Are games gradually getting easier? Despite the efforts of a couple of dedicated developers who long for a return to the good old NES days when platformers sought to reduce players to frustrated sacks of mushy meat, the last few generations have been marked with an industry-wide shift towards a prioritization of accessibility over challenge. Whether the medium benefits from this move or not is up to debate, but not every gamer is seeking to be put through the ringer. In some cases, satisfaction hinges on experiencing an engaging and relaxing storyline, while other players love to have their reflexes tested. We live in an age when there is no "proper" way to play a game; nevertheless, for better or worse, certain titles still manage to surprise customers with their level of difficulty.
A case can be made that challenge varies from player to player, but there are a couple of games that truly earned the right to be described as easy or hard. When dealing with the former, there is an almost baffling desire to avoid presenting any potential scenarios that could push players out of their comfort zones. Just to be clear, this is not always a negative, but issues start to arise when the obstacles fail to match the target audience's expectations. If a beloved franchise adored for its grueling difficulty were to suddenly don mittens, fans have every right to be disappointed. Conversely, games designed to provide an exhausting challenge should make it sufficiently clear in their marketing.
Here are the 15 easiest video games of all time (and 15 that were too hard for casuals)!
30 Easy: Ninja Gaiden 3
Wait, how can this be right? Ninja Gaiden is synonymous with hard-as-nails hack and slash combat. Sadly, Ninja Gaiden 3 squandered its predecessors' solid work and delivered a neutered experience that strayed far from the franchise's roots. For those who thought Ninja Gaiden II pulled some of its punches, Team Ninja's misguided sequel will feel like a slap to the face. Garnering a noticeable amount of backlash for its timid and streamlined campaign, the studio tried to steady the ship with Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, but the damage was already done.
29 Hard: Donkey Kong Country
Nintendo Hard is a category on TvTopres for a reason! Published in the early 90s, Donkey Kong Country presents itself as a quirky platformer about anthropomorphic gorillas who just want their bananas, but this ride through the jungle is defined by failure. With save points only sparingly available, Rare's classic feels abnormally punishing on the harder levels. Like most other platformers, the difficulty lies in the stages rather than the bosses, but the former more than makes up for the latter! The subsequent games in the series have kept up the tradition of ruining the player's confidence.
28 Easy: Fallout 3
Initially, Fallout 3 may seem like an odd candidate for the easy list, but Bethesda's RPG is only truly challenging during the opening segments of the campaign. Designed to be an immediately accessible open world that allows players to traverse the map as they see fit, Fallout 3 maintains a somewhat steady level of difficulty throughout its entire sandbox, and enemies rarely equip better weapons or armor. The story missions are even simpler, as companions do most of the heavy lifting. Once the Stealth Armor is equipped, the gameplay becomes trivial and missions can be completed without much thought.
27 Hard: God Hand
Clover Studio's God Hand wastes little time in throwing players into the thick of battle. Out on a mission to defeat a fallen angel named Angra, Gene must use his awesome "God Hand" to spread justice across the continent. Boasting an extensive combo system that requires patience to understand and appreciate, God Hand's enemies are aggressive and pounce on any mistakes. Frankly, the opening few hours are going to be frustrating and unenjoyable; however, once the growing pains subside, God Hand transforms into one of the most satisfying experiences of all time.
26 Easy: Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night
In comparison with the NES entries, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a complete cake walk. Just to ensure there are no misunderstandings; Symphony of the Night is a wonderful action role-playing game and sits among the pinnacle of the franchise, but that does not excuse the lack of any real challenge offered by the bosses. Unlike the earlier titles, Alucard gains stats by leveling up and the enemies have a hard time keeping up with him. For those yearning to be tested, the only option is to drop any weapons and go bare fisted.
25 Hard: Crash Bandicoot
Naughty Dog's iconic platformer was always excruciatingly hard, but the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy's more precise controls just exacerbated matters. While the sequels are considerably more forgiving, the original game features some of the hardest stages of any post-SNES platformer. "Slippery Climb," "High Road," and "Native Fortress" require perfect timing and nerves of steel to be completed, while N. Sane Trilogy's "Stormy Ascent" seems designed purely to destroy controllers. Crash Bandicoot is rightfully considered a classic, although the sequels' gentler spirits hardly hurt their overall appeal.
