Back in the early days of gaming, games gave the consumer bang for their buck through intense and carefully planned difficulty. Games like Contra, Castlvania, and Mega Man only had a handful of levels to play inside those cartridges but you could get an easy thirty hours out of those games as you would be playing areas and levels over and over again until you finally figured out how to beat them. Many games in the early era of gaming didn't have the ability to save and only offered a small number of continues. If you didn't beat that final boss before you used up your allotted continues, it was back to the very beginning.
For those of us that were there at the beginning, the Internet wasn't available for instant walk-throughs or tips. Sometimes you played the game for months before you found it covered in Electronic Gaming Monthly or the legendary Nintendo Power.
Today's gaming landscape is much different from decades past. Most games allow you a seemingly endless number of saves. Dying generally means starting back at your last safe point. This has more or less eliminated the idea of a "continue," at least, in the sense of the word all those years ago.
Games of the modern era also have a greater emphasis on story. Many games are very cinematic and the developers want you to see what they've created. It's not a matter of if you can beat a game, but when you beat it.
This isn't to say games today aren't hard. There's quite a few games that many of us would deem "impossible" these days. The level of difficulty comes from other things like highly involved play and mechanics, and the increasingly popular "trial by death" play style. Let's take a look at fifteen games from the modern era that the casual gamer would claim to be "impossible."
15 Dark Souls 3
There's no way anyone would dare create a list of this nature without mentioning a Dark Souls game. The series is known for its punishing level of difficulty, involved combat system, and the necessity to plot out your strategy by learning from what will be many, many deaths.
Fans of the series can't seem to agree on which game in the franchise is the most difficult. Some say Dark Souls 2 is the easiest while some say Dark Souls 3 is easier than the second. Many fans say that Dark Souls and Dark Souls 3 have harder boss battles, while Dark Souls 2 has harder areas to traverse and clear.
Either way, the next to impossible level of difficulty in any of the Souls games makes accomplishing even the smallest of tasks a very rewarding experience.
14 Robot Unicorn Attack
Robot Unicorn Attack was originally released on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim website. It's an "endless running" style game similar to (and predating) the infamous Flappy Bird. You're never going to truly "complete" Robot Unicorn Attack, but you do get a sense of accomplishment by setting your own points goals or finding yourself in a top spot on the leader board.
The game had over a million plays in its first week online and saw itself ported to the iPhone, Android, and Facebook. It spawned four different stylistically unique editions as well as a slightly less difficult sequel.
Another element to the game that adds to the difficulty is the endless loop of Erasure's "Always" that serves as the game's soundtrack. That could test your patience.
Developed by FromSoftware, the same folks that brought you the Demon Souls and Dark Souls games, Bloodborne follows in the same footsteps as its spiritual predecessors. Here we have another third person action roleplay series that sends your character through nearly impossible area content and puts you up against insanely difficult bosses. Some claim that Bloodborne isn't as punishing as the Dark Souls series, but having that argument with someone is about as productive as arguing Coke versus Pepsi.
The major difference between the two franchises is the setting. While Dark Souls takes place in a fantasy setting, Bloodborne takes place in a world that draws inspiration from the works of H.P. Lovecraft and a more Gothic Victorian era.
Gamers that are still waiting for a decent Cthulhu game should play this one in the meantime.
12 Don't Starve
The thing about the Don't Starve survival series is you're going to starve. You're going to starve a lot. You're going to get killed by monsters in the night. A lot. You will lose your sanity. A lot. The early experiences in this game are so difficult it would easily turn off a more casual game player. Even long-time players have complained that updates have made the game too hard to be fun.
Like most survival games, perseverance, learning about the world and its mechanics, hoarding resources, and learning "recipes," will eventually put you in a situation that makes the game feel less gruesome.
If you can find yourself playing this Burtonesque survivor for more than a few days without putting your mouse through your monitor, we salute you.
