Playing games is supposed to be fun right? But sometimes, the fun can come from a darker place—a more difficult place. Challenging games are made to push you to your limit, which naturally leads to some frustrating moments. But with frustration, comes immense satisfaction upon victory.
We’ve gathered some of the most difficult games we could find, whether they’re modern indie masterpieces or classics from the past. In one way or another, these games ask a lot from you to complete them, from memorizing boss patterns to perfecting the game’s movement. So, let’s dive a bit deeper and see how these challenging games make you so mad.
Update, 4/7/22: Verified content and links still good.
Plenty of Content: Super Meat Boy
The Exemplar: Dark Souls III
The Follow-Up: Nioh 2
Work Through It: Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy
Group Rage Session: Pogostuck: Rage With Your Friends
Over and Over: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Beautiful Chaos: Dead Cells
A Classic Reborn: Ghost 'n Goblins Resurrection
The Blue Bomber: Mega Man Legacy Collection
Rally Racer: DiRT Rally 2.0
Rhythm Torture: Geometry Dash
Super Meat Boy delivers some of the most challenging stages you’ll come across in any game. This platformer requires pixel-perfect inputs to complete each stage, of which there are hundreds. Playing as the titular Meat Boy (alongside other unlockable characters), your move set is pretty basic—just a simple run, jump, and wall slide—but the stages’ increasing complexity keeps things interesting. You can safely expect to die hundreds, if not thousands, of times, but you’ll always be revived in an instant, so you can easily try again.
Dark Souls III (along with the rest of the series) is well-known for its difficulty, to the point where it’s often the poster child for challenging games. In a dark fantasy world, you must defeat monsters of all shapes and sizes with the game’s brutal-yet-fair combat system. The Souls series has been praised for its excellent boss design and worldbuilding, and nothing’s changed with the third release.
There are countless weapons and items you can use during these fights, each offering new possibilities. And if you want a break from the main story, you’ll be happy to hear that in true RPG fashion there is plenty of side content to complete. NPCs are scattered around the map and can task you with completing extensive side quests—there are even entire bosses hidden away from the main path. But if you want some human companionship as well, then Dark Souls III can be played in co-op with up to four friends (no crossplay between platforms, unfortunately). Of course, the flip side to this is that certain areas allow other players to come in and fight you, so be careful of that.
Demon Souls, Dark Souls, and Dark Souls II are also great games that preceded this one, with Demon Souls recently receiving a full remake on PlayStation 5. The developer of Dark Souls III, FromSoftware, also went on to create Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice which is similar to the Souls games but features a new combat system and world to explore.
It’s pretty easy to draw a straight line from Dark Souls to Nioh 2. While developed by a different team, the core gameplay is extremely similar—it’s what Nioh 2 adds to the formula that makes it stand out. The game has multiple new mechanics on offer such as the game’s “Stance” mechanic, which allows you to change how your character fights with the push of a button. The difficulty and great boss design are all still here, it’s just set in ancient Japan now. If you’re already a fan of the Souls series, Nioh 2 (and its predecessor, Nioh) is worth checking out.
This title has an infamous reputation; Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy quickly grew to popularity a few years ago for its unique gameplay and high difficulty. To start, the game’s controls are bizarre—you play as a man in a pot who needs to climb a mountain solely using a sledgehammer. You position this hammer with your mouse and have to finagle your way up the mountain by using the hammer to control your momentum. This control scheme, combined with the punishing level design, results in a game that’s sure to be the newest bane of your existence.
Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy is only available on PC.
Heavily inspired by Getting Over It is Pogostuck: Rage With Your Friends, which sees you traversing up yet another mountain with a pogo stick this time. However, this is no simple task, as the level design is extremely unforgiving and the controls are harder to master than you’d expect. Whether you’re jumping across polygonal grapes or bouncing off mushrooms for extra height, Pogostuck is constantly throwing new challenges at you to ruin your day. And all that’s without mentioning the second, much more challenging map that was added into the game post-launch: The Monolith of Perseverance.
At least you can suffer through it with some pals by your side—Pogostuck is an online experience and you can see other players struggle up the stage alongside you. Whether those are friends or foes is up to you though, as there are leaderboards scattered around the map tracking the best completion times. They also serve as an excellent reminder that only 2.5% of players have completed the game’s first stage—so know what you’re getting into with this one.
Pogostuck: Rage With Your Friends is only available on PC.
When it comes to classic indie games, there are few more notable than The Binding of Isaac. This ultra-difficult, top-down action game sees you running through randomly generated rooms, defeating enemies, and gathering items to improve your run. But beware: If you die, you’re forced to restart with only some item unlocks to show for it. As you can imagine, you’ll be making a lot of attempts to beat this game, which can easily stretch into hundreds of hours of gameplay if you want to see everything.
Dead Cells is a fast-paced sidescroller with in-depth combat where if you die, you need to restart the game. This pixelated journey sees you venturing through a dangerous world where you’ll have to make smart use of the various items and weapons you unlock to survive. Death is inevitable, but the game is sure to make you feel like you’re improving after each attempt—whether that’s your skills as a player or unlocks obtained after death that make your avatar more powerful.
While to the outside world Cuphead looks like a fairly basic sidescroller with a beautiful art style, it’s much less innocent than that. Cuphead is a gauntlet full of ultra-difficult bosses you will lose to over and over again. The hand-drawn art style merely serves as set dressing for the game’s intricately designed encounters, and to be fair it’s pretty great set dressing. It’s also accompanied by some terrific jazz music bolstering each fight as you dodge attacks and land hits of your own. You can even enjoy the entire game in a two-player co-op mode (local play only), reviving each other as you struggle through fights.
Many older games are difficult even by today’s standards, and Ghost ‘n Goblins is certainly one of them. Even in this modern remake with new art and bosses, you’ll still be expected to have near-perfect precision as you make jumps and dodge enemies. Your health is limited, the stages are swarming with monsters, and your means of attacking are far from ideal. There’s never been a better opportunity to try out this game, whether that’s through this remake or the original release (which is available through Nintendo Switch Online if you’re curious).
Ghost ‘n Goblins Resurrection is currently only available on Switch. However, it was recently announced that this remake will be making its way to PC, Xbox, and PlayStation through a new trailer, but no official date has been given yet.
From the same era as Ghost ‘n Goblins, the classic Mega Man games are also well-known for their difficulty. In this collection of Mega Man titles, you’ll experience some of the most challenging platformers you’ve ever seen. From unpredictable enemy placement to excruciating bosses, these games are a true test of skill. This collection will be well worth it if you’re in search of a challenge, but it also has some quality of life features to make things a little easier for newcomers—like a rewind button to undo mistakes.
The original DiRT Rally was praised for its realistic simulation of rally racing and 2.0 is no different—especially now with its updated visuals and added polish. But the challenge comes with the territory here; in rally racing, you can’t take simple turns like you would in a normal racer. You’ll need to master braking and accelerating to complete the tracks and perfect the skills required to get a good time. Sliding off the road is inevitable, but as you improve you’ll finish each race with a less banged-up car and a faster overall time.
Geometry Dash combines the endless runner and rhythm genres into one unique beast. This game asks you to jump to the beat to clear chasms and avoid obstacles. Pretty simple right? The issue is this beat is quite fast, your reaction times need to be on point here as hitting one obstacle means you need to restart that stage—a real heartbreaker on the more difficult levels. While this game only requires one button to play, it will tense up your whole body as you avoid death in a vibrant neon world.