PC Gamer

survey fridays

Every week we ask you to rank a series or just reminisce about PC games in a not-very-scientific survey. Look for the survey link in our  Twitter and Facebook feeds each week, and the results every Friday. Previously, we ranked the Mass Effect and Call of Duty series.

You guys really love hard games, or at least, you love whichever game you remember as the hardest. In my latest survey, I asked respondents to rank the hardest game they've played on a scale of 1-10. Over 40% scored their most challenging experience a 10, and 70% scored it an 8 or higher.

You also love a lot of different hard games, and have different ideas about what makes a game 'hard.' Among 2,660 respondents, the top game cited as the hardest they've ever played was only mentioned 385 times—around 14% of the total. (Actually, one person wrote in SEGA Bass Fishing 1,006 times, but I've cut that from the results, along with several variations of "your mom.")

What's the hardest PC game you've played?

the top 10

Click the icon in the upper right to enlarge.

Unsurprisingly, Dark Souls got the most mentions, with 14% saying it was the hardest game they've ever played. It was followed by Dark Souls 2, which took in about 5% of the results. From there, though, the results are immediately diverse, with shooters, platformers, puzzle games, strategy games, and MOBAs all bunched together. When I cut out jokes, console games, games with specific caveats, and those that received only one or two mentions, I was still left with over 70 games. (Here's my curated list of the top 77.)

The top 10, naturally, are the most popular hard games—and games that are arguably best known for being hard—so the results actually get more interesting the deeper into the list I go. At number 11, for instance, you'll find I Wanna Be The Boshy, a fan game based on number six, I Wanna Be The Guy, an intentionally difficult tribute to early platformers.

Further down (and I'm skipping around a bit), we find StarCraft II, STALKER, Insurgency, Alien IsolationKerbal Space Program, the Touhou seriesVVVVVV, Volgarr the Viking, SpaceChem, Dustforce, Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines, and, of course, Bad Rats, a notoriously awful game which has accrued a positive rating on Steam, because ironic Steam reviews are all the rage.

It's good to see the Touhou Project's bullet-hell games earn some mentions. We recently published an introduction to the series, which is currently being localized by Playism.

VVVVVV, Volgarr the Viking, Dustforce, and SpaceChem all come recommended (I don't think I ever made it past Vogarr's first stage, though). I did expect to see a few more puzzle games. One game no one mentioned, I presume because it's newer and a bit more niche, is TIS-100. It's made by the creators of SpaceChem and Infinifactory, and might be one of the most challenging puzzle games I've played (though it's presumably easier for experienced programmers, and anyone who paid more attention in school than I did). Print out the manual if you can.

Choosing difficulty

difficulty levels

Click the icon in the upper-right to enlarge.

All of the games I mentioned up there can easily be described as 'hard,' if for different reasons. Against skilled opponents, CS:GO, Dota 2, League of Legends, and StarCraft 2 are very hard, and they're complex. Dwarf Fortress and Kerbal Space Program require a lot of learning. Super Hexagon, and the bullet-hell games and platformers, require precision control.

But plenty of games which aren't known for being hard can be very hard. The Witcher 2, for instance, came in at 19, in part due to its permadeath mode and first boss. Those damn RC missions from GTA: San Andreas also came up. Civilization V on Diety difficulty, too.

In the survey, I asked which difficulty setting (based on four generic settings) the takers were most likely to choose when starting a new game. The distribution is about as I expected: almost no one takes the easy route, the most people (39.8%) leave it on the normal difficulty, and slightly fewer choose the hard (28.7%) or the hardest modes (26%).

Broken mice and broken bones

When asked to tell us the worst thing they've done to express frustration with a game, plenty said that they don't react physically—they curse, uninstall the game, go outside, or do other healthy-sounding things. "[I] stopped playing for few months to get over my anger and hopefully renew my interest," said King_Matt. A calm and wise king is Matt. We can all learn from the great King_Matt.

And apparently, a lot of us need to. The word "broke" came up 222 times and "smash" was included in over 100 responses. Banana peels came up an awful lot, too. Here are a few examples:

I chucked my keyboard at my brick wall. It dragged the desktop with it. It corrupted my hard drive, broke my keyboard and most functions on the case didn't work properly. - Abernath

Thrown a banana peel out the window. But I picked it up later. - Kenu

I once got so frustrated while just trying to get fuel up to my ship [in Kerbal Space Program] that was trying to get to Mun that I decided to fly all my rockets into Kerbol (the sun). I spent about 5 hours just designing the booster/fuel ships to help get my whole fleet there and give them the last push into its blinding embrace. Once every single one was burned to ash, and all the crew with it, I deleted the save and went to bed. It was only after I woke up that I realized what I had done. To say the least, I cried. - Nerd__Guy

 Threw my lamp out the window. It was a damn good lamp too. - Anonymous

Literally ripped out a chunk of hair in frustration once. - Nate Dogg

I actually broke my grandfather's trackball mouse while playing when I was a kid on his PC. I had to buy him a new mouse from Walmart. - Brain

Threw more money at it. This is a recurring theme with me in multiplayer games. - Ryan Daniels

In my grandest fit of frustration, I suppressed my volatile feelings with the warm, cheesy comfort of Hot Pockets. A lot of them. It turns out one man can eat a lot of Hot Pockets. They come out a lot faster than they go in. - Chudbunkis

Threw a banana peel at the screen. - As7iX

Broke a finger. - Dodie

So is Dark Souls really that hard?

I predicted that Dark Souls would be the most popular game in the survey, so I added an extra question. I asked everyone, regardless of which game they put down as the hardest, to agree or disagree with the statement "Dark Souls isn't even that hard, ugh." I think we can all agree that I chose an extremely unscientific way to phrase the question, but we definitely can't all agree on whether or not Dark Souls is hard. 

PC Gamer

Zachary Barth's Infiniminer was Minecraft before Minecraft was Minecraft, kickstarting the whole cubey, block-digging genre that has made other people lots of money over the years. He's been sticking to 2D art for more recent games such as SpaceChem and Ironclad Tactics, but now he's borrowing the 'Infini' prefix and returning to 3D for the very-difficult-to-type Infinifactory. Infinifactory. I'm pretty sure I spelled it right that time. Infinifactory (sob) is "like SpaceChem...but in 3D", in the words of Zachtronic Industries.

Coming to Steam Early Access later this year, Infinifactory will let you "build factories that assemble products for your alien overlords", the challenge being "not to die in the process". I.e. the same challenge I face making a cup of a tea. You'll design and run factories from a first-person perspective, complete a story campaign featuring over 30 puzzles (and also audio logs, interestingly), and compare your solutions with those of your chums, presuming they are also playing Infinifactory. A sandbox mode is included too, along with Steam Workshop support.

If you're a fan of Spacechem—like we are—you'll want to keep an eye on Infinifactory, two eyes when you can spare them. Here's our review of the game that will now be known as "Infinifactory...but in 2D".


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