I collected together Doomworld's Top 100 Most Memorable Maps and started playing through the list, from #100: doomwiki.org/wiki/Top_100_Most
This is a bit of an undertaking, and I've played somewhere between 10-25% of them already, but it'll be good for filling in a lot of gaps in my knowledge, and food for my level design brain of course.

Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Not much to say about Wow.wad (#100), the already-exhausted discourses of "outsider art", "so bad it's good", jokewads.
Black Rain (#099) and Formalhaut (#096) are this category I mentally label "27 minute metal songs" - clearly tons of craft went into them, but I have to be in a rare mood to really enjoy them. There's nearly always some little touch I find to love that stands out from the mapper's style, though, like this grotesque sector-visage at the end of Black Rain

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Grove (#097) I found many years ago, and I still find it enchanting. It's still one of the most Myst-like things anyone's made with Doom. Tight ammo budget makes the combat a bit needlessly hard, and navigating off-path in the forests can be finicky. Still a treat.
Runaway Train (#098) is ZDoom's "Great Train Robbery (1903)" and the countdown still gives it real tension and ensures the gimmick never wears out its welcome.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Entryway (#095) from 1997's STRAIN has a basic gimmick of repeated rocket launcher denial, and it works. Nowadays I think an author would be able to draw out the comedic drama a bit more, but I think it earns "memorable" status for its time.
For mid 1990s maps I've taken to using the Vanilla Essence mod at 240p, and for turn-of-the-00s maps I use 480p, for era-appropriate chunkiness.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

I wasn't expecting to enjoy Toxicity (#094) from 2000's The Darkening Episode 2 as much as I did - how many variations on nukage plant do we need, really? - but it uses a range of things to create a somewhat unique aesthetic. I particularly enjoy the Designer's Republic-esque alien typography. Combined with a Quake II-esque chunkiness and lots of 45 and 30/60 angles, it earns its honorary Y2K Aesthetic. And the pretzely layout is a nice break from arena-centric WADs.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Netherworld Citadel (#093) from the fairly recent (2016) No End In Sight is much more my kind of "27 minute metal song", to use the prior nomenclature. It's huge but *weird*, so many of its twisting paths feel like falling down a dark rabbit hole. The most elaborate of many secrets takes you into a wholly separate part of the level that looks distinctly 90s-ish - sure enough it's excerpts from E1M1 and E2M4 of the author's very first published WAD from 1997! I love it.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Vanilla Essence does a lot of small things visually to recreate much older versions of Doom, and one thing is it dithers down to the original palette. I've been playing in hardware-accelerated mode for years and one thing I'd forgotten is how much the green marble hell textures turn grey as the engine's diminished lighting fades it down. It makes green marble areas feel a lot more *cold*.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Void and Rainbow (#092) and the intro level from Ancient Aliens (#091) have something pretty clear in common: stunning, vivid use of color. V&R is a mix of Doom64 / Heretic gunplay + level design in a world of rainbow floating platforms and gothic architecture. Ancient Aliens I believe has two more maps in the top 100; the first level gets by mainly on the novelty of the new style, general sense of cosmic strangeness, and the rather bold use of a cyberdemon in MAP01.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Transduction (#090) from 2017's "TNT: Revilution" is a tribute to key TNT member and longtime idgames archive maintainer Ty Halderman, who passed away in 2015. The map's quiet open builds a real sense of dread, and even once the action picks up there's a feeling of somber mystery throughout, culminating in both literal quotations from and a conceptual tribute to Halderman's most original and well-regarded map (and one of my favorite IWAD maps), TNT's MAP04: Wormhole.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Miasma (#089) is another 700+ monster epic. Like other similar modern works, it narrows down its color palette (to green, in this case) because it turns out Doom maps can look pretty darn good when you do that.
This map's layout excels at creating pacing - there's a fairly tight central structure interior where exploration unfolds in onion layers, with occasional trips outside for giant arena battles. Space use more deliberate and less undifferentiated than other epics.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

DW list's writeup of Dark Dome (#088) really sums it up perfectly so I'll just screenshot it here. "Slaughtermaps" aren't my cuppa but this is clearly an important step in their evolution. The starting platforms are almost impossible to survive on, so you end up running around the canals, fighting hordes that loom over you. Tense until you hit the tipping point, satisfying to finally gaze out upon the finished map - like cleaning one's plate of a too-big dessert.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

I played "Impossible: A New Reality" (#087) early last year on a WAD Wednesday stream, you can see my stream-of-consciousness first reactions to it here: youtube.com/watch?v=ZnxZfhMMk9
Still enjoyably clever in ways that are hard to capture in stills. It does several tricky non-euclidean things I've done in (as-yet-)unreleased work, but did them in 2006 without GZDoom's modern portal tech - impressive! And the final confrontation really is a nice dramatic payoff.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

