What Is The Hardest Game Level You’ve Played?

What Is The Hardest Game Level You’ve Played?

Dark Souls, Battletoads, Ninja Gaiden, and Cuphead wear their difficulty as a badge of pride. They crush souls and spirits alike, and results in a lot of fatigued fingers. Playing them feels like Groundhog Days of death; Live, Die, Repeat, and Repeat!

Sometimes it’s about memorisation, recognising patterns, knowing where random enemies spawn, like in Contra and Ghosts ‘n Goblins. Other times, there’s an art to it as mastery of specific skills makes the levels manageable, like in the Souls series as well as the modern Ninja Gaiden games.

Of course, there’s hard levels like the final stage of the Lost World in Donkey Kong Country 2, the technodrome in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES. as well as the dams in Phantasy Star II that caused me so much gaming anguish.

Being a video game protagonist in one of those game’s must be an excruciating series of painful deaths that must make them wonder what cruel individual is forcing them to relive their nightmares repeatedly.

Every so often, the difficulty can be due to a well crafted combination of tension and gameplay, and those are my favourite sequences.

There’s a moment in Shadowrun on the SNES when you go to fix your datajack. You hear a ticking sound inside your head and realise someone had installed a cortex bomb to stop you from fixing your jack. The next few minutes are a frenetic dash to save yourself before your brain explodes.

The commodification and corporatisation of society is one of the major themes in the game and there’s a grim, but darkly humorous, commentary on technology like this being used to enslave, and destroy here. It was for me, one of the most tense and difficult moments I’ve experienced in a game.

So: what is the hardest game level (or game) you’ve ever played?


  • That I’ve played. Turbo tunnel in Battletoads. Never finished that.
    That I have finished. The slog through Dark Souls 3, I’ll never forget downing Soul of Cinder with no trouble during my 3rd playthrough.

  • There was one level in TMNT on my 286 that I just couldn’t get past – never could quite make that really hard jump!

    Didn’t find out until decades later that it was actually a bug resulting in an impossible jump, and the level couldn’t be finished.)

    • Lol, I was about to comment about the bug thing until I saw the “hide spoiler” part. I think someone figured out ages later that you didn’t actually have to jump it but could just walk over it, but that might have been on the NES version

  • I’ve always considered myself a reasonably competent player (finished all devil may crys, got halfway through Bloodborne) but I absolutely suck at demons soul. I can’t even get through the ramparts to the first level boss.

    • I made it to the flamelurker. Just couldn’t get anywhere close to beating him. Considering it was either a lengthy and very hard trek or a series of retarded jumps and drops to get back to him, I simply gave up. I plan on going back one day….

      • Flamelurker is a real bastard though. Ultimately I just got him stuck on the ribcage and pelted him from a distance. The jerk.

      • I think the biggest issue I had with Demon was you had to trek for ages between save areas. Bloodborne never really seemed too hard thanks to quick retrys.

  • First level of Legend of Kage. Used to be good at it in the 80’s. Recently played again and came up with two thoughts – Why the hell did I play this shite? and How did I persist to get to level 3???

  • White Fatalis, MHGU. Overpowered bastard could take a beating that would kill a god, and could one-shot a team with its bullshit lightning blasts

    • Where are you up to in Nioh? I played through to Way of the Wise (NG+++) with the expansions & only stopped because I got bored of seeing the same levels, but could be tempted back by co-op if you’re on PS4.

      I recently put Bloodborne aside after my 50th attempt of Orphan of Kos, as I’m not in the mood to grind up more levels to defeat them at that late stage of the game right now.

    • great call with Halo 2 legendary, but id say the hardest level was Regret. The boss room at the end with re spawning elites…. 100s of attempts were made

  • Max Payne on PS2, those dream levels where you had to balance across the beams and fall like 100 times with the really annoying baby crying noise!

    • Or Belial in Diablo 3, first play through was on highest possible difficulty and that was the only boss I had big trouble with, checkpoint was 5 mins earlier so took so long to get back to him, took maybe 20 attempts with different gear, different skills, nothing helped so had to reduce difficulty for the fight!

  • I played MGS2 and MGS3 on all difficulty modes just to get the stealth camo. The final Solidus boss fight on Extreme was a right pain in the arse. It’s not just the difficulty but the tedious tasks like collecting all dogtags and kerotan frogs. The lengths you go for an invisibility cloak!

