Hardest NES Games: Have You Ever Tried Playing These Nintendo Hard Classics?

Hardest NES Games

Many people are under the impression that retro games are easy to play. It’s true that some are easy, but it doesn’t apply to every game.

Some of classic video games made for Nintendo Entertainment Systems are extremely difficult (but fun) to play.

That’s why the term ” Nintendo Hard” popped up in the first place.

These games were influenced by the popularity of arcade games back in the 80s.

At that time the machines were specifically developed to have a certain difficulty level in order to keep players to putting coins in machines as they try to beat a brutally hard but enjoyable games.

There are many things that make a video game difficult. Aside from a long duration, it’s also tougher to finish when the enemies keep popping up en masse.

In case you’re curious about the hardest NES games, we have the list for you. For your information, graphics have nothing to do with the difficulty of a game. Classic games are known for having simplistic and blocky graphics, but they don’t always translate to an easy gameplay.

Some casual games are made with a low level of difficulty, so they can be played by everyone, including kids. However, some are designed with complex challenges to stop you from winning the game easily.

Thankfully, some games have difficulty settings. If you find that it feels too difficult to play, all you have to do is change it in the settings.

Toughest (Hardest) NES Games of The 1980s and 1990s


1. Ninja Gaiden

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Many seem to agree that the Ninja Gaiden trilogy is extremely difficult. Of all the installments, the first Gaiden is thought to be the easiest because the difficult parts only start at the fifth act.

It’s almost impossible to beat the final boss at first try, but as you have more chances to repeat the game, you’ll have the time to memorize everything and eventually make it to the final stage.

The Ninja Gaiden II is an improvement in terms of difficulty. It has several elements that can bother you while playing, like the wind, water, and ice. Besides, the player doesn’t get sent back too far when he fails to defeat the final boss.

Compared to first two, the next installment saw a steepest increase in difficulty, at least that’s how many gamers felt about it. On this game, enemies hit with a bigger impact, which makes it harder to last long in the game.

2. Rygar

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This was an arcade game when it made its debut to the public. This side-scrolling game was quite a standard nii its gameplay. You move the character to the right and there are enemies popping up on the screen along the way.

Your task is to eliminate them up until the final bosses. Once you meet Ligar and successfully take him down, the mission is complete. The game is quite difficult to play, partly because it lasts long, not to mention that the player is given no save option.

As we know, save/load feature is what keeps us from frustration while playing difficult games. Thankfully, this has become a standard in newest games. Another thing that makes it difficult to end the game is because of the bosses. It takes a good strategy to destroy them.

3. Festers Quest

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Many people describe it as a pain in the ass. Yep, that sums up how difficult this game is. Although the gameplay is nothing you haven’t heard of before, there are still elements that make it difficult to go farther. The default weapons aren’t the best at defeating enemies.

Sure, there’s an option to upgrade, but even after they are improved in power, the fire pattern looks absurd, like it could’ve been more effective than that to hit the enemies quickly. Besides, the power-ups are also not worth-taking.

Power-ups are special tools that a character can take advantage of to boost his power, but in this game, you might as well settle with the main ones.

High-impact weapons don’t seem to be the best choice when they can’t shot properly, right?

The setting is also quite confusing since some areas look similar with no identifiable differences. Yes, there are landmarks, but there aren’t enough for us to recognize areas correctly.

4. Zelda II – the Adventure of Link

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Zelda is one of the most popular NES games, so you should definitely give it a try. But the question is, which one is the most difficult to play?

If you’re looking for a bit more challenge, then you should try the Zelda II. The reason is Link was underpowered as you start the game. That wouldn’t be surprising if you are stuck in a never-ending death loop.

Well, you can stick with it to figure out how to play it correctly in order to avoid the same mistakes. Once you know the ‘loophole’ or best way to say it, a method of working around the challenges, you’ll manage to survive and the character will level up in the end.

There are many games that are more difficult, but to say Adventure of Link easy is an understatement. Unless you manage to play without killing the character multiple times, you should refrain from calling yourself a master of this game.

Also, there are some points where the difficulty levels increase dramatically. That might make you wonder if you had been skipping an important weapon or something. Well, it’s probably just the game designed very tough for players.

5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Although it has difficult parts, this game is fun to play to say the least. One of the interesting parts is you’re given the choice to switch between characters.

So, what makes it difficult? It’s the enemies. They keep re-spawning, which means it takes longer to completely defeat them. Another reason why it belongs to this list is because it’s a long game.

Not all people have the patience to go through a long playthrough, but if you have the time for that, then it would be a great game to play. Was TMNT part of your childhood? If so, then it’s the right time to revisit this game especially if you haven’t played it in years.

6. Blaster Master

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Some of the hardest NES games are the ones without save points. Who doesn’t want to be skilled at playing at the first try? The thing is it sounds too good to be true.

