Opinion: The Ten Most Brutally Difficult Challenges in Nintendo Games

With the possible exception of the NES era, Nintendo is usually not the first company people think of when it comes to difficult video games.  But while things like the Super Guide and hint videos have made some people consider recent Nintendo titles as rather easy, there are in fact quite a few challenges in Nintendo games that are very much incredibly difficult in every sense of the word.  So here’s a list of them, of the ten most difficult challenges in Nintendo games.

However, before I begin the list, please keep a few things in mind here.

I’m only counting challenges which the designers intended you to be able to complete.  Ones which for the most part, have in game rewards tied to them and are mandatory to beat for 100% completion.  After all, every game could be ‘hard’ if you set yourself the challenge of winning without getting hit once or doing everything perfectly.

No Hits

Above: Besides, enough Nintendo games have ‘don’t take any hits’ challenges that a self imposed version is kind of unnecessary.

And more importantly, I’m only including games published by, developed by or generally associated with Nintendo more than another company.  Otherwise the list would just get ridiculous thanks to all the hard third party NES games like Battletoads, Ghosts ‘n Goblins and Ninja Gaiden.

Above:  NES games by everyone but Nintendo were kind of hard in general, as the AVGN shows in this video.

And with that cleared up, let the list begin…

10. Mario & Luigi series; Minigame Challenges (Mad Skillathon, Cholestoroad)

Not to mention Battle Broque Madame and the massage version of that found in Bowser’s Inside Story.  God these mini game challenges are absolutely insane.

And while a couple are at least somewhat bearable and others are actually rather fun, there are still the odd few which are just plain unfair in their setup.

Like the Green Shell one.  Think the easiest Bros Attack is easy?  Try doing it perfectly EIGHT HUNDRED times in a row without messing up ONCE.  It’s basically like having to get a score of over 80 in Break Out, without missing a single ball in the process.


Above: It still takes a long time with the video on fast forward.  Repetitive as hell?  Yes.  Tricky?  Also yes.

Others are pretty brutal as well.  The ones with the cannons involve having both a photographic memory and near perfect reflexes, the Bob-omb massage game in Bowser’s Inside Story involves a mix of real time strategy and half second reflex times and Luiginary Stack in Dream Team… is just annoying.

This is because the whole thing is kind of like a Nintendo made ‘endless runner’ game, with the additional twist that you need to pick up ‘layers’ of Luigi clones to do more damage at the end of each round.  Unfortunately, you have to then do stuff like avoid spikes (which cause one layer of clones to explode and disappear) and bombs (which cause you to get an instant game over), meaning precision platforming is needed.  With a system where not layering the clones perfectly causes you to tilt all over the place, slow down and jump less distance.  It’s easier shown in a video than explained:

Above: It’s the second mini game.  The first one (Luiginary Ball) is ludicrously easy instead.

So while the difficulty of these challenges isn’t consistent (hence why I can’t rank it any higher than ten on the list), it’s enough that that they qualify as some of the hardest things in Nintendo games regardless.

9. Pokemon Series; Battle Tower/Frontier Modes

And Pokemon Stadium for that matter, thanks to its AI that cheat like hell and probabilities ridiculously stacked against you and in the AI’s favour.

So what makes these things so difficult?  Well, three things:

1. The AI in them actually uses some semblance of strategy, like an actual human opponent would.  This makes for a more challenging battle than against the (often stupidly easy) in game opponents like the Elite Four/Champion.

2. The AI often cheats blatantly, with Pokemon sometimes having illegal moves and things like accuracy being completely ignored whenever its most convenient for your opponent (like when they’re using one hit KO moves).

3. Your Pokemon choices are limited.  Like with the no Ubers clause, which takes away the easy ‘destroy everything in sight with Mewtwo or Arceus’ thing.  Or perhaps the rental Pokemon challenges, which involve randomly picked teams of Pokemon with terrible stats and movesets against an AI who seemingly gets the better end of the bargain (with Pokemon who just coincidentally don’t have all the moveset/stat problems you have).


Above: Easy enough, but damn, rental Pokemon in these games absolutely sucked.

