La-Mulana? More like La Manual! La-Mulana tops the list in this trope: switches that only affect a distant room at the far end of the map, treasures that only appear when a particular enemy is defeated, secret walls that only open when hit with just the right weapon... several times... There's almost always a tablet explaining the puzzle, but good luck finding it.
Depressingly, the worst instance is the climactic puzzle, which requires you to read several tablets scattered all over the game, and use the mantras that are written on them. Not too bad, given that you can find a reasonable hint towards their location if you're paying attention. However, what the game doesn't tell you is that said tablets don't appear until you're near the end of the game, AND each tablet only appears after using the previous mantra, AND you have to use the mantras in specific rooms, AND the only way to recognize the rooms is to chant the mantra and see if it works. There are tablets hinting at all of these, but they're rather unclear.
There is a way of figuring out which room each Mantra has to be chanted in, but the game gives you no hint about what that is. Check how you'd have to move from the cross on the front side to the boss room, then go to where you'd be if you followed those same directions from the cross on the backside. However, if it would involve going off the map, wrap around to the other side.
And then there are quite a few cases where there are no monuments to give out hints. For instance, an elevator platform takes you to a button in plain sight, but said platform also goes into the above screen for a split second, long enough for you to spot a treasure chest. What you may not spot in that same room is the button necessary to open it, with it being camouflaged by the background and all. The button itself can be hard to trigger without the proper weapon. To top it off, you have to perform a tricky set of jumps to even collect the item. What does it do? Let you damage a previously Nigh Invulnerable monster outside of the ruins. The last bit, thankfully, is explained.
And how about the steps to unlocking the Hell Temple? One particular step requires you to go to an area in the Inferno Cavern and drop down 20 screens of a bottomless pool of lava, then go back up to the surface, then go down 19 screens and hit the breakable wall on your right. The in-game hint that you are given for this step is completely irrelevant.
Less annoying in the remake as you only have to go down 20 rooms once. However, I don't think it's explained in the game at all.
There are ROM cartridges to be collected in the ruins, none of which are hinted at in the in-game hints. A few of these are hidden inside random sections of blank wall. However, this game teaches you very early on that smacking random sections of wall is bad and will get you killed: the manual says so, an early hint says that "every place that looks like it has something good has a trap" (and there's a demonstration in that same room), and the early levels are full of walls and other background objects that will hurt you badly if you smack them. The conclusion is: to find every ROM, you...smack every section of wall you find and eat the damage. And that's just the ROMs hidden in walls. This game hates you.
How about the ROM combos? Most cartridges are useless and broken, but some of them have different effects when combined. Many are purely cosmetic or give minor advantages, but there are some that are almost vital (such as Antarctic Adventure + Comic Bakery note Allows you to warp to rear-side grail tablets) How do you find out? Equip the cartridges randomly until you hear the sound effect, then dick around aimlessly until you figure out what the hell it does.
The "wall that looks like you need to hit it to proceed but really just smites you when you hit it" thing is very prominent in the early areas... and then in the later areas, sometimes you actually will have to do it to proceed. To be fair, there are a lot of things that are logically and obviously dangerous to hit (statue of a goddess... big door with symbols all over it...), but sometimes you'll just be whipping away at walls or rocks and you'll get struck by lightning.
The remake at least puts eyes in the background of the rooms where smacking random things will hurt you. Of course, this introduces a new puzzle: One kind of block hurts you in every room you encounter it... except one room in the entire game that doesn't have an eye in it.
At the Confusion Gate, there is a room where you must chose between going through a door to the left or a door to the right, being told by a tablet to choose the 'truly wise' choice. What's the truly wise choice? Take a Third Option and climb the INVISIBLE LADDER to the right!
In the Endless Corridor, you are required to 'walk the end year of the Aztec Fifth Age' in the second level. While the solution is in the manual, the rest of the puzzle is downright confusing. You have to light four of the twelve-some lanterns on that level in a very specific order. The lanterns are labeled with the numerical glyphs you see around the ruins, but nowhere are the values of the glyphs mentioned. (They also appear on gates and Key Seals, but even there they can be easily overlooked.) In addition, the puzzle is somewhat buggy; you can enter the correct solution all you want, but the game will only open the third level when it feels like you've wasted enough time.
There's a tablet in the Mausoleum of the Giants whose only point is to show what glyph corresponds with what number, if you think of actually scanning it both with and without the Glyph Scanner ROM and comparing the results. Making things worse is that the text on the tablet looks like it's useful for something, but is actually just gibberish.
The two Puzzle Boss fights in Syphon Filter 2. In the first, you have to sneak up on Gregorov (who is really an impostor) and tase him, which players will find impossible unless you know the lights can be destroyed. The second, with the Immune to Bulletstraitor Chance, involves a gun that pushes him backwards, which seems insignificant at first. Who would figure it could be used to push him into the spinning tail rotor blades? Even worse, since his armor is shrapnel/explosion proof as well, players might think he would also be impervious to the tail rotor.
To be fair about Gregorov, the solution is foreshadowed in the prior stage: While attempting to evade you throughout the chase in the park, he constantly shoots at you, notably aiming for your head most of the time. The one time he doesn't do this and takes body shots instead is when he shoots out the lights in an attempt to lose you, hinting at his inability to see in the dark.
