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->''"There were sequences really near the beginning that kicked my ass until I was wearing my buttocks like a hat, while the closest thing to a final boss fight is basically you versus a wheelchair-bound cross-eyed hobbit, and you're armed with the BFG 9000."''
-->-- '''WebAnimation/ZeroPunctuation''' on ''VideoGame/{{Halo 3}}''

This happens when a game has a difficulty curve that makes no sense. The game isn't always hard. It isn't always easy. It just can't seem to make up its mind. There are even portions that seem to be the perfect difficulty, but you never know when one will turn up. Maybe there's an element of the game design that does not work particularly well. Maybe the developers were trying to make the game feel realistic. Maybe they just had no clue what they were doing. Whatever the case, you've run into [[TitleDrop Schizophrenic Difficulty]].

Often occurs when major elements of gameplay are left to the RandomNumberGod. Random dungeon layouts can put important equipment on the bottom floor. Random stat growth can rob your tank of vital HitPoints. A CrutchCharacter or ExclusiveEnemyEquipment that is only available on a few scattered levels can also make portions of the game much easier than others. And sometimes, it is the level design itself that makes things too difficult.

Compare DifficultySpike or ThatOneLevel, when a single level is much harder than its preceding levels, and BreatherLevel which is its inverse. Also see EarlyBirdBoss, which can cause this in the early parts of {{RPG}}s and games with RPG elements.

NonIndicativeDifficulty is an extreme case where, for example, playing on "Normal" is harder than playing on "Hard", at least in some way.


[[folder:Action Game]]
* ''VideoGame/TheWonderfulEndOfTheWorld'' (basically a PC indie version of ''VideoGame/KatamariDamacy'') suffers from this. In some levels you'll collect enough stuff to get an A+ rank with a third of the timer remaining, while in others you'll scramble up to the last second and still only earn a B rank. The very first level is an example of the former, but '''one of the two levels it unlocks''' falls into the latter.
* ''BattleCity'' and somewhat its sequel ''Tank Force'' has this syndrome too. For an example, stages 20 and 34 in ''Battle City'' are the hardest ones in the game while stage 35 is a breather level.
* ''VideoGame/CannonFodder'' is an example of this once you get past the first DifficultySpike in Mission Eight. After this the average difficulty stays more or less the same until the end of the game, but with occasional shockingly hard phases dropped in at random.
* ''Franchise/DevilMayCry 3'' is a fairly classic example using {{Difficulty Spike}}s. Cerberus and the Twins are incredibly difficult bosses, and yet Cerberus is the second boss you face and the twins are not much further along. While the game itself doesn't get easier per se after that point, the difficulty of those bosses is so ridiculously high that once you develop the skill to beat the bosses (likely by dying on them a dozen times each), you have become good enough at the game that nothing ends up challenging you nearly as much - they aren't the hardest bosses in the game, but they're the hardest bosses for the skill level you're at when you first face them, so nothing else seems nearly as bad.
* ''VideoGame/ZeldaIITheAdventureOfLink'' also gets criticised often on this aspect, with Death Mountain (an early-game area) is seen as ludicrously difficult, even by the game's standard.
* ''[=NiGHTS=]: Journey of Dreams'' has Fluffy Catch, the third stage in the game, as a stopping point for people because the player has to keep Nightopians from drifting upwards into a vortex, requiring the player to scramble back and forth and keep a sharp eye at a point when the game's unusual mechanics are not yet clear (especially if the player has never played the first game). After that, the stages themselves vary a bunch, with the mid-game Crystal Castle levels being pretty hard overall because of the high obstacle density, cramped space, branching paths, and mirror puzzles; and its follow-up, Memory Forest, being relatively empty, open, and straightforward, allowing you to see any enemies and other setbacks far in advance.
* In ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamSeries'', the Riddler challenges of finding his trophies/extortion files can range anywhere from simply walking over and picking one up to doing some insanely difficult and perfectly timed trick with your various gadgets.
* Crimes in Progress in ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamOrigins'' can be anything from half a dozen guys with sticks, a fight that Bats could probably win in his sleep, to a massive brawl involving heavily armoured goons, corrupt cops, assault rifles and - if the area is open and the fight sufficiently free-range - a number of thugs from a completely different mob that get pulled into the fight.

[[folder:Beat Em Up]]
* Most of the levels of ''VideoGame/AlteredBeast: Guardian of the Realms'' are a breeze ([[EasyLevelsHardBosses in contrast to the bosses]]) except for a few scattered levels that are intensely and inexplicably difficult (the hardest probably being the fifth). Difficult levels don't seem to get any more (or less) frequent as you near the end, either.
* All the levels in ''VideoGame/{{Battletoads}}'' are hard, but not sequentially so. Level 3 has the racers, which are virtually impossible, while level 5 has the surfboards, which, while difficult, aren't as bad. In some levels, every obstacle is instant death, while in some other, later levels, all obstacles take one or two units of health.
* ''VideoGame/ScottPilgrimVsTheWorld'' combines this trope with BossDissonance. The first level is both fairly simple and ends with Matthew Patel, who is an utter clown in all versions of the story. The second level is slightly harder... and caps with Lucas Lee, who's shockingly hard (especially if he gets hold of a skateboard). The third level doesn't change any, difficulty-wise, but ends with a tough mid-boss fight, followed by the ''[[ThatOneBoss demonically]]'' hard Todd Ingram. Then there's the fourth level, notorious for being one of the most frustrating levels in the game, ending with Roxie Richter... who's actually slightly easier than Todd. The fifth level splits in two; you can skip most of the first half, which ends with a fairly simple mid-boss, but you have to slog through a grueling platforming sequence (with no chance to heal) in the second half. And the boss? The Katanayagi Twins, the easiest boss in the game. ''Finally'', the difficulty stabilizes.

[[folder:Fighting Game]]
* A lot of fighting games in general have random characters whose AI seems to vacillate between brilliant and stupid for no discernible reason. Some {{SNK Boss}}es even throw in an entire "stupid round" where attacks just seem to work and a "smart round" where they play a PerfectPlayAI.
* In ''VideoGame/MortalKombat2'', Jade was a secret boss, with the [[SNKBoss cheap AI]] that you might expect from a boss. In ''[=MK3=]'', Jade was a selectable character, but the programmers never fixed her AI. Considering that it was almost entirely random when, or even if, you fought Jade in single player mode, she was a single-handed example of this trope.
* ''VideoGame/SoulBlade'''s Edge Master Mode has several points where the challenge you have to accomplish is much harder than the one after it. Examples being those that require you to use a certain move (especially hit your opponent in the air), those that require you to defeat your opponent against a time limit or with limited health, and the Colosseum matches.
* ''VideoGame/{{Tekken}} 2'' has a point around Stage 5 where the difficult level suddenly hikes, especially if you are fighting against Law. Afer this, it usually isn't too difficult. This is because the fifth level forms the mid-boss, even though at this stage it wasn't mentioned.
* ''[[VideoGame/GuiltyGear Guilty Gear XX]]'''s Story Mode is all over the place, ranging from "Beat me, please" to "I AM COMPUTERIZED FIGHTING PERFECTION AND WILL SHOW ALL PUNY HUMANS WHAT TORMENT AND SUFFERING IS" depending on which story arc you take.

