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Non-Indicative Difficulty

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

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

Some general ways this can happen:

  • The Rubber-Band A.I. or similar mechanics of the game have made it so that 'easy' courses are harder than the 'hard' courses on the same mode.
  • The bonuses you receive for playing on a harder level more than compensate for the disadvantages, at least after a little Early Game Hell. (This is especially the case for games with Tech Points or Evolving Attacks, wherein enemies that take longer to kill can grant greater rewards).
  • The 'hard' mode is supposed to make the AIs behave more deviously but instead gives them Artificial Stupidity.
  • The 'hard' mode introduces changes to gameplay or mechanics that could be exploited in an unintended way to cause an A.I. Breaker. For example, if it makes AIs shoot more accurately, possibly making them more predictable in games with Painfully Slow Projectiles.
  • What was supposed to make the game 'hard' actually makes it easier because it is more intuitive for your natural reflexes, creates bigger but far easier patterns, etc.
  • The player can benefit from the increased power of the enemies. For example, on higher difficulties, enemies have better equipment which you can loot off the first one you kill, or you encounter stronger Mons but also get to capture them earlier than on lower difficulties.

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

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


  • Mario Kart:
    • Playing on 150cc often tends to make the short courses such as Luigi Raceway harder to finish ahead in than the long courses like Rainbow Road, since there's less opportunity to put space between yourself and the other racers before the inevitable last-second onslaught. Even on the slower races, this is noticeable. Elements of this pop up in any difficulty, though, due to the Rubber-Band A.I.—a single mistake can spell the difference between a first place finish or a sixth place (or worse).
    • Mario Kart 8: A post-release update added 200cc, increasing the speed by roughly 35% over 150cc. The AI is still the same as 150cc, however, resulting in Artificial Stupidity as the AI failed to account for the speed increase. This was fixed in the Updated Re-release 8 Deluxe.
  • In Digimon Card Battle, the opponents in the first towns of the game use weaker cards than ones battled later on, but they are more difficult to effectively counter thanks to them choosing the cards and attacks they use completely randomly. The late-game opponents have tougher decks, but it's easier for the player to guess what cards or attacks they will choose because they use actual (often rather obvious) strategies.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, the fifth mission of each level offered a tougher challenge, called a "Hard Mode" of that stage. This usually involved redesigned sections and, more commonly, gaping pits with enemies above them, which actually made it easier for many players.
    • Tails and Eggman's Hard Mode missions increased the number of enemies present in their respective levels. This made it easier to get higher bonuses for clearing large numbers of enemies at once, and easier to get them more often. Combined with the fact that the score requirements for most Hard Mode A-ranks are the same as or lower than the first missions, this makes it far easier to get an A-rank if a player can properly use the auto-targeting.
    • Knuckles and Rouge's Hard Mode stages have their Macguffins in set locations, as opposed to how the first and fourth missions randomize their positions, meaning it's far less of a Luck-Based Mission. While the locations frequently require long puzzles to access, and there are more enemies to avoid to maintain a high ring count, the fact that all three items are always in the same spot means that you can easily get an A-rank after your first run on the mission just because you already know where everything is.
  • In Valkyrie Profile, hard mode is supposed to be harder because everyone starts at level 1 and the enemies in general are tougher. In practice, the lowered starting level just means more opportunities to level them up while wearing equipment that gives bonuses to their DME or CP with each level gained, making them harder to kill, and much quicker to learn stat-boosting skills. A character at level 10 on Hard may well be stronger than the same character at level 15 on Easy or Normal. The actual process of leveling everyone up isn't much of an issue either, thanks to the Experience Orb, which lets you distribute Event Experience to your party. Furthermore, playing the game on Hard is the only way to get everyone, and the various Hard-only dungeons provide most of the game's Game-Breaker equipment, either as loot, or as Item Crafting components. By comparison, you miss out on nearly all of the best loot in an Easy game - the result is that it's much more difficult than Normal.
  • Baldur's Gate in the Enhanced Edition introduced a Nintendo Hard mode called "Legacy of Bhaal", which buffs to outrageously high levels the stats of every single creature in the game (including the rats in the prologue...) except for the player's party. Normally this is accurate. However, this buff applies to summoned creatures too, and there is no distinction between those evoked by the AI and those by the player - you basically have a Mighty Glacier meat-wall always at your disposal. Furthermore, you can use charm or domination spells to mind control, even if temporarily, tougher enemies, which in certain encounters is so broken that rather than an Easy Level Trick it is often considered a Cheese Strategy.
  • Icewind Dale increased enemy stats at higher difficulties, but also gave proportionally more xp rewards since you faced tougher foes. This was easily exploited to level up your party with ease, particularly when abusing the poor AI to effortlessly kill waves of mooks.
    • Going solo might seem more difficult, until you realize that the xp won't be split among party members. You will get an overleveled character very soon that can effectively solo most encounters. And for those which are really hard... this will force you to actually use many items that you usually forget about, increasing your tactics.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei I the neutral path has more bosses, but it also allows the player to use every demon.
    • In Persona 4 you can now take your whole party to the superboss. Sounds like it would be easier, right? Nope, knowing her attack cycle lets you switch persona to absorb most of her attacks (Allies get in the way of this) and makes it far easier (which isn't saying a lot).
    • In Persona 5, the "Merciless" difficulty option makes enemies even stronger than on Hard while also raising damage to elemental weaknesses, critical hits and technical attacks by 250%, forcing you to play more strategically to survive. However, this damage boost applies to the player's party as well, meaning a few lucky crits, elemental weaknesses and technical hits can make some battles significantly easier if you know what you're doing.
    • This is especially noticable in the Updated Re Release Persona 5 Royal, during the boss fight against Shadow Okumura. Since there's now a two-turn time limit to wipe out each phase of his robots, laying on the damage via exploiting weaknesses for extra turns becomes so crucial that many guides outright recommend setting the difficulty to Merciless at least for that fight so you can take advantage of the extra damage, making it ironically easier than on Normal or especially Hard mode. It helps that Okumura's minions don't use anything other than physical attacks (and one telegraphed Almighty attack), so unless you're using the Decarabia Persona they can't take advantage of the boost unless they manage to crit.
  • Pokémon Red and Blue have multiple "difficulty" levels for the AI. Lower-rank trainers like Youngsters operate on pure A.I. Roulette, while more skilled opponents like Ace Trainers, Gym Leaders and the later fights with The Rival have so-called "good AI". We say "so-called" because it's hard-coded to always use type-effective moves wherever possible, but only pays attention to the type of its moves, not whether they actually do damage. Lance's Dragonite can infamously be locked into spamming Agility against a low-level Pokemon weak to Psychic, allowing them to easily win. "Good AI" also only pays attention to one of the opponent's types, meaning Erika will waste her turns trying to use Poisonpowder on Grass/Poison types (which are immune to being poisoned). The AI in Generation 1 has unlimited PP... which also works against them here, as they'll never run out of the moves they're locked in to.
