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6 Retro-Inspired Games as Tough as the Messenger


6 Retro-Inspired Games as Tough as the Messenger

Retro-Inspired Games As Tough As The Messenger


Messenger. Flywrench

The Messenger released last month to stellar reviews, with the game being celebrated for its tasteful translation of vintage aesthetics and difficulty curves. The title is drawing favorable comparisons to older Ninja Gaiden games, continuing modern gaming’s love affair with the tropes of yesterday. Other modern titles have pushed gamer’s brains and thumbs just as much as The Messenger, here’s six of the most challenging.

After Meshoff Games’ much-celebrated Nidhogg, the studio released Flywrench, a curious action title that owes as much to the simplicity of Pong as it does the frantic energy of bullet hell games. To make it simple, Flywrench allows players to man an aerobic ship through the depths of space, with the game’s art-style fully embedded in the simplicity of gaming’s primordial days. The challenge lays in evading obstacles whilst switching between three distinct “ship modes,” with each mode associated with a direction and color. Players must pass through corresponding lines via fast reactions and ensuring the correct mode is on the ship. Each mode alters the ship’s polarity which, in layman’s terms, changes the behavior of the ship on impacts and turns. The game starts off a little slow, before its difficulty and pace ramps up immensely. As the pace increases, Flywrench’s systems really come into their own, offering a psychedelic Rez-like experience for the hardcore.

Retro-Inspired Games As Tough As The Messenger

Cave Story

cave story, the messenger

Originally created as an ode to Castlevania and Metroid Prime, Cave Story dropped on PC in 2004 and is, arguably, the most complete, and modern take on the Metroidvania genre. The title has been re-imagined and built upon since then, with the original title receiving several ports. Cave Story+ and Cave Story 3D were released in 2011, building upon the original’s refined toolkit. Cave Story’s success lays in how it modernizes its inspirations, offering a floaty control scheme and intricate level design to keep players consistently on their toes.

Whilst Castlevania and Metroid games retain their own sense of difficulty, Cave Story exploits the sub-genres most difficult undertones and ramps them up to eleven, providing levels that feel downright claustrophobic with enemies and mechanics. The Messenger shares ground with Cave Story on how each title is so obviously indebted to the past, yet refuse to be straddled by it due to their own impeccable design.

6 Retro-Inspired Games As Tough As The Messenger

Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove

The Messenger

Shovel Knight’s base game certainly had its challenging moments, but the title only really became tough-as-nails with the DLC, namely the Plague Knight and Specter Knight additions. Both of those DLCs introduced new dynamics of play, including the introduction of range-orientated and faster play. By diversifying Shovel Knight’s solid toolkit, the DLC allowed for unique challenges absent from the main game, driving the game’s potential to ever-evolving heights.

6 Retro-Inspired Games As Tough As The Messenger

Axiom Verge


Axiom Verge is as much indebted to Metroidvania as it is the artistic sensibilities of H. G. Giger. The title is drenched in a style rarely explored in retro-inspired titles, rejecting the genre’s typical reliance on bright colors and cutesy design. Not only does the game drive its artistic borrowings to maximalism, the project also takes its gameplay inspirations to the same level. The boss battles, in particular, are flat-out crazy, with their design and mechanics both oozing pandemonium. Axiom Verge exists as this odd love affair between Metroid and Contra, existing in a gap retro-lovers did not even know they wanted.

6 Retro-Inspired Games As Tough As The Messenger

Enter the Gungeon

Enter the Gungeon Indie Roguelike The Messenger

Classical dungeon crawlers are a dime-a-dozen in 2018, yet none finely balance the genre’s expectations with rewarding challenge as well as Enter the Gungeon. Not only does the title borrow tastefully from bullet hell shooters, it has a fine understanding of pacing and roguelike gear treadmills, rewarding its brutal difficulty with deserving rewards. Much like The Messenger’s appreciation of a challenge’s reward in gameplay terms, Enter the Gungeon appreciates how much gamers will push themselves just for some shiny loot.

6 Retro-Inspired Games As Tough As The Messenger

Super Meat Boy

the messenger, super meat boy, platinum, ps4, trophies

Super Meat Boy still lingers in the current gaming landscape. It’s odd how a game about a small cube of meat’s quest to save his bandage-wearing girlfriend can exist in the medium’s public consciousness for so long, but when the project’s small quality of life improvements are considered, it’s easy to see why the influence is so strongly felt.

Super Meat Boy has almost perfect level design, but the game truly succeeds as it eliminates the fuel for frustration: waiting. Despite channeling the ridiculous difficulty of games like I Wanna Be The Guy, Super Meat Boy’s brutal difficulty never feels overburdening due to how fast the respawn rate is, offering almost immediate respawns upon death. The majority of modern retro projects since its release have borrowed the game’s approach to respawn time. By killing the loading screen, Super Meat Boy killed retro-inspired games’ Achilles heel. As a result, the title probably still remains as the best retro challenge for modern gamers.

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