[[folder:First Person Shooter]]
* ''VideoGame/SeriousSam - The First Encounter'', most notably in harder difficulties. The last room in the third level raises the difficulty, then it goes down again. While Dunes is a harder level, the following Suburbs and Sewers are [[BreatherLevel Breather Levels]]. Metropolis, on the other hand, raises the difficulty again a lot, which won't let down until the end of Karnak and afterwards the difficulty starts to jump up and down very frequently.
** So much of the game's difficulty comes from scattered [[TheWarSequence War Sequences]] and other [[ClassicVideoGameScrewYous game design death traps]] that the series might as well be the trope codifier for "ThatOnePartOfThatOneLevel".
* ''VideoGame/StarTrekEliteForce II''. The difficulty yo-yos up and down the whole game, with a plague of DemonicSpiders near the ''beginning'' followed by a single, supposedly more fearsome specimen -- built up as a major BossFight -- who goes down almost instantly. Or compare the warp core level, where you have to shoot dozens of targets (without hitting the DestroyableItems) within a merciless time limit, with the endgame, where there's a single monster you need to kill, a gun that can do so in a handful of shots, ''no'' time limit, and ''infinite health and ammo rechargers.''
* The final mission of ''VideoGame/CallOfDuty 2'', Crossing the Rhine, is much easier than the previous two brutally difficult missions (D-Day and Hill 400). The difficulty also drops from Stalingrad to Africa, then shoots back up for Caen and the aforementioned two missions.
* The ''Franchise/{{Halo}}'' games tend to be schizophrenic with their difficulty.
** ''VideoGame/{{Halo 2}}'': very hard->hard->medium->easy->hard->medium->hard->medium->easy->ultra-hard->hard->medium->easy
** ''VideoGame/{{Halo 3}}'' starts with two very difficult levels back to back, then segues into several moderately difficult ones, than an easy one, and then the difficulty spikes into the stratosphere with Cortana before the easy final levels.
* ''{{VideoGame/Doom}}'':
** The first two maps of the original game's fourth episode are considered to be insanely difficult in comparison to the ones that follow, while the last two are generally regarded as the easiest in the episode. Then again [[GameMod megawads]], that aren't PlatformHell in the first place, can have wildly varying levels when it comes to difficulty. The Community Chest mapsets are big examples of this.
** The Playstation version of ''Final Doom'' is a mash up of parts of The Master Levels, TNT Evilution, and The Plutonia Experiment; Crescendos towards the end of each, then nosedives as you enter the next chapter.
** The Alpha Labs are probably the hardest area in ''VideoGame/Doom3'', mostly because you don't have many good weapons and it's filled with [[DemonicSpiders hitscanning zombie soldiers]]. The game gets much easier from thereon until it spikes again in Hell, and then the difficulty starts jumping all over the place.
* ''Videogame/EYEDivineCybermancy'''s difficultly bounces up and down to a hilarious degree, mostly due to the randomly generated missions and enemy types encountered. One mission in [[WretchedHive New Eden]] may have the player's party just fighting against low-level Looters and Federal Police, while the next city level may throw [[FutureCopter Interceptors]] and Special Forces [[VisibleInvisibility Infiltrators]] at the party. The only level which is almost always difficult is the Noctis Labyrinth, which sics copious amounts of [[GiantMook Deus Ex]]s and Interceptors at the party -- though by this point, someone will probably have the [[HandCannon .444 Bear Killer]] [[RevolversAreJustBetter anti-vehicle revolver]] to deal with both enemies.
* ''Videogame/Left4Dead'':
** The first two games are designed to have each campaign be an enjoyable standalone experience, but it's likely that players will play them in order from start to finish at least the first time they play. Both games' second campaigns were DLC not available at launch, and as such have slightly more gimmicky, and difficult play than the base game ones in order to give a fresh challenge for veterans, as well as containing less but longer maps to provide short but challenging game options for versus players.
** ''Left 4 Dead 2'''s Campaign 3, Dark Carnival, has the longest maps, with 3 of them having punishing crescendo events at the very end that are easy to fail on more than once if you don't know exactly what you're doing. Campaigns 3 and 4 - Swamp Fever and Hard Rain - settle the difficulty briefly, but the former has one of the toughest finales with a long trek from the safe room to try again, and the latter has the polar opposite - a short finale that takes place right next to the safe room. After all these ups and downs, the final campaign, The Parish, despite a gimmicky moment here and there, re-settles back on being a very fair and balanced difficulty.

[[folder:Four X]]
* In ''VideoGame/{{Civilization}} III'', random map generation can make victory practically unattainable. Having no Iron or Copper means you're stuck using archers and longbowmen until gunpowder is invented. This, coupled with an aggressive enemy AI, can cause all sorts of pain for the player. On the other hand, you can get a "double gold riverside corn copper" start and then receive free technologies from huts, which makes the game a cakewalk.
** You'll need extra luck if you don't have a source of oil in the late game; Riflemen seem to have a greater difficulty dealing with Tanks than Spearmen.
** It's not much improved in ''Civilization IV'' although some units were added, like Mechanized Infantry, to help smooth out the differences between Iron/no Iron and especially Oil/no Oil. It's a lot easier to win a non-military victory in IV, though.
** Playing one-city-challenge can be entirely dependent on what resources are near wherever you build your one single city.
* ''VideoGame/CrusaderKings'' gets outright chaotic quite often, especially the second game. In general, a lord's effective power is usually dependent on their vassals' loyalty, and the moment a king dies, his successor will usually have to deal with several magnate lords pushing their own agendas; the likelihood of this goes ''up'' as the king's realm grows bigger and more powerful. On the other hand, a long-ruling king can more-or-less expect full obedience as he expands his realm into infidel lands. The difficulty rankings on starting characters do not take this into account, meaning that some of the best starting characters for newbies, minor Irish nobles with no large organized enemies or complex internal politics, are labeled "hard".

[[folder:Hack And Slash]]
* ''VideoGame/DiabloII'': You sequentially pass through the three difficulty levels with your character as you level up (Normal for levels 1 to ~40, Nightmare until ~70, and Hell from then on). However, the actual difficulty of each is kinda messed up.
** Normal can be tedious or very difficult depending on your build. Many characters are stuck with a pathetically weak attack as they wait for the higher level ones they actually want to put points into to open up.
** Nightmare is a complete joke -- by now you have your strongest attacks maxed out, while enemies are only slightly stronger than in Normal.
** Hell is true to its name. All enemies are completely invulnerable to at least one element, randomly spawned unique monsters gain 3 boss-modifiers (which can give them more elemental immunities), and your own elemental resistances are all dropped by one hundred.
** There's another layer of Schizophrenic Difficulty inside Hell difficulty. While in Normal difficulty the enemies have their stats completely fixed, in Nightmare and Hell each zone has an "area level" and enemies scale their stats based on that area level. Hell difficulty makes some strange leaps in area levels, and sometimes zones have a much higher level than the previous area, meaning the enemies there are much stronger. This usually happens with optional areas, but there are a few cases with mandatory areas: the Blood Moor has a level of 67 while the Den of Evil there (a NoobCave in previous difficulties) has a level of 79 (enjoy monsters who are suddenly 12 levels higher!), and the Far Oasis has a level of 76 while the Maggot Lair has levels 84-85.
** A similar thing can be said about act bosses. The first boss, Andariel, has quite an adequate low difficulty considering she's the first boss, but the second boss, Duriel, is one of the [[ThatOneBoss toughest enemies of the game]]. The third boss, Mephisto, is very easy, especially compared to his bodyguards, the [[WolfpackBoss High Council]], who are AT LEAST as hard as Mephisto himself. Then, the fourth boss, Diablo, is clearly the [[ThatOneBoss toughest enemy of the game]] (which makes sense, considering he was originally the FinalBoss prior to the expansion). By contrast, the added FinalBoss in ''Lord of Destruction'' (Baal) is similar to Mephisto in being disappointingly easy compared to prior bosses and his "Minions of Destruction" that you are forced to defeat right before.
* ''VideoGame/DiabloIII'' had this in spades before the 2.0 patch added auto-leveled enemies and the ability to change the overall difficulty level on the fly.

* ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' also falls prey to this trope - especially on [=PvP=] servers. Certain zones can be unplayable due to ganking and quest difficulty can frequently fluctuate depending on how enemies differ between areas.
** Low-level players first encountering Gnomeregan may notice a surprising leap in difficulty compared to earlier dungeons.
** Zones made before any of the expansions (Levels 1-60) are somewhat more difficult than higher-level zones introduced in the expansions (Levels 60-80). Quests are also usually more time consuming as well, requiring TwentyBearAsses rather than eight.
** The ''Cataclysm'' revamp made it even worse. Now, the level 1-60 zones were revamped and are a very pleasant experience. 60-70 content is now the oldest and as such is missing a lot of new development ideas and is much more tedious than 1-60. 70-80 content ups the quality almost back to the new Cataclysm content. 80-85 levels have all the newest developments, but have vastly increased amount of experience needed per level and highest-level mobs are much tougher than previously. Tol Barad quests, accessible at 85. feature another jump up in difficulty.
** Even once you finish leveling and start playing heroics, there's a significant difference across the different dungeons. Some people will jokingly call a free run while others will see people immediately quit in disgust.
* During the open beta, ''VideoGame/StarTrekOnline'' suffered from this, with the episodes and missions immediately following the tutorial being unreasonably (to the point of unplayable) difficult at times. By the time you got to level 11 where the difficulty was supposed to pick up, it actually dropped off some.
* ''VideoGame/GuildWars Factions'' has this, with several earlier missions being a ''pain'', yet around the middle of the game, they ease off on difficulty, then it spikes again. The final boss himself is all over the place. If you go in with whatever build you normally have, he can be essentially unbeatable. On the other hand, there are builds that almost instantly defeat him, with almost no middle ground due to the nature of his abilities.
* ''VideoGame/GuildWars2'' tends to run into this problem with the Personal Story missions when run solo, though this is largely dependent on the player character's build. Two characters running through identical stories may have vastly different outcomes: a high-defense low-damage warrior may be able to wade handily through a succession of strong single enemies, but be stymied by the following mission's [[ZergRush gigantic waves of enemies]] that [[ScratchDamage whittle that huge HP bar down to nothing]]; conversely, a high-damage AOE-based Elementalist will watch their coffers drain repairing damaged armor from trying to take down the mini-bosses, only to laugh maniacally as they slaughter the following ZergRush before they can even attack.
* ''VideoGame/StarWarsTheOldRepublic'' had a similar issue with class missions, especially the Jedi Knight plotline, which is built around the assumption that the player character is a Guardian tank and is inordinately difficult with a Sentinel or a DPS Guardian.
* ''VideoGame/KingdomOfLoathing'' is interesting in that it has this ''every time'' you do a run through it due to how the game works. The first three quests are laughable, but then you reach the [[WakeUpCallBoss Goblin King]], who's far harder than the [[WarmUpBoss Boss Bat]] - and harder than some of the enemies ''several'' quests down. Level Six (and its optional second quest) is back to normal, but the boss of the Level Seven quest, the Bonerdagon, is another amp in difficulty (especially if you're a Mysticality class; most of their damage is through skills, which the Bonerdagon has a good chance of blocking). From there things remain somewhat stable.

[[folder:Platform Game]]
* The Genesis ''VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog'' games are somewhat schizophrenic in their difficulty curves. In ''[[VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog Sonic 1]]'', Star Light Zone, the fifth zone, is easier than the previous three zones. Chemical Plant Zone, despite only being the second zone in ''VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog2'', has a second act that's more difficult than anything you face until Mystic Cave, the sixth zone. ''[[VideoGame/Sonic3AndKnuckles Sonic 3]]'''s Ice Cap Zone, as with the first game's Star Light Zone, is easier than the three before it. For obvious reasons, combining ''Sonic 3'' and ''Sonic & Knuckles'' creates a two-hump difficulty curve. ''Sonic & Knuckles'' alone does, however, have a sensible difficulty curve.
** The reason for Chemical Plant's difficulty is that it was originally intended as the tenth zone, back when the game was to include [[DummiedOut several scrapped levels]]. Conversely, the difficulty of Labyrinth Zone in ''Sonic 1'' is ameliorated somewhat (it still precedes the noticeably easier Star Light Zone), as it was originally the second level in the game, but was moved to the fourth because it was too difficult.
** Marble Zone is much harder than Green Hill Zone with its horrible amounts of lava, falling spikes, and instant-kill squish hazards. Conversely, Spring Yard Zone is relatively easier, apart from the [=BallHog=] enemy.
** The 8-bit versions have this problem to a lesser extent. Jungle Zone Act 2 in the UsefulNotes/SegaMasterSystem version is one of the hardest in the game due to RatchetScrolling, while Labyrinth Zone and Scrap Brain Zone Act 1 are surprisingly easy in comparison to the 16-bit equivalents.
** ''Sonic 2'' for the UsefulNotes/GameGear and UsefulNotes/SegaMasterSystem is horrible about this. Underground Zone, the game's first, is modestly challenging up until the boss, and even that is beatable with some practice ([[WakeUpCallBoss although still surprisingly difficult considering it's the first boss]]). The next zone, Sky High, is more difficult than anything up until Scrambled Egg and Crystal Egg, the final two levels, due to unintuitive hang glider controls. Aqua Lake is back to being relatively easy, then bounces back to being NintendoHard with the second act. Green Hills (note the "s") isn't very hard at all until the third act, which is one of the hardest in the game. The game seems to make up its mind about its difficulty level starting with Gimmick Mountain.
** ''VideoGame/{{Sonic Rush|Series}}'' also does this. Especially as Blaze, since her level order is different than Sonic's.
** ''VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog2006'' had difficulty all over the place in each of the main 3 campaigns.
** ''VideoGame/SonicColors'' will open up Sweet Mountain and Starlight Carnival at the same time. Upon the player finishing both, Planet Wisp, Aquarium Park, and Asteroid Coaster will unlock all at once. The game's stages are supposed to scale in difficulty on an ordinary curve in the order listed above. Hence, anyone who chooses Starlight Carnival before Sweet Mountain will be in for a surprisingly tough time, and even more so if they select Asteroid Coaster before Planet Wisp or Aquarium Park.
* ''VideoGame/MickeyMania'' has 6 levels. The first, Steamboat Willy, is very easy. #2, The Mad Doctor, is likely the second most difficult level in the game (the difficulty jump between the first two levels is ridiculous). #3, Moose Hunters, is medium-hard, but quite short. #4, Lonesome Ghosts, is pretty hard. #5, Mickey & The Beanstalk, is about medium. And the final stage, The Prince & The Pauper, is quite merciless. It has five incredibly difficult segments to it (though the first isn't too bad), plus the final boss (who takes forever to kill and can mess you up if not careful).
* ''VideoGame/SuperMarioSunshine'' has 10 difficult sub-levels peppered across the game where Mario loses FLUDD. After playing one or two of them, players will know that the cutscene of Mario losing FLUDD means a tough Shine ahead. A tough ''mandatory'' Shine in all 10 cases.
* ''VideoGame/{{Scaler}}'', a 3D platformer whose main draw was being relatively inexpensive, frequently alternated between being mind-numbingly easy and controller-crushingly hard. There is no [[VideoGameLives lives system]] or penalty for death, and there are frequent unmarked/invisible [[CheckPoint check points]] that will respawn the player close to wherever he or she screws up, making it child's play to advance through the game. On top of that, most of the enemies, including the bosses, are extremely easy to kill. ''Most''. Every so often the game will throw a BossInMookClothing at you, and then there are the racing levels that are [[NintendoHard insanely hard]] to beat and are required to both progress through the game as well as for HundredPercentCompletion.
* ''VideoGame/TheLionKing'' was of average difficulty, which equated to being relatively hard for a Disney game. Apart from certain levels, the most infamous being the second. How many people just stopped playing through the rest of the game just because of the ostrich ride? The gorilla sub-boss caused a lot of angst as well, yet there were full bosses who collapsed after one hit.
* Since all 20 levels in a world are unlocked and ready to play once you get to that world, ''[[VideoGame/MeatBoy Super Meat Boy]]'' either has a steady difficulty curve or this trope depending on whether you play the levels in order or not.
** The difficulty can become even more uneven depending on when the player decides to do the Dark World levels, which are on par in difficulty with levels 2-3 worlds ahead of the current one. Players who tackle the Dark World immediately after their Light World counterpart will alternate between breezing through Light World stages and struggling through Dark World ones.
* One of the building blocks of ''VideoGame/SuperMonkeyBall'' is this Trope. Let's talk about Deluxe: A Stereotype afflicting ALL NON-EXTRA MODES except Expert whereas the second-to-last level is really hard, and the last level's a BreatherLevel. Expert's case doesn't use the last two stages (Air Hockey and Asterisk), it uses Exam-C and Skeleton (Experts 6 and 7, respectively). Other unforgiving levels are also allowed to appear (e.g. Tracks and Launchers), but both can be remedied. The former involves going to the edge of the 5.0 "text square" and hitting the ledge separating the 1.0 and 2.0 "text squares". The latter involves use of your trusty minimap. No way to remedy [[NintendoHard Stamina Master]]...)
* ''{{Frogger}}'' IS this trope. At least the UsefulNotes/{{Atari 2600}} version anyway. Early on, the difficulty levels change gradually from warmup level 1, slightly less easy warmup level 2, easy but noticably harder level 3, and then a sudden difficulty spike with moderately hard level 4. Then level 5 is easier. Then level 6 is legitimately hard. Then level 7 is a piece of cake, easier than level 3, only thing that makes it harder than rather than equal to level 2 is the fast-moving snake on the log (which can be fairly easily avoided), then level 8 takes NintendoHard UpToEleven with the close but slow moving traffic and fast moving water hazards. Then level 9 is a bit easier but still not cake. It goes on like this all game long.
* ''VideoGame/{{Psychonauts}}''. The first couple levels are more or less just tutorials meant to teach you various game mechanics. Then, once you reach the abandoned insane asylum, you're suddenly thrust into a [[DifficultySpike considerably more difficult group of levels]] filled with tougher enemies, more death traps, and [[{{Bizarrchitecture}} really confusing level designs]]. Then, as a final level, there's the [[NintendoHard Meat Circus]], which is the hardest level in the game.
* Due to having more than its share of {{That One Level}}s, ''VideoGame/MegamanX6'' has this if you try to follow the order of the bosses' elemental weaknesses. You're likely to start with the relatively easy Amazon Area and Central Museum, then go into the blistering hard Magma Area, followed by the not-quite-as-hard Northpole Area. You'll a bit of a breather at the Inami Temple, then go into the hell that is the Recycle Lab, followed by the short and simple puzzles of the Laser Institute and tricky, but straightforward and also short Weapon Center. You're much better off defeating the bosses with the buster or saber, taking the levels in order of difficulty, and using alternate means to unlock the endgame instead of trying to finish all the maverick stages.
* ''VideoGame/SuperMarioMaker''[='=]s 100 Mario Challenge in Expert mode is SturgeonsLaw in full effect, due to the game's reliance on user-generated content. You frequently run into courses filled with FakeDifficulty, tight reaction times, haphazard enemy placement, etc. You can skip these courses, but you need to actually clear a course in order to truly progress. Fortunately for those striving for HundredPercentCompletion, the majority of the 30 Mystery Mushroom costumes randomly rewarded for beating this mode can be alternatively unlocked through Toys/{{amiibo}}[[labelnote:specifics]]Bowser, [[ChromeChampion Mario (Silver), Mario (Gold)]], [[VideoGame/YoshisWoollyWorld Mega Yarn Yoshi]], [[Franchise/{{Kirby}} King Dedede]], [[VideoGame/{{Metroid}} Zero Suit Samus]], [[VideoGame/FireEmblemAwakening Lucina, Robin]], [[Franchise/{{Pokemon}} Lucario, Greninja]], [[VideoGame/{{Pikmin}} Captain Olimar]], [[Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda Zelda]], [[VideoGame/{{MOTHER3}} Lucas]], [[VideoGame/{{Splatoon}} Inkling Boy, Inkling Girl]], [[VideoGame/AnimalCrossing Tom Nook, Rover, Kapp'n, Isabelle (Winter Outfit), Reese, Lottie]], [[UsefulNotes/GameAndWatch Mr. Game & Watch]], Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog, VideoGame/PacMan, [[VideoGame/PunchOut Little Mac]], [[VideoGame/StarFox Fox McCloud, and Falco Lombardi]][[/labelnote]], so at best you need three mandatory playthoughs to get the [[VideoGame/MarioBros Sidestepper, Shellcreeper, and Mario]] costumes.
* ''VideoGame/BionicCommando Rearmed'''s [[BonusStage Challenge Rooms]] are all over the place in terms of difficulty; some are a cakewalk to get an Eagle ranking on, while others are extremely difficult to just pass.

