Top 10 Hardest NES Games

These rank up as some of the hardest games ever released on the NES.
October 27, 2007
If you're a child of the 80's or even a child of the 90's and you love video games, then there's surely no doubt that you would believe that the Nintendo Entertainment System defines the word "classic".

So many great games that system has given us. There were classic games that launched popular series' like "Super Mario Bros." and "Legend of Zelda". There were also some games that were really short and simple but still awesome and fun to play like "Duck Tales" and "Adventures in the Magic Kingdom". There were even some arcade classics like "Balloon Fight" and "Pac Man". Believe it or not, there were actually some games on this system that were extremely hard. The following is a list of the Top 10 games on the NES that I believe are the hardest games in the NES library. Now, before you say stuff like "I liked that game! Why are you distin it?", please keep in mind that I'm not saying that these are all bad games, and I'm not necessarily saying that they're all good games; I'm just saying that they're really really hard. Okay, enough with the yakkin', and let's begin the countdown.

#10 - Top Gun

"Top Gun" ranks as one of the most memorable games on the NES since it's often referred to as one of the first flight simulation games. It's based off of a corny 80's movie. There are only four missions that you play in this game, so you may assume that it's pretty easy. But no, it's not that easy.

At the end of Mission #1, you have to land on an aircraft carrier, and landing on that ship is close to impossible. The radar tells you what direction you should move in and weather you should speed up or slow down. But when it says "Up! Up!", you'd assume you'd have to press up, but it's as realistic as actually flying a plane, so you really have to hit down (and visa versa). An NES Advantage controller is necessary for this game.

The same rule applies for another part of this game. In Mission #2, there's a part where your fuel starts to run out, and a refueling plane comes by to refuel you. This is the hardest part of the game! Your accuaracy has to be just as perfect to get locked in with the nozzle. If you don't lock in in time, the refueling plane will just go away and leave you out to die, and within minutes, you're done for.

#9 - Bart vs. the Space Mutants

One of the earliest Simpsons games and also one of the most classic.

What makes this game so hard is the god-awful controls. The button you have to hold down in order to run is the same as the jump button. It's impossible to make a running jump in this game. Wouldn't it make more sense to have the other button be the run button? Imagine if it was like that in "Mario" or any other games that ripped that off.

What also makes this game hard are the ridiculous missions of each level. Shouldn't Bart be taking out the aliens? Instead, he's making purple things not purple and collecting hats. The bosses aren't too hard, but the levels themselves require a lot of ingenuity.

#8 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The very first video game based off of the Ninja Turtles franchise is hard as hell.

I think it's a cool game since you can alternate which turtle you can play as during game play. There aren't a lot of memorable characters from the show in this game, but it's still fun to take them out. It's mandatory to keep Donatello safe in this game; he has the best weapon!

This game is so hard to get around because the enemies keep regenerating, and there are tasks you have to do that are so hard to pull off. You gotta have a lot of patience in order to play this game. Let me warn you, this is a long game, so make sure you got a lot of time on your hands before you pick up this game and start playing it. One more thing: Ignore what the Angry Nintendo Nerd says; this game is awesome!

#7 - Yo! Noid

Okay, a former mascot of Domino's Pizza gets his own game on Nintendo shortly after he was banned from the world, and the company that made this game happens to be Capcom, so it can't be that bad. Well, it is.

What makes this game so hard? It's mostly the fact that you have minimum energy in this game. That's right; just one hit and you're dead, so expect to die often in this game! There were tons of games like that on the NES, and those games always frustrated me! What's even worse is that there are no check points in this game. When you die, you gotta start the whole level over.

The pizza eating contests at the end of every other level require some strategy. The only way to win is to either reach a certain goal on your meter or if your opponent runs out of cards. If you lose a contest, you gotta start the whole level over again! This game is so hard that not even the Game Genie could help you too much, especially since the Infinite Lives code takes up two of the three spaces. The least they could have done was given you a health bar!

#6 - The Karate Kid

This is a really frustrating game. I mean, really. Every kid who has seen the movie, "The Karate Kid", loved it, and had an NES bought this game. But this game is so frustratingly hard that it has haunted people for years to come.

There are only four levels in the whole game, but they are all extremely hard. The bonus levels are just as hard if not impossibly difficult. The control is so awkward because you press up on the D-pad to jump (like in a fighting game), and you can only jump straight up. There's also so many bullies in every level that attack you and blow you back. In addition, there are pits everywhere.

