Tuesday, October 23, 2012

8-bit Masochism: Difficult Nintendo Games

Many years ago, when I was young...Ok, it wasn't all that long ago.  I'm really that old.


Anyways, I was introduced to the Nintendo at a very young age of 4...or was it 5?  Either way, I was immediately hooked.  Back then, I thought that Super Mario Bros. 3 was one of the hardest games ever.  Little did I know that I was dead wrong.

I can't remember how we got the game, but soon I was introduced to a game called Battletoads.

Hopefully this doesn't make you weep in agony
The first level of the game was somewhat challenging (we had some issues jumping over an instant death gap).  Still, the first level was enjoyable.  It was made a bit more difficult by the fact that there was friendly fire (although it was good for venting frustration toward my brothers).  The second level was a blast, but also much more difficult.  I mean, how many traps can they put into a game.  Even if we thought that was hard, the third level proved to be downright impossible.

Well, it seemed that way at first.  The third level consisted of a series of platforms over what looked like a giant ball pit from McDonald's, except that you would instantly die when you fell in.  Somehow, this didn't traumatize us the next time we went to a McDonald's with a ball pit.  For the record, I would still play in a ball pit.  To add the difficulty of the stage, the second half was a ... how would I put it?  One of the most difficult gauntlets that I have ever seen in a video game.  It consisted of jumping on a high speed bike, then dodging walls, enemies, and making extremely difficult jumps.  If I had a more extensive vocabulary back then, I'd probably get my mouth washed out with soap.
He is not smiling.  He is screaming in terror
After a year or two, I was finally able to practice the stage enough to solve it, only to discover that the rest of the game was full of crazy similar challenges including dodging whirlpools on an extremely bouncy skateboard thingy and running away from a giant ball of death.

Battletoads had some pretty crazy and over the challenges.  I don't think I've ever finished the game, even when we used Game Genie to jump to the last level.

I'll only speak about one other game that I found to be extremely difficult while growing up, but for entirely different reasons.  Exodus: Ultima.  While Battletoads difficulty was in being able to think fast and react quickly, Exodus: Ultima's difficulty lied in the fact of lack of information and an extremely long grind to finish the game.

Exodus: Ultima is an example of a classic RPG.  A group of four heroes are sent by a king on a quest to save the world from Ultima, the ultimate evil or whatever.  As I first set out in the game, I discovered that the world map was rather large.  To add to my excitement, there were a number of explorable dungeons and strange way gates that would teleport the party across the world.  I had no idea how they worked.

I soon discovered that all this fun had a dark side.  As the characters would level up, more powerful monsters would appear.  At the same time, characters would only receive new hit points at each level.  Essentially, the characters could take more punishment, but there overall ability would not increase at all.  I remember many times feeling frustrated at running into super high powered monsters with only the most basic of spells to use against them.  The dungeons proved to be deadly because enemies of any level could appear, regardless of the characters level.  As an added frustration, it was possible to completely miss attacks by accidentally attacking or firing off a spell in the wrong direction.  to add to the frustration, I had no idea how to actually beat the game.  I guessed it involved finding marks or a horn, or something.

After a few years and the joy of the internet, I was able to find a guide.  Apparently to power up the characters, I had to take gold to a secret alternate dimension (which I had stumbled onto before).  The fact that I could only save in 2 or 3 areas in the game made treks to this alternate dimension even more deadly.  Defeating the game required hours of careful grinding, putting together items scattered throughout the world, and navigating an extremely difficult final area (part of which involved fighting invisible floor panels).

Anyways, I'll spare you any more horror stories about the game.

What was the most difficult game you remember growing up?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I totally forgot about Contra, although I was able to finally beat the game (using the in-game cheat code).

    I thought this video was somewhat applicable to this post:


  3. Blaster Master was one I always thought was difficult.

  4. The last game, "Exodus: Ultima" is actually a crappy port of the PC game "Ultima III: Exodus."

    1. That would explain why it was...crappy. The game still does hold a very dear place in my heart.

  5. I remember not being able to beat battletoads as a child, I tried it as an Adult with emulators, and saving states and reloading states, and still could not beat the level where you are going through the drains and have to press in the direction you are going.