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20 Super Nintendo Games That Are So Hard We’re Still Trying To Beat Them

Updated July 29, 2020 2.8k votes 607 voters 41.8k views20 items

List RulesSuper Nintendo games only.

When the Super Nintendo Entertainment System launched in 1991, it took gaming to a whole new level. The increased memory and graphics capability of the system made it possible for games to feature far more detail, with improvements made to layering, sound, and animations. The SNES was a massive hit, and over the course of its life, more than 700 titles were released. While some were fairly simple, this list ranks all the hardest SNES games that are still regarded as some of the most challenging and unforgiving titles ever made. 

Upgrading the console from the original Nintendo Entertainment System to the SNES didn't just improve everything exponentially, it also made a lot of games even more difficult than the ones that were released on the NES. The term "Nintendo Hard" may have been dubbed for the NES, but the developers must have kept it in the back of their minds while programming for the new system because there are some SNES games that are almost impossible to beat. How many of these games do you remember playing? More importantly, how many did you actually manage to beat?

From The Lion King to Battletoads In Battlemaniacs, check out 20 of the most difficult SNES games ever made, and vote up all the titles you remember raging at the last time you played.

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  • Photo: Konami

    When it was originally released on Apple II, the Prince of Persia was hailed as a revolutionary new style of gaming. The SNES eventually received a port, and while it was considered an overall well-executed game, there were definitely a few problems with the gameplay mechanics. In the end, the game proved too hard for some gamers, many of whom went back to play it years later only to find it was just as difficult playing through as an adult.

    What Makes It So Difficult: The method of gameplay requires exact timing, and missing something by a fraction of a second will almost always mean certain death. Every leap, step, jump, dash, and combat move must be precisely made, or it's curtains. But that wasn't even the worst part of the game. The Prince of Persia had an "overall timer," which limited gameplay to 120 minutes. You can die all you want, but the timer never stops counting down. If you don't complete the game in the allotted time, you're going right back to the beginning, with a new 120 minutes ticking away.

    • Release: 1989
    • Developer: Ubisoft, Red Orb Entertainment, Jordan Mechner, Brøderbund Software
    • Genres (Video game): Action-adventure game, Platform game, Action game
    Definitely a challenge?

    #130 of 382 List of Games With Girls in the Lead & Female Protagonists#332 of 1,371 The 100+ Best Video Games of All Time, Ranked by Fans#254 of 454 The Most Addictive Video Games of All Time

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  • Back in the mid-1990s, Jurassic Park was all the rage, so Ocean Software developed a game based on the property. However, instead of going the usual route with a platformer, they released a top-down 2D adventure game with intermittent 3D FPS bits mixed in. The game was revolutionary, and it paid homage to the Jurassic Park IP fairly well. Unfortunately (or not, depending on your gameplay style), it was incredibly difficult, suggesting it would be easier to survive the events depicted in the movie easier than it would be to complete the game.

    What Makes It So Difficult: While you might think a player would get slammed with dinosaurs all the time, it's not really that kind of game. Instead of mobbing players, the game features a unique puzzle and ammo system, which limits specific types of ammo for dealing with certain types of dinosaurs. This means a player has to be constantly aware of their ammunition while navigating Isla Nublar, or you'll quickly find yourself in a situation where you're unable to protect yourself. It also doesn't help that there's no guidance system, which makes it necessary to wander randomly about the park, and wandering will almost always lead to a premature death followed by the dreaded "Game Over" text.

    • Release: 1993
    • Developer: Ocean Software
    • Genres (Video game): Action-adventure game, Action game, Science Fiction
    Definitely a challenge?
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  • 7

    Contra III: The Alien Wars

    Photo: Konami

    The Contra franchise is known for being difficult — after all, the Konami Code was introduced in the first game on the NES, so the devs clearly knew those 30 extra lives were necessary. For the third entry in the series, the difficulty players expected to find was certainly present, though the game took advantage of the capabilities the SNES had to offer. It's visually well-made, and is an entertaining side-scroller.

    What Makes It So Difficult: The Konami Code wasn't a part of this game! That's probably the first thing a player tried when they first booted it up, but no. The Konami Code was completely absent, so players had to move from beginning to end without the 30 life bonus. Players had to contend with the traditional three, and losing them was a lot easier than keeping them. Difficulty scaled as play progressed, so each level is twice as hard as the one that came before it. Contra III: The Alien Wars is beatable, but it's going to take a ton of playthroughs before you finally beat it.

    • Release: 1992
    • Developer: Konami
    • Genres (Video game): Shooter game, Shoot 'em up, Action game, Run and gun
    Definitely a challenge?
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  • There are a lot of fans of Disney's The Lion King port for the SNES, and overall, it's a fun and interesting game. The level design is well constructed, and the graphics and sound are top-notch, but just because a game looks good doesn't mean it's going to be easy to play. 

    What Makes It So Difficult: One of the biggest problems players had with the game was the tight controls and mechanics, which made it difficult to even know what exactly you were supposed to do. As you play through the game, the difficulty scales up significantly, and the second level is one of the most notorious from any game found on the console... and this was a game meant for children! Most adults find it difficult, and few have ever made it to level three, but the ones who do end up playing through a rather entertaining game.

    • Release: 1994
    • Developer: Virgin Interactive, Dark Technologies, Westwood Studios
    • Genres (Video game): Platform game, Action game
    Definitely a challenge?
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