Video games take place in a wide variety of different environments. As time has gone by, some of these environments have evolved into their own tropes. Some are more common to one genre than others, while others are almost universal, taking different forms depending on the genre. These almost always have their own style of music to match the level theme.
See also Law of Cartographical Elegance, Sorting Algorithm of Threatening Geography and Video Game Geography. Not to be confused with the kind of settings which alter some aspects of the game, Role-Playing Game 'Verse and RPG Mechanics 'Verse which are settings that run on video game logic.
Always Video Game LevelsThese settings are specifically focused on describing types of video game settings, and aren't generally applicable to other media outside of the context of discussing or portraying games.
- Absurdly Short Level: An incredibly short level that takes a tiny amount of time to complete.
- All the Worlds Are a Stage: When the game's levels come Back for the Finale.
- Alternate World Map: More than one map, more than one world.
- Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: Lookit all the pretty stars and streams and blinky things!
- Art Course: An art-themed level. "Art" here usually meaning paintings and drawings.
- Athletic Arena Level: A sports-themed level. Expect to see hockey players kicking baseballs at you in the middle of a basketball stadium.
- Automatic Level: A level that plays itself.
- Auto-Scrolling Level: A level in a Platform Game where the screen keeps moving and you must keep up with it. Getting squished by the side of the screen could be fatal.
- Band Land: A music-themed area. Groovy!
- Big Boo's Haunt: The video game equivalent of a Halloween Episode; A haunted level filled with ghosts, undead and other creepy or macabre elements. It's spooooooky!
- Blackout Basement: A level where the lighting is inconsistent or flashes on and off.
- Bleak Level: A level where everything's scarier or more depressing.
- Bonus Dungeon: An optional level where the enemies and challenges are typically harder than The Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
- Bonus Level of Heaven: A level where you get to beat up angels and possibly God.
- Bonus Stage: An optional, often hidden level with lots of Power Ups or treasure, sometimes involving a Mini-Game.
- Boss Corridor: A usually empty corridor that precedes a boss battle.
- Boss-Only Level: A level that consists entirely of a Boss Battle.
- Breather Level: An easy level between two hard ones.
- Brutal Bonus Level: An incredibly difficult "extra" level not required to beat the game proper.
- Bubblegloop Swamp: The swamp level. Soggy.
- Casino Park: A casino-themed area. 99% of the time Las Vegas-themed. Try not to get too addicted with the slot machines or card games if you value your money.
- Chokepoint Geography: A dungeon that must be passed through in order to continue on to other areas.
- Dead-End Room: Once you enter, you can never leave.
- Death Mountain: A stage that takes place on a high, rocky mountain. Watch for falling rocks.
- Disc-One Final Dungeon: A dungeon that pretends to be the last one in the game, but is nowhere near it.
- Disconnected Side Area: A side area that looks like it's part of the current level, but actually can't be reached except via a long way around.
- Down the Drain: Amazing how little poop you see in these large, airy underground spaces.
- Drought Level of Doom: A level that's devoid of powerups or equipment, making you ration your loot.
- Dungeon Shop: An item shop subsisting somewhere in the dungeon.
- Dungeon Town: For when the monsters bring the fight to your front door instead of conveniently waiting for you to enter the world map.
- Eternal Engine: A vast factory complex or machine that can fill up a building, a city or even a whole planet.
- Final Boss, New Dimension: You have to enter a different "dimension" to fight the final boss.
- Final Dungeon Preview: The player pays an early visit to what will be the game's final level.
- First Town: The city you start out in, a fairly large and central area.
- Forest of Perpetual Autumn: An autumn forest in an otherwise non-autumn game world.
- Four-Seasons Level: A level that has multiple versions of itself, each one themed after a different season.
- Funnel Cloud Journey: A level inside a tornado. It's a miracle you don't get dizzy here.
- Game Level: Hopefully when you finish one, your princess is not in another castle.
- Gangplank Galleon: A pirate-themed area. ARR ME MATEYS!
- Gateless Ghetto: Only a specific portion of a city is explorable.
- Gimmick Level: A level where some aspect of the game is radically changed, but the overall gameplay/genre stays the same.
- Graffiti Town: An urban area with chain-link fences and lots of colorful graffiti.
