half of the game, if you die, you return to the beginning with one hit point for everyone, and the real goal is to keep the enemies from reaching Terra or Banon. In the second half, one party has to hit switches for the other party(s).
      • The Cultists'/Fanatics' Tower, where you can only use magic. And many enemies have auto-reflect.
      • The Zone Eater, a Womb Level complete with a rising and falling ceiling with holes in it. If you get crushed, it's a Non-Standard Game Over. Lots of those in Final Fantasy VI. Another obstacle is a series of bridges with guards that knock you off if you touch them. Naturally, you don't take damage, and there are actually good items down there.
    • Final Fantasy VIII has a few multi-party levels, including The Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
    • The inverted floating castle in Final Fantasy IX, where your weapons do more damage the lower their attack power. You can find every character's second-tier weapon in the dungeon, but if you hung on to each character's starting weapon, you're set.
    • Final Fantasy XII has the evil, evil Demon Wall battle. Not often do you get to run away from a boss. And unless you're power-leveled, it's the only way to win. Also, any optional Esper.
    • Final Fantasy XV has the Pitioss Ruins. Unlike the other endgame dungeons it contains no monsters and is instead a multiple hours long platforming challenge amid Bizarrchitecture, like navigating 45° surfaces or running across the chest of a hundred foot tall statue in a cavern so large you can't see the walls, in a game not at all designed around jumping from platform to platform.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has the Fade sequence, which drops the player into Dream Land. Much hated by many players for being very difficult if you ignore the gimmick, the trick is that the player is granted special shapeshifting powers needed for both solving puzzles and surviving the battles. Each form has its strengths and weaknesses, and players must learn which form and powers are appropriate for each situation.

    Shoot ‘Em Ups 

    Simulation Games 
  • RollerCoaster Tycoon has had more and more Gimmick Levels in each of its successive expansion packs. Setting aside parks that are merely based around a certain scenic theme or ride selection (such as Aqua Park and Karts & Coasters in the original level pack, which have exactly the types of rides their names would lead you to expect), we have:
    • Crumbly Woods (original level pack, scenario 16), where all of the rides are old and unreliable.
    • Ivory Towers (scenario 19), a pack that is a complete mess and requires fixing up.
    • Rainbow Valley (scenario 20), which forbids any changes to the landscape or scenery.
    • Gentle Glen (Corkscrew Follies, scenario 9), where all guests prefer lower-intensity rides (less than 4).
    • Sprightly Park (scenario 12), sort of a ramped-up version of Crumbly Woods; the rides are very old, and in addition, you cannot build any modern-style rides.
    • Thunderstorm Park (scenario 17), with extra-rainy weather.
    • Harmonic Hills (scenario 18): no landscape changes, scenery removal, or building above tree height.
    • Adrenaline Heights (scenario 21), sort of the opposite of Gentle Glen, where all guests prefer higher-intensity rides (more than 9).
    • Rotting Heights (scenario 23), where the park is overgrown and falling to pieces and must be restored.
    • Fiasco Forest (scenario 24), where the rides are designed badly (some to the point of lethality), and you have to fix up the only 1 year and with a loan of only ¤8000.
    • Pickle Park (scenario 25), which forbids all advertising campaigns.
    • Coaster Crazy (scenario 28), where your goal is instead to build 10 different types of roller coaster of at least a given excitement rating but with no time limit.
    • Loopy Landscapes has several new objective types that could qualify as gimmicks, one of which is to finish building 5 partially-built roller coasters in the park and design them to have at least a given excitement rating. This one shows up in 4 scenarios. Within this objective, one of the parks that has it (Tiny Towers, scenario 23) is, as the name would suggest, very small.
    • It also brings back the "build 10 roller coasters" objective from Coaster Crazy, which shows up in 5 scenarios (2 of which have the added difficulty of the coasters needing to be a minimum length). One of them also has the park shaped like a long, thin strip of land.
    • Then 4 more scenarios give you infinite money and time but require a certain number of guests in the park without letting the park rating drop too low for too long.
    • And 4 more require you to make a certain monthly income from ride tickets.
    • Outside of the new objectives, there is Woodworm Park (scenario 14), which, like Sprightly Park, does not give you any modern-style rides.
    • And, finally, Micro Park (scenario 30), the last scenario, which is the smallest park in the game after Urban Park from Corkscrew Follies (which could be expanded; Micro Park cannot).

