The Water Temple – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
If there was any video game level to test your patience, it was the Water Temple. Dark and difficult, the player must constantly equip and un-equip Link’s Iron Boots to survive the rising and lowering water levels. The Iron Boots also cause Link to move as fast as a turtle, as if the level couldn’t annoy you enough already.
Rainbow Road – Mario Kart Wii
The Rainbow Road has seen several incarnations throughout the Mario Kart series, but in the Wii edition, you’ll really be tested. Unlike a lot of racing levels or indeed racing games, there are no guardrails on the Rainbow Road. If you veer too much, that’s it, you’re gone. Throw in a heap of sharp turns and steep drops and your sanity will be questioned.
Aztec – Goldeneye
Given that Aztec is 19 levels into Goldeneye, you’d think players would be fully prepared for any kind of difficulty. Think again! This labyrinth of claustrophobic corridors and endless enemies (who operate at twice the speed of average Goldeneye enemies) is not something you are ever going to beat the first time round. Or maybe even the thirty-eighth.
Demolition Man – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Who knew that driving a real helicopter was easier than driving a toy one? Those who’ve played Vice City, that’s who. Tasked with navigating a remote-controlled helicopter around a large construction site to plant four bombs, you will have to dodge angry construction workers and security guards trying to shoot you down. One bump will blow up the helicopter. Oh, and did we mention you have seven minutes to do this?
Ornstein and Smough - Dark Souls
No list of difficult video game levels would be complete without Dark Souls, would it? You could even say the battle with Ornstein and Smough is now synonymous with tough levels. Defeating them, on paper, is as simple as defeating any other enemy in the game. All you need to do is nail every single reflex and precision hit with zero faults. In reality, this is soul-crushingly hard.
Mile High Club (on Veteran) – Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Yes, the title may seem strange, but this level is one of the hardest a COD player will ever come up against. Stick it on Veteran difficulty and you’re gonna be wondering why anyone voluntarily plays games. Bubble wrap your entire surroundings before diving into this level, in which one false step will force you to restart, because that controller of yours will go airborne. Mark our words.
Slippery Climb – Crash Bandicoot
Crash Bandicoot? The zany kids’ game? Yes, the very same. Speak to anyone who played the 24th level of the original 1996 game and ‘Fortunate Son’ will play in their head. Climbing Cortex’s castle on a rainy, stormy night, while also hopping between moving platforms and ducking acid attacks is some task. This level, if beaten, takes only six minutes. On your first try? Make it sixty.
Tubular – Super Mario World
The run time of the Tubular level in Super Mario World is around a minute, if you can believe that. Slogging around the P-Balloon, players face many obstacles in the form of vicious plants and baseball-throwing enemies. One hit, you will fall to your death. Forget about power-ups – they won’t make a lick of difference here!
Through the Fire and the Flames – Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
DragonForce’s Through the Fire and the Flames will have its honest fans, no doubt. But to most of us, this song exists as nothing more than a meme of sorts. A notoriously fast-paced and technically tricky riff, it made perfect sense that it would one day end up on a Guitar Hero game. If you manage to nail this song on Expert mode on the first attempt, you should be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Tree Tops – Spyro Reignited
In a similar vein to Crash Bandicoot, most gamers might brush off the likes of Spyro as nothing too difficult outside of childhood but its Tree Top level is often considered one of the hardest levels of all time. Factoring in a gazillion different platforms and gaps, zipping your way across the Tree Tops in Spyro Reignited feels way harder than a game about a small purple dragon has the right to be.
The Impossible Lair - Yooka – Laylee and the Impossible Lair
Nothing prepares you for the eponymous Impossible Lair in Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. It’s plain sailing (more or less) up to that point, and then it becomes one of the hardest levels in all of gaming. With each section of the Impossible Lair testing your pace and reflexes, completing this level can take dozens and dozens of tries.