And there’s Stadium/Stadium 2 for anyone unlucky enough not to own an actual Pokemon game.  Those rental Pokemon were absolutely terrible in every way, and in no way fit to be able to fight in the tournaments and modes those games threw at you.

All in all, the extra modes in many Pokemon games were always utterly annoying, no question about it.

8. Super Smash Bros Brawl; 100% completion

This one’s kind of self explanatory really.  Brawl has an absolute ton of content in it, so completing everything means literally beating every level and mode in the game on every possible difficulty setting.

But there are a few main parts to this that make the rest of the game look easy.  Namely:

Beating Boss Battles on Intense, which means defeating every boss in the game without dying once while they just happen to be able to kill you in one hit with about half their attacks.  It’s also something you can’t ‘cheat’ either, since the US and Japanese versions of the game make it so you can’t use a Golden Hammer to skip the achievement (the European version just lets you skip them like normal).

Above: The fact it counted as a ‘Stadium’ mini game and gave you just one life didn’t help.  Nor the fact that on c0-op, you automatically failed if EITHER player died.

Getting all trophies and stickers, which is infuriating as heck due to their randomness.  Want all the latter?  Good luck farming ‘sticker factory’ custom stages for days on end!  Want the former?  You’ll need not only all the stickers, but also to see a bunch of rare Pokemon and catch every monster and boss in the Subspace Emissary with Trophy stands… a Pokeball stand in which is both entirely random in its appearance and which only has a small chance of actually working.

100% completing any Super Smash Bros game is a task for mad people (just ask anyone who tried to get the Diskun trophy in Melee), but beating Brawl 100% is something that is just overwhelming vast and complicated to do.  Can you beat a 200-300 hour game to its fullest degree?

7. Actually completing the Pokedex (any Pokemon game)

Especially if you’re playing before the age of online multiplayer (think generations 1 to 3) or just trying to get all the Pokemon in game without trading them from people on the internet.

Because doing this is just annoying as heck, and confusing enough that I doubt anyone will be able to finish without either the Global Link or a strategy guide handy.

You’ve got Pokemon which show up once in a blue moon in certain games (like Feebas).


Above: And evolving it means you’ve got to make the fish look beautiful.

Ones which have to be traded with items… or in two cases, traded with another specific Pokemon.

Legendaries that Nintendo only seems to make available through random events.  These are annoying enough now with said events being wifi based, let alone in the days where you had to physically go to one and download the event Pokemon from some special machine.

And others are no easier to find.  Like Shedinja, who requires you to have an empty slot and an extra Pokeball when you evolve its preevolved form into a complete different Pokemon species.

Or those few Pokemon which evolve only if trained and leveled up in a certain in game area.  Like near a certain rock for Eevee, or in an area with a strong magnetic field for Nosepass and Magneton.


Above: This is Mount Coronet.  It’s never hinted that the place is magnetic, unless you live in Japan where the name actually gives it away.  Thanks localisation team!


Above: This is a route in Kalos which is also magnetic, which is barely hinted at all.

And the methods keep on coming.  Some evolve only if leveled up while holding a certain item, some only if they reach a certain level or higher at a certain time of day and others based on such ridiculous things as whether the system is held upside down, whether its raining or not or what other Pokemon are in the party at the time.


Above: You can only get a Goodra if its preevolved form is leveled up to level 50 when its raining in the overworld.

So while the Global Trade stuff makes it easier to complete the Pokedex than ever before, good luck figuring out how to do so the old fashioned way, what with some of these unique and awkward Pokemon catching and evolution methods.

Mega Scizor

Above: And Mega Evolutions require stones you can only find in a certain hour of the day, just in case the other stuff wasn’t bad enough.

6. Wario Land 4; Super Hard Mode

Well, I think the name here kind of says it all. You wanted Harder than Hard, you’ve got Harder than Hard.

Put simply, if Wario Land 4 is usually one of the easiest Nintendo games of all time, then its Super Hard mode mostly certainly does not mess around.

