Level 4 of Axelay (Very Hard Difficulty), "Silence" features a partially underwater cave, in which you must avoid organic, and highly mobile enemies. It would not be so absurdly difficult if it weren't for little, monstrous triangular blobs that clung to your ship and dragged it into walls. This is not an example of very hard, by the way. Try beating this without losing a life. Arms installation is complete, good luck!
In the Gradius series, if a stage involves crystals, you will most likely hate it. Gradius II 's third stage (fourth in the Famicom version) is a crystal stage that, at one point, throw a storm of large blocks of crystals at you, which break into smaller blocks when shot enough times. If you die in this stage, consider your remaining lives gone too. And then the arcade version of Gradius III has a stage where, near the end, cubes fly toward the left side of the screen and will randomly change direction and/or speed up; many a life has been lost here. In fact, on the PlayStation 2 version, there is a "Cube Attack" mode which lets you practice this part.
Don't forget the Lava Stage, where you are bombarded with lava bombs which burst into indestructible shrapnel when shot, as well as Goddamned Bats and a narrow tunnel near the end where the fireballs can spawn right on top of you; getting past this part is a Luck-Based Mission.
If a stage is a mechanical fortress, it's going to be a Death Course, especially in Gradius III (arcade/PS2 version). Swarms of Zubs, aka Goddamned Bats teleport in to assault the Vic Viper, then there's Malevolent Architecture in the form of flying ceiling tiles, followed by ships that leave behind indestructible wrecks when killed, miniature Degraded Boss versions of the invincible spider mecha from Gradius II, a Laser Hallway, Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom, as well as a Mini-Boss that must be fought while dodging those, and an invincible giant blue spider mecha boss where you must navigate through the legs. At the entrance to Bacterion's lair, you must blast through Regenerating Walls that have organic Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom in between. After you defeat the Anti-Climax Boss, you have to escape through a narrow turbo tunnel, better have an extra speed-up or two.
Let's not forget the original Stage 7 High Speed Zone from SNES Gradius III.
The fortress in Gradius V, Stage 7 incorporates the obligatory High-Speed Zone into its first half, which includes a diagonal climb through dozens of closely-placed gates, followed by Beacon, That One Boss. The first half of Stage 6, with the green slime spigots and tilting environment, is also an infamous Scrappy Level. Doesn't get much easier in the second half, where the screen scrolls backwards, then you fight a Boss Rush of Those Several Bosses (Rolling Core, "Ball-in-a-cage" Core, Big Core MKIII 2.0, Covered Core II)
Even Gradius Gaiden, which is one of the easiest games in the series, has a very difficult mechanical fortress final stage. It opens up with a high speed section (which is near-impossible to recover in if you foolishly put Speed Up on anything beyond the 2nd slot), which also happens to incorporate enemies that come from behind. Vic Viper, Jade Knight, and Falchion Beta all have weapons that can fire backwards to take care of these assholes, but Lord British, having no such weapons, is almost certainly going to bend over. The next part makes you deal with moving floors and ceilings, which at point point completely close up and will cost you a life unless you are in front of it or have a Limit shield. Then you face Gunner Wall, who can be somewhat of a That One Boss due to the various guns and Mook Maker forcing you to keep moving around, followed by HeavyDucker, a section where pieces of the floor and ceiling fly out and try to kill you, and a giant penultimate boss that is invulnerable to your weapons and must be timed out while enemy walkers on the floor and ceiling make sure you cannot. Only after this almost-Boss Rush can you finally relax.
The first stage of the Famicom version of Gradius II. After the first portion of the stage — the mini-suns from the arcade version — the stage continues, now with larger suns and the #$%@ing solar prominences from Stage 3 of Life Force/Salamander. On top of having to carefully navigate these, you have to deal with more GoddamnedBatsBirds and those orb-like things that take several hits to kill. From here, the game gets easier for a bit, though the difficulty goes back up for Stages 3 and 4.
