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"Here's a little bonus room

'Cuz I know you've had it tough,

And here's a little bonus tune

'Bout collecting real cool stuff..."
—"The Li'l Bonus Room," Skullmonkeys

The friendly Bonus Stage (not to be confused with the less friendly Bonus Dungeon and Brutal Bonus Level) is a level or area in a video game that has all or many of the following traits:

  • Does not need to be accessed/completed to complete the game (though it may be needed for One Hundred Percent Completion).
  • Is entered after the end of a regular level, or at points within a regular level.
  • Usually hidden, or requires a certain level of performance or number of pickups, but in some games they always appear at set points.
  • Contains opportunities to get large amounts of points, One Ups, continues, Power Ups, and even Chaos Emeralds.
  • Typically, it is a Mini Game, or differs significantly in some other way from normal gameplay.
  • If it's possible to die at all, it will only kick you out of the bonus stage without taking a life.

This is also not to be confused with the web animation of the same name, or Bonus Round, which is for game shows and tends to function similarly. See also Secret Level.

Examples of Bonus Stage include:

  • Various arcade-style games, such as Gauntlet (1985 video game), Mario Bros., Binary Land had bonus stages after completing a certain number of regular stages.
  • Wrecking Crew had a find-the-coin bonus minigame after every fourth stage.
  • In the original Super Mario Bros, going down certain pipes or climbing up hidden vines would take you to hidden areas filled with coins. Later games in the series kept these in-level bonus areas but added entirely separate levels, sometimes hidden, sometimes not, in which you could get loads of points, lives, or items.
    • Super Mario Bros 3 was probably the one with the largest number of different kinds of bonus area/level. Underground coin rooms, beanstalk coin rooms, the slot-machine Mini Game, the Memory Mini Game, the treasure ship...
    • Super Mario World had, in addition to coin rooms, a Mini Game where Mario must hit various cycling blocks and try to get 3 shapes in a row to win 1-Ups. It was accessed by accumulating 100 stars via breaking the tape at the end of the level.
    • In Super Mario Land on the Game Boy, in addition to coin rooms, taking the harder-to-reach exit to a stage would lead to a bonus game where, depending on your timing, you could get lives or a power-up.
      • A few of the coin rooms have Spikes of Doom, allowing you to die in a coin room.
    • Super Mario Galaxy 2 had scattered Warp Pipes that lead to various rooms with free stuff available. Some contained dice which could give coins, Star Bits, or OneUps. Others contained many coins that, if collected soon enough, gave a 1Up.
  • In Ristar, each level contains a secret entrance to a bonus stage where you must complete a task within a time limit to get a special item; collecting enough of these would unlock passwords that you could enter to modify various aspects of gameplay.
  • In the first 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog game, collecting enough rings during a level would unlock a bonus stage (Special Stages) at the end of the level where you could try to win a Chaos Emerald. In later 16-bit era games, these areas would become accessible during the levels rather than after them, and would later be accompanied by additional types of bonus stage (called oddly enough, Bonus Stages) that didn't contain Chaos Emeralds but did contain power-ups and the like, but these were still treated as separate stages rather than as parts of the stage you came from; your score would be tallied at the end of them just like at the end of any other stage.
    • In the 8-bit (Master System and Game Gear) game, the Chaos Emeralds were hidden in the levels but collecting enough rings gave you access to the bonus stage full of rings, extra lives and one continue per stage.
    • Sonic 3 was unique for having bonus stages dedicated to the Chaos Emeralds (3D mazes where you must "Get Blue Spheres"), as well as three less elaborate bonus stages for the express purpose of farming rings, lives, and shields—the Gumball Machine, sort-of-Pinball, and Slots.
    • The bonus stages were brought back for Sonic Heroes, which was notable because the other 3D games (both before and after Heroes) just automatically gave you the Chaos Emeralds over the course of the main plot. Of course, those Emeralds were still necessary to reach the final story...
