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The NES Game That Takes The Shortest Time To Beat

Games from the first few console generations were rarely long, in large part because of the limited storage available on cartridges at the time. To compensate for these restrictions, many game designers for the Nintendo Entertainment System and its ilk were inspired by the short, but incredibly difficult, arcade titles of the 1980s and 1990s. Arcade games challenged players to get their quarters, but early console games were intentionally difficult because players had to get their money's worth out of a 1 MB cartridge — that's so small a single modern image file wouldn't fit onto it. 

But not all games are like "Contra" and "Battletoads," and not all games compensated for their restrictive storage and programming tools with inflated difficulty. Some were incredibly short experiences, and a lot of the time, these short NES games were unimpressive in other ways too. Some NES games can take a long time to beat, but there are more that take less than an hour to finish — and some can take mere minutes if players know what they're doing.

One reigns supreme as the shortest NES game of all time: "Where's Waldo?" This game was actually one of the first from then-fledgling studio Bethesda Softworks, which of course went on to make the "Fallout" and "Elder Scrolls" series later down the line. "Where's Waldo?" plays just like the books of the same name by Martin Handford, but it was heavily criticized for a number of reasons. Nevertheless, if a player knows what they're doing, it takes less than 10 minutes to complete "Where's Waldo" for the NES.

Where's Waldo can be fully completed in a few minutes

There's nothing really quite like curling up with "Where's Waldo?" on a rainy day, but what is one supposed to do once he (and his friends) have been found on every page? The Nintendo Entertainment System version of the classic book put a spin on the concept. Instead of Waldo's location being exactly the same every time, as it is on paper, the settings would be randomized every time the game loaded up. The problem is, "Where's Waldo" is notoriously easy for the sharp-eyed, and the bitmap pixelated graphics didn't make it much harder.

There are eight levels in "Where's Waldo?" for the NES, but not all of them are even puzzle levels. In fact, three out of the eight stages don't involve finding him at all. Instead, players just walk to the exit in a cave, go through a maze, and play a matching game at the end. The remaining five levels are more akin to the classic "Where's Waldo?" formula, but adapted for computerized visuals. These graphics were abysmal, even panned by more contemporary critics, and the simplicity made it easy to find the titular character in each setting. 

There are three difficulties, which have larger play areas, and at the hardest difficulty, the screen can pan. But even on hard mode, Waldo is not difficult to find, and most can expect to beat the game in under 10 minutes — just don't expect it to be one of the best puzzle games.