  • In Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, hard mode causes Dark Aether's air to damage you twice as fast, but the safe zone crystals heal you twice as fast, too. This little fact makes much of the Dark Aether segments easier.
  • In Diablo II, in single player, if you use "player 8" mode, (or on, when soloing inside fairly full games) the monsters will get bonuses as if you where playing in a full multiplayer game, they also give extra XP and loot accordingly. While this does make the game harder in some ways, the level difference (between monster and player) and the loot are a big factor in difficulty, so this mode is only a bit harder early on, when the difficulty is very low anyway due to the very slow difficulty build up through the game. The experience and loot boost will proceed to push you so far ahead that the hard parts get a lot easier.
  • Due to the ball's higher speed making it easier to control, the NES Pinball cartridge's "Game B" is often considered easier than "Game A" (contrary to the normal naming convention of early Nintendo games).
  • Guitar Hero has a few: Some songs are actually easier to play on Expert since the notes follow the music more closely. Also, Hyperspeed makes the chart for a song move faster, which should make it harder to play, but it also spreads out notes making it easier to see patterns for particularly intense solos.
    • In Guitar Hero 3, the Final Boss is easier on Expert than in any other difficulty. If you get the whammy early, you can practically one-shot the boss if you wait for any particularly busy part of the song.
  • The same goes for the songs in the Rock Band series, especially the downloadable content, which isn't checked as rigidly as the on-disc music. A notable one is the fact that "Constant Motion" isn't a final tier song, even though the solo is widely considered one of the most difficult in the game. For the on-disc songs there's "PDA" which is a 1st tier full band song despite each instrument being at least third tier. And of course, the infamous "Visions" is more difficult on Hard than on Expert, due to the fact that there are almost no hammer-ons in the Hard chart. It doesn't help that on Hard, the gems move more slowly and are thus crammed closer together (see the hyperspeed example above)
    • Another DLC, Afterlife, is ranked as "Challenging" on guitar rather than "Nightmare" or "impossible" despite the fact that the guitar solo is probably in the top 20 most difficult (out of over 1000 songs), and the rest of the song isn't exactly a cakewalk either. Everyone has a different idea of how Harmonix rates their charts ("They go by how hard it is on Medium!" "They look at all charts, with an emphasis on Expert!", etc). Also, most songs from the original Rock Band are "over-tiered" (that is, easier than indicated) on drums.
    • Likewise, a handful of songs are actually easier on Expert than Hard because the chart better resembles the music track. The chorus of the DLC track "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" is actually harder on Hard than Expert because you only play half the notes.
    • The song tiers are something of a crapshoot when playing on anything other than Expert. Besides not adjusting the tiers for your difficulty level, Harmonix has changed their policy for authoring the other difficulties over the years. Easy and Medium guitar/bass now use all five buttons (they used to use only 3 or 4, respctively) and they have scaled back how hard a song can be on Hard, often with little consideration for the song tier. This means that a "Nightmare" or "Impossible" song on Hard guitar could either be disappointingly easy (with 2-4 Expert notes replaced by 1 Hard note in a fast part) or very difficult ("Visions," Metallica DLC).
    • The fact that difficulty levels vary between games doesn't help matters, either. For example, LEGO Rock Band curves really low, so an "Impossible" song in LEGO could be anywhere from "Solid" or some other middle-of-the-road difficulty ("I Want It All" on drums) to "Nightmare" ("YYZ" on, well, everything) and beyond in 2 or 3. This is most notable when a song that has every instrument on "Impossible" difficulty can have greatly varying difficulties in another game.
  • Advance Campaign in the first Advance Wars, as a form of mercy for the Nintendo Hard difficulty, only ranks you on Speed as opposed to Speed, Power and Technique. Hold the Line missions always give you a perfect Speed score, so these maps are an automatic perfect S Rank on hard mode as long as you win, while on Normal they're actually more difficult to S Rank as you need to care about killing enemies and minimizing casualties. Andy's version of "Navel Clash!" is especially infamous for this, as the mission requires you to keep your starting Missile unit alive for 10 days, and if you load it in a Lander and hide it in a reef, Drake's AI is too stupid to look for it, letting you get a perfect S Rank by doing absolutely nothing.
  • Advance Wars: Black Hole Rising's hard campaign has a couple of missions that are a lot easier than their regular mode counterparts:
    • A Mirror Darkly tasks you with a wall of indirects vs a huge force of direct units, and you lose if one of them so much as gets onto your HQ. Regular mode gives you a rocket and a few tanks to defend your HQ directly, but hard mode gives you two medium tanks. This means in the hard mode, it is impossible to lose if you park a medium tank on your HQ and simply damage the enemy's medium and neo tanks thanks to a programming quirk: the AI determines a damaged neo tank vs a full HP medium tank with +40% defense and Sonja's +50% counter-attacks isn't cost-effective and won't ever attack it. On normal mode you actually have to defend the HQ for real while taking the enemy down, but on hard the AI will just bunch its units around that untouchable medium tank, meaning all you have to do is pick them off at your leisure.
    • Sea Fortress is so much easier on hard mode it makes you wonder if the devs accidentally mixed the two missions up. Your opponent gets a lot of extra units, but most are just inconsequential land units like neo tanks that can't do much against your air units, and you get some naval units. Sure they're Eagle naval units with reduced attack, but you can still land copters on your carriers to them to protect against Hawke's Black Wave and Black Storm and to devastate Hawke's fighters and copters, and even an Eagle battleship will do solid 7HP damage to Hawke's anti-air units.
    • Final Front somehow manages to be several orders of magnitude easier than the Normal Campaign version by virtue of Sturm starting with fewer bases, the side teams starting at the top of the map instead of the bottom (allowing them to coordinate a nice pincer strike with the center team instead of just ramming into Sturm's iron wall of troops and cannons in the NC version) and the Black Cannons facing up instead of down (the gimmick being that three pipe seams block the way to the cannons' weak point in HC... a gimmick that Grit completely negates with even a basic Artillery). The HC version of the map is actually quite fun, encouraging unique tactics and thinking outside of the box when coordinating your three armies. The NC version, in stark contrast, is nothing but a long, drawn-out slog with Sturm lording every advantage he could possibly have over you. The difficulty gap is so vast and counterintuitive that it honestly makes one wonder if the two maps were accidentally swapped from what they were intended to be.
  • Advance Wars Dual Strike's Hard Campaign is often easier than the normal campaign, as you can pick every CO from the beginning, rather than having to earn most of them during gameplay (and even then, not all of them are available.) The mission where you unlock Javier in Normal, for example, is primarily there to show you how hard he'll kick your ass if he has enough Com Towers captured, and the mission devolves into swatting his Infantry away from the towers above all else; on Hard, feel free to play as Javier yourself and return the favor.
