History Main / DifficultySpike

30th Jul '16 5:39:37 PM Zennistrad
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* Being a ''Franchise/MegaMan'' clone with an ImprobablyFemaleCast and {{Moe}} aesthetic, ''VideoGame/RosenkreuzStilette'' seems like it'll be a toned down homage to the classic series. And for a time, this appears to be the case. [[WillfullyWeak Liebea Palesh]] is a piece of cake, Zorne's AI makes it [[ArtificialStupidity easy to avoid her attacks]], [[{{Troll}} Schwer]] has some cheap surprises in her level but is otherwise easy with some practice, and so on. But it's when you get to Grolla's stage that the levels incorporate a ton of GoddamnBats that nip at your health at an alarming rate in a game that's stingey with its health drops, tricky platforming above many a BottomlessPit, and of course, [[ThatOneBoss/RosenkreuzStilette the bosses themselves], which have fiendishly difficult strategies and desperation attacks that you can't just plow through anymore. In hindsight, [[ThatOneLevel Freudia's stage]] foreshadows just how hard the endgame will be, with lasers from [[VideoGame/MegaMan2 Quick Man]]'s stage now taken UpToEleven and her [[WakeUpCallBoss her near-unavoidable lasers and spikes she launches across the screen]]. Speaking of the endgame, Iris' Castle would make Dr. Wiley proud. Disappearing blocks, spikes everywhere, the traditional BossRush including Grolla and Freudia, and an {{Expie}} of the [[TheDreaded Yellow Devil]], [[FromBadToWorse now even harder]] as it can reverse both the [[GravityScrew gravity]] and [[InterfaceScrew controller input]] simultaneously. And then there's [[AnotherSideAnotherStory Rosenkreuzstilette]] [[GlassCannon Grollschwert]]...

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* Being a ''Franchise/MegaMan'' clone with an ImprobablyFemaleCast and {{Moe}} aesthetic, ''VideoGame/RosenkreuzStilette'' seems like it'll be a toned down homage to the classic series. And for a time, this appears to be the case. [[WillfullyWeak Liebea Palesh]] is a piece of cake, Zorne's AI makes it [[ArtificialStupidity easy to avoid her attacks]], [[{{Troll}} Schwer]] has some cheap surprises in her level but is otherwise easy with some practice, and so on. But it's when you get to Grolla's stage that the levels incorporate a ton of GoddamnBats that nip at your health at an alarming rate in a game that's stingey with its health drops, tricky platforming above many a BottomlessPit, and of course, [[ThatOneBoss/RosenkreuzStilette the bosses themselves], themselves]], which have fiendishly difficult strategies and desperation attacks that you can't just plow through anymore. In hindsight, [[ThatOneLevel Freudia's stage]] foreshadows just how hard the endgame will be, with lasers from [[VideoGame/MegaMan2 Quick Man]]'s stage now taken UpToEleven and her [[WakeUpCallBoss her near-unavoidable lasers and spikes she launches across the screen]]. Speaking of the endgame, Iris' Castle would make Dr. Wiley proud. Disappearing blocks, spikes everywhere, the traditional BossRush including Grolla and Freudia, and an {{Expie}} of the [[TheDreaded Yellow Devil]], [[FromBadToWorse now even harder]] as it can reverse both the [[GravityScrew gravity]] and [[InterfaceScrew controller input]] simultaneously. And then there's [[AnotherSideAnotherStory Rosenkreuzstilette]] [[GlassCannon Grollschwert]]...
29th Jul '16 8:42:58 AM Kazmahu
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* ''MonsterHunter'' at least has the courtesy to clearly mark its difficult spike, though the transition from Low Rank quests to High Rank still comes as a shock. Low Rank started you off at base camp with some loaner supplies, and said supplies were often enough to carry the player through the quest without items of their own. High Rank starts you anywhere on the map at random - possibly right under the monster's nose, once you do scramble back to base supplies can arrive up to 20 minutes late and will not be enough to carry you, and even a monster you've seen before now hits much harder and had lots more health. Thanks to the way Monster Hunter works, grinding previous quests won't help either; you ''must'' clear several high-rank quests to scrape together a set of equipment balanced for the new challenge. The gulf between High and G-Rank is almost as bad, but nowhere near as much of a shock as the sudden lack of Low Rank's handholding.
5th Jul '16 3:58:04 PM morenohijazo
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* ''VideoGame/TheTalosPrinciple'': The ''Road to Gehenna'' DLC puzzles are ''significantly'' harder than even the grey sigil puzzles of the main game. The difficulty of obtaining stars also ratchets up accordingly.
17th Jun '16 12:39:55 AM erforce
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* ''VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountry'':

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* ''VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountry'': ''VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountry1'':
6th Jun '16 12:06:19 AM MyFinalEdits
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* In ''VideoGame/DiddyKongRacing'', once you got to the first boss, [[

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* In ''VideoGame/DiddyKongRacing'', once ''VideoGame/DiddyKongRacing'':
** Once
you got to the first boss, [[[[WakeUpCallBoss Tricky the Triceratops]], you learned how tough the races in this game could be. The second boss, [[BreatherBoss Bluey the Walrus]], is a nice break, but the third boss, [[ThatOneBoss Bubbler The Octopus]], is an absolute nightmare, especially the second time around, and the fourth boss, [[GoddamnedBoss Smokey the Dragon]], practically ''forces'' you to memorize the course and the placement of his fireball attacks to win the race.
** Expect the [[HardModeFiller Silver Coin Challenge]] for any given race to be much harder than the original race. Having three laps to get eight coins at various (often hard to reach) points on the track and still having to place first is harder than it sounds.
* Once you reach the last part in most ''VideoGame/NeedForSpeed'' games after ''[[VideoGame/NeedForSpeedUnderground Underground]]'', it's not uncommon to see people switching the difficulty from Hard (or Normal) to Easy. Be very careful in ''[[VideoGame/NeedForSpeedMostWanted Most Wanted]]'' 2005 once you reach the Downtown Rockport borough. Also, the difficulty spike of Police Chase Heat 3 to Heat 4 is ''massive.'' The cops are way more reckless, roadblocks now have spike strips (which is an instant bust in this game) on then, and a helicopter is chasing you, meaning that if you want to get out of the cops' sight, you need to hide somewhere indoors. Oh, and there's Heat 5, which is the exact same thing as Heat 4, but even worse; you're getting chased by a total of 25 Corvettes and Sergeant Cross.
* While you can beat most of ''VideoGame/{{Driver}}'' by avoiding being noticed by the cops by driving legally while in their zone, in the last level, the cops are actively trying to demolish you from the beginning to the end. It sounds easier than it is; even while using an invincible cheat, it's easy to get a game over by having the car knocked upside down.
* The last level of ''VideoGame/MicroMachines''. The sports cars on the desktop stages are difficult anyway, but the final iteration, "Win This Race To Be Champion" is particularly fiendish, particularly when you realise they're the only vehicle you have to do four races with.
* ''VideoGame/{{Wipeout}} 2097/XL'' had easy (Vector), medium (Venom), hard (Rapier), and very hard (Phantom) tracks. The difference was the default ''speed class''. But during a championship, all tracks are raced at the fastest available speed class. Let's just say the tracks that are ''actually'' hard are the second (Sagarmatha), third (Valparaiso), and sixth (Odessa Keys) tracks out of eight; the easiest track in the whole game is track number five (Gare D'Europa). Once you get through the first half of the championship, you have the win in the pocket unless you hit the respawn trigger at [[SlippySlideyIceWorld Vostok Island]]'s [[ReentryScare bugged]] drop section, or worse, [[TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon Spilskinanke]]'s broken roads.
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Forza}} Forza Motorsport 3]]'' was criticized for its unbalanced difficulty settings, with the gap between Medium and Hard being too large. ''Forza Motorsport 4'' balanced this out by lowering the Hard difficulty somewhat and adding [[HarderThanHard Expert]] mode for the truly hardcore.
* In ''VideoGame/IggysReckinBalls'', World 7, [[ShiftingSandLand Sun Canyon]], feature the first stages in the game that require Flapping and Drop Swings, two complicated techniques that require good timing to use effectively and can set you back by a few seconds each time you execute it incorrectly.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Fighting Game]]
* In general terms, when a Difficulty Spike presents in this genre of games, it's often overlapping with SNKBoss.
* ''VideoGame/{{Tekken}}'''s AI bounces all over the place, from imbecile, hardly moving AI to ones that keep interrupting your combo with punches and love to juggle...The exact time of difficulty spike in the fifth game is the SubBoss. You have three easy fights and then the game hands you your head.
* ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBros'':
** The original ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBros'' has the AI ramped up a little on Fox, then the Kirby team, during the single-player mode.
** In ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBrosMelee'', it happens around the fourth opponent in Classic and All-Star Modes.
** The Subspace Emissary of ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBrosBrawl'' gets noticeably worse around the levels where you play as Marth, due to many of the nastier enemy types beginning to appear at that point. Most of the bosses tend to give players a lot more trouble than the levels before them, as well.
** Classic Mode on ''Brawl'' also has a Difficulty Spike in the Free-For-All right before Master Hand, the result of the AI deciding to GangUpOnTheHuman.
* M. Bison is the boss for every character in ''VideoGame/StreetFighterAlpha 3'' except himself, naturally. While the fights get progressively more difficult as the player gets nearer to him, Bison himself is pure torture, with super-fast cheap moves and a super-strong super move that eats up half of your total health if you don't block in time (and "only" 1/4th if you do). And if you fail, a NonstandardGameOver with no chances to continue will ensue.
* ''Fate/Unlimited Codes'' (''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'''s FightingGame spinoff), has a fairly normal difficulty progression during arcade mode... until you come to the final stage. On any difficulty above Easy, the CPU suddenly becomes nightmarishly competent (and gods help you if your character's last boss is [[ThatOneBoss Gilgamesh]]...). As one person on Gamefaqs put it, arcade mode is "less of a difficulty ramp than a difficulty teleporter".
* Few have have matched the difficulty of the final boss of ''VideoGame/DeadOrAlive 4'', who could essentially counter at will any move you might care to toss in her direction while dishing out highly damaging, unreasonably fast, ''unblockable'' attacks from across the screen. Also, anyone unlucky enough to face Jann Lee in the regular story mode is in for an [[NoHoldsBarredBeatdown unbelievably nasty surprise]].
* ''VideoGame/TheKingOfFighters'' sure loves pulling this off. Did you have fun walking all over the CPU AI competition? Congratulations! Have A NintendoHard SNKBoss for your troubles!
** ''The King of Fighters '94'': You've beaten three teams. Have a cutscene. Now kiss your ass goodbye.
** ''The King of Fighters '96'': So you beat every other team in the game? Meet the Boss Team - [[VideoGame/FatalFury Geese Howard, Wolfgang Krauser]], and [[VideoGame/ArtOfFighting Mr. Big]]! You may collect your teeth at the door.
** ''The King of Fighters XI'': Three teams in, the SubBoss arrives. There are five, four of which require certain actions on your part to reach. (The fifth one is Adel Bernstein.) It doesn't matter which one shows up, you're in trouble. They fight alone, but their defense is three times normal, and their AI is much better than the usual.
* ''[[VideoGame/SoulSeries Soul Calibur III]]'''s Story Mode, ''Tales of Soul'', does this. For the most part, the AI raises gradually, then when you reach a certain point where, well if you had any difficulty at before then, it will take you about a have dozen attempts to get through ANY of the stages. This is part of why people say the superboss Night Terror is so hard, the computer handles him so well.
* ''VideoGame/DissidiaFinalFantasy'''s story modes do this somewhat. The first, the Destiny Odyssey set, has you fight low level opponents. The next, Shade Impulse, the enemies you fight are all at much higher levels, so you'll have to do some level grinding before going into it. Chaos, the final boss, is extremely cheap, and many new players give up on the game because of how tough he is. Next up, Distant Glory, has enemies take a jump in difficulty. The last, Inward Chaos, all of the opponents are maxed out: The enemies you face in Inward Chaos start at level 91 and end up at level 110! To make matters worse, they're all set to the highest AI competency level, which means they'll block, dodge, and counter all of your attacks. And every single one of them has very high stats and some of the best equipment in the game (only the [[InfinityPlusOneSword exclusive level 100 weapons]] are better), so unless you have comparable equipment, you won't hit hard enough, and you'll get devastated by a single combo.
* In ''VideoGame/BlazBlueCalamityTrigger'', you will probably... [[IncrediblyLamePun blaze]] your way through the first nine stages of Nu's Arcade Mode with ease. Then you reach the tenth stage, where you meet [[SNKBoss Unlimited Rachel]]. Have fun! And [[SNKBoss Unlimited Rachel]] will haunt you again when you try score attack mode as the ninth match. And there's another spike with Unlimited Nu and Unlimited Ragna! And then there's ''Continuum Shift,'' where the boss of arcade mode is Hazama, who is several notches above the AI you've been fighting to get to him, partly because of some [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard blatant reading of your controller inputs.]] Oh, and he's Unlimited, which means he siphons off your health and refills his own ''by being near you.''
* ''[[VideoGame/SonicTheFighters Sonic Championship]]'''s difficulty will rocket all the way to space once you face [[ThatOneBoss Metal Sonic]].
* ''[[VideoGame/GuiltyGear Guilty Gear XX]]'' Story Mode goes from "you can practically win these matches by accident" to "RAPE VIA VIDEO GAME PROGRAMMING" in record time. And in order to get all the endings, you have to 1) conclude matches via bizarre and/or very difficult stunts and 2) win [[NintendoHard nigh-impossible]] matches that you can't replay, [[GuideDangIt all of which the game doesn't tell you about]]. It's a good thing the game gives you the HundredPercentCompletion characters if you play it for long enough (which is a ''very'' long time, as in "there's a possibility of actually completing ''Guilty Gear XX'' story mode" long time).
[[/folder]]

