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Non-Indicative Difficulty
"Some tracks are hard on easy, and others are easy on hard. Ain't life funny."
—Pre-round comment for Bloons Tower Defense 3

Some games let you select your difficulty: the whole game or individual levels can be divided into easy/hard modes, perhaps each scenario has a scaled "challenge rating", in-game items and properties are explicitly described as changing the difficulty of the game, etc. Occasionally, these fail to be the intended challenge.

Perhaps the Rubberband AI or similar mechanics of the game have made it so that 'easy' courses are harder than the 'hard' courses on the same mode. Perhaps the 'hard' mode is supposed to make the AIs behave more deviously but instead gives them Artificial Stupidity. Perhaps the bonuses you receive for playing on a harder level actually make the game easier than intended, after a little Early Game Hell. (This is especially the case for games with Tech Points or Evolving Attacks, wherein enemies that take longer to kill can grant greater rewards). Perhaps what was supposed to make the game 'hard' actually makes it easier because it is more intuitive for your natural reflexes, creates bigger but far easier patterns, etc.

Note that this does not include items, properties and settings meant to balance the game, only ones intended to rate or change its overall challenge and difficulty. This also does not include rewards for finishing difficult challenges that make the game easiernote  from there on out: these are usually intentional.

Compare Schizophrenic Difficulty, where the levels vary erratically in difficulty across the same difficulty setting.


Examples

  • In Mario Kart, playing on 150cc often tends to make the short courses such as Luigi Raceway harder to finish ahead in than the long courses like Rainbow Road, since there's less opportunity to put space between yourself and the other racers before the inevitable last-second onslaught. Even on the slower races, this is noticeable. Elements of this, though, pop up in any difficulty, though, due to the Rubber Band A.I.—a single mistake can spell the difference between a first place finish or a sixth place (or worse).
  • The Chessmaster, in the later installments, has an hourglass time control set to 30 seconds. This default setting gives the weakest AI, Cassie, a major advantage through instant moves that more than overcomes the weak tactical play.
  • In Digimon Card Battle, the opponents in the first towns of the game use weaker cards than ones battled later on, but they are more difficult to effectively counter thanks to them choosing the cards and attacks they use completely randomly. The late-game opponents have tougher decks, but it's easier for the player to guess what cards or attacks they will choose because they use actual (often rather obvious) strategies.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, the fifth mission of each level offered a tougher challenge. This usually involved redesigned sections and, more commonly, gaping pits with enemies above them, which actually made it easier for many players.
    • Tails' and Eggman's fifth missions increased the number of enemies present in their respective levels. This made it easier to get more and higher bonuses for clearing large numbers of enemies at once. Combined with the fact that the score requirements for most of those missions are the same as or lower than the first missions, this makes it much easier to get an A rank.
    • Knuckles' and most of Rouge's stages are randomised on the first mission but not on the fifth, meaning it's much easier to practice for an A rank and avoids the fact that the first mission is a hideous example of Luck-Based Mission.
  • In Valkyrie Profile, hard mode is supposed to be harder because everyone starts at level 1 and the enemies in general are tougher. In practice, the lowered starting level just means more opportunities to level them up while wearing equipment that gives bonuses to their DME or CP with each level gained, making them harder to kill, and much quicker to learn stat-boosting skills. A character at level 10 on Hard may well be stronger than the same character at level 15 on Easy or Normal. The actual process of leveling everyone up isn't much of an issue either, thanks to the Experience Orb, which lets you distribute Event Experience to your party. Furthermore, playing the game on Hard is the only way to get everyone, and the various Hard-only dungeons provide most of the game's Game Breaker equipment, either as loot, or as Item Crafting components. By comparison, you miss out on nearly all of the best loot in an Easy game - the result is that it's much more difficult than Normal.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei I the neutral path has more bosses, but it also allows the player to use every demon.
