Most of the time, video games are usually cakewalks for casual players. Shift the difficulty to easy, load up on ammunition, and there’s not an experience that most people can usually handle. But then there are the die-hard, NES-era, “who needs a frickin’ autosave” sort of folk that take challenges and eat them for breakfast, merely for the sake of saying, “Hey, I survived and I’m still here.”
There’s a certain satisfaction to it, even if that means wading through a sea of broken controllers and unending curse words in order to get there. With that, we’ve procured a list of six of these games that will certainly put you to wit’s end if you’re not prepared, mainly because of how much the odds are stacked against you. Word of warning: regardless of how good you think you are, proceed with caution, because these games will likely tear off your ass and hand it back to you. Not even a Game Genie will save you.
FTL (Faster Than Light) – Subset Games
What appears to be just another space management game is instead a diabolical exercise in what you’ll willing to put up with in order to survive. In the game, you’re managing a spaceship from a top-down perspective, pulling your own take on Captain Kirk as you attempt to save the Federation from the Rebellion. But the thing is you need to manage your crew, because without them, you’re toast – and you don’t even have the benefit of a Spock.
The reason FTL makes the list is that you can meet your end in so many ways, from a fire taking out the oxygen generator (and thus killing everyone), to your ship getting pulverized by gunfire and missiles (and thus killing everyone), to intruders boarding the ship and pretty much having their way with you (and, eventually, killing everyone). You need to have perfect organization skills if you hope to make it to a warp jump, unless, of course, you’re playing on easy… [Editor’s note: and then it’s only kind of ridiculously hard.]
The Binding of Isaac – Edmund McMillen, Florian Himsl
Inspired by the likes of Legend of Zelda and based on a eponymous Bible story of the same name, The Binding of Isaac looks pretty simple at first, but that’s exactly what creators Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl want you to think. In reality, it offers the kind of diabolical challenge that could drive some players nuts.
The game focuses on young Isaac, a boy whose possessions are thrown out by his mother after she hears a divine voice demanding he be cleansed. When that isn’t enough to “purge the evil,” the voice commands her to kill him, and he soon escapes into an underground world filled with his darkest fears.
With randomly generated levels, challenging bosses, and multiple endings, The Binding of Isaac definitely warrants multiple playthroughs. But if you think you’re going to survive, well, apparently you don’t know what kind of rapture you’re in for.
Ninja Gaiden Black – Koei Tecmo
When the revamped Ninja Gaiden arrived for the original Xbox in 2004, it introduced a furious challenge that very few gamers could step up to, featuring super-ninja Ryu Hayabusa attempting to cut down anything–human and supernatural alike–in his path using the Dragon Sword. But that game was a mere microwavable appetizer compared to the mountainous feast that is Ninja Gaiden Black, which arrived just a year later.
Along with new challenges that put even the most agile gamers through their paces, as well as extra content that featured new enemies ready to rip Ryu apart, Black demonstrated that bigger could indeed be better, although very few managed to conquer 100 percent of the game because it was just so damn hard. Still, for those who wish to prove their mastery ninja skills, this is the best place to do it.
Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts – Capcom
Fans of old-school games know just what kind of pain in the ass the Ghosts ‘n Goblins games can be, especially considering the fact that they have to play through them twice before getting to the final boss. The same goes for Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, only this time, the ante is upped with the introduction of more difficult levels and the inability to shoot in multiple directions, like you could in Ghouls ‘n Ghosts.
To his credit, Arthur does have a double jump this time around, but split-second timing is still needed to stand a (*ahem*) ghost of a chance against the demonic adversaries this time around. Fortunately, the game remains fun despite its heinous difficulty, and for those who missed it from the SNES days, it can be downloaded as a digital title on the Wii U platform. Just make sure you have plenty of stress toys around, you’re going to need them.
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels – Nintendo
The original Super Mario Bros. remains an iconic favorite for players of all ages, even though the final 8-4 world could prove a bit difficult for some of them to get through. However, that’s nothing compared to the sheer madness that followed in Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, also known as Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan. In this game, the level designs are much harder than ever before, and for good measure, you can even grab a negative mushroom and lose your life on the spot. Yep, a poison mushroom.
At first, the game was so difficult that Nintendo of America didn’t give it an opportunity to shine on the original NES, opting to release the far easier Doki Doki Panic as Super Mario Bros. 2 instead. Eventually, Lost Levels got its due as part of the Super Mario All-Stars package for SNES, and, yes, there were many tempted by its wares, only to be shot down before they even reached Bowser for the first time.
Since then, the game has become a favorite with hardcore players, and has even seen a digital re-release on Wii U, Wii, and 3DS platforms, showing that Nintendo isn’t afraid of putting players through their paces. For those that prefer something a little more casual, however, there’s always Super Mario 3D World…
Dark Souls – Bandai Namco
The original Demon’s Souls, published by Atlas, demonstrated that the developers at From Software aren’t afraid of players offing themselves multiple times to make progress. And while that practice continues with the company’s latest projects–namely Bloodborne for the PlayStation 4 and the forthcoming Dark Souls III, set to drop next year–it reached its first high in deviousness with Dark Souls, a game that made it next to impossible to make progress on just one life.
While the game has a heavy emphasis on exploration, it’s all about the epic boss battles. Whether it’s with unspeakable demons in the underdwellings of a fallen castle, or a much larger beast that can kill you in one swipe, the game certainly set the standard for being incredibly difficult.
Dark Souls is an arduous journey, but one that rewards those who are absolutely patient, thanks to great secrets to find and that sheer of satisfaction of yelling, “I BEAT YOU!” Ahhhh, but that one boss fight was just the beginning. Wait till you meet that guy’s boss.
What’s your favorite ridiculously difficult game? Let us know in the comments below!
Cover image source: Prima Games