It's really not worth it to try to beat this game, because the ending is not worth the effort. I'd tell you about the ending, but if you've already seen the Angry Nintendo Nerd's review of it, you probably already know about it.

#5 - Double Dragon 3: The Sacred Stones

If you're a fan of the "Double Dragon" games, you should know that the third game of the trilogy is undeniably the hardest. Not only is it the hardest of the "Double Dragon" trilogy, but it's also one of the hardest games ever to be released on the NES.

Enemies keep ganging up on you, it's hard to pull off some of the moves, your energy drains faster in this game, and on top of all that, you only have one life in this entire game. Playing in 2-Player mode is your only chance of survival.

Along the way, you get new players added onto your team, but they have different skills and are somewhat useless. The only thing I find entertaining about this game is that the dialogue has tons of typos. In conclusion, if you own this game and still have a lot of trouble beating it, I could give you some advice: Check YouTube; there are plenty of useful videos on how to develop a strategy on "Double Dragon 3".
#4 - Mega Man

I've always praised the "Mega Man" games, especially the classic games on the NES. They're all pretty challenging games, but the first game that started the series is the hardest of them all.

If you've played some of the sequels but not the first game, consider yourself lucky, because you have no idea how hard this game is. I mean, this game's not as long as the other games in the "Mega Man" series, but the difficulty out does the others. You don't get any passwords in this game like in the others, so there's no way to save your progress. Also, there are no energy tanks, so you have no way of refilling your energy unless you pick up energy pellets, and good luck finding those, because the items look way different in this game as well.

This isn't a bad game, but the sequels are far more superior. On a definite plus side, this is the game that started the series, and it has a lot of memorable characters, some of which are very important to the Mega Man franchise.

#3 - Ghosts n Goblins

Yeah, some of you probably saw this one coming. "Ghosts n Goblins" has gone down in history as one of the hardest games in the 8-bit era.

You only have two hits in this entire game (some health bar, huh?). The game is filled with enemies coming after you. There isn't even room for you to breathe! Literally! Even if you're an experienced gamer, you'll have a really hard time beating this game. And you think that's not bad enough?

Once you've beaten what appears to be the final level, you gotta start the whole game all over again! Yes, this is a game that has been haunting gamers for years and years!

#2 - Battletoads

Yep, you probably assumed this one would make my list too. "Battletoads" is undeniably one of the hardest games I have ever played in my entire life.

With twelve levels, a bunch of stuff coming after you, and a bunch of moves that are hard to maneuver especially with all this deadly stuff that's impossible to dodge, this is definitely one of the hardest games ever made. Even if you play 2-player mode and with the Game Genie, it won't be too much help. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who have played this game since it was a hit game, and I'm sure that all of those people remember how hard it was.

You know how much I suck at this game? Heck, there are twelve levels, and I can't even get passed the third level! Most games on the Nintendo aren't that hard, but there are some that are. Adding some challenge to a game is one thing, but the creators of this game went way too far! I swear to God, unless someone can help me beat this game, I will never play it again!

Okay, are you ready for #1? I'm certainly not. Nothing can prepare you for this game! Well, if "Battletoads" made my #2, and "Ghosts n Goblins" made my #3, then what made #1? Do you really want to know? Well, okay. You asked for it! Here it is, the #1 hardest NES game of all time!

#1 - Silver Surfer

This is the queen mother of all hard games! To quote the Angry Video Game Nerd, the difficulty on this game is legendary! What makes this game so hard?

Well, there are always multiple enemies on the screen at one time, and they're always coming after you. You constantly have to be shooting in this game. The enemies all have tons of hit points. Doesn't sound too hard, huh? Well, try this! You have only one hit point in this entire game! One touch, and you're dead. It's not like in "Contra" where you restart right where you die; in this game, when you die, you gotta start the whole level over! Challenging, but still not too bad? Well, guess what? You're also not allowed to touch any walls! That's right. If you touch any walls, ceilings, grounds or anything in this game, you die. You're basically not allowed to touch ANYTHING in this game! The game also doesn't make it clear on what you're allowed to touch and what you're not allowed to touch.

Unless you've played this game, you have no idea how hard it is! If you know Silver Surfer but haven't played this game, believe me, this game is an insult to Silver Surfer. Words can not describe how hard this game is! From what I understand, there is not a single person in the world who beat this game, so the difficulty is indeed legendary!

