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Sequel Difficulty Spike

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Gives Streets of Rage a whole new meaning.

"...the trend back around this time was when you made an expansion to a game, it would be hard as nails, because the company figured, 'Well, you played the first game; if you're buying this you must be an expert, so here you go, expert!'"
Ross's Game Dungeon while reviewing Bip Bob III

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

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

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

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

Compare Harder Than Hard (a very hard difficulty mode), Surprise Difficulty (when a game is much harder than the preview makes it seem), and Difficulty Spike (which happens in the same game).

Contrast Sequel Difficulty Drop and Easier Than Easy.


Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Action Adventure 
  • Castlevania:
  • Horizon Zero Dawn is not an especially difficult game, unless you're playing on the harder difficulty settings. Its Expansion Pack The Frozen Wilds, on the other hand, starts with its first mission having a level recommendation on par with the base game's final story mission. It lets you know right out of the gate what you're in for by putting one of its new high-level Demonic Spider enemies on the mountain pass that leads Aloy into The Cut, the region where the expansion takes place, in order to ensure that the player has the skills and the gear to tackle the DLC missions.
  • La-Mulana is not an easy game by any means, but it is significantly easier than its sequel. La-Mulana 2 is bigger, more complex, with much harder encounters, more devious traps, and more intense boss fights. To wit, the first level of La-Mulana 1, the Gate of Guidance, has few rooms, simple puzzles, and an extremely easy boss in the original and remake that you don't even have to fight at first. The first level of 2 is the Roots of Yggdrasil which has a complex design, crusher traps, two painfully tough minibosses, and a surprisingly challenging boss you have to defeat to leave.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Due to game mechanics completely different from the rest of the series, many fans consider it the hardest game in the franchise. The game teems with Demonic Spiders, the Video-Game Lives setup makes continuing a bit more painful, and The Very Definitely Final Dungeon is pure hell and you'll likely get lost and fight your way through rooms you don't actually have to deal with. And there's only one save point.
    • Some elements of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, such as the day cycle mechanic and the dungeon layouts, are harder than its predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. While the first game eases you into dungeons, with all the child-era ones lacking keys and the first one even lacking a mini-boss, even the first dungeon of Majora bitch-slaps you with keys, a confusing layout, two minibosses, Odolwa, a time limit, and is guaranteed to give you a bad time if you didn't explore the world and find some extra items first. Most of the fights are easier with one notable exception being the Iron Knuckle: unlike the first game they start running when you knock their chest plate off which is guaranteed to scare the crap out of players from the first game.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games both offer a massive difficulty spike over The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Oracle of Seasons focusing much more on combat and Oracle of Ages being packed to the rafters with difficult and often very unintuitive puzzles.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is much more unforgiving than any of the series' other 3D entries. The opening area is full of enemies that can give you a One-Hit Kill, you have to scavenge for weapons, shields, and health restoration items, and it really doesn't hold your hand showing you where to go.
    • Hyrule Warriors is a case of Updated Re-release Difficulty Spike. Legends and Definitive Edition have several Adventure Mode-style objectives in every scenario in Legend Mode, including those returning from the Wii U version. Nominally, this is meant to prevent the new character-switch mechanic from making things 'too easy', but it mostly just comes across as Fake Difficulty due to having at least two objectives running at any given time.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom ramps up the challenge from Breath of The Wild. Much of the challenge from that game is still present in Tears of the Kingdom, with new mechanics and AI to challenge seasoned players. Enemies deal huge damage. It's all too easy to get wiped out in a few hits even with plenty of hearts. Stealth gameplay took a massive Nerf, as enemies are far more aware of their surroundings, necessitating more head on fights. Finally, puzzles are far more complex, requiring lots of ingenuity to solve.
  • Level 1 in MediEvil 2 is teeming with extremely difficult musket-armed enemies that were introduced in the first game in Level 4, and in small numbers. In addition, the fountains of rejuvenization are gone forever once you used all of their energy, making refilling the life bottles and recovering health nearly impossible.
  • After the three Shantae games following the first toned down the difficulty, the Definitive Mode of Shantae and the Seven Sirens raises it a bit, namely in that enemies start hitting harder earlier and the game goes back to the Heart Squid system from Pirate's Curse instead of handing you Heart Holders left and right like in Half-Genie Hero. It's zig-zagged, though, in that the game also has a Beginner Mode that gives you complete invincibility.