- Green Hill Zone: A calm, colorful (usually green), vibrant grassland or woodland, that may have tropical elements; often the first level.
- Gusty Glade: A level with high winds that blow you around to make things more difficult.
- Hailfire Peaks: A level that has two heavily-contrasting settings in one, e.g. half of the level is full of ice, the other half is full of fire.
- Home Stage: A level associated with a specific character.
- Hornet Hole: A level filled that takes place inside of a beehive like setting. OH GOD THE BEES!
- Hub City: The biggest city in the game, the center of everything.
- Hub Level: The space between the levels, sometimes as elaborate as a level itself.
- Hub Under Attack: The Hub Level is attacked during the storyline.
- It's All Upstairs From Here: At some point in your quest, you will have to climb a tower.
- Joke Level: A level that feels out of place from the entire rest of the game, and is usually silly. Often a bonus/secret level.
- Jungle Japes: Tropical jungles. Flora and fauna are most probably dangerous.
- Level Ate: A food-themed area. Yum!
- Lethal Lava Land: A stage taking place in a volcano or factory with red-hot metal involved. Convection? What's that?
- Level in Reverse: It's like that one level from before, just the other way around.
- Level in the Clouds: A level which takes place in the sky. Didn't you know clouds are solid, beanstalks can reach the stratosphere, and all sorts of big objects can float around? Anyone can walk on them as well!
- Levels Take Flight: A level taking place in the air on a flying vehicle, animal, etc.
- Locomotive Level: A level inside a train. Toot-toot!
- The Lost Woods: A level in the depths of the forest.
- Macro Zone: An area where either everything else is giant or you are tiny.
- Marathon Level: An incredibly long level that takes a huge amount of time to complete.
- Metropolis Level: A level taking place inside a huge bustling city. In games with modern or sci-fi settings, this is usually the first level. Expect to run across streets filled with crazy traffic, scale tall skyscrapers, and jump from building-to-building. Hope you're not afraid of heights.
- Mini-Dungeon: A dungeon or stage whose scope and content is smaller than those of a full-fledged one.
- Minecart Madness: You ride a minecart and have to avoid obstacles.
- Minigame Zone: An area in a video game that is host to a number of minigames where the player can win items or cash.
- Minus World: Areas of the map a player can reach only by glitching or hacking.
- Mirror World: A level in a video game which is an alternate version of an area you were in earlier.
- Monster Arena: An arena, often in the first or second big city visitable, where the party can fight slightly more advanced monsters at their leisure.
- Mook-Themed Level: Mooks are the main attraction of this level.
- Museum Level: A level in a video game which features things like enemies, concept art, and prototypes in a museum or lab set.
- Noob Cave: The first place where players actually begin Dungeon Crawling.
- No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom: Level architecture that forces the player down a linear path.
- Nostalgia Level: A level or area is designed in such a way as to evoke memories of a previous game in the series.
- One-Time Dungeon: A location that can't be revisited.
- The Overworld: A location of varying complexity used in nonlinear games as a go between for other points of interest.
- Palmtree Panic: A level on the beach. Sit back and relax, as long as you don't get killed by the falling coconuts.
- Peninsula of Power Leveling: A location with powerful enemies which lets you speed through Level Grinding.
- Pinball Zone: A level that revolves around pinball, with all the bumpers, and flippers, and tilts and whatever.
- Planet Heck: A level filled with fire, brimstone and creepy bad men with pitchforks.
- Player Headquarters: A location in a video game that serves as a base of operations.
- Post-Final Level: A Boss-Only Level after The Very Definitely Final Dungeon that only contains the Final Boss and maybe a few other things like healing items.
- Prehistoria: Oogah! This place with cavemen! And dinosaurs!
- Prison Level: A level where you must break out of or spring someone from a prison. Expect it to be a Stealth-Based Mission or a No-Gear Level.
- Randomly Generated Levels: When the computer generates a random map, dungeon, or level.
- Remilitarized Zone: A level that suddenly is full of artillery, bombs, and fighter planes.
- Remixed Level: A level you've already been to, but which has changed in some way.
- Rise to the Challenge: A vertical Advancing Wall of Doom.
- Roaring Rapids: A watery level where you get dragged along fast.
- Scenic-Tour Level: Any form of scene setting in a game that allows you to explore a very limited area of the setting while getting a tour of the level.
