Ah, the 90s. A pivotal point in entertainment history that birthed so many fads and poor fashion choices. Many of you spent the 90s collecting things and waiting multiple minutes for single web pages to load. If you were like us, you spent a majority of your time glued to the television set, or better yet, glued to your brand new Super Nintendo Entertainment System. 1991 saw the birth of this glorious gaming upgrade and ushered in a new era of 16-bit games.
Fast forward a few years and there were a plethora of SNES titles to choose from. Whether you wanted a platformer, side-scroller, shooter, racing game, fighter, or almost anything in-between, the SNES could accommodate you. Unfortunately, some games from this particular era were tough to beat. In fact, by today's gaming standards, a lot of SNES releases are downright difficult. Some of them even seemed impossible to beat, especially for children or those just starting to check in on the gaming craze.
This prompted us to scour the internet and check the archives for what many would consider the echelon of difficult SNES titles. These releases do follow a certain numbered order but each one of them features a particular element that makes them exceedingly difficult. For some, it's as simple as a frustrating level but others feature brutal level design, painful enemies, and unguided open-ended gameplay.
Without further ado, here are our 15 Classic SNES Games That Are Impossible To Beat.
15 The Lion King
A lot of SNES television and film adaptations were actually pretty entertaining. Unfortunately, a lot of them featured annoyingly bad control schemes, poor level design, and seemingly unfair A.I. programming. Such is the case with the video game port of Disney's popular animated film, The Lion King.
Upon first glance, Simba's journey seems harmless enough. The first level, The Pridelands, gives you a general feel for the fairly tight controls and gameplay mechanics. The game doesn't give you much information on how to play, but a few errors (and common sense) will alert you that it's okay to jump on lizards, but a bad idea to pounce on a porcupine. The level is incredibly short and the "boss battle" requires you to jump atop a hyena enemy only once.
From that moment forward, The Lion King sees a serious scale in difficulty. This is especially alarming when you consider that the release was targeted towards kids at the time. The second level you'll face lives in infamy as being one of the most annoying and stalwart stages in all of SNES gaming. You'll slough your way through annoying pitfalls, a rather lengthy puzzle, and a timed double jump that demands precision and perfection. Many Lion King fans have never seen level three, thanks to this rough and tumble stage.
14 Prince of Persia
Some gamers tout Prince of Persia as a bland and annoying experience. To be fair, we wouldn't place it anywhere near the "Best SNES Titles" either. That being said, Prince of Persia still finds its way into this Top 15 list based purely on its difficult timing-based gameplay elements and brutal time limit mechanic.
The modern Prince of Persia series reboot features elaborate platforming sections, tight control schemes, and entertaining combat sequences. The original SNES release was nothing like this. Retro Prince of Persia is a sea of timing-based motions, annoying traps, and monotonous combat. Since it's not a free-flowing platformer, you'll need to be precise with your movements. Each step, jump, dash, and leap, must be calculated beforehand. There are later sections within this classic release that feel like walking blindly through a minefield.
This sounds like a difficult affair on its own, but Prince of Persia's real headache lies in its "overall timer." During each playthrough, you'll be required to complete the game in under 120 minutes. You have unlimited lives, but dying will not reset the countdown. Imagine making it to the final level, only to find yourself back at the starting point because you struggled with one particular section.
13 The 7th Saga
When it comes to insane difficulty and controller-breaking mechanics, we usually blame platformers. After all, there is nothing more annoying than losing a life because you miscalculated a jump or struck an enemy in mid-air. However, this doesn't mean difficulty is purely exclusive to these types of games. Case in point, The 7th Saga, a localized JRPG that was originally known as Elnard.
This classic turn-based affair was an enjoyable adventure when it released Japan, but quickly turned into a torrid affair when the localization process saw buffed enemies and nerfed character progression. When The 7th Saga hit western soil, it brought a difficulty spike that threatened even the most hardened JRPG veterans. The game itself was unique at the time, featuring the ability to start as one of seven different characters and it also made use of a "crystal ball" system that allowed players to see where enemy encounters would occur. Each character plays differently and there are moments within the game that you'll be able to recruit one (and only one) extra party member to aid you in your quest.
