The gameplay/design equivalent of A Winner Is You to some degree. You can be playing a great game, things are building up to the climax and you can only imagine how awesome it could be with how great everything before was, then the game goes to hell (sometimes literally), such that it almost seems like it was outsourced to another, far less competent developer for the final levels. The game is suddenly full of crappy levels, bland scenery, horrible stealth and Escort Missions, Trial-and-Error Gameplay around every corner, badly placed checkpoints, interminable backtracking (and general blatant filler), and either a sudden increase or decrease in difficulty. The climax should be everything great from before and more, yet in this case it leaves you with a very bad taste at the end of a great (or even average) game.
Many developers have admitted to paying far less attention to their climaxes than they probably should, as most players don't get that far. Even some professional reviewers admit they don't play enough of the game and many reviews are based off of the early-mid parts of the game. This initiates an obvious vicious cycle of players who would otherwise finish being put off by terrible ending levels, with the expectation that no really great gameplay surprises (with positive impact) will happen after the first half or so of a game is completed. Even if individual developers don't want be part of this problem, Executive Meddling will often enforce this trope. Author Existence Failure is another possibility, if the ending wasn't sorted out ahead of time.
A lot of the time, this also stems from a desire to make the ending very dramatic and different from the rest of the game, in order to make the emotional impact stronger. When it works, it's not an example of this trope, but it fails hard when it does so. In the worst situations, you'll get a combination of the above where the game designers put far less effort than they should into the later parts while the writers and artists put in a great deal of work into the same areas, and the designers are obliged to have the player go through long, uneventful levels so such work doesn't go to waste, resulting in Ending Fatigue as the player is forced to make their way through levels that were completed in some aspects but not others.
As with Cosmic Deadline, the reason for this trope is partially because developers know full well that reviewers often won't be able to play the full game, and even normal players often won't finish it. As a result, they often focus most of their development, playtesting, content, and other efforts on the early parts of the game (which more people will see and which the game is more likely to be critically judged by); while the final level or two, which fewer people will reach, gets correspondingly less attention.
If you really want people throwing their discs into a fire, then it can be combined with an A Winner Is You or No Ending as a "reward" for the player's perseverance. In a lot of cases (namely story-focused games) this can lead to a Cosmic Deadline situation. The opposite of It Gets Better, but there's nothing stopping a game suffering from both.
As this is on the verge of being an Ending Trope, beware that there may be things you consider unmarked spoilers up ahead.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: The inverted castle, beyond the initial novelty factor, was basically a huge copy-paste of the main castle, only turned on its head, and with less narrative and plot than the already fairly bare-bones story of the first half. It doesn't help that the rich musical variety of the first half of the game is largely absent in the second. No fewer than six map areas use the track "Finale Toccata," three use "Lost Painting", three recycle the tracks from their first-half counterparts, and only two have original/unique tracks. Nor does it help that by this point, you have no more mobility upgrades to find. Unlike the first half of the game where progress is defined by slowly unlocking new areas (and thus, the difficulty is linear), the latter half can pit you up against extraordinarily difficult foes before pitifully easy ones, because the order in which you fight them is essentially random. The lower number of secret areas, as well as those present but spoiled due to the resemblance with the normal castle, not to mention the balancing issues in regards of enemies and bosses, don't help either.
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin: Before the last battles, you have to go through four final portraits one after another. These portraits are recycled from all of the earlier ones in the game, and get really repetitive for that reason.
Legacy of Kain : Blood Omen 2 - The game starts promising, and most stages are true to the "gothic", pseudo-medieval flavour of the games in the series, with some steampunk technology introduced to show that centuries had passed in the plot - an enjoyable and credible fantasy setting. Then, the last few stages are set in a pseudo-sci-fi facility that would look more at home in a futuristic FPS than in a Legacy of Kain game. A game where its fun-factor was playing as a vampire, exploring atmospheric gothic/baroque architecture, attacking human guards and knights, was turned into a messing of genres where you have to find the switch to progress in bland similar corridors with little lights on the walls.
The first game attempts to make the final dungeon grand and climatic, but it comes off as frustrating and long. Nearly every single room contains Demonic Spiders and the dungeon itself is so large and complex that you will get lost, even with the map at hand. You also have to explore carefully to reach the Silver Arrows, which is the only item that can kill Ganon.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Although the final dungeon had awesome music and a bunch of cool new enemies, it was plagued with completely unconventional mechanics compared to the rest of the game, including horrid dead-ends, endless loops, and monsters with increased hitpoints relative to what they have when encountered elsewhere.
Onox's lair in Oracle of Seasons consists of three wide-open rooms, you walk up, beat the enemies, walk up, beat the enemies, walk up, beat a miniboss, walk up to find Onox's room.
Players expecting a large-scale final dungeon in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask will be disappointed, first because the dungeon segments in the Moon are brief and only require some basic skills from the mask transformations, and second because they're not even required to reach the Final Boss. In fact, completing them by trading all masks will lead to getting the Fierce Deity's Mask, which will turn the final boss into an Anticlimax Boss.
The Triforce hunting quest towards the end of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker caused many players to give up and not finish the game. To reach the final area of the game, Link needs the Triforce of Courage, which is broken up into eight fragments. To find out where every fragment is located within the ocean, you have to hunt down the Triforce Charts. Don't assume it's that easy because not only are the charts scattered throughout the world, you can't even read them. Tingle can decode the maps for you, but at a very hefty price of 398 rupees per chart. The Wii U remake of the game considerably alleviated this quest, with five of the eight shards being found immediately without a map.
In Skyword Sword, the final dungeon has nine total rooms. Most of the challenge comes from how the dungeon is laid out as a slide puzzle, and only 4 out of the 9 rooms have the console that moves the rooms around. The disappointing part? No boss whatsoever, the final bosses are fought outside (and after a lengthy cutscene). It's also extremely short, it appears like it's only the beginning of a much larger dungeon. And before you even get to the final dungeon, the game throws one more Silent Realm at you, which puts off many players from even attempting it.
Chapters 7 and 9 (of 9) in Mirror's Edge are easily weaker than the rest, and also the only levels where some degree of enemy interaction is mandatory. It's not completely straight though, as 7 is still notably worse than 9 (which at least doesn't completely necessitate fighting, unlike 7), and Chapter 8 is one of the best chapters in the game.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune goes into this right at the very end, where there's an enemy who can kill you in one hit (although easy enough to avoid if you learn the pattern) while you fight off waves of other enemies on what amounts to a timer due to destructible cover, and then it ends in a trial and error QTE fest.
Similarly, Uncharted 2's final levels are not nearly up to the standards of quality of the ones before. While some of it is pretty awesome (the opening scenes of Shambala and the fight in the storm drain while its, y'know, storming), the game starts sending frustrating firefight after frustrating firefight at you as soon as you cross the collapsing bridge in the Monastery and never really stops, feeling like the 1st game again. The awesome vehicle battles and chases don't return, with the exception of the collapsing rocks in Shambala but that's for all of 5 seconds. The devs mentioned somewhere that they had a time frame and had to do the last areas more quickly then the first, the final boss especially. This becomes obvious when you consider the train level took the entire dev cycle to make, while Shambala was made in the last two or three months.
Dante's Inferno starts off very good: Varied, detailed locals with plenty of action going on in the background and creative use of the scenery to enhance the mood. Then when you get to the bottom levels of hell you're treated to...a desert. Not a special torment-filled desert like you'd imagine in Hell, but just a normal, every day desert. In Hell. The final rush to the last boss consists of going through the same exact dull arena room 10 times to complete "challenges" (aka padding completion time). Also, there are some elements of They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot with the padding, too. One of the most notable is the hell for thieves, which could best be described as "tag, but you morph into a snake while the other becomes human again. and half of the players are snakes" which is, instead, just another grindy area. Kinda becomes frustrating to think about that wasted potential. This is also the point in the game where the gameplay ceased to be innovative and boiled down to kill everything, walk, climb down, rinse and repeat. To make it even worse, all your skills are filled out by this point, so the game screeches to a dull grind.
Batman: Arkham Asylum: The first 90% of the game is completely aces, and by far the best piece of interactive media ever to feature a superhero. Then you get to Killer Croc's lair, a boring, repetitive maze of a sewer level where you have to be vewy vewy quiet (read: walk vewy vewy slowly) or face Killer Croc, who tries to jumpscare you about 27 times in always the exact same way and who goes down each time with a single, auto-aimed batarang. Then, you have to backtrack through that entire section and back across half of the game's map to a fun, if protracted, boss fight, after which you're inexplicably teleported BACK to the vicinity of Croc's lair and have to run to a series of elongated mook fights, until the final boss, which is essentially one overly long mook fight. Though it does get some points back for the party, a (completely optional) fight with the largest number of Mooks in one place, and a great place to show off just how much better you've gotten at the game.
Ecco the Dolphin for Sega Mega Drive/Genesis was an incredible game - atmospheric, beautiful, slightly challenging but (usually) fair - and owed a large portion of this to being set in the ocean. Guess what happened when the action shifted to a spaceship? The last few levels have Trial-and-Error Gameplay, hideous environments, enemies that are entirely ripped from the movie Alien, frequent instant death, etc.
The PS2/Dreamcast game, Ecco the Dolphin: Defender Of The Future, suffered from this as well. The "Domain of the Foe" levels were riddled with Fake Difficulty, respawning and unkillable enemies (which rarely popped up in earlier levels), and environments that seemed incredibly barren. The latter was likely on purpose, to show what a desolate place Earth had become, but compared to the beautiful, lush environments of earlier levels, the whole final chapter seemed like the design crew just stopped trying.
Brütal Legend: after the battle of Lionwhyte's palace, the story picks up at a nearly uncontrollable pace. The game slams rather suddenly into the final battles with Emperor Doviculus right after defeating Drowned Ophelia's Black Tear army. You never get a proper fight with Drowned Ophelia herself, and Doviculus and the Tainted Coil don't have the due attention that was given to Lionwhyte and Drowned Ophelia. The game has been described as feeling like "two acts of a three-act story." On the other hand, if one looks at the outside circumstances — namely, Activision suing EA and Double Fine to halt production of the game on extremely flimsy bases — this may become explainable.
Minor example in Darksiders. Right as you're ready to go kick the Destroyer's ass, the game makes you backtrack to a bunch of places and get a bunch of pieces for a sword. It does have a cool boss fight in the middle of it, but that's the only new thing it adds, and the boss could've easily been placed elsewhere. Said scavenger hunt (hope you remembered to find all the warps in the game beforehand, or else you're in for fun) takes place soon after the game's resident That One Dungeon, the Black Throne, which swiftly became reviled by many players for the sheer repetition and excruciatingly Guide Dang It puzzles it puts War through. Alternatively, the developers are pointing out "okay, you have all your abilities now - go back through and find the rest of the Heart Containers and bonuses while you reassemble the MacGuffin".
The last two Atlantis levels in Tomb Raider Anniversary: The original game's Atlantis is considered on par with the rest of the game, and even a high point for many people, but not so with Anniversary: at least 75% of the content of the original levels have been cut, and some apparently very buggy jumping puzzles have been added. The general theme is also less interesting (with feel of being in a living creature replaced by a more standard sci-fi theme). Even people that have no knowledge of the changes from the original game have slammed this section. Although the boss fights and very few puzzles that have returned are improved upon.
While not as extreme as in Anniversary, the other Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider games suffer this to some degree as well; while Legend doesn't really drop in gameplay quality, Nepal, the final "real" location (the last being a boss fight) feels extremely short and is over before it even really gets going, and Underworld shifts towards this someway around three-quarters in, with the last locations being much shorter than earlier ones, with a shameless example of Copy And Paste Environments and the varied colour schemes of the earlier locations being replaced by a mulch of grey and blue. It does just about carry through on the gameplay though, with the end areas still having a few great set-pieces.
Cairo onwards in Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. While the whole game is set in one country the earlier parts generally do a good job keeping things varied; Cairo, however, is one of the longest segments of the game and almost universally bathed in the same colour scheme throughout, the ability to swap between levels also gets way out of control and makes things far more confusing than anything earlier when combined with the samey-looking environment and higher difficulty level. The Valley of the Kings is an improvement, but still weaker than the earlier sections of the game.
The final two levels in Tomb Raider III qualifies as this trope for many. The game is already Nintendo Hard for the most part, but the last two levels are so notoriously difficult that some may simply either give up or use a cheat code to skip the levels. The 2nd to last level has a ton of deep pits with tricky jumping as you get chased by glowing wasps that can easily push you into them, and there's 4 areas that are mostly a Death Course where you'll be redoing sections of them again and again (and this is made worse on the Playstation version where saving is limited by how many Save Crystals you have left). The Final Boss in the last level can one hit kill you with its attack and the whole arena is filled with lava and the mystery goo from the meteorite that will also kill you instantly if you fall in either of them. When you do beat the boss, you have to climb your way up and out of the impact crater to escape and shoot down some flamethrower guys before they can light you up (being on fire is pretty much death unless there's water, which there isn't in this example). Once you reach the helicopter, you're treated to an FMV of Lara hijacking it and narrowly escaping. That's it.
Aquaria has a bit of this; it's more on the story level than on the gameplay level, but it's there nonetheless. At the beginning of the game, Naija's natural curiosity, and fear that she's all alone in the world, is a powerful motivator to drive her forward through the exploration-driven plot. However, once she gains a companion, so relieved is she to be rid of the second that she is perfectly willing to settle down with him for the rest of her days and never again concern herself with the fate of these extinct civilizations that she has hitherto been investigating. At this point, the story loses its thread, because Naija is no longer going anywhere because she's curious about what she'll find; she's going there because she's a character in a video game, and there is a cursor telling her to go that way.
Ōkami has shades of this to most people. As opposed to previous dungeons, which had numerous puzzles to solve, treasures to find, and (usually) a brush god to obtain, the Ark of Yamato was nothing more than a Boss Rush and the place where the player fought the final boss. The fact that it's a Point of No Return doesn't help. Also, you can't even challenge the bosses again if you save after beating them, so your only options after beating the last one before the final boss is to shop or fight the final boss.
Primal lets you explore multiple dimensions, each with their own story that ties in to a much bigger story arc. It is a big, atmospheric world that has won the production team multiple awards. The final battle, with Jen as the force of Order versus her boyfriend Lewis who she was trying to save throughout the entire game as the force of Chaos is terribly clunky and underwhelming. Your opponent, for one thing, never transitions beyond his Ferai ("Earth") form, even when in water. The final cutscene has suddenly terrible graphics and the story simply falls dead with an immensely unsatisfying conclusion.
The main complaint about Devil May Cry 4 is massive Back Tracking. Specifically, after the character switch you're going right back through Nero's levels - in reverse.
Once you get back to playing Nero you have to do it all again! You fight the bosses in a row, and the only way to get to them is to complete the dice puzzle which gets harder at each "step" of the level. Mission 13, 14, and 19 of DMC4 are truly a crappy couple of levels, especially on Dante Must Die. When you've learned the trick of the dice puzzles, mission 19 becomes one of the most enjoyable levels in the game, becoming a simple Boss Rush (hint: the dice rotates the same way every time).
No More Heroes has some annoying levels later on, especially # 3, when you have to fight waves of enemies on a somewhat cramped bus, # 2, where you have to run over a lot of enemies on your bike (it gets very tedious since they just keep coming, and if you fall off, you have to fight a lot of enemies with guns), and # 1, where most of the beginning is a bike chase and then there's a forest maze filled with Goddamned Bats. They try to buck the trend of levels full of enemies to kill, and don't quite succeed.
