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Sequel Difficulty Spike
In a video game series, there's usually expected to be a rough increase of difficulty as the series goes on, as to challenge the fans of the original. However, in some cases, this difficulty increase will be a lot harsher than expected, and will send a game series straight into Nintendo Hard or (if something has gone terribly wrong) Platform Hell. Often, this happens with the second game, which becomes the black sheep of the series when the difficulty level of the third game goes to roughly the same level as the first, and it's quite likely to happen when a game receives a Mission Pack Sequel (because difficulty and level design change is usually the only change made). On the other hand, some difficult series can just go straight up when it comes to difficult as the series goes on, such as Platform Hell and Bullet Hell games (Kaizo Mario World and other Super Mario World hacks being good examples), or games like Ghosts N Goblins which started Nintendo Hard, and where the only direction to go for difficulty is up.

Some games get around this by making the game no harder than the original, but including a Hard Mode, or, if there were already difficulty settings in the previous game, a new Harder Than Hard mode.

A subtrope of Sequel Escalation where the difficulty is what's made higher than the original. May lead to the harder game being the Oddball in the Series if difficulty is increased too much, as seems common with second games.

Typically, games that are harder than their predecessors are widely criticized for it.

Compare Harder Than Hard, Surprise Difficulty, and Difficulty Spike (which happens in the same game).

Contrast Sequel Difficulty Drop, Easier Than Easy.

Examples:

Action Adventure

Action Game
  • Ninja Gaiden 3: Unlike its predecessors, there are no infinite continues. This applies more to the western versions due to the Japanese version being much easier. See Difficulty By Region.
  • The first Devil May Cry was a challenging game. The 2nd, not so much, but its not very well regarded. Devil May Cry 3, on the other hand, definitely hits the Nintendo Hard standard and is easily the most difficult game of the series. It starts out hard and just gets worse from there.
  • Mega Man Battle Network was occasionally quite vicious with this. The first game was very forgiving right up until the endgame, but the second didn't take long at all to ramp up, and the third went right for the throat with the very first boss. The Bonus Bosses in all six games were a steady increase from interesting-but-manageable to pure WTF territory with zero room for error.

Beat 'em Up
  • Double Dragon:
    • The arcade version of Double Dragon II: The Revenge]] is basically an improved version of the first arcade game. However, it took out the bonus lives from the first game, only partial health recovery is given between stages, and the bosses are ridiculously overpowered compared to the ones in the first game. To top it off, the game even respawns enemies if the player takes too long to clear certain sections.
    • The NES version of Double Dragon III is considerably harder than the first two NES games as well. The player only has one life, full health recovery is only offered between stages, and the basic attacks are slower and have less range than in the first two games. However, the extra characters that the player gets to control after Mission 2 and 3 are essentially extra lives on their own and a continue is given for the final two stages.
  • Streets of Rage 3. This installment is much harder than the previous two, and the game won't let you continue to Stage 5 and beyond if you play on the easiest difficulty. Which is strange, though, because the Easy setting is actually the Japanese version's Normal setting.

