Day officially ruined
You're having a great time with a game and then… it happens. Before you even fall into the first pit or get blown up by the first cheap explosion, you feel that dreaded prickling in the back of your brain. Is this it? Your blood pressure rises as you fail horribly a few more times, and your suspicions are confirmed. It is. It's the worst level. There's nothing stopping you from putting the controller down and walking away, technically, but you're not going to let this little bit of awful stop you from getting back to the good times. Steeling yourself for hours of anger and despair, you select "Continue".
After decades of grumbling, frustrated sobs, and heaving controllers, we've collected some of the many moments we love to hate from otherwise perfectly decent games. You might want to move any fragile items out of arm's reach before you start reliving these memories.
The Great Raid (For Honor)
Format: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release date: February 14, 2017
For Honor's campaign mode is better than you'd expect for what's basically an online, weapons-based fighting game. Generally speaking. There are some exceptions, and the worst offender may be the final stage of the Viking campaign: The Great Raid. Specifically, the final moments of the final stage - the rest of the level is totally fine until you meet samurai leader General Tozen.
The rage doesn't truly begin until Tozen removes his armor for a final duel, suddenly granting him the ability to block three quarters of your blows and go on extended slashing sprees that are jarringly tough to defend against on higher difficulties. All the while he repeats the same handful of voice lines ("You're a raider! Legendary!" "I must defeat you!") and calls down arrow strikes like his archers are still way under their estimates for this quarter. Thankfully, Tozen has a limited engagement range, so the easiest approach is to just whittle his health down then run and hide under a nearby shelter as you wait for your healing talent to replenish. You did equip a healing talent before starting the level, right? It works, but it's a distinctly dishonorable way to finish For Honor's otherwise satisfying Viking campaign.
Chapter 8: The Dead (Killzone: Shadow Fall)
Release date: November 15, 2013
New rule: if your whole game isn't about base jumping through dangerous environments, don't put that in your game at all. Killzone: Shadow Fall has some decent momentum leading up to its eighth chapter but it instantly disperses all of that energy by slamming you into falling debris over and over and OVER again. Starting out high in the smoky skies, players are expected to adapt to unintuitive skydiving controls moments before being sent through a collapsing city. Clip a building and you get to repeat the exact same extended on-rails freefall segment until you memorize every obstacle.
Or you could consider all the other things you could do with that time instead, like cleaning out your closet or reading a book or finally learning how to do a cartwheel without falling over. Then you could eject the Killzone: Shadow Fall disc from your PS4, fling it over the horizon, and get on with your life.
Blighttown (Dark Souls)
Format: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Release date: October 4, 2011
Come to think of it, Dark Souls has a few really awful levels. Seath's Crystal Cave and the pitch black Tomb of the Giants are utter garbage thanks to invisible pitfalls every two feet that send you tumbling to a bonfire 20 minutes back. Then there's Lost Izalith, a humongous map full of waist-high lava and skeletal T-Rexs that body slam everything into oblivion, and the only way to kill them is to cheese them into killing each other. And then there's Blighttown.
Blighttown is home to some of Dark Souls' worst cheap tricks. Poor lighting makes it difficult to get your bearings. Little witch doctor dudes poison you with blow darts if you're not quick enough to cut them down, and you have to run through a poisonous swamp if ever you hope to accidentally stumble upon the boss's stupid spider cave. And that's to say nothing of the ridiculous treehouse section that's just as impossible to navigate as the bogs below. As far as terrible levels go, this one's pretty high up there.
Turbo Tunnel (Battletoads)
Release date: June 1991
Ah, yes, level three of Battletoads, the stage that 85 percent of the planet's population just did not have the patience to deal with. Turbo Tunnel starts off well enough: you run around pounding Fievel and his hat-wearing mouse friends into the organic ground, then perform some Shaquille O'Neal magic on your foot to quadruple its size and boot said mice into outer space. Then, for some unknown reason that still eludes scientists to this very day, you hop on a hovering go-kart that just happens to move at one speed: way too damn fast.
Progress-blocking barricades magically materialize out of thin air in an attempt to thwart your smooth ridin' every few seconds. Hit one, and you have to restart the level. At first they appear slowly; one at the top of the two-tiered track, then at the bottom. Then both at once, forcing you to jump. Then a ramp appears--assume it's a barricade and dodge it, and it's death via freefall. Fast forward an hour later and you might have made it three-fourths of the way through this small but obnoxiously difficult segment, only to discover a new barricade--one that blocks jump attempts--is waiting for you near the end of the run. Yeah, we gave up pretty quick too.
Can't Wait to be King (The Lion King)
Format: PC, SNES, Sega Genesis
Release date: December 8, 1994
It's weird to think that there was a time when movie licensed games had a shot at being decent. Take Virgin Interactive's The Lion King, for example; it's a (mostly) great side-scrolling platformer with gorgeous sprites and backgrounds drawn by Disney's actual animation team. And the tunes, ye gods, they're adapted straight from the film's orchestral score, making it next to impossible not to sing along as you play. Plus, the platforming gameplay is actually quite fun - or, at least you might think so, if only you could've ever gotten past that idiotic second level.
Can't Wait to be King is far more difficult than its whimsical environment might suggest. The happy monkeys and majestic giraffes are mere facades, meant to disguise the brutal, precision platforming and pure luck required to progress from one end of the stage to the other. The happy ostrich that shuttles you across a golden landscape, he's smiling because he knows he's ushering you toward your doom. Then, when you finally reach the rhinos munching away on whatever it is rhinos eat, you have to swing from their tails to traverse what is apparently super deep water. Just one slip, and you'll send the poor lion cub to a watery grave.
