In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the original Nintendo Entertainment System was known from school playgrounds to suburban neighborhood blocks all across the country as a measuring stick for how cool you were. And if you could beat some of the toughest games on the market, then that just added to your mystique. Nowadays, it is known as the haven for some of the most difficult games of all-time. Below is a list of the 10 hardest games on NES that would take players hours and hours of playing (as well as reading from Nintendo Power) before they could beat it.

Metal Gear was a very successful video game for the NES system in the early 1990s. It is the game that Rambo should have been. However, the difficulty of managing your way through a maze like environment was an aspect that frustrated gamers everywhere. Metal Gear's difficulty landed in the way of having to find obscure objects in obscure places before allowing you to advance. However, with all video games, there is no true deterent for the experienced gamer. Those who beat Metal Gear in the early days felt a true sense of accomplishment.

Ninja Gaiden's difficulty was a barometer of how good you were as a video gamer. Only countless hours of playing and great attention to detail would allow you to memorize every enemies movements and habits. This, and only this, would allow you to move through each level. That is of course, if you could avoid the dreaded birds. Gamers learned to hate the winged flying creatures more than Alfred Hitchcock. If you saw an abyss in front of you, you were likely going to see a bird, bat, or gunfire somewhere in your jump. The ability to grab onto a wall and jump-climb your way up was another great example of how even the controls of your character could make it difficult. And having to use that move to jump and fall backwards to reach an underneath cliff at the end of the mountain level was just pure difficult genius. But what makes this game an automatic "Top 10" difficult game is the fact that you have 3 consecutive end bosses and a loss to any of them sets you back 3 levels in the game. Without unlimited continues, this game would easily be ranked #1.

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start--enough said. This game was so difficult that the aforementioned code was one of the only way most gamers could play it with fun and potentially beat it. In case you were a rock, or even lived under a rock in the Contra glory days, the "Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start" code alloted its player 30 lives. And in a game where 1 hit was instant death, that was quite a helpful code. Going through this game with the default settings and beating its final boss could be classified as heroic. Although, the debate continues between which game was more difficult between Contra and Super C, this gamer knows that those final levels of Contra are not only overwhelmingly difficult, but downright nasty for a young gamer's standards.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was an interesting game when it came out. It blended both the 2-D platform style with an overhead aerial view between levels--serving as a map almost. This style would be passed over as the franchise embarked on a new direction in the arcade version, however, for this game, it was was fun yet very challenging. Most people thought since it's Ninja Turtles, it should be easy. The surprise that they got was that it was more challenging than most any other game in their collection. TMNT was also filled with difficult jumps that had to be performed in the underground sewer levesl--moves that some deemed impossible. One major relief for the player in this game was the fact that you could play with multiple turtles and switch to a different one before their death. With that said, there was a lot of switching out.

Robocop was an interesting game when it came out. Everyone wanted to be Robocop. You could defeat baddies with your plethora of weapons and they could do little harm to you and your metal encased body. However, in the NES video game, Robocop, your greatest enemy is yourself. Your slow moving body, strange walk, difficulty to climb stairs, and slow reaction time made you the sitting duck. It didn't help to have a timer that counted faster than the jeopardy theme song serenade you to your doom. Robocop also featured vague puzzles that would only make sense if you knew them before hand. In the end, Robocop's difficulty was second to few.

It's fairly simple to sum of Rambo's difficulty. It wasn't the enemies who you could simply run past or the bosses in a certain area. It was the illogical setup of the maze that was the video game--Rambo. Since when can you go through a screen on the right side, enter an area, turn around and go back through the same screen on the left that you came from, and then enter a completely different environment. Since the NES developed Rambo. And what's that "N" and "S" on the ground. That sends me North and South to a different area?? Ah, I'll be confused now. Rambo was a puzzled, jumbled maze that not even the programmers could make their way out of. If you could beat Rambo, then you are a very patient and brilliant mind.

This sequel to the NES Star Wars game was nothing similar in style. It made its mark by the unbearable difficulty from level to level. I don't remember seeing Luke Skywalker get beat down at Hoth, Dagobah, and Bespin in the movie. Yet, that's how the video game has its player remember this 2nd installment of the original trilogy. The bosses were downright nasty and relentless in their beatings on the young Jedi. Sure, Darth Vader bested Luke in the film's version, but at least he got a couple shots in. In the NES video game, he's already black and blue by the time Darth gets a piece of him.

Castlevania games have always been known as hard games to beat. But after a different direction in style with Castlevania II, Konami went back to their roots with a great game. However, the difficulty was about 10x greater. Castlevania III pushed the limits for even the most studious gamers as Trevor and Alucard battled the evil Dracula in one of the franchise's most difficult outings. Today's Castlevania games are pale in comparison.

Once you played this game for several days and learned the patterns, the first 12 boxers were a repititious breeze. But once you entered the ring with Macho-Man, your skills were defined by whether you could duck his Super Macho punch. If you were an upper echelon gamer, than you could. However, that would only be a prelude to the "toughest" boss of all-time. Kid Dynamite, himself, Mike Tyson took countless knock-out inducing upper-cuts at you for the first minute and a half of the fight. Most players had contests as to who could last the longest, or better yet, simply last through the first 1:30 of the first round. Beating Mike Tyson was a mere afterthought. However, there was always one kid in school who said he beat Mike Tyson, but never offered any proof. Even 15 years later, beating Mike Tyson is one of the biggest accomplishments any gamer can have.

Battletoads started out as a fun game for about 2 and a half levels. But this games's difficulty would be determined by a speeder bike race of all things. In the middle of the third level, Battletoads transformed into an "Excite-bike gone mad" game. Those fortunate enough not to be turned into Frog fodder, were blessed with 5 consecutive races where you had to jump obstacles, avoid obstacles, avoid enemies, and perform gravity-defying jumps in split-second timing. Sheer instinct and luck was the only way to get past level 3. Most gamers never saw the end of the game for Zitz and Pimple, simply because the bike races were near impossible.

The NES probably had some of the most difficult video games of any system. The NES was played in a time when there were no FAQs. There was also no internet to help you figure out puzzles to the game's most difficult secrets. NES programmers almost made it a duty to make sure that their games weren't beaten by gamers. Of all the games out there, the above 10 were among the most difficult, but were also some of the most popular and beloved. So despite the fact that there are surely other NES games that featured impossible tasks on level 1, these 10 games were difficult, fun, and very popular. Which means that gamers loved to lose at them.


List by romanhawk (02/02/2006)

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