Video games can be incredibly difficult. In fact, many gamers want their purchases to be hard rather than a quick and easy snore fest that doesn’t provide any sort of challenge. Often time they will require the player to experiment in the way they play the game or force them to learn new techniques to progress. Other times you might have to persevere with a tricky section that needs total concentration. Whatever the case you can normally either see what you have to do or come up with the answer naturally through gameplay.
Occasionally the developers will make their games hard in ways that aren’t rewarding or challenging but simply frustrating. These are the creators that have chosen the dark side, making their games purposely tough in unfair ways in the hope of infuriating you.
What is worse is that the bit of tortuous evil will usually come right at the end, leading you into thinking you are going to be able to complete it before the end credits are cruelly snatched away. Here are ten of the worst offenders we could find, games made insanely difficult by developers just to prevent you from having the satisfaction of beating them.
10. Guitar Hero III
Music rhythm games are not known for their ease. Playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band on expert difficulty is not an easy feat for the vast majority of players. They require some serious hand eye coordination to move your fingers correctly and a decent memory so you have some sort of an idea of what is coming up.
Now you are probably thinking that Guitar Hero III wasn’t particular much of a challenge. For the most part it wasn’t. It featured the usual collection of songs that range in difficulty from the ridiculously easy to the tying your fingers into knots category.
Hard songs are par for the course and there will pretty much always be a couple of songs that are meant to be near impossible to beat by mere mortals. Take Through the Fire and Flames as a prime example, but it isn’t much of an issue because these usually take the form on bonus songs that don’t have to be completed in order to finish the game.
But Neversoft really must not have wanted players to finish Guitar Hero III. Here you are rocking out to songs like Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Cherub Rock and Welcome to the Jungle when all of a sudden the game decides in the final act to throw five songs at you that require you to be Jimi Hendrix in order to beat them. Raining Blood, The Devil Went Down to Georgia and One were probably the worst offenders.
Sure you could eventually get through them with a lot of patience and plenty of practice. But almost everyone who played the game would be unable to achieve 5 stars and in a game that is all about getting the best score is everything those last few songs being stuck on four songs was hell.
9. S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl
The entire S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series offers a significant challenge, but the entry that takes it just a little too far is definitely Shadow of Chernobyl. It released for PC in 2007 and took many gamers by surprise in its difficulty.
The game sees a second incident occur at the nuclear station in Chernobyl. You have to travel through the surrounding areas with very little protection against the nuclear radiation. Throughout the game you will have to manage a variety of factors that if left untreated will cause the player to lose health and eventually die. These include your radiation level, hunger and bleeding.
Adding these features to a first-person shooter meant it wasn’t possible for gamers to simply charge through enemies. You have to be much more thoughtful about how to approach situations to avoid negative effects. The last thing you want is to be attacked by a host of enemies while running a few pints of blood lower than you should.
While certainly tough, none of those features make the game completely unforgiving. What does is the fact that the developers also decided that the radiation should cause changes to the surrounding area, like affecting magically gravity. This meant that in the middle of firefights your bullets would suddenly begin to act in completely different ways, leaving you frantically trying to adjust while enemies are making it rain lead on you.
Bureaucracy is a text adventure game written by the late great Douglas Adams. It was released in 1987 and sees the player trying to get through quite a bit of red tape (such as cancelling credit cards or changing addresses) as they move house and job.
In the days before graphics for video games text adventure games had to rely on storytelling and humour instead. Bureaucracy does that well, containing plenty of funny moments you would expect from something written by Adams. The other thing that text adventure games were known for though was their mind-bending puzzles and punishing consequences.
Throughout the game you have a blood pressure value that raises when stressed. Raising it too high will result in an aneurysm and death. It’s something that you have to keep a constant eye on, as getting puzzles wrong will increase it, meaning you have limited chances to complete each bit. Typing words incorrectly also increases stress levels so you have to be meticulous in everything you do throughout the game. Not doing so will mean you die and have to start all over again.
On top of all that having to keep a watch on an imaginary stress level didn’t have a positive effect on your own calmness. Playing Bureaucracy meant taking plenty of breaks with a relaxing cup of tea. Otherwise you might have that aneurysm in real life.
7. Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy is one of the better indie games that have been released on the Xbox Live Arcade. Developed by a two-man team it hit the digital store in 2010. The platformer aimed to take gamers back to more old school platformers that actually required you to master the game.
Perhaps the developers took this task a little too seriously though. Each world is significantly harder than the last, with almost everything being able to kill you in a single hit. The game requires fast reflexes, expert timing and good hand eye coordination to be able to get to the end boss and beat him.
However, that isn’t the end of the game. To get to 100% completion there are a few more things to do. Firstly you’ll have to get an A+ score on each level (by doing it in a set time) to unlock its “dark world” version. You then have to complete all the dark worlds, as well as collecting a large number of hidden bandages that are scattered throughout the world.
There are also a number of warp worlds and bonus levels that have to be beaten to get 100%. Some of these are inspired by games like The Kid and I Wanna Be The Guy (which are both tough as nails themselves) and requires an incredible amount of skill to complete (just look at this if you don’t believe us).
To top it off the game doesn’t give any indication to what levels actually contain collectables and bonus stages, leaving it completely up to you to search every single level meticulously. Thanks Team Meat!
6. Do-Don-Pachi Dai-Fukkatsu
This bullet hell game was first released in 2010 in arcades and also saw a port release on the Xbox 360 in 2011. It is part of the DonDonPachi series of games and is widely considered one of the more difficult games in the series.
