Welcome to the Shack Ten, our biweekly staff list that has been bickered and fought to perfection. This week, we take a collective not-so-fond look back at games that probably had more content than we ever saw, because the difficulty ramp was like running straight into a brick wall.
10. Friday the 13th
Despite Jason Voorhees being my patron saint of awesome and my all-time favorite horror movie star, I just couldn't do much with Friday the 13th for the NES. I'm convinced it's nearly impossible to do anything of worth in. Besides the fact that it's an LJN game, the bane of all movie game tie-ins' existence, it's just a difficult game through and through. For one thing, you hardly ever even see Jason, and I think that's a rip-off. For another, the timer that appears that requires you to take out Jason before he kills another counselor is absolutely ridiculous. I've never once successfully gotten to Jason before this happens, and when I did reach Jason I found myself knocked out before I was able to save the day. Who knows what actually happens if you're able to finish him off? I'll never find out, because it's too difficult (and too dumb in many ways) to go back to.
9. Ghosts 'N Goblins
Infamously one of the most challenging arcade games in history, Ghosts 'N Goblins was a notorious quarter muncher in its heyday. Two hits took away a full life, a timer could also count down to the player's death, and it even had the gall to give players a fakeout ending, leaving them forced to start the entire game over at a higher difficulty in order to reach the true final ending. It's the game Dark Souls falls asleep dreaming about at night.
Polytron's twisted 3D platformer is difficult enough due to its world-rotating mechanic and piecing together proper progression paths. Add to that the fact that it has a massive number of secrets to discover and ways to interact with the world around you, and it becomes even more of a challenging task. But he rewards are there... for those brazen enough to discover them.
7. 8 Eyes
A Castlevania-like before "Metroidvania" became a hot genre, 8 Eyes swapped Simon Belmont's whip for a falcon and kept the brutally punishing difficulty. The lumbering, choppy movement and tendency toward cheap shots made it difficult to claim even one of the eight titular gemstones to complete the game. Plus, awesome as it sounds to have a falcon on your arm, the Belmonts use whips for a reason.
6. Ninja Gaiden
Ninja Gaiden exemplifies the term "NES hard." It's so difficult, one could be forgiven for thinking it was designed as a quarter-gobbler first and a console game second—because it was.
While the NES trilogy bears little resemblance to its arcade predecessor, some elements made the jump. Platforms teeming with enemies, enemies that spawn in midair at the precise moment you attempt to jump a chasm, bosses and normal foes that tear through your HP bar like wet paper, and three (count em, three) consecutive bosses in Stage 6-4 that, should you fall prey to any one of them, boot you all the way back to 6-1. If my NES had required quarters to continue, I'd still be in debt.
5. Blaster Master
Blaster Master had a lot going for it: the paper-rock-scissors style of weapon acquisition from Mega Man, the tight platforming of Super Mario Bros., the exploration of Zelda and Metroid. Unfortunately, the game looks better on paper than it plays.
Wonky controls, tedious navigation between your avatar and your tank, and downright frustrating design choices like making it next to impossible to line up straight shots while simultaneously running and jumping around rooms filled with hazards make Blaster an exercise in frustration. An exercise you'll have to repeat over and over since there's no save or password system to show you mercy.
4. Donkey Kong 64
If Mario can do it, why not Donkey Kong? Rare's attempt to replicate Mario 64's success appears to have learned all the wrong lessons from the Italian plumber. Too many collectibles, too-aggressive gating, too many characters, and none of the precise platforming perfection that made Mario 64 a hallmark of 3D gaming. It's not nigh-impossible to finish like some other entries on this list, but anyone with the time and energy to collect that many color-coded bananas could probably have put that time developing the superhuman skills to finish these others.
3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
(by David Craddock) When I was eight or nine, I discovered Nintendo. I went down to a friend's house and asked if she could play; her mom said she was down in the basement playing "Nin-ten-do." That's how she pronounced it: awkwardly, like a word she hadn't quite wrapped her brain around yet.
From the first chords of Super Mario Bros.' iconic overworld theme, I was hooked. I asked my mom for a Nin-ten-do of my own. She shot me down, but offered a glimmer of hope: if I could save up the $100 for a "Control Deck" by doing household chores, she'd cover the tax and pick up a game. Little did she know the Control Deck came with two games: Super Mario and Duck Hunt. Ha! Sucker!
No. I was the sucker. I scrimped and saved for nine months. On the day Mom took me to the department store to pick out my system and new game, my Ninja Turtle-obsessed brain guided me toward Konami's first TMNT, the one that let you switch turtles on the fly... and the one with the damn dam level.
Seven bombs. Two minutes. Zero hope of any kid, the game's clear target demographic, finishing that level without the aid of a Game Genie or a patient adult willing to get the hang of a Nin-ten-do controller. Want to know the worst part? I returned to TMNT years later and finished the damn on my first try—and all the parts that came after were subpar.
What was it all for? Despair, thy name is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES.
Ask any gamer what the most difficult game they’ve ever played is, and the majority of them will tell you Battletoads. Rare’s Battletoads may seem like a old-fashioned side-scrolling beat-em-up, but underneath it all beats the heart of a sadistic puppet master that pulls the gamer’s strings into thinking they’re doing well, to then suddenly smack them in the face with a sudden spike in difficulty.
While the opening stages aren’t impossible to get through, the game’s third level and beyond are ridiculously difficult. Just typing in “Battletoads” in Google will have “level 3” pop up as a search term suggestion because millions of players have rightfully grown frustrated with its difficulty. We’ve long since given up on even attempting to complete the third level in Battletoads and recommend you do as well.
1. The Lion King
The Lion King was the bane of my existence growing up. I first had the misfortune of playing it on the Game Gear, where I just couldn't get right when it came to swinging from tree to tree. And the wildebeest stampede tore me up every single time. When I later went back to try out the Super Nintendo version, I realized I had only traded one difficult scenario for an even worse one. For a game that could take as little as 30 minutes, I spent hours and hours attempting to get past a simple level where you're meant to swing from animal to animal, all while the chirpy and upbeat "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" plays. Well, I Just Can't Wait To Never Play This Game Again. I never finished them. I resorted to YouTube playthroughs as an adult.
Shack Staff posted a new article, Shack Ten: Games that Probably Have a Third Level But Who Knows
A Nightmare on Elm Street is not only a good LJN game, it's a good video game. *drops mic*
Are you serious? You put The Lion King at number 1? That's the easiest game on the list by far.
Hell, it's easy period! I rarely beat many console games back in the NES, Genesis, SNES era, but I beat The Lion King numerous times.
Turn in your gamer card, now.
In Double Fine's wonderful "Devs Play" series on YouTube, the developer of The Lion King talks about how they were forced to make that animal swinging maze way harder at the last second because of console publisher rules about not being able to beat games too quickly to fight the rental market.