That One Level

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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Sivert Fjeldstad Madsen: Since you've made every game... Did you actually beat Battletoads?
Lord of Games: I assume you mean that tunnel level with the hoverbike. I, er... well, of course I beat it. It's not as if I or anyone else would release a game that couldn't be finished with standard human reaction times.


There are times in video games where, instead of a boss becoming infamous for being insanely difficult, a level does. It could be that it is infested with Goddamned Bats (or Demonic Spiders), is really long and has no check points, is home to That One Boss, is home to That One Puzzle (or at least one with a Guide Dang It), has you trying to outrun an Advancing Wall of Doom or otherwise sticks you with auto scrolling, has a Scrappy Mechanic in play or is The Maze level. In an MMORPG, another possibility is that the level is far too far away from everywhere else, making trips to it pointless. If you experience frustration and anger at a level that may have one or more of these symptoms, congratulations: you're playing That One Level.

Sometimes That One Level polarizes the playerbase—a portion of players find it infuriatingly hard while others don't have much of a problem with it. This can be a matter of general skill, familiarity with a particular control scheme or just plain luck, depending on the level. Regardless, about the least helpful thing that can be said about one of these is "I never had any trouble with it" or worse, "I got through that on the first try," especially without any helpful information included.

Although it isn't a necessary requirement, it should be noted that many That One Levels are hard on all difficulty settings. If a level is difficult on the most difficult setting, it's to be expected. That One Level is the one which is just as infuriating on easy as it is on Harder Than Hard.

Most, if not all Bonus Dungeons (although you don't have to do them), Slippy Slidey Ice Worlds, and Down the Drain-esque stages qualify as That One Level. Can sometimes contrast the Crowning Levels Of Awesome. It Gets Better is, in many cases, when the beginning of a game has these.

Examples of That One Level include:

Because there are so many of Those Levels, they've been categorized by genre for your viewing convenience:

In General

  • Water Levels. Whether it's due to the action slowing down, having to constantly look for air supplies, get used to a map with a Z-axis (when you're accustomed to only X and Y), mobs that can attack from above and below, difficulty using the game's camera in such an environment, or having to quickly learn entirely different controls that are only used in that level, underwater levels seem to be one thing no developer is able to get right.

Video Game Examples

Edutainment Game

  • Not really That One Level per se, but the desert you must cross to get to California in Oregon Trail II gets on many people's nerves.
    • Ditto for that game's river rafting minigame, which is MUCH tougher than the original's and requires a lot of trial-and-error and dexterity with the mouse to pass, especially if you choose to shoot the rapids. And the Sublette Cutoff, which is unavoidable if you're a Greenhorn. If you forgot to bring canteens and/or water kegs, your party WILL die of thirst.
  • Brain Age 2's unskippable connect-the-dot images and acrostics. And when more than one person is using the same game card, drawing a picture of something the game tells you to. All of the above includes getting upstaged by the game proving it's better than you. Because you are facing a professor.
    • For people with OCD/impatience, the number memorization game within the trademark Brain Age-checking system. Sure, it's supposed to help your memory, but many just restart their DS when they get to it then re-take the test until they get one without it, because it's too frustrating to complete, but too easy to cheat at by writing the numbers down somewhere.
  • The crossword puzzle from JumpStart 5th Grade. You're supposed to go through the museum to find the answers, but this tends to take forever (And as many have said, it tends to be pretty well-hidden. Made worse by your parents who could have set a time-limit...making it unwinnable.

Stealth Based Game

  • Hitman 2 has a level called Hidden Valley, where the sole objective is to get from one end of a valley to the other, evading swarms of ninja guards. This isn't actually all that hard in itself. However, the highly trained ninjas apparently do not have the slightest understanding of basic road safety and have a habit of getting themselves run over by the truck convoys going through the underground tunnel. This would invariably result in the body being discovered and the alarm being raised, ruining the player's chances of getting the top mission ranking of Silent Assassin through no fault of their own. This would happen about four times out of five and could happen at any point in the mission, even when you were just seconds from reaching the exit. The only solution was to just keep trying again and again and hoping you got lucky.
    • The Motorcade Interception mission of Hitman 2 is an exercise in hair-pulling because of the way the civilians are handled. Their starting positions and walking routes are randomized, and they run to get the nearest guard immediately if they see you with a weapon. This is mitigated somewhat by the fact that without a weapon, they don't even notice you exist. Unfortunately, this is a sniping mission, so you have to carry a rifle from either the start of the level or your contact elsewhere to the nest. AND you're liable to get noticed while you're waiting in the nest for the motorcade to pass by, AND it's quite possible to go through all of this and then miss the shot anyway. This is especially annoying if you're trying for Silent Assassin rating.
  • The very insanely, long stairway in the communications tower of Metal Gear Solid. You CAN'T avoid getting spotted by a security camera, even when the "Throw a chaff grenade before entering new doors" worked before, forcing Snake to run up an insanely long flight of stairs, being chased by a shitload of enemies—in a game where it's usually suicide to take on more then three or four enemies at a time. Oh yes, there's also the Guide Dang It that if you ran out of the room with the camera instead of rushing for the stairs, you're stuck in an infinitely respawning chamber with no way out (it's probably a glitch, but Unwinnable until you reload). Even after mowing all the enemies down, the towers are still irritating for the insanely long time it takes to go up and down it, even when Snake's running.
    • Stun Grenades every few floors. Takes much of the sting out of this level. Now, going all the way up to the roof only to find you skipped the rope by accident? That part's still a huge Guide Dang It.

Survival Horror

Star Wars

  • The level in every other Star Wars game that forces you to play the "Snowspeeder wrapping up the legs of the AT-AT" level.
    • Notable Features of this Level: You must defeat all AT-AT's to complete the level. You must use the speeder on this stage (and/or AT-AT's can ONLY be defeated by snowspeeders). You cannot just shoot them. There are lots of other enemies you can accidentally run into (and die from) while looping. A time limit of some type, while not mandatory, is encouraged.
      • Various examples: Rogue Squadron 1 through 3 (N64/GC/PC), it depends on the exact game/level, but it hits practically ALL of the above.
      • The Empire Strikes Back (NES/Gameboy), while the speeder part wasn't too bad, if you crashed you had to continue very slowly on foot.
      • Shadows of the Empire (N64), you 'can' shoot them to death in this one, but it took forever.
      • Lego Star Wars II (various), in Freeplay mode you could fly a different craft, but the only one that could defeat an AT-AT was the speeder. One of the less annoying examples the looping was fairly quick and easy to control (the infinite lives nature of the Lego-(something) games also helps).
  • Play a Star Wars space simulator. You will hate the Gallofree Yards Medium Transport. And to think, the Battle of Hoth had that just after the AT-ATs.