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Cuphead Body 2

The Hardest Games on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S

Some developers like to challenge us. And so they make their games intentionally rather hard.

While games are generally meant to be fun, sometimes a greater reward is found by overcoming great difficulty. And so whether you own an Xbox One or Xbox Series X/S, you’ll find plenty of games that challenge you to try, try and then try again in order to conquer them. The question is, will you rise to the occasion, or will you be defeated by these games that are the hardest Xbox consoles have to offer?

There are many games available on Xbox consoles that will make their players turn the air blue and possibly throw a controller across the room. Only a limited number of them are actually worth the frustration, however. Want to know what they are? We’ve listed the hardest games on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S below, starting with the most forgiving, moving to the least forgiving.

Want to support GameSpew? If you decide to buy any of the games on this list, please consider using our Amazon affiliate links, included below each entry. It won’t cost you anything extra, but we’ll get a small slice of the purchase. Thank you.

16. Hotline Miami Collection

Hotline Miami 2 Review

Genre: Action
Difficulty rating: 7/10

Bundled together on Xbox consoles, Hotline Miami and its sequel are hard.

In each mission you’ll enter an environment and have to kill every single enemy without being killed yourself. If you die you have to start again, or at least from a checkpoint, and one hit is all it takes.

The responsive controls and dependable mechanics of both Hotline Miami and Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number keep you going back for more, even if you do fail often. And then there are the games’ soundtracks to consider; filled with tunes that are so banging that you’ll be nodding your head and tapping your feet as you mercilessly slaughter your adversaries.

Hotline Miami Collection is certainly one of the hardest games on Xbox, but you’ll be having so much fun that you won’t really notice.

Read our review of Hotline Miami Collection

15. Diablo 2: Resurrected

Diablo 2 Resurrected 2 (1)

Genre: Action RPG
Difficulty rating: 7/10

We absolutely love Diablo 2. We really do. And so of course, we’ve poured hours upon hours into its remaster, Diablo 2: Resurrected.

The thing about Diablo 2 is beating its campaign once is just not enough. It can be challenging playing through the game’s campaign on Normal difficulty at times, but that’s just the warm up; you’re not truly done with Diablo 2 until you’ve beaten its toughest difficulty, Hell. It lives up to its name, throwing tougher enemies at you while also adding more penalties for dying and handicapping your resistances to elemental damage, amongst other things.

The truth is, you can take things a step further, too. Create a Hardcore character and permadeath is enabled, potentially ruining tens, if not hundreds of hours of character development. So yeah, if you’re after the hardest games on Xbox, you might want to consider giving this a go.

Read our review of Diablo 2: Resurrected

14. Devil May Cry V

Devil May Cry 5

Genre: Action
Difficulty rating: 7/10

When you first start Devil May Cry V, you can only play the game on Human or Devil Hunter difficulties. The first is a cakewalk, while the latter poses only a small challenge.

By completing the game multiple times, however, Dante Must Die difficulty can be unlocked, which provides Devil May Cry fans with a real challenge.

On Dante Must Die mode, Devil May Cry V‘s enemies have nearly double their original health. They also hit harder and have access to more troublesome combos that can really decimate your health bar. Basically, Dante Must Die mode just wants you to die.

Thankfully, by the time you reach Dante Must Die mode you should have most of the game’s moves and upgrades unlocked, giving you the best chance of actually succeeding. You can play through Dante Must Die mode from the outset if you’re skilled enough though – you just need to defeat Urizen during the game’s prologue.

Read our review of Devil May Cry V

Buy Devil May Cry V on Amazon

13. Thumper

Genre: Rhythm
Difficulty rating: 7/10

Thumper isn’t the hardest game on this list, but it’s sure to have you cursing as you screw up and have to retry the stage you’re on for the twentieth or so time.

Described as a rhythm violence game, Thumper is all about music, reflexes and brutal physical impact. As you speed headlong into an endless void you only need to think about one analogue stick and one button, but don’t let that give you the idea that you’re going to be for an easy ride; Thumper is anything but.

You need to be able to keep up with the game’s breakneck pace to even stand a chance of succeeding, and then you’ve got terrifying bosses to deal with. Thumper‘s nine levels will have you going back again and again, just to feel the adrenaline rush that it never fails to provide.

There’s not much else like Thumper on Xbox. It may not be a walk in the park, but it’ll certainly raise your heart-rate in a similar fashion.

Read our review of Thumper

12. Trials Rising

Trials Rising 1

Genre: Racing
Difficulty rating: 8/10

Just like all the other Trials games, Trials Rising is all about balance and precision. As such, it can be brutally hard for those who just don’t have the knack.

Trials Rising eases you gently into its career, initially only letting you race on tracks which pose little challenge. As you makes your way through its leagues, however, it starts to get harder and harder, until eventually the challenge it poses seems insurmountable. It’s frustrating, but the pick-up-and-play nature of the game keeps you going back for more. Also, there are some handy tutorials to help you this time around, too.

