What is a game for if not to complete it. Playing from start to finish whilst enjoying the challenges along the way. All games share this basic ideal. Although, it’s how games motivate you to get from beginning to end that makes them differ.
Some games pride themselves on a brilliant narrative and cinematic presentation. Almost putting gameplay to the side as players drink in the plot. These games often add a difficulty setting which is a breeze. Offering players who came for an interactive story just that, with little intrusion.
Other games pride themselves on their difficulty, gameplay and immersive worlds. Making the player wish to see everything, do everything. Or simply prove to themselves that they can beat the game. The sense of exploration and discovery or accomplishment being the driving forces.
Then there are games that are perhaps more child oriented. Games that focus more on relaxing gameplay. Or games that are more fixated on fun mechanics than providing a cohesive and progressively challenging experience.
When challenge oriented gamers come across any of these titles. It’s common that they set parameters of their own to spice things up. A set of rules outside the developers control and governed by themselves to add an extra level of excitement to their playthrough. So today we are looking at ten self imposed challenges that you should definitely try when gaming.
Nuzlockes (Pokemon series)
Aside from perhaps the first hour of Pokemon Yellow. The Pokemon series has never been a staple of high difficulty gaming. Game Freak’s highly grossing pocket monster phenomenon has always favoured a more kid friendly and low entry level gameplay design. Yes there is a well populated competitive scene for those that seek more complex battles. Though the base gameplay as a whole is enjoyable. Even the most casual of gamer will find these titles manageable.
So the Pokemon community decided to take it upon themselves to up the stakes. They wanted to up the intensity on each encounter in game. So they created the rules and stipulations that are now commonly referred to as a nuzolcke challenge.
This trend originated on 4chan through a comic series titled Ruby Red Hard Mode made by, you guessed it. A user by the name Nuzlocke. The rules of these runs do vary based on players preferences. However the general consensus is that all Pokemon when fainted are considered unusable. Players are only allowed to capture the first Pokemon they encounter in each town, area or route.
Many players have opted to up the ante further through using in game randomisers, doing marathon no sleep runs. Doing Wonderlockes which replace route captures with eggs of random Pokemon. Or using the Soul link feature that allows a co-operative nuzlocke run where each Pokemon captured on a particular route’s status is linked to your partners.
Next up we have the speed run challenges. This is a challenge thread that has been around since the nineties. We have seen players trying to beat games in record times. Often getting the acclaim of the Guinness Book of Records for their efforts if successful. However, the trend is even more popular today and has regular expos of gamers showcasing their skills.
The most prominent speed running expo is GDQ or Games Done Quick. This features the best runners from their respective games breaking down their process as they borderline break games and bend them to their will. All in an attempt to get to the end in record time.
Again, these sadistic gamers will have further stipulations on their runs. These will range from 100% completion runs or no glitch or boundary breaking runs, amongst other things.
If you want to see one of the more primitive examples of speed running. Then look at this famous Mario 64 run from the nineties and how it progresses to today’s standards. Or if you want to see a more up to date example of the intense work and concentration needed by today’s standards to be at the top of speed running. Have a look at this run of Final Fantasy VII from GDQ last year. The fact that this runner can count steps with that level of precision whist taking all other aspects of the game into account is truly baffling.
A trend that has always existed but has rose to prominence through the Souls series. Gamers that see their normal controller as an easy mode function have opted to swap them out for more challenging peripherals.
These items have ranged from arbitrary objects to existing peripherals for more suited titles or even their own voice. This trend has been revitalised through Dark Souls aficionado, Bearzly. This player has beaten the notoriously brutal game with one finger, his voice, rock band drums and a racing wheel. That’s not even an exhaustive list. If you want to check out his channel and follow his antics, look here.
Level One Playthroughs
A pretty self explanatory one. Players often find a scaled and fair difficulty to be too mundane. So they will do everything in their power to make runs more difficult through simply not participating in the levelling process. This may be through adapting in game code before beginning the game or on some occasions, games may accommodate this function.
Games that have allowed for this function have been the Final Fantasy series or the Kingdom Hearts series. These games offer a in menu limiter to the level progression from the start of the game. Giving players an easy way of giving themselves a hard time.
Some great examples of these runs in action are the level one data battles in KH2 showcased at GDQ here. Or if open world RPG’s are more your cup of tea. Here’s a run from Many A True Nerd where they play Fallout New Vegas as the weakest base character possible. This one only started a few weeks ago so it’s a great chance to see one play out in real time.