  • Some games, such as Planescape: Torment or Fallout 3 will scale Experience Points based on the difficulty level. Lowering the difficulty might make the game easier, but it will slow the advancement that would have made you more capable of handling a tougher challenge.
  • In Prehistorik 2, some secrets are harder or outright impossible to reach at Beginner difficulty due to the absense of a specific monster or randomly spawning monsters to bounce on. Thankfully, none of them affect the completion percentage.
  • In Star Fox 64 the last two levels on the easy path are harder than the last two hard path levels when played in Expert Mode. The first half of "easy" Venom becomes a rare instance of Bullet Hell in the series.
    • Also, getting a medal requires a certain number of points for each level. This number does not increase in the unlockable Expert mode, but the number of enemies does, often making it easier to get medals on Expert.
  • In Jagged Alliance 2, setting the difficulty too low will mean the enemies have terrible guns. Which, since the player is capable of using a given weapon more intelligently than the AI is, means you can't scavenge good stuff and start engaging on more favorable terms for a while, which can make the game significantly harder. Or at least require you to spend a lot more money on weapons and ammo.
  • Point Blank 2 has a stage where you have to shoot a fixed number of mice within a time limit. On the middle difficulty level, this is extremely difficult as the number that appear is only slightly more than the required target. On "Insane" difficulty, you have to get more mice, but they also move around a lot faster, meaning more of them appear.
  • In Postal 2, the hardest difficulty in the original, pre-patch game was "Hestonworld", in which everything does double damage and every character in the game is armed with a weapon. However, the majority of those characters were civilians neutral to the player, who would even attack the hostile enemy characters as soon as they drew their weapon. As a result, Hestonworld could be easier than Average if you played stealthy and let the NPCs fight each other.
  • In Backyard Baseball's Hard Mode, the opponents bat much faster. This makes it much easier for pitching as one can just use slowballs to outsmart the opponents.
  • A few minigames, usually involving Pentominoes were often made even easier on Higher difficulties, that removed more pieces. This meant that you had more pieces to put into the puzzle, but you also had even more potential solutions. The lower levels of difficulty would often just give a couple pieces and limit the amount of solutions. Sometimes, you may only get just one solution, whereas building a pentomino puzzle blank would take a little longer than putting a few pieces but would have multiple solutions as a result. This was seen most egregiously in a few The ClueFinders games by The Learning Company, which had some of these puzzle types. (Albeit they were one-shot puzzles)
  • Kingdom Hearts has this to a lower extent. While you have to complete the first four worlds (Including Traverse Town) before you can access the later ones, you don't necessarily have to complete them in the order the game recommends you to. The biggest example of how the battle level can mislead you is within the first four worlds. While it would seem that one should visit the Olympus Coliseum before Deep Jungle, people who had played the game would actually tell you it's better to go to Deep Jungle before Olympus Coliseum. There isn't that much of a difficulty spike (Unless you're playing expert, that is), and being given the Cure Magic would really help against a boss with a sudden difficulty spike in Olympus Coliseum.
    • But there is also Critical Mode in the Final Mix version that reduces Sora's maximum HP by half, but gives him a lot of ability points to balance that out. If you as a gamer are consistently good enough to do, the abilities granted in Critical do outweigh the drawbacks, as the damage calculation is the only difference between Proud and Critical modes.
    • The same form of Sequence Breaking is also sometimes recommended in the sequel, wherein Players may decide to go to Beast's Castle before Land of Dragons, simply because the Beast's Castle gives you access to the ever useful Cure. This is even the same on Proud mode.
    • If you're good enough to dodge/block most of the bosses' attacks, a Critical Mode Lv 1 run of Birth By Sleep can actually be easier than the lower difficulties, thanks to a hidden property of the Exp Zero ability causing your attack damage to scale with each world. This was meant to stop a Lv 1 run from being Unwinnable, but since the scaling applies to each individual hit of multi-hit moves, attacks like Spellweaver and Swordbill become total Game Breakers capable of demolishing bosses in seconds. You still die in 1-2 hits from everything, but this mode is the fastest way to beat most of the game's bosses, even faster than Beginner Mode.
  • The House of the Dead: OVERKILL has "Director's Cut" mode, which makes the chapters a bit longer and adds more mutants. It also adds a Hand Cannon that costs about as much as the standard shotgun and starts out with maxed-out Firepower. Plus, all the extra mutants means a better chance of getting a high score, therefore more cash bonus at the end of the chapter.
  • Played With in Pandemic - Heroic is usually harder than Standard which is usually harder than Easy. But the greater number of Epidemic cards in Heroic means that there is less chance for the deck of infectable cities to grow, before a new Epidemic shuffles them back on top again. So Heroic can sometimes be easier than Standard would have been (depending on the random board start, and the Epidemic spacing) as it can result in the same few cities getting infection cubes over and over, allowing players to focus on a few select areas and not having to spend very many actions moving around.
  • The first Hearts of Iron has a difficulty level in the form of AI personality. The highest level (the lowest is named "weakling") was stupidly aggressive and was easily countered.
  • In DRL, Nightmare! difficulty is actually easier on certain challenges than Ultraviolence is. This is because Nightmare, unlike the original game, boosts the effect of healing packs and extends the duration of powerups, and its monster resurrection doesn't matter much if you aren't planning on sticking around and exploring the level.
  • The Wanted Level system in many Grand Theft Auto games tends to be a bit uneven with how difficult each level is. In-particular, a lot of fans consider the 5-star level to be the hardest in the 3D-era, as the FBI Agents that come after you have a tendency to be Lightning Bruisers capable of quickly totalling your car before cleaning you up once you're foced to bail; this was especially the case in Grand Theft Auto III, where the FBI was notoriously brutal. By contrast, the Army at the 6-star level can be slow and fairly easy to evade. Along these lines, the 3-star wanted level (police officers with helicopter support) is considered harder than the 4-star level (SWAT Teams) for similar reasons.
  • Hard Rock difficulty in Elite Beat Agents takes the beatmaps of Sweatin' difficulty, mirrors them, shrinks the markers, and gives you less time to react. Usually this does make it more difficult, but on a few songs (notably "Material Girl") with a lot of beat markers scattered around at random, the shorter warning time and less beat markers visible makes it easier.
    • Many players also found the easiest difficulty to be quite hard due to the note markers appearing too early and slowly, making it hard to follow the beat.
    • Double so when you're already used to Normal or Hard difficulties and realize you have to play Easy mode for a cumulative score setting (Which saves all of your scores together...!) in order to unlock Harder mode.
    • Ouendan 2 has an extra difficulty option which removes the timing circles for the hit markers and makes them disappear a moment before you need to tap them. This mode is a lot easier when played on the hardest difficulty level because the hit markers don't spend as much time onscreen, which makes a lot easier to keep the rhythm even without the visual aids.
