Follow TV Tropes


Levels Take Flight

Go To

A video game area that takes place in a flying vehicle or animal of some sort in the air. Depending on the specific game, this may take the form of a single aircraft that the level will be limited to, a succession of flying vehicles that the player must navigate and jump between, or the player flying with their own vessel or mount through the open sky. Falling off will be a real danger; in platformers especially, it's common for these levels to be constantly scrolling, or to have individual platforms constantly moving across the screen, to force you to stay on you toes and keep making jumps. This may overlap with Gusty Glade to add strong winds to the mix, or lead into a High-Altitude Battle.

On large transport aircraft, the backdoor may often open midair and cargo will slide out (whether accidentally, intentionally, or as an Emergency Cargo Dump), presenting a hazard for players to avoid. Another thing to worry about is keeping said flying object in the air, as things as pressure drops, weather, etc. threaten it, its occupants, and cargo.

Naturally, Airborne Mooks are very common here, either as high-flying birds or balloon- or propeller-supported variants of common foes. Pilot-themed foes may also be found piloting small aircraft, which you may need to use as Goomba Springboards to cross open spaces.

See Locomotive Level for stages on moving land vehicles and Level in the Clouds for levels set on top of unusually solid clouds or other setpieces floating in the sky.


    open/close all folders 


  • Batman: Arkham Knight: One of the major levels in the main campaign is a jaunt through Simon Stagg's two zeppelins as Scarecrow tries to hijack them. The unique mechanic of the level is that Batman can use his hacking device to control the zeppelin and tilt it back and forth, sending crates and boxes sliding out of his way and sometimes even through windows down into Gotham below.
  • Ecco the Dolphin: The Tides of Time has a tube version of this, requiring Ecco to swim up the tubes while avoiding the open air areas that will send him plummeting back to Earth; he can also outright fly if he transforms into a seagull using the Metaspheres or hitches a ride with the psychic flying future dolphins. Defender of the Future later homaged these levels in the "Hanging Waters" level set.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: The Sky is traveled through with Link's Loftwing, in order to reach any of the islands floating in it or the perpetual storm of the Thuderhead or to descend to any of the areas of the surface. Enemies are few and mostly airborne, such as flying Octoroks that perch on floating chunks of rock and winged, wormlike enemies.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The Divine Beast Vah Medoh is a giant mechanical bird flying in a circle around Rito Village. You must team up with the Rito warrior Teba to take out its cannons and shields in an aerial battle in order to climb aboard and free it from Ganon's corruption. As a dungeon, Vah Medoh requires you to tilt it left and right while also using the fan-generated streams of wind to reach higher sections of the mechanism.
  • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption: SkyTown is a Floating Continent built withing the sky of a stormy gas planet named Elysia.
  • ZanZarah: The Hidden Portal: The Cloud Realm is situated on giant platforms hovering a few kilometers over the north-eastern lands.

    Beat 'em Ups 
  • Arabian Magic has a Flying Carpet chase level where you ride a carpet through the skies, battling enemies on their own carpets, culminating in fighting a giant Roc boss.
  • Double Dragon II: The Revenge: The third level takes place inside the helicopter that you spent the previous level chasing. The level itself consists of a single room in which you must fight a continuous wave of mooks to completion while a door to the outside periodically opens and closes. When it opens it pulls anything—items, enemies, and of course, yourself—out of the helicopter into certain death, requiring you to keep your distance and push against the vacuum.
  • Midnight Fight Express: One of the levels takes place on a plane headed towards a military base.