    • SonicRush did the same thing, but only for Sonic's story - Blaze got a Sol Emerald automatically after every boss fight. The Chaos Emeralds AND the Sol Emeralds were both necessary to access the final stage in this case.
  • As sort of a weird example, in Earthworm Jim, each regular level would be followed by "Andy Asteroids?", a race with Psy-Crow. Beating him would allow you to go on to the next stage without incident and possibly rack up an extra continue, while losing to him forced you to fight him before going on to the next stage.
    • In Earthworm Jim 2, the same was done with a minigame where you had to use a giant marshmallow to bounce Peter Puppy's puppies to safety after Psy-Crow throws them out of a window. If you drop too many, Peter transforms into his Super-Powered Evil Side and attacks you.
  • In Skull Monkeys, the bonus rooms are accessed by collecting the "Swirly Q"s and entering a special exit at the end of the level. It's most remembered for the song that plays there, which must be heard to be believed.
  • In rather similar fashion to some of the Mario games, Donkey Kong Country has loads of secret areas filled with goodies, some of which behave more like part of a normal level and some of which behave more like levels in their own right.
  • In Cool Spot, collecting 75 Cool Points in a level unlocked a bonus stage after the level was finished in which you could get 1-ups and continues.
  • In Dynamite Headdy, putting on the Liberty Head transports you to a bonus game where you try to shoot a certain number of basketballs through moving hoops within a time limit. Each time you successfully complete it, you get one of the characters in the four-character password needed to unlock the Bonus Boss after the end credits. You are transported back to the same point in the main level when the bonus game ends.
  • Star Trek Elite Force 2 has a Bonus Stage which is a direct pastiche of Super Mario Bros.; you even have go drop down a giant pipe to get to it.
  • The first Crash Bandicoot had bonus stages that could be gotten to by collecting three of certain items. The later games had one on each level, which you just had to step on a pad to get to. Some levels had a second pad that only appeared if you get that far without dying, which leads to a more-dangerous-than-normal-play Death Stage.
  • Space Invaders Extreme has bonus rounds that are activated by shooting red or flashing UFOs. Inside, you have to shoot a certain number of armoured or evasive invaders within a time limit. Your reward? When you exit, your cannon becomes a Wave Motion Gun for at least 15 seconds.
    • Space Invaders Extreme 2 streamlines this feature by having the main stage keep going while the bonus stage takes place on the top of the screen, which you have to shoot up to.
  • In Street Fighter II, after every two or three rounds, your character got to beat the crap out of a car or pile of oil drums for extra points.
    • And Street Fighter III 3rd Strike: Fight for the Future has two bonus stages in which you destroy a car or tech Sean's basketballs.
  • Jazz Jackrabbit had a variation where, after each world, you would get a bonus round, where Jazz would run around (in Third-Person Shooter mode, minus the shooter part, rather than Side Scroller mode) in a semi-3D maze collecting gems. If you met the target within the time limit, you got a 1-up.
  • The credit rolls of the Tetris the Grand Master series have you continue playing. Some modes have you simply continue playing as the credits roll, with no effect on your score or grade. Some others, like TGM2s and TGM3s Master mode, have the "disappearing roll," in which pieces vanish 5 seconds after locking down; in TGM3 clearing lines during this part will add a small fraction of a whole grade. Then there's the infamous "invisible roll" in which pieces vanish upon locking; in TGM2, this is required to earn the Grand Master rank (failing will net you an M grade instead), and in TGM3, this nets even more grades per line clear, and clearing enough lines and surviving are just part of the requirements for TGM3s Grand Master rank.[1] Finally, TGM3s Shirase credit roll has you playing with fully-visible double-sized pieces, but has no effect on your grade.
  • Bubble Bobble Part 2 for the NES: In each bonus game after each Boss Battle, Bub must play volleyball or one-on-one basketball (both Luck-Based and Timed, and there's a really weird twist to the "basketball" game in there) or get more of a certain item than his opponent. These games are very Nintendo Hard too, and the player will lose more than he/she would win. Bonuses range from various point bonuses to a huge item and/or five extra One Ups.
