Video games are meant to be a challenge (usually)—that’s what makes them fun (usually). But sometimes, we come across sections of the game which push us too far. You know what I’m talking about—when you die so many times, the “Game Over” noise triggers a Pavlovian response in you for the rest of your life. Or when you can’t skip the cutscene before the battle, so you know all the dialogue to that scene by heart. (I’m looking at you, Kingdom Hearts.)
What rage-inducing game sections continue to haunt you years after you’ve played them?
Rachel Flory: I have two stories that immediately spring to mind. The first is the puking mermaid boss in Rule of Rose. If you’re unfamiliar, this boss happens about ¾ through the game. You’re trapped in a room with a poor girl who’s been tied up like a mermaid, her legs bound together, hanging from the ceiling by some kind of pulley.
You have to run around the room, waiting for Mermaid Girl to drop down from the ceiling so you can bash her with your pipe. This sounds pretty simple, right? It is, until the part where the mermaid starts to get dizzy from hanging and swinging upside down. Naturally, she vomits on the ground. And her barf is caustic.
One of the most common criticisms for Rule of Rose was its combat controls, and it really shows in this bizarre battle with acidic mermaid vomit. This was the first battle I ever had to look up on YouTube. The comments on the video were all about how difficult this fight was and how it took so long to defeat the mermaid. I got home one day from high school, sat down in front of my TV, and dedicated the next several hours to taking down the mermaid. To aid me in my crusade, I queued up the entire discography of Mindless Self Indulgence. It took me about two hours to finally conquer that stupid mermaid, which was also around the length of time it took to listen to all of Mindless Self Indulgence’s albums released by 2008.
My second story with a horribly difficult boss is with Persona 3. My enemy in this encounter is a freaking table. It’s literally called “Crying Table.” I don’t know why it’s crying, but it’s probably because it’s a really stupid table and nobody likes it.
This table doesn’t look that menacing, but it could do a pretty devastating amount of damage to everyone in my party. My plucky high school students gifted with supernatural powers were dropping left and right, and then once they were all picked off, I was a goner.
Once again, I took to the Internet for help. Unluckily for me, the solution was to get to a high enough level to learn a skill that would heal everyone in my party at once. That meant I had to do the time-honored, yet equally dreaded, task that every RPG player is familiar with: I had to level grind.
Just like with Barf Mermaid, I used inspirational music to motivate me on this quest. This was in summer 2012, and Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded just came out. I listened to this album on repeat at least three times at around midnight as I ground my way through the floors of Tartarus.
To this day, whenever I hear “Starships” or “Pound the Alarm,” I immediately am transported back into that high-school-transformed-into-a-spooky-labyrinth, and I can hear Mitsuru’s “I’m president of the student council” voice telling me that we’ve encountered a guardian and can’t proceed until we defeat him. I swear, the Crying Table battle was harder than the final boss of that game.
You know we getting hotter and hotter, sexy and hotter, let’s shut it down. “TAKEBA IS IN DANGER.” Pound the alarm.
Al Rosenberg: Two words: Dark Cloud. I’m aware some people actually finished this game. I know that must be true. I am not one of them.
I loved this game. I replayed the first few levels over and over, and spent dozens of hours upgrading weapons and collecting items and re-building towns. But I never got past the Shipwreck level boss. Ice Queen La Saia could not be beat in my household. I would get home from school, settle down in front of the tv and try to get through this level. Every. Day. I looked it up. I tried. I cried. My grandmother tried to ban me from playing this game because clearly it was not good for my mental health as I grunted and moaned in frustration over and over and over.
Eventually I decided I must be experiencing a glitch and gave up forever.
Here, watch this player defeat her in two seconds:
Clara Mae: Hands down, my most frustrating video game experiences have been with the Final Fantasy series. There is a reason I refuse to pick up another Final Fantasy game for the rest of my natural life and it’s because I truly believe that they’re games designed to vex and infuriate players. I mean I could talk about the confounding plots or the battles against bosses like Sephiroth and Seymour taking an ungodly amount of time—upwards of forty-five minutes—and demand why, god, and who has the time, but I’ll just focus on what made me officially rage quit the series. It’s a hilariously small incident: in Final Fantasy XIII, I couldn’t defeat the Hecatoncheir summon in order to win it over to my side. I was about 20, trying to play the game in between college homework and an internship. And I just kept dying, almost immediately. I realized the issue was, in my attempts to finish the game efficiently, I did not do the ten hour level grinding in the last area. That concept, that grinding is required and a built in aspect of Final Fantasy, finally made me flip my lid. I was an adult! Who has the time? Such a small thing, but now I have infinite respect for games that tell a story concisely, and don’t force you to be at the level the designers expect just so you can progress forward and experience the story.