  • The harder difficulty modes in Europa Universalis give the AI countries more money, amongst other things. This is bad news when we're talking about, say, France, but less fortunate countries in America and Africa tend to have nothing to spend it on. And since you can demand money in exchange for peace, war with these countries becomes extremely lucrative.
  • Mushihime-sama Futari:
    • The Updated Re-release, Mushihimesama Futari Black Label offers God difficulty, which replaces previous versions' Ultra difficulty. Despite the name of the difficulty, it's actually easier than Ultra mode; there is more slowdown, far more chances to cancel bullets, enemies don't let off as many suicide bullets as they did in Ultra, and the True Final Boss, likely due to an oversight on the developers' part, has safe spots in her final attack.
    • In both games in the series, playing on Original can be harder than playing on Maniac if you are playing very aggressively. At high rank on Original, done by surviving well and collecting lots of gold items, enemies fire bullets at speeds reminiscent of Strikers 1945 second loops. Maniac, on the other hand, has no rank system, so the difficulty remains consistent no matter how you play the game.
  • Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 has a menu option titled "Harder Guest Generation". At a glance, this seems to just be a difficulty modifier that makes it harder to attract new guests to your park, but it's actually a bit more complicated than that. The real purpose of the option is to fix the common Game-Breaker strategy of building lots of tiny rollercoasters, which thanks to the guest generation algorithm makes it extremely easy to attract guests, making the game much easier in exchange for your parks looking blatantly unrealistic. What "Harder Guest Generation" really does is nerf most sources of guest generation, while tripling the appeal of long rollercoasters, encouraging players to build more realistic rides instead. As long as you are aware of that, "Harder Guest Generation" can actually make it easier to generate guests.
  • In Tetris: The Grand Master 2 - The Absolute PLUS, it's easier to get the Grand Master rank in T.A. Death mode than on Master mode, due to the criteria: in Master mode, you need to fulfill a series of time and Tetris requirements to unlock the invisible roll, which you need to survive to get GM. In Death, all you need to do is pass a time checkpoint at level 500, then reach level 999 regardless of time.
  • In Initial D Arcade Stage 4, we have Irohazaka, a Hard-ranked course that has nearly nonstop hairpins. Then you get Tsukuba, an Expert-ranked course that, for 3/4 of the course, is laughably easy. Even the other 1/4 of the course is nothing compared to Irohazaka.
  • In some older arcade games (such as the Star Wars Vector Game, Columns, and Tempest), you can select your starting level, with higher levels yielding a starting bonus. As a result, until you are sufficiently skilled enough at the game, playing on a harder difficulty level will leave you with a higher score than on a lower one.
  • Ms. Pac-Man: The cabinet can be set to a difficulty by the owner. While it isn't universal some players find the fastest speed to be much easier than the slower ones.
  • Enemies in Final Fantasy VIII level up along with you. Thing is, unless you acquire and use certain abilities (available in the mid-to-late game) to enhance your gains, the enemies gain more stats from levels than you do. This is intentional, and is intended to be balanced by higher-level enemies providing access to more powerful magic to junction to your stats. Thing is, if you're willing to play the card game a bunch, you can get access to all that high-level magic without having to level up, making you more powerful, relative to the monsters, than if you were higher level. The easiest way to beat the game is thus to stay as low-level as possible, at least until you get the aforementioned abilities that improve your level-ups.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, setting the Battle Speed to the fastest setting will give you an advantage once you start encountering bosses that completely disregard charge times. The speed setting won't make those bosses any faster, as the rate of their attacks is dependent only on the animation's speed, which doesn't change at all, but it means your own characters will spend less time standing around getting beat up while waiting for the command bar to fill up.
  • beatmania had this problem when putting the song SNOW on the US version. The US version had much more easier charts that your standard Nintendo Hard bemani game, but SNOW's hyper chart ended up being harder in the US.
    • Many players consider the single-play 8th Dan course to be easier to complete than 7th Dan, citing "gigadelic"'s Hyper chart (which comes at the end of 8th Dan) as easier to survive than "THE SAFARI"'s (which comes at the end of 7th Dan). Players who clear 8th Dan before 7th Dan are referred to in Japanese music game communities as "Safari refugees".
    • Selecting the Hard difficulty modifier, which turns the Groove Gauge into a life bar (0% means you fail the song) is actually easier for some charts. The normal requirement to pass a song is to have 80% or higher on the Groove Gauge. Naturally, harder songs have a Last Note Nightmare towards the end where it's very easy to drop below 80%. However, if you're decently good, you'll survive on Hard mode.
  • The harder difficulty level in Two Worlds begins as an unbelievable challenge—any individual is much tougher than you, and foes typically come in groups and surround you. If you manage to pick off a humanoid foe, however, you can take their powered-up equipment and use it against your other foes, so once you've done enough looting there's little added difficulty.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade:
      • Lyn Mode is a Forced Tutorial on its Normal difficulty, and it's forced to the degree that the game actually gives you no options other than to perform suboptimal moves. Some forced moves are in the name of then "showing" you the right strategy (i.e. having Sain attack an enemy despite weapon triangle disadvantage, so Kent can then admonish him and tell him how to do things "correctly"), or due to the developers not realizing that some decisions are bad ones (i.e. early-promoting Wallace, a third-rate Mighty Glacier with bad availability, as opposed to the reliable and effective Lightning Bruiser units Kent or Sain, or treating the promotion item as valuable Shop Fodder). Naturally, this means that its Hard difficulty, which removes the tutorial aspects, is actually considerably more playable, and definitely yields the better rewards if you're only playing the mode to help you out in the main campaign.
      • Several chapters in the supposedly-hardest difficulty, Hector Hard Mode, are arguably a drop from their normal mode counterparts, due to attempts to change an enemy's design that actually make them weaker. The most common manifestation of this is switching out a more mundane weapon for a Weapon of X-Slaying—on the one hand, it lets the enemy get the drop on a unit they have effective damage on (i.e. a Hammer against a Knight), but on the other, these weapons are heavy and inaccurate, meaning that if the player simply checks the enemy weapon and sends any other unit type after the enemy, they'll be barely any threat whatsoever. HHM's version of "Kinship's Bond" is especially notable, as it arms almost every enemy with a Reaver weapon. While these reverse the weapon triangle, they also double its effects, so they're easier to take down if you're using the right weapon.
    • Hard mode (aka Maniac in Japanese) in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn removes the Weapon Triangle. In theory, this is meant to equalise weapon types and make it harder to win battles solely by picking the correct weapon. In practice however, Radiant Dawn is already a game where axe users are Game Breakers, and removing the weapon triangle also removes one of the few weaknesses axes have, thus making them even more powerful. It's even easier for Ike to hit the Black Knight with an armor weakness-hitting Hammer, now!
  • The Hidden Mansion mode in the European version of Luigi's Mansion. The Poltergust's improved performance more than makes up for the more powerful ghosts.
