Video games are meant to be fun. Sure, some people may take it seriously, even turn it into a career if they can. But most just play them for fun and for enjoyment. The sheer variety of games means there’s something for everyone. First person shooters, role-playing, puzzles, strategy and even combinations of all of them, the options are endless. So there are plenty for gamers to enjoy and get a good challenge out of. However, sometimes, the challenge can be something else, turning a game into something frustrating. It’s easy to cite games that are infamously bad and no one wants to play more than once. No, these are games that have so much potential and are even very good. However, their difficulty level can be through the roof on certain settings to the point even veteran gamers can’t keep up.
It’s easy to cite modern games as many gamers enjoy the challenge offered putting them on extreme modes. However, some “old school” games can give even the best of today’s gamers nightmares with their difficulty. It’s amazing to see how truly insane some games can be in how hard and nearly impossible to beat under most circumstances. Why anyone would choose a harder level for them is astounding and shows how some gamers really do enjoy more of a challenge. Here are 15 video games that are almost impossible to beat on their hardest setting and a challenge for any gamers.
15 Max Payne 3
The first Max Payne game was notable for its gritty storyline as well as being one of the few games to really make “bullet time” work. The sequel was rougher but more polished in many ways for a good experience. It took nearly a decade for the third game but it was worth it, offering a fantastic storyline of Max on a quest for revenge in South America and in some very dark places. It’s already difficult and grisly yet the Hardcore mode lives up to its name big time. Just one or two bullets can take Max out, meaning you have to be even faster with your firing back. Also, the bullet time meter is much lower, cutting down on one of Max’s key skills. Also, you can combine it with New York Minute, which has a timer at the start of each level and if you don’t complete it in time, you lose, no matter your health. Also, you get killed, you have to start at the very beginning of the entire game. It’s tough as hell and a game that truly brings the pain.
14 The Last Of Us
This gripping game has been hailed for its amazing animation and terrific story. It plays like a much darker take on the usual “zombie survival “genre as a plague kills most of the world with survivors facing off against people mutated into monsters. They’re called “Clickers” by the chittering sound they make and instead of pure combat, much of the game plays on stealth, often having to hide out from Clickers and several tense sequences where you hear their sounds coming about as you stay in hiding. So imagine how it must be without any noise. That’s the “Grounded” mode of the game where Clickers don’t make sounds and thus can attack with no warning. Also, not only do you take more damage from enemies but you can’t see your health bar or your ammo, making it even harder to tell how bad off you really are. The best chance you can have is to memorize the path or otherwise, this will be the “last” time you can get through this game.
13 Mega Man
This is one of the longest-running franchises in video game history. From its beginnings in Japan in the 1980s, Mega Man has inspired cartoons and slews of incarnations for just about every generation of home consoles. Which is remarkable given how mind-boggling insane the first game is on easy mode, let alone hard. You play the title hero trying to stop the evil Dr. Wiley and his army of robots. Each level has you facing one robot with the fun bit that if you beat him, you get his weapon which you can use against the others. Key word being “if.” First of all is having to defeat old-school platforming that makes the hardest Mario level look like a cakewalk. Then, you have to face off against slews of enemies coming at you in waves with a single blow robbing you of help. The total lack of any passwords means you use up all your lives, you have to start the entire game over. The boss levels are a complete nightmare to get through, especially the last one and the developers had to actually “dumb down” the sequels a bit. Given how tough those are, that says so much on a game that somehow launched a franchise.
Even by the standards of Japanese games, this is a bit of an odd one. It basically puts a third-person perspective on the classic “stacking” puzzle games popularized by Tetris. You play a young man who’s trapped in a nightmare world where you have to pull and push boxes in order to climb up. Sounds simple on paper, right? Well, in play, it turns into a chaotic mess that makes even the greatest Tetris expert break into sweats. The boxes can shift without warning and thus you need to use an “undo” method in order to save and continue. On Hard mode, that option is gone and the boxes fall even faster and in wilder patterns while the ground under you crumbles quicker. Also, the cinematic levels of mazes and puzzles get far tougher, more challenging to the point where you feel completely lost. It took a warped genius to make this game and even crazier to be able to beat it.
