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[[caption-width-right:350:[[Creator/{{Atlus}} They]] get off on your tears.]]

->''"This is a challenge for a true perfectionist. You know every rule, every detail, and all environments by heart. Even then you will die trying.''"
-->-- ''VideoGame/HitmanAbsolution's'' [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Purist Mode]]

Harder Than Hard mode is a difficulty level not even intended to be fair. It might be unlocked by beating the game on the hardest fair difficulty; it probably gives some blood-curdling warning when selected.

In many games, difficulty settings denoted as ''Harder than hardest'' often indicate they are not adequately play-tested, and the game might be {{unwinnable}} at that setting.

Some games get so notorious for these modes that people will forget that normal (and easy) modes exist and only base their opinion on the hardest difficulty modes, even if the normal difficulty is actually pretty sane.

Common names for this include Very Hard, Expert (when it doesn't represent Hard), Super, [[FearlessFool Insane, Maniac, and Crazy]]. Other games give it IdiosyncraticDifficultyLevels treatment.

Compare NintendoHard, SequelDifficultySpike, SurpriseDifficulty, RankInflation, BrutalBonusLevel, FinalDeathMode.

Contrast EasierThanEasy, MercyMode, SequelDifficultyDrop.



[[folder:Action Adventure]]
* ''Franchise/{{Castlevania}}''
** ''[[VideoGame/CastlevaniaLamentOfInnocence Lament of Innocence]]'' and ''[[VideoGame/CastlevaniaCurseOfDarkness Curse of Darkness]]'' both have "Crazy" modes unlocked after completion. The former's version is still much easier than the latter's and actually changes things other than the amount of damage the enemies can take and dish out, such as giving bosses additional attacks and changing a jumping puzzle, while the latter focuses more on enemies that take absurd amounts of abuse to kill and who kill you in 1 or 2 hits unless you spend the first 10 hours of gameplay grinding levels on skeletons. And to add more insult to injury, you can't even use the BraggingRightsReward you get for beating the mode in a normal game in ''COD'' like you can in ''LOI'', making it practically useless.
** [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Hard Mode Level 1 Cap without starting a]] NewGamePlus. ''[[VideoGame/CastlevaniaOrderOfEcclesia Order of Ecclesia]]'', an already really hard game, becomes a nightmare until a certain point if you're playing as Shanoa. As Albus, it's a breeze until you reach the Skeleton Cave, in which you'll probably have a much harder time than Shanoa due to lack of items and the Zombie familiar, which can block fireballs for you. Let's not even get started on what would happen if you ever decided to play with the Old Axe Armor while stuck at level one in ''[[VideoGame/CastlevaniaPortraitOfRuin Portrait Of Ruin]]''... Luckily, all the HP, MP, and, if they're separate from the MP, Heart upgrades can be found to make life easier and, if you're playing with a character that can change their attacks and armor and use items, things become significantly easier as the game goes on.
* ''VideoGame/AnUntitledStory'' has "Simple", "Regular", and "Difficult". As an extra difficulty, it also has "Masterful" which is Nintendo Hard to the extreme. "Insanity" manages to top that by making your character a OneHitPointWonder.
* ''VideoGame/ThreeDDotGameHeroes'' has standard mode, Creator/{{From|Software}} Mode, and VideoGame/{{Spelunker}} Mode. From Mode is basically Hard Mode, but Spelunker Mode ramps it up so you [[OneHitPointWonder die in one hit]], enemies are harder to kill, and [[FissionMailed you die when you dash into a wall]]. [[note]]With handy invincibility frames, too![[/note]]
* Beat ''VideoGame/MegaManLegends 2'' once and you unlock Hard Mode. Beat ''that'', and you unlock ''Very'' Hard Mode. Capcom, you [[MagnificentBastard Magnificent Bastards]]...
** And ''VideoGame/MegaManZero'': where Hard Mode means no Cyber Elves, ''no charge shot'', and you take double damage from everything.
* ''VideoGame/LuigisMansionDarkMoon'' has Normal, Hard, and Expert, the last of which fits this to a tee. The description literally states 'virtually impossible on your own', which in this case means 'if you're playing solo, expect to have to take on about 10-15 difficult enemies in one tiny room and get crushed' Seriously, 20 odd floors of Hunter or Surprise mode on Expert is damn near suicidal, and 25 floors of Rush mode is basically a death wish. Endless also ends up coming under this, since it seems to start off on hard mode difficulty and end up being as tough or even more so than expert by about the 10th floor.
* ''Videogame/RabiRibi'' has two difficulties above Hard Mode, though they only buff the HP and damage of enemies without giving them new attacks - Hell and Bunny Extinction. [[NintendoHard There's achievements for completing the game's main story, post-game story, and boss rush modes for each of these modes.]] As well, on normal mode or below, you can get a special buff that gives a general stat increase if you die enough times. Not so for Hard, Hell, and Bunny Extinction modes. Still too easy? The Artbook DLC offers the [[UpToEleven Unknown and Impossible difficulties]].
* ''VideoGame/BroForce'' has Ironbro mode. (Player starts with a random bro and needs to re-unlock more. While they are unlocked faster than usual, each bro that dies is gone in that playthrough.) While this is not too difficult if the player is careful and has luck in unlocks, the game outright states that using Hard difficulty on this mode is simply unfair.
* ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincess HD'' has a Hero Mode that makes you take double damage, and the game also supports the Ganondorf Toys/{{Amiibo}}, which also causes you to take double damage. But individually, both of these don't qualify for this. Rather, these two modes can ''stack'', allowing you to use the Ganondorf amiibo while in Hero Mode, giving you ''quadruple'' damage. You can possibly breeze through the first half of the game, and regular enemies tend to be slow attackers that you have to wait for them to hit you, but later bosses and minibosses like Darknuts can be a real pain.
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Momodora}} Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight]]'''s "Insane" difficulty, which the game describes only as [[DoNotAttempt "Don't even try this."]] In addition to the increased number of enemies on Hard mode, "Insane" also makes you a OneHitPointWonder. Obviously this makes the game rather unforgiving, but it has a helpful side-effect--on any difficulty, bosses drop special items if you kill them without taking damage, and with only 1 hit point, you're guaranteed the bonus drop... if you survive.

[[folder:Action Game]]
* "Dante Must Die" in the ''VideoGame/DevilMayCry'' games. "Heaven Or Hell" from the third game, where [[RocketTagGameplay both the main character and all enemies]] [[OneHitPointWonder die in one hit]], is somewhere between a gimmick mode and Harder Than Hard. "Hell and Hell," in the fourth game and [[VideoGame/DmCDevilMayCry the Ninja Theory reboot]], has ''only'' [[NoDamageRun the main character dying in one hit]] and is very much Harder Than Hard. Of course, if you perfected your style play on Sons on Sparda with no health lost, you, sir, are set...mostly.
** In the initial US release of [=DMC3=], Easy was equivalent to Japanese!Normal, Normal was equivalent to Japanese!Hard, and US!Hard is possibly the first time that Hard is Harder than Hard. The UpdatedRerelease made the difficulties more in line with the Japanese difficulties, wherein US!Hard was rechristened "Very Hard".
** The [[UpdatedRerelease Definitive Edition]] of ''VideoGame/DmCDevilMayCry'' included a new "Gods Must Die" difficulty, which ratchets the difficulty up to ridiculous levels, even beyond Dante Must Die. In addition to further increasing the amount of damage enemies give and take, every enemy spawns in [[SuperMode Devil Trigger]] mode and all consumable items and healing items are disabled.
* The Xbox version of ''VideoGame/NinjaGaiden'' has a Very Hard mode, while ''Black'' and ''Sigma'' added Master Ninja, which was even harder.
** ''Ninja Gaiden 2'' also features a Master Ninja mode which is, arguably, even harder than Master Ninja in ''Black'' and the leaderboard for Master Ninja in ''Black'' had less than 1000 people. It's worth noting that the only requirement to be on this leaderboard was to actually complete Master Ninja mode.
* ''VideoGame/GodOfWar'' has a God mode and (in the sequel) a Titan mode. One section in the latter (the second titan minotaur), which is already hard in normal, becomes a purely luck-based affair. The enemies took more hits and hit harder, you received less orbs, and magic used substantially more magic - the game was not pulling any punches. Its a wonder they didn't try to replace the blades with [[JokeWeapon cotton swabs]].
** ''God of War III'' once again trumps God and Titan with the Chaos Difficulty. It sure says something that the first game's Harder Than Hard difficulty is by now considered the Normal Difficulty.
* The Super mode in the [=PS2=] version of ''VideoGame/{{Shinobi}}'' is only available after completing the Hard setting.
* ''VideoGame/DantesInferno'' has the Infernal difficulty setting, which comes with the considerably stern but sincere warning, "You are damned." On this difficulty, enemies and hazards dole out horrific damage, including regular enemies being able to one-shot you from maximum health, and Mana and health fountains giving back pathetic refills. It almost seems as though this mode was intended to be played on [[NewGamePlus Resurrection Mode]], as both it and the Infernal setting are unlocked after beating the game on any of the normal difficulties.
* ''VideoGame/{{Bayonetta}}'': When you beat the game on Normal, you unlock Hard. Hard difficulty increases enemy health and damage taken and drastically changes up the enemy spawns, making tougher enemies spawn earlier. The first section of the ''tutorial level'' has [[DemonicSpiders Grace & Glory and Fairness]], to give an example. When you beat the game on Hard, you unlock the 'Non-Stop Infinite Climax' difficulty. It's just like Hard, but you don't get [[BulletTime Witch Time]] through normal means (that's what the "non-stop" means). [[ThisIsGonnaSuck Have fun with that.]] In ''VideoGame/{{Bayonetta 2}}'' it's just called 'Infinite Climax', since it doesn't disable Witch Time like in the first game ... however that doesn't mean it's any easier; if anything, you'll desperately ''need'' Witch Time to stand a chance at this difficulty, because it messes with enemy spawns like in the first game.
* ''VideoGame/MetalGearRisingRevengeance'' has two such difficulties: Very Hard which changes enemy layouts, changes some enemy tactics on top of the usual hard mode changes (enemies getting more life/attack power, healing items heal less, etc). Revengeance is similar to Very Hard save for two things: Enemies inflict terrible damage with their attacks, easily killing you in 2-3 blows with a fully upgraded life bar. Good news? [[HardModePerks Your parry counter is powered up to do similar damage to them.]]
* ''VideoGame/TransformersDevastation'' has Prime difficulty. As it states that "every trick in the book is required to survive", it's not kidding. Enemies can now kill you easily in seconds if you are careless. Good luck dodging around all those enemies without dying!
* ''Manga/SaintSeiya: Sanctuary Battle''[[note]]or ''Saint Seiya Senki'' in Japan[[/note]] has God difficulty. Your Gold Saint with maxed stats that was kiling bosses with two hits and taking a hair worthy of damage from their attacks a few moments ago? Watch as the bosses become powerhouses that will [[NighInvulnerable shrug off anything but your strongest Cosmos boosted attacks]], while [[SuperStrength being able to kill you in four hits or less]], and once their health drops below 50%, activate their 7th Sense and [[LightningBruiser start moving and attacking so fast]] that unless you activate your own 7th Sense (that will consume your Cosmo gauge) you won't be able to get a single hit in.
* In a similar vein to the above-mentioned ''Bayonetta'' (by [[Creator/PlatinumGames the same developer]]), ''VideoGame/TheWonderful101'' has 101% Hard, which is similar to Hard in many respects, with stronger enemies coming as early as the prologue with them moving faster and hitting harder. The chief difference though, is that time doesn't slow down at all when drawing a Wonder-Liner, which is how one picks an attack. Hope you can get used to not being safe when preparing an attack quickly.
* ''VideoGame/AstroBoyTheVideoGame'' has Hero mode, where the enemies' attack power and HP are nearly double that of Hard difficulty, meaning that even the police bots in the first level can KO Astro in two hits; the Super counter has a maximum of 3, and the effectiveness of Supers is significantly reduced.
* Parodied in the Flash game ''Bobulous''. The game has four missions; each but the first unlocked after finishing the one before. The first three are: Counter-Attack ("Difficulty: normal"), Eradication ("Difficulty: hard"), and Space Hero ("Difficulty: [[NintendoHard very hard]]"). The final mission is Return Home ("Difficulty: impossible"); [[spoiler:when you select it, it is revealed that this mission is just celebration of your victory, and the game corrects the description to "Difficulty: impossible to lose"]].

[[folder:Beat Em Up]]
* ''VideoGame/StreetsOfRage 2'' has Very Easy (locked), Easy, Normal, Hard, Hardest, and Mania (also locked). On Normal, bosses typically only have upwards of three life meters; ''mini''bosses on Mania tend to have ''four''. Also, enemies will move very fast and will use their lesser-used, more powerful attacks more often.
* Unleash the Fury difficulty in ''VideoGame/TheWarriors''. All enemies do extreme damage, most enemies are immune to instant kills from special rage attacks, and all of your Warriors have the Baseball Furies outfits while the real Furies use the Warrior models.
* ''VideoGame/TheDishwasher'' on ''easy'' is already [[NintendoHard incredibly hard]]. On Samurai difficulty, everything, even zombies, move faster and can almost one-shot you. The sequel, ''Vampire Smile'', has ''greatly'' more balanced difficulty. Samurai is still wrist-crackingly difficult, though.
* ''VideoGame/GodHand'' features a difficulty system that [[DynamicDifficulty scales]] based on your [[AwesomenessMeter performance]].. on Easy and Normal modes. On Hard mode, the difficulty scale is set to the highest level and will not decrease by any means. It doesn't help that even on Easy mode, the game is [[NintendoHard much harder]] than your typical title.
* ''VideoGame/RiverCityRansom [[VideoGameRemake EX]]'', in addition for the standard Easy, Medium, and Hard, has "Crazy" and [[EasierThanEasy "Wussy"]].
* Completing ''VideoGame/DoubleDragonNeon'''s already NintendoHard Normal mode unlocks Dragon mode. Beating ''that'' unlocks Double Dragon mode. Conversely, [[HardModePerks the higher difficulties also give you]] higher money and mithril drops from enemies.

[[folder:Driving Game]]
* Casual players of the original ''VideoGame/SanFranciscoRush 2049'' will usually only see the first three tracks, with the latter two being classified as "Advanced." The fifth track, which is unlockable along with the fourth, is classified as "Extreme," and is chock full of right-angle turns and other obstacles intended to keep your speed low.
** The Special Edition has two extra even harder tracks. The sixth has several hard-to-hit shortcuts that must be unlocked in sequence, and if you screw up anywhere, they can be {{Permanently Missable|Content}}. The seventh has a lot of high hills with sharp turns along the way.
* ''VideoGame/InitialDArcadeStage'' had Bunta Challenge. Objective: Beat a grossly overpowered vehicle. Then beat an even more grossly overpowered vehicle. Then beat a vehicle that will leave you in the dust the instant you make the tiniest error. And if he wins, you ''lose points''. No wonder Sega discontinued this after 3.
* ''VideoGame/NeedForSpeed Shift''. Any of the Manufacturer duels. Just try it. The single opponent in these races is far more aggressive than in other types of races, and the grass or sand on the sides of the tracks may as well be black holes - once your car goes onto it, it's nearly impossible to even get back on the road, much less retake the lead.
* The original ''VideoGame/FZero'' for SNES had an unlockable Master level. In this mode the most noticeable difference is that the normally laughable "filler cars" become serious competitors and can actually get first place. Oh, and certain tracks become [[{{Unwinnable}} literally impossible]] with certain cars (seriously, not even tool assisted cheating will help).
** Likewise, ''GX'' has Master difficulty in GP mode, and Very Hard difficulty in Story Mode. Beating all cups on Master unlocks the [[SceneryPorn visually-impressive]] AX cup, while beating individual Story levels on Very Hard unlocks extra racers, some of whom are some of the best in the game.
* ''VideoGame/ForzaHorizon'' has an ''Insane'' difficulty setting, in which all CPU racers race like they were clones of Sebastian Vettel or of Michael Schumacher, and use effectively ALL of the shortcuts in the racetrack. However, if you play this mode with all driving assists turned off, you get a 125% bonus to the credits you earn after completing the race.
** Likewise, ''VideoGame/ForzaMotorsport 6'' has Unbeatable difficulty, in which the opponents have near-PerfectPlayAI and those starting in the lead positions can be literally unbeatable.
* The unlockable Expert difficulty in ''[[VideoGame/SegaSuperstars Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed]]''. Thought Hard was difficult enough? Then enjoy a difficulty where the AI is very aggresive, brutal with items and knows where every shortcut is. Combine that with tracks like [[ThatOneLevel Burning Depths]] and you will rage A LOT.
** And then there's certain World Tour events like the Boost Challenges where you have to do near perfectly to win.
* ''VideoGame/TrackMania United''. In Solo play, it has four standard difficulty levels; [[EasierThanEasy White]], Green, [[DifficultySpike Blue]] and [[NintendoHard Red]]. However, it has a special difficulty tier: Black, which, unlike previous levels, has one race per scenario. In order to unlock Black-tier races, you ''must'' get a Gold medal in ''every single previous course'' pertaining to its respective scenario. And it doesn't help that Black-tier races are [[PlatformHell ludicruously hard]].
* Difficulties in ''VideoGame/MarioKart'' games are 50cc (easy), 100cc (normal) and 150cc (hard), with some games adding [[LevelInReverse Mirror Mode]]. DownloadableContent for ''VideoGame/MarioKart8'' adds 200cc to the available difficulties, and the other racers pull no punches when playing on 200cc.
* In ''VideoGame/FatalRacing'', the difficulty above "Hard" is "Impossible", which the manual defines as "Impossible unless you've had loads of practice or work for Gremlin or Interplay as a game tester."

[[folder:Fighting Game]]
* The ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBros'' series, the first two games have the following difficulties in the 1 player mode: Very Easy, Easy, Normal, Hard, and Very Hard. ''Super Smash Bros Brawl'' has Easy, Normal, Hard, Very Hard, and Intense. Intense is likely a reference to ''[[VideoGame/Kirby64TheCrystalShards Kirby 64]]'', which had an Intense difficulty for the minigames if you could beat the computer on Very Hard. ''[=3DS=]'' and ''[=WiiU=]'' have 10 difficulty tiers lifted from ''VideoGame/KidIcarusUprising''; the last three are "Infernal", "White Hot", and "Nothing Harder!".
** Brawl's [[BossRush Boss Challenge]] mode doesn't let you continue at all, so it's a nightmare on Intense.
* ''VideoGame/DragonBallZBudokai 3'' has Z, ZZ, and ZZZ. These [[IdiosyncraticDifficultyLevels three levels]] invoke TheComputerIsACheatingBastard, especially if you're playing in [[ThatOneLevel Dragon Arena]], which ''loves'' to [[FakeDifficulty impose limitations on you during the most difficult of battles]]. Mercy be on your soul if you're playing as anyone who can't go beyond a 2nd level transformation and/or if you're up against [[ThatOneBoss Cell/Kid Buu/Broly/Omega Shenron/any of the Fusion characters]]. ''Especially'' the latter two. You'll pretty much need to resort to [[AIBreaker underhanded tricks]] and pray to God... ''a lot''. God help you if you try to tackle this on ZZZ. On this difficulty, ''everyone has maxed-out stats''. '''EVERYONE'''. This feat is impossible for you to do because there are seven parameters (each maxing out at 20) and ''you can only make it to level 100''. Do the math. [[BraggingRightsReward Well, at least you get a trophy from Goku acknowledging how you're "the strongest in the universe"... or something.]]
* ''VideoGame/BattleArenaToshinden 3'' offers "Stress Relief", "Very Easy", "Easy", "Normal", "Moderately Hard", "Hard", "Very Hard", and "Impossible".
* ''VideoGame/MagicalBattleArena'' has the suitably named Nightmare difficulty. Besides making your enemies hardier, they're now all extra aggressive in their attacks, and in the five on one MirrorMatch, will constantly attempt to surround you using {{Flash Step}}s making it nigh impossible for you to even attack. Oh, and those [[GoddamnedBats annoying]] [[JokeCharacter but relatively harmless]] [[Anime/MagicalGirlLyricalNanohaStrikers Gadget Drones]]? They've remembered that they have {{Wave Motion Gun}}s and [[CombatTentacles tentacle grabs]], so now, they can also kill you. Needless to say, your computer-controlled ally is practically useless here and will be dead before you know it.
* ''VideoGame/SoulCalibur 3'' has Easy, Medium, Hard, Very Hard, Ultra Hard, and Extremely Hard. Couple that with the AI in the game....
** The best part is that the game is pretty much defaulted to Extremely Hard, as difficulty levels only apply to two or three game modes. None of them are Story Mode.
* ''Franchise/MortalKombat'' games typically have five difficulty levels: Very Easy, Easy, Medium, Hard, and Very Hard. To make matters worse, as of ''Mortal Kombat 3'', there was the Choose Your Destiny system, where you could choose how many enemies you fought. Yeah. Selecting the longest roster earned you the taunt "You Will Never Win!"
* The ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'' fighting games are still ''Touhou'' games, so they have a Lunatic difficulty setting.
* The ''VideoGame/BlazBlue'' games have Very Hard and Hell difficulty settings, but Score Attack Mode is set to a difficulty harder than Hell. In ''VideoGame/BlazBlueContinuumShift EXTEND'', Score Attack is not as difficult as a new mode, Unlimited Mars, where not only is the AI difficult set to the highest level, but ''every singe enemy'' is an SNKBoss.
* ''VideoGame/{{Weaponlord}}'' has Adventurer, Warrior, Barbarian, and Warlord. Thanks to [[SomeDexterityRequired the game's unforgiving controls]] and the overbearing AI, even the Adventurer (the easiest difficulty) feels like a hard mode. EasyModeMockery drives the knife even further in by making the endings only appear in the hardest difficulties.
* In most ''VideoGame/DeadOrAlive'' games, there has been a Very Hard mode. Dead Or Alive 4 even lacked an easy mode. However, ''Dead or Alive 5'' takes this to a new level with its difficulties being: Rookie, Easy, Normal, Hard, Champ, Master, True Fighter, and Legend. Good luck clearing the survival courses on those last 4 difficulties. [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard You'll need it]].
* ''VideoGame/KillerInstinct'' (the 2013 one) has Noob, Easy, Medium, Hard, Killer, and ''Kyle'' difficulties, the last of which is named after one of the games' AI designers. Enemies on Kyle can basically combo/counter break you whenever they feel like it, make almost no mistakes, have amazing reads, and apparently learn how you play and adapt around that. To top it off, the TrueFinalBoss of the arcade mode ''always'' fights at Kyle difficulty. [[SarcasmMode Have fun!]]

