One awful level doesn't make for a terrible game. In fact, it's often quite the opposite. Many classics include at least one conniption-inducing section, presumably to level out the sheer awesomeness that is the rest of the game. Here's our tribute to 8 levels that almost made us give up on our favorites.
8. Turbo Tunnel (Battletoads)
Battletoads' infamous hoverbike run is the level even your older brother couldn't beat for you. Let's get something straight first, Battletoads ain't easy. Where other brawlers were content to let you spam the throw button, Battletoads demanded tight combos and well-placed huge-fisted punches. The game would never let you get comfortable, either, changing up game mechanics faster than most people change something that people change quickly. But there's hard, and then there's hard. And then there's Turbo Tunnel, a level designed with the sole purpose of getting controllers from one side of the room to the other at speeds upwards of 90 MPH.
Even if you somehow had the stones to make it to level 3 with all of your lives intact, all of that could be stripped away in twenty seconds by a few wrong twitches. Turbo Tunnel reminds gamers of the harsh reality that life just isn't fair, a truth most people use video games to escape from. Sure, there are YouTube videos of people playing it perfectly in one go, but there are YouTube videos of monkeys drinking their own pee, too. I don't know what point I'm trying to make. F**k the hoverbike level.
7. Meat Circus (Psychonauts)
(SPOILERS) Indie sleeper hit Psychonauts did a lot of things right: It was laugh-out-loud funny and endearingly weird, had some of the most original and mindbending level design in gaming, and featured a level inside the mind of a gigantic mutated lungfish named Linda. As a platformer, though, it left a little to be desired; the controls were just a little too clunky, the camera a little too imprecise. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the Meat Circus, a psychic amalgam of the minds of protagonist Razputin (raised in a carnival) and antagonist Coach Oleander (raised by a butcher).
The Meat Circus somehow makes meat, one of nature's best things, into an object of revulsion. Tasked with defending Oleander's inner child against mutated rabbit creatures, you're forced to endure repeatedly failing at platforming while listening to the little fat kid whine (Hearing "Ow!" and "That hurts!" bring my blood to a boil almost as quickly as "Hey, listen!"). Somehow, the Meat Circus managed to combine all of the most frustrating elements of video games: escort missions, rising water, relentless, high pitched voice overs, and endless boss battles. Plus, even the name is terrible: Meat Circus sounds like the name of a dirty magazine that I definitely don't own a few copies of.
6. Final Battle (Bioshock)
Once you've been forced to beat your own father to death with a golf club, a lot of things can seem pretty tame by comparison. Bioshock is a haunting, cerebral game. It's as much a strategic RPG-shooter as it is a rumination on decay and free will. It can even be interpreted as a meta-commentary on video games themselves. The few boss battles range from deeply creepy to straight up terrifying, and often offer multiple approaches for the thinking gamer. So when it comes time to rise against your puppet master, the elusive Atlas, having sacrificed body and soul to get there, you're expecting something pretty incredible.
Instead, what you get is a big, gold bullet sponge. Lacking even the decency to have a big flashing whatever on his chest, Atlas basically just yells at you incoherently in between showing off what he learned on day one of Video Game Boss 101 (shoot a fireball, punch, repeat). What's worse, you don't even get to finish the job; ultimately, the final boss of one of the greatest video games of all time is killed by a bunch of little girls. Ayn Rand is spinning in her grave, though likely for reasons entirely unrelated to all that.
5. Chemical Plant (Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
There's nothing "wrong," exactly, with the Chemical Plant Zone. It's not especially hard or cheap or broken. But Merriam-Webster defines "terrible" as "exciting extreme alarm or intense fear," and by that definition, Chemical Plant Zone is one of the most terrible levels of them all.
Have you ever wanted to send a gamer into blind, slavering panic, reducing them to huddling, white-eyed, in the corner of a darkened room? Have you ever wanted to stop a gamer's heart for fifteen seconds and see their cracked lips form a silent prayer for mercy? Have you ever wanted to give 'em a good scare? Play this music.