Have you noticed how games are easier nowadays? If you thought that you might be getting better, you might be wrong. Maybe retro games are really difficult. Nintendo’s head, Saturo Iwata, has even said that Nintendo has been making its games easier to be more accessible.

But back in the day, most of us learned the power of self-control and patience playing these ridiculously difficult retro games:

1. Contra


Released: 1987

Format: Arcade and NES

 The basic plot: You, as one of two armed military commandos named Bill “Mad Dog” Rizer or Lance “Scorpion” Bean,  are sent on a mission to destroy the Red Falcon Organisation who are planning to control Earth.

It is difficult because: Without the Konami code (gives you 30 lives), you only have three lives and simple mistakes can mean a quick game-over.  No matter what it is, if it hits you, you are dead.

2. Ninja Gaiden

Ninja Gaiden 2

Released: 1988

Format: Arcade, NES and GameBoy

The basic plot: You, as Ryu Hayabusa, have to use your powerful sword to prevent an evil organisation from starting Word War 3. Basically you are jumping from platform to platform killing enemies. 

It is difficult because: Even if you make it through an onslaught of sword fights, you will have defeat the game’s boss fight and anyone who has ever played any of the Ninja Gaiden games will tell you that the boss fights are nearly impossible to complete.

3. Ghosts ‘n Goblins

Ghosts 'n Goblins

Released: 1985

Format: Arcade

The basic plot: The main character is Sir Arthur, a knight who must battle zombies, demons, dragons and other monsters along his quest to rescue his love, Princess Prin Prin. As you progress you can collect weapons, bonuses and more armour.

It is difficult because: Two hits kill you – the first hit destroys your armour and you must continue to the next level in your underwear or until you find new armour. You have to restart the entire level if you lose a life.  To make matters worse you only get around 3 minutes to complete a level and if the timer runs out you lose a life and have to restart the level. But even that seemed too easy, because once you’ve finally completed the game it will restart on a harder level of difficulty before its REALLY over. 

4. Zelda II: The Adventures of Link

Zelda II-The Adventure of Link

Released: 1988

Format: NES

The basic plot: Like its prequel, your mission, as Link, was to save  unconscious Princess Zelda by finding the Triforce of Courage.

It is difficult because: If you died, reset, or turned off your game before completing a level, you would lose everything you have accomplished. Oh, and you only have 3 lives before you have to start from the beginning. 

5. Battletoads


Released: 1991

Format: NES

The basic plot: You need to defeat the toads’ evil enemy, the Dark Queen and her army of aliens. Your mission is to save your friends who are being held hostage on her planet.

It is difficult because: You only have three lives to complete the ENTIRE game. If you die at any stage during the game, you have to start over from the beginning. 

6. Mega Man

Mega Man

Released: 1987

Format: NES

The basic plot:  The game begins with Mega Man created to serve as a lab assistant, but he is modified into a battle robot to defend the world against an evil Dr. Wily

It is difficult because: Like most of the games of its time you didn’t get any passwords so you couldn’t save your progress. There was a way to recharge your life with energy pellets but these were very hard to find and you mostly ended up being killed quickly if you weren’t very experienced.

7. Fatal Fury Special

Fatal Fury Special

Released: 1993

Format: Arcade

The basic plot: In the single player mode you battle 15 opponents in face-to-face battles.

It is difficult because: Your opponents are extremely difficult to beat and it takes some time to get used to the controls and figure out the special combo moves.

8. Sinistar


Released: 1982

Format: Arcade

The basic plot: The game involved a lone spacecraft  that was required to shoot down aircrafts. The aircrafts that you shot down would turn into crystals called Sinibombs. You were required to collect Sinibombs to defeat the final game boss, Sinistar

It is difficult because: It was extremely challenging to survive all the fighter aircrafts and to collect Sinibombs to defeat the game boss, that is if you managed to reach that point.

9. Defender


Released: 1980

Format: Arcade

The basic plot: The game is set on a planet that you must defend from invading aliens and you are required to protect stranded astronauts from being abducted. 

It is difficult because: The game play is rather complicated and you are constantly faced with new danger, while having to monitor a relatively large playing area.

10. Super Mario Bro 2: The Lost Levels


Released: 1986 (Japan only)

Format: NES

The basic plot:  Bowser has once again abducted Princess Peach. You, as Mario or Luigi, have to rescue her while navigating through the Mushroom Kingdom and the many dangers it poses.  

It is difficult because:  The fact that the game was only released in Japan should give you an indication of how difficult it is. Right from the start you will notice that the levels are much harder and the enemies are tougher and sneakier than the usual games in the franchise. It is the ultimate gamer challenge!