I Wanna Be the Guy (2007)

I Wanna be the Guy is designed to be difficult (and, in the case of its ‘Impossible Mode’, almost literally impossible to beat). Most of the terrain is specifically made to thwart and kill the player. There are the visible traps of spikes and pits, but also a host of subtler ones that can only be discovered through trial and error, to put it lightly. Each death, which can come with a single hit, results in a ‘Game Over’.

Rick Dangerous (1989)

Conceived and released by Core Design, 1989’s Rick Dangerous was pretty much a rip off of Indiana Jones, but no one was complaining about that. Instead, the complaints were all aimed at the difficulty. What’s important to remember here is that Rick Dangerous and other games of the era weren’t supposed to be completed. Games in the 1980s were almost rigged against the player in order to create an allure around those special few who actually won.

Ghosts n’ Goblins (1985)

Ghosts n’ Goblins, like every good and insanely annoying platformer, is a virtual whack-a-mole. Just when you whacked one, another springs up. The difference is, the moles in Ghosts n’ Goblins are lethal. And when you’re not looking out for them, you’re tasked with innumerable pit falls. This game is so notoriously hard that most people don’t even get past the first level.

Takeshi’s Challenge (1986)

Intended to be an 8-bit version of Takeshi’s Castle, Takeshi’s Challenge featured just as many absurd obstacles to fell plucky contestants, albeit was less slapstick. You play as a businessman on the hunt for a treasure. Something as simple as failing to divorce your wife, or quit the character’s job, can lead to an immediate ‘Game Over’.

Fade to Black (1995)

Fade to Black might look a bit silly now, but in the mid-90s this is what the future looked like in terms of gaming. A bold move into 3D, Fade to Black shot itself in the foot by making life impossible for the player, who could be taken out in a single hit by enemies.

Ninja Gaiden II (2008)

Ninja Gaiden never had a soft reputation, but the 2008 sequel really tested people’s patience. All enemies come with their difficulty here, but as you progress through the game (or, ‘if’ you progress) players have to fend off enemies who have cannons for arms. Don’t be tricked by how cumbersome and impractical that sounds, their accuracy is depressingly good.

NARC (1988)

This run and gun arcade classic was primarily known for being the first game to feature blood, leaving parents up in arms. To the kids who played it, NARC is known for being an insufferable experience. Your goal is to arrest and kill drug dealers and confiscate their money. As luck would have it, these drug dealers aren’t the nicest people and will risk life and limb to protect their enterprise.

Zelda II (1987)

Zelda II was not just a role playing game, it was a role playing game in a time when life wasn’t so easy on a player. If you died, reset, and turned off your game between levels, the player would have to start all over. In turn, you would have to accumulate all the skills and experience again, which is very, very tiring in the world of Zelda.

Arma 2 (2009)

Unlike many other entries on this list, Arma 2 is not slapstick nor camp. It’s a straight up tactical shooter very much occupied with stark realism. And guess what? Stark realism means no liberties. No zany abuses of gravity or physics to dodge the enemy. Even the simple act of understanding one of the gigantic maps in Arma 2 is a task in and of itself.

Battletoads (1991)

It’s always the most trivial games that are the hardest. Battletoads is often considered the most difficult video game EVER. There are plenty of traps and obstacles to avoid, that’s a given. What’s the clincher with Battletoads is that co-op players (you won’t be able to take it on alone) can cause damage to each other. Come too close to your friend and you’ll kill them.

Grim Fandango (1998)

Grim Fandago was to the 1990s point and click craze what Woodstock was to the 1960s counterculture: one final hurrah before the irreversible turn of the tides. It was also, like most games of its kind, very difficult. Chock full of puzzles and riddles, trying to beat this thing the honest, independent way was brave but futile.

Myst (1993)

Released in 1993, Myst held the title of best-selling PC game ever until 2006 when The Sims bumped it off the top spot. Still, a remarkable achievement and a deserved one. Myst was an undeniable challenge; there was less talking, fewer nudges and winks. It put its faith in you to work stuff out on your own. But you couldn’t, could you? Finding out where the puzzles are and then having to work out what order to complete them in? Forget about it.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (1993)

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers was so popular upon its release in 1993 that it went on to win several awards. That’s amazing considering how hard the game is. Every puzzle here is gonna require a guide, make no mistake. The running time is 11 hours, too, so there are a TON.

