Top 10 Hardest/Most Rewarding Gaming Challenges

Many will say games are meant to be played for enjoyment. Others are masochistic and love their gaming challenges, no matter how extreme and demanding the game may be. We’ve all had our share of moments where not only did we play a game on the hardest difficulty, we’ve completed certain stipulations to unlock bonuses or just for that extra sense of satisfaction. Here are my top 10 hardest gaming challenges:

- Devil May Cry (PS2): Completing Dante Must Die Mode

The original Devil May Cry stands as one of my favorite games of all time. The fast, fluid combat system integrated with firearms and swordplay really worked well and the soundtrack was a driving factor for me to keep playing the game. However, I remember my friend telling me how he tackled and beat Dante Must Die mode and I thought, “What the hell. I’ll give it a shot too.” One of the most infuriating experiences I’ve ever had in gaming. The name of the mode was not kidding. The game was out to kick your ass inside-out. Beating this was rewarding as you earned Super Dante which allowed you to play the game over with unlimited devil trigger. Only thing was, you never wanted to see this game again for quite some time after proving that Dante Mustn’t Die.

- Ninja Gaiden (Xbox/PS3): Master Ninja Difficulty with No Upgrades

Another one of my personal favorite games. Ninja Gaiden has usually been a console seller for me. I got an Xbox just to play the original. I sold my Xbox to get a PS3 with Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Now, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus is coming out for the PS Vita’s launch which will no doubt be my first game (alongside Uncharted: Golden Abyss). One day, I was talking to my brother about Ninja Gaiden Sigma and he was telling me how he beat the game without ever using Ninpo, upgrading health or upgrading any of the weapons because he simply was too engrossed in the game that he forgot about upgrading. Well, I decided to 1-up his “challenge” and thought, “Well, I’ll just do that but on Master Ninja difficulty.” Probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever brought on myself as the game caused me to say words that many would find incredibly unpleasant. With some hardcore dedication, it appeared the impossible was actually possible…even beating Alma! You don’t earn anything for this specific stipulation other than pride. A proud achievement and one that I challenge those who haven’t dared this before.

- Shinobi (PS2): Completing Super Mode

Another ninja game that drove many to the edge. Shinobi for the PS2 was a very good game in my personal opinion and had me hooked into trying to complete the game 100 percent. This meant getting every Oboro Coin in each stage and completing every difficulty. I heard that you unlocked “Stage-EX” for collecting all the Oboro Coins on Super Mode difficulty and since there was no video of what the level looked like, I was determined to take on the challenge. Well, for those who don’t know how Shinobi plays on the PS2, your sword has a meter that if not fed with the souls of those you kill, it will consume your soul. It was an interesting premise but on Super Mode, it was the complete opposite. The meter would deplete stupid fast and it was bad enough that the enemies did a ton of damage to you. Oh, and this game was old-school hard by not providing any checkpoints mid-mission. The only checkpoint you had was at a boss and this game had some of the most difficult bosses in gaming history…especially the cheap-as-hell final boss. Well, when all was said and done, I unlocked Stage-EX and expected something really neat. It was nothing but a ninja trial stage that tested your skills. Are you serious? Wasn’t completing Super Mode enough?

- Goldeneye 007 (N64): 00 Agent on the Aztec Level

Ah Goldeneye…so many memories, so many infuriating controller throws at the TV. Completing 00 Agent in Goldeneye was no easy task, but it was certainly doable with enough devotion, patience and memorization. Aside from the broken Train level where you had to laser the floor and escape with the brain-dead Natalya (who for some reason loved to stay in the train and blow up), there was one level that separated the gamers with the hardcore gamers, the Aztec.

When you start a level with the wall opening in front of you and a barrage of bullets are flying at you from far away (all with pinpoint accuracy might I add), you know you’re in hell. Once you got past the room where you had to escape the launch shuttle sequence by shooting a vent and going through there, enemies had Moonraker Lasers that did a ridiculous amount of damage to you. The easiest objective to do in this level was kill Jaws because you can exploit the AI into just running circles on the staircase and you pummeling him with lasers. However, once you beat him, you had to backtrack all the way to the beginning of the level and insert a tape in the bulletproof control center. Then, an onslaught of enemies would come after you and you had move forward again to insert another tape into the launch console. Finally, it was here where you were sweating bullets and hoping that no one would sneak up and kill you because you had a time limit that initiated the launch sequence. All you needed to do was wait for the launch to go off and stand your ground…until something wrong happens and you have to run and activate yet another switch.

