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Sometimes in a video game you'll notice that the learning curve is more of a learning zigzag: you may find yourself in a level harder than you were expecting, followed by a level that is significantly easier. A logical application of the Sorting Algorithm of Evil would say that the two levels should appear the other way around.

A cynical explanation would be that the levels are out of order due to poor testing or time constraints in production. A more charitable one is that the easier level is a Breather Level, allowing the player to recover from the previous, more challenging encounter and (should they be a feature of the game) stock up on extra lives for the further challenges ahead. The aim may be to extend the tension over a larger part of the game, by opting to stretch and relax the tension rather than let it build up continually. Games from the arcade era explicitly put in bonus levels for this purpose.

Sometimes, a Breather Level exists to teach the player new skills that later, non-Breather Levels, will test the player on.

Compare the TV equivalent, the Breather Episode. The Breather Boss might be found in this kind of level... but on the other hand That One Boss might be there to balance out the drop in the levels overall difficulty. When there are quite a few Breather Levels between harder ones, you'll get Schizophrenic Difficulty. Contrast That One Level.

Examples of Breather Level include:
  • Very common in games in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, which were/are typically easier than their Nintendo Hard cousins to begin with.
    • The grandaddy of Sonic breather levels is probably Casino Night Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The fourth level in the game, it had relatively few enemies, no Bottomless Pits whatsoever, many opportunities for extra lives and a series of slot machines that would have bankrupted any sensible casino. The presence of the challenging Chemical Plant Zone as the second level heightened the feeling of being a Breather Level.
    • The Casinopolis action stage from Sonic Adventure took this a stage further: Because the player was forced to collect 400 rings to complete the level, gaining at least four extra lives became almost mandatory. This is less of a Breather Level than some because the two preceding stages were not very difficult either, but it is most definitely a compulsory bonus stage. Of course, this only applies to Sonic's story; Tails is run through the Dilapidated Way section, and Knuckles is focused on Master Emerald shard collection.
      • Casino Park in Sonic Heroes (Team Chaotix missions) and Circus Park in Shadow the Hedgehog were similar compulsory ring collectors. The latter doesn't really feel like a breather level, though.
    • Other zones are not necessarily extra life buffets, but still provide a breather aspect by falling between two more difficult levels. Such zones include Star Light Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog and Sky Chase Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
      • Labyrinth Zone was pushed back from being the second level of the game as it was deemed too hard. Sky Chase, like the Hidden Palace example below, is a partial set up for the start of the Wing Fortress Zone.
    • Huge Crisis during Blaze's game in Sonic Rush, sandwiched between Altitude Limit (and its) boss and the first act of Dead Line. Huge Crisis isn't hard, throws lives at you, and has an easy (if annoying) boss to trounce. Similarly, Act 2 of Dead Line is somewhat overstocked for rings, considering its placement as the final playable act in the game, making it almost impossible not to rack up a few lives in preparation for the final bosses.
    • The Hidden Palace Zone in Sonic 3 and Knuckles has no enemies, a simple design, and a relatively easy boss (Knuckles). It exists mainly as the setting for a cutscene. Its Breather Level nature is especially obvious if you're playing as Knuckles, in which case it has no boss and in fact consists of a single room that contains no hazards of any kind (and it immediately precedes Knuckles's final boss fight).
    • Also in Sonic 3 and Knuckles, Mushroom Hill Zone. Since Sonic 3 & Knuckles is the combined game created by adding Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles together, Mushroom Hill Zone is the first level to Sonic & Knuckles and is thus a bit of a Green Hill Zone, while in the combined game it comes right after Launch Base Zone, the significantly harder final level of Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
    • Sonic CD has Stardust Speedway Zone, which is the penultimate level of the game, but tosses few enemies at you, the Acts are relatively short, and it is basically a level to let Sonic "roll around at the speed of sound". Then it caps it all off with the one of the most memorable sequences in Sonic history, the race to Amy between Sonic and his metal doppelganger.
      • Quartz Quadrant, the fourth level, is mostly straightforward and short. It comes between the Underwater Ruins and the level where the floor bounces you high into the air while you try to jump on platforms.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 4 has the 2nd act of Casino Street Zone (console only). House of Cards is full of extra lives. It is not unusual to get 10 or more in a single run.
      • The Ipod version is also simple as it's just a pinball machine in which you need to get points to complete the level with no actual way to die.
    • The main courses for Rooftop Run in Sonic Generations are explicitly noted to be "a quick breather" in the associated achievement. The Modern Sonic level in particular is much easier than the levels it's sandwiched between.
  • Silent Hill 2 finishes with the Lakeview Hotel as its final area. Though it ends with two moderately difficult boss encounters, the Hotel itself is bright and sparsely-populated with monsters. The areas immediately preceding it, the Prison and Catacombs, are full of monsters, difficult puzzles, violations of space-time, and are definitely the most frightening and depressing locations in the game.
