But it's wrong, and I'd even say some Mario games have levels beyond the Lost Levels in terms of difficulty. Yes really. And if you think said game is harder than Kaizo Mario World or I Wanna Be the Guy, you are in for one heck of a rude awakening when you try either game (and don't even think about Pit of Death unless you're willing to give up the next ten years of your life attempting it without tool assistance and save states). So here are the five Mario games which I consider as possibly comparing to the Lost Levels in part difficulty wise.
Yoshi's Island DS
Possibly the one Mario game people can legitimately call Platform ***, this game's difficulty level was like a sheer cliff, and only went up far more when the secret and extra levels rolled around.
True, this did have one big difference from the Lost Levels... the game was probably more poorly designed and it's likely (give Artoon's lack of quality testing) that much of the difficulty may have well have been unintentional and due to them not giving a ***, but as a result, the secret and extra levels ranged from merely Nintendo Hard to a difficulty level resembling a badly done Youtube ROM hack of the original.
[There should be a picture here, but no one's taken one]
For the people that haven't played the game (or really, really despise it and think it's a horrible game, aka Artemendo), here's a quick summary of the secret levels. For the bored people out there, note that these levels are probably longer than most other levels in the game, and that just one death is likely going to send you back about three rooms.
Welcome to Yoshi Tower is the first level here. It's not the most difficult one, but it's pretty easy to destroy your only path upwards and leave our poor hero trapped as the rising lava burns him alive in an instant kill causing piece of trauma. It's also one where the last red coin comes down via Fly Guy just near the goal ring, catching out hasty players and causing much anger when the player realises they have to play the whole level over again.
Yikes! Boiling Hot! is the next level. Of note should be that Artoon is having way more fun with the level names than the level design, and that this is probably the only level in video game history where every single room could theoretically end with you forcd to make Yoshi commit suicide. Whether it's being too slow in the first room, killing the enemies in the second, being stuck between an approaching ball and chain and lava in the third or having the Crusher Blargg destroy all the platforms in the final one, it's pretty much a good guide in how best to aggravate people playing your video game.
There's also a great example of the kind of 'traps' Artoon thinks are fun, quality level design in one of the rooms. You see, you have to knock down floating rocks with eggs to make platforms over a lava pit at one point, and for about two or three of these rocks, it's just normal. Knock it down with an egg, cross over immediately and you're perfectly safe. Not the next one though, because in a move clearly designed to catch out hasty Yoshi's Island DS players, the next rock is basically a trap. You knock down the rock, cross over immediately... then hear a rumbling sound as a huge waterfall of lava crashes down and kills Yoshi in one hit. Then you start losing it as you realise the last checkpoint was about two rooms back and that you've got to go through about half an hour of platforming all over again.
The Japanese name is hilariously blunt though: On top of the Boiling Lava
But A Light in the Dark is where it really starts to get obvious that this would be a much better game with save states and rewinds. As the name suggests, the whole level is nearly entirely in the dark, lit with a few candles and torches. What the name doesn't suggest is that about a third takes place in what can only be described as an enormous warehouse filled with instant death spikes, multiple paths, tons of collectible objects you could easily miss, a jump with about half a pixel of error and arrow *** that have to be rode around. Escaping this *** has to finish the level, right? Right? Oh, bad sign.
As you may have also guessed, it's not the end of the level. No, you end up outside, in the dark, in an ice level. If you think this can't get any worse, it then dawns on you it's a skiing section. You know, the Yoshi skiing sections with very awkward controls, no way to stop and very difficult to judge jumps. Except here, the jumps are blind and half the section comes down to trial and error, and about fifty lives lost after realising the margin of error allowed is literally non existant.
Unfortunately, it still doesn't end. Nope, now some platforming, some annoying crabs to dodge, some more spikes and bottomless pits and some narrow passageways. When you do finish, I hope for the sake of your sanity you got all the items, otherwise you'll have to start the whole level over.
Hurry up and Throw is next, and it's not actually too bad. Auto scrolling, the level technically loops if you don't get in the door in time, and a bit of jumping around cement blocks in the sky. I guess they threw it together the day before the game's release.
Finally, you've got what many consider Platform ***, Yoshi's Island Easter Eggs. It's not really a problem checkpoint wise, but it's practically a collection of gimmicks too cruel to use in normal levels. The first is getting through a maze of narrow passageways with spikes on all sides while riding a Lakitu cloud (and getting a key to a door), and some of the others involve:
1. Really fast darkness area. You activate the light switch for less than ten seconds every time you hit a switch, so much of it is navigating a gigantic room in basically pitch blackness.
2. Appearing and vanishing platforms, via a Woozy Guy jumping on and off the switch. It's very easy to *** up here, by falling through the floor and the platform appearing. slamming Yoshi into the deadly spikes. As you may have guessed, you need to get a key, and the door is located on a platform right above the start, so not entering in time sends you back to the beginning of the room.
