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Hard-Ass Games: Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts June 17, 2009

Posted by Frezno in game reviews, rants.

Update: As of 4 years ago, I’m full of shit.

Welcome to what will hopefully become a running series here on our little blog, “Hard-Ass Games”. It’s a simple little featurette that takes a look at ridiculously difficult old-school games, and breaks down for the uninitiated exactly why they give any old-timey gamer the chills whenever mentioned. So, let’s get to it.

Before they hit the big time with franchises like Mega Man and Street Fighter, Capcom created an infamously sadistic platformer called Ghosts ‘n Goblins in 1985. Playing as a knight named Arthur, you fought your way through levels full of demons and zombies in order to save a kidnapped princess(It wasn’t quite cliche back then). Despite its notorious difficulty, it did fairly well and prompted an arcade sequel three years later, called Ghouls n’ Ghosts. Both Ghosts ‘n Goblins and Ghouls ‘n Ghosts recieved several ports, but a true sequel to Ghouls ‘n Ghosts would not come until the release of the Super Nintendo. Capcom summoned the most nefarious tricks and traps they could think up, then added twice that many when Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts finally hit store shelves. Now, something a little notable in regards to this blog; A handful of us have our hands in some of the spinoff games and tributes to the franchise. OZ has completed a full LP of the final game in the Gargoyle’s Quest series, Demon’s Crest. Rizu is planning out LPs of both Maximo games, and I myself intend to do the older Gargoyle’s Quest games (that’s a fact, not a plug). Aside from Not Dave’s one-shot video of Mega Man vs. Ghosts ‘n Goblins, though, none of us have tackled the original series. Why is that?


This rundown may only cover Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, but many of the dastardly tricks that make the difficulty skyrocket are present in the older games as well. To fully grasp it, I’ll explain how the game plays in its most basic form. Arthur runs left to right, shooting at enemies with whatever weapon he might happen to be wielding. New weapons can be obtained from treasure chests, as well as upgrades to your armor. Bronze armor gives whatever weapon you’re holding an upgraded power boost, and gold armor lets you charge up your attack to unleash a super attack. Arthur can jump to avoid enemies, and do a second jump in the air to clear some of the trickier jumps in the game. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? A shining example of the golden age of platforming? You don’t truly know the hell Arthur has to go through until you play it. This game is HARD. H-A-R-D HARD. Even on Easy, even on the first level, if you go into this fresh, the game will tear you limb from limb. Only the most adaptable will be able to beat the first level blind without using a continue, let alone not dying. Allow me to explain just what this game does that has put it on many a “Hardest Game Ever” list.

First and foremost, you get two hits before dying. No life bars, no health upgrades, nothing of the sort. Getting hit once knocks off your armor and treats you to the comical sight of Arthur running around in boxers, vainly trying to survive. Another hit while in your drawers kills you. Oh, and when I say “two hits” I mean it; even if you get the super-great golden armor that smites anything in its path, landing on something will knock all that stuff off and leave you nearly naked. Granted, there are shields for the gold armor that block projectiles and take a hit or two.. but they’re hard to come by, and irrelevant if you take body contact damage.Wait, what about the treasure chests? Can’t you just get new armor from those? Capcom is way ahead of you there, and threw a little surprise in to fuck you over. Every so often, opening a treasure chest will spawn a wizard that appears, shoots a ball of magic at you, and vanishes. If the spell hits you, you are temporarily transformed into a helpless form, like a baby or a woman (Don’t look at me, feminists, Capcom’s to blame for that). The change only lasts for a few seconds, but if there are enemies about, chances are you’re going to get hit and die.. all because you were trying to get your armor back. Talk about kicking someone when they’re down..

The worst offense is something you might never even see, but if you have, it’s guaranteed to enrage. Let’s play hypothetical for a second here. You’ve been practicing for weeks to conquer this game, and have a Saturday with nothing else to do, so you load it up. Through much sweat and tears, you slowly advance through the game, getting through all the little tricks the game has to offer. You’re on the second-to-last level now, and there’s a big boss blocking the way to the final level. Summoning all the luck you can, you somehow manage to pull a win by the skin of your teeth. Hooray! It’s time for the.. final… bat..tle… Wait. The princess is talking to you. And telling you that the final boss, the evil Sardius, can only be defeated with the “Goddess Bracelet”. Now what in the hell is that? She tells you to come back here with the bracelet in tow, and..
You may stare at the TV for a moment, utterly stunned at what just transpired. Perhaps your mind can’t comprehend what just happened. You’re back at the first level again, and you have to start the entire game over again in order to get the true ending. By now the average gamer is screaming like a banshee, and probably smashing the cartridge into atoms in a white-hot rage. For the rest of you, let me explain what needs to be done to get the Goddess Bracelet. You need gold armor on your second playthrough, and need to find it in a treasure chest. If that’s not tricky enough, NOW you need to keep it. For the rest of the game, until you get back to the level 7 boss. Only then can you fight the true final boss. Oh, did I mention this weapon is pretty crappy if you’re in your boxers? You know, like you probably will be since this game is merciless? Yeah… have fun with that.

