Stressful moments in games that we'll never play again

For many gamers, the act of playing a video game is a form of escapism. It's a way to block out and forget, just for a moment, the challenges faced in every day life. Much like one might read a book to relax or watch a TV show to unwind, video games can serve as a path toward peace — a way to find calm and leave stress behind.

That is, until stress once again presents itself in the form of an infuriating video game obstacle.

For every serene gaming moment — like a soothing journey through the waters of Sea of Thieves — there's a yin to the yang, such as a challenging platforming obstacle or an impossible boss. Lots of video games are built to test the player, but it's undeniable that some of these trials are frustrating to the point of feeling unfair. And there are a number of reasons the encounter can be difficult, whether it be unforgiving controls, difficult AI, or quite simply, bad design.

We've put together a list of some of the most stressful moments in gaming. In these moments, video game success or failure rests in your ability to complete the task at hand. The pressure is immense, and should you come up short, your reward is the chance to try it all over again.

Here they are.

Protecting Natalya, GoldenEye

The video game version of GoldenEye takes some liberties when it comes to the story told by the film. Where the game does stick more closely to the movie's plot is in the final missions, where 007 and computer programmer Natalya Simonova travel to Cuba to destroy access to the GoldenEye satellite.

Unfortunately, the game comes up short in two ways. The movie version of Natalya is far more intelligent, and Bond doesn't have to protect her for eons like he does in the game.

As you can see in the embedded clip above, Natalya has no concept of self-preservation in the GoldenEye video game. She's more than content to clack away at her keyboard while enemies shoot in her direction. And there are so many enemies. They break through from behind glass walls on two levels. They run down stairs. They run out of doors. And sometimes they seem to just appear out of nowhere. The act of defending Natalya is made even more frustrating by the fact that the computers surrounding her explode like land mines when shot at.

If Natalya dies during the mission, you fail instantly. And it doesn't take much for her to bite the dust.

Many gamers look back on GoldenEye with rose-colored glasses. It was a game ahead of its time, for sure. But you won't find many who enjoyed this Cuba mission.

Underwater Bomb Diffusing, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

If you grew up in the early '90s, you probably had some affinity for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They were everywhere, from the big screen to comic book shops to toy stores. Which is why many who owned the Nintendo Entertainment System leapt at the chance to play as their favorite half-shelled heroes in the official Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game.

The TMNT game contained a lot of variety. It was a side-scrolling beat 'em up. It featured an overworld — complete with the Turtle Van — that players could use to travel from level to level. And it rather infamously included a water level that undoubtedly caused many gamers to throw their controllers in disgust.

The mission of the water level involved diffusing bombs. You, as your turtle of choice, swam through underwater caverns that not only had the bombs in question, but also live wires that shocked you on contact. To add stress to the situation, you had to complete the level in a specific amount of time, and the game's audio did its part to build tension. And the swimming controls were bad — you essentially had to Flappy Bird your way through to avoid obstacles and finish before time ran out.

There was a bright side, though. If you were able to complete the water level, you'd basically beaten the hardest part of the game. It was smooth sailing from there.

Labyrinth Zone, Sonic the Hedgehog

The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise is built on speed. Sonic can charge himself up in place in order to take off. There are spring-loaded buttons everywhere to help him reach top speed. And Sonic's world is inexplicably riddled with loop-de-loop paths that show off just how fast he's going.

Which is what makes the Labyrinth Zone in the original Sonic the Hedgehog so frustrating.

In case you're unfamiliar with the Labyrinth Zone level of that game, we've embedded a playthrough above. As you can see, much of the stage takes place underwater, in terrain that is notoriously unfriendly to hedgehogs. Sonic is slowed down significantly in the water and moves more akin to molasses than the speed demon we know and love. And to add to your stress level, death is waiting everywhere. Sonic can drown, which makes the use of air bubbles necessary in order to stay alive. There are countless enemies roaming around underwater (apparently without the need for oxygen). And spiked, swinging balls are ready to wipe away your hard-earned progress.

