The Hardest In-Game Puzzle I Have Ever Encountered

During my many trials and tribulations in my gaming life I would consider only one puzzle to have ever truly defeated me in a game. In fact, I was beaten so much by this puzzle I had to read a guide to get past it in order to continue the game. The game I credit for delivering me the hardest puzzle I have ever faced was the adventure game titled, Grim Fandango.

Now Grim Fandango has a really cool setting with a well-defined story, and I have to admit if I hadn’t been enjoying the game and wanted to know how the story concluded, I may have never actually looked up how to complete the puzzle. I may have just given up completely on it… The note to take away here was I was stuck on a puzzle in basically chapter one, that is how good it was.


So the one puzzle which I accredited to the hardest in my life was in this one area of the game where you are required to find a key located in a hidden cave. Arriving in your car, The Bone Wagon, you are presented with a wide open space with several well defined overgrown cave-like exits all lined up around the edge of the screen. Your tools for this puzzle are a road sign with an arrow that moves and yourself. You can move and reposition the road sign around the map and as you do the arrow spins and then points in a direction. Driving through one of the many tunnels on the outside of the map ends returning you through a different tunnel back onto the screen.

Now I must have tried all sorts of combinations of setting up the sign near a tunnel and driving through where it pointed, driving the opposite direction, following where the sign point through three or four different hops, making note of which tunnels lead to what exits, I would almost say everything if it wasn’t for the fact I never did what I was meant to. It drove me insane, especially since I was really enjoying it and wanted to see what was next. The wanting to know and not being able to complete the puzzle sent me on a hunt to find a walk through (just for that puzzle) and find out what the secret was. When I read what you were meant to do I was devastated. It was sooooo easy and simple, yet the cleverly created trap caught me 100%. The little subterfuge had stumped me completely and I don’t think I ever would have gotten it.

rageface featured

I should cut myself some slack toward this puzzle. At the time of playing I was only 13, so I can play / blame the age card. What really strikes me about this puzzle is not just how hard it was but how hard I made it. I kept adding more complexity to puzzle than was there. It was a very clever well defined puzzle that since I never actually figured it out, it will always remain the hardest puzzle I have ever faced.

What is your hardest puzzle or problem solving experience in a game? Did you need to resort to a walk through like I did? Let me know in the comments below.

This post has been written as a part of the Blaugust Initiative. I can’t believe I failed so soon, but, uh, this is day three… on the 7th…

  • I think I was in, hmm, year four when Sonic the Hedgehog was all the rage on the Master System. I was stuck on the waterfall stage, and from memory I just could not for the life of me get that gem. A kid in my class kindly offered me the “answer” — some convoluted up, down, jump, up, down combo I was supposed to do at a certain spot. Little troll got me good, since all I needed to do was take a log DOWN the waterfall and jump at the right time! Ugh. Bastard 😛

  • Kodra

    The puzzle that sticks in my mind is definitely The Signal Effect from The Secret World. It involved you jumping around a city looking for radio towers. Each tower displays a series of codes. One is binary, another is decimal ascii, another is hex ascii, and the final one is base64 encoded. They each have holes in their message, but if you overlay them they form a complete message, which is utterly cryptic. The game then tells you in the quest log to “figure it out” and you have to identify the location hinted at.

    This quest took a team of 4 about 4 hours to complete, but it was utterly satisfying when done.

  • welshtroll

    Mine would have to be the The Longest Journey – rubber duck puzzle. God that drove me mad. I don’t think there was a walk through at the time.

    I agree with Kodra on some of the TSW missions were rather tricksy.