Well, there you have it. Those are my thoughts on the Top 10 hardest games on the NES. I know I've said this numerous times in previous articles of mine, but I'll say it again. This is all my opinion. All the games that have made my list are all based on my gaming experience and through reviews I've read or watched on the Internet. Yeah, I downloaded those games just to see if they really were that hard, and yes they are! I'm sure that a lot of you will probably wonder why I left out games like "Ninja Gaiden" or "Adventure Island", and that's probably because I either haven't played those games or forgot all about them. If you enjoyed this article, then you should check out the link below to see how other gamers review hard games.
More Articles From dalmatianlover
2 years, 7 months ago
The list reminds me my childhood. Lots of the games from the list have already tried and loved em all.
However, as a video gaming freak, i never stop playing games. My currently favorite game series is call of duty and i love it a lot.
I also tried to find several similar games like call of duty but no list was satisfying until i saw this one:
    3 years, 1 month ago
    lol.. full of loosers !!
    Here is the REAL LIST !!
    10.- Zelda II
    09.- Punch Out
    08.- Metal Gear I
    07.- Battle Of Olympus
    06.- Mega Man I
    05.- Ninja Gaiden 3
    04.- Double dragon 3
    03.- TMNT
    01.- GOLGO 13
      4 years, 10 months ago
      The author needs to:
      1. Gain access to a thesaurus
      2. Look up the word 'game'
      3. Re-write article.
        5 years, 11 months ago
        Yep, this is a list of AVGN reviewed games alright. Look, Karate Kid has some faults as a game but it isnt hard, the bonus games are easy and even if some struggle with them they arent necessary to beating the game. So i disagree mightily with that one, anyone who says its hard has either never played it or has seen youtube reviews and just goes by that. Mega Man is beatable but still hard, id replace it with Mega Man 3 personally. The others i agree with or havent played (yo noid for example).
          6 years, 6 months ago
          Actually you can beat Ghosts and Goblins on the first play through. The only way to do it is the shield weapon that has the cross on it. If you don't kill Lucifer with that, it will cycle endlessly.
            6 years, 7 months ago
            You forgot to put the hardest NES game ever made on the list. To this day no one has beat it without cheating.

            Arkanoid. Most players can't even get past level 5, there are 36 levels. The skilled players can't even get into the 20's. It is easily the most insane game ever made and to this day, no one has beat it without cheating.
              6 years, 11 months ago
              Festers quest has to be up there
                7 years, 2 months ago
                I actually completed Silver Surfer. It took a few months of memorizing every single level and keeping my mom from touching the power button on the NES. You could tell from the final level that the devs were just screwing with you. It was just a mash-up of all the previous stages, and the final boss was a giant guy with a gun. After all of the torment of completing the game, you got to see that wonderful generic "The End" screen. I was pissed.
                  7 years, 3 months ago
                  Dalmationlover the games you have up are truly some of the hardest but lets not forget about CONTRA that last board was one of the toughest I ever played extreme classic
                    7 years, 4 months ago
                    My nephew and I are the only two I know of that beat silver surfer without using game genie
                      7 years, 10 months ago
                      I've got an old Xbox with every emulator I can think of built in it WICKED ! I've now bought an old nes and finding the games easier as there is less lag and it reminds me of when I was a kid spending hours glued to it in my opinion TMHT ( not ninja I'm English ) was time consuming but but not to difficult, Bart vs the space mutants had shoddy controls and I lost interest trying to bounce off things to collect spray paint, but you missed beyou billy that was double hard but I still clocked it !!! Mike tyson as a boss in punch out was impossible and i never beat him bad£&ard ! Anyone who says mario games are difficult please find the nearest window and jump out of it those games are rediculously easy and the 1st one can be completed in 5 mins with the warp rooms . That is all 1love
                        8 years ago
                        Really don't think Double Dragon, Battletoads or TMNT should be on the list. Also Kid Icarus. Never really thought of that as a hard game, just long. It was one of my favorite games. Metal Gear was also a blast, but never thought of it as too hard. I would definitely move Ghosts and Goblins up in the list, That game is extremely tough and kudos to anyone that could beat it. I think Ninja Gaiden definitely belongs on the list as well as Friday the 13th, especially on the 2nd playthrough. Others I would include, Adventures of Bayou Billy, Even Captain N didn't beat that game and Castlevania 2. Granted Castlevania 2 is not really all that hard, but the first time through you had no idea what you were suppose to do.
                          8 years, 3 months ago
                          The game battle toads isn't that hard, It just takes a bit of practice.
                          Frankly, it shouldn't be on the list at all.

                          BTW, about the list... Have you actually played all of these games? Most of your writings about them just sound like summary of their AVGN Reviews; and you mention The Angry Video Game Nerd multiple times.

