LEVELS THAT WILL DRIVE YOU TO HATE ALL PLUMBERS
MSN just came out with a list of the 5 hardest video game levels of all time. Apparently, without free open access to Burma crisis, they're falling back on good old reliable top # lists.
The only problem is...these aren't the hardest levels of all time. Okay, two of them are, which is more than I usually expect out of the media, but the other three they list are:
1. A 24 hour level of Gran Turismo that no one's supposed to actually play.
2. A level of Call of Duty 4...which I've admittedly never played, but I've never heard anyone complain about it, and in the comments people mentioned that there are much harder levels in the same game.
3. A Nintendo Club House sliding puzzle. I sincerely hope it's not the puzzle in the picture, because I solved that just by staring at it for a moment. Those puzzles are pure simplicity when compared to Professor Layton's...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Yes, I am going to geek out, and present the REAL hardest levels of all time, and to re-afirm my status as a Renaissance geek, I'm extending the list to 20.
Oh, and I'm not using the word 'real' lightly. I mean 'real' like in the 'REAL' Ghostbusters. That's right, my list is Egon, and theirs is a large ape in a Fedora.
Before we start though, let me explain why certain levels/games didn't make it on the list:
'NINTENDO THUMB: I came up with this phrase after playing Blaster Master for a while. It's a great game, but without a save or password feature. So if you wanted to beat it, you had to basically play for an entire day straight, and still possibly get your ass handed to you by the end boss. Like the 'Gran Turismo level', just because a level is really long, doesn't mean it's difficult.
'NON-ISOLATED DIFFICULTY': Just because a game is hard, doesn't mean particular levels are hard. Good examples are Kid Icarus, Ghouls and Ghosts, and Ikaruga. The games are extremely hard, but no particular level is any harder than any other. They're just really hard games.
'UNFAIR': Some levels are just unfair, requiring 'try and fail' rather than actual skill. A few examples are lvl 1 of Boy and his Blob, and most of The Immortal.
'SEPERATE GAMES': Lufia 2 and Tobal have 'quest modes' that go on forever, but they aren't really levels, but seperate games in themselves.
'SAVE': A level really isn't that hard if you can save every step of the way. This disqualifies most modern FPS's, like Half-life and Halo.
'TRICK': Some levels seem impossible, but then you find out years later that there was a trick to beating them. Remember carnival nights zone in Sonic 2? Remember those dreaded spinning platforms? You're supposed to press down. No, not jump, just press down on the controller. Quickman stage? It's not quite so hard with Flashman's power...it's still tough, but not mind wrackingly difficult. Oh, and those fireberry caves in Kyrandia? The berries don't go out if you place them on the ground. Yeah, I nearly keeled over when I found out that secret. I've still got a map somewhere that I had to draw to get through that damn level.
'GRIND': Yes, Final Fantasy 3, Final Fantasy Tactics, the Fire Emblem series, and Shining Force series are difficult, but not when you grind levels like crazy. Nothing's difficult when you're free to get up to lvl 99. It's just tedious.
'GOOD ENDING': Some games aren't that hard to beat, per se, but it's difficult to get the good ending, like in Psychic Detective, Castlevania 2, and Ogre Battle. Yes, perhaps it's difficult to beat a level in a specific way, to get a better ending, but that doesn't make the level itself hard, unless it's the only way to beat it.
So, without furter ado, here we go, from least suicide-inducing, to games that make you wonder if it's possible to slit your wrists with a Mach 4:
20. JEOPARDY (NES)
Alright, it's not really a level in the general sense, but I had to throw this question a bone.
'What actor starred as the lead in the movies Terminator, Predator and Commando?'
I bet you know, right?
Great, now spell it correctly.
You have 60 seconds.
19. PROFESSOR LAYTON AND THE CURIOUS VILLAGE (DS) PUZZLE #135
A sliding block puzzle that puts all other sliding block puzzles to shame. This puzzle makes that Nintendo Clubhouse puzzle look like a kid's toy. The only reason it didn't rate higher is because you effectively have unlimited moves, and can eventually get it just by guessing...if you've got several hours to spare.
18. MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE (PC) HARPSICHORD PUZZLE
Now here's a puzzle you can't even guess through. It's one of the last puzzles in the game, and enough to drive you mad. It's not as simple as hitting the right notes, you have to figure out which notes stand for other notes, and each note is a Monty Python quote. It's basically a secret code made out of quotes...let's just say it's really frickin hard.
17. DRAGON'S LAIR (ARCADE) TWO SPINNING HAMMERS
For the life of me, I can't find rhyme or reason to this level. There's two spinning hammers...which he could crawl underneath, but that's beside the point. Anyway, there are two spinning hammers, with a bad guy on the other side. You have to time it so he doesn't get hit by the hammers, but they move so fast that I can't tell. I usually have to wing it, and hope for the best. It'd rank higher, but the level is really easy after that point.
