The Legend of Kage (NES). You're a One-Hit-Point Wonder unless you get a crystal ball...and taking a hit at that point will cost you the extra power-ups the crystal grants. Ninjas fly from EVERYWHERE and you practically need to turbo the sword button to block the incoming shurikens. Of course, the sword can't block the bombs that some ninjas throw...or the fire from the monks.
The original American release of Devil May Cry 3 is stupidly hard for all but dedicated fans to pick up, since in the US version "Normal" was actually the Japanese version's "Hard" difficulty. Devil May Cry 1, 3 and 4 on the aptly named "Dante Must Die" mode are also noteworthy.
Unlike most Nintendo Hard games, however, the Devil May Cry games are not examples of Fake Difficulty or Trial-and-Error Gameplay but rather are simply very difficult to complete without great skill at the game. When playing through the game, you yourself notice how much better you get; in the original game, there is a shadow dog which is an early bossish creature which gives many players fits and takes several attempts to beat. Later in the game they're normal enemies you fight in groups, and while you are indeed slightly more powerful, the real difference is simply your greater skill at the game.
To say nothing of the "Hell and Hell" difficulty in DMC 4—it's basically Son of Sparda mode (DMC 4's "hard" mode) wherein you are a One-Hit-Point Wonder. Heaven or Hell on the other hand has everybody die in one hit, which could make it even easier than the normal difficulty setting ("Devil Hunter") if you're skilled enough. Then again, you have to beat the game on Son of Sparda to unlock it, so maybe you are that skilled...
Heaven or Hell mode does get quite dangerous when facing enemies with shields, environmental hazards, and enemies that explode when killed (Hell Wraths from DMC 3, which love to show you that simply spamming Ebony and Ivory won't always work).
Dm C Devil May Cry takes the Nintendo Hard of Hell and Hell mode to a zen level with the boss of the Vergil's Downfall, Hollow Vergil. Attacks which masquerade as other attacks during their telegraphing phase? Check. Attacks which have split-second evade windows? Check. Attacks which have split-second evade windows that change pattern for the last third of the fight? Check.
The 8-bit era Ninja Gaiden games are notoriously difficult. Gamers who could clear Mega Man and Battletoads in their sleep would curse about trying to clear any of them (the first was by far the hardest, but all of them were steep challenges).
For most of the first game, when you ran out of lives, you started again at the beginning of the level. Losing a life while fighting any of the three final bosses, however, sent you back three levels. Level 6-2 was by far the hardest level in the game, and dying at any final boss would, yes, force you to do it again. And after fighting each of the three final bosses you would get a health refill but lose whatever Ninja Art you had, which made it almost impossible to win against bosses # 2 and # 3! The only way most players could beat the final bosses was to play through the last few levels of the game three times, and manage to arrive at each final boss with the one Ninja Art that could one-shot any boss (the Air Slash). But beating 6-2 three times... *shudder*
The original, for all its insanely hard enemies doing their best at killing you, had a few saving graces for the elite players willing to make it through to the end. First, by holding the jump button after sticking to a wall and rapidly taping left and right, Ryu would climb up walls, a feature only implemented in the second and third game. This gave sneaky players a fighting chance when landing a pixel short of a platform jump or fighting the Big Bad. Also, cinematic sequences had the odd effect of refilling your life bar, though if you blew your attempt at the ensuing boss fights, the next attempt went right to the battle with no cinematic or life refill. If you missed your first chance at fighting the final boss... well, there's always the reset button!
The modern remake of Ninja Gaiden is little kinder, even with a Life Meter and some reasonably potent armament. Its director Tomonobu Itagaki has boasted that only 10% of gamers would be able to complete its highest "Master Ninja" difficulty, and ignoring the ridiculously superlative feats of the title's most hardcore enthusiasts, this claim seems to have held true. On the other hand, given that the game has been praised for responsive control, some argue that the title isn't using Fake Difficulty so much as forcing players to always remain focused against the Mook Chivalry-dishonoring hordes.
The sequel lives up to the merciless mook swarm standards of the original, and adds some Fake Difficulty in the form of camera issues and slowdown to boot.
