The Video Game Level Hall of Shame

At present, we’ve already had two sets of inductions into our very own GamerSushi Hall of Fame: one for solo campaign levels as well as multiplayer maps. When I wrote those, I was sure to note that they were by no means a final list, and that we would be adding plenty of new groups in with them. That’s why I’m here today to bring a new set of candidates, but with a bit of a twist: The Video Game Level Hall of Shame.

This wing of the Hall of Fame is devoted to those game levels which are masochistic in their design, ever demanding more skill from us, more hours and frustration and yes, even blood sacrifices in order to add their notches to our belts. The Video Game Level Hall of Shame is reserved for those notorious offenders that made us collectively throw our controllers in frustration and disdain, scorning the forges that could create such misery in video game form.

Allow me to display the first inductees:


Halo 3: Cortana

Cortana Halo 3

Along with the dreaded Library from Halo: CE, Cortana seems to be one of the more universally deplored levels in Halo fandom. I don’t think it’s any coincidence at all that both are Flood stages which require you to navigate through what seems to be and endless maze of corridors with a bit of back-tracking to boot.

Cortana to me seemed to be a gigantic middle finger to Halo fans far and wide when it asked you to completely run back to the starting point of the level, this time with an even worse barrage of Flood waiting for you as you exit Cortana’s spa chamber, or whatever it was. That opening hall with the needle shooting Flood nearly drove me to alcoholism. Not really, but it was hard, man.


T2: The Arcade Game: Assault on Skynet

Terminator 2 Arcade Game

There were many games that involved Terminators made in the 90’s, but only one of them was not complete garbage. That was the Terminator 2: Judgment Day arcade game, which was eventually ported over to the 16-bit consoles as well. If you’re unaware, this was a light gun game that took you (sort of) through the story of Terminator 2.

However, not many people got to experience past the third level, which had you defending a beat up red truck that was on its way to destroy Skynet. Why the human resistance didn’t just get themselves a tank is beyond me, because defending this truck is a total pain in the ass. Ask almost anybody that played this game, and they’ll tell you that it was next to impossible to keep the HKs and their red balloon missiles off of it, almost always ending in a game over.


BattleToads: Turbo Tunnel

Oh man, BattleToads. Welcome to one of the hardest games ever created, and easily the hardest game on the original NES. While nearly any single level past the first could have made this list, I think people most especially remember the hover bike level. With all of its enemy/barrier dodging, its ridiculous speeds and its completely unforgiving nature, this level was just a bear’s ass to play.

Really, I don’t have a whole lot of other words for this one. You just have to see it to grasp its magnitude.


Goldeneye: Aztec

As one of the best console FPS games of all time, Goldeneye is going to have multiple entries into the hall of fame across different categories. To me, one of the coolest features about the game was the rewards system, which encouraged players to beat levels on difficulty settings or in certain time limits in order to unlock all kinds of goodies for future playthroughs. However, the hardest cheat to unlock came from Aztec.

I’m not sure if I can count on more than one hand the amount of people I’ve met that beat this last Goldeneye level on the dreaded 00 difficulty setting. I know that I certainly never did it. It’s hard to quantify exactly what it was about this level that made it so maddening. I feel like the enemies all aimed better and were much smarter than any of the enemies in the game. You regularly walk into ambushes and situations where they all but kill you in a few shots. There’s also not much body armor/health to be found. It’s just hard. You won’t understand unless you’ve played it, I’m afraid. I think I saw those yellow-suited guards for much of my young life, always in my nightmares.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Water Dam

The first TMNT game on the NES sent me into one of my first fanboy frenzies, as I was a lover of all things related to turtles that were both ninjas and teenagers. I remember getting the game and loving how exciting it was to play as each of my favorite characters, and particularly loved driving around the city in the Turtle Van. But then, I got to the Water Dam.

If you’ve played this game, you remember the Water Dam. Allow me to set the scene. You have less than 3 minutes to disarm a group of bombs that are wired to blow up under water. It gets worse. You see, there are these bastard electric shocking tendrils hanging around everywhere, ready to fry your turtle ass if you so much as make the slightest mistake. On top of that, there are small electrical fields, and even a turning wheel thing at one point all slowing you down. Even at your fastest possible speed, you can only just barely make it.

How the foot clan got in there to plant the bombs in the first place remains a mystery. For crying out loud, I’m a turtle that is also a ninja, and I can’t swim around and survive these things long enough to disarm them, how did you even plant it?!

To see this misery, watch the Water Dam level yourself.


As it was before, this is by no means a definitive list of these levels. So what do you guys think? Did you play any of these games? Feel free to submit your own levels for future consideration in the comments.

Written by

I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

18 thoughts on “The Video Game Level Hall of Shame”

  1. I totally agree with Cortana, that level was a bitch on Legendary. Took me and a friend 2 and a half hours to beat it on legendary.

  2. Man, I’ve played all those except Halo 3, and I can only remember the Battletoads level, but that’s notorious everywhere for being a bitch!

    I’d add World 5-2 in Demon’s Souls. Poison swamp that slows your movement and huge-ass goblins with clubs running after you. Once you know what’s there, it’s doable, but until then you’re screaming.

    Also, I guess it’s not really a level, but since the bosses were pretty much levels in No More Heroes, I’d like to also nominate Shinobu. She’s quick, frustrating as hell, and only the third level in the game! I finally replaced my broken controller last week, but for about a year, maybe more, I only had one Wiimote in full working condition because of her.

