Gamasutra has a great post detailing the ins and outs of 20 famously difficult games as part of an exploration on why it is making a game that’s actually challenging (instead of just frustratingly impossible) is such a lost art. Sure, it’s a rather esoteric bit of video game discussion, but it’s a very interesting look at some games that existed to really and truly challenge a player, as opposed to just being hard enough that it took a couple of tries to figure out the pattern for success.
The author makes a great point about how games simply are not designed to be challenging anymore, and how many exceptionally successful games can be played (and even won) with minimal effort. I like that John Harris particularly emphasizes MMORPGs with this point (though I wish he explored the concept further), as my experience with games like World of Warcraft have shown me that, while the game can be made more challenging by deliberately deviating from the quest path, for the most part the game is merely a rote exercise in click/repeat/reward. Bully on Blizzard for figuring out how to make gamers shell out upwards of $40 dollars (plus $13 dollars a month) for what’s effectively a never ending ‘push the button and get a pellet’ exercise (albeit one with some stunning landscape design).* It’s like they made a magical hand that floats to our homes and rifles through our wallets.
The thumb is from the ridiculously great (and quotable) Sinistar, a game that devoured no end of quarters from yours truly, and remains one of my all-time favorite games. What are your choices for super tough games?
*Before the deluge of hate comments/e-mail pour in, I should point out that I actually do enjoy World of Warcraft. It’s just that I’m all too aware of the ridiculousness and ultimate pointlessness of the game.