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WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

It just occurred to me

That I've been through this place again and again

And in the same spot, every time, I repeatedly die.

I never will give up, as I attempt to cross the disappearing tiles on the wall

But again, I'm falling off of them.


When a developer wants to up the difficulty level of his game, he has quite a few options.

This is a list of a few classic methods of making a game Nintendo Hard. We'll call them Classic Video Game Screw Yous, or, to avoid unnecessary swearing, "Fun Units", hereafter FUs.

Differs from Fake Difficulty in that these can be fair. By definition, Fake Difficulty is completely unfair in some way; it requires good luck, it expects you to know things it didn't tell you, etc.

Note that "Fun Units" is only partly sarcastic, by the way: a game that's too easy can sometimes be less fun to play than one that's Nintendo Hard.

To keep this from degenerating into Complaining about examples of Video Game Difficulty Tropes you don't like, examples should be phrased as generically as possible, or explain exactly why this game is a well known example of this particular FU, or this FU is particularly unusual.

See also: Scrappy Mechanic. If it belongs there no need to put it here too unless it's shared by many games. I Wanna Be the Guy and other examples of Platform Hell are loaded with FUs. The antithesis to Anti Frustration Feature. See Unwinnable by Design for when there's a way to make the game literally unbeatable.

Classic Video Game Screw Yous/"Fun Units":

Examples of unusual "Fun Units": (See also: Scrappy Mechanic)

  • Mega Man and Bass is notable for having nearly every one of the listed above. Ammo does not regenerate on death, enemies have massive amounts of Recovery Time, two consecutive Marathon Levels with bosses who are willing to use nigh-unavoidable attacks at the drop of a hat... oh yeah. This is not a game for pansies.
  • I Wanna Be the Guy has one almost every screen, and this is what actually makes it fun. For example, one screen has a falling ceiling of spikes, and one spot in the floor that is lower than the rest. Upon finally managing to reach that spot, you discover that the spike just grows longer to kill you. Other examples include the Delicious Fruit which can fall up and the evil save point which chases and kills you. And spring-loaded background couches underneath spiked ceilings. And clouds that spontaneously drop lightning bolts. And spike pits of doom that chase you. And that clusterchucking moon.
  • The Wizardry games at least up to V were more than happy to allow you to teleport into solid rock. This resulted in the total loss of your party, no resurrection attempts allowed. Oh, and if you play the games the way they're intended, there's no "reload game" upon this happening. You can also emerge high above the city and crash to the ground, or drown in the castle moat, but these "merely" kill your party as opposed to your losing them forever; you have a shot at resurrecting them in the latter two instances. Basically, be very careful when teleporting in Wizardry.
    • Might and Magic: World of Xeen similarly allowed you to accidentally teleport off the edge of the world—potentially before you realized the world had an edge.
  • In Dwarf Fortress, if you Dug Too Deep, you can release a Balrog. Thanks to the line "Losing is fun" in the in the instructions for the game, they are referred to as Hidden Fun Stuff, or just HFS.
    • The "losing is fun" line means the Fun Units for DF suddenly stop being sarcastic.
    • Balrogs are out, now it's hordes of demons. These are killable, but it's really hard, especially when they're Spirits of Killing It With Fire (considering how dwarves react to being on fire).
      • In the new version it's an infinitely huge horde of demons. Basically, when you hit HFS, your fortress is dead. How fun.
      • Emphasis on "basically." DF players being DF players, they have discovered a way to colonize Hell.
    • The [TRAPAVOID] tag. It's a delicate way of saying "You see these Orcs? They're immune to your lovingly crafted wall of traps. Have a nice doom."
      • The [NOFEAR] tag that they also happen to have turns most enemies into Demonic Spiders.
    • This being DF, one must remember that winning is impossible. There are lots and lots of ways for !!Fun!! to happen, though. For example, doomsday devices and magma floods are a major source of !!Fun!!, as are tantrum spirals, carp, and elephants.
  • Invisible coin blocks. Invisible. Coin. Blocks. TABARNAK!
  • When you die in Descent, all of your equipment is scattered around the place. This wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for losing them all forever if you die between blowing the reactor and getting the hell out of Dodge. (Some levels, which involve things like invisible death mechs with insanely powerful cannons, are even more charming).
    • Level 6 has a fairly memorable FU where you pick up the red key and the walls open to reveal an ambush of six Class 1 Driller Demonic Spiders with instant-hit cannons. Most players, on their first try, will die before they even figure out what happened. In later levels It Gets Worse.
    • The whole first game becomes a big Fun Unit on Insane difficulty after level 7. Between the random "roaming" of the enemies, the brutal AI, and your weakness vs their strength, it's for all practical purposes impossible.
  • Bastet has the piece generator designed so that the worst possible block for your situation is the one you get every time. However, this is the entire point of the game.
  • In almost every version of Metroid, there are fake walls, floors, and ceiling tiles. Some of these can be shot through, and others appear solid but aren't. The best Fun Unit is in the original Nintendo version, where the player enters a hallway with an Energy Tank near the end. Shortly before the tank is an invisible hole in the floor. Falling down through the hole doesn't kill you but forces you to go through tedious backtracking to reach the tank. Zero Mission does the same thing, but at least is nice enough to have an enemy travel up around the edges of the gap if you wait long enough, making it obvious there is a hole. Super Metroid did it in between the two, as well.
  • Some levels in Lemmings have the lemmings enter over a lethal drop, forcing the player to act fast by making them Floaters. And some of those don't allow enough Floaters.
    • There's a very fine line between a fall that will kill any Lemming and a fall that will do no harm. "We All Fall Down" is a lesson in this.
      • Specifically, Lemmings will die if they hit solid ground after falling 80+ pixels. A 79 pixel fall is perfectly harmless.

