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Brad Shoemaker is a crystal lizard fiend.

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Riding the Rails: Games with Train Stages

Trains. Nowadays they're a staple in video games like sewers or castles. If you end up finding one it'll probably be in motion. You might be riding it or trying to blow it the hell up. I've found that train levels are mostly a tricky affair. They might have you wasting a small army in cramped cooridors. Or maybe it has loads of tricky jumps. It might even have you hit a bunch of switches to open the lock and change the tracks. However a tough train level doesn't affect my love for trains or riding the rails in general. Trains are awesome and so are the levels based around them (for the most part). This list is all about the games I've played with prominent train stages.

It might go without saying that this list might contain spoilers. So if I list a game you haven't beaten, you might want to skip it.

List items

  • If you choose your route in Star Fox 64 and end up on a planet called MacBeth, you'll be driving a tank and attempt to blow up a supply train. Now, I don't know why the planet is named after a Shakespeare play, but I know that the train driver loves to talk. He looks like a gorilla and loves to say "Step on the gas!", "Detatch the rear vehicle!", and "I don't think they're taking me seriously!" You can shut him up in fantastic style by shooting eight annoyingly placed switches and changing the track. If you're successful, you'll send him careening into a supply base . . . followed by a massive explosion (even by Star Fox 64 standards). Massive explosions and high impact railroad demolition make MacBeth a favorite of mine.

  • Mega Man 5 has a robot master named Charge Man. His design is based off old steam engines (cow catcher and everything) but that doesn't make him look any less goofy. The stage comes off rather surreal when you realize that you're catching a ride on a train in order to fight and defeat a guy that looks like a train. Between that, the robot chickens, and the sweet music, the whole situation is kind of funny if you think about it for too long. Depending on your sense of humor it gets even better when you actually beat Charge Man and get his power: the slide kick. What that has to do with trains and charging . . . I don't really know.

  • The back half of the second stage has Buster Bunny riding a train in pursuit of Montana Max with plenty of stolen loot. For a second level, the train part was brutal. You have to do a ton of timed dashes and careful jumps to make it from one detatched train car to the other. You'll even have to platform across flying wood to get to the front of the train where you're rewarded with a psuedo boss fight- destroying the train engine entirely. However once you realize that the train is totally out of control, you have to escape on a handcar with some button mashing. At least the music was pretty sweet. Watch out for that jerk with the trick walking cane. Asshole.

  • GoldenEye 007 decided that riding Trevelyan's train needed to be longer and include more shootouts behind packing crates. Absolutely brutal on 00 Agent, you'll have to spin around corners, abuse sliding doors and clean out every single cabin, car, and bathroom in order to make it to the front of the train. There you had to ice Ourumov (maybe shoot Xena to buy some time) and then cut your way to safety . . . I mean, outside the train where you can be gunned down by a few dudes hiding in the shadow of the tunnel. A tank would have solved all these problems with less trouble I think.

  • The Khallos Express! Groovy! Right dudes? No? What? More shootouts in a narrow train where every tick of health counts? Well, what do you expect? TimeSplitters has its origins in the team that made GoldenEye possible. Leave it to them to include more spies, trapped timed sections, and submachine guns as you fight your way from the back to the front. You'll also shoot down some helicopters in a paradox inducing time travel sequence. This definately fell on the side of crappy train levels and only the music saves it from total damnation.

  • This is definitely stretching the criteria of the "train stage" but toward the end of Body Harvest you decide to hit up Siberia for your space bug killing needs. After running a combine over some zombies you can get in a train and ride the rails down to a gas factory. It was definately a high point of the first zone if only because you were driving a train with machine guns that could waste any crazy bug in your way. True, you can only go foward and backwards since you're on rails . . . but a train with machine guns! Pretty sweet, I'd say. Not to mention not a whole lot of things could kill you at that point.

  • If you played Shadows of the Empire long enough to get to Ord Mantell, you could check out Dash Rendar riding the hovertrain on his way to scrap IG-88. In some respects it feels like everything is trying to kill you in this stage. Robots, guys on trains, the train itself, random turns. Making things even more complicated is finding challenge points before the train you're supposed to jump onto dissappears or takes the wrong turn. Practically the only thing going for you is the end of the stage where you can have a shoot-out with the badass IG-88. Who will probably kill you a few times depending on what difficulty you're playing. Sure, it's a train of the future- or long ago- or whatever. Yeah. It's still a train.

  • Trains and Gears of War do not mix. From a Berzerker on the caboose to Reavers in the sky to goddamn RAAM . . . there isn't a whole lot of nice things to say about Train Wreck. Sure, you get to see it crash but does that really make up for playing this stage on Insane? Does playing the turret section over and over again only to be ripped apart by some Locust general make for anything but frustrating game play? "Aw, come on!"

  • The Excess Express from Thousand-Year Door has you riding in style for the greater part of chapter 6. You solve mysteries, chat it up with other passengers and get waylaid at an abandoned train station. Most of your fighting takes place off the rails, but the boss is on the train and there's someone who will kill you if you read his diary. Trains are serious business, even when Mario is involved.

