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Nintendo, What Happened to Me? Or is it You?

Quick name the hardest game of all time. Obviously it’s Demons Souls right? Dark Souls? Bloodborne? From Software at least, right? OK OK Something by Kamiya?

Battletoads? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Those are both difficult but more broken, than difficult.


What about Super Mario Brothers for the NES?

Think about it. One hit kills you, you have no weapons for 75% of the game and the one you get doesn’t even kill every enemy. You have to go in close range to kill things but touching them kills you unless you jump directly on top of a moving target. Pixel perfect jumps and death to endless void is the rule of the day. Checkpoints are few and far between. You have limited time to think of how you’ll tackle each section, a timer ticks down in faster than normal time in the top right corner.

Regardless, I don’t mean to start a war about which was the most difficult game, only that Nintendo, you used to be synonymous with difficulty. That’s...not true today. It’s not true of any one console at all, I’d venture but Nintendo is the one most hurt by this perception. Games as a whole have become easier over time - you no longer have to find a typewriter in Resident Evil games. Checkpoints abound. Even “difficult” games like Bloodborne aren’t really that difficult. My six year old can get quite far in Bloodborne without dying.

Nintendo was the system I cut my gaming teeth on. I was six or seven at the time and I got it for Christmas. I remember leaving the game powered on while I went to church because I was on world seven of Adventure Island. I was so close! Adventure Island was difficult. Blaster Master was impossible. Metroid thankfully had saves, but was very hard.


I got the Gameboy some time after. Mario World, Tetris, Mario World 2, Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Dexterity. Nintendo still had it. Those games were hard. The SNES came out and while overall there was a...softening, of the difficulty due to savestates being more commonplace and developers not having to stretch the playtime of their game with ridiculous difficulties. Compare Super Mario World to Super Mario Brothers. SMW was still difficult, and took some diligence to beat, but it was nowhere near as difficult as Super Mario Brothers. There was also a transition that began here as well. Nintendo started to create their brand. Yoshi was introduced. Everything in Mario World was created to be kid friendly and cute.


Contrast the Goombas and Turtles in Mario Brothers to Super Mario World


Goombas became rounder and more spherical shaped. Turtles became personified - wearing boots. A small change but one I’d argue made them less, “Oh god, why is a turtle after me?” and more, “Oh what a cute little fella!”


The trend goes on and on until we have the Mario games of today. The important thing is that as each game has become more and more kid friendly, they’ve also gotten easier. Mario Galaxy...well, the only difficulty I had was in getting accustomed to running around small planets. Other than that the difficulty curve was practically nonexistent.

I just wonder what happened. When did “family friendly” began to mean ridiculously easy. Why and when did Nintendo lose faith in kids to be able to solve difficult problems?


I’m not saying Nintendo games are bad. I owned a Wii and thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t purchase a Wii U though. I have a daughter, I want her to play difficult games, to learn to overcome steep obstacles on the path to victory, and to have to use her brain to figure out complex puzzles. I just don’t see that in the games made for the Wii U.

Maybe I’m wrong - as I made mention I don’t own a Wii U so maybe there are some challenging games on it. Bayonetta 2, if it’s anything like Bayonetta, is probably one. But game for game, difficulty to difficulty, I don’t think there’s much of a comparison.


So is it me? Or is it Nintendo?

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