Every month dozens of new video games flood the market offering people the chance to escape reality and immerse themselves in a new world. Last year Red Dead Redemption 2 allowed fans to fulfill their fantasy of being a cowboy in the Wild West while God Of War gave players the opportunity to play as the former God as he and his son encounter all manner of evil-doers as they attempt to scatter the ashes of their deceased wife/mother. While both these games are fantastic, neither will leave you frustrated or challenged, with both games fairly easy to finish. This poses the question; are video games getting easier?
There was a time when games, particularly those on consoles, were unbelievably hard to complete. While the graphics might not be that alarming, the sound below par, or the storyline complex, games like Ghost 'n Goblins, Super Meat Boy, and Dark Souls take hours and hours to complete thanks to challenging levels and hard to beat end-of-level bosses. Some of these games, such as the aforementioned Dark Souls, will have you wanting to hurl your controller through the window, while the likes of I Wanna Be The Guy: The Movie Game will have you wanting to never play games again.
This article gathers together 20 of the hardest games ever released while also dissecting 10 of the easiest, just in case you want a game you can breeze through without any worries.
30 Hardest: F-Zero GX
One of the few GameCube released that lives up to the hype, F-Zero GX is a futuristic racer praised for its exceptional visuals, engaging gameplay and pulsating action. What critics and gamers alike didn't appreciate was the game's difficulty.
The controls for F-Zero GX are very fidgety and if you tap the controller too much in the wrong direction you'll find yourself crashing off course. The game relies on you remembering the layout of each track and having great reflexes so you can not only compete but come in first place.
29 Hardest: Ghost 'N Goblins
This is a fantastic game that's also extremely frustrating. Appearing like a simple platform game, once you've been hit twice you perish and must restart each level from the very start. If that's not enough to have you pulling your hair out, once completed, you are forced to reply the game on a higher level to reach the final boss.
It's hard to describe just how deflated I was after the first time I played this game. Spending hours and hours getting to the final boss and winning, only to be told I have to do it all over again was like a dagger through the heart. Thankfully Ghost 'n Goblins is bloody addictive and I soon managed to complete the game officially.
28 Easiest: Kirby's Dream Land
The Mario universe isn't known for creating too many challenging games. While a number of Super Mario Bros. titles are tricky, on average, anyone can quickly get the hang of things. Mario spin-off Kirby's Dream Land is the prime example of this.
Designed by the famed Masahiro Sakurai, Kirby's Dream Land is so easy you don't have to have any knowledge of the Mario universe or video games in general to play. This is a basic platformer with all the usual power-ups and bonuses, with the main problem being the lack of enemies and challenging gameplay, making it a breeze to complete in one sitting.
27 Hardest: Battletoads
Battletoads is another great game, or at least I think it is, considering I never managed to complete it. Created as a rival to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Battletoads are, as the name suggests, a group of crime-fighting toads. In the game, you are tasked with rescuing Pimple and Princess Angelica from the Dark Queen.
From what I can remember it's a fun game with some great comic graphics, but the difficulty just keeps on getting harder and harder the further you progress. The motorcycle speeder level is near impossible and when playing with two players I often found myself accidentally taking out my partner.
26 Hardest: Jurassic Park
Based on the film of the same name, Jurassic Park finds you taking control of Dr. Alan Grant on an island overrun with dinosaurs. You must complete various tasks to make your way to safety to complete the game, such as avoiding the T-Rex which is near impossible.
While the graphics are decent for a movie-tie in and the area of play massive, Jurassic Park's biggest downfall is the lack of a save feature. Without the ability to type in a password to continue a previous game you are forced to finish it in one sitting, something that puts a downer on playing this otherwise decent console game.
25 Easiest: With Doom 3
The original Doom will go down in the history books as one of the greatest first-person shooters of all time, unlike its successor Doom 3. It must be said the third installment is a cracking game with some delightful levels capturing the spirit of the first game, but the main problem is how simple the game is.
