The Top 5 Hardcore Games of the Last Five Years: An Intense Walkthrough

Players around the world have been battling, strategising and grinding their way through the most challenging games of the past five years. From brutal, punishing combat to truly mind-bending puzzles, here is a look at the top five hardest games that have captured the hearts of hardcore gamers everywhere.

1. Dark Souls III (2016)

Dark Souls 3 game

Released in 2016, Dark Souls III beautifully encapsulates the masochistic appeal of the 'Souls series. Developed by FromSoftware and directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, Dark Souls III continues the punishing tradition of its predecessors while significantly dialing up the intensity.

Gameplay, Story, and Setting

Dark Souls III demands patient exploration, tactical combat, and unwavering perseverance. The gameplay mechanics require sharp reflexes to navigate through exhausting sequences of enemy encounters and demanding boss fights. Relying on a complex melee combat system, the game encourages players to learn from each defeat in order to triumph. The game is set in the Kingdom of Lothric, a beautifully dreary land filled with grotesque monsters and cryptic lore. The equally cryptic narrative has the player take on the role of the 'Ashen One', tasked to succeed the Lords of Cinder and relight the fading fire of the world.

2. Divinity: Original Sin 2 (2017)

Divinity Original Sin 2 game

Following the success of its predecessor, the 2017 hit Divinity: Original Sin 2 further solidified Larian Studios' status as kings of the RPG genre. Famed for its complexity, Original Sin 2 offers a comprehensive and difficult experience that rewards strategic thinking.

Gameplay, Story, and Setting

The game's gameplay involves a deep class, skill, and crafting system, along with challenging tactical turn-based combat. Players control a party of characters, each with their own backstory and unique abilities, navigating through complex quests and dialogue options. The story unfolds in the vast realm of Rivellon, where players assume the role of a 'Sourcerer', hunted down for possessing forbidden magic. The quest to become the next Divine, the guardian of the world, sees your group face angelic beings, demonic entities, and the political machinations of mortal factions.

3. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (2019)

Sekiro Shadows Die Twice game

FromSoftware makes another appearance on this list with their 2019 creation, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Moving away from their typical RPG formula, Sekiro offers a focused, pure, and extraordinary challenging action game.

Gameplay, Story, and Setting

Sekiro's gameplay deviates from Dark Souls' slow, methodical approach. Instead, it focuses on fast-paced, precision-based combat relying heavily on parries and counterattacks. Failure to master this system can result in punishingly quick deaths. Set during the Sengoku period in Japan, players are in the role of Wolf, a shinobi tasked with protecting a young lord who is the descendant of an ancient bloodline. The story unfolds as a journey of redemption, filled with intense boss battles and rich Japanese folklore.

4. The Witness (2016)

The Witness game

The Witness is the brainchild of indie developer, well-known for the paradigm-shifting Braid. Released in 2016, The Witness offers a serene but deeply complex puzzle-solving escapade.

Gameplay, Story, and Setting

The gameplay of The Witness revolves around hundreds of line-based puzzles. Presented in an open-world format that allows for non-linear progression, each puzzle is a lesson leading to the next, escalating in complexity. The game occupies an uninhabited mysterious island brimming with natural beauty and man-made structures. The story is largely implicit, seeping through the environment's design, the puzzles' nature, and scattered audio logs, all serving to formulate a philosophically loaded narrative.

5. Hollow Knight (2017)

Hollow Knight game

Lastly, we have Hollow Knight – the critically acclaimed indie title developed and published by Team Cherry. Delivering a unique blend of explorative platforming and challenging combat, Hollow Knight has paved its path as a torch-bearer of the 'Metroidvania' genre.

Gameplay, Story, and Setting

Its gameplay incorporates intricate exploration, monstrous bosses, and an upgrade system tied to the game's currency. The game doles out high amounts of tension since death can lead to substantial losses unless you regain your 'ghost'. Hollow Knight takes place within Hallownest, a vast and ancient kingdom buried deep beneath the ground. The intricately hand-drawn dark fantasy world hides a multitude of secrets and lore. Unraveling the story involves reading NPC dialogues, deciphering item descriptions, and piecing together environmental cues across multiple playthroughs.

The gaming sphere has seen an abundance of dynamic, engaging, and nerve-wracking games over these five years. These top five selections reward patience, resilience, mastery, and in-depth understanding in ways few games do, thereby standing as attractive challenges for hardcore gamers worldwide.