Ninja Gaiden III, a difficult enough game in its Japanese Famicom release, was deliberately made far more difficult when it was released on the NES in the United States. Just about all the enemies do at least three bars of damage (on previous games, and on the Japanese version, only a few strong enemies inflicted that much pain). To make matters worse, while the Japanese game had passwords allowing the game to be completed in multiple sittings, the U.S. version not only did not have this, but limited the player to 5 continues.
To put it simply, Ninja Gaiden is like dodging rain.
X2: Wolverine's Revenge. Despite Wolverine's healing factor(slowly) regenerating his heath(if his claws are retracted), many gamers will refer to this as one of the hardest games of the PS2/Gamecube/Xbox generation that is still POSSIBLE for non-hardcore gamers to beat. The utter lack of mid-level checkpoints becomes an exercise in psychosis the longer the game goes on, occasionally featuring long stealth segments where being spotted once is an immediate game over. The Juggernaut boss fight has one of these leading up to it, so every time you lose to him you have to spend five to ten minutes sneaking your way there again just to be allowed another shot, and he's not a two-tries boss.
A level where you use a giant mounted laser cannon to pick off enemy troops from a hundred yards away seems like it's going to be a Breather Level. The player quickly learns it's a five minute long gauntlet of pain where you can either memorize the exact timing and locations of each incoming wave of troops, or lose every time.
Ditto for an earlier one where you remotely control a "Void Droid", an advanced prison-guarding robot with a minigun and plasma cannon. It's slow, difficult to maneuver and anything but indestructible, which is bad news for non-fans of going all the way back to the beginning of the long, arduous level if the Void Droid gets scrapped before it can cross the level and open an otherwise impassable door. Ironically, when you have to face identical Void Droids as Wolverine later on, they're terrifying obstacles.
Magneto. Mother-bleeping Magneto. To beat him, you have to use one particular attack from one particular spot (while dodging the wide and painful arrangement of things he'll send flying your way) to knock him down and beat the crap out of him. If that wasn't bad enough, you're on a clock — beat him before he gets his power-dampening collar off and instantly murders you. And to make it worse, he's not even the final boss. If there was ever a time and place to use the built-in Invincibility code, now would be it.
Warriors of Might and Magic has several extremely hard levels: The third one is a complicated maze full of golems and gargoyles and a bottomless chasm in the main nexus area. Then we have the City Of Magic: say hello, to a long, frustrating level filled with Minotaurs and Draining Eyes, often in the very same room. The last level combine a maze of stone bridges suspended upon an abyss with lots of powerful demons, and has no shame in sending Demon Guardians against you often.
Bayonetta usually isn't too bad in terms of its difficulty (the unforgiving Quick-Time Events not withstanding) on Normal and below. However, the jump from Normal to Hard is outright staggering. Regular enemies have more health, attack a lot faster and do way more damage than they did previously. Sometimes its easy to forget you even have a life bar. For extra pain, why not equip the Gaze of Despair, which makes the enemies even stronger and faster? Witch Time is a huge saviour when it comes to this mode. Oh wait! Nonstop InfinityClimax mode disables that! Enjoy!
Deadpool warns you that the Ultra-Violence level should be played alone, or you might beat the crap out of anyone nearby in frustration. This is especially true if you're doing a fresh run (i.e. not New Game+). Enemies have acres of health, do insane amounts of damage (a basic assault rifle goon, while a minor annoyance in normal difficulty, will outright kill you with just a few bullets), and there's no wiggle room: if you screw up just once, you're severely punished. Screw up again, and you're dead. This difficulty level also makes bosses an exercise in frustration, as most suddenly get a one-hit-kill attack that can, and frequently does, come out of nowhere. On top of that, giant mooks will mow you down, as the Tubbies and Ice Men rip you a new butthole over and over and over again.
The Wonderful 101, as put by Silicon Era, is practically a call back to the days of the NES in terms of difficulty. Ignoring the game's usage of Tutorial Failure in terms of bosses and what forms do what (well, OK, the forms' functions are shown, but they're VERY easily missed) and attempting to get a good ranking, the game will frequently sick extremely powerful Mooks on you, which, while difficult to hurt, will also tear you to shreds with ease. Even if you can get past their defenses, they're still annoying to kill since they frequently have a lot of health. The bosses pull no punches either, often being cryptic in design, and messing up will have them seriously punish you.