[[folder:First Person Shooter]]
* The video game adaptation of ''VideoGame/ShadowsOfTheEmpire'' gives us the Jedi difficulty setting, which turns the whole game into an endurance test of TrialAndErrorGameplay. Most enemy attacks (except from Droid enemies) will kill you in two or three hits, and health and ammo is much more scarce and their placement is changed around. NintendoHard doesn't even ''begin'' to describe the hair pulling insanity of this modeó-basically, you have to keep on your toes at all times and know the levels inside and out so you can anticipate ''every'' attack that comes your way--one or two slip ups anywhere, and you're done for. You'll struggle to even get past the first two stages on this setting. Oh, and you only get three lives, and collecting Challenge Points will barely net you even one or two extra lives in this mode. [[HardModePerks On the upside]], Dash's own laser pistol does much more damage as well (it can kill Imperial Troopers in one hit when the laser pistol is fully charged) so you can have ''some'' fighting chance of winning in this mode.
* ''Franchise/{{Halo}}'':
** The "Heroic" and "Legendary" levels in every game, with the versions in ''VideoGame/HaloReach'' described by Creator/{{Bungie}} as being "harder than any other ''Halo'' game." [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin They weren't kidding.]] (Heck, the Fuel Rod Shades, Revenants, Banshees, and Ghosts in "Pillar of Autumn" can already be an utter pain just on ''Normal''.)
** This all however is put to the ground as "novice" stuff by the true hardcore of the hardcore of the community. The unnamed, unofficial, yet definitely intentionally programmed to be damned hard to do is the "Mythic" difficulty (otherwise known as "LASO", or "Legendary: All Skulls On"). It involves turning on all skulls in the game. Each skull basically turns up the difficulty in distinct ways by one level in terms of forcing the player to modify their playstyle in order to succeed, and THERE ARE MORE THAN 12 SKULLS. Even the ones that are basically "fun" skulls can still prove fatal if not accounted for, as they do still modify the game. The "Iron" skull even causes you to restart the ''entire level'' after dying ''once'' if you're playing solo, and some skulls make particularly deadly combinations, such as "Thunderstorm" (which causes all enemy units in the game to rank up) and "Mythic" (which just gives a straight-forward 100% health bonus to the already-hard-to-kill high-ranking enemies). There is an entire community basically made to conquer this hell. Usually less than 100 people in the entire world accomplish the feat, and that's with [[http://halo.bungie.org/gameplay/halo3_slaso_2.0/ the]] [[http://halo.bungie.org/gameplay/odst_slaso/ community]]-[[http://halo.bungie.org/gameplay/reach_mythic/ built]] [[http://halo.bungie.org/gameplay/halo4_mythic/ guides]]! To go at it alone is virtual suicide. Bungie even based the ''Reach'' weekly challenges around completing levels Solo, Legendary, All Skulls On.
* Even from the start, the ''VideoGame/{{Marathon}}'' series had the oath of the vidmaster, essentially a commitment to play the game as hard as possible. Not only do you only play the hardest difficulty, appropriately named as Total Carnage, but you are also tasked with ''punching'' every switch [[note]]Switches would also trigger when shot with certain guns, and some switches cannot be reached, so must be shot.[[/note]] (which can often lead to problems), firing grenades whenever they were available, running by holding a key other than Caps Lock (turning on Always Run in the later Open-Source releases probably counts as the same thing), and killing all {{NPC}}s (who would attack you after a few already died). Needless to say, Creator/{{Bungie}} likes making hard games harder.
* "Nightmare!" in ''VideoGame/{{Doom}}''. Cheat codes are disabled, monsters are relentless in attacking, enemy projectiles fly faster, a certain enemy type is twice as fast, and [[RespawningEnemies monsters respawn after death]]. The only plus is that you get double ammo from {{Power Up}}s. The fact that the game asks you whether you ''really'' want to play on it or not when you select it is telling.
** There was once a fan-made difficulty mod that's even harder called "Pray to God." It's just like Nightmare, but you have ''no'' weapons other than your pistol!
** "Nightmare!" was one of the earliest incidents of a difficulty level released with the announced caveat that it was not fully playtested, ergo came with no guarantees that it was fair, or the game was winnable on this level. Many a fanatic player, however, has succeeded in doing so.
** According to the WordOfGod, Nightmare difficulty was made specifically so that it would be impossible to finish. It is a testament to the dedication/lack of salsa of the gamer community that there are ''competitions'', complete with titles awarded to players who can do just that.
** Particularly annoying is Doom 1 EP 4, where whole levels can be different depending on what difficulty you're playing as because items are moved around depending on difficulty. Naturally, Nightmare makes these as hard to get as possible.
** Source ports can separate the two parameters of "Nightmare!" into "fast monsters", that makes the mooks vicious, and "respawning enemies", that is self-explanatory. Those paramenters can be applied regardless of difficulty, so you can customize your gameplay to have, for example, only a few but nasty enemies ([[EasierThanEasy ITYTD]] with fast monsters), Ultra-Violence with more aggressive demons, Bring 'Em On! that you have to run through because of your non-permanent kills chasing you... or if you're into a SelfImposedChallenge, you can play Ultra-Violence with both parameters enabled, so you emulate "Nightmare!" ''without the double ammo pickups''.
** ''VideoGame/{{Doom 3}}'''s Nightmare mode has enemies doing about 3.5 times as much damage as normal, allowing them to kill you in less than a dozen hits or so. Additionally, you also constantly lose health every couple of seconds. To balance this out, your start out with the Soul Cube, which allows you to steal health from enemies.
** ''Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil'''s Nightmare difficult goes beyond Harder Than Hard and into the realm of truly insane. Just like in regular ''Doom 3'', you constantly lose health throughout the game. Unlike ''Doom 3'', you don't have the Soul Cube around to steal health from enemies. As a result, you pretty much spend the entire game as a OneHitPointWonder, with death being instant if you ever take a single hit from any enemy.
** ''VideoGame/Doom2016'' takes this UpToEleven with Ultra-Nightmare. It's just like Nightmare, except you have [[FinalDeath only one life]]; if you die, your save file is deleted and a small marker is placed showing how far you got if you're playing online. It's rather telling that most of the markers you find will be in the ''very first combat arena'' - a mere imp can kill you in a single melee attack if you don't have armor.
* ''VideoGame/DukeNukem3D'', being a VideoGame/{{Doom}} clone, had a Harder Than Hard mode where in addition to being stronger, any enemy who left a corpse (basically, who wasn't killed by an explosion, the shrink or freeze weapons, or SQUISH!'d) would respawn, including the clones of the first episode's boss who, in addition to being the strongest enemy in the game, would always leave a corpse even if you did blow him up, forcing you to waste another grenade or rocket to get rid of it.
* ''VideoGame/{{Quake}}'''s Harder Than Hard mode took advantage of the game's in-game difficulty selection (in other words, a HubLevel), with the "Nightmare" difficulty only accessible through a secret hidden inside a magical pond. Then again, unlike ''Doom'' or many other examples here, the ''Quake'' Nightmare difficulty has few player handicaps and is in fact only slightly less manageable than Hard.
** ''VideoGame/QuakeII'''s Hard+ mode was even more well hidden, accessible only through the console. Unlike the first Quake, this one is significantly tougher than the "normal" Hard difficulty. Enemies are faster and [[ArtificialBrilliance surprisingly intelligent]], have higher HP, their weapons deal much more damage, and they are ImmuneToFlinching.
* ''VideoGame/{{Descent}}'' has its Insane difficulty. The enemies have learned how to fire faster than you, dodge better than you, flank better than you, thus nearly all the enemies are DemonicSpiders, especially the GoddamnedBats in the second game, and all the powerups that are so vital to your survival are now pathetically ineffective. As an added bonus, your weapons take much more energy to use than normal, so you can easily run out of ammunition. And on the second game's Insane, the matcens ({{mook maker}}s) are inexhaustible.
** In the PSX games, the Ace and Insane difficulties are hidden and must be unlocked via code. Due to the [[InterfaceScrew framerate drops]] when there are a lot of enemies on screen, and the even faster speed of projectiles such as missiles, Insane may be literally unbeatable here.
* ''VideoGame/MetroidPrime3Corruption'' has Normal (more like Easy), Veteran and Hypermode, unlocked after beating it once.
** The other two Prime games are similar. Making your way through the game on the hardest is tougher than normal. Enemies become much smarter (Space Pirates are much more likely to gun you down from a distance and dodge your fire for example), they soak up much more damage and Samus herself takes much more damage from pretty much everything. The difficulty really spikes on final bosses though, especially Prime 3's final boss.
* ''VideoGame/SeriousSam'' has Tourist ("for non-FPS players"), Easy ("for non-experienced FPS players"), Normal ("for experienced FPS players"), Hard ("for experienced ''Serious Sam'' players"), and Serious ("Are you serious?"). Beating the game unlocks Mental difficulty ("You can't be serious!"), which is as advertised because all the enemies ''are friggin invisible''!!!
* The description for ''VideoGame/CallOfDuty'''s "Veteran" difficulty is "You will not survive". They're not kidding. Even worse in the expansion ''United Offensive'', due to the sheer number of enemy soldiers at points.
** Not to mention ''[[VideoGame/ModernWarfare Call Of Duty 4]]'s'' Veteran, where enemies killed frequently hold out to draw their pistol and two-shot you. Staying out of cover for more than two seconds is entirely suicidal.
*** Speaking of cover, the enemies don't like when they can't shoot you. Their solution is to herd you from your safe hiding place with LOTS of grenades. There are many points where you're given the choice between getting fragged or getting ripped up by a machine gun.
*** This was particularly aggravating in "World at War", by Treyarch. In that game, if you didn't proceed forward fast enough, the game would try to get you to move by spawning grenades near you, even if you already killed all the enemies in the level. They came more frequently on harder difficulty levels.
*** ''VideoGame/ModernWarfare2'''s Veteran is available to be picked in Special Ops. [[EasierThanEasy "Casual" difficulty Recruit]] [[EasyModeMockery is not.]] No matter the implications of this, [[NintendoHard Veteran is still going to kick the ass of people who play on the very hard difficulties.]] In addition, Special Ops stays the same difficulty-wise regardless of if you play solo, or two-player coop. Trying to play Veteran Special Ops without a second player is akin to bungee jumping without a bungee cord. [[TooDumbToLive Your chance of survival is about the same.]]
** To sum up how the difficulty feels during gameplay, here are the basics:
*** On Recruit, the game is more or less a gritty action film. {{Mooks}} miss a lot, and their rounds aren't all that damaging. Timed objectives give out substantially more time. The number of enemies is dramatically reduced. Basically, it's very easy to do a no-death run.
*** On Regular, the game offers a standard level of challenge and you will likely die a few times, but most situations can be won in a few tries with enough firepower and cover. So long as you don't make a habit of disregarding cover, then the game isn't all that hard.
*** On Hardened, the game becomes a real challenge. There are more enemies, they hit more frequently, and can kill you in a few hits. You may need to get creative in how you deal with situations. The game is fair, so except for very few occasions, the game is not a LuckBasedMission, and the computer will not cheat.
*** Veteran is close to impossible. Enemies come in much higher numbers, have noticeably more health, have much better aim, and to top it all off, TheComputerIsACheatingBastard and only lets you win on rare occasions. This is at least 2x harder than Hardened. Here, enemies love to survive what ought to be lethal wounds, go into last stand mode, and most infuriatingly, suddenly kill you with three rapid shots in such close succession that you can't do anything. Even more annoying is that the odds of being suddenly and unfairly killed increase inversely proportionally to the number of enemies remaining, so you can down four mooks at the start of a fight with no trouble, but the last enemy kills you the moment you stick your head out of cover!
** ''VideoGame/CallOfDutyBlackOps3'' takes it UpToEleven by introducing the [[RealityEnsues Realistic difficulty,]] which turns you into a OneHitPointWonder. '''[[SarcasmMode Good]] [[ThisIsGonnaSuck luck]].'''
** ''VideoGame/CallOfDutyInfiniteWarfare'' is just as hard. Helmets are your ONLY protection from headshots, take up one equipment slot, and are destroyed upon being hit. There is not automatic magazine reloading. If you get shot in the legs, you can't sprint. If you get shot in the arms, you have trouble using two-handed weapons and using ADS. No automatic health regeneration, meaning that you can only heal using nano-shots, which are stupid rare and take up equipment slots. Checkpoints are drastically reduced. Did we also mention that your gun can be shot out of your hands? [[SarcasmMode Have]] [[WebAnimation/LoreInAMinute fun.]]
*** And then there's IW's [[FinalDeath #YOLO]] mode. It's just as hard as Specialist, with a twist. No points for guessing what it is.
* ''VideoGame/{{Turok}}'' (2008) has Normal, Hard, and Inhuman difficulties. Inhuman takes away your ability to instant-knife-kill dinosaurs, and also allows enemy soldiers to kill you with about half a second of sustained gunfire. So basically, just like how it'd be in real life.
* ''VideoGame/SystemShock 2'' adds 'Impossible' with the final patch. Players start with a mere trickle of health and gain laughable amounts with Endurance increases, making the Tank bonus upgrade an absolute must. Skills and abilities cost an absolutely prohibitive amount of cyber modules past the first level, and as a result hacking skill is ridiculously expensive to purchase - this is a moot point however, as hacking difficulty starts at an insane higher than 100% chance of failure on average before bonuses, and several security consoles are removed altogether in key areas loaded with cameras and turrets. Enemies are faster to hit, and learn new attack techniques. Vending machines also charge more than ever, and stop selling the recycler item that could earn you more money on easier settings. This is one Impossible setting that complies with truth in advertising.
* ''VideoGame/{{Painkiller}}''[==]'s difficulty levels are named Daydream, Insomnia (normal), Nightmare, and Trauma. You have to beat Insomnia and get all the Black Tarot cards in order to unlock Nightmare, and you have to do the same on Nightmare to get to Trauma. On Trauma, there are no quicksaves, and no souls. That's right, the souls enemies release that give you that vital + 1 health bonus when you pick them up and turn you into an invincible demon every time you get 66 of them are no longer in the game.
** And of course, this is the only way to unlock all the levels (Prison and Forest unlock on Nightmare and Trauma, respectively) get all the Black Tarot cards and see the [[HappilyEverAfter Good Ending]]... which isn't canon as of the expansion pack, but it's the thought that counts.
* ''VideoGame/FarCry1''[==]'s "Realistic". First off, the game is already more challenging than most at the default levels, this just makes it worse. If you don't know how to take cover properly, or know where the armor is, you're fucked. Realistic difficulty dramatically increases the damage enemies do to your health, causing you to die after only a couple shots if you're not wearing armor. Which is, of course, realistic. (Your armor itself can still take several hits before failing, so the game is still beatable as long as you can find armor). However, realistic difficulty ''also'' '''increases''' the damage that enemies can take, so that even the basic grunts wearing nothing but a t-shirt can soak several assault rifle bullets before dying. Which is, obviously, not so realistic.
* "Infamous" on ''VideoGame/FarCry2'' is roughly as close to reality as the game will get: running checkpoints or trying to take them out by rolling into them blazing away on the gun of your truck/boat is a good way to get ventilated within seconds, forcing players to sneak up on them and perform massive one-man ambushes with explosives and fire. Enemies are experts at seeking you out when you hide in buildings, turning stealth from a neat way to play into a necessity.
* ''VideoGame/{{Crysis}}'' has Delta difficulty, which is ''supposed'' to be Harder Than Hard, as your health regenerates ''much'' more slowly. Additionally, there are a bunch of little handicaps such as no crosshair without a LaserSight or iron sights, you can't drive a vehicle and operate the rooftop machinegun turret at the same time, and [[BilingualBonus enemies all speak Korean]], making it harder for the player to gauge their moves. While Delta is generally considered the hardest difficultly, it also reduces every human character's health to more realistic levels, shifting the game closer to RocketTagGameplay
** Delta is referred to as [[Series/TwentyFour Bauer]] mode in the game files.
* ''VideoGame/{{Crysis2}}'' has this not for the players but for their computers. The graphic quality presets start with "high" and then go up from there ("very high", "ultra high", "extreme").
* ''[[VideoGame/{{STALKER}} S.T.A.L.K.E.R.]]'' games have the harder-than-hard "Master" difficulty. It's perfect for people who have mastered the game on lower difficulty levels and know how to gain advantages over enemies who can take and inflict damage on par with the player but are much more numerous. People who don't know how to pull this off might as well map quickload and quicksave to a mouse button. Actually, scratch that: even people who DO know to pull this off will have to spend a lot of time reloading, because it takes only a ''moment'' of inattention to have your brains blown out. Just to set a parameter, the game is already NintendoHard on the ''easy'' difficulty setting. And some [[GameMod modders]] have released mod packs, notably ''MISERY'' and ''Oblivion Lost'', that make the games ''[[UpToEleven even harder]]''.
** Bizarrely enough, Stalker fans consider "Master" easy, as it lowers the amount of health that human characters have, making them easier to kill, turning it into RocketTagGameplay.
* ''VideoGame/QuakeIV'' had the General difficulty. Enemies did 3.5 times as much damage as normal, and thus could kill you in just a few hits if you didn't have armor (and you didn't even GET armor until after 2 or 3 levels). Even with armor, you could still die after just several hits. Enemies also had [[DamageSponge significantly more health]], to the point that even mid-level enemies like the Berserkers and Gunners required more than a full mag of assault rifle fire to kill. Finally, your Rhino Squad squadmates die at the drop of a hat, turning previously fun firefights into tedious [[EscortMission escort missions]], since you got an automatic game over if any of them ever died.
* ''SoldierOfFortune'' has the Unfair difficulty, where the noise meter is much more sensitive than on lower difficulty levels, making it much easier to spike it and get tons of RespawningEnemies. In fact enemies can randomly spawn as soon as the PADD meter reaches halfway or so. It's NintendoHard, but not quite as unfair as Doom's Nightmare difficulty.
** Even worse: ''[=SOF2=]'''s Soldier Of Fortune difficulty, which is FirstPersonShooter Hell, although there aren't many RespawningEnemies. The normal difficulties are already NintendoHard, this goes UpToEleven.
* In addition to their three standard difficulty settings, both ''[[VideoGame/GoldenEye1997 GoldenEye]]'' and its SpiritualSuccessor ''VideoGame/PerfectDark'' feature unlockable difficulty settings (called "007" and "Perfect Dark" respectively) that allow the player to alter the challenge by fine-tuning certain enemy properties: their health, accuracy, damage and reaction times. This allows players to set up a SelfImposedChallenge that is far harder than the standard difficulty settings. Level runs done with minimum enemy health and all other settings on maximum (meaning both player and perfectly-accurate guards will die in a single hit) are known as "Licence to Kill" (LTK) settings. Runs with ''everything'' set to maximum, so that guards have ''ten times more health than normal'', are known as "Dark LTK" runs. In ''VideoGame/GoldenEye1997'' this is stupidly hard since a dead foe doesn't drop enough ammo to kill the next one (though it [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gy85PlckrW0 is possible to complete certain levels]]; in Perfect Dark it's ''marginally'' more manageable thanks to the game's [[ChunkySalsaRule "quirk"]] that headshots on unshielded [=NPCs=] are always instant kills.
** Said customisable difficulties can also be used in conjunction with the games' many unlockable cheat options, some of which make the game harder: the "Enemy Rockets" cheat, for example, arms every enemy in each game with a rocket launcher with infinite ammo.
** ''VideoGame/PerfectDark'''s multiplayer mode allows players to set up deathmatches that involve bots of varying behaviour and difficulty level. "[=PerfectSims=]" and "[=DarkSims=]" have near-perfect accuracy and reaction times.
** ''VideoGame/PerfectDarkZero'' features an unlockable fourth difficulty setting, "Dark Agent", which does away with the semi-RegeneratingHealth feature.
** While the remake ''VideoGame/GoldenEyeWii'' has more modern trappings of [=FPSes=] like regenerating health, there's "007 Classic" mode, complete with health bar and armor pickups. True to this trope, it's also the hardest difficulty level of the game.
* ''VideoGame/Left4Dead'' has Easy, Normal, Advanced, and Expert. On Expert, The common infected deal 20 damage per hit, Hunters and Smokers do at least 30 damage per hit, Tanks can incapacitate a Survivor in one hit and then kill in two hits, and the Witch will instantly kill you if provoked. Friendly fire damage is significantly increased where a stray shotgun blast or few bullets can incap a Survivor.
** And if the Director feels like being a {{Jerkass}} on Expert, he will spawn special infected on you ''repeatedly'' and/or keep spawning Tanks right in the beginning of the level. In fact, this is one of the factors in the difficulty setting - on lower difficulties, if the Director rolls a spawn combination that it thinks is unfair, it discards that combination and rerolls. On Expert, ''all'' rolls are used.
** The sequel sports Realism mode, which is a ''mode of play'' instead of difficulty. Realism mode removes the colored auras around allies and items, making communication about who and what is where a must. Head shots to zombies are now more vital than ever since it will do more damage and more likely to kill in one shot than two shotgun blasts to the torso. To top it off, you can play Realism mode on any difficulty setting, including the already hard as hell Expert setting.
* The [=PS3=] port of ''VideoGame/{{BioShock|1}}'' and the remastered version included in ''[=BioShock=]: The Collection'', in addition to the Easy, Medium, and Hard difficulties, has Survivor mode, which is described on the difficulty selection screen as "Every bullet counts." The very first enemy will kill you. And one of the trophies asks you to beat the game on Survivor without using Vita-chambers. This trophy is fittingly called "I Chose the Impossible."
* ''VideoGame/BioShockInfinite'' has 1999 Mode. While in the other difficulties [[DeathisaSlapontheWrist Death is a Slap on the Wrist]], getting revived here costs 100 Silver Eagles and if you don't have enough cash, you will be [[ContinuingisPainful kicked back to the main menu and forced to restore a previous checkpoint]]. You are also forced to choose a weapon specialization that can't be changed again. Resources are more difficult to find, with Elizabeth taking longer to toss you items. Enemies deal more damage and have more health, with even your regular garden-variety mook being able to overthrow you without difficulty. Even an enemy with a simple wooden baseball bat can take away ¼ of your health on a single strike. Let alone [[BossInMookClothing Handymen]]. To put the cherry on top, the achievement [[ThatOneAchievement Scavenger Hunt]] requires you to beat this difficulty without using any Dollar Bill vending machines. And on the [[MultiMookMelee zeppelin defense]] level? [[ThatOneLevel May God have mercy on your soul.]] Goddamn [[HeavilyArmoredMook Rocket Launchers]]. Seeking cover regularly, managing resources wisely, knowing the Infusion locations and also being filthy rich is the only way you are beating this difficulty.
* ''VideoGame/{{Killzone}} 2''. Let's see, Veteran makes the Helghasta pain in the ass to kill (your normally powerful side-arm is now worthless, and they can take four shots to the head - if you don't wind up shooting them in the neck), and amps the damage (if you're out of cover for more than five seconds, '''YOU WILL DIE'''). ''Coupled with a crappy cover system, where it can take precious seconds to stick and unstick from a wall while Helghast happily round the corner and shoot you, AND a jerky aim that can't be fixed.'' Now, picture this in Elite, where, in one or two shots, you die. With a long regen time, and ''cover that can blow apart in certain levels''. Also, did we mention no reticule?
* ''[[VideoGame/FirstEncounterAssaultRecon F.E.A.R.]]'' had Extreme difficulty, in which you had roughly the same durability as the basic Repica Soldier, while being outnumbered by them by a few hundred to one. If you use your slow-motion power, it's just fairly challenging, but you try to beat the game without Slo-Mo it's crazy hard.
** The sequel, ''Project Origin'', originally just had Easy, Normal, and Hard. However, the 1.02 patch for the game transformed Hard mode into Harder Than Hard by significantly increasing the damage done by enemy attacks, to the point that you died after just 8-10 bullet hits or 2 shotgun blasts or sniper rifle shots. Again, it's still manageable if you use Slo-Mo, but certain fights (most noticeably the final shootout) are super annoying.
** The threequel, although easier than its predecessors, still has a harder-than-hard difficulty in the form of Insane mode, which is unlocked by completing the game on a lower setting.
* ''VideoGame/AliensVsPredator2010'' has Nightmare difficulty. It's just like Hard (enemies do increased damage, have higher health, command prompts no longer appear on screen to tell you when to block or counter, aliens can no longer be knocked down in melee, and marines are much more aware of their surroundings) with the added handicap that there ''are no checkpoints'', so if you die at any point in a level you have to start over from the very beginning.
* When you beat ''VideoGame/{{Killer7}}'', you get access to "Killer 8". In it you get an additional character with both a clip size and rate of fire drastically larger than any of the normal caricatures. However, the down side is that the enemies are faster and more deadly; just shooting at them normally does almost nothing, the weak points that you use to kill them instantly are now completely invisible, and the enemies give you less "blood" to level up and heal with.
** Oh, and that extra character? He has a metric ton of health (to the point that he's the only character besides [[SuperToughness Mask]] who can take more than one hit in this mode,) but on the flip side, since resurrecting dead characters requires ButtonMashing as fast as you can until refill their health gauge, you better make damn sure he doesn't die if you value your thumbs.
* The first two ''VideoGame/BrothersInArms'' games have Easy, Normal, Difficult, and Authentic difficulty modes. To unlock Authentic mode, the whole game must first be completed on Difficult mode. ''Hell's Highway'' has only three difficulties: Casual, Veteran and Authentic. In this game, to unlock Authentic mode, you just need to finish the game once. Regardless of the game, in Authentic mode, the difficulty is set very high, there are no save checkpoints, and suppression indicators are turned off by default, to make the game as close to an actual UsefulNotes/WorldWarII battlefield as possible.
* ''VideoGame/PAYDAYTheHeist'' has Easy, Normal, Hard, and OVERKILL. Playing on easier difficulties would lock you out of certain heists, though a patch was made to allow all heists to be playable on at least Normal. Reaching the level cap of 145 would unlock OVERKILL 145+: enemies do more damage, have more health, and your bleedout timer is almost nonexistent after the first incapacitation.
* ''[[VideoGame/PAYDAYTheHeist PAYDAY 2]]'' features a unique spin on this. The difficulties cover Normal, Hard, Very Hard and [[IdiosyncraticDifficultyLevels OVERKILL]], with higher difficulty stacking higher rewards with greater opposition. However, should you level enough, PRO Heists become available on Hard and above; for even larger prizes, the game throws numerous curve-balls at the players, such as extra objectives, changes to the map, and/or other variables mixed in with even harder difficulties ''and with little warning''.
** And then Overkill went and added the aptly-named Death Wish difficulty. The cameras on most maps are replaced with indestructible Titan cameras, security is increased, and little curve balls are thrown your way to make stealthing a heist much, ''much'' harder. The assault waves are no better, with new Gensec Elite SWAT troopers that can tear through armor and health in the blink of an eye. And as if that wasn't painful enough, they went and added an even tougher-to-kill Bulldozer. One that's even more heavily armored, and comes armed with a ''light machine gun''.
** Then in 2016, two more Harder Than Hard difficulties were added. Mayhem and One Down. Mayhem acts as a sort of bridge between Overkill and Deathwish. Harder than the former, not quite as hard as the latter. One Down is ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin: Get downed after already being downed once, you're done. Oh, and the enemies are even meaner and tougher than on Death Wish.
** And ''then'' in 2018, Overkill released an update that, among other things, reworked One Down entirely. Now called Death Sentence, you no longer have to worry about only having one down when playing on this difficulty, and enemy health across the board has been lowered by a third. But that's where the good news ends, as the spawn rate for special enemies, including the dreaded Bulldozers, has been increased a fair bit, and their damage output remains the same as before. And speaking of Bulldozers, their health has been doubled, and can now spawn in two extra flavours that were previously exclusive to Crime Spree: Medic Dozers, which combine the abilities and threat of the existing Medic and Dozer enemies into one deadly package, as well as Minigun Dozers, which use their gatling guns to cause a metric shitton of damage to the player (the latter can also spawn on Death Wish, by the way). Oh, and there's now a modifier to enable the One Down setting on any difficulty. '''WelcomeToHell'''.
* ''Videogame/{{Metro 2033}}'' has the 'Ranger' difficulty levels, which are associated with their own achievements. Notably, it's not so much just 'difficult' as 'realistic': Ranger Easy disables your HUD and thus things like ammo counter and the crosshair (you have to use your watch or journal to know how much ammo you have left) and reducing looted ammo from clips of ten-plus bullets to one or two bullets apiece, making resource management a must. At this point, it becomes far more practical to depend on your knife for almost every single encounter, reserving your extremely scarce ammunition for dire emergencies. Using stealth practically becomes a requirement to deal with human enemies, who will otherwise kill you in extremely short order. 'Ranger Hardcore' ramps this up by making you even more fragile; one or two bullets will usually kill you, [[RocketTagGameplay though on the flip side most enemies die from one or two shots as well]]. However, due to the extreme scarcity of ammunition (100 dirty 5.45x39mm rounds might be all you find in an entire PLAYTHROUGH), you're going to end up using your knife for almost absolutely every single fight. Enemies are also more alert, making stealth essential but difficult.
** ''VideoGame/MetroLastLight'' brings back the ranger difficulty modes. And things are worse this time around, because human enemies, who were the bane of your existence in Ranger Mode in 2033, but were mercifully rare, are much more prevalent in this game.
* Originally, the highest difficulty in ''{{Postal}} 2'' was Hestonworld, in which enemies did twice as much damage and every character in the game world was armed with a weapon. However, since they remained non-hostile towards you until you provoked them, if you used a [[StealthBasedGame semi-stealthy playstyle]] it could actually make the game easier, as the now-armed civilians would end up killing many of your enemies for you. The patch to the game added the They Hate Me difficulty, which was truly Harder Than Hard as it caused every character with a gun (including cops, neutrals, and allies) to automatically try to kill you on sight. The later ''Week in Paradise'' and ''Complete'' releases went even further with "Nightmare!/POSTAL!" and "Really Fucking Hard/Impossible" difficulties.
* ''VideoGame/{{Vietcong}}'''s Vietnam difficulty. Like the ''Brothers in Arms'' example above, it has no HUD, no quicksaves or autosaves. And you thought [[NintendoHard the game was already very hard]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Killing Floor}}'' started with Beginner, Normal, Hard, and Suicidal. Then owners of the game were complaining that Suicidal became too easy, so in its 2010 Christmas event, Tripwire Interactive added in [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Hell on Earth]], which further increases the damage and health boost given to enemies from Suicidal and retroactively nerfs the starting pistol as well as increasing the duration of the Fleshpound's [[RageBreakingPoint blitz of death]] on top of other conditions set in Suicidal.
* ''[[{{VideoGame/Borderlands2}} Borderlands 2]]'' has Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode. In this mode, all enemies are at ''four times'' as much health as True Vault Hunter Mode and ''regenerating health''. This sometimes makes it impossible to kill an enemy without using Slag damage amplification. Luckily, slag DOES give you three times damage amplification for non-slag guns, but generally makes you have a slag weapon on you at all times (Magic Missile grenade mod and Slagga anyone?).
** Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode in ''[[{{VideoGame/BorderlandsThePreSequel}} Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel]]'' received a heavy downgrade, due to both the exclusion of Slag in TPS... and how difficult UVHM was in ''Borderlands 2''.
* The [[ManVersusMachine Mann vs. Machine]] mode in ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2'' has four difficulty levels: Normal, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert, which is only available in the first maps Decoy, Coaltown and Mannworks. Like all missions in these maps, Expert missions start with 400 credits, but you have to fight large amounts of powerful and/or tricky robots since the first wave such as [[GiantMook Giant robots]], [[EliteMooks Steel Gauntlets]] and [[ShootTheMedicFirst Über Medics]][[labelnote:*]]Well, killing them in one hit is the hardest part[[/labelnote]]. Only fully coordinated teams can beat these missions, but without friends, you'll have to win the lottery to get good teammates.
* The "Uprising" mode in ''VideoGame/{{Overwatch}}'', in addition to Normal, Hard, and Expert, had Legendary difficulty, in which even [[TheGoomba Nulltroopers]] can easily shred you to pieces, [[GoddamnedBats Slicers]] can melt the payload in seconds, and tank Bastions can [[OneHitKill one-shot]] any non-Tank hero while soaking up tons of damage. Even teams comprised entirely of professional players have had difficulty taking this mode down. By the end of the event, a mere '''0.6%''' of attempts on Legendary (i.e. 1 in every 166 tries) had ended in victory, with the number being bumped ''slightly'' to 1% for the "All Heroes" version.
* ''[[VideoGame/TheEndTimesVermintide Warhammer- The End Times: Vermintide]]'' has both Nightmare and Cataclysm difficulties. In both of them, friendly fire is turned on, and more special Skaven can spawn. Both also jack up the amount of health and damage that the Skaven have- in Cataclysm, a [[TheGoomba regular Skaven]] can kill a hero within four hits. However, both Nightmare and Cataclysm difficulties reward the player with much better loot in the loot game.
* ''VideoGame/WolfensteinIITheNewColossus'' has the Mein Leben! mode. In Bring It On! and above, any direct and prolonged firefight will end ''badly'' as the nastiest enemies can kill you with only a handful of shots [[spoiler:even when you get your max health restored to 100 and a load of new abilities]]. Mein Leben! mode forces you to complete the whole game at this difficulty ''in a single run, with no saves or checkpoints'': if you die at any point, it deletes your save and forces you back to the very start.
* ''VideoGame/TheAdventuresOfSquare'' has CUBULAR! difficulty. Enemies become more aggressive and move faster, enemy projectiles fly faster, and healing items are replaced with less tasty and ineffective ones. This difficulty also introduces an new enemy type, [[DemonicSpiders Rectangolier]]. [[LightningBruiser This purple eyeless robot can repeatedly crunch you to death, and fly really fast.]] It will keep chasing you until you die. Have fun.