24 Easy: Doom 3
As the granddaddy of first-person shooters, Doom amassed a reputation for run and gun combat that requires total concentration from even veteran players. While 2016's Doom got things right, Doom 3's monsters come across as little more than moving targets that occasionally tap on the playable character's armor. Ramping up the difficulty to "Veteran" barely raises the stakes, while "Nightmare" mode relies on cheap tricks to give off the semblance of a challenge. Despite garnering positive reviews at the time, Doom 3 tends to be considered the weakest entry in the storied franchise's history.
23 Hard: Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy belongs to a rare breed of platformers, one that manages to be excruciatingly punishing but perfectly fair. AAA companies rarely spend money on 2D adventure games, so fans rely on the indie market to scratch that itch. When it comes to Super Meat Boy, failure is a given, but Team Meat limited the frustration by creating shorter levels and making respawning almost instant. After succumbing to the grinder more than 50 times, victory is rewarded with a short replay that summarizes the player's various attempts at overcoming the obstacles.
22 Easy: Ōkami
Ōkami is a masterpiece and there is precious little we would change about it! Lasting for nearly 40 hours, Clover Studio's picturesque action-adventure game features gorgeous environments, an interesting combat system, and a fascinating story. If there is one slight nitpick, it would have to be the difficulty level, as Ōkami can be beaten without much fuss. Due to the exaggerated length of the adventure, battles eventually become monotonous due to their simplicity. Even though Clover Studio created one of the PlayStation 2's defining games, the enemies could pack a more significant punch and items needed to be harder to buy.
21 Hard: The Witcher 2
Bless the hearts of everyone working at CD Projekt Red, but the studio cannot seem to grasp the concept of tutorials. As Geralt is already a seasoned warrior with a wide range of skills, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings starts with an overwhelming information dump that tries to explain too many different concepts. Taken place in the middle of a massive battle, gamers are tasked with clearing out an ambush before being provided with any time to grasp the not so intuitive controls. Dark Souls' tutorial boss is legendary, but the Asylum Demon's got nothing on The Witcher 2's no-name soldiers.
20 Easy: Devil May Cry 2
Sophomore releases tend to be either the best or worst in a franchise, but nobody expected Devil May Cry to lose its way so quickly. Following the astonishingly tough original, Capcom's sequel threw Dante into the great outdoors and powered up his moves to a whole other level. With Ebony & Ivory being more than enough to defeat the vast majority of enemies and bosses, someone would have to actively try to fail a mission. Thankfully, Capcom learned from its mistakes and upped the ante with Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening.
19 Hard: Ninja Gaiden
After discussing the worst entry in the franchise, it is only fair to mention the best. Transitioning from 2D to 3D, 2004's Ninja Gaiden revitalized the hack and slash genre. Regardless of the version being discussed, Team Ninja absolutely nailed the combat! Far harder to master than God of War or the first Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden is a testament to what can be accomplished when a studio is willing to challenge their player base. Attacking on sight and without warning, enemies care little about theatrics and simply want to stop Ryu Hayabusa in his tracks. While other titles allow for mid-combo cancellations, Ninja Gaiden expects players to commit to every move.
18 Easy: Dragon Ball FighterZ
Known for creating some of the densest fighting games on the market, Arc System Works' Dragon Ball FighterZ captured the exhilarating action of Akira Toriyama's legendary license. Easy to learn but hard to master, multiplayer fights hinge on split-second timing and battles can turn at the drop of a senzu bean. When it comes to the overlong campaign, Dragon Ball FighterZ's AI fails to put up much of a challenge, and Arc System Works provides players with ample time to level up and completely overwhelm the computer. By the end of the grind, Kid Buu and Frieza may as well be Krillin and Yamcha.
17 Hard: Battletoads
During this year's E3 conference, Microsoft announced that a new Battletoads was on the way, but it remains to be seen whether this latest iteration matches the sheer hair-pulling frustration of the original. Blending a multitude of genres, Rare's 1991 classic was an interesting enough beat 'em up, but some of the platforming sections were near impossible to finish. Despite hailing from a period packed with stimulating platformers, Battletoads still stood out for its grueling level design and punishing gameplay. For the most part, any defeats were the player's fault, but Battletoads seemed to enjoy crushing gamers.