    Action Game 
  • The sequel to Cyber Chaser, Cyber Chaser: Counterthrust, is quite a bit harder. Prices are higher and level design is often trickier.
  • The first Devil May Cry was a challenging game. The second, not so much, but it's not very well regarded. Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, on the other hand, definitely hits the Nintendo Hard standard and is easily the most difficult game of the series. It starts out hard and just gets worse from there (although it didn't help that the original Western release of DMC3 inexplicably labeled the Japanese version's "Hard" difficulty as its "Normal" instead).
  • Hotline Miami wasn't easy by any means, but it pales in comparison to its sequel Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, which has wider levels with more areas to be ambushed from by enemies (which now have larger cones of vision and reaction), a larger emphasis on firearms and special enemy types such as Thugs and the newly-introduced Dodgers, and several levels with unique twists like "Withdrawal", which features meth labs that go off if so much as a single bullet enters their rooms.
  • Mega Man Battle Network was occasionally quite vicious with this. The first game was very forgiving right up until the endgame, but the second didn't take long at all to ramp up, and the third went right for the throat with the very first boss. The Superbosses in all six games were a steady increase from interesting-but-manageable to pure WTF territory with zero room for error.
    • In general, the Battle Network games openly assume you're playing them all in order, and someone coming in mid-series is going to get one "dungeon" to ease them into the middle of a difficulty curve, two if they're lucky, and that's only because they function as a tutorial on that game's specific quirks. For example, HP regenerates between battles in the first game, and the one area that doesn't happen in is considered a punishing slog In-Universe. From the second game on, those are the normal rules.
  • Mega Man Legends 2 is much harder than its predecessor. Reaverbots can take far more abuse, move faster, can spot you from farther away, and some can even inflict status ailments. If you thought defending City Hall from The Bonnes was tricky, wait until you need to defend Nino City from Glyde, and just wait until you decide to go for that S-Class Digger License...
  • Ninja Gaiden 3: Unlike its predecessors, there are no infinite continues. This applies more to the western versions due to the Japanese version being much easier. See Difficulty by Region.
  • Super Star Wars is known for being quite difficult, but The Empire Strikes Back ramps up the difficulty tenfold; enemies spawn very frequently, nearly every boss is a Damage-Sponge Boss, every level has some form of a Bottomless Pit, you're forced to use different characters when it's called for, and the controls for the Snowspeeder and Millennium Falcon aren't exactly good. Return of the Jedi drops the difficulty down just slightly.

