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Five Retro-Style Side-Scrollers You Need to Play

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Posted by: David Sanchez

Old school fans usually have a soft spot for retro games that are punishing and even a little frustrating. Classic games like Contra, Super Mario Bros., and Double Dragon all provide thrilling gameplay that leaves players wanting more, even if it means dealing with grueling level design and ridiculously tough boss battles. These days, retro gamers miss the challenge of that golden era of video games. Luckily, the tough-as-nails side-scroller genre has seen something of a renaissance over the past several years, so plenty of difficult 2D titles are available to keep retro game lovers satisfied. Here are five great nostalgia-inspired titles to check out if you crave the good ol' days of gaming.

Ninja Senki (PC)

Sometimes all you need are two buttons and a D-pad to get the most enjoyment out of a game. Ninja Senki is a perfect example, and although the control scheme may be simple, the gameplay requires a steady hand, good reflexes, and constant concentration. Drawing comparison to classic titles such as Mega Man and Ninja Gaiden, this freeware side-scroller will challenge you for its duration.

Hard Corps: Uprising (XBLA, PSN)

Contra is one of the most beloved shoot 'em up franchises of all time. The first game offered a punishing experience back in the 80s, when it hit arcades and eventually the NES, but gamers kept coming back for more. Though the notorious Konami Code gave players a generous number of lives, the game's difficulty went through them at a rapid clip. Hard Corps: Uprising is the latest entry in the Contra series, and it sports beautiful anime visuals, a rock-heavy soundtrack, cheesy voice acting, and all of the same great shooting gameplay the series is known for. New look; same great Contra.

Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)

Some gamers may argue that the Wii is for kids, but older players can delight in a good many titles on Nintendo's shiny console. Donkey Kong Country Returns witnesses the comeback of the iconic ape in a colorful, charming, and tantalizing side-scrolling platformer. Don't let the bright visuals fool you. Donkey Kong Country Returns is one of the most challenging 2D platformers on the Wii, or on any console, for that matter. Though it's fairly easy to attain extra lives, it's just as easy to lose them, if not easier. If you go into Donkey Kong Country Returns expecting an easy romp, you'll instantly fall victim to the game's many hazards, pitfalls, and traps.

VVVVVV (PC)

Commodore 64-like visuals, chiptune music, and an emphasis on puzzle platforming all combine to make VVVVVV one of the most satisfying retro-style experiences released in recent memory. The game has not a dull moment, and its persistently high level of challenge is truly rewarding. Make no mistake about it: you will die countless times in this game. But once you work through that spike-laden trap, you'll experience an ultimate feeling of victory ... and then you'll die in the next room. If you like games where death is commonplace, you can't go wrong with VVVVVV.

Super Meat Boy (XBLA, PC)

If you're one of those people who complains about how games are too easy these days, download Super Meat Boy on Xbox Live Arcade or Steam this very instant. It takes less than 15 minutes to realize that this incredible title will totally kick your butt. Sure, the first couple of levels ease you into the experience by teaching you the ropes, but once Super Meat Boy teaches you how to run, hop, and wall jump, it takes the training wheels off and sends you on a ride into a land of retro gameplay that's sure to bring back memories. Tough as heck and incredibly pleasing, Super Meat Boy tests you platforming mettle by mercilessly tossing you into a hazardous world that will make you curse repeatedly. If you want a modern game with old school flair, Super Meat Boy is a fine choice.

If you're in the mood for a challenge and gameplay reminiscent of the 80s era, these are five great games worth checking out. To take a break from the ease of today's blockbuster titles, look no further than Ninja Senki, Hard Corps: Uprising, Donkey Kong Country Returns, VVVVVV, and Super Meat Boy. The difficulty should feel familiar if you enjoy classic side-scrollers. Prepare to shout some nasty four-letter words at your TV or monitor.

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