It may be one of the hardest games on Xbox, but Trials Rising is a game we can’t help but love. It’s simply a blast to play, even if you’re not very good at it.

Read our review of Trials Rising

Buy Trials Rising on Amazon

11. Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy 1

Genre: Rogue-like 2D platformer
Difficulty rating: 8/10

Thanks to its cartoony visuals, you might think that Rogue Legacy is just a simple 2D platformer at first glance. It’s not, however, thanks to its inclusion of Rogue-like elements.

When you first start Rogue Legacy it is hard as nails. You’ll enter a mysterious castle with your armour-clad hero and quickly succumb to the enemies within. Your adventure isn’t totally over though; you’ll start back in town with the heir of the character you just played, complete with all their wealth. Using that wealth, you can acquire new equipment and upgrades before forfeiting what’s remaining to venture into the castle once more.

Rogue Legacy does get somewhat easier the more you play, but as you progress further into the castle your opponents get more fiendish. It’s one of the hardest games on Xbox consoles for sure, but it’s also very enjoyable. There’s a sequel available as well now if you want more when you’re done.

Read more on Rogue Legacy

10. Redout 2

Redout 2 review 2 (1)

Genre: Racing
Difficulty rating: 8/10

We thought Redout was hard. Then we went hands-on with Redout 2 and quickly changed our opinion. Even just to get through this game’s tutorial you need skills.

In Redout 2, everything hurtles along so fast that even the most basic of corners requires the reflexes of a ninja to negotiate like a pro, and then you’ve also got chicanes, loop-de-loops and massive jumps to contend with. It wouldn’t be too bad if the AI would just go a little easier on you, but no; it doesn’t care for you or your feelings, it just wants to make you weep as you graze the side of the track and all your competitors blaze past you on the last lap of a race.

Honestly, Redout 2 is a little too brutal for our liking. Though at least you can make things a little easier for yourself by lowering the difficulty of the AI. One day we will master it, but until then we’ll just admire its glorious visuals and dream. On Xbox Series X it really does look rather spectacular at times.

Read our review of Redout 2

9. Everspace

EVERSPACE Hardcore 2

Genre: Rogue-like space shooter
Difficulty rating: 8/10

Everspace is hard, but being a Rogue-like that’s to be expected, isn’t it?

A space shooter developed by Rockfish games, it probably won’t be hostile ships and gun emplacements that most often put an end to your interplanetary escapades. No, it’ll be your lack of fuel.

Everspace is as much about resource management as it is about being an effective pilot. As you zip around deep space you need to pay heed to your surroundings, scavenging anything that may be useful while fending off attackers. And when you’re ready to push further on your adventures you better make sure you have enough fuel in the tanks, otherwise you might just find yourself meeting an unfortunate end.

Die, and you’ll start to start back from square one. Though you do get to spend your hard-earned credits in the perk shop to make your continued adventures that little bit easier.

Read our review of Everspace

8. Sundered

Genre: Metroidvania
Difficulty rating: 8/10

Thunder Lotus Games’ Sundered is very easy on the eyes. Every screen is like a work of art. It plays well too, for the most part. Things just fall to pieces when the hordes show up, unfortunately.

While Sundered‘s bosses put up a good fight once you’ve found them on the labyrinthine game map, it’s the random moments in which hordes of enemies descend upon you that pose the greatest challenge. Honestly, they’re unrelenting.

You’ll have small fry whizzing around your feet, hulking brutes trying to hammer you and snipers trying to take you out at range all at the same time. The combat system is fairly robust, but sometimes it just doesn’t gel with the amount of carnage happening onscreen. The result is often death, which isn’t the end of the world, though it does eventually begin to grind you down. For those up to the challenge, however, Sundered is likely to be utterly compelling.

Read more on Sundered

7. Rise & Shine

Genre: 2D Shooter
Difficulty rating: 8/10

Developed by Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team (yes, really), Rise & Shine is a comical 2D side-scrolling shooter with a formidable difficulty level.

You’ll spot one video game parody after another as you shoot down your foes with a limited but inventive arsenal, but while the brunt of the action won’t prove to be too challenging, its bosses can quickly induce uncontrollable rage.

Rise & Shine‘s final boss is understandably the hardest of them all, though the barrage of enemies you need to overcome just before taking it on is also likely to make you swear a lot. And once you’ve beaten it you can play through the game again in Iron Man mode. Go on, give it a try. We dare you…

Read our review of Rise & Shine

6. Dark Souls 3

Genre: Action RPG
Difficulty rating: 8/10

Dark Souls 3, just like Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne, and the two other Dark Souls games that came before it, is a bloody hard game to beat. It’s magnificently rewarding though.

Like many of the other games on this list, overcoming a challenge in Dark Souls 3 fills you with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, making your perilous adventures through Lothric worth all the hardship. Plus, it’s incredibly atmospheric too.