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

    Card Games 

    Fighting Game 

    First-Person Shooter 
  • BioShock 2, while your Player Character is stronger overall than in the first game, you're forced to fight a much greater quantity of enemies, both at once and overall. The inability to backtrack might also have something to do with it. If you don't want the ADAM in each level to be lost, you have to collect it all while you're there, which means fending off several hordes of splicers, then facing the Big Sister. The hacking minigame is also harder, as you have to do it in real time, and it's reflexes-based instead of puzzle-based.
  • BioShock Infinite also takes a step up in challenge from its predecessors, influenced by it committing fully into shooter action over the subtler Immersive Sim gameplay of before. While this means some aspects are greatly simplified (hacking is completely absent and supplanted with the Possession ability, and Item Crafting and the need to gather resources other than money is out), death is more punishing (respawning causes you to lose money and for the enemies to heal back up), enemies are a lot more aggressive and require more craftiness to kill, upgrades are a lot more expensive, and — with Irrational Games having learned their lesson from previous games — the Game Breakers are a lot less break-y than usual. That's not even counting the optional 1999 Mode.
  • Borderlands 2 pumped up everything from the first game, including the difficulty. Weapons with rare elements like Corrosive and Slag appear less frequently, you can't carry as many items as you could in the first game, and upgrading your backpack and ammo capacity has to be done with an alternate currency that is hard to find. The enemy AI has also been significantly upgraded; enemies will actively take cover during gunfights and will flank you if you choose to hide behind cover. If you go into bleed out, enemies will keep moving and use cover to prevent you from killing them so you can get second wind.
  • Condemned 2: Bloodshot has a much more complex combat system than the original game, requiring you to use combos and time your attacks much more precisely to be really effective in combat. The sequel also no longer has infinite taser shots, and requires much more attention paid to investigation segments as you are graded on how accurately you can assess crime scenes and the like.
  • Dark Forces Saga:
    • The early levels of Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast are a lot tougher than the equivalent non-Jedi, shooter-based levels in Dark Forces and Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. This is largely due to the vastly improved AI of the Imperial Stormtroopers, which lets them strafe back and forth quickly while firing, making it much harder to hit them and turning them into an actual credible threat (at least until you get a lightsaber and the ability to reflect blaster bolts). Outcast is also more stingy with health, ammo, and especially shield pickups, and the damage of the enemy's weapons also seems to have been jacked up a bit. Even navigation is more difficult, the game frequently requiring you to find hidden pathways and areas that would be secrets or even outright exploits in a game not designed around the fact that you can jump 20-plus feet in the air.
    • Certain elements of Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy have been made more difficult than its predecessor Jedi Outcast, most notably combat against non-Jedi. The most obvious example is that the lightsaber no longer perfectly blocks enemy projectiles, with blaster bolts occasionally getting through, forcing you to dodge and go on the offensive much more. Jedi Academy also adds a number of special enemies, including Rocket Troopers, Hazard Troopers, and Assassin Droids, that are specifically designed to fight Jedi. A certain bit of Fridge Brilliance explains why your defenses are imperfect: you play rookie Jedi-in-training Jaden Korr, who as far as we know never so much as picked up a weapon prior to building their lightsaber, rather than Memetic Badass Kyle Katarn, who has a defined backstory including military training and had already been the protagonist of two games and part of an expansion by the time of Jedi Outcast.
  • Doom:
    • Ultimate Doom, the updated re-release of the original Doom game, contained the new episode "Thy Flesh Consumed". This episode is notable for being significantly harder than the original campaigns for several reasons. The first mission actually doesn't contain enough ammo to kill every enemy encountered while the second is a grueling marathon featuring lots of Barons, Cacodemons, and even a Cyberdemon. The campaign also uses some mean tricks not seen in the original episodes, such as starting a mission with enemies already attacking you.
    • Mission-Pack Sequel Doom II: Hell on Earth is noticeably harder than its predecessor, what with a lot more monsters per map, new enemies that are more brutal than the ones before, Cyberdemons and Spider Masterminds becoming regular enemies while losing none of their lethality, and larger levels filled with Malevolent Architecture. Case in point, the game's "normal" mode ("Hurt Me Plenty") is at least as hard as the original game's "hard" mode ("Ultra-Violence"), if not harder.
    • Final Doom, designed mainly around what players could do with a now-standard keyboard and mouse control schemenote , goes even further — especially with The Plutonia Experiment, a ball-breakingly hard map pack that is filled to the brim with chaingunners in full-fledged firing lines that can turn you into Swiss cheese with their rapid hitscan attacks, Arch-Viles much more commonly than any other title and deployed in locations where they can cause a lot of damage or severely drain your resources, almost as many Revenants as Imps, and plenty of Pain Elementals to block your pathing, make you waste ammunition, and cause face-rocket hazards. And its two secret levels ("Cyberden" and "Go 2 It") are among the most formidable in the whole franchise, so much that the game explicitly warns the player to rollback to a previous save (namely one where said levels aren't unlocked yet) in case they feel too overwhelmed by the difficulty.
    • Doom (2016) is this compared to Doomł, being an Actionized Sequel and a Genre Throwback to id Software's earlier shooters. Both old and new demons fill the roster, with the combat significantly sped up and forcing you to fight large waves of enemies in tight spaces.
