Despite Nintendo's family-friendly image, anyone who's played much the company's output can tell you that, while Nintendo games might start out all fluffy and colourful and welcoming, you'll need all the hugs and fluff you can get as you enter the endgame, with the challenge ramping up considerably in the last quarter, especially if you're hunting down every last secret.
Obviously, this doesn't apply to everything, but for a company known for its multi-coloured hardware offerings and cutesy, cuddly character design, it certainly knows how to up the ante in the difficulty department when appropriate. Throw in a bunch of unforgiving classics from third parties and indies, and the Switch boasts some of gaming's toughest challenges, yours to conquer on the bus or the bog (or, you know, on the telly).
In the list below we've rounded up just some of the greatest challenges on the console — the most difficult Switch games available. Our only criteria beyond asking a lot from players was that the games must be good, nay, great. Anybody can make something difficult; it's getting you to return and try-try-try again which sets apart genius game design from trolling. All the games below are super challenging, but also fair. Persevere and your efforts will be rewarded!
So, let's have a look — in no particular order — at some of the hardest games on Switch...
Let's get the most obvious entry out of the way first, shall we? Dark Souls: Remastered is a faithful remaster of a touchstone in video game design that improves overall performance of the original release while preserving all of the character traits that made it such a memorable experience. While it’s no less forgiving, and its menus are a little fiddly, this slick Nintendo Switch iteration offers an excellent way to experience Lordran’s ultra-challenging odyssey in true handheld form.
Challenging it may be, but Dark Souls is a very fair game. Learn its systems, scan its areas, and approach with caution, and you will ultimately triumph. However, blunder into enemy encounters on a wing and a prayer — even against low-level foes you've bested dozens of times before — and your very first mistake will be punished mercilessly.
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A run-and-gun boss battler dressed up like a 1930s Fleischer or Disney animated short, Cuphead is a visually jaw-dropping, aurally delightful, knuckle-whiteningly difficult game. Its focus on intense boss battles won’t be to everyone’s tastes, especially if you somehow come to the game expecting a bouncy, cartoony platformer, but as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into we can’t recommend it enough.
Many years after its debut, Spelunky still has all the fundamentals in place and remains a great entry in the roguelike genre. Solid gameplay, plenty of secrets, and an addictive gameplay loop make for an easy game to recommend, though be prepared to die a lot before you really ‘get it’. Whatever your tolerance for difficulty may be, this indie classic proved to be a great fit for the Switch, and its sequel is equally good — if not a little better. Feel free to skip straight to that one if you've only got room for one Spelunky in your life. You know, if you don't like a challenge and want to skip a classic and take the easy way out.*
*Jokes! Play games you like at the difficulty setting that makes you happy. They're just games. Thank you.
The original La-Mulana was a masterpiece in its own right, but we’d contend that it’s been edged out by the sequel, an expertly-paced, crushingly difficult, and utterly mystifying adventure that constantly beckons you to explore deeper and acquaint yourself with its unique charms. La-Mulana 2 definitely isn’t for everybody – if you consider yourself an impatient or clumsy player, steer clear – but those who put in the time and effort to crack this nut will be deeply satisfied that they did so.
And if this isn't enough for you, you can always go back and polish off the original, too. Same for Spelunky.
Metroid Dread was a triumphant return for both Samus Aran and developer MercurySteam, a super-slick, hugely entertaining, exquisitely designed entry in the Metroid franchise that plays better than anything we've seen from the series so far. It's also a tough cookie, with punishing bosses and cleverly circuitous level design that asks a lot of you, especially after the relative linearity of Metroid Fusion, the previous entry in the 2D Metroid series.
Hollow Knight's beautiful 2D world, tactile combat, and impressive bevy of secrets constantly drag you in for more and help you to persevere when the going gets tough, which it frequently will. On an eShop that's filled with top-quality indie games, Hollow Knight is one of the very best; a big, beautiful, foreboding Metroidvania that's absolutely thick with detail and difficulty. From its punchy combat system to its charming art and sound design, this remains one of the finest adventures you can have on Nintendo Switch.
Celeste is an exemplary amalgamation of style, mechanics and character. A devilishly brilliant action platformer with enough skill required to excite genre purists and the speedrunning community, it also caters to audiences who aren't the hardest of core gamers. It presents a literal (well, digital at least) mountain for you to climb and conquer, with an art style and narrative that help you through the challenges the game presents.
Okay, okay, what's this doing here? Well, as an example of a Nintendo game that starts simple and ratchets things up in its closing section, look no further than Super Mario 3D World.
Specifically, we spent multiple nights attempting to clear the final level back on Wii U, so much so that it's burned into our memory as one of the biggest video gaming challenges we've overcome in the last decade. Perhaps we were just having an off day. Off week. Perhaps we're just scarred and emotionally drained and it's really not so bad. Watch the video below and tell us this isn't nightmarishly tough, though...
Dark Souls was nothing compared to that. Complaints to the usual address.
With a title like that, you'd be disappointed if this dungeon turned out to be a walk in the park, wouldn't you? Darkest Dungeon has always been an RPG that finds ways to make life uncomfortable for the player, and this Switch version managed to add a couple of usability issues to that list. However, it's still a dauntingly deep, thoroughly absorbing dungeon crawler that will swallow you up for hours at a time.
Baba Is You is like a compilation of gift shop brain teasers; they’re not for everyone, but some people just can’t get enough of them. One of the most unique puzzlers you can find on the Switch, you're encouraged to break its rules and create your own ones, making it a refreshing and unique experience, albeit a tough one if your brain isn't weird that way. Its sudden difficulty spike and lack of a hint system could easily discourage you, but if you enjoy a good brain-teasing, Baba’s puzzles are a joy to get lost in.