"Nintendo Hard" is a term that was coined awhile ago to describe a time where games didn't have the amount of content they do today. The only way they could keep you playing was to throw extremely challenging situations at you, causing you to repeat and master limited content. Some people like myself enjoy that very much, for others, it's an exercise in masochism. Below are what I consider to be the ten toughest bosses from the bygone 8 and 16 bit Nintendo era that represent the design philosophy of "Nintendo Hard"

And why no Battletoads? This list is about Nintendo Hard bosses, and ignores stage design. While Battletoads has been the most popular game to encompass Nintendo Hard, its boss battles are extremely easy. It's the stages that will get you.

While I could probably find a boss that's more difficult to defeat for the 10 spot, MM7's Wily Capsule is just so far above and beyond the skill level that the boss fights require in the classic series, that he takes so many people by surprise. People reach Wily and are absolutely flabbergasted that this clown is taking off 1/4 their health bar with elemental shots that continue to roll down your bar while you're hit with other stuff.

You're also going to be noticing Wily is the first culprit on this top 10 list where a recurring theme is present. You get limited shots at him before you have to go through a long process to get another chance at him. In this case, you get ONE chance to beat him. Not 3, despite having 3 lives. Unles you're a Mega Man god, the fight is built around using your e-tanks, and once they are gone, they're gone. That's four more e-tanks to farm up plus a super tank, and 8 more robot masters to defeat before you get another chance.

Hipp Rogers Cheap Win: Not the most elegant way to win, but MM7 allows for swapping weapons with the L and R buttons. The electric weapon and the frost weapon are conveniently next to each other, and he happens to take damage from the freeze cracker. A good way to steamroll the fight is to hit him with a freeze cracker and then L and R swap to the electricity to "shock" him. It won't do damage, but it will prevent him from dropping those pesky elemental bolts.

The Lich is the final boss of an obscure beat up em/RPG on the Super Nintendo called Drakkhen 2: Dragon View. I'm not revealing his identity in this list, as I feel he's one of the better villains on the system, but all the same he is a real nightmare to fight.

The Lich comes with about 180 HP, which is what all bosses have. The problem is his defense is through the roof, and if you haven't found all the sword upgrades in the game and leveled your ass off, you're going to end up taking the minimum 1 point of damage off him per hit, while he clocks you for 1/5 your health bar each time he hits you. A good ways through the fight he starts unleashing a brutal laser that could outright kill you if you aren't keeping above half health. He's also incredibly good at dodging, flies around the screen like he's hopped up on something, and has limited windows to actually be hit.

Hipp Rogers Cheap Win: The developers forgot to make him immune to the special move from the boomerang like Hauza weapon. A special move will take off 10 HP regardless of the enemy's defense, so 18 hits from this and it's goodnight, Lich.

A Sunsoft boss was definitely making this list, and our boy here from Blaster Master did glorious battle with the Joker from stage 5 of Batman, but in the end the nastier boss won.

The problems with Frozen Crabullus come from the lack of mistakes you can make in the fight. You get one, perhaps two chances to make a mistake before it's lights out. What I mean is, you absolutely need a long range gun to effectively fight him, because this guy's defense is so terrifying that he'll have you for lunch at mid to close range.

A fully powered gun means you cannot get hit. One hit, and the power of that gun drops drastically. You can still do it, because you'll still have long range shots after being hit once. Hit twice? Now it's looking grim because you're more than likely down to the pea shooter depending upon what he hit you with.

Add in limited continues in a very, very long game and you'll see how frustrating Frozen Crabullus can be. The bosses that come after him, Fred and the Plutonium Boss, can stand to learn a thing or two from this guy because they don't put up half the fight this guy does.

Hipp Rogers Cheap Win: This win still requires a good deal of situational awareness, but strafing and always facing him will take you a lot further than turning sideways to avoid his bullet spray. Credit goes to a streamer named Unfy for that strategy.

The Super Duper Cheap Win: This guy happens to be one of a few bosses that will continuously take damage if a bomb is dropped in his face and the game is paused. This is probably the reason his difficulty is often overlooked. People get one look at the guy and say I'm not dealing with this crap, time to drop a bomb and pause.

A classic Castlevania boss needed to be on here, and the three candidates were the Creature and the Grim Reaper from 1, and this bad boy from 3. This could have gone any way really, but I elected to go with the Doppelganger, and here's why:

This guy's stage is a nightmare. While it's not the last stage, "Riddle" as the stage is known, is by far the most difficult stage in the game. It features like the "best of" crap that annoys any classic Castlevania player. Flea men and harpies, spikes, screens that eat you, limited mobility on staircases while dodging bone pillars, and the bane of any 8 bit player, BIRDS.

