Nintendo hard

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"Nintendo hard" is extreme difficulty in video games with trial-and-error gameplay and limited or nonexistent saving of progress. The enduring term originated with Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) games from the mid-1980s to early 1990s, such as Ghosts 'n Goblins (1986), Contra (1988), Ninja Gaiden (1988), and Battletoads (1991).


The Nintendo hard difficulty of many games released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was influenced by the popularity of arcade games in the mid-1980s, a period where players put countless coins in machines trying to beat a game that was brutally hard yet very enjoyable.[1] The difficulty of many games released in the 1980s and 1990s has also been attributed to the hardware limitations affecting gameplay.[2][3] Former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said in an interview regarding how NES games were made: "Everyone involved in the production would spend all night playing it, and because they made games, they became good at them. So these expert gamers make the games, saying 'This is too easy'".[4] Also, Damiano Gerli of Ars Technica observed that extreme difficulty made it possible for a game with little actual content (in terms of number of levels or opponents) to provide a long period of gameplay.[5]

The number of current games considered Nintendo hard decreased significantly with the fourth-generation 16-bit period of video gaming,[1] including Super Star Wars (1992).[6] According to Michael Enger, indie games like I Wanna Be the Guy (2007) and Super Meat Boy (2010) are an "obvious homage" to the Nintendo hard games of the NES era,[1] labeled as "masocore".[1][7]


Arcade conversions and 2D platform games are commonly called Nintendo hard.[1] The Houston Press described the Nintendo hard era as a period where games "universally felt like they hated us for playing them".[8] GamesRadar journalist Maxwell McGee noted the variety of types of "Nintendo hard" games in the NES library: "A game can be difficult because it's genuinely hard, or because it demands you finish the entire adventure in one sitting. It can litter the playing field with spikes and bottomless pits ... or be so hopelessly obtuse you have no idea how to advance".[9] He wrote that several NES games, such as Yo! Noid (1990), Silver Surfer (1990), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989) garnered their Nintendo hard difficulty "for all the wrong reasons".[9] Journalist Michael Enger did not qualify games with challenges that came from poorly-done gameplay as Nintendo hard, but rather only games that were well made and are replayable but still extremely hard.[1]


The games in the following list have been recognized as being some of the hardest NES games and for some, all platforms.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Enger, Michael (February 8, 2011). "What is "Nintendo Hard"?". Bits 'n' Bytes. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  2. ^ Lessel, Alon (September 27, 2013). "Nintendo Hard, or Hardly Working?". VentureBeat. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  3. ^ Thomas, Carlo (August 28, 2015). "Super Mario Maker: Remaking 'Nintendo Hard'". Hardcore Gamer. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Williams, Mike (December 16, 2014). "Teens React to Mega Man: What We've Forgotten About "Nintendo Hard" Games". USgamer. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  5. ^ Staff, Ars (September 3, 2021). "Too much of a good thing: Mourning the slow death of the retail game store". Ars Technica.
  6. ^ Gordon, Rob "SNES Super Star Wars Coming to PS4 This Week". Game Rant. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  7. ^ Stuart, Keith (October 11, 2021). "Dungeon crawler or looter shooter? Nine video game genres explained". The Guardian. Retrieved October 12, 2021.
  8. ^ Rouner, Jef (August 11, 2016). "Video Game Endings Don't Matter". Houston Press. Voice Media Group. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  9. ^ a b c McGee, Maxwell (December 16, 2015). "The classic games that define "Nintendo Hard"". GamesRadar. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  10. ^ Crisman, Michael (July 1, 2015). "The Fifteen Most Difficult NES Games (That Are Not Battletoads)". Retro Gaming. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  11. ^ "The 10 Most Irritatingly Impossible Old School Video Games". Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  12. ^ "The 21 Hardest Nintendo games ever". Computer and Video Games. March 9, 2008. Archived from the original on December 8, 2008. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  13. ^ Tretina, Patrick (June 24, 2016). "Top 5 Hardest NES Games That Kicked Our Ass". Cheat Code Central. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  14. ^ Oxford, Nadia (July 22, 2015). "What are the Hardest Video Games?". USgamer. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  15. ^ McElroy, Griffin (December 29, 2011). "One of the hardest NES games ever translated to English". Engadget. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  16. ^ "The 5 Hardest NES Games (That Are Actually Worth It)" Archived 2016-10-10 at the Wayback Machine. February 26, 2015. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  17. ^ Lambie, Ryan (February 13, 2018). "Transformers: Mystery of Convoy Might be the Most Cynical Licensed Video Game Ever Made". Den of Geek. Den of Geek World. Archived from the original on June 7, 2020.