Fighting Game

First-Person Shooter
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. A lot of people never beat the Boost Guardian. The worlds are huge and several bosses are hard, and Dark Aether doesn't help the situation much either. Many of the enemies are harder as well, and the beam ammo system only increases the difficulty. And unlike the original and Corruption, Echoes is the only game to never grant Samus immunity to Phazon, despite spreading it around Dark Aether like it was going out of style. Also unlike Prime 1 and 3, its late-game Fetch Quest cannot be done ahead except for three of the nine Sky Temple Keys, so it can only be completed by spending a painstaking amount of time backtracking.
  • Left 4 Dead 2 is a lot more difficult than the previous game for most players. Zombies are now everywhere you go instead of being scattered or appearing with hordes, new special infected makes old strategies like camping or being in narrow halls a bad idea, crescendos are now "run from point A to point B" in order to stop hordes from coming forever, one finale now has two Tanks appearing at the same time, and the survivor AI players are so bad that it makes the experience even more frustrating. Anyone who was used to playing Advanced or Expert in the first game will be in for a rude awakening if they try to play on those difficulties off the bat in the sequel. On top of this, the AI Director is even more of a prick than it was in the first game. With all the new special infected, it's possible to be gang banged by having a Jockey pounce you, then being snatched up by a Charger and pushed into a Spitter's acid patch for more damage. If that wasn't bad enough, try some maps where the AI Director will say "fuck you" and toss a Witch or a Tank right in front of the safe room.
  • Halo 2 is an interesting case in that the normal difficulty is actually noticeably easier than the original game (faster regeneration, not having to worry about health, enemies die noticeably more quickly and don't dodge as much, much easier to score instant-kill headshots, a wider selection of better weaponry, vastly improved friendly A.I.), while the heroic and legendary difficulty are much harder than their equivalents in the original game, due to factors such as much weaker shields, Jackal Snipers, level design that makes it much easier to get surrounded and burnt to a crisp with plasma, etc. Halo 3, compared to its predecessor, downgraded the difficulty.
  • Halo: Reach is noticeably harder than Halo 3. The Covenant enemies have been significantly improved (with Elites dodging and strafing like crazy), and the game uses the original Halo: Combat Evolved game mechanics of a weaker energy shield and finite, non-regenerating health. Bungie claimed that Legendary difficulty on Reach would be the most difficult Halo experience ever. They weren't kidding. To clarify: Shooting an enemy Brute in the face four times with a Fuel Rod Gun is enough to maybe knock his mask off. His use of the same weapon hitting five feet away can cause a nearby pebble to bounce away and pass through your brain, killing you instantly.
  • BioShock 2, despite you playing as a 7-foot tall Big Daddy rather than a human as in the first game, is much harder, possibly due the Splicers getting stronger and more mutated, or more probably due to the fact that many of their weapons do more relative damage, and you're now expected to fight dozens of them at once instead of just 2 or 3 at a time. The inability to backtrack might also have something to do with it. If you don't want the ADAM in each level to be Lost Forever, you have to collect it all while you're there, which means fending off several hordes of splicers, then facing the Big Sister. The hacking minigame is also harder, as you have to do it in real time, and it's reflexes-based instead of puzzle-based.
  • Soldier of Fortune II definitely qualifies, mainly because the AI is much more of a cheating bastard.
  • Dark Forces Saga:
    • The early levels of Jedi Outcast are a lot tougher than the equivalent non-Jedi, shooter-based levels in Dark Forces and Jedi Knight. This is largely due to the vastly improved A.I. of the Imperial Stormtroopers, which lets them strafe back and forth quickly while firing, making it much harder to hit them and turning them into an actual credible threat (at least until you get a lightsaber and the ability to reflect blaster bolts). Outcast is also more stingy with health, ammo, and especially shield pickups, and the damage of the enemy's weapons also seems to have been jacked up a bit.
    • Certain elements of Jedi Academy have been made more difficult than its predecessor Jedi Outcast, most noteably combat against non-Jedi. The most obvious example is that the lightsaber no longer perfectly blocks enemy projectiles, with blaster bolts occasionally getting through, forcing you to dodge and go on the offensive much more. Jedi Academy also adds a number of special enemies, including Rocket Troopers, Hazard Troopers, and Assassin Droids, that are specifically designed to fight Jedi.
    • Some of the Reborn. The difficulty with them has a wider range: the easiest Mook ones can be dispatched without your lightsaber. The ones in gray are Boss in Mook Clothing material.
  • Star Trek: Elite Force II is noticeably harder than the original game, but this is mostly because the first game was unusually easy (with every enemy except the final boss doing very little damage individually, and very generous placement of health and shield refills), so much so that the Harder Than Hard difficulty was much closer to what most other FPS shooters consider Normal difficulty. The difficulty of Elite Force 2 is much closer to that of a mainstream shooter, and the later levels get genuinely hard even on the default difficulty.
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is noticeably tougher than STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, mostly due to the addition of many Fake Difficulty elements such as an enemy hit detection system that causes shots to randomly not register when you shoot someone, and magical homing enemy frag grenades. Thankfully, these (and many other interface and gameplay issues) were mostly corrected in the third game in the series, STALKER: Call of Pripyat.
  • Condemned 2: Bloodshot has a much more complex combat system than the original game, requiring you to use combos and time your attacks much more precisely to be really effective in combat. The sequel also no longer has infinite taser shots.
  • Modern Warfare 3 on Veteran difficulty is insane compared to the second game. Not only can you survive much less damage, but enemies are suddenly psychic and have superhuman reflexes and perfect aim. The only concession is that they're not constantly spamming you with 6 grenades at the same time like in Call of Duty: World at War.
  • Rainbow Six 3's Elite (read: Impossible) difficulty is much more frustrating than in previous games, due to the increased prescience, response speed, and accuracy of the AI, as well as level design that makes it easier to get blindsided by wandering tangoes.
  • Mission Pack Sequel DOOM II: Hell on Earth is noticeably harder than its predecessor, complete with new enemies that are more brutal than the ones before and former bosses the Cyberdemon and Spider Mastermind scattered like Giant Mooks, as well as larger levels filled with Malevolent Architecture. Case in point, the game's "normal" mode ("Hurt Me Plenty") is at least as hard as the original game's "hard" mode ("Ultra-violence"), if not harder. Final Doom takes this up to eleven - especially in the Plutonia Experiment episode.
  • Borderlands 2 pumped up everything from the first game, including the difficulty. Weapons with rare elements like Corrosive and Slag appear less frequently, you can't carry as many items as you could in the first game, and upgrading your backpack and ammo capacity has to be done with an alternate currency that is hard to find. The enemy AI has also been significantly upgraded; enemies will actively take cover during gunfights and will flank you if you choose to hide behind cover. If you go into bleed out, enemies will keep moving and use cover to prevent you from killing them so you can get second wind.

Miscellaneous Games
  • Audiosurf 2 compared to the original. The tracks are consistently faster and have much higher traffic densities. Mono in 2 is harder than Ninja Mono in the original.
  • Haggle Man 2 from Retro Game Challenge: the levels now scroll vertically, there are far more enemies per level and the game is almost twice as long.
  • Katamari Forever has insanely strict time limits combined with an insane requirement of points needed to not get the worst rank. Even a Katamari veteran will have a hair-pulling time trying to go after 100% on every level.
  • House of the Dead 2 is considerably harder than the first game, especially the bosses.
  • Silent Scope 2 is definitely much harder than its predecessor, with longer sniping distances, larger enemy groups, better camouflaged enemies, more dexterity required, and more frustrating bosses, especially Cobra and Sho & Kane.
  • Faster, Harder, More Challenging Q*bert is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.