Assault – Hotline Miami
Assault is the thirteenth chapter in Hotline Miami. Unlucky for some? Try everyone! This level is notoriously difficult simply thanks to the sheer volume of people you have to beat. On the second floor of this level alone you come up against 12 armed men, about three of whom move around at the speed of light. Not literally… but man, are they rapid.
Car Park Training – Driver
In order to prove to Driver you have the chops to make it in the game, players are required to complete a car park training drill. While not the longest or most visually stimulating video game level, it is one of the most tense given the short amount of time you have to pull off a slalom, a reverse 180 and a lap of the entire car park. Among a good few others…
The Ringed City - Dark Souls 3
You have to be one tough and patient cookie to take on the Ringed City. Players have to fend off multiple ghostly archers, shooting a host of arrows your way, usually into your body, killing you. This may happen a few times so don’t be upset if you don’t beat them on the first go. And then there’s Darkeaster Midir, one of the franchise’s hardest bosses ever.
The Flying Machine - Shovel Knight
Shovel Knight is your standard platformer game: fun and whimsical to look at, infuriatingly difficult to play. This entry, about a knight who carries a shovel, comes up against some tough competition in the form of Green Hover Meanies, who are annoyingly efficient at throwing you into the path of cannonballs.
Death Mountain – Zelda 2
Death Mountain will take a while to complete. The enemies you face have precise weaknesses and it’ll take a bit of trial and error to learn about these (unless you Google them). So forget about hammering away at the attack button and start dodging those red axes.
Welcome to the Machine - Ecco the Dolphin
What do you get when you mix together a narrow environment, an auto-scroll setting and a pace so rapid it’s impossible to avoid bumping into people? One of the most irritating and hard video game levels of all time. Who knew you’d face such a challenge in Ecco the Dolphin? You’re also taking on a green dinosaur-alien hybrid, which obviously won’t give any child nightmares.
Stage 6–2 – Ninja Gaiden
A surefire way to make an ex-smoker 80s kid to take up the habit again is to remind them of Ninja Gaiden. This soul-destroying level in particular, Stage 6–2, has enemies flying at you from each and every direction, ceaselessly, as if it wants you to headbutt the screen in anger. What’s crazy is that things don’t get any easier from here on out. Every subsequent level of Ninja Gaiden could make this list.
Dr Wiley’s Castle - Megaman 9
The way Dr Wiley’s Castle gets you is that it introduces a whole manner of surprises and traps that have never even been hinted at in the buildup. That is a fairly common progression in game levels, but Megaman 9 doesn’t pull any punches. Here you have to defeat a team of enemies bearing shields who only offer you a small window to get them (which most of the time, is covered by said shields).
Chapter Nine – Farewell Celeste
The whole of Farewell Celeste is enough to make anyone punch a hole in their wall, but the free DLC that is chapter nine will make you want to burn your entire house down. Want to master this level? Get your move combination game down to a tee. And pray. Get on your knees and pray.
Water Dam – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
What’s worse than a really hard video game level? One that has a timer. Seriously, stop with the timers. Life is twisted enough, does our main source of escapism have to drag us down too? The Water Dam in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will have you ducking around random, surprise energy beams that chip away at your health. Thankfully you have the option to switch turtles.
Turbo Tunnel - Battle Toads
There’s no room, quite literally, for blunders in Battle Toads. One slight misstep and that’s it, you’re toast. It’s hardest level Turbo Tunnel brings this stark reality to life like no other. Timewise, on paper, the level shouldn’t take that long. It’s not so much about the scope of the challenge but the volume of obstacles.
Dark Side of the Moon – Super Mario Odyssey
After you locate 500 power moons, Super Mario Odyssey will treat you to a secret level that is not as fun as it sounds. In fact, it’s quite dull. There are many requirements to beat this level is to mainly catch RoboBroodal lacking, cutting him back down by the legs before he can do any damage. Practice your long jumps, too.
Mike Tyson Fight - Punch-Out
Now this may look hammy, but if Mike Tyson was deadly in real life, they weren’t going to make him a breeze in video game form, where strength is usually exaggerated to the -nth degree. Against him, you’re basically two-foot tall and highly prone to uppercut knockouts.
