by Ben Beck
Listen: I’m good at some games. I’m a completionist, so I always try to finish games I own. But since there are genre I’m kind of crap at (cough cough platformers cough cough) there are games that, even if I love them, I have never been able to beat. So get your best gamer-ready sneer on, mutter about how I’m a casual, and check out this list of the top ten games that are just too hard for poor widdle me.
10. Super C (NES, 1988)
How have I beaten Contra but not its sequel? Time, my friends, pure time. I spent hours and hours grinding away on Contra, memorizing every enemy’s shot pattern and I could only barely beat it even after essentially devoting my life to it. By the time I got around to playing Super C, I never wanted to do that again, so I just enjoy Super C for what it is; I die pretty quickly as a result.
9. Ikari Warriors (NES, 1986)
Ikari Warriors is frustrating, and I’ve gotten close to beating it, but it eventually wears me down. When people talk about how older games are harder, what they often mean is they’re less fair, I’d say Battletoads is a prime example of an unfair game. Ikari Warriors isn’t unfair, every time you screw up you know exactly what you did wrong. It’s a masterfully designed game, but unfortunately one that’s a bit beyond my prowess.
8. Bloodborne (PS4, 2015)
I love all three Dark Souls games. They take time, sure, but progressing through them is a learning experience and dying lots is just part of that. Bloodborne, on the other hand, just hits me over the head again and again. I can’t get into its rhythms like I can Dark Souls, and as a result I usually get too frustrated and exhausted to proceed much further than the second boss or so. But it’s a heck of a game, a real looker and a game that actually manages to integrate Lovecraftian mythos in an interesting way.
7. Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Kiss (NES, 1989)
Yeah, there’s a Castlevania game on here. Of course. The granddaddy of hard games, the bane of screaming YouTube video game reviewers. The third one is pretty much impossible for me, I gotta say. I love its look and its atmosphere, and I’ve actually watched a few complete plays of the game on YouTube, but I just can’t do it. Classic platformers just aren’t my area of expertise.
6. Timesplitters (PS2, 2000)
I love stylized first-person-shooters, they’re my jam -- and the entire Timesplitters series fits into into this. Timesplitters 2 is my personal favorite, but I have never been able to make it through the Challenge Mode in the original game! Oh well, still looks great.
5. Cuphead (PC, 2017)
This recently-released animated platformer wowed critics and audiences with its 1920s animation-inspired design, cracking big band score, and cool mechanics that evoked retro platformers. See where I’m going with this? Even playing with a friend I haven’t been able to crack this nut, but its cruel logic and excellent design make it a joy to play even as I get massacred.
4. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (PS2, 2008)
Persona games have always intrigued me more than I’ve actually enjoyed them, with the exception of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. The twisty, winding story full of characters I actually cared about kept me playing a game whose difficulty ramped up to a degree that is a little unfair in my opinion, but the game’s unique design and psychological flair make it an enjoyable game regardless.
3. XCOM 2 (PC, 2016)
This one breaks my heart. I love tactical games, I’m good at tactical games: I love the Metal Gear games, Solid or otherwise. Gain Ground for the Genesis is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve been playing games in the XCom series since the 1990s, and the rebooted XCOM: Enemy Unknown was my game of the year when it came out. Addictive, difficult, but oh-so-satisfying. So when XCOM 2 came out, I was ready to rock. And I know that XCOM games have a difficulty spike but this one has a difficulty ice pick directly to the brain. I’ve never completed the full game but hey, it’s still XCOM.
2. Turrican II: The Final Fight (Amiga, 1991)
I’ve never really played a ton of Amiga games, but this one had enough raves to make me boot an emulator and give it a go. And....holy crap, it’s a heck of a game. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was one of the premiere action titles on the SNES or Genesis and not a computer game, but it’s one of the Amiga’s classics. It’s also a massive challenge, one I’ve never been able to beat. If you’re good at these kind of games, euro shoot-em-up/collector platformers, this game isn’t one of the hardest. But for me? Yikes.
1. VVVVVV (PC, 2010)
I’ve never liked games that are hard for the sake of being hard. Endurance games made a big splash in the indie scene in the 2000s, taking ideas of killer retro platformers and ramping up both the difficulty and the unfairness to a degree that made the games torturous exercises in frustration. Though it was borne of that genre, VVVVVV is the only game of the bunch that does anything for me. Again, it’s a question of fairness. The game’s fiendish puzzles and unforgiving nature means you’ll die a quantum number of times, but you'll have fun doing it. The awesome Commodore 64-inspired graphical look certainly doesn’t hurt matters either. Maybe I’ll go try to beat it right now...