The Hardest NES Games Ever

Hardest Nes Games Ever
Hardest Nes Games Ever

Video games are fun—until you realize that as you placed in the game into the cartridge slot and get into the first few, you are in for the biggest challenges of your childhood.

We all have a huge list of favorite video games especially during the era of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). However, it’s only on rare occasions that we talk about those particular game titles that made you so frustrated that you just want to throw away the joystick, turn off the TV, and just move on to another game leaving that one particular title unfinished.

The Nintendo Entertainment System was undeniably one of the most popular and mostly-sold console back in the 90s. Its immense success upon its release couldn’t even match its competitor SEGA with their then also announced console, SEGA Saturn.

Here is our list of the hardest Nintendo Entertainment System games to ever finish. You may have encountered some of these titles back in the day. Aside from this, we will also give you some tips and tricks and how to possibly finish them. We wish you good luck, gamers!

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

Release Date: October 18, 1987 (Japan), November 21, 1987 (North America)

About the Game

Originally titled as just Punch-Out!!, you play as the character Little Mac who aims to become the greatest boxing champion, going up to the ranks by winning against different boxers who are bigger, powerful, and faster than you. You take your time in each stage to find the right timing and strategy to hit them hard until they won’t be able to get back up in the ring.

This game was originally released for the arcade games and its producer and director Genyo Takeda commented that it might be impossible porting this to the NES due to being not as powerful as the arcade platforms.

In the end, they managed to get the game produced and released. Instead of having the player transparent-looking in order to see the opponent, they designed the playable character to be smaller while the opponent boxer is bigger. They usually go as twice as your size at times too.

How to Clear The Game

A lot of kids have been frustrated over this game and maybe as you go through this article, you might have probably felt the same way too. As much as we wanted to give you cheat codes or some fancy things that would help you complete the game and give you that kid-at-heart feeling of satisfaction, the secret to not get into the depths of the Game Over screen is to dodge. Yes, you’ve read it right. You have to dodge.

It sounds cliché—but if you get the dodging right, you will be able to get into the right timing of making the counter attack afterwards. It takes a while to get used you especially if you progress on facing on to bigger enemies. Aside from getting the dodge timing right, you have to make sure that you counter attack all the uppercuts. This is very useful especially when you finally face the “final boss”, Tyson. When he makes his uppercut, dodge it and immediately press the attack button opposite to his direction.

If he’s looking to the left, counter attack with the right and vice versa. You also have to be alert on your opponent’s upcoming move. If your predictions are right, then not even those big opponents would stand in your way.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Release Date: May 12, 1989 (Japan), June 1989 (North America)

About The Game

They are the world’s popular turtles in a half-shell. The late 80s and 90s were the glory years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. From comic books, to apparel, to movies, and to video games. When the NES game was announced for release, all the kids went crazy and wanted to have it. This game has also pushed through more sequels for the NES after that.

In Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtles, your main mission is to retrieve the Life Transformer Gun from the evil villain Shredder. The said device is the only way to bring back Master Splinter into his human. Before facing Shredder, your frist objective is to save your reporter friend April O’Neil who was kidnapped by Bebop and Rocksteady. After successfully saving her, the levels continue going underwater to disarm bombs which was set to destroy a dam.

The last few levels let you face a Mecha Turtle where you can same Master Splinter after successfully defeating him, destroy a giant Mouser, then the final boss is Shredder.

How to Clear The Game

Although this game had paved away to rounds of game sequels, this first game was quite notable for having mixed reviews from game critics. Playing the whole thing on the first round try would still be a bit complicated as the controls were poor (sometimes the timing when you press the buttons don’t feel in sync), the enemies seem bland and lifeless, and the difficulty of the stage bosses just leave you frustrated because you miss a lot and get to kill them successfully.

We admit that this game is really hard to beat and we highly recommend that you have to repeat this a few times over to get the timing of the attack and counter attacks on the opponents right. Don’t worry about the usual jumping over to a next platform and end up falling down moments because you are definitely not alone on the frustration. This is definitely a test of patience, most especially for hardcore Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans.

If you think that the NES game is hard, the DOS version of the game is worse. As funny as it sounds, you need to activate cheats in order to finish the game, in which to be honest beats the purpose. However, the feeling of finishing the game from start to finish in the NES without any cheats whatsoever is probably the most rewarding of all.

