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Challenge Gamer

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"Let me make this really clear. I don't care if Pokémon can be beaten without getting hit. ... I don't even care if I have fun. Screw fun. Fun is boring. I wanted to beat Pokémon without getting hit. Not any individual part of Pokémon, the whole friggin' thing. This isn't about curiosity, this is about putting yourself to the grindstone, shaving away any possible imperfection until, for one, short, microscopic moment you glimpse the diamond that's been resting underneath the entire time."
Youtuber GameChamp3000

The usually less annoying Sister Trope to "Stop Having Fun" Guys, Challenge Gamers have equal dedication to their 'art' but instead of striving to surpass others and laughing down at casual players, they focus on improving their own skills as far as they will go. Who cares about Scoring Points? The Challenge Gamer does, if it takes real skill to get them. This is the type of gamer who gets high scores on Nintendo Hard games at full Fake Difficulty, and loves nothing more than to tell (and show!) infuriated casual gamers (scrubs included) that it can be done after all. They may also specialize in the myriad types of Challenge Runs or devise their own Self-Imposed Challenge, or attempt to see how horribly they can destroy the game system.

The Challenge Gamer tends to focus on games with systems that can be exploited, but not in the conventional sense. If this gamer plays fighting games, expect to see them aim for stuff like time or combo records rather than beating other players. RPGs are all about gaining levels and cranking out ridiculous numbers, not Player Versus Player. FPS multiplayer? Sorry, gotta shave a second off my Speed Run. A Challenge Gamer also will not complain about exploits or bugs, but will embrace them as a means by which a skilled gamer can push the bar higher. Adeptness at exploiting the programming flaws or loopholes in a game may even be a requirement for joining the game's Challenge Gamer community.

Those who lose patience with less than optimal play may become "Stop Having Fun" Guys but most don't bother with how others play because that would distract them from scoring practice. Their games are no less Serious Business, however. Also, expect fewer cheating accusations as their typical reaction on seeing someone else do better is to go home, boot up their own copy and beat the score themselves.

What is quite interesting is how the types of this sort of gamer vary from region to region. In Japan for instance you see most people of this type oriented towards single player games, mostly Bullet Hell. In most of the West however you see this type of gamer mostly playing FPS games all the while trying to get the highest rankings on the online multiplayer leaderboard. Ironically, when both types of gamers look at the other type they get the impression that the other type plays crazy hard games and consider that other type a sort of supergaming master race. The whole thing however keeps being stable thanks to lots of No Export for You, since some of the hardest games of the Japanese type as well as the Western type are never released in another region.

It probably goes without saying, but these types are by far the most likely to practice Not the Intended Use, though it is certainly not exclusive to them. Many gamers look down upon Challenge Gamers as people who are incapable of having fun with a video game, never mind that everyone has their own definition of what "fun" is.



  • In Cave Story, there are generally two popular challenges: The 100% challenge and the minimal items challenge. The latter means that you only pick up the three weapons you absolutely need to pick up and that you play through the entire game (including the Brutal Bonus Level) with only 3 max HP. In that same Bonus Level, there is also a timer, so of course there are plenty of speedruns both for 100% and minimal items.
  • Play though Ocarina of Time without buying anything (other than the required Deku Shield), and without picking up any heart containers, and without catching any fairies in your bottles. Yes, that means one solid hit from an Iron Knuckle will kill you. Still, it's quite simple compared to some of the other examples on this page...
    • The above example pales in comparison to the gamer challenge for the first Legend of Zelda game: never pick up any of the swords and still finish the game. (Almost. It's impossible to beat Ganon without a Sword.)
  • Devil May Cry 4 has a difficulty setting called "Hell or Hell", which, much like the previous Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening's "Heaven or Hell", kills the player character in a single shot from any attack. However, any enemies (instead of dying in one shot, as in "Heaven or Hell") have the statistics and AI of the Son of Sparda (aka "Hard") difficulty. Now consider that there are people who play this mode with no items, or other self-imposed challenges on top of this. And that the DMC series in general is Nintendo Hard to begin with.

