"To the true Ridge Racer who has cleared all 39 tours, we introduce these tours of maximum difficulty. The first MAX tour, “Opus 1”, is the ultimate 4-car battle of Class 1 machines. Only 1 in 200 is expected to clear this challenge. There are no prizes. Race for your honor!" (Opus 1)The extra difficult Secret Levels which some games have. They exist largely so that the player can brag to his friends about how awesome he is for winning them. A Sub-Trope of Secret Level, distinguished from its mother trope by the extreme difficulty being the only point of these levels. Examples of this trope are, naturally, almost always That One Level. The idea appears to be that if you're good enough to get there, you're good enough for whatever the game decides to torture you with. Can be set in Planet Heck, but not always. Won't necessarily have a sign at the beginning saying "Welcome to Hell!", but might as well. For the boss version of this, check out Bonus Boss, or alternatively, True Final Boss. Beware of unmarked spoilers.
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- Hell Temple in La-Mulana takes this trope about as far as it can go. 'This place is one that none should come to'. They aren't kidding. The process to unlock the area is long and makes no sense. Hell Temple is full of extraordinarily nasty puzzles, dozens of traps, "Land of Hell" traps that force you back several rooms, miniboss hordes, and you have to complete the whole level twice to reach the end. The reward you get for completing the level? It's not worth the ordeal at all, and you get no permanent reward showing your victory (in the original, at least).
- Cave Story:
- Sacred Grounds/Blood Stained Sanctuary is so difficult that it has a "Welcome to Hell!" sign. Of course, completing this level (including the True Final Boss) is the only way to get the good ending. There are absolutely NO save points inside it, AT ALL. Even before the Heavy Press or Ballos, the True Final Bosses. And if you saved at the last opportunity and want to get some Life Capsules, you can't, as you've just passed the only Point of No Return in the game: using that Save Point. Even still, the Save Point before that (which, humorously, is the same Save Point) is right before the regular Sequential Final Bosses, meaning you'll have to fight them again.
- The "Final/Last Cave (Hidden)" is also one of these, and is required to get to the aforementioned Sacred Grounds, including a boss fight not in the regular version: the Red Demon/Ogre that Arthur drove away.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The Legend of Zelda Oracle games have an additional level in their linked games, the Hero's Cave.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker downplays the trope with the Savage Labyrinth, as the first 30 floors are required to clear the game, thus only the remaining 20 are bonus material. Room after room of increasingly powerful enemies that don't drop anything, ever. With no grass, pots, etc. to reload your ammo, magic, or health will give you the Death of a Thousand Cuts because at no point will you ever be given more than you entered with. The good news is that the Grappling Hook can steal some supplies from enemies, but only one at a time.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has the Cave of Ordeals in a similar vein to the Savage Labyrinth from The Wind Waker. Each room has a different set of monsters, and deeper rooms require later items to advance. While the rooms generally don't get too tough, the final room contains THREE Darknuts (four in the second playthrough). Since they tend to bulk together, parry attacks are difficult to pull off without getting hurt, and bombs are limited and not easily available. They also don't give you Random Drops and you can't steal Random Drop items from them like in The Wind Waker. Again, it's not without mercy: they will drop Rupees (your Magic Armor needs them to protect you) and a few hearts can be found in the floor by Wolf Link.
- The HD Remake of Twilight Princess also includes the Cave of Shadows, which can only be accessed by using a Wolf Link amiibo. It functions similarly to the Cave of Ordeals, but you have to be in your wolf form inside the dungeon.
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds has Treacherous Tower, Lorule's equivalent of the Tower of Hera. It has up to 50 floors of enemies you have to defeat in large groups, acting like the Savage Labyrinth and Cave of Ordeals from other Zelda games.
- Once the plot has been concluded and the characters have all reached closure, the final, bonus chapter of Dark Chronicle is the Zelmite Mine, the longest dungeon in the game. It's so long, it even has two bosses. The enemies are the strongest, fastest, and most resilient —two good hits from a boulder-type foe can kill one of your characters before you can even retaliate, and they wear down your weapons faster than usual.
- The Battle Arena (tough enemies) in Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, Nest of Evil (tough enemies) in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin and Training Hall (platforming) and the Large Cavern (tough enemies) in Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia.
- Castlevania: Rondo of Blood has alternate stage 5 or 5' which is a hellish level of pits and enemies. It makes the other levels look easy. And to boot you need to beat the bosses here to unlock the full boss rush.
- Guacamelee! has several of these. Two of which (Tree Tops, Cueva de la Locura) challenge your platforming skills and one of which is a combat arena (Caverna del Pollo) where you must fight through waves of increasingly difficult enemies. Defeating them is necessary to get the good ending of the game.
- Several of them in Environmental Station Alpha, and all of them require the Dash Booster X and a good amount of guesswork to locate. First there's a particularly brutal dash gauntlet featuring instant death spikes and a battle against the local alien god Mwyah that you'll likely need to complete at least twice to get the "true" ending. Not far from the first bonus area is the Research Outpost, featuring enemies that retaliate when you use your charge shot or dash, as well as a boss that probably qualifies as That One Boss. Another bonus area can be found within the teleporter on the outside of the Temple zone, a massive white maze that gives hints on how to reach the true ending and will eventually lead you there.
- Plants vs. Zombies: The Bobsled Bonanza minigame, where you face almost nothing but Zombonis and Zombie Bobsled Teams, with 4 ice tracks laid down so that the bobsleds can start swarming immediately. Zombonis crush all your plants instantly and you'll use up Spikeweeds (their one weakness) as quickly as you put them down. The bobsleds themselves are a pack of 4 zombies which move fast on ice (helpfully provided by the Zombonis), will quickly overwhelm your peashooters, will spawn if there's so much as an inch of ice laid down, and are difficult to bring down without expensive bomb plants. You can only clear the ice with Jalapenos, which have a cripplingly slow recharge rate. The Imitater is almost a requirement for this level, or you simply won't have enough bombs to clear the level.
- Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time has Pinata Parties. They're entirely optional daily challenges, but can reward the player with some sweet loot if completed. However, almost all of them test you to your limits on the knowledge of plants, zombies and layouts, trying again costs 2000 coins and beating them 5 days in a row gives a bonus costume reward.
- In Spider-Man 2, after finishing the main game, you can then buy "Fight Arena", which allows you to fight hordes of enemies, and eventually, bosses. One of the bosses is Calypso, who doesn't appear anywhere else in the game. The final round of "Boss Arena" is fighting all four bosses at once (That's Doc Ock, Shocker, Rhino, and Calypso). Have fun.
- In Bionic Commando Rearmed, the normal Challenge Rooms are Nintendo Hard enough, but the Secret Challenges can be sheer insanity. Luckily, the latter aren't required for any achievements.
- The Cow Level in Diablo II, mainly due to their sheer number. On the other hand, by the time you reach it as either class, you're more than likely to have some devastating skill at your disposal that will bring them down by the dozens in an instant.
- The Vault Of Glass, from Destiny. You need a team of 6 players (when the game usually asks you for 3 in missions and Strikes), have to fight and complete objectives, and fight two difficult bosses to complete it. Both which are Flunky Boss territory. On top of that, you need to be atleast level 26 to even stand a chance against any enemies. Compared to other missions and Strikes, completing the Raid isn't needed, but can give you much needed materials, Exotics and Raid Legendaries, which are needed to reach above level 28.
- Strife has the Training Facility. Nominally optional, but you have to go through it if you want full stamina and accuracy — and, in the Veteran Edition, if you want the "Top of the class" and "Fully Amphed" achievements.
Beat 'em Up
- From Devil May Cry 2 onwards, the Devil May Cry series has featured Bloody Palace, a Brutal Bonus Level Up to Eleven. There are always a minimum of 99 levels in which the player has to fight a ton of enemies repeatedly. You can't use health restores or anything else, you just have to pray that you avoid basically every attack, or that enemies drop a lot of health (which occurs rarely). Becomes doubly hard since you'll also have to fight bosses from stage to stage. Mitigated in that you have the choice of advancing 1 or 10 levels at a time, so if you are in bad shape you can advance only one level and hope to recover some health before tackling harder levels.
- In Bayonetta completing all Alfheims unlocks Lost Chapter: Angel Slayer, which is similar to Bloody Palace gauntlet of a level, with 50 something encounters that you have to tackle all in one go. Beating it is one of only two ways to unlock Secret Character Little King Zero, the other way being a very out of the way cheat costing an exuberant amount of halos.
