If there’s one thing certain in this world, it’s that people are always going to disagree over whether a video game is hard or not. It’s a debate as old as the industry itself, with no franchise or series exempt from the discussion.
Some fans believe that the harder the video game better. The challenge of overcoming a level or boss through grinding away and learning the ins, outs and mechanics enough to turn them against the game is certainly something to take pride in, but it skips over how soul-draining such an experience can actually be at times.
For other gamers, progressing through the game itself is actually pretty instrumental in deciding how much they’re able to enjoy themselves. Having that helping hand through a daunting level or fight can be the difference between ploughing through the remainder of the game and having a good time, or rage quitting off and letting an otherwise great game slip through the cracks.
Here are ten great games that, for one reason or another, give players plenty of reason to think that the easy way might indeed be the best way forward.
10. Spider-Man 2 (PS2)
Before Insomniac Games decided that they wanted to make one of the world’s best superhero games, the best Spider-Man fans had to play was 2004’s Spider-Man 2. Once again developed by Treyarch and published by Activision, it was the second game released in mirroring with what would become Sam Raimi’s original trilogy and largely follows the events of the Spider-Man 2 movie.
The game received widespread acclaim at the time for its vast open world, but returning to it these days will almost certainly lead most players to flicking the difficulty down from time to time.
For starters, the game suffers from basic mechanical problems that most gamers haven’t experienced in years, such as dodgy camera angles and some seriously nasty item placements. These are present in every mode of the game, meaning there’s nothing to be gained for a player by thinking that they are mastering anything by playing the game on its hard mode. Web swinging, which is what this game built its legacy on, doesn’t change at all from the difficulty settings either.
There are also a collection of some notoriously difficult boss fights such as Doctor Octopus and Mysterio to contend with, both of which can reach some seriously unfair difficulty levels without adding anything new to the plot or dishing out any unique achievements.
Minecraft is a innocent, chill-time sort of game. Spawning in a beautiful world filled to the brim with minerals, materials and opportunity, players have free roam in choosing where they go and what they build. So long as they have a roof over their heads and a bed to sleep away the monsters at night, players shouldn’t have too much to worry about when in their block-based worlds.
However, venturing past the peaceful or easy game modes will unlock a very different type of game. On the easy mode, players are given the safety net of knowing their food bar won’t decrease at a staggering rate, their hearts won’t drop naturally past five and they can always respawn and go again if they are killed by anything in game. With the game’s Hard mode, almost all of these features are thrown away, with starvation now a lethal possibility and one single death meaning the end of a player’s time in their world.
On top of that, harder game modes increase the amount of mobs that players have to dodge. Creepers become seriously more dangerous, Zombies can barge down doors and Skeletons never seem to miss, rounding off a pretty harsh experience all in all. For an actual opportunity to explore, build and overcome some fairly-powered mobs, the easier modes are the best place to stay.
8. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Oblivion and Skyrim, whilst undeniably iconic titles in the RPG community, are not necessarily the hardest games in the world. There are helpful companions scattered around the world, the game allows players to digest twenty potions in the middle of a fight and, for Oblivion in particular, there are plenty of big cities with giant walls that keep out anything nasty from the outside.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, on the other hand, is a game that really pulls no punches on its harder difficulties. For starters, nowhere in the game is ever truly safe. There are no gates and no loading screens for any of the cities, meaning that these settlements out in the open are vulnerable to attacks from a whole host of enemies pretty much non-stop.
The fact that the game also has no essential NPCs means that an increased difficulty also means players are running the risk of having entire storylines wiped from the game because an important character has died. With all of those things being defaults in the game as soon as a player designs their character, why would they want to punish themselves by making them even more likely to happen on a harder difficulty?
Ultimately, the biggest appeal of Morrowind is its strong customisation, unique storylines and magical and mysterious settings. These things aren’t restrained by the difficulty of the game, but can be spoiled if some overpowered enemies take out a crucial NPC or make a player want to put the game down after dying at the worst time.
7. Super Mario Kart
Every great franchise has to start somewhere, and it’s certainly fair to say that the Mario Kart franchise thankfully has its worst days behind it now. The ultimate party game to play with friends, Mario Kart doesn’t need a storyline to entice people in, and it is only through unlocking certain characters, cups and speeds that later games began to encourage completionists to venture out of their comfort zone and try a harder difficulty.
However, whilst it was revolutionary for its Mode 7 design and spawning one of the most popular spin off franchises in history, the only reward Super Mario Kart offers its players who grind through the entire game is the 150cc mode. On a SNES console, this change of speed was nowhere near as noticeable as it is in the more contemporary games, and was definitely not worth ploughing through such a notoriously unfair game for.
It’s clear that the courses in Super Mario Kart were not designed for anything over 100cc, and the game has become infamous for its brutal rubber-banding between the player and AI and the powerful special items that only the computer has access to. To enjoy a fun and enjoyable experience, it’s best to just stick to the easier speeds with this classic title.
6. Mortal Kombat II
Another one of those classic games where developers have made everything deliberately OP, Mortal Kombat is definitely the hardest instalment in the long-running franchise to date. Grinding up the ladder is where this scripting really becomes most apparent, with it quickly becoming clear by the second or third opponent that things with the scaling aren’t quite balanced.