  • It's 1885 and you're a time travelling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. You must be playing the "Bury My Shell at Wounded Knee" stage. Now, this train stage doesn't make huge use out of the fact you're riding a train other than motion in the background as you force-feed justice to Foot Soldiers but hey- you are riding a train. You have explosive barrels, boxcars, and a cajun crocodile named Leatherhead to deal with. But other than that this stage will fly by as a western stage that doesn't make a whole lot of use out of the western genre except that you're on a train. They used a ton of those back then, you know.

  • Speaking of Westerns and trains, Sunset Riders has you ride one in your pursuit of some dude named El Greco. It has crates, explosions, passenger cars, explosions, crates, and a horde of black hats who wouldn't mind putting you six feet under. Things come to a head at the train engine (as they normally do when video game logic is involved). El Greco takes off his sweet poncho and pulls out a shield and whip. I don't know why someone would bring a whip to a gunfight but this is an SNES game and the guy is a boss so I'm sure he has his reasons.

  • Gunstar Heroes has a mine stage where you ride carts really fast and defy gravity as you jump from the floor to the ceiling and the sides of vertical shafts. Throughout the level you chase a train that happens to get in the way and blow it up until dozens of minions and an M. Bison look-a-like are all riding the engine in a desperate attempt to stay alive. It's about as close as you can come to a train stage in this game even though it's more like mine carts and your actual target is Seven Force- one of the coolest bosses ever. I'm counting it, if just to mention Seven Force. It transforms into a gun and a crab and a soldier and a lion and pinwheel and a . . .

  • RE:0 gets a train section as the opening chapter. Given the kind of places Resident Evil as a series has gone in the past, I was curious how they would handle a cramped zombie infested train. Well, they added leech men, hookshots, emergency brakes and a giant goddamn scorpion to make it the kind of thing that would fit right in. Not a single train cliche is missed from running along the top of the cars to a desperate scramble to put on the brakes only to find that it can't be stopped. After the train, things are business as usual with a crazy mansion/training ground of sorts.

  • Given what a big part a train was in the finale of the movie, of course the video game tie in has to make the most of it. You'll be in the train doing your best GoldenEye impression going from car to car checking every cabin and then slapping on a nifty disguise. Then you'll be on top of the train firing rockets at helicopters instead of re-enacting "red light, green light" like you should somehow. You use explosive gum for pretty much everything in the game except the one moment it was actually used in the movie. At least when you beat the game, you can go to a party where all the developers are represented and try to kill them.

  • Valkyria Chronicles has a train stage that is more like a train boss. Chapter 10's Liberation of Fouzen has you going after an Imperial Weapons Train. It's equipped with a huge artillery cannon and isn't shy about using it. You have to fight your way through a canyon filled with hostiles while the train rolls back and forth on a bridge in a perfect position to shell the hell out of you. While you never go after the train directly, blowing up the bridge and sending it into the canyon is pretty satisfying. After all, trains crashing when the bridge is out is a convention of any great crash.

  • Uncharted 2 has one of the greatest train stages I have ever played. As Nathan Drake you'll go from caboose to the front or die trying climbing in and out of cars Indiana Jones style. It makes great use of a train stage with tunnels, angry helicopters, releasing logs, vehicles on flatbeds, and more. And or course, it follows up with the only possible outcome, a train crash. Excellent.

  • In Bad Dudes, you're out to save the president from a bunch of ninjas. Of course there's a train stage where you can fight guys who set themselves on fire and a guy with a scythe chain. Of course, you really only fight along the top of the cars. Still a train stage.

  • It's more like train missions, but as a wild west game you have plenty of fun hijacking and defending civilian and military trains. The only problem is that you can never do it without the story letting you do it. No robbing trains or taking control of one in Free Roam. Bummer.

  • As I was reminded recently, Mario Kart has a race track called Kalimari Desert with a train that goes round and round. The whole scene would fit in any Wild West movie. I don't know what it has to do with squids but hey, it has a train. Unsurprisingly there are two crossings you have to race through to beat the train and avoid crashing. If you have a Star you can plow right through no problem. Or take a shortcut through a tunnel to get crazy short lap times.

  • Syndicate has a train stage in the form of a hijacked subway train after agents Miles Kilo and Jules Merit shoot up a rival syndicate, a shopping mall, and a night club. Unlike most train stages, it's not all that difficult and even hands the player a minigun to shoot down future hover bikes and a very durable gunship. Too bad about all those people on the train though.

  • While not part of the main story, there is a challenge map where you fight thugs 2D style on a moving train. Black Mask, one armed hammer men, and plenty of prisoners are there to help you jump the mortal coil.

  • Considering Wild Guns is a mash up of wild west style and random robots, of course they would have a stage where it's train versus train involving Mad Max buggies, horses, and flying jet pack men. You also destroy a hover train while you're at it.