The end-game of the sequel doesn't fare that well either: you're running through some kind of weird spaceship bay...thing, which is actually the second part of a previous level and doesn't have much of any inanimate objects to blow up like the previous eight stages, scooping up the Orgmen and boppin' 'em on the head (and those Rocket-shooting ones? Yep, they're back), then an out-of-place (and annoying) jumping/platform "puzzle", fight Fangoram and kick his ass, then you confront the Big Bad. While the boss fight with him is highly enjoyable (unlimited D. Shots!)
In the last level of The Saboteur, Sean climbs to the top of the Eiffel Tower to finally fight and kill Kurt Dierker, the Nazi colonel who killed his best friend (which has been Sean's driving motivation for the entire game). Sounds epic, right? Not quite. By the time you get there, all the Nazi Mooks have been killed and the final boss fight amounts to walking up to an already suicidal Dierker and shooting him.
Metroid Zero Mission, for 90% of the duration, is an exceptional remake that both honours and goes above and beyond the original game. But after the Unexpected Gameplay Change and the game moves into its climax, the flaw of the game's item placement is revealed: you only get power bombs a few rooms away from the final boss, and you don't even need them to kill that boss, so the only purpose of power bombs is to use them to go back through the game world and get 100%, including more and more power bombs that you won't actually need. It changes the fundamental Metroid principle of stocking up to prepare for the tough final battles, to stocking up for the sake of stocking up; you're not even doing it as preparation for the final boss, because he's almost insultingly easy until you come to him with 100%, at which case he gets a difficulty boost. And getting 100% involves completely ruining the triumphant, climactic mood that came once the stealth section ended, and having you go back and forth through the final area more times than you'd think would be necessary.
Metroid Prime 1 and 2 both require massive amounts of Back Tracking for artifacts before the final area (although it is possible to preemptively acquire some if you know what to do), putting many people off of getting to the final area. In Metroid Prime 1, the final location itself was also quite frustrating and felt a little thrown together. More annoying, particularly for replays, in Prime 2, due to the fact that so many of the keys are not available unless you get the last upgrade in the game, the Light Suit. So even though you've been through the room where a key (sometimes many times) might have been, you likely were not able to get it at the time. By contrast in Prime 1, you could get 11 of the 12 artifacts before completing the Phazon Mines, and the last artifact is only 4 rooms away from the Omega Pirate boss fight. Add to that the unfortunate fact that Prime 2's world is seriously lacking convenient shortcuts, and has many rooms, particularly in Torvus Bog, that lock you in for a mandatory fight.
Metroid Prime 3 has the final area directly leading to this. Once you head to the final level, you can't go back. On top of this, Samus' suit freaks out from overexposure to the Phazon in the area and forces itself into Hyper Mode, which makes the last area a Timed Mission whose "time limit" is dependent on how many Energy Tanks you collected so far. Because the corruption meter is always building up over time and it rises faster if you get damaged, you literally have to speed run the level without being able to go at your own pace or at least explore. And because there are no Save Point areas in the final level, if you don't make it to the Final Boss in one run, the entire planet has to be restarted completely.
Metroid: Other M starts going on a decline right after the first battle with the Nightmare. You're introduced to a new, plot-heavy area with the enticing allure of getting to kill more Metr- nope, Adam goes in and sacrifices himself instead. Then you fight Nightmare again, then fight That One Boss, (who is only killed by a method that the game never tells you) which has the only actual Metroids you fight in the game. And after more cutscenes, you then finally get to deal with MB... who is killed by aiming at her. And now the game is finished, right? Wrong. You have to go all the way back through the Bottle Ship to get all the powerups you missed through the first game (which you won't need at this point, anyways) and fight Phantoon, then go through an escape mission, where you have totally different abilities which are used nowhere else in the game except these few minutes.
For the final level of The Mark of Kri, Rau gets an Axe. If you tested it out on the arenas, you do realize that is indeed a powerful weapon, which lets you kill enemies in few strikes. However, the final level in this game throws away the good stealth mechanic in favor of hacking away hundereds of enemies, which gets boring fast. Most rooms past the first quarter are almost indentical and always require you to open a door or to pull a switch, all while dozens of enemies are getting you on the nerves. After traveling through the castle (which feels like an eternity), you finally face the boss - which only consists of fighting three waves of enemies. You don't even touch the boss once, he gets killed in a cutscene. It's very evident that the developers ran out of time.
In The Force Unleashed, the early levels are chock full of interesting objects to smash, fling, and otherwise ruin with your Force powers. As you progress, though, the levels become less interactive and more likely to just toss you in an arena with some enemies and call it a night.
In particular, there's the scene where you pull down a Star Destroyer, which in theory sounds like it's the awesomest thing ever, but in practice, it's an annoying mini-game that's constantly interrupted by waves of hard-to-hit TIE fighters.
In the PC version of La-Mulana, the game is mostly very, very nonlinear, allowing you to solve puzzles in pretty much whatever order you please. Stuck on one tough part? Go find something else to solve, and chances are by the time you get back you'll have something to make it easier. However, as you proceed into the endgame, you start running out of puzzles to solve, new areas to explore, and bosses to fight, and you're just stuck backtracking looking for whatever mandatory item you've missed. And then, before you can take on the final boss, you have to solve the Mantra puzzle, an extraordinarily drawn-out and confusing (even for this game) puzzle that takes well over an hour to do right, if you don't just look up the solutions.
A similar experience with Shenmue II: After being worn down to the limits of boredom and tedium by an interminable mountain climb coupled with an inane conversation, people put down the game, only to discover later that was right at the game's ending.
Lucasarts' adventure The Curse of Monkey Island suffers from this trope. Whilst the majority of the game is of the highest quality, the final two acts see a noticeable drop in plot and characterisation, and a sudden sparsity of cut-scene animations. Most of your interaction with the villain LeChuck is limited to a very long, drawn-out conversation in which he explains away plotholes from the last two games, and the ending is very abrupt.
Not to mention the fact that the last two chapters have absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the rest of the game. Earlier chapters focus on a quest to travel to Blood Island to find a diamond ring to lift the curse Guybrush has accidentally placed on Elaine. This ring, along with Blood Island itself, turns out to have a rich history behind it, involving a jilted lover, a line of soup chefs and a band of smugglers. But then as soon as you find the ring you're whisked away to Monkey Island, and suddenly the game turns into a half-arsed parody of Disneyland (which had been foreshadowed by precisely two very short cutscenes earlier in the game), and the writers decide they're more interested in tying up Monkey Island 2's plot than bothering to finish off the plot of the game itself! Mood Dissonance much?
Escape from Monkey Island is even worse about this — the final segment of the game features "Monkey Kombat", essentially Rock-Paper-Scissors with the appearance of a fighting game. The kicker? You have to learn how each of the five "monkey stances" interact with each other through trial and error, on top of having to fight enough "battles" in order to gain more bananas (Hit Points). After this segment you fight the final battle of this game which is really a Trick Boss since you can't hurt each other — you have to emulate your opponent's "stance" three times. Keep in mind that this is a item-collecting point-and-click style adventure (well, minus the click), and that the rest of the game has nothing to do with this. No wonder this game falls under Fanon Discontinuity...
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge is this immediately after you find Big Whoop on Dinky Island. Elaine turns up, somewhat undercutting the whole quest by the reveal that she already knew where to look without the rest of the map. And then you fall into an underground tunnel for the last section of the game involves a time based puzzle in a grim corridor with LeChuck randomly popping up on you and sending you to another area. Once you've done this bit, then there is the notorious ending. This area is livened up a little by Guybrush's helium voiced interpretations of disco songs (something he can also do in Curse, though not with music), LeChuck's girly underpants and Guybrush finding his parent's bodies. However it definitely didn't need to be in the game especially as it breaks the Suspension of Disbelief a little too much (it even has a door open onto an unused door from Melee Island in the first game).
The final case of Ace Attorney Investigations. The pacing becomes very slow, and it starts to drag out after Shih-Na's reveal. Unfortunately, you'll still have several more confrontations to go.
The main problem is that the game's length isn't balanced by the emotional tension. Unlike the previous antagonists, Edgeworth had no personal connection to the Big Bad, only an ideological one. This can make it hard to care at times.
Secondly is the fact that the interrogation with Quercus Alba is as long as the first case of the game and only continues for so long because of a number of contrivances that, had the game allowed certain evidence to be presented the first time it was relevant, could be over a LOT sooner.
Some fans consider the final case of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney to suffer from this, mostly due to the confusing and illogical MASON System, as well as the hero being sidelined and the series' original protagonist taking over temporarily.
The secret treasure from Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure. After the main game is finished, finding treasure shifts from solving elaborate, thought-provoking puzzles to doing arbitrary things such as walking around the same area 5 times to make a chest magically appear. In addition, you have to repeatedly send a crewmate off to find more for 100% Completion, which can take hundreds of trips.
In Fable 1996, the last couple parts of the game are relatively dull, and they add such a nice backstory right beforehand...however the ending is the true slap in the face.
The second disc in Toonstruck is a bit of a drop in quality from the first disc. The first disc is a lot more open-ended and not as straightforward, whereas the second disc is a lot more linear (But Darker and Edgier) than the first half. The ending also just...well, seems to be there to give a Sequel Hook.
Space Quest 6 takes a very sharp turn after Roger Wilco returns from hyperspace. The last stretch of the game takes place within the digestive system and brain of Stellar Santiago. Not only would that physically disgust several fans, the final takedown of Sharpei is done using the last item you'd expect, and the result is quite a Gainax ending.
Card Battle Game
Metal Gear Ac!d! The Powerhouse and the meaningless sidequests in FAR! FAR is irritating but at least changes the pace. The Powerhouse, however, is just terrible level design and very, very long. The final battle is strong, but mostly down to the excellent music — it's also very slow, awkward, and hardly challenging.
The raft ride on the Columbia River in The Oregon Trail II. Fortunately, you can avoid it if you have cash on hand and aren't a greenhorn. Also, if you're going to California or the Rogue River Valley, you must cross a large, unskippable desert.
Zig-zagged in The Cluefinders games - usually the last "world" of the games are a constant race to the end, but they are usually are quite climactic and don't drag on for too long. A few examples stand out though:
Reading: The last "level" of the game is simply repeating the same Mastermind/Password style challenge several times. Given that this is intentional Trial-and-Error Gameplay, this can come off as a little more frustrating.
Search and Solve: If you get lost, then the final world will turn into this.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl's "Subspace Emissary": The Great Maze. It's pieced together out of rooms already seen during the adventure, and most players will have to re-tread parts of the maze to find and destroy all 40+ bad guys, and can take upwards of two hours to get through even on the easiest difficulty.
In Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, the bonus gameplay mode Labyrinth is set up as a series of interconnected rooms grouped into "cloisters", and each group has a gimmick on what types of treasures and enemies you encounter and what you need to do to unlock the door to the next room. However, once you hit Floor 50 the cloisters become longer, the enemies more difficult, and the final stretch to the boss from Floor 71 to Floor 96 is just one long string of powerful enemies. And, by the rules of the Labyrinth, if you die you lose all the equipment and items you won up to that point and have to start over from scratch. You're allowed to enter at checkpoints on deeper floors, and hypothetically can go right back to Floor 71, but will be deprived of all the equipment you will need to combat the high level enemies.
Xen from Half-Life, the formerTrope Namer. With annoying jumping puzzles, extremely unbalanced gameplay and extremely unbalanced gameplay duringannoying jumping puzzles. Which is unfortunate, as the Xen levels have the best art style in the entire game, and if the lack of playtesting had not made it repetitive and boring, it could have been a very satisfying conclusion. However, subjective trope; it's not uncommon for players to report enjoying the Xen section.
It's as though Valve fundamentally forgot what made the previous experience in the earlier Black Mesa part of Half-Life so fun and full of life. Xen has no scripted events, no NPC interaction (though this can be forgiven for the nature of Xen) and no puzzles with the depth of the ones found earlier. It also lacks the immersion Black Mesa had. Despite that Black Mesa was now decrepit and hostile, the world was lively and interacted with you; immersed you. In contrast, Xen feels like you're playing through a poorly designed level in a video game; the immersion was lost. Progression is tedious and possibly driven solely by the urge of the player to finish the game, rather than the player progressing because the game just flowed as was the case during Black Mesa.
Xen does have its qualities. It's quite a 'creepy and eerie' place, it enhances the sense of solitude for the very final battle that's fast approaching, it gives us a nice look at the Alien world (for too long, however), it helps fulfill the foreshadowing that came before and does give us a few new set pieces. That said, it doesn't really make up for its flaws.
The Half-Life expansion, Blue Shift, averts this in a long Xen level that features far less jumping puzzles and many more, much larger areas than its predecessor. The areas are also accented with more set pieces like waterfalls and new rock structures, giving it much more detail.
Half-Life 2 does a similar thing, with the final level being set in the Citadel with a largely different aethetic, and all of the player's weapons are gone, save a supercharged gravity gun. Valve however learned from Half-Life 1, and instead of being widely panned, the finale is hailed as being a Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
The developers of Black Mesa, the Fan Remake of Half-Life, have vowed to concentrate their efforts on steering as clear as possible of this trope in their interpretation of Xen.
Far Cry throws any semblance of balance out the window in its final two levels. After a series of expansive, yet challenging levels, the game designers hit you with the "Volcano" stage, which can only be described as this: One man. Limited weapons and ammunition. Trying not to fall in pools of lava. Every type of enemy (human/non-human). And they're all trying to kill you, regardless of how much they hate each other. The game throws the unique cover system right out the window, and forces you to run, run and run some more through a gauntlet of enemies and natural hazards. After putting up with that (and running through a literal killscreen that is all but impossible to see in advance), you may think the worst of it is over once you defeat the "final boss". Not so. The designers decided to throw a dozen of the strongest enemies in the game (that is, armor-plated brutes and acrobatic hybrids who can jump to any level at any time - all with rocket launchers) in a small, bland and circular arena that will kill you almost as soon as you walk through the door. And then one of the villains has the gall to tell you that you're cheating when you decide to spam his control center (where even MORE enemies are waiting) with rocket ammo. The only way to survive this intact is with an exploit that props a door open for you to get back to an armory. And that's not even mentioning the ending that lasts less than a minute....
The first two thirds of Crysis have players traversing a vast open-ended environment populated by intelligent, squad-based human enemies and filled with side missions and numerous possible means of reaching mission objectives, and variable battle tactics that give players various options aligning with either stealth or aggression. Everything changes when the player enters an alien warship in the seventh of the game's ten missions: first they must complete a zero-gravity level, which is frustratingly difficult to control and easy to get lost in (although it's beautifully atmospheric and immerse when you do finally figure out where to go). After that, the player character emerges back into the same open world he had been exploring before; only now the level design is strictly linear, corralling you down a single path with no significant deviations, and all the human enemies are gone, replaced with flying, hard-to-hit aliens who take far more bullets to kill and against whom stealth is practically useless, all leading up to two long final boss fights that essentially amount to shooting a giant target a ridiculous number of times without dying. The game is still decent, but given the drastic, unexpected and above all completely unnecessary change in style, it's easy to see why fans tend not to think highly of the final levels.
