Back in the '80s, video games didn't have today's sophisticated storylines. Excuse Plots were the norm. Therefore, much of the feeling of accomplishment one could get from playing them was from overcoming the insane difficulty they provided, if only so that one could brag about it to their friends. A plethora of enemies and difficult jumps were not just the name of the game, they were the game. And these games weren't just hard; they were Nintendo Hard!
Since games cost a fair amount of money at the time, and could usually be beaten in 15 minutes if you knew what you were doing, a game that was easy had little value. It was simply not possible to make very long games in the modern style that take hours to beat even if you are good. So games had to be difficult so players would feel they got their money's worth.
The difficulty of these games usually stems from a combination of factors:
- Lots of enemies (or lots of bullets) that are hard to hit or dodge.
- Surprise attacks that can only be avoided by sheerest luck or memorizing their locations.
- Malevolent Architecture that poses a constant danger of death even when the player proceeds as cautiously as possible.
- A hero who can survive very few hits—often dying from even the slightest scratch.
- Fewif anyCheck Points or Save Points.
- A limited number of lives and/or continues, or no continues at all.
- Even worse, no more continues once you get to the homestretch.note
- No way to adjust the difficulty, or doing so is pretty much superficial. Even those that did allow difficulty changes featured Easy-Mode Mockery, making it often not worth the time to even play on Easy.
- Or if the difficulty levels actually are fair, there may be an optional difficulty level that makes Easy, Normal, and even Hard look like child's play.
- Losing all or most of your weapons/powerups when you die; or having your score reset to 0 whenever you use the ability to continue, if available.
- Stiff, clunky, and perhaps somewhat unresponsive controls (but only when applied to the original 8-bit, 16-bit, and (to a small extent) 32-bit generations; in more modern games, it ceases to be expected and veers right into Fake Difficulty.)
- Inflexible Jump Physics render it impossible to accurately dodge attacks in midair, especially if your character's jump height is less than half that of Mario's or Luigi's.
- The inability to attack anywhere but left or right while Goddamned Bats attack you from above or below. Most games with this setup even denied you crouching to take out the enemies that crawled under your shots.
- Little to no guidance. Objectives are vague, and you are expected to figure them out on your own. If the game teaches you any of the mechanics at all, it's through a Wake-Up Call Boss or a particularly nasty Noob Bridge.
- Death being final for your teammates or character and having all your saves deleted if you die.
For further building blocks of Nintendo Hard, see Classic Video Game "Screw You"s.
Keep in mind though, the difficulty of the game might have nothing to do with how the game looks aesthetically, but they're not tailored for young kids either.
When only one or few levels or areas of the game are Nintendo Hard, you're probably dealing with That One Level, Brutal Bonus Level, or SNK Boss if it's the end. If the game reaches an obscene difficulty at a certain point and never looks back, look for Difficulty Spike. Examples of Nintendo Hard head-to-head fighters generally go under The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard, since crazy-hard opponent AI is nigh-universally the culprit. Earn Your Fun is a common argument for those who like such abusingly difficult games.
A lot of arcade games were, and still are, Nintendo Hard for the purposes of encouraging a steady flow of quarters into the machine. The arcade owners have to make money somehow, you know.
Also, remember that by "hard", we're only talking about the difficulty in playing the game. While Nintendo products themselves are physically hard (to break, which is fortunate when playing games like this), that's not this trope but Made of Indestructium. And the fact that several classic Nintendo games are NP-hard is not relevant either.
The difficulty rankings section of GameFAQs is a good measure of a game's difficulty as long as it has a sufficiently large number (50+) of difficulty votes. Games that are rated 4.0 or above on that list represent the top 3% hardest video games ever released. (Note: it is effectively a 2.5-4.0 scale)
The contrapositive corollary is Sequel Difficulty Drop. Though, contrary to the claims of some derisors, modern games can still be Nintendo Hard, it's just not as common.
When you add examples, please be sure to read the following sentence: If you feel inclined to add the words "for this troper" or "could be considered" and cannot make a strong statement on the universal difficulty of the game in question, then it is not an example.
If you know where an example filed under "Uncategorised" goes, then please sort it.
Video Game Examples
- Adventure Games
- Beat'em Ups
- First Person Shooters
- Game Mods
- Hack'n Slash Games
- Platform Games
- Puzzle Games
- Racing Games
- Rhythm Games
- Role-Playing Games
- Simulation Games
- Shoot 'em Ups
- Sports Games
- Turn-Based Strategy
- Uncategorised (Video Games)
- Video Game Publishers
Non-Video Game Examples