Beat 'em Up

  • God Hand (already a Nintendo Hard game) has a "Jukebox" that the player can use to listen to the game's soundtrack. The soundtrack is split into four sections, each requiring a "CD" to unlock another section. Sounds normal enough? You get the first CD by simply beating the game on normal - and that's the easiest challenge. The second CD is fake difficulty played in spades. The third CD requires you to finish the entire game from Stage 1-2 without unleashing God Hand or using any Roulette moves once, which are pretty much the only ways to beat any Elite Mooks, let alone bosses. And the fourth CD? Beat the game on hard mode. Also bear in mind that these aren't even self-imposed.
    • Combine the last two challenges on a fresh new game, and you get the "Fresh Hard KMS Run" - no God Hand unleashes, no roulette moves, hard mode and no New Game Plus benefits. This is an example.
  • Asura's Wrath has the Mortal Gauge that lowers your health significantly, and it allows bosses to kill you in one direct hit. ON EASY MODE. Now, try playing with the Mortal Gauge on Hard Mode. Go on, try it...

First-Person Shooter

  • Trick Jumping. Acrobatics in an FPS? BELIEVE IT!
  • Expert Realism and many of the "Mutations" of Left 4 Dead 2 seem tailor-made for this type of player. Some previous Mutations have included:
    • Last Man On Earth has you playing the game, which is meant to be played with 3 other people (not counting Versus), by yourself, with the only nerf to the infected being that the common infected and Boomer are gone. This does not make it any easier, as any special infected with an incapacitating attack means instant loss of your health bar.
      • Four Swordsmen of the Apocalypse is a variation where the four survivors are stuck with only a katana, and no guns.
      • Yet another variation is Lone Gunman. Where the only infected are the common infected, the Boomer special infected (Who can draw the commons to you with his attack), the Witch, and the Tank. They do much more damage to you than usual (Even more than on Expert!) and your only weapon is the Magnum (Which only has 8 shots before it needs to reload). Oh and just like Last Man On Earth, you're on your own. Good luck with that!
    • Bleed Out has your health constantly deplete, with the only sources of healing being the pills and adrenaline that only recover 1/2 and 1/4th of your health, respectively.
    • Headshot! Where only headshots do damage to enemies.
    • Hard Eight. The AI Director is allowed to spawn 8 special infected at a time instead of its usual limit of 4.
    • Special Delivery is a mutation where it's you and your friends versus the special infected with no common infected. Sounds okay, right? Well there's just one catch. The special infected never stop spawning.
    • Ultra Realism, which has probably been cancelled, would've possibly outdone them all. What was known so far was that there is no HUD whatsoever, along with everything else that applies to Realism mode (No auras around players and items, enemies take less damage, dead players don't magically respawn in random closets, etc)
  • Halo has skulls, which add effects to ramp up the difficulty, such as making all enemies dodge grenades, shutting off save points within the level, and removing any heads up display.
    • Each skull is, in itself, hard, but LASO - Legendary All Skulls On - takes it up a notch. No checkpoints, you can only regenerate health by meleeing enemies, your motion tracker is disabled, and enemies have uncanny luck, throw dozens of grenades, are immune to whatever damage they're normally resistant to, get a promotion to elite ranks, get double health, and they drop half their usual ammo. The kicker? The Mythic Skull increases the difficulty level by one tier above Legendary, which gives enemies even more health, damage, and intelligence.
  • Marathon has The Oath of the Vidmaster: "I pledge to punch all switchesnote , to never shoot where I could use grenades, to admit the existence of no level except Total Carnage, to never use Caps Lock as my 'run' key, and to never, ever, leave a single Bob alive." All this equates to playing the game in as difficult a manner as possible, including deliberately pissing off friendly forces just to have more enemies against you. Eventually acknowledged by Bungie, who created "The Vidmaster's Challenge" as an optional Brutal Bonus Level set in Marathon Infinity.
  • One Doom speedrunner does various challenges on various maps for a series on his YouTube channel. Some of his challenges include:
  • Team Fortress 2 has an unofficial game mode called "Jumping". Players use rockets and grenade projectiles to catapult their character models through community made parkour maps. There is an active speedrun community competing for the fastest completion times on these jump maps. Trickjump videos are also common. Mastering these skills usually takes several hundred hours of dedicated play time.


