Some people love them, some people hate them, but regardless of what you think of them, underwater levels and video games have a history. They’ve built up a reputation as being the continual exception to most game’s pre-established rules, often shaking up the fundamental gameplay rules by either adding a breath meter or affecting speed.

Notoriously difficult to pull off but infinitely rewarding if executed correctly, these are the best underwater levels who managed to leave us breathless.

TLOZ: Ocarina of Time – The Water temple

Ah Ocarina of Time’s infamous Water temple, the bane of most player’s lives, but also the product of the N64 era. Despite what you might think, compared to such temples as The Great Deku Tree and The Forest Temple present in Ocarina of Time, the game’s aquatic outing is one of the most expertly and meticulously thought-out dungeon present in any Zelda adventure. Many throw shade to it simply due to the awkward iron boot switching necessity – a drawback handily addressed in the 3DS re-release.

The area is admittedly daunting in terms of size and challenge, but once conquering the central tower, surrounding rooms, as well as where and when to change water levels, this makes Ocarina of Time’s Water temple also the most rewarding. Majora’s Mask Great Bay Temple is good, trust us this is better.

Super Metroid – Maridia

As a game, Super Metroid is unnervingly isolated and claustrophobic at the best of times, a feeling that’s only amplified exponentially when plunging into the depths of Maridia. Not only is Samus’ primary method of movement hindered by the underwater nature of its landscape, but Maridia also acts as the backdrop for the boss battle against the serpent-like Draygon. As if these beauties weren’t tough enough!

What makes Maridia one of the best underwater levels is the simple fact of how multi-faceted the entire area is, making for a nice change of pace not only to Samus’ movement but the entire game as a whole. Super Metroid is all about placing you in unknown spaces and catching you off guard, Maridia delivers on both these promises and more.

Mega Man 2 – Bubble Man’s Stage

The first of many water-themed robot masters who would soon follow suit and pit Mega Man against various underwater obstacles, Bubble Man’s stage in Mega Man 2 featured various robotic takes on familiar sea creatures such as crabs, jellyfish, and more.  This underwater stage was a rare example of one that wouldn’t hinder your movement, but heighten it, letting everyone’s favourite blue bomber jump a lot higher. Just don’t go in expecting the stage to be any easier.

Shadow of the Colossus – Seventh Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus is full of memorable encounters with various sky-reaching beasts and monsters, but at the height of the PS2 era, it was the game’s water sections that had a lot of us talking. Brushing up against the seventh colossus doesn’t see you “submerged” in the water per say, but falling into the depths amongst this eel-like creature was enough to keep you on your toes.

If you are grabbed and end up slipping under, this colossus isn’t afraid to keep dragging you down into the depths until you can work your way back to gaining the upper hand. We won’t give away the solution here due to the recently announced remastered version, but suffice to say we can’t wait to replay this set piece in dazzling 4K on the PS4.

Abzu – The whole of Abzu

Okay, so admittedly we’re cheating here a little bit, with Giant Squid Studios’ first game Abzu being ostensibly one big underwater level, but it’s extremely difficult to nail down just one section. As an unnamed and mysterious diver, Abzu very much takes an exploratory and minimalist leaf out of Journey’s book, never giving any context as to why you’re exploring such submerged beauty.

Abzu’s adventure will have you rubbing up against many a sea creature as you explore it, often being led by a friendly great white shark to set you back on track should you ever get lost in the game’s vast ocean. Very area and luscious-filled section simply leaves an impressionable impact, making Abzu’s underwater nature one of the most exquisite in any game.