                          This list isn't fair to the games anyway; you can't take 2 or 3 games from each genre and rank them hardest to easiest. If anything this is a list of games the top ten games you suck at the most! (that is if you didn't just watch the AVGN reviews and make this based off of those)
                            8 years, 4 months ago
                            A hard game is a hard game, but I would rather define them by just what exactly makes them hard...

                            First, there are the "What the heck am I supposed to be doing!?!" games like Castlevania II, Deadly Towers, and Legacy of the Wizard... these aren't necessarily difficult to beat if you know where you need to go next, but if you don't, you could spend DAYS wandering aimlessly. These are hard games because of the sheer amount of perseverance required... or a good walkthrough =3

                            Second, there are the "Zero Room For Error" games like Silver Surfer and Abadox... don't touch the walls, don't touch the enemies. These require a different kind of perseverance and a will to memorize patterns and be ready to make split second decisions. If there are no patterns, then it's up to your reflexes alone!! Good Luck!! =3
                              8 years, 4 months ago
                              Third, we have the "No Password Endurance Mode" type games, such as Double Dragon 3 and Battletoads, although in a few places, Battletoads is of the Second Type, most notably for the Turbo Tunnel speeder bike course. All you need to beat these is patience, skill, and the will to err on the side of caution. More often than not, getting careless is what ultimately leads to GAME OVER =P

                              Fourth would be the "Broken Controls" kinds of games, like Menace Beach or Bart vs. The Space Mutants... which are hard yes, but I consider them a disgrace to gaming for being so terribly made. No one should ever feel bad for not being able to beat a game that already beat the crap out of itself =P
                                8 years, 4 months ago
                                My top 10:
                                10: Ninja Geidan
                                9: Blaster Master
                                8: Super Mario Bros.
                                7: Super Mario Bros. 3
                                6: Megaman
                                5: BattleToads
                                4: Battle Kid
                                3: Silver Surfer
                                2: Dragon Quest 2
                                1: Earthbound Zero
                                  8 years, 6 months ago
                                  i finally finished the FOURTH playthrough of Ghosts n Goblins,

                                  yeah, with the fact that Ghosts n Goblins keeps getting harder after playthrough 2, id say for sure that GnG should be higher on the list.

                                  Here is a video of how much harder this game gets.
                                  Everything moves atleast 4 times as fast. some even faster.
                                    8 years, 6 months ago
                                    Ill say without a doubt, Ghost n Goblins SHOULD be number 1. The game does not end after two playthroughs. The game prompts you to continue after you beat it twice, there are confirmed third, fourth, and fifth playthroughs. nobody is for sure if it really ends. Im on the fourth playthrough right now and getting through level 1 was almost impossible... don't believe me, i have a video showing how hard it really is.

                                    Skip to 2:35 to see what I am talking about.

                                    Skip to 2:35 to see what im talking about. Level two makes you want to break your controller even more.
                                      8 years, 6 months ago
                                      A lot of games seem hard until you master them. Battletoads: I had several friends who could just wizz right through it and laugh at people who got stuck on the speeder levels (like me). The first Mega Man is a breeze after a week of sticking with it. Using the trainer code, I had Contra down to a game where I would lose only 1-3 lives by the end. Abadox was one of the first games I was proud to beat in front of my friends. My cousin used to beat Kid Icarus just to show off a better score. My 5th grade best friend would beat TMNT just for the challenge. Those are all games you can master. There are some WAY tougher NES games: Shingen the Ruler (good luck); Indiana Jones Temple of Doom; the best ending on Milon's Secret Castle; Rygar (and many other lengthy open-world games without save features), like the next one; Battle of Olympus (you'll definitely want turbo); Solstice; Solomon's Key; Immortal; Gauntlet; and Alpha Mission (my 1st NES cart). There's the gauntlet on hard NES games.
                                        8 years, 8 months ago
                                        I don't understand the issues with either Double Dragon 3, or Top Gun.
                                        I can easily beat DD3 every time I play it. You just need to know what character and what moves to use.