  • In Europa Universalis (a huge, quasi-RTS game where you can play a country from 1399 to 1821) it's a common challenge to try to conquer the entire world. Experienced players can do this quite handily with any of the real mega powers, like England, France, Spain etc. The real game sharks conquer the world with nobodies like the Xhosa (a minor African power and a rival to the Zulus).
    • This is even harder then it sounds, because the game is supposed to be realistic, i.e. impossible for anyone outside of Eurasia to win.
    • Time is also a valid factor for constructing a challenge in Europa Universalis (or most other Paradox Interactive games). Yes, it's not too hard to conquer the world if you start as England ... but can you do it before the start of the 17th century?


  • Metroid is a common stomping ground of the Challenge Gamer; the games even change their ending depending on how fast you complete it and with how many items you acquired. Players have taken to finding a variety of sequence breaks and expert maneuvering to accomplish this.
    • The original NES Metroid, players can see Samus out of her suit depending on how fast it takes them; the best ending screen can be seen if beaten under an hour.
    • Metroid: Zero Mission, the GameBoy Advance remake of the first game, has unique endings depending on the difficulty level, how many items have been collected, and time completed. This can result in ending screens that can only be seen under certain conditions, such as if a player completes the game on Hard difficulty, under two hours with 100% of items found.


Platform Game

Puzzle Game

  • Pretty much everyone who plays Tetris: The Grand Master regularly; TGM isn't a game for casual Tetris players.
  • Big Brain Academy for Wii (possibly the DS versions as well) is a bright, cheery game with IQ puzzles and a casual feel. Aspiring to get all the platinum medals and/or an A+ will cause you pain.
  • Fantastic Contraption is an online physics puzzle flash game where your goal is to move a small pink ball or square to a goal, and you're only allowed to build in a certain area not near the goal. You're provided with powered wheels, unpowered wheels, and two kinds of connecting rod (one that interacts with other building objects, one that doesn't, except to connect them). Outside of the fact that you can't build outside a certain area, the game lets you do whatever you want within the realm of physics. Fans began implementing their own challenges. Using no powered wheels, using no wheels, using only blue rods (which weigh less than brown rods and don't interact with one another beyond connecting), sending the pink object to the goal and then bringing it back to the starting area, sending it to the goal and making sure it stays there, sending it back and forth between the goal and the starting area over and over indefinitely, clearing the game of all your objects, clearing the game of all objects, even those that started there. And between any two player models, the one with fewer pieces is better and the one that gets done faster (as measured by the in-game timer) is better (fewer pieces is more important than speed). There is some hard core ingenuity out there.
    • These features were so popular among fans that Fantastic Contraption 2 made them a part of the game itself, with the game judging what trophies you've earned. It also added new mechanics (two kinds of magnet) and trophies, including using no rods, not moving the pink piece, and using no magnets. It also keeps track of what trophies you've earned and lets you set up challenges for yourself (using fewer pieces and/or going faster).
  • Quadrax series itself, specifically later entries, is already hard enough, but if you feel like you really need bigger challenge you can compete for records for solution with lowest number of steps for each level posted on official page.

Racing Game

  • Any well-designed racing game that has a Time Trial mode with Racing Ghosts. The latest Mario Kart games have taken to providing players with online ghosts that are slightly faster than the player's best time, putting Challenge Gamers into a continuous cycle of out-racing ghosts and downloading better ones.

Rhythm Game

  • Many, many players of Rhythm Games, particularly the Bemani franchise. There's Guitar Hero and Rock Band players getting full combos, DanceDanceRevolution and pop'n music players going for perfect scores, and beatmania IIDX players getting AAA's (which are not perfect scores, as perfection is impossible on any song that isn't a total cakewalk due to the strict timing judgments).
  • Related to above, playing any standard video game using a DanceDanceRevolution (or knockoff) control pad. Which you operate with your feet.
  • The Audiosurf scoreboards boast some very impressive high scores which could only have been obtained by Challenge Gamers or cheaters.
    • Also, anyone who gets a good score on a fast song when playing with the Ironmode modifier turned on is almost certainly going to be a Challenge Gamer. Or masochistic.
    • Do keep in mind that any mode other than Mono (and Double Vision) is a lot easier to get high scores. Not 'easier' in the sense of being lower difficulty just you get more points because the mechanics are different. That's why if a song has ever seen serious competition, you never ever see Mono scores in the top ten.


