by Crono Maniac

Do you think you're a tough gamer? You think you've got the guts to face any video game and come out victorious? You've beaten some of the hardest titles the old NES has to offer, and you think that makes you hot stuff? Beating Ninja Gaiden makes you radical? Surviving Castlevania makes you tubular? You've even fought Ghosts 'N Goblins and come out alive? You think beating these games makes you hardcore?

Well, yeah, it does. Beating Kid Icarus does in fact make you an awesome old school gamer, as does finishing Contra, Mega Man, Bionic Commando, or Gradius. You are awesome. And if you haven't beaten Battletoads, that does not make you less awesome, because Battletoads is on a tier of its own. Beating Dark Link in Zelda II and the Yellow Devil in Mega Man 1 without their respective glitches makes you awesome. Beating Battletoads just makes you a freak.

Battletoads' difficulty is legendary. It is at the top of many "Hardest Games Ever" lists, and those it is not at the top of are wrong. Every single one of the game's twelve levels starting with the midpoint of level three is completely impossible at first, only winnable through continuous attrition as you pick away at that their patterns and obstacles before finally discovering exactly how to win the level and burning it into your brain. Par for the course with hardcore NES titles right? Wrong. Other NES titles give a consistent difficulty curve where everything you've learned on previous levels gives you knowledge on how to conquer the next. Not Battletoads. In Battletoads, every single level has a completely different gameplay style with brand new rules you need to learn. You have a health bar, but you might as well not thanks to the slew of instant death traps strewn about the levels. And just forget about playing it two-player where friendly fire is on, and can't be turned off. Oh, and did I mention?

Three. Continues. THAT'S. IT.

Pro tip: Hold A+B+Down when pressing Start on the title and continue screens to get five lives instead of three. You'll need them. And get used to this:

Battletoads' enduring popularity is not only due to its incredible difficulty, however. It is also one of the best games on the NES, which is certainly saying a lot considering the console's lineup of classic games. Every single level is indeed different, but rather than feeling schizophrenic it all holds up into a cohesive package, with every level providing a fun and unique experience. The effort that went into programming this title was just as loving as it was sadistic, and there isn't a single level that isn't well-crafted and with excellent design. Unlike with many titles, the eclectic experience works perfectly, which is only helped by the Toads' excellent moveset that rivals most all NES beat-em-ups. Take a gander.


The Ram Tackle: Double tap the D-pad to run, and then attack while next to an enemy.

The Giant Fist: A simple combo finisher after you've punched the enemy enough times.

The Giant Foot: Kick an enemy on Level Two.

The Wrecking Ball: Hold the Toad against the wall in Level Two until the line holding him is straight, then attack.

The Two-By-Four: Pick it up in any of the beat-em-up sections by beating the Martian Tripods in Level One and Level Five into submission. A rod that has the same effect is available in Level Twelve.

The Slurp: You don't get to just walk across health powerups, you have to actively ingest them, which you will inevitably do on accident and kill yourself in the process.

The Cowboy: Pointless but fun.

The Levels
While everyone gets to enjoy the Toad's moves, most people only get to play approximately one fourth of the whole game, and don't get to know the "joy" of some of the game's later levels. But that's what I'm here for. Also, as a personal challenge, I'm going to try to describe the entire game without using any expletives, which is far more difficult than it sounds.

Level 1 - Ragnarok's Canyon

One of video game history's most deceptive first impressions, Ragnarok's Canyon gives the impression that Battletoads will be a simple and fairly easy NES beat-em-up. Wrong on both counts. The beat-em-up style will return for a fraction of Levels 3, 5, and 7, but by no means form the bulk of those levels. And by no means is it easy. The highlight is definitely the level boss, which, while very easy, is still impressive and original in its design and execution. A veeery similar boss was utilized in the SNES version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, where one boss fight has you slinging enemies into Shredder in the foreground. In a way, it's somewhat fitting for TMNT to ripoff Battletoads, considering how obvious it is that Battletoads is ripping off TMNT. There's also a warp to level three at the beginning of the level. You know. If you're a wimp.

