Multiplayer gaming is bigger than it ever was and the level designs that drive it are getting better and better. Over the years, certain multiplayer games have reshaped the genre. They all have one thing in common – great level designs. In this list, I compile the most significant multiplayer maps of our time. These maps are what made their games great and they’ve all changed the way future levels were designed. Although the list wasn’t limited to the FPS genre, it is dominated by them. This is because no other genre relies more upon its level design than the first person shooter.
#10 Super Smash Bros: Hyrule Castle
Super Smash Bros brought together Nintendo’s most popular characters and pitted them against one another in a massive crossover battle. The game, originally released for the Nintendo 64, was immensely popular and sold nearly 5 million copies worldwide. This success wasn’t just due to the characters it featured, but also its locales. The most impressive of these was Hyrule Castle. Taken straight out of Ocarina of Time, Hyrule Castle was one of the largest and best balanced maps in the game. It was also the most nostalgic of all the game’s maps, which made it a hit amongst eager Zelda fans awaiting a sequel. The extra nostalgia Hyrule Castle brought to Super Smash Bros helped make it one of the best fighting games ever made.
#9 Doom: E1M1 – Hangar
Where would the FPS genre be without Doom? In 1993, id Software introduced deathmatch to the masses with Doom. Although it was designed as a single player level, E1M1 was the best packaged map to play multiplayer. Loaded with secrets and featuring one the most memorable soundtracks in any level ever made, no list would be complete without it.
#8 Quake: Q1DM6 – The Dark Zone
Expanding on Doom’s success, id Software released Quake in 1996. Quake redefined the Deathmatch genre as we know it. Featuring internet play and refined multiplayer level design, Quake blew Doom away in regards to its multiplayer experience. The Dark Zone was an action packed map that did an excellent job keeping you guessing where your enemy would come from. It featured a well placed teleporter, which was one of the firsts of it time. Not many gamers could forget the first time they were telefragged in Q1DM6 and the map played a major role in popularizing the Deathmatch genre.
#7 Unreal Tournament: Deck 16 ][
By the late 90’s, id Software began to see its first real competition in the FPS market. One of the first of them was Unreal Tournament. It featured awesome weapons that had secondary fire and great level design that breathed fresh air into the genre. One of the maps that made this game so great was Deck 16. The map featured an excellent blend of long corridors with open areas, and an unforgiving slime pit at the bottom. Deck 16 would be re-released numerous times in Epic Games’ iterations of the series, and has aged well over the years.
#6 Unreal Tournament: Morpheus
Deck 16 wasn’t the only ace up Epic Games’ and Digital Extremes’ sleeve. Morpheus was a unique low gravity map that featured incredible visuals. The map was very well balanced, even with the deadly redeemer located on the top of the map. The low gravity, which allowed players to jump much higher than they normally would, also lent itself well to other game modes. One of which was instagib, which was a new game mode that Unreal Tournament brought to first person shooters. Notably, Morpheus is the only low gravity map on this list, and is certainly the best map ever to feature it.
#5 Quake 2: Q2DM1 – The Edge
In 1997, a little over a year after the original Quake release, id Software released its sequel – Quake 2. Featuring loads of enhancements over its predecessor, like improved graphics, Quake 2 was significant upgrade to the series. It also brought new and more complex maps to its multiplayer mode. The best of these was The Edge. The premise behind this level was to place a camping area at the very top of the map. But when players were looking down from “the edge”, they were left extremely vulnerable from behind. This level design made for awesome gameplay, in what I call the best Quake map ever made.
#4 Unreal Tournament: Facing Worlds
As discussed earlier, Unreal Tournament featured some extremely well made maps. Deck 16 and Morpheus were both some of the best level designs ever made, but they weren’t the only great maps to be featured in this classic FPS. Facing Worlds was the level that defined CTF maps and certainly inspired many to come. At the time, the map was visually stunning. Looking down to see Earth below was incredible, and was something Epic Games continues to use in their level designs until this day. The map’s small bases made it so that after spawning, players would be out in the action within seconds. This made for action packed matches. There also were excellent sniper positions at the top of the bases, which mixed things up a bit. These two design elements combined to create excellent map, and you won’t find a more action packed CTF map out there.
#3 Halo: Combat Evolved – Blood Gulch
If you’ve played Halo: Combat Evolved multiplayer, then you’ve played Blood Gulch. At first, it seemed that Bungie overlooked multiplayer modes when they released Halo in 2001. Most of the maps were mediocre, but then there was Blood Gulch. This map was certainly inspired by Unreal Tournament’s Facing Worlds, but with one major addition: vehicles. One of Halo’s best features was its vehicle combat. Before Bungie created Halo, no one had done this right. No other game could offer anything that compared to hopping into a Warthog with a teammate and “owning” the opposition. Blood Gulch was the perfect playground for Halo’s vehicles, and was easily the game’s best map. The map was very large and open, but the hills provided players on foot enough cover to balance the map out. This map deserves a place above Facing Worlds, because it single-handedly defined Halo’s multiplayer experience.
#2 Goldeneye 007: Facility
Thanks to its unforgettable bathroom antics, Goldeneye’s Facility will always remain in our memories. Rare’s blockbuster hit had a few fun maps to play, but the Facility was the best. Even though it had a lot of dead ends, which is a typical level design no-no, the Facility provided countless hours of fun. Gameplay could be spiced up by turning on Proximity Mines or switching to the Golden Gun modes. Goldeneye’s Facility played a huge role in making multiplayer first person shooters successful on consoles, and it paved the way for future console shooters like Halo.
#1 Counter-Strike: de_dust2
Counter-Strike is arguably the most popular game on this list, and rightfully so. It was one of the first successful tactical first person shooters and it’s the most widely played mentioned on this list. Balance and teamwork play a critical role in Counter-Strike and no other map is as balanced as de_dust2. When it comes to balance, its immensely popular counterpart de_dusk can’t compare. The map features the perfect blend of close-quarters combat and sniper positions. Thanks to its balance, teams don’t have to be as organized and an uneven amount of players doesn’t make a drastic difference. It’s the perfect pick-up map and thanks to its excellent design. No wonder it’s the most played map on Counter-Strike servers.