Video games that are impossible to beat on hard mode

Video games often challenge us and test our reflexes, but often in a way that leaves us feeling like the odds aren't completely stacked against us. Then there's Hard mode, which offers a completely different experience altogether, testing the limits of both our skills and our sanity. Here are some prime examples of titles that become truly punishing ordeals when on Hard mode.

The Last of Us - Grounded mode

If you've played The Last of Us, then you know the meaning of tension. Nothing fills you up with adrenaline more than being crouched down in an abandoned building and being deadly silent as you listen for the telltale signs that Clickers are on the prowl. Thanks to your finely tuned survival skills, you can hear where threats are coming from and approximately how many there are. So what if we were to tell you that the game's Grounded Mode makes the game that much harder by taking away your ability to listen? And on top of that horrendous news, you also take more damage from enemy attacks and your user interface is simplified, meaning you can't see what your health is, how many bullets you have, and you won't find a whole lot of supplies to help you. If you're super-patient, and can stealth around while memorizing the paths that enemies take, you have a fighting chance at getting through this nightmare of a mode.

Doom (2016) - Ultra Nightmare mode

Speaking of nightmares, hearing that 2016's Doom has an Ultra-Nightmare mode sounds pretty daunting, eh? Well, it should. Even though some speedrunners and dedicated gamers have figured out how to conquer this mode without dying, don't expect it to be a cakewalk. In fact, you should probably be studying these gamers' every move, because Ultra-Nightmare mode is an exercise in virtual punishment that makes you start from the very beginning whenever you die. This means that you could chip through five hours of Doom, playing your heart out and being smart about your kills, and still end up back at the beginning because of a single misstep. Permadeath never felt so painful. In those moments, we find that it's completely acceptable to chuck your controller and roll around on the floor, sobbing.

Catherine - Hard mode

Catherine is a Japanese anime-infused game about … stacking boxes? Sure. As the troubled Vincent, you're stuck in nightmares trying to climb a tower by pushing and pulling boxes in a way that will get you to the top before all of the bottom blocks fall away. Sounds easy, right? Not when it's on Hard mode and makes things nearly impossible without a ton of luck and practice. Not only do the blocks fall faster, but you lose the ability to "undo" your last move, just in case you make a mistake and box yourself into a corner.

The game's Nightmare levels, which were already pretty brutal, also get an added dose of difficulty, and really test your reflexes and your ability to memorize paths. But all the mental gymnastics and furious button presses should be worth it in the end, if you manage to defeat this mode.

Fire Emblem Awakening - Lunatic+ mode

Just in case you felt like you need a reason to tear out tufts of your hair, the fantastic tactical RPG Fire Emblem Awakening has a Lunatic+ mode. This mode is so extreme that it requires you to beat regular Lunatic mode first, giving you a taste of the horrors that await in the higher difficulty, in which the enemies are randomly assigned with two elite skills. These skills give enemy units an almost unfair advantage against you, making it so your characters can get hit with critical attacks that never miss. It's possible to beat this difficulty, but we're willing to bet you'll have some very noticeable bald spots by the time you're a few chapters into the story.

Mass Effect 2 - Insanity mode

Mass Effect 2 is one of the most outstanding sci-fi video games ever crafted, featuring memorable characters and gameplay that blended role-playing game concepts with third-person shooter mechanics. The result of this combination gave us a fun way to pair biotic abilities — which you can basically think of as "space magic" — with gunplay to make combat dynamic and rewarding. On Insanity Mode, however, you're going to want to really invest some time into finding out how your weapons work, what upgrades to take, and the right timing for skills. According to user Sergey on Giant Bomb, you'll also have to pay attention to your squad's stats, because some characters and their skills might be more useful in certain kinds of fights. In Insanity Mode, saving the galaxy from the threat of the Reapers might take you a little longer than you expected.

Furi - Furier mode

Furi is a hack-and-slasher that's got elements of shoot'em up/bullet hell games in it. You can dash, slash with your sword, and fire off rounds with your gun. A majority of the game's action takes place during boss battles that test your reaction times and your ability to memorize boss characters' attack patterns. In Furier Mode, however, those patterns are changed, and bosses become faster and more punishing. In this guide from user Thievius Raccoonus on the PlayStationTrophies forums, you're given a primer on just how painful Furier mode can be, especially since bosses drop less health and have additional attacks that can catch you off guard.

And we can't forget to mention the parts of combat that fill your screen up with projectiles and waves of attacks that spread out to each corner to the point where you can barely see. One poorly-timed dodge or dash and your health will disappear in chunks. Best of luck if you try out this crazy mode.

Ninja Gaiden 2 - Master Ninja mode

If you're up to the task, you can prove your shinobi skills in Ninja Gaiden 2's Path of the Master Ninja mode. And believe it or not, other human beings have been able to defeat this ridiculous mode without the use of any exploits or cheats. According to Madison of Unreality Mag, it takes a lot of essence farming and techniques such as taking advantage of attacks that grant Ryu invincibility during their animations. Spending those essences on augmenting your weapons and buying healing items should also help in the fight against enemies that are faster, stronger, and capable of dishing out more projectiles than ever before. If you've got the time and dedication to level up your skills, you'll be slashing your way towards the Archfiend in no time. But, more realistically, you'll probably end up cratering your controller into the TV in frustration. Sorry!

