Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Top 10 Hardest Games Ever
This is my personal list of the hardest games worth playing. This list doesnt include flash based games like The Worlds Hardest Game, or games like Penn & Teller's Smoke and Mirrors and the positively hilarious Syoban Action (Cat Mario), because they are so short and designed only to infuriate you, they fall more into the videogame parody category. The games on this list must be hard but not impossible or broken, or total crap thats not even worth playing. There are no RPGs, maze games, lightgun games, FPSs, TPSs, RTSs, god games, sims, party, puzzle, or music games. Its not that these games arent worth playing or that the genres dont have tough games, but they're just not on this list, for various reasons. They may appear on other lists in the near future, such as Top 10 Hardest Game Franchises, Top 10 Hardest Game Bosses, and Top 10 Hardest Game Modes, etc etc until I get sick of making lists. As it is, the games on this list are mostly old school 2D affairs.
These games are designed such that even if you are the theoretically most talented player in the world, beating these games on your first playthrough is impossible. For most players, it will take days, weeks, months, or years before you are finally able to push through and see the final screen. To beat these games without putting in an inordinate amount of time, most players would have to cheat, either using in game exploits or actual hacks of the game code. To beat Ikaruga, you would have to use infinite continues - and credit spammers get no credit for that feat. But the sick part is - there are people who can play through Ikaruga without losing a single life. There are people who can do speed runs of Streets of Rage 2 and Battletoads, or beat every boss in Mega Man 1-6 in a row without being hit once. So taking the games on this list and making them serve at your beck and call is certainly possible - but the level of perfection required is so far beyond most players physical or mental abilities that many will never approach a successful playthrough. Sure, that might make them sane, "normal people." But that doesnt mean we cant try.
10. Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels (Famicom, SNES, Wii VC)
Man, this game is great. Its really just a ridiculously jacked up version of Super Mario Bros, with gaps and moving platforms requiring pixel perfect jumping accuracy, and power ups that kill you. It was never actually released on the NES in the US - Nintendo of America decided the game was too punishing for a Western audience, so we got Doki Doki Panic with Mario skins instead - they called it Super Mario 2, and everyone here loved it. The Lost Levels only first appeared in the US on the SNES game Super Mario All Stars, which also contained the amazing 16-bit remastered version of Super Mario Bros. I can think of more difficult games than the Lost Levels, but they're not as great games. If you have a Wii, this game is most certainly worth downloading.
9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
Somehow, as a kid, I managed to beat this game just through sheer willpower. I think its probably the only game I played every day for months on end without beating. Back in the day, we only had a few games, and the ones we did, we played the crap out of. The water stage alone was enough to make the Angry Nintendo Nerd lose his shit, let alone some of the platforming sections, or god forbid the technodrome and shredder. To this day, I dont know how I did it.
8. Green Beret (aka) Rush N' Attack (Arcade, NES, XBLA)
Some cruel, demented human being made this game, and some clueless family relative thought that this would be a good gift for a little boy named Furry Puddle in the mid 1980s. It was probably the worst gift ever. He thought, "oh yeah! a new NES game! sweet!" only to open it up, pop it in and find the game past the first few stages was practically impossible to play, with an insane bevy of soldiers, bullets and grenades flying from all directions, and your character equipped with only a knife and some rare powerups. Dying a couple of times results in starting back at the beginning of the game. The game is on XBLA, I own it, and to this day, I cannot finish it, although the masochist in me will keep trying. If you thought the dogs and grenades from Call of Duty 4 were nasty, you've never played Rush N Attack!
7. Streets of Rage 2 (Genesis, Arcade, XBLA)
Holy crap is this game awesome - and tough as nails. I remember it being tough in the arcades, where it was once of the greatest credit feeders of all time, it was a tiny bit easier on the Sega Genesis, but the ridiculously hard XBLA version takes the cake. I think its quite true, that this is the greatest beat-em up game of all time - and also the hardest. You can say Battletoads, or Double Dragon 3 might be harder at times, but those games difficulty comes from poor level design and mediocre controls - whereas Streets of Rage gives you all the control you need, but just hands your ass to you on a silver platter with tons of unique enemies all with multiple devastating attacks. Modern beat em ups, like Castle Crashers or Dynasty Warriors, while fine in their own right, could learn a lot from the absolutely perfect gameplay and brilliant enemy design of Streets of Rage 2.