  • Painkiller adds and removes levels from play depending on the difficulty mode - the second-hardest difficulty level, Nightmare, has the most levels of all, but still not all of them, since there's still one extra level on the hardest difficulty setting, Trauma...and conversely, playing on Trauma locks out the entire last chapter of the game. Moreover, even unlocking Trauma requires the player to earn almost all of the Black Tarot cards by playing on Nightmare mode, and even with Trauma's own imposed difficulty changes (souls never appear), with the right deck Trauma can be just as easy as Nightmare.
  • In Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, hard mode causes Dark Aether's air to damage you twice as fast, but the safe zone crystals heal you twice as fast, too. This little fact made much of the Dark Aether segments easier.
  • In Diablo 2, in single player, if you use "player 8" mode, (or on battle.net, when soloing inside fairly full games) the monsters will get bonuses as if you where playing in a full multiplayer game, they also give extra XP and loot accordingly. While this does make the game harder in some ways, the level difference (between monster and player) and the loot are a big factor in difficulty, so this mode is only a bit harder early on, when the difficulty is very low anyway due to the very slow difficulty build up through the game. The experience and loot boost will proceed to push you so far ahead that the hard parts get a lot easier.
  • Due to the ball's higher speed making it easier to control, the NES Pinball cartridge's "Game B" is often considered easier than "Game A" (contrary to the normal naming convention of early Nintendo games).
  • Guitar Hero has a few: Some songs are actually easier to play on Expert since the notes follow the music more closely. Also, Hyperspeed makes the chart for a song move faster, which should make it harder to play, but it also spreads out notes making it easier to see patterns for particularly intense solos.
    • In Guitar Hero 3, the Final Boss is easier on Expert than in any other difficulty. If you get the whammy early, you can practically one-shot the boss if you wait for any particularly busy part of the song.
    • On a related note, Guitar Hero 3's Final Boss can be forced to play on a lower difficulty level than the player through a certain glitch. Contrary to what one may believe, this makes him much, MUCH harder to defeat as he has less notes to play and, thus, less notes to miss. It can be nearly impossible to beat him when he's on easy.
  • The same goes for the songs in the Rock Band series, especially the downloadable content, which isn't checked as rigidly as the on-disc music. A notable one is the fact that "Constant Motion" isn't a final tier song, even though the solo is widely considered one of the most difficult in the game. For the on-disc songs there's "PDA" which is a 1st tier full band song despite each instrument being at least third tier. And of course, the infamous "Visions" is more difficult on Hard than on Expert, due to the fact that there are almost no hammer-ons in the Hard chart. It doesn't help that on Hard, the gems move more slowly and are thus crammed closer together (see the hyperspeed example above)
    • Another DLC, Afterlife, is ranked as "Challenging" on guitar rather than "Nightmare" or "impossible" despite the fact that the guitar solo is probably in the top 20 most difficult (out of over 1000 songs), and the rest of the song isn't exactly a cakewalk either. Everyone has a different idea of how Harmonix rates their charts ("They go by how hard it is on Medium!" "They look at all charts, with an emphasis on Expert!", etc). Also, most songs from the original Rock Band are "over-tiered" (that is, easier than indicated) on drums.
    • Likewise, a handful of songs are actually easier on Expert than Hard because the chart better resembles the music track. The chorus of the DLC track "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" is actually harder on Hard than Expert because you only play half the notes.
    • The song tiers are something of a crapshoot when playing on anything other than Expert. Besides not adjusting the tiers for your difficulty level, Harmonix has changed their policy for authoring the other difficulties over the years. Easy and Medium guitar/bass now use all five buttons (they used to use only 3 or 4, respctively) and they have scaled back how hard a song can be on Hard, often with little consideration for the song tier. This means that a "Nightmare" or "Impossible" song on Hard guitar could either be disappointingly easy (with 2-4 Expert notes replaced by 1 Hard note in a fast part) or very difficult ("Visions," Metallica DLC).
    • The fact that difficulty levels vary between games doesn't help matters, either. For example, LEGO Rock Band curves really low, so an "Impossible" song in LEGO could be anywhere from "Solid" or some other middle-of-the-road difficulty ("I Want It All" on drums) to "Nightmare" ("YYZ" on, well, everything) and beyond in 2 or 3. This is most notable when a song that has every instrument on "Impossible" difficulty can have greatly varying difficulties in another game.