The Library (Halo)
Release date: November 15, 2001
Nothing says "fun" quite like getting lost in a generic-looking labyrinth packed with some of the most unenjoyable enemies ever devised in a first-person shooter. The Library is easily the worst level in pretty much any of the Halo games. Its grey-hued halls never change from one room to the next; hell, the rooms themselves basically look identical, making it extremely easy to get turned around.
Then, of course, you have to mow down wave after wave after wave after wave of Flood. They swarm in vast numbers, apparently with infinite reinforcements at their heel, and love to overwhelm you right as you've spent the last of your ammo, save for your trusty pistol (an admittedly beautiful weapon). Even a mid-level checkpoint pokes fun at how shitty a time you're probably having, because its title is: "Wait, it gets worse!" Hahahhahaha..ha.ha guhhhh.
The Volcano (Far Cry)
Format: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Release date: March 23, 2004
You know you're in for some shit when you can walk into an armory and stock up on max ammo, health, and armor. Only, as anyone who played 2004's Far Cry can attest, all the guns in the world can't save you from cheap level design. Armed to the teeth, you step into the rim of an active volcano to fight an army of rocket spamming Hulks (which are stupidly hard to kill and are entirely out of place) and acrobatic mutant ninjas that snipe you from the opposite side of the stage. Oh, plus they're pretty much impossible to see without thermal vision because they're so damn far away. Thankfully, if you need to heal up, you can grab the level's only health pack - which, by the way, is on the opposite end of the arena looooool.
So, how can a secret agent - one who already obliterated an army of bad guys while uncovering a conspiracy on a secret island--possibly survive? The answer: prevent the airlock door that leads to the armory from closing by dropping a bunch of junk in front of it. Grab a heavy machine gun for the rocket launcher dudes, and use the sniper rifle's thermal scope to take out the ninjas. If you're lucky, you'll succeed after 200 attempts.
Mile High Club (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare)
Format: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release date: November 5, 2007
An optional level, but a terribly difficult one nonetheless. Modern Warfare's Mile High Club might not be that bad at face value, but crank that baby up to veteran difficulty is an absolute nightmare. The only way to beat complete it within the minute-long time limit is by playing it over and over and over again (or by watching a YouTube video) to memorize the spawn locations and enemy count of each section of the stage. Then you have to figure out, with exact precision, when to throw flash grenades, when and where to shoot, and who to knife. Surely, you can't be serious?
It quickly becomes a tedious process of trial and error. Muss up the angle of a grenade throw, and you might as well restart. Miss a knife swing, and you might as well restart. Have an ill-timed reload? Yeah, you might as well restart. With enough perseverance--aka several hundred tries at beating the level - you might finally succeed. Not the patient kind? Maybe avoid this one, lest you end up taking out your anger on an unfortunate section of drywall.
The original Meat Circus (Psychonauts)
Format: PC, PS2, PS4, Xbox
Release date: April 19, 2005
There's a good chance you guessed ahead of time that this stage would make an appearance on a list of "levels we thought were bullshit." Not that we didn't like the premise of the stage--an environment made entirely of raw meat (brutal)--but it's here that Psychonauts' 3D platforming is at its worst.
First, you have to complete a frustrating escort mission. But to even get to the AI companion you're supposed to protect, you have to navigate a series of increasingly difficult jumps, and it's not always clear where, exactly, you're supposed to hop to next. Fail to get to your pal quick enough and you get the lovely pleasure of replaying the entire segment. Then you have to navigate a series of rope climbs, which wouldn't be so bad if not for the clunky controls that often send you plummeting to your death instead of to the next platform. It's tough enough to complete without that jerk that spams fireballs at you while you attempt to outclimb a level filling with lava. All of DoubleFine's charm can't stay the rage that ensues from trying to get through Psychonauts' finale.
RC Car levels (Disney's Toy Story)
Format: PC, SNES, Sega Genesis, Game Boy
Release date: December 1995
One of Traveller's Tales' earlier projects, Disney's Toy Story was the bane of many young gamers' existence. Several of its stages are just far too difficult considering its target audience is predominantly children, whose still-developing motor skills make mastering precision platforming and using Woody's pullstring whip attacks nigh impossible. And if you're some kind of child prodigy talented enough to make it through the most grueling of challenges, Toy Story throws two big middle fingers right in your face: the RC racing levels.
At first, you might be excited by the prospect of racing through what looks like a stage ripped straight from a Micro Machines game. Plus, RC is a cool character! But here's the thing: the controls here are so bad that successfully navigating your car through the narrow track is somehow more difficult than physically backflipping across the continental US. For starters, if you so much as touch a wall, you're done. That wouldn't be so bad if you could take your time, but RC runs on batteries (which, by the way, are hard as hell to collect), and the time limit makes an already un-fun stage even more so.
The Water Temple (Ocarina of Time)
Format: N64, 3DS
Release date: November 21, 1998
Some things in life have the power to bring grown adults to their knees. War. The loss of a friend or family member. Poverty. And, of course, the hellhole that is the Water Temple. Ocarina of Time's most infamous stage was a formative moment for many gamers of the '90s, reinforcing the notion that, hey, life just ain't fair. Oh, I'm sorry, you actually wanted to finish this otherwise masterpiece of a game? Too bad, even with the official strategy guide you're basically fucked.
The temple's multi-tiered layout is just downright confusing; it's frustratingly easy to walk in circles, visiting the same rooms over and over again thinking they're new areas you haven't already explored. As with all Zelda dungeons, a series of keys and locked doors are all that stand in your way - except you also have to manipulate the water levels of the dungeon to reach them, which makes things doubly confusing. Successfully complete the Water Temple, though, and you'll sleep well at night knowing that nothing can stand in your way going forward.