Games you wanted to love, but couldn't finish because of the difficulty curve?


I am bad at video games.
I have had arthritis since childhood, and so I’m very bad at anything that requires a lot of manual dexterity. I love big open-world games – part of what has always drawn me to video games is that growing up with a disability that prevented me from playing a lot of sports and childhood games, I could play Skyrim on the PC and be immersed in a world of action and adventure – but I’m bad at any combat that doesn’t involve a bow and arrow. I recently got a PS4 and Assassin’s Creed Origins, and that was great because the easy difficulty setting gave me plenty of opportunities to feel like I was really playing a game and not being mocked by the devs.

I have both Dishonored: Death of the Outsider and Prey , but on both of them, I am stuck in the very early game. I have been trying to beat the second mission in DotO for about a week now.

I wish game developers gave more accessibility options and more difficulty options – something that i have really appreciated about Uncharted is that they let you turn all quick time button-tap events into button-holding events, for example. I also hate that when you select the “Easy” difficulty, a lot of the time the game openly makes fun of you or restricts you from collecting achievements.

Has anyone else experienced this? Does anyone have any suggestions for other games which meet my criteria of being compelling and immersive, but which you can still finish even if you are objectively bad at video games? I would love to hear your thoughts.


XCOM: Enemy Unknown (? (the first modern one)) was sort of like this for me. I kept going at it for a long time, and eventually had to turn the difficulty down to “Easy” about 2/3-ish through the game. Even then, I couldn’t actually finish the game. I, I kid you not, got to the final encounter of the final mission of that game, and just couldn’t do it. And when faced with the choice between reloading a save and spending hours trying to grind out better gear, or level up my squad…I just uninstalled the game.

Hey, I got it “free” with PS+, so even if I was frustrated at the time, I look back on it not as time wasted, but as a learning experience for myself. I learned that I’m very bad at strategy games.

But yeah, to your point, I specifically “quoted” “Easy” because despite being called that, I still wouldn’t call that mode easy.

Just last year, Wolfenstein II (a game I personally enjoyed the difficulty of, which I am an outlier in) was a perfect example of making fun of people for playing on easy, despite that sounding like the setting most enjoyable to most people playing the game. Really, a game where the story is such a central focus should be encouraging people to play on easy if that’s what they want to do, rather than mocking them.


I am so with you. I’m 49 and although I’ve been gaming all my life, over the past few years it’s become clear that the ol’ reflexes just aren’t what they used to be. I default to ‘easy’ on every game now, just because I want to stand a fighting chance.

Clearest example is Cuphead. I’m an animator and love Jazz-age art, so I was so looking forward to it. I still haven’t been able to play it for more than 10 mins. Repeatedly failing just isn’t a fun loop. Needless to say I won’t even glance at any of the Souls games.

I totally get the “this game is hard and that’s the point” approach, but I really appreciate it when a game gives you the option of turning down the difficulty so a wider range of people can enjoy it.

Team Easy fistbump!


If this were a giant bomb GOTY category it would be Cuphead presents: Game i love but is too fucking hard to enjoy… as someone with cerebral palsy its actually nearly impossible… i could beat it, but id probably need a co op buddy who knows everything

it doesnt help that the easy mode doesnt let you finish the game

heres hoping they realize that people with motor skill issues actually play games and that difficulty isnt about coddling or babying the player… but making sure they dont spend years trying to finish one game


I’m typically pretty bad at games. I always play on the lowest difficulty and even then bash myself up against combat encounters over and over again to get through to the story.

I bought Wolfenstein II, and got to the point where I got sick of constantly dying just to reach the story bits I did enjoy. There’s something demoralizing about being made fun of by a game for choosing the “baby” difficulty and still not being able to beat it


Fucking Dragon Age Origins. I got that game nearly a decade ago and have bashed my head against that final archdemon fight half a dozen times, but have never finished it, even on the lowest difficulty setting.

Part of the problem is I’m lazy and don’t like having to manually level all those companions, so I usually hit “auto-level” which is a death sentence in the Dragon Age games, as Inquisition is teaching me right now…


I remember bouncing so hard up against the one on one fight with Logain that I fully abandoned that character and started over


God pretty much every rogue-like game. Unexplored, Heat Signature, Cryptark etc. I always play them but can never punch through the progression curve where I feel like I’m doing something, or getting close to “beating” a run.


I just wanted to 100% New Super Mario Bros. U :frowning:

I have pretty slow reflexes and GAD. I find that the two give me some weird gaming habits.