  • Advance Wars Dual Strike's Hard Campaign is often easier than the normal campaign, as you can pick every CO from the beginning, rather than having to earn most of them during gameplay (and even then, not all of them are available.) The mission where you unlock Javier in Normal, for example, is primarily there to show you how hard he'll kick your ass if he has enough Com Towers captured, and the mission devolves into swatting his Infantry away from the towers above all else; on Hard, feel free to play as Javier yourself and return the favor.
  • Some games, such as Planescape: Torment or Fallout 3 will scale Experience Points based on the difficulty level. Lowering the difficulty might make the game easier, but it will slow the advancement that would have made you more capable of handling a tougher challenge.
  • In Star Fox 64 the last two levels on the easy path are harder than the last two hard path level when played in expert mode. The first half of "easy" Venom becomes a rare instance of Bullet Hell in the series.
    • Also, getting a medal requires a certain number of points for each level. This number does not increase in the unlockable Expert mode, but the number of enemies does, often making it easier to get medals on Expert.
  • In Jagged Alliance 2, setting the difficulty too low will mean the enemies have terrible guns. Which, since the player is capable of using a given weapon more intelligently than the AI is, means you can't scavenge good stuff and start engaging on more favorable terms for a while, which can make the game significantly harder. Or at least require you to spend a lot more money on weapons and ammo.
  • Point Blank 2 has a stage where you have to shoot a fixed number of mice within a time limit. On the middle difficulty level, this is extremely difficult as the number that appear is only slightly more than the required target. On "Insane" difficulty, you have to get more mice, but they also move around a lot faster, meaning more of them appear.
  • In Postal 2, the hardest difficulty in the original, pre-patch game was "Hestonworld", in which everything does double damage and every character in the game is armed with a weapon. However, the majority of those characters were civilians neutral to the player, who would even attack the hostile enemy characters as soon as they drew their weapon. As a result, Hestonworld could be easier than Average if you played stealthy and let the NPCs fight each other.
  • In Backyard Baseball's Hard Mode, the opponents bat much faster. This makes it much easier for pitching as one can just use slowballs to outsmart the opponents.
  • A few minigames, usually involving Pentominoes were often made even easier on Higher difficulties, that removed more pieces. This meant that you had more pieces to put into the puzzle, but you also had even more potential solutions. The lower levels of difficulty would often just give a couple pieces and limit the amount of solutions. Sometimes, you may only get just one solution, whereas building a pentomino puzzle blank would take a little longer than putting a few pieces but would have multiple solutions as a result. This was seen most egregiously in a few The Clue Finders games by The Learning Company, which had some of these puzzle types. (Albeit they were one-shot puzzles)
  • The first Kingdom Hearts game even has this to a lower extent. While you have to complete the first four worlds (Including Traverse Town) before you can access the later ones, you don't necessarily have to complete them in the order the game recommends you to. Some worlds can actually be completed after a set of important boss battles later in the game at Hollow Bastion, but most players won't do that because entering Hollow Bastion means going past a Point of No Return and if one misses valuable experience and equipment, well it'll either be Unwinnable or hard. Now to the point...The biggest example of how the battle level can mislead you is within the first four worlds. While it would seem that one should visit the Olympus Coliseum before Deep Jungle, people who had played the game would actually tell you it's better to go to Deep Jungle before Olympus Coliseum. There isn't that much of a difficulty spike (Unless you're playing expert, that is), and being given the Cure Magic would really help against a boss with a sudden difficulty spike in Olympus Coliseum.
    • The sequel however is noticeably easier. Many players will consider Proud Mode to be just as easy as Standard, but there is still some notable moments where it seems harder on Proud than it does on Standard or Easy. For one, the nobodies early in the game hit Roxas harder, and when you have limited heals...well... And if one chooses to go to Beast's Castle before the Land of Dragons because you get the Cure magic from beating the boss there (Which makes sense...Potions cost Munny after all, and that saves on Munny), don't expect the boss to go down without a fight. But after that, it becomes quite easy, with a few difficulty spikes here and there when you reach That One Boss. (The Berserker swarm in Twilight Town, Demyx, Xaldin...) One other reason players choose Proud Mode is that you don't have to do as many optional stuff to get the cool bonus video ending everyone so loves as you do in Standard. (In Easy, you can't get it. At all.)