For fans of both action adventure games and RPGs, Dark Souls 3 is a must, even though it may have you cursing from time to time. And at least you can simply grind for Souls to level up and perhaps make things a little easier for you if you’re finding a boss a tad too difficult.

Read our review of Dark Souls 3

Buy Dark Souls 3 on Amazon

5. DiRT Rally 2.0

Dirt Rally 2 1

Genre: Racing
Difficulty rating: 9/10

Just like its predecessor, DiRT Rally 2.0 is maddening. You can be speeding across a stage like a pro, setting the pace time as you throw your car skillfully from one corner to another, and then THWACK! Your rear end hits a stray wooden post at the side of the track, sending your vehicle into a violent spin that results with you ending up in a ditch. Back on the track, you’re landed with a hefty time penalty for the recovery of your car, which is now severely damaged, and your lead is gone. You’re now a loser, and it’s all because of one little wooden post at the side of the track.

There’s no rewind feature in DiRT Rally 2.0, and challenging AI comes as standard. To win, you’ll need to master your chosen vehicle, know the track you’re driving on inside out, and then push yourself to the limit. The problem is, pushing yourself to the limit often has disastrous results.

DiRT Rally 2.0 is quite simply the hardest racing game there is. Every time we play it we turn the air blue – we can’t help it. Still, despite being monstrously difficult, we always go back for more.

Read our review of DiRT Rally 2.0

Buy DiRT Rally 2.0 on Amazon

4. The Surge 2

The Surge 2 4 (1)

Genre: Action RPG
Difficulty rating: 9/10

The Surge took the formula made popular by Dark Souls and transplanted it into a sci-fi world. Needless to say, the results were good.

Now The Surge 2 is available, however, and it’s a much better game than the first. It has more of its own identity, too. It’s still a challenging Soulslike, but its combat is deeper, it has a sense of humour, and there’s much more enemy variety.

While The Surge 2 starts off rather breezy compared to other games in the genre, the difficulty soon ramps up. In the latter stages of the game, its bosses are absolutely fiendish, causing you to curse out loud. Still, it’s worth all the hardship. The Surge 2 may be one of the hardest games on Xbox, but it’s also one of the most rewarding.

Read our review of The Surge 2

Buy The Surge 2 on Amazon

3. Hyper Light Drifter

Genre: Action
Difficulty rating: 10/10

If the idea of a 2D Dark Souls floats your boat then Hyper Light Drifter may just be right up your street. For most though, it’ll just prove to be a test of patience.

Obscure; that’s probably the best word to describe Hyper Light Drifter. It really doesn’t tell you anything, leaving you to painstakingly figure things out for yourself. And once you’ve overcome that hurdle there’s the combat; brutal, unforgiving combat.

Hyper Light Drifter‘s combat requires patience, precision and skill. Get it wrong and you’ll quickly be overcome by even the most commonplace enemies. And there’s no levelling up either; the only way you can gain the upper hand on your foes is to get good and maybe upgrade your health capacity and equipment.

It’s very easy to get frustrated with Hyper Light Drifter. It’s one of the hardest games we’ve ever played, let alone on Xbox. Stick with it though, and you’re quite likely to find a game with a lot of soul.

Read our review of Hyper Light Drifter

2. Cuphead

Cuphead 1 (1)

Genre: 2D Shooter
Difficulty rating: 10/10

We love Cuphead. We really, really do. But we also think it’s perhaps a bit too hard.

Cuphead is a stunning-looking but brutally hard 2D shooter that largely forgets about the bits usually found between bosses. Spread across a world map you’ll find a large number of boss fights, each of which will push you to the very edge of human endurance.

Don’t think that bringing a friend along for the ride will make it any easier, either. With two players on screen there’s twice the chaos, and each player will also do less damage. Still, you’ll have fun trying to defeat Cuphead‘s creative foes until you lose the will to live. For that reason, it deserves its place on our list of the hardest games on Xbox.

Read our review of Cuphead

1. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice


Genre: Action Adventure
Difficulty rating: 10/10

Take the Dark Souls formula, remove the RPG elements and ask players to parry incoming attacks rather than avoid them – that’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice in a nutshell.

The fact that Sekiro‘s combat is so different to that of Dark Souls makes it all the more fiendishly difficult. We’re used to dodging when we see an enemy readying up an attack, whereas in Sekiro you have to stand your ground and parry the blow instead to succeed. And if you do come up against a boss who’s repeatedly kicking your ass, you can’t simply grind out some additional levels in the hope it’ll give you just the advantage you need. In Sekiro, your only option is to get good.

Sekiro is possibly the hardest game available on Xbox consoles right now. Though thankfully, it’s also probably the most rewarding to master if you’re up to the challenge. And did we mention that it looks absolutely beautiful?

Read our review of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Buy Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice on Amazon

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