The Tower of Druaga is one of the most notorious examples of this trope, unusual in an Arcade Game. The hero adventures through a 60 floor tower; each mazelike level contains a hidden treasure whose properties cannot be discerned until obtained. Some treasures are essential to beating the game, and failing to obtain them on, say, level 4 makes the game Unwinnable, though this fact may not be discovered until level 38. By contrast, some treasures are traps, and obtaining them makes the game Unwinnable, though again this may not be discovered until many levels later. There are even useful items that will be replaced with harmful ones unless you collect the item before it. And on some floors you can Try Everything to find the treasure, only to fail because it doesn't exist.
Another Guide Dang It arcade game (and an RPG arcade game to boot): Wonder Boy In Monster Land. To get either of the special items near the end of the game, you have to complete a series of fetch quests, which often involve hidden rooms which there are no in-game hints alluding to, for example, the first stop is the hidden shop in Baraboro, which is accessed by pushing Up in front of a mundane window. To rack up a large amount of gold, essential for getting the higher-level equipment, you need to use the undocumented technique of waggling the joystick in midair at gold coin locations. And the Legendary Sword is hidden in an invisible room which there are absolutely no hints about (not even a ? in the door location). The Very Definitely Final Dungeon is a repeating hallway maze combined with a Boss Rush. The only way to find the right path other than painstaking Trial-and-Error Gameplay and quarter-munching is to have the Bell obtained from the Guide Dang It fetch quest, or look up a GameFAQs (which didn't exist back in the day except maybe on some BBSes); there were no printed guides as far as I know. And if you die here, "There are no continues, my friend". The SMS version, while less difficult enemy-wise, still had the Guide Dang Its, and no continues whatsoever.
While many of the numerous secret doors in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night can be found just by 'rapping on the walls' with your weapon or puzzling out visible switches, one in particular must be opened by passing through a tunnel in one animal form, and then switching to another animal form to backtrack. There is no practical reason to do this, no hint included in the course of play, and the opening door isn't even visible from the tunnel's end.
What most people don't know is that there's actually an extra step in releasing that door. The reason most people don't know about it, is that most do it without even realizing it. When you (in all likelihood) pass through the breakable rock tunnel at the very beginning of the game in your human form, you're actually activating the first part. The secret to unlock the Jewel Sword room is to pass through the tunnel in every form except Mist. In other words, if someone were to go through the game without passing through that tunnel in human form, even most guides wouldn't be enough.
There's also the secret elevator to gain early access to the Jewel Knuckles (a powerful weapon for such an early stage of the game). You have to break a wall and stand still in the alcove you just opened for about 20 seconds.
Similarly, Castlevania II Simons Quest is filled with obstacles that are nigh-impossible to figure out just by playing the game itself. The in-game hints range from incomprehensible to outright lies, such as telling the player to hit a cliff with his head to make a hole, when the solution is to summon a tornado with a magic crystal. Or the man who tells you that the boatman "likes garlic", when you actually have to speak with him with Dracula's heart equipped (something you'll only gather from putting together two separate, highly cryptic pieces of info in Moon Logic fashion).
In order to figure these sorts of things out, you have to find "clues to Dracula's riddle" in the form of books hidden in walls and floors; most of them in the mansions, however there are a few of them outside as well, and some even in the shops!. Apparently, this is how Konami decided to make the game Nintendo Hard, rather than via the brutalenemies and environments of its surrounding titles. Subscribers of Nintendo Power at the time were given the distinct advantage of actually knowing how to progress through the game. The Angry Video Game Nerd laments this in his debut video.
Most of the secrets in Castlevania 64 require the player to locate insanely-placed invisible platforms that are usually exactly halfway between the nearest savepoints and / or right before the end of the level. There is never any indication of the platform's position, and one even has a gap deliberately placed right before the nearest visible platform to kill you on the way back.
Defeating a boss will reward you with a new sword that deals double damage to a boss somewhere else. Unfortunately, unlike Mega Man (Classic), each sword completely replaces the previous one, so breaking the sequence forces you to battle at least the one that you were supposed to fight next at maximum Nintendo-hardness, that the Game Breaker ice ball wasn't always able to overcome. Each sword was color-coded to match the jewel that the next boss in the chain had, but to know the color of the jewel, you had to be able to defeat the boss in the first place.
Two of the levels were The Maze, and while Germany could be figured out with some work, the first staircase in Africa was a textbook example of The Lost Hills. Anyone who didn't know to go down one floor, then up two, would most likely be fumbling through the loop until they died. Also, other staircases in the level proper would lead to a different screen entirely if you went back the way you came. Even worse, one of the pits would drop you back at the beginning of the level, including the staircase!
The puzzle at the end of the game wasn't too bad if you had collected most of the clues in the levels. However, said clues (as well as most other power-ups) were concealed inside random wall or floor tiles, some of which required skilled use of your pet falcon to get to. Without the clues, placing the jewels for the first time turned into Trial-and-Error Gameplay in its purest form.
The secret to getting to the true final level is extremely contrived; it required you to ignore one of your friends falling into a pit and make an almost impossible jump over the chasm, as well as finding an item inside a boss room before consulting your partner who has found something of interest. Or, you have to hunt down said item while drowning a bit later: either way, it's used to save your partner from drowning after she saves you by giving you her shield. One slip-up and no true ending for you... If you can even finish the Brutal Bonus Level.
The jump in question is significantly easier if you jump at the exact moment you cross the red mark on the floor.
And to add to this, you've not only got to rescue her, drain her of water, lug her through the rest of the waterway, and later find a way to recover her memory, but also ideally get every powerup in the game. Several players have beaten Hell without the lattermost step.