11 Ark: Survival Evolved
Ark: Survival Evolved is an extremely simple game if you're going the single player route. If you're playing in-house you'll be able to lengthen your amount of day-time, shorten the amount of night-time, greatly reduce the time it takes to tame a dinosaur, greatly boost the amount of resources you get from a single use of your tools, and exponentially increase the amount of XP you can get from performing some of the game's more mundane tasks. You're more or less playing an endless, glorified tutorial.
The challenge comes from the game's PVP servers - the style the developers intended us to play. Taming a dinosaur can take literal hours, constant vigilance, and completely drain your resources and patience. Resources take ages to gather and nights are cold and deadly. The game is "always on" and logging back on to find your early home completely destroyed, your resources wiped, and your dinosaur friends slaughtered is pretty much a guarantee.
You will need to find help from other players or have the patience of a Saint.
10 Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy could very well be one of the hardest games on this list, but it also might be the most fun. While the death animation is extremely simple, there is something about watching that little cube of meat explode that never seems to get old. Dying and losing in this game is extremely entertaining and oddly satisfying. You don't find yourself getting so frustrated with each failure that you get to the point of wanting to destroy your gaming equipment - you find yourself laughing. And you're going to laugh. You're going to laugh many, many, many times.
The artistic direction of Super Meat Boy makes you think of the punishingly hard games of an era already past. Do things old school and invite some friends over to swap the controller when things get to be too much.
9 Deadly Premonition
Many of us players are on the fence about this little piece of open-world survival horror. Some love it, while others hate it. Regardless of where you fall, you have to admit this game is almost impossible to play. The game is heavily inspired by the cult classic television series Twin Peaks. The references and similarities should be easily caught by fans of the soon-to-be returning series. While Deadly Premonition's source material is nothing short of fantastic, the game itself is a nearly impossible drudge.
Premonition isn't impossible because it's actually difficult, it's impossible because elements of the gameplay are so bad you just wanna stop and play almost anything else.
To solve the games mysteries you have to visit certain people at certain times in the day. What someone may tell you at night could be different than what they tell you during the day, so you have to catch them more than once. Visiting these people is a major chore as the driving mechanics could very well be the worst I've ever seen. This makes advancing, even on Easy Mode, quite a challenge.
Playing on PC? Now we're really talking "impossible." Steam users report that the game constantly crashes - to the point where many just gave up even trying to play. The only fix seems to be a fan-made update.
8 Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5
It's a shame that the Tony Hawk series took such a nose dive. The first handful of games, especially the first installment in the Underground spin-off, were absolute gems. Like Deadly Premonition, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 was impossible not because developers intentionally brought a new level of challenge to the series, but because it was rushed through development. Your ability to conquer Tony Hawk 5 isn't held in check by the return of a new and improved Eric Sparrow, but by broken mechanics and an unfinished game.
There were tons of glitches, collision issues (a big problem in a game where you are in constant interaction with your environment), and the online aspect of the game created a number of lag issues.
The online element makes the game impossible to play if your internet is out or you live in a rural area with no internet availability. The $60 disc came with what can only be described as a tutorial and the rest of the game had to be downloaded as an "update" since it wasn't finished at launch. Some players may have found themselves completely unable to play.
7 Ninja Gaiden Sigma
Ninja Gaiden has a long legacy of being one of the hardest franchises out there. This legacy goes all the way back to the 1980s with the first installment in the series for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. How many people do you know that made it past the third level before launching the console through a window? Ninja Gaiden: Sigma on the last generation of consoles is no slouch when it comes to keeping up with said legacy.
Some might blame the impossibility of beating the originals on poor level design and some mechanics that some might deem unfair (like the bounce-back when you're hit), but Sigma just offers a good challenge, similar to that of Dark Souls. Yes, it's hard. Yes, a casual player is probably going to put it down. Keep at it though and you'll have a highly entertaining and rewarding experience.