Discworld 2: Mortality Bytes! (1996)

Based on the Terry Pratchett novels, Discworld 2: Mortality Bites! entered the market in 1996. Although fairly unknown in America, it was a huge hit across Europe, praised for its humour and voice acting, of which Eric Idle was a part. The gameplay, however, wasn’t as fun. Moon logic puzzle after moon logic puzzle…

Flywrench (2008)

Similar to Flappy Bird, Flywrench has you pilot a small spaceship intent on passing through multi-coloured gates add obstacles to reach the goal at the end. Your spaceship is constantly falling down so keeping it afloat is a task in itself. Game creator Jonathan Blow eventually make an easier version called Nicewrench.

1001 Spikes (2014)

A game called 1001 spikes is never gonna be a walk in the park. It’s gonna be a walk on spikes if anything – likely 1001. You’re gonna have to trial and error your way through this frustrating slog of a game. Once your reflexes are lightning-quick, you may stand a slightly better chance. But it’s still gonna be hard.

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (1991)

Pros of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge: you get to play as the legendary Guybrush Threepwood. Cons of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge: you have to solve ridiculously hard puzzles. One requires players to tighten a screw by hypnotising a monkey and using it as a wrench. This was quite easy for American players who are familiar with the term monkey wrench. Outside of America, it was near impossible to work out.

Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest (1987)

Released in 1987 by Konami, Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest was beloved by gamers for its level design and fast-paced gameplay. Its riddles were not beloved. There are 13 hidden clues in and among the game that players need in order to solve Dracula’s puzzle. They were hard enough for Japanese audiences to find, but impossible for audiences dealing with wonky translations.

Dota 2 (2013)

Dota 2 didn’t pander to players. It held court as a gaming Goliath, lumping a huge scope of items, heroes and abilities onto those clever enough to keep note of everything moving all at once. Yes, this is incredibly difficult at the best time but it’s also a healthy challenge designed to bring you back down to earth. While a MOBA is always ‘beatable,’ getting anywhere near the highest ranks is practically impossible.

Pac-Land (1984)

Laymen may be surprised to hear that Pac-Man didn’t always confine itself to the iconic maze gameplay. In 1984, a side-scrolling platformer called Pac-Land was released. What made it so difficult, and surely illegal by today’s standards, is that unbeknownst to players, this game was neverending. There was no final level. It just went on and on, gobbling up infinite amounts of pocket money.

Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (1996)

Before “the Goat” was co-opted by sports fans to label their favourite athletes it was arguably linked to Broken Sword more than anything. The Goat Puzzle, in full, requires players to walk past a goat. Simple as that. Only the goat attacks you if you get too close. What to do? In this glorious tutorial age, we now know to use machinery to trap the goat after an attack. But as tutorial-less chumps in the 1990s? Anyone’s guess.

The Simpsons: Bart vs. The Space Mutants (1991)

Released in 1991, when The Simpsons was taking over the world on television screens, Bart vs The Space Mutants served to dominate arcade screens. This game wasn’t made on a whim, though. It’s a serious platformer that enrages players with rapid enemies and migraine-inducing puzzles.

Day of the Tentacle (1993)

Day of the Tentacle is difficult because players are put in control of three protagonists who are all sent off to different time periods thanks to a malfunctioning time machine. Triple the trouble, baby. These different characters often need items from a time period they aren’t in, as luck would have it, leaving the whole experience highly confusing.

Treasure Island Dizzy (1987)

What can be so tricky about guiding a fun looking egg across a pleasant looking island? Everything! The egg has one life. One mistake and you have to start all over again. There’s no inventory, either, so you can only carry three items. Picking up a fourth will drop a new item automatically. If you’re underwater and you drop your snorkel… Godspeed.

