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Nintendo Games That Nearly Drove Me To Homicide!
by: Protoclown

Most everyone who grew up in the 1980s has enjoyed the experience of throwing their Nintendo controller into a wall in a fit of blind, screaming rage; many of us have even broken our fair share. The fact is, video games were hard back then, on the whole a lot harder than they are now. And while the NES still provides me with the majority of my fond gaming memories, it also fomented more frustration and anger in me than any other single gaming system.

I've picked out seven classic NES games that managed to really piss me off for one reason or another. If you know of a harder one that didn't make this list, chances are I never played it, or it didn't interest me enough to actually anger me. For example, Bayou Billy may have been frustrating, but I also didn't care enough to see what was next to be bothered; I simply cast it aside to make time for the next game. These games were ones I really wanted to play through to the end, which is why they had so much power to anger me.

Ghosts 'N Goblins

If I recall correctly, my sister and I split the cost of this game and bought it together, a decision we came to regret about five minutes after popping in the cartridge. I'd heard nothing but how cool this game was, and when I saw the opening scene in the graveyard and heard the awesome spooky music, I knew I'd heard correctly. Unfortunately, the game was also nearly impossible to play. Yes, I know that two of you are reading this right now and thinking "What a pussy! That game was easy!". Well, you're not human, you're fucking aliens, I'm on to you, and I'm reporting you to the FBI, or the Men in Black, or whoever it is you call in a situation like this.

I think I made it past the initial graveyard stage once, which was cause for a screaming, jumping-up-and-down celebration. Then after about a minute into the city stage, I was dead again, shouted obscenities, and smashed my controller into a wall. I think the thing that made me so mad about this game was that you run around wearing full plate mail, which you might think would provide some kind of protection. Only it turns out to be completely useless, as one single hit will knock the armor right off of you and you're suddenly running around in your boxers. It was like every time I found a new suit of plate mail, the game was taunting me by teaching me the true meaning of futility.


This is one of two games on this list I've actually beaten years after initially playing them, thanks to an obsessive-compulsive, twitchy persistence that only comes with the need to prove something. I really like this game. I also really, really hate this game in an eye-bulging, foaming at the mouth, vein popping out on my forehead kind of way. For some annoying reason, Simon Belmont couldn't jump off of stairs, which meant that if some enemy chose to attack you while you were busy climbing up or down a level, you were pretty much fucked. Also, much like Arthur in Ghosts 'N Goblins, you can't change direction once you hit that jump button. And perhaps that is more realistic than the aerial acrobatics featured in some games, but there's nothing more frustrating than realizing you just made a horrible error in judgment and being forced to watch your character tumble helplessly into oblivion.

Of course, the hardest thing about this game was the bosses, which were deceptively easy until you got to Frankenstein, who slowly lumbers across the screen in a relatively non-threatening manner. Unfortunately, when the crazed, dancing, methamphetamine-abusing monkey who rides around on his back hops off and starts pinballing around the room shooting "monkey balls" at you, you've got a whole new batch of problems. I finally bested him after a great many attempts, only to discover that the hardest boss in the game, Death, is next in line. If you're lucky enough to make it past the insane gauntlet that is the hallway preceding Death's chamber with any health left at all, you might just last two seconds before he kills you. The only way I was able to get past him was to chump him with holy water, ensuring an unfair fight that wouldn't even allow him the chance to move. Fortunately, I read on the internet that this is a generally accepted way to beat the boss, and that you can chump Death without being considered too much of a pussy.

Ninja Gaiden

I recently downloaded this on the Wii's Virtual Console, as my parents decided to sell my copy (along with all my other NES games) at a yard sale while I was off at college. I had remembered I found it extremely difficult when I was twelve, but figured that in my older age I'd be better suited to face the challenges provided by this game. I was wrong. See, I went through the majority of the boards with little difficulty, wondering why I'd ever had a hard time with it in the first place, until I managed to get to the last several boards preceding the final boss fights. While I do remember getting to the Jaquio, a fat guy in an 'intestine suit', once or twice when I was a kid, I could never get past him. These days I've yet to even reach him again. (By the way, I know a lot of people don't consider this to be the hardest game in the series, but it's the one I remember the best).

What really burns my biscuits about this game is that it never seems to be a worthy opponent that takes me down, but rather it's always some stupid animal like an eagle or a bat that manages to shuffle me off this digital coil. A ninja with a jetpack, I could deal with. That guy's clearly a menace. But a fucking eagle? Either the Jaquio has somehow hired soldiers from the animal kingdom to work for him, or Ryu Hayabusa has an extraordinary talent for accidentally stumbling too close to birds' nests and pissing off overly protective mothers. There's one board near the end I must have attempted a hundred times, only to be clawed to death by a bird every single time as I plummet to my painful death. You know what else is weird? On the first stage where you're in the city, you have knife-throwing punks, street thugs with bats and even boxers coming after you. Kind of makes sense, right? But when you get to the final stages in an ancient ruin in the Amazon, you still have the same ol' punks, street thugs and boxers coming after you. Where does the Jaquio find these guys?

