Five Types of Video Game Levels That Induce Panic Attacks In Me

sonic glub

You want to know how I know I am getting old? Because games that I used to find challenging, I now find impossible. I swear to you, there was a time when I could convince myself to beat any game, and I would just sit down and do it. But that vigor is all but deflated out of me, as has the patience required to beat certain types of games and levels. When I look back at my gaming past, I realize I had some real hints of masochism in there. I would spend DAYS trying to beat one particular part of a level or game I was stuck on, and wouldn’t stop until I did.

In comparison, now, I get stuck on a level for more than a few hours I tend to think “f*ck this”, and just want to toss the game aside for something new. But the real sign for me that I’m getting old is that fact that there are certain types of missions in games that pretty much give me full on panic attacks now, whereas once they just made me laugh like the cocky idiot I was. Keyword: was. Here, my friends, are the five types of missions in games that induce panic in me, sucking all the fun right out of gaming in those moments. This is just a rant, so don’t be too offended if I hate something you like. It is more a reflection on ” I am shit your pants old” than anything else.

Water Levels

watery grave

I look at this screen, with that half a life bar, and I pee myself from the memories of hours spent, enduring it all, willingly.

Let’s get the really cliche tropes out of the way, right off the jump. We ALL hate water levels.

The degree to which we have all spoken about it has no limits or bounds. They are not fun, they are not fair, and often, if you are as retarded and immersive a gamer as I, you sometimes forget to breathe while you are playing them. Yes, can you see why this is a problem for me? And many of those levels are designed so that you are JUST ABOUT TO run out of air when you find some, making my panic even worse. There is never a “comfortable window” in a water level. They just throw you in, fuck with the physics a bit, and panic ensues.

And it’s not even like this has dissipated at all since I have stopped hanging out with Nintendo (sorry guys, but post Gamecube, Nintendo is all shitty gimmicks to me), many modern games still make swimming a required feat at some point, and it really has not progressed too far. A perfect example of this is Resident Evil 6, which had a VERY SMALL and somewhat insignificant water level, but one that I somehow died at about twenty times. Far Cry 3 had some swimming, too, and while it was fluid and fun, it added shark encounters, so I would hit the water in far Cry 3 and immediately panic like a kid who didn’t know how to swim, and wanted to make that as outwardly obvious as possible. Even games BASED around the mechanic of swimming have all sucked (Eco the blahblah) and designers still have not learned, and still choose to torture us by including water levels in games.

Not cool, game designers. Not cool.

Escort Missions

fuck you dead rising

The first Dead Rising sums up EVERYTHING that is wrong with escort missions.

Okay, this is another one that is an obvious given, but if SO MANY people hate them, how the hell are they still so prevalent? There are MANY great games that, for no good reason, have escort missions, and they are annoying as f*ck. It’s like the designers say: Here, take this shoddy, passive AI and try to maneuver it through an environment full of AI programmed solely to kill that one AI. Now make SURE that the AI you need to keep alive has somehow become sentient and depressed, and longs to die and BAM, every escort mission ever.

While I am not one of the people who hated the Ashley escort missions in RE4 because I would just toss that chick in a dumpster and kill everyone, then make her come out, that is one of the few examples of it working well. Ico is an even better example, where it furthered the story. But who’s idea was it to torture anyone who didn’t play RE5 online with a friend by making Sheva the worst AI of all time? A soldier so content on being stupid, she will run blindly at a wall, calling for you. Also, the Saints Row series made some pretty fun Escort missions (because they sorta switched up what escort meant) but regardless, I start an escort mission, my heart starts hammering and I sweat like it’s the day after a Taco Bell dinner, and that is just not fun to me.

“Defend the Tower” Missions

alan wake and bake

Alan Wake is an amazing game, but one that made me panic and yelp with terror more than any grown man should ever admit to.

