The original NES had its fair share of incredibly difficult games, so much so that people coined the term “Nintendo Hard” to describe it. There are a lot of games that are hard, many of them in cheap and unfair ways. Today, we’ll be looking at some of the hardest NES games that are actually good. Well, at least of the ones I’ve played.
Metroid is a lot harder depending on how you play it, but that’s true of many games. Being that health can be difficult to find at times and that it has no map system. If you really want to be good at this game, you gotta be proactive and map it out yourself. You also have to examine a lot of the environment to find extras like missiles and energy tanks. The more you’re able to find, the easier the game gets. But if you can’t find a lot of the super hidden ones, it makes for a pretty significant challenge.
A combination of tough enemies and stiff controls makes this game a fairly intimidating one. The fact that it also punishes you for skipping or cheesing enemies by giving you less experience for stronger abilities makes it a lot more difficult. The game starts to get outrageously difficult in the final couple of levels, It definitely doesn’t help the challenge get better under control once the game starts to introduce bottomless pits in later levels. It may be at the top of the hardest NES games list, but that doesn’t mean it won’t kick your butt.
Mega Man 3
Of all the Mega Man games, this is the one that I found the hardest NES game in the series. And by no coincidence, it’s also my favorite Mega Man Classic game. Mega Man 3 introduces the slide technique, which definitely helps out in maneuvering around enemies and obstacles. Nevertheless, it proves to be pretty tricky. A lot of levels feel harder than earlier Mega Man games, particularly the Wily stages. The Robot Masters’ weaknesses are also a lot less obvious than before.
Gradius is one of the most popular shoot ’em up games out there, and for good reason. This is one of the first NES games I have ever played, and gosh, what a difficult game it was for a kid my age. But I persevered and was able to play it better than a lot of games that are considered to be easier. Once you learn the proper order of upgrades, it becomes a lot more manageable. Get your laser, options, and a shield, and you have power AND defense.
I can’t comment on whether this is harder than Contra since I didn’t play that one enough, but Super C is an especially challenging game. I’m also rather proud of myself for having beaten it without the Konami Code. Super C takes a bit of trying to get the hang of the levels, but eventually, just getting good at the game will help you do better at the mechanics in general. Generally, your best bet is the Spread Shot, so try and keep that as much as you can.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Zelda II’s difficulty is earned more through difficulty spikes than it is as an overall game. Not that the challenge is minimal mind you. It gets pretty darn tough! But Death Mountain has earned this game a reputation for the ridiculous difficulty jump over previous areas. It’s especially problematic when you experience it after only the first Palace in the game. The Great Palace at the end of the game is notable as well. Not only is it tough to get there, it’s probably the hardest level in any The Legend of Zelda game. At least you continue from the Palace instead of the beginning area like otherwise. Either way, it’s definitely an underrated game.
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse
All three Castlevania games are pretty hard, but this one takes the cake. They all have a pretty comparable challenge, though Castlevania III tops the other two thanks to its Clock Tower and its final level. The Clock Tower takes the Medusa Heads’ challenge to an entirely new level (pun unintended). The final level when compared to the first is intense, partly because unlike in the first game, when you continue, you have to do the entire stage all over again as opposed to starting off right before Dracula. Plus, Dracula himself is way harder.
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
There is some trial and error involved, but this is still a game that puts your skills, particularly your reaction time and fundamentals to the test. After the first few fights, the game really starts to ramp up with the King Hippo fight. The game has multiple instant kill strikes, one of the most notable ones being the Bull Charge from Bald Bull. Of course, the toughest opponent is Iron Mike himself, who has an instant kill shot and incredibly quick attacks in general.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Hey, I said like, not love. Angry Video Game Nerd may have torn this game a new one, and rightfully so. But the truth of the quality is somewhere in the middle. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is consistently hard throughout, but it’s notably hard in the dam level and the search for the Technodrome. The game throws a lot of enemies at you and only so much health. It’s made especially more difficult that dying as a turtle is a huge loss, and you have only limited opportunities to get lives back – and believe me, you will need them.
You may be able to continue infinitely, but it doesn’t change the fact that your time playing it is going to be brutal. Arthur can only take two hits before dying, and your movement options are INCREDIBLY limited. When you jump, you commit yourself to that jump – it’s definitely not Mega Man in that respect. Enemies are numerous and dangerous, and just as dangerous are some crappy items that make combat situations way more difficult to handle. It’s more than enough to have it top a list of the hardest NES games.
What are your favorite hardest NES games?
There are maybe harder games than those that appeared on this list, but none that I liked as much as these ones. So what about you? What are the hardest NES games that you like? Let me know in the comments!