  3. Wow, I only know about the Cortana one… everything else is over my head. Might I suggest the last boss of Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, for me it was a three-way battle against the enemy VS, his laser beam cronies, and the funky controls. Also any Call of Duty on veteran difficulty.

  4. GTA: San Andreas:

    That level where you had to pilot the miniature bi-plane.

    COD5: W@W:

    Most any map on veteran, but especially the level right before you enter the Reichstag. I swear to god that level is impossible.

  5. Great list! My contribution would be the 2nd Level of the Middle Star World in Super Mario World for SNES. I think it was called Tubular? The one that you have to balloon all the way across…

    I couldn’t finish it when I was a kid, and these days it probably takes me 15 or 20 tries. Incredibly frustrating.

  6. CoD5: Heart of the Reich. I was up until 3am trying to earn a trophy that isn’t real… BUT IS.
    Sadly that’s almost exactly true (2am) but it made that platinum all the more rewarding. Another one would have to be fighting Wesker and Jill in RE5 on the hardest difficulty (18 deaths), again making that platinum so much sweeter.

    I remember a couple of levels from Harry Potter games, most of the sneaking sections were absolute bastards to complete.

    I find it hard to think of specifics and most of them are just levels that became hard on higher difficulties.

    Oh, how could I forget: Water Temple Ocarinia of Time.

  7. Totally agree with u Wraith. That level was just ridiculous. I spent 2 hours on veteran reichstag. Plus the end was hella difficult. U have to remeber to bring the sniper rifle in order to make life a bit more bearable.

  8. I would like to nominate the entire game of COD5 on Veteran. If you have played it you know that every nazi and japanese soldier carries a bare minimum of 20 grenades each and uses them constantly. Veteran mode is supposed to be challenging and encouraging you to take cover all the time. Well how can I do that when enemies are throwing grenades at me the entire time! I literally through back 8 grenades back to back when I was behind a piece of cover until finally three more came in and blew me up. Oh and not to mention the AI’s aim was perfect, so if you get up and run you’re dead too. And like Skuba said I think the Heart of the Reich was the worst level for it because the entire mission the enemy had the high ground.

  9. Oh God, the road to Skynet. My brother and I had the game on the Sega genesis and would play that level over and over and over and over again, and never actually beat it. We ended up throwing in a cheat code that skipped the level, only to find out that a later level has to defending an armored car while T-1000 tries to ram it in various vehicles. You would have to shoot them to make them back off, and then out of nowhere he would ram in in a different vehicle and blow everything up and you have to start over. That was AWFUL.

    There were a lot of scrappy levels I can think of, like the second level of The Lion King on the Sega Genesis. That was aweful.

  10. @Skuba:

    That fight is only hard because of how Sheva dicks around with Jill. And by that I mean that she ALWAYS lets her (Jill) kick her ass when you’re off fighting Wesker (Which isn’t that hard if you know what to do). Personally it was hard because I was trying to get the achievement for beating him within 7 minutes AND nab the Heart of Africa gem. Everytime I’d get close to killing Wesker, I’m treated to the camera whizzing to Sheva dying at Jill’s hand.

    @Powen and Ski:

    The problem I had was when I was in the Plaza, my fucking comrades wouldn’t advance; hence the Nazis just wouldn’t stop respawning with their UNENDING GRENADES. I swear, every time I got to the steps, my comrades were still pissin’ around in the plaza. That’s really what made me rage and give up on it. I don’t mind challenge, but I’m pretty sure that even the most pain loving gaming masochist would agree that the grenades in that game were….excessive. Thank god the last level wasn’t too hard though (Except the last leg of it, but that just required patience) I beat all the other levels in Vet. If Steam had achievements for that game, I’d still probably be trying to do it.

  11. If anyone else had played it they know what I mean when I say that by far Heart of Winter mode on Icewind Dale was the hardest thing I never beat. You basically start having to fight about 15 orcs using only basic equipment. Unless you have a high leveled party saved in the game already you’re screwed.

  12. Why isnt Death’s stage from the first castlevania on here? Or Quickmans stage from Megaman 2?

  13. [quote comment=”12017″]If anyone else had played it they know what I mean when I say that by far Heart of Winter mode on Icewind Dale was the hardest thing I never beat. You basically start having to fight about 15 orcs using only basic equipment. Unless you have a high leveled party saved in the game already you’re screwed.[/quote]

    Warcraft 3? I remember WC3 having its share of rage inducing difficult levels, but I can’t remember if that’s one of them.

  14. @ Wraith, I played all of veteran with online co-op partners. They were very much competent, but Wesker’s tough regardless.

    Has anyone mentioned a certain spinning blade section from God of War? Everyone else seems to have found that part hard.

  15. I dunno if this counts but did anyone here play Twisted Metal 2 in the 90’s? If so, do you remember that Antarctica level that collapsed as you played? That was one of the only video game levels that were insanely fun and frustrating.

    Ah, you’re lucky. I don’t have anyone to co-op with. Play that part with an AI Sheva; much more masochistic. Thank god for her Tribal outfit, or I’d hate her so much for all the dumb shit she does to fuck up my good streaks.

  16. I must truly be the only one that didn’t find Cortana THAT bad. =( It is indeed not at all a GOOD level, but a little patience goes a long way.

    I’ve got one: the Fuel Plant level in CoD 3. When you got to the last bit where you hold out, if you didn’t have any smoke grenades, you were screwed. Have fun trying not to get shot at by the thirty enemies holding out on the opposite end of the buildings surrounding you.

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