3. Egg platforms on a line guide. Throwing eggs at the platform speeds it up, so to go fast, you have to rapid fire shoot eggs, and to slow down, you have to shoot them slowly. As you may have realised, this isn't exactly a well thought out gimmick, as you can very easily run out of eggs, hence dooming poor Yoshi to death, run out of steam and get stuck in the middle of a pit of spikes with about two feet of ground to stand on, or go too fast and slam into something, sending Yoshi back to his death via spikes. Again.
4. Finally, you've got a cruel room involving really, really fast arrow *** (about triple speed at minimum), keys, a locked door and lots of dangerous spikes lining every possible part of the wall. All part of a perfect recipe for dead dinosaurs.
All in all though, Yoshi's Island DS is definitely a harder game than the Lost Levels in some aspects, and is certainly nearer what can be considered Kaizo.
Wario Land 4's Super Hard Mode
Yes, Wario Land 4. While the normal mode of the game is better described as 'easy mode', and the hard mode as normal difficulty, the Super Hard mode is freaking insane in some levels.
The first thing you'll notice if you played it, is that the developer's method of increasing difficulty is simply the good old 'throw more enemies in the levels and statistically up the aggravation' method Sakurai and co were so fond of in Super Smash Bros Brawl. Literally, they tripled the number of enemies in the game, so wherever you'd usually fight one, you see a trio of them walking towards you. Unfortunately, that's not a particularly... fair way of making the game harder, especially considering by default you've got just one heart in the healthbar and not a great deal of room to dodge enemy attacks.
This gets rather apparent in certain levels, but some notable aggravating ones are:
40 Below Fridge, where you have to climb those *** climbing nets. Having to dodge those Yetis sending Wario off the nets in Frozen form as well as icicles falling on his head makes the level far harder than it needs to be, because the knock back is ridiculous. I've had to do the final climbing area a few times myself on this difficulty level, because if you fall, you get send basically two rooms back, all with the timer ticking down.
Other problematic levels just don't give enough time on the clock when escaping. Like Pinball Zone, which is entirely possible to beat... with maybe seconds left on the clock. *** those two puzzle rooms after the frog switch! It's very easy to run out of time in them, especially if you miss throwing the pinballs into those weird machines or get hit by a spark. It's also very easy to panic, which for someone like myself (who panics at every possible opportunity) is... annoying.
Some other examples include some quite... unfair enemy placement (come on, at least two levels have enemies that'll kill if you don't move fairly quickly at the start of the level, like Crescent Moon Village), and any areas where progress is marked by slow, somewhat clunky and random number generator based game mechanics (like the Big Board or Doodle Woods) are absolutely awful to play through on Super Hard.
The Big Board in a nut shell is pretty much one of the worst level design ideas I've ever come across, simply because it requires a fairly accurate player with good eye sight to hit the blocks at the right time to get a favourable result. If you're not someone who has lightning fast reflexes, the dice blocks practically come to luck. God help you if you don't have 20/20 vision. And even more so when the timer's ticking down, you have to land on the Keyser space, and the world's most adrenaline pumping alarm clock theme is going off in the background (talking of which, they really should put the 'Get Out' theme as the sound for an alarm clock. You'd never sleep in again. Or maybe either the Rambi Rumble or Haunted Hall music from Donkey Kong Country 2).
There's also coin collecting, which pushes the difficulty beyond even the worst of the coin collecting in Mario 64. You know how so many people talk about how hard it is to get that last coin in Lethal Lava Land to get the world record? You haven't seen nothing yet, Beating a single Wario Land 4 level 100% on Super Hard requires memorising the level, getting all the hearts first, keeping your health at max while killing everything that moves and hoping a certain Pirate Ghost doesn't take your money away before you reach it. It makes those whining about how hard it is to collect all the coins in 3D Mario games look like a bunch of complete wusses.
On the bright side, you have to give Nintendo some real credit here, the amount of work put into the harder difficulties in the game is outright incredible. Really, Hard Mode for example even has certain new enemies you won't find in easy mode with different graphics and attack patterns, Super Hard changes up the mini games to have new strategies and graphics and the ending has new pictures for Super Hard mode which hardly anyone will ever see.
Trial Galaxies and Purple Coins
Also known as the two things in Mario Galaxy most likely to give people grief bar the trash destroying missions. It's debatable how hard they are, or whether they're harder than the Lost Levels (well, I'd say they're harder than the first six or so worlds of said game)
For the Trial Galaxies, it's best said that none are more difficult than the others. They're all roughly at a level of 'difficult', but too many flame wars have come up about which one of them is toughest. Truth be told, my guess is that everyone has at least one motion control scheme they find unbearably difficult, one they find extremely easy and one that they find just average.
It's just different to each individual. Some players can ace the Loopdeeswoop Galaxy and the Manta Ray riding without any effort but find the Rolling Gizmo Galaxy and Star Ball a complete nightmare, while others the opposite, and yet others still will find the whole bubble aspect of the Bubble Blast Galaxy a pain.
