The 5 Most Unreasonably Difficult Video Game Puzzles Ever
It's one thing for video games to challenge the player -- it's quite another for the puzzles and obstacles to be so obtuse and devoid of logic that you need a Ouija board to finish the damn things. If you beat any of these games without a walkthrough, you're either the chosen one or you kidnapped the developer's family and held them at gunpoint until they sobbed out all of their secrets.
Castlevania II's Magic Tornado (and World Full of Liars)
After killing Dracula in Castlevania, Simon Belmont spends the sequel collecting five of Sir Vlad's body parts in order to resurrect and kill him again. Because if it's worth killing somebody, it's worth overkilling them. After grabbing his heart, rib, eye, and ring, you find that you're still lacking his grimy, yellowing toenail -- the most important ingredient in any resurrection. But the path is blocked by a physics-defying body of water:
He should just sing his way through the lake, since logic clearly isn't a thing.
So you have to walk around a bit and speak to the townsfolk, who, in just about every other game in existence, offer helpful hints that guide the hero to his goal. This time, however, you're greeted by 99 percent pure bullshit:
You'd get better hints from Cleverbot.
Yep, the people of Transylvania, perhaps aware that a whip-wielding, organ-stealing psychopath is roaming the land, continually lie right to your face. There are no potions, no crooked trader, nobody meets you at the river, and Luke blew up the Death Star years ago. Don't just blame Engrish -- series producer Koji Igarashi admitted years later that virtually everybody in the game is a " deliberate liar." Not that the game ever tells you this. Even the few characters with helpful information fuck with you while dispensing it, like the guy who tells you how to access the toenail dungeon:
Whoa, games really don't know how to treat women.
Who is Deborah Cliff, and why are we headbutting her? She's not a person, but a place -- an anonymous (as in, no sign pointing to it whatsoever) dead end on the other side of the game.
You know it's a cliff because there are pyramids in the background.
So you hit your head on the cliff and walk through the big hole to the final dungeon, right? Nope. There's no headbutt button in this game. What you need to do is kneel down on the top platform and stay that way until a tornado scoops you up and whisks you away to the final area.
Ah, we get it now. It's like Deborah from The Wizard of Oz.
That has nothing to do with hitting stuff, or your head -- in fact, nobody at any point ever says anything about a tornado, much less one that you summon by kneeling and waiting quietly, like you're praying to the gods of gaming that whoever designed this puzzle doesn't hate logic as much as he clearly hates video game players.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass' Sacred Crest
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for the Nintendo DS takes advantage of the system's touchscreen by adding a new dimension to its puzzles. Namely, our real-world dimension.
Link is in search of the sun key, which can unlock any door with a sun symbol on it. Since several important plot elements are hidden behind Door Number Sun, you absolutely need this thing. And it's nowhere to be found. Finally, you encounter the sacred crest -- a giant stone wheel with a sun in the middle. In most games, you'd touch the wheel and get rewarded with a key-containing chest. Not this time: all you get is a map of the ocean, a glowing green circle, and this hint:
A hint that sounds vaguely perverted.
Accessing your sea chart is as simple as pressing a button. So you select it, Link presses it to the crest, and you get the key, right? Nope. Pressing that button simply brings up the sea chart for you to stare at in frustration.
"Dammit, Link jacked off on the east side again!"
Hours pass. "Put the thing against the thing!" you scream, futilely searching for the "press" button. You hack at the sacred crest in a blind, frothing rage, but it's no use. You cannot get the crest's chocolate all up in your sea chart's peanut butter.
Here's the solution: open up your sea chart, select the southwest area, which looks like an upside-down version of your ocean floor map. That way, your DS looks like this:
Which means either the chart or map is totally backwards and useless.
Now close your game system. No, don't turn it off -- you're supposed to intuit that you have to physically close the screen, despite the fact that the game has not asked you to do this before and, indeed, no game ever has presented flipping your screen about as some sort of extra control. Open the system back up and you'll see the green dot magically transferred to the sea chart.
