You're trucking along in a game just fine and then, IT happens. What is IT, you ask? Why, it's the level that trips you up over and over again and makes you wanna crack your controller in two. The level may not be awful. Sometimes it's just a few enemies types or hurdles that make it a chore to play. Other times, the level may just be poorly designed or highly unbalanced. TV Tropes likes to call these areas That One Level because despite all the colors these levels may or may not have, the stage has you seeing only one color: red.
Blaze Heatnix Stage - Mega Man X6 (PS)
It isn't exactly a newsflash that Mega Man X6 is one sorry excuse for a game. The game was rushed for the 2001 holiday season, the same year that Mega Man X5 was released, a game that was intended to close the door on the X series, at least originally. In a game with some truly horrid level design, Blaze Heatnix stage really stands out.
X6 has a Nightmare System that has different affects on the the the stages throughout the game. Some of these affects are minor while others can bring on enough stress to make you snap your controller like a twig. Blaze Heatnix level has one of the lesser Nightmare affects that is the silver blocks that move up and down and can cause crush damage. No serious biggy. The level also has some flame throwers that cause an insane amount of damage and you'll have to rescue Reploids and avoid the Nightmare Viruses while going through these sections. But all of that pales in comparison to the crown turd of Blaze Heatnix level, the mini boss of the stage, the Nightmare Snake, one of the most annoying mini bosses in the history of video games.
The Nightmare Snake makes his presence known early in the level. To defeat him, you have to destroy the four green orbs on his body. Mind you, you have to do this as the screen scrolls and dodging his attacks. Now I realize that may not sound difficult and, it isn't, really. But it becomes tedious especially given that you have to battle the Nightmare Snake not one, not two, not three, not four, but five, yes, five times. This mini boss also has an obnoxiously long life bar. If you're playing as Zero and you've already peaced out Infinity Majinion, then you can use his ability to make short work of this giant, red donut. If you're playing as X, you might fall asleep during the fight because X's attacks even with Inifinity Majinion's weapon does very little to inflict damage that the fight just drags on and on.
The fourth fight with Nightmare Snake takes places on a vertically scrolling section over instant kill rising fire. The Nightmare Snake likes to appear and then vanish and you could get killed just for being on the wrong side of the screen when it suddenly pops up. Even if you are playing as Zero, it is no fun to fight the same mini boss over and over, which is what Blaze Heatnix stage basically amounts to.
Carnival Night Zone Act 2 - Sonic 3 & Knuckles (GEN)
I've said multiple times that Sonic 3 & Knuckles is my all-time favorite Sonic game. It has an awesome soundtrack and the levels are fun to explore. Having said that later bit, you may be wondering just why I'm placing Carnival Night Zone Act 2 in this feature. It isn't a bad level. I think it's well designed. I also think it overstays it's welcome.
In Carnival Night Act 2, it's easy to lose your way and cover ground you've already gone over, wasting valuable time or hit a spring and get flung backwards. Sonic 2 had large zones but the ones in Sonic 3 & Knuckles are larger still, with Act 2 of Carnival Night seeming like the most sprawling of the lot.
This level feels like it was designed just to tick time off of the clock. You'd think 10 minutes would be more than enough time to get through any act but in Carnival Night Act 2, it isn't unusual to see the timer flashing to alert you of your impending doom. And to make matters worse, Knuckles shows up to be a jerk twice in this act, once to turn out the lights, the second to send you skyward. During both encounters, the clock doesn't stop. I've had so many runs on this act where I reach the boss with forty seconds left on the dang timer.
Carnival Night Act 2 is also infamous for the Barrel of Doom. No matter what alternate paths you take, you will always come across this barrel. While every other barrel could be jumped on, making it move up and down so you could be on your merry way, for some dumb reason, Sonic Team decided to make this particular barrel function differently. The only way to get this barrel to budge is to press up and down on the control pad. This odd design choice stumped so many players, bringing their playthroughs of the game to a screeching halt. It makes absolutely no sense to implement a new method of moving this one barrel when a way to do so for other barrels was already established. All this did was waste more player's time, which is what Carnival Night Act 2 excels at. I love Sonic 3 & Knuckles to death but this act can bite me.
Corona Mountain - Super Mario Sunshine (GCN)
This is not the first time a level from Super Mario Sunshine has shown up in That One Level. In fact, you can count on seeing more levels from the Super Mario series and Mario games in general cropping up here because, despite the family friendly nature of Mario games, they aren't shy about kicking you in the bum. I'll say again that I don't think Sunshine is a bad game. Glitchy yes, some artificial challenge, to be sure. It is by no means a game I hate. But I have to call shenanigans when I see them. Corona Mountain is the final level of the game and while that is expected to be challenging, that in no way excuses the amount of BS you have to put up with.
The first section of Corona Mountain has you jumping across platforms that not only contain spikes on them, but fire as well. Both of these are instant kill hazards so you've got to time your jumps so you don't land when the spikes are out and use FLUDD at the right time to douse the flames. And what are those platforms over? Why, instant kill lava, of course! Well, it wouldn't be a final Bowser area with out lava. But that isn't even the really hard part!
The fun really begins when you get on a boat. Now, you've been on boats several times throughout your Sunshine adventure. So you know that steering the lousy things sucks, but it was never a serious issue because you were surrounded by water. The worst thing that could befall you is that you'd get wet. In Corona Mountain what was once something of a headache is now the worst migraine you can imagine. You have to use FLUDD to steer your way through the lava lake but the controls here are fare more sensitive than they were when you had boats on water. There are all kinds of obstacles for you to bump your boat into and if that thing so much as grazes any solid object, it will drop like brick. Rushing through this section will only get you killed so you're on pins and needles trying to navigate through Bowser's private hell. Slow and steady is the only real way to make it through. And if you're going for the Blue Coins? Well then, congrats are in order because Corona Mountain just became even less fun! The blue money is scattered in the worst sections of this area where it is more than easy to screw up.
Mt. Itoi - EarthBound Beginnings (NES)
It took more than two decades but the first MOTHER game was finally, legally released for American audiences. One thing I was quick to learn is that if I wanted to stay alive, I would have to grind. Not only are the enemies beyond the second town tough, but just outside your front door lurk some heavy hitters. Nevertheless, I pressed on, narrowly escaping a few Game Overs and reaching the final area, Mt. Itoi. It was as if the game threw me to the ground and pulled out a nice, quality brand metal baseball bat as I looked back in sheer horror.
Every single random encounter on Mt. Itoi should be treated like a boss fight because that's how mean these guys are. Take extreme caution and set up spell to decrease the damage of physical and PSI attacks and do your absolute best to not waste a turn by attacking an enemy that is already gone. Lots of the creatures here are resistant to certain PSI attacks so once you find out what works and what doesn't it becomes a little bit easier. Still, you can be level in the 40s and still end up slaughtered if you underestimate your foes or overestimate your abilities.
There is thankfully an area where you can rest to regain HP and restore your PP. Its a good idea to stick around that area for a bit before moving on. As you trek further, you'll uncover EVE, a robot built by Ninten's grandfather to aid him. EVE is awesome. She has infinite HP, she always goes first in battle and you can use her to grind for more EXP. Unfortunately, you aren't allowed to keep nice things on Mt. Itoi. When you reach a certain area on the mountain, you enter an unwinnable battle where EVE is destroyed, leaving you once again exposed to the cruelty of Mt. Itoi. Shigesato Itoi has said that Mt. Itoi is so brutal because it wasn't tested for balancing. Even with high levels, all the best equipment, and the best PSI powers, Mt. Itoi was still one of the most punishing final areas of an RPG I've ever played.