20. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994) - Sega Genesis - Chaos Emerald Levels
You control Sonic as he collects blue spheres. If you touch a red sphere, the level is over and you fail. Oh, and you can’t stop. As a kid, at first you’re like, “This is easy. I can do this with my eyes closed. Shhhhhiiiiiiiiiiit.” But then, as you progress through the level, the speed increases, the music goes faster, the camera movement gets jittery and more red spheres start appearing everywhere. Suddenly, you’re like, “This is stressing me out, man!” There are a total of seven levels and you need to complete all seven PERFECTLY if you wanted to transform into Super Sonic. Oh, the humanity.
19. The Lion King (1994) - Sega Genesis - Level 6 “Hakuna Matata”
Now, this level is not as difficult as some of the other items on this list. But what really puts this level on this list is the waterfall. You have to jump UP a waterfall using only logs that are falling DOWN. Most of the time, you jumped in place and never moved anywhere. IT’S THE MOST FRUSTRATING THING EVER. It was tedious, you had to land on the right logs, and it would take hours before you finally got to the top. All the while “Hakuna Matata” is playing in the background. FML.
18. Donkey Kong Country 3 (1996) - Super Nintendo - Lightning Look Out
This level wouldn’t be so bad IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE FUCKING LIGHTNING. In this level, you must proceed through the landscape without getting struck by random lightning. And I cannot emphasize enough the word “random.” At first, there’s a faint warning of where the lightning will hit. But as the level progresses, it gets more and more unpredictable. Oh, and if you’re swimming in water when lightning strikes, you’re dead.
17. The Adventures of Bayou Billy (1989) - NES - Driving Stages
In these levels, you had 99 seconds to make it down the road. If you got touched by another Jeep, you blew up. If you hit a rock, you blew up. If you touched a post, you blew up. Water puddles made driving a lot harder, and a plane dropped bombs in your path. Oh, and if you didn’t make it in time, you blew up. FACK!
16. The Simpsons (1991) - Arcade - Stage 7 “Channel 6”
Do you have a giant bag of quarters that you want to get rid of? Just hop on over to your neighborhood laundromat and play this quarter vacuum. This game was still difficult even with two players. In this particular level, you’re fighting mob men and ninjas (Yeah, ninjas). The boss was a giant Kabuki dude ready to whip your candy ass with the help of some fellow ninjas. No matter how much damage you inflicted, it seemed to never end. By the time you passed this level, you were either out of quarters or out of sanity.
15. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out (1987) - NES - “Iron” Mike Tyson
In Punch Out, you control Little Mac as he made his way through professional boxing circuits, boxing odd and comical characters. The last person you face is none other than Mike Tyson himself. Tyson must’ve been like, “Yeah, you can use my likeness for this video game on one condition: NO ONE CAN BEAT ME.” It was damn near impossible as a kid to get through Tyson, until someone finally discovered the pattern and put it online. But by the time we had this information it was too late. Childhoods had already been ruined.
14. Double Dragon III - NES - Mission 5: Egypt
Double Dragon III is known as the hardest game in the trilogy, infamous for granting you only ONE LIFE. Yup. The game only has five missions, but that’s more than enough. In this final level, you face off against some of the most ruthless henchmen ever. They are quick and it takes a lot of damage for them to go down. If you’re lucky to make it to this point, that in itself should be considered a success.
13. Star Fox - Super Nintendo - Route 3: Sector Z
Good lord. So many flying columns. SO MANY. The navigation through this level alone is difficult. You’re never really sure how far or near an object is from hitting you. But you soldier on, dodging everything you possibly can. The storm of invisible flying columns is by far the WORST part of this game.
12. Back to the Future III (1991) - Sega Genesis - Level One
You’re controlling Doc Brown as he rides on a horse, trying to rescue his beloved Clara. Your job is to make sure he doesn’t get hit by tumbleweeds, fall into creeks, and keep fending off bad guys by shooting at them, all at the same time. The problem is that by the time you saw an object that was about to hit you, it already knocked you off your horse. This level was the ultimate test in reflexes. And for most of the time, you failed. FAILED! AND IT’S ONLY THE FIRST LEVEL! COME ON!
11. Silver Surfer (1990) - NES - Firelord (Section 1)
Another “one life” game (game designers in those days had no mercy whatsoever). You’re navigating on a surfboard that’s WAY too big and you have to move around awkward spaces and avoid getting hit by blasts, monsters, and other unidentifiable pixels. You’re just bombarded with shit. Lots. Of. Shit. All the levels in this game are a beast, but Firelord’s Section 3 overdid it with the awkward spaces.
