The most common recurring complaint people had with Guitar Hero 3 was that it was far more difficult than the preceding games. While the difficulty needed to be steeper than Guitar Hero 2 in order to provide some challenge to the players that had mastered that game, a lot of the songs were just plain unreasonable, with note structures that didn't serve any purpose except to make your life hell. And even if you could handle most of the game, the last set ('Raining Blood', 'Cliffs of Dover', 'Number of the Beast' and 'One', followed by going head to head with the Devil in 'The Devil Went Down to Georgia') went beyond insane. 'Raining Blood' is widely regarded as the hardest (compulsory) song in the series- at least 'Through the Fire & the Flames' is only a bonus track...
Outside of the legendarily difficult final tier, seventh-tier song 'Before I Forget' by Slipknot is infamous for its bridge chord progression that, on Expert, goes (GY)(RB)(GY)(RB)(YO)(RB)(GY)(RB) at an eighth note rhythm, then adds in some (RB)(YO)(RB) changes at sixteenth-note rhythm for good measure. For the uninitiated, that basically means your fretting hand would sooner liberate itself from the corresponding arm and desert your body than be subjected to that kind of torture.
Even before the bridge, the song is just loaded with "why not?"-style 2- and 3-button chords.
Interestingly, Guitar Hero 3 was the first in the Guitar Hero franchise not to be made by the original developers Harmonix, and instead being handed off to Activision's replacement team after Harmonix left to partner with EA. It is possible that in their relative inexperience, they resorted to a certain amount of Fake Difficulty.
However, this is somewhat countered by a more generous timing window than the Harmonix games. In the faster sections, the challenge comes in being able to hit (or pull-off to) frets in the correct sequence at that speed, without having to worry so much about the rhythm of it. Good news for masochists though; there's a precision mode which makes the timing window even tighter than the old games!
The worst part about 'One' isn't just the difficulty. It's the massive difficulty spike right at the end of an extremely long song that starts off easy enough (the first part doesn't have any notes to play for at least a full minute,) and then turns unrelentingly, carpal tunnel-inducingly difficult for quite a while, and then suddenly hits you with a nigh-impossible guitar solo that's just long enough that you can't just Star Power your way through it.
Many guitar players find that several songs (especially power chord heavy and solo-free punk songs by bands like The Ramones) are actually far easier to play on a real guitar than on Guitar Hero/Rock Band on any difficulty above Medium.
And should you master that, play TTFAF on Rock Band 3 with the Mustang or (god help you) Squier pro guitars. Shit just got real.
The BIT.TRIP series of rhythm action games for WiiWare. Here's the first one, where you control a tiny pong paddle and have to hit hundreds of beats with it. This is the sequel, where you are a + sign in the middle of the screen and you again have to hit hundreds of beats that are flying all around you and switching directions. They are fun, but they WILL make you weep.
The third game, despite supposedly being a Breather Game, is also incredibly difficult, being a Bullet Hell game where you have to both hit and dodge bullets at the same time.
The fourth game, Runner, a rhythm platformer, is quite possibly harder than all the other games put together. You have to dodge tons of fast obstacles, press buttons crazy fast, and if you get hit once, you go back to the start of the level, even if you are an inch from the finish line. And it will happen over, and over, and over.
The sixth game, Flux, is like the first game, only much harder.
Dance Dance Revolution features an Oni (or Challenge) mode in which you need to clear several songs in a row, usually accompanied with frantic step charts. However, unlike regular courses, you only have four lives. Breaking combo makes you lose a life, so even judgements that don't normally hurt you can kill you now. DDR doesn't have invincibility frames after getting hit, so if you screw up you can die in less than a second on harder songs. Most games will restore a few lives after each song depending on how hard it was, but you still only have four lives to complete each song. It doesn't help that most of DDR's boss rushes are in Oni mode; beating Legend Mode is still impressive even today, and Boss Rush SN 2 is about to turn eight with no confirmed passes.
In the Groove 's stepcharts are this, as the game is aimed towards top-tier DDR players. Back in 2004, it was hellishly difficult; most of the game's Expert charts are 9-footers (compared to DDR's 7 or 8-foot average at the time), and the scale goes up to 13 out of 10. DDR has mostly closed the gap, but the average DDR song is still easier than the average ITG song, and which game has the hardest bosses is still up for debate. Even that is only after ten years of DDR getting gradually harder. And you thought only the Japanese could make and conquer super-difficult dance games...