[[folder:Puzzle Game]]
* ''[[VideoGame/PuzzleQuest Puzzle Quest: Galactrix]]''. Oh, boy, Puzzle Quest Galactrix. Specifically, the whole "fixing jumpgates" thing, which is not just schizophrenic, but positively hebephrenic (really obscure psychology joke).
* ''VideoGame/{{Lemmings}}'' is all over the place, simply because when you know the solution to a level, it's hard to predict how difficult others will find it to discover. A perfect example is "Flow Control" from ''Oh No More Lemmings'', midway through the last and supposedly hardest difficulty rating on the game. Depending on whom you ask, it's either worthy of that position or should have been in Tame. Likewise, late Taxing level "Take a running jump..." is ridiculously easy to solve (saving 100%) once one sees [[spoiler:that the level design is a RedHerring; one can simply ignore the tiny gap which is supposed to be plugged, and just build a landing ramp under the ledge]].
* ''ProfessorLayton'' had an amazingly twisted difficulty curve, which of course varies from person to person, seeing as it's a puzzle game (and people might have done some before). But some levels *coughchocolatecodecough* are consistently frustrating.
* In ''VideoGame/CandyCrushSaga'', you can often find easy levels followed by hard levels, and the other way round. If you visit [[http://candy-crush-saga.wikia.com/wiki/Candy_Crush_Saga_Wiki the Candy Crush Saga wiki]] and read the page of almost any episode, you can see how much the difficulty jumps up and down.
* ''VideoGame/TheCastlesOfDoctorCreep'' is ''supposed'' to have the castles arranged in order from easiest to hardest, but (among other things) the long and difficult castle Callanwolde is listed second (not counting the tutorial), the very short and easy castle Freedonia is listed fifth, and the extremely tough castle Rittenhouse is listed ninth (of thirteen).

