11 Games Hurt By Their Extreme Difficulty (And 14 Saved By It)

Mega Man animated series

Video game development is a tricky beast. It takes a dedicated group of people to build virtual worlds from scratch, tinkering with each aspect until it is perfect. Our hats go off to anybody involved in this endeavor, as it is a thankless task that sometimes involves sleepless nights away from family and loved ones. Many of them consider this dedication worth it, however, in order to bring these worlds to life. One of the most important things to consider during a game's development is difficulty. This alone can make or break an experience. If a game is too easy, people breeze through it and start to feel bored. Make it too hard and they'll feel it is unfair. There are also times when a game is too difficult because it plays poorly or certain mechanics are left unrefined.

The twenty-five games showcased in this article are all extremely difficult. However, some of them are made worse by their challenge, while the others are improved by it. It should be noted that none of the games listed are bad. In fact, most of them are all-time classics. Additionally, many of them are difficult for a variety of reasons.

So put on those reading glasses, because here are 11 Games Hurt By Their Extreme Difficulty (And 14 Saved By It).

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25 Hurt: Grand Theft Auto III

GTA III revolutionized the industry and video games as an art form. Never before had a three-dimensional world felt so vibrant and full of life. Its campaign does not have the same weight as modern Rockstar games, but it is still entertaining to play through if one can manage to progress

The game should not be so hard, but the unwieldy movement and wonky auto aim make some missions almost impossible. There are times when an enemy is standing right in front of the protagonist, but Claude will lock on to an entirely different foe.

24 Saved: Tony Hawk's Project 8

Tony Hawk's Project 8

There no difficulty modes to choose from in this open world skateboarding romp. Instead, every mission has three tiers of completion; amateur, pro, and sick. The first two are relatively easy to obtain, but completing certain missions with sick ranking takes patience and determination.

With this method, almost any player can complete the story by becoming one of the top eight skaters in the rankings, but only seasoned veterans of the series will even try to get to the number one spot. It's a crying shame the series went astray shortly after this game's release.

23 Saved: Dark Souls

Dark Souls Fire

What is there to say of the Souls series that has not already been said? Players are dropped off in a mysterious land with little direction and little understanding of what is going on. Then, they are tasked with traversing grueling dungeons brimming with powerful beasts. The challenge is enough to make anyone pull their hair out, but those who stick with it are rewarded with an indescribable satisfaction. It rarely feels unfair, encouraging players to master the gameplay and mechanics in order to fully explore this unforgiving world.

22 Hurt: Mortal Kombat 2

Mortal Kombat is best-played side by side with buddies on the couch, taking turns performing Fatalities on each other. The series will soon release its eleventh mainline entry, but the classics are still just as much fun today as they were two decades ago. However, playing through the old arcade ladders is a grueling gauntlet.

The second and third entries are particularly painful. Should players make it all the way to the final battle, they then must face off with emperor Shao Khan, who immediately destroys anyone unprepared for the boss.

21 Saved: Bloodborne

FromSoftware has a reputation for making games with punishing difficulty. This reputation is nothing new, with titles like Shadow Tower and King's Field bringing players to their knees all the way back in the mid 1990s. fans knew just what was in store for them when they booted up Bloodborne in 2015.

The game's aesthetic is a departure from the company's previous work, being inspired by authors like Lovecraft and Bram Stoker, but the title still offers that signature challenge that has made the developer so famous in the first place.

20 Saved: Spelunky

Spelunky video game

Derek Yu's Spelunky is a relevant title in the indie gaming scene. It was initially released in 2008 for free before being remade for consoles in HD in 2012 and ended up being an influence on countless indie titles afterward. The title is also extremely hard and changes with every playthrough due to its procedurally generated levels. For those who have beaten it, there is also the ultimate challenge of completing the game while holding onto the eggplant item. Known as an "eggplant run", this method has only been done by a few talented individuals.

19 Hurt: The Legend Of Zelda

The legend of zelda

Before the internet's ubiquity, gamers had to rely on magazines and word of mouth in order to learn a title's secrets. This built a sense of community and bonding amongst gamers tackling these same impossible adventures. Now, however, they just feel cheap and too hard for their own good. Beating The Legend of Zelda without the internet is an exercise in patience that few have the time for. Those looking for a more balanced challenge with similar gameplay are better off with the SNES title, A Link to the Past.