It could be worse. That green dot could be the Ubisoft logo.
Some video game puzzles lack any kind of internal logic, so you don't feel bad when you don't get them. Some game puzzles are so simple that you feel like an idiot for struggling with them. The sacred crest has the unique honor of being both: it's wildly unintuitive, yet it somehow also makes you feel like a gigantic asshole for not figuring it out sooner. Somebody get these developers a trophy for their accomplishment. Make sure it's shaped like a tiny, golden middle finger.
The Samaritan Paradox's Crossword Puzzle
Adventure games are known for their logic-bending clusterfuck puzzles. But the crossword puzzle from The Samaritan Paradox goes above and beyond incomprehensibility and into some strange kind of schizophrenic art form. A cryptologist named Ord is investigating the drowning suicide of mystery writer Jonathan Bergwall. His daughter suspects treachery, so she hires Ord, who sets out to examine the boat for clues. Unfortunately, the boat's new owner doesn't want to help -- not until he can finish his crossword, anyway. It's about books and writers, and since he's just a humble shop owner, he knows nothing of such things. But much like the player of this game, he's not going to let a little thing like infuriating impossibility keep him from finishing.
"Since you're distracted, I guess I can check the boat without you noticing ... no? OK."
Luckily, Ord's a bookworm and quickly finishes the crossword, save for one stumper: the name of the detective from Jonathan Bergwall's books.
"But once you've found LOVE, why do you need anything else?"
Hell, that's easy -- just ask his daughter, right? Nope, apparently she's only paying lip service to dear old dad, because she can't tell you. So it's off to Bergwall's library. Surely he kept at least one copy of his work for posterity, right?
Look at all these books you could be reading instead of playing this game!
Of course not. Millions of pages and not a one is his. Then there's his work desk, which contains no work. The book does exist though -- in a random seedy bar that has nothing to do with Bergwall.
"Actually, dad had a thing for picking up last-call strange."
See that guy crouched over the table, head in hands? He's reading Bergwall's book, not that you can even see the thing. You just have to infer that being all hunched over mean's he's reading a detective novel, and not just sobbing into his beer, which is far more likely, given the surroundings. No matter how often you talk to him or try to bribe him into letting you glance at a page, he refuses to budge. So clearly what you have to do here is rummage through the couch in the corner. Once you do, you'll find coins between the cushions. Finally! Coins!
For ... some reason!
You can't use them, but you can give them to the '80s rocker loitering by the jukebox, who will use them in the jukebox.
You couldn't just use your own wallet's coins, because reasons.
Obviously this is the secret. To recap: after you've stumbled into a random bar, guessed that a depressed man is actually reading, pawed through the bar-couch for spare change, and given it to a total stranger who uses it to crank up some Scorpions, only then will the grumpy reader storm away, leaving his book behind and giving you the answer to a crossword puzzle for a clerk halfway across the county, so he can show you a boat.
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box's Garlic Bottles
Professor Layton is like Indiana Jones, in that he'd rather do anything else but teach. In Diabolical Box, he's investigating a homicide. Like any worthwhile murder case, this involves hundreds of random puzzles forced upon the investigator by random townspeople before they let him catch a murderer.
One such puzzle, titled " PU!" involves a giant angry bulldog blocking your path. He's not moving until you find a way to make him happy, so your sidekick, Luke, suggests you feed him.
Inexplicably, the game offers no "Purina Luke" option.
Off to the grocery store, then, where the owner offers you a delicious roast for free, if you solve his puzzle. Sadly, you can't just pay for the meat and move on with your life, because he really wants this puzzle solved. Also, he may not understand how business works. The puzzle is a maze with three paths, two of which lead to garlic and one to flowers. You must use two corks to seal up the garlic paths and save the mustached model from the horrible fate of briefly smelling garlic.
"A grocer can't bear the smell of food, you see."
