Originally Posted by Trey
That's definitely a part of it, but the biggest change in game difficulty, in my opinion, has to be the save system most current games employ, which has replaced the lives system of the "hard" games of old wholesale. Now difficult games are difficult because they require much more precise timing and individual ability, not because you had to start all the way over for messing up a few times.
But regardless of how hard games are today, you can piecemeal save your way through most of them in time if you are dedicated.
I disagree. Lives are no longer in games because it makes no fucking sense to have them anymore. It hasn't ever made sense to have lives in non-arcade games, but it took almost 30 years for everyone to finally realize there are no extra quarters to be made giving Game Overs to players.
Games were always difficult because they required precise timing and individual ability. Beating a level in Megaman requires knowing the exact timing of everything and discovering one of few ways to make it through without dying.