  • Transcendence has a community where long standing members tend to fall into at least one of two categories: game modders and challenge gamers. It even got to the point that the developer added a Player Conduct section to the score page (or rather, made the score listings into a full blown stats page to begin with), listing several challenge conducts. The game has, to name a few traditional challenges:
    • Conducts: No resurrects, No-Buy, No backtracking, No friendlies killed, No illegal trade, No domina powers used (the last was actually enforced upon all players in version 1.04 due to a bug).
    • Kill the final boss: without using the lamplighter, without using any weapon over level 8, with only civilian equipment, without using domina powers, without using any weapons.
    • Kill the highest number of phobos dreadnoughts (the most powerful enemy in the game that isn't the final boss)
      • Getting the highest score is also dependent on this: the standard no-resurrect playthrough will garner about 800,000 points. One forum admin got 12,000,000 at 300 phobos kills only to be beaten out the next week by another player who got 27,000,000 at just shy of 600 phobos kills. (Ironically, the difficulty in getting over 50 phobos kills is keeping the enemy shipyards alive, because the ships that spawn tend to hit it with friendly fire and destroy it. Phoboses don't spawn randomly otherwise).
    • Kill everything in the game, including friendlies.
    • Kill nothing in the game, except for the final boss.
    • Fire no lethal weapons.
    • Save the Charon Korolov station.
    • No slave donations at sanctuaries and no superconducting coil conversions (both of which are standard ways of getting large amounts of domina powers and cash, respectively).
    • No farming Teratons and Ferians (A less strict version of no killing friendlies, as they are the two most commonly killed friendly factions).
    • No planet or station-camping (an exploit used to avoid enemy fire).
    • Complete the game with the weakest ship, the hornet battlepod. (This requires a mod to make the hornet playable)
    • Complete the game in the shortest time possible.
    • Find and report the most bugs. (the bug trac with its list-by-user mode has become something of a score table in itself). This usually involves going out of one's way to read every line of text for typos, and to contrive otherwise impossible situations to stretch the engine to its limits.
  • NetHack has official Conducts (for example Foodless and Pacifist) that are tracked through the entire game. When you die (or ascend), the ending screens will tell you what conducts you complied with. Yes, there are people who finished the entire game with all 11 conducts. That means, amongst others, that they never ate anything, never read anything, never killed anything and never attacked anything with a wielded weapon.
    • And then you get into the unofficial conducts. The best of these has to be Zen: blindfold yourself at the start of the game (two classes start with blindfolds - rogues and samurai - and tourists carry towels that can be used to do the same), and never take it off. Pray that you find an enemy with intrinsic telepathy (which lets you see thinking monsters, and only works when you're blind) fast.

