The Top 10 Most Difficult Video Games of All Time

New research has revealed the most difficult video games of all time, with the 1985 classic Ghosts ‘n Goblins taking the top spot.  Ghosts ‘n Goblins takes the top...
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New research has revealed the most difficult video games of all time, with the 1985 classic Ghosts ‘n Goblins taking the top spot. 

  • Ghosts ‘n Goblins takes the top spot as the most challenging game, with an average difficulty score of 4.76 
  • In second place is Battletoads, with an average difficulty score of 4.67 
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the only FromSoftware title to make the top 10 

 

Following the announcement of the new Elden Ring DLC: Shadow of The Erdtree, which is tipped to be extremely difficult, gaming experts at Solitaire Bliss have analysed the top 10 most difficult games of all time, based on user difficulty scores from GameFAQs.com. 

 

Run-and-gun platformer Ghosts ‘n Goblins on the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System), released in 1985, ranks first on the list, with an average difficulty score of 4.76. The game is extremely difficult due to the fact you only have a limited number of lives and must restart from the beginning if you lose them. 

 

1991 co-op beat-em-up Battletoads comes in at second place, with an average difficulty score of 4.67. People generally find the game testing due to its trial-and-error gameplay and high difficulty curve, meaning the player must learn to master some very precise button inputs to progress through the levels. 

 

The iconic Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels, ranks fourth on the list, with an average difficulty score of 4.64. The game is tough due to its challenging level designs which are full of obstacles, not to mention, the limited number of ‘continues’ that the player is allowed. 

 

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts places fourth on the list; the 1991 SNES platformer has an average difficulty score of 4.63. Much like its predecessor, the game is difficult due to its unforgiving level design and limited resources. 

 

Darkest Dungeon ranks fifth on the list; the roguelike RPG has an average difficulty score of 4.61. The games stress mechanic often makes for a complex playthrough – if these stress levels are not kept under control, it can make the characters act irrationally, and even stop you from healing 

 

2010 platformer Super Meat Boy, which also debuted on PC, ranks sixth on the list with an average difficulty score of 4.59. The game’s interesting level design, requiring precision movement to evade obstacles, makes the game rather formidable. 

 

The NES action classic Ninja Gaiden ranks seventh on the list, with an average difficulty score of 4.43. Fast-paced gameplay and unforgiving boss battles contribute to the high difficulty level throughout.  

 

The only FromSoftware game to rank in the top 10 is the action/adventure game Sekiro – Shadows Die Twice, ranking eighth on the list, with an average difficulty score of 4.50. Sekiro’s unique combat system and gruelling boss battles often present a steep learning curve for players who are unfamiliar with this type of game. 

 

Another game in the Ninja Gaiden franchise ranks ninth on the list, Ninja Gaiden III, with an average difficulty score of 4.43; this iteration of the franchise introduced time limits to some of the levels, adding an extra layer of difficulty to that of its predecessors. 

 

The last game on the list is the 2003 racing game F-Zero GX for GameCube. The game ranks tenth on the list, with an average difficulty score of 4.35; highly skilled AI opponents, as well as fast-paced action that requires precision movement, is what tends to make the game so challenging.

 

The top 10 most difficult video games of all time

 

Rank 

Game 

Average Difficulty Score 

(out of 5) 

1 

Ghosts ‘n Goblins   

4.76 

2 

Battletoads   

4.67 

3 

Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels   

4.64 

4 

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts   

4.63 

5 

Darkest Dungeon   

4.61 

6 

Super Meat Boy   

4.59 

7 

Ninja Gaiden   

4.56 

8 

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice 

4.50 

9 

Ninja Gaiden III   

4.43 

10 

F-Zero GX   

4.35 

Data was gathered from user-voted difficulty scores (out of 5) from GameFAQs.com on games that had over 400+ votes.  

 

Nintendo Wii games were omitted from the list as these generally get voted for due to unintuitive controls, as opposed to challenging gameplay.

 

Ian Cullen is the founder of scifipulse.net and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: www.scifipulseradio.com When he is not writing for scifipulse.net Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of scifipulse.net You can contact ian at: ian@scifipulse.net
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