16. GOLGO 13 (NES) UNDERWATER NAZI BASE
I forget the exact number of the level, but you have to first navigate a complicated maze, and then fight your way past incredibly difficult Nazis on flying platforms. It's easy to get killed...and then it's right back to the start of the maze. Doesn't rank higher because you can avoid the enemies in most cases, so it becomes more tedious then difficult.
15. SUPER MARIO BROTHERS (NES) LEVEL 8-4
Here's the first taste of pure frustration and defeat most of us older gamers felt when we were young (outside of the school yard). This level was a monster, and the hammer brother right before King Koopa was arguably harder than the big man himself. If you showed up as small Mario, you were as good as dead. It doesn't rank harder because we all eventually beat it. It was just a royal pain.
14. LEGEND OF ZELDA 2 (NES) FINAL TEMPLE
This level almost got disqualified for the ability to grind levels (a first and last for Link), but this level was a monster. Secret walls, numerous opportunities for death, infinite loops, and TWO BOSSES at the end. The first you needed enough magic to cast Thunder, or you couldn't win, and the second was your own shadow, who fought with the skill of a master. In all ways, this level was rough, although not impossible, with patience.
13. STARSHIP TITANIC (PC) PARROT PUZZLE
Easily the second hardest 'point and click puzzle' (we'll get to the hardest later), it was not only completely unintuitive, but you had to bait the parrot not away from his stand, not out of his cage, but to the EDGE of the stand, and to do this you needed a chicken prepared EXACTLY the way he wants it, and have no doubt, he'll be sending you back numerous times to fix it, and then you have to figure out how to warm it up, and then, and ONLY THEN, you can steal his perch, but only if you do it right, otherwise it's back to square one.
As a side note, when you save the damaged AI at the end of the game, she actually apologizes for the parrot. Yes, this is the kind of puzzle that the game designers apologize for afterwards.
12. RESIDENT EVIL 2 (PLAYSTATION) TOFU
Granted, it's a special level you have to unlock, created in response to a fan's video, where they beat Resident Evil 1 in two hours, using no weapon besides the knife. Most people would simply laugh and point at the loser, but the creators felt the need to reply with a mini-game. It's basically the same as the 'Hunk' mini-game, only you have healing items, no weapon besides the knife, and...you're a block of tofu. I...guess in Japan that's the equivalent of the middle finger. I don't know. Anyway, it's nearly impossible, unless you're a geek who beat the original using...well, you get the idea.
11. TMNT (NES) FINAL STAGE
The final stage of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the hardest stage in a ludicrously difficult game, given the age of their average fan. Not only is there no save or password, but you can't stock up on extra lives either, since if a turtle runs out of health, he's captured until you free him, which can be several levels later.
Anyway, the only reason it wasn't disqualified is because the last level is nearly impossible, especially Shredder, the final boss. The only reason the game isn't listed higher is because you can effectively grind by stocking up on 99 scrolls per turtle, which are the super weapon of the game, making the last level at least somewhat possible.
10. LEGACY OF THE WIZARD (NES) MOTHER'S STAGE
No one's ever beaten this game. I hear people make claims, but I don't believe them. The labyrinth is neverending, it's quite easy to get trapped and have no way out, and you constantly have to go back to the start, to change characters. To make it worse, it often isn't clear which level is intended for which character until it's too late! In all my years playing, I've only found one of the four crowns, and I'm not willing to believe there are any more.
Anyway, of all the levels, the one intended for the Mother of the family is the hardest, simply because she's the least useful of the characters, and her flight ability is slow, and really not any better than the sister's ability to jump higher.
9. NINJA GAIDEN (NES) LAST STAGE
A monstrously long and nearly impossible level, culminating it a fairly difficult final boss. Oh, and death at any point leads to a one way ticket back to the beginning of the stage. Ah, they made you work for the 'THE END' back in those days...
8. SPACE CHANNEL 5 (DREAMCAST) LAST STAGE
A 'simon says' puzzle game that makes Parappa hang his head in shame. Not only is it fast...not only is it difficult...but when you get to the final boss...you have to press the directions OPPOSITE the ones he's saying. Left means right, etc...
Now that's cruel.
7. FRIDAY THE 13TH (NES) FINAL RESURRECTION
Now here's a game that's designed to kill you. Jason is every bit as difficult in the game as he is in the movies, no doubt. He's fast, brutal, and will kill your backup team members if you let him. In what other NES game does the villain murder innocent children with impunity?
Anyway, Jason is incredibly tough, lightning fast, and can appear at virtually any moment in the game. His third incarnation is the toughest, and if you can't find the pitchfork, you don't have a chance of beating him.
6. PSYCHONAUTS (XBOX & PS@) FINAL LEVEL
A generally simple, fun and hilarious game becomes murderously difficult in its final stage. A single missed jump can send you all the way back to square one, and if you haven't absolutely mastered your abilities, you don't stand a chance. I love this game, but I honestly still haven't beaten the final level.
AND NOW...THE TOP 5!
