We do like a challenge in our video games, don't we? Well, most of us do. We like to tackle bosses that are bigger than us and cut them down to size; figure out puzzles that force us to pry into our brains to get the smarts out; and see the ending screen knowing that we've damn well earned it.
Sometimes you just run into those games that don't make it so easy on you to see the finish. You know which ones we're talking about – the kind that push and shove you around; the kind that require multiple lives just to get through a certain stage or area; the kind that make you curse the existence of your controller to the point that you want to break it to pieces. They're worth persevering through, just to yell out "YOU CANNOT CONQUER MEEEEE!"….that is, if you don't end up in the insane asylum first.
We decided to look into some of the toughest video games ever made, the ones that make you cry for your mommy, even though you swear you're prepared for them. Word of warning – jumping into these games thinking that you'll easily beat them may leave you angry and inventing new curse words for your console. Let us begin…
Super Ghouls n' Ghosts (Capcom/SNES)
Some people think that the original Ghosts n' Goblins was the toughest game Capcom ever made, especially the NES version. It did require you to go through the game twice – the second time around with a special weapon – while facing an insurmountable number of beasts.
But that game was nothing compared to its SNES sequel, throwing everything it possibly can at you and daring you to survive. By the time you got to the third stage in this beast, you found yourself wondering why you couldn't get any further, despite feeling like you did everything right. And just when you did get to the end – surprise! You have to go through it all again with a weak close-range weapon, one that guarantees death if you don't use it at the right time.
Super Ghouls is a splendid game, but one that you MUST be prepared for, lest you scream at the top of your lungs as you lose your armor. GAH!
Rare really knew how to make a good retro game back in "the day", and none of their products was better than Battletoads. This thrilling two-player co-op affair was just the right style of arcade brawler, with over-the-top tactics and innovative stage design that forced you to do something new for each stage, whether it was riding a speeder bike or surfing.
But the game, despite its kiddie appearance, was anything but easy on you. In fact, by the time you reached said speeder bike stage, you saw just how demanding it was, forcing you to react with split-second timing on rapidly approaching walls and hitting ramps in just the right area, or falling into the lava pits below. And by the time you reach the finale with the evil queen, she's such a hassle that you may run out of toads before you do the right amount of damage. (Thus, it's a good idea to bring a friend along.)
Battletoads is great, but, man, it eats you alive quicker than your hero eats flies.
Alien vs. Predator (Atari/Jaguar)
With this particular pick, there's a condition that has to be met. Sure, you could play as the Predator and have some neat high-tech goods, or you could be the Alien and bite a few faces to utter satisfaction. But, if you really want a challenge, we recommend playing as the lowly Marine.
In his role, you've got a good amount of firepower and a HUD that keeps you indicated on conditions, but you're also the most open when it comes to being attacked by either Aliens or Predators, which makes you a sitting duck. To really heighten the condition, play with the sound off and turn off the volume. We dare you.
Demon's Souls/Dark Souls (Atlus, Namco/PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
This generation has brought a few challenges our way, but nothing – and we do mean nothing – comes close to the Souls games. Through both of these, From Software has managed to squeeze out nearly every last glimmer of hope of surviving, as our brave (but stupid) knight takes on a cavalcade of monsters that take forever to chop down to size.
The games do have interesting online elements, so you don't really feel like you're entirely on your own (though you are). But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared to die multiple times in the process, as you try and scamper for a campfire while being chased by undead soldiers and monstrous behemoths that won't hesitate to snuff your life.
And what's more, Dark Souls II will soon come to tear you a new one as well. Hope you have a will prepared.
Ninja Gaiden Black (Tecmo/Xbox)
The Ninja Gaiden game for Xbox has seen variations galore, including Sigma remakes for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita. But if you really want to see where your worth lies in a ninja's eyes, stick with Black for the original Xbox. This remake brings back the original game, more difficult than ever, and forces you to scramble about to avoid becoming bloody sushi.
However, it's the newly added challenges that will really test your mettle, as some of these will literally eat you alive, whether it's facing down two tall demons that want to crush you flat at the same time or an army of ninjas that seem unstoppable, even though they're just slightly less skilled than you. Wipe these out – and manage to stay alive in the process – and you have certainly arrived.
Don't and, well, you're not alone. A lot of people lost ninjas playing this one. It's Team Ninja, what do you expect? A pushover?
Mega Man 9 (Capcom/Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii)
Ask any fanatic gamer what their favorite Mega Man game was, and you're bound to get a bunch of different answers. When they explain why, some will tell you "because it was the hardest". And, yes, for the longest time, Mega Man 3 and 4 were considered the most difficult of the series.
But that changed in 2008, when Capcom reintroduced the 8-bit style of the series with Mega Man 9 for various consoles. What could've been a return to easygoing form, like Mega Man 8, was anything but, as the game's difficulty level was to the point of ridiculous. Trying to get through Splash Woman's stage without succumbing to sea creatures was bad enough in itself; but the other stages were just as crazy. And when you got to the boss encounters – well, you were lucky to win with just a sliver of health left. Very few people did.
Throw in some challenging Achievements/Trophies (including one for not taking any damage – wishful thinking) and you've got a game that pushes you to be better.
Super Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels (Nintendo/Wii Virtual Console)
Finally, if you think you know Nintendo's Mario – or know everything there is in beating his games – you really don't know him at all. Super Mario Bros. 2 (and no, we don't mean the first one that came out for the NES) was originally a Japanese release, and has since found its way to the U.S. market, courtesy of a very generous Nintendo.
Then again, it wasn't really a generous decision, because the game is hard. In fact, we can easily say that stuff like I Wanna Be the Guy! and Super Meat Boy are actually kind of gracious compared to this sequel, because everything is screwy here. The stage design is much more challenging; the negative mushrooms can kill you or take away a power-up; and you're lucky to finish with just a few seconds on the clock.
If you can beat this game – and we mean without crying yourself to sleep in the process – you've got pro gaming written all over you. Welcome to the next level.