    • Getting more of a certain item than the opponent does, however: that's a Shout-Out to the original game which has a bonus game - In the first Bubble Bobble, the player(s) race to get the most of a type of item on the screen in a time limit.
  • A classic example is the Challenge Stages of Galaga.
  • The US manual for Death Smiles advertises the Ice Palace in MBL as this. Under normal conditions, it is exceptionally easy to rack up points and max out your lifebar (scores of over 11 billion from the stage by itself are not unheard of, making it the single high-scoring stage). Unfortunately, if you happen to be doing too good, the background will be red instead of blue, and you'll have to contend with it at Rank 999, where accumulating points is much more difficult.
  • Every world in Purple has one bonus stage which can be unlocked by finding a hidden switch. These stages contain lots of 1-ups.
  • Batman Doom, unusually for a vanilla Doom mod, has one of these. During your first boss fight with the Scarecrow, mayor Kroll is tied to a ticking bomb in the vicinity. If the bomb explodes, the level ends and you go to the next one (map16) like normal. But if you manage to actually defeat Scarecrow before the explosion, you go to map31. It's a big, empty (and thus somewhat creepy) city map where you're trying to collect a bunch of random bonuses before you can access the exit and continue onto map16. This is also where you can access the Secret Level.
  • Bug!! has two kinds. The first plays like the regular game itself (except you had to collect gold objects for extra lives). You could die in those, if that happened you'd exit the bonus level. The other is a Pass Through the Rings bonus, with an extra continue should you make it to the end.
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns had hidden rooms that contained many bananas, banana coins, and balloons. Collecting everything would reveal a Puzzle Piece necessary for One Hundred Percent Completion. Falling off would not result in death.
  • In American Football, the "extra point" and "two-point conversion" qualify. They come after a major score, and failure usually has no consequence other than not getting the extra points. However, in extreme cases, it's possible for the other team to score.
  • In Oasis, bonus stage where most of the map consists of large oasis. There is also a single town. Once the glyph and the city is discovered, victory is guaranteed.
  • Aladdin Virgin Games has special tokens you can collect to earn a chance to play as Abu in Agrabah or the Cave of Wonders.
  • Similarly, The Lion King has bugs that can be collected to play bonus games as Timon or Pumbaa.
  • In Aladdin Capcom, the "A Whole New World" stage is a bonus level with no enemies.
  • Battletoads in Battlemaniacs had continuous scrolling bonus stages following the second and fifth levels. The object was to collect the bowling pins or dominoes for points and avoid the black ones and enemies.
    • The Battletoads Arcade Game had a Street Fighter II-like timed stage after the third level to demolish a Rat Fighter like the one from Battletoads and Double Dragon.
  • In Nuts & Milk, the third of every set of five levels was a timed bonus round. Yogurt would be waiting on a box in the middle of the screen instead of in a house at the top left, Nuts was replaced by fireballs that moved slowly around the screen, and collecting fruits were optional, but they otherwise played like ordinary levels. However, dying in a bonus round wouldn't affect the number of lives.
  • Spiral Knights periodically and randomly inserts bonus stages into their dungeons. These levels are full of money, items, Heat and Minerals, with no enemies to attack.
  • In Space Harrier, stages 5 and 12 have you leap onto a friendly dragon and score points by flying into everything in sight.
  • Jackie Chans Action Kung Fu has hidden bells in many places. When Jackie picks up a bell, he is instantly transported to a "special stage," where he can win points, by punching/kicking things or jumping on clouds, that can be spent on health, continues, and Psycho Waves. There's a show of fireworks for a perfect score.
  • Milons Secret Castle has hidden music boxes that transport Milon to an area in which he collects musical notes to earn money.
  • Jaws has a bonus stage involving bombing jellyfish from a plane.
  1. And believe me, those two requirements alone are hard enough. How hard? Well, out of the millions who've played Tetris, only 3 of them have this rank.