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1[[quoteright:350:[[VideoGame/MetroidDread https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/metroid_dread_hard_mode.png]]]] ²²Some video games with DifficultyLevels don't just hand over the keys to everything immediately. Occasionally you need to earn the right to play them, which typically requires beating the game at least once.²²This gating of content is frequently reserved for the HarderThanHard difficulty. There are multiple possible reasons for this: it could be meant as a bonus for players that prove they're hardcore enough to beat the vanilla hard mode, it encourages players trying out the vanilla hard mode before letting them jump right into the HarderThanHard mode, and/or helps pad out game time by encouraging multiple playthroughs.²²MercyMode is a subtrope where [[EasierThanEasy an easier than normal mode]] is unlocked when you do ''poorly''.²²Subtrope of UnlockableContent. As mentioned, may lead to FakeLongevity. Related to EarnYourFun, when more skilled gamers find the default difficulty levels too easy for their tastes. Compare NewGamePlus, in which a subsequent playthrough carries over content earned the first time around; the game may be made more difficult to compensate.²----²!!Examples:²* ''VideoGame/AceCombat'': In older titles, unlocking the ultimate Ace difficulty mode usually requires you to finish the campaign at least once on Normal or Hard.²* ''VideoGame/TheAngryVideoGameNerdAdventures'': Completing the game on "Old School" difficulty unlocks "Hard as Balls", completing that unlocks "[[OneHitPointWonder Fucking Impossible]]", and completing ''that'' unlocks "[[FinalDeathMode YOLO]]".²* ''VideoGame/AnUntitledStory'': Completing the game on "masterful" difficulty unlocks the "insane" difficulty, which is like masterful but you are a OneHitPointWonder.²* ''VideoGame/{{Bayonetta}}'' and [[VideoGame/Bayonetta2 its sequel]] have the Hard and Infinite Climax difficulties locked behind beating the entire game on Normal and Hard, respectively.²* ''VideoGame/BioShockInfinite'': In order to play in the much harder 1999 mode, you must either beat the game in regular mode or enter the KonamiCode.²* ''VideoGame/BloodstainedCurseOfTheMoon'': Only Normal difficulty is available from the start, but you unlock the other two depending on how you played the game. If you recruit all 3 party members, you unlock Nightmare mode. If you kill all 3 party members and take their soul powers, you unlock Ultimate mode.²* ''VideoGame/BulletWitch'': From the outset, players can start the game on Easy, Normal, and Hard modes. After clearing the Hard mode, players can replay the game on Chaos mode, and upon clearing Chaos modes unlocks Hell mode.²* ''[[VideoGame/ModernWarfare Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2]]'': The difficulty level depends on how fast you can complete The Pit in the [=S.S.D.D.=] tutorial level. If you complete it under 40 seconds, you can unlock the Harderned difficulty, and if you complete it under 35 seconds, you can unlock the Veteran difficulty. Otherwise, these two difficulty levels are locked.²* ''VideoGame/CrescentPaleMist'': You start out with Pumpkin Knight (Easy), Magic Knight (Normal), and Sacred Knight (Hard) difficulties on a new save file, but the two higher difficulties, Terror Knight (Fear) and Knight of Nightmare (Planeriel) require you to not only find an item hidden in one of the stages, the former also requires you kill a total of 8,000 enemies and beat Sacred Knight mode to unlock it on the original PC version, and simply beating that difficulty unlocks the latter.²* ''VideoGame/{{Cuphead}}'': An "[[HarderThanHard Expert]]" difficulty becomes available for all the levels after beating the game once.²* ''VideoGame/CytusII'': Unlocking a song will give you its Easy chart, and usually its Hard chart too. However, with a few exceptions, the Chaos chart is locked. To unlock the harder charts, you need to view certain iM messages, which are unlocked by leveling up the character associated with the song.²* ''Franchise/DeadSpace'': All 3 of the games offer a HarderThanHard mode once you've beaten the game.²** ''VideoGame/DeadSpace'' keeps the Impossible difficulty locked until you've beaten the game.²** ''VideoGame/DeadSpace2'' features the Hardcore difficulty where you can only save 3 times.²** ''VideoGame/DeadSpace3'': Unlocks a reworked Hardcore difficulty featuring PermaDeath and two other modes, one of which which disable CoOpMultiplayer and makes the game play more similarly to the previous titles, and one which turns off the MoneySpider effect, forcing the player to craft resources.