Now bullet game games are known to be hard, that is kind of the point of them. They often have hundreds of projectiles capable of destroying you in a single hit on screen at once. Do-Don-Pachi takes this to the extreme by essentially filling the screen with vividly coloured lasers and missiles that constantly travel at high speeds. Bosses that you encounter have attacks that can only be described as brutal.
To advance through the game you have to memorize enemy attack patterns and position your ship precisely to avoid being hit, as any contact will destroy your ship immediately. One pixel out of place and you are dead. You’ll need an excellent memory as well as lightning quick reflexes just to get past the first level.
Perhaps the biggest indication that he developers didn’t want to you to finish this game is that to get the final boss you have to beat all five stages twice, collect 45 hidden bees and only manage to die one in all that time. Oh and that bomb that destroys loads of enemies at once? You can only use that twice. Fail any of these requirements and the final boss, Hibachi, won’t appear.
5. Shadow of the Beast II
1990’s Shadow of the Beast II saw the player lose most of the powers they had in the previous installment. Rather than the intensely strong beast form of the original, the protagonist was a mere human in the sequel. You set out on a journey to find and rescue your kidnapped sister while trying not to get yourself killed. This turns out to be much harder than you might think.
As with many titles of the time, it was a difficult enough platformer with tricky levels requiring precise controls. What really set it apart from other platformers was the fact it incorporated elements more usually seen in adventure games. Puzzles that you could come across would kill you if they weren’t solved quickly enough and if you got them wrong you had to restart from the beginning as there were no continues.
Most frustrating though was that it was possible to advance through levels without key equipment that were required in later levels. So after spending hours progressing you would suddenly come to a point that couldn’t be passed because the item you needed to do so was five levels back, with no way of returning there all you could do was restart. Or turn the game off and break it in two.
4. Ninja Gaiden (NES)
The Ninja Gaiden series is famous for being one of the most challenging franchises in gaming. Most gamers will know how hard Ninja Gaiden Black was on the Xbox but might not have played the original game on the NES. Released in 1988 it set the tone for what was to come for the rest of the entries in the series.
This side scrolling action title pelted the player with enemies from every direction with lightening pace. There was never a chance to rest as staying still usually meant instant death from a horde of projectiles. Obstacles were also something of a big deal as they would kill you in a single hit. Added to that is the fact that the wall jump, necessary to overcome a number of obstacles, is difficult to time correctly. This meant that every time you had to use it there was a risk of you messing up and dying.
Reaching the final boss required something of a miracle. In fact, many people believe incorrectly that the first orb at the end is the final boss and that they can’t beat it to complete the game. In actual fact after defeating that boss there are a further two, not something you wanted to see after spending weeks finishing off the first orb.
3. Treasure Island Dizzy
This was the second game in the Dizzy series. Created by The Oliver Twins, it released in 1988. An adventure puzzle game, it sees the player move across a 2D world while trying to get the titular character home to his friends and family.
The original Dizzy game saw the player have 5 lives, but the developers obviously thought that this was far too generous and decided to limit your lives to one. Losing that single life meant having to slog it all the way back from the very beginning.
Your task was to gather materials and items so that you could get a boat to take you away from the island. Fiddly platform sections that were deviously misleading were not the worse of the problems either. A difficult to manage inventory system meant it was incredibly easy to lose important items or do something really silly like removing your snorkel while under water (this meant you drowned by the way).
What really gives away the developer’s plan of not wanting you to complete the game was that you had to find and collect 30 hidden coins. No indication was given as to where they were and they were devilishly difficult to find, often hidden in places that were counter-intuitive. Even the map that was published to help players didn’t give any sort of clues as to where the coins were.
2. Super Hexagon
Super Hexagon released in 2012 for iOS. It has since seen ports to other mobile devices as well as to PC platforms. A simple game in theory, it requires you to get a tiny triangle through a series walls that move towards you in varying patterns and shapes.
The game has six different levels (a hint that this title wasn’t going to be a walk in the park might come from the fact that the easiest level is called “Hard”) that increase the challenge exponentially by being faster and having more complicated gauntlets enclosing you.
Recognizing which gauntlet is moving towards you is important and having a set strategy for how to deal with each one is vital. To advance to the next level you’ll have to survive each level for at least 60 seconds. However, why this game is so unforgiving is that holding down the control for even a fraction of a millisecond too long will lead to death. Even games that require incredibly precise controls usually have some margin for error. Super Hexagon does not.
There is nothing you can encounter in a video game more frustrating that getting to 59 seconds multiple times on the final level of Super Hexagon and dying, over and over again.
1. Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
Capcom released Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts in 1991 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was the third installment of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins, which is notorious for its difficulty. The game basically sees the protagonist moving across the world fighting enemies while attempting to rescue a princess.
Unfortunately it is almost impossible to finish. One hit from an enemy or obstacle will instantly remove your armour while a second will remove your life. While armour can be upgraded it paradoxically does nothing for your defence, instead augmenting your attacking powers. So even with the best armour possible you will die if hit twice.
And you will be hit. Taking only a few steps into a level will lead to a host of enemies deciding to take out all of their rage on you. The screen is never clear of something trying to kill you. If you die, regardless of what level you are on, you start again right from the start.
Capcom obviously thought that some people might somehow manage to actually beat the game, so they made it so that when you defeat the boss at the end he doesn’t actually die. Instead you have to go through the whole game again (without dying of course), find the gold armour and kill him all over again to complete the game.
In a final act of frustrating everyone who ever played Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, opening a chest led to a random chance that a wizard might pop out and turn you into a completely defenceless baby that couldn’t fight.