Five Games I Beat As a Child That I Can’t Beat Now

I busted out my old Nintendo Entertainment System a few weeks ago for laughs. I had played for all of an hour when I began to wonder: what’s happened to me? Has gaming become so streamlined that I have become a terrible gamer as a result of it? A gamer who needs his hand held to make any kind of progress at all? Or does the fault lie in me? Have my years of excessive drug use and rampant cannibalism finally taken a toll on my senses and dulled my reaction times?

I honestly think the answer may lie somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. While gaming has gotten undeniably easier (I foreshadow someone arguing this with the “Dark  Souls” point, but sadism and hard games are two different things), I have also gotten undeniably older, and I believe it’s those factors that created the “perfect storm”. A crux where I am incapable of beating video games now that I could beat with ease as a child. The following are five such examples of games.

Mike Tyson’s Punchout

First and foremost, I loved this game as a child. I loved this game like someone loved their childhood pet. More than a video game, I felt like it was a precursor to Shadow of the Colossus (yes, you just read that) in the sense that it was really just a string of connected boss fights. Now that I am older I can see that the game is a string of connected stereotypes, but I still think it is incredible. Every character had patterns of attack and traits you could exploit. Usually, based around their stereotypes, actually.

In hindsight, this game is so tasteless, if it was made now it would have a suicide bomber character.

But all those stupid, politically correct points aside, the game had an amazing difficulty curve, and everytime you thought you were stuck, you would manage to press on. Well, until you reached this guy:

007-373-5963 is the code to get directly to him. I remember it like an old flame’s phone number. I am sad, I know.

Once you got to Tyson, forget about it. He would do this super fast hand motion, and then punch you in the face, one punch knockout style. It took every skill you got in the game up to that point, and added amped up ninja-like-reflexes into the mix. But the thing is, you COULD master him. You could fight him, time after time, and like all old games, you could master his pattern. It was not easy, and your hands would be shaking from psuedo-adrenaline after a minute or so, but it could be done.

I know because I did it.

And I even remember how amazing it was. To see his body twist through the air and the hit the mat for the third time. I mean, I heralded that moment from my childhood so much, I made that my Facebook Timeline photo.

And Tyson’s ” O Face” from when you win by decision is pretty amazing, too.

But something happened when I played Punchout again. I sucked. I really, really sucked. Not only could I not beat Mike Tyson. I could not make it to him. And do you know why I couldn’t make it to him?

Bald f*cking Bull. That’s why!

Now I know, with Bald Bull, you need to count to three as he charges, but when you do you start? All the skills I spent my youth acquiring were gone. He reduced me to rubble, time and time again. So I used to code. The only other code besides “The Konami Code” that I fully remember from my youth. And I went directly to Tyson, and after about an hour of having my ass beat, I came to the conclusion: No way. There is no way I could do this now, and I have no idea how I did it then.

What kind of awesome shit were my parents feeding me as a kid that ever made this possible?

Mega Man 2

Alright, I know all you need to do is go get the metal blade weapon from the Metal Man stage right away, and it is almost a game breaking weapon. I recall that clearly, so I tried to do it. And again, I just kept wondering how I ever did this. Literally. I now lacked the patience to even get myself all the way through one level. ONE LEVEL. Why? Because I had seemingly somehow forgotten that the game was designed by cruel, heartless people who grew stronger by drinking the tears of children.

In what sick world is every surface a conveyor belt leading to an excruciating death? It is like a precursor to the SAW franchise.

I know Capcom released Mega Man 9 not long ago, and with it, the same brutal difficulty, but I just lack any of the patience and timing required of me now to get through a game like this. How is it that I have less patience as an adult than I did as a child? And I know I beat it, because Mega Man 2 has one of my favorite bosses from my childhood.

Do you know how cool of a moment this is when you are a kid?

I know I could have chosen any early game in the series, but Mega Man 2 stood out to me because when I played it again as an adult, I was so excited to see the dragon boss again, and  sadly, I couldn’t even make it to him.

