The 6 Hardest Games to Master

By Alex Smith, Last updated Mar 23, 2024

Long before the release of Dark Souls, there were TONS of video games that captured the attention of gamers from all over the world thanks to their difficulty. Whether racing games, a classic game, or ultra-hard video games, challenging video games have proven to be very popular with players. One of the latest releases, Elden Ring, has again proven itself not to be the first game in the series that’s almost impossible to complete.

This page will look at six of the most demanding games to beat and master. These are VERY difficult games, and you have very low chances of completing them.

Flappy Bird

Flappy Bird may be the most straightforward video game on this list, but don’t let its simple design trick you into thinking it’s easy. The game Flappy Bird caused an internet sensation when it was first released – and this simple one-button mobile game became one of the most played video games on planet earth. The game was developed by a Vietnamese video game artist called Dong Nguyen, under the branding of his company, Gears.

Flappy Bird is all about the player controlling a literal flappy bird. The goal is to fly the bird, using simple up or down buttons, and avoid the bird hitting one of the green pipes that appear on the screen. According to the game developer himself, Flappy Bird only took a few days to develop.

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Flappy Bird was first released in 2013, but it wasn’t until the following year that it became incredibly popular. Initially, Flappy Bird actually received very poor reviews from critics! They accused the game of plagiarizing other, similar games – but players didn’t care, and the game soon became one of the most successful games in history.

However, it was also one of the hardest games – much harder than classics like Super Mario Bros! In fact, the game proved to be so popular – surpassing the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Mike Tyson’s Punch Out – that the game developer ended up discontinuing the game because he felt guilty about how addictive it was! This came at a huge financial burden to him, as, it’s reported, the game was earning more than $50,000 per DAY in its heyday!

Returnal

Returnal is one of the most commercially successful video games ever made – and it’s also one of the most difficult. In fact, some research shows that it’s one of the least completed video games in history, due to the difficulty involved with actually playing!

Returnal is a third-person shooter game and the game developer is Housemarque. The game was published by Sony Interactive Entertainment – and it first came out on the 30th April, 2021. The game follows the life of an astronaut called Selene Vassos. She lands on a mysterious planet called Atropos, and she is going in search of a mysterious white shadow signal.

One of the things that made Returnal so popular among fans is the incredible high-definition graphics that the game used. As a result of these graphics, it received positive feedback from critics. However, the difficulty of the game was actually met with some criticism. For example, IGN wrote:

The moment-to-moment gameplay of Returnal is sublime, with a great selection of weapons that each have a wide variety of interesting possible traits, meaningful strategic decisions that can either keep a run afloat or doom it to sink, and punishingly challenging yet rewarding gunplay that is consistently exhilarating. Even with all of this focus on action, it never drops the ball on the story. Its big issue is that it runs way too long, and there’s no way to save progress outside of putting the PS5 in rest mode. That saps the desire to immediately return and try again after a failure, though not enough to grind it to a halt. Even so, Returnal is an incredible roguelike, and one of Housemarque’s best games to date.”

Ninja Gaiden

Ninja Gaiden is one of the most difficult video games ever released. The combat in the game alone is hard, and it’s incredibly punishing – relentless, many players say. Ninja Gaiden is actually a series of games from Tecmo – and Ninja Gaiden was originally called Ninja Ryukenden. It’s a Japanese game, and it was originally developed for Game Boy consoles. It has since made its way onto other game consoles, including the Xbox.

There have been tons of Ninja Gaiden games, including Ninja Gaiden Arcade, Ninja Gaiden NES, Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos, Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom, and, most recently, Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection. Contrary to what some people think, teenage mutant ninja turtles don’t make an appearance here – you’ll be playing on behalf of team ninja, instead.

One of the things that makes Ninja Gaiden so hard to play is the fact that you are usually swarmed by tons of different – hard-to-beat – opponents. These enemies circle you from all sides, and they come at you at ferocious speeds. However, despite graphical upgrades, the game has remained pretty true to its core, even over its 20-plus-year career.

As you play on behalf of the team ninja crew, you’ll be enjoying one of the most difficult video games ever made. It’s fast-paced, action-packed, and exciting – and it’s also pretty frustrating at times thanks to the way in which the game’s been developed!

Super Meat Boy – NOT Super Mario Bros!

Super Meat Boy, not to be confused with Super Mario Bros, is one of the most basic, simplistic and free-flowing games you will find on this list. It uses incredibly basic mechanics – but despite this, everything about it just works. The gameplay was fun and exciting, and the unique concept was engrossing – so much so that it ended up becoming one of the most popular video games ever released!

Super Meat Boy was first released in 2010, and it’s a platform game, developed by two men called Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes – under the collective name Team Meat. Super Meat Boy follows the journey of a character called Meat Boy, a red, cube-shaped character. Meat Boy is trying his best to rescue his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, who had been captured by the game’s main antagonist, Dr. Fetus.

