This post was spurred by this reddit thread about the subject matter of toughest video games. I sifted through the comments and my own childhood memory and came up with this list. I haven’t seriously played video games since college so most of my analysis of this list was done when I was between the ages of 6-13. Being so young also probably made the games harder but maybe not. Bud will reminisce this list with me.
Iddqd. Do I really need to go further? Without god mode and the cheat code for the BFG9000, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have gotten past the first few levels. This game was the first FPS shooter that gained widespread popularity. I believe Wolfenstein appeared before Doom but Doom was the pioneer for games like Quake and Unreal Tournament. The blood was horrific in 1993 and compared to today’s standards it amazing at how much we’ve been desensitized. The screenshot brings up my worst Doom fears.
ToeJam and Earl (1991)
The two player mode picture to the right is exactly how I recall ToeJam and Earl on Sega Genesis. The two player split screen was an awesome addition to this game. The purpose was to find spaceship parts but I mainly remember doing a lot of standing around and feeling lost. This doesn’t necessarily make the game hard but I don’t recall ever advancing. The game reminds me of being lost without a GPS system.
Another game that isn’t exactly hard in that it takes skill to advance, it’s just mentally exhausting hard. There are literally no enemies and I think that just frustrated me more. I would spend hours walking around the island trying to figure out anything at all. It was wandering with no purpose through a world that gave no direction. This challenge was probably made more difficult because I was 10 but I made little progress in an extraordinary amount of time.
Bayou Billy (1989)
I was given this game as a present and played it for about a week. My recollection is that Billy had a knife and the crocs in the screen shot weren’t exactly easy to take down. A driving sequence in a jeep also comes to mind as incredibly difficult. I can’t recollect advancing past the first level or two. After a while you just completely give up and never insert the cartridge into the machine again.
Marble Madness (1991)
This was a fun game. Time would wind down as you progress through mazes as a marble. Difficulty level was hard to very hard. Falling off was the norm and advancing levels not commonplace up to a certain point. Amazingly there were only 6 levels and This was a game I never beat.
Ecco The Dolphin (1992)
The main thing I about Ecco on Genesis was never getting passed the 2nd level. On the back of the case and they had a picture of a whale that I always wanted to get to. Problem was I couldn’t get past this Octopus level. In the first level Ecco was joined by two dolphins and I would just do flips with them until I got bored. We actually used this cartridge and jammed it into the Nintendo to keep the game down and help it work. Ecco was forgotten about and retrieved years later.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)
Never came close to beating this game. The electric seaweed was agonizing and if you were ever lucky enough to make it to the rooftop, your journey would end there. Collecting pizza and disarming bombs comes to mind as challenges. Raphael’s Sai’s were really short and once you lost Donatello, game over. This game was when TMNT was huge and probably my favorite game for a period of time. Those fucking tanks on the rooftop though.
Battletoads was an awesome game and routinely mentioned among the hardest games ever. Rash, Zitz, and Pimple will live on forever. I can’t recollect ever beating the bike race level to the right. There were only 3 continues and this level moved fast and the walls seemed to come out of nowhere to take you down. A big hand punch brings back memories. We loved this game though even though I never saw an ending.
I want to close with an incredible depiction of Spy vs Spy