7 classic games made ruthlessly difficult by hardcore fans

Here comes a new challenger!

Stop me if youve heard this one before: Youre 80 hours into your favorite role-playing game, and the end is in sight. You found all the best weapons, the best armor, and even defeated that super tough optional boss. Then the final boss appears--and you decimate him, without even breaking a sweat. Its a little funny at first, but when the credits roll, the entire victory just feels hollow.

Wouldnt it have been better to face a foe who made you rub a few brain cells together at least once during the final battle? You're not alone. The internet knows your pain, and has created a solution: difficulty mods. Were not talking about mods where "lol everything one-shots you now!!!" Instead, were talking about mods that increase the overall difficulty of a game in a logical way, giving you a fighting chance while still demanding intelligent planning. So why not revisit an old favorite, and put your skills to the test with one of these sinister mods.

Final Fantasy Tactics 1.3

I've played a lot of Final Fantasy Tactics over the years, more than I'd care to admit. It's a great game, but it has its quirks. Certain classes (Calculator), certain characters (Cid), and certain skills (Blade Grasp) are just too powerful for their own good. I mean, Cid could clear entire fights all by himself. What do you need the rest of your party for at that point? Final Fantasy Tactics 1.3 address these issues, and then some. It reaches virtually every aspect of the game, tweaking and adjusting it so that more play styles and strategies are viable--instead of, you know, just having Cid do all the work.

This mod also introduces a ton of new content into the game as well. The Sage class replaces the Calculator, with a whole new set of abilities. Arena Battles feature three-way skirmishes where it's every team for himself. And there are plenty of redesigned monsters and encounters designed to test your mettle with new abilities. If you need even more and want to push the game in a, shall we say, crazier direction, then be sure to check out War of the Gods as well, which plays like a hyper-changed, completely overpowered version of the original game.

Link: Insane Difficulty

XCOM: Long War

Long War is certainly one of the most celebrated mods on this list, including praise from XCOM: Enemy Unknowns lead designer, Jake Solomon. And just like Final Fantasy Tactics 1.3, Long War is a far-reaching mod, touching almost every part of the base game and building upon it in new ways. These little touches, according to the creators, include "five tiers of XCOM weaponry, many new armors and small items and S.H.I.V.s that can be equipped with perk-granting items" and "tactical missions that allow up to twelve XCOM soldiers per mission with the right upgrades."

In terms of difficulty, this mod makes the base game tougher by expanding certain mechanics, while curtailing others. Remember how in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you could take the same group of dudes and dudettes on almost every mission, or squeak by with only one or two Interceptors per continent? Not any more! Troop fatigue and a sharp increase in aircraft fragility render these sorts of easy-mode strategies moot. Oh, and you better believe there are options in place for making the game longer--as if XCOM wasnt enough of a marathon already!

Link: NexusMods

Pokemon red/blue self-hacking mod

This mod is a bit odd. While all the others on this list are designed to fix or alter something specific about their base game, this one is all about randomness. Its not even a mod in the traditional sense, but an assembly hack which requires a little bit of hex editing to get going--all of which sounds a lot scarier than it actually is. Basically, you switch a few values in the games code, and it starts hacking itself. These hacks occur at set intervals, which you can specify, and when one occurs, something in the games code changes. Just be careful that you dont make the game hack itself too frequently, or it will basically self-destruct.

However, once you get it working, it is pure magic. Almost anything can happen, at any time. Your Pokemon may suddenly be replaced with different pokemon, or your Pokemon may learn new moves they shouldnt have access to. You may leave one area and get teleported to another, completely different area. Since its all completely random, you'll never get the same results twice. Again, this may sound too chaotic to actually be playable, but if you adjust it just right, you can reach a good mix of randomness which still being able to finish the game. Just make sure you save frequently.

Link: YouTube

Brutal Doom

Youd think Doom wouldnt need to be any more brutal. I mean, the game is basically about three things: guns, demons, and the many combinations thereof. Everything you encounter dies, and it dies horribly. But in Brutal Doom, it dies even more horribly. Your movement is faster, enemies are tougher, and there are even execution attacks. Im talking about watching Doomguy hold a dude down and rip his arms out of his sockets. Its enough to bring a tear to John Carmacks eye.

Whats really great is if you visit the authors YouTube page, which is filled with such gems as "new blood decals" and "more blood improvements." My personal favorite would have to be "new ceiling blood effects" which is a hot 51 seconds of dudes' heads exploding onto the ceiling while blood drips down all over the place. This should give you a pretty good idea of what youre getting yourself into.

Link: ModDB

Final Fantasy VII Hardcore mod

Back in 1997, when the first Harry Potter book was gracing UK bookstores and American audiences were soaking up James Cameron's Titanic, Final Fantasy VII helped popularize JRPGs for an entire generation of gamers. Today, those gamers are still waiting for an HD remake thatll never materialize, but in the meantime, fans have taken it upon themselves to revitalize this classic. There are plenty of difficulty mods out there, and even more debate about which one is the "best."

Nightmare 7 pushes the games difficulty to the extreme with a lot of new content and an absolutely devastating level of difficulty. On the other hand, Reasonable Difficulty only tweaks the numbers to make the game a bit more challenging. Then theres Gjoerulv's Hardcore mod which does a bit of both. It both adjusts certain spells and abilities to help make the game more balanced, while also introducing some new bosses and enemies. As the author notes, this is not a "new FF7," but a "refreshed, more difficult FF7."

Link: Qhimm forms

Mega Man X Hard Type

Mega Man X is a gem on the Super Nintendos crown, and one of the best platformers of all time. Its masterful design elevated it from being a mere game, to the stuff of legend. Ancient medicine men would grind up copies with a mortar and pestle, and pour the contents into an herbal tea that was said to cure scabies and the gout--yeah, its that good. So why would someone mess with perfection? Well, perfection can get a little dull. I mean, the top speed runners can finish it in just over half an hour. Its been played to death, and some of us want more.

Enter Mega Man X Hard Type. Instead of just tweaking a bunch health and damage values--which it most certainly does--Hard Type redesigns large portions of the game to give your thumbs a new challenge. For example, consider the Flame Mammoth boss battle. Remember how you would fight him in this long, rectangular room, the one with the conveyor belt that would change directions? Well, now that room is a tiny square filled with lava--lava thats on the ceiling. On the bright side, the game does give you infinite lives, which youll absolutely need.

Link: Insane Difficulty

Super Mario RPG Armageddon

Yup. Its another mod from the fine folks over at Insane Difficulty. What can I say--they do good work. This time its for the Nintendo/Squaresoft collaboration Super Mario RPG, one of the first games to use timed hits in battle. Thats right, long before Squall was igniting enemies with his gunblade in Final Fantasy VIII, Mario and company were putting the hurt on their enemies with precise timing.

However, as long as you were diligent--and didnt run from every random encounter you came across--chances are you didnt have much trouble toppling Smithy and saving the Mushroom Kingdom. That DEFINITELY wont be the case in Armageddon. Were talking new items, new bosses, new locations for old bosses, new monsters, new monster attacks, and much more. In short, its a massive undertaking, one that continues to receive regular updates to this day.

Link: Insane Difficulty

But the future refused to change

Are you ready to give your old favorites another spin? Are there any difficulty mods youve enjoyed that werent on this list--you know, aside from the dozens of Super Metroid and Link to the Past mods. Let us know in the comments below!

And for more amazing GamesRadar reads, check out 13 important moral lessons as taught to us by games and 12 evil copies of video game do-gooders.

Maxwell McGee
Maxwell grew up on a sleepy creekbank deep in the South. His love for video games has taken him all the way to the West Coast and beyond.