I Wanna Be the Guy could be considered the ultimate example of this, being an exaggerated parody of Nintendo Hard games. Everything you've ever disliked in platformers is turned Up to Eleven, to hilarious levels. Even with its challenge being the one thing it's known for, it still manages to surprise the player with all the humorous ways it can, and will, kill the player (for example, apples that kill the player on contact, fall down and kill the player, fall sideways and kill the player, and fall up and kill the player). Even worse, just when the player has figured out its pattern of defying platforming logic, the game will do something so utterly mundane and normal that the player will die of that. It's a game that can be said to legitimately hate the player and enjoys tormenting them in horrifically humorous ways. You'll see it used as the gold standard of brutal difficulty for other entries here for a reason.
Super Meat Boy is generally considered a runner-up to IWBTG among indie games; the only mercy is that it's "fairer" (i.e. all hazards are immediately obvious). Special note should be given to Cotton Alley (particularly Dark World Cotton Alley), the pseudo-Minus Worlds, and the level based on IWBTG. But even at the best of times, the game's levels are filled with Saws of Doom and various other forms of lethal decor that require incredible precision and timing to navigate.
The level pack "The Kids' Xmas" is truly something else. It's so difficult that on the Steam version of the game, you get an Achievement just for beating one level.
Let's not forget that the original Flash game was so difficult that players only needed to finish 60% of the levels in order to reach endgame.
If the Dark World wasn't hard enough, try the "Expert Remix" level pack, featuring levels from the main game redone to be even harder than their Dark World versions! Try beating 5-8 without the elevator. Try beating 6-2 with the level map zoomed out all the way. Or better yet, try beating the last level of The Kid's warp zone without his double-jump ability!
If you thought the original Meat Boy was hard, Super Tofu Boy will make you writhe in pain. Meat Boy had a fair number of easy levels before getting to the hard part, but Super Tofu Boy is Nintendo Hard after only the fourth level!
VVVVVV is remarkably easier than the other examples on this page, because it gives you infinite lives and has a save point on almost every screen. You will, however, die several hundred times while playing it, so playing it on Iron Man mode (i.e. with only one life as a One-Hit-Point Wonder) is very much Nintendo Hard.
Capcom and Disney collaborated on several great games during the NES era: Chip N' Dale, DuckTales, and The Little Mermaid. Production was split during the 16-bit era, with Virgin Games handling the Megadrive titles while Capcom produced the SNES ones. Though the games didn't suffer in quality, they certainly tested players' patience: Virgin's Aladdin games for the Mega Drive included a couple of truly heinous levels, like the trial-and-error carpet ride inside the volcanic Cave of Wonders.
Their The Lion King title is stupefyingly tough: the precision platforming sets in as early at stage two ("I Just Can't Wait to Be King", set amongst Simba's entourage during the song). It has it all: trial-and-error ostrich rides with one-hit-kill obstacles in your way, bottomless pits, blind jumps, and so on. It ramps up even higher with "Hakuna Matata's" log rides, which does no favors for gamers who already dislike the song. Interestingly, the game gets slightly easier once young Simba is replaced by adult Simba, who can't navigate platforms as easily and relies on haymaker punches to progress. Nevertheless, the game throws one final lava level (which isn't even from the movie) to harass you before the showdown with Scar.
Believe it or not, Battletoads manages to up the ante considerably. From the racing segment of level 3 on, the game's difficulty ranges from insanely hard to downright unplayable. Most gamers of that generation have never seen the ending. Just to give you an idea of what most of the game is like: Level 6, the Snake Pit, is a level made almost entirely of Instant Death Spikes (it begins with a completely safe "practice" room, then ends with two rooms that are all spikesnote unless you count the walls). Even with the use of a Game Genie, beating the game is still considered to be quite an achievement among hardcore gamers. Many with a NES agree.
This is not helped by the apparent lack of playtesting. Observe: Stage 11, "Clinger Winger," which is literallyunplayable in two-player mode, because the second player can't move, meaning they get killed seconds after the level starts.
As demonstrated by The Angry Video Game Nerd, two player mode in general renders Battletoads nearly unplayable, due the ability of players to hurt each other, which will happen frequently whether they are trying to or not, which is especially ridiculous in level 2, where the Toads will whip themselves to the other side of the screen to kill their teammates with one press of the attack button. Amazingly, Nintendo Power actually used the ability to hurt your teammate as a selling point. Another grave danger in 2-player is any level with vertical scrolling: the screen will always follow the highest player, and if the other player hits the bottom of the screen, they die. If one Toad runs out of lives, they both go back to start, and the other Toad doesn't get any lives back.
Interestingly, the Japanese version of Battletoads is much easier than its North American counterpart (to name just a few changes, level 11's Hypno Orb moves much slower, and some of the disappearing platforms in level 12 have been replaced by solid ones). These changes seem to have been carried over into the Genesis port for all regions.
The other games in the Battletoads series are also notorious for their difficulty, but they aren't quite as brutal as the original NES game and its many ports. (Incidentally, the Game Boy game titled Battletoads isn't a port of the NES version; the Game Boy port of the NES game was named Battletoads in Ragnarok's World.)
Kayin, creator of the infamous I Wanna Be the Guy, says in his FAQ that his game is a ROM hack of the ending of NES Battletoads. Obviously this is a complete lie, but no one can call him on it because no one has actually beaten Battletoadsnote Except few people like ProtonJon, who used a romhack with infinite lives, and some people like Lordkat, who did it 100% legit. Yes, the creator of I Wanna Be the Guy thinks Battletoads is impossibly hard.
Battlemaniacs should probably go down as the hardest game in the series next to the first. Admittedly, there are less levels, but the Jet Bikes are still there, the one hit kill just-about-everything-in-stages-3-to-7 are there, and there's no health pickups whatsoever. 3 lives, 3 continues, only two chances to get any lives back (a maximum of three, if you're REALLY good at hitting pins on a checkers piece), and no save system. Nintendo Hard? Nintendo ain't got nothin' on this.
The first Contra game is widely considered to be among the most difficult NES games — and for good reason. If you touch nearly anything that isn't a powerup or floor, you're dead. No passwords or saves, and if you lose three lives, it's game over — unless you use the Konami Code, of course, extending your potential death-count to thirty.
Even one of the powerups can ruin your game by replacing a perfectly functional weapon with a useless one.
The Japanese version of Contra: Hard Corps featured a life bar, allowing you to take a hit or two before dying. It was made in America, though.Contra: Hard Corps is widely considered to be the hardest game in the series. When it was released in Japan, the Japanese thought the same and put in a health bar. That said, with the difficulty being the same, if you can 1cc one you can do the same for the other.
Contra 3: The Alien Wars, for the Super NES, has multiple difficulty levels and the ability to choose to have more extra lives per continue, making it less frustrating than the earlier games. When set to Hard, however, the game is at least as difficult and unforgiving as its NES predecessors.
The recently released Contra 4 for the Nintendo DS is also considerably challenging, as not only do you have to worry about things shooting at you from two screens, but most Boss Battles are fought against a Sequential Boss. Contra 4 also one-ups the missile-riding sequence from Contra 3 by making your handholds very tiny, constantly moving, opening, and closing, and then throwing deadly missiles at you from several different angles.
The Japanese arcade version of Super Contra allows players to replay the entire game on a harder setting after completing the game normally once and unlike the normal game, continues are not allowed, making it one of the more difficult Contra games in the series.
The spinoff title Hard Corps: Uprising is very forgiving by the series standard, giving you a life bar, letting you continue from the start of the level you're on, and featuring an RPG-like upgrade system. However, playing on Arcade Mode strips away the RPG elements and puts you back at stage 1 when you get a game over, and playing as Leviathan takes away your health bar, making it closer to the classic games in difficulty.
Road Runner's Death Valley Rally. Take all the worst aspects of Sonic the Hedgehog (the Road Runner moves like a moon rhinoceros on ecstasy), throw in some insanely precise jumps, all while the invincible Coyote keeps on bombarding you with weapons. It's like Wile E. Coyote's weird fetish dream.
The three The Simpsons video games made by Acclaim on the NES are known for being overly difficult, due to shoddy physics and controls and many levels involving jumping across tiny platforms for a prolonged amount of time. For some reason, against usual NES gaming logic, to run you must hold the same button you use to jump, making running jumps impossible unless you press both buttons when jumping. Plus, in most of these games, you lack any kind of weaponry or anything to defend yourself with, and in some you have barely any health.