      • But there is also Critical Mode in the Final Mix version that reduces Sora's maximum HP by half, but gives him a lot of ability points to balance that out. If you as a gamer are consistently good enough to do No Damage Runs of the Organization Data and Terra, the abilities granted in Critical do outweigh the drawbacks, as the damage calculation is the only difference between Proud and Critical modes. Considering that the No Damage Run is one of the basic building blocks of the Kingdom Hearts community of Challenge Gamers...yeah.
  • The House Of The Dead Overkill has "Director's Cut" mode, which makes the chapters a bit longer and adds more mutants. It also adds a Hand Cannon that costs about as much as the standard shotgun and starts out with maxed-out Firepower. Plus, all the extra mutants means a better chance of getting a high score, therefore more cash bonus at the end of the chapter.
  • The first Hearts of Iron has a difficulty level in the form of AI personality. The highest level (the lowest is named "weakling") was stupidly aggressive and was easily countered.
  • In Doom The Rogue Like, Nightmare! difficulty is actually easier on certain challenges than Ultraviolence is. This is because Nightmare, as in the original game boosts the effect of healing packs and extends the duration of powerups, and its monster resurrection doesn't matter much if you aren't planning on sticking around and exploring the level.
  • A strange example in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City — having a wanted rating of 1 was suicide, you would be swarmed and destroyed. However, the maximum of 4 seemed to cause many of the cops to disappear and be very manageable.
  • Hard Rock difficulty in Elite Beat Agents takes the beatmaps of Sweatin' difficulty, mirrors them, shrinks the markers, and gives you less time to react. Usually this does make it more difficult, but on a few songs (notably "Material Girl") with a lot of beat markers scattered around at random, the shorter warning time and less beat markers visible makes it easier.
    • Many players also found the easiest difficulty to be quite hard due to the note markers appearing too early and slowly, making it hard to follow the beat.
    • Double so when you're already used to Normal or Hard difficulties and realize you have to play Easy mode for a cumulative score setting (Which saves all of your scores together...!) in order to unlock Harder mode.
    • Ouendan 2 has an extra difficulty option which removes the timing circles for the hit markers and makes them disappear a moment before you need to tap them. This mode is a lot easier when played on the hardest difficulty level because the hit markers don't spend as much time onscreen, which makes a lot easier to keep the rhythm even without the visual aids.
  • The harder difficulty modes in Europa Universalis give the AI countries more money, amongst other things. This is bad news when we're talking about, say, France, but less fortunate countries in America and Africa tend to have nothing to spend it on. And since you can demand money in exchange for peace, war with these countries becomes extremely lucrative.
  • Mushihime-sama Futari Black Label, an Updated Re-release of Mushihime-sama Futari (or a downloadable Expansion Pack in the 360 port) offers God difficulty, which replaces previous versions' Ultra difficulty. Despite the name of the difficulty, it's actually easier than Ultra mode; there is more slowdown, far more chances to cancel bullets, and enemies don't let off as many suicide bullets as they did in Ultra.
    • In both games in the series, playing on Original can be harder than playing on Maniac if you are playing very aggressively. At high rank on Original, done by surviving well and collecting lots of gold items, enemies fire bullets at speeds reminiscent of Strikers 1945 second loops. Maniac, on the other hand, has no rank system, so the difficulty remains consistent no matter how you play the game.
  • In Tetris: The Grand Master 2 - The Absolute PLUS, it's easier to get the Grand Master rank in T.A. Death mode than on Master mode, due to the criteria: in Master mode, you need to fulfill a series of time and Tetris requirements to unlock the invisible roll, which you need to survive to get GM. In Death, all you need to do is pass a time checkpoint at level 500, then reach level 999 regardless of time.