10. Super Mario World (1990) - Super Nintendo - Tubular
Talk about timing out every single move. Your precision had to be just right. One bad move and your puffy little Mario would meet its demise. Whether it’s the football-throwing turtles, the baseball-throwing turtles, the fire spitting plants, or the angels floating in your way, this level was seriously fucked up.
9. Earthworm Jim (1994) - Super Nintendo - The Tube Race
Navigating that dreadful submarine was an exercise in finesse and patience, something 7-year-old me lacked at the time. The most difficult part of this level was connecting the submarine to those oxygen top-up valves, which you needed in order to save your life. Every pixel had to be perfectly aligned, otherwise it wouldn’t work. This level caused gamers to quit gaming altogether.
7-YEAR-OLD ME: “I… I can’t do it.” ::turns off SNES:: ::goes to bed:: ::cries::
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989) - NES - The Dam Level
No one likes underwater levels. Your character moves around at awkward speeds, you lose precision, and it throws you off. But this level in TMNT is the granddaddy of underwater levels. Not only do you have to swim underwater, but you also have to avoid the electric pink seaweed, WHICH IS EVERYWHERE. Oh, and you have to disarm four bombs before they blow up. NB FUCKING D.
7. Mega Man (1987) - NES - Ice Man Stage
This level in the first ever Mega Man was frustrating. Whether it’s jumping on disappearing blocks, or dodging penguins, this level made me rage quit more than a few times. Later on in life, you learn that the Magnetic Beam would help out tremendously. BUT I WAS JUST A 5-YEAR-OLD KID WITH NO INTERNET! Leave me alone…
6. Gyruss (1988) - NES - Boss level for Stage 27
In Gyruss, you’re a flying a ship through space, but can only move around the central axis. A bunch a stuff is flying at you and you gotta be quick to dodge EVERYTHING. You can shoot bullets and bombs, because, you know, it’s a video game. In this particular level, you have three identical ships also moving around the central axis, only they’re facing you and they’re TRYING TO KILL YOU. You can only cause damage to these ships when you’re directly in front of them, which is annoying, because you’re about a centimeter away from them and they’re throwing bombs at you. Too many rage quits.
5. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1987) - NES - The Great Palace
This level will test your endurance. Just getting to the Great Palace alone is an unforgiving disaster (You have to get past Death Mountain. Yeah. DEATH MOUNTAIN). But once you get to the Great Palace, a whole new level of hell awaits. First, the stage is HUGE and you get lost pretty easily. New enemies like the flame tossing dudes, the blue blobs and the Giant Bots were absolutely annoying since they were everywhere and they wouldn’t die. Since this is the last level in the game, there’s no more treasure hunting or hidden things you have to obtain. It’s a level designed to make you weep. Not to mention you fight Dark Link at the end.
4. Super C (1988) - NES - Level 6
Mouths. So many mouths. Appearing randomly all over the floor. You never knew where they would appear. All you knew was that by the time you saw it, it was too late. You were dead. If you were fortunate enough to pass through the mouth floor, then came the onslaught of creatures and things coming at you from all over the place. Just like its predecessor Contra, the spread shooter was your friend. The single shooter was your demise.
3. Battletoads (1987) - NES - The Wind Tunnel
Good God almighty. Who’s the sick twisted game developer who came up with the game design for this level. They obviously hated children. They purposely designed a great video game only to choke the hopes of gamers everyone with this horrifying level commonly known as “that level I can’t beat” on Battletoads.
2. Ninja Gaiden (1989) - NES - Stage 6-2
The brutality that is Stage 6 is unimaginable. You got falcons, ninjas, and all sort of random shenanigans coming at you from all over the place. But those falcons. Those fucking falcons (Especially when they hit you right when you’re jumping over a pit ensuring death and tears). It’s stages like this one that give Ninja Gaiden its legendary status as one of the most difficult games of all time.
1. Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (1991) - Super Nintendo - Level 2
When the Super Nintendo came along, Capcom strategized the best way to get kids to break their consoles so that mommy and daddy could buy them another (It’s all about the profit). Hence, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts – a game so fucking difficult, it still traumatizes grown men to this day. Sir Arthur could only sustain two hits before death. TWO HITS. If you managed to beat the first level, that ALONE was an achievement. But once you got to the second level of this game, all hell broke loose. The level was designed to make you cry. I mean, THE WHOLE GAME TROLLS YOU. If you manage, by some miracle, to pass the game all the way to the end, a princess is there to tell you that you must come back with some fucking “Goddess Bracelet” and sends you right back to Level 1. Capcom, I love you, but my 7-year-old self says fuck you and goodnight. Anyway, Level 2… that shit was hard.