MMORPGs
  • Guild Wars had a notable one from Prophecies to Factions. Prophecies wasn't that hard sans a few missions that were Luck-based (ie monk boss spawning in a very bad spot) and some difficulty spikes, but Factions did not screw around. It shoves you right into level 20 missions, and 90% of the missions are an Escort Mission. (But to be fair; Togo and Mhenlo do hold their ground and heal, they're actually not like Prince Rurik and run right on in. Given the nature of these missions you'll need the free healing.) While Vizunah Square may have been nerfed to not throw zillions of level 20 mooks at you, it doesn't get any easier. Vizunah square was worse in 2006 when Factions was new and people didn't know you were actually supposed to be level 20 before Vizunah Square so it wasn't uncommon to see people at level 15 or so trying to run the mission only to get chewed up by level 20s, and there were still plenty of people who went right to Factions instead of having beaten prophecies..
  • The Cataclysm expansion of World of Warcraft took (and is still taking) a lot of adjusting to given that the previous expansion had done away with limited mana for healers, crowd control, and target selection, at all but the highest levels of the game, before reintroducing them with a vengeance in the new expansion. Queue times spiked drastically as the combined result of tanks having to lead, healers having to be tactical, and dps having to pay attention to anything other than their rotation, and frustration with people not doing these things drove tanks in particular away in droves.

Platform Game
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels is this to the first game. Note that the SNES All-Stars version of Lost Levels lets you save after every level. In the original version for the Famicom Disk System, you can only continue from the start of each world. Also in the original version, you have to beat the game 8 times to get the secret levels. Without warping.
    • Super Mario Galaxy 2 is harder than the Super Mario Galaxy. The levels and bosses are more plentiful, the comet missions are more difficult, and to reach 100% Completion it won't be enough to get all 120 stars but also the more devious 120 green stars, as well as complete a Brutal Bonus Level at the very end.
    • New Super Mario Bros. Wii was made to be harder than New Super Mario Bros. 1, particularly in the latter worlds, reaching a zenith with the post-finale bonus levels. This is the reason why the Super Guide was implemented.
    • New Super Mario Bros. U is hard the whole way through, to the point where there's really no Warm-Up Boss. If you found Acorn Plains easy, you'd be surprised that Lemmy is nearly as complex as he was when he was fought later in the game for the past two games. The levels become challenging pretty soon after, and the bosses, while still being far easier than the levels, have also taken a step up in difficulty. Iggy and Roy stand out.
    • New Super Luigi U kicks things up a notch as well. For starters, each level only has 100 seconds on the clock. note  To compensate this, one of the playable characters (Nabbit) is indestructible.
    • Yoshi's Island, itself being more difficult to beat and complete than Super Mario World, has a sequel for Nintendo DS that ramps up the difficulty considerably, more so in the last two worlds.
  • Kaizo Mario World 2 is this (Platform Hell games can only go up in difficulty).
  • Super Mario Infinity (second game had 90mph Bullet Bills and 100 floor Marathon Level dungeons).
  • Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame is definitely harder than the first game. The enemies are tougher and more numerous, the jumping puzzles have forced two-story falls that hurt, and the Malevolent Architecture is as malevolent as ever.
  • Viewtiful Joe 2 is substantially harder than the first game. There's more mooks, bosses have more health bars, and some have unblockable attacks. They did, however, add more savepoints, considerably easier puzzles, and you could Button Mash to kill just about every enemy.
  • Jak II is more difficult than Jak and Daxter, as it comes along with focusing more on combat.
  • Donkey Kong Country 2. The back of the box even said something like "and they've put some challenge in it this time". However, it is easier to get 102% completion in the sequel than the original due to the original's near Trial And Error gameplay method of finding many bonus rounds. Years later, Donkey Kong Country Returns came out. The game was so difficult, Gamespy made a specific mention of the Nintendo Hard trope when analyzing it. Fortunately, like in all the Donkey Kong Country games, you have Meaningless Lives.
  • Tomb Raider II has a difficulty spike noticeable within the first level. The first level in the first game was very tame and the only traps it had were flying darts that caused minimal damage. The first level in the sequel has rolling boulders, spiked walls closing in on you, huge rolling bladed wheels, and pits of spikes. The traps and obstacles only ramp up from there, though they are a bit manageable. Tomb Raider III takes the difficulty to even greater heights by making the game dark, forcing you to use leap of faith at times, placing enemies around corners so they can ambush you, and forcing you to blindly run with awkward camera angles as you try to avoid boulders or other traps. The Playstation version makes the difficulty more apparent by having Save Game Limits via Save Crystals while the PC version lets players save anywhere. In the Crystal Dynamic series, Anniversary is quite a bit harder than Legend.
  • Sonic & Knuckles continues the ascending difficulty curve from Sonic 3, although there's a noticeable difficulty drop between Launch Base and Mushroom Hill Zones when playing the two games back-to-back as Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Before that, Sonic 2 for the Game Gear. Oftentimes, you have to perform blind leaps, and there are several sections where timing must be nothing short of absolutely impeccable. Sometimes you're faced with both at the same time.
  • The original arcade version of Contra is a short but still difficult game. However, its arcade sequel Super Contra is ridiculously hard by comparison. Most of it has to do with the fact that the enemies are tougher and the player must upgrade their weapons in order to be really good (which can only be done by picking up the same power-up twice in a row). Of course, there are a few cheap spots in the game as well, like the foreground trees that obscure the player's view of the action in the Jungle stage.
    • The same goes for their equivalent NES ports. The latter (renamed Super C) thankfully drops the upgrade system, but still has more brutal game design than its predecessor.
    • Hard Corps and Shattered Soldier are the hardest ones in the series. The former was actually given a health bar in the Japanese version.
  • Banjo-Tooie, the sequel to Banjo-Kazooie, is much more complex and challenging than its predecessor. The levels are a lot larger and more complex (to the point that warp pads are introduced), and the Jiggies are harder to find, as there is almost none out in plain sight like in the previous game's earlier stages. The bosses are more plentiful and more difficult overall, including the infamous Weldar of Grunty Industries. As a whole, the game approaches the more complex design and style of Donkey Kong 64, which already gained a fame of being overwhelming in many areas. It is worth noting, however, that Rare did show some mercy by removing some of Kazooie's more irritating components, such as giving the player infinite lives this time around and completely retooling how the collection of Musical Notes works.
  • Klonoa: Dream Champ Tournament's difficulty starts at the level of the previous GBA game's hidden challenge levels, and just goes up from there. 100% Completion is even more difficult with new requirements to never take damage or die while collecting everything in a level.
  • Super Star Wars was no walk in the park, but the sequel Super Empire Strikes Back was truly maddening.
  • Metal Slug and Metal Slug 2 / X are fairly difficult enough games in the series. Then came along Metal Slug 3, which is not only dramatically longer, but also pushes the challenge even further.
  • Mega Man:
    • The Mega Man (Classic) series declined in general difficulty for a while starting late in the NES era, with a couple specific exceptions (like the final boss fight in Mega Man 7, or the snowboarding sections in Mega Man 8.) Then came Mega Man 9, which brought the series back to it's old school difficulty.
    • Mega Man X2, X3 and X4 are each consecutively more difficult than the first game. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, since said first game borders on "It's Easy, so It Sucks" territory.
    • X1 and X2 offer the most notable difference in difficulty. In X1, hit a boss's weak point and all the challenge is gone - they're toast. Suffice it to say this is not the case in X2.

