Dark Souls 2 is available, and you know what that means – hours of titillating battles with dangerous enemies and a whole lot of dying. The previous games, including Demon's Souls, are incredibly tough, and the second follows in franchise tradition.
However, as surprising as it may seem, other games are near impossible to beat. Sure, Dark Souls 2 is one heck of a climb, but you have bonfires and a whole lot of lives to work with. These games, on the other hand, will crush you.
Ninja Gaiden Black (Xbox)
You thought Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox was a beast? Say hello to its bigger, more brutal cousin, Ninja Gaiden Black. Featuring all the exciting action of the original game, Black ups the ante with an even tougher difficulty setting, as well as a series of challenges that will chew you up, spit you out and then go after your family. Come prepared or don't come at all.
Considered one of the greatest NES games ever made, Rare's Battletoads is also one of the hardest you'll encounter. It seems easy enough at first. Then you get to the speeder bike stage, where you'll need split-second timing to reach the end. That's just the beginning, as everything from surfboard challenges to snowy cliffs to the final, heinous battle with the Dark Queen gets in your way. Even with a co-op friend along for the ride, this is one tough hill to climb.
MDK 2 (Dreamcast, PC)
Before Bioware made its claim to fame with Dragon Age and Mass Effect, it created this monstrous sequel to Shiny Entertainment's third-person action/adventure. Featuring the return of Kurt Hectic and two fellow playable characters, the game had plenty of humor to go around. Its gameplay, however, was no joke, forcing players to make precise jumps and avoid massive attacks from spaceships and other enemies to survive. You'll need more than inflatable drones to get out of this one alive.
F-Zero GX (Nintendo GameCube)
Nintendo's latest F-Zero is easily the company’s best, and the most difficult. The opening tracks are easy enough to coast through, but once you start unlocking expert levels in the Ruby Cup, among other circuits, you'll have your hands full. If the aggressive enemy AI doesn't run you down, chances are you'll go flying off the tracks, due to the insane level design. Keep your eyes on the road.
The Ghosts 'n Goblins Trilogy (various systems)
For players who think that hard gaming began with Demon's Souls, take a step into the time machine and revisit Capcom's Ghosts 'n Goblins game. The first title will annihilate you on the NES, forcing you to go through it twice before even reaching the final boss battle. The following two games are not cakewalks either, requiring you to carry a limited special weapon throughout before reaching the final boss. Then you actually have to beat him. Yeah, not a piece of cake.
Alien vs. Predator (Jaguar)
The Jaguar version of Alien vs. Predator is one of the best, mainly because of its different player options – you could use an Alien, a Predator or a Marine. If you're ready for a real challenge, we suggest going with the Marine. Trying to survive against both creatures is a real struggle, especially the Aliens, who can pounce on you from out of nowhere. Keep your eyes open, and your trigger finger at the ready, and maybe you'll survive. Maybe.
Mega Man 9 (XBLA, PSN, WiiWare)
The Mega Man games are considered the toughest around on the original NES, but nothing could prepare players for the Blue Bomber's return in 2008 with Mega Man 9. Packing a heinous challenge that few overcame – even the veterans – the game reminded us why this series is so great to begin with, even though we still can't beat it.
Contra series (various)
Finally, if we're going to talk incredibly tough games, we have to include the Contra franchise. The original NES Contra is one hard game to beat without the 30-man lives code, and the following sequels, namely Contra III: The Alien Wars for SNES, Contra: Hard Corps for Sega Genesis and Contra: Shattered Soldier for PlayStation 2, put up quite a fight. Even the spread gun isn't likely to save you, no matter how good you think you are.