Top 20 Most Difficult Video Game Levels of All Time
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Top 20 Most Difficult Video Game Levels of All Time

VOICE OVER: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Alex Slade
We wouldn't be surprised if most of your play time came from these particular difficult levels. For this list, we'll be looking at those particular video game levels that had us biting our nails in frustration and re-thinking our game playing choices. Our countdown includes Champion's Road, Water Temple, Flying Machine, The Ringed City, Turbo Tunnel, and more!
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Script Written by Alex Slade

Top 20 Most Difficult Video Game Levels of All Time


We wouldn’t be surprised if most of your play time came from these particular levels. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 20 Most Difficult Video Game Levels of All Time.

For this list, we’ll be looking at those particular levels that had us biting our nails in frustration and re-thinking our game playing choices. Now, we’re not talking about those infuriating games in which every second is a torment to play; instead we’re looking at levels within certain games that took the difficulty up a notch... or ten. That said, these don’t have to be strictly called levels; dungeons and distinct areas qualify too.

#20: Champion’s Road

“Super Mario 3D World” (2013)
This is the final level in the game, and you can be sure to expect a few more final level entries in this list too. The Mario franchise continues to evolve and revolutionize the platformer genre with every entry, and for that we’re grateful. What we aren’t grateful for, however, is this level from the 2013 release, “Super Mario 3D World”. There are vanishing blocks, enemies that require ultra-quick reflexes to dodge, and every type of platform you can think of to traverse. One small misstep… and you’re a goner! But hey, at least there’s a nice message at the end.

#19: The Impossible Lair

“Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair” (2019)
When the level has the word ‘impossible’ in the name, you know you’re in for trouble. While this particular level isn’t literally impossible, it’s close to, and has been known to take even experienced gamers upwards of fifty tries to complete. That is, if you don’t give up, first. You’re going to need all forty-eight bees to make it through alive, and that's saying something when most games give you no more than ten chances to get hit. Each section of the level is a test of timing and reflexes, with every movement requiring the utmost concentration.

#18: Death Mountain

“Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” (1987)
While we don’t mind this 2D side-scrolling iteration of this influential franchise, we still prefer it’s top-down and 3d entries. That being said, you can’t deny this particular entry had charm, or, in the case of this level… a relentless difficulty that earns it a place of distinction in the series. You can’t just mash the attack button in Death Mountain. Enemies have certain weaknesses that can be tough to discover, requiring you to study them before you make a move. That said, if you can get past the red axe throwing baddies, then you should be able to make it to the end.

#17: Tubular

“Super Mario World” (1990)
The level that made fans hate the P-Balloon. As it may take hours of attempts to beat, but with a run time of about a minute, you can expect to hear that annoying, albeit catchy, death tune often. Not only does controlling the P-Balloon feel like dragging a heavy rock on an icy pond, but a single hit will make you fall to your death, even if you have a power up! If the plants don’t get you, the baseball throwing menaces will. Add to that the pressure of making sure you get the next P-Balloon powerup before the time runs out and you fall to your death, and you’re gaming under seriously stressful conditions.

#16: Welcome to the Machine

“Ecco the Dolphin” (1992)
Most retro games have at least a couple of annoying sound effects, but mashing the sonar button over and over again, which is unfortunately required to have a chance at beating this level, will have you playing on mute. This narrow corridor auto scrolling level combined with the speed at which the enemies fly into you gives you barely any time to react. Couple this with the camera’s unpredictable path, and your sanity will steadily erode with every attempt. Aliens weren't something we were expecting when we started this game.

#15: Water Temple

“The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” (1998)
If you thought being inside a whale’s stomach was bad, wait until you become an adult and do the temple equivalent of Ocarina of Time’s water dungeon. The constant resetting of water levels makes it annoying, the maze of whirlpools makes it frustrating, its nonlinearity makes it confusing, and the battle with Dark Link makes it painful. But hey, it does make for a damn good battle. Keys are also spaced out around the level, which can also mean lengthy backtracking if you don’t have enough to get through doors at the end of long corridors. The Water Temple is an exhausting experience to say the least, but at least it's a rewarding one!