Ninja Gaiden

Release Date: December 9, 1988 (Japan, released as Ninja Ryūkenden), March 1989 (North America)

About The Game

If you’re familiar with how the Castlevania NES game is played, then you probably have an idea how the mechanics of the Ninja Gaiden game works.

Ninja Gaiden centers on Ryu Hayabusa, a ninja who journeys to America with only one goal to achieve: to avenge the death of his murdered father. He then founds out that a man under the name “the Jaquio” plans for world domination by releasing an ancient demon using the power that is sealed in two statues. It is up to you to stop him and keep the peace.

The game has a total of 20 level separated into six “Acts”. Your aim to progress and defeat the enemies that stand in your way with only the use of Ryu’s Kanata and some other weapons like a shuriken.

How to Clear The Game

As mentioned a little earlier, if you are familiar with the gameplay of Castlevania then you definitely have no problem with going through this. However, Ninja Gaiden is still very tough since the opponents just appear out of random and the volume is just massive for just a one player person can handle. Due to the numbers of opponents that appear at one time, it oftentimes makes you think that the opponents’ movements just appear out of random too.

One of the worst things that can happen to when the opponents hit you right when you’re above a pit which causes you to fall into your death. The biggest headache in the game is when you reach stage 6. If ever you died on any of the three final bosses in this stage (especially on stage 6-4), it will immediately send you back to 6-1 and start over again. With determination, a lot of patience, and game instinct, it’s highly possible you’ll be able to complete this game in just a few hours.

Mega Man

Release date: December 17, 1987 (Japan, released as Rockman), December 1987 (North America)

About the Game

Just who wouldn’t know Mega Man? In the world of NES, he was like a household name. The first Mega Man game for the NES was filled with impressive villains, cool game features, and awesome stages. Even until this day, this game still has a very loyal fanbase.

The game is set in the year 20XX where robots were developed to assist humans and lived in harmony, thanks to the efforts of robot designer and scientist Dr. Light. Suddenly sixed of the advanced humanoid robots that were made by Dr. Light went out of control namely Guts Man, Cut Man, Ice Man, Bomb Man, Elec Man, and Fire Man. He then finds out that this was the doing of his rival Dr. Wily, who plans to use the mentioned robots to destroy the world.

Rock, one of Dr. Light’s helper robots offered himself to be converted into fighting robots in order to stop them and Dr. Wily. Thus Mega Man is born.

The game is memorable for its awesome feature of obtaining powers of the robots after you successfully defeat them. Like for example, if you defeat Elec Man (which has the power of electricity), you get his electric power. If you defeat Fire Man, then you get his fire power. Once you successfully defeated all six robots, an additional stage will unlock which is set in Dr. Wily’s evil lair.

How to Clear The Game

Like each of the robots, the game stages are based on their respective powers. Like for example, in Fire Man’s stage, you’ll be seeing flying torches and long fire torches that would definitely hurt you real bad. In the world of Elec Man, there are some platforms that have this running electricity and if you don’t get the timing right or take you quite a while to proceed to the next platform, you’ll definitely get electrocuted with a part of your life taken in the process.

Although beating the bosses are really tough, the key tip that we can give you is to use a weapon that is a weak to the boss. Like if you’re facing Fire Man, we recommend you take down Ice Man first so that you can use your ice weapon to take him down better. Hitting them with their weakness element cost double the damage to them.

Silver Surfer

Release Date: November 1990

About The Game

Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, Silver Surfer was one of those comic book series that got its own video game adaptation for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It has an overhead perspective view and at times it is side-scrolling.

The game mechanics are quite simple, you play as the Silver Surfer and you go through different levels battling mini-bosses and the main bosses of each stage. The enemies that you’ll encounter in this game are Possessor, Mephisto, Reptyl, and Kylor.

As you go further into Silver Surfer, Galactus will appear once you complete the first set of levels. He will then take you to a final mission into the Magic Domain to obtain a Cosmic Device which comes from an unidentified villain. The game’s final boss is a giant purple character with a handgun as a weapon. Although his appearance doesn’t really ring much of a bell, it is suggested that the main antagonist is Mister Sinister, a villain from the X-Men comic series.

Once you successfully defeated him, Silver Surfer tells Galactus that no one should have access to the “Comic Device” and it is better that he hides it so that no superhuman being or creature will misuse it.

