The Joys of Achievement Hunting

You can level up your gameplay without necessarily being a completionist

The Joys of Achievement Hunting
Photo by Lika Watanabe / Unsplash.

I wouldn’t consider myself an Achievement Hunter “purist” — that is, seeking to reach 100% for every game I play (though I have managed to do so for a handful of games). Rather, achievement hunting for me is a personalized process I’ve developed to enhance and expand my gaming experience. I anticipate that there are many gamers out there who have never delved into the world of achievements. So today I’ll share some of the value that various achievements have to offer.

🥇 Making progress

These are the achievements that you unlock simply by playing the game, purely incidental to your regular gameplay. The only requirement for these is that you make progress in the main game. This is how I, and perhaps most, players are introduced to achievements in the first place.

There’s not much to these types of achievements from a gameplay experience; they merely serve as a record of the games you’ve played and how far you progressed. But it is nice to occasionally browse the various games you’ve played over the years, especially the ones you forgot about. There’s also a social element available, allowing people to see the games their friends have played and see how similar your taste in games is.

🎮 Extending gameplay

Growing up as a budget gamer for most of my childhood and early adult life, I’ve always tried to maximize the value that I get from each game. Naturally, this would often draw me to games with lots of collectibles, branching plot choices, grindy leveling systems, and games that were highly replayable. Achievement hunting fit perfectly within that framework.

An achievement may extend the life of a game through several means. Some achievements can only be earned through multiple playthroughs of the game, such as those often found in Mass Effect games. Some require you to reach a certain level within the game (I’m currently marching slowly toward the “Certified Grand Master” achievement for Tetris Effect: Connected).

The most distinct of these achievements that recently came to mind for me is the “Left 100,004 Dead 2” achievement from Dead Rising 4. I had accomplished everything else in the game that I had intended, so all I had to do was rack up enough zombie kills to unlock this one. This achievement was purely a grinding achievement, just requiring me to tick up the body count. It may not sound all that interesting or especially engaging, but that made the achievement all the more valuable in my experience.

I pursued this achievement in the early stages of the pandemic, and it gave me time to mindlessly drive absurd vehicles through hordes of zombies while simultaneously catching up on a number of my preferred podcasts. It was a relaxing, meditative experience at a time of great uncertainty, and I got a little more value out of a game than I otherwise would have, had I put it away any sooner. It also gave me a little more time to reflect on what I liked/disliked about Dead Rising 4 as an entry in the series (I’m still conflicted).

Many of the other types of achievements I’ll detail later will also serve to extend the life of your games. Many require serious commitment, especially the challenging ones.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel on Steam
Source: Steam.

🕹 Changing the way you play

We all play games a little bit differently. Many games now allow you to customize your appearance and/or your character’s ability traits. The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series easily come to mind, where you spend the first 15 minutes of a game customizing your character (only to play most of the game in first-person from then on, but I digress). From there, you level up and upgrade skills and abilities to best suit your playstyle. As we mature as gamers, we may develop certain tendencies along the way, shaping how we engage with the games we play.

But with video games, we have the unique opportunity to live out several different realities, unbound by the limitations we may face in reality. So every now and then, you just need to remove the restrictions you’ve unwittingly placed on yourself. Play the villain instead of the tried-and-true hero character. Bust through the front door instead of taking the stealthy or diplomatic approach. Just do a 180°.

The best example I can think of comes from playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, because there were surprisingly so many different ways to engage in combat. Not only that, but the achievements included in this game were designed to become some of the most effective in getting me to play the game differently than I would have normally. There were too many achievements of note to list here, but the one with the most bang for your buck is the “Challenger” achievement. You not only have to play the game with all the weapons, but you have to achieve a degree of proficiency with all of them that actually requires you to engage meaningfully in the experience. I was content to use the same gameplay loop from start to finish, but I got so much more out of the game thanks to the achievements that were presented to me.

After you’ve removed restrictions, do the opposite: add additional restrictions to the game just to make it more challenging or engaging.

