Challenge Gamer

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"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

The usually less annoying Sister Trope to the "Stop Having Fun!" Guy, the Challenge Gamer has equal dedication to his "art" but instead of striving to surpass others, he focuses instead on improving his own skills as far as they will go. 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 various Self-Imposed Challenges such as the myriad types of "runs", 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 he plays fighting games, expect to see him 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.

Most of these gamers tend to be Japanese as many companies that produce games that cater to this sort of play generally don't release those games outside of Japan, thereby keeping Western players out of the loop. If you see high scores two or three digits longer than the norm, No Damage Runs of That One Boss or complete playthroughs of games that shouldn't have an end, you're looking at one of these.

It probably goes without saying, but these types are by far the most likely to practice Fake Skill, 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.

Examples of Challenge Gamer include:

Action Adventure

  • 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...

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+ 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:
    • 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 are gone. This does not make it any easier, as any special infected with an incapacitating attack means instant loss of your health bar.
      • There's a variation where you're stuck with only a katana, with no guns. (This one hasn't actually been released yet, but Valve has confirmed it)
      • Yet another variation where there's only common infected and the Boomer special infected (Who can draw the commons to you with his attack), 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).
    • Having 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.
    • Only headshots do damage to enemies.
    • The AI Director is allowed to spawn 8 special infected at a time instead of its usual limit of 4.
    • One that hasn't been released yet, but announced, might possibly outdo them all. What is known so far is 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 affects 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.


  • 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 handidly 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 Europe or China to win.


Platform Game

  • I Wanna Be the Guy is an increasingly popular target for obvious reasons, with the 'No-Miss' (no death) clear being the Holy Grail of any respectable player. Then again, it isn't a casual game by any definition.
    • Similar to that game is the many ROM hacks of Super Mario World that is made with kaizo difficulty in mind, meaning you will hit the buttons for save state and load state way more than you would press the buttons to jump. Stuff like Mario being able to die after reaching the goal or areas filled with so many traps that one mistake is fatal is something that even veteran Mario players will pull their hair out. It's trial and error cranked past 11.
  • Battletoads. Anyone who got past level 3 (much less BEAT it) without Game Genie/savestates/a Sega Genesis is probably a Challenge Gamer.
  • Super Monkey Ball has a huge Challenge Gamer following to the point that there's an entire site primarily dedicated to it.

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).

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, Dance Dance Revolution 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 Dance Dance Revolution (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 Ninja (and Twin) is a lot easier to get high scores. Not 'easier' in the sense of being lower difficulty just you get more point because the mechanics are different. That's why if a song has ever seen serious competition, you never ever see Ninja 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.

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.
  • 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).
    • All 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.

Shoot'Em Ups

  • CAVE shmups are made for this specific niche of gamers in mind. Since Do Don Pachi and onwards, there are second loop and True Final Boss specifically designed for superhuman-reflexed players.
  • For Touhou, we have GIL. His inhuman skill combined with the similarity of his user name to the name of a SNK Boss from the Street Fighter series to earn him the title of 'Heavenly Emperor'. It's not hard to see why.
  • Ikaruga is a feat to complete already 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.

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 success 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, with The Elder Scrolls being particularly popular. 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.
    • Metroid is also 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.
  • 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 are having fun playing.


  • 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.