Hardest game ever top list Index of
Hardest game ever top list Index of
Hardest game ever top list Index of
11. Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
1986 | Nintendo
Most traditional side-scrolling Mario games are tricky. Although they start off easy enough, the difficulty soon ramps up, asking you to traverse some of platforming’s most difficult levels. What starts as a cute, kiddy-style cartoon platformer soon devolves into a stream of foul language and/or controller throwing, and you’re thankful for any warp zones you can find to bypass those tricky stages.
However, most of the series’ installments pale in comparison to The Lost Levels, which is pretty much constructed entirely of blood pressure-raising challenge. In fact, the game is so hard, it was first refused entry over here.
The Lost Levels was originally released in Japan as Super Mario Bros. 2, but was considered too difficult for the western market. Instead, Nintendo altered another game, Doki Doki Panic, branding it as Super Mario Bros. 2, which is why the second game is so different from the rest.
Eventually we got the actual second Mario game in the form of The Lost Levels, and players who finally gave it a go saw what all the fuss was about and promptly invested in a spare controller.
10. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
1987 | Nintendo
The black sheep of the Zelda family, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is considered by many to be the most difficult in the series, and some say it’s the worst. The main reason for this is the series’ shift to side-scrolling action. This is an unfair judgement, as on release there was only the first Zelda game preceding it, so the series had hardly hit its stride or found its niche. Still, Nintendo obviously agreed, as subsequent Zelda games mostly reverted to the top-down approach.
As we said, another part of Zelda II that’s often noted is the difficulty, and you can’t really disagree with this. Zelda II is hard, very hard. The combat is tricky, taking place on a 2D plane, with a limited and short range attack, and some of the game’s puzzles are very tricky to figure out, not helped by the infamously iffy translations. However, the main sticking point for many is Death Mountain.
Death Mountain is a staple location in the Zelda universe, and is often featured as a main dungeon. In Zelda II, however, it’s a dungeon that has to be faced quite early on, when the player has yet to level up properly. You’re asked to not only navigate a confusing maze, but also to fight some of the toughest enemies in the whole game. It’s a big ask, and although very possible, is very tricky, indeed.
Then there’s the final boss, Dark Link. This notoriously difficult boss had been the bane of many a gamer, and although there are simple and even easy ways to beat it, before players discovered such tactics many thought this boss was just plain unbeatable.
1987 | Contra
The game that spawned the Konami Code, probably the most famous cheat code of all time, Contra is also one of the slickest side-scrolling shooters you’ll ever play, and is also one hell of a challenge.
As simple soldiers with an array of weapons, players had to take on an alien force across several missions, including side-scrolling, platform shooting sections and psuedo-3D shooting galleries. Waves of enemies constantly assaulted players, as well as some fearsome bosses. Through all of this, you had three lives with one-hit kills to beat the game. You also had to contend with deadly pitfalls and a timer. Yep, tough isn’t the word.
Even with the Konami Code, which granted you 30 lives, the game was still a hefty challenge, so much so hardened gamers still view completing this as one of the most celebrated achievements. Pro tip? Go for that spread gun, it’ll make your life a whole lot easier.
8. Mega Man 9
2008 | Inti Creates & Capcom
Capcom’s Mega Man is one of the most popular and difficult side-scrollers around, even if the developer itself has made some questionable decisions regarding it. In fact, it’s so popular that the ninth game in the series was released in 2008 for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and mobile phones, featuring original 8-bit style visuals to pay homage to the classic series.
It’s this incarnation of the series that most would agree is by far the most difficult. It’s a fantastically tricky outing for the Blue Bomber, with some of the best missions in the series, but also some of the most challenging and often frustrating play. For this reason, some have avoided it, but this is a big mistake, as it’s a perfect tribute to the classic and unforgiving era of games Mega Man was born in.
2002 | Overworks
Shinobi on the PS2 isn’t a classic game, but it’s decent enough, has plenty of fans, and if you’re looking for a challenge, it’ll certainly deliver. The game threw the previous Shinobi gameplay to the winds and embraced fast-paced 3D combat. The focus here was on fast, violent kills, as you had to keep your sword charged with the souls of your foes, otherwise attacks would actually hurt you.
This urgency only contributed to the already steep difficulty, with tough enemies and levels that loved to throw you headlong into bottomless pits, with many areas taking place on precarious footing.
This Shinobi certainly isn’t a stealthy killer, and instead of careful planning, the game keeps the tempo going, forcing you to attack, attack, attack, and it actively punishes you if you deviate.
6. Silver Surfer
1990 | Software Creations
Silver Surfer on the NES is one of those games people love to hate, and it’s often used as an example of bad game design. This is usually by those who struggle to get through its hard as nails levels, as they’re some of the hardest and utterly punishing shooter missions you’ll ever play.