- Bayonetta 2 has Lost Chapter: Witch Trials which is Angel Slayer only divided into five separate levels, so now you don't have to do them all in one go. The first couple aren't so bad, but Serial Escalation is in full effect here by Chapter V. The first four chapters unlock Verse Cards for Tag Climax (required towards an achievement for the Climax Bracer), but the last chapter has no prize, it's purely there for a Bragging Rights Reward.
- If you beat all Kahko-Regah portals on all difficulties in The Wonderful 101, you unlock Operation 101, which yet another Bloody Palace-type survival bonus level. Completing it usually takes around one hour.
- Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 has the DLC mission "The Return of the Legendary Dynasty Warrior Gundam". It's only playable on the hardest difficulty, there are two Ace Pilots in the field using Musha Gundam and Musha Gundam Mk-II, both being able to kill the sturdiest playable gundam with two light attacks and that will fight the player in Fortresses that must be taken (and while fighting in a fortress, the player will be attacked by a neverending rain of rockets). Onde both fortresses are taken, the player will eventually face a giant mobile suit along the way (wich is also able to KO your suit with one or two well-placed attacks). And once the enemy gauge is finally depleted, all the enemies leave the field and the player must head to the main hall, while the Knight Gundam awaits. However, as soon as you get near him, both Musha Gundams will join the boss! And ANY strike from any of them is strong enough to take half of your health gauge. And as a nice touch for this mission, the game is programmed to only have one kind of item appear during the whole stage: the temporary 30% defense boost. That's right: absolutely no health recovering items will spawn during the mission.
- In Duet, there are a few extra levels on the Challenge page. Most notable of these is "Transcendence", where blocks turn invisible the moment they come on-screen, so you have to be very savvy to be able to predict their motion, and all but the most experienced players will struggle to complete the final wave of it.
- Some of the earlier bonus missions in Mafia Wars were very difficult (at least not without spending premium currency), which often led to complaints from players. Zynga has since toned them down a bit.
- In later versions of Final Fantasy II, beating the game unlocks Soul of Rebirth, a bonus mode featuring three returning Guest Star Party Members who died during the main game and a fourth new party member (Prince Scott). All of those returning party members retain their stats and gear, making So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear useful for once—hope you kept them equipped, of course. Except two of those returning characters are the first two temporary members in the game and thus are almost certainly underlevelled and underequipped for dungeons where almost every enemy is a Demonic Spider who will annihilate you without the proper gear and protection from Minwu's spells. Even Ricard Highwind, whose higher stats and end-game gear will make him a Lightning Bruiser, doesn't keep the rest of Soul of Rebirth from being absolutely evil.
- In Persona 3, beating the Reaper lets you explore Monad, which is filled with extremely high level enemies who can easily wipe an unprepared party. On the other hand, they give out scads of experience, which is nice since the final boss is pretty much That One Boss.
- Shin Megami Tensei has a long and proud tradition of including at least one of these. The Labyrinth of Amala in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne and the second half of Sector Grus in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey are two good examples. The former is an interesting case is that it consists of five dungeons in one mega-dungeon that are meant to be completed one by one while going through the game and defeating the Fiends. The latter is actually half of one of the later sectors in the game, can only be accessed via a New Game+, and features an avatar of God as its endboss.
- There's a case when exploring Meteor Falls after beating the Elite Four in Pokémon Emerald. You may find a hidden NPC, former champion Steven's Pokémon at level 75+
- Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 has Black Tower in Black City and White Treehollow in White Forest for their respectively-named games. note These two areas are giant mazes where, as you progress through the ranks, progressively get larger and more complex with the Trainers inside progressively getting tougher, as if their Pokémon weren't at a high enough level, anyway. The kicker? You have to find one certain Trainer in the maze to even get to that floor's boss, and the only way to find out if they're the right one is to fight them. Then you have to find your way through the maze to a special room where you can find the floor's boss. The Medic is a rare sight, too. But even if you do find them, they can and will kick your ass with their powerful Pokémon. On top of that, you can't use healing items on your Pokémon! (Berries are the only ones that work, and the Pokémon have to hold them and go into battle to use them.) Considering the fact that The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard is everywhere, and there's a tough Bonus Boss at the end, a Shiny Gible or Dratini afterwards is a very pleasant reward for completing Black Tower or White Treehollow. Fortunately, there is no legendary ban or level restriction there like in other battle facilities. So feel free to unleash your team of level 100 legendaries on them.
- Pokémon Emerald has the Battle Frontier and Battle Facilities in other games. These are such an insane step up in difficulty from the main game that it rivals the difficulty of PvP battles, and you still have to deal with the AI screwing you over with freak status effects and hax-level items, to the point of the average player rarely fully completing these facilities and other players suddenly being forced to learn to play competitively just to stand a chance, as no matter how strong your Pokémon are, they are all put at level 50 in these facilities and you can usually only use three out of your six. A player who has never lost in the main game can suddenly see the losses hike up with these hellish battles. But, a huge saving grace is the Frontier Brains and other Facility Bosses, who give some of the best battles in the franchise. You may be the Champion, but that doesn't mean you can win here.
- Pokémon Sun and Moon has the Battle Tree, which has become infamous for being even more relentless than previous postgame battle facilities. Previous battle facilities would start off simple with a basic line that pit you against unevolved Pokémon in the first half and weak fully-evolved Pokémon or middle evolutions in the second half before you could go for the big leagues. The Battle Tree does none of that and goes for your throat immediately. From the get-go, the trainers will throw Mega Evolutions, Z-moves, and teams tailor-made to counter your selections, and it only gets worse as you go, even resorting to illegal movesets if that's what it takes to stop you.
- In Tales of Destiny, the bonus dungeon is a tower 60 floors high and special requirements need to be hit in order to get the treasure of each floor. Only a few of the levels actually offer you hints about what you should do, through randomly appearing cryptic messages throughout the game proper. All this should come as no surprise to those who know the game this was based on, The Tower of Druaga, which was just as nasty — except that, in Tales of Destiny, just getting to the tower is a Guide Dang It.
- Tales of Symphonia has the Forbidden Anamnesis book dungeon: 15 floors (20 in the PS2/PS3] version) of doom which literally suck life out of you over time and put all sorts of spokes in your wheels, have no save points, occasionally floors where defeating all enemies is a must, and on top of that, two bosses, one of which needs you to meet special prerequisite to initiate the battle. And then you have an option not to destroy the book, apparently, only to pay another visit to hell.
- Tales of Xillia 2 has the Illusory Darkness. A technically short bonus dungeon, but with enemies in it that have amplified defense which means that your party members must be linked-up in order to deal damage. Otherwise, every hit only does 1 point of damage. The only ones who can join Ludger in this area are those whose Affection is high enough, which can be difficult to achieve for several characters, though the game gives you an accessory to equip on someone you want to join in the dungeon. The area consists of two levels, with little things to do to proceed, but with a huge leap in enemy levels between Level 1 (78 is the norm) and Level 2 (Jumps up to 130, with the final bosses being Level 140) and having to redo it over and over, until all main bosses are defeated, before encountering the actual bosses of the dungeon: Cless Alvein and Stahn Aileron. Only upside, if you lose a battle in this dungeon, you are teleported back out instead of getting a Game Over.
- The Hall of Darkness, in Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of Titan. Mixes up all the gimmicks from previous dungeons, adds many new and is filled with Puzzle Random Encounters, that features powerful foes with different weaknesses to exploit but that are always found in groups specifically designed to fill in their flaws. For example, Red Lion is the strongest non-boss enemy in the game, but starts the battle sleeping... but he's usually found with a Hollow Magus, that can damage their allies and boost their power through the roof. So, just kill the Hollow Magus first, right? Wrong! Her evasion is insanely high, and sometimes she's found with a Thunder Spawn, which is one massive damage sponge and goes berserk if you kill one of its allies. Have fun!
- The entire second half of Super Columbine Massacre RPG! is this trope, especially early on. The first half of the game is a cakewalk, being, as it is, a recreation of the Columbine massacre, with Eric and Dylan shooting their largely defenseless classmates and being able to run back to their car at any time to stock up on ammo and health items. The second half, however, has Eric and Dylan being sent to Hell for their crimes, and the difficulty skyrockets. It starts with you playing only as Dylan, meaning that you can only inflict half as much damage per turn while enemies can focus entirely on Dylan rather than dividing their attacks between two characters, while your foes have been upgraded to The Legions of Hell — all of them based on enemies from Doom, the more powerful of whom can maul you in a one-on-one fight. Things get easier once you reunite with Eric and get some better weapons, though.
