5 most frustrating levels in gaming history

Justin Cabrera


The purpose of a video game is singular; they are meant to help us forget about our stressful lives for a few hours by providing us with a fun, stimulating experience. Sometimes, game developers forget about this basic and obvious concept, which is the only explanation we can think of as to why these levels exist. You all know what we’re talking about: those levels that are so insanely frustrating that you see red and throw your controller in a futile, primal effort to exert some sort of control over the game.

This article will be filled with spite and ANGER as we will never forgive these levels for wasting hours of our precious childhoods.

5.  Level 2 – The Lion King

lion king game hardest levels ever

Making a game based on the most beloved animated movie of all time seems like a no-brainer right? The Lion King video game sold millions of copies on SNES, Sega Genesis, and PC, but most people never made it past the second level. This level, based on the movie’s colorful “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” song, is one of the most notoriously frustrating levels in all of gaming. It’s a combination of many factors: the confusing maze of monkeys (think Donkey Kong Country’s barrel cannons but worse), the incredibly precise double jump segment, and missing jumps and slamming into trees.

Difficult levels have their place in games, sure. But why would you make the second level so hard and confusing, especially in a game aimed at children? Whoever designed this level deserves to be fed to lions at their local zoo.

4. Pachinko Machine- Super Mario Sunshine

Super Mario Sunshine often gets unfairly criticized compared to its contemporaries. It didn’t revolutionize gaming like Super Mario 64, and it didn’t have the brain-twisting worlds of Super Mario Galaxy, but in our opinion, it deserves to stand tall among the other 3D Mario classics.

What it DOES need to get criticized for is its collection of extremely frustrating levels. It’s like the genius designers of 3D Mario games saved all their horrible level ideas and sprinkled them throughout Sunshine. Who could forget cleaning the electric manta ray goop off the beach? Or the surgical precision required to roll a watermelon down a hill for the Watermelon Festival? Even among all that madness, the pachinko level stands out as the most maddening level in Mario history.

I don’t know who needs to hear this right now but let it be known: pachinko machines are not fun. They are barely more stimulating than slot machines, and the only reason people tolerate them is that they sometimes give you money. There is absolutely zero circumstance where we want to play a pachinko machine for the sole purpose of entertaining ourselves. This frustration increases tenfold when Mario is the pachinko ball, the camera is unusable, and the controls are incredibly tedious and imprecise. Even getting to the level is an enormous pain because you have to wait for gaming’s slowest boats to take Mario to the secret entrance.

3. Blighttown – Dark Souls

blighttown most frustrating levels ever dark souls

For those who have played Dark Souls, this entry requires zero explanation. For those who haven’t, let us try to explain.

In the original release of Dark Souls, Blighttown was barely functional from a technical standpoint. It was the only area of the game with significant frame drop, and it felt like playing a slideshow at certain points. While this was horrible, this issue was fortunately fixed in newer versions of the game.

Even without all of the technical issues, Blighttown is still a nightmare in a game specifically marketed as a grueling, unforgiving slog. The first part of the level is vertically based, meaning that one wrong step sends you plummeting to your doom. The place is littered with masked blow dart shooters, who fire poisonous darts that are so hard to see that they mine as well be microscopic. And if more than two darts hit you, God help you, because you’re going to be dying a slow death via poison.

Even if you make it to the bottom of that hellish wooden structure, the bottom of the level is a giant swamp. You’re forced to walk through the swamp to proceed, and the bog water not only slows you down but is poisonous for good measure. Game mechanics that slow movement are unfun, getting poisoned is unfun, and all you’re left with in Blighttown is a swampy stew of misery.

The biggest slap in the face is that the boss you fight at the end of this swampy hellhole is one of the easiest in the entire game. It should be noted, however, that this may just be due to players channeling their intense, unbridled Blighttown rage onto the poor creature.

2. Turbo Tunnel – Battletoads

battletoads turbo tunnel frustrating

The NES days were filled with difficult games. For some sadistic reason, developers thought that because they couldn’t make very long games, they should make very difficult games, because if you retry a level ten thousand times that technically adds more replay value! Nowhere is this more important than level 3 of Battletoads.

Battletoads is already an incredibly difficult game, but this fun little racing section is what truly cements its place in the depths of Hell. The player must memorize a blazing fast race course in order to dodge and jump over barriers. Seriously, just look at this:

We know several people who played this game growing up but we don’t know a single person who has beaten this level. The Battletoads devs must’ve been a huge inspiration to the Lion King devs because this racing section also appears early in the game. Apparently, the concept of a gradual difficulty curve was not invented back then, and for that reason, we wish unending misery and a plague of frogs upon the Battletoads team.

1. Minecart Levels – Donkey Kong Country series

donkey kong country mine cart levels frustrating

We have a love-hate relationship with the Donkey Kong Country series. While it was one of our favorite franchises, there are so many rage-inducing unholy levels that it was hard to narrow it down for this list. From the icy barrel cannon level, to the suffocating water levels, to literally EVERY parrot level, the DKC games were chock-full of sadistic, blackhearted level designs.

Still, even among all of the trials and tribulations that the poor apes must face, nothing in the series compares to the minecart levels. Unlike other levels, minecart sections have you uncontrollably speeding ahead in a cart on a track, leaving you with little control of your own fate. It’s up to you to have an Olympic level of reflexes and spatial awareness to make pixel-perfect jumps, dodge enemies, and hit fuel/timer barrels.

These levels are examples of the worst humanity has to offer. They filled us with a white-hot rage, the type of rage that causes rational men to do irrational things. Through burning tears and sweaty palms, we eventually managed to beat these levels, but not without sacrificing a part of my soul. To whoever designed these levels, you can take a golden banana and shove it where the sun don’t shine.

What was the most frustrating level you ever played? Let us know (or don’t, and spare us from suffering).

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