You can pick any notoriously difficult video game, and somebody somewhere is attempting or has already succeeded at completing a no-damage run of that game. Dark Souls may be the poster child for difficult video games these days, but back in the NES days, you had a lot of options if you wanted a really hard game. (Granted, sometimes they were unfairly difficult in those days.) Along those lines, it’s pretty exciting to learn that speedrunner Slackanater recently completed the first ever no-damage run of Ninja Gaiden on NES, a title that arrived in the United States in 1989.
Slackanater actually completed the run back in December, but he hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention for it. Fortunately, popular YouTuber Karl Jobst has drawn attention to the no-damage Ninja Gaiden run in a recent video that nicely breaks down just why such a run seemed so impossible for so long. In a nutshell — it’s all the final boss’s fault.
To damage the final boss, Ryu must first destroy its head, which requires 16 hits; however, the head dislodges from the body after taking 11 hits and hits Ryu in a way that is impossible to avoid. But there is a technique that allows players to attack as fast as they can in the air if they keep simultaneously mashing “down” and “attack.” Thus, there is a window of a fraction of a second where an expert player can strike the head five more times before it hits Ryu.
That part alone is even more difficult than it sounds, but then you have to remember that playing through the rest of Ninja Gaiden with no damage received is extremely difficult in the first place. When you combine the two, it was largely treated as impossible for decades. Except now it’s not, because Slackanater did it.
Below, you can check out Karl Jobst’s excellent breakdown of the run, or you can jump straight to Slackanater’s full, mind-boggling run (which also comes with an explanation of what he did).