  • In Initial D Arcade Stage 4, we have Irohazaka, a Hard-ranked course that has nearly nonstop hairpins. Then you get Tsukuba, an Expert-ranked course that, for 3/4 of the course, is laughably easy. Even the other 1/4 of the course is nothing compared to Irohazaka.
  • In some older arcade games (such as the Star Wars Vector Game, Columns, and Tempest), you can select your starting level, with higher levels yielding a starting bonus. As a result, until you are sufficiently skilled enough at the game, playing on a harder difficulty level will leave you with a higher score than on a lower one.
    • Similarly, in some older arcade games (Ms. Pac-Man, for instance) the cabinet can be set to a difficulty by the owner. While it isn't universal some players find the fastest speed to be much easier than the slower ones.
  • Final Fantasy IX players will sometimes go through the game without gaining a single point of experience, competing it at level one. Through creative use of abilities, spells and equipment, most early bosses can actually be killed faster than if one were to play through normally. Quina's Limit Glove Blue Magic deals 9999 damage if s/he has 1 HP remaining, which is enough to one-shot everything until Oeilvert, by which time Zidane and Freya are able to do the same with their own attacks.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, setting the Battle Speed to the fastest setting will give you an advantage once you start encountering bosses that completely disregard charge times. The speed setting won't make those bosses any faster, as the rate of their attacks is dependent only on the animation's speed, which doesn't change at all, but it means your own characters will spend less time standing around getting beat up while waiting for the command bar to fill up.
  • beatmania had this problem when putting the song SNOW on the US version. The US version had much more easier charts that your standard Nintendo Hard bemani game, but SNOW's hyper chart ended up being harder in the US.
    • Many players consider the single-play 8th Dan course to be easier to complete than 7th Dan, citing "gigadelic"'s Hyper chart (which comes at the end of 8th Dan) as easier to survive than "THE SAFARI"'s (which comes at the end of 7th Dan).
    • Selecting the Hard difficulty modifier, which turns the Groove Gauge into a life bar (0% means you fail the song) is actually easier for some charts. The normal requirement to pass a song is to have 80% or higher on the Groove Gauge. Naturally, harder songs have a Last Note Nightmare towards the end where it's very easy to drop below 80%. However, if you're decently good, you'll survive on Hard mode.
  • The harder difficulty level in Two Worlds begins as an unbelievable challenge—any individual is much tougher than you, and foes typically come in groups and surround you. If you manage to pick off a humanoid foe, however, you can take their powered-up equipment and use it against your other foes, so once you've done enough looting there's little added difficulty.
  • On Fire Emblem: The Sword of Seals, Hard Mode starts gets easier after a few chapters, because the awesome stat bonuses your enemies get also go to the characters that can be recruited.
    • Not all of them. Ray, Douglas, and Hugh don't get the stat bonuses. Percival, too, if you recruit him in Chapter 13 instead of 15.
    • The difficulty ends up played straight, though, when you get to Chapter 21. No matter how much you've prepared, that chapter on Hard Mode is arguably the toughest single chapter in any of the three GBA games.
  • The PAL Hidden Mansion mode of Luigi's Mansion. The Poltergust's improved performance more than makes up for the more powerful ghosts.
  • In the Mount & Blade "Native Expansion" Game Mod, the game is made harder... by vastly upgrading the equipment enemies have and adding more powerful enemies... with good loot. As Mount & Blade is a game based around large fights and thus has Hard Levels, Easy Bosses this results in a large amount of extra cash that outweighs the danger of fighting the well armored foes (that can still be taken down in a single hit with crouched lance damage)
  • Driving games that offer automatic and manual transmission are often more cumbersome to play in automatic, as the auto-shift tends to shift at the wrong speeds and techniques that involve shifter manipulation (such as Daytona USA's shifter sliding) become impossible.