 "Remember, the difference between a Lemming going splat and a Lemming walking away from a fall can be a single pixel!"

Lemmings Instruction Manual

  • Glider PRO has a variation of the Ceiling Bumper scenario: though the game doesn't have jumping, the lift of an upward vent (normally the player's best friend) can extend right into a shelf or table above. At least Glider 4.0 had an visible air option which would show this subterfuge.
    • The paper shredder hidden behind a mirror or a picture was another common cruel joke.
    • The room "Oh no... no way!" in Glider 4.0 introduced the uniquely cruel trick of a basketball bouncing over a vital floor vent.
  • The end of Mission 4 in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, where mooks that can see you through the foliage (while you can't see them) are shooting at you from the front, and endless waves of mooks and Demonic Guard Dogs are spawning behind you.
  • TIE Fighter has the eponymous spacecraft. No shields, only two laser cannons for weapons, and no hyperdrive. At least you get better craft later in the game.
    • Yes and no. TIE Fighter was a pretty challenging game in places and indeed flying regular TI Es was pretty crappy at times, but I don't think it ever went into the realms of unfair. It was also a LOT more forgiving than its predecessor X-Wing. Sure you had shields and stuff, but it made your mission completions pointlessly hard, repetitive and very long training courses before you could earn any medals (you could play the missions, but not earn medals *facepalm*) and a lot of the time if you got shot down, you either were captured or killed and your character was locked FOREVER. The missions were exceptionally hard in places too either putting you against vast numbers or against capital ships you couldn't hope to kill (X-Wing had no interest in locational damage or heavy missiles/bombs). Basically it was crazy tough. TIE Fighter was tough, but fair but comparison.
  • The NES Dirty Harry video game randomly has a "trap room" that shows up when you enter a room; in place of a door, it has "HA HA!" written on a blank wall. The only way out is to reset the game. The developers admitted that it was a joke they were playing on the players.
  • After the end of the world, Final Fantasy VI players were treated to being back to one party member until you get to Tzen or (on a CES challenge) Nikeah. Many enemies have an attack with 100% accuracy that causes the Zombie status, best thought of as "instant death meets confusion". There is an item to prevent it, however; it just happens that you have to know it's coming.
  • Disappearing ladders in La-Mulana.
    • Bats are the same blue color as water and most background walls making already-annoying enemies near-impossible to spot.
  • The original Sonic the Hedgehog game did not make you immune to the Spikes of Doom when you were flashing after taking damage. That means that, while the spikes were not technically an instant kill, if you fall in the middle of a group you'll lose your rings, bounce over onto another patch and die, without a chance to realize your mistake and get off of them. This was entirely intentional; the developers intentionally coded spikes to ignore Mercy Invincibility.
    • The same goes for the first Mega Man game. In all later games, getting hit by an enemy and falling into a spike pit would do no further damage due to Mercy Invincibility, and even allowed some intrepid players to skip difficult spiked areas by doing this. In the first game, getting hit into a spike pit was instant death.
  • Mario Kart is full of these. Get hit by someone's item and it's guaranteed that one or two other people that are passing you as you wipe out will use their items on you just to torment you further. Then there are those times where you fall off the track and are being towed back on, only to get shoved off by someone as they run you over and get knocked off again. And woe for any player that hears a Spiny Shell coming at them in the final lap.
    • Then there's the ultimate AI cooperation attack, the rainbow shell assault: Green shell first, then red shell while you spin, and the final insult of a blue shell finishing you off before you can recover from either of the first two. Welcome to last place!
  • In the first game of the original Bard's Tale trilogy, standing in front of one door leading to one room in the catacombs yielded the message that the escaping air smelled very stale. Entering this room froze the game.
  • Carmageddon TDR2000 had a trick jump leading to what looked like a bonus tunnel entrance which was only accessible by using the jump on command power-up. The tunnel was empty, and when you attempted to get back out, you'd run into an impenetrable barrier that said "Now you're stuck, SUCKER!". You could get out by respawning a number of times... spending money each time.
  • In Bleach: Soul Carnival 2, just about every other treasure chest in the entire game has a bomb inside, which explodes when you open it, dealing damage and knocking you back. Stage 27 turns this up a notch; the chests are on platforms with raised sides, meaning that they're basically invisible. It is entirely possible to kill enemies with a treasure bomb, and is extremely satisfying when you do so, but you can still die in the middle of a combo because you accidentally opened a fake chest.
  • Unusually early example: The Bat in the Atari 2600 Adventure. It could not only grab the holy grail (the way you win) and fly off getting itself occasionally trapped in an area of the game you can't reach but it can ALSO take items right out of your hands and carry live dragons.
  • The Slippy-Slidey Ice World in Snake Rattle and Roll.
  • Deadly Towers has a lot of hidden entrances to dungeons and Parallel Zones, which will frustrate players who are searching for them without a clue and frustrate players who aren't looking for them but stumble into them by accident. The game also has a caged enemy which takes all your money if you shoot it.
  • Saturn Bomberman has a few of these spread around, but the one that jumps to mind most is in the Samurai World where the butterfly enemies can fly over pretty much anything. This makes getting trapped in the corner by one extremely common, to a frustrating degree.
    • Another example, again from Samurai World, is the enemies who transform into invincible rocks, however more often then not they transform into harmless trees so it isn't so bad.
    • The "Slow Down" power-up mixed in with normal power-up's is another.
  • Battletoads still stands today as one of the most infamous examples of developer cruelty.
  1. Fixed vertical scrolling can be explained by Nothing Is Scarier, but the other two make no sense at all and are just there for the challenge