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Hard Mode Perks

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Some video games may reward their players for choosing harder difficulties. However, merely getting Cosmetic Awards may often seem unfair, so gamers may receive some actually gameplay-affecting bonuses to keep up with the challenge. It's often bonus experience or better equipment, especially when the player may select difficulties for particular missions. These rewards sometimes cause Early Game Hell: the starting conditions for the harder difficulties are undeniably harder, but as the game goes on, the bonuses kick in noticeably.

If overdone, the harder difficulties may become easier than the easy ones, similar to the issues with Unstable Equilibrium. Contrast Easy-Mode Mockery, though Hard Mode Perks can be seen as a subtle form of it as the benefits are locked out on easier difficulties. Some players take offense to Hard Mode Perks, considering them unfair to players who cannot play on the harder difficulty settings. May also be a form of Suspicious Video-Game Generosity; sure, the game gives you a bunch of extra resources, not because it's being easy on you, but because you're gonna need them.

Another reason these bonuses sometimes appear, especially in RPGs, is to offset the way a higher difficulty would otherwise slow the pace of the game - giving more experience and gold per fight, for instance, because a higher difficulty makes them take longer and might otherwise force the player into lengthy Level Grinding. Some idle games even provide additional features to help players progress if such a mode greatly lowers production, as otherwise the game would be filled with timewalls and not very fun as a result.

Sub-trope to Harder Than Hard. Compare Bragging Rights Reward, when you don't need the reward because you already beat the hardest part of the game, and Golden Ending, which is sometimes reserved for hard mode. In the case of loot-based variants of the trope, they are often dropped by Hard Mode Mooks.

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  • Brave Fencer Musashi has this in the form of choosing two items. You can pick the L-Glove, which gives far more critical hits, or the L-Quilt which lets you sleep to fully recover HP, BP, and Stamina anywhere and anytime you want. Even though the L-Glove is a good item the game is much harder overall if you pick it as being able to recover anywhere with the L-Quilt makes some of the later dungeons much easier to contend with... until you reach the Very Definitely Final Dungeon where you're not allowed to sleep at all and the L-Quilt becomes a Useless Item for the remainder of the game. All those extra critical hits make a normally hard final dungeon much easier than it has any right to be.
  • Most Castlevania games have a version of this.
    • In Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, the players rely mostly on equipment found during the levels in order to power up the characters. Upon defeating Dracula for the first time, it's possible to play in the Hard version of the levels, in which enemies inflict much more damage, are faster and have drastically increased HP, as well as placing more enemies on the maps and making the hazards considerably harder to avoid. However, treasure chests will provide much better equipment.
    • In Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait there are certain items that are only seen in hard mode - if you're playing on normal their map locations will be bare.
    • Castlevania: Bloodlines adds on a brief extra scene to the endings after Castle Dracula is destroyed, and also unlocks new areas and even a few extra boss battles (including a whip-wielding Frankenstein's Monster) not seen on Easy or Normal modes. Since Expert mode is a bit more challenging but lacks anything in the way of Fake Difficulty, it's essentially an extended New Game Plus edition, as it's not available by default and you have to unlock it, either by beating the game on Normal or by using the Konami Code at the title screen.
    • In Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, starting a fresh game in Hard Mode gives you the Glyph Sleeve accessory (which allows you to store three glylph combinations to switch on the fly instead of using the Pause menu) right away instead of somewhere mid-game, as well as several glyph-dropping enemies who normally won't appear until later in the game. In addition, beating the Hard difficulty with a level 1 cap gets you the best helmet in the game that halves heart consumption and raises the normal level cap to 255 (your level carries over through even the lower cap Hard runs and any experience you earned during them carries over).
    • Castlevania The Adventure Rebirth on Classic mode gives you the classical stiff jump physics, but it also removes the knife and stopwatch, two of the least effective subweapons in the game, so you always get one of the "big three" subweapons (Axe, Cross, and Holy Water).
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Dark Link in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has the same amount of health as you do. So, during Three-Heart Runs the normally infamously most difficult miniboss in the game becomes among one of the easiest.
    • Hero Mode in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword doubles the amount of damage enemies do to you, halves the amount you do to them and makes it so that hearts no longer randomly appear, but the Skyward Strike starts off at full strength, meaning it charges up quickly and does about as much damage as a swing from the fully-powered sword and once you get the actual fully-powered sword, it charges up literally instantly. You also carry over your collected materials and insects, making upgrading your items easier.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's Master Mode (as part of the first DLC pack) makes weapons with bonus modifiers (such as increased attack strength, durability, throwing range, etc.) more likely to appear early on than they might in Normal Mode. As well as this, many bridges and tall cliff areas are now guarded by floating platforms manned by enemy archers in Master Mode, many of which also carrying treasure chests that have a high chance of containing a weapon with a modifier. The archers themselves also frequently drop all types of arrows (except Ancient Arrows) if you can beat them, making them a nice source of the more powerful arrow types. On top of that, all enemies also drop nearly double the amount of arrows and monster parts compared to Normal Mode (and not just the Master Mode exclusive mooks). Of course, you're likely to need them given that each enemy is moved up a colour level (which dictates how much HP and base attack power they have) from their forms in Normal Mode.note  Additionally, going through the Master Trials permanently doubles the Master Sword's attack power, which usually only happens in dungeons or near Guardians.
  • Choosing Revengeance difficulty in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance results in your Parry Counter doing around 10 times as much damage as normal. If a player mastered this mechanic by this point, they will find many battles (some bosses included) easier than on Very Hard difficulty, which shares Revengeance's advanced enemy layout. This merely helps even the odds as most enemy attacks do absurd amounts of damage on this difficulty.
  • Way of the Samurai does this in terms of sword drops, starting from 3. Not only better swords drop in higher difficulties, the Last Lousy Point is often unavailable at difficulties other than Instant-Kill Mode (which is strangely absent in 4). Most of the bonus swords are usually Continuity Cameo swords that debuted in previous games.
  • The Insane difficulty of Shadow Complex makes enemies significantly stronger than the ones below it, disables objective markers, and removes all visible collectibles on the map even if players already have reached Level 20, but the game rewards much more XP.

    Action Games 
  • In Agents of Mayhem, the harder difficulties come attached with a money and experience multiplier whereas playing on the easier difficulties give you a money and experience penalty.
  • Copy Kitty's Hard mode is effectively an entire second campaign (chronologically set after the first,) with remixed levels, new bosses, new solo weapons and a True Final Boss in the form of Isotope, Boki's first battle against a Cyber. More conventionally, Hard Mode compensates its drastically stronger and numerous enemy selection with a higher supply of health drops.
  • Gain Ground, one of the slightly more obscure Sega Genesis games, handles its difficulty levels in an interesting way: if you play on Easy, you start up with 3 basic characters but most levels have another character that you can rescue and use afterwards. Hard on the other hand starts you off with every character in the game, but none of the levels have any additional characters for you to rescue: the reason this makes the game more difficult is because when a character gets hit, they're left behind where they died to be rescued but if the character rescuing them gets killed as well, the previous character is killed for good. Naturally, this is in addition to the more numerous and aggressive enemies present on higher difficulty levels as well.
    • Another thing that makes managing a large roster difficult is that you can finish levels in 2 different ways: either you walk each individual character to the exit, or you kill all enemies in the level. Since you have 20 characters from the very start and there's often a strict time limit, doing the former isn't an option for most of the time.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man Legends contains a hard mode unlocked after beating the game once. All enemies have gigantic health bars while they do extra damage making certain sections far harder, you lose your shield at the slightest provocation of damage, and defending Roll in any chapter she is in is an absolute nightmare. Push forward, however, and you unlock Easy Mode. All enemies have absolutely pitiful health bars while doing embarrassingly low damage, the game becomes exceedingly easy in every section, and you are given a special buster part called BUSTER MAX, which maxes out your attack power, firing speed, energy, and range. Outside of the Shining Laser, it is the best upgrade you could possibly get, and absolutely mauls everything in seconds. The best part: it's totally free, starting in your inventory from the beginning.
    • Mega Man Legends 2 starts you off with an SS-class digger license on Very Hard mode, allowing you to enter any ruin in the game without having to take those digger tests beforehand. Notably, as the digger tests are the single hardest parts of the game and are even considerably harder than the Final Boss and the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, simply not having to do the blasted things is more than a fair trade off for slightly harder enemies.
      • On higher difficulties all enemies drop more of the game's currency, which is used for buying and upgrading sub-weapons. As a result, the higher difficulties actually become easier as you can max out your sub-weapons earlier and easier.
    • Mega Man X5 determines what level the bosses will be at based on your difficulty, with Easy always locking them at level 1. However it also determines what upgrade parts you get based on the bosses level, meaning on Easy mode it is impossible to get any upgrade parts. In other words you miss out on a vast portion of your arsenal and your max health and ammo are considerably capped unless you play on harder difficulties. Notably this actually makes Easy the hardest difficulty to beat the game on.
  • In the adventure mode of the 1999 version of Qbert, you get double points on normal (compared to easy) and triple points on hard. This does have an in-game use: getting better high scores on early levels increases your rank faster, which lets you access optional areas (those normally-impassable "2" and "3" blocks). It should be noted that the only difference between the difficulties is how many lives you start with.
  • Progressbar 95: Playing on Hardcore mode gives a 1.5x point multiplier.

