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!

Shinobi Review (3DS)

Shinobi is the latest release within the Shinobi franchise. It was published by SEGA and developed by Griptonite Games. After not seeing an actual Shinobi game since Nightshade (Kunoichi in Japan) for the PS2 back in 2003, is this the proper return to bring this franchise back to fans and newcomers?

Story: 3/5

Shinobi serves as a prequel to every game within the franchise to date. You wield the katana as Jiro Musashi, a ninja of the Oboro clan who is also the father of fan favorite, Joe Musashi. The story starts off with Jiro’s village being attacked in 1256 A.D. Feudal Japan. However, that soon changes as a mysterious rift opens the gateway to a more futuristic time period in 2056 A.D. It is here where Jiro must slash his way through the Zeed corporation and find out what is going on. The story is told with barely any dialogue and while you usually have no idea what’s going on, it is clear that Griptonite Games wanted to keep an old-school feel to it by having the brief anime-style cutscenes connect the levels so that it makes sense as to why you’re in the next location. The cutscenes are pretty cool to watch, regardless of whether any of it makes sense or not. The story is quite non-sensical, but it’s in Shinobi fashion. The game knows it’s old-school and doesn’t care to match up against other story driven titles.

Gameplay: 4/5

Let me get this out of the way now. Shinobi is pretty damn hard. This game has “old-school” written all over it. Trial-and-error, memorization and fast reflexes are what you’re going to need to get through this game. The game offers multiple difficulty levels but even on Beginner mode, you will die…a lot. If you’ve played Shinobi III: Return of the Shadow Master on the SEGA Genesis, then most of the mechanics should feel second nature to you. I emphasize most because this time around, melee combat is a big portion of the game. Jiro’s combat will have slashing, sliding, juggling and parrying your opponents a great deal and you better learn how to parry because that’s the main way to deflect any attacks thrown at you. Jiro has a simple three-hit sword combo while standing still but if you hold the circle pad up, you can uppercut them into the air and finish them off with a mid-air attack. If you double jump and use your sword attack, you will do a slashing slam attack to inflict a greater deal of damage.

Now it wouldn’t be a Shinobi game if you didn’t have your shuriken/kunai to throw at your enemies. Jiro can throw up to six at a time and then must replenish his inventory by waiting for a few seconds. Think of it as a reload on projectile attacks. Jiro can spray the screen with kunai just like Joe Musashi could in the original Shinobi titles beforehand, which will prove incredibly helpful when bombarded with enemies in later levels. Platforming also makes a return in this game in which you will be double jumping, ledge grabbing, wall jumping and grappling your way through the stages. This game marks the first title in the franchise in which you have a grappling hook to utilize for traversal to higher platforms.

The level designs throughout Shinobi are varied and provide great set pieces throughout the game’s eight missions. Each mission will last you roughly 15-25 minutes to complete, which is a bit lengthy for a handheld title. Luckily, the missions are broken up into multiple areas and if you pause the game, you can save and quit so that you may return to the latest checkpoint you reached. Throughout the missions, you will be scored on how well you’re playing and penalized every time you get hit or lose a life. Upon level completion, you may earn in-game achievements which unlock cheats, music, artwork and challenge maps. While the game is not terribly long, it’s the old-school difficulty that will add to the hours of play time. If you play through Beginner mode, the game should take you between 3-5 hours. Play through Normal mode though and expect the campaign to take minimum 5-7 hours. Beginner mode allows the player to have more generous checkpoints, unlimited lives, weaker enemies and auto-saves your progress after each level. Normal mode gives the player five lives, unlimited continues and auto-saves your progress after each level as well. However, tackle Hard or Very Hard and the game promises to be more relentless and old-school in which when you do game over, it’s back to the very first level…regardless of your save progress.

Fans of Shinobi III will immediately notice throughout some of the levels the borrowed references from the game. Whether you’re riding a horse, ninja surfing, going up large elevators in which soldiers lie prone to shoot at you through vents or attack brain-like enemies that bust out of cryopods, fans will be taking a trip down nostalgia lane. There’s a neat section in the game’s main menu in which you can read all the history for every Shinobi game ever released to be brought up to speed with their storylines and learn fun facts.

Graphics: 4/5

Griptonite Games did a great job with the game’s art style. The Japanese culture oozes out of the screen and the character animations are quite fluid. While the game’s visuals are solid, some of the later environment’s texture seem to be a bit lacking. Also, the 3D effect seems to feel tacked on and does little to add to the immersion of the game’s visuals. Regardless, Shinobi is a vibrant, colorful and mostly beautiful side-scroller to look at and see in action.

Sound: 4/5

If you’re expecting a truly outstanding soundtrack like Revenge of the Shinobi, Shinobi III: Return of the Shadow Master or Shinobi for the PS2, then you may be a bit disappointed. However, if you go into this game not having that in mind, the soundtrack here is quite well done and fits all the levels perfectly. Norihiko Nobino, known for his work on the Metal Gear Solid series, jumps on board to provide a cinematic soundtrack that provides orchestral, rock and electronic beats. Sound effects do exactly what they should and are abundant leading to a great audio experience overall.

Overall Score: 15/20 = 7.5 out of 10

Shinobi is a really good game and easily Griptonite Games’ best effort to date. The developers certainly have the talent to continue this franchise and will hopefully be onboard to release a sequel in the near future. Fans of the originals will really enjoy the tight gameplay found here and newcomers will find plenty to take in. The game provides an old-school challenge which can’t be said very often this generation. Even after completing the game, you will be going back through the levels to try and best your previous playthroughs. It’s one of those games where you start off playing poorly by dying left and right, but as you stick with it, you start to master the mechanics and look slick playing it.


+ Old-school gameplay

+ Tough, rewarding difficulty

+ Slick combat

+ Sleek art-style


– Cutscenes are cool but doesn’t make much sense

– 3D effect feels unnecessary

– Gameplay mechanics may be “too” demanding for the average player