Sony’s PlayStation launched in 1995, and when it did so, it brought out a whole host of new games, with some of them proving to be ridiculously difficult.
While limitations in technology is a point to consider when accessing the difficulty of some of these games – such as a lack of saves points, bad graphics or clunky controls – some of them were incredible games, which just happened to be extremely difficult.
In this list, we are going to look at some of the most difficult games of the PlayStation 1 era that were either difficult by design, or unconsciously unfair. The ps1 developed some of the best and most memorable games of all time, but some of them were not without their eye-bulging, vein-popping and hair-pulling difficulty.
Indeed, some of these games proved to be harsh, unforgiving mistresses, but that didn’t stop us from trying to best them all the same. So, without any further ado, let’s have a look at the 10 hardest PlayStation 1 games of all time.
And remember, every gamer has different strengths and weaknesses, so what one gamer might find easy another might find nightmarish, so it’s all subjective fun!
10. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee (1997)
This game, released in 1997 for the PlayStation, DOS and Microsoft Windows, centred on the titular character, Abe – a Mudoken slave at the RaptureFarms meat processing factory, as he discovers that he and his fellow Mudoken’s are to be slaughtered. When he realises this, he decides to escape and try to liberate as many Mudoken’s as he can along the way.
While Abe’s Oddysee was critically acclaimed for its innovative gameplay, stylish graphics, good art direction and engaging cut-scenes, the game was nonetheless criticised for its difficulty.
The game had a steep, almost vertical learning curve, and having a system in which saving was only possible at designated checkpoints made the game extremely difficult. Couple that with a one-hit-kill design, a designated number of freed Mudoken’s needed for a good ending, and its puzzle and strategy elements, and you have a game that is not for the weak at heart, or thumbs.
9. Grand Theft Auto (1998)
Back to where it all started. Grand Theft Auto may be the 5th most lucrative game series of all time, and arguably the most consistently critically acclaimed and one of the most revolutionary, but every dynasty, no matter how large, has humble beginnings. And for GTA, these humble beginnings are light years away from what the series evolved into.
It’s also arguably one of the hardest games in the canon.
Originally titled Race’n’Chase, the game was released in 1997 and ported to the PlayStation in 1998, the story follows a group of criminals, operating in three fictionalised cities, as they perform bank robberies, assassinations, and other crimes for their respective syndicates.
While being the game that kicked off the world’s fascination with open-world gameplay, the first GTA puts the player in a top-down setting, and the point of the activities is to obtain points. The top-down setting proved to be difficult for the player from the word go, but combine that with one-hit kills, limited and hard to find weapons, a lack of mid-level saving and a limit on lives, this game kick-started the cultural phenomenon that is GTA in a toe-curlingly difficult way.
8. Darius Gaiden (1994)
Ported from the arcades to the PlayStation in 1996, Darius Gaiden was the third instalment of the Darius series and was originally developed and released by the Japanese video game developers Taito Corporation in 1994. The game is a two-dimensional shoot-‘em-up in which the player controls a space ship named Silver Hawk and must guide it through scrolling stages, destroying enemies and avoiding obstacles along the way.
The ship is armed with forward-firing missiles, aerial bombs and a protective force-field, all of which can be upgraded by various power-ups that are dropped by specially-coloured enemies when they are destroyed by the player.
What makes this game so difficult is the sheer amount of enemies that flood the screen at all times, in multiple groups, and all at once. The constant movement of Silver Hawk, coupled with the endless barrage of projectiles that the space ship is met by, makes this game one of the most intense and difficult shoot-em-ups of the PlayStation era. While the game received generally positive reviews, the most criticism of the game came from Electronic Gaming Monthly, who praised its music, graphics and gameplay, but also said that it was indeed too hard.
7. Fear Effect (2000)
Fear Effect is an action and adventure game released at the turn of the millennium by Kronos Digital Entertainment, and it featured gameplay with unshaded character textured to resemble cel-shading, notably being one of the very first games to utilise the technique. It gave the game a pseudo-animation feel to it, which set it apart from the other games of the time. Rather than using pre-rendered 2D backgrounds, the environments are composed of streaming or looping full-motion video. However, the consequence of this was that the game was so large, detailed and intricate, that it had to be stored on four disks.
The player controls one of three mercenaries (either Hana, Deke, or Glas) through areas filled with human and non-human enemies. The game controls are similar to traditional survival horror tank controls (a design which is makes the character intentionally difficult to control, which is intended to illicit a stronger feeling of panic and tension), with an exception being that the characters can run and shoot simultaneously.
While this game was generally praised upon release, many critics also cited its difficulty as a negative point. The game punishes you for anything less than absolute perfection, when it comes to reflexes and problem solving puzzles. In particular, Edge magazine praised the game’s tight script and distinctive graphics, but criticized its unbalanced gameplay and clumsy control system, stating that they “make the boss encounters absurdly difficult.”
6. Metal Gear Solid (1998)
If you’re a gamer, then it goes with saying that Metal Gear Solid is one of the best games not only of the PlayStation 1 era, but of all time. So ahead of its time was Metal Gear Solid that it still holds up today as a masterpiece of gaming which makes the case that a video game can indeed be a work of art.
Metal Gear Solid follows Solid Snake, a soldier who infiltrates a nuclear weapons facility to neutralise the terrorist threat from FOXHOUND, a renegade special-forces unit. Snake must liberate two hostages, the head of DARPA and the president of a major arms manufacturer, confront the terrorists, and stop them from launching a nuclear strike.
With superior graphics for the time, cinematic cut scenes, a Hollywood-like story and exceptional voice-over work, Metal Gear Solid remains as the gold standard for video games. However, despite being such a great game, it was still unfathomably difficult. The complex into which Solid Snake is dropped is riddled with security cameras and highly perceptive guards that will detect any and all ill-timed movements. The inherent difficulty to this game comes with the territory of the stealth genre, but it still makes the list nonetheless.