Puzzle Game
  • Super Puzzle World (went from normal puzzles to flat out requiring glitch use and physics manipulation to complete).
  • Riven: The Sequel to Myst was way, WAY harder than the first. Later games (especially the third, made by the the people behind The Journeyman Project while Cyan was busy with Uru) were more forgiving. The difficult generally comes from two directions. In all other Myst games, puzzles are localized in specific ages (except for one or two final puzzles that require info from different ages). Riven is all one single age, so the major puzzles in that game require a thorough exploration of everywhere. The clue you need to solve a puzzle could theoretically be anywhere. The other difficulty comes from the sheer complexity of the major puzzles in Riven. Because the puzzles use information from anywhere, they also require more association than in prior Myst games.
  • Oh No! More Lemmings, the sequel to Lemmings. While the original game was modestly difficult up until midway through Taxing, ONML jumps from laughably easy to god-this-is-hard in its second difficulty setting (of five) and goes up from there.
  • The puzzles in the Professor Layton series tend to get more challenging in each game. Of course, they couldn't just rehash the same puzzles over again.
  • Although an Updated Re-release and not a sequel, Pokemon Puzzle Challenge gives an odd example. Easy, Normal and Hard are easier than they were in Tetris Attack, but the game adds Intense, which is even harder than the original's Very Hard - the AI can fill half the screen in one shot.
  • Repton 2 requires completion of the entire game without passwords or the ability to save, and also includes the notorious luck-based meteor-dodging sections, making it by far the most demanding game in the series. Later games returned to the format of separate levels with passwords.
  • Tetris: The Grand Master 2: The Absolute PLUS makes achieving Grand Master much harder due to the new grading system. The number of Western GM's in TGM1 is most likely in the triple digits, but there are exactly three Western TGM2+ GMs.
  • Portal 2 isn't exactly harder than the original, but it's definitely longer, which requires more endurance.
    • It does reach the difficulty of the first game pretty quick, and keeps going from there.
    • There are more opportunities for added complexity in puzzle solving and player dexterity. The added complications of all three gels, the laser redirecting cube, the Aerial Faith Plate, and more gave the level designers so much more to work with in all 3 dimensions of movement. Portal 1 gave the player the now familiar concepts of portal movement early and took them as far as possible without adding many new variables. The player had mostly the same tools throughout the game, and so could get used to them. Portal 2 keeps hitting the player with new concepts to play around with every few tests, then crosses them together so the player never gets too comfortable, which can definitely seem more difficult.
  • Hoshi Saga Dokuringo is both a compilation of Remixed Levels as well as modifying these levels to Guide Dang It difficulty. It doesn't help that some puzzles rely on the player's own skills (like the Shell Game that has to be won five sequential times and a sudden Genre Shift Bullet Hell). Lag can be quite detrimental in such cases.
  • Tetris Attack, a Yoshi's Island-themed Dolled-Up Installment of Panel de Pon, has harder AI on the higher Difficulty Levels. Panel de Pon's Nintendo Puzzle Collection sequel and its dolled-up installment, Pokémon Puzzle League, are even harder than both.

Racing Game
  • In Forza Motorsport 3, the AI became more brutal and brake-check happy, even on Normal difficulty. Upped again in Forza 4 when the difficultly is set to max - the AI will now upgrade their cars (previous games, the AI would use stock, unmodified cars) to stay competitive with the player, and they are far more reckless when driving; it's not uncommon for them to brake-check the player, or use the PIT maneuver on them.
  • F-Zero GX. In difficulty terms, this game makes the previous console entries look like a cakewalk.
  • Driver 2. While the original could be quite difficult at times, Driver 2 is often very punishing and unforgiving of any mistakes in its missions.
  • Carmageddon II includes Missions which fell straight into this, and the lead artist explained that they were a late addition with little time to test them, so their difficulty was calibrated using his skill (and given that he was working on the game for too long, in his own words they became "too challenging for most mere mortals").