The only one in which you can defend yourself may actually be the worst. The Simpsons: Bartman Meets Radioactive Man features the same broken physics and horrible controls, but you are expected to fight with them. Bart punches and kicks like he's up to his neck in molasses. Even the simplest enemies are deadly without absolutely perfect timing.
Virtual Bart, a Simpsons game for the SNES/Genesis, also made by Akklaim. This game is as brutal and unforgiving as Battletoads. The dinosaur level and the baby Bart level are probably the worst.
The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants has extraordinarily difficult jumps onto small platforms where, frequently, you can't tell where it's safe to land or not. This is made tougher by the bizarre control scheme — the 'run' and the 'jump' button are the same button. And to do a running jump, you have to hold down the use item button, which frequently wastes your stuff because there's no way to unequip an item. It also has no way to kill enemies. None. And Bart can only take two hits before dying. And in the later levels, the time you're given to get all the way through isn't even close to adequate. The sequel, Bart vs. The World, had its bad points (the crypt part of level 4-2, for one), but it upped Bart's life meter to 5 hits and more importantly gave him a way to fight back.
The arcade original Shinobi had a difficulty curve that just kept on ascending, and only three lives per continue. Mission 4 defeated most players. The final hidden ninja boss was nigh-on impossible to beat, and the final stage itself disables continuing, so a determined player can't just get a shitload of quarters and brute-force their way through it.
The Playstation 2 version of Shinobi had a lot of controller-throwing moments, too. Its sequel, Nightshade (called Kunoichi in Japan), made things a bit less frustrating by giving the player multiple lives instead of just one, meaning that falling into a Bottomless Pit wouldn't boot you all the way back to the beginning of the level and force you to use a continue.
However, the geniuses who made Nightshade also put several large Bottomless Pits into the game that you need to cross by dashing from enemy to enemy. This wouldn't be too bad normally, but the unlockable protagonist of the previous game lacks a move necessary for crossing said pits, making it an Unwinnable situation for him. And that's not even going into other gameplay changes they made.
Bucky O'Hare for NES has excellent programming, wide variety of levels, refined gameplay, and devious difficulty level by default. Of course, player could also input HARD! as a password and push her/his sanity to the brink playing a hidden, prominently harder difficulty level, only to lose what is left of it after finding out that using given passwords continues the game from the default difficulty.
On the other hand, the difficulty in the game is rarely (if ever) actual fake difficulty. The game can be completed on the harder difficulty, and levels are designed so that the player can survive every single situation if he or she knows the right strategy. In other words, the sadistic difficulty is not cheap, but done in a very, very calculating manner.
Ironically, the game gets easier (relatively speaking) on HARD! mode the farther along you go. In many of the later levels, your character dies in 1 hit even on normal mode, so the traps are much more avoidable, whereas the early levels where getting hit was ordinarily not a big deal became much more treacherous. The hardest level in the entire game on HARD! mode is a level very early in the game where you are trapped on a rapidly shrinking (slippery) iceberg while having to dodge a continuous stream of enemies firing projectiles at you. On normal difficulty, this stage takes about a minute and is barely worth mentioning.
They call it "Castlevania Frustration Syndrome" for a reason. Several early games in that series were murderously hard, especially the first. Between being slower than many enemies, being unable to adjust your jumps in any fashion, and getting trapped on staircases (and unable to dismount with any semblance of speed) at the most inopportune moments... well, it was Goddamn hard, especially since running into an enemy could see you Blown Across the Room at the slightest touch. Usually the launch would send one sailing gracefully backward into one of the castle's many walls of Spikes of Doom, or quite possibly a conveniently placed pool of water.
The first Castlevania doesn't get too harsh until Frankenstein (a real pain in the hunchback without the fire bomb), and Death is a pain but far from insurmountable; you just gotta keep trying. It's Dracula that ramps it up to Nintendo Hard level. Warping all over the place, including right on top of you (and frequently), tossing a trio of fireballs each time that required precise timing to either knock down or evade, can only be damaged in the head, and takes sixteen hits to beat, whereupon he transforms into a bounding firebreathing hulk that takes thirty-two hits to finally do away with. And did you know that at this stage you can only take four hits yourself before dying? (Yes, there's a definite pattern to what he does, and it's actually possible to slay him without taking any damage, but this definitely qualifies.) It's so unforgiving that Konami actually did a Japan-only rerelease in 1993 (long after the NES had been supplanted by the 16-bit systems) just to add an Easy level.
The eldritch horrors disguised as game designers who localized Castlevania III decided that exponentially elevated difficulty was a fair trade-up for the loss of the better sound chip. If you thought that Dracula's third form was a bit difficult after having played Akumajo Densetsu (it can be; the bottomless pits in the floor are a pain)... oh, just wait until you get to that point in the American-European version. Dracula's Frickin' Laser Beams are not only fired more frequently, they're longer and can launch in any of sixteen directions instead of the usual eight. Good luck, and may $Deity have mercy on your thumbs.
Thought the console Castlevanias were hard? Haunted Castle, an arcade-exclusive Castlevania title, multiplies the frustration by giving you only one life per credit, a four-credit limit (no Bribing Your Way to Victory here, folks), and awkwardly placed flying enemies that are guaranteed to hit you. The Version M release of the game is notorious for the amount of damage you take from enemy attacks; a bone thrown from a skeleton enemy will deplete half of your life meter.
Worse still, the four-credit limit can't be changed in the game's dip switches, either. This is an extremely stupid strategy when the whole purpose of an arcade game is to make money and this game actively dissuades players from putting in more quarters because, seriously, who's going to die three-fourths of the way through the game and then pay to start over from scratch?
This was even referenced in the otherwise completely unrelated game, Snatcher. Upon faced with a pair of cosplayers dressed as Simon Belmont and Dracula, Metal tells Gillian that the lack of the ability to jump on the stairs caused the teen suicide rate to "triple that year."
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest for the NES belongs to Guide Dang It instead. The game gives you no information on what to do or where to go. The villagers who normally help you in this kind of game instead LIE. And they don't tell obvious lies, they say stuff that is sneakily misleading, with the occasional true statement to mess with your head. Add in "puzzles" like having to duck for seven seconds at a certain place to continue in the game with a certain item selected, and you get the idea. Otherwise, the combat is rather easy and if you die, even if you lose all your lives, you respawn at the same spot where you died.
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood was among the last of the classic-style games in the series, and easily the most polished. On the one hand, Richter's more flexible jump controls and the newfound ability to properly maneuver on stairs eliminated many of the most frustrating causes of death in the series. On the other hand, enemy difficulty was ramped up to compensate - on average, they're much faster and more aggressive than in any other game in the series.
Bionic Commando, for the NES and the original Game Boy, is easier than the arcade version, but still manages to become extremely difficult by the end of the game. You start with only one life (although you do have a health bar), and continues have to be earned by killing enemies in optional areas. The bosses tend to be fast and brutal, and there are plenty of Bottomless Pits and Spikes of Doom around as well.
It's slightly tempered by the fact that the missile launcher is one of the most overpowered weapons in NES history, making several of the bosses comically easy to beat. Of course, they then tempered its power in the remake.
In particular, the helicopter boss at the end of Area 12 requires the player to fire a single rocket through the windshield of the helicopter as the player is falling. If the player misses, they're killed by machine gun fire. The chopper pilot is Hitler's expy, however, who looks just like the man himself. The game rewards you for passing its murderously difficult stages by giving you a chance to shoot Hitler in the face with a rocket launcher, and his head explodes.
Bionic Commando Rearmed, the recent remake of the NES version, is harder on its first level than the original was on its final levels — and it only scales up from there. Yahtzee went on to note that even though he'd never played the original Bionic Commando, he could still tell Rearmed was a faithful remake because of how console-stompingly frustrating it was.
And then if you go to any difficulty level above normal? Forget about it. On the hardest difficulty level, Super Joe Hard, you become a One-Hit-Point Wonder, enemies fire as if they have turbo controllers and duck behind cover almost immediately. Blocking bullets with the bionic arm, difficult on normal difficulty, becomes a requirement, making the game reach new levels of impossible, like... Super Nintendo Hard.
In fact, it was so hard that the 1.1 patch for it had to tone down the difficulty on the easy and normal difficulties. For the truly insane, Super Joe Hard was not changed.
