In most cases, video games help us relax: we come home from a long day, put Fallout 4 or Fifa 16 in for a spin, and immerse ourselves in another world for a while.
When games have a well-balanced learning curve, they really can be a soothing experience, providing enough challenge to make us think without being exhausting … but some actually taunt us with their infuriating difficulty, hurling obstacles our way that are all but impossible to overcome.
Whether this is down to a glitch, an overpowered boss, or shoddy level-design, the result is usually the same: you try again and again and again, until you get too frustrated to even bother anymore.
Some games have moments or levels that are just so hard they ruin the entire experience – you have no choice but to give up. We’ve all been there, right?
So, in the interests of a shared cathartic release, let’s name and shame eight unfair moments in gaming …
- 1 T2: The Arcade Game – The Truck Level
- 2 Mike Tyson’s Punch Out – Fighting Mike Tyson
- 3 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – The Water Temple
- 4 Marvel VS Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds – Galactus
- 5 Tekken 6 – Fighting Azazel
- 6 Battletoads – The Turbo Tunnel
- 7 Syphon Filter – Stronghold Catacombs
- 8 Street Fighter 3: Third Strike – Fighting Gill
T2: The Arcade Game – The Truck Level
If you were tasked with designing a coin-up, would you make the difficulty low enough to let people progress, or would you make it so hard they ended up pumping one coin after another into the slot?
Well, the team behind T2: The Arcade Game definitely chose the latter path – which is made painfully obvious in the infamous truck level.
Playing with a lightgun made the game slightly easier, but if you’re stuck with a joypad … well, you’ll end up seeing the third level over and over again. Tasked with protecting John Connor as he drives a beat-up old truck across battle-scarred terrain, the difficulty jumps up a notch or two.
Terminators swarm in, surrounding the vehicle, and if your aim’s off at all, you’ll end up hitting the truck itself – causing it to burst into flames.
Mike Tyson’s Punch Out – Fighting Mike Tyson
Fair enough: the man who lends his name to the game wants to make sure he’s not too easy to beat. It’s a pride thing. We get it.
However, making the character brutally hard to beat is not cool.
While losing to other opponents in the game means you have more attempts to work your way back up the rankings, but losing to Tyson himself means an instant game over. Tyson’s on-screen sprite caused many NES controllers to became coated with sweat, dented, and – without a doubt – hurled against walls, possibly dragging the console itself after it.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – The Water Temple
A recurring star of ‘hardest level’ lists, Ocarina of Time’s Water Temple is one of the most tooth-achingly frustrating parts of what is a fantastic game.
With four floors of puzzles and enemies to negotiate, the Water Temple has drawn criticism from fans who nonetheless love this game. Not only is this part incredibly hard to get through, it’s also huge, which means it takes longer than it should.
The entire thing just feels way too unfair. Thankfully, when Nintendo ported this to the 3DS, they toned the difficulty down, meaning any fans still carrying bad memories of the N64 version were somewhat appeased.
Marvel VS Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds – Galactus
Getting to the final stage of Fate of Two Worlds is fairly easy, depending on the difficulty level you choose. However, facing off against the planet-eating Galactus is an arduous task you’ll quickly grow to hate.
Being a cosmic superbeing of immense size and power, making Galactus anything other than a challenge would make no sense … but making him grotesquely overpowered? That’s not cool.
With the ability to slam heroes into rock under his fist, flick them off-screen, and generally take every move (no matter how powerful) without flinching can leave a bad taste in players’ mouths.
On harder difficulty levels, this fight is so frustrating there’s no shame in simply giving up.
Tekken 6 – Fighting Azazel
We love the Tekken series, but – as with all fighting-game franchises – they’re prone to being unbelievably tricky to beat. Typically, boss characters should be challenging, and if you’ve even managed to conquer a final stage without any effort, you’ll know how disappointing that can be.
However, Tekken 6 gave us Azazel. As anyone who’s played this to the end will know, he’s seemingly designed by an evil genius: while he’s big enough to fill much of the screen, it’s bizarrely hard to get a punch in. Why? Because, you see, Azazel can block the majority of strikes, even when he’s on the offensive himself.
As with facing Galactus at the close of Marvel VS Capcom 3, Azazel leaves something of a sour taste in the mouth after multiple attempts to beat him.
Battletoads – The Turbo Tunnel
Battletoads made an appearance in one our earlier blogs, when we discussed some of the hardest games ever made. Well, now that we’re covering unfair moments in gaming, it seems only right to spit venom at it once again.
Anyone who paid full price for Battletoads back in 1991 must have felt a real sink in their stomach when they realised just how brutally hard it was. This would have become glaringly apparent on the third level – ‘the Turbo Tunnel’.
This involves piloting a bike through countless obstacles, while travelling insanely fast. It’s still regarded as one of the most unfairly-difficult levels in a video game ever, and you have to wonder if the developers were playing some kind of prank on us all to see how much time we’d actually put into overcoming it.
Syphon Filter – Stronghold Catacombs
Syphon Filter was a fantastic game on the PS1, filled with awesome action, great weaponry, and cunning stealth … but it also featured one unfair level that offered no mercy on the slightest mistake.
The Stronghold Catacombs tasked hero Gabe Logan with following a scientist through dark, shadowy tunnels. What makes this so hard? Having to keep the scientist within sight, but without giving him any reason to believe he’s being followed.
Sometimes, it seems as if the game has a glitch that alerts the scientist even if Gabe makes no false moves – and when the cat’s out of the bag, you’re returned to a checkpoint.
Some of us had to use a level select cheat to get past this first time around, and it was worth it – the rest of the game was a gem!
Street Fighter 3: Third Strike – Fighting Gill
Street Fighter 4’s Seth took some flack for being a cheap final boss (able to use other characters’ abilities, making him appear invincible), but Gill from SF3 is actually more rage-inducing.
With Gill, it’s easy to assume the developers were messing with gamers: not only does he have moves that are way more powerful than any other character’s, even when blocked, he also has a special that makes him invulnerable to harm. He can also resurrect from defeat if he has a bar of super meter left – which is absolutely unfair: a K.O. should be a K.O., damn it!
What unfair video game moments would you pick? Which levels have prompted you to nearly snap a controller in half? Let us know!