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Games for masochists

The title of this list is pretty self explanatory. One of my favorite things about video games, is the sense of accomplishment for completing a particularly challenging one. These are the games that take that concept a step further and require complete dedication of your soul, several broken controllers and probably more than a few burst brain cells from yelling at the screen, to truly conquer.
I'm only including games on this list that are difficult by design. Games that are broken by poor coding, glitches or other unfortunate things that would make you probably not want to play it in the first place, don't count. Also, I'm only considering the most difficult challenges in a game that the developers intend you to play (for example, credit feeding on the easiest difficulty for shooters doesn't count. If you don't unlock the True Last Boss, you've technically not conquered the game yet). Many games with maddening challenge have a care-bear mode to pull in sales for the less hardcore. This is probably why so many people enjoyed Ninja Gaiden, despite few of them having actually beaten anything above normal. Once again, artificially inflating difficulty in a way the developers did not intend, does not count.
Also, there are several games which have a reputation for being difficult, but I have not yet played. They may end up on this list in the future (Battle Kid for example).

List items

  • The game is really fun. It does a good job of ramping up the difficulty from painfully easy novice modes, to the more standard original and maniac modes. But then you see God and Ultra modes and realize that the game just wanted you to feel good before it completely slaps you in the face with the most maddeningly difficult game play in existence. The best part is that to fight the secret true last boss, you have to beat God mode without dying once... A feat that more than 99% of the people who play this game will not have the insanity to even attempt, let alone accomplish. Easily the most difficult single loop shooter ever conceived from Satan's evil laboratories.

  • Bullet-Hell shooters deserve a ton of spots on this list. I'm just choosing what are in my opinion, the 2 most difficult. DoDonPachi is the hardest 2 loop shooter I've ever played in my life. The game is completely merciless on so many levels, and true mastery will require lots of memorization, and more blood flowing to your twitch impulse than your legs are receiving. Even the name is mocking the player. Dai Ou Jou roughly translates to "Peaceful Death". That's quite the sense of humor.

  • The game is fairly difficult on normal difficulty for the uninitiated, but for those experienced in Action games, it's not too bad. It's when you start playing the harder difficulties when things get dicey. By the time you reach Master Ninja mode, you'd better have a very refined style of play with few holes, because the ones that are there will get ripped wide open.

  • Pretty much the same deal as above, although the gameplay style in NG2 is a bit different from Black. In this game, your goal is to be as aggressive as possible and send limbs flying in every which way, because standing back and evaluating your next move is only going to result in hundreds of incendiary shurikens being attached to you in the span of a second. It gets a bit easier to deal with when you get the claws, but some of the bosses on Master Ninja will make you curl in a corner in the fetal position.

  • Although an Indie game, I Wanna Be the Guy was created with a single goal in mind: To frustrate even the most battle hardened gamer. A very difficult (yet still fun) platformer, I Wanna Be the Guy will cause you to die multiple times on each screen guaranteed. I say this, because almost every screen has surprise traps that you cannot possibly predict without seeing a walkthrough (things like fruit falling into the sky out of spikes, multiple exits to rooms, with all but one leading to a dead end and death, etc.). Despite the frustration factor though, I found myself having a great time playing this game and actually laughing at some of the "impossible to dodge the first time" traps. It's free on PC. Go play it right now if you haven't.

  • Actually, I used to consider this the 2nd hardest anti-grav racing game, behind Wipeout HD. However, the really difficult stuff to do in Wipeout became a lot easier when the DLC package arrived and made the previously near impossible stuff much easier. F-Zero GX's difficulty mainly lies in the ridiculous story mode. Most of the missions are manageable with some practice, even on very hard. However, there are several (I'm looking at you chapter 7), which not only require near perfection, but also some luck to complete.

  • Technically, every game in this series deserves to be on the list, but that would lead me to listing the numerous iterations of every NES and arcade game as well. Take this as the entry for every one of those. Simply put, Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts is a game designed to cause pain. You can go from a mighty, gold armored and shielded super knight, to a skinny dude in boxers quicker than it takes you to blink. Being forced to beat the game a 2nd time (a staple of the series) on a higher difficulty and with a terrible weapon to boot, is a bit of a low blow. At least it doesn't have the ridiculously tight time-limit of the NES version.

  • A lot of people already know the story about how this gem was made a lot easier when the special edition was released, as a result of much complaints from fans (the Japanese hard mode was made the normal mode in the US version, and the difficulty only got worse from there). The game deserves every name it's been called. Although I still personally consider the NG games to be a bit more difficult than DMC, DMC3 requires a lot more effort to get a good rank in than the Ninja Gaiden games, which can make them interchangeable on the overall scale.

  • The Mega Man series is unique, in that they can be frustrating to deal with initially, but upon completion, you're well on your way to total mastery. Mega Man was one of the first game series to have a loyal speed-run following, and for good reason.

    The first in the series however, was much more difficult in comparison to all the others. Limited lives and continues played no small part in making this the case.

  • This game doesn't need any introductions. The historical popular #1 on many lists of hardest games of all time, Battletoads definitely deserves a spot on this one. Although I personally don't think it's difficult enough to be #1 as many state it to be, it definitely requires flawless execution and many hours of practice to effectively complete. The game is divided between levels that are fairly simple to complete, and others that obviously got rushed out the door with little testing and were a bit over-tuned, but that's what adds to the fun!