You may have clicked on to this article thinking “there is no such thing as a game harder than Dark Souls 3”. You may think me a madman merely for suggesting a claim of this preposterous magnitude.
Well, allow me to draw your attention to the following list of titles which, I think you will find, will ease your doubts about my mental faculties. This list includes not only recent releases that caused us to tear out our hair, but tough gaming classics that defined what “hard” actually meant.
Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy greeted players with kill screen after kill screen as they tried to guide their Meat Boy through a series of impossible challenges toward his beloved. The game is notorious for requiring players to have the twitch reflexes of a methed-up cat, as one small mistake and your little Meat Boy ends up splattered all over the screen, forcing you to try again all the way from the beginning.
What made this title so endearing, despite the incredible frustration it induced, is the love story between Meat Boy and his girlfriend made of bandages. She is kidnapped at the start of the game by an evil fetus in a suit (yes, really), and it’s your job to reunite the two. You can’t help but feel compelled to put up with the agonising effort the game demands of you to assist them, even if your face looks a little too much like Meat Boy’s by the end of it.
Ghosts N Goblins
Ghosts N Goblins is a game were its two strikes and you’re out. The first of those two strikes will reduce your armour clad hero amusingly down to his brightly coloured underwear. The joke begins to wear thin, however, when it’s the 306th you’ve been killed by a passing rat because you’ve not been able to it with a lance, or a dagger, or an axe, or a boomerang, or anything at all really (the rats are spoken of by some as the true final boss of the game).
Speaking of the weapons, you start off with your humble yet versatile lance, and can discover a variety of other weapons as you go. However, you can only use one weapon at a time. If you pick up a new one, you can’t go back to your old one.
On top of the fact you control a two-hit wonder knight with no shield and no control over weapon drops, the game also turns out to be a massive troll: as soon as you think you’ve finished your quest, you are sent straight back to the start of the game to go through it all again. Oh, and I forgot to mention, that there are no permanent checkpoints – if you die too many times, its back to the start of the entire game for you.
Ever heard of the Konami code? This is the game that inspired the existence for that code in the first place. Contra is a classic shooter that exemplifies all the elements of 80’s era gaming – ridiculously hard timing, ridiculously hard bosses and ridiculous temper tantrums caused by the previous two things, resulting in the prompt expulsion of your console through the nearest window.
Even the ability to play with a friend didn’t ease the difficulty. In fact, it probably only made it harder, as now there was someone you could blame.
Missed that ledge jump? That’s because Kyle was breathing too heavily. Died against that boss for the 36th time in a row? That’s because Kyle was always in the wrong position. Or because Kyle didn’t shoot the right enemy. Or because Kyle didn’t cover me properly.
Or because Kyle went on a bathroom break and I wanted to keep playing and we died because he wasn’t there doing his job.
Contra is not a game you want to play co-operatively if you value your friendships, as it will destroy them as easily as it destroys your character.
As you can probably guess, I don’t see Kyle anymore.
Ninja Gaiden Black
“Oh, I’ve heard this game is really hard, but it’s fine, I’ll just play the tutorial level for a bit to till I get good enough to continue. It should be easy enough-OH MY DEAR GOD WHAT IS THIS HOW CAN I BE BLEEDING IN REAL LIFE!”
These are the exact words every person who hasn’t played Ninja Gaiden Black says when they begin playing Ninja Gaiden Black. The tutorial is not designed as a training ground, but as a killing floor, specifically with the thought to murder you in mind.
Although every enemy in Dark Souls has the potential to be dangerous, there does come a point where you’re over levelled or over-geared enough to disregard the threat of common enemies, and only really have to worry about bosses. Every enemy is a boss in Ninja Gaiden Black. An angry, stabby, boss. And don’t even get me started on the actual bosses.
It’s not a game for the faint of heart. And even if you have a good heart, you should probably consult your doctor before playing.
Even if you’ve never played the vehicle mission in Battletoads, you will undoubtedly have heard rumours about someone who did, and the mentally and physically broken vegetable they became afterwards.
Battletoads was a game released on the back of the rise in popularity of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, those turtles would have been promptly smashed and beaten to a pulp had they encountered anything from this game, let alone the Battletoads themselves.
The difficulty of Battletoads is still well recognised today. The extremely popular RPG-Platformer hybrid Shovel Knight, known itself for its challenging boss and level design, even included a boss fight inspired by the game. In it, you fight the Battletoads throughout three different levels of the original game, including the aforementioned vehicle mission.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you control a squad of 4-6 soldiers against up to 20 alien enemies. Imagine one of these aliens as Arnold Schwarzenegger in his bodybuilding, Terminator prime, but on intergalactic steroids with a laser rifle. Now, imagine this as the weakest enemy you have to contend with, and then you’re probably better on track for understanding how the odds are not in your favour.
Also, the squad you command are a gigantic bunch of wusses. One random shot can cause a soldier to enter into a panic and do completely stupid things that include everything except shooting where they’re supposed to. The rest of the team, seeing their comrade flailing wildly and frothing at the mouth, can also become disconcerted and enter into a panic themselves.
This does not happen infrequently, and many times you will be anxiously awaiting victory only for one member to go and ruin it and cause your entire squad to break cover and go mad, ending whatever hope you had for saving Earth from the alien hordes, or completing that mission you’ve attempted more than 50 times already.
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