The entire Mega Man Zero series, particularly the first two. They do away with heart and sub-tank collectibles, so you're stuck at normal health. There's a ranking system similar to that of 'Mega Man X 6, which is very unforgiving, making maintaining an A-rank or higher necessary to get the EX techs in the later games that much more annoying. There's things called Cyber-Elves which have all sorts of neat powers (including health increases and Sub Tanks), except the game penalizes you for using them by knocking points off your level rank.
The first Zero game was considered by many reviewers upon its release to be notoriously hard.
Zero 4's stages are as genuinely hard as its predecessors', with the added bonus of weather effects that will make a stage easier or difficult. Needless to say, choose any weather except for the difficult one, your score gets dropped. However, since you only need the correct weather for the extras, the game goes from an hours-long grind to a couple hours of fast-paced fun by a decent player, just because you don't go through every stage fifty times trying to get that last point for the A-rank.
Plus the whole Cyber-Elf system is revamped so that you only use one multi-purpose Cyber-Elf, which you don't get penalized for using (at least, if you don't make her too powerful.)
The levels in the Mega Man ZX series were just as hard, if not harder, than in the Zero series. The main difference is the wide variety of player choice. It was easy to find a model that fit your own playstyle. That and the screen resolution was slightly larger so it was easier to see what was around you.
The first Mega Man game is in the running, too. The six Robot Masters aren't so bad (except for Guts Man's infamous lifts and Ice Man's level, which introduces the possibly more infamous disappearing/appearing platforms), but players who can get past the Yellow Devil boss — to say nothing of Dr. Wily himself — without resorting to the Select trick are few and far between. 2 and onward have passwords, but those never go into Wily's fortress... and he often has more than one. Sometimes the levels will do even worse damage to our patience. Quick Man's kill beams and Heat Man's disappearing blocks of doom are noteworthy examples.
And even the Yellow Devil is cake compared to the final level. There, you're required to fight Bomb Man, Fire Man, Ice Man, and Guts Man a second time. The catch is that you have to do it all on one life — they respawn if you die — and the bosses don't drop any refills when you kill them. Even if you have a whole bunch of lives, you'll eventually run out of weapon power after two or three tries. Later installments of the game reprised the element of refighting earlier bosses, but at least there you could pick the order, you got a large life power-up for each one you defeated, and they'd stay dead if you lost a life along the way.
The severe overuse of Spikes of Doom and Trial-and-Error Gameplay in X6 made it extremely difficult to complete. Due to the Nightmare System, there were parts (such as one section of Metal Shark Player's stage with Spikes of Doom) that could be physically impossible to complete if the level loaded the wrong way.
Playing the second Gate stage as Zero is truely an exercise in controller-breaking frustration.
After the rather easy Mega Man 8 was released Mega Man & Bass, one of the hardest games in the Classic series, with brutal boss fights, weakness weapons that aren't always the easiest to use against their respective robot masters (Burner Man's weakness requires you to shove him into a spike pit with an Ice Wall,) lots of Goddamn Bats like the propeller turrets that fire as soon as they appear on-screen and take their power-up with them if you don't grab it immediately after destroying them, and disappearing block segments that are actually harder than usual due to the blocks lasting a little less time before disappearing, all culminating in a series of marathon fortress levels with the required Boss Rush taking cues from the first game instead of doing it in the traditional teleporter fashion. Playing as Bass makes the levels easier due to being a lot more mobile, but the already-tough bosses become even tougher thanks to his even weaker Bass Buster, while the GBA port adds an extra layer of difficulty by forcing the player to double tap left or right to dash as Bass instead of having a dedicated dash button or even just using the classic Down+Jump command.
Mega Man 9, essentially a love letter to the NES games, brings back that same wonderfully frustrating, one-false-move-and-you're-dead feeling from the earliest games. It's gloriously fiendish.
This is fixed in Rosenkreuzstilette Grollschwert, an additional story mode to Rosenkreuzstilette featuring Grolla, this game's version of Zero. It's so bad, the game tells you right at the start that this mode will try your sanity. Why is it so hard?
Second, Grolla's sword only has one long range attack, in a game designed to have you fight at a distance. Said attack is pathetically weak unless Grolla is at less than half health, which increases the range and power of the attack.
Finally, and most damnably, Grolla takes twice as much damage as Spiritia, the heroine of the main game. To put all that into perspective, this means that, not only do you needed to get dangerously close to bosses to hurt them, but in order to hit them with your best attack, you need to be at a point where you'll die four times faster than in the main game. Without the weapons that made most bosses beatable in the first place. Hope you've got health tanks!
By the way, that charged attack? You need it against a certain fortress boss (nothing else reaches far enough across the pit). So you're basically at one-eighth of Spiritia's health against an enemy that gave her no end of trouble. Hard? You have no idea.
The sequel, Rosenkreuzstilette Frudenstachel, featuring Freudia, ups this factor even more, to the point where the same warning that pops up in Grollschwert shows up in the intro to the demo.
Talk about Pamela, in the same way as Grolla on the first game.
Another freeware game, Mega Man Unlimited, belongs here. Brutally long levels, Robot Masters that can still pack a punch even if you have their weakness, and fortress stages that show no mercy; this one's got it all. Remember the Quick Man beams? They're back in Rainbow Man's stage, except there's prisms that fan the light out into a gigantic, lethal triangular spread. And that's one of the easier ones.
Yet another freeware game, Megaman Revenge Of The Fallen, fits right in here. The levels are notoriously long with multiple branching paths with checkpoints placed sometimes too far or too close to where they ought to be. 10 Robot Masters where over half are extremely hard to beat buster only and a few, even with their weakness, can still own you. Combine that with the three unavoidable MM Killer battles that show up at robot master stages 3, 5 and 7 and you got Beef Gate blockages of frustrating difficulty. Finally, tack on the exhausting 8-stage Wily castle where none of your progress is saved if you need to stop and continue later and you get why this game has a huge reputation for being extremely hard.
Super Mario Bros. 1, arguably the Trope Codifier for this, provides so few power-ups, you may have to play most of the game as small Mario. You want to be Fire Mario, but you will often die or take damage before you can get a Fire Flower. Also, coins are so scarce, it may take too long to collect 100 for an extra life. By the way, you can't replay earlier levels to stock up on power-ups or extra lives. It gets even worse when you get to world 8, where there are are no power-ups in the first and last levels, the ones that exist in the second and third are hard to find and reach, you always start at the beginning of the level if you die, and the levels are mostly very long.
Super Mario Bros. 3 is rather hard. This game allows more power-ups and extra lives, but you still can't replay earlier levels, and none of the levels have a midway point. The difficulty really peaks in World 7. (World 8, by contrast, tends to look harder than it is due to the hordes of tanks, ships, and dark levels)
Yet SMB and SMB 3 are easy next to the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2, also known as The Lost Levels. It is the most difficult Mario game ever made. There was originally no US release, in part because Nintendo thought that the sheer difficulty would hurt sales. (Instead, the US Super Mario Bros. 2 was a Dolled-Up Installment of Doki Doki Panic.) Sales in Japan were low, but remember that Lost Levels was released on the Famicom Disk System and not on the Famicom itself. It was actually too difficult for Japanese gamers. Lost Levels was one of the best selling FDS titles. Hazards in this game include: Annoying Poison Mushrooms that look like power-ups, but actually damage Mario. Tough enemies, like extra-fast Pirahna Plants who will come out of the pipe even when Mario (or Luigi) is there, and forward-moving Hammer Brothers who allow only a few seconds for Mario to find an opening. Pesky Invisible Blocks that knock Mario off the stage. Tall walls and wide gaps that seem impossible to pass, unless Mario can find a few Invisible Blocks. Warp Zones that go back to world 1, forcing the player to replay all previous levels; the smart player would suicide Mario to avoid taking the warp pipe. Notably, every remake of the game has done something to make it slightly easier. Even the Super Mario All-Stars version saves the game on a per level basis, rather than a per world basis as is the case with every other game it includes. It also removed a number of Invisible Blocks specifically designed to cause unintended player deaths (although many were still left in), particularly in later stages, then added invisible blocks containing power-ups elsewhere. It also made Worlds 9 and A-D much easier to get to. However, playing the game on Super Mario Bros. DX arguably makes it even harder via Fake Difficulty; since the Game Boy has a smaller screen, you can hardly see what's ahead. Sometimes you can't even tell if there's a pit or solid ground below you. This version also removes the wind mechanic, making some jumps extremely difficult.
