Calling my fellow masochists! You've got to keep those reflexes in shape for when Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice launches, or if the next F-Zero ever comes out (a sign of the apocalypse, or so Adam Ismail says). Whether you're crazy enough to subject yourself to the pain of Phantom Road, or to jump into battle with the Valkyrie Queen at little-to-no-health, we've got some recommendations to satiate that desire for challenge. These are the best hard games.
At the risk of exploiting an easy cliché, the Dark Souls series is truly the Dark Souls of gaming. While it's a little glib to compare every single new game that comes out to FromSoftware's venerable franchise, there's a reason why the Souls series is still the gold standard in tough-but-fair action/RPGs. In each Dark Souls' game, you'll create a medieval fantasy warrior (warrior, archer, mage, cleric or some mix of the above) and set off to stop an eerie, fallen kingdom from descending into total entropy. Most enemies can destroy you in a handful of hits; bosses can often best you in a single stroke. Your only recourse is to proceed slowly and carefully, learn every trick the environment can throw at you, and empower your attributes and weapons slowly over time. It's both maddeningly difficult and immensely satisfying. — Marshall Honorof
Credit: Bandai Namco
Is Bloodborne technically part of the Dark Souls' canon? Yes and no. The story doesn't seem directly related, but FromSoftware's Victorian Gothic horror game will have you standing up to monstrously tough enemies, then cashing in their souls (or blood echoes; close enough) to slowly build up your skills and weapons. Like the Souls' games, Bloodborne is tough, dark and opaque, but it's also much faster and more forgiving, letting players regain health if they strike back quickly enough after taking damage. Furthermore, shields are out, and firearms are in — perfect for parrying and riposting enemy attacks. If you've got a PS4, Bloodborne is one of the strangest and most gratifying exclusives you can pick up. — Marshall Honorof
Sure, Cuphead and Mugman's adventures — a finger-guns-ablazing quest to erase the debt of their bargained souls — are tough, but that's almost besides the point. Each level looks like a living, breathing, hand-drawn animated show from the early "Steamboat Willie" days of Mickey Mouse. You'll certainly appreciate the joys you get from looking (and listening, because, wow, the original jazz score on this game) at Cuphead, because it's a punishingly difficult romp through a series of evil anthropomorphized enemies, including a giant slot machine that's angrier than a Las Vegas bouncer. — Henry T. Casey
Despite being specifically tailored for newcomers, Monster Hunter World is no pushover. It starts out pretty tame, but it shoves more and more mechanics onto your shoulders as you fight your way to High Rank. And even before you can get a grasp on what end-game build you'll be aiming for, you're tasked with taking on mother-lovers like the Behemoth or Arch-Tempered Teostra (two monsters even a pro-gamer like myself have not beaten yet). Monster Hunter World is incredibly addictive when you get the hang of what you’re doing, but like many action RPGs, it's one heck of grind. — Rami Tabari
God of War isn't inherently hard, but when I cranked this baby up to Give Me God of War mode (where you cannot change difficulty midgame), it's easily the best hard game I've ever played in my life. Taking a ton of inspiration from Dark Souls, God of War envelops you in brand-new mechanics that offer tight and intense action, but with a fair delivery.
Essentially, you could beat this whole game without leveling up if you wanted to, so if you die, that's on you. The hardest part, however, was getting past the steep learning curve in the beginning of the game. I died about 10 times on every enemy encounter before I fully mastered the game's mechanics. It's perfect for anyone waiting on Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice to come around, and that's not to mention that you'll be in for one hell of a narrative journey. — Rami Tabari
Mobile games can often lose their grip on gamers after a few weeks of play, but Super Hexagon is a maddening puzzler that keeps on bringing the pain. Each level starts off fast: as walls based on a hexagonal grid close in around the little triangle you control, which you must tap to dodge the walls, often finding the rare open gaps in said walls. You'll need your eyes glued to the screen and your fingers precisely tuned, or else you'll die, and die a lot. Oh, and make sure you've got headphones in, as the game's pulsing electronic music soundtrack is too good to be muted. — Henry T. Casey
Credit: Terry Cavanagh
There is a generation of Nintendo fans growing up today that doesn't know the true meaning of pain, because they've never had to pilot an F-Zero craft on Phantom Road. That's depressing, though at least they have Fast RMX on the Switch to deliver a rough approximation of one of the greatest and most unforgiving racing games of all time. Fast RMX's handling model isn't quite as dart-y as F-Zero GX's, though Sega and Nintendo's legendary GameCube racer wasn't as complicated as Shin'en Multimedia's spiritual successor, with its phase-switching mechanic and dynamic circuits. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the ferocity of the opposition. Fast RMX's AI is as elastic as a bungee cord; you must turn perfect laps and hit every boost pad at any of the game's three difficulty levels to win, and even then it's not unusual to get blown by on the straights, mere feet from the finish line.— Adam Ismail
Credit: Shin'en Multimedia GmbH