We all know someone who has smashed a game controller in a fit of unmitigated rage. Perhaps you’ll even take responsibility for acting out in a moment of game-induced madness like this yourself. From hilarious videos of World of Warcraft raid leaders losing their minds to GIFs of a gamer chucking a remote through a flat-screen television, we’re surrounded by rage quitters who just can’t take the heat.
Not all games have a difficulty level challenging enough to make us throw in the towel. Odds are good that if you spend most of your time playing the Sims, you haven’t been tempted to take your controller outside to run it over with your car… Unless you get really angry when your Sim misses their ride to work, in which case, record it: You’re an internet star waiting to happen.
Some games are undeniably difficult in a rewarding sort of way, walking the delicious line between satisfaction and insanity. Others cross over into the mind-bending anger zone, intentionally; it’s a fair guess that these games are made by gamer sadists who enjoy hearing stories about gamers throwing their remote into a blender and hitting the “chop” button repeatedly.
This list is to honor those latter games; the gallant and bold recreational challenges that insist on taking difficulty to a whole new level, literally. From the 8-bit era to the newest generation of consoles, the nobel history of video gaming has no shortage of rage-inducing games. These are the best of the best though. The games that whisper to you in your sleep, tauntingly, “you can’t beat me.”
What, you guys don’t hear that?
10. World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft—lovingly referred to as WoW by its millions of players—could be higher on this list if there weren’t so many different ways to enjoy the game. WoW isn’t restrictive, so if high intensity isn’t your thing then you’re more than welcome to quest your way to the level cap while working on your professions.
Throughout its lengthy history, WoW has given players some incredibly difficult challenges. During the “Vanilla” days in particular, the end-game raiding content was remarkably hard. For example, in a dungeon called Naxxramas, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were merely sub-bosses. But they were sub-bosses that took professional guilds more than seven weeks to defeat. In comparison, later end-game content was dealt with in five days or less by the same guilds.
Working by yourself to complete a goal is one thing. Defeating end-game bosses requires weeks upon weeks of “gearing up” and to achieve ultimate victory the battle plan must be executed perfectly by anywhere from 10 to 40 people. One mistake from a key role player like a tank or healer and it’s back to the drawing board while your guild leaders loses it into Ventrilo. Rage quit: likely.
9. Disgaea Series
The Disgaea games aren’t challenging in a traditional sense. When compared to things like Contra or Battletoads, the game seems cute and light. However, if you’re the kind of person who’ll sit around after plowing 100 hours into a game and suddenly regretfully think “I could have mastered the basics of a new language by now”, then avoid Disgaea at all costs.
On the surface the game looks common enough. Defeat bad guys. Earn better loot. Equip better loot. Go on to defeat stronger bad guys. There’s a catch in the Disgaea universe though: each individual item that you obtain comes from a unique world in and of itself.
Anyone who has spent some time inside of an RPG (role playing game, for the newbs out there) probably gets dizzy thinking about such a challenge. To level up items like swords and staffs, players must enter the “Item World.” Each individual item contains up to 100 randomly generated dungeon levels, each of which must be defeated to gain a stronger version of a given item.
To recap: defeat a bad guy. Obtain a better item. Play upwards of 100 random levels inside of the weapon. Then defeat the next bad guy. These games have come out every year since 2003 like clockwork as well, making this an outstanding and aggravating time sink. Rage quit with a lingering sense of hopelessness: highly likely.
8. FTL: Faster Than Light
Some games come at you in a full-on blitz. They’re difficult right from the get-go and never let up. It’s an in-your-face assault as soon as you turn the gaming machine of your choice on. FTL: Faster Than Light takes a more measured, slow-burn approach.
The basic purpose of the game is to guide a spaceship through dangerous situations while upgrading the vehicle and the crew that runs it. The art style is unique and the systems in the game can take a while to get used to.
At some point, though, you end up feeling relaxed and invincible. At the precise moment, FTL throws the kitchen sink with you. From randomly generated space storms to the random outbreak of fires in your ship, you can go from sitting pretty to alien bait in a matter of minutes.
The difficulty curve ramps up substantially as the game progresses, and it takes the perfect combination of skill and luck to earn the “Federation Victory” achievement for your Steam account. Rage quit with a side of indignance: Likely.
7. League of Legends
Another game that might not fit into the traditional “difficult” mode, League of Legends is notoriously difficult to master but easy to enjoy. Breaking away from the MMOs of yesteryear, LoL helped popularize the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre, paving the way for various spin-offs and variations.
With nearly 120 playable characters—referred to as Champions in-game—the learning curve here is ridiculously steep. Each Champion has a specific move and skill set, making each game totally unique and unpredictable. Learning how to handle one Champion for personal use is the easy part. It’s figuring out how to stop the other 117 Champions that’s exhausting.
To make matters more difficult, players must have an awareness of the opposition’s set up, because some Champions can be used in various different ways. Once in-game, players can start customizing their character via a store, enhancing certain features and stats.
Then there’s the whole “playing well with strangers” angle. League is more inviting than some other MOBAs, but no one wants to get stuck with a new player on their team. It’s a fast paced environment, and it’s impossible to receive instruction via the chat function in a timely fashion.