Metroid (1986)

Try get through Metroid without gaining a BPM rate of 200. We dare you. Go learn those new abilities only to go back and access previously inaccessible areas. Take one step forward and five steps back. Try to navigate the map without getting lost. Try not to let this ancient 1986 Nintendo release get the better of your developed 2023 mind. $7,000,000 says you can’t.

Solstice (1990)

Solstice tasks players with saving a princess from sacrifice inside a formidable castle by reassembling a special artefact called the Staff of Demnos. In your way are 252 puzzle rooms. Now all of these don’t have to be visited in order to beat Solstice but your final score won’t pull any punches in shaming you.

Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking For Love (1988)

Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking For Love, one of the best-titled games of all time, is not as whimsical as it looks. The story follows Leisure Suit Larry, who wins a free holiday on a game show only to end up stranded on a tropical island. Getting your way off said island is confusingly difficult for such a silly natured game.

Riven (1997)

A sequel to entry-fellow Myst, Riven was released in 1997 with much of the same gameplay and mechanics to the first game, which was slated by fans and critics alike at the time. The big difference between the two is that Riven cranked up the impossibility factor right up to 11.

StarTropics (1990)

There’s a difference when it comes to StarTropics, in that - at one stage at least - it’s actually impossible. One particular puzzle is unsolvable without a guide. And that guide can only be revealed by dipping a piece of paper you get with the game into water. Most players, when unboxing StarTropics, threw this blank sheet away, not knowing how badly they were screwing themselves over.

Elden Ring (2022)

Elden Ring has cheat hack views on YouTube totalling over 7 million, detailing all the tricks and hidden mechanics. And thank God for those uploaders cause this game is one tough cookie. People actually cry from relief when they finish it, such is the esteem of those who’ve bested Elden Ring.

Horizon Forbidden West (2022)

Here’s a modern entry. Horizon Forbidden West was only released last year but it was slated on the likes of Reddit for its difficulty. We’re not sure what they were expecting from a game where you fight animal-shaped machines that can lunge and destroy you with ease.

Gran Turismo 7 (2022)

Gran Turismo is a hugely popular gaming franchise but it’s seventh installment cheesed players off for being harder in more or less every aspect, from the missions to the S license tests and endurance races. Some hardcore fans declared they had given up altogether on the game.

Fear Effect (1999)

This aptly titled PS1 release puts a lot of pressure on players, having them switch between three mercenaries on a trip to Hong Kong, solving multiple environmental puzzles along the way. Out of the blue firefights don’t make life easier. Just one lapse of caution can finish you.

Driver (1999)

We all love Driver. Way ahead of its time in both graphics and mood, it spearheaded a big number of decent copycats. It’s a shame the developers seemed to have a blatant hatred of gamers. The tutorial mission, something that should’ve been a piece of cake, has become folkloric for its difficulty.

Heart of Darkness (1998)

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of Heart of Darkness – nobody has. Save for a few recent converts. This game was criminally overlooked at the time of its release but has since been credited for great visuals story and gameplay. What’s less credited is the difficulty of its opening level. That’s right. Opening level.

Irritating Stick (1998)

Boy this stick really was irritating. Basically Operation: the video game, Irritating Stick requires players to guide a small ball through a series of mazes that have little to no breathing room. Then there’s the extremely ungenerous ticking clock which forces players into zipping through the route without a second’s thought.

Tomb Raider 3 (1998)

Tomb Raider 1 and Tomb Raider 2? Fine, fine games that you would and should recommend to anyone who’ll listen. Tomb Raider 3? Stow that one away for your worst enemy, cause it’s a pain in the backside to get through thanks to innumerable spikes, pits, boulders and traps out to get our beloved Lara.

Incredible Crisis (1999)

Incredible Crisis is a good old fashioned button masher of a game. Forget “tactics” and “technique” and “pressing other buttons”. Just go hell for leather on the Circle button and pray for the best, cause there’s no way you’re coming out on the other side of these mini games doing anything else.

Vagrant Story (2000)

Vagrant Story is a pretty game, rewarding the player with stunning locations, a liberating combat system and great story to boot. As Ashley Riot, a peacekeeper on the prowl for a cult leader named Sydney Losstarot, you are pushed back by a string of clever traps and savage bosses. Even the humdrum enemies in this game are tough to beat.

