9 Hardest Indie Games to Beat in 2024

Hand-picked for you by a lifelong gamer!


Sometimes, you need a challenge to keep you on your toes, but you also might not be looking for the AAA feel of something like Dark Souls.

Luckily, the indie space is thriving with incredible, creative new games that offer hard difficulty when it comes to getting a hundred percent completion. 

Whether it’s just from the sheer amount of things to do or how difficult the game itself is, these just keep you coming back.

Even when things get too difficult, you’ll find yourself pushing through, improving yourself as you go to take on the challenges ahead.

9. Risk of Rain 2

Risk of Rain 2

I just found this game about six months ago but somehow it’s been out for years now. That’s on me because I (and YOU) have been missing out on Risk of Rain 2. The first was a fun sidescrolling roguelike. The second is something like no other game I’ve played.

It’s still a standard roguelike–Pick your class, drop in, and good luck. This time, it’s a totally open, 3D environment, though. Everything about the gameplay is just so fine-tuned.

Running desperately through each map to find the teleporter, keeping enemies off your back as they spawn constantly, is exhilarating like none other.

Then it sets itself apart with the time mechanic, with difficulty going up as your playtime goes on. It becomes a race to unlock/gather new powerups while making it to the main boss before the game gets impossibly hard to do.

I didn’t get through an entire run in this game until three months of almost every day of play. Yet not once in that entire time did it feel unfair, but more like I was learning.

Just getting to the final boss is only the start, though, because there are so many more secrets hidden around Risk of Rain 2.

Play on: PC, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, Switch

8. Binding of Isaac

Binding of Isaac

I have a love-hate relationship with this game. It’s incredibly punishing gameplay, ridiculously complicated progression, and an incredibly disturbing plot.

That said, Binding of Isaac is a gaming experience like no other. It was also one of the first big indies to gain traction in the internet age, making it pretty iconic.

You’ll play as Isaac at first, a young boy thrown into the basement and locked up by his mother. I’m not getting into the story because it’s just devastatingly sad.

The gameplay, though, is a mix of roguelike and bullet hell shooter, making you run through dungeons for pickups and supplies.

It’s not easy, and you’re going to die a lot before making any sort of progress. It’s brutal, but lying underneath the brutality and story of loneliness, depression, and abuse is something of hope and survival despite all the odds. 

Binding of Isaac is really going to be hit or miss for a lot of people due to the gameplay style. Even more might be turned off due to the subject matter.

Just be aware before going in that it gets very heavy.

Play on: PC, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, Switch

7. Blasphemous


A unique beast of a game, Blasphemous is what would happen if Dark Souls were given a more Biblical makeover.

Blasphemous has you take on the role of the Penitent One, working his way towards redemption with every swing of the sword.

It’s a side scroller on the surface, but Blasphemous is one of the most difficult indie games I’ve played. Enemies are punishingly strong, and it’s built in the same map style as Castlevania or Metroid.

That means there’s a lot of backtracking to find secrets with every new power, getting you closer and closer to your goal of salvation.

The world of Blasphemous is desolate, with the Christian iconography of medieval Spain giving it a harrowing, gothic atmosphere.

Even better? There are three DLC expansions that are all free, including one that crosses over with fellow Metroidvania Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.

Blasphemous gets extra points just for the wealth of extra modes and the story it provides, with all DLC fulfilled for the true ending.

There’s also a Boss Rush mode to test your skills further, and it’s going to take all you have to finish it out.

Play on: PC, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, Switch, Mobile

6. Dead Cells

Dead Cells

This game had me hooked from my first run. The gameplay is some of the smoothest, most responsive I’ve ever played for any sidescroller.

Dead Cells combines all the amazing platforming of Metroid, the weapons/combat of Castlevania, and roguelikes of the best kind.

You’re just a smoldering cell in a castle dungeon, suddenly in possession of a body. You’ll make your way through the castle and surrounding areas, picking up new weapons, upgrades, and armor to try and get as far as possible.

Will you die a lot? Absolutely. But the incredible weight, fine-tuned movement, and just sheer stupid variety of items will keep you coming back.

Dead Cells has made itself such a hallmark of the Metroidvania and roguelike genre it even just got a Castlevania crossover DLC!

Honestly, it’s a perfect game to pick up and play, especially for those new to roguelikes. It’s a stupendously hard indie game, but at no time does it feel unfair, more like it’s just trying to train you through it.

Some runs are going to absolutely set you up for failure from the beginning, though, to keep your ego in check.

Play on: PC, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, Switch

5. Celeste


Every death is a lesson. That’s what the developers of Celeste point out as the most important part of their game.

They’re right, too, because each death in this platformer is meant to teach you, getting you through Madeline’s personal journey.

Madeline is a young girl trying to climb Celeste Mountain. Unfortunately, it’s nothing but peril to get through. There’s no combat here, just jumping, air dashing, and trying to climb the mountain.

