1. Oregon Trail
The game that introduced a brand new generation to the dangers of dysentery was nigh impossible to beat. Try to ford the river? Dead. Increase the pace of travel? You break a leg. Dead. Travel during the hot, sweltery summer months? Dysentery. Dead. You get the point.
Modern shooters like the Call of Duty franchise with its auto-save and unlimited continues makes life too easy. Meet Contra, the grandaddy of all shooters where you get three lives. Period. No shields or auto-regen life here, you get nicked by one pixel and you’re dead. It’s no wonder this game popularized the popular Konami cheat code which gave you 30 lives, but even then the game would be a white knuckle ride all the way.
3. Demon’s Souls
Most modern games treat gamers with kid gloves and bubble wrap. Not Demon’s Souls. This game is more of an exercise in masochism than entertainment and will see you dying repeatedly just trying to figure out the basics. To further add to the morbidity, the only assistance provided by the game is notes left behind by players who died at the particular spot that you’re about to die at.
4. Dark Souls
This is the spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls. ‘Nuff said.
5. Super Mario Bros 2: The Lost Levels
You know the game’s hard when Nintendo executives decided to not release it in America for fear of ruining the franchise with its frustratingly difficult gameplay. The game featured enemies with completely random placements and poisonous mushrooms masquerading as 1-ups that killed you instead of granting an extra life.
Widely considered one of the hardest, if not the hardest game ever produced. Screens were literally cluttered with enemies making it virtually impossible to beat alone. Co-op mode you say? Good luck with that, the designers made it possible for you to kill off your team mate in one punch as well.
7. I Wanna Be The Guy
Take every annoying boss or difficult level from the best of 8-bit games, wrap it all into one side-scrolling platformer and you get I Wanna Be The Guy. Prepare to double jump like you’ve never double jumped before.
8. Ghosts ‘n Goblins
Getting gear is one of the driving forces behind gaming. Now imagine for an instant that all your hard earned loot could disappear once you were hit once. There’s Ghost ‘n Goblins in a nutshell for you. Every moment in the game, you’re paranoid that you’ll make a misstep and be stripped of your armor and have nothing but your boxers to help you fend off hordes of undead.
9. Zelda II: The Adventures of Link
Grinding experience is a necessary evil of most RPGs, but Zelda II made it even worse. If you died, reset, or turned off your game between levels, you would lose all the experience that you had accumulated thus far which forced many players to simply leave their NES systems on for days instead of losing their hard earned xp. Oh and did we forget to mention that you only had three lives before you have to start over from the very beginning?
Who ever thought running could be so hard? With awkward controls linking the keyboard keys QWOP to calves and thighs, players would be hard pressed to make it a couple meters in the game without turning into a tangled mess of limbs.