They just don’t make games like they used to. Regenerating health, constant save points, and overpowered weapons have turned most most video games into an “entertainment experience” instead of an actual challenge. But there are some examples, from both the past and current generation of games, that will leave you frustrated, swearing, and possibly breaking things after you die for the 100th time in a row. Here are 15 of the hardest games you will ever dare to play.
15. Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy is an independant platforming game that was released in 2010 by Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refrenes. You play as Meat Boy, a small cube of red meat that dies and bleeds easily. And you will die. A lot. In every single level. Over 300 of them. There are a ridiculous amount of saws, spikes, enemies, and pits that will carve up poor Meat Boy with the slightest touch. If you do manage to make it through a level, there is a replay that shows all of your failures simultaneously. Depressing.
So maybe you’re thinking back to when you played this game and are saying, “wait a minute, it wasn’t that hard!” Not at first, no. The tomato can fighters of Glass Joe and Don Flamenco were easy enough to finish off. Even King Hippo wasn’t that hard once you learned his secret. But if you managed to make it all the way to Iron Mike himself? Prepare to be destroyed. Every single punch the champ throws instantly floors you. The perfect timing and speed required to beat Tyson is something that very few gamers have perfected.
13. Ninja Gaiden
The Ninja Gaiden franchise has been around since the original NES, but it was the 2004 Xbox version that frustrated gamers to no end. The game was so difficult that it was released a year later under the title Ninja Gaiden Black, with two new difficulty levels — one easier and one insanely hard. But to compensate for the easier difficulty, the developers ramped up how hard the other options were. G4TV called it “the best ninja game ever made and one of the all around hardest.”
Similar to Super Meat Boy in its gameplay, N+ features a tiny stick figure ninja racing against the clock and a wide variety of traps in an attempt to escape the room. At least when you die (and you die — many, many times) you get to watch your poor ninja be rag dolled around or blown into smithereens. The early levels are tame, but before long you will be struggling to master this trial and error game from hell. Want to be even more pissed off? Try multiplayer with your friends, where their mistakes often lead to your death.
Braid is loving and beautiful tribute to the original Mario Bros. games, including trying to save the princess, enemies that look a lot like goombas, and the famous line, “I’m sorry, but your princess is in another castle.” But behind the amazing scenery and relaxing soundtrack is a very difficult puzzle game that will leave you shaking your head. We admit, we had to check the internet to figure out how to get through some of the nastier parts of the game, which uses the ability to rewind time as a game mechanic. Figuring out when to rewind, and by how much, is vital to getting passed some of the brain busters in this game.
10. Call of Duty Online
This may seem like an odd inclusion on this list, especially if you are one the millions of gamers who plays Call of Duty games regularly. However, if you were to pick up the controller and head into an online match for the first time today, you would surely got completely owned by a sea of angry pre-teens. It takes a lot of practice to master CoD multiplayer, especially since you get better weapons, equipment, and perks as you level up. Being a level one Call of Duty player is like being a guppie thrown in to swim with the sharks.
The game that made the Konami Code famous. Using it would net you thirty lives instead of the standard three. Counting a couple of continues and you would have ninety lives to beat the game’s eight levels. Sadly, for many players that was still not enough. The commando you controlled had no health bar and would die simply by touching an enemy or stray bullet. The game also featured tough boss battles at the end of every stage and no save points. Beating the game without using the Konami Code was considered one of the ultimate feats of a skilled gamer.
This 2001 top-down spaceship shooter only has five levels. Good luck seeing them all, though. The gameplay is simple enough. Your ship can be switched between being black or white. When you are black, you can absorb black enemy fire. White shots will kill you. When you are white, you get the opposite effect. But after you get through the first couple levels, the difficulty ramps way up. Prepare for wave after wave after wave of enemy fire that the brain just can’t process fast enough. It’s takes both incredible memory and lightning fast fingers to last.
7. Mega Man
Many of the Mega Man games are known for their difficult gameplay, so we didn’t pick a specific version for this list. Like most early video games, they had reduced health and no save points. Players would often struggle to advance through the games, only to have to start over when they inevitably died or ran out of continues. The boss battles were especially unfair, as poor Mega Man would struggle to finish the job against a litany of projectiles and other weapons.
6. Day Z
It’s like an episode of The Walking Dead, but without the action or the human companionship. Day Z is basically a grim, depressing zombie survival game that is devoid of hope. While playing it is essentially easy, the hard part is that you can die at any moments and have to start over. Like from scratch. You lose all your weapons, all your gear. Stuff that could have taken weeks, even months, to gather. It’s hard enough to survive in the game with food and water being scarce.
After the smash success of the original Super Mario Bros. game on the NES, Nintendo released a sequel in Japan, aptly called Super Mario Bros. 2. However, company executives felt the game would be too hard for North American gamers. The enemies were much more random, frustrating gamers. Instead they repackaged a game called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic into the weirdly different Mario Bros. sequel that many NES owners will remember. The original sequel eventually surfaced when Super Mario All-Stars was released for the Super Nintendo, a game that included the first three Mario games plus the bonus “Lost Levels,” which was really the Japanese Mario Bros. 2.
Unlike the sequel, Simon’s Quest, the original Castlevania game was tremendously hard. You could not save your progress in any way, making it especially difficult to beat the game unless you could do it in a single sitting. The game mechanics were also kind of clunky, since you couldn’t change direction once you jumped. This led to a lot of deaths. Many, many deaths. As you battled various undead monsters and animals on your way to a showdown with Dracula, your life was constantly in danger due to the enemies popping out everywhere. Any game that includes boss battles with Frankenstein, the Mummy, Medusa, the Grim Reaper, and Dracula is bound to be a challenge.
3. Dark Souls/Demon’s Souls
Demon’s Souls was released in 2009 by From Software. A couple years later, the company released spiritual successors (although not direct sequels) Dark Souls I and II. Together the trio of games are some of the hardest to hit gamers in years. Many gamers claimed that the boss battles were tremendously hard, but Takeshi Kajii, one of the game’s producers, felt that the boss battles were not the hardest element: “You say boss, but it’s not just the boss. It’s everything including the road up to the boss that makes this game really hard. If you find patterns to destroy the boss, it’s not that hard. It’s how you get to the boss that makes this a difficult game.”
Many people have played Battletoads. Not many people have ever made it past the third level. The stupidly difficult stage was called the Turbo Tunnnel, where you ride some sort of light cycle from the TRON movies through an obstacle course of increasing speed and difficulty. It was torture. Much like trying to beat Mike Tyson in Punch Out, you basically needed to memorize the entire stage and have your eyeballs and fingers act fast enough to avoid smashing into a brick wall. Yahoo! Games has stated that Battletoads is “widely recognized as one of the hardest—if not the hardest—games ever made.”
1. Ghosts N’ Goblins
This platformer for the original NES was devilishly hard. The enemies swooped in to attack you in huge numbers and at difficult angles. Whether you tried to fight them or just avoid them, it rarely worked. It was also one of the first games to include the real-life feature of dying if you jumped or fell from a high ledge. If you did managed to complete the game, all you got for your efforts was a prompt that the entire thing was an illusion and you had to restart on an even harder difficulty in order to truly complete the game. Cruel and unusual.
Devon Taylor (@DevonTaylor113)
Devon has been writing about random things online since 2013. His favorite video game is Rocket League, his favorite TV show is The Sopranos, and he hated the last season of Game of Thrones. Follow him @DevonTaylor113.