Super Mario Maker allows one to create levels that can be as Nintendo Hard as you'd like, and the game itself encourages it, including features such as items being placed in such as way that you'll die if you don't time your jumps, very tight precision platforming, enemies being piled up in interesting ways, enemies popping out of blocks and literally anything coming out of Bullet Bill Blasters/being dropped by lakitus, be they coins or any enemy you'd like. The level played at Nintendo World Championships 2015 is a good example.
Ghosts 'n Goblins, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, and the rest of the series, have an evil reputation stemming from moderately annoying Jump Physics and extremely unpredictable enemy movement. Which would be pretty hard on its own. But some games in the series (such as Ghosts 'n Goblins) went further: If you miss a power-up in the fifth level, it kicks you back to the fourth level once you reach the final boss. Even more frustratingly, you have to go through the game twice just in order to see its A Winner Is You ending.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is easily the most challenging game in the franchise. Mooks that are easy cannon fodder in all other games are super-deadly here. The bats will kill you. The hopping spider things will kill you. The rats with boomerangs will trap you between two of them and stay out of your range; you get hit no matter what. Many normal enemies can only be damaged one way or at certain times. Opportunities to recharge your health and magic are much scarcer than in other games. Enemies are poised so that knockback will send you off the platform and into the lava every time. When you get a Game Over, you don't start from the beginning of the dungeon, but from the beginning of the overworld and must take the (often difficult) path to the dungeon again. Random Encounters go from "free XP" at the beginning to "you will not reach the Great Palace alive" by the end. If you aren't following an FAQ or a fanmade map, good luck making your way to the endat all due to super-vague hints for actions nobody would think to take on their own.
The classical ZX Spectrum game Jet Set Willy. Contact with any hazard (or falling from too high) causes you to lose a life, and the game frequently requires perfectly accurate jumping. To make things even worse, when you die, you re-enter the room in exactly the same way you entered it originally; this quite often resulted in the entire game being lost by a single mistake: you enter (usually fall into) a room, die before you can do anything, re-enter, die... (The sequel Jet Set Willy 2 attempted to fix the problem by causing you to respawn at the spot where you died, or the spot from where you fell or jumped to your death, which works ... unless the place is also the starting point of some monster, in which case you enter the infinite loop of death without any warning that it could be the case.) Not to mention that the original game contained a bug: entering one of the rooms caused several other rooms to become corrupted, making the game impossible to complete.
La-Mulana brings the old-school looks and difficulty to the 21st century. A game where even the slightest bump with an enemy sends you flying backwards, where every puzzle is a trick wrapped in a riddle split up and scattered across a huge area, where every boss can and will flatten you without much of a problem. With this game, you either learn to think like it wants you to, or you won't get out of the first area. The remake actually manages to be more difficult, with Boss Battles being generally harder, Spikes of Doom doing more damage, and occasional instadeath situations.
Hell Temple manages to take this to an absolutely mind-boggling level. Tiny platforms in rooms full of Goddamned Bats, insane platform jumps with stiff controls, puzzles that flirt recklessly with Guide Dang It status, and downright sadistic traps take Platform Hell to a bone-crackingly difficult level that would make I Wanna Be the Guy jealous.
Shadow Of The Beast 2 (at least the Amiga version) is even crueler. The general combat was a tad easier, in that there were more opportunities to heal. The game compensated, however, by throwing in a Sierra-like level of Unwinnable situations. You could screw your game over four different ways in the first five minutes, and it just gets worse from there.
Spelunky is a cross between a roguelike and an Everything Trying to Kill You platformer. Its difficulty is indicated by the variety of things that, even when they aren't actual One Hit Kills, can easily inflict more damage than you will ever have health — and continues are practically nonexistent.
The game that inspired Spelunky, Spelunker, was once described as "not just player-unfriendly but downright player-hateful," which is a pretty good assessment. Where to begin? Stiff controls. Trial-and-Error Gameplay. Being a One-Hit-Point Wonder with limited lives. An attack that only worked against one type of enemy and could kill you quickly because it drew from the air supply that acted as the game's timer mechanic. Being able to be killed by your own bombs and flares, which you needed to use to blow open walls and briefly deter (but not kill) bats. In short, Everything Trying to Kill You, including the Malevolent Architecture and the Jump Physics—the game was notable for actually killing you long before you hit the ground because the Spelunker fell too far. It is almost as close to outright selling kids a Platform Hell game as was possible at the time. The Updated Re-release actually embraced the insanity of its difficulty, keeping all the frustrating features and adding a few more for good measure, remedied somewhat by the ease of earning lives in the HD remake. It's so stupidly, absurdly difficult that, in Japan, the game's death jingle became an auditory meme synonymous with failure.
WiiS2 Eggmanland will make anyone sweat the first couple times. It's six stages - one Day stage with some minorly sadistic twists and turns and an unforgiving S rank time (4:30!), and the rest are Werehog stages. If you're not a fan of the Werehog's "grab" button, expect a Cluster F-Bomb or two.
PS360 Eggmanland is even worse. Sadistic grind rails, Press X to Not Die to the max, precise platforming without a drop shadow, robots out the ass, swing poles with Dark Bat patrols around them, and enough Titans at the end to make you weep in agony. Yes, those are both Hedgehog and Werehog elements. Yes, this is all in one stage. Yes, you WILL be switching between the two. And if that's not enough, the level WILL take over forty-five minutes to clear. Makes you pine for those ten minute limits of yore.
And now the punchline: If you want all the Achievements, you'll have to beat Eggmanland without dying once THREE TIMES OVER. Muahahahahaa!!
And may Yuji Naka have mercy on your soul if you're going for all the S-Ranks. Sonic is insanely fast in this one, so you're going to have to memorize incredibly long stages to have any chance at the daytime levels. It is addicting as all get out, though.
Dark Gaia. The Chip segments are easy, but as for the Sonic segments, you only have a small amount of time to get over to Dark Gaia's eye. And this is made even harder by the escalating amount of obstacles.
Also Sonic related, Sonic 2 for the Game Gear. Tiny screen messes around with your resolution, there are traps everywhere, awkwardly controlled gimmicks such as those damn hang gliders, no rings for any boss (and many are fiendishly hard, the first one is the very worst!), a schizophrenic difficulty curve, needing to get all the emeralds to actually beat the full thing, and some are not easy to find, and a lot of trial and error (especially in Scrambled Egg). You do get loads of lives and rings easily, but even so. Aqua Lake, the water level, is pretty brutal as well in it's second act, which is entirely underwater. (the bigger screen for the Sega Master System version kinda lowers the difficulty)
Sonic Rush is no walk in the park when it comes to later zones and bosses.
By the sixth zone, the game goes from easy to very very hard.
Freedom Planet increases massively in difficulty by character. Lilac's story isn't too bad, but Carol's is something else, and Milla's is borderline medieval torture. Later bosses in all three stories typically have you dodging BulletHells (of which you can only survive two or three hits) as well as the bosses' minions on the ground and only getting to attack occasionally, with high chances of missing. It doesn't help that the characters' health bars get progressively shorter and their attacks are nerfed. Milla's only two attacks need charging to use, which does not help at all with mobile bosses. All in all, consider yourself a pro if you beat any of the characters' stories with fewer than 50 deaths.
Alien Soldier requires the player to juggle swarms of enemies, traps, fiendishly hard bosses, a timer that always seems too short, greatly limited ammunition, and the fact that you are vulnerable when switching between weapons. After a while, Contra starts to look easy by comparison.
Ironically the swarms of enemies are welcome since you can kill them for health, near the ending the mooks stop appearing so you have no way to heal yourself unless you use counter force (press B twice fast) to convert close enemies bullets into life ups (and that's is so risky you'll probably lose more health than heal it). The game only has 2 difficulties, Superhard and Supereasy, which basically translates to "Give up while you can" and "At least you have unlimited continues".
Time Lord had you travelling through locations in a set of time periods, having to defeat a bunch of foes while collecting a number of MacGuffins before you could progress to the boss, and the next level. Nintendo Hard examples include:
Starting each level with nothing to fight with but your knuckles, while each level had progressively trickier foes from the off.