Gradius ReBirth, Stage 4. Skeletons of Dinosaur-like creatures with ribcages that scatter into indestructible shrapnel (similar to the aforementioned Gradius III arcade lava stage) when shot, and worm-like creatures that jump out of the sand to surprise you, followed by a corridor of said creatures that jump around in arc paths that are impossible to predict the first time around. Although you can destroy them, they take a good number of shots before they die.
For that matter,any level after the first loop, but special mention goes to the Bio and Moai levels. Bio levels will leave you screaming because of the regenerating walls that love to speed up while your trying to get though them while being shot at. Moai level is....well Moai, not to mention at the end has both That One Boss and Miniboss combo.
The Tutorial mode levels in Bangai-O Spirits. You know you're in for a Nintendo Hard experience when you die many times in the tutorial levels.
On that note, practically every non-tutorial level as well. Every so often, you find one that isnt built around constantly spamming your Desperation Attack, but even then it's still difficult because they removed omnidirectional aiming.
And on that note: Mountain of Faith, Stage 4, Lunatic mode. Expect to convulse on the floor, screaming about waterfalls.
Perfect Cherry Blossom's Stage 4 is also a supreme pain in the ass. Not only is it one of the longest stages of the game, but there are many enemies of the stage, particularly in the second half, that like to throw some pretty damned dense danmaku your way, particularly the lines of orbs, which explode in a ton of bullets aimed at you when they die. And if you manage to get past all of that, you still have to face the Prismriver Sisters, Those Three Bosses.
The fifth stage in Undefined Fantastic Object is another nasty one. It utterly floods the screen with powerups, which sounds like it would be a good thing until you realize that there are so many powerups that it's hard to see the bullets, resulting in many a "WTF just hit me?" reaction from the player. Even without this complication, the stage is still quite obnoxious at many points, most notably the orb clusters that actively hunt you down while shooting the whole time - and not just at you, either, so streaming is right out. And the bosses are nightmarish, introducing curving lasers, which tend to throw even expert players for a loop.
Even the most ardent PC-98 fans aren't willing to defend the fourth stage of Mystic Square, for one simple reason. This is what the background looks like.◊ All of the bullets in this stage are light blue.
Scene 7-5, Void "Inflation Square" from Shoot the Bullet. Sakuya constantly freezes time, causing red kunai to appear around the player, which forces you to shoot at them immediately or die. After that, you have to contend with the blue daggers filling the screen and flying in every direction, which get denser and faster as you take more pictures. The hitboxes on them are horrible, the paths (or indeed, whether there is a path at all) that you need to take are random, and if at any point you need to speed up to get through them? You have just stopped charging your camera to do so, which means you can't shoot at the red kunai in time - in other words, you are already dead.
And let's not forget how Sakuya herself moves when she freezes time - which can result in this. Cue Rage Quit.
Scene 8-3, Secret Sign "Hierarch's Arcanum", also from Shoot the Bullet. Walls of purple amulets come from both sides of the screen. Their lengths are random. You are going to get walled - if not at the beginning, then when Ran starts firing slow, aimed bullets that can cut off your escape route. No wonder Touhou Wiki states that this is "one of the hardest scenes in the game."
Scene 8-7, Superman "Soaring En no Ozuno" is another fun little gift from Ran. Streaming attacks usually are pretty easy, but let's combine an incredibly fast and constant charging attack by Ran with the necessity to be at full power by the time you've reached the side of the screen. Then, mix in an enormous amount of butterfly bullets moving in a random formation that will almost certainly spell out doom for you, especially since they can go out of the screen and then return when you least expect them to. Need to move up at all to dodge a bullet during the last 2 photos, which you almost certainly will? Don't worry; Ran will be right there to bulldoze you into the failure screen. Of course, when you've finally charged the camera completely, she will drop below the bottom of the screen faster than you can shoot, leading to an uncanny amount of failures on the last photo.