"Run Buddy" (#086) from 1998 exists in stark contrast to two more modern design trends: meticulous, sometimes fussy detailing that works an editor's 1/2/4-grid, and making combat tense by depriving the player of space to maneuver. This level feels like it's made of Duplo blocks, and you almost always have huge amounts of space for dodging. And it's pretty fun! I enjoy being able to parse spaces so easily. Path threading surprisingly tricky, builds to a nice finish.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

I'm not sure I have anything insightful to say about Songs of the Damned (#085). Crumbling castle architecture and a long winding crit path, competently done. Nice skybox.
Crumbling Necropolis (#084) another huge complex. Tough fight to get an initial foothold, very few cover spots that aren't in some monster's LoS. Overuse of teleporters made it almost impossible for me to develop a sense of how to get anywhere. Optional fight for the secret exit ramps up challenge 10x.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Doom level editors had only existed for about 6 months when "Invasion 2: The Upper Decks" (#083) came out in 1994. What makes it stand out for this period is the world building, done with tons of custom textures, and a clever repurposing of the Help screen. It's all pretty straight Aliens (1986), and the main corridors may be a direct riff off the famous sci-fi hallway design that 1000s of other games have ripped off.
Cramped, tense, a bit System-Shocky. Not bad for '94.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

I'd been waiting for something like "The Beginning and the End" (#082) to come up: total ZDoom-enabled maximalism, huge environment, special effects, heaps of custom monsters, MP3 music, etc. Pretty exhausting to be honest, haha! Fight your way up a mountain and shoot some nebulous glowing core boss thingy. I think I'm just not the target audience for this kind of Doom mod, but it's undeniably impressive work, especially for 2007.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Magnus (#081) is the first example of a certain sub-style of slaughtermap that became popular in the last decade - looming, malevolent, abstract architecture, often with a vivid limited color theme. This one was quite solid n chewy, with over 1000 monsters and a mix of tight spaces and vast battle chambers. Two finale-ish fights that are each ridiculous in distinct ways. Bangin soundtrack is from this incredibly obscure PS1 game: youtube.com/watch?v=Djrghf8F0i

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

I knew these were getting ridiculous when I opened up Starport (#080) from 2013's Hellbound and said "oh whew, this one has *only* 400 monsters". But compared to the previous it is indeed more conventional - first half pretty conventional starbase interiors before a big finale in the open space at the end. As a level designer I tend to find the interplay of interior and exterior spaces often more interesting than either exclusively, and this delivers on that somewhat.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

If you're unfamiliar with Cyriak aka mouldy's animation work - a typical sample: youtube.com/watch?v=UK9_h5Iku6 - it's vital context for The Mouth of Madness (#079) from his megawad Going Down. I played all the way through and thoroughly enjoyed this one when it came out. Doom is definitely an ideal format for the the author's overall visual milieu. I also really appreciate how grounded and spatial the WAD's storytelling is - a simple journey, diverted ad absurdum, 32 times.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

"Mission Imp.ossible" (#078) from Action Doom is another adventure in using advanced ZDoom features to bend Doom halfway to being an entirely new game. Contra and Metal Slug are the obvious influences here, but it's a true katamari of its cultural corner (Metroid, The Thing, etc etc).
I actually found the "1 hit and you're dead" combat super frustrating, and turrets and tanks take way too long to destroy with near-zero damage feedback. But the presentation is top notch.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Town of the Dead (#077) brings justice to Doom 2's attempts at a city setting, threading a tricky, cramped path through impressive-for-1997 bridges and buildings in a surprisingly small footprint, all within vanilla (DOS) Doom's detail limitations. Strong layout, meticulous texturing, visuals recognizable as "art direction"... I definitely see why some consider Iikka Keranen the greatest mapper of his era.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Ticket to Eternity (#076) closes out the fan-made sequel to Plutonia, the Final Doom official release that charted a course for what "challenge" meant. "Plutonia style" for me means punishing monster placements over quantity; done well even 3 toughs is a bigger problem than a typical slaughter arena. But a map29 tribute is also obliged to crank up the scale, and it manages to hold on to these virtues as it expands. Unrelated, just ~look~ at this DoomCute dinosaur head!

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Spooky Sunken Ship (#075) from "Doom: The Golden Souls 2", a ridiculously charming ZDoom extravaganza that drops basic Doom action into a heavily Mario-influenced world of coins, jumping, monsters with cartoony behaviors, and a beautiful SMB3-style overworld map. This level dials down the mod's characteristic happy tone and uses some Super Metroid music to create a gloomy, mazelike exploration experience. Yet another fine example of Doom modding's aesthetic range.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Sheer Poison (#074) was… incredible. Challenging in the "Battletoads" sense, sure, but challenging moreso in the "Stravinsky's Rite of Spring at its 1913 premiere" sense. Its readme claims "I broke every rule that I could remember!" and this undersells it greatly. A nightmare ~about~ a Doom level, a prickly & hostile puzzle-box, a deliberate 180 from the modern styles of polished, straightforward slugathons, it explores deep into its own beautiful strange idea space.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