    • Doom Eternal is this for 2016; the pace is much faster, there's more emphasis on fighting enemies head-on, enemies are significantly more numerous and aggressive, players need to be more strategic with their weapons, ammunition, and abilities, and that's not even getting into all the new and even tougher demons the game introduces (plus some returning old friends from Doom II). The DLC The Ancient Gods ramps up the difficulty even further, with more enemies in every area, especially super heavies, and some maps have Everything Trying to Kill You, not just the demons.
  • Halo:
    • Halo 2 is an interesting case in that the normal difficulty is actually noticeably easier than the original game (faster regeneration, not having to worry about health, enemies die noticeably more quickly and don't dodge as much, much easier to score instant-kill headshots, a wider selection of better weaponry, vastly improved friendly A.I.), while the heroic and legendary difficulty are much harder than their equivalents in the original game, due to factors such as much weaker shields, Jackal Snipers, level design that makes it much easier to get surrounded and burnt to a crisp with plasma, etc. Halo 3, compared to its predecessor, downgraded the difficulty.
    • Halo: Reach is noticeably harder than Halo 3. The Covenant enemies have been significantly improved (with Elites dodging and strafing like crazy), and the game uses the original Halo: Combat Evolved game mechanics of a weaker energy shield and finite, non-regenerating health. Bungie claimed that Legendary difficulty on Reach would be the most difficult Halo experience ever. They weren't kidding. To clarify: Shooting an enemy Brute in the face four times with a Fuel Rod Gun is enough to maybe knock his mask off. His use of the same weapon hitting five feet away can cause a nearby pebble to bounce away and pass through your brain, killing you instantly.
  • Left 4 Dead 2 is a lot more difficult than the previous game for most players. Zombies are now everywhere you go instead of being scattered or appearing with hordes, new special infected makes old strategies like camping or being in narrow halls a bad idea, crescendos are now "run from point A to point B" in order to stop hordes from coming forever, one finale now has two Tanks appearing at the same time, and the survivor AI players are so bad that it makes the experience even more frustrating. Anyone who was used to playing Advanced or Expert in the first game will be in for a rude awakening if they try to play on those difficulties off the bat in the sequel. On top of this, the AI Director is even more of a prick than it was in the first game. With all the new special infected, it's possible to be gang banged by having a Jockey pounce you, then being snatched up by a Charger and pushed into a Spitter's acid patch for more damage. If that wasn't bad enough, try some maps where the AI Director will say "fuck you" and toss a Witch or a Tank right in front of the safe room. The "Last Stand" update in 2019 made it even worse, updating the Special Infected AI to account for ten years of players' experience in Versus mode - even a group of day-one veterans playing Advanced will find it a harrowing challenge.
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. A lot of people never beat the Boost Guardian (encountered early in the game, before the player has discovered many upgrades). The worlds are huge and several bosses are hard, and Dark Aether doesn't help the situation much either. Many of the enemies are harder as well, and the beam ammo system only increases the difficulty. And unlike the original and Corruption, Echoes is the only game in the Metroid Prime Trilogy to never grant Samus immunity to Phazon, despite spreading it around Dark Aether like it was going out of style. Also unlike Prime 1 and 3, its late-game Fetch Quest cannot be done ahead except for four of the nine Sky Temple Keys, so it can only be completed by spending a painstaking amount of time backtracking.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 on Veteran difficulty is insane compared to the previous game. Not only can you survive much less damage, but enemies are suddenly psychic and have superhuman reflexes and perfect aim. The only concession is that they're not constantly spamming you with 6 grenades at the same time like in Call of Duty: World at War or every other previous Call of Duty.
  • Rainbow Six 3's Elite (read: Impossible) difficulty is much more frustrating than in previous games, due to the increased prescience, response speed, and accuracy of the AI, as well as level design that makes it easier to get blindsided by wandering tangoes.
  • Rise of the Triad is far from an easy game, with some incredibly deadly enemies and platforming challenges on an engine really not built to do platforming. In Extreme Rise of the Triad, the expansion, the very first level starts you in a room filled with Deathfire Monks, which served as the original's endgame enemies. This is considered one of the easiest levels in the expansion.
  • Soldier of Fortune II definitely qualifies, mainly because the AI is much more of a cheating bastard.
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky is noticeably tougher than STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, mostly due to the addition of many Fake Difficulty elements such as an enemy hit detection system that causes shots to randomly not register when you shoot someone, and magical homing enemy frag grenades. Thankfully, these (and many other interface and gameplay issues) were mostly corrected in the third game in the series, STALKER: Call of Pripyat.
  • Star Trek: Elite Force II is noticeably harder than the original game, but this is mostly because the first game was unusually easy (with every enemy except the final boss doing very little damage individually, and very generous placement of health and shield refills), so much so that the Harder Than Hard difficulty was much closer to what most other FPS shooters consider Normal difficulty. The difficulty of Elite Force II is much closer to that of a mainstream shooter, and the later levels get genuinely hard even on the default difficulty.
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is markedly more difficult than the previous game. Mostly due to enemies dealing signifigantly more damage, even on lower difficulties.
  • Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, while already a game considered as Nintendo Hard to a number of people, takes it further with both expansions, but this especially applies to the second expansion Breakthrough. While the base game and Spearhead suffered from occasions where Drought Level of Doom scenarios happened in harder difficulties with regards to medkits, this expansion took this even further by also doing this on Normal difficulty, and by also making ammunition as scarce as the medkits. Needless to say, it caused a lot of fans and critics a lot of headaches.