Also, there's the Spur. To get it, you have to hold on to the Polar Star (a weapon that's pretty much useless after the Sand Zone) for most of the game. Then, when you get back to Mimiga Village after the Doctor has abducted the rest of the Mimigas, you fly up to the first cave and take it back to the gunsmith you stole it from. To some people, it's self-evident that returning something you stole is a good idea. There is one hint for it, though: If you go back to the cave after swapping the Polar Star for another weapon, the Gunsmith says someone stole it, and it "wasn't even complete yet".
Although rather minor compared to the others, most techniques for high-level play in Devil May Cry 3 are not stated in official help files and videos involving them invariably receive questions from newbies.
In the fifth mission, you acquire an item called "Soul of Steel", with the description "The essence of a powerful and fearless soul. Its possessor need not fear hell nor oblivion." What this does exactly is unclear at best, and it's only with either a guide or some luck that you'll figure out it lets you walk across the pit separating you from your next objective.
In Devil May Cry 4, there is a secret mission in Mission 8 which requires performing 5 Royal Guards. However, only Dante can do the Royal Guard. If you are not following any walkthroughs, you don't even know you will be able to play as Dante.
In the first part of Eternal Darkness, you are required to choose the Big Bad which you will fight against for the remainder of the game by choosing a representative gem. The game makes it obvious that this choice is important, but what the game doesn't tell you is that this also affects the difficulty of the game too. Oh, you picked the red one on your first play? Sure sucks to be you, then, because not only will you have to wait a long while to use the Restore Health spell, but Chattur'gha's monsters are the toughest in the game, and you'll have to face them a lot.
Don't forget that the strongest magicks can only be obtained in one specific chapter by activating a few certain (albeit very visible) switches, and then going through a hole in a wall by using a spell which is only needed to be used twice in the game. And which you don't get until some time after you've given up on figuring out what to do with that damn hole, so you have to think of going back and using the spell once you have it.
Also, to get the Infinity+1 Sword, you need to pick up three statuettes which can each be found in different chapters — no going back once the chapter is over — and are hard to find. In at least one case you can end the chapter by accident before visiting the statuette room, and never know you missed anything until hours later when you find that you can't locate the third statuette and resort to checking gamefaqs.
X-Men for the Sega Genesis had a level in the Danger Room where a countdown starts and Professor X tells you to "reset the computer". At no point do they tell you how to go about doing this. The solution most people discovered? HIT THE RESET BUTTON ON YOUR SEGA GENESIS, which causes the last level to load. People playing on a Nomad would be screwed at this point, as that system had no reset button. There is another solution they could use, mind you, but it's even more obscure.
Several of the weapons in Drakengard require extremely specific circumstances to unlock. One in particular involves looking at certain paintings in a certain stage in a certain order, and this is a game in which you never have to look at anything that you don't intend to kill or maim in some way.
Getting a character's second ending in Bushido Blade requires that you run to the well, during the battle with the first opponent, and leap into it... and then do a No Damage Run. It's not immediately obvious that you can even leave the starting screen, and the only map the game ever gives you of the castle all the fights take place around has no sign of any such well.
Koei's flagship Warriors (Samurai Warriors, et al.) series, when it comes to unlocking characters, special mounts and final weapons. The requirements can be so very stringent that even when you have all the details on how to obtain the sought after character or weapon, multiple attempts are almost unavoidable. Particularly when you are saddled with multiple tasks such as: defeat Enemy X in the first 1:30 of the stage, then save remarkably weak Ally Y on the OTHER SIDE of the battlefield 3 minutes after defeating Enemy X, THEN allow Ally Z to die, but only AFTER they kill Enemy A just before cutscene F, and all this without riding a horse or using a Musou Attack. Once you've completed that litany of nonsense, chase down the spy captain before he can escape... did I mention he's only a brisk 20 second run away from the exit? And did I forget to mention that this must all be done on Hard or Chaos mode? And to top it all off, this must also be done on 1 player mode half of the time! The sad part is, this is not a hyperbole. Check the guides on Gamefaqs if you doubt me... Why do I play these games, again? Though conversely, some are tremendous aversions, such as in the case of Lu Bu, who unlocks his final weapon by killing 1000 enemies (which is pretty easy), in one iteration of the series.
Slight correction: most of the characters/mounts/weapons can be unlocked in co-op mode, however, Player 1 has to be the one to actually fulfill the requirements (killing enemy X, getting 1000 KOs, collect all the treasures, etc). It still helps to have a Player 2 around to defend your base and do the mundane stuff. Also, unlocking special mounts and weapons is technically optional, and you can play through all the stages just fine without them; they're basically bonus challenges.
Earlier games, the only in game hint that such things even existed were blank spots in the UI...
If you're familiar with the original story of Dynasty Warriors you can guess some things. Zhou Yu's fourth weapon, for instance, can generally be gotten by pulling off the fire attack at Chi Bi, which was his greatest achievement in real life. Some of them, though, are much more obscure. Cao Cao's fourth weapon in DW3 is achieved during the Yellow Turban Rebellion by killing a few particular enemy generals before any gate captains are lost on either side. Even if you managed this accidentally, there's no way you would realize the gate captains had anything to do with it.