- The Steam version of Epic Battle Fantasy 4 has Battle Mountain, with stronger versions of the main bosses, new bosses more powerful than those in the main game, and normal enemy battles with at least 6 waves of enemies, with each wave getting progressively harder.
- Golden Sun: Dark Dawn:
- Otka Island. A maze constructed of over 100 identical rooms, only a few places where there are multiple correct paths (the minimum number of rooms to pass through to get to the boss is 47; to get all of the treasure first, 103 including the backtracking from the dead-end paths that the other treasures are down.) Your usual best weapon against bosses, the elemental summons? The boss of this dungeon can use it against you. Or more accurately, the members of your own party that he possesses can use them against you. And like all dungeons in the game, the encounter rate is absurdly low. It is literally possible to collect all the items, find the boss, beat the boss, then walk all the way back out without ever encountering any enemies.
- The final bonus dungeon is a reworked version of Crossbone Isle from the first game, and it has an incredible Difficulty Spike compared to the rest of the game. The random encounters are as dangerous as some of the last storyline bosses in the game, and the final Bonus Boss is none other than a reworked version of Dullahan from The Lost Age. Remember all those soldiers in the final storyline areas who dropped Water Of Life and crazy amounts of XP? You need that now, and it won't save you.
- The bonus areas in the Mega Man Battle Network series are known for being a fair step up from the main story in difficulty. But the Hidden WWW Network and the Secret Area of MMBN2 and MMBN3 respectively are widely regarded as being the most brutal in the whole series. Both games have viruses and bosses that are incredibly nasty. You also cannot warp out of the dungeon if the going gets too tough for you, you must MANUALLY leave the dungeon from where you came.
- Think you can just sneak around and get the few treasures that you access? Think again! Some of the best treasures in the game are found here are just in plain sight, but to get the goods you have to beat a specialized encounter with viruses that MUST ALL be destroyed in one attack or they will ALL respawn (and if you don't kill them fast enough, they will cause a very powerful, unblockable explosion that will quickly kill you if left unchecked). Many of these encounters require the use of specific Program Advance attacks, most of which you will not figure out on your own without an outside source or sheer trial-and-error telling you.
- Another reason why they're so difficult is because of the fact that at this point in the game, you MUST have a streamlined battle chip folder to get anywhere there. Streamlined as in — your folder has to be able to delete the enemies ASAP and/or provide Mega Man great defenses; using that alphabet soup folder that got you thru the main story with minimal fuss is no longer going to cut it here, the bosses and event he viruses here are simply too dangerous to fight with only 1~2 battle chips tops per turn.
- And then you encounter Bass.
Card Battle Game
- Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has the Heroic difficulty for each Adventure wing you already completed on Normal difficulty. In Heroic difficulty, almost all the bosses have increased HP, buffed up hero powers that are either way cheaper or WAY more powerful than they were before (if they weren't unfairly difficult in Normal to begin with), stronger minions, or start the game with minions already in the board. This difficulty mode is also completely optional; you get the new cards from just beating Normal difficulty and the separate class challenges. You also get nothing except a new card back for your efforts.
- SoulCalibur III has Night Terror, the true final boss of Chronicles Of The Sword mode, who you only get to fight if you win every match without dying. Again, defeating him doesn't achieve much beyond the bragging rights of doing so, but he has a true reputation for being hard to beat.
- The same game has Keres, who is tricky to beat as your moves barely do any damage unless you attack constantly. Defeating him does not make a difference to the story, but he has become a fan favorite because he was never made playable.
First Person Shooter
- Secret Level 3 in the original Descent. Possibly the hardest level in the entire series.
- The Secret Levels in Descent II weren't hard in the sense that it was easy to die (they contained very few enemies), but navigating them was a nightmare due to the huge number of puzzles involved. Doors that could only be opened from one side, doors that only opened once ever, walls appearing out of nothing behind you to block your path back, and doors that only unlocked when the reactor was blown up (giving you less than a minute or so to explore whatever was beyond them).
- The Doom series presents two notable examples...
- The Plutonia Experiment, one half of Final Doom, had the secret level "Go 2 It" - absolutely masochistic number of monsters, including a LOT of unfortunately-placed Cyberdemons. Casual players will spend hours struggling through this level to absolutely no avail.
- Master Levels for Doom II had "Bad Dream," a secret level in the file TEETH.WAD. While the solution to this level is actually quite simple, being confronted with dozens of Cyberdemons at once allows the level to live up to its name.
- Many modpacks have level designers who take secret levels as an excuse to let their insane side get loose with no restraint whatsoever. This has a tendency to result in levels that can't be ended without finding secret passages, ungodly amounts of very hard monsters in small rooms, timed sequences that must be done with ridiculous speed to have any hope of passing them, and so on.
- Doom 64 has Hectic: An unforgiving obstacle course that is in a deceptively small map. One room has you fighting four Elite Mooks on a narrow ledge with no cover & a death pit, Another room plunges you into a pit with both a crushing ceiling, limited safe zones and Elite Mooks who will fry you quickly with their plasma guns. The third is not quite so bad, being a room with elevator platforms and dart shooters on the walls. Complete this level and you are granted the Cheating Menu.
- Marathon Infinity has the Vidmaster Challenge, a kind of bonus level of hell for each of the three Marathon games. The game designers took the hardest level from each of the games, and made them WORSE, and put them back to back. And to top it off, the level If I Had A Rocket Launcher..., already insanely hard in the original game, starts with you stripped of all your guns. You start that one with an arsenal composed in its' entirety of two shotgun shells, one rifle magazine and eight grenades. They also use this opportunity to introduce an entirely new type of enemy.
- Mile High Club in Modern Warfare, which must be completed in one minute on Veteran while you are as fragile as a pane of glass. There were originally supposed to be three NPCs helping you during this mission, but because they were removed, you're doing the work of FOUR PEOPLE.
- Wolfenstein 3D: The Episode 3 secret level is pretty brutal, but brilliant fun too, while the Episode 4 secret level is practically a death trap unless you know the exact route to the exit (or are just plain crazy!).
- The first secret level in Spear of Destiny is no push-over as far as standard-style levels go either. What makes it special is the presence of Mutants who normally don't show up until the stages late in the game and the map being filled almost to the limit with enemies (149 is the maximum a map may contain in the old Wolfenstein 3D engine). The map also tends to have you fighting in narrow corridors with many blind corners.
- Team Fortress 2 has Caliginous Caper, a Halloween-themed Mann vs. Machine map. You start with 5000$, which is a lot compared to other missions. In case the difficulty name didn't convince you, this is the hardest mission of the game. Over 900 zombies are attacking, most of them with permanent crits and souped-up AI. A swarm of Spy zombies will overwhelm entire teams. Nine tanks attack in rapid succession. Giant robots are added in liberally. Those resistances you ignored? They're your life-savior. What makes it disappointing is that it's a Boot Camp mission, meaning that you will get absolutely nothing upon beating the madness.
- Aztec Complex in GoldenEye (1997). The enemies have boosted AI and amazing firepower (pretty much everyone has an M16 or a Moonraker Laser), and the environment is biased against you every step of the way. Killing the boss — who is certainly no slouch — automatically trips the alarm, sending every enemy you haven't killed yet barreling straight at you with a blazing passion for your blood AND allowing them to respawn after a short delay. And there is only one piece of body armor and no health pickups.
- Xonotic has the last level of the campaign, which isn't Glowplant as the game tells you, but rather the infernal Mission 17 from its Spiritual Predecessor Nexuiz's 2.0 campaign. In that mission, everyone is given a Rocket Launcher; the original mission had the players carrying the Laser Guided rocket launcher, which works differently from the game's regular Rocket Launcher, leading to deaths such as rockets exploding onto the players' faces, hurting or killing them. Xonotic doesn't feature that rocket launcher, making use of the regular one, but the level itself is still cramped with several bots which will make your life as a hell, whether you know how to use the Devastator (the game's version of the Rocket Launcher) or how you can go your way through the level.
- Quake I had the secret level of the fourth episode, "The Nameless City". It not only has traps galore and one of the highest enemy counts of the game, there's an area where you're assaulted by a dozen Fiends and several Shamblers at the same time. Good luck surviving that without plenty of health and Thunderbolt ammo.
