God of War – Spike Tower
There are a lot of terrifying enemies that try to kill you in God of War, however the most fearsome foe is actually a giant rotating tower full of spikes. Located in the Underworld, this massive pillar has induced many rage fueled gameplay sessions thanks to the inconsistent speeds of each section. It also doesn’t help that if you are so much as grazed by one of these blades it will send you plummeting below to start all over again. Since the tower is made up of different segments (each of which is going a different direction) it can be tricky to dodge the very small openings offered.
What’s worse is this section doesn’t test any of the real skills you have been building up, meaning all that time memorizing Kratos’ combos won’t save you now. This only makes it more infuriating since the difficulty spike is not even something based around what the game’s taught you, just poorly designed platforming.
Super Mario Sunshine – The Manta Storm
Super Mario Sunshine is an amusing, colorful title that puts a great spin on the classic Nintendo tropes and gameplay mechanics we had come to love. Yet, despite the cheerful trappings Super Mario Sunshine offers up one of most infuriating boss battles on the Nintendo Gamecube. Up until this point, players spent their time running about a tropical paradise, cleaning up sludge and surfing on colorful squids to collect gold Shines. Then users stumble upon a lost hotel that is instantly swarmed by a giant toxic manta ray that shocks the player if they touch it.
The real problem begins after you do enough damage to this boss as it will continually split apart making multiple, smaller versions of itself. This goes on until there are literally dozens of tiny, angry manta rays swarming around you making it easy to get overwhelmed. Since these enemies can climb on virtually anything, here is really no safe area to defend forcing players to always be on the move. Did we mention that every manta ray leaves behind an electric sludge trail that damages the player if it’s touched? Perhaps it’s time to go back to riding Bloopers and eating exotic fruits.
Rambo: The Video Game – The Final Showdown
While most of Rambo: The Video Game isn’t good, the last level in this title is notoriously difficult compared to the rest of the game. The most notable problem is that Rambo: The Video Game tosses an ungodly, borderline unfair amount of enemies at the player that they have to deal with. Since it only takes a few shots or one poorly placed grenade to kill users, this makes it very difficult and results in most players just hiding behind cover for the duration of fights.
Given players also have to contest with heavy troopers, grenadiers, flame troopers, and even a tank, it makes The Final Showdown incredibly frustrating. Instead of offering a balanced composition of enemies, the developers decided to throw everything in at once which becomes incredibly tilted in the A.I.’s favor. It’s poor level design and makes The Final Showdown one of the most infuriating last levels in a modern video game.
Aladdin – Rug Ride
Aladdin on the SNES was a rather entertaining game that wasn’t too difficult thanks to the simplistic combat and rather easy platforming sections. That is until users reached level 7 and forced users to complete a very fast auto-scroller that required users to dodge incoming rocks. Given you only had a second to react, this made Rug Ride a very easy level to fail since the rocks usually took up a quarter of the screen.
Did we also mention the giant wave of lava behind you and that no part of Aladdin prepares you to handle an area like this? There’s no area in Aladdin that effectively trains or tells the player they will need to deal with gameplay that revolves around having lighting fast reflexes. Maybe the magical lamp isn’t worth all this trouble after all.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Barrett Boss Fight
The Deus Ex series has always been focused around letting players choose how they want to approach engagements and objectives, allowing for a large amount of freedom when sculpting their character. However, if players decided to go for a stealthy or non-lethal route than they were in for a surprise when pitted against Barrett. Up until this point, every conflict could be resolved with non-violence, so this made the boss battle very unbalanced if you didn’t upgrade any weapon skills.
This only got worse since many non-lethal players would sell off their main weapons and grenades, leaving them woefully unprepared for this boss battle. In fact, this became such a problem that the developers had to patch in a way for non-lethal players to defeat Barrett in the Director’s Cut version of the game. Perhaps making mandatory combat sections in a stealth-driven title wasn’t the best idea to begin with.
Dark Souls – Blighttown
Dark Souls is already a difficult game, however no area in the entire series is more feared or hated than Blighttown. Unlike other areas in this title, Blighttown is unique due to the mix of verticality and status effect driven enemies that can end runs very quickly. Given the first half of this level is literally trying to walk along skinny scaffolding and bridges, fighting toxic infused enemies became incredibly frustrating. It was incredibly easy to get knocked off a platform and fall to your death, making even minor engagements with normally weak foes dangerous.
It also doesn’t help that Blighttown is a very, very long area that has a small amount of bonfires for players to take a break at. Plus, there is a poisonous swamp full of giant, angry insects that can swarm and kill you with status debuffs which is always nice. While Dark Souls is a difficult title, Blighttown ramped everything up to 11 and is still one of the most rage inducing levels to ever be created.
Pokemon Yellow – Brock
Pokemon Yellow was a unique title as it allowed players to pick Pikachu as a starter over the original three offered in Red and Blue. It gave the game a new spin and challenge which was quickly discovered by players when they came up against their first gym leader, Brock. Up until this point, players were only offered a handful of Pokemon to capture, most of which were either Flying or Bug types which don’t do a lot, if any, damage to Rock Pokemon. Given Brock’s preferred type was Rock this made things incredibly difficult to begin with in the core games, however, Pokemon Yellow took it to another level.
Since your starter was Pikachu (a Pokemon notoriously weak to Rock types) it made this electrical rodent absolutely useless in the gym battle. This forced players to either spend hours grinding in the woods so they were over leveled enough to survive the fight or just pray that RNG was on their side and Brock picked a dumb combination of moves.
Battletoads – Wind Tunnel
Considered one of the hardest retro video game levels of all time, Wind Tunnel is notoriously difficult thanks to the speed of this auto-scroller. Unlike the rest of Battletoads, Wind Tunnel forces players to ride hoverbikes at high speeds while dodging pillars that spawn at a rapid rate. Given you die if your bike even touches one of these objects, it makes this area excessively tough compared to the rest of Battletoads.
However, this only gets worse if you’re playing with a friend as it will then require both players to have a flawless run if they want to continue. Wind Tunnel is a level that effectively requires players to memorize where each pillar appears, making it incredibly difficult to complete if you don’t have extremely fast reaction times. Can we go back to just beating up people as giant toads, please?
Video games should always offer players a challenge, however, it’s important that this difficulty grows organically and doesn’t just spike for single areas or levels. Having sections that are just difficult for the sake of being difficult just produces frustrating encounters and gameplay sessions. After all, video game controllers are expensive and we can’t afford to keep throwing them against the wall anymore.