For example, the Deus Ex games each have a “Pacifist” achievement for completing the game using a non-lethal approach. It certainly makes the games more difficult without a lethal arsenal at your disposal. But placing these types of restraints on your gameplay requires you to be creative and think of solutions that you may have had no motivation to pursue otherwise.

You can modify the game in any number of ways. If you don’t know where to start, look no further than the achievement list for your game. Play as a different class or race in your game. Use a different type of weapon than the ones to which you’re most accustomed. Those are the obvious ones. Chances are the developers came up with several more that would have never crossed your mind (there are also several online communities that share some of their own self-made achievements, and they get quite bizarre).

Source: 343 Industries.

💪 Challenging the player

This one’s fairly straightforward; they don’t call it an achievement for nothing. Many achievements require you to play the game on the highest difficulty setting and are quite unforgiving. If you’re like me, you love a good challenge. It’s a very motivational pursuit. Accomplishing a hard-fought achievement can feel incredibly empowering; I’ve even found that this can sometimes give you the confidence to tackle real-world challenges outside of gaming.

There are always going to be some achievements out there that seem impossibly difficult to reach. For me, that’s the LASO achievements for Halo: The Master Chief Collection. I’ve completed solo legendary playthroughs on roughly half the entries as least once, but the LASO playthroughs are inconceivably difficult (mad respect to anyone who’s completed one of these, doubly so to those who posted videos on achievement hunting websites).

I’m content to never accomplish these feats. But, to invoke the cliché, if you shoot for the stars, chances are you’ll find yourself a little closer than you started even if you fail. Plus, I like to have them out there as a reminder to myself that there’s always room for improvement.

🤣 LOLs

I could go on with any number of other achievement types. So the last I’ll include are some of my favorite achievements: the funny ones.

  • “I Did This For A Cheevo” (Fable Anniversary): I love when developers get clever with their achievements, and the Fable series certainly takes the cake for these, tossing in pop-culture references and cheeky commentary. Naturally, Lionhead Studios got a little meta with this one.
  • “Kick It” (Wolfenstein 2): One of the more gratifying achievements out there. Previously relegated to a hypothetical, you can now do humanity a favor. I’m sure we all knocked out this achievement without being prompted.
  • “Fast Food” (Streets of Rogue): Dad-joke humor coupled with the growing move toward the “Internet of Things.” You may be able to catch a cold, but good luck catching this cold storage appliance.
  • “Stink Eye” (Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey): This achievement doubles down on the funniest part of the early game. You’ve goat to hand it to them, it’s pretty funny.
What are your goals in life?
Photo by Markus Winkler / Unsplash.

🤔 Where to start

Achievement hunting certainly isn’t for everyone. People should play the games however they want to. But one thing I’ve learned from achievement hunting is that sometimes there’s something you can learn from the way other people play video games to make your experience just a little more rewarding. So if you find yourself interested in doing some hunting of your own, here are a few tips to start out.

  • You don’t have to 100% every game. But try to reach 100% completion at least once. My first 100% was Star Wars Lego III: The Clone Wars; any Lego entry would make an excellent first, but pick something that you can play for an extended period without fatigue.
  • Play the game first, hunt achievements after. Checking out the achievements before playing may save you time (especially if you need multiple playthroughs). However, you’ll enjoy the game much better if you just play it first without frequently consulting your achievement list.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek out help. Achievement guides are widely available online. Be sure to give a shot on your own first though; otherwise you may be depriving yourself of a critical experience (especially puzzle games).

Remember that achievements are but a means to an end. You should, first and foremost, play video games to maximize the qualities you value (enjoyment, competition, socializing). If hunting an achievement gets you what you want, go for it. But achievements are valuable because they showcase the quality of the underlying gameplay.

I’ve found achievement hunting to be an incredibly fulfilling experience for me. Hopefully you, too, can find some value in the process and incorporate them into your own gameplay. Best of luck!


Sign in or become a SUPERJUMP member to join the conversation.