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You'll Never Finish These Ridiculously Hard Difficulty Modes

For those who complain that games are too easy, there are often some pretty gnarly hard modes you could try. In those, you don't beat the game so much as you survive it. Some hard modes, however, amp the challenge up so high, conquering them seems virtually impossible. Here are some of the hardest game modes ever made, for anyone who feels as though they don't fail enough in life already.

The Last of Us: Grounded mode will grind you into paste

The Last Of Us is tough enough on its own. It's just you and a teenage girl, alone against a horde of crazed monsters called Clickers, who sense you if you walk too loudly. Ammo is scarce, and much of it is conveniently placed where monsters like to chill. But then you activate Grounded mode and it gets so much worse.

In Grounded mode (presumably named because Joel and Ellie will quickly wind up in the ground), there's even less ammo and health, and you take more damage from enemies. More devastating, however, is the Clickers suddenly hear better than ever, and can sense you if you do anything but tippy-toe. Even then, there's a good chance they'll sense your presence and investigate, and once they find you, you're mincemeat.

Even worse, your Heads-Up Display (HUD) is gone, meaning you can no longer see your remaining health and ammo levels. You can only deduce how hurt you are by studying how badly Joel limps around, and if you want to know how many bullets are in your current clip, you'll just have to count them yourself. That might be fun for vampire Muppets, but most will likely find it tedious. It's confusing too, since just one massive firefight can break your concentration, make you lose count, and leave you guessing until you either find more ammo or join the rest of civilization in the afterlife. 

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard says Ethan Must Die

Even if your name isn't Ethan, playing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard's "Ethan Must Die" mode is likely to make you zombie chum before you can say "Ethan Sandwich."

A mode added as part of Biohazard's DLC, Ethan Must Die only extends to a portion of the main game. You can thank Capcom for not making the entire game this way, because it's a true nightmare. For one thing, you start out with just your knife. Any actual guns and ammunition can be found in boxes strewn about the place, but it's all randomized. Both the crates and what's inside them will change with each playthrough and after each death, so don't bother memorizing anything. Also, if you die (or rather, when you die), you lose all your loot, and can only reclaim one item from an angel statue marking your latest final resting place.

That's aggravating enough, but did you know some boxes are booby-trapped, and will kill you if you get too close? Now you do. About the only advantage you have is that the booby boxes aren't randomized, so you can at least memorize where those are. Even with that one benefit, Ethan Must Die is pure evil. Polygon offers tips on how to survive, and one of them is "pray." That's a sign for anybody braving this mode to accept endless death as their destiny. 

Dark Souls will kill you six times as hard in New Game++++++

No, a cat didn't fall asleep on the keyboard. That is indeed six pluses at the end of "New Game," a sign that if you try this mode, you're likely to wind up six feet under.

Normal Dark Souls is about the hardest game ever made, but New Game+ somehow makes the experience even more brutal. Just about every enemy is way, way stronger than before. The first boss, for example, goes from 813 hit points in normal mode to 2,195 in New Game+, which is like going from high school algebra to advanced nuclear physics overnight. If you somehow beat New Game+, the enemies become even stronger in New Game++.

Enemy strength peaks at New Game ++++++, where even the most minor of foes are as difficult as late-game bosses. Bosses, meanwhile, are overpowered enough to skin you alive just by staring at you. By the way, that first boss now sports 2,744 hit points — and remember there are many stronger bosses after him. You do earn more Souls per enemy, but that hardly makes things easier. If anything it's a tease, because good luck earning souls from more than a couple New Game++++++ demons.

You also lose your embers, keys, bonfire items, and other important equipment, but that's the case no matter how many pluses your New Game sports. It just gets increasingly frustrating to not have them, since by the sixth plus you're whimpering against an endless tide of unstoppable murder-gods, and you could really use the help. 

Wario Land 4's S-Hard mode is meaner than ten Warios

Super Mario games don't normally champion difficulty modes. They just make it a huge pain in the butt to find all the shiny MacGuffins littering the Mushroom Kingdom. Wario Land 4, however, offers up Super Hard (S-Hard), one of the toughest modes in franchise history. It's exactly what you should expect from a scoundrel like Wario. 

To activate S-Hard mode, simply complete the game on Hard. Then weep, for S-Hard Wario Land doesn't play around. For example, Wario typically has eight health points. In S-Hard, he has one, meaning until you find extra health, one hit from anything will cost you a life. In addition, you have much less time to complete each course than you did before. The "Wildflower Fields" course, for example, has a 2:30 minute time limit on Normal, just 1:20 on hard, and an unfair 50 seconds on S-Hard. Some levels give you more time on S-Hard, but they also move the switch needed to escape the level, making it even more improbable you're getting out alive.

