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Jet Set Willy - Commodore 64
Practically all Spectrum, Commodore 64, early Atari games were far harder to complete than today’s rows of 360 releases. So instead of cluttering up the list with impossible early video game action, let’s just focus on the toughest, then move on in the knowledge that as graphics have got better, we’ve got softer. Jet Set Willy wasn’t meant to be so joystick-flingingly difficult, but it had a bug that meant as soon as you entered the attic, the game corrupted and was rendered unbeatable.
Metal Gear Solid - PlayStation
A bit of a cheat. Psychic boss Psycho Mantis could read your mind, blocking every attack you threw at him (he also read your memory card to comment on your progress through the game and about what else you were playing). The killer was trying to work out how to beat him. The answer: by switching your controller into player two’s port.
Shinobi - Sega Master System
The seemingly endless waves of enemies were bad enough, and the last boss was a bitch, but just to make things a little more extreme, whenever you weren’t slashing and hacking at the Hellspawns or dogs with swords in their mouths, your weapon sapped your health. As if you didn’t have enough problems.
Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening - PlayStation 2
Released in Japan first, Capcom reassessed its stylish brawler for the worldwide release, taking the unfathomable decision to rechristen the hard mode as normal. It’s widely seen as a bad decision, which they rectified just over a year later with the release of the Special Edition.
Ikaruga - GameCube
The game the term “bullet hell” was invented for – that’s when there are so many enemy projectiles on the screen that avoiding them is practically an exercise in futility.
Battletoads - Famicom and NES
This did a hell of a job of luring us into a false sense of security. The first level was a breeze. That changed fast. Makers Rare went on to make kid-friendly games Viva Pinata and Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. They’re clearly trying to make amends for the surfboard mission.
Demon's Souls - PlayStation 3
After over a year of waiting, Demon’s Souls is finally coming out in Europe in June. Impatient gamers have already imported it played it to death. They’re clearly masochists. The second you start the game you’re robbed of half your health, which you can then only get back by defeating the end of level boss. By which point, you don’t really need all that health anyway.
Contra - Famicom and NES
The game responsible for introducing cheats to video games. It was impossible to complete without entering the Konami code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A). And even then, getting military commandos Bill and Lance to their final showdown with Red Falcon with a teeth-grindingly infuriating experience.
Super Ghouls N' Ghosts - Super famicom and SNES
What use is a suit of armor that falls off after just one hit, leaving you in your underwear? Not much, especially as it just delays the inevitable – getting hit again, dying and going straight back to the beginning of the level. It’s made even more bastard hard by Sir Arthur being unable to change his direction mid-jump. And if a zombie rose from his grave directly below you? Well that’s just tough.
Ninja Gaiden Black - Xbox
After complaints the original Ninja Gaiden was too difficult, Tecmo went back and remade it. And made it even harder. How? By making the enemies stronger and more aggressive, while toning down the power of your moves. As a compromise an easier difficulty setting was added too, but if you played that, your character was awarded with pretty coloured ribbons.
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