Sometimes, video games are an escape from reality. Sometimes, they’re a fun get-together with friends to kick back and relax.
Other times, video games are meant to be as challenging as possible.
These games make no mistake about their purpose. Sure, they may still be enjoyable to some, and will certainly be play-able experiences, but the developer set out to do one thing: create a difficult time for you, the player.
Over the years, there have been plenty of challenging titles released to frustrate players around the world. They vary on different consoles, as well as types of games. Rest assured though, they’re all some of the hardest video games around.
Today we’re going to take you through our picks for the most demanding video games you can find.
HOW WE CHOSE THE HARDEST VIDEO GAMES
Picking any video game to play can be tough, as there are so many to choose from.
On the flip side, finding the hardest games isn’t too difficult, as these titles represent a niche category within the community. Often with hard games, you’ll hear about them from many different people. In our case, we picked our titles within a few different criteria.
The first is that we’d have games across multiple consoles and platforms.
This meant that games from the NES, SNES, SEGA, and original PlayStation-eras were all included. In addition, the classic arcade games that you might know, and love, were also allowed. Basically, we weren’t going to just make a list of modern games.
Our list also needed to be difficult based on the gameplay involved, not just be challenging to deliver a challenging experience. For example, one of the games on our list, Dark Souls, is an action-RPG that blends a good story and great action gameplay with unforgiving boss fights.
Something like this is what we were after.
Finally, the games had to be readily playable.
There’d be no point to crafting a list of the hardest video games ever made if no one can play them. So, we decided that our titles needed to be accessible to anyone, should they dare attempt to conquer any title listed.
With all that laid out, let’s dive into our choices for the most formidable video game titles created.
Plenty of games on our list could hold the number-one ranking, but we felt Dark Souls represents a unique choice as the most demanding game around.
There’s plenty of dying involved with Dark Souls, and most players will be taken back by just how brutal it is.
Developer From Software decided to make an engaging RPG experience that was based on the player having to suffer and learn from failure to succeed. This way of gameplay is also a breath of fresh air in the RPG world.
Instead of having to play by the same-old rules every time, the developer forces you to become open-minded about how you approach situations.
At the end of the day, Dark Souls reminds you that you’re not always the high-point on the totem pole and, to get to the top, you must discover the path. This title is king among the hardest video games. In terms of difficulty, it’s a 5-star challenge.
A somewhat-cute platformer that draws you in with its art style and mechanics, only to shatter your core with brutal levels.
Super Meat Boy is different from our top pick due to style of game. While Dark Souls is an RPG, Super Meat Boy is one of the most challenging platformers ever created.
While the platform genre is dominated by Mario, and Mario clones, Super Meat Boyrequires you to learn quickly, adhere to perfectly-timed controller inputs, and becoming precise in every action you take.
All this wrapped together creates a wonderful platforming experience, should you choose to try it out. The gameplay is fast, and respawn almost instant, allowing you to continue to try as much as you want.
Super Meat Boy proves that you can make a brutally-hard game, but still allow the player some leeway to learn and adapt.
The game presents a 5-star difficulty rating.
Battletoads. One of the first truly difficult gaming experiences around. This is a title that cannot be played alone if you want to have the slightest chances of succeeding. Yet, in cooperative mode, the stakes are still high, as players can attack each other, and if one person dies both of you must restart the entire level.
RARE made this game brutally difficult to clear, and there aren’t many instances of people beating it without help from a Game Genie device. Even then, some still struggle.
There are no cheat codes, no saves, and only three continues to power you through 13-levels.
Everything is based on trial-and-error, yet sometimes you can’t even retry a level simply because you can’t make it there again. As you might expect, Battletoadsis
awarded 5-stars on the difficulty scale.
A game that forces the player to play through the game twice to beat it? This is what Ghosts ‘n Goblins represents.
Released on the NES in 1985, the story revolves around you playing as knight Arthur on a quest to save the princess Prin-Prin from Astaroth, the demon king. To accomplish this task, you must guide Arthur through different levels, defeating hordes of undead minions along the way.
Watch out, though, as you only have two-hits before you die. Every time you die you must restart the level, provided you have a life to use. Oh, and after you manage to, if you do, “beat” the game a first time, Ghosts ‘n Goblins forces you to complete the challenge again, on an even harder difficulty setting.
The game is among the hardest video games ever conceived and scores a 4-star difficulty rating.
The only video game on our list that never saw a true release, I Wanna Be the Guy: The Movie: The Game borrows from NES games to create a punishing playthrough.
