Seriously, are they? Over the years, I’ve been noticing that an increasing number of new games take less and less effort to beat nowadays. I never have to wonder if I’ll be able to beat a new game or not. In the past, I had many games sitting around that I needed to return to and finish. Now, it is quite uncommon for me to start a game without being able to finish it. When the rare game comes along that I can’t beat on my first playthrough, I’m rather surprised. Such things never happen anymore.
I remember games definitely used to be much harder. Back when I was playing a bunch of Super Nintendo games for the first time, I couldn’t beat any of them. Finally, I got through “Donkey Kong Country 3”, but the second game stopped me near the end, at the stressful Castle Crush level, while the first game of the series stopped me earlier still at world number three. It took quite some time before I was good enough to beat those games. And to this day, I can’t beat any old “Mario” games except for “Super Mario World”, with help. I have not beaten one game on the “Super Mario All-Stars” collection. Not one. Even “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” was hard, and it wasn’t even part of the platformer genre that used to cause me so much grief. You remember that big worm centipede boss thing where you have to hit the tail, and it keeps pushing you off the platform, forcing you to start the battle over again? Yeah.
But, nowadays, I beat games without tons of trouble. Of course, I’ve gotten better, as I’ve had years of experience, but I know it’s not quite that. The old Super Nintendo games continue to be quite a challenge for me. The new ones may take effort, but they are no longer impossible. The old “Super Mario Bros.” games are impossible. No amount of playing will ever allow me to beat those. I just never will. I’ll never, ever, ever succeed in allowing Mario to simultaneously traverse ridiculously precarious ledges while avoiding weirdos throwing hammers at me (I mean, who does that?) and Bullet Bills and whatever else the sadistic minds at Nintendo decided to invent. Just not happening. But, I can beat “Super Mario 64”, “Sunshine”, and both “Galaxy” games 100%. I’m not saying they aren’t hard, but I can actually finish those.
So what’s going on? One theory I’ve had for why games originally got easier was the switch from 2D to 3D and control pads to analog sticks. Games like “Mario” are so much easier, I think, now that games are played in a 3D space rather than 2D. Trying to get Mario to jump onto a centimeter wide platform in a 2D space (which he’ll still inevitably slip right off of if he does succeed in landing on it) seems so much harder than getting him to jump onto an object with actual width AND length, you know. And then when it comes to games that always took place in “3D” spaces (like “Zelda”), there was that pesky control pad. It’s just not as easy to move with that. Your movement is much more limited, being confined to only four directions. Try running in a circle with a control pad. Up, right, up, right, right, right, down, right, down, right, down, left, down…okay, you get it. I feel I am much more competent at maneuvering around my enemies when I have an analog stick and can actually move in the direction I want. Watch me do circles! Watch me do figure eights! Watch me trace out the Mona Lisa! It’s now all possible!
After, that, though, I think they’ve just been making games easier and easier. I understand games aren’t as fun when they’re absurd, but they aren’t as challenging as they used to be. I still like a challenge, but many series have been getting much easier. Take “Ratchet and Clank”, for example. I remember 10 years ago, they used to be hard. Seriously, the final boss of “Up Your Arsenal” was vicious. I spent hours and hours trying that battle over and over again. But, more recently, the games are just plain easy. I had the final boss battles of “A Crack in Time” done just like that. I died more from being stupid and falling off platforms than anything. And the older games were mean in other ways, too. You spend all this time in a brutal boss battle and beat the boss to within an inch of their lives only to die and have to start from the very, very beginning. You die in the middle of the battles in “A Crack in Time”, and you just come back to start over that particular section. I suppose that’s nice, but it’s a bit too nice. The “Zelda” series isn’t very hard anymore, either. I breezed right through “Skyward Sword”. It was fun, but the main challenge came from Ghirahim constantly blocking my attacks, which was annoying more than anything. I’m sorry if I still don’t totally understand the mechanics of these new controls!
And in addition to games getting easier, I’ve been seeing easy modes in games a lot more often now, too. I used to never see that. You got normal mode, and sometimes you got hard mode, but not easy mode. So many games have that option now. “Ratchet and Clank” added it (I can only imagine how easy the simplest mode is when normal mode can be done whilst making a complex sandwich to keep you entertained during the final boss, with some left over for the credits). “Halo 4” had it, too. And “Final Fantasy XIII-2”. Why, when games are becoming easier, do they add easy mode, too? With these easy games, I half wonder if easy mode plays through the game for you.
Oh, and sometimes, it kind of does. In a few Wii games, I noticed a thing called Super Guide. This appears in “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” and “Donkey Kong Country Returns” (not sure of any others). In each game, when you die enough, you have the option of allowing Super Guide, either Luigi or some ape dude respectively, play through the level for you so you don’t have to. Now I can see that it would be nice to continue a game rather than be stuck on one level, never to be allowed to proceed further unless you finally manage to make your way through it, but honestly. Should games really play themselves? You could go through all of those two games without ever completing a single level on your own if you wanted to. It seems like they should show you the level, then, make you do it yourself, at least. Video games are not movies. They are meant to be played, or you should watch a friend play, but you shouldn’t just watch the computer play through for you. (That’s why people got upset with some of the newer “Final Fantasy” games, because the battles basically play on their own.) Of course, it’s up to you whether you use Super Guide or not, but it seems to almost defeat the purpose of playing a game or a game being challenging if you simply let the game skip the challenging levels for you. But, that’s just me.
Anyway, there are definitely still challenging games, and I certainly don’t want games to be impossible like those Super Nintendo “Mario” games, but it still seems like a good number of games have gotten easier than they were in the past, and it’s disappointing playing a series that used to be hard, but is now easy. I like my games to be challenging. Not ridiculous, just challenging, so when I finish something hard, I am satisfied to have gotten through it. I suppose different difficulty settings are fine because some people like easier games, but I don’t think a game’s only setting should be easy, and normal mode shouldn’t be easy, either. I chose normal over easy because I didn’t want easy. Does anyone else think games aren’t as hard as they used to be, or is it just me?
A Duck That Wants a Challenge That’s Not Too Challenging, But Not Too Un-Challenging, Am I Being Picky?