In the game, these ditches manifested as a series of trials - each ditch appeared as an arena and Dante must clear all enemies while using a specific combat style or completing specific challenges. Not sticking to the game style required or failing to complete the challenge given resulted in failure of the trial. Consequently, the arena will then collapse into the pit below, taking Dante with it.
Bonus challenges are given at the start of the trials and if these bonuses are completed, a large amount of souls was awarded.
Panderers and Seducers Edit
The first ditch of the Malebolge contained the panderers and seducers. Those punished here influenced others to commit sin for their own gain. Their punishment was to march around the edge of the circle, being whipped by horned demons to keep them moving, similar to how they drove others in life with their seductive ways. Among the shades here is the Greek hero Jason, who seduced both Hypsipyle, the queen of the island of Lesbos, and Medea, the princess of Colchis; both Medea and Hypsipyle saved Jason's life out of love for him. After he had children by both women, he abandoned them, despite making a sacred vow each time to remain loyal to the woman he was with at the time.
Dante was given infinite mana in this ditch and was told to kill all enemies using magic, though scythe and cross attacks are allowed. The bonus was to complete the trial in under 75 seconds.
The second ditch contained the flatterers. Those punished here are those who, like the panderers and seducers, convinced others to sin for their own gain, this time by using words. They are immersed forever in a river of human excrement, which represented the words that they produced. Among those found here was Thais the Harlot, who teased and seduced hundreds of men with her beauty.
In this ditch, Dante was required to get a 100-hit combo before he could pass the trial. The bonus was to complete the trial in under 30 seconds.
The third level of the Malebolge contained the Simonists (sinners guilty of selling positions within the church hierarchy and religious property for personal gain). This group of sinners was named after Simon Magus, a sorcerer who attempted to first "buy" the Holy Spirit from St. Peter, then tried to challenge the saint with his magic, which ultimately led to Simon Magus's death. They are punished by being forced upside down into baptismal fonts and having their feet set aflame, which was a corruption of baptism itself as the Simonists themselves corrupted the church. The heat of the flames burned according to the guilt of the sinner. When another soul was sent to this level of the Malebolge, it took the place of one of the others. The one that it replaced disappeared forever, shoved further down into the font to suffocate. Found here are several corrupt popes and cardinals, including Pope Nicholas III, who mistook Dante for Pope Boniface VIII in the poem (hinting that Boniface is destined for Hell upon his own death).
In this ditch, Dante must kill 5 enemies while they are airborne to pass. The bonus was to complete the trial in under one minute.
The fourth ditch was devoted to the diviners and fortune-tellers. Astrologists, seers, sorcerers and others who attempted to pervert God’s laws to divine the future are punished here. Their heads are twisted around to face backwards and they are forced to walk backwards around the circumference of their circle for all time. As punishment for attempting to see the future, they now could only look behind them. The point is further expounded by the fact that tears continually stream from their eyes, blurring their vision. While this mainly was poetic justice for trying to see into the future, it also represented the twisted nature of magic in general. The blind prophet Tiresias resided in this ditch for his sins along with his daughter, Manto. This circle was mistakenly called Politicians on the PlayStation Portable port.
In this ditch, Dante must stay in the air for 8 seconds to pass. The bonus was to kill 2 enemies while completing the challenge in the air.
The fifth level of the Malebolge was the home of the Politicians (extortionists, blackmailers, grafters and unscrupulous businessmen). These were sinners who used their positions in life to gain personal wealth or other advantages for themselves, robbing the rights of others. They are punished by being thrown into a river of boiling pitch and tar, which represented the sticky fingers and dark secrets of their business. In addition, should any of the politicians try to escape the pitch, a horde of demons (the "Malebranche", meaning "evil claws") armed with grappling hooks and barbs stood guard over them, ready to tear them to pieces and push them back into the tar.
In this ditch, Dante must protect 2 innocents on opposite sides of the stage from hordes of Anger Minions that tried to attack them. One innocent could die and Dante could still pass as long as the other lived, but the bonus was to keep both innocents safe until the end of the trial. These innocents will die with one hit, making this a difficult challenge.