Level Nine - Castlevania II
At the beginning of level nine players will have to shimmy their way past a throng of evil monkeys dropping out of the sky. From there you have to climb against running water countless enemies either dive or shoot at you. Then you cross a platform and take Medusa Heads which can kill you instantly through touch alone.
Cortana – Halo 3
Cortana is the ninth and hardest level of Halo 3. Your mission is simple: find Cortana and activate Installation 08. What’s difficult is completing it. If you do in either Normal, Heroic or Legendary difficulty mode, you’ll earch The Key achievement and 40 Gamerscore. Emphasis on the ‘if’ there.
Sephiroth Battle - Kingdom Hearts
In the Platinum Match at Olympus Coliseum, Sephiroth will appear and fight Sora. He’s one of the toughest bosses in the franchise by the way. After that, Cloud (you) will come up against him. Sephiroth will try to sway you to turn to the darkness. You’ll refuse and enter a battle in the air, which is very, very hard to overcome.
Eggmanland – Sonic Unleashed
For a cheery theme park name, Eggmanland is a bastion of frustrating and difficult obstacles. As if the thousands of booby traps and high-speed conveyor belts weren’t bad enough, this level is excruciatingly long. Talent and skill isn’t worth much here. You’re gonna need some incredible luck.
Flight Town - Dark Souls
Do you love video games to have tricky, botched vertical descents? Who doesn’t! Flight Town in Dark Souls opens with them, which is a really nice treat. Because, after all, all gamers love tricky, botched vertical descents. At the bottom, you’ll have to face off against dozens of creatures and land hazards that can easily pick you off.
The Library – Halo: Combat Evolved
They say when one door closes, another one opens. Well, they have clearly never played the Library level in Halo: Combat Evolved. Here, the doors shut and they stay shut much to your detriment. Your only way is by getting them open while fending off gunshots from every angle.
Velvet Hammer – MechWarrior 2
Escort missions are never fun, but Velvet Hammer takes the cake. This is the escort mission to either make or break a player. And it’s all just get some guy to the opera, so it’s not as if you can be inspired by a noble and worthy cause.
Castle Siege – The Witcher II
The prologue for The Witcher 2 is hella restricted and arduous, making it one of the most frustrating levels in video gaming. Running away from the dragon and fending off multiple enemies can wear out a seasoned Witcher fan out, let alone newcomers to the series.
Radec - Killzone 2
Radec is pretty damn hard to beat, but the tactic is relatively simple. Pick up a flamethrower and shoot it at his outline. When he’s up in flames, Radec will run around screaming for about ten seconds. That’s your chance to get out your sidearm or knife and finish him.
Alien Autopsy Part III - The Simpsons: Hit and Run
In this brilliantly wacky if surprisingly difficult level, Homer locates his father at the playground with his revamped WWII vehicle. The two of you then drive to the power plant, while being followed by the alien car, which is out to get you and then some. The level is completed by collecting the nuclear waste and delivering money that finally brings the alien pursuit to a halt.
Gym Leader Whitney - Pokemon Gold
Do you remember Miltank? If you played Pokemon Gold and face gym leader Whitney, you definitely do. And for all the wrong reasons. In some strange twist of fate, the Miltank you face off against is not the useless, daydreamer you’ve met before. This time can knock out entire teams of Pokemon all by itself. And if you do land a shot on it, Whitney will heal the damage with a Milk Drink.
Supply Lines - GTA San Andreas
What’s odd here is that you have to pay (game money) to play this level. $30,000 to buy Zero’s RC shop in San Fierro and then the worst experience of your life. What’s better than that? To beat the mission you must destroy all the couriers before they make their deliveries and then fly back to Zero’s roof.
