We Need Harder Games

This is coming from the perspective of a gamer who considers himself an expert only at games predating the Xbox. You know the ones: Jet Force Gemini, Double Dragon, the original Donkey Kong Country, Tetris. And all of these games, at least to some extent, were pretty hard. And with the recent release of Donkey Kong Country: Returns and my struggle through it, I realized how long it’s been since a full game has challenged me that much.

Sure, there are Veteran, Insane, and IMPOSSIBLE modes on most games now (especially FPS titles), but if it gets to be too difficult, you can still finish the game on any other difficulty with almost the same result. Oh, what, you’re going to give me an achievement for slogging through hours of miserably tedious firefights, popping out of cover for a second only to return to cover for like a minute while my health recharges? It’s boring and frankly unproductive to play those modes with certain games, which is why games need to be harder.

I mean harder in a way like Donkey Kong Country: Returns. If you don’t manage to jump over that spiky, spinning, fire-breathing Tiki-drum, then you don’t progress through the game. The game does provide Super-Kong to guide you to the end of the level, but that’s only after dying at least ten times. And even then, accepting help from those pigs is almost too insulting to bear. Assuming you opt to finish the levels, though, all of the challenges offer the kind of problems that any platformer does — one with a simple solution, but requiring a high level of skill to beat. The game encourages skill, people! SKILL.

donkey kong country: returns is hard

How long has it been since you walked away from an adventure game feeling like you got REALLY good at it, or even an FPS without playing the multiplayer? Unless the mechanics transfer over to another game, as basic FPS mechanics are wont to do, you figure out how to finesse the controls of one game right before you put it down, an example being GTA IV. Sure, there are some side missions and whatnot that could provide some serious challenge (like finding all the pigeons), but what skill does that net you? Avian location skills? Most of the time, if you’ve beaten the hard part of a game, it’s because you figured out how to "cheat" the mechanic in some way, like waiting behind a barrel to recover health, or farming. DKC:R demands more.

Seriously, I’ve gone bald playing this game and I love it. For those who want to just get through to the end, there is ample challenge, but even after that there’s the quest of finding all the KONG letters to open up the elusive World 9 golden temple. Which brings me to my next point: if you are going to pit players against some of the meanest, toughest baddies and levels out there, make it worth their while. How insulting is it to reward someone with a 5G achievement for beating Limbo without dying more than 5 times? You’re supposed to die in that game! Getting that achievement (which I have) requires a number of hours of practice and repetition not rivaled by any other downloadable title, and some insanely frustrating failed runs.

The big picture is that there’s good difficulty and bad difficulty in games, and developers need more of the former. It requires some creativity in design, no doubt. If the same principles are applied, then we’ll just approach different looking games with the same skills, the same ideas, and we won’t gain a thing from it. For our sake, developers, no monkeying around (wah wah wahhh), just make it harder.


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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