10 Hardest Video Games of All Time (Ranked)

I am a gamer through and through. With thousands of video games spread across dozens of genres, single-player experiences have always been my thing. There was a time when difficulty in video games was something limited to multiplayer titles. But that’s not the case anymore. While video game difficulty is a subjective matter, certain games are universally known for their extreme challenges. If you’re like me, you either are curious or want to steer clear of these. I was the former, so I sat down and ranked the hardest video games of all time. If you’re interested, let’s jump right into it.

10. Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy

Getting Over It gameplay screenImage Courtesy: Bennett Foddy

  • Release Date: 6 December 2017
  • Developer(s): Bennett Foddy
  • Platform(s): Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Mac operating systems

I begin this list with the one damn game that made me break my mouse. Yes, it was that stressful. Released back in 2017, Getting Over It is a seemingly simple climbing game that adds a touch of simulation to it. This comes in the form of your mouse that controls a man in a cauldron. Players have one painful task: use the tool in his hand to guide him to the top. Sounds simple? Well, it’s not.

Not only does the game have the wonkiest controls I have seen, but the amazingly annoying narration drove me to the absolute edge. If you make a single wrong step, you risk starting from the beginning. Oh, that voice in your ears? It never shuts up and even taunts you. I must have climbed for hours and still never finished it. After uninstalling this pesky game, I decided it definitely deserves a spot on this list.

Getting Over It actually inspired some other creations. Another frustrating alternative is a game called Only Up. The game has been intentionally bugged to make players’ lives hell and can cause you a solid headache due to its stupid-level design. If you really want to hurt your brain, you can try it. However, I would suggest sticking to Getting Over It if you want to play a fair, challenging game.

Play Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy

9. Flappy Bird

Flappy Bird gameplay screenImage Courtesy: Dong Nguyen

  • Release Date: 24 May 2013
  • Developer(s): Dong Nguyen, .Gears
  • Platform(s): Android, iOS

Remember Flappy Bird? Another simple yet frustrating creation back in the day. Flappy Bird was a game where players must keep tapping on the screen to keep the bird afloat and away from obstacles. Although it may sound simple, the game quickly got under your skin. Conversely, it even had you addicted to the process of trying to win. This insane combination had a lot of players stressed back in the day, and most remember it until now. I know I do.

While the original Flappy Bird isn’t widely available anymore, a lot of online-based alternatives exist, too. We have linked one below, so try it out and get the frustrating nostalgia back.

Play Flappy Bird Online

8. Spelunky 2

Spelunky 2 coverImage Courtesy: Mossmouth

  • Release Date: 15 September 2020
  • Developer(s): Mossmouth, Blitworks, Mossmouth, LLC
  • Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S

In 2020, a sequel to an already popular platform game, Spelunky, came out. Well, it did not just arrive on the scene; it said to its old version, “Hold my drink.” Spelunky 2 took platformer complexity to another level and made you think about every action. You not only struggled with the randomness of the enemies, but also dropping useful tools became a huge issue. Spelunky 2 was a that made players struggle in every beat and we hate it for that.

Play Spelunky 2

7. Ninja Gaiden

Ninja Gaiden Cover for worse video game franchises listImage Courtesy: Team Ninja

  • Release Date: 2 March 2004
  • Developer(s): Team Ninja, Tecmo
  • Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox, PlayStation Vita

The arcade version of Ninja Gaiden games was pretty enjoyable. Following that trend, the 2004 version of the game came out with the same flavor. But there was a catch: Ninja Gaiden suddenly became very difficult. Despite all the responsive controls, the gory and violent gameplay was unforgiving. While the sequels somewhat continued the game’s legacy, the 2004 Ninja Gaiden’s strength was its violent and unbeatable hard difficulty.

Play Ninja Gaiden

6. Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels

Super Mario Bros. The Lost Level homescreenImage Courtesy: Nintendo

  • Release Date: 3 June 1986
  • Developer(s): Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development, Nintendo
  • Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, Famicom Disk System, Wii, Game Boy Advance, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS

While 2D platformers have always been challenging, it is about time we give props to one of the classics, Super Mario Bros. 2, a.k .a. The Lost Levels. The game was released in 1986, a year after the original. The game retains a lot of the original feel, which was a good game but added a bucket full of difficulty. There were more challenging obstacles and even poisonous mushrooms. Nintendo did not skip a beat when they were deciding how tough to make this game, and it’s still evident.