6 Mega Man 9
The Mega Man series is renowned for being a punishingly difficult but thoroughly entertaining experience. Fans of the series like it because it's next to impossible to complete any of the installments in the long running franchise. Only the most hardcore Mega Man fans can claim to have beaten one of the games and most of us will name Mega Man 2 as the game we conquered. Because the games are known and revered for their difficulty, developers decided to stay true to form when reviving the franchise with Mega Man 9.
Unfortunately, they succeeded in making the most impossible Mega Man to date. Many areas were hard for the sake of being hard. It lacked a certain fairness to its difficulty that most of the games on this list have. The point was missed on this first attempt at making a retro-style revival.
Luckily, Mega Man 10 cleaned up this slight issue and fans were given the game they deserved.
5 Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is one of the best games to have come out on any of Nintendo's consoles. It offers a great challenge, similar to that of a Dark Souls game or Bloodborne. The difference here is Monster Hunter 3 is much lighter in tone, but still succeeds at being the kind of game where you'll see yourself dying over and over again until you discover the right tactic.
The game being challenging on its own only accounts for half of the game's difficulty, as the controls are very involved and complex. While people look at Nintendo as the "family" console generally played by children, it would take a video game child prodigy to get through Monster Hunter 3. Even most adults will probably give up.
4 X-Men: Destiny
Much like Tony Hawk 5, here we have a game that is impossible to play thanks to poor and rushed development as opposed to being developed with the intent of creating a good challenge.
The combat in X-Men Destiny is simple and monotonous, creating a drudgery of an experience that makes it nearly impossible to find the motivation to press on. This is terrible when you consider this game is about choosing different paths and power sets - characters and power animations are visually different, but they more or less serve the same functions.
If you were unfortunate enough to get this dud on the Wii, it wasn't just impossible to play, it was impossible to understand what your choices meant and the gravity they carried. The Wii left out many cutscenes that were included on other consoles.
This game isn't hard, but it's "impossible" to beat - after an hour you'll want to turn it off forever.
3 I Am Bread
I Am Bread is an excellent game about a piece of bread that wants nothing more out of life than to be toasted. When the homeowner is away, it's on like Donkey Kong!
The four main buttons on your console serve as each corner of the titular piece of bread. You teeter-totter between buttons trying to get the bread to keep flipping over. The game physics make doing something as basic as moving an extremely difficult task, but the physics are fair and seem grounded in reality.
If getting a hang of the twisted controls just to move in a straight line wasn't hard enough, you also have to roll all over the various rooms of the house, attempt to climb cupboards, tables, and dressers, and avoid rolling over items that will stick to you. To add to the difficulty, nothing is there to let you know how to toast yourself. You might have to look for an old light-bulb or other device that's been left on. It's not as easy as finding the toaster.
2 Xenoblade Chronicles X
Like Monster Hunter, Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U is impossible to beat because of how involved it is. There is an almost endless amount of things to craft and level up besides your characters. There are level and quest requirements to advance to the next chapter of the main story, which forces you into long bouts of grinding and taking side quests.
Many side quests allow you to bring another player with you, but these players don't level alongside the characters in your main storyline like many games allow. You have to make sure you keep doing other side quests and grinding with the many other characters you can play with, so they maintain a viable level.
Then you have the added distraction of Skells, which are giant mechs you can purchase and modify. This is easily the best part of the game, serving to keep you distracted from the main story for days.
You can easily put 200 hours into Xenoblade without getting anywhere in the main story and that's what makes beating this game "impossible."
1 The Impossible Game
Well the name says it all and it's not just a clever name for a game that's just really difficult. This might be the only game on the list where we aren't being cute when we say it's impossible.
The entire game is made with two shapes: triangles and squares. You play as a square traversing a world made of other squares and triangles, the triangles serve as spikes. You're square moves at a ridiculous speed and you have to tap your screen or mash your button to get the square to jump and avoid crashing into the other squares head on or landing on the triangles. Similar to Robot Unicorn Attack, you'll never win, but it's so addicting you'll never stop.
And hey, The Impossible Game isn't impossible to afford. It's price ranges from free to $0.99!