The topic of hard video games has come up again with the release of Returnal. It's a game that's proven difficult enough to make people want to throw their controllers. (Metaphorically, not literally. DualSense controllers are both expensive and hard to find.) For this week's Shack Chat, we're going around the horn to ask about hard games. Everyone here has played hard games, but what's the hardest game everyone on staff has beaten. What gives us a swell of pride? What lets us say "Yeah, we beat that" while we hold our heads up high? Let's ask around the table and find out.
Question: What's the hardest game you've ever beaten?
Cuphead - Ozzie Mejia, Senior Difficulty Editor
There are a lot of old-school, 8-bit era games that I could have put down. People don't know what hard really is until they try and play the original Ninja Gaiden trilogy. (Or the second Ninja Gaiden trilogy, for that matter. Those games are hard, man.) But the hardest game I've beaten is actually one that came out fairly recently.
Cuphead looks so cute on the surface. It lowers your guard instantly with its Fleischer-style animation, makes you think you're in for a fun and easy time. There's nothing easy about this game. It's brutal. It destroys you. And 90 percent of the time, you'll know exactly what mistake you made and what you shouldn't be doing, but it doesn't make these fights any less relentless.
Running the King Dice gauntlet is probably the biggest challenge I've hit in games. Beating it was a wonderful accomplishment. And one I haven't been able to replicate since. Cuphead is cartoon masochism, pure and simple. Best of luck to anybody who attempts it.
Returnal - Donovan Erskine, Zenithian photojournalist
Okay, a bit of a caveat here. I’m on Returnal’s final boss, and it's kicking my ass. That said, this is undoubtedly the farthest I’ve ever gotten in a "difficult" game. I've played Demon’s Souls, I've played Cuphead, I've played Monster Hunter World. None of which I ever sniffed the finale of. That said, Returnal has been one of the greatest challenges in my gaming career. I love it for its brutal and unforgiving nature, but also love how tight the combat and movement are. Alright, got to go, I'm in the middle of another run.
Bionic Commando (NES) - Blake "Radd" Morse, Co-EIC
When this question came up my mind immediately raced back to the '80s when my age was still in the single digits and I was hellbent and determined to beat Bionic Commando. I still remember sitting on the living room floor as my grandpa, bless his patient heart, watched me shoot a bunch of Neo-Nazis and save the world. He even seemed to be as excited as I was that I took out an evil Cyber-Hitler's army. I really loved Bionic Commando back in the day and I still do to this day. It was honestly such an inventive game for the time too.
While most games had jumping mechanics that were integral to gameplay, BC went the other way and made you work for it by forcing you to use a mechanical arm to get over obstacles and gaps. That meant really getting familiar with the physics of the game through trial and error. I don't know how I did it, but at some point, after trying for weeks, I was finally able to beat the whole damn thing in one sitting. I gotta give it props for sticking with me after all this time.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) - Chris Jarrard, Has better opinions than fellow staffers
I was incredibly excited to play this game around the time it launched and have fond memories of renting it from the local video store only to be stonewalled by the water level. Later on, I bought a used copy at a flea market, and completing this insanely difficult cartoon tie-in game became a personal life goal of mine around 1992. Thankfully, after a long summer of being a failure, I finally made it through those goddamned jetpack ninjas and killed Shredder. I still think I deserved some sort of medal.
On holiday, mate - Sam Chandler, From a land down under
(Our man Sam is out on vacation. He will return next week.)
Last Wish? - Bill Lavoy, Co-EIC
This is a tough one for me because I really don't seek out hard games. Actually, if a game is overly punishing and that's part of its marketing, I'm probably going to avoid it. It’s not that I don’t think there's satisfaction in overcoming a tough challenge, or that I can't do it, I just never really enjoyed games where the primary appeal is how difficult it is.
That said, the toughest challenge I can recall in gaming was probably my first run of The Last Wish raid in Destiny 2 or maybe trying to solo the Prophecy dungeon. The thing is, it’s tough to pinpoint because it’s almost certainly not going to be a game for me, but rather a moment or activity within a game.
BlazBlue Continuum Shift - TJ Denzer, dreams of beating Briefcase Level 8
I fancy myself pretty good at a game or two. I've beaten games like Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania 3, and Bionic Commando on NES. I’ve beaten the likes of Cuphead, Dark Souls 3, and Bloodborne on modern consoles. I’ve even taken on Contra 3: The Alien Wars and figured out how to roll the credits in my prime. A longtime fan of fighting games, I’ve always felt Arc System Works fighters were where I excelled most and where my best accomplishment sits.
The reason why I bring up Continuum Shift isn’t because of the story or arcade mode. For me, I accomplished something more important and definitive. I beat the #1 player in the game’s leaderboards in an online match. We’re talking about the person who held the top rank in the game in the entire world. That’s more than a story mode completion or an arcade-on-hardest-difficulty run for me. It was learning my character well enough (a difficult to learn character at that) and developing a pattern so effective that I was able to outplay the player that stands above all the rest if even just one time.
