What's the most intellectually challenging video game you've played?

What’s the video game that most made you think “shit, I’m dumb” (big difference from “shit, that’s dumb”, that’s difficult but not the kind I’m searching).

For me it’s probably “Baba is you” (or maybe “the witness”), anyone found a game harder than those?

For me, it was Sub Command, a popular and somewhat-realistic submarine simulator game from the early 2000s. All that tech, math, “demodulated noise,” towed-array sonars, calculating firing solutions - I gave up because I want my games to relax me and reduce stress, not making me feel like I’m sitting back in undergrad physics college classes again.

The Return of the Obra Dinn.

A mysterious vessel drifts onshore sometime in the 1800s. All fifty members of the crew of the cargo ship are dead or missing.

You are an insurance adjustor.

You’ve got a magic compass that shows you the exact moment of death for everyone on board. You have a crew roster, a ship schematic, and some artist’s renderings. You have to figure out who killed who and how they died, piecing things together from the compelling narrative that starts to unfold (naturally it starts at the end of the story, with the death of the Captain.)

It’s a phenomenal game and it’s a real thinker. I had to take a lot of notes. I wouldn’t call it impossible but it was difficult and requires strong deduction skills.

Probably one of my all time favorites.

I’m still a wargamer, so I enjoy the complexity. For me it’s a tossup between the Harpoon series, or TacOps, both of which have been around in various updates for years. For both, they’re rich enough in detail that make me think deeply about committing to a path, without actually putting

I mean, c’mon, who hasn’t fantasized about getting resupply convoys across the Atlantic to defend the Fulda Gap?

I never heard of “Sub command” before but from reading about it, it seems very realistic. Some people claim realistic enough to be used for training.

Although I looked at a video of gameplay and it looked incredibly boring, as I would expect a realistic sub simulator to be lol

Yes, it was high on brain-demand and low on pleasure/fun. Which is another reason I quit.

Also Baba Is You for me. I’d put The Talos Principle between that and The Witness, if only because I’d worked on puzzles similar to the latter’s in the past.

I can’t say for sure how much I would’ve struggled by myself in It Takes Two, but my 25-year-old niece was able to figure out what we should do in quite a few of the puzzles before I could.

Talos principle is another good one. Myst series is also good but the puzzles are a step down in difficulty from those two, but the puzzles are also more naturally integrated into the game world. I liked the atmosphere and story more than the puzzles, which weren’t bad either.

. . . sorry, I didn’t realize my BlueTooth-connected tablet didn’t finish the sentence. Should read “. . . without actually putting bullets/bombs downrange, and boots on the ground at risk.

On travel, from a tablet.

Factorio is a nice challenge. You’re pretty dumb starting out, but mistakes are recoverable. There’s a LOT to learn, but it’s learnable and masterable. Perfection is always one more tech upgrade away, maddeningly ever out of reach.

Dwarf Fortress. It’s a game of staggering depth (heh) and I’ve never more than scratched the surface.

Talos Principle is interesting in that the required puzzles while challenging are usually solvable with enough trial and error. I managed to solve all of them without help.

However, the optional puzzles (e.g. collecting the stars) are a whole different ball game. Some of them are just difficult on their own but all the pieces are right in front of you. Others involve finding the target which might be hidden and/or finding a way to bypass the barriers to bring other puzzle parts into another puzzle room and/or finding fans and such which are necessary in order to reach the target and are themselves hidden.

It seems impossible to get all the optional puzzles without some sort of guide. (There are Steam threads where for each optional puzzle there are hints hidden behind spoilers and each hint gives progressively more information until the final hint which gives a full solution.)

That said, even the optional puzzles themselves are fair. And if you have a whole bunch of time to spare just running around looking in every nook-and-cranny to find them all and all the parts needed to solve them, it’s no doubt possible to pull off without hints.

But I’ve never enjoyed scavenger hunts in games.

Every Zachtronics game:

I’ve never finished any of them. Even the mid-level puzzles put anything in The Talos Principle, The Witness, etc. to shame.

Hah, I was about to mention SpaceChem. There’s really a whole genre of science or coding type games where I couldn’t get more than 5-10% into it before bailing.

Also physics based games like Besieged and Kerbal Space Program are good for making me realize that I’m better off just watching other people’s amusing highlights on Youtube.

I remember spacechem, I just found out they ported it to android. I should give it another try, I think I got it for free on a humble bundle and never paid much attention to it

I like the games and don’t regret any purchases, but at least for some of them, I start questioning what I’m doing. Like TIS-100… I’m writing code for a really shitty microcontroller. But I’ve done that before and gotten paid for it. Is this really fun? It is, for a while… but it really makes me reevaluate what fun even means.

For Android, Human Resource Machine is a pretty good Zachlike.

I’m good enough at games like Factorio, Kerbal Space Program and Oxygen Not Included that they feel like a light, breezy alternative to these hardcore puzzle games. I load one of them up when I just want to chill a bit.

I’ve had that thought a few times when playing games. They’re a waste of time, that don’t progress you in reaching your goals in life, whatever they may be (there are some exceptions like realistic simulators used for training, but then I’d label them as sims rather than a game).