Level 2 - Wookie Hole

The disappointingly Wookieless Wookie Hole is the only other fairly simple level in the game, and it's a lot of fun. You control the Toads as they repel down the walls, occasionally turning into a wrecking ball and brutalizing anyone else on the screen, including your friend if you're playing two player. Your chief enemies are crows who are easily dispatched, though their long beaked cousins can insta-kill you if you're not careful. By hitting the birds against the wall repeatedly you can farm extra lives, up to the far-too-low limit of nine. It certainly isn't gamebreaking like Super Mario Bros.'s Level 3-1, but every little bit helps.

Level 3 - Turbo Tunnel

The much more accurately named Turbo Tunnel is the point that most everybody stops playing Battletoads. Good for them, because Turbo Tunnel is piss easy compared to some of the stuff to come. Which is not to say Turbo Tunnel is piss easy, because it's going to be a long time before you can consistently weave between that last wave of walls. But rest assured, it will eventually be possible, and even easy. All it takes is rote memorization and timing. There's a warp on the tenth wall of the last wave which you can use to skip to level five. You know. If you're a wimp.

Level 4 - Arctic Cavern

By Battletoads standards, this level isn't too hard. By human standards, this level is tougher than almost any platformer you've ever played. It is hard, and will require memorization, as every level from here on out will.

Level 5 - Surf City

The bulk of Surf City is formed by a surfing segment, oddly enough. It controls slightly differently than Turbo Tunnel, and it's a good bit easier, though still incredibly difficult. If you pin the miniboss against the screen border you can air juggle him to death. There's a warp in this level you can use to skip to level seven. You know. If you're SANE.

Level 6 - Karnath's Lair

Karnath's Lair is one of the funnest levels in the game. Snakes pop out of walls and move quickly around the room with you on top, kind of like Castle 5 in Super Mario World with the speed cranked up. I love jumping and climbing the snakes, and didn't have too much trouble with this level, though a look through the GameFAQs forum reveals a lot of others who had a harder time.

Level 7 - Volkmire's Inferno

Remember when I said there would be levels that were tougher than Turbo Tunnel? Yeah, this is where that starts and goes no where but up. This is another Speeder Bike level, though again in a much different control scheme from Level 3 or Level 5. Memorization is absolutely mandatory as are quick reflexes due to some sections that are completely random. On the plus side, several 1-UPs are sprinkled throughout the level. You'll need them.

Level 8 - Intruder Excluder

Intruder Excluder is a platforming level where you go nowhere but up. Much like Kid Icarus or Contra, falling down past the screen border won't scroll you down, just kill you. At the end is one of the harder bosses in the game, though none of the bosses are anything compared to the sheer maliciousness of the level design. The game continues to be somewhat kind by oh so generously putting a few 1-UPs in the level. You know what I would've liked more than 1-UPs? UNLIMITED CONTINUES!

Level 9 - Terra Tubes

If you didn't get stuck at the Turbo Tunnel, this is likely where you will get stuck. This is mostly a swimming level and it's long and ha-err, lengthy and difficult. All the enemies seem to be able to one-shot you and it's awhile before you can figure out how to deal with their patterns. The cogs that follow you through the pipe are also a pain to deal with, particularly the later ones that chase you through water. Screw this level. They at least have the decency to plant a 1-UP right before the toughest part so you can just brute-force your way through it without needing to play through the first eight levels seventy billion times.

Level 10 - Rat Race

In this level, you race a rat downward to kick away a bomb before he sets it off, killing you. The first two races are easy, but the third potentially causes some problems. Everyone but me seems to think Rat Race is one of the hardest levels in the game. Maybe its because I know you can tackle the rat into a wall and momentarily delay him, and it's not all that hard to do so. But just know that, statistically, you're very likely to have tons of trouble with this level. Thankfully, the boss at the end isn't too tough, though he has a propensity to insta-kill you by squashing you flat beneath him.

Level 11 - Clinger Winger

Do you know why I said I'd try not to curse, and that it would be difficult? Clinger Winger. Remember when I said no one would think less of you for just forgetting about ever beating Battletoads? Know why? Clinger Winger. You know why it took me five months get through this freaking game? FREAKING CLINGER WINGER. I despise this level, and even after all that playtime I still can't get through it consistently. About fifty percent of the time, I get to this level, and my brain just shuts down yelling "NO NO NOT CLINGER WINGER" and my fingers just refuse to let me beat it. I will literally play this level no more than three times, and if I can't do it, I go to bed and try again in the morning. By the time I'm here, my brain just refuses to properly time the freaking turns, and I just can't do it until after I refresh myself. I hate this level, and its the hardest in the game, and I hate it more because of all the people on GameFAQs who seem to have absolutely no trouble with this level whatsoever and think its totally easy. Screw you, I hate you and everybody else who had no trouble with this level!

