Discussions over the most difficult NES video games ever made can quickly become interesting conversations concerning video game theory and philosophy. For example, should a title count as being challenging if it is only hard because it is designed poorly and presents the player with a broken gameplay experience? Are games only truly grueling if skillfully designed to be, presenting players with the chance to accomplish the goal but with recognizable difficulty and obstacles in the process?
In addition, purist fans of a particular console may present the merits of 8-bit against 16-bit, or pose the Atari 2600 and its inherent limitations against the polygons on 64-bit systems as having less of an excuse to pose an unfair challenge to gamers. One of the home video game consoles that emerged between the prehistoric days of ancient computer gaming and the modern era of worldwide war-game realism was the Nintendo Entertainment System, on which a few of the most difficult NES video games ever made confounded countless gamers.
This shoot-’em-up cartridge based on a character from the Marvel Comics universe is infamous for widely being considered among the most difficult NES video games ever made, if not of all time. With portions that scrolled horizontally and others that scrolled vertically, Silver Surfer had a few issues that presented a distinctively horrific challenge: Sections impossibly jam-packed with enemies and projectiles, multiple environmental dangers at every turn, and notably few opportunities for power-ups. Usually, games of this genre offer a scaling power-up system, and usually the opportunity to gain multiple hit bits or even have a health bar. Not so in Silver Surfer, where one hit kills the player and everything on the screen is deadly.
This video game holds the honor of being considered not only one of the most difficult NES video games ever made but also one of the most beloved, the general consensus being that it represented among the best of the fast-paced action platformers that the NES had to offer. With its relentless pacing, precision-jumping, variety of enemies, and other trying gameplay elements, the original Ninja Gaiden game was quite the challenge for gamers, along with its two sequels on the console.
Milon’s Secret Castle
Perhaps to be considered as a cautionary tale against designing ambitious item-search games without any clear direction within the actual gameplay, Milon’s Secret Castle was a unique adventure that featured an emphasis on needing to find special artifacts, yet hiding them not only in places that were tough to find in a physical sense, but also often requiring other actions to be completed before they appeared. Milon’s notoriety was enhanced when the Angry Video Game Nerd published a video review that pointed out the game-design flaws and unfair components that took place within the confounding Castle. Maybe it could be completed with a strategy guide, or with information now able to be found online, but it is difficult to imagine a player in the early 1990’s being able to complete the quest without encountering massive frustration along the way.
Hopefully, future developers can learn some valuable lessons from the most difficult NES video games ever made. Namely: A video game is more fun when it is actually possible to complete, the right amount of challenge can enhance a game’s experience, and it may be pointless to haphazardly hide necessary items without purpose or direction.