    Action RPGs 
  • In Bastion, invoking the gods creates all sorts of negative effects that power up the monsters you fight. However, you also gain bonus experience and money per kill.
  • Unlike the other games in the series, enemies in Dark Souls II stop respawning after being killed enough times. However, joining the Company of Champions covenant will enable infinite respawns in addition to making the enemies themselves stronger and blocking you from summoning other players for help (though hostile players can still invade you). The perk, of course, is that the infinitely respawning enemies makes it a lot easier to level grind, and farm them for rare drops. Once you've beefed yourself up enough, you can simply leave the covenant and reset the diffulty to normal. In addition, defeating invading players or certain Elite Mooks while in this covenant will get you Awestones, which let you rank up in the convenant. Turn in 50 of them, and you get the Vanquisher's Seal, a ring that makes your bare fists hit extremely hard.
  • All Diablo games give much better Random Drops on higher difficulties. As your enemies are a lot harder on those difficulties, you will need them.
    • Diablo III originally had harder difficulty levels as a glorified New Game Plus, since you had to start over from the beginning to play them. However, when Reaper of Souls came out, difficulty levels were changed so that enemies now scaled to your level; higher difficulties just made the scale go up exponentially more. In any case, higher difficulties give better loot drops and more experience points.
      • There are also some pieces of equipment that will only drop in the "Torment" modes, which scale from Torment I to Torment XIII. In addition, the legendary items that drop have a higher chance to be "Ancient Legendary," which provide even more bonuses and have higher stats. Finally, patch 2.5.0 introduced the chance for a legendary item to be a "Primal Ancient" item that has perfect stats (i.e. the highest possible rating for all of its bonuses), but a player has to beat a Greater Rift equivalent to the hardest difficulty before Primal Ancient equipment will even start having a chance to drop.
  • Hard Mode in Dragon's Dogma (which was added to the game with the Dark Arisen DLC) doubles enemy damage and increases your Player Character's stamina consumption, but compensates for it by doubling Experience Point & Discipline Point gains. Playing through the entire game in Hard Mode is also the only way to acquire the very powerful "Set of Duke's Clothing" armor piece.
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 3 allows you to change the difficulty, which ramps up enemy HP and damage resistance to ludicrous levels, in exchange for more XP from killing them. The next game did away with this system, partly to prevent players from exploiting it, note  and partly so that players could effectively play Hardcore mode (in which the Player Character will die without food, water, and sleep) on the easier difficulty levels without a penalty to experience.
    • Higher difficulty in Fallout 4 causes more enemies to be Legendary, which will be harder to deal with but also give you items with unique, often extremely powerful effects. Survival difficulty specifically (which can only be turned on and then back off once per game) also doubles XP from enemies while increasing damage with consecutive kills between sleeping.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Many of the games have a secret ending video that can be unlocked by completing specific tasks, with the number of tasks decreasing if the difficulty is higher. Beginner Mode doesn't let you access the video at all, Standard Mode forces you to get 100% Completion, and Proud Mode and Critical Mode just require beating the Optional Bosses (in some cases), some optional areas, and other miscellaneous things depending on the game (e.g. in the Final Mix versions of II you have to beat all of the Mushroom XII challengesnote ).
    • If playing on Critical Mode in Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix, you are granted an initial AP of 50, subsequent AP increases are now 3 instead of 2, and several of the later abilities are granted on Day 3 of the prologue: Reaction Boost, Finishing Plus, Draw, 2 Lucky Lucky abilities, MP Hastera and EXP Zero (referred to as "No Experience" in the English versions).
    • In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, the bonus for playing on Critical Mode is starting off with five Command Deck slots instead of the standard three. You also get the optional EXP Zero ability, which negates any EXP earned from defeating enemies and makes low-level runs of the game easier to pull off.
    • In Kingdom Hearts III, starting the game on Critical Role has Sora begin with abilities he doesn't learn until later: specifically, Aerial Recovery, Counter Slash, Counter Impact, Counter Kick, Final Blow, Risk Dodge, Rising Spiral, Groundbreaker, two copies of both Air Slide and Superslide, and Combo Master; in fact, reaching the points where he normally learns those abilities doesn't give him those abilities. He also gets three abilities exclusive to this mode: Critical Counter (a "Just Frame" Bonus where guarding an attack just before it lands powers up counterattacks), Critical Recharge (which makes the Situation Gauge fill up faster during MP Recharge), and Critical Converter (which guarantees Formchanges whenever the Situation Gauge is filled while disabling Attractions).
  • The first Marvel Ultimate Alliance game, upon hitting hard mode, expands the skill slots to 15 among a few other things.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mass Effect offers higher exp (or more exp opportunities) on higher difficulties. In addition, a handful of Achievements require a character level too high to reach in one playthrough.
    • In Mass Effect 2, completing a certain character's recruitment mission on Hardcore or Insanity yields the Geth Pulse Rifle, an extremely accurate Assault Riflenote .
  • Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom originally did not have any hard modes, but added Hard and Expert modes in its version 1.03 patch. The higher difficultly levels provide better treasures from both monster drops and certain chests as a reward, as well as rare accessories with two skill slots.
  • Sacred gives an experience bonus based on difficulty.
  • Soaring Machinariae: While Expert makes enemies hit harder, it also provides the Free Buster item, which prevents the normal attack chain from comboing into an Energy Burst while making it so that the Energy Burst can be activated manually through the item usage button. This is actually advantageous in some ways, since it prevents the player from accidentally wasting EN with button mashing. It also makes it easier to kill enemies that are resistant to normal attacks.
  • Tales of Berseria is unique is that it actively encourages upgrading the difficulty as you play the game: hunting optional bosses tends to give often substantial passive perks or even entire gameplay features, such as higher difficulty options; by the endgame, most optional bosses drop perks that are only active in those higher difficulties, and since the player can switch difficulties at any moment they're encouraged to upgrade difficulty mid-playthrough.
  • Playing The World Ends with You and its sequel on harder difficulties will yield different enemy drops, which most of the time are better than the ones for Easy or Normal. If you don't manage to get the pin drop for the difficulty you selected, you have a chance to get it for the lower difficulty setting(s).
    • Additionally, you have the ability to change your level after you've leveled up at least once. Playing as a lower level limits your health, but gives you a better chance at getting pins after the fight.
    • Another variant involves chaining encounters, where you fight multiple encounters sequentially without the chance to take a break between them. Each subsequent encounter beyond the first gives stat bonuses to the enemies, but it also improves the drop rate for enemy drops. Further, once the game is beaten, the ability to chain encounters increases from four to sixteen, dramatically increasing the drop rate. This does stack with level adjustment, too.Explanation 
  • Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim: The Catastrophe modifier, despite being more difficult overall, does have some advantages over the standard item system. The auto-consume gimmick can be useful if the boss summons item dropping enemies, which wouldn't work on the standard item system unless Adol equipped the same kind of consumable that was dropped. Additionally, there are more Capla Waters available, which can be sold for thousands of gold. Finally, Croix will sell stat boosting seeds on Catastrophe, allowing the player to stat grind in the endgame.

    Beat 'em Up 
  • In Double Dragon Neon's Dragon (Hard) and Double Dragon mode, enemies get a higher HP and do way more damage, even if you have a maxed out mix-tape. Especially on Double Dragon difficulty. But in return you get more money and mithril from fallen enemies and bosses respectively. Which means you'll have an easier time maxing out your special abilities.
  • Grimm difficulty in Shrek the Third heavily increases the damage enemies deal to the point where some of the Elite Mooks can take you out in a couple hits, but doubles all coins collected.
  • In the Streets of Rage series, playing on a harder difficulty level meant enemies not only had more health, but they would also come in bigger waves. However, more enemies also means more points to your score and if you were really good, you could rack up a huge score and net several extra lives as you played. In 3, this also means more chances to net 40,000 points for stars that improve your running attack.