²* ''VideoGame/DevilMayCry'': Players start the game on its Normal difficulty, and upon clearing the game it starts a NewGamePlus on Hard mode on the cleared save file, and clearing the same save file on Hard mode will bring players to [[HarderThanHard Dante Must Die]] mode. In later games, beating that unlocks [[RocketTagGameplay Heaven or Hell]] difficulty, and then that unlocks [[OneHitPointWonder Hell or Hell]] difficulty.²* ''VideoGame/DMCDevilMayCry'': Players can choose between Human (Easy), Devil Hunter (Normal), and Nephilim (Hard) difficulties when they start off a fresh save file. Beating the game on any of the three difficulties unlocks the Son of Sparda (Very Hard) mode, then beating the game again on that difficulty unlocks Heaven or Hell mode where you and the enemies can die in a single hit, and upon clearing that difficulty finally unlocks Hell and Hell mode, which only makes you die in a single hit instead.²* ''VideoGame/DiabloII'': Beating the game once unlocks the "[[HarderThanHard Nightmare]]" difficulty, and beating it on "Nightmare" unlocks "[[NintendoHard Hell]]" difficulty.²* ''VideoGame/DiddyKongRacing'': By beating Adventure mode once, you unlock "Adventure Two", which features harder CPU racers and silver coins in harder-to-reach places.²* ''VideoGame/Doom3'': After beating the game for the first time on any difficulty, players can unlock Nightmare difficulty, but if the player know their way around command-line arguments or changing a certain game setting in its config file, they can unlock it immediately without the work.²* ''VideoGame/Doom2016:'' Beating the game on Hurt Me Plenty or higher unlocks [[UpToEleven Ultra-Nightmare]], which is the same as the already brutal [[NintendoHard Nightmare]] difficulty but makes the player go through the entire game in a single life [[CheckpointStarvation without saving or checkpoints]], and if they die at any point on Ultra-Nightmare, they start back over from the beginning. Similarly to ''Doom 3'', however, it can also be unlocked early via a command-line argument or config edit.²* ''VideoGame/DragonBallZBudokai 3'': You can unlock additional difficulties by beating the game on Very Hard. The first one is called Z-difficulty, where enemies gain better AI and stats. Beating Z unlocks Z-2, which adds more of the same. And beating Z-2 unlocks the final difficulty, Z-3, where the opponents all have ''maxed out'' stats and a near PerfectPlayAI. Everyone from [[WarmUpBoss Raditz]] to [[FusionDance Gotenks]] will be a nailbiting fight because ComputersAreFast.²* ''VideoGame/DragonQuestI'': An interesting case, which only shows up in the Japanese release. In this version, choosing to join The Dragonlord will have him give you a password. This password will send you to the start of the game, but with lower stats than normal.²* ''VideoGame/EternalSeniaHydrangeaAfterTheRain'': The Hard stages are unlocked after completing the Normal stages, and the [[HarderThanHard Nightmare]] stages are unlocked after completing the Hard stages.²* ''VideoGame/GameAndWatchGallery'': Every game in the collections has two difficulties of easy or hard (excluding those with a multiplayer function). If one gets 1000 points on either difficulty for the modern version of a game, a very hard star mode is unlocked for that game (again with the exception of games with a 2-player).²* ''VideoGame/FairyBloomFreesia'': Start at Normal, defeat that to unlock Hard, and defeat that, to unlock Cruel.²* ''VideoGame/FireEmblemTheBlazingBlade'': Hector's story is unlocked after completing Eliwood's story, and has four extra chapters (two main and two gaiden chapters) while being harder overall. This can be kicked up a notch with "[[HarderThanHard Hector's hard mode]]".²* ''VideoGame/FireEmblemAwakening'': Completing the game on [[HarderThanHard Lunatic Mode]] unlocks Lunatic+, which is similar to Lunatic, but every enemy is given two extra skills, chosen at random from a special pool. Thess skills are enemy exclusive and extremely unbalanced -- such as one that makes all attacks hit -- or regular skills with their activation requirements removed so they always work.²* ''VideoGame/FireEmblemHeroes'': Each Story Mode chapter can only be played on Normal initially, but completing the chapter unlocks the Hard and Lunatic versions of their maps. The bonus maps also have HarderThanHard difficulties in Infernal and Abyssal that require beating Lunatic to unlock.