Non Lethal Playthroughs
Another fun and sometimes deceptively difficult challenge is a pacifist run. In a number of games, the developers aim to make the players experience fully theirs. With decisions and experimentation being key factors of play. Emergent play style is the primary focus of these games. These tend to be primarily RPG titles.
While there are games that see this as an active choice that is politely hinted to the player. Games like Undertale or Dishonored for example that have a clear morale compass for you to follow. On the flip side, there are games that don’t urge the player to be a pacifist but still provide the option of the player seeks it.
Best examples of these challenges would take place in Bethesda archetype games such as the Elder Scrolls or Fallout series. With Fallout New Vegas in particular being excellent in offering dialogue over fisticuffs. Deux Ex or The Outer Worlds are other games that share this vibe.
Naked/No Items Run
Next up we have challenge runs that require the player to play the game naked or without items. This may be from the beginning of the game or alternatively for the entire experience.
Dark Souls features on the list again along with the likes of Diablo. These games offer the opportunity for skilled players to play through without any further assistance than evasion tactics, their unarmed abilities and a good chunk of good luck and hope.
If you want to check out some runs like this. Check out the intriguing story of Irene the infirm or the amazing naked speed run of Dark Souls performed at GDQ 2017.
We all know the feeling of despair that occurs when we die in a game. We are forced to go back to our last checkpoint. Sometimes having to watch through that same unskippable cut scene. Only for that hulking boss to stomp you with that same move again. Well, imagine if you died and had to go back to the main menu and start from scratch.
In these challenges, players take a real literal view of in game deaths. When the player falls in battle. They have to begin the journey again. These runs therefore require added levels of preparation and caution. Any risks taken are enough to get the heart racing. Plus it’s something that can be implemented into a multitude of games.
One example of one of the most intriguing perma-death runs has to be the Terminator Preston Garvey run in Fallout 4. Player Hinckley discovered a glitch. When he turned Sanctuary resident Preston Garvey hostile and he never reverted back. This meant that during the playthrough Hinckley was always looking over their shoulder in case Preston was there to ruin his run.
This is one that’s a little less common and a bit more specific. In these challenges players will try and play games in line with the Canon story of the other media in the franchise. This may be in line with TV, anime, movies or other games in the series.
The challenge is often in replicating the details accurately, finding ways to logistically implement them into the playthrough. Not to mention the challenges that may present themselves by playing the game in an unorthodox way.
The best example comes from the pokemon series again. YouTube content creator Enter The Unown who completed a self imposed challenge where they would have to beat all the main battles in the game with the same party of Pokemon Ash used in the anime. This required a good deal of research and skill to pull off. Check it out, it’s well worth a look.
100% Completion Runs
These challenges are very common in gaming and not necessarily all too challenging. This is because developers ideally want players to play all of their game. Plus to see all the extras that it has to offer. However where the challenge comes in is through the game difficulty, perfection parameters or implementing it into other challenges as a rule.
As aforementioned, speed runners will incorporate a 100% completion rule into their runs to add more obstacles to overcome. Then of course there are games with massive difficulty that many players feel accomplished just finishing. So to perfectly complete all aspects is a big deal. A game like guitar hero is a great example. Beating Through The Fire And The Flames on expert with no notes missed. Now that’s impressive.
There is a massive community for players who like to play games to full completion. For example the trophy hunters community on Playstation. Some players such as Hakim pictured above, have already accumulated upwards of 1500 platinum trophies rewarded for earning all game achievements in games. Some of these require insane grinds and feats of skill. If you want to see some of the most insanely difficult trophies out there. Check them out here.
Then finally we have hardcore and realism challenges. These are when players will play games with enhanced settings that take real life necessities into account. This is most commonly food, water and sleep levels. However there are a number of mods and modes our there that offer even more intense considerations.
Some of these mods take away players HUD making them reliant on their own directions and way finding. Others make players insanely vulnerable meaning that they can be killed in one shot or hit. Ultimately these modes are to give the player a sense of powerlessness throughout their whole game rather than for the first hour. Plus to give the game a more immersive and real feel.
Best examples of hardcore runs would be those that mod Minecraft to be much more harsh and unforgiving in survival mode. Or perhaps those that mod Fallout 4 which also has a very active survival mode community. One mod we would recommend is Fallout 4 Frost.
So that’s our list of ten gaming challenges that you can totally try for yourself. Is there any challenges that we left out? Or perhaps any amazing stories of your challenge runs you want to share? Do so in the comments. Plus if you liked this content, please feel free to check out other lists such as our underrated current gen titles list or our PS2 Hidden Gems list. I’m Callum and thanks for reading COG