18 Saved: The Witness

Jonathan Blow's The Witness

The Witness is one of the most ambitious puzzle games ever made. It takes dozens of hours to figure out all of its secrets, but they genuinely feel like they are making the player smarter. Jonathan Blow, the game's creator, made it a point not to dumb down the sometimes confounding enigmas, and there are no tutorials to speak of on the mysterious island. It's a hard experience to describe with words and even videos don't do it justice, so it is best to play and find out for one's self.

17 Hurt: Castlevania II: Simon's Quest

The Castlevania series has switched up its basic formula several times, usually to success. Before the series had established trademarks, Konami tried for an ambitious sequel in Simon's Quest, which included more puzzles and NPCs. Ideally, the townspeople should drop hints on how to solve these riddles, but the messages they give Simon in this title are overly cryptic. While they were designed to be misleading, any subtle hints that were left are said to have been lost when the game was localized into English. There is a good game in there, it is just hampered by nonsensical dialogue.

16 Saved: Contra

Contra NES

The NES's technical limitations didn't stop high octane action games from releasing on the classic console. Several shooters made their way there and perhaps the most famous of them all was Contra. The side-scrolling romp is best played with a buddy, who can help make the onslaught of enemies more manageable. There is also, of course, the legendary Konami code, which granted the player thirty lives. This cheat, considered one of the first to exist, certainly comes in handy, and may still not be enough to make it through without a game over.

15 Hurt: Metroid

Metroid (NES)

Complaints about modern gaming conveniences are sometimes justified, but there are times when they are just common sense. It is only right that games with maze-like worlds should feature maps. Without one, any player would get lost. The original Metroid lacked this and confused the life out of players who did not get one from a copy of Nintendo Power. Some ingeniously resorted to mapping out the areas themselves. Future titles in the series would go on to add a map and make the Metroid experience more enjoyable in several other ways.

14 Saved: Mega Man

Mega Man Original

Most people know what they are getting into when they pick up the controller to play a Mega Man title. The series offers countless games filled with grueling platforming and powerful enemies, all topped off with a unique boss fight. What makes the gameplay so addicting is the open-ended nature. Stages can be tackled in any order, so seemingly unbeatable ones can be left for last. Successfully destroying a boss also grants an additional power, potentially making certain sections easier. Players get further and further with each life lost until they finally nail it.

13 Hurt: Crash Bandicoot

Crash Bandicoot Tawna Original

It's hard to believe that a game marketed towards children would be so soul-crushing, but Crash Bandicoot's levels most certainly led to a few broken controllers in 1996. The developers themselves admit the game was too frustrating for its own good, which led to the sequels' challenge being carefully balanced to perfection. Some may think it is best to start with the first in any given series, but only experts should take a crack at Crash's first outing. Newcomers should start with the second and third game before tackling this one.

12 Saved: Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy prides itself on its ability to make players retry stages dozens, even hundreds of times. Taking a look at any given level will make novices give up on the spot. This may seem like the mark of a bad game, but it is designed with all of this in mind. Respawns are instant, creating an addictive cycle of trial and error. Every level is also short, so players won't lose minutes of progress if they fail. Anybody who plays will lose a lot, but that's what Super Meat Boy is all about.

11 Hurt: Metal Gear

Metal Gear 1987

The original Metal Gear created a new genre of gaming and established a formula the series would follow for decades to come. The protagonist sneaks into a base to foil a plot and then evacuates. Unlike other games in the series, it is nearly impossible to beat without the instruction manual or a walkthrough. The game's plot is still relevant to the rest of the series, but there are other ways to find out what happened that involve less frustration and confusion. Still, the gameplay itself holds up.

10 Saved: Ninja Gaiden

Ninja Gaiden XBOX Skeleton Attack

It doesn't matter which Ninja Gaiden series one is playing, Tecmo's original 2D games or the Team Ninja reboot, they both punish players in a way most other action adventure titles do not. It does not purposefully attempt to be unfair, it simply refuses to treat the gamer like a child. The boxing gloves here are off and any gamer who doesn't like it can shut off the system or put in a different disc. Those who do continue with the adventure are greeted with rewarding gameplay that has yet to grow stale.