    Fighting Games 
  • Idol Showdown lets you take one of four starting items. Of the four items, (two of which are assist items, one does nothing), the Gladiator Chains buffs your opponents considerably, but gives you boosted money earnings to making shopping for stuff easier.
  • Street Fighter: The Movie: Akuma is only fightable on the hardest difficulty.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • Playing on higher difficulties gives you bigger bonus points for completing the game on said harder difficulties.
    • In Super Smash Bros. Melee, you can only fight Crazy Hand in Classic and Giga Bowser in Adventure if you're playing on Normal difficulty or higher.
    • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, more stickers and trophies appear in harder difficulties, especially stickers in the Adventure Mode. Duon's missiles will do more damage to himself the harder the difficulty is, should you successfully direct them back at him.
    • Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U: Both versions introduce a scaling difficulty system similar to Kid Icarus: Uprising for Classic Mode. Spending coins to raise the difficulty gives you a chance at bigger rewards like rare trophies and customization items, and you can only face the True Final Boss on higher difficulties.
    • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Crazy Hand will team up with Master Hand on difficulty 7.0 and higher in some of the Classic Mode routes.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • In the Borderlands series, the New Game Plus scales the game to your level but also increases the drop rates for higher rarities. There's also Harder Than Hard difficulties in the form of "Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode" in 2 and the Pre-Sequel or "Mayhem Mode" in 3, which makes the game even harder on top of various modifiers but increases the drop rates even further as well as having certain Legendaries that can only drop on said difficulties.
  • Cruelty Squad doubles your cash reward for finishing a stage if you enable Punishment mode, in exchange for doubling damage taken.
  • Deep Rock Galactic has credits and experience points increase in the payout if you play on harder difficulty levels. Along with harder difficulties, you can also get even more credits and experience by playing missions that have warnings actives, which are mission modifiers that make the mission harder, such as no shields or exploding enemies spawning more frequently.
  • Doom:
    • In the early games, Nightmare mode gives the player twice as much ammo for item pickups - a bonus that otherwise only applies to "I'm Too Young To Die", the easiest difficulty. This is pretty much a necessity, as enemies in Nightmare are not only at their highest concentration, including many lesser enemies replaced with tougher variations, but they also respawn a short time after you kill them.
    • When playing Hangar on Ultra-Violence or Nightmare, the presence of Shotgunners early on means Doomguy can get a shotgun earlier than on easier difficulties. In the PS1 version, there's even a Chaingunner who similarly can be killed for an early chaingun.
  • Halo: Combat Evolved:
    • There's an interesting variant of this. At the beginning, Johnson's speech about the ring and the aliens changes slightly, but it is always a humorous concept or idea. Also, only finishing the game on Legendary gives a different, and much funnier and heartwarming ending.
    • On Legendary difficulty, whereas the Chief's MJOLNIR shields normally recharge at a slow pace on other difficulties, here it recharges at a much quicker pace to keep up with the dangerous enemy AI.
  • Normally, Marathon puts a limit on the amount of ammunition you can carry at once. Playing on the hardest difficulty level removes this restriction.
  • PAYDAY: The Heist and its sequel have several difficulty levels that adjust how powerful the cops are and how often the special units appear. Higher difficulty levels usually give out more money and experience, so if you are skilled enough to play on harder levels, you could level up faster than you would on an easier difficulty.
  • Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 allows the player to gain more experience by increasing the difficulty. This ends up making the Easy setting almost not worth playing, as every kill is only worth a single experience point on that mode, compared to 5 per every kill you make and 3 for every one your teammates make on Normal. ACES points gained for kills in specific fashions also increase as you up the difficulty, with Easy only granting a single point for any given bonus that increases on Normal and Realistic difficulty, though in a variation it's actually multiplayer that grants the highest amount of ACES points.
  • For the First and Second "Encounters" of Serious Sam, playing on Serious or Mental difficulty would double ammo gained from pickups just like in Doom, as well as doubling the maximum amount of ammo that can be carried. Of course, considering the large amounts of damage the enemies in the game can take and dish out on those difficulties, it's still fairly balanced. Another bonus is the score multiplier, and in the HD additions difficulties can be further customized by removing health and/or armor drops from the game as well as giving enemies varying degrees of bonus health.
    • Giving yourself infinite ammo will reduce the score multiplier, for obvious reasons.
    • While the first sequel plays entirely differently, Serious Sam 3 is essentially the same game as the first one, albeit with some new enemies and reloads. However, the one other change is that the ammo bonus for Serious and Mental difficulties has been removed. Don't fret, though: the enemies still have all the advantages they had before, and you can even give yourself multiplayer bonus enemies without actually playing cooperatively with anyone.

    Hack and Slash 
  • In the Devil May Cry series, the "Heaven Or Hell" and "Hell And Hell" difficulty modes make your playable character die in one hit. Fortunately, the game is kind enough to give you several Gold Orbs from the get-go to compensate.
    • The first Devil May Cry game had a small perk for Dante Must Die mode. Lesser demons have less health than on Normal difficulty, but they can devil trigger (getting way more health and in turn, harder to stun) when a timer reaches zero (sometimes the timer is never displayed). The player has to be careful, because enemies can kill Dante in 2-4 hits if you are not careful, even without devil trigger.
  • Koei Tecmo:
    • This applies to most of the Dynasty Warriors series. Depending on the exact game, playing on harder difficulties will get you better weapon-drops, better stat-increase drops, or just faster experience-gain. In most cases, the best weapons can only be acquired while playing on Hard Mode or higher. 5, for example, gives you the best closing narrative for your officer the game has to offer for completing their story on Chaos:
      "These tales, passed on for generations, have endured the tests of time and live on today. The legendary warriors are praised and respected as if they were gods themselves."
    • This also applies to Samurai Warriors, and for that matter, Warriors Orochi. The Dueling Games series Sengoku Basara works in the same way.

    Idle Games 
  • Distance Incremental: Extreme mode lets you access the Furnace feature.
  • After the first reset point in Evolve Idle players can select from various challenge genes when evolving to sentience. These challenge genes range from Steelen, which makes one unable to smelt steel, to Genetic Dead End, where the race is forced to play as the Valdi, described in game as a genetic disaster that inherits nothing but the worst traits from other races. However reaching a certain point like building a biodome on the moon or wiping yourself out with Mutually Assured Destruction will provide bonuses to all subsequent races such as a bonus to steel production or being more easily modified by gene therapy.
  • Synergism: Completing Challenges 11-14 the first time unlock Corruptions, which when invoked nerf the scaling of various gameplay elements like multiplier/accelerator effect or rune EXP gain, with the nerfs starting with a small detriment at level 1 and getting increasingly stronger as you raise it, but in exchange they provide stacking multipliers to Ascension Score, which translates to more Ascension resources per reset.
  • The Tree of Life: You can only access the Science layer as well as some exclusive upgrades and milestones while playing extreme mode. Several existing resources also provide new boosts and there are other minor alterations.