Real-Time Strategy
  • The Tower Defense game Gemcraft went from being one of the easier TD's to being the one of the hardest in its sequel, Gemcraft 0.
  • Earth 2150 is fairly OK when in comes to difficulty but the standalone expansion pack Lost Souls is a nightmare. You start with two, maybe three buildings and no base defenses at all. The AI has a massive fortress that spans across the bottom of the map and is frighteningly aggressive, Zerg Rushing top-tier units at you right from the start. The only way to stop this is to destroy the bridges leading to your base, which eventually results in the AI running out of resources, but by that time, it accumulates sixty-plus units on the other side of the river with no way to take them out since they have more raw firepower and have enough rockets to strongly discourage air attacks (patching the game will give you artillery in this mission which makes your job somewhat easier). They also get periodic reinforcements endlessly in the form of over a dozen plasma cannon-armed mechs which spawn next to their base as well as aircraft which spawn right in the middle of your base. As for their base, it's surrounded by mountains that leave only one location for a ground attack... and that location is defended by a literal wall of towers and fortresses. The mountains themselves are full off AA and the entire base is a giant minefield so you can't use STEALTH tanks to gut it. And completing the mission will instantly dump you back to your main base without warning, losing you all those now highly experienced units you busted the base with without any chance to carry them over to the next mission. And the kicker? This is the third mission.

Rhythm Game
  • Guitar Hero III is this to its predecessors, to the point that fan complaint forced Neversoft to ease up for World Tour. The presumed reason for the difficulty jump in Guitar Hero III was how it was Neversoft's first game in the series, and lacking the know-how on how to make a notechart fun to play by itself, they decided to just make the game ridiculously hard. Another explanation is that part of the Neversoft development team was comprised of former custom notechart authors, who had previously created some distinctly challenging custom note charts for Guitar Hero II to give themselves a good challenge, carrying that same difficulty level onward to Guitar Hero III.
  • If you thought "Run To The Hills" and "Green Grass and High Tides" were bad, Rock Band 2 will hit you with the 4-hit combo of "Battery", "Painkiller", "Panic Attack" and "Visions".
  • Every Bemani series has a tendency to introduce more difficult songs every few installments, and as such needs to either add a new difficulty rating or rewrite the entire scale. Examples of songs that redefined difficulty:

Roguelike

Role-Playing Game
  • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team not only makes the enemies and bosses hit even harder, but also features Action Commands that are incredibly intricate even by Mario & Luigi standards. Even dodging in battle, previously controlled merely with single-button presses, now also require moving the Bros. with the circle pad.
  • Pokémon games themselves have had this trope invert but then play straight. The most notable difficulty spike was in Generation IV. Generation I could be trivialized by a Good Bad Bug, but even without it, it wouldn't be that hard to solo with your starter (or Mewtwo). Gen II actually had a Difficulty drop. Despite a few trainers like Whitney and her Miltank and Red (being high 70s-81) and that Gen II games had better AI than the first, they were a lot easier. Gen III brought the difficulty back to the Gen I level, and while it was somewhat noticeable, it could still be beaten fairly easily. Now Generation IV, however, THAT is when it started to get a lot harder. Not only was there the big Physical-Special split, but the changed movesets also made it so that Pokémon were more likely to know a move that'd utterly screw you (much more diverse movesets to deal with weaknesses). Despite that Gen III had some trainers like that (Winona's Altaria can and WILL use Earthquake on you if you have an Electric-type out), some of which couldn't even legitimately learn those moves, Gen IV has a lot more of them. And as an added bonus, because some types were so few in number in Gen IV, type-themed trainers like Gym Leaders and the Elite Four had to improvise instead of re-using the same type several times. Candice, for example, has a Medicham in her team (which isn't an Ice-type), Volkner has an Octillery in his team to screw any Ground types, and Flint, who is a Fire-user, only actually has two Fire-types in his team; the rest don't even have a common weakness with the Fire-types. No longer are you able to fight members of the Elite Four who simply repeated the same Pokémon and beat 'em by spamming the same move...you actually had to have multiple ones! This issue was fixed in Platinum with all Gym Leaders and Elite Four members now having their entire teams represent their type (Except Aaron's Drapion, though that did evolve from a Bug-Type), but it didn't make things any easier as their movesets are still configured to screw you. Finally, the levels of the Elite Four and Cynthia's Mons are all higher relative to the other trainers in the game. Cynthia's team is even built to have total type coverage, unlike most Champions, and uses a Garchomp with perfect IVs, when even the regular mons of the species are deemed so powerful that they are banned from the competitive metagame.
    • The reason why Gen II was easier was because they build up the difficulty more slowly due to there being 16 gym leaders rather than 8, due to the fact you can go to Kanto. Of course, True Final Boss Red is still in the 80s and very hard to beat even if you've done the rest of the game.
    • The remakes and third-versions frequently also up difficulty a little bit.
      • Generation I had Yellow, in which Koga suddenly tosses a level 50 Venomoth at you, and Sabrina has Pokémon in the mid 50s.
      • Emerald had a few difficulty increases, but overall, it wasn't that much harder than Ruby and Sapphire. If anything, it was a little more fair for those who picked Sceptile, the one starter who did not gain a secondary type when it evolved. Namely because not only was there Team Aqua (who used Water Pokémon), but also the Champion, Wallace, used primarily Water Pokémon. However, if you did fight Steven, he was significantly harder. And don't forget how difficult the rematches could get in Emerald!
      • Fire Red and Leaf Green were actually where rematches started. While the game itself was a lot like Generation I with some rebalances (ie, Sabrina wasn't that big of a threat because you could spam Bite on her Pokémon now), the rematches and the advanced Elite Four were notably harder than the originals, with some exceptions. (Poor Agatha still winds up using mostly Poison types...)
    • For Pokémon Black and White, people have noticed that the AI is a little better - there's a little more spread out use of Artificial Brilliance. For example, even standard trainer Mooks switch Pokémon out to absorb hits or spam stat-up or stat-down moves to annoy you. The gym leaders also use Pokémon with moves that are based around their team. (Lenora is a lot harder if you don't have a fighting type because her Watchog only shows up after you knocked out the previous Pokémon...and it has Retaliate.) While everyone has expected the more diverse movesets, it's a smaller spike than Gen III - IV was. (The main reason Gen IV struck a lot of people as harder was because how many people were caught off-guard) If anything; it Zig-zags this trope. That said, it also introduced the new EXP system, giving more EXP to KOs with underleveled Pokémon and less EXP to KOs with overleveled Pokémon...meaning they nerfed the tried-and-true strategy of "playing with only one Pokémon the whole game and winning through sheer level advantage" into the ground, since they wouldn't be nearly as overleveled thanks to the EXP reductions. It was still possible, but much more difficult. Their sequels, however, had yet another difficulty drop, in the sense that many of the tougher fights (i.e. Lenora) were completely removed, and most of the tougher battles are considerably weaker moveset and team-wise (i.e. Elesa's Emolga no longer has any Flying-type moves), and they are much easier to counter because of the additions to the Unova Dex.
    • There is a serious difficulty drop in Pokemon X and Y, at least early on.
  • The first two Boktai had an all-around average difficulty, but the third one (released only in Japan) abruptly hiked the difficulty up to Mars with a much-reduced MP meter, much stronger enemies, and fairly difficult motorcycle levels. Then Lunar Knights comes along and inverts things, being much easier than even the first two. Unless, of course, you count those frigging stylus-pen fighter jet levels.
  • Played straight in Pokémon Colosseum, and to a lesser extent Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, which feature some actual AI and teams that didn't consist of crap Pokémon.
    • And if anybody has the misfortune of having Evice's Slowking use Skill Swap on his Slaking (which it often does), he can quickly become That One Boss if you weren't expecting it. The developers put some serious thought into making Colosseum more challenging than the rest of Gen III, having the computer actually play to its team's strengths or around its weaknesses. ]
  • Played straight in Dragon Quest II. Inverted in Dragon Quest 4 and 5. Inverted with all of Dragon Quest Monsters sequels.
  • Final Fantasy I was already Nintendo Hard. The very first thing Final Fantasy II does is kill you. This is partly for dramatic purposes, and partly to let you know what it's going to be doing with considerable frequency the rest of the game. (The fact that its leveling up system practically encouraged masochism didn't help)
  • Even without using the newly added Hardcore Mode, Fallout: New Vegas is noticeably harder than Fallout 3. The game has a more "hardcore" stats and combat engine (i.e. armor is much more important, both for the player and enemy humans), combined with restricted character growth (no more reaching 10 in every stat and 100 in every skill in a single playthrough). Additionally, in contrast to Bethesda's Wide Open Sandbox philosophy where enemies level globally with the player and thus you can explore pretty much the entire game world from the beginning, Obsidian ex-Black Isle uses a more traditional design where Beef Gate monsters will kill you to death if you try to explore an area of the game world before you've reached the appropriate level.
    • There are some more subtle changes, as well. While Fallout 3 made it possible to have 85% damage resistance from armor, New Vegas armor subtracts a flat rate from damage, but maxes out at 80% resistance (and that can be bloody hard against some hits, like the Anti-Materiel Rifle). V.A.T.S. gave an automatic 90% damage resistance (higher than was normally possible) in 3, but only gives a 25% boost in New Vegas, and the Grim Reaper's Sprint Perk was nerfed considerably, so staying in V.A.T.S. constantly is much less feasible and grants smaller rewards. Ways to treat broken limbs and radiation sickness were also reduced, making them a bigger danger (to a greater degree than they had been in the original Fallout games, where the joke was that the 2 Rad-X needed to reach The Glow in Fallout constituted 100% of the radiation treatment required in the first two games). Until DLC raises the Level Cap to ridiculous levels, the Courier had fewer skill points and Perks available than the Lone Wanderer, making resource allocation more important overall. All of this combined to make New Vegas considerably more challenging than its predecessor.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Birth by Sleep and, to some extend 358/2 punish the player for every oh-so-little attempt at Button Mashing and force them to carefully customize the Protagonist's abilities prior to each Boss Battle. Add the fact that you can't see the Secret Ending when you're playing on Beginner's Mode and you got yourself a perfectly good reason to bash your Handheld Console into the next available wall.
    • Many players would probably consider Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories to be drastically harder on the first playthough after playing the first game. You had to use a card for every action you took and carefully customize your deck (which some bosses would mess with a lot). The remake for the Playstation 2 was a lot easier, but still a challenge if you didn't know what you were doing.
    • Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance spikes up again, taking a page from Birth by Sleep by using the same command deck system but also forcing you to progress ability-wise and statistically through raising your Dream Eaters. Even if you raise them right, all of the bosses have a habit of being very nasty (especially on the higher difficulties, where they ALL can kill you in seconds) - and the enemies alone can also beat you silly if you don't watch yourself.
  • MOTHER 3 is noticeably more difficult than EarthBound. Enemies in general have more HP, but the bosses in particular are far more durable, with even some of the earliest bosses boasting HP scores comparable to what you'd be dealing with around midgame in the previous title, while not losing any of their lethality. This makes playing smart with stat buffs/debuffs and status ailments a lot more important to victory then before.
  • Mass Effect 2 was noticeably harder than Mass Effect 1. With a greater focus on action and the removal of several Game Breakers, the game forced players to learn the cover mechanics, as opposed to simply loading up on regenerative items and equipment, spamming Immunity, if Soldier or Infiltrator and taking a 'run and gun' approach, in addition to enemies focusing fire on Shepard, who, as a Player Character can hit harder and recharge powers faster than AI allies (technically "gang up on player-controlled enemies rather than AI ones" but you only ever have AI teammates as Shepard, so it's a moot point - and the protagonists of multiplayer share Shepard's statistical advantages anyway). Then BioWare decided that Mass Effect 2 was too easy, so they ramped up Mass Effect 3 to the point that "Normal is the new Veteran" by making the enemies smart enough to use your reliance on cover againt you, forcing you to come up with better tactics then 'run and gun' or 'sit and shoot'. However, Mass Effect 3 removes many of the Fake Difficulty and Numerical Hard aspects of the previous games (every single enemy having biotic-blocking as of 2 shields on higher difficulties, damage sponge enemies, dumb squadmates (they still can't hurt enemies worth a damn in most cases, though.) Although the re-addition of some Game Breakers make the single player campaign significantly easier if approached with the right strategy (Novaguard, anyone? Just watch out for sync-kills.)
  • There are a lot more Bottomless Pits in Dark Souls, and the standard enemies are even more of a threat. On the other hand, bosses aren't nearly as hair-pulling.
  • Baten Kaitos Origins took the mechanics from Eternal Wings and revamped them to remove a lot of the flaws the first game suffered from...and then made Origins a hell of a lot harder. The infuriating luck-central battle system, Guide Dang It loaded Item Crafting, and bothersome leveling mechanics were removed and replaced with a much more streamlined battle system and After Combat Recovery that eased Fake Difficulty, but the regular encounters took about seven levels in badass and the bosses were cranked up to truly vicious levels. It's rather telling that the game can give you items like the Book of Mana, which heals you completely for the equivalent of a single turn's wait (and would be a total Game Breaker anywhere else) and it's still hard.
    • At several points, including two-hours deep into a dungeon with zero ways to any place to improve your deck, you can come upon groups of enemies as large as five, with each being able to two-or three-hit any of your three characters if you haven't been leveling up very much. Better hope you packed that Escape card into your deck. Of course, following this dungeon you get the two meanest back-to-back bosses, possibly even bigger of a shock than the immediate boss battle after changing discs earlier.
  • While Devil Survivor was by no means a cake-walk, it was still a decent challenge. Devil Survivor 2, however, is absolutely insane comparatively. Revised combat mechanics that nerf the old Game Breaker combos, more missions with side-objectives (enemy doesn't escape, Escort Mission, etc.), the enemy teams are much sturdier, and bosses that are ten or fifteen levels ahead of you. Yet grinding is as slow and ineffective as before.
  • The first The Witcher game was pretty easy, with some exceptions like the fight against The Beast. Then came the second Witcher game, whose starting area was so difficult on launch many people had to crank the difficulty level down to Easy just to have a chance of victory.
  • Almost anyone can beat Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 in just about a week with all the trophies unlocked (if the player uses a guide of some sorts, but then again, the game is pretty easy). Hyperdimension Neptunia V? You will tear your hair off from the sheer difficulty of the game where enemies and bosses hit a lot harder than what they should be, plus a lot of enemies regenerate health on their turn. Not to mention, most enemies have a really high defense stat until you guard break them.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Sacred Cards is easy game with a not too difficult Final Boss. Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction is Nintendo Hard and you need a long Level Grinding. In comparison, The Sacred Cards can be beat in a day. But for Reshef of Destruction you need about a month a longer.
  • Fan Sequel Crimson Echoes is way, way harder than Chrono Trigger. Expect to die a lot.

