Video games offer players the chance to escape into a totally new world and step into the shoes of a hero. Even when playing a casual match-three mobile game or a point-and-click puzzle game, the appeal is obvious. Gaming is a great way to pass the time.
But some people like to take this hobby a bit further than others. For those with overactive imaginations who find problem-solving relaxing, the average game won’t capture their attention—at least, not for long. Instead, they’re on the hunt for a title that will challenge their brains and force them to think in new and novel ways.
Let’s count down some of the world’s most demanding games, available on either smartphones or via consoles/PCs, and what makes them so appealing.
Blackjack & Hard Stats
The popularity of blackjack highlights just how much humans like a challenge. Though most people today stick to virtual providers to play blackjack, the game has its origin in Europe hundreds of years in the past. Viewed in this way, the card game has long been a focal part of Western gaming culture—and it’s all about hard numbers.
Players must hit the number 21 without going over, which is a simple enough goal. However, depending on the number of decks being used and their own mental fortitude, players can track the game and determine which move will statistically pan out with greater certainty. Behind it all is hardcore numerical data that will challenge them to calculate quickly and accurately whether they should hit, split, or fold.
Rogue & Randomness
If you’ve heard of dungeon-like rogue games, then you may know that the entire genre was born from a single release back in 1980. Rogue is a procedurally generated dungeon crawler, which means players must navigate out of 2D dungeons. Each level changes at random, along with the resources provided to the player.
This means that experience won’t always pay off, as players can’t memorize levels and strategies. Also, some of those resources might actually hinder a player’s progress.
Cuphead & Side-Scrolling Madness
If we told you that the game Cuphead is about an anthropomorphized cup who made a deal with the devil and now must repossess runaway souls, would you think the game’s ultimate challenge lies in speed? Welcome to the charm of Cuphead, a side-scrolling game where players must race through fast-moving levels before facing off against next-level bosses.
This indie game quickly found its appeal amongst gamers who want to keep pushing, advancing, and getting things right—even if that means dying hundreds of times along the way. In fact, one critic and fan from EGMNow died a total of 188 times before beating the game, which he accredited to the game moving ‘beyond pattern recognition’.
The Elder Scrolls Online & Vast Worlds
Sometimes, a game’s challenge isn’t about hard numbers like in blackjack, handling random outcomes like in Rogue, or seeing straight like in Cuphead. In games like The Elder Scrolls, the challenge is all about new quests that take players into uncharted territories to battle new monsters.
Beginner-level players are recommended to stick to the main storyline—sometimes for up to a year so that they can learn the ropes and start tackling challenges on their own. As an open-world MMORPG, this is the true allure of The Elder Scrolls: letting players move between quests, random events, and self-directed adventures.
Dwarf Fortress & A Human Touch
The goal of Dwarf Fortress is straightforward: create a lasting dwarven settlement by managing resources wisely. The outcomes, however, are almost unfathomably vast—and almost anything that can go wrong will do so. For example, something like cabin fever can compromise even a grand settlement, as can accidentally digging for raw materials and instead uncovering a demon god.
This 2D PC game includes a stunning amount of customization. As players build their settlements, the dwarves they rule create a unique history and culture that reflects the growth of their clan. As the game advances, players can dive into Legends Mode to explore this unique history, which is stored within the game.