You will learn the stage though, you will learn it very well, because the Doppelganger will beat you down at the end and cause you to redo it over and over. You can take 4 hits provided you are at max health, and the Doppelganger can take a whole lot more than that. He fights like you, has subweapons, and if you switch to a partner, he will have their abilities without the defense reduction of weaker characters like Grant and Sypha. He can touch you but you can't touch him, which is hardly fair when a lot of his strategy simply involves invading your space. I holy water this clown every time, perhaps a legitimate strategy actually exists. If so, don't look to me for it.

Hipp Rogers Cheap Win: People pass this guy the same way they pass the final two bosses in the original game. You stun the hell out of him with holy water, don't let him even move, and watch him melt like Kenny Bania's ovaltine in milk.

Why is a Sega Genesis boss on a Nintendo Hard retro game list? Because this jazzberry is so annoying I'm breaking the rules to include him.

Ninja Master is the head of Neo-Zeed, and has kidnapped Joe's fiancee. Why he's called the Ninja Master is beyond anyone's understanding, because all he can seem to do in battle is whip his hair around.

You'd figure for a final boss that just whips his hair around, he wouldn't make this list. Guess again. Doesn't matter what ninja threats Joe Musashi had to face to reach the inner sanctum of the ninja empire, some kabuki's long hair is more than a match for any seasoned ninja. You need almost frame perfect timing to dodge his hair when he tosses it at you, and you must dodge this more than a few times to have enough health to win the fight. You're going to get pummeled, it's just a matter of dodging the hair enough times that you are still alive by the time he goes down.

To make matters worse, this is a timed encounter. You will need to hit cranks on the walls to stop the ceiling from coming down in the back room and crushing Joe's fiancee. Can this dude get a break? Dodging the hair is hard enough.

And one more element of annoyance. The game increases your health every time you complete a stage. This is the final stage, stage 8. You must get here without continuing to have enough health to take him on. Upon continuing, your health reverts back to the size it was at the beginning of the game. Yeah, not happening on this guy.

Hipp Rogers Cheap Win: There's a well hidden weapon power up in the room before him on the left wall. This increases the power of your attacks tremendously, but the trade off is that it's gone after you take one hit. Put an invincibility spell on at the start of the Ninja Master fight, and spam those upgraded attacks before the invincibility runs out and he will hopefully be done for.

I'm sure everyone saw this coming, they were just wondering where it would show up on the list. If you're fighting this guy for the first time, starting at 0:06 on the clock you're going to swear he should be number 1.

For the first 1:30 of round one, Tyson will unleash a barrage of dynamite punches, each with the ability to kill you even at full health. They are extremely quick, and he gives no warning besides a quick flash to indicate he's going to throw one. You can't even expect to look for tell tale signs in his footwork, because this guy knows how to time these punches to screw with you.

You won't get through the first 1:30 every time, but with enough attempts at him you should be able to pass that part consistently. The great Kid Dynamite is out of gas after that, and while not easy by any means, you will begin to see he's actually very beatable and not the monster he appears to be from the first half of the round.

If it goes to round 3, which it will if you're learning how to beat him, he'll start to get difficult again, but not as difficult as the first half of round 1. There's a self-esteem boosting aspect to this fight that will help you press through it once you can get through the first half of round one and it will take you all the way. The decision is yours at 5000 points. Each knockdown is 1000 points, and an uppercut to the jaw is 1000 as well, so it might be advantageous to plan his health between rounds to maximize the number of knockouts and get your 5000 for the first win.

Hipp Rogers Cheap Win: There's really no form of cheap win other than the easier win of getting 5000 points. You ARE playing on an NES console right? Because certain other means of playing MTPO will have too much input lag for you to do much of anything when it comes to avoiding his dynamite punches.

Konami's Contra of the Wild West, Sunset Riders received a console port that was much more difficult than it's arcade counterpart.

The most difficult of these bosses are Chief Wigwam and Sir Richard Rose. Richie is only hard when he's got a thousand henchman surrounding him, providing you can weather that storm he's got nothing on Wigwam.

Wigwam is your wake up call. He's uncharacteristically difficult for a Contra style game. Neither Contra nor Super C had very many difficult bosses, and even Contra 3 has few. Wigwam throws "hard stage, easy boss" philosophy out the window.