I know a great deal of people enjoy these missions, and enjoy whole games based around them, but I am not one of those people. I actually hate these more than water levels AND escort levels combined. The ” protect this place while we throw enemies at you” levels you get commonly in the newer generation of games is just not okay. They will rationalize these moments by often times giving you a mounted gun of some kind, but even that feels like a task, with a bigger, slower gun that is suddenly prone to “over heating” more than any other gun you have played with at that point.

chain lame

Nah, you can seize this place, guys, this gun is too much of a chore, sorry. *Leaves

And the enemy AI at those points? It is not even so much AI as is it that all the surrounding enemies are suddenly magnetized to you. You are circling, shooting, trying to limit the damage to whatever it is you are made to defend at that point, and honestly, it is like the adult version of playing Perfection. You know are fully capable of doing it, yet you are so freaked out by it that your hands are shaking, and said shaking hands are making it impossible to fit circle shape into circle hole. At about six years old I stood up and was like: F*ck Perfection, yo! This game stresses me out so bad it makes me wanna DIE! And then I flipped my coffee table and walked out. I kinda wish that was true.

That is my level of commitment when it comes to hating “defend this object from onslaught” levels, though. An example of this, in case my insanity is making it tough to decipher what I am exactly talking about, is the “defend the stage” stage from Alan Wake (an under rated and amazing game). Many people LOVED this level, citing it in reviews, but I abhorred it. It was like a seven minute heart attack to me:


Yes, it LOOKS like it’s fun, but for me, it was no such thing. I am getting too old for this.

The ” Escape the Exploding Thingy” Levels

get out

The Temple of Doom was quite disappointing from the outside.

You know what I am talking about. Your character is suddenly on a sinking boat, or in a flaming temple, and those f*cking floating numbers appear in the corner of the screen, indicating just how much time you have until you will inevitably be redoing the exact same thing until you get it right. Again, I heard the kids these days (a.k.a. generation: whack) really dig levels like this, yet not sure what that says about them, because I ALSO READ somewhere that kids are using vodka soaked tampons now, so “kids these days” is not exactly a compliment.

Don’t get me wrong, I know why designers do this. It is to up the tempo of the whole game, and inject a sudden urgency in your actions, which result in a more exciting (and ultimately, fulfilling) experience for the player, but like I said, this is a reflection of me getting old, and not these things sucking uniformly. Though if you all agree, I guess it can be both. In worst case examples of “escape the exploding thingy” they also change up the game mechanics to something you have never done. So not only do you need to escape the flaming wreckage, you need to do so on the back of a f*cking albatross.

Yeah, super fun.

The “You HAVE To Die” Missions


I may talk shit now, but the first time I ever experienced a level like this, it awed me.

I swear, in my youth, these missions didn’t exist. But now, almost all war based FPS’ have them. I won’t name franchises because I hate when the Battlefield and COD babies crawl out of their cribs and start crying at each other. It makes me embarrassed to be a gamer. Oh wait, I named franchises. *Snarky laugh.

While I will admit, the first few “you must die” missions I ever played did blow my mind. In most cases, you character slows down (perhaps he was just exposed to a nuclear blast?) and everything around him or her is just destruction and death. It was surreal the first few times, but one gaming example changed all that. Red Dead Redemption. Please tell me I am not the only one who replayed that last mission (as John), thinking I could dead-eye and shoot everyone in time? Full-on denial set in, and I played it a handful of times before it hit me…..oh shit, I’m dead. Thing is, in that example, it really worked, because it felt like a hit to the heart when it happened. But now, death missions are so common that if I suddenly die in a game that I hadn’t died at up to that point, rather than blame my shitty gaming skills, I think it might be a death mission.

Once I KNOW I am meant to die, the weird panic sets in for some reason. Probably because I have been dodging the reaper’s blade for a long while now, and this shit scares me, who knows?

Why They Are Not On The List….

Quick Time Events: We can all say we hate them, yet we ALL loved Telltale’s Walking Dead, and that game was all QTE’s. Also, if you ever played the insane and awesome Asura’s Wrath you know for a fact that QTE’s can be fun when done right. They are rarely done right, but it CAN happen.

Glowing Boss Weak Spots: While I do hate this trope, this is not so much a level as a single thing that annoys me (because it panders) and one that never becomes too oppressive (outside of the Lost Planet series, which thinks its fans to be mentally retarded monkeys without opposable thumbs).