Bottomline was that this level on 00 Agent was absolutely ruthless. Back then, there was no such thing as a regenerating health system. Hell, you couldn’t even replenish your health. The only item you could get to help you out with receiving a few extra hits was body armor, and even that was rare. Beating this mission on 00 Agent unlocked the Egyptian Temple, which many have never seen due to the ludicrous stipulation required to access this level.

- Battletoads (NES): Completing the Game in Co-op

Battletoads was an awesome game. Tight gameplay, good graphics and a ballin’ soundtrack (as I stated in my Top 10 NES Soundtracks) made this one of those must play games. However, those who complete the game know it’s a true testament of old-school challenge. The real challenge though is to complete it on co-op. You and your partner must be both pinpoint accurate with every action you two do. If one player loses their life, it will set both players back to the beginning of the level…oh and you can hurt your partner if the game wasn’t challenging enough.

- Contra: Shattered Solider (PS2): Completing Game with S-Rank

Contra has always been known for it’s tough-as-nails difficulty and Shattered Soldier was up there. Here was the catch though. In order to see the best ending the game had to offer, you had to complete the game with an S-Rank. To do this, you had to destroy literally everything in a stage to get your Hit Rate to 100 percent. If you died, your Hit Rate percentage would subtract from your overall score. You needed 97% Hit Rate to get S-Rank which left room for only death per level and that’s only if you destroyed everything. As any other Contra installment, this game demanded complete concentration and memorization beyond belief. However, completing this game and getting the the best ending (even though it was lame) was one of the most rewarding gaming accomplishments one could earn.

- Super Monkey Ball (GameCube): Completing Expert Stage

Super Monkey Ball may appear to be a cutesy game, but it’s really the work of the devil. Completing the game’s 50 level “Expert Stage” was only meant for those with nerves of steel. Words can’t even comprehend how insane this game’s difficulty was. The first couple of levels start off pretty reasonable but once you get to floor 7, the game doesn’t hold your hand by any means. Oh, and you only had three continues at the initial start. Once you unlocked all three mini-games, you would start earning play points for just playing the game. Every 2500 points earned you an extra continue. Once you earned 9 continues and achieved another 2500 points, you unlocked unlimited continues. Even tackling Expert Stage with unlimited continues doesn’t necessarily make it easier. You still have to complete the 50 level endurance without shutting off the game. Despite the game’s asinine Expert Stage, the game was addictive enough for you to keep trying until you completed it.

- Demon’s Souls (PS3): Everything but the Final Boss

Seriously, Demon’s Souls is a brutal game. It has all the concepts that would normally make for a crappy game but executes it in such a way that makes it among some of the best. However, when the first level gives people such a tough time, to the point where they just give up, it’s evident that the game is pretty damn hard. Upon completing the first boss, you will have a huge sigh of relief that you conquered the boss battle. Mind you, I mentioned the first boss. The bosses truly defend what the definition of a boss is, someone who you should feel intimidated by and worried to confront. You will be jumping up and down cheering each time you finish off a boss in Demon’s Souls. The only thing that will make you not cheer so much is when you finish off the final boss. The final boss is a complete push-over and can be taken down with almost no effort at all. Either way, everything that led to this moment makes you feel like you gave the game your all and deserved to finish it. It is by far the most rewarding game this current console generation, hands down.

- The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES): Completing the Great Palace

The Great Palace serves as the final test in the game, and surpasses anything else you’ll face in the game. Not only is it massive, requiring extensive exploration and monster-fighting, but also ends with not one, but TWO bosses. As if the Thunderbird isn’t enough of a challenge, you need to fight Dark Link, a shadow version of yourself who knows all of your moves. Worst of all, if you die, you have to go all the way back to the beginning of the dungeon. The Adventure of Link may have received mixed reviews by the gaming community, but anybody who had the skill to beat it should be proud, for it’s one of the biggest challenges in video game history.

