Pixels is every geek’s fantasy come true – the fate of the world rests on the shoulders, or rather, arcade game skills of the two protagonists. We mere mortals could never have defeated the video games of the 80s and 90s (admit it!), so we’re in awe of the those who can.

Think back to to our childhoods – have you actually seen Super Mario being completed before? Or Sonic the Hedgehog? Sure, YouTube affords us a glimpse into their endings, but before that, those endings were the stuff of legends. Here are six games of yesteryear that were impossibly difficult to defeat. There’s even a trope for these nigh unbeatable games – “Nintendo hard.”

1) Super Mario Bros (1985)

Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros. Credit: Mainly Nerds

You’ve never defeated it. Come on. The very first castle in World 1-4 is packed with lethal fire traps and a fake Bowser with flame blasts that were impossible to dodge. How could you have gone through seven more castles like this?

What everybody did was to take the warp zone in World 1-2 and World 4-2, to skip ahead all the way to the last stage – and die miserably due to the huge jump in difficulty. Super Mario Bros was lots of great fun to play, especially since it introduced the concept of inertia in video games (remember how difficult it was to stop running?), but finishing it was a pipe dream. Pun intended.

2) Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)

Sonic the Hedgehog. Credit: Gamefabrique

Sonic the Hedgehog. Credit: Gamefabrique

Collecting rings in Sonic the Hedgehog would result in that addictive bell tone, especially after you ran through a series of rings. And everybody loved revving Sonic up to Mach 5 speeds, where he could defeat enemies by shredding them with his whizzing razor spines, and zoom through levels with ease.

Whereupon you’d fall into some hole or crash headlong into some death trap. The irony, or perhaps moral, of Sonic the Hedgehog was simple – speeding leads to death. But that lesson was wasted on us young’uns, and we’d speed through the game to our deaths again, and again, and again, because it was just so much fun seeing Sonic dash through the world.

3) Contra (1987)

Contra. Credit: That's Enuff

Contra. Credit: That’s Enuff

Absolutely nobody started this game by pressing Start. You’d do the Konami code – Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start – to make sure you had 30 (or is that 99?) lives before starting the game. You see, despite being a muscular veteran of war, a scratch by anything vaguely hostile would end your character’s life there and then. There was no health meter for your hero – he was either alive or dead.

Could you have finished Contra on the default 3 lives provided? Possibly. But I don’t know anyone who made their life more difficult by doing so.

4) Mega Man (1987)

Megaman. Credit: Nerds of a Feather

Megaman. Credit: Nerds of a Feather

Megaman (or Rockman, for those of us who could only get our hands on the more common Japanese version) featured an engaging premise – defeat one of the Robot Masters, and you’d get to add their weapon to your arsenal. The infuriating part was that each boss did much more damage to you (despite both of your health meters being the same height), and their attacks were insanely difficult to dodge. Add to the fact that being hit would send you recoiling back in pain (sometimes into pits of spikes), and you had a recipe for unwinnability.

On the other hand, if you made it to the second last stage in the game (by which then your health meter, ammunition and various other power-ups would have been depleted), you would have come across this super power-up known as the Yashichi, which replenished all of your health and ammunition meters. Booya!

5) The Legend of Zelda (1987)

The Legend of Zelda. Credit: Gameskinny

The Legend of Zelda. Credit: Gameskinny

Anybody who’s played The Legend of Zelda will be familiar with that swirly, whirly whine that Link gives whenever he dies. Link started off with the weakest sword and shield, but would progress on to becoming a powerful hero of the Triforce by the end.

It was getting there that was a problem. Every quest’s instruction was a vague and oblique reference to a portion of the world you might not have even been to before, and enemies would hurt you just by touching you. How could you have defeated the game if you didn’t know how to solve the puzzles within?

6) Street Fighter 2 (1991)

Street Fighter 2. Credit: Retro Snack

Street Fighter 2. Credit: Retro Snack

Fighting games today are easy. Bash any combination of buttons hard enough, and you’ll execute a flashy super move that’ll chop off a quarter of your opponent’s health meter. You don’t even need to memorise the button sequences for your moves. Basic punches and kicks? What’s that?

Well, punches, kicks and blocks were how you won the day in Street Fighter 2. Sure, you had super moves, but they were difficult to pull off unless you knew the button sequence. Street Fighter 2 was a true test of fighting skills, because your mastery of high kicks and low punches would be how you won each match – not bashing every single button all the time. Your computer opponents had no such restrictions though. They’d pull off a super move every half a minute. And cream you. In seconds.

Pacman eats a car in Pixels. Credit: Sony Pictures

Pacman eats a car in Pixels. Credit: Sony Pictures

Do these video games bring back nostalgic (and painful) memories for you? Pixels will, too, with its homages to many arcade games of the 80s. Check out Pixels at all Golden Village cinemas, opening this weekend!

Credits: Sony Pictures, Mainly Nerds, Gamefabrique, That’s Enuff, Nerds of a Feather, Gameskinny, Retro Snack