The Fire Emblem series can be rather unforgiving, but which games in the series push players to their absolute limits?

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The Fire Emblem franchise has long garnered a reputation as being one of the most difficult series produced by Nintendo. While this sentiment is not necessarily true, game elements such as "perma-death" which causes the deaths of beloved characters to be permanent may dissuade new players from dipping their toes into the pool that is Fire Emblem.

While the franchise as a whole is not nearly as brutal and unforgiving as some may paint it out to be, there are entries in the series that are considered more difficult than the rest. So today we"re going to rank the top ten hardest games in the Fire Emblem franchise.

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Updated March 01, 2021, by Paul DiSalvo: The topic of difficulty in Fire Emblem has been a hot topic recently due to Fire Emblem: Three Houses" addition of Maddening mode. While Three Houses is normally far from the most difficult entry in the series, Maddening Mode ramps the difficulty several times, making it one of the hardest difficulties the series has seen.

While Fire Emblem games tend to provide players with significant amounts of freedom regarding the units that they choose to use and how they choose to approach each chapter, these harder difficulties are far less forgiving. This often encourages players to only use the best possible units at their disposal while employing as optimal of strategies as possible in the hopes of getting through unscathed.

10 Fire Emblem: New Mystery Of The Emblem

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Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon"s Japan-exclusive sequel, Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem definitely feels like a continuation of its predecessor, continuing from where the difficulty left off.

Maintaining the lack of rescuing and the easy manipulation of unit positions on the map, New Mystery of the Emblem also features more complex and difficult map designs that feel like a natural progression from the previous installment. It may not be the most difficult of the Fire Emblem games, but this entry certainly pushed the series to new, more extreme, heights.

9 Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade (Hector"s Story)

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While Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade"s initial story is one with a solid learning curve that many would recommend to series newcomers in order to learn the ins and outs of mechanics, the unlockable alternate story which focuses on the character of Hector is another story.

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Utilizing excellent and well-thought-out map design and enemy placement, the mode provides players with significantly fewer resources such as in-game currency, making every decision all the more vital. While more difficult than the initial Eliwood-focused adventure, Hector"s story"s difficulty resides in that perfect spot of challenging yet rewarding. *For players looking for a significant challenge, the hard variation of Hector"s story, most often referred to as Hector"s Hard mode really ramps up the difficulty and is frequently viewed as the definitive way to play the game.

8 Fire Emblem: Genealogy Of The Holy War

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While mechanically quite different from many newer entries in the series, the fourth game in the series, Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War features some of the most gargantuan maps that the series has ever seen.

A game that individualizes many units via the use of character-specific skills, players must keep track of the impact of skills in addition to stats when calculating the potential outcome of a battle. Additionally, due to the mammoth scope of some maps, players are often required to keep track of multiple objectives, all whilst dealing with enormous hordes of enemy units.

7 Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn

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Like Genealogy of the Holy WarFire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is an enormous game containing a massive scope and a huge cast of characters. Despite the cast being as large as it is, a great deal of the game"s difficulty comes in the form of the "Dawn Brigade," a group of freedom fighters the player controls for a great deal of the game.

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The Dawn Brigade are severely outclassed by the vast majority of enemies throughout even the earliest chapters of the game, possessing inferior stats to even the most minor of enemy soldiers. Luckily, as the Radiant Dawn transpires, players are provided with much more consistent and high-quality units, making the mid and late game much easier than the segments revolving around the Dawn Brigade.

6 Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest

The hardest of the three iterations of Fire Emblem Fates, Conquest delivers to players seeking a challenge. Possessing a linear story, players are required to utilize their limited recourses while managing experience.

It"s important to note that Conquest contains some of the most well-designed and well-thought-out map designs in the series, and this is both a blessing and a curse. Some maps often feel less like tactical war strategy games and more like puzzles to solve, and that can be polarizing for some players. However, as a player progresses through the game in the hardest difficulties, it is paramount that players account for the skills on enemy units, as several enemies will boast an amalgam of notable skills that can blindside players and kill their units seemingly out of nowhere.

5 Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade

The sixth entry of the series and the first entry to feature Roy, who was popularized by the Super Smash Bros. franchise, Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade is a game highly recommended to series veterans. Featuring perhaps the weakest and least useful lord in all of Fire Emblem (sorry Roy), the game features fine-tuned map design that often comes off as unfair. We"re talking about a game that features killer-ballistas, weapons that can land critical hits on a player"s units from across the entire map.

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No matter how prepared a player may think they are, The Binding Blade is always prepared to make players miserable, as enemy reinforcements can attack the turn that they spawn, meaning that unless players preemptively look up enemy spawn locations, they can appear when the least expected.

4 Fire Emblem: Awakening

While Fire Emblem: Awakening’s default difficulty isn’t too troublesome, its lunatic mode is a completely different story. With a slew of overpowered foes regularly coming at the player, most of the most common strategies in the difficulty involve heavily using the game’s overpowered Jagen, Frederick, and providing the Avatar character with as many useful (if not broken) abilities as possible.

3 Fire Emblem: Three Houses

When Fire Emblem: Three Houses was first released, it was regarded as one of the easiest games in the series to be released in years. However, that changed once the game was provided with a new difficulty known as Maddening mode. Oppressively difficult, the mode mitigates how much experience a player’s units gain while making enemies significantly more deadly. While there are ways that a player can help their chances of completing the mode, the rampant use of ambush spawns and enemies wielding several notable abilities still make Maddening Mode quite an arduous experience. For those experiencing Three Houses for the first time, it is highly advised that players don"t jump into maddening mode until they"re very familiar with the ins and outs of Three Houses.

2 Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon

A remake of the very first Fire Emblem game, Shadow Dragon"s difficulty is intrinsically tied to its simplistic design in how units can be moved on the map. While many Fire Emblem games will allow players to rescue units and pair them together in order to keep them safe, Shadow Dragon has no such feature. Luckily, Shadow Dragon does allow players to make sure their army is the right fit for them allowing for players to freely change the classes of their characters as they see fit.

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Additionally, Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon totes five different variations of hard mode, with each one being more difficult than the last. The fifth and final version of this difficulty is among the hardest experiences a player can have with the series. Due to the high power of enemy units compared to those of the player, one of the safest ways to defeat many bosses is repeatedly fight them and heal one’s own unit again and again until the boss’s weapon breaks.

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1 Fire Emblem: Thracia 776

There"s no easy way to put it. Every element that could make a Fire Emblem game difficult is present in the fifth entry in the series, Thracia 776. This game features elements including (but not limited to) enemy reinforcements that attack the turn in which they spawn, similarly to The Binding Blade.

As if that wasn"t bad enough, it also "fog of war" combat that doesn"t just hide the enemy from the player; it hides the majority of the map, completely blinding players who aren"t using a guide from dangers and even potential objectives. Thracia 776 is unforgivingly difficult when playing blind due to the sheer unpredictability in which it throws obstacles at the player with little to no warning.