Killzone 2

With its tense single-player campaign and its heart-pounding multiplayer action, Killzone 2 is one of the best shooters of the seventh console generation and remains one of the PlayStation 3's signature titles to this day. It's also tough as nails, at least if you approach Killzone 2 like other shooters. Go in guns blazing, and you will die. Instead, you'll need to take a more considered approach to the action, ducking behind cover and peeking around corners when it's safe to fire off a few shots. In that regard, it's more like Gears of War or Uncharted than Call of Duty, and if you want to beat the game you'll need to adjust your style accordingly.

And once that's done, it's time for the real challenge. Beating the game once unlocks Elite difficulty, which adds a whole new layer to Killzone 2's cover-based combat. Like many other hard modes, Elite saps your health while pumping up your enemies. Moreover, Elite foes are much smarter than their Normal and Hard counterparts, deploying grenades with ease and staying behind cover unless it's absolutely safe. The real kicker is that Elite mode removes your crosshairs: you'll have to aim by sight. Combine that with the relative inaccuracy of a gamepad compared to, say, a mouse and a keyboard, and you're in for one hell of a fight — one that very few people ultimately survive.

XCOM 2

There's nothing quite as heartbreaking as losing a soldier in XCOM 2. Unlike most other games, in which death is a temporary condition, XCOM 2 plays for keeps. If your man dies, he stays that way. All you can do is say a quick prayer and move on (or reload your save game).

Given that you'll need to level up your characters over time in order to fight off XCOM 2's alien menace, losing a well-trained soldier can completely derail your campaign. Add that to XCOM 2's well-documented difficulty, and players will need all the help they can get to keep their troops alive. In Legend mode, rookie soldiers only get four health points, aliens can absorb much more damage, it takes a little longer to level your characters up — meaning you'll be stuck with grunts for a lot longer — and upgrading facilities and technology takes more time. In other words, you'll be fighting more with fewer resources. Don't expect everyone to survive.

Oh, and by the way: on the three lower difficulties, XCOM 2 uses a system called "aim assist," which skews the randomly generated numbers that determine an attack's success or failure in your favor. In Legend, that doesn't happen. More missed shots means you'll need more chances to put the aliens down. In many cases, you won't have quite enough. Good luck, commander — you're going to need it.

Perfect Dark

In many hard modes, developers up a game's challenge by making the players weaker and the enemies stronger, or by taking away valuable resources that can turn the tide in the player's favor. In the Nintendo 64 shooter Perfect Dark (and its predecessor, GoldenEye: 007), upping the difficulty doesn't just turn bad guys into bullet sponges. The game adds challenges by layering new objectives onto each mission.

For example, in the standard difficulty version of the very first level, all you need to do is secure an elevator. On Secret Agent, you must also disable the security system, steal a necklace with some key codes, and destroy an enemy communications hub. On Perfect Agent, you're required to do all of that while also hacking a data terminal to steal some vital data.

If that's still not enough, once you finish all the levels on Perfect Agent, you'll unlock Perfect Dark mode, which lets you transform Perfect Dark from a challenging but beatable shooter into a nigh-impossible bullet-fest. Using a slider, you'll be able to make your enemies stronger, healthier, and more accurate with their firearms. If you want to fill Perfect Dark with unstoppable super-soldiers with absolutely perfect aim, you can. Just don't expect to survive the experience.

Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3's Hardcore mode lives up to its name. No, it won't drastically change how the game plays, but with enemy bullets taking Max out with just one or two hits and a drastically limited Bullet Time meter, you'll have to carefully plan each and every attack or suffer the consequences. Max Payne 3 on Hardcore is the same game but a lot harder. (Duh.) It's when you combine Hardcore mode with New York Minute that things get interesting.

Not only does the hybrid difficulty level enforce all the same restrictions as the regular Hardcore setting, but now each level also has a time limit. In New York Minute Hardcore, a clock begins counting down every time a level starts. If it runs out, you lose. You can earn more time by mowing down enemies and reaching various in-level checkpoints, but for the most part you'll have to be both careful and fast — two approaches that don't really go hand in hand.

Oh, and just to make things worse, there's absolutely no room for error: dying in  New York Minute Hardcore sends you back to the beginning. Not the beginning of the level — the very beginning of the game. Don't try Hardcore New York Minute until you know Max Payne 3 very, very well. In fact, if you value your sanity, don't try New York Minute Hardcore at all. Some things just aren't worth the frustration. This is one of them.

Sniper Elite 4

Sniper Elite 4's Authentic mode has its name for a reason. While Sniper Elite 4's first three difficulty settings are pretty video-gamey, Sniper Elite 4's Authentic mode strips away all the trappings in order to deliver as realistic an experience as possible.

As in Sniper Elite difficulty (one step down), Authentic mode introduces a realistic ballistics system into the game. Gravity will affect a bullet's trajectory at long ranges, players must compensate for wind when lining up a shot, and they'll need to carefully select the weapon that's best suited for the target's distance and current weather conditions. Enemy soldiers will also be hyper-aware, and a single shot will give away the sniper's position. That means the player will have to be extra-stealthy and make sure that every shot lands. There may not be a second chance.

You can forget about getting any kind of leg up from the CPU, too. In Authentic mode, aim-assist is disabled, as is most of the heads-up display. The only help you'll get setting up your shot is your scope's crosshair and a wind monitor. Basically, Sniper Elite 4's Authentic mode is just like sniping enemies in real life, except without all of that pesky murder complicating things.