More Difficult Video Games, Please!


The main reason I play video games is because I want an engaging playing experience. The best way to achieve this, personally, is to overcome a great challenge. That’s why I play games like Dark Souls for long periods of time. It’s an action RPG so difficult, not only is dying acceptable, it’s expected. Where some call its trial and error mechanics unfair, others say it encourages the player to try and try again until they get it right. The best part yet, there are no difficulty sliders whatsoever. Monsters have the same moves and same stats until you beat the game and enter a New Game +, only making it harder to beat the game again.

We need more games like this that are intrinsically hard to beat. Not that every game needs to be reminiscent of Dante ascending from the undergloom of hell, but it would be nice if all enemies in a game required more than a punch to the head to kill them.

The gaming market is starting to leave its roots in difficult games in exchange for more accessibility. A prime example that comes to mind is Ryse: Son of Rome, which was showed off during Microsoft’s E3 conference. A game that seemingly looks like a hack and slash set in ancient Rome, it allows you to make cinematic kill strikes by pressing a button after bringing the enemy closer to death. Even if you miss or press the wrong button, the game completes the kill for you anyways.

That kind of behavior is inexcusable. Even if you don’t want more difficult games, the fact that Ryse completes actions that would otherwise require you to try again is setting a precedent that says you don’t need to try to overcome challenges. It is so decidedly anti-game that it turns into a movie, in which you advance the plot by pressing button queues. I’m all for cinematic gaming experiences, but you need to make the story remain part of a game, not the other way around.

Many games balance difficulties using sliders, from potentially very easy to very hard. While this does set up for some challenging times, depending on the game it may not be enough. For example, Bioshock Infinite was praised in previews for bringing a 1999 mode available for the gaming, promising a difficult mode with more than just shades of yesteryear’s difficulty. However, the majority of the mode’s difficulty resulted in you having less health and fewer bullets, while the enemies did the opposite. They do prevent you from changing to an easier difficulty, something of an admirable gaming cruelty.

Naughty Dogs did it right, however, with The Last Of Us. Not only can you go from Easy to Hard, but you can also take off Listen Mode, which allows the main character to know enemy locations behind walls using his hearing. Not only does it make the game near impossible to breeze through, but it forces you to truly think about what your next two moves at all times.

Which brings us back to Dark Souls. The game will be receiving a sequel in early 2014, launching on PS3, Xbox 360 and on PC. There’s been speculation based on their marketing plans to attract the Skyrim audience that the game will become less difficult in an attempt to bring in more users to the game. While I sit here and pray that the game’s developers are telling the truth in that it will remain the same in its excruciating difficulty, there’s a twinge of fear for the future of gaming. With games like Ryse and its hand-holding with killing enemies, where do we go from here? Paying fees to skip to the end? Paying for the right to pre-order games? Everyone gets a trophy mode?

Only the future will tell.

The views expressed in this article explicitly belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of, nor should be attributed to, GameSided as an organization.