10 Awful Moments In Great Video Games

They can't all be bangers.

A Plague Tale Innocence
A Plague Tale Innocence

Look, we’ve all experienced our fair share of dud levels or missions when playing video games. We can joke for hours about having to do another escort mission or some kind of water level, but the worst levels in gaming are when a really bad level manages to find its way into an otherwise excellent game. You know the types of levels we’re talking about. The ones that appear like a violent shotgun blast to your mind any time you consider the notion of replaying a certain game.

“On second thought, never mind”, you say to yourself just to escape that double dose of trauma.

Well, we’ve arrived like the neighborhood rag-and-bone man to serve you some reminders that next time you want to replay your favorite game, you’re going to have to suffer just a little bit in order to do so. From bad design, frustrating checkpoints and just genuinely awful decisions and execution, these are some of the most awful levels in otherwise amazing games.


1. A Plague Tale: Innocence – Chapter 16’s Cart Section

A rather underrated pick in the pantheon of enraging the player base to the point of almost quitting the game entirely, the cart section from the finale of A Plague Tale: Innocence turns what was up until then a fantastic AA action adventure game into a hellish experience. This section is so infuriating because it feels like skill, positioning and memorisation have no bearing on your success at all, it’s just pure dumb luck, which of course means it’s more frustrating when someone chimes in like “I didn’t struggle at all here”.

We hate that guy.

Anyway, towards the very end of Amicia and Hugo’s journey in A Plague Tale: Innocence, there’s a section where you have to hide behind a moving cart as it’s being bombarded with arrows and soldiers coming to kill you. While the cart is powering forward, you need to dodge attacks, kill archers and keep up with the cart, as straying too far away will get you killed, but also you can be stood next to the cart and die randomly it seems. It’d be a difficult, but not impossible section if you weren’t insta-killed arbitrarily, but apparently we weren’t so lucky.


2. Halo 3 – Cortana

Halo 3
Halo 3

Typically when people discuss the bad levels in Halo games, they immediately default to The Library from Halo: Combat Evolved, the hour-long slog through hordes of The Flood inside a boring Forerunner installation. While The Library is a low moment in that game’s campaign, we’ve another one in mind. Speaking as someone who made friends through playing Halo 3 on Xbox Live back in the day, no level in Halo 3 slowed a campaign playthrough to a crawl more than Cortana.

The penultimate level of Halo 3’s campaign, Cortana sees Master Chief dive headfirst into a Flood hive to try and rescue his lost AI partner. What makes this level such a chore isn’t the dingy brown corridors that make navigation a pain, but the fact that during multiple moments in the level, your progress is suddenly halted because you either start having some kind of Cortana hallucination, or the Flood’s Gravemind wants to say some weird stuff. It’d be fine if these were regular cutscenes, but they’re all unskippable, making every subsequent replay feel like an exercise in patience.


3. Driver – The Tutorial

From one notorious driving section to another, Fairplay at least occurs after a few missions into Mafia’s campaign, but Driver throws its skill roadblock in the way of the player at the very first opportunity. In order for players to actually experience what Driver has to offer, they need to complete the most demanding tutorial in the history of gaming, which has to be counted among the modern day equivalent of the Labours of Hercules. There’s slaying the Nemean Lion, capturing and returning Cerberus and “beat the opening tutorial for Driver”. We know which one Hercules would have the most trouble with.

As for how the tutorial works, you’re plonked into an indoor parking garage and told to complete a set amount of stunts in a certain amount of time. Instead of just asking the player to do a couple of donuts and go about their day, the tutorial asks for some incredibly precise driving, most of which you won’t really need to complete the rest of the game. The tasks and timer are tight enough as it is, but you also get penalized for any bumps, hits or crashes the vehicle sustains. Enough penalties, and you have to restart, so get used to hitting retry, folks.


4. Dark Souls – Blighttown


Dark Souls is a game that’s designed to challenge the player; this much we know already. However, the challenge that Blighttown presented in the original versions of Dark Souls on the PS3 and Xbox 360 were beyond what’s reasonable for a player. We don’t mean the enemy placement or the level design, although many do consider those elements to be among some of the trickiest to deal with in the entire game, but when playing through Blighttown, your console would actively work against you as well.

Basically, in the original version of Blighttown, the amount of enemies, poison and other threats you’d have to deal with played havoc on the framerate, causing Dark Souls to run like a slideshow at the best of times. The remastered version of Dark Souls, which launched a few years later on PS4 and Xbox One, improved the performance of Blighttown immeasurably, though kept the difficulty the same, so the jury’s out on whether or not Blighttown is actually better.


5. Battletoads – Turbo Tunnel

Is Turbo Tunnel from the original Battletoads one of the most infamous levels in all of gaming? It’s probably in the top 10 causes of broken controllers at least, as this fiendish mission is probably what stopped a lot of players from carrying on with the rest of the game. We probably don’t even need to describe the level to you, but in case you’re one of the few lucky ones who’s never played or seen Turbo Tunnel, you’re basically strapped to a bike, holding on for dear life as ramps and obstacles are thrown towards you at lightning speed.