So you follow one path, find it leads to garlic, and plug it up. Follow another path, same result. You hit "submit" and get the dreaded "INCORRECT" screen. So you trace the third path, and find it also leads to garlic. All three are garlic paths. But you can plug only two paths, and no matter which ones you choose, the end result is the same: an "incorrect" screen, a Nintendo DS shattered against the wall, and some hyper-extended middle fingers.
The solution? Ignore the maze entirely and stick the corks up Mustachio's nose. Really:
If you had a third cork, you know where he could stick that.
Ha ha, how clever, Professor Layton! Just remember: there's a fine line between the smartest guy in the room and a socially stunted neckbeard who's always "technically" correct.
Shadow of the Beast II Trolls You From Start to Finish
Almost immediately, Shadow of the Beast II's "ask a question" feature starts fucking with you. A man vaguely tells you " many traps" lie ahead. Sweet, thanks for the warning! Sure enough, you soon come across two levers: one lowers an elevator and the other withdraws the bridge you're on and dumps your ass into the acid pit below.
"We sent an intern out to test the levers. We still haven't heard back from him."
Pick the wrong one and die? Whatever. You'll just pick the other switch next time, right? That's how all video games work. Aaand you're dead again. The switches' effects are randomized each game. So it's just dumb luck? Not entirely: you were supposed to ask the trap guy earlier more questions about traps. It's not a multiple choice dialogue thing -- you can ask any question of just about anybody. So unless you stand in front of every game character in the world, typing in every word you can think of, you'll get screwed at some point.
And doesn't Trap Guy just look like a purple-thonged fountain of knowledge?
But, OK, that's just the kind of game this is. Maybe you enjoy typing nouns for hours on end. Maybe that's your definition of thrilling. So you're finally past the levers, just killing stuff and collecting the occasional coin that you can't even spend. Suddenly, you meet a giant bridge monster that you, as a monster-killing badass, quickly dispose of. Afterward, you find yourself at a river ... with no way to cross it. No boat, no switch to hit that reveals a secret passageway. You're completely and utterly stuck.
"I can actually see some asshole with a whip below there, but he just keeps yelling about toenails ..."
Here's why. That big bridge monster you destroyed because he was trying to kill you? You were supposed to let him live. There's no mercy mechanic in this game; this is the only enemy you're not meant to kill -- you simply lure him over the bridge until it collapses on him. This is never hinted at in the slightest, and he doesn't resurrect. So if you kill him, you've just killed your progress.
In a way, you're the true bridge monster.
After doing it right, you jump down the bridge hole and a whirlpool sucks you into another dimension. There, you meet a giant talking snail. After typing a few thousand guesses (this is what hu-mans call "fun," correct?), you finally get the information you need to continue. The snail then charges you 36 coins to get back, so you can continue your progress.
He needs that money, for snail hookers.
Remember that money you couldn't spend? It had a reason to exist after all, one you were never, ever told about. Even better: there are six chests with six coins each. Thirty-six coins. You had to collect every single coin in the game to continue. Miss even one and you're stuck chilling with the snail for the rest of eternity.
Don't try running past him. He's fast. Fast as a snail.
But let's say you've lucked your way through all of that and continued on your quest ... you're still screwed. Why? Because you missed the horn -- a small off-camera item back in Snail Land. That horn summons a sea dragon that you ride across the river to the final boss. Since you can't ever return to Snail Land, you just have to hit reset, or better yet, throw it out the window and play with something that doesn't actively hate you with every fiber of its being. Your dog, maybe.
Read more from Codie at her site, Codiekitty.com, or follow her on Twitter. Ian Ury is Pip Ury's twin brother and likes to write for Cracked and stuff. Drop him an email at IanMartinUry@gmail.com, or follow him on Facebook or Twitter if you like. Thanks to Brandon Drake for his help on this article.
For more video game dickery, check out The 10 Most Irritatingly Impossible Old-School Video Games. And then check out 29 Baffling Rules of Life in Video Game Universes.