15 Most Difficult Games of 2023

There’s no shortage of masochists in the gaming audience, which means games that pose a grueling challenge are never going to go out of style. Thankfully, we saw plenty such titles throughout the course of 2023 as well, and here, we’re going to talk about a few that we felt were the most challenging of the lot- some in a good way, others, not so much…


FromSoftware is royalty in field of difficult video games, and even though Armored Core 6 was very different from the Soulslikes we have grown used to seeing from the studio, it kept that spirit of challenge intact. In fact, it may very well be one of the most difficult games the Japanese developer has ever made, but as is expected from the studio, it handles that difficulty with pitch-perfect balancing. Though many of the grunts you take on don’t post much of a challenge, the game’s boss fights can block your progress for hours on end.


Building on the blend of third person shooting and Soulslike mechanics of Remnant: From the Ashes, Remnant 2 proved to be another solid outing for Gunfire Games’ growing franchise, and just like its predecessor, proved to be quite the difficult game to master. From dynamic threat generation to excellent enemy design to an impress variety in bosses and mini-bosses, Remnant 2 never quite seems to run out of ways to push you to your limits.


Lies of P wears its Bloodborne influences on its sleeve, and that very much applies to the game’s approach to difficulty as well. Thanks to an incredible variety in enemy design throughout the entirety of the experience – whether it’s relatively common foes you’re taking on or monstrous, terrifying bosses – the game continues to pose a stiff challenge on a consistent basis (to the extent that some of it can at times feel a bit uneven). Add to that excellent encounter design, and you never quite get the feeling of being truly safe from harm in Lies of P.


If there’s one thing that Lords of the Fallen can’t be faulted for, it’s how ambitious it is, and even though it does sometime stumble under the weight of those ambitions, there’s still plenty to like about it. Take its boss fights for instance, an area where the game delivers some truly standout encounters that Soulslike fans are guaranteed to love (even if there are still a few bosses in the game that prove to be disappointing). Though the overall balancing of difficulty can be a bit frustrating from time to time, by and large, Lords of the Fallen is a solid experience for those who want the game to push back, and push back hard.


Wo Long Fallen Dynasty (2)

The Sekiro to Nioh’s Dark Souls, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty may not have landed as well for many as the Nioh games did, but for Souslike fans, it’s still an easy game to recommend. Specifically where its approach to difficulty is concerned, it’s undeniable that there’s something immensely satisfying about coming to grips with and mastering the game’s faster and more action-oriented combat mechanics. There are still a few sudden difficulty spikes in here, but on the whole, it’s an immensely satisfying game to get the better of.


The original Ghostrunner’s one-hit-one-kill formula was executed to near-perfection, and Ghostrunner 2 ups the ante in more ways than one. Bringing new navigation tricks, new enemies, and new challenges to overcome (among several other things), the sequel pushes you and your reflexes to even greater limits, and overcoming those hurdles is as fun as ever, if not much more so. Thanks in particular to the quick, brisk pacing of the moment-to-moment gameplay, Ghostrunner 2 remains an incredibly addictive experience in spite of how grueling it can get from time to time.


wanted dead

Unlike most other games mentioned in this list, it’s tough to call Wanted: Dead a good game (even if it does have its bright spots), and much of that criticism applies to its difficulty as well. The game tries to replicate the action of the Ninja Gaiden series, and though there are flashes of that style of challenge in here, more often than not, the hurdles that Wanted: Dead throws at you end up coming across as cheap, unfair, and unreasonable difficulty spikes.


Ark Survival Ascended_09

Like the original Ark: Survival Evolved, its remake is a game with its fair share of rough edges, and similarly, though there’s plenty to be said about how it approaches difficulty, that does come with some caveats. Navigating its harsh, unforgiving world is bound to be right up your ally if you enjoy survival titles, and gradually getting stronger and equipping yourself to better be able to deal with the world and its inhabitant dinosaurs can be a challenging experience. Repetition and occasionally rough combat can mar the experience from time to time, but on the whole, it remains a satisfyingly challenging experience.


only up!

Only Up! is probably the worst game to be featured on this list. It attempts to catch the gameplay loop of games like Getting Over It in essence, but it goes about it in the worst way possibly. Rather than legitimately good design, the vast majority of the challenge it poses comes from awfully clunky controls and terrible input lag, which, for a game that claims to be a platformer, is simply inexcusable.


One for the Mega Man X fans, 30XX is the sort of game that strikes the perfect balance between being almost overwhelmingly difficult, but never getting to a point where its difficulty feels unearned. It combines tight platforming mechanics and intense run-and-gun shooting with a roguelite structure to great effect, so that chasing that high of finally overcoming a daunting challenge never gets boring.


Speaking of difficult roguelites, 2023 also saw the return of one of the best ones of them all with Risk of Rain Returns, an expanded remaster of Hopoo Games original debut hit. Taking players back to sidescrolling action, it once again captures that feeling of constant looming danger, combining excellent level design with intense, busy combat encounters that will have you on the edge of your seat. Best of all, like any good roguelite, Risk of Rain Returns knows how to keep you hooked even when you might feel like everything is stacked against you.



Part dark fantasy, part first person shooter, part roguelite, and part Soulslike, Witchfire pulls a lot of disparate elements together in a promising experience that knows how to push its players to their limits. Right off the bat, the game doesn’t pull any punches where its approach to difficulty is concerned, and the more you play and the more powerful you get, the more difficult the experience itself becomes. That constant uphill climb might sound daunting on paper, but when you’re in the thick of things yourself, it’s immensely thrilling, and just as satisfying.


Wild Hearts_06

EA and Koei Tecmo released their challenger to Monster Hunter’s throne with Wild Hearts earlier this year, and just like Capcom’s series, though it’s not necessarily a grueling adventure on a surface level, for those who really want to dive deep, there’s plenty of challenge to be found. Some of the game’s best Kemono hunts are also its most difficult, and whether you’re playing solo or co-op, finding ways to bring those massive beasts never quite loses its spark.


On the Soulslike totem pole, Stray Blade is definitely close to the bottom end, given how rough around the edges it is in more ways than one, but it does do a fairly decent job of pushing back against players. No, it’s nowhere near as finely tuned or nuanced in its difficulty balancing as the best games the genre has to offer, and yes, issues such as clunky controls can make things unnecessarily frustrating, but there’s still some interesting challenges to overcome here.


Sons of the Forest_10

Endnight Games’ long-awaited survival title Sons of the Forest launched in early access earlier this year, and navigating its many horrors instantly proved to be an even more daunting experience than what its excellent predecessor delivered. Its world is harsh, hostile, and always trying to mess with you in an infinite number of ways, and figuring out how best to defend yourself against it while also growing increasingly more adept yourself is often easier said than done. Even so, given how engaging and immersive the game is, you never feel yourself shying away from anything it throws your way.