16 Easy: Yoshi's Story
Yoshi's Island could comfortably place on the hardest list, so it was somewhat disappointing to see Nintendo cuddle players with Yoshi's Story. Admittedly, the Nintendo 64 release was clearly designed for youngsters, but the short and boring levels are unlikely to keep many people interested for an extensive period of time. Boasting a pop-up storybook art style, Yoshi's Story's visuals are vivid and mesmerizing, but the amazing graphics warrant a better class of gameplay. Children deserve their own games, but Yoshi's Story will only entertain toddlers and anyone seeking to look at some pretty colors.
15 Hard: The Lion King
Following a decade or two of mediocrity, Disney hit a renaissance period that propelled Mickey Mouse back into the limelight. With Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast earning box office gold, Disney spread its wings and tried to conquer the gaming market. Prior to the days of Kingdom Hearts, the studio gained a reputation for publishing fun but near unbeatable licensed games. While the visuals are detailed and praiseworthy, The Lion King's adaptation was somewhat of a mixed bag. The excruciating difficulty was further exacerbated by finicky controls that turned Simba into a floating lion-shaped rock.
14 Easy: New Super Mario Bros.
Even without taking into account the absurdity of The Lost Levels, Super Mario Bros. amassed a notoriety for rage quits. With the jump to 3D, Nintendo traded the franchise's trademark difficulty for a heavier focus on exploration and adventure; however, New Super Mario Bros. comes across as almost a betrayal of the brand. When it comes to gaming's most identifiable icon, there is simply no argument: Mario is the face of the industry. As a result, Nintendo has gone out of its way to make the plumber's adventures as casual as possible, but New Super Mario Bros. took things to an unreasonable level.
13 Hard: Darkest Dungeon
With a name like Darkest Dungeon, players know to prepare themselves for hours of torment. Apparently, if a title includes the word "dark," then one's future is destined to be saturated with anger and a myriad of Game Over screens. Created and published by Red Hook Studios, Darkest Dungeon is a "realistic" RPG that sees players hiring adventurers to try and conquer a sprawling dungeon. While traversing these monster-filled ruins, team members can succumb to illness, depression, and fear. As characters cannot be revived, Darkest Dungeon hinges on a risk/reward system that tests the mettle of any explorer.
12 Easy: Prince Of Persia (2008)
Anyone remember when Ubisoft rebooted Prince of Persia with a whole new protagonist and art style? Dividing the fanbase down the middle, the platformer's visuals are still as jaw-dropping as the day of release, but the gameplay appears unwilling to punish players. Putting aside the fact that the Prince's companion refuses to allow the protagonist to fall to his doom, Prince of Persia's biggest problem is the lackluster combat that requires essentially no strategy and offers little variation. While the original trilogy ventured down some rather peculiar avenues, Ubisoft maintained a steady level of difficulty throughout its entire run.
11 Hard: Far Cry 2
For the most part, Ubisoft's flagship franchises rarely take it easy on players. Far Cry's formula has started to wear thin, but none of the entries in the series have attempted to dumb down the gameplay to attract a wider audience. Far Cry 5 barely grants a moment's rest, while Far Cry 3's opening hours can be rather overwhelming. In terms of challenge, Far Cry 2 exists in its own hemisphere! Enemies respawn instantly, while the protagonist seems to be always on the verge of collapsing from a bad case of malaria. When compared to the later entries, Far Cry 2 is slower paced and expects players to take their time while exploring Central Africa.
10 Easy: Kirby’s Epic Yarn
Kirby's titles serve as entry-level platformers for young children, so anyone seeking to be tested should prepare themselves for a world of disappointment. If the IP is synonymous with kid gloves, then Kirby's Epic Yarn wraps players in cotton wool and an endless supply of blankets! A platformer that lacks any bottomless pits or health, Kirby is effectively immortal, so any challenge is strictly self-imposed. Rather than avoiding a Game Over, the point is to complete levels with a high of a bead count as possible.
9 Hard: Angry Birds
The mobile market is the living embodiment of casual, but this has mostly to do with the fact that its games are designed to be played in short bursts. Angry Birds starts off quite easy and straightforward, but the difficulty ramps up exponentially in the higher levels. These are puzzle platformers with over 1000 missions, so breezing through the first dozen challenges is not an accurate representation of the overall experience. Frankly, many of the later areas border on infuriating, but Angry Birds offers just enough nuance to keep players coming back for more.