[[folder:Real Time Strategy]]
* The single-player campaign of ''VideoGame/DawnOfWar: Soulstorm''. The difficulty levels of each of the nine stronghold levels vary wildly with no way of knowing which ones are the hardest until you've already played through the game. The Ork and Dark Eldar strongholds are cakewalks (assuming you have enough Honor Guard to get past the initial zerg-rush/maze), the Space Marine, Eldar, and Necron strongholds are about average difficulty, the Sisters, Tau, and Chaos strongholds are hard, but doable, and the Imperial Guard stronghold is nigh-impossible for anyone who lacks a lightning-quick clicking finger.
** This has a lot to do with the gimmicks the game employs at the strongholds and the schizophrenic rock paper scissors relationship that the different factions have to one another.
** The campaign of ''Dawn of War II'' fluctuates up and down for its entirety, along with a huge spike with the Argus Gate mission, a huge ''drop'' after acquiring [[PurposelyOverpowered the Dreadnought]] and a sufficiently levelled [[DifficultButAwesome Cyrus]], a spike into the stratosphere with the two {{Bonus Boss}}es, and another drop with the relatively easy final mission complete with AnticlimaxBoss. ''Chaos Rising'', however, is far more consistent in its difficulty curve.
* In ''VideoGame/AmericanConquest'' the historical campaigns set during the initial phase of conquista are insanely hard. You start with what would be an inadequate army in any kind of situation (often their historical numbers), during said campaigns you have no means to replenish your troops and going against enemies few times stronger and more numerous than you. On top of that, you usually can't gather resources either, so you will eventually run out of ammo (rendering your only asset - firearms - useless) or, what is much worse, food - after which your army will simply starve to death. Your units are also without any upgrades, so they aren't even half as mediocre as they could be.// On the other hand, the exactly same campaings played as natives are laughtably easy to beat. The sole fact that you can heal your units would be enough, but you can always produce more and upgrade them all without much fuss. Combine this with ability to freely gather resources and to build new fortifications and suddenly stopping Europeans is just a matter of time.
* The online TowerDefense game ''Easter Island TD'' goes beyond this to chaotic difficulty. The same layout on the same level in different games can give wildly varying results. So much for keeping notes.
* The levels in the original ''{{Populous}}'' were generated with an algorithm. A side effect was that there were some hard levels quite early in the game, a bunch of easy levels near the end, and the hardest level in the game was around the middle
* ''VideoGame/UFOAftershock'' borders on this trope and multiple [[DifficultySpike difficulty spikes]]. First mutant mission is a cakewalk, but as soon as on third mission you can encounter very tough shotgun-wielding humanoid mutants (by that time you have only Alien laser weapons, which have pathetic range and damage) and fast sniper-ranged star like mutants, both of them can kill any of your unskilled soldiers with [[OneHitKill single critical hit]]. After you acquire shotguns for yourself it gets a bit easier. Another spike comes when Cultists come into play. On first mission against them you have to catch "real" cultists off guard on close range with your whole squad to bring them down without losses, mid range engagement is just a suicide. Second cultist mission is back to just difficult, because of captured equipment (especially weapon mods). When you get sniper rifles, scopes and trained Snipers, game goes from whatever difficulty it was to easy again. Then the Wargot show up, with their MechaMooks, powerful energy and kinetic weapons, and a love for incendiary explosives; all of which laugh at your armour at that point... on top of very good resistance to all non-armour piercing munitions. Fortunately that's offset by their humanoid nature (allowing snipers to make called shots). Later, the Starghost enemies raise difficulty again because they are either highly resistant (more resistant armour than anything before) nonhumanoid (preventing called shots) robots or actual ghosts (called Psionic projections) immune to your standard issue [[ImprobableAimingSkills fully modded]] AP loaded XM8, MSG90 and [[GunsAkimbo dual]] [[MoreDakka MP5]] forcing at least one of your (now [[CharlesAtlasSuperpower Super]])Soldiers to waste backpack space to carry an [[SniperRifle Ultra]][[StunGuns SonicGun]] or other energy weaponry.
* The first ''VideoGame/{{Age of Empires|I}}'' game suffered from this. The Yamato campaign was the worst by far (the first two levels were extremely frustrating nomadic levels, pitting a laughably small force against an army), but the Babylonian campaign had shades of this as well (The first level where you start with only a priest, the fifth level which is the toughest of the campaign and the last one where you must assault on Nineveh, a city with 1001 defenses).
* Flash TD game ''Cursed Treasure - Don't Touch My Gems'' has a fairly balanced difficulty ramp. That is, until ninjas appear. With their first hit, they turn invisible, being unable to be targeted and making mid-air shots heading to them disappear. Then the ninja champions come out to play: More health (enough that the direct damage spell won't save you), twice as fast and still turning invisible, so by the time they become targetable again, they're often inside your base and [[LuckbasedMission you can only hope that your towers will activate the chance to cause fear]]. It's not uncommon for the last boss of the wave to be killed in seconds, but the entire level leading up to that to be laid out solely to deal with the ninja waves.
* ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerRedAlert3: Uprising'''s Commander's Challenge mode has this in spades. Many levels -- though not all of them -- have one or more "gimmicks" associated with them: one mission is [[TankGoodness Tanks Only]], one features enemies that attack only with [[GratuitousNinja ninja]], one gives you a set of [[StoneWall powerful but immobile]] towers, etc. Depending on how well a given player's favored, practiced tactics work on a particular level, they can go from trivial to maddening and back again. Worse, the game unlocks new units with each mission, and the missions are largely nonlinear; two runs of the ''same mission'' can be wildly different in difficulty if you unlocked a [[TacticalRockPaperScissors particularly effective unit]] in the meantime.
* The Imperial campaign of the original ''Red Alert 3'' is an even worse example. Some of the Imperial levels are so easy, they might as well be playable cutscenes (most prominently, both levels with the [[HumongousMecha Shogun Executioner]]), while others are ridiculously difficult ("Barbarians at the Bay", for example, is a timed mission where you are forced to fight both the Allies and the Soviets, who will both throw ''everything'' they have at you).
* The original VideoGame/CommandAndConquer played with this in the GDI campaign. A commonly missed part of the plot has to do with the GDI being seriously under-funded. This leads to mid-game missions that are far more difficult than later ones due to the lack of starting money and adequate sources of tiberium to harvest. The lack of funding for most of the campaign actually forces GDI players to use subversive tactics--such as sneaking into bases to capture & sell expensive buildings--instead of the staple GDI tactics such as tank force steam-rolling.

[[folder:Rhythm Game]]
* ''VideoGame/GuitarHero World Tour''. The setlists are made so that, instead of a linear progression like in previous games, you have a handful of setlists you can choose at any time. Fair enough, but that's not where the crazy difficulty comes in. The setlists themselves seem to have been spastically arranged. A fairly easy setlist with Spiderwebs and Eye of the Tiger has a fairly crazy Zakk Wylde Battle which ends with Stillborn (which is fairly challenging, but not as hard as the aformentioned battle), and another setlist has Sweet Home Alabama (Live), which has a ridiculously hard solo, sandwiched between the far easier Are You Gonna Go My Way and Assassin. Also, most band games are unavoidably like this when playing in a group. Even if the songs are ordered properly by band difficulty, one is probably going to be harder on guitar and another harder on drums, etc.
* This as a common criticism of ''Music/TheBeatles: VideoGame/RockBand'', whose Story Mode tracklist is organized by release date instead of difficulty, meaning the difficulty varies wildly between songs: For example, some of the game's easiest guitar songs (''Hello Goodbye'' and ''Getting Better'') are just one or two tiers away from some of the hardest (''Revolution'', ''Birthday'' and ''Back In The USSR''), while ''I Saw Her Standing There'', quite possibly the hardest bass song in the game, is in the first chapter in the story mode. At least the game tells you the song difficulty before you play and you can change between Easy, Normal, Hard, and Expert.
* ''Green Day: Rock Band''. Some songs that lead into each other are put together as a single song. But this means the hilariously easy Brain Stew finishes with the 1-minute hell that is Jaded.
* In ''VideoGame/DanceDanceRevolution X2'' on the [=PS2=], boss songs are unlocked in this manner. The first song is ''[[TitleDrop Dance Dance Revolution]]'', which isn't hard outside of its jumps, then right afterward comes ''Dead End (Groove Radar Special)'', which is absolutely loaded with FakeDifficulty, and has only one chart, which is an '''18'''. After that comes ''Pluto The First'', which is notorious for being one of the worst charts of all time and having [[UpToEleven even more]] FakeDifficulty than DEGRS. Once you've gotten past that, you'll find the remaining two bosses, Kimono Princess and Roppongi Evolved, to be very easy by comparison.
* ''VideoGame/RhythmHeaven'' on the DS. Two levels in the second set (Moai Doo-Wop and Rhythm Rally) are considered some of the hardest in the whole game. Sometimes you get a very hard level between two easy ones (Big Rock Finish), and some of the easiest ones are right before the end. YMMW on which levels are hard and which are easy, but most people agree that the difficulty is anything but gradually increasing.
* ''VideoGame/RhythmThiefAndTheEmperorsTreasure'' prioritizes what's going on in the story over the difficulty of the stage you're about to play. This is most noticeable any time Charlie becomes the player character, whose gameplay is about precise (rhythmic, in other words) shooting of soccer balls at multiple targets and thus signals a DifficultySpike; Fondue, on the other hand, gets mostly stages with one-button commands for cues displayed long in advance with an oddly lenient timing window, making his stages easy in comparison with surrounding stages.