It's actually notable that the Massive Multiplayer Crossover series Warriors Orochi averts a lot of this. While the method to unlock each character's "personal item" is severely arcane, they have no actual gameplay effect (unlocking gallery art and backstory material). Finding characters' final weapons is as simple as playing 3-star levels on Hard or any level on Chaos (and waiting for it to randomly drop), most characters are unlocked simply by completing levels, and the requirements for the rest are often easy to figure out (don't let any messengers escape, carry out the ambush successfully, etc.). The sequel even gets rid of that last thing.
Actually, Personal Items enhance a character's R1 ability.
Samurai Warriors 3 finally eases up a bit, providing a consistent formula for finding the extra weapons: complete all the optional Tactical Bonus objectives and win a given battle on Hard or above. Some are Nintendo Hard, but at least you know what you're aiming for. Which battle is a mystery, but for most characters, this has to be done in story mode, leaving only five to pick from. The other dozen characters have to do the same thing in free mode, with 20+ battles to choose from.
The glass tube has prematurely ended nearly as many games as Sonic's barrel. Drop a Power Bomb inside it. The solution for this problem was actually in the commercial for the game, as Nintendo has a long history of hiding secrets in their advertisements. In addition, if you leave the game alone in the title screen, the solutions to many Guide Dang It puzzles are shown. Of course, performing said maneuvers is easier said than done.
On the plus side, however, there was an official release made with a guidebook in the place of a manual, which either stated or properly hinted how to deal with this and other puzzles.
Few people found the Missile Expansion hidden in the lava in the second superheated room of Norfair without going crazy and dropping Super Bombs everywhere, or scanning each and every single inch of every single room with the X-ray Scope.
Pretty much all of the original Metroid. There are places where to continue the game, you have to bomb blocks which look absolutely no different to any other blocks in the surrounding area. Add the fact that the games corridors look pretty much identical to each other, and there's no map, it's a recipe for tearing your hair out.
To be fair, there's a pattern to destroyable walls that is pretty easy to figure out. Once you realize that you must bomb secret blocks away and understand how often you will be asked to do so, the games tendency to reuse the same rooms and block patterns so many times makes finding the secret holes much, much easier.
You also have to realize that a lot of what made the first one so difficult was that a lot of exploration tricks that have since gone on to be series staples were just getting started. Things like bombing through the floor to find secret passageways are expected in Metroid games today, but back then were much more of a novelty.
Metroid: Fusion is mostly okay up until the very end. In the tradition of Super Metroid, you get a super-weapon to beat the final boss with. But the boss can still knock you down for tons of damage — and if you fail to guess that mashing the up button makes you stand up faster, you've had it.
Another example from Fusion is the maze just before the Level 4 security room. You have to roll through an invisible hole in one wall... which is the only kind of secret your Power Bombs won't reveal. It's possible to get here without having encountered such holes before, so trying the walls may not even enter your mind.
There is a slight hint. A fish patrols the path with the hole and if you watch it, it'll swim through the hole. Too bad if you killed it without noticing that little detail.
Also, the early-game section in Sector 2. It seems like a simple job to get the bombs, then the SA-X blocks you in and you spend four hours dropping bombs everywhere, looking for that one block in the floor. It's a nightmare on your first playthrough.
And, oh boy, the final boss when MB summons a horde of some never-before-seen monsters to attack. They assault you constantly, you're locked in FPS mode, can't recover, and missiles seem to damage them but you can never seem to kill them. The solution: point the cursor at MB with a charge shot ready, who's standing motionless waaaay back in the background, and the battle ends. Many players finish the fight not even knowing how they did it, and died many times getting there.
Just before that we have the fight with a Metroid Queen. The final phase requires you to use a powerbomb while inside her stomach. The problem is you are never told in any way you are able to use powerbombs. This is made much worse by the fact that just a little bit earlier in the game, Adam is no longer authorizing your equipment but when Samus makes the decision to authorize something herself, the menu opens up like always to indicate the part is unlocked. This does not happen against the Metroid Queen.
Not forgetting all those scanning moments where your point of view is forced into first-person and you're required to find some sort of "clue" to continue the game. Many a player has been stumped as you have no idea what the clue is and often its hidden by the background...green blood on grass immediately springs to mind.
On the subject of Metroid, Zero Mission assumes you know how to shinespark from playing Super Metroid beforehand. or to have seen the game's commercials. Nowhere in the instruction manual is it mentioned how to do it, and the only thing in the official strategy guide that can help you is one picture in the part about getting the energy tank you need to carry a speed charge from a previous room for.
Maximo had a boss, a giant pirate ghost, who could only be harmed by attacking while crouching. Nowhere else in the game is there any use for crouching, and most players had probably forgotten that there even is a crouch button by the time they reach him.
Using a guide in Siren is extremely helpful, to the point of nearly being a necessity. It has a branching storyline... but certain branches require you to do something on another level first to perform them — and this isn't always obvious until it's too late. Or ever. And it doesn't give an indication of which stage unlocks the branch. If you're on a stage that unlocks the alternate path for another stage you have unlocked, it will give you a hint about what you have to do, but these are extremely vague, especially considering the sometimes downright bizarre requirements. For an egregious example, "Search the Yoshimura house and well" means... find a radio in the house, then put it in the bucket in the well, to lure a wandering shibito over to the well, so that when you kill it, it will fall into the well.
And there's one point where a guide is essentially necessary; when lighting the lanterns with Reiko Takato to get the good ending. The in-game hint tells you to watch the praying shibito... but it starts the level praying at the last lantern in the sequence, so listening to the game will probably lead to you failing.