6. Civilization IV: Beyond The Sword (PC)
Civ is probably the most hardcore game ever made. The only game I can honestly compare it to is chess. There are no winning chess strategies. All chess strategies have counter strategies which effectively negate the advantage imparted by said strategy, and Civilization is no different. There are no winning Civilization strategies, there are only winning players. There is no one way to play - it has infinite game tree complexity with myriad, subtle variations. Civ has the deepest and most mathmateically complex models behind its gameplay of any computer strategy game ever made. Every action in the game can be quantified, and those who control those numbers will ultimately rule the world. Each full sized game takes anywhere from 12-20+ hours to complete from beginning to end. The game takes at least 4-5 playthroughs to even grasp the depth and realize you have no clue what you are doing, and probably 25 plays before you fully understand what is actually happening at every level of the game and can begin to learn adaptive strategies. Although the best players tend to end the game earlier, as in chess, its quite enjoyable to play out a winning endgame even when your opponent is clearly in a losing position. Taking out all those pieces and navigating your way to a checkmate, via one of the various victory conditions, is certainly one of the more satisfying feats in video gaming.
5. Donkey Kong (Arcade)
Billy Mitchell, who holds world records for 3 popular arcade games, has stated several times that it was Donkey Kong that got him hooked on hardcore competetive gaming. Billy is the first and probably last player in history to complete a perfect play of Pac Man - eating every dot, every power up, and getting maximum points for each ghost on every stage without losing a life. I consider this to be one of the greatest achievements not only in videogames, but in sports history. But Billy thinks that Donkey Kong offers the greatest level of challenege out of all the classic arcade games, and thats what drove him to finally best Steve Wiebe's previously unbreakable million point score in June 2007. An arcade perfect port of Donkey Kong has never been made for any system, and unsurprisingly its the #3 most downloaded game on romkeeper.com
4. N+ (XBLA)
This is definitely one of the most infuriating games I have ever played - and its definitely the hardest platformer ever. The guys that made Rush N Attack and Mario The Lost Levels apparently combined their DNA into an evil creation called Metanet Software. Death is your constant companion in N+. You get a sick, sick achievement for dying 1000 times, although the number by the time you finish could be 20 times higher. I actually havent finished the game yet because I have adopted an episodic approach to play with the goal being to reduce the amount of frustration. Im 80% of the way there, and I still have 50% sanity left for the last few levels of insanity. Master Ninja Darth Mikal said beating the game over the course of a couple weeks took at least one year off his life.
3. Radiant Silvergun (Arcade, Sega Saturn)
There are so many shooters, and so many hard shooters, I could make a list of top 10 hardest games that was comprised of nothing but shooters. Some people might say that DoDonPachi or Mushihimesama might be harder, there are huge Gradius and Einhander fans, your hardcore R-Type and Ikaruga memorization freaks, the Raiden addicts, the Ibara masters, Border Down syndrome sufferers, the Ketsui PCB owners, I could go on for about another 4 paragraphs and I still wouldnt be touching the tip of the iceberg of what I consider to be the most difficult genre of videogames. I picked Radiant Silvergun because it is considered one of the greatest shmups of all time, you can emulate it for free in MAME on any decent PC, it is the direct predecessor to Ikaruga, and its as hard to 1CC as any game on this list.
2. F Zero GX (Gamecube)
Insanity. Pure insanity. This is, beyond question, without a doubt, the fastest videogame ever made. It pushes you to the limitations of your reflexes, and then well beyond them into oblivion. Imagine Burnout, but instead of travelling 150-210 mph, you are travelling at 450-600 mph, and the turns are just as sharp, and many course have sections with no walls. Holy effing mother loving what the eff? Luckily, the game eases you into the insanity with the first few tracks, but by the time you reach the end of the game you will asking yourself if there are any people in the world who can finish these courses without hitting the wall or falling off the edge, let alone come in first place against a brutally agressive AI. F-Zero GX is a game that takes only minutes to learn, but a lifetime of play to master. Its certainly one of the greatest racing games of all time, and definitely the most difficult to conquer.
1. Ghosts N Goblins (Arcade, NES, Wii VC)
Masochism. Pure Masochism. Considered the hardest game in the arcades when it was released in 1985, its difficulty also stood without peer in its excellent 8 bit port to the NES, and amazingly still holds up today. The only game I can really compare it to is N+, because you die so much and there is a huge amount of trial and error involved in finishing each stage. But unlike N+, this game has enemies with AI, although its more random AI than anything else, but this random element is what makes many of the enemies tough to face. Aside from the crazy random enemy movements, your hero, Sir Arthur, has only his suit of armor to protect him, and a pair of white underpants underneath, to protect against the enemies attacks. 1 hit, and you lose your armor and run around in your tighty whities, waiting to die. Also, when you jump, you cant change directions midair like in Super Mario Bros. You travel in the direction you jump without being able to make corrections, which leads to many, many untimely deaths. Yes, I have finished Ghosts & Goblins, on both the NES and the arcade version emulated in MAME, but it took intense amounts of willpower, and many many hours of practice and watching videos on youtube for seemingly impassible sections. It was, in a word, painful. The sickest part of the game is - you have to beat it twice in a row to see the ending. Recommended only for the most dementedly masochistic gamers, and even then, at risk to your own sanity.