    Fighting Games 
  • Playstation All Stars Battle Royale:
    • There is a level which re-enacts the plane segment from Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, except the plane can stay up indefinitely and remains incredibly stable throughout the battle. Even the Songbird crashing upon the players isn't enough to shake this stage.
    • The Invasion stage recreates the introduction to Killzone 2 when the ISA are landing in Helghan on their Intruders. This one is quite shaky and staying on the stage becomes a part of the battle.
  • Street Fighter V: One of the stages is atop the wings of a plane in flight.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • Many stages are just floating in midair, whether in the open sky, in outer space, or over a specific landscape, and falling off and into the void is one of the primary ways to KO fighters.
    • Super Smash Bros. Melee has Poké Floats, some parts of Rainbow Ride, the F-Zero levels (especially Big Blue which takes place entirely on racing hovercars and the like), and the Star Fox levels that take place on the Great Fox as it cruises around the Lylat System.
    • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: At one point in The Subspace Emissary, you're working your way across the side of the Halberd to get to the deck of the flying ship while dealing with a constant wind in your face, slowing you down.

    First-Person Shooters 
  • Blood II: The Chosen: The two levels aboard the CAS Revenant airship, one on the exterior of it and another inside the ship. In both levels, falling off to your death is a real danger in certain areas.
  • Bulletstorm: The final level takes place on an evac dropship escaping Stygia.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3: The 4th level of the campaign is set on the Russian equivalent of Air Force One, with the player as part of the Russian Presidential security detail.
  • Shadow Warrior (1997) has the large "Airplane" level. At one point, you have to leave the plane to precariously walk atop the roof and make a dangerous jump to get a key which happens to be on the tail.

  • Bayonetta has the level in Ithavoll Group's huge cargo plane, with a listing camera during the fight against Jeanne on top of the flying plane.


    Party Games 
  • Sky Balls in Crash Bash, which is a football-esque minigame where you score points by kicking balls in enemy goals in a squared arena, where each goal takes one side, and in this case the whole thing takes place on a platform flying around and powered by jet engines (that fail from time to time, tilting it).
  • Mario Party:
    • Mario Party 3: The minigame Aces High has all the characters perform aerial combat in the skies. Each player's airplane has a Life Meter of two hearts, and their goal is to shoot the other players to tear them down. A shot is performed by pressing Z, but if the button is held for a few seconds, they can load a Bullet Bill and then release it so it homes at the nearest player (in this case, the next Bullet Bill cannot be loaded until the previous one either hits a target or goes off-course). The last player remaining, or the one with the most health after 60 seconds in case more than one remains when time expires, wins. If the last players are downed at the same time, or all surviving characters have the same amount of HP when time expires, then the minigame ends in a draw and nobody will win.
    • Mario Party 5: The minigame Sky Survivor has two dueling characters drive airplanes (shaped like Paratroopa shells) across a straight sky racetrack delimited with large, ring-shaped rainbows. As they travel, they must avoid the red Spiny balls, as hitting them will cause damage to the planes. If a player's plane takes too many hits, they'll be shot down and the other player will win. If both characters make it to the end, then the player whose plane received the least damage will win. If the amount of damage is the same in both planes, neither player wins and the minigame ends in a tie.
    • Mario Party 7: The minigame Helipopper has all players pilot helicopters to fly above an open field next to a coast. The objective for all of them is to use the spinning helices of their helicopters to burst as many balloons as possible, while also avoiding the migrating Bullet Bills (getting hit by one will cause a stun for a brief time). After 45 seconds, whoever bursted the most balloons wins.
    • Mario Party 8: The minigame Swervin' Skies has all characters pilot jet airplanes in the high skies. One player is piloting an armed plane, and their objective is to shoot down the other three in 30 seconds or less. If at least one of the escaping players survives after time runs out, then the trio wins.
    • Mario Party 10: Airship Central combines this setting with Level in the Clouds, as you have to go through not only cloudy platforms (some of which also have overgrown beanstalks nearby), but also Koopa airships placed in rows. Another unique trait is that the board is played during afternoon instead of morning or midday.

  • Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool: "Bird Houses", the fifth and final level has Chester riding a butterfly through the sky. At the end of the stage, he battles Mean Eugene in his helicopter.
  • The final world of Donkey Kong Land has some stages that are located inside a large blimp floating in the skies above Big Ape City.
  • Garfield's Fun Fest: The levels preceding the final two are flying stages, which control similarly to the Odie-riding stages. Garfield and Odie use a triangle-shaped paraglider to travel across an alpine forest in one level, and across the upper part of their home city in the other.
  • Freedom Planet:
    • The fourth level, "Sky Battalion," requires the player to take out three different airships before facing the level's boss. It's one of only two levels in the game to have Bottomless Pits, since the ships are thousands of feet in the air.
    • The Unexpected Shmup Level at the start of Battle Glacier has Lilac ride on the Holodragon's head as it flies through the skies, blasting fire at incoming hordes of flying attack drones.
    • Freedom Planet 2 features a similar level, "Airship Sigwada", taking place in Corazon Tea's titular ship and the player having to face off against a bird-like robot on both segments of the ship and eventually Corazon herself (which is skipped if the player is Carol). The later level "Bakunawa Chase" features the heroines using Zao's airship to chase after Merga's superweapon as she deploys countless flying robots to fight back against them.
  • Hey! Pikmin: In "Scourge of the Skies", the ground is mostly covered by Grimy Water that will kill Olimar on contact, and the area must therefore be navigated by hopping across the backs of the passive, dragonfly-like Centipares and the occasional raised piece of rock. As a result, the enemies here are all airborne.
  • Jumper: The final sector takes place on a plane (if you can call it a plane at all) from which Ogmo must escape, as usual.
  • Kirby's Adventure: Stage 3 of Grape Garden takes place on multiple airborne blimps.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man 8 has Tengu Man's second stage and the third part of Wily's Castle, where you have to use the rush jet.
    • Mega Man X: The stages for Storm Eagle (Mega Man X), Storm Owl (Mega Man X4), The Skiver/Spiral Pegacion (Mega Man X5), and Wind Crowrang (Mega Man X7) all involve (in some way) their personal armadas, with the actual battle against these Mavericks usually taking place on their personal aircraft/flagship.
    • Mega Man Zero 2: After the failed attack on Neo Arcadia and Elpizo's Face–Heel Turn, Zero has to cross an entire air fleet of Neo Arcadian vessels in order to hijack and stop a missile launched at the Resistance Base.
  • The Rocketeer: The Chase level in the SNES version is a rocket pack shmup level, followed by the Armada which is more of the same by pusher plane, then finally the Zeppelin, which is a Beat 'em Up on an airship.
  • Shantae and the Pirate's Curse has Propeller Town. As the name indicates, it's a massive structure flying thousands of feet in the air, requiring several careful jumps across flying platforms and hanging chains, and a few areas where you must use Risky's Hat to navigate through some air currents.
  • Shovel Knight: Propeller Knight owns a massive airship which Shovel Knight must traverse to meet him in person.
  • Sly Cooper:
    • Sly 2: Band of Thieves: The final level, "Anatomy for Disaster", is located on Arpegio's Blimp - a massive airship comprised of huge balloons, rickety platforms, and whirring turbines tethered together. One false move and you'll tumble to your death.
    • Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves: The "Flight of Fancy" level offers a few examples. In one mission you borrow a catapult in order launch yourself high enough to land on some low-flying blimps. Later you're tasked with piloting a prop plane in an all-out dogfight. Finally, the boss battle forces you to brawl with the Black Baron on the wing of a large supply plane - while it's in flight.
  • Snoopys Grand Adventure: The "Skies of Paris" levels involve Snoopy flying his doghouse through the stormy skies of Paris, and firing at enemy planes. There's even a battle with the Red Baron himself.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog has many examples.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 2: The Sky Chase Zone. Despite the mellow groovy background music and relaxed pace, it's harder than it looks, particularly if you've collected all the Chaos Emeralds: Super Sonic is very prone to running off of the wings of Tails's plane and falling to his death, while regular Sonic isn't fast enough to do so. The level immediately after it, Wing Fortress Zone, also qualifies, it's one of the most difficult levels in the game. Sky Fortress in Sonic the Hedgehog 4 combines both of those zones together, as its name suggests.
