Some video games just aren’t worth the effort. We’re talking about games that are incredibly difficult — either by accident or through cruel intent, these games are rarely finished by normal players without the aid of cheats or guides. These are the games that destroy all hope, that ruin your fragile ego and do everything they can to give you a bad day. A regular hard game can be completed — these games go above and beyond.
We’re mostly focusing on games that were commercially released by major publishers. You won’t find pure troll games like I Wanna Be The Guy here. The games on our list were designed by a team and meant to be played by Average Joes — and they’re still exercises in pure masochism. And some of these games were still accidentally released in completely broken or busted states, leaving players with no legitimate way to actually finish fairly.
If you want to give yourself a very bad day, just try playing any of these games for an extended period of time. Some of them are incredibly hard right from the start — you’ll get stuck within seconds of starting and find making progress is (almost) impossible. Roll up your sleeves, and let’s talk about some truly abnormally difficult games.
Get more gaming lists on Gameranx:
- 10 Secrets, Cheats & Easter Eggs That Took Fans Years To Discover
- 20 Best Modern Games You Can Beat In 5 Hours Or Less
- 10 Scariest Moments In Games That Aren’t Scary
- 10 Unbelievable Video Game Rumors That Turned Out To Be True
- 10 Weirdest & Worst Mini-Games You Were Forced To Play
- 10 Best Bugs That Made Games More Fun | Most Useful Glitches List
#1. TMNT (DOS)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on NES is one of those games that coined the term “Nintendo Hard” — only the most dedicated children ever made it past the Technodrome stage. For kids like me, the entire game basically boiled down to three levels we’d just replay over and over again.
If you thought the NES version was bad, the DOS version is even worse. Due to bad porting, the PC-DOS release of TMNT is literally unwinnable due to an impossible jump. The jump isn’t “impossible” because its extremely hard. In this case, the jump absolutely cannot be done. TMNT was already infamous for absurdly hard jumps, but this is next level. The result of broken adaptation for PC. Back then, there were no downloadable patches to fix busted games. Players were just stuck with this untested, unwinnable game. Just check out the video above — its all about this single game-breaking jump.
#2. Wizardry 4
Here’s a different kind of difficult. Wizardry 4 is technically possible to complete on your own. But it is so difficult, so obtuse, and so ridiculously random that only the most obsessive player will ever finish it. Most players won’t even be able to exit the first room. Let’s talk about that.
Wizardry 4 is an old-school RPG with only the most basic graphics. It’s a small step over a text adventure. You start with 1 HP, and you’re trapped in a tiny room with no apparent exit. To leave, you need to reach a special spot in your cell and summon monsters. But, not just any monster — you have a selection of lots of monsters, but you absolutely must summon a “Priest”, which can cast a Light spell in combat. If you get a random encounter before summoning monsters, you’re 100% dead.
Here’s the next annoying part. You may summon monsters, but you can’t actually control them. They just do whatever they like. So, you have to summon the exact right monster, get into a fight, and hope / pray this monster deigns to use Light magic, which also works outside of combat, but can only be activated during combat. Got that? After using the spell, you’ll be able to find an exit. And that’s the simplest “puzzle” in the game! The rest is a grueling, cruel, hellish slog. And you can read more about it right here.
#3. Battletoads (Rare Replay)
This is the last NES game on this list, I promise! And once again, this is for a specific version of the game. Battletoads is another piece of karmic punishment packed into a video game cartridge, kind of like TMNT. Battletoads tricked us all by starting out with a fun beat-em-up level that basically anyone can enjoy. Nothing impossible in Level 1. It’s actually kind of fun!
But Battletoads doesn’t play by anyone’s rules. The rest of the game changes playstyles on a per-level basis, switching how you play and throwing impossible challenges at you. This is made worse in the Rare Replay re-release on Xbox One. Due to the inherent (and very small) input lag introduced by wireless controllers and flat screen TVs, the Psycho Orb stage of Battletoads is rendered completely impossible to beat. In the original version, this level requires such tight timing and precision that only players that have memorized every step can win. By introducing a fraction of a second of input lag, the new version makes this stage totally unwinnable.
#4. Frogger: He’s Back
Remember Frogger? That was an old, dusty arcade game way before my time. But I still knew Frogger — you play as a little frog trying to cross the street without getting hit by cars. The act of crossing the street is an elemental experience we can all sympathize with, and the arcade game was meant to munch your quarters fast by presenting nearly impossible scenarios. The original has got nothing on the PS1 revival.
Instead of crossing roads, you’re forced to explore large open levels in Frogger: He’s Back — levels filled with deadly traps that kill you in one hit. You move the same way, one hop at a time, all while searching for the level exit with only three lives. The camera is extremely close to Frogger, so you can’t even get a good sense of what’s around you. Imagine having to play Mario in a tiny box, with no sense of what’s ahead. And you’ll die in one hit. And you only have three lives total at the start of the game.
And yet, this is still one of the easier games on this list. Let’s get back to the real thumb-busters.
#5. Tetris The Grandmaster 3: Terror Instinct
An infamous arcade version of Tetris might be one of the most difficult games ever released. Made by developer Arika and released in 2005 (!!!), this absurd version of Tetris can only be beaten if you make the grade. Literally, the game grades you on your performance. You don’t just have to win, you have to pass with a high enough grade or you’ll be forced to restart your entire run. And that’s the least devious thing about this game. Let’s just talk about the Master Mode — the main mode in the game.
We all know how Tetris works. Shapes appear at the top of the screen and drop to the bottom. Align the shapes into a straight line to make them disappear. In Tetris TGM3, the shapes instantly appear at the bottom of the screen instead of dropping, so you have to act incredibly fast and be prepared for the next shape on your queue. The truly evil phase isn’t until the end, where you’re forced to contend with Invisible Tetris. All the blocks disappear, so you have to play purely from memory. And you have to complete this stage at least 3/5 times to reach the actual final exam and complete Master Mode.
