Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Top 30 Hardest NES Games Ever. Conclusion

Well folks, it has been one crazy month.  You have to know it was a real challenge for me to bring you such witty, well written diatribes on a daily basis for 31 consecutive days.  I'm not smart like most bloggers who write the month's worth of articles in about 3 days and then just post one each day, my stupid ass wrote a new article every day.  I want to thank anyone and everyone who followed along both here and on facebook.  I hope this has been as much fun for you to read as it has been for me to bring to life.  In closing, I thought I would put the entire list together in one spot to save you from having to look back through a month's worth of pages.  I will also share some observations I have regarding the list.  Finally, I would like to mention a couple of games I find to be particularly perplexing that did not make it into the project.  So without further ado, because the above has been more ado than most of us can really stand...I present to you the Official Top 30 Hardest NES Games Ever.

1. Ikari Warriors (SNK)
2. Starship Hector (Hudson)
3. Q*Bert (Ultra)
4. Star Voyager (Akklaim)
5. Gauntlet (Tengen)
6. Battletoads (Tradewest/Nintendo)
7. Castlequest (Nexoft)
8. Solomon's Key (Tecmo)
9.Mutant Virus (ASC)
10. Overlord (Virgin)
11. Dragon's Lair (Imagesoft)
12. Magician (TAXAN)
13.Snake Rattle and Roll (Rare/Nintendo)
14.Adventures of Dino Riki (Hudson)
15.Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Tengen)
16. Ninja Gaiden III: Ghost Ship of Doom (Tecmo)
17. Gyruss (Ultra)
18. Adventure Island (Hudson)
19. Conan (Mindscape)
20. Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road (SNK)
21. Klax (Tengen)
22.Double Dragon III: the Sacred Stones (Akklaim)
23. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Ultra)
24. Ghosts n' Goblins (Capcom)
25. Silver Surfer (Arcadia)
26. Kid Kool (VIC TOKAI)
27. Adventures of Bayou Billy (Konami)
28. Abadox (Milton Bradley)
29. Defenders of Dynatron City (JVC)

Wow. Quite a list.  Most of the major companies are there, Konami, Capcom, Tecmo, Tengen.  Strong showings by Hudson and Ultra, but overall a very strong showing across the board.  No single company dominates the list and no single company appears twice in the top ten.  I think this list exemplifies just how strong and diverse the NES library is.  To my mind, the NES has the strongest catalog of games of any classic system.  Of the 341 NES games I own, I would wager than 85% of them are fun and playable.  Some more than others of course, but I believe there are at least 85% that I could pop in and play and have a good time in the doing, even maybe Ikari Warriors....maybe.

The list is also a good sampling of the kinds of games that really shine on the NES. Scrolling shooters, action platformers, puzzle, and adventure games are all present .  The NES was the first gaming console I played that really showed what home video games could be.  Don't get me wrong, I am an Atari2600 kid, but the NES was from a whole other world.  I think if you play all of the games in the list above, not only will you get one hell of a challenge, but you'll get to see the ol' NES really shine.

A few personal notes:  This list held several surprises for me.  Going into the project, I had probably only played 2/3 of the games on the list.  I was pleasantly surprised by Conan and Mutant Virus, two games I had barely heard of and never played.  Both turned out to be surprisingly good games with steep learning curves.  I was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of depth in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Adventures of Bayou Billy, two games that are far more intense than their first few levels really indicate.  The biggest disappointments on the list were Star Voyager and Overlord.  Both games promise epic adventures and depth, but both fail to deliver.

There were two games I lobbied hard to get on the list for this project that were ultimately shot down by the panel.  The first game is Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants.  This game has plagued me since it was created.  I think I have beaten level 2 all of three times in my life.  For whatever reason, the jumps in the mall level are absolutely killer and I cannot get ol' Bart to land where I want him to.  If I do get past those jumps I am so excited that I inevitably screw up somewhere immediately after and have to do it all over again.  Trust me, I know level 1 by heart.  I felt that S:BvSM was well deserving to be on this list and probably would have made my top 10 at the very least.  I have logged far more than 5 hours on that game in my time and it still beats my ass.

The other game I wanted on this list was Gradius.  The Konami killer, Gradius is much like Starship Hector or Ikari Warriors, and probably falls somewhere between those and Silver Surfer on my list.  I don't know what it is about Gradius that is so very difficult for me, but I cannot clear that stupid volcano in the first level.  I know I have done it a couple of times, but not consistently enough to remember much of level 2.  I think there is probably a learning curve involved and given more hours I could probably make better progress, but I get very frustrated by that volcano and end up playing something else, quickly.  I do not think I like Gradius very much.