The expansion, Crysis Warhead, addressed these complaints: the spire's opening in Warhead occurs halfway through the game and is not the end of the human enemies, with the player finding his way out of the ice sphere long before the game ends. The aliens themselves have redone AI routines that have them jumping around less and using squad tactics like the human enemies, except they're squads of technologically superior alien battlesuits instead of Koreans with AKs
The flying sequence is pretty much made of this trope, though. Warhead deals with this, too, by lampshading how awful it was instead of having another one.
The last levels draw a lot more hatred from players who like to play stealthily. While run-and-gun players will merely find themselves more challenged as the aliens are more resistant to damage, stealthy players will find stealth no longer plays any role whatsoever, and will be forced to adopt a guns-blazing gaming style that they probably don't like.
BioShock does really well until about 75% of the way through the game. Then an escort quest, frustrating missions, and a cheesy final boss await you, as well as the story becoming far more typical.
The major cause of BioShock'sDisappointing Last Level is that the emotional climax is already passed, and you have to play quite a bit more without really caring about it. The slums are a fairly interesting level, but then you have to go on a Fetch Quest while your plasmids freak out, and then you go to the Little Sister facility, which just drags on and on and on...
Add in the fact that as you progress further into the game, new game content begins to fade into non-existance. Example: By the time you start the Arcadia Bio-dome level, you start running into the teleporting Houdini Splicers, which happen to be the VERY LAST new enemy you encounter aside from the Elite versions of the Big Daddies later on. Arcadia's not even half way through the game, and yet you've pretty much seen all of BioShock's enemies by this point.
Over-the-top Back Tracking also reared its ugly head in the original Halo. The other two games had their fair share of Back Tracking. Halo number one, however, had the entire third act as most of the first half of the game in reverse! Oh, and this came right off of The Library.
Halo 2 had an exciting beginning involving the invasion of Earth, prompting Master Chief to hijack an city-destroying Scarab to stop the invaders, and using his own body to steer the enemy's bomb back to their own ship in space. After this very fun opening, the game gradually loses momentum, especially after the first boss fight. Most of the game's playing time is spent in unskippable defense points, where the player must wait and pick off invading troops for several minutes at a time. What makes matters so much worse, is that the whole New Mombasa and Metropolis levels are very weak remnants of the amazing E3 2003 demo. Some dialog from it remained, in a very weak narrative and pace compared to how the levels were ultimately supposed to be. Other levels lose pace due to aforementioned unskippable defense points.
Cortana, the second to last level of Halo 3, falls squarely into this. After 3 entire games of action-packed tactical combat against the Covenant army, you end up fighting wave after wave of Flood zombies in pitch-blackness inside the unintuitive, confusing corridors of what's essentially a giant city-sized colon.
"Pillar of Autumn" in Halo: Reach has the traditional "escape in a vehicle" sequence... except it's in a Mongoose, which is weak, has no weapons, and has just speed on its side. Compare that to 3 and CE's escape in a Warthog and ODST's in a Scorpion tank. The only obstacles are some landing Covenant troops and two Scarabs that you can't destroy and that don't even attack. Your AI partner for the level, Emile, is useless because he thinks his shotgun has a much greater range than it actually does. Later on the player must defend a landing pad for a very long time, in which he "attempts" to help by shooting down enemy dropships with a MAC cannon, except that he aims for all the ones that aren't going to land and deploy troops. However, this trope is subverted when it turns out "Pillar of Autumn" actually isn't the final level. The Playable Epilogue "Lone Wolf" is, and it's...chilling.
Many players complain about the final level of Medal of Honor: Airborne, which is an entirely fictional campaign (an assault on a Flak Tower, which was actually never attempted by the Allies) that introduces extremely unrealistic enemies (Gas Mask Mooks with rocket launchers, and ridiculously unrealistic Super Soldiers who wielded heavy machineguns and could survive a couple dozen bullet hits before dying) in a series which otherwise has always tried to be at least reasonably historically accurate.
The final mission of the original game, "Mystic Tiger", takes place in a massive biodome (where you must stop The Phoenix Group once and for all). Unfortunately, the fact that it consists of long, repetitive hallways and massive open areas without any cover whatsoever means that your team(s) will be forced into a linear path filled with snipers and open rooms. Yes, you can and will lose most of your team in this mission, and for no good reason. The cover system so deftly executed throughout the game is completely tossed out. This trope also rears its ugly head during the earlier, back-to-back stealth missions. Infiltrating an office building to get sensitive data, sure, but sneaking into a woman's house to download information from her computer while she's awake and moving around? Why didn't they just wait until she fell asleep?
Vegas rehashes the "Mystic Tiger" mission with the climactic "Secret Labs" mission, where you must take a circular route through a dam to get to an underground lab and stop Irina Morales. Whereas many of the preceding levels featured expansive, open areas, you (the player) are once again locked into a linear path. Coupled with a vague Sequel Hook and ending dialogue (three characters stand around having a conversation that amounts to nothing more than "well, that's done...what's next?"), it quickly approaches Scrappy Level status.
Vegas 2: when you get to the final level, it devolves rapidly from more of the tactical-action that the game has been made of to an old fashioned trial and error boss battle with a helicopter gunship.
Hell, the level before that is already going this way - since story-wise your teammates have to go help the previous game's protagonist, you're left entirely on your own, with a useless NSA agent who isn't even on the ground with you as your only support, trying to shoot your way through massive groups of enemies who cannot be stealthily picked off and will instantly kill you if you get up out of cover for more than a few seconds to find and shoot them. The fact that on at least one occasion the level forces you into an intense shootout in an area with almost no good cover and four paths for the enemy to flank you from just adds to it.
Somewhat with Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2. Since the AI is freaking stupid, what could have been a really challenging firefight, isn't.
Similar problem with Advanced Warfighter 1, the final boss can often be finished off by your teammates before you even get there. He's standing right out in the open. Would a tank be too much to ask for, or perhaps a panic room that you have to C4 your way into to kill him?
Sumeria, the final time slice of Clive Barker's Jericho, is a collection of extremely short levels, most of which consist of one boss fight after another, and, unfortunately, they aren't all that challenging (although one level is very good for racking up head-shots and disintegrations for unlocking extras, which is a bonus). The penultimate level is simply one long cutscene (although a rather good one), before it drops you into the final boss fight, which is also unfortunately not very challenging. And then there's the ending... or severe lack of it...
In System Shock 2, the Rickenbacker levels are much more linear and less interesting than the Von Braun. The Body of the Many is somewhat less linear, but it still feels kind of rushed.
The final level even more so, being little more than a copy-paste of the previous games textures into the environment of the training levels and a boss fight that can easily be beaten in moments.
In the last 3 levels of Soldier of Fortune: Payback, enemies receive a massive spike in the damage they do, so that they could kill you in just 1 or 2 shots, compared to the rest of the game where you could soak more than a dozen hits before dying. This turned the game from a standard action movie-style shooter to a frustrating Nintendo Hard crawl with lots and lots of having to reload from the last checkpoint.
Perfect Dark initially started out as an upgraded version of Golden Eye 1997 (shooter with some degree of stealth) with more weapons, more interesting levels and the freedom associated with having an original story instead of a movie's plot. The last two levels are essentially backtracking-laden missions on an alien ship and an alien homeworld in which Joanna shoots her way through many enemies and eventually fights the final boss.
Clive Barker's Undying has a fast pace and well-plotted story for most of the game. But then it reaches "Eternal Autumn", a level that's actually a mystical Dream Land with the hero trying to fight his way back to consciousness. And it keeps going. And going. And going. All the creepy, gothic atmosphere's thrown aside in favor of a prehistoric setting with caveman enemies, there's no story progression at all while you're in Eternal Autumn, and it takes almost a third of the gameplay time just to get through it and defeat That One Boss. And if you're looking forward to getting back to exploring the Covenant estate afterward, your hopes will be dashed... though you weren't warned in advance, Eternal Autumn is both The Very Definitely Final Dungeon and the Point of No Return, and from there it's straight on to the last boss.
In the last twenty minutes of F.E.A.R. you go from being a time-slowing badass fighting really clever AI soldiers, to being in The Grudge fighting waves of copy and paste "ghosts" whose AI is "See the PC; run directly at PC", making the end section quite tedious despite its short length.
Star Trek: Voyager: Elite Force. After a fairly competent shooter in reasonably diverse environments, you've gone nearly the entire game without ever running into a cliched boss level. Then, right outside the final room, you find a charge-up that arbitrarily increases all of your ammunition counters to 999. That's ... not ... good. What follows is one of the most tedious boss fights ever designed: the boss is a huge, generic tentacle monster which is incapable of moving, and the only way to defeat it is shoot it until it dies, which uses up nearly all of your ammunition. To cap it off, you're treated to one of the most cheesy final cutscenes ever written - Tuvok praises your actions, and Janeway responds "Why Tuvok, is that a note of pride I detect?". Tuvok emotionlessly responds "Captain, there is no need to insult me". All onscreen characters: "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA".
Deus Ex's last level. You find yourself deep underground in a military base surrounded by combat robots, human enemies, and magical monster generators that won't stop pumping out monsters until you close the vault doors in front of them. All of Deus Ex's more interesting gameplay goes out the window as there are no people to interact with through any means besides combat. There are no interesting secrets to find or interesting atmosphere to enjoy. Just your standard metal-corridors-until-you-reach-the-ending. Although, the entire section in Paris is as much of a soul-sucker as the last level (outside the mansion level). It's simply not as well designed or in-depth as any of the other city areas.
The lackluster design of the last level is embodied by the "blue fusion reactors," impressive-sounding and ultra-classified (possibly even alien) devices that basically amount to four office water coolers tucked into random corners around the base.
Likewise the sequel. All the major story twists are resolved in the Trier level. The levels which follow this are all almost entirely "action based", without any of the more immersive touches seen in the earlier levels of the game.
The prequel but 3rd in series game Deus Ex: Human Revolution falls into the same issue. The mission hub based design of China and Detroit goes out the window once you hit Montreal due to the developers not having enough time to make Montreal a full hub with side-quests, and the Final Dungeon is basically a zombie avoidance game or a zombie massacre depending on your playstyle, and the final boss is an Anticlimax Boss especially if you have upgraded your augmentations to be immune to electrical damage. Your only interaction with people in this level is the ability to buy some augmentation upgrades, and to get two of the four choices for the Multiple Endings. The choices you made in all the preceding parts of the game have no effect on the ending except to slightly change the tone of your final monologue. Although it's not as jarring as the other two games, because the first two hubs are about getting closer to the truth and finding out what happens, and once you do, there's no real point in doing anything but going to those specific locations, all of which have no ability to be anything but a single level or compound.
The last three levels of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl strip away the open, organic world of the rest of the game while suddenly raising the difficulty well past its normal (already high) level. The run to the sarcophagus is just a straight line filled with enemies. The building itself is entirely made of cramped corridors that force the player into crossfires where all of the enemies have the game's most powerful weapons and armor equipped (that's six people on each side, who only need three shots to kill you). Tactics are less relevant than exploiting AI glitches. Finally if the player picks the true ending they have to follow yet another linear path filled with enemies, though it does have a much more interesting look.
Blood Harvest and Swamp Fever in both Left 4 Dead games. Taking place in a forest and a swamp, respectively, makes it difficult to both see and evade any attacking infected, as well as being darker than a lot of other campaigns due to the lack of lighting. Blood Harvest also features some of the tougher crescendo events (with some gauntlets thrown in the sequel port), and Swamp Fever has a fairly difficult finale featuring two Tanks attacking at once.
The finale of The Sacrifice comes off as disappointing and underwhelming to many people because of the level design. Storywise, the map makes sense since it's where the survivors are last seen and are seen again in the same area in Left 4 Dead 2. Gameplaywise, you have to start up 3 generators to get the bridge to work and every generator summons a horde of zombies and a Tank, so you spend the the final level just fighting for an extended period of time. The actual sacrifice itself is also underwhelming because, due to limits on the Source engine, the character who sacrifices themselves are shown to be knocked down by a rock thrown from an off screen Tank and are lying helplessly as the zombies rush in to pounce on them. Assuming they actually make it - since the final requires exactly one character to leave safety, run out into the open and then hit the generator, it is all too easy for the entire finale to be lost simply because a Tank spawned close enough to block that player's path to the generator.
Kingpin: Life of Crime has its last level take place in a skyscraper with the final boss at the end. While the level design was declining steadily after the first episode (Skid Row), at least the other levels were fairly open and featured lots of NPC and sidequests as well as interesting architecture. The skyscraper however, throws all of that out of the window and is just a series of bland rooms and hallways with ammo and health stashes alternating with groups of mooks.
Call of Duty games usually feel a bit more slapdash around the end:
In the first Modern Warfare, the end boss "fight" comes right in the middle of a huge battle with no forewarning. Also, literally half the Middle Eastern campaign (i.e. everything after the nuke goes off) was cut from the game, which presumably would've balanced out the rushed feeling of the end of the SAS campaign.
In Black Ops, the last level feels like a complete retread of "Crew Expendable", one of the intro levels from the first Modern Warfare, before turning into a borderline sci-fi level that would feel right at home in Black Ops 2. Prominent plot threads, such as rounding up the sleeper agents carrying Nova gas bombs, are wrapped up entirely off-screen, as well, and sequel hooks hidden in the intel are completely ignored.
Modern Warfare 3, given that half the staff left partway through production, suffers badly from this. After several stunning and memorably original levels, Act III extensively reuses assets from previous levels and games. On top of that, the entire plotline about the war between Russia and the United States and the rogue Russian military is wrapped up in a single cutscene. Luckily, though, the actual last level (which is more of an epilogue, really) is pretty cathartic.
Hack and Slash
Diablo 2 falls prey to this in Act 4. Whilst having the final chapter in the pits of Hell is pretty cool, there are far fewer areas in Hell than in any other chapter, only a handful of NPCs in the 'town' of the Pandemonium Fortress, and only three quests, two of which are needed to win the game anyway. Your blacksmith and healer in that town have noticeably been given fewer lines to say and have no discernible personality. "Hail to you, champion" will be stuck in your head after a while.
On close inspection, this sets in to a lesser extent much earlier. The first of the four acts has more things for your character to say, more bosses, more quest variety, more optional quests, and more optional dungeons. The rest of the game all comes down to enter dungeon, kill monsters, retrieve item, over several hours.
To illustrate how bad the game gets compared to the first act, the second one has a quest that's basically raid three dungeons to assemble the staff that opens the last dungeon (with the third dungeon being also appearing as a separate quest), two separate quests telling you to read a book and kill the guy guarding it respectively and the last quest which is given at the very end, just lingers there and occasionally updates as you complete the other quests. Act three has its first quest that's actually harder to trigger than to complete, two fetch quests that require you to retrieve items you probably find before even knowing somebody back in town needs them, and another quest requiring you to assemble the items needed to open the last dungeon. Naturally, the last item is once again guarded by a monster that has a separate quest linked to it. By the time you get to act 4, it's literally just killing things. Luckily, act 5 does its best to rectify that, but you may find yourself spending most of the time level grinding for the last boss fight.
Diablo III didn't exactly do any better with its finale. Act 4's Heaven level suffers from most of the same problems reguarding Diablo 2's Hell finale. Heaven however has no town so you're forced to return to Bastion's Keep from the act beforehand... and Diablo's dialogue you hear throughout the Heaven act isn't exactly award winning...