#14: Parking Lot Tutorial

“Driver” (1999)
When the tutorial is harder than the actual gameplay experience, you can be sure that many gamers never played long enough to find that out for themselves. You have to prove you’re the driver for the job, and with that comes a list of driving tasks you need to accomplish, all with a strict time limit and only a handful of chances to mess things up. Oh, and if you think you’ve done a trick multiple times and still aren’t getting the check mark for some strange reason… well, that’s just part of the level’s charm!

#13: Mile High Club on Veteran

“Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” (2007)
Given the title of this level and its corresponding achievement, we weren’t quite sure what to expect, and whether or not this belonged in a Call of Duty game. Rest assured, not only does it belong, but it will test a COD player like few other missions can. It’s a short-form linear level through a plane that is absolutely hell to complete on the hardest difficulty, and probably resulted in a lot of broken controllers and cracked TV screens. Running through the level in under a minute requires a memorized pattern of movements, and just one minor slip-up is all it takes to prompt you to immediately restart.

#12: Slippery Climb

“Crash Bandicoot” (1996)
In this ominous 24th level, you’ll need to climb the outside of Cortex’s castle on a wet and stormy night. Moving platforms, acid throwing lab assistants, and evil hands trying to swipe you from below are just a few of the challenges you’ll face on your hair-raising ascent. There are stairs throughout the level that disappear causing you to slide back down, making it a -you guessed it- slippery climb. While the entire course theoretically takes about six minutes to complete, we can guarantee that it’ll take you much longer than that.

#11: Flying Machine

“Shovel Knight” (2014)
Who would have thought a game about a knight and his shovel would be so endearing… and challenging! In many games, a boss will be difficult and their corresponding level easy, or vice-versa. But what we have here is a high difficulty package deal. These Green Hover Meanies are an absolute nuisance, especially when they’re pushing you into cannonballs. Not to mention the constantly changing air currents will mean you have to be very precise with your movements. Then there’s the actual boss; Propellor Knight moves incredibly fast, meaning you’re going to have to time your jumps to a T. Of course, it doesn’t help that the floor literally begins to crumble underneath you.

#10: Through the Fire and the Flames

“Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” (2007)
Who knew fingers could move this fast? If you can complete this track on expert mode without getting booed off the stage within thirty seconds, then you’re truly a legend of Guitar Hero. The constant onslaught of keys to hit does (mercifully) have a couple of small intermissions so you can catch your breath and shake your hand around. But the entire song is just so long that you’re all but guaranteed to cramp up or lose feeling in your fingers before you hit that final note. Getting through the song is one thing, but getting 100% is nearly impossible.

#9: Assault

“Hotline Miami” (2012)
You’re going to die a lot playing Hotline Miami. Each level is a trial-and-error experiment as you attempt to figure out the exact pattern that’s going to have you killing everyone in the level without falling victim yourself. But chapter 13, “Assault”, is in a league of its own. It features tons of baddies with high-powered weapons that move just as fast as you do. In the context of a game where one person with a baseball can give you grief, that should give you pause. But hey, at least the music is good! That might not seem important now, but trust us, you’re going to be hearing a lot of it.

#8: The Ringed City

“Dark Souls 3” (2016)
The Ringed City is the final DLC released for Dark Souls 3, and it's safe to say they left the hardest for last. In particular, we’re talking about the pain and suffering that the Ringed City archers have brought so many players. Dozens of ghostly archers fire a barrage of arrows at you, disappearing then reappearing behind you even if you've found cover behind the nearby tombstones. Nowhere is safe. Oh, and you’ve also got to face off with arguably one of the hardest bosses in the entire franchise; Darkeater Midir. Dark Souls has always been known for its high level of difficulty, but “The Ringed City” is on another level.

#7: Chapter 9: Farewell

“Celeste” (2018)
Celeste’s Main Game is notoriously tough but fair, the B-Side & C-Side stages were guelling. But Chapter 9 which was offered as free DLC makes you feel like your spirit has been ripped out of you and there’s no hope left. And as such, we can understand you not wanting to put in the effort to complete it. Combining complicated movesets is the only way to get through this DLC chapter -which, on top of everything else, is much longer than previous levels. So when you multiply the length by the overall high level of difficulty and add newly introduced technical mechanics, you get one epic and exhausting farewell.