Plus, items cost way more money in S-Hard, and even certain mini-games become a burden. The Homerun Derby, for example, boasts way more difficult pitching than in other modes. All this combined will likely mean you'll "wah, wah" more than Wario himself at the end of your S-Hard romp.

You probably won't survive Champion's mode in Wii Punch Out!!

Punch Out!! is famous for its insane final bosses. Whether it's Mike Tyson, Mr. Dream, or Mr. Sandman, they're liable to knock you out faster than boxers can touch gloves. Then there's Champion's mode in Wii Punch Out!!, which bravely asks the question, "what if every fighter were Mr. Sandman?" As it turns out, the answer is "Little Mac eats canvas immediately."

After winning ten fights in "Mac's Last Stand," you can challenge Champion's mode. You'll then almost certainly lose, because any attack from any fighter can knock you out in just one shot. That's right, every fighter is now as strong as the World Champion. Don't think you can see their attacks coming, either. In Champion's mode, the boxers no longer turn beet-red before they strike, nor will they blink yellow when taunting and giving you a clear opportunity to take them to Pound Town. So if you're not extraordinarily careful, even Glass Joe could own you in mere seconds. You don't want that kind of humiliation hanging over your head.

If you somehow beat anybody in this mode, you get a Champion's Medal. Beat everyone, and you win all the medals. That's, unfortunately, all you get. You don't get extra strength, you don't unlock a new mode, and you certainly don't get a surprise appearance from Mike Tyson. Literally all you win by beating the hardest Punch Out!! mode ever are bragging rights. It's certainly better than "Great fighting!" but not by much.

Metal Gear Solid 4's Boss Extreme mode turns Old Snake into Dead Snake

A real-life Solid Snake would have an incredibly hard time getting through Metal Gear Solid 4. He's old, dying, and Liquid Ocelot's guards know exactly who he is and know to be merciless. Playing "The Boss Extreme" mode simply transplants that reality into the game world.

As is fitting for a mode named after one of the greatest soldiers of all time, "The Boss Extreme" makes it nearly impossible to win. For one, the enemies are far stronger than before, fully capable of murdering Snake in just a couple shots. You can also hold far less ammunition per weapon, and you're only allowed two health rations at a time. In short, you're at the exact disadvantage an old man facing an entire army almost entirely by himself should expect.

Perhaps you're thinking it'll be okay, because Snake's a stealth master. Forget health and guns, just sneak past everyone! And you'd be right, except for two problems. One, what about those bosses? Two, regular enemies in "The Boss Extreme" are far more aware than in other modes. They can see you from further away, can hear you even at your quietest, and when you tranquilize them, they'll wake up sooner. So while you certainly can sneak past enemies, don't take that ability for granted. You're likely to get spotted, and then you'll have to fight with very little backup. Make The Boss proud, if you can.

You can't wake up from Doom's Ultra Nightmare mode

Doom, even on normal "Hurt Me Plenty" mode, is only a walk in the park if fire-spitting demons from the bowels of Hell chill on every park bench. But the difficulty gets amped up significantly on Nightmare mode, where the enemies are stronger and more numerous, your Marine takes more damage, and extra health is almost as rare as a friendly Spider Mastermind. That's nearly impossible by itself, but the latest Doom also gives us Ultra-Nightmare mode, which is Nightmare with one major addition: permadeath. If you die in Ultra-Nightmare even once, you start completely from the beginning. Imagine struggling all the way to the end, dying just before killing the final boss, and then having to do everything all over again. That truly is an ultra nightmare.

If you can't beat this mode, don't feel bad, because the people who designed it can't either. IGN reports that as of April 2016, nobody at id Software has even come close to conquering Ultra-Nightmare mode. The super-hard difficulty has apparently been beaten since then, but don't count on joining these elite gamers' ranks anytime soon.

Elite mode in Killzone makes every area a deathzone

Most impossibly difficult game modes are thankfully confined to one game only. Killzone, on the other hand, has slapped its Elite mode on three separate games — Killzone 2, Killzone 3, or Killzone Shadow Fall — each one just as painfully difficult as the last.

When playing as an Elite, your character takes far more damage than before, while the Helghast soldiers take less damage and are way smarter. No longer will they fire at you and then just stand there, waiting to be shot. Elite Helghastians will shoot, then immediately hide from your incoming gunfire. Speaking of gunfire, in easier modes you had crosshairs to help you aim your weapons. That's gone too, replaced by...absolutely nothing. All you can do while aiming is imagine where you think the crosshairs would be, while hoping for the best. You won't get it, but there's nothing wrong with hope.

Killzone Shadow Fall did add one new feature, just in case anybody found the previous two Elite modes easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy: limited lives. Yep, no longer can you keep trying and dying until you win. You have three chances to beat Shadow Fall on Elite mode, and if you blow them all, you have to start again from the beginning. Mess with the Helghan, you get the hellhorns.