But everyone will hate one of the levels at least and there's no denying these are still somewhat of a challenge, even for proper Mario pros.
The purple coin missions are the other hated aspect of the game, and the other hard element. More precisely, most people find two missions will mess them up most, Luigi's Purple Coins, and Dreadnought Purple Coins. Not to say others aren't hard (I've seen people have severe trouble with the Ghostly Galaxy and Battlerock missions as well), but those two mentioned above get the most complaints on message boards.
It's easy to see why. The former has just so much of the ground being unstable that it's a challenge to not cross your own path, and those without much planning (although I've gotten through it nearly every time completely without any thought whatsoever) tend to trap themselves in a corner and have poor Mario plummet to his death.
The Dreadnought Galaxy however, is a very different kind of mission. To put it simply, it's tricky because it's the nearest thing to an interface *** the game has. Normal gravity is tricky, but fine. Upside down gravity and lots of cannonballs and explosives? Very easy to mess up and fly to your death in the sky. Considering the platform is also 3D, and you can miss the coins, this means many will have to restart the level over and over. When the platform has sideways gravity on the other hand, that's just a little ridiculous.
But nothing in Super Mario Galaxy lived up to the toughest part of the sequel.
The Perfect Run in Super Mario Galaxy 2
Also known as the hardest level in Mario history (again, that Nintendo themselves made), the Perfect Run is exactly what it says on the tin. Get through the entirety of the Grandmaster Galaxy (already difficult in itself) with only one health. And start straight back at the beginning of the level when you die.
A short description of the sections, if anyone for some reason hadn't played the level:
1. A room with lots of floating mines, Bullet Bill cannons and Yoshi swinging between floating flowers with his tongue.
2. Some flip switches and laser shooters. Very easy room.
3. A maze of deadly electricity with wind sending you to the right. You have to get through as cloud Mario, making your own platforms as you go.
4. Some platforms which go from red to blue and vice versa when you shake the remote/spin, lots of laser shooters, grey octopus things as enemies and disappearing green floor tiles from Luigi's Purple Coins.
5. A level involving jumping across giant blocks from the Supermassive Galaxy while avoiding moving laser beams/electricity, and then going through a maze of moving lasers and Paragoombas with pull stars.
6. Lots and lots of Hammer Bros. Three Boomerang Bros at the end. Kill the latter, avoid or kill the former.
7. Finally, the gate planet with Rosalina and a star.
The above all has to be done with no checkpoints and one health. And oh dear God is it difficult. People have lost 50 lives here. Others 100s, and others thousands of lives. It varies, the rare few have been either skilled or lucky enough to beat it on their third, or even first try, but in general, many people have trouble with this level.
Forget the 'You are a Super Player' message from the Super Mario World Special World, they really needed to put it at the end of this level. The level in general makes the Lost Levels look like a piece of cake, and it has some of the nicest music around. However, some thought this wasn't hard enough:
The Rosalina text is hilarious too:
Luigi, you are truly extraordinary to have managed to reach this place... And a little insane... However, you have truly earned the star you see here. May MrBean35000vr die painfully.
And some took Yoshi to the end of it with Infinite Flutter Jumping.
New Super Mario Bros Wii Secret Levels
Yes, this is kinda underwhelming after having already mentioned Yoshi's Island DS, Super Mario Galaxy 2's Perfect Run and the insane hack of the latter shown above. But it's still difficult, so I think it honestly merits a place on this list.
When people heard this game would be debuting the Super Guide, they immediately panicked and thought Mario games would never be difficult again. However, as the special world shows, boy were they wrong. World S was absolute ***, and while the difficulty varied level to level, at least two in my opinion stood out as hard enough to cause serious grief.
First of all, was the easier one, 9-3. You know, Homing Bullet Bills and Banzai Bills, in great numbers (and with more intelligence than those in Mario hacks). Never a good combination is it, especially when about four were on screen at once and Mario was small at the time.
The second one I remember is 9-7. As does TV Tropes apparently, it's the page image for ThatOneLevel, Platform Game.
It lives up to the hype. Frozen blocks, Munchers (considering the Mario hacks, this has to be deliberate, them being brought back solely for this level) and fire being shot by both Fire Mario and the Venus Fire Traps. It's easy to melt away all the blocks, making the level completely unwinnable, getting the star coins is nearly suicide, and avoiding being hit by fire and plants is pretty much *** as it is.
So those are my thoughts on Mario games with levels harder than the Japanese Super Mario Bros 2. Heck, while I'm at it, I think I've figured out why said game gets so much hype 'difficulty' wise, not as much because of how hard the gameplay is as much as because the game wasn't released outside of Japan for a long time and because the reason many publications give was due to the high level of difficulty. So I bet a lot of people talk about how hard it is purely based on the rumours and gossip about the game.
It's certainly not as hard as any proper platform *** game or ROM hack.
If you think Mario games are always easy, you've got another think coming.