These days we’re challenged by games like Dark Souls and Cuphead, but hard games aren’t a new thing. Not by a long shot. We have a look at the hardest games ever, as judged by ourselves, and the Funstock Retro audience via social media.
10 – Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels
An absolutely brutal entry into the Mario franchise, Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels was initially released for the Famicom in Japan as Super Mario Bros 2. It was actually deemed to be too difficult for Western audiences and was replaced with a version of Doki Doki Panic to be released in the West. This one is hard, it pretty much assumes you’re already a master of the first game, and doesn’t ramp up in a way you would expect for a Mario title, giving it the title of one of the hardest games ever. The level design is also incredibly unforgiving, with plenty of invisible traps that you literally can’t do anything about until you’ve died to them.
9 – Super Star Wars
Super Star Wars is based on the original movie, and is notoriously difficult for a movie tie-in. This entry should also technically include the sequels to this game which mirror the original trilogy, with many considering Empire to be the hardest. You can expect some very, very hard platforming here and some side scrolling run and gun action. If you can get past some strange hitboxes you’ll have a great time.
8 – Takeshi’s Challenge
Quite frequently dubbed as the worst video game of all time, Takeshi’s Challenge is an action adventure ‘classic’ that released on the NES back in 1986. A lot of your time playing this game will be consumed by you asking yourself why you’re doing it. It’s just that bad. One of the best features of the game is the ability to reach a Game Over screen before you even start it, by punching a background character on the password screen. The game often tops Japanese ‘Worst Game Ever’ lists, nevermind hardest games ever. You have to try it. Or don’t.
7 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This was a platformer based on the popular animated series, and first appeared in Japan in May 1989 for Famicom. The game was so hard it received very poor review scores. Most of the game problems came down to bad controls, boring enemies and uninspired level design. It’s almost like those three things are key to a good video game… You do get to play as all 4 Turtles though. If you’re playing, be aware of the Dam level in particular, that one’s a real nightmare.
6 – Dark Souls
We decided to keep this list as Retro as possible, because that’s our thing. But we couldn’t leave Dark Souls (and the rest of the series) off the list. FromSoftware decided that games should be hard again, in a current climate of hand-holding video games, the Souls series is a welcome breath of fresh air for those who love to be challenged, and beaten, again and again. And again. The games get cleaner as they go along, with less bugs to shout about, which leaves only yourself to blame. A younger player would almost certainly say this is one of the hardest games ever.
5 – UFO: Enemy Unknown / X-COM: UFO Defense
Unlike Takeshi’s Challenge, this game is good. Incredible even. Even with it’s extreme difficulty, the game is renowned for being one of the best PC games ever released. If you have played the remake, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you’ll have a good idea what to expect from this one. It’s one of the few games where reloading the mission is not only acceptable, but often required.
4 – Battletoads
We’ve seen other people place Battletoads as their hardest game of all time, and while we’re not ready to give it the number one spot, it’s certainly a contender. It’s hard to describe the premise of Battletoads, but just imagine an even weirder version of TMNT and you’re close. This is a beat ’em up classic that first released on the NES and later on the Mega Drive, Game Gear and more. Our favourite feature is that you can play this game in co-op, and friendly fire is enabled. As if the game wasn’t already hard enough, you can actually hurt your friends along the way. Perfection.
3 – Ninja Gaiden
Ninja Gaiden is incredibly unforgiving. It requires you to play it over and over and over again, it’s basically a test of memory. When you know what’s coming, the game becomes easier, but before that, it can be living hell. The game has spawned countless sequels that also try to boast a hard difficulty, but the original is the best. You can expect to spend a LONG time figuring out the intricacies of this beat ’em up until you feel confident – but when you succeed, it’s worth it. SO worth it.
2 – Contra
Platforming, shooting, infinite ammo. Contra is a run and gun classic developed by Konami and released in arcades in 1987. The hardest part about Contra is the amount of ways you can lose. If you get hit by an enemy, you lose. If you get hit by one bullet, you lose. If you run out of time, you lose. If you fall off the screen, you lose. It’s an unforgiving monster of a coin-eating machine, and we would recommend preparing your wallet should you discover a Contra machine out there in the wild.
1 – Ghosts ‘n Goblins
This one takes our top spot, but you could pick any of the series really. The game is incredibly difficult throughout, classed as a platformer, you can expect to be defeated by the level, as well as the enemies, multiple times. You can take two hits before you lose a life, and that’s going to happen to you a lot. Just embrace it. The best part is that, when you think you’ve beaten the game, it turns out the whole thing has been an illusion, a trap created by Satan. In order to get the genuine ending, you have to get through the WHOLE game again. It’s beautiful isn’t it?
What are the hardest video games in your eyes? Have we missed any out? Let us know below!