Role-Playing Game

  • Oh Final Fantasy X, how can I break you? Let me count the ways. Ladies and gentlemen, the NSGNSNCNONENNENBB challenge:
    • No Sphere Grid
    • No Summons
    • No Customize
    • No Overdrive
    • No Escape
    • No "No Encounters"
    • No Blitzball
      • For those of you not familiar with the mechanics of this particular game, this completely rules out every method of advancing your character's abilities in any capacity, outside buying or finding weapons and relying on their stat boosts and/or abilities. Rikku is the key.
      • In 2014, thirteen years after the game's release, someone finally completed the challenge.
  • The rest of the Final Fantasy series is fairly rife with them as well. Most, if not all the games have single character and minimum level challenges. Other challenges are born from the varying mechanics within the individual game, and generally take the form of:
    • Banning or restricting the use of certain commands or gameplay elements. For example, FF VII's IENANENPANLBCMO challenge - Initial Equipment, No Accessories, No Escapes, No Physical Attacks, No Limit Breaks, Command Materia Only.
    • In some FF's, you can use the mechanics of the level up system to avoid gaining experience altogether, or at least avoid spending it. The aforementioned No Sphere Grid is a good example, as is FFXIII's No Crystarium Usage run (which has yet to be proven possible, but hasn't stopped people from trying).
    • The Final Fantasy V Four Job Fiesta with the team Monk, Berserker, Beastmaster and Dancer in Natural mode. Natural rules out any swapping abilities between jobs (while having Bartz as the Wind Crystal job, Lenna as the Water Crystal job, Faris as the Fire Crystal job and Galuf/Krile as the Earth Crystal job). The only successful run with this team was a normal Fiesta run, but it had to use 3 Breath Wings (and most of their Magic Lamp charges) to beat it. So far, this team is impossible in Natural.
    • All of the Above. Most of the FFX challenges take No Sphere Grid as their starting point, then add more restrictions on top. FFIX took the Level 1 Game (or at least complete the game at the lowest possible level, which is level 1 for most of your party), added in the Excalibur 2 Challenge (get to the room before the final boss in less than 12 hours to pick up the Infinity +1 Sword), and combined them together to make the Excalibur 2 Perfect Game Challenge. This involves getting to the room before the final boss in less than 12 hours, whilst picking up every missable treasure and field icon, purchasing "perfect" amounts of all equipment - defined as one for each member of the party that can equip it plus one for the inventory- and completing all this whilst remaining at level 1. The current record is a time of around 11:10, and the entire challenge is actually impossible on a PAL version of the game, due to the lower frame rate vs the ingame timer.
  • Pokémon has quite a few of these. One of the most well known Self Imposed Challenges these gamers put on themselves is the Nuzlocke Challenge, where any Pokémon who faints must be released (or put into the PC and not used so long as they're doing the challenge) and they can only catch the first Pokémon they encounter in each area. Some of these gamers even consider the "no experience" Copy Protection on pirated ROMs of Pokémon Black and White a welcome feature for this very reason.
    • The "fainting equals death" and the "first mon per route" rules are the most vanilla forms of Nuzlocke. There are MANY additional rules that gamers add on to their runs, including banning Pokemarts, banning the use of healing items, limiting evolutions, and even limiting Pokecenter visits. With how some of these conditions can stack up, there are truly some intimidating rulesets out there.
  • Dark Souls is already Nintendo Hard as it is, but many hardcore players have devised a myriad ways to ramp it up further. No Bonfires, no deaths, no Estus Flasks (or Healing in general), you name it. The popular "Guts Run" (Greatsword, crossbow, ranged fireballs for magic, and no shield or helmet) has a whole number of variations on its own. And then there's this guy who can beat one of the bosses with a Rock Band guitar, drum set, and microphone!
    • The sequel ups the ante even further with the Covenant of Champions, the sole purpose of which is to make the game even harder. There's even rewards for beating the game without using Bonfires, and no-death runs.
  • In Undertale, beating the game while using only the Stick and the Bandage (your starting weapon and armor that give 0 Attack and 0 Defense, respectively) is a popular challenge run.
    • Going for a no-hit Genocide Sans fight, which pales in comparison to a...
    • No hit Flowey fight, a fight that is meant to be a crazy impossible Bullet Hell section. Watch and be amazed...
    • Though, of course, Undertale is by no means a difficult game (unless, of course, you do the Genocide run and get dunked on by Sans the Skeleton), and doing this is one of the ways to increase the difficulty to the level of most other RPG slash Bullet Hell games.
  • Common for Speed Runners in The Elder Scrolls series. Often taking advantage of exploits, main quests that normally take dozens of hours are completed in mere minutes.

Shoot Em Ups

  • CAVE shmups are made for this specific niche of gamers in mind. Since DoDonPachi and onwards, there are second loops and True Final Bosses specifically designed for superhuman-reflexed players.
  • Touhou Project:
    • The series is a paradise for this niche of gamers. Not satisfied with the game's already aptly named Lunatic difficulty, some players have taken to making the game run at 90 FPS, or 1.5 times as fast as the default 60, and clearing the game anyway - and the result can only be described as incredible.
    • Another Touhou challenge is beating the Shoot 'Em Up without, well, shooting. Enemy attacks are on a timer, and forcing the timer to run out ends the attack - but the timers are almost invariably much longer than simply attacking would have been. One particular attack (Virtue of Wind God) has achieved notoriety for this, as its timer lasts two and a half minutes, which is absurdly long for a shmup, and it's already That One Attack when you're shooting at it. That's not enough for you? How about increasing the FPS and then timing it out anyway? It's been done.
  • Ikaruga is already a feat to complete even on its normal difficulty. How can a Challenge Gamer do better? By completing it on the max difficulty, specifically shooting enemies in a way to accumulate the maximum amount of points... while controlling BOTH SHIPS AT THE SAME TIME!
  • Battle Garegga is a very popular and complex shmup for playing for score. There's a forum topic that explains the game's mechanics in tremendous detail.
  • Scoring in general is quite the undertaking in Hellsinker due to it's surreal scoring system. To give a general idea, the casual player might get 1000 to 2000 spirits on one run, really good players might get around 50000 while top class players hold at 130000.