Easy boss though.

(Actually, as I was going through the game again to get the screenshots, I tried something I read on TVTropes where you pause the game right at every turn, change direction, and unpause. It sounded stupid but I had nothing to lose so I tried it. I beat the level on my first try, then did again to prove that it wasn't a fluke, this time running it off the screen. Crap.)

Level 12 - The Revolution

Aside from Clinger Winger, The Revolution is without a doubt the hardest level in the game, especially since you have to play through the entire game every time you get Game Over. The game takes place on a tower, with you revolving (get it?) around it. It's a very cool design and a lot of fun once you memorize it, except that by the time you've memorized it you are absolutely sick of this game and ready for it to end so you never have to play it again. So never mind, it's not fun. It's also one of the longest levels alongside 9, so you get plenty of stuff to learn. It again follows the Kid Icarus model of a horrible monster lurking just outside the screen border ready to devour you the second you fall, so no scrolling down for you. You fight the Dark Queen at the end (if you continue you find out that her fight is technically Level 13), and she's pretty simple. But right before she dies, she rises up out of the center of the screen after you think she's already dead, surprising (and killing) the player who dares to think he'd won. Real nice, game. Thanks for that.

Oh, and the ending sucks.


In the end, can I say that finishing Battletoads was a rewarding experience? It certainly isn't a bad game by any measure. Every level provides a completely unique and fascinating experience, many of which are unlike anything else on the NES. The play control and hit detection is absolutely spot on for every level, and every death is your fault and yours alone. The soundtrack is one of the best the NES has to offer. Seriously, YouTube it. Really, everything this game does it does perfectly, and its a shame most people only get to see a fourth of what it has to offer.

And yet, completing Battletoads left me feeling profoundly empty. When I beat I Wanna be the Guy, I leapt into the air and shouted with glee for ten straight minutes, filling me with happiness and everyone in a hundred foot radius with terror. R-Type III and Ninja Gaiden's defeat by my hands made me jump for joy as well. Battletoads is legions ahead of those games in its difficulty, and it's without a doubt the hardest game I've ever played. Ergo, I should feel more ecstatic then ever, right? But no. When I beat it I just slouched back in my chair and muttered to myself: "thank God that's all over."

The thing is, while not one of those games took me no more than ten hours to finish, Battletoads lasted about as long as the average SNES Final Fantasy. That might be the reason behind by apathy, because after a while, the endless repetition of the same admittedly well designed levels stopped being fun. It was one of the first great games that I'd beaten that made me feel like I could have been doing something better with my time, like finally reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy or watching a whole slew of really good anime, or even playing another video game in my backlog like Secret of Mana or Zelda: Wind Waker that I hadn't gotten around to yet. I legitimately began to feel like I had wasted my time. Those other games didn't feel like that. The day after I beat R-Type III I was talking up "The greatest shmup ever" to my skeptical Touhou-loving friend. Five socks, R-Type III. I played through Ninja Gaiden a second time the day after I first beat it, then moved straight on to the sequel and beat that too. Five socks for the both of them. I've beaten I Wanna be the Guy four times since I first played through it. Five socks for the best freeware game on the web, that never, ever gets old.

Battletoads gets old. I didn't recommend it to anybody. I didn't beat it again right after I finished it, and had cheats on while I captured these screenshots just so I didn't have to go through all the pain again. Limited continues are forgivable for fifteen to thirty minute games like Gradius, but Battletoads' twelve lengthy levels take as long to beat as the average theatrical film. Every new level means hours of your lifespan trickling down the drain. It is an amazing game, a five socks game, but its not a five socks game I can recommend. It's just too much time spent on too little substance, spectacular though it may be. The only games I've spent as much time on are RPGs that actually have twenty-five to thirty-five hours of material to experience, rather than 80 minutes of material repeated twenty times. That's not replay value, that's torture.

Don't bother with Battletoads. It's the only game in the entire world I recommend using save states to play. There are too many other five sock games, books, and movies in the world to waste your time on this one.


Fuck Battletoads.

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