Super Meat Boy is famous for its fine control and split-second timing. Players have to take on more than 300 really difficult levels, while avoiding obstacles at the same time. The video game was released on a wide variety of devices including PlayStation 4, Windows, the Nintendo Switch, and Wii U.

I Wanna Be The Guy

I Wanna Be the Guy is one of the true originators of the impossible genre of games. This is one of the ultimate tests of patience, and players are continually bombarded by troll moves to try and frustrate them as much as possible. I Wanna Be the Guy is a very basic -looking video game, but that has not stopped it from becoming insanely popular among players.

Your little characters are tasked with reaching the finish point, and in order to get there, the character needs to be wary of magical falling blocks, avoid sudden sharp objects, and survive a number of other difficult hazards that are placed to try and disrupt your journey.

I Wanna Be the Guy was originally developed by an entrepreneur called Michael O’Reilly. The game was initially developed for Microsoft Windows using the multimedia fusion platform. Unfortunately, the game is no longer in active development, although a remastered edition was released in 2020.

The game can also be abbreviated to IWBTG, and it became most famous for its difficulty. In fact, most of the entire game is designed specifically to kill your character, and this makes it incredibly hard to complete the levels. In order to give players a higher degree of control, the developer shows to build four different difficulty settings into the game; medium, hard, very hard, and impossible. According to the developer, the hard level is considered to be the normal difficulty.

Cuphead

Cuphead is one of the most unusual -looking games ever released. When it was first revealed, it looked to be based on some of the earliest incarnations of cartoons. However, little did critics and players realize that neither surface of this highly unusual game was one of the most difficult playing experiences in the world.

The game centers around a selection of bosses, and in order to defeat these courses, you need to hone your concentration and precision abilities every level is crammed with very unique identities and weaknesses and this makes the overall playing experience quite enjoyable. You are required to solve a number of tasks and challenges to progress through the different levels or you take on one of the bosses.

The game was actually inspired by cartoons set in the 1930s; the visuals and audio sound effects are designed around the cartoon accordingly. The game has one of the highest ratings on steam, ranked 10 out of 10. Cuphead gets fairly good reviews from critics. For example, Digital Chumps says:

Overall, Cuphead is a wonderful throwback to the days of old. Classic cartoons, old school animation, video games, and lots of jazz music. It’s a game that will make your life a living hell but in a way that’s addicting and forever challenging. Artistically, this is such a wonderful look back to older animation and design. Combat for the game is tight and fun, and while there is a little bit of confusion with aiming at times. Once you learn the nuance though it becomes second nature to you. Cuphead is a damn good time.”

And here’s what PlayStation Universe says: “Three years on from its original release on other platforms and there’s still nothing like Cuphead. A delirious, LSD-infused trip through a prohibition-era styled cartoon hellscape, Cuphead underscores its utterly unique presentation with a rock solid and fundamentally excellent platform shooter that stands effortlessly shoulder to shoulder with the best in the genre. The wait has been worth it.

Other Condentors

The six games we have looked at above, are all very popular with players and are very difficult. However, with tens of thousands of different video games available to play today, it’s almost impossible to narrow down the selection of hard games to just six. That’s why, below, we will also be taking a look at some other contenders which are equally as challenging but not quite as well-known.

Elden Ring + Other Soulsborne Games (Including the Final Boss)

Elden Ring, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Nioh – all of these games are largely the same, and Dark Souls and Elden Ring especially have become insanely popular among players. One of the main appeals of these games is the fact that there’s tons of endearing world to build through. You can also develop your character a LOT as you progress through the game.

Elden Ring itself was released in 2022. It’s a role-playing game developed by a software provider called FromSoftware. At the time of writing, it’s published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. According to Wikipedia, the game was directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki.

The game gets good reviews from critics. Here is what Techradar says:

“Veterans of FromSoftware will find themselves at home in the Elden Ring quickly. The combat fundamentals are as strong as ever. You need to manage your stamina, picking your moment to strike or dodge. Frantically attacking will leave you tired and vulnerable in the path of enemies who hit hard, slicing your health bar to nothing in just a few strikes. You want to make sure you are ready and blocking their attack or not in the path of their weapon at all. 

There is a wealth of options for specializing your character, with many weapons and spells to support your play style. You can now even bring summonable monsters to battles, Pokemon style. Underneath all of Elden Ring’s lore and world design, there’s a simple joy to smashing enemies with a big sword underneath all of Elden Ring’s lore and world design.”

Another critic, PSX Extreme, said:

All things considered, Elden Ring is a crowning achievement for FromSoftware but also for gaming. It takes the overused open world formula and flips it with a focus on exploration and freedom. It eliminates those limiting markers and quest objectives which every game since The Witcher 3 has used and that have really dampened the open world formula. 

