Well before the arrival of notoriously difficult modern experiences like Dark Souls, we had incredibly challenging games like Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts and its predecessor Ghosts 'n Goblins. Here, I'll take a look at the Super NES classic because after all, it's Halloween!
Remember when I said that Mega Man X was hard? That game has nothing on Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts. What makes it so tough is that you can only get hit twice before you bite the dust. The first time you get hit, you lose your armour and the second time, you die. The controls are the trickiest out of any game on the SNES Classic. Once you jump, you have no control of your momentum unless you double-jump. Therefore, mastering the double-jump is key to survival. It's not easy to land exactly where you want and the stages have plenty of precise platforming segments, too. On top of that, it's very easy to jump into projectiles and other hazards.
Meanwhile, you have to dodge hordes of ghosts, zombies, werewolves, goblins, and devils. The end of each stage is marked with a boss but if you die on your way to the boss, you have to start from the previous checkpoint. Once you beat the boss, you move on to the next stage and it feels satisfying to do so because the odds are usually stacked against you.
Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts' story is as barebones as it gets. You play as a knight named Arthur who's chilling in a castle with his damsel. Then, you watch her get abducted by the demon king Sardius but I like to think that he's Satan. Next, you suddenly find yourself in a graveyard crawling with zombies because I guess the graveyard is right in front of the castle...? Once you make it through seven levels of hell, you'll confront Sardius and rescue your girl. Like many platformers on the SNES, you're in it because of the journey, not because the plot is engaging. The story is merely a setup for perhaps the toughest gameplay experience that the SNES has to offer.
Succeeding in Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts involves memorising enemy locations, learning their attack patterns, and mastering the controls. There are eight weapons throughout the campaign and some are clearly better than others. You can only hold one weapon at a time and they appear at random so having the wrong weapon can be an absolute nightmare but thankfully, they spawn frequently enough. Anyway, you'll either love this game or hate it. If you're prone to throwing the controller at the TV then you should probably stay away from it. However, if you like beating hard games through trial and error, you'll thoroughly enjoy Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts.
Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts' gameplay consists of fighting your way through seven levels with platforming challenges mixed in. So, if you enjoy exploration then you might be disappointed. There are power-ups like weapons, the green armour which upgrades your weapon, and the golden armour which lets you unleash powerful magic. The armour still breaks in one hit but what can you do? At least you can get protection if you manage to find a shield. After you beat the seven levels and the bosses, you have to complete the game again to encounter the true final boss. I never got that far as merely beating it once involved too much death and frustration on its own.
Before wrapping this up, I want to discuss the sound, graphics, and presentation more than I usually do. In my previous SNES retrospectives, I didn't give the games nearly the credit they deserve for having outstanding graphics and sound design. Games like Yoshi's Island, Donkey Kong Country, and Final Fantasy VI have outstanding presentation and without it, they simply wouldn't be the same experiences. Although Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts doesn't look as great as those games, it has an appealing visual style that you won't see anywhere else. It looks like a '90s monster cartoon show. The soundtrack is impressive as well, especially because each stage has its own music which captures the scary mood perfectly; well, except for level 5 which sounds a bit too cheerful.
If you want to play something especially terrifying this Halloween, give Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts a try. It won't hesitate to eat you alive over and over. Plus, visiting each new level is scary because you never know what the game will throw at you next.