[[folder:Four X]]
* Ordinarily the hardest difficulty on ''VideoGame/{{Civilization}} II'' was named Deity and really stacked the odds against you. However, since the penalties for the player and bonuses for the [=CPUs=] were generated algorithmically, editing the text file to insert more selections for difficulty level actually worked. So now you can have cities where the first few citizens are doubly unhappy!
* ''VideoGame/SidMeiersAlphaCentauri'' has "Citizen", "Specialist", "Talent", "Librarian", "Thinker", and "Transcend", the last one alluding to the AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence victory.
* ''VideoGame/{{Civilization}} III'' has Chieftain, Warlord, Prince, Monarch, Emperor, and Deity. One of the {{Walkthrough}}s in Website/GameFAQs says the possibility of winning a game in the last setting is ''theoretical.'' The ''Conquests'' ExpansionPack takes this even further with a Demigod level, which actually replaces Deity - thus resulting in an even harder Deity difficulty - and an even harder [[ShoutOut Sid]] difficulty level.
** It should be noted that good players can consistently beat Sid level, especially on certain map types the AI has a hard time with (Archepelago in particular).
*** And then there's [[http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=66169 this guy]]. The AI build time was 10 time better than his. It started with 3 settlers, in a game where getting one free is a game breaker. And he won.
* ''VideoGame/{{Civilization}} IV'' features eight difficulty levels, going up to Deity. The difference? Surprisingly detailed tips described exactly how badly the computer cheated for or against you in every other level. Deity's details? "Ha ha, good luck."
* ''VideoGame/MasterOfMagic'' has an "Impossible" level. With all patches applied, this description wasn't far off the mark, given that TheComputerIsACheatingBastard. However, the Impossible level was fairly trivial to beat with the release version, thanks to various [[GameBreaker game-breaking]] {{Good Bad Bug}}s.
** ''VideoGame/MasterOfOrion'' also has an Impossible level, in which the AIs get huge bonuses to production and research. Experienced players can win, but ''not'' without difficulty.
* ''VideoGame/GalacticCivilizations'' has no less than eleven difficulty levels for the game as a whole, and several more for the computer AI. The higher ones have charming names like "Crippling", "Masochistic", "Obscene", and "Suicidal" (that's right, the game literally dials this trope UpToEleven). By this point the question is not ''whether'' the computer is cheating, it's ''how much''. [[TheWikiRule The GalCiv wiki]] states that a computer AI set to "Ultimate" has an economy running four times faster than yours, with more points to spend on abilities than you do, and massively increased sensor range. Oh, and all its components are about half their normal size, so they can stick more of them on a ship. Suffice to say that any difficulty set to "Masochistic" or higher pretty much demands you use an AIBreaker, because otherwise the AI will [[{{Series/Firefly}} rape you to death, eat your flesh, and sew your skin into its clothing]], hopefully InThatOrder.
* The ''Xtended Terran Conflict'' [[GameMod mod]] for ''[[Videogame/{{X}} X3: Terran Conflict]]'' has the standard Easy/Medium/Hard settings, plus the optional [[XtremeKoolLetterz XTREME]] difficulty setting which can be enabled at any time, but is irreversible once enabled. It removes all capital ships and corvettes from sale at shipyards (forcing the player to rely on [[BoardingParty boarding]] to acquire them), removes all [[PortalNetwork Jump Drives]] from sale (effectively removing them from the game, except on [[TheBattlestar Superdestroyers]]), removes all [[SaveToken Salvage Insurance]] (forcing the player to save only at [[SavePoint space stations]]), while also [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard dramatically increasing the spawn rate, number, firepower, and speed of enemy ships, far beyond that of what the player's ships are capable of]]. On the other hand, the increased amount of Pirates and the like means that they'll blow up a lot of freighters and make a lot of pilots bail out, allowing you to make a [[HardModePerks nice profit off of their raiding parties]].
* ''Videogame/EndlessSpace'' and ''Videogame/EndlessLegend'' have several tiers of difficulties beyond the standard easy-normal-hard, all of which (including Hard) have progressively more [[NotPlayingFairWithResources resource cheats for the AI]]; Serious, Impossible, and Endless. DummiedOut code in ''Legend'' shows that Serious difficulty and above also had penalties for the player, such as more expansion disapproval in cities and higher military upkeep costs.
* ''Videogame/StarRuler2'' has the Savage AI difficulty, which causes GangUpOnTheHuman and grants the [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard AI all sorts of cheats]].

[[folder:Hack And Slash]]
* ''VideoGame/DynastyWarriors'':
** In ''VideoGame/DynastyWarriors 6'', two additional modes can be unlocked beyond the standard-issue Easy/Normal/Hard. Those are 'Master' and 'Chaos'. Considering the way the ''VideoGame/DynastyWarriors'' games always work, I bet you figure you can just level a character to 50 in Free Play, and then use him to sweep through Chaos Mode with ease, right? Well, let's just say that Chaos Mode is DESIGNED for level 50 characters. And even with super high level characters, Chaos is absurdly difficult. You could spend 30 minutes playing perfectly, dancing around the enemy officers and picking them apart one at a time until there is just the head general left...Oh and that generic officer you bypassed 15 minutes ago, who's been chasing you the whole time, and is dashing at you right now. Oh look, he just pulled off a one hit kill.
** Some of the games, such as the ''VideoGame/SamuraiWarriors'' games, have had Very Easy and (in the ''VideoGame/WarriorsOrochi'' games) Chaos as the only one above Hard. The names in the Japanese versions? ''Heaven'' and ''Hell''.
** ''Chaos'' difficulty, in ''Warriors Orochi'' at least, is no different from Hard, for the most part. Enemies have the same HP (more or less), AI is the same, they deal the same amount of damage... the only difference is that their attacks completely ignore defence. A regular mook can now kill you in four hits. And did we mention you will often be surrounded by a few ''hundred'' mooks, with a few officers in the middle to spice things up? Enjoy.
** ''VideoGame/BerserkAndTheBandOfTheHawk'' has four difficulty levels to choose from: Easy, Normal, Hard, andóyou guessed itó'''Berserk'''.
** ''VideoGame/HyruleWarriors'' has its own equivalent, Hero Mode, where enemies take and dish out a lot more damage. Your characters pretty much have to be close to the original level cap of 99 with at least a few power-ups from Adventure Mode to have a chance here.
* ''VideoGame/MuramasaTheDemonBlade'' has three difficulty levels: Muso, Shura, and Shigurui. Muso is standard 'easy' mode (well, 'easy' for ''VideoGame/OdinSphere'' veterans), Shura ups the HP and damage of all enemies and significantly ups their aggressiveness, and Shigurui (only unlockable after beating the game on Shura) is like Muso... Except your character is now a OneHitPointWonder. None of your enemies are. Enjoy.
* In addition to the highest difficulties, ''VideoGame/{{Diablo}}'' games also have Hardcore mode, which is like {{Roguelike}}s in its difficulty in that you only get one life to play through the game with, and once you die, that's it for your character.
* ''VideoGame/DiabloIII'' is an interesting case. When it first started it had four difficulties: "Normal," "Nightmare," "Hell," and "Inferno." ''VideoGame/DiabloII'' had the first three of these levels. Inferno was added to be the ultimate challenge, and when the game first came out the developers weren't sure it was even going to be possible to beat the game at that difficulty. The players did, of course. Eventually they nerfed and retooled the system, ultimately replacing it with an entirely new set of difficulty tiers: "Normal," "Hard," "Expert," "Master," and "Torment I" - "Torment VI," which ultimately means that Diablo III has 8 levels of harder than hard. Ultimately, though, even the most casual player will be able to function on Torment I with little trouble once they've hit the maximum level cap and gotten leveled gear. The Torment track has since been retooled to go as high as Torment X. This, however, isn't even the highest challenge in the game. The game also has timed "Greater Rifts" that go from 1 to 100 with Greater Rift 37 being roughly equivalent to Torment X. Such high Greater Rift levels are only reachable, besides exceptional skill, by playing the right class with the right combination of skills and items that happen to be rolled exceptionally well.

