Starting Gamasutra's new 'Game Design Essentials' series, John Harris looks at the surprising design lessons derived from a selection of the 20 most difficult games ever released
, from Defender
through Super Monkey Ball
to Solomon's Key
Among those titles called out by Harris is Rare's NES boat racing classic Cobra Triangle
, which he describes as “a shooter R. C. Pro-Am
“Check it out, it plays like R. C. Pro-Am, but it's not a racing game! It has boss fights! It has a Gradius-style powerup system! It has an amazing variety of action! And it's bone-crushingly hard!
Why did this game tank in stores? Why was this, which takes everything Rare's hit R. C. Pro-Am had and improves it off the charts, doomed to fail? The only reason I can come up with is that it's an incredible challenge, a game for experts. It remains the one NES game I've ever been reduced to using the slow-motion feature on my old NES Advantage to play. Dodging shots in boss levels is a trial in an Asteroids-controlling game with a big boat and a small screen, and the "Jump The Waterfall" stages make one want to smash things.
Yes, Cobra Triangle is a game that demands mastery. Nothing less will do. Despite that energy bar at the bottom of the screen a depressing number of things will cause instant death. But for those willing to put in the work, what you have here is one damn fine game.”
You can now read the complete feature
, which includes more on this and nineteen other difficult video game releases, from well known classics to hidden gems, and everything in between (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).