It’s for these reasons that the G&G series has earned its infamy in video game lore as quite possibly the hardest series ever designed by humans. Maybe humans didn’t even make it at all; this game may be the devil’s work, and impossible to conquer in a subtle attempt at saying that darkness will triumph over light. I dunno though, let’s just say that Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is fucking hard, and leave it at that.



1. Meadslosh - August 5, 2009

It’s really not that difficult. It’s mostly a matter of memorization.

2. john biloute - August 28, 2009

Even with MAME and snapshots it’s still a pain in the ass to finish it!

3. Nath - September 8, 2009


God, just thinking about this makes me angry – but good article.

4. scroutodama - December 30, 2009

yay! I received my first console, the snes, when I was five, along with this game. It took me a couple of years, but at last I beated it! How sucked the first time I realized that I had to beat all levels again! Now I’m going to try again with emulators…

It’s no so hard. I mean, IT’S hard. But as Meadslosh said, it’s all memorization (and coordination). I remember I played it so many times could throw weapons to strike enemies before they entered the screen…

5. Rosco - January 15, 2010

you know that you can get that braclet at ANY level in the game on 2nd playthrough? So you can stick with your fav weapon (knife i find best) till level 6 or 7. And yeah it is mostly memorization. Plus with golden armour the braclet can kill bosses up close in like 5 shots.
You think that this is hard? Try shadow of the beast on the amiga. Near impossible

6. King Arthur - January 17, 2010

I played this game solidly as a youth (and still enjoy it now!) and am proud to say that I’ve completed it on professional level!
TIPS – power up chests materialise when you jump in certain areas – remember exactly where these spots are so that you can get better armour/weapons quickly. If you get knives, keep them indefinately (ignore the goddess bracelet, you really don’t need it to beat sardius!). Knives rule because they have an excellent rate of fire and when wearing golden armour the dragon summon makes you temporarily invincible for a long period and canes bad guys nicely (especially the sadistic red gargoyles, always had me tearing my hair out!).
NIce article btw, much respect!

7. dan dans - April 20, 2010

great article, i love how this game is infamous for being a bastard!

8. Adam - May 17, 2010

i disagree with the memorization comment. Even if you memorize it on professional they switch it up constantly leaving you actually crying and breaking stuff.

9. Mike - August 16, 2011

SATAN himself planned and programmed this demonic creature of a game.. Sure memorization, sure it could be easy; but you have to painstakingly DIE– AGAIN and AGAIN until you’re prepared to sacrifice whoever or whatever just to get that memorization down..

It is an AWESOME title, and just when you thought castlevania: rondo of blood, or simon’s quest was hard, you get your butt handed to you by the 7 levels of hell.. Touche satan.. Touche..

10. Arthur the Wench - May 4, 2012

Satan’s old best friend “the internet” stabbed him in the back on this one. On a website that hosts games, I remembered watching my brothers play SG&G as a kid, and thought i’d relive some childhood memories and give it a try.

As this article predicted I died pathetically over and over…and over on the very first level. However the site allows for saving and loading anywhere in their games. After realizing this, I spam saved/loaded my way to the end. Only to find out it was really the middle of the game -.-.. SG&G indeed brought out the child in me.

I threw a fit..


This is the site im playing on. Clean, free and easy enough for drunken tolders to use. Just need to Instal the ‘viz game room’ thingus. Which I scanned and secured also.

11. tjreaperx - June 17, 2015

Go a day or two getting to the end just to find out guess what… Go and do it again and then you might win… As a kid your like this
( jaw drops) “are you kidding me”
Yea awesome game still have it still play it every now and again! Love this game.

12. buck wade - July 28, 2015

Yeah, I’m playing this game on vizzed.com emulator (only preparing save states in case my computer shuts down again), and it’s completely f*cking my mind. It’s making me cuss, rage, frustrated…but in a sick twisted way it’s also fun and addicting. If I’m surviving this game (and I’ve discovered I’m not amazing at 2d platformers), then I shouldn’t have that much problem with dark souls (I’m better at hack n slash games). Worst of all, if you run out of continues (at least the version I’m playing you have to RESTART THE BLOODY GAME, and no I’m not British)

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