5. GUITAR HERO 3 (MOST OF THE NEXT GEN SYSTEMS) DRAGONFORCE
This one made it to the MSN list, and it definitely deserves to be there. No human being was meant to play the guitar this quickly. No one.
The only reason it isn't ranked higher is because it's only horrifyingly difficult on hard or expert level. On medium level, it's merely terrifyingly difficult, which is still enough to get it in the top 5.
I could go on to list Jordan in this list as well, but I think we'll restrict Guitar Hero to a single spot, since each sequel is essentially an expansion for the original game.
4. BATTLETOADS (NES) STAGE 3: THE BIKE STAGE
This level is nothing short of legendary. There's essentially less than half a second to predict if you have to press up, down or jump, and gamers still shudder upon recollecting it. Ironically, the later levels were nowhere as difficult, but you'd have to be masochistic to get through level 3...which I did. The fact I've actually beaten this level (but not without incredible effort) stops it from going higher than four.
3. KING'S QUEST 5 (PC) CAT CHASING MOUSE OUTSIDE PIE SHOP
*Max drinks slug of Vodka*
Okay...if we rate by sheer frustration, this level, which is essentially a single screen, takes the cake. I swear, Roberta Williams will pay for this.
The screen seems simple enough. There's a cat, chasing a mouse. Take too long, and the cat will catch the mouse, and kill it.
Now, you may not be shocked to learn that your life depends on saving that mouse, and you might not be surprised to hear that you need to find a special item to do so. What may surprise you is that there's two ways for you to ensure it's impossible to win the game on this screen...
...AND YOU HAVE NO WAY OF EVER KNOWING THAT YOU CAN'T WIN, AND WHY!
Yes, you can go for ten hours trying to find a way through the game, and not know you can't win, all because of that hungry feline. I hate that fucking cat. I mince no words about it.
If the cat kills the mouse, you have no way of being freed from the kidnapping innkeeper, which is the only way of finding rope in the game.
No problem, right? You find a stick, and throw it at the cat, and save the mouse, right?
You just lost the game.
Apparently, that's the only stick in the entire fucking forest. No, by leaping to the obvious conclusion, you've doomed yourself to start from scratch. No, you need a boot.
No, you can't take off your own boot. You have to find a boot all on its own. Where do you find it?
In the middle of a brigand filled desert, surrounded by scorpions.
I wish I was fucking kidding.
So, since you didn't want to take off your shoe, and that stick is the only stick to have in the tree filled kingdom, you must brave a horrible desert...find the boot...and use it to kill the cat before it gets the mouse.
I'll fall short of calling a Jyhad on Roberta Williams, but only 'just' short. A regular Vendetta will do just fine.
2. MIKE TYSON'S PUNCH OUT (NES) MIKE TYSON
The MSN list got this right. When I was young, the real measure of your ability was if you could beat Super Macho Man. Most players accepted him as the 'End Boss'. Mike Tyson himself was ridiculous. A single punch knocked you down, and you only had a split second to dodge his strikes, which he signaled...not with the exaggerated outstretched arms that the other bosses used...but with a single blink of an eye. For the first round or so, you have no chance of hitting him. Later on, he'll tire down (just like real life actually...during his peak, Tyson was only invincible at the start of the match), his punches will only rob you of 'half' your life bar, and you can possibly take him out.
If you do, my hat's off to you. There's only one level in any videogame harder...
1. SESAME STREET 1-2-3 (NES) ERNIE'S MAGICAL SHAPE CHALLENGE
How the fuck am I supposed to know what a square looks like?
1. CALL OF CTHULU (XBOX) HOTEL RAID
Call of Cthulu is a great, underappreciated gem, which mainly goes unappreciated because 98% of its players haven't gotten past the first hour of the game. Just as the action begins to start, you're awoken in your hotel by the approach of villagers.
It starts with a relatively long cut-scene, which you have to watch every single time. From that point, if the villagers make it into the same room as you, you're dead, as you don't have any weapons yet.
I'm not sure what made the game designers think this level was appropriate near the beginning of the game. It wouldn't be so hard, but in order to survive you must follow an exact number of steps, executed perfectly, without wasting even a single second, and I'm not exaggerating. Even a single mistake will result in death, and then you'll have to watch the cut-scene and try again.
Basically, you have to leave the room, bolt the door (there's no auto-target, or way to know you're looking directly at the bolt by the way, so if the game decides you're looking at the door and not the bolt, it opens the door, and you're dead), bolt the neighboring door, push dressers in the way, climb out onto ledges, jump from building to building, and ANY hesitation what-so-ever will result in death.
This level literally kills the game. I've had long, drawn out discussions with geeks over the best ways through, and even those ways take almost hundreds of tries to pull off.
After that, the game's normal. What the hell was wrong with the designers? By comparison, that Call of Duty level might as well be Cutman's stage.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm about to overdose on geekiness. If I don't make it to a hospital in 15 minutes, I'll be checking episodes of Enterprise for continuity errors, signing an online petition to renew Firefly, and writing about old video games in my weekly blog...