As I have made abundantly clear on this blog before, I like to play NES games. Like all NES gamers i have eventually tried my hand at some of the hardest games on the system, and here is my list of what i believe were some of the most difficult games, or challenges, that i have managed to conquer.
5. Bible Adventures: Baby Moses.
Unlike the other games on this list the difficulty in beating this game is not based on genuine fair challenge, but instead is based instead on how dreadful the game is. It is both mind numbingly dull, with music that is worthy of my last post, and has some of the sloppiest control I have ever encountered in my life. If you play this game you will constantly find yourself sliding off of platforms, and if that doesn't make you give up then you will probably quit when you realize that the only fun thing about the game is the novelty of owning it. I am really not even proud of this one. Playing this game is a waste of time.
4. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
The black sheep of the Zelda family, and one of my favorite (I have only played the first 4 games as of yet), is definitely one of the more challenging games on the NES. Even if you are a seasoned professional of the Zelda series you will most likely be thrown for a loop when you begin this game, because unlike other games in the series this one is a side scroller. This deviation in play style is the main cause of difficulty, because it catches you off guard. Killing some enemies requires a great deal more skill than in the original Zelda, as you have to worry about low and high blocking and attacking. Mastery of this style of fighting becomes important very early in the game as you will encounter darknuts that are constantly moving their shields up and down and stabbing at different heights. If you can adjust to this combat style though, and deal with starting at the beginning room every time you run out of lives, this game is definitely worth playing. Unlike some of the forthcoming games on this list, Zelda II manages to balance out its extreme difficulty with a degree of fun that makes you want to keep playing, and for the most part keeps you from feeling too frustrated. (Death mountain is probably the exception to this idea, and is one of the main reasons this game is on the list.)
3. Mega Man 3
This game is a little bit different than the other ones on the list, because the achievement this time is not just beating the game, something I can do with ease. This time my accomplishment is beating a large portion of the game with one hand. And you are probably asking yourself "why would someone do that?" The answer is simple, I was bored. I don't know if it is something that I should be proud of, but it did leave me with a sense of satisfaction to destroy those vile robot masters with one hand tied behind my back. If anyone has a favorite game they want to add some extra challenge to I recommend they give this method a whirl.
Now we are getting serious. Anyone who has played this game knows it does not f%#k around.
Right from the onset players will notice that Castlevania not only has some pretty limiting and hard to master jumping controls, but it is also full to the brim with enemies that come at you in seemingly endless packs. This alone would be enough to make most players want to stop, but right around the 3rd or 4th area of the game, the real trouble becomes abundantly clear as you come across your first death pits. The awkward jumping would be enough trouble here, but Konami decided it needed to be even harder, so every time you get hit anywhere near a pit you are almost guaranteed to fly backwards into said pit.
For awhile this is all still very manageable challenge, highly frustrating make you want to rip your hair out manageable, but manageable none the less, and then you make it to level 5 (in particular the last screen before the boss). It is at this point that the amount of enemies in the game seems to really get out of control, and the amount of hits each one of these enemies takes, even with your most powerful weapon, is more than twice as many hits as it takes for them to kill you. This, while extremely infuriating, isn't the worst part. The worst part is that in order to beat death (the boss of this stage, and probably the hardest one in the game), you basically have to finish all of the levels in stage 5 without dying once to make sure you have the triple shot and the holy water. If you can manage that then you should be able to make your way through the last stage, and defeat Dracula, and then you can be cool (read a giant loser) like me.
1. Ninja Gaiden
Here it is. Not only the hardest NES game I have ever finished, but simply the hardest game I have ever beaten in my life. Take everything I said about enemies and being knocked back in Castlevania and multiply it by 10 and you will have a basic understanding of why this game is difficult. Add to that the fact that any enemy that is anywhere near the edge of the screen, and I mean if one stray pixel is even slightly close the edge, then the enemy will instantly respawn after you kill them. Oh yeah and most of the time when an enemy is touching the side of the screen they are right on the edge of a pit, so you can expect to fall into about a million pits if you are going to attempt to beat this game.
Unlike Castlevania, when you play this game you pretty much spend the whole time thinking that it cannot be beaten. There is almost no difficulty curve, the entire game is impossibly hard, and you are at a constant level of frustration the whole time you play, with one exception. The last stage of this game, all the way up to the last boss takes the already seemingly insurmountable difficulty and quadruples it. Each level takes about 20 deaths and that many minutes to beat, and every time you die even once on any of the 3 forms of the boss (which are definitely not easy) your ass gets sent all the way back to stage 6-1. Nothing compares to the frustration you feel when you make it through all the levels after hours of work only to be sent back after fighting the boss for about 30 seconds. The only emotion of equal intensity is the excitement and glee that you feel when you finally manage to overcome this evil sadistic tortuous game.
Special thanks to:
My lack of ability at sports for making this all possible.
Willtacular and Chris Ratsabout for their support during my attempts to beat Ninja Gaiden.
Kyle Davidson for deriving too much enjoyment from Baby Moses and providing incentive to keep playing that piece of crap.
My girlfriend Celia for putting up with my geeky need to spend hours trying to master games that are over 20 years old.
My older siblings for playing NES and inspiring me to do the same.