These days, it’s rare for a game to offer a high level of challenge. Most popular games are carefully play-tested and tweaked to offer a gentle difficulty curve that doesn’t affect the bottom line. It may sound insulting to our intelligence, but it does make sense. If you’re a game developer, wouldn’t you want as many people as possible to experience the entire thing from start to finish rather than have people abandon the gameplay for complaining about how stupidly hard the game was online?
That said, there are a few games that throw caution to the wind and make exceptionally difficult games that are truly rewarding to complete. To beat these games, you must pay attention, learn, adapt, persist and be a hardcore gamer. And when you succeed, oh man does it ever feel good.
Below is a list of some of the best challenging games that are worth the effort, but you should really be a hardcore gamer if you want any hope of completing them. These are games that pull no punches and give no quarter. They’re also games that give you a feeling of deep satisfaction when you finally do beat them.
The Souls series, which includes Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls and Bloodborne, is far and away the highest profile set of games that fit the bill of being super challenging, but worth the effort. Just the fact that these games keep coming out is proof that a substantial number of gamers crave the kind of challenge they deliver.
There’s no shame in using guides and hints you find online with this game. In fact, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had to resort to this. If you can derive pleasure from frustration, try playing this game.
Super Meat Boy
Once you get past the fact that the main character is a hunk of raw meat, you’ll find Super Meat Boy is a fresh take on the platforming genre. There’s no gimmick to the gameplay. You spend your time running and jumping to get from A to B. The only problem is that deadly obstacles are literally everywhere. Depending on what level you’re in, these may come in the form of saw blades, enemies, or piles of salt — all of which kill you in a single hit.
This game would be completely unplayable if it weren’t for brilliant design. Super Meat Boy has the perfect amount of inertia, making the control incredibly tight. When you die (and you will die a lot), you respawn instantly at the beginning of the level, ready to try again. There’s very little punishment for your failure, which makes you always want to give the tough parts another shot.
This is also a game that’s designed to kill you at every turn. 1001 Spikes is a side-scrolling platformer that equires you to play each level again and again, sussing out exactly where the danger will come from. Platforms crumble beneath your feet, spikes pop up in the most unlikely of places, and rocks plummet from the sky without any warning whatsoever.
There’s really no way to complete these levels without a lot of trial and error. That may put some people off, but if you don’t mind throwing yourself at a problem again and again, crossing the finish line can give you an exhilarating rush. No matter how good you are, there’s no way you can know where death lurks until you die.
Any roguelike game could have occupied this space because any game that features randomly generated levels and perma-death is just unfair.
But we picked roguelike game Spelunky because it’s a long game that takes several hours to complete should you be lucky enough to avoid perma-death and losing all your progress for that long. Most people who see Spelunky through to the end spend weeks or months playing before they have a chance to fight the final boss. But by the time you do, no one can say you haven’t earned it.
Hotline Miami‘s difficulty is as brutal as its violence. If it weren’t for the game’s forgiving checkpoint system, the one-hit kill system would be too much for gamers.
In Hotline Miami, you play as a hitman who receives mysterious phone calls, telling you where to go and who to kill. When you arrive, without fail, it’s a building crawling with bad guys. You can scope out the level, plan your attack, and then attempt your killing spree. It almost never works out the first time you try (or the first 12 times), but once you start, this is a game you’ll want to see through to the end.
Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze
Despite the game’s kid-friendly looks, each and every level in this platform is designed to kill you.
The levels in this game are incredibly dynamic, with all kinds of moving parts that can snuff out your life in the blink of an eye. Misjudge a jump or a cannon shot, or simply bump into a deviously place enemy, and it’s game over. But for all its difficulty, this really is a brilliantly designed game. Each level introduces new ideas that are a blast to experience — even if you die so many times you end up experiencing them over and over.
This tough-as-nails game is also a side-scrolling platformer. The levels are randomly generated, but they’re always beatable in the sense that it’s technically possible to beat them. Whether you’re able to do so or not is a matter of skill and luck.
The game doesn’t start out so hard, but as you progress more and more, swinging maces and rotating fire rods populate the levels. Then come the lasers, spike pistons, collapsing platforms, and lava columns. By the end, the majority of the screen is taken up by traps and enemies, and it’s all you can do to survive a few seconds at a time. Thankfully, the game has infinite continues and quick respawns.
How many games on this list have you beat, hardcore gamer? Let us know in the comments!