Games used to be harder. That’s the general consensus shared by most of the gaming population. These days, if you want a real challenge, you have to select “hard” mode. While they’re not all classics, that is indeed true for the titles on this list. So if you’d like a true challenge to test your might against, here are 10 of the toughest games out there to hammer away at.
Dark Souls is an easy answer, having earned its notoriety for being one of the most punishing games in modern day. Dark Souls punishes as fiercely as it rewards, with challenges facing players around every corner and enemies whom are wholly eager to kill you. Dark Souls is also difficult because it changes the way you play action games. Movement is often sluggish and deliberate in Dark Souls, as opposed to faster-paced action games like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta.
Ninja Gaiden is a 3D reinvention of the already difficult 1988 2D platformer. Ninja Gaiden boasts blisteringly fast-paced action against relentless enemies. Defeating them meant implementing lots of precise attacks as well as blocking and parrying. Ninja Gaiden is also infamous for its extremely difficult boss fights that would make the bosses of Dark Souls look tame.
Creator of the game Tomonobu Itagaki has even said that the game was initially easier, but when testers complained about the game’s difficulty, he simply made it even more difficult. You may just have to be a true ninja to complete the game.
Arcade games are purposely designed to be incredibly difficult so that the machine may receive a steady stream of coins. Contra is one of those games that saw its origins from the arcade. As you inhabit the role of a simple Rambo-esque soldier, you face off against waves of enemies and formidable bosses, as well as deadly pitfalls and a ticking timer.
But here’s the kicker: You only have three lives and a single hit from enemies kills you. Even with the Konami code in effect on home consoles (which granted thirty lives instead of three), completing the game is one heck of a challenge.
Mega Man 9
Released a decade after Mega Man 8, Mega Man 9 returns to its roots and may just be the toughest entry in this classic series.
The gameplay fits in between Megaman 2 and 3 – there’s no sliding mechanic or charge shots, but Megaman’s robot-dog companion Rush is back to help out in some of the game’s trickier situations. However, devious enemies and sneaky traps – such as bottomless pits and lethal spikes – ensure that manoeuvring around a level will be nothing short of a challenge.
In Flywrench, you pilot a little rectangular spaceship whose aim in each level is to avoid obstacles and pass through different-coloured gates to reach the goal at the end. Not unlike Flappy Bird, your little craft is constantly falling downwards and players must keep it afloat by tapping the up arrow to flap its wings, while using the left and right arrow keys to glide.
To add more complexity to the mix, you have to match the colours of the gates to pass through them. The up arrow key will make the ship red, the down arrow key will make it green, and the ship will be white when neither are pressed. This restricts the ways in which players can manoeuvre through a gate. Players are forced to restart the level if they crash into a wall or fail to change to the right colour.
Flywrench is so tough that it prompted Braid’s creator Jonathan Blow to make a less punishing version called Nicewrench.
1001 Spikes belongs to a genre of games called ‘masocore’ (a portmanteau of "masochism" and "hardcore"), in which trial and error gameplay, complex game mechanics and intense difficulty take center stage. Masocore games are designed intentionally to frustrate players.
As such, dying is a part of the journey in 1001 Spikes. Although you are given 1001 lives to complete the 100+ levels, you will die again and again as you fall victim to a multitude of surprise traps. If you want any hope of surviving, you will need to react on the fly and your reflexes will need to be lightning-quick.
Dota 2 may seem like a strange pick for a “hardest games” list, but there are so many moving pieces in Dota 2 that you are constantly learning while playing the game.
Dota 2 has an incredibly high skill ceiling, which is primarily what deters new players from delving into the game. Given the wide array of items, heroes and abilities, it’s a lot of things to take note of to understand all the complex mechanics and strategies available to you.
On top of micromanaging your own character and coordinating with your teammates, your opponents are doing the same as well, and learning to react to your opponents’ tactics is also a key component of the game.
Being on your toes for every possible strategy makes every game of Dota 2 a fresh challenge.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Not only is the combat in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link difficult, due to your limited and short-range attack, but it may very well be impossible to complete the game without a walkthrough due to the game’s obtuse puzzles (not helped by terrible translations).
You are also required to face some of the toughest enemies in the game very early on when you have yet to level up appropriately. The game’s final boss, Dark Link, was also infamous for being one of the hardest boss fights ever – thought to be unbeatable – before players conceived cunning tactics to deal with him much, much later.
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
There seems to be a pattern with Nintendo’s sequels; this game was originally released as Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan, but was deemed too hard for Western gamers and thus was never released to them. It’s other name in Japan, Super Mario Bros. 2: For Super Players, gives you an idea what to expect from the game.
This game assumes that you have already mastered the original Super Mario Bros., and ratchets up the difficulty a significant amount from the first game. This game also introduces some new gameplay mechanics, such as the sneaky Poison Mushroom which harms the player when touched. You will certainly need some serious skills to see through this game.
Ghosts 'n Goblins
Ghosts 'n Goblins seems like a video game designed by the devil himself. Throughout the game, enemies swipe at you from impossible angles, and it takes only two hits to send you back to the start. Furthermore, each life can only last a certain length of time (generally around three minutes), the clock being reset at the start of a level. If the clock does run out, the player instantly loses that life.
To make things worse, you need a very specific weapon to defeat the final boss, and you will be prompted to restart levels if you have not obtained that weapon.
The game then takes “your princess is in another castle” to whole new level when you discover that you must finish the entire game again on a harder difficulty to get the real ending, as your first playthrough was "a trap devised by Satan".