    • Similarly the faster cars that appear later in racing games are often easier to drive, despite needing quicker reflexes, because they have more downforce and bigger tyres and don't slide around as much as the slower cars. In Race Driver GRID and the Need for Speed games the classic American muscle cars are far more 'tail-happy' than the supercars. This is partly Truth in Television; Formula One cars are often described by the pros and being relatively easy to drive compared to touring cars, because they are so advanced. It's the level of competition that makes F1 difficult.
  • F-Zero (SNES) has the Fire Stingray, billed as an expert machine as it boasts the highest top speed can't turn as tightly as the other three. However, it's also the least drifty, so not only is it the only machine worth using in Time Attack (unless you're doing machine-specific records), it's also the easiest machine to learn.
  • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, and other Tales Series games, on Hard mode, opponents have more HP. However, in Dawn (and some other games in the series) you gain bonus experience for long Combos. Opponents with more HP can be comboed longer for more bonus XP - this is especially critical at the very low levels, where foes are weak enough to die before you can finish your combo properly. Also, the Evolving Attack system found in all Tales games means that enemies that last longer can have more artes used on them, accessing new artes quicker. In Dawn, you may gain significantly less XP on Normal than on Hard, even if you are overlevelled - even after quests for which the party is grossly overlevelled on Hard, it's possible to gain something like 12 xp from an enemy and 600 bonus xp from the fight, because the enemies still last long enough to break a 20+ hit combo out on them.
    • The consequences are even more glaring in the New Game+ - since you spend Grade in order to buy upgrades (like x5 XP gain, keep all learnt artes, etc.) for your new playthrough, and harder difficulties earn you more Grade (plus better chances to earn Grade-boosting achievements like breaking a 50 hit combo in a fight or ending a fight with a large combo), starting from Hard difficulty at the start of your first playthrough would enable the player to achieve in two playthroughs (getting the best hidden weapons, beating the Bonus Dungeon on Mania difficulty, etc.) what you would need three playthroughs to achieve if you start on Normal difficulty.
  • The Lord Of The Rings The Third Age has an issue similar to Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. If you play on Hard you'll have maybe three genuinely difficult fights, but the rest are trivialized by the fact that enemies' longer HP bars means you use twice as many skills to kill them, and thus get twice as many SP to earn abilities sooner.
  • In Borderlands' DLC, Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot, after Round 1 Moxxi will randomly choose an effect (or effects) with which to make the next wave harder. One example of this is by making the enemies have double shield strength. Which doesn't come into play if you're only fighting Skags (with no shields) or have Mordecai's Trespass skill maxed (which ignores shields). Granted, it's not making things easier, but it's not making them harder either.
  • The PC version of Devil May Cry 4 had the Legendary Dark Knight difficulty which took overall difficulty down a notch and made all enemies die a lot faster but greatly increased enemy numbers. Apart from being generally easier, your area effecting attacks would hit most of the clustered demons, resulting in them dying fast and you getting a crapload of style points for every attack.
  • World of Warcraft: 25-man raids are intended to be harder and more rewarding than their 10man counterpart. This is mostly true but there are some encounters that are actually easier on the 25man setting simply because more people are present to handle things and losing a single person tends to make less of an impact on the overall performance.
  • The PC version of Novastorm changes three things between difficulties:
    • Boss weak points: some bosses take more damage in different spots and become more resistant in certain other places.
    • Number of enemies: Hard, obviously, has more enemies.
    • Value of the coins dropped: Hard actually drops more gold and silver coins than Easy does. This means you'll have MORE powerups when you reach a boss on Hard than you will on Easy, even if you defeat the same enemies.
  • The golfing MMO Pangya has this on its battleship-themed Silvia Cannon course. There are cannons that will fire during the course, on their own time, and change the wind - midshot, even, if that's when they go off! Once you realise these are specifically timed and create specific results, you can actually wait for them to go off, and some of the randomness is actually removed from this course. It helps a lot, because it's still a really hard course.