In the remake Siren: Blood Curse you unlock a door to a restaurant by running to a diner in an earlier level, and destroying a bowl of food with a shotgun before a zombie cop can come and eat it. This will make him hungry enough to open the door for you in the later level. You're supposed to figure this out unprompted.
Jet Force Gemini has instances of this, particularly the need to search for the many ship parts, only one of which you are told how to acquire. The rest are hidden in such ways and behind such puzzles that it seems completely unfeasible that you could find them without a guide. Among the most jarring are the need to find a certain minigame hidden in a series of out of the way air ducts, then get a perfect score at the game in order to receive a set of ear muffs, then find a frigging polar bear on a planet that also requires you to find an out of the way ship pad to reach it, in order to give the muffs to the bear in exchange for a ship part. You are given no hints whatsoever that this is what you need to do.
A well-known Guide Dang It from Beyond Good & Evil is the location of the Ignis ingifera, "The Animal Everyone Misses." It's tucked away in a secret room whose location is not immediately obvious (it lies in the complete opposite of the direction you normally need to go). While it makes sense once you know where you're going, it can be a head-scratcher. The location of the "shy amoebas" in the Black Isle is similarly puzzling (until you realize that a bridge you lowered in fact had something hidden behind it.)
What's hard is taking a picture of Domz Sarcophagii, which you only see twice between getting the camera and the endboss fight, and both times you are in instant combat with them. Stopping in the middle of a fight is both non-intuitive and, if you haven't distributed your PAL-1s correctly, suicidal. And without taking the snap as early as possible on Hillys, you won't be able to catch them all and get the Photo Album m-disc.
Wario: Master of Disguise. In the final level you come across a room with a blue door, some green mushrooms, and a blue mushroom. To open the blue door you have to turn it green, by stepping on all of the green mushrooms. The blue mushroom is not required and only serves to hinder you, by un-pressing all of the green mushrooms. But there's nothing to suggest this is the case. (And since you don't have to press the green mushrooms in order, you just have to have them all pressed, there's no real reason for that blue mushroom to even be that.) Even worse is when you realize that one of the green mushrooms is invisible and you need Genius Wario to step on it. Again, there's nothing to suggest this would be the case. But hey, at least they only make you do that puzzle in the one room.
Biggest problem is that the locked door is marked with a symbol that seemingly indicates what order to press the mushrooms in. After taking forever trying different variations of the order, giving up, consulting a guide, and pressing the hidden mushroom, what does the symbol mean? Nothing at all. Purely stylistic.
Astro Boy: Omega Factor makes getting to the end of the game much harder than it has to be. To begin, if you skip the credits after playing through the first go-round of the game, you miss one of the entries in the Omega Factor and screw yourself out of a power-up. One key event requires you to jet straight up four times (impossible without having maxed out your Jets or a full EX stock) to reach a hidden character, with no hint that there's anything up there. Another one requires you to destroy a specific door on a background object that gives no indication it's anything other than scenery (in an area filled with rolling statues that kill in a single hit), and another one necessitates you going left at the very start of the stage and destroying a trash can - in a stage that scrolls right, thus giving you no apparent reason to go left. Having maxed-out Sensors only partially helps, because Astro Boy will declare he senses a hidden character but doesn't tell you anything about how to find them.
Fantastic game, but the order you have to go through the levels is also very unintuitive. You have to backtrack to several levels, upon which certain plot elements will resolve themselves. Those who skip the cutscenes (with their minor clues) are screwed.
Another too-cleverly hidden character (needed to continue the plot) is hidden behind a wall in an elevator scene. So once you miss him, you have to start the stage over again. And again, there's no hint to his location, you just have to know it. Although it's not that hard to access him accidentally.
Once you complete the first playthrough, in order to open up Dr. Tenma's house, you have to play through the tutorial again, so that Astro can confront Dr. O'Shay. The problem here is that the game discourages you from doing this, because Dr. O'Shay mocks you by wondering if you've forgotten the basic controls.
Unlocking Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat Deception is next to impossible to do accidentally. In order to unlock him, you must be in a specific realm, during a specific hour on a specific day of the month, behind a tent that you seemingly never have any other reason to go to after you beat Jade. Even worse, the game gives you no indication that it's even possible to go around the tent. His alternate outfit is unlocked in very similar fashion, but fortunately in its case it is there for longer than an hour, lies in a more obvious location, and appears once a week instead of once a month.
Also Raiden - in order to unlock him, you have to beat him in a fight in Seido only available once a week after beating Konquest Mode. It's in plain sight, but you can have the fight before finishing the game and get a different reward. For that matter, for this fight he uses his Deadly Alliance model (as do many non-unlockable characters in Konquest), which is completely different from his in-game one.
