Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road
If you put this game in your NES and play it for 10 minutes, chances are good you will swear it is broken and immediately toss it in the discard pile. No one could blame you. The game looks broken. With all of the flicker (a necessary evil on the Atari 2600, a bother on the NES), the jumpy screens, the odd and often juxtaposed sprite displays, it certainly looks like a prototype slipped out the door. And when you give it a few minutes of game play, your suspicions might be even more confirmed. You are given one life and limited hit points with no visible way to replenish them, the enemies swarm from all over and they hit you really hard, and chances are good you have died before you have left the first area. All of these things say "broken game" to pretty much everyone. I know it did for me.
There is no denying it, this game is a mess. It feels sloppily put together at best and frustratingly difficult to impossible at worst. I certainly would never have spent more than about 10 minutes playing this game had it not shown up on this list. But I did. I had to. I was bidden to play this game for five hours and what I discovered was pretty shocking. If you take the time and learn how to play this game (here we go again, trust me the learning curve is a BIG part of the middle of this list), you can beat it in about 20 minutes!
Seriously. Twenty minutes is all it takes to beat this game. The initial learning curve is steep. Because of the game's many...let's call them idiosyncrasies...you have to learn to play this game very slowly. Literally. Since the enemies are finite and do not respawn you can literally crawl through Ikari Warriors II one or two enemies at a time. Better yet, if you arm yourself with the boomerang and power it up, you can crawl through the game and wipe out most every enemy before they can even think about hurting you. The enemies appear in the same place every time and you can aim your boomerang for their spot as you approach and take them out as they appear. To help you, there are shops along the way where you can buy medicine to replenish your health if you do take a hit. There are other things you can buy as well like the important KILL ALL thunderbolt that wipes out all enemies on the screen. You'll need that in a few places where there is just too much going on to handle easily with your boomerang. The levels are all rather short and there are only 5 of them. Even taking your time you can be at the end of the first level in about 3 minutes. Thanks to all of these things 99% of Ikari Warriors II is not all that difficult.
I nearly beat Ikari Warriors II about fifty times. Since it only takes roughly15 minutes to get to the end of the game and only an hour or so to get past the learning curve, you'll get plenty of tries, but making good on it might take an act of god. I originally thought this game was impossible to beat thanks to that absolutely evil final boss fight, but the more I played it the more I doubted it. This game can be beat, even if only on a lucky shot, but it can be beaten if you work out the right pattern for that final fight. Ikari Warriors II would be higher on this list if there was more to it than just a vicious boss fight, but I feel it is right at home here at #20.
We've not seen the last of this franchise...