How to Clear The Game

Silver Surfer grants you awesome upgrades that you can use as you go further in the game like invincibility. Obtaining these is sort of similar to the Mega Man NES games, so if you have played this before then you probably how everything goes. Although Silver Surfer is quite notable for being one of those characters in the Marvel universe getting his own video game adaptation, critics weren’t too happy about this game as the levels were very challenging and casual NES gamers would just leave all frustrated due to the complexity of it.

However, like formally mentioned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, it just needs a lot of time, patience, and dedication to successfully complete a level and move on to the next one. Also, you don’t need to worry about starting over as there is password where you can input and get back later on.

Karate Kid

Release Date: November 1987

About The Game

This is also another video game adaptation based from a popular movie franchise. Just to give you an idea on the basis of the game, the original movie centers on Daniel LaRusso who moves with his mother from New Jersey to California. While still struggling to fit with his new environment, Daniel befriends a girl named Ali and both of them clicked. This however angered Johnny Lawrence who is top student of the Cobra Kai dojo and ruthlessly bully Daniel if gets the chance.

To get even, Daniel gets martial arts lessons from an Okinawan immigrant named Mr. Miyagi. Daniel’s journey to become the best karate kid begins.

So the concept of the game is quite similar to the film. However, it is now set into the karate tournament venue and you have to beat all you opponent in each level.

How to Beat The Game

This game has frustrated a lot of gamers and it kind of left fans feeling a bit disappointed. The specific level that people mostly complained about was the level had a lot of “wind” that pushes you into the pits and kills you immediately. You not only had an opponent to deal with, you also had deal with the annoying wind.

Bionic Commando

Release Date: July 20, 1988 (Japan), December 1988 (North America)

About The Game

Bionic Commando is an action-platformer game released by popular game company and studio CAPCOM. You play the character Ladd Spencer who defeats villains with his mechanic arm that has a grappling gun that allows him to swing from ceilings and pull himself forward from one spot to another one.

The game is based on the popular arcade game of the same name that was released in 1987.

How to Beat The Game

This probably the first action-platformer game that you’ll ever encounter that doesn’t allow you to jump. Yes, we’re not kidding. Now the question is: how are we able to get from one platform to another? You use the mechanic arm of course.

We remember how a lot of people were deeply frustrated over Bionic Commando. First was the controls being really very hard and it’s a bit complicated to get the proper timing to releasing the arm when you want to get into another platform or area. If you have the patience of this kind of game, then that’s cool. But if you are the typical gamer that doesn’t want to stick to one level of a game for more than an hour, then this game would really test your patience as well your joystick reflexes.


Release Date: February 2, 1988 (North America), February 9, 1988 (Japan)

About the Game

Now this was one awesome game with cool weapons, heart-pumping action, and awesome music. Contra is one of Konami’s popular game franchises. Aside from the Nintendo Entertainment System version, the game was also released in other platforms such as the Commodore 64, MS-DOS, Arcade, and so on.

Set in the distant future on 2633 A.D., the evil Red Falcon Organization set its base on Galuga where a plot to completely wipe out humanity was brewing. Two brave commandos from the Earth Marine Corp’s Contra unit named Bill Rizer and Lance Bean were requested to go to the island and take down any enemy and machinery that were found there.

How to Beat The Game

Aside from the awesome gameplay and visuals, Contra was also notable for one thing: You can use the “Konami Code” (Up, Up, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start) if you want to have 30 lives on the starting part of the game. Now this is considered as cheating but that is another different discussion.

In all honestly, Contra is a difficult game without using the Konami code. Playing with the game as it is will only give you three lives. If you get even just one bullet or just fall down when you jump, you are immediately dead. Those who tried this for the time had trouble finishing the game even just in the first stage.

Getting to properly finish this game takes a lot of time and good joystick hand reflexes. The Konami code is no longer a huge secret to the gaming world so we suggest that you use this on your first game run. If you got the hang of the game, you can proceed to play the game without the Konami code. The way the enemies attack (especially the stage bosses) have a certain pattern to it so it’s easy to beat them up when you finally get the hang of everything.

Top Gun

Release Date: November 1987 (North America), December 11, 1987 (Japan), November 30, 1988 (Australia and Europe)

About The Game

Top Gun is a NES based on the 1986 Hollywood film of the same name starring Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kimer, Anthony Edwards, and Tom Skerritt. It sold over more than 2 million copies.