Most recently i’ve had it with stardew valley, you water plants, harvest crops, sleep, etc. Felt like a chore and work that I quit it. I’m still not sure why that game has universal acclaim.

So it’s natural that when you get a lucid moment you realize, “why? I should probably do something else”

At least with puzzle games I feel like I’m likely delaying brain decline.

I think we play games to escape our lives as much as we do them for the fun aspect.

And often times people are addicted, and they continue playing games that actually frustrate and anger them. Have you seen some people play counter-strike , I swear they’re mad more often than they’re happy.

There’s that. I burn out quick on a game like SpaceChem but I’m willing to spend far too much time min/maxing single digit percentages in a game like Division 2 to make myself 3% better at killing dudes by landing 7% more critical hits for 2.77% more damage per crit. I’ve known numerous people who bounce off once the game gets to that point because all the stats feel like work but I guess it’s whatever clicks for you.

I could have written this post.

I do software engineering for a living. I like puzzle games.

But after a few stages of this game, I came to the conclusion that I get paid a admittedly nice salary to do something similar to this but with tools that don’t suck nearly as much as the tech I’m using in the game. Why do I want to spend my limited recreation time doing something that I get paid to do otherwise? Especially when I’m using arguably inferior tools for it.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the game itself is well-done. This isn’t so much a criticism of the game as much as an observation that I don’t want to make a hobby out of my job.

I’m gonna go a different route and say “Spec Ops: The Line”. I was told to play through it as just another oughts military shooter in the desert game, that it was really good, and not to look it up ahead of time.

So I did. And the game made me say “holy shit I’m an idiot” at exactly the moment the writers wanted. Not because I couldn’t solve a puzzle, but because I didn’t know there was one.

Spoilers follow. If you have a machine capable of playing it, even vaguely like shooter games, and haven’t played it yet, steer clear. Although apparently (due to music licenses expiring?) it’s not available for download anymore.

1 - The game gives you a mission to recon the disappearance of the 33rd Infantry Battalion, run by your old boss, and the city of Dubai, which was lost months ago in a sandstorm and report back for their immediate evac if survivors are found.
2 - You go in and see that there’s a problem, and in the vein of all military shooters, you and your elite team go solve it and don’t report back (Maybe my one quibble with the game is that it doesn’t let you turn around five minutes in, radio for help, and get a “mission accomplished” game over")
3 - You fight through level after level of enemies, who start as vague Middle Eastern insurgents who think they’re fighting against the 33rd, who turned the city into a military dictatorship during the crisis.
4 - Without really thinking about it, the enemies change into members of the 33rd, and you’re now killing Americans wearing the same uniform as you. (There’s a point at about the switch that stuck with me where you’re trying to clear a bazaar, and there’s lots of tight corners and things that enemies hide behind where I was surprised by something coming from out the corner of my eye and turned and fired my shotgun dead center into the chest of a person coming at me with their hands up. And I felt bad, but just reloaded and stepped past them)
5 - This is the holy shit moment. A level give you a super tough obstacle that you try to fight past, then you find a better weapon that lets you past it. Like Call of Duty and the gunship missions. This one is a mortar with white phosphorus and drone targeting. And of course I used it to air strike my enemies. They’re just black and white thermal images, it’s fine (and kinda cool)! Your last shot sets off secondary explosions, then you advance to the next level.
6 - Through a cutscene that is graphic about what you just did. Including, the last shot you fired being at something that looked kinda like enemies on drone view, but wasn’t. You hit a refugee center with white phosphorus and then walk through it.
(some have complained online that this level cheats to make you feel the horror, as you can’t move on without the WP strike on the refugees, but I didn’t even consider another way; I saw a target and I hit it without thinking)
7 - You get deeper in and start hearing messages on the radio from the commander of the 33rd that the others in your team can’t hear. You get stuck in situations where there is no right choice; sometimes not making a choice is also wrong. I ended up destroying the remaining water supply for the city because I thought it would help, then let the CIA guy who encouraged it (sent to cover up what happened) burn to death when I realized he used me as a pawn as he begged for a mercy killing.
8 - In the fallout, one of your team members gets strung up by a crowd of hostile civilians who are understandably mad that all the water is gone. Was he dead from the fall he took? Did they kill him? Dunno. But they surround you and your remaining partner and start throwing rocks (that dent your health meter, but aren’t really endangering you) and I panicked and shot full auto into the crowd.
9 - You other buddy is killed right before you make it to the HQ of the 33rd, where the taunting radio messages are coming from. Only when you get there you find your old boss (John Konrad - I hadn’t read Heart of Darkness before playing this, but… yeah, it’s intentional) has been dead since before the game started, and reveals that the radio calls have been PTSD induced delusions after killing the civilians. I then made the in game choice to kill my character (though there are other endings on other playthroughs).
10 - The game has a mechanic for finishing off wounded enemies (encouraged by getting whatever ammo you need when you do it, as opposed to what they actually were using). Early on the game makes it simple and clinical, but later it gets very violent, as the game itself comments on how you’re losing control in loading screens).

I won’t replay Battlefield or Call of Duty story modes, but one of the reasons I haven’t gotten rid of my XBOX360 is to replay and rethink this game.