[[folder:Interactive Fiction]]
* The Creator/{{Infocom}} InteractiveFiction game ''VideoGame/{{Suspended}}'' had an "Impossible" difficulty level that [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin really was]] - a few turns into the game the sun goes nova, destroying your entire planet.
* The game ''VideoGame/LogicalJourneyOfTheZoombinis'' features levels titled, by increasing difficulty, Not So Easy, Oh So Hard, Very Hard, and Very Very Hard. Interestingly, the game also uses DynamicDifficulty. Progressing further in the game not only unlocks the higher difficulties by will eventually ''lock you out of the lower ones''. By the end, every stage will be locked on Very Very Hard. This can actually render 100% Completion [[PermanentlyMissableContent impossible]] if you don't do well enough, as doing a NoCasualtiesRun of every individual difficulty level is required to get the monuments in Zoombiniville.

[[folder:Light Gun Game]]
* Most ''VideoGame/GHOSTSquad'' arcade cabinets have the mission difficulty levels go up to 4. Think that's hard? The other two arcade versions go up to level ''16'', and the Wii version to level '''''20'''''.
** This only affects the boss battles and certain parts of the game. For example: later levels of the third level require ''extreme concentration''. Taking too long to destroy a shield will get you killed, and especially with the last boss - if you don't time grenades right, you will be a second off, and you will get captured by the enemy leader and laughed at. (okay, not really.)
* The Extended Cut of ''VideoGame/HouseOfTheDead: OVERKILL'' gains a Hardcore mode. In the [=PS3=] version, only headshots can kill mutants. In the ''Typing of the Dead'' mode for the PC version, you now actually have to type out the spaces in phrases with more than one word in them, and if you screw up even one letter, the phrase for that mutant resets and you lose your combo.
* ''VideoGame/PointBlank'' has the "VERY HARD" stages, which are a step above the Advanced stages. They show up once for each group of 4 stages in Beginner and Advanced modes, replacing one of the four stages in that group. Additionally, there is a VERY HARD mode, in which the 16 stages consist ''only'' of the VERY HARD stages. ''Point Blank 2'' onwards renames the VERY HARD difficulty to Insane difficulty.

[[folder:Minigame Game]]
* ''VideoGame/CookServeDelicious'' has Extreme Difficulty, which gives you a permanent +50% buzz boost (meaning a lot more customers come per day) and drastically decreases customers' patience (shortening the amount of time you need to successfully complete an order). Beating the game on the normal difficulty unlocks a NewGamePlus mode on Extreme which carries over your progress towards achievements, although it allows you to start a save file on Extreme at any time. The description of Extreme Difficulty warns you that it's impossible to beat.

* In ''VideoGame/PhantasyStarOnline'', each new difficulty mode was a chance to grind your character up to the next weapon set, with better item drops, tougher enemies and an even more ludicrous final boss... ''except'' for the highest difficulty level, Ultimate, where [[DifficultySpike the difficulty curve leaps up like you just cast Foie at its butt]]. Suddenly the attack patterns become more aggressive, new enemies you'd never encountered before appear, and even the most common of the old enemies are now throwing around instant-death spells.
* ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'': with the release of the Ulduar raid instance in patch 3.1, all of the new boss encounters had triggerable "hard modes" with better loot, but they were of course harder. Then there was the BonusBoss of Ulduar, [[http://www.wowhead.com/npc=32871#comments Algalon the Observer]]. The first warning should be that Algalon ''lacks a regular difficulty'' - he is always hard mode. He earned his quasi-official title and tagline of "the Raid Destroyer" and "He feeds on your tears".
** "He Feeds On Your Tears" is also the name of a special achievement where you have to defeat him on your first try without anyone dying. Then there's "Herald of the Titans" that requires you defeating him only using gear that has nothing better than what drops in 10-man Ulduar - this one is a 10man only achievement.
*** The Argent Coliseum also has a similar achievement on 10-man mode, where you have to complete the raid without a single wipe and only wearing gear you could obtain up to and in Coliseum 10-man.
** ''Mists of Pandaria'' introduced Challenge Modes for 5-man dungeons.
*** Powerful gear is scaled down to a fixed point. More gear won't help you here.
*** Everything hits harder. Some things are deadly if not appropriately handled.
*** You cannot use the auto group filler.
*** It is timed (with a leader board), although you still get rewarded for completing it despite the timer.
*** To avoid excessive exploiting there is a quota to kill some non-boss [=NPCs=].
*** To avoid distractions, enemies drop no loot. Only the completion grants a reward.
*** To encourage rapid attempts, you can reset the dungeon at any time and take no durability damage from death.
** ''Warlords of Draenor'' shuffled around the raid difficulties. Old Flexible became Normal. Old Normal became Heroic. Old Heroic became Mythic. But since they went to a single fixed size with Mythic (20 players), it enabled Blizzard to add unique mechanics that require certain class abilities to deal with. Mythic difficulty is truly "harder than hard" and is pretty much designed for the top 1% of the playerbase.
** ''Legion'' removed the Challenge Mode system from dungeons and implemented the Mythic Plus system. Players receive keys which activate the mode, which gain levels on successfully completing a dungeon and lose a level on failing it. Completing higher level Mythic Plus keys offers increased rewards from the chest at the end of the dungeon and a weekly cache.
*** Each dungeon has a fixed timer based on its overall length. Each player death reduces the timer by 5 seconds.
*** The base health and damage of enemies is increased based on the level of the key.
*** Three affixes that modify the dungeon experience are applied based on the level of the key. Examples include spawning additional trash mobs, boosting the stats of bosses, and reducing the ability of tanks to hold aggro.
*** As in Challenge Mode, players are required to kill a certain amount of trash mobs in addition to the bosses.
*** Players cannot change talents.
* In ''VideoGame/RustyHearts'', all dungeons starting with the Wine Cellar have a difficulty tier above "Very Hard" called "Blood" mode, which can only be entered after reaching a high enough level (and meeting certain other conditions). Enemies in Blood-level dungeons are several levels higher than their Very Hard counterparts, and they attack far more aggressively. You also don't get experience points or gold for defeating enemies, but they do leave behind high-quality items that you wouldn't otherwise receive even on Very Hard.
* The five Secret Dungeons in ''VideoGame/{{Elsword}}'' are generally harder than the normal dungeons of their respective towns, and come with a '''Hell''' difficulty. However, there is a chance for an NPC named Luto to appear in any room in the dungeon, and if you break the door he summons, you get sent back to the beginning of the dungeon, in '''Luto Mode'''. Enemies are even more dangerous in this mode, and with the difficulty scaled to match that of the highest-leveled party member, if you have a capped character in your party it's going to be one bumpy ride.
* Offered in multiple flavors in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIV''. Each Primal has an "extreme" mode with more health, damage, and whole new mechanics while still keeping to the theme of the original fight. The endgame raid of 2.0 "The Binding Coil of Bahamut" was this as well, and part two of the raid chain had Savage Mode, which gave you nothing but {{Bragging Rights Reward}}s titles for clearing. The 3.0 endgame raid Alexander was designed with a normal and savage mode in mind, so that not only could more people play through the plot, but they could make the Savage mode even more facemeltingly difficult without alienating the less hardcore players.
* ''VideoGame/StarWarsTheOldRepublic'' has most Operations available on Story, Hard and Nightmare difficulties. Nightmare adds new mechanics to existing encounters, occasionally adds some new encounters and grants access to achievements that the other difficulties don't have.
* ''VideoGame/KingdomOfLoathing'' has a number of SelfImposedChallenge modes for its [[NewGamePlus ascension]] system. The most infamous one is "Bad Moon," and it's a doozy.
** Unlike all other special game modes, Bad Moon is not available by default--to access it you must beat the whole game without using any [[FourLeafClover ten-leaf clovers]], creating no small amount of tediousness. [[GuideDangIt The game never tells you]] there's any benefit to avoiding clovers, or that Bad Moon even exists, until you do this.
** Once you're in Bad Moon, the "fun" begins. All the skills, familiars, and so on you've accumulated in previous playthroughs, which you'd normally use to make the game easier/faster, is unavailable. Even your [[BribingYourWayToVictory paid content]] is unusable. New adventures show up in various places, which give you weird combinations of buffs and debuffs (some can be useful if you know where to find them, but most are negative). Even if you follow the best possible strategy, it will probably take you a couple of weeks to beat the game (normal runs can be done in a few days without much effort).
** If, [[HundredPercentCompletion for some reason]], you want permanent access to Bad Moon, you must take the difficulty UpToEleven by using the Black Cat familiar for the entire run. The cat will screw with you in combat to a ridiculous degree--randomly blocking your skills and items, stealing MP, cancelling your self-buffs, etc.--and just to add insult to injury, at the end of each fight it will randomly swat item drops into a sewer drain and distract you so you don't gain as much experience from winning the fight. Once again, the game does not tell you there's any reason to subject yourself to this, nor does it tell you where to get the Black Cat (it's in Noob Cave, a place you don't normally have any reason to visit).
* In 2005 ''VideoGame/RuneScape'' released the TzHaar Fight Cave. If you can survive 62 waves (which translates into over two hours) of monsters steadily increasing in difficulty then you will find yourself faced with TzTok-Jad, a level 702 boss monster (at the time the highest level in the game by a wide margin) that uses multiple styles of attack with a maximum hit of 98 (for reference, the highest hitpoint level is 99). Because too many people were defeating Jad and devaluing the impressiveness of the reward for doing so, the fire cape (at the time of writing this the lowest level player to complete the minigame had only 25 combat), the developers of Old School Runescape decided in 2017 to release The Inferno which includes 68 waves of increasing difficult (including multiple JalTok-Jads, a stronger version of TzTokJad) culminating in a final boss battle with TzKal-Zuk, a monster with twice the combat level of TzTok Jad (plus another JalTok-Jad thrown in for fun once TzKal-Zuk's health has been lowered enough).

[[folder:Party Games]]
* ''VideoGame/MarioParty 2'' introduced Super Hard mode (AI could only be set to this difficulty during minigames, though). ''Mario Party 3'' makes Super Hard mode an unlockable through playing through Story mode on Hard (you can also play Story mode on Super Hard). Following games have a similar difficulty for AI, almost always an unlockable.
* ''VideoGame/WarioWare Smooth Moves'' have a section where you can play randomly selected microgames with different stipulations that make them harder than hard. The aptly named Super Hard section has you playing microgames at the fastest possible speed, requiring instant reflexes. Sudden Death has you playing the hardest version of the microgames with only one life.

[[folder:Platform Game]]
* ''VideoGame/IWannaBeTheGuy'':
** The difficulty levels are "Medium" (the ''[[NintendoHard easiest]]'' setting), "Hard", "Harder" and "Impossible." The [[NumericalHard only difference]] being the number of save points decreases, and "Impossible" is [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin quite accurate]] as it has ''none'', and with its [[TrialAndErrorGameplay particular]] [[OneHitPointWonder kind]] [[NintendoHard of]] [[PlatformHell gameplay]] just simply says '''you are not going to win'''. Most people just [[EndlessGame try to see how far they can go]].
** Worse yet, playing on Medium will cause the game to [[EasyModeMockery mock you]] by giving The Kid a cute pink bow and having all Medium-exclusive points have "WUSS" instead of "SAVE" written on them. The idea is to man up and pretend Hard is the default difficulty.
** "Impossible" is so hard that the creator of the game was publicly shocked to find out that someone had actually beaten the game on Impossible. The first official comment was "holy crap your not serious are you" (sic). To date, the number of people who are confirmed to have managed to beat the game on Impossible can be counted on one hand.
* ''VideoGame/ViewtifulJoe'' has Kids, Adult, and V-Rated and Ultra V-Rated with the latter two being unlockable by beating the one below it. In Ultra V-Rated pretty much anything can kill you in one hit, and you lose the hit markers that show if the enemy is going to attack high or low. In fairness, enemies all have unique tells for if they're going for a high or low attack, so losing the hit markers means little if you're paying attention. However, you likely WILL die against each new kind of enemy you find until you learn its tells. Fire Leo, however, becomes ThatOneBoss, since the only tells during his spin attack are audio cues with only subtle differences between them.
* ''VideoGame/PennAndTellersSmokeAndMirrors'' poked fun at this one with an impossible difficulty that was literally impossible. During the game you would get lasered, prompting the following quote:
-->'''Lou Reed:''' ''This is the impossible level, boys. Impossible doesn't mean very difficult; very difficult is winning the Nobel Prize. Impossible is eating the sun.''
* ''VideoGame/WarioLand4'' has a secret Super Hard difficulty level which pretty much puts health starting at one, adds about twenty times more enemies to the levels and massively cuts down on allowed time for level escapes and boss fights.
** Remember Palm Tree Paradise, the stage with the relaxing background vocals and pretty much the easiest aside from entry stage? On Super Hard mode you trip the Frog Switch ''as soon as you enter the stage''.
* ''VideoGame/DynamiteHeaddy'' had a secret difficulty mode, activated by holding START to start the game '''after''' the level select code has been entered. Essentially, one hit kills you.
* ''VideoGame/{{Iji}}'' has Normal, Hard, Extreme, and Ultimortal. The first three are pretty similar, you just recover less HP from red nanofields and can't level up as much, as well as enemies becoming smarter. Ultimortal (which you must beat Extreme to unlock) only lets you level up health (which means shotgun only and no skipping [[ThatOneBoss the penultimate boss]]) and imposes a [[TimedMission level timer]], as well as ''removing'' all non-blue nanofields, meaning you can't heal. At all. [[spoiler:And when you beat ''that'', you can unlock the "[[MemeticBadass reallyjoel's dad]]" difficulty.]]
* In ''VideoGame/{{Ristar}}'', a game for the Sega Genesis, there's Normal Mode, Hard Mode... and Super Mode, unlocked through a password. On Super Mode one hit means game over. However, you do get unlimited continues.
* ''VideoGame/CrescentPaleMist'', a game noted for being NintendoHard, has an Easy Mode, a Normal Mode, and a Hard Mode. After getting a certain Artifact from a certain enemy and spilling the blood of over 8,000 enemies in the original PC version ([[NotMakingThisUpDisclaimer we're not kidding]]), it unlocks Fear Mode. And what else is there after Fear Mode, you might ask?: Planeriel Mode, even worse than Fear Mode, and that's if you manage to find its artifact in the clutches of a BossInMookClothing.
* ''VideoGame/DistortedTravesty'' has "Distorted" difficulty. According to the creator, the game was originally far more difficult than its final incarnation ([[NintendoHard this is saying something]]), so he removed some sadistically placed traps and made the bosses a lot easier. Distorted restores the game to its original incarnation. Even the game's creator admitted to having severe difficulty beating his own creation on Distorted (and even then he didn't manage it until long after the game's public release).
* ''VideoGame/TheAngryVideoGameNerdAdventures'' has ''three'' different levels of this, [[SerialEscalation each harder than the last.]]
** Beating the game's normal hard mode ("Old-School") unlocks "Hard as Balls", where the weapons are weaker, the enemies are stronger, the {{Check Point}}s are invisible, and you have two hit points, five lives, three continues, ''and'' must beat the game without saving.
** Beating that unlocks "[[PrecisionFStrike Fucking]] Impossible", which, on top of everything from the above, makes you a OneHitPointWonder with no continues, [[CheckpointStarvation no checkpoints]], and no extra lives in the levels.
** Beating ''that'' unlocks "YOLO", which is basically ''VideoGame/IWannaBeTheGuy'''s Impossible mode - one hit point, no saving, and you must go back to the beginning if you get hit ''once''. ''You Only Live Once!''
* ''Lionheart'' for the Amiga has "Lionhard" above Hard.
* ''VideoGame/KnyttStories'' categorizes custom levels based on genre[[note]]platforming challenge, puzzle, maze, impossible to lose and only there for the sake of SceneryPorn, etc.[[/note]], map size, and difficulty. Regarding difficulty, some tougher challenges are marked Very Hard, or even Lunatic. Lunatic is, notably, the only category in any aspect that defies the naming conventions. Very Hard levels are commonly NintendoHard, while Lunatic levels... well, let's just say they pretty much live up to their name.
** There is a level titled ''Safety'', which is officially Lunatic, but has an in-level difficulty setting in which you can set it to something the level designer calls "Very Lunatic". Just let the fact that there's a level which is so hard that it gave the (already excruciatingly evil) Harder Than Hard difficulty its own Harder Than Hard difficulty sink in for a while.
* ''VideoGame/MegaManSuperFightingRobot'' has an "Insane" difficulty, unlocked by beating the game on Hard, which multiplies the enemies' damage output and gives the bosses new patterns and attacks.
* ''VideoGame/SonicHeroes'' has Super Hard difficulty. It's the Team Sonic campaign, where enemies are more numerous and durable.
* The ''VideoGame/{{Skylanders}}'' games starting with ''Giants'' all have a "Nightmare" difficulty unlocked for beating the game once. In the first few games playing it required you to create a new save, as unlike the other difficulties it couldn't be changed mid-game, but in ''[=SuperChargers=]'' this restriction was removed and also allowed you to play it right off the bat. Note that ''Swap Force'', ''[=SuperChargers=]'', and ''Imaginators'' refers to this difficulty level as being "for advanced players with a [[BadassArmy vast army of Skylanders]]."
* ''VideoGame/SuperMarioMaker'' has Super Expert, which is unlocked after clearing 100 Mario Challenge in Expert mode. Only six courses must be cleared to beat it, even fewer than Easy mode, but don't be fooled--courses in this category tend to be not only [[NintendoHard ridiculously difficult]] but also downright unfair, littered with sneaky deathtraps and TrialAndErrorGameplay. Even the best players often fail to complete this mode, especially if they try to do it [[SelfImposedChallenge without skipping any levels]]. Searching for Super Expert courses by themselves cannot be done with the in-game search filter--it's only possible on ''[[http://supermariomakerbookmark.nintendo.net/ Super Mario Maker Bookmark]]''.
* Browser game ''Raider'', both episodes, have 3 dificulty levels, Begginner, Intermediate and Expert. Normally it wouldn't qualify for this trope but Expert is only unlocked after beating game at Intermediate which is ''already'' NintendoHard, and described as being for people who either already know the lever or feel masochistic.
* VideoGame/HenryHatsworthInThePuzzlingAdventure has [[NewGamePlus Gentleman Mode]]. This difficulty takes an already challenging game and makes it ''harder'' by increasing the speed of the Puzzle Realm (and giving you less time to match pieces). In addition, the enemies deal much more damage and take less damage in return. Even if you buy every upgrade, you're still going to have a hard time dealing with everything the game throws your way. That includes the [[BrutalBonusLevel secret levels]] and the [[ThatOneBoss final boss.]] At least your save file has a spiffy gold hat to indicate this difficulty.
* ''VideoGame/GianaSistersTwistedDreams'' has two unlockable difficulty modes: Hardcore (no checkpoints) and Uber-Hardcore ([[FinalDeath only one life for the entire game.]])