  • Guild Wars:
    • Hard Mode in Guild Wars is unlocked at level 20 after finishing a campaign; completing the campaign again in Hard Mode will yield extra money. The quality and amount of loot will also increase in this mode, and killing every enemy in explorable zones will yield a Vanquish bonus of money.
    • Tribulation Mode in the Super Adventure Box of Guild Wars 2 grants additional rewards. Most notably each zone completed awards a token that is needed to craft weapon skins which can otherwise only be obtained via a rare boss drop.
      • Playing on Tribulation Mode also has the bonus of letting the player switch to a fantastic rock cover of the Retraux 8-bit music.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has quite a few of these:
    • Beating the final boss on Hardcore mode gives you more karma you can use to carry skills and special astral equipment and consumables into your next ascension. It also drops a piece of Stainless Steel equipment related to your class, which is decent for aftercore.
    • Taking a dietary restriction also adds karma, and the final boss will drop a consumable item related to the restriction: players who go without booze will get a high-quality food item, players who go without food get a very nice drink, and players who go without both will get cans of really good air. And if you're also on Hardcore, you'll get three of them instead of just one.
    • Combining the above two, taking the no-food no-booze path and playing on Hardcore will also replace the Stainless Steel drop with Plexiglass, which is even better.
    • Playing the Bad Moon special path will give you a piece of Brimstone gear, all of which provide a major boost to one stat at the cost of a large-but-not-quite-as-major penalty to another stat, as well as a second bonus related to the class which earns it. Each piece equipped also provides a hidden bonus, which increases exponentially as you add the rest of the set.
    • Playing the current special challenge path will give you extra karma every time you complete it, as long as you started it while it was its season - and the karma bonus gets doubled if you play on Hardcore. Otherwise, you get the regular karma bonus only the first time you complete the path, regardless of difficulty.
  • In World of Warcraft, heroic versions of dungeons are harder but give much better loot, as well as currency with which to buy raid-quality gear.
    • Later raids also have a heroic mode. The currency awards is the same, but the loot is of higher quality than in the regular mode. Ulduar is different in that its Hard Mode causes the boss to drop extra items of higher quality, in addition to the guaranteed drops.
    • Recent expansions also added "heroic only" phase to some raid boss's battle (Ragnaros, Garrosh Hellscream)or even exclusive bosses that only appear if you played hard (Sinestra, Ra-den).
    • Many pets and mounts that drop in dungeons and raids either have increased drop rates on higher difficulties or only drop on those difficulties. Notably, mounts that drop off the end boss of raid tiers have a 100% drop rate on the highest difficulty while the tier is current content.
    • Legion introduced the Mythic+ difficulty system for dungeons. Each plus level increases the health and damage of enemies while also introducing up to three new mechanics. The reward for completing such a dungeon is significantly stronger armor and a bonus reward each week based on the highest level of difficulty.
    • Battle For Azeroth added the War Mode feature for leveling. In War Mode, you're flagged for PvP 24/7, making you vulnerable to getting attacked by enemy players, and you can only turn it on and off in your faction's capital city. However, you get a passive 10% XP buff in War Mode, making this a fast, if risky, way to level alts.

    Platform Games 
  • In Disney's Magical Quest for the SNES, harder modes make you start with less Hearts, but you can find more Heart Containers than in easy mode. You still have to deal with more enemies and tougher bosses, and the bonus containers are hidden.
  • In Ratchet: Deadlocked, the difficulty determines the number of stars the player will receive after completing a mission (to a maximum of 5 on Exterminator), which are used to get 100% Completion and allows you to unlock Ratchet's alternate skins far faster. Thankfully, anyone who's beaten one of the other games in the series on Challenge Mode will be able to breeze through the higher difficulties.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • In Sonic Adventure 2, the Hard Mode versions of Knuckles and Rouge's stages puts the objectives in harder to reach areas but also puts them in fixed locations instead of randomizing them. This might not sound like a great benefit at first, until you realize getting a perfect score rating on Hard is by far easier than any other challenge since you can zip from spot-to-spot and just grab them rather than play Where's Waldo? with the shards.
    • In Sonic Frontiers, playing on Hard difficulty is required to fight the true final boss, as well as unlock the Golden Ending. Thankfully the game lets you change the difficulty whenever you want, and playing on Hard from the beginning is not required.
  • The "hard mode" of the original Super Mario Bros. replaces all Goombas with Buzzy Beetles (whose intended form of extra difficulty is that they're immune to Mario's fireballs), which allows the player to get as many lives as they want by having their shells being kicked repeatedly against certain structures, much like a Koopa shell. It also makes clearing a whole row of enemies much easier - stomping a Beetle and kicking it to take out all the others is effortless compared to stomping all Goombas individually.
  • Ristar grants more continues when playing on Hard Mode compared to Normal Mode. The secret 'Super Hard' difficulty which turns you into a One-Hit-Point Wonder, sets you lives to 1, and removes all 1UPs, takes it further and gives you unlimited continues.

    Puzzle Games 
  • In Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido, equipping the Training Black Belt halves Musashi's HP. Indirectly, it also occupies Musashi's hold-item slot, preventing the use of any power-ups that could take that place. In return, however, any stages cleared holding the Training Black Belt will multiply the score earned in that stage by 1.5, making it much easier to gain S-Ranks and Rainbow S-Ranks. In addition, the Training Black Belt is tied to a lot of milestones in the game's Achievement System, which are necessary to increasing Musashi's Striker Rank to make it easier to recruit Sushi Sprites. Most of the late-game Sushi Sprites also have a minimum Striker Rank to be recruited at all.

    Racing Games 
  • Daytona USA gives you a higher top speed if you choose manual transmission rather than automatic.
  • The Forza Motorsport series has bonuses for players that disable driver assists (traction control, anti-lock brakes, racing/braking lines, et cetera). The more assists that are turned off, the more money you get a bonus at the end of races; disabling all the assists and setting the AI on the hardest setting will give you 165% more credits at the end of the race, on top of the regular winnings. Using the Manual + Clutch transmission grants the user a small boost of torque when upshifting to reward advanced players.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • In the Dawn of War II campaigns, Random Drops come in three categories of increasing quality. The gear in the higher categories drops more often in higher difficulties, and not at all in the lower difficulties.
  • Stellaris:
    • The Doomsday Origin opens with the player's planet on the verge of exploding, forcing a Homeworld Evacuation within just a few decades, over the course of which the planet will become increasingly hostile. Additionally, Doomsday races do not receive the standard guaranteed compatible planets near their homeworld. In exchange, the homeworld will receive gradually increasing buffs to mineral, alloy, and energy production which can significantly jumpstart ship and starbase construction. The player also gains a special Edict that doubles the development speed of all colonies and halves the cost of resettling the population.
    • The Determined Exterminator and Devouring Swarm ethics are permanently genocidal, preventing them from engaging in any form of diplomacy in favor of all-out war. In exchange they receive massive buffs to their military capabilities.

    Rhythm Games 
  • Newer releases of beatmania IIDX have Hazard mode, an offshoot of Free Mode (a mode that guarantees 2 stages regardless of whether you fail the first one). In Hazard, breaking your combo will result in stage failure. However, you are guaranteed four stages instead of two.
    • Hard and EX-Hard gauges instant-fail you if you hit 0%, but eliminate the need to have 80% or more at the end of the song. Clearing a chart with these gauge types will also award more DJ Points than a normal-gauge clear, though less than a Full Combo.
  • Playing on Hard in BIT.TRIP FLUX (on SAGA or COMPLETE) increases the amount of Beats required to go up and down - perfect for players who can get to META, but can't stay there for long on Normal.
  • CROSS◊BEATS and crossbeats REV. award a Rank Point bonus for clearing a track with one of the harder gauge types: 10% for the REV.-exclusive Survival gauge and 20% for the Ultimate gauge.
  • DJMAX Portable 2 and Fever normally require you to play a few hundred songs to unlock 8-Button Mode. If you change the options difficulty to Hard, you'll be able to use 8-Button regardless of playcount.
    • DJMAX Portable 3 is similar. To unlock 6.2 Tracks mode in Easy and Normal, you need to reach level 50 through a LOT of Level Grinding. And THEN, you have to unlock it through a 3-item "pick a ? box and uncover the mystery prize" Mini-Game that only appears whenever you level up. If you set the difficulty to Hard, however, 6.2 Tracks is available from the get go...if you can stand the stricter timing windows and the batshit insane Life Meter (we're talking death after only 2 or 3 misses).
  • Groove Coaster allows you to equip the BREAK item, which results in a Non Standard Game Over if you miss more than 10 notes. However, clearing a chart with this item equipped will award bonus G Coins.
  • In Just Shapes & Beats, playing on Hardcore difficulty doubles the amount of Beat Points you get.
  • In Popn Music versions prior to pop'n music fantasia, Cho-Challenge mode forces the COOL judgement on, doesn't let you play 5-button charts, and removes the guarantee of getting to your second stage even if you fail your first. However, unlike in regular Challenge mode, Ojamas in Cho-Challenge mode won't trigger the horrendously distracting "DANGER" background. Also, while Challenge mode restricts you to one Ojama if you set it to always-on (rather than at intervals, as per the default), Cho-Challenge allows you to set two Ojamas and have them always-on, which not only allows you to set even greater Self Imposed Challenges but allows you to get more Challenge Points.
  • In Rhythm Heaven Megamix, the Gatekeeper Trio's challenges cost less to attempt on harder difficulties, but require a higher score and give you less lives per attempt, so unless you can win them on your first try, you'll probably end up spending more on multiple hard mode attempts than one easy mode attempt.
  • In KALPA, two partners have this as their Skill:
    • Libera's skill, The Fair Judge, applies a bonus to your Energy gain when completing a song if you use play modifiers that can trigger a mid-song game over: 10% for Risk (changes the Link Gauge to a Life Meter), 15% for All Combo (one Miss will end the song), and 20% for All Perfect (one non-Perfect will end the song).
    • Sylvia's skill, Alluring Mist, applies a 15% bonusnote  to your Energy gain when completing a song if you use Lunatic judgement (which makes the timing windows smaller).
  • In CHUNITHM, several skills enhance your Gauge gain by a significant amount, but in exchange will trigger Sudden Death and end the song on the spot (normally you can always play to the end of the song, no matter how poorly you're doing) if too many of a particular judgement or below are obtained.

