Why Cuphead, Dark Souls & Other Hard Games Should Have Easy Modes

  • Windows
  • Xbox One
  • Platformer
2017-09-29
Cuphead
Cuphead is dazzling gamers with its unique art, but its high difficulty level holds the game back. Here's why hard games should have easy modes. Cuphead is available now on Xbox One and PC. (c) StudioMDHR

Cuphead , Dark Souls 3, Nioh and Bloodborne are just a handful of brutally difficult games released over the past few years, and all of them could be improved with the addition of an easy or baby mode. Those in favor of challenge will likely oppose the idea, but here are five reasons why I support it.

1) Easy Modes Don’t Affect Players On Hard Mode: The most basic argument in favor of easy modes is that they don’t actually impact the experience of those who prefer standard or higher difficulties. Playing on easy is just another option, and not one a developer of a game like Cuphead forces you to pick once it’s there.

It’s helpful to think of difficulty tiers as totally different universes of the same game. Folks who want to pull out their hair and toss the controller can do so in their dedicated sphere. Others who aren’t as prepared for the struggle can occupy their own world on easy. Especially if trophy progression is limited on easy difficulty, there’s no reason why the option shouldn’t be there.

2) It Opens Games To A Wider Audience: If you’re visiting a site like ours, you’re here because you love games. It’s an amazing hobby, so why shouldn’t as many people as possible be able to experience it? There are plenty of games of varying difficulties for all audiences to play, but it still doesn’t make sense to totally restrict a gameplay experience to those who don’t enjoy the rollercoaster of accomplishment, blind rage and intense frustration.

A lot of gamers seem to like the exclusiveness implied by the “git gud” mentality, but putting up barriers isn’t exactly a good thing in an industry where sales numbers can have drastic and fast ramifications. Take a look at something like Mass Effect: Andromeda. Difficulty wasn’t the issue there, but because its audience wasn’t big enough, the entire Mass Effect franchise was swiftly put on ice. There’s a massive swath of folks that would otherwise love to play Bloodborne or Cuphead but are put off by the difficulty. Greater sales always mean a greater chance for sequels. When an audience segment is intentionally cut off, the risk is higher for dissolution of a series you may like.

3) It Acknowledges Gamers With Disabilities: While there’s something inherently beautiful about the precision required to master hard games, the simple truth is that not all people are physically able to perform the hand motions required to beat a difficult boss. As a disabled gamer myself, I’ve had to put down games knowing that I was being held back for reasons that were totally out of my control. In fact, the entire concept of the Wii was something I couldn’t enjoy because it required too much physical strain. When you’ve just spent a good amount of money on a console or game you can’t physically use, it’s a truly terrible feeling.

It’s worth remembering that not all incarnations of an easy mode or baby mode are there for players who are “lazy” or “casual.” Sometimes those options exist to let disabled people use what they’ve paid for. Why is that a bad thing?

4) Easy Mode Allows Us To Look At Games Differently: When observing video games as art, there are several different ways and reasons to appreciate a single experience. While challenge may be seen as an essential facet of something like Cuphead or Bloodborne, taking a quick look at some screenshots will tell you there are plenty of other sources of enjoyment to be found there.

Bloodborne
Bloodborne is a brutally difficult game with an amazing sense of style. Photo: International Digital Times

Look at how amazing this art is. It’s even cooler to play in motion. When you’re analyzing every frame to avoid death, however, it can be easy to miss some of those finer details. Sure, you could see them in a Let’s Play, but it’s much better to be part of the active gaming process. The case can also be made for wanting to better understand the narrative. Simply put, games are complex beasts that can be loved for different reasons. Tweaking difficulty settings allows us to better observe the aspects we want to focus on.

5) It Lets You Play More Games: Modern games are bigger and coming out at a faster rate than ever before. The hardcore gamer reading this article will likely be familiar with the concept of a backlog, and, if you’re like me, that long list of unfinished or untouched games is legitimately stressful to think about.

Whether you’re consumed by the recent flood or indies or trying to catch up on the latest triple-A conversation, having easy modes in larger experiences offers the chance to get a feel for something while blasting through it quickly. Finishing games fast means being more actively involved in the chatter of friends, influencers and the media. We all have backlogs, and easy mode is a great way to clear out the clutter.

How do you feel about easy modes in games like Cuphead or Dark Souls? Is there a case for preserving and forcing challenging gameplay on others? Tell us in the comments section!

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