There's a lot of hard games out there, but a lot of it is just grinding for hours on end or learning the pattern. I don't necessarily find that as hard as it is just tedious. With humans, you have to not only understand the game but understand how their pattern works in the game and overcome it in the moment. You might not get a continue or other chance to try it again. For that, I think this was easily the most difficult gaming success I've got in my belt, and one of my proudest moments at that, though I still want to beat Briefcase Level 8 in Super Mario Maker 2.
Mega Man 8 - Greg Burke, Head of Video
It's really hard to remember if I beat the older NES games I played back in the day. Super Mario Bros., Mega Man 2, Final Fantasy to name a few. I can't remember if I beat them or not though. So I'd have to go with Mega Man 8. I remember that game being bonkers hard on the Playstation. The "Jump, Jump! Slide, Slide!" segments were brutal (Steve T. knows what I'm talking about). I was determined to beat it because of the gorgeous animated cutscenes. It's one of the few harder games I was successful at completely from start to finish.
Cuphead - Steve Tyminski, Games are hard!
What is the hardest video game I’ve ever beaten? There are a few games that could take the top spot for me here. The second Legend of Zelda was really tough as was Super Mario 2 (The Lost Levels, not Super Mario USA). NES era games were and still are some of the toughest games around. One could also say that Asif's Mario Maker levels are some of the tougher levels around and I've beaten all of those. But I think if I have to choose, I would have to give the edge to Cuphead. At the time I really wanted to play Cuphead and was thinking about buying an Xbox just for Cuphead. I was relieved when the game was announced for Switch and it was just as hard as I was expecting. Some of the levels, like the giant robot, the ghost train, and the devil are some tough levels and I still don't know how I beat them.
Snowboard Kids - Bryan Lefler, is not kidding
FIRST PLACE FAN! The stars had to align after 2 hours of attempts just to get this one win. With the hardest courses out of the way, the light of credits is starting to emerge from the tunnel. #DoitForShacknews #skankcore64 #SnowboardKids #RetroGaming pic.twitter.com/ZMjnKYSKZT— Bryan Lefler (@skankcore) March 25, 2021
Trust me when I say, Snowboard Kids is a brutal exercise in masochism and self-loathing when played alone with the goal of finishing all nine races in first place. If it weren’t for skankcore64, I probably would have gone the rest of my life without ever experiencing this Racjin-developed downhill jamboree. I can’t say my life is any better or richer for having completed Snowboard Kids to 100%, but I did it for Shacknews and I would do it again.
If you're reading this, we're willing to bet you've beaten some hard games. Are you going to let a bunch of "journos" show you up? Join the conversation in Chatty and tell us what hard games you've beaten.
Shack Staff posted a new article, Shack Chat: What's the hardest game you've ever beaten?
Gotta say Ikaruga, only because I’m STILL on the final boss of Sekiro.
I beat DS2:SotFS with dual caestus. Only summoned NPCs for a few of the fights. Didn't beat the Darkluker or the Two Cats.
Path of Pain in Hollow Knight was pretty hard.
I did all A and B sides in Celeste. A couple C sides. Got all strawberries.
Doom 2016 nightmare.
I guess none of those are super hard.
For me it might have been doing everything on highest difficulties in F-Zero GX? I remember really banging my head against some of that, story mode and all the master class cups.
I could get to the...rainbow road course or whatever it was on the Master difficulty, but could never survive long enough to finish the race.
probably OG Xbox Ninja Gaiden
Doom Eternal, and I only played on ultra violence
Same and probably mine too.
Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2 NES, Ninja Gaiden Black and II (both on Hard), Mega Mans 1-10, Castlevania 1 and 2, Demon's Souls (and the remake), Dark Souls 1-3, Bloodborne NG+ and DLC, Ghouls 'n' Ghosts (the Genesis one, both runs), Mario Lost Levels (warpless), Zelda 2: Adventure of Link.
I've also made it to the last bosses (but have never beaten...) Battletoads NES, TMNT, Castlevania 3, and I'm ashamed to say: Sekiro (that damn Sword Saint...)
Ninja Gaiden and Mike Tyson's Punch Out on NES
Snokie on the c64. well, on an emulator with quicksave!
Probably Deadly Towers on NES, Ninja Gaiden is up there as well
Hotline Miami 2
platinum trophy in The Witness is my crowning achievement
Top Gear Rally (N64) - it did not control well and the later races were very unforgiving
Either Dark Souls 2 or 3
The Ninja Gaiden series. Most of the NES Ninja Gaidens and every NG game after that.
Every From game. I cheated on Demon of Hatred in Sekiro and regret nothing.
Ghouls N Ghosts for Genesis ONCE.
Mickey’s Castle of Illusion. Yeah, I said it.
Strider for Genesis.
Viewtiful Joe on hardest :( ouch.
My eldest kid has 100%ed Celeste plus all the expansion packs, which I still find hard to believe. I could never do that :(
probably Cave Story+ real ending?