²* ''VideoGame/FortuneSummoners'': Nightmare Difficulty is unlocked after beating the game once.²* ''VideoGame/HarryPotterQuidditchWorldCup'' features four levels, only two of which are unlocked at the start. Comet 260 is the lowest level, Nimbus 2000 is the medium difficulty, Nimbus 2001 is hard, and Firebolt is expert. Nimbus 2001 and Firebolt require several Quidditch Cards to unlock.²* ''VideoGame/HatsuneMikuProjectDiva'': You must play a song on Medium difficulty to unlock its Hard chart, and beat its Hard chart to unlock its Extreme chart. The arcade game and its UsefulNotes/PlayStation4 port have Hard unlocked from the start, but you still need to unlock Extreme.²* The Hard Mode of ''VideoGame/HotlineMiami2WrongNumber'' is unlocked by beating the game for the first time.²* ''VideoGame/HyperPrincessPitch'': The code to the {{Unwinnable}} Joke Difficulty is given upon clearing hard mode.²* ''VideoGame/IMissTheSunrise'': There's a super hard difficulty unlocked with a cheat code.²* ''VideoGame/{{Iji}}'': Ultimortal difficulty is unlocked after completing Extreme.²* ''VideoGame/JamestownLegendOfTheLostColony'': Divine and Judgement difficulty levels become playable once you purchase them from the shoppe.²* ''VideoGame/KingdomHearts3DDreamDropDistance'': The HarderThanHard Critical Mode can only be selected after the game has been beaten once.²* ''VideoGame/{{Kirby}}'':²** ''VideoGame/KirbysDreamLand'': Extra Mode (basically the hard mode) can be accessed anytime with a code, but the game itself only shows the code after you beat the main mode once.²** In ''VideoGame/KirbysAdventure'', you unlock Extra Mode upon getting HundredPercentCompletion. Here the whole game has to be beaten with no saves and with only three hit points instead of six. Its remake, ''Nightmare in Dream Land'', also unlocks Extra Mode this way, but the mode is slightly easier as saves are allowed here.²** ''VideoGame/KirbysReturnToDreamLand'' also features an Extra Mode that is much like the first game's. Unlocked upon beating the Main Mode at a certain percentage, this Extra Mode features stronger enemies and harder boss fights.²* A recurring feature in ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'', often mixed with NewGamePlus. ²** After beating the first quest of ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaI'', players gain access to the (even harder) second quest. ²** The 3DS remake of ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOcarinaOfTime'' unlocks Master Quest (originally a separate harder version of the game in GCN), with the added perks of stronger damage by enemies and a mirrored overworld.²** ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaSkywardSword'' and ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaALinkBetweenWorlds'' both feature a "Hero Mode" unlocked upon beating the game once where enemies hit harder and there are fewer health recovery items.²* ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaCDiRemasters'' have "Hero Mode", which is unlocked after completing the game normally. It doubles the damage from enemies and prevents you from obtaining [[EmergencyEnergyTank the Canteen item]].²* ''VideoGame/TheLordOfTheRingsAragornsQuest'' has three IdiosyncraticDifficultyLevels (Hobbit, Ranger and King), but on the [=PlayStation 2=] and handheld versions, "King", is unlocked by completing the game once on either of the other two difficulties.²* In ''VideoGame/{{maimai}}'', Master difficulty for a song is unlocked by achieving a score of 97% or higher on the Expert chart. Re:Master is unlocked alongside Master if it exists for that song.²* ''VideoGame/MarioKart'':²** ''VideoGame/SuperMarioKart'' has two difficulty levels at first (50cc and 100cc). Obtaining Gold Cup in the three standard Cups will unlock Special Cup, and obtaining Gold there will unlock 150cc ([[EasyModeMockery obtaining Gold Cups in 50cc won't unlock anything, not even Special Cup]]).²** All games from ''VideoGame/MarioKart64'' onwards, with the exception of ''VideoGame/MarioKartSuperCircuit'', have four difficulty levels: 50cc, 100cc, 150cc and Mirror Mode (the latter known as Extra Mode in ''64'' itself). The first three are available from the start, while Mirror is unlocked once you win all Gold Cups in 150cc. ''VideoGame/MarioKart8'' received an extra level (200cc) via a post-release update, and can be unlocked at the same time as Mirror.