Not that I'm saying this is definitely not true, but it's just weird for me to see this, because I beat one of these when I was like... I don't remember. A very long time ago. I couldn't have been older than like 10. Maybe 8ish, or 9. It's just weird because I feel like a game like Dark Souls back then would have just utterly wrecked my **** for years.
A lot of old school games are close to as tough as the Souls series, but they're also largely far simpler.
Take, for example, Super Mario Bros. 2 (Japan), or "Lost Levels" as some know it. Is this game hard? You bet your ass it is. It will thrash you. It is intense and ****ed up, and unlike some silly rom hack, it's official, it's Nintendo. But, it's really a simplistic game. There's very few enemies, not many hazards, very little you can do, few items. When I played it, it kicked my ass terribly, but I was able to basically conquer the whole game in about...15 hours? Maybe a little less.
A current-gen game is just so much more complicated and taxing, that by this nature they have to be easier to balance the far greater gameplay complexity. I don't think this is true of ALL old school games, but, probably a lot of them.
That said, the first thing to come to mind is F-Zero GX. If you like a challenge, and a game of a different stripe, I definitely recommend this. This is a sci-fi/futuristic racing game, but unlike nearly all others, that more follow the Mario Kart format, this game plays more like a simulation racer. It is strict. It is difficult. It is unforgiving. It has a terrifying learning curve. It's also intense and fast. I beat all there is to beat, unlocked all there is to unlock. I did it all, except beat the staff ghosts with the machines they used. Some of it is just so psychotically difficult... Some challenges just allow no room for weakness or error. It's a pretty intense experience of a game. --- I am snazzier, hot, hot rant. Warily slight as. Croak rush, OK? Weirder, almighty make out. ::)
ninja gaiden black/sigma on the highest difficulty (master I think). Not the same genre but you will die...a lot. --- 3570k @ 4.6, GTX 580 @ 980/2106, ASUS Sabertooth z77, 8GB G.Skill Sniper 1600MHZ, 2 Mushkin Chronos in raid0, 1TB WD black.
I just started playing it recently(I know, a year late), but:
The Binding of Isaac.
It's pretty addicting too. XD
I second this. I can't even beat the final boss because this game is so hard. Dark Souls is a cake walk compared to BoI. --- "I believe the proper phrase here is "you fail". "Santa only visits homes on December 24th! That's in December you nitwit!"