For one thing, you start every single level with just ONE hit point.  And in many of these cases, you can find pretty dangerous monsters just a matter of feet from the level entrance, meaning that a careless player could end up dead in about fifteen seconds.

They also quite blatantly tripled the amount of enemies you face, meaning that every level is absolutely crawling with monsters, most of which are the harder variants not usually present early on.  It’s most obvious in Hotel Horror, where now at least three hatchet wielding ghosts seem to be present by every single door in the building, changing it from ‘mildy haunted’ to ‘oh crap’ in a blink of an eye.

Above: The easiest level on Super Hard Mode.  Can still be a tad annoying.

The time limits to exit levels have also been cut out significantly too, with some (like Pinball Zone and Arabian Night) being ridiculously hard to escape before the timer runs out and others (like Palm Tree Paradise) having the exit switch with self destruct timer placed right underneath the level entrance, turning the whole stage into a frantic race.

Add ridiculous time limits for bosses (the first one gives you just 15 seconds to win), the changed locations of items and treasures (placed where innocent secrets and bonuses were in the easier difficulty levels) and tweaks to the minigames to make them harder too, and you’ve got quite a difficult mode to complete.

With a pretty much useless prize involving Wario getting a Jetsons style hover car and some different pictures in the ending (showing the guy on a date with a Mona like character in a proto version of Diamond City from WarioWare). Hooray?

5. Yoshi’s Island DS; 100% Completion

Because of all games ever released in shops, Yoshi’s Island DS is arguably that ONE game which can actually be counted as a legitimate example of the ‘platform hell’ genre.

Super Mario Bros 2 Lost Levels

Above: Yes, Yoshi’s Island DS is more platform hell like than the Lost Levels.  God knows how.

What’s platform hell?  Well, think Kaizo Mario World or I Wanna Be the Guy. Games meant to be sadistically frustrating that in many cases are only beatable due to generous usage of emulator tools like save states and rewinds.

Yoshi’s Island DS (or at least its secret and extra levels) is a borderline example of this genre.  Unfortunately, there’s one catch.

It’s a DS game.  As in, a game you have to play on an actual games system rather than emulator, so there are no rewinds or save states.  As a result, some of the secret levels (Yikes! Boiling Hot!, A Light in the Dark and Yoshi’s Island Easter Eggs) are absolutely damn near impossible because of level design based around trial and error gameplay and a distinct lack of checkpoints in certain areas.

Above: This is not a fun level.  Probably because it’s dark, and has a layout best described as a ‘maze’.  At least Lost Levels had you go from left to right in all cases, Yoshi’s Island DS has level design best described as ‘you need a map’.

How bad can this get?  Well in one cases, you have to get through three SMB 3 level length rooms between two checkpoints, with one mistake meaning you go straight back to said first checkpoint.  Did I mention that these rooms include bouncing on moving enemies, dodging lava that falls with no warning (in one case, it’s even used as a deliberate trap to screw over anyone rushing through the level) and an area where two lava shooting fish creatures happen to coexist with multiple ball and chain traps, sloped ground and lava pits?  And that’s just an easy example.  Others include momentum based gimmicks which are almost impossible to judge beforehand, red coins placed right before the goal ring in a level with absolutely no checkpoints and a red switch you have to bounce off of that’s placed directly above a pit of spikes that kill instantly on contact.

Above: Oh crap.  This is secret level 2.  Of 5.
So that’s why it’s listed.  Wait, Artoon are also designing Yoshi’s New Island under the name ‘Arzest’?  Ah damn it.

4. Donkey Kong Country Returns; Mirror Mode/Shiny Gold Time Trial Medals

Indeed, for this entry, I’m not sure which is worse when it comes to being ridiculously challenging.

On the one hand, you’ve got the Mirror Mode which limits you to just one health and then somehow expects you to 100% complete all the most challenging levels all over again.  This is plain insane when you get levels like the sixth temple level:

Or the fourth one:

But then you’ve got the special Shiny Gold Time Trial medals, which are obtained by racing non stop through levels at record speed without messing up and losing time.  The ones that don’t even get shown on the end screen until you unlock them, the ones that are actually a mystery to most people:

Above: Someone actually beat every level in the game with a Shiny Gold medal and made a video of it.

