The Top 10 Video Game Levels from Hell

March 4, 2010

Video games thrive on challenge.  Whether it's having deadly aim, brutal ninja skills, or the ability to wave around a wand and look like a complete tool, games demand skills, precision, and accuracy.  Sometimes they also demand the patience and reflexes of a ninja on caffeine pills.

Source: Darren Robb/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

By Dan Seitz

 

10. Impossible Game Lives Up To The Title

Source: FlukeDude

We here at Spike.com love the Impossible Game, because it's basically both everything awesome and everything that makes you homicidal about platforming in one package.  It's pretty straightforward: jump the spikes, hop on the blocks, and keep going. 

What makes it just a little difficult is, well, see for yourself:

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It's enough to cripple any thirteen-year-old with carpal tunnel, low self-esteem, or controller-destroying rage.  And isn't that what indie gaming is really all about?

 

9. Battletoads' Hover Bikes From Hell

Source: Tradewest

There are many achievements from old-school video games that'll impress any gamer.  Beating Contra without the Konami Code.  Defeating M. Bison twice in a row.  But there's only one that they'll refuse to believe you've pulled off, and that's beating Battletoads.  Why?

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That's why.  The hoverbike level is infamous for demanding both skills and total luck to survive.  And Battletoads is esteemed far and wide as the hardest game you can find before you get into games designed to destroy your soul.  Like...

 

8. Ninja Gaiden's Final Level Can Only Be Beaten by a Ninja

Source: Temco

The Ninja Gaiden franchise is pretty famous for being insanely difficult these days.  In fact, the developer gives anybody who picks the "Ninja Dog" (i.e. "Easy") mode add-ons like pretty little ribbons for your ninja.

But Ninja Gaiden's been murderous right from the start.  Here's the final boss fight:

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That looks terrible, right?

Did we mention that if you lose this fight, you go all the way back to the beginning of the level?  And have to fight through the whole thing? Just to get back to that boss fight?

 

7. But Even a Ninja will Have Trouble With the Ninja Turtles

Source: Nintendo

The Hudson Dam area, in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES, starts off pretty simply.  Side-scroll, kill the enemies, jump over holes, etc.  But then you start swimming.

How does a two-minute time limit sound?  How about a two-minute time limit to swim through a maze?  Not hard enough?  How about you have to find and disable a bunch of bombs in out of the way places?  Still not hard enough?  How about electric gates?  Still not hard enough?

How about narrow windy passages lined with a space barely big enough for your character with electric tentacles hanging from the floor and ceiling ready to shock you if you deviate from so much as a pixel from the proper path.  That sound tough enough?

See for yourself:

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6. Double Dragon's Cave Will Throw You in the Hole

Source: Taito Corporation

Double Dragon, for those of you still zygotes when it came out, was the first huge beat 'em up.  It had two-player action, what were clearly a gay Japanese man's idea of dangerous street thugs, and a stunning twist ending that nobody expected, partially because it made absolutely no sense whatsoever.  Namely, that player two was the bad guy you'd been fighting all this time to confront.

But before you could find that out, you had to get through this:

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That's the cave level.  You know, we got dragged to tons of caves in grade school, and none of them ever featured moving platforms or falling spikes.  Just another failure of the American education system in making learning fun: not only would razor-sharp falling objects be more interactive, but we'd have burned off all that weight we gained doing nothing but trying to beat Double Dragon.

 

 

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5. You Wouldn't Like Peter Puppy When He's Angry

Awwww, look at Peter Puppy.  He's so cute!  So adorable!  So incredibly likely to rip your throat out at the least provocation!

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Earthworm Jim is a pretty beloved franchise, but we're hard-pressed to think of a level that destroyed more controllers or more souls than "For Pete's Sake," where you try to escort the incredibly cute and also incredibly prone to hulk out Peter Puppy through a hazard filled level.  As you might guess, if Peter Puppy gets angry, you're up the creek. Of course, you can't beat the level without him being his normal self, because where's the fun in that?

 

4. God of War's Hell Lives Up to the Name

Source: Capcom

We all love the colorful hijinks Kratos and his Greek buddies get up to, what with the flowers and the puppies, and, oh yeah, the huge fountains of gore and insane amounts of violence.  But while the first game was pretty hard across the board, just ask anybody who made it to those damn rafters, there's nothing like the Hades level:

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Yes, those are big turning blades.  On logs.  That rotate.  That you have to cross.  Or, even better, climb up that log while avoiding blades, something so difficult that in the re-release, you actually get a trophy if you do it without taking any damage.  Oh, and most of this is while fighting enemies.  You'd think after all of this the Gods would actually cut Kratos a damn break and give him back his family, especially with all the crap he'd put up with in part two.

 

3. The Water Temple Fills With Your Tears of Frustration

Source: Nintendo

Zelda fans all hate and fear the words "water" and "temple" when they're paired together.  In a game that lives and dies by how tough its dungeons are, the Water Temples are infamous for how difficult they are, and there's one in every 3D Zelda game.  But far and away the most hated and feared was the one from the beloved classic Ocarina of Time.

You had to constantly fill and drain the entire level to advance.  Not a room, not a floor...the entire level.  Even worse, the only way to get at some areas were the Iron Boots, which sank you down to the floor, and forced you to constantly switch in and out of your inventory screen just to finish a section.  Here's an example:

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How frustrating was this level? It's so bad the director of the game actually apologized in an interview.

 

2. Resident Evil 4 Shows Us Water and Games Are Just a Bad Idea, Period

Source: Capcom

RE4 is a classic game, taking the franchise that was formerly all about bad camera angles, limited ammo, and finding that damn key and turning it into a game where you squared off against crazed Spanish villagers, Lovecraftian horrors, and crazed cultists with a shotgun.  All this despite half the game being an escort mission.

And, amazingly, this was one escort mission that actually worked.  Ashley, the President's daughter, actually did things like duck and listen to what you told her to do.  Capcom took one look at this and decided to combine it with putting you under siege while trying to turn a water crank to advance the level.  Of course, there's no cover, no place to hide, and that you have to make a fourteen-year-old turn a heavy crank while you desperately try to blow away both knife-wielding cultists and snipers.  No wonder they put this out on the GameCube first; they wanted to see how much stress a gamer could take.  Just to give you an idea: here's a Spanish gamer doing a speedrun:

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1. Gradius' Crystal Level is Like Asteroids...Only Worse

Soruce: Konami

Gradius is one of those classic franchises that helped gamers invent terms like "bullet hell."  It was so tough it became standard to give you four little sidekicks to spray ammo and bombs everywhere to fight back.  But that made things too easy, so they decided to introduce fun areas like the Crystal level, where you're not only playing Gradius: you're also playing Asteroids at the same time!

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Oh, what could add to the fun of shrapnel that turned into smaller shrapnel?  We're thinking electric shocks to the nards, but amazingly the Japanese haven't invented that for game systems yet.  We think it might be part of the PS4.

 

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