[[folder:Role Playing Game]]
* This seems to happen a lot in both traditional [=RPGs=] and [=MMORPGs=], in general. Earlier levels can actually be harder because your characters don't yet have many items or skills. Then, middle content can become a breeze once you've got your hands on some decent equipment and spells, only to find yourself butting heads with an [[ThatOneBoss enemy]] [[WakeUpCallBoss that forces you to get serious again]]. Finally, end-game content can either be disappointingly easy, again as a result of having now acquired the best weapons and spells in the game, or mind-numbingly impossible, when all the awesome loot and cool powers in the game world mean nothing to your even more [[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard powerful enemies]]. Double this for any LinearWarriorsQuadraticWizards situation.
* Several reviews that describe ''VideoGame/TheLastRemnant'' as painfully erratic in its difficulty, which leads to a lot of [[AnticlimaxBoss disappointing boss fights]] and cheap deaths. There's nothing quite like walking into an area and starting a normal fight with really high morale (suggesting you're a lot stronger than them and should have visited 'properly' when you were weaker) and then getting whipped by the boss.
* The first ''VideoGame/PokemonMysteryDungeon'' games begin quite easy, then you face the three legendary birds when you aren't even Lv. 20. Afterwards, it becomes absurdly easy until you finish the story. Then you meet a DifficultySpike in the next three dungeons (first one with much tougher enemies, the second goes heavy on traps and the third has Pokémon that seem random). Then the difficulty plummets down for a while until you get to the ultimate dungeons. Note that this is all assuming your starters aren't [[ElementalRockPaperScissors Grass types]].
* ''VideoGame/PokemonBlackAndWhite'' jumps all over the place through most of the game. The frist two Gym Leaders, the [[WakeUpCallBoss Striaton Triplets]] and [[NonElemental Lenora]], are generally considered [[ThatOneBoss among the hardest in the game]]. The next, [[BigCreepyCrawlies Burgh]], is much easier due to his team's major Fire and Flying weaknesses, two types that can be found in the areas around his city. The ''next'' two Gym Leaders, [[ShockAndAwe Elesa]] and [[DishingOutDirt Clay]], spike the difficulty right back up again, while [[BlowYouAway Skyla]], [[AnIcePerson Brycen]] and [[OurDragonsAreDifferent Drayden/Iris]] are a lot easier. And then you get to the tough Elite Four, followed by the fights against [[spoiler: N and Ghetsis]], which are ''brutal.''
* ''VideoGame/MightAndMagic IX'' had this, mainly because it was only [[ObviousBeta half-finished]] as shipped and the resulting gameplay had some rather noticeable flaws. The first part of the game seemed more neglected than anything else, resulting in a "tutorial" stage that was punishingly difficult due mostly to a lack of any sort of preparation. Trying to follow the "main path" of the game past that point led through a somewhat stable difficulty curve, but any sort of deviation from where the game automatically expected you to go quickly led to the discovery of numerous side quests which could be completed without placing your team in any form of danger whatsoever, making the rest of the first half of the game ludicrously easy. The difficulty eventually spikes back up out of nowhere before bottoming out again, and varies depending largely on which promotion quests you decide to do.
* From Jahara to Giruvegan storywise, ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXII'' is all over the place. Ozmone Plain is typically used as a PeninsulaOfPowerLeveling, and with good reason-while the enemies are strong, few have area attacks, and the ones that do are weaker. Then Golmore Jungle starts throwing lots of status ailments at you, and you can't get Esuna til you reach Eruyt Village. Henne Mines settles for cranking enemy combat strength up. Then it's back to Golmore where the game will [[WakeUpCallBoss force you to use everything you've learned about status ailments]]. The difficulty then plummets for Paramina Rift, then spikes again for the Stilshrine of Miriam. After that, you have to fight through the Mosphoran Highwaste (fairly easy), the Salikawood (upgraded Golmore, meaning loads of status effects), the Phon Coast (easy again), the Tchita Highlands (also easy), the Sochen Palace (difficulty spike) before ever reaching Arcadia. The Draklor Laboratory features lots of Imperials, and a difficult boss fight. Difficulty remains at a very high level until the end game-Giruvegan is particularly unfair with loads of gimmick bosses. Then comes the even harder Pharos, a dungeon that would qualify for VeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon status in any other FF game. Sky Fortress Bahamut comes after Pharos and is probably far easier-the enemies are just high level Imperials and there are no gimmick bosses to deal with.
* In VideoGame/RolansCurse2, this happens with the bosses. The first boss can easily be beaten without taking a hit, but the next two are so ungodly difficult that they are completely impossible to beat without getting hit, then a couple more easy bosses, then one last hard one, then the final boss, a completely stationary pile of bones who fires impossible-to-dodge fireballs that can kill you in two hits.
* ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}'' starts with 2 extremely easy dungeons, then a [[WakeUpCallBoss Wake Up Call Dungeon]] followed by one of the hardest bosses in the game. The next dungeon is a good step harder than that and has possibly the HARDEST story boss (almost the only other boss you will actually need to grind against), then the next dungeon is easier, with a challenging but not hair pulling boss, the next dungeon is a little harder, with a boss nearly as hard as the 2 very hard early game bosses, then the next dungeon is easier, and the next dungeon... but the boss difficulty finally spikes.
* ''VideoGame/DevilSurvivor'' has this a little bit as well. Day 1 has a tutorial, followed by a nasty WakeUpCallBoss ten levels higher than you right after the tutorial, and [[EarlyBirdBoss you can't fuse demons]] until you beat him... and once you do beat him, your fusion makes short work of the demons for the rest of the day. Day 2 is only a little harder, till the end mission, which is an EscortMission, and therefore automatically a big pain. Day 3 is pretty easy, except for the boss at the end who is ThatOneBoss. Day 4 is a little harder, Day 5 is {{Breather Level}}s, Day 6 is mostly pretty easy, and unless you choose Yuzu's route, Day 7 is an exercise in forced grinding.
* ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou'' can be like this, thanks to its very complicated battle system. A hard boss battle might force you to learn how to use a gameplay mechanic you had been ignoring beforehand, and suddenly the rest of the game becomes easy until you run into another DifficultySpike. Repeat until you get to the post-storyline content, which requires jumping back and forth between a bunch of {{Bonus Boss}}es while constantly switching your difficulty setting and HP around.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIV'' for the DS had this in its dungeons. You expect, as you go through the levels of a dungeon, that as you progress the monsters will get harder the farther you get from the entrance. In many dungeons, though, this is reversed. The nastiest monster in the Tower of Zot, the Frostbeast, likes to hang around the entrance--and its PaletteSwap upgrade, the Flamehound, is only found in the lowest levels of the Tower of Babil despite being a right nightmare. In the Sealed Cave, while the [[spoiler:doors]] are everywhere, the Chimera Brain with its awful Blaze attack is most often found in the first half of the dungeon. TheVeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon appears to have a more standard difficulty curve, with DemonicSpiders of increasing levels of meanness populating the first several floors, then floors with ''only'' BossInMookClothing (or DegradedBoss, depending on your perspective) encounters, and then, right before the FinalBoss...ridiculously weak enemies. What the hell?
* ''VideoGame/{{MOTHER|1}}'' has a bad case of this, mostly due to the high random encounter rate. At least, until Mt. Itoi, where it spikes to an insane level and stays there. The creator admitted that they didn't playtest it or try for any sort of balance; they just wanted to finish making the game.
** ''VideoGame/EarthBound'' also has difficulty issues. It starts out fairly challenging, gets extremely easy after Happy Happy, gets hard when you reach the mines and stays hard all the way through Moonside, drops insanely low all the way through Scaraba, gets a bit more challenging in Deep Darkness, and finally gets pretty nasty once you reach Fire Spring through the end.
** The GBA fan translation of ''MOTHER'' includes an "easy ring" that balances out the difficulty a little better.
* ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVI'' has a pretty strange difficulty curve. The game's difficulty increases steadily until it gets NintendoHard at the DiscOneFinalDungeon, after which you get access to the game's CharacterClassSystem. The game's difficulty then drops a bit after that, and once you start mastering the classes and then some secondary classes, the game becomes really easy. Then, all of a sudden, the enemies and bosses get all sorts of cheap attacks, and the game becomes even more NintendoHard than it was before.
** ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVII'' also does this with its own Dharma Temple event. The mini-dungeon and encounters surrounding the area are stupidly hard. This, however is a trick: If you are (and most likely will be) low level for this area, you can use the area for a PeninsulaOfPowerLeveling once you actually get your Job Classes. But if you decide to grind out your levels before going to the temple, then you can't use the encounters there to gain job points.
* While ''VideoGame/TheLordOfTheRingsTheThirdAge'' mostly avoids this on the regular storyline, the Evil Mode is a massive case of this. Some early chapters are easy while others are ungodly hard. Chapter 6 is particular is horrible, as you're facing The Fellowship itself, which are PurposelyOverpowered when in your control and still remain overpowered, making it a nightmare. Meanwhile, Chapter 9 (the last one) is a joke, though it's justified as you use [[DemonicSpiders an Oliphaunt]] first, then [[TheDragon the Witch-King]], and for the last match... [[BigBad Sauron]] ([[GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere Or rather, The Eye of Sauron on his tower]]), so of course you're having it easy.
* Creator/{{Microprose}}'s ''TabletopGame/MagicTheGathering'' game does this somewhat: If you don't have an easy way to kill the lower-life opponents, their aggro decks will walk all over you.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Undertale}}'', {{Boss Battle}}s in a Genocide Run fall into one of two categories: bosses that will automatically [[OneHitKill die from ludicrous damage in one hit]] and [[ThatOneBoss bosses that will put you through hell]].