[[folder: First Person Shooter ]]
* ''VideoGame/{{DOOM}} II'' officially gets serious with you on the "Dead Simple" level right after the first intermission. Prior to this point, you've been fighting mostly humanoid enemies and low-level {{mook}}s, with the occasional mid-grade monster. "Dead Simple" immediately throws you into a melee with newly introduced high-powered enemies and {{Giant Mook}}s in very close quarters.
* ''VideoGame/{{BioShock 2}}'': Siren Alley is known to fans as a Difficulty Spike, where all of the gun-using enemies now use shotguns, and the easier melee weapons no longer appear for the rest of the game.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Bioshock|1}}'', after the fairly simple Medical Pavilion, Neptune's Bounty represents a sudden shift in difficulty, marked in large part by the arrival of [[DemonicSpiders Spider]] Splicers. Your gear doesn't improve to match until partway through the area. Actually lampshaded the first time a Spider Splicer shows up:
--->'''Peach Wilkins''': What was that?... My boy, you are ''fucked!''
* In ''VideoGame/UnrealTournament'':
** The last fight against Xan is far harder than anything seen in previous battles. This is caused by that final opponent being a RubberBandAI, automatically adjusting itself to player skill. The same also applies to the ''2003'' and ''[[VideoGame/UnrealTournament2004 2004]]'' installments. Oddly enough, the end boss (Malcolm again) in ''2003'' was somewhat easier, given that the arena for that battle was small and had ample flanking opportunities.
** The Assault matches are ''significantly'' harder than the rest of the single-player ladder (save for a couple of the Capture The Flag matches), sometimes even ''exceeding'' the difficulty of the [[FinalBoss Xan fight]]. And if you do manage to win, expect to terminally come in last place as your teammate's laser-guided map savvy lands them the fastest routes, all the vehicles, all the objectives, and 98% of the kills.\\
\\
That said, the other modes get pretty insane pretty quick as well, one notorious example being the Bombing Run snow level, which, in addition to suddenly steroid-injected AI, involves particularly cruel level design that will take you and your team 2-3 times the time limit to reach the enemy goalpost and score—that is, if the "AI of Death" team doesn't get to yours first.
** Akasha in ''VideoGame/UnrealTournamentIII'' as well. Her rubberband code may actually exponentially break the normal limits of bot skill factors, leaving you with a bot rated [[UpToEleven 15 out of 10]] on "easy". Oh, and she favors the shock rifle, which caters equally to impossible AI aiming and impossible AI prediction skills.
* Xaero in ''VideoGame/QuakeIIIArena'' was head and shoulders above any other bot in the game. Not only does he have ImprobableAimingSkills, the arena you fight him in has a railgun right next to a respawn point. So if you did manage to kill him, he would return the favor immediately from across the map. And then kill you again and again until you managed to respawn in a spot that wasn't exposed.
* ''VideoGame/{{Descent}}'':
** The first game has a massive, permanent difficulty spike after the first seven "shareware" levels. Levels 6 and 7 depict homing-missile hulks and Class 1 Drillers as deadly DemonicSpiders that appear only now and then and are much stronger than normal enemies. Levels 11 and 12, four maps later, are ''almost entirely populated by them'' and they're not one iota easier to kill than they were at first. The difficulty spikes further around levels 18 and 19, with the even deadlier DemonicSpiders that are Class 2 Missile Platforms and Heavy Drillers greatly increasing in number.
** The second game's difficulty also ramps up significantly after the first eight levels, and again at level 21, which introduces several new DemonicSpiders to rival anything in the first ''Descent''. And the fourth boss's difficulty spike after the first three makes it ThatOneBoss.
* ''VideoGame/Left4Dead'' has this to some degree. The first level of every campaign never has any Witches or Tanks, but by the second level onward (depending on the director's mood), you could easily get stuck because a Tank keeps spawning in one area.
* ''VideoGame/Left4Dead2'':
** "Dark Carnival" has two gauntlet crescendo events (racing to turn off the the Screaming Oak's alarm in The Coaster, which involves running three quarters of the rollercoaster's tracks while being hassled by nonstop waves of Infected; and the sprint to the stadium safe room in The Barns, the map immediately afterwards, which is much the same except you have to HoldTheLine until the gates open first) that will make you tear your hair out. If you didn't bring a Bile Bomb or Chainsaw to make these event easier, you will have a hell of a time getting to the final objetives; also, there is a possibility that you will encounter a tank or a witch on the way[[note]]but at least in The Barns you can snipe it into action to get rid of it before triggering the hordes[[/note]]. The first two maps and the start of the third, up until the Screaming Oak, are relatively manageable.
** A more general example is the jump between Advanced and Expert difficulties. On Advanced, common infected hit for 5 points of damage from the front (compared to 2 on Normal and 1 on Easy). On Expert, common infected hit you for ''20 damage'' from the front, and besides that, they take half damage. Tanks can incapacitate with a single hit, and Witches will just [[OneHitKill flat-out kill you.]]
* In ''VideoGame/{{Halo 3}}'', many players find the "Cortana" mission to be [[ThatOneLevel the most difficult mission of the game]]. This may be partly because there are more enemies, fewer places to take cover when you get attacked by mobs of Flood (they almost always come in packs), and no [=NPCs=] to cover you. Beating it makes the next mission seem a lot easier by comparison. Also, "the library" in the first game. Hundreds of hard to kill, fast moving zombies, some of which explode when shot, and a limited supply of ammo.
* ''VideoGame/HaloReach'' has a large difficulty spike starting with the second mission. If you're playing Legendary, prepare to be wasted.
* ''VideoGame/Wolfenstein3D'' goes absolutely ''insane'' in the sixth episode, throwing one [[ClassicVideoGameScrewYous dick move]] after another and forcing you to navigate horrific mazes. Its [[MissionPackSequel Mission Pack Prequel]] ''Spear of Destiny'' does likewise at level 16. Whether level 16 or level 18 is the [[ThatOneLevel hardest map]] in the entire ''Wolfenstein'' series is debatable; level 16 has more difficult regular fights, but level 18 has ThatOneBoss, the Death Knight. Then the difficulty drops precipitously for the BonusLevelOfHell and the [[AnticlimaxBoss underwhelming]] final boss.
* ''[[VideoGame/ModernWarfare Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2]]'', the Favela missions. Impossible to tell where you're going, enemies that have numerous hiding places while you get little more than the occasional doorway, low ammo. Oh, and dogs. Yeah.
* ''VideoGame/ModernWarfare 1'': Charlie Don't Surf, especially on Veteran; after the first two missions that were a cakewalk, the insanity hits like a ton of bricks. Later on, there's the infamous [[ThatOneLevel One Shot, One Kill]], and it doesn't get any easier from there.
* ''VideoGame/MedalOfHonor: Allied Assault'' has a (mostly) permanent difficulty spike starting with Mission 3-3, The Nebelwerfer Hunt on the normal difficulty, then again at The Command Post (psychic guards setting off alarms that summon RespawningEnemies). On Hard, the spike starts with Cover Blown. Let's not talk about Sniper's Last Stand.
* In ''VideoGame/SoldierOfFortune: Payback'''s final mission, the enemies have a massive spike in the damage they deal, and can inflict {{one hit kill}}s [[SniperPistol with as little as a pistol]].
* ''Franchise/{{Metroid}}'':
** ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime'' has a fairly linearly increasing difficulty curve most of the time. That is, until you reach Phazon Mines. The next segment requires you to do half of the area, beating 2 minibosses, one of which is INVISIBLE, navigating morph ball puzzles, introducing you to new space pirate types and spamming them, and getting the Power Bombs, ''without saving''. After that, it feels like a relief it's over as it's not as bad after that.
** Dark Aether in ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime2Echoes'' early on throws you a nasty spike as well as you learn to deal with its atmosphere. After you get the Dark Suit, it's much less nerve-wracking.
** ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime3Corruption'' has it with the fiery zone of Bryyo, not only because of the Fuel Gel hazards and overall difficult navigation but also because of Rundas, a WakeUpCallBoss; it also holds the first moment when Samus's Hypermode ability shows its dangerous side.
* ''VideoGame/RedFaction'' gets a ''lot'' harder around the one-third mark and just keeps getting worse from there. Why? Because the enemies (and you) get better weapons, but you never get more HP, and even refills become harder to find.
* ''VideoGame/DeadSpace'', Chapter 4: Obliteration Imminent is fairly standard for what you've dealt with for the last three chapters until you're told you need to step outside the ship in the middle of what is essentially a meteor storm. The only hint you are given for this sequence is "take cover." Now, once you realize that there is a perceptible warning and you know what "cover" looks like, the sequence is less of a difficulty spike and seems more like FakeDifficulty for the uninformed. However, no amount of information will help you fend off the giant rocks in the next room. Once you've memorized what Isaac looks like getting killed in that room and move on, though, it's back to business as usual.
* Most of the ''VideoGame/RainbowSix'' series have this around the 1/3 or halfway point. Especially Stone Cannon, dear god, in ''Raven Shield''.
* The first/shareware episode in ''VideoGame/{{Quake}}'' is a walk in the park compared to the rest of the game. After completing the [[BreatherLevel preparation "slipgate" level]] (featured at the beginning of each episode), be prepared for your brain (and likely your mouth) to drop a series of [[AtomicFBomb Atomic F-Bombs]] once you're inside the castle.
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Postal}} Postal 2: Apocalypse Weekend]]'' is a breeze (mostly because you can stock on weapons and healing items), but then near the end you are stripped from all your stuff and have to fight your way out of a military base. Where healing items are very scarce and soldiers are tough and immune to OHKO sledgehammering. Prepare to be ridiculed by protagonist for save spamming. Following this, levels are relatively simple again.
* ''VideoGame/GhostRecon: Advanced Warfighter'' takes a disproportionate leap in difficulty with "Mayday! Mayday!", slightly under halfway through the game. And that's just on Normal difficulty. Prepare to get pegged many times by the guards in the forest area with the [[InterfaceScrew jammers]].
* The entirety of the VC campaign in ''VideoGame/{{Vietcong}} 2'', when compared to the US campaign, due to being much shorter (only ''4 levels!'') compared to the latter (13 levels).
* ''Scythe'', a GameMod for ''Doom II'', is a fairly well-balanced mod... up until the final set of levels (beginning from level 21), which are set in Hell, and their ridiculous difficulty lives up to the location. Barely any ammo, barely any room to maneuver, and hordes of enemies from all sides.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Game Mod ]]
* ''VideoGame/DonnerParty'' undergoes a noticeable shift in difficulty between Rounds 6 and 7. To wit: the amount of damage the player takes doubles, flying over large swaths of territory is impossible, few enemies die in a single hit, and the three-boss-per-level standard returns with a vengeance. Round 7 specifically includes a segment where taking damage is required in order to progress. Round 8 introduces an abrupt and awkward shift in play-control, which becomes permanent for the rest of the game.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Hack And Slash ]]
* ''VideoGame/DiabloII'':
** The game has a dramatic change as you go from Nightmare to Hell difficulty. The effectiveness of just about everything is reduced to a quarter, your resistances plummet to a base of -100, and almost every single monster is not only resistant, but entirely ''immune'' to a particular element (often when the monster had zero resistance to anything in either of the previous difficulties) while gaining additional resistances to one or nearly all attributes. The immunities are a particular problem, as it's very possible for your character's skills to be focused on only one form of damage if you didn't know about the problem beforehand.
** Some monsters possess immunity to physical damage. I.E, melee attacks don't work. There are three randomly generated per normal level in hell difficulty as opposed to one in normal, plus their flock of minions is deadlier too.
** Less dramatic is Act IV of the game, when you invade Hell, featuring a jump in monster difficulty -- suddenly homing, {{mana}} draining missiles, etc. Then of course there's [[FinalBoss Diablo]] [[ThatOneBoss himself]].
** The [[ThatOneBoss battle with the Ancients]] is far harder than the the battle with Baal, the final boss.
* The first five realms in ''{{VideoGame/Gauntlet}}: Dark Legacy'' are swarming with GoddamnBats (it's kind of the point of Gauntlet), but world 6, the Desert Realm, suddenly throws in DemonicSpiders in the form of the Desert Generals, whose psychotic fervor has the potential to arouse in the player the same real-life fight-or-flight panic mechanism as many a VideoGame/Left4Dead player has felt facing down a Tank - among stronger and more durable GoddamnBats, and more chances to be attacked from all sides. A player who breezed through the last five realms may find themselves losing thousands of HP in this realm - fast.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:MMORPG]]
* Levels 15 through 30 in ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' are pretty frustrating compared to later on. The first 10-15 levels act as tutorial and are usually easy (provided you don't run into the wrong direction), but then it picks up considerably and you'll be seeing the Spirit Healer pretty often. And the level range features some of the most frustrating dungeons aswell, such as Gnomeregan, Shadowfang Keep and Blackfathom Deeps. And if you play on a [=PvP=] server, you'll face the most annoying gankers (bored high level characters killing low level ones just for giggles) during those levels as you'll be leveling in contested zones. After that, it only gets better. The expansion zones on the other hand are laughably easy, at least as far as solo-Quests are concerned.
** In the Firelands, the first six bosses have become considerably easier after the nerf, but Ragnaros is much more difficult than any of them, particularly because if you let one Son of Flame reach his hammer in the transition phase, the raid will most likely wipe.
** Mogu'shan Vaults begins with the fairly difficult Stone Guard, but then has the more manageable Feng the Accursed, Gara'jal the Spiritbinder, and Spirit Kings. Then comes Elegon, a very difficult DPS race that is even more difficult than the last boss of the instance. Some groups give up and go on to the first bosses in the next instance, Heart of Fear, until they are well-geared enough to defeat Elegon.
** The Brawler's Guild matches are fairly easy during Rank 1-7, then comes Rank 8 where you fight a engineer pair DualBoss with OHKO rockets, a necromancer who is only vulnerable when you destroy his adds that have to be stunned with a beam of light and can also OHKO you with one melee hit, and an arcane construct surrounded by a ring of highly-damaging explosives, before taking a break with an easy match against a gnoll who takes reduced damage but you're able to run over powerups to increase your damage output to exponential levels to mitigate it. Then there are the optional bosses, one of which is a {{cyborg}} version of your first opponent who is near impossible to kill with any max damage output lower than 65-70k because the third time he roots you in place he'll use an attack that is - you guessed it - an OHKO.
* ''VideoGame/EVEOnline'':
** The game has a steep difficulty spike with 0.5 and 0.4 security space. The latter has no [[CityGuards CONCORD]], allowing player pirates to roam freely in search of juicy targets like you. In fact, a frequent occurrence is you running into a gate camp when you jump from an 0.5 system to an 0.4 system. Translation: you're dead and podded and you never saw it coming.
** The Sleepers and Sansha Incursions. Sleepers are found exclusively in Wormhole Space (players have to physically enter any wormhole that spawns randomly in the universe), and these bastards have an upgraded AI compared to regular enemies. They actively target Logistics ships if they are present (the game's equivalent to healers), and if you think to bring any capital ships like, say a carrier, into the sites, the sites will spawn 6 more Sleeper battleships for EACH carrier. The Sansha Incursion rats behave the same as the Sleepers too, except they can be considered an end-game raid instance, particularly if it's an [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast "Ouroboros"]] instance, where it can take as many as up to 50 players with top-shelf ships, modules and leadership.
* ''VideoGame/GuildWars Prophecies'' is a cakewalk until you reach the desert, and then it ramps up. It ramps up [[UpToEleven AGAIN]] on the Ring of Fire. Factions goes from "reasonably challenging" to "murderous" when you reach the Kaineng Mainland (and the Undercity...dear GOD the UNDERCITY!!) and Nightfall does more or less the same a few missions in.
* ''VideoGame/GuildWars2'' is not very difficult, built for casual players, with most dungeons easily puggable. Then you get to [[LostWorld the Heart of Maguuma]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Everquest}}'' had particularly infamous difficulty spikes called "Hell Levels." These usually came along at already naturally awkward levels(30, 35, 40, etc.; where you're growing out of your current leveling zone), and amplified them by increasing the amount of experience needed to level by insane amounts; so much so that the next level will actually REQUIRE LESS experience than the hell level did. Also, 50-60 were considered a bit of a "hell bracket" since the needed experience jumped up to relatively high amounts because 60 was the original level cap(and thus had a LOT of xp "padding" that was never reduced when 60 ceased to be the cap).
* ''Videogame/{{EverQuest II}}'' has three different "tiers" you can play on - solo, group, and raid. Solo is designed to be handled by just about any player class with ease. Moving from solo to group requires a much more detailed understanding of how to play your class and function in a group. Moving from group to raid requires intricate knowledge of game mechanics. To make the spike more severe, for the most part you can only get group level gear by running group missions and raid level gear by raiding, meaning that someone trying to make the jump for the first time is going to be critically undergeared.
* ''VideoGame/ShinMegamiTenseiIMAGINE'' has the ''Old Ichigaya Camp Gold'' instance. If you decide to skip the lower floors, and just go right ahead to the boss room, the enemies that appear on the way there are fairly easy to defeat (most lv30 characters can kill them in 2 or 3 hits). Then you hit the boss room, and have ''Jikokuten'' ignoring knockback and hitting your skull with Almighty basic attacks, around 10 ''Gandharva'' spamming a skill with a huge area of effect that [[ThatOneAttack causes multiple status effects]] (including one that renders you unable to even defend) as well as powerful ice attacks (including one that can hit from halfway across the room) and another area of effect one that [[UselessUsefulSpell lowers all your status]], and around 15 ''Gaki'' who are pretty weak and only have one attack, but once they start ganging up on you, you're easy prey to the spell-spamming Ganharvas. Granted, this can be turned into children's play if you have someone especiallized in using [[GameBreaker Erosion Hex]] on your party.
** Also from ''IMAGINE'', there's the ''Shibuya Metro'' instance. Despite the constant HP and MP drain throughout the whole dungeon, it's fairly easy, with all enemies being weak to one of the easy to get [[ElementalRockPaperScissors four elements]]. The boss room, however, has a boss with the most powerful electric spell, lots of HP, and over 10 minions that not only can heal him, but also love to use attack- and spell-reflecting skills. ''All the time''. And no, the HP and MP drain does not go away during the boss battle. Also, the boss gets even stronger if you enter the dungeon with anyone else in your party, wether they entered the dungeon too or not.
* ''VideoGame/{{Elsword}}'' starts off very simple with short three-to-four room dungeons and fairly weak field enemies. Then you reach Bethma, where the dungeons get longer and have branching paths. And then the next town, Altera, brings 4-6 (Altera Core), which is such a large dungeon that there are three layers on the map, has lasers that either cause damage, summon mooks, or both, throws three mid-bosses (which are all demoted versions of dungeon bosses) at the players, and introduces the largest boss thus far, the King Nasod, which requires more strategy than just "mash buttons until it dies". It gets worse from there.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Platform Game ]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Rayman}}'': Dream Forest is a solid beginner world. A little tricky in the later levels, but not too bad. Band Land is when the gloves come off and what better way to show that then by putting the player through a six stage level full of musical notes that act like spikes and fewer power ups and 1-ups? Also, after defeating the boss of Blue Mountains, Mr. Stone, and receiving the fifth and final new power, the player is treated to a colorful world known as Picture City. Looks relaxing as well as a nice change of pace right? Right? RIGHT!? Say goodbye to a lot of hard earned lives from here on out!
* In ''VideoGame/{{Spyro the Dragon|1998}}'', the Beast Makers world has higher completion requirements than the previous worlds (50 out of 58 dragons). It's the second world that you cannot skip without playing through at least one level (the first world is the first). It also contains Misty Bog and Terrace Village, which contain aggressive enemies and few butterflies, as well as ThatOneLevel, Tree Tops.
* ''VideoGame/{{Psychonauts}}'' turns absolutely sadistic when you get to the timed Escort Mission in the last level. There's also the RiseToTheChallenge segment later in the level, which would be bad enough if it weren't for a GameBreakingBug that makes one particular part ''virtually impossible'' about 75% of the time. Thank heavens DeathIsASlapOnTheWrist.
* The first seven areas of ''VideoGame/LittleNemoTheDreamMaster'' give no hint as to how difficult the final area is.
* The Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog series does this quite a bit.
** In all three ''VideoGame/{{Sonic Advance|Trilogy}}'' games, the first six special stages range from really easy to kind of tricky the first time, but the last is NintendoHard.
** ''VideoGame/SonicUnleashed'' has a smoothly escalating difficulty curve reaching its peak at Adabat. Then the curve becomes a straight line, crashing into the ceiling and staying there. It says something when the level designers deliberately place a respawning extra life next to EVERY checkpoint in the last level, including some that are impossible to avoid collecting.
** ''[[VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog2 Sonic 2]]'' is generally nice and easy, but Chemical Plant Zone act 2 is quite a harsh snap for where it is in the game, and the game then throws ''another'' spike in Metropolis Zone, a spike which lasts right until the end of the game. Also Mystic Cave, considering its inescapable spike pits and crushing vines which ''force'' you to take your time and be careful in order to beat the level.
** ''[[VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog4 Sonic 4]]'' will make you frustrated once you get to E.G.G. Station Zone.
** ''VideoGame/{{Sonic Rush|Series}}'' is even more brutal on that note, because once you get to [[ThatOneLevel Night Carnival]] in order to notice everything that allows you to get past that stage without falling into those BottomlessPits, you have to play the game very differently than you're used to: in other words, TakeYourTime and you'll survive. Probably. It's even more jarring when you play as Blaze as Night Carnival is the FIRST LEVEL, then it gets easy again until the 5th stage.
** ''VideoGame/SonicGenerations'' gets more difficult starting with Crisis City. The Modern era overall is more difficult than the previous two and the levels are longer, and Crisis City is the introduction to that. Modern's Crisis City in particular is one of the hardest levels in the game, Classic's Rooftop Run has a lot of devious obstacles, and Planet Wisp overall is a MarathonLevel. The bosses also pick up the pace to match.
* ''VideoGame/JakIIRenegade'' features not one, but many spikes over the course of the game. The first arrives at about the time you need to blow up an ammo supply and you are being chased by an indestructible doom tank. The camera is fixed as the view from the tank for a while, and the first part of the area is a bit hard to navigate. The most notable, however, comes during the escape from the Water Slums. You can't touch the water that is surrounding the tiny walkways you must navigate, the guards will infinitely respawn if you move incorrectly or dawdle in the wrong place, and you can take a total of 3 hits and live. Fortunately, the Krimson Guards are all graduates of the ImperialStormtrooperMarksmanshipAcademy. Unfortunately, there are so many of them that it really doesn't matter how bad of shots they are. And the game doesn't get any easier from there.
* For many players, ''VideoGame/EarthwormJim'' went straight DownTheDrain the minute players entered the Tube Race level. Imagine a big glass ball that breaks if it happens to bump into a wall ten times, which you have to steer through a long, narrow obstacle course while being harassed by a dwindling oxygen meter. Fortunately, the [[AnticlimaxBoss immediately following boss fight]] makes up for it in terms of difficulty. The sequel followed this up with ''The Flyin' King'', an isometric SHMUP level where you have to escort a bomb on a balloon to the end of the level. And then the difficulty spikes again in ''Inflated Head / Circus of the Scars'', which is Tube Race all over again.
* In level 3 of the original ''VideoGame/{{Prince of Persia|1}}'', you must first jump onto a precariously situated platform with a pressure plate that opens a gate three screens to the left. Then, you have to quickly rush over to the gate before it closes, making ''five'' jumps along the way, the last one being a particularly hard running jump. Miss one jump, and you fall to certain death. After this puzzle, the second half of the level isn't so hard, even with an invincible skeleton enemy -- unless you die and have to start the whole level over.
** ''VideoGame/PrinceOfPersiaTheTwoThrones'' has a series of three levels back-to-back that are harder than anything that comes before or after it: a cerebral gear-turning puzzle, a trial-and-error chariot race and an unforgiving two-on-one boss fight, with exactly one save point between them.
* ''VideoGame/{{Klonoa}}: Door to Phantomile'' is a pretty easy game throughout. The first level can easily be defeated without taking any damage, and the difficulty gently slopes, occasionally teaching you a new trick or introducing you to a new concept or enemy. Still, all the way up to level 5 keeps an easy-to-modest difficulty. Then level 6 comes along and bitchslaps you through a wall with hair-tearing timed puzzles and the precision platforming sequences from hell. Then there's bonus level that appears after that...
* Creator/{{Treasure}} loves to put [[UnexpectedGameplayChange space shooter]] levels in their platforming titles. Depending on one's proficiency at the genre, they'll experience anything from a mild to extreme difficulty spike upon entering stage 6 of either ''VideoGame/GunstarHeroes'' or ''VideoGame/DynamiteHeaddy''.
** Treasure also like putting platforming sections in their shoot 'em ups. The severity of these spikes is similarly dependent on how accustomed the player is to the shifted genre.
* ''Osman''/''VideoGame/CannonDancer'' starts out fairly difficult, but during the final areas it turns abusively so, by removing the ability to spam continues to reach the end. During most of the game, you respawn where you die, even when you lose your last life. In the last areas you restart from checkpoints after dying. Better think twice about wasting those [[SmartBomb Fatal Attacks]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Trine}}'''s last level combines platforming with a boss that constantly hinders your progress and tops it off with RiseToTheChallenge.
* As soon as [[VideoGame/HenryHatsworthInThePuzzlingAdventure Henry Hatsworth]] reaches Atlantia (World 3), the game's SurpriseDifficulty kicks in.
* ''Franchise/SuperMarioBros'':
** 5-2 in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros''. 5-1 is certainly harder than the last few levels, but nothing too nasty. 5-3 is just a revamp of 1-3 with smaller platforms and a Bullet Bill generator. 5-4 is a revamp of 2-4 with a few more Firebars. 5-2? ''[[DemonicSpiders Hammer Brothers]] on STAIRS''.
** The arcade game has a much steeper incline in difficulty than the NES version, due to the HardModeFiller levels being replaced with unique boards from the [[PlatformHell infamously hard]] ''[[VideoGame/SuperMarioBrosTheLostLevels Super Mario Bros 2 Japan]]'', which contain many narrow platforms, sadistic enemy/obstacle patterns, and long jumps, some of which require bouncing off Koopa Paratroopas at the right height, as in [[ThatOneLevel 6-3]].
** ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros2'':
*** World 3-3 is noticeably longer and more difficult than the first two castle levels (1-3 and 2-3) as well as the first two levels in the world, with long sequences of climbing towers with ''tons'' of [[DemonicSpiders Sparks]] moving around oddly-shaped platforms, [[MookMaker Shy Guy-generating pots]], and, for the first time, a variety of different doors to enter, not all of which will allow you to progress depending on which character you are playing as. The difficulty will spike again in World 4's dungeon, then AGAIN in world 5's dungeon. In the particular case of level 4-2, you're first greeted by a ZergRush of Beezos in a section that seems to last forever with only slippery ice terrain to work with, then some NintendoHard platforming. And there is no fourth mushroom in this level. And you have to fight Birdo. On ice.
*** In the ''Super Mario Advance'' remake for GBA, a game criticized for being much easier due to all the extra power ups, the Yoshi Challenge has this. Through the first ten levels you play, it feels like a good challenge for seasoned veterans, but still easier than the original NES and SNES versions despite only having 2-3 hearts per level instead of 4. Even 3-3 isn't so bad. Then you get to 4-2, which in the Yoshi Challenge quickly becomes ThatOneLevel. Survive the Beezo ZergRush onslaught, and you'll have to get two Yoshi Eggs from here without losing a life in the next phase. And you only have two hearts to work with. The difficulty only becomes reasonable again in 6-3.
** ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros3'':
*** 1-4 isn't amazingly difficult, but it is by ''far'' the hardest regular level in World 1 (even the fortress and airship are easier), containing many [[TemporaryPlatform falling platforms]], [[BottomlessPit bottomless pits]], and the dreaded [[AutoScrollingLevel autoscrolling]].
*** World 3 in general is a huge difficulty spike over worlds 1 and 2. Let's put it this way, 3-6 is a souped up version of 1-4 and is by far the EASIEST level in world 3, besides maybe 3-9. The rest of World 3 contains mostly levels that alternate between underwater levels, cheep cheep ZergRush levels, and rising and sinking platforms where Boss Bass awaits and can eat you in a single gulp (unless you're invincible).
** ''VideoGame/SuperMarioWorld'':
*** The game starts off as a not too challenging platformer that eases you into the game, even Iggy's Castle isn't so bad except maybe for the smasher in the autoscrolling room leading up to the simple boss battle, but even then it's not so bad. And then you arrive at Donut Plains 2, an [[AutoScrollingLevel autoscrolling cave level]] that's fairly dark, has rising and falling platforms that can crush you, cruelly placed death pits, and GoddamnBats everywhere. Granted, it's not amazingly hard, but after the non-threatening Yoshi's Island levels and Donut Plains 1, this level serves as a real wake-up call about what's coming up later in the game. That difficulty won't be matched again until Vanilla Dome or even the Twin Bridges depending on your perception.
*** Happens once again in Chocolate Island, where the game goes from challenging but fun platformer to mean and nasty NintendoHard nightmare that pulls no punches in the blink of an eye. The game keeps its foot on the gas for the remainder of the game, until reaching its peak in the [[BrutalBonusLevel special zone]]. The Front Door of Bowser's Castle tends to look harder than it really is, especially if you enter doors 2 and 5.
** Most of the levels in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioLand2SixGoldenCoins'' aren't too difficult, but then you get to Wario's Castle, the final level, and you find yourself in a very long and difficult level compared to the rest of the game. To add insult to injury, there are no checkpoints (if you die at any point, even when fighting Wario, you have to start from the beginning).
** The majority of levels in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioGalaxy'' are very easy. Then they start getting a bit harder, but not too much, and ''then'' the difficulty of the last few stars (most of them corresponding to the galaxies accessed via the Garden dome) spikes to unexpected levels. [[ThatOneLevel Luigi's Purple Coins]] is an example of this.
** ''VideoGame/SuperMario3DWorld'' is pretty forgiving, up until World 3's Chain-Link Charge, which is an [[AutoScrollingLevel Auto-Scrolling]] PlatformHell with [[ThatOneSidequest a brutal Stamp and Green Stars]]. Later on, Worlds 7 and 8 take it to a bigger scale with more devious levels like Trick Trap Tower, Boiling Blue Bully Belt, Rammerhead Reef, Cookie Cogworks and Grumblump Inferno.
** First time players of ''VideoGame/SuperMarioSunshine'' are in for a ''cruel'' surprise when, after mostly easy levels, they are thrust without warning into ''[[ThatOneLevel The Sand Bird Is Born]]''. It is likely to be the first of ''many'' of the nasty infamously difficult sub-levels [[SchizophrenicDifficulty peppered throughout an otherwise not too difficult game]] that the player encounters.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Iji}}'', the difficulty spikes massively once the Komato appear. Komato [[{{Mooks}} Troopers]] are roughly as tough as Tasen [[EliteMooks Commanders]], and Komato [[EliteMooks Berserkers]] are roughly as powerful as Tasen [[GiantMook Elites]], except they [[KungFuProofMook can reflect projectiles back at you.]] Komato Beasts, Assassins, Annihilators and [[GoddamnedBats Skysmashers]] go off the charts. Still, you'll eventually get used to it. And then when you start playing through on [[HarderThanHard Ultimortal]], you'll probably find it not too hard...until you meet [[ThatOneBoss Asha]].
* ''VideoGame/ChuckieEgg'' gets harder quite steadily -- the extra features in each round of eight levels are nicely balanced by returning to the layout of the easy Level 1. That said, the third iteration (with the hens and the Mother Duck) is much harder than anything up to that point, particularly from Level 21 onwards. Near the end, [[NintendoHard you may wonder whether it could get much harder]], but the final Level 40 still manages to be another drastic leap in difficulty.
* The first ''VideoGame/HarryPotter'' game was a fairly standard 3D platformer, with a few spell-casting or flying minigames and puzzles mixed in. Then at the end there is a boss fight, in a third-person shooter style that hadn't been seen all game, where the boss can kill you in one or two shots and you have no real offensive spells. He's a pushover when you figure out the trick to it, though.
* Areas 4, 5 and 6 in ''VideoGame/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles''. The latter two are full of DemonicSpiders that take tons of punishment to kill, and the former's boss is in a [[LuckBasedMission random location]]. And the FinalBoss can kill you in one hit, not to mention the hallway full of [[DemonicSpiders Laser Troopers]] leading to him. In the former's case (the Airport), most of the previous two stages' difficulty—and length—goes away once you figure out where the underwater bombs and downtown {{Plot Coupon}}s are. The Airport, on the other hand, is one long, confusing [[TheMaze maze]] that seems [[MarathonLevel neverending]] without a guide, and even with one it's still an exercise in patience and tedium. Which wouldn't be too much of a problem if it weren't for the added SpikesOfDoom, [[OneHitKO instant-death]] {{Lava Pit}}s, and MalevolentArchitecture that makes all the GoddamnBats from the previous levels, as well as the aformentioned death traps, all the more fearsome. The only respite is the AnticlimaxBoss (the HumongousMecha from the series) at the end which, if you've kept [[GameBreaker Donatello]] with you the whole time, you will beat without even being so much as attacked.
* ''{{VideoGame/Jed}}'''s tends to border on SchizophrenicDifficulty, with whether or not the player is attempting to collect all five of the stage's babies being a key determinate. Assuming you're only attempting to get through the level, the slope is simpler.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Jumper}}'', the first sector is patheticaly easy, and then there are sectors 2 and 3, that [[{{Pun}} jump]] suddenly up. Sector 3 in ''Jumper Two'' is such a case too.
* ''VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountry'':
** Up to the second world, everything's a breeze. Then you get [[MinecartMadness Mine Cart]] [[ThatOneLevel Carnage]]. Don't expect it to get any easier from there.
** After that, when you're used to the new level of difficulty, comes [[SlippySlideyIceWorld Gorilla Glacier]] and its first level, Snow Barrel Blast. It's the first time you come across FrictionlessIce, which covers the ''entire'' level, [[MarathonLevel the level is extremely long compared to anything that came before it]], the spinning barrel cannons are frustratingly difficult to aim with, and to top all that off, when you're halfway through the game, [[InterfaceScrew the mounting blizzard shows up on the foreground and masks your view of what's going on]], right at the part where it's the most difficult. If you didn't get a GameOver in Mine Cart Carnage or Tree Top Town but didn't breeze through these levels either, it's almost guaranteed you'll get one here.
* The first two chapters of ''VideoGame/{{Gish}}'' are relatively easy. The third chapter is a test to anyone who hasn't mastered the controls of the game as lava pools and more difficult jumps start to appear.
* ''VideoGame/KidChameleon'' has a few examples: the first boss is quite difficult compared to the game up to that point, and the game after the third boss in general becomes significantly harder, with many levels containing routes through them that will kill you, levels which don't have conventional exits (or do but they're extremely difficult to get to), level loops that can make you play through the same levels over and over again until you go the right way, and many more of the hardest enemies. However, the worst of the lot is Bloody Swamp, a level so difficult most people who have beaten the game did so by taking an alternate path that allows you to avoid the level, and it is only midway through the third section of the game - though you also have to play through it if you take the route that skips you from halfway through the second world to halfway through the third. The levels after Bloody Swamp are far easier.
* ''VideoGame/TheSmurfs1994'' on the SNES and Generis have the final two Acts go from "hard" to "insane". The penultimate act is a single stage with omnipresent instant death (when the tree trunk bridge starts rotating under your feet, you have a split-second to jump or fall to your death); the last act has a frustrating (but hardly lethal) first level, a long and and dangerous second level (with instant death too from flies with TheVirus), a short and dangerous third level and a FinalBoss with OneHitKill CollisionDamage. You'll lose so many [[VideoGameLives lives]] here that the only way to survive is to start the game from the beginning and collect ExtraLives one the way. (Fortunately, this has been somewhat toned down on the GameboyAdvance port ''Revenge Of The Smurfs'', where at least you have infinite lives.)
* ''VideoGame/{{Psychosomnium}}'' has the unexpectedly difficult spike-covered corridor near the end, where you have to fly through a curving path without touching any of the walls. It's so tough, compared to the rest of the game, that there's a cheat code specifically to get rid of the spikes.
* ''[[VideoGame/BombJack Mighty Bomb Jack]]'' has the fourth stage, which is longer than earlier stages and is in multiple parts.
* ''[[VideoGame/BanjoKazooie Banjo-Tooie]]'' increases drastically the difficulty through the second half of the game. Compare the relatively flexible Jolly Roger's Lagoon to the larger and more intrincate Terrydactyland, which in turn is followed by the even more difficult Grunty Industries.
* The first difficulty spike in ''VideoGame/{{Something}}'' occurs at "Dat Bass!" The level has [[OneHitKill Boss Bass]], but this time Boss Bass is immune to fire, so Fire Mario can't kill him.
* While the first three levels of ''VideoGame/FreedomPlanet'' are fairly average, the fourth through sixth is where things start getting challenging with longer levels, new mooks in every stage, and the bosses requiring the player's grasp on the game's combat and timing. But it's in the eighth Battle Glacier, where things start getting crazy. What with all the StuffBlowingUp onscreen from all the bullets and bombs everywhere, a level design with so many pathways it can b easy to get lost, with tons of [[DemonicSpiders alien troopers]] with their strong lasers that chase you across the level if you don't stop to damage them eight times to take them out, [[ThatOneBoss two jarringly difficult bosses]], and a long second act with a tricky coridor of switch puzzles, it'll have you raging at how tough the game has suddenly become. Then there's [[TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon Final]] [[MarathonLevel Dreadnought]], which takes the already challenging combat and bosses UpToEleven and stays that way for the home stretch of the game.
* Being a ''Franchise/MegaMan'' clone with an ImprobablyFemaleCast and {{Moe}} aesthetic, ''VideoGame/RosenkreuzStilette'' seems like it'll be a toned down homage to the classic series. And for a time, this appears to be the case. [[WillfullyWeak Liebea Palesh]] is a piece of cake, Zorne's AI makes it [[ArtificialStupidity easy to avoid her attacks]], [[{{Troll}} Schwer]] has some cheap surprises in her level but is otherwise easy with some practice, and so on. But it's when you get to Grolla's stage that the levels incorporate a ton of GoddamnBats that nip at your health at an alarming rate in a game that's stingey with its health drops, tricky platforming above many a BottomlessPit, and of course, [[ThatOneBoss/RosenkreuzStilette the bosses themselves], which have fiendishly difficult strategies and desperation attacks that you can't just plow through anymore. In hindsight, [[ThatOneLevel Freudia's stage]] foreshadows just how hard the endgame will be, with lasers from [[VideoGame/MegaMan2 Quick Man]]'s stage now taken UpToEleven and her [[WakeUpCallBoss her near-unavoidable lasers and spikes she launches across the screen]]. Speaking of the endgame, Iris' Castle would make Dr. Wiley proud. Disappearing blocks, spikes everywhere, the traditional BossRush including Grolla and Freudia, and an {{Expie}} of the [[TheDreaded Yellow Devil]], [[FromBadToWorse now even harder]] as it can reverse both the [[GravityScrew gravity]] and [[InterfaceScrew controller input]] simultaneously. And then there's [[AnotherSideAnotherStory Rosenkreuzstilette]] [[GlassCannon Grollschwert]]...
* ''VideoGame/OriAndTheBlindForest'' takes off the kid gloves once you reach the Ginso Tree EscapeSequence. Expect to die about 50 times before getting the hang of it.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Puzzle Game ]]
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Lemmings}} Oh No More Lemmings]]'' has five difficulty grades for its puzzles: Tame, Crazy, Wild, Wicked and Havoc. The Tame levels are all walks in the park: 20 of each skill, four minutes, save 25 of 50 Lemmings and most times it's easy to save all 50. The other four grades, however, are total nightmares with little to distinguish each grade in terms of difficulty.
* ''VideoGame/PuyoPuyo'':
** ''Puyo Pop Fever'' takes a huge spike in difficulty on stage 3 of the [[HarderThanHard HaraHara]] course and ANOTHER spike on stage 7 of that course.
** The original ''Puyo Puyo'' has a ridiculous difficulty spike starting with Level 4. [[FromBadToWorse And it only gets worse from here]]. [[ArtificialBrilliance Not only is the AI much smarter]], but the pieces drop about as fast as the high levels of ''VideoGame/{{Tetris}}''.
** Luckily, the DolledUpInstallment ''Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine'' was toned down somewhat, having more of a difficulty curve. Although it does have at least one spike.
* ''VideoGame/MarbleBlastGold'' has a noticeable difficulty gap between beginner and intermediate, and between intermediate and advanced. Even worse the beginner and intermediate stages only have 24 levels each, but advanced has 52.
* Levels 1 to 10 of ''VideoGame/{{Repton}}'' are pretty easy (once you know how to do the Repton shuffle, but that's more GuideDangIt than difficulty as such)... but the next level is [[ThatOneLevel "Giant clam"]].
* ''VideoGame/ChipsChallenge'' starts easy, staying that way during the first 22 levels. But then come levels like Blobnet (23, due to enemies that move randomly) and Blink (25, for it being a maze with teleporters), from which the game quickly increases the difficulty level. And the number of levels in total is ''149''.
* ''VideoGame/WonderlandAdventures'': Mysteries of Fire Island has one of these in the pirate camp.
* In ''VideoGame/TetrisTheGrandMaster'', if you hear [[MusicalSpoiler the music fade out]] towards the end of a section, one of these is going to happen in the next section. Most famously, in the original ''TGM'', Level 500 raises the drop speed from "a few rows per frame" to "pieces drop automatically", otherwise known as "20G"[[note]]as in 20 rows per frame; 20 rows is the height of a ''TGM'' playfield.[[/note]]. From ''Tetris: The Grand Master 2'' onwards, music fadeout while already at 20G means the next section's timings--such as time until a landed piece locks and delay until the next piece spawns--will get significantly tighter, throwing you off drastically and potentially ending your game if you aren't prepared for it.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Real Time Strategy ]]
* ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerRedAlert2'''s penultimate Soviet mission. You needed to defeat Yuri's forces for good, but this was the only mission where you had to constantly hold out against enemy forces. It was also very difficult to break the base defenses without resorting to exploration or GuideDangIt behavior. At least you could build a nuke silo to hit the objective directly.
* ''Operation: Red Revolution'' was hard, yes, but could be made very easy with a couple of tricks. [[spoiler: Most importantly, capture one of the power plants on the hill near the start, then cover the cliffs with turrets and Tesla coils.]] The start of Operation: Chrono Defense, the final Soviet mission, is hell. The Allies repeatedly teleport tank divisions into the middle of your base while you're still setting it up. Build order is crucial, as you need to balance power supply with the all-important turrets that will save your base. And if you get the order wrong and lose power, ''all your construction rates drop''.
* ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerRedAlert'':
** The final Allied mission in the original. The Soviets have two bases, on of which is very close to where you set yours. It's small, but will get big if even you don't take it early. Even when do, you will still be under nearly constant attack from the other, very large base. In short, you are in for a very long fight. Add to this, the Soviet faction in the game is broken, you will only win fights against them through sheer numbers. As a silver lining, one of the attack routes the Soviets stupidly use goes through a fairly big lake that, so you can get an added punch from your destroyers (which outrange most of the Soviet units) and cruisers (best range and firepower in the game, but their shots have a sad tendency to miss, but they're worth it). You also get to use the Chronosphere to move a cruiser to a lake the Soviet base and pick off some of their buildings.
** The fifth Soviet mission in the same game is also surprisingly difficult. The idea is to capture a Radar Station to find out what the Allied are planning. The problem is that there is a huge island filled to the brim with ressources the Allies will land on with a [[BaseOnWheels Mobile Construction Vehicle]] via naval transport should you even think of building a submarine facility. Once they did just that, the mission becomes stupidly difficult because the base over there gives them ressources to the base next to yours which will begin {{Zerg Rush}}ing you with impunity. Surviving the onslaught won't help much either because you'll still have to get rid of the island base which by that point would be too big and too well defended to send your own navy transports with tanks over. The solution is the newly-introduced paradrop ability of the airfield - landing infantry on the island will still make the Allies send their MCV, but as long as you play Catch Me with your infantry while shooting it, it cannot deploy. ScratchDamage will eventually destroy it, disabling the Allies from getting anything meaningful out of it.
* The seventh Chinese mission, '''Operation: Nuclear Winter''', in ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerGenerals'' also deserves its place here: the GLA throws everything but the kitchen sink at you very early on, while you are short of supplies and has barely built your base. [[FakeDifficulty Add to that the fact that]] [[GuideDangIt they have a SCUD launcher platform that will fire and annihilate your forces/base if you have 5000 money or more]], and you get players having one hell of a surprise. After that, the game returns to its normal curve.
* ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft|1}}'' had a few levels that tested people's patience. Protoss mission 7 had the player fighting against an army of Protoss that was further up the tech tree. This lead to some frustration, as the presence of Arbiters and Carriers made it difficult for anyone to reasonably counter the enemy. Most players won by massing troops or Photon Cannons instead of using any real strategy. In Brood War, Terran mission 8 got rather ridiculous when the Zerg sent in a much harder to kill Ultralisk every few minutes to harass your troops. The worst offender had to be Zerg mission 8 and 10 (in Brood War), with the former having a deadly Zerg/Terran air force, and the latter had two powerful Terran and a Protoss attacking players at once.
* ''VideoGame/StarCraftII'''s last mission is significantly more difficult than, well, any of the previous ones. Except maybe ''Supernova.''
* ''VideoGame/WarcraftII'':
** The final Human mission is considerably more difficult than all the previous ones, as the computer will constantly send dragons to attack you even as you're trying to build your base from scratch (fortunately, guard towers are your friend). Also doesn't help that you start off with a sizable army and no farms, forcing you to either kill off your own troops or build a zillion farms before you can even start training additional workers to increase your income rate.
** A clone made by Lego called Lego Battles had 1000 Tree Woods, a maze like level that was hard to beat. Oh yeah, and it's the FOURTH level.
* All ''VideoGame/AgeOfEmpires'' campaigns (and most of the ''VideoGame/AgeOfMythology'') raise the difficulty exponentially with each scenario. Tough requirements while giving you [[WithThisHerring limited armies\resources]]? Enemies that start to build [[InstantWinCondition wonders]]? Being forced to break into a heavily guarded town the other side of the map? Anything goes!
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Rhythm Game ]]
* Both ''VideoGame/GuitarHero'' and ''VideoGame/RockBand'' feature a general Difficulty Spike when moving from Medium to Hard on guitar or drums.
** Guitar charts start including the orange fret, meaning that you have to start moving your hands around instead of having your four fingers sit on green, red, yellow, and blue all the time. On drums, the bass pedal finds itself on the off-beats more often, forcing some extra limb independence out of players, and that's not taking into account the presence of drumrolls and fills with much more notes than one would see in a Medium chart. On vocals, the jump happens from Hard to Expert. The pitch-detection becomes ''much'' less lenient and requires better precision to ensure high scores. Both series are well-known for having sudden [[ThatOneBoss brick wall]] songs. You'll be progressing along fine before suddenly being hit with a difficult song that'll take a day of practice just to pass.
** In ''Guitar Hero II'' the song that broke several players' kneecaps was Psychobilly Freakout.
** ''Guitar Hero III'' has the infamously [[{{Pun}} hellish]] last set, 'Battle for your Soul', [[Music/{{Slayer}} Raining Blood]] in particular. When the other 3 songs are [[Music/{{Metallica}} One]], [[Music/IronMaiden The Number of the Beast]] and [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55nAwmVLQSk Cliffs of Dover]], culminating in the [[ThatOneBoss battle with]] [[RockMeAsmodeus Lou]] to the tune of The Devil Went Down To Georgia, it's not surprising that only the MOST hardcore players ever beat the game on Expert.
** In ''Guitar Hero: On Tour'', first it hits you with "I Don't Wanna Stop", with a hellish solo near the end; then it hits you with "I Know a Little", which has a slightly less difficult solo, but at the start of the song, before you get any [[LimitBreak Star Power]]. Then it takes a sledgehammer to your balls with "Through The Fire And The Flames".
** The first ''Rock Band'' game gave us [[Music/IronMaiden Run to the Hills]] on hard drums, which was so beyond anything else in that difficulty tier that most veteran players advised newbies to start the game again on a higher difficulty setting when they reached it, rather than spend hours futilely flailing away at a song that was tougher than many of the Expert tier's end-game songs. Of course, then you unlocked the same song on ''Expert'' and realized that the game had been going comparatively easy on you up to that point. [[note]]A note on "Run To The Hills": it uses a very fast "disco" beat in which two hands alternate on the hi-hat and one of them moves to hit the snare. On Expert, this means keeping a steady alternating rhythm. On Hard, every other 16th hi-hat hit is removed, resulting in an xxx-xxs-xxx-xxs pattern (where x is hi-hat, s is snare, - is a rest). While it is technically much easier, some people found this to be just as hard or even harder to keep rhythm with than Expert. Rock Band 2 changed this system with songs like Everlong to convert very fast disco beats into regular beats, removing the 16ths entirely. This means that on Everlong and some other songs, you now hit a hi-hat at the same time as the snare. These hi-hat hits don't exist in the real songs, but make much more sense as a real drummer would do the same thing if they wanted to slow down the drum-work.[[/note]]
** ''Rock Band 2'' followed this up with [[Music/FooFighters Everlong]], which, while slower than ''Run to the Hills'', has a much less intuitive bass pattern. Of course, once you get past Everlong, there are five more songs that take the difficulty to ridiculous levels: Battery, Shoulder to the Plow, Painkiller, and Panic Attack are difficult (and decently long), but Visions takes the cake. Visions has the fastest blast beats in the game, the bass is very fast, and the pattern is very technically complex. Many players can five star every other song and still can't pass Visions.
** ''Rock Band 2'''s Sound Guy challenge, if there's an Expert drummer in your band. It ends with Everlong, ranked the 5th hardest song on the disc, and it's not under-rated; it's filled with high-speed 'tika-tika-tika-tika' hi-hat hits that will fail out most players unless they've been breezing through everything else up to that point. The silver lining is that if you can beat it once, you probably won't fail it afterwards, and you can switch down to Hard with little if any penalty.
** For guitarists, some Rock Band songs start off fairly easy, then they throw you for a loop with a [[ThatOneAttack vicious solo section]] which can easily screw up your entire run, "Can't Be Tamed" "According To You" and "Forever" are all prime examples.
* ''VideoGame/EliteBeatAgents'' and ''VideoGame/OsuTatakaeOuendan 2'' had three of these each, one on the "final" song, one on the actually final song, and one on the third bonus song. "Canned Heat" from EBA also counts, as it's the only song which has its taps on the offbeat. If you're not ready for it, you'll lose quickly.
* In ''VideoGame/{{beatmania}} IIDX'', you don't fail a song by running out of life, but you do need to finish with your life meter at 80% or higher to clear it. Many songs will abuse this by having sudden jumps in difficulty at the end; some of the biggest offenders are [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/3/holic.html?2AB00 Holic (Another)]], [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/8/blame.html?2AB00 Blame (Another)]], [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/13/contract.html?2N800 Contract (Normal)]] (the rest of the song is fairly easy in comparison), and [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/14/inori.html?1AB00 Inori (Another)]]. This issue is subverted [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/0/gobeyond.html?2AC00 Go Beyond!! (Another)]], which has its most difficult part in the ''middle'' of the song, and the rest of the song is easy enough for someone who can clear level-11 songs to easily recover in. Many players avoid this by setting doing the "Hard" route for the life bar. In this, as long as the life doesn't reach 0%, you pass.
* Many [[RhythmGame Rhythm Games]] have this on a select few of the hardest songs.
** On ''VideoGame/DanceDanceRevolution'', there is a huge gap in difficulty between most 9's and most 10's. A player who can easily get a Full Combo and/or AA on most 9's may barely scrape by with a B on a typical 10. The gap was slowly smoothed out over the years, only for Konami to release a new batch of charts so hard that they created a new gap, just as big but further up.
** Also from Bemani, the difficulty progression in ''pop'n music'' stays relatively constant up until you reach Level 28, which is where the notecharts start throwing more advanced techniques (scales and jackhammers in particular) at you. Spikes also occur at Levels 32, 35, 38, and each level thereafter. Then, as with ''BeatmaniaIIDX'', there are a ton of songs that will devolve into total [[OhCrap notejam]] in the last ten seconds or so. Playing with the Extra Stage lifebar cuts out the 80% requirement, but [[GuideDangIt you need to get specific combined level scores to access it]]-and from the 16th mix onward, the criteria were raised enough to make it nigh-impossible without using [[SelfImposedChallenge ojamas]].
* ''VideoGame/{{DJMAX}} Technika'''s Weekly 27 course, available only from July 12 through 19, 2010. Stage 1 is Enemy Storm [PP]; one of the easiest stage 2 songs in Popular Mode. Stage 2 is Cherokee [PP]; a few steps up but still doable for some. ''Then'' there is Stage 3, A.I. [TP], which is many steps harder than Cherokee thanks to [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWDBIfrTTZE#t=1m40s a rather annoying repeat note segment at the end]].
* ''VideoGame/HatsuneMikuProjectDiva'' has a fairly reasonable difficulty progression with every song being completable with enough practice. Then you get to The Dissapearence of Hatsune Miku and your head explodes.
* ''VideoGame/ReRave''[='s=] difficulty takes a flying leap from Level 8 to Level 9, when the different note types suddenly start hitting you all at once, like having to sustain a long Follow Note while hitting random Omni Notes that appear all over the screen.
* ''VideoGame/RhythmHeaven'' progresses at a simple rate for the first five stages. Then the game smacks [[ThatOneLevel Rhythm Rally]] in your face, one of the least lenient mini-games in the game. Then the game smooths out again, and finally hits its head with Big Rock Finish, which doesn't allow practice for 6 of the 8 playable songs, immediately followed by Frog Hop, the longest song in the game. Then the game crashes the ceiling through your body with Lockstep, a game that is downright impossible for first-timers; Space Soccer, which nets you a fail if you mess up twice; and [[MarathonLevel Remix 6]] which is the first Remix to fake you out by switching minigames mid-tap. Then comes Round 2, which elongates, quickens, and/or [[InterfaceScrew adds effects that make focus difficult]], and [[FakeLongevity getting all perfects]].
* In ''VideoGame/TheatrhythmFinalFantasy'', almost every song is available in three difficulties: Basic, Expert, and Ultimate. The increase in difficulty from Basic to Expert is reasonable. The increase in difficulty from Expert to Ultimate is ''absurd''. A player who is good enough to Perfect Chain an Expert-level song on their first attempt is probably going to fail that same song on Ultimate difficulty within ten seconds of starting.
* Woe betide ''VideoGame/GrooveCoaster'' players who only have access to the smartphone version but not the arcade version, as the level 200 and 300 unlockable songs "Got more raves?" and "Got a pain cover?" have brutal AC-Hard charts that are rated 20 and feature insane track speeds and rapid patterns that border on being unsuitable for touchscreens. The next highest-rated songs in the smartphone version are six Tatsh songs that are only rated 15 and don't come anywhere near the "Got" songs in terms of brutality, meaning that ''nothing'' in the game can prepare the player for these two songs. This is not as big of a problem in the arcade versions, where there are far more "boss" songs that can help the player smoothly improve their skills to the point of being able to tackle these songs.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Roguelike ]]
* ''VideoGame/FTLFasterThanLight'''s final boss flagship is noticeably harder than the rest of the game (most of the game is already at pretty high difficulty, but the final boss just shoots up another mile in difficulty level).
* ''VideoGame/NetHack'' has Gehennom, the hell area at the bottom of the dungeon. Instead of rooms and corridors, Gehennom has featureless maze levels. The randomly-spawning enemies are almost all demons and undead. And every once in a while, you'll stumble into a special level with a demon lord waiting for you.
* ''[[VideoGame/PokemonMysteryDungeonExplorers Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Darkness]]'':
** The game has a nice progression...until you hit Hidden Land. In the previous dungeon, you would face Seel, Staryu and Kingler, with the occasional Dragonair appearing every now and then. Suddenly, Dragonite, Garchomp, Magmortar and Rampardos start to raid your team with no mercy, coupled with a boss battle that can easily be ThatOneBoss for the unprepared.
** The post game follows quite nicely until you hit Miracle Sea. Enemies that return the damage dealt automatically and Octillery by dozens pelting you with GameBreaker moves from the other side of the room.
* In ''VideoGame/PokemonMysteryDungeonRescueTeam'', Sky Tower is markedly harder than anything you've previously done, featuring ghosts that can move through walls, changing weather, enemies with attacks that hit the entire room, and potential Monster Houses that can be extremely dangerous.
* ''VideoGame/TheBindingOfIsaac'' is already a brutal game. However, beat the game once and the FinalBoss is demoted to ClimaxBoss and more floors are added afterwards. In these floors, everything does a full heart of damage unless you have The Wafer...which you can't get until you beat these floors multiple times. This is essentially where the game gets serious.
* To progress through the story in ''VideoGame/CryptOfTheNecrodancer'', first you have to clear each zone as Cadence (the standard character). Then you have to clear them as Melody, who is locked into one weapon that is very strong once you get used to its attack radius. But then you have to beat them again as Aria, a OneHitPointWonder (technically two, since she starts with a revive) who can't use any other weapon besides the basic dagger and dies if you skip a beat. Not to mention she has to clear the zones in reverse order.
* ''VideoGame/DarkestDungeon'' is unforgiving in general but the titular Darkest Dungeon itself assaults you with a hellish spike in difficulty, especially in the second mission with a total of 3 very difficult mini-bosses in the Templar Warlords and Impalers. Just as well if you retreat from the dungeon you ''must'' surrender one of your heroes to hold off the monsters so the rest of your party can escape.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Role Playing Game ]]
* ''VideoGame/ClassOfHeroes 2'' flows nicely until you get to the parallel world. The dungeons make Witch's Woods look small and straightforward, enemies are much stronger, it introduces dark areas and gate keys get more and more common. However, once you approach Lanzlet the game throws a nasty curve ball by making all melee classes almost useless - either you nuke enemies on the first turn with Bomb and other spells that hit all the enemies in the battle or watch them kill your sturdiest tanks in two hits.
* ''VideoGame/EarthBound'':
** The Peaceful Rest Valley. Up until that point, the only challenging part was the Giant Step dungeon, and even that's not too bad if you're well-equipped. Peaceful Rest Valley teems with DemonicSpiders, especially the dreaded [[ActionBomb Territorial Oaks]]. It doesn't help that it takes forever to get out.
** The mine is another major difficulty spike. It's a long maze level swarming with poisonous enemies, requiring you to find and defeat five giant moles. The first time playing, you ''will'' get lost and spend a long time aimlessly wandering. And it doesn't get any better afterwards; almost immediately you get forced through the [[ThatOneLevel Fourside Department Store]] and [[DarkWorld Moonside]], both of which are even more difficult.
** There's also the infamous Mt. Itoi from ''VideoGame/MOTHER1''.
* ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiSuperstarSaga Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga]]'' has this applied to TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon.
** The final boss is especially notable. Although several of the [[spoiler: Koopalings]] were timed boss battles, and Fawful had some hard-to-avoid attacks, they weren't ''too'' hard to deal with. Even [[spoiler: Bowletta]] isn't that hard...and then you reach [[spoiler: Cackletta's spirit]]. Mario and Luigi are reduced to 1 HP each, and most of the time the boss will attack first, using up to ''four attacks''. The attacks are brand new, and if you die, you have to beat Bowletta again before getting another chance to analyze (and hopefully dodge) the attacks. It's common for an unsuspecting player to die before getting a single hit in, and the boss only adds new attacks from there.
** ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiPartnersInTime Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time]]'' also had a difficulty spike with the final dungeon, and especially with the final boss(es). In both games, even the normal enemies in the final dungeon are a huge step up from what has come before them.
** ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiSuperstarSaga Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga]]'' also has this at Joke's End, which is a MarathonLevel, ice level and ThatOneLevel in one, coming right after a fairly easy set of side quests and relaxed happy areas of the game. And right before the even harder final dungeon.
** ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiDreamTeam Mario & Luigi Dream Team]]'' has Somnom Woods, where the puzzles get more confusing, the enemies often become DemonicSpiders with a ton of health (especially the Beehoss) and two fairly difficult bosses lie in wait near the end. The final dungeon after this area is even harder.
** It also has one earlier in the game with Mount Pajamaja, which has surprisingly difficult enemies, a PlotTunnel which acts a temporary PointOfNoReturn (in the dream world version) and the first potentially aggravating giant Luigi boss.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Folklore}}'', the difficulty level in the final level, the Netherworld Core, is far greater than all previous areas.
* ''VideoGame/GoldenSun'' has a large difficulty spike whenever you enter one of the 4 elemental lighthouses.
** Final bosses don't tend to count for this trope unless particularly absurd -- like in ''VideoGame/GoldenSunDarkDawn''! At the very end of a 20-30 hour game that got a lot of flak for being trivially easy from the start all the way through the penultimate triple boss (you may well never have the slightest pressure to touch your inventory in combat throughout the game), the Chaos Chimera is quite suddenly very, very powerful and grueling on the scale of the previous games' {{Bonus Boss}}es.
** ''Dark Dawn'''s version of [[spoiler: Crossbone Isle]] is a certified BrutalBonusLevel. Hope you did your level grinding and got all the Djinn.
* While ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIII'' is difficult throughout, the back-to-back dungeons [[TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon Crystal Tower/Dark World]] turns it from "difficult but manageable" to "9th circle of hell". The Crystal Tower is filled with difficult enemies and a difficult boss, then after a long, unskippable cutscene you get thrown into the Dark World. From there, the player needs to beat 4 extremely difficult bosses with OneHitKO attacks (unless they want to get destroyed by the FinalBoss immediately) in a dungeon also filled with [[BossInMookClothing Bosses in Mook Clothing.]] While none of this out of control for the game, the kicker is that there [[CheckpointStarvation are no save points.]] You have to go through the 2 hour long gauntlet ''every time.''
* At the end of the first half of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI'', the Floating Continent has a sudden jump in the difficulty of random monsters compared to previous locations.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII'' contains a particularly nasty example, whereby [[SummonMagic a strategy]] that you can use to go through the entire first three discs will become entirely useless for the last one. If you've been going through the entire game with this strategy alone while not building up any other strategies, [[{{Unwinnable}} you may be screwed]].
* Though it certainly has a few tough spots, most of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'' isn't incredibly difficult. Then you hit Mount Gagazet, at which point not only do the standard enemies start getting a lot tougher, but the next four bosses ''all'' qualify as ThatOneBoss, culminating in a fight that many players consider the hardest non-BonusBoss in the entire game (and happens to come right after an unskippable 10-minute cutscene). It doesn't let up from there, even if you're not going for OneHundredPercentCompletion.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII'':
** Chapters 12 and 13 can be pretty challenging if you didn't grind a lot in Chapter 11. You can't go back to the Ch. 11 area until right before the final boss, and there's no clear indication at the end of Ch. 11 that you should train.
** While they aren't required, some of the later Mission Stones represent ludicrous difficulty spikes, along with some of the enemies that wander Gran Pulse. It's quite possible to beat the game without ever bothering with the upgrade system, for instance. But if you get far enough along in the Missions? Yeah. Need upgraded EVERYTHING - which probably takes you as long or longer to do than beating the entire game, storyline-wise. Oh, and those wandering turtles.. GuideDangIt.
* Boss fights in ''VideoGame/TalesOfVesperia'' tend to be rather jarringly difficult in comparison to the average random battle, but especially during [[ThatOneBoss the fight with Gattuso]] some players chose to change the battle difficulty to "easy". This spike in boss difficulty takes place, oddly enough, about five hours into the game.
** Same with [[spoiler: Alexei]], but it tends to be amplified after traversing the DiscOneFinalDungeon and all gels and life bottles have been exhausted getting to the boss.
* ''VideoGame/{{PersonaQ}}'' starts off as you'd expect from a Creator/{{Atlus}} game: tough but fair. Then you get to the Evil Spirit Club, where the dungeon layout and puzzles are more elaborate, the enemies are [[DemonicSpiders horribly brutal]] (using tactics like casting debuffs that make your whole party weak to an element, then spamming full-party hitting spells of that element) and the [[BossInMookClothing F.O.Es]] either ''chase'' you and can join in battles if you let them go on for too long, or [[JumpScare jump you out of nowhere]]. (Previous F.O.Es were either stationary or followed preset patterns) The fact that the dungeon has a horror theme compared to the lighthearted previous dungeons seems an unsubtle LampshadeHanging of this.
* ''VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublic'' is a pretty easy game to get through, provided you have even a small idea of what you're doing. Then you hit the final area. All of the enemy numbers that had been missing through the rest of the game come to bite you in the arse. That nice, skilled, diplomatic character you played? Toast. You won't even make it to the final boss without spending all of your money on healing items and saving often, or lowering the difficulty level. The boss itself has the nasty ability to one-shot weaker characters, ignore your attacks, and recover himself multiple times.
** This section is even more annoying as a DarkSide character, when you are [[spoiler:stuck with a recently returned and recently nerfed NPC. You can't opt out of taking them in.]]
** For a combat-focused character it's fairly easy though. It's the ones that focused on other skills that get it in the shorts.
* ''VideoGame/{{Fallout Tactics|BrotherhoodOfSteel}}'' does this ''every time'' the story shifts focus. You start off with leather armor and conventional weapons, fighting raiders. When your squad moves on to battling the [[TheBeastMaster beastlords]], if you haven't learned the value of stealth in your tactics you will ''have to'' if you want to survive, let alone complete missions. Plus you encounter Deathclaws, which are suitably lethal. From then, you go on to super mutants, with the first major difficulty spike (though at least the game forewarns you), where no matter how clever your tactics are, if you don't find a good gun ''soon'' you will simply not have the punch to kill the mutants. After you defeat the mutant leader, you then seem to have hit a difficulty plateau, as your next mission involves the Reavers, technophiles who practically worship their creations...but that's a fake-out, as you now have to deal with ''robots'', which can shrug off attacks that would shred even the toughest super-mutants.
* ''VideoGame/ArcanumOfSteamworksAndMagickObscura'' seems rather tricky in and out of Shrouded Hills, lobs you enough easy experience in Tarant, only to send you to the Black Mountain Mines, which will surely kill you once or twice even if you know what to expect.
** The main problem is that a) Arcanum's combat system has its flaws, b) the Black Mountain Mines are a pure dungeon crawl against enemies that do damage to melee weapons if you attack with them (or do damage to ''you'', if you use your fists). Add to that significant portions of the game being cut-off until you finish the Black Mountain Mines...
* ''VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIIMorrowind'''s final boss (Dagoth Ur) is level 35. The bosses from the expansions (Almalexia and Hircine) are both ''level 100''...
** The Bloodmoon expansion is especially guilty of this, Hircine is not even the worst part, he was pretty easy compared to this: A player who can't be harmed (literally, using constant healing amulets or something similar) in all of Vvardenfell will have a challenging game on Solstheim, the Isle of the Bloodmoon EP. Still, it won't be too hard. That is, until you chose [[spoiler:to finish the main quest as a werewolf]]. Then you're stripped off all your items and magic spells and face >30 enemies who are about as strong as you and attack in packs of 2-4, everything without a chance to heal yourself. To make things worse, if you manage it, your reward will be less than it would be if you took the easy path.
** Also simply starting a new game with the expansions installed. Whenever you go to sleep, you have a chance of an assassin being near your bed when you wake. This assassin, meant for players who had already beaten the original game, will quickly kill you at low levels.
* ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'' games will normally have a huge level difference between the team of the final gym leader and the team of the first member of the Elite Four...and the ''champion'' of the Elite Four is in a whole different weight class.
** ''VideoGame/PokemonDiamondAndPearl[=/=]Platinum'' and ''VideoGame/PokemonRedAndBlue[=/=]Yellow/Green'' throw an extra curveball by having the champion have a Pokémon ''with no weaknesses''. [[note]]Spiritomb and Alakazam, respectively. Remember that the first generation had no Dark type, Ghost was bugged, and Bug was nearly useless, making pure Psychics like Alakazam effectively weakness-free.[[/note]]
** After the Elite 4, it only gets worse. There are usually various [[BonusBoss bonus battles]] scattered across the region, including rematches with upgraded Gym Leaders and the Elite 4, who now all have a new team of Pokémon from all across the world (instead of being limited to the region the game is set in), usually in their seventies. TheRival also gains a few extra levels. And then there's the [[HarderThanHard Battle Frontier]]...
** ''VideoGame/PokemonBlackAndWhite'' add a new spin: by the first time you reach the Elite 4, their levels will range from mid 40's to 54. Once you beat them and upcoming opponents you'll unlock the rest of Unova for exploration... where even the average trainers will have their pokémon above level 60. Grinding at the Elite 4 is out of question, because suddenly their weakest pokémon are above level 70.
*** To compensate for this, some of these Level 60+ Pokémon aren't fully evolved for whatever reason and give decent amounts of exp when beaten. However, this makes the trainers that ''are'' using final forms difficulty spikes in comparison to the ones that aren't.
** ''[[VideoGame/PokemonGoldAndSilver HeartGold and SoulSilver]]'' are particularly egregious. The highest-leveled Pokemon in the Elite Four is level 50. The Kanto gym leaders have Pokemon in the 40s and 50s. However, [[TrueFinalBoss Red's]] entire team has levels in the ''80s''.
*** Except inbetween battling the Elite Four and Kanto Gym leaders the first time and Red is the rematches with the E4 and the Gym leaders. The Gym leaders get up in the 60s range and the Champion Lance gets into the 70s.
*** Depending on how you look at, the original games are less or more crazy. Blue's best Pokémon are Arcanine, Gyarados and Exeggutor, at Lv. 58. What's Red ''weakest mon''? Lv. '''73''' Espeon, FIFTEEN levels higher. Five less than in remakes (Lv. 80 Lapras versus Lv. 60 Pidgeot) but when you think about... Gym Leaders and E4 don't get upgrade. The strongest trainer you can easily rematch is Lance, with [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard Lv. 50 Dragonite]]. That's lower than Blue's weakest Pokémon! With wild Pokémon, it goes up to Lv. 52 Parasect in Mount Silver. However, it is only Crystal. In Gold/Silver, it's Lv. 51 Golduck. And then find where they appear! In other words, prepare for LOT of grinding.
*** In [=GSC=], while the Elite 4 doesn't upgrade, there's also a ''slightly'' lesser spike between Blue and Red's levels. Fortunately, in the remakes, the Elite 4 ''does'' upgrade to help you level grind better. Of course, you'll need every bit of grinding you can get in preparation for Red.
* ''VideoGame/PokemonColosseum'' is also this way when you hit Realgam Tower. Everything up to the final boss is level 47 to 49 max. But then you hit Nascour, who's in the 50s,and then [[spoiler: Evice]] and all his team is 60 and 61. Prepare to go enter several Colosseum battles to get your team high enough to beat him.
* ''VideoGame/MegaManBattleNetwork''. An interesting case, as the series as a whole spikes difficulty distinctly at each installment. The ''entire first game'' is basically an extended tutorial sequence for the rest of the series. Sure, there are a couple places you can get trashed ([[ThatOneBoss Magicman says hi]]), but the game actually expects you to not be particularly adept at the quirky combat system just yet -- you don't notice at first because you're still adjusting to the mechanics, but there's a ''ton'' of leeway. [=MMBN2=] stops pulling punches when you get to [[WakeUpCallBoss Quickman]] and is never forgiving enough to do so again. By 3, there ''is'' no WarmupBoss -- the first one is downright vicious. 4-6 are just plain [[NintendoHard ornery]].
** Then you go back and play the series in sequence again and realize the following. Tactics, reaction time, maneuvering, and mistakes that would let you S-rank an opponent in the first game would give you about an 8 at best in [=BN2=], 4-5 in [=BN3=], and would in all likelihood get you outright killed in the last three.
** Each game also has a massive difficulty spike upon entering the [[WretchedHive Undernet]]. Say goodbye to the slow, cutesy Mets, and get used to your deadliest virus no longer being a [[KillerRabbit Bunny]]. Say ''hello'' to meteor-raining mages, Spikies that move faster than any Bunny you've seen so far, arena shenanigans, and absolutely brutal enemy combinations that will happily murder you and eat your source code. Granted, it's not too hard to adjust to, but the sheer spike in difficulty more than makes up for it.
* ''Franchise/KingdomHearts'':
** Enemies get much stronger after completing Hollow Bastion in ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsI''. The game itself even tells you that they have.
** In the final level of VideoGame/KingdomHeartsChainofMemories, be prepared for all of the previously easy enemies such as Darkball and Shadows to be upgraded to ridiculous levels, with them using 0 cards strategically, 8's out the ass, and generally being royal dicks. You literally have to have a deck of nothing but 9's in order to win.
*** Note, however, than 100% of the 0 Card Breaks come from ''fucking Neoshadows.''
* In ''VideoGame/{{Avernum}} 4'', the difficulty curve is very gentle -- until you hit the Eastern Gallery, at which point it shoots sharply upward, before settling back down to a more moderate climb for the rest of the game. Wall, thy name is Chitrach.
* ''VideoGame/MSSagaANewDawn'' has a high spike after you lose one of the main healer, Aeon, and the choice of worthwhile mobile suits are limited to the five Gundams from ''Anime/MobileSuitGundamWing'' series and the [[Anime/MobileFighterGGundam Burning Gundam]], all which require you to go fight loads of [[ThatOneBoss That One Bosses]] with only two healer at max and a few melee tankers, one with very outdated unchangable suit to boot.
* ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'' on Insanity is manageable during the first recruitment missions. Definitely very challenging, but if you've practiced, they're reasonable. Then...you get to Horizon and fight the Collectors. Anytime you fight the Collectors, it's like this.
** Just imagine it. First you've got the regular Collectors who have stronger weapons and shields than almost any other enemies in the game. Guardians and Assassins will beat you down. Then...[[DemonicSpider Harbinger shows up]] and '''[[MemeticMutation Assumes Direct Control]]'''. This guy will constantly spam fireball attacks and use a certain attack that will knock you out of cover allowing you to be hit by an immediate fireball and fire from the other Collectors. Then you've got the Scions who will constantly move forward with an attack that keeps your shields drained for about 30 seconds if it hits. Two shots from it, and you are dead. Finally, there are [[ThatOneBoss the Praetorians]]. You'll have to go through this hell a few times over the course of the game. But it is satisfying as hell to get through.
** Horizon is generally considered to be the hardest level to get through, simply because you're up against the full might of the Collectors, but your choice of weapons or squad members is limited. The [[spoiler:Collector Ship]] is easier, simply because you get advanced weapon training there and have something that can deal with those damn Scions.
* The ''VideoGame/{{Suikoden}}'' series of games follow a general pattern: The majority of the game is smooth and easy to handle, with random encounters increasing in difficulty but never becoming unmanageable, and relatively few bosses that are usually fairly simple, with maybe one or two of [[ThatOneBoss those kinds of bosses.]] Then the FinalBoss or series of bosses comes up, and they are a hitpoint-munching game-over ''machine.'' They tend to be about five or six times harder than the entire rest of the game.
** ''VideoGame/SuikodenIII'' plays with this pattern--there are several boss battles that are ''brutally'' difficult...but the catch is that [[HeadsIWinTailsYouLose the game proceeds on regardless of whether you win or lose]] and the required bosses are fairly manageable. The FinalBoss of Suiko3, though, holds to the aforementioned trend of being death-in-a-bucket.
* In ''VideoGame/DragonSlayer'', the fifth through eighth monsters have 5,000 HP, 7,500 HP, 10,000 HP and 20,000 HP. Then the ninth monster has 300,000 HP.
* ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVIII'''s BonusDungeon has a boss at the end of it, and you must go through it each time to defeat a new one. The Darksteel Dragon is much more difficult. He has far less HP than his predecessors, but his defense is so high that, barring critical-or-miss attacks, you won't hit him that often. Also, he gets triple attacks.
* Playing ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'', you'll wonder where its NintendoHard reputation comes from. . .until you get to the courtyard of Castle Redcliffe.
** Before that, there is a certain mandatory random encounter with a pack of wolves that is certain to get you killed multiple times if you don't know what you're doing.
* All of ''VideoGame/DarkSouls'' is hard, but Blighttown, with its maze-like layout, powerful, toxin-inducing foes, difficult to see toxin-inducing snipers, is where things really start getting tough. Another difficulty spike is [[ThatOneLevel Sen's Fortress]], which comes immediately after Blighttown. The area is a convention center for booby traps and considerably strong mooks than previously encountered.
* ''VideoGame/MonsterRacers'' has Eurasia. The first two areas, Oceania and Asia, are easy to the point of being silly, usually being cases of "hold right to win." There are a couple oddballs (such as the Breeder's Cup), but for the most part, they're easy to moderately difficult. Then Eurasia smacks you in the face with snowy terrain (one of the most difficult to race on), high-leveled enemies, and much more brutal AI. And it only gets harder from there.
* ''VideoGame/DigimonWorld3'':
** There's the West Sector difficulty spike where you go from kicking digimon ass to getting kicked in the ass by powerful digimon. And after the Amaterasu Server spike, ''[[UpToEleven Asuka's North Sector and Amaterasu's own West and North Sector just makes things even worse.]]''
** The second spike comes once you get to the Amaterasu server, but the game is infamous among those who played it in that wild digimon can vary wildly in power from just one screen to the other, with absolutely no indication that you have just stepped into an area that you really shouldn't be in at that particular point in time. If you go out exploring too far in the wrong direction you can easily run into a super powerful wild digimon that your team won't possibly be able to defeat (given that the game's encounter rate is fairly high it may be difficult to get out of an area like this without dying).
* Early on in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'', the monsters are pretty weak, and if you know who to use on what, will usually go down in one or two hits. Then comes Macalania Woods - the monsters are more durable, and they'll be using attacks that unless you've leveled properly (rotating every character in to every battle you participate in seems to be the most effective method) will be putting down everybody but your tanks.
* The first several hours of ''VideoGame/{{Xenogears}}'' are pretty easy; a couple of the Gear bosses might cause some trouble, but nothing some basic strategizing won't fix. Then you enter the Nortune Sewers. All of the enemies hit hard, many cause status ailments (practically unheard of until this point), the area is a maze, and just initiating the boss is a puzzle that might result in the player wandering around for some time. Also, said boss is one of the [[ThatOneBoss most maligned]] in the game.
* In the Neopets browser game ''VideoGame/NeoQuest'' II, the game's difficulty fluctuates, but there is quite an increase about halfway through Act IV, first when you fight [[WolfpackBoss The Four]] [[ThatOneBoss Faeries]] and the optional [[GoddamnedBoss Hubrid Nox]]. Then the monsters in the Nox Mountains and the Goo Bog have stronger team synergy than seen before, with powerful spellcasters that aim for your mage and living slimes that slow your team and haste themselves. The spike ends right when you fight [[AntiClimaxBoss The Esophagor]], and doesn't come back until the end of Act V.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Robopon}}'', around the fifth or fourth-ranked competitor of both games, things get hard fast.
** The problem with Robopon 2 lies on the game mechanics. First of all, each robot gains fixed stat bonuses when they level up, when you [[EvolutionPowerUp upgrade]] your robot, the level is halved and the stats get down, it may sound bad but when you re-train the robot, it gets new skills and better stats so it helps in the long run (the sooner you evolve the better but you may lose some skills). The problem is, that only applies to YOU, the player, [[TheAIIsACheatingBastard none of you enemies get their stats down or lose skills, they get the stats equivalent to the form they are now]]. That's why the BOOT robots (they can't equip weapons but have better stats and unique skills) are useless to the player and so broken for the enemies, in fact, if you train your own robot to the last evolution and analyze the same robot as the enemy, you can see he has better stats (most of the time)! The huge spike comes when you're almost getting the fifth rank, when you visit the windmills on first time, they have weak enemies, but when you return there, most the random enemies evolve and THEN you feel the difference! For example, the weak Sumito robot becomes Yokomo (3 times stronger, but if you make one it's terrible), a robot with massive stats, regeneration and Revive+ skill that can make a single random battle take long minutes. You went from "Kill everything in one hit!" to [[NintendoHard "This random encounter is too damn hard!"]] in less than 30 minutes, from there on, the enemies are usually evolved and since they have better stats than your robots, your only chance to survive is to overlevel them and/or abuse equipment/skills.
* ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou'' gets harder with each week in the story. On-field enemies get stronger and the boss fights become a lot more challenging, with some requiring you to ''really'' think in order to figure out their weakness. The fact that you have to adjust to controlling Neku's new partner in each week only adds to it. The game's control scheme involves using Neku and his partner simultaneously in battle (Neku on the bottom screen, his partner on the top). There's an AI that controls the top-screen character if you don't but it's not that good, which means you'll have to get the hang of it fast and you definitely need too, since you share the same health bar and some of the later boss fights involve fighting a boss on ''each screen''.
* ''VideoGame/{{Undertale}}'':
** The game is pretty decent with its difficulty for boss encounters and they ramp up at a considerable pace. Each boss has a gimmick to exploit in the game's bullet hell styled mini-game you play whenever the enemy attacks. [[spoiler: Omega/Photoshop Flowey puts the "hell" in bullet hell with little to no time to react to his attacks as they cover nearly the entire screen. The battles after him if you are on the true pacifist route are much easier.]]
** The Genocide/No Mercy route has a major difficulty spike. The random encounters are always easy, and you essentially skip the boss battles for the first half of the game -- and then you reach [[spoiler:Undyne the Undying]], who abruptly requires some serious reaction time to beat, even more so than all the bosses in the normal/pacifist routes.
* Once you manage to get the hang of ''VideoGame/{{Bloodborne}}'', the beginning areas aren't really so tough ([[ThatOneBoss Gascoigne]] aside). After you defeat Vicar Amelia and unlock the Forbidden Woods, however, all bets are off. Dark environments, twisty path ways, plenty of traps and dozens of villager enemies. And that's just the first half. After the windmill, you meet the Snake Heads, who can attack you during your attacks, have cartoonish health for that stage in the game and are everywhere. At the bottom, two pigs (Who can basically one-shot you with their charge attacks) a mess of corpse walkers and the boss, the Shadow of Yharnum. Hell, on the way to the woods, you find your first Brain Sucker. Everything after that point is almost as difficult, more in line with a standard ''Souls'' game.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Shoot Em Up ]]
* Old-time gamers would reference the arcade game ''VideoGame/{{Sinistar}}''. If you were on the ball, the first level was a snap. The second was absolutely brutal, and it just got worse.
* In ''VideoGame/BloonsSuperMonkey'', the game get so much harder after the first MOAB in the first game. It gets worse in the sequel, as the first MOAB is '''stage five!!'''
* The first three and a half stages of ''[[VideoGame/DonPachi DoDonPachi]]'' are designed to break you in. The rest of the game is designed to break you.
** And then there's the second loop. And ''then'' there's Hibachi, who makes ''the entire rest of the game look like cheesecake''.
** True to its predecessor, ''[=DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu=]''[='s=] first 4 stages are pretty easy. Then comes stage 5, which is significantly harder. If you make it into the second loop, stage 2-1 makes stage 5 look like cake, and it only gets harder from there. And of course there's Hibachi.
** Continuing the trend, ''[=DoDonPachi Saidaioujou=]''[='s=] 4th stage is as hard as the first 3 stages combined, stage 5 is twice as hard as stage 4, and Hibachi is as hard as ever. This might be because unlike past games in the series, ''SDOJ'' has no second loop. Except this time there's a second TrueFinalBoss, Inbachi, who makes even Hibachi look like a piece of cake.
* Many fans of the ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'' series would actually feel weird with a game that ''didn't'' include at least one difficulty spike. It's very traditional that the game gets into its real difficulty level only around level 4 or so, being [[NintendoHard comparatively]] easy before. Some particular games do it one level before, some it one after, but the fact that there ''will'' be a difficulty spike is unavoidable.
** Also, the gap between Hard and Lunatic tends to be much bigger than between Easy and Normal and between Normal and Hard.
** The most pronounced spike is in normal mode of ''Ten Desires''... it's the FinalBoss. Within the same game, the overdrive version of a spellcard is often vastly worse than any of the other versions, including lunatic.
** The 15th Touhou game, ''Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom'', really mocks players. The otherwise often ridiculed Easy Mode is kinda alright, but playing Normal and above gets absolutely merciless. People who can reasonably play Normal mode in other Touhou games will find this entry in the series absolutely impossible.
* The first stage of Creator/{{Toaplan}}'s ''Flying Shark''[=/=]''Sky Shark'' is only moderately hard, but the "moderately" part goes away after that. Doesn't help that it has FakeDifficulty by way of [[ContinuingIsPainful Gradius syndrome]].
* ''VideoGame/BlazingStar'' turns nasty when you're up to the boss of stage 3, which attempts to overwhelm you by boxing you into a very small space with its attacks, then sprays bullets maniacally in its last form. Stage 4 has enemies that appear so quickly the game has to warn you where they're coming from, and a boss that throws destructible bullets which end up blocking your shots, while frequently trying to ram you. Stage 5 has wall-mounted turrets that fire bullets in every direction at once, and a boss that does the same for one of its attacks but in a denser spread. Stage 6? Your ship's hitbox will start being a trouble.
* In ''VideoGame/BeatHazard'' you can consider yourself screwed when the music gets quiet.
* All of the ''VideoGame/{{Raiden}}'' games do this around Stage 3, but ''Raiden IV'' takes the cake, increasing its bullet density to near ''[[VideoGame/DonPachi Dodonpachi]]'' levels. Not to mention the second loop and TrueFinalBoss. ''Raiden II'' has an especially large spike in the second and third levels on the higher two difficulty settings. Sniper tanks, sniper tanks, everywhere.
* The first 16 tutorial levels for ''[[VideoGame/BangaiO Bangai-O Spirits]]'' teach you the mechanics of the game. The 17th (last) is an [[NintendoHard average difficulty]] level. On a scale of 1 to 100, the first 16 are all 5s or below, and the last is a 40. This is mitigated a bit since one of the demos shows a way to beat this one with the loadout given.
* ''VideoGame/{{Rez}}'''s third area takes a nasty leap in difficulty. Then there's the boss, which is much harder than the first two.
* While ''VideoGame/{{Hellsinker}}'' is rather easy by BulletHell standards it still packs a vicios spike in difficulity starting with [[WakeupCallBoss Rusted Dragon]].
* ''VideoGame/MushihimeSama Futari''[='s=] Original Mode has a massive one shortly after the stage 3 midboss. The section of stage 3 between the midboss and the boss is harder than the first two stages combined, and so is the stage 3 boss.
* ''VideoGame/HeavyWeapon'' After the rather manageable Dictastroika (with a rather easy boss, War Wrecker), you go into Zamblamia where you fight blimps with tons of health and [[ActionBomb explode]] into a shower of hard-to-avoid, indestructible purple balls, and a durable helicopter enemy that spams homing missiles. The boss at the end "Kommie Kong" is also a WakeUpCallBoss to those playing the PC version.
** The next level Tankylvania tops that even further by introducing the [[GoddamnedBats Reflex Fighters]] which have DeflectorShields that deflect your regular shots as purple balls, and the [[DemonicSpiders Havanski Atomic Bomber]] which drops nukes that take a long time to destroy and ''[[OneHitKill instantly kill you regardless of shielding]] if they hit the ground''. Like Kommie Kong, the boss also has a OneHitKill move.
** Lastly, there's Killingrad, which contains a lot of the previous levels' mooks. There are no Atomic Bombers but there ''are'' two new DemonicSpiders for you to play with: The [[KillSat Romanov Attack Satellite]] and the [[AdvancingBossOfDoom Shovak Bulldozer]], both of which can instantly kill you.
* ''VideoGame/{{Ikaruga}}'''s difficulty follows a modest curve through the first two chapters, then shoots up exponentially starting with the third.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Simulation Game ]]
* ''VideoGame/BlackAndWhite 2'''s levels are pretty easy with the AI throwing a couple of battalions of troops at your villages every so often, easy to defend against provided you have wall, a troop of warriors yourself and if that fails you can send out your creature to fight while you causally build up resources. In the last level you face full on assault by multiple cities at the start, you've got restricted resources and then your whole village is destroyed by a volcano and while rebuilding you'll be constantly attacked.
* ''VideoGame/SimCopter'', as bizarre as that sounds. Start up a custom map, and try to adjust the sliders that control the chance of a mission spawning. The result is not for the faint of heart.
* ''VideoGame/FreeSpace2'' to some extent - the first three missions are a warm-up, most of the rest of the game has a normal progression...
** ...then you are promoted [[spoiler:to Squadron Leader of the elite 70th Blue Lions]] and are immediately given a near-impossible escort mission - where much of the difficulty comes from your reinforcement wing being absolutely green, despite flying in supposedly elite-only fighters. The following two missions are definitely on the high-difficulty side as well, but the final mission is a bit of a cool-down.
* ''VideoGame/HarvestMoonFranticFarming'': Most of the characters' story modes are fairly straightforward. Most have a gradual increase in difficulty, and the boss battles with the Witch Princess are basically Survival Mode battles in disguise. And then there's Vaughn's final stage. You have to score 100,000 points in five minutes. You haven't been required to do more than 75,000 before (and won't be required to for any of the other characters). Vaughn's special skill (Instantly harvesting any big vegetables on the field) is totally at the mercy of the game board and your two AI partners are near useless. Beating Vaughn's last stage is practically a LuckBasedMission.
* The Battle of Yavin from the original ''VideoGame/XWing''. Most of the game has SchizophrenicDifficulty, even after the ''[[ThatOneLevel Redemption]]'' mission. The three missions comprising the assault on the Death Star ratchets up the difficulty ''significantly'' for the rest of the game. There are lesser difficulty spikes in the final missions of the two previous Tours of Duty, but these are nothing compared to the Battle of Yavin.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Sports Game ]]
* Going to the next division on the Soccer games, ''VideoGame/FIFASoccer'' and ''Pro Evolution Soccer''. Because your team will probaly go to the next division unprepared, you're going to have a hard time dealing against the opponents because they can be way better than you. This can bite hard if you go up to the 1st division, because that's where the powerhouse Clubs reside.
* ''VideoGame/PunchOut'''s final fight against [[FinalBoss Mike Tyson (Mr. Dream in later versions after Tyson's contract ran out)]] takes NintendoHard to ridiculous extremes. In fact, the World Circuit as a whole (save the opening [[HardModeFiller Piston Honda rematch]]) is a [[JustForPun sucker-punch in the face]] after the relatively manageable fights that came before. In addition to having to face [[ThatOneBoss Bald Bull]] ''again'', you get the nice little [[AccidentalPun one-two punch]] of Mr. Sandman and Super Macho Man. These two fighters, along with Soda Popinksi from earlier in the Circuit, make the rest of the game look much like how Tyson makes ''them'' look.
* ''[[VideoGame/PunchOut Punch Out Wii]]'' has Bear Hugger, who's ''much'' trickier than his predecessors (every fighter before him had a method to knock them down with one hit; the only way to do so with Bear-Hugger is with a three-star punch). He also marks where Title Defense gets painful.
* ''[[VideoGame/PunchOut Super Punch-Out]]'' has Dragon Chan. While the first five fighters you encounter range from being pretty straightforward (Bob Charlie) to an absolute joke (Gabby Jay), Dragon Chan is the wake-up boss. He's faster than the other fighters. He has ''three'' different special moves (one of which is a kick to the face, even though [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard this supposedly isn't kickboxing]]). And his recovery time is quite a bit lower than the previous five fighters.
* In ''[[VideoGame/MarioTennis Mario Power Tennis]]'', the tournaments aren't too bad; even a moderately skilled player can get through them without much difficulty. Then comes the Planet Cup, the final cup of the Star Tournaments, specifically the Doubles version. The difficulty bumps up substantially between the Moonlight Cup and the Planet Cup, almost to a shocking degree. If one's skills aren't up to par, the Planet Cup will almost certainly push the player to the limit.
* In ''All-Pro Football 2K8'', the Los Angeles Legends are a MyRulesAreNotYourRules stacked team which had far more elite players than you were allowed. They were all but guaranteed to make the playoffs, so unless you got lucky and someone else took them out, you would wind up facing them at some point in your quest for the title.
* A massive chunk of the browser game ''VideoGame/WinnieThePoohsHomeRunDerby's'' notoriety and SurpriseDifficulty comes from its brutal difficulty spikes. Eeyore through Piglet aren't difficult once one gets the controls down, and while Kanga and Rabbit will catch unsuspecting players off guard they are manageable with practice. Then come Owl and Tigger, whose gimmicks (zigzagging and ''invisible'' pitches respectively) will have a player tearing their hair out in frustration. And lurking beyond them is Christopher Robin himself, who can throw any pitch in the game at incredible speeds, and the home run quota needed to beat him gives one absolutely no margin for error.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Stealth Based Game ]]
* The original ''VideoGame/ThiefTheDarkProject'' suffers a huge difficulty spike going from Mission 4, 'Assassins' to Mission 5, 'The Sword'. The ''Gold'' version adds a new mission, 'The Downwind Thieves' Guild', between the two specifically to smooth the bump a little.
* The original ''VideoGame/{{Tenchu}}'' has [[SchizophrenicDifficulty a bit of an erratic difficulty curve]]: the first 3 stages are the learning steps, with the third being a bit more challenging but still manageable. Stages 4 and 5 (which, coincidentally, [[RegionalBonus weren't part of the original japanese release]]) are longer, more complex and {{mook}}-filled than before. Stages 6 and 7 are quite more toned down (specially the Manji temple, where the player can cut to the chase and go directly to the boss). And then comes Stage 8, set on a [[DeathMountain mountain top]] where there's a lack of hiding spots and an overabundance of {{Bottomless Pit}}s, plus archer {{mook}}s who can snipe at you from the other end of the chasm. The last two stages are ''slightly'' easier by virtue of lacking any BottomlessPit (though the last one is ''three times'' as large as any previous one).
** The second game isn't as bad, as long as you're not going for the [[RankInflation Grandmaster ranking]] since, unlike every other game in the series, the requirements for the rank change from level to level. So, some levels let you a bit of leeway in terms of Stealth Kills/being seen, while others force you to ''Stealth Kill every {{mook}} in the entire stage'' while ''not being seen''. Even still, Ayame's Story Mode is a more straight example, throwing in a "Not Be Seen or GameOver" requirement in ''Stage 3'', and the tricky Stage 8 and its respective [[ThatOneBoss boss]], [[PantheraAwesome Kotaro the Tiger]], which if it gets you on your back, can [[CurbStompBattle end the battle unscathed]].
* ''VideoGame/SplinterCell'' has Burma. Enemy troops now [[MoreDakka fire in full auto]], [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard and their guns have ZERO shot dispersion]]. If direct confrontation was problematic before (but could be countered by spamming medkits), it's downright suicidal from here on out.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Survival Horror ]]
* ''VideoGame/DeadSpace'' is a fair challenge save for the (turret mini-game) in chapter four. It is mandatory that this part is completed to advance in the game. The reason this portion is so difficult is that the margin for error is strikingly slim compared with the rest of the game.
* ''VideoGame/FatalFrame'' is fairly manageable during the 1st Night. However, the 2nd night increases the difficulty dramatically. There are more ghosts and they are far more powerful and harder to target. The Blind Woman in particular is prevalent throughout this night and has a tendency to teleport around the room before rushing the player.
* ''VideoGame/FiveNightsAtFreddys'' progressively gets worse as the week goes on, but on Night 5, [[spoiler:all the animatronics' prior patterns are reversed. DamnYouMuscleMemory, indeed! It's also commonly believed that the AI adapts to your playing style]].
* ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil'', both the original and the remake, get a nasty difficulty spike when you've beaten the guardhouse and get back to the mansion. Cue ShakyPOVCam charging through the courtyard and down the balcony ''you just used to enter the mansion'' and your first battle with a [[DemonicSpider Hunter]]. You'd better pray you didn't burn through all the ammo and health caches in the mansion either, since this guy isn't a BossInMookClothing: the mansion is ''crawling with them now''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Third Person Shooter ]]
* Playing ''VideoGame/MaxPayne'' on the level "New York Minute" is like shooting yourself in the head. You get a minute per section, and you can only get about 4 seconds per kill.
* While ''VideoGame/{{Oni}}'' isn't exactly an easy game, the difficulty of level 11 comes out of nowhere with three tough bosses in a row, broken up by fights against some of the toughest {{mooks}} in the game, along with very meager supplies; most of which is gotten off the bodies of your enemies, then the game goes back to the normal overall difficulty curve for the rest of the game.
** The absurdly difficult final section of level 3 tops that easily. Good lord, the death count nearly reached the triple digits. At least the next level went easy on the player after that onslaught. An honorable mention goes to level 12. Dodging five sets of trip lasers (which are armed with near-fatal Mercury Bow rifles) at the start makes for some frustrating gameplay. It's not quite as sadistic, but agonizing, nonetheless.
* ''VideoGame/{{Hatred}}'' has the Military Base, an ''[[ThatOneLevel enormous]]'' difficulty spike in an already-challenging game. Whereas previous maps started you out in an open environment with mostly civilians and gradually added law enforcement, the military base throws you into a gauntlet right from the beginning, with dozens of enemies and a Humvee with a turret in the very first area you run into. Being a military base, nearly every NPC is a soldier armed with an assault rifle or missile launcher, and all of them are heavily dug in. There is very little cover to use aside from the buildings filled with soldiers or sandbag fortifications that can be destroyed, rendering them useless. A very cautious playstyle is required to survive even on Easy difficulty.
* One of the most common criticisms of the otherwise [[NoProblemWithLicensedGames well-reviewed]] ''VideoGame/GhostbustersTheVideoGame''. The game is comfortable most of the time, only to catch the player off-guard with a section that will require several tries to overcome. The most infamous would be a part where the player is expected to throw flying stone gargoyles into a gate. The combination of the inherent difficulty of this task, the (numerous) gargoyles being very quick and will often one-shot you from off-screen, and the ArtificialStupidity of your fellow Ghostbusters led to more controllers being thrown through TV's than gargoyles through gates.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Turn Based Strategy ]]
* ''Chessmater 3000'' added a feature to make it easier for less experienced players - a slider that controlled the percentage of moves it considers. Because of how AI systems work, this led to a difficulty spike where some players can always defeat it at 99% difficulty but always lose at 100%. ''Chessmaster 4000'' corrected this by using move strength rather than hiding random moves from the AI.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTactics'' somewhat bizarrely has its difficulty spike midway through the game. The Riovannes castle is absolute murder, first with an Annoying DuelBoss (Weigraf) then ThatOneBoss (Velius) then finishing with the EscortMission From Hell (lemming-Rafa). Nothing that comes after that point is anywhere near as brutal as Riovannes.
** ''FFT'' has secondary {{Difficulty Spike}}s in Limberry and the final sequence of battles, but since by that time you probably have a bunch of {{Game Breaker}}s (including Thunder God Cid, who gets handed to you automatically) it's pretty hard to tell it's there unless you're [[SelfImposedChallenge deliberately handicapping yourself]].
** If your levels are low, the Golgorand Execution Site ''will'' force you to gain some more. The time mages, archers, knights (dark and otherwise) are a well-oiled player-killing machine.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTacticsA2'' has this for its BonusDungeon. The dungeon is made up of several floors followed by the top floor, so you'll have several rounds of fighting. Most of the enemy levels range from 45-55, but when you hit the top, the enemy levels suddenly SHOOT UP to level 90-99! Unless you had spent tons of time level grinding, most players will be totally caught off guard. Just to insult you further, the enemies on the towers' top floors will be able to take extra turns and cast Haste on themselves. Of note is that all enemies in said dungeon get a turn at the start of the battle - no matter anyone's speed stat - so you can't just grind and kill them before they have at least a single turn. Or, far more likely, 5-6 turns, as that first turn is almost always spent casting [[ThatOneMove Light Curtain]], which hastes the already ludicrously-fast enemy party.
* The last two maps of ''VideoGame/{{Disgaea|HourOfDarkness}}'' are simply murderous. The penultimate battle pits you against a major villain who isn't terribly tough himself, but is protected by a whopping eighteen guards[[note]]Note the game engine will only allow something like 24 entities on the map at once, so your usual unit cap is artificially lowered until you manage to kill some of them off.[[/note]]. Nearly two-to-one odds against your party, and comparably levelled too. Then the final boss inverts this problem- his guards are fewer and not as tough, but the boss himself is so ridiculously overpowered that all but your most powerful characters can't even scratch him. Even with a few of those characters on your side, it's a hit-and-miss fight because he'll occasionally use a standard attack to kick off a Counter war. All those times you laughed at enemies who you dealt the deathblow to with a Counter-Counter? Feel their pain, dirtbag.
** ''Disgaea'' in general is a little tough between the late game story, up to where you can complete the Cave of Ordeals, and then later after you've defeated Priere and Marjoly. The real reason is because by about chapter 11 in the story, enemy levels start spiking and you need to start level grinding to survive, whereas before you could usually stay competitive just by leveling normally. From there on you need to deliberately stop and level grind, but until you can mid-way through the Cave of Ordeals it's difficult to do that. Then, once it's time to take on Baal, the previous level grinding areas just aren't giving you effective returns anymore.
** All of the ''Disgaea'' games have a similar difficulty curve; the levels raise by around ten in the first six chapters, then start shooting up by five or so levels per map in the last seven or so; although this is only preparation for the [[BonusDungeon post-game]] [[LevelGrinding content]], which goes to absurd [[SerialEscalation lengths]] to [[TurnedUpToEleven top itself]].
* ''VideoGame/AdvanceWars'':
** Only 3 missions into the first game you're hit across the face with ''Air Ace''. Not only does the enemy get a factory to manufacture units while you ''don't'', not only are you grossly outnumbered by air units with little means of defense, but the enemy [=CO=] is Eagle. The already deadly overpowered air units gain a 20% power boost and fuel bonus under his command, and his [=CO Power=] lets him strike twice in one turn. Good luck.
** Provided ''Air Ace'' left you standing in one piece, you'll run into ''Blizzard Battle'' a few missions later if you chose the Max route. The goal is to capture 10 properties, which is easier said than done. Your opponent has you outnumbered 13 to 7, and already has 6 properties to your 3. Worse still is his [=CO Power=], which not only weakens you but also ''reduces your movement range'' while he gleefully moves unhindered.
** The third mission of ''Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising'', though not impossibly hard, is a cruel spike in difficulty compared to the earlier missions. Your opponent is [[PerkyGoth Lash]], the best commander in the entire game next to [[BigBad Sturm]] himself, and your using Sami the ''weakest'' of the three Orange Star commanders. Not only does the enemy get a factory to deploy new units while you don't, but you also only have seven turns to win the battle. There's ''very'' little room for error; even playing the level flawlessly still typically ends on turn 6 or 7.
** Mission 10 in ''Days of Ruin'' is both harder than anything before it and harder than a lot of missions ''after'' it. It's the first time your enemy has both production facilities and the money to take good advantage of them, and he additionally has a strong offensive force around his base. The enemy also tends to dig in rather than charge (which is odd given the enemy CO for the mission is the Beast, who usually did the exact opposite previously), meaning you have to roust him out, which is going to cost you some units.
* The original ''VideoGame/PanzerGeneral'' has a nasty spike on the third mission--the invasion of Norway--but only if you have received major victories on both of the first two missions. Your "rewards" for doing so well on the first two missions: your first naval battle, which is easily lost yet critical to the mission; your first real air battle; the first time the weather turns against you, introducing low visibility, uncrossable rivers, and making your air forces useless; and a nasty journey through rough terrain between the final two target cities, meaning even if you make it that far you are likely to run out of time traveling through the wilderness.
* ''VideoGame/XCOMEnemyUnknown'' has a large spike in form of the first Terror mission. First, as opposed to usual search-and-destroy missions, you have to take care of civilians in the area before aliens kill them all. Secondly, this will usually be the first mission where you encounter local DemonicSpiders, Chryssalids, which can OneHitKill both civilians and your troops and turn them into zombies - and if you don't kill them fast enough, they'll spawn even more Chryssalids. And finally, losing previous missions meant had significant, but manageable consequences - however, failing a Terror mission causes affected country to instantly withdraw from [=XCOM=] project, permanently reducing your funding and putting you one step closer to GameOver.
* ''VideoGame/StellaGlow'' has a spike towards the end of Chapter 10 where the game begins to throw bosses that are immune to ailments, and thus cannot be stopped with crippling ailments like Stop or Paralysis. Prior to this, one could get by through keeping roughly in-line with the recommended levels and by abusing Rusty Key or Ice World, but the sheer strength of the end bosses might force one to stop to level grind.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Vehicular Combat ]]
* ''VideoGame/TwistedMetal 2'' had a very strange difficulty curve. The eight levels went something like this: very easy > hard > very easy > average > very easy > hard > OMFG COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE > average. The difficulty of a level was inversely proportional to the amount of cover you could find, with the easy levels having places where the AI wouldn't even go. The second level was fairly easy, but only if you managed to pick up the full health before either an opponent grabbed it or the ramp leading to it got blown up taking all of the cover and the [[WeaponizedLandmark lightning generator]] with it, in which case it just got a lot harder. Then suddenly that seventh level Holland had ''nine'' opponents in a tiny square field with no cover other than two windmills that explode after ten seconds of enemy fire. Good luck.
* ''VideoGame/TwistedMetal 3'' has two notable spikes up: the first in the ''second'' stage, which is Holland ''minus hiding spots'' and a [[WakeUpCallBoss not so easy]] MiniBoss. All following stages are more or less not that hard afterwards, and then one reaches the 7th stage, Egypt. It's also sorta like Holland, except the hiding spots don't break down and the general terrain has ''thousands of bumps'', making handling and avoiding enemy fire ''very'' tricky. The final stage wouldn't probably be as hard if it wasn't for the 5 panels the player must destroy so the enemies stop respawning after death.
* ''VideoGame/TwistedMetal ([=PS3=])'' carries on the tradition with several very uneven spikes, most notably the [[ScrappyMechanic death race levels]] and [[ThatOneBoss boss fights]].