- Super Mario Bros.:
- The Special World in Super Mario World, though some could be easily cleared with a cape. Tubular was a particularly insidious showstopper, if you try to play it properly.
- The Extra levels in Yoshi's Island. The page's picture is the first one, (Poochy Ain't Stupid), an Auto-Scrolling Level which, if you unlocked the level before going to World 2, introduces a completely new gameplay mechanic.
- The extra levels in Yoshi's Island DS, the sequel, take the game's Sequel Difficulty Spike, the game's tendency to border on a rare licensed example of Platform Hell, and cranks it Up to Eleven.
- Rom Hacks of Yoshi's Island typically have normal gameplay difficulty equivalent to that of the Extra levels in the original game - but these games usually also have extra levels which crank it Up to 11. If you were good enough to play the hack to begin with, you'd better have a lot more where that came from - otherwise, it's time to break out the save states.
- The Trial Galaxies in Super Mario Galaxy are reached by obtaining hidden Green Stars in Battlerock Galaxy post-saving Luigi, Buoy Base Galaxy, and Dusty Dune Galaxy. There are three Trial Galaxies, one for each of the special mechanics: surfing (Loopdeswoop), Star Balls (Rolling Gizmo), and bubbles (Bubble Blast). All they do is give a Star each, but are required for 100% Completion.
- World S in Super Mario Galaxy 2, particularly the Grandmaster Galaxy. Anyone who has played the game for 100% Completion can be brought to tears by "The Perfect Run."
- World 9 in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Especially 9-7.
- Then Superstar Road in New Super Mario Bros. U, which qualifies as that game's World 9. Enjoy 9-2 (Run For It), 9-3 (Swim For Your Life!), and 9-8 (Pendulum Castle). There's also its New Super Luigi U counterpart, which is a Nintendo Hard game in its own right. 9-6 (Fire Bar Sprint), especially, is nigh-impossible without Nabbit.
- Worlds 9 through D in Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, where the levels will require even more precise jumps and the encounters with Lakitu and Hammer Bro. are more frequent.
- World S8-Crown in Super Mario 3D Land, a very brutal reward for your 100% Completion.
- Super Mario 3D World has Crown-Crown (Champion's Road), which much be completed five times (once with each character) for 100% Completion.
- Super Mario Maker allows one to unlock the levels played at Nintendo World Championships 2015 when one beats every other built in level. Beating those allows one to place the Weird Mushroom down on demand.
- Special Stage 2 in Kaizo Mario World, which is already Platform Hell in its own right, descends into the ninth circle of hell.
- The Distorted Travesty series loves these. The most recent entry in the series sports a total of eight of these things scattered about the game. Take a look at the first one.
- Bubble Bobble Part 2 (NES) with That One Guy named Barcelon.
- The Caverns Of Hammerfest got Parallel Dimension 'Hell', located after a gate in level 54. The game, which is already pretty hard, takes it Up to Eleven there.
- The Pyramid of the Forbidden in Commander Keen 4. Made even worse by the fact that a player who saves there has to beat the level, use cheats or start over to be able to play the other levels again.
- Donkey Kong Country
- The Lost World in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest and Krematoa in Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!.
- The Temple levels in each world of Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, all of which are required to unlock the equally difficult secret areas (Golden Temple in Returns and Secret Seclusion in Tropical Freeze), which in turn are required to unlock Mirror Mode (Returns) and Hard Mode (Tropical Freeze). None of these levels have checkpoints, so when you die, you have to start the level from the beginning.
- World 8 in Eversion. Requires finding all gems and leads to the True Ending, as usual.
- Rayman Origins has the Tricky Treasure levels. Each one features Rayman pursuing a sentient treasure box as it weaves its way through a level that is falling apart. These levels require precise knowledge of where and when to jump (or not to jump), often acquired through trial and error. Also, beating all 10 Tricky Treasure levels unlocks the Land of the Livid Dead. A single misstep or twitch in the wrong direction is enough to end in a very painful death. Words just do not do it justice. See for yourself.
- Most of the Livid Dead Party music levels in Rayman Legends are 8-bit remixes of the previous 6 music levels. The originals require jumping and punching to the beat of the music, depending on whether a gap or an enemy is in your way as the level auto-scrolls past you. The 8-bit remix levels, true to their name, introduce graphical defects to the levels that range from simply annoying to full-on Interface Screw. As an added bonus, the 8-bit remix levels don't have any checkpoints - you have to do a perfect run of each level from start to finish.
- Super Meat Boy.
- The levels required to unlock The Kid are based on The Kid's home game.
- The Dark World levels are the (already punishingly difficult) original levels with a few extra saw blades or other obstacles strategically placed to cause the most death.
- The Warp Zone levels limit your life count to 3 in a game where your total death toll will reach the thousands across a hundred levels before you reach "The End".
- Chapter 7: Cotton Alley, the bonus chapter unlocked after beating the game. Enjoy your pink, colourful, cheery, disco, sawblade-covered death!
- One of the downloadable content level packs is a bonus level pack called "Expert Remix", which includes 20 remade versions of levels from the regular game, made to be many times harder than even their Dark World versions. Try beating 5-8 without the elevator, 6-2 with the map zoomed all the way out the whole time, or the first level of The Kid's warp zone without his double-jumping ability!
- Catherine, a game that's already hellishly difficult in its own right, later presents a set of four very long, even harder levels known as Babel. Each one requires that you reach the top before all the blocks fall away, similar to normal levels. However, these levels are all set on Hard. This means that the floor falls away really quick and you can't undo any mistakes. Make a slight booboo in your strategy that makes it impossible to advance? Tough nuts. Very few people on either platform have actually beaten these levels, and they only get harder as they go. And the final level, Axis Mundi is flat out impossible to complete alone solo in Western regions, thanks to a bug in the game that renders it impossible to climb more than a few steps. Hope you can work two controllers or have a friend to help you.
- Croc: Legend Of The Gobbos has the bonus level Secret Sentinel, in which it is very hard to actually get any hits on the boss due to falling traps all around you.
- The "Extra Game" mode in the original Kirby's Dream Land crosses this over with New Game+. Your health is cut in half, enemies do more damage, they become much faster, and even more aggressive and unpredictable. Suddenly, this once-placid little game becomes a Nintendo Hard piece of Platform Hell.
- While the "Extra" Distant Traveler stage of Dedede's Drum Dash in Kirby: Triple Deluxe isn't very secret, it does require getting gold medals or better on all three of the standard levels. And sure, you may well have played the preceding songs near-flawlessly, but Extra throws you a lightning-fast song where you have to leap over giant Gordos while many of the drums that make up the floor are halfway to broken when you get there and will fall to pieces the moment King Dedede touches them, giving you only one chance at jumping high enough. As if that wasn't bad enough, you only get 3 hit points instead of the standard 5, but with all the breaking drums, it probably won't matter anyway. Blinking while attempting to play it usually results in death.
- Kirby Super Star Ultra, Kirby's Return to Dream Land, Kirby: Triple Deluxe and Kirby: Planet Robobot feature the True Arena. Much like the standard Arena, it's a Boss Rush against every boss and miniboss in the game with few healing items. The Arena is tough, but the True Arena is many orders of magnitude more difficult. All of the bosses and minibosses are souped-up versions of their normal counterparts that have massively powerful and hard-to-avoid attacks. The bosses who were introduced in the hard versions of the normal game also show up here. Healing items are limited to about four tomatoes that restore pathetic amounts of health or a single reserve cherry every few rounds in Planet Robobot. In the between-round rest stop, you only have one ability item to choose from if you lost yours during the battle, as the other is the totally useless Sleep; in Planet Robobot it's an ability roulette. Then you get to the end, and you have to face a Bonus Boss (Galacta Knight, Galacta Knight again(thrice), and Dark Meta Knight) who uses relentless and wide-reaching attacks. Then comes the final bosses, which can stomp you into a flat sheet and dust the furniture with your remains, concluded with the final boss's Soul form, who excel at Teleport Spam and firing ridiculous amounts of projectiles. Planet Robobot amps it up with a four-phase True Final Boss that ends with a hard-to-avoid invincibility-ignoring One-Hit Kill Kaizo Trap! The game does not mess around in the True Arena, and it lets you know how brutal the True Arena is: the music is an intense guitar version of the normal Arena theme and the backgrounds are twisted and warped.