While it doesn't have a game mode that use a life system like Oni, the courses in this game had tons of modifiers that ensured the incoming arrows did everything but appear normally, flying around in every direction but straight. ITG2 also had a survival mode which provided the player with limited time that constantly wound down, only rewarding extra time for hitting steps with the best possible accuracy (fantastic), and docked more precious time for anything below "Excellent." It's quite easy to hit every single arrow quite accurately and still lose. Since the time is always winding down, one can easily put themselves into an unwinnable situation by not leaving enough time to possibly finish the song even if they do perfectly.
The beatmania IIDX series is known amongst many fans of music-based games for having off-the-scale challenge. Any song that is higher than level 1 will most likely kill a new player. Thesevideos show just how hard this game gets.
Beatmania has always had the Another difficulty, but the console releases of DJ Troopers and Empress took it one step further with the Black Another difficulty. The hardest Black Another is almost certainly Mendes, which might be the hardest song in the series so far. And Americans think Through the Fire and Flames is tough...
Just to put it in perspective, ever hear of Solid State Squad? Fan ranking site with some truly amazing, awesome, incredibly dedicated players. The kind that can AA some of the hardest songs in the game without breaking a sweat. Thus far, ONE has cleared Mendes Another, and the highest grade anyone has gotten is an A in a game where AAA's are possible.
There are two kinds of fan-made song files for DDR type games: those that aim to simulate DDR, and the rest that are Nintendo hard. Fans who make the latter are the ones devoted enough to the game to be able to play at that level of difficulty. Worse, a lot of DDR song file authors forget that they aren't playing Beatmania; you are totally screwed if you try to use your feet and a dance mat for their songs.
To those that don't rely on Cmods (Speed mods that make the arrows scroll at a constant BPM instead of changing when the BPM changes, much like how Frequency, Amplitude, Guitar Hero Series, and Rock Band Scroll their notes), they might find that songs with many sudden BPM changes to be Fake Hard
DJMAX Portable Black Square's Club Tour mode has some of the most bullshit missions in a Rhythm Game around. At Area 4, which is about halfway through, you get missions that require you to full-combo songs as well as missions where you need 100% accuracy, only one of which is on a level-1 song. Later on, you get missions where you need absurd amounts of points while chaining as many as seven or even eight Guitar Hero-style Limit Breaks, missions that demand very high combos (which are only achievable if you use the aforementioned Limit Break to artifically raise your combo), more missions in which you are a One-Hit-Point Wonder (or, at the very least, "miss less than a single-digit number of notes" missions) on very difficult charts, and missions that combine two of these objectives (all while giving you One Of Those Bosses as the song to do these missions on). So why endure all of this crap? Well, to get into certain clubs and areas so you can unlock songs, you need to increase your rank, and the only way to do so is through these missions!
The arcade spin-off series, DJMAX Technika, is a departure from the beatmania-inspired gameplay of the PC and Portable games. It features touchscreen-based gameplay in the same vein as Elite Beat Agents and osu where a timeline scrolls along a divided screen in a clockwise direction and notes must be tapped as the timeline passes over them. The concept may be simple on paper, but do not be fooled by this. It's a difficult game that combines a requirement for split second decision-making with the unforgiving groove gauge of beatmania; you can find yourself from full gauge to dead in a matter of six seconds if you're not careful.
DJMAX Respect is widely regarded as having the most difficult mission in the entire series near the tail end of its run, throwing one brutally hard Maximum chart after another with stringent clear requirements. The complete absence of the AUTO modifier, which made it really easy to maintain combos in past games, certainly does not help. To make things worse, the last two missions in the game introduce a mission-exclusive XB mode (8 buttons mode + L2 and R2), which players can't really get any practice on other than from the missions themselves.
All three of iNis' games in the Ouendan series (1, 2, and Elite Beat Agents) are notable for having extremely hard final songs, even on the easy mode. The sky-rocketing difficulty puts some of the penultimate stages pretty close as well, most notably "Canned Heat" in EBA.
EBA gets ridiculously hard about halfway through if you aren't familiar with the songs. Not that knowing the songs will help you too much...
