There's no doubt that there are a lot of tough games out there. In the early days of console gaming, developers challenged gamers with Arkanoid and Castlevania; more recent examples are F-Zero GX and Ninja Gaiden. All of these titles share a mature design that is aimed at seasoned gamers who supposedly are up for the challenge. However, a friend of mine once said that the worst thing that can happen to you is to boot up a new game that looks like it's aimed towards children, only to get owned early in the game. This list consists of games that look cute on the outside, but are actually incredibly tough challenges.

When I found Ufouria lying around on a flea market, the only things I saw were the four main character's cute faces looking at me from the picture on the cartrige (box and manual weren't included). When I bought this game just because of these character's looks, I certainly didn't know that I was in for what I still believe to be the best NES game ever made. Ufouria blends together RPG elements with 2D platforming, featuring a huge world that you can freely explore and four playable characters with unique abilities. With so much content, it's clear that the game is quite demanding, and some of the bosses are incredibly mean. There's more behind the cute design than it seems.

Kirby's Avalanche is a spin-off of Puyo Puyo and actually the same game as Dr. Robotniks Mean Bean Machine, just with different characters, this time from the Kirby series. The Kirby series itself has always maintained a rather lighthearted style, and Puyo Puyo's big-eyed blobs certainly don't make it more mature. You'll be all the more surprised that, even on the lower difficulties, said blobs fall at insane speeds, and the merciless computer opponents have no intentions of letting you win.

Sexy Parodius might not actually be aimed towards children, considering that one of the bosses is a racoon with huge testicles, but... never mind. It's a parody of Gradius that the guys at Konami ceated themselves, hence the name. The two prequels, Parodius and Parodius: Fantastic Journey are actually pretty easy, at least on the lower difficulty settings. Unfortunately, that does not apply for Sexy Parodius, which will be a challenge even for shooter veterans who have beaten games like Ikaruga or DoDonPachi without too much trouble. It still contains the cute elements, though, including the famous battleship that looks like a kitten and meows when you shoot it.

This title proves that even games starring characters that are usually loved by children don't have to be easy. Just like its Gameboy counterpart, Mickey's Dangerous Chase, Magical Quest is a 2D platformer that gets a lot tougher than Yoshi's Island even in the first few levels. I don't know what the developers were thinking when they made a game starring a Disney characters so tough that even seasoned gamers can't beat them.

Diddy Kong Racing is an easy choice. Being a kart racer that contains an elephant on a flying carpet shouting "Alakazam", this game is surely aimed towards children, right? Wrong. The first races are actually really easy, but once you're asked to collect all the coins scattered across the environments, which usually means taking detours, and still win, it gets pretty harsh. The boss races are the icing on the cake, and I don't know a single person who has actually managed to beat Wizpig.

Nippon Ichi is today famous for their turn-based strategy games that mainly focus on gameplay. Phantom Brave, Makai Kingdom and Disgaea are all good games, but moving back in Nippon Ichi's history, you'll run across some games that focused on their story rather than gameplay. La Pucelle: Tactics was released in the US after Disgaea came out, but it's actually the older game of the two. It had a story that some might consider corny, hand-drawn 2D backgrounds and incredibly cute enemy sprites. This doesn't change the fact that, in terms of difficulty, it can easily hold up to Disgaea and its sequels. The Cave of Ordeals was already in there, and the final boss is a huge challenge.

The limbless figure created by the French game designers over at Ubisoft has evolved to a well-known character, who has starred in quite a few games by now. It's true that Rayman 3 and Rayman Raving Rabbids were hardly challenging at all, but everyone who has played the first game has to agree with me that it's one of the most difficult 2D platformers of all time. If you only look at the back of the box, you'll think that this game is well-suited for children, but once you actually play it, you probably won't make it past the first few levels.

This list wouldn't be complete without Super Monkey Ball. The game's design is actually childish, with cute, squeaking monkeys that are on a quest to retrieve their stolen bananas. However, the actual gameplay is incredibly tough, especially the "beat 50 levels in one live"-challenge to unlock Master Mode in the first game. But compared to Super Monkey Ball Adventure, even the prequels seem like a walk in the park. The first world is ok, but once you move on, the game gets so incredibly difficult that it's hardly fun anymore. You'll rarely be able to complete a challenge in less than an hour, even if you've beaten Super Monkey Ball 2's Master Mode before.

Many authors of top ten lists have games that inspired them to do their list, and for me, this game is Pocky & Rocky. It features colorful 2D graphics, a racoon as one of the main characters, and cute enemy sprites. It gets all the more painful when these cute enemies start kicking your butt. Pocky & Rocky is a top-down shooter with gameplay similiar to Super Smash TV, so you'd expect it to be tough because of its genre, but its upbeat midi soundtrack and cartoonish appearance just don't fit with its merciless difficulty. And just when you think the first three levels were hard, there's a significant increase in difficulty beyond this point.

The English version of this game, which can only be obtained through an unofficial translation, is titled "Big Kindergarten Kids", and that's exactly what this game is about. The main character of this rather unusual RPG is a 4 year-old girl studying magic. It might not be the hardest game on this list, but the whole concept is built around cuteness. This makes it all the more embarassing that I lost against the very first enemy in this game - two kittens. It's the prime example to show that looks can be deceiving, and that no game should be underestimated just because of its childish appearance.

So, this is it. Many of the games on this list are actually quite popular, so most you will have played one or two of the titles listed here, and agree with me that not every game that looks cute on the outside is actually a walk in the park. That being said, children can be very persistent when it comes to video games, and might enjoy a challenge more than seasoned gamers that are used to winning do. Still, it's very hard to take when a game with a lighthearted theme and cute appearence is actually so tough that you just can't beat it. It just doesn't seem right.

List by vyse_1986 (06/08/2007)

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