Turbo Tunnel is an auto scrolling level, but the speed and precision required to actually navigate the level is beyond the reach of most mortal men. For a lot of players, their best hope was to use some cheats on the original hardware, or boot up the Rare Replay version and make use of that game’s various rewind/save state functions to actually beat this section properly. Or, you could just be someone who’s built differently and can beat the level deathless while blindfolded. Oh, you thought you were good at games, huh?


6. Max Payne – Nightmare

There’s two schools of thought on that nightmare level from the original Max Payne. On the one hand, they’re a fitting and haunting depiction of Max’s grief, constantly relieving that awful moment when he failed to save his family from being killed at the start of the game. On the other hand though, trying to follow a thin line of blood in a massive black void while a baby screams in the background is not the reason why I bought the cool, shoot dodge bullet time game. Both thoughts are entirely valid.

Max Payne’s Nightmare level definitely isn’t as bad as other moments and levels on this list, especially once you know what you’re doing, but it’s still a screeching departure from the rest of the game entirely. Again, screeching in a literal sense, because your ears keep getting blasted by Max’s family screaming for help. With a remake of Max Payne 1 and 2 on the horizon from Remedy, it’ll be interesting to see how they handle the Nightmare level this time around. Somehow, it’ll probably have Poets Of The Fall (aka The Old Gods Of Asgard) hitting some sick riffs in the background.


7. Mass Effect 2 – Mineral Probing

Humanity’s colonies are being threatened by an alien race that barely appears from the outer rims, and having been brought back from death itself, Commander Shepard is tasked with getting to the source of the invasions and finding a way to help humanity stop The Reapers. While you’ll accomplish this goal by travelling around the galaxy, recruiting new members for your crew and crucially earning their loyalty before you send them out on a suicide mission at the end, apparently the most important part of success is sitting at a computer terminal yeeting probes into space.

You see, in order to actually succeed in the mission at the end of Mass Effect2 without half your squad dying before you touch the ground, you need to upgrade the Normandy. To do that, you need materials, and the fastest and most reliable way of getting those materials is by firing off probes while scanning planets. Compared to the fantastic story, great gameplay and awesome quests, firing off random probes in the hopes of some Element Zero is quite boring by comparison. Still, at least you get the ship’s computer to tell you off by firing a probe at Uranus.



8. Resident Evil Village – Heisenberg’s Factory

Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil Village

The cowardly baby in me would love to talk about how House Beneviento in Resident Evil Village should be removed from existence entirely, but even I have to admit that’s the most horrifying section of the whole game. Still, it would be nice if you could take a shotgun to that giant baby though. Instead, let’s talk about what’s really the worst section of Village, Heisenberg’s Factory, where the game not so subtly morphs from a silly Resident Evil romp into Wolfenstein: The New Order. Lycans and tall vampire ladies are all well and good, but weird cyborg zombies? You’ve gone too far now Capcom.

Jokes aside, it’s not the enemies that make the Factory such as slog, though these Borg looking bruisers do take a pounding on your first playthrough. The real issue with this section is the map’s layout, combined with how drab and dreary the whole area is, makes navigating the Factory a bit of a nightmare. Even after a second or third playthrough, it’s incredibly easy to get lost in the Factory’s many dank, dimly-lit corridors. Still, at least the whole thing ends with a pretty cool mech fight. Now we just need to wait for Resident Evil 9 to have kaijus fighting on the moon.


9. The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Yiga Clan Hideout

Yiga Clan Hideout
Yiga Clan Hideout

We can all agree that forced stealth sections in games that typically don’t use stealth can get in the bin, but for all the love and admiration that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild received from everyone around the world, even that can’t escape a “forced” stealth segment. We say forced, because you can go in all guns blazing if you want to, but you need a specific strategy and loadout to do so, otherwise you’re getting murdered and sent back to the start of the hideout with the quickness.

On paper, the Yiga Clan Hideout doesn’t sound too bad, as you simply need to infiltrate the ninja clan’s HQ to retrieve a special helmet. You’re even told about the Yiga’s love for bananas, which can be exploited for easier stealth kills. The problem though is that if you’re discovered, and you probably will, as the Yiga only tend to notice bananas if they’re five feet away, the doors to progress are locked, more enemies are summoned and the blade of some of those enemies can insta-kill Link, regardless of hearts, fairies or the Mipha’s Blessing ability. You don’t even have to deal with that against Calamity Ganon, for Christ’s sake.


10. Devil May Cry – The Underwater Sections

Capcom unintentionally cooked when they were making Devil May Cry. Originally, the project was going to become Resident Evil 4, which is why you spend the game fighting monsters in a gothic castle, while the swordplay combat design was the result of a bug during the creation of Onimusha. The lads behind Devil May Cry were knocking it out of the park almost without even trying, which makes it all the more baffling that when they did put some effort in, they almost torpedoed the whole thing by adding some underwater missions.

Appearing in Mission 12 and Mission 13, the underwater sections have you play the game in first person, as you try to navigate through a sunken pirate ship. While the second underwater section at least gives you a harpoon gun to defend yourself against the demonic threat, the first section requires you to dodge your enemies while finding the exit. Admittedly, it’s not hard to do, but it runs so blatantly counter to everything else that Devil May Cry is all about that it makes the inclusion so jarring.

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