But sometimes a simple, difficult task can distract you from your work, family life and other daily problems.
The matches were difficult because otherwise they would have been very short.
Most games now have a 40+ hour campaign, and difficulty has become a hallmark of hardcore players looking to prove themselves.
So what should you play if you want to be challenged?
Let’s look at some of the hardest games in the history of gaming (that are still fun).
30. Ninja Turtles (1989)
The ’80s were a great time for the Ninja Turtles and their fans – and Konami helped end the decade on a high note by releasing the incredible arcade game TMNT.
That’s not the game.
Along with the arcade version, Konami moved the action into the living room with a side-scrolling platformer for the NES.
The game wasn’t as fun or visually impressive as the arcade beat-em-up, but it had great graphics and solid sound design.
It also had a high degree of difficulty.
The game’s fluidity and excellent controls made these challenges fun and not tedious.
29. FTL (2012)
Most of the games on this list test your motor skills and reflexes.
But if you’re interested in something that’s good for your brain, FTL should be high on your list.
You have to control your team and lead them into battle against the rebels who chase you and set traps for you at the end of each hyperdrive jump.
These events are randomly generated, so you never know what to expect.
28. Monster Hunter Freedom (2006)
Monster Hunter Freedom on PSP is a remastered compilation of the first two games in the series.
And one of the hardest games in the franchise.
The hunt in the MHF is brutal.
But there is a second reason for this great complexity: management.
The lack of a second thumb on the PSP throws everything you know about the MH out the window, and that can be hard to get used to.
The G-rank missions are also very difficult, you have to take on deadlier versions of some of the hardest monsters.
27. F-Zero GX (2003)
When it comes to racing games, it doesn’t get more ruthless than F-Zero GX on the GameCube.
In this high-tech hovercraft racing game, you must race through the suburbs at 60 miles per hour and try to avoid every tree, dog, old lady and lemonade on your way.
It’s fascinating and beautiful.
But if you take your eyes off the road for a second, you’re dead.
The only way to get better at this game is to try to make mistakes and remember the dangers of each card so you can avoid most of them.
26. Spelanky (2008)
Don’t be fooled by Spelanka’s cute name and charming art style.
This game is as relentless as it is addictive. And it’s very exciting.
Every step you take in these underground passages can get you killed if you’re not careful.
There are traps everywhere, the enemies are evil, and sometimes there are just too many things going on at once.
Spelunky contributed to the popularity of horned titles in the 2010s and is something everyone should try at least once. It is difficult, but not impossible.
25. Takeshi Challenge (1986) (JP)
If you’ve seen the classic game show Takeshi Castle, you’re familiar with comedian Takeshi Kitano, also known as Beat Takeshi.
This Japanese television personality has been involved in numerous projects over the years.
One is Takehi’s Challenge, a side-scrolling game in which you play as a disgruntled Japanese employee who tries to escape his work life by searching for treasure in the South Seas.
It will not be easy to survive the attacks of the Yakuza and other unexpected threats. If you think you have it in you, you won’t regret accepting Takeshi’s challenge.
Or maybe I will. Quite complicated!
Check out this review from Den of Geek to learn more about the title.
24. Mike Tyson Punch! !! (1987)
Known as the baddest man on the planet, heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson was the undisputed world champion for thirteen consecutive years – and he wasn’t about to quit in a game where he was easily beaten.
In Mike Tyson’s Punch!!! you play as Little Mac, the featherweight boxer who just keeps on hitting.
His size always puts him at a disadvantage.
But if you look closely and notice your opponent’s stories, you can use your superior speed to avoid damage.
The most brutal fight of the game is, of course, Tyson himself.
He can’t win anywhere unless he’s an expert at this game.
But if you’ve come this far, you probably have.
23. Mega Man and Bass (2003)
The Mega Man series has never been known for its lightness.
But working with Bass in the context of the GBA is extremely difficult, even by benchmark standards.
While the previous bosses in the series often follow set patterns that you can quickly memorize after a few tries, in this game you have to have reflexes to dodge unexpected moves.
The game was originally released on the Super Famicom under the name Rockman & Forte, which was imported by many at the time.
When the GBA port came out, people already knew it was the hardest game in the franchise.
22. ECCOM 2 (2016)
The original XCOM by Firaxis: Enemy Unknown left big shoes to fill for the sequel – and the developers did not disappoint.
The sequel doubled player expectations over the original. The pre-election campaign is complex from start to finish.
Some missions require you to play perfectly and be extremely lucky or lose half your warriors in one go.
The game’s plot is arguably better than the first, at least in terms of tone. The return of Earth’s alien hosts is why you feel compelled to go to the end.
21. I WANT TO BE BOSHI (2010)
I Wanna Be The Guy was an iconic song when I was a kid.
My friends and I took turns trying to solve it on an old laptop, laughing at the absurd complexity and the insane amount of spikes on floors, walls, tiny squares in the sky, etc.
I Wanna Be The Boshy is one of the best fan games inspired by the legendary IWBTG and aims to silence those who brag that they found the latter easy.
