More Games Need Daily Challenge Modes

More Games Need Daily Challenge Modes

I’ve only scratched the surface of The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth, the latest expansion to Edmund McMillen’s popular roguelike, but I already know what might keep me coming back: the fantastic addition of a daily challenge mode.

Lots of games build in reasons to play every day — The Phantom Pain gives out resources for base building, Destiny provides bonus for certain events, MMOs have regularly included daily quests — but it’s different with The Binding of Isaac.

A big reason people come back to The Binding of Isaac over and over again is the game’s randomness. The maps change every time you play, and so do the items that might come your way. This means players are forced to adapt and change during every run, even if their general skills still apply to navigating the world.

What randomness does, however, is make it tougher to “compete” against other people. The Binding of Isaac doesn’t feature multiplayer — the co-op mode it does have is limited — but daily challenges essentially gives the game multiplayer.

(Even for roguelikes, this isn’t new. Spelunky basically popularised the idea of the daily challenge, and it’s been slowly incorporated into other games.)

Here’s how it works. The daily challenge flattens the game by generating a single “seed” for everyone to play off of. Rather than every person experiencing a different version of The Binding of Isaac, you’re all working off the same map, items, and bosses. You still blame a bad run on crappy luck, but everyone is dealing with the same crappy luck, so it becomes a matter of who can adapt.

When you boot the game up, in addition to the normal selection of game modes, there’s also a daily challenge teased in the corner. You don’t have any idea what’s actually waiting for you in the daily challenge — as long as you don’t sneak a peek at someone who’s already played it — so everyone goes in fresh.

More Games Need Daily Challenge Modes

In today’s run, you’re forced to deal with a floating version of Isaac who can only spew a blast of attack a very short distance. (I’d use the actual Isaac terms, but it’s been months and months since I’ve seriously played, and it’s left me.)

More Games Need Daily Challenge Modes

About 15 minutes in, I made the critical mistake of choosing the dead cat item, which technically gives you 10 lives…but each life only gets a single heart. It’s terrible, an item that I’ve never found much use for, and it doomed my run. I soon entered into boss rooms where I was unable to avoid getting hit.

That’s not usually a big deal — bad runs are at the core of playing a game like this — but it’s all the more stressful when you’re only getting one shot at it.

When it’s over, the game spits out a score, based on a bunch of metrics:

More Games Need Daily Challenge Modes

Then, you’re told how you stacked up to the competition.

More Games Need Daily Challenge Modes

Uh, at least I wasn’t last?

I’ve wanted a reason to dig back into The Binding of Isaac. This may be it.


  • Been loving this expansion so far. More depth in what was already an insanely deep game.

  • This. Rayman Legends’ timed challenges were great fun, and Harmonix recently sent out a survey asking about the possibility of daily challenges in Rock Band 4, which I would kill for.

  • 9 Lives is a great item. It may indeed suck if you can’t dodge but that’s countered by making sure there are soul hearts or black hearts you can pick up, or even a health up you’ve left lying around just in case. It’s all about strategy, you prepare for the chance of items like this showing up so that if they do then you’re set….Otherwise just get good and doge for a while until you get more health.

    Hell, a lot of us have beat the game on hard with the Lost, did it myself (Dark Room end) only getting hit once on the entire run and by that point I had 9 Lives.

    What I’d like to know about the dailies is how people are getting these high 60k/low 70k scores. I tend to get around 38k…With points lost for getting hit and time losing me around 7-8k (missed boss rush which is around 5k more). Doesn’t add up to anything near 70k though.

    So does anyone know how they’re doing it? I haven’t found anything on it yet despite searching.

  • I didn’t read up about the new features in Afterbirth so got lots of pleasant surprises when I loaded it up. I think the daily challenge runs are awesome!

    Also kind of like the new greed mode too. It’s simpler but still hard and a good way to see and learn new items.

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