Play Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels

5. Cuphead

Cuphead boss battle sequenceImage Courtesy: Studio MDHR Entertainment Inc.

  • Release Date: 29 September 2017
  • Developer(s): Studio MDHR
  • Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, macOS, Mac operating systems

They say never judge a book by its cover. Well, Cuphead took that personally. With its toony graphics and soundtrack, Cuphead is a side scroller that looked very harmless. However, as soon as you boot up the game, the dark secrets behind the comic characters unravel. Boss fights took hours to conquer, while you were mesmerized by its retro animations. Cuphead is not for the faint-hearted, even if it looks like the game is for kids.

Play Cuphead

4. Elden Ring

Elden Ring boss battleImage Courtesy: Bandai Namco

  • Release Date: 25 February 2022
  • Developer(s): FromSoftware
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

Souls-like is an evolving genre with something hard added to it every day. The same happened when Elden Ring came out in 2022. Unlike its other cousins in the genre, Elden Ring outright flips you off with its unfair difficulty.

Even the initial boss fight will make sure you know the pain. The bosses are literally overpowered compared to your character at any stage. However, being an open-world game, Elden Ring somehow lets you avoid that rush of finishing a battle. With Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree arriving soon, the difficulty might get even higher. Only time will tell.

Play Elden Ring

3. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro Shadows Die Twice battle stanceImage Courtesy: FromSoftware Inc.

  • Release Date: 22 March 2019
  • Developer(s): FromSoftware Inc.
  • Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, Microsoft Windows

FromSoftware Inc. is known for its creativity and making games challenging. However, while making Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the devs might have made it a bit too challenging. Even Dark Souls veterans who know their battle mechanics really well struggled with this masterpiece.

The key point about Sekiro is how you can time your counters. If you can parry well, you might succeed. Unfortunately, most folks didn’t and ended up rage-quitting the game. I was one of them.

Play Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

2. Dark Souls

Dark souls cover for Hardest Video Games of all timeImage Courtesy: Bandai Namco

  • Release Date: 4 October 2011
  • Developer(s): FromSoftware Inc., QLOC, Virtuos
  • Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360

Speaking of FromSoftware Inc., all the challenging souls-like would not even be where they are if it wasn’t for Dark Souls. Unlike its smoother brothers in Dark Souls 2 and 3, Dark Souls Original gave you a slow build-up in every combat. The challenges made sure you did not have a way to leave a fight without shedding some blood or even metal.

Compared to its cousins in Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne, or Elden Ring, Dark Souls Original did not let you adapt at all. While Elden Ring lets you dip out of battles and Bloodborne has mobility, Dark Souls was the true soul-crushing gauntlet.

Play Dark Souls

1. Super Meat Boy

Hardest video games of all time image for Super Meat BoyImage Courtesy: Team Meat

  • Release Date: 20 October 2010
  • Developer(s): Team Meat, Blitworks
  • Platform(s): Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Nintendo Switch

The world of difficult side scrollers is already populated with creations like Super Mario Bros. 2. Team Meat took that as a challenge and made sure the game was a peak for difficult 2D platformers. Super Meat Boy, released in 2010, had an unmatched level design destined to make you rage every time you crash onto the throne wheels.

The gameplay was snappy and fast, challenging you to be fast and precise simultaneously. In my opinion, no game has come closer to the difficulty Super Meat Boy showered us with. The good thing about Super Meat Boy was that no matter how many times you died, you came back quickly.

Play Super Meat Boy

Honorable Mentions:
Before we end the list, here are some honorable mentions. Devil May Cry 3 is arguably one of the hardest hack and slashers out there. If you have not tried any game from the same genre, this game will give you solid stress. Along with DMC 3, Sifu and Hollow Knight also deserve a mention.

These are the hardest video games of all time. Depending on who you are as a player, you will either run to them or away from them. What is your pick for this list? Do you think any other game deserves to be here? Let me know in the comments below!