Some people play games to relax. Others to test their skills against their friends, family and other players around the world. Other gamers just like put themselves through the must punishing gauntlets imaginable. Why? Why not! Playing challenging games and eventually besting them is one of the best accomplishments a gamer can have in their repertoire and is often cited as a badge of honor for years to come. So for this week’s installment of our Top 10 countdown, we’re taking a look at the most brutal, difficult and challenging games we can think of. Are you good enough to beat these 10 beasts?
10 – Ghosts ‘n Goblins
The NES was home to plenty of brutally challenging games (a few of them can be found below) and the first of these 8-bit bullies to grace our list is the Capcom classic, Ghosts ‘n Goblins. Featuring challenging gameplay that rewarded precision and memorization (as well as just plain good luck) this was the type of game that you could easily sink hours into and make little to no progress and still have a good time. But the part that makes the game legendary for its challenge? Well once you finally overcome the end boss you’re sent back to the beginning to go through the hoards all over again.
9 – Contra
Another NES game that kicked out butts as kids but help mold us into the gamers we are today. Contra is a brutally difficult game that never lets up and does everything it can to throw a wrench in your plans. Thankfully Konami’s fabled cheat code (Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start) is on full display in this classic giving your 30 lives instead of the default number, which is good since you’ll need each and every one to see the end of this game.
8 – FTL: Faster Than Light
Sometimes, something being ‘random’ can be helpful when playing a video game. Maybe it helps you in a tight spot or gives you an opportunity to defeat a powerful foe. In FTL: Faster Than Light, randomness is both your best friend and your mortal enemy. You could be flying along, having the time of your life and then everything will go very wrong very fast. There’s nothing more stressful than dealing with a hostile enemy ship while your own vessel fills with smoke, leaks oxygen and your crew gets sucked out into place. The very definition of hectic.
7 – God Hand
Of all the games on this list, God Hand might just be the most bizarre (there’s… a lot of spanking) but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s an excellent beat ’em up style game that will push you to the limit and never really let you to rise above your foes. That’s because of an ingenious mechanic that ‘levels up’ your enemies as you also level up. So no matter how strong you are you know the challenge will be there waiting for you still.
6 –Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
Back to the NES we go for the next entry on our list. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (or Mr. Dream depending on which version you get) was a game that I hated as a kid. I just couldn’t wrap my little mind around the gameplay that mixes precision timing with almost rhythmic and would struggle getting by Glass Joe and could only imagine what taking on Iron Mike would actually be like. Later in life I revisited the game and found both the joys that lie within and the intense frustration that comes with giving your opponent any sort of opening as it will often lead to a poor showing for Little Mac.
5 – Ninja Gaiden II
The old Ninja Gaiden titles were by no means easy but the 128-bit versions took things to a whole new level and of these Ninja Gaiden II was the most brutal of them all. Taking the precision gameplay of the 8-bit games and adding in well equipped enemies, powerful (almost too powerful) bosses and challenging 3D platforming this was a game that tested almost skill a gamer could have and it was a real accomplishment if you could get to the end credits.
4 – Ikaruga
Bullet-hell style games are never meant to be easy and while many of these games could have been a candidate for this list none come close to matching the heart pounding intensity of Ikaruga. Not only do you have to navigate an endless flood of projectiles and enemies but you also have to manage your shield’s polarity, switching colors to absorb whichever bullet is coming while avoiding a mismatch. It’s a stressful game from the very beginning and one that only true pros are able to master.
3 –F-Zero GX
Of all of the games on this list this one holds a personal special place for me since I spent a very long portion of a year and a half earning everything it had to offer and wow what a challenge. Even playing on Normal mode will test your reflexes and then there’s still two more difficulty levels to go, each of which demand millisecond precision and timing to come out in first. All of this while travelling down a winding track at mach 1 while avoiding 29 other, very aggressive racers and you have an easy pick for the hardest racing game ever made.
2 – Shinobi
I don’t what it is with ninjas but if you’re ever looking for a challenge you can’t go wrong with a game that features these shadowy warriors. And the most difficult of all of these is definitely Shinobi for the PlayStation 2. Brutal combat and even more challenging platforming makes this game a real hard one to get through but those that stuck with it know it as a classic that sadly doesn’t often get the attention it deserves, but we love you Shinobi and honor you with the title of 2nd hardest game of all time.
1 – Battletoads
We wrap up this list with yet another game that graced the Nintendo Entertainment System with Rare’s Battletoads. This game is absolutely infamous for pushing the limits of what it meant to be ‘NES hard’ and gave players both young and hold fits back in the day and remains t this day a hearty challenge and a must play for anyone who considers themselves a ‘hardcore gamer’.
What games gave you a hard time? Let us know in the comment section below!