The Hardest Xbox 360 Achievements

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Plink! “Achievement Unlocked.”

That sound has become synonymous with gaming. Love it or hate it, the achievement is as much a part of pop culture as the phrase “playing Nintendo” was in the 80s. Whether you call them Achievements, Trophies, or Awards, they're a part of the modern game design vocabulary. However, not all achievements are created equally—some of them are a pain in the ass!

There are so many achievements that are either near-impossible, soul-crushingly time-consuming, poorly designed, or just plain broken, that it's tough to choose just a few of the hardest to attain. Instead, I'll be grouping them into categories and highlighting the most interesting of the bunch. Let's do this...

The Endurance Run

There are many game designers, such as Braid's Jonathan Blow, who trash games designed around treadmills—that is, games that string players along with transparent fluff and coerce them into doing the same actions for hours on end. Now, can you imagine doing that for a single achievement worth a measly 30 gamerscore?

Apparently, Square Enix thought you'd want to do that twenty times. To get all the achievements in Final Fantasy XI, a crazy person would have to level up twenty characters to level 75. Estimates for this feat clock in at over two years! This would be the winner, hands down, if not for how stupid and boring it is.

For something attainable, but similarly bad for your health, consider Rock Band 2's Platinum Artist and Bladder of Steel Award achievements. I'm not sure which one is worse. Each requires you to complete a setlist containing every song in the game (approximately 7 hours of playtime), but one is on Expert mode and the other requires that you never pause the game. Complete both at once for your reward of carpal tunnel and crapped pants.

Still, of all the endurance achievements, my favorite would have to be the 7 Day Survivor achievement in Dead Rising. The concept surrounding this achievement is the same one that makes the concept of a zombie apocalypse so fascinating. Seven days in Dead Rising is equivalent to 14 hours in real life. That's fourteen hours of gathering food and supplies, fighting off zombie hordes, and dealing with the crazy people that want to kill you for your stuff. Do I leave my safe spot for supplies? Should I run through that crowd of zombies to grab a hamburger? Will my Xbox freeze before the end? Okay, so maybe they aren't all legitimate issues, but you get the idea.

Winner: Dead Rising – 7 Day Survivor – 20 G

Top of the Pile, Pile of Shame

Somewhere out there, there's an achievement designer that didn't get 1st place in their preschool talent show, and we're all paying the price. Seriously, the concept around the following brand of achievement is just absurd. The goal is simple: be the best in the world. That's right, both Quake 4 and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter require players to top the online leaderboards to score this one.

In the case of Quake 4, players have figured out glitches which make it easy to snag the achievement. Ghost Recon, on the other hand, requires a ridiculous amount of time and dedication. Just think, for every maniac that actually grabs it, they only make it harder for the next poor sap.

Winner: Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter – World Champion – 40 G

The Old School Artist

With the emphasis taken away from quarter-munching and placed more on actually getting your money's worth, today's games are usually push-overs compared to some of the classics. For classics reborn on modern consoles, the achievement designers sharpen their claws and stab them right into players' rose-tinted eyeballs. These old games weren't designed to be completed, they were designed to steal your money. Despite that fact (or because these guys are jerks), several of the classic remakes require that you essentially "beat the game."

For games like Root Beer Tapper, Robotron, and Joust, the concept of “the end of the game” seems entirely foreign. Most people have never considered that these games stop their increasingly difficult climb up murder mountain. Now, thanks to achievements, we have to own up to the fact that we just suck at games. Reach wave 100 of Joust? No thanks.

If I had to pick one old school achievement to top all old school achievements, it's Smash TV's Game Master. This one requires you to complete Smash TV without continues. That may not be the King of Kong-esque kill screen the other games demand, but it has a catch of its own.

Imagine dedicating a good chunk of your life to practicing and mastering this game, to the point where you can defy all expectations and get to the end on one credit. Imagine doing that, and then waiting for that iconic “plink” sound. Imagine that you wait and wait, but it never comes. Yep, that's right ladies and gentlemen—one of the hardest achievements on Xbox 360 is broken. Isn't that the worst?

Winner: Smash TV – Game Master – 50 G

Modern Marvel

Most modern games are meant to be completed, but that doesn't mean they don't occasionally include ass-kicking achievements. The catch is that most of the best modern challenges are from games with decidedly old-school pedigrees. Do you remember when 3D games like Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time came out, and we put genres like the fighting game and 2D platformers on life-support? Well, it turns out that was only a brief reprieve. As of now, they're back with a vengeance.

In both Street Fighter IV and Super Street Fighter IV, Capcom asked players to complete Challenge Mode for an achievement. The warning is right there in the title, but that still can't prepare you for how deceptively hard these achievements are. They require that you become a finger Olympian with an arcade stick, performing specific combos with strict frame-specific timing. You may think, “Pull off a combo once, how hard can that be?” I assure you, it's pretty goddamn hard.

Super Meat Boy is another recent release that doesn't mess around. The finest of the “platform hell” genre, this game gets insanely difficult in brief, concentrated doses. For anyone attempting the “I'm A Golden God” achievement, which requires you to complete 100% of the game, brief is probably the last word they'd use.

Still, as difficult as Meat Boy may be, the people at Capcom are a sadistic bunch. I'd be remiss if I didn't give it up for Mega Man 10's “Mr. Perfect” achievement. The modern Mega Man games are content to sit in your game library with no achievements unlocked. Even if you're determined to get them all, the games seem to bite back that much harder. Mr. Perfect goes for the kill, asking you to complete the game without ever taking damage. In the immortal words of Lil' Jon: “WHAT?!”

Winner: Mega Man 10 – Mr. Perfect – 30 G

If you have any of these achievements, congratulations, you're a bad-ass Viking of video game prowess. Yeah, sure, you could be doing more impressive things with your time, but you were probably going to be playing games anyway, right? You might as well play them like you mean it.

Have an awesome achievement story of your own? Post it in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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