[[folder:Shoot Em Up]]
* ''VideoGame/MushihimeSama Futari Black Label'' brings us God mode, which replaces version 1.5's [[HarderThanHard Ultra]]. Stage 1 starts off already difficult, but Stage 2 somehow manages to be easier, thanks to the immense slowdown and the many, MANY opportunities to cancel bullets and rack up hundreds of millions of points. Then the game goes back to being very NintendoHard with the Stage 2 boss. 1.5's Ultra, meanwhile, is hideously difficult on Stage 1 due to rocks that release suicide bullets upon death. Stage 2 is ''easier'' because of the absence of such hazards, as well as having many bullet-canceling opportunities, just like in God mode.
* The ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'' [[FirstPersonSnapshooter photography]] [[GaidenGame games]], ''[=Shoot The Bullet=]'' and ''Double Spoiler''. The games are broken into level, which are themselves broken into scenes. You unlock levels by either clearing a certain number of scenes from the preceding level or a certain number of scenes total. Anyway, the difficulty of both the scenes within a level and between the levels themselves can be fairly random. For instance, the first level of ''Shoot The Bullet'' is mostly trivial, except for the very last scene, which is probably worse than anything in level 2. And ''Double Spoiler'' has level 11, which is markedly easier than the previous three levels.
* ''VideoGame/SpaceInvaders Infinity Gene'' has a Challenge mode that basically randomly generates levels. This leads to randomness in the difficulty. Also, one of the bosses has an intro that lasts minutes before it can be attacked, and this boss may appear randomly at the end of any Challenge level.

[[folder:Simulation Game]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Descent}} 2'' had Schizophrenic Difficulty, with many spikes and troughs along the gently rising slope. In some sections the robots could be picked off with ease, yet just around the corner one false move would see a phalanx of murderous mechs erupt from the floors and walls, firing blinding flares and flooding your lines of retreat with bouncing shots... It didn't seem to make for a bad game, though, since it was enjoyably unpredictable, but only rarely NintendoHard.
* ''VideoGame/HarvestMoon: Frantic Farming'' has this; mainly either when your opponent was the Witch Princess or a team battle near level 6 or 7. The former was a tough, but fair battle no matter which level you fought her on. The latter achieves it's difficulty spike due to your CPU partner suddenly becoming [[TheLoad near-useless]], leaving you in a virtual handicap match against the CPU team.
* In the [[IdleGame Idle]] DatingSim ''VideoGame/CrushCrush'', the girls are generally unlocked in order of increasing difficulty with Cassie (the first girl you unlock) as the easiest and Karma and Sutra (the last girls you unlock at this time of typing) as the hardest to get up to Lover status. However, several girls' relationship levels are surprisingly easy or difficult to complete compared to others': Ayano's earliest relationship levels are fairly straightforward but her post-Friendzoned requirements hit a huge DifficultySpike and her Lover requirements are obscenely high, and Eva's requirements are significantly easier to complete than Luna's far more expensive ones in spite of her being unlocked after Luna.

[[folder:Third Person Shooter]]
* ''VideoGame/RedFactionGuerrilla''. Some main missions are laughably easy, some are hair-tearing hard. And normally the game is damn hard too, but not always.
* ''VideoGame/RedDeadRevolver'' had some levels that were too easy, some that were just right and incredibly fun and some that caused many a player to throw the controller across the room in frustration.
* Several missions in the "Rise of the Empire" campaign of ''[[VideoGame/StarWarsBattlefront Star Wars Battlefront II]]''. In general, the campaign isn't very difficult, but some missions (A Line in the Sand, Knightfall, Tying Up Loose Ends, etc.) are unusually difficult, others are fairly easy, and in short, no two levels have the same diffiulty.
* The first half of survival horror game ''VideoGame/ColdFear'' has lots of tight corridors, a dash of CameraScrew, and takes place on a small whaling ship rocking back and forth in a storm, making it impossible to walk in a straight line, much less shoot with any accuracy. The second half has much more powerful enemies, but disposes with all the things that made the first half so challenging.
* ''VideoGame/{{Splatoon}}'': The Squid amiibo challenges. They feature a number of "limited ink" challenges[[note]]unlike every other mode in the game, you can't refill your ink tank, forcing you to be ''extremely'' careful about using your weapon at all[[/note]] that are often [[ThatOneSidequest hair-pullingly difficult]], mixed randomly with the timed missions, which are some of the ''easiest'' challenges[[note]]during timed challenges you have access to unlimited Kraken mode, meaning you don't have to worry about coating the level in ink to use your squid mode, and it's also quite easy to be ''invincible'' for 90% of the level[[/note]].
* If you don't hate ''VideoGame/TransformersRiseOfTheDarkSpark'' for trying to merge the universe of the ''Cybertron'' games with the universe of the Michael Bay films, or for [[OnlyTheCreatorDoesItRight not being developed by High Moon]], then you probably hate it for tossing a surprise brick wall of insane difficulty in your path every couple of levels or so, before going back down to an appropriate difficulty until the next one comes along.