11 Ghosts N Goblins
You can’t do a list like this without this game. This is a nightmare even on the easiest mode which makes it astounding that some actually try playing it on a harder mode in various versions. The idea is simple as your knight character runs through a variety of settings (graveyard, haunted house, castle), jumping as you fight off an endless stream of enemies from zombies to huge bats. One blow and your armor flies off to show you in your underwear. Another and you’re a skeleton. The number of quarters pumped into the arcade version by furious gamers could fund the New York Yankees and one can imagine the screams of agony at yet another mild shot causing a death. It’s been redone a few times for modern audiences and even experienced gamers can go into seizures feeling a massive death from this and proof of how “old school” can still rock gamers hard.
10 X-Com 2
A unique mix of turn-based tactical and shooting, this popular series focuses on soldiers clashing with alien invaders. It’s a fun game as you need the aid of fellow soldiers to keep up with the combat and making the attacks work well. The key is to spread your guys out right for the attacks without being found out. But the Legend mode ups the ante as your soldier allies have only four health bars and the enemies are much tougher. It takes longer to get to the levels needed to upgrade your tech and equipment so you have to be even more careful with your attacks. The difficulty just grows bigger as you also lack some of the basic aids like auto-aiming and if an ally dies, they stay dead with no revival, leaving you short-handed. The entire series is a tough ride but this Legend mode just ups the ante big time to make beating this a real task.
Hover biking. All you have to do is mention those words to an old-platform gamer and you’ll see them shake in horror. The Battletoads franchise was a popular one, more popular in video game form than in their cartoon of mutated frogs fighting evil. The first game was noted for its wild levels, mixing up fun animation with combat, platforming and more. However, several segments could be tough as hell from clashing with huge enemies to some of the wilder jumping segments. Yet the hover biking level is the stuff of nightmares. It sounds simple, just riding a bike across a lava field, avoiding obstacles and such. But you have roughly two seconds of warning before you have to duck to avoid an object, meaning you need the most split-second timing imaginable to make it work. Very few could as even on easy mode, it was quite simple to smash into a wall without warning. Most fans preferred using a cheat code to bypass the level as trying to get through this on hard mode was a truly lost battle.
8 Perfect Dark
Here’s a bit of old-school love. This Nintendo 64 entry (later re-released on Xbox Live) has the feisty Joanna Dark, an agent for a corporation fighting a rival. The boxes featured her gorgeous looks in a tight suit although it played from first person view. The play was good, based on the highly successful Goldeneye game and adding new challenges in each mission so it wasn’t just randomly shooting bad guys. In the standard version, you just open an elevator. In Secret Agent, you also have to disable communications hub, steal a necklace and ruin security. On Perfect Agent, you have to do all that while also hacking a vital vault system. Sound wild? That’s nothing. Beat Perfect Agent and you get the Perfect Dark mode where you can choose how smart and tough your enemies are. That means you can find yourself facing wave after wave of nearly unkillable foes with deadly accurate aim and thus you have to be truly perfect to beat it all.
7 TMNT NES
No game caused more broken NES controllers than this one. In 1989 the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were red-hot with their cartoon and an upcoming movie. An arcade game was a huge hit, giving four gamers at once a chance to play together. The technology couldn’t be replicated on the NES so they had a more original game. Although you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who can actually claim to have beaten it. At first, the bits of fighting the Foot ninjas are pretty good but then they’re interrupted by puzzle stuff and having to explore the city. But what made this game impossible on any mode but especially the Hard one was the dam. The Turtles have to swim through an underwater maze to defuse bombs spread around with a timer clicking down. Pink seaweed was electrified to kill you at the slightest touch and so thick, a goldfish couldn’t get through it. Anyone who made it through this level deserved a medal as it was absolutely astounding how hard it was and proof that an old-school game can render anyone a mess.
6 Killzone 2
The single player for this FPS is pretty good with a combat on an alien planet that plays more like a gripping WWII tale than sci-fi. It also boasts some great multiplayer with its mix of various weapons and such. A big thing is that it’s not like other shooters as going in guns blazing just gets you killed amazingly fast. You have to be smart to use the terrain for cover and be patient taking your shots, requiring more thought than your typical war shooter. Once you beat the game, you can unlock the “Elite” mode which automatically saps your health to add to the thrills. Also, your enemies get a lot smarter as rather than run out of hiding, they’ll stick to shadows and even use your own tactics like throwing grenades and other traps. Even crazier is that you lose your crosshairs and thus have to do all your aiming by hand and eye which is a lot harder than it sounds. The first version of the game is already tough but beating this mode really makes you an elite player.