The first level (medieval) had a lengthy area of infinite invulnerable rushing at you if you stepped out from behind a wall. Perfect jumping was required.
The second level (western)'s boss was a fat gunslinging bandito that took, no joke, at least 8 minutes of repetitive maneuvering to kill. All the while shooting huge bullets that could eat up on of your 3 precious life points.
Various rather annoying platforming puzzles to get the required objective items.
Including some instances where the player must punch a particular spot in midair for a jump boost, with no indication that this might work, or where the player must shoot the MacGuffin for a jump boost or to keep it from floating away as the player walks toward it, with no indication that this might work either.
In addition, the entire game is one big Timed Mission. Fail to beat it in under 30 minutes (and with the gunslinger boss, it's 95% guaranteed), and it's Non-Standard Game Over for you.
Milon's Secret Castle looks like a simple platformer at first, but quickly becomes incredibly frustrating. How bad is it? As The Angry Video Game Nerd discovered, the section of Nintendo Power normally reserved for cheat codes or advanced strategy had a section on MSC called Getting Started. To get into detail, the whole game has an abundance of secrets, some of which are required to find in order to move on. Some are easy to locate, but others are quite impossible to find. It doesn't help matters that Milon runs pretty slow at first, which makes it slightly difficult to avoid projectiles and enemies and that he doesn't go invisible after getting hit, so Milon's life can be drained pretty fast.
Rick Dangerous and its sequel are examples of unfair difficulty, with many booby traps that simply cannot be detected in advance, and requiring you to play the entire game start-to-finish with the handful of lives you're given to actually see the ending sequence. They're effectively unplayable except with an infinite lives cheat.
Aero the Acro-Bat, a mediocre platform game for the Genesis and Super Nintendo, deserves a mention here. The controls are problematic, and the levels are packed full of well placed instantly lethal spikes and Mine Cart Hell (or, in this case, Roller Coaster Hell) where one false move and you're dead. It gets especially bad toward the end.
This game doesn't forgive mistakes, either. Not only there are no passwords or backup, but the continues are limited and if you lose all of your lives and continue, you start at the beginning of the world you are on, which is tedious considering how large the levels are.
Popular freeware game N features this like crazy. An infinite number of retries for a given level are just a button press away, but your little ninja has no attacks, dies in one hit, and is pitted against such threats as homing missiles, laser turrets, moving laser drones, and rapidfire chaingun drones, all of whom can and will aim in any direction and attack as soon as you're in their line of sight, not to mention the standard touch of death drones, mines and death by falling too far. And to top it off you have a timer, not just for each level but for each set of five levels.
On the plus side, because of the Ragdoll Physics and randomly-scattering dismembered ninja-limbs, these deaths are usually pretty entertaining to watch.
The NES version ofDragon's Lair. Not just because of the awful controls, but also because of the sheer number of things that will kill you instantly despite you having a lifebar.
The Ganbare Goemon (Legend of the Mystical Ninja in english) SNES platformers qualify as this. Timed jumps, long gaps, and other various difficult traps will force you to get your reflexes in gear if you hope to beat them. The N64 sequels and the 2005 Nintendo DS offering were soft spongy cakes compared to these games.
Legend of the Mystical Ninja in particular also utilizes some rather horrific examples of Continuing Is Painful. After completing a stage, the player is dumped into the next town...where Everything Is Trying to Kill You. From there, the player has to fight their way through town to track down where the save point is, and only then are they safe. Die before you get there, and you have to choose between doing the entire previous level over again, or continuing from the start of the town, minus all of your power-ups, including the much-needed Heart Containers that are now Lost Forever.
There were actually three more SNES games (plus one spin-off), but Japan-only. Ganbare Goemon 4 ("titled "The Day I Became A Dancer") is one of the most innovative, most gorgeous, and most enjoyable game in the series. Too bad it also has the most hair-twitching situations: three out of five boss battles are one big Button Mashing hell, not mentioning a level (admittedly, it IS an early dungeon) with many unforgiving precision jumps whre you are followed by a big fast mecha-mahradja inflicting a One-Hit Kill attack, where at the end of the path there is door requiring 28 hits to break, after which it is very possible if you somehow make it through to get grasped anyways by the big hand hitbox... Cue more quicksand madness with enemies all the way along, before the next cutscene.
Another dungeons have you in stadiums with scarce floating platforms where you are bombarded with dozens of basketballs, the audience' "Hurrah" letters, and bazooka handling enemies, which should send you bouncing helplessly to your doom. Other levels has a fast karateka hand breaking the platforms you must CLIMB, then jump perfectly to the second platform. It is Hard enough that the Ganbare Goemon games have you restart, upon a game over, from the middle chekpoint of the level you were actually in, aknowledging the sheer diffiulty.
The second N64 game, Goemons Great Adventure, is no cakewalk either. Huge levels(especially the castle ones), difficult sidequests, sometimes pixel-perfect platforming and enemies at the most inconvient spots. Good luck getting through Floating Castle.
The dam level was nothing compared to the fifth level, where there were multiple manholes to go down, each with long tunnels with tons of respawning enemies that were absolutely merciless. The real killer was that only one tunnel was the one that led to the end of the level and the boss fight with the Technodrome. The other tunnels all led to a dead end, and by that time you've probably lost so much health that you were never going to make it out alive. Another problem is that the location of the boss was randomly selected from three possible spots every time you started the game. This meant that you had to guess which tunnel was the correct one EVERY TIME you played the game, because if you chose incorrectly, you were pretty guaranteed to die and have to sacrifice one of your TWO continues to try again, assuming you had any continues left. And even if you chose correctly one the first try, you still had the agony of the extremely difficult Technodrome fight. Oh, and it doesn't end there, because even if you defeat the Technodrome and made it inside, well good luck because you're going to need it, especially if you made it through the minibosses and to the final boss, Shredder who was quite "overpowered"if you know what we mean.
there was actually a way to figure out which sewer tunnel led to the Technodrome - the screen would scroll slightly more slowly between areas if you were in the correct sewer. Obviously, this was an actual glitch and not a hint and would only be discovered through guides. To add to the fun, almost every aspect of the Technodrome could hurt your Turtle during the final battle, including the tracks of the machine itself. Did the hitboxes on those tracks stay active in the level-ending cutscene, even after you had won the bossfight? Only those players who have narrowily beaten the Technodrome, watched their Turtle walk towards victory, then seen him curl up in a heap as he lost his last sliver of health on an already dead and unmoving enemy and then had to replay the ENTIRE BLOODY LEVEL as a result will ever know. (See Kaizo Trap).
People who figured out how powerful the scroll subweapon was and patiently stockpiled a large supply had an easier time, especially against the final boss, who would never even touch you if you spammed it, but you still had to learn the route to get there with your supply of them intact. Of course, continuing stripped all of the subweapons away. Good thing there are some to find in level 5 where you probably continued, if you have the skill to collect them.
Wolverine: Adamantium Rage is insanely difficult, especially the Genesis where a timer makes the regeneration factor utterly useless.
The fact that this trope is now rarely used was highlighted when in Donkey Kong 64, you must defeat a few levels of the original Donkey Kong arcade game to progress. These levels were harder than the rest of the newfangled 3-D game. (Most amazingly, they actually made them harder than the arcade game by giving you only one (1) life instead of three.)
From the SNES games, the fandom usually agrees that Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest is the harder of the three, since you need to get ALL BONUS COINS to unlock the secrets levels and beat it 100%. Thanks to an emulator issue, the secret level Klobber Karnage has rotable barrels that just keep spinning! You can change which direction it spins but you can't stop it in a single direction, making the stage almost impossible to complete since the barrel will keep throwing you in the wrong direction. Also, Kaptain K. Rool is absurdly hard, to the point the game's hint to defeat it is "Make sure to bring a lot of lives". Every new hit he uses a new attack and has no weak point until he stops shooting so yeah, your best chance is literally, "keep dying until you learn all of his attacks".
