Fantasia - Night on Bald Mountain

The View From the Top: 5 Great Gaming Mountains

David O’Reilly’s Mountain is the minimalist game that launched a thousand think pieces. Earlier this week, it finally made its debut on Steam. We came up with a list of gaming’s landmark, um, landmarks to commemorate the occasion.

Cool, Cool Mountain – Super Mario 64 (N64)

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With apologies to mountains of the Tall, Tall and Choco persuasion, Nintendo reached its peak with this frosty ground-floor painting from Mario 64. A hollow cylinder with a spiral at the centre, Cool, Cool Mountain comes fully loaded with all of the accessories, including canons, giant penguins, and a twisting slide that definitely wouldn’t pass the safety inspection at your local county fair.

Cool, Cool Mountain is a perfect distillation of childhood whimsy, a stage that translates regardless of age or climate and showcases what Mario can do with a third dimension. It’s everything you’d ever want in a winter funhouse, so let’s hope that the people responsible for Bob-Omb’s Lego Battlefield are paying attention.

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Bald Mountain – Kingdom Hearts (PS2)

Fantasia (1940)

Originally illustrated in Disney’s Fantasia, Bald Mountain is the setting for the epic battle against the Chernabog at the End of the World in the first Kingdom Hearts. The mountain takes its name – as well as its demonic overseer – from the Fantasia segment inspired by composer Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, giving Bald Mountain bonus points for referring both to the soundtrack and the locale.

Even though it was first conceived in another medium, Bald Mountain makes the list because the Chernabog – already one of the most iconic figures in animation history – makes a seamless transition to video games, offering a suitably ominous encounter that is everything you’d ever want after viewing Fantasia.

Mount Rockmore – Brutal Legend (Multiplatform)

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Though the horrifically spliced third-person-via-RTS gameplay ultimately doomed Brutal Legend with audiences, there’s no denying that Double Fine’s last attempt at triple-A is bursting with heavy metal flavor. Nowhere is that more evident than the weathered faces of Mount Rockmore, the Rushmore knockoff adorned with the likenesses of the game’s various metallurgical personalities.

While other mountains exist as timeless objects that care little for the trivial whims of humans, Mount Rockmore stands apart due to its unusual level of customizability. Double Fine gave players the chance to choose what faces would be etched stone, infusing Mount Rockmore with a human personality not often found in ancient geology.

Sure, that personality is limited to the likes of Jack Black and Ozzy Osbourne. But it’s not like we were going to come up with anything better.

Mt. Gagazet – Final Fantasy X (PS2)

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For story purposes, you could make a strong case that Final Fantasy VII’s Mt. Nibel is the franchise’s most significant mountain and I wouldn’t be inclined to argue. But Mt. Gagazet gets the nod here thanks to the PS2’s impressive graphical upgrade.

Mt. Gagazet just looks like a proper mountain. The snow-capped peaks are majestically craggy, while the jagged, windswept walkways always feel treacherous, as if your entire party could slip into the abyss at a moment’s notice. Throw in the pair of fantastic boss battles at the summit and the view from the top of Mt. Gagazet leaves a spectacular an impression.

It’s admittedly a bit ridiculous to watch Tidus traverse the frigid hills while wearing a tropical yellow Blitzball uniform, but the franchise has committed far more egregious crimes against common sense, so we’ll forgive Tidus just this once.

Mountain Dew – PepsiCo (Xbox Live)

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Just kidding.

Mountain – Magic: the Gathering (The Kitchen Table)

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Like O’Reilly’s hit, the red mana symbol represents the platonic ideal of the mountain. One of the five basic land types in the genre-defining card game, the Mountain is iconic in its simplicity, a stark monument indifferent to the elements and the goblins that reside within.

In truth, most of us take Mountain for granted. We know it’s there, gathering dust at the bottom of a pile of Unglued commons in a shoebox untouched since middle school. But Mountains also contain incredible power (Dragonstorm anyone?) for those bold enough to harness it.

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The Mountain is a constant that will always be there even if you don’t appreciate everything it does, and that’s exactly what makes O’Reilly’s Mountain so intriguing. Some people see art where other people see tall hills. We just see Lightning Bolts and Goblin Lackeys, and not even David O’Reilly can compete with that.

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