Water levels in video games are notorious for their polarizing nature. While they often aim to provide a break from the usual gameplay, introducing new mechanics and challenges, they can also lead to frustration due to poor design, awkward controls, or simply by breaking the flow of the game. This list dives into 20 of the most infamous water levels across a variety of titles, highlighting those moments in gaming that have left players drenched in disappointment.

YES this is in fact my second article in 2 days that is annoyed at water levels but I cannot stress enough how much Number 2 on this list has pissed me off this week.

20. Sirena Beach – “Super Mario Sunshine”

“Sirena Beach” in “Super Mario Sunshine” is known for its beautiful, haunted hotel setting, but the level also features a notorious underwater section in the hotel’s pool. The murky water, combined with Mario’s somewhat unwieldy swimming controls, makes for a challenging and often frustrating experience. The need to navigate through tight underwater passages to solve puzzles and battle ghosts can quickly turn the serene setting into a source of agitation, especially for players who are not fond of the game’s underwater mechanics.

19. Seashell Shore – “Spyro: Year of the Dragon”

Seashell Shore in “Spyro: Year of the Dragon” combines underwater sections with on-land gameplay, but the aquatic parts often detract from the experience. The underwater controls are less intuitive, making navigation and combat awkward and less satisfying than the game’s standard mechanics. The level’s underwater enemies and obstacles can also feel more cumbersome to deal with, making these sections less enjoyable and more of a hurdle to overcome in Spyro’s otherwise enchanting adventure.

18. Chemical Plant Zone – “Sonic the Hedgehog 2”

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is known for its fast-paced action, but the Chemical Plant Zone introduces a dreaded water section that can halt Sonic’s momentum. The rising purple water adds a layer of panic, as players must race against time to avoid drowning. The level’s narrow platforms and fast-moving obstacles require precise jumps, which, when combined with the threat of underwater suffocation, create a high-stress environment that contrasts sharply with Sonic’s usual speed-running thrills.

17. Deep Dive – “Spyro: Year of the Dragon”

In “Spyro: Year of the Dragon,” the Deep Dive level takes Spyro’s fiery action underwater, significantly changing the gameplay dynamics. The level’s underwater controls are less responsive than on land, making precision movements difficult. Coupled with the need to manage air supply and navigate through tight spaces filled with hazards, Deep Dive can quickly turn from an aquatic adventure into a frustrating ordeal, especially for players accustomed to Spyro’s otherwise agile and fluid gameplay.

16. Lakebed Temple – “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess”

The Lakebed Temple in “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” revisits the water level theme with a complex structure centered around manipulating water flow to progress. While the temple offers some clever puzzles, the frequent need to switch the water’s direction and backtrack through similar-looking corridors can become tedious. The level’s underwater sections, requiring the Zora armor for extended periods, slow down the game’s pace and can frustrate players with their sluggish movement and navigation challenges.

15. Atlantis – “Tomb Raider”

The Atlantis level in the original “Tomb Raider” game is notorious for its labyrinthine design and punishing traps. The level’s underwater sections, filled with strong currents and dangerous creatures, add to the already high difficulty, requiring precise navigation and timing. The stark, alien-like environment of Atlantis, while visually striking, can be disorienting, making it easy for players to lose their way or fall victim to the level’s many hazards.

14. Underwater Base – “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty”

The Underwater Base segment in “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty” introduces swimming mechanics that feel clunky and imprecise, a stark departure from the game’s otherwise tight controls. Navigating the submerged sections of the base requires careful management of the character’s oxygen supply, adding tension but also frustration, especially during sections that require stealthy maneuvering around enemies and obstacles. The level’s reliance on these mechanics can disrupt the flow of the game, making it a memorable but not particularly enjoyable challenge.

13. Jolly Roger’s Lagoon – “Banjo-Tooie”

“Banjo-Tooie” offers a variety of engaging levels, but Jolly Roger’s Lagoon is often criticized for its extensive underwater sections that necessitate slow and cumbersome swimming controls. The level’s vast underwater areas can be confusing to navigate, and the need to manage the characters’ limited air supply adds an unwelcome layer of anxiety to the exploration. While the level’s aquatic setting and pirate theme are charming, the gameplay mechanics can make this water level feel more like a chore than a treasure hunt.

12. Water Hazard – “Half-Life 2”

The Water Hazard chapter in “Half-Life 2” features an extended sequence on a hovercraft that, while initially exciting, quickly becomes monotonous. The chapter’s linear path, repetitive enemy encounters, and environmental obstacles can turn this segment into a tedious slog, interrupting the otherwise engaging pacing of the game. The reliance on the hovercraft for the majority of this chapter limits the player’s interaction with the game’s rich environment and varied gameplay mechanics.

