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Thread: Hard as nails: the most difficult games you've played

  1. #26
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Landahn
    Bloody hell, Commandos, of course.

  2. #27
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    Well, let's tease out the different kinds of hard while we're at it.

    There's twitch coordination hard like sticking tricky jump combinations in platformers (IWBTG) & 80s arcade games (Ghost and Goblins) and needling in and out with non-traditional kinds of attacks on an overpowered boss (Dark Souls). I knew about Commandos, Wizball, Green Beret too. (The hard C64 games I recall most were really small indies ... Willow Pattern, Rasputin, X15.) Uh, also bullet hell games (Touhou 15, Ketsui BL).

    Then there's "I don't know what I'm really doing and the learning curve is a 20 story cliff" hard, like ultra realistic flight sims (DCS F-18C & Orbiter) and information-overload sims (Dwarf Fortress, X3, Victoria 2/Crusader Kings 2, Eve Online).

    Related to that are games that aren't actually so hard if you know what you're doing but the game gives next to zero information and seems inscrutable and impossible until you figure it out. Figuring it out can often be most of the game itself (Shogun, Mu Cartographer, Royals). Also here are guess the verb / read the dev's mind / call our pay-for-answers phone service adventures (Space Quest, I'm looking at you).

    Edit: You might add multiplayer FPSs where you have to play the thing for 5 years straight to get it down, and until you do, if you even pop your head out you're dead (Arma 2/3/Day-Z). IL-2 is this game for me I keep going back to. I can hardly take off and be in the air more than a few moments before I'm blasted apart.

    Strategy games, like Rogue-likes, where you have to play the thing 100s of times before you understand what works (Shattered Pixel, FTL... My favorite Rogue-lite in this category is literally called Roguelight).

    Anything where you have to memorize long lines of exactly timed actions (Dragon's Lair).

    And for good measure, chess & Go (since these are played a lot online now; anyway they're still "games"). I got these learning apps for the chess openings, middle game, tactics, etc, and I do a little chess quiz every morning, and no matter how many years I've done it, I still feel like a complete newbie & get decimated in computer or online matches. Go is totally beyond my ken, but I know just by reading about it it's in that kind of category. I suppose Magic might also be in this category, but it doesn't feel like that to me I guess because I only play people as bad as me.
    Last edited by demagogue; 19th Jan 2019 at 06:19.

  3. #28
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Might as well also throw survival games that are actively trying to kill you into the mix. Robinson's Requiem, NEO Scavenger, Don't Starve, etc.

  4. #29
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    I'd also add "Arcade Hard". Difficulty tweaked to ensure the average player stands little chance of getting very far on a single credit, ensuring they pump more coins in to the slot. Few modern games like this exist these days, but in the Eighties and early Nineties this difficulty was the predominant level for a lot of console games, 'cos developers took a long time to get out of the arcade mindset.
    There's still quite a few indie games like this out there, but that level of difficulty has fallen out of fashion with both players and developers of more mainstream content.

  5. #30
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    And there's of course "Nintendo Hard" as well -- games modeled after arcade games and made as difficult as feasible so that players wouldn't finish them in a weekend. Games such as Lion King and Ecco the Dolphin (well, "Sega Hard" in that case), for example.
    Last edited by Starker; 18th Jan 2019 at 07:35.

  6. #31
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    Quote Originally Posted by Starker View Post
    Might as well also throw survival games that are actively trying to kill you into the mix. Robinson's Requiem, NEO Scavenger, Don't Starve, etc.
    Initially I was thinking these would just go under dema's second category of 'learn wtf to do under duress', but if we're saying multitasking various resource requirements/timers at the same time, yes, the unforgiving limited-resource game (resources being time, materials, items, and so on) would definitely be a category of difficulty unto itself.

    Of course that'd also include TBSes, RTSes, and god games like Homeworld, Starcraft, Civ, and Populous, but the survival 'em up is basically the intersection of limited personal perspective (first/third instead of omniscient commander/god) and resource management mechanics, so it's okay to have a generous definition.

    RE: Arcade hard and Nintendo hard, surely that just sums up to twitch reflexes a la IWBTG and its ilk. And in any case, 'Nintendo Hard' is vague enough that the label doesn't account for the vastly different difficulty gradients depending on the game, platform, and console generation.

