While some video game enthusiasts play video games simply to enjoy a few hours of mindless entertainment, many also enjoy surmounting a good challenge. Video games range in difficulty from trivially easy games Just Dance to insanely difficult games like Ikaruga. In between these extremes, the majority of games are moderately challenging to complete for the average player. While overall game difficulty is usually comparable between most games, it is not uncommon for games to include some individual challenge that is much more difficult than the rest of the game. Some of these challenges are so insanely difficult that the game is nearly impossible to complete due to them, while others are simply optional challenges that have rarely been beaten. The following are some of the hardest challenges in video game history.
Climbing the Bean Stalk (King’s Quest) – The original Sierra are famous for including mind boggling challenges and intricate puzzles. In addition, they are infamous for allowing the player to miss something important and thus be incapable of completing the game. The bean stalk in King’s Quest is unusual because it is actually the “reward” for successfully completing a nearly impossible puzzle. By successfully providing the name of a gnome, you earn beans which can be planted to make a beanstalk. Climbing the beanstalk seems simple, but is actually nearly impossible. The pixels of the beanstalk do not match up to where the character pixels need to be to climb without falling. Any fall beyond the first screen is instant death and there are two and a half screens to climb. Finally, even if you successfully climb the beanstalk, nearly every cloud space near the beanstalk will cause you to fall to your death. Only nearly infinite patience and reloading can complete this challenge. Even more frustrating, if you fail to provide the gnome’s name, the stairs you need to climb instead are much easier.
Dodge 100 Lightning Bolts (Final Fantasy X) – This challenge is entirely optional, thankfully. It is a mini-game that earns a reward entirely unnecessary for completing the game. To dodge a lightning bolt, you simply need to press the “X” button after an on-screen cue. This seems rather simple, except that you have less than ½ a second to perform the action. Furthermore, you need to dodge 100 lightning bolts in a row or else start over from scratch. Since the lightning bolts come with entirely random timing, sometimes nearly back to back, it is incredibly easy to fail. Even if you are moderately good at this, expect to spend hours, if not days making attempts before you manage to succeed.
The Dam Level (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) – In a game that is generally considered one of the hardest video games ever released, the dam level makes the rest of the game seem easy. Throughout this level you need to swim through a dam where the walls are lined with mines that instantly kill your character. The NES controller makes swimming difficult to perform and the margin for error is practically non-existent. Furthermore, the level has moving adversaries and a countdown timer that gives very little time to dawdle. And, should you fail at any point, you basically need to start the game from scratch to reach this point again.
Speeder Bike Level (Battletoads) – This level of Battletoads is basically like the dam level of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on fast forward. You are on a bike moving at high velocity with just about every obstacle imaginable in your way. Even the slightest touch will end your run and your leeway is measurable in pixels. Playing alone is excruciatingly difficult and playing with a friend is practically torture. The best way to complete this level is to use a controller that will slow the game down. Then you still need a lot of luck.
Defeating the Dragon (Dragon’s Lair) – This arcade classic is considered is famous for the plethora of entertaining death scenes animated by Don Bluth. In fact, most players never even realized you could fight the dragon because they never got that far. But, for anyone skilled enough to actually reach that point, the fight with the dragon at the end of the game made the rest of the game look easy. Up until that point, the game required you to press the controller in a specific direction or press the sword button when particular images lit up on the screen. The timing was often tricky, but not impossible. During the dragon fight, you still need to press the sword button or move the controller with the correct timing, but there are no visual cues. You simply need to guess what to do and at what timing, based on the on-screen action. To say that this was nearly impossible is an understatement. The fight requires roughly 30 specific actions that all need to be precisely timed. You could easily spend hundreds of dollars in quarters and not even get halfway done with the fight. Then, just to add insult to injury, if you were successful, you needed to do it all again except reverse the right and left movements on the joystick.