And if you thought assembling the staff in Diablo 2 was bad, then you'll just love going on a scavenger hunt for the body parts of Zoltan Kull in Diablo III. And to add more pain, you're forced to traverse through his Library to get his archives up and running again before you can finally confront Zoltan.
Divine Divinity's final area, the desert of Yuthul Gor and its Black Lake dungeon fit this trope. The developers didn't have time to finish the area and were intending on cutting it from the game, but their publisher wanted an orange area for the back of the box, so it went in unfinished. You have to wade through hundreds upon hundreds of mobs of imps, spiders, and gargoyles to get to the final dungeon. Attempting to clear the map is an exercise in futility even for high level characters. Even when you do get to the dungeon, you then have to travel through dozens of copy-pasted winding corridors to fight the five evil wizards you fought earlier in the game again. Following that, you get a disappointingly easy final battle and a short and confusing cutscene to end the game. A shameful way to end an otherwise excellent hack-and-slash RPG.
God of War's ending loses steam with the spike pillars of Hades, that require you to climb two pillars of spinning spikes with one hit sending you right back down to the bottom (and each of these takes about a minute to climb if you're going fast), this could also be extended to the entire Hades section, with several jumping puzzles, dull scenery and very little of the action or puzzles from the best sections of the game. The developers themselves have said this section was thrown together in a hurry with little time to properly test it. As an amusing sidenote, since Kratos is essentially in hell at this point, some people have theorized it may have been intentionally playing with the concept of an "action gamer's hell". For many, the pseudo-escort mission in the middle of the final boss falls under this too.
Before you even get to Hades, there are the rafters in the Hades section of the temple. Combining an annoying game mechanic with a platforming area that's essentially an instant-kill if you get hit? Oh, joy!
God of War 3 falls into this too. Most of the game is a fast-paced, heart-pounding thrill ride from brutal boss fight to awesome boss fight. Then, after the death of Hera, you're put into a big cavern to solve a bunch of puzzles and fight a bunch of standard enemies (and that one Elite Mook) that manage to be more difficult than the gods due to cramped spaces and a fussy grab mechanic.
City of Heroes initially suffered horribly from this, and still does in some places. The Sewer Trial and The Eden Trial, as well as the first few versions of the Hamidon raid, were slapped together from half-completed ideas to fill the high-level content checkmark. The Sewer Trial in particular is still an afterthought, hidden from all but the most cautious explorer, timed, filled with multiple copies of That One Boss, and until very recently could be completely outleveled. The rewards of both are really worthless. The Shadow Shard looks beautiful, but is filled with Scrappy Level after Demonic Spider after Scrappy Level, has had significant bugs fester for years, and lacks a lot of content that other zones do have. On the City of Villains side, Grandville was known for being a pain for superspeedsters and causing computer slowdown. Thankfully, these issues have been at least toned down over time, if not fixed.
The "Task Forces" (a chain of missions that once started, you can't do any other missions without abandoning) quite often turn into tests of endurance. Positron's task force was one of the first ones made, and is notoriously long and tedious. The newer ones are notably shorter and more varied.
The newer Taskforces (Issue 6 and later) as well as much of City of Villains shows how the developers learned from their mistakes. The team was very inexperienced when they started City of Heroes and made a lot of typical MMO development mistakes. Unfortunately, they haven't gotten around to going back and revamping much of the old and somewhat broken pre-issue 6 content. The Eden Trial and Sewer Trial rewards were great at the time they were introduced, but were made worthless by the level cap increase in Issue 1, until the introduction of Inventions - where, via exploits, they became somewhat valued again, until a system was implemented to make such exploitation not worth the reward.
The "old" task forces were designed with the mindset that a group of people would be willing to spend multiple play sessions together to accomplish the task. This wasn't a bad idea per se, but just one that proved to be flat out wrong in predicting player behavior and expectations. The Positron TF, mentioned above, was actually originally designed and two separate task forces that got merged into one, hence its length. In the Issue 17 update, it is being split into two separate task forces, although you have to do both in order to get the badge that completing the old single TF would grant.
This is especially true of World of Warcraft in its current state. Almost all of the original 'Vanilla' content was revamped with the release of the Cataclysm expansion, providing fun and engaging quests from levels 1-58. Players are then subjected to old, tired Burning Crusade content from 58-68, which features muddled quest design, inconsistent enemy difficult and lots of backtracking. Things improve a bit from 68-80 in the newer Wrath of the Lich King content and then the game is back to form from 80-90 with the Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria content.
The Secret World suffers from this - Kingsmouth is full of NPCs, quests, and particularly investigation quests, which are the hardest to design (and the best in the game). The first dungeon, Polaris, is the most polished and gives the best advice as you progress through the dungeon, though the second does a good job as well, averting Trial and Error gameplay. As you go through the game, the game grows increasingly unpolished, with more standard MMO missions (rather than the clever ones that avert typical MMO design in the starting area) and, by the time you hit Transylvania, you find that there is ONE investigation mission in the entirety of the final three areas. The game becomes increasingly unpolished towards the end, with lazier design and fewer and fewer NPCs, and the very end of the main story leaves you hanging, with no apparent consequence to your final choice, and the big bad that gets mentioned throughout the third and final area (Lillith) never being seen, let alone faced. This gets averted over time, as the new issues (booster packs of several missions) come out, starting with more investigation missions being added to the higher level zones and ending with actually meeting Lilith in person.
Star Trek Online gets hit with this, as well. The game's early stages for the three factions (Federations, Klingon Empire and Romulan Republic) are inviting, exciting and capturing. However, everyone has the same last levels - which send you to Nimbus III, fight the Devidians, stomp the Tal Shiar, deal with the remains of the Dominion, fight the Breen and deal with the Borg and the Undine before you're caught up and dealing with the current stuff with the Voth. What makes this this trope, though, is that Nimbus III requires LOTS of walking to get from point A to point B and the Borg and Undine missions are just boring. Thankfully, Cryptic is addressing the Borg and Breen issues.
The Meat Circus from Psychonauts involves a time-based escort mission and numerous leaps of faith in an otherwise easy game. The development team was in a time crunch near the end of production, so it's understandable, if still disappointing. One of the developers claimed to have dreamed of being trapped in the Meat Circus near the end of the development cycle.
Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando sorta had this. After you finally freed the "love interest" of the game for Ratchet, and you are forced to deal with another larger, tougher, frozen wasteland that is mainly white and blue. Some players just go "eeeh" and force themselves through. And there is still 20% more plot to get through. Happens more often as you go through the game multiple times on a harder mode to get 100% completion...and that area gets harder. Happens again in the sequel, Up Your Arsenal, and pretty much the entire game for some in Deadlocked.
The Tundor Wastes, the vast icefield towards the end of Going Commando is mostly optional, and is beautiful and varied.
Up to that point in the game most areas could be gone through using one or two weapons, as practice. After that Ratchet starts to use all of his carefully developed firepower. This is especially true on the last two planets.
The Tundor Wastes are harder in Challenge Mode, but fully developed weapons can handle it. Finally being able to walk through the Tundor Wastes without fear, instead of fleeing in panic hearing Yetis breathing down Ratchet's neck, is one of the great experiences in the game.
The Tabora desert (pretty much the same thing, only with sand) is made much more bearable (downright fun) once you get the Charge Boots. You see, they don't run out of fuel, and you can still fire your gun while using them.
It then gets promply zig-zagged to Hell and back in the final level. The first half of Planet Yeedil consists mostly of a long, tedious Hypnotizer puzzle that effectively makes you waste 10 minutes in a long maze of electric fences and Protopets in order to move about 100 feet forward. Then you raid Megacorp HQ, in what is largely considered to be one of the most fun and climactic levels in the series while Awesome Music blares in the background. And then, after The Reveal, you're treated to the final boss, who is one of the most laughably pathetic bosses (notice the omission of the word "final") in franchise history, going down in about 10 seconds to the Heavy Bouncer and not much longer than that with your other weapons.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) takes this to new extremes. pokecapn's LP of the game has five videos of about 30 minutes each for what should have been 12 minutes of gameplay, largely due to just how broken and unplayable the final sequence is.
Sonic Generations is receiving flak for this. The final boss is definitely a bit of a mess compared to the other bosses in the game and awkward to play. The final level, Planet Wisp, also has some awkward level design. This is particularly so in Act 1, where you must use the Spike wisp from Sonic Colors only it doesn't control as well as it did in that game. It is also a Marathon Level. Some reviewers go even further back than that, citing the difficulty spike that happens at the start of the Modern era (last 1/3 of the game).
Sonic Chronicles was a good game all in all, but most critics and fans found the mid and late game boring. Apparantly, this is due to Bioware rushing production halfway through when they were forced to divert more attention to the Dragon Age production crew.
In Pulseman, the final level is basically nothing but awkwardly realistic platforming over several bottomless pits and the occasional room throwing Goddamned Bats into the mix.
Corona Mountain in Super Mario Sunshine was essentially a trek through a volcano filled with deathtraps that was not as effectively designed as the Bowser levels in Super Mario 64 or Galaxy; that kind of dangerous platforming was rare apart from the parts where Shadow Mario steals your FLUDD. And the final boss is very easy.
Super Mario Galaxy has this with the Grand Finale Galaxy. You'd think this would be a hard level like Grandmaster Galaxy or World S8 Crown, right? It's not, it's just the game's intro, with purple coins added. The atmosphere is nice enough, but it's not really much of a level nor a decent true finale.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii's final level is nothing but a couple of short rooms leading up to the final battle with Bowser. Compare this to the final level of the original New Super Mario Bros.., which was a Gimmick Level through and through (containing switches that flip the entire level upside down and a throwback area to the maze castle levels from the first game).
Croc 2 has two quite detailed worlds being the Home world and the Ice world. It then has Caveman world which has a drop in quality, followed by the abysmal Inca world, which has only two levels, one of which revolves entirely around collecting 30 gobbos from a huge, dull pyramid. Possible reasons for this might be that the company was running out of budget at the time, but it ended up delivering far little than it promised.
Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc: The last level is far from terrible, but it does feature a certain ammount of recycled elements (partly made up for with the flying sections). Additionally, it's never explained how Globox escaped from the Hoodlum HQ and found the flying vehicle (not to mention the nice shades). The best example of this, however, is the final part of the final boss, which quickly starts feeling long and dull (not made any better by the mediocre music and awful background).
Rayman Legends is truly spectacular up until Living Dead Party. The world has one new level - Grannies World Tour, which is really cool and awesome, but much easier and shorter than the other music levels. Afterwards, the rest of the world is just 8-bit rehashes of the previous music levels, except with horrific visual distortions that do nothing but add on Fake Difficulty, and no checkpoints. And at the end of the world is "Grannies World Tour, 8-Bit Edition", which is yet another 8-bit rehash... with all of the distortions combined!
Epic Mickey. It starts with having to go back to all the worlds and get rid of some Bloticles, a very easy task that feels like padding, especially since it means more trips through the side-scrolling levels to get to the worlds. Then you get to Dark Beauty Castle, which is fine and exciting. The final area, though, inside the Shadow Blot completely falls apart. It's very hard-to-see, there's tentacles that require memorizing where they pop out if you don't want to die, swarms of enemies that either aren't fun to fight or are invincible...and you don't even end up fighting the Blot!. The whole thing feels rushed.
The later levels of Super Mario 64 are significantly less fun and creative than the earlier levels in the game. Some have nearly identical concepts (e.g. Tall, Tall Mountain is pretty much Cool, Cool Mountain without snow).
Limbo suffers from this too, the earlier parts feature a Lost Woods environment, Giant Spiders, and other children that try to kill you, all which contributes to the dark foreboding emotions of the game; then it switches to an urban and industrial settings devoid of life, the puzzle mechanics almost (but not quite) make up for it. According to the developer they originally had planned to feature the spiders in the last parts of the game, to serve as much more affecting boss encounters.
Mega Man 2, as legendary a game as it is, suffers from this near the end. After clearing the Wily Castle's exciting and challenging first few stages, the 4th stage is where things start to falter. A puzzle stage outfitted with fall-through floors and line-guided platforms that, once you figure out how to master it, becomes very tedious. To top it all off, you must fight the Boobeam Trap, which requires ALL the Crash Bomber's weapon energy to defeat with (a fact made worse as the only nearby enemies to item-farm from are Tellies and Sniper Armors). After that comes the series' very first Boss Rush teleport room in the next stage, which doesn't even have a segment giving you the chance to restock your weapon energy beforehand. Meaning that you'll have to fight a battle of attrition with Dr. Wily once the Robot Masters are dealt with. Luckily, the last stage and its boss are far less brutal.
Contrarily, Mega Man 3 had probably the easiest castle in the series. It especially shows considering it follows the Doc Robot stages. The castle stages are very void of enemies for the most part, there is very little dangerous platforming to be found, and the bosses leave a lot to be desired. This is saying a lot, considering one of them is the Yellow Devil, who was notorious for being That One Boss in the first game. The place is also littered with tons of E-tanks to give you easy health refills, which you probably won't need because they also throw health and weapon refills while you're at it, not to mention loads and loads of extra lives. Top it off with the final Anti-Climax Bosswhose second form is killed in one hit with the Top Spin, the most useless weapon in the game and you have one of the weakest castles in all the series.
The original Super Mario Bros. was so Nintendo Hard on World 8 that many players would simply consider it beat because they would get so frustrated. The Unstable Equilibrium also gets much more intense as nothing is too hard with a fire flower; but if it's lost, it's very hard to get back, and impossible to get back in the labyrinthine level 8-4.
In the first Donkey Kong Country game, Chimp Caverns. It doesn't feature much that you haven't already seen before, and the levels seem more like palette swaps of previous ones. It's really not much new, the boss is even another rehash of the second one.
Apparently some levels from Donkey Kong Country 2 and some comments from Rare themselves indicate lava levels may have once been planned, like in Returns but cut from the game for whatever reason. See this DK Vine topic for possible evidence of this.
In Donkey Kong Country 3, the final level is a very rudimentary "underwater" stagenote it actually takes place inside a drain pipe, with the "water" being some kind of poison with one obvious difference... your play control is reversed the whole time, doubling this as an example of That One Level.
Super Meat Boy's bonus world, the Cotton Alley, is predictably insane, given the rest of the game. It uses all the gimmicks seen in previous worlds, it could be considered a level version of a Final Exam Boss, and unlike the rest of the game, the Dark World versions don't seem like they tinkered with the normal levels to make them harder. They're actually very different from their counterparts. But the final level (appropriately entitled "4 Letter Word") is just plain boring. The "gimmick" is corridors filled with the games favorite trap, spinning sawblades. Each corridor is harder than the last. That's it. Nothing exciting. The Dark World version (just as appropriately entitled "Brag Rights") is just plain lazy: it's the exact same thing, but backwards. Oh, and there's an Advancing Ceiling Of Doom, but it's kinda slow.
In Wardner, the final level in the basement of Wardner's castle consists mostly of two small rooms repeating over and over again, many with identical enemies. The Sega Genesis version pads this out even more with a Boss Rush and three vertical climbing shafts which are identical to each other.
