Top 7 Most Challenging Video Games Ever | USA

Top 7 Most Challenging Video Games Ever

/ 08:10 AM July 08, 2022

Some people play video games to take a break in another world, but others look for a challenge. You might be one of the purists who like those controller-throwing moments when facing a tough boss. Then, you start the whole game all over again!

You might have missed a few games if these qualities match you. A quick online search will show you thousands of results, but why look over each? Instead, check out this list of the ten hardest games throughout gaming history.

We will go through classic titles like Contra to newer ones like Dark Souls. You will learn the reasons why these games became difficult. More importantly, we will explore the factors that helped them make a mark in gaming history. Here are the titles we will discuss:

  1. Contra
  2. XCOM 2
  3. Ninja Gaiden
  4. Dark Souls
  5. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
  6. Elden Ring
  7. Cuphead

1. Contra

This is one of the most iconic video games ever.

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The number one game on this list came out on February 20, 1987. Contra is an old-school title that is still one of the hardest games ever. As they say, “You cannot beat the classics!”

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It is a side-scrolling shooter game, meaning you view Contra at a fixed angle. It is like the original Super Mario Bros, where you only move up, down, left, and right.

You choose between two characters that look like Rambo, a famous action movie character. The goal is to advance through the levels while shooting aliens from outer space.

The plot is nowhere near the complex storylines of modern video games, but that is not why people play Contra. It is a challenging game, and players simply want to beat it.


The difficulty lies in how many enemies you will encounter while launching projectiles. Worse, Contra only gives three lives to players, and they lose one each time they get hit.

Lose all your lives, and you will have to restart from the first level. It does not matter if you have reached the final boss! Despite having cheat codes, Contra is still a challenging classic game.

Decades-old video games provide bonuses after you input a specific cheat code. Press a particular combination of buttons, and you could make your character invincible or easily beat enemies.


Contra allows the classic Konami Code: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A. Press this array of buttons in the middle of the game, and you gain 30 lives.

However, many people still cannot beat the entire game with this number of lives. As a result, they remember Contra as one of the most difficult games of the 80s, and we are still talking about it today.

2. XCOM 2

This is XCOM 2.

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We will now transition from classic games to a more modern title. XCOM 2 came out in 2016 and is the sequel to 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

It is a PC strategy game where you take control of a five-person team of soldiers. Your task is to embark on missions to defeat space aliens and stop them from taking over the world.

Does this game seem like another Contra clone? Aside from the similar plot, XCOM 2 works differently from this classic title. It is turn-based, meaning you and the alien team take turns moving your units.

You could compare this to chess, but all the pieces can move once per turn. However, the opponent has several unfair advantages. After all, the enemies are space aliens with out-of-this-world technologies and abilities.

Meanwhile, you start with regular soldiers with guns. Your units receive better gear as you progress, but the aliens also improve. Thankfully, XCOM 2 has cheats.

You cannot use the Konami Code, but this game has different cheats. Still, a video game purist would prefer to beat XCOM 2 without these perks. Believe it or not, cheats will not make the game a piece of cake.

XCOM 2 requires skill because you must know how to use units and the terrain to your advantage. A well-equipped team can quickly lose with poor management. As a result, XCOM 2 is one of the brutal video games of the past decade.

3. Ninja Gaiden

This is Ninja Gaiden.

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The original version of this game came out in 1988, but it has an Xbox version from 2004. Both versions remain the hardest video games of all time. 

You take control of a ninja warrior named Ryu Hayabusa. He journeys throughout America to stop the main baddie from unleashing an ancient power. The story is super simple like the other hard video games on this list.

However, the gameplay can give you serious trouble. It plays like Contra because it is a side-scroller, but you cannot hit enemies from afar. In classic ninja fashion, you beat enemies by hitting them with your sword.

That is not easy when most of your enemies lob projectiles at you. If you die, you return to the first level. Yet, the developers of 1998’s Ninja Gaiden 1998 did not intend the ridiculous difficulty.

The Tecmo team tested the game multiple times to optimize the gameplay. They became too good at Ninja Gaiden as time passed, so they ramped up the difficulty.

As a result, the game became a treacherous world for gamers. It had an unfair enemy placement that only experts would be able to progress. 

The remake first came out for the Xbox in 2004 and followed the original’s difficulty with a modern twist. It is in 3D, and you can save your progress at specific points.

Still, you will need top-notch reflexes to beat enemies. Button-mashing the attack button does not work as regular baddies can block your attacks. Meanwhile, you will have to dodge close-range and faraway projectiles.

Many websites rate Ninja Gaiden as one of their most challenging action games. However, the difficulty might be too punishing for most players. They may simply give up after several hours.

On the other hand, the 3D version could be too easy for experts. Some even say the sequels Ninja Gaiden II, and III have become overly simplified. Nevertheless, you might want to try the Ninja Gaiden series if you want a challenge.

4. Dark Souls

This is the cover art for Dark Souls.

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Japanese game developer FromSoftware built a worldwide reputation for creating the most challenging titles. Its most iconic game is the Dark Souls series.

You will even find various game journalists comparing it to other titles. Nowadays, most video games want to be as easy as possible to attract the most players.