Once you get through the Labyrinth Zone, you'll breathe a big sigh of relief. And you won't need an air bubble to do it.

Black Spindle Mission, Destiny

The first Destiny game was chock full of secrets. There was the quest for the Sleeper Simulant, for starters. The math-laden riddle for the Outbreak Prime is also a fan favorite. But neither of those was as cleverly sprung upon the Destiny community as the hidden mission for the Black Spindle, an exotic sniper rifle modeled after an old legendary weapon found in the game's 2014 Crota's End raid.

The key to acquiring the Black Spindle involved taking a divergent path in the Daily Heroic version of Destiny's "Lost to Light" mission. If players were able to reach a certain point without dying, a previously unlocked door would open up, and players could take a lift to a Fallen Ketch, now overrun with Taken enemies.

And wow, was the encounter stressful.

First off, it took playing through a good chunk of an entirely different mission just to access the hidden area. Because you were playing on Heroic difficulty, enemies were stronger and tougher to kill. Once you reached the Fallen Ketch, the sheer amount of Taken enemies could overwhelm you if you didn't play carefully. And to add to all that, a ten-minute timer continuously showed on the screen to let you know that if you didn't make it to the final boss and kill him before time ran out, you'd lose.

The Black Spindle mission was fun in the moment, but once you got the gun, you probably weren't in a big hurry to do it again.

Secret Level, Limbo

Limbo is considered by some to be one of the best video games of all time. For an indie title, its mix of platforming and puzzle solving is extremely impressive. And the game doesn't treat you with kid gloves, either. There are some truly horrific ways the player can die in the game, and as you get to know the rules under which you're playing and solve the puzzles in front of you, you'll likely die a lot.

The challenge presented by Limbo throughout is precisely what makes the game's hidden level such a stressful experience.

Even if you made it through Limbo without issue, the hidden level is a different beast entirely. It takes several minutes to complete, and it mostly takes place in the dark. You're essentially playing blind, forced to feel your way through the environment. And because there are machine guns, chainsaws, and other killer obstacles hidden in the shadows, the level requires some trial and error in order to get it all down.

If you die, you start all over, which means your hands will undoubtedly be sweating as you near the end. Good luck.

Tower of Hera Boss, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

In the Nintendo classic The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Link is tasked in one area of the world to scale a tower in order to face that dungeon's boss. The location is called the Tower of Hera, and as you can imagine, clearing it involves making your way past several floors of enemies and puzzles. Once you're able to climb the final set of stairs, you get to face off against Moldorm, a centipede-looking boss that you fight on a floating platform.

What makes this boss battle so stressful? You can be easily knocked off of the platform by Moldorm. And if you're knocked off, there's a good chance you'll be sent all the way back to the Tower of Hera's first floor.

As you can see in the gameplay video above, the streamer taking Moldorm on is experiencing this exact phenomenon. Getting knocked off the sides of the platform means getting sent down one floor. However, the hole in the middle platform reaches all the way to the tower's ground level. The chance that you could be forced to slog your way back up to the top of the tower makes the fight a high stakes affair — one that you won't be in any hurry to replay once you've finished it.

Flood in the Library, Halo: Combat Evolved

The Flood are one of the more memorable enemy factions in video games, and you meet them first in Halo: Combat Evolved. But while your initial encounter with them early in the game takes on a more eerie, creepy feel, your battle with the Flood in "The Library" is a lot more stress inducing for a number of different reasons.

To start, the library is dark. Other than a few lights here and there, you're largely guided by your flashlight, unsure of what danger lies just around the corner. And the Flood are terrifying enemies not just because of their physical appearance, but because they behave in ways other enemies don't. The carriers, for instance, explode when shot, releasing more Flood enemies for you to battle. And these tinier enemies, while weak, move quickly and can overwhelm you if you don't deal with them in a quick fashion.