Donkey Kong Country Returns does not disappoint (to the point that Gamespy's review title-drops the very Nintendo Hard page with the quote "You'd better believe that Donkey Kong Country Returns fits this bill, through and through."). Try to beat World 8 without losing more than 50 lives, and several screw with your muscle memory. Players may also find the Wii controls far less intuitive for sensitive platforming than the SNES layout. However, the worst bits are the rocket barrel levels, which make you into a One-Hit-Point Wonder that dies if they touch anything - the enemies, the ceiling, the floor... anything. The entire level. While the mine cart levels also make you into a One-Hit-Point Wonder, they are not nearly as finicky. The 3DS port, on the other hand, has more intuitive (though not perfect) controls, gives you three hearts instead of two (which means six hearts when you're with Diddy Kong), and Cranky Kong's shop has been modified. Overall, it makes the game considerably easier, though it's still a (sometimes highly) challenging platformer.
The Jumper series of freeware 2D platformers. Every stage beginning with Stage 2-1 in every game is an exercise in patience, finger dexterity, reflexes, platformer jumping skills, and precision. Unlike I Wanna Be the Guy, however, Jumper is more honest. It doesn't try to ruin your life with booby traps around every corner that you need to memorize; every single death in this game is less of the stage's fault and more of your fault for not being careful enough.
Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? will make that those unfamiliar with platformers tear their hair out, dood. The Prinny's most important move is rather unresponive and slow (unless you mash the button like crazy, not always an easy feat while holding the screen), enemies are Makai Kingdom cannon fodder with 5000 levels in badass, and then there's the bosses and the ridiculous jumping puzzles required to unlock the features of the home base... Let's put it this way. The game gives you one thousand lives, and then makes you need them.
Captain Comic I for MS-DOS is a good game, but boy, is it hard. It's made even harder by the fact that the game lacks any save-game capability, meaning it has to be played through in one sitting, but good luck getting more than halfway through before running out of lives.
The NES port of Karnov. You have two hit points (only one in the arcade version) and the restorative-item-to-inexplicably-bullet-shooting-monster ratio approaches 1:100. You have no lateral control while falling off of a ledge. There are unlimited continues, however.
All three of Wolf Team's "Annet Trilogy" Mega Drive/Mega CD games qualify here. El Viento alone delights in throwing nigh impossible spike mazes, strange level design, and vampiric Goddamned Bats that never stop respawning at the player. Earnest Evans likes throwing the player into surprise spikes and skewers that knock Earnest into other enemies. Finally, Annet Futatabi (which is more of a standard beat-'em-up) is just an obvious beta where things are skewed waaaaay against the player.
Athena has to be one of the hardest platform games ever. (It's not just insanely difficult in the NES Porting Disaster; one reviewer of the PlayStation Mini rerelease of the arcade version strongly advised using a save state even when playing on easy difficulty.) Just how hard is it? There are two different kinds of jumps that happen in sequence, a short jump and a high jump (you cannot control which jump comes up the next time you want to jump). Each level has a time limit. Your character has health, but there are enemies that can poison you and there is no Mercy Invincibility when you are hit, which lets the enemies juggle you to death if you get cornered. You can move right to move the screen forward, but anything passing the screen on the left is gone forever. In a later level the entire level is one big maze, and since you cant go backwards if you start down a dead end, you are truly dead. Also, in this same level you must find 2 special Plot Coupons or you cannot continue the game. Also, there are 2 fake Plot Coupons in the same level that look exactly like the real ones and they will take all your upgrades if you pick them up and make you do the level all over again. There are power upgrades but they can be lost with damage and use. If you ever happen to make it to the last level, then you must play through all the previous levels all over again also fighting all the bosses all over again before getting to the final fight. Oh, and one of the levels is aptly named, the World of Hell. Good luck, you'll need it!
Target Earth is a ludicrously hard Sega Genesis game. The majority of it stems from the massive amounts of enemies and the spray of bullets that they fire, even on the easiest setting (which is Normal, not Easy—that there is no Easy setting should tell you something). Also a factor is that you have to choose between Armor Upgrades and weapons. More armor means more health, but takes up a slot for weapons, which means you have to rely more on your Emergency Weapon. Your health may regenerate, but the infinitely spawning mooks don't leave you alone long enough to gain much benefit from it.
Freeware game Give Up, Robot has no enemies whatsoever. You are a lonely robot going through 50 levels of what could very well be hell. Most of the people who play it give up midway. Those who do persevere do not get so much as a win screen. What they do get is the hard levels. The plot of the game is, as far as can be told, the computer that controls Robot's life is dedicated to tormenting the poor thing. There's a sequel; the tagline on [adult swim].com is "You'll die a lot, but you get to kill this time", because you actually get to exact your revenge by escaping from the computer's control and foiling its attempts to capture you before finally deactivating it. Well, assuming you don't listen to the title and give up.
'Splosion Man starts out fairly easy but rapidly becomes this. It gets worse, after you beat the game, you unlock hardcore mode which removes the checkpoints (and levels are long in this game) and makes you a One Hitpoint Wonder. The multiplayer levels are even worse as mid air 'splodes need to be synchronised quite closely.
The unfinished freeware game The Legend of Edgar features very nasty jump sequences, knockback on hits (and non-hit damage!) plus many complex bosses with unique kill rituals. Admittedly this is countered by a plethora of save points, but those don't balance the game so much as prop it up.
Owata or (also known as The Life Ending Adventure). The entire game is (intentionally) Nintendo Hard — no matter which way the player goes, or what he attempts, he will be confronted by an impossibly difficult obstacle (such as falling spikes that require a sense of timing that borders on the precognitive), or a deliberately fatal dead end (such as a ladder that the player automatically climbs down — but then ends about three rungs below the top of the screen).
Super Star Wars on the SNES and all its sequels. The first level is a cakewalk, but the difficulty sky-rockets when you get to the sandcrawler and have to ascend a variety of moving platforms. You fell? Unless you luckily land on another platform, you're landing right back at the bottom (and probably next to some respawning Jawas). Inside the sand-crawler is even worse, with moving turrets that fire ricocheting projectiles while fire is blasted behind or beneath you, so you have to dodge both while attacking the turret. The Jawas and those square robot things that fire at you the minute they come on screen, often before you get the chance to fire back unless you stop every few seconds to fire randomly don't make it any easier, especially because they cause more damage than the healing items they regularly drop replenish.
Not to mention those incessant laser beam walls in the sandcrawler which you can barely get across even by sliding.
Oh god: The Kalhar boss monster in the cantina and the Imperial hover combat carrier in Docking Bay 94.
Made by the same people, Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures is somewhat more forgiving... in places. The second level involves having to escape a giant Mode 7 boulder, a task that may sound simple except you are given very little room to see any of the obstacles in front of you, so unless you are extremely careful or manage to memorize the traps you'll usually die after hitting one set of spikes and getting knocked backwards into the boulder.
Namco's Famicom version of Star Wars. In this game, Luke Skywalker dies in one hit and must start all the way back at the beginning if he gets a game over. Also included are two elements of malevolent level design: Plenty of spikes and near-impossible jumps.
Batman: The Animated Series for the Super Nintendo was a somewhat challenging, very fun game. (At least until you got to the Batmobile stage, whose timer was agonizingly unforgiving.) Its Genesis version however was a barely playable, Nintendo Hard game from Hell. Enemies swarmed everywhere and poor controls made fighting very difficult.
Batman & Robin, itself a licensed game based on the Bruce Timm cartoon, is a fairly standard Beat 'em Up aside from the fact that levels stretch on to infinity. A tricky game with two players, and virtually impossible in single-player. (See Beat'em Ups)
Speaking of Batman games, the original Batman (Sunsoft) for the NES would fall into this category. Lightning quick reflexes, level memorization, and maybe a turbo controller were necessary to get through the game, and let's not even get started on the bosses. There are even times when one MUST abuse the limitations of the hardware and game to get through. The sequel, Batman: Return of the Joker (which was even less related to the movies or comics) tried to compensate by giving you ridiculously powerful wrist-mounted guns, and it's still extremely hard.
To give an idea of how hard Batman NES is, the most well-known ROM hack for it is designed to make the game easier.
So basically you have to be a Crazy-Prepared Super Genius? Sound's pretty damn accurate then.
Interestingly, the Genesis version of the original Batman , also made by Sunsoft at the same time, was more closely based on the film and easier to play. It was a rare case of a game from that period where people claimed it was almost "too easy" and "posed no challenge".
Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame was similar to the first game, with a time limit on most of the game and all-original instantly lethal traps. The new levels often forced you to take hits, and many of the large health potions (which you would need) were placed behind tricky puzzles. Enemies included skeletons that fully healed themselves seconds after you defeated them in the earlier levels, followed in the next several levels by Goddamned Flying Heads and snakes which kill you in one hit if you're not careful.
