1. Ninja Gaiden Black
As if the standard version wasn’t already a gamepad-bashing affair, would you believe the follow-up was created because the standard version wasn’t already hard enough? Talk about a cruel joke. Tecmo felt the desire to test our determination by adding an even more difficult option to beating the hack-n-slasher. Ninja Gaiden Black set out to make us mad with crazy boss battles that required no less than 50 tries to complete. It only got more excruciating further into the title.
2. Demon's Souls
Possibly the only title to ever be praised for it absurd difficulty, Demon’s Souls earned brownie points for its genuine, yet preposterous challenges. That’s not to say there wasn’t some criticism to be shared across the board. Little health items, ridiculously hard boss battles, and a lack of checkpoints contributed to the unbearable gaming experience FromSoftware produced. When someone is encountering baddies with enough vigor to wipe them out after two to three hits, the most ill willed gamer can only scream, “Unfair!” before breaking down in tears. The developers got off on the misery of the gaming community so much that they made the game even tougher on Halloween 2009, releasing an update where players had the possibility to achieve loot rewards that were pretty much unattainable.
Undeniably one of the hardest games of its era, let alone of the past three decades, Battletoads pretty much replicated the TMNT formula, and soaked in the same evil ooze of difficulty as its NES counterpart. The brawler throws so many enemies and obstacles at you that you’re bound to beg a friend to join in the adventure, although the conclusion was always dual disappointment. This was mainly because the campaign allows for two players to attack each other, normally resulting in the death of one character and bringing both players back to the beginning of a level. Exactly how is anyone supposed to survive such perils with no passwords or save features awarded? Well, let’s just say reaching the final level was enough of an accomplishment here.
4. F-Zero GX
Arcade racers are designed by default to be competitively fun and winnable. The Gamecube title laughed in the face of such logic, and made it an all-out war between the player and the near-unbeatable AI that always resulted in second place finishes. Sensitive controls combined with ultra-speedy vehicles didn’t help the cause either, as the slightest bump on the road resulted in wipeouts. That was just multiplayer. Venturing into the story mode to face off against Black Shadow, if you were lucky enough to reach that pinnacle, was just pure and utter suffering.
5. Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening
Capcom obviously took offense to the backlash of how easy, and terrible, its sequel was or else it would have never made Dante’s Awakening. When word got out that the North American version of the game featured a “normal” difficulty that was really the equivalent to the “hard” difficulty level in Japan, after its initial release, Americans were already left traumatized. That’s why the publisher followed up with a special edition version of the game that featured an easier option.
6. The Oregon Trail
How exactly could a 1980s educational game be considered more difficult than some of today’s virtual challenges? Well, let’s just say the Apple II game managed to be more painful to endure than living in the time period it took place in. The Oregon Trail placed gamers in the shoes of several characters from different backgrounds, all of whom join a wagon headed west with a limited amount of resources like food, supplies and the like, for the purpose of showing children what it was like during the pioneer days. Considering how the final outcomes either led to death by disease, hostile massacres, or the starvation of your party, there seriously was no way of surviving the times.
7. Super Ghouls N’ Ghosts
If there was ever a sane reason to punch your TV or smash a Game Boy Advance, you better believe it was Super Ghouls N’ Ghosts. Despite every other title in the series being insanely complicated, the SNES version was truly something programmed from the seventh circle of hell. Getting through any level alive wasn’t enough, as players were forced to get through the entire game untouched in hopes of salvaging their armor and the fairy Goddess of war just to reach the final level. Yes, getting to the second-to-last boss with Sir Arthur in his underwear only brought you back to the start of the first level. To say the experience was real life misery would be an understatement.
8. Dark Souls
The other Souls title doesn’t stray far from its spiritual successor with developer FromSoftware punishing players by not offering any insight on how to progress. Instead, the theme is to learn through a trial-and-error system that compelled players to learn how to fight and learn strategies while constantly being offed in the process. The idea of defeating one boss with either another one waiting around the corner or fighting through an entire horde of monsters immediately after only made grown men cry. Plus, when the developers release a special edition of the game entitled Prepare to Die, one can only expect to be tormented worse than any Uwe Boll video game film.
9. Mega Man 9
The Mega Man series has always been a tough one to get through. Staying true to form, Capcom went on to release a ninth retro installment, which embodies the spirit of its NES precursors, only increasing the difficulty level to the max. When the so-called easiest stage in the game, the Galaxy Man level, requires tons of effort and memorization, dodging spikes and random flying robots that grab you, it’s obvious creator Keinji Inafune constructed Mega Man 9 to be a torture fest that could only be embraced by the most extreme gaming crowds. Garnering cat-like reflexes was the only way of surviving this adventure.
Up, up, down, down. There’s a reason why we all memorized the infamous Konami code. Punching in the cheat to warrant 30 lives from the start was the only way of getting past the second level in Contra, as the chances of completing all eight action-packed boards on just three men were slim to none. One-hit kills that stripped players clean of their most powerful firearms, mistimed jumps, and an endless barrage of enemies coming from all angles were just three of the more difficult threats everyone faced. While the title helped break new ground for shooters, it also accounted for several broken NES controllers.