You’d think that our list of the most unfair games would simply be a compilation of the ten hardest games or the ten most poorly designed games, but you’d be wrong. Many of the games on this list were purposefully designed to be unfair. In fact, some people treat completing the games on this list like a badge of honor. Can you triumph over broken A.I. and impossible to defeat stage hazards? Can you keep yourself from smashing your controller to pieces during unbelievably cheap boss fights? Take a chance with the 10 Most Unfair Games.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)
You are going to see a lot of NES games on our list of the 10 Most Unfair Games, because developers didn’t realize that trial and error wasn’t a good way to get through a game level back then. The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game for the NES was a great example of this, as certain levels could barely ever be passed unless you controlled the right turtle, and since turtles could essentially perma die in this game, you could routinely get stuck in areas with no way to advance. Oh, and there were those electric seaweed water levels that gave you maybe a pixel’s worth of room to navigate. The less we say about those, the better. We're already having PTSD (post traumatic seaweed disorder) just imagining that stage.
The Silver Surfer (1990)
Speaking of unfair NES games, The Silver Surfer was unfair because it was poorly designed. You could rarely ever tell if a background object was something you could safely pass over, or something that would kill you in one hit if you touched it. The Surfer’s hurt box was also ludicrously huge, extending out to his surf board. If even one tiny fireball touched it, the Surfer, the herald of Galactus, one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel universe, was totally done for.
Mushihime-sama Futari (2006)
Arcade, Xbox 360, iOS
What the heck is this Japanese mess!? Mushihime-sama Futari was a game that was actually designed to be unfair. The series basically defined modern day bullet hell genres. In fact, the screen was so crowded with bullets you actually needed to use a second zoomed in window to navigate the maze of insta-death that they created! If you think you are good at shoot 'em ups, take on this sucker and you'll see how bad you really are.
Dark Souls (2011)
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Dark Souls is a more modern twist on the trope of being designed to be completely unfair. However, Dark Souls has one thing going for it many of the other games on this list do not: it's actually fun to play. Sure, there's the threat of perma-death lurking around every corner, and there are some monsters out there that will straight up jack you on sight, but that's all part of the allure. Instead of being unintentionally unfair, treating the player like a meat puppet is basically the whole conceit of Dark Souls. That said, the satisfaction from living through an encounter that previously ruined your day is amazing.
The Shin Megami Tensei Series (1987-Present)
The Shin Megami Tensei Series is one of the most fun, but unfair RPG series in existence. Why? Two words: Hama and Mudo. If you don’t know what these are, you aren’t an SMT fan. They are the “light” and “dark” element spells in the game, and they only do one thing: instantly kill you. Oh, they don’t instantly kill the opponent. No, the opponent gets a chance to dodge, but you just immediately get sent to your death unless you are using items or abilities that make you immune. There are plenty of situations in all SMT games where you get into a battle only to have random enemies cast an instant death spell on your entire party, and then BAM, game over and there’s nothing you can do about it.
I Wanna Be the Guy (2007)
I Wanna Be the Guy was another title that was designed to be unfair, so it gets to be on our 10 Most Unfair Games list. Every single level was based on memorization and memorization only. You can only beat this game with trial and error, or else you’ll be randomly surprised by moons that fall down on your head, killer apples, Ryu hurricane kicking through the wall, or even Mike Tyson punching you from the background.
Mortal Kombat II (1993)
Arcade and Multiple Consoles
Fighting game A.I. is some of the most unfair A.I. video games have. Older fighting games would have characters that could almost read your mind. The computer would react with split second timing any time you pressed a button. It couldn’t be mixed-up and would block you perfectly. You had to exploit flaws in the A.I. to win. Mortal Kombat II’s A.I. was some of the roughest. Just try to defeat Shao Kahn on anything but the lower difficulty levels. He will destroy you in only a few hits.
The Mario Party Series (1998)
Mario Party: fun little casual game, or completely unfair frustration fest? There are so many unfair aspects of Mario Party. Many mini-games are won by chance. Several random map events can take away stars and coins from people just because of a die roll. Even worse, the “bonus stars” at the end tend to be far more plentiful than any stars you can actually earn during the game. So even if you have a two star lead, you’ll likely end up losing because your opponent stepped on more red spaces than you, or some other random reason. It's ruined friendships in the past, and if your friends want to play with you, it's because they're sadistic and you should probably leave.
There can’t ever be a list of unfair or hard games without including Battletoads on it. This game, and its infamous speeder level, was brutally punishing. Even after playing through Battletoads' levels multiple times and knowing exactly where every trap is, you’d still end up dying simply because it ran faster than most people could react. It's a legendary game, and one that deserves its place in history, but man, this game pulls some bulls---.
Dragon’s Lair was a cinematic LaserDisc game that asked you to press the right direction on a joystick in order to prevent Dirk the Daring from being killed. It was, essentially, one long quick-time event. However, the NES did not have LaserDisc quality video. So instead of creating a cinematic quick-time event for the NES, a platformer was developed that simply required as much memorization as the original LaserDisc game. Everything in this killed you in one hit, and Dirk moved so slow that you had to have exact timing or else you’d die and go all the way back to the beginning. There was nothing fair about Dragon's Lair for the NES, and to be honest, there was nothing fun about it either. Congratulations, Dragon's Lair, when it comes to the most unfair games, a winner is you.
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