"Nintendo hard" refers to the extreme difficulty of several video games that were developed and released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in the 1980s and 1990s, such as Contra (1988), Ninja Gaiden (1988), and Battletoads (1991). The term is still used to describe a certain kind of difficulty in modern video games.
History and reasoning
The Nintendo Hard difficulty of the many games released for the Nintendo Entertainment System were influenced by the popularity of arcade games in the mid-1980s, a period where players kept putting coins in machines trying to beat a game that was brutally hard yet very enjoyable. The difficulty of "Nintendo Hard" games released in the 1980s and 1990s has also been attributed by journalists to the limitations of the console that affected how a game was played. Former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said in an interview regarding how NES titles 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.'"
The number of games that were Nintendo Hard decreased significantly once the fourth-generation 16-bit period of video gaming came around. However, there are still games that have been released later on, such as Super Star Wars (1992) and indie games like I Wanna Be the Guy (2007), Super Meat Boy (2010) and Cuphead (2017), that have the same amount of difficulty as the "Nintendo Hard" products that were released for the console; these iterations of Nintendo Hard have been labeled by many reviewers and gamers as "masocore".
Arcade ports and games of the 2D platformer genre are commonly associated with the Nintendo Hard label. The Houston Press described the Nintendo Hard era as a period where games "universally felt like they hated us for playing them." 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." He also wrote that several titles for the NES, such as Yo! Noid (1990), Silver Surfer (1990) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989) garnered their Nintendo Hard difficulty "for all the wrong reasons." Journalist Michael Enger did not qualify titles with challenges that came from poorly-done gameplay as "Nintendo Hard"; he wrote that only games that were well made and replayable but were still extremely hard were classifiable under the label.
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