    • Sonic 3 & Knuckles: The Flying Battery Zone features a few segments where the player must navigate the outside portions of Eggman's ship.
    • Sky Chase Zone (in a slightly modified form) also reappears in both Sonic Adventure and Sonic Pocket Adventure. The latter is closer to the original stage, but the former also allows Tails to actually fire upon incoming enemies with his Tornado.
    • Sonic Shuffle: Fire Bird, the second board, takes place on a giant mechanical bird which is actually The Phoenix.
    • Sonic Heroes: Egg Fleet has the player hop from airship to airship as they gradually tear through Eggman's aerial armada before landing on his flagship.
    • Shadow the Hedgehog:
      • In Air Fleet, Shadow has the option to either cover the President's escape from the Black Arms (Hero), find the Chaos Emerald (Neutral), or assassinate the big man himself (Dark).
      • Most of the ARK and parts of Cryptic Castle can be spent with Shadow riding on a dragon-like creature. The ride is required in Cryptic Castle, but Shadow can change objectives on The ARK and hop off the creature, going through the stage normally.
      • Sky Troops is also an aerial level, and it's the only stage in the game which has objectives for both Black Doom and Eggman, the latter of which is the "good" path.
    • Sonic Unleashed: Tails transports Sonic on his biplane for the two Tornado Defense stages.
    • Sonic and the Secret Rings: Levitated Ruin is set on a flock of rukhs. The stage gets its name because they carry the ruins of small cities on their backs.
    • Sonic Colors: Three stages in the Wii version, one in Starlight Carnival, another in Aquarium Park, and the last in Asteroid Coaster, feature Sonic needing to keep up with some flying device with springs at its top, causing Sonic to constantly bounce. It flies slowly but steadily to the end of the stage. Starlight Carnival itself is a spaceborne variant of this trope, with the stage made of a series of brightly lit spaceships traveling through outer space, with Sonic traveling from one to the next either via Hard Light pathways or by finding ways to launch himself from one ship to the next. The Nintendo 3DS version also features one very large flagship that's bigger than the rest of the fleet combined.
    • Sonic Rush: Altitude Limit is set high above the sky, where Sonic and Blaze can use hang gliders as it transitions into a 3D rail shooter section.
    • Sonic Rush Adventure: Sky Babylon is an ancient ruin in the sky, which is likely Blaze's world's counterpart to Sky Sanctuary Zone from Sonic 3 & Knuckles.
    • Sonic Lost World: Sonic himself is seen soaring through the skies in both Tropical Coast Zone ? and Sky Road Zone 3.
    • Sonic Mania: In the Mirage Saloon Zone, Act One of Sonic and Tails' story has the two riding the Tornado, leading to a train driven by Dr. Eggman.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario Bros. 3:
      • All of the airship stages are presented as auto-scrolling obstacle courses above the clouds. Oftentimes, the player has to cross bottomless pits using bolt lifts, which require you to jump repeatedly to move them forward.
      • The "air force" stage in world 8 simulates the player leaping from plane to plane. The small size of the "planes", the frequent differences in height between one "plane" and the next, and the drastically faster auto-scrolling speed make it one of the hardest levels of the game. A P-wing is never misused in this level.
      • There is a level taking place almost entirely on the backs of flying Buzzy Beetles in World 5.
    • Super Mario 64 has Rainbow Ride, an assortment of odd floating structures way up high. Much of the level involves riding on the set paths of magic carpets, struggling not to fall from hitting the obstacles in the way.
    • Gelato Beach's "The Sandbird is Born" episode in Super Mario Sunshine, which has Mario riding the titular bird through a cloud filled course to collect red coins. The Sand Bird returns in Super Mario Galaxy 2's Slipsand Galaxy.
    • New Super Mario Bros. Wii:
      • One level in World 5 involves Mario navigating across a flock of large flying manta rays going in his direction.
      • One level in World 7 has Mario crossing a swarm of flying beetles smaller than the rays (but still very large for bugs) going in the opposite direction from him.
    • Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Maker 2 allow you to choose the Airship theme for any course you'd like. The staff created Airship themes for games that didn't have them, like Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario World, though selecting Super Mario 3D World yields a Circus of Fear theme instead. In Maker 2, when these levels are played in night mode, all enemies and items behave as if they were underwater (for example, Goombas and Cheep Cheeps swim in the air), but Mario and his friends move normally.
    • Yoshi's Island:
      • Yoshi's Story: A good portion of one level takes place on the back of a flying dragon.
      • Yoshi's Crafted World: "Altitude Adjustment" involves Yoshi standing on a flying plane (which, given the game's style, is made from a paper towel tube), whilst collecting coins, battling Shy Guys (including those on enemy planes) and popping balloons. The plane will fly lower if Yoshi stands on the front end, and it will fly higher if he stands on the rear end.
  • Theta vs Pi 7: A couple of the levels require you to fly through the sky in what are described as “egg cups”. You have no control over them and can’t jump out until they start to fall away at which point you have to jump quickly to the next one.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose!: The Buster's Sky-jinks level is built around this. First, Buster is sent up into the air on a giant balloon provided by Calamity. Then, he has to hop across some bubbles, provided by Hamton in a plane, as well as some more balloons. Eventually, he reaches a blimp which appears to be promoting the show the game is based upon, which he must ride while attacking some buzzards. The blimp eventually pops and Concord Condor airlifts Buster to the pinball temple, where the script for the next episode (leading to the final level) is. This level is entirely omitted from the "Children" mode.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Final Fantasy likes to pit you against bosses while you're flying your Global Airship:
    • Encountering Deathgaze in Final Fantasy VI will engage fight with it on top of your airship.
    • Final Fantasy X has two Boss Fights (or Boss Fight Rush in one case) that takes place on Fahrenheit's hull. Giving orders to pull back with ship or close to the boss is one of gimmicks in those fights.
    • Final Fantasy XII has one mark that has to be fought during travel via an airship as well.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Much of the fight against Bismarck takes place on a floating island stuffed with aether crystals — that the protagonists constructed, simply to lure the whale-like primal in for a seemingly easy snack. A part of the fight also has the party leap onto Bismarck itself, after reeling it in with a few harpoons.
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening: The endgame chapter takes place in the sky. Specifically, the level is the Big Bad, the Fell Dragon Grima. Not just the boss; the entire level. He's so insanely massive that the stage fits atop his back mid-flight.
  • Mass Effect 2: The DLC Lair of the Shadow Broker culminates on the eponymous Shadow Broker base, which is a massive airship flying in the perpetual thunderstorm, hidden from the rest of the galaxy.
  • Valkyrie Profile: The Celestial Castle includes a mandatory portion that consists of tiny platforms with nothing below them, and booby-trapped treasure chests that explode and can knock you off the edges. The game has a time limit, and every time you fall off you end up outside, and have to spend more time going in again.


    Survival Horror 
  • Resident Evil:
    • Resident Evil – Code: Veronica: Claire and Steve have to fight a Tyrant in the cargo plane they used to escape Rockfort island.
    • Resident Evil 6: Sherry and Jake have to deal with Ustanak on the BSAA transport helicopter they're traveling on. Leon and Helena have to contend with a C-Virus outbreak on the plane they were using to travel to China, all the while trying to keep the plane flying in the air.

    Turn-Based Tactics 
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown:
    • The Temple Ship is boarded mid-flight. At later stages in it, you have a clear view of the ocean roiling calmly below.
    • The final mission of the "Slingshot" DLC is "Gangplank", where you board a full-scale Battleship mid-flight. The main objective is to disable the capacitors so it can be landed safely.


Video Example(s):


Airship Sigwada

Airship Sigwada begins with the heroines boarding the missiles to get on board the titular airship of Corazon Tea and steal back Pangu, with the remainder of the level being set on her flying vessels.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / LevelsTakeFlight

Media sources: