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Mad skills: Can you handle seven of gaming’s toughest challenges?

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Pac-Man's Kill Screen

Playing video games can be a punishing hobby. From the grueling difficulty of old legends like Contra to the fiendish trials of new nightmares like Dark Souls, gaming is rife with moments that make even the most dedicated player wonder why, for the love of Mario, they put themselves through this.

That doubt, of course, is erased the moment you make it through a seemingly impossible segment or unlock an achievement that few others can manage. It may be fleeting, but that natural high is the stuff gamers live for. If you're looking for such a rush -- and believe you have the skills to handle any game -- try testing your might against these seven insane challenges.

- Reach the kill-screen in Pac-Man
Intended to eat up quarters, classic coin-op arcade games weren't built with endless replay in mind. Several games, like Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Donkey Kong, featured a programming error that would cause the game to freeze or crash once you hit a certain level. This was eventually called the "kill screen" since it prevented you from playing any more.

These days, reaching a kill screen is a sign of superior skills. Make it to level 256 in Pac-Man and you'll see the jumbled code -- and gain a lifetime's worth of geek respect.

- Get 100% on 'Through the Fire and the Flames' on Expert in Guitar Hero III
Metal band DragonForce has been around since 1999, but they didn't appear on gamer radars until 2007, when their blazing track "Through the Fire and the Flames" melted the faces off everyone playing Guitar Hero III.  Performing the song flawlessly in Easy mode is hard enough, but if you can nail its barrage of insane riffs without missing a note on Expert mode (it's not impossible, you know), we who wish we could rock salute you.

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Gears of War 3 (Microsoft)

- Nab the 'Seriously 3.0' Achievement in Gears of War 3
Kotaku calls this the toughest achievement on the Xbox 360 -- and they're not exaggerating.

Players must reach rank 100 and earn all of the game's Onyx medals (6,000 kills with each of the game's 5 weapons), take 1,500 enemy leaders captive and be an MVP in competitive combat five times. And that's just for starters! The list ultimately has over a dozen requirements -- each more brutal than the last.

- Multi-billion point combo in Tony Hawk's American Wasteland
The game itself only received lukewarm reviews, but when one player racked up a series of combos and moves on the PC version that took over nine minutes to complete, he walked away with over 2 billion points. That's a lot of kickflips, though it's since been topped. But don't worry about setting a new record; "simply" scoring 2 billion is reason enough to be proud.

- Earn the 'Killionaire' medal in Halo 3
To earn this beast of a medal, you'll need to take out 10 opponents in just 36 seconds, with the 10th (and final) kill coming within 4 seconds of your 9th. In other words, it's kind of a crapshoot, though it also requires some supreme fragging skills. It's the hardest medal to achieve in the Halo universe.

- Beat Battletoads
Gamers will argue for ages over which game, technically speaking, is the hardest ever made. Ninja Gaiden? Ghosts and Goblins? No matter the list, NES classic Battletoads is bound to appear near the top. With nigh-impossible jumps, loads of things to dodge and no save system, it's an excruciating experience. If you managed to beat the game with your sanity intact, you're one of the few.

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GTA IV (Rockstar Games)

- Survive for more than 15 minutes with 6 stars in GTA IV
During the Copenhagen eSport Challenge on April 13, 2009, Henrik Lindholm of Denmark went on a rampage when playing Grand Theft Auto IV. That, in itself, is unremarkable, but Lindholm's spree earned him a 6-star wanted level, which is a bit more notable. But when he managed to fight off and evade the game's police, snipers and helicopter gunship for 16 minutes and 16 seconds, it was a record-setter. If you find a way to last anywhere near that long, consider yourself a seriously smooth criminal.

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