  7. #32
    Dark Souls and Super Meat Boy from the recent era. From ye olde days, DM: Chaos Strikes Back. I loved 90-degree dungeon crawlers back then, but man, CSB was for basement masochists. Never finished it.

  8. #33
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Nintendo Hard is more than just twitch reflexes, though. It also includes games like Final Fantasy. It's things like limited lives and continues, instant death hazards, no difficulty modes, etc. A lot of it was just artificial difficulty put in to lengthen the gameplay, requiring rote memorisation and perseverance rather than twitch skills.

  9. #34
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    Hmm. IWBTG has most of those attributes (masocore games in general do, that wikipedia article you linked calls out the equivalence of Ninty Hard and masocore), so I'd just tag it to masocore, or: bullshit difficulty. I've not played the NES FFs, but if you mean the spirit of constantly grinding XP to not get flattened by monsters in a new area/bosses, I get what you're saying.

  10. #35
    Thing What Kicks
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: London
    Quote Originally Posted by Judith View Post
    From ye olde days, DM: Chaos Strikes Back. I loved 90-degree dungeon crawlers back then, but man, CSB was for basement masochists. Never finished it.
    DM & Chaos Strikes Back remain in my favourite games list to this day, and thanks to it being free now, I fire up Dungeon Master at least once a year. And I did complete CSB on the Atari ST when it came out

    I still think DM's levelling and magic systems are my favourite RPG systems ever. I'd love for a modern game to use them. I know the closest modern equivalents for levelling are the Eder Scrolls games, but they don't capture the same feeling of accomplishment. Taking Halk, a barbarian with no mana stat whatsoever, and using an amulet to give him a single point to start with, then subsequently and successfully levelling him to be a full on spellcaster is just awesome. Really demonstrates how robust and flexible DM's system is.

  11. #36
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by Sulphur View Post
    Hmm. IWBTG has most of those attributes (masocore games in general do, that wikipedia article you linked calls out the equivalence of Ninty Hard and masocore), so I'd just tag it to masocore, or: bullshit difficulty. I've not played the NES FFs, but if you mean the spirit of constantly grinding XP to not get flattened by monsters in a new area/bosses, I get what you're saying.
    If you've played the early Wizardry games, that's kind of what early RPGs were like on NES. It's more than just the need to grind, it's the way everything is stacked against you. You only have a limited amount of spells per day and you can easily run into monsters way over your level, so you will get curbstomped even if you're good at the game. And you get very few hints at what to do, for example needing to search random tiles for important items.

  12. #37
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    I recall the Splatterhouse games were really damn hard.

    Starker: There are some who prefer that style of no hand holding over present day games. Having to draw your own maps, note down any clues given etc etc. That moment when you figure something out on your own is great.
    Last edited by icemann; 18th Jan 2019 at 23:24.

  13. #38
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Slaughterhouse games?

    Quote Originally Posted by icemann View Post
    Starker: There are some who prefer that style of no hand holding over present day games. Having to draw your own maps, note down any clues given etc etc. That moment when you figure something out on your own is great.
    That's different from giving absolutely no clues or hints what to do. And it's even worse when you get wrong hints, like in Simon's Quest.

    Sure, maybe there are players who find trial and error gameplay fun or want to spend hours and days searching every inch of a massive gameworld tile by tile, but for most people it's just tedious busywork.
    Last edited by Starker; 18th Jan 2019 at 23:28.

  14. #39
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    Splatterhouse.

  15. #40
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Thinking about it a bit more, I don't think masocore really applies to Nintendo hard. A Nintendo hard game is enjoyable to play when it succeeds, even when it's very difficult, and the bad kind of frustrating when it fails -- the difference between a raised floor plate that triggers a trap that hurts you and an invisible trapdoor that drops you down in a pit of instakill spikes. But in a masocore game, you have the spikes fly up from the pit and kill you when you jump over it. Masocore is deliberately sadistic in order to be funny and/or cause pain to the player. The frustration is part of the appeal. With Nintendo Hard, more often than not, the frustrating aspects are either accidental (bad design, technical limitations, lack of playtesting, bad translation) or aimed at different goals (lengthening the gameplay and making the most out of limited content).