²* Later ''VideoGame/MarioParty'' games have each a Brutal or Intense AI level that adds to the standard Easy, Normal and Hard; the method of unlocking it depends on the game itself (in ''5'', you have to complete Story Mode in Hard; in ''7'', you can purchase it in the Duty-Free Shop with the mileage points you accumulate in the other modes; and so on).²* ''VideoGame/MassEffect1'': Completing the game unlocks the Hardcore difficulty setting. Beating that in turn unlocks the Insanity difficulty.²* ''VideoGame/MegaManLegends'': The easy mode is unlocked by completing the hard mode (which itself, is unlocked by beating the game on normal difficulty), making it a BraggingRightsReward.²* ''VideoGame/MegaManZero'': in all 4 games, the hard difficulty is unlocked after beating the game in normal mode once. There's also the special "Ultimate" difficulty (only in second game onward), which requires GottaCatchThemAll to unlock (all Cyber Elves in Zero 2, all Secret Disks in Zero 3, all enemy parts in Zero 4). Said difficulty lets you play with most of the good stuff unlocked from the start, plus enabling instant ChargedAttack by button commands (ala fighting games).²* ''Franchise/{{Metroid}}'':²** Several games have an unlockable Hard Mode (known as Hypermode in ''[[VideoGame/MetroidPrime3Corruption Corruption]]'' and the ''[[VideoGame/MetroidPrimeTrilogy Trilogy]]'' compilation), accessible once the game is beaten for the first time.²** In ''VideoGame/MetroidSamusReturns'', the HarderThanHard Fusion Difficulty can only be unlocked via a special Metroid Toys/{{amiibo}}.²* ''VideoGame/MightyNo9'': Players start out with Normal mode upon start from a new system save file, and after beating the game for the first time, they unlock Hard and Hyper modes. Maniac mode is however only available as a DLC.²* ''VideoGame/NoMoreHeroes'' and [[VideoGame/NoMoreHeroes2DesperateStruggle its sequel]] have three difficulty levels: Sweet, Mild and Bitter. In both games, Bitter is accessible upon first completion. The second game also has an extra difficulty level (Special) for the ''Bizarre Jelly 5'' GameWithinAGame, which requires completing Hard Mode without losing a life.²* Most modern-era ''VideoGame/PhantasyStar'' titles tie difficulty availability to the character's level. The higher your level, the more difficulties you have access to. A few games like ''VideoGame/PhantasyStarZero'' and ''VideoGame/PhantasyStarNova'' tie difficulty unlocks directly to Quest progress, such as requiring you to clear a certain Quest on the hardest available difficulty to unlock the next difficulty for all Quests.²* ''VideoGame/PokemonBlack2AndWhite2'': The games have unlockable difficulty settings after beating the game, which are different between the versions. ''Black 2'' contains a Challenge Mode, which raises the level of trainer Pokémon, with the Gym Leaders and Elite Four using held items, having new movesets, and an extra Pokémon on their team. Meanwhile, ''White 2'' contains a Easy Mode where opponents have their levels lowered. These modes aren't necessarily version exclusive, but to get the one that your respective title doesn't have, they must be sent from another player with the opposite version who has the mode unlocked on theirs via the "Unova Link" feature. Doing this will also allow the receiving player to make use of the mode from the start.²* ''VideoGame/Progressbar95'': Progressbar 95, the system you start with, only has the Normal mode and the two special game modes available. Relax mode and Progress Defender are playable once you install Progressbar 95 plus and Hardcore mode is playable once you install Progressbar 98. The unlocked difficulties stay for all later systems and the four unlockable ones before Progressbar 95.²* The [[HarderThanHard Nightmare difficulty]] in ''VideoGame/QuakeI'' is hidden in a secret location in the HubLevel. [[spoiler:The pool you dive into to enter episode 4 (even if you're in the demo, which locks you to episode 1) has a beam under it that you can land on, leading to the Nightmare portal.]]²* ''VideoGame/SilentHill3'' has ''ten'' additional HarderThanHard difficulty levels beyond the initial Easy, Medium, and Hard. Clearing the game on Hard will unlock "Extreme I", which halves Heather's health and overall stats. Clearing Extreme I, in turn, will unlock Extreme II, which increases the enemies' durability and strength. Every difficulty afterward will increasingly up the enemies' stats, all the way to Extreme X. Clearing the game on Extreme X [[AndYourRewardIsClothes will unlock Heather's God of Thunder costume]].