The Metal Gear series is usually very good at averting these - even the more obscure puzzles can be answered by your support team in-game if you can't figure them out. However, have fun trying to assemble a full team of special characters on Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. They range from One Game for the Price of Two bonuses (beat the game with Metal Gear Ac!d, AC!D2 or Metal Gear Solid Digital Graphic Novel on your memory card to automatically pick up Zero and have a chance at picking up Teliko and Venus) to Self-Imposed Challenge rewards (beat the game very quickly, get high medical stat and max out technical stat/beat the Boss Rush minigame to pick up Cunningham, Ursula/Elisa and Gene) to obscenely obscure rescue tasks which require going to totally unrelated areas at times you are usually not given an indication for. Raikov is the easiest, but he does necessitate dumping a spy unit in an area which has no plot importance at a time when you have other things to concentrate on, and to add insult to injury, in order to get him, you have to partake in the mission immediately after getting the spy report or else the mission is labelled as a failure with no chance of ever attempting it before you even attempt the mission. Para-Medic requires you to return to the radio mast after completing the malaria sidequest, and then to complete all your spy jobs (even ones begging for you to collect useless items!) until she appears in the hospital. Sigint is a little easier, but requires you to have picked up Para-Medic, and you have to avoid the enemy or else the resulting alert will cause him to take evasive maneuvers. Sokolov requires an insane fetch-quest: For starters, around the same time you unlock the Raikov recruiting mission, you get a spy message requesting that you investigate Metal Gear parts, which ends with a phone call from Ghost. Fortunately, unlike the Raikov mission, there is no deadline, so you can accomplish this after the Raikov mission. Afterwards, after beating Cunningham, you need to interrogate some soldiers at the silo entrance, and then interrogate some soldiers at the power substation, and finally backtrack to the silo entrance. Finally, you get a spy report that mentions someone locked in the computer room and you get Sokolov. Absolute queen of the pile, though, is EVA. To pick her up, you need to interrogate random enemies, open an unmarked locker in a completely unrelated area which has a number written inside, refrain from capturing certain enemies which it is beneficial to capture, contact her, clear out the airport, wait an in-game week, go to the cell in the basement area of the Western Wilderness, and then she'll join you. You need her to recruit Ocelot, and, to add insult to injury, she's not an especially good character in terms of stats.
Similarly, the guide for MPO does mention that there are attack dogs at the Hospital Claymore Mission. What it doesn't tell you is that those dogs only appear during Extreme mode.
An inversion also occurs in the same game: The strategy guide details a spy mission regarding the Maintenance crew members where you need to recruit some and interrogate an officer. The problem is, such a mission isn't even found in the game.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker has dozens of hidden weapons and unlockable levels with no mention in game as to how to find them. This includes its own final boss fight, and many of these were also neglected to be mentioned in the manual.
Just to give you an idea, unlocking the final boss requires you to complete at least the bare minimum for your Humongous Mecha, which can only be acquired from parts that Randomly Drops from boss fights; go through six separate missions to locate an escaped prisoner ( Zadornov) with each only being activated after completing a few Extra Ops missions. Then the spoiler-tagged prisoner escapes a seventh time, but because he figured out a way to remove his tracking device he doesn't have a dedicated mission; the game expects you to go to the target practice area and collect him from there. Furthermore, the prisoner won't even show up in said area unless you're playing as Snake, despite the other search missions allowing you to play as other recruits, and the player at this point has probably grown accustomed to using a particular recruit with superior stats.
The NES version of Metal Gear turned the Basement floor shared by Buildings No. 1 and No. 2 into a separate building with two entrances, both preceded by a maze area. The correct path in both mazes is "west, west, north, west", but none of your radio contacts or any of the prisoners you'll save will ever tell you this. At the time the game came out, there was no internet, so anyone who wanted to look up the solution would have to search for it in a video game magazine (such as Nintendo Power) and find out which issue featured the correct path.
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake for the MSX required the player to either know Morse code or use the manual on two occasions to input frequency numbers required to proceed with the game. Also, the first time Campbell changes his frequency, he tells you to look at the back of the game's packaging. Unfortunately, Konami forgot to put this frequency in some versions of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence.
The original Metal Gear had many rooms hidden behind unhinted breakable walls. The only way to find these is to punch the wall until you find a spot that sounds different.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance doesn't really have much of these when it comes to normal gameplay, but getting some of the Data Storages and making one of the enemies with a collectable left arm to spawn are pretty obscure: one of the former requires you to stay on a damaged elevator as long as possible since the last enemy you kill drops it and it's basically impossible to avoid dying after you get it, while the latter requires you to accomplish 2 out of 3 current objectives without getting detected when stealth is strictly optional everywhere else.
In the second level of Flashback, there's a jump you need to make that requires a specific maneuver you won't use often. You need to start running, hold the run button, and let go of the directional pad.
The Commodore 64 tie-in Batman (of the film which featured Jack Nicholson as the Joker) has one of these right at the end of the game. The final boss, the Joker, climbs a ladder leading to an escape craft as soon as you arrive on the roof. If you've seen the film, you'll know what to do - fire the Batrope. If you haven't, consider the fact that no other enemy in the game is hurt by the Batrope and the game gives you two seconds to figure out what to do before he escapes.
The Amstrad CPC port at least solved it: Since you could kill the mooks with the Batrope too.
Luigi's Mansion has a pretty notorious example of this, in the Blue Ghosts and Gold Mice. They drop a large amount of treasure when captured, so you need them for higher ranks at the end. But after being Lost Forever, they can be refound during the Blackout near the end of the game. Problem: The game only tells you to capture the ghost Uncle Grimmly and turn on the switch in the Breaker Room, so there's no indication they appear. Problem 2: About half ONLY appear during the blackout. When it's over, those are Lost Forever. Problem 3: Luigi is being chased by an infinite hoarde of blood thirsty ghosts during the blackout, hence exploring the far off rooms many of these ghosts are found in is near suicidal.
Another thing. The coin values required for an A rank were raised significantly from about 100 000 000 to about 150 000 000 Gold in the PAL version. Hence to get an A rank there, you have to beat the Hidden Mansion, which itself is more difficult in said region. Possible other problem is this not being in many guides, due to the versions used for those having a far less difficult Hidden Mansion mode.
In Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, Professor E. Gadd never tells you that, when sucking up a ghost with the Poltergust 5000, you can press "B" to make Luigi jump in the air... which is a very useful trick to know, since it helps Luigi dodge attacks by other ghosts. You'll need to check out the enclosed instruction booklet if you want to know about this.
There are also many of the gem locations in Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon, which range from 'fairly well hidden' to 'absolutely insanely out of the way'. The best known example is in Gloomy Manor, where one gem is gotten by examining a suit of armour to make its helmet fall off, then shooting it at a certain painting. The helmet only falls off in two missions; the third one and the secret one. The painting might only even appear in those two as well. Good luck figuring that out!
Ecco the Dolphin , multiple times. Especially notable is battling the Asterite in the past - there's a specific way to beat it, but the game never tells you what this is or even gives any hints.
Also in the second game, when you come back from the good future you've got to rescue some orcas. You're supposed to follow one of the babies to the exit, but it's glitchy and disappears if you lose sight of it. The presence of a hilarious glitch nearby (baby orcas rain from the sky if you echolocate at the upper left part of the stage) just complicated things.
There's a certain level in the first Ecco where an item you need to progress cannot be seen on Ecco's sonar map. It's one of the prehistoric levels. The glyph is hidden inside a volcano.
Some of the armour, gems, and locations of the elite enemies in The Legend of Spyro: Dawn Of The Dragon. GRAHHH.
Sponge Bob Square Pants: In the Battle for Bikini Bottom and The Movie games, socks and treasure chests are extremely hard to find without a guide. These items are required for a full 100%. And in The Movie, the last treasure chests are found while Shell City is dead ahead. Who the HELL would guess that hitting TOASTERS that appear to be BACKGROUND OBJECTS will give you a treasure chest? Even worse that you need to hit three toasters, and two of them are very hard to find and require the sonic wave guitar. Luckily you don't need all treasure chests for 100% so its more of a Bragging Rights Reward.
The final boss of Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force manages to be both an example and subversion at the same time. The boss itself requires no special puzzles and you don't need Attack Its Weak Point, you only need to shoot it. A lot. Unfortunately not only does it not react at all to being hit, it can also absorb more damage than you actually have ammo for, making it look like it actually is a Guide Dang It.
The catastrophe that was Star Trek: Legacy does not even tell you how to control your ship without sitting through a long, laborious, and boring tutorial... which doesn't even tell you anything beyond the basics of direction, engines, and shooting.
Stage 9 in Transformers Convoy No Nazo is a maze similar to certain fortresses in Super Mario Bros. 1, but here, there's no indication that you've taken the right path (i.e. no Endless Corridor looping) until the end of the level, where you get booted back to the start if you took the wrong path. It's also a lot more complex than SMB. I wonder how anyone figured it out before the days of the Internet and hacking.
Assassins Creed has the sidequest to access the conference room computer. First you have to get into Warren's computer to find the password for the other one. You can pickpocket his access key after Memory Block 3, and the password for the other computer is in his email.
Assassin's Creed II had a side-mission to find and solve puzzles hidden throughout the game. While the first 95% of them are moderate to hard in difficulty, the last few puzzles are exceedingly difficult and obscure, replacing regular modern number systems with antiquated representations of numbers such as Morse code.
You won't get very far without either a guide or you just know how to count outside of base ten.
Good luck trying to find all the flags on your own in the first game. There are 100 in each city, as well as another 100 in the massive "Kingdom" area. They are often hidden very well and even visiting every area will likely leave many hidden. Even with a guide it can be a difficult and time consuming process.
Worse - there's no reward for finding the flags other than an achievement on the Xbox 360.
The "Very Obvious Secret" in Pickory stumped even experienced players who had previously found every other secret item. Oddly enough, several new players found it almost immediately. The solution? Jump off the title screen before starting a game
Any special item in Bubble Bobble has very obscure conditions to make it appear, so much that the many players might think they are completely random. For example, to make the yellow (rapid-fire) candy appear, you must jump 51 times. To get the potions, you have to fall through the level a certain number of times. Many of the special items are also triggered by collecting a certain number of another special item. It's insane. Take a look at this to see the conditions.
Bubble Bobble Double Shot for the DS seems easy enough, until you get to Level 81. Then things get tough, and by 83 suddenly turn to a GUIDE DANG IT, if you're playing by yourself. That level is really designed for multiple players, who all need their own copy of the game to play.
In the NES Terminator game, to complete the Police Station level, you must counterintuitively toss a box into the middle of the large gap to create a platform. How did anyone figure this out in those days?
The original Strider for the NES has several, but an egregious one early in the game is the water passage in Egypt, where the water damages you unless you have the Aqua Boots, but to get them you must Wall Jump up a shaft, a difficult to pull off technique unhinted at in the game.
Many of the Stray Beads in Ōkami are like this. Some of the animal feeding locations are like this too.
The controls for getting full use out of some glaives and rosaries as subweapons (at least in the Wii version) aren't explained or hinted at anywhere in the game or manual (you need to use the c button, which isn't indicated for any combat use, in conjunction with the Z button, the "subweapon" button)
The only hint that the Ice Storm brush technique is gained along with Blizzard is in the fight with Ninetails, who would occasionally use it when the player pulls up the brush screen. You can paint a "snowflake" (an X with a horizontal line through the middle) which causes ice shards to rain down and freeze multiple targets. This one is especially nasty because up until that point, the "screen-filling attack" version of the brush techniques have all been upgrades that were the result of sidequests. If a player doesn't think to try what Ninetails did, or doesn't remember how it went, they may well spend hours searching Nippon in vain for a sidequest that isn't there.