FromSoftware sticks to its central principle of creating some of the most challenging games. Yet, it won the hearts of video game enthusiasts with its punishing difficulty.

The game takes you to the world of Lordran, which takes inspiration from Medieval Western history and fiction. You can choose various characters such as knights and wizards and set about fighting dragons and other mythical creatures.

The regular enemies can beat you in two hits, but bosses can take you out instantly. As you progress, you find new weapons and magic spells, but Dark Souls sustains its difficulty.

You must stay sharp as you dodge enemy attacks and strike when the opportunity arises. However, your movement relies on your stamina bar.

You deplete stamina whenever you sprint, dodge, strike, and block enemy attacks, but it slowly replenishes as time passes. As a result, you will have to be careful with every action.

Otherwise, you may run out of stamina when you need to hit an enemy or evade an attack. Words are not enough to describe the real challenge of the Souls games.

That is why you might want to try the game yourself. Fortunately, Dark Souls I, II, and III are available on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, and PC. You could also play their predecessor Demon’s Souls, on the Playstation 5. 

5. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

This is the main character of Sekiro.

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FromSoftware is from Japan, so you might wonder if it created a game inspired by the country. Well, the developer created Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Most people lump all of FromSoft’s titles as Souls games, but Sekiro has different gameplay.

Unlike Dark Souls, you have more mobility and dodge fewer times. You take control of Sekiro, a lone ninja tasked with retrieving the immortal heir of Ashina’s imperial throne. He imparts his powers to the playable character as the game progresses, allowing you to revive yourself should you lose.

The game is a 3D action game that lets you swing across rooftops while sneaking past enemies. Fighting enemies has you trading sword blows with them. Instead of evading attacks, you will often deflect them with your blade.

As a result, battles feel more tense and engaging. Like other hard games, you gain new equipment. However, the items do not lower the difficulty. You can only use them a few times, so you cannot rely on them to beat bosses quickly.

In other words, you will have to rely on your reflexes and skills to win. Unlike Dark Souls, you cannot change how your character looks. You cannot change the gameplay by using a spear or magic spells instead. 

If you want an ultimate test of your skills, you may want to play Sekiro. It is available on the Xbox One, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, and Steam.

6. Elden Ring

This is a screenshot from Elden Ring.

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We will now talk about the latest FromSoftware title. It came out on February 25, 2022, but you can still find websites that cannot stop talking about this game. 

The simplest way to describe Elden Ring is an “open-world Dark Souls game.” It has gameplay similar to the Souls series, but you have a vast world to explore.

You choose which enemies to fight first, or you could simply roam and look for exciting items and bosses. Dark Souls is more linear because you must follow its series of enemies.

You could still choose from various character classes like the Warrior or the Bandit. However, you have more freedom in how you will develop your player character.

For example, your sword-wielding character could also use magic. What’s more, you could call upon other monsters and characters to fight alongside you.

Elden Ring is a hard video game, but its versatility may ruin the difficulty. It allows players to approach battles in various methods, so they would not need to adjust their playstyle often.

Nevertheless, Elden Ring is a punishing yet breathtaking video game that could challenge any gamer. See why it earned perfect ratings across numerous gaming websites!

7. Cuphead

This is art from Cuphead.

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Here is a novel gaming concept: a side-scrolling shoot-em-up with a Disney-esque aesthetic. That is how most people would describe Cuphead, one of the hardest video games ever.

It came out in 2017, but it looks like an old-timey Disney cartoon. The playable characters are sentient drinking utensils Cuphead and Mugman, and you traverse various areas to beat quirky bosses.

These include colorful characters such as a living sunflower and a genie. Cuphead attacks by snapping his fingers to release magic projectiles. What sets this game apart from the other recommendations is its cheerful atmosphere.

Cuphead is a great contrast from the dreary and dark settings of the Souls series and similarly challenging games. As a result, it is an excellent choice if you want to play something lighthearted.

More importantly, Cuphead is a challenging game because it plays like Contra. You start with three lives and must dodge many things on the screen while fighting.

It is slightly easier than Contra, though. The game has checkpoints that let you restart in the middle of specific levels. In other words, you do not have to worry about going back to the start!

The best part is that it recently released downloadable content. The DLC’s name is Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course, which features Ms. Chalice as a new playable character. You can play Cuphead and the DLC on Steam, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.


Video games have progressed significantly since the days of Super Mario Bros. Yet, many of them still provide a worthwhile challenge. For example, you could spend hours grinding on the famous Elden Ring.

Some people play to have fun, so they look for titles that are easy to pick up. If this description matches you, then you might ignore these recommendations.

You will miss out on many great titles if you ignore these, though. Why not give these video games a try? Perhaps you will find that you are a hardcore gamer!

Frequently asked questions

What is the hardest game out there?

Most video game reviews agree that Contra is the most challenging video game ever. Even with the Konami cheat code enabled, you would probably have trouble beating it.

Why are old video games so hard?

Most people played video games back then by inserting money into arcade machines. The games were challenging, so players kept on paying to continue.

What are the benefits of modern games?

Modern video games are more manageable than old titles because they want to be more accessible to new players. As a result, people are more likely to buy copies of these games.

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