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"WE ARE NINTENDO. WE CHALLENGE ALL PLAYERS. YOU CANNOT BEAT US."
Back in the '80s, video games didn't have the advanced storylines of today; Excuse Plots were the norm. So much of the feeling of accomplishment one could derive was from overcoming the insane difficulty that the games provided, if only so one could Bragging Rights Reward to one's friends. A plethora of enemies and impossible jumps were not just the name of the game, they were the game. These games weren't just hard; they were Nintendo Hard!
The difficulty of these games usually stems from a combination of factors:
- Lots of enemies (or lots of bullets) that are hard to hit or dodge.
- Surprise attacks that can only be avoided by sheerest luck or memorizing their locations.
- Malevolent Architecture that poses a constant danger of death even when the player proceeds as cautiously as possible.
- A hero who can survive very few hits -- often dying from even the slightest scratch.
- Lack of, or very few Check Points or Save Points.
- A limited number of lives and/or continues.
- No way to adjust the difficulty, or doing so is pretty much superficial.
- Losing all or most of your weapons/powerups when you die
- Stiff, clunky, and perhaps somewhat unresponsive controls (but only when applied to the original 8-bit, 16-bit, and (to a small extent) 32-bit generations: in more modern games, it ceases to be expected and veers right into Fake Difficulty.)
- Inflexible Jump Physics render it impossible to accurately dodge attacks in midair, especially if your character's jump height is less than half that of Mario's.
For further building blocks of Nintendo Hard, see Classic Video Game Screw Yous.
The game mechanics that make a game "Nintendo Hard" were often transported from arcade games that required the player to spend more money to keep playing after his character was killed. Except that when they got ported over to the console, there was no coin slot, leaving you stuck with a fixed number of lives and highly limited or non-existent continues.
The concept has recently been satirized on the Internet, most famously by the The Angry Video Game Nerd, who pointed out that via Sturgeon's Law, most examples of Nintendo Hard games are often a result of sloppy or bad design.
A lot of these are simply rookie mistakes. For a company, establishing an identity and building the fanbase takes priority over finding the proper challenge level. Often the designers will go for something highly distinctive, take a lot of time designing and making it look right, and not spend enough time on the actual gameplay and level mechanics, then realize too late that they've (completely unintentionally) made a monster. Ghosts 'n Goblins is a good example of this.
When only one or few levels or areas of the game are Nintendo Hard, you're probably dealing with That One Level. If the game reaches an obscene difficulty at a certain point and never looks back, look for Disappointing Last Level. Examples of Nintendo Hard head-to-head fighters generally go under The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard, since crazy-hard opponent AI is nigh-universally the culprit.
Nintendo products themselves are physically very hard (to break), but that's Tonka Tough, not Nintendo Hard.
Apparently several classic Nintendo games are, in general, NP-hard, which is also not the same, but interesting.
Some caution in adding examples may be wise. If you feel inclined to add the words "for This Troper" or "could be considered" and cannot make a strong statement on the universal difficulty of the game in question, please reconsider.
If you know where an example filed under "Uncategorised" goes, then please sort it.
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