- School Setting Simulation: Levels taking place in schools. Learning stuff may or may not be required to ace these tests.
- Secret Level: An optional level that isn't required to finish the game, and often has some gimmick involved with its design.
- Shifting Sand Land: The desert stage, where it's flat and immense and the heat is intense…
- Ship Level: Sneak or blow your way through the narrow corridors and tight spaces of a ship, which may or may not still be floating by the time you're done with it.
- Slide Level: A level where you slide down a slope and avoid obstacles while trying to get to the end.
- Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The ice level. Less friction, more penguins.
- Space Compression: The solution to dealing with limited rendering tech and potential player boredom with extremely large game worlds.
- Space Zone: The space level. Needless to say, does not follow actual laws of physics.
- Studiopolis: Lights, camera, action! A level that takes place in a Hollywood-like setting.
- Tide Level: The environment rises and falls throughout the level.
- Toy Time: A toy themed level with colorful architecture evocative of childishness.
- Tree Trunk Tour: Explore the insides and outsides of that gigantic, majestic, likely-deadly tree over there.
- Underground Level: Lots of rocks and stalactites and stalagmites and critters with glowy eyes.
- Under the Sea: And of course we never run out of air, because that would ruin the fun.
- The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: OK, given how far you're into the game, and the vibe you're getting from that skull-shaped fortress… yep, this is the final dungeon.
- Womb Level: You're inside a big monster. Watch out for the spleen—it spits acid.
Sometimes Video Game LevelsThese are more general settings that can and do appear in multiple kinds of media, but which are also popular choices as video game areas.
- Abandoned Laboratory: The deeper you go into the lab, the more likely you will find the horrors of unethical science.
- Abandoned Mine: Nothing but old, yet still-functioning mining equipment here. Maybe they shouldn't have Dug Too Deep…
- Amusement Park: A carnival-themed level featuring typical attractions such as the roller coaster, the ferris wheel, and the Hall of Mirrors.
- Amusement Park of Doom: The aforementioned level, but since the villain has booby-trapped it or built it for nefarious purposes, everything is trying to kill you the moment you try them out.
- Asteroid Thicket: The typical asteroid field that requires shooting your way through to survive.
- Beanstalk Parody: A level that takes place on a giant beanstalk. This may often involve fighting giant insects and walking across clouds, and you might even have to fight a giant at the end of the stage.
- Beware the Skull Base: A dungeon level that takes place in a skull themed base or fortress.
- Big Fancy Castle: A level that takes place inside a castle. Hopefully the princess is actually in this one.
- Build Like an Egyptian: A big, old, sandy pyramid, commonly found in the Shifting Sand Land. If the devs are feeling particularly creative, you might get a big, old, sandy sphinx instead, complete with a puzzle or riddle that you have to solve in order to get the treasure inside.
- Cave Behind the Falls: Where are the secrets hiding? Look behind the waterfall. Can be a small feature in another level type or a level in and of itself.
- Circus of Fear: Scary music, freaky performers, killer clowns… the circus has come to town indeed. Expect gratuitous platforming sequences of Tightrope Walking and trapeze swinging.
- Clockworks Area: An industrial area filled with moving gears and wheels.
- Construction Zone Calamity: A level that takes place in a construction site. What is being built here exactly, and is it safe at all? It's not their concern. Just watch for reckless wrecking balls, falling bricks and rivets, swinging girder platforms, pounding hydraulic weights, and gratuitous pits of wet cement.
- Container Maze: A labyrinth of crates or containers in a warehouse, storeroom or dock.
- Crystal Landscape: A setting filled with or completely composed of crystals, gemstones and jewels.
- Cyberspace: The internet as a physical level.
- Decade Dissonance: Two cities side-by-side which are complete opposites.
- Derelict Graveyard: A place with a lot of burned-out, ruined, rusty, or generally abandoned ships or trains.
- Doomed Hometown: The hero's home town is most probably going to be destroyed in a fiery blaze, generally by the Big Bad.
- Down in the Dumps: A level that's based on a landfill or a scrapyard.
- Elaborate Underground Base: Underground is the best place for villains to hide.
- Elevator Action Sequence: When you find yourself on a big, spacious elevator, rest assured you're going to have an extended multi-combatant smackdown.
