The endgame of arcades was always keeping gamers engaged, absorbed, and, well... spending money. Even on consoles, developers want to keep players invested in a game no matter how many times they lost. Thus, the intensely brutal continue screen was born.
Much like other side scrolling games in the genre, Capcom's classic 1989 beat-'em-up gem Final Fight has a pretty basic setup. A group of vigilantes in Metro City fight against the forces of evil, which manifest as criminal gangs and other undesirables. Starting as an arcade game, it's no surprise that the first three installments of the Final Fight series all feature pretty damn brutal continue screens designed to guilt gamers into putting more coins into the machine.
In the first Final Fight, players find their character tied to a chair with a lit bundle of dynamite in front of them. While the character struggles against their restraints, the fuse gets progressively shorter. Things don't seem to get much better for your character in Final Fight 2, as you find yourself again tied up with an ever-rising water level that threatens to drown you. And finally, in Final Fight 3, characters are chained to a table as a plate filled with spikes descends towards them. Whether Capcom's goal was to encourage players to continue the game or to traumatize kids for life, they succeeded on both accounts.
Tecmo's 1988 action-adventure hack-and-slash game Ninja Gaiden made a big impact upon its release. It was one of the first games of its kind to use rudimentary cinematic cutscenes to move the story along, and this only added to the positive reception it received. The classic title sees ninja Ryu Hayabusa tasked with traveling to America at the bidding of his father to make sure two statues that could potentially end the world don't come into contact with one another. In true hack-and-slash fashion, fights break out and chaos ensues.
If players are unfortunate enough to run out of lives while playing through the unending fights, they're treated to a particularly cruel continue screen: Ryu is tied to a table as a circular saw slowly descends towards him. But, because that's not nearly scary enough, Ryu is also surrounded by what appear to be wolves and demonic trees, all of which look pretty anxious to put him down. Saving your hero from a fatal slicin'-n-dicin'? Yeah, that's worth a few coins.
Watch the video for more of gaming's most brutal continue screens.
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The Final Fight franchise | 0:13
Ninja Gaiden | 1:11
Tecmo Knight | 2:06
Mortal Kombat 4 | 3:00
Conquest of the Crystal Palace | 3:50