XCOM's story is best told in Impossible Ironman mode

In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, aliens have invaded Earth, and we're not handling it well at all. Humanity's especially in trouble if you play in Impossible Ironman mode, which is just as terrifying as it sounds.

In Normal mode, the game starts at a zero panic level, meaning everyone's relatively chill about their new alien overlords. But in Impossible mode, that panic level starts at 16, meaning mass hysteria everywhere you go. Your goal is to eradicate aliens in places of panic, so imagine trying to do that when basically every country is screaming for you to help them right now. Being late with that help means a country might withdraw from XCOM, taking their support and funding with them — and making your job even harder. Impossible mode also gives you fewer starting units, soldiers with less health, and faster-rising panic. The aliens are stronger, smarter, and more numerous, and you begin the game with very little funding. 

So, naturally, there's an even harder difficulty: Impossible Ironman. That mode adds permadeath to the mix by not letting you reload your save after you die. Oh, and it's canonical, according to the developers, which is what led to the sequel, XCOM 2. Creative director Jake Solomon told IGN, "the idea is that XCOM never made it out of conventional weapons; that the aliens came in overwhelming force and overwhelming numbers...to say Impossible Ironman is canon is perfect." In short, if you want the true XCOM experience, allow humanity no advantage whatsoever.

The Metro series' Ranger Hardcore mode will nuke your senses

As far as worlds ravaged by nuclear war go, Fallout has nothing on the Metro series. Only a few thousand people survive, and just about all of them live underground in the Moscow Metro system. Also, the surface world is teeming with radiation, poison rain, and monsters who will happily travel underground to murder you. That sounds challenging enough on its own, but try playing Metro: 2033 or Metro: Last Light in Ranger Hardcore mode and see how quickly you go from living underground to being buried there.

The non-ranger Hardcore mode is bad enough, since enemies are stronger, your character is weaker, equipment and ammo is scarce, and items are more expensive. But if you attempt Ranger Hardcore, you get all that and more. For one thing, like with The Last Of Us, your HUD is gone, meaning all you've got to go by is the occasional weapon with a laser pointer. Plus, you're simultaneously weaker and stronger than in regular Hardcore mode, as you can kill most enemies with a single attack, but they can also kill you with one.

Don't think you can just shoot the bad guys before they maul you, because ammo is even scarcer than before. Really, your best bet is to sneak past as many monsters as possible, and pray those who do see you are in a good mood. Spoiler alert: They won't be.

Serious Sam gets blindsided in Mental mode

Serious Sam's Mental mode is a serious challenge, as anything named after the series' main bad guy should be.

Normally, Serious mode is a Sam game's hardest difficulty level. In it, enemies move faster, cause more damage, and have more health. Also, there are way more of them, with some levels boasting over 2,000 baddies out for your blood. That's pretty horrific, but you do get double ammunition, so you've got that going for you, which is nice. Mental mode is a different beast entirely, bringing the enemy level back down to normal, but keeping them super-strong and making them...invisible.

Yep, we're as serious as Sam. Almost immediately after you see an enemy, they'll fade away into the ether. They can still see you though, putting you at an even bigger disadvantage than in Serious mode. Your only real chance against these monstrous John Cenas is to listen for them, or use your weapon's crosshairs to make their vitality stats pop up. But even that won't help you against foes who run and jump everywhere, making it hard to keep a bead on them. You can't randomly open fire and hope to kill something either, because you don't have Serious mode's double ammo. You just need to make very educated guesses about where they are, and open fire conservatively in case you're wrong. Because if you are, and you waste a couple dozen bullets, you're seriously doomed.

Live your Kitchen Nightmares in Cook, Serve, Delicious's Extreme mode

If you ever wanted to experience working in a busy restaurant, Cook, Serve, Delicious is for you. If you want the true experience, however, you have to play its unforgiving Extreme mode. It's one Gordon Ramsay rant away from being the most stressful food venture of your life.

In Extreme mode, you have to make almost every order perfect. Customers pour in endlessly, and they have no patience at all, so you better make their food quickly and correctly. Plus, you need to wash dishes and clean the bathroom faster than ever, while also constantly creating new dishes to keep your customers interested and happy. Well, semi-happy — as you can see in the video above, even on a perfect day nobody looks like they want to be there. Their stomachs are happy, though, and that's what really counts.

Some minigames are especially evil in Extreme mode. "Battle Kitchen," for example, offers Strike Challenges, where you prepare and serve waves of theme-based food. In Normal mode, you can make a few mistakes, and serve up to three bad orders before losing. In Extreme, you're allowed no bad orders, or even average ones. Everything must be perfect, or the challenge is over. It's the kind of cruel, brutal difficulty that will make you want to give up and play Cooking Mama instead. Mama would never hurt you.