  • The final area of Metroid Zero Mission is the Space Pirate Frigate. You start off without your Power Suit and must avoid enemies, as you cannot kill them. It is the most intense, difficult part of the entire game, until, halfway through, you reacquire your Power Suit with its full upgrades, after which you are practically unstoppable. The second half of the Space Pirate Frigate is a breather level for the first half.
  • The enemy-less chapter "Black Mesa East" in Half-Life 2 comes right after you've fought your way through lengthy canals and down a river, with intense fighting the whole way.
    • This is also the chapter where you get a gravity gun.
    • And right BEFORE Ravenholm.
    • Valve games do this on purpose and this is discussed in the commentary tracks in the subsequent episodes. After the player has just made it through one of the game's larger action sequences, they will typically come up against a complex jumping or physics puzzle as a change of pace. This is to prevent the player becoming fatigued. Valve optimise their games endlessly through playtesting before release to find places where the player was getting tired and giving them a different challenge.
      • Quite literally endlessly, if Half-Life 2 Episode 3 is anything to go by.
  • The second game in the Shenmue series has a breather DISC. After storming the enemy hideout and facing a boss with incredible HP and who is completely immune to throws (possibly your bread and butter move for eliminating tough enemies at this point), the game finishes on a disc that is primarily a happy walk through the countryside with a cute girl.
  • In Advance Wars 2, the penultimate campaign level Hot Pursuit is typically regarded as a breather level between Great Sea Battle (where The Dragon is confronted) and Final Front (the final showdown with the Big Bad). Other, similar levels exist throughout the series. In this case, it is revealed that the level is intentionally easier as bait for the Big Bad's trap. In hard campaign however, Hot Pursuit is generally considered the hardest level in the game (along with Show Stopper, Sinking Feeling and Great Sea Battle).
    • Days of Ruin has Crash Landing, a straight forward battle that is opened and closed by the Unusual Euphemisms and antics (such as being the only one to care about the altimeter) of an unamed IDS agent.
      • In Dark Conflict, the battle is still easy, but without the dialog.
    • Battalion Wars has Black Gold, which has pitiful defenses because the enemy units that are scattered all over the place, which this takes advantage of.
  • Pandora's Temple in the first God of War alternates between "maddeningly difficult" and "relaxingly easy"; the former describes most of the area's obstacle runs, the latter, most of the puzzles.
  • Super Mario Bros 3 has World 4, Big Island. Coming between World 3 and World 5, it has noticeably fewer levels than the worlds that bookend it, pits you against comically oversized versions of the standard Mario enemies (no harder to kill than the standard ones), and along the way gives you two P-Wings and a Jugem's Cloud. In addition, the World 4 airship is one of the easiest in the game (as well as the only one to feature two power-ups).
    • The World's boss, Iggy Koopa, is also noticeably easier than the one before or after. Wendy O. Koopa of World 3 is That One Boss, with deadly candy rings that continue to bounce around the screen instead of vanishing. Roy Koopa of World 5 is The Big Guy and can make the whole screen shake when he jumps (stunning Mario). Iggy's gimmick? He fires his wand twice. That's it.
  • In Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, the fourth Star Piece is on Star Hill, a very short dungeon with weak enemies and no platforming or puzzles. This is sandwiched in between a very long and involved side plot in which Mario rescues the Princess from Booster, and the Sunken Ship, arguably the toughest dungeon in the game.
    • Not to mention it's the only star you get without even fighting a boss for it. In fact, the most tense moment is when you get scolded by Mallow for eavesdropping on people's - that is to say, his - wishes (which are scattered around the dungeon in the form of little stars).
  • In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, most of the cave areas have no enemies. Also, Little Fungitown, a village accessible only by elevator, has no overworld enemies or other hazards, until Mario eats an Invincishroom and contracts Bean Fever.
  • Late in the original Wolfenstein 3D are several levels with lots of supplies and no particularly challenging enemies. Gee, what's that huge thing clanking through the door...
  • Bungie's Marathon had you teleporting from the eponymous human colony ship to the evil aliens' ship in later levels, since there was only one kind of alien weapon you could wield, this necessitated occasional trips back to the Marathon in order to load up on ammo for your man-made Hyperspace Arsenal.
  • Episode 6 from Sly 2: Band of Thieves: The three previous episodes took place in the Indian jungle, which was a complete maze to navigate, and Prague, which featured a confusing prison compound followed by The Contessa's ancestral home; the whole city is so dark and grimy that you can hardly tell the instant-death water from the dry land. Episode 6 sends the action to Canada, in which the map is not only much smaller and more straightforward, but also takes place in virtually broad daylight.
  • The sixth stage in God Hand comes after the nigh-impossible fifth stage, which ends with one of the game's toughest bosses, Demon Elvis. While it's not easy, it is a definite breather compared to its bookending stages, and has perhaps the game's easiest boss at its conclusion (Demon Shannon).
  • The level after the castle (The caves) in Resident Evil 4 is this, even with a Chainsaw Ganado, and two El Gigante to fight. (But fortunately, not at the same time.)
    • The raid in the Militia Camp is this as well, as it comes after the climatic and timed battle with Krauser, and you have Mike's helicopter do most of the dirty work, leaving you free to loot ammunition and medicine without fighting many enemies.
