DiscardedYKTTW Darwinian Difficulty YKTTW Discussion

Darwinian Difficulty
Video games where the player must master all the mechanics to proceed past the first mission.
Better Name
(permanent link) added: 2013-12-27 13:46:13 sponsor: Koveras (last reply: 2014-01-27 09:34:52)

Add Tag:
Diclaimer: The term "Darwinian Difficulty" was coined in this Gamasutra article, but I think it describes the concept pretty well, so I'm snatching it. Is This Tropable?

A philosophy in video game design that advocates throwing the player headfirst into the fray, forcing them to either learn the rules on the fly—or die (that is, Rage Quit). The key differences between this design and other Nintendo Hard games are as follows:

  • After the initial wake-up call, the difficulty stays roughly the same throughout the game, while in other games it usually romps up gradually.
  • There are only a few core gameplay mechanics, all of which are presented to the player from the start and remain crucial until the end—in other games, these are usually unlocked one at a time and often supersede each other.
  • The only way for the players to improve their performance is to get better at the game—there are no power-ups or similar for that like in other games.

Compare Early Game Hell, Nintendo Hard, Difficult but Awesome, and Trial-and-Error Gameplay (all of which overlap with this). Contrast Rubber Band AI.


  • In Ninja Gaiden, the player either learns to dodge, block, and keep constantly moving or never makes it past the first ten-on-one fight.
  • Similarly, Demons Souls and Dark Souls force the player to either learn to dodge, block, and riposte or quit at the first boss ten minutes in.
  • Track Mania racing games (especially multiplayer) feature insanely convoluted tracks that require precise control of the car to maintain top speed through craziest turns to simply reach the finish line.

Replies: 13