The Disc One Final Dungeon lacks the life and flora that gave life to the previous areas, and features three sections in which you jump from platform to platform in low gravity to find a key to the portal in the central area, and then backtrack through the section back to the central area, which is made harder on the way back with the addition of glitch blocks which have the same effect on your character as the game's regular Spikes Of Doom. In addition, 6 of the game's 31 secret houses required for 100% Completion are gradually Lost Forever in this area as you obtain these three keys since the hidden entrances to the rooms they're found in are permanently blocked off by said glitch blocks.
The Very Definitely Final Dungeon features various glitchy jelly physics not encountered in the game's other areas, with some rooms practically requiring luck with these glitchy physics to get through. In fact, if you find the game's very last secret area after the jelly physics have frozen but before the very last screen, you'll find what appears to be an apology from the developer written in platforms.
I'm so sorry for this level it is a cruel and terrible shenanigan...
The final true gameplay portion of Braid is regarded as being one of the best, if not the best, portion of the game. The portion immediately preceding it? Well...
The final level of Trine exchanges physics-based puzzles which may involve lots of character-swapping for a thief-only, Trial-and-Error Gameplay gauntlet that forces you to sit through a loadscreen every time you fail it. The creators later admitted that they had ran out of time and the final level was tested only by a single outsider. Fortunately a patch made it less frustrating.
The third-to-last level of the classic puzzle game Lemmings, "Mind the Step", is a nerve-wracking trudge across the screen with only a single lemming with little margin for error. The penultimate level, "Save Me", is likewise devilishly hard, requiring (among other things) pixel-perfect timing and a race against the clock that necessitates doing multiple things at once. After enduring these two, the final level, "Rendezvous at the Mountain", is almost a let-down. The developers' rationale for saving this level for the end is somewhat justified, however; apparently it was felt that the level's setup, with two groups of lemmings meeting at the center of the playing field and exiting together, made for a satisfying note for the game to end on.
The majority of the last ten levels are disappointing: 21 and 24 are luck-based; 23 gives you a huge wall and no actions to take for over a minute; 26 and 27 can be straightforward or unfairly hard depending on which version of the game you're playing.
Catherine's stages are quite good, especially if you can put up with the Nintendo Hard difficulty. But then comes Stages 7 and 8, which make heavy use of Monster Blocks—blocks that can move in random directions—and Mystery Blocks—blocks that change into a random other block—a couple of Luck-Based Missions, especially if you're playing on Hard difficulty or otherwise going for a no-Undo run. And these blocks really are random—trigger one of these blocks, then hit Undo—the direction they move or block they turn into, respectively, will change!
While Antichamber was very well received overall, some critics noticed that the game started to tone down the Mind Screw it did so well in favor of more standard Block Puzzle mechanics as you upgraded the block gun.
Motorstorm: Pacific Rift has a racing game variant of this; in the earlier parts there is rubberbanding but it's small enough to still be perfectly beatable with a good route and smooth racing lines, but then in the last few racing ranks it drops any fairness and becomes more about exploiting the AI than racing skill.
The first game could be considered guilty of this too, but it's rather hard to tell if it is because the starting levels might be cakewalks or the AI honestly goes into overdrive cheat mode for the later courses.
Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity zig-zags this trope: After beating Master Core ABIS at the Mobius Strip, you unlock 80's Boulevard and 90's Boulevard, which can definitely be fun in their own right. But you also get the Astral Babylon, the Heroes side of the Mobius Strip, which can be seen as a very underwhelming course in the sense that it's nothing but a straight rectangle with only a few areas to abuse gravity in.
Mario Kart 64's Rainbow Road is by far the longest track in the game, but it has only minimal hazards, as guardrails line the track throughout. Coming immediately after the precarious unguarded ledges of Yoshi Valley and Banshee Boardwalk, it lacks presence as a final track.
The final track of the final Retro Cup in DS is merely Yoshi Circuit from Double Dash!!, which is not only anticlimatic on its own but also in comparison to the other Mario Kart games with Retro Cups that do end with more memorable tracks (SNES Rainbow Road in both Super Circuit and 7, N64 Bowser Castle in Wii).
Wii U Rainbow Road in 8 is one to one side of the base, especially since the developers said it was "spectacular" before it was announced. It doesn't show anything that wasn't already seen with the anti-gravity mechanic, and is on the short side. However, it doeslook and sound awesome, which is why some other fans still like it.
Real Time Strategy
The campaign mode in Rise of Legends noticeably degrades in quality as the chapters continue. In the Vinci chapter, almost every mission has a special feature to it. The Alin chapter has a decent number of special scenarios, but the the occasional skirmish map. The final chapter, where you play as the Mayincatec Coutl, consists almost entirely of simple skirmish maps.
Rocky Horror, the final level of LEGO Rock Raiders, was expected to be a huge monster horde in an epic and challenging level (especially after Back to Basics. There are very few monsters, your base is pre-built, and a giant crystal cache gives you everything. Karl White (the level designer) says it would have had hundreds of monsters, but it lagged on computers back then. Of course now it wouldn't, so...
Both single-player campaigns in Total Annihilation required you to destroy the enemy Commander as your final goal. So you'd prepare for an epic battle against a Commander much like your own, expecting it to build up his base and D-Gun your forces should they get too close. Instead, the enemy Commander would just sit atop a hill and do nothing at all. A few scout planes and a bunch of bombers could win you the level without even bothering with the rest of the enemy base.
DJMAX Technika's Specialist Set. To unlock it, you must clear Special 6, which consists of two doable-for-many-players charts and Son of Sun (SP). When you reach the final stage of Specialist, your boss song is either "Enemy Storm" (available on Special 5, which you don't need to unlock as long as you have Platinum Crew access) or "Son of Sun". The real boss song is "Fermion", which requires you to get less than 75% MAX judgments.
The final boss in Guitar Hero III is widely noted for this. In general, the game is fun enough when you're just playing songs and hoping not to fail, and the first two bosses aren't too difficult, but then you get to Lou. You now have two choices: spend 500 tries attempting to kill him through normal (read: unfair) means, or exploit a loophole to kill him in one attack at a certain point in the song using 50 tries. Here's a hint to Neversoft: making the last boss into a Luck-Based Mission isn't the best way to finish out an epic guitar game.
The final unlock of beatmania IIDX 20 tricoro's "Our War of the Worlds" event, which is the game's final unlock event, runs on a lifebar that is damaged every time the player plays through the game. Fortunately, the lifebar was shared by all players on the network. Unfortunately, not only was the unlock tedious, taking many days to unlock even just the Normal chart, but the unlock itself, "Kyatorare Koi wa Mo~moku", is a cartoony "denpa" song that many players consider to be highly annoying, or at the least, not fitting as the Final Boss song of tricoro.
Speaking of DDR, the 2013 Dance Dance Revolution game has the Final Boss of the Private BEMANI Academy event, "Elemental Creation". While it's par for the course for the final song in an event or unlock system to be exceptionally difficult, the developers just HAD to use BPM gimmicks (an uncommon tactic in other DDR boss songs) for this song, making the scroll speed alternate between 212, 106, and 424 BPM. All other games participating in the event just have the song scrolling at a constant 212 BPM, which just makes this version of "Elemental Creation" stand out even more. It's as though the dev team doesn't know how to make boss charts that are less than 300 BPM.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity's final plot-related dungeon is rather underwhelming compared to the previous games, being short, not especially difficult, and lacking a boss fight. When considering the length of the post-story in the previous games, it's also easy to think that it isn't the final dungeon. Though on the plus side, you're at least rewarded with a heartwarming scene at its conclusion.
Betrayal In Antara's final level consists of walking through a mansion fighting dogs. It has long corridors without any towns, any NPCS, or any real plot until the very end. Fan consensus tends to be that it's the worst part of the game.
Made all the worse because a bug made it impossible to access without a patch.
The penultimate dungeon in Baldur's Gate, the thieves' maze, is regarded as one of the worst areas in the game for its sheer dullness, terrible pathfinding and waves of Skeleton Warriors.
In Baldur's Gate II, the latter three chapters (which are all relatively short in scope) have this:
Chapter 5 mostly takes place in the Underdark - a confusing, bug-ridden mess of a quest area. You're stuck in a dimly-lit mine, with the pathfinding abilities suddenly deciding to take a holiday as squadmates either run aimlessly around or just won't respond to player commands. Put up with that, and you'll get sucked into a long quest chain involving duplicitous Drow scheming against each other in a shoddily-programmed city that is filled with the same pathfinding issues and plenty of Scrappy Mechanics. Non-intuitive conversation trees, weird limited-timer events and glitches are some of the problems involved in this chain, and there's no real reward for it besides a couple of marginally-better armor pieces. Luckily, you can skip the quest - that is, if you can even find your way out in the first place.
Chapter 6 reuses game assets and locations from the first three chapters, with very little in the way of plot development besides a final confrontation with Bodhi. Three new areas are added to the map, but are small and feature next to nothing besides short cameos by two characters from the original game.
Chapter 7 is a Scavenger Hunt in the midst of a "massive" battle between Irenicus' monsters and the Elves of Suldanessellar (i.e. a handful of scripted events). Finish that, and you'll finally face Irenicus, who can almost be considered an Anticlimax Boss thanks to the sheer amount of broken spells and weapons that can take him down effortlessly. The ending cutscene is an abrupt and confusing cutscene that features an Omniscient Council of Vagueness that doesn't factor into anything that comes afterwards - luckily, the story was transplanted to a new region for the Throne of Bhaal expansion.
Dragon Age: Origins was great for the first 90% of the game. But as soon as you hit the Landsmeet, one of the penultimate parts of the game, the amount of glitches, bugs, and ridiculous errors increases 100 fold. It wouldn't recognize who was the right king, female players started getting called by male pronouns, and much more. Fortunately, there are excellent mods available to fix these problems (ZDF and Qwinn's).
The Witch Hunt DLC could be considered as the actual Last Level of the original Dragon Age since it's the last part of the Origins timelime. It's not a very good DLC, however. No new locations, your two party members are flat characters, and the actual hunt for Morrigan is a boring linear run. The last few minutes when you actually reach Morrigan and talk to her is the only interesting part of the DLC.
Dragon Age II suffers from a lot of problems compared to Origins, and Disappointing Last Level is just another one of those problems. Consider the main storyline for its ending Third Act. It's basically just two starter quests that borderline Filler before instantly starting up the Mage vs Templar finale, which is also quite disappointing since the game is practically over by then.
Disc 2 of Xeno Gears. The gameplay is replaced by a bunch of cutscenes interspersed with occasional boss fights and one or two lackluster, short dungeons. This was not what the developers intended, as they ran out of time and money.
The Star Forge in the first game can be rather annoying, depending on what sort of character you're playing or team you're with. All the diplomatic skills in the world don't matter when the game just throws seemingly endless waves of enemies at you. However, if you're playing as a Dark Consular, "endless enemies" means "all-you-can-eat buffet of delicious Life Energy." Another frustration is all those endless mooks you kill most likely won't give you any XP because of the level 20 cap. And speaking of Life Energy, the final boss has a collection of prisoners that he (and you) can drain the life from to restore health. That's a problem if you didn't purchase that ability, because if you didn't, you're going to have to fight the final boss over and over and over until he runs out of prisoners.
The final level of The Sith Lords, owing to its rushed development cycle and fragmented presentation. After being told that you have to go to Malachor V, you arrive on the planet and go off by yourself, with your teammates nowhere to be found and no explanation given for why you can't bring anyone with you. The Ebon Hawk crashes and falls into a chasm, with the only people known to have survived being Mira, G0-T0 and Bao-Dur's remote. The following levels are almost entirely comprised of the Exile fighting on their own, both through a cave system filled with monsters and an incredibly generic Sith academy with rooms that all look the same. The only challenge is presented in the form of hordes of high-level enemies who will all rush you at once. The final battle (against Kreia/Darth Traya) can be exploited in numerous ways, and after you finally defeat her once and for all, you get some cursory nods to your teammates' fates, then the Ebon Hawk inexplicably shows up to save you before the planet is destroyed. A lot of the lingering plot points and squadmates' actions were addressed in the Sith Lords Restored Content Mod.
Likewise, the ending section where you play as Bao-Dur's remote (a level 1 character) to switch on some consoles. It's either boring backtracking through places you've already been with your main character without anything much to do, or absolute panic as you attempt to get where you need to go without being killed by any of the monsters. Said monsters are pretty trivial for the (level 25ish) main character. For the Remote? Two hits and you're dead - if you're lucky. The fact that this is to set up a dramatic situation with no payoff at all (without mods) doesn't help. The last-minute crunch is probably to blame.
Chrono Cross loses track of where the plot is going somewhere after the Dead Sea area and never quite finds it again. Disc two is particularly bad; most of it is spent either wandering through Chronopolis or climbing Terra Tower.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind heavily suffers from this right before the final boss fight in the main story. The player, after traveling and fighting far and wide, must individually convince eighteen people (minimum) to vote yes on you being the Chosen One. "Convincing" fourteen of them means either bribing or hitting the Persuade button enough times, and if you're not willing to fight some of the baddies, this goes up to twenty-one. Mind you, this task of convincing the dozen involves the least amount of fighting possible, irritating and tedious fetch quests, and running around all ends of the earth. Right before the last boss, which is really a very simple Puzzle Boss. Most of the people that you have to talk to recognize the fact that, hey, they really ought to comply with you in order to save the world. But no. If you want to be named Nerevarine by one of the Ashkhan, who already admits that he should, you need to find him a bride. So first you go to another town (it should be noted that none of these destinations are quickly reached, nor is the journey exciting at all), buy a slave, go to another town to get her some nice clothes, go to another town to get her some perfume, and then escort the slave all the way back to the Ashkhan while tolerating some of the worst pathfinding ever. And this quest comes shortly after some fairly exciting and intriguing quests, too. What happened?
Apparently, general developer apathy combined with a lot of playtesting gaps.
If you gain enough levels and reputation (at least level 20 and 50 reputation), you can skip this quest altogether by talking to the right people: they'll send you straight to the Archcanon instead, which starts the final quest to defeat Dagoth Ur.
At least fighting your way through allows you to access the Temple's normal purpose.
Dragon Quest IX in a twist has this AFTER the game — the Post Game can in fact last much longer than the main game, yet the large majority of it is simply running though random dungeons over and over with only minor story additions in the downloadable quests. The non-story quests often have you searching for hours just to find a random dungeon with the correct enemy(s), and that is even WITH a guide. That's not even getting into the literally thousands of random ingredients one must find to get and alchemize all the items and equipment in the game (made harder by the best ones having a random chance at failure...and needing the failure items as well), and boss battles that you need to fight over and over (at least 99 times each) just to face their hardest forms. Combine all this with the only reason to reset your level more than once (and taking forever, especially if you don't get to have the King Metal Slime map which is only the result of a bug) is for the sake of....better chances at harder random dungeons. And even on top of all of THIS, the game practically begs you to spend all that time with its database, yet one could easily miss many items as a result of simply not connecting to the online shop in the right week of the year... or even more, the randomize screwing you over even when you DO connect.
Tales of Symphonia: the second disc has about a third as much plot of the first disc despite taking half as long to go through.
Tales of the Abyss. The latter half has the characters going around the world to talk to people. Absolutely no fighting or leveling up...just plot, plot, plot. Even with instant teleportation to the cities, it still takes a lot of time to reach the people you need to talk to deep in the city. And you have to go back and forth through the same scenery for hours and hours and hours on end...why couldn't they have kept the "Do you want to zip there now?" option from the first half? Argh. It gets better later on, though.