[[folder:Puzzle Game]]
* ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}} [[VideoGame/PanelDePon Puzzle League]]'''s true ending can only be accessed on Very Hard. There's a Super Hard, but you don't get anything for your trouble except [[BraggingRightsReward a code to use a special character in Vs mode]].
** Similarly, ''Pokémon Puzzle Challenge'' has Super Hard and Intense above Hard.
* After beating [[VideoGame/PanelDePon Tetris Attack]] on Hard, you get a series of buttons to press that will allow you to play the game on Very Hard. Interestingly, the difficulty is still listed as Hard during the game, but you know the code worked because the difficulty-select screen's background turns red (and the enemies really are quite brutal).
** In the Japan-only GameCube sequel, beating Hard difficulty gives you the code for ''Super Hard'' difficulty, which is colored red like the preceding example. Clearing THAT will give you the code for ''Very Hard'', which is colored black and will put your skills to the ultimate test.
* ''VideoGame/TetrisTheGrandMaster ACE'''s 150-line time attack mode has Normal, with somewhat ''TGM''-esque speed curve. Hi-Speed 1 starts the game off at somewhat high speed, Hi-Speed 2 starts the game off at instant-drop speed. Then there's Another mode, in which the game starts off at instant-drop and timings shrink down with more line clears, similar to Death mode from [=TGM2=]. ''Then'' there's Another 2, which constantly remains at Another's maximum speed.
* The NES and Game Boy iterations of ''VideoGame/{{Tetris}}'' typically only allow you to start as high as level 9. However, a simple code allows you to set the starting level as high as 19.
* The puzzle game ''Franchise/{{Kirby}} Star Stacker'' has "Normal" (Represented by a happy Kirby face), "Hard" (Hesitant), "Very Hard" (Angry), and "Super Hard" (EyePop) difficulty levels. If you clear all of the puzzles on those levels, you get the aptly-named "Insane!" (WingdingEyes) difficulty. On "Insane!", the clear objectives rarely ever drop below 100, there are no intermissions between stages, and you have to clear 50 puzzles (as opposed to 16 on the previous difficulty levels) in order to win the game. Scoring exceptionally well on the Score Attack and Time Attack modes also unlocks their own "Insane!" difficulty, where drop speed and line clear speed are always maxed out.
* ''VideoGame/DrMario 64'' allows you to press two specific buttons to play on Super Hard difficulty, which doesn't pull punches, as you'd expect. In the Multiplayer, you can also press two combinations of buttons to ramp up the computer opponents to Hard and Super Hard as well. Good luck trying to beat [[FinalBoss Rudy]], [[BonusBoss Metal Mario, and Vampire Wario]] like this.
* ''VideoGame/SuperHexagon'' has six difficulty levels. The first three are "Hard", "Harder", and "Hardest". The unlockable ones are "Hardester", "Hardestest", and "Hardestestest".

[[folder:Real Time Strategy]]
* "Brutal" in ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquer: Generals'', though it should be noted that the game features no "Easy".
** ''C&C 3: Tiberium Wars'' adds AI personality modes, including a special mode called "Steamroller". Beating a Brutal Steamroller AI in a duel is a serious challenge even for highly experienced C&C players (but mostly because TheComputerIsACheatingBastard). The Xbox 360 version takes the AI difficulties from the PC version and adds [[TookALevelInBadass forty levels of ass-kicking.]] The ''medium'' difficulty setting will have an AI spamming you with Mammoth Tanks inside of ''five minutes.''
* ''VideoGame/{{Myth}}'' is a particularly amusing example of Creator/{{Bungie}}'s tendency to have little ditties referring to each level's difficulty setting; beating the game on higher levels would apparently give your character greater notoriety - from "The taste of success will turn to ashes in your mouth" to "In an age not yet dawned, your name will be spoken of as a God!"
* When adding AI Bots to a skirmish game in ''VideoGame/SupremeCommander'', the difficulty modes for each AI run from Easy to Hard to [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard Cheater]].
** It gets better in the Forged Alliance expansion pack - to provide a challenge for the elite tournament-level players, even the 'normal' difficulty setting plays with maximum efficiency. Said tournament-level players will wipe the floor with its bad tactical decisions, but the other 99% of the player base will wonder how the hell to get rid of the strike-force sized tank squadron that comes knocking on your doorstep two minutes in. Needless to say, the cheating AI levels are just brutal.
* ''VideoGame/StarcraftII'': Difficulties: Casual, Normal, Hard, and...'''Brutal'''. Described as "For Starcraft II veterans."
* If you win an honest game of ''VideoGame/AIWarFleetCommand'' with two level-10 AIs, then you need to report it as a [[http://www.arcengames.com/mantisbt/view.php?id=8373 bug]]. Level 10 is appropriately named "Doom." ("Hard" is level 8)

[[folder:Rhythm Game]]
* ''VideoGame/EliteBeatAgents'' for the DS has "Breezin'" and "Cruisin'" which are available when the game starts. Beating "Cruisin'" unlocks "Sweatin'". Beating "Sweatin'" (a feat in itself) unlocks "Hard Rock". Each difficulty has its own main character with the same two sidekicks for the first three difficulties. "Hard Rock" replaces the Agents with the Divas (basically their DistaffCounterpart). Interestingly, Hard Rock is just Sweatin' with smaller buttons, a quicker pace, and of course, [[DamnYouMuscleMemory everything is backwards]]. Have fun.
** The Japanese game ''VideoGame/OsuTatakaeOuendan'' has the exact same difficulty structure (though named "Light-heartedly", "Boldly", "Fervently", and "Gracefully" Cheer, from easiest), as ''EBA'' was a localized port of ''Ouendan''. ''Ouendan'' is more difficult overall though, as you cannot review a level when you fail to see how to improve, and you can't skip the cutscenes - groan. Oh, and you know how much the spinners are a pain in ''[=EBA=]''? They were specifically made ''easier'' than they were in ''Ouendan''. On top of that, while all of EBA's Hard ROCK! charts are the same as Sweatin's, only turned 180 degrees, some of ''Ouendan'''s Very Hard charts not only do that, but also make alterations to some of the charts; notes that are normally stacked will now be spread out, and the fourth part of "Shanghai Honey" now has notes at eighth-note intervals instead of quarter-note intervals, all while being spread out like quarter notes.
** Quicker pace means the buttons appear more suddenly, the actual speed of the song and notes to hit is not changed. This means you have to react more quickly to new markers appearing, with the slight benefit that less markers appear on-screen at a time, and possibly the timing is a little easier to see visually. Essentially like speed modifiers or hyperspeed in other rhythm games.
** ''Ouendan 2'' actually adds the occasional extra beat for songs in the Very Hard mode, presumably to trip up players who [[DamnYouMuscleMemory assume it'll be identical to the Hard mode based on what they know from the previous games]]. The fact that these extra notes are so few and far between actually makes them more insidious. However, it does now let you skip cutscenes, something that's appreciated after the twentieth consecutive restart on a Very Hard mode song.
** If you get enough overall points you can make ''Ouendan 2'' even harder by pressing a small icon on the select difficulty screen to get rid of the shrinking circles.
*** If you want to make all three games even harder you can calibrate your DS so that everything is reversed ('Mirror Mode'). Good luck...
** Also, the whole DS series is casual play compared to difficult beatmaps in ''VideoGame/{{Osu}}''. The official difficulty names are Easy, Normal, Hard, Insane and Expert (though difficulties called "Expert" are uncommon); however, players that make beatmaps are free to name the difficulties of their maps however they want as long as the names make sense: if a difficulty name doesn't seem to have any relationship with difficulty (and instead is named after a player), expect something really hard.
* ''VideoGame/GuitarHero'' has Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert. In ''VideoGame/GuitarHero III'', [[SequelDifficultySpike Hard feels like Expert used to]], Expert feels like an abomination, and ''[[ThatOneBoss Through the Fire and Flames]]'' is on a level all its own. There are also cheat codes that [[SelfImposedChallenge raise the difficulty]] to utterly terrifying levels. (Like turning off the fretboard entirely, leaving you to play the song from memory. Good luck with that.)
** ''Guitar Hero: Metallica'' and ''VideoGame/GuitarHero: Smash Hits'' added Expert+, a new difficulty exclusive for drums that adds a second bass pedal for songs whose part requires it. Thought YYZ and Beast and the Harlot were tough on Expert? Try to keep up with [[Music/{{Rush}} Neil Peart]] and [[Music/AvengedSevenfold The Rev]] at full speed.
** SpiritualSuccessor ''VideoGame/RockBand'' keeps the Easy, Medium, Hard, Expert difficulties. ''Rock Band 2'' also lists difficulties for all the instruments on each song from 0 to 5 dots ... or 5 demon heads for the truly brutal songs. ''Rock Band 3'' has "Pro" modes which use special controllers and certainly fit the bill, particularly for guitar, bass, and keys.
* ''VideoGame/DanceDanceRevolution'' has a difficulty named Oni/Challenge. For most songs, this is a difficulty harder than the usual Maniac/Heavy/Expert mode (names varying between versions). Good luck if the song is a boss song, as the Expert chart will be among the hardest Expert charts of all songs in the game, and the Challenge chart will be even harder than that.
** DDR clone ''VideoGame/InTheGroove'' does something very similar, with an Expert difficulty above the usual Hard difficulty. The ''easiest'' difficulty rating of any Expert chart is 9. They range up to 13, [[BrokeTheRatingScale even though the scale maxes out at 12]]. Compare to the hardest DDR boss songs at the time, which were rated no higher than 10 on a comparable scale, though some would have fit as an 11 if they were in [=ITG=].
* Similarly, '''VideoGame/PumpItUp'' has Normal mode and Hard mode. And then there's Crazy mode, which has charts that will make even the hardest of DDR charts look like walks in the park with relentless streams of notes as well as notes that make you hit ''three'' or even ''FOUR'' arrows at once (which require you to use your hands to hit unless you have Xbox-huge feet). What, not good enough for you? For those who like to use two pads at once, there's the Freestyle mode, which is the easier doubles difficulty, and the aptly-named Nightmare mode.
** And yes, there is at least one song requiring all five buttons, albeit at the end of a song after a short break in steps so that it won't mess you up unduly. Most dancers drop to hands and feet, using their knee or posterior to hit the center button. Songs with 3-4 arrows are fairly common at high difficulties.
** Doing fine with the normal mutli-arrow madness? Try any song difficulty marked "Another" for a harder version with stranger steps. Some of these, like Bee, actually have stepcharts on Another meant to be impossible.
* ''VideoGame/PopnMusic'' has 5- and 9-button charts for songs. Then there's the "Hyper" difficulty, which is a harder 9-button difficulty. And then there's "EX," which pushes the challenge yet another notch.
** Beginning with the 12th installment, '''VideoGame/{{Beatmania}} IIDX'''s difficulties were renamed from "Light 7," "7 Keys," and "Another" to "Normal," "Hyper," and "Another." The idea is that Normal/Light 7 is for casual players, Hyper is for more experienced players, and Another is for even better players.
*** Most Bemani rookies shouldn't have a problem with Pop 'n Music's 5-key, but I've seen numerous casual IIDX players get absolutely ''clobbered'' by Light 7. Many of them literally could not clear ''anything'' other than 5.1.1. The fact that all three levels have gone up (considerably) over time, and Konami ''still'' needed to make yet another level (Black Another), really tells you the kind of incredible dedication the IIDX fanbase has. Speaking of which...
*** ''IIDX 15 DJ TROOPERS'' also added unlockable BLACK ANOTHER charts. you had to clear the song on ANOTHER to get its BLACK ANOTHER chart (if it had one), and you can expect them to be in a field of their own, with one of them having 2626 notes total in just 2 short minutes, equal to 21 notes per second for the whole two minutes.
*** ''beatmania IIDX 21 SPADA'' introduces the ✝LEGGENDARIA difficulty, similar to BLACK ANOTHER, available only for the Spada✝leggendaria series of [[BossBattle Extra Stage songs]]. While the ✝LEGGENDARIA charts are a few steps down from BLACK ANOTHER charts, they are still not for the faint of heart; all of the ✝LEGGENDARIA charts are rated 12 (out of 12) and exceed 1900 notes. "Verflucht"'s ✝LEGGENDARIA chart is known for having the most notes of any arcade ''IIDX'' chart, at ''2401'' notes.
** ''Lunatic Rave 2'', a simulator of ''beatmania IIDX'', has three well-known ratings scales. The first is the standard 1-12 scale, transplanted straight from ''IIDX''. No surprises here. Playing this trope straight is the "hard" scale, which goes from 1 to 24, with level 1 being considered ''the equivalent of an 11 or 12 on the standard scale''. Above 24 is the "Overjoy" scale, from 0 to 7, and charts on the Overjoy scale...well...the less discussed about them, the better.
* Most songs in ''[=O2Jam=]'' have Easy, Normal, and Hard charts. You can pay to unlock [[NintendoHard "Super Hard"]] versions of songs, which are existing songs with new, harder-than-Hard charts. For example, the song "Eleventh Hour" is a manageable level 10 song on Hard, and a nightmarish level 32 song on Super Hard. One particular song, "Electro Fantasy," has an "HD" (no, not high-definition) remix with its own set of notecharts, and it is extremely difficult, even on Easy difficulty.
* ''VideoGame/LoveLiveSchoolIdolFestival'' had Expert difficulty, originally restricted to limited charts. While some of the expert hits are decently passable, the B-Sides take it [[UpToEleven up a notch,]] to the point where players who use their thumbs rather than index fingers begin to have a severe disadvantage. The version 4.0 update then made the Expert charts permanent and introduced Master difficulty, which demonstrated to players that relatively speaking Expert's difficulty ceiling isn't that high.
* ''VideoGame/TheIdolmasterCinderellaGirls Starlight Stage'' has Debut, Regular, Pro and Master as its regular difficulties, where the hardest Master songs already surpass SIF Expert. During events, however, the event song receives a special MASTER+ difficulty, which is exactly as you might expect.
* ''VideoGame/{{DJMAX}} Online'' offers Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulties for its songs. Okay. Then there's "MX," which is made hard not only by more difficult charts, but also penalizes you for excess button presses (referred to as [=FAULTs=]) and charges you 150 MAX (in-game currency) just to play it; for reference, you get about 10-20 MAX every time you finish a song, so to break even you should only play MX mode once every approximately 7-15 songs. Finally, there's "SC," which stands for "Super Crazy," and its charts live up to the name.
** ''DJMAX Technika'' has Lite, Popular, and Technical charts. If you're playing on a machine with Platinum Crew enabled, you can also gain access to Special charts, which, most of the time, are even more difficult. Fortunately, Special chart courses in Platinum Crew mode have the normal lifebar, rather than the stricter ''VideoGame/BeatmaniaIIDX''-style lifebar of Technical mode. ''Technika 2'' goes back to ''DJMAX'''s traditional naming conventions (Normal, Hard, and Maximum).
*** Of course this isn't exactly lovely; the Platinum Crew lifebar drains twice as fast as the Pop one per hit, making unlocking the extra Technical courses (Challenger, Conqueror, Specialists 1 and 2) not as easy as looks. An example is unlocking the Specialist set, whose mission involves clearing the FINAL SONG on the set in question.
* '''VideoGame/{{Phase}}'' starts with easy, medium and hard levels. By completing marathon mode at higher difficulty levels, you can unlock "expert" and "insane".
* ''VideoGame/TaikoDrumMaster'' has Easy, Medium, Hard, and "Oni" or Demon difficulties.
* ''VideoGame/SoundVoltex Booth'' has Novice and Advanced, followed by Exhaust. The sequel, ''Sound Voltex II -infinite infection-''adds the Infinite difficulty level, available only on select songs. The third game in the series, ''Sound Voltex III Gravity Wars'', adds the Gravity difficulty, which is the equivalent of Infinite but for charts introduced in ''Gravity Wars''.
* ''VideoGame/{{GITADORA}}'' traditionally has Basic, Advanced, and Extreme. ''[=GuitarFreaks=] & drummania XG'' introduces the Master difficulty, which is only available on some songs.
* ''VideoGame/ReflecBeat'' has Special difficulty, which is above Basic, Medium, and Hard. It is available only on a subset of songs. One song, "STELLAR WIND", subverts this trope, as its Hard chart is rated a 10+ but the Special chart is rated only a 10. ''Reflec Beat: The Reflesia of Etertnity''[='=]s White Hard difficulty is another subversion: it's usually just the Hard chart with ''Reflesia''-exclusive mechanics such as Big Bang Objects and Switch Long Objects added to the chart.
* In a way, any game with song difficulties on a scale of 1-10 that includes a 10+ rating counts as well.
* ''VideoGame/CrossBeats'' and ''crossbeats REV.'':
** Both games feature a Hard chart difficulty followed by Master and, in ''REV.'' only, Unlimited. Not every ''REV.'' song has an Unlimited chart. To unlock the Unlimited chart for a specific song, you need to fulfill a particular requirement (such as getting an S+ grade or a Full Combo). [[HardModePerks Clearing a chart on Unlimited well enough will give you an additional Rank Point boost on top of what you'd normally get.]]
** The {{Life Meter}}s, particularly on ''crossbeats REV.''[[note]]Survival is not available in ''CROSS×BEATS''[[/note]]: Normal, Survival, and Ultimate. Ultimate is similar to Survival (gauge starts out full and you pass if you have any life at the end like on Normal, but unlike Normal, run out and it's an instant GameOver), ''but'' only Flawless judge ranks will increase your meter by a small amount--''one tenth of a percent'' to be exact--anything else will subtract from the bar instead. This makes it one of the few rhythm games where it's plausible to fail in the middle of a combo, or worse, ''without breaking combo at all''. [[HardModePerks Clearing a chart on Survival or Ultimate will append a multiplier to your Rank Points.]]
* ''[[VideoGame/FreQuency Amplitude (2016)]]'' has the standard "Easy", "Normal", "Hard", and "Expert" difficulty settings. The reward for completing all of the songs on Expert is the "Super" difficulty, which uses the same patterns as Expert, but 1) energy does not regenerate at checkpoints, 2) completed tracks regenerate faster, and 3) the only available power-up for use is the Multiplier.
* ''VideoGame/AikatsuPhotoOnStage'' has legendary difficulty above hard, which is available in select songs.
* ''VideoGame/EightBeatStory'' has Expert and [[spoiler:Mother]] difficulties above hard. The latter is available only during events.
* ''VideoGame/{{maimai}}'' has Master difficulty above Expert. Unless you're playing on a machine with online funcionality disabled, you need an S rank (97% Achievement Rate) or higher on a song's Expert chart to unlock the Master chart. Then there's Re:Master difficulty which takes it up a notch, requiring a clear of the Master chart.
* ''VideoGame/GrooveCoaster'' has Extra difficulty, which is exclusive to the arcade versions and requires clearing a song's Simple, Normal, and Hard charts with an S rank on each of them to unlock.
* ''VideoGame/{{Chunithm}}''[='=]s difficulties go Basic, Advanced, Expert, and ''Master''. Certain songs go even further and have ''WORLD'S END'' charts, which usually have [[GimmickLevel gimmicks not seen in other songs]], like [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hikLHOuM2gQ DDR-style stops]].
* ''Neon FM'' has the Hard range of chart difficulties, and then beyond that there's the Very Hard difficulty range. ''Then'' there is Pro Mode, which is the song's hardest available chart but instead of being bumped down a difficulty if you run out the LifeMeter, it's an instant GameOver.
* ''VideoGame/{{Arcaea}}''[='=]s chart difficulty level scale goes from 1 to 9, and then ''9+''. [[spoiler:It did, at first. Then the hidden boss track "Grievous Lady" was added to the game; the track has a Future chart rated ''10'' (and the only one rated such), making the 9+ level a subversion now.]]


* The later dungeons in '''VideoGame/DesktopDungeons'' can get pretty tough, but if that's not enough for you, you can prep a Vicious Token, bumping up any dungeon's difficulty to that of the [[BonusDungeon Bonus Dungeons]].
* ''Videogame/DoomTheRoguelike'', has, similarly to original Doom, the [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Nightmare!]] difficulty. The player is slower, enemies come in spades (''fifty'' enemies on a single floor are not uncommon), they are more aggressive and more accurate. And they [[RespawningEnemies respawn]] for good measure (unless you know how to dispose of their corpses). Have fun. At least some benefits form the EasierThanEasy mode (double ammo, double healing, double power-up duration and an experience) are back.
* In ''VideoGame/TalesOfMajEyal'', the Nightmare difficulty features higher monster levels (and with that, more and better skills) - but this a "standard" Hard mode (of an already hard game). Then there's Insane mode - compare Nightmare to Normal, and apply the difficulty increase to Nightmare. And ''then'' there's Madness, the true Harder Than Hard mode - to get the idea, apply the difficulty increase mentioned earlier to Insane. After a year since this mode was introduced to the game, there are nine recorded wins out of about 6000 attempts. Again, have fun.
* ''VideoGame/SlashEmExtended'' has the Alien race and Bleeder role, carrying large disadvantages like being weighed down by a heavy, undroppable stone and taking double damage. In a game that is [[NintendoHard Nintendo Hard]] already, this means only the most experienced players will even survive the early levels with them.
** There are some ways to make the game harder by giving the player character a certain name: "Blindfox" (the character is forever unable to see), "Hippie" (can't recognize items and monsters for what they really are) and "lostsoul" (start on a deep dungeon level as a level 1 character, with no easy way to escape).
* ''VideoGame/CryptOfTheNecrodancer'': Is [[OneHitPointWonder Aria]] too easy to play? Have no trouble avoiding gold as Monk? Your reflexes and rhythm sharp enough to handle Bolt? Can you beat an All Zone Run with every character back-to-back? Then you get the honor of unlocking Coda, who has all the disadvantages of Aria, Monk, and Bolt. To sum it up, you die in one hit, picking up gold kills you, you're stuck using a plain old dagger, and you have to hit every beat ''at double speed''. The character select screen even describes it as "Probably Impossible!". To convey how brutal this challenge is: Out of a playerbase of over half a million players, less than '''30''' people have verified legitimate Coda All Zones clears.
** Also worth mentioning that merely ''unlocking'' Coda is in itself an extremely difficult challenge. To do so, you must win an All Characters run. That means beating the game in All Zones with the other nine characters, in a row, without dying or restarting, including the insta-death on gold Monk, the blazingly fast Bolt, and mandatory flawless Aria. The fact that you can play them in any order you want is barely a relief to one of the most grueling, stamina-testing, and mastery-evaluating modes the game includes. First-timers beating this mode can expect to spend around ''two and a half hours'' of playtime, just to unlock a character that is considered even harder than the challenge required to unlock it.
* Many ''VideoGame/NetHack'' Ivariants allow you play as a Convict, which means you start the (already difficult) game nearly starving and chained to a heavy iron ball.
* Although it's not an official difficulty, ''VideoGame/TheBindingOfIsaac: Afterbirth+'' introduced the [[ThatOneSidequest Ultra Hard challenge]], where no hearts ever drop, all enemies are champions, the player suffers from Curse of the Labyrinth, Lost, Maze, and Blind every floor, every boss fight is Double Trouble when possible, and the player has to go to the Dark Room instead of The Chest. [[NintendoHard It's somewhat unfair]], but as it's a challenge, only has to be done once.