  • In the Mount & Blade "Native Expansion" Game Mod, the game is made harder... by vastly upgrading the equipment enemies have and adding more powerful enemies... with good loot. As Mount & Blade is a game based around large fights and thus has Hard Levels, Easy Bosses this results in a large amount of extra cash that outweighs the danger of fighting the well armored foes (that can still be taken down in a single hit with couched lance damage)
  • Driving games that offer automatic and manual transmission might be simpler to play in automatic, but since the auto-shift tends to shift at the wrong speeds and techniques that involve shifter manipulation (such as Daytona USA's shifter sliding) become impossible playing manual might make it easier. Not to mention, shifting in games is far, far easier than in Real Life, where you just press a single button instead of having to do the whole clutch down - shift gears - clutch up - accelerate procedure.
    • Similarly the faster cars that appear later in racing games are often easier to drive, despite needing quicker reflexes, because they have more downforce and bigger tyres and don't slide around as much as the slower cars. In Race Driver GRID and the Need for Speed games the classic American muscle cars are far more 'tail-happy' than the supercars. This is partly Truth in Television; Formula One cars are often described by the pros and being relatively easy to drive compared to touring cars, because they are so advanced. It's the level of competition that makes F1 difficult.
  • F-Zero (SNES) has the Fire Stingray, billed as an expert machine as it boasts the highest top speed can't turn as tightly as the other three. However, it's also the least drifty, so not only is it the only machine worth using in Time Attack (unless you're doing machine-specific records), it's also the easiest machine to learn.
  • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, and other Tales Series games, on Hard mode, opponents have more HP. However, in Dawn (and some other games in the series) you gain bonus experience for long Combos. Opponents with more HP can be comboed longer for more bonus XP - this is especially critical at the very low levels, where foes are weak enough to die before you can finish your combo properly. Also, the Evolving Attack system found in all Tales games means that enemies that last longer can have more artes used on them, accessing new artes quicker. In Dawn, you may gain significantly less XP on Normal than on Hard, even if you are overlevelled - even after quests for which the party is grossly overlevelled on Hard, it's possible to gain something like 12 xp from an enemy and 600 bonus xp from the fight, because the enemies still last long enough to break a 20+ hit combo out on them.
    • The consequences are even more glaring in the New Game Plus - since you spend Grade in order to buy upgrades (like x5 XP gain, keep all learnt artes, etc.) for your new playthrough, and harder difficulties earn you more Grade (plus better chances to earn Grade-boosting achievements like breaking a 50 hit combo in a fight or ending a fight with a large combo), starting from Hard difficulty at the start of your first playthrough would enable the player to achieve in two playthroughs (getting the best hidden weapons, beating the Bonus Dungeon on Mania difficulty, etc.) what you would need three playthroughs to achieve if you start on Normal difficulty.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age has an issue similar to Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. If you play on Hard you'll have maybe three genuinely difficult fights, but the rest are trivialized by the fact that enemies' longer HP bars means you use twice as many skills to kill them, and thus get twice as many SP to earn abilities sooner.
  • In Borderlands' DLC, Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot, after Round 1 Moxxi will randomly choose an effect (or effects) with which to make the next wave harder. One example of this is by making the enemies have double shield strength. Which doesn't come into play if you're only fighting Skags (with no shields) or have Mordecai's Trespass skill maxed (which ignores shields). Granted, it's not making things easier, but it's not making them harder either.
  • The difficulty modes in the Devil May Cry series are generally arranged easiest-to-hardest from top-to-bottom order in the menu lists. However, later games may feature these two modes listed below the "Must Die" difficulty, but tend to be actually "easier" than what's above them due to some gameplay changes.
    • Heaven Or Hell difficulty, where you die in one hit, but so does everything else, which means you can just easily shoot and One-Hit Kill everything quickly from a distance with your guns/ranged weapons. Contrast with the more traditionally difficult Hell And Hell, where only you die in one hit.
    • The PC version and Special Edition of Devil May Cry 4 had the Legendary Dark Knight difficulty which took the overall difficulty down a notch (comparable to the Son of Sparda difficulty) and made all enemies die a lot faster, but spawn greatly increased enemy numbers. Apart from being generally easier, your area-affecting and crowd-control attacks would hit most of the clustered demons, resulting in them dying fast and you getting a crapload of Style points for every attack, hence you'll easily farm a lot of Red Orbs here. This mode returns in the Special Edition of Devil May Cry 5, but its non-indicative difficulty nature remains the same.
  • World of Warcraft: Back in Wrath of the Lich King, 25-man raids were intended to be harder and more rewarding than their 10-man counterparts, giving loot with higher item levels than the latter. This is mostly true but there are some encounters that are actually easier on the 25-man setting simply because more people are present to handle things, whereas in a 10-man raid the relative importance of each individual is increased, and losing a single person can potentially spell doom for any boss attempt. In Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria, the two raid sizes were presented as roughly the same difficulty, before the flexible raid difficulty was introduced at the end of the latter expansion.
  • The PC version of Novastorm changes three things between difficulties:
    • Boss weak points: some bosses take more damage in different spots and become more resistant in certain other places.
    • Number of enemies: Hard, obviously, has more enemies.
    • Value of the coins dropped: Hard actually drops more gold and silver coins than Easy does. This means you'll have MORE powerups when you reach a boss on Hard than you will on Easy, even if you defeat the same enemies.
  • The golfing MMO Pangya has this on its battleship-themed Silvia Cannon course. There are cannons that will fire during the course, on their own time, and change the wind - midshot, even, if that's when they go off! Once you realise these are specifically timed and create specific results, you can actually wait for them to go off, and some of the randomness is actually removed from this course. It helps a lot, because it's still a really hard course.
  • The critically praised but poor selling Gladius by Lucasarts has two player characters that can be selected with slightly differing stories (they join up with each other in chapter 2). Valens is labeled as "hard" while Ursula is labeled as "easy", but Ursula starts in Nordagh, which has a very poor variety of units to choose from (notably the only "heavy" units need for you to beat a Luck-Based Mission to recruit and your "light" units are too weak to deal with opposing heavies even with their tactical advantage over them), and Valens starts in Imperia, which has a very good variety. On the other hand, when Ursula and Urlan join Valens, their placement of the limited skill points is a bit sub-par, while Valens is just fine and Valens has the issue of Ludo leaving with his equipment and XP.
  • Some find Superhuman mode in Resistance 2 easier than Hard because the Bullseye weapon is entirely replaced by the very powerful Bullseye MKII.
  • In Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, the Mercenary path is supposed to be the hardest of the three; the ace squadrons you encounter along that path have better planes in larger numbers than the other paths' aces. However, it's usually the Soldier path that ends up with harder aces, especially on higher difficulties - for example, Schnee squadron can attack you from a much longer range than anyone else in the game, and Grun squadron can avoid your standard missiles by dropping flares.