Tales of Vesperia is split into three acts, as marked by the achievements you get for completing them. Parts I & II are both quite long and are very well paced. Part III, on the other hand, has the party dropping subplots and overthinking everything in order to destroy a giant space octopus, has a grand total of two dungeons (one particularly lazy in design) prior to the final, and drops a villain on you out of nowhere just to give you someone to fight in the end.
Continuing in Symphonia's footsteps, Dawn of the New World has everything after defeating Brute poorly arranged in a manner to stretch out the lack of dungeons, padding things out with several Exposition Breaks. You're then treated to a final dungeon that consists of a stairwell, a two-level "puzzle" that doesn't even require fighting (it's basically just hitting a bunch of switches you can get from a distance), and a bunch of boss fights separated by about two screens worth of enemies.
And the game that started it all wasn't exempt either. Dhaos' Castle has a monstrous number of floors, doors with unmarked switches, a maddeningly recursive floor layout and multiple teleporters with exit points which have to be memorized. Sure the backgrounds were as lush as anything else in the game and it was cool seeing the atmosphere drop away as the party climbed past those massive windows but one tends to get sick of the same set of murals and the same flights of stairs repeated literally ad nauseum. The Bonus Dungeon is much, much worse.
Tales of Legendia had this as well, primarily in regards to the 'bonus story' after the main ending. To clarify, it really was a second plotline, not just extra scenes. The plot, which had been good enough until then,changed focus to a thin problem regarding insane monsters and evil doppelgangers. More jarring, however, was the fact that while for the entire main adventure, all major scenes had voice acting, after finishing the sort-of-final boss and moving past the main story, all of this promptly vanished, leaving everything feeling incomplete. It also heavily used backtracking and monster recolors...so, yeah.
Most of the Final Fantasy series suffers from this. Somewhere after you get the airship but before entering the final dungeon you are left to your own devices as far as advancing the plot and basically thrown out there to complete side quests and level grind up to being able to fight the final boss. However, there is a positive aspect to this gameplay change, as the last part of the game often opens the sandbox and provides a boatload of interesting sidequests, resolution for individual character plots, and minigames to make your own fun with.
Final Fantasy III DS definitely suffered from this, if only because of the differences in norms between modern games and the time the original came out. The conclusion is a long underground dungeon that leads straight to the final dungeon. Its not that you can't return to previous areas, you just really really don't want to because the trip is so long. The final dungeon itself is ludicrously long, leading up to a fake final boss, four more bosses, and then the final boss who is way too powerful compared to the last 5. And since you can only save in the overworld, that is at the very least an hour of action from entering the final dungeon up to the end, with no opportunity to save and pretty much an assurance of failing in your first attempt.
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years begins its final tale with the characters heading to the final dungeon, which is a mirror image of the original game's final dungeon, which was long enough as it is, but once you get to the point with the mentioned last four floors, the dungeon changes entirely and eventually totals out to forty floors full of powerful enemies and entirely random boss encounters with no purpose but to pad out the dungeon and throw powerful equipment at your party. There's also no plot development at all during all this aside from Cecil coming to his senses a third of the way down, just short scenes to provide closure to character subplots.
Final Fantasy VI had the World of Ruin. While the World of Ruin offers a lot of Character Development subquests and picks up a lot of plot threads from the first half of the game, the overarcing plot completely halts and the game is pretty much just a series of unconnected sidequests until you run out of things to do. You can actually enter the final dungeon as soon as you get the airship, it's just you aren't ready yet and need to level grind and recruit party members.
Final Fantasy IX's fourth disc, the story runs out of steam with the destruction of Terra and Garland, and descends into Mind Screw territory with the introduction of Memoria as the final dungeon, an odd pocket universe made up of the accumulated memories of the world with numerous Giant Space Flea from Nowhere bosses, including the Final Boss and one of the most infamous examples of Giant Space Fleas, Necron.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 plays it straight. Academia 500AF is a drawn-out platforming level with rotating platforms, many, many switches, and lots of waiting for platforms to rotate towards you. It's also full of Demonic Spiders that can decimate most characters with ease. It takes about an hour to get through a fairly small area, and several reviews criticized it for slowing the game down to a crawl right before the final boss fight.
This is one of the most common complaints about Final Fantasy XII. The first third of the game shows the party coming together to track down the relics of the Dynast-King to prove Ashe is royal blood and give them a leg up on inciting rebellion against The Empire of Archadia. However, once you get to the Jahara the game then sends you on a long trip to Mt. Bur-Omisace, then a dungeon, then a very long trip to Archadia through no less than four new areas and a dungeon, then a dungeon in Archadia after completing a short series of fetch quests. The plot picks up again after that, and the areas are at least Scenery Porn, but the middle stretch of the game is essentially one long Marathon Level with no real plot advancement or character development.
The climb in the tower near the end of the game is such a long haul that many players have quit before reaching the top. Not only is the climb to the tower's top is so damn long, you're also forced to go through several floors with an ability disabled at your choosing (no items, no magick, etc.). Once you do reach the top, you're treated to a lengthy cut scene and have to fight 3 bosses one after the other with no breaks in between, similar to the fight against the Silver Dragon, Garland, and Kuja from Final Fantasy IX. If you're aiming for 100% Completion, you'll be forced to go back to the tower and explore the basement levels that aren't even on the map and are filled with Demonic Spiders.
"After constructing a thoroughly detailed and practically airtight plot about realpolitik, war, and ethics, Matsuno loses his nerve and throws magical gems and demons into the mix. By and by, the story devolves from something unusual and refreshing into the STOP THE EVIL MAN FROM AWAKENING THE EVIL DEMON spectacle that was already worn out as a hooker on New Year's morning by 1997. As the story becomes more dominated by the Zodiac Stone/Lucavi busness, it grows coextensively less interesting."
It also doesn't help that in the last chapter of the game you're automatically given an absolute Game Breaker of a character who makes the rest of the game a total cakewalk.
In the first SaGa game (The Final Fantasy Legend in America) you suddenly have to go through the tower again but this time through an escalator. You honestly could have cut the escalators in half.
Most games in the Kingdom Hearts series avoid this...with the exception of Kingdom Hearts: Coded and its Updated Re-releaseRe:Coded, which consists of going around in Castle Oblivion (the setting of Chain of Memories), speaking to NPCs and solving very easy puzzles, reaching the final boss, watching the last scene and then having the game just...end.
When people talk about the Castle Oblivion stage, they almost always forget what it actually is - a bonus dungeon. And the Roxas battle is merely a bonus boss. The actual story ends after Sora defeats his heartless. Any gameplay afterwards adds nothing to the actual story of the game. Thus, it isn't actually the last level.
Chain of Memories and its remake unlock a second gameplay mode where you play as Riku. Though his style of gameplay is enjoyable, especially in the remake where it was made more unique and strategic, the progression of the game is the same system as the first playthrough — make your way through the rooms to get the gold card needs to unlock the next room so you can get another gold card to unlock the boss room. Most of the time there weren't even cutscenes, you just hit a checkpoint and were directed to the next goal. And ultimately, all the areas you explored were the same ones you just went through on the first playthrough, and the bosses are the same too. The plot is also stretched very thin, most scenes are cutaways to other characters rather than actually involving Riku, and the word "darkness" is repeated ad naseum to the point you'll be sick of it (and in this series, that's saying something!)
Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader was rushed to market as Interplay needed a quick injection of cash to avoid bankruptcy, and it shows; after the fairly open-ended, Baldur's Gate-esque first act, the game immediately turns into a nonstop dungeon crawl with few sidequests or even much in the way of NPCs. Needless to say, the title did not save Interplay from going belly-up.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines goes massively downhill at the end, even becoming near-impossible if your character is not built for combat (in a game that generally makes non-combat characters very viable).
The Shadowrun game for Sega Genesis fell into the same problem as the above-mentioned Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines example — it was all-too-easy to build up a character who was perfectly capable of handling the entire game... except the Final Boss, who'd consistently kill you without a prayer of hope if you failed to raise your Magic Resistance sky-high, in a game where Magic-wielding enemies are usually very rare and very squishy. Deckers, in particular, were virtually impossible to win with, since they'd usually compensate for lacking combat-skills by having access to the best and most expensive weapons and armor in the game. Armor has zero effect on magical damage, and even the best weapon won't take down the boss before he's cast enough spells to kill you 3 times over.
The SNES version has this to some extent as well. After you've defeated the Big Bad, you then have to go destroy an AI super computer in a building that operates much like the one you were just at. The enemy guarding the AI computer is little more then an Elite Mook, and the sequence inside the computer is no different from the dozens of other Matrix segments in the game. The game ends somewhat abruptly right afterwards.
.hack//Quarantine is one giant case of this. Let's see...where to start? Forcing you to go through the same dungeon three times, after which you must face a boss that isn't hard but is incredibly tedious - which is a shame as an otherwise decent dungeon turns into a Scrappy Level due to the plot. Giving you the best armor in the game and then ruining the feeling of "YES!!! I AM INVINCIBLE!!!" by pitting you against the second of Those Two Bosses immediately afterward. Giving you 10 new dungeons to take on right around the time you think "I'm almost done!", 5 of which are mandatory. Of those 5, 4 of them require an obscene number of high-letter Virus Cores. These had always been scarce, but until now this wasn't a problem. So you have to item grind in the hopes of eventually finding that... one... missing... virus... core. Once you FINALLY get through those 4 dungeons, you go to the fifth one, which you just know will be The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. And it is... oh, is it ever. Nothing else even comes close. NOTHING. Not even the dungeon at the end of disc 1 (in which every enemy was a Goddamned Bat and the boss was one of Those Two Bosses).
Not to mention that the Virus Core hunt is made even MORE annoying by the non-standard Game Over of using Data Drain too much. Have fun balancing out mass-Data Drain kills and avoiding death by character corruption.
The last level of Dungeon Siege 2 is at least 40 minutes (possibly an hour) of fighting the same not-very-challenging enemies over and over and over without interesting scenery, before the game deigns to give you a teleporter location to save your progress with. At least it's not something you have to repeat if the final boss kills you.
Star Ocean: The first game was rushed, and the final dungeon seemed to come out of nowhere with an attendant Giant Space Flea from Nowhere. In the PSP remake, it was expanded to a few more events and dungeons, but it still completely changed the feel of the game, and what's worse, unlike the original, it refused to allow you to return to the main game after beating it, meaning you were stuck in a tiny overworld with little exploration to do.
In Star Ocean: The Last Hope, the final dungeon requires the player to fight every single previous boss without any chance to save. If played without doing all the side missions or grabbing optional gear, the entire chain of bossfights can take up to thirty minutes, making it rather infuriating if you happen to die before reaching the final boss.
You can technically avoid all the boss fights leading up to the final boss if you know what you're doing and where to go, but if you don't know this before hand you're in for an interesting surprise.
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals - after a great game with lots of creative puzzles, just before the final dungeon you have to face three - THREE!!!!! - towers where it's pretty obvious that they never got around to adding the puzzles into the rooms they were meant to go.
The remake Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals is better here; it's not until the final dungeon that the gameplay takes a dive. Said final dungeon consists soley of boss fights. One of which was difficult the first three times you fought it, but you've now greatly outleveled (not to mention that you likely never wanted to see it again). The next was easy the first time, and is now slightly easier. After that you have a survival boss, which is intensely boring. Then you have the final boss, who is possibly the easiest boss that wasn't designed to be an Anticlimax Boss. Then if you're playing a New Game+ you get a ludicrously difficult True Final Boss. The plot had problems a bit earlier; most of the end game is running through the towns talking to people, generally hearing more or less the same thing at each stop.
Rogue Galaxy is great fun for most of the game as you cruise around the galaxy picking up various characters for your small-but-varied cast, and search for Eden. Things start going downhill after you beat Seed about 60% through the game, with a couple of cliched twists, but all sense of pacing or real motive trainwrecks when you enter Mariglenn, the Eden you've been searching for. The game suddenly pulls a new Big Badout of nowhere, the only way to beat it is to suffer through last-minute exposition for every one of your characters, and then trekking through possibly one of the longest and most repetitive final dungeons ever made. When you eventually fight and defeat the suspiciously easy "final" boss, suddenly the game's previous antagonist flies in to completely muck things up, requiring you to fight a series of one-on-one battles with every single one of your characters, in which losing will make you have to do it all over again.
To clarify, you have to start over from the initial final boss. Not from the start of the final dungeon again. It hasn't been exaggerated here.
It may be one of the best games ever in terms of plot, but there's no doubt that the ending sequence of Planescape: Torment is way too hard, especially since you're separated from your companions and must get through a massive slog of a battle against very tough enemies. It's also quite a badly structured puzzle section.
It's hard if you try to fight your way through the shadows; if you just run the fuck away then activating the switches isn't very difficult at all.
Although if your playstyle involves tanking, it can be tricky, especially considering the Infinity Engine's dodgy patfinding AI.
The shadows you need to outrun also attempt to intercept you mid-way instead of always travelling towards you. Terrifying, considering this never happens in these sort of games.
However, the main theme of Planescape: Torment, what can change the nature of a man and the emotion of its story what did the Nameless One's past lives do, and can he ever die? reached their stunning conclusion in the final level. It's only the combat that goes downhill, which was never the game's strong point to begin with.
The endgame is also the only area where you have to fight and a defeat a powerful opponent (which one depends on your alignment) one on one, where in every other area running away was an option. This reveals the Thief class as inviable at the very last minute. There are no shadows to hide in to attempt a backstab, you have no magic powers and your physical attributes won't be potent enough to take your opponent on. You have to hope you bought and kept the right offensive items stored in the PC's inventory, have lots of healing charms and a lot of luck.
The rush to complete Ultima VII Part II: Serpent Isle resulted in the loss about the middle third (if not more) of its storyline. Certain NPCs still show evidence of what they had planned, but it was never finished. The last segment of the game instead consists of the same two or three puzzles repeated over and over again; the entire last dungeon has no NPCs and only a single group of monsters.
The Castle of Fire in Ultima III is even worse. Even with the marks to nullify the fire and force fields, you still face five tough battles against Griffons, Dragons, and Devils, and then in the final room you get attacked by the goddamn floor. The entire rest of the game can be completed at level 10 with starting stats, but to beat the Castle of Fire you need invest hours of Level Grinding to get to level 20 or so, plus max your stats at the shrines.
A Pokémon example would be Hoenn. You spend the first two-thirds of the game exploring beautiful environments like volcanoes, beaches, and rainforests. Then, what happens after Lilycove? Water. And a lot of Tentacool/Wingull. The segments are actually quite short if you know where you're going and make a beeline, but for a first time player or one dead set on fighting all enemy trainers and grabbing all the loot, the ocean areas are exasperatingly massive. Additionally, the post-game is perhaps the second most barren in the franchise behind Generation I, with only Rayquaza, Latios/Latias and a Battle Tower that requires you to be Level 50 or 100 note If your Pokémon is even one level above 50, it won't let you enter that Pokémon there and only allows it for Level 100. Thankfully, the DS era games fixed that by setting your team to Level 50 upon entry.
The Sinnoh games fall into this too. The level gap between the 8th Gym Leader and the Champion is one of the biggest in the entire series (50 - 66), leading to a whole heap of Forced Level Grinding with really drags down the game just before the climax. To top it of the path to the Pokemon League is probably one of the most boring in the series. Even worse, this comes right after the conclusion to the Team Galactic plot and the battle with your version's legendary, which was the real high point of the game. Platinum Version actually lowered the Elite Four's levels considerably to mitigate this.