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness (2003)

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness is the last game before the franchise went into a reboot and changed developers. Players continue the story of Lara Croft as she journeys across Paris and Prague, solving mysteries and exploring ruins. The Angel Of Darkness has an expanded gameplay system that includes elements like stealth and a stamina meter. However, these changes make the game much harder than it is intended to be and make it a pain to beat for most players.

Deadly Premonition (2010)

While fans of the television series Twin Peaks will enjoy the references and similarities between the show and Deadly Premonition, the game itself is a nearly impossible drudge. The interface is poorly designed, making it difficult to advance through the story. You have to visit certain people at certain times of day, but there is no way to tell when they are available except by checking back with them repeatedly. The driving controls are especially difficult, making it hard to navigate the town effectively. Even on Easy Mode, these problems make it a challenge to complete the game successfully.

Friday the 13th (1989)

In the 1989 NES game Friday the 13th, players control a group of camp counselors searching Crystal Lake for Jason Voorhees. They must defeat him three times to win the game–a task that can be challenging in practice. The game is notorious for its difficulty, as Jason appears randomly to attack counselors, forcing the player to drop everything to save them. Besides Jason, there are zombies, who can kill you in one hit, and Jason’s mother (as a disembodied head), who floats around and throws knives at you.

Flappy Bird (2013)

The simple but frustratingly hard mobile game Flappy Bird has gone down in history, thanks to its addictive gameplay and creator’s decision to remove it from various app stores. The gameplay is simple, with only one button to control the bird’s flight. As you progress through the game, you increase in speed and must avoid obstacles like pipes. Flappy Bird has captured the attention of millions of users since its release in 2013, who have been addicted to the game’s simple yet challenging mechanics.

F-Zero GX (2003)

If you’re looking for a racing game that will push you to the limit, F-Zero GX on the GameCube is a great choice. In this high-speed hovercraft racing game, you must dodge obstacles at 60mph while racing around tracks that are filled with obstacles like trees, dogs and lemonade stands. The only way to get better at this game is through trial and error, memorizing the layout of each track so you can avoid the obstacles on subsequent attempts.

Dark Souls (2011)

Dark Souls is a challenging game that will keep you on your toes. The challenge is part of what makes this action RPG so appealing to fans of FromSoftware’s other games, like Bloodborne. You’ll have to learn the mechanics and master some moves before you can clear this game, but if you put in the hours, you’ll be able to beat it and feel great about your accomplishment. You might even become a fan of FromSoftware’s other titles!

Prinny (2008)

Prinny and Prinny 2 on the PSP are some of the most challenging games on the system. In the world of Disgaea, criminals are reincarnated as penguin-like creatures called Prinnies to serve as Netherworld slaves while they pay for their sins. The levels in the game are manageable, but boss fights are downright unfair. That’s why you get a whopping 1000 lives at the beginning of the game; you’ll need them.

Ark: Survival Evolved (2017)

Ark: Survival Evolved is much easier to play in single player mode than it is in multiplayer. The challenge comes from the game’s multiplayer servers. Taming a dinosaur can take hours, constant vigilance, and drain your resources. Resources take ages to gather, and nights are cold and dangerous. The game is “always on” and logging back on to find your home destroyed or raided can be frustrating. Help from other players is often necessary when playing this style of game.

Winnie the Pooh: Home Run Derby (2008)

If you want to see your dreams of athletic prowess crushed by adorable woodland creatures, this is the game for you. In 2008, Disney released a free Flash game called Winnie the Pooh: Home Run Derby. The object of the game is simple: hit each pitch thrown at you. But as the pitchers get more difficult, they start throwing pitches that bend time and physics. The game briefly became a meme due to its insane difficulty, despite being a game aimed at children.

E.T. (1982)

E.T. for the Atari 2600 is often listed as one of the worst games ever made. The developers were inspired by Steven Spielberg’s 1982 film., but they failed to make a game that matched up to its quality. The game is tricky to play, as you have to find three phone pieces. Every movement will drain your score and the game doesn’t offer much guidance in terms of where to go. If you fall into a pit, it can take a while to climb out again. The graphics are also boring and monotonous with no music to keep you entertained.