Kid Icarus

This is one of those rare games that people say gets progressively easier as you go through it, so by the time you get to the ending, it's hardly a challenge at all. I wouldn't know, because I can never get past the second fucking level. Though I never owned this game myself, I had several friends who did, so I played my fair share of it. The problem with this torturous excuse for a game was that the first several boards were vertical, where you climbed higher and higher as you traversed the board's terrain. The bad news here is that one false step would send you plunging to your demise. And since most of these levels consisted of very small platforms and enemies that were constantly trying to knock you off of them, there was plenty of demise to be had.

Annoyingly, the game had fantastic music and a promise of great excitement and adventure ahead, if only I could keep my fumbling fingers from misfiring and jumping too soon or too late. The aggravating thing here is that you're a fucking angel, with wings, and yet you still couldn't so much as hover or slow your descent to allow for a pillowy, snuggle-soft landing. After many repetitive slipups resulting in the same horrible fate, this logical inconsistency became too much for my brain to handle, and I would throw the controller somewhere far away, hoping it would fall forever and die too.

Mega Man

This is the second game on this list I've recently managed to defeat, but only by exploiting a flaw in the game to get past the hardest boss (another technique considered acceptable by a large faction of players). Maybe it's because I played its successor Mega Man 2 before going back and playing this one, but I found this game to be nowhere near as enjoyable as the sequel. Still, the completist in me demanded I struggle through it so that I could eventually say I beat all the Mega Man games (a boast that's just sure to have all the ladies swooning).

Getting past all the robot masters is manageable enough (though Ice Man's stage can be quite annoying, and what an X-Man is doing in this game is beyond me), but it's the big yellow cyclops monster in Dr. Wiley's first stage that rapidly transforms this game from a passable good time to a crybaby tearfest. This creature flies across the room in little blocks that you have to dodge, assembles itself, allows you the chance to fire off one shot while it itself shoots at you, before it breaks apart and repeats the process on the opposite end of the screen. I can never get through one of these sequences without getting hit at least once, and the amount of damage I inflict each time versus the amount I take ensures that at my skill level, getting past this is impossible (without the exploit). I don't think anyone short of a robot could actually get past this. Ask any Mega Man fan, and they will likely agree that this is the hardest boss in any of the games, and the hardest game in the overall series.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The first thing I remember about this game is that it was full of boring, shitty "creatures" that passed for enemies and that it involved a lot of wandering around on an overhead map without having any idea where to go, entering building after identical building and fighting hordes of boring, shitty creatures inside. Rocksteady and Bebop did make brief appearances for what pass as bosses early in the game, but for the most part you were fighting random unknowns. What also didn't make sense was that your turtle van ran off the same health meter as your turtles, which wasn't so life-threatening, but it was plain stupid.

The second level was a timed underwater swimming mission where you're searching for bombs to defuse without having any idea where in the hell they are, and it's also filled with electrical plants that zapped the shit out of you and more than likely would be the death of one or more of your turtles. I'd always get past the swimming mission, only to have one or two severely wounded turtles left with which to beat the rest of the game. Healing pizzas were few and far between, and were often hard to get to when you did find them. Unsurprisingly, I usually met my quick end somewhere on level three and never saw anything beyond that.


This game, in no way a blatant rip-off of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because it only had one descriptor in front of "toads" instead of three, promised to be a rollicking good time where the TMNT game had failed. Unfortunately, it lied. This game started off decently enough, and even allowed for multi-player co-op play, but shortly after the first several fun stages came the crushing realization that you'd come as far as you were going to. Especially if you brought a friend along for the ride.

Because as soon as you hopped on your "hover cycle", you were doomed to crash and die. You would race toward obstacles at breakneck speeds, which would be indicated by their flashing appearance on the edge of the screen, giving you very little information to judge how much time you actually had before slamming into one of them. Eventually they would come so fast and so frequently, forcing you to shift left or right, jump up or duck down in such quick succession that you could go insane trying to get through it all. And the bad news is that if there are two of you playing, you both had to make it through the level perfectly. One screw up from either of you, and you were both forced to start over. I almost always played this game with a friend (primarily because I didn't own a copy myself), and it usually had to be turned off pretty quickly before a friendship was destroyed. I heard the game only gets harder from there (which doesn't even seem possible), but I wouldn't know because I never made it anywhere in this game.

I really think that for the most part video games were harder back in the 80s, when things like unlimited continues, save points and passwords were either unheard of or relatively uncommon. I've seen speed run videos of all these games being beaten, which has proven to me that I don't entirely suck at all of these, because the skill required to get through some of these games is unbelievable. If you can actually beat any of these games, my hat's off to you, because there are damn few who can.

Questions or Comments about this piece?
email Protoclown

If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out:

Nintendo: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

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