The gaming community has gotten surly in recent years, claiming that gaming has become marketed towards a more casual community leaving the hardcore sect out in the cold when it comes to game difficulty. This marketing, in turn, has made modern games easier that hand out rewards for every little stupid thing. In order to market to the lucrative casual market, it is claimed that developers neuter the challenge that more dexterous gamers felt so proud upon completing in order to reach a broader audience. These complaints, as well as the popularity of games like Demon Souls, Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 have led to a bit of a revolution among game developers. Many developers have embraced the challenge of creating challenging games targeted specifically for hardcore gamers, the kind that result in thousands of virtual deaths, broken controllers and kicked puppies. So after the hundreds of creative deaths brought on by the recent release of Dark Souls 2, here are some games to quench the thirst for a decent challenge.
Ninja Gaiden 3
The Ninja Gaiden series is notorious for being tough. The fact that it combined challenging action and boss battles with NINJAS just made it all the more popular among hardcore gamers. In Ninja Gaiden 3, it seems the cruel developers at Tecmo Koei decided to just throw in a bunch of enemies and crank damage up to the max. The Ninja Gaiden series has always punished casual gamers and those who have gotten a little too friendly with Quick Time Events. The combat thrives on precise strikes and perfect timing. However, while there is a large amount of skill involved in Ninja Gaiden 3, at times the game just seems unbalanced and unfair. No, this isn't the battle cry of the untalented masses. When the large number of enemies crowd you against a wall forcing you to block, before breaking that block by throwing you to the ground that cannot be escaped, all the while pelting you with off-screen projectiles that deal splash damage even when they do not connect, it is just unfair. Ninja Gaiden is arguable the hardest in the series and has just broken the confidence and spirit of thousands of gamers who have abandoned the way of the ninja in the past.
Super Meat Boy
Platformers have always been considered the "tougher" video game genre. It requires precision and timing to get to different platforms, but today they have become so much more forgiving. The puzzles are easier and the platforms seem closer, the challenge has been sacrificed to general cuteness. This is not so in Super Meat Boy, there is nothing cute or easy about this platformer. Between the buzz saws, rocket launchers and piles of used syringes, those who undertake the challenge need to jump with absolute precision. There is no health bar, so every slip, missed jump or tumble results in a horrible gruesome death. Luckily for gamers, Super Meat Boy kept levels short and most stages only take around 30 seconds to complete. However, those 30 second levels are all brutal and unforgiving. They require planning, patience and, at times, speed.
At a glance, Catherine doesn't look very hard or very interesting even. This anime style game is part dating simulation and part block puzzle challenge. It's only challenge seems to be the latter in which gamers pull and push blocks to climb a tower. However, after hours of 'meh' worthy challenges and the game rolls towards the conclusion, the developers of Catherine cranked the game all the way up to impossibly hard. What is worse is that gamers can easily screw themselves into a corner without even knowing on the earlier levels of the tower. This results in further progress being impossible. While that is frustrating enough, Catherine adds further challenge to their just ridiculously difficult boss battles. Its quaint anime exterior attracted a certain type of gamer when it launched, however most of those gave up and it is now regarded as one of the most challenging games on the market.
Like in Dark Souls, death is fundamentally tied within the gameplay of Rogue Legacy. However, whereas in most challenging games dying is an ever-present fear-inducing form of punishment, in Rogue Legacy it isn't a punishment but a form of progression. There are four areas in the game in which players must conquer, with each being more difficult than the area before it and an even more daunting boss at the end. However, as players die, they will be able to choose from three heirs. Essentially, death in this game is a form of selected breeding. While some heirs may have great traits, others may have inconvenient traits like vertigo which literally turns the screen upside down. The traits for each heir are randomly generated so while some are rewarding others are just the worst. The game is more forgiving than others as you can always move onto the next generation. However, each level in Rogue Legacy is perfectly punishing enough to be frustrating. After enough dying, enough gold, and enough upgrades perhaps one of your family's long generation can do their bloodline proud.
In many games, death after frustrating death results in the certain retention of knowledge. Whether that knowledge is to parry when the enemy puts their left foot forward or jump when that saw blade is three fourths across the screen. A certain level of knowledge is required for Spelunky as well; however when each level is procedurally generated that knowledge can only get gamers so far. The developers wanted to assure that those playing the game were constantly reacting instead of anticipating. The fact that anything within Spelunky, including your own bombs, can kill you it only adds to the immense challenge. Each playthrough of the game is different, so different playthroughs may spawn the best shops with the best items that make it easier or players could be utterly shafted and in for a difficult time. Due to the randomly generated levels, Spelunky holds surprises for players each time they play.