Swoopbike Level - Shadows of the Empire
Sure, the Swoopbike is a handy vehicle if you’re looking to reach unseen speeds in open land with no obstacles whatsoever. But if you’re trying to navigate sharp corner and boulders, it’s a match made in hell. This bike is so sensitive, it’s impossible to drive more than two seconds without banging into something.
Rug Ride - Aladdin
The Rug Ride is fun. There’s no denying that. On the first attempt, anyway. On the hundred and twenty-seventh? Not so much. This SEGA Genesis game, aimed at children, is remembered as one of the most strangely difficult of the era. And it’s all because of the Rug Ride, baby.
Challenge of the Gods - God of War
It’s a challenge of the Gods. You can’t go into this expecting a free pass. Players must face gang after gang of undead soldiers and Gorgons simultaneously. Forget about using magic here - it won’t work. Use Lance of the Furies (L1+0) in the air over and over until this long level is done.
Manuel Tunnel – Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland
The Tony Hawk games were never a walk in the park but this Manual Tunnel level really took the biscuit. Players are tasked with skating all the way through the underground passage of Downtown LA without failing to land a trick or running out of steam. Try spacewalking if you lose your speed.
NANCY MI847J - Tekken 6
You’ll find Nancy right before your encounter with Jin. If you beat her, you’ll earn a fair bit of money, but don’t bet on it. Nancy is jacked. She can attack while being hit. She can’t be stunned or knocked down or even grappled. Forget about throwing her up in the air. It ain’t happening. Watch out for her eyes in case they laser a hole in the floor and send you plummeting to your death.
Blood Trails – Max Payne
Max Payne’s nightmares in this 2001 game are a pain the backside. They’re bad for him and even worse for us, cause we’re in charge of getting through them. It’s basically a maze of blood trails that you must stick to. Slightly deviating from the trail will result in instant death and starting the level over. When you’ve been so used to defying gravity as Max Payne, this comes as hugely frustrating.
Platinum Mode Multiplayer - Mass Effect 3
Just in case you were wondering what it’s like to face off against wave after wave of hordes of Brutes, Marauders, Phantoms and Banshees in Mass Effect 3: it’s bad. To beat this level, you’ll have to practice like you’ve never practiced before. Build up your power, your arsenal and pray for the best.
Arnhem Knights - Medal of Honor: Frontline
The Arnhem Knights level hoodwinks the player into thinking it’s gonna be a piece of cake. You start things off in a house with very little in the way of competition. Then you step outside and find yourself assaulted by tanks, machine gunfire and even rocket launchers. If you wanna get out alive, remember the location of medikits. And stock up on grenades.
Shao Kahn - Mortal Kombat 9
Right after Shao Kahn snaps the neck of your friend Kung Lao, you’re forced to fight him. Not ideal timing, really, but needs must. Beating Kahn is tough going, as he can combine several powerful attacks together. The fact he can use a big hammer doesn’t help matters. And there’s a weird x ray move to avoid as it sucks away the majority of your health.
Jet Ski – Uncharted 1
This follows a popular trope and source of frustration among many video games, the “uncontrollable motor device seemingly magnetised by walls and boulders”. The jet ski level of the first Uncharted game can only be done on slow motion if you want to avoid being flung into the water.
The Stampede - The Lion King
This is stupid looking back. How was any kid supposed to get past this level. You’re not even looking in the direction of freedom, making it impossible to foresee boulders and traps that only appear a nano-second before you can even consider leaping over one. Oh, and there’s also the multiple hyenas trying to trample you.
The High Road - Crash Bandicoot
The twenty-third level of anything should be difficult and the High Road is no exception. Wow. Try making your way through this without tracking down the houses of the developers of Crash Bandicoot and holding them ransom until they pay $1 million to everyone who has ever had to complete this level.
Cuman Camp – Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Infiltrating the Cuman camp? Forget about it. You found out and suddenly you’ve got fifty people on your trail. It seems like the quest can’t be beaten without cheating but think outside the box and you will be rewarded. For example, try poisoning the food pots of the bandits so there are less to face when you try breaking into their base.