  • In Deus Ex, between the early missions you would go back to base, where there were (usually) no enemies, though you could get yourself killed pretty fast by trying to kill your comrades. There are similar areas later on, but they get more and more infrequent as your character becomes more badass (having started out with almost no special powers, skills, or equipment).
    • Though occuring at the mid-later stages of the game, the Du Claire mansion is almost entirely deserted, bar a few soldiers near the end of the level. Even the music is too peaceful to cause a Nothing Is Scarier effect.
    • The Hong Kong level is somewhat less devoid of action, but plays this role in another way. After all the sneaking and shooting during your narrow escape from Majestic 12 clutches, you find yourself on a lively Hong Kong street, a step away from freedom. The change in the background music cements the effect.
  • Storming the enemy's doom-fortress in Drakengard is one of the harder levels of the game, as it requires a relentless assault on a well-defended stronghold out at sea on dragonback which happens to be reinforced with a fleet of battleships. When you finally break into the fortress, there's no one in it. Ominous as this is, it's the easiest level in the game; all you have to do is run to the end.
  • During the assault on Shrinra's HQ in Final Fantasy VII, after having fought and killed numerous soldiers, destroyed dozens of security robots of one variety or another, you reach a level of the skyscraper containing a gym, and can chat to the chief of security on a treadmill before taking a nap to recharge.
  • Chapter 6 of Final Fantasy XIII, with its bright and colourful scenery, pretty music and reasonably easy enemies. (Well, with the exception of Wyverns and Scalebeasts, though you're explicitly warned to avoid the latter.) It comes after Chapter 5, which was a bit of a difficulty spike (not helped by being forced to lead with Hope) and ended with a disgustingly hard That One Boss, and before Palumpolum, which is longer than both chapters 5 and 6 combined, has random enemies very capable of killing you if you aren't careful and ends with you fighting a freaking airship.
    • Likewise, Chapter 10 could be considered one, it's pretty short, and only the fight with Cid Raimes midway through is likely to give you trouble. It comes between the Disk One Final Boss and Gran Pulse.
  • Galaga: The "Challenging Stages" of the arcade classic feature non-firing aliens. Also, the sixth and certain other regular stages are just like the first level, with the enemy swarms simply flying into formation at the beginning of the stage (without extras trying to crash into the ship) and not firing upon the player until after all the formations are set.
  • Kirby Mass Attack has World 3, Dedede Island, whose levels are practically just minigames that literally give away fruit to hog.
  • Block 5 of Super Castlevania IV certainly qualifies. It's only two parts, short, and there's not even a boss. It's quite welcome after Block 4 which involves facing a series of rotating-blocks that send Simon to his death if he doesn't quickly jump across them and confronting the Sub Boss Puwexil. Followed by a rotating room with spikes and Medusa heads. The third part of the stage involves outmaneuvering a falling floor. The last part consists of avoiding blocks that try to crush him against more spikes, and finally facing the stage boss Koranot.
    • In Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin certain rooms in the "Nest of Evil" Bonus Dungeon (usually placed before of after some of the most difficult fights, like a single Iron Golem before That One Boss, Abaddon) are obviously intended as breather for the player.
    • On the other hand, such things do not exist in the "Small Cavern" Bonus Dungeon (or Brutal Bonus Level) of Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia.
    • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has the inverted castle, which is a copy paste of the main one. The thing is, you are completely left to your own devices, and can do it in any order, which often means you find yourself struggling in some hard areas before getting to some of the easier areas later on. This is further exacerbated by how fast you level up in the inverted castle, so it often depends what level you are when you reach an area as to whether it's a Breather Level or not.
  • In the original The Legend of Zelda, Level 7 in the first quest, and (even more so) Level 8 in the second quest. Despite being so late in the game, these dungeons are mostly filled with Goriyas, an enemy who first appears in Level 1, as well as a rematch against the bosses from Levels 1 & 2. The only real challenges these dungeons present are finding the entrances, and then finding your way through them. There's also no particular reason that the levels have to be played in order, so many smart gamers will get them out of the way earlier.
  • As if retroactively bucking the trend of Zelda water dungeons, Zelda II the Adventure of Link has a Water Temple filled with amazingly few high-level recolours, all of whom have more HP and some of whom have higher AI, even though you've been facing armies of the shield-fantastical blue Iron Knuckles in the previous dungeons.
    • Meanwhile, Ocarina of Time has the straightforward Fire Temple after the confusing Forest Temple, and straight before the even more frustrating Water Temple.
      • And once you've developed a sudden need to sleep with every light in the house on after the hell that is the Shadow Temple, there's the blessedly simple and uplifting Spirit Temple. Easy monsters (well, except for the Iron Knuckles, but with the Biggoron Sword they're not too bad), convienently placed fairy fountain, no block puzzles, pretty music, no CREEPY DEAD THINGS EVERYWHERE, couple tricks with a mirror to take out the witches, and bam, you're done. It's even got a nifty little shortcut that you get pretty early in the temple! Too bad it's the last thing you do before you take on Ganondorf...
