Top 20 Most Cruel Video Games Ever Made

Top 20 Most Cruel Video Games Ever Made
VOICE OVER: Callum Janes WRITTEN BY: Johnny Reynolds
If you want to give someone a cruel gaming experience, show them one of these games. For this list, we'll be looking at games that are so difficult and unbalanced, they border on being unfair. Our countdown for the most cruel games ever made includes “Silver Surfer” (1990), “I Wanna Be the Guy” (2007), the “Mario Party” Series (1998-2021), “Battletoads” (1991), and more!

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Most Cruel Games Ever Made. For this list, we’ll be looking at games that are so difficult, they border on being unfair. That means we won’t be including any games that are simply tough. Have you conquered any of these cruel games? Is there something we left off? Sound off in the comments below.

#20: “Mortal Kombat II” (1993)

The early 90s saw a boom of arcade fighters, and “Mortal Kombat” was one of the franchises leading the charge. But when the sequel was released, Midway found numerous ways to improve on the first, including how many quarters they could get players to part with. The enemy AI in the arcade classic is supreme. You may make it through the first few rounds okay, but you’ll eventually hit a massive spike. Simply put, the computer opponents can read you far faster than vice versa, at least for the average player. And the game culminated with one of the cheapest final bosses in fight game history: the taunting brute, Shao Kahn.

#19: “Stuntman” (2002)

Maybe we just never had the patience to replay multiple sections of a game multiple times over, but the PlayStation 2’s “Stuntman” is a major test of will. It places you in the role of a Hollywood stunts expert, pulling off daring set pieces in a variety of vehicles across several genres of film. It’s a pretty fun premise, but the problem arises as soon as you fail. Every sequence is timed and you must perform each stunt to the game’s strict standards of quality. Make one mistake, and you’ll have to start the level all the way over. We get that filmmakers want to get these scenes perfect, but that tedium should never have been translated into a game.

#18: “Getting Over It with Bennet Foddy” (2017)

Although it’s quite simplistic, “Getting Over It with Bennet Foddy” is remarkably frustrating. Armed only with a cauldron and a sledge hammer, players must ascend a mountain while contesting the game’s slippery physics. However, there’s a high probability that you’ll end up losing some of your progress as you play. If you slip up, you can take quite a tumble and end up wasting a huge chunk of time. There also aren’t any check points, so we’re using the word ‘waste’ in a very literal sense. It only takes a few falls before you’re either ready to scream or just give up.

#17: “Mario Party” Series (1998-2021)

Many cruel games are thought of as such because of their difficult mechanics. While “Mario Party” can be understood by anyone regardless of skill level, it still holds elements that are completely unfair. Many of its free-for-all mini-games are balanced. But we’d swear there are some others that are stacked against certain players, primarily those of the 1v3 variety. However, the most unfair feature in the franchise are Bonus Stars. These are given out at the end of a game to players who did the most of something, like landed on the most event spaces. Since some of these are random, you can go from having no Stars at all to winning the game.

#16: “The Unfair Platformer” (2008)

There are few games with such fitting titles as this. “The Unfair Platformer” was released during a wave of brutally hard flash games in the late 2000s and tells you exactly what you’ll be getting into. Your objective is simple: make it through each section looking for checkpoints while avoiding boatloads of traps. The problem is that most of these traps are completely hidden. Platforms with secret spikes will eviscerate you instantly, and solid ground will vanish as soon as you land on it. It all comes down to a whole lot of trial, error, and pain.

#15: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1989)

There are several games in the NES’ library that have taken on new lives in pop culture due to their immense difficulty. The original “Ninja Turtles” game is definitely one of them. While many focus on the infamous Dam level, it’s for good reason. The combination of stiff controls, bad sprite placement, and the heavy damage should you mess up makes it a major hassle. But it’s more than just one hard level. Specific sections of stages and enemies are better suited for different turtles, not that most players would know that. If one of the heroes runs out of HP, they get captured, which means they’re locked until you can rescue them in a different stage with whichever Turtles you have left.

#14: “Contra” (1987)

If you want to make it far in “Contra,” you’re basically required to know the Konami Code, which gives you 30 lives instead of the standard 3. Even still, there’s no guarantee that will be enough. The classic side scrolling shooter gives you a single hit health bar and throws you into levels covered in enemies. Whether they be foot soldiers, wall-mounted guns, or some other bullet-spraying enemy, it doesn’t take them long to flood your screen with ammunition. Only by dying numerous times can you gain the reaction time to survive. At least co-op eases things a bit, but it’s still a major test to reach the end.

#13: “Ninja Gaiden” (1988)

How players were able to make it through some of these games, we’ll never know. Like many others of the era, “Ninja Gaiden” is a tough-as-nails action side scroller, the majority of which will never be experienced by the average player who tries it. At least you get a health bar, but that alone won’t be enough to stop enemies from ripping you to shreds. It’s not just that your foes are clever; their placement is also a major factor. If you kill an enemy, it only takes moving the screen an inch out of their spawn point before they’re back. Some enemies even dive bomb you from off screen, amounting to a constant barrage of damage.

#12: “Cat Mario” (2007)

Long before Mario himself would actually dress as a cat, this flash game put one feline in the plumber’s shoes. Except their game wasn’t exactly a stroll in the Mushroom Kingdom. Its setting will undoubtedly feel remarkably familiar, but it lures you into a false sense of security. Just like “The Unfair Platformer,” traps and hazards are placed at completely unexpected places. Nothing acts as it should, and you’ll soon find yourself dying too many times to count. The creator essentially matched the charm of the original “Super Mario Bros.” with just as much cruelty. To reach the end, it takes the utmost patience and memorization.

#11: “Takeshi’s Challenge” (1986)

This Japan-only game has become infamous in certain circles not because of crushing mechanics, but because it has some of the most out-there solutions in any video game. Designed by comedian and filmmaker Beat Takeshi, it seems purposely made to be obtuse. It follows a man who earns a treasure map and seeks his fortune. But he has to do a few things first before setting out on his adventure, including quitting his job and divorcing his wife. And just HOW was any kid expected to know to do that? Its design led to poor reception at launch, and the passing of time hasn’t done “Takeshi’s Challenge” any favors.

#10: “Super Star Wars” (1992)

Why this was re-released for the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita, we’ll never understand… “Super Star Wars” is one of those games that seems like it’s just another hard platformer, but you’ll quickly discover it’s one of the most unfair games on the whole damn planet. As you make your way through the first level, multiple enemies start spawning in the background. While they can be killed in just a couple of hits, they respawn almost half a second later and will be out to murder you. It isn’t an unplayable game, but trying to progress becomes an arduous chore. We’d rather take our chances surviving in a Sarlacc pit.

#9: “I Wanna Be the Guy: The Movie: The Game” (2007)

If you’re looking for a game that is the definition of “sadism”, then “I Wanna Be the Guy” might be what you’re looking for. Taking pages from the old days of difficult platformers, the game forces players to go through a constant trial-&-error process, avoiding death traps like spikes and apples. As if the explosion of blood isn’t humiliating enough, the “Game Over” screen is accompanied by a heavy metal score. “I Wanna Be the Guy” is just one of those games that’s best enjoyed from watching others rage over its sadistic level design.

#8: “Silver Surfer” (1990)

There are many games where you can die in one hit, but they are still fair in some ways. (The “Contra” games are the first to come to mind.) But, if there was one game that seems to strictly abide by the “one-hit” rule, it’s “Silver Surfer” for the NES. You’re given very little time to react and avoid obstacles. Should we mention that even the walls are instant death? To add to our frustration, the graphics are so poor that it’s hard to tell what can and can’t kill you, let alone where bullets may be flying. In the end, “Silver Surfer” just expects too much from us.

#7: “Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels” (1986)

You know, in hindsight, maybe there was a good reason this wasn’t officially “Super Mario Bros. 2”... “Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels” wasn’t released outside of Japan until 1993 as a part of “Super Mario All-Stars”, and we can see why. “Lost Levels” wasn’t just a hard game; it was agonizing. Question blocks could spawn poison mushrooms that could take away a hit point or kill you, gusts of wind could mess up your jumps, and certain warp pipes could hinder your progress by sending you back a few levels. We can appreciate it as a piece of gaming history, but it’s also a prime example of how to make a game incredibly aggravating.

#6: “XCOM 2” (2016)

We understand the point of “XCOM 2” is to feel overwhelmed, but that doesn’t excuse some of the asinine stuff it pulls at the beginning of the game. For starters, no matter how close you are to the enemy, you’re never guaranteed to hit your targets. You are TWO SQUARES away from an enemy!! How is that NOT a one-hundred percent guaranteed hit?? To make matters worse, “XCOM 2” throws some of the most irritating enemies early on, such as the Sectoid, which can mind-control your soldiers or cause them to panic and refuse to take orders. It’s almost enough for us to let the aliens conquer the Earth.

#5: “Battletoads” (1991)

“Battletoads” has been known to be one of the most notoriously difficult games in the platforming genre. The game demands your full attention, so much so that it ends up becoming more reliant on memorization and quick reactions. Now, typically, adding in a second player would make games like this a little bit easier. On the contrary, it does the exact opposite, as you could accidentally end up killing your buddy just from trying to beat baddies. “Battletoads” is fondly remembered, but is the nostalgia really worth the migraines and frustration? With a new release slated for 2019, we wonder if the difficulty will make its way into this new title.

#4: “Ghosts ‘n Goblins” (1985)

With a name like “Ghosts ‘n Goblins”, we’d expect almost everything to try and kill us. This...this is taking it way too far! You’re constantly being bombarded with different kinds of enemies, each with their own specific attack patterns. Not only that, but you have no way of saving your progress. Checkpoints are non-existent. But, wait! There’s more! After you’ve completed your first run, you must go through the entire game a SECOND time to defeat the true final boss all while being on a higher difficulty. Good luck! You’ll need it!

#3: “Superman 64” (1999)

We could easily talk about how cruel “Superman 64” was in terms of decimating our hopes for a good game, but we’d be here all day. No, “Superman 64” is cruel in just how broken it truly is. You’ll find yourself fighting the terrible controls that are occasionally unresponsive, random encounters with a large assortment of glitches, and the god awful camera. And then there are the rings. The most useless and unrewarding task in all of gaming. Just when you think you’ve seen all the crap Superman 64 has to offer, it manages to surprise you with new, terrible experiences.

#2: “Trap Adventure 2” (2018)

Chances are you’ve seen this mobile game pop up on your social media feed at some point. “Trap Adventure 2” has been described as one of the most cruel games you could ever play. Each time you think you’ve figured out how to pass an obstacle, it throws something completely unexpected at you, like spontaneously spawning a wall of spikes. With its trial-&-error gameplay, “Trap Adventure 2” will crush your hopes and dreams the same way it crushes your character. Trust us, this is NOT for the easily irritated...unless you want a broken phone.

#1: “Dragon’s Lair” [NES Version] (1990)

The arcade version may feel a little frustrating at times, but it’s still a somewhat fair game. As for the NES version, the game is anything but fair. The controls are clunky as hell, and just about everything can kill you in just one hit! If things couldn’t possibly get any worse, the elevator portion of the game is a living nightmare. Should you choose to get off on the wrong floor, you could potentially be sent back to the beginning of the game! Getting past that first screen is already torture, and we’d rather play the other games on this list than go through this bullshit again.