9 Hurt: Battletoads

Battletoads - Turbo Tunnels

Rare's classic brawler is filled with classic stages that showcase the developer's vivid and varied imagination, it is just unfortunate that most people who played Battletoads never got a chance to see these levels with their own eyes. The game lacks any difficulty curve, immediately throwing the toughest foes at the heroes. The fighting isn't even the hardest part. One segment called the Turbo Tunnel destroys anyone with less than perfect reflexes. A new Battletoads is coming in 2019 and, hopefully, this one will be more forgiving to the average gamer.

8 Saved: Braid

Braid game

Jonathan Blow's Braid became a hit before the indie scene really took off in the mainstream with the help of PSN and the Xbox Live Marketplace. The time bending masterpiece is a breeze to simply jaunt through, but that is not even half the game. Each stage contains head-scratching puzzles with ingenious solutions. Solving these reveals the game's true, melancholy finale about mistakes, redemption, and moving on. Anybody who completed it without a guide is a true master of puzzles, and those who needed some help cannot be blamed for seeking it out.

7 Hurt: Rayman

Rayman Original

Rayman is a wholly unique character that dwells in a mystical world dreamed up by Michel Ancel. Those interested in the series' origins may be hard pressed to make it far into the first title. Its platforming challenge is on par with the more recent entries, but with the added stress of lives and less generous checkpoints. Thankfully, the sequel was easier for less experienced players, while still being engaging. The third entry went a little too soft before the series eventually returned to its roots with Rayman Origins 2011.

6 Saved: X-COM

XCOM Remake

Few games can say that one wrong move will ruin an entire round, let alone an entire playthrough. The X-COM games do not let the player revive their squad members; if somebody falls in battle, they are done for good. On top of this, it is possible to lose an entire game, forcing players to restart from the beginning. With this in mind, every turn has to be taken with careful consideration. One wouldn't think that stress would make a game fun, but X-COM proves that it enhances the experience when done well.

5 Hurt: Below

Below Video Game

Below is the newest release featured on this list. It was announced in 2013 and indefinitely delayed a few years after, and finally came out in December of 2018. The game makes no illusion to its difficulty, but one pointless feature seems needlessly punishing. After every game over, the player must traverse to the place where they fell in order to recoup their equipment. In the later stages, this alone can end up taking hours and several retries. Maybe it is there to give game overs weight, but it comes off as a cheap way to extend the title's life.

4 Saved: Punch-Out!!

Mike Tyson's Punch Out!! Tyson Fight

Video games are meant to make the player feel like they are doing things they otherwise would never be able to do. This does not mean the task should be easy, however. Punch-Out!! gives anyone the opportunity to be a world class boxer, eventually taking on Mike Tyson himself, or Mr. Dream in some versions. Early bouts are simple, but they get progressively more complex until the final match. It's all patterns, but it provided countless hours of fun for gamers everywhere in the 1980s. Those who beat it really did feel like a champion.

3 Hurt: The Elder Scrolls: Arena

The Elder Scrolls Arena

The Elder Scrolls series is now one of the most revered franchises on the gaming landscape. Its most recent entry, Skyrim, is often called one of the greatest RPGs of all time. Its older days, however, are marred by game breaking bugs and confusing mechanics. It was more excusable before later titles improved upon the groundwork, but now the games are barely playable. Getting out of the first dungeon itself if a harrowing. It is worth to play as a curiosity, but few will play for more than a couple of hours.

2 Saved: Fez

Fez video game

Fez was a return to the old gaming days when people had to band together in order to figure out the impossible. Like schoolyard children trading secrets about The Legend of Zelda, people surfed forums searching for the answers to the game's most obtuse puzzles. One puzzle, in particular, was so enigmatic that a website endeavored to systematically go through every possible solution until they found the answer. This involved going through over ten thousand outcomes of the famous "Black Monolith" puzzle. Fez was one of a kind and gaming probably won't see another one ever again.

1 Saved: Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami

There is nothing quite like the two Hotline Miami games. The titles' neon-drenched violence, fast movement, and hypnotizing soundtrack put players into sensory overload. Players are felled after one hit, sometimes two if they are lucky, but respawns are instant, barely even registering at times. All of this is wrapped up in a mysterious narrative set behind the backdrop of a 1980s Miami ever so slightly different than our own. Anyone who picks this up should Expect to restart stages dozens of times, but also expect to love every tense minute of it.


What are your favorite difficult games? Let us know in the comments!

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