      • In Ocarina of Time Master Quest, which makes most of the dungeons three times more difficult, you may be surprised when you blow right through the Water Temple. It's probably even easier than it is in the standard game.
    • Turtle Rock in A Link to The Past; a fairly straightforward romp with few difficult enemies that is more an exercise in puzzle-solving than ardent combat (And is also one of the few dungeons in the game with a mid-level break and an opportunity to complete a Heart Container midway), topped off with a boss that's Colour-Coded for Your Convenience with regards to its initial weaknesses. The preceding dungeon? The aptly-named Misery Mire. The following dungeon? The last one.
      • Blind's Dungeon (Thieves' Town) qualifies as well, even if activating the boss is somewhat of a (Simple) puzzle. Before, you have Skull Woods with a complicated layout, Wallmasters, Pikits, and Mothula. After, The Ice Palace with one of the most difficult puzzles of the game, which itself is wrapped in even more enigmas.
  • An older example is Pac-Man and its spinoffs. The amount of time where monsters stay blue and edible generally goes down after cutscenes, but there are specific levels where the amount is suddenly high again, making the game easier for that particular level.
  • Most Mega Man games contain at least one part in the final castle where you can just stock up on health and weapon energy, often before going after the 8 previous bosses.
  • The mission "Devil" in Trauma Center; you only have to kill a few bugs to pass it. The previous mission introduces Paraskevi, one of the hardest strains of GUILT, and the next mission introduces Savato, the hardest strain of GUILT.
    • Even before that, you have the "nanomachine" puzzles. You're given a few hexagon-made shapes and have to fit them all into a certain area. You get this twice. Even before that, you have the "master the Healing Touch" level.
  • The Fire Emblem 9 chapter "Training" takes places before the most annoying chapter in the game, the desert chapter, where you have to try and kill as few enemies as possible, while your own units have shit for movement. It is a fairly easy chapter with plenty of XP.
    • 10 has 4-5, perhaps the most XP rich chapter in the entire series, right before the "endgame" levels.
    • Chapter 29x/31x in Fire Emblem 7 came directly after a huge castle defense map... and was basically a shopping trip for which you were given 30,000 gold. Granted, it was optional and had a five-turn time limit.
  • Amnesia the Dark Descent has an emotional breather level. After the heart-stopping panic of the water demon in the cellar Daniel arrives at a peaceful (if slightly bizarre) chapel-like room. Then it gets worse. So much worse.
    • Also main Cistern area and where you meet Agrippa in the Nave, which works as a breather room
  • In Bliss Stage, after flying a mission, the player characters are granted Interlude Actions, giving the players a chance to heal and roleplay. This is the main mechanism by which the characters Level Up At Intimacy 5.
  • Episode 12 of Elite Beat Agents (set to Chicago's "You're the Inspiration") is as close to a breather level as they get in the game. It's much easier than the previous stages, but it's also a HUGE Tear Jerker.
  • I Wanna Be the Guy, of all games, has one: The Castle of The Guy is, if not easy, at least fair (by IWTBTG standards). Then comes The Guy.
  • Tetris the Grand Master has your drop speed decrease once you clear level 200, but from that point onwards, your speed will increase all the way to what Tetris fans call 20G--that is, blocks will fall 20 lines per 1/60th of a second--that is, they hit the bottom of the stack instantly.
  • Mother 3: Following a decidingly irritating dungeon and boss in chapter 5, chapter 6 is just one long Crowning Moment of Heartwarming for which all you need to do is hold left. Then comes chapter 7, the longest in the game.
  • Parasite Eve has one. In day 2, you spend most of the day in Central Park, which is a huge "dungeon" with save points pretty spread apart. In the start of day 3, you're in Soho where you get to stock up on guns, armor, ammo, tools for tune ups, stat boosting items, curing items, and recovery items (although some of the really good stuff are practically invisible). You then go the museum to advance the plot. Why such a generous break? The NYPD precint is under attack by Eve's minions after you come back to from the museum. The monsters have beefed up considerably (and you'll be dealing with monsters that can either lower your defense or cut your HP in half per hit) compared to the monsters you fought in day 2 at Central Park, due to being in a small building.
  • In the second Subspace Bomb Factory stage in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, you'll eventually find yourself in a small room that consists of nothing but three Heart Containers and a long drop of an exit. This says nothing about the fact that the area is sandwiched between an autoscrolling area filled with hazards and enemies, and a boss fight with a timer. Of course, when you first play through this level, the Heart Containers would be redundant, since the area will be immediately followed by a movie introducing the boss, and you will have to choose a new lineup of characters, and when that happens, your health completely refills anyway.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty has two "chapters", Tanker and Plant. They can be played separately, but when playing the game straight through the first few objectives of the Plant chapter function as a breather level--they're essentially tutorials on controller functions which the player has already been using throughout the Tanker chapter.
    • Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots has the Surface Tunnel. After fighting your way through hordes of cyborgs, hundreds of scout robots and a complicated boss, you get to use a Metal Gear to destroy enemies which give you massive amounts of points, with a very lenient time limit and little chance of dying on most difficulty levels.