- The Grannie levels in Mutant Mudds, which is hard to begin with. Often just reaching them is an ordeal, let alone finishing them. Grannie can use every powerup in the game at once, but in these levels, that's as much a curse as a blessing, as you'll need perfectly-timed combinations of rocket jumps, hovers, and long shots over loads of spikes and in the face of many, many enemies.
- The bonus worlds in all of the Something Series.
- Something even advises you to complete the game before taking on the bonus world when you press the Switch Palace in World 4. When you enter one of these levels, you have to get your powerups taken away.
- The entrance to the bonus world is closed off in Something Else until Luigi gets all of the known exits and beats the game.
- Balue's Tower in Klonoa: Door to Phantomile. It regularly hands out extra lives in packages of about 9. You will need all of them.
- The House of Fun and House of Horrors bonus levels in Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil. You will need to have your full measure of wind-bullet shooting, enemy-head jumping, ear-floating skill, and be able to perfectly chain them all together to get through them. One slip up, and it's a life lost.
- Sector Z in Iji. One hit point, full armor, and the enemies are Goddamned Bats to some degree.
- After the ending and credits in Rockin Kats, Muggsy suddenly appears and challenges Willy to a rematch, with Willy having to go through the hardest bits of platforming in the game first to get to him.
- Mega Man Unlimited has Yoku Man's stage. You know those infamous disappearing and reappearing blocks that have been the bane of many players' existence ever since Mega Man 1? Well, Yoku Man is the mastermind behind those things, and his stage has them scattered throughout the entire level over bottomless pits and spike traps, along with disappearing and reappearing spikes, blocks that become enemies that chase you until they die, reality-distorting prisms that blind your vision of the terrain around you, and the entire second half is one giant maze that sends you back to the beginning if you go the wrong way.
- Spyro: Year of the Dragon: While most of the Super Bonus Round challenges are relatively easy, the Yeti skateboarding challenge is absolutely BRUTAL, much harder than even the hardest challenge in the rest of the game. You have to hit practically every speed star, rocket, and blue crab, as well as do major tricks off every skateboarding ramp, and if you fall off the edge or crash even ONCE, there's almost no chance of you winning first place. Even if you do everything right, you'll probably win by the skin of your teeth.
- Most of the secret levels in Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure take Nintendo Hard Up to Eleven in an already Nintendo Hard game. Special mention goes to 4-1S, an absolutley brutal Auto-Scrolling Level requiring precision jumps across moving platforms whist being swarmed with Goddamned Bats, mastery of most of the game's projectiles and rigourous memorization of the level to complete. And you'll probably have to complete this one before some of the earlier secret levels, as the reward you get from it is almost required for even accessing them.
- Both Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog have a super hard mode as a reward for getting all A-ranks.
- Some of the downloadable super-hard mode stages in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) are pretty brutal as well, especially the ones where you play through the level in reverse order.
- All of the optional stages in the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Sonic Unleashed begin with medium-hard and go up from there. All of the downloadable stages kick things up a notch and are all comparable to the infamous Eggmanland. This includes Windmill Isle and its tutorial stage.
- The last few Special Stages of the classic games will almost always be the most difficult of the bunch.
- Crash Bandicoot (1996) had three kinds of bonus levels, reachable through collecting sets of tokens through the level. Tawna's bonus levels are essentially breathers, where the player can collect extra lives and save the game or get a passwords. Brio's bonus levels consist of much more challenging jumping puzzles, with bigger rewards to match. Cortex's bonus levels are the absolute worst, with absolutely devious platforming challenges. Sadly, only Cortex's levels are obligatory for 100% Completion, because beating them unlocks extra levels...but should you fail them, you'll have to restart the stage you came from for another chance, and one of the bonus levels happens to be located in the game's resident Scrappy Level, Sunset Vista.
- LIMBO's Brutal Bonus Level is unlocked after you find and squish 10 hidden eggs throughout the game (not all in one playthrough, thankfully). The level is not simply difficult in that it throws more deadly shit than usual at you, instead it takes the same minimalist, artsy approach that the rest of the game does. Everything is completely black, save for your character's little glowing eyes, bouncing up and down. You have to dodge giant blade traps and solve puzzles purely by sound.
- NightSky has a reward for collecting all the bonus stars hidden throughout the game, a final chapter called "Slightly Nonsense," which features some real challenges that force you to battle and exploit the environment physics every step of the way. This chapter includes, among other things, a level where you can only get around by working the anti-gravity power on and off, trampolines, and surfaces where the friction and impulse physics are intentionally wonky.
- In the NES version of The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle, you can grab a no-carrot sign that sends you to one of four special stages, all of which are far more difficult than even the hardest of the normal stages. Beating one gets you three extra lives, but losing one sends you back three levels.
- Super Monkey Ball:
- To even reach the Extra stages, you must complete all of a difficulty's stages without continuing. Clear Expert Extra without continuing and you get to the Master stages. And if that wasn't enough, in Super Monkey Ball 2, clear those without using a continue and you get the Master Extra stages. Good luck pulling that off on Deluxe, where you can only reach the Master stages via Ultimate mode, where you have to play through all Beginner, Advanced & Extra stages(there's a save feature for the mode, but it's only a slight solace).
- Banana Blitz has Sinking Swamp, which is unlock by beating the previous 8 worlds without a continue, and beating THAT without continuing unlocks The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, Ultra Heaven. Step & Roll has Silliconia, which is unlocked by beating the other worlds, but is a MASSIVE Difficulty Spike from the rest of the game. Finally Banana Splitz brings back the Master Stages, while it only requires you to beat Beginner, Normal, and Advanced to unlock, the latter is a Marathon That One Level, and the new Master stages don't throw punches themselves, and requires a no-continue run for 100% Completion.
- Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition's newly added Bonus Dungeon has many zones that make the main game look like child's play. Some of the sadistic obstacles include platforming over insta-death Spikes of Doom in a Blackout Basement while carrying a light orb that precludes double jumping or other acrobatic maneuvers, rotating quad death laser traps, gauntlets of Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom or Laser Hallways with a very narrow timing window to Charge Dash through, and an Indiana Jones-style boulder race on steroids. Good luck playing through it in One-Life mode.
- Boulder Dash has difficult intermissions before checkpoint levels that you may start on. They are individually Nintendo Hard, and while they don't cost a life if you fail them, you get kicked to the next level without a chance to retry it. The hardest is the second intermission, the "V-bonus level"◊ where you need to make a mad dash while vulnerable to fast-moving square guardians. On the other hand, the third intermission is unwinnable on PAL systems.
- The advanced chambers in Portal.
- The Professor Layton games have Layton's Challenges, a collection of 15 post-game puzzles (typically five sets of three puzzles each) unlocked by completing certain objectives in the main game. All of them are much more difficult than anything you'll face in the main game, with at least one puzzle in each 3-puzzle set being a fiendishly difficult (not to mention frustrating) slide puzzle and/or an insanely hard(er) version of one of the main game's already brutally tough puzzles. To top it all off, the very last puzzle in every game is, without fail, a diabolically difficult slide puzzle. Last Specter makes it even worse by making the final puzzle two slide puzzles in one, with absolutely no hints for the downright evil second puzzle. Miracle Mask gives a slide puzzle for its second last puzzle, with the final puzzle being different from usual. It's supposed to be a harder version of what was faced in the Azran Chamber, but being it's just stepping on buttons, it's really not as hard as you would imagine.
- Droidquest, the Java port of Robot Odyssey, added a sixth level with even more insane puzzles than the Nintendo Hard fifth level. Originally, you could only get there after collecting a number of secret items in association with the original Developer's Room, but the latest version introduced a portal straight to the sixth level.
- Kuru Kuru Kururin has three bonus levels in story mode when you finish each of the other levels without getting hit. These aren't very difficult though. The real Brutal Bonus Levels are the 5 mini-levels you unlock in challenge mode by finishing each of the 50 normal challenge levels without getting hit which is quite a feat in and of itself.
- Lemmings's SNES port adds five "Sunsoft Bonus" levels after the Mayhem level set.
- The Witness: The Underground Maze, unlocked by activating all eleven lasers, turning on a hidden switch at the top of the mountain, and then solving an otherwise-deactivated panel inside the mountain. It contains easily the hardest puzzles in the entire game and includes The Challenge, a particularly nasty set of panels activated by a record player that plays classical music. In addition to all of them being randomized and extremely difficult, you have to finish the entire series before the music stops; let the music finish or pause the game and you have to start the entire series over again. Your sanity wishes you the best of luck.