[[folder:Role Playing Game]]
* ''VideoGame/DragonsCrown'' has an unlockable Hard mode after beating the game the first time, then an ''Infernal'' mode after beating the game on Hard. And if you manage to beat the final boss on Infernal you can go to '''Ultimate''' difficulty.
* ''[[VideoGame/TalesSeries Tales of...]]'' games feature an unlockable difficulty for a NewGamePlus file usually called Mania or Unknown. This difficulty level is unrelentingly brutal. Some monsters with multi-hit attacks can drop you from 100% HP to 0% in the blink of an eye. Some bosses, especially the ones that use [[LimitBreak Mystic Artes]] become absolute nightmares. ''VideoGame/TalesOfVesperia'' bosses such as [[spoiler:Duke's true final form, Schwann, Alexei, and Kratos]] possess the potential to instantly kill your entire party with their Mystic Arte.
** Unknown in ''VideoGame/TalesOfTheAbyss'' is a little ridiculous: the very first battle against a common enemy in Unknown will take [[ScratchDamage 1 damage]] from all of your attacks!
** ''VideoGame/TalesOfZestiria'' actually offers six different difficulty modes. Normal is default, but there is also Simple for those that want things really easy. Moderate is the next step up and Hard is actually the fourth hardest. The hardest are Intense and Chaos. Both of these can actually be accessed in a regular playthrough, but you have to fight a number of Battles on Hard to unlock Intense and a number on Intense to unlock Chaos. In a New Game Plus, Intense and Chaos are available by default, but aren't nearly as challenging necessarily because you can unlock a number of boosts, including as much as 6X EXP per battle.
* ''Franchise/KingdomHearts'': The recurring Critical difficulty is a step up from Proud, the equivalent of a standard Hard. Max HP is cut (the percentage varies between games), enemies do twice to three times the amount of damage, and in some games the player's damage output is cut in half. You'll also get EXP Zero for free, in case you want to do a LowLevelRun on top of everything else.
* ''VideoGame/LegendOfMana'' only allows Normal difficulty the first time through, but on accessing NewGamePlus, lets players also pick Nightmare and No Future modes. At the last option, even with a level-capped character and some of the ultimate reward weapons, players might be overwhelmed by a single [[KillerRabbit rabite]].
** Specifically, No Future mode results in ''every'' enemy being level 99, along with boosted offense and defense. Playing this mode without a level 99 character and some of the best armor in the game means you're dead in one hit. With those two things? ...two hits.
* ''VideoGame/MassEffect1'' has the unlockable "Hardcore" (after finishing the game once) and "Insanity" (after finishing a playthrough on Hardcore) difficulties, the latter of which proves to be, well, ''insane''. It's not impossible to beat but you'll have to get up to level 50 just to reach a point where every battle ''isn't'' a brutal, intense life-or-death struggle. Insanity doesn't just [[NumericalHard make the enemies have more health and do more damage]] - [[DynamicDifficulty all enemies scale up as your level does]]. And all Bosses, Sub-bosses, non-Mooks constantly use powers and have immunities to everything you can throw at them.
** ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'' gives us the difficulty levels named the same (which are available from the start), but unlike the first game, [[PlayerCharacter Shepard]] has no immediate access to immunities and such (besides a few bonus skills that temporarily increase shields for up to 100%), has to rely solely on their trusty health, shield and cover, and most importantly, has to do so with limited ammo. As the difficulty ramps up, enemies become smarter, faster, more accurate and ALL OF THEM gain damage resistances such as shields (making them perfectly on par with Shepard and the squaddies) and/or an armor layer. Add to this a bonus damage percentage of about 9000%, which means that if out of cover, 3 shots from an assault rifle will drop all of Shepard's shields, and about five shots will outright kill them.
** ''VideoGame/MassEffect3'' takes it further with its co-op multiplayer mode. Originally, there were three difficulty modes, Bronze, Silver and Gold, which were roughly equal to Normal, Hardcore and Insanity in the singleplayer mode, in addition to spawning harder enemies earlier and more the higher the difficulty. And ''then'' the ''Earth'' expansion pack added the Platinum difficulty, which ramps up the health and damage of enemies ''even more'' as well as adding enemies from other factions. Normally, even on Gold, you wouldn't face the toughest enemies until at least Wave 3, but Platinum spawns these as early as Wave 1. Not just that, but later waves add in enemies from other factions, which means that you will now fight all the game's DemonicSpiders '''at the same time'''.
* Jupiter's ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou'' starts off on Normal, gives you Easy, then gives you Hard, then lets you unlock Ultimate yourself.
** Naturally, to get the ''real'' ending you have to go back and beat all the bosses on Hard or Ultimate, though it ends up being a BraggingRightsReward due to the extreme briefness of the extra scene.
* ''VideoGame/Persona3'' originally featured two difficulty levels, Easy and Normal. The expansion ''Persona 3 FES'' added Hard mode, which took the already difficult Normal Mode and cranked it [[UpToEleven up to 11]]. (In addition, the bonus chapter has all the difficulty of Hard Mode, with the added bonuses of denying Social Link and Persona Compendium use.) ''Persona 3 Portable'' takes it even further by adding '''Maniac''' mode, in which enemies hit twice as hard as normal (as opposed to 1.5 times as hard in Hard mode), certain Weapon Fusions are unavailable, and the game's NewGamePlus feature is disabled for that cycle, forcing you to start ''all over again''. No summoning Lucifer at level 5 for you!
** This has carried over to ''VideoGame/Persona4 The Golden'' (where it's listed as "Very Hard") and the title screen '''''[[http://i47.tinypic.com/1e2wif.jpg literally states]]''''' that this difficulty is for people who hate themselves.
** The crossover between the two, ''VideoGame/PersonaQShadowOfTheLabyrinth'', has the [[{{Understatement}} Risky]] difficulty. Not only is it incredibly hard, but it brings back that otherwise-absent series standard of [[WeCannotGoOnWithoutYou instant loss if the protagonist dies]]. Furthermore, while the other four difficulty levels can be switched between at will, once you pick Risky you're locked into it for the whole game. Playing the Persona 3 story on Risky leaves you with the difficult issue of the protagonist being weak to the instakill Dark spells (which mean that if an enemy uses one on him it ''will'' hit and kill him), which are more common here than in any other SMT game. As in, the AI can just choose to make you immediately Game Over against certain enemies and there isn't a whole lot you can do about it.
** ''VideoGame/Persona5'' has a DLC difficulty above "Hard" called "Merciless", which gives enemies even higher stats ''and'' turns everyone into a GlassCannon by adding a [=2.5x=] multiplier to critical damage. If you get a critical hit, technical or exploit a weakness, just about every opponent and party member other than bosses can be killed instantly.
* ''VideoGame/ValkyriaChronicles'' has EX Hard Mode available as DLC content. Basically, you cannot take Edelweiss; your troops, even maxed out at level 20 with all upgrades, will fall over to a slight breeze; and everything headshots you, ''including enemy tanks''.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyCrystalChronicles: Echoes of Time'' has Normal, Hard, and Very Hard selectable when you go to do a NewGamePlus after beating the previous difficulty level. What they don't tell you is that each subsequent play-through of Very Hard is actually harder than the last, all the way up to the 10th time you do so. At Very Hard 10, a level 99 character who was leveled with stat growth items so as to max all their stats at 999 will still take hundreds of damage from attacks in the ''first area'' of the game.
* Event dungeons in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyRecordKeeper'' have Heroic difficulty, in which enemies often drop 5-star items, on top of the reward for completing and mastering the dungeon also consisting of 5-star items. + difficulty is even harder than Heroic, and ++ difficulty is ''even harder'' than +. This progression continues to this day as Power Creep grows worse with time. After ++ came +++, then Ultimate, then Ultimate+, then Ultimate++, then Apocalypse, then Apocalypse+, finally there's ??? stages that hide their true level and can range upwards of difficulty 350 (the aforementioned Heroic caps at difficulty 99, and Apocalypse+ is 220).
* Maniacs difficulty in the newer ''Franchise/ShinMegamiTensei'' games, as well as the Apocalypse DLC difficulty in ''VideoGame/ShinMegamiTenseiIVApocalypse''.
* ''[[VideoGame/ValkyrieProfile Valkyrie Profile 2]]'' features an interesting form of NewGamePlus mechanics. When you complete the game and the bonus dungeon, your next playthrough is somewhat more difficult. If you beat the game enough times to max out the difficulty spike, every enemy in the game has been ramped up by ''250%''.
** ''Covenant Of the Plume'' fully expects you to not go for [[EarnYourHappyEnding path A]] until a NewGamePlus. Trying to complete the A path stages on your first playthrough is...unadvisable.
* ''[[VideoGame/StarOcean Star Ocean: Til the End of Time]]'' has 4D Mode, where it is most easily summed up by saying if you select this difficulty, Tri-Ace hates you and wants you to fail.
* ''VideoGame/ParasiteEve2'' has a long list of regular difficulty-levels, including 'Extreme', which rendered the already-tough Armored Golems nearly indestructible, capable of taking several grenade-hits head on. And then there's 'Nightmare', which basically has you start out with less than half your normal health, and removes most of the weapons from the game. Yep, that's right - the arsenal that you'd normally accumulate, from stores and pickups, just isn't THERE anymore. Neither is most of those nice boxes of 'Infinite Common Ammo'. And you can't refill non-ammo weapons, such as the Taser, Laser, and Flamethrower attachments until right before the final boss. There's a few places where you can fill up on the basic 9mm ammo, but other than that, every bullet counts. You'll end up fighting your way through the first half of the game (including a boss-fight against a three-story mutant giant with a face-mounted flame-thrower) armed with an LP-08 Luger - and the second half of the game will be fought mostly with a bayonet-equipped assault-rifle, since you have to save all your good ammo for the bosses. And did I mention that the enemies are nearly as tough as they are in Extreme?
* ''VideoGame/TheWitcher2AssassinsOfKings'' has the Insane difficulty. You take even more damage and it makes death permanent. You die, the saves of that playthrough are deleted and you have to start the game from the beginning.
** The 2.0 patch also adds Dark Mode. It's even harder than Insane but without permanent death and it adds some new item sets which have to be completed or you will take damage over time when they are equipped. It also slightly changes the lighting of the game to be darker.
* ''VideoGame/{{Fallout}}'':
** In ''VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas'''s Hardcore mode[[labelnote:*]]Which is a separate modifier than game difficulty, which just affects your damage done and taken.[[/labelnote]], ammo has weight, Stimpaks and Rad-Away heal over time instead of instantly, crippled limbs can only be healed by a doctor or special items, [[FinalDeath dead companions stay dead]], and [[WizardNeedsFoodBadly food, drink and sleep are required]] to prevent a progressive decrease in stats leading to eventual death.\\
Project director J.E. Sawyer released a GameMod for the PC version that makes it even more hardcore. Base carrying weight is reduced by 100, the XP increase rate is halved, dehydration, hunger, and sleep deprivation rates are doubled, Stimpaks have weight and most are "expired", making them less effective, among other changes. On the plus side, it's also a rebalance patch that makes several early game items and PowerArmor more effective.
** In ''VideoGame/{{Fallout 4}}'', Survival difficulty originally merely made HP recovery and Rad removal much slower, made most normal enemies bullet sponges, and greatly increased the frequency of [[BossInMookClothing Legendary enemies]]. However, the 1.5 update completely overhauls it to include all of the trappings of ''FNV'''s Hardcore mode and then some more, such as diseases that have to be treated with antibiotics or crafted herbal medicines, fatigue, no fast-travel except to the Institute and back out above it, no EnemyDetectingRadar unless you have a Recon scope, [[CheckPointStarvation saves restricted to beds]], limb damage from being overencumbered, more lethal combat damage to both the player and enemies, and slower enemy and loot respawns. Unlike ''FNV'', followers aren't subject to FinalDeath[[labelnote:*]]Doing so could make the main quest unwinnable because some companions are needed to advance it.[[/labelnote]]; they are instead sent back to their place of recruitment if KO'ed and you are unable to heal them.
* ''VideoGame/SwordOfTheStars: The Pit'' has "Insane" and "Seriously?!" (this one available only with the DLC) difficulties. How bad is "Seriously?!" There are only two recorded clears of it.
* ''VideoGame/DarkSouls2'': While the main game is [[NintendoHard famously difficult]] already, those who crave an extra challenge can join the Covenant of Champions (available at the very start of the game) to up the ante even further. Not only are enemies' stats increased and yours decreased so that enemies are roughly twice as powerful as the vanilla game, the enemy AI is noticeably improved to use better tactics, other players will invade you more often, you cannot summon friendly players for co-op, and as of the ''Scholar of the First Sin'' content release, it makes all enemies spawn indefinitely (in the regular game, defeating an enemy around 15 times will have it stay dead permanently).
* The multiplayer mode in ''VideoGame/DragonAgeInquisition'' shipped with three difficulties: Routine, Perilous, and Threatening. A patch eventually added the Nightmare difficulty, which is this...and [[UpToEleven then there's Heartbreaker]], which was accidentally made available in the Nightmare patch.
** In case Nightmare difficulty just wasn't hard enough for you (enemies have much higher health, resurrecting party members restores only the minimum amount of health to survive), the Trespasser DLC added "Trials", optional difficulty features for the single-player game which the player can toggle on or off. These include giving the enemy AI more and harder-hitting abilities, randomly promoting enemies, making all enemies scale to at least the player's level, and making all health potions heal only 1 health. These even come with the explicit warning that they may occasionally break your game. But for many dedicated players, playing on anything less than Nightmare with at least ''some'' Trials suggests a lack of dedication.
* The Nightmare mode in ''VideoGame/DragonAgeII'' was, infamously, never fully playtested. As the game was developed and released in a hurry, this was never fixed. As a consequence the [[FriendlyTarget Friendly Fire]] feature of Nightmare makes it nigh unplayable, as any playable characters who deal area-of-effect damage are liable to wipe your entire party.
* In ''VideoGame/OdinSphere'', collecting all text, recipes and alchemy mixtures, or simply beating the game in the UpdatedRerelease, grants you access to Heroic Mode. In Heroic Mode, your HP never increases, which means you both have to get ''really'' good at dodging attacks and do everything you can to increase your attack power.
* In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfHeroesTrailsOfColdSteel'', Nightmare difficulty is intended to be this if you choose it from the start. If you choose it on NewGamePlus, however, you can carry all your levels and equipment, etc., from the first playthrough, which effectively makes it ridiculously easy throughout most of the game right up until around the end when your levels become comparable to those of the enemies again.
* ''VideoGame/AtelierSophieTheAlchemistOfTheMysteriousBook:'' has Easy, Normal, Hard, and Despair.
* Most ''VideoGame/MonsterHunter'' {{Updated Rerelease}}s have G-Rank missions, coming after the already tough High Rank. Enemy health and attack power is buffed up even more than High Rank, to the point that some enemies' moderately powerful attacks can two-shot you from maximum possible health, even if you have decent defense. Just like High Rank, you spawn in a random spot of the map and supplies are not delivered until far into the mission. Some enemies gain new attacks, and some move and attack faster (''double speed'' Great Jaggi, anyone?). And there's always the chance you could end up running into a really nasty unexpected monster like Savage Deviljho or Apex Rajang on just about every mission. The game expects you to take on these missions with up to four players, and are balanced as such. Good luck soloing them. Accessing these missions often requires defeating an extremely durable DamageSpongeBoss that can take a while to defeat even with G-Rank weaponry. You earn top-of-the-line materials to make the game's [[InfinityPlusOneSword Infinity +1 Swords]], but at this point they're less GameBreaker and more ''necessary to survive''. And that's before you get into the actual missions, some of which throw multiples of ThatOneBoss ''at the same time''. Only the best hunters succeed here.
* ''VideoGame/TokyoMirageSessionsFE'': It has Lunatic mode, unlocked after you finish the game's first playthrough. While on any other difficulty you're allowed to switch, if you pick Lunatic you're locked into it so that there's no respite. Your characters deal 50% less damage than usual, while enemies deal 50% more. Nothing is carried over from the playthrough before it except for costumes. The one perk is that the shops have all their items immediately available instead of making them available as you advance in the game.
* ''Videogame/EpicBattleFantasy'' and its sequels have the standard DifficultyLevels of Easy, Normal (the base difficulty), and Hard. And then there's [[IdiosyncraticDifficultyLevels Epic Mode]]. Enemies in this mode deal '''a lot''' more damage than Normal across the entire series and can have bonuses that further aid them in battle, rendering buffs and (in later games) proper resistances imperative!
** In the first two games, Epic mode amplifies the offensive stats of enemies by 40%. Then in ''3'', this becomes ''60%''. And in ''4'', these stats are outright '''doubled'''!
** EBF ''1'' and ''4'' increase enemy HP with the harder difficulties (for Hard and Epic respectively: 20% and 40% like with offensive stats in ''1'', and 22% and 44% in ''4''). All four games reduce enemy HP on Easy as well as their offensive stats.
* Lords of Xulima is a really prominent example. On the lowest difficulty setting enemies will be very slow and die in 1 hit. On the next lowest enemies are still heavily hamstrung. On the third a few new rules kick in but the game's still fairly easy with some common sense building. The fourth is the same as the third but you cannot save scum. The fifth and hardest starts with the fourth and then buffs it. Massively. Then adds a bunch of optional bosses, some of which are harder than the storyline bosses AFTER the storyline bosses were buffed. And given minions, better skills, AI, regeneration... It is entirely beatable with rock solid tactics and timing, but only two people have done so in as many years. One of them made it, the other used an exploit.

