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The 10 Most Challenging Video Games of All Time

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Sometimes, the most memorable games are the most difficult. They’re the type of games that induce controller-whipping, excessive screaming, and make you never want to play another video game again.

Let’s revisit the games that you love to hate. These are some of the most notably challenging video games of all time.

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1. Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy

Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy is deliberately cruel—it’s meant to frustrate you to the point of no return. As you can see, it features a nude man that sits inside of a pot. His only means of transportation is to swing his axe, while hoping to latch onto rocks and propel himself forward.

That’s pretty much the gist of the game. Using your mouse to control the axe, you have to help this poor man climb the treacherous mountain. And if you lose your grip, you put yourself at risk of falling all the way back to the beginning. By the way, there aren’t any checkpoints.

2. Cuphead

If the people of the 1930s had the technology to create a video game, Cuphead would be it. This run and gun game might have some of the happiest animation around, but don’t let that fool you—despite its cheery appearance, it’s utterly torturous.

Play as Cuphead, and enlist a companion to play as Mugman, while you work together to collect Soul Contracts for the Devil. As you travel through Disney-style environments, you’ll encounter annoying enemies in every frame. To make matters even worse, one-on-one boss battles occur frequently and are almost impossible to beat.

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3. Battletoads

You probably remember Battletoads as one of the hardest games you played as a child. Only the strongest of players persevered and actually beat the game, while the rest of us gave up after getting stumped at the beginning of the first level.

This Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle copycat stars three toads: Rash, Zitz, and Pimple. When Pimple and Princess Angelica get kidnapped by the Dark Queen, Rash and Zitz must rescue their pals. Almost every level introduces a new challenge, such as surfing and racing, making the game even harder to keep up with.

4. Dark Souls Series

I would place a specific Dark Souls game on this list, but honestly, all the games in the series are very difficult. This sadistic RPG lacks a defined storyline and focuses mostly on trying to make your day more miserable.

Enemies can take you out with one hit, you don’t have access to a map, some areas are completely pitch black, and it’s hard to level up your character. Still want to play Dark Souls?

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5. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro is the newest addition to this list, gracing us with crazy hard gameplay comparable to Dark Souls. You take the role of Wolf, a shinobi during Japan’s Sengoku period—your goal is to exact revenge on the samurai clan responsible for kidnapping your lord.

The storyline is amazing, and the artwork looks even better. However, the gameplay is where it gets tricky. Instead of hacking and slashing away at your enemies, you must attempt to make an enemy lose their balance, and then kill them with one hit. It’s tedious, to say the least.

6. Contra

Contra is another one of those lovely childhood games that you didn’t expect to frustrate you as much as it did. Just admit it, this game is the reason why you memorized the iconic cheat code: “Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A.”

It looks like a simple shoot ’em up game where you destroy enemies as you walk. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy—especially when hordes of soldiers and turrets stand in your path.

7. Super Meat Boy

You don’t even have to play Super Meat Boy to know that it’s messed up. Not only do you play as a hunk of meat, but you’re tasked with rescuing your bandage-wearing girlfriend from the malevolent Dr. Fetus.

When you start playing the game, you might think to yourself: “Wow, this game is pretty fun!” Come talk to me after the hundredth time you get ground up by giant saw blades.

8. Ghosts ‘n Goblins

Ghosts ‘n Goblins is the definition of a struggle. In this run and gun platformer, you trek through the medieval environment as a knight fittingly named Arthur. Like most classic games, it shares the same trope of having to rescue a kidnapped princess.

Your health doesn’t depend on a conventional health meter—when you get hit, Arthur will lose his armor, leaving him in just his underwear. Get hit after that, and you’re dead. It’s way too easy to get hit and way too hard to recover your armor.

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9. Shinobi

Shinobi made its debut at the arcade, and you probably wasted hundreds of quarters on it. Your main weapon is a throwing star—one wrong aim leaves an opening for your enemy. If an enemy manages to land a hit, you’ll have to start from the beginning of the stage.

The Shinobi saga was later revived as a hack and slash for the PlayStation 2. Depending on what kind of player you are, you might be happy or disappointed that the high level of difficulty remains the same in the 2002 adaption.

10. Ninja Gaiden Black

Ninja Gaiden Black turns up the difficulty on the original Ninja Gaiden games. Take control of Ryu Hayabusa, a supple ninja on a mission to find a stolen sword and take revenge.

You’ll definitely have fun performing wall jumps and swinging around each level, but you might find some parts challenging, especially if you play on Master Ninja difficulty. In order to get through this game, you’ll need to memorize essential combos and get your timing down pat.

Game Overs Only Make You Stronger

Completing hard games makes you a better player. If you can get through the likes of Battletoads or Sekiro, you can play almost anything.

Retro games inherently have a higher difficulty than newer ones. Check out this article to find out some other reasons why some gamers prefer retro games over new ones.

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