- From the page quote: The first PSP Ridge Racer game (or rather, the US version) gives us the MAX tours, unlocked after completing all main tours. These are the 7 most ball-bustingly hard tours in the entire game, with Rubber Band AI like you wouldn't believe. The seventh and final tour is billed as so difficult that players on the development team could only clear it twice within 60 days and is compared to climbing Mt. Everest. They are strictly a challenge for top players seeking to absolutely complete the game, as they offer no rewards, not even a cutscene.
- In Wipeout 3, you can unlock four untextured bonus tracks. The first three are fairly easy. The fourth is also fairly easy unless you play on the highest speed class, In that case, if you haven't been playing the game since it came out, forget it.
- The Lakeside stage in Sega Rally Championship 1995. Besides being longer than the other three stages, you need to be first by the end of Mountain to access it, which in itself is hard if you're playing on an arcade cabinet with the difficulty on 'Arcade'. And the track is PAINFULLY thin and hitting a wall just SLIGHTLY will send you to about 30mph dispite being at around 70mph throughout most of the other tracks. Did I mention that the time limit only gives you about 2.5 seconds between 'Impossible Lap Time' and 'Time Over'?
- Any bonus course in the Jet Moto series, especially Nebulous in the second game.
- Most of the Driving Missions in Gran Turismo 4, especially the final one. Also, Sebastian Vettel X challenge on 5. It's hidden thruought the game until you reach Level 30 (Even the trophies are a secret until you acquire) and it's one of the most difficult challenge in the series.
Real Time Strategy
- The third Bonus mission in Battalion Wars where you play as the Solar Empire, forced to fend off Bombers with no Anti-Air support for the majority of the mission, then finally given three fighters...only for Xylvania to send a barrage of Bombers and Gunships.
- Not all of Guitar Hero's bonus levels are necessarily harder than the regular ones, but some definitely are. "Jordan" from the second game and "Through the Fire and Flames" from the third are the most famous ones.
- Rock Band 2 has "Visions". Then there's the DLC. Plus it seems some music is being written specifically for the game on RBN. Eep. And "Through the Fire and Flames" is now available for Rock Band. Another DragonForce song for Rock Band, "Operation Ground and Pound", has a guitar chart that puts TTFaF to shame. It's so brutal that one of the best players in the world was happy just to have passed it without No-Fail mode, and it took until December 2016 - over 5 years since the song's release - for a Full Combo. Special mention goes to Slipknot's "Pulse of the Maggots." With OGaP finally FCed, Pulse of the Maggots stands as the single song on guitar still without an FC.
- The Bemani series is fond of these.
- Dance Dance Revolution: In most games from DDR MAX onwards, clearing the last stage with a grade of AA or higher nets you an extra stage, which is usually rated a 10, scrolls at at least 300 BPM, has the x1.5 speed and Reverse mods in effect, and you can only miss 4-5 times before you get a Game Over. Clear and AA that, and you get the One More Extra Stage, a slightly easier song on which breaking combo is an instant fail.
- Later DDR games change this up a bit more, swapping out the non-recovering lifebar for a Challenge Lifebar with a variable number of lives on it and having the One More Extra Stage be even more difficult than the Extra Stage. Yes, we're looking at you, Pluto Relinquish!
- X2 takes this even further; meet certain requirements and you go to the Replicant-D-Action folder for the extra stage. There's a total of six songs, all of which are hard (Anti-Matter, New Decade and Possession are almost twice as hard as the other 3 songs!). And then there's Valkyrie Dimension...
- Beatmania IIDX also has Extra Stage and One More Extra Stage songs, but of particular note is Mendes, the One More Extra Stage song from IIDX 15: DJ Troopers. If you can actually clear it on Another (the hardest normally available difficulty) on the console version, which itself is brutal, you unlock an even harder Black Another chart for it. See it here - the left side is Another, and the right side is Black Another.
- Elite Beat Agents (and, by extension, its Japanese sister series Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2) has bonus levels that you unlock by reaching certain score levels. While the first two usually aren't too tough, the last one in both games is usually second only to the final stage in terms of difficulty. The kicker is that, once you unlock them, they become mandatory for all other difficulties where you haven't reached that song tier yet. Have fun soldiering through "Survivor" and "Samurai Blue" on Hard Rock.
- Cytus has the Chapter L DLC, a set of ten songs with some of the most brutal charts in the game, with the songs themselves ranging from four-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half minutes each. All of the songs being rated 9, the game's maximum difficulty, on easy should be a good indicator of what you're in for. The difficulty was so high that it managed to generate enough fan backlash to make Rayark release an update that toned down the charts, but the original ones are still playable as hidden songs.
- Rhythm Heaven Megamix introduced the Challenge Train, where you play a selection of games with some form of extra condition (do it in three/two lives, reach a certain score threshold, do well enough to stop the level from being eaten by a monster and/or play the game sped up). Some of these are pretty tough, but Lockstep Lockdown in particular has the game tell you "Look, this one's tough." before you even play it. In short, it's Lockstep (one of the DS game's hardest games involving keeping the beat and switching to an offbeat pattern every so often) played four times in a row on the three-life system (which, mercifully, replenish between stages) getting faster and faster with each stage. "Super hard!" is a pretty apt description.
- The Binding of Isaac: Sheol is a literal hell, with wickedly hard monsters and Satan as the final boss. Wrath of the Lamb adds The Cathedral, a harder inversion of Sheol, and if you beat that while carrying the Polaroid, then you go to the Chest, where there is a boss in every single room. Rebirth adds the Dark Room if you beat Sheol while carrying the Negative, which follows the same rules as the Chest.
- Doom, the Roguelike carries a few, if you're willing to follow the red stairways:
- The Mortuary follows a simple formula: Take a big room, add over a hundred corpses, and release the Archviles. It's enough to challenge anyone, to say the least.
- If you're not geared for melee, stay the hell away from the Unholy Cathedral.
- If you completed the Arena, the Chained Court will become one, what with the huge, boss-tier Archvile trying to fry you.
- Dungeons of Dredmor has a surprisingly easy to access bonus level: Diggle Hell. Mistype a wizardland code and enter the red, glowy portal and get ready to meet every single variety of diggle in the game, from the lowliest to the harbingers and even some exclusive to the place, and get dogpiled by them. It also holds a Bonus Boss, for those who like their unfairness with a dash of mercilessness.
- Dwarf Fortress's Adventure Mode has divine vaults, created by a deity responsible for bringing a demon up to the mortal world, in order to keep the demon's true name safe. The secret inside is guarded by possibly the strongest things in the entire game, armed to boot with the second best metal after Adamantine. Actually obtaining the secret, a slab engraved with the demon's name, letting you either banish or command it, is more of a Bragging Rights Reward by the time you're powerful and/or cunning enough to not be One Hit Killed the moment you step inside.
- Pokémon Mystery Dungeon
- Red/Blue Rescue Team has a few-Wish Cave, Joyous Tower, and Purity Forest all have 99 floors and reset your level to one. Purity Forest takes it a step further and destroys any items in your bag when you enter. It also resets your IQ to zero, taking away all of your skills, and prevents you from bringing in any teammates to help. The game calls it a test of wits and intelligence rather than power, but it fails to mention the colossal amount of luck involved.
- Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers gives you the Zero Isle dungeons . In Sky, there's two more of the brutal bonus dungeons, Zero Isle Center and Destiny Tower. Each of them have different entering prerequisites and brutally strong enemies. In Zero Isle North you won't gain any EXP from defeating enemies, the enemies in the first floor are in level 50, and by the end of the dungeon they will be in level 90. And some floors will have high chance to have a Monster House (30%!). In Zero Isle East, your level will be reset to 1, and you can only bring 16 items. No Monster House here, though. In Zero Isle West, your level will be reduced to 1 too.. And you cannot bring ANY item there. However, like all Zero Isles dungeons, the scattered items are the best in the game. In Zero Isle Center, you can't gain any EXP, can't bring any item, and can't reveal traps by using the basic attack (push A) . The harderst of the Zero Isle dungeons has to be the Zero Isle South as your level is reduced to 1, can't bring any item, can't bring any money... and you have to enter this dungeon ALONE. Destiny Tower have similar prerequisite with entering Zero Isle South, that you can bring items... But you temporarily lost your IQ skills in exchange. Also, before that you can't be rescued in these dungeons and the enemies in these dungeons are not only strong but also have high IQ, so good luck in conquering these dungeons, as they each gives extremely nice gifts in the end or the middle of the dungeons. By the end of Zero Isle West you can find the Amber Tear and by the end of Zero Isle North you can find the Golden Mask, both are the best held items to increase recruitment rate (24%) , as you marches on Zero Isle South you can find the exclusive items for some legendaries, as you getting through Zero Isle East you can collect some rare exclusive items too, by the end of Zero Isle Center there are four Deluxe Boxes, all containing exclusive items for the Pokemon you're using as the leader, and by the end of Destiny Tower, you can find the Space Globe, the held item that will raise your attack by 50%.
