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Nintendo may be family friendly, but some of its games are only for the most skilled players. For this list, we'll be looking at the toughest games Nintendo has published, even those that were developed by different companies. Our countdown of the hardest Nintendo games ever includes “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” (2014), “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” (1988), “Metroid Prime 2: Echoes” (2004), “Fire Emblem: Thracia 776” (1999), and more!
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hardest Nintendo Games Ever. For this list, we’ll be looking at the toughest games Nintendo has published. This will also include IP’s owned by Nintendo that were developed by different companies. What’s the toughest Nintendo game you’ve ever played? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: “Super Mario Sunshine” (2002)

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As a follow up to the all time classic “Super Mario 64”, “Sunshine” is not only an excellent entry in the franchise but also one of the toughest. As with many 3D games of its time, the camera controls are pretty awful, meaning you’ll often be fighting against them. It also features some of the toughest 3D Mario levels ever, with the ones where you no longer have your F.L.U.D.D. equipped standing out for being incredibly meticulous and hard. The most notorious level in the game however is the dreaded Pachinko one which still haunts us all to this day.

#9: “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” (2014)

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The Donkey Kong Country series is no stranger to some particularly challenging moments, but the latest game “Tropical Freeze” goes above and beyond. Playing as Donkey Kong and his family, you’ll be tasked with overcoming increasingly tough levels that will require you to have quick reflexes and expert timing. Some have even complained that the game has way too much trial and error in its stages, leading to many playthroughs. Thankfully for those who found the game way too tough, Nintendo introduced an easier “Funky Mode” in the Switch port, which allows you to play as Funky Kong.

#8: “Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!” (1987)

One of the standout games on the original Nintendo Entertainment System, “Punch-Out!!” is notorious amongst many gamers as being one of the toughest they played during their childhood. While there are plenty of challenging moments throughout the game, the main reason why this game is featured on this list is due to its final boss: Mike Tyson. In this final showdown against this real life star, players must perfectly avoid and block his attacks, such as his uppercut that’ll knock you out easily. Only players who know how to counter his techniques with expert timing will come out victorious.

#7: “Metroid Prime 2: Echoes” (2004)

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“Metroid Prime” was a genre defining masterclass and many had high expectations for its sequel. While it’s an incredible game in its own right, its highly increased difficulty put a lot of players off. Alongside more powerful enemies and more limited ammo, the main reason for this bump in difficulty was the brand new Dark World, where you would constantly take damage when not near to a light crystal. And we’d be remiss to not mention the Boost Guardian, who is one of the toughest boss fights in all of Metroid.

#6: “Kirby's Dream Course” (1995)

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As one of the easiest and pleasant franchises Nintendo has to offer, we’re sure you’re all shocked that a Kirby game made it onto this list, but it’s for a very good reason. Whereas the majority of Kirby’s outings are platformers, this one is a weird miniature golf hybrid where Kirby must launch himself through various courses. Although the game starts off simple enough, as you get to the later stages there will be no room for error. With limited shots and stages filled with hazards such as spikes, you’ll have to pull off some incredibly perfect runs.

#5: “Sin & Punishment: Star Successor” (2010)

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The original “Sin & Punishment” for the Nintendo 64 was already one of Nintendo’s toughest, but its sequel decided to take things one step further. Battling your way through an on-rail shooter, you’ll have to have expert timing on dodging all the enemies' attacks. The stages themselves are very trial and error meaning you’ll have to study enemy locations and attacks. And although the game is generous with checkpoints, the bosses themselves will try their absolute best to make sure you don’t reach them with their incredible difficulty.

#4: “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” (1988)

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The first game in the Zelda series was a challenging adventure where you were dropped in the middle of nowhere and expected to figure things out yourself. Its sequel however is a black sheep in the franchise due to the fact that Nintendo tried to meld open world and side scrolling gameplay together. This resulted in the toughest game in the series, with limited lives and annoying enemies such as Darknuts, who were incredibly annoying to hit. It also features some down right annoying bosses, such as Thunderbird with its never ending fire attacks.

#3: “Fire Emblem: Thracia 776” (1999)

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The Fire Emblem series can often be tricky in certain chapters, especially with the ones that have permadeath on, meaning if a unit falls you lose them for good. The very last SNES title released in Japan, Thracia 776 has attained legendary status within the Fire Emblem fandom as its most brutally difficult entry. You’ll be plunged head first into some incredibly difficult situations where every decision will be a matter of life or death. The game will constantly throw scenarios at you that you’ll never see coming, such as numerous enemy reinforcements in all the worst places. We’d be here all day if we went through all of the mechanics that make this such a grueling game, but we definitely have to mention the annoying fatigue system as well as the awful status effects that never run out.

#2: “Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels” (1986)

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There’s a very good reason why this game didn’t come out in the west until much later. Originally released in Japan as “Super Mario Bros. 2”, Nintendo of America decided this game was way too hard and instead decided to repurpose another game, Doki Doki Panic as its Super Mario sequel. The Lost Levels is very much like its predecessor in the way it plays, except with the extremely ramped up difficulty. The game even introduced the poison mushroom item, which looks almost exactly like a regular one, except it punishes the player by shrinking or killing Mario and Luigi.

#1: “F-Zero GX” (2003)

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Released to critical acclaim, “F-Zero GX” is considered by many to be the best futuristic racing game out there thanks to its incredible speed and awesome track design. Its single player story mode however is well known for its insane difficulty. The game has a very steep learning curve and some of its later stages have an incredibly high skill floor. The AI very clearly cheats to catch up with you and even the tiniest of mistakes will have you flying off the race track and into last place. For many, “F-Zero GX” is one race they cannot win.