I completed the main game and enjoyed collecting all the (sometimes really challenging) star coins in each level. The post-game levels are super hard for me though. I can barely clear a single level because my reaction time is so slow and I panic really easily.

My instinct is to flee from danger but for the most part these levels are auto-scrolling and filled with stuff like falling platforms. You can’t really hesitate. Even when I replay a level and I already know which enemies are going to pop out at me or which platforms are going to fall from under me I can’t help but panic.

I technically already experienced the whole game but knowing there are just a few more things to do eats away at me haha


I love the Dragon Age games, but I’ll be real – for that last archdemon fight I fully just turned on console commands and God Moded my way through it, because I wanted to reach the end of the story at some point before the heat death of the universe.


Right! It’s also worth noting that it’s totally fine if someone wants to play on a lower difficulty for reasons that have nothing to do with accessibility, but watching the Giant Bomb Cuphead Quick Look all I could think was “I would be physically incapable of beating this game.” When I was a kid I used to be able to just pass the controller/ mouse to my older brother, but I’m 22 and live on my own so it’s not like I have a local person who can help me get over the hard bits.
A lot of the time I resort to using walkthroughs, just so that I don’t bang my head against the same section a dozen times. But that doesn’t really help with something like Cuphead, where I would definitely have to completely remap the controls and play on the lowest difficulty and even then I probably wouldn’t be able to beat it.


Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete for the PS1 is a motherfucker.

It was translated by Working Designs, helmed by this dude, Vic Ireland. Ireland had been slowly gaining a reputation in the industry – not only for bringing over pseudo-obscure RPGs and localizing them, but for dramatically changing those games to fit his personal tastes.

At their most basic, Working Designs would often insert crude humor into their games – fart jokes, sex jokes, you name it. During a documentary included with Lunar, they boast about taking a lonely hermit character that lives isolated in a tower and making it so he has uncontrollable flatulence (it’s their explanation for why he’s so isolated).

But at their worst, Ireland had a trait he was known for: he hated strategy guides. He thought people should play and learn games organically, not spend $8+ on a guide that would hold their hand every step of the way. That’s not really such an ignoble opinion to have, especially for a game designer, but it manifested itself in an awful, awful way.

Working Designs games were often significantly more difficult than the original Japanese versions. Ireland openly bragged about his reasoning for doing this: it was to put strategy guide authors through hell. Strategy writers were required to obsessively play games before release so the guide could hit while the game was new. A guide writer would often have a month or less to make maps, figure out pointers for defeating enemies and bosses, and write item descriptions.

The harder the game, the more difficult their job was. The more difficult their job was, the more likely it would be that guides got delayed, forcing players to fly solo. So Ireland went out of his way to screw guide writers over.

The rub is that the game was still that difficult for everybody else. Ireland was likely confident that hardcore players would get through it eventually (and that was definitely true), but it didn’t change the fact that many Working Designs games were also notorious for their high difficulty level.

Which brings us back to Lunar. In most RPGs, if you hit a roadblock, you can just double back, grind out a few extra levels, and gain the strength needed to get over the spike in difficulty. It’s honestly one of the great things about RPGs; they’re only as hard as the amount of time you’re willing to spend on them.

Lunar throws that idea out the window. Bosses level up with the player. The more you grind to power up Alex (the hero) the stronger bosses also get.

Now, combine this with Working Designs’ tendency to increase the difficulty of their games when they localize them.

I was incredibly excited for Lunar. Final Fantasy VII had opened my eyes to the magic of the JRPG, the anime fad was booming, and Lunar was the right game, at the right time. Working Designs knew this, too, and went out of their way to make the game seem special. There was no $40 “standard” version of Lunar. You had to pay $70 for the special edition, which came with a cloth map, soundtrack CD, making-of video feature (see above), and a hardcover instruction manual that contained its own mini strategy guide that walked you through the game up to the first boss encounter. On top of that, Working Designs also warned: Lunar wasn’t going to be around forever. One year after release, they were going to put the game into “the vault,” never to be seen again, so buy now.

Rarely had I been so excited for a game. I was locked and loaded, ready to love Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete with all of my heart.

Two and a half hours later, I reached the third boss. Alex and Luna have to gain entrance to a floating city of magic. Wizards were allowed in, but non-wizards (our characters) need to prove themselves in The Trials. The boss at the end of this dungeon is a giant living mushroom with one huge cyclops eye called the “Truffle Troubler.”