- Gates to Infinity has Slumbering Cave and Path of No Return. Like the above examples, they both have 99 floors, reset your level to 5, remove all your Team Skills, prevent you from taking in items or money, and have a hunger mechanic in place. While you can challenge Slumbering Cave with a full party, Path of No Return requires you to challenge it solo. Slumbering Cave has no problems with throwing fully-evolved Pokémon on just the first few floors, and they're so strong that even your strongest attacks often won't harm them! Path of No Return throws everything at you: it has more traps than safe space, Monster Houses are everywhere, you can't see more than a few spaces after a short while, most floors have weather that prevents passive healing and possibly damages you, supplies are ultra-limited, enemies' AI is seriously ramped up, and usable things are too expensive to buy.
Shoot Em Up
- Gauntlet: Dark Legacy has one bonus stage per world, that consists of trying to nab 25 coins in a maze before time runs out. Your reward for beating a bonus stage is a secret character; the secret characters have stat alignments similar to the base characters (Medusa excells at Magic like the Wizard and Sorceress, for example), but with more intriguing physical designs and overall higher stats. The problem? The bonus stages range from antsy to teeth-grindingly brutal. Some of the more egregious examples include: a two-in-one literal Bonus Level of Heaven and Hell where you're locked into unintuitive control physics not used anywhere else in the game, and you cannot go back for any coins; a deliberately-confusing psychedelic maze; a space station where you must use teleporters that don't always work perfectly, all in time limits that can generously be called 'fatalistic'. Your punishment for losing is to re-appear in the stage where you found the bonus entrance, but the bonus door will be gone, and you'll need to replay the stage for it to appear again. Considering some of these bonus doors appear very close to the end of lengthy stages, the player is wedged between quite the rock and hard place.
- Extra Stages in Touhou.
- Perfect Cherry Blossom, the seventh in the series and the second of the Windows series, goes one step further by also having an even harder Phantasm stage, which pits you against Yukari Yakumo, probably the toughest Bonus Boss of the entire series.
- In Imperishable Night you can unlock Last Word spellcards, which can each take hundreds of attempts to defeat.
- The second game in the series, Story of the Eastern Wonderland has a similarly difficult extra stage in Evil Eye Sigma (a flying demon tank piloted by the local first stage boss), which is absurdly hard for entirely different reasons, most notably due to the game's larger hitbox and lack of modern conveniences like focusing.
- The Fourth game, Lotus Land Story has one of the more brutal Extra stages in the franchise. Namely for the fact you have to fight 2 Bosses back to back and timing out Gengetsu's last spellcard will give you a more vicious assault afterwards.
- The arcade version of Gradius III has a couple of optional hidden levels accessed at the very end of the game by letting yourself be hit by one of Bacterian's otherwise easily-dodged attacks. Instead of costing you a life as you might expect, you will be whisked away to one of two levels modeled after the first levels of the original Gradius and Salamander/Life Force games. While these levels are not necessarily that much more brutal than the rest of the itself brutally-difficult game they're in, they still throw you a curveball in that all of your powerups, speed-ups included, are taken away upon entry to these levels. There are only a small handful of powerups at the beginning of each of these stages, which pretty much have to be used for speed-ups, therefore you usually just have only your standard gun to take you through the whole level. Should you get to the end of one of these levels, you are not rewarded in any way other than the small handful of points you may have received in getting through the level; you simply get placed back in the "main" game (with all your powerups taken from you again, just for good measure) to take another shot at Bacterian.
- The Gorge in Death Smiles. The Mega Black Label upgrade adds the Ice Palace, which is a bit more beginner-friendly than the Gorge (especially if you're using Sakura).
- Stage F-C in R-Type Final. One life, no continues, very long.
- Abmneshi The Prophecy has the Invisible Stage, which is selected by pressing left with the leftmost stage already selected; It contains Sirisai, a rather nasty Bonus Boss.
- The Hope archive in Child of Eden.
- Inverted in Image Fight; there is an extra level you're dumped into if you don't kill a high enough percentage of enemies in the first five stages, called the Penalty Area. In it, you must fight a fleet of very difficult enemies, with all of your powerups gone AND no powerups available within the stage. Score chasers will throw one of the stages to get to this stage and reap points for killing enemies, but the high difficulty of the stage means it's ill-advised and you're mostly better off trying to just meet the Border quota.
- The Ace Combat series has its share, mainly of Boss Rush variety:
- Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere had "Geopelia".
- Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War had "The Gauntlet".
- Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception had "Operation X".
- Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation had "Ace of Aces", an official mod for the SP campaign that turns its every level into this.
- Ace Combat: Joint Assault also has "Ace of Aces" but it's a single mission here instead.
- Jedi Starfighter has the unlockable bonus missions "Jango Fett", "The Lone Gunship" and "Advanced Training", all of which are far harder than most of the levels that you'll find in the main game. "Jango Fett" has the player controlling the eponymous bounty hunter as he flies Slave I and takes on a smuggler's private fleet singlehandedly, "The Lone Gunship" has the player controlling a Republic gunship pilot taking on a Separatist army on Geonosis singlehandedly (noticing a pattern here?), and "Advanced Training" is a follow-up to Adi's earlier Forced Tutorial that forces her to master advanced techniques like sniping and chasing in the starfighter.
- While the main story of Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones was criticized for being uncharacteristically easy, the bonus dungeon Lagdou Ruins started out considerably harder than the end of the main story, and by its last few floors was unabashedly sadistic. The fact that you had to complete ten floors in a row with no saves in between didn't help matters (unless playing the game in an emulator), nor did the fact that most of the characters had low magic resistance and the latter floors were full of long-range casters that could twoshot them from across the map. Lagdou Ruins as a whole is so hard that it got a Shout-Out in Fire Emblem Awakening: its music theme was recycled for the brutal DLC map known as Apotheosis.
- The Melkaen Coast dungeon, unlocked after Chapter 19, isn't exactly cakewalk either. It's considered to be just as hard as the first floor of the Lagdou Ruins, as every monster found is a promoted version with very high health (over 40+ except for a few monsters). Oh, and sometimes it can feature the much hated Fog of War.
- Apotheosis. Ignoring the fact that it's DLC, so Nintendo would have you pay them to torture yourself, there are a lot of factors that would encourage you to become a eugenicist just to beat it. The premise is that five battles take place in a row with no breaks between. Falter on one of them or run out of time and that's it. The enemies introduced come packing numerous AI-exclusive skills such as Dragonskin Effect , Luna+ Effect and Aegis+/Pavise+ Effect . Can't cheese your way through this one! In fact, the difficulty for this says it all. The maps in the store are rated for difficulty using a star system. Apotheosis' rating? Insane. Then you play the Secret Path for it which will probably send you into the nearest mental asylum.
- Soul Nomad & the World Eaters has the Demon's path, which is significantly harder than the normal path.
- Hypogeum of Tears to Tiara 2, unlocked after clearing the main game. The game is automatically put on Hard Mode, and the original Rewind option so vital to the normal game is disabled. Many of its levels are designed to swamp you with opponents straight from the start, with special setups that allow various long range magic to 1HKO with you hard-pressed to reply in kind. And while the regular game can be cleared with your team at around the early level 50s, Hypogeum pretty much require you go grind to level 90s and the final floors are still very hard with your entire party at max lv 99.
- Disgaea games always have these; the post-game is where the real challenge is. Considering the games' Absurdly High Level Cap (9999; you'll need well under 100 to beat the main story), these are usually Level Grinding fests. Many will have you acquiring new party members from previous games in the series (or other NIS titles). The real Brutal Bonus Level is typically against Baal or Pringer X, bosses with devastating attacks and stats in the upper stratosphere. Pringer X has an ability which nulls any skill that has been used on it, meaning you can't spam your most powerful spells. Secondly, they have obscenely high damage and health which is 21 million. To crank it all up to "I HATE YOU" levels, the last one has you fighting the worst type, Pringer X Go, which has a whopping health of 160 million. Another mention goes to Baal in Disgaea 4, who has a passive ability that will instantly kill your characters as soon as you place them on the map provided they aren't strong enough to survive the damage.