  • In Black, hard difficulty is significantly hard, while the next step up, "black ops", gives you infinite ammo and an M16A2 with 90 round magazines and attached grenade launcher. The only hard part is that you have to find a bunch of hidden stuff.
  • Rhythm Heaven has a minigame where you have to play on-beat some of the time and off-beat for the rest. The 2nd version of this is slower than the first, and it's in 6/8 swing beat instead of 4/4. The idea is that it's harder to keep the rhythm this way, but on the other hand, it's slower.
  • X-COM:
    • The series in general has several difficulty settings. They mostly affect alien activity, as well as their numbers on any given craft, and stats. The last of these definitely makes the game more hellish the higher the difficulty setting is, but two others are a mixed blessing. More missions and aliens means more artifacts to use against them or sell, and more experience for your soldiers. Well, the ones that survive, anyway.
    • A bug in the very first game meant that no matter what difficulty setting you chose for the game, it soon defaults back to the easiest difficulty level.
  • For many songs in DanceDanceRevolution, the Challenge steps have a lower "foot" rating than the Expert steps, despite its placement on screen implying that it's a higher difficulty level. This is primarily the case for songs debuting in DDRMAX2 or Dance Dance Revolution EXTREME, but more modern games avert this trope and simply treat Challenge as a Harder Than Hard mode.
  • Similarly in beatmaniaIIDX, the Another charts can be easier than the Hyper charts; mostly in the cases where the Another chart is a complete remix of the song rather than simply a harder chart.
  • Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire compensates the player for the increased difficulty of the highest level (Jedi) by making the player's blaster much more powerful. As a result, Jedi becomes a lot easier than Hard.
  • Touhou Project:
    • This happens to some spellcards in the series particularly since easier difficulties tend to slow down the bullets, which sometimes just makes the patterns denser, leaves more bullets on the screen, and requires more micrododging. A good example is Touhou Fuujinroku ~ Mountain of Faith, Kanako's last spellcard, on Easy and Normal: see this video for a comparison.
    • Sometimes, on higher difficulties spellcards get replaced by ones that don't work quite the same way as the previous versions (ranging from difference in how the bullets are spawned to straight up not having much in common with the other version). There are cases where the version on higher difficulty is actually easier to deal with, or at the very least easier to get into the "flow", such as Marisa's Lunatic version of Shoot the Moon compared to Normal's Eartlight Ray.
    • In Touhou Shinreibyou ~ Ten Desires, Miko's Overdrive spellcard is considerably easier than its Hard and Lunatic variants. While there's bullets orbiting clockwise and counterclockwise now, it's just not that dense. While this is the most striking case, Overdrive cards in general are fairly erratic in difficulty, as the tend to be remixed versions rather than straight upgrades.
  • Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest's hard mode removes all DK barrels, but on the other hand, levels always start with both Kongs.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, the submarine minigame (Gold Saucer version) is easier on "harder" modes because of the abundance of targets helps reaching the required points total.
  • Aerobiz: Supersonic plays with this one. The first four difficulty levels determine the scenario goals, with each step up requiring dominance in one more region. However, the scenario goals are the same for all four players, thus while you have to dominate [X] regions against your competitors, so do they against you. Combined with Artificial Stupidity, this makes the middle difficulties easier to win because an astute player can easily block the others from getting enough regions to win. It's the easiest level where players have to watch out for airlines expanding into regions he may not be able to reach as they go for the win.
  • While Civilization V does get harder the further up you go in difficulty, it also changes the strategy of the game significantly, and a very fast science win is easier on the higher difficulties. On the highest difficulty, Deity, the challenge is to get as much gold from your neighbours as possible, and use the gold to enter research agreements, which the AI will accept since it's swimming in gold. This strategy is less useful on, say, Prince, as the AI won't have as much gold for you to game out of them. When playing as Venice, this is taken further as you can peacefully make puppets out of city-states, who enjoy the same bonuses that other AI civs do up until the point that you puppet them, meaning they'll construct plenty of buildings and units that will become yours with no costly fighting or warmonger penalty.
  • In Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, it's somewhat easier to get higher grades (which are based on your ranking percentile rather than an absolute scale) on the harder and later courses like Half, because there are less players making a serious attempt on those courses than on the earlier and more popular courses such as Championship II and Highway.
    • Also, by design, higher difficulties increase your general speed, which makes it harder to keep your line, but lets you score more points in the same amount of time.
  • In Shining Force II, you can pick a difficulty setting of "Normal", "Hard", "Super", or "Ouch!", presented in that order. Guess which one is the hardest difficulty setting. If you guessed "Ouch!", you're wrong, the actual hard mode is "Super".
  • Castlevania: Harmony of Despair 's Dracula has the Demonic Megiddo attack, a powerful move that can only be avoided by running to the corners of the boss room. In Hard Mode, the attack gains fire pillars that appear in the safe spots during the attack's wind up, forcing the player to wait until the last possible second to run to safety. This makes the move harder to dodge, but it also functions as a much more obvious telegraph that Demonic Megiddo is coming than the Instant Runes that are the only other warning.
  • Wake gives easy, normal and hard, which affects the flooding rate of water, and your damage tolerance. Hard also allows you to wall jump freely. Two difficulty multipliers, flooded ship (which extinguishes fire and powers down turrets) and realism (prevents ship flooding) negate most of the hard-mode penalties.
  • In both games of the Metro 2033 series, playing on Easy turns everyone and everything into bullet sponges. Harder difficulties, on the contrary, turns both you and your enemies into wet toilet paper in terms of health. This means that, while you generally have to play quite a bit more carefully than usual on Hardcore or Ranger modes, especially when it comes to human mooks, mutant attacks are much less of a problem since you can kill them far more easily and lessen the risk of getting swarmed. You find less ammo, but also need less at the same time.
  • Playing Megaman X 5 on a higher difficulty sets the bosses at higher levels... meaning you get much much nicer upgrade parts from them, which makes the game much easier. On the flipside, playing on easy locks all the bosses at level 1, meaning you get NO upgrade parts at all and the game is way harder once you reach Sigma's level.
  • Mass Effect 3 plays this out in its own way for its multiplayer levels. The higher difficulties, Gold and Platinum, often feature a deluge of monstrous bullet sponges and heavy-hitting specialized forces to pit against the players. This is of note, because almost all these creatures require different tactics to tackle compared to the more run-of-the-mill mooks with guns seen in Bronze or Silver. There's been cases where hardened veterans of Gold would jump into a Silver match expecting a more relaxed battle, then getting downed several times in the first few rounds as they forgot how to counter Cerberus small-squad tactics or the advances of Geth troopers.
  • One achievement in Starcraft II requires you to win a free-for-all game with 7 AI opponents set at the highest difficulty. However, since it's a free-for-all, quite often they end up attacking each other more often than you, and the necessarily large map means a lot more resources. And as the achievement only requires that you win, not defeat every one of them yourself, you can play it conservatively early on and then swoop in .
