Well, some games did just that. They were the rare NES titles that blindsided poor young players with some ugly little surprise after putting them through hours of tediously designed labyrinths or cruelly positioned bottomless pits. And so naïve children of the NES era learned a valuable life lesson: you can conquer everything that comes your way and still fail in the end. Now go ask your parents for another game, kids.
10) Monster Party
It's hard to play Monster Party and still believe that most NES games were marketed with children or families in mind. Following the sight of a fanged, slime-vomiting creature on the title screen, this bizarre little offering from Bandai finds a boy named Mark snatched off the street by Bert, an armored bird-man from a monster-besieged world. Bert mistakes Mark's baseball bat for a legendary weapon and insists that the young man join the fight.
Bert doesn't mention that his world is a freakish realm where the first enemies Mark encounters are twitching pairs of legs stuck into the ground. Then the game changes its smiling little blocks and happy trees into a grotesque hellscape of anguished faces and bleeding skulls. For that final touch, Monster Party is also repetitive and fairly hard, making sure you'll see the same nightmarish ghouls, weird bosses, and blood-drenched continue screen many times before you reach the ending.
And that ending isn't much of a reward for taking on snake-people, a huge piece of talking shrimp tempura, the grim reaper, dancing zombies, and a bloated corpse that just sits there and decomposes. After Mark destroys all of these, Bert gives the boy a present and sends him back to Earth. Inside the box is a "beautiful princess" who rises out like a stripper from a giant cake and promptly turns into a horde of the undead. As they devour Mark, he awakens, realizes it was all a dream, and merrily skips off to the front door. Bert's waiting right there, apparently threatening Mark into another round of 8-bit hell. Strangely enough, this inescapable horror was strictly for American kids, as Monster Party was never released in Japan.
9) Snake's Revenge
Fans of the Metal Gear series often disdain Snake's Revenge, an NES Metal Gear sequel that didn't involve franchise creator Hideo Kojima. Snake's Revenge was invalidated by every official Metal Gear sequel since, but it's really not such an awful game. Well, it's a mediocre stealth-action game where the villain is called "Higharolla Cockamamie" in the manual, but it's really no worse than the muddled NES version of the original Metal Gear. And while it lacks Kojima's gifts for clever design and painfully long-winded melodrama, there's one part of Snake's Revenge that's true to Kojima's habits.
That part is the ending, where the UN proclaims "World Peace Day" and the game ignores the accomplishments of its doughy, fake version of Metal Gear hero Solid Snake. Instead, it reminds the player what happened to Not Solid Snake's allies: John Turner is MIA and Nick Myer is dead. It's even more disheartening to play through the game now, because Kojima's sequels mean that John and Nick never existed in the first place.
8) Dragon Warrior III
The Dragon Warrior games may be dreadfully boring today, but they were great finds for any kid who just wanted a long-term investment for their NES budget. A Dragon Warrior title was good for dozens of hours of grinding levels, exploring dungeons, and sitting through the work of Enix's Ye Olde Englishe Translatione Shoppe. At the end of Dragon Warrior III, an exceptionally long game for its day, the player's avatar is dubbed "Erdrick" by a grateful king, and all is well.
The name Erdrick probably seemed familiar to many Dragon Warrior fans. They'd heard it in the original Dragon Warrior, where Erdrick is revealed to have died and bequeathed his legacy to a descendant. So, Dragon Warrior III player, you've just sat through a tedious RPG to find out that you're already dead. Well, you can always play the original Final Fantasy, where the first town rubs in your demise by featuring Erdrick's tombstone.
7) Bubble Bobble
Bubble Bobble is a game that should cheer you up. It stars adorable little dinosaurs named Bob and Bub, who yap out bubbles to defeat equally adorable monsters. It even tries to teach a valuable lesson about comradeship with its final boss: a huge hooded dragon-thing that takes nearly a hundred hits to defeat. If you bring down the boss alone, you'll get the "bad end."
If you finish the game with two players, you'll get the "Happy End" and an unfortunate surprise. You're not really cute little dinosaurs after all. You're just fat-headed munchkins. And the game doesn't even get your names right.
6) Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
Simon Belmont, hero of the original Castlevania, went through a lot during the NES years. He was turned into a hideous, self-obsessed buffoon in Captain N: The Game Master. He was replaced in the third Castlevania by a guy named Trevor. And, in at least one of the endings to Castlevania II, he just up and dies.
This is made all the more annoying by the fact that the final battle with Dracula is distressingly easy. Due to Castlevania II being a barely finished mess of a game, Simon can pretty much just stand in one spot and throw knives at Drac's floating spirit while taking no damage himself. But he dies anyway if you take too long to finish the game. Things aren't too much happier in the best ending, where Dracula's sequel-hungry hand crawls up out of his grave.