- The first real instance of this trope came about in Disgaea 2, which introduced the Land of Carnage—- enemy levels are boosted by 2000% plus 200 extra levels, and then their stats get doubled on top of that. Disgaea 3 increased the insanity by giving enemies a 1% stat boost for every 20 levels they'd go above the level cap. Disgaea D2 upped the ante by letting your characters absorb these stats whenever they killed an enemy in the Land of Carnage, and then added Rasetsu Mode to make those stats go even higher. Disgaea 5 added its own change—- items found in the Land of Carnage (aka the Carnage Dimension) have greatly increased stats, although their Item Worlds will have immensely powerful foes.
- The original Advance Wars has a bonus Mission after the Final Battle with Sturm called Rivals, where Eagle challenges Andy to one last go around. In order to access it, you have to play through the Campaign and choose Sami for every Green Earth Mission (barring Eagle's introduction early on of course). This is noted to be quite difficult, as Sami's Green Earth Missions are easily the hardest of them (it doesn't help that she's not nearly the terror that she is in later games either), but it pays off in more ways than one; not only does it give access to Rivals, it also places Eagle as the 3rd CO in the Final Battle, along with an entire squadron of air units to start off (considering the closest airport is neutral and well near the middle, this is a HUGE plus). On the flip side, if you play Rivals in the already painful Advanced Campaign, you're basically doomed to be playing the map for a long time.
- Five Nights at Freddy's:
- Five Nights at Freddy's and Five Nights at Freddy's 2 have the Sixth Night and the Custom Night. Very few people have ever beaten FNaF Custom night with all difficulties set to max, (known as 20/20/20/20 mode), although this is partly because even if you are VERY skilled it still takes luck to beat it. The custom night in FNaF2 has several preset modes you can complete to unlock toys that sit on the desk in the game while you play.
- Five Nights at Freddy's 3 has a bonus Sixth Night, but does not feature a Custom Night, since unlike its predecessors you only have one animatronic, Springtrap, to deal with.
- Five Nights at Freddy's 4 has multiple versions of this. It has the standard Night 6 and Night 7, the latter of which is also called Nightmare Mode and your antagonist throughout Night 5, Fredbear, is replaced by a more aggressive black pallette swap called Nightmare. It also has a hidden Night 8, which serves as the 20/20/20/20 mode. The Halloween Update adds in additional options for custom nights, such as Blind Mode, Mad Freddy (Where Nightmare Freddy becomes a threat more quickly), Insta-Foxy (Foxy is always in your closet), and All Nightmare (dealing with Nightmare the entire night instead of from the halfway point onward). They can be activated alone or in combination, meaning its possible to have All Nightmare Blind Mode on yourself.
- A fanmod named Five Nights At Vault 5 features the Ultimate Night, unlocked after the "official" five, with all five robots being present and with the terminal alert frequency cranked up to max.
- Wick allows you to play 5 am if you've unlocked all the collectibles from the previous hours.
- The Golems of Amgarrak DLC for Dragon Age: Origins consists of a single level filled with the meanest enemies you encounter in the entirety of the official DA:O content. In fact, it seems to exist solely for the purpose of finding out whether you are a bad enough dude/chick to take on four freaking boss-level enemies (plus two minor bosses) at once, on your own. The answer? You aren't, trust us. Unless you figure out that it's actually a Puzzle Boss. Oh, and that encounter is considered second worst to the Final Boss of the level.
- After clearing the final story boss in the old AD&D "Gold Box" game Pools of Darkness, you probably had a party of 40th-level adventurers who were all dripping with powerful magical items. At this point, you had the option to take Dave's Challenge: a small dungeon with no safe spots that's crawling with every monster you hated fighting in the main game, as well as a few resurrected bosses.
- Dark Souls has a few, but the best is the Painted World of Ariamis. While it's not full of Bottomless Pits or excessively trap-happy, it's full of very, very nasty enemies and several excellent items. If you want to get everything out, you need to fight through buildings full of fire- and toxin-spewing undead, rats that inflict toxin, terrifyingly powerful Crow Demons, an undead dragon, a pyromancy-loving phantom, and a basement full of Skeleton Wheels - some of which are fought in narrow hallways. Even worse, once you enter, you can't leave until you open the exit at the end, which is easier said than done.
- In Dark Souls II, pretty much all the DLC locations could be this trope. However, the best example of this is the Frigid Outskirts, a Brutal Bonus Level inside another brutal bonus level. You are trapped in a snowstorm that makes it nearly impossible to see around you. While blinded by the storm and trying to find your way to the end, you are constantly ambushed by respawning lightning-spamming Ice Stallions and Faraam Warriors... and if you're really unlucky, you can possibly get invaded by other players too. What lays at the end of this madness? A boss fight against Bonus Bosses Lud and Zallen. Your reward for all this punishment is the Ring of the Living - which allows you to camouflage yourself by removing the glowing outline in phantom form.
- Dark Souls III has not one, not two, but four Bonus Levels:
- First of all, we have the Smouldering Lake, which contains the massively difficult Carthus Sandworm and a giant crossbow shooting at the player. Below it, there's the Demon Ruins, implied to be the last remaining chunks of Lost Izalith from the first game, a labyrinthine level filled with tight spaces and narrow corridors and some really good loot. Also present is Knight Slayer Tsorig, a rather dangerous and powerful NPC who can one-shot the unprepared.
- The next one is the Consumed King's Garden, home to a Toxic-inducing swamp and infested with Pus of Men. It's rather short and can be explored rather quickly, but every single enemy in it is incredibly hard-hitting and can tank through a lot of the player's attacks, especially the Consumed King's Knights near the end. The area's boss, Oceiros, also qualifies as That One Boss for many.
- Directly after the Garden is the Untended Graves, a dark version of the Cemetery of Ash, the very first level. While the enemies are nothing the player has seen before, it's home to Champion Gundyr, one of the hardest bosses in the game. And just after him are respawnable Black Knights with ultra greatswords.
- And finally, we get to Archdragon Peak. Absolutely packed to the brim with snakemen that can effortlessly stunlock, parry and dodge the player's attacks and have a metric ton of HP on top of very dangerous homing fire attacks (and the larger variation with the chain axe can hit with the axe for huge damage outside of the lock-on range, for added fun). And not shortly after, the level introduces summoners that can spawn Drakeblood Knights, who are Lightning Bruisers to the core and Havel the Rock. Just to make matters worse, there's a dragon miniboss in the main path of the level and it ends with an open area filled with a couple dozen of the aforementioned snakemen. And should the player endure this, the main boss of the area is The Nameless King, which is universally considered to be the hardest boss of the game.
- The Fallout: New Vegas DLC Lonesome Road has the Courier's Mile, which appears after you launch the missile from the Ashton silo. The area is irradiated to hell and back, and is swarming with Deathclaws and Irradiated Marked Men, the latter of which are much tougher than normal Marked Men and regenerate their HP thanks to the radiation. This area is not required to complete the main quest, but there are two warheads here, which must be detonated as part of the Warhead Hunter achievement. Bring plenty of Stealth Boys, Rad-Away, and sniper/anti-materiel ammo. At the end, if you launch the nukes at NCR and/or Legion territory, you gain access to two more irradiated areas housing the Bonus Bosses Colonel Royez and Gaius Magnus, who have even more rapid HP regeneration in addition to heavy armor and maxed-out SPECIAL stats.
- Pillars of Eternity has the Endless Paths of Od Nua, a 15 levels-deep dungeon sprawling under the Player Headquarters. Completely optional, it contains a selection of the nastiest monsters and traps found in the game, whose Power Levels grow much faster than your party can keep up with it, forcing you to actually leave and Level Grind somewhere else just to be able to get to the next dungeon floor.
Wide Open Sandbox
- Terraria has several examples, but the best is the Hardmode Dungeon. Unlike the rest of the world, the Dungeon doesn't enter Hardmode after the Wall of Flesh bites it; rather, you have to kill off Plantera before it happens. Once it does, though, watch out. If you enter, you can expect hordes of skeleton soldiers, skeleton mages, skeleton ninjas, SWAT skeletons, and Paladins with four digit HP and attacks that can outdamage Skeletron Prime.