                                        As for top gun. I know why everyone fails at landing on the aircraft carrier.. anyone that actually understand planes will know why...
                                          8 years, 7 months ago
                                          ...And in Whoville they say, that Krill93's e-penis grew THREE sizes that day!
                                            8 years, 9 months ago
                                            I only see 2 games that could be considered for this list and they are megaman and battletoads. When i used to play as a kid i remember i finished well over 200 games. Among the hardest ones i believe should be on this list are Double Dragon 2, Ninja Gaiden, Kid Icarus just to name a few. Alot of people say teenage mutant ninja turtles but i beat it 2 weeks after it was released. Yes it was hard, but not undoable, especially if you load all your characters up on the scroll weapon for the final stages.
                                              8 years, 8 months ago
                                              I am with you on Battletoads. Even with an emulator, it's terrible. What do you find the hardest parts? Mine are the rat race and the spinning wheels.
                                                8 years, 9 months ago
                                                I haven't played every NES game, and I agree with the ones I've played on this list. However, as it's mentioned below, Castlevania was the hardest game I've ever played, at least for the amount of hours I put in vs. how much I progressed (made it to the final stage but never beat it...tough).
                                                  8 years, 9 months ago
                                                  I've played all of these. They are quite difficult, IMHO. However, where is Legend of Zelda II, Metal Gear, Simon's Quest, Solstice, and the hardest game I've ever played Clash at Demonhead Mountain? My god, CaDM is f'n ridiculous. Not to mention Bionic Commando. Granted I have beaten all of these except Clash. If the game has shite controls, I don't count that as hard, I count that as a shite game. Decent list though.
                                                    8 years, 9 months ago
                                                    Those games aren't hard. Simons quest you can beat in less than 2 hours. Zelda 2 was easy. As long as you have patience, all the games you mentioned are easy.
                                                      8 years, 10 months ago
                                                      Where is Ninja Gaiden you Jaggaloon??? That game on a emulator is still almost impossible to beat.
                                                        8 years, 11 months ago
                                                        Wizards and Warriors 2: Ironsword is the hardest game in my 50+ collection for the NES. I would venture to say almost impossible without the game genie. Enemies respawn constantly and are relentless (after clearing the screen you get about 3-5 seconds of peace until the next wave) and there aren't many of those turkey legs around to refill your life! The best I have ever done without the game genie is make it to the start of IceFire Mountain. It's a fun game though.
                                                          8 years, 3 months ago
                                                          Ever played Ghosts and Goblins?
                                                            8 years, 11 months ago
                                                            In with you on this, I completed it once as a kid and never remembers how to get past the water boss! I always got back there and forgot! Long before we had easy access to walkthroughs!!!

                                                            When i play now I struggle on the first level!!
                                                              8 years, 11 months ago
                                                              I remember there is a fake wall somewhere once you get underwater. Last time I played I couldn't remember exactly where so I just kept trying all the walls until I found it. Behind the fake wall is where the powerup that kills the water elemental is hidden. Once I make it to him I always use the silver fleece spell to become invulnerable so I can just stand there feeding it to him!
                                                                9 years ago
                                                                What makes Mega Man worse is even during your invincibility frames, you can still die touching spikes
                                                                  9 years ago
                                                                  Top Gun was hard as ****. I was only a few years old when I got my NES in 1987 and couldn't do crap with it. I'd watch my 30 year old neighbor (no creeper) breeze through these games without a problem. Nintendo-hard was hardcore.
                                                                    9 years, 9 months ago
                                                                    I have to agree on you with the first Mega Man because the Guts Man stage is almost impossible to beat.
                                                                      10 years, 6 months ago
                                                                      This is a very good list... But believe it or not there are even harder games on the nintendo than the above mentioned. By the way I beat Mega Man, and for those who think that Ninja Gaiden belongs on the list here is some info: I can beat Ninja Gaiden without using cheats and without losing a single life (I'm not alone in this achievment). In my opinion Mega Man is a hard game but it's not as hard as say... Milons Secret Castle. TMNT is a difficult game but compared to The Legend Of Kage??? Here are some noteworthy candidates for the nes most difficult top ten in no particular order:

                                                                      Abadox: The Deadly Inner War,
                                                                      Milon's Secret Castle,
                                                                      Deadly Towers,
                                                                      Fester's Quest,
                                                                      The Legend Of Kage,
                                                                      The Wallstreet Kid,
                                                                      Wizards & Warriors 2,
                                                                      Kings Quest V,
                                                                      Ultima the Exodus,
                                                                      Dungeon Magic.

                                                                      I've beat most of these games... play them, beat them, and then redo your list.
                                                                        10 years, 8 months ago
                                                                        Ninja Gaiden is definitely a hard one as King Crimson mentioned. One of the hardest games in my memory is Rygar. I recently revisited this game with the ability to save the game (which you couldn't in the original) and still am stuck on one spot.
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