We believe that gaming has become too easy. Back in the day, gaming was tough. We had to remember passwords, there were no save spots, and worst of all, buggy games were buggy forever due to the lack of internet and software updates. Developers really knew how to make good ol’ difficult games and we have put a list together of the ones we fondly remember raging from. Check out all the hardest retro video games from back in the day.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins – 1988
The NES era was full of platformers and many of them make this list of the hardest retro video games ever made and there is a good reason for it. They were hard. Take Ghosts ‘n Goblins for example. This game was a great adventure where you take on the role of a knight exploring a world where the princess, who you have to save has been kidnapped by an evil overlord.
Sounds simple right? Well, it was the platforming and sheer brutality of the gameplay that made Ghosts ‘n Goblins one of the hardest retro games ever created. Enemy attack patterns would counter your jumps, you felt helpless most of the time due to wielding a crappy weapon with a strange throwing action and the entire environment was out to get you. All of this combined into a pretty tough game. To make it worse, once you completed it, you had to play it all over again without losing all your lives in order to actually get the proper ending. It was double torture.
Mega Man Series – 1988 – 2003
Mega Man may be one of the most iconic gaming characters of all time but don’t let the awesome soundtrack and his blue suit get in the way of his true intentions – to drive you crazy and make you rage. Anyone who has ever played a Mega Man game before would know that the platforming is hard. You have to time your jumps, make sure no bullets hit you during the top of a jump which paralyzes you and sends you into a pit of death and avoid spikes at all cost.
There is no real easy Mega Man on the market. Every one of them was built to frustrate you but it is so worth it. There is one thing having a tough time playing a game with no rewards and there is Mega Man that rewards players for coping with the hard gameplay. We love the series for that.
Super Mario Bros – 1985
Another iconic gaming mascot, Super Mario. Now, when you see Mario you think of a catchy soundtrack and red and white mushrooms, right? Well, if you ever went back to play the original game you would realize that it was actually one of the hardest retro video games. Nintendo truly created a hardcore platforming game before we even knew what hardcore platforming actually was.
While the start of Super Mario Bros is pretty easy, the more you get into it the harder it gets. Swinging flames of death, pits of demise and those darn Hammer Bros that just happen to toss a hammer at you at the right time to clonk you on the head while you are about to make that perfect jump. It was hilariously addictive, yet so frustrating.
Castlevania – 1986
We don’t know about you, but we had no idea what in the world was going on in Castlevania back in the day. Sure, it had a story and cool combat but we ended up walking around this game for hours on end thinking it was some sort of platforming emulator. We had a whip that we used to fend off the undead, and bottles of Holy Water we used to toss at enemies in the distance but other than that it was just hard.
The game has no real direction and if you did know what was going on, you had to deal with the really tough platforming and combat. You could only whip enemies while standing still and most of the time you were being attacked from the front and the back making it hard to survive. We did not get very far with this game but maybe that was for the best.
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out – 1987
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out was not a hard game, well not until you got to the last fight at least. The game saw you go head-to-head against some boxers punching your way to the top to face the boxing legend himself.
Gameplay was pretty simple – you punch and block and your ability to respond quickly determined if you won or not. Everything you did in the game taught you how to fight and you needed it as when Tyson’s fight came around, there was no time to play around. Many people still today, having been unable to finish the game because Mike Tyson is just a monster in the ring.
Ninja Gaiden Black – 2003
Ninja Gaiden Black may not be as old as the rest of the games on this list but it was released on the original Xbox back in 2004 and it redefined action RPG games as we know them today. The gameplay of Ninja Gaiden was fast-paced action as you had to block, slice and be as fast on the buttons as possible.
Every moment spent in the game had to be spent concentrating on your combos, dodging enemies and trying to disperse them as fast as possible so the deadly fight would end faster. So many people died trying to just master the beginner difficulty of this game which says a lot. The game even offered to lower the difficulty for you after dying too many times. Embarrassing, right?
Contra – 1987
Imagine being an awesome mercenary with deadly weaponry, have a six-pack and even a bandana to wrap it all up but you are a weakling and die in one hit? Well, that was Contra for you. Aliens invaded earth and you had to stop them in this side-scrolling shooter but no matter how awesome you looked, you died in one hit.
There was nothing worse than getting right to the end of the level only to face down a giant octopus alien creature and have it shoot a red laser ball at your head and it was game over. All those days in the gym did nothing for your character, he perhaps should have spent it building some armour.
Battletoads takes the top spot for us in terms of the hardest retro video games, because it was exactly what this list is about, ridiculously hard video games. In Battletoads, you take control of a bunch of toads fighting through really challenging levels that could literally break your soul.
From walking around and killing enemies that spawn on you on a constant basis, to those terrible vehicle-driven levels where you would skate across what seemed an endless road trying to avoid obstacles and deadly fire. It was a lot to handle. Who can forget the Snake Pit stage where you had to make your way through a spike-ridden death pit while clinging onto snakes. It was a lot to deal with in terms of the hardest retro video games ever created.
Have you played any of the hardest retro video games ever? Drop us a comment below and let us know which of the hardest retro video games you’ve been able to beat.