With Mortal Kombat II, it doesn’t seem to matter which character players play as, or who they come up against, the game will find a way of countering every move they make and ensure that their special moves never hit. Shang Tsung in particular has established a reputation within the community as being an absolute nightmare.
Beating the ladder feels almost impossible on the harder difficulties and, even on the ultra-easy modes, requires some insane levels of game know-how and constant tinkering. The ‘jump kick back’ strategy is probably the best way of overcoming most opponents, but that soon feels more like exploiting the mechanics of the game rather than actually overcoming anyone with much skill. All in all, for a more enjoyable and fair experience, the easy mode is a player’s best bet.
5. Resident Evil Zero
There’s an argument that the whole point of a horror game comes from the sense of accomplishment of surviving through the ordeals with some sanity left because of a player’s skills, rather than just relying on the game holding their hand through the whole experience. That certainly isn’t true for the slog-fest that is Resident Evil Zero.
What helps the Resident Evil franchise stand out from its rivals is the sparing amount of supplies players are given throughout. A survival horror in every sense, Resident Evil Zero takes this to a new level with some seriously tough fights and very few supplies on the way in the game’s tougher modes.
Zero has an excellent story and some really interesting characters, however neither of these can really shine when there’s an insane amount of surviving needed to even see them. The other staple of the Resident Evil universe is the zombies and creatures, and Zero’s hard difficulties contain some of the hardest-hitting villains in the entire franchise.
Some of the game’s sequences and boss fights are seemingly designed in purposefully unfair ways, and are only worsened further by the harder difficulty’s increased damage and lack of resources.
4. Uncharted 4
Uncharted is one of the most successful adventure game franchises in history, creating plenty of gorgeous worlds for players to fall in love with and explore, really bringing a Hollywood feel to the format.
If there’s one complaint the series has always had however, it’s the fact that Naughty Dog seem hellbent on pushing their players to the very edges of their sanity. Uncharted 4 might be the last game in the series to date, but the difficulty issues that have constantly plagued the series are still in force here.
The game is filled with enemies who possess laser-like vision and accuracy, and a real harsh amount of health to work with. Whilst there’s certainly some thrill in peeking out of some cover and finding a headshot in a last-gasp standoff, for most players, that isn’t what they’re in the game for.
Uncharted 4 is arguably the easiest game in the franchise to escape into with its stunning visuals and deep storylines, but it is only by switching that difficulty back down to the easy mode that players can really take the time to enjoy these properly.
3. Street Fighter IV
Despite being the fourth instalment, Street Fighter IV is perhaps the most volatile and controversial in its difficulty features. The Rival Battles are really the most obvious part of the game where the mechanics seem more than a little unfair, with Ryu being the most common culprit to come up against. It’s bad enough that players have to conquer six terribly scaled fights to even get to their rival showdown, but the fights once they get there are beyond unfair, especially in the harder modes.
Rivals in Street Fighter IV on the harder modes routinely read a player’s input and counter their attacks up to 90% of the time in some instances. That is simply no way to enjoy a game.
Players encounter Seth after their Rival battle where the insane amount of countering and spamming continues. Once again, it is only through precise, underhand tactics that players will actually find themselves in a position to take down the AI-controlled opponent, giving these harder difficulty bosses a feeling of exploitation rather than skill-based enjoyment.
The game’s easy modes are still noticeably harder than other games in the franchise, but they remain the best chance players have for making their Street Fighter IV experiences fun.
2. Bioshock Infinite
The third instalment in the Bioshock franchise, Infinite made a real name for itself as arguably the best title in the series. It finished 2013 as the world’s third highest rated video game and earning critical acclaim for its visuals, setting and storyline. It has also garnered a reputation for being one of the most divisive games of its time when it comes to difficulty.
The differences in Infinite’s difficulty can vary pretty wildly, with the amount of ammunition and cash around the game being the most striking examples of what tinkering with the modes can do.
As well as the dispensing of resources, the difference between the game’s Easy and 1999 modes include a 125% to 50% damage dealt and a 50% to 200% ratio of damage received, both of which show how striking the discrepancy is.
Infinite might not be as unfair as something like Street Fighter IV, but its wild variance in difficulty can make for some pretty tough moments.
With such a striking art design, compelling storyline and unique setting, it’s only through playing on an easy difficulty that players will actually be able to enjoy them in any appreciable way.
Designed by Nintendo to demonstrate the power of their brand new SNES system, the original F-Zero was released in 1991 and was one of the most technically impressive and exhilarating games ever made at the time.
However, both the original and the series have become equally iconic for their immensely challenging gameplay. The original game is divided into three main difficulty groups: Knight, Queen and King, though all three provide some unique challenges for players to overcome. Everything from the intense courses to the sheer speed of the game in comparison to the likes of Mario Kart make this an increasingly tough game to enjoy, and the impact and longevity might not be as present these days as it was in 1991. What is similar to Super Mario Kart however is the fact that this SNES title features no unlockables or incentive for players to put up with its insane difficulty and grind through.
All the machines are unlocked from the get-go, the levels are free to try as players see fit and new modes like Mirror were still a long way off in 1991.
For those gamers picking up this classic now, sticking to the easy mode is definitely the best way of ensuring the best experience possible.
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