²* ''VideoGame/SlayTheSpire'': If you beat the game with a particular CharacterClass you unlock Ascension 1 for just that character. Beat Ascension 1 with that character, you unlock Ascension 2, and so on, up to Ascension 20.²* ''VideoGame/SonicAdventure2'': Each stage has has a hard mode version. Unlocking them requires clearing the first four missions of said stage with hard mode serving as the fifth mission.²* ''VideoGame/SonicHeroes'': Once every emblem is collected and every stage and boss is cleared with an A rank, Super Hard Mode is unlocked. While the stages are more difficult, the bosses are not fought.²* ''VideoGame/SoulCaliburVI'': Initially, arcade mode can only be played on Easy, Normal, Hard, and [[HarderThanHard Very Hard]] difficulty. You have to clear Very Hard with a gold rating (completion time must be under 12 minutes) to unlock the Legendary difficulty setting, which also unlocks the "Glory Awaits" achievement.²* ''VideoGame/{{SUGURI}}'' and ''VideoGame/{{sora}}'': In their unlockable Match Mode, where players can re-fight bosses on a 1-on-1 fight without going through their respective stages, they have access to Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulty levels for each boss. After beating them on Hard, it unlocks the Special difficulty, which not only makes the bosses much more brutal than the previous difficulties, they also employ powerful unique attacks only on this difficulty.²* ''VideoGame/{{Tyrian}}'' has three hidden difficulty modes past the first three. When unlocked using certain codes, they are labeled as "Impossible", "Suicide", and "Lord of the Game".²* ''VideoGame/UphillRush'': Each cup has an easy, normal, and hard mode. You start with easy, to unlock normal you must beat easy, and to unlock hard you must beat normal.²* In ''VideoGame/ViewtifulJoe'' games, beating the game in Adults difficulty will unlock the V-Rated difficulty, which in turn will unlock Ultra V-Rated difficulty when played through and completed.²* ''VideoGame/WarioLand4'': The game starts out with two difficulties available to select when starting a file, "Normal" and "Hard". Beating a file set to the "Hard" difficulty for the first time unlocks a third difficulty option, "S-Hard".²* ''VideoGame/WolfensteinTheNewOrder'' features four custom difficulty settings, each of which is unlocked by recovering fragments of code from within the game and entering them in a special menu screen. Game modes unlocked include "999",[[note]]"Uber" (highest) difficulty, but unlimited ammo and health which begins at 999 but slowly decays to 100 even if the player is never injured[[/note]] "Walk in the Park",[[note]]"I am Death incarnate!" (2nd highest) difficulty with no HUD elements except action prompts[[/note]] "Hardcore",[[note]]"Uber" difficulty and no health or armor pickups[[/note]] and "[[FinalDeathMode Ironman]]".[[note]]"Uber" difficulty and no checkpoints or manual save games - death means starting the entire game over[[/note]]²* ''VideoGame/WolfensteinIITheNewColossus'': The "Mein Leben!" difficulty [[FinalDeathMode disables saves and forces the player to start from the beginning if they die.]] It must be unlocked by completing the game on the next highest difficulty, "I am death incarnate!"²* ''VideoGame/TheWonderful101'': Hard mode is locked until after beating the whole game on Normal, where any level can be played on Hard after that. Similarly, 101% Hard is unlocked after beating the entire game on Hard. Each and every level must be cleared on that difficulty individually to unlock the one above it: you ''can'' beat the game on a lower level and pick whichever order you want to clear the levels on the higher difficulty, but the game keeps track on which levels are beaten on which setting, so 101% Hard cannot just be unlocked by jumping straight to the final boss or the epilogue on Hard.²* ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou'': You start off on Normal and unlock the other difficulty levels with stickers. Easy is earned on day 3, Hard [[spoiler:at the start of the second week]], and Ultimate can be purchased in the post-game. This is important because [[HardModePerks Noise drop more and better pins on higher difficulties]].²* ''{{VideoGame/Yakuza}}'': In each of the games, the Legend/Ex-Hard difficulty is unlocked after beating the game once.²* ''VideoGame/YoshisSafari'': The hardmode unlock code is given out at the end of the game.²----

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