Your time in the library involves taking on hordes of Flood combatants large and small, coming from all directions. And just when you think you're done, more show up. You'll likely be thrilled when you finally move past this encounter.

Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!

Battling your way through the many opponents in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! is as much an exercise in puzzle solving as it is in reaction time and reflexes. Once you reach the World Title Circuit, the boxers you face off against become progressively harder, preparing you for your final fight against the man with his name on the cartridge: Iron Mike Tyson.

And wow, is he tough.

Mike Tyson in Punch-Out! throws quick jabs and lightning fast uppercuts. He regularly changes up the cadence at which he punches, which can cause you to dodge at the wrong time and catch an Iron Mike fist in Little Mac's face. And Mike hits hard, with a single uppercut capable of doing enough damage to send Mac to the mat.

The fight is a tense endeavor due to all of the above. It's the combination of Mike's quickness, unpredictability, and power that can leave you flat-footed at the worst possible moment. Catching a punch from Mike can throw you off your game plan and leave you scrambling to recover, and if you get TKO-ed or lose by decision, you're either pushed down in the ranks or forced to enter a password to restart the fight.

Nemesis Fight, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

There's a lot to gripe with in the older Resident Evil titles, from the frustrating controls to the fixed camera angles. And while Resident Evil 3: Nemesis at least made good on the control side of things by ditching the tank setup, the infuriating camera angles made a return. And when these camera shots reared their ugly heads in boss battles, those battles became immensely more difficult.

The above video is one of a battle against Nemesis in RE3. As you can see, it takes place in an enclosed space that, much like the rest of the game, uses pre-rendered backgrounds and fixed cameras. The majority of the fight involves you running awkwardly around this location, taking shots at Nemesis while running off screen into another section of the room to escape his attacks. His rocket launcher is far reaching, and more often than not, rockets come in from screen where you can't see them. You can't move and shoot at the same time, so shooting means you have to stand still and take some heat in return, making the entire battle one where you're shooting, then running, then jumping into your menu to make ammo or heal yourself.

If you find yourself cornered, and you don't have the items necessary to make enough ammo for the fight, you're going to have a bad time. Should you go back and replay this portion, be sure to set some time aside for it. You'll probably die a bunch before you get it figured out.

Dr. Kahl's Robot, Cuphead

Cuphead is known for more than just its impressive hand-drawn art. It also has a reputation for being incredibly difficult. In fact, several of the boss fights in Cuphead could have made this list over some of the other items — they're that intense. But one really takes the cake when it comes to cranking your stress up through the roof, and it's the fight against Dr. Kahl's robot, a hectic fight that can last just a bit over two minutes but still manages to cause sensory overload.

There's a good chance you can watch the above video and still feel stressed out even though you're not actually playing. There's so much going on, from the movement required by the player to dodge flying objects, to the frenzied soundtrack, to the maniacal laughter of Dr. Kahl ringing in your ears. In order to best this boss, you'll need to keep a laser focus on what's flying at you while also laying down fire. It's a challenge and a half, but if you're able to tough it out and defeat Dr. Kahl and his robot, you'll have beaten the hardest enemy Cuphead has to throw at you.

Blades of Hades, God of War

There's nothing more frustrating than what you can't see. If that wasn't made abundantly clear by the above entry for Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, you'll get the message when you look at the Blades of Hades section from the first God of War. It's a mix of everything you could find irritating in a 3D platformer, and it isn't even a boss fight.

To start, Kratos has to make his way across some super skinny walkways located above the fires of Hades. Kratos apparently doesn't have the best balance, as he's constantly tilting back and forth, threatening to fall off the walkway if you take him too close to the edge. And to add to the misery, there are spinning wheels with blades attached to them that can knock you off and force you to start again. These blades may be off screen when you enter an area but can suddenly catch back up to you from behind, pushing you into the fire below and sending you to insta-death.

You'll see the player above meet his end several times thanks to the blades, and you can hear his relief upon finally clearing the Blades of Hades portion of the level. It's not a fun experience.