Players have craved difficult 2D platformers since the ’80s and early examples include the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 (which was deemed too hard for the Western audience by Nintendo) and the early Mega Man games. Thankfully for players, the past decade has seen many games cater towards these tastes to create the subgenre of masocore games. These titles are harshly punishing experiences that only the most persistent gamers will eventually prevail at. They might be frustrating, but the elation that clearing a level brings makes it all worth doing.
And with Super Meat Boy Forever on the horizon, we figured we could check out the 10 most difficult 2D platformers that are worth playing below!
Most Difficult 2D Platformers | 1001 Spikes
The sequel to Aban Hawkins and the 1000 Spikes is a fantastic one. It keeps the Indiana Jones-esque adventuring alive through dangerous dungeons with a promise of treasure at the end. The most unique selling point is that there are two separate jump buttons, one that goes high and another that does a short hop. These are key to avoiding the many obstacles that will kill the player in a single hit.
Most Difficult 2D Platformers | Celeste
Most masocore titles aren’t known for their story, so Celeste sticks out on this list for that reason alone. Dealing with mental health and depression, Celeste has a meaningful reason for its difficult journey. Developer Matt Thorson did a great job making its dashing ability versatile, and the platformer features some of the best level design that the genre has to offer. There are also a number of cheats that can be enabled, so even those that find it too difficult can wind up completing the game and enjoying its story.
Most Difficult 2D Platformers | Dustforce
Dustforce is easily the most underrated title in the subgenre. The whole premise is that the player is a sweeper that has to get rid of dust, trash, and other filth from each level. The player has an incredible array of acrobatics at their disposal, such as double jumping and wall climbing, and the 50 or so levels are all difficult to get a good score on. The bar of entry for Dustforce is quite high, and is mostly for veterans of the genre, but it’s definitely one of the most satisfying experiences because of it.
Most Difficult 2D Platformers | Electronic Super Joy
Electronic Super Joy is easily the most stylish masocore title. Furthermore, it has a great sense of humor as the story has the player fighting an evil Pope. The platformer is incredibly difficult, but thankfully checkpoints are placed pretty generously, so it’s more about overcoming an obstacle than having to perfect a run. One of the coolest mechanics is that there are often rockets chasing the player, and having to dodge them forces the player to do some rather insane gymnastics. It’s a delight from start to finish and its great soundtrack will accompany the player the entire time.
If you want even more, there’s an expansion called Groove City that stars a giant robot stripper.
Most Difficult 2D Platformers | Fenix Rage
While it may be known as Fenix Furia due to Bethesda’s overzealous lawyers, this is Green Lava Studios’ most approachable title. While it lacks the zaniness and social commentary of My Name is Mayo and Mr. Massagy, it makes up for it with some fantastic platforming. A real highlight comes from the boss battles and the game remains difficult despite giving the player the ability to jump an infinite number of times.
Most Difficult 2D Platformers | I Wanna Be The Guy
This free online title became an online sensation due to its punishing difficulty and hilarious moments. There’s a reason that I Wanna Be The Guy isn’t up for sale and that’s due to the amount of unlicensed parodies that appear. Many Nintendo Entertainment System classics such as The Legend of Zelda and Metroid are seen throughout. Things get ridiculous rather quickly and it never slows down.
There’s also a prequel title called I Wanna Be the Guy: Gaiden, which is just as fun as the first.
Most Difficult 2D Platformers | N++
The original N released in 2005 as a free download. Since then, developer Metanet Software has released two critically acclaimed sequels that feature a quick-moving ninja trying to collect gold and successfully escape the deadly levels. It’s best played on Nintendo Switch as the short levels are great for portable play and it includes all of the Ultimate Edition content. So much care has gone into every stage and it results in a wonderful title.
Most Difficult 2D Platformers | Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy is the best known game on the list and for good reason. It’s one of the tightest, most satisfying platformers ever developed. The levels are harsh, the sound effects are often disgusting, and it’s just a great time despite the punishing nature. If one game truly sums up the term “masocore,” it is this.
Due to its great design, it has also aged wonderfully since it released in 2010. Plus, a sequel, Super Meat Boy Forever, is on the way.
Most Difficult 2D Platformers | Super Rude Bear Resurrection
Alex Rose’s Super Rude Bear Resurrection is one of the most innovative titles in the subgenre. While it’s totally possible to beat levels unscathed, the platformer has a mechanic where the titular character’s dead bodies stick around on subsequent runs. That means prior deaths can make deadly spikes a non-factor, as you can simply run across your corpse as if it was a platform. It’s a brilliant change that makes the experience easier with each subsequent failure.
Most Difficult 2D Platformers | Syobon Action
If you’re looking for a game that genuinely hates you, then you can’t get much better than Syobon Action. Better known as “Cat Mario,” this Japanese freeware title is a parody of the original Super Mario Bros. It plays on the player’s expectations of how a Mario game is supposed to react and constantly trolls the player due to it. From moving blocks to sudden deaths, there’s no limit to its frustration. However, it can be quite fun figuring out how to get past the seemingly impossible levels through trial and error.