Either way, both of these challenges are some of the most ludicrous, unfairly difficult challenges ever found in a Nintendo game, and both very much worthy of making it onto a list like this one.

3. The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds; Cucco Challenge

You have to dodge flying chickens in a tiny pen for about 17 minutes straight without getting hit once.

See that video?  That’s someone managing… oh, about 2 minutes worth of the challenge.  Now imagine that, with increasing difficulty, for literally 9 times the duration.  As he rightfully points out, if you blink, you’re dead.

On the bright side, the music is catchy:

Above: The sounds of hell.

But it’s still a damn difficult challenge.  I mean, the entire development team for the game couldn’t beat it.  Not one person involved in making the game actually managed to win.

Yet to the despair of Zelda fans everywhere, this game is actually required for 100% completion.  Because you get a giant chicken at the end of it.  Like the cow in your house in Ocarina of Time, except from beating an awful version of chicken danmaku rather than the more sane archery mini game.

I’ll never know what Nintendo were thinking when they came up with this awful mini game and decided you should get a reward for playing through 17 minutes of it.  But damn, it’s one of the most awful things you can ever experience.

Which brings me onto the next item on the list.  Because doing perfect for 17 minutes wasn’t bad enough…

2. Mario & Luigi Dream Team; The Hard Mode Giant Battle Ring

And now, we get to this thing.  The giant battle ring is literally the most brutal RPG challenge I’ve ever encountered, and is placed so high on this list for one very good reason…

You cannot mess up at all.  That’s not an exaggeration.

Above: This is just the normal mode version.  See how much you have to go through?  Even without attacks killing you in three hits and with bosses attacking less?

For one thing, the turn limits here are insane.  If you do every attack perfectly and counter every single hit the enemy tries to lay on Mario and Luigi, you can JUST about make it before the time runs out.  But it gets worse.

Like how you cannot heal at all during any of these fights.  Your one healing move is completely removed from the menu, the bosses themselves drop no healing items in the course of battle like on normal mode and you have no ‘defensive’ options so to speak.  You can’t be that strategic here, you can only attack and counter attack, kill or be killed.

Oh, and when I say ‘kill or be killed’, guess which one is the more likely by far?  Because these bosses hit extremely hard.  Three hits is all it can take to kill Luigi.  Note the word ‘hits’ too, because that doesn’t mean ‘turns’.  The enemies you face can attack up to 15 times in one turn (with one specific boss doing the equivalent of three turns worth of attacks in a row before you can do a single one back).  It’s very possible (and in the later three bosses, likely) to go from full health to dead in the space of a single unlucky turn.

Then add how you can’t set up your character to be more ‘prepared’ for any of this (giant battles aren’t affected by stats, gear or held items), how certain parts can fail to work properly due to glitches and how the battle medley has you defeat all five bosses in a row with just one health bar and no healing in between, and it’s arguably the most unfair RPG gameplay in history, let alone in a Nintendo game.

Above: The only thing worse than five bosses in a row with no breaks or healing is when the fourth of fifth glitches out and kills you due to the motion controls failing to work altogether.

Indeed, it’s made even worse when you realise how much a single error costs you.  That person whose video I posted?  For him, getting to the fourth boss out of five (and getting rid of less than half its HP) took nearly half an hour.  So to complete it fully must take what, about 45 minutes to an hour?

Yeah. Every screw up you make on the last boss is literally an hour of your life wasted.  How the hell can a game expect you do perfectly for that amount of time?  And with no ‘easy’ option either.  At least Smash Bros on Intense let you rip through the bosses in seconds with Charizard and Rock Smash.  This game?  Not so much.

It’s also a good sign of how difficult this is that not one person has managed to video themselves beating it on Youtube.  If you ever see something like that, a case where something hasn’t been completed by someone on online within about six months of the game being released, you should probably take it as a warning sign and stay as far away as possible.