5 Mass Effect 2
One of the gems of BioWare, this sequel took everything great about the first game and just made it better. The genius was how you could import the exact same Shepherd character you had created in the first game, maybe a few tweaks but still the same. That made it flow like a true sequel, a rare feat for an action RPG game. From the choices abounding to the plethora of characters and a great story, the game pulled fans in, making you feel the ramifications of losing teammates and making a replay a must. It’s already a bit challenging but “Insanity Mode” just beefs it up. The enemies are far tougher and come in bigger waves and don’t give you nearly as much time to recover from damage. You also have to keep a closer eye on your fellow crewmembers who can get cut down without you able to help them out. It ups the challenge big time and makes this already epic game feel even longer and tougher but does make it more worthwhile should you actually manage to beat it.
4 Sniper Elite 4
A common thing on video game message boards are actual soldiers complaining about the “realism” of first person shooters. You’ll see them moan about how unrealistic the backfire is, how easily you can change ammo on the run and more, complaints common in video gaming. Which is why it’s remarkable that the “Authentic” mode of this game has gotten praise from actual snipers as being as close to the real thing as possible. Gravity can affect a bullet’s trajectory so a shot easy to make one time is impossible here. Weather and wind can also throw things off to ruin an otherwise obvious blow. Also, the enemies are far more alert so if you snipe a target, all those around him will instantly be alert and on the lookout for you. Most of your aids are gone, just a wind meter to make your shot count and be extra stealthy to avoid detection. It’s already a tricky game but this shows how being a real sniper is a lot tougher than it seems and closer to the real deal than most games get…which is why it’s so lethal.
3 Silver Surfer NES
The Silver Surfer has long been a popular character for Marvel and even making it to the big screen in one of the Fantastic Four movies. Jack Kirby had the idea of this cosmic being with a surfboard just for something offbeat. You’d think he’d be a great choice for a video game but this NES entry is now cited as one of the single most impossible games ever created. You have to constantly be firing as there’s no telling when waves of enemies are coming out of nowhere and there’s no “hold down for continued firing” bit. It switches from side-scrolling to overhead and no matter which view, there’s no telling what is and isn’t allowed to be touched. Thus, all you do is brush on a wall or ceiling and you’re automatically dead, no health bar blow, just dead right off. It’s amazingly aggravating and even on YouTube, it’s hard to find a full easy play-through of a game cosmically hard to win.
2 Doom 2016
When you hear a game called Doom having something called “Nightmare Mode,” you must expect it to be harsh. And it is. The groundbreaker for first person shooters, the series has only gotten wilder and gorier with every instalment and even inspired a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. For the 2016 version, fans were once more returned to a space station under assault from demonic creatures and using a variety of weapons to fight them off. The Nightmare Mode just makes it worse, slews of enemies crowding down on you, crushing you in numbers, slashing you up and even an experienced gamer has a hard time fighting them off. But the real killer is that when you die, you start all over again. That’s right, you can spend four or six hours going through enemies, in a serious groove but one mistake and you’re right back at the start of the game, no saves or continues. That is a true doom to a fun game mood and why this caused more headaches than any version of the franchise.
1 Ninja Gaiden Black
Ever since its NES days, the Ninja Gaiden series has been among the tougher games ever devised. A mix of combat, platform and puzzles, the games were known to crack fans majorly. In 2004, it was revived for the Xbox and swiftly became known as the game most likely to cause players to throw controllers through a wall. This is a game where the first level mooks are able to kill you easily. That’s before you even meet any of the bosses. It just ups the ante further and further and thus the normal setting can be wild. They did provide the Black game with new features and levels, including able to get an easier setting. But you can also do a Hard mode that is, quite frankly, nearly impossible. Anyone who can get through the first level without getting killed a dozen times is a gaming freak and you need to get a lot of “essence” to buy the weapons and health you require to keep going. Sure, if you have the time and dedication, you can make it but most gamers would stab themselves with a real sword rather than keep going through this horrifically hard game again.