Feature Article

Cuphead Is Really Hard, And That’s Why It’s Great

Get punished.

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Cuphead is an incredibly difficult action-platformer that pulls no punches in testing your skills and reflexes. It's one of many games recently that uses failure as a way of teaching you how to succeed, but its evocative 1930s animation-inspired visuals and boss-rush mode-like design is what elevates it above its contemporaries. Developer Studio MDHR's handles the game's difficulty with grace and finesse, steadily ramping up the challenge. Every boss is intimidating and over-the-top in their own way, but the thrill of victory quickly washes away your frustrations--to say nothing of the many deaths.

For an in-depth analysis of Cuphead's infamous difficulty, watch the video above. And be sure to check out our Cuphead review for our full thoughts about the game, as well as our guide on how to unlock its black and white mode. Otherwise, you can get a brief summary of the thoughts we explore in the video from the text below.

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Cuphead's bosses present a unique challenge that puts your reactions, skill, and multi-tasking abilities through the ringer. And each is comprised of several different phases, throwing a bevy of obstacles your way that are completely different than the last.

Some people might not find any enjoyment out of dying over and over, but for Cuphead, that’s exactly the way the game should be played. If each boss had mechanics simple enough to beat it in a single run, not only would the challenge not exist, but more importantly, the game would lack the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction you receive after defeating one.

You can call this process masochism, but the game never becomes a vehicle for frustration. Every death takes you immediately back to the start, no loading required, and the tantalizing thought of completing the level is teased with the timeline tracking your progress. Figuring out the bosses’ mechanics on your own, applying them to the fight, and taking them down because you had the spacial awareness to avoid all the crap thrown at you is what the game is all about.

The learning process may be daunting for some, but when you succeed, Cuphead is a supremely gratifying and immensely rewarding experience that makes all the deaths that came before it worth the time.

Cuphead is out now on Xbox One and PC.

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Now Playing: Why Cuphead's Difficulty Makes It So Great

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Matt Espineli

Matt Espineli is an Editor at GameSpot. He loves MGS, film noir, and westerns, but he very much loves YOU too.


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