  • It's a staple of the Disgaea series to include at least one level in each game consisting mostly or entirely of Prinnys, who may or may not be arranged in a fashion that allows you to detonate every single one of them in a single throw. It's baseball in the first game, and bowling in the second.
  • Lampshaded in Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door by Professor Frankly in Chapter 6.

 Prof. Frankly: No fearsome monsters or dangerous dungeons, either! It's just a tourist attraction!

    • Of course, there's still a pitstop at a dungeon and the obligatory boss fight, but compared to the last chapter it's less annoying. Just be careful of the Spiked Parabuzzies.
  • The AI Director in Left 4 Dead was intended to do this in theory--it would send nastier hordes at you if you were doing well and ease up (while giving extra items) if you were getting thrashed. In practice, it's hard to notice a difference, but there are almost always sufficient lulls between attacks by hordes and special zombies to get your bearings and heal up (except during finales and setpieces).
    • The elevator ride in the 4th map of "No Mercy" is a mini breather level. As you ride up, no infected will come in to attack you, regardless of the hole in the elevator's ceiling. In VS mode however, this luxury is kind of taken away since actual people are controlling the special infected and could choose to jump through the hole and attack.
    • In "Dead Center", the first campaign of the sequel, you are completely safe once you get through that gun shop door. No zombies of any sort will spawn until you touch that crescendo-triggering grocery store door.
  • In Max Payne 2, you got a literal tourist attraction; Chapter 6 'A Linear Sequence of Scares' was just a stroll through a funhouse ending in a shower scene with The Dame. Oh, and a batch of goodies. It's mainly there to serve as character development, and actually stands out as one of the most memorable levels in the game.
  • Letz Shake. The level is the world's longest hallway, with about six dual-lightsaber wielding Darth Vader ripoffs scattered far inbetween, a health pack or battery recharge at almost every enemy, all the trading cards are in plain sight, and the boss gets killed right before the battle starts. The only actual challenge is that the enemies are a little spammy.
    • And in the sequel, both rank 3 and rank 10. Rank 3 consisting only of a motorcycle drive with no enemies and no obstacles, while rank 10 is hyped up as a battle royal of assassins but instead consists only of a single battle. With Letz Shake, no less.
  • None of Portal is insanely difficult, but testchamber 16 features the first appearance of enemies that are actively trying to kill you. It's kind of nice to go back to combat-free gameplay in chamber 17.
    • Portal 2 plays this for laughs: near the end Wheatley, having replaced G La DOS starts putting you through test chambers again. The first one literally requires you to push a button to win.
  • The first Destroy All Humans!! game has a couple of missions focused solely on destroying as much as possible, which usually come after some of the more difficult missions which typically involve stealth and tricky maneuvering or are escort missions. Most notable is the level where you get the Quantum Deconstructor, the most powerful weapon in the game; the mission simply consists of leveling an entire town using it. It comes directly after Furon Down!, which is one of the largest and most involved missions in the game, wherin you have to bust out of containment, regain all your weapons, sneak onto a secluded island, and collect a bunch of things to fix your saucer.
  • Fallout 3 has one quest that is incredibly simple. You just have to follow Dad's orders, which mainly consist of "go here and press button". Just before this was Vault 112 which was simple but annoying to complete. And straight after this quest the Enclave attack.
  • These are frequently featured in campaigns of Battle for Wesnoth to allow the player to build up gold and experience for their units in between scenarios with loads of casualties.
  • World of Warcraft had Mount Hyjal and the first parts of the Black Temple after those two bosses, Lady Vashj and Kael'thas Sunstrider. Similarly, Sunwell had The War Sequence after a gauntlet of three bosses fought in rapid succession.
    • ...Did you just call Mount Hyjal a breather level? It was, perhaps, easier than those two bosses, but it was certainly no breather, and the early Black Temple bosses apart from Shade of Akama were no pushovers either.
    • There's also the Chess event in the middle of Karazhan, and the Gunship Battle in Icecrown Citadel (not that the bosses before Gunship were particularly difficult, but Gunship was almost impossible to lose, giving it the name Lootship).
  • Any Story Mode stage in Wangan Midnight Maximum 3 set on Hakone. How easy are they? You can set your horsepower to the lowest possible setting (beyond stage 40, that's 600 horsepower out of the maximum of at least 800). and still win by at least 100 meters. Ironically, Hakone is That One Level in all other modes.
  • Retro Game Challenge has one during the Rally King SP set of challenges; the second challenge is a moderately difficult time trial on the hazard-ridden desert stage. The third challenge, on the other hand, is simply to get a turbo boost off the starting line of the first stage. Lampshaded by Game Master Arino in that he claims he just gave you that challenge to stall for time because he couldn't think of anything.
  • In the freeware Roguelike Transcendence, they give you Saint Katherine's Star. It's a peaceful place, with only a few small enemy bases scattered throughout the encircling Asteroid Thicket. There's a cluster of Corporate Enclaves and even a fully stocked Commonwealth Station. The one that came right beforehand was the incredibly manic Charon system, and it is the point at which the game goes from playing fair to adding such favorites as the Sung, the Marauders, the Sapients, the Dwarg and the Ferian Miner Colonies.