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Wide Open Sandbox]]
* ''VideoGame/SaintsRow2'' difficulty rises pretty evenly, as long you're following all story threads at about the same rate, collecting sidequest rewards as you go. The game likely expects the rest of the game to be completed before starting the Epilogue chapter...and it's highly recommended, as the difficulty leaps in each mission are tough to scale even for completionists.
* ''VideoGame/{{Minecraft}}'': Welcome to the Nether! Or, as it was called in development, "Hell".
[[/folder]]

!!Non-video game examples:

[[folder: Live-Action TV]]
* The first few legs of ''Series/TheAmazingRace'' are typically very straightforward, but generally around leg 3 or 4 (though this is not a concrete rule, as some seasons never have a Difficulty Spike, while Season 10 had its spike in the first leg) the handholding stops and the difficulty ramps up. This leads to some teams being a part of the lead pack for the first few legs, but ultimately dropping off and finishing in the middle of the pack. The most obvious example would be from leg 3 of Season 6, the infamous hay bale Roadblock, considered by many to be the hardest task in race history (it reduced one racer to tears).
* The last two seasons of ''Series/AmericasNextTopModel'' have added a challenge where the contestants must participate in a music video. ''A music video''. Where they have to '''''sing'''''. Yes, that's right, the chance of being a successful Top Model lies in the hands of whether or not you can do something ''completely irrelevant to your profession and entirely separate from what you have practiced your'' '''''entire fucking life'''''. Needless to say, the two models it killed off also happened to be considered the ones most adept at, you know, '''''modeling'''''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Pinball]]
* Many players feel this occurs once you make it to the vertical playfield in ''Pinball/BanzaiRun''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Other]]
* The people in charge of the Scripps National SpellingBee used to call Round Three "the Lawnmower Round". On at least one occasion, it took out two-thirds of the competitors. The word-selection committee eventually readjusted their entire method of ranking words simply to get around that.
* For the grand finale of LetsPlay/TwitchPlaysPokemonCrystal, which is the climbing of Mt. Silver and [[TrueFinalBoss the final battle with]] [[TwitchPlaysPokemonRed Red]], the game was put on a time limit of 7 days, and '''Democracy has been permanently disabled'''. For those not familiar with Twitch Plays Pokemon, there are two methods of control: Anarchy, where the character does ''anything'' the chat says, and Democracy, where the chat is "skimmed" every five seconds, with the most popular choice the one being used; the chat can switch between them by a majority vote for one or the other. With Democracy disabled, the game is at the mercy of the crowd, and the chat is not exactly well-known for agreeing with itself.
* Reportedly, the 2015 Edexcel GCSE (Standardised exams everyone who finishes secondary school in the UK takes) in Maths was this, compared to previous papers. So much so that it managed to get to the number one hashtag on twitter in the UK, and outlets such as Buzzfeed, Huffpost and even ITV and the BBC reported on it.
[[/folder]]
----
5th Jun '16 1:23:43 PM eroock
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[[caption-width-right:275:[-[[FourIsDeath Stage 4]]: Putting the "Hell" in BulletHell.-] ]]

to:

[[caption-width-right:275:[-[[FourIsDeath Stage 4]]: Putting the "Hell" in BulletHell.-] BulletHell-] ]]



-->-- '''SomecallmeJohnny''' describing the DifficultySpike of ''VideoGame/CaveStory''.

to:

-->-- '''SomecallmeJohnny''' describing the DifficultySpike of ''VideoGame/CaveStory''.
''VideoGame/CaveStory''
5th Jun '16 1:21:27 PM eroock
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->''I'd like to think of it as taking a comfortable hike through a park, or something fairly smooth. Imagine the process of getting the best ending to be like a '''sudden 5,000-foot mountain''' to unexpectedly appear at the end of your hike, with your house nested at the very top of it.''
-->-- SomecallmeJohnny describing the DifficultySpike of ''VideoGame/CaveStory''.

to:

->''I'd ->''"I'd like to think of it as taking a comfortable hike through a park, or something fairly smooth. Imagine the process of getting the best ending to be like a '''sudden 5,000-foot mountain''' to unexpectedly appear at the end of your hike, with your house nested at the very top of it.''
"''
-->-- SomecallmeJohnny '''SomecallmeJohnny''' describing the DifficultySpike of ''VideoGame/CaveStory''.



* In ''VideoGame/DiddyKongRacing'', once you got to the first boss, [[WakeUpCallBoss Tricky the Triceratops]], you learned how tough the races in this game could be. The second boss, [[BreatherBoss Bluey the Walrus]], is a nice break, but the third boss, [[ThatOneBoss Bubbler The Octopus]], is an absolute nightmare, especially the second time around, and the fourth boss, [[GoddamnedBoss Smokey the Dragon]], practically ''forces'' you to memorize the course and the placement of his fireball attacks to win the race.
** Also, expect the [[HardModeFiller Silver Coin Challenge]] for any given race to be much harder than the original race. Having three laps to get eight coins at various (often hard to reach) points on the track and still having to place first is harder than it sounds.
* Once you reach the last part in most ''VideoGame/NeedForSpeed'' games after ''[[VideoGame/NeedForSpeedUnderground Underground]]'', it's not uncommon to see people switching the difficulty from Hard (or Normal) to Easy. Be very careful in ''[[VideoGame/NeedForSpeedMostWanted Most Wanted]]'' 2005 once you reach the Downtown Rockport borough. Also, the difficulty spike of Police Chase Heat 3 to Heat 4 is ''massive.'' The cops are way more reckless, roadblocks now have spike strips (which is an instant bust in this game) on then, and a helicopter is chasing you, meaning that if you want to get out of the cops' sight, you need to hide somewhere indoors. Oh, and there's Heat 5, which is the exact same thing as Heat 4, but even worse; you're getting chased by a total of 25 Corvettes and Sergeant Cross.
* While you can beat most of ''VideoGame/{{Driver}}'' by avoiding being noticed by the cops by driving legally while in their zone, in the last level, the cops are actively trying to demolish you from the beginning to the end. It sounds easier than it is; even while using an invincible cheat, it's easy to get a game over by having the car knocked upside down.
* The last level of ''VideoGame/MicroMachines''. The sports cars on the desktop stages are difficult anyway, but the final iteration, "Win This Race To Be Champion" is particularly fiendish, particularly when you realise they're the only vehicle you have to do four races with.
* ''VideoGame/{{Wipeout}} 2097/XL'' had easy (Vector), medium (Venom), hard (Rapier), and very hard (Phantom) tracks. The difference was the default ''speed class''. But during a championship, all tracks are raced at the fastest available speed class. Let's just say the tracks that are ''actually'' hard are the second (Sagarmatha), third (Valparaiso), and sixth (Odessa Keys) tracks out of eight; the easiest track in the whole game is track number five (Gare D'Europa). Once you get through the first half of the championship, you have the win in the pocket unless you hit the respawn trigger at [[SlippySlideyIceWorld Vostok Island]]'s [[ReentryScare bugged]] drop section, or worse, [[TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon Spilskinanke]]'s broken roads.
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Forza}} Forza Motorsport 3]]'' was criticized for its unbalanced difficulty settings, with the gap between Medium and Hard being too large. ''Forza Motorsport 4'' balanced this out by lowering the Hard difficulty somewhat and adding [[HarderThanHard Expert]] mode for the truly hardcore.
* In ''VideoGame/IggysReckinBalls'', World 7, [[ShiftingSandLand Sun Canyon]], feature the first stages in the game that require Flapping and Drop Swings, two complicated techniques that require good timing to use effectively and can set you back by a few seconds each time you execute it incorrectly.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Fighting Game]]
* In general terms, when a Difficulty Spike presents in this genre of games, it's often overlapping with SNKBoss.
* ''VideoGame/{{Tekken}}'''s AI bounces all over the place, from imbecile, hardly moving AI to ones that keep interrupting your combo with punches and love to juggle...The exact time of difficulty spike in the fifth game is the SubBoss. You have three easy fights and then the game hands you your head.
* ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBros'':
** The original ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBros'' has the AI ramped up a little on Fox, then the Kirby team, during the single-player mode.
** In ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBrosMelee'', it happens around the fourth opponent in Classic and All-Star Modes.
** The Subspace Emissary of ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBrosBrawl'' gets noticeably worse around the levels where you play as Marth, due to many of the nastier enemy types beginning to appear at that point. Most of the bosses tend to give players a lot more trouble than the levels before them, as well.
** Classic Mode on ''Brawl'' also has a Difficulty Spike in the Free-For-All right before Master Hand, the result of the AI deciding to GangUpOnTheHuman.
* M. Bison is the boss for every character in ''VideoGame/StreetFighterAlpha 3'' except himself, naturally. While the fights get progressively more difficult as the player gets nearer to him, Bison himself is pure torture, with super-fast cheap moves and a super-strong super move that eats up half of your total health if you don't block in time (and "only" 1/4th if you do). And if you fail, a NonstandardGameOver with no chances to continue will ensue.
* ''Fate/Unlimited Codes'' (''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'''s FightingGame spinoff), has a fairly normal difficulty progression during arcade mode... until you come to the final stage. On any difficulty above Easy, the CPU suddenly becomes nightmarishly competent (and gods help you if your character's last boss is [[ThatOneBoss Gilgamesh]]...). As one person on Gamefaqs put it, arcade mode is "less of a difficulty ramp than a difficulty teleporter".
* Few have have matched the difficulty of the final boss of ''VideoGame/DeadOrAlive 4'', who could essentially counter at will any move you might care to toss in her direction while dishing out highly damaging, unreasonably fast, ''unblockable'' attacks from across the screen. Also, anyone unlucky enough to face Jann Lee in the regular story mode is in for an [[NoHoldsBarredBeatdown unbelievably nasty surprise]].
* ''VideoGame/TheKingOfFighters'' sure loves pulling this off. Did you have fun walking all over the CPU AI competition? Congratulations! Have A NintendoHard SNKBoss for your troubles!
** ''The King of Fighters '94'': You've beaten three teams. Have a cutscene. Now kiss your ass goodbye.
** ''The King of Fighters '96'': So you beat every other team in the game? Meet the Boss Team - [[VideoGame/FatalFury Geese Howard, Wolfgang Krauser]], and [[VideoGame/ArtOfFighting Mr. Big]]! You may collect your teeth at the door.
** ''The King of Fighters XI'': Three teams in, the SubBoss arrives. There are five, four of which require certain actions on your part to reach. (The fifth one is Adel Bernstein.) It doesn't matter which one shows up, you're in trouble. They fight alone, but their defense is three times normal, and their AI is much better than the usual.
* ''[[VideoGame/SoulSeries Soul Calibur III]]'''s Story Mode, ''Tales of Soul'', does this. For the most part, the AI raises gradually, then when you reach a certain point where, well if you had any difficulty at before then, it will take you about a have dozen attempts to get through ANY of the stages. This is part of why people say the superboss Night Terror is so hard, the computer handles him so well.
* ''VideoGame/DissidiaFinalFantasy'''s story modes do this somewhat. The first, the Destiny Odyssey set, has you fight low level opponents. The next, Shade Impulse, the enemies you fight are all at much higher levels, so you'll have to do some level grinding before going into it. Chaos, the final boss, is extremely cheap, and many new players give up on the game because of how tough he is. Next up, Distant Glory, has enemies take a jump in difficulty. The last, Inward Chaos, all of the opponents are maxed out: The enemies you face in Inward Chaos start at level 91 and end up at level 110! To make matters worse, they're all set to the highest AI competency level, which means they'll block, dodge, and counter all of your attacks. And every single one of them has very high stats and some of the best equipment in the game (only the [[InfinityPlusOneSword exclusive level 100 weapons]] are better), so unless you have comparable equipment, you won't hit hard enough, and you'll get devastated by a single combo.
* In ''VideoGame/BlazBlueCalamityTrigger'', you will probably... [[IncrediblyLamePun blaze]] your way through the first nine stages of Nu's Arcade Mode with ease. Then you reach the tenth stage, where you meet [[SNKBoss Unlimited Rachel]]. Have fun! And [[SNKBoss Unlimited Rachel]] will haunt you again when you try score attack mode as the ninth match. And there's another spike with Unlimited Nu and Unlimited Ragna! And then there's ''Continuum Shift,'' where the boss of arcade mode is Hazama, who is several notches above the AI you've been fighting to get to him, partly because of some [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard blatant reading of your controller inputs.]] Oh, and he's Unlimited, which means he siphons off your health and refills his own ''by being near you.''
* ''[[VideoGame/SonicTheFighters Sonic Championship]]'''s difficulty will rocket all the way to space once you face [[ThatOneBoss Metal Sonic]].
* ''[[VideoGame/GuiltyGear Guilty Gear XX]]'' Story Mode goes from "you can practically win these matches by accident" to "RAPE VIA VIDEO GAME PROGRAMMING" in record time. And in order to get all the endings, you have to 1) conclude matches via bizarre and/or very difficult stunts and 2) win [[NintendoHard nigh-impossible]] matches that you can't replay, [[GuideDangIt all of which the game doesn't tell you about]]. It's a good thing the game gives you the HundredPercentCompletion characters if you play it for long enough (which is a ''very'' long time, as in "there's a possibility of actually completing ''Guilty Gear XX'' story mode" long time).
[[/folder]]

[[folder: First Person Shooter ]]
* ''VideoGame/{{DOOM}} II'' officially gets serious with you on the "Dead Simple" level right after the first intermission. Prior to this point, you've been fighting mostly humanoid enemies and low-level {{mook}}s, with the occasional mid-grade monster. "Dead Simple" immediately throws you into a melee with newly introduced high-powered enemies and {{Giant Mook}}s in very close quarters.
* ''VideoGame/{{BioShock 2}}'': Siren Alley is known to fans as a Difficulty Spike, where all of the gun-using enemies now use shotguns, and the easier melee weapons no longer appear for the rest of the game.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Bioshock|1}}'', after the fairly simple Medical Pavilion, Neptune's Bounty represents a sudden shift in difficulty, marked in large part by the arrival of [[DemonicSpiders Spider]] Splicers. Your gear doesn't improve to match until partway through the area. Actually lampshaded the first time a Spider Splicer shows up:
--->'''Peach Wilkins''': What was that?... My boy, you are ''fucked!''
* In ''VideoGame/UnrealTournament'':
** The last fight against Xan is far harder than anything seen in previous battles. This is caused by that final opponent being a RubberBandAI, automatically adjusting itself to player skill. The same also applies to the ''2003'' and ''[[VideoGame/UnrealTournament2004 2004]]'' installments. Oddly enough, the end boss (Malcolm again) in ''2003'' was somewhat easier, given that the arena for that battle was small and had ample flanking opportunities.
** The Assault matches are ''significantly'' harder than the rest of the single-player ladder (save for a couple of the Capture The Flag matches), sometimes even ''exceeding'' the difficulty of the [[FinalBoss Xan fight]]. And if you do manage to win, expect to terminally come in last place as your teammate's laser-guided map savvy lands them the fastest routes, all the vehicles, all the objectives, and 98% of the kills.\\
\\
That said, the other modes get pretty insane pretty quick as well, one notorious example being the Bombing Run snow level, which, in addition to suddenly steroid-injected AI, involves particularly cruel level design that will take you and your team 2-3 times the time limit to reach the enemy goalpost and score—that is, if the "AI of Death" team doesn't get to yours first.
** Akasha in ''VideoGame/UnrealTournamentIII'' as well. Her rubberband code may actually exponentially break the normal limits of bot skill factors, leaving you with a bot rated [[UpToEleven 15 out of 10]] on "easy". Oh, and she favors the shock rifle, which caters equally to impossible AI aiming and impossible AI prediction skills.
* Xaero in ''VideoGame/QuakeIIIArena'' was head and shoulders above any other bot in the game. Not only does he have ImprobableAimingSkills, the arena you fight him in has a railgun right next to a respawn point. So if you did manage to kill him, he would return the favor immediately from across the map. And then kill you again and again until you managed to respawn in a spot that wasn't exposed.
* ''VideoGame/{{Descent}}'':
** The first game has a massive, permanent difficulty spike after the first seven "shareware" levels. Levels 6 and 7 depict homing-missile hulks and Class 1 Drillers as deadly DemonicSpiders that appear only now and then and are much stronger than normal enemies. Levels 11 and 12, four maps later, are ''almost entirely populated by them'' and they're not one iota easier to kill than they were at first. The difficulty spikes further around levels 18 and 19, with the even deadlier DemonicSpiders that are Class 2 Missile Platforms and Heavy Drillers greatly increasing in number.
** The second game's difficulty also ramps up significantly after the first eight levels, and again at level 21, which introduces several new DemonicSpiders to rival anything in the first ''Descent''. And the fourth boss's difficulty spike after the first three makes it ThatOneBoss.
* ''VideoGame/Left4Dead'' has this to some degree. The first level of every campaign never has any Witches or Tanks, but by the second level onward (depending on the director's mood), you could easily get stuck because a Tank keeps spawning in one area.
* ''VideoGame/Left4Dead2'':
** "Dark Carnival" has two gauntlet crescendo events (racing to turn off the the Screaming Oak's alarm in The Coaster, which involves running three quarters of the rollercoaster's tracks while being hassled by nonstop waves of Infected; and the sprint to the stadium safe room in The Barns, the map immediately afterwards, which is much the same except you have to HoldTheLine until the gates open first) that will make you tear your hair out. If you didn't bring a Bile Bomb or Chainsaw to make these event easier, you will have a hell of a time getting to the final objetives; also, there is a possibility that you will encounter a tank or a witch on the way[[note]]but at least in The Barns you can snipe it into action to get rid of it before triggering the hordes[[/note]]. The first two maps and the start of the third, up until the Screaming Oak, are relatively manageable.
** A more general example is the jump between Advanced and Expert difficulties. On Advanced, common infected hit for 5 points of damage from the front (compared to 2 on Normal and 1 on Easy). On Expert, common infected hit you for ''20 damage'' from the front, and besides that, they take half damage. Tanks can incapacitate with a single hit, and Witches will just [[OneHitKill flat-out kill you.]]
* In ''VideoGame/{{Halo 3}}'', many players find the "Cortana" mission to be [[ThatOneLevel the most difficult mission of the game]]. This may be partly because there are more enemies, fewer places to take cover when you get attacked by mobs of Flood (they almost always come in packs), and no [=NPCs=] to cover you. Beating it makes the next mission seem a lot easier by comparison. Also, "the library" in the first game. Hundreds of hard to kill, fast moving zombies, some of which explode when shot, and a limited supply of ammo.
* ''VideoGame/HaloReach'' has a large difficulty spike starting with the second mission. If you're playing Legendary, prepare to be wasted.
* ''VideoGame/Wolfenstein3D'' goes absolutely ''insane'' in the sixth episode, throwing one [[ClassicVideoGameScrewYous dick move]] after another and forcing you to navigate horrific mazes. Its [[MissionPackSequel Mission Pack Prequel]] ''Spear of Destiny'' does likewise at level 16. Whether level 16 or level 18 is the [[ThatOneLevel hardest map]] in the entire ''Wolfenstein'' series is debatable; level 16 has more difficult regular fights, but level 18 has ThatOneBoss, the Death Knight. Then the difficulty drops precipitously for the BonusLevelOfHell and the [[AnticlimaxBoss underwhelming]] final boss.
* ''[[VideoGame/ModernWarfare Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2]]'', the Favela missions. Impossible to tell where you're going, enemies that have numerous hiding places while you get little more than the occasional doorway, low ammo. Oh, and dogs. Yeah.
* ''VideoGame/ModernWarfare 1'': Charlie Don't Surf, especially on Veteran; after the first two missions that were a cakewalk, the insanity hits like a ton of bricks. Later on, there's the infamous [[ThatOneLevel One Shot, One Kill]], and it doesn't get any easier from there.
* ''VideoGame/MedalOfHonor: Allied Assault'' has a (mostly) permanent difficulty spike starting with Mission 3-3, The Nebelwerfer Hunt on the normal difficulty, then again at The Command Post (psychic guards setting off alarms that summon RespawningEnemies). On Hard, the spike starts with Cover Blown. Let's not talk about Sniper's Last Stand.
* In ''VideoGame/SoldierOfFortune: Payback'''s final mission, the enemies have a massive spike in the damage they deal, and can inflict {{one hit kill}}s [[SniperPistol with as little as a pistol]].
* ''Franchise/{{Metroid}}'':
** ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime'' has a fairly linearly increasing difficulty curve most of the time. That is, until you reach Phazon Mines. The next segment requires you to do half of the area, beating 2 minibosses, one of which is INVISIBLE, navigating morph ball puzzles, introducing you to new space pirate types and spamming them, and getting the Power Bombs, ''without saving''. After that, it feels like a relief it's over as it's not as bad after that.
** Dark Aether in ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime2Echoes'' early on throws you a nasty spike as well as you learn to deal with its atmosphere. After you get the Dark Suit, it's much less nerve-wracking.
** ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime3Corruption'' has it with the fiery zone of Bryyo, not only because of the Fuel Gel hazards and overall difficult navigation but also because of Rundas, a WakeUpCallBoss; it also holds the first moment when Samus's Hypermode ability shows its dangerous side.
* ''VideoGame/RedFaction'' gets a ''lot'' harder around the one-third mark and just keeps getting worse from there. Why? Because the enemies (and you) get better weapons, but you never get more HP, and even refills become harder to find.
* ''VideoGame/DeadSpace'', Chapter 4: Obliteration Imminent is fairly standard for what you've dealt with for the last three chapters until you're told you need to step outside the ship in the middle of what is essentially a meteor storm. The only hint you are given for this sequence is "take cover." Now, once you realize that there is a perceptible warning and you know what "cover" looks like, the sequence is less of a difficulty spike and seems more like FakeDifficulty for the uninformed. However, no amount of information will help you fend off the giant rocks in the next room. Once you've memorized what Isaac looks like getting killed in that room and move on, though, it's back to business as usual.
* Most of the ''VideoGame/RainbowSix'' series have this around the 1/3 or halfway point. Especially Stone Cannon, dear god, in ''Raven Shield''.
* The first/shareware episode in ''VideoGame/{{Quake}}'' is a walk in the park compared to the rest of the game. After completing the [[BreatherLevel preparation "slipgate" level]] (featured at the beginning of each episode), be prepared for your brain (and likely your mouth) to drop a series of [[AtomicFBomb Atomic F-Bombs]] once you're inside the castle.
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Postal}} Postal 2: Apocalypse Weekend]]'' is a breeze (mostly because you can stock on weapons and healing items), but then near the end you are stripped from all your stuff and have to fight your way out of a military base. Where healing items are very scarce and soldiers are tough and immune to OHKO sledgehammering. Prepare to be ridiculed by protagonist for save spamming. Following this, levels are relatively simple again.
* ''VideoGame/GhostRecon: Advanced Warfighter'' takes a disproportionate leap in difficulty with "Mayday! Mayday!", slightly under halfway through the game. And that's just on Normal difficulty. Prepare to get pegged many times by the guards in the forest area with the [[InterfaceScrew jammers]].
* The entirety of the VC campaign in ''VideoGame/{{Vietcong}} 2'', when compared to the US campaign, due to being much shorter (only ''4 levels!'') compared to the latter (13 levels).
* ''Scythe'', a GameMod for ''Doom II'', is a fairly well-balanced mod... up until the final set of levels (beginning from level 21), which are set in Hell, and their ridiculous difficulty lives up to the location. Barely any ammo, barely any room to maneuver, and hordes of enemies from all sides.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Game Mod ]]
* ''VideoGame/DonnerParty'' undergoes a noticeable shift in difficulty between Rounds 6 and 7. To wit: the amount of damage the player takes doubles, flying over large swaths of territory is impossible, few enemies die in a single hit, and the three-boss-per-level standard returns with a vengeance. Round 7 specifically includes a segment where taking damage is required in order to progress. Round 8 introduces an abrupt and awkward shift in play-control, which becomes permanent for the rest of the game.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Hack And Slash ]]
* ''VideoGame/DiabloII'':
** The game has a dramatic change as you go from Nightmare to Hell difficulty. The effectiveness of just about everything is reduced to a quarter, your resistances plummet to a base of -100, and almost every single monster is not only resistant, but entirely ''immune'' to a particular element (often when the monster had zero resistance to anything in either of the previous difficulties) while gaining additional resistances to one or nearly all attributes. The immunities are a particular problem, as it's very possible for your character's skills to be focused on only one form of damage if you didn't know about the problem beforehand.
** Some monsters possess immunity to physical damage. I.E, melee attacks don't work. There are three randomly generated per normal level in hell difficulty as opposed to one in normal, plus their flock of minions is deadlier too.
** Less dramatic is Act IV of the game, when you invade Hell, featuring a jump in monster difficulty -- suddenly homing, {{mana}} draining missiles, etc. Then of course there's [[FinalBoss Diablo]] [[ThatOneBoss himself]].
** The [[ThatOneBoss battle with the Ancients]] is far harder than the the battle with Baal, the final boss.
* The first five realms in ''{{VideoGame/Gauntlet}}: Dark Legacy'' are swarming with GoddamnBats (it's kind of the point of Gauntlet), but world 6, the Desert Realm, suddenly throws in DemonicSpiders in the form of the Desert Generals, whose psychotic fervor has the potential to arouse in the player the same real-life fight-or-flight panic mechanism as many a VideoGame/Left4Dead player has felt facing down a Tank - among stronger and more durable GoddamnBats, and more chances to be attacked from all sides. A player who breezed through the last five realms may find themselves losing thousands of HP in this realm - fast.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:MMORPG]]
* Levels 15 through 30 in ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' are pretty frustrating compared to later on. The first 10-15 levels act as tutorial and are usually easy (provided you don't run into the wrong direction), but then it picks up considerably and you'll be seeing the Spirit Healer pretty often. And the level range features some of the most frustrating dungeons aswell, such as Gnomeregan, Shadowfang Keep and Blackfathom Deeps. And if you play on a [=PvP=] server, you'll face the most annoying gankers (bored high level characters killing low level ones just for giggles) during those levels as you'll be leveling in contested zones. After that, it only gets better. The expansion zones on the other hand are laughably easy, at least as far as solo-Quests are concerned.
** In the Firelands, the first six bosses have become considerably easier after the nerf, but Ragnaros is much more difficult than any of them, particularly because if you let one Son of Flame reach his hammer in the transition phase, the raid will most likely wipe.
** Mogu'shan Vaults begins with the fairly difficult Stone Guard, but then has the more manageable Feng the Accursed, Gara'jal the Spiritbinder, and Spirit Kings. Then comes Elegon, a very difficult DPS race that is even more difficult than the last boss of the instance. Some groups give up and go on to the first bosses in the next instance, Heart of Fear, until they are well-geared enough to defeat Elegon.
** The Brawler's Guild matches are fairly easy during Rank 1-7, then comes Rank 8 where you fight a engineer pair DualBoss with OHKO rockets, a necromancer who is only vulnerable when you destroy his adds that have to be stunned with a beam of light and can also OHKO you with one melee hit, and an arcane construct surrounded by a ring of highly-damaging explosives, before taking a break with an easy match against a gnoll who takes reduced damage but you're able to run over powerups to increase your damage output to exponential levels to mitigate it. Then there are the optional bosses, one of which is a {{cyborg}} version of your first opponent who is near impossible to kill with any max damage output lower than 65-70k because the third time he roots you in place he'll use an attack that is - you guessed it - an OHKO.
* ''VideoGame/EVEOnline'':
** The game has a steep difficulty spike with 0.5 and 0.4 security space. The latter has no [[CityGuards CONCORD]], allowing player pirates to roam freely in search of juicy targets like you. In fact, a frequent occurrence is you running into a gate camp when you jump from an 0.5 system to an 0.4 system. Translation: you're dead and podded and you never saw it coming.
** The Sleepers and Sansha Incursions. Sleepers are found exclusively in Wormhole Space (players have to physically enter any wormhole that spawns randomly in the universe), and these bastards have an upgraded AI compared to regular enemies. They actively target Logistics ships if they are present (the game's equivalent to healers), and if you think to bring any capital ships like, say a carrier, into the sites, the sites will spawn 6 more Sleeper battleships for EACH carrier. The Sansha Incursion rats behave the same as the Sleepers too, except they can be considered an end-game raid instance, particularly if it's an [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast "Ouroboros"]] instance, where it can take as many as up to 50 players with top-shelf ships, modules and leadership.
* ''VideoGame/GuildWars Prophecies'' is a cakewalk until you reach the desert, and then it ramps up. It ramps up [[UpToEleven AGAIN]] on the Ring of Fire. Factions goes from "reasonably challenging" to "murderous" when you reach the Kaineng Mainland (and the Undercity...dear GOD the UNDERCITY!!) and Nightfall does more or less the same a few missions in.
* ''VideoGame/GuildWars2'' is not very difficult, built for casual players, with most dungeons easily puggable. Then you get to [[LostWorld the Heart of Maguuma]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Everquest}}'' had particularly infamous difficulty spikes called "Hell Levels." These usually came along at already naturally awkward levels(30, 35, 40, etc.; where you're growing out of your current leveling zone), and amplified them by increasing the amount of experience needed to level by insane amounts; so much so that the next level will actually REQUIRE LESS experience than the hell level did. Also, 50-60 were considered a bit of a "hell bracket" since the needed experience jumped up to relatively high amounts because 60 was the original level cap(and thus had a LOT of xp "padding" that was never reduced when 60 ceased to be the cap).
* ''Videogame/{{EverQuest II}}'' has three different "tiers" you can play on - solo, group, and raid. Solo is designed to be handled by just about any player class with ease. Moving from solo to group requires a much more detailed understanding of how to play your class and function in a group. Moving from group to raid requires intricate knowledge of game mechanics. To make the spike more severe, for the most part you can only get group level gear by running group missions and raid level gear by raiding, meaning that someone trying to make the jump for the first time is going to be critically undergeared.
* ''VideoGame/ShinMegamiTenseiIMAGINE'' has the ''Old Ichigaya Camp Gold'' instance. If you decide to skip the lower floors, and just go right ahead to the boss room, the enemies that appear on the way there are fairly easy to defeat (most lv30 characters can kill them in 2 or 3 hits). Then you hit the boss room, and have ''Jikokuten'' ignoring knockback and hitting your skull with Almighty basic attacks, around 10 ''Gandharva'' spamming a skill with a huge area of effect that [[ThatOneAttack causes multiple status effects]] (including one that renders you unable to even defend) as well as powerful ice attacks (including one that can hit from halfway across the room) and another area of effect one that [[UselessUsefulSpell lowers all your status]], and around 15 ''Gaki'' who are pretty weak and only have one attack, but once they start ganging up on you, you're easy prey to the spell-spamming Ganharvas. Granted, this can be turned into children's play if you have someone especiallized in using [[GameBreaker Erosion Hex]] on your party.
** Also from ''IMAGINE'', there's the ''Shibuya Metro'' instance. Despite the constant HP and MP drain throughout the whole dungeon, it's fairly easy, with all enemies being weak to one of the easy to get [[ElementalRockPaperScissors four elements]]. The boss room, however, has a boss with the most powerful electric spell, lots of HP, and over 10 minions that not only can heal him, but also love to use attack- and spell-reflecting skills. ''All the time''. And no, the HP and MP drain does not go away during the boss battle. Also, the boss gets even stronger if you enter the dungeon with anyone else in your party, wether they entered the dungeon too or not.
* ''VideoGame/{{Elsword}}'' starts off very simple with short three-to-four room dungeons and fairly weak field enemies. Then you reach Bethma, where the dungeons get longer and have branching paths. And then the next town, Altera, brings 4-6 (Altera Core), which is such a large dungeon that there are three layers on the map, has lasers that either cause damage, summon mooks, or both, throws three mid-bosses (which are all demoted versions of dungeon bosses) at the players, and introduces the largest boss thus far, the King Nasod, which requires more strategy than just "mash buttons until it dies". It gets worse from there.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Platform Game ]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Rayman}}'': Dream Forest is a solid beginner world. A little tricky in the later levels, but not too bad. Band Land is when the gloves come off and what better way to show that then by putting the player through a six stage level full of musical notes that act like spikes and fewer power ups and 1-ups? Also, after defeating the boss of Blue Mountains, Mr. Stone, and receiving the fifth and final new power, the player is treated to a colorful world known as Picture City. Looks relaxing as well as a nice change of pace right? Right? RIGHT!? Say goodbye to a lot of hard earned lives from here on out!
* In ''VideoGame/{{Spyro the Dragon|1998}}'', the Beast Makers world has higher completion requirements than the previous worlds (50 out of 58 dragons). It's the second world that you cannot skip without playing through at least one level (the first world is the first). It also contains Misty Bog and Terrace Village, which contain aggressive enemies and few butterflies, as well as ThatOneLevel, Tree Tops.
* ''VideoGame/{{Psychonauts}}'' turns absolutely sadistic when you get to the timed Escort Mission in the last level. There's also the RiseToTheChallenge segment later in the level, which would be bad enough if it weren't for a GameBreakingBug that makes one particular part ''virtually impossible'' about 75% of the time. Thank heavens DeathIsASlapOnTheWrist.
* The first seven areas of ''VideoGame/LittleNemoTheDreamMaster'' give no hint as to how difficult the final area is.
* The Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog series does this quite a bit.
** In all three ''VideoGame/{{Sonic Advance|Trilogy}}'' games, the first six special stages range from really easy to kind of tricky the first time, but the last is NintendoHard.
** ''VideoGame/SonicUnleashed'' has a smoothly escalating difficulty curve reaching its peak at Adabat. Then the curve becomes a straight line, crashing into the ceiling and staying there. It says something when the level designers deliberately place a respawning extra life next to EVERY checkpoint in the last level, including some that are impossible to avoid collecting.
** ''[[VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog2 Sonic 2]]'' is generally nice and easy, but Chemical Plant Zone act 2 is quite a harsh snap for where it is in the game, and the game then throws ''another'' spike in Metropolis Zone, a spike which lasts right until the end of the game. Also Mystic Cave, considering its inescapable spike pits and crushing vines which ''force'' you to take your time and be careful in order to beat the level.
** ''[[VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog4 Sonic 4]]'' will make you frustrated once you get to E.G.G. Station Zone.
** ''VideoGame/{{Sonic Rush|Series}}'' is even more brutal on that note, because once you get to [[ThatOneLevel Night Carnival]] in order to notice everything that allows you to get past that stage without falling into those BottomlessPits, you have to play the game very differently than you're used to: in other words, TakeYourTime and you'll survive. Probably. It's even more jarring when you play as Blaze as Night Carnival is the FIRST LEVEL, then it gets easy again until the 5th stage.
** ''VideoGame/SonicGenerations'' gets more difficult starting with Crisis City. The Modern era overall is more difficult than the previous two and the levels are longer, and Crisis City is the introduction to that. Modern's Crisis City in particular is one of the hardest levels in the game, Classic's Rooftop Run has a lot of devious obstacles, and Planet Wisp overall is a MarathonLevel. The bosses also pick up the pace to match.
* ''VideoGame/JakIIRenegade'' features not one, but many spikes over the course of the game. The first arrives at about the time you need to blow up an ammo supply and you are being chased by an indestructible doom tank. The camera is fixed as the view from the tank for a while, and the first part of the area is a bit hard to navigate. The most notable, however, comes during the escape from the Water Slums. You can't touch the water that is surrounding the tiny walkways you must navigate, the guards will infinitely respawn if you move incorrectly or dawdle in the wrong place, and you can take a total of 3 hits and live. Fortunately, the Krimson Guards are all graduates of the ImperialStormtrooperMarksmanshipAcademy. Unfortunately, there are so many of them that it really doesn't matter how bad of shots they are. And the game doesn't get any easier from there.
* For many players, ''VideoGame/EarthwormJim'' went straight DownTheDrain the minute players entered the Tube Race level. Imagine a big glass ball that breaks if it happens to bump into a wall ten times, which you have to steer through a long, narrow obstacle course while being harassed by a dwindling oxygen meter. Fortunately, the [[AnticlimaxBoss immediately following boss fight]] makes up for it in terms of difficulty. The sequel followed this up with ''The Flyin' King'', an isometric SHMUP level where you have to escort a bomb on a balloon to the end of the level. And then the difficulty spikes again in ''Inflated Head / Circus of the Scars'', which is Tube Race all over again.
* In level 3 of the original ''VideoGame/{{Prince of Persia|1}}'', you must first jump onto a precariously situated platform with a pressure plate that opens a gate three screens to the left. Then, you have to quickly rush over to the gate before it closes, making ''five'' jumps along the way, the last one being a particularly hard running jump. Miss one jump, and you fall to certain death. After this puzzle, the second half of the level isn't so hard, even with an invincible skeleton enemy -- unless you die and have to start the whole level over.
** ''VideoGame/PrinceOfPersiaTheTwoThrones'' has a series of three levels back-to-back that are harder than anything that comes before or after it: a cerebral gear-turning puzzle, a trial-and-error chariot race and an unforgiving two-on-one boss fight, with exactly one save point between them.
* ''VideoGame/{{Klonoa}}: Door to Phantomile'' is a pretty easy game throughout. The first level can easily be defeated without taking any damage, and the difficulty gently slopes, occasionally teaching you a new trick or introducing you to a new concept or enemy. Still, all the way up to level 5 keeps an easy-to-modest difficulty. Then level 6 comes along and bitchslaps you through a wall with hair-tearing timed puzzles and the precision platforming sequences from hell. Then there's bonus level that appears after that...
* Creator/{{Treasure}} loves to put [[UnexpectedGameplayChange space shooter]] levels in their platforming titles. Depending on one's proficiency at the genre, they'll experience anything from a mild to extreme difficulty spike upon entering stage 6 of either ''VideoGame/GunstarHeroes'' or ''VideoGame/DynamiteHeaddy''.
** Treasure also like putting platforming sections in their shoot 'em ups. The severity of these spikes is similarly dependent on how accustomed the player is to the shifted genre.
* ''Osman''/''VideoGame/CannonDancer'' starts out fairly difficult, but during the final areas it turns abusively so, by removing the ability to spam continues to reach the end. During most of the game, you respawn where you die, even when you lose your last life. In the last areas you restart from checkpoints after dying. Better think twice about wasting those [[SmartBomb Fatal Attacks]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Trine}}'''s last level combines platforming with a boss that constantly hinders your progress and tops it off with RiseToTheChallenge.
* As soon as [[VideoGame/HenryHatsworthInThePuzzlingAdventure Henry Hatsworth]] reaches Atlantia (World 3), the game's SurpriseDifficulty kicks in.
* ''Franchise/SuperMarioBros'':
** 5-2 in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros''. 5-1 is certainly harder than the last few levels, but nothing too nasty. 5-3 is just a revamp of 1-3 with smaller platforms and a Bullet Bill generator. 5-4 is a revamp of 2-4 with a few more Firebars. 5-2? ''[[DemonicSpiders Hammer Brothers]] on STAIRS''.
** The arcade game has a much steeper incline in difficulty than the NES version, due to the HardModeFiller levels being replaced with unique boards from the [[PlatformHell infamously hard]] ''[[VideoGame/SuperMarioBrosTheLostLevels Super Mario Bros 2 Japan]]'', which contain many narrow platforms, sadistic enemy/obstacle patterns, and long jumps, some of which require bouncing off Koopa Paratroopas at the right height, as in [[ThatOneLevel 6-3]].
** ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros2'':
*** World 3-3 is noticeably longer and more difficult than the first two castle levels (1-3 and 2-3) as well as the first two levels in the world, with long sequences of climbing towers with ''tons'' of [[DemonicSpiders Sparks]] moving around oddly-shaped platforms, [[MookMaker Shy Guy-generating pots]], and, for the first time, a variety of different doors to enter, not all of which will allow you to progress depending on which character you are playing as. The difficulty will spike again in World 4's dungeon, then AGAIN in world 5's dungeon. In the particular case of level 4-2, you're first greeted by a ZergRush of Beezos in a section that seems to last forever with only slippery ice terrain to work with, then some NintendoHard platforming. And there is no fourth mushroom in this level. And you have to fight Birdo. On ice.
*** In the ''Super Mario Advance'' remake for GBA, a game criticized for being much easier due to all the extra power ups, the Yoshi Challenge has this. Through the first ten levels you play, it feels like a good challenge for seasoned veterans, but still easier than the original NES and SNES versions despite only having 2-3 hearts per level instead of 4. Even 3-3 isn't so bad. Then you get to 4-2, which in the Yoshi Challenge quickly becomes ThatOneLevel. Survive the Beezo ZergRush onslaught, and you'll have to get two Yoshi Eggs from here without losing a life in the next phase. And you only have two hearts to work with. The difficulty only becomes reasonable again in 6-3.
** ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros3'':
*** 1-4 isn't amazingly difficult, but it is by ''far'' the hardest regular level in World 1 (even the fortress and airship are easier), containing many [[TemporaryPlatform falling platforms]], [[BottomlessPit bottomless pits]], and the dreaded [[AutoScrollingLevel autoscrolling]].
*** World 3 in general is a huge difficulty spike over worlds 1 and 2. Let's put it this way, 3-6 is a souped up version of 1-4 and is by far the EASIEST level in world 3, besides maybe 3-9. The rest of World 3 contains mostly levels that alternate between underwater levels, cheep cheep ZergRush levels, and rising and sinking platforms where Boss Bass awaits and can eat you in a single gulp (unless you're invincible).
** ''VideoGame/SuperMarioWorld'':
*** The game starts off as a not too challenging platformer that eases you into the game, even Iggy's Castle isn't so bad except maybe for the smasher in the autoscrolling room leading up to the simple boss battle, but even then it's not so bad. And then you arrive at Donut Plains 2, an [[AutoScrollingLevel autoscrolling cave level]] that's fairly dark, has rising and falling platforms that can crush you, cruelly placed death pits, and GoddamnBats everywhere. Granted, it's not amazingly hard, but after the non-threatening Yoshi's Island levels and Donut Plains 1, this level serves as a real wake-up call about what's coming up later in the game. That difficulty won't be matched again until Vanilla Dome or even the Twin Bridges depending on your perception.
*** Happens once again in Chocolate Island, where the game goes from challenging but fun platformer to mean and nasty NintendoHard nightmare that pulls no punches in the blink of an eye. The game keeps its foot on the gas for the remainder of the game, until reaching its peak in the [[BrutalBonusLevel special zone]]. The Front Door of Bowser's Castle tends to look harder than it really is, especially if you enter doors 2 and 5.
** Most of the levels in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioLand2SixGoldenCoins'' aren't too difficult, but then you get to Wario's Castle, the final level, and you find yourself in a very long and difficult level compared to the rest of the game. To add insult to injury, there are no checkpoints (if you die at any point, even when fighting Wario, you have to start from the beginning).
** The majority of levels in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioGalaxy'' are very easy. Then they start getting a bit harder, but not too much, and ''then'' the difficulty of the last few stars (most of them corresponding to the galaxies accessed via the Garden dome) spikes to unexpected levels. [[ThatOneLevel Luigi's Purple Coins]] is an example of this.
** ''VideoGame/SuperMario3DWorld'' is pretty forgiving, up until World 3's Chain-Link Charge, which is an [[AutoScrollingLevel Auto-Scrolling]] PlatformHell with [[ThatOneSidequest a brutal Stamp and Green Stars]]. Later on, Worlds 7 and 8 take it to a bigger scale with more devious levels like Trick Trap Tower, Boiling Blue Bully Belt, Rammerhead Reef, Cookie Cogworks and Grumblump Inferno.
** First time players of ''VideoGame/SuperMarioSunshine'' are in for a ''cruel'' surprise when, after mostly easy levels, they are thrust without warning into ''[[ThatOneLevel The Sand Bird Is Born]]''. It is likely to be the first of ''many'' of the nasty infamously difficult sub-levels [[SchizophrenicDifficulty peppered throughout an otherwise not too difficult game]] that the player encounters.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Iji}}'', the difficulty spikes massively once the Komato appear. Komato [[{{Mooks}} Troopers]] are roughly as tough as Tasen [[EliteMooks Commanders]], and Komato [[EliteMooks Berserkers]] are roughly as powerful as Tasen [[GiantMook Elites]], except they [[KungFuProofMook can reflect projectiles back at you.]] Komato Beasts, Assassins, Annihilators and [[GoddamnedBats Skysmashers]] go off the charts. Still, you'll eventually get used to it. And then when you start playing through on [[HarderThanHard Ultimortal]], you'll probably find it not too hard...until you meet [[ThatOneBoss Asha]].
* ''VideoGame/ChuckieEgg'' gets harder quite steadily -- the extra features in each round of eight levels are nicely balanced by returning to the layout of the easy Level 1. That said, the third iteration (with the hens and the Mother Duck) is much harder than anything up to that point, particularly from Level 21 onwards. Near the end, [[NintendoHard you may wonder whether it could get much harder]], but the final Level 40 still manages to be another drastic leap in difficulty.
* The first ''VideoGame/HarryPotter'' game was a fairly standard 3D platformer, with a few spell-casting or flying minigames and puzzles mixed in. Then at the end there is a boss fight, in a third-person shooter style that hadn't been seen all game, where the boss can kill you in one or two shots and you have no real offensive spells. He's a pushover when you figure out the trick to it, though.
* Areas 4, 5 and 6 in ''VideoGame/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles''. The latter two are full of DemonicSpiders that take tons of punishment to kill, and the former's boss is in a [[LuckBasedMission random location]]. And the FinalBoss can kill you in one hit, not to mention the hallway full of [[DemonicSpiders Laser Troopers]] leading to him. In the former's case (the Airport), most of the previous two stages' difficulty—and length—goes away once you figure out where the underwater bombs and downtown {{Plot Coupon}}s are. The Airport, on the other hand, is one long, confusing [[TheMaze maze]] that seems [[MarathonLevel neverending]] without a guide, and even with one it's still an exercise in patience and tedium. Which wouldn't be too much of a problem if it weren't for the added SpikesOfDoom, [[OneHitKO instant-death]] {{Lava Pit}}s, and MalevolentArchitecture that makes all the GoddamnBats from the previous levels, as well as the aformentioned death traps, all the more fearsome. The only respite is the AnticlimaxBoss (the HumongousMecha from the series) at the end which, if you've kept [[GameBreaker Donatello]] with you the whole time, you will beat without even being so much as attacked.
* ''{{VideoGame/Jed}}'''s tends to border on SchizophrenicDifficulty, with whether or not the player is attempting to collect all five of the stage's babies being a key determinate. Assuming you're only attempting to get through the level, the slope is simpler.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Jumper}}'', the first sector is patheticaly easy, and then there are sectors 2 and 3, that [[{{Pun}} jump]] suddenly up. Sector 3 in ''Jumper Two'' is such a case too.
* ''VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountry'':
** Up to the second world, everything's a breeze. Then you get [[MinecartMadness Mine Cart]] [[ThatOneLevel Carnage]]. Don't expect it to get any easier from there.
** After that, when you're used to the new level of difficulty, comes [[SlippySlideyIceWorld Gorilla Glacier]] and its first level, Snow Barrel Blast. It's the first time you come across FrictionlessIce, which covers the ''entire'' level, [[MarathonLevel the level is extremely long compared to anything that came before it]], the spinning barrel cannons are frustratingly difficult to aim with, and to top all that off, when you're halfway through the game, [[InterfaceScrew the mounting blizzard shows up on the foreground and masks your view of what's going on]], right at the part where it's the most difficult. If you didn't get a GameOver in Mine Cart Carnage or Tree Top Town but didn't breeze through these levels either, it's almost guaranteed you'll get one here.
* The first two chapters of ''VideoGame/{{Gish}}'' are relatively easy. The third chapter is a test to anyone who hasn't mastered the controls of the game as lava pools and more difficult jumps start to appear.
* ''VideoGame/KidChameleon'' has a few examples: the first boss is quite difficult compared to the game up to that point, and the game after the third boss in general becomes significantly harder, with many levels containing routes through them that will kill you, levels which don't have conventional exits (or do but they're extremely difficult to get to), level loops that can make you play through the same levels over and over again until you go the right way, and many more of the hardest enemies. However, the worst of the lot is Bloody Swamp, a level so difficult most people who have beaten the game did so by taking an alternate path that allows you to avoid the level, and it is only midway through the third section of the game - though you also have to play through it if you take the route that skips you from halfway through the second world to halfway through the third. The levels after Bloody Swamp are far easier.
* ''VideoGame/TheSmurfs1994'' on the SNES and Generis have the final two Acts go from "hard" to "insane". The penultimate act is a single stage with omnipresent instant death (when the tree trunk bridge starts rotating under your feet, you have a split-second to jump or fall to your death); the last act has a frustrating (but hardly lethal) first level, a long and and dangerous second level (with instant death too from flies with TheVirus), a short and dangerous third level and a FinalBoss with OneHitKill CollisionDamage. You'll lose so many [[VideoGameLives lives]] here that the only way to survive is to start the game from the beginning and collect ExtraLives one the way. (Fortunately, this has been somewhat toned down on the GameboyAdvance port ''Revenge Of The Smurfs'', where at least you have infinite lives.)
* ''VideoGame/{{Psychosomnium}}'' has the unexpectedly difficult spike-covered corridor near the end, where you have to fly through a curving path without touching any of the walls. It's so tough, compared to the rest of the game, that there's a cheat code specifically to get rid of the spikes.
* ''[[VideoGame/BombJack Mighty Bomb Jack]]'' has the fourth stage, which is longer than earlier stages and is in multiple parts.
* ''[[VideoGame/BanjoKazooie Banjo-Tooie]]'' increases drastically the difficulty through the second half of the game. Compare the relatively flexible Jolly Roger's Lagoon to the larger and more intrincate Terrydactyland, which in turn is followed by the even more difficult Grunty Industries.
* The first difficulty spike in ''VideoGame/{{Something}}'' occurs at "Dat Bass!" The level has [[OneHitKill Boss Bass]], but this time Boss Bass is immune to fire, so Fire Mario can't kill him.
* While the first three levels of ''VideoGame/FreedomPlanet'' are fairly average, the fourth through sixth is where things start getting challenging with longer levels, new mooks in every stage, and the bosses requiring the player's grasp on the game's combat and timing. But it's in the eighth Battle Glacier, where things start getting crazy. What with all the StuffBlowingUp onscreen from all the bullets and bombs everywhere, a level design with so many pathways it can b easy to get lost, with tons of [[DemonicSpiders alien troopers]] with their strong lasers that chase you across the level if you don't stop to damage them eight times to take them out, [[ThatOneBoss two jarringly difficult bosses]], and a long second act with a tricky coridor of switch puzzles, it'll have you raging at how tough the game has suddenly become. Then there's [[TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon Final]] [[MarathonLevel Dreadnought]], which takes the already challenging combat and bosses UpToEleven and stays that way for the home stretch of the game.
* Being a ''Franchise/MegaMan'' clone with an ImprobablyFemaleCast and {{Moe}} aesthetic, ''VideoGame/RosenkreuzStilette'' seems like it'll be a toned down homage to the classic series. And for a time, this appears to be the case. [[WillfullyWeak Liebea Palesh]] is a piece of cake, Zorne's AI makes it [[ArtificialStupidity easy to avoid her attacks]], [[{{Troll}} Schwer]] has some cheap surprises in her level but is otherwise easy with some practice, and so on. But it's when you get to Grolla's stage that the levels incorporate a ton of GoddamnBats that nip at your health at an alarming rate in a game that's stingey with its health drops, tricky platforming above many a BottomlessPit, and of course, [[ThatOneBoss/RosenkreuzStilette the bosses themselves], which have fiendishly difficult strategies and desperation attacks that you can't just plow through anymore. In hindsight, [[ThatOneLevel Freudia's stage]] foreshadows just how hard the endgame will be, with lasers from [[VideoGame/MegaMan2 Quick Man]]'s stage now taken UpToEleven and her [[WakeUpCallBoss her near-unavoidable lasers and spikes she launches across the screen]]. Speaking of the endgame, Iris' Castle would make Dr. Wiley proud. Disappearing blocks, spikes everywhere, the traditional BossRush including Grolla and Freudia, and an {{Expie}} of the [[TheDreaded Yellow Devil]], [[FromBadToWorse now even harder]] as it can reverse both the [[GravityScrew gravity]] and [[InterfaceScrew controller input]] simultaneously. And then there's [[AnotherSideAnotherStory Rosenkreuzstilette]] [[GlassCannon Grollschwert]]...
* ''VideoGame/OriAndTheBlindForest'' takes off the kid gloves once you reach the Ginso Tree EscapeSequence. Expect to die about 50 times before getting the hang of it.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Puzzle Game ]]
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Lemmings}} Oh No More Lemmings]]'' has five difficulty grades for its puzzles: Tame, Crazy, Wild, Wicked and Havoc. The Tame levels are all walks in the park: 20 of each skill, four minutes, save 25 of 50 Lemmings and most times it's easy to save all 50. The other four grades, however, are total nightmares with little to distinguish each grade in terms of difficulty.
* ''VideoGame/PuyoPuyo'':
** ''Puyo Pop Fever'' takes a huge spike in difficulty on stage 3 of the [[HarderThanHard HaraHara]] course and ANOTHER spike on stage 7 of that course.
** The original ''Puyo Puyo'' has a ridiculous difficulty spike starting with Level 4. [[FromBadToWorse And it only gets worse from here]]. [[ArtificialBrilliance Not only is the AI much smarter]], but the pieces drop about as fast as the high levels of ''VideoGame/{{Tetris}}''.
** Luckily, the DolledUpInstallment ''Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine'' was toned down somewhat, having more of a difficulty curve. Although it does have at least one spike.
* ''VideoGame/MarbleBlastGold'' has a noticeable difficulty gap between beginner and intermediate, and between intermediate and advanced. Even worse the beginner and intermediate stages only have 24 levels each, but advanced has 52.
* Levels 1 to 10 of ''VideoGame/{{Repton}}'' are pretty easy (once you know how to do the Repton shuffle, but that's more GuideDangIt than difficulty as such)... but the next level is [[ThatOneLevel "Giant clam"]].
* ''VideoGame/ChipsChallenge'' starts easy, staying that way during the first 22 levels. But then come levels like Blobnet (23, due to enemies that move randomly) and Blink (25, for it being a maze with teleporters), from which the game quickly increases the difficulty level. And the number of levels in total is ''149''.
* ''VideoGame/WonderlandAdventures'': Mysteries of Fire Island has one of these in the pirate camp.
* In ''VideoGame/TetrisTheGrandMaster'', if you hear [[MusicalSpoiler the music fade out]] towards the end of a section, one of these is going to happen in the next section. Most famously, in the original ''TGM'', Level 500 raises the drop speed from "a few rows per frame" to "pieces drop automatically", otherwise known as "20G"[[note]]as in 20 rows per frame; 20 rows is the height of a ''TGM'' playfield.[[/note]]. From ''Tetris: The Grand Master 2'' onwards, music fadeout while already at 20G means the next section's timings--such as time until a landed piece locks and delay until the next piece spawns--will get significantly tighter, throwing you off drastically and potentially ending your game if you aren't prepared for it.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Real Time Strategy ]]
* ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerRedAlert2'''s penultimate Soviet mission. You needed to defeat Yuri's forces for good, but this was the only mission where you had to constantly hold out against enemy forces. It was also very difficult to break the base defenses without resorting to exploration or GuideDangIt behavior. At least you could build a nuke silo to hit the objective directly.
* ''Operation: Red Revolution'' was hard, yes, but could be made very easy with a couple of tricks. [[spoiler: Most importantly, capture one of the power plants on the hill near the start, then cover the cliffs with turrets and Tesla coils.]] The start of Operation: Chrono Defense, the final Soviet mission, is hell. The Allies repeatedly teleport tank divisions into the middle of your base while you're still setting it up. Build order is crucial, as you need to balance power supply with the all-important turrets that will save your base. And if you get the order wrong and lose power, ''all your construction rates drop''.
* ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerRedAlert'':
** The final Allied mission in the original. The Soviets have two bases, on of which is very close to where you set yours. It's small, but will get big if even you don't take it early. Even when do, you will still be under nearly constant attack from the other, very large base. In short, you are in for a very long fight. Add to this, the Soviet faction in the game is broken, you will only win fights against them through sheer numbers. As a silver lining, one of the attack routes the Soviets stupidly use goes through a fairly big lake that, so you can get an added punch from your destroyers (which outrange most of the Soviet units) and cruisers (best range and firepower in the game, but their shots have a sad tendency to miss, but they're worth it). You also get to use the Chronosphere to move a cruiser to a lake the Soviet base and pick off some of their buildings.
** The fifth Soviet mission in the same game is also surprisingly difficult. The idea is to capture a Radar Station to find out what the Allied are planning. The problem is that there is a huge island filled to the brim with ressources the Allies will land on with a [[BaseOnWheels Mobile Construction Vehicle]] via naval transport should you even think of building a submarine facility. Once they did just that, the mission becomes stupidly difficult because the base over there gives them ressources to the base next to yours which will begin {{Zerg Rush}}ing you with impunity. Surviving the onslaught won't help much either because you'll still have to get rid of the island base which by that point would be too big and too well defended to send your own navy transports with tanks over. The solution is the newly-introduced paradrop ability of the airfield - landing infantry on the island will still make the Allies send their MCV, but as long as you play Catch Me with your infantry while shooting it, it cannot deploy. ScratchDamage will eventually destroy it, disabling the Allies from getting anything meaningful out of it.
* The seventh Chinese mission, '''Operation: Nuclear Winter''', in ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerGenerals'' also deserves its place here: the GLA throws everything but the kitchen sink at you very early on, while you are short of supplies and has barely built your base. [[FakeDifficulty Add to that the fact that]] [[GuideDangIt they have a SCUD launcher platform that will fire and annihilate your forces/base if you have 5000 money or more]], and you get players having one hell of a surprise. After that, the game returns to its normal curve.
* ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft|1}}'' had a few levels that tested people's patience. Protoss mission 7 had the player fighting against an army of Protoss that was further up the tech tree. This lead to some frustration, as the presence of Arbiters and Carriers made it difficult for anyone to reasonably counter the enemy. Most players won by massing troops or Photon Cannons instead of using any real strategy. In Brood War, Terran mission 8 got rather ridiculous when the Zerg sent in a much harder to kill Ultralisk every few minutes to harass your troops. The worst offender had to be Zerg mission 8 and 10 (in Brood War), with the former having a deadly Zerg/Terran air force, and the latter had two powerful Terran and a Protoss attacking players at once.
* ''VideoGame/StarCraftII'''s last mission is significantly more difficult than, well, any of the previous ones. Except maybe ''Supernova.''
* ''VideoGame/WarcraftII'':
** The final Human mission is considerably more difficult than all the previous ones, as the computer will constantly send dragons to attack you even as you're trying to build your base from scratch (fortunately, guard towers are your friend). Also doesn't help that you start off with a sizable army and no farms, forcing you to either kill off your own troops or build a zillion farms before you can even start training additional workers to increase your income rate.
** A clone made by Lego called Lego Battles had 1000 Tree Woods, a maze like level that was hard to beat. Oh yeah, and it's the FOURTH level.
* All ''VideoGame/AgeOfEmpires'' campaigns (and most of the ''VideoGame/AgeOfMythology'') raise the difficulty exponentially with each scenario. Tough requirements while giving you [[WithThisHerring limited armies\resources]]? Enemies that start to build [[InstantWinCondition wonders]]? Being forced to break into a heavily guarded town the other side of the map? Anything goes!
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Rhythm Game ]]
* Both ''VideoGame/GuitarHero'' and ''VideoGame/RockBand'' feature a general Difficulty Spike when moving from Medium to Hard on guitar or drums.
** Guitar charts start including the orange fret, meaning that you have to start moving your hands around instead of having your four fingers sit on green, red, yellow, and blue all the time. On drums, the bass pedal finds itself on the off-beats more often, forcing some extra limb independence out of players, and that's not taking into account the presence of drumrolls and fills with much more notes than one would see in a Medium chart. On vocals, the jump happens from Hard to Expert. The pitch-detection becomes ''much'' less lenient and requires better precision to ensure high scores. Both series are well-known for having sudden [[ThatOneBoss brick wall]] songs. You'll be progressing along fine before suddenly being hit with a difficult song that'll take a day of practice just to pass.
** In ''Guitar Hero II'' the song that broke several players' kneecaps was Psychobilly Freakout.
** ''Guitar Hero III'' has the infamously [[{{Pun}} hellish]] last set, 'Battle for your Soul', [[Music/{{Slayer}} Raining Blood]] in particular. When the other 3 songs are [[Music/{{Metallica}} One]], [[Music/IronMaiden The Number of the Beast]] and [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55nAwmVLQSk Cliffs of Dover]], culminating in the [[ThatOneBoss battle with]] [[RockMeAsmodeus Lou]] to the tune of The Devil Went Down To Georgia, it's not surprising that only the MOST hardcore players ever beat the game on Expert.
** In ''Guitar Hero: On Tour'', first it hits you with "I Don't Wanna Stop", with a hellish solo near the end; then it hits you with "I Know a Little", which has a slightly less difficult solo, but at the start of the song, before you get any [[LimitBreak Star Power]]. Then it takes a sledgehammer to your balls with "Through The Fire And The Flames".
** The first ''Rock Band'' game gave us [[Music/IronMaiden Run to the Hills]] on hard drums, which was so beyond anything else in that difficulty tier that most veteran players advised newbies to start the game again on a higher difficulty setting when they reached it, rather than spend hours futilely flailing away at a song that was tougher than many of the Expert tier's end-game songs. Of course, then you unlocked the same song on ''Expert'' and realized that the game had been going comparatively easy on you up to that point. [[note]]A note on "Run To The Hills": it uses a very fast "disco" beat in which two hands alternate on the hi-hat and one of them moves to hit the snare. On Expert, this means keeping a steady alternating rhythm. On Hard, every other 16th hi-hat hit is removed, resulting in an xxx-xxs-xxx-xxs pattern (where x is hi-hat, s is snare, - is a rest). While it is technically much easier, some people found this to be just as hard or even harder to keep rhythm with than Expert. Rock Band 2 changed this system with songs like Everlong to convert very fast disco beats into regular beats, removing the 16ths entirely. This means that on Everlong and some other songs, you now hit a hi-hat at the same time as the snare. These hi-hat hits don't exist in the real songs, but make much more sense as a real drummer would do the same thing if they wanted to slow down the drum-work.[[/note]]
** ''Rock Band 2'' followed this up with [[Music/FooFighters Everlong]], which, while slower than ''Run to the Hills'', has a much less intuitive bass pattern. Of course, once you get past Everlong, there are five more songs that take the difficulty to ridiculous levels: Battery, Shoulder to the Plow, Painkiller, and Panic Attack are difficult (and decently long), but Visions takes the cake. Visions has the fastest blast beats in the game, the bass is very fast, and the pattern is very technically complex. Many players can five star every other song and still can't pass Visions.
** ''Rock Band 2'''s Sound Guy challenge, if there's an Expert drummer in your band. It ends with Everlong, ranked the 5th hardest song on the disc, and it's not under-rated; it's filled with high-speed 'tika-tika-tika-tika' hi-hat hits that will fail out most players unless they've been breezing through everything else up to that point. The silver lining is that if you can beat it once, you probably won't fail it afterwards, and you can switch down to Hard with little if any penalty.
** For guitarists, some Rock Band songs start off fairly easy, then they throw you for a loop with a [[ThatOneAttack vicious solo section]] which can easily screw up your entire run, "Can't Be Tamed" "According To You" and "Forever" are all prime examples.
* ''VideoGame/EliteBeatAgents'' and ''VideoGame/OsuTatakaeOuendan 2'' had three of these each, one on the "final" song, one on the actually final song, and one on the third bonus song. "Canned Heat" from EBA also counts, as it's the only song which has its taps on the offbeat. If you're not ready for it, you'll lose quickly.
* In ''VideoGame/{{beatmania}} IIDX'', you don't fail a song by running out of life, but you do need to finish with your life meter at 80% or higher to clear it. Many songs will abuse this by having sudden jumps in difficulty at the end; some of the biggest offenders are [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/3/holic.html?2AB00 Holic (Another)]], [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/8/blame.html?2AB00 Blame (Another)]], [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/13/contract.html?2N800 Contract (Normal)]] (the rest of the song is fairly easy in comparison), and [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/14/inori.html?1AB00 Inori (Another)]]. This issue is subverted [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/0/gobeyond.html?2AC00 Go Beyond!! (Another)]], which has its most difficult part in the ''middle'' of the song, and the rest of the song is easy enough for someone who can clear level-11 songs to easily recover in. Many players avoid this by setting doing the "Hard" route for the life bar. In this, as long as the life doesn't reach 0%, you pass.
* Many [[RhythmGame Rhythm Games]] have this on a select few of the hardest songs.
** On ''VideoGame/DanceDanceRevolution'', there is a huge gap in difficulty between most 9's and most 10's. A player who can easily get a Full Combo and/or AA on most 9's may barely scrape by with a B on a typical 10. The gap was slowly smoothed out over the years, only for Konami to release a new batch of charts so hard that they created a new gap, just as big but further up.
** Also from Bemani, the difficulty progression in ''pop'n music'' stays relatively constant up until you reach Level 28, which is where the notecharts start throwing more advanced techniques (scales and jackhammers in particular) at you. Spikes also occur at Levels 32, 35, 38, and each level thereafter. Then, as with ''BeatmaniaIIDX'', there are a ton of songs that will devolve into total [[OhCrap notejam]] in the last ten seconds or so. Playing with the Extra Stage lifebar cuts out the 80% requirement, but [[GuideDangIt you need to get specific combined level scores to access it]]-and from the 16th mix onward, the criteria were raised enough to make it nigh-impossible without using [[SelfImposedChallenge ojamas]].
* ''VideoGame/{{DJMAX}} Technika'''s Weekly 27 course, available only from July 12 through 19, 2010. Stage 1 is Enemy Storm [PP]; one of the easiest stage 2 songs in Popular Mode. Stage 2 is Cherokee [PP]; a few steps up but still doable for some. ''Then'' there is Stage 3, A.I. [TP], which is many steps harder than Cherokee thanks to [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWDBIfrTTZE#t=1m40s a rather annoying repeat note segment at the end]].
* ''VideoGame/HatsuneMikuProjectDiva'' has a fairly reasonable difficulty progression with every song being completable with enough practice. Then you get to The Dissapearence of Hatsune Miku and your head explodes.
* ''VideoGame/ReRave''[='s=] difficulty takes a flying leap from Level 8 to Level 9, when the different note types suddenly start hitting you all at once, like having to sustain a long Follow Note while hitting random Omni Notes that appear all over the screen.
* ''VideoGame/RhythmHeaven'' progresses at a simple rate for the first five stages. Then the game smacks [[ThatOneLevel Rhythm Rally]] in your face, one of the least lenient mini-games in the game. Then the game smooths out again, and finally hits its head with Big Rock Finish, which doesn't allow practice for 6 of the 8 playable songs, immediately followed by Frog Hop, the longest song in the game. Then the game crashes the ceiling through your body with Lockstep, a game that is downright impossible for first-timers; Space Soccer, which nets you a fail if you mess up twice; and [[MarathonLevel Remix 6]] which is the first Remix to fake you out by switching minigames mid-tap. Then comes Round 2, which elongates, quickens, and/or [[InterfaceScrew adds effects that make focus difficult]], and [[FakeLongevity getting all perfects]].
* In ''VideoGame/TheatrhythmFinalFantasy'', almost every song is available in three difficulties: Basic, Expert, and Ultimate. The increase in difficulty from Basic to Expert is reasonable. The increase in difficulty from Expert to Ultimate is ''absurd''. A player who is good enough to Perfect Chain an Expert-level song on their first attempt is probably going to fail that same song on Ultimate difficulty within ten seconds of starting.
* Woe betide ''VideoGame/GrooveCoaster'' players who only have access to the smartphone version but not the arcade version, as the level 200 and 300 unlockable songs "Got more raves?" and "Got a pain cover?" have brutal AC-Hard charts that are rated 20 and feature insane track speeds and rapid patterns that border on being unsuitable for touchscreens. The next highest-rated songs in the smartphone version are six Tatsh songs that are only rated 15 and don't come anywhere near the "Got" songs in terms of brutality, meaning that ''nothing'' in the game can prepare the player for these two songs. This is not as big of a problem in the arcade versions, where there are far more "boss" songs that can help the player smoothly improve their skills to the point of being able to tackle these songs.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Roguelike ]]
* ''VideoGame/FTLFasterThanLight'''s final boss flagship is noticeably harder than the rest of the game (most of the game is already at pretty high difficulty, but the final boss just shoots up another mile in difficulty level).
* ''VideoGame/NetHack'' has Gehennom, the hell area at the bottom of the dungeon. Instead of rooms and corridors, Gehennom has featureless maze levels. The randomly-spawning enemies are almost all demons and undead. And every once in a while, you'll stumble into a special level with a demon lord waiting for you.
* ''[[VideoGame/PokemonMysteryDungeonExplorers Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Darkness]]'':
** The game has a nice progression...until you hit Hidden Land. In the previous dungeon, you would face Seel, Staryu and Kingler, with the occasional Dragonair appearing every now and then. Suddenly, Dragonite, Garchomp, Magmortar and Rampardos start to raid your team with no mercy, coupled with a boss battle that can easily be ThatOneBoss for the unprepared.
** The post game follows quite nicely until you hit Miracle Sea. Enemies that return the damage dealt automatically and Octillery by dozens pelting you with GameBreaker moves from the other side of the room.
* In ''VideoGame/PokemonMysteryDungeonRescueTeam'', Sky Tower is markedly harder than anything you've previously done, featuring ghosts that can move through walls, changing weather, enemies with attacks that hit the entire room, and potential Monster Houses that can be extremely dangerous.
* ''VideoGame/TheBindingOfIsaac'' is already a brutal game. However, beat the game once and the FinalBoss is demoted to ClimaxBoss and more floors are added afterwards. In these floors, everything does a full heart of damage unless you have The Wafer...which you can't get until you beat these floors multiple times. This is essentially where the game gets serious.
* To progress through the story in ''VideoGame/CryptOfTheNecrodancer'', first you have to clear each zone as Cadence (the standard character). Then you have to clear them as Melody, who is locked into one weapon that is very strong once you get used to its attack radius. But then you have to beat them again as Aria, a OneHitPointWonder (technically two, since she starts with a revive) who can't use any other weapon besides the basic dagger and dies if you skip a beat. Not to mention she has to clear the zones in reverse order.
* ''VideoGame/DarkestDungeon'' is unforgiving in general but the titular Darkest Dungeon itself assaults you with a hellish spike in difficulty, especially in the second mission with a total of 3 very difficult mini-bosses in the Templar Warlords and Impalers. Just as well if you retreat from the dungeon you ''must'' surrender one of your heroes to hold off the monsters so the rest of your party can escape.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Role Playing Game ]]
* ''VideoGame/ClassOfHeroes 2'' flows nicely until you get to the parallel world. The dungeons make Witch's Woods look small and straightforward, enemies are much stronger, it introduces dark areas and gate keys get more and more common. However, once you approach Lanzlet the game throws a nasty curve ball by making all melee classes almost useless - either you nuke enemies on the first turn with Bomb and other spells that hit all the enemies in the battle or watch them kill your sturdiest tanks in two hits.
* ''VideoGame/EarthBound'':
** The Peaceful Rest Valley. Up until that point, the only challenging part was the Giant Step dungeon, and even that's not too bad if you're well-equipped. Peaceful Rest Valley teems with DemonicSpiders, especially the dreaded [[ActionBomb Territorial Oaks]]. It doesn't help that it takes forever to get out.
** The mine is another major difficulty spike. It's a long maze level swarming with poisonous enemies, requiring you to find and defeat five giant moles. The first time playing, you ''will'' get lost and spend a long time aimlessly wandering. And it doesn't get any better afterwards; almost immediately you get forced through the [[ThatOneLevel Fourside Department Store]] and [[DarkWorld Moonside]], both of which are even more difficult.
** There's also the infamous Mt. Itoi from ''VideoGame/MOTHER1''.
* ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiSuperstarSaga Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga]]'' has this applied to TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon.
** The final boss is especially notable. Although several of the [[spoiler: Koopalings]] were timed boss battles, and Fawful had some hard-to-avoid attacks, they weren't ''too'' hard to deal with. Even [[spoiler: Bowletta]] isn't that hard...and then you reach [[spoiler: Cackletta's spirit]]. Mario and Luigi are reduced to 1 HP each, and most of the time the boss will attack first, using up to ''four attacks''. The attacks are brand new, and if you die, you have to beat Bowletta again before getting another chance to analyze (and hopefully dodge) the attacks. It's common for an unsuspecting player to die before getting a single hit in, and the boss only adds new attacks from there.
** ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiPartnersInTime Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time]]'' also had a difficulty spike with the final dungeon, and especially with the final boss(es). In both games, even the normal enemies in the final dungeon are a huge step up from what has come before them.
** ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiSuperstarSaga Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga]]'' also has this at Joke's End, which is a MarathonLevel, ice level and ThatOneLevel in one, coming right after a fairly easy set of side quests and relaxed happy areas of the game. And right before the even harder final dungeon.
** ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiDreamTeam Mario & Luigi Dream Team]]'' has Somnom Woods, where the puzzles get more confusing, the enemies often become DemonicSpiders with a ton of health (especially the Beehoss) and two fairly difficult bosses lie in wait near the end. The final dungeon after this area is even harder.
** It also has one earlier in the game with Mount Pajamaja, which has surprisingly difficult enemies, a PlotTunnel which acts a temporary PointOfNoReturn (in the dream world version) and the first potentially aggravating giant Luigi boss.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Folklore}}'', the difficulty level in the final level, the Netherworld Core, is far greater than all previous areas.
* ''VideoGame/GoldenSun'' has a large difficulty spike whenever you enter one of the 4 elemental lighthouses.
** Final bosses don't tend to count for this trope unless particularly absurd -- like in ''VideoGame/GoldenSunDarkDawn''! At the very end of a 20-30 hour game that got a lot of flak for being trivially easy from the start all the way through the penultimate triple boss (you may well never have the slightest pressure to touch your inventory in combat throughout the game), the Chaos Chimera is quite suddenly very, very powerful and grueling on the scale of the previous games' {{Bonus Boss}}es.
** ''Dark Dawn'''s version of [[spoiler: Crossbone Isle]] is a certified BrutalBonusLevel. Hope you did your level grinding and got all the Djinn.
* While ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIII'' is difficult throughout, the back-to-back dungeons [[TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon Crystal Tower/Dark World]] turns it from "difficult but manageable" to "9th circle of hell". The Crystal Tower is filled with difficult enemies and a difficult boss, then after a long, unskippable cutscene you get thrown into the Dark World. From there, the player needs to beat 4 extremely difficult bosses with OneHitKO attacks (unless they want to get destroyed by the FinalBoss immediately) in a dungeon also filled with [[BossInMookClothing Bosses in Mook Clothing.]] While none of this out of control for the game, the kicker is that there [[CheckpointStarvation are no save points.]] You have to go through the 2 hour long gauntlet ''every time.''
* At the end of the first half of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI'', the Floating Continent has a sudden jump in the difficulty of random monsters compared to previous locations.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII'' contains a particularly nasty example, whereby [[SummonMagic a strategy]] that you can use to go through the entire first three discs will become entirely useless for the last one. If you've been going through the entire game with this strategy alone while not building up any other strategies, [[{{Unwinnable}} you may be screwed]].
* Though it certainly has a few tough spots, most of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'' isn't incredibly difficult. Then you hit Mount Gagazet, at which point not only do the standard enemies start getting a lot tougher, but the next four bosses ''all'' qualify as ThatOneBoss, culminating in a fight that many players consider the hardest non-BonusBoss in the entire game (and happens to come right after an unskippable 10-minute cutscene). It doesn't let up from there, even if you're not going for OneHundredPercentCompletion.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII'':
** Chapters 12 and 13 can be pretty challenging if you didn't grind a lot in Chapter 11. You can't go back to the Ch. 11 area until right before the final boss, and there's no clear indication at the end of Ch. 11 that you should train.
** While they aren't required, some of the later Mission Stones represent ludicrous difficulty spikes, along with some of the enemies that wander Gran Pulse. It's quite possible to beat the game without ever bothering with the upgrade system, for instance. But if you get far enough along in the Missions? Yeah. Need upgraded EVERYTHING - which probably takes you as long or longer to do than beating the entire game, storyline-wise. Oh, and those wandering turtles.. GuideDangIt.
* Boss fights in ''VideoGame/TalesOfVesperia'' tend to be rather jarringly difficult in comparison to the average random battle, but especially during [[ThatOneBoss the fight with Gattuso]] some players chose to change the battle difficulty to "easy". This spike in boss difficulty takes place, oddly enough, about five hours into the game.
** Same with [[spoiler: Alexei]], but it tends to be amplified after traversing the DiscOneFinalDungeon and all gels and life bottles have been exhausted getting to the boss.
* ''VideoGame/{{PersonaQ}}'' starts off as you'd expect from a Creator/{{Atlus}} game: tough but fair. Then you get to the Evil Spirit Club, where the dungeon layout and puzzles are more elaborate, the enemies are [[DemonicSpiders horribly brutal]] (using tactics like casting debuffs that make your whole party weak to an element, then spamming full-party hitting spells of that element) and the [[BossInMookClothing F.O.Es]] either ''chase'' you and can join in battles if you let them go on for too long, or [[JumpScare jump you out of nowhere]]. (Previous F.O.Es were either stationary or followed preset patterns) The fact that the dungeon has a horror theme compared to the lighthearted previous dungeons seems an unsubtle LampshadeHanging of this.
* ''VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublic'' is a pretty easy game to get through, provided you have even a small idea of what you're doing. Then you hit the final area. All of the enemy numbers that had been missing through the rest of the game come to bite you in the arse. That nice, skilled, diplomatic character you played? Toast. You won't even make it to the final boss without spending all of your money on healing items and saving often, or lowering the difficulty level. The boss itself has the nasty ability to one-shot weaker characters, ignore your attacks, and recover himself multiple times.
** This section is even more annoying as a DarkSide character, when you are [[spoiler:stuck with a recently returned and recently nerfed NPC. You can't opt out of taking them in.]]
** For a combat-focused character it's fairly easy though. It's the ones that focused on other skills that get it in the shorts.
* ''VideoGame/{{Fallout Tactics|BrotherhoodOfSteel}}'' does this ''every time'' the story shifts focus. You start off with leather armor and conventional weapons, fighting raiders. When your squad moves on to battling the [[TheBeastMaster beastlords]], if you haven't learned the value of stealth in your tactics you will ''have to'' if you want to survive, let alone complete missions. Plus you encounter Deathclaws, which are suitably lethal. From then, you go on to super mutants, with the first major difficulty spike (though at least the game forewarns you), where no matter how clever your tactics are, if you don't find a good gun ''soon'' you will simply not have the punch to kill the mutants. After you defeat the mutant leader, you then seem to have hit a difficulty plateau, as your next mission involves the Reavers, technophiles who practically worship their creations...but that's a fake-out, as you now have to deal with ''robots'', which can shrug off attacks that would shred even the toughest super-mutants.
* ''VideoGame/ArcanumOfSteamworksAndMagickObscura'' seems rather tricky in and out of Shrouded Hills, lobs you enough easy experience in Tarant, only to send you to the Black Mountain Mines, which will surely kill you once or twice even if you know what to expect.
** The main problem is that a) Arcanum's combat system has its flaws, b) the Black Mountain Mines are a pure dungeon crawl against enemies that do damage to melee weapons if you attack with them (or do damage to ''you'', if you use your fists). Add to that significant portions of the game being cut-off until you finish the Black Mountain Mines...
* ''VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIIMorrowind'''s final boss (Dagoth Ur) is level 35. The bosses from the expansions (Almalexia and Hircine) are both ''level 100''...
** The Bloodmoon expansion is especially guilty of this, Hircine is not even the worst part, he was pretty easy compared to this: A player who can't be harmed (literally, using constant healing amulets or something similar) in all of Vvardenfell will have a challenging game on Solstheim, the Isle of the Bloodmoon EP. Still, it won't be too hard. That is, until you chose [[spoiler:to finish the main quest as a werewolf]]. Then you're stripped off all your items and magic spells and face >30 enemies who are about as strong as you and attack in packs of 2-4, everything without a chance to heal yourself. To make things worse, if you manage it, your reward will be less than it would be if you took the easy path.
** Also simply starting a new game with the expansions installed. Whenever you go to sleep, you have a chance of an assassin being near your bed when you wake. This assassin, meant for players who had already beaten the original game, will quickly kill you at low levels.
* ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'' games will normally have a huge level difference between the team of the final gym leader and the team of the first member of the Elite Four...and the ''champion'' of the Elite Four is in a whole different weight class.
** ''VideoGame/PokemonDiamondAndPearl[=/=]Platinum'' and ''VideoGame/PokemonRedAndBlue[=/=]Yellow/Green'' throw an extra curveball by having the champion have a Pokémon ''with no weaknesses''. [[note]]Spiritomb and Alakazam, respectively. Remember that the first generation had no Dark type, Ghost was bugged, and Bug was nearly useless, making pure Psychics like Alakazam effectively weakness-free.[[/note]]
** After the Elite 4, it only gets worse. There are usually various [[BonusBoss bonus battles]] scattered across the region, including rematches with upgraded Gym Leaders and the Elite 4, who now all have a new team of Pokémon from all across the world (instead of being limited to the region the game is set in), usually in their seventies. TheRival also gains a few extra levels. And then there's the [[HarderThanHard Battle Frontier]]...
** ''VideoGame/PokemonBlackAndWhite'' add a new spin: by the first time you reach the Elite 4, their levels will range from mid 40's to 54. Once you beat them and upcoming opponents you'll unlock the rest of Unova for exploration... where even the average trainers will have their pokémon above level 60. Grinding at the Elite 4 is out of question, because suddenly their weakest pokémon are above level 70.
*** To compensate for this, some of these Level 60+ Pokémon aren't fully evolved for whatever reason and give decent amounts of exp when beaten. However, this makes the trainers that ''are'' using final forms difficulty spikes in comparison to the ones that aren't.
** ''[[VideoGame/PokemonGoldAndSilver HeartGold and SoulSilver]]'' are particularly egregious. The highest-leveled Pokemon in the Elite Four is level 50. The Kanto gym leaders have Pokemon in the 40s and 50s. However, [[TrueFinalBoss Red's]] entire team has levels in the ''80s''.
*** Except inbetween battling the Elite Four and Kanto Gym leaders the first time and Red is the rematches with the E4 and the Gym leaders. The Gym leaders get up in the 60s range and the Champion Lance gets into the 70s.
*** Depending on how you look at, the original games are less or more crazy. Blue's best Pokémon are Arcanine, Gyarados and Exeggutor, at Lv. 58. What's Red ''weakest mon''? Lv. '''73''' Espeon, FIFTEEN levels higher. Five less than in remakes (Lv. 80 Lapras versus Lv. 60 Pidgeot) but when you think about... Gym Leaders and E4 don't get upgrade. The strongest trainer you can easily rematch is Lance, with [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard Lv. 50 Dragonite]]. That's lower than Blue's weakest Pokémon! With wild Pokémon, it goes up to Lv. 52 Parasect in Mount Silver. However, it is only Crystal. In Gold/Silver, it's Lv. 51 Golduck. And then find where they appear! In other words, prepare for LOT of grinding.
*** In [=GSC=], while the Elite 4 doesn't upgrade, there's also a ''slightly'' lesser spike between Blue and Red's levels. Fortunately, in the remakes, the Elite 4 ''does'' upgrade to help you level grind better. Of course, you'll need every bit of grinding you can get in preparation for Red.
* ''VideoGame/PokemonColosseum'' is also this way when you hit Realgam Tower. Everything up to the final boss is level 47 to 49 max. But then you hit Nascour, who's in the 50s,and then [[spoiler: Evice]] and all his team is 60 and 61. Prepare to go enter several Colosseum battles to get your team high enough to beat him.
* ''VideoGame/MegaManBattleNetwork''. An interesting case, as the series as a whole spikes difficulty distinctly at each installment. The ''entire first game'' is basically an extended tutorial sequence for the rest of the series. Sure, there are a couple places you can get trashed ([[ThatOneBoss Magicman says hi]]), but the game actually expects you to not be particularly adept at the quirky combat system just yet -- you don't notice at first because you're still adjusting to the mechanics, but there's a ''ton'' of leeway. [=MMBN2=] stops pulling punches when you get to [[WakeUpCallBoss Quickman]] and is never forgiving enough to do so again. By 3, there ''is'' no WarmupBoss -- the first one is downright vicious. 4-6 are just plain [[NintendoHard ornery]].
** Then you go back and play the series in sequence again and realize the following. Tactics, reaction time, maneuvering, and mistakes that would let you S-rank an opponent in the first game would give you about an 8 at best in [=BN2=], 4-5 in [=BN3=], and would in all likelihood get you outright killed in the last three.
** Each game also has a massive difficulty spike upon entering the [[WretchedHive Undernet]]. Say goodbye to the slow, cutesy Mets, and get used to your deadliest virus no longer being a [[KillerRabbit Bunny]]. Say ''hello'' to meteor-raining mages, Spikies that move faster than any Bunny you've seen so far, arena shenanigans, and absolutely brutal enemy combinations that will happily murder you and eat your source code. Granted, it's not too hard to adjust to, but the sheer spike in difficulty more than makes up for it.
* ''Franchise/KingdomHearts'':
** Enemies get much stronger after completing Hollow Bastion in ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsI''. The game itself even tells you that they have.
** In the final level of VideoGame/KingdomHeartsChainofMemories, be prepared for all of the previously easy enemies such as Darkball and Shadows to be upgraded to ridiculous levels, with them using 0 cards strategically, 8's out the ass, and generally being royal dicks. You literally have to have a deck of nothing but 9's in order to win.
*** Note, however, than 100% of the 0 Card Breaks come from ''fucking Neoshadows.''
* In ''VideoGame/{{Avernum}} 4'', the difficulty curve is very gentle -- until you hit the Eastern Gallery, at which point it shoots sharply upward, before settling back down to a more moderate climb for the rest of the game. Wall, thy name is Chitrach.
* ''VideoGame/MSSagaANewDawn'' has a high spike after you lose one of the main healer, Aeon, and the choice of worthwhile mobile suits are limited to the five Gundams from ''Anime/MobileSuitGundamWing'' series and the [[Anime/MobileFighterGGundam Burning Gundam]], all which require you to go fight loads of [[ThatOneBoss That One Bosses]] with only two healer at max and a few melee tankers, one with very outdated unchangable suit to boot.
* ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'' on Insanity is manageable during the first recruitment missions. Definitely very challenging, but if you've practiced, they're reasonable. Then...you get to Horizon and fight the Collectors. Anytime you fight the Collectors, it's like this.
** Just imagine it. First you've got the regular Collectors who have stronger weapons and shields than almost any other enemies in the game. Guardians and Assassins will beat you down. Then...[[DemonicSpider Harbinger shows up]] and '''[[MemeticMutation Assumes Direct Control]]'''. This guy will constantly spam fireball attacks and use a certain attack that will knock you out of cover allowing you to be hit by an immediate fireball and fire from the other Collectors. Then you've got the Scions who will constantly move forward with an attack that keeps your shields drained for about 30 seconds if it hits. Two shots from it, and you are dead. Finally, there are [[ThatOneBoss the Praetorians]]. You'll have to go through this hell a few times over the course of the game. But it is satisfying as hell to get through.
** Horizon is generally considered to be the hardest level to get through, simply because you're up against the full might of the Collectors, but your choice of weapons or squad members is limited. The [[spoiler:Collector Ship]] is easier, simply because you get advanced weapon training there and have something that can deal with those damn Scions.
* The ''VideoGame/{{Suikoden}}'' series of games follow a general pattern: The majority of the game is smooth and easy to handle, with random encounters increasing in difficulty but never becoming unmanageable, and relatively few bosses that are usually fairly simple, with maybe one or two of [[ThatOneBoss those kinds of bosses.]] Then the FinalBoss or series of bosses comes up, and they are a hitpoint-munching game-over ''machine.'' They tend to be about five or six times harder than the entire rest of the game.
** ''VideoGame/SuikodenIII'' plays with this pattern--there are several boss battles that are ''brutally'' difficult...but the catch is that [[HeadsIWinTailsYouLose the game proceeds on regardless of whether you win or lose]] and the required bosses are fairly manageable. The FinalBoss of Suiko3, though, holds to the aforementioned trend of being death-in-a-bucket.
* In ''VideoGame/DragonSlayer'', the fifth through eighth monsters have 5,000 HP, 7,500 HP, 10,000 HP and 20,000 HP. Then the ninth monster has 300,000 HP.
* ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVIII'''s BonusDungeon has a boss at the end of it, and you must go through it each time to defeat a new one. The Darksteel Dragon is much more difficult. He has far less HP than his predecessors, but his defense is so high that, barring critical-or-miss attacks, you won't hit him that often. Also, he gets triple attacks.
* Playing ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'', you'll wonder where its NintendoHard reputation comes from. . .until you get to the courtyard of Castle Redcliffe.
** Before that, there is a certain mandatory random encounter with a pack of wolves that is certain to get you killed multiple times if you don't know what you're doing.
* All of ''VideoGame/DarkSouls'' is hard, but Blighttown, with its maze-like layout, powerful, toxin-inducing foes, difficult to see toxin-inducing snipers, is where things really start getting tough. Another difficulty spike is [[ThatOneLevel Sen's Fortress]], which comes immediately after Blighttown. The area is a convention center for booby traps and considerably strong mooks than previously encountered.
* ''VideoGame/MonsterRacers'' has Eurasia. The first two areas, Oceania and Asia, are easy to the point of being silly, usually being cases of "hold right to win." There are a couple oddballs (such as the Breeder's Cup), but for the most part, they're easy to moderately difficult. Then Eurasia smacks you in the face with snowy terrain (one of the most difficult to race on), high-leveled enemies, and much more brutal AI. And it only gets harder from there.
* ''VideoGame/DigimonWorld3'':
** There's the West Sector difficulty spike where you go from kicking digimon ass to getting kicked in the ass by powerful digimon. And after the Amaterasu Server spike, ''[[UpToEleven Asuka's North Sector and Amaterasu's own West and North Sector just makes things even worse.]]''
** The second spike comes once you get to the Amaterasu server, but the game is infamous among those who played it in that wild digimon can vary wildly in power from just one screen to the other, with absolutely no indication that you have just stepped into an area that you really shouldn't be in at that particular point in time. If you go out exploring too far in the wrong direction you can easily run into a super powerful wild digimon that your team won't possibly be able to defeat (given that the game's encounter rate is fairly high it may be difficult to get out of an area like this without dying).
* Early on in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'', the monsters are pretty weak, and if you know who to use on what, will usually go down in one or two hits. Then comes Macalania Woods - the monsters are more durable, and they'll be using attacks that unless you've leveled properly (rotating every character in to every battle you participate in seems to be the most effective method) will be putting down everybody but your tanks.
* The first several hours of ''VideoGame/{{Xenogears}}'' are pretty easy; a couple of the Gear bosses might cause some trouble, but nothing some basic strategizing won't fix. Then you enter the Nortune Sewers. All of the enemies hit hard, many cause status ailments (practically unheard of until this point), the area is a maze, and just initiating the boss is a puzzle that might result in the player wandering around for some time. Also, said boss is one of the [[ThatOneBoss most maligned]] in the game.
* In the Neopets browser game ''VideoGame/NeoQuest'' II, the game's difficulty fluctuates, but there is quite an increase about halfway through Act IV, first when you fight [[WolfpackBoss The Four]] [[ThatOneBoss Faeries]] and the optional [[GoddamnedBoss Hubrid Nox]]. Then the monsters in the Nox Mountains and the Goo Bog have stronger team synergy than seen before, with powerful spellcasters that aim for your mage and living slimes that slow your team and haste themselves. The spike ends right when you fight [[AntiClimaxBoss The Esophagor]], and doesn't come back until the end of Act V.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Robopon}}'', around the fifth or fourth-ranked competitor of both games, things get hard fast.
** The problem with Robopon 2 lies on the game mechanics. First of all, each robot gains fixed stat bonuses when they level up, when you [[EvolutionPowerUp upgrade]] your robot, the level is halved and the stats get down, it may sound bad but when you re-train the robot, it gets new skills and better stats so it helps in the long run (the sooner you evolve the better but you may lose some skills). The problem is, that only applies to YOU, the player, [[TheAIIsACheatingBastard none of you enemies get their stats down or lose skills, they get the stats equivalent to the form they are now]]. That's why the BOOT robots (they can't equip weapons but have better stats and unique skills) are useless to the player and so broken for the enemies, in fact, if you train your own robot to the last evolution and analyze the same robot as the enemy, you can see he has better stats (most of the time)! The huge spike comes when you're almost getting the fifth rank, when you visit the windmills on first time, they have weak enemies, but when you return there, most the random enemies evolve and THEN you feel the difference! For example, the weak Sumito robot becomes Yokomo (3 times stronger, but if you make one it's terrible), a robot with massive stats, regeneration and Revive+ skill that can make a single random battle take long minutes. You went from "Kill everything in one hit!" to [[NintendoHard "This random encounter is too damn hard!"]] in less than 30 minutes, from there on, the enemies are usually evolved and since they have better stats than your robots, your only chance to survive is to overlevel them and/or abuse equipment/skills.
* ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou'' gets harder with each week in the story. On-field enemies get stronger and the boss fights become a lot more challenging, with some requiring you to ''really'' think in order to figure out their weakness. The fact that you have to adjust to controlling Neku's new partner in each week only adds to it. The game's control scheme involves using Neku and his partner simultaneously in battle (Neku on the bottom screen, his partner on the top). There's an AI that controls the top-screen character if you don't but it's not that good, which means you'll have to get the hang of it fast and you definitely need too, since you share the same health bar and some of the later boss fights involve fighting a boss on ''each screen''.
* ''VideoGame/{{Undertale}}'':
** The game is pretty decent with its difficulty for boss encounters and they ramp up at a considerable pace. Each boss has a gimmick to exploit in the game's bullet hell styled mini-game you play whenever the enemy attacks. [[spoiler: Omega/Photoshop Flowey puts the "hell" in bullet hell with little to no time to react to his attacks as they cover nearly the entire screen. The battles after him if you are on the true pacifist route are much easier.]]
** The Genocide/No Mercy route has a major difficulty spike. The random encounters are always easy, and you essentially skip the boss battles for the first half of the game -- and then you reach [[spoiler:Undyne the Undying]], who abruptly requires some serious reaction time to beat, even more so than all the bosses in the normal/pacifist routes.
* Once you manage to get the hang of ''VideoGame/{{Bloodborne}}'', the beginning areas aren't really so tough ([[ThatOneBoss Gascoigne]] aside). After you defeat Vicar Amelia and unlock the Forbidden Woods, however, all bets are off. Dark environments, twisty path ways, plenty of traps and dozens of villager enemies. And that's just the first half. After the windmill, you meet the Snake Heads, who can attack you during your attacks, have cartoonish health for that stage in the game and are everywhere. At the bottom, two pigs (Who can basically one-shot you with their charge attacks) a mess of corpse walkers and the boss, the Shadow of Yharnum. Hell, on the way to the woods, you find your first Brain Sucker. Everything after that point is almost as difficult, more in line with a standard ''Souls'' game.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Shoot Em Up ]]
* Old-time gamers would reference the arcade game ''VideoGame/{{Sinistar}}''. If you were on the ball, the first level was a snap. The second was absolutely brutal, and it just got worse.
* In ''VideoGame/BloonsSuperMonkey'', the game get so much harder after the first MOAB in the first game. It gets worse in the sequel, as the first MOAB is '''stage five!!'''
* The first three and a half stages of ''[[VideoGame/DonPachi DoDonPachi]]'' are designed to break you in. The rest of the game is designed to break you.
** And then there's the second loop. And ''then'' there's Hibachi, who makes ''the entire rest of the game look like cheesecake''.
** True to its predecessor, ''[=DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu=]''[='s=] first 4 stages are pretty easy. Then comes stage 5, which is significantly harder. If you make it into the second loop, stage 2-1 makes stage 5 look like cake, and it only gets harder from there. And of course there's Hibachi.
** Continuing the trend, ''[=DoDonPachi Saidaioujou=]''[='s=] 4th stage is as hard as the first 3 stages combined, stage 5 is twice as hard as stage 4, and Hibachi is as hard as ever. This might be because unlike past games in the series, ''SDOJ'' has no second loop. Except this time there's a second TrueFinalBoss, Inbachi, who makes even Hibachi look like a piece of cake.
* Many fans of the ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'' series would actually feel weird with a game that ''didn't'' include at least one difficulty spike. It's very traditional that the game gets into its real difficulty level only around level 4 or so, being [[NintendoHard comparatively]] easy before. Some particular games do it one level before, some it one after, but the fact that there ''will'' be a difficulty spike is unavoidable.
** Also, the gap between Hard and Lunatic tends to be much bigger than between Easy and Normal and between Normal and Hard.
** The most pronounced spike is in normal mode of ''Ten Desires''... it's the FinalBoss. Within the same game, the overdrive version of a spellcard is often vastly worse than any of the other versions, including lunatic.
** The 15th Touhou game, ''Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom'', really mocks players. The otherwise often ridiculed Easy Mode is kinda alright, but playing Normal and above gets absolutely merciless. People who can reasonably play Normal mode in other Touhou games will find this entry in the series absolutely impossible.
* The first stage of Creator/{{Toaplan}}'s ''Flying Shark''[=/=]''Sky Shark'' is only moderately hard, but the "moderately" part goes away after that. Doesn't help that it has FakeDifficulty by way of [[ContinuingIsPainful Gradius syndrome]].
* ''VideoGame/BlazingStar'' turns nasty when you're up to the boss of stage 3, which attempts to overwhelm you by boxing you into a very small space with its attacks, then sprays bullets maniacally in its last form. Stage 4 has enemies that appear so quickly the game has to warn you where they're coming from, and a boss that throws destructible bullets which end up blocking your shots, while frequently trying to ram you. Stage 5 has wall-mounted turrets that fire bullets in every direction at once, and a boss that does the same for one of its attacks but in a denser spread. Stage 6? Your ship's hitbox will start being a trouble.
* In ''VideoGame/BeatHazard'' you can consider yourself screwed when the music gets quiet.
* All of the ''VideoGame/{{Raiden}}'' games do this around Stage 3, but ''Raiden IV'' takes the cake, increasing its bullet density to near ''[[VideoGame/DonPachi Dodonpachi]]'' levels. Not to mention the second loop and TrueFinalBoss. ''Raiden II'' has an especially large spike in the second and third levels on the higher two difficulty settings. Sniper tanks, sniper tanks, everywhere.
* The first 16 tutorial levels for ''[[VideoGame/BangaiO Bangai-O Spirits]]'' teach you the mechanics of the game. The 17th (last) is an [[NintendoHard average difficulty]] level. On a scale of 1 to 100, the first 16 are all 5s or below, and the last is a 40. This is mitigated a bit since one of the demos shows a way to beat this one with the loadout given.
* ''VideoGame/{{Rez}}'''s third area takes a nasty leap in difficulty. Then there's the boss, which is much harder than the first two.
* While ''VideoGame/{{Hellsinker}}'' is rather easy by BulletHell standards it still packs a vicios spike in difficulity starting with [[WakeupCallBoss Rusted Dragon]].
* ''VideoGame/MushihimeSama Futari''[='s=] Original Mode has a massive one shortly after the stage 3 midboss. The section of stage 3 between the midboss and the boss is harder than the first two stages combined, and so is the stage 3 boss.
* ''VideoGame/HeavyWeapon'' After the rather manageable Dictastroika (with a rather easy boss, War Wrecker), you go into Zamblamia where you fight blimps with tons of health and [[ActionBomb explode]] into a shower of hard-to-avoid, indestructible purple balls, and a durable helicopter enemy that spams homing missiles. The boss at the end "Kommie Kong" is also a WakeUpCallBoss to those playing the PC version.
** The next level Tankylvania tops that even further by introducing the [[GoddamnedBats Reflex Fighters]] which have DeflectorShields that deflect your regular shots as purple balls, and the [[DemonicSpiders Havanski Atomic Bomber]] which drops nukes that take a long time to destroy and ''[[OneHitKill instantly kill you regardless of shielding]] if they hit the ground''. Like Kommie Kong, the boss also has a OneHitKill move.
** Lastly, there's Killingrad, which contains a lot of the previous levels' mooks. There are no Atomic Bombers but there ''are'' two new DemonicSpiders for you to play with: The [[KillSat Romanov Attack Satellite]] and the [[AdvancingBossOfDoom Shovak Bulldozer]], both of which can instantly kill you.
* ''VideoGame/{{Ikaruga}}'''s difficulty follows a modest curve through the first two chapters, then shoots up exponentially starting with the third.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Simulation Game ]]
* ''VideoGame/BlackAndWhite 2'''s levels are pretty easy with the AI throwing a couple of battalions of troops at your villages every so often, easy to defend against provided you have wall, a troop of warriors yourself and if that fails you can send out your creature to fight while you causally build up resources. In the last level you face full on assault by multiple cities at the start, you've got restricted resources and then your whole village is destroyed by a volcano and while rebuilding you'll be constantly attacked.
* ''VideoGame/SimCopter'', as bizarre as that sounds. Start up a custom map, and try to adjust the sliders that control the chance of a mission spawning. The result is not for the faint of heart.
* ''VideoGame/FreeSpace2'' to some extent - the first three missions are a warm-up, most of the rest of the game has a normal progression...
** ...then you are promoted [[spoiler:to Squadron Leader of the elite 70th Blue Lions]] and are immediately given a near-impossible escort mission - where much of the difficulty comes from your reinforcement wing being absolutely green, despite flying in supposedly elite-only fighters. The following two missions are definitely on the high-difficulty side as well, but the final mission is a bit of a cool-down.
* ''VideoGame/HarvestMoonFranticFarming'': Most of the characters' story modes are fairly straightforward. Most have a gradual increase in difficulty, and the boss battles with the Witch Princess are basically Survival Mode battles in disguise. And then there's Vaughn's final stage. You have to score 100,000 points in five minutes. You haven't been required to do more than 75,000 before (and won't be required to for any of the other characters). Vaughn's special skill (Instantly harvesting any big vegetables on the field) is totally at the mercy of the game board and your two AI partners are near useless. Beating Vaughn's last stage is practically a LuckBasedMission.
* The Battle of Yavin from the original ''VideoGame/XWing''. Most of the game has SchizophrenicDifficulty, even after the ''[[ThatOneLevel Redemption]]'' mission. The three missions comprising the assault on the Death Star ratchets up the difficulty ''significantly'' for the rest of the game. There are lesser difficulty spikes in the final missions of the two previous Tours of Duty, but these are nothing compared to the Battle of Yavin.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Sports Game ]]
* Going to the next division on the Soccer games, ''VideoGame/FIFASoccer'' and ''Pro Evolution Soccer''. Because your team will probaly go to the next division unprepared, you're going to have a hard time dealing against the opponents because they can be way better than you. This can bite hard if you go up to the 1st division, because that's where the powerhouse Clubs reside.
* ''VideoGame/PunchOut'''s final fight against [[FinalBoss Mike Tyson (Mr. Dream in later versions after Tyson's contract ran out)]] takes NintendoHard to ridiculous extremes. In fact, the World Circuit as a whole (save the opening [[HardModeFiller Piston Honda rematch]]) is a [[JustForPun sucker-punch in the face]] after the relatively manageable fights that came before. In addition to having to face [[ThatOneBoss Bald Bull]] ''again'', you get the nice little [[AccidentalPun one-two punch]] of Mr. Sandman and Super Macho Man. These two fighters, along with Soda Popinksi from earlier in the Circuit, make the rest of the game look much like how Tyson makes ''them'' look.
* ''[[VideoGame/PunchOut Punch Out Wii]]'' has Bear Hugger, who's ''much'' trickier than his predecessors (every fighter before him had a method to knock them down with one hit; the only way to do so with Bear-Hugger is with a three-star punch). He also marks where Title Defense gets painful.
* ''[[VideoGame/PunchOut Super Punch-Out]]'' has Dragon Chan. While the first five fighters you encounter range from being pretty straightforward (Bob Charlie) to an absolute joke (Gabby Jay), Dragon Chan is the wake-up boss. He's faster than the other fighters. He has ''three'' different special moves (one of which is a kick to the face, even though [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard this supposedly isn't kickboxing]]). And his recovery time is quite a bit lower than the previous five fighters.
* In ''[[VideoGame/MarioTennis Mario Power Tennis]]'', the tournaments aren't too bad; even a moderately skilled player can get through them without much difficulty. Then comes the Planet Cup, the final cup of the Star Tournaments, specifically the Doubles version. The difficulty bumps up substantially between the Moonlight Cup and the Planet Cup, almost to a shocking degree. If one's skills aren't up to par, the Planet Cup will almost certainly push the player to the limit.
* In ''All-Pro Football 2K8'', the Los Angeles Legends are a MyRulesAreNotYourRules stacked team which had far more elite players than you were allowed. They were all but guaranteed to make the playoffs, so unless you got lucky and someone else took them out, you would wind up facing them at some point in your quest for the title.
* A massive chunk of the browser game ''VideoGame/WinnieThePoohsHomeRunDerby's'' notoriety and SurpriseDifficulty comes from its brutal difficulty spikes. Eeyore through Piglet aren't difficult once one gets the controls down, and while Kanga and Rabbit will catch unsuspecting players off guard they are manageable with practice. Then come Owl and Tigger, whose gimmicks (zigzagging and ''invisible'' pitches respectively) will have a player tearing their hair out in frustration. And lurking beyond them is Christopher Robin himself, who can throw any pitch in the game at incredible speeds, and the home run quota needed to beat him gives one absolutely no margin for error.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Stealth Based Game ]]
* The original ''VideoGame/ThiefTheDarkProject'' suffers a huge difficulty spike going from Mission 4, 'Assassins' to Mission 5, 'The Sword'. The ''Gold'' version adds a new mission, 'The Downwind Thieves' Guild', between the two specifically to smooth the bump a little.
* The original ''VideoGame/{{Tenchu}}'' has [[SchizophrenicDifficulty a bit of an erratic difficulty curve]]: the first 3 stages are the learning steps, with the third being a bit more challenging but still manageable. Stages 4 and 5 (which, coincidentally, [[RegionalBonus weren't part of the original japanese release]]) are longer, more complex and {{mook}}-filled than before. Stages 6 and 7 are quite more toned down (specially the Manji temple, where the player can cut to the chase and go directly to the boss). And then comes Stage 8, set on a [[DeathMountain mountain top]] where there's a lack of hiding spots and an overabundance of {{Bottomless Pit}}s, plus archer {{mook}}s who can snipe at you from the other end of the chasm. The last two stages are ''slightly'' easier by virtue of lacking any BottomlessPit (though the last one is ''three times'' as large as any previous one).
** The second game isn't as bad, as long as you're not going for the [[RankInflation Grandmaster ranking]] since, unlike every other game in the series, the requirements for the rank change from level to level. So, some levels let you a bit of leeway in terms of Stealth Kills/being seen, while others force you to ''Stealth Kill every {{mook}} in the entire stage'' while ''not being seen''. Even still, Ayame's Story Mode is a more straight example, throwing in a "Not Be Seen or GameOver" requirement in ''Stage 3'', and the tricky Stage 8 and its respective [[ThatOneBoss boss]], [[PantheraAwesome Kotaro the Tiger]], which if it gets you on your back, can [[CurbStompBattle end the battle unscathed]].
* ''VideoGame/SplinterCell'' has Burma. Enemy troops now [[MoreDakka fire in full auto]], [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard and their guns have ZERO shot dispersion]]. If direct confrontation was problematic before (but could be countered by spamming medkits), it's downright suicidal from here on out.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Survival Horror ]]
* ''VideoGame/DeadSpace'' is a fair challenge save for the (turret mini-game) in chapter four. It is mandatory that this part is completed to advance in the game. The reason this portion is so difficult is that the margin for error is strikingly slim compared with the rest of the game.
* ''VideoGame/FatalFrame'' is fairly manageable during the 1st Night. However, the 2nd night increases the difficulty dramatically. There are more ghosts and they are far more powerful and harder to target. The Blind Woman in particular is prevalent throughout this night and has a tendency to teleport around the room before rushing the player.
* ''VideoGame/FiveNightsAtFreddys'' progressively gets worse as the week goes on, but on Night 5, [[spoiler:all the animatronics' prior patterns are reversed. DamnYouMuscleMemory, indeed! It's also commonly believed that the AI adapts to your playing style]].
* ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil'', both the original and the remake, get a nasty difficulty spike when you've beaten the guardhouse and get back to the mansion. Cue ShakyPOVCam charging through the courtyard and down the balcony ''you just used to enter the mansion'' and your first battle with a [[DemonicSpider Hunter]]. You'd better pray you didn't burn through all the ammo and health caches in the mansion either, since this guy isn't a BossInMookClothing: the mansion is ''crawling with them now''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Third Person Shooter ]]
* Playing ''VideoGame/MaxPayne'' on the level "New York Minute" is like shooting yourself in the head. You get a minute per section, and you can only get about 4 seconds per kill.
* While ''VideoGame/{{Oni}}'' isn't exactly an easy game, the difficulty of level 11 comes out of nowhere with three tough bosses in a row, broken up by fights against some of the toughest {{mooks}} in the game, along with very meager supplies; most of which is gotten off the bodies of your enemies, then the game goes back to the normal overall difficulty curve for the rest of the game.
** The absurdly difficult final section of level 3 tops that easily. Good lord, the death count nearly reached the triple digits. At least the next level went easy on the player after that onslaught. An honorable mention goes to level 12. Dodging five sets of trip lasers (which are armed with near-fatal Mercury Bow rifles) at the start makes for some frustrating gameplay. It's not quite as sadistic, but agonizing, nonetheless.
* ''VideoGame/{{Hatred}}'' has the Military Base, an ''[[ThatOneLevel enormous]]'' difficulty spike in an already-challenging game. Whereas previous maps started you out in an open environment with mostly civilians and gradually added law enforcement, the military base throws you into a gauntlet right from the beginning, with dozens of enemies and a Humvee with a turret in the very first area you run into. Being a military base, nearly every NPC is a soldier armed with an assault rifle or missile launcher, and all of them are heavily dug in. There is very little cover to use aside from the buildings filled with soldiers or sandbag fortifications that can be destroyed, rendering them useless. A very cautious playstyle is required to survive even on Easy difficulty.
* One of the most common criticisms of the otherwise [[NoProblemWithLicensedGames well-reviewed]] ''VideoGame/GhostbustersTheVideoGame''. The game is comfortable most of the time, only to catch the player off-guard with a section that will require several tries to overcome. The most infamous would be a part where the player is expected to throw flying stone gargoyles into a gate. The combination of the inherent difficulty of this task, the (numerous) gargoyles being very quick and will often one-shot you from off-screen, and the ArtificialStupidity of your fellow Ghostbusters led to more controllers being thrown through TV's than gargoyles through gates.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Turn Based Strategy ]]
* ''Chessmater 3000'' added a feature to make it easier for less experienced players - a slider that controlled the percentage of moves it considers. Because of how AI systems work, this led to a difficulty spike where some players can always defeat it at 99% difficulty but always lose at 100%. ''Chessmaster 4000'' corrected this by using move strength rather than hiding random moves from the AI.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTactics'' somewhat bizarrely has its difficulty spike midway through the game. The Riovannes castle is absolute murder, first with an Annoying DuelBoss (Weigraf) then ThatOneBoss (Velius) then finishing with the EscortMission From Hell (lemming-Rafa). Nothing that comes after that point is anywhere near as brutal as Riovannes.
** ''FFT'' has secondary {{Difficulty Spike}}s in Limberry and the final sequence of battles, but since by that time you probably have a bunch of {{Game Breaker}}s (including Thunder God Cid, who gets handed to you automatically) it's pretty hard to tell it's there unless you're [[SelfImposedChallenge deliberately handicapping yourself]].
** If your levels are low, the Golgorand Execution Site ''will'' force you to gain some more. The time mages, archers, knights (dark and otherwise) are a well-oiled player-killing machine.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTacticsA2'' has this for its BonusDungeon. The dungeon is made up of several floors followed by the top floor, so you'll have several rounds of fighting. Most of the enemy levels range from 45-55, but when you hit the top, the enemy levels suddenly SHOOT UP to level 90-99! Unless you had spent tons of time level grinding, most players will be totally caught off guard. Just to insult you further, the enemies on the towers' top floors will be able to take extra turns and cast Haste on themselves. Of note is that all enemies in said dungeon get a turn at the start of the battle - no matter anyone's speed stat - so you can't just grind and kill them before they have at least a single turn. Or, far more likely, 5-6 turns, as that first turn is almost always spent casting [[ThatOneMove Light Curtain]], which hastes the already ludicrously-fast enemy party.
* The last two maps of ''VideoGame/{{Disgaea|HourOfDarkness}}'' are simply murderous. The penultimate battle pits you against a major villain who isn't terribly tough himself, but is protected by a whopping eighteen guards[[note]]Note the game engine will only allow something like 24 entities on the map at once, so your usual unit cap is artificially lowered until you manage to kill some of them off.[[/note]]. Nearly two-to-one odds against your party, and comparably levelled too. Then the final boss inverts this problem- his guards are fewer and not as tough, but the boss himself is so ridiculously overpowered that all but your most powerful characters can't even scratch him. Even with a few of those characters on your side, it's a hit-and-miss fight because he'll occasionally use a standard attack to kick off a Counter war. All those times you laughed at enemies who you dealt the deathblow to with a Counter-Counter? Feel their pain, dirtbag.
** ''Disgaea'' in general is a little tough between the late game story, up to where you can complete the Cave of Ordeals, and then later after you've defeated Priere and Marjoly. The real reason is because by about chapter 11 in the story, enemy levels start spiking and you need to start level grinding to survive, whereas before you could usually stay competitive just by leveling normally. From there on you need to deliberately stop and level grind, but until you can mid-way through the Cave of Ordeals it's difficult to do that. Then, once it's time to take on Baal, the previous level grinding areas just aren't giving you effective returns anymore.
** All of the ''Disgaea'' games have a similar difficulty curve; the levels raise by around ten in the first six chapters, then start shooting up by five or so levels per map in the last seven or so; although this is only preparation for the [[BonusDungeon post-game]] [[LevelGrinding content]], which goes to absurd [[SerialEscalation lengths]] to [[TurnedUpToEleven top itself]].
* ''VideoGame/AdvanceWars'':
** Only 3 missions into the first game you're hit across the face with ''Air Ace''. Not only does the enemy get a factory to manufacture units while you ''don't'', not only are you grossly outnumbered by air units with little means of defense, but the enemy [=CO=] is Eagle. The already deadly overpowered air units gain a 20% power boost and fuel bonus under his command, and his [=CO Power=] lets him strike twice in one turn. Good luck.
** Provided ''Air Ace'' left you standing in one piece, you'll run into ''Blizzard Battle'' a few missions later if you chose the Max route. The goal is to capture 10 properties, which is easier said than done. Your opponent has you outnumbered 13 to 7, and already has 6 properties to your 3. Worse still is his [=CO Power=], which not only weakens you but also ''reduces your movement range'' while he gleefully moves unhindered.
** The third mission of ''Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising'', though not impossibly hard, is a cruel spike in difficulty compared to the earlier missions. Your opponent is [[PerkyGoth Lash]], the best commander in the entire game next to [[BigBad Sturm]] himself, and your using Sami the ''weakest'' of the three Orange Star commanders. Not only does the enemy get a factory to deploy new units while you don't, but you also only have seven turns to win the battle. There's ''very'' little room for error; even playing the level flawlessly still typically ends on turn 6 or 7.
** Mission 10 in ''Days of Ruin'' is both harder than anything before it and harder than a lot of missions ''after'' it. It's the first time your enemy has both production facilities and the money to take good advantage of them, and he additionally has a strong offensive force around his base. The enemy also tends to dig in rather than charge (which is odd given the enemy CO for the mission is the Beast, who usually did the exact opposite previously), meaning you have to roust him out, which is going to cost you some units.
* The original ''VideoGame/PanzerGeneral'' has a nasty spike on the third mission--the invasion of Norway--but only if you have received major victories on both of the first two missions. Your "rewards" for doing so well on the first two missions: your first naval battle, which is easily lost yet critical to the mission; your first real air battle; the first time the weather turns against you, introducing low visibility, uncrossable rivers, and making your air forces useless; and a nasty journey through rough terrain between the final two target cities, meaning even if you make it that far you are likely to run out of time traveling through the wilderness.
* ''VideoGame/XCOMEnemyUnknown'' has a large spike in form of the first Terror mission. First, as opposed to usual search-and-destroy missions, you have to take care of civilians in the area before aliens kill them all. Secondly, this will usually be the first mission where you encounter local DemonicSpiders, Chryssalids, which can OneHitKill both civilians and your troops and turn them into zombies - and if you don't kill them fast enough, they'll spawn even more Chryssalids. And finally, losing previous missions meant had significant, but manageable consequences - however, failing a Terror mission causes affected country to instantly withdraw from [=XCOM=] project, permanently reducing your funding and putting you one step closer to GameOver.
* ''VideoGame/StellaGlow'' has a spike towards the end of Chapter 10 where the game begins to throw bosses that are immune to ailments, and thus cannot be stopped with crippling ailments like Stop or Paralysis. Prior to this, one could get by through keeping roughly in-line with the recommended levels and by abusing Rusty Key or Ice World, but the sheer strength of the end bosses might force one to stop to level grind.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Vehicular Combat ]]
* ''VideoGame/TwistedMetal 2'' had a very strange difficulty curve. The eight levels went something like this: very easy > hard > very easy > average > very easy > hard > OMFG COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE > average. The difficulty of a level was inversely proportional to the amount of cover you could find, with the easy levels having places where the AI wouldn't even go. The second level was fairly easy, but only if you managed to pick up the full health before either an opponent grabbed it or the ramp leading to it got blown up taking all of the cover and the [[WeaponizedLandmark lightning generator]] with it, in which case it just got a lot harder. Then suddenly that seventh level Holland had ''nine'' opponents in a tiny square field with no cover other than two windmills that explode after ten seconds of enemy fire. Good luck.
* ''VideoGame/TwistedMetal 3'' has two notable spikes up: the first in the ''second'' stage, which is Holland ''minus hiding spots'' and a [[WakeUpCallBoss not so easy]] MiniBoss. All following stages are more or less not that hard afterwards, and then one reaches the 7th stage, Egypt. It's also sorta like Holland, except the hiding spots don't break down and the general terrain has ''thousands of bumps'', making handling and avoiding enemy fire ''very'' tricky. The final stage wouldn't probably be as hard if it wasn't for the 5 panels the player must destroy so the enemies stop respawning after death.
* ''VideoGame/TwistedMetal ([=PS3=])'' carries on the tradition with several very uneven spikes, most notably the [[ScrappyMechanic death race levels]] and [[ThatOneBoss boss fights]].

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Wide Open Sandbox]]
* ''VideoGame/SaintsRow2'' difficulty rises pretty evenly, as long you're following all story threads at about the same rate, collecting sidequest rewards as you go. The game likely expects the rest of the game to be completed before starting the Epilogue chapter...and it's highly recommended, as the difficulty leaps in each mission are tough to scale even for completionists.
* ''VideoGame/{{Minecraft}}'': Welcome to the Nether! Or, as it was called in development, "Hell".
[[/folder]]

!!Non-video game examples:

[[folder: Live-Action TV]]
* The first few legs of ''Series/TheAmazingRace'' are typically very straightforward, but generally around leg 3 or 4 (though this is not a concrete rule, as some seasons never have a Difficulty Spike, while Season 10 had its spike in the first leg) the handholding stops and the difficulty ramps up. This leads to some teams being a part of the lead pack for the first few legs, but ultimately dropping off and finishing in the middle of the pack. The most obvious example would be from leg 3 of Season 6, the infamous hay bale Roadblock, considered by many to be the hardest task in race history (it reduced one racer to tears).
* The last two seasons of ''Series/AmericasNextTopModel'' have added a challenge where the contestants must participate in a music video. ''A music video''. Where they have to '''''sing'''''. Yes, that's right, the chance of being a successful Top Model lies in the hands of whether or not you can do something ''completely irrelevant to your profession and entirely separate from what you have practiced your'' '''''entire fucking life'''''. Needless to say, the two models it killed off also happened to be considered the ones most adept at, you know, '''''modeling'''''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Pinball]]
* Many players feel this occurs once you make it to the vertical playfield in ''Pinball/BanzaiRun''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Other]]
* The people in charge of the Scripps National SpellingBee used to call Round Three "the Lawnmower Round". On at least one occasion, it took out two-thirds of the competitors. The word-selection committee eventually readjusted their entire method of ranking words simply to get around that.
* For the grand finale of LetsPlay/TwitchPlaysPokemonCrystal, which is the climbing of Mt. Silver and [[TrueFinalBoss the final battle with]] [[TwitchPlaysPokemonRed Red]], the game was put on a time limit of 7 days, and '''Democracy has been permanently disabled'''. For those not familiar with Twitch Plays Pokemon, there are two methods of control: Anarchy, where the character does ''anything'' the chat says, and Democracy, where the chat is "skimmed" every five seconds, with the most popular choice the one being used; the chat can switch between them by a majority vote for one or the other. With Democracy disabled, the game is at the mercy of the crowd, and the chat is not exactly well-known for agreeing with itself.
* Reportedly, the 2015 Edexcel GCSE (Standardised exams everyone who finishes secondary school in the UK takes) in Maths was this, compared to previous papers. So much so that it managed to get to the number one hashtag on twitter in the UK, and outlets such as Buzzfeed, Huffpost and even ITV and the BBC reported on it.
[[/folder]]
----

to:

* In ''VideoGame/DiddyKongRacing'', once you got to the first boss, [[WakeUpCallBoss Tricky the Triceratops]], you learned how tough the races in this game could be. The second boss, [[BreatherBoss Bluey the Walrus]], is a nice break, but the third boss, [[ThatOneBoss Bubbler The Octopus]], is an absolute nightmare, especially the second time around, and the fourth boss, [[GoddamnedBoss Smokey the Dragon]], practically ''forces'' you to memorize the course and the placement of his fireball attacks to win the race.
** Also, expect the [[HardModeFiller Silver Coin Challenge]] for any given race to be much harder than the original race. Having three laps to get eight coins at various (often hard to reach) points on the track and still having to place first is harder than it sounds.
* Once you reach the last part in most ''VideoGame/NeedForSpeed'' games after ''[[VideoGame/NeedForSpeedUnderground Underground]]'', it's not uncommon to see people switching the difficulty from Hard (or Normal) to Easy. Be very careful in ''[[VideoGame/NeedForSpeedMostWanted Most Wanted]]'' 2005 once you reach the Downtown Rockport borough. Also, the difficulty spike of Police Chase Heat 3 to Heat 4 is ''massive.'' The cops are way more reckless, roadblocks now have spike strips (which is an instant bust in this game) on then, and a helicopter is chasing you, meaning that if you want to get out of the cops' sight, you need to hide somewhere indoors. Oh, and there's Heat 5, which is the exact same thing as Heat 4, but even worse; you're getting chased by a total of 25 Corvettes and Sergeant Cross.
* While you can beat most of ''VideoGame/{{Driver}}'' by avoiding being noticed by the cops by driving legally while in their zone, in the last level, the cops are actively trying to demolish you from the beginning to the end. It sounds easier than it is; even while using an invincible cheat, it's easy to get a game over by having the car knocked upside down.
* The last level of ''VideoGame/MicroMachines''. The sports cars on the desktop stages are difficult anyway, but the final iteration, "Win This Race To Be Champion" is particularly fiendish, particularly when you realise they're the only vehicle you have to do four races with.
* ''VideoGame/{{Wipeout}} 2097/XL'' had easy (Vector), medium (Venom), hard (Rapier), and very hard (Phantom) tracks. The difference was the default ''speed class''. But during a championship, all tracks are raced at the fastest available speed class. Let's just say the tracks that are ''actually'' hard are the second (Sagarmatha), third (Valparaiso), and sixth (Odessa Keys) tracks out of eight; the easiest track in the whole game is track number five (Gare D'Europa). Once you get through the first half of the championship, you have the win in the pocket unless you hit the respawn trigger at [[SlippySlideyIceWorld Vostok Island]]'s [[ReentryScare bugged]] drop section, or worse, [[TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon Spilskinanke]]'s broken roads.
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Forza}} Forza Motorsport 3]]'' was criticized for its unbalanced difficulty settings, with the gap between Medium and Hard being too large. ''Forza Motorsport 4'' balanced this out by lowering the Hard difficulty somewhat and adding [[HarderThanHard Expert]] mode for the truly hardcore.
* In ''VideoGame/IggysReckinBalls'', World 7, [[ShiftingSandLand Sun Canyon]], feature the first stages in the game that require Flapping and Drop Swings, two complicated techniques that require good timing to use effectively and can set you back by a few seconds each time you execute it incorrectly.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Fighting Game]]
* In general terms, when a Difficulty Spike presents in this genre of games, it's often overlapping with SNKBoss.
* ''VideoGame/{{Tekken}}'''s AI bounces all over the place, from imbecile, hardly moving AI to ones that keep interrupting your combo with punches and love to juggle...The exact time of difficulty spike in the fifth game is the SubBoss. You have three easy fights and then the game hands you your head.
* ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBros'':
** The original ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBros'' has the AI ramped up a little on Fox, then the Kirby team, during the single-player mode.
** In ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBrosMelee'', it happens around the fourth opponent in Classic and All-Star Modes.
** The Subspace Emissary of ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBrosBrawl'' gets noticeably worse around the levels where you play as Marth, due to many of the nastier enemy types beginning to appear at that point. Most of the bosses tend to give players a lot more trouble than the levels before them, as well.
** Classic Mode on ''Brawl'' also has a Difficulty Spike in the Free-For-All right before Master Hand, the result of the AI deciding to GangUpOnTheHuman.
* M. Bison is the boss for every character in ''VideoGame/StreetFighterAlpha 3'' except himself, naturally. While the fights get progressively more difficult as the player gets nearer to him, Bison himself is pure torture, with super-fast cheap moves and a super-strong super move that eats up half of your total health if you don't block in time (and "only" 1/4th if you do). And if you fail, a NonstandardGameOver with no chances to continue will ensue.
* ''Fate/Unlimited Codes'' (''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'''s FightingGame spinoff), has a fairly normal difficulty progression during arcade mode... until you come to the final stage. On any difficulty above Easy, the CPU suddenly becomes nightmarishly competent (and gods help you if your character's last boss is [[ThatOneBoss Gilgamesh]]...). As one person on Gamefaqs put it, arcade mode is "less of a difficulty ramp than a difficulty teleporter".
* Few have have matched the difficulty of the final boss of ''VideoGame/DeadOrAlive 4'', who could essentially counter at will any move you might care to toss in her direction while dishing out highly damaging, unreasonably fast, ''unblockable'' attacks from across the screen. Also, anyone unlucky enough to face Jann Lee in the regular story mode is in for an [[NoHoldsBarredBeatdown unbelievably nasty surprise]].
* ''VideoGame/TheKingOfFighters'' sure loves pulling this off. Did you have fun walking all over the CPU AI competition? Congratulations! Have A NintendoHard SNKBoss for your troubles!
** ''The King of Fighters '94'': You've beaten three teams. Have a cutscene. Now kiss your ass goodbye.
** ''The King of Fighters '96'': So you beat every other team in the game? Meet the Boss Team - [[VideoGame/FatalFury Geese Howard, Wolfgang Krauser]], and [[VideoGame/ArtOfFighting Mr. Big]]! You may collect your teeth at the door.
** ''The King of Fighters XI'': Three teams in, the SubBoss arrives. There are five, four of which require certain actions on your part to reach. (The fifth one is Adel Bernstein.) It doesn't matter which one shows up, you're in trouble. They fight alone, but their defense is three times normal, and their AI is much better than the usual.
* ''[[VideoGame/SoulSeries Soul Calibur III]]'''s Story Mode, ''Tales of Soul'', does this. For the most part, the AI raises gradually, then when you reach a certain point where, well if you had any difficulty at before then, it will take you about a have dozen attempts to get through ANY of the stages. This is part of why people say the superboss Night Terror is so hard, the computer handles him so well.
* ''VideoGame/DissidiaFinalFantasy'''s story modes do this somewhat. The first, the Destiny Odyssey set, has you fight low level opponents. The next, Shade Impulse, the enemies you fight are all at much higher levels, so you'll have to do some level grinding before going into it. Chaos, the final boss, is extremely cheap, and many new players give up on the game because of how tough he is. Next up, Distant Glory, has enemies take a jump in difficulty. The last, Inward Chaos, all of the opponents are maxed out: The enemies you face in Inward Chaos start at level 91 and end up at level 110! To make matters worse, they're all set to the highest AI competency level, which means they'll block, dodge, and counter all of your attacks. And every single one of them has very high stats and some of the best equipment in the game (only the [[InfinityPlusOneSword exclusive level 100 weapons]] are better), so unless you have comparable equipment, you won't hit hard enough, and you'll get devastated by a single combo.
* In ''VideoGame/BlazBlueCalamityTrigger'', you will probably... [[IncrediblyLamePun blaze]] your way through the first nine stages of Nu's Arcade Mode with ease. Then you reach the tenth stage, where you meet [[SNKBoss Unlimited Rachel]]. Have fun! And [[SNKBoss Unlimited Rachel]] will haunt you again when you try score attack mode as the ninth match. And there's another spike with Unlimited Nu and Unlimited Ragna! And then there's ''Continuum Shift,'' where the boss of arcade mode is Hazama, who is several notches above the AI you've been fighting to get to him, partly because of some [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard blatant reading of your controller inputs.]] Oh, and he's Unlimited, which means he siphons off your health and refills his own ''by being near you.''
* ''[[VideoGame/SonicTheFighters Sonic Championship]]'''s difficulty will rocket all the way to space once you face [[ThatOneBoss Metal Sonic]].
* ''[[VideoGame/GuiltyGear Guilty Gear XX]]'' Story Mode goes from "you can practically win these matches by accident" to "RAPE VIA VIDEO GAME PROGRAMMING" in record time. And in order to get all the endings, you have to 1) conclude matches via bizarre and/or very difficult stunts and 2) win [[NintendoHard nigh-impossible]] matches that you can't replay, [[GuideDangIt all of which the game doesn't tell you about]]. It's a good thing the game gives you the HundredPercentCompletion characters if you play it for long enough (which is a ''very'' long time, as in "there's a possibility of actually completing ''Guilty Gear XX'' story mode" long time).
[[/folder]]

[[folder: First Person Shooter ]]
* ''VideoGame/{{DOOM}} II'' officially gets serious with you on the "Dead Simple" level right after the first intermission. Prior to this point, you've been fighting mostly humanoid enemies and low-level {{mook}}s, with the occasional mid-grade monster. "Dead Simple" immediately throws you into a melee with newly introduced high-powered enemies and {{Giant Mook}}s in very close quarters.
* ''VideoGame/{{BioShock 2}}'': Siren Alley is known to fans as a Difficulty Spike, where all of the gun-using enemies now use shotguns, and the easier melee weapons no longer appear for the rest of the game.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Bioshock|1}}'', after the fairly simple Medical Pavilion, Neptune's Bounty represents a sudden shift in difficulty, marked in large part by the arrival of [[DemonicSpiders Spider]] Splicers. Your gear doesn't improve to match until partway through the area. Actually lampshaded the first time a Spider Splicer shows up:
--->'''Peach Wilkins''': What was that?... My boy, you are ''fucked!''
* In ''VideoGame/UnrealTournament'':
** The last fight against Xan is far harder than anything seen in previous battles. This is caused by that final opponent being a RubberBandAI, automatically adjusting itself to player skill. The same also applies to the ''2003'' and ''[[VideoGame/UnrealTournament2004 2004]]'' installments. Oddly enough, the end boss (Malcolm again) in ''2003'' was somewhat easier, given that the arena for that battle was small and had ample flanking opportunities.
** The Assault matches are ''significantly'' harder than the rest of the single-player ladder (save for a couple of the Capture The Flag matches), sometimes even ''exceeding'' the difficulty of the [[FinalBoss Xan fight]]. And if you do manage to win, expect to terminally come in last place as your teammate's laser-guided map savvy lands them the fastest routes, all the vehicles, all the objectives, and 98% of the kills.\\
\\
That said, the other modes get pretty insane pretty quick as well, one notorious example being the Bombing Run snow level, which, in addition to suddenly steroid-injected AI, involves particularly cruel level design that will take you and your team 2-3 times the time limit to reach the enemy goalpost and score—that is, if the "AI of Death" team doesn't get to yours first.
** Akasha in ''VideoGame/UnrealTournamentIII'' as well. Her rubberband code may actually exponentially break the normal limits of bot skill factors, leaving you with a bot rated [[UpToEleven 15 out of 10]] on "easy". Oh, and she favors the shock rifle, which caters equally to impossible AI aiming and impossible AI prediction skills.
* Xaero in ''VideoGame/QuakeIIIArena'' was head and shoulders above any other bot in the game. Not only does he have ImprobableAimingSkills, the arena you fight him in has a railgun right next to a respawn point. So if you did manage to kill him, he would return the favor immediately from across the map. And then kill you again and again until you managed to respawn in a spot that wasn't exposed.
* ''VideoGame/{{Descent}}'':
** The first game has a massive, permanent difficulty spike after the first seven "shareware" levels. Levels 6 and 7 depict homing-missile hulks and Class 1 Drillers as deadly DemonicSpiders that appear only now and then and are much stronger than normal enemies. Levels 11 and 12, four maps later, are ''almost entirely populated by them'' and they're not one iota easier to kill than they were at first. The difficulty spikes further around levels 18 and 19, with the even deadlier DemonicSpiders that are Class 2 Missile Platforms and Heavy Drillers greatly increasing in number.
** The second game's difficulty also ramps up significantly after the first eight levels, and again at level 21, which introduces several new DemonicSpiders to rival anything in the first ''Descent''. And the fourth boss's difficulty spike after the first three makes it ThatOneBoss.
* ''VideoGame/Left4Dead'' has this to some degree. The first level of every campaign never has any Witches or Tanks, but by the second level onward (depending on the director's mood), you could easily get stuck because a Tank keeps spawning in one area.
* ''VideoGame/Left4Dead2'':
** "Dark Carnival" has two gauntlet crescendo events (racing to turn off the the Screaming Oak's alarm in The Coaster, which involves running three quarters of the rollercoaster's tracks while being hassled by nonstop waves of Infected; and the sprint to the stadium safe room in The Barns, the map immediately afterwards, which is much the same except you have to HoldTheLine until the gates open first) that will make you tear your hair out. If you didn't bring a Bile Bomb or Chainsaw to make these event easier, you will have a hell of a time getting to the final objetives; also, there is a possibility that you will encounter a tank or a witch on the way[[note]]but at least in The Barns you can snipe it into action to get rid of it before triggering the hordes[[/note]]. The first two maps and the start of the third, up until the Screaming Oak, are relatively manageable.
** A more general example is the jump between Advanced and Expert difficulties. On Advanced, common infected hit for 5 points of damage from the front (compared to 2 on Normal and 1 on Easy). On Expert, common infected hit you for ''20 damage'' from the front, and besides that, they take half damage. Tanks can incapacitate with a single hit, and Witches will just [[OneHitKill flat-out kill you.]]
* In ''VideoGame/{{Halo 3}}'', many players find the "Cortana" mission to be [[ThatOneLevel the most difficult mission of the game]]. This may be partly because there are more enemies, fewer places to take cover when you get attacked by mobs of Flood (they almost always come in packs), and no [=NPCs=] to cover you. Beating it makes the next mission seem a lot easier by comparison. Also, "the library" in the first game. Hundreds of hard to kill, fast moving zombies, some of which explode when shot, and a limited supply of ammo.
* ''VideoGame/HaloReach'' has a large difficulty spike starting with the second mission. If you're playing Legendary, prepare to be wasted.
* ''VideoGame/Wolfenstein3D'' goes absolutely ''insane'' in the sixth episode, throwing one [[ClassicVideoGameScrewYous dick move]] after another and forcing you to navigate horrific mazes. Its [[MissionPackSequel Mission Pack Prequel]] ''Spear of Destiny'' does likewise at level 16. Whether level 16 or level 18 is the [[ThatOneLevel hardest map]] in the entire ''Wolfenstein'' series is debatable; level 16 has more difficult regular fights, but level 18 has ThatOneBoss, the Death Knight. Then the difficulty drops precipitously for the BonusLevelOfHell and the [[AnticlimaxBoss underwhelming]] final boss.
* ''[[VideoGame/ModernWarfare Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2]]'', the Favela missions. Impossible to tell where you're going, enemies that have numerous hiding places while you get little more than the occasional doorway, low ammo. Oh, and dogs. Yeah.
* ''VideoGame/ModernWarfare 1'': Charlie Don't Surf, especially on Veteran; after the first two missions that were a cakewalk, the insanity hits like a ton of bricks. Later on, there's the infamous [[ThatOneLevel One Shot, One Kill]], and it doesn't get any easier from there.
* ''VideoGame/MedalOfHonor: Allied Assault'' has a (mostly) permanent difficulty spike starting with Mission 3-3, The Nebelwerfer Hunt on the normal difficulty, then again at The Command Post (psychic guards setting off alarms that summon RespawningEnemies). On Hard, the spike starts with Cover Blown. Let's not talk about Sniper's Last Stand.
* In ''VideoGame/SoldierOfFortune: Payback'''s final mission, the enemies have a massive spike in the damage they deal, and can inflict {{one hit kill}}s [[SniperPistol with as little as a pistol]].
* ''Franchise/{{Metroid}}'':
** ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime'' has a fairly linearly increasing difficulty curve most of the time. That is, until you reach Phazon Mines. The next segment requires you to do half of the area, beating 2 minibosses, one of which is INVISIBLE, navigating morph ball puzzles, introducing you to new space pirate types and spamming them, and getting the Power Bombs, ''without saving''. After that, it feels like a relief it's over as it's not as bad after that.
** Dark Aether in ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime2Echoes'' early on throws you a nasty spike as well as you learn to deal with its atmosphere. After you get the Dark Suit, it's much less nerve-wracking.
** ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime3Corruption'' has it with the fiery zone of Bryyo, not only because of the Fuel Gel hazards and overall difficult navigation but also because of Rundas, a WakeUpCallBoss; it also holds the first moment when Samus's Hypermode ability shows its dangerous side.
* ''VideoGame/RedFaction'' gets a ''lot'' harder around the one-third mark and just keeps getting worse from there. Why? Because the enemies (and you) get better weapons, but you never get more HP, and even refills become harder to find.
* ''VideoGame/DeadSpace'', Chapter 4: Obliteration Imminent is fairly standard for what you've dealt with for the last three chapters until you're told you need to step outside the ship in the middle of what is essentially a meteor storm. The only hint you are given for this sequence is "take cover." Now, once you realize that there is a perceptible warning and you know what "cover" looks like, the sequence is less of a difficulty spike and seems more like FakeDifficulty for the uninformed. However, no amount of information will help you fend off the giant rocks in the next room. Once you've memorized what Isaac looks like getting killed in that room and move on, though, it's back to business as usual.
* Most of the ''VideoGame/RainbowSix'' series have this around the 1/3 or halfway point. Especially Stone Cannon, dear god, in ''Raven Shield''.
* The first/shareware episode in ''VideoGame/{{Quake}}'' is a walk in the park compared to the rest of the game. After completing the [[BreatherLevel preparation "slipgate" level]] (featured at the beginning of each episode), be prepared for your brain (and likely your mouth) to drop a series of [[AtomicFBomb Atomic F-Bombs]] once you're inside the castle.
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Postal}} Postal 2: Apocalypse Weekend]]'' is a breeze (mostly because you can stock on weapons and healing items), but then near the end you are stripped from all your stuff and have to fight your way out of a military base. Where healing items are very scarce and soldiers are tough and immune to OHKO sledgehammering. Prepare to be ridiculed by protagonist for save spamming. Following this, levels are relatively simple again.
* ''VideoGame/GhostRecon: Advanced Warfighter'' takes a disproportionate leap in difficulty with "Mayday! Mayday!", slightly under halfway through the game. And that's just on Normal difficulty. Prepare to get pegged many times by the guards in the forest area with the [[InterfaceScrew jammers]].
* The entirety of the VC campaign in ''VideoGame/{{Vietcong}} 2'', when compared to the US campaign, due to being much shorter (only ''4 levels!'') compared to the latter (13 levels).
* ''Scythe'', a GameMod for ''Doom II'', is a fairly well-balanced mod... up until the final set of levels (beginning from level 21), which are set in Hell, and their ridiculous difficulty lives up to the location. Barely any ammo, barely any room to maneuver, and hordes of enemies from all sides.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Game Mod ]]
* ''VideoGame/DonnerParty'' undergoes a noticeable shift in difficulty between Rounds 6 and 7. To wit: the amount of damage the player takes doubles, flying over large swaths of territory is impossible, few enemies die in a single hit, and the three-boss-per-level standard returns with a vengeance. Round 7 specifically includes a segment where taking damage is required in order to progress. Round 8 introduces an abrupt and awkward shift in play-control, which becomes permanent for the rest of the game.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Hack And Slash ]]
* ''VideoGame/DiabloII'':
** The game has a dramatic change as you go from Nightmare to Hell difficulty. The effectiveness of just about everything is reduced to a quarter, your resistances plummet to a base of -100, and almost every single monster is not only resistant, but entirely ''immune'' to a particular element (often when the monster had zero resistance to anything in either of the previous difficulties) while gaining additional resistances to one or nearly all attributes. The immunities are a particular problem, as it's very possible for your character's skills to be focused on only one form of damage if you didn't know about the problem beforehand.
** Some monsters possess immunity to physical damage. I.E, melee attacks don't work. There are three randomly generated per normal level in hell difficulty as opposed to one in normal, plus their flock of minions is deadlier too.
** Less dramatic is Act IV of the game, when you invade Hell, featuring a jump in monster difficulty -- suddenly homing, {{mana}} draining missiles, etc. Then of course there's [[FinalBoss Diablo]] [[ThatOneBoss himself]].
** The [[ThatOneBoss battle with the Ancients]] is far harder than the the battle with Baal, the final boss.
* The first five realms in ''{{VideoGame/Gauntlet}}: Dark Legacy'' are swarming with GoddamnBats (it's kind of the point of Gauntlet), but world 6, the Desert Realm, suddenly throws in DemonicSpiders in the form of the Desert Generals, whose psychotic fervor has the potential to arouse in the player the same real-life fight-or-flight panic mechanism as many a VideoGame/Left4Dead player has felt facing down a Tank - among stronger and more durable GoddamnBats, and more chances to be attacked from all sides. A player who breezed through the last five realms may find themselves losing thousands of HP in this realm - fast.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:MMORPG]]
* Levels 15 through 30 in ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' are pretty frustrating compared to later on. The first 10-15 levels act as tutorial and are usually easy (provided you don't run into the wrong direction), but then it picks up considerably and you'll be seeing the Spirit Healer pretty often. And the level range features some of the most frustrating dungeons aswell, such as Gnomeregan, Shadowfang Keep and Blackfathom Deeps. And if you play on a [=PvP=] server, you'll face the most annoying gankers (bored high level characters killing low level ones just for giggles) during those levels as you'll be leveling in contested zones. After that, it only gets better. The expansion zones on the other hand are laughably easy, at least as far as solo-Quests are concerned.
** In the Firelands, the first six bosses have become considerably easier after the nerf, but Ragnaros is much more difficult than any of them, particularly because if you let one Son of Flame reach his hammer in the transition phase, the raid will most likely wipe.
** Mogu'shan Vaults begins with the fairly difficult Stone Guard, but then has the more manageable Feng the Accursed, Gara'jal the Spiritbinder, and Spirit Kings. Then comes Elegon, a very difficult DPS race that is even more difficult than the last boss of the instance. Some groups give up and go on to the first bosses in the next instance, Heart of Fear, until they are well-geared enough to defeat Elegon.
** The Brawler's Guild matches are fairly easy during Rank 1-7, then comes Rank 8 where you fight a engineer pair DualBoss with OHKO rockets, a necromancer who is only vulnerable when you destroy his adds that have to be stunned with a beam of light and can also OHKO you with one melee hit, and an arcane construct surrounded by a ring of highly-damaging explosives, before taking a break with an easy match against a gnoll who takes reduced damage but you're able to run over powerups to increase your damage output to exponential levels to mitigate it. Then there are the optional bosses, one of which is a {{cyborg}} version of your first opponent who is near impossible to kill with any max damage output lower than 65-70k because the third time he roots you in place he'll use an attack that is - you guessed it - an OHKO.
* ''VideoGame/EVEOnline'':
** The game has a steep difficulty spike with 0.5 and 0.4 security space. The latter has no [[CityGuards CONCORD]], allowing player pirates to roam freely in search of juicy targets like you. In fact, a frequent occurrence is you running into a gate camp when you jump from an 0.5 system to an 0.4 system. Translation: you're dead and podded and you never saw it coming.
** The Sleepers and Sansha Incursions. Sleepers are found exclusively in Wormhole Space (players have to physically enter any wormhole that spawns randomly in the universe), and these bastards have an upgraded AI compared to regular enemies. They actively target Logistics ships if they are present (the game's equivalent to healers), and if you think to bring any capital ships like, say a carrier, into the sites, the sites will spawn 6 more Sleeper battleships for EACH carrier. The Sansha Incursion rats behave the same as the Sleepers too, except they can be considered an end-game raid instance, particularly if it's an [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast "Ouroboros"]] instance, where it can take as many as up to 50 players with top-shelf ships, modules and leadership.
* ''VideoGame/GuildWars Prophecies'' is a cakewalk until you reach the desert, and then it ramps up. It ramps up [[UpToEleven AGAIN]] on the Ring of Fire. Factions goes from "reasonably challenging" to "murderous" when you reach the Kaineng Mainland (and the Undercity...dear GOD the UNDERCITY!!) and Nightfall does more or less the same a few missions in.
* ''VideoGame/GuildWars2'' is not very difficult, built for casual players, with most dungeons easily puggable. Then you get to [[LostWorld the Heart of Maguuma]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Everquest}}'' had particularly infamous difficulty spikes called "Hell Levels." These usually came along at already naturally awkward levels(30, 35, 40, etc.; where you're growing out of your current leveling zone), and amplified them by increasing the amount of experience needed to level by insane amounts; so much so that the next level will actually REQUIRE LESS experience than the hell level did. Also, 50-60 were considered a bit of a "hell bracket" since the needed experience jumped up to relatively high amounts because 60 was the original level cap(and thus had a LOT of xp "padding" that was never reduced when 60 ceased to be the cap).
* ''Videogame/{{EverQuest II}}'' has three different "tiers" you can play on - solo, group, and raid. Solo is designed to be handled by just about any player class with ease. Moving from solo to group requires a much more detailed understanding of how to play your class and function in a group. Moving from group to raid requires intricate knowledge of game mechanics. To make the spike more severe, for the most part you can only get group level gear by running group missions and raid level gear by raiding, meaning that someone trying to make the jump for the first time is going to be critically undergeared.
* ''VideoGame/ShinMegamiTenseiIMAGINE'' has the ''Old Ichigaya Camp Gold'' instance. If you decide to skip the lower floors, and just go right ahead to the boss room, the enemies that appear on the way there are fairly easy to defeat (most lv30 characters can kill them in 2 or 3 hits). Then you hit the boss room, and have ''Jikokuten'' ignoring knockback and hitting your skull with Almighty basic attacks, around 10 ''Gandharva'' spamming a skill with a huge area of effect that [[ThatOneAttack causes multiple status effects]] (including one that renders you unable to even defend) as well as powerful ice attacks (including one that can hit from halfway across the room) and another area of effect one that [[UselessUsefulSpell lowers all your status]], and around 15 ''Gaki'' who are pretty weak and only have one attack, but once they start ganging up on you, you're easy prey to the spell-spamming Ganharvas. Granted, this can be turned into children's play if you have someone especiallized in using [[GameBreaker Erosion Hex]] on your party.
** Also from ''IMAGINE'', there's the ''Shibuya Metro'' instance. Despite the constant HP and MP drain throughout the whole dungeon, it's fairly easy, with all enemies being weak to one of the easy to get [[ElementalRockPaperScissors four elements]]. The boss room, however, has a boss with the most powerful electric spell, lots of HP, and over 10 minions that not only can heal him, but also love to use attack- and spell-reflecting skills. ''All the time''. And no, the HP and MP drain does not go away during the boss battle. Also, the boss gets even stronger if you enter the dungeon with anyone else in your party, wether they entered the dungeon too or not.
* ''VideoGame/{{Elsword}}'' starts off very simple with short three-to-four room dungeons and fairly weak field enemies. Then you reach Bethma, where the dungeons get longer and have branching paths. And then the next town, Altera, brings 4-6 (Altera Core), which is such a large dungeon that there are three layers on the map, has lasers that either cause damage, summon mooks, or both, throws three mid-bosses (which are all demoted versions of dungeon bosses) at the players, and introduces the largest boss thus far, the King Nasod, which requires more strategy than just "mash buttons until it dies". It gets worse from there.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Platform Game ]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Rayman}}'': Dream Forest is a solid beginner world. A little tricky in the later levels, but not too bad. Band Land is when the gloves come off and what better way to show that then by putting the player through a six stage level full of musical notes that act like spikes and fewer power ups and 1-ups? Also, after defeating the boss of Blue Mountains, Mr. Stone, and receiving the fifth and final new power, the player is treated to a colorful world known as Picture City. Looks relaxing as well as a nice change of pace right? Right? RIGHT!? Say goodbye to a lot of hard earned lives from here on out!
* In ''VideoGame/{{Spyro the Dragon|1998}}'', the Beast Makers world has higher completion requirements than the previous worlds (50 out of 58 dragons). It's the second world that you cannot skip without playing through at least one level (the first world is the first). It also contains Misty Bog and Terrace Village, which contain aggressive enemies and few butterflies, as well as ThatOneLevel, Tree Tops.
* ''VideoGame/{{Psychonauts}}'' turns absolutely sadistic when you get to the timed Escort Mission in the last level. There's also the RiseToTheChallenge segment later in the level, which would be bad enough if it weren't for a GameBreakingBug that makes one particular part ''virtually impossible'' about 75% of the time. Thank heavens DeathIsASlapOnTheWrist.
* The first seven areas of ''VideoGame/LittleNemoTheDreamMaster'' give no hint as to how difficult the final area is.
* The Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog series does this quite a bit.
** In all three ''VideoGame/{{Sonic Advance|Trilogy}}'' games, the first six special stages range from really easy to kind of tricky the first time, but the last is NintendoHard.
** ''VideoGame/SonicUnleashed'' has a smoothly escalating difficulty curve reaching its peak at Adabat. Then the curve becomes a straight line, crashing into the ceiling and staying there. It says something when the level designers deliberately place a respawning extra life next to EVERY checkpoint in the last level, including some that are impossible to avoid collecting.
** ''[[VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog2 Sonic 2]]'' is generally nice and easy, but Chemical Plant Zone act 2 is quite a harsh snap for where it is in the game, and the game then throws ''another'' spike in Metropolis Zone, a spike which lasts right until the end of the game. Also Mystic Cave, considering its inescapable spike pits and crushing vines which ''force'' you to take your time and be careful in order to beat the level.
** ''[[VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog4 Sonic 4]]'' will make you frustrated once you get to E.G.G. Station Zone.
** ''VideoGame/{{Sonic Rush|Series}}'' is even more brutal on that note, because once you get to [[ThatOneLevel Night Carnival]] in order to notice everything that allows you to get past that stage without falling into those BottomlessPits, you have to play the game very differently than you're used to: in other words, TakeYourTime and you'll survive. Probably. It's even more jarring when you play as Blaze as Night Carnival is the FIRST LEVEL, then it gets easy again until the 5th stage.
** ''VideoGame/SonicGenerations'' gets more difficult starting with Crisis City. The Modern era overall is more difficult than the previous two and the levels are longer, and Crisis City is the introduction to that. Modern's Crisis City in particular is one of the hardest levels in the game, Classic's Rooftop Run has a lot of devious obstacles, and Planet Wisp overall is a MarathonLevel. The bosses also pick up the pace to match.
* ''VideoGame/JakIIRenegade'' features not one, but many spikes over the course of the game. The first arrives at about the time you need to blow up an ammo supply and you are being chased by an indestructible doom tank. The camera is fixed as the view from the tank for a while, and the first part of the area is a bit hard to navigate. The most notable, however, comes during the escape from the Water Slums. You can't touch the water that is surrounding the tiny walkways you must navigate, the guards will infinitely respawn if you move incorrectly or dawdle in the wrong place, and you can take a total of 3 hits and live. Fortunately, the Krimson Guards are all graduates of the ImperialStormtrooperMarksmanshipAcademy. Unfortunately, there are so many of them that it really doesn't matter how bad of shots they are. And the game doesn't get any easier from there.
* For many players, ''VideoGame/EarthwormJim'' went straight DownTheDrain the minute players entered the Tube Race level. Imagine a big glass ball that breaks if it happens to bump into a wall ten times, which you have to steer through a long, narrow obstacle course while being harassed by a dwindling oxygen meter. Fortunately, the [[AnticlimaxBoss immediately following boss fight]] makes up for it in terms of difficulty. The sequel followed this up with ''The Flyin' King'', an isometric SHMUP level where you have to escort a bomb on a balloon to the end of the level. And then the difficulty spikes again in ''Inflated Head / Circus of the Scars'', which is Tube Race all over again.
* In level 3 of the original ''VideoGame/{{Prince of Persia|1}}'', you must first jump onto a precariously situated platform with a pressure plate that opens a gate three screens to the left. Then, you have to quickly rush over to the gate before it closes, making ''five'' jumps along the way, the last one being a particularly hard running jump. Miss one jump, and you fall to certain death. After this puzzle, the second half of the level isn't so hard, even with an invincible skeleton enemy -- unless you die and have to start the whole level over.
** ''VideoGame/PrinceOfPersiaTheTwoThrones'' has a series of three levels back-to-back that are harder than anything that comes before or after it: a cerebral gear-turning puzzle, a trial-and-error chariot race and an unforgiving two-on-one boss fight, with exactly one save point between them.
* ''VideoGame/{{Klonoa}}: Door to Phantomile'' is a pretty easy game throughout. The first level can easily be defeated without taking any damage, and the difficulty gently slopes, occasionally teaching you a new trick or introducing you to a new concept or enemy. Still, all the way up to level 5 keeps an easy-to-modest difficulty. Then level 6 comes along and bitchslaps you through a wall with hair-tearing timed puzzles and the precision platforming sequences from hell. Then there's bonus level that appears after that...
* Creator/{{Treasure}} loves to put [[UnexpectedGameplayChange space shooter]] levels in their platforming titles. Depending on one's proficiency at the genre, they'll experience anything from a mild to extreme difficulty spike upon entering stage 6 of either ''VideoGame/GunstarHeroes'' or ''VideoGame/DynamiteHeaddy''.
** Treasure also like putting platforming sections in their shoot 'em ups. The severity of these spikes is similarly dependent on how accustomed the player is to the shifted genre.
* ''Osman''/''VideoGame/CannonDancer'' starts out fairly difficult, but during the final areas it turns abusively so, by removing the ability to spam continues to reach the end. During most of the game, you respawn where you die, even when you lose your last life. In the last areas you restart from checkpoints after dying. Better think twice about wasting those [[SmartBomb Fatal Attacks]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Trine}}'''s last level combines platforming with a boss that constantly hinders your progress and tops it off with RiseToTheChallenge.
* As soon as [[VideoGame/HenryHatsworthInThePuzzlingAdventure Henry Hatsworth]] reaches Atlantia (World 3), the game's SurpriseDifficulty kicks in.
* ''Franchise/SuperMarioBros'':
** 5-2 in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros''. 5-1 is certainly harder than the last few levels, but nothing too nasty. 5-3 is just a revamp of 1-3 with smaller platforms and a Bullet Bill generator. 5-4 is a revamp of 2-4 with a few more Firebars. 5-2? ''[[DemonicSpiders Hammer Brothers]] on STAIRS''.
** The arcade game has a much steeper incline in difficulty than the NES version, due to the HardModeFiller levels being replaced with unique boards from the [[PlatformHell infamously hard]] ''[[VideoGame/SuperMarioBrosTheLostLevels Super Mario Bros 2 Japan]]'', which contain many narrow platforms, sadistic enemy/obstacle patterns, and long jumps, some of which require bouncing off Koopa Paratroopas at the right height, as in [[ThatOneLevel 6-3]].
** ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros2'':
*** World 3-3 is noticeably longer and more difficult than the first two castle levels (1-3 and 2-3) as well as the first two levels in the world, with long sequences of climbing towers with ''tons'' of [[DemonicSpiders Sparks]] moving around oddly-shaped platforms, [[MookMaker Shy Guy-generating pots]], and, for the first time, a variety of different doors to enter, not all of which will allow you to progress depending on which character you are playing as. The difficulty will spike again in World 4's dungeon, then AGAIN in world 5's dungeon. In the particular case of level 4-2, you're first greeted by a ZergRush of Beezos in a section that seems to last forever with only slippery ice terrain to work with, then some NintendoHard platforming. And there is no fourth mushroom in this level. And you have to fight Birdo. On ice.
*** In the ''Super Mario Advance'' remake for GBA, a game criticized for being much easier due to all the extra power ups, the Yoshi Challenge has this. Through the first ten levels you play, it feels like a good challenge for seasoned veterans, but still easier than the original NES and SNES versions despite only having 2-3 hearts per level instead of 4. Even 3-3 isn't so bad. Then you get to 4-2, which in the Yoshi Challenge quickly becomes ThatOneLevel. Survive the Beezo ZergRush onslaught, and you'll have to get two Yoshi Eggs from here without losing a life in the next phase. And you only have two hearts to work with. The difficulty only becomes reasonable again in 6-3.
** ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros3'':
*** 1-4 isn't amazingly difficult, but it is by ''far'' the hardest regular level in World 1 (even the fortress and airship are easier), containing many [[TemporaryPlatform falling platforms]], [[BottomlessPit bottomless pits]], and the dreaded [[AutoScrollingLevel autoscrolling]].
*** World 3 in general is a huge difficulty spike over worlds 1 and 2. Let's put it this way, 3-6 is a souped up version of 1-4 and is by far the EASIEST level in world 3, besides maybe 3-9. The rest of World 3 contains mostly levels that alternate between underwater levels, cheep cheep ZergRush levels, and rising and sinking platforms where Boss Bass awaits and can eat you in a single gulp (unless you're invincible).
** ''VideoGame/SuperMarioWorld'':
*** The game starts off as a not too challenging platformer that eases you into the game, even Iggy's Castle isn't so bad except maybe for the smasher in the autoscrolling room leading up to the simple boss battle, but even then it's not so bad. And then you arrive at Donut Plains 2, an [[AutoScrollingLevel autoscrolling cave level]] that's fairly dark, has rising and falling platforms that can crush you, cruelly placed death pits, and GoddamnBats everywhere. Granted, it's not amazingly hard, but after the non-threatening Yoshi's Island levels and Donut Plains 1, this level serves as a real wake-up call about what's coming up later in the game. That difficulty won't be matched again until Vanilla Dome or even the Twin Bridges depending on your perception.
*** Happens once again in Chocolate Island, where the game goes from challenging but fun platformer to mean and nasty NintendoHard nightmare that pulls no punches in the blink of an eye. The game keeps its foot on the gas for the remainder of the game, until reaching its peak in the [[BrutalBonusLevel special zone]]. The Front Door of Bowser's Castle tends to look harder than it really is, especially if you enter doors 2 and 5.
** Most of the levels in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioLand2SixGoldenCoins'' aren't too difficult, but then you get to Wario's Castle, the final level, and you find yourself in a very long and difficult level compared to the rest of the game. To add insult to injury, there are no checkpoints (if you die at any point, even when fighting Wario, you have to start from the beginning).
** The majority of levels in ''VideoGame/SuperMarioGalaxy'' are very easy. Then they start getting a bit harder, but not too much, and ''then'' the difficulty of the last few stars (most of them corresponding to the galaxies accessed via the Garden dome) spikes to unexpected levels. [[ThatOneLevel Luigi's Purple Coins]] is an example of this.
** ''VideoGame/SuperMario3DWorld'' is pretty forgiving, up until World 3's Chain-Link Charge, which is an [[AutoScrollingLevel Auto-Scrolling]] PlatformHell with [[ThatOneSidequest a brutal Stamp and Green Stars]]. Later on, Worlds 7 and 8 take it to a bigger scale with more devious levels like Trick Trap Tower, Boiling Blue Bully Belt, Rammerhead Reef, Cookie Cogworks and Grumblump Inferno.
** First time players of ''VideoGame/SuperMarioSunshine'' are in for a ''cruel'' surprise when, after mostly easy levels, they are thrust without warning into ''[[ThatOneLevel The Sand Bird Is Born]]''. It is likely to be the first of ''many'' of the nasty infamously difficult sub-levels [[SchizophrenicDifficulty peppered throughout an otherwise not too difficult game]] that the player encounters.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Iji}}'', the difficulty spikes massively once the Komato appear. Komato [[{{Mooks}} Troopers]] are roughly as tough as Tasen [[EliteMooks Commanders]], and Komato [[EliteMooks Berserkers]] are roughly as powerful as Tasen [[GiantMook Elites]], except they [[KungFuProofMook can reflect projectiles back at you.]] Komato Beasts, Assassins, Annihilators and [[GoddamnedBats Skysmashers]] go off the charts. Still, you'll eventually get used to it. And then when you start playing through on [[HarderThanHard Ultimortal]], you'll probably find it not too hard...until you meet [[ThatOneBoss Asha]].
* ''VideoGame/ChuckieEgg'' gets harder quite steadily -- the extra features in each round of eight levels are nicely balanced by returning to the layout of the easy Level 1. That said, the third iteration (with the hens and the Mother Duck) is much harder than anything up to that point, particularly from Level 21 onwards. Near the end, [[NintendoHard you may wonder whether it could get much harder]], but the final Level 40 still manages to be another drastic leap in difficulty.
* The first ''VideoGame/HarryPotter'' game was a fairly standard 3D platformer, with a few spell-casting or flying minigames and puzzles mixed in. Then at the end there is a boss fight, in a third-person shooter style that hadn't been seen all game, where the boss can kill you in one or two shots and you have no real offensive spells. He's a pushover when you figure out the trick to it, though.
* Areas 4, 5 and 6 in ''VideoGame/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles''. The latter two are full of DemonicSpiders that take tons of punishment to kill, and the former's boss is in a [[LuckBasedMission random location]]. And the FinalBoss can kill you in one hit, not to mention the hallway full of [[DemonicSpiders Laser Troopers]] leading to him. In the former's case (the Airport), most of the previous two stages' difficulty—and length—goes away once you figure out where the underwater bombs and downtown {{Plot Coupon}}s are. The Airport, on the other hand, is one long, confusing [[TheMaze maze]] that seems [[MarathonLevel neverending]] without a guide, and even with one it's still an exercise in patience and tedium. Which wouldn't be too much of a problem if it weren't for the added SpikesOfDoom, [[OneHitKO instant-death]] {{Lava Pit}}s, and MalevolentArchitecture that makes all the GoddamnBats from the previous levels, as well as the aformentioned death traps, all the more fearsome. The only respite is the AnticlimaxBoss (the HumongousMecha from the series) at the end which, if you've kept [[GameBreaker Donatello]] with you the whole time, you will beat without even being so much as attacked.
* ''{{VideoGame/Jed}}'''s tends to border on SchizophrenicDifficulty, with whether or not the player is attempting to collect all five of the stage's babies being a key determinate. Assuming you're only attempting to get through the level, the slope is simpler.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Jumper}}'', the first sector is patheticaly easy, and then there are sectors 2 and 3, that [[{{Pun}} jump]] suddenly up. Sector 3 in ''Jumper Two'' is such a case too.
* ''VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountry'':
** Up to the second world, everything's a breeze. Then you get [[MinecartMadness Mine Cart]] [[ThatOneLevel Carnage]]. Don't expect it to get any easier from there.
** After that, when you're used to the new level of difficulty, comes [[SlippySlideyIceWorld Gorilla Glacier]] and its first level, Snow Barrel Blast. It's the first time you come across FrictionlessIce, which covers the ''entire'' level, [[MarathonLevel the level is extremely long compared to anything that came before it]], the spinning barrel cannons are frustratingly difficult to aim with, and to top all that off, when you're halfway through the game, [[InterfaceScrew the mounting blizzard shows up on the foreground and masks your view of what's going on]], right at the part where it's the most difficult. If you didn't get a GameOver in Mine Cart Carnage or Tree Top Town but didn't breeze through these levels either, it's almost guaranteed you'll get one here.
* The first two chapters of ''VideoGame/{{Gish}}'' are relatively easy. The third chapter is a test to anyone who hasn't mastered the controls of the game as lava pools and more difficult jumps start to appear.
* ''VideoGame/KidChameleon'' has a few examples: the first boss is quite difficult compared to the game up to that point, and the game after the third boss in general becomes significantly harder, with many levels containing routes through them that will kill you, levels which don't have conventional exits (or do but they're extremely difficult to get to), level loops that can make you play through the same levels over and over again until you go the right way, and many more of the hardest enemies. However, the worst of the lot is Bloody Swamp, a level so difficult most people who have beaten the game did so by taking an alternate path that allows you to avoid the level, and it is only midway through the third section of the game - though you also have to play through it if you take the route that skips you from halfway through the second world to halfway through the third. The levels after Bloody Swamp are far easier.
* ''VideoGame/TheSmurfs1994'' on the SNES and Generis have the final two Acts go from "hard" to "insane". The penultimate act is a single stage with omnipresent instant death (when the tree trunk bridge starts rotating under your feet, you have a split-second to jump or fall to your death); the last act has a frustrating (but hardly lethal) first level, a long and and dangerous second level (with instant death too from flies with TheVirus), a short and dangerous third level and a FinalBoss with OneHitKill CollisionDamage. You'll lose so many [[VideoGameLives lives]] here that the only way to survive is to start the game from the beginning and collect ExtraLives one the way. (Fortunately, this has been somewhat toned down on the GameboyAdvance port ''Revenge Of The Smurfs'', where at least you have infinite lives.)
* ''VideoGame/{{Psychosomnium}}'' has the unexpectedly difficult spike-covered corridor near the end, where you have to fly through a curving path without touching any of the walls. It's so tough, compared to the rest of the game, that there's a cheat code specifically to get rid of the spikes.
* ''[[VideoGame/BombJack Mighty Bomb Jack]]'' has the fourth stage, which is longer than earlier stages and is in multiple parts.
* ''[[VideoGame/BanjoKazooie Banjo-Tooie]]'' increases drastically the difficulty through the second half of the game. Compare the relatively flexible Jolly Roger's Lagoon to the larger and more intrincate Terrydactyland, which in turn is followed by the even more difficult Grunty Industries.
* The first difficulty spike in ''VideoGame/{{Something}}'' occurs at "Dat Bass!" The level has [[OneHitKill Boss Bass]], but this time Boss Bass is immune to fire, so Fire Mario can't kill him.
* While the first three levels of ''VideoGame/FreedomPlanet'' are fairly average, the fourth through sixth is where things start getting challenging with longer levels, new mooks in every stage, and the bosses requiring the player's grasp on the game's combat and timing. But it's in the eighth Battle Glacier, where things start getting crazy. What with all the StuffBlowingUp onscreen from all the bullets and bombs everywhere, a level design with so many pathways it can b easy to get lost, with tons of [[DemonicSpiders alien troopers]] with their strong lasers that chase you across the level if you don't stop to damage them eight times to take them out, [[ThatOneBoss two jarringly difficult bosses]], and a long second act with a tricky coridor of switch puzzles, it'll have you raging at how tough the game has suddenly become. Then there's [[TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon Final]] [[MarathonLevel Dreadnought]], which takes the already challenging combat and bosses UpToEleven and stays that way for the home stretch of the game.
* Being a ''Franchise/MegaMan'' clone with an ImprobablyFemaleCast and {{Moe}} aesthetic, ''VideoGame/RosenkreuzStilette'' seems like it'll be a toned down homage to the classic series. And for a time, this appears to be the case. [[WillfullyWeak Liebea Palesh]] is a piece of cake, Zorne's AI makes it [[ArtificialStupidity easy to avoid her attacks]], [[{{Troll}} Schwer]] has some cheap surprises in her level but is otherwise easy with some practice, and so on. But it's when you get to Grolla's stage that the levels incorporate a ton of GoddamnBats that nip at your health at an alarming rate in a game that's stingey with its health drops, tricky platforming above many a BottomlessPit, and of course, [[ThatOneBoss/RosenkreuzStilette the bosses themselves], which have fiendishly difficult strategies and desperation attacks that you can't just plow through anymore. In hindsight, [[ThatOneLevel Freudia's stage]] foreshadows just how hard the endgame will be, with lasers from [[VideoGame/MegaMan2 Quick Man]]'s stage now taken UpToEleven and her [[WakeUpCallBoss her near-unavoidable lasers and spikes she launches across the screen]]. Speaking of the endgame, Iris' Castle would make Dr. Wiley proud. Disappearing blocks, spikes everywhere, the traditional BossRush including Grolla and Freudia, and an {{Expie}} of the [[TheDreaded Yellow Devil]], [[FromBadToWorse now even harder]] as it can reverse both the [[GravityScrew gravity]] and [[InterfaceScrew controller input]] simultaneously. And then there's [[AnotherSideAnotherStory Rosenkreuzstilette]] [[GlassCannon Grollschwert]]...
* ''VideoGame/OriAndTheBlindForest'' takes off the kid gloves once you reach the Ginso Tree EscapeSequence. Expect to die about 50 times before getting the hang of it.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Puzzle Game ]]
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Lemmings}} Oh No More Lemmings]]'' has five difficulty grades for its puzzles: Tame, Crazy, Wild, Wicked and Havoc. The Tame levels are all walks in the park: 20 of each skill, four minutes, save 25 of 50 Lemmings and most times it's easy to save all 50. The other four grades, however, are total nightmares with little to distinguish each grade in terms of difficulty.
* ''VideoGame/PuyoPuyo'':
** ''Puyo Pop Fever'' takes a huge spike in difficulty on stage 3 of the [[HarderThanHard HaraHara]] course and ANOTHER spike on stage 7 of that course.
** The original ''Puyo Puyo'' has a ridiculous difficulty spike starting with Level 4. [[FromBadToWorse And it only gets worse from here]]. [[ArtificialBrilliance Not only is the AI much smarter]], but the pieces drop about as fast as the high levels of ''VideoGame/{{Tetris}}''.
** Luckily, the DolledUpInstallment ''Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine'' was toned down somewhat, having more of a difficulty curve. Although it does have at least one spike.
* ''VideoGame/MarbleBlastGold'' has a noticeable difficulty gap between beginner and intermediate, and between intermediate and advanced. Even worse the beginner and intermediate stages only have 24 levels each, but advanced has 52.
* Levels 1 to 10 of ''VideoGame/{{Repton}}'' are pretty easy (once you know how to do the Repton shuffle, but that's more GuideDangIt than difficulty as such)... but the next level is [[ThatOneLevel "Giant clam"]].
* ''VideoGame/ChipsChallenge'' starts easy, staying that way during the first 22 levels. But then come levels like Blobnet (23, due to enemies that move randomly) and Blink (25, for it being a maze with teleporters), from which the game quickly increases the difficulty level. And the number of levels in total is ''149''.
* ''VideoGame/WonderlandAdventures'': Mysteries of Fire Island has one of these in the pirate camp.
* In ''VideoGame/TetrisTheGrandMaster'', if you hear [[MusicalSpoiler the music fade out]] towards the end of a section, one of these is going to happen in the next section. Most famously, in the original ''TGM'', Level 500 raises the drop speed from "a few rows per frame" to "pieces drop automatically", otherwise known as "20G"[[note]]as in 20 rows per frame; 20 rows is the height of a ''TGM'' playfield.[[/note]]. From ''Tetris: The Grand Master 2'' onwards, music fadeout while already at 20G means the next section's timings--such as time until a landed piece locks and delay until the next piece spawns--will get significantly tighter, throwing you off drastically and potentially ending your game if you aren't prepared for it.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Real Time Strategy ]]
* ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerRedAlert2'''s penultimate Soviet mission. You needed to defeat Yuri's forces for good, but this was the only mission where you had to constantly hold out against enemy forces. It was also very difficult to break the base defenses without resorting to exploration or GuideDangIt behavior. At least you could build a nuke silo to hit the objective directly.
* ''Operation: Red Revolution'' was hard, yes, but could be made very easy with a couple of tricks. [[spoiler: Most importantly, capture one of the power plants on the hill near the start, then cover the cliffs with turrets and Tesla coils.]] The start of Operation: Chrono Defense, the final Soviet mission, is hell. The Allies repeatedly teleport tank divisions into the middle of your base while you're still setting it up. Build order is crucial, as you need to balance power supply with the all-important turrets that will save your base. And if you get the order wrong and lose power, ''all your construction rates drop''.
* ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerRedAlert'':
** The final Allied mission in the original. The Soviets have two bases, on of which is very close to where you set yours. It's small, but will get big if even you don't take it early. Even when do, you will still be under nearly constant attack from the other, very large base. In short, you are in for a very long fight. Add to this, the Soviet faction in the game is broken, you will only win fights against them through sheer numbers. As a silver lining, one of the attack routes the Soviets stupidly use goes through a fairly big lake that, so you can get an added punch from your destroyers (which outrange most of the Soviet units) and cruisers (best range and firepower in the game, but their shots have a sad tendency to miss, but they're worth it). You also get to use the Chronosphere to move a cruiser to a lake the Soviet base and pick off some of their buildings.
** The fifth Soviet mission in the same game is also surprisingly difficult. The idea is to capture a Radar Station to find out what the Allied are planning. The problem is that there is a huge island filled to the brim with ressources the Allies will land on with a [[BaseOnWheels Mobile Construction Vehicle]] via naval transport should you even think of building a submarine facility. Once they did just that, the mission becomes stupidly difficult because the base over there gives them ressources to the base next to yours which will begin {{Zerg Rush}}ing you with impunity. Surviving the onslaught won't help much either because you'll still have to get rid of the island base which by that point would be too big and too well defended to send your own navy transports with tanks over. The solution is the newly-introduced paradrop ability of the airfield - landing infantry on the island will still make the Allies send their MCV, but as long as you play Catch Me with your infantry while shooting it, it cannot deploy. ScratchDamage will eventually destroy it, disabling the Allies from getting anything meaningful out of it.
* The seventh Chinese mission, '''Operation: Nuclear Winter''', in ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerGenerals'' also deserves its place here: the GLA throws everything but the kitchen sink at you very early on, while you are short of supplies and has barely built your base. [[FakeDifficulty Add to that the fact that]] [[GuideDangIt they have a SCUD launcher platform that will fire and annihilate your forces/base if you have 5000 money or more]], and you get players having one hell of a surprise. After that, the game returns to its normal curve.
* ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft|1}}'' had a few levels that tested people's patience. Protoss mission 7 had the player fighting against an army of Protoss that was further up the tech tree. This lead to some frustration, as the presence of Arbiters and Carriers made it difficult for anyone to reasonably counter the enemy. Most players won by massing troops or Photon Cannons instead of using any real strategy. In Brood War, Terran mission 8 got rather ridiculous when the Zerg sent in a much harder to kill Ultralisk every few minutes to harass your troops. The worst offender had to be Zerg mission 8 and 10 (in Brood War), with the former having a deadly Zerg/Terran air force, and the latter had two powerful Terran and a Protoss attacking players at once.
* ''VideoGame/StarCraftII'''s last mission is significantly more difficult than, well, any of the previous ones. Except maybe ''Supernova.''
* ''VideoGame/WarcraftII'':
** The final Human mission is considerably more difficult than all the previous ones, as the computer will constantly send dragons to attack you even as you're trying to build your base from scratch (fortunately, guard towers are your friend). Also doesn't help that you start off with a sizable army and no farms, forcing you to either kill off your own troops or build a zillion farms before you can even start training additional workers to increase your income rate.
** A clone made by Lego called Lego Battles had 1000 Tree Woods, a maze like level that was hard to beat. Oh yeah, and it's the FOURTH level.
* All ''VideoGame/AgeOfEmpires'' campaigns (and most of the ''VideoGame/AgeOfMythology'') raise the difficulty exponentially with each scenario. Tough requirements while giving you [[WithThisHerring limited armies\resources]]? Enemies that start to build [[InstantWinCondition wonders]]? Being forced to break into a heavily guarded town the other side of the map? Anything goes!
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Rhythm Game ]]
* Both ''VideoGame/GuitarHero'' and ''VideoGame/RockBand'' feature a general Difficulty Spike when moving from Medium to Hard on guitar or drums.
** Guitar charts start including the orange fret, meaning that you have to start moving your hands around instead of having your four fingers sit on green, red, yellow, and blue all the time. On drums, the bass pedal finds itself on the off-beats more often, forcing some extra limb independence out of players, and that's not taking into account the presence of drumrolls and fills with much more notes than one would see in a Medium chart. On vocals, the jump happens from Hard to Expert. The pitch-detection becomes ''much'' less lenient and requires better precision to ensure high scores. Both series are well-known for having sudden [[ThatOneBoss brick wall]] songs. You'll be progressing along fine before suddenly being hit with a difficult song that'll take a day of practice just to pass.
** In ''Guitar Hero II'' the song that broke several players' kneecaps was Psychobilly Freakout.
** ''Guitar Hero III'' has the infamously [[{{Pun}} hellish]] last set, 'Battle for your Soul', [[Music/{{Slayer}} Raining Blood]] in particular. When the other 3 songs are [[Music/{{Metallica}} One]], [[Music/IronMaiden The Number of the Beast]] and [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55nAwmVLQSk Cliffs of Dover]], culminating in the [[ThatOneBoss battle with]] [[RockMeAsmodeus Lou]] to the tune of The Devil Went Down To Georgia, it's not surprising that only the MOST hardcore players ever beat the game on Expert.
** In ''Guitar Hero: On Tour'', first it hits you with "I Don't Wanna Stop", with a hellish solo near the end; then it hits you with "I Know a Little", which has a slightly less difficult solo, but at the start of the song, before you get any [[LimitBreak Star Power]]. Then it takes a sledgehammer to your balls with "Through The Fire And The Flames".
** The first ''Rock Band'' game gave us [[Music/IronMaiden Run to the Hills]] on hard drums, which was so beyond anything else in that difficulty tier that most veteran players advised newbies to start the game again on a higher difficulty setting when they reached it, rather than spend hours futilely flailing away at a song that was tougher than many of the Expert tier's end-game songs. Of course, then you unlocked the same song on ''Expert'' and realized that the game had been going comparatively easy on you up to that point. [[note]]A note on "Run To The Hills": it uses a very fast "disco" beat in which two hands alternate on the hi-hat and one of them moves to hit the snare. On Expert, this means keeping a steady alternating rhythm. On Hard, every other 16th hi-hat hit is removed, resulting in an xxx-xxs-xxx-xxs pattern (where x is hi-hat, s is snare, - is a rest). While it is technically much easier, some people found this to be just as hard or even harder to keep rhythm with than Expert. Rock Band 2 changed this system with songs like Everlong to convert very fast disco beats into regular beats, removing the 16ths entirely. This means that on Everlong and some other songs, you now hit a hi-hat at the same time as the snare. These hi-hat hits don't exist in the real songs, but make much more sense as a real drummer would do the same thing if they wanted to slow down the drum-work.[[/note]]
** ''Rock Band 2'' followed this up with [[Music/FooFighters Everlong]], which, while slower than ''Run to the Hills'', has a much less intuitive bass pattern. Of course, once you get past Everlong, there are five more songs that take the difficulty to ridiculous levels: Battery, Shoulder to the Plow, Painkiller, and Panic Attack are difficult (and decently long), but Visions takes the cake. Visions has the fastest blast beats in the game, the bass is very fast, and the pattern is very technically complex. Many players can five star every other song and still can't pass Visions.
** ''Rock Band 2'''s Sound Guy challenge, if there's an Expert drummer in your band. It ends with Everlong, ranked the 5th hardest song on the disc, and it's not under-rated; it's filled with high-speed 'tika-tika-tika-tika' hi-hat hits that will fail out most players unless they've been breezing through everything else up to that point. The silver lining is that if you can beat it once, you probably won't fail it afterwards, and you can switch down to Hard with little if any penalty.
** For guitarists, some Rock Band songs start off fairly easy, then they throw you for a loop with a [[ThatOneAttack vicious solo section]] which can easily screw up your entire run, "Can't Be Tamed" "According To You" and "Forever" are all prime examples.
* ''VideoGame/EliteBeatAgents'' and ''VideoGame/OsuTatakaeOuendan 2'' had three of these each, one on the "final" song, one on the actually final song, and one on the third bonus song. "Canned Heat" from EBA also counts, as it's the only song which has its taps on the offbeat. If you're not ready for it, you'll lose quickly.
* In ''VideoGame/{{beatmania}} IIDX'', you don't fail a song by running out of life, but you do need to finish with your life meter at 80% or higher to clear it. Many songs will abuse this by having sudden jumps in difficulty at the end; some of the biggest offenders are [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/3/holic.html?2AB00 Holic (Another)]], [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/8/blame.html?2AB00 Blame (Another)]], [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/13/contract.html?2N800 Contract (Normal)]] (the rest of the song is fairly easy in comparison), and [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/14/inori.html?1AB00 Inori (Another)]]. This issue is subverted [[http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~hibroad/score/0/gobeyond.html?2AC00 Go Beyond!! (Another)]], which has its most difficult part in the ''middle'' of the song, and the rest of the song is easy enough for someone who can clear level-11 songs to easily recover in. Many players avoid this by setting doing the "Hard" route for the life bar. In this, as long as the life doesn't reach 0%, you pass.
* Many [[RhythmGame Rhythm Games]] have this on a select few of the hardest songs.
** On ''VideoGame/DanceDanceRevolution'', there is a huge gap in difficulty between most 9's and most 10's. A player who can easily get a Full Combo and/or AA on most 9's may barely scrape by with a B on a typical 10. The gap was slowly smoothed out over the years, only for Konami to release a new batch of charts so hard that they created a new gap, just as big but further up.
** Also from Bemani, the difficulty progression in ''pop'n music'' stays relatively constant up until you reach Level 28, which is where the notecharts start throwing more advanced techniques (scales and jackhammers in particular) at you. Spikes also occur at Levels 32, 35, 38, and each level thereafter. Then, as with ''BeatmaniaIIDX'', there are a ton of songs that will devolve into total [[OhCrap notejam]] in the last ten seconds or so. Playing with the Extra Stage lifebar cuts out the 80% requirement, but [[GuideDangIt you need to get specific combined level scores to access it]]-and from the 16th mix onward, the criteria were raised enough to make it nigh-impossible without using [[SelfImposedChallenge ojamas]].
* ''VideoGame/{{DJMAX}} Technika'''s Weekly 27 course, available only from July 12 through 19, 2010. Stage 1 is Enemy Storm [PP]; one of the easiest stage 2 songs in Popular Mode. Stage 2 is Cherokee [PP]; a few steps up but still doable for some. ''Then'' there is Stage 3, A.I. [TP], which is many steps harder than Cherokee thanks to [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWDBIfrTTZE#t=1m40s a rather annoying repeat note segment at the end]].
* ''VideoGame/HatsuneMikuProjectDiva'' has a fairly reasonable difficulty progression with every song being completable with enough practice. Then you get to The Dissapearence of Hatsune Miku and your head explodes.
* ''VideoGame/ReRave''[='s=] difficulty takes a flying leap from Level 8 to Level 9, when the different note types suddenly start hitting you all at once, like having to sustain a long Follow Note while hitting random Omni Notes that appear all over the screen.
* ''VideoGame/RhythmHeaven'' progresses at a simple rate for the first five stages. Then the game smacks [[ThatOneLevel Rhythm Rally]] in your face, one of the least lenient mini-games in the game. Then the game smooths out again, and finally hits its head with Big Rock Finish, which doesn't allow practice for 6 of the 8 playable songs, immediately followed by Frog Hop, the longest song in the game. Then the game crashes the ceiling through your body with Lockstep, a game that is downright impossible for first-timers; Space Soccer, which nets you a fail if you mess up twice; and [[MarathonLevel Remix 6]] which is the first Remix to fake you out by switching minigames mid-tap. Then comes Round 2, which elongates, quickens, and/or [[InterfaceScrew adds effects that make focus difficult]], and [[FakeLongevity getting all perfects]].
* In ''VideoGame/TheatrhythmFinalFantasy'', almost every song is available in three difficulties: Basic, Expert, and Ultimate. The increase in difficulty from Basic to Expert is reasonable. The increase in difficulty from Expert to Ultimate is ''absurd''. A player who is good enough to Perfect Chain an Expert-level song on their first attempt is probably going to fail that same song on Ultimate difficulty within ten seconds of starting.
* Woe betide ''VideoGame/GrooveCoaster'' players who only have access to the smartphone version but not the arcade version, as the level 200 and 300 unlockable songs "Got more raves?" and "Got a pain cover?" have brutal AC-Hard charts that are rated 20 and feature insane track speeds and rapid patterns that border on being unsuitable for touchscreens. The next highest-rated songs in the smartphone version are six Tatsh songs that are only rated 15 and don't come anywhere near the "Got" songs in terms of brutality, meaning that ''nothing'' in the game can prepare the player for these two songs. This is not as big of a problem in the arcade versions, where there are far more "boss" songs that can help the player smoothly improve their skills to the point of being able to tackle these songs.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Roguelike ]]
* ''VideoGame/FTLFasterThanLight'''s final boss flagship is noticeably harder than the rest of the game (most of the game is already at pretty high difficulty, but the final boss just shoots up another mile in difficulty level).
* ''VideoGame/NetHack'' has Gehennom, the hell area at the bottom of the dungeon. Instead of rooms and corridors, Gehennom has featureless maze levels. The randomly-spawning enemies are almost all demons and undead. And every once in a while, you'll stumble into a special level with a demon lord waiting for you.
* ''[[VideoGame/PokemonMysteryDungeonExplorers Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Darkness]]'':
** The game has a nice progression...until you hit Hidden Land. In the previous dungeon, you would face Seel, Staryu and Kingler, with the occasional Dragonair appearing every now and then. Suddenly, Dragonite, Garchomp, Magmortar and Rampardos start to raid your team with no mercy, coupled with a boss battle that can easily be ThatOneBoss for the unprepared.
** The post game follows quite nicely until you hit Miracle Sea. Enemies that return the damage dealt automatically and Octillery by dozens pelting you with GameBreaker moves from the other side of the room.
* In ''VideoGame/PokemonMysteryDungeonRescueTeam'', Sky Tower is markedly harder than anything you've previously done, featuring ghosts that can move through walls, changing weather, enemies with attacks that hit the entire room, and potential Monster Houses that can be extremely dangerous.
* ''VideoGame/TheBindingOfIsaac'' is already a brutal game. However, beat the game once and the FinalBoss is demoted to ClimaxBoss and more floors are added afterwards. In these floors, everything does a full heart of damage unless you have The Wafer...which you can't get until you beat these floors multiple times. This is essentially where the game gets serious.
* To progress through the story in ''VideoGame/CryptOfTheNecrodancer'', first you have to clear each zone as Cadence (the standard character). Then you have to clear them as Melody, who is locked into one weapon that is very strong once you get used to its attack radius. But then you have to beat them again as Aria, a OneHitPointWonder (technically two, since she starts with a revive) who can't use any other weapon besides the basic dagger and dies if you skip a beat. Not to mention she has to clear the zones in reverse order.
* ''VideoGame/DarkestDungeon'' is unforgiving in general but the titular Darkest Dungeon itself assaults you with a hellish spike in difficulty, especially in the second mission with a total of 3 very difficult mini-bosses in the Templar Warlords and Impalers. Just as well if you retreat from the dungeon you ''must'' surrender one of your heroes to hold off the monsters so the rest of your party can escape.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Role Playing Game ]]
* ''VideoGame/ClassOfHeroes 2'' flows nicely until you get to the parallel world. The dungeons make Witch's Woods look small and straightforward, enemies are much stronger, it introduces dark areas and gate keys get more and more common. However, once you approach Lanzlet the game throws a nasty curve ball by making all melee classes almost useless - either you nuke enemies on the first turn with Bomb and other spells that hit all the enemies in the battle or watch them kill your sturdiest tanks in two hits.
* ''VideoGame/EarthBound'':
** The Peaceful Rest Valley. Up until that point, the only challenging part was the Giant Step dungeon, and even that's not too bad if you're well-equipped. Peaceful Rest Valley teems with DemonicSpiders, especially the dreaded [[ActionBomb Territorial Oaks]]. It doesn't help that it takes forever to get out.
** The mine is another major difficulty spike. It's a long maze level swarming with poisonous enemies, requiring you to find and defeat five giant moles. The first time playing, you ''will'' get lost and spend a long time aimlessly wandering. And it doesn't get any better afterwards; almost immediately you get forced through the [[ThatOneLevel Fourside Department Store]] and [[DarkWorld Moonside]], both of which are even more difficult.
** There's also the infamous Mt. Itoi from ''VideoGame/MOTHER1''.
* ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiSuperstarSaga Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga]]'' has this applied to TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon.
** The final boss is especially notable. Although several of the [[spoiler: Koopalings]] were timed boss battles, and Fawful had some hard-to-avoid attacks, they weren't ''too'' hard to deal with. Even [[spoiler: Bowletta]] isn't that hard...and then you reach [[spoiler: Cackletta's spirit]]. Mario and Luigi are reduced to 1 HP each, and most of the time the boss will attack first, using up to ''four attacks''. The attacks are brand new, and if you die, you have to beat Bowletta again before getting another chance to analyze (and hopefully dodge) the attacks. It's common for an unsuspecting player to die before getting a single hit in, and the boss only adds new attacks from there.
** ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiPartnersInTime Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time]]'' also had a difficulty spike with the final dungeon, and especially with the final boss(es). In both games, even the normal enemies in the final dungeon are a huge step up from what has come before them.
** ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiSuperstarSaga Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga]]'' also has this at Joke's End, which is a MarathonLevel, ice level and ThatOneLevel in one, coming right after a fairly easy set of side quests and relaxed happy areas of the game. And right before the even harder final dungeon.
** ''[[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiDreamTeam Mario & Luigi Dream Team]]'' has Somnom Woods, where the puzzles get more confusing, the enemies often become DemonicSpiders with a ton of health (especially the Beehoss) and two fairly difficult bosses lie in wait near the end. The final dungeon after this area is even harder.
** It also has one earlier in the game with Mount Pajamaja, which has surprisingly difficult enemies, a PlotTunnel which acts a temporary PointOfNoReturn (in the dream world version) and the first potentially aggravating giant Luigi boss.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Folklore}}'', the difficulty level in the final level, the Netherworld Core, is far greater than all previous areas.
* ''VideoGame/GoldenSun'' has a large difficulty spike whenever you enter one of the 4 elemental lighthouses.
** Final bosses don't tend to count for this trope unless particularly absurd -- like in ''VideoGame/GoldenSunDarkDawn''! At the very end of a 20-30 hour game that got a lot of flak for being trivially easy from the start all the way through the penultimate triple boss (you may well never have the slightest pressure to touch your inventory in combat throughout the game), the Chaos Chimera is quite suddenly very, very powerful and grueling on the scale of the previous games' {{Bonus Boss}}es.
** ''Dark Dawn'''s version of [[spoiler: Crossbone Isle]] is a certified BrutalBonusLevel. Hope you did your level grinding and got all the Djinn.
* While ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIII'' is difficult throughout, the back-to-back dungeons [[TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon Crystal Tower/Dark World]] turns it from "difficult but manageable" to "9th circle of hell". The Crystal Tower is filled with difficult enemies and a difficult boss, then after a long, unskippable cutscene you get thrown into the Dark World. From there, the player needs to beat 4 extremely difficult bosses with OneHitKO attacks (unless they want to get destroyed by the FinalBoss immediately) in a dungeon also filled with [[BossInMookClothing Bosses in Mook Clothing.]] While none of this out of control for the game, the kicker is that there [[CheckpointStarvation are no save points.]] You have to go through the 2 hour long gauntlet ''every time.''
* At the end of the first half of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI'', the Floating Continent has a sudden jump in the difficulty of random monsters compared to previous locations.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII'' contains a particularly nasty example, whereby [[SummonMagic a strategy]] that you can use to go through the entire first three discs will become entirely useless for the last one. If you've been going through the entire game with this strategy alone while not building up any other strategies, [[{{Unwinnable}} you may be screwed]].
* Though it certainly has a few tough spots, most of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'' isn't incredibly difficult. Then you hit Mount Gagazet, at which point not only do the standard enemies start getting a lot tougher, but the next four bosses ''all'' qualify as ThatOneBoss, culminating in a fight that many players consider the hardest non-BonusBoss in the entire game (and happens to come right after an unskippable 10-minute cutscene). It doesn't let up from there, even if you're not going for OneHundredPercentCompletion.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII'':
** Chapters 12 and 13 can be pretty challenging if you didn't grind a lot in Chapter 11. You can't go back to the Ch. 11 area until right before the final boss, and there's no clear indication at the end of Ch. 11 that you should train.
** While they aren't required, some of the later Mission Stones represent ludicrous difficulty spikes, along with some of the enemies that wander Gran Pulse. It's quite possible to beat the game without ever bothering with the upgrade system, for instance. But if you get far enough along in the Missions? Yeah. Need upgraded EVERYTHING - which probably takes you as long or longer to do than beating the entire game, storyline-wise. Oh, and those wandering turtles.. GuideDangIt.
* Boss fights in ''VideoGame/TalesOfVesperia'' tend to be rather jarringly difficult in comparison to the average random battle, but especially during [[ThatOneBoss the fight with Gattuso]] some players chose to change the battle difficulty to "easy". This spike in boss difficulty takes place, oddly enough, about five hours into the game.
** Same with [[spoiler: Alexei]], but it tends to be amplified after traversing the DiscOneFinalDungeon and all gels and life bottles have been exhausted getting to the boss.
* ''VideoGame/{{PersonaQ}}'' starts off as you'd expect from a Creator/{{Atlus}} game: tough but fair. Then you get to the Evil Spirit Club, where the dungeon layout and puzzles are more elaborate, the enemies are [[DemonicSpiders horribly brutal]] (using tactics like casting debuffs that make your whole party weak to an element, then spamming full-party hitting spells of that element) and the [[BossInMookClothing F.O.Es]] either ''chase'' you and can join in battles if you let them go on for too long, or [[JumpScare jump you out of nowhere]]. (Previous F.O.Es were either stationary or followed preset patterns) The fact that the dungeon has a horror theme compared to the lighthearted previous dungeons seems an unsubtle LampshadeHanging of this.
* ''VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublic'' is a pretty easy game to get through, provided you have even a small idea of what you're doing. Then you hit the final area. All of the enemy numbers that had been missing through the rest of the game come to bite you in the arse. That nice, skilled, diplomatic character you played? Toast. You won't even make it to the final boss without spending all of your money on healing items and saving often, or lowering the difficulty level. The boss itself has the nasty ability to one-shot weaker characters, ignore your attacks, and recover himself multiple times.
** This section is even more annoying as a DarkSide character, when you are [[spoiler:stuck with a recently returned and recently nerfed NPC. You can't opt out of taking them in.]]
** For a combat-focused character it's fairly easy though. It's the ones that focused on other skills that get it in the shorts.
* ''VideoGame/{{Fallout Tactics|BrotherhoodOfSteel}}'' does this ''every time'' the story shifts focus. You start off with leather armor and conventional weapons, fighting raiders. When your squad moves on to battling the [[TheBeastMaster beastlords]], if you haven't learned the value of stealth in your tactics you will ''have to'' if you want to survive, let alone complete missions. Plus you encounter Deathclaws, which are suitably lethal. From then, you go on to super mutants, with the first major difficulty spike (though at least the game forewarns you), where no matter how clever your tactics are, if you don't find a good gun ''soon'' you will simply not have the punch to kill the mutants. After you defeat the mutant leader, you then seem to have hit a difficulty plateau, as your next mission involves the Reavers, technophiles who practically worship their creations...but that's a fake-out, as you now have to deal with ''robots'', which can shrug off attacks that would shred even the toughest super-mutants.
* ''VideoGame/ArcanumOfSteamworksAndMagickObscura'' seems rather tricky in and out of Shrouded Hills, lobs you enough easy experience in Tarant, only to send you to the Black Mountain Mines, which will surely kill you once or twice even if you know what to expect.
** The main problem is that a) Arcanum's combat system has its flaws, b) the Black Mountain Mines are a pure dungeon crawl against enemies that do damage to melee weapons if you attack with them (or do damage to ''you'', if you use your fists). Add to that significant portions of the game being cut-off until you finish the Black Mountain Mines...
* ''VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIIMorrowind'''s final boss (Dagoth Ur) is level 35. The bosses from the expansions (Almalexia and Hircine) are both ''level 100''...
** The Bloodmoon expansion is especially guilty of this, Hircine is not even the worst part, he was pretty easy compared to this: A player who can't be harmed (literally, using constant healing amulets or something similar) in all of Vvardenfell will have a challenging game on Solstheim, the Isle of the Bloodmoon EP. Still, it won't be too hard. That is, until you chose [[spoiler:to finish the main quest as a werewolf]]. Then you're stripped off all your items and magic spells and face >30 enemies who are about as strong as you and attack in packs of 2-4, everything without a chance to heal yourself. To make things worse, if you manage it, your reward will be less than it would be if you took the easy path.
** Also simply starting a new game with the expansions installed. Whenever you go to sleep, you have a chance of an assassin being near your bed when you wake. This assassin, meant for players who had already beaten the original game, will quickly kill you at low levels.
* ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'' games will normally have a huge level difference between the team of the final gym leader and the team of the first member of the Elite Four...and the ''champion'' of the Elite Four is in a whole different weight class.
** ''VideoGame/PokemonDiamondAndPearl[=/=]Platinum'' and ''VideoGame/PokemonRedAndBlue[=/=]Yellow/Green'' throw an extra curveball by having the champion have a Pokémon ''with no weaknesses''. [[note]]Spiritomb and Alakazam, respectively. Remember that the first generation had no Dark type, Ghost was bugged, and Bug was nearly useless, making pure Psychics like Alakazam effectively weakness-free.[[/note]]
** After the Elite 4, it only gets worse. There are usually various [[BonusBoss bonus battles]] scattered across the region, including rematches with upgraded Gym Leaders and the Elite 4, who now all have a new team of Pokémon from all across the world (instead of being limited to the region the game is set in), usually in their seventies. TheRival also gains a few extra levels. And then there's the [[HarderThanHard Battle Frontier]]...
** ''VideoGame/PokemonBlackAndWhite'' add a new spin: by the first time you reach the Elite 4, their levels will range from mid 40's to 54. Once you beat them and upcoming opponents you'll unlock the rest of Unova for exploration... where even the average trainers will have their pokémon above level 60. Grinding at the Elite 4 is out of question, because suddenly their weakest pokémon are above level 70.
*** To compensate for this, some of these Level 60+ Pokémon aren't fully evolved for whatever reason and give decent amounts of exp when beaten. However, this makes the trainers that ''are'' using final forms difficulty spikes in comparison to the ones that aren't.
** ''[[VideoGame/PokemonGoldAndSilver HeartGold and SoulSilver]]'' are particularly egregious. The highest-leveled Pokemon in the Elite Four is level 50. The Kanto gym leaders have Pokemon in the 40s and 50s. However, [[TrueFinalBoss Red's]] entire team has levels in the ''80s''.
*** Except inbetween battling the Elite Four and Kanto Gym leaders the first time and Red is the rematches with the E4 and the Gym leaders. The Gym leaders get up in the 60s range and the Champion Lance gets into the 70s.
*** Depending on how you look at, the original games are less or more crazy. Blue's best Pokémon are Arcanine, Gyarados and Exeggutor, at Lv. 58. What's Red ''weakest mon''? Lv. '''73''' Espeon, FIFTEEN levels higher. Five less than in remakes (Lv. 80 Lapras versus Lv. 60 Pidgeot) but when you think about... Gym Leaders and E4 don't get upgrade. The strongest trainer you can easily rematch is Lance, with [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard Lv. 50 Dragonite]]. That's lower than Blue's weakest Pokémon! With wild Pokémon, it goes up to Lv. 52 Parasect in Mount Silver. However, it is only Crystal. In Gold/Silver, it's Lv. 51 Golduck. And then find where they appear! In other words, prepare for LOT of grinding.
*** In [=GSC=], while the Elite 4 doesn't upgrade, there's also a ''slightly'' lesser spike between Blue and Red's levels. Fortunately, in the remakes, the Elite 4 ''does'' upgrade to help you level grind better. Of course, you'll need every bit of grinding you can get in preparation for Red.
* ''VideoGame/PokemonColosseum'' is also this way when you hit Realgam Tower. Everything up to the final boss is level 47 to 49 max. But then you hit Nascour, who's in the 50s,and then [[spoiler: Evice]] and all his team is 60 and 61. Prepare to go enter several Colosseum battles to get your team high enough to beat him.
* ''VideoGame/MegaManBattleNetwork''. An interesting case, as the series as a whole spikes difficulty distinctly at each installment. The ''entire first game'' is basically an extended tutorial sequence for the rest of the series. Sure, there are a couple places you can get trashed ([[ThatOneBoss Magicman says hi]]), but the game actually expects you to not be particularly adept at the quirky combat system just yet -- you don't notice at first because you're still adjusting to the mechanics, but there's a ''ton'' of leeway. [=MMBN2=] stops pulling punches when you get to [[WakeUpCallBoss Quickman]] and is never forgiving enough to do so again. By 3, there ''is'' no WarmupBoss -- the first one is downright vicious. 4-6 are just plain [[NintendoHard ornery]].
** Then you go back and play the series in sequence again and realize the following. Tactics, reaction time, maneuvering, and mistakes that would let you S-rank an opponent in the first game would give you about an 8 at best in [=BN2=], 4-5 in [=BN3=], and would in all likelihood get you outright killed in the last three.
** Each game also has a massive difficulty spike upon entering the [[WretchedHive Undernet]]. Say goodbye to the slow, cutesy Mets, and get used to your deadliest virus no longer being a [[KillerRabbit Bunny]]. Say ''hello'' to meteor-raining mages, Spikies that move faster than any Bunny you've seen so far, arena shenanigans, and absolutely brutal enemy combinations that will happily murder you and eat your source code. Granted, it's not too hard to adjust to, but the sheer spike in difficulty more than makes up for it.
* ''Franchise/KingdomHearts'':
** Enemies get much stronger after completing Hollow Bastion in ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsI''. The game itself even tells you that they have.
** In the final level of VideoGame/KingdomHeartsChainofMemories, be prepared for all of the previously easy enemies such as Darkball and Shadows to be upgraded to ridiculous levels, with them using 0 cards strategically, 8's out the ass, and generally being royal dicks. You literally have to have a deck of nothing but 9's in order to win.
*** Note, however, than 100% of the 0 Card Breaks come from ''fucking Neoshadows.''
* In ''VideoGame/{{Avernum}} 4'', the difficulty curve is very gentle -- until you hit the Eastern Gallery, at which point it shoots sharply upward, before settling back down to a more moderate climb for the rest of the game. Wall, thy name is Chitrach.
* ''VideoGame/MSSagaANewDawn'' has a high spike after you lose one of the main healer, Aeon, and the choice of worthwhile mobile suits are limited to the five Gundams from ''Anime/MobileSuitGundamWing'' series and the [[Anime/MobileFighterGGundam Burning Gundam]], all which require you to go fight loads of [[ThatOneBoss That One Bosses]] with only two healer at max and a few melee tankers, one with very outdated unchangable suit to boot.
* ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'' on Insanity is manageable during the first recruitment missions. Definitely very challenging, but if you've practiced, they're reasonable. Then...you get to Horizon and fight the Collectors. Anytime you fight the Collectors, it's like this.
** Just imagine it. First you've got the regular Collectors who have stronger weapons and shields than almost any other enemies in the game. Guardians and Assassins will beat you down. Then...[[DemonicSpider Harbinger shows up]] and '''[[MemeticMutation Assumes Direct Control]]'''. This guy will constantly spam fireball attacks and use a certain attack that will knock you out of cover allowing you to be hit by an immediate fireball and fire from the other Collectors. Then you've got the Scions who will constantly move forward with an attack that keeps your shields drained for about 30 seconds if it hits. Two shots from it, and you are dead. Finally, there are [[ThatOneBoss the Praetorians]]. You'll have to go through this hell a few times over the course of the game. But it is satisfying as hell to get through.
** Horizon is generally considered to be the hardest level to get through, simply because you're up against the full might of the Collectors, but your choice of weapons or squad members is limited. The [[spoiler:Collector Ship]] is easier, simply because you get advanced weapon training there and have something that can deal with those damn Scions.
* The ''VideoGame/{{Suikoden}}'' series of games follow a general pattern: The majority of the game is smooth and easy to handle, with random encounters increasing in difficulty but never becoming unmanageable, and relatively few bosses that are usually fairly simple, with maybe one or two of [[ThatOneBoss those kinds of bosses.]] Then the FinalBoss or series of bosses comes up, and they are a hitpoint-munching game-over ''machine.'' They tend to be about five or six times harder than the entire rest of the game.
** ''VideoGame/SuikodenIII'' plays with this pattern--there are several boss battles that are ''brutally'' difficult...but the catch is that [[HeadsIWinTailsYouLose the game proceeds on regardless of whether you win or lose]] and the required bosses are fairly manageable. The FinalBoss of Suiko3, though, holds to the aforementioned trend of being death-in-a-bucket.
* In ''VideoGame/DragonSlayer'', the fifth through eighth monsters have 5,000 HP, 7,500 HP, 10,000 HP and 20,000 HP. Then the ninth monster has 300,000 HP.
* ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVIII'''s BonusDungeon has a boss at the end of it, and you must go through it each time to defeat a new one. The Darksteel Dragon is much more difficult. He has far less HP than his predecessors, but his defense is so high that, barring critical-or-miss attacks, you won't hit him that often. Also, he gets triple attacks.
* Playing ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'', you'll wonder where its NintendoHard reputation comes from. . .until you get to the courtyard of Castle Redcliffe.
** Before that, there is a certain mandatory random encounter with a pack of wolves that is certain to get you killed multiple times if you don't know what you're doing.
* All of ''VideoGame/DarkSouls'' is hard, but Blighttown, with its maze-like layout, powerful, toxin-inducing foes, difficult to see toxin-inducing snipers, is where things really start getting tough. Another difficulty spike is [[ThatOneLevel Sen's Fortress]], which comes immediately after Blighttown. The area is a convention center for booby traps and considerably strong mooks than previously encountered.
* ''VideoGame/MonsterRacers'' has Eurasia. The first two areas, Oceania and Asia, are easy to the point of being silly, usually being cases of "hold right to win." There are a couple oddballs (such as the Breeder's Cup), but for the most part, they're easy to moderately difficult. Then Eurasia smacks you in the face with snowy terrain (one of the most difficult to race on), high-leveled enemies, and much more brutal AI. And it only gets harder from there.
* ''VideoGame/DigimonWorld3'':
** There's the West Sector difficulty spike where you go from kicking digimon ass to getting kicked in the ass by powerful digimon. And after the Amaterasu Server spike, ''[[UpToEleven Asuka's North Sector and Amaterasu's own West and North Sector just makes things even worse.]]''
** The second spike comes once you get to the Amaterasu server, but the game is infamous among those who played it in that wild digimon can vary wildly in power from just one screen to the other, with absolutely no indication that you have just stepped into an area that you really shouldn't be in at that particular point in time. If you go out exploring too far in the wrong direction you can easily run into a super powerful wild digimon that your team won't possibly be able to defeat (given that the game's encounter rate is fairly high it may be difficult to get out of an area like this without dying).
* Early on in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'', the monsters are pretty weak, and if you know who to use on what, will usually go down in one or two hits. Then comes Macalania Woods - the monsters are more durable, and they'll be using attacks that unless you've leveled properly (rotating every character in to every battle you participate in seems to be the most effective method) will be putting down everybody but your tanks.
* The first several hours of ''VideoGame/{{Xenogears}}'' are pretty easy; a couple of the Gear bosses might cause some trouble, but nothing some basic strategizing won't fix. Then you enter the Nortune Sewers. All of the enemies hit hard, many cause status ailments (practically unheard of until this point), the area is a maze, and just initiating the boss is a puzzle that might result in the player wandering around for some time. Also, said boss is one of the [[ThatOneBoss most maligned]] in the game.
* In the Neopets browser game ''VideoGame/NeoQuest'' II, the game's difficulty fluctuates, but there is quite an increase about halfway through Act IV, first when you fight [[WolfpackBoss The Four]] [[ThatOneBoss Faeries]] and the optional [[GoddamnedBoss Hubrid Nox]]. Then the monsters in the Nox Mountains and the Goo Bog have stronger team synergy than seen before, with powerful spellcasters that aim for your mage and living slimes that slow your team and haste themselves. The spike ends right when you fight [[AntiClimaxBoss The Esophagor]], and doesn't come back until the end of Act V.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Robopon}}'', around the fifth or fourth-ranked competitor of both games, things get hard fast.
** The problem with Robopon 2 lies on the game mechanics. First of all, each robot gains fixed stat bonuses when they level up, when you [[EvolutionPowerUp upgrade]] your robot, the level is halved and the stats get down, it may sound bad but when you re-train the robot, it gets new skills and better stats so it helps in the long run (the sooner you evolve the better but you may lose some skills). The problem is, that only applies to YOU, the player, [[TheAIIsACheatingBastard none of you enemies get their stats down or lose skills, they get the stats equivalent to the form they are now]]. That's why the BOOT robots (they can't equip weapons but have better stats and unique skills) are useless to the player and so broken for the enemies, in fact, if you train your own robot to the last evolution and analyze the same robot as the enemy, you can see he has better stats (most of the time)! The huge spike comes when you're almost getting the fifth rank, when you visit the windmills on first time, they have weak enemies, but when you return there, most the random enemies evolve and THEN you feel the difference! For example, the weak Sumito robot becomes Yokomo (3 times stronger, but if you make one it's terrible), a robot with massive stats, regeneration and Revive+ skill that can make a single random battle take long minutes. You went from "Kill everything in one hit!" to [[NintendoHard "This random encounter is too damn hard!"]] in less than 30 minutes, from there on, the enemies are usually evolved and since they have better stats than your robots, your only chance to survive is to overlevel them and/or abuse equipment/skills.
* ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou'' gets harder with each week in the story. On-field enemies get stronger and the boss fights become a lot more challenging, with some requiring you to ''really'' think in order to figure out their weakness. The fact that you have to adjust to controlling Neku's new partner in each week only adds to it. The game's control scheme involves using Neku and his partner simultaneously in battle (Neku on the bottom screen, his partner on the top). There's an AI that controls the top-screen character if you don't but it's not that good, which means you'll have to get the hang of it fast and you definitely need too, since you share the same health bar and some of the later boss fights involve fighting a boss on ''each screen''.
* ''VideoGame/{{Undertale}}'':
** The game is pretty decent with its difficulty for boss encounters and they ramp up at a considerable pace. Each boss has a gimmick to exploit in the game's bullet hell styled mini-game you play whenever the enemy attacks. [[spoiler: Omega/Photoshop Flowey puts the "hell" in bullet hell with little to no time to react to his attacks as they cover nearly the entire screen. The battles after him if you are on the true pacifist route are much easier.]]
** The Genocide/No Mercy route has a major difficulty spike. The random encounters are always easy, and you essentially skip the boss battles for the first half of the game -- and then you reach [[spoiler:Undyne the Undying]], who abruptly requires some serious reaction time to beat, even more so than all the bosses in the normal/pacifist routes.
* Once you manage to get the hang of ''VideoGame/{{Bloodborne}}'', the beginning areas aren't really so tough ([[ThatOneBoss Gascoigne]] aside). After you defeat Vicar Amelia and unlock the Forbidden Woods, however, all bets are off. Dark environments, twisty path ways, plenty of traps and dozens of villager enemies. And that's just the first half. After the windmill, you meet the Snake Heads, who can attack you during your attacks, have cartoonish health for that stage in the game and are everywhere. At the bottom, two pigs (Who can basically one-shot you with their charge attacks) a mess of corpse walkers and the boss, the Shadow of Yharnum. Hell, on the way to the woods, you find your first Brain Sucker. Everything after that point is almost as difficult, more in line with a standard ''Souls'' game.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Shoot Em Up ]]
* Old-time gamers would reference the arcade game ''VideoGame/{{Sinistar}}''. If you were on the ball, the first level was a snap. The second was absolutely brutal, and it just got worse.
* In ''VideoGame/BloonsSuperMonkey'', the game get so much harder after the first MOAB in the first game. It gets worse in the sequel, as the first MOAB is '''stage five!!'''
* The first three and a half stages of ''[[VideoGame/DonPachi DoDonPachi]]'' are designed to break you in. The rest of the game is designed to break you.
** And then there's the second loop. And ''then'' there's Hibachi, who makes ''the entire rest of the game look like cheesecake''.
** True to its predecessor, ''[=DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu=]''[='s=] first 4 stages are pretty easy. Then comes stage 5, which is significantly harder. If you make it into the second loop, stage 2-1 makes stage 5 look like cake, and it only gets harder from there. And of course there's Hibachi.
** Continuing the trend, ''[=DoDonPachi Saidaioujou=]''[='s=] 4th stage is as hard as the first 3 stages combined, stage 5 is twice as hard as stage 4, and Hibachi is as hard as ever. This might be because unlike past games in the series, ''SDOJ'' has no second loop. Except this time there's a second TrueFinalBoss, Inbachi, who makes even Hibachi look like a piece of cake.
* Many fans of the ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'' series would actually feel weird with a game that ''didn't'' include at least one difficulty spike. It's very traditional that the game gets into its real difficulty level only around level 4 or so, being [[NintendoHard comparatively]] easy before. Some particular games do it one level before, some it one after, but the fact that there ''will'' be a difficulty spike is unavoidable.
** Also, the gap between Hard and Lunatic tends to be much bigger than between Easy and Normal and between Normal and Hard.
** The most pronounced spike is in normal mode of ''Ten Desires''... it's the FinalBoss. Within the same game, the overdrive version of a spellcard is often vastly worse than any of the other versions, including lunatic.
** The 15th Touhou game, ''Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom'', really mocks players. The otherwise often ridiculed Easy Mode is kinda alright, but playing Normal and above gets absolutely merciless. People who can reasonably play Normal mode in other Touhou games will find this entry in the series absolutely impossible.
* The first stage of Creator/{{Toaplan}}'s ''Flying Shark''[=/=]''Sky Shark'' is only moderately hard, but the "moderately" part goes away after that. Doesn't help that it has FakeDifficulty by way of [[ContinuingIsPainful Gradius syndrome]].
* ''VideoGame/BlazingStar'' turns nasty when you're up to the boss of stage 3, which attempts to overwhelm you by boxing you into a very small space with its attacks, then sprays bullets maniacally in its last form. Stage 4 has enemies that appear so quickly the game has to warn you where they're coming from, and a boss that throws destructible bullets which end up blocking your shots, while frequently trying to ram you. Stage 5 has wall-mounted turrets that fire bullets in every direction at once, and a boss that does the same for one of its attacks but in a denser spread. Stage 6? Your ship's hitbox will start being a trouble.
* In ''VideoGame/BeatHazard'' you can consider yourself screwed when the music gets quiet.
* All of the ''VideoGame/{{Raiden}}'' games do this around Stage 3, but ''Raiden IV'' takes the cake, increasing its bullet density to near ''[[VideoGame/DonPachi Dodonpachi]]'' levels. Not to mention the second loop and TrueFinalBoss. ''Raiden II'' has an especially large spike in the second and third levels on the higher two difficulty settings. Sniper tanks, sniper tanks, everywhere.
* The first 16 tutorial levels for ''[[VideoGame/BangaiO Bangai-O Spirits]]'' teach you the mechanics of the game. The 17th (last) is an [[NintendoHard average difficulty]] level. On a scale of 1 to 100, the first 16 are all 5s or below, and the last is a 40. This is mitigated a bit since one of the demos shows a way to beat this one with the loadout given.
* ''VideoGame/{{Rez}}'''s third area takes a nasty leap in difficulty. Then there's the boss, which is much harder than the first two.
* While ''VideoGame/{{Hellsinker}}'' is rather easy by BulletHell standards it still packs a vicios spike in difficulity starting with [[WakeupCallBoss Rusted Dragon]].
* ''VideoGame/MushihimeSama Futari''[='s=] Original Mode has a massive one shortly after the stage 3 midboss. The section of stage 3 between the midboss and the boss is harder than the first two stages combined, and so is the stage 3 boss.
* ''VideoGame/HeavyWeapon'' After the rather manageable Dictastroika (with a rather easy boss, War Wrecker), you go into Zamblamia where you fight blimps with tons of health and [[ActionBomb explode]] into a shower of hard-to-avoid, indestructible purple balls, and a durable helicopter enemy that spams homing missiles. The boss at the end "Kommie Kong" is also a WakeUpCallBoss to those playing the PC version.
** The next level Tankylvania tops that even further by introducing the [[GoddamnedBats Reflex Fighters]] which have DeflectorShields that deflect your regular shots as purple balls, and the [[DemonicSpiders Havanski Atomic Bomber]] which drops nukes that take a long time to destroy and ''[[OneHitKill instantly kill you regardless of shielding]] if they hit the ground''. Like Kommie Kong, the boss also has a OneHitKill move.
** Lastly, there's Killingrad, which contains a lot of the previous levels' mooks. There are no Atomic Bombers but there ''are'' two new DemonicSpiders for you to play with: The [[KillSat Romanov Attack Satellite]] and the [[AdvancingBossOfDoom Shovak Bulldozer]], both of which can instantly kill you.
* ''VideoGame/{{Ikaruga}}'''s difficulty follows a modest curve through the first two chapters, then shoots up exponentially starting with the third.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Simulation Game ]]
* ''VideoGame/BlackAndWhite 2'''s levels are pretty easy with the AI throwing a couple of battalions of troops at your villages every so often, easy to defend against provided you have wall, a troop of warriors yourself and if that fails you can send out your creature to fight while you causally build up resources. In the last level you face full on assault by multiple cities at the start, you've got restricted resources and then your whole village is destroyed by a volcano and while rebuilding you'll be constantly attacked.
* ''VideoGame/SimCopter'', as bizarre as that sounds. Start up a custom map, and try to adjust the sliders that control the chance of a mission spawning. The result is not for the faint of heart.
* ''VideoGame/FreeSpace2'' to some extent - the first three missions are a warm-up, most of the rest of the game has a normal progression...
** ...then you are promoted [[spoiler:to Squadron Leader of the elite 70th Blue Lions]] and are immediately given a near-impossible escort mission - where much of the difficulty comes from your reinforcement wing being absolutely green, despite flying in supposedly elite-only fighters. The following two missions are definitely on the high-difficulty side as well, but the final mission is a bit of a cool-down.
* ''VideoGame/HarvestMoonFranticFarming'': Most of the characters' story modes are fairly straightforward. Most have a gradual increase in difficulty, and the boss battles with the Witch Princess are basically Survival Mode battles in disguise. And then there's Vaughn's final stage. You have to score 100,000 points in five minutes. You haven't been required to do more than 75,000 before (and won't be required to for any of the other characters). Vaughn's special skill (Instantly harvesting any big vegetables on the field) is totally at the mercy of the game board and your two AI partners are near useless. Beating Vaughn's last stage is practically a LuckBasedMission.
* The Battle of Yavin from the original ''VideoGame/XWing''. Most of the game has SchizophrenicDifficulty, even after the ''[[ThatOneLevel Redemption]]'' mission. The three missions comprising the assault on the Death Star ratchets up the difficulty ''significantly'' for the rest of the game. There are lesser difficulty spikes in the final missions of the two previous Tours of Duty, but these are nothing compared to the Battle of Yavin.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Sports Game ]]
* Going to the next division on the Soccer games, ''VideoGame/FIFASoccer'' and ''Pro Evolution Soccer''. Because your team will probaly go to the next division unprepared, you're going to have a hard time dealing against the opponents because they can be way better than you. This can bite hard if you go up to the 1st division, because that's where the powerhouse Clubs reside.
* ''VideoGame/PunchOut'''s final fight against [[FinalBoss Mike Tyson (Mr. Dream in later versions after Tyson's contract ran out)]] takes NintendoHard to ridiculous extremes. In fact, the World Circuit as a whole (save the opening [[HardModeFiller Piston Honda rematch]]) is a [[JustForPun sucker-punch in the face]] after the relatively manageable fights that came before. In addition to having to face [[ThatOneBoss Bald Bull]] ''again'', you get the nice little [[AccidentalPun one-two punch]] of Mr. Sandman and Super Macho Man. These two fighters, along with Soda Popinksi from earlier in the Circuit, make the rest of the game look much like how Tyson makes ''them'' look.
* ''[[VideoGame/PunchOut Punch Out Wii]]'' has Bear Hugger, who's ''much'' trickier than his predecessors (every fighter before him had a method to knock them down with one hit; the only way to do so with Bear-Hugger is with a three-star punch). He also marks where Title Defense gets painful.
* ''[[VideoGame/PunchOut Super Punch-Out]]'' has Dragon Chan. While the first five fighters you encounter range from being pretty straightforward (Bob Charlie) to an absolute joke (Gabby Jay), Dragon Chan is the wake-up boss. He's faster than the other fighters. He has ''three'' different special moves (one of which is a kick to the face, even though [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard this supposedly isn't kickboxing]]). And his recovery time is quite a bit lower than the previous five fighters.
* In ''[[VideoGame/MarioTennis Mario Power Tennis]]'', the tournaments aren't too bad; even a moderately skilled player can get through them without much difficulty. Then comes the Planet Cup, the final cup of the Star Tournaments, specifically the Doubles version. The difficulty bumps up substantially between the Moonlight Cup and the Planet Cup, almost to a shocking degree. If one's skills aren't up to par, the Planet Cup will almost certainly push the player to the limit.
* In ''All-Pro Football 2K8'', the Los Angeles Legends are a MyRulesAreNotYourRules stacked team which had far more elite players than you were allowed. They were all but guaranteed to make the playoffs, so unless you got lucky and someone else took them out, you would wind up facing them at some point in your quest for the title.
* A massive chunk of the browser game ''VideoGame/WinnieThePoohsHomeRunDerby's'' notoriety and SurpriseDifficulty comes from its brutal difficulty spikes. Eeyore through Piglet aren't difficult once one gets the controls down, and while Kanga and Rabbit will catch unsuspecting players off guard they are manageable with practice. Then come Owl and Tigger, whose gimmicks (zigzagging and ''invisible'' pitches respectively) will have a player tearing their hair out in frustration. And lurking beyond them is Christopher Robin himself, who can throw any pitch in the game at incredible speeds, and the home run quota needed to beat him gives one absolutely no margin for error.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Stealth Based Game ]]
* The original ''VideoGame/ThiefTheDarkProject'' suffers a huge difficulty spike going from Mission 4, 'Assassins' to Mission 5, 'The Sword'. The ''Gold'' version adds a new mission, 'The Downwind Thieves' Guild', between the two specifically to smooth the bump a little.
* The original ''VideoGame/{{Tenchu}}'' has [[SchizophrenicDifficulty a bit of an erratic difficulty curve]]: the first 3 stages are the learning steps, with the third being a bit more challenging but still manageable. Stages 4 and 5 (which, coincidentally, [[RegionalBonus weren't part of the original japanese release]]) are longer, more complex and {{mook}}-filled than before. Stages 6 and 7 are quite more toned down (specially the Manji temple, where the player can cut to the chase and go directly to the boss). And then comes Stage 8, set on a [[DeathMountain mountain top]] where there's a lack of hiding spots and an overabundance of {{Bottomless Pit}}s, plus archer {{mook}}s who can snipe at you from the other end of the chasm. The last two stages are ''slightly'' easier by virtue of lacking any BottomlessPit (though the last one is ''three times'' as large as any previous one).
** The second game isn't as bad, as long as you're not going for the [[RankInflation Grandmaster ranking]] since, unlike every other game in the series, the requirements for the rank change from level to level. So, some levels let you a bit of leeway in terms of Stealth Kills/being seen, while others force you to ''Stealth Kill every {{mook}} in the entire stage'' while ''not being seen''. Even still, Ayame's Story Mode is a more straight example, throwing in a "Not Be Seen or GameOver" requirement in ''Stage 3'', and the tricky Stage 8 and its respective [[ThatOneBoss boss]], [[PantheraAwesome Kotaro the Tiger]], which if it gets you on your back, can [[CurbStompBattle end the battle unscathed]].
* ''VideoGame/SplinterCell'' has Burma. Enemy troops now [[MoreDakka fire in full auto]], [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard and their guns have ZERO shot dispersion]]. If direct confrontation was problematic before (but could be countered by spamming medkits), it's downright suicidal from here on out.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Survival Horror ]]
* ''VideoGame/DeadSpace'' is a fair challenge save for the (turret mini-game) in chapter four. It is mandatory that this part is completed to advance in the game. The reason this portion is so difficult is that the margin for error is strikingly slim compared with the rest of the game.
* ''VideoGame/FatalFrame'' is fairly manageable during the 1st Night. However, the 2nd night increases the difficulty dramatically. There are more ghosts and they are far more powerful and harder to target. The Blind Woman in particular is prevalent throughout this night and has a tendency to teleport around the room before rushing the player.
* ''VideoGame/FiveNightsAtFreddys'' progressively gets worse as the week goes on, but on Night 5, [[spoiler:all the animatronics' prior patterns are reversed. DamnYouMuscleMemory, indeed! It's also commonly believed that the AI adapts to your playing style]].
* ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil'', both the original and the remake, get a nasty difficulty spike when you've beaten the guardhouse and get back to the mansion. Cue ShakyPOVCam charging through the courtyard and down the balcony ''you just used to enter the mansion'' and your first battle with a [[DemonicSpider Hunter]]. You'd better pray you didn't burn through all the ammo and health caches in the mansion either, since this guy isn't a BossInMookClothing: the mansion is ''crawling with them now''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Third Person Shooter ]]
* Playing ''VideoGame/MaxPayne'' on the level "New York Minute" is like shooting yourself in the head. You get a minute per section, and you can only get about 4 seconds per kill.
* While ''VideoGame/{{Oni}}'' isn't exactly an easy game, the difficulty of level 11 comes out of nowhere with three tough bosses in a row, broken up by fights against some of the toughest {{mooks}} in the game, along with very meager supplies; most of which is gotten off the bodies of your enemies, then the game goes back to the normal overall difficulty curve for the rest of the game.
** The absurdly difficult final section of level 3 tops that easily. Good lord, the death count nearly reached the triple digits. At least the next level went easy on the player after that onslaught. An honorable mention goes to level 12. Dodging five sets of trip lasers (which are armed with near-fatal Mercury Bow rifles) at the start makes for some frustrating gameplay. It's not quite as sadistic, but agonizing, nonetheless.
* ''VideoGame/{{Hatred}}'' has the Military Base, an ''[[ThatOneLevel enormous]]'' difficulty spike in an already-challenging game. Whereas previous maps started you out in an open environment with mostly civilians and gradually added law enforcement, the military base throws you into a gauntlet right from the beginning, with dozens of enemies and a Humvee with a turret in the very first area you run into. Being a military base, nearly every NPC is a soldier armed with an assault rifle or missile launcher, and all of them are heavily dug in. There is very little cover to use aside from the buildings filled with soldiers or sandbag fortifications that can be destroyed, rendering them useless. A very cautious playstyle is required to survive even on Easy difficulty.
* One of the most common criticisms of the otherwise [[NoProblemWithLicensedGames well-reviewed]] ''VideoGame/GhostbustersTheVideoGame''. The game is comfortable most of the time, only to catch the player off-guard with a section that will require several tries to overcome. The most infamous would be a part where the player is expected to throw flying stone gargoyles into a gate. The combination of the inherent difficulty of this task, the (numerous) gargoyles being very quick and will often one-shot you from off-screen, and the ArtificialStupidity of your fellow Ghostbusters led to more controllers being thrown through TV's than gargoyles through gates.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Turn Based Strategy ]]
* ''Chessmater 3000'' added a feature to make it easier for less experienced players - a slider that controlled the percentage of moves it considers. Because of how AI systems work, this led to a difficulty spike where some players can always defeat it at 99% difficulty but always lose at 100%. ''Chessmaster 4000'' corrected this by using move strength rather than hiding random moves from the AI.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTactics'' somewhat bizarrely has its difficulty spike midway through the game. The Riovannes castle is absolute murder, first with an Annoying DuelBoss (Weigraf) then ThatOneBoss (Velius) then finishing with the EscortMission From Hell (lemming-Rafa). Nothing that comes after that point is anywhere near as brutal as Riovannes.
** ''FFT'' has secondary {{Difficulty Spike}}s in Limberry and the final sequence of battles, but since by that time you probably have a bunch of {{Game Breaker}}s (including Thunder God Cid, who gets handed to you automatically) it's pretty hard to tell it's there unless you're [[SelfImposedChallenge deliberately handicapping yourself]].
** If your levels are low, the Golgorand Execution Site ''will'' force you to gain some more. The time mages, archers, knights (dark and otherwise) are a well-oiled player-killing machine.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTacticsA2'' has this for its BonusDungeon. The dungeon is made up of several floors followed by the top floor, so you'll have several rounds of fighting. Most of the enemy levels range from 45-55, but when you hit the top, the enemy levels suddenly SHOOT UP to level 90-99! Unless you had spent tons of time level grinding, most players will be totally caught off guard. Just to insult you further, the enemies on the towers' top floors will be able to take extra turns and cast Haste on themselves. Of note is that all enemies in said dungeon get a turn at the start of the battle - no matter anyone's speed stat - so you can't just grind and kill them before they have at least a single turn. Or, far more likely, 5-6 turns, as that first turn is almost always spent casting [[ThatOneMove Light Curtain]], which hastes the already ludicrously-fast enemy party.
* The last two maps of ''VideoGame/{{Disgaea|HourOfDarkness}}'' are simply murderous. The penultimate battle pits you against a major villain who isn't terribly tough himself, but is protected by a whopping eighteen guards[[note]]Note the game engine will only allow something like 24 entities on the map at once, so your usual unit cap is artificially lowered until you manage to kill some of them off.[[/note]]. Nearly two-to-one odds against your party, and comparably levelled too. Then the final boss inverts this problem- his guards are fewer and not as tough, but the boss himself is so ridiculously overpowered that all but your most powerful characters can't even scratch him. Even with a few of those characters on your side, it's a hit-and-miss fight because he'll occasionally use a standard attack to kick off a Counter war. All those times you laughed at enemies who you dealt the deathblow to with a Counter-Counter? Feel their pain, dirtbag.
** ''Disgaea'' in general is a little tough between the late game story, up to where you can complete the Cave of Ordeals, and then later after you've defeated Priere and Marjoly. The real reason is because by about chapter 11 in the story, enemy levels start spiking and you need to start level grinding to survive, whereas before you could usually stay competitive just by leveling normally. From there on you need to deliberately stop and level grind, but until you can mid-way through the Cave of Ordeals it's difficult to do that. Then, once it's time to take on Baal, the previous level grinding areas just aren't giving you effective returns anymore.
** All of the ''Disgaea'' games have a similar difficulty curve; the levels raise by around ten in the first six chapters, then start shooting up by five or so levels per map in the last seven or so; although this is only preparation for the [[BonusDungeon post-game]] [[LevelGrinding content]], which goes to absurd [[SerialEscalation lengths]] to [[TurnedUpToEleven top itself]].
* ''VideoGame/AdvanceWars'':
** Only 3 missions into the first game you're hit across the face with ''Air Ace''. Not only does the enemy get a factory to manufacture units while you ''don't'', not only are you grossly outnumbered by air units with little means of defense, but the enemy [=CO=] is Eagle. The already deadly overpowered air units gain a 20% power boost and fuel bonus under his command, and his [=CO Power=] lets him strike twice in one turn. Good luck.
** Provided ''Air Ace'' left you standing in one piece, you'll run into ''Blizzard Battle'' a few missions later if you chose the Max route. The goal is to capture 10 properties, which is easier said than done. Your opponent has you outnumbered 13 to 7, and already has 6 properties to your 3. Worse still is his [=CO Power=], which not only weakens you but also ''reduces your movement range'' while he gleefully moves unhindered.
** The third mission of ''Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising'', though not impossibly hard, is a cruel spike in difficulty compared to the earlier missions. Your opponent is [[PerkyGoth Lash]], the best commander in the entire game next to [[BigBad Sturm]] himself, and your using Sami the ''weakest'' of the three Orange Star commanders. Not only does the enemy get a factory to deploy new units while you don't, but you also only have seven turns to win the battle. There's ''very'' little room for error; even playing the level flawlessly still typically ends on turn 6 or 7.
** Mission 10 in ''Days of Ruin'' is both harder than anything before it and harder than a lot of missions ''after'' it. It's the first time your enemy has both production facilities and the money to take good advantage of them, and he additionally has a strong offensive force around his base. The enemy also tends to dig in rather than charge (which is odd given the enemy CO for the mission is the Beast, who usually did the exact opposite previously), meaning you have to roust him out, which is going to cost you some units.
* The original ''VideoGame/PanzerGeneral'' has a nasty spike on the third mission--the invasion of Norway--but only if you have received major victories on both of the first two missions. Your "rewards" for doing so well on the first two missions: your first naval battle, which is easily lost yet critical to the mission; your first real air battle; the first time the weather turns against you, introducing low visibility, uncrossable rivers, and making your air forces useless; and a nasty journey through rough terrain between the final two target cities, meaning even if you make it that far you are likely to run out of time traveling through the wilderness.
* ''VideoGame/XCOMEnemyUnknown'' has a large spike in form of the first Terror mission. First, as opposed to usual search-and-destroy missions, you have to take care of civilians in the area before aliens kill them all. Secondly, this will usually be the first mission where you encounter local DemonicSpiders, Chryssalids, which can OneHitKill both civilians and your troops and turn them into zombies - and if you don't kill them fast enough, they'll spawn even more Chryssalids. And finally, losing previous missions meant had significant, but manageable consequences - however, failing a Terror mission causes affected country to instantly withdraw from [=XCOM=] project, permanently reducing your funding and putting you one step closer to GameOver.
* ''VideoGame/StellaGlow'' has a spike towards the end of Chapter 10 where the game begins to throw bosses that are immune to ailments, and thus cannot be stopped with crippling ailments like Stop or Paralysis. Prior to this, one could get by through keeping roughly in-line with the recommended levels and by abusing Rusty Key or Ice World, but the sheer strength of the end bosses might force one to stop to level grind.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Vehicular Combat ]]
* ''VideoGame/TwistedMetal 2'' had a very strange difficulty curve. The eight levels went something like this: very easy > hard > very easy > average > very easy > hard > OMFG COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE > average. The difficulty of a level was inversely proportional to the amount of cover you could find, with the easy levels having places where the AI wouldn't even go. The second level was fairly easy, but only if you managed to pick up the full health before either an opponent grabbed it or the ramp leading to it got blown up taking all of the cover and the [[WeaponizedLandmark lightning generator]] with it, in which case it just got a lot harder. Then suddenly that seventh level Holland had ''nine'' opponents in a tiny square field with no cover other than two windmills that explode after ten seconds of enemy fire. Good luck.
* ''VideoGame/TwistedMetal 3'' has two notable spikes up: the first in the ''second'' stage, which is Holland ''minus hiding spots'' and a [[WakeUpCallBoss not so easy]] MiniBoss. All following stages are more or less not that hard afterwards, and then one reaches the 7th stage, Egypt. It's also sorta like Holland, except the hiding spots don't break down and the general terrain has ''thousands of bumps'', making handling and avoiding enemy fire ''very'' tricky. The final stage wouldn't probably be as hard if it wasn't for the 5 panels the player must destroy so the enemies stop respawning after death.
* ''VideoGame/TwistedMetal ([=PS3=])'' carries on the tradition with several very uneven spikes, most notably the [[ScrappyMechanic death race levels]] and [[ThatOneBoss boss fights]].

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Wide Open Sandbox]]
* ''VideoGame/SaintsRow2'' difficulty rises pretty evenly, as long you're following all story threads at about the same rate, collecting sidequest rewards as you go. The game likely expects the rest of the game to be completed before starting the Epilogue chapter...and it's highly recommended, as the difficulty leaps in each mission are tough to scale even for completionists.
* ''VideoGame/{{Minecraft}}'': Welcome to the Nether! Or, as it was called in development, "Hell".
[[/folder]]

!!Non-video game examples:

[[folder: Live-Action TV]]
* The first few legs of ''Series/TheAmazingRace'' are typically very straightforward, but generally around leg 3 or 4 (though this is not a concrete rule, as some seasons never have a Difficulty Spike, while Season 10 had its spike in the first leg) the handholding stops and the difficulty ramps up. This leads to some teams being a part of the lead pack for the first few legs, but ultimately dropping off and finishing in the middle of the pack. The most obvious example would be from leg 3 of Season 6, the infamous hay bale Roadblock, considered by many to be the hardest task in race history (it reduced one racer to tears).
* The last two seasons of ''Series/AmericasNextTopModel'' have added a challenge where the contestants must participate in a music video. ''A music video''. Where they have to '''''sing'''''. Yes, that's right, the chance of being a successful Top Model lies in the hands of whether or not you can do something ''completely irrelevant to your profession and entirely separate from what you have practiced your'' '''''entire fucking life'''''. Needless to say, the two models it killed off also happened to be considered the ones most adept at, you know, '''''modeling'''''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Pinball]]
* Many players feel this occurs once you make it to the vertical playfield in ''Pinball/BanzaiRun''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Other]]
* The people in charge of the Scripps National SpellingBee used to call Round Three "the Lawnmower Round". On at least one occasion, it took out two-thirds of the competitors. The word-selection committee eventually readjusted their entire method of ranking words simply to get around that.
* For the grand finale of LetsPlay/TwitchPlaysPokemonCrystal, which is the climbing of Mt. Silver and [[TrueFinalBoss the final battle with]] [[TwitchPlaysPokemonRed Red]], the game was put on a time limit of 7 days, and '''Democracy has been permanently disabled'''. For those not familiar with Twitch Plays Pokemon, there are two methods of control: Anarchy, where the character does ''anything'' the chat says, and Democracy, where the chat is "skimmed" every five seconds, with the most popular choice the one being used; the chat can switch between them by a majority vote for one or the other. With Democracy disabled, the game is at the mercy of the crowd, and the chat is not exactly well-known for agreeing with itself.
* Reportedly, the 2015 Edexcel GCSE (Standardised exams everyone who finishes secondary school in the UK takes) in Maths was this, compared to previous papers. So much so that it managed to get to the number one hashtag on twitter in the UK, and outlets such as Buzzfeed, Huffpost and even ITV and the BBC reported on it.
[[/folder]]
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[[
21st May '16 9:08:07 PM nombretomado
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* ''VideoGame/TwistedMetal (PS3)'' carries on the tradition with several very uneven spikes, most notably the [[ScrappyMechanic death race levels]] and [[ThatOneBoss boss fights]].

to:

* ''VideoGame/TwistedMetal (PS3)'' ([=PS3=])'' carries on the tradition with several very uneven spikes, most notably the [[ScrappyMechanic death race levels]] and [[ThatOneBoss boss fights]].
26th Apr '16 10:39:22 PM wolftickets1969
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to:

* ''VideoGame/OriAndTheBlindForest'' takes off the kid gloves once you reach the Ginso Tree EscapeSequence. Expect to die about 50 times before getting the hang of it.
25th Apr '16 3:10:21 PM BreadBull
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Added DiffLines:

* ''VideoGame/FTLFasterThanLight'''s final boss flagship is noticeably harder than the rest of the game (most of the game is already at pretty high difficulty, but the final boss just shoots up another mile in difficulty level).
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http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/article_history.php?article=Main.DifficultySpike