Survival Horror

Turn-Based Strategy

  • Someone in Final Fantasy Tactics managed to do a Straight Character Challenge, where all your characters use only one class...with Calculators. Whose special abilities would be a Game-Breaker if they had any other's class ability learned, otherwise it's useless and they become the worst class in the game by far.
    • He broke his foot after a victory celebration gone wrong after beating far from the hardest boss in the game, too. Think about it for a moment.
    • There's also a variety of Ramza Only Single Character challenges, of various classes. It's not possible to complete it with all classes (it's believed that it is literally impossible with Mimes or Calculators), but some people have pulled it off with some surprising ones.
      • Of all of these, the most notable is Mediator. Explaining all the reasons why this is insane would take a long time, so lets go with one of the 'simpler' ones. The Robe of Lords is pretty much necessary to win this challenge. How do you get it in the solo mediator challenge? By reloading a single level over and over until you get an enemy with the ability Move-Find Item. Then you have to invite him to your party using a Mediator ability with a very low success rate. Then you have to convince the AI controlled unit to step on a specific square. Then you have to hope that you succeed on what amounts to a 45% (the odds depend on the invited unit, ranging from 30%-60%) chance to actually get the robe. While preventing the invited unit from being killed, or killing any remaining enemies. And then you have to still win the battle.

Wide-Open Sandbox

  • Any Speed Run of a Wide-Open Sandbox game. Completion times of a few minutes or less are not unheard of and word has it that it goes down to seconds for some of the games.
  • Many Dwarf Fortress players choose to play with extra challenging conditions, such as embark sites with freezing environments and zombies, or embarking without any equipment or skills.
    • Amusingly and counter-intuitively, the Hermit Challenge (only one dwarf, all immigrants will be killed) is comparatively easy.

In-universe examples:

Anime and Manga

  • Lampshaded in an episode of Lucky Star, in which Kagami finds herself frustrated that she plays games so seriously, while her not-so-good friends seem to be having more fun playing regardless of their lack of skill.
  • Discussed in Gamers!, where Tendo is noted multiple times for attempting the hardest challenges in a game. Best illustrated in episode 12 of the anime, where her own boyfriend describes her as one in terms that make her sound like a complete masochist.

Live-Action Films

  • The documentary The King of Kong is about this trope applied to the classic arcade game Donkey Kong and two gamers desire to get the international high score.

    The record is now held by someone who was inspired to go for the record after having seen The King of Kong. Also, if you thought The King of Kong made those guys look insane, check out Chasing Ghosts which makes Billy Mitchell look almost normal by comparison. Highlights include Todd Rodgers talking about how he's glad his wife died, two Berzerk players having a reunion after not having spoken in 20 years after one beat the other's score and bragged about it, and much more on Mr. Awesome Roy Shildt.
    • Since then, however, it's been revealed that Billy Mitchell and Todd Rogers are both chronic cheaters who only appeared to be this, in part due to the company responsible for holding their records knowing they were fake and treating them as legitimate regardless.

Professional Wrestling

  • Larry Sweeney's "nemesis" Bryan Alvarez said he took up sports because video games had gotten too easy, that he played video games to prove he was more of a man than these stupid computers but eventually that got old. Only a few know in truth that Bryan Alvarez had found a game so Nintendo Hard that after his failure to beat it, he turned to sports and eventually professional wrestling in an effort to forget. Alvarez avoided video games to make sure he never remembered this game and never tried to beat it again.

Visual Novels

  • Amy from Double Homework will play any video game over and over again in order to beat her high scores.