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There has been resurgence in recent years of games that punish you by repeatedly killing you without apology. Maybe it’s because we’ve grown tired of games that are too easy over the years, or maybe we’ve just always been gluttons for punishment, and developers are finally figuring it out. These are the games where we die all the time, and we thank the creators for it.
Super Meat BoyTeam Meat’s Super Meat Boy pulls off a neat trick with its fast reloads and short, but challenging stages. Getting through the entire game with less than a four-digit number for your total death count is rare. Death is fast and unforgiving, and eventually gets turned into a beautiful spectacle. Watching all of your failed attempts overlap against one another after beating a stage is a mesmerizing reminder of your struggle. You’ll die a lot in Super Meat Boy, and you get a flashback at the end of every level.
Demon's Souls/Dark SoulsRecently, a fan site created a system where you could find out how many times you’ve died in the game by uploading your Dark Souls PC save file. The site has shared some of its statistics, and – I hope I’m not spoiling this – people die a lot in Dark Souls.
The oppressive world of Dark Souls is one of the most unwelcoming environments in all of video games. Every corner is an opportunity to kill the player, and it’s an opportunity that is taken full advantage of without hesitation. Head here to read our preview feature, A Journal of Death: Five Hours With Dark Souls II
Donkey Kong Country Returns/Donkey Kong Country: Tropical FreezeThe Super Nintendo games were moderately difficult, but not particularly challenging compared to other games of its time. For its recent updates, it retained the difficulty and smacked us across the face with it. It was a level of challenge we had grown unaccustomed to, but were happy to see it return. I included Returns’ final boss on a recent list of frustrating boss battles, and have specific memories of losing lives well into the double digits for him. You can see us take on the final boss from Tropical Freeze in the video above.
Trials HD/Trials EvolutionOne of Xbox Live Arcade’s biggest successes, Trials HD and its sequel are games I have no shame in admitting I never finished. The game is brutal in its challenge, but so quick in its restarts that by the time you’re ready to throw in the towel you’ve already given that level you’re stuck on three more tries. Above, you can see a video of Dan Ryckert playing the game and attempting one of its more difficult levels.
LimboSimilar to Dark Souls, Limbo’s world is one that simply isn’t friendly to living visitors. Every few feet is an opportunity to get smashed, caught in a trap, drown in water, electrocuted, stabbed by a spider, fall off a cliff, get attacked by other inhabitants, get caught in a buzzsaw, or get shot by a gun – and that’s far from a full list. Thankfully, restarts are quick, and death is a short respite.
Call of DutyThe Call of Duty games aren’t ones typically associated with difficult games where you die often, but if you look at it simply in terms of numbers, it easily rivals others on this list. Not to mention that a precedent has been set by early games by the series to, more often than not, kill the soldier you are currently playing as in the game's story mode. Multiplayer is a constant back of forth game of death and rebirth, and when you step away from that to play the campaign, the cutscenes kill you just as fast as the bullets do.
What are some of your favorite games that totally disregard your mortality?
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