Pokémon Black and White is an example too. The main plot is amazing, and the climax is brilliant... and then afterwards, while you do get to explore the other third of Unova, everyone there has Pokemon at a level you can't match unless you've done some serious Level Grinding, and there's no real plot to go on. Explore, catch some more Pokemon, hunt for treasure, play Collect-A-Sage... and that's it. You run out of things to do pretty quickly.
Apart from endless grinding and player vs player battles, Red, Blue, and Yellow after the Pokemon League just had the high-level Mewtwo cave to explore, which you don't even have a whole lot of incentive to explore other than to find and capture said Mewtwo.
Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 avert this with the Pokémon World Tournament and Black Tower/White Treehollow, which have overall been received positively by the bulk of players.
Pokémon X and Y, however, go right back to being a straight example. After the awesome Team Flare arc, there's almost nothing significant in the plot following it, which is topped off with an Elite Four who, as with Generation V, only have four Pokémon (and they never upgrade their teams, unlike Generation V), and a Champion battle that is regarded by several to be not only an unmemorable character, but provides an evenworse battle than Iris from Black 2 and White 2. Lastly, the post-game itself features very little beyond helping Looker and hunting for Mega Evolution stones.
Pokémon Gold and Silver suffered from it as well. Returning to Kanto and exploring it again is cool...until you realize that, with the possible exception of Blue, nearly all the trainers and Gym Leaders are fairly low-level and will get swept away by your E4 team. Meanwhile, if you actually want to fight Red, all you can look forward to is several straight days of grinding your level 60+ team on level 40 Mons, or running through the E4 again and again and again. HG/SS, however, greatly alleviated this, giving Kanto a much-needed hike in difficulty, allowing you to rematch the 16 Gym Leaders (if you can find them), and fleshing out the post-game in general.
While the series in general manages to avoid this, the Pinnacle Station DLC for (and by extension the last bit of Mass Effect 1 many gamers played) is a cut-and-paste arena with boring enemy spam and the announcer from hell ("Get moving Shepard") made worse by being timed straight combat levels, so that level 60 engineer you have? Totally useless. Your lightly armored infiltrator? Too bad. If you were anything not a direct combat soldier some of the challenges are nigh-impossible. And as a bonus, your no-XP kills there count for no other achievements because it's all a hologram. Understandably, while "Bring Down the Sky" was packed in with the PS3 version, "Pinnacle Station" was left out. Pinnacle Station had been intended to be included with the PS3 version, but had to be left out by the developers because the archived source code for the X360 version wound up getting completely corrupted during the attempt to adapt it to the PS3. Even the game hated it.
Mass Effect 2 ends with a fairly weak DLC in the form of The Arrival. Coming off perhaps the franchise's best DLC in Lair of the Shadow Broker, and even after a well produced DLC in Project Overlord, Arrival comes off as completely half-assed; boring linear mapping, no unique gameplay, being forced to travel alone with ONLY the help of a flat guest NPC, and no unique boss fights higher then the giant-robot mook that's seen throughout the game. The last couple dialogue minutes are, sadly, the only interesting moments of this DLC. The conversation with the Reaper and the revelations surrounding the astroid and Mass-Effect-Relay collision
The final level of Mass Effect 3 is not as enjoyable as the previous sections for a variety of reasons. London is a wrecked Earth city that we've all seen in every other modern shooter, and the gameplay mostly consists of advancing through massive hordes of husks or holding the line against waves of husks (using the same "wave" system seen in the multiplayer mode and N7 missions). The last battle is especially brutal, since it requires you to survive hordes of Marauders and Banshees while a Reaper destroyer fires a One-Hit Kill laser at you. Coming after the Cerberus Base, it's underwhelming and frustrating. In addition, the sound drops out during some cutscenes, the mission is punctuated by a pointless turret Mini-Game, and you never see any of your War Assets in action besides a short conversation with your various squadmates from the previous games. Things get even stranger when you get up to the Citadel - the subtitles stop being consistent (Anderson starts being referred to as an Admiral again), you're in a short, linear corridor you've never visited before (which displays properties that make little sense), and there's no proper Final Boss fight either, just a Cutscene Boss that can be easily killed via interrupt prompts. And that's not even mentioning the legendary backlash against the ending itself...
The release of the Extended-Cut at least calmed the backlash against the endings to a point where most of the fans at least find the updated RGB endings and the additional Reject ending somewhat acceptable compared to outright hating and loathing the original endings. Basically, the opinion on the endings changed from THAT WAS #$%&EN TERRIBLE! to Meh... whatever.
Mother/Earthbound 0. The game itself is very difficult and annoying with the sadistic random encounter rate it has (to be fair, running away is very easy). But in the end of the game, the enemies suddenly turn so strong that you'll need hours of Level Grinding or a Crutch Character just to be able to beat the game.
The author of the game admitted that this had happened because near the end of the production he got tired and wanted to finish the game as soon as possible, so the last bits have little to no balance.
It's worth noting that players who can survive Mt. Itoi long enough to get the last of the Plot Coupons are rewarded with one hell of a Wham Episode, and the ensuing final confrontation with Giygas/Geigue/Gyiyg is near-universally considered to be the highlight of the game.
Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria nosedives right after the plot gets Hijacked By Lezard. The last two dungeons are overlong, mostly-linear trudges through tough enemies and annoying battle maps that serve no real purpose other than to deplete your stock of healing items. Even more annoying is that the game keeps monkeying around with your party. First you lose Rufus, after losing your other storyline characters earlier. You get a few of them back, but until then you're forced to rely heavily on your Einherjar. Then the Einherjar themselves become useless as you get no less than four brand-new high-level party members just for the last dungeon, making you wonder why the hell you bothered raising your Einherjar to be combat-capable all game. Then, just as you're getting used to fighting with them, three of the newcomers are removed from your party for the final stretch. Finally, to top it all off, the Final Boss can only be substantially hurt with the main character's Eleventh HourBFS. Your party is just there to help charge up the Quad Soul Crush capping Nibelung Valesti. Oh, and by the way, those crafted weapons and armor you spent forever grinding for the components to? Antiquated by stuff you find just lying around in the endgame areas. It doesn't help that the final dungeon itself—which is supposed to be comparative to the Tower of Lezard from the first game—is more or less composed of three dungeons sewn into one, with very little to offer in the way of interesting exploration or puzzles. The bonus dungeon makes up for this failing, at least.
Albion, while not as bad as you'd expect with most examples here, has this problem. The first act is noticeably more detailed, interactive and immersive than the rest. The later islands being much larger in comparison only means that they have the same content spread out on six times the area, meaning that most game time will be spent walking through the featureless landscape, trying to avoid the repetitive, and rather illogically placed monster encounters. The alien elements that made the first act so interesting, are almost completely abandoned in favor of the more standard medieval fantasy setting, and the game stops encouraging the player from familiarizing themselves with the other cultures, while Nakiridaani gave plenty of opportunities for that. This mainly happend because the first act was used in the demo, and the developers would obviously devote more time to it.
Robinson's Requiem is a notoriously Nintendo Hard "Survival Sim" where the main challenges are managing your resources and solving inventory puzzles. The last level is a crawl through some volcanic caves where you battle robots. You get an infinite-ammo heavy laser to make it fair, but the real issue is that you have to go through nearly the entire thing (plus the desert immediately before) with no way to replenish your water supply, meaning death by dehydration on the last stretch is a very real possibility. Not to mention the OHKs from magma pools that look almost exactly like the normal floor.
Fable II doesn't have the best plot, but it does at least have pacing. However, the endgame comes immediately after you recruit Reaver with no warning, and consists entirely of one long fight against generic guards and a big rock, then you one-shotting the Big Bad in the middle of his Motive Rant.
The main game has some problems, too. If you succeed in finding the route to 100% Completion, then midway through December you should have maxed all but two or three social links. It's very likely you'll have absolutely nothing worthwhile to do over Christmas Vacation. After New Year's Day, the plot is all done except for the last few battles, which can't happen until the end of January. January therefore boils down to an extended Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene where there's nothing to do except Level Grinding and wrapping up the last two Social Links.
As if the seventh sector wasn't annoying enough already, fully half of it isn't accessible until a New Game+... and that section is a long, boring, and incredibly infuriating linear "maze" full of teleports and pitfalls, which leads into a true maze of one-way doors in the basement. However, where the similar one-way-door area in the first half let you get from any of the entrances to any other point if you took the right route, one wrong turn in this one and you have to hike all the way back from the near the start of the dungeon.
Shin Megami Tensei I got to be ridiculously aggravating due to shoddy game mechanics, namely the map. The final level has one floor with a metric ton of invisible walls in a very large space, and you have no way whatsoever to tell if you're going the right way, as the dot on the map does not indicate your direction, and the game itself hands out so few clues it is possible to spend over an hour on this floor alone just trying to find the exit.
Shin Megami Tensei II was slightly less painful in this regard since the map mechanics were vastly improved, but thanks to giving the player no hints whatsover, the final dungeons of Kether Castle and the highest floors of the Tokyo Millenium have some epic Guide Dang It floor puzzles that can make getting to the end more difficult than the bosses themselves. Given that this is Shin Megami Tensei- a series with bosses so ridiculously hard that the publisher is nicknamed "That One Company" on this site- that says something.
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn has a decently paced build up in the story and the conflict, but after the Grave Eclipse event starts, you are forced to go on a series of fetch quests for several pieces of items (all that are helpful for one of your party members and are her infinity plus one equpiment) and a MacGuffin or two. The story pretty much falls flat at this point and doesn't pick up again until the Final Boss fight.
Radiant Historia, in spite of an awesome penultimate dungeon, completely drops the ball in its endgame. For the 30 or so hours it takes to get to that point, you deal with interesting time travel puzzles and a grid based combat system. The final dungeon, on the other hand, is largely comprised of a single long corridor that is nothing but one big block pushing puzzle (with the added catch of having to kill the blocks beforehand), unavoidable, constantly respawning encounters loaded with immobile enemies which fly in the face of the most important elements of the combat system, Checkpoint Starvation, an absense of dialogue (a shocking contrast to the penultimate chapter) and a mandatory Boss Rush just before the Final Boss which is given incredibly flimsy justification and is, for the most part, comprised of bosses which already held That One Boss status. At the very least, the Final Boss and the ending are spectacular.
The final exam dungeon in Magical Diary suddenly changes from being a free-roaming increasingly-complex RPG where you the player have to think and solve puzzles, to being "choose from a list of strategic options" with emphasis on your interactions with other characters. The majority of the playerbase is playing the game as a Dating Sim and is happy to get on with things. The players who were enjoying the RPG aspect, on the other hand, find the last exam a massive disappointment.
Dragon's Dogma has The Everfall. You are endlessly falling down the same large pit over and over again, and try to cling onto ledges (which might be a Scrappy Mechanic in itself) to get into the actual chambers of the dungeon, which (except for one) all look randomly generated due to their cut-and-paste nature. Compared to what the game normally does (encouraging you to explore every last bit of a huge world map), grinding through the same few rooms with the same enemy patterns a couple of times feels a bit uninspired. Made worse by the fact that the game subtly forces you to actively farm Wakestones (instead of just earning the necessary amount to complete the quest) since selling them for 30,000 each is pretty much the only way to afford most of the best weapons which are offered down there for insane prices.
Dark Souls suffers from this regarding its last few areas. What makes things worse is that these zones lose a lot of what made the previous parts of the game so compelling; varied enemies with varied movesets combined with unique environmental hazards and arenas to form a gauntlet of interesting enemy encounters.
Lost Izalith is generally considered the worst level in the game and is divided into two parts. The first part is that bothers most people. It's a huge Lethal Lava Land filled with about 30 of the most obnoxious enemies in the game. Most players will spend about half an hour just sniping at them with a bow rather than directly engage them. There is a way to skip that part, but it doesn't make the obvious reduced quality of the zone any better.
Tomb of the Giants is an Underground Level Blackout Basement filled with some of the more obnoxious enemies as well; the Feral Skeletons. One of the worst things about this game is that there are only three ways to get light into this area. Two of them are very easy to miss and the third way, the skull lantern, pretty much required to you travel through a good chunk of the level practically blind. Thankfully, with the drop rate increase that came with one of the patches, you're much more likely to obtain a light source before enterin this level.
The Crystal Cave is a beautiful zone which came after the Dukes Archives, a well liked zone. It's basically one giant Bottomless Pit you have to navigate by crossing giant crystal shafts. However, about halfway down, several of the shafts turn invisible. Getting through them can take dozens of tries and comes down to trial and error, and once you get it down, it takes about a minute to run through. It's just an irritating little extra tacked on to the end of an otherwise excellent level.
Two Worlds II has a rushed and somewhat confusing final level. After making your way through the castle, the prophet you've been following all game long reveals herself to be a dragon and attacks. Rather than using the abilities and equipment you've been building up all game long, you are left to face her on the roof of the castle while firing ballistas at her while she flies around. Oh, and her fire is capable of a One-Hit KO if you aren't careful, meaning you'll likely be replaying this level several times until you figure out her patterns.
CIMA The Enemy, is a strange part-RPG, part-puzzle, and part-real time strategy (and doesn't really work that well in that regard in spite of the interesting concept). While the main levels is a rather tedious mix of these, the last level is just a straight run to the last battle.
Breath of Fire II while in other ways a superior RPG, absolutely FAILS on everything having to do with the final dungeon. It's long, monotonous, tedious, hard and lacking in save points, items or any real rewards. And it's HUGE. The fact that even getting to this dungeon is a Guide Dang It is just insult on top of injury.
The PS3 version of Ni No Kuni post Shadar - at least until the actual dungeon and the final boss battles, which are considered to be the Best Level Ever and what most people remembered.
Sonic Chronicles features this for about a quarter of the game. The first 25% of the game? Pretty good. The next quarter, up until the Disc One Final Boss? You're still learning how the game works, and the game chucks tons of high defense or high-evasion enemies at you. You certainly do have Dr. Eggman with you, but he only helps one party at once. This changes once you reach the Twilight Cage - where it's obvious that Bioware really put a bit of heart and soul into the game.
The Disappointing-Early-level part of the game is also mitigated somewhat if you picked up Cream and knew which party to put her into - since Cream is practically a Game Breaker. However, your first run? You won't know this - and she is an optional character and easy to miss.
BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk's Inception was about as simple yet functional as a Battletech and Mechwarrior hybrid RPG-turn based tactics game got... and after a game full of blazing 'Mech battles, daring escapes, prison breaks, gunfights, exploring, and improving your skill levels and equipment? Your last level is a long, drawn out, and involved...key card puzzle set in a dark, quiet maze of tunnels. That's right. All the time and effort you spent leveling your characters, acquiring new gear, defeating enemy 'Mechs, and upgrading your own giant war machines? Meaningless, thanks to the Unexpected Gameplay Change. There's not even a worthy combat challenge anywhere near the endgame (in fact, only one battle meant for drama is written into the game, and it comes at the end of the first act). It's not even much of an intelligence challenge—it all hinges on patience, memorization, and hoping you still have the manual, or else the last puzzle is practically unsolvable.
