Gauging the difficulty curve has to be one of the hardest parts of game development. Make a game too easy and players will get bored right away, make it too hard and it'll be unapproachable to a more casual audience. It's a delicate and masterful art! Creating a game with a difficulty curve that naturally rewards players for learning the mechanics. But, there are also modes that aren't as balanced and are tuned for pure pain and suffering.
Game modes so hard that players feel like they're fighting against the devs themselves, which can be even more rewarding. Though it takes a special type of obsession to master these insanely tough extra modes.
10 Dead Cells Stem Cells
We'll start with Dead Cells. This is one of the games we've put the most time into without making tangible progress. Dead Cells is a roguelike game with Metroidvania elements. Frankly, it's a skill-based game that has exponentially ramping difficulty. And, once a player clears the final hurdle, they'll discover that it has essentially five different New Game Plus's.
Clearing the last boss unlocks a "Stem Cell" players can activate that ramps up both the difficulty and rewards. Clearing the game again with said cell unlocks NG+2, all the way up to five! Getting to the end with 5 cells even unlocks an additional boss and zone. But that's only for the real crazies. Think we were stuck on just one Stem Cell for over a year before clearing it.
9 Dark Souls 2's Multiple Modes
Speaking of NG+ modes, Dark Souls is a franchise known for its difficulty. And, Dark Souls 2 is probably the best one to use as an example of a hard mode. In DS2, there are multiple ways to make the already difficult game even harder, the primary being the Bonfire Aesthetics. These items ramp specific zones up to NG+, allowing players to taste the post-game difficulty without being locked into it.
And, if that isn't enough for the pain-loving players, the Covenant of Champions is also an easy way to make the game painfully tough.
8 Dead Rising 3 Nightmare Mode
The original Dead Rising game might be the epitome of a classic. It's stood the test of time and is still a fantastic game when played in the present day. While many people may not like the sequels, we though DR2 had a lot of the same soul as the first game, and DR3 is fun even if it's worse overall. But, for fans who want a modern game with that pure Dead Rising feel, DR3 has a Nightmare mode that gets it about as close as it can.
Time progresses 4 times faster, saves can only be done in restrooms once again, and all zombies and psychopaths are much harder! We love when companies try new things but still include options for fans of the old gimmicks.
7 Nier Automata Very Hard Mode
Nier Automata is Platinum Game's biggest selling title of all time, surpassing even their namesaked Bayonetta series. This amazingly complex yet bleak game is directed by Yoko Taro, an eccentric is the purest sense. And, because Platinum had a hand in it, the combat is absurdly complex but also exceedingly difficult at times. Plus, it's well-liked by just about everyone. So much so that MMORPG's are even integrating 2B and 9S into their content.
But, it's especially unforgiving on new players during the fights before they unlock certain skills or completely learn the systems. And, it's Very Hard difficulty ramps things up even more. Since 2B, 9S, and A2 are all dead after just one hit, which is hard to avoid considering there are some fights that fill the entire screen with projectiles.
6 Doom 2016 Ultra Nightmare Mode
Much like the Witcher 2 Insane difficulty, Doom 2016 has a similar setting called Ultra Nightmare where players are basically forced to become speedrunners. Essentially, death ends the run, and players can watch as the map shows them exactly how far they made it into the game, saving their "death marker" with each run.
So, with each subsequent attempt, players can literally track their improvements. It's a neat mode to add into such an action-packed, but admittedly short game, since this adds some real replayability to the mix.
5 Witcher 2 Insane Mode
Why are we talking about the Witcher 2 in 2019? Well, we were going to talk about the Fire Emblem: Three Houses DLC mode, but this game felt more apt. Also, Geralt is an incredibly beloved character, and we just love the franchise! The Witcher 3 ate up about 200 hours of our time, and we couldn't be more excited for Cyberpunk 2077 because of it. But, we had no idea that the Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings had an Insane Difficulty. In it, players lose all progress after death.
Now, the Witcher 2 isn't quite the same titanically huge RPG as it's a sequel, but it's still quite big. Can you imagine restarting an RPG after meticulously crafting your character and building them up again from square one?
4 Furi's Furier Mode
Now, the standard for a hard mode in games is usually just to pump up the enemy health. But, the Boss Battle simulator Furi is different. The game is already quite the challenge to complete on normal for people unfamiliar with boss battle games like Dark Souls or even a 2D example like Hyper Light Drifter. And, once players manage to beat The Star, they unlock Furier difficulty, which is essentially NG+.
Only thing is, most of the bosses in the game either have new mechanics, new phases, or some new moves. It's one of the only Hard modes in recent memory that adds new combat mechanics, and while we hate how hard it is, we love the game for doing it.
3 FTL's Hard Mode
FTL is one of the hardest games we've ever played. And honestly, it's just thanks to the sheer difficulty of the last boss. The game itself is a combination of micro-management, resource allocation, and making the best decisions possible as captain of your ship. It's a ton of fun, and the slew of unlockable ships, crew members, and other equipment add a ton of replayability.
But, it's hard mode is something we'd almost recommend avoiding. In it, players start with 0 scrap, everything breaks easier, enemies target more important rooms first in attacks, and a whole slew of other needless punishments. This is the exact opposite of Furi, FTL's Hard Mode just takes the frustrating elements of FTL and pumps them up to the max.
2 Hades Pact Of Punishment
Hades is a recent game, which is why we wanted to include it. Also, it's developed by Supergiant Games, one of our favorite studios of all time. This small team also made Bastion, Pyre, and Transistor. Hades is their first attempt at an "early-access" title and we'd say they succeeded. But, for the players who've cleared everything, there's the Pact of Punishment.
This is an optional mode that players have total freedom of. Basically, it's a list of modifiers that do things like increasing damage taken or enemy health. But, in exchange, players get more currency in each run! It's an awesome system that allows players to create their own perfect difficulty.
1 Attack On Titan's True Attack Mode
The Attack on Titan games are some of the most creative and fulfilling Musou games in recent memory. While Hyrule Warriors nailed what it means to be a classic Musou game, Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom 1 and 2 reinvented the genre in their own way. These games nail the movement of a Scout in 3-D Maneuver Gear. And, for the players who've mastered the combat, there's True Attack mode.
Players in the end game of the base difficulty probably found 99% of enemies baby-level easy. But, True Attack mode is a huge jump. Every Titan is hyper-aggressive, their health is multiplied, and gas or weapons deplete much faster. Unlike other games, it really ramps things up.