The difficulty of the game has made it a popular speedrun, with a record of 30m31s at the time of writing.
20. Blood (2015)
This may be a contradictory opinion, but I think Blood is easier than Dark Souls.
Although battles in Bloodborne require quicker reflexes and rewards, and you have to stay very close to the loot, the player character is also agile and very adept with weapons.
You can control your reflexes without learning such specific stories and patterns before you start the game.
Well, except for Father Gascoyne.
You will die many times against Father Gascoyne.
19. Ikaruga (2003)
Ikaruga, the spiritual successor to Treasure’s Radiant Silvergun, is one of those games that you immediately know is designed to empty your pockets at the local slots.
It is one of the most famous old-school shooting games, and the high difficulty is one of the main reasons for it. The number of enemy projectiles on the screen at any given time tells you it’s a hell of a projectile.
The fantastic graphics and sound design also contributed greatly to its popularity.
There may be countless balls on the screen, but their patterns are beautiful. Be careful not to get distracted!
18. Fighting (1991)
Links to Battletoads can be found online, thanks to creators around the world who were probably traumatized by the game’s relentless complexity.
In the early stages, you may think everything is fine.
But the difficulty of this game is steep.
Try to hold on, at least until you get past the turbo tunnel. If you haven’t destroyed your controller by then, you can delete the game.
A lot of people complain that they were born too late, but I feel comfortable because I was born three years after this game came out.
If I had had to deal with this level of difficulty as a child, I might have given up on games altogether.
17. Super Mario Bros: Lost Levels (1986)
Just months after the worldwide release of Super Mario Bros. for the NES, the Japanese already had a sequel in their hands – and it was very different from the game we know in the West as Super Mario Bros. 2.
The original suite was more of an extension. It plays almost exactly like its predecessor, but with much more challenging levels designed to keep SMB veterans busy for a long time.
And Nintendo felt that its western audience couldn’t appreciate such a heavy game at the time.
But we finally got to see this brutal experience when Lost Levels was included in the 1993 SNES compilation Super Mario All-Stars.
And yes, it’s hard as hell.
16. Mushihimesama (2011)
I’m a die-hard Touhou Project Hellfire Bullets fan, but even I have to admit that Mushihimesama is much harder because of the unpredictable patterns.
While in Tuhou you can memorize the patterns of almost any boss, in Mushihimesama you have to think at random and put your reflexes to the test.
It is a very visually appealing game. While the music isn’t half as good as Touhou’s, this is a game you can make a name for yourself with if you’re a fan of the ad-bullet genre.
15. Demon’s Souls (2009)
Demon Souls falls just short of Dark Souls in one dilemma, as most of the bosses are too easy to cheat on due to the game’s technical limitations.
In Dark Souls, you can take advantage of the monsters, but in Demon Souls, that sometimes seems to be the only option.
These bosses are difficult if you are not an expert in Souls.
Exploring the fallen kingdom of Boletaria and unraveling the secrets of the Nexus is a timeless experience that already has everything that made Dark Souls so popular.
It’s not easy, you have tremendous control over your physique, and the characters are incredibly memorable.
Be sure to check out the PS5 remake if you can.
14. Dark Souls (2011)
Dark Souls is what most people think of when they hear about hardcore video games.
As fans of FromSoftware’s Souls franchise like to say – this action-RPG is challenging, but fair, which sets this game apart from many older games.
You have to learn the mechanics, figure out your invincibility frames as you roll, and eventually look up information on the builds, but if you put in the hours, you’ll finish this game and feel hugely rewarded. You might even become a Souls fan.
And the 2018 remastered version is definitely worth a look.
13. Ninja Hayden II (2008)
All the games in the Ninja Gaiden series are pretty grueling.
But some are harder than others.
Ninja Gaiden II is the sequel to the 2004 remake. What’s unusual about this reborn series is that it’s more complex than the original NES game, rather than simpler as remakes usually are.
You will repeat each level until you manage to complete the game.
Thankfully, this title looks great and the fast-paced battles are very entertaining.
12. Nio (2017)
From the makers of Ninja Gaiden comes Nioh, a Dark Souls RPG set in a dark fantasy version of the Warring States period in Japan.
In other words: This is Sekiro before Sekiro became a thing.
The Ninja team have used their experience in developing rock-hard action games to explore rock-hard boss fights and a treacherous world.
You will see that this Irish samurai dies a lot at the hands of soldiers and Yokai.
The sequel, also on PS4, is another challenging game to try out if you enjoyed it.
11. Sekiro : Shadows Die Twice (2019)
I expected Sekiro to be much closer to the usual single player adventures than the Souls series.
And so I expected it to be easier.
I was wrong.
FromSoftware took inspiration from Tenchu and the Ninja Gaiden series. Both are star shinobi like Sekiro, and both are surprisingly strong.
While Souls games (including Bloodborne) often overwhelm you with strange positions for enemies and traps, the enemies in Sekiro are downright brutal.
You have to become a master godfather from the beginning of the game if you want to have a chance of advancing.
