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Platforms: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Release Date: Dec. 9, 1988
Why this game mattered: NINJAS! This action-packed side-scroller took games to a new level by adding cinematic cut-scenes, which added much-needed depth to the genre. Players battle their way through several acts, though the game promptly slapped them in the face with crippling difficulty. While soul-crushingly hard to beat, Ninja Gaiden paved the way for more intricate and cinematic storytelling in games. The soundtrack, cut-scenes, and difficulty solidify its place on many "top games" lists over the years, and it has spawned several sequels
Fun fact: This game is one of the reasons the term "Nintendo hard" was coined. With respawning enemies, difficult jumps, and tricky platforming, it made it easy to rage-quit. But the ending is so satisfying, it's worth the anger.
Future games influenced by this title: There have been many other games in the Ninja Gaiden franchise, many other seemingly impossible games have now formed their own genre thanks to those who love a real challenge. Dark Souls is the most popular common example, but you can be sure the folks who built Sekiro: Shadows Die twice and Dead Cells had lots of Ninja Gaiden in their formative years.
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