    Sports Games 
  • Golf Story: For a course with a community that grumbles about tradition and has the Nostalgia Filter on, Tidy Park sure is a non-standard course. First, this course forces you to use the vintage club set; if you equip any other clubs beforehand, they'll just get swapped out when you begin the course. Second, every hole is in a state of disrepair, with fairways that have grown into roughs, puddles everywhere, and no greens; every pin is surrounded by rough, fairway, or deep rough, forcing you to putt very hard or just chip the ball in.

    Stealth-Based Games 
  • Metal Gear Solid is fairly consistent stealth gameplay with some quirks, but the VR Missions/Special Missions/Integral expansion pushes the engine to its limits so the player can do things possible by coding but virtually impossible to actually perform in the game - especially the Variety Mode, Puzzle Mode and NG Selection. One stage requires the player to blow up surveillance cameras by attaching C-4 to guards and detonating it when they pass under the cameras. Another requires the player to solve a Lights Out puzzle involving throwing grenades at distant columns to make them grow or shrink. Another stage has a single (robot) guard in it whose vision cone is super large, requiring the player to slip past by putting the box on, inching forward when he turns his back, and repeating. There's another where you have to punch guards into each other so they all fall over like a string of dominoes. There are also multiple murder mystery missions, a mission where you are the Ninja, a mission involving shooting down a UFO (although the gameplay itself is quite conventional) and one involving goading two kaiju into fighting each other to save Meryl.

    Survival Horror 
  • Every level beyond the first in Illbleed plays with the game in some way:
    • In "Revenge of Queen Worm", you don't use the horror monitor, and you have to avoid the worms.
    • In "Woodpuppets", you spend about half your time in the stage turned into one of the titular monsters.
    • In "Killer Department Store", you get your prize money at the beginning, but can lose it to some of the traps in the level.
    • "Killerman" is a pseudo-whodunnit that takes place behind the scenes of the park.
    • "Toy Hunter" has you turn into Cork, the main character of the (fictional) Toy Hunter franchise, and follow his latest adventure by uncovering "story elements" dotted throughout the stage.

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • Many of Total Overdose's technique sidequests underscore a technique that's available through the entire game but not necessarily obvious to the player, and by training it through the challenge, the player can incorporate it into story stage environments for more effective combat and better score. Example: Fly on the Wall Challenge requires the player to get X number of headshots while flipping sideways upside down through the air within Y number of minutes, while crowds of thugs storm from either direction of a narrow courtyard. The only way to achieve gold standard on this is to become proficient at sideways walking up a wall, leaping off of it and aiming. This is an enormously powerful offensive and defensive maneuver best learned before the heat of later missions is turned up (plus it's style amplified.)
  • Shifty Station in Splatoon 2 is a multiplayer stage that changes its layout for each Splatfest event, always prominently featuring at least one of several gimmicks that range from relatively normal to bizarre. Among the many gimmicks that have been featured are simple moving platforms, ride rails to grind on, bounce pads, Invisible Blocks, patrolling Flooders, glass domes that seal off parts of the stage, giant tentacles that can be destroyed to open gates... one layout even features a surprise appearance by Idol Singers Pearl and Marina! While Shifty Station was initially only playable during a Splatfest, all previous variations of the stage were made available in Private Battle mode after the conclusion of the game's Splatfest events.

    Tower Defense 
  • Bloons Tower Defense:
    • BTD5 has several Special Missions, which change up the rules of the game. These range from simple edits (There Can Be Only One restricts you to one of each tower type), to more complex gimmicks (Wizard Lord gives you a free 4/4 Monkey Apprentice, but he consumes the most expensive tower on the map every other round, and you lose if he can't sacrifice anything), to entire custom rounds (MOAB Madness gives you $50,000 to defeat a single rush of 50 MOABs).
    • BTD6 has the Advanced map Geared. While most maps have your towers remain in the same place, on Geared, they change their position every round due to the giant gear they're placed on rotating.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monster Coliseum, Shadi's first level has your Symbol separated from your main forces, while Yami Marik's second level takes place on a volcano that erupts after four turns. Anyone standing on the lava gets a huge boost in attack, but takes 10 to 30 damage depending on if it's raining.

    Visual Novels