Difficulty levels in video games have always been a divisive topic among fans since nearly impossible games like Ghosts and Goblins and Silver Surfer traumatized players. The most recent game to bring up the ongoing discussion is FromSoftware's Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which furthers the developer's ongoing release of difficult games that kicked off with Demon's Souls in 2009.
While fans deal with the increasingly harder bosses and challenging combat of Sekiro, we are going to take a look at a few other difficult games to try after beating, or in a lot of cases giving up on, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
10 Dark Souls
When discussing difficult games we need to talk about the Dark Souls franchise, which was also developed by FromSoftware and released in 2011 as a spiritual successor to Demon's Souls. Dark Souls proved to be an incredibly challenging game, causing players to become infuriatingly acquainted with the "YOU DIED" kill-screen.
The game became a hit, and more, a proving ground for players with the endurance to experience the satisfying reward of navigating Lordran and beating the crazy hard bosses. It's so synonymous with difficult games that other games in the genre are often referred to as Souls-like, proving the impact Dark Souls had on the gaming world.
9 Hyper Light Drifter
With a low, almost non-existent margin of error, Hyper Light Drifter offers up an incredibly difficult game for fans looking for an extra challenge. Heart Machine's 2D action RPG isn't difficult simply because of the combat with unrelenting waves of enemies or increasingly aggravating bosses, but also the complete unknowns of the game.
Players are forced to find their own way through the beautifully designed world with little instruction. The majority of information comes from the opening cutscene, which leaves itself open to interpretation, much like the game itself. However, despite these difficulties the game is a beautiful adventure for fans of Sekiro.
8 Ninja Gaiden Black
Ninja Gaiden, based on the 1991 Tecmo series of the same name, was released in 2004, though the definite Ninja Gaiden Black came in 2005, which repackaged the original with additional content. The game featured one of the most complex combat systems available on the Xbox and is fondly remembered as one of the most difficult games of the era.
The game was considered so difficult, in fact, that when Ninja Gaiden Black was released, each difficulty level was made harder with two new levels added; Master Ninja which upped the difficulty immensely, and Ninja Dog, which actually mocked and punished fans throughout the game for picking the easier mode.
Team Ninja's Nioh could be the most comparable to Sekiro thematically, given their Sengoku Japanese setting and play styles. Both games, while heavily influenced by Dark Souls, depart from the heavier RPG elements to focus more on the story and combat elements. Nioh also stood out from Dark Souls through its unique melee mechanics that drove the gameplay.
Perhaps not as difficult as some of the games on this list, Nioh still provides challenges that force players to constantly adapt and enhance their own fighting style. And while the story can at times seem light-hearted given the nature of the game, the fictionalized adaptation of real-life English samurai William Adams further adds to the appeal.
6 DiRT Rally
Frustratingly difficult games aren't limited to Souls-likes, with many racing games also proving almost impossible to master. DiRT Rally is a unique breed of racing game, with a dedication to realism that can lead to incredibly aggravating moments. Codemasters developed a rally game that can see a perfect run without a victory, over and over again.
Of course, that doesn't mean the game isn't beautiful, fun, and doesn't reward determined players who dedicate themselves to learning the extremes of their vehicles. DiRT Rally is built around pushing not only the cars but the drivers to their cautionary limits and proves that hard work pays off, even if you don't get the win.
5 Hotline Miami
Hotline Miami from Dennaton Games matches its extreme difficulty with extreme violence and has become a cult hit since releasing in 2012. The top-down shooter is both set in and heavily inspired by the 80s, as the masked-"Jacket" is directed to take down various criminal establishments using nothing but the weapons gained from enemies.
The game has become a favorite for many reasons, from David Lynch-inspired surrealist themes to the fast-paced replay after each death. Hotline Miami is built on trial-and-error, but the aggressive and unpredictable AI makes planning ahead difficult and requires quick thinking, and more importantly, quick aim, to survive.
A44's Ashen is, first and foremost, a visually impressive game that puts incredible detail into the sunless world, which was influenced by Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic The Road. Fans of Dark Souls will feel immediately familiar with the combat of the game, and should, therefore, be prepared the high-risk battles and frequent loss of life.
And while some of the Souls-inspiration is hard to ignore, Ashen always feels like an entirely different experience, less treacherous and more open to exploration. The game also features key co-op sections that further branches away from Dark Souls, and requires players to work with either AI or online friends instead of only providing the option.
3 Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy from Team Meat punishes both players and Meat Boy in a brutal series of increasingly deadly obstacle-ridden levels. Meat Boy is crushed, squished, killed by enemies, and chopped by all kinds of saws in the bloody indie platformer. For further insult, the leftover massacres even remain plastered on the obstacles upon replay.
Not only is the main game incredibly difficult, but should players perfect the level, new harder versions of levels are unlocked, continuing the ongoing torture and punishment of poor little Meat Boy. The split-second timing and precision movements needed to survive made Super Meat Boy one of the most difficult indie games on the market.
Much like Dark Souls acted as the spiritual successor to Demon's Souls, Bloodborne carries on that same family tradition of "learn by dying." However, it also takes the grand spectacle of some of Dark Souls scenery and focuses heavily on the beautiful Victorian era, giving gamers an incredibly beautiful setting to die in repeatedly.
FromSoftware still managed to make Bloodborne singular despite the obvious Souls connections and is often used as an example of video games as art due to the richly detailed Gothic city of Yharnam and the deep but mysterious storyline left for the player to uncover as they battle through an infected city of enemies.
Canadian indie developers StudioMDHR revisited the classic cartoon art style of the 1930s to bring players Cuphead, a story about two brothers who are forced to do the bidding of the Devil in order to win their souls back after a bad bet. At first glance, the game is a cute and nostalgic look back at the surrealist cartoons of the Fleisher and early Disney era.
But don't be fooled, Cuphead is hard. The term "run-and-gun" has never been apter than when playing as Cuphead and his brother Mugman, making it almost impossible to deal with the frenetic craziness on screen. Cuphead is truly artful and mesmerizing, but will still provide a challenge for even the most determined players.