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A Look at the World’s Most Difficult (& Rewarding) Games

Most Difficult (& Rewarding) Games

Everyone loves a challenge. That’s why people around the world enjoy competing, whether in physical, mental, or other types of competitions. But not everyone takes this dedication to play and improving quite as seriously as a gamer.

Gamers, whether they prefer board games, role-player games, or video games, enjoy diving into unique situations and attempting to come out on top. In a game like chess, that means predicting how another player might move. In Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, it means hitting an enemy with speed and precision.

And they enjoy seeing how they stack up against other players. After all, most games today include global leaderboards or even regional competitions. In other words, there’s always another challenge on the horizon and a reason for players to improve their skills and tactics.
But which games are the most difficult for players to learn and excel at? And why do players stick with a hobby that can be so frustrating?

Table of Contents


Poker has been around for centuries. According to some scholars, it might even trace back to the Persian card game of As-Nas, popular in the Middle Ages. Today, most players prefer online platforms that offer free or real money games, along with tournaments of all stripes—even if some people still imagine saloons in the Wild West when they think of poker.

But learning the ins and outs of this popular pastime takes dedication, practice, and a few inborn skills related to probability and reading others. In fact, while just about anyone can learn the rules of poker, adapt basic strategies to their own outlook, and succeed in some measure, it’s skills like bluffing, reading others, and feeling the cadence of a game that can separate the pros from the legends.


Sticking with older games, Go stretches back a lot farther than poker—and even As-Nas. The game was invented around four thousand years ago in Ancient China. The game requires players to surround their opponent’s pieces with theirs. It’s so difficult that the game was used to help develop mental skills for nobility.

The game is known for its incredible diversity of strategies. There’s no clear-cut way to win, but there are hundreds of tactics that overlap and intersect that teach players how and when to win. The number of possible moves in a go game is so huge that it’s compared to the number of atoms in the universe.

Most Difficult (& Rewarding) Games

Dark Souls

Let’s shift away from the card and board games and move into the realm of video gaming. Since the first arcade titles in the 1970s and 80s, developers have sought to hook players by creating high-stakes games. But one game creator, Hidetaka Miyazaki, took things one step further.

He wanted to reward players with a sense of accomplishment. To do that, he created one of the world’s hardest games—which would only reward players who actually found a way to overcome the odds. This means the odds are stacked against players in Dark Souls, an RPG that’s designed to kill players again and again, as a necessary part of gameplay that builds their experience. Along with skill, players will need the patience to survive Dark Souls.


Dark Souls redefined the RPG genre by making its levels truly difficult. The idea is that poker players might spend years cutting their teeth before they start to win—so why not challenge video gamers in the same way? But 30 years before Miyazaki developed Dark Souls, Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman were tinkering with their own project.

Enter Rogue. The video game was released in 1980 and became so popular that it spawned its very own ‘rogue-like dungeon crawler’ genre. Rogue was the very first ‘dungeon crawler’, which is a game that requires players to navigate dungeons filled with unexpected enemies and obstacles. What makes this game so challenging is that it includes randomized outcomes. Potions and weapons are available, but they may deal a death blow to your character—or help you find your way out of the dungeon.

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