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Top 10 HARDEST Old-School Video Games

VO: Dan Paradis

Script written by Alex Slade

There was a reason a lot of us had stressful childhoods....Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 HARDEST Old-School Video Games to Beat.

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Top 10 Hardest Classic Video Games to Beat

Man, we had it rough in the past. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hardest Video Games to Beat.
For this list, we’ll be looking at those classic games that were challenging, frustrating, seemingly impossible, but still enjoyable enough to make you want to persist, despite how much they made you also want to throw your console against the wall.

#10: “The Adventures of Bayou Billy” (1988)

A character raised by alligators has got to be tough as nails, right? Well, in Bayou Billy’s case… no. Bayou Billy features multiple gameplay styles. It shifts from a beat-em-up to a rail-shooter to a driving game, all of them as equally as hard. Regular enemies have as much health as the titular character. One of them can easily kill you, so when you have to face three at once, say your prayers. If you move in to attack, you’re almost guaranteed to get hit back, as enemies flinch for only a microsecond. You also have to face gunmen and other animals. Alligators, my old friend! Oh, you’re trying to kill me too? Great.

#9: “Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight” (1990)

Released two decades before the game’s story is set, Street Fighter 2010 envisioned a future in which interplanetary travel was as easy as walking through a gate. This spin-off to the renowned fighting game plays a bit like Mega-Man, only its controls and enemies are mind-numbingly frustrating to get past. Most of the enemies fly around, making them hard to hit. Almost every static thing in the game can be climbed on, making it impossible to dodge anything, as the character just sticks to a ledge. Learning enemy patterns is key, as there is only a finite amount of time to complete levels.

#8: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1989)

A game marketed for kids shouldn’t be this difficult. Some parts are literally impossible to get through unless you play as a specific turtle. Hit boxes are all over the place, and when there is a platforming section, just know you’re going to mess it up your first time. Pizza replenishes your health, as it does of course in the TMNT world, but they’re placed almost sadistically in the hardest to reach areas, making it a death trap to even just get your health back. The thing is, you can’t even memorize enemy types and attack patterns because they change regularly. At least the gameplay never gets stale that way.

#7: “Contra: Hard Corps” (1994)

The original Japanese version of this game was difficult enough, but the international versions just wanted us to suffer. Reducing the amount of continues you had to five—the Japanese version having a slightly higher count of infinite—and getting rid of the health bar in favor of one-hit-kills, made for one frustrating experience. How are we supposed to dodge a dozen enemies, all firing at us at the same time without getting hit? Madness.

#6: “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” (1987)

Yes, as much as we’d like to forget, there was a 2-D side-scroller Zelda game. It wasn’t so much that it was bad, it was just different, and we can all agree that the series works better in third-person as well as with a top-down perspective. The second entry in the series not only changed perspective, but amped up the difficulty to boot. The game is incredibly cryptic in where you have to go or how to get there; we don’t understand how anyone could know what to do without using a walkthrough. There is also a huge difficulty spike early on in the game that forces you to grind for EXP for hours just to get through it. Curse you Death Mountain!

#5: “Silver Surfer” (1990)

There are so many ways you can die in this game; we don’t know where to begin. Based off the comic book character, but with none of the strength and endurance, Silver Surfer has a couple of different game-play styles, and they’re definitely no walk in the park. For starters, you’re always moving, and any little thing that touches you results in instant death, and we’re not just talking about enemy projectiles. So, managing to avoid enemy fire and any obstacles, you have to fire back, only your enemies have a lot more health than you do. How’s that for fair?

#4: “Takeshi’s Challenge” (1986)

Being scolded by your boss, yelled at by your wife, wandering aimlessly around trying to figure out what purpose your life has? Yeah… life’s hard. I mean, Takeshi's Challenge is hard. Yeah, that’s what we meant. No seriously, this game is ridiculous. There are no checkpoints and no direction, and things you don’t do or, or do wrong, will forbid you from beating the game, which won’t become apparent to you until you play for another hour. With dozens of choices and only one right one, it’s impossible to beat unless you’ve tried fifty times before. With mature themes, real consequences and no shortage of absurdities, it really is just like life.

#3: “Punch-Out!!” (1987) a.k.a “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!”

In its defense, this game knows it’s hard. That’s why it has a code that takes you straight to the final fight against ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson himself. Just looking at him walk up to you in the ring is terrifying. He’s three times as big as you and is capable of knocking you out with one punch, while it takes a lot to bring him down. There are virtually no prompts for when he is about to attack, so you’re only chance is to dodge randomly, and hope you’ve timed it right. Even Mike Tyson himself can’t beat Mike Tyson.

#2: “Ghouls ‘n Ghosts” (1988)

Not only facing hordes of horrific monsters, players had to fight their own inner fears, because this game was quite frightening for kids when it was released. Enemies are hard to kill, and one hit from them gets rid of all your armor, with the following hit killing you. It’ll take you weeks of practice just to get through one level. Finally, you get to the end, and you realize it’s not really the end, and you have to do it all again and pick up a particular item to get the ‘true’ ending. Talk about a cruel joke.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few Honorable Mentions.

“Ninja Gaiden” (1988)
“Shinobi” (1987)
“R-Type” (1987)

#1: “Battletoads” (1991)

The pinnacle of difficult classics, Battletoads will leave your hands trembling as you ask yourself why you’re even playing this nightmare. Don’t get us wrong; it’s a blast to play, but it’s incredibly hard to beat on your own, forcing you to play with a friend. After you realize you can actually play with a friend, as there’s no mention or hint about it in the menus, the game becomes even harder, as all you’ll be doing is killing each other by accident. Health bars are separate, and when one of you dies, it’s game over. Hey, at least the pause menu music is catchy.
Agree with our list? Which classic video game do you find the most difficult to beat? For more challenging Top 10’s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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