In Honor Of Dark Souls: The 10 Most Difficult Games In Video Game History

5) Dance Central

Ha! You laugh. How could a rhythm game be difficult enough to make this list? If you were with me at Comic Con trying to use the Dance Central set up in one of the lounges, you wouldn’t have to ask. Unlike Dance Dance Revolution, you aren’t following specific commands with corresponding buttons, making it easy to learn the patterns, at which point you just have to work on eye-foot coordination in order to keep up. Instead, you have to watch video game versions of professional dancers doing some truly complicated moves, then mimic them in front of your Kinect. You get no hints or commands, and thanks to the rather sensitive Kinect camera, you have to be both subtle and extremely fast in order to keep from failing.

Is it a good workout? Hell yes. It’s also hell of humiliating.

4) Catherine (PS3, Xbox 360)

Catherine is a sadistic game. The folks at Atlus created a whole new kind of puzzle game about rearranging and climbing on blocks, and then they made the puzzles so esoteric as to be basically impossible unless you’re the type of person who can play an entire game of chess in your head. You’ll move blocks around for hours, making no progress, and then, whoops, you’re out of time. So not only are the puzzles basically impossible, but there’s a time limit. Oh, you insane Japanese assholes. -PO

3) Ghosts and Goblins (NES)

Ghosts and Goblins is superficially one of the best things ever. It has some pretty amazing music, great weapons-variety and a cool aesthetic that seemed like pure brilliance at the time. But it was a poisonous snake that had the power to destroy your ability to love your NES. First, you start out with 3 lives, and 1 ups are few and far between. Worse, while you start with a suit of armor, you can take only 1 hit before you’re reduced to your heart boxers (which, btw, was an awesome touch). New suits of armor are hard to find. But the game has 6 long, long levels, armies of swarming enemies that can only be defeated by playing again and again, and worst of all, no continue. Yes, you could literally play for hours, make it to the very last boss, but if you die and lose your last life? You have to start over from the very beginning.

Ghosts and Goblins is responsible for the first time I ever yelled the f-word at a TV. I will bet cash money that if you played this in 1988, you did too.

2) Ninja Gaiden 2004 (Xbox)

Ninja Gaiden for Xbox is, simply put, one of the most ridiculously difficult games ever made. But in that, it has good company with the rest of the games on this list. But at least most of the games you see here have aspects that keep you coming back for more. Ninja Gaiden might be unique in that it is so ridiculously difficult that it actually becomes boring, much like prison.

Ninja Gaiden 2004 is a nightmare. You don’t heal unless you find ‘essences’ that are really stingily meted out. Enemies take a ridiculous amount of damage and inflict even more. It somehow combines Metal Gear Solid style stealth with constantly having to defend yourself against fast moving enemies. Really, just imagine a game where the objective is to cross a street, only every time you take a step the street turns into a semi truck that runs you over and you’ve kind of captured the experience of Ninja Gaiden.

Here’s an extremely long playthrough that demonstrates just how god dammed difficult this game is.

01) The Oregon Trail (Apple II)

At the very top of the list come what might just be the hardest game ever devised. Yes, it’s a clunky educational game from the 80s. Yes, it was intended for Apple computers made before the company learned how to be hip. Yes, the only action is the occasionally badly animated river crossing. But the whole point of the game is to give modern kids somewhat of a taste of life in the pioneer days, and it succeeds by being, much like life in the era, nasty, brutish and short.

Players choose from a list of characters of different backgrounds who are joining a wagon train headed west along the titular trail for a new life on in Oregon territory. They start with a limited amount of money to buy food, weapons and supplies and then… try to survive. Gameplay couldn’t be simpler. You just click continue turn after turn. But the average game ends either with starvation for your party, death by disease or massacre by hostile native American tribes. And it’s all completely random. You could literally do everything right and still lose because the computer decided you walked next to a rattlesnake.

Frankly, if you or anyone you know has ever managed to beat Oregon Trail, there is probably a Nobel Prize collecting dust in your office.

Follow me on twitter at @Rossalincoln

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17 Comments on In Honor Of Dark Souls: The 10 Most Difficult Games In Video Game History


On September 29, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Good list, but you must not have played “Battletoads” (NES) IF so that’d be on this list. I do not agree with Oregon Trail being #1 at all, but that’s definitely a unique pick.

