The concept of video games being “NES Hard” might be lost in today’s world of gaming. Nowadays video games have generous save systems and regenerating health bars. In the 80s and 90s arcade games were made to make money. After a few hits you’d be done, and need to insert another few quarters to continue. When these games made their way to home consoles the system persisted, albeit without the quarters.
Enter Ghosts ‘n Goblins, a genuine classic in the early action/adventure genre. Notorious for how difficult the game can be, only allowing one or two hits from enemies before death, the game still had a large arcade presence and following. My personal interaction with the game is almost exclusively limited to console compilation packages.
However, I was able to play the game for a fair bit when I discovered an original arcade cabinet. Hot damn this game eats your quarters like no other! I wouldn’t consider myself exceptionally skilled at this game, but I think my general gaming knowledge can carry me through most titles. Ghosts ‘n Goblins, though, takes that statement and runs it through the wash. I think I died within 30 seconds. I barely made it halfway through the first level before I had to use a continue. After about 5 minutes with the game I made some progress but was only at the end of the first stage, not even to the second.
And yet I still wanted to play. This is the success of games with this type of difficulty: they are fun for a short burst, and merciless. Yet you find you still want to play. The game is just difficult enough you don’t feel like walking away: rather, putting in some more money to get just a bit further.
While I think Ghosts ‘n Goblins is a fine game, these types of ruthlessly difficult games were never really my favorite. The nothing of memorizing a game instead of just learning how to play it to succeed isn’t really for me. Still though, there is a sort of fluid enjoyment watching a master play the game.
But that will never be me.
*Played at Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfiled, IL 2019