[[folder:Shoot Em Up]]
* The shoot-em-up ''Space Megaforce'' (also known as ''VideoGame/SuperAleste'') has five difficulty settings: Normal, Hard, Hyper, Tricky, and Wild. The latter two cause enemies to fire bullets at you when they die.
** Creator/{{Compile}}, the team behind ''Space Megaforce'', did the same thing two years earlier with 1990's ''VideoGame/GunNac''. One of the options on ''Gun Nac''[='=]s configuration screen is labeled "(No) Ricochet of Bullets", which implements the same "dying shot" behavior from enemies. However, "ricochet of bullets" is an independent setting, thus making it available for the game's four difficulty levels.
* Each ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'' game has Easy, Normal, Hard, and Lunatic. Whereas Hard is considered arcade-level difficulty (as described in ''Embodiment of Scarlet Devil''[='=]s difficulty select), Lunatic is where the game series derives half of its infamy, especially for fans new to the ShootEmUp genre; the other half comes from the [[BonusDungeon Extra]] [[BonusBoss Stages]].
** And then there are of course people who give the games CAVE-like Ultra Modes, which sometimes only seem possible because the maximum number of bullets on the screen is limited by the game. [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGTLt9K7OhM Observe Touhou 12 on Ultra Difficulty.]]
** ''Touhou 13: Ten Desires'' has some spellcards, which, when played and captured on all the other difficulties in spell practice mode, can then be played in a ''fifth'' difficulty: Overdrive.
* ''VideoGame/{{Tyrian}}'' has three difficulty levels (Easy, Normal, Hard) and ''three more'' hidden difficulty levels, called Impossible, Suicide, and Lord of Game. Impossible doesn't live up to its name, only being a little tougher than Hard. Suicide comes close to living up to its name, given how fast the enemy shots fly. Lord of Game is so hard you won't be accusing any difficulty below Suicide of being too hard. Pray to Zinglon if you end up having to play a level with lots of automated turrets on it on this difficulty.
** [[spoiler:Type "ENGAGE" at the main menu and]] you get access to a hidden gameplay mode (which unlike the other hidden gameplay modes does allow you to save your game). The catch is that you end up on Lord of Game difficulty (though there is a trick you can use to lower the difficulty ... to Suicide), your ship's weapon is pretty wimpy, and you have to figure out the game's special moves to really have a chance of making any progress.
* The famously difficult ''VideoGame/CrystalQuest'' was designed for first and second generation UsefulNotes/{{Mac}}s, with the option to play at uninhibited speed on the latter's faster CPU. High scores obtained in this mode appeared in italics.
* ''VideoGame/MushihimeSama'' has three difficulty settings: an "Original" mode with fast, though minimal bullets; a "Maniac" mode with denser, BulletHell-style bullets and a more complex scoring system; then there's "Ultra" mode, which is Maniac mode on horse steroids; in fact, if you try to select Ultra, you get a warning screen that asks if you really want to try it--it's THAT bad. Good luck on beating it without getting a seizure.
** And of course, you fight the [[ThatOneBoss nigh-impossible]] TrueFinalBoss at the end.
** The Black Label ExpansionPack of ''Mushihime-sama Futari'' (which in the arcade version was an UpdatedRerelease) replaces Ultra mode with God mode. However, God Mode is actually ''[[NonIndicativeDifficulty easier]]'' than Ultra; suicide bullets, for instance, are far less common, and there's much more (deliberately-implemented) slowdown. Its TrueFinalBoss, despite having a much more grandiose presentation than Ultra's, is also easier due to the aforementioned slowdown, and even has a ''safespot'' in her last phase.
* ''VideoGame/{{Darius}}'':
** ''Darius Gaiden'', in addition to the four main modes (Easy, Normal, Hard, and Very Hard) has two unlockable modes: Very Easy and Abnormal. Choosing the latter difficulty is almost the equivalent of playing a ''[[BulletHell danmaku]]'' shooter [[HitboxDissonance without the ridiculously small hitbox]].
** ''Dariusburst Another Chronicle'' has two sets of stage trees. The basic one has three start points, labeled Easy, Normal, and Hard. The second one, the Exceed tree, has start points labeled [[AddedAlliterativeAppeal Expert, Extreme, and Exceed]].
* The freeware BulletHell ShootEmUp ''[[http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~cs8k-cyu/windows/noiz2sa_e.html Noiz2sa]]'' offers an endless mode with four levels of difficulty: Normal, Hard, Extreme, and Insane. The first three difficulty levels share the same music, but [[ThisIsGonnaSuck Insane has its own music]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Raiden}} IV'', in addition to two EasierThanEasy difficulties, one of which disables bullets, and the Very Hard setting, has the harder than harder than hard Ultimate difficulty.
* ''VideoGame/{{DeathSmiles}}'' normally allows you to select a difficulty level for each stage (Level 1, 2, or 3). Mega Black Label mode has an extra setting - Level 999 - where the bullets fly fast and furiously at you, and enemies leave behind large amounts of suicide bullets when they die.
* ''VideoGame/AlltynexSecond'' has the ludicrous Suicide Bullet difficulty only unlockable by beating the game on hard.
* ''VideoGame/{{Phalanx}}'' on the SNES has "Funny" as the hardest difficulty.
* "Cruel" in ''[[VideoGame/{{Aleste}} Robo Aleste]]''. (In the Japanese version, where difficulty levels are named after ninja ranks, the highest difficulty is "Nukenin," meaning Fugitive Ninja.)
* ''U.N. Squadron'' on SNES has a hidden "Gamer" difficulty setting, selected by highlighting Hard in the Options menu, holding X and A on controller 2, and pressing Right on the D-Pad.
* ''[[VideoGame/RType Super R-Type]]'' has a "Pro" setting, which is not selectable from the Options menu. You have to beat the game on Hard, and then you will play the second loop on Pro mode for the GoldenEnding.
* ''Gate of Thunder'' has three difficulty levels: Normal, Hard, and Devil.
* ''VideoGame/{{Stellavanity}}'' has six difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, Arcade, Hard, Nightmare, Pandemonium. Hard is already extremely challenging. Nightmare is ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin. Pandemonium? The less it's discussed, the better.
* ''[[VideoGame/JamestownLegendOfTheLostColony Jamestown]]'' starts with four difficulties: Normal, Difficult, Legendary, and Divine. Beat all of those (and you will, since in order to unlock all the levels, you need to ultimately beat every preceeding level on Divine), and you earn the right to purchase an even harder difficulty level called Judgement.
* ''Re: VideoGame/LunacyStar'' has four normal difficulty levels the main game can be played on: Beginner, Standard, Advanced, as well as Hopeless, which is already a Harder Than Hard mode. Then there's a Touhou-style Extra stage, which can only be played on Second Story, a fifth difficulty, which unlike its Touhou counterparts is considerably harder than Hopeless. THEN there's a ''sixth'' difficulty, called Chaos Drive, which can only be played in a few specific attacks in Attack Practice mode, and puts both Hopeless and Second Story to shame. ''Then'', all of the above can be played along with Turbo Mode, a special option which makes everything 50% faster. Turbo Advanced is already a complete nightmare.
* Subverted by ''Starhall Redthel'', which at first glance appears to be an example with its three difficulty levels being named Original, Hell, and Chaosside. However, the game considers the normal baseline game mode to be Hell, while Original contains EasyModeMockery.
* The UsefulNotes/SegaGenesis version of Creator/{{Toaplan}}'s ''Hellfire'' has the hidden "Yea Right" difficulty.
* The ''VideoGame/ThunderForce'' series has "Very Hard" for ''II'' for the Sharp X68000, "Mania" for ''III'', "Maniac" for ''IV'', "Master" for ''V'' for the UsefulNotes/PlayStation, and "Maniac" again for ''VI''.
* ''VideoGame/LenEn'', based on ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'', has Easy, Normal, Hard, and lastly "Unreal" rather than "Lunatic". It's aptly named. The Extra stages also come in three difficulties: Easy, Normal, and the appropriately-named ''Absurdly''.
* ''Storm the House 3'' has very typical difficulty level names (Easy, Normal, Hard) up until the last one: WHY GOD!?
* ''[[VideoGame/EpicBattleFantasy Bullet Heaven 2]]'' has Normal, Hard and Heavenly. On top of increasing the bullets normally fired, the latter two cause enemies to release [[TakingYouWithMe suicide bullets]] upon death, with Heavenly increasing these as well. In addition, there's a list of handicaps you can buy and use that can ramp the difficulty UpToEleven when combined with Heavenly. Suffice to say, this game ranges from accessible to downright NintendoHard, even if not as bad as some of the above examples.
* ''VideoGame/BlueRevolver'' has Parallel difficulty above Normal and Hyper. Whereas Normal keeps the [[DynamicDifficulty rank]] locked to the two lowest of five levels and Hyper offers the full range of rank, Parallel keeps it locked at max level and introduces a TrueFinalBoss at the end of the game if you get there on one credit.

[[folder:Simulation Game]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Silent Hunter|Series}} 4'' has "Realistic", which many players will actually consider the standard difficulty: any (warfare) simulation game which comes with anything less than an almost completely realistic mode tends to get scolded for it by the hardcore fans of the genre. Unrealistic modes are for people looking for a game instead of a simulation.
* The ''VideoGame/AceCombat'' series (as of ''VideoGame/AceCombat04ShatteredSkies'', at least) features difficulty modes Expert and Ace, wherein the 'missile warning' sound (which usually means 'oh crap, evade!') is on so often that it basically becomes white noise. However, Ace mode has its upside too. It's much easier to get an S ranking on all missions on Ace than any other difficulty. Mind you, it's because you ''have'' to fly well to even survive.
** Also, in ''VideoGame/AceCombat5TheUnsungWar'', the Ace difficulty tripled the speed with which your plane's kill gauge filled up, allowing for ''much'' faster upgrading.
** ''VideoGame/AceCombat6FiresOfLiberation'' has an Extreme and Aces difficulty mode. Extreme is hard enough, where just one missile can kill you. In Aces mode, you can be killed with just 3-4 machine gun rounds and any damage you take cannot be repaired by resupply. Oh yeah, and in everything after hard, the hundreds of missiles being fired at you will basically ''hunt you down''.
* The ''VideoGame/TraumaCenter'' games allow you to choose between Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulty settings for most stages. The [[BonusBoss post-story X operations]], on the other hand, are locked to "Extreme"... and they most definitely [[NintendoHard live up to the title]]. ''Trauma Team'' goes one further by making "Specialist" mode, stated by WordOfGod to be equivalent in difficulty to Extreme, available on ''all missions''.

[[folder:Sports Game]]
* In the Wii ''VideoGame/PunchOut'', surviving long enough in the (hard by itself) Mac's Last Stand mode gives you Champion mode. Every opponent can floor Little Mac with a single punch.
* Most EA sports games feature one such mode like this. The ''VideoGame/MaddenNFL'' franchise in particular features the "All Madden" difficulty setting. Not only will the opposing AI suddenly become dangerous competent, but your own players will suddenly become much more incompetent. Try not to RageQuit when your franchise QB is intercepted by a defender making a borderline physically impossible grab or when your elite tackling-machine linebacker gets trucked by a 3rd string running back.
** EA Sports FIFA has the Legendary difficulty, which is recommended to ''not touch the difficulty''. The AI is 100% precise and it will score goals that you don't even expect to happen. Worse is that the opponent goalkeeper defends like the best of the world even when it's overall is 60. Yours? It will let the ball to enter when it's possible.
** To top it all off, there's the Ultimate difficulty exclusive to the FIFA Ultimate Team. Yes, they sucessfully made a difficulty harder than Legendary.

[[folder:Stealth Based Game]]
* The original ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' has "Easy", "Normal" and "Hard" plus an unlockable "Extreme" setting after clearing any of the default modes once. In Extreme mode, the Soliton Radar is turned off (just like in Hard), enemy soldiers have better hearing and vision and are more aggressive, items don't respawn once they're picked up, Snake has a lower carrying capacity and his health is no longer restored after defeating a boss (with only a few exceptions), and [[ThisIsGonnaSuck the torture sessions with Ocelot are even longer]]. And to put the icing on the cake, every boss gets an additional buff on top of the one Hard already gives them, including Revolver Ocelot running ''even faster'', or the time between Cyborg Ninja's KaizoTrap energy blasts becoming ludicriously short. The torture sessions were made easier in the Japan-exclusive ''[[UpdatedRerelease Integral]]'' edition, but everything else is just as hard it was in the American and European versions.
** In ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2'', the European version added a "European Extreme" setting (also present in the later ''Substance'' editions), which was even harder than the standard Extreme setting (achieving this by changing a guard's field of vision so that they can spot the player from ''any distance away'', not just if he's 15-20ft in front of them). There's also an option called [[SelfImposedChallenge "Game Over if Discovered"]] that ends the game if an enemy guard discovers the player's presence. Some consider this a mercy option however, as in most situations if you get found on such difficulty levels you ''will'' die, without question.
*** The 30 or so continues per area is a mere distraction to the real challenge of European Extreme mode: the bosses. A double-shot instant-kill Fortune; then a part where you have to defuse bombs before their timer even began; fighting all 25 of the mass-produced Metal Gear Rays, and finally, a PressXToNotDie sequence that at one point required medical attention to fix a locked thumb.
*** The PressXToNotDie sequence during the finale of the game on European Extreme actually became ''easier'' when ''Metal Gear Solid HD Collection'' was released, as time limit for the scene was reduced to a third of what it originally was.
** ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid4'' upped the ante with five IdiosyncraticDifficultyLevels, the hardest being "The Boss Extreme", which ups the ante more than hard by adding the following: being spotted below 45% camo is almost always an alert; camo levels below 70% attracts attention even over huge distances; attracting attention means guards immediately charge straight towards you; potential allies (e.g. freed militia hostages) are now a massive pushover; and it only takes a few hits to be killed.
*** The Big Boss emblem takes this even further. Beat the game on The Boss Extreme, with zero alerts, zero kills, zero health/recovery items, no cheat items, and without dying. ''[[UpToEleven In under 5 hours.]]'' Thankfully, SaveScumming is an option in the fourth game.
* ''VideoGame/{{Thief}} 1'' and 2 have three difficulty levels: Normal, Hard, and Expert, with Thief 3 adding Easy. Among fans, Expert is usually the most popular, as it raises the amount of loot to collect and unlocks additional objectives, thus ensuring a more thorough level exploration experience.
* While the ''Videogame/{{Hitman}}'' series is notorious for [[NintendoHard totally misusing the word "Easy"]], ''[[VideoGame/HitmanAbsolution Absolution]]'' includes the new "Purist" difficulty. To summarize; the game gives you zero help, no HUD, no instinct vision[[note]]Lets you see through walls, enemy paths and objects of interest; the game is very hard without it.[[/note]], nigh-omnipotent enemies, low health, high suspicion, no checkpoints, and extra enemies. The game's difficulty select lists off every advantage and disadvantage you get on each level; the Purist level is a list of everything you ''lose'', ending with "Just a crosshair". ''The difficulty description even warns you that even learning the game by heart will not stop you dying.'' It's the page quote for a reason.
* The promised Perfectionist difficulty in ''VideoGame/SplinterCell Blacklist'' seems to be this as it is a return to classic stealth play, removing melees from the front and Execute ability.

[[folder:Survival Horror]]
* So you beat ''VideoGame/SilentHill3'' on Hard Mode? Congratulations. Now beat the ''ten'' Extreme mode settings.
** This game is notable for having two difficulty mode selections to make. "Action" set how hard the combat was, and "puzzle" set the difficulty of the puzzles. On the highest puzzle difficulty, the FIRST real puzzle in the game requires advanced knowledge of the complete works of Shakespeare to complete, with no context given in-game. It is one of the easier puzzles.
* The [=GameCube=] version of ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil'' starts you off with Hiking and Mountain Climb difficulties, which are renamed Easy and Normal after completion and Hard is added. Beat it again for Real Survivor, where the storage boxes no longer allow the player to deposit items in one location and withdraw them at another. Make it through that and the player will get to enjoy Invisible Enemy, which does exactly what you'd expect.
** ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil5'' also has a Harder Than Hard mode where enemies do 10x damage (meaning anything that actually does damage instead of being damage over time is probably going to put you into Dying state) ''and'' drops the resuscitation timer to three seconds, from about 15.
*** The shortened resuscitation timer actually makes it easier to survive WITHOUT healing items, since any healing spray takes over a second for your character to pull out and use, whereas without any healing items you snap your partner out of it with a good, instantaneous thump on the chest.
** ''VideoGame/ResidentEvilOutbreak File #2'' has Nightmare mode, which doubles enemy damage and reduces healing items to three quarters of their usual potency.
** ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil7Biohazard'' has Madhouse. Ethan takes more damage from enemies; health regeneration is either slowed down considerably or outright disabled; enemies are stronger, faster, much more durable, notice you almost instantly, appear in greater numbers, and their spawn points have changed; autosaves are almost completely turned off and manual saving requires finding cassette tapes to use, just like the ink ribbons and typewriters from the earlier games; item locations have changed, there are even less items to find in the field, and more coin cages to unlock, meaning that Madhouse increases the number of antique coins you can find.
* ''VideoGame/{{Metro 2033}}'' features the Ranger difficulties in the Ranger Pack DLC. Ranger Mode Easy certainly makes the game more difficult by removing your crosshair, increasing enemy damage and reducing the amount of ammo you find, but also massively reduces the damage resistance of enemies for more realism. Ranger Mode Hardcore, on the other hand, does everything mentioned above, but further increases enemy damage and removes your entire HUD, so the only way to check the amount of ammo you have is to either equip your journal (which is highly impractical in combat areas) or look at your weapon.
** To clarify on the increased enemy damage, ONE - count it - ONE shotgun blast at close range is fatal. Two or three hits from a Nosalis or Howler will kill you or at least shatter your gas mask. A single burst of AK fire is fatal at long range. Ameoba explosions are one-hit kills. Lurkers will swarm you on 'Defence' and 'Child', killing you in just a few hits. Demons will dive-bomb and kill you instantly if you don't take shelter. This mode isn't even remotely fair, and you'll be tearing your hair out on [[ScrappyLevel 'Biomass']]. Of course, Biomass does have an EasyLevelTrick...
** ''Franchise/FatalFrame'' had its highest difficulty be Nightmare for the first and second game. The player needed to know how most of the ghosts moved and achieve Fatal Frames decently enough, while also managing to balance out their items and especially their film. Then the games got ported to the XBOX and had another difficulty added: ''Fatal''. Most of the stronger ghosts and bosses can OneHitKill the player easily, and even weaker ghosts take over a third of the health off with a single hit. Mastering Fatal Frames and keeping a close eye on the health bar are vital to win.
* Beating ''VideoGame/TheEvilWithin'' for the first time will unlock the AKUMU difficulty, where taking damage from ''anything'' will kill you instantly.
* ''VideoGame/ParasiteEve2'' had Bounty (Golems and other EliteMooks are everywhere), Scavenger (very low supplies and a tenth of your initial health), and Nightmare Mode (both at once, though you get 50% initial health instead of 10%). And you can't use the benefits of [[NewGamePlus Replay]] Mode.
* ''VideoGame/FiveNightsAtFreddys'' has [[FanNickname 4[=/=]20 Mode]], which can be accessed during [[LevelEditor Custom Night]]. Step 1 to use it: survive all five nights [[spoiler: (Sorry, [[NeverTrustATitle all six nights]])]] to unlock Custom Night, which allows you to tweak the [[KillerRobot animatronics]]' aggressiveness from 1 to 20, with 1 being super easy and 20 being ridiculously hard. Step 2: Set all four murder machines' AI to 20. Step 3: [[NintendoHard Prepare to die]]. 4[=/=]20 Mode is ''extremely'' brutal, necessitating absolute perfection from the player and the favor of the RandomNumberGod. Notably, the developer Scott Cawthon thought that it was literally impossible to beat and didnít bother programming an achievement for it. But due to the LordBritishPostulate, a few brave souls made it till morning with adrenaline in their blood, luck at their side, [[BringMyBrownPants and soiled underwear in their pants]]. Upon hearing about this, Scott Cawthon updated the game so [[BraggingRightsReward a third star on the start screen]] could be there for all to see. [[SequelDifficultySpike Now, letís talk about the sequel. Which is harder.]]
** ''VideoGame/FiveNightsAtFreddys2'' has the return of the unlockable 1-to-20 (now 0-to-20, with zero being completely deactivated) [[LevelEditor Custom Night]], once again unlocked by surviving all five nights [[spoiler: (Excuse us, [[NeverTrustATitle all six nights. Again.]])]]. Another thing thatís different: you donít have four [[KillerRobot Killer Robots]] to tinker with. [[SerialEscalation You have 10 of them.]] Itís officially called [[AntagonistTitle Golden Freddy Mode.]] Speaking of Golden Freddy, his difficulty is (unlike the first game) also tweekable. Be warned: Heís considered the closest thing Five Nights At Freddyís 2 has to a FinalBoss, and is guaranteed to keep your hands full at level FIVE.
** ''VideoGame/FiveNightsAtFreddys3'' doesn't have Custom Night, as there's only one active animatronic that you have to deal with for your five nights. [[spoiler:[[RuleOfThree Excuse us]], [[NeverTrustATitle all six nights]], though Springtrap appears only in five.]] However, one of the unlockable menus is "Cheats", which can be used to make your game easier... or harder, with the "Aggressive" option. [[spoiler:Beating Aggressive Nightmare (Night 6) without any actual cheat gives you the fourth and final star.]]
** Similar above, ''VideoGame/FiveNightsAtFreddys4'' is notable in that it technically has TWO; the first is Nightmare Mode, as in the third game, unlocked after clearing Night 6 and revealing one of the franchise's most infamous cliffhangers upon completion. With all seven nights properly completed, there is also an unlockable ''eighth'' night; the return of 4/20 Mode, this time unlocked by typing "20202020" in the Extras Menu, removing the Nightmare Mode tab and replacing it with 20/20/20/20 Mode.
** Custom Night returns in ''VideoGame/FiveNightsAtFreddysSisterLocation'', this time with difficulty levels explicitly named Easy, Medium, Hard, and Very Hard and a variety of animatronic set-ups (ranging from just three active to all ten active) to choose from. The absolute hardest Custom Night is "Golden Freddy" mode on Very Hard where all ten animatronics are set to -- what else? -- 20.
* ''VideoGame/{{Outlast}}'' has Normal, Hard and Nightmare. Its {{DLC}}, ''Outlast: Whistleblower'' adds Insane as an option. It is the same difficulty level as Nightmare, only if you die at any point, you must start from the beginning.
* ''Franchise/AloneInTheDark'': Insane difficulty in ''Illumination'' is harder than Hard difficulty, but not actually that difficult. Enemies have 3 times as much health and deal 50% more damage, but if your character is even somewhat decently leveled it's actually not that tough.
* ''VideoGame/ColdFear'' has two difficulty settings. In Normal mode, Tom is fairly MadeOfIron for a survival horror protagonist. In Extreme mode? ''Almost any source of damage'' is a OneHitKill.

