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!

Top 10 Nintendo GameCube Soundtracks

The Nintendo GameCube will always remain one of my favorite consoles to date.  It had some truly great titles along with some of the best exclusives during it’s time period.  Let’s take a look at my top 10 favorite soundtracks on the GameCube after a decade of it’s release.

– F-Zero GX

F-Zero GX was the first F-Zero title to not be developed by Nintendo.  In collaboration with SEGA, they had AV (Amusement Vision, known for the original two Super Monkey Ball titles) behind the development…and they surely nailed the franchise perfectly.  Crazy sense of speed? Check.  Outstanding graphics? Check.  Tight controls? Check.  Insanely awesome soundtrack? Double check.  F-Zero GX was the definition of a stellar racing title and the soundtrack tremendously aided in this department.  It was hard to pick only one song to demonstrate, but Green Plant’s theme was the one that always made me max out the volume on my TV.  Still can’t believe I completed this on Master Difficulty…anyway, take a listen below!

 

– Resident Evil 4

“Destined to be the greatest survival horror game of all time” is the quote that Game Informer stated on the back of the box of RE4…they couldn’t have been more correct.  Resident Evil 4 still stands as my favorite game of all time and if you haven’t played it yet, shame on you.  However, I’m not here to tell you why the game was beyond incredible, but I’m here to tell you how remarkable the soundtrack was.  Every song in the game either gave you a creepy vibe of what lurked in the area ahead or amped up the intensity factor drastically.  Couple that with some of the best sound effects in a game and you’ve got audio design at its finest.  Choosing only one song was incredibly difficult to display for you readers but I chose the one song that really got my adrenaline going during the extra mode, The Mercenaries.

 

– Super Monkey Ball

Yes, that’s right.  Super Monkey Ball is on this list, but let me explain why before you quickly dismiss it.  Super Monkey Ball was a launch title for the GameCube that I had zero interest in.  As a matter of fact, I remember going into Blockbuster aiming to rent Sonic Adventure 2: Battle.  Naturally, since it was a new release, there was no copy there to rent and the only available game that was sitting on the shelf was Super Monkey Ball.  Now I remembered reading Nintendo Power’s review for it and while they praised it, I still had no interest in it.  I didn’t want to leave Blockbuster without renting a game for my ‘Cube so I decided to give it a shot.  Well, after firing it up on the console, I started the first level and thought, “whoa, the game runs in 60 FPS and has some pretty catchy music!”  As I kept playing, I instantly grew fond of the songs within the game, no matter how challenging the game became.  Granted, you needed nerves of steel to complete Expert Mode (proud completionist right here…not trying to brag or anything) but it was still addictive to keep trying.  The soundtrack was a motivator for me to keep trying as well.  It just fit the game in a way so few do.  While the Super Monkey Ball franchise has gotten dramatically worse after the second installment (due to Amusement Vision not being behind the development), this first installment was the one that will always remain fondly in my memories.  Check out the song for the first level below!

 

– Viewtiful Joe

Viewtiful Joe was an interesting game.  I remember hating the game at first wondering why it got praised from the critics.  However, after giving the game a second playthrough, I started to really grasp the gameplay mechanics and really appreciate everything the game had to offer.  This wasn’t your average side-scroller where you could literally pull off the same moves to best your opponents.  This game demanded your attention, even on the Easy difficulty.  While the story wasn’t exactly my main motivator to progress through the game, the humor incorporated was pretty well done.  The soundtrack on the other hand was another story.  The game’s tracks were really fast-paced and only added to the intensity level of game’s difficulty.  Take a listen to the track below to get an idea of how fast-paced the music is!

 

– TimeSplitters 2

“Heir apparent to GoldenEye” was the main quote on the front of the box from Electronic Gaming Monthly.  Well, seeing that developer Free Radical consisted mostly of members from RareWare that were behind GoldenEye and Perfect Dark, I’d say the statement is entirely valid.  TimeSplitters 2 was a true classic that provided limitless hours of entertainment and creativity.  The creativity part comes in the fact that you had a truly in-depth Map Maker feature that let you create not only multiplayer maps, but single-player missions with your own objectives and enemy AI that you programmed yourself!  As of today, I have yet to see a console game that matches this map maker mode.  The coolest part to the Map Maker was choosing what song you wanted in your newly created map.  The tough part was actually choosing one song to fit your map seeing that each song was entirely unique and memorable.  Check out the track below to hear what I mean!

