At this point we’ve all read so much about how ridiculously difficult the NES’s games were, and “Nintendo Hard” is even a trope of its own. (Which I think is a bit unfair, as a few other companies have more than their share of monster games…Namco comes to mind…but that’s another thread.) I think it’s high time the other end get its fair share, mainly because it’s games like these that allowed me to enjoy the NES in the first place.
Going mostly from memory:
Bad Dudes - What made the arcade version eat up the tokens was 1. lots and lots of enemies and 2. some pretty cheap bosses. Mostly due to the NES’s processing limitations, neither is the case here. Hit, run, repeat.
BreakThru - With no time limit and hardly any enemies, this one’s little more than a test drive.
Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest - As long as you know which order to go places, know what to do to get to those places, and stop believing every goddam half-witted blithering simpleton you run into, it’s a breeze. Getting the Rib (the first body part you acquire) alone makes the going a lot easier, and none of the bosses are any challenge, least of all what’s easily the most pathetic incarnation of Dracula in any medium ever.
Double Dragon 2: The Revenge - This one fell in the sweet spot between “a piece of cake except for the damn sliding blocks and final two bosses” and “no cheap tricks but much tougher enemies all around”. Very few of the enemies are any threat at all, and the deathtraps are all avoidable. With the 7-lives trick or continue code, it’s pretty much a sure thing.
Duck Hunt - Compared to the targets in most shooting games, those ducks and clays may as well be blimps. Never had trouble making it well past level 20 on either duck game and rolled over the levels on the clays multiple times.
Excitebike - 80% course memorization and 20% not having some jerk cut you off at the wrong time. Super-easy to get good at and not much technique at all.
Gun.Smoke - This took a BIG hit from the arcade version. As long as you have a rapid-fire controller, it’s scoot, shoot, and loot, with only the occasional surprise attack or crossfire to worry about.
Mega Man 2 - Took out most the things that made the first game painful (especially the dropaway moving platforms) while adding some nifty tools and making the captured weapons very powerful. The only Mega Man game I never needed a Gameshark for, which says a lot.
Metal Gear - No joke. There are ways to avoid trouble in the early going, and once you escape from prison, everything just falls into place like the soldiers who stupidly run into your Beretta shots time and time again.
NARC - Lots of places to rack up lots of arrests (worth big points, and by extension lives), the enemies never get numerous enough to be really deadly, you can take a lot of punishment. The final boss fight is quite memorable mainly because it’s the only tough spot in the entire game.
Rampage - Damn near sleep-inducing. You’re as sturdy as a mountain, you gain a ton of health from each food item, you get a full heal every 7 days (it was 128 in the arcade version, just to put it in perspective), and the opposition is about as deadly as a Boy Scout troop. You almost have to be trying to get killed to get killed.
Rush 'n Attack - Can you push up on the pad, then hit B? Can you push down on the pad, then hit B? Can you push left on the pad, then tap right and hit B, and vice versea? Can you avoid “bullets” that travel at about the speed of a narcoleptic mosquito? Congratulations, you own this game.
Shinobi - Shoot slow-moving enemies. Shoot more slow-moving enemies. Shoot big, extremely slow-moving enemy. Beat bonus stage and get extra life by standing perfectly still and shooting. All in a day’s work.
Super Dodge Ball - Complete cake walk. Spear, Compressor, Lightning, catch, intercept, rinse and repeat. In all the times I played this, I was never in any danger of losing to any of the computer opponents. Compared to the brutal arcade version…well, there’s just no comparison at all.
Super Mario Bros. - As with most legends, some details get lost over time, and for this one, it hasn’t nearly been said enough…it’s really, really easy. Anyone with even a modicum of ability should have no difficulty saving the princess (protip: She’s in the 8th castle! ). You don’t even need the life-gaining trick (which isn’t that much help anyway since you get thrown back to the start of the level whenever you die) or warps (it just makes it faster).
Super Mario Bros. 2 - Still one of my all-time favorites, and one of the few NES games I’d characterize as just plain fun (it doesn’t even have scoring!). Challenge-wise, it’s largely a matter of learning the lay of the land and figuring out how to beat enemies. You nail it once, you can nail it every time. I actually found Clawgrip to be the hardest foe, and he’s not all that hard.
Trog - See notes on Bad Dudes. I just plain romped.
Xenophobe - 1. Go to a room with a bomb-dropper. Since there can’t be more than 2 enemies in a room at once, this prevents more than one random enemy from ever showing up. 2. Smack down said enemies as they show up and grab their stuff. Snotterpillars will take a tiny bit more effort. 3. When the enemies stop dropping stuff, exit the room and reenter. 4. Repeat until one of them releases the magic you-win orb. 5. Ad victor spolarum, proceed to the next generic trouble spot, repeat until you get the maximum score or get deathly afraid that this experience is not preparing you for Battletoads at all.