He will jump up into the air and fire three knives down at you in a spread fashion. His current position and the destination of his jump will determine how these knives are spread, and how difficult they are to avoid. He will also block your shots with his knives while he is not in the air, meaning you're going to have to learn how to dodge and shoot him in the air if you want to win.

The player moves very slow and is a very large sprite on screen, making it even more difficult to dodge the knife spray. One hit means the loss of one life, and it also means the loss of your powered up weapon. You probably will get hit, you just have to hope you can hit him enough with the powered up gun before you lose it.

Hipp Rogers Cheap Win: Wigwam blocks shots while on the ground, but if you get close to him he'll take a chance to swipe you. While swiping, he won't block shots, but if you stand there and shoot him while he swipes, it goes without saying you're going to take a knife to the face. If you can time a jump when the swipe comes and just get in his face, you can shoot downward at him while he's swiping and get some very valuable hits in while he's on the ground.

I've since lost track of all the names of these various demons that keep harassing poor Arthur. Sometimes he's called Astaroth, but then again we also have two Lucifers, one that is just a stage boss in the NES game and one that is a main villain in the Genesis game, who also happens to be called Loki. Confused yet? Why is Lucifer on the NES some random chump? Shouldn't he be like, the most powerful demon of all?

Whatever you want to call him, he got demoted in the demon army after losing to Arthur on the NES, and he now takes orders from the new leader of Hell, a very large and wimpy guy named Sardius. Why Satan is taking orders from this guy is beyond me, because Satan being the second last boss is about 30 times harder than Sardius.

The elephant in the room for anyone who has fought Satan is that a very crappy weapon is forced on you for the fight. The Goddess Bracelet, while being extremely powerful, is not built correctly to be a good weapon to use against Satan. Satan is at his worse when you are up in his face, and you need to be up in his face to get the most bang for your buck with the bracelet.

A whole bunch of things can go wrong. You could jump up to hit him in the face only to have fire from his belly waiting for you when you land. You could jump right into a laser. You could jump straight up and he might move forward and give you the dreaded SNES enemy touch.

If that wasn't bad enough, if you do manage to sink him, he has a second form that is stronger in every way. Improved belly fire and an improved laser that must be ducked. You're also battling the most obscene 5 minute time limit, not for the boss, but for the ENTIRE stage. If you master the stage, you might have 2:45 left for both forms of Satan, which means you have to fight him aggressively, and being aggressive in this fight is the easiest way to lose.

You get no mistakes in this fight. You need the gold armor to have a long enough shot, and one hit will reduce you to boxers. At this point unless he's about 2 hits away from dead, you're going to realize your weapon is too pitiful to continue the fight and you're not going to win.

Hipp Rogers Cheap Win: There is no cheap way to win. I've seen him killed if the player stands behind him, but this is risky because if he moves backward at all it won't work. The most common mistake I see in this fight is people are unaware that the bracelet can destroy the belly fire. The belly fire and the laser are on timers, so it's advantageous to destroy the belly fire before risking going in for a bit of offense.

To no one's surprise, here's Jaquio. This guy probably defines "Nintendo Hard" more than any other retro boss. He has a horrific combination of incredible difficulty and incredible penalty for losing. If you lose to Jaquio, you will be sent back to 6-1, the very beginning of the stage. Jaquio is fought at the end of 6-3. If you were to game over in 6-3, where would you be sent? To the beginning of 6-3. If you lose one life to the Jaquio, where are you sent? The beginning of 6-1.

And you will lose. The best thing for a beginner to use to defeat Jaquio is either the fire wheel or the hurricane slash, but your sub weapon is taken from you once you beat the previous boss. This means unless you're a master at the game, it's back to 6-1 with you so you can re pick up the appropriate sub weapon.

To make this fight worse, the guy has the most obtuse hitbox outside of Mega Man X3's Kaiser Sigma. It's somewhere underneath his armpits, and you could spend hours just trying to figure out where the hell it is.

The fight is designed around panic. You must keep it under control. If you start to panic and let a bunch of fireballs run wild on the screen, there's no recovering from that, and it's back to 6-1 with you.

If you've ever heard someone speak of Ninja Gaiden's difficulty, this guy is the reason. Losing to him and having to go through the hardest sections in 6-2 just to get another chance to lose to him again is the soul crushing essence of Ninja Gaiden.

