13 hardcore challenges invented by players

Making their own Ultra Hard modes

If you're looking for a challenge, tons of games will readily provide one. Between extreme difficulty settings, permadeath modes, and special end-of-game ranks, developers love giving masochistic gamers the tools they need to take on thumb-blisteringly arduous playthroughs. But sometimes, even the built-in options don't offer enough of an obstacle to overcome. And when that happens, it's time for patient, dedicated, maybe-a-little-insane players to invent their own kind of Herculean feats.

Through a combination of playfulness, ingenuity, and a dash of self-hatred, passionate gamers have come up with some truly inspired ways of testing their reflexes and cognitive thinking in their favorite titles. What follows are some of the custom rules and restrictions players put on themselves in order to up the ante to incredible heights. And while these challenges might seem completely impossible to us mere mortals, they've all been achieved by at least one incredibly determined human being. If you're brave and/or crazy enough, perhaps you can follow in the footsteps of these gaming demigods, or devise something even more intense yourself.

During the Awesome Games Done Quick marathon that kicked off 2015, expert player Runnerguy2489 dazzled a room full of people that are renowned for their skill at playing video games. He did this by playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time without looking at the screen, making his way through the three 'Child Dungeons' encountered at the start of the game all while wearing a blindfold.

Now, this isn't the first time a runner has amazed onlookers with a live performance of blindfolded gaming - Sinister1's blind Punch-Out!! run is a must-see (unless you're wearing a blindfold). But that run involved a stationary character and limited plane of movement, while Ocarina of Time drops you into a massive three-dimensional world. Watching Runnerguy2489 work his way past countless obstacles with only subtle sound effects, environmental cues, and his memory to guide him, all while he's verbally explaining what's happening, is absolutely stunning. He's essentially the Luke Skywalker of Zelda speedrunners.

Defeat Dark Souls with the power of rock

The Souls series has a reputation for being cruel, but that's unfounded - it simply requires caution, pattern recognition, and sharp reflexes to succeed. So if you can beat those games with a regular 360 pad, why not a plastic rhythm game peripheral? Beating Ornstein and Smough one-handed wasn't enough for Benjamin 'Bearzly' Gwin, so he decided to map the game inputs to some Rock Band instruments - first a guitar, then a drum kit.

Even with a greatly limited moveset, Bearzly's insanely impressive runs show just how far you can get with camera controls, an attack button, a roll button, and a generous amount of skill. And by 'far', I mean the end credits of both Dark Souls games. Just get ready for some seriously sore forearms in the morning.

Beat Final Fantasy in a party of one

Final Fantasy games are all about teamwork, where a ragtag group of adventurers band together to overcome evil. Or, if you're particularly sure of your skills, you can venture off on your lonesome and hog all the glory for yourself. The FF series lends itself nicely to those that want to deprive themselves of additional skills or party members, but the best starting point is the original. Simply pick your preferred class, let your other three party members hit the dirt, and get ready to grind to max level just to have a chance of survival!

Each class offers varying degrees of outrageous difficulty, from the Fighter's more forgiving balance of defense and offense, to the White Mage's delicate combo of physical frailty and evasion spells. But the ultimate challenge is piloting a lone Thief through the entire game - the weakest class, whose only specialty is running away from fights. Good luck.

Conquer Spelunky alone while cradling an eggplant for dear life

If you've ever played it, then you know that Spelunky is by no means an easy game. Careless or mistimed jumps will often get you insta-killed, and everything in its cavernous depths is out to get you. The only thing more frail than your spelunker's life is the Eggplant, a seemingly useless item that's impossibly tricky to find and instantly splats if anything touches it. But wouldn't you know it - the Eggplant actually has the power to transform the final boss King Yama in the hidden Hell stage.

