A great level is like a warm bowl of mac and cheese. You can come back to it whenever you need to feel good and happy. Without thinking you can load it up and know you are going to be okay. So what level do you keep coming back to over the years?

When I think about video game levels I’ve played the most times, a few obvious answers come to mind. World 1-1 in the original Super Mario Bros. game. The first level of Half-Life 2. The opening level of Resident Evil 4. These are all levels I’ve played numerous times. But the level I’ve played the most, probably more than these levels combined, is E1M1, the first stage of Doom.

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I could probably play this level blind and get to the end in a few moments. It is ingrained in my head like an old childhood home or a favorite movie. I also have so many memories tied to Doom and E1M1.

Map view of E1M1
Illustration: Doom Wiki

I remember playing this after a terrible move across half the country. I had no wifi, my future looked shaky and I didn’t feel great. But I had a TV, Doom on my Xbox 360 and nothing else to do. I loaded it up and walked around E1M1 more than usual. Looking back, I was just trying to get out of my head and killing demons on Mars seemed like the perfect escape from reality.

To this day, whenever I want to play some classic Doom I always start with E1M1. It is Doom. That music, that level, it is Doom through and through. I’ve probably played E1M1 at least 200 or 300 times at this point. And odds are high I’ll play it another 200 or more times. It’s just that good.

Kotaku Weekend Editor | Zack Zwiezen is a writer living in Kansas. He has written for Gamecritics, USgamer, Killscreen and Entertainment Fuse.

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