  • The Disgaea series lets you pass bills to increase and decrease enemy levels, effectively changing the difficulty level. But due to an oddity in the programming, there are different formulas for calculating how much XP enemies dole out, one for enemies of level 1-99 (i.e. what the story features by default) and one for levels 100+ (the postgame content, mainly). And these formulas are set up so that level 99 characters are actually worth more than characters who are much higher in level. So if you can adjust a map to have enemies of exactly level 99, it becomes a great Level Grinding spot, and you'll quickly level to the point where the rest of the game is a cakewalk, whereas if you'd stayed on easier enemies your progress would be much slower. It's almost an Ascended Glitch in later games, which tend to include at least one stage that has bonus XP Geo Effects and enemies at levels where they can be adjusted to 99.
  • Playing Scrabble against the computer on the hardest level is only hard because the game only uses the highest-scoring word it can muster, clobbering the human with brute force through the highest scoring words it can play. The computer, however, utterly stinks at strategy because only playing the highest scoring words limits its options. In its effort to lay down the highest scoring words that it can, it will open up plays any sensible human would not, like ending a word on or one space away from the edge of the board, where those tasty triple word score bonuses will be waiting for the player.
  • Dynomite! has this a bit with its time trial mode. The time trial mode is impossible to actually lose, but it actually tends to be easier to get better times on harder difficulties, because while higher difficulties put more colors of eggs in the puzzle (5 on Easy, 7 on Normal, and 9 on Hard), they also give you fewer lines to clear (60 on Easy, 30 on Normal, and 15 on Hard).
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV, the Final Bosses are at level 99. However, several high-end superbosses, such as the Fiends, are pegged at level 80-90. Anyone who goes into these superbosses expecting them to be easier due to being rated lower than the final bosses will be in for a massive rude awakening.
  • In The Simpsons: Road Rage, while "Easy" gives you a significantly more lenient timer to work with, in practice the score and cash bonuses you get for playing on "Hard" very quickly outweighs the time penalty, making game progression much faster even for less skilled players.
  • If you get 100% Completion on a Silent Hill 4: The Room game file, you'll unlock "One Weapon Mode", which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: you get to pick one, and only one, non plot-relevant weapon aside from the golf clubs. Sounds tough, isn't it? Not really: you have a pick of all the non plot-relevant weapons in the entire game in the first area, and that selection includes the rusty axe, a Game-Breaker contender because it does good damage against multiple enemies and has a charge attack that makes you invulnerable.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse plays with it, by way of Level Scaling. Many of the harder villains do their damage, or have their minions do damage, based on the number of players, most usually setting the damage at "# of players -2" or "# of players -1." This means that the minimum sized party of three players is taking substantially less damage from most of the villains' attacks. This creates an odd situation where a horde of zombies that are able to do significant damage against a full team of five heroes is barely able to even touch a group half that size.
    • Some of the villains, in practice, just do not pose the kind of challenge their rating should suggest. The Matriarch, rated one of the toughest villains released, may have a lot of minions and will punish you for taking them out, but each minion is so weak that there are numerous ways to just plain ignore the damage they dish out, allowing you to just whack Matriarch directly. On the other hand, the two lowest-difficulty villains, Baron Blade and Omnitron, have attack cards that force you to abandon your equipment or face massive, global damage, or automatically destroy your equipment and do damage based on how many cards you lose; either one can turn into a Total Party Kill to the unprepared.
    • Some villains are just wildly inconsistent depending on which heroes are used. Spite is listed as fairly difficult, and his second phase lives up to the hype: he doesn't draw anymore which neuters deck control, constantly disrupts the heroes' equipment and ongoing cards, and does frequent damage of varying types while aggressively milling the victim's deck with every hit. However, he's the only source of damage in his deck and none of it is irreducible, and his disruption effects return ongoings to their owner's hands instead of destroying them. This means a hero team with damage reduction can totally blunt his damage, keep their one-turn ongoings up constantly while never having to pay the cost due to being removed early, and heroes like Tachyon or Luminary who enjoy having large trash piles can absolutely trounce him.
  • StepMania:
    • Beginner sometimes has the hardest chart since failing on that difficulty is automatically turned off. Fortunately, it'll usually say it's the hardest chart.
    • There are many different difficulty scales, ranging from the standard DanceDanceRevolution or In the Groove scales, to the notes per minute scale to even making the easiest chart in the pack a 1 and the hardest a 10. Also, the DDR community has largely shifted to the 1-20 ratings used since DDR X. The Etterna fork features a standardized difficulty rating, however.
  • Wario's Woods has this with the battle mode against computer opponents. The first one is easy, sure, but the computer amps up its intelligence starting with the second level, making it possibly the hardest level of the game. You both only have a few enemies to clear, so there's less opportunity to screw over your opponent, and even though the game gets more challenging from here on out, a skilled player is increasingly less likely to lose from here on out while against your second opponent it's almost a 50/50 crapshoot.
  • Copy Robot in Mega Man Powered Up seems to get easier the higher up in difficulty you go. On Easy, he runs around at his own pace, firing without any set pattern, and has access to Mega Man's entire weapon arsenal and loves to spam whichever one your character is weak to. On Normal, his movement is based on yours: he turns when you turn and jumps when you do. Once you know this, you can keep him pinned at the side of the room and unable to do anything. On Hard, he just moves around the room in a set pattern firing charge shots. Due to the charge, you have a clear indication of when he's going to fire, so dodging him is much simpler than on Easy.
  • In the first two S.T.A.L.K.E.R. -games, harder difficulty levels are generally considered to be easier. This is because of a weird game mechanic that makes some of the shots that technically should have hit count as misses. Increasing difficulty makes it easier to hit for both the player and the enemies while also making combat all-around more lethal. This generally works to player's advantage, at least if they have somewhat decent aim and can score headshots reliably. Averted in Call of Pripyat, as the miss mechanic is removed and the increased damage only applies against the player.
  • Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim: On Catastrophe story mode, the ability to farm stat seeds for STR and DEF makes the endgame far easier than on a non-Catastrophe run. This doesn't apply in Time Attack, which doesn't give Adol store-bought seeds.
  • Mega Man Legends 2 is actually easier on hard because enemies drop significantly more money and starts you with an S-Class License. This allows you to upgrade your sub weapons much quicker, including the Game Breakers, and also means you don't have to do the god-forsaken digger exams which are much, much harder than anything hard mode throws at you.
  • The 4/20 challenge in Five Nights at Freddy's (in which, on Night 7, you set all four animatronics to their maximum AI level of 20), has a quirk when it comes to Bonnie and Chica that has lead some to speculate that setting their AI level to 18 or 19 might actually be harder than putting it at 20. The numbers are used to determine whether, at set intervals, an animatronic will move; 1 means a 5% chance, while 20 means a 100% chance. When those two specific animatronics are outside your office, they will remain in place until their next successful movement check, and on 4/20 mode that is guaranteed to be after about 5 seconds. On a slightly lower AI level however, they have a chance to stay outside the office for an extended period of time, wasting power and putting you at the mercy of the Random Number God.