None of this has stopped the game from becoming wildly popular. As of January 2014, more than 27 million people played LoL, with upwards of seven million people playing at the same time during peak hours. That’s a lot of rage quitting. Likelihood you’ll bail out on your team mates at least once in a fit on unsuppressed rage against humanity? Very high.
6. ARMA Series
If you’ve spent any time on a college campus over the last six or seven years, odds are you’ve at least had brief contact with a military first-person shooter (or FPS for short). Call of Duty is the most prominent example, and is generally cited as the main perpetrator in the “bro-ification” of video games.
CoD games were coming out at a clip of one every six months for several years, which is remarkable given how much time, money and how many resources it takes to make a triple-A title. Part of the pull of the franchise is how easy it is to strap in and play for hours at a time. To your average FPS player, there’s not a lot of strategy involved in winning a CoD pickup game.
On the opposite side of that coin is the ARMA franchise. This series of games goes out of its way to be everything that CoD is not. It’s a true military simulator in every sense of the word, complete with thick tactics volumes and massive maps. This is as close to war as you can come on a console, and no one ever said war was easy. It’s frustrating, unpredictable and unforgiving. Likelihood of deserting ARMA life when the going gets tough: High.
If you grew up with a Nintendo Entertainment System as a kid, Contra is probably one of the first games you ever rage quit. The side scrolling action platformer is home to some of the most legendarily difficult levels in the history of gaming.
Take stage three from the NES version of the game, also known as the “waterfall level.” It’s a perfect example of what makes Contra such a difficult game. To make it to the boss at the end of the stage, perfect timing is required across the board. Miss one jump, and you plummet to your death. Jump to the wrong place, and you’ll meet your end at the hands of an enemy.
It’s an uber-complicated dance, and was recognized by IGN as the toughest game of all time. If you’re looking for the genesis of the cheat code, you’ve found it in Contra. You know a game is hard when it’s almost impossible to beat while cheating. Likelihood of rage quit preceding serious damage to your retro NES? High.
4. Mega Man 9
No one ever accused the Mega Man series of being easy. From the first installment on, the Blue Bomber always came along with some of the most challenging side-scrolling action around.
By the time the ninth installment was released in 2008, video games had become softer and easier. To create an ease of access for more casual gamers, concepts like in-game checkpoints and limitless lives had been introduced over the years. Long forgotten were rage-inducing games like Contra.
Until Mega Man 9 was unleashed on unsuspecting players around the world. The game was a throwback, reestablishing the difficulty that had been a hallmark of the series since the first entry.
There are arguably tougher games in the Mega Man catalog, but No. 9 hit at a time when players simply weren’t used to difficulty spikes and tough platforming. The level design was brilliant, and the Official Magazine of Nintendo had to declare that they decided not to dock the re-release of the game on the Wii any points due to the insane difficulty. The likelihood of rage quitting in this game is, we estimate, 1 in 3.
If you’re aware of Battletoads, it might not be because of the difficulty. Back in 2007, internet vigilantes / highly organised troll group ‘Anonymous’ decided to troll Gamestop by targeting more than 40 locations and pre-ordering Battletoads 2. The catch was, of course, that there was no Battletoads 2. The movement caught on, and the company was forced to involve the proper authorities as their phone lines were burned up by folks looking to get in on the prank.
Obtaining an original copy of the Battletoads game can also cost you a pretty penny. Before the pranks and before becoming a collector’s item, Battletoads was just an incredibly difficult game that caused nerds fits and starts during its more difficult stages. Like Contra, Battletoads had an added degree of difficulty because of the multiplayer aspect. What were the odds of two people being able to complete one of the maddening surf stage simultaneously?
Not very high, and this game has been listed as the most difficult to beat by various sites, including GameTrailers.com. The possibility of a rage quit here is high, verging on certain.
2. Ninja Gaiden Black
If you’re looking for a game that will slaughter you before the tutorial is over, Ninja Gaiden Black has you covered. All of the entries in the series are notoriously taxing on the nerves of your average gamer, so much so that Tecmo had to re-release the XBox version of the game with a lower difficulty setting after receiving so many complaints.
Complaints from rage-ravaged gamers, of course.
It’s not every day you see a publisher forced back to the drawing board due to outcry over an unforgiving difficulty setting. Tecmo didn’t just stand idly by and allow their game to get railroaded by folks that were just looking for a way to kill time until the next cakewalk come out though.
In Black, an easier setting called Ninja Dog was implemented. The publisher took it in the other direction as well, though, tacking on a difficulty called Master Ninja. It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how hard this new setting was.
They basically took one of the toughest games ever and made it even more demanding in the face of criticism. Great for those who want a challenge but certainly not made for those of us with a short fuse. It’s a safe bet that about 99% of the gaming population will rage quit this one before the final level.
1. Dark Souls
Dark Souls has a “Prepare to Die” edition. That’s what publisher Namco Bandai decided to call DS when they ported the original from home consoles to the PC. They re-worked some of the game’s original content, but the choice to put that statement front and center for gamers to see indicates just how mind-warpingly difficult Dark Souls is.
It takes the recipe of Ninja Gaiden and goes a step further, making death part of the process from a plot perspective and mechanics perspective. You’re expected to die. You’re expected to get aggravated.
You’re expected to rage-quit, and that’s what makes Dark Souls the top game on this list. If you don’t rage-quit, you haven’t played the game.