 

– Luigi’s Mansion

A launch title that received mixed reactions, Luigi’s Mansion puts you in the role of Mario’s brother packing a proton…er…Poltergust 3000 to capture ghosts in a haunted mansion in which Mario was last seen.  Personally, Luigi’s Mansion was one of my favorite Gamecube titles to ever grace the console.  Luckily, we’re seeing a proper sequel 10 years later on the 3DS.  However, one element that really stood out was the soundtrack.  I can’t help but hum with Luigi (who’s humming the theme himself) as I go through the creepy mansion.  Heck…I hum the theme sometimes when I walk around my house when it’s pitch black.  Take a listen below!

 

– Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Silicon Knight’s under-appreciated psychological horror title, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, was a really unique experience.  I remember playing this game late at night and all of a sudden the volume on my TV actually raised to the max on it’s own, then muted it…then I decided to save and shut off the game until the game said it was erasing my entire memory card.  I remember cursing up a storm wondering “how the hell is this possible?!”  I shut off the system, rebooted it, checked my memory card and everything was still there.  The game was completely messing with me.  It was at this moment that I knew the game was going to be a one of a kind experience.  Eternal Darkness’s atmosphere was incredibly creepy and aside from the psychological tests the game will put you through, the soundtrack was enticing.  Each track fits the era you adventure through from the moment you start until the moment you reach the final battle.  Take a listen at the awesome final boss battle music below to get a taste of how well done the soundtrack was!

 

– SSX 3

One of my personal favorite games of all time, SSX 3 took everything that worked perfectly in the SSX franchise and made it open-world across three peaks on one mountain.  You were able to actually board down the mountain from the top of peak 3 to the bottom of peak 1 without a single load time and it would take roughly 30 minutes!  However, what’s snowboarding without an awesome playlist of songs…and SSX 3 delivered.  SSX 3 had a dynamic soundtrack by playing certain segments of songs at certain sequences of the level, which really immerses the player throughout their traversal down the mountain.  The licensed soundtrack had a ton of variety and while every song might not have tailored to you, there were always a handful that would stay on your playlist to listen through.  Take a listen to Andy Hunter’s “Go” which was one of the main themes of the game!

 

– Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes

The remake of Hideo Kojima’s classic for the PS1, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes was the original MGS combined with all the gameplay elements from MGS2.  It was a well made remake of a much beloved classic but the one change that was made which initially annoyed me was the soundtrack.  When I heard it was not the same soundtrack, I was wondering, “Why would they change a perfect soundtrack?”  Well, after booting the game up, my initial thoughts were gone and by the end I thought, “Damn, that was a really good soundtrack!”  It was essentially most of the same songs remade with a different tone to them but then there were entirely new tracks as well.  One in particular was Psycho Mantis’s boss battle theme.  In MGS for PS1, every boss had the same epic song.  In the remake, every boss had their own theme.  Each song was very well composed and ended up sticking in my head a good chunk of the time upon completion.  Take a listen to Psycho Mantis’s battle music below…and don’t worry, you won’t need to swap your controller for him to know that you’re listening to it.

 

– Super Smash Bros. Melee

The classic fighting title for the N64 returned as a launch title for the Nintendo GameCube and what a sequel it was!  Super Smash Bros. Melee was one of the best launch titles that was ever released for any system.  I remember being in eighth grade and right after Christmas, it was the one game everyone was talking about besides MGS2.  After spending hundreds of hours playing this with my friends, it’s no wonder the music stuck in my head.  Take the iconic songs from classic Nintendo franchises and touch them up to 2001’s standards and that’s how to sum up SSBM’s soundtrack.  Take a listen to Hyrule Temple’s song below to hear how they took the infamous song from “The Legend of Zelda II: Link’s Awakening” and made it better!


There you have it readers.  Naturally there were many other titles that I wanted to add to this list but these were my personal top 10 soundtracks for the GameCube.  Agree or disagree, sound off your thoughts in the comments!