When the Xbox 360 launched in 2005 in brought with it a lot of innovative features that weren't commonplace until it came along. The widespread adoption of online or multiplaying gaming can arguably be directly laid at the feet of Microsoft's Xbox 360. But one of it's smaller ideas has had just as big, though more subtle impact, on how we play our games. I speak, obviously, about Achievements. The introduction of the Achievement system - and the PS3's equivalent Trophy system - added longevity to many games and gave gamers an extra layer of goals to aim for, beyond just finishing the game.
And depending on the Achievement in question, it was a way of really showing how tough of a gamer you really were. Completing COD 4: Modern Warfare's Mile High Club level on Veteran difficulty, for example. Or more recently getting the 'The Shadows Rushed Me' Achievement in Max Payne 3, which required finishing the game on the hardest difficulty, from beginning to end, against the clock, in a single sitting, without dying even once. Yep, some of those are tough asks.
But even with those difficulty boosting Achievements in place, they pale in comparison to some of the self-imposed restrictions that gamers can, and have, placed on themselves to really crank up the challenge.
The Pokemon Series - The Nuzlocke Challenge
If we're honest with ourselves, the Pokémon
games aren't really brimming with difficulty. Powered with persistence, anyone can finish a Pokémon
game. The Nuzlocke Challenge adds a new layer of depth to the game, that will really alter a players approach. According to the Bulbapedia article
on the challenge, the rules of the Nuzlocke Challenge go like this:
If a Pokémon faints it is considered dead, and must be released.
If a Pokémon flees, the player must do without it.
Players may only use the first Pokémon they capture in a new area.
With those three simple rules, player are forced to use Pokémon that they wouldn't ordinarily use and learn to adopt strategies that may go against their chosen style. Those reasons alone boost the difficulty, but having to deal with the 'death' of Pokémon really changes how you play the game.
Metal Gear Solid Series - Big Boss Ranking
At the end of every Metal Gear Solid game, player's are given a rank indicating how well they've performed in the game. It's usually an animal of some kind, like Leopard, Flying Squirrel or Alligator. The exception to the animal naming convention, is the Big Boss Rank. And getting the Big Boss ranking is effen hard. Like really, really hard. Each of the Metal Gear Solid games have slightly different criteria for achieving a Big Boss status, but they're all basically variations on this: Do not get captured. Do not get spotted. Do not kill anyone. Do not use healing items. And do all of that on the game's highest difficulty settings and within a ridiculous time limit. No easy feat, that.
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim - The Chuck Norris Challenge
If nothing else, the Elder Scrolls: Skyrim offers its players choice. From race, nationality, weapons, skills, spells and clothes. And that's just the personal stuff that make up your character, there's still all the choices to be made regarding the adventure itself. But if you want to make a really interesting choice while traversing Tamriel try taking up the Chuck Norris Challenge. The Chuck Norris Challenge can be summed up with this one sentence: Real men sort things out with their fists. If that's unclear, the Challenge asks players to complete the game without the use of any weapons or spells. All combat needs to be solved with your knuckles scrapping against some ones jawbone. Sounds doable until you have to punch a dragon.
Ninja Gaiden - No Damage Challenge
The Ninja Gaiden games have a well deserved reputation for being hard. Like really hard. Like really, really hard. Just go read a review for any one of the games in the series, the word 'hard' probably appears like million times. The entire experience is one long sadistic brawl that players get through via attrition more than anything else. The series infamous producer, Tomonobu Itagaki, famously said that in the other games, the enemies are there for the player to kill, in Ninja Gaiden, the enemies are there to kill the player. Truer words were never spoken. So we know the game is hard, so what could you possibly do to make it harder? Try playing it without taking any damage, at all. Honestly, of all the challenges listed here, I feel like this one is some kind of unattainable myth. Like it's one of the signs that will reveal the video game messiah and it can only be accomplished by him. I mean really now. Who can play a Ninja Gaiden game and not get hit?
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