  • The American home version of DDRMAX has a difficult Oni course called "Hard Core" that consists mostly 7-9-footers (read: hard), with interspersed 3-5-footers (read: not as hard). While they're a physical break, the life bar is still unforgiving (4 misses is a game over, with one given back after each song).
  • DJMAX Portable Black Square's Club Tour mode has missions that gradually become more difficult with each passing area. By the 5th area, Kingdom of Rock, many of the missions you face demand extremely high scores while chaining Fevers, or large combos. However, one mission in Kingdom of Rock, held by DJ EGGBIN, offers some relief: the objective is to clear "Sweet Shining Shooting Star" on 5-Button Normal with at least 95% acccuracy. If you've been able to make it this far in Club Tour, this mission is a complete walk in the park. It helps that SSSS is one of the more relaxing songs in the game.
    • In DJMAX Portable Clazziquai Edition's Club Tour mode, after about an hour of two of grinding songs just to have a high enough rank to challenge and defeat enough opponents in the 6th area's last club, the final club, Clazziquai, is an easy Music Club with 6 songs, all of which are Crowning Music of Awesome composed by the band Clazziquai. Upon completing all 6, you are presented with the ending movie.
  • Stylish first-person shooter The Darkness has a level around the middle of the game where you visit your girlfriend's apartment and sit around watching old black-and-white movies on the couch with her until she falls asleep or you leave. No, really.
  • The first monastery in Hype: The Time Quest is significantly easier to complete than its preceding level, the dungeon.
  • Stage 5 of Thunder Force IV is a fairly short stage, with a somewhat easy midboss, a brief and easy Battleship Raid part, and an Anticlimax Boss where your allies help you defeat it. Afterwards, in a cutscene, you get a Mid Game Upgrade. Then you go on to Stage 6 and the game continues being Nintendo Hard.
    • In Thunder Force III, Haides, a stage full of moving terrain, several guaranteed ways to die (or lose shield), and a speed section, is followed by Ellis, a sparsely-populated stage with few sudden hazards. Or if you started on Ellis (which makes Haides the last of the first five stages), Haides is instead followed by the Cerberus, which is even more fair than Ellis.
  • Dynamite Headdy follows Stage 6 with "Headdy Wonderland", a surreal but peaceful area full of cows and birds with no threats whatsoever until you reach the boss. Even the boss is a relaxing matter, as Heather shows up and attacks the boss from above while you distract it.
  • The first Prince of Persia game has two, Levels 9 and 11. The even-numbered levels are far harder.
  • Knights of the Old Republic - First game has Dantooine, second game has Citadel Station. In the first case, you spent a lot of the timeat the Enclave first. When leave the Enclave, you've leveled up enough to take on most of the local wildlife without much trouble. In the second game, Citadel has VERY minimal combat until you cross the Exchange.
    • Furthermore, Dantooine is a beautiful environment; all grasslands and rivers, set to a permanent sunset. Compare with Taris, which was all dilapidated Durasteel from the Upper City down, and generally a festering pit of corruption and hatred. Bastilla even invokes this trope, calling Dantooine a place of "physical and spiritual healing".
  • In Serious Sam - The First Encounter, Sewers is one of the examples. It's fairly short level with relatively few enemies.
  • The Ultimate Skatepark Skate Station Alpha in Backyard Skateboarding, the final level, is a Breather Level because there are no Pro Challenges and the level is small compared to the preceding one (the Medieval Castle).
  • Jet Force Gemini has the Water Ruin area, which has no enemies in sight; the only intelligent life on it are Tribals that you need to collect and a bear who has you go on a Fetch Quest. Gem Quarry is also free of enemies, but there is a gem-scooping Mini Game to do there.
  • Level 7 of Air Fortress is considerably easier than level 6--the approach has only two squads of moving enemies; all others are stationary and don't fight back. Navigating the fortress itself is also much easier in level 7 than level 6.
  • Silent Hill 3 starts off with a Nightmare Fuel dream and then gives you a rest when your character visits the bathroom to escape from the local detective. The rest of the game? Not so much as a cigarette break.
  • Ikaruga Chapter 5, which is substantially easier than the previous two chapters and has extremely simple chaining. Even the Bosses In Mook Clothing that show up at the end of the pre-boss section that fire massive bullet storms only fire in one color, allowing you to absorb these bullets easily to charge up your homing attack.
    • Unfortunately, you then fight Tageri.
  • Aquaria gives us The Veil, with beautiful, open areas and very few enemies compared to earlier levels.
  • Chiyo's level in Calling is brightly lit and almost serene. Ghost won't attack you unless you ignore the black cat's warnings, and there's none of the oppressive, paranoia-inducing atmosphere of the previous levels.