Thanks to massive enemy health upgrades and a progression system that seemingly moves at a snail's pace, you'll find yourself grinding enemy after enemy just to progress through certain areas. To make matters worse, dying will sap half of your gold. This isn't necessarily a big deal in the beginning, but it becomes quite the penalty later on.
12 Castlevania: Dracula X
The Castlevania series has always been a bit difficult, but Castlevania: Dracula X turns it up a notch. This SNES platformer follows Richter Belmont on a quest to eliminate Dracula. Like its predecessors, Castlevania: Dracula X features linear gameplay and a multitude of platforming.
Thankfully, there are no time limits, allowing you to explore your surroundings and collect items. Each stage has a unique boss to encounter and two stages have hidden endpoints which lead to alternate levels. Richter's primary weapon is a trademark whip and players are able to collect one of six invaluable sub-weapons.
A mixture of monster mayhem and platforming nightmares make this release a rather formidable foe. There are many sections where mobs flood the screen and bottomless pits line the foreground. You'll need to dispatch certain enemies before making these jumps, as bumping into a baddie can send you careening to your death. Castlevania: Dracula X rewards skill, patience, and planning, but certain platforming sections and boss fights make this one of SNES's most challenging titles.
11 Earthworm Jim 2
Earthworm Jim is a SNES cult classic. This hapless hero's adventures were as wild and wacky as any episode of Ren and Stimpy. Crude humor, insane animations, and disgusting visuals made Earthworm Jim one of the most entertaining and unique platforming experiences in gaming history.
Earthworm Jim 2 is another story. This sequel is every bit as wild and wacky as the first but features a rather large spike in difficulty. Tight controls and an arsenal of weaponry aren't enough to overcome the many tricky jumps, annoyingly fast enemies, and tough mini-games. Much like Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, Earthworm Jim 2 features a series of "special levels" that force repetition and quick reflexes.
It's hard enough to navigate past some of the pits and traps, so imagine how difficult it can be when laser focused enemies are nipping at your heels. Expertly multitasking between climbing, jumping, parachuting, and aiming is the key to successfully passing each zone. Thankfully, developers skewed the difficulty a bit by adding many bonus levels, extra lives, and health collectibles.
10 Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park is another glaring example of movie-gone-game. Much like The Lion King, this film was adapted from the big screen and turned into classic interactive entertainment. Although, you won't find yourself platforming across dinosaur heads or falling into inconspicuous pits. Developer Ocean Software shied away from platforming and focused instead on a top-down 2D adventure with frequent 3D first-person sections.
The end result is a hybrid adventure game that has you shooting your way through dinosaurs, vaulting over traps, and locating items. The controls aren't that difficult to master and although dinosaurs can be abundant at times, you'll rarely feel overwhelmed by enemies. Jurassic Park's true crisis comes in the form of its elaborate puzzle and ammo system. Ammo is scattered all around the park and certain ammo types will work better on certain dinos.
You need to keep your ammo reserves full, while simultaneously navigating the park. This is where Jurassic Park's difficulty level shines. There is nothing to suggest where to go, how to get there, or in what order you need to locate things. If you spend too much time wandering aimlessly, you'll find yourself out of ammo and out of luck.
9 Battletoads In Battlemaniacs
Battletoads was easily one of the hardest titles to ever grace the NES. Battletoads in Battlemaniacs is no different. A newer system and added controls did nothing to stop developers from cranking out another unforgiving journey into the Gamescape. Rash and Pimple make their heroic return, with a few new moves and some wonderfully updated graphics.
Battletoads in Battlemaniacs is a bit easier than its predecessor. The SNES release introduced a new mechanic into the Battletoads universe by allowing players to eliminate enemies with specialized combo moves. Aside from that, this title is every bit as punishing as the first and many areas produce those same feelings of controller-breaking rage. Thankfully, developers rewarded players with longer health bars and included stages that grant bonus lives.
There are six levels to conquer and each one packs a different gameplay mechanic. You'll need to beat up foes, race an errant saw, and ride giant snakes. Unfortunately, the "jet ski" level makes a triumphant return. This particular stage was the undoing for most Battletoads veterans and it's every bit as brutal in Battlemaniacs.
Actraiser is a rare breed, mixing together the gameplay elements of a side-scrolling platformer with the simulation of building a city. With beautiful visuals (for the time), entertaining mechanics, and a superb soundtrack, Actraiser is deserving of a spot on the list of all-time greatest SNES releases.
Unfortunately, it also belongs on this list. Actraiser may be superb in design and mechanic, but it packs a powerful punch in terms of difficulty. The side-scrolling sections can be unforgiving, forcing players to master effective jumping while simultaneously slashing through an onslaught of deadly enemies. Levels come equipped with unique boss battles and a slew of varying enemy types. To make matters worse, Actraiser features the same annoying Megaman-like platforming system where bumping into an enemy will send you staggering backward (sometimes into a conveniently placed pit).
If you can master the side-scrolling, you'll be rewarded with a "relaxing" town building simulation. We say "relaxing" because it doesn't stay that way for long. As your town grows, more and more enemies will attempt to topple it. It's easy to find yourself overwhelmed.
7 Mega Man 7
Anyone who's played a Mega Man game knows that the platforming and fighting mechanics can be a little difficult at first (don't even get me started on Heatman's stage from Mega Man 2). The SNES saw the release of the Mega Man X series, which featured tighter controls, new mechanics to master, and a cavalcade of interesting new bosses to topple. Each installment in the Mega Man X series can be considered a bit of a challenge, but the oddly numbered Mega Man 7 stands out as the Blue Bomber's most trying SNES adventure.
Mega Man 7 starts a bit differently than its predecessors. You'll only have four bosses to choose from in the beginning, but four more show up a little later in the game. There are also a variety of sub-bosses to defeat, including Bass on numerous occasions. If you manage to conquer each level, defeat each boss, and live through each annoyingly painful pitfall, you'll be rewarded with one of the toughest endings in Mega Man history.
Dr. Wily can be outright unfair during the final encounter, but you've got miles of pain and bot-based misery to climb through just to get a shot at the evil mastermind. Bass makes a few unwanted appearances and each one of Wily's eight robots must be defeated a second time.
6 Zombies Ate My Neighbors
This is easily one of the best titles to ever grace the SNES but there are probably many people that have no idea this game even exists. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a top-down 2D shooter from developer LucasArts. Although it's a far cry from a Star Wars or Indiana Jones adventure, this release had its own 1980s horror film-inspired charm.
It's also rather lengthy and pretty tough to boot. Zombies At My Neighbors features a staggering 48 levels to conquer and the journey is not nearly as straightforward as one would think. There is a large variety of weapons and items to collect, people to save, and enemy types to slay. Each level has you locating some of your unfortunate "neighbors" and you get a point bonus for rescuing all of them. Once each individual is (hopefully) found, an exit door will open and lead you towards the next zone.
Ammo allocation is rather important in this release and you'll need to make sure that you don't simply burn through each weapon you have. Sometimes it's better to avoid enemies altogether, which can be difficult considering how fast some of them move. There are even enemies that require special weapons to kill. This title may look like a colorful B-rate monster movie, but it plays like a terrifying grade-A horror flick.
5 Hagane: The Final Conflict
If this game sounds unfamiliar, it's because it wasn't that easy to find stateside. There is a lot of speculation on whether or not this particular SNES title was a Blockbuster exclusive. Regardless of its origins, copies of Hagane: The Final Conflict are rather hard to find. In fact, the game has received so much praise as of late, that some cartridge only copies are selling for $200+ on eBay.
One reason for the insane price tag is that Hagane: The Final Conflict is a super entertaining sidescroller. This title oozes eastern culture and looks a lot like a Ninja Gaiden spinoff from its gameplay. You'll play as a stoic cybernetic samurai, slashing through enemies and platforming through futuristic locations. Hagane: The Final Conflict features a great soundtrack, unique visuals (although some claim it's graphically inferior for the time), and solid controls.
It's also a strenuous struggle through complex platforming sections and frustrating enemies. Hagane: The Final Conflict is one of the toughest games available for SNES. A skilled hand and razor sharp focus are key to completing your mission. It also features a hauntingly poignant ending (for a SNES game), making the struggle a little more worthwhile.
4 Contra III: The Alien Wars
The Contra franchise is known for its difficult arcade action and Contra III: The Alien Wars is no exception. This high octane SNES classic ramps turns up the action with improved visuals, stellar controls, and a storm of bullets. Unfortunately, Konami wasn't nice enough to leave a certain "kode" lying around for this release.
Elaborate joystick dancing won't net you 30 lives this time. If you fancy yourself a purist, you can tackle this juggernaut with three lives. Those of you looking for a little more comfort will find a sneaky option menu to crank the lives meter up to seven. Sadly, you won't get much more help than that. Contra III: The Alien Wars features an unforgiving difficulty curve that starts the moment you enter the game.
Each level ramps up the difficulty, until you find yourself surrounded by baddies and swimming through a hail of projectiles. Precise jumps, timed shots, and serious multitasking skills are a must if you want any chance at succeeding here. There are aliens in this game, but don't feel bad if you don't make it far enough to see them.
3 Super R-Type
This list wouldn't be complete without a space themed side-scrolling trip through bullet hell. Super R-Type is a classic horizontal shooter with gameplay elements similar to releases like Phalanx and Gradius. Traditional mechanics like powerup collection and one-hit deaths make Super R-Type feel like a familiar game.
There are a few things that set this title apart from its distant relatives. The "power-up attachment" that you collect doesn't just increase your weapon power, it acts as an entirely separate entity. You can send this object out to autofire at other enemies, or even use it to cover the space behind you. Knowing exactly how to use this specialized piece of equipment makes up the main bulk of Super R-Type gameplay.
The sheer number of enemies and projectiles onscreen is enough to make this release a truly frightening affair but the real difficulty issue stems from taking damage. If you manage to get hit, once, by anything, at any point, you'll perish and restart your current level from the beginning. There are no checkpoints and no "do-overs."
2 Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Once again we find a film to game adaptation on this list, but this one is special. This is perhaps the mother of all difficult movie to game releases. You could make a case for each one of the Super Star Wars titles, but The Empire Strikes Back is especially arduous.
You'll span many locations in the Star Wars universe and play as multiple characters. There are many vehicles to pilot and items to collect. You'll even experience mechanic changing levels that break up monotonous side-scrolling. At its core, Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is a fantastic homage to the classic space opera. It offers fans of the series an interactive way to experience a story they know and love.
Unfortunately, LucasArts went a tad overboard with the challenge factor. Super Star Wars: The Empire Stikes Back is downright hard. If you don't find yourself struggling with the complex platforming sections, you'll most likely fall victim to the immense amount of enemies onscreen. It's like they never stop coming and in some areas, they don't. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which you actually pray for an oncoming boss fight but The Empire Strikes Back does just that. The discernible attack patterns of a boss are often much easier to deal with than the onslaught of regular enemies.
1 Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts
This game is the pure embodiment of difficulty. From mechanics to controls, to environments, and everything in-between, this horror-filled side-scroller is pure evil in cartridge form. It's the third release in the franchise but it easily tops this list as one of the absolute hardest games on SNES.
Fans of the original NES title, Ghosts 'N Goblins, will recognize the stalwart hero Arthur. Our protagonist is once again on a journey to save a princess that constantly finds herself captive by demon hordes. The level structure is similar to Ghosts 'N Goblins, as you find yourself progressing through various themed levels. Each zone has a peculiar boss, and some areas hold valuable secrets.
There is always something waiting to kill you in Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts. It isn't enough to smite your enemies. You'll need to keep your composure as you attempt to leap across bottomless pits and traps. The clunky controls don't make this any easier and the constant need to eliminate enemies will keep you on your toes. The game is incredibly hard to get through, but it's even harder to finish. Once you manage to find the end boss, you'll be sent back to the beginning of the game for a special "item" and then forced to trek your way back through every agonizing step. Requiring players to repeat a seemingly impossible game twice is interactive torture.