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

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland

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

    I'm currently playing Celeste, which henke gifted me for Christmas as part of his ongoing plan to drive me to despair. So far, he's not been 100% successful, but I admit he's given it a very good effort. Celeste doesn't look like it, but it may just be the hardest game I've played, and definitely the hardest platformer, since Super Meat Boy. In parallel, I'm replaying Hollow Knight, and it's also quite tough, though it has more of an ebb and flow of quiet, easy parts and sections that are a major challenge, both in terms of combat and of platforming.

    People often talk about the insane difficulty of 8-bit games, and I have to admit that I don't remember this all that much. Perhaps I was better back then, or I was more patient, or perhaps it's the opposite and I moved on more quickly to the next random game on my pile of 5 1/4" floppy disks that had fallen off the back of a truck, containing 100% legit games, of course. I remember never getting very far with Wizball (but loving the music and the guitar riff that would play every time I died). I remember Great Giana Sisters not being all that difficult. I never finished Impossible Mission, but I got through both the first and the second The Last Ninja games, and at least one of those was less than fair.

    For me, it's really Super Meat Boy and now Celeste that are close to the top of the most difficult games I've played, though especially the latter mostly makes a distinction between difficult but doable mandatory screens and optional screens that are considerably harder. And with Super Meat Boy I have no recollection how I ever finished that one, though I suspect it's got something to do with performance-enhancing drugs.

    So: what are the games you remember as most difficult? Which games kicked your asses and which games got their asses kicked by you after long, hard, strenuous battle?

  2. #2
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    Celeste is difficult. (I'm playing through it currently as well.) But the hardest game I've seriously played through still has to be I Wanna Be the Guy. One difference is Celeste is still fair. IWBTG doesn't even have the pretense of being fair. It's a mix of really hard platforming and a good memory and reflexes for all the tricks it throws at you. But it's still very possible with enough play-throughs. You could say it's fair on the higher meta-level. (It throws tricks at you, but always the same tricks.)

    Incidentally, my Xbox controller keeps losing power plugged into my laptop's USB slot, which is a new thing. I guess over time those ports lose their power-giving mojo. Anyway, nothing is more frustrating than a controller hesitating a jump or run when you're playing a game like Celeste! It's driving me crazy. I'll have to brave the cold to get new batteries for the controller I suppose.

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    Dragon's Lair on the NES. That game is just insane. The early Might and Magic games are stupid hard. Even if you grind XP, you can still get insta-wiped from a single bad encounter.

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Landahn
    Imo, I'd argue there needs to be a distinction between 'hard but fair' and 'bullshit hard'. Whilst the line between the two is probably quite subjective, I have to say that most games I've played recently with difficulty spikes have been in the latter category. Games where I felt the difficulty was purely the result of bad design or wonky controls.

    The last 'hard but fair' game I can remember is Ninja Gaiden on the original Xbox. Having said that, I never actually finished it...

  5. #5
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    Yeah, I'm gonna echo demagogue and go with IWBTG. I gave it a try, saw the oceans of spikes awaiting me, and noped the fuck right out of there. I'm not that masochistic, though masocore games intrigue me conceptually and in theory.

    Also, Cuphead's probably not that difficult, but when I saw that its side-scrolling levels essentially just respawned enemies infinitely while you ran through them, I probably had a knot on my forehead like you see in Japanese anime when someone's angry and about to explode. It's irrational, but it cheeses me off that you can't actually take your time platforming because you're constantly being bumped around by enemies, half the time from areas that you've already negotiated. I think I shelved it inside of five minutes.

    As far as hardcore but doable and compelling is concerned, yeah, I don't think anything's going to trouble Nioh for that spot. Except Sekiro, maybe, when it comes out in a few months, and Nioh 2.

  6. #6
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    I believe how hard a game is allowed to be before the player drops it is directly connected to how enjoyable it is. In Dark Souls I was fine spending hours replaying a tough bossfight, but when I failed a tougher section in Bioshock Infinite even once I was like "I'm gonna have to replay the entire last 5 minutes over again? Ugh, pass.".