I couldn’t kill it. The issue is that he has this lighting attack that hits both Alex and Luna simultaneously for a good 70% of their health. It would take two rounds for Luna to heal everyone back up to survive the next attack, but this mushroom guy gets three turns for every one of yours. It’s not uncommon for him to zap and murder your party before Luna can do anything.

I tried, and I tried, and I tried. A dozen times or more. Since I was only two hours in to the game, I even deleted my save file, started over, and tried a second time to “play smart.” Hoard gold. Hoard healing items. Buy the best of everything. All to prepare to face this one boss.

But you can’t grind past bosses in Lunar. You aren’t supposed to. You clench your teeth and you fight through it, while Vic Ireland laughs at you.

I couldn’t do it. I didn’t do it. What happens past the third boss in Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete? I don’t know. I’ll never know.

But what I do know: I’m glad Working Designs went out of business.


One thing I hope we’ve mainly seen vanish: games where you have to restart the game to change the difficulty. It’s… just so user-hostile (whatever the technical or design reasons behind why it sometimes is done). I’m not sure how many games I’d play through now if I got stuck and couldn’t swap the difficulty around to get past it - so anything like that goes onto my list of stuff I’d probably not finish.

I think the unfortunate flip (things we used to expect but are now often gone) for modern design is cheat codes. Sometimes, the Easy mode isn’t (as discussed above) but put on God mode or something and that takes care of some of that (at least partially, maybe no-clip is actually more useful in other areas for avoiding something forcing you to fail a section). Really, for accessibility, we should just expect all this to have been thought about (rather than just being afterthoughts, parts of the debug/testing process left in the shipping version). The more recent Uncharted stuff is definitely a good start.


Valkyria Chronicles. Love the game, but I’ve been stuck on the same level for over a year I think. Every time I come back to it, I just open up on this brick wall of a level, which has like… nothing to do with anything else you’ve done in the game. The latest attempt I broke down and looked up a guide, and when trying to follow it, found all my units were doing substantially too little damage, presumably because I haven’t been managing troops/gear well enough, but the guide would be like “do this this turn with this person here,” and do like double or more what my same character in the same spot was doing, so I just stopped again.



I adore Valkyria Chronicles, but even I can see that the game’s difficulty curve is spikier than Bowser’s castle. Here’s hoping VC4 is a bit more forgiving.

And if you do ever plan on going back to finish VC1, know that there’s no shame in grinding previous missions and Irene’s missions!


probably metal gear rising. the parrying mechanic was so frustrating to me. pushing forward made it so unreliable for me and it was unsatisfying to bumble my way through all the bosses when it should have felt great. i made it to the (final?) jetstream sam fight and i just could not do it. i tried so hard

@Fistfulofmetal roguelikes are hell for me too since they all seem to spike several levels higher after the second world.


Galak-Z. That game is so cool and I love everything about it, but I eventually moved on to other things after banging my head against the 4th chapter for a couple weeks. I do plan on going back to it, but that’s no guarantee I’ll actually make any more forward progress.

I end up tapping out in most turn-based strategy games. Not just because they’re difficult, but because most of them by the halfway point have battles that are multiple hours long, and if you happen to blow it toward the end of one of those, either due to poor planning or a “fun” surprise by the enemy, starting over is incredibly daunting. No matter how much fun I have with one when I start, I almost always end up putting it down halfway through and not picking it back up because I get anxiety thinking about starting a new mission.


Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell these days if it’s the difficulty curve or the fact that as an adult I have far less free time than I used to.

For example: I love the Xenoblade Chronicles series and I’ll happily play all 3 of them for huge stretches of time (or at least it seems that way to me) but I just can not get ahead in the level/affinity/money treadmills. At some point I get toward the end of XC or XCX and I realize I have to grind like 10 more levels to stand a chance in the next story segment and just can’t find the time to do it.

I’m hoping XC2 doesn’t fall into the same boat because XC and XCX were both great games to start and play until like 2/3 or 3/4 complete and then they just fall off a cliff due to the time sinking required.


I’m awful at rhythm games. I loved the look of Guitaroo Man, but I just couldn’t make it past the first couple of stages.

I was also never able to properly transition to Hard in Guitar Hero or Rock Band games, after being able to finish all the songs on Medium without too much difficulty.,


Fighting games. It’s always been bloody fighting games.

I’m just so thankful for Pokkén Tournament, as it not only has Pokémon (yay!), but it’s also one of the more accessible fighting games I’ve ever played.

I would dearly love to be a serious contender in Smash Brothers, but at 39 years old my reflexes just can’t keep up anymore.