Shoot Em Ups
Solar Jetman: Hunt for The Golden Warpship, an obscure title available on the NES and a few other platforms, suffers from this. The 12 planets (plus one hidden planet) all have the same gameplay style. After the 12th planet, the one with the largest level area and most oppressive gravity, you are treated to a side-scroller spin in the Golden Warpship shooting asteroids, and facing off a lame asteroid with...eyes? The level is fiendishly hard as well. Basically, consider the game beat after you get the last Warpship piece.
Two of Space Invaders Extreme 2's final stages just use the same music from its predecessor's first two stages, with a few rearrangements. Not exactly climatic material.
Tyrian 2000, compared to the two previous releases of Tyrian, includes Episode 5 which wraps up the story of the game. However, the episode is very short, its new graphics are in a much different style than the rest of the game, its difficulty is bizarrely unbalanced (the first few levels feel like you're back on Episode I, and all the bosses have extremely little health), not to mention that the final level involves a rather easy battle against... an entire fleet of fruit-based spaceships that shoot food at you, which is way too silly even for a game that doesn't take itself all that seriously.
In the last level of Black & White, the game ground to a halt, as your Creature gets cursed and becomes almost useless (or even more so if you picked one with a low intelligence score).
The real nail in the coffin here was a notorious glitch that made this curse permanent, even after going through the steps to lift it. It made an already challenging game hair-pullingly hard, and at least one FAQ/walkthrough terminates at this point—not only because of the difficulty curve, but because your Creature becomes ruined for the entire file, with the weakness, intelligence loss, and alignment change infecting all modes of gameplay, including network games. Even if you complete the game, the file remains broken.
Freelancer starts off great, gradually revealing a vast conspiracy from the perspective of a few nobodies caught up in the action. It has all the hallmarks of an epic man-on-the-run political thriller, then the alien parasites show up and it becomes "hunt the Precursors in fast linear levels" like every other space game ever.
The Battle of Endor scene from X-Wing Alliance doesn't really fit in with the main plot—that of the player character's family—that drove the rest of the game. In fact, the main plot itself is never completely resolved. Instead you get four missions covering the Battle of Endor. You wouldn't think it could be possible to screw this up, but the attack on the Death Star is incredibly boring and tedious, and it gets incredibly annoying listening to Wedge's invincible X-wing constantly taking fire as he follows you through the tunnel. And then you have to escape from a flashing cube of death after blowing up the reactor, rather than a proper wall of flame. Or even the chain of explosions you normally get when blowing up a large ship. Super Return of the Jedi on the SNES had a better Battle of Endor sequence!
The second-to-last scenario of the vanilla version RollerCoaster Tycoon (without expansions), Rainbow Valley, is the meanest scenario in the entire game, banning you from all landscape editing and scenery removal, which makes it really difficult to build a decent roller coaster if you've gotten too used to slashing and burning forests to do it in the preceding scenarios. The final scenario, Thunder Rock, is a giant rock in the middle of the desert, but is a perfectly normal scenario otherwise without any gimmicks. It's above average difficulty since you have to cope with the long walk guests may have to take to make it to the top, but when put up against Rainbow Valley, it really can't compare.
Its expansion, Loopy Landscapes, does even worse. Most of Loopy Landscapes scenarios are unique and creative compared to the original scenarios and Corkscrew Follies (Added Attractions on UK), but Micro Park is nothing more than a 15x15 flat park. Its goal? Have the park value at $10,000, which is difficult as hell on a tiny park as this.
The final act of Metal Gear Solid was spoiled somewhat by an annoying double-backtrack segment (essentially recycled from Metal Gear 2), while the plot-action moves away from Snake, Meryl, the Ninja and Otacon, and towards side characters most players probably didn't care much about on their first playthrough. The Gamecube remake thankfully dodges the double-backtrack by being kind to players with good reflexes.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Thanks to a combination of budget restraints, and massive re-editing thanks to 9/11, the notorious ending was considered a let-down by fans thanks to the very long cutscenes, and a fight that felt anti-climactic and incomphrensible.
Act 5 of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, at least when compared to Act 4. Act 4 gives us the mother of all nostalgia bombs where you revisit Shadow Moses island, which has been untouched since the first game, completely overhauled in next-gen graphics. Act 5 is rife with cutscenes that go on for way too long, cases of Mood Whiplash (the microwave corridor scene juxtaposed with Johnny's marriage proposal) and tons of exposition clarifying events from MGS2. Stick with that, another half-hour to fourty minutes of cutscenes and the fake-out "suicide" scene, and you'll be treated to a post-credits stinger of Big Boss attempting to explain every lingering plot hole in the series, via a massive Infodump that takes twenty-plus minutes. To call it Ending Fatigue would be putting it lightly.
In Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, the fifth chapter consists of 6 missions in which you search for Zadornov in previous areas you have already been in the game. Obviously it gets very repetitive, and aside from the True Final Boss, this is the only thing you do in the entire chapter.
A great deal of the hype behind and appeal of Manhunt was related to the execution system, which encouraged the player to sneak up on foes with short-range weapons and then rewarded his patience by allowing the player character to slay his foes in gruesome and creative manners. Until the last few levels, that is, when the player is left with no real choice other than to shoot enemies from a distance. Plotwise, this is justified to some extent — the player character is no longer killing for the sake of the snuff film into which he has been drafted, but is out for revenge against the man who forced him into it — but it still abandons one of the game's central themes and only appeals.
Thief: The Dark Project, near the end, takes a bit of a dip. The level "Escape!" is widely reviled, and the game's final level, while by no means a bad level, is more a linear rush to the final confrontation with none of the stealth or exploration elements that defined the game.
The second act of Silent Hill 4 is a big Escort Mission where you have to escort the injured Eileen through the otherworld. The more she gets damaged, the less time you have to save her during the final battle.
To clarify, you spend the first half of the game exploring four different areas, all infested with enemies you can only stun, not kill, and it's just the right level of challenging and compelling. Then you're saddled with an escort that you have to protect from the unkillable enemies and are told to explore the same four areas all over again, and you are suddenly trapped in Gamer Hell. The final area and ending(s) are worth the slog, but barely. Whether it was deadline crunch or Team Silent's admitted fatigue with the series, the game is often considered the weakest link of the original four games for good reason.
Ghost Hunter, a Playstation 2 game that was the closest you could get to a good Ghostbusters game before they actually made one. The story of the game feels increasingly rushed the further into the game you get. For example, in the game is your own containment unit where you can view the ghosts you've captured and read up information on them. Halfway through the game, you are prevented from taking a break in between levels to view the ghosts and just drops you off at the next level. The game also concludes without revealing who the Big Bad was working for.
Third Person Shooter
The first Kane and Lynch game has this with the entire final third of the game. The first two thirds, set in America and Japan, are full of tense shootouts with cops, a couple bank heists, and gunfights with civilians caught in the crossfire. The final act is set, bizarrely, during a revolution in South America, and has the player commanding a small Redshirt Army against a huge Redshirt Army. The credibility of the plot is stretched thin, and the inability of the friendly AI to handle the vastly increased difficulty of the endlessly respawning beardless Fidel Castros does little to help.
The second game, Dog Days, has this to a lesser extent. Story-wise, having Lynch and Kane attempt to steal Glazer's private jet, and then resort to hijacking an airplane as it takes off makes less sense than simply having the two lay low for a few days or escape by boat or whatever, and having the level take place after Shangsi is killed leads to some serious Ending Fatigue.
The end of Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy is generally slammed for the introduction of Aura Beasts, more annoying was the feeling of a general drop in quality, with the gameplay feeling more unbalanced (and while the checkpoints are no worse than before, the sudden difficulty spike makes them far more annoying), some very vague puzzles and extremely annoying instant-death invisible mines that are likely to lead to at least a few "What the hell!?" deaths before you work out what is going on.
In Jet Force Gemini, after you got to the last level, you were given a jetpack and forced to go back through all the levels again (and some new ones) and obtain each MacGuffin. It's safe to say most people quit before they got to the real ending.
BloodRayne: The first half dozen levels are basically tutorial missions in the Louisiana bayou. Not too bad. Then you raid the Nazi complex in South America and fight Nazi zombies. Can't go wrong with that premise, right? Until you have to play level after level after level of lame-ass Resident Evil-style puzzles, fighting wave after wave of Nazi footsoldiers (dirt simple now that you have Bullet Time) in the same, endlessly repeated gray concrete industrial bunker.
Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard falls right into this in the last two levels; the parody pretty much dries up, and you are stuck fighting the same enemies from earlier (after gradual additions in each of the earlier levels) over and over again. The little parody there is feels more like a parody of generic action movies rather than of Video Games (which there are already many examples of, and it therefore loses any of the potential of its concept). There are also Lampshading opportunities that are missed, for example, the penultimate level (the Docks) has you take a half-hour detour through a ship and then come out the other side with it having no purpose whatsoever; this would have been a perfect time to parody convoluted level designs (and the trope) in shooters, yet its not even mentioned. One of the few bits of Video Game parody there is (of MMOs) has the enemies be PaletteSwaps of enemies you've been fighting throughout the game (again with seemingly no ironic invocation of it).
Dark Void. The last level is an out of nowhere boss fight with a three-headed dragon and the whole thing starts so abruptly that you feel like you've accidentally skipped over a couple of levels and when you win, the game ends almost as abruptly.
Turn Based Strategy
X-COM: Terror From The Deep has this. The original X-COM finished with an incredibly difficult two-part mission to Cydonia, full of some of the toughest aliens in the game. Terror From The Deep is overall much more difficult than the original, and has plenty of two-part missions within it... but while the final mission to T'leth is a three-part mission, it's also incredibly boring, since the level designs resemble long, twisty pipes more than any sort of maze and there clearly aren't enough aliens.
Wide Open Sandbox
Grand Theft Auto III has this bad. Staunton Island and Shoreside Vale are increasingly less detailed when compared to Portland's bustling activity, varied scenery, and things to do. This is probably why Liberty City was revamped from the ground up in Grand Theft Auto IV, even if that effectively meant putting it in its own continuity.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City also suffered from this. The game's first half was entirely dependent on story progression, since accessing real estate, decent weapons, and numerous outside areas was limited at first (and sometimes made saving games and conducting missions a huge pain). As a result, the plot progressed well with the player's increasing access to Vice City. Unfortunately, once players can start purchasing real estate, the storyline sections are much harder to follow, thanks to scatter shot mission locations, and some missions lacking availability until players buy many different buildings (which gets expensive fast, and often forces players to do tedious taxi/police/ambulance side missions repeatedly, or even street racing, to get the required cash). Even when players do find the missions, they're mostly boring, save the excellent bank robbery and mall bombing ones. The last two missions anchor the story back in focus, and concludes Vice City wonderfully, but getting there demands far too much trial-and-error and unnecessary exploration out of the player.
And if that's not bad enough, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the worst of the lot: When the game finally wraps up to a finale, CJ returns to Los Santos and has to completely disregard all his previous success in San Fierro and Las Venturas to represent Grove Street in the local gang wars, forcing the player to finish a signifigant chunk of the turf wars sidequest before they could move to the very last mission in the game. It's not only particularly annoying thanks to the fact that, if you procrastinated on the turf wars until the very end, you'll have to complete the sidequest while all Hell is breaking loose around you as the citizens of Los Santos are rioting, but even if you completed the turf wars before leaving Los Santos at the beginning of the game, your turf war progress is reset as soon as your leave, so your efforts are meaningless. And the final mission, while for many being the undisputed Crowning Moment Of Awesome for the entire series, is no cakewalk either...
Grand Theft Auto V has three different ending missions. Ending C, which is the only one that lets you keep all of the playable characters and kill all of the remaining antagonists starts with a gunfight at a foundry which, while intense, isn't really on a bigger scale then some of the other fights in the game. Next you have to kill four different targets, all of whom only have a small group of mooks to kill, and only one of whom can be killed in a particularly interesting way. It feels like a step down given the scope of the game and how spectacular Rockstar games' final missions tend to be. And the final missions for the other two endings are even worse, as they just involve a simple little car chase against a single enemy who barely fights back.
While the bosses of the three major gangs of Saints Row 2 were challenging and interesting, the final boss Dane Vogel is simply a shootout in a small area with few mooks to threaten you and Vogel himself with a pistol he isn't very accurate with. You do get an attack helicopter mid-way through the mission, but use it almost exclusively on static targets on a single building. The last few Ultor missions are also simple and easy compared to some of the final missions of the other gangs.
Minecraft is a brilliant sandbox of a game until the very last bit in The End realm. At this point, you've already explored the overworld (plains, mountains, oceans, caves, etc) and the Nether (lots of fire and lava in a hellish world), but The End is just very plain looking; you're on a big floating landmass of what looks like the moon, towers made out of obsidian with a crystal on top of them are dotted across the island, a huge dragon is trying to kill you by flying into you so you go flying off the island and into the void, and the realm is filled with Endermen. To make matters worse, the dragon heals itself by flying near one of the crystals, which you will usually need to build a makeshift tower just to reach it within range of your bow or sword and it explodes when destroyed. At the same time, you might fall off your tower if the dragon pushes you off. Beating the dragon nets you 20,000 EXP and a very slow scrolling ending message that is a total Mind Screw. This might be the first game to deliberately invoke Disappointing Last Level.
Assassin's Creed I: The majority of the game is full of stealth, Le Parkour, and the occasional frenzy of short and violent fights frequently followed by a lot of running and hiding. Even boss fights generally fit into this standard. Then at the conclusion of the game, nearly all of it is thrown away for a long series of non-stop straight up sword fights with no chance of stealth or sneaking.
The Amazing Race was notorious for this during its first eleven seasons, as equalizing flights midway through the final leg would even up the teams after they had already done most of the tasks in the episode, and once in the final destination city, the winner would then generally be determined by whoever found the best cab. This took a lot of skill out of who won the race, and left a lot fan enjoyment on whether or a not a likable team could luck their way into a victory. This can really be seen in how the best team (by the stats) in the finale rarely won during these seasons, but after they started setting the entire final leg in one city in Season 12, the best team has won a majority of the races. Some examples include:
Season 1, New York, a cab ride, followed by a train ride, then a long run to the Finish Line.
Season 2, San Francisco, a couple of cab rides and a long run through the city.
Season 10, New York, two long cab rides with a long run through the city in between.
Published adventures for Tabletop RPGs can easily run into this, especially if they're particularly long and the climax fails to live up to the build-up. For example, the Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Planescape adventure Dead Gods, about attempts to resurrect the slain demon lord Orcus. The adventure is full of mystery and exploration, crossing all over the Outer, Inner, and Prime Material Planes to uncover the secrets of strange new creatures that can manipulate everyone's perceptions and are poisoning parts of the World Tree Yggdrasil. Players ferry arms to a drow civil war, rescue a vampire, and outrace an undead god and his lone surviving priest to capture the MacGuffin in a very satisfying climax. Only for the adventure to continue as the MacGuffin is stolen from them anyway and they go to a final final confrontation on Orcus's corpse in the Astral Plane, which sounds cool but is mostly just short, confusing, and with an ambiguous ending that more serves the setting's Metaplot than anything else. (Officially, the heroes failed no matter what and Orcus was confirmed alive again as of 3rd Edition.)
In-story in Ran Van. The Nintendo Hard game makes him expect a truly monstrous Final Boss, but when he actually makes it to the end of the twelfth level, the boss sprite is barely bigger than his own.