- F-Zero GX (GameCube): Completing Master Class

Now this one drove me over the edge…no pun intended. F-Zero GX goes down as my favorite racing game of all time but also the most difficult. I remember picking this up, booting it up and being blown away with…well, everything! The visuals are still some of the best, the controls were tight, the gameplay was lightning fast and provided one of the best soundtracks (in my Top 10 Nintendo GameCube Soundtracks) in gaming history that would get your adrenaline going. Regardless of what made the game phenomenal, the difficulty for the Master Class was beyond asinine. Completing the Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald and Diamond Cups on Master Class is what was required to unlock the AX Cup, which had all the levels from F-Zero AX, the arcade version. You could get those levels by bringing your memory card to the arcade machine itself and plugging it in, but not a single arcade had this game in my area so I had to earn it the hard way. Every race had you sweating for the top spot and when you’d complete the cup in first place by a narrow finish, you’d jump up shouting and cheering. The Outer Space level in the AX Cup was entirely worth unlocking. After all that hard work…my memory card accidentally got thrown out and I lost my file. I have yet to re-achieve this behemoth of a challenge.

What were some of your hardest, yet most rewarding gaming challenges? Sound off in the comments below!

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  • http://r1788.wordpress.com R17

    This is a great compilation Glacier well done. I can definitively state that Goldeneye’s Aztec level is without a doubt one of the hardest challenges in recent gaming history.

    • http://glacier928.wordpress.com Glacier928

      Thanks! Goldeneye’s Aztec level will always remain burned into my mind if you couldn’t tell from my description. :P

  • kevin

    Just Cause 2 Platinum

    • http://glacier928.wordpress.com Glacier928

      Not the hardest, but certainly time consuming and rewarding! :)

  • Phil

    Any MGS game going for the Big Boss Emblem

    • http://glacier928.wordpress.com Glacier928

      Now that’s definitely a very challenging one!

  • http://www.bandagesandbullets.blogspot.com JKosprey

    I completely agree on battletoads. That game was responsible for more controller-to-window incidents than any other
    f***ing speed scooters

    • http://glacier928.wordpress.com Glacier928

      Well said JKosprey. Those damn speed scooters were a nightmare…especially on coop!

  • http://gravatar.com/darthmoose darthmoose1986 (psn)

    really cool picks, resident has some really cool unlocks thats are damn hard to achive, like beating resident evil 2 in a certian time limit to unlock speacial weapons for a new game plus

    • http://glacier928.wordpress.com Glacier928

      Thanks darthmoose1986! The Resident Evil games definitely had very challenging unlockables to achieve and certainly felt rewarding when you earned them. I remember watching my brother play through RE2 and unlocking the 4th Survivor mode which had a demanding stipulation. Good times!

  • dieger

    i feel metriod prime 2 should be on this list DAMN YOU BOOST GUARDIAN!

    • Spenfen

      Completely agreed! But I found the spider guardian harder…

  • Drbobo

    Hey Glacier finally came across your website randomly linked from n4g and your article. Nice article btw, I too have completed Zelda 2 games arent as hard and rewarding as they used to be. DMC any of were tough as friggin adamantium but super rewarding. Also hella props on Ninja gaiden and especially fzero i couldnt get past the tutorial level and gave up lol.

    anyways just thought id leave a comment after I saw your name as the author good work.

    • http://glacier928.wordpress.com Glacier928

      Hey Drbobo, really cool to see you came across the article and enjoyed it! Games are certainly nowhere near as hard now as they were back then. Thanks again for the feedback!

  • http://todoipadonline.com Danteh

    Nice list! (DMC my first hard challenge ever… I remember when I completed it in DMD mode when I was like 14 yo, damn I was so proud haha!

    But I think you forgot the quintessential hard challenge… God of War II in Titan mode! I’ve played many, many hard games since my Dante Must Die adventure 10 years ago, and nothing has tested my skills and patience as much as the Titan mode challenge. Especially the Translator part, possibly one of the hardest sequences in gaming history (in this difficulty).