Alright, I have taken enough of your time.  I really appreciate everyone who stopped by, commented, or just enjoyed taking this trip with me. If you enjoyed this feature, please, I would love to hear from you!  I have other ideas like this one in the works, but would love to hear what you people think about my efforts.

In closing I would also like to thank the remaining 25 signers of the Declaration of Independence who did not get face time in this feature, as well as the 31 who did .  It wasn't always easy putting words into your mouths, and by about July 17th, I was running short of good material, but because I am dedicated to the bit, you moldy old historical figures stuck with me and I actually managed to learn a little something along the way.  So thank you, Abraham Clark, Benjamin Harrison V, Edward Rutledge, Francis Lewis, George Taylor, George Walton, John Adams, John Hancock, John Hart, John Morton, John Penn, Lyman Hall, Matthew Thornton, Oliver Wolcott, Richard Henry Lee, Richard Stockton, Robert Treat Payne, Samuel Huntington, Thomas Lynch Jr., Thomas McKean, Thomas Nelson Jr., William Ellery, and William Hooper.  You all signed the document that lead to the freedom of the great country that brought you this blog, for better or worse.  I was going to include a photo collage of these remaining men, but I really want to go play some Tiger Woods on the Wii, so maybe some other time...

Thank you all.


  1. You can get by (what I think) are the hardest platforms in the mall by jumping repeatedly on one of them. After that, with the exception of the dinosaur at the end of the museum, the rest of the game is not so hard.

  2. Thanks for the tip, what do you mean exactly by jumping repeatedly on one of them? Does something happen like a glitch, that bypasses the rest of the jumps? Because those are killing me, a lot.

  3. Please post the list of games you tested. You said around 3-400 right? I think you missed some tough ones. Try beating Ultima: Exodus without a guide even with unlimited saves. Also, anything that was not completed should have shared the top slot. Other games should have filled the slots used. Great article!

  4. Sorry, I have been so long to respond. The games were selected by a pool of contributors over on The top 30 were played and ranked out of that selection.
    Just because I didn't beat a game after playing it for 5 hours doesn't mean it cannot be beaten, nor was it the hardest game I have ever played. It just meant I could not beat it with only 5 hours of game time.
    Funny you mention Ultima: Exodus as I probably logged 50-60 hours playing that as a kid and did finally beat it, long before the days of strategy guides and It was not easy and took a lot of just wandering around finding stuff until I finally figured out how to access the volcanic island in the ocean. After doing all of that, the finale is pretty easy, really. Now I just go back to Exodus to level characters and play around!

    Thanks for the feedback!

  5. Just read all of the Top 30 blogs, and it was a very enjoyable read! I hadn't heard about some of these games, but I'd definitely like to give them a go. Although thinking that games exist that are harder than Battletoads, Ghosts 'n Goblins, and Gauntlet is a terrifying thought.

  6. Thanks Nathan! I hadn't heard of many of these before I played them. Mutant Virus was a pleasant, although infuriating, surprise. Conan, much the same.

    Battletoads is a beast. The crowd that argues for it being the hardest has a very strong point.

    I hope you discover some new favorites! Thanks for reading!

  7. This was one of the very best NES-related lists I've ever read, and certainly the best one on this topic. Thanks for the time and effort to put this together.

    As a side note, you must have godlike shooter-skills if you could beat Abadox in only 3 hours.

  8. Thank you very much Aaron! There is no higher praise!

    As for Abadox, it is more about patience and the willingness to play a level over and over. The game itself is fairly short. Fun game, though.

  9. Hi Stan,

    Great list, haven't played all of them but the ones I have played I have beat(Very hard games though)

    One game that no one ever mentions is Arkanoid, I actually believe it to be impossible to beat without cheating...I have made it to level 14 I think, and there are 36 levels I believe.

    Battle toads was my ultimate conquest though, didn't take me very long to beat it and everyone always says it is super hard:)

  10. Arkanoid got ruled out early because of the Vaus controller (I thought I mentioned that somewhere). You MUST have the Vaus to beat the game and even then it is next to impossible. We are in agreement there.

    Nice work on Battletoads! The final levels give me fits.

    Thanks for the kind words.

  11. I see that in your section now!

    I actually never knew about the Vaus controller!