So what can be worse than the ‘you must do everything perfectly or else’ mode in a Mario RPG?  This…

1. The Legend of Zelda Oracle Series; Collecting All Rings

And so finally, we get to the number one item on our list of Hardest Nintendo Content.  What can seriously be more annoying than even Dream Team’s Giant Battle Ring or dodging non stop Cuccos?

Collecting all the rings in the Oracle games.

Yes, seriously.  There are 64 rings here, and while some are easy enough to locate if you know how, others quite literally require a strategy guide to figure out the location of.

Like the ones only gettable in a Linked Game.  And in a specific region to boot, meaning that you have to play both Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages TWICE to even get the chance to find them.

Two of these are then hidden in each version’s ‘Hero’s Cave’ bonus dungeon, which is an absolutely insane labyrinth of tricky puzzles and dangerous monsters, which is only completable with items from the seventh and eighth dungeons.

Others are only obtainable in mini games, like the one from the Platinum level in the Goron Dance mini game in Ages.  Oh, the Goron Dance is already rather difficult?  Well how about having to beat it without making a single mistake, complete with eight sequences of up to ten steps each?

But the real cruelest one has to be a certain ring you get from the Goron Target Shooting mini game.  Not because the game is hard (though the specific mode you have to beat for this ring is), but because it’s random what ring you actually get for doing so.  So not only do you have to beat a certain game on the hardest difficulty, but then hope you also win the lottery and get the exact prize you want in the process.  That’s… kind of evil.

And then comes the random ones.  Because every time you encounter Maple or get a Gasha Nut, you have a certain chance of finding a ring.  There’s no possible way to know which one you’ll get either, meaning that you’ve got to keep trying and hope you get lucky eventually.  Oh but wait there’s more.  Not all Gasha Trees are the same.  Some spots give you rings of certain ‘levels’ and some spots give you rings of a different ‘level’.  How do you know which ones they are?  You don’t.

And encountering Maple is technically not as obvious as you’d think either.  You quickly learn she appears when you’ve killed 30 enemies and entered a new screen, but you never then learn (without checking a walkthrough) that she only appears on about a third of the world map.  Or what spots these are.  Or that one ring she drops (as a random drop) is Maple’s Ring, which when equipped cuts down the enemies you need to kill from 30 to 15.

There’s also a rather nasty case of some content here being completely inaccessible due to technology moving on (like the Advance rings, only accessible when the game is played on a Game Boy Advance).  Yeah, good luck getting 100% completion here.  Especially when you have to basically hack the password symbol to make up for Nintendo’s lack of thought when it comes to emulating the games.

Oh, and one last thing… keep in mind the rings here you get entirely unappraised.  You don’t know what the hell they are until you pay to have them appraised at the jewelers.  So not only do you get random chance based stuff, but you physically don’t know whether its a repeat or not until you’ve marched all the way back to the main town and paid to have it appraised.  Thanks a lot Nintendo.  It’s like winning a prize in Vegas, but then having to go all the way to the other side of the country or even world to know what the hell you were ‘lucky’ enough to win.  At least in Pokemon you can tell what the hell you caught.  At least in Smash Bros, you find out what you won from the lottery machine when it comes out a second after the coin goes in. To have this situation, where you have a randomly dropped prize that cannot be identified without going further across the world and paying more money isn’t fun, it’s obnoxious.

God help anyone trying to get all the rings in these games, because they’ll definitely need it.

So those are the hardest things to do in Nintendo games.  Do you agree my choices and order?  Disagree?  Think I’ve missed some obvious inclusions?  If so, post your thoughts in the comments here or at Nintendo 3DS Community.com today!


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Cole Holbrook
Cole Holbrook
8 years ago

Great list! I have one to add although it’s not exactly “hard” but it’s just
impossible… Completing the Animal Crossing catalogs 🙂

8 years ago

Fire Emblem and Kid Icarus at 9.0 Intensity are pretty challenging too.

Michael Ocampo
Michael Ocampo
8 years ago

Great article man! You’ve made me wanna try some of these challenges for myself.

Ian Townsend
Ian Townsend
8 years ago

Then the Grandmaster Galaxy in Super Mario Galaxy 2…