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

    MMORPGs 
  • Guild Wars:
    • There is a notable one from Prophecies to Factions. Prophecies wasn't that hard sans a few missions that were Luck-based (ie monk boss spawning in a very bad spot) and some difficulty spikes, but Factions did not screw around. It shoves you right into level 20 missions, and 90% of the missions are an Escort Mission. (But to be fair; Togo and Mhenlo do hold their ground and heal, they're actually not like Prince Rurik and run right on in. Given the nature of these missions you'll need the free healing.) While Vizunah Square may have been nerfed to not throw zillions of level 20 mooks at you, it doesn't get any easier. Vizunah square was worse in 2006 when Factions was new and people didn't know you were actually supposed to be level 20 before Vizunah Square so it wasn't uncommon to see people at level 15 or so trying to run the mission only to get chewed up by level 20s, and there were still plenty of people who went right to Factions instead of having beaten Prophecies...
    • The Beyond content which served as a Post-Script Season for the original game is significantly harder than the original games. Enemies are powerful, move in large groups, and have extremely well-designed movesets.
  • Guild Wars 2:
    • The game had a significant difficulty jump from its core game to the first expansion, Heart of Thorns. Especially for recent max level characters, even open world content which was usually safe to solo became significantly more dangerous. At the same time, the Elite specializations and Mastery system which allowed for continued character development were locked behind content gates.
    • The Super Adventure Box initially released with only World 1 available, which was overall relatively easy and forgiving. Subsequent releases added World 2 which not only has more dangerous enemies and environmental hazards, but also has significantly longer levels. Those levels also feature far more precision jumping, puzzle solving, and new mechanics than anything seen in World 1.
  • The Cataclysm expansion of World of Warcraft faced this with heroic dungeons due to a greater emphasis on mechanics. In Wrath of the Lich King most heroic dungeons could be run with great ease by the end of the expansion; mechanics such as limited healer mana, crowd control, and target selection were only an issue in raids. Cataclysm brought these into heroic dungeons as well, making them significantly harder. Queue times spiked drastically as the combined result of tanks having to lead, healers having to be tactical, and dps having to pay attention to anything other than their rotation, and frustration with people not doing these things drove tanks in particular away in droves. This is in part due to Blizzard trying to reverse the Sequel Difficulty Drop seen after Burning Crusade. Outland heroic dungeons were significantly more difficult than Wrath and even many Cataclysm heroics. This stopped being in the case after the Firelands patch due to Blizzard's insistence of nerfing the Heroic Mode so that more casual players could get into raid content more easier.