Shoot 'em Up

Simulation Game
  • Played with in Wing Commander Secret Ops, the sequel to Wing Commander Prophecy. Originally, the game was offered as a free download by Origin/EA, but first you had to fill out a survey with name, address, email, etc. One of the questions asked you which Wing Commander games you'd played, and which ones you'd completed (if any). If you marked that you'd completed a Wing Commander game before, when you downloaded the game and put in your activation code, it would quietly set the difficulty to the appropriately titled "Nightmare" setting.
  • Descent II: The Vertigo Series was an Expansion Pack Difficulty Spike. The main Descent II game was much easier than the first, but this troper can't even get past the first level of Vertigo on Insane (lots of Goddamned Bats and lack of powerful weapons). Descent 3 was also considerably more difficult, with increase in the dodginess and toughness of the enemies. Especially if you're trying to avoid dying, as Death Is a Slap on the Wrist there (you have unlimited lives, and restart from checkpoints instead of the beginning of the level, although your weapons still get scattered).
  • Papyrus' NASCAR Racing 4 over NASCAR Racing 3 due to the Grand Prix Legends-based Game Engine.

Stealth-Based Game
  • Metal Gear Solid 2 - Well, sort of. There are now higher difficulties to test your skills in. There are also more guards and hazards.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3 is also significantly more difficult than the first two games, due to the removal of the radar system and the lack of camera control. It's no longer possible to know if the area at the top of your screen is clear without significant use of first-person view, and enemies tend to have tighter patrols and more overall awareness. The Updated Re-release Subsistence added camera control, and the game's difficulty dropped (and made it feel much fairer) but it was still far from easy.
  • Assassin's Creed III made all but the easiest enemy types able to block if not outright counter at least one of your attack moves. It's still manageable if you keep a clear head on your shoulders, but definitely tougher than Assassin's Creed: Revelations, where even the toughest Elite Mooks could only block attacks.
    • The DLC The Tyranny of King Washington steps it up even further, where most of the people you fight will be Elite Mooks.

