essential buyer’s guide

Challenging PS4 games

Warm up your thumbs and tackle some of the most difficult games on PS4. The harder the struggle, the richer the rewards!

Darkest Dungeon

ESRB TEEN: Violence, Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Mild Language, Alcohol Reference, Suggestive Themes

Developer: Red Hook Studios | Genre: Turn-based RPG

Put together a team of intrepid explorers and set off to explore cavernous dungeons in this ruthless turn-based adventure. As you go deeper, your warriors’ stress levels go up. Fail to calm their nerves and they will be blighted by a range of status afflictions, or even keel over dead. Not one for the faint-hearted perhaps, but Darkest Dungeon offers a uniquely absorbing take on a familiar genre.

Toughest moment: Seasoned players all have their blind spots, but the water-logged Cove location is universally feared.

The Witness

ESRB EVERYONE: Alcohol Reference

Developer: Thekla, Inc. | Genre: Puzzle

This sophisticated puzzler from Braid creator Jonathan Blow drops you on a mysterious island without context or explanation, and points you in the direction of a simple grid-based brain-teaser – the first of many, as it turns out. As you explore, the puzzles escalate in complexity and difficulty. Can you solve them all and unravel the island’s secrets?

Toughest moment: Hidden within the island’s central mountain, The Challenge constitutes 14 optional algorithmically-generated puzzles guaranteed to make your head hurt. 

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

ESRB MATURE 17+: Violence, Blood and Gore

Developer: FromSoftware | Genre: Action adventure

From the same merciless team behind Bloodborne and Dark Souls, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a meticulously crafted ninja adventure that demands concentration, patience, and precision. What’s more, you’ll be suffering alone – unlike its forebearers, you can’t call on other players to help take down bosses. The rewards are worth it though: brilliant combat, extraordinary enemy design, and a huge world to explore.

Toughest moment: The only way past notorious mid-game boss Genichiro Ashina is through total mastery of the game’s twitchy parry system. Practice makes perfect…

Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin

ESRB TEEN: Violence, Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Mild Language

Developer: FromSoftware | Genre: Action adventure

Devotees can argue for days over which is the most challenging entry in the groundbreaking Dark Souls series, but the second instalment makes the most convincing claim, with some truly fearsome boss encounters lying in wait in the expanded content included in the PS4 edition. Take your time, study your enemies, and master your technique - follow those golden rules and you just might emerge victorious.

Toughest moment: Lurking beneath Brume Tower, the optional Fume Knight encounter is a fearsome challenge.

Trials® Rising

ESRB TEEN: Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Violence / In-Game Purchases, Users Interact

Developer: Ubisoft RedLynx, Ubisoft Kyiv | Genre: Platformer

The most recent iteration of RedLynx’s physics-based motorcycle platformer serves as something of a greatest hits package for the series, offering over-the-top obstacle courses, lunatic challenges, and easy-to-learn, hard-to-master controls. There’s plenty of kid-glove content included for the more casual gamer to enjoy, but to see everything on offer requires real skill and perseverance.

Toughest moment: Reaching the finish line penalty-free in any Extreme difficulty track demands pinpoint precision.

Nioh 2

ESRB MATURE 17+: Violence, Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes / In-Game Purchases, Users Interact

Developer: Team Ninja | Genre: Action adventure

The sequel to Team Ninja’s ruthless samurai adventure ups the ante in every department, featuring enormous bosses, fiendish level design, and nuanced combat that offers a wealth of options depending on your playstyle. You’ll need to hone your skills if you’re going to see the end credits – prepare for the fight of your life.

Toughest moment: The vicious ape-like Enki is a large yokai blocking your path early on, and represents Nioh 2’s first - but certainly not last - 'get good or go home' moment.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

ESRB MATURE 17+: Use of Drugs, Strong Language, Sexual Content, Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Intense Violence

Developer: MachineGames | Genre: First-person shooter

The second full instalment in MachineGames’ rebooted Wolfenstein saga puts up one hell of a fight. The enemy hordes are relentless, the missions aggressively paced, and protagonist B J Blazcowicz starts out a little under-powered following the events of the previous game. There’s no shame in ramping down the difficulty level to see this one through.

Toughest moment: Unlocked after you complete the game on standard difficulty, Mein Leben Mode gives you just one life to see off the Nazi menace. Gulp. 

Super Meat Boy

ESRB TEEN: Crude Humor, Language, Animated Blood, Cartoon Violence

Developer: Team Meat | Genre: Precision platformer

This notoriously demanding platformer throws the kitchen sink at you: saw blades, spike pits, lava, projectiles, explosions... the list goes on and on. And for good measure, when you finally conquer a level, it reminds you of your shortcomings by replaying all of your deaths. It’s inarguably sadistic, but also brilliantly crafted and absolutely hilarious.

Toughest moment: The optional ‘The Kid’ warp zone represents Super Meat Boy’s stiffest challenge – only the nimblest of fingers need apply.