  • Defiant difficulty in 20XX gives you more SOUL chips, with the number increasing as you put on more skull modifiers (which do things like increase the number of enemies, make you more vulnerable to environmental hazards, or stop items or pickups from spawning). As a fortunate side note, SOUL chips can be used to prevent certain items from spawning, allowing you to try and pick a Set Bonus that will be compatible with your character and playstyle and thereby make you less likely to die horribly during your Defiant run, meaning that this can become somewhat self-sustaining as long as you're good enough to actually win the game on Defiant.
  • The Binding of Isaac:
    • One of the key differences between regular and hard mode is, in hard mode you are far less likely to get health drops after clearing a room and there will be 2-3 more rooms per floor. Since the item drop rate isn't affected, and you're getting more of them, this inadvertently means your odds of getting a key, bomb, battery, pill, trinket, or chest are increased. While on regular mode it's common to actually have to miss item rooms, not buy things, and skip over tinted rocks and secret rooms, on hard mode it's actually quite rare to not have bombs, keys, and money to spare. In fact, this so negates other aspects of hard mode that, as stated on the Non-Indicative Difficulty entry, a case could be made that hard mode is actually easiernote .
    • Apollyon's gimmick is he starts with low stats but with Void, an item that can absorb pedestal items: passive items grant him two random stat increases, and active items add their effect to Void. Because power management is such a huge part of his playstyle, hard mode is much easier for him since it adds 2-3 rooms, that is 2-3 bonus charges, to Void per floor. In fact, on hard mode if you Save Scum by reseting the first floor until you spawn right beside an Item Room (or a Curse Room that happens to have an item) you are guaranteed to be able to absorb it and the boss item, something you can't do on regular mode.
    • The Lost has a very simple mechanic: he starts with flight and spectral tears, but has no health and dies in one hit. This means he can take a Deal with the Devil free of charge, and if he survives three floors he gets Perfection which maxes out his luck. In other words, the trade-off for being such a Glass Cannon is practically being guaranteed to get powerups most characters will only get to use once in a blue moon. This becomes much more feasible once you unlock The Mantle via Greed Mode, which lets you take one free hit per room.
    • Similar to The Lost, The Keeper has a mechanic where he has "coin hearts", starting with two and can have as many as three, each worth one hit. Best case scenario he can only ever take three hits, and while he replenishes health from coins rather than hearts, he still struggles to stay alive long as he has an utterly terrible slow and weak spread shot attack. However, he can buy a Deal with the Devil rather than having to sacrifice health, 15 coins for a 1 heart item and 30 coins for a 2 heart item, and as of Repentance coin hearts don't count as red heart damage for calculating Devil and Angel Room chances. Since he can start with Wooden Nickel, a 50% chance of a free extra penny per room, he can boom up with Devil Room items even better than The Lost since having a wallet full of cash is easy as this guy.
  • In Hades, after defeating the final boss for the first time you can toggle the "Pacts of Punishment", which are various modifiers that make the run more difficult but allows you to collect more resources needed to unlock further content. In particular, every five levels of "heat" allow the player to open Erebus gates in the first three zones, where room rewards are doubled... if the player can beat all of the enemies without being damaged.
  • In One Way Heroics, better items are only available on the harder difficulties.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • In Bug Fables, defeating story bosses with the Hard Mode badge lets you to claim extra badges as rewards, some of them you can't find through other means. You can still get the badges on Normal Mode, but you'll have to buy them.
  • The School Mascot's talent in Citizens of Earth is this. When used, it brings up a slider that you can use to increase all enemies' stats, but also providing a multiplier to experience and money received. Increasing the difficulty to certain levels also gives extra boosts such as increased talent EXP (which is separate from normal EXP) and a 100% item drop rate. You can also reduce the difficulty, which reduces experience and money and can stop you from getting item drops, talent EXP, or auto-winning battles by hitting enemies from behind.
  • By playing Hard Mode in Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth battles will award more money and items compared to Normal Mode.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins Golems of Amgaraak Downloadable Content, defeating the Harvester on Hard or Nightmare difficulty awards you with a mace called the Reaperís Cudgel. The cudgel itself is nothing to write home about, but it sells for a whopping 300 sovereigns. Its true value however, is due to the fact that all new characters you create from now on, will automatically have the Reaperís Cudgel added to their inventory at the beginning of the game. As soon as this new character of yours can reach a merchant, they can sell the cudgel and be rolling in wealth. They will be able to easily buy the best weapons and armor earlier than they normally should and breeze through the rest of the game.
  • Drakensang:
    • The Zant demon encountered in the sequel can be weakened by employing up to five magical seals the player finds. This fight is nearly impossible to win for the average player without using any seals. However these seals can also be turned in for additional rewards, if they are not used in the fight.
    • Similarly, the expansion's Disc One Final Boss Kazak, which can be made easier by employing up to three of six elemental crystals. The reward for using less/no crystals is not very significant, though.
  • Eternal Twilight has Hell mode, which is the highest difficulty, but gives bonus AP from both AP items and battles.
  • Even For Eternia: Higher difficulties increase the amount of EXP gained from fights, though the EXP difference isn't significant even between the lowest and highest difficulties.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy XIII-2, Normal Mode triples the enemy drop rate upon achieving a five-star battle ranking (and it stacks separately from the boost of equipped items). This is absent in Easy Mode.
    • Replaying Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII on Hard in a New Game Plus gives all enemies a large overall stat boost and greatly reduces the amount of EP you get from killing them, but there's some garbs that are only available on Hard and enemies drop better items and higher-leveled commands.
  • Get in the Car, Loser!: The Devil Clock can be purchased after defeating the first boss. This item enables a new difficulty option that grants enemies random perks, but also causes them to drop devil points, which can be used to buy stickers, which can then be used to upgrade equipment more efficiently. However, a recent update adjusted Story Mode to be easier to compensate for the lack of Devil Clock drops.
  • Granblue Fantasy: In general, higher difficulty raids and battles will award more EXP, RP, Rupies, and items. However, there are still notable parts where this trope takes effect:
    • Arcarum Extreme has a chance of spawning special bosses that drop crafting materials used in forging an Arcarum summon to 4★. And unlike Normal and Hard, the Extreme Difficulty also rewards players with thousands of EXP and RP per battle.
    • Impossible Difficulty Raids and other special raids can provide the players with blue chests. During events and Rotating Showdowns, even the Maniac and Nightmare difficulty raids can also drop Damascus Grains and Gold Bricks, two of the rarest items in the game.
  • Lie of Caelum: The True path is more difficult than the Astral path in terms of enemy AI and weather conditions, but it also increases the drop rate to compensate.
  • Choosing the Hard setting of Rakenzarn Frontier Story lets you view a bonus secret ending on top of the one for playing on Normal. Choosing the difficulty above that will grant around 20% more XP and money from fights, so you can get your levels and gear in better condition earlier.
  • Sacred Earth - Promise: Nightmare mode, the highest difficulty, will multiply EXP gain by 1.5, allowing characters to level up and learn skills faster. However, enemies give less EXP to higher-leveled party members, making this perk less impressive than it sounds.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • Persona 5 has a free DLC "Merciless" difficulty, which, in addition to increasing enemy damage and health, causes critical hits and supereffective attacks to deal triple standard damage. The trick is, this applies to both enemies and players, meaning skilled players can deal far more damage than on lower levels. What makes this particularly exploitable is that difficulty levels can be changed at any time, allowing this trick to be used only in cases that benefit the player. It's to the extent that, for one particularly challenging boss, certain guides recommend *increasing* the difficulty in order to beat him.
      • The Updated Re Release Royal, in addition to including Merciless by default, also slightly increases the amount of experience and cash each fight awards compared to Normal (in the original game, it imposed severe cuts to both instead). Combined with the damage bonus outlined above and the newly-buffed Technical damage mechanic, this can make Merciless ironically easier than the standard Hard mode, and arguably even Normal mode.
    • Digital Devil Saga: The second game includes a Hard Mode accessible by either importing save data from the first game or beating the second game to get into New Game Plus. One special extra is added: a brutal optional fight with Satan, one of the main antagonists of Shin Megami Tensei II.
  • Super Robot Wars X had the Expert Mode setting that makes enemies harder to defeat especially at the start of the game where your party consists of either the Glass Cannon type or the Fragile Speedster type and anyone who dies is an instant game over until the players get the Megafauna battleship and even the, the game doesn't get any easier until Simon and the Gurren Lagann join in the game. However, what makes Expert Mode special is that the SR points that players need to fulfill are obtained automatically as long as the player clears the stage without having to restart it. This allows players to easily get the Platinum Emblem (an item that gives you an extra turn after movement) compared to doing the SR point objective when the game is done on Standard Mode (and extra 10,000 cash).
  • The Tales Series ups the Grade earned in harder difficulties, which in turn can be traded in for nice items and New Game Plus perks. Some games also increase the amount of experience points earned for playing on harder difficulties and may have the enemies drop rare items more often, depending on the game.
    • Tales of Symphonia increases the amount of Grade, gald and EXP earned for playing on harder difficulties, which is useful for getting the higher levels of New Game Plus Grade items - the highest costs 3000 Grade, which isn't possible on a normal playthrough at lower difficulties without serious amounts of grinding.
    • Tales Of Graces F takes this up to eleven by upping the drop rate of certain items on higher difficulties. This results in many people trying to play the higher difficult even if they're not prepared for it.
  • In Valkyrie Profile, getting every character at level 1 on Hard might not seem like this (and probably wasn't intended to be), but it lets you level up new characters more carefully, such as by equipping them with accessories which boost their HP and skill points at each level up. In practice, it ends up giving your characters a significant boost in power at a lower level.
    • A straighter version would be that the dungeons exclusive to hard mode contain top tier equipment that just isn't available in normal or easy difficulties. The net result between this and the above point is that Hard Mode is significantly easier if you know what you're doing, while Easy Mode can be much more difficult—and it doesn't let you get the Golden Ending. Also, you get more periods (time slots that are used up when you enter a town or a dungeon, recruit characters, etc) on higher difficulties, which just further ramps up how much tougher Easy Mode can be.