Scene 10-6, Judgment "Guilty or Not Guilty". Dodging through an endless barrage of enormous bubble bullets that make reading ahead extremely difficult is hard enough without Eiki Shiki shooting a huge laser at you the entire time. The real problem is the Hitbox Dissonance - that laser's hitbox is actually bigger than its sprite, and by no small margin, which for a Touhou game is practically unheard of. For some idea of how bad this is, see here◊; that white dot just under the laser is the already dead player's hitbox. To cap it all, the bubble bullets get denser with each picture you take, making what could be a safe route for the second picture a guaranteed deathtrap for the third.
Scene 9-6, New Impossible Request "Seamless Ceiling of Kinkaku-ji" is typically considered the single worst scene in Shoot the Bullet, which is saying something. Perhaps the best showcase of Kaguya's tendency to wall your character, and there are seven pictures, which get progressively tougher.
Kinkaku-ji returns to haunt us in Double Spoiler, and here it starts at max level. Beating it requires godly reflexes or a prayer to the Random Number God. Of all the cards from Shoot The Bullet ZUN could have brought back, why the hell did he choose that one?
And it's brought to you by That One Boss from Subterranean Animism, no less!
Well, she can read your mind, so it only makes sense she'd try to bring your darkest nightmare back to life. Thankfully, many of the bullets are smaller than they were in the original, and you only have to take 3 photos of it. But that's the only concession this card will give you.
Double Spoiler's Scene 3-4, "Small Thread - Kandata's Rope" is the first scene that is unilaterally loathed by players. It's relatively simple in comparison to anything in stage 12, but it is an absolute brick wall in terms of difficulty.
Stage 6 in R-Type Delta, especially the part where you fight Capsulon. The mini-boss essentially splits the screen in half and the space left to dodge enemies and bullets would make a Bullet Hell game proud.
Capsulon nothing. Try the end of the fourth stage in R-Type III, which features a maze that molten metal flows through periodically. Which way it goes depends on what openings are in fact open at the time, and some of them open or close partway through a metal stream, totally changing its path! The metal is ridiculously fast, meaning that if you aren't exactly where you need to be beforehand, you're screwed. Then you fight a midboss, and then you have to go through the goddamned maze again, BACKWARDS! In a game in which, without the Force device (which you WILL lose when you die), your ship cannot fire backwards. ARRRRRGH!
In a Google Tech Talk video, Jeff Minter had a discussion about his games created at Llamasoft. He discussed Space Giraffe, where he designated level 64 as that one level. "If you get to level 64, I guarantee the first time you get there you would just go 'What the smoke is going on there and you'll die.'" The developer then plays through the level, with both an Interface Screw, Camera Screw, numerous danger alerts, and chaos.
Space Megaforce has twelve levels. Level eight, which seems to take takes place in some kind of ship's graveyard, is the hardest one. In that level, shooting the walls will cause pieces to break off and become dangerous projectiles. Most of your weapons have bullet patterns that will cause you to hit the walls constantly, and most enemies are objects, such as gun turrets, mounted on the walls in places that are hard to hit. It's hard.
Thunder Force III, Stage 4 (Haides). Moving terrain, rotating rock poles that can corner and kill you if you aren't careful, a high-speed section with suddenly-popping-out rock poles, and a section full of rocks that jump up and can catch you off guard. There's also Stage 2 (Gorgon), which has laser ships that can kill you easily if you don't opt to stop moving vertically when they appear, rocks that burst into pieces and can swarm you, and lava pillars that can make life miserable; while most of them eventually stop, one in particular will start up and never stop; guaranteed life or shield loss if you get stranded behind it.
For many Battle Garegga players, Stage 6 is a glass wall to climb. Part of your odds of making it through this level without emptying your lives hinges on how you managed the Dynamic Difficulty in the first five stages. Didn't do that right? Well, Achievement Unlocked: 0G - Unwinnable.
Tyrian's first episode has the ungodly bonus level Soh Jin. It's tempered by having a LOT of points and some very nice equipment available, but it gets to be in here because it has one thing that virtually no other level has: WALLS. Did I mention all the enemies in this level are turrets which fire shots which knock you physically halfway across the screen? Yeah.