    If you haven’t tried it I urge you to it! It’s a wonderful masochistic experience, especially when you beat it! ;)

  • D…

    MK Vs DC Kombo Challenges are no joke.

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  • http://gravatar.com/korix korix

    Are you serious, the last boss in Demons Souls being a pushover? Seriously!!??
    That guy was tough as hell! How did you play the game, were you a caster type player?
    Because as a melee character that boss was insane. Easily the hardest of the entire game. He even had an attack (a quick one even) that would almost certainly kill you and DE-LEVEL you! This could happen several times in a fight with him if you survived it and healed up.
    But actually, I just came to think you might have meant the not-really-a-boss final boss, that hardly makes an effort at killing you. That wasn’t supposed to be a challenge though.
    Good article though.

    • http://glacier928.wordpress.com Glacier928

      No no no, I’m not talking about the Old King Allant boss from 1-4! That boss was insane! Granted, I played as a caster type but it was still hard-as-hell!

      The final boss was essentially King Allant from below the Nexus. I referred to him as the final boss because he was the last enemy you came across in the game and carried a boss’s health bar. I know he wasn’t meant to be a challenge but he was technically the last boss.

      Glad you enjoyed the article! :)

  • Alteredego

    Quite the awesome list ya got goin here however i just gotta ask why didnt you add God of war (1) god mode…any boss lol or even just the battle at the end when you fight an army of Kratos idk how many times it took but that was one hell of a Rewarding challenge when it was all said and done. Or even Armored Core Last Raven final Nine breaker super secret Boss battle? the AI in the game was insane and that boss was even worse! (if ya havent played it strongly recommend it)

    • http://glacier928.wordpress.com Glacier928

      Thanks for the compliment on the list! God of War’s God Mode was insanely hard…I do remember just giving it a shot but never finished it…may have to go back and try it again. :)

      As for Armored Core, I actually never played it before but may have to look into it now. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Blake Barks

    Call of Duty 1. 5th mission of the Soviet campaign on Veteran difficulty. This is one of the few games I have ever beaten on the Hardest setting. And most deserving as hardest ever. “The fifth mission has the unit, under the command of Sergeant Pavlov, capture and defend the apartment building (see Pavlov’s House). First, Voronin acts as a counter-sniper while another soldier draws the fire of the snipers in the building; the unit then clears the building of Germans, and defends it from the German counterattack.” Once you are inside the apartment you and your teammates (if any survive to this point) must clear the building floor by floor with the enemy always having the high ground. Then once this is done you must defend it from what seemed like hundreds of nazis and worst of all Tank fire. You have no more teammates. None. After killing each nazi I saved and dove for the next room heart pounding and covered the door. One, then two, then three seconds and another nazi’s footsteps. Running out of ammo the entire time, only able to get hit once or twice was insane. Hiding from enemy’s was a good option but then you hear it. The eery whistle as a tank shell comes at the wall you are hiding in front of. With a good surround sound you could tell where it would hit but there would be many a moment where the echo of the building made it nearly impossible to tell and you would be blown to smithereens. I submit this as easily the hardest thing I have ever had to do in a video game to Date. Hands down.

  • Blake Barks

    Stuntman. Just finishing should be added as well.

  • ghjkghjk

    Ocarina of time if you follow the rules of the uber challenge (http://www.gamefaqs.com/n64/197771-the-legend-of-zelda-ocarina-of-time/faqs/44025) was by far the hardest video game challenge i have ever attempted in one of the greatest games ever created. It was an incredible experience, being able to see how the game was physically created and then using that to my advantage, and i’ll never forget the feeling of finally finishing an old favorite in a new and exciting way.

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  • Gdark

    King’s Field 2 was so big and hard when i was young but there are much more harder games then these listed above

  • http://www.facebook.com/quinn.rushing Quinn Rushing

    damn Devil may cry must be bull on Dante Must Die Mode i can’t even beat it on hard

  • filip

    getting the big boss emblem in mgs4
    no kills,no alerts, no special items, no health recovery items, under 5 hours, no continues, and on hardest difficulty

  • Cheezball

    Hard video game challenges are finishing COD 1 on veteran mode and trying to find feebas in pokemon emerald

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