If there are radio controlled vehicle sections in GTA5, I will fight the world.

And finally, the”Change Up Play Mechanics For No Reason” levels: These can suck when not handled properly (hey look, “I am suddenly a lumbering mech” is a famous one), but sometimes, they can actually be a lot of fun. This one is really 50/50 for me. The worst examples of this (and levels that give me the WORST panic attacks in all of gaming) are the radio controlled levels you seem to get in every Grand Theft Auto game. Honestly, I don’t even want to bring those up because they are like Candyman, I am afraid if too many of us speak of them, they will appear (in GTA5) and that is JUST NOT OKAY.

Also, levels where you are getting chased by some massive beast. F*ck those levels.

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  1. OMG, water levels where you can drown give me panic attacks for sure.
    Echo and Sonic 2 specifically. F$%#!$g Echo can travel through time, but still is constrained by its air consumption. I also though dolphins could stay underwater for like 45 minutes, not 3 minutes….. 🙁

  2. Anything with a timer to be honest. A level might take 5 minutes for me to normally complete, but you give me a timer that says 10 minutes on it and I will get the shakes and start running into stuff, shooting wildly just trying to get whatever I need done!

  3. For me it’s not so much a level that gets me panicking, it’s when a level’s/game’s checkpoint save system is done poorly. The newest CoD game was the worst of all. I’d be doing great then all of a sudden some enemy “terrorist” would materialize behind me and kill me. Well I come back to life and there are 4 guys I had killed the first time around by flanking them, are all of a sudden right in front of where the game decides to spawn me, shooting me in the face and I die again… and again… and again. Basically the game was fucking spawn camping me. It was only after immediately dropping to prone and chucking all of my grenades in random directions that I happened to get out of the situation only to have it happen numerous times all over again throughout the rest of the game. Screw that crap.

  4. Also, the levels where they all of a sudden throw you a huge boss that you poor all of your ammo into for 10 minutes while trying to survive. Then the game tells you not to waste your ammo since it does nothing but to use a rocket launcher leaning up against a building that you could never pick up until the fucking game tells you to use it finally. Then you manage to kill it but the levels not over now you have to face wave after wave of enemies with limited ammo until it’s finally over.

    This instance seems to cover just about the entire Gears of War franchise.

  5. In an old Wario game for Game Boy there was this level with wall of water rapidly approaching from the left. It was also underground so you had to clime up and down ladders and fight enemies in small spaces.

  6. I always feel like “retarded” brings down my level of respect for articles. It’s just not something you use. I don’t mean to be oversensitive, but it just bothers me that it can still be dropped so casually. It hasn’t been truly acceptable since the 1960s. You wouldn’t use the “n-word” so casually would you? I know this is an incredibly informal site, and the article is intended to be humorous, and given the context I’m sure you didn’t even intend offense; but the word itself has negative connotations and is loaded with ignorance.

  7. @ Chris H,
    I used to catch heat for that and can respect your feelings about it. But in the same breath, the word doesn’t need to be spoken in hush tones, with people freaking out about it. That gives it power. And also, I worked for six years with special needs people, and it was an absolute life changer for me, so as much as you may think I am just tossing it around, I saved some lives, and teaching some of those kids to laugh at the word retarded was one of the most important things they learned.
    Am sorry if I offended you, though, and appreciate how level headed your response to it was.
    I’ll make the effort not to use it so casually.

  8. Similar to “Change Up Play Mechanics For No Reason” is “Take Away Features You’ve Been Using For The Whole Game.”

    The best example that comes to mind is the final level of Uncharted where you suddenly have no weapons during the boss fight despite having weapons for the entire game.

  9. C’mon, “escape the explody thingy”, when done right, is one of those awesome moments from gaming that make the whole experience that much sweeter.

    And I don’t know why the “you must die” level would induce panic attacks… unless you were playing the original shareware version of “Doom” or something.

    (whew, beat those two guys… whoa, that’s a creepy pentagram thing… HOLY #*$# how do I … what the… what?!!!!)

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