[[folder:Third Person Shooter]]
* ''VideoGame/MaxPayne2''
** ''VideoGame/MaxPayne2TheFallOfMaxPayne'' starts you out on the already difficult Detective setting, which unlocks Hardboiled, Dead Man Walking, and New York Minute modes. Beat Hardboiled, and you get access to Dead on Arrival. How hard is Dead on Arrival? The cheat code to unlock it is "hell", if you need a hint. Dead On Arrival is exactly the same as Hardboiled with one exception: [[SaveGameLimits you can only save four times per level]]. Because most players are used to [[SaveScumming saving after every gun fight in a level]], it takes a significant change of gameplay to get through.
** The first ''VideoGame/MaxPayne'' had New York Minute Mode, where you had a clock counting down that was never more than one minute long and had to be refilled by reaching certain parts of the level within that time. If the minute ran out, you died. You could get a few extra seconds from killing bad guys, but there were too few bad guys to make a safe run even remotely possible.
*** New York Minute is far from impossible, and some levels start you out with much more than one minute of time (both [[NightmareSequence Nightmare Sequences]], for example). The key is to go as fast as possible and kill everything in your way, and don't bother with side-areas that are too far off the main path. You will die many, ''many'' times due to some enemies [[LuckBasedMission shooting you with 100% accuracy even over long distances]], so quicksaving and loading often is absolutely '''essential''' to reset the RandomNumberGod and proceed. Poorly-timed quicksaves can cause an {{Unwinnable}} situation though, especially if you are too low on time or save just as a grenade is about to go off.
** ''VideoGame/MaxPayne3'' goes to town with this trope.
*** First off there's Hardcore, which lowers your health to the point that a second of sustained fire will kill you, and is quite stingy with BulletTime meter boosts gained from killing enemies.
*** Then there's Old School, which is just like Hardcore, except that Last Man Standing-the ability to come back from death by killing the enemy that killed you-is disabled. And if you're playing on Arcade mode, ''the cover system is disabled''-making survival impossible without either finding something to crouch behind or abusing [[LeapAndFire shoot-dodge]].
*** New York Minute returns-in both normal and Hardcore variations. The normal New York Minute is pretty much identical to previous games. Hardcore New York Minute is ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin, New York Minute with the handicaps of Hardcore Mode. Oh, and if you die in this mode, [[FinalDeathMode you have to start over from the first chapter]].
* ''VideoGame/GearsOfWar'' and its sequel have the Insane difficulty level, and Hardcore wasn't anything to laugh at either.
** Insane is no pushover. If you even ''think'' about taking damage you'll die. This is not helped by the fact that all enemies turn into bullet sponges and they all gain dead eye accuracy. Even Wretches are a two-shot kill. Some sections of the game that you flew through on lower difficulty levels now become controller-hurlingly difficult. And in the sequel [[FromBadToWorse it gets worse]]. All the same difficultes from the original remain, but now you have one-shot ticker swarms, bloodmounts and reavers, the Kantus priests can revive any locust not irreparably damaged, and good luck surviving the set pieces and vehicle sections. Some fights as this difficulty can take more than an hour to just make it part a few enemies.
*** To make it even worse AI teammates bleed out on Insane resulting in a game over if you don't revive them in time; combined with the ArtificialStupidity of your allies this can be very frustrating as they get downed in exposed places forcing you to break cover and in all likelihood die trying to save them.
*** Insane mode got ''[[FromBadToWorse even]] [[SerialEscalation worse]]'' in the third game. The past two games put you in a 'down but not out' state if you lost too much health, even on Insane difficulty. The third installment ''removes this feature altogether,'' immediately killing you if you lost too much health. And yes, the aforementioned pitiful damage resistance from the last two is retained. At the very least they added Arcade mode, which allowed you to continue on if one of your human teammates bit the dust. Solo gamers are SOL, though.
*** Insane makes the final boss of the third game beyond the impossible in difficulty. Avoiding the instant death attacks and the theron guards trying to flank you simultaneously is easy compared to dealing enough damage to knock the boss off the tower before [[spoiler: she kills Adam]] which is an instant game over; the fact that the tower has a set amount of health essentially makes this a timed escort mission.
*** It turns out that Insane mode actually does three things. First, it makes it so that the enemies do more damage. Second, it makes it so that the enemies have more health. Thirdly, it cuts your health in half!
** The ammunition you receive from fallen enemies and crates does not increase. Quite literally, if you don't make the majority of all the rounds you fire hit the enemies in the head, then you will run out of ammo.
* ''VideoGame/RedFaction'' has "Impossible" mode, which would almost be literally impossible if it weren't for the Save Anywhere ability, especially in the UsefulNotes/PlayStation2 version with its clunky dual analog controls. Enemies are very fast and good at dodging and hiding, almost never miss, and can kill you in just a few shots.
** Several enemies in the later game can see and kill you ''through solid walls''.
* Completing ''VideoGame/PN03'' on a NewGamePlus with a Professional ranking on all 50 Trials and the overall game unlocks the {{stripperific}} Papillon Suit, which makes Vanessa a OneHitPointWonder. Combined with Hard Mode, this makes the game an exercise in masochism.
* ''VideoGame/AlienSwarm'' has Easy, Medium, Hard, and the aptly-named Insane difficulty. Not only are the aliens significantly tougher and more numerous on Insane, the game will also spawn the most difficult-to-manage aliens straight away in the first campaign. To drive the point home, the game already starts out with [[DemonicSpiders Parasites]] in the beginning of the Insane campaign - whereas in Hard they didn't appear until past the halfway mark.
** Valve updated Alien Swarm with, among other things, an even harder difficulty, "Brutal". How hard is it? At the time of its release, no one on the Alien Swarm development team had successfully completed a level on Brutal.
** The difficulty in Brutal lies in its incorporation of the A.I. Director seen in VideoGame/Left4Dead. Imagine Insane's already tough enemies with all the damage resistance and attacks, and now imagine that they no longer appear from their usual set locations, but wherever the Director feels like and you've got a good gist of why Brutal is so nasty.
* ''VideoGame/FreedomFighters'' has the Revolutionary difficulty, in which you have the exact same amount of health as the Soviet soldier enemy Mooks you're fighting (i.e. it only takes 10 assault rifle hits to kill you). The difference is there's only one of you, and hundreds of them. Attempting to Rambo your way through the game is outright suicide, and unless you know how to use cover effectively and make good use of your allied squad, you're not going to get very far at all.
* ''VideoGame/WinBack'''s Sudden Death mode, which makes you a OneHitPointWonder, as well as the {{mook}}s.
* ''VideoGame/ShadowsOfTheEmpire'' mildly subverts this: The fourth difficulty level, Jedi, makes all attacks much stronger. Both yours and enemies'.
* ''Franchise/DeadSpace'':
** ''VideoGame/DeadSpace'' has the Impossible difficulty, unlocked after beating the game. Enemies hit harder and take a lot more punishment while Isaac is weaker and easier to kill.
** ''VideoGame/DeadSpace2'' features the unlockable Hardcore difficulty, in which resources are even more scarce than Zealot mode, enemies are stronger, and when you die you must restart from your last save point instead of checkpoints and you can only save 3 times.
** ''VideoGame/DeadSpace3'' makes it even worse. While you can save whenever you want, dying [[PermaDeath forces you to start the whole game over]].
* The ''VideoGame/{{Uncharted}}'' series has its "[[IdiosyncraticDifficultyLevels Crushing]]" difficulty, in which enemies can take more hits (four or five, usually, but some can take even more), and Drake can take one or two. This is amped up to eleven in the remaster with Brutal. Most of the time, enemies kill Nate instantly. Ammo pickups are only a portion of what they normally are. Even people who exploit the "Use tweaks before beating this difficulty" glitch, and give themselves infinite ammo and one-hit kills say that it's still horrifyingly difficult.
* ''VideoGame/KidIcarusUprising'' has ''10'' difficulty settings on a single sliding bar (0.0-9.0), the top three of which fit this trope. [[IdiosyncraticDifficultyLevels Intensity 9.0]] is even called [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Nothing Harder!]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Vanquish}}'' has God Hard mode, where there are no weapon upgrades, and sticking your head out for more than a second will get you [[OneHitKO one-hit killed]].
* ''VideoGame/RatchetDeadlocked'' has 5 difficulties: Couch Potato, Contestant, Gladiator, Hero, and Exterminator, the last of which is unlocked by the player beating the game on any difficulty. Although the enemies all hit way harder, it shouldn't be much of an issue for players who've played any of the previous games in the series on [[NewGamePlus Challenge Mode]], particularly because the weapon upgrade system in this game's Challenge Mode lets you turn ''every'' weapon into an [[InfinityPlusOneSword Infinity+1 Gun]].

[[folder:Tower Defense]]
* Extreme difficulty in [[Videogame/BloonsTowerDefense BTD5]] is reserved for three of the hardest maps in the game: Main Street, Bloontonium Lab, and Tar Pits. They are unlocked at rank 50, 55, and 60, and cost 25, 50, and 50 monkey money to play, respectively (ranks may be different in the iOS/Android and Steam releases). Note that due to Main/NonIndicativeDifficulty, a few Advanced or Expert maps may be considered harder than the first two, but the latter may very well be the hardest in the series!
** [[IdiosyncraticDifficultyLevels Impoppable]] difficulty in the mobile and Steam releases. You only get [[OneHitPointWonder one life]] and no way to gain more, towers are ''20%'' more expensive than Medium (or 10% more than Hard), bloons are 5% faster, M.O.A.B.-class bloons have '''double health''', and [[spoiler: round 85 has ''5'' Z.O.M.G.s]]! Good luck beating it on the above Extreme-level maps...
** And then a Halloween update introduces Mastery mode, not a standard difficulty but a ''mode of play'' that can be set to '''any''' difficulty. Bloons are 1 rank up but you don't gain ''any'' extra cash from pops, making farms an absolute necessity for survival. And the "any difficulty" bit includes the ''already harder-than-hard'' Impoppable! Again, '''''good luck.'''''
* ''Videogame/BloonsMonkeyCity'' has difficulty ratings for individual tiles, which give a rough indication of the difficulty of the automatically generated bloonsends. With that comes ''two'' levels of this trope: "Very Hard" (difficulty meter has 5 red dots) and "Impoppable" (5 ''dark red'' dots!).
** Hardcore mode, unlocked at level 10, may not qualify on its own. However, it can be '''brutal''' on a tile rated Hard or harder.

[[folder:Turn Based Strategy]]
* "Maniac" in the Japanese version of ''VideoGame/FireEmblemPathOfRadiance''. The really interesting part is that unlocking Maniac ''removes'' easy mode from the menu, leaving "Medium" as the ''easiest'' difficulty setting!
** The US version of ''VideoGame/FireEmblemRadiantDawn'' [[DifficultyByRegion had the names of its difficulties jacked around with]], so Japan's "Maniac" is US "Hard." In addition to being, well, cruel, this lead to a game-freezing glitch when you use the OldSaveBonus in early release copies.
** The ''VideoGame/FireEmblemShadowDragonAndTheBladeOfLight'' remake, ''Shadow Dragon'' now has six difficulties, the easiest of which is 'normal'. The five different hard modes are, in order: Hard, Brutal, Savage, Fiendish, and Merciless. Merciless is so ruthless that almost every enemy in the game can 1-hit KO about half of the members of your party and 2-hit most of the others. Even the first three bosses are so strong that breaking their weapons (a grueling 30 turn activity involving much prayer to the RNG goddess) is the easiest way to defeat them.
** The ''VideoGame/FireEmblemMysteryOfTheEmblem'' remake, ''New Mystery of the Emblem'', goes up to "Lunatic" mode, which is ''even worse than'' ''Shadow Dragon'''s Merciless. Beat Lunatic? Welcome to "Lunatic-Reverse", in which enemies always attack before you do, ''even on your own turn''.
*** To place Lunatic in perspective: Enemies have Silver weapons starting from the first chapter (even the [[FragileSpeedster Thieves]] that used to be cannon fodder can one-hit-kill most of your units), and later get [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard forged weapons that would cost a human player ludicrous amounts of money to make.]] [[BossInMookClothing Dragon]] breath attacks have their range increased by one space, basically going from melee-only to working like magic. The FinalBoss has ''all its stats maxed out'', which is [[FromBadToWorse even worse than it sounds]]: It means he double attacks everything up to and including Heroes, and due to his attack power, [[OhCrap no-one can possibly survive more than one hit from him.]] Oh, and the [[GameBreaker Warp Staff]] doesn't exist. You may cry now.
** Continuing the series' trend of SerialEscalation, ''VideoGame/FireEmblemAwakening'' introduces Lunatic+. Stat-wise enemes are identical to regular Lunatic (which is just as insane as the ''New Mystery'' version), but they're given unique SecretAIMoves such as Vantage+ (same effect as the Lunatic Reverse mode mentioned above), Luna+ (all attacks halve your defence) and Pavise+ (all ''your'' attacks do half damage). Oh, and these skills are given to ''basic Mooks''. [[OhCrap Bosses are even worse.]] Good luck, you'll need it.
** ''VideoGame/FireEmblemHeroes'' usually has three different difficulty levels. Normal, Hard, and Lunatic, all of which are similar to how they were in the above games. However, the ''New Mystery'' update featured a [[DefeatMeansFriendship Grand Hero Battle]] for Legion that introduced a new, even harder difficulty mode: ''Infernal''. Infernal mode features [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard excessively jacked up stats for every enemy that the player can never hope to match]], to the point where even the most basic grunts are actually [[BossInMookClothing Bosses In Mook Clothing]], as well as changed enemy placement so that strategies that work on the lower difficulty levels won't work anymore.
* ''VideoGame/TotalWar'' difficulty has the standard easy to hard system, and then also has expert. Here, all enemies get a combat and morale bonus, which in Expert in ''VideoGame/RomeTotalWar'' is so great that you get ridiculous situations where cavalry beat phalanxes and such. That said, its still far from impossible to win... except with some factions. If you really want harder than hard, in the XL mod for ''VideoGame/MedievalTotalWar'' pick the Volga-Bulgars on expert in the high period. One province, with all the other factions in the area starting stronger than you, and the Mongols rampage in against you around ten turns in, making it a race against the clock to fight your way as far west as possible before 13000 Mongol soldiers come rampaging in off the eastern edge of the map. ''VideoGame/TotalWarShogun2'', however, really sets up a challenge. You no longer get to pause the game and give orders at the same time, the save function is removed, preventing SaveScumming in a manner not unlike ''VideoGame/DiabloII'''s Hardcore mode, you lack your minimap and the enemies are vicious and uncomprimising. On top of this, the AI is hugely improved from previous titles.
** Taken even further in ''VideoGame/TotalWarAttila'', with the 2 Roman Empires. See, the games actually include 2 separate difficulty ratings, one for overall difficulty and one for the difficulty of the specific faction. Until Attila, the hardest faction difficulty was Hard, and had shown up a number of times in Shogun 2 and its expansions, as well as earlier games. In Attila, East Rome is rated Very Hard, and West Rome is rated ''Legendary'', meaning that playing as West Rome with the overall difficulty set at Legendary is considered by the designers to be the hardest Total War has ever been. How hard is it? At turn one you have 7 armies to protect over 70 cities and towns, about a third of which could be attacked in the first 10 turns, another third are at risk of rebellion in the same time frame. You don't have the money to build up your economy and prevent rebellions/invasions at the same time, and because a mini ice age is coming, every few years all your regions become less fertile (all difficulties), meaning less money and food from your farms. To cap it all off, everyone hates you and the Huns, which in game are portrayed as the harbingers of the apocalypse, are actively chasing every barbarian tribe towards you. That is, for the first time in a Total War game, instead of conquering or sacking a town, you can ''burn it to the ground'', and the Huns do this to every town they take, so the survivors of every faction they attack flee directly into your underprotected empire. By about 40 turns in, you'll be at war with a dozen different factions on 4 different fronts. It's a fairly reasonable strategy to simply abandon hard-to-defend areas like the British Isles and the Balkans in order to give yourself a shorter border to cover.
* ''VideoGame/HeroesOfMightAndMagic'' typically have 1 or 2 difficulty levels above hard, each gives more advantages to the AIs while handicapping the player, up to one starting with no resources at all! The fifth game's easy, medium and hard difficulty levels each have a similar description (who is it for, what it affects), while the highest, Heroic has this:
-->Tell us if you can finish the game playing on this difficulty level - we are not sure whether it is possible.
* "EX-Hard Mode" throughout ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWars'' installments locks the DynamicDifficulty at "Hard" for an entire play-through, giving all enemies higher stats and stronger attacks. Meanwhile, unit and weapon upgrades, the purchase of pilot skills, character stat and terrain rating increases are rendered more expensive, though some games may outright ''forbid'' any form of upgrades for players.
* ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsX'' introduces the Expert Mode right off the bat and it turns the game into an EarlyGameHell where enemies get more upgrades than players can keep up for the most part. Be prepared to reload the game over and over due to RandomNumberGod being terrible to players.

[[folder:Turn Based Tactics]]
* ''[[VideoGame/XCOMUFODefense X-COM]]'' has Superhuman for its Harder Than Hard setting... unfortunately, the first game had a bug that locked difficulty to Beginner. This resulted to complaints that Superhuman was too easy, so the people making the MissionPackSequel (who didn't know about the bug) jacked up the difficulty of the game to what Superhuman was supposed to be. End result? The NintendoHard game known as ''[[VideoGame/XCOMTerrorFromTheDeep Terror from the Deep]]''!
* ''VideoGame/XCOMEnemyUnknown'', for difficulties, has Easy, Normal, and Classic. Above Classic is 'Impossible'. Then there's a togglable option called "Ironman Mode", which disables all but one constantly-updated autosave. This makes it impossible to undo mistakes; every move is for keeps. Ironman Impossible was said to be possible only in theory. [[LordBritishPostulate Naturally, people did it]].
** As if in retribution, the developers released 'Second Wave' difficulty options. Some of these are relatively benign; others make the game a nightmare. The first 2 below are unlocked by beating Normal and Classic; the rest are unlocked by beating Impossible. Thus, they are naturally going to be difficult. These are among the hardest options, but there are quite a few more!
*** Marathon: all research and build times and costs are multiplied by 3, 2, 2 respectively, among other things.
*** Diminishing Returns: satellite price goes up with every one built), Results Driven (the higher a country's panic level, the less money you get from them).
** Options unlocked ''by beating'' Impossible, which are naturally going to be more difficult:
*** True Loss: all equipment on a killed soldier is [[PermanentlyMissableContent lost forever]].
*** War Weariness: all monthly funding decreases over time, eventually dropping to zero, leaving mission rewards and the sale of alien items and corpses the only means of income.
*** E-115: [[{{Unobtainium}} Elerium]] now has a half-life of 15 days, meaning you lose around 4.5% of it every day on average.
** It is probably ''literally impossible'' to beat the game with Ironman '''and''' all of the above "Second Wave" options. In fact you're more likely to win the lottery several times over than make it past the first year if you try!
* The almost-official ''VideoGame/JaggedAlliance 2'' patch 1.13 adds an "INSANE" difficulty level. Due to the nature of this patch, however, this simply makes the game more engagine, and not necessarily that difficult. Expect lots of enemies and a little bit of TheComputerIsACheatingBastard.
** If this isn't hard enough for you, there's a configuration option you can set to use the "new aggressive AI". What this does is has the enemy constantly hammer your towns with attacks rather than the normal behaviour of giving you some time to recover. Couple this with the Queen having unlimited forces on insane difficulty, and it's very unlikely you'll ever capture more than the first town.
* ''VideoGame/InvisibleInc'' has Expert Plus difficulty, if you've beaten the game on Expert. Expert is described as "the game's default setting"; Plus, meanwhile, is "a bit ridiculous". In addition to harder levels, you won't be able to see enemy lines of sight (a crucial thing to be able to see) if you can't see its source, you start with less power for hacking, and simply knocking out security guards will raise the [[StalkedByTheBell Alarm Tracker.]]
* While the Hard Campaign in ''Black Hole Rising'' is merely NintendoHard and the "[[NonIndicativeDifficulty Hard]]" Campaign in ''Dual Strike'' is laughably easy due to it being treated as a NewGamePlus, the Advance Campaign from the original ''[[VideoGame/NintendoWars Advance Wars]]'' is truly a test of willpower and sanity for even the best players. All semblance of balance gets tossed out the window as your enemy's forces are buffed to ridiculous levels while your own army gets neutered into oblivion, and some missions throw in FogOfWar where there previously was none just as an additional middle finger to the player. Most missions are only winnable by exploiting the [[ArtificialStupidity bad habits of the AI]], and even then you'll usually only win by the skin of your teeth - an even ''slightly'' more competent AI would likely render the mode flat-out impossible. Merely ''finishing'' the Advance Campaign is a Herculean feat, while S-Ranking it is territory reserved exclusively for gods and madmen.

[[folder:Wide Open Sandbox]]
* ''VideoGame/WayOfTheSamurai'' has Instant Kill difficulty, where ''everything'' is a OneHitPointWonder. Fun when you can kill the final boss in one hit, not so fun when one miscued attack or failed block means you're dead. This actually makes some ways of completing the game almost impossible - have fun attempting any of the {{Escort Mission}}s or fights alongside allies.
* ''VideoGame/{{Minecraft}}'' has several difficulty settings that mostly just affect how much damage the monsters deal and how serious starvation is. It also has "hardcore" mode, which locks your world onto the hardest difficulty and ''[[FinalDeathMode forces you to delete your world if you die]]''. If you're playing Hardcore on multiplayer, the game instead bans you from the server permanently.
** But without a doubt the greatest difficulty of plain vanilla Minecraft is Ultra Hardcore (UHC). Like the ''regular'' hardcore mentioned above, you only get one life to survive. But instead of being able to regenerate health as long as your hunger bar is full enough, the only way to get your health back is by eating golden apples, which are quite expensive and difficult to acquire; or drinking potions, which are very dangerous to obtain, although very renewable once you have them.
*** Private Minecraft servers with a Let's Play base, such as Mindcrack, tend to hold UHC events where several people are placed randomly on a bordered off Minecraft world and basically fight to the death gladiator style.

* Parodied in [[WebAnimation/DorklyOriginals "If All Video Games had Impossible Mode".]] [[https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XVufwgmXHKs part 1]] and [[https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwqd9-ee2nk part 2.]]