- Floating Continent: An otherwise-normal place that's floating in the sky, often for no adequately-explored reason.
- Haunted Castle: When the Big Boo's Haunt is a Big Fancy Castle.
- The Hedge of Thorns: The pricklier relative of The Lost Woods and Jungle Japes, where the player must keep from getting stabbed by the massive spikes in the maze of pokey plants.
- Ice Palace: A big, shiny palace made out of ice. Look out for ice spikes.
- Island of Mystery: An island containing much strangeness.
- Lighthouse Point: Spooky haunted lighthouse.
- Lumber Mill Mayhem: Any place that contains gratuitous buzzsaws is dangerous enough to be level worthy.
- The Maze: You will get lost here.
- Medieval European Fantasy: Fantasy stories inevitably take place in a pastiche of medieval Europe.
- Monster Town: Baby monsters have to grow up somewhere, after all.
- Nice Day, Deadly Night: A level gets more dangerous at night.
- Nightmarish Factory: The only thing this factory produces is fear and horrors beyond your imagination.
- North Is Cold, South Is Hot: When the north of the world map has all the cold regions, and the south has all the warm regions.
- Obstacle Ski Course: There is no such thing as a leisurely trip down the slopes.
- Ominous Floating Castle: A villainous base floating in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
- The Outside World: Typically the vast explorable world beyond the tutorial, starting town or setting; narratively can be outside a place of confinement or seclusion.
- Patchwork Map: When the game world is considerably smaller than it would be in real life, you have to pack in a bunch of different biomes in a very small area.
- Pipe Maze: Not only do you have to get to the end… you'll probably be soaked by the time you're done.
- Polluted Wasteland: An extremely polluted area filled with deadly waste and poisonous gas, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood Toxic, Inc.
- Portal Endpoint Resemblance: The area around a portal will often look like the target destination, typically to give players a subtle "preview" of an upcoming level.
- Port Town: It's a city that's got boats to get on.
- Recurring Location: A place which is not the main hub or boss area in a series, but which appears over and over again within the same series.
- Ribcage Ridge: A level that takes place in the skeletal remains of a large creature.
- Ruins for Ruins' Sake: Okay, they're ruins… but why are they there? What are they ruins of?
- Shark Tunnel: A transparent underwater tunnel. Common in Racing Games.
- Sinister Subway: It's a subway, but haunted and spooky and dripping with stale water and monster-infested.
- Skate Heaven Is a Place on Earth: You can skate anywhere, everywhere, and in fact must do so.
- Space Station: A level that takes place in a space station. May involve fighting aliens and/or robots, as well as a Gravity Screw.
- Techno Wreckage: A dilapidated high tech zone.
- Temple of Doom: An ancient temple or city, complete with ancient traps designed to anciently behead or disembowel you.
- Tomorrowland: An inexplicably technologically-advanced area in a place where it obviously doesn't belong.
- Tree Top Town: A level set in the tree tops of a forest, featuring treehouses, vine-swinging and, of course, Bottomless Pits.
- Trip to the Moon Plot: The mysterious setting of the moon, combined with low gravity opens up many possibilities for level design. Taking you to the moon, or even within the moon itself.
- Tropical Island Adventure: A tropical island. Usually an assortment of jungle, beach and temple levels, with an obligatory volcano in the middle.
- Ultimate Forge: The only place to make the Sword of Ultimate Plot Advancement, invariably somewhere very difficult to reach.
- Urban Ruins: A city fallen into ruin.
- Underwater Base: A base of operations kept on the sea floor. Climate-controlled, so there is no need to worry about drowning or decompression, but very likely the villain and his minions are stationed here, which brings its own set of problems.
- Underwater Ruins: Majestic, decrepit ruins of something or other surviving under the sea for millenia. Probably with fully-functioning treasure chests.
- Wackyland: An especially whimsical, surreal, or nonsensical area in a video game.
- Where It All Began: The location where the game ends and the location where the game begins are one and the same.
- The Wild West: In the good ol' frontier, alongside the Wutai of Ninjas and Gangplank Galleon of Pirates
- Windmill Scenery: When the Green Hill Zone features windmills as part of its geography.
- Wutai: Obligatory East Asian pagoda-filled analogue. Expect to see ninjas, samurai, kung fu masters, geisha, and/or shishi-odoshi.