Third-Person Shooter
  • Syphon Filter was a fairly difficult game. The sequel, by contrast, is powered by your tears and frustrations. Every stealth sequence is long, filled with enemies, and requires the player to find the one path that will avoid instant failure. Combat sequences are long, filled with instant death scenarios and enemies armed with the multitude of instant death weapons. Bosses are spawned directly from Satan's codpiece.

Turn-Based Strategy
  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, the sequel to Path of Radiance, was criticized for its drastic difficult spike, which made it difficult for new (and even a few veteran) fans to get into.
    • Though that was mostly the localization team's fault, for renaming Radiant Dawn 's difficulty levels "Easy", "Normal" and "Hard" when they originally where "Normal", "Hard" and "Maniac", yet for Path of Radiance they had instead removed Maniac and added Easy (Which was, well, rather easy). Thus, it looked like it got harder, when actually they were about the same.
    • Fire Emblem 5 plays this trope very Straight. Then 6-8 get gradually easier.
  • Played straight in Super Robot Wars Original Generation on the GBA. The first game could be defeated by mindless rushing and having Latooni dodge and counter everything (since the enemies hit rate would frequently end up at 0). In the second game where the enemies stats were NOT complete crap and the game suddenly required about as much strategy as Fire Emblem. Oh, and the "game over trick" got nerfed too: Kills do not carry over, making secrets and ace bonuses harder to get, and losing makes you ineligible for the scenario's battle mastery, so unlocking the bonus stage is a worthy challenge.
    • Super Robot Wars Z2 Saisei-hen, the game throws some truly nasty bosses at you, including a few returning bosses with levels of badass taken. It goes Up to Eleven if you get enough skill points for hard mode Lv90 bosses 3/5 though the game?. The fact the game gives you a nice number of game breakers is but to even this out.
  • An example in the Total War series; players going from Medieval II to Shogun II are in for a rude shock, going from a game where the AI struggled to work out how to besiege cities effectively on the hardest difficulty to a game where the AI can quite mercilessly wipe you out on the first turn of the game. Empire and Napoleon were more difficult and the AI more aggressive, but didn't quite have the killer instinct of the Shogun II AI and tended to be easier due to odd AI limitations.

Turn-Based Tactics
  • X-Com: Terror From The Deep was much harder than the original due to an undetected bug— in the original game. Specifically, loading a saved game reset the difficulty to the easiest level, no matter what difficulty had been chosen at the start. Reacting to complaints about the game being too easy, the easiest level of Terror from the Deep was made harder than the hardest level of the original game. To make matters worse, the original bug was fixed in the sequel, so if you were foolish enough to choose a difficulty level higher than the easiest one... well, hope you picked out a nice tombstone.
    • That wasn't the only thing; the fact that battles could now take place on land or at sea meant that no place on Earth was safe, and it meant considerably more to patrol. Enemy subs could be shot down over land or sea, meaning that every shot-down sub that wasn't instantly annihilated by your BFGs becomes a tactical fight. Add in weapons that only work in select circumstances (such as the powerful hydrojet cannon only working underwater), painfully restrictive ammunition limits, many enemies that can now attack freely in all three dimensions, and large, sprawling maps with lots of dead ends, closets, and tiny corridors...it's not hard to see why Terror From the Deep aptly deserves its name.

Visual Novel
  • Ace Attorney games get harder and harder as the series progresses. Then the trope Inverts for the fourth game, making it easy again. To clarify, the sequels up until Apollo Justice included vaguer clues and higher penalties, including several "make one mistake and you lose" scenarios. The leaps of logic you're expected to make are also much more difficult: the first game required you to find the correct piece of evidence to refute the testimony before you. The second game required you to remember previous testimony to point out when the witness was contradicting themselves. The third game required you to figure out when to ignore the point you're presumably trying to make and go off on a tangent to prove something seemingly unrelated, and to notice when the witness was going off on a tangent themselves. They also messed with your expectations. In the first game, whenever you did something right, the music would stop and your health bar would slide off-screen. The second and third games subvert the hell out of these expectations, such as keeping the health bar and music on-screen for half the conversation or having the bar slide off... then zoom right back in just in time for a penalty.

Misc
  • A rare non-video game example: The Amazing Race American version. On average, the first couple legs are learning-curve legs that feature relatively easy tasks. note . Later on, the tasks start to get harder, though not always at the same rate.
    • Season 6 was much harder than the previous seasons with tasks including the infamous hay bale Roadblock, the Hungarian soup task, and a whole line of locks the teams had to go through to find the one that matched their key. Teams were also equalized at a rate higher than any other season.
    • Season 10 likewise was a much harder race, throwing normally mid-game challenges at the teams right off the bat. For that reason, it's considered to be the most physically challenging season.
    • Season 17 was a little harder than the previous two cupcake seasons, however the tasks got much harder later on, culminating in a Sadistic Choice in one of the later legs.
    • Season 18 not only featured an increase in the difficulty of the tasks, but they took out any learning curve, hitting the teams with difficult tasks right from the start, issued an automatic U-Turn for the team who finished last on the first task, created combination tasks (by taking what would normally be two separate tasks and making the teams do them either simultaneously, or as part of the same Roadblock), replaced two non-elimination legs with back-to-back Super Legs, had no (shown) Fast Forward, and hit the teams with two Roadblocks in the final leg. Part of the reason this was done was because it was another all-stars season, and the teams could handle it. The previous All-Stars was considered a tad too easy for all-stars, thus they engineered this to be one of the hardest races.
    • Season 19, which was a lot more abstract in the clues the teams were given and not putting them in the obvious red-and-yellow mailbox. While nowhere near as hard as 10 or 18, it's probably one of the hardest races in general, and one of the hardest starts of the race for first-time racers.


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