For a game all about tradition, with its fantasy aesthetic and kings or rulers, it is amazing that Elden Ring breaks the mold and tradition by making such a compelling and intriguing experience. Once the bugs have been ironed out, there is no doubt in my mind that Elden Ring will be looked upon as one of the best games ever created despite the difficulty. It will be looked upon as a genre defining classic.”

Devil May Cry 3

Devil May Cry 3 is a 2005 action-adventure video game that was developed by a game developer called Capcom. The game is, unsurprisingly, a sequel to the original Devil May Cry – albeit with a much younger Dante. The game is actually set one decade before the events of the first Devil May Cry. The game gets largely positive reviews from critics.

For example, Universo Nintendo said: “Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition is an awesome addition to the Switch library. The game that helped redefine the hack and slash genre is still really fun to play, and with some new and exclusive modes, Capcom shows that they are worried about improving the experience, instead of just porting it. The Switch edition opens up for way more stylish combos and, if you don’t care for its 2005 graphics, you should give the game a chance (or a new chance), because this is DMC3’s definitive edition.”

GamingTrend said: “While Devil May Cry 3 is starting to show its age, it still holds its title as one of the best character action games ever made. The new additions add a refreshing twist on this classic game, while still retaining its difficulty and depth. And who knows, after so many re-releases and playthroughs, maybe people will notice how meaningful and well told the story is.”

And here’s what Nintenderos said: “The version of this classic game for Nintendo Switch offers new content, such as a cooperative mode and the incredible FreeStyle mode, making it the definitive version of what could be considered the best game in the Devil May Cry franchise. A highly recommended title for lovers of the hack and slash genre.”

Ghosts ‘n Goblins

Ghosts ‘n Goblins is one of the most difficult games on this entire list – and unlike many of the ones we’ve already looked at like Dark Souls, Ghosts ‘n Goblins uses a much more basic, old-school design. The graphics are pretty similar to what you would expect to see in Super Mario Bros or Dark Souls. The imagery is pixelated, and while some players don’t like this, it actually adds to the overall aesthetics of the game quite a lot.

What’s quite ironic about Ghosts ‘n Goblins is that the game can, technically, be completed in under one hour. That’s been proven a few times. However, realistically, newcomers to the game will spend days, weeks, or even MONTHS trying to complete the game. It’s one of the most difficult games we have ever seen, and we aren’t surprised to learn that so many players simply get frustrated with it and quit!

As we’ve mentioned, Ghosts ‘n Goblins is surprisingly simple. The general idea of the game revolves around the patterns of various enemies. The reason why the game is so hard is that these enemies constantly respawn, making it virtually impossible to ever get any room to breathe. There’s also a ticking timer which is always counting down. This, again, means it’s almost impossible to have any peace and quiet.

Ghosts ‘n Goblins really is good practice for learning to be patient. In terms of the gameplay, it’s somewhat similar to Dark Souls – although unlike Dark Souls, Ghosts ‘n Goblins is much harder and more frustrating, we feel. Another difference is that Dark Souls games allow you to progress and develop your character. The same cannot be said for Ghosts ‘n Goblins, which doesn’t allow you any control over your character.

Contra – the Entire Game

Contra is a run-and-gun shooter game that many people actually classify as being the most difficult game ever released. It was developed by a game developer called Konami – a Japanese company who have also entered the online gambling industry. They actually now develop a small range of video slots, and all of their online gambling games are known to be very volatile.

Contra was originally released on February 20, 1987, and the following year a home version was released. Originally, Contra was only available as a coin-operated machine in arcades.

Contra is one of the top four highest-grossing arcade games in US history. The game uses a wide variety of playing perspectives, and this includes a standard side view, a pseudo-3D view, and there’s even a fixed screen format. The game is designed for two people who can play simultaneously.

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All players start with a default rifle weapon. The gun has unlimited ammunition that you can upgrade into one of four other guns. To successfully upgrade your gun, you will need to destroy the pill box sensors and flying item capsules that they are contained within. Alternatively, you can also defeat the red-clad guards in the enemy bases.

In arcades, Contra is built up from seven stages. However, in later versions of the game, the number of stages and level structures varies. In the first stage (we’re talking about the arcade version of the game) you will enter into a side-scrolling level. Your character will be dropped into the jungle, and he or she must successfully fend off the enemy.

Contra is well-known for being insanely difficult. If you manage to make it all the way to the seventh stage (which, in itself, is a feat), you will be faced with one of the most difficult game levels in human history. The seventh stage is a side-scrolling format, and you will be tasked with fighting your way through the enemy’s final line of defense. Here, you will see the enemy using a wide variety of vehicles, including a hovercraft, armored trucks – and there are even giant soldiers wearing hard helmets which repel much of the damage you try to cause them!

You must finally fight a gigantic alien herd that spawns larvae from its mouth before you are taken to the game’s final monster; a cardiac creature that you must defeat in order to beat the game once and for all.

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