Where Celeste gets hard is the incredible difficulty of the platforming levels, with over seven hundred different areas.

For such simplistic gameplay, it’s incredibly challenging, but the little hints that help you along, showing just how you went wrong but never telling you outright how to win, are fantastic. 

Platforming is just the base because Celeste is really a beautiful, snowbound story of hope and perseverance. Madeline’s journey becomes a personal one as you go, and the ending is as fulfilling as it is tearjerking.

Play on: PC, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, Switch

4. FTL: Faster Than Light

Faster Than Light

I can’t use the amount of profanity necessary to say how much I hate this game.

It’s a mutual hate, to be fair. A hate nonetheless, though, as all that drives me to finish this game now is spite – pure, unadulterated, SPITE.

Build your ship, get your crew ready, train them up, and then get ready for the most stressful experience of your life. Oh, so it just sounds like a spaceship sim? WRONG!

You have to manage every part of your crew and ship while traveling through randomly generated hostile galaxies. Get attacked, and your ship blows up? LOL sucks for you!

Permadeath is Faster Than Light’s bread and butter, so get a new ship and get back out there to waste another crew!

Managing every single part of a starship during active combat is a hell like no other, but don’t worry—the developers say there’s a more strategic, turn-based option for those who need to think—the pause button.

I know this entire entry is a rant about this game, but it’s been TWELVE YEARS. I still don’t even know if this game has an end! I’ve never won a freakin’ run in all this time!

Play on: PC, Mobile

3. Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami appeared right before the 80s nostalgia really peaked in the mid-2000s, and wow did it make a mark.

The cult classic indie took a new approach to difficulty. Instead of making it incredibly difficult, it added a requirement for strategy and quick thinking that was missing at the time. 

You’re the mysterious Delivery Man, and every time a new call comes in, it becomes your time to clean up. Whether it’s random beatdowns on rival street gangs or roughing up some of the organized crime thugs, Hotline Miami is brutal.

You’ll run through, doing your best to hit enemies before they hit you while avoiding their gaze and alerting everyone. There’s an amazing combination of stealth, frantic violence, and a pumping synthwave soundtrack that was far ahead of its time. 

The gameplay is still exhilarating, and the variety it gives with different masks and each different level’s layout. Hotline Miami is frustratingly simplistic, but that’s what keeps everyone coming back for a game that was truly lightning in a bottle. 

Play on: PC, PS4/5, Xbox Series, Switch

2. Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon

This game is depressing. That’s it. That’s what makes it the hardest to beat. Well, that and the permadeath, unflinchingly brutal difficulty, and sheer will of the game to say “screw you” in the worst of circumstances. 

Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based RPG, but you’ll need to recruit and train soldiers from the desolate land around.

Once you do, head into dungeons to fight your way through for treasure, upgrades, and, eventually, freedom. Except you’ll be reaching freedom eventually by standing tall on a mountain of your comrades’ lifeless bodies.

Permadeath plays a major role here, and those you lose while dungeon diving will never come back. It’s such a brutal experience, especially if you lose one of your stalwarts. RIP to Sir Fluffles the Highwayman, I’m sorry I let you down.

I can’t stress enough that this is a great game. However, the grueling difficulty and sheer emotional drain of keeping enough fighters alive in turn-based combat is just so much to deal with. It legitimately feels demoralizing to lose a soldier, even worse when they’re critically injured.

Somehow, though, actually finishing it is like finding the ray of light in the dark, feeling like you really made it out of hell.

Play on: PC, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, Switch, Mobile

1. Cuphead


Hell with this game. I love it, but to hell with this game and the stupid cartoon horse it rode in on. Cuphead is the worst possible game for your blood pressure, and it’s not for those easily frustrated.

It qualifies as an old-school bullet hell platformer, a lot like Contra, except with the aesthetic of classic, hand-drawn cartoons.

Getting this out of the way first–Cuphead is worth playing to take in the artwork alone. Everything is hand drawn, every frame of animation, every moving part, all done lovingly by hand.

Then, while you’re enjoying that, you can get repeatedly smashed into the ground by the numerous bosses. Because essentially, Cuphead is a run from boss to boss, with occasional platforming in between.

The bosses that you fight, though, are unforgiving and absolutely out to kill you so Satan can keep your soul. 

It’s frustrating as all hell, no doubt about that one. When you can finally memorize patterns and take down a boss after so many tries, though, it’s immensely rewarding.

Cuphead is one of the few games that bring back the arcade nostalgia of try and try until you get it right.

Play on: PC, PS4/5, Xbox One/Series, Switch

About Ross Tyson 22 Articles
Ross is a writer, gamer, parent, and tired adult. They’re from the Southeast US, and have been gaming since their first Sega Genesis as a kid. A parent, they often find themselves playing kids games these days, but makes time for plenty of RPGs, Roguelikes, and anything with the Kingdom Hearts name on it. They’re experts in Final Fantasy lore, and will try any anime game no matter how bad it may be.

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