Kid Kool has the usual hassle of dying in one hit from running into enemies, and more than the usual amount of treacherous jumping between one-tile-wide platforms, with the weird acceleration physics and vertical Flip-Screen Scrolling aggravating these problems even further. Unlimited continues, sure. Problems: You have 3 "days" (hours) to complete the game, and the time doesn't reset when you continue. Also, some of the in-level checkpoints can make levels Unwinnable.
Comic Jumper, which is made by Twisted Pixel, creators of 'Splosion Man, so you expect it to be hard. And it doesn't disappoint, combining platforming, shooting, and manual aiming all at once, often requiring use of both joysticks at once.
Sunsoft's Journey To Silius is only 5 levels, but becomes insanely difficult in its later parts.
Metal Slug: So ball-bustingly difficult, the games show how many continues you used at the end.Metal Slug 3 is perhaps the peak of the series' difficulty, with many players taking over 60 continues to reach the end of the game. To put that in perspective, that's over 15 USD of credits at 25 cents per credit (double that if the price is fifty cents per credit, increasingly common as the 90's progressed)...and that's in North America. In Japan, where all games are normalized to 100 yennote ~1 USDper credit, that's over 6,000 yennote ~60 USD!
Focus, a short, little platformer by Jesse Venbrux (the maker of the Karoshi games) is all about dodging missiles and getting these missiles to hit specific parts of the level. Your only aid in this is "Focus", an ability that allows you to slow time down considerably in an area around you and to Flash Step around the level. While the first few levels are fairly easy, the later ones throw three or four missile launchers at you that fire seeking missiles that can traverse the entire room in a split-second every second. Oh, and even if you've cleared the way out of the room, you can still be killed by the missiles.
How hard is the game? On the highest difficulty setting, even the game's creator couldn't beat it (though apparently this has been rectified recently.)
The second game, though still pretty damn hard, is actually easier than the first, due to the protagonist being a lot more mobile and the magic system being a lot more simplified (whereas the first game required so many buttons that you couldn't map them all to a controller.)
And now the third game has been released and pans out to be the most difficult of them all. Take a look at the first nightmare gate, and keep in mind, this is one of the earliest areas in the game.
The Unfair Platformer, as per it's name, is ridicuously difficult and unfair by design. It does give hints on how to beat it, but expect playing its 5 long levels over and over again.
The original Rayman is an acclaimed side-scroller, but one thing that sure isn't missed is its grueling difficulty. While the first few stages range from easy to tricky, come Bongo Hills, a Marathon Level with loads of Trial-and-Error Gameplay and split-second reflex taxing platforming, and the game's difficulty escalates from there (and gets even worse in Picture City). And then there's finding all the hidden cages. Oh yes, and continues are impossible to replenish, and extra lives are not easy to obtain.
The Xbox Live Indie game The Deep Cave has infinite continues (though it does keep count how many times you've died) but it's still has a very high level of difficulty.
In Amagon, Amagon's basic form has only a limited supply of bullets to try to hit the fast-moving enemies before they kill him in one hit. You do get continues, but not until late in the game.
Claw is no slouch either. While advancing through first half of the game is fairly manageable for an average player, then it goes harder and harder, complete with tricky jumps, countless pits of instant death, inconveniently located enemies and their increasing damage. Then there's Temple which is likely to make you tear out your hair in frustration. And don't get some people started on collecting "Perfect"(all treasures from the level). Even the first level is frustrating in this regard. Another ones are even worse.
Kirby's Pinball Land, a pinball spin-off with very few lives, insanely hard difficulty, a limited save feature, and hard bosses. Also, we hope you enjoy seeing Kirby exploding whenever you can't launch him back up onto the board, 'cause you're gonna be seeing it a lot.
You think that's bad? Wait until you try The True Arena from Kirby Super Star Ultra(and in future platformer Kirby titles). Good luck trying to survive a Boss Rush containing harder variations of your previous enemies!
Also from Super Star Ultra is Helper to Hero. While 100% and unlocking the True Arena only requires beating it and Meta Knightmare Ultra once, it's generally agreed that beating it with every Helper - which does have a Bragging Rights Reward - is the hardest task in the game and possibly the series, as some Helpers are most certainly not boss killers.
Holy Diver, a somewhat obscure Famicom game developed and published by Irem and co-developed by a contract developer named Satan, is like Castlevania, except harder. How hard is it? Right after the first Check Point, you get mobbed by enemies like medusa heads except worse. The second level is full of Goddamned Bats and Bottomless Pits, and many Lava Pits which are completely impassable without using a spell that freezes them temporarily. From the third level onwards you can best describe every single screen as a sort of mini-boss fight, where one hit kills you. Unlimited continues are practically the only form of mercy the game shows.
Metal Storm. A moderate-difficulty platformer where your character has the ability to shift gravity and defeat enemies and avoid traps and...oh wait, that's Normal mode. Expert mode is where everything goes to hell- smashing traps strike mind-numbingly fast, enemies have bullshit hitpoints and speed, etc.
And yet, somebody manages to make it look like pansy here.
Meganoid, being a homage to classic platformers, is this in spades.
A relatively obscure example: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Crossroads of Time. The game is mostly a platformer; this is made trickier by Sisko's huge sprite and numerous bottomless pits/lava pits/acid pits. The lack of visibility also hampers the game's other objectives: the first stage is a maze of elevators with ticking bombs to dismantle; The Bajor stage ends with a desperate climb up a steep cliff before the rising tide of acid gets you (a guaranteed game over); the last stage is another timed maze, only larger, with zero margin for error, and Borg. As per the series rules, Borgs become immune to your weapons after two shots, requiring meticulous planning to proceed.
Bug! for the Sega Saturn. You play as an insect actor who must travel through 3D mazes to save his family from a spider, but the levels are filled with Everything Trying to Kill You, very little checkpoints and health refills, every maze being a Bottomless Pit...and that's only the beginning.
Rolling Thunder has a life bar, but it's almost a joke. The Mooks tend to ambush at close quarters. The player's ammunition is limited.
Semi-obscure NES platformer Dragon Fighter. One life. Three continues, no way of getting more. No checkpoints. Die at any point in a level, even at the end boss, and you're back at the start of the level. Enemies everywhere. Health pickups very rare. And you don't even heal completely in between levels. Good. Luck.
The action-platformers Raff Cecco coded for Hewson, Exolon, Cybernoid and Stormlord, all start the player out with nine lives, because they go quickly.
Lost in My Spectrum is essentially a Manic Miner homage, and it's as hard as the original. Tough jumps or the One-Hit-Point Wonder protagonist aside, the time limit on each level is extremely tight, to the point where you are essentially required to perform a flawless speedrun to complete a level. And yes, if you run out of lives, you start the game all over again.
Mighty Bomb Jack has a constant stream of Respawning Enemies who have to be avoided most of the time but will try to corner the player in tight spaces. This is also one of the few NES games to punish players who are too good at collecting power-ups.
The Addams Family Pugsley's Scavenger Hunt SNES is considered to be a hard game that has 6 levels that are considered hard and no passwords to use, The attic level with the mice throwing cheese, cannon balls shooting at you and rocket missiles attacking you is considered to be hard. Also in the Crystal level there are traps to dodge including spikes, swords and spears, guillotine and ball of chain. Also in the basement level is very tricky due to having very little light not to mention you have to dodge spikes, cannon balls. Also the final sixth level with The icebox is considered the hardest level ever due to the slippery floor, spikes to dodge, question blocks to solve makes it difficult to move on and you have to defeat the final magician boss. Make sure you have 3 life hearts and stock up on extra lives in the underwater level by killing the cats because the game gets tough later on.
Treasure Master is another brutally difficult NES game, though this one is justified by the game being created as part of a video game competition by MTV.
Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg is another example. At first, the game generally goes easy on you, but by the third world, the game stops messing around and will guarantee you at least one game over. Don't be fooled by the game's cheery, cartoonish look, the game demands the most precise controlling of the eggs and fastest reactions to danger, and even then, that's not guaranteed to save your ass before it goes flying off the stage with golden egg in tow.
Atlantis No Nazo. Slippery jumping controls make it too easy to fall into Bottomless Pits, and bombs are inefficient at eliminating enemies that will kill you if you touch them. The stage timers are incredibly stingy for a game whose large, non-linear world is ostensibly designed to reward exploration, and useful powerups are few and far between.
