© 2021 The Author(s)Understanding the evolution of level densities in the crossover from spherical to well-deformed nuclei has been a long-standing problem in nuclear physics. We measure nuclear level densities for a chain of neodymium isotopes 142,144−151Nd which exhibit such a crossover. These results represent the most complete data set of nuclear level densities to date for an isotopic chain between neutron shell-closure and towards mid-shell. We observe a strong increase of the level densities along the chain with an overall increase by a factor of ≈150 at an excitation energy of 6 MeV and saturation around mass 150. Level densities calculated by the shell model Monte Carlo (SMMC) are in excellent agreement with these experimental results. Based on our experimental and theoretical findings, we offer an explanation of the observed mass dependence of the level densities in terms of the intrinsic single-particle level density and the collective enhancement.