1. Lucasarts. Lucasarts makes some of the finest games for any platform (at least the ones that I’ve played were really good), but they also make some of the most difficult games on the planet. I suppose that it could be just me, but out of all the Lucasarts games that I’ve played, I have only finished one of them (Shadows of the Empire). On ‘easy.’ For all I know, there is a secret club of gaming elite that you can only join if you finish a Lucasarts game, and you learn the secret handshake shown in the endings of the games.
2. Ghouls’n Ghosts. Anyone who tells you that this isn’t a hard game is insane. This is, quite possibly, the hardest game on the planet. I can’t think of a game that’s harder to finish that’s come out since it did… in 1988. This game requires precise timing to pull off anything. Unless you are a robot made specifically to play Ghouls’n Ghosts, you will spend a lot of quarters on this game.
3. Gradius. I never realized how incredibly hard this game is until I played it. Sure, it’s standard ‘spaceship goes up against 1 godzillion enemy ships to save the universe’ kind of game. The whole ‘you can only get hit once’ kind of thing really ramps up the difficulty of this game, and others like it. I’m really familiar with the opening part of level 1, but after that, my game just falls apart.
4. Text adventure games. You don’t really see these any more. People, I assume, get turned off by the absence of ‘graphics’ and the amount of ‘reading’ that they have to do in these games. I don’t mind the reading so much, especially if the game’s written well, but the puzzles in those kinds of games are truly mind-bending. I was walking through a walkthrough of one of my favorite DOS games, Skullduggery and the solutions to some of the puzzles were so far out in left field that I’m not sure they were in the same ball game. There is virtually no way I would have ever solved them.
5. Gauntlet. Gauntlet is one of my favorite NES games. I still suck at it horribly, though. Maybe I’m so bad at the game because I don’t have the instruction manual. It’s got the same thing going for it that the space shooters do: one (or two) warrior (space ship) going against half a billion monsters (aliens). In Gauntlet, you play until you run out of HP. There is almost nothing you can do that doesn’t make your HP drop. Just standing there lowers your HP. A monster beating you in the head with a club lowers your HP. Stepping on a monster to kill it lowers your HP. Eating poison lowers your HP. You can eat the (non poison) food sitting around the dungeon to gain back some HP, but it keeps on dropping. You need to keep plowing forward. To what end? I have no idea. I can’t figure that part out.
I could probably go on all day about how Castlevania III or Ninja Gaiden 3 or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or your favorite super-hard game is nigh impossible, but I’ll stop here. Mega tough games are a fine thing to have, if the game steadily increases to maximum frustration level. Starting out at full-blown insanity just, well, it isn’t nice.