    Sandbox Games 
  • Minecraft has difficulties that range from peaceful (no mobs spawn) to nightmare (enemies deal high damage and death is permanent), with certain benefits only being available on the higher difficulties:
    • Peaceful means you miss out on mob-exclusive loot altogether. While most of this is available via other means, Blaze Rods are only dropped by Blazes. This means the entire End Dimension, the closest thing to a goal this game has, is completely unavailable in peaceful. This means you can't win the game, you can't obtain an Elytra or Shulker Boxes, and even a lot of resources become too rare to use effectively unless you crank the difficulty up higher. You also can't craft Beacons, as you need to fight a Wither for one ingredient.
    • Even items that are still obtainable on peaceful become prohibitively rare without being able to obtain them from monsters. Gunpowder can now only be obtained as a rare purchase from the Wandering Merchant which locks players out of reliably using TNT, bones can only be obtained 1.1% of the time from fishing which makes obtaining bone meal and taming wolves a rare ocurrence, ender pearls are only obtainable by trading or Piglin bartering preventing a player from playing with such a fun movement technique, and slime balls can only be bought or very rarely obtained from a sneezing panda (themselves a rare mob) which basically locks the player out of using sticky pistons, the most useful redstone block in the game. Players on higher difficulties can just stock up on these in high quantities very easily via combat or by building mob grinders.
    • Villagers killed by zombies are guaranteed to turn into another zombie when they would be killed on easy. It is then possible to cure the zombie, thus turning it back into a villager, and getting cheaper trades. This is completely impossible on peaceful for obvious reasons.
    • The Totem Of Undying is only obtainable from killing Evokers, and Evokers only spawn on at least Normal difficulty. Thus, this game's equivalent to extra lives aren't available to people playing on easy.
    • The higher the difficulty, the higher the odds hostile mobs will spawn being able to pick up dropped items. Not so much fun if one kills you and uses your own gear against you when you try to collect it, but mobs holding items won't despawn so the player could give something to a zombie villager they wish to cure or create a mob zoo if they don't have a name tag handy. They are also more likely to spawn with armour and weapons, making it easier to get uncraftable chainmail armour.
    • Similarly, the higher the difficulty the higher the chance those mobs will spawn equipped with weapons and armor. Since there's an 8% chance a mob will drop its worn equipment, you have a better chance of getting free gear the higher the difficulty goes. Some of which is enchanted.
    • Skeleton trap horses have the highest possible spawn rate on the hardest difficulty. If you manage to kill the skeleton riders but not the horses you get already tamed mounts without having to look for horses, and the only mounts in the game that can run underwater. The only drawback is that the skeletal horses can't breed and they have low health and speed.
    • Skyblock is a mod where you are given a tiny island floating in the void and forced to make a go of it. While it's much harder to survive as resources are much rarer, especially in the early game, it also means you have full control over where and if mobs can spawn. Making a single spawning platform will give you a deluge of enemies to kill, making mob grinders incredibly easy to make and amazingly effective, giving you tons of free drops and experience. So many mobs can spawn in a well-made mob grinder you can kill them via entity cramming, where so many mobs are in one space they crush themselves to death.
  • Space Rangers has several sliders adjusting difficulty of various parts of the game, thus making the difficulty go from 50% to 200% - it's actually a quotient to multiply points by for the record table. Aside from that, more enemies means more experience and money once you get moderately good weapons, and the Enemy Mine becomes much easier to utilize. Also, you may pick either additional units or bonus armor for planetary fights, or deny both and get bonus experience and money.
  • Terraria
    • The best items in the game won't be available until the Wall of Flesh is killed, turning on Hard Mode for the entire world. Although despite the name, this is more akin to part of the natural progression than an actual difficulty setting.
    • In Expert Mode, enemy health and attack is doubled, bosses drop Treasure Bags, which, along with containing much more standard loot than you would get from Normal, also always have a unique item ONLY available from these Treasure Bags. Some of these are incredible, with one even going as far as to permanently give you an extra accessory slot. In addition, many frustrating and rare drops in the game will have their chance to drop doubled.
    • Master Mode also features a number of new exclusive items. While most of them are purely cosmetic, a few of them can be very useful. Of particular note is the Flying Dutchman, a mount that can drop in the Pirate Invasion. Its high max flight speed was extremely helpful, making most later bosses a joke as you could simply outrun their attacks. It would later be Nerfed to prevent this, but still remains a useful addition, along with a few other items.
    • The "for the worthy" seed generates an extra-difficulty world with very few perks... except one. Red's Potion is an item that usually inflicts every single negative status effect at once to your character for 1 hour, but in "for the worthy" worlds, it gives a random selection of 3 buffs for 30 minutes.