#6: Darker Side of the Moon

“Super Mario Odyssey” (2017)
Unlocked after you find 500 Power Moons, this level gives you a bit more Odyssey to experience, but it has to be earned. This level honestly feels like a chore, but chores can be fun, right? Practice makes perfect, but if you don’t have time to practice, then you can skip multiple segments of the level. The caveat? Discovering the skips can become a challenge in itself. Hat throws, wall jumps, triple jumps and impeccable timing are all required in unison here. This definitely gives Grandmaster Galaxy from Super Mario Galaxy 2 a run for its money.

#5: Dr. Wily’s Castle Stage 3

“Mega Man 9” (2008)
In Megaman 9, Dr. Wily’s Castle introduced sadistic traps and gimmicks that the player hadn’t encountered before, resulting in a certain unpreparedness that we had to overcome. Stage 3 onwards, you will find sections in which the platforms you have to jump to are barely large enough for Mega Man to land on. As if that’s not enough, you encounter shield-bearing enemies that give you only a small window to attack, otherwise they bring their shield up and do what they do best; taunt you. And don’t even get me started on the gravity well sections. Sadly, Dr. Wily’s Castle proves otherwise.

#4: Water Dam

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1989)
Timed levels are the bane of every gamer’s existence, but couple that with a punishing control scheme, and you’ve got a recipe for rage. In this notorious underwater level, energy beams appear in the weirdest spots with no notice, zapping your health away. There’s one spot in particular that gives you a very narrow pathway to follow around a corner, and if you stray from it ever so slightly… then you’re pretty much dead. Luckily you have the option to switch turtles and get full HP, otherwise there’d be literally no chance beating this one.

#3: C-3

“Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels” (1986)
Mario is back at it again with another entry on the list, and this time, he’s taking us back to his retro days with The Lost Levels. In World C-3 which is an updated version of 7-3 but now with Lakitu’s, you’ll spend most of the time guiding Mario through the stage without ever looking at him. The reason? Because he’s being launched into the freaking stratosphere by these unnaturally powerful springs scattered throughout the stage. You’ll have to time it right so that when Mario begins his descent, he has a platform to land on. If you can manage that, you only have to do it a bunch more times to reach the end!

#2: Stage 6-2

“Ninja Gaiden” (1988)
Imagine not blinking for five minutes straight. Now imagine not blinking for five minutes straight so you can concentrate on not being destroyed by a flying ninja. In this particularly punishing level of 1988’s Ninja Gaiden, multiple enemies come at you at the same time. The entire stage is one seemingly endless onslaught of varying enemy types that come flying at you from the sky and both sides of the screen. And should you make it through to the end… guess what? The subsequent levels are strong contenders for hardest levels in their own right. Heck, this entire game is a contender! And here we were thinking the 2005 version of the game was tough.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Barn Boys - Rising Water
“Conker’s Bad Fur Day” (2001)

Clock Tower Stage 6-3
“Catherine” (2011)

Blighttown
“Dark Souls” (2011)

Polaris
“Control” (2019)

Blood Trails
“Max Payne” (2001)

#1: Turbo Tunnel

“Battletoads” (1991)
Oh the hours we’ve lost to Turbo Tunnel. With its unfairly placed obstacles, little-to-no grace period between movements, and the sheer speed of the ramps and walls coming at you, this level earns its infamous place in gaming history. Turbo Tunnel undoubtedly resulted in anxiety attacks for a lot of players. There is no room for error. Move or jump a millisecond too late, and you pay the price. The sequence isn't that long, but it feels like you're spending hours traveling simply by virtue of the number of obstacles you need to avoid. Why did we have to jump on this dumb bike anyway?
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the prefect run in Mario galaxy 2 is the hardest Mario level i have ever played and I'm mad and sad that the prefect run is not on the list
Slaughterhouse in gd dumdum
how is world C-3 this hard, its number freaking, um its harder than the water dam and its not harder then chapter 9 farewell