The game is a simple shooter at heart, with both side and vertically scrolling sections. Both are difficult for their own reasons, with the vertical sections being particularly tricky due to the size of the Surfer’s board and his death when he touches anything. Even with this kind of challenge, the game is beatable, it just requires some extreme skill to better the various levels and take down the bosses, something only the best players of the game have managed to do.
5. Ghosts ‘N Goblins
1985 | Capcom
Okay, we’re all for surprises, and we don’t mind being told that the princess is in another castle, but really Capcom? Really?
If you’ve played and completed the torturous Ghosts ‘N Goblins, you’ll know exactly what we mean. What we have here is a game that’s one of the most difficult games ever made, packed with levels designed seemingly by a sadistic developer with a penchant for making people scream in anger. It taunts you with weapons pickups you don’t want and certainly don’t need (the knife is your only friend here, save for the shield in level 6, which is required for the boss). It also gives you a character with little to no protection against the forces of evil, and even when you’ve beaten it, it kicks you squarely in the soft bits.
You see, when you complete Ghosts ‘N Goblins, you’re told everything was a trap created by the devil, the princess isn’t here, and you have to replay the whole game all over again to get the real ending. The whole game! The whole, damn thing! And it’s even harder!
Yep, I reckon if all the screams and cries of players who hit this roadblock of a challenge were gathered together into once mighty howl, its shrill noise would still be reverberating around the world to this day.
4. Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening
2005 | Capcom
Capcom’s Devil May Cry series has offered plenty of challenge from the off, but none have come close to the third game’s borderline psychotic difficulty, at least when it was first released.
The initial release of the game in the western market actually had a bit of a cruel twist in its difficulty settings. Here the Japanese hard mode was actually set to the game’s normal mode, making the game a hellish challenge even if players chose the usually approachable normal level. This meant that Devil May Cry 3 quickly earned a fearsome reputation as one of the most difficult games around, and if you played it before the game was re-released with easier difficulty, you’ll know exactly why.
Enemies were tough as nails, requiring supreme skills to defeat without injury, and some of the bosses, even the first Cerberus boss, were tantamount to impossible for many. How many other games do you know have been re-released simply because they were too hard? Well, we have another, but more on that later…
3. Ninja Gaiden
1988 | Tecmo
It’s a double-feature for the fan-favorite ninja, Ryu Hayabusa, the star of the Ninja Gaiden series. Although the arcade original was a different animal, being a side scrolling beat ’em up, the NES release was a different kettle of fish. Instead, this was a side-scrolling platformer, one that could well have been created by the devil himself.
The whole 8-bit series of Ninja Gaiden games were known for being among the most difficult games of the time, and this hasn’t really changed, and they easily kick gamer’s backsides with aplomb. They have it all: difficult platforming, endless waves of foes, hit-back pitfalls, enemies that spawn endlessly off screen, and tough bosses. It’s a veritable check list of how to make a game that gives people headaches thanks to the constant jaw-clinching, and they’re just great regardless.
2. Ninja Gaiden (2004)
2004 | Team Ninja
What’s more difficult than the 8-bit Ninja Gaiden? The 128-bit one, of course. This time the new developer, Team Ninja, had the power of the Xbox and PS2 at its disposal, so the series was brought from the two-dimensional realm into 3D, following the same mold as Devil May Cry.
What we got was a game that didn’t just throw down the gauntlet to gamers, it threw the pants, shirt, hat, shoes, and full set of matching luggage. This was about as challenging as games get (save for our final entry), and like Devil May Cry 3, even got an altered difficulty in a re-release. Ninja Gaiden Black added an easier ‘Ninja Dog’ mode that made the game easier (along with an even harder mode), but the original is on our list, as this gave players no option but to beef up and, as the Souls community might say, “get gud.”
The difficulty here came thanks to the fast-paced combat and incredibly tough and agile enemies you faced in each and every encounter, such as those nasty dart-throwing ninjas that popped up all over the place, and a line-up of bosses that make many of Souls‘ big nasties look decidedly tame. In particular, anyone whose played the game will surely remember Alma, one of the most difficult boss confrontations of all time, and a fight that requires nigh-on perfect play to best. When you win, though? It feels good….
1991 | Rare
Turbo Tunnels. That’s all I have to say.
Seriously, though, Battletoads is the gaming equivalent of cutting yourself shaving, rolling your cheeks in salt, and then dipping your face into a bowl of vinegar. This is a game that’s so hard, adding a second player only makes it harder.
Each and every level in this multi-genre title is a challenge of epic proportions, demanding the kind of patience lost to most of us, and only attainable by going through decades of Zen training. Even then, we suspect there’s be a couple of broken controllers hidden under the yoga mat.
Whether you’re beating up pigs, dangling on a rope in a giant pit, using moving snakes as makeshift platforms, or trying to cope with one of the most vicious snow levels ever, you’re always close to death’s door, and if you’ve completed this, you can be very proud of yourself. Just keep it to yourself, though, won’t you? We hate you.
If you want to know about the toads, we wrote a complete history piece about the series.