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10 insanely tough games

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Think you're good at games? Sure you do. Who doesn't? The only thing gamers love more than playing is bragging about their skills.

If you can brag about beating all 10 of these terrors, however, you're in a league of your own.

It's one thing to be able to bust out a decent score at Bejeweled or dominate a Call of Duty match, but quite another to finish this set of video gaming's most challenging releases. Some are new, some are old, and some are somewhere in between. But they have one thing in common: they're all so hard they'll make your thumbs bleed. Grab a box of Band-Aids, and read on.

Battletoads
NES, 1991

At first glance, you could be forgiven for mistaking the stars of this NES hit for a certain other group of combative, anthropomorphic amphibians who were popular around the same time.

Presumably developer Rare decided the best way to differentiate their game from its Teenage Mutant inspiration was to make it eye-poppingly, controller-throwingly, brain-meltingly difficult. And don't think you'll make life easier by tackling it with a friend -- Battletoad's two-player co-operative mode makes the game harder still, because with just one mistimed attack you can kill your partner and have to start over. More than two decades after its release, it's still widely recognized as one of the hardest -- if not the hardest -- games ever made.


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QWOP
PC/Flash, 2008

You probably think running is easy. After all, you learned to do it when you were two or three years old. Spend a bit of time playing the epically challenging flash game QWOP, though, and you'll walk away with a new appreciation for the complications of just moving your legs. A simple game with just four buttons -- one for each thigh, and one for each calf -- QWOP tasks you to run a hundred meters, but it'll take you many tries before you can even get off the line without winding up in a tangled heap.


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Demon's Souls
PS3, 2009

Dark, deep, and with a vicious streak a mile wide, action-heavy role-playing game Demon's Souls (along with its 2011 sequel, Dark Souls) easily ranks as one of the hardest releases of the last few years. It's not just its overall difficulty that makes this such a beast, though: the game seems to delight in watching you die. Which you will do. A lot. Weirder still, you'll keep coming back for more, because while it's a serious grind, it's also a seriously good game.


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Contra
NES, 1987

Classic side-scrolling shooter Contra holds a special place in the hearts of countless gamers of what, for the sake of sensitivity, we'll call "a certain age." Released in the late 80s amid the heady heyday of video game arcades and the NES, Contra's simultaneous two-player mode was a real novelty at the time -- and its grueling difficulty level meant that if you and a pal could complete the whole thing, you'd be chums for life. There's nothing like shared adversity to build friendship.


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The Oregon Trail
Various, 1974-1985

Bane of many a fifth-grader, The Oregon Trail was one of the first educational video games to start showing up in schools during the 1970s. Intended to teach us about the harsh realities of life as a pioneer in the 1800's, it mainly taught us that the road out west is littered with corpses.

Between dysentery, cholera, exhaustion, snakes, drowning, and countless other hazards, the chances of any given member of your party making it to the end of your journey from sea to shining sea were pretty darn slim. Doubtless life as a real-life Old West pioneer wasn't all beer and Skittles, but there's no way it was as tough as it is in The Oregon Trail.


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The Heist
iOS, 2011

Beautiful, creative, and so difficult it will make you weep, iOS puzzler The Heist is well worth the mental gymnastics it'll take you to make it to the end. Why? Because there's a prize. Not a dumb screen saying "Thank you, but our princess is in another castle," but a genuine, for-real, worth-actual-money sort of prize. What is it? That'd be telling. Play the game and find out -- if you don't tear your hair out first.


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Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels
Famicom, 1986

Mario is as big as it gets with Western audiences, but this 1986 follow-up to Super Mario Bros., which was initially released in Japan as Super Mario Bros. 2, would never be released in the U.S. on the NES.

Why? Because Nintendo thought it was too difficult for Western audiences. And perhaps they were right, because it's a platforming nightmare. If you think you're up to the challenge, however, you can find the game as a 600-point download on the Wii's Virtual Console or on the Super Mario All-Stars compilation.


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Trials HD
Xbox Live Arcade, 2009

Ever wondered what it's like to be a motorcycle trials rider? Frustration after frustration after frustration, if this Xbox Live Arcade smash — or its recent sequel Trials: Evolution -- is anything to go by.

We'd normally praise Trials HD for its clear objectives and dialed-in controls, but here it just makes things worse: you can always see where you're meant to be, and your bike does what you tell it to do. When you fail, you have nobody to blame but yourself. And just to add insult to injury, the game will be only too happy to tell you how much better your online friends are than you.


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Ghosts 'n Goblins
Arcade/NES, 1985

When Sir Arthur, star of classic arcade platformer Ghosts 'n Goblins, takes a hit, his armor disappears, leaving the unfortunate knight skipping around nothing but his heart-print boxers. Tee hee! Unfortunately, the ensuing childish grin was soon wiped off the faces of most players when they realized said boxers were now the only thing between them and the relentless hordes of the living dead. And boy, are there ever a lot of them. Originally an arcade game, it was widely converted to home platforms -- and if you fancy a challenge, it's on the Wii's Virtual Console service.


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I Wanna Be The Guy
Flash, 2007

Do you wanna be the guy? Of course you do. Everybody wants to be the guy. Trouble is, being the guy ain't easy -- as this celebrated freeware game aptly demonstrates.

Clad in the mantle of a classic 8-bit adventure game, IWBTG will amuse you with its slew of homages to and in-jokes from all kinds of classic games. And then it'll push you to the floor, steal your lunch money, and give you a good, old-fashioned, 8-bit butt-kicking. Not only are you not the guy, you probably aren't even fit to shine his shoes.

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