Fact: Retro Games Were Harder Than 'Elden Ring'
When talking about hard video games of the past, the go-to examples are usually high-octane sidescrollers like Battletoads, Ninja Gaiden, and Battlefield: Battle Toads. Those are tough, sure, but that's not the worst kind of difficulty there is. Unlike the hardcore legends of the past and newcomers like Elden Ring, which have struck a perfect balance between challenging and rewarding combat, many games of old were nigh-impossible for dumb reasons. Yeah, we can blame our under-developed infant hands that still needed our disposable baby thumbs to fall out to give way for the sprouting of our opposable thumbs, sure, but some games were a nightmare because they featured straight-up unfair obstacles meant to crush the spirit of players.
The easiest example to point out is that of Lion King for the Sega Genesis, a game that featured a devious second level whose devs themselves admitted was there to cause kids to waste days in their attempt to beat it. The devs designed it that way because renting games was a big thing back in the ‘90s, and Disney execs were afraid kids would just rent the game for a day, finish it, then return it without buying the entire thing. Worst of it all was that the difficulty didn't come from hardcore combat or platforming, but from a nightmarish puzzle where Simba had to use his roar to scare a bunch of monkeys into moving him around the map.
In Castlevania 2 Simon's Quest, Simon needs to kneel down for 10 seconds in a specific corner to summon a person-sized hurricane that will allow him to progress in the game. No character ever tells us about this, so how were players supposed to know about this back in the '80s?
And the farther back in time we go, the worse it gets. Shadowgate, an oldie point and click adventure from ‘87 seems to have been programmed by a team composed entirely of Simons tornados. This was probably before someone discovered that games should perhaps be fun, so instead of just calmly asking players to try again because their attempted solutions for the puzzles didn't work, it Game Over-ed players for every single incorrect input.
And the worst offender when it comes to unfair bosses is Lord Hawkwind from the Wizardry series.
What looks like yet another RPG fight will turn out to be a nightmare because Lord Hawkwind is impervious to almost anything and will just instakill the player whenever he feels like it. Also, getting killed by this monster won't result in a continue screen, but rather in seeing the game's bad ending. There is, however, good news for players who don't accept this ending to be their ending. All players have to do is make a map of the game's area. Yes, the game doesn't have a map, so players will have to draw it themselves. Wizardry IV's world is a Pac-Man-style mega maze that we see in first-person view, so to find out how to kill the boss, players will need to walk around the entire map and draw the whole thing as if seen from above. By doing so, they might come across a secret message.
It spells “Dink”, and that's the name of an otherwise useless summon that's somehow able to destroy Lord Hawkwind in one hit.
And the overall crown has to go to the Dark Seed series. These old point n' clickers were filled with the mandatory puzzles the adventure genre is known for, but with extra layers of difficulty added by secret timers and weird puzzle orders that the players knew nothing about. Poetically, none of that turns out to matter at all, as solving every single one of the ridiculously hard puzzles only results in the main character getting murdered by an alien in the end.
Top Image: Tecmo