If Soh Jin doesn't end up as That One Level for you, then the first bonus level of episode 3 probably will. What's so bad about it? Mainly the fact it's riddled with Demonic Spiders. Remember those frustratingly tough ships from Deliani? They're back, and they've brought friends which are armed with the sonic wave which appear from the bottom of the screen and which shoot at you from behind a column of indestructible balls. The computer is right when it tells you "Good Luck".
Stage 1 on Ultra. The #1 hazard of this stage? The falling rocks, which spit out explosions of suicide bullets upon defeat. And you'll most likely need to shoot them to get through. There are players who have gotten down the 2nd through 4th stages who find the rocks to be the most annoying part of Ultra.
DeathSmiles's extra stage, the Gorge. In normal stages, if you pick Level 3 difficulty five times, you trigger Death Mode and suicide bullets will start to appear. So if you master scooping up and/or evading suicide bullets, the Gorge should be a high-scoring stage, right? Wrong. The Gorge is what the North American version's manual calls "Death level 2", in which there are far more suicide bullets than normal. It says something about this stage's difficulty when even otherwise-hardened high-scoring players choke on this stage; in fact, playing this stage for score is strongly discouraged unless you can complete it, as you will score lower than if you just go straight to the final stage and finish it.
Double Vision pits you against a stage-long Mirror Boss who knows how to use the secondary weapons (smoke screen and oil slick) better than you, shoots you if you get ahead, and speeds off once you do enough damage to it. And once you beat it, you still have to deal with the electric mines (which do heavy damage and temporarily disable your weapons) if you accidentally tripped them, and helicopters, which can't be dealt with if you don't have any missiles, which may be likely. You also have to beat it before the end of the level, or you lose. And the worst part of the level? The Weapons Van is disabled, meaning you can't restock and heal. Also, the "no civilian casualties" mission is easy to fail, since there are bikers which are small and hard to see, which means you'll easily plow through them.
German Blitz has the absolutely nasty first part of the level, where you can't get the Interceptor, so you have to drive a civilian vehicle. A very slow civilian vehicle that turns slowly. Through a warehouse filled with difficult jumps and sharp turns. In 50 seconds. Basically, if you miss a jump or a turn, you can just restart. But after that, the level gets easier.
Locked Keys has the ruined highway section. You're assaulted by a number of strong enemies, but that's not the evil part. If you fall into the water, welcome to Hell. Hell, in this instance, is filled to the brim with electric mines that deal horrible damage and disable most of your systems. You're guaranteed to be down to the last of your health by the end, and it's a good thing the Weapons Van isn't long after this nightmare. At the end, however, there's a jump to a stealth powerup that is easy to miss; miss it and it's back to the beginning you go.
Venetian Blind has That One Secondary Mission, in destroying the scout submarines. They all hide unless you've gone through an invisibility powerup, which means you'll have to go off the normal path to find the powerup and destroy the submarine in the very short time before it vanishes. One submarine in particular is brutal to destroy; you have to be able to go through the stealth powerup, boost over a ramp, lock on to it and shoot it, blind, with no room for error.
But the level in Spy Hunter that takes the trophy in terms of absolute Nintendo Hard-ness is the final level, Eye of the Storm. You get nine minutes to complete it, but you will need most of it. The beginning has a secret area that lets you take out one of the secondary objectives, but getting into it takes a quick turn to reach a stealth powerup that you can easily miss. After that, you have to go through a canyon filled with normal enemies and electric turrets, which do heavy damage and disable your weapons temporarily. Then you have to go through a watery part, dealing with water enemies. You get to use the Weapons Van at last- two-fifths into the level. Next, you go through a small town, but there's a fake wall that you can go through to reach another secondary mission- destroying the SCUD missiles. There are four, but you get only a second to destroy each of them, and you have to have enough boost energy to reach the last two. Next, you have to travel through an amphitheater, destroying power boxes or else getting zapped by lasers at the end. In the next area is a pit which you can easily fall into with lasers in it, dealing extremely high amounts of damage before you can get out. You can avoid it, but you won't figure that out the first time. Then you have to go through "the gauntlet", an obstacle course consisting of lasers and moving walls in water. Finally, you get to your main objective, disabling the Four Horsemen missiles. You have to drive all around the area, destroying posts to open up power units that you have to destroy, all the while being harassed by enemies, in a very large area you have to drive all across to find all of them. Finally, you get to the Four Horsemen, and you just use EMP to shut them down. Hard to pass with just the essential objectives cleared, Hell to 100-percent, nightmarish to 100-percent while still maintaining the car form, nigh impossible to 100-percent in 5:10.
