The most infuriatingly difficult video games of all time

Monday, 21st May 2018, 10:08 am
Updated Monday, 21st May 2018, 10:24 am

This week (May 25) sees the release of Dark Souls Remastered, a shiny new high-definition version of one of the finest games ever made - and also one of the most difficult.

To celebrate, we've rounded up nine other video games from throughout history, other than Dark Souls and its sequels, that are renowned for their formidable trickiness; testing wits and reflexes to their limits.

Prepare to slam down those controllers with rage. Here are the most difficult video games of all time.

Contra (1987)

(Image: Konami)

One of the most beloved run-and-gun action games of the 80s, Contra set a benchmark for difficulty in video games. You played as a member of the Contra unit, sent to destroy the enemy forces of the evil Red Falcon Organization.

Combining platforming and shooting presented a real challenge, and even though Contra spawned the famous 'Konami code', the 30 extra lives it granted were little reprieve from the onslaught.

Punch Out!! (1987)

(Image: Nintendo)

Punch Out!! is the first in Nintendo's series of boxing games. You played as Little Mac, a rookie boxer with a limited moveset (just a left and a right jab) taking on larger than life opponents. Sometimes literally.

The entire game was a challenge, but the final 'dream' fight - which saw you take on Mike Tyson, then World Heavyweight Champion - has gone down as one of the hardest boss battles of all time.

Battletoads (1991)

(Image: Tradewest/SEGA)

Developed by legendary British studio Rare, Battletoads was a hard-as-nails side-scrolling beat 'em up that saw you embark on a mission to defeat the evil Dark Queen and rescue your kidnapped friends. The game was made difficult by its need for lightning fast reaction speeds and a punishing lack of checkpoints, meaning failure would set you back a great deal.

The infamous Turbo Tunnel remains a source of bragging rights for gamers who are able to make it through the hover-bike section. Get past this third level and you'll elevate yourself above most players.

Takeshi's Challenge (1986)

(Image: Taito Corporation)

Takeshi's Challenge is a thoroughly bizarre video game; often viewed as an example of abusive design developed by someone who loathed the medium. That was Japanese actor and director Takeshi Kitano, and many of his madcap ideas were rejected for being unsuitable for younger audiences.

But a lot made it through, and the game - which never tells you where to go or what to do - features everything from hang-gliding to brawling with the Yakuza. The box advertised "near-impossible tasks". And it wasn't wrong. Some of the obscure solutions to progression are so outlandish they defy belief.

DiscWorld (1995)

(Photo: Psygnosis)

Point and click adventure games often test your mind more than your reflexes, offering up illogical puzzles that require some true lateral thinking to solve. DiscWorld is one of the more egregious offenders of the genre, and a famous puzzle comes when you're tasked with acquiring a monk's robe.

Put a frog in the main character's mouth so he doesn't snore in his sleep, then a butterfly will land on his face. You then catch that butterfly, and place it on a lamppost, which causes a storm in the future. During this storm, the monk removes his robe. As simple as that.

Super Meat Boy

(Image: Team Meat)

Super Meat Boy brought the platforming genre back to its old-school ways with levels that required precision playing just to make it to the end, let alone collecting the collectibles and secrets to be found along the way.

Dodging spinning blades and other obstacles that churn your character into mince (he literally is a boy made of meat, after all), every time you fall to your demise a bloody smear is left across the level to remind your of your failure.

Flappy Bird

(Image: dotGEARS)

Flappy Bird broke through to into pop culture consciousness in mid-2013. The game was rudimentary, something of a joke-hit, and hardly a game at all really; tapping the screen propelled a bird slightly higher up the screen. It was your job to dodge upcoming obstacles by timing your presses so you glided effortlessly over or under them.

"Effortless" is probably the wrong word however; the game's ropey controls were rage inducing, but somehow the game brought players back for one more go time and time again.

Alien: Isolation

(Image: SEGA)

A tense, nail-biting experience, Isloation eschewed the shooter gameplay that previous Alien games had tried and failed to deliver in favour of a survival-horror experience. As you made your way through an abandoned space station with limited weapons and resources, you were hunted by an unkillable Xenomorph that truly felt like the classic, terrifying iteration of the beast.

The enemy was programmed to show up completely randomly, at any given time, and when it did appear, that usually meant game over if you didn't find a suitable hiding place quick. Plus, it was even possible to get attacked while saving your game - a properly tough break.

Cuphead

(Image: StudioMDHR)

Developers StudioMDHR spent seven years designing their debut game. The result was a gorgeous side-scroller, delivered with hand-drawn visuals that evoked the style of 1930s cartoons.

It was also ridiculously difficult, filling the screen with enemies and projectiles for you to dodge; a true staple of the 'bullet hell' sub-genre. Players died, died and died again, and completing any of the game's ludicrous boss fights is an achievement any gamer should be proud of.

[Main image: StudioMDHR]