    Because of this tilted playing field it's hard to judge what's actually the hardest game. I've certainly given up more on not-very-fun but moderately-difficult games more than on great but hard games.

    If we're talking just platformers I did give up on Super Meat Boy halfway through whereas I stuck with Celeste till the end, though that might have more to do with being emotionally invested in Celeste's story and wanting to see it through, whereas SMB just felt like a series of levels and I didn't feel any compulsion to get to the end.
    Last edited by henke; 17th Jan 2019 at 08:54.

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    From the old games, Ghosts 'n Goblins immediately comes to mind. I also only barely made it past the turbo tunnels in Battletoads but gave up shortly after that. Of the ones that were actually fun to play, though, IMO the original Castlevania threaded the line between difficult and unreasonable pretty well. Nethack took some time to master, but it's actually not all that difficult once you know what you're doing -- it's just that it takes a lot of time and experience to get to the point where you can ascend reliably. God Hand was an absolute blast and the one game I wish got a remaster.

    As far as modern games are concerned, I really like La-Mulana and I've almost finished the second one too. Hotline Miami was a lot of chaotic fun, but the second one was kind of meh. Rain World has been kicking my ass to the point I'm not sure I want to play it any more. Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy was a nice surprise from the Humble Originals and oddly satisfying to play while listening to podcasts. From roguelites, FTL and Spelunky are still my go-to games. Not sure if I should include Binding of Isaac, as the difficulty kind of depends a lot on the items you get.

  8. #8
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    Quote Originally Posted by henke View Post
    I believe how hard a game is allowed to be before the player drops it is directly connected to how enjoyable it is. In Dark Souls I was fine spending hours replaying a tough bossfight, but when I failed a tougher section in Bioshock Infinite I was like "I'm gonna have to replay the entire last 5 minutes over again? Ugh, pass."
    Binfinite wasn't that hard though, it just had not-great gameplay (I dunno about checkpointing issues though). Like your experience with Celeste, I wanted to see what the heck happened in the end. (Turns out it wasn't all that great, but it made a sort of emotional sense. Also the best Bioshock game after BS1 was the whole Burial at Sea DLC, which made finishing Binfinite and BS1 retroactively worth it.)

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Sulphur View Post
    Yeah, I'm gonna echo demagogue and go with IWBTG. I gave it a try, saw the oceans of spikes awaiting me, and noped the fuck right out of there. I'm not that masochistic, though masocore games intrigue me conceptually and in theory.
    And if you watch GDQ you'll see other games heavily inspired by IWBTG. Part of what makes IWBTG and clones difficult is not so much the visible layout of the game, but all the hidden triggers for sudden things you need to avoid along with otherwise "safe" items being dangerous at seemingly random.

  10. #10
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    IWBTG is about incessant re-play, and you go in knowing there are going to be the hidden triggers and already gearing up for your next go to handle that trigger. For me, it's kind of puzzle like (how do I get around this trigger?), and I'll try a number of times. Only if I really don't get it, I'll watch a walkthrough video. What makes the game work for me (or at the time I played it) is just getting into the zen of repeated mindless muscle memory motions. If that kind of thing is what you want, this game works. It's got humor to its masochism too. And believe it or not, one does develop a skill for handling its tricks over time that makes it easier going.

    I made it through I think three or four bosses before other things pulled me away, so a sizable chunk of it. Some of the screens took, I don't know, it's possible some of them hit 100+ attempts before I cleared them. (Celeste is about 30 or 40 on the hardest levels it feels like; but even those are rare screens.) I'd only recommend IWBTG to people -- well I'd recommend it to anyone to play around just in the first area for the pure kick of it -- but any further only if they're into the whole zen thing.

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2005
    Location: The Inverted Manse
    Green Beret on C64,
    Shadow of the Beast 2 on Amiga,
    and on PC...probably Hollow Knight.

  12. #12
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    Quote Originally Posted by Sulphur View Post
    Binfinite wasn't that hard though, it just had not-great gameplay (I dunno about checkpointing issues though).
    Maybe I wasn't clear enough, wasn't talking about checkpointing. Post edited to hopefully make it clearer. My point was I'm fine with retrying a section of Dark Souls 30 times, but asking me to retry a section of BI even once felt like the game was asking too much.