    Shoot 'em Up 
  • BLUE REVOLVER has four point-based extra lives on each of the first two difficulty levels, but on Parallel mode the game will give out an extra life every 15 million points, and will continue to give extra lives even after your fourth one (at 60 million points) as long as you can earn the points for them.
  • Bullet Heaven 2 has Handicaps, which make the game harder in various ways, but provide a bonus multiplier to your score when turned on.
  • In addition to being required for the Golden Ending, Contra 4 changes the stage 1 music on Hard Mode to a remix of the original Contra theme. It's generally agreed that Hard Mode has better music, but YMMV.
  • Crimzon Clover on Unlimited mode provides a few perks:
    • You can cancel bullets by using a full lock-on or a full lock-on minus one and killing at least one enemy with it. The canceled bullets will add to your multipliers. In commercial versions of the game, you can still cancel bullets with a partial lock-on, although the radius is larger the more lock-ons you have.
    • Scores can go much higher than on Original.
    • In Arrange-Unlimited in Crimzon Clover World EXplosion, your bullets can destroy enemy bullets.
  • In DoDonPachi DaiFukkatsu Black Label, playing on Power Style (though not Strong Style) will force you onto the hidden stage paths, instead of requiring you to "earn" them. This is normally a bad thing as some of the midbosses you end up encountering are That One Boss, but for those playing for score, it's also a chance to rack up easy points due to the longer stage lengths without worrying about meeting the conditions for the hidden paths.
    • If you play Bomb or Strong Style, and turn off Auto-Bomb, you'll be able to use Hyper Counter even if your Hyper gauge is not full, by using a bomb stock instead. This is very advantageous for two reasons: Going into Hyper does not kill your combo like bombing does, and while in Hyper Counter mode, your shots will cancel enemy bullets (although those bullets will fire suicide bullets in Strong Style), so you get about 10-15 seconds of protection vs. the 2-5 that a bomb gives you.
  • Elemental Gearbolt has this via Difficulty by Region. When Working Designs released it in English, they changed the easy mode into a training mode that ends after three levels.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Star Resistance: Choosing to pursue a Paladin playthrough - killing as few enemies as possible across the entire game - turns stages deadly as every stage becomes an oversaturation of obstacles and bullets, whereas normal gameplay would see the majority of enemies destroyed in a single hit and cleared out early. In exchange, achieving Paladin rank grants a +4 health refill and a life extension, helping survival on subsequent stages.
  • GHOST Squad allows you to set the difficulty level of each mission from 1 to 4 on the arcade cardless version, 16 on the arcade version with cardslots and GHOST Squad Evolution, and 20 on the Wii port. Higher difficulty levels open up more branching paths; some are simply there to challenge the player, but some paths provide higher scores than ones only available on the lower difficulties.
  • Hellfire (1989): The US-exclusive "Yea Right" difficulty gives you 99 continues instead of the usual 10 for Easy and Hard.
  • Hellsinker:
    • Playing with your Way of Life set to Drastic (5 lives) allows you to get to max lives faster. At max lives on any setting, getting an Extend will give you bonus Spirits.
    • Cranking up the Stella generally raises the Spirit values of enemies and laser grazing. So if you're very competent at survival, and want a large Spirit count, you'll want to keep the Stella at A as long as possible.
  • Mushihime-sama Futari Black Label's God mode allows the multiplier counter to go up to 30,000, as opposed to Maniac's 9,999. As a result it's much easier to score high (once you tame the Bullet Hell), to the point where you can get the extends earlier than you would in Maniac if you know what you're doing. In fact, if you play with both player slots active, it's possible to max out the score counter.
  • In SATAZIUS, playing on Hard or Insane gives you an extra boss on the stage 5 Boss Bonanza and an extra Final Boss form on top of what you encounter on Normal difficulty.
  • Expert mode in Star Fox 64 makes your wings extremely fragile and the enemies stronger and more numerous. However, the score targets for medals do not change, so if you're adept at staying alive, it's much easier to get medals as well as to score more points than you would on "normal" difficulty.
  • Almost all of the Touhou Project games have some method of scaling your score to the difficulty chosen. A few of them grant extra lives based on score. This means that playing on harder difficulties gets you lives earlier in these games, and the point barriers can be high enough that you can miss them if you're playing poorly.
    • Additionally, Touhou Shinreibyou ~ Ten Desires gives more spirits on the higher difficulties. Spirits are used to fill the trance gauge, and trance is not only a powerful attack and defense, but can be used to double the effect of bomb and life fragments.
    • Inverted Mode in Vampire Survivors triples enemy health and coin gain, but the merchant sells an additional arcana, as well as extra skips, banishes, and rerolls. This can enable some extremely powerful builds right from the get-go, instead of having to survive until the 11-minute mark for an additional arcana.
    • The way Yousei Daisensou ~ Touhou Sangetsusei works is that you have the ability to freeze bullets, and get lives, bombs, power, and score based on the area frozen. The increased amount of bullets on the higher difficulties is a natural help. The higher difficulties also have death-bullets, which can be used to greatly extend a freeze by a clever player.
    • Simplifying things a bit, to get more bombs in Touhou Kanjuden ~ Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom you need to graze bullets. The thing here is that the number of bullets needed is the same for all difficulties, meaning that you effectively have more bombs on higher difficulties.
    • In Touhou Kishinjou ~ Double Dealing Character, playing as Marisa-B turns the higher difficulty levels into this. Since her bomb scoops up bullets to turn them into Power-Up items that can then be picked up through auto-pickup for point bonuses, bomb fragments, and life fragments, a good Marisa-B player can take advantage of bullet-dense sections to keep themselves at full power and maximum lives.
  • Tyrian rewards you in different ways, such as letting you see more levels or levels with altered layout, giving better items early on, but the best way is... After you beat Tyrian on ENGAGE mode. Rewards you with the code for Nort-Ship Z, the best Super Tyrian ship in the game..

    Simulation Games 
  • X3: Terran Conflict's Xtended Terran Conflict Game Mod has multiple difficulties which affect the spawn rate for Hard-Coded Hostility mooks and the upgrades their ships have. Cranking up the difficultly all the way up to XTREME - an irreversible decision - causes mooks to spawn in overdrive with ships far superior to yours or neutral NPCs. As the mooks rampage uncontrolled through sectors, you can follow at a distance and salvage the wrecks they leave behind; in fact, this is encouraged, because XTREME removes corvettes and capital ships from sale at shipyards along with removing jump drives, making this one of the few ways to get them without pissing off the locals.
  • In XCOM, there are more aliens per UFO and more UFOs on the higher difficulties. During the early game, when you actually have to worry about money, most of your money will come from selling alien equipment. While you'll have higher overheads from your higher death rate, this extra cash will still speed up your progress considerably (assuming you survive).

    Survival Horror 
  • Used as a game mechanic in Dying Light; during the in-game night, extremely fast-moving, hard-hitting Boss in Mook Clothing zombies called Volatiles begin to swarm all over the city. A player who dares to run around at night finds their Agility and Power experience points doubled, and spending time at night outside of the safe zone results in a number of Survivor experience points based on how long. Additionally, there's a much more valuable air drop that occurs at night which is worth a lot more Survivor exp when handed in.
  • If you want anything resembling a happy ending in the Fatal Frame series, you need to play on hard difficulties. Sadly, at least for the first two games, the Downer Endings are the canon ones.
  • Thanks to the way the animatronic's AI worksnote  in Five Nights at Freddy's, they are guaranteed to leave from the doorways of your office after 5 seconds have passed on 4/20 difficulty. On lower difficulties they have a chance of not moving once they get there, meaning you need to babysit them, lose power, and confirm they're gone before opening the door, while on 4/20 difficulty you know they are gone after 5 seconds and can open the door without even checking or turning on the light.
  • In One Night At Flumptys 3, the one amenity you are given during the aptly-named Hard-Boiled Mode is it is half as long as regular mode. Rather than surviving two consecutive nights, Normal Night and Flumpty Night which are both 6 in-game hours each, on Hard-Boiled Mode it simply shifts from Normal Night to Flumpty Night at the 3AM mark.
  • Parasite Eve 2 has various challenges based on difficulty level. Bounty Mode forces you to fight stronger enemies a lot earlier than you usually do but beating them gets you better items and guns sooner than normally would. Nightmare mode does the same thing but with the additional stipulation that you can't use some of the items until later in the game. Scavenger mode subverts this by being a straight difficulty increase but for all modes sans Replay (Easy), your overall BP and EXP when you beat the game gets multiplied by a difficulty bonus and you get to use the leftover points for New Game Plus.
  • Resident Evil:
    • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has an extra optional challenge on Hard mode. Nemesis will relentlessly track down Jill until you avoid him long enough or pump enough bullets into him to knock him down for a while. Shooting down Nemesis on Easy won't change anything, but doing it on Hard will make Nemesis drop unique items like gun parts or reusable first-aid spray cases. If you managed to stop Nemesis on every single encounter, the final item he drops in the clock tower is either an assault rifle on the first run in the save file or, in subsequent playthroughs, an ammo case that gives any one weapon infinite ammo.
    • Resident Evil 4 unlocks professional mode and several difficult minigames after beating the main campaign on normal. Every single game unlocks a different weapon or upgrade, but by far the most lethal weapon is the PRL-412 energy weapon, which in every version but the original GameCube version (it was introduced later on in the Playstation 2 port), fires several homing lasers that instantly kill anything they touch without fail, allowing you to plow through the game while destroying everything in your way. It is unlocked by completing Professional Mode. It's also totally free, and can be bought on any save after beating said save at least once.

