Video games offer a special kind of escapism. Unlike the passive joys that, say, a movie or a television show can bring, a video game puts you in the hot-seat and asks: “Hey, do you want a part in all this?” Generally speaking, then, video games allow us to live out many of our wildest fantasies. You wanna leap from building to building to assassinate a corrupt government official? That’s cool, bro. Feel like snowboarding down a mountain whilst clinging to the bottom of a helicopter? You can do that, too. Wanna dress up like a plumber and rescue a princess from a giant fireball-spittin’ lizard king? No problem, pal, we can set that up for you.
Most of the time we’re too busy enjoying the game to acknowledge it. We’re too immersed in the story and visuals and gameplay to notice we’re even playing something with our hands. But nothing snaps you out of a video game and ruins the experience like a difficult level. It’s the kind of thing that – at the time, anyway – makes you feel like you’re gonna quit the damn things forever. And we’ve all been there, haven’t we? Screaming at the television and throwing the controller around the room and swearing at our parents because they “don’t understand.”
Think you’ve had it tough? Check out our list of the 10 most frustratingly difficult video game levels of all-time. Just don’t try them at home. Seriously.
5. C-3 – Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels (SNES)
Dedicated Mario fans everywhere know that Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels was a stupidly difficult series of increasingly frustrating platform hi-jinks, though there’s no level more punishingly unappealing than stage “C-3.” At first, this level kind of looks like a joke (and it is a bonus level, to be fair), one that asks you to navigate a series of platforms whilst Mario is… where is Mario?
He’s up in the sky, of course, and it’s up to you to judge where and when exactly he’s going to make an appearance, whilst trying to utilise wind which has no discernible pattern. The Lost Levels was designed, you’ll remember, as a genuinely difficult Mario game on purpose (and it still is probably the hardest one). But when the levels begin to look like this, you know that Nintendo are laughing at you, and that you’re about to go freakin’ nuts.
4. The Dam – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
Nobody likes underwater levels. By definition, they suck. The ones that embrace realism, (like, say, Sonic of the Hedgehog, which forced you to collect air bubbles or drown) are nerve-jangling horrors, but even the ones that let you breathe indefinitely are nightmarish. There’s just something about an underwater level. A sense of claustrophobia and the feeling you just don’t belong. Think you’ve played the worst kind of underwater level? Think again. Let us introduce you to “The Dam,” an underwater level courtesy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES.
This level – presumably programmed by somebody going through a messy divorce – required you to swim through a tunnel, dodging electrified tentacle things, and defusing bombs. Oh, and you’re also on a timer, just ’cause. The fact that you had to accomplish such a task in the first place is questionable, but making it so that you have to do it under the wrath of a ticking clock was just nasty. Scientists currently believe that “The Dam” was responsible for at least 9 out of 10 mental breakdowns that occurred in 1989.
3. Aztec – Goldeneye 007 (N64)
Goldeneye marks one of the earliest times that a first-person shooter really made sense. Not because we had the movie to work out the plot points for us or anything, but because it showed gamers just how good this genre of video game could be. That’s until “Aztec,” of course, which has gone down in history as one of the most bizarrely unfair levels ever programmed by a human being – enough, anyway, that fans of the game will shudder at its mere mention, much as a character in Harry Potter will freak out if you say Voldemort.
But “Aztec” doesn’t play fair from the start: the basic enemies hurt Bond far too much for you to beat this thing on even the easiest difficulty. Then you have to face Jaws, which isn’t exactly a walk in the park, which sets off a series of alarms and makes things generally overwhelming. The worst part? If you die, you have to go all the way back to the beginning again. Does anybody want to be Bond this much? I’d rather jump off a dam.
2. The Perfect Run – Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
If you know that you’re not a very patient person, you’d do well to never attempt “The Perfect Run” in Nintendo’s otherwise excellent and wonderful Super Mario Galaxy 2 – for the sake of your brain function, at least. Having collected every other star over the course of the game (there’s 242 in all), it’s up to Mario to navigate an impossibly ridiculous series of challenges in this final stage, one which tests all the skills you’ve learned as you’re hurled between platforms and made to dodge things over and over again.
The killer is that you can’t get hit – not even once – and the slightest mis-judged movement means game over. Video games these days are generally much easier than they used to be, so it’s kind of nice that Nintendo included this soul-crushing level of stomach-crunching hell as a reference to the glory days. For completists, it’s essential. For anyone else, it’s like a punch in the face from Shigeru Miyamoto.
1. The Turbo Tunnel – Battletoads (NES)
Battletoads is one game renowed for the fact it probably resulted in more NES consoles being hurled through windows late at night than any other. And its reputation is justified: the game is a living hell. From a programming perspective, at least, Battletoads is a kick in the teeth, purely because there’s no way the people that made this game could’ve blindly missed the fact that it was too hard.
Though we might’ve picked out just about any level from a game that should’ve made you sign a waver to ensure you were okay to die over and over and over again, the prize goes wholly to its third level: “The Turbo Tunnel.” This is one of those levels that tried to vary the gameplay a little (an honourable thing in the NES era, really), so you’re put on a bike-thing (or the Battletoads universe equivalent) and made to dodge over a hundred intricately placed pylons, all of which approach at the speed of, oh, say, a rocket jet. Point is, you’d lose all your lives here and the rest of the game would be impossible to complete. Actually, even if you had a million lives, the rest of the game would be impossible to complete. That’s Battletoads!
Agree or disagree with our choices? How many have you beat? Which video game levels did you find impossibly hard to complete? Let us know in the comments section below.
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They forgot the 7th world in Mario Bros 3 and every level in the original Mega Man tbh