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Nintendo Hard / Roguelikes

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You die...
Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n) _
Game Over screen, NetHack

Roguelikes. Their defining feature is having one life which, when lost, also deletes your save. Combining this with (seemingly) Everything Trying to Kill You and (often) dying repeatedly whilst learning how to survive in the gameworld ("Medusa - causes petrification. Sadly, so does eating her corpse") is part of the attraction.


So, Nintendo Hard and roguelikes are somewhat synonymous - simply being a roguelike will qualify most games for this trope by default.

  • Part of the difficulty in NetHack is caused by the sheer randomness of the game with limited efforts to balance. There was one player who died without ever taking a turn - all because the game generated a random monster in line of sight of them at the start of the game, then randomly generated a wand in the possession of the monster, and randomly selected that wand to be a wand of death.
    • Slash EM is another variant that takes NetHack and ups the ante. "NetHack doesn't care if you live or die. Slash'EM wants you dead."
    • It's also possible to have Grayswandir (a lawfully aligned artifact sword) generated on the stairs you start the game on. Combine automatically picking up items (the default setting) and it zapping non-lawfuls who pick it up, and it's possible to die before you get a single turn. It's also one of the rarest and most powerful weapons in the game, making it even more frustrating, since now you're dead and won't get to use it.
  • Is NetHack too easy for you? Then it's time to play ADOM. Yup, it's a roguelike with a world map. Which means that there are multiple randomly-generated death trap dungeons for you to perish in. It's not uncommon for gamers to play a month or two before even getting to the main dungeon. And unlike NetHack, it only gets harder as you play. (If it takes a year before the average first win in NetHack, it takes about 5 years for ADOM. And let's not even mention the ultra endings...)
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  • The worst Roguelike of all is probably Iter Vehemens Ad Necem (usually called IVAN). Its name translates from Latin as "A Violent Road To Death." It's intended to be effectively Unwinnable, although some players have managed to win anyway. This is a bug and will be fixed in the next release.
  • Dwarf Fortress, where the main question is not "will your fortress collapse?" but "when and how will your fortress collapse?"
    • The question may also be "How do you feel like destroying this fortress?".
    • And that's if you get past the learning stage. Being hard to master is one thing; even getting to "apprentice" level in here is horribly difficult even if you spend the entire time with the DF wiki page open. And even if you've mastered the game, the Self-Imposed Challenge potential is enormous.
    • This is turned Up to Eleven by the "Dig Deeper" mod, which introduces orcs: trap-proof, door-unlocking fiends that turn up in huge numbers before the end of the first in-game year. (It's possible to end up outnumbered 7:1 by Orc mobs appearing before you've even got your first immigration wave, complete with Orc spearmasters, archers and mace lords). Not like this is the only mod to do this; it speaks volumes about the community that just about every popular mod makes the game significantly harder.
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    • The best way to play Dwarf Fortress is to train yourself to ditch the idea that losing is a bad thing. After all, one of the game's slogans is "Losing is Fun!"
  • The postgame of each Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game. After you finish the story mode, some of the Bonus Dungeons that you can unlock are sadistic. Examples include: Western Cave and Silver Trench in Red and Blue Rescue team, two dungeons that have 99 floors, keep ruining your items with traps, and have strong Pokémon. To take it up a notch, there are 99 floor dungeons that lower your level to level 1 (Wish Cave and Joyous Tower in PMD1 and Zero Isle East in PMD2). To make it even harder, there are 99 floor dungeons that lower your level to level 1, do not let you bring any money or items, and do not let you bring in any team members, essentially putting you in the mercy of the random number generator (Purity Forest in PMD1, Zero Isle West, and Zero Isle South in PMD2). Explorers of Sky essentially just decided to make the hardest dungeon possible by making it 99 floors, lower your level to level 1, does not allow you to bring in any items or money, prevents you from bringing any team members, and keeps traps hidden after you trigger them. Explorers of Sky adds a new infair trap that warps and gives all wild Pokémon on the floor the "Grudge" status, which results in all power points of the last move used being drained away if you kill them.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light? More like FTL: For The Lose. It is, in short, Star Trek: The Rogue Like. Even on easy it's still extremely difficult, with luck playing a heavy role. Run into a ship you're not well prepared to face? At best, you can expect to take hefty damage before you can escape. At worst, it's possible to die in the first sector. And every run ends in a final, three-stage confrontation with the Rebel flagship; even for a Final Boss it's a massive Difficulty Spike over anything else the game could have already conceivably thrown at you.
  • Spelunky is an addictive platformer/roguelike hybrid in which you will die many, MANY times due to frogs, spikes, yetis, and everything in between. The fact you can make shortcuts to later parts of the game doesn't make the game any easier, only more plausible to actually beat.
    • The shortcuts actually make the game significantly harder. Since you then have fewer floors to get the items necessary to make winning the game plausible. The shortcuts also preclude you from entering the bonus dungeon.
  • The Binding of Isaac is a roguelike twin-stick shooter with Zelda-esque dungeon exploration elements. While there's just enough Game Breaking pick-ups and combinations to keep it from going too far down this route, the game is still extremely tough if you don't manage to get one of them, with endgame bosses veering into staight-up Bullet Hell territory, and the rest of the game is infested with Goddamn Bats and Demonic Spiders. Rebirth, while offering up more item synergies, allowing even formerly useless power-ups the chance to be part of a powerful item combination, also fixes the vanilla game's rather merciful slow-down issues and caps your HP at 10 hearts (where before there was no cap at all, at least for soul hearts, allowing you to hoard so many soul hearts the HUD couldn't keep track of them all.)
    • Even with the difficulty, the amount of content present is astounding - Northernlion made a series over 800 episodes long, each episode being ~45 minutes. It's not uncommon to have thousands of hours sunk into the game.
  • Dungeon Crawl is known for being a roguelike that tries to play fair - there are very few 'trap items', the interface is designed to be simple and easy to use, examining an enemy will give you a rough description of their abilities and a rudimentary 'threat level' assessment, there's no item destruction, and the game lacks the absurd Combinatorial Explosion that most other roguelikes possess. That being said, it also gets rid of a lot of tricks that most roguelikes have to trivialize the game. There are no healing spells, and your strongest healing potion will heal maybe 30 HP. There is no amulet of life saving, and the closest thing you get to wishing is the scroll of acquirement, which is largely random. Resources are heavily limited, including potions, scrolls, wand charges, and even experience. Level Grinding doesn't work; if you hang out on a level too long, the spawn rate dials down to nothing and the game starts throwing disproportionately strong monsters at you. In short, the game is rooting for you, but it's still going to kill you - and then your ghost will kill you again.
  • 20XX is a roguelike platformer styled after the Mega Man X series, and while the early game can be a cakewalk if you're used to the MMX series, even the most broken power-ups can't save you from the sheer Platform Hell that the game eventually turns into once it takes off the kid's gloves.

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