    Tactical RPGs 
  • Disgaea games allow you to pass bills (or as of D2, simply adjust with a "Cheat Shop") to increase or decrease enemy level, causing them to grant more XP, money, and mana. The games fully expect you to do this, with certain stages designed specifically as Level Grinding spots where you can beat enemies with beneficial Geo Effects, ratchet up the difficulty, and then do it again. A lot of post-game content is downright inaccessible without doing this.
    • Disgaea Dimension 2 changed this to a cheat shop where you can adjust a slider bar of stars to determine your enemy level. While you can never drop the level below the standard, you can always raise it as high as you want to train, then drop it back down to allow your trained warrior to deliver whatever smackdown on whatever boss is holding it back. Additionally, finishing some of the bonus chapters in the game nets extra units and special cheat shop options. None of them make the game particularly easier, but are a reward for getting that far.
    • Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories introduced the Land of Carnage, where the enemies are given a massive level and stat increase (2000% of the map's base level, plus 200 levels added, then double stats), but they also give much more experience, making grinding stages much more rewarding. Also, the Land of Carnage is where the game's best equipment can be obtained. The above-mentioned Dimension 2 added in its own perk: defeating enemies while the Carnage option is enabled in the above-mentioned cheat shop will allow you to absorb their stats, which are permanent and stack with your equipment and natural stats. And then, it added Rasetsu Mode, increasing the stat limits even further and allowing items to be empowered in the Item World even further.
    • Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance has its own set of equipment to obtain in the Carnage Dimension, which are exponentially more powerful than their standard versions. The Carnage Dimension version of the weakest weapon in the game is stronger than the regular world's Infinity +1 Sword.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, the game was meant to have a check that would ensure that recruitable enemy units do not receive the extra levels and stat gains typical of Hard Mode enemies. However, an oversight means that any character that is spawned in over the course of the map is exempt from the check. This includes Rutger, Gonzales, Klein, Thea, Cath, Melady, Garret, Perceval (but only in Chapter 15), and Zeiss. As Binding Blade is notable for giving enemies a lot of extra levels on its Hard Mode, especially in the lategame, this causes a number of units that are already good in Normal Mode to become almost monstrous, sometimes to the point of being effectively ten levels higher than they should be.
    • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade in particular has a few:
      • Playing Lyn's story passes on whatever stat boosts and equipment that recruits gained in her story to the main story no matter what, but if you play hers on Hard, you can have one of your cavaliers take Wallace's Knight Crest, a promotion item (or even just keep the Knight Crest to boost your Funds ranking). Since Lyn's Story on Normal is a Forced Tutorial, you use his Knight Crest to forcibly promote him, which won't happen on Hard since the tutorial is turned off.
      • Hector Mode starts off harder, with fewer companions and stricter missions, but it also has more levels overall for a more complete story, and has a few unique companions that Eliwood never meets.
      • In both Eliwood and Hector Hard Mode, one of the bosses near the middle of the game holds the Silver Card, which halves the purchase price of all items. This makes Funds much more easily manageable in the second half of the game in Hard Mode than in Normal Mode.
      • In Hector Hard Mode, enemies have bonuses to their stats, including those who can be recruited.
    • Fire Emblem Fates includes the ability to capture generic units and recruit them, depending on the difficulty your capturable enemies can have skills normally impossible for them to get. An example is on Lunatic, as all enemies have capped weapon ranks in their current class.
  • In Star Wolves, harder difficulties grant experience bonus, and the experience is extremely important in the game.
  • In the Super Robot Wars games, achieving bonus objectives on each mission scales up the difficulty. If you keep this up long enough, however, the game often rewards you with very powerful bonus equipment in the later stages.

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • Armored Core 4's Hard Mode is quite different from the previous games. Instead of having, like, a smaller FCS box, each mission amps up the difficulty by adding or removing something. The very first mission for example, deprives you of your Primal Armor, making your AC quite brittle against more than three Normals you have to face. The only thing that's consistent is that the end mission of every chapter adds an enemy Next to the fray alongside whatever it is you're up against at the end, or in the case of Marche Au Supplie, all four Next with your own allies already killed from the get-go. In return, though, completing each mission in its Hard version rewards you additional tuning points for your schematics and even newer parts.
  • Jak II and Jak 3 have "Hero Mode", in which the enemies are more powerful, but you start with all of the guns. This makes Hero Mode easier at first, except in turret sections and others where you can't use your guns. You can however unlock unlimited ammo, Dark Jak and invulnerability with less orbs than usual and before the game ends. And considering you need orbs to unlock Hero Mode it's not too much trouble to just go out and nab a few. Orb placements are completely reset as well, allowing you to stack orbs from your previous playthrough to unlock new things from the secrets menu without having to kill yourself trying to beat some of the more difficult minigames.
  • In Kid Icarus: Uprising, you can wager hearts at the beginning of each chapter to increase or decrease its "intensity level". At higher levels, the enemies shoot more often and some take more damage. On the other hand, it opens up sections of levels that are closed off on lower difficulties, and you receive more powerful weapons if you're able to clear the chapter. It also inverts this: making the intensity lower than normal costs you hearts outright instead of returning them to you for succeeding, reduces the number of enemies present, and reduces the heart drops of what enemies there are, effectively costing you hearts both ways.
  • MADNESS: Project Nexus 2: Playing on Madness difficulty reduces enemy health, making them easier to kill. Combined with the increase in enemy damage and aggression Madness difficulty gives them, things approach Rocket-Tag Gameplay.
  • Each station in Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion offers a choice of one or more different weapons that the player can equip before starting, with some optimized to be more challenging for that particular station than others. Attempting a station with a difficult weapon will cost the player more CQ Points, but will also net them a bigger reward for completing the station. While it's possible to earn a sizeable net gain of points from these difficult challenges, the system is very high-risk and high-reward — if you fail repeatedly trying to clear a station with a difficult weapon, you're likely to end up with less points than if you had just used an easier one.

    Tower Defense 
  • Mindustry has the maps divided into roughly three tiers of difficulty, with titanium ores starting to be available from the second difficulty tier, and thorium only for the third one. While titanium can also be obtained by smelting scrap in New Game Plus, playing the hardest difficulty is the only way to obtain thorium, the resource required to construct the last and most powerful tier of buildings.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • Battle for Wesnoth: On the hardest difficulty of Heir to the Throne campaign, defeating the orc leader in "Blackwater Port" scenario earns you a free loyal Knight that you can't get on easier difficulties.
  • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade: Lyn Hard Mode gives you considerably more freedom than Lyn Normal Mode, such as allowing you to use Wallace's Knight Crest on Kent or Sain (or nobody) instead of Wallace. Eliwood and Hector Hard Mode also let you obtain the Silver Card about halfway through the game, making Funds less of an issue in Hard Mode than Normal. Finally, although all enemies get bonuses to their stats in Hector Hard Mode, that includes enemies who can be recruited.

    Turn-Based Tactics 
  • Advance Wars: You are given a ranking based on three criteria, power, speed, and technique, where power is based in the most units you manage to eliminate in a single turn, speed is how many days you take to finish, and technique is how many units you lose overall. Each awards up to 100 points, for a max score of 300, and then how high that number is awards a rank that goes as high as S. On normal campaign all three scores matter, but on the harder Advance campaign only speed matters: if you get a 100 for speed, the other two stats are bumped to 100 for free and you get a guaranteed S rank. While winning maps on Advance is, of course harder, it is ironically far easier to get S ranks on these maps than on the regular campaign because you can use more streamlined tactics like suicide attacks or beelines for an HQ capture without having to worry about what units you destroy or lose in the process.
    • Advance Wars Black Hole Rising: You can tackle either the Blue Moon or Yellow Comet campaigns in either order you like, and whichever country you liberate first will come to the aid of the other country in their final factory mission. Beating Yellow Comet first is much harder than beating Blue Moon first as it forces you to complete Yellow Comet's final mission alone, but if you pull this off your reward is you get Kanbei with a large pre-deployed army (read: his strength of 130% attack and defense without having to worry about their high deployment cost) to come and help in Blue Moon's final mission, which completely trivializes it.
    • Advance Wars: Dual Strike: Done two-fold:
      • Hard mode campaign lets you use all your unlocked COs, unlike the normal campaign that restricts you to the story-relevant characters. In other words you can do Mirror Matches or even unleash Von Bolt or Hachi. This often makes hard mode missions easier than their normal mode counterparts, though the overall difficulty is still higher.
      • Using a single CO instead of dual COs awards you double the experience points, allowing you to level up your characters much faster than normal.
  • Ghost Recon:
    • Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars: Completing a mission on a higher difficulty will give you more stars to level up your units as opposed to the easier difficulty.
    • Ghost Recon: Future Soldier likewise gives players a greater bonus to their Ghost score at the end of a mission on harder difficulties.