*Hangs head in shame


Now this is really the big nerd reveal, because only nerds played games like Shadowgate. But Shadowgate was AWESOME. It taught me to think differently. Like insanely differently. And I have watched people play this game and never even get in the castle. Yes, even the first door is a puzzle, but if you are not familiar with point and click games, you will just be standing there, with no clue.

Really? I cried out “death to the Philistine!!” before I killed the cyclops? Dafuq?

Now you need to understand, I played this game in an ERA BEFORE INTERNET. Yes, there was such a thing. This is half the problem with gaming now. We all have immediate gratification at our fingertips, so if we get stuck, we get stuck for about a half hour (at most) and run to Google to check a faq or a Youtube video. But in those days, way back, when Scientology was known as Dianetics (true story) if you got stuck in a game, you generally had to mess around with it until you got unstuck.

You could ask friends or call the dreaded “Nintendo Hotline” which would cost your parents like seven dollars a minute, but normally, as gamers, we just worked ourselves on through the part we were stuck on. I know, crazy idea, right?

Who knew the whole thing was a deviant plan by the “Burger King”?

And so I popped this game in and played it again, and again, came to the glaring conclusion that I now suck at life. Seeing as to how I couldn’t get past the third room or so. And it isn’t even like a game like this changes or requires any kind of timing. It sits there, for as long as you do, and always lets you make the first move. So it is not like I was stuck on a floating platform or anything. I was stuck on a  puzzle that I had beaten before with a definitive solution I have already come to.

In theory, that is like getting on a bike after ten years and falling over, again and again.

Like I said, what the hell happened to me? Play it for yourself here and see if you do any better. And remember, no faqs!

  • Good read. I aslo beat Tyson once, and I remember there was nobody in sight, then just as Little Mac was celebrating my brother came upstairs and I was even happier to have a witness of my epicness than I was when I actually dropped Tyson. Because back then, if nobody saw it, and you couldn’t repeat it, then it didn’t happen. And I did try to repeat it a couple of times, always came close, but got shafted by Mario in the decision. Good times.

  • Good article, Remy.

  • DocDoom

    Another great post, Remy. I kind of did this a few months ago, where I played though a bunch of old NES games with a buddy. G&G and Castlevania were a couple we tried, and I did NOT get very far. I couldn’t believe I had done them when I was younger.

    One that I was still able to dominate was Megaman 2, though. However, I realized that nothing gives me anxiety quite like battling that freaking dragon boss. My goodness.

  • Nakna_ankaN

    It might actually be the TV:s fault modern day flatscreen TV:s have much more input lag than old school “fat” TV:s, in modern games it doesnt matter as much, but playing old school NES games where timing is key to success it throws you of your game.

    An old Tv might help.

  • This reminds me of when I downloaded Ninja Gaiden on my Wii’s virtual console. “This will be the only game in hell,” I thought to myself after dying for the thousandth time.

  • Hey, thanks for kind words, guys.
    @Nqakna_anKaN, Wow, that is a really solid point. I had not thought about that at all, actually.
    @ Sara C, that beat my ass so badly on NES and XBOX that I refused to revisit it. The “birds” in that game are pretty much the Medusa heads from Castlevania in a different form, and even talking about them again has me sweating profusely.

  • joe

    I remember playing Shadowgate with my Mom. She was just as into it as I was. She actually suggested we call the Nintendo hotline to get answers on how to pass a certain section!

    I have a really cool Mom.

  • trashcanman

    Dude, that Martyrs reference was awesome. But I’m going to have to call bullshit on your claims of having beaten G&G and Punch-Out based on general principle and past experience. I had so man of my friends claim to have easily beaten Iron Mike, and when I showed up at their house or invited them to mine to show me, they all failed as badly as I. I could beat everyone up to Tyson blindfolded, but the man himself was overpowered to a ridiculous extent. And Ghosts and Goblins. SHIT. Maybe the only game I ever played that was worse than Battletoads (at least you didn’t claim that one) in terms of difficulty.

    I never had much problem with the dragon in Mega Man 2. My problem was those levels where you had to fall and avoid the spikes or those fucking posts that extended horizontally that would kill you if you touched them. Some years back a friend of mine was stuck on that spike level and actually forced me to play it for him after I stated I’d beaten the game in the day of my youth. The idea of playing the game again cause my hands to shake with memories of past failures, but I actually did it on my first try. I blame muscle memory from having spent so many fucking hours on that level. My greatest old school gaming triumph.

    Anyways, the explanation for why we suck as adults is pretty simple. It’s the same reason children learn language and music effortlessly and for most adults it’s like trying to hammer nails of knowledge into your skull. Children’s brains are designed for learning, and adults are products of a lifetime of bad habits and predictable patterns who have lost that ability. Them: new hotness. Us: old and busted.

  • sean

    Great post. I don’t think those games were designed to steal the tears of children, but rather their quarters :). Their arcade roots are showing. So is gaming more enjoyable now with the invention of save points and online guides? Or is it the challenge and reward that comes from beating games gone?

  • @trashcanman, I decided you are (not sarcastically) my favorite person, and I before I address your points, I want to tell you why. You make me a better writer. You honestly do. I feel you, like the dark side of the force, and that very drive compels me to work harder. And thank you for the Martyrs compliment. We think freakishly alike, you and I. As for Tyson and G&G. I will tell you this with all confidence, I could do Tyson again. I could. Only because I know the only reason I did it, and same with G&G, was absolute resilience and perseverance. In other words, playing for hours and hours on end because I was poor and tended to have one game at a time as a child growing up. That would force me into pattern recognition and memorization over time. I am convinced, with time, I could beat Tyson again. But G&G, I agree with you completely. Two levels reduced me to a quivering mess, so there is no way I could prove that. Even to myself. Oh, and I want a shirt that says “Old and Busted” now. That is awesome, and spot on. @ Sean, good call about the quarters! You know what stole all my childhood allowances, week after week? Dragon’s Lair…..

  • Diablo

    Sort of the opposite direction, I was a 26 year old living in a dorm (I had just got of the military). One of my roommates picked up an N64 on ebay. He played it about 15 minutes before throwing down the controller in disgust at Mario 64. I hadn’t picked up a controller since I left home at 18. On a lark, I picked it up.

    Three hours later, he comes into the room. I had zoned out completely. He asked if I had gotten far. “Not really…I am at 58 stars”. It blew his mind because at the start of school, everyone made fun of me because I didn’t know that A drives weren’t still being used by people.

  • MattChi

    OMG, great timed post. I decided to play G&G again last night randomly, and then you post this. But, holy heck did it destroy me. It wasn’t even fair. Mike Tyson is just patience and playing the game till the timing is second nature. I don’t think we have the attention span and free-time to spend 8 hours straight, playing the same level, like we did as kids.

  • Mr. Right

    This only really happens to me in 2D fighting games.

  • @ Joe, you really DO have a cool Mom!

  • Colton Hill

    I’m 19 and, dudes, Punch Out is pretty easy.

  • Tonyctitan

    Damn, I thought I was the only person on the planet to finish or even play shadow gate. What about bionic commando or ninja gaiden?

  • the_truant

    as soon as i saw the article, i thought Mega Man 3. i bought it last year on my PS3, because that’s probably one of my favorite games of all time, and definitely my favorite from that franchise. i used to play the hell out of that game…knew all the best weapons for each boss, knew how to stomp through it with and without cheats (codes for E-tanks, the 2nd controller invincibility trick, etc). i even once beat the game without ever using any special weapons (other than Rush).

    now? good god, it took me several tries to get through the first 8 bosses, and i got my ass handed to me several times on the Doc Robot revisited stages. ouch.

    oh well. still worth the $3 or w/e for the nostalgia.

    also, Mega Man 9 was frustratingly fun. felt just like the original games…up until the point where i realized i had to do Dr Wily’s castle in one sitting. that was when i said, “eh, good enough,” and turned the game off forever. also worth the $10 for that feeling of being a kid again with a brand new NES game.

  • Amy

    It’s why I never really got into the NES. I give up too easily

  • EcHoGoD

    so you guys just repost these every few months or so? Don’t get me wrong its a good article, but you shouldn’t repost old articles.