The game lets you pilot a F-14 Tomcat fighter and play the main protagonist Marverick. You have around 4 missions to complete. You get to choose your own missiles from the training mission, then sent to an enemy aircraft carrier, then to an enemy base, and the last one will be in an enemy space shuttle. The game has two endings which would depend on the progress you have completed.

How to Beat The Game

The reason why some people find it hard to finish this game was obviously because it was hard to see where the missiles fire at you. Well, you have to consider the limited the graphics that the NES had back in the day.

Aside from this, a lot people find it so hard to land at the game’s first level. Majority of the time, you just crash every single time. Talk about ruining your first few minutes of trying this out for the first time.

As the game progresses, so does the game. You have to have a lot of patience if you really want to just finish this game and witness the two endings.

Some Useful Gaming Tips

Now these are our top list of the hardest games. In this time and age, people are mostly playing these on various emulator programs. If ever you feel like playing these again on your spare time, we have come up some general useful tips that would help finish these games no matter how hard or complicated they are.

Cheating Doesn’t Count

Emulators and other similar software have paved way for gamers to enter certain codes in the game to enable cheats and make it easier for gamers to finish the game with ease. If you really are up to a challenge, then you shouldn’t chat at all. You’re better than that. If ever there are really cheat codes available for the hard game you decide to play, then don’t use it. As an old saying goes, “Real gamers don’t cheat.”

Watch Out for “Modded Games”

As our technology evolves as years go by, it has been possible for game enthusiasts to modify games to their liking. Modded games are made for experiment and fun so you should really take these ones too seriously. They can either modify the game to make it easier or make it even more complicated and impossible to finish.

If ever you’ll be using emulators, you just have to double check if the said game you had is not modded. If the colors don’t seem right, the name of the characters are wrong, and the weapons used in this certain game are just completely different from the original game, then that is a modified game. There are a lot of trusted game forums and communities that can help you find the game you want so you always start from those places. Don’t look for your games from just anywhere.

Further Research About the Game Can Help A Lot

The say if you want to defeat an opponent in a fight, you have to study their moves. In this case, doing research about the game mechanics and lore can really help you know what to do and what to not do when you start playing the NES game. Knowing that this is already a very old gaming console, there are already countless game guides and lore encyclopedias that you can look through online. The possibilities are endless.

Use a Better Gaming Joystick

The key to proper gaming is to have a proper joystick. Playing with a cheap one that you bought on a bargain can’t really give you much especially if you’re going to be playing a game that requires a lot of pressing. If you want to get best NES-gaming experience, we highly recommend that you purchase high quality gaming joystick. You can choose either the no-analog or the analog ones. It’s up to you.

If you don’t know where to find one, you may try looking through eBay or Amazon. Double-check or even triple check the reviews of each product before you even buy them. Take a look at the pictures of each item carefully before purchasing. Note that it’s a red flag already when the joysticks look cheaply made in their pictures alone.

Check Out How Other Gamers Play It

There are a lot of game reviewers (especially on YouTube) that usually talk and record their gameplays on retro games. Those under the Nintendo Entertainment System have a lot of videos. Do a simple search on the site and take a look at walkthroughs—these are videos where the player (the video uploader) plays the entire game in one go. This can be either with deaths or no deaths at all! Consider these videos as a sort of inspiration and guide for you to complete those hard games.

Lastly, Don’t Forget to Have Fun

The Nintendo Entertainment System was a very popular console for a reason: this was the thing that started a lot people to get into the world of gaming. The characters, basic sound effects and music, as well as easy-to-learn game mechanics, this was definitely the console that started it all.

While all the games we’ve listed can really make you feel a bit stressed out, let’s not forget that all of these are just video games are you should never forget to have fun. If you failed one time, start again. Missed a level? Go back. Want to get a better high score? You can do that. As long as you are enjoying in the end, then that is fine.

While emulation has made it possible to go back and enjoy these titles, if you really want to experience them as they were originally released, there are still some reliable sellers of Nintendo Entertainment Systems available online. The other good thing is that physical cartridges of these games are also still available (although take note that the prices may be higher now due to their rarely and value).

From Past to Present, the NES and its hundreds of game titles will always be our favorite things to discuss. We hope this list would help you set up a challenge and hopefully sparked your interest on this awesome gaming console.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here