Basically, the only way you really had a chance getting the unlock from the mission without better muscle memory than required to speedily find Dr. Doak was to unlock the Super Spy cheat (which prevents you from dying and gives you infinite boost), which is unlocked by... beating every mission with all objectives cleared.
Pretty much all of the desert levels in Bullet Heaven. Level 12 has you facing a seemingly neverending barrage of falling rocks, which constantly split into smaller rocks when you shoot them, and alongside them are the Slingers who shoot a very nasty large orb that also splits into smaller orbs, seemingly when you're least expecting it to do so. Level 13 is probably the worst, in that not only do the Slingers return, but the Monoliths are introduced. Monoliths were incredibly overpowered enemies in Epic Battle Fantasy 3, and they really don't disappoint here either, especially when they come in a group of four, or when a pair of them charges straight at you. The fact that the creator seems outright out to get you here does not help.note For one thing, the tip at the beginning tells you to save your bombs for the midboss, despite how he's vastly easier than the stage itself, and for another, there are two sections in which it is possible to lose a life through absolutely no fault of your own; granted you can avoid both of these on your second run through, but you'd have to know they were there beforehand. Level 14 gives little breathing room, as it is filled with enemies that shoot at you when they die, in patterns that make simply not shooting at them not an option.
And if you thought Level 14 was bad during normal gameplay? Try it during a no upgrade run. By the time you reached the desert levels - hell, even before that, during the later aquatic levels - your basic weapon strength isn't strong enough to kill enemies at any reasonable pace, basically making it a pseudo-Pacifist Run. In level 12 pacifism is actually a decent strategy for the rocks, while level 13 can be brute-forced through Trial-and-Error Gameplay once you work out the Ancient Monolith's bullet pattern. Level 14 does not roll this way. It is filled with cacti that you will grow to hate for two reasons: they shoot needles at random (so Trial-and-Error Gameplay doesn't work), and they are everywhere. Couple this with the Ancient Eyes, which have the feel of Wolfpack Bosses every time they come in groups of four (and once they even come in a group of six), and we have a recipe for much prayer to the Random Number God and infinite frustration.
Stage 5 of DoDonPachi DaiFukkatsu. Not for obvious reasons, no. What makes it exceptionally hard is the existence of these circular groups of pods that continuously shoot out either bullets or lasers. In the case of the lasers, you're forced to fire your own laser and use the laser and the aurora covering your ship to block the lasers. Firing your laser reduces your movement speed and your spread, unless you're using Type A, which has little spread to begin with, or playing Black Label, which allows you to fire your shot and laser simultaneously at the expense of raising your Red Gauge. And they can't be destroyed, unless you're playing Arrange A in the 360 port.
Stage 6 of Gun.Smoke is flatly unbelieveable even by the standards of an already-hairpulling arcade version, mostly because of its length compared to the rest of the stages before and after it. Also, the stage tends to pause to show a preview of the boss on his horse, twice, just to drag it out further. When you finally get to Wolf Chief, the aforementioned boss, he's bad enough with his firing pattern taking some getting used-to, but his flunkies will more often cause you deaths during the battle than the boss himself does. watch hiropooooong take on this nightmare-of-a-stage.
