8 Video Games That Are Famously Hard as Hell

There’s a real art to making a hard — yet still good — video game. True difficulty isn’t just putting a lot of cheap deaths and bad play mechanics into a game — no, we must move past the arcade model, where developers would just string the player on to keep them feeding quarters into the machine. Want some examples of games that could never nail that difficult-yet-still-manageable balance? READ ON!



Battletoads, NES

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Maybe the most famously difficult video game of all time, the entirety of Battletoads is just a nightmare slog. I mean, forget about your enemies, the other player can accidentally kill you a bunch of times! And Battletoad's reputation comes from one level — the damn hover bike stage. You had to have the thing memorized, because by the end, the obstacles are coming so fast, you couldn't just rely on quick reactions. Truly, a brutal, brutal video game.



Ecco the Dolphin, Sega Genesis

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Far be it for me to become Mr. Hyper Masculinity, but the extreme difficulty of the weird, innovative, and beautiful Ecco the Dolphin is not helped by the fact that you’re playing as a pretty dolphin. It starts to feel like you’re getting your ass beat in a My Little Pony game.



Devil May Cry 3, Playstation 2>

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The original Devil May Cry is pretty hard, and may even be the hardest game I’ve ever beaten (as my father can attest to — the poor guy was just trying to read car magazines while I was in the living room screaming myself raw trying to beat the last boss). And since Devil May Cry 2 was such a walk in the park, fans of hard games were not thrilled. How did Capcom correct that problem? Well, by ratcheting up the difficulty level in Devil May Cry 3 to absurd levels — it might be the hardest game in the entire PS2 library.



Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!, NES

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When Mike Tyson was convicted of a pretty serious crime, so Nintendo was like "Maybe we don’t continue to license the name of a convicted sex offender", and so this game was renamed Punch Out!. And while that was an easy call for Nintendo, the fights were anything but easy — every single match in Punch Out was more difficult than the last, up until final boss, when you were almost assuredly going to lose, and lose quickly in what was probably a pretty good simulation of what it was like to actually fight Mike Tyson.



Smash TV, Arcade

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Smash TV was a two joystick shooter that always has a mountain of enemies on screen. The game just thrived on chaos, which is what made it so hard — you always had to worry about 15 different things at once. Also, since Smash TV was a show about people risking their lives to win money on TV, it’s really a nightmarish vision into our future.



Super Meat Boy, Xbox 360, PC

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Super Meat Boy, is a classic "old school platformer", which means it’s insanely difficult. And I hate this game — I bought it as part of a super cheap "Indie bundle", and it cost way more than I thought — probably close to ten years of my life.



Ninja Gaiden, Xbox

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My college roommate had this game, and one time it made him mad enough to punch the wall so hard that his fist came into my room (these dorms were not well made). The first Ninja Gaiden for Xbox was probably the hardest of all of them, but the NES and Sega versions were all varying levels of brutal — who would’ve known being a ninja trying to save the world would be so difficult?!



Double Dragon 3, NES

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I think this Double Dragon 3 beef is more personal thing than the other games on this list. A lot of NES games were hard, be it because of slippery controls or bad level design or whatever, so I’m not sure that Double Dragon 3 was actually THAT tough. There’s just something I remember about it, though... maybe it was the fact that you had essentially no extra lives, or that the special weapons could be a huge burden, but Double Dragon 3 always ended up being a controller hurler for me.

Writing this has made me relive a lot of video game induced trauma — it is hell, playing games. Which ones were hardest for you? Tell me about it on Twitter!