  16. #41
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    Masocore also includes Cuphead and Super Meat Boy, IWBTG just takes that to an extreme level that's meant to cause despair, angst, and hilarity at the sadism involved all at the same time. It's... not the norm, at least god I hope it isn't.

  17. #42
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Sure and games like GOIWBF, but the point is that it's deliberate design. It's meant to frustrate the player. Giant Bomb writes a bit about it here: https://www.giantbomb.com/masocore/3015-1165/

  18. #43
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    I wouldn't be too fussed over that difference if Super Meat Boy and Dustforce make it on their masocore list, because both of them are on different parts of the difficulty spectrum. SMeB doesn't actually frustrate you such that it kills you without you foreseeing it (IIRC), and Dustforce definitely doesn't either.

    I'd rather class difficulty in terms of what the end result means to the player instead of background reasons for why a game's difficult - the knotty issue of do we actually know how what was going through the developers' heads for each game if you want to classify them as NH or otherwise aside, how do you separate out NES developers making games hard because they wanted to make them a prolonged experience from an indie developer making a game hard because they wanted NES-era difficulty?

    As far as my experience of them goes, the early Mario games are only slightly less difficult than Super Meat Boy - actually, from a different perspective you could class them as more difficult, because lives and time are limited, and a game over screen is a very real possibility. They definitely fulfill the 'masochist' requirement in terms of being brutal and demanding, if not literally enabling masochism.

  19. #44
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Well, that's the whole point of this exercise, isn't it -- to tease out the different kinds of hard, not to classify games or rank them based on difficulty. And I think that one way is to look at whether a game wastes the player's time and how self-aware it is in doing that and how much of the difficulty is part of the game design. And of course there's going to be some overlap and a large degree of subjectivity in that. Yes, a lot of masocore is emulating Nintendo Hard and taking cues from that, but what separates them is the awareness of doing so and modern design principles. It's the way Super Meat Boy and Hotline Miami let you get right back in action without any significant loss of progress or how GOIWBF is hyper-aware of what it is doing.
    Last edited by Starker; 19th Jan 2019 at 05:59.

  20. #45
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    Fair enough, I still wouldn't do that for the reasons above (classifying - yes; ranking - no, that would be a fool's errand), and the level of subjectivity involved in determining if a game's difficult on purpose* /because it's self-aware** is fairly brow-furrowing to the part of me that figures these things out based on observable data, but have at it and see what sticks.


    *if a game shipped with a gimped mechanic that was never fixed, but was still completeable, does that rank as 'on purpose'?
    **many games are, there's a reason why Mario goes down pipes; being meta about established design templates is a different thing
    Last edited by Sulphur; 19th Jan 2019 at 06:20.

  21. #46
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Well, maybe it's just me, but Battletoads and Super Meat Boy feel very different to me on a fundamental level, as far as their difficulty is concerned. In the end, it comes down to whether a game's difficulty adds to the experience of detracts from it, and that's necessarily a judgement call. For example, I know a couple of people who absolutely hate Dark Souls, because it forces you to start over from a checkpoint when you die. The mere idea of losing progress is enough to make them shudder.

  22. #47
    El Shagmeister
    Registered: Jul 2000
    Location: Under your fingernails.
    Original NES Ninja Gaiden.

    Fuck level 6 and everything it holds dear.

    Other classic bullshit hard (i.e. NES DIFFICULT) games that Ive played have been mentioned here.

  23. #48
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2004
    Haven't seen Rainbow Six, or classic tactical shooters mentioned here. I don't even know what kind of difficulty they were, they required both good reflexes and mastery of game mechanics. I never gave up games because of the difficulty, but both R6 and Rouge Spear had missions (in their expansion packs) that I just could not beat.

  24. #49
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    Oh that reminds me. Rainbow Six - Ravenshield, was one of the hardest games I've ever played (in a good way). The multiplayer AI for the computer in particular was just insane. I'm sure I've already told the story, but it took me and a mate 6 months of attempts before we were able to beat the computer even once. Oh boy did we party when we pulled that one off.

  25. #50
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Landahn
    Syndicate American Revolt.

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