Beyond Dark Souls: Five of the Hardest Games of All Time

Matthew Hadick

There’s nothing quite like the rage inspired by an immensely challenging video game. From Software’s Dark Souls III, out now for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, might be the latest difficult game to make players break controllers and swear at the gods (or the Lords of Cinder in this case), but it’s certainly not the first. These five games are some of the hardest of all time.


Treasure’s classic vertical shmup, Ikaruga, is the spiritual successor to another stellar Treasure shooter, Radiant Silvergun. Treasure is known for difficult games, but Ikaruga introduced a black/white polarity mechanic and a chaining combo system that made it stand out from their other titles. The player ship’s polarity can be changed at any time, and only bullets of the opposite polarity can destroy the vessel, while bullets of the same polarity can actually be absorbed and converted into energy. Destroying three enemies of the same polarity in a row triggers a chain, which will eventually reward the player with an extra life. You are going all the extra lives you can rack up, as even just playing on normal may prove to be too much for most players. Feel free to switch to easy, though the game won’t save your high score. In other words, easy mode doesn’t count.

F-Zero GX

Nintendo’s fast-paced futuristic Gamecube racer F-Zero GX was immensely taxing. The first challenge alone, consisting of Captain Falcon practicing on the track he built beneath his inner-city home, requires expert-level mastery of the game’s controls. Players could get by using only the accelerator on the analog stick, but success required strategic use of turbo, leaning with the shoulder buttons, and spinning around sharp curves. Don’t even get me started about facing off against Black Shadow at the game’s end.

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts

Capcom’s Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts for the Super Nintendo follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, the ultra-challenging Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, and ramps up the difficulty even further to establish itself as one of the most challenging games of all time. The player takes on the role of Arthur, the brave knight with the unfortunate habit of losing his armor after taking only one hit from any of the mobs of enemies storming the screen at any given time. One more hit after that spells instant death. Even with the addition of a double jump to help avoid the zombies, bats, and ghosts, there’s something slippery about the controls that takes a little while to master, and can result in hours of frustration.


Rare’s Battletoads was a surprisingly sophisticated beat-em-up with context-sensitive controls and a great art style that were both ahead of their time. Unfortunately, most people didn’t get to see much of the game, as it is also one of the most frustrating games of all time. The game’s third level is infamously one of the toughest levels ever created, and the sheer mention of the game “Turbo Tunnel” is enough to strike fear into the hearts of the many that attempted, but could not overcome this high-speed obstacle course which takes place on speeder bikes.

The inclusion of the game in last year’s Rare Replay compilation was a godsend for fans who wanted to give it another try, as it includes a rewind feature that allows you to undo up to 10 seconds of gameplay if you make a mistake navigating the many walls, rat rockets, rat pods, and wide chasms sprinkled throughout the tunnel.

Ninja Gaiden Black

When the Ninja Gaiden series made its triumphant return to consoles with 2004’s Xbox-exclusive Ninja Gaiden, Team Ninja gave players a taste of what is was like to play the original 1988 arcade game and its NES adaptation. In the new game, boss battles have no discernable pattern and require dogged perseverance to beat, and enemies will constantly troll you by slightly adjusting their attack pattern. In

In Ninja Gaiden Black, which Tomonobu Itagaki considers the definitive version of the game, if the player dies too many times, the game will offer the Ninja Dog difficulty option. This makes the game easier, but robs the player of their dignity by granting colored ribbons as accessories, and subjecting the hero, Ryu Hayabusa, to verbal abuse from fellow ninja Ayane. Ninja Gaiden Black actually makes the other difficulty levels even harder, and adds a new Master Ninja difficulty level intended for true experts — or the clinically insane.

Matthew Hadick
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