    Platform Game 
  • Banjo-Tooie, the sequel to Banjo-Kazooie, is much more complex and challenging than its predecessor. The levels are a lot larger and more complex (to the point that warp pads are introduced), and the Jiggies are harder to find, as there is almost none out in plain sight like in the previous game's earlier stages. The bosses are more plentiful and more difficult overall, including the infamous Weldar of Grunty Industries. As a whole, the game approaches the more complex design and style of Donkey Kong 64, which already gained a fame of being overwhelming in many areas. It is worth noting, however, that Rare did show some mercy by removing some of Kazooie's more irritating components, such as giving the player infinite lives this time around and completely retooling how the collection of Musical Notes works.
  • Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest. The back of the box even said "they FINALLY added some proper challenge to the game." However, it is easier to get 102% completion in the sequel than the original due to the original's near Trial-and-Error Gameplay method of finding many bonus rounds. Years later, Donkey Kong Country Returns came out. The game was so difficult, Gamespy made a specific mention of the Nintendo Hard trope when analyzing it. Fortunately, like in all the Donkey Kong Country games, you have Meaningless Lives.
  • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is this to the already difficult Donkey Kong Country Returns. The levels are longer, the hazards and enemies are more devious, and most of the secret levels rely on more difficult concepts (Shoal Atoll takes place on an underwater maze, Dynamite Dash is about jumping on exploding platforms, etc.). The secret temple levels are longer and more unforgiving as well. In addition, Super Kong has been removed, meaning those who needed it have no choice but to tough it out. It's not all bad, however: Tropical Freeze has fewer worlds and levels, note  a greater selection of more powerful helpers, and an additional health point for vehicles.
  • Item Abuse 3 is much harder than the already difficult Item Abuse 2, requiring many obscure glitches and precise shell jumps. Even spawning a Reznor is harder than in the first two games.
  • Jak II: Renegade is more difficult than Jak and Daxter. Not only does it focus more on combat, but the enemies in II are tougher (most enemies in the first game could be killed in one hit) and more of them have ranged attacks.
  • Kaizo Mario World 2 is this, compared to the already hard Kaizo 1.
  • Klonoa: Dream Champ Tournament's difficulty starts at the level of the previous GBA game's hidden challenge levels, and just goes up from there. 100% Completion is even more difficult with new requirements to never take damage or die while collecting everything in a level.
  • Kirby & the Amazing Mirror is considerably harder than all earlier games in the franchise. In addition to the Metroidvania nature of the game making the levels more challenging to navigate, enemy density is much higher, and some enemies attack much faster and more effectively than they do in other games — Bronto Burts in particular will stalk Kirby relentlessly and respawn when killed. Kirby also loses his ability after one hit from any attack, like in Kirby's Adventure, while he doesn't in other earlier games. You can call for backup from three AI Kirbys and find life extensions throughout the levels to even the odds, though.
  • Mega Man:
    • The first game was considered to be the hardest of the classic series for a long time, with stuff like tricky platforming, no passwords/safe functions, and hard to dodge attacks from bosses. The series gradually declined in general difficulty for much of the classic series, from 2 to 8, especially during late in the NES era, with a couple specific exceptions (like the final boss fight in Mega Man 7, or the snowboarding sections in Mega Man 8.) Then came Mega Man 9, which brought the series back to its old school difficulty, being as difficult as, if not moreso than, the first game.
    • Mega Man X2, and X3 are each consecutively more difficult than the first game. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, since said first game borders on "It's Easy, So It Sucks!" territory (easy for this series, mind you).
    • X1 and X2 offer the most notable difference in difficulty. In X1, hit a boss's weak point and all the challenge is gone - they're toast. Suffice it to say this is not the case in X2.
    • After dialing it back in Mega Man X4, Mega Man X5 dialed it up big time. Instant death hazards are everywhere, bosses give and take hits far harder and even using a weakness only moderately expedites fights.
  • Metal Slug and Metal Slug 2 / X are fairly difficult enough games in the series. Then came along Metal Slug 3, which is not only dramatically longer, but also pushes the challenge even further.
  • Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame is definitely harder than the first game. The enemies are tougher and more numerous, the jumping puzzles have forced two-story falls that hurt, and the Malevolent Architecture is as malevolent as ever.
  • Prince of Persia: Warrior Within introduced new combat system which was much more complicated than its predecessor's.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic 2 for the Game Gear. Oftentimes, you have to perform blind leaps, and there are several sections where timing must be nothing short of absolutely impeccable. Sometimes you're faced with both at the same time.