Hipp Rogers Cheap Win: The further up this list we go, the less cheap wins there seem to be. Accept the fact you'll have to do stage 6 twice as a new player, because you aren't beating him without a subweapon. The first time you fight him, don't jump at all, don't even try to attack him. Just run back and forth on the ground and get a feel for the timing of his fireballs and how they come at you depending upon what side of him you're standing on. The second time, take the fire wheel, max your ninpo, and never leave the ground. Jumping will cause the fireballs to double back and is bad. Take your time and place fire wheels under his armpits. If you think you are going to run out of ninpo before he's dead, you can try to jump at the end of the fight to land 2 or 3 hits with one cast.

Oh boy, King Gulp. I really do like this game. It's one of my favorites on the NES, but I just flat out refuse to replay the game because of this one guy. He is a turn based boss in a game built around action combat. He is also the worst case of luck playing a factor in actually winning that I've come across.

Little Ninja Brothers contains levels, but leveling will not help you defeat King Gulp. A level is about 2 more damage to your moves, and a little more HP. The only way to restore HP is through items that restore a set amount of 40 HP, so it really doesn't matter how much extra HP you gain, once it goes down the first time you'll never see a return on that extra HP again aside from one item that restores you to full HP. By the way, you can only carry one of those.

King Gulp is vicious. The first round belongs to him, because you need to waste it calling your partner into battle. And all it takes is one bad round and you're done. This could very well be the first round, it's all up to the gods of fate.

I speak of WHUMP, King Gulp's most devastating move. This move will prevent you and your partner from taking any action for as many turns as the game damn well pleases. King Gulp takes two actions per round, and all of his attacks except one hit all party members, and if he gets you with a WHUMP and then decides to pummel you to death with falling rocks before it wears off, well there's just not much you can do about that no matter how good at Nintendo games you are.

He's a big boy, definitely ate his wheaties, but despite taking up the whole screen he has no problem dodging over half the attacks you send at him. The 512 HP pool on him doesn't help matters either, that is double the second strongest boss in the game.

But what would the number 1 on this list be without an obscene penalty for losing? When you lose to King Gulp, the closest restart point is the desert village of Chatzy. How do you get back to King Gulp? You go through the overworld around Chatzy, enter the fire castle, go through the entire fire castle dungeon, go through another overworld section to reach Ling Rang, enter the cave in Ling Rang dungeon, complete that dungeon and finally reach the final dungeon, Mount Cone Rum. Complete this third dungeon with the strongest regular enemies in the game and you get your next shot at King Gulp. Lose again, and it's back to Chatzy.

This wouldn't be as frustrating if there was an element of skill involved, but the entire battle with Gulp boils down to luck, making it more frustrating than any other boss on this list that you can beat if you're good enough.

Hipp Rogers Cheap Win: Don't count on this one working half the time, but if you can toss a boo bomb and fortune favors you enough to let it stick, it will stun him making him unable to dodge for a short while. It will give you some time to go all out with your most powerful attacks like Mighty Ball and dragon kicks.

Narrowing it down to ten was extremely difficult, there are so many bosses that could have made this list that I just overlooked or didn't feel were interesting enough to get a spot.

Some of the others I think really deserve mention are:

Malroth (Dragon Warrior 2)
Baramos (Dragon Warrior 3)
Noriam (Double Dragon 3)
Abigail (Final Fight)
Vampire (Pocky and Rocky)
Raglan (SkyBlazer)
Dark Demon (Demon's Crest)
Salamander (Magic of Scheherazade)
The Daughter Demon (The King of Demons)
Dr. Tongue (Zombies Ate My Neighbors)
Ice-Fire Mountain Malkil (Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II)

In conclusion, do I personally believe difficulty like this is a thing of the past? Not at all. I've been challenged by things equally as hard as any boss on this list by newer games with extreme difficulties, even online MMO bosses that take weeks to learn how to beat. They were from a different time, and are no better or worse than the bosses we fight today, it just takes the patience of Job to stick with one of these dinosaur bosses long enough to beat them as oppose to newer games giving you more time and opportunity to fight and learn their difficult bosses.

The difficulty remains today if you know where to look and you can attribute that to gaming becoming more widespread. I do not prefer one design over the other, I can respect these antique bosses of the past but I'm also glad to see boss design moving into a more complex direction. It's worth challenging at least a couple of Nintendo Hard bosses if you've never tried one just to get an introspective as to how far game design philosophy has come.

- Hipp Rogers

List by Heed44utmost (11/18/2013)

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