Naseem Jamnia: I’m going to do a major throwback: when the first Harry Potter game came out for the computer, I was stuck on the final level, beating Voldemort. My friend and I must have sat there for six hours trying to beat him. The result is I created a song, based on the famous hit single, that goes like this: Voldemort got ran over by a reindeer / walking home from Hogwarts on Christmas Eve. / You can say there’s no such thing as Voldemort / but as for me and Harry, we believe. In recent history, my old roommate and I used to play Resident Evil 5 together, and pretty early in the game, you encounter an unexplained mountain troll-like thing. OMG, if I never have to fight this thing again, it’ll still be a scar on my memory. All of your controls are suddenly limited and you’re using tanks to fight it for the most part. It is NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to beat on Hard or Veteran. I have so many good RE5 memories (despite Tribal Sheva) but I can’t ever replay it again because of this crap.
Draven Katayama: Dragon Age: Inquisition has a required (ugh!) quest called “Aim the Trebuchet.” I died at least fifteen times even with the difficulty on the easiest setting. A plethora of YouTube videos and Reddit threads all bemoan this awful quest. In the fight, you’re swarmed by enemies while you need to turn a crank. Even with potions, healing and barrier spells, and powerful companions, it’s mostly luck that you can turn the crank fast enough while being constantly assaulted.
Wendy Browne: I hear you on that trebuchet battle, Draven, though, with some solid tanking and mage-y support from Vivienne, Iron Bull, and Solas, I was able to pull it off. Still, any time I have to deal with a trebuchet or catapult now, I get the jitters as my mind flashes back to that awful mission in Heavenly Sword where, not only did I have to perfectly aim the damn cannon and guide the ballista at three damn catapults, there was a goddamn clock ticking while I did it. NO PRESSURE. After recent struggles with Batman’s batarangs in Arkham City, this game did nothing to make me feel better about my coordination issues. My husband was so frustrated on my behalf that he had to get up and leave the room. I did manage to finally drop all three catapults with a mere three seconds to spare, and I did enjoy the therapeutic joy of ripping through the enemy army with my ballista, BUT STILL.
Rachel: Naseem—I remember the very first Harry Potter game! I have a frustrating story about it. It’s when Malfoy steals Neville Longbottom’s Remembrall, and you have to chase after him on the broom. My computer was so crappy, it lagged and glitched and I just couldn’t get fast enough to catch Malfoy. One time I was at my cousin’s house, and she let me play the game on her computer. I got to the Malfoy chase, and I was actually able to beat that section on her super fancy, state-of-the-art Windows XP. I was elated to finally defeat Malfoy, but then spent the rest of the visit filled with existential angst because I knew I didn’t have enough time to finish the rest of the game on her computer, and that I would still be stuck on the Remembrall chase on my old home computer. I never did beat that game.
Stephani Hren: I completely forgot about the Harry Potter games, but the moment Naseem and Rachel mentioned them I got a guttural reaction of vehement anger and confusion. They were so good but so mechanically terrible at the same time.
My big one that comes to mind is Braid. When it started being lauded as one of the best indie games of all time, I got suckered into buying it even though I’m shit at platformers. I thought the puzzle element would balance out my terrible reaction times, but I ended up finding the whole premise of combining time-based puzzle mechanics with precision platforming to be needlessly complex, pointlessly vague, and very, very frustrating. I think I even had to have my at-the-time boyfriend beat the final level for me so that I could experience the ending (which I did like, though the infuriating gameplay took some of the fun out of it for me). Nowadays I can appreciate the impact it had on indie games (Wikipedia even calls it a “keystone title in the growth of indie game development”), but you literally couldn’t pay me enough to replay that game.
Naseem: Poor Rachel! Don’t worry, the only thing you missed is my amazing Voldemort song. For what it’s worth, the PS1 version of the first HP game was significantly harder than the computer game, I remember. But Y-I-K-E-S, Stephani is right about mechanics. I totally forgot about that. This gets especially awkward in later games. I know I definitely played the first three (fighting the basilisk in HP2 for Gameboy was really annoying; I’d forgotten about that, too). I bet the Lego versions are fun, though!
What are your most frustrating gaming moments? What made them so memorable? Feel free to share in the comments below!