Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: The hardest video game you ever beat

GameCentral readers reveal the video games they’re most proud of beating, from Dark Souls to Elite Beat Agents.

The question for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Cranston, who asked what’s the hardest game you’ve ever beaten? Is it one that’s generally regarded as difficult or just your own personal nemesis?

As you might expect the Soulsborne games, and retro titles like Ghouls ‘N Ghosts and Battletoads, were mentioned a lot but in most cases it wasn’t whether a game was hard or not that was the problem, but whether it was fair…

Be kind rewind
The hardest game I have ever completed is probably Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts or Super Probotector (Contra 3) on their hardest difficulty settings.

This was a quarter of a century ago when I had a lot more patience (although I’m sure joypads were thrown at the time).

Having played both games recently I did manage to complete Contra 3 on hard again but with a lot of reliance on rewind and save state features!

300th time lucky
I’m not sure if it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in a game, but certainly the one that stuck in my mind the most was Jumpin’ Jack Flash – the final main level of Elite Beat Agents on DS, on the Sweatin’ difficulty. I have no idea how many attempts I made before finally managing it, but I feel it may have been pushing triple figures. The satisfaction was indescribable! Every year or so I get the itch to give it another go, and usually do manage it in the end. I can’t even hear the track by itself without my fingers tapping out the patterns!

There is actually a secret difficulty level above Sweatin’ called Hard Rock, but where I found the other difficulties fair and a well0balanced progression, Hard Rock was just unfair. It was basically Sweatin’ but the markers were only on screen for half the time. I did a run through the game that way but was pretty tapped out by that point!
Sparky the Yak

The limit
Well I would say the hardest I have personally beaten would be the Souls series. Probably the fairest series of hard games, with only a few areas that felt like the games were purposefully trying to get you to launch the pad across the room. Blighttown being the most obvious of these, of course. I also remember watching my eldest brother beat the Technodome on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES and having no idea at the time what a great achievement that was, earlier games were just nasty with regards to their difficulty.

Even going back to something as casual as Super Mario Bros., the first game was near sadomasochistic in its difficulty. I also remember trying to beat the final and semi-final bosses with the likes of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, again just a sense of them being unfair.

The Souls games manage to offer a great challenge whilst mainly avoiding any sense of feeling like you are fighting the machine.

I do have to admit however, that I found the limit of my abilities, Sekiro was just a step too far. That game is a whole new level of difficulty.
Insomniac Gamer

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True perversion
There’s a lot of hard games that I’ve beaten over the years out there, with the most recent obvious being Nioh, Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne. However, the games that stick with me most, firstly going back to my younger days were Ghosts ‘N Goblins and Battletoads.

With Ghosts ‘N Goblins I don’t think I’d come across a game before where your reward for beating it was to start again on a harder difficulty on an already brutal game. If I remember correctly as well, if you didn’t have a cross at the end you were chucked back a couple of levels and then had to start again.

Battletoads, for the obvious reason that it was luck more than skill that got you through pure frustration, even writing fills me with rage thinking about the ice caverns level. These were games that were beaten probably due to the fact it was at a time I could only get two to three games a year, so had no choice but to play them to death.

My proudest is probably Ninja Gaiden and especially Alma. This was the first game I’d played where even the lowliest grunt could kill you easily and could gang up on you in numbers rather than waiting in line to be offed. Off-screen projectiles/enemies and camera angles all went out of their way to get you and button-mashing got you nowhere.

The bosses were tough but for the time Alma was in a different league. Lightning fast with seriously powerful moves meant I died to her more than any boss on any game before or after. I also chose this because not only did I get real satisfaction but I was in the position to buy what I wanted when I wanted, so could easily just have cast it aside for the next game.

This is why, despite my disappointment on the PlayStation 5 reveal, to me Demon’s Souls is a system seller. I guess I just get a perverse satisfaction on repeatedly dying.

Fresh difficulty
It’s Spec Ops: The Line for me. Mostly due to your computer-controlled squad mates forgetting they are highly trained soldiers on the hardest difficulty (aptly named FUBAR!).

I failed so many checkpoints due to their idiotic behaviour: shooting whilst standing out in the open instead of behind cover or rushing headlong into danger. That meant they frequently got downed and if I didn’t revive them (an act which would usually wind up with me dying!) I would fail!

Somehow (it involved a lot of swearing!) I eventually beat it and earned myself a platinum trophy as a reward, but I don’t think I’d ever want to return to that game after the gruelling battle with my moronic squad-mates!

I’ll always play a game on easy to start with, as I just want to enjoy the journey but recently I have been challenging myself to take on hard difficulties and have enjoyed how a harder difficulty will make you play a game with different tactics, offering a fresh experience.

Well done, commander
Well this topic couldn’t have come at a better time, as this week I’ve just beaten XCOM2 with the War Of The Chosen DLC plus all the previous DLC on legendary iron man mode.

It’s been a rollercoaster few weeks of anger, frustration, elation, confusion and, certainly at the end, pure joy. Can’t say I’ve played another game that can make you feel such a range of emotions.

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

Top five of difficulty
I normally play all games on normal if it has the option as I don’t like to be frustrated by a game and I want to enjoy the experience and usually I don’t play games that are difficult, only occasionally. The
hardest game I have completed is Super Monkey Ball 1, but as I have mentioned that before in the Inbox I will say my second game is Ori And The Blind Forest.

I played it when it first came out on PC as the reviews for it was very good and it was a style of game I like, Metroidvania, and I loved the visuals. I was a bit apprehensive about playing it as I had read it was difficult. I did find it challenging but I felt good for getting further and further through the game when some people had said how difficult it was, which it was, and I was pleased when I completed it.

Because it was in a genre I play a lot I probably had more of an advantage than playing something else which I didn’t have as much experience of. Although I never completed Guacamelee 1, which is another Metroidvania, as I got stuck on the final boss.

For games that have a difficulty option I wish they had the option to change the difficulty part way through the game as I have played a few games where I have got halfway through the game and got stuck and you can’t change the difficulty setting unless you start from the beginning. This happened with the Catherine game on PlayStation 3, as I played it on normal and couldn’t get any further so I had to start all the way from the beginning on easy and even then on easy I needed help towards the end of the game from YouTube.

I am near to the end of Celeste on PlayStation 4 so when I complete that, that would be in my top five games of difficulty.
Andrew J.

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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

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