    • Sonic & Knuckles continues the ascending difficulty curve from Sonic 3. Justified in that they were intended to be one game before being split in half, although there's a noticeable difficulty drop between Launch Base and Mushroom Hill Zones when playing the two games back-to-back as Sonic 3 & Knuckles.
  • Contra:
    • The original arcade version is a short but still difficult game. However, its arcade sequel Super Contra is ridiculously hard by comparison. Most of it has to do with the fact that the enemies are tougher and the player must upgrade their weapons in order to be really good (which can only be done by picking up the same power-up twice in a row). Of course, there are a few cheap spots in the game as well, like the foreground trees that obscure the player's view of the action in the Jungle stage.
    • Their equivalent NES ports. The latter (renamed Super C in North America) thankfully drops the upgrade system, but still has more brutal game design than its predecessor; the first game, while very hard, can be mastered through rote memorization thanks to enemies and hazards mainly sticking to patterns, whereas the sequel throws in tons of sudden, randomized and fast-moving dangers that test your reflexes much more stringently than they do your memory. Also, the famous 30-life code from the first game has been replaced by a measly 10-life code (Japanese versions kept 30-life codes), meaning even if you cheat it's still harder.
    • Hard Corps and Shattered Soldier are the hardest ones in the series. The former was actually given a health bar in the Japanese version.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels is this to the first game. The first game isn't necessarily easy, but Lost Levels was meant for players who mastered the original game, and it shows in many ways: A Poison Mushroom that damages Mario and Luigi (potentially killing them if they're in their small forms), wind currents that make jump timing more difficult, Hammer Bros that can actively walk towards the player, red Piranha Plants that pop out of the pipes even if the player is standing over them, regressive Warp Zones, and an overall devious level design. Also, to unlock the first secret world, it's necessary to clear all regular levels (which means no warping), and for the other secret worlds it's necessary to beat the game eight times (though warping is allowed in this case). Note that the SNES All-Stars version of Lost Levels lets you save after every level; whereas in the original version for the Famicom Disk System, you can only continue from the start of each world; the remake also gives access to the lettered bonus worlds after the first completion.
    • Super Mario Sunshine: Many fans consider this game to be a harder game than Super Mario 64, or even the hardest post-NES Mario platformer. Reasons for this include a big emphasis on precision platforming, the game being a lot more stingy with extra lives than most other Mario games, the controls for the FLUDD sometimes being rather finicky, and the boss battles generally tending to require good precise moves to avoid damage. It's also more difficult to achieve 100% Completion than its predecessor, due to many Blue Coins being well-hidden and requiring extensive exploration and observation.
    • New Super Mario Bros. Wii was made to be harder than New Super Mario Bros., particularly in the latter worlds, reaching a zenith with the post-finale bonus levels. This is the reason why the Super Guide was implemented.
    • Super Mario Galaxy 2 is harder than the original Super Mario Galaxy. The levels and bosses are more plentiful, the comet missions are more difficult, and to reach 100% Completion it won't be enough to get all 120 stars but also the more devious 120 green stars, as well as complete a Brutal Bonus Level at the very end.
    • New Super Mario Bros. U is hard the whole way through, to the point where there's really no Warm-Up Boss. If you found Acorn Plains easy, you'd be surprised that Lemmy is nearly as complex as he was when he was fought later in the game for the past two games. The levels become challenging pretty soon after, and the bosses, while still being far easier than the levels, have also taken a step up in difficulty. Iggy and Roy stand out.
    • New Super Luigi U kicks things up a notch as well. For starters, each level only has 100 seconds on the clock. To compensate this, one of the playable characters (Nabbit) is indestructible.
    • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, itself being more difficult to beat and complete than Super Mario World (as it doesn't have a warp zone of any kind and the levels are much more maze-like), has a sequel for Nintendo DS that ramps up the difficulty considerably, more so in the last two worlds.
  • The sequel to Super Mario Infinity has 90mph Bullet Bills and 100 floor Marathon Level dungeons.
  • Super Star Wars is no walk in the park, but the sequel Super Empire Strikes Back is truly maddening.
  • Tomb Raider II has a difficulty spike noticeable within the first level. The first level in the first game was very tame and the only traps it had were flying darts that caused minimal damage, and only bats (which take a single shot to kill), wolves, and a bear to face (and the bear was optional). The first level in the sequel has rolling boulders, spiked walls closing in on you, huge rolling bladed wheels, timed jumps, and pits of spikes, and has you fighting spiders, birds, tigers, and two Tyrannosaurus rexes (though again, the dinos are optional). The traps and obstacles only ramp up from there, though they are a bit more manageable as health packs and ammunition are far more plentiful in this game as they are often dropped by human enemies. Tomb Raider III takes the difficulty to even greater heights by making the game dark, forcing you to use leap