    Oh, and Othello. First on Gameboy and then on every other platform. Easy/Normal I can do. Anything higher and I lose.

  • Definitely Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. Raining Blood definitely took more practice and retries than anything else I’ve ever done in a video game. It was actually easier to learn to play Knights of Cydonia on a real guitar than in that game.

  • Sephiroth on Proud Mode in Kingdom Hearts II. I remember being 12 or 13 years old and just timing myself to see how long I could last, not even dreaming of actually being able to win. I think I got to maybe three minutes tops.

  • Playing Fallout 4 on survival difficulty (without mods) is probably the toughest video game experience I’ve had. But also one of the most memorable.

  • Not that I find it crazy difficult but people are amazed – invisible tetris. I had the high score up until recently on Tetris friends

  • Nioh as a whole was the hardest game for me in a long time, I’m sure if I took my time and delved with the mechanics (like I do for the Dark Souls games) I would have found it more enjoyable – but at the time I just wanted to finish it and never touch it again…

    Although I suck at 2D platforming so my purchases of Shovel Knight and Hollow Knight on the Switch are also worth a mention.

  • Ecco the Dolphin – Defender of the Future on Dreamcast. Those floating water tunnels were horrific and so were some of those later levels with the alien machines.

  • Completed Horizon: Zero Dawn on Ultra, although I know it’s not the hardest game ever. The monsters in the expansion (especially that Frostclaw) were hard work… Definitely a game that rewarded levelling and good gear choices, as well as patience with some of the biggest enemies though .

  • Can’t remember the name of it, but as a kid, I once played this sci-fi 3D on-rails shooter game on the PC back in the mid 90s. A typical alien invasion of Earth (think parents bought it for me because I was caught up in the whole Independence Day film craze).

    The first level took place in a large city environment and the game flies you around and in between skyscrapers while you’re shooting aliens with your mouse. Simple, right? Well I couldn’t even complete the first level as I kept dying over and over. The only way I ever managed to even finish the level and the game, which eventually took place on the alien homeworld, was to use an invincibility cheat.

  • I don’t really think of most games being hard these days compared to how impossible some platformers felt when I was a kid.

    The last game I remember being really frustrated with was some Dragon Ball Z fighting game because I just suck at the genre and can’t find the motivation to improve because there are so few games in the genre I am interested in.

  • A lot of games I play on “Hard” I find very cheap. Enemies are health sinks or you’re insta-killed. My best memory of feeling challenged was running through F.E.A.R. on Extreme. Not because it was difficult, but because the enemy was intelligent. You die in seconds, but so do the enemy, so it felt fair. The way they would cover each other, flank my position, and retreat all felt so amazing, every victory was an achievement.

  • God Rugal on the upper end harder modes for Capcom vs Snk 2. He is already insanely over powered and setup with some great moves but the input reading from the cpu and the damage level of attacks makes it insane.

  • Probably Orphan of Kos (Bloodborne). Had no real issues with the other DLC bosses – got them all down in 1-3 attempts each, but Orphan took me probably 6 hours over two days.

    Alternately, Hino Enma (Nioh)… Beat the entire game enough to start Way of the Wise (at which point I started getting regularly one-shot by basic enemies, and stopped playing), and I still remember that first time I fought Hino at level 12, dying over and over to paralysis, with no real solution available except learning to dodge.

      • Interesting, what level were you? I never really went out of my way to level in BB, just used what I picked up along the way and avoided losing too much – I found gems and weapon upgrades sufficient. Ended up beating Orphan at BL89, if my notes are correct, with 18/18/10% phys atk+ gems on a +10 Saw cleaver, 10/20% Clawmark runes with Blood Rapture and Radiance runes for vial efficiency.

        Orphan just took a really long time to (a) realise the water was actually part of the arena, making his lightning waves really easy to avoid; (b) learn his range and parry timings, and get comfortable with how much damage he deals, giving me (perhaps misplaced) confidence to do things like this; and (c) get to his second phase consistently enough to learn to dodge through his attacks and stay close. He still took an hour or more once I got those things down – once he started jumping around, breaking lock-on, there was a lot of trial and error…

  • Extreme plus difficulty for popstars on beat saber

    Gone is the charming choreography from the music video, now is counter inuitive hell from practicing on easier difficulties

  • The original Nine Ball fight from Armored Core on the PS1. He would speed around this massive vertical arena, and trying to track him with the normal D-pad (Dual shock didn’t exist) was a nightmare.

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