Just How Bad is Hard Anymore?

[Written on GIO.]

Aka “How Modern Games Have Changed Difficulty

Modern games just generally aren’t too hard anymore, at least in terms of how retro games were. That’s not to say that some games with Insane or Hard or Threat Level Red difficulties aren’t hard, just that they aren’t difficult in the sense that retro games were and are. Retro games were generally difficult because of a lack of direction, lack of lives, and time limits or limited retries- if any were given at all. It was always “how high can you score?” or “how long can you hold out?” more so than today’s “let’s tell you a story while we play….” Modern games can be difficult in their own ways, but not many are difficult in the ways that retro games were. There are a few, and these are usually today’s arcade games- I Am Alive being a prime example of a challenging game with limited retries. Others have tried to do this in today’s gaming market with marginally less success, and the reasons why? Times simply change. Today’s blog is going to focus on what makes today’s games difficult, and why they are more or less challenging than retro games for it.


Choice in Difficulty

Many games today give you the choice of if you want a difficult or not-so difficult gaming experience. The list is virtually endless- Call of Duty, Mass Effect, Fallout, etcetera etcetera. This factor in and of itself is something that can make gaming today even easier than in the time of Asteroids and Pitfall. The fact that you can even choose to have a less-than difficult experience is a nice touch, especially when you realize that many arcade games didn’t give you any difficulty choice less than Ghosts N’ Goblins difficulty, which if you must know, is more than punishingly difficult.

Realistic Difficulty Progression

Many games today not only offer several (normally three or four) difficulty levels, but also many very difficult tiers of leveling as well. Games that do this well include Ninja Gaiden and Fallout to name a few. Fallout 3 and New Vegas have no less than five difficulty settings- ranging from insanely easy to ultra realistic and insanely difficult. On the easy setting, your weakest weapon sends enemies three times larger than you flying away in pieces. On the most difficult, you’re lucky to live through a day if you forget to fast travel to close locations and stock up on H2O, before even encountering any enemies. And…oh yeah- your limbs virtually never heal as well. But, that level of realism is not always progressively present in games- sometimes we have the opposite, where they are unrealistically hard in efforts to be like retro games. That is where Ninja Gaiden 2 comes in, as a prime example. All three (and four) levels of the game are difficult to complete- even the so-called “beginner-esque” one. This is where real challenge lies, apparently.

Today’s Gadgets and Gimmicks

It’s amazing that, with all of the gadgets and gameplay gimmicks we have today, people still complain about some series’ difficulty. Imagine, back in the day of full-blast arcade games, you were lucky if your player could at least run and jump, and occasionally shoot weapons or use special powerups. Virtually every game was a Mega Man or Mario like title, whereas today virtually every game has its different gimmicks and gameplay elements. Nobody imagined they could control someone and implode as you do in FEAR 3, or that you would have overshields as in Halo, or even that you could 360 dropshot headshot someone as in Call of Duty. Those things were simply unheard of, but are easily commonplace today. Amazing how far we’ve come, isn’t it?


These are just three of many points that make today’s games different if not less difficult in most cases. Sure, some substitute in some good old hardcore insanity for difficulty here and there, but for the most part, games today just aren’t made as they were before- because you are making an investment each time you purchase games, instead of punching in another quarter. Thanks for reading, and as usual, leave your comments here if you will.

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