Simply getting that far is an impressive feat, and doing so with an Eggplant intact was only thought to be possible in co-op play. But through an astonishing display of patience, reflex, and some heart-stopping near misses, runner Bananasaurus Rex managed to finish the game solo with an Eggplant on King Yama's noggin. This extensive breakdown of Rex's run shows just how miraculous it is that challenge can actually be completed.

Be picky with your Pokemon team in the Nuzlocke Challenge

Here's a popular player-made challenge that's a bit more forgiving than most, thanks to its straightforward ruleset and emphasis on those fancy 'emergent narratives' rather than raw skill. Here are the basics of the Nuzlocke Challenge: any Pokemon that faint are considered dead and must be released, and the only Pokemon you can even attempt to capture are the first ones you encounter in any given area.

That's it! But what you'll soon find is that fate is about to deal you a misfit hand of Pokemon, and it's your battle to make the best of it. Nicknaming each of your Pokemon is highly recommend, so that you may cheer for them when they're victorious and weep for them should they fall in battle. You might not fill your Pokedex while attempting the Nuzlocke Challenge, but you're sure to see the Pokemon that you'd typically ignore in an entirely new, deeply personal light.

Brave the perils of Diablo 2 as a naked, unarmed Sorceress

Like many Diablo 2 players, a forum user by the name of MongoJerry liked to imagine unique backstories for his characters - all of whom had rather atypical builds - and chronicle their adventures online. And by my estimation, his crowning achievement in both storytelling and spectacle is Irene the Infirm, a Hardcore Sorceress with no armor, no weapons, no stat points assigned, and no abilities learned.

With nothing but her two fists and some help from her equally unarmed mercenary, Irene slew every monster in Act 1, including the big boss Andariel. When you're as frail as wet tissue paper and your damage caps out at two hitpoints, downing any enemy is a feat, let alone a half-naked, poison-spewing demon. I highly suggest that you read the story of Irene the Infirm if you want to experience the glory of D2's best role-playing builds.

Hit max level in World of Warcraft without ever choosing sides

Azeroth and its denizens are defined by conflict, with constant tension between Horde and Alliance players. But not everyone's born to fight - and some commendably dedicated players would rather abstain from all the 'war' business in Warcraft and experience the world their own way. The race of Pandaren start their journey as a neutral third party, but are forced to swear allegiance to a faction when leaving the starting zone. So what did player Doubleagent do when he wanted to hit max level as a conscientious objector?

He simply stayed put on in the Wandering Isles zone, slowly but surely grinding his way to the previous level cap of 90 through professions alone. This amounted to 173 days of in-game time spent collecting herbs and mining nodes for paltry scraps of XP. That's dedication. There's also the similar tale of Irenic, a Tauren who hit 90 without ever killing a single creature.

Slice your way through Soulcalibur with a plastic fishing rod

Reading about this nutty accomplishment in the pages of EGM was my first exposure to the idea of using niche peripherals to play the 'wrong' game. Clearly no longer content with the humdrum action of Sega Bass Fishing, an intrepid Japanese gamer took it upon himself to beat the original Soulcalibur (on Ultra Hard, no less) with a Dreamcast Fishing Controller.

Watching him deftly control Cervantes' sword swipes with flicks of the fake half-fishing rod feels like the precursor to Wiimote waggling, only five times more comical. And those moments when he reels in with the rage of a thousand suns while charging up for an attack are just too good.

Score the bare minimum amount of points in Super Mario Bros.

Most people ignore their scores when playing a Super Mario game, simply content to reach that axe behind Bowser and send him plummeting into a pit of lava. And while chasing high scores is all well and good, why not try beating the game with the lowest number of points possible? Runner NotEntirelySure found the answer to one of life's greatest mysteries: 500 points is the absolute minimum score possible while still finishing the game (without continues, naturally).

The catch is that this can only be accomplished by never collecting a coin or killing an enemy, then jumping at the bottom of the stage-ending flagpole when the timer reaches '000'. Never before have you seen Mario so afraid to snag a golden coin or bop a Goomba, but he gets the princess-rescuing job done all the same.