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Week of Love: The Lonely Gamer’s Valentine’s List: 5 Teeth-Shatteringly Hard Titles
Valentine’s Day, for most, is a day of shared love, forgotten gifts, and tons of chocolate for loved ones.
Others, however, believe what Jim Carrey’s character Joel said in the classic movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Valentine’s Day “is a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap.”
For all the followers of that mantra, us loners and V-day scrooges, this is a time where all we can see is pink frills and red mist. Here on Leviathyn we decided to slam together a list of teeth-grindingly, mind-warpingly difficult games to help you blank out the world and tide you through the V-Day irritations proffered by everyone else.
Because nothing cures heartache and loneliness like blinding, ceaseless rage.
Cloudberry Kingdom starts off with the hapless hero Bob on a mission to save a princess: the perennial protagonist plot. And then…he dies. And dies. And dies and – I’m sure you get that this translates to you, the player, perishing ad infinitum.
This game is harder than my abs. Which isn’t difficult due to all the “sadness ice cream” I eat.
Like every other, poor schmuck, Bob (I’m assuming his last name is “Everyman”) wastes his evidently immortal life chasing love. Bob does the best he can, facing an infinite dungeon with a variety of different rules per level that only increase in difficulty as you get better, or suffering minutes of inaction while his player searches for a replacement for the controller he just bit in half. And a dental surgeon.
Although Cloudberry Kingdom isn’t perfect, it’ll definitely get you through Valentine’s Day. Because your sky-rocketing blood pressure will put you in a coma for at least a week. Plenty of time for the taste of V-Day to seep out of the mind.
2. Super Meat Boy
Another case of dude chases damsel, only this is much more painful. Super Meat Boy is even more exacting than Cloudberry Kingdom, with the extra salty wounds of having your lady friend visible at the end of each stage only to have her whisked away when you reach her. Oh, and seeing your bloody meat splattered all over the stage in increasing amounts as you fail jump after jump? It’s just terrible.
I don’t know what it is with immortals and falling for ladies that are just so…kidnap-able. Date a Samus or a Bayonetta; they’ll likely end up saving you. But that still requires social interactions.
Either way, you’ll be entranced by Super Meat Boy; so addicted to getting that timing and this angle just perfect, you won’t even remember other people, let alone find time to cry about the fact that half of your abode has never felt the warmth of another human being. Each level littered with salt and saws, used needles and monsters will have you worshiping any second that isn’t spent glancing from the spot you wanted to go and the spot where you painted the walls with longing.
3. Splashy Fish / Flappy Bird
I’ve nearly broken my iPhone because of this game. Yet somehow- while I sit in a dark room, tiny phone straining between my muscle-popped fingers- I almost always have a huge grin on my face, as I leer over the little screen.
Splashy Fish has the same kind of elegant simplicity as Super Mario Bros. In fact, Splashy Fish is even more stripped back than Nintendo’s godfather of modern gaming; there is little more than one mechanic. Jump.
In Splashy Fish, like the late Flappy Bird, all you can do is jump. Your fish (or bird) is perpetually falling, and you must tap the screen to make it flap with a jumping motion, and slip through infinite, randomly generated barriers. The screen never stops moving. Miss the oncoming gap, hit that barrier and you die instantly and must try from the beginning. The top left of the screen keeps note of how many barriers you’ve passed- your level- and the top right keeps track of your all-time best.
I don’t really understand why the game is so powerful. What I said above is literally all there is to it, except for gathering cosmetic embellishments for your fish every ten levels. Somehow it’s insanely rewarding to get past your first pillar. Then your tenth. Then your twentieth. Some kind of Dark Souls-like “success-through-death” philosophy exists at the heart of the game. You always try again.
The impossible challenge of the thing, and the fact that you can reset to the beginning instantaneously with a single screen tap, makes it a perfect storm of “one more try” addiction. If you really commit to trying to get the highest score possible, you can easily lose hours of your life to a whirring, surprisingly rewarding descent into screen-tapping fury.
Splashy Fish is perfect for Valentine’s Day Blues. Whenever another schmuck goes on an enragingly kitch rant, just open it up and forget. The game’s on iOs for free, but if you don’t have an iPhone try Super Hexagon and VVVVVV creator Terry Cavanagh’s insane, psychedelic nightmare homage Maverick Fish here.
4. XCOM: Enemy Unknown/ Enemy Within
Firaxis Games’ remake of the 1994 classic XCOM: UFO Defense could steal many hours of your life. You, the player, have to hold off an alien invasion, while trying to keep the nations who fund your defence organisation happy. The game is notoriously one of the best titles ever made for shutting out the rest of the world, including the barrage of red love hearts and chocolate boxes and greetings cards on V-day.
XCOM‘s gameplay takes several forms; tense, turn-based, top-down strategy where you control a squadron of marines on the ground and base-building strategy where you manage funds, resources like materials or manpower, and the monthly political support of world powers.
If you want to shut out the world and survive Valentine’s day with ease- playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown on Iron Man mode is the thing for you.
In Iron Man, the player can’t load a game. What’s worse, in true Dark Souls style, the game autosaves after every action. You can’t go back and everything you do is set in stone.
Prepare to spend fifteen hours of your life trying to hold your council together, losing soldiers you’ve spend twenty missions developing, and shedding tears. Tears of joy at how utterly, brilliantly masochistic you are. Screw Valentine’s day and the expectations of a companion. Soak your love and attention onto a team of highly trained soldiers trying to save the world instead.
5. Don’t Starve
Don’t Starve isn’t a hard game in the traditional sense. You aren’t going to hit an unbeatable enemy and spend hours trying to grind your abilities or work out its weakness. You are, however, going to die within an hour of your first playthrough. And when you die, you have to go back to the start. With nothing. Permadeath. Even if you’ve spent six hours building a safehouse complete with crops and surrounded by traps.
Don’t Starve is a survival game where the player is dropped into a randomly-generated world which has its own progressive ecosystem. You are given no tutorial, no explanation of how to survive. Nothing is in your inventory. In the top right hand of the screen are inexplicable dials- a 24-hour clock, a circle with a sausage, and a circle with a heart. I’ll give you a tip: hunger, health and a warning that nighttime will come soon…
It’s a game where it’s easy to get dissuaded in your first couple of hours. It seems unfair. But really, Don’t Starve is one of the best sandbox games ever made- you just have to see death as a learning process not a forced, painful reboot. The first time you progress to the next level of the ecosystem and encounter a horde of pig-men battling a horde of spiders and you run for your life…is terrifying.
The player’s death is always just a screen’s breadth away. Your first days will be spent living off of roasted seeds, the odd scavenged carrot, or a rabbit you catch out of luck. It’s a game you can get immersed in for hours and hours and lose everything in blind, educational frustration.
A perfect depressing, concrete-tough experience to avoid Valentine’s day with.
We hope this list has given you some ideas for games to play on what is arguably the crappiest day of the year. Follow our advice: spend as many hours as possible ignoring the world and cracking your skull off these hard-as-nails titles.