  • The critically praised but poor selling Gladius by Lucasarts has two player characters that can be selected with slightly differing stories (they join up with each other in chapter 2). Valens is labeled as "hard" while Ursula is labeled as "easy", but Ursula starts in Nordagh, which has a very poor variety of units to choose from (notably the only "heavy" units need for you to beat a Luck-Based Mission to recruit and your "light" units are too weak to deal with opposing heavies even with their tactical advantage over them), and Valens starts in Imperia, which has a very good variety. On the other hand, when Ursula and Urlan join Valens, their placement of the limited skill points is a bit sub-par, while Valens is just fine and Valens has the issue of Ludo leaving with his equipment and XP.
  • Some find Superhuman mode in Resistance 2 easier than Hard because the Bullseye weapon is entirely replaced by the very powerful Bullseye MKII.
  • In Ace Combat Zero, the Mercenary path is supposed to be the hardest of the three; the ace squadrons you encounter along that path have better planes in larger numbers than the other paths' aces. However, it's usually the Soldier path that ends up with harder aces, especially on higher difficulties - for example, Schnee squadron can attack you from a much longer range than anyone else in the game, and Grun squadron can avoid your standard missiles by dropping flares.
  • In Black, hard difficulty is significantly hard, while the next step up, "black ops", gives you infinite ammo and an M16A2 with 90 round magazines and attached grenade launcher. The only hard part is that you have to find a bunch of hidden stuff.
  • Rhythm Heaven has a minigame where you have to play on-beat some of the time and off-beat for the rest. The 2nd version of this is slower than the first. The idea is that it's harder to keep the rhythm this way, but on the other hand, it's slower.
    • The 2nd version also changed the song's time signature from 4/4 to 6/8, going from a straight beat to a swung beat. Perhaps the developers though this added more difficulty to the 2nd version.
  • X-Com:
    • The series in general has several difficulty settings. They mostly affect alien activity, as well as their numbers on any given craft, and stats. The last of these definitely makes the game more hellish the higher the difficulty setting is, but two others are a mixed blessing. More missions and aliens means more artifacts to use against them or sell, and more experience for your soldiers. Well, the ones that survive, anyway.
    • A bug in the very first game meant that no matter what difficulty setting you chose for the game, it soon defaults back to the easiest difficulty level.
  • For many songs in Dance Dance Revolution, the Challenge steps have a lower "foot" rating than the Expert steps, despite its placement on screen implying that it's a higher difficulty level.
  • Similarly in beatmaniaIIDX, the Another charts can be easier than the Hyper charts; mostly in the cases where the Another chart is a complete remix of the song rather than simply a harder chart.
  • Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire compensates the player for the increased difficulty of the highest level (Jedi) by making the player's blaster much more powerful. As a result, Jedi becomes a lot easier than Hard.
  • This happens to some attacks and spellcards in Touhou, particularly since easier difficulties tend to slow down the bullets, which sometimes just makes the patterns denser, leaves more bullets on the screen, and requires more micrododging. A good example is "Mountain of Faith", Kanako's last spellcard, on Easy and Normal: see this video for a comparison.
    • In Touhou 13: Ten Desires, spellcards #94 and #95, the Hard and Lunatic versions of the same spell, are actually considerably harder than spellcard #126, their Overdrive counterpart.
  • Donkey Kong Country 2's hard mode removes all DK barrels, but on the other hand, levels always start with both Kongs, which is beneficial in Tool Assisted Speed Runs since they don't have to waste time getting the DK barrels which might be out of the way or wait for the animation of the imprisoned Kong getting freed to finish.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, the submarine minigame (Gold Saucer version) is easier on "harder" modes because of the abundance of targets helps reaching the required points total.
  • Aerobiz: Supersonic plays with this one. The first four difficulty levels determine the scenario goals, with each step up requiring dominance in one more region. However, the scenario goals are the same for all four players, thus while you have to dominate [X] regions against your competitors, so do they against you. Combined with Artificial Stupidity, this makes the middle difficulties easier to win because an astute player can easily block the others from getting enough regions to win. It's the easiest level where players have to watch out for airlines expanding into regions he may not be able to reach as they go for the win.
  • While Civilization V does get harder the further up you go in difficulty, it also changes the strategy of the game significantly, and a very fast science win is easier on the higher difficulties. On the highest difficulty, Deity, the challenge is to get as much gold from your neighbours as possible, and use the gold to enter research agreements, which the AI will accept since it's swimming in gold. This strategy is less useful on, say, Prince, as the AI won't have as much gold for you to game out of them.