Hades (2020)

Hades on Steam

Although ultimately conquerable, Hades offers a roguelike experience that presents an enduring challenge. Its dynamic progression system ensures that each death contributes to learning and improvement, making it an engaging yet demanding journey through the ever-shifting Underworld.

Cyberpunk 2077 (2020, at launch)

Cyberpunk 2077, the year's most controversial video game featuring Keanu Reeves, explained - Vox

Infamous for its technical woes upon release, Cyberpunk 2077’s initial launch difficulties hampered player progression. Glitches, crashes, and problematic AI compounded the challenge, creating unexpected hurdles for players trying to immerse themselves in its intricate open-world setting.

Returnal (2021)

Returnal: how a tech powerhouse puts PS5 through its paces | Eurogamer.net

Melding bullet-hell gameplay with a roguelike structure, Returnal propels players into an enigmatic alien realm where each death resets their progress. Its complex combat mechanics and unpredictable environments contribute to a formidable challenge that demands both skill and adaptability. Sci-fi meets action galore!

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (2019)

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is Steam's Game of the Year 2019 | PC Gamer

Recognized for its relentless combat dynamics and precise timing requirements, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice challenges players to master demanding parries and counters. This unforgiving approach enhances the exhilaration of overcoming formidable enemies and bosses. If you’re not prepared to fail, this game isn’t for you!

Death’s Door (2021)

Death's Door | Devolver Digital Games

Through intricate combat, enigmatic puzzles, and the threat of relentless adversaries, Death’s Door weaves a captivating and challenging journey within a beautifully crafted realm of death and afterlife. Critical thinking, patience, and a lot of problem solving are involved to progress within the game.

Demon’s Souls (2020)

Demon's Souls Review - IGN

Reviving the original that birthed the Souls series, Demon’s Souls’ formidable challenge endures in the remake. The game maintains its legacy of unforgiving enemies, intricate level design, and an atmosphere that mandates precision and patience for success. It’s a game that requires all your attention, and even then, you must prepare to lose.

Loop Hero (2021)

Loop Hero Review - IGN

Converging roguelike, deck-building, and strategic elements, Loop Hero tasks players with molding a world strategically to overcome varied obstacles and enemies. Each loop poses unique difficulties, demanding both foresight and adaptability. To excel in this game, you need to possess considerable patience and readiness for unforeseen challenges.

Chivalry 2 (2021)

April 23-26: Join the Chivalry 2 Cross-Play Closed Beta! - Chivalry 2

Thriving as a multiplayer-centric experience, Chivalry 2 immerses players in frenetic medieval battles that necessitate swift reflexes, teamwork, and proficiency with a diverse array of weapons in the midst of chaotic clashes. A key factor of this game is being able to trust your partner throughout.

Super Meat Boy (2010)

Super Meat Boy | Wii U download software | Games | Nintendo

Emblematic of old-school difficulty, Super Meat Boy’s rapid-fire challenges, precision jumps, and relentless threats of death encapsulate the essence of a brutally challenging platformer. The game’s rapid-fire challenges hardly provide any room for respite. Players are constantly faced with a succession of obstacles, requiring quick thinking and near-perfect reflexes to maneuver through each perilous situation.

Forbidden Siren (2003)

Japanese horror game Forbidden Siren presents a formidable challenge for gamers due to its intricate and unconventional gameplay mechanics, which prioritize stealth, strategic planning, and environmental awareness over traditional action-oriented approaches. Additionally, the scarcity of resources, complex level design, and relentless pursuit of the Shibito (zombie-like enemies) create a sense of vulnerability.

Cuphead (2017)

The Cuphead Show! review – this fast, funny spin-off has perfected the original video game | Television | The Guardian

A visually striking run-and-gun game, Cuphead’s demanding boss battles hinge on pattern recognition, precision, and memorization, delivering a steep yet rewarding learning curve. Each encounter presents a unique set of patterns and mechanics that players must decipher through observation and experimentation.