8 Easy: Super Monkey Ball 3D
Super Monkey Ball 3D is harder than the typical easy game, but context is vital when discussing long-running franchises. Among Sega's best-selling titles, Super Monkey Ball's success hinged on its addictive gameplay and nuanced level design. At initial glance, the mechanics seem to be almost too restrictive, but mastering the controls requires a ton of perseverance. Once accustomed with the protagonist's movements, Super Monkey Ball transforms into a truly gratifying adventure. Unfortunately, Super Monkey Ball 3D's puzzles took a notable step back in terms of complexity, a decision that reduced the game's replayability.
7 Hard: Dark Souls
Cuphead is the Dark Souls of run and gun indie games. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is the Dark Souls of platformers. FromSoftwware's action RPG started off as a niche title that dropped gamers into a harsh world filled with aggressive Lovecraftian monstrosities capable of reducing the protagonist into nothingness. Even though the term predates Dark Souls, Git Gud was popularized by its community to ridicule any newbies who dare complain about the game's steep learning curve. Ready to hear an unpopular opinion? Dark Souls is not that arduous, as the mechanics are based solely on skill. Practice makes perfect may be a cliche, but the saying holds true for FromSoftware's masterpiece.
6 Easy: Kingdom Hearts II
Kingdom Hearts' Disney aesthetic and goofy dialogue cover up a robust RPG that features some of Square Enix's hardest encounters in decades. The first game's final boss rush will test the skills of most players, while Birth by Sleep features a couple of ridiculous difficulty spikes. In comparison with its predecessor, Kingdom Hearts II's bosses fall way too quickly and without much effort. Circumventing nearly any puzzles or platforming, Square polished the sequel's combat to perfection, but the addition of Drive forms undercut most of the campaign's potential hurdles. Sora's arsenal received a substantial boost, but the enemies remained chiefly the same.
5 Hard: Jak II
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy nearly sneaked onto the easy list, but Naughty Dog fixed that criticism with the sequels. Despite the first game being well received, Jak II: Renegade altered many elements that were perfectly fine in its predecessor. With a heavier focus on combat and weapons, Naughty Dog's sequel is a far more mature adventure and tackles some genuinely dark themes. As Jak takes quite a while to gain some of the more useful weapons and tools, the early segments can be particularly tough.
4 Easy: Asura’s Wrath
Unless playing with the "Mortal" gauge unlocked, Asura's Wrath barely seems interested in defeating the eponymous character on any of the difficulty levels. Asura may face opponents who are bigger than entire planets, but they go down with only a couple of clicks. Deemed a spiritual successor to God Hand, Asura's Wrath's over-the-top story is its only element that warrants comparison with Clover Studio's classic. As an anime with interactive sequences, Asura's Wrath serves its purpose, but the combat is too shallow to act as anything more than a mild distraction.
3 Hard: Cuphead
With the Xbox One's exclusive lineup resembling a barren wasteland, Cuphead garnered a ton of publicity due to a lack of competition. That is not to say that the praise bestowed upon StudioMDHR's ode to 1930s cartoons is undeserved, but Cuphead is bound to frustrate players who are not used to these type of run and gun titles. Brimming with energy and life, Cuphead relentlessly chases the titular container until they are left crying in the corner for mommy. Cuphead's controls are tight and responsive, so any and all losses are entirely on the player.
2 Easy: Kirby’s Dream Land
Published on the Game Boy in 1992, Kirby's Dream Land inaugurated the adorable fuzzy ball and established many tropes that would become series' staples. Considering the hardware it was on, HAL Laboratory worked wonders with what was available. Lacking the protagonist's signature "copy" ability, Kirby's Dream Land ranks among the easiest and most bare-bones entries in the franchise. Stacking up rather unfavorably with the later games, there is little reason to try out Kirby's debut. When other components pick up the slack, a lack of challenge is not an issue. Kirby's Dream Land comes across as more of a test-run than a full adventure.
1 Hard: XCOM 2
XCOM: Enemy Unknown launches with a sudden alien invasion that leaves humanity scrambling for a savior. Skipping forward two decades, XCOM 2 finds the resistance on its last legs and Earth under the invaders' thumb. Rather than striving for a clear-cut victory with a couple of heroic moves, missions center around survival and limiting casualties. Without exception, newcomers are going to be lost during the opening hours. Even on the lowest difficulty, XCOM 2 is still far from an easy ride, so we suggest swallowing your pride and dropping down a level or two!