  • In Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, it's somewhat easier to get higher grades (which are based on your ranking percentile rather than an absolute scale) on the harder and later courses like Half, because there are less players making a serious attempt on those courses than on the earlier and more popular courses such as Championship II and Highway.
    • Also, by design, higher difficulties increase your general speed, which makes it harder to keep your line, but lets you score more points in the same amount of time.
  • In Shining Force II, you can pick a difficulty setting of "Normal", "Hard", "Super", or "Ouch!", presented in that order. Guess which one is the hardest difficulty setting. If you guessed "Ouch!", you're wrong, the actual hard mode is "Super".
  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia's Hard Mode places a level cap. But it also gives you a New Game+. It turns out health and mana are meaningless; your glyph setup and knowing how to approach enemies is key. A cap of Level 1 isn't that much harder than a Cap of 50.
  • Wake gives easy, normal and hard, which affects the flooding rate of water, and your damage tolerance. Hard also allows you to wall jump freely. Two difficulty multipliers, flooded ship (which extinguishes fire and powers down turrets) and realism (prevents ship flooding) negate most of the hard-mode penalties.
  • In both games of the Metro 2033 series, playing on Easy turns everyone and everything into bullet sponges. Harder difficulties, on the contrary, turns both you and your enemies into wet toilet paper in terms of health. This means that, while you generally have to play quite a bit more carefully than usual on Hardcore or Ranger modes, especially when it comes to human mooks, mutant attacks are much less of a problem since you can kill them far more easily and lessen the risk of getting swarmed. That you find less ammo is ultimately inconsequential, too, which doesn't hurt.
  • Playing Megaman X 5 on a higher difficulty sets the bosses at higher levels... meaning you get much much nicer upgrade parts from them, which makes the game much easier. On the flipside, playing on easy locks all the bosses at level 1, meaning you get NO upgrade parts at all and the game is way harder once you reach Sigma's level.
  • Mass Effect 3 plays this out in its own way for its multiplayer levels. The higher difficulties, Gold and Platinum, often feature a deluge of monstrous bullet sponges and heavy-hitting specialized forces to pit against the players. This is of note, because almost all these creatures require different tactics to tackle compared to the more run-of-the-mill mooks with guns seen in Bronze or Silver. There's been cases where hardened veterans of Gold would jump into a Silver match expecting a more relaxed battle, then getting downed several times in the first few rounds as they forgot how to counter Cerberus small-squad tactics or the advances of Geth troopers.
  • One achievement in Starcraft II requires you to win a free-for-all game with 7 AI opponents set at the highest difficulty. However, since it's a free-for-all, quite often they end up attacking each other more often than you, and the necessarily large map means a lot more ressources (the achievement only requires that you win, not defeat every one of them yourself).
  • The Disgaea series lets you pass bills to increase and decrease enemy levels, effectively changing the difficulty level. But due to an oddity in the programming, there are different formulas for calculating how much XP enemies dole out, one for enemies of level 1-99 (i.e. what the story features by default) and one for levels 100+ (the postgame content, mainly). And these formulas are set up so that level 99 characters are actually worth more than characters who are much higher in level. So if you can adjust a map to have enemies of exactly level 99, it becomes a great Level Grinding spot, and you'll quickly level to the point where the rest of the game is a cakewalk, whereas if you'd stayed on easier enemies your progress would be much slower.
  • Playing Scrabble against the computer on the hardest level is only hard because the game only uses the highest-scoring word it can muster, clobbering the human with brute force through the highest scoring words it can play. The computer, however, utterly stinks at strategy because only playing the highest scoring words limits its options. In its effort to lay down the highest scoring words that it can, it will open up plays any sensible human would not - like ending a word on or one space away from the edge of the board is asking for someone to use a triple word score (or two!).

My Rules Are Not Your RulesVideo Game Difficulty TropesNintendo Hard

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