That said, it's kind of a pain to play! I spent almost 100 minutes unraveling it, and some of the paths felt like... research that didn't pan out? Multiple endings. It uses a texturing device reminiscent of silent film title cards. Probably lots more I could say about it. Its author, accepting its 2015 Cacoward: yakfaktory.wordpress.com/2015/

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Concept-wise and in the size and pace of its engagements, Monster Hunter Ltd. Parts 1 & 2 (#073) is more like a big budget game than most of what I've played on this list so far - STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl specifically comes to mind. A detailed real world setting twisted into uncanny horror, built with a high level of polish and an exceptional eye for texturing. Towards the end, you encounter one of the scariest things I've ever seen in a Doom level.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

For We Are Many (#072) from 2007's Community Chest 3 is a midpoint between 1996's Plutonia MAP32, the Ur-Slaughtermap, and today - comparatively little deviousness and cruelty; there's almost always safe ground to retreat to, a war of attrition not the constant sprinting panicked frenzy of the modern slaugthermap. Tight-packed rectilinear layout reminds me of Diablo 2, pleasing green vine-heavy texture choice. Millions of HP of ammo laid out in large, generous spreads.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Arcanum (#071) is the dark n spooky climax to the otherwise bright, colorful, good-naturedly wisecracking Adventures of Square. This level has a Bowser's Castle vibe with an appropriate level of buildup to a final boss battle.
Square's fun is well within the Doom idiom but adds platforming and some smaller twists, and wields ZDoom-specific tech features to great effect - another one of those things you look at and say, wow it's so cool people can build this atop Doom.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Years ago I streamed several examples of the "my house" genre of Doom level - youtube.com/watch?v=lc_EOH4M1E - and I make no secret of my love for this unique, highly individualized, and frequently adorable practice. 1995's Doom City (#070) is an example of what happens when an author can't stop at just one building. Many more impressive city maps have been made since, but I can imagine keeping this one around in 1995 just for its choice of neat details and custom texturing.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Some of my favorite Doom levels feel a bit like a reality that's disintegrating, and Hazmat Hazama (#069), the Japanese Community Project's brilliant penultimate level, runs with this idea more explicitly than almost any other I know. Shattered fragments of different map styles in a twisty puzzle of a layout that unfolds brilliantly. Goosebumps as the soundtrack briefly quotes from a certain iconic 90s rock track. This one's definitely been on my Best Of list since 2016.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Hobb’s End Horror (#068) is a classic horror setup: you wander in to a totally deserted town, see evidence that Bad Stuff Has Happened, wonder where all the people and/or monsters are, and then once the tension has built up sufficiently, boom it's monster time. The town is one of the best-realized "real world" settings, some Lovecrafty little place with a clock tower and an old hotel. Monster ambushes suitably overwhelming, and it lasts exactly as long as it needs to.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Undervilla (#067) from 2009's Whispers of Satan is a short delve into a foreboding castle of catacombs, dim firelit libraries, and some caverns. Impressive opening view. Well-judged use of some Hexen/Heretic textures. Does a semi clever thing with Mancubi. I'm enjoying this stretch of ~100-monster levels, each a distinct taste, no filler, no tiring megabattles.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Skagway's (#066) irradiated lava planet setting means that every outdoor area deals constant damage, and you must ration out the radsuits provided to make it through. This, combined with the linear sequence of uncomplicated arenas, means you feel a lot of pressure to just smash your way through every large combat as quickly as possible. It's a great pacing device and the relentlessly hot color palette really makes you feel like you're cutting a swathe through hell.

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Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

Jumping straight into Candlecove (#065) without the build-up of Valiant's 9 prior levels hits you with all the neat custom things it does at once: a few cool monster variants and some tweaked weapons. I think I've played enough of skillsaw's maps at this point to recognize his style of open air combat spaces that flow into one another, though in this case the consistency of the titular world edge motif made landmarking difficult. Fairly nonlinear, yet well-paced.

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re: Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

@jplebreton ah, good ol' Tootin' Tee

Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

@jplebreton Ha, I remember Gubble (at least Gubble2 for PC) - I still wonder how that game happened, did someone go like "I know, let's make a game where you play a screwdriver!"?

Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

@jplebreton also this skybox!

Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

@jplebreton doom level to stravinsky comparisons are 100% the content i'm here for.

Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

@jplebreton the Doom community sure like their slaughter maps

@dualhammers I can only play with WASD + mouselook, same bindings I use for any first person game. I'm not much for Doom purism; I play in 1080p with unfiltered (chunky) textures, FSAA and SSAO but no other real eye candy. Authentic "vanilla" ports are always there if something requires really strict compatibility.

Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

@jplebreton hi, what mod do you use for these beautiful automaps?

Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

@gareppa GZDoom has a "textured automap" option. The stats are a mod of mine: jp.itch.io/doom-runtracker

Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

@jplebreton that's quite a banger actually

Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

@jplebreton Seems predictive of the eventual Unreal map style

Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

@jplebreton i like the lighting on the second screenshot

Doomworld Top 100 writeup 

@devurandom yeah, that level's author has put a ton of care into lighting, even small details feel much more grounded because of it.

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