There’s one constant theme across the extensive library of NES games, the incredible difficulty of many of the titles. The difficulty came as a result of a few different factors: some games were just built to be challenging, some were poorly
desigined, and some because the developer only desigined 4 levels and had to justify charging $99.99CAD for the thing so they just made it as hard as humanly possible (looking at you Karate Kid).
Let’s look at a few of these games and the reasons they’ve earned the title of “Nintendo Hard”. I’ll try not to look at the most commonly known titles as many of these have been reviewed time and time again, so there’s a few in there but I’m going to try to look at some more obscure titles instead that I personally find annoying.
I’ve devised my own rating system for these games:
Here we go!
I remember renting this as a kid so when I came across it again my nostalgia blurred my better sense and I bought it.
I quickly remembered why I never bought this as a kid…this game is unforgiving, the enemies can be relentless, the core destruction sections are timed but you have to watch the background to figure out when the base will self destruct and basically just guess…bonus if you don’t find your ship by the time the timer runs out…GAME OVER!!
The game gives you energy to pick up throughout the levels but everything you do uses up that energy, also enemy hits lowers your max energy and your blaster has limited bullets, basically everything in this game is working against you to make sure you’re gonna have a bad time. If your idea of a good time is relentless enemies, dead ends and cheap deaths than this is right up your alley!
My Rating: Son of a bitch!
Shoot em up
This abomination came to me through a friend donating his collection to me, at first glance I see it’s a Hudson Soft game…I’m thinking “Hudson makes good games like adventure island, etc so this might be alright!”. I was very, very wrong…very wrong.
As soon as you hit start you are tossed directly into the action, enemies bombard you even in the first stage, constantly coming at you vertically and horizontally, you have to quickly figure out that you’re required to hit both air and ground targets as well as side things like statues to get energy back.
Most shoot em up games tend to have the first level at least be a bit of a cakewalk to let you get a handle on controls, enemies, etc. Starship Hector just throws it’s middle finger right into your face off the start and doesn’t back off until you’ve tossed the controller across the room. The game requires you have impeccable on the fly strategy or you’ll find yourself dead, even then you’re probably still going to get a cheap death just because Starship Hector hates you.
Hudson is well known for challenging games but Starship Hector detours from challenging into the murky area of sadism. If punishment is your thing, Starship Hector is waiting to give it to you.
My Rating: wtf?…put controller down, try to resist jumping out the window.
Solomon’s key makes Starship Hector seem like Color a dinosaur, there were many adventure and rpg games that required skill, etc but had one thing in common…you could beat them! Solomon’s Key is considered almost unbeatable, first the enemies are bastards, dirty, constantly respawning bastards, also the puzzles can be mentally crushing to solve especially in the higher of the 64 rooms. Oh yeah! there’s 64 rooms to solve…and you better be ready to do it in one sitting because there’s no save ability…that’s how much this game wants you to suffer, now to be fair there is a code that will allow you to start where you left off if you die, but after room 42 it will only start you at room 41 so thats fun when you die in room 58.
The best burn of the whole game is that once you’ve managed to get to room 64 without going insane…YOU WILL LOSE EVEN IF YOU WIN!!! How’s that you ask? Well just to add one last insult in the game, if you didn’t find all 3 secret Solomon scrolls you can’t finish the game…so yeah that’s a lot of hours of your life you’re not getting back.
Well if trying to solve hard ass puzzles with a timer ticking while enemies bombard you as you try to find the hidden scrolls while scribbling down your hand made map just so you can find out you missed a scroll and can’t beat the game anyway…then grab a copy of Solomon’s Key and let the fun begin!
My Rating: BURN IT WITH FIRE!!!!!!
Bayou Billy/Double Dragon 3
I’m combining these 2 because they both tend to make you hate them for the same reasons. I remembered playing these as a kid and the only one I ever managed to slog through then was Bayou Billy and I’m pretty sure there was a game genie involved.
Both of these games have enemies who just punish the hell out of you, whether it’s what seems like hundreds of hits to take down guys in Bayou Billy or being swarmed from both sides in Double dragon, the old life bar is going to take a shit kicking. In Double Dragon you only have one life to go on so it’s extra frustrating as you get cheaply killed time and time again.
Both games love to test your patience as well as your ability to take pain and come back for more. Both games have horrible controls that just add an extra level of hate because you might have a better chance at giving it a go if the control/hit detection wasn’t so slanted in the games favor.
If playing the same few levels over and over, shit controls and unfair AI advantages is your bag then I say giver!
My Rating: worse than your dickbag friend who always gave you the broken controller.
Nothing usually says you’re gonna have a bad time like games based on mascots, but this one is deceiving…this one is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Capcom was very well known for amazing games so you can easily think this game would maybe be on par with say Ducktales or Mega Man…well you’d be wrong.
So many annoying things about Yo! Noid, my biggest pet peeve of gaming is the one hit death…having limited lives is one thing but one hit death is just a cheap excuse for creating replay by trial and error allowing you to progress until the next cheap death.
One hit deaths are common in a lot of games in the NES library, but would it have killed them to put in checkpoints? At least some games with one hit deaths have some kind of check point to start from again. The only part of the game that requires strategy is the end of level pizza contests and even those are annoying as you have to reach certain goals on your meter or luck out on the enemy losing.
If you like games about long killed off 80s mascots and constant trial and error, then call up dominoes, get some pizza and get used to seeing that game over screen. At least the game genie will give you infinite lives if you really want to torture yourself.
My Rating: just a little more fun than a kick in the nuts.
I’m a fan if simulation games, I enjoyed games like Romance of the three kingdoms, etc…sadly this game is nowhere on par with good simulation games. This is the video game equivalent of finding the biggest bully in the neighborhood and asking him to kick your ass…just for fun.
This is your standard choose a level, start building assets, attack then enemy, repeat as needed. However the enemy side always starts with far more resources than you do, while you’re building your first hard scraped together vehicles the enemy is suddenly raining missiles down on you.
As a side effect of the enemy having more resources they don’t run into issues like keeping vehicles fuelled and weapons reloaded. Even if you somehow manage to get some tank together, you better have the resources to keep them going or all you’re doing is giving the enemy some free target practice.
This game was designed for the armchair strategist not the casual kid who wasted hos money renting it for a weekend as it requires deep levels of planning and strategy in order to handle the speed at which the enemy will start mounting an assault on you.
Unless you have extensive skill at military strategy or just enjoy getting your ass handed to you than this is not the game you’re looking for.
My Rating: this game will cause you to invent new curse words and probably a replacement controller and/or tv.
Obviously everyone knows the games on this list:
Top Gun/Second missions
Ghosts and Goblins
Adventures of Link
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Nintendo library was well known for some tough games and the ones above all fit the description for “Nintendo hard”, fortunately many are hard but rewarding when you finally learn to master them. The games I reviewed were ones that I feel were just hard for the sake of being hard, but it was just another one of those things that taught us 80s/90s kids patience, perseverance and built character. Well maybe not but at least you had some bragging rights of you could manage to get anywhere in some of these soul crushing titles.
There’s so many more games that could be on here, but this is my list of frustrating games but I’m always interested to find out others as I’m sure there had to be someone out there who loved Solomon’s Key ha ha!