The Shrine of Farewell, a special Boss Bonanza stage that you get to by completing Segment 7 or running out of Terra meter and then completing the current stage, whichever comes first. It falls under this trope not necessarily because it's hard—you get unlimited lives for this stage—but because when you enter the stage, you lose all of your Spirits and have to get them back by fighting the bosses competently and within a time limit that carries over from boss to boss, and while it's possible to get all of your Spirits back or even gain more than what you entered with, if you play poorly you will have LESS Spirits when the stage ends. If you want to hold onto your score, but don't feel confident with this stage, it may be better to quit the game at this point!
Segment 6 already has ThoseTwo Bosses, but what makes it into this trope is that after the bosses are destroyed, you still have a considerable chunk of stage left. Said chunk of stage features a lot of enemies that throw patterns even more brutal than the bosses'!
If you're going for medals in Star Fox 64, Sector Z will give you hell. You need 100 points for the medal, and assuming things go right, 66 of these points will come from destroying the missiles headed for Great Fox. The problem? Your wingmen (and Kat, if you're coming from Zoness) will "help" you destroy the missiles. What's wrong with this? You don't get points for missiles that your wingmen land finishing shots on, which tends to turn the stage into a somewhat Luck-Based Mission. Oh, and you can't shoot your wingmen out of the way without forfeiting the medal no matter how many points you get.
And if you come from Sector X to avoid the extra Stop Helping Me! of Kat, getting through the warp is nearly impossible without losing a wing, and your upgraded lasers with it.
Speaking of Zoness, that level has searchlights that all need to be destroyed to continue on the same path, and some of them are quite hard to hit due to obstacles. You also pretty much need to destroy them all for the medal, as they give good points.
This can be quite easy to do with some practice. Your allies can also be fairly helpful at this.
And before that we have Aquas, the only underwater level in the game, using a submarine that functions a bit differently compared to the Arwing and Landmaster. You can't charge up shots, and you use an infinite supply of torpedoes instead of bombs. They also provide some light, which is very much needed to see anything. And pretty much every enemy you encounter down there qualifies as Goddamned Bats.
Solar is basically Lethal Lava Land converted into a rail shooter level, but with the added bonus of the heat constantly draining your shield gauge. It has the lowest number of enemies of any rail level in 64, and going to it pretty much means your chance at a high score is shot because of how little points you're going to score.
At least your score is shot if you don't abuse a glitch that lets you cap out your score, seen here. The problem is that this glitch is absurdly tedious, to the point where the linked video is 7 minutes long despite skipping over roughly 685/700 points. If anything, this just makes matters worse than a mere low score...
The original Star Fox has Sector Z—take Sector X, add wireframe beams, and add a section where you have to dodge rotating wireframe beams, and you have yourself an asshole of a level.
If you hit the retros constantly, it's possible to get through Sector Z without ever getting hit by those beams.
Terminator T2 The Arcade Game has that truck level in which John Connor must survive while driving to Skynet among running golden T-800s and flying Hunter-Killer "planes", and the level after Cyberdyne in which the T-1000 in a police helicopter tries to ram into rams into the protagonists in a SWAT van.
Oh god, this level. The only way to realistically play this level on the SNES without access to a light-gun peripheral is to use the limited edition SNES mouse. Then comes the big issues: can you shoot the Terminator units on the ground? is there friendly-fire on the vehicle or were you not fast enough shooting the Terminators? should you spend any time trying to hit those fast-flying ones? are the flying ones even a target or a threat? Dangit, John, stop crashing that truck!
The level is pretty much a Guide Dang It, as the hunter-killers attack in a set pattern, making it relatively manageable on any version if you know it (or write it down). As long as you've saved up some rockets to Spam Attack the helicopters and have lives to tank the golden T-800's. Of course, the fact you need to prepare for it is enough to make it That One Level in itself.
The forest/swamp/ruins level in Silent Scope 2. Targets are extremely far away and well-camouflaged, and midway through the level, you get stuck with a useless night vision scope. On top of that, it's also very long.