  • In Dilbert's Desktop Games, one of the mini-games required you to climb up to the top of the corporate headquarters skyscraper. To complete a level, you had to collect donuts, while avoiding the boss and other obstacles. The various levels were named after departments such as "Marketing", "R&D", "Software Engineering", etc. When you got to the level named "Employee Benefits" ... it was totally empty, except for a single donut that you had to collect, and the sound of wind echoing through the deserted halls.
  • The Glutton's kitchen cavern from Pikmin 2 may also count as it's one of the few caverns during that point of the game to not have any dangerous hazards like Bomb Rocks, explosions and falling boulders.
  • The Entrance Hall in Medievil, which is sandwiched between the extremely difficult Ghost Ship and Time Device levels.
  • Lampshaded in Hydorah. The level description for the third level is "Upgrade your weapons."
  • Super Robot Wars Original Generation has a climactic battle in which both Maier and Julia are fought for the final time and Sanger is also fought, and like most such levels, the following cutscene has a major reveal. Then the following level is...a rush of enemies that most of your units can probably one-shot.
  • In just about every Pokémon game, the seventh gym leader is a bit of a cake walk compared the main story Big Bad, the eighth gym leader, and then the Elite 4. The only notable exception is Tate and Liza in Emerald, who are probably the single most difficult battle in the game on an unsuspecting player, especially if they played Ruby or Sapphire and thought they'd be an easy battle.
    • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl may also buck the trend; while Candice herself is a Breather Boss, you have to go through her Gym to get to her, and needless to say it's That One Puzzle...
    • Subverted in Pokémon Gold and Silver, where the fifth, sixth and seventh gym leaders can be battled in any order.
      • However, in Gold and Silver (arguably not their remakes, though), the entirety of Kanto could be considered a Breather Level. Most of the Gym Leaders aren't much higher-leveled than the Elite 4 (except for Blue), Janine is noticeably easier than the rest of the Gym Leaders even in the remakes, and much of the extra dungeons and buildings have been closed off, leaving Kanto fairly simple.
  • In Donkey Kong Country Returns, Nintendo Hard is the phrase of the day throughout most of the game, but the level where you first get Rambi is not only a cakewalk, it's an empowering one; Rambi Took a Level In Badass since his last calling, and is now more or less an unstoppable horn-tank of pain, including being able to destroy spikes by touching them. Unfortunately, after having a breezy level with Rambi, it's back to the fiery pit of borderline Platform Hell.
    • World 5, Forest, is this after the horrendously brutal World 4.
  • Crystal Caves in Donkey Kong 64, at least compared to the surrounding levels. It's much smaller than, say, Fungi Forest or Creepy Castle and nowhere near as confusing. Most of the bananas are close together (There are two hubs for the kongs to snag their bananas from, as opposed to just one, if you're lucky) and/or easy to get to (Except the beetle race, of course), And most of the puzzles are just the kongs helping each other out. Even the boss is a slightly harder version of the first boss.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics a 2, you have 'The Dig', the very next storyline mission after the one where you faced off against Illua. There are only about six mostly-average monsters to contend with, and none of them pose any significant threat.
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy: In the final required story mode, Shade Impulse, chapter three is, for a normally-leveled character equipped with the best available (which isn't much, beating Shade Impulse unlocks the courses where you can get trade goods for the passable-to-good stuff), absolutely brutal. Then once the player scrapes through that, the short final chapter four is a breeze, with straightforward board/level designs and very easy-to-dispatch enemies. ...Of course, the Final Boss at the end of chapter four is a textbook SNK Boss, but you can't win them all.
  • The Mountain realm in Gauntlet (1985 video game): Dark Legacy, but there's a reason for it: Dark Legacy is more or less an expanded re-release of Gauntlet Legends, with more characters and extra worlds added on to the beginning and end of the game. The Mountain realm was the first world in Legends and got bumped up to world 2 to make way for the new Town realm, but little else about it was unchanged; hence why it has some of the shortest and breeziest levels, and the easiest boss, in the game.
  • In the last level of Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, after getting a defence that can overcome the Tech 2 raids, you can basically build tons of experimental units from all 3 playable factions (plus the Serraphim themselves if you capture an engineer or factory) and buildings before finishing the first objective. Once you've got enough, you can wipe everything off the map each time it expands with them, most notably with the T3 aeon rapid-fire artillery and the experimental UED artillery (which can both bombard anything on the entire map).
  • Starcraft II has a few breather levels:
    • The mission "The Devil's Playground" is a joke even on Brutal difficulty; you can collect the required 8000 minerals and simply build troops to defend your base from light Zerg offenses, or you can go and trump the enemy's buildings, only to find adversity within the last base, which contains a Brood Lord and an Infestor as well as standard defenses. In fact, at that point you can collect the minerals and keep your units near the last base so you can fend off the attacks easily.
    • The mission "Breakout". You only control one unit, and do relatively little micro-ing, even on Brutal difficulty. Only sheer recklessness is the way to fail the mission, as with Tosh you can consume an infantry unit to regain energy and stand next to Medics constantly to heal yourself.
  • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon's second installments we have Mystifying Forest. A very easy forest themed level that the player must go through in order to graduate from Wigglytuff's Guild after the main story. It's chock full of low-leveled bugs, rattata, and other such Com Mons (aside from the occasional Torterra), and comes right after the Demonic Spider infested Temporal Spire. The battle at the end isn't as easy as the rest of the dungeon, though.
  • Following seven extremely long and challenging levels, Jedi Knight 2 gives us two consecutive breather levels. In the first one, you literally do nothing, just walk from point A to point B and then to point C. In the second (force training), you need to use the force to solve a few puzzles. It's literally impossible to die, unless you try real hard.
  • Empire Earth's Russian campaign has a ridiculously easy third level after the Nintendo Hard second mission: the player must go to each garrison on the map to get forces and release them on the enemy fortress in the center in the map. Did anyone mention you have a Humongous Mecha at your side that fires both rockets and lasers and has ridiculous damage resistance?
  • In the Atari 2600 version of Frogger, the difficulty slightly zigzags (1, 2, 3, 4 increase in difficulty, 5 is a bit easier than 4 but harder than 3, and 6 is pretty tough), but following a tough Level 6 you get an easy Level 7 which is either the third or fourth easiest level in the game. By this time you're in rhythm enough that it's a breeze (the fast moving snake being the only obstacle still easy to avoid). Then comes Level 8 which makes Level 6 look like a warm-up level. Level 9 is slightly easier than Level 8, but 10 and up continue to increase in difficulty as the game wears on.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics features a battle where you take on five chemists, and practically all they do is heal each other. This also makes it That One Level just due to the annoyance.
  • The Inquisition in Catherine is without a doubt one of the shortest nightmare stages there is. There are only two levels, and the first is very simple compared to the rest of the game, using no special or challenging blocks that result in death. Afterwards comes The Child, who is quite simple compared to Immoral Beast before him. After this is the far more annoying Quadrangle.
  • The Flash horror platformer The Bright in The Screen has the "Red Freaks Museum" level and a level where you lose control of the player character, and they easily finish the level on their own, leaving you free to read the screens.
  • The arcade version of Gradius III is famous for being brutally Nintendo Hard, but Stages 6 (Bio) and 8 (Plant) are considerably easier than the rest.
    • The plant stage was originally planned to be Stage 3, which might explain its situation somewhat.
  • In many Wipeout games the hardest track is right near the end, but not the last one, and the last track is usually a lot easier if you got through the previous tracks. In every game with 8 tracks, the hardest track is either number 4 or 7.
  • The Twisted Metal 2 battlefield difficulty curve: easy -> moderate -> very easy -> moderate -> very easy -> hard -> INSANE -> moderate.
  • In Drakensang after some pretty hard times of stealth and hard fights in the castle ruins in the Blood Mountains and the siege of Grimtooth castle, Tallon feels pretty much like this. Except fot the hidden Linnworm Bonus Boss and the Dragon Jafgur near the end.
  • Indiana Jones Greatest Adventures has the maze at Pankot Palace in the "Temple of Doom" portion, with its slow pace, relative lack of tough enemies and abundance of easy-to-get power ups and extra lives. And considering it's followed by some of the hardest levels in the game, you'll need all the lives you can get.
  • In Super Mario Galaxy, this is the case with most of the beach themed levels. Beach Bowl Galaxy has no boss fights or tricky platforming and some ludicrously easy missions like passing the swim test, and Sea Slide Galaxy has mainly racing and item collecting missions with no real platforming or combat. Especially a breather considering the former comes before Ghostly Galaxy and Bouldergeist and the latter after the tricky Toy Time Galaxy. In Super Mario Galaxy 2, you could probably count Starshine Beach as this as well, since minus an annoying green star it's again a rather sedate level with few tough enemies or jumps and a collectathon focus to it.
    • In Super Mario 64, possibly Snowman's Land due to it having an easy boss and much less of a focus on platforming than the others at that point in the game.
  • DOOM II MAP19, "The Citadel" can be considered disappointingly easy since the level's difficulty contrasts its epic style (the level is a friggin' castle, for pete's sake) and music ("Shawn's Got the Shotgun", the same BGM used in MAP07). The enemies are generally limited to light sprinklings of lower-level Mooks, and when hordes of them are thrown at you, it's always in areas where you have an environmental advantage. It does help the player absorb the overall atmosphere, though, and is a nice preparation for the downright Nintendo Hard MAP20.
  • Mass Effect 3 has the Geth Fighter Base, where Shepard is sent into the Geth Consensus to destroy the Reaper code controlling a squad of geth. There's no real combat, and it mostly serves to give some insight into the events of the Morning War.
  • Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg has 'After The Blizzard', the third mission in Blizzard Castle. It's a fairly simple mission in a small area with few enemies, and consists of building a head for a snowman. It comes right after Blizzard Castle's boss, Moles, who can be a right sod to beat.
  • The Disgaea games usually have periodic maps where the Geo Effects are all beneficial (particularly in regards to XP boosts), and the enemies are arranged in such a way as to be all killable with a single wide area attack. Basically these are designated spots to make Level Grinding more quick and painless (which, in this series, is a godsend).
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