Since the early 1980s, video games have become almost as much a part of a family's entertainment system as the television, VCR, or DVD player. From the early days of the Atari 2600 and the NES to the systems we know, love, and fight about today, most homes have had at least one video game system in their living rooms. Things have changed drastically since those early days of home games, though; near-impossible challenges have been replaced with increasingly easy games, online multiplayer, and unlockable extras. Seasoned gamers can (and usually will) talk for hours on end about those "good old days" when video games were truly challenging, and sometimes unreasonably so. Everyone will have their own opinions on what were the most challenging moments in gaming, but for my money, these, in no particular order, were the top ten most ridiculously difficult moments in old-school gaming.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) - Underwater bomb defusing
For most of us, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES was the first chance we had to take control of our favorite Turtle in the war against Shredder and the Foot Clan. The game started out easily enough; some side scrolling segments and a few minor boss fights complimented an overhead view of the city streets where players took control of the Turtles famous van. After a few levels, players are tasked with defusing a series of underwater bombs before they take out a bridge. This segment was extremely difficult. Not only could seaweed kill your Turtle with only a hit or two, but an unforgiving time limit and a maze-like level design made getting to all the bombs next to impossible.
Metal Gear (NES) - Getting past the first few screens
Most gamers familiar with the newer generations of games know Metal Gear as only Metal Gear Solid. The series began on the PS1 and has achieved legendary success on the PS2 with two Solid sequels. The series' next incarnation, Metal Gear Solid 4, seems to be the only reason for purchasing a PS3 right now. What some people don't know is that Solid Snake began his adventures way back on the NES. The first Metal Gear game was known mostly for its unrelenting difficulty, not the overblown and confusing storylines that are the hallmark of the series today. The first Solid Snake adventure took place in the jungle with a top-down view of the action. Casual players had difficulty making past the third screen in the game, where it seemed that no matter what action you took, guards would discover, and summarily kill, Snake with no remorse. Very few people had the skill and patience to make it to the end of this very difficult game.
Mike Tyson's Punch Out!!! (NES) - Defeating Mike Tyson
To this day, Mike Tyson's Punch Out!!! remains my favorite game of all time. The characters were excellent and unforgettable, the game required a fair amount of skill and practice to master and unlike most games today, it was fun enough to play over and over again. I lost count of how many times I've pushed the game's hero, Little Mac, through the ranks of the boxing world around 500 playthroughs, and that was over 10 years ago. I'd estimate that by now I've finished the game no less than 1,500 times. Anyway, most people familiar with the game know that to be the champ, you have to knock out Iron Mike Tyson, who is possibly the toughest final boss in video game history. The first half of the fight is spent dodging his uppercuts that, if and when they connect, knock you down with one hit. The rest of the bout is spent carefully dodging and countering. Only the truly talented will manage to knock Mike down and only the top 1% will be able to emerge victorious. Tyson might not have had the most squeaky clean personal life, but at least he can take solace in the fact that he appeared in one of the greatest, and toughest, games ever made.
Battletoads (NES) - Stage 3 a.k.a. The Bike of No Return
When Battletoads first hit stores, nearly everyone was ready to proclaim it the "next big thing" in video games. The graphics were great, the characters provided an interesting counter-point to the mega-popular Ninja Turtles, and what people didn't realize at the time was the game would continue to stymie even the most talented gamers for years to come. The game started innocently enough: fighting frogs on an alien world with the task of defeating some pig-like enemies. When players hit the third stage though, Battletoads entered a whole new stratosphere in difficulty. The level had the toads piloting hoverbikes through a series of barricades, which sped by at increasingly unforgiving speeds. Only the players with the quickest reflexes and/or best memorization skills would ever see this great game's fourth level.
City Connection (NES) - Figuring out what the heck is going on
Not many people are familiar with this game, but it remains to this day one of the most difficult games in my sizable NES library. What made the game difficult was not so much a high challenge level, but the inability to figure out what the hell was going on. Players were asked to control a small car on a three-tiered playing field. To pass each level, it seemed that you needed to run over every square inch of road on each level, but after nearly 20 years, my friends and I still haven't figured it out. Add clowns, balloons, and go-karts piloted by ninjas (we think), and it all adds up to City Connection easily being the most baffling game I've ever played.