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2004
    Homeworld comes to mind. Man does that have a steep difficulty curve in levels 4-6. Does anybody get to level 4 and not get wiped by the "surprise" the first time?

  14. #14
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2001
    Location: Somewhere
    Landstalker. This falls into henkes dark souls category for me.

  15. #15
    ZylonBane
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: ZylonBane
    Cannon Fodder.

    Fucking Cannon Fodder.

  16. #16
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Resident Evil 0 *shivers*

  17. #17
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Landahn
    Really? That's interesting. It's one of only three REs I've played, I don't remember it being that difficult.

  18. #18
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    I don't know if it was the most difficult for me, but it's up there: Teleglitch.

  19. #19
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    Chaos Reborn is another one. That game is ridiculously hard, and it's completely random what units you get in a battle as you get a random allocation from a unit card pile. Worst bit is that you have a set turn limit till it's game over, and if you die you get sent back to the starting location. Stupid game. Played for an hour then uninstalled. I backed it on KS which is double annoying.

  20. #20
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by N'Al View Post
    Really? That's interesting. It's one of only three REs I've played, I don't remember it being that difficult.
    It's by far the hardest in the series.

  21. #21
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Ireland
    That's weird, I didn't find Chaos Reborn all that difficult. Having to redo a whole world if you run out of time was very annoying, though. I think that happened to me twice in the last world.

    I'm not sure what's the actual hardest game I've played, but I can name a few that I can recall as being notably hard.

    I just recently finished playing Vampyr, without killing any civilians. That leaves you ridiculously under-levelled to the point that most enemies kill you in 1-2 hits. Combine that with a boss-fight where random parts of the room keep shifting into deadly sunlight, and argh.

    I seem to recall the original Far Cry on Realistic difficulty was rather frustratingly hard.

    Games with stealth where one misstep leads to instant death can also count as very hard. Games like Commandos and Desperados, but even more so Evil Islands, where you can die repeatedly due to poor weapon damage rolls while trying to backstab.


    All those probably don't hold a light to those hardcore platformers others have mentioned, though.

  22. #22
    Moderator and Priest
    Registered: Mar 2002
    Location: Dinosaur Ladies of the Night
    Quote Originally Posted by PigLick View Post
    Landstalker. This falls into henkes dark souls category for me.
    Landstalker was good. Alundra was better.

  23. #23
    Still Subjective
    Registered: Dec 1999
    Location: Idiocy will never die
    Quote Originally Posted by ZylonBane View Post
    Cannon Fodder.
    Really? I don't remember it being that hard. It was so much fun though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Haplo View Post
    Shadow of the Beast 2 on Amiga,
    Shadow of the Beast 1 on Amiga was tougher imho.

    Quote Originally Posted by henke View Post
    I believe how hard a game is allowed to be before the player drops it is directly connected to how enjoyable it is.
    This.

    I'm playing God of War at the moment on the 2nd from hardest level. At this level the combat is fun and engaging, but it's tough. At the hardest difficulty it's just punishing and slow and you have to rely on cheese and a lot of luck. That's the line with the combat, to me.

    I don't know how far I got with Supermeatboy but Electronic Super Joy is pretty good, not quite as hard I don't think, and has better music.

  24. #24
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    A few more games I didn't think of the first time... I've tried getting into Dwarf Fortress, but the sheer amount of complexity was just too overwhelming. It's fun reading about it, though. Same with Kerbal Space Program. Getting a spaceship into orbit really is rocket science as it turns out. And another game I gave up on was Stephen's Sausage Roll. The puzzles are so well designed and so fiendishly difficult, I just don't have the patience for it. Or maybe it just has a high difficulty curve. And talking of fiendish puzzles, I don't know how anyone finished The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy without a guide. Games like these really make you appreciate accessible games like The Witness where you have plenty of other options to move forward as opposed to simply being stuck and banging your head against a wall.

  25. #25
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    When was Cannon Fodder hard? I used to play that game a fair bit, and never had any problems with it. I do recall though, that certain ports had some issues.

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