  • Halo:
    • In the second level of Halo: Combat Evolved, "Halo", the final part of it is open-ended, as you are tasked with searching three areas in any order for lifeboat survivors. In the hub area that connects the three, roaming squads of Covenant are spread about. Due to a bizarre oversight however, the number of squads in this area actually decrease the higher your difficulty is, with none appearing at all on Legendary.
    • In general, the Halo games increase the difficulty of fighting enemies not by increasing their health, but by reducing the damage your weapons do. This does make a few things like grenade jumping easier on Legendary than Easy for example.
    • The effects of the "Mythic" skull (all non-specialist enemies are promoted to their highest rank) can in some circumstances make enemy behaviour more exploitable than they were at lower ranks.
      • In Halo 2, upgrading all the Elites to Elite Ultras opens the door to a new trick in exploiting their AI. All Elites will play an 'enraged' animation when you are in close-range with them with their shields down, but the Ultras will also specifically pull out an Energy Sword when doing so. This makes obtaining the extremely powerful Energy Sword much easier throughout much of the game.
      • In Halo Infinite, the mid-rank Skimmers carry Shock Rifles, which are very accurate and can quickly tear you apart when they attack in swarms. With the Mythic skull, all those Skimmers get upgraded to use the Rocket Launcher instead, which they are a bit more conservative with and fire projectiles which are much easier to predict and dodge.
  • All pinball machines released in the past several decades allow the operator to adjust the steepness of the playfield. While a steeper grade will speed the ball up and make it roll down faster, there is a lot less horizontal movement of the ball, allowing players to reasonably predict where the ball will go and more than makes up for the increased difficulty of reacting to its descents. Pre-release demonstrations of The Hobbit with a low grade showed that this is true even for beginners and novices: Even they had more problems when the playfield was not as steep as normal.
  • The map of Ghost Recon Wildlands is divided into numerous regions that each have a difficulty rating between one and five skulls, with five naturally being the most challenging. Unfortunately, this rating is basically meaningless as far as missions are concerned. It's not uncommon to breeze through five-skull missions without breaking stride but then get cockblocked for hours on allegedly trivial one or two-skull missions. The only thing that actually, reliably increases with higher skull ratings is the number of Elite Mooks you encounter and the size of the bases you can infiltrate to unlock the best equipment. However, the game's combat mechanics make it so that any enemy dies in one hit from any weapon as long as they're unaware of your presence, so unless you go full Leeroy Jenkins instead of proceeding stealthily, clearing five-skull bases with your starting weapons is no more difficult than doing it with endgame gear. And as was just mentioned, the game's best weapons are found in these regions, so running there ASAP to sneak around for a bit fills your armory with Disc One Nukes and makes the rest of the game a whole lot easier.
  • Crash Team Racing breaks its characters down into categories of Beginner (the slow characters with good handling), Intermediate (The Jacks Of All Stats and the good accelerators with poor handling) and Advanced (The fast characters with poor handling and acceleration). However, "easy to control" doesn't translate to "easy to use" in this game because getting turbo boosts from power sliding is the way to speed up and the already faster characters are more effective at it than the ones with good handling, leaving those characters as simply too slow to catch up. How it really breaks down is Intermediate = Easy, Advanced = Medium, and Beginner = Hard.
  • Played with in Guardian Tales on the Nightmare loops. As stated, Nightmare is implied to be a harder loop of the worlds, but not in this game; they are instead different stories with different cutscenes taking place in each world like a revisit. World 6, 10, and 11 have you take control of fixed parties which render the difficulty keeping up with the enemies non-existent.
  • Progressbar 95: The difficulty levels in Progressbar NOT don't always decide how hard a level actually is due to the custom difficulty system having some factors be more dangerous than others despite giving a similar amount of points. For example, an Extreme mode (x3.000 - x3.999 point multiplier) with nearly maxed out game pace and segment speed, maximum red segment frequency, pop-ups and level puzzles on, but most other settings low is much more difficult and lengthy than a Surviving mode (x4.000 - x4.999 point multiplier) with maxed out game pace and segment speed, minimal segment wobble but maxed segment wobble speed, minimal red segment frequency, and pop-ups and level puzzles on (the level on Surviving is still likely to cause deaths, but it'd be much more beatable).
  • Resident Evil 4's highest and hardest difficulty, Professional Mode, is the easiest of all the difficulties to speedrun. All lower modes have Dynamic Difficulty that, depending on the performance of the player, will adjust the number, strength and AI of enemies as well as Random Drops. Professional Mode ignores this and always has its difficulty set to max no matter what, meaning it's the least random and has the most reliable and consistent Random Number God.
  • The Binding of Isaac:
    • There is the Champion's Belt and the Purple Heart, both of which claim to "increase the challenge". However, they accomplish this by boosting the appearance rate of "champion" monsters which, while a bit more difficult to take down and capable of doing a bit more damage, are also guaranteed to drop money, hearts, keys, or bombs on defeat on regular mode. Even on hard mode, where the chance is only 33%, it's still higher than the normal monster chance of zero. The extra loot you'll be getting will more than make up for the added challenge of enemies that are only slightly more dangerous to defeat.
    • Hard Mode in general. Some of the ways it rachets up the difficulty are more rooms per floor, more champion monsters, and a much lowered chance of rooms dropping hearts upon completion. Note though that the item drop rate in general stays the same, and this means more bombs, keys, and trinkets from rooms and chests. More keys means you have a much better time gaining access to locked rooms and chests. More bombs means you can search for secret rooms more effectively, can afford to bomb shopkeepers on the regular which greatly increases your chances of getting Devil / Angel rooms and "Shopkeeper" items like Steam Sale, Head Of The Keeper, and Coupon, and even more coins, and can spend bombs much more casually to blast mushrooms for pills, skulls for devil hearts / cards, and tinted rocks for soul hearts / cellars. More coins means you can buy powerups from shops and feed beggars and slot machines for even more powerups. Other ways Hard Mode increases the difficulty are often negligible: who cares if shops have less stuff, tainted rocks appear less, and machines / beggars have less payouts if on Regular Mode you can't afford to use these things anyways, and who cares if you're getting less hearts when you are so much more powerful that you have an easier time not getting hit? In fact, some players have noted they find Regular Mode harder after getting used to the increased resources of Hard Mode.
  • BattleTech (2018) is Nintendo Hard to begin with, but the listed difficulty for individual missions is calculated based on relative 'Mech tonnages, which is only marginally useful given how much variety there is in both player and AI loadouts.


Video Example(s):


Nagisa no koakuma lovely~radio

Yes, this is the "Challenge" difficulty, and notice how OMG KON! just walks away like that.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / NonIndicativeDifficulty

Media sources: