They don't make games quite like they used to, and I'm not referring to just the graphics.
A big trend that has occurred in the game industry is that many games have become easier. They hold your hand, make you overpowered; you name it. While there are some exceptions, like Bloodborne or the Souls series, the general trend is that they're a bit easier.
If you go back in time, to the days of the 16 and 8-bit eras respectively, you'll see that many games used to be much harder. Nintendo, SEGA, Capcom, Rare, and just about every other developer you could think of were creating games that took no small amount of skill to beat.
To this day, they're some of the hardest experiences ever crafted by game developers. Those of you looking for a challenge may want to read further as we discuss 15 retro games that are impossible to beat.
15 Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!
This game has gone down in infamy for having one of the hardest boss fights in history: Mike Tyson himself. While you might not have too much trouble punching and dodging your way through all of the different fighters in Punch-Out!!, your true skills will be put to the test when this man jumps into the ring.
Mike Tyson hits fast and hits hard. He's difficult to dodge and will wipe your health out before you even realize what's going on. There are some who've managed to take him down without breaking a sweat, but they only did so through a lot of practice and training. If you challenge Mike Tyson to a battle in this game, don't expect to come out victorious.
14 Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
After the smashing success of Super Mario Bros across the world, Nintendo was hard at work creating the sequel. However, the Super Mario Bros 2 that North America received was not the version that Japan received. They were two different games entirely (the one in America was just a re-skinned version of another Japanese game). The reason for this is that Nintendo felt the original build for Super Mario Bros 2 was too hard for Western gamers.
Eventually, they released the game in the West and titled it Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels. Sadly enough, they were right about how difficult the game was. Packed with moments that required perfect platforming and constant attention to your surroundings, there were few people who ever completed this game.
13 Ecco The Dolphin
You're going to see a few entries from SEGA on this list, but the first one of the bunch is Ecco the Dolphin. In this game, you take the role of a cute aquatic mammal as he swims around each level, learning how to deal with enemies and progress without getting killed. It sounds simple and kid-friendly enough, but I'll be darned if I ever see a young gamer beat this title.
The problem here is that each level presented a host of different obstacles for Ecco to swim past. This wouldn't be so bad if the controls weren't incredibly unforgiving, but alas, the way Ecco moved wasn't exactly the most ingenious of designs. This ended up resulting in many deaths and Game Overs before people just shut their SEGA systems off altogether.
12 Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
A lot of games will slowly build up the difficulty as time goes on. That way, players have the natural time to get used to the controls and mechanics as they improve in how to use them. That's not the case with Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. This game takes a nothing held back approach and assaults you with the worst tricks and challenges from the very beginning.
Oftentimes, you'll be surrounded by enemies coming in from all sides. If you get hit, you'll often fall a great distance to your death. It doesn't help that the platforming requires great skill as well, meaning that this game will constantly have you on your toes. Did I mention that the bosses were some of the most frustrating parts of the game?
11 Ninja Gaiden (NES)
The Ninja Gaiden series is most known today for introducing the character known as Ryu Hayabusa- one of the greatest fictional ninjas of all time. But before he made his way to hack and slash games, he debuted in a well-designed platformer on the NES.
Don't get me wrong, though. Well-designed doesn't mean that it's easy. Ninja Gaiden is one of the hardest games on the system, featuring unfair enemies and platforming that is so precise one small misstep could send you plummeting to your death. Ryu can wall jump in the game, but that mechanic is required with the platforming, making the entire experience that much more difficult. The worst part about it all has to be those darn birds knocking you down over and over again.
10 Solomon's Key
Puzzle games weren't so common back in the day, but Solomon's Key had enough nuances to make it stand out in the crowd. The game stars a man named Dana who is tasked with sending some demons back to Hell through the use of Solomon's Key after they were released into the Earth.
However, the demons apparently brought game design from Hell when they came to the Earth as well. Each level was a puzzle that required you moving and crafting blocks to figure things out. However, it was all too easy to screw yourself over and get trapped to where all you could do was wait for some supernatural force to kill Dana and allow you to start from the very beginning. It was often just you waiting for your time to run out.
9 Kirby's Dream Land (Extra Mode)
When it comes to the Game Boy, there were few games easier or more relaxing than Kirby's Dream Land. This casual adventure filled with great music and eclectic enemies was a fun and short time. After you beat the game, though, you'll get access to a code that unlocks a little something known as "Extra Mode."
Players who started the Extra Mode were quickly in for a shock as Kirby's health was halved, the enemies had more complicated patterns (and there were more of them), the bosses through stronger attacks, and even the level itself could harm you. Even veteran Kirby players lament about how difficult this mode was. You can beat the original story in about 20 minutes, but the Extra Mode could take you weeks due simply to how much you're going to die.
Contra is a classic. While it was extremely difficult, it placed a lot of mechanics that would come to define the genre and the NES as a whole. Any self-respecting gamer has, at the very least, heard of this game to some extent. It was also made accessible to all types of players through the Konami Code, which multiplied your in-game lives by 10.
For those that didn't use this code, Contra was an infuriating experience, whether you played it by yourself or with a friend. Missiles, bullets, and enemies will be flying at you at all times, and you're only armed with a silly little gun that never gets upgraded enough for you to feel powerful. That Game Over screen has become synonymous with the game, but it's still a fun time.
Rare's Battletoads is on this list for many of the same reasons that Contra is. The game design is spectacular and makes a fun action game accessible for players of all ages. However, the game happens to be one of the hardest projects ever created, and this time, there's no Konami Code to help you.
Battletoads is not only unforgiving in the enemies that it throws at you, but also incorporates some events that require timing that only the Flash could accomplish. Sure, you could play this game with friends, but that hardly makes the game any easier. If you're in for long hours where you want to put your controller through the TV, I strongly recommend giving this game a go.
The second SEGA game on this list, Ristar was a bit of interesting title. While it was a platformer like most of the heavy hitters back in the day, it employed a different mechanic by having the main character be able to extend his arms to grab objects and enemies. This allowed him to climb walls, swing off of vines, and nab enemies from a long distance.
Unfortunately, you'll probably only see about the first three worlds. Because of how stiff the main mechanic is, you'll die from a lot of enemies and projectiles. Rister himself is also not very fast, which doesn't give you a lot of time to react to incoming attacks. Ristar is also not very gracious when it comes to lives, and odds are that you'll reach the Game Over screen before you get to see anything exciting. If you make it to the last boss, then I wish you the best of luck.
5 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)
Due to the popularity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, it was only a matter of time before we got a game based around our favorite heroes in a half shell. Unfortunately, this led to the creation of one of the most difficult games on the NES that will challenge even the most dedicated players in the world.
While the game itself wasn't challenging at all times, there were particular moments that made players snap their controllers in two. There was the water section and that whole sequence with the Technodrome to really put your skills to the test. If you managed to get past these parts, the game was reasonably fun. Many have criticized the game for its "unfair" difficulty, though, saying that it's a fault of the design rather than it being purely challenging.
4 The Lion King
Oh my goodness. The amount of headaches this game used to cause me as a child was unreal. The Lion King for the SNES and SEGA Genesis is not only one of the hardest Disney games ever created, it's one of the hardest for any of the consoles it released on.
What makes this game so hard? Everything. When designing this game, the developers specifically made the game challenging so that no one would be able to beat it while they rented it. This meant more sales for Disney overall. Unfortunately, those who bought the game still couldn't beat it, because each level contained brutal enemies, difficult platforming, and sequences that required the utmost precision. Don't even get me started on the "running from wildebeests" level.
3 Friday The 13th (NES)
With the recent release of the new Friday the 13th hitting digital game stores, we want to talk about the original Friday the 13th game that came out for the NES. This game puts you in the shoes of a camp counselor who has to defend the grounds from a zombie attack as well as Jason Voorhees.
This would be challenging enough in real life, and it's equally challenging in the game. Friday the 13th further frustrates players by having you fight Jason one on one. As you might imagine, these sequences are the hardest parts of the game, as the killer vastly outmatches you. In order to win, you have to beat Jason, but it's ultimately likely that he'll just slaughter you and the rest of the counselors.
2 Ghosts 'N Goblins
If you want to know where the Souls series got its inspiration, look no further than Ghosts 'n Goblins. This game puts you in the armor of a knight named Arthur (clever, I know). You have to make your way across the land, defeating all kinds of monsters and demons in order to rescue a princess.
However, if you get hit twice, you die. While this seems somewhat fair, understand that you'll be hit a lot. Monsters swoop in from the air, far above where you can hit them. Various pitfalls also block your way while you're being attacked, meaning that you'll have to pay attention where you're going at all times. This game was so difficult that the developers actually held a contest where they would give out special cups to players who could show proof of completing the game.
1 Sonic The Hedgehog 2
This is an odd choice to save for last, and it's not one that many people cite as difficult, but I can't help but point it out. While Sonic the Hedgehog 2 improved on the original in terms of how it was structured, it also led to a game that was much less beatable in the long run.
As you progress through the worlds, you'll be plagued with horribly unfair enemy placement (I'm looking at you, Metropolis Zone), precise platforming that would make Nintendo blush (Sky Fortress), and a final battle that doesn't even give you any rings. The entire game reeks of this difficulty, meaning that you'll be playing for hours before you see the end. Furthermore, if you manage to get Super Sonic (which is also not easy), that form is useless in the later levels and especially the final boss.