Games used to be harder. That’s the lament veteran players now mutter whenever encountering some modern shoot-’em-up or action adventure. It sounds like the same sort of nostalgic elitism that music snobs indulge in, criticising current bands for lacking the legendary quality of yesterday’s heroes. But with games, it’s kind of true.
As the industry has grown, the big titles have moved towards toning down the difficulty, in order to give a smooth experience to as wide a range of players as possible. Nowadays, if you want a real challenge, you have to select “hard” mode, which usually just means more enemies and less ammo. But difficulty is at its best when it’s an intrinsic part of the design: players have to think about the game in another way – and earn their progress.
Back before developers realized it’s probably not a good idea to drive your customers insane, games used to be a constant barrage of cheap deaths, impossibly long password codes and many smashed controllers. If you are man enough to step up to the plate, these 10 titles represent the ultimate challenge in gaming. Every game on this list of the hardest video games of all time will push you to the limit, but if you are ready to prove your skill, go ahead and try to run the gamut from 10 to 1. Just keep any and all sharp objects very far away.
Here are the hardest video games in the world.
Dark Souls is the cheap, easy, obvious answer here, but I can’t deny that it’s the most challenged I’ve ever felt by a game. From Software actively fights against its players, forcing them to swim upstream, suffer, and learn from their failure, by refusing to educate them on the rules, the systems, the ebb and flow. Dark Souls punishes players, but not for the sake of notoriety. It’s a cause/effect reward system. It’s difficult because you’re so used to playing action games or RPGs a certain way. Here, you have to shed the familiar and be open-minded to experimentation, discovery, and death.
A long forgotten fantasy classic, the isometric dungeon crawler, The Immortal, is also one of the most deviously tricky games you’ll play. It’s full of deadly foes, traps, all manner of puzzles, and practically no help for the player whatsoever. Instead of any major clues or tips on how to survive, you’re left to your own devices to explore and deal with the many ways to die lurking in the darkness.
Ninja Gaiden Black
The boss fights. Ask any Ninja Gaiden Black player the first thing they remember about the game, and they’ll tell you it was the boss fights. And not in a good way, like a quirky dungeon boss in Zelda or something, but in a cruel, unrelenting and semi-disturbing way, kind of like every inch of your soul is being sucked out of your body. Then, of course, there’s the never-ending barrage of enemies that attack you all at once at every moment your console is switched on.
Ninja Gaiden Black was created as a response to players who thought Ninja Gaiden was too tough. The fact that the game would ask you if you wanted to lower the difficulty once you’d died, like, a zillion times, means that the developers caught onto the fact they’d created a monster.
Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening
Capcom’s Devil May Cry series has offered plenty of challenge from the off, but none have come close to the third game’s borderline psychotic difficulty, at least when it was first released.
The initial release of the game in the western market actually had a bit of a cruel twist in its difficulty settings. Here the Japanese hard mode was actually set to the game’s normal mode, making the game a hellish challenge even if players chose the usually approachable normal level. This meant that Devil May Cry 3 quickly earned a fearsome reputation as one of the most difficult games around, and if you played it before the game was re-released with easier difficulty, you’ll know exactly why. Enemies were tough as nails, requiring supreme skills to defeat without injury, and some of the bosses, even the first Cerberus boss, were tantamount to impossible for many.
Ghosts ‘N Goblins
Okay, we’re all for surprises, and we don’t mind being told that the princess is in another castle, but really Capcom? Really?
If you’ve played and completed the torturous Ghosts ‘N Goblins, you’ll know exactly what we mean. What we have here is a game that’s one of the most difficult games ever made, packed with levels designed seemingly by a sadistic developer with a penchant for making people scream in anger. It taunts you with weapons pickups you don’t want and certainly don’t need (the knife is your only friend here, save for the shield in level 6, which is required for the boss). It also gives you a character with little to no protection against the forces of evil, and even when you’ve beaten it, it kicks you squarely in the soft bits.
You see, when you complete Ghosts ‘N Goblins, you’re told everything was a trap created by the devil, the princess isn’t here, and you have to replay the whole game all over again to get the real ending. The whole game! The whole, damn thing! And it’s even harder!
Seriously, though, Battletoads is the gaming equivalent of cutting yourself shaving, rolling your cheeks in salt, and then dipping your face into a bowl of vinegar. This is a game that’s so hard, adding a second player only makes it harder.
Each and every level in this multi-genre title is a challenge of epic proportions, demanding the kind of patience lost to most of us, and only attainable by going through decades of Zen training. Even then, we suspect there’s be a couple of broken controllers hidden under the yoga mat.
Whether you’re beating up pigs, dangling on a rope in a giant pit, using moving snakes as makeshift platforms, or trying to cope with one of the most vicious snow levels ever, you’re always close to death’s door, and if you’ve completed this, you can be very proud of yourself. Just keep it to yourself, though, won’t you? We hate you.