It's not the beatmaps themselves that are hard. Compared to other rhythm games, they're actually pretty simple. No, what makes the game Nintendo Hard is the absolutely unforgiving life meter, which penalizes you greatly for missed notes, such that it only takes a few missed notes before you fail out, and even if you manage to survive at first, not only is it really hard to build your meter back up, but you can still fail out later because the meter is always decreasing when you're not hitting notes. Which, by the way, makes it possible to fail even if you are hitting all the notes, unless you're hitting most of them perfectly. Oh, and the final stages? They like to throw a lot of spinners at you, and then have you hit tricky note sequences after the spinners, which tend to make your hand a little shaky for some time afterwards...
You can thank the 9 buttons for that. The reason it has that many buttons was that it was originally meant to be played by two or even three players at once, in particular, a boyfriend and girlfriend on a date. Later, after IIDX really took off (bringing musical danmaku into the mainstream), Konami realized that lots of buttons also made it possible to create truly insane notecharts. Don't worry about it too much; this is just the EX level (which was made specifically for players who wanted a massive challenge). Uhh... there are Hyper charts with difficulty on par with EX charts (some songs don't even have EX charts to begin with).
The last Pump It Up with a reasonable difficulty progression was Premiere 3. Now, unless you're in great physical condition and have put in a lot of hours with the game, at least 75% of the Hard stepcharts will absolutely tear your legs off. Nightmare is a completely different can of worms.
Unlike in DDR and ITG where doubles charts are seen as optional challenges, doubles charts are considered by most competitive players as a staple of top-level Pump play and many competitions require all finalists to play them. Oh, and also unlike in DDR, doubles charts can throw patterns that require strong flexibility on the player's part, including "stretch jumps" (hitting an arrow on P1's left side and one on P2's left side); don't pull a muscle!
At first, the Rhythm Heaven series looks like it would be relatively simple and in fact seems almost geared towards the kids. Trust us when we say this is one most of the young 'uns should not be playing.
To spell it out: medals, used to unlock bonus minigames or features, can only be obtained in games by meeting their two or three hidden "tasks" (mostly making no more than few mistakes in certain beats or sequences) in the same run. To get extra content such as the soundtrack, you then have to revisit a level in which you got a Medal, and get a Perfect Medal: no mistakes allowed, and even beats that are slightly off that wouldn't be counted as a mistake still cost you your Perfect.
Sound Voltex, otherwise known as "beatmania but with knobs as well". Higher-end charts require you to be able to quickly switch back and forth between slapping buttons and using the knobs to follow beams that twist back and forth, or worse using one knob while hitting buttons at the same time.
Merely passing Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA is not all that challenging - the main issue in that regard is the obscenely steep pass grade of 80%. Perfecting the songs, however, even on Normal, is an incredibly tricky feat. This is not helped by the setlist being tied to a very fringe fanbase that makes the one helping factor of a rhythm game (actually knowing the rhythm of the songs beforehand) all the more difficult.
maimai can seem like a "casual" rhythm game at first thanks to the large number of licensed songs — VOCALOID, Touhou, and anime songs in particular — but it can get to be very challenging at the higher levels thanks to a combination of a radial/"polar" note scrolling style (as opposed to the more traditional "falling" notes of games such as IIDX and Sound Voltex) and slide notes that not only make confusing patterns that must be quickly slid while doing other notes, but can also hurt your hands unless you wear gloves. Like Project Diva (also a SEGA game), you need an 80% or higher to pass each song. At least there's no Life Meter...unless you're playing "Challenge Tracks" where you're allowed a limited number of non-Perfect judgements before the game kills you, and if you attempt a Challenge Track as soon as it's out you will lose as soon as you get one non-Perfect (picture the "Attack! Perfect Full Combo" challenges from DDR, but applied to a wider range of songs).
CROSS×BEATS starts off gentle and easy, but starting in the 60's range of difficulty ratings (out of 99), the game expects you to be able to do charts with polyphonic patterns that seem to require two brains to do. Even with the super-lenient Life Meter, scoring well on high-difficulty charts can get quite difficult.
The drummania side of GITADORA is perhaps one of the hardest rhythm games both to master and to learn, because it requires you to learn actual drumming skills (for example, if you've never played drums before, crossing your arms to hit the hi-hat can come off as a Violation of Common Sense) due to the game using an actual digital drum kit (provided by Yamaha) rather than a comparatively simple array of buttons. Failure to use proper drumming posture and technique can not only result in a frustrating game experience, but you can even hurt your hands and your back. Once you get a grip on things, you'll find that the highest levels of the game often demand that you juggle two or three rhythms in your head at the same time. The series only got harder with GuitarFreaks & drummania XG, which adds two more drum pads and one more bass pedal.