Only a handful of players have ever successfully beaten this game. We’ve only found one Western player that’s confirmed to have beaten this game. And it isn’t at all shocking.
#6. DonPachi (Hong Kong)
Developer Cave are the king of “Bullet Hell” shooters. These extremely niche games have a dedicated audience of insane people that love dodging complex patterns of bullets that usually fill entire screens. For awhile, the Xbox 360 was actually a pretty popular system for these Japan-only releases, giving us Western babies a taste of true Bullet Hell pain in the modern era of gaming.
But let’s go back to 1995, the year Cave released the original DonPachi — just one of their many Bullet Hell vertical scrolling shooters. There are dozens of these games, and fans all argue over which is the hardest. Some took years to complete on the hardest difficulty. But, there’s one version that nobody can or will ever complete. DonPachi’s Hong Kong release is basically unwinnable without an infinite supply of quarters, or through cheating. Why? Because the bullets / pellets are WAY TOO FAST.
Imagine complex, screen-filling bullet hell patterns — now imagine those patterns moving at x2 hyper speed. The only reason any of these games are beatable at all is because, with fast enough reaction time and memorizing the patterns, you can just barely avoid getting hit by kaleidoscope patterns of pellets. Just watch the DonPachi Hong Kong example above, and you’ll see that this game isn’t merely hard. It is impossible.
#7. Winnie The Pooh: Home Run Derby
Here’s a game everyone can experience for free! Want to get humiliated by cute woodland creatures in a 2008 Flash Game made for children? Well, if you still have Flash Player, you absolutely can. This is an officially released Disney product that briefly became a meme due to its absurd difficulty. You think a free children’s game should be easy? Disney doesn’t agree — in this baseball game, you’re only aiming to hit each pitch. The pitchers get more and more difficult, culminating in impossible feats that bend reality and warp time.
Really, this slot could be filled by any impossibly difficult but simple games. QWOP or Getting Over It are good contenders, but those games were specifically designed to be as annoying as humanly possible. This game was seemingly designed with kids in mind, as it’s incredibly simple to play. So why is it so insanely difficult?! Dedicated players have managed to finish this one, but at the permanent cost of their sanity.
#8. Exile: Wicked Phenomenon
As stated by Vic Ireland, former president of publisher Working Designs, “We made one of the hardest games ever — by accident.” Exile: Wicked Phenomenon is a middling Japanese RPG that was accidentally made into one of the hardest games of all time. Released for the Turbo Duo console in 1992, Exile: Wicked Phenomenon is a side-scrolling RPG that by all accounts isn’t that great. But, localizer Working Designs made a huge mistake during production. Originally, this was a pretty easy RPG, so the localizers worked on making it harder by adjusting monster values. Eventually, they were close to their goal, reaching a perfect medium that wasn’t too easy, and wasn’t too hard.
Then they added +1 values to all monsters. Instead of incrementally increasing their power, this addition crossed an invisible threshold, exponentially increasing all monster difficulty. And this change was made for the final version, so there was no turning back. Literally the only way to complete this commercially released game in North America is through exploits and glitches. Any sane player will just resort to hex-editing to give themselves infinite health. And absolutely none of those exploits are worth it, because this game ain’t even that great.
#9. King’s Quest
This is a whole different type of difficulty than the rest of the games on this list. Adventure games of the 80s tended to be annoying, unforgiving, and illogical. The biggest adventure game makers of the time was Sierra Entertainment, and the King’s Quest games were blockbuster hits. Back then, the internet wasn’t really a thing — you couldn’t just look up answers online, so impossibly difficult Adventure games absolutely did exist. Even the weirdest, dumbest Adventure games of the 90s had online walkthroughs to help us out.
The most infamous puzzle in King’s Quest seems simple. You have to guess Rumpelstiltskin’s true name by inputting it with your keyboard. First guess: It’s Rumpelstiltskin spelled backwards. That’s actually the correct answer, and the answer future re-releases patched in. But, if you were playing the original game, the name you have to input is Ifnkovhgroghprm. That’s Rumpelstiltskin spelled backwards in the inverted alphabet (A=Z, B=Y, etc). There are no clues in-game to help you figure out you’re meant to use an insane cypher. You just had to know.
Oh, and also Rumpelstiltskin’s name is spelled wrong in King’s Quest. In-game, his name is spelled “Rumplestiltskin”, so even if you figured out the key, you’d still get the puzzle wrong.
#10. Nyet 3
The most difficult game you’ve never heard of, Nyet 3 is a simple Tetris clone with a diabolical twist. Actually, it has dozens of diabolical twists — each level has a cruel gimmick. Sometimes extra blocks will spawn. Sometimes a temporary wall will appear, blocking you. Sometimes the entire playfield will shrink. As you play, you’ll earn cash which you can spend on power-ups, and some levels absolutely require power-ups. Certain levels have metal wall blocks that must be cleared with bomb power-ups. No, there’s no way to find out what you need before playing the level. And if you lose? You have to go back to the beginning.
You can save your game in Nyet 3, but that costs cash. You need that cash to buy power-ups, but you also need to save before every level so you can learn the evil gimmick. This is one game that’s technically possible to complete, if you have superhuman patience and the will to constantly replay the same levels, learning how to finish each step of the game, buying exactly the right power-ups you need, and using your cash perfectly. Just for the troll level traps and gimmicks, this old game deserves a spot on the list.
That’s just 10 of the hardest, most annoying, and absolutely unbeatable games. They’re mostly pretty old — what new games do you think are unbeatable?