Thursday, June 20, 2024
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3 Games That Take A Different Approach To Difficulty

Recently, and that means from several years ago and still on-going, I’ve been lamenting the modern generation of games and specifically how they seem to be way too easy, even on the hardest difficulty. There’s the whole argument of wanting everyone to experience the game fully and see the end content, but at the same time, I find it disappointing that one can sit down and breeze through a game in just a couple of sittings.

Remember when games were hard and it was an epic struggle to simply get through single levels let alone the whole game?

This week I pay tribute to some modern games that have really upped the stakes with difficulty. Games that brought something different, either through special modes or innovations; not simply because the hits are harder and everything has more HP.

Elder God Mode Enabled

Fallout: New Vegas

I’m going to be honest with you; when it first came out, I thought New Vegas was a good game but it didn’t feel much more than a glorified expansion pack to Fallout 3, which I deemed amazing. I recently decided to go back and play NV for the hell of it, and turned on the Survival (AKA hardcore) mode. Oh man, doing that transforms it from being a good game to a brilliant one.

It essentially boils down to you having to monitor more than just your HP totals; you have food, water and sleep gauges now. They all add increasingly detrimental effects as they rise and eventually result in death.

So this just means you have to carry around food and water (which you go through the fastest) taking up precious carrying capacity. Not to mention that now healing, health and radiation are now “over-time” effects, so you can’t pause combat and just shoot up in the leg several times and be good to go again.

Stay right there and don’t attack me for a sec…

The other big one – and this is the hugely important one to me – is that all ammunition now carries weight, forcing you to think a bit more carefully about how you play. On the regular setting, I just hoarded every weapon I came across, and had thousands of rounds of ammunition.

This isn’t a viable option, especially when the better weapons have heavier ammo, such as the micro-fusion cells weigh 0.1 apiece which is pretty crazy when you consider that in terms of “ten shots = 1 pound”.


Ok, this game was just plain silly, and incredibly fun. Robots everywhere, crazy weaponry and insane slo-mo bullet-time shenanigans. But when you ramp the game up to the hardest difficulty, not only do you have the lifespan of a grilled cheese sandwich, but the enemies switch up their tactics, and come up with some pretty frustrating plans.

I literally was stuck at one section with snipers pinning me behind cover, as I was shelled by long range rockets all whilst being flanked by assault infantry on the sides. Ugh.

The other shock comes when you pick up weapons of the same type as you’re using, to upgrade them, but sadly to no avail. If you want to play with the big boys, you have to do it without training wheels, severely limiting the effect of several weapons that only truly shine with upgrades.

So that boils down to a metaphor about a certain creek you’re sailing up without means of propulsion or steering. And your boat is full of holes.

Most depressing warning sign?

Super Mario Galaxy

This one earns its place on my list just because it is completely different to the standard methods of difficulty; once you beat the game, you get the option of redoing it all but playing as Luigi.

Who has awkward controls. He jumps higher and therefore generally further than Mario does but the real problem lies in him skidding more when he lands again.

Its one thing to master the controls and get a lot of collectibles, but its another thing altogether to have to do it with completely different controls. You’ve just spent god knows how long mastering something, then they want you to do it again  leaving you with the end result of basically trying to replay the game but like you’ve been hit in the head a bit too often with the stupid stick.

Appointments not necessary.


There are of course, many more games that raised to bar beyond normal levels when it came to acceptable gaming for its time, these are just same of my particularly favourite fiendish ones.

Honourable Mentions

Metal Gear Solid

Simply for the removal of the radar that acts as such a crutch on the easier difficulties and makes certain parts just painful on hard difficulty. The Vulcan Raven fight in the Iceworks comes to mind immediately.


Another much more recent game would be the original Crysis; as the difficulty ramps up, they remove more and more health from you. First the automatic tagging of enemies and vehicles, then the grenade warnings…and then it escalates in a spectacular fashion to the enemies not speaking English anymore. Time to learn what “grenade out” is in Korean.

As I stated, these are just some of my favourite choices, but I’d love to hear some other favourites of the gaming community out there. Share your pain and frustration! Looking forward to some good responses!

Mr Port likes to be punished… in video games. Check out his DarkSouls article here. If you have any suggestions on games that bring some interesting challenge with more than the usual health increase, Port will take that challenge through Twitter.



  1. I’ve found a lot of the Indie titles that have come out over the past few years to have picked up on this difficulty notion. Super Meat Boy and Braid are the two that stick in my mind as giving me the fun kind of pain and frustration.

    • You want pain and frustration, try Soul on Xbox Indie games or iPhone. Probably one of the hardest game I’ve recently played, with super meat boy.

  2. See, I tried Braid, and wasn’t impressed I’ve got to say. I know its heralded as an amazing game, but I can’t bring myself to enjoy it properly. Frustration? Try playing Abe’s oddysee and Exoddus, and saving ALL the mudokens in each. I’m fairly confident they remain the source of a few broken PS1 controllers back in the day.


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