You’ve likely heard the term “NES Hard” when referring to video games. It hearkens to the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System where many games were incredibly tough and difficult to finish. If you were around to game in the mid to late eighties and early nineties, you likely know what it feels like to throw the brick-like NES controller through a tube TV screen, because video games were fucking difficult. Sticking through games like Silver Surfer and The Simpson’s Bart Vs The Space Mutants was not only a test in patience, but also an exercise in disappointment. These games were so hard and so broken that they just weren’t worth the effort. There are, however, NES games that are very difficult, but also worth your time to play. These are GOOD games, that provide an excellent challenge while also maintaining great gameplay. This isn’t a definitive list, or even a “Top 6” list. It’s just six games from my collection that I really think everyone should take a shot at.
- Super C – Contra is widely known as a great game that’s really hard to beat, as long as you don’t use the Konami code to cheat your way to 30 lives. Super C is Contra’s sequel. Originally called Super Contra in the arcades, Super C is more run and gun action where a single hit from the enemy spells death. What makes this game better than the original? First of all, you may not have played it to death, and it certainly isn’t talked about as much as it’s famous older brother. Add in new and diverse levels that give you more of a challenge, top down areas to replace the corridor levels, and supremely responsive and tight controls, and you have yourself a fresh and challenging experience. Super C doesn’t mess around, and you shouldn’t either. Pop this one in next time you have a hankering for some Contra, and you won’t regret it.
- Batman: The Video Game – Arguably the best superhero game on the NES, Batman is an incredibly fun and tough platformer. The controls are spot on and easy to get used to, but the challenging enemies and platforming elements really test you skill. Batman is given an arsenal of weaponry from the beginning, with items such as the batarang and rocket gun. These give you many different options to approach situations differently. When all your weapon energy is depleted, Batman can employ his trusty bat-punch. Close quarters combat in video games can sometimes cause problems with hit detection and being able to aim your blows just right. With Batman, that’s not at all a problem, as his punches never seem to miss, and if they do, you feel solely responsible.
- Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse – The original Castlevania was a satisfying test of patience and skill. It was a game worthy of this list, but Castlevania III adds so much more to the formula that made the original great. While the first game was a linear experience, where you had to traverse the same levels on each playthrough, Castlevania III gives you many more options and varying paths throughout the game. Additionally, you are able to meet up with three different traveling companions that become a second playable character. Each has their own unique abilities at that. Castlevania III is punishingly difficult as well, but because it’s so good, it keeps you coming back for more. This is a definite must play for any retro game enthusiast.
- Ninja Gaiden – Ninja Gaiden is incredibly famous for how tough it is. Any time an enemy hits you, you are subject to knockback, which often throws you right into a pit. You rarely die from taking too much damage, but usually due to being knocked right into a pit while you’re trying to jump over it. This can make the game difficult and frustrating, though once you start to get the hang of the jumping and damage mechanics of the game, you start to play better and better. Practice makes perfect in this ninja simulator, and the more you play, the better you get. It feels incredibly satisfying to finally get past that area that has been killing you, and that’s why Ninja Gaiden is worth playing.
- Journey To Silius – Journey To Silius is one of those NES hidden gems that you may not have ever heard about. These days, though, if you regularly watch retro video game related YouTube videos, you’ve probably heard about it. It’s a game developed by Sunsoft and was originally supposed to be a licensed Terminator game. Sunsoft lost the license and produced this game, instead. The game is very tough, and you only get a limited number of continues to finish the game. By the time you reach the boss of each level, you’ll likely be low on health and quick to die. As long as you learn enemy patterns and traverse the game carefully, you’ll be able to come out on top. It’s a hard game to learn, but the experience is well worth it. The ending doesn’t amount to a lot, but the real experience in this game is the journey, hence the title.
- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – Zelda II gets a lot of bad press because of how different it was from it’s predecessor. That doesn’t mean the game is a bad game. It has it’s flaws, sure, such as the need to grind for experience points to power up Link. The action and platforming, however, are REALLY fun AND challenging. Like all the other games on this list, the game takes practice, and when you do finally land the final blow on the end boss of the game (no spoilers!), you feel a great sense of accomplishment! It’s a fantastic game that shouldn’t be ignored just because of how different it was from it’s Legendary sibling.