The case for the hardest game.

It’s no secret that videogames have grown increasingly fond of holding your hand as the years go on. In this age of glowing paths, regenerating health, and easy modes; it seems games are becoming more uninvolved while the industry matures into simplicity. Games used to be an adventure! Now they seem to be going toward an experience that emulates a night at the movies. Titles simply don’t provide the frustrating “oomph” that they once did in my personal experience. You know, a 6-8 hour romp through a linear first person shooter is the norm. Gone are the days of “Earthbound” where you are dropped into a game with minimal guidance and just told to figure it out. Now, this obviously isn’t the case in all games, “Dark Souls” made me angry enough to stop playing for a short while. And while I still enjoy most of the beautifully made, if not overly simple games that I get to experience, I find it strange that as a gaming culture, we approach this changing structure with open arms, while at the same time holding the term “Casual Gamer” in contempt. It’s also no mystery why. I can offer multiple reasons for this phenomenon.

(Alma, you were the bane of my young existence)

First of all, if your game is too hard, people aren’t going to play it. If people don’t play your game, they’re certainly not going to pay for your sequel. The simplest remedy there lies in thoughtlessness. If you make a game satisfyingly easy to trudge through; in this era of do as much as you can, as fast as you can, you’re going to hook more players and likewise, sell more copies of your game. This is sad business for us gamers, if you ask me.

I offer to you the evidence in the “Ninja Gaiden” series. While the original Xbox version is arguably one of most difficult games to complete in existence, its successors are the perfect example of games succumbing to the pressure of being “easy” to appeal to a broader audience. Again, I’m not pressing this as a bad thing; I just find it disappointing that the series clearly falls short in the eyes of such a large mass of fans.

I can also give the argument of accessibility. Look no further than the “New Super Mario Brothers” series to find that games sacrifice challenge and innovation in order to appeal to a younger and more “casual” generation of gamers. Compare the “New” to the “Old” and what will you find? You won’t find virtual demonstrations of how to execute the level (that’s what 1-800 numbers are supposed to be for!), you won’t find simplistic level design, and you won’t find invulnerability after failed attempts. All of these were introduced to the series (frustratingly present in the most recent iteration, “NSMB 2”) to make the famous platformer more accessible.

All hope is not lost though. There has been a resurgence of games that are impressively difficult, although remarkably less popular games. Games like “Super Meat Boy” and “Mega Man 9” are perfect examples of a challenging gameplay that draw gamers in because of the skill involved to drive you to success. I think it’s no coincidence that a lot of these games are taking a formula found in more traditional (classic, retro, whatever you want to call it) games. It was a formula that worked well in the past, and in my opinion is something that needs to resurface to the masses of game players.

2 Comments
3 Comments
Posted by Trondood

It’s no secret that videogames have grown increasingly fond of holding your hand as the years go on. In this age of glowing paths, regenerating health, and easy modes; it seems games are becoming more uninvolved while the industry matures into simplicity. Games used to be an adventure! Now they seem to be going toward an experience that emulates a night at the movies. Titles simply don’t provide the frustrating “oomph” that they once did in my personal experience. You know, a 6-8 hour romp through a linear first person shooter is the norm. Gone are the days of “Earthbound” where you are dropped into a game with minimal guidance and just told to figure it out. Now, this obviously isn’t the case in all games, “Dark Souls” made me angry enough to stop playing for a short while. And while I still enjoy most of the beautifully made, if not overly simple games that I get to experience, I find it strange that as a gaming culture, we approach this changing structure with open arms, while at the same time holding the term “Casual Gamer” in contempt. It’s also no mystery why. I can offer multiple reasons for this phenomenon.

(Alma, you were the bane of my young existence)

First of all, if your game is too hard, people aren’t going to play it. If people don’t play your game, they’re certainly not going to pay for your sequel. The simplest remedy there lies in thoughtlessness. If you make a game satisfyingly easy to trudge through; in this era of do as much as you can, as fast as you can, you’re going to hook more players and likewise, sell more copies of your game. This is sad business for us gamers, if you ask me.

I offer to you the evidence in the “Ninja Gaiden” series. While the original Xbox version is arguably one of most difficult games to complete in existence, its successors are the perfect example of games succumbing to the pressure of being “easy” to appeal to a broader audience. Again, I’m not pressing this as a bad thing; I just find it disappointing that the series clearly falls short in the eyes of such a large mass of fans.

I can also give the argument of accessibility. Look no further than the “New Super Mario Brothers” series to find that games sacrifice challenge and innovation in order to appeal to a younger and more “casual” generation of gamers. Compare the “New” to the “Old” and what will you find? You won’t find virtual demonstrations of how to execute the level (that’s what 1-800 numbers are supposed to be for!), you won’t find simplistic level design, and you won’t find invulnerability after failed attempts. All of these were introduced to the series (frustratingly present in the most recent iteration, “NSMB 2”) to make the famous platformer more accessible.

All hope is not lost though. There has been a resurgence of games that are impressively difficult, although remarkably less popular games. Games like “Super Meat Boy” and “Mega Man 9” are perfect examples of a challenging gameplay that draw gamers in because of the skill involved to drive you to success. I think it’s no coincidence that a lot of these games are taking a formula found in more traditional (classic, retro, whatever you want to call it) games. It was a formula that worked well in the past, and in my opinion is something that needs to resurface to the masses of game players.

Posted by Fredchuckdave

NGS2 is widely viewed as the most difficult platinum trophy in existence next to Star Ocean 4; so don't know what your gripe there is. Ctrl + F and "Souls" only delivered once in your post, outrageous! Souls souls souls. Bring more souls in fact.

Posted by Trondood

I wasn't really talking about Achievements in games. Thanks for the feedback though!