Bloodborne (2015)

Bloodborne review: The joy of relearning what you already know | Ars Technica

Developed by FromSoftware, the creators of the Souls series, Bloodborne maintains a relentless pace that demands players’ precision and adaptability. Its intricate combat mechanics, where timing, positioning, and weapon choice are critical, push players to their limits. The game’s hauntingly atmospheric world, combined with its intricate level design and formidable enemies, creates an atmosphere of constant tension and exhilaration.

Ninja Gaiden Black (2005)

Ninja Gaiden Black Hands-On - GameSpot

Retaining the legacy of the original while adding additional challenges, Ninja Gaiden Black demands mastery of intricate combat and the navigation of unforgiving environments, marking a pinnacle of difficult action gameplay. Engagements are dynamic and unforgiving, obliging players to read enemy patterns, execute precise counters, and employ an array of weapons and techniques with expert proficiency.

Spacewar! (1962)

Spacewar Ending in Astoria | itsnewstoyou

As a revolutionary pioneer in gaming history, Spacewar! presents a near-impossible challenge due to its innovative demands. Placing players in the cockpit of a spaceship, the game requires not just precise control to navigate the cosmos, but also strategic thinking in the context of a two-player showdown. Succeeding in the vacuum of space means mastering complex physics, gravity, and momentum, while simultaneously predicting and countering an opponent’s movements. These intricate demands create a gameplay experience that remains formidable, even by modern standards.

The Eternal Cylinder (2021)

Eternal Cylinder

The challenge presented by The Eternal Cylinder reaches near-impossible heights due to its relentless environment and dynamic evolution. The game defies conventional expectations by constantly transforming and introducing new challenges. The odds remain consistently stacked against players, demanding unparalleled adaptability and experimentation.

Ikaruga (2001)

Ikaruga is coming to Nintendo Switch on May 29 | VentureBeat

Renowned for its polarity mechanics, Ikaruga pushes the boundaries of what’s achievable due to its intricate gameplay design. The challenge stems from the player’s need to switch between polarities, absorbing or evading enemy bullets in a visually captivating bullet-hell environment. The intense pace, intricate bullet patterns, and the necessity of split-second decisions make this task a monumental undertaking.

Contra: Shattered Soldier (2002)

Contra: Shattered Soldier - HD PS2 Gameplay - PCSX2 - YouTube

Resurrecting the classic series with modern complexity, Contra: Shattered Soldier raises the difficulty bar to near-impossible heights through its demanding design. Intricate stage layouts introduce environmental hazards that require split-second reactions, and formidable boss encounters demand unwavering focus, timing, and resource management.

Viewtiful Joe (2003)

Anniversary: Henshin-A-Go-Go, Baby! Viewtiful Joe Turns 20 Today | Time Extension

The near-impossibility of conquering Viewtiful Joe arises from its fusion of stylish combat and intricate platforming. The game relentlessly challenges players with fast-paced gameplay that necessitates split-second decisions, all while facing intricate enemy patterns that exploit the slightest vulnerability. Success requires more than just reflexes; players must strategically employ time-altering powers, mastering their intricacies to counter adversaries and conquer the dynamic landscape.

Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening (2005)

Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening (Video Game 2005) - IMDb

Revered for its punishing combat and relentless boss battles, Devil May Cry 3 presents a nearly insurmountable challenge due to its intricately demanding mechanics. Players are tasked with mastering an intricate combo system that demands not only precision but also adaptability to confront a variety of foes. The arduousness of the game arises from the necessity to confront adversaries with enhanced tactics and precision, while navigating intricately designed levels that test all aspects of a player’s combat skill.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (2007, re-release)

Konami Stealthily Releases Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night On Mobile | TechRaptor

The near-impossibility of overcoming Castlevania: Symphony of the Night stems from its blend of intricate exploration and formidable adversaries. Navigating the labyrinthine world demands meticulous attention to detail, with hidden paths and secrets requiring thorough exploration. Alongside this, players must confront adversaries with a diverse array of strengths and weaknesses, necessitating strategic adaptation.