The sixth level was the punishment for the hypocrites. They are forced to wear heavy lead robes as they are marched around the circumference of their circle. The robes are golden and resembled a monk’s cowl, but are lined with heavy lead, symbolically representing hypocrisy: As they degraded others for sin but glorified themselves, they committed the sins that crippled them in the afterlife with their heaviness. Caiaphas, the Pharisee who insisted on the execution of Jesus, was crucified in this circle, staked to the ground so the ranks of the lead-weighted hypocrites marched across him.
In this ditch, Dante must kill all enemies without using magic to pass the trial. The bonus was to complete the trial in under one minute. Dante then had to use an Asterian Beast to rumble the statue from up high down to cross through the breaking rocks.
The seventh ditch was the home of the thieves. The ditch was filled with serpents, dragons and other vengeful reptiles that tortured the thieves endlessly. The bites of some of the snakes caused the thieves to spontaneously combust, only to regenerate their bodies for further torment in a few moments. Other thieves had their very essence traded with snakes and lizards that bit them, transforming their bodies into twisted snake-like versions of themselves, trading their identity with every bite. As thieves stole other people's possessions in life, their very identity became subjected to theft in the Malebolge.
In this ditch, Dante's health will slowly drain and all enemies must be killed before he died. The bonus was to complete the trial in under one minute.
Evil Advisors Edit
The eighth level was the home of the evil counselors. In this trench, the souls of deceivers who gave false or corrupted advice to others for personal benefit are punished. They are constantly ablaze, appearing as nothing so much as living, speaking tongues of flame. Seen in this ditch was the Greek hero, Odysseus (Ulysses), suffering here for his deception with the Trojan Horse and the massacre of the Trojans by this trickery.
In this ditch, Dante must kill all enemies while being unable to block. The bonus was to complete the trial in under one minute.
Sowers of Discord Edit
The ninth level was the home of "sowers of discord". Sinners who in life promoted scandals, schism and discord are punished here, particularly those who caused discord within the church or within politics. They are forced to walk around the circumference of the circle bearing horrible, disfiguring wounds inflicted on them by a great demon with a sword. The nature of the wound mirrored the sins of the particular soul. While some only had gashes or fingers and toes cut off, others are decapitated, cut in half (as Schismatics) or are completely disemboweled. Among those who are tormented here was Bertrand de Born, who carried around his severed head like a lantern as punishment for the discord that he caused between Henry II of England and his son, Henry the Young King, who died rebelling against his father.
In this ditch, Dante must kill all enemies in a single combo - if the hit counter resets, the trial was failed. The bonus was to complete the trial in under one minute.
The tenth and final area of the circle was the home for the falsifiers who attempted to alter things through lies, deceit or alchemy. Those who tried to pass off false things as real things, such as counterfeiters of coins, are punished here. This ditch had four subdivisions where specific classes of falsifiers (alchemists, impostors, counterfeiters and liars) endured different degrees of punishment in the form of horrible, consumptive diseases, such as rashes, dropsy, leprosy and consumption. Here, Dante encountered the shade of Myrrha, afflicted with madness for disguising herself in order to seduce her own father.
In this ditch, Dante must simply survive the many overwhelming hordes of enemies that manifested. The bonus was to complete the trial in under 5 minutes.
- It is interesting to note that in the game you never get to see any of the souls condemned to the Malebolge suffering their respective punishment. All that you get is a statue showing what the sinner's condemnation is on the side of the arena above each ditch. Screams can be heard coming up from the inky darkness below each arena, however. There are also damned souls trapped in the walls and impaled on spikes in the corridors between Malebolge.
- The corridor before the Hypocrite Bolgia has at least two of the damned being crucified to the wall. This could be a reference to the fate of Caiaphas and his placement in the bolgia, but another crucified sinner is found in the corridor before the Evil Counselors bolgia, so it could be a coincidence.
- The statue for the Flatterers bolgia implies that the term "human filth" and excrement also covers other unsavory bodily expulsions, such as vomit.
- The statues for the Politicians Bolgia shows these sinners being hung like meat from the hooked ends of a Malebrache's wings, rather than being thrown into boiling tar.