The A.I. isn't that smart, with enemies often following the same patterns and being stationed in similar areas, so once you've gotten used to the controls and the way the game plays out you'll quickly work out where the bad guys are most of the time. Even increasing the difficulty doesn't help.
24 Hardest: Spelunky Could Take Someone Over 200 Hours To Beat
As the name suggests, players take control of a spelunker and explore a variety of caves and underground lairs searching for treasure while fighting enemies and dodging traps. And just like real spelunking, this game is incredibly difficult to complete.
The levels are full of traps and the slightest slip and you'll find yourself losing a life and right back at the beginning. You have to watch your surroundings and learn from your mistakes if you want to get far in this game. Despite all this, Spelunky is very addictive and hard to stop playing, even after playing hundreds of hours without much progress.
23 Hardest: I Wanna Be The Guy: The Movie Game
Like most freeware games, I Wanna Be The Guy: The Movie Game, is low on graphics and high on gameplay. What nobody warned me before playing is just how hard this game is. Stealing from a number of similar-style platform games (Ghost 'n Goblins, Metroid, Castlevania) the landscapes in the game are designed to take you out, meaning not only do you have to contend with enemies but the actual level layouts themselves.
Playing as The Kid, you only have one life, so if you get hit or attacked you'll find yourself back at the start. While there are a number of save points throughout the game, if you play on "Impossible" difficulty there are zero, the same amount of chance you have of completing the game.
22 Easiest: The Karate Kid
I have fond memories of watching The Karate Kid as a youngster, unfortunately, the same can't be said for playing this terrible video game cash-in. There are only four levels in the game and after playing the first, which is actually tutorial, you soon learn kicking your opponent over and over again is the best way to defeat them.
There are never more than two opponents on the screen at one time making it easy to navigate each level. Honestly, it takes about 15 minutes to complete this game, with the only joy coming from Mr. Miyagi giving you a wink at the end as he explains; "You have successfully guided Daniel-san through all the challenges and have become a martial arts master!" For a real challenge, I suggest taking up actual karate.
21 Hardest: Demon Souls
When you're talking about tough games to finish Demon Souls is always in the conversation. A dark fantasy RPG with five different worlds to explore, Demon Souls has been widely praised by critics and gamers, but both parties agree it's insanely hard to complete.
Like any RPG you upgrade your skills and weapons as you progress but everything else about the game will have you tearing your hair out. There's an absence of health items, difficult enemies, brutal bosses, and a lack of checkpoints. If you do somehow manage to complete the game you have the choice to continue playing from the very beginning again, but with a 40% increase in the difficulty. That tells you all you need to know about Demon Souls.
20 Hardest: Contra
One of the first games to introduce two-player simultaneous gameplay, Contra was a revelation when first released. Playing as either commando Bill Rizer or Lance Bean, you find yourself on an island near New Zealand taking on an alien race intent on destroying the earth.
Although it appears to be a fairly basic run and shoot game, Contra is anything but, with players often faced with waves of enemy alien creatures trying to take you out. Although you can work out the patterns the enemies use if you play for a long time, it's still a tough one to complete, as shown in this video.
19 Easiest: The Walking Dead
Although it's beginning to wane, The Walking Dead is an awesome television show and even better comic series. It's no surprise there have been a number of different video games based on the property, but one of the best and easiest is Telltale's The Walking Dead.
It's a beautifully detailed game with a tremendous plot, but the reason it makes this list is because all you do is point and click. You use your mouse to click on different options your character can make regarding their decision process. There's no actual fighting zombies or problem solving, just point and click and see where the story takes you.
18 Hardest: Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
Everyone loves the Super Mario Bros. series but of every entry in the franchise, none will frustrate you more than Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels. While it's pretty much a revised version of Super Mario Bros., this game increases the difficulty tenfold and will have you wishing you never decided to play this silly title.
At times it seems like the game has been intentionally designed to frustrate and annoy, particularly the wind pipes that will shoot you into enemies or off course on a regular basis. And don't get me started on the speedrun challenges!