ESRB MATURE 17+: Violence, Blood and Gore

Developer: FromSoftware | Genre: Action adventure

FromSoftware’s Lovecraftian horror remains one of the finest games of the PS4 generation – and one of the toughest. Something beastly has overcome the inhabitants of Yharnham, and it’s up to you to cleanse its streets. Balance risk and reward as you inch your way through a treacherous world dripping with atmosphere, hunting down a grisly array of monsters.

Toughest moment: There’s no such thing as a pushover in Bloodborne, but Ludwig, The Holy Blade (mercifully tucked away towards the end of The Old Hunters expansion) arguably represents the game’s stiffest challenge.

Alien: Isolation

ESRB MATURE 17+: Violence, Strong Language, Blood

Developer: Creative Assembly | Genre: First person stealth

This finely-crafted entry in the Alien saga nails every element of the 1979 original, from the retro-futurist sci-fi aesthetic, down to the pervasive sense of dread that something awful is hiding around every corner. And that ‘something awful’ is the infamous xenomorph – one of the most fearsome video game antagonists of all time. You can’t kill it, so you have to avoid it – and it’s very, very good at hide-and-seek…

Toughest moment: Your first significant encounter with the alien in the Medlab is a fearsome difficulty spike that sets you up for the rest of the game

Dead Cells

ESRB TEEN: Violence, Blood and Gore, Language

Developer: Motion Twin | Genre: Roguelike platformer

French studio Motion Twin deservedly found a huge audience with it’s phenomenal procedurally-generated action platformer. Progress can be slow in its unforgiving world, but it’s the journey, not the destination, that counts - moment-to-moment, Dead Cells is a joy to play. And while death can come quickly you’ll always want to jump straight back into the fray for just one more try.

Toughest moment: Each of the game’s biomes suit different playstyles, but most afficionados agree the Prisoners’ Cells is an experts-only zone.


ESRB EVERYONE 10+: Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Alcohol Reference

Developer: Matt Makes Games | Genre: Precision platformer

Beware Celeste’s cutesy facade – this exquisite adventure is one of the most demanding side-scrollers ever conceived. Your quest: guide plucky hero Madeline to the summit of the titular mountain, overcoming increasingly fiendish platforming challenges as, one by one, new gameplay mechanics are introduced and layered on top of each other.

Toughest moment: To keep your ego in check, Celeste records how many times you’ve died. Expect that number to reach triple digits before you’ve mastered the infamous Chapter 7c.

Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy

ESRB EVERYONE 10+: Comic Mischief, Cartoon Violence

Developer: Vicarious Visions | Genre: 3D platformer

Vicarious Visions’ classy update of the classic platform series gave the game’s visuals a contemporary makeover, but left its surprisingly stern difficulty level intact. Crash’s adventures are much trickier than you might remember! Proof, if any was needed, that game designers of yesteryear had a more sadistic streak than many of their modern-day counterparts.

Toughest moment: Legend has it that the Stormy Ascent level was cut from the original release for being too difficult. It’s reinstated here (as free DLC), for anyone who wants to test their skills…

Enter The Gungeon

ESRB TEEN: Fantasy Violence, Blood, Mild Language, Use of Tobacco

Developer: Dodge Roll | Genre: Roguelike arcade action

Choose from a range of trigger-happy “Gungeoneers” and lead them on a perilous journey through a maze of caverns in this unforgiving action game. As you descend through the Gungeon, the firefights quickly ramp-up in intensity, with increasingly outrageous weaponry in play, and bullet swarms that get ever harder to dodge. 

Toughest moment: The High Priest is a creepy, cloaked boss who not only sends a mist of homing projectiles in your direction, but also turns out the lights, making them harder to dodge. Terrifying. 

Monster Hunter World

ESRB TEEN: Violence, Blood, Mild Langauge, Use of Alcohol

Developer: Capcom | Genre: Action adventure

Play online with a bunch of friends in tow and Capcom’s extraordinary beast-hunting blockbuster can be a relatively comfortable and collaborative experience. Go it alone however, and the New World is a thoroughly inhospitable place, filled with enormous fanged creatures itching to turn you into a light lunch. Worry not though – there’s a huge, welcoming online community ready to help you out.

Toughest moment: Make sure you are well-prepared before taking on fearsome Elder Dragon Teostra – it’s as tough as they come.

Games with great 'hard' modes

These titles might be welcoming on standard difficulty, but have hard modes that really switch up the action

The Last of Us Remastered

ESRB MATURE 17+: Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Blood and Gore, Use of Alcohol, Intense Violence

Grounded Mode limits the number of supplies that you can forage, disables Listen Mode, disables the HUD, removes certain checkpoints, and makes enemies tougher and smarter. To succeed you’ll need to completely rethink how you play the game.

Resident Evil 7 biohazard

ESRB MATURE 17+: Strong Language, Blood and Gore, Intense Violence

Madhouse Mode limits the number of times you can save your progress, remixes item placement, adds new enemies, makes enemies significantly harder to kill, and reduces the amount of available ammo. Survival horror at its purest.

God of War

ESRB MATURE 17+: Strong Language, Blood and Gore, Intense Violence

Kratos’ adventure offers Give Me God Of War mode for the bravest players. Enemies are tougher and faster, status ailments are more potent, there is less targeting assistance during combat, and your Rage meter fills more slowly.

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