Ross Lincoln

On September 29, 2011 at 9:56 pm

As an adult, I agree with you. But me in 5th grade still has nightmares.


On September 29, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Made it to Chapter 10: The Aquaduct(16 total) through Ninja Gaiden on Xbox in a matter of 30 minutes and 45 seconds after skipping all the in game cutscenes. Hard my ass. Sat down and played it again I would probably beat it in another 30 minutes to an hour or so.

Lot of the NES classics that most people knew where harder. Not to mention Super Ghouls and Ghosts which is by far even tougher.


On September 29, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Gotta agree with bob about Battletoads on NES. That friggin game was brutal back in the day.


On September 30, 2011 at 12:14 am

I made it to the end of the snake climbing level in Battletoads once.

That was as far as I could get.

I don’t agree with Oregon Trail or Contra. And DMC 3 wasn’t hard once you got the learning curve down, not to mention the weapons and upgrades.

Though, there was another Apple computer game i played in elementary school called Freedom, in which you had to play as a runaway slave trying to make it to the northern free states.

Problem was, like Oregon trail, they start you with random skills. And you lack others. If you could read, you couldn’t write. If you could write, you couldnt read. Usually, you couldn’t do either. So you play as an illiterate guy or gal, you get 4 bucks off the bat and have to move thru towns where most people aren’t friendly and will call the slave catchers on you. If you tried to stay and fight the slave catchers, you’d get your ass kicked and go back to being a slave. If you hid, they would find you. If you ran, they’d catch you.

Basically, they wanted you to be a slave forever. A game called Freedom, where nobody is free….EVER!


On September 30, 2011 at 3:51 am

Ok, I got one. Who played this growing up.

Bucky o’ Hare? I thought it was a really well made game for its time but it was extremely hard in the final stages before you beat the game. I don’t think I ever did either.

Check it out (In a flash)

Dave Moss

On September 30, 2011 at 10:22 am

As a person of Jewish descent, and possessing absolutely no rhythm, I would put DDR at number 1 hardest game of all time. Great list!

Phil Hornshaw

On September 30, 2011 at 1:22 pm

In response to Battletoads, yes, that game was hard, but I always felt like it was hard because it was just made badly. Anyone else get that?


On September 30, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Ninja Gaiden on NES was much harder then the 2004 release. I hear battletoads but the first TMNT was just as hard if not harder, that damn sewer lvl where you either ran out of time or out of breath.


On September 30, 2011 at 10:11 pm

i think the hardest games i ever played were ninja gaiden on nes eternal champions on sega genesis robocop on nes pit fall atari king of fighters 95 arcades definantly punch out and the first metal gear for nes

Megaman X9

On October 1, 2011 at 3:34 pm

I have beaten most of these games you listed but Battletoads? Not even in my wildest dreams. I know plenty of people have beaten (including myself) DMC, NG, Megaman, Demon’s Souls, Contra, etc. but I don’t know in person a single human being that has ever beaten the 3rd of 12 levels of Battletoads NES…


On October 1, 2011 at 4:54 pm

funny how this list just like most of the lists about anything related to gaming seem to always follow one very stupid, unwritten rule: one game per franchise

ninja gaiden 2 (the 360 version) is just as hard as the 2004′s NG, and yet for some reason when sites make these lists they seemed forced to choose only one, even if both should be in the top ten, just like a top ten of PS3 graphics I saw the other day with no Killzone 2, even if KZ3 looks better KZ2 is still among the best but apparently legally out of any list because of its sequel

why is that? can somebody explain it to me?

Joe e

On December 17, 2011 at 2:10 am

Ivr beaten all these games cept the nes ghosts n gobs and ninja gaiden most of these pics are way off Oregon trial #1??? I beat that game first try when I was like 10 I could sleep while playing as someone who owns round 100 nes games most of em are hard to go f yourself hard battle toads played that today got to 3rd lvl…lol festers quest should be near the top with battle toads.


On July 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I found the Myst games to be difficult. Also, Return To Castle Wolfenstein.


On July 10, 2012 at 6:48 pm

How about Blue Ice? It is famously the most difficult adventure game ever designed.


On July 16, 2012 at 10:47 am

search boobs and battletoads on youtube for a good top ten hardest listing.


On September 28, 2014 at 11:57 pm

Add Captain America and avengers nes game