[[folder:Turn Based Strategy]]
* Most of the ''VideoGame/AdvanceWars'' games suffer from this with the difficulty peaking anywhere but the final boss fight and lots of late levels being total cakewalks. It depends on strategy.
* While otherwise a very good game, ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTactics'' suffered from this. The first few battles are easy (though the second battle can be hard if you opt for the more difficult win condition), the 4th battle is extremely hard, the 5th battle is easy, the 6th and 7th battles are somewhat challenging, the 8th battle is easy, the end chapter battle is hard if you don't figure out a specific strategy, then the first half of chapter 2 is easy, mixed with a few randomly hard battles. Chapter 3 throws out battles of varying difficulties though easier than the hardest battles in chapter 2, then suddenly has a sequence of 4 battles, 2 easy, 2 of some of the most obnoxious levels in any videogame ever (a 1 on 1 fight against ThatOneBoss and an Escort Misson, with the weakest, stupidest, most suicidal escort EVER). Chapter 4 starts likes Chapter 3 but a bit easier, then gives you a really good character who kills the remaining difficulty of the game.
** Of course, if you grind for high level jobs, say, the Ninja, the Dancer, or if you really wanna take the fun out the game, the Calculator, this game difficult curve becomes flat as a pancake. Granted, the escort missions are still going to be a pain in the butt, but that's nothing a crack team of Blade Grasping, Move+3 ninjas can't solve.
** ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTacticsAdvance'' has an abnormally difficult early game, due to a combination of mediocre starting units and a lack of chances for LevelGrinding. Once the RandomEncounters start showing up on the map, though, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from scooping up the best stuff available, until the final boss's ridiculously powerful magic is the only thing that can actually stop you.
** The level/powers systems in most of the Tactics games create this in general. The game can be unforgiving at the beginning when you lack ressurection, movement, reaction, and tactical powers. Once you start unlocking powerful and even game-breaking combinations the game becomes much easier, even as the enemy becomes stronger and the AI becomes smarter.
* ''[[VideoGame/FireEmblemTellius Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn]]'' (10) starts with a particularly RagtagBunchOfMisfits trying to sneak their way past the forces of the most powerful army in the game, making it significantly harder than later parts where the threats are still great, but the player is controlling stronger armies. This is more jarring for players who didn't play the preceding game, ''Path Of Radiance'', which, unlike ''Dawn'', has a learning curve. Also, the end of most ''Fire Emblem'' games (especially ''Dawn'') can range from "not too bad" to "basically impossible" based on how well the best fighters and items were managed leading up to it.
** The end of [[VideoGame/FireEmblemTellius Radiant Dawn]] is only as hard as you want it, which is what makes it so jarring. You've spent the game raising up ''[[LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters almost 70 different characters]]'', and you're only allowed...what, ''18'' or so? What's more, you're given a crapton of extremely good units that could solo the ENTIRE Endgame ''by themselves'', plus two units that can, in exchange for extreme efficiency sacrifice and LOTS of LevelGrinding and patience, make the 3rd part of the Endgame, considered by many to be pretty much the hardest chapter of the endgame, into an ABSOLUTE joke. Oh, if you trained and used [[SquishyWizard Micaiah]], you'll find she can attack the FinalBoss without retaliation, but you probably [[GuideDangIt won't know this]] because you'll be afraid your [[WeCannotGoOnWithoutYou "Lord" character will die]] from the Boss's ridiculous magic, even if Micaiah is a mage. The same goes if you did ThatOneSidequest to unlock [[spoiler:Lehran]], who comes with the most powerful staff in the game (which heals every single one of your units in the field), but only joins for the LAST level, but can use ALL staves, Light and Dark Magic, can double attack the final boss (something which is very hard to achieve), and ALSO won't face retaliation.
** In short, the difficulty of ''Radiant Dawn'' is, in order from hardest to easiest (by Part): Part I > Part IV > Part III > Part II > Part IV Endgame. Yep.
** Also, depending on how you've been playing, ''any'' sequence that involves a good number of the characters from Part I can become this. They are so experience deprived and fragile to begin with that they can be stuck like that for the reminder of the game. Part IV especially seems out to get them because most players keep them together on the Silver Team with Micaiah. Of course, her team just ''had'' to be the first chapter in Part IV so you are stuck trying to rout the much more powerful and spawning enemies with Micaiah's old Dawn Brigade members that can fall from 1 or 2 battles. Luckily, you are given [[OneManArmy Naesala]] but can also down in one shot by a Crossbow. Then, players move to Ike's team which consists of [[LightningBruiser himself]] and a stage that generally makes protecting more fragile units easy.
** The next chapter starring Micaiah's team takes place on a [[GeoEffects desert that hinders the movement of units who aren't magic-users or flying units.]] This could mean half of your team could be crippled to only moving 2 or 3 spaces at a time! This is particularly annoying because it leaves them wide open for enemy flying units and Silence and Sleep staves! Don't forget, you also have to go treasure hunting in the sand because Fire Emblem loves to put incredibly rare valuables in the dirt. The next chapter (with Ike of course) ''does'' have the same status effects, and the castle is somewhat frustrating, but you're less likely to RageQuit after [[GuideDangIt finding out you JUST missed out a character from the previous chapter.]]
** [[VideoGame/FireEmblemElibe The Binding Blade]] is quite famous for its erratic difficulty. the first 8 chapters, especially Chapter 7 are immensely difficult to the point they have to give you a replacement [[CrutchCharacter crutch character]] due to your first one waning in usefulness. After that is the Western Isle arc that gives you pathetically inaccurate enemies and by the end of it you'll receive a bard/dancer to your team, the best dark magic user Ray, and Milady, who some debate as the best unit in the game at your disposal. if you think its all down hill from here than prepare for some devastating whiplash as the first real chapter of the Etruia arc, chapter 14 is one of the hardest and most cruel levels in the series. [[NonIndicativeName Arcadia]], the ironically named chapter is a Desert [[FogOfWar fog of war]] level with a [[GuideDangit 25 turn time limit where you have to keep Sophia (one of the worst units in the game statistically) alive in order to get one of the legendary weapons needed to get the true ending to the game]] and is flooded with Wyvern Lords and Manaketes. after this torturous ordeal the difficulty mellows out, nothing difficult to the point of hair pulling, but still a challenge that requires skill and planning. After Roy obtains the [[InfinityPlusOneSword Binding Blade]] the game becomes a cake walk after that, regardless if you even use the sword. By this point the enemies will either be mooks you've leveled up enough to handle no problem, or Manaketes at a point in the game where your gonna use the legendary weapons 24/7 and thus ORKO'ing them. Even the final boss can be one shot by Roy or [[CuteMonsterGirl Fae]].
* Thanks to the fact that it is possible to select which map to take on first and the maps themselves have rather different optimal strategies, ''VideoGame/GenjuuRyodan'' has a rather unstable difficulty, especially when players stick to only one strategy.

[[folder:Wide Open Sandbox]]
* In ''VideoGame/DeadRising'', the combination of the mall layout and the time constraints can make one mission incredibly hard and the next incredibly easy. Rescue from the hardware store? [[ChainsawGood Piece of Cake]]. Rescuing people from the toy store? [[JokeWeapon Not so much]]. In addition, whether or not you've fought various optional psychopaths will also influence your difficulty, particularly if you've killed [[MonsterClown Adam]] and looted his miniature chainsaws.
** [[VideoGame/DeadRising2 The sequel]] is better about this (mostly because your escortees are markedly less retarded), but the psychopath fights are still all over the shop.
* Anything ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto'' - some missions are so easy they could be accomplished by a five-year-old ([[RatedMForMoney not that they ''should'', mind you]]), while others are so frustratingly hard that you'll probably want to either break your TV, your controller, or both.
* Randomly generated missions in ''[[VideoGame/{{X}} X3: Terran Conflict]]'' are assigned a "Difficulty" ranking. The difficulty just seems to indicate how likely you'll get raped by a [[BossInMookClothing M8 class bomber]]. At high combat ranks (gained slowly by killing enemies), an "Easy" mission will spawn multiple ''battleships'' in patrol missions -- regardless of what sort of ships you own. Good luck killing those battleships in your piddly little corvette.
** In-Sector versus Out-Of-Sector combat. To save on processing power, OOS reduces combat to ships taking turns firing a single, point-blank[[note]]650 meters or thereabouts[[/note]] volley from all guns at once at a single target. All other variables (area-of-effect, weapons recharge, and so on) are taken out of the equation. This skews combat in favor of {{Wave Motion Gun}}s to the point where recommended loadouts are often drastically different for IS and OOS.
** OOS is also skewed in favor of weight of numbers, to the point where [[http://x3wiki.com/index.php/Simulation_modeling a mob of Jaguar scoutships can kill a Python destroyer with about 20% casualties]], something that ArtificialStupidity makes impossible IS.

* Because most pinball tables with a series of missions can have the missions playable in any order (either randomized or chosen by the players), more often than not the difficulty will be all over the place as one plays. One example is ''Pinball/RipleysBelieveItOrNot'', where each of the seven continents has an objective, and accomplishing it nets the same reward (a letter in [[SpellingBonus R-I-P-L-E-Y-S]]). Australia's objective is to hit the Vari-Target, an easy-to-hit target, 2 to 4 times depending on how hard you hit it. Africa's objective is to get the ball up the center ramp and right ramp, hit the Idol, get the ball up the center ramp and right ramp again, hit the Idol again, then get the ball up either the center ramp or the right ramp one more time. This can also happen when one part of the playfield is harder to reach than the others but does not reward accordingly. ''Pinball/SouthPark'' has one such case; whereas all other characters have either gaping holes to shoot into (Cartman, Kenny) or wide ramps (Kyle, Chef), Stan gets assigned to the left orbit, which requires shooting the ball between some rather closely spaced bumpers--if you're barely off, the ball will ricochet in unpredictable directions with a good chance of a drain.