17 Hardest: Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!
Developed as part of the Punch-Out!! series, this release featured the great Mike Tyson on the cover and as the main big boss. In the title, you take control of boxer Little Mac and must take on a variety of larger opponents on your way towards a showdown with the aggressive Tyson.
It's quite a fun game as you must defeat much more skilled fighters, but once you reach Tyson, things get tricky. He's a tough nut to crack, and worst of all, if he beats you, you're forced to start the game from the beginning.
16 Easiest: Yoshi's Story
Similar to the Kirby franchise, Yoshi's Story is a predictable side-scrolling platformer from Nintendo aimed at pre-teens. Because of this, it's a rather pedestrian game with some bright visuals but not much in the way of exciting or thought-provoking gameplay.
The puzzles are extremely basic to master and the reward for completing them is far from exciting. If you really want a tough game featuring Yoshi then go for Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. You won't be disappointed.
15 Hardest: Super Meat Boy
Similar to I Wanna Be The Guy: The Movie Game, Super Meat Boy is a hair-pulling experience that you won't be able to stop playing. It's not even apologetic for its difficulty, taunting you with every new level you reach.
As Meat Boy you must traverse over 300 levels in an attempt to rescue your girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from Dr. Fetus. You need a deft touch playing this game, with the slightest miss-timed jump sure to end in tears. Despite this, it's highly addictive and one of the best independent games of the past decade.
14 Hardest: Comix Zone
One of the Mega Drive's most underrated beat em' ups, Comix Zone is remembered by fans for its cartoon graphics. It really feels like you're playing a live-action comic book, with the major downfall being the incredibly annoying combat system.
While essentially a button masher, if you don't work out how to beat your foes with the right combinations you'll soon find yourself losing damage. Add in the fact that you only have one life and completing Comix Zone is nigh impossible.
13 Easiest: In Mega Man 9
Everyone knows the Mega Man series has its challenges, but it's fair to say Mega Man 9 takes the cake when it comes to finishing the game without throwing your controller at the tv screen.
Released just over a decade ago, the game introduced 8-bit graphics along with unbelievably tough final bosses that you'll be trying to beat over and over again. It's also near impossible to complete the game with a 100% rating unless you're willing to spend hundreds of hours playing through each level to find every hidden object and complete every achievement.
12 Hardest: Zelda 2: The Adventures Of Link
Many fans think of Zelda 2: The Adventures Of Link as the worst game in the Zelda series. The main reason for this is the decision to turn Zelda into a side-scrolling adventure game, but there's more to it than just that.
The combat is a lot harder than previous games, particularly with the new view, while many of the puzzles you need to solve to progress are tough to crack. Final boss Dark Link is almost unbeatable until you figure out his patterns, making Zelda 2: The Adventures Of Link worthy of being on this list.
11 Hardest: Silver Surfer
The NES has some really hard to crack games but few will challenge you as much as shoot 'em up Silver Surfer. Playing as the famous Marvel character you alternate between a side-scrolling and an overhead perspective as you play through various levels, each finishing with a hard-to-beat boss.
Each perspective has its hardships but the worst part of the game is if Silver's surfboard touches anything as you're moving he dies automatically. This makes it quite a skill to get through each level and defeat the boss without dying, something I was never very good at.
10 Easiest: Kirby's Epic Yarn
The second Kirby game on this list is both one of the funniest and easiest games you'll ever play. Unanimously praised by critics and loved by gamers, Kirby's Epic Yarn is a joy to play, even if it doesn't require much thinking.
A platform game with great gameplay and nifty graphics, this is about as much fun as you can have playing a game on the Wii. Despite being marketed towards kids, everyone can enjoy Kirby's Epic Yarn, just don't expect to be challenged in any way.
9 Hardest: Ninja Gaiden (2004)
If you thought the original Ninja Gaiden games were tough to crack then you might want to give the 2004 remake a miss. Developed by Team Ninja for the Xbox and PS2, this new version of the classic hack and slash game is not to be laughed at.