10. Witness (2016)
Most of the games on this list are challenging because surviving in their digital world is a constant struggle.
On the other hand, Witness doesn’t even have a game behind the screen.
In this fantastic puzzle game, you make your way through a beautiful and mysterious island full of puzzles that you can solve in any order.
The problem is that some of these puzzles are designed so that you’re almost certain to get stuck and have to search online for a solution.
Beating this game without the help of internet is a big challenge.
I’d say the best way to enjoy it is with a friend or partner who will reflect, laugh and cry with you throughout the experience.
9. Celeste (2018)
Celeste’s main campaign is challenging, but manageable for anyone with even a little platforming experience.
Then there is the optional content.
First, there are the B-sides – more difficult versions of each level are unlocked by finding the cartridge while playing the normal map.
If you manage to eliminate them all (easier said than done), the C-sides become available.
Lena Raine’s music is at least equally good at each of these levels, so you can improvise MIDI-inspired rhythms while losing all confidence in your playing ability.
8. X-COM : Defence of UFOs (1994)
Most people know X-COM from the reboot of the series in 2012.
But the original is the version released in PAL territories under the name UFO : Enemy Unknown is already a fantastic and challenging game.
The X-COM series is known for its ruthless AI, and this game is no exception.
These aliens are tough and surprisingly good at sneaking up on you.
Managing, building and expanding X-COM is also a challenging but rewarding aspect of the game.
7. Tip Cup (2017)
One of the best games of recent times, rated by the internet as being as difficult as Dark Souls, is Cuphead, a relentless shooter with very difficult bosses.
Chaihead makes you think you’re safe with the first bosses.
Of course, you died 15 times. But in the end, you beat them. How could the rest be more complicated?
It turns out that the answer is much more complicated than that.
However, if you’re willing to take the time to memorize your enemies’ patterns and do a few breathing exercises to stay calm, Cuphead is a tame beast.
6. Contra (1987)
If there was ever a time we needed the Konami code, it was at the beginning of Contra.
Even with 30 extra lives, taking out Contra is a work of patience and honest effort.
Running and shooting is pretty easy. But keeping an eye on every enemy and projectile flying in your direction is exhausting.
Having someone to play with usually meant forming a deep military bond that would last a lifetime.
5. Ghosts and Goblins (1985)
Ghosts’ n Goblins is a game that everyone likes to mention when they remember how hard it was to play, compared to the less taxing adventures of today.
This addictive platform and weapon game requires precision and lots of trial and error to complete.
One of the biggest problems is that after only two moves you are sent back to the beginning of the level.
And these levels aren’t exactly short.
If you are an experienced player, you can reach the final boss (Astaroth) and defeat him – but it was all an illusion (invented by Satan).
If you want to save the princess and bring peace to the kingdom, you will have to play the whole game again, but with a higher difficulty.
4. Super Meat Boy (2010)
Super Meat Boy is a game that physically distracts you from your challenges.
Frustration seeps into your bones as you scream out in pain, and you may be tempted to throw the controller against the nearest wall.
This awesome platform game offers the insane difficulty of an I Wanna Be The Guy game and a much bigger budget with a real development team.
You’ll need extreme precision – and patience – if you want to save your friend from Dr. Fetr.
On the other hand, there’s nothing more fun than completing a level and seeing all the previous attempts replayed at once, and enjoying the moment when the last little Meat Boy takes the lead and makes it to the finish line.
3. Prinny: Can I really be a hero? (2009)
Prinny and Prinny 2 on the PSP are the most frustrating and difficult games I have ever played.
In the world of Disgaea, the souls of criminals are reborn into penguin-like bodies to serve as slaves in the underworld and atone for their sins.
Their name is Prinny, and their lives are pretty tough – as these two gems on Sony’s awesome handheld show.
While the levels are doable on their own, the bosses in Prinny are just unfair – especially in the sequel, which is why you have 1000 lives at the beginning of the game.
Believe me when I say that 1,000 lives may not be enough.
2. Dwarf Fortress (2006)
With the ridiculous official name Raba Armoku: God of Blood, Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress, this dungeon building simulator is by far the hardest building game out there.
You need to build a rich and – most importantly – defensible fortress for your dwarven people.
The surprisingly simple interface and visual cues can be a little frustrating and slow to learn, but that’s part of the appeal.
It’s a game for people who have become addicted to the stresses of everyday life and need their games to really challenge them so they don’t fall back into their workaholic tendencies.
1. Super Mario Maker 2 (2019)
The Super Mario games have always been pretty challenging, especially the aforementioned lost levels.
That is, SMM2 is going to the next level thanks to its active user base.
It’s essentially a group of players using the game’s powerful tools to create the most exhausting and absurd Mario levels ever devised.
Nintendo also did it in a very clever way.
They’ve received incredible support for fan-made games, including all the super hard kaijo hacks we’ve received.
So they seized the opportunity with their own name.
The best thing about SMM2 is that people keep reaching new levels. And they will probably continue to do so until the next Super Mario Maker comes out.
This is probably the biggest blow to you.
frequently asked questions
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The most difficult video games
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