Most of the game was created to parody the eight-bit genre, with a difficulty that couldn’t be matched. You had to learn from every room or
mistake, making sure to pay attention as soon as you move on to the next level or area.
The best part is that, while seemingly impossible, there is always a way to beat said boss or area. Oh, and you also fight a 500-foot tall Mike Tyson. If that’s not enough to break your spirit, we’re not sure what will. I Wanna Be the Guy scores 4.5-stars on our difficulty list.
It makes sense that the game that started the cheat code trend would be on this list, and Contra did exactly that.
Released for the NES, Contra is one of the more demanding titles on this list, simply due to the simplicity that made it challenging. At its core, the game is a 2D-cooperative platforming shooter that presents you with three lives to make it through the eight levels that await.
Of course, anything that hits you is a one-hit kill, meaning you must accomplish perfecting a level at least five-times to make it. Even then, the boss fights, and mini-boss fights presents real challenge.
It’s no wonder the up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Select, Start cheat became so popular, now known as the Konami Code, as it gifted players with 30-lives instead of three.
Contra is still one of the hardest video games today, as represented by its 4-star rating.
Team Ninja crafted up a mean joke when it decided to re-release Ninja Gaiden on Xbox and PlayStation 2.
While the original Ninja Gaiden on NES is regarded as a hard feat, the newer version added fast-paced combat and hard-to-feat enemies into the mix, while overhauling the bosses to be incredibly tough monstrosities.
Gameplay required you to be perfect with your timing and button presses, and the combo system was deep, but also needed understanding to best certain enemies.
The only way to conquer the grueling enemies and levels was, to put it simply, play more and get better. We rate Ninja Gaiden as a 4-star-hard title.
A game that wasn’t even released in North America due to its difficulty? Sign us up.
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levelsrepresented a new way to experience the famous plumber’s adventures. This time around, Mario had to fight off new obstacles and traps: randomly spawning enemies from random level placement and reverse-psychological power-ups were just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s hard to think that a game made by Nintendo was so difficult, but The Lost Levels represents more than just a challenging game: it shows us that Nintendo really knows how to make a game presentable to a wide audience.
Plus, they could make a harder version if they wanted. The Lost Levels earns 4-stars on our challenge scale.
Smash T.V.is an arcade shooter that was released back in a cabinet in 1990.
The idea was two contestants are competing on a violent game show, set in the year 1999. The catch? Moving from room to room and shooting hordes of enemies can be an absurd challenge, especially when a game throw surprise after surprise at you. It’s a fun, enjoyable game even for being difficult, and while most players won’t see the final boss, who is the announcer from the start, the game keeps begging you to try.
Smash T.V. is one of the hardest video games around, and we rate it at 3.5-stars.
The original DMC: Dante’s Awakening on PlayStation 2 was a title to try if you craved a brutal action game.
Upon its initial release to Western audiences, the game’s difficulty was upped to the Japanese version’s “Hard” mode. This meant it was more challenging right of the gates to anyone that simply wanted to play it.
Of course, the game still required skill and timing to beat enemies, especially since they were tough regardless of difficulty.
On top of that, the game still needed to be re-released in the future to players who wanted the game without the challenge.
Overall, DMC: Dante’s Awakeningis a solid 3.5 stars on the difficulty rating.
One of the hardest racing games you’ll ever play, F-Zero GX was the long-standing sequel to the original Nintendo 64 game, but instead of being an enjoyable experience, the game featured a steep learning curve.
Even the story mode, which sometimes aids in developing players’ skill and technique for future endeavors, did no such thing here. The second race in the progression increases the difficulty so much that a lot of players just dropped it after that.
It’s another Nintendo game on our list and is among the hardest video games you can find. We rated F-Zero GX’s difficulty at 3.5-stars-out-of-5.
OUR PLAYERS GUIDE TO THE HARDEST VIDEO GAMES RELEASED
At the end of the day, there are plenty of video games out there that can provide a challenge if you need one.
It’s a niche genre, for sure, and not everyone is looking for a game to break them every time they play it. That said, if you’re looking for a title to crush your soul, there’s probably something out there for you.
One of the best ways to find games that are challenging can be to use a game you know to be hard as a guideline. There are plenty of games that want to be the next Battletoads, so finding the clones can be a good way to do it.
If you’re looking for a specific style of hardship, such as a precise platformer or an attack system that must be learned to win, there are those games too.
Often, the most challenging games of all-time are subject to the player, which is you. Remember that the next time you pick up a game and can’t best it.
There’s always a bigger, harder game out there to try.