11. Rapture – “Bioshock”

“Bioshock”‘s underwater city of Rapture is a marvel of game design, but its water-filled levels can sometimes hinder the player’s progress with limited visibility and mobility. The oppressive atmosphere, while thematically fitting, can lead to a claustrophobic gameplay experience, especially in sections where water leaks and floods impede navigation and combat. The game’s use of water as a narrative and environmental element is innovative, but it occasionally detracts from the gameplay fluidity.

10. Ecco the Dolphin – Entire Game

While not a single level, “Ecco the Dolphin” is notable for being set entirely underwater, presenting a series of navigation and puzzle-solving challenges that can be both disorienting and difficult. The game’s open-ended exploration and cryptic objectives often leave players feeling lost in its vast, aquatic environments. The constant threat of drowning and the need to navigate through complex mazes and puzzles make “Ecco the Dolphin” a standout title for its ambitious design and equally significant challenge.

9. Wet-Dry World – “Super Mario 64”

Wet-Dry World stands out in “Super Mario 64” for its unique water level manipulation mechanic. However, this feature also becomes a source of frustration as players are required to constantly adjust the water level to access different areas, often leading to repetitive backtracking and confusion. The level’s abstract and somewhat desolate atmosphere further contributes to a less engaging experience compared to the game’s other, more vibrant worlds.

8. Pirate Seas – “Crash Bandicoot: Warped”

Pirate Seas in “Crash Bandicoot: Warped” introduces jet-ski mechanics that, while novel, come with clunky controls and frustrating collision detection. The level’s high-speed sections, filled with obstacles and enemies, can lead to numerous unexpected deaths, making the experience more aggravating than exhilarating.

7. The Flooded District – “Dishonored”

“Dishonored” excels in giving players freedom in how they approach each level, but The Flooded District constricts this freedom with narrow waterways and a plethora of hazards. The level’s murky waters are teeming with hostile creatures and environmental dangers, forcing players to adopt a more cautious and often less enjoyable approach to navigation and combat.

6. Hydrocity Zone – “Sonic the Hedgehog 3”

Hydrocity Zone in “Sonic the Hedgehog 3” slows down the franchise’s trademark speed with underwater sections that demand precise control and patience. The level’s fast-paced surface sections are a stark contrast to the underwater areas, where Sonic must navigate through tight spaces, avoid traps, and seek out air bubbles to avoid drowning. This jarring shift in gameplay pace can be frustrating for players used to Sonic’s otherwise speedy adventures.

5. Waterworld – “Super Mario Sunshine”

“Super Mario Sunshine” is beloved for its inventive use of water-based gameplay, but the Waterworld level is often cited as one of its least enjoyable challenges. The combination of precise platforming on unstable platforms and Mario’s unwieldy handling on lily pads makes for a frustrating experience that can quickly dampen the player’s enthusiasm.

4. Dam Level – “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (NES)

The Dam Level in the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” game for the NES is infamous for its unforgiving difficulty. Players must navigate through an underwater maze, disarm bombs, and avoid deadly obstacles, all within a tight time limit. The level’s notorious challenge is compounded by the game’s unfriendly hit detection and the high stakes of losing a turtle to the hazards.

3. Atlantica – “Kingdom Hearts”

Atlantica in “Kingdom Hearts” turned the underwater world of Ariel into a series of rhythm-based mini-games, deviating drastically from the game’s core action-oriented gameplay. The clunky swimming controls and the jarring shift to musical challenges made this level feel out of place and underwhelming, leaving many players wishing they could just skip the entire section.

2. Aamon’s Temple – “Dragon Quest: The Dark Prince”

Aamon’s Temple from “Dragon Quest: The Dark Prince” is renowned for its punishing difficulty. Its underwater sections, filled with limited visibility, scarce oxygen, and narrow passages, turn navigation into a nerve-wracking experience. The lack of checkpoints further amplifies the challenge, making each venture into the temple’s depths a high-stakes endeavor that can easily lead to frustration.

1. Water Temple – “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time”

The Water Temple is legendary in gaming circles for its perplexing layout and the constant need to navigate its depths by changing water levels. The level’s reliance on the Iron Boots, which require pausing the game to equip or remove, adds a layer of tedium to the already challenging puzzles. This infamous level is a prime example of a water level that can leave players swimming in circles.

Water levels have long been a staple of video game design, offering a change in gameplay mechanics and environment. However, as this list illustrates, they can also be a source of frustration due to issues like poor control schemes, confusing layouts, and a mismatch between the level design and the game’s core mechanics. While some players may find enjoyment in the challenge and variety these levels provide, many others view them as obstacles to be endured rather than enjoyed. The key to a successful water level lies in balancing the unique aspects of underwater gameplay with the overall flow and feel of the game, ensuring that these levels enhance rather than detract from the player’s experience.