2014 has been a year that is marked by pain and suffering, and we're not just talking about difficulties with DriveClub and Assassin's Creed: Unity. Sometimes, a nice dose of pain is just what you're looking for, to prove that you have the skill it takes to survive, and appreciate living all that much more.
Despite the title, the vicious, fast-moving, and ever-hungry alien isn't the only thing you need to worry about. Between the malfunctioning robots and on-edge and armed human survivors, all trapped on a derelict space station, Alien: Isolation feels more like a test of endurance. How much can you take before suffering PTSD? Or maybe you'll just end up curled up in an access tube, crying until a monster tears you apart.
Dark Souls 2
If you know anything about the previous game, then you should already have an idea of what to expect from Dark Souls 2. Your character is dropped in an otherworldly location, equipped with basic armor, weapons, and potions. Then you have to figure out what to do from there. Explore, take on monsters, and hope that you have what a takes to avoid getting pounded into the ground. Death is beginning, because you'll be resurrected with every death, hopefully a little smarter for the experience.
There's something about 8-bit retro games that should automatically sound alarms. In addition to the artwork, part of the retro charm is usually in having challenging gameplay that harkens back to past age of video games, and 1001 Spikes is the game that pushes things to the limit and beyond. Even its title suggests a certain degree of pain. This platforming game is not for beginners, nor is it for people who give up easily or have an rational fear of deadly spikes. If it were a ski slope, it would be the double black diamond of video games, looking to pioneer a triple black diamond rating, and that's what makes the game appealing for many players.
Gods Will Be Watching
Despite its minimalistic 8-bit, Gods Will Be Watching isn't really a retro game per se. It's feels more like a straightforward aesthetic decision, rather than one that's meant to be reminiscent of a historic era in gaming. That being said, rather nihilistic sci-fi adventure game describes itself as a trip through hell, and it certainly delivers on that promise. Set across six gut wrenching scenarios, you need to decide on who lives and who dies to make it through each situation. At its normal difficulty, there are situations with no solutions, as you might be killed by a random event like a Russian Roulette bullet. However, there's no moral judgment, no matter how horrendous your choices may be, underscoring a universe that is indifferent to suffering.
Don't Starve: Reign of Giants
Don't Starve made its big debut in 2013, but got a nice upgrade with the Reign of Giants expansion last year. In it, you still play as a character trapped in a dangerous magical world, and you must learn to gather resources and food without any instruction or clues. Prepare for the changing seasons, desert landscapes, and most of all, the indigenous wildlife that now includes a variety of giants. Although these giants can be defeated, they can't be eaten, which is too bad. Just imagine how much food one could provide.
Dungeon of the Endless
Another 8-bit alert here. Dungeon of the Endless is a rogue-like role-playing game set in the Endless universe. The seems pretty simple at first. Open doors, gather resources, gather allies, establish defenses, make your way to the exit, and try not to die. Extra emphasis on the not dying bit, because losing a party member means you don't get them back. Being eaten by creatures coming out of the wall means you need to restart the entire game. But don't worry if you do die. Just treat it as a learning experience. Dying sucks, but it's also kind of exhilarating when you manage to make it a little further the next time around. With procedurally generated levels, you're practically guaranteed to learn the death lesson over and over again.
Five Nights at Freddy's
Five Nights at Freddy's practically came out of nowhere with its creepy animatronics and claustrophobic setting. Welcome to your new job as night security at Freddy Fazbear's Pizza, a place that's supposed to be full of fun. However, the robotic Freddy Fazbear and his buddies are acting kind of strange, as they freely wander around the restaurant at night. Your task is simple. Keep an eye on the security cameras, and close doors to make sure the robots don't end up in the tiny security office, where they'll kill you on sight. You have a very limited supply of power to use for maintaining doors and cameras. Make it to the morning, and congratulations, you've earned your minimum wage paycheck. There must be something very appealing about this job, considering how Five Nights at Freddy's 2 also released last year, and Five Nights at Freddy's 3 is currently in the works. Maybe it's the free pizza?
Lords of the Fallen
Lords of the Fallen often gets compared to games like Dark Souls due to its sheer difficulty. In it, players take the role of a convicted criminal, whose crimes are literally written all over his face. Making his way through a magical realm, where once defeated gods are rising up to wreak havoc once again, you could be humanity's only hope of survival. Using a combination of melee attacks and magic, you must make decisions that will determine the fate of the world. That is, if you can survive against the demons long enough to do it.
The Evil Within
We didn't have a particularly high opinion of The Evil Within, but there is something to be said about getting back to the roots of horror survival in a Resident Evil fashion. Make your way through a nightmare-filled mansion, where ammunition is scarce, and craft traps and weapons to help survive a little while longer. However, not all threats can be taken head on. Sometimes, the best approach is simply to make a run for it.
This War of Mine
There are games that are painful because they have an edge of seriousness, and This War of Mine cuts deep. Inspired by the poor living conditions civilians endured during the Siege of Sarajevo, This War of Mine puts players in control of a group of unarmed civilians who must find a way to survive in a makeshift shelter while the city around them is torn apart. You have no combat skills. The game is purely about surviving from day to day. Snipers are on the watch during the day, so players must use this time to upgrade the shelter, craft tools, trade and cook. At night, the group has to scavenge for resources in order to survive. While doing so, you're bound to run into other survivors, who you can either help with food and medicine, or you can help yourself by robbing or killing them. There may come a time where you'll have to make tough choices by sacrificing members of your camp so that the others can live longer. In surviving, there are no right or wrong decisions. This War of Mine isn't a game that's necessarily meant to be enjoyed, but it's an experience that's worth having.
Steven Wong posted a new article, The Most Masochistic Games of 2014
Destiny should totally be in here.
I was coming here to say the same thing. Anyone still playing that game is a glutton for punishment.
I agree completely.
I like it, but I mostly play with my brother.
The pleasure comes from mastering the game mechanics, and learning from your mistakes, not from getting wrecked. Are they difficult games? Yes. Are they masochistic? Not at all.