Every game has a unique plot that takes time for us to remember. In this case, save/load feature comes in handy because we don’t have to repeat the same mistakes to be able to complete a stage. That’s not what happens when this feature is removed completely.

Anytime you get hit by the enemies, it’s game over and you have to start all over again. This problem exists on this game. Add it to the fact that the bosses are also hard to take down, this is a recipe for a disaster.

Well, if you have the tenacity, then nothing can stop you. Even when everything puts you at a disadvantage, you’ll make it. Also, be prepared when it’s about to enter areas where you don’t ride the vehicle. These places are designed to take away the strength of your weapon if it constantly gets hit.

7. Ghosts & Goblins

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This game is difficult, but not to the point where you’ll lose your mind. It still offers unlimited continues that you can use in your favor. Besides, the character still has the last weapon with him, so it can’t be that bad.

The difficulty of this game has nothing to do with a poor concept. It’s just always been that way, probably to challenge players more. The 2-hit death doesn’t help, either.

What does it mean? It means it takes 2 hits to end the character’s life. You get hit once, the armor is gone. And get hit twice, it will take your skin.

So, is there a way to last longer on this game? You can try using the knife instead of the flame gun. Another important weapon for protection is the shield that you can grab near the end.

8. The Karate Kid

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Many people don’t get anywhere playing this game. Is it that difficult?

If you watch the playthrough, it looks easy and the simple graphics only reinforce that impression, but when you try it yourself, that’s a different story. The first stage doesn’t look like it will take a totally different turn. It’s relatively easy since you’re in a one-on-one match with another opponent.

But when the stage 2 starts, that’s where the ‘fun’ begins. We wrote it in quotation marks because it’s not really fun when these people show up at the same time and try to tackle you down.

The more people are coming, the easier for them to knock you out especially when you’re flanked by them on both sides. Also, there’s one specific level where it has a lot of wind going on. That wind will push the character into pits and end his life quickly.

FAQs – Toughest Nintendo Games


1. Why are NES games so hard?

There are a few things that make older games difficult. The first one is the absence of save/load feature. Even a game with a moderate level of difficulty can be hard to beat when this feature isn’t nonexistent. That means each time a character dies, you’ll go back to the start.

Also, many developers thought that making their games longer made them more worthwhile. The thing is, technology didn’t allow for an ultra long gameplay.

For instance, storage space was an issue back then. As a result, to make the games play longer, they were made more difficult, so people spent more time completing them. An easy and short game may take one or 2 hours to beat.

Are we supposed to play it again from start to finish? It sounds boring, right? That wouldn’t happen if the game was made a bit more difficult. It would make the player struggle to make it to the final stage. And when he manages to do so, he probably has spent days or even weeks.

2. Which is the hardest game in the world?

It’s difficult to narrow it down to just one. Some games have a fair share of difficulty. The first one is Cuphead, an animated game which was inspired by older cartoons.

What makes it difficult is because you won’t be able to unlock the whole content before you’ve successfully beaten the upcoming level. It’s like a blessing in disguise, though. On the one hand, it’s limiting, but on the other hand, it teaches you to be more agile and patient.

Another difficult game you can try is Dark Souls. This game has stunning graphics. The gameplay is also easy to understand, but it doesn’t preclude it from being a difficult game.

One of the biggest obstacles is there are only a few checkpoints to which you get sent after getting killed. There are many games that can fit in this list. Other honorable mentions include Ghosts & Goblins, Contra, and Battletoads.

3. Are Castlevania games hard?

Many seem to agree that Castlevania games are indeed hard, but out of the trilogy, the Castlevania III is arguably the hardest. It’s reminiscent of the original to some extent, but the difficulty increases multiple times. It contains more stairs and death pits.

The good news is it has entertaining bits, too, like when you can pick a recruit from the new characters. You can gain control over their unique abilities.

But even so, they are not perfect. Each one has a set of weaknesses, so get to know them better, so that you can choose the right one.

4. Are NES games still being made?

Surprisingly, yes. Although the console was discontinued a long time ago, loyal fans still stick around. Some are still trying to craft games for the system. Even if there are not new games, you can still play the old ones through re-releases.

The latest one was the NES Classic Edition. It was launched to please the fans who’ve been loyal since the beginning. It’s also perfect for those who want to experience the glory days of retro games.

Final Thoughts


When it comes to the hardest NES games, there are a few things that come into play.

Every game is difficult for a different reason.

It can be difficult because it’s designed poorly. It can be difficult because of the enemies, or it can also be difficult because it has no save feature.

Without it, it will be very tough to beat a game because every death will take you back to the start.

It’s definitely inconvenient or borderline frustrating.

It’s up to you if you want to get your hands on these games, but don’t put the blame on anyone if you can’t get anywhere.

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