Generally speaking, the difficulty of video games has been on a downward curve since the days of arcade machines. Coin-operated arcade games were designed to ensure that most players would only last one or two minutes before getting a game over,ensuring that they would have to spend more money to play. This level of difficulty continued into the days of the Atari 2600 and early PC titles. Not only becauseit'swhat gamers were used to, but because many people only owned a couple of games and wanted them to last as long as possible. Moreover, console and PClimitations at the time meant that developers simply couldn't make long games, so the difficulty was a way of increasing runtime.
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Today,constant Steam deals and Microsoft's Game Pass service mean that mostpeople own far more games than before and are thereforewillingto chop and change games if they get stuck. Furthermore, the dawn of internet forums has bought with it online guides. These guides provide a problem for puzzle game developers, as they can spend months creating a fantastically designed puzzle game with intellectual puzzles, only for someone to beat it in an hour with a walkthrough open on another screen.
Unfortunately, this hascaused the puzzle genre tosomewhat die-out, and new puzzle games are hard to come by. Thankfully, many of the games released in the 80s and 90s, when the genre was booming, have been re-released on places like Steam and GOG.
Ifsomeoneis sick of hand-holding in modern games andwantsto challenge themselves, there aren't many tougher challenges in gaming than beating these ten games without a guide.
The Kings Quest series is one of the most recognizable names in the puzzle genre. The series was developed by Sierra Entertainment, known as Sierra On-line at the time of Kings Quest 3's release. Sierra's Kings Quest series, along with its other puzzle series' like Leisure Suit Larry, were notorious for their difficulty.
The games were so difficult, in fact, that Sierrasold hint books alongside their games. These hint books were sold separately, implying that Sierra intentionally made their games too difficult to encourage players to buy one. Any of the classic Kings Quest or Leisure Suit Larry games could have made it to this list, but Kings Quest III narrowly edges them as the toughest of the lot.
The Witness is one of the only games on this list that wasn't released when mullets were still cool. Thekla, Inc.'s 2016 game was heavily inspired by the genre-defining Myst, with its large, beautiful island that players are free to roam around and explore.
The island doesn't just have pretty trees and ponds though, it's filled to the brim with some of the most well-crafted and mind-boggling puzzles in not just modern gaming, but the history of the puzzle gaming genre.
The aforementioned Myst appearing on this listwill come as no surprise to anyone that has even a casual interest in the puzzle genre. The game had very little hype behind it before release but smashed sales records left, right, and center. Cyan's 1993 title was the highest-selling PC game ever until The Sims and is impressively still the third-highest today.
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Myst is the first game in the Myst series that featured many other tricky puzzles games like Riven, Myst III: Exile, and Uru: Ages Beyond Myst.
Speaking of Riven, this list wouldn't be complete without it. When unknown developer Cyan, Inc. burst into the forefront of the gaming industry with Myst, a sequel wasat the top of most gamer's wish lists.
Thankfully, the near four-year wait for Rivenwas worth it. Cyan didn't try to re-invent the wheel, and stuck to the same point and click, free-roam puzzle-solving as in Myst. Along with,of course, the devilishly difficult puzzles.
Although the game is every bit as good as Myst to play retrospectively today, it didn't score quite as well critically at the time of release. It's understandable why, as the gaming industry went through a significant change between Myst and Riven.Both the Nintendo 64 and PS1 were released, and games like Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Timemade the point and click adventure feel outdated.
Discworld isbased on a book series of the same name and was developed by Perfect 10 Productions & Teeny Weeny Games. It was released, like most games on this list, on Windows and Mac. Uniquely though, it was also released on the PS1, where players could use theoft-forgottenPlayStation Mouse.
Game reviewers are usually wary of criticizing a game for being too difficult, as many fans often eitherdismiss it as a moot point or say that the reviewer is simply bad at the game. This didn't stop reviewers is 1995 though, as many deducted points from the game for its excessive difficulty. One such review was fromAdventure Gamers, who placed the difficulty in their 'The Bad' section and said that thegame "stops short of being a classic simply due to its sheer difficulty".
SpaceChem differentiated itself from other entrieson this list, in the sense that it isn't a graphic adventure. Instead, the game offers a series of increasingly complicated chemical bonding and automation puzzles.
Quintin Smith from Rock, Paper, Shotgun wrote an extremely complimentary short review of the game in 2011, stating "Ill be brief: this game is incredible. I think we might have just received one of the years best indie games in the first week of 2011".
LucasArtsmanaged to catch lightning in a bottle for a second time when they followed the iconic The Secret of Monkey Islandwith Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. Similarly to Sierra, LucasArt's puzzle games were some of the most difficult of the era, likely to sell hints, as LucasArts had a hotline that confused gamers could call for a fee.
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The game was infamous outside of America for its 'Monkey Wrench' puzzle.The puzzle is solved by hypnotizing a monkey and literally using it as a wrench. The issue is, that the term monkey wrench is unheard of in mostcountries, causing hours upon hours of hopeless confusion for many players.
Indiana Jones In The Lost Kingdomis infamous for providing players with no information,or general rules of how to solveits puzzles. This was a conscious design choice supported by the game's tagline "Nobody told Indiana Jones the rules. And no one will tell you."
Although there were no in-game hints, a hotline was available with pre-recorded messages. Furthermore, the game came with glasses that could read hieroglyphic clues on the instruction manual.
Dark Seed is a unique entry on this list as it is a psychological horror, meaning that the game's puzzles aren't the only thing giving players nightmares.
The game is notorious for forcing players to complete events within certain time-scales, or in a certain order, without giving them any real hint that they're on the right track.
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templarshas one of the most infamous puzzles in all of gaming. The monkey wrench puzzle in Monkey Island 2 comes close, especially for gamers outside of the US, but it still doesn't match up to Broken Sword's goat puzzle.
An old goat may not seem like the most threatening enemy, but it probably caused more game overs than any intimidating Resident Evil boss. For those wanting to know about the puzzle, fear not, as an entire Wikipedia page is dedicated to it.
The game itself is the first in the Broken Sword series. It was critically acclaimed upon release, with praise being directed to its voice-acting and impressive visuals, especially in cutscenes.
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A gamer since the age of 3, Jack is knowledgeable about virtually every genre of video game under the sun. He has a soft spot for platformers and collectathons though, and still hasn't given up hope of them making a serious resurgence! Feel free to follow his newly created Twitter account @JackPursey
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