Enemies come at you thick and fast and never seem to let up, while the end of level bosses are super hard to combat, especially Alma. Thankfully the game looks great and plays well, helping ease the pain of failing over and over again.
8 Hardest: Dark Souls
If you think Demon Souls is a tough play then don't even think about giving Dark Souls a crack. A spiritual successor to the first game in the Souls series, this third-person RPG is full of hard to beat enemies and intricate level designs that aren't easy to navigate.
The worst thing is some of the enemies not only take away your health but also destroy your equipment and upgrades, which is a real kick to the private parts. And if you play online, other players can take you out, which is a real pain in the backside. This one is for the super experienced gamers only.
7 Easiest: Pong
One of the first ever video games released, Pong is considered a classic title. The oldest game on this list (released in 1972), it's also a super simple premise. Controlling a paddle you must hit what is meant to be a computer-animated ball back and forth.
The game speeds up as you go along, making it slightly tougher, but you never feel like you're going to lose. A landmark in video game history, Pong is also one of the easiest games to master.
6 Hardest: Flappy Birds
Although it got pulled from both Google and Apple's app stores, Flappy Birds remains one of the most maddening yet addictive games ever released for mobile phones. Influenced by a number of side-scrolling platform games (especially Super Mario Bros.), Flappy Birds involves you navigating a yellow bird through blue skies without hitting any pipes. It sounds simple but is way harder than you can even imagine.
The controls are very touchy so if you hit the button too soon or too late you'll find yourself flying into a pipe and being forced to restart from the beginning.
5 Hardest: Shinobi
This 2002 version of Shinobi released on the PS2 once again finds you taking control of Hotsuma, ninja warrior who wields Akujiki, a sword that feeds on souls. The 3D action is super and the world design great, but it's the difficulty that will leave you stumped.
This one isn't for the casual gamer, with enemies not only hard to kill, but many often attacking you and throwing you off cliff faces, bringing your game to an abrupt end. While previous installments rely on stealth, this one has that many enemies coming for you it never lets up. Good luck.
4 Easiest: Luigi's Mansion
Luigi's Mansion got pretty decent reviews when first released on the GameCube in 2001. One of the consoles launch titles, you get to play as the famous plumber as he searches a haunted house for his missing brother.
While many people think the graphics and music are fantastic, the gameplay is unimpressive. You basically walk around the mansion with a flashlight illuminating ghosts and then sucking them up with your vacuum. It's also super short meaning there isn't much replay value.
3 Hardest: UFO: Enemy Unknown
The XCOM series of games are fantastic strategical experiences pitting an elite unit up against invading aliens. Each game has its quirks but as far as difficulty goes, the first release in 1994 is hard to top.
The alien creatures are tough to exterminate and will often hide in dark corners or in the fog that engulfs the screen regularly, catching you by surprise. The A.I. is super smart for a game released in the 90s and if you make the wrong move you'll soon find yourself on the run as the aliens begin their world domination. As far as turn-based games go, this one is up there with the best of them, as well as the hardest.
2 Hardest: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were hot property in the 80s so it's no surprise they crossed over into the video game world. While free-flowing arcade beat 'em up is endless fun, the side-scrolling NES platformer is an absolute pain in the backside.
As far as the actual gameplay goes, this one is fine. The same goes for the graphics and sound, it's just that it contains some ridiculously hard levels. Don't get me started on the water level that was the undoing of many experienced gamers. This game is brutal.
1 Easiest: New Super Mario Bros.
The release of New Super Mario Bros. on the NDS was a revolution in the longstanding series. The normally 2D platformer now become entrenched in a 3D world with an emphasis placed on exploration and adventure.
Hardcore fans were a little upset at how easy the game is but it meant casual fans could pick up the controls and dive straight in, helping Nintendo sell millions of copies. The introduction of new game modes and multiplayer options also took attention away from the lack of difficulty.