The 5 best, most infuriatingly difficult games ever

They're harder to beat than a whimpering seal pup, but so rewarding when you finally do.
Hardest games ever

After a few hours of playing a truly fiendish game, a sort of Stockholm syndrome sets in, and every minute you survive feels like a real personal achievement. Here are the five that kept us playing long after we should have given up...

5. Contra (1987)

Originally titled with the singularly awesome moniker of Probotector, this Rambo-in-the-future game began life as a co-op arcade game and found enormous fame when it was ported to the NES a year later. A single hit from an enemy soldier resulted in death, which is how it would go down in real life. Although in real life you’re not fighting through a prison in New Zealand in the future. Are you? 

4. Battletoads (1991)

Following hot on the heels of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Battletoads was a franchise that looked set to equal Harvey Porter, Child Magician for originality. Happily, the games themselves – beginning with a fiendishly difficult NES title – were so good that complaints about amphibian reproduction were left in the biology lab, where they belong.

3. Demons’ Souls (2009)

Just like ‘A’ levels, games get easier every year, which is why kids today just don’t have the first clue about anything. But every now and then, a developer decides to buck the trend and make a title so punishingly difficult it’s almost not worth playing; and that is exactly why Demon’s Souls is worth playing. After the first few hours of being hacked and devoured, a sort of Stockholm syndrome sets in, and every minute you survive feels like a real personal achievement.

2. Donkey Kong Country (1994)

For two decades, this monkey-centric platform game series has had gamers young and old rage-quitting as they fail to make a jump or get bumped off by a Kremling for the fiftieth time. Just as with the original Donkey Kong, however, its siren call cannot be ignored for long.

1. Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins (1985)

This arcade classic and its many sequels and remakes (notably the excellent Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts on the SNES) follows the same basic theme of most platform games to come out of Japan: a princess has been captured, you’re off to save her. For some reason, though, Capcom decided to set the difficulty level for its supernatural run-n-gun on a par with doing a Belgian accountancy exam in a box full of angry squirrels. In the dark. Stick with it, though, and it’s incredibly rewarding – just look at this scene from the SNES version, in which you fight your way through the rotating intestines of a giant ghoul. You don’t see that every day.

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