4. Demon’s Souls
This 2009 game has you playing as a knight in shining armor who has to save the kingdom of Boletaria from an evil king, defeating all manner of brutal enemies along the way. This first game in the Souls series did not disappoint when it came to difficulty. Actually, Sony thought the game was so hard it chose not publish outside Japan. Bandai Namco would take care of that a year later, with the game becoming a hit.
And this surely was a punishing game, arguably even harder than its follow-up Dark Souls. Blame the lack of checkpoints, which meant players often had to get to the end of an area and defeat a boss in a single sitting. Plus, there were devious traps and soul-crushing bosses like the Maneater and Flamelurker to defeat. Its “World Tendency” mechanic was also cruel: killing NPCs by accident would make enemies harder to beat (but the rewards would also be greater), making playing through Demon’s Souls a truly grueling journey.
Next: 3. Nioh