Rogue Legacy starts you out with little health and basic gear. Lots of things in the castle can and will kill you, death means starting a new character to continue the "legacy," and everything - not just better gear, but everything - has to be purchased with whatever money you earn killing stuff and breaking things. Not to mention that the prices get astronomically high as you go along, or that Charon takes all of your unspent money as an "entrance fee," until you purchase the ability to bargain with him. Or that the random traits a character can be "born" with could result in things like flying across the screen when hit or several different varieties of Interface Screw such as the jumbled text of dyslexia or the upside-down everywhere of vertigo. Expect to die many, many, many times before managing to kill even one boss.
Yoshi's Island DS. Think the original Yoshi's Island was bad? The DS sequel is just plain cruel in its design, with a difficulty curve best described as a brick wall and a ton of Brutal Bonus Levels which take it up to the point it could be arguably considered the one licensed example of Platform Hell ever released in shops. Indeed, there's a good reason this game is often seen as kind of like a licensed ROM hack rather than a professionally made sequel.
Yoshi's Universal Gravitation, also made by Artoon, comes with a motion sensor that makes the world tilt – and still confronts you with small platforms, enemy attacks and instant-death spikesat the same time. It also gives you tasks, such as collecting a certain number of coins. The star rings that send you to the next section are actually used as traps that might force you to start the level over: You fall into them by accident as you couldn't see them earlier, can't go back and might have missed some necessary coins. Some special sections turn Yoshi into a bouncing ball that you can't properly control at all!
Whilst the Spyro the Dragon games are reasonably easy compared to other platformers, they do have the Speedway levels, which require you to collect several groups of items within a time limit, without falling. This is mainly difficult because of the time limit, when you get items you only get a small amount of extra time.
In the case of a specific level, the first game has the Tree Tops level. This has a very tricky section where you have to get to a secret island which has a Dragon statue on it. The only way to get up here is via a series of two ramps which you have to charge up to build speed, and then jump onto a platform on the right and make a swift move so as not to bump into anything and lose your charge, and then jump off the edge, where your built up speed will cause you to go flying about 2/3 of the way towards the island...then drop into a glide and turn left, ensuring that you've timed it right so you land in a whirlwind on the left of the island, and then jump off onto the island. There is potential to fall so often due to bad timing, that many take a long time to get it right. In particular, many who played the game without strategy guides managed to figure most of it out, but were completely unaware of the whirlwind.
Freedom Fall is set in a prison tower full of everything from pendulums to rotating blades to a robotic shark. It's not uncommon to die ten or fifteen times before finally making it to the next save point, and the levels become more and more sadistic as you go on.
Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams, a follow up to the classic The Great Giana Sisters game, starts out with the first three levels being a nice romp through the countryside. However the difficulty soon ramps up to hair-pulling levels in the later levels. If you fit that too easy there's Hard mode and Uber Hard Mode that gives you only one life for the whole game; die and it's back to level 1.
Cave Story. The original game is not all that hard, but then Nicalis decided to port it over to home consoles with extra modes. The hard mode of this version does not appear to be so bad in the early levels, but due to you being unable to get an increase in maximum health and the enemies still getting the ability to have huger ATK as the game progresses, you end up being a One-Hit-Point Wonder during every single scene. Because of it, it may challenge I Wanna be The Guy in difficulty.
Toy Story: In the SNES Toy Story game, some of the levels were very hard for a kids' game, such as level 5, A Buzz Clip, with the RC car because you ran out of battery power, and level 7, Run, Rex, Run!, because it's a Minecart Madness-style level where you are on Rex dodging toys. The battle with The Claw in level 12 was also tricky. Then there is level 15 with Roller Bob, which is basically Run, Rex, Run! on Lunatic mode, with a lot of obstacles flying around, which only gets worse when Scud starts chasing you and closing off half the screen. After that comes level 16, Light My Fire, which is another RC car level (a shorter one than level 5 but with a significantly quicker-draining battery), and finally level 17, Rocket Man, where Buzz is guiding Woody to dodge the trees, cars, and traffic lights. Make sure you stock up on lives, because Toy Story on the SNES is difficult, unless you're a video game pro.
Dust Force has a very long and fair difficulty curve, but that difficulty curve eventually ramps up very high. The game has frequent checkpoints, and getting through levels is relatively easy, but the game fully expects you to beat each level perfectly by cleaning up all the dust without ever breaking your combo. Doing so is required to progress to the endgame. After a while, you wind up in the gold levels, which are prolonged sequences of tricky jumps with various nonlethal enemies that can break your combos populating them. After beating every single gold level perfectly, you can unlock the X-Difficult levels. These get rid of the enemies in favor of floating dummies which can be killed in a single hit, and despite this they are incredibly difficult. They include extremely precise platforming, prolonged aerial sequences where you have to keep killing the dummies to regain your double-jump, and relatively few (and in one case zero) checkpoints. Then in the DX update, they added a hidden level only accessibly by trying to create a custom level and giving it the name "exec func ruin user", which adds back the most annoying enemies to create a level that lives up to its name.
Wings Of Vi was designed to be a challenging platformer, and it shows. Instant kill obstacles are littered everywhere and require careful management of demanding jump mechanics to get around, enemies that are hard to avoid, and limited combat measures towards the beginning of the game. Its easy mode adds more checkpoints, permanent platforms under temporary ones, and makes instant death obstacles only shave off half of Vi's life instead, but it's still a major challenge.
The New Zealand Story is cutesy as all hell, but the cutesiness only masked the game's grueling difficulty. The player is a One-Hit-Point Wonder, enemies regularly teleport in in large numbers until they flood the screen with themselves and their projectiles, the jump physics take some getting used to, and levels are massive and labyrinthine, with the game requiring arrows on the walls to point you in the right direction (and later levels don't even have those and just turn into gigantic confusing mazes.) It's not uncommon to lose all your lives and game over in less than a minute, though fortunately the game makes liberal use of checkpoints...unless you get killed by a projectile on your last life, which sends you to the Bonus Level of Heaven and rewards your beating it with...another game over, and kicking you back to the start of the level unless you find the extremely well-hidden secret exit. Oh, and the second half of one of the later levels kicks you back to the very start if you game over anyway, and the final level has no checkpoints at all. These two levels also just happen to be some of the hardest in the game.
Toxic Crusarders, the Game Boy tie-in to the Lighter and Softer cartoon spinoff of The Toxic Avenger. While it is a very simple jump 'n shoot game at its core and features a password system, it pulls a number of evil tricks that make it extremely hard to complete in a single run:
You get 5 lives in the form of characters. If one dies, you don't get him back for the rest of the game.
Enemies don't respawn by default, but there are certain points where they do. The moment one is killed, another one walks in, possibly even from behind the player. There is one such part with the aforementioned ducking shooters in the first level!
The secong boss moves fast and randomly, with no predictable or memorizable a pattern.
The Bowhemoth challenge of Runbow deliberately takes the mechanics of all of the hardest levels from the game's Adventure Mode and forces the player to run through stages featuring them without saving or breaks in-between.
Oh boy howdy, is the first Adventure Island game ever this. Even the first world can be pretty hard if you don't know what you're doing. Many of the later levels require precise jumping/platforming or else you fall, swarms of enemies coming at you, and your character, Master Higgins, will pass out if he doesn't eat food scattered around, and there are a few levels where food doesn't appear that often. The last several levels are borderline Platform Hell at times. Fortunately, the levels have plenty of checkpoints, but there's no guarantee that a weapon will be immediately available when you restart which can sometimes wind up with you unable to finish unless you're really good at avoiding constant streams of rolling boulders, fires, bats, frogs, etc. Many of the later games are a bit less difficult, but that isn't to say that even they aren't still very tough at times.
In Mevo and the Grooveriders you need to press the appropriate key (or click the mouse buttons) as soon as Mevo touches a left- or right-facing arrow. This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that many of them are grouped so closely together that it requires split-second timing, a number of sequences are left-right alternating and if you miss enough times you lose all your health and flunk the level.
Shovel Knight isn't insanely difficult, but there are many sections that require precise jumps and challenges that can make the game quite difficult if you try to beat them all. New Game+ turns up the difficulty a few more notches by taking away most of the health items, reducing how much damage you can take, and making the levels far less forgiving.