    Are you into other old video games as well, I have been wanting to play more old RPGs and have been trying to find some good ones to play.

  12. The Vaus is a must.

    Yeah, I'm big into most all of the classic stuff. My childhood favorite was the Atari 2600, but I was definitely an NES junkie as a teenager. I'm only now delving into the depths of the SNES and Genesis.

    What system are you looking for a good RPG for? What kind of RPG do you like?

  13. Well I have almost all the old systems(NES, SNES, SEGA, NES64, Playstation) and some of my favorite rpgs are:
    Chrono Trigger
    Secret of Mana
    Final Fantasy Series
    Phantasy Star IV(Sega)--A must play if you haven't

    Always looking for new ones though

  14. If you like Chrono Trigger (the wife's favorite) you might enjoy Earthbound (SNES), Destiny of an Emperor (NES), the Dragon Warrior series (NES) particularly 2 and 3. Have you tried any of the more hardcore RPG's like Wizardry? (NES, SNES) Swords and Serpents (NES) is a good first step into those kinds of games.
    Illusion of Gaia and Super Mario RPG (SNES) are also pretty good, but the latter helps if you like Mario a little bit.

    The NES and SNES are great systems for RPG's. I know of Phantasy Star IV and will definitely have to check it out, but I'm not sure about great RPG's for the Genny.

    I hope that gives you a start. Let me know if you give any of those a try or find other great ones!

  15. Hey, nicely written list! I really dig your writing and your humor. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were a really nice touch. As for subjecting yourself to this kind of brutality, maybe you're crazy. Then again, a younger me with more time would probably plow through this list and ask for more. Do you have any plans for another NES-related topic? If so, I'd be happy to read it.

  16. Thank you for the kind words. I get up to doing all kinds of articles and I love the NES. Did you catch my NES Golf Games Tour?

  17. Hey Stan!

    As a fellow NES enthusiast, I wanted to write and say that I think your 'Hardest NES Games' is the best list on the subject I've ever read. The blog entries are clever, informative, thorough, and damned hilarious. What truly sets it apart is that you seem to consider the NES library in its entirety, and not just bemoan the usual suspects that most people have suffered through already (Battletoads, Ghosts N Goblins, TMNT, etc) That and the Declaration of Independence cameos. I learned about American history AND discovered a few NES titles I had never heard of before. Very well done.

    I'm with you on Bart vs. The Space Mutants. Never got past the mall jumping sequence. I also would have suggested Adventures of Lolo 3. Some deviously hard puzzles there.

  18. I really liked this series! It was nice to see a diverse list of titles that included some obscure games as well as some well known. It seems like most of the "hardest NES games" lists out there are shuffle the same few dozen titles around, so it was nice to see some new ones pop up here. I also appreciate you putting a solid 5 hours into each game (5 hours on Ikari Warriors?! Without ABBA?! Ugh!) Also, I've never heard of anyone else owning Dino Riki!
    Going through this, I had to wonder about the Founding Fathers. If they had all been born about 225 years later, how many would have made it to such prestige as they did in the 1700's and how many would have just suffered through TMNT, Ghosts and Goblins, and Q-Bert on the path to mediocrity like the rest of us!

  19. Hello everyone, I did beat all the games in this list including Ikari Warriors (without ABBA), Arkanoid (Vaus Controller), Q*Bert to name a few. I think this list was an inspiration for me to start a bigger ambitious project that I called NESMania. Surprisely doing that I have found really tough games not well know like To the Earth, High Speed, Bump n' Jump and many others. Anyway just wanted to say thank you for this awesome list and hopefully more people will join the Hall of Fame (Beat this game list).

  20. Hey Piotr, did that NESMania thing come together? Drop by and let us know, I'd love to hear more!

    Beating all of the games on this list including Ikari Warriors sans code means you are the God of Nintendo.

    1. He`s about to beat all nes games. Also maybe you should add Miracle Teaching Piano System to the list, since it`s been the longest (almost 92 hours) and difficultest game he has beat. You caan finnd him on twitch (The Mexican Runner).

  21. It's interesting to think about how this list should change based on the last 5-6 years of new revelations, strats, and projects like TMR/Piotr's awesome NESMania. I definitely think Overlord, Double Dragon III, and a few others like Star Voyager should get the axe, while the games that Piotr mentions should be added.

    Maybe the weirdest absence is The Last Starfighter. Unless I'm missing something, that game is punishingly hard and unforgiving!