Four separate side-quests in Sei-An city require you to chase down the thief Hayazo, but before you can chase him you have to find him hiding somewhere in the city. But he's not hiding behind a building or under a bridge; he's hiding inside a rock. The rock is entirely unremarkable and this hiding place isn't really hinted at, and how exactly he's hiding inside a seemingly solid rock is never addressed.
Ōkamiden is even worse with this, since several things needed for 100% completion can be Lost Forever. Of course, the game doesn't bother telling you which items are missible or where there's a Point of No Return.
One of the most egregious examples was in the very first game. Most of the "secrets" were stashed in hard to spot but easy to reach areas, or were sitting obviously on ledges the route to which were difficult to see. Towards the end of the game, however, was one that was nigh on impossible to see because it was floating in the air on an invisible platform (the one and only single solitary invisible platform in the entire game), and required a massive leap of faith in exactly the right direction to reach.
The third game has two really bad Guide Dang It moments within two levels in a row. If the player chooses Nevada as their last choosable location, they will lose their weapons in the second mission. There is no way of knowing that you should have picked this location first because you can't get some of the weapons back. The next level, a guard sees you shortly into the level. If you don't kill him before he presses a button, he activates a laser that blocks off the MP5, one of the game's best weapons. There is no way to unactivate this laser.
Similarly, in Lud's Gate, you must kill a certain guard before he sees you, otherwise one of the secrets will be Lost Forever. The High Security Compound has two switches that both open a secret room much earlier in the level; if you throw both switches, it permanently closes.
Jak and Daxter has a jump that requires a roll before it, for extra length. This is mentioned in the tutorial of the second game, and then you only have to use it once in the entire game, with no indication. Otherwise, Jak just keeps jumping into a Dark Eco puddle, which kills him instantly.
In Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, retrieving all the hidden treasures is mostly simple (checking the sidepaths in any given area) - however, obtaining one treasure (in Chapter 9) requires you to swim up against a wall in an underground lake, aim your weapon upwards (at a point that has no handholds or accessibility), shoot the treasure and time your "action" button just as it falls past you - otherwise, it sinks in the water and is unobtainable.
And let's not forget Uncharted 2, where you can collect 100 artifacts plus an additional Strange Relic. Although the game counts this as artifact 101 of 100, it does not show up as a missed artifact during the chapter select screen, and it can be found in a level listed to have no artifacts, in a sewer down a manhole across the street from where Drake is making his way across some rooftops. You would have to jump down from the roof and go down an unobtrusive alleyway for no in-game reason to find the sewer holding this relic.
Batman: Arkham City has several puzzles that rely on the player's knowledge that an electrified remote Batarang can knock out fuseboxes, (most notably, in a plot-specific instance when you're breaking into the Joker's Steel Mill for the second time). The only problem is that you can't shoot those types of Batarangs - you have to electrify it with an outside source before hitting the fusebox with it. This is required for 100% Completion, but it isn't immediately noticeable unless you have a guide.
There another instance of this involving another fusebox, only this one has no conveniently exposed wires anywhere near it. Naturally, after you figure out how to destroy rest of them, you're confused on what the hell you're supposed to do with this one, when the answer is to simply aim through a hole in front of it and just shoot it with the Remote Electrical Charge, which would normally be something you'd use in any other game to do something like this if not for the obstacle course involved with every other fuse box.
Dark Souls is a modern heavy example of this trope. The manual will inform you just about the controls, dying and multiplayer mechanics. Ingame advice or directions are often not very clear or mentioned only once per playthrough. This is minimally averted by allowing people to witness activities of other online players.
If you're not playing a physical copy of the game, you are likely to miss some items which require jumping, because the game never tells you that you CAN jump.
There are many places where the player gets ambushed and instantly killed if he progresses carelessly too far into an area. For example the Hellkite Dragon will make an ambush twice in the Undead Burg. The first time he swoops down onto a castle wall. The second time he covers a whole large bridge in flames.
Neither of those events are instantly-lethal ambushes.
Two whole locations are only accessible if you discover an illusory wall in a room where also an item is located, giving it a wrong impression of being a dead end. The second location is also the home of a covenant as well as the stage of a last event of a side quest of two NPCs.
Another location can only be traversed without immediate death while the PC is wearing a ring which is obtained by defeating a boss from a location which was entirely optional until to that point and you receive no hint that the ring exists until you receive it.
Actually, NPCs mention that Artorias is the only person known to have traversed the Abyss. They even suggest that you try to find him if you wish to do the same.
Another location is only accessible if you possess an item which is located at the starting location which can only be revisited if you step out of an elevator (which is an optional shortcut), jump from a ledge onto a wall, move up on the building and curl down into a ball in a nest and maintain that pose for about a minute.
The obscure Genesis/Mega-Drive game Nightmare Circus is easily one of the most confusing video games of all time, think Milon's Secret Castle on steroids. There are five sections total, each with their own rules that are virtually impossible to figure out. One section for example starts you off in an area with platforms descending and ascending with a fire pit below, if you ride that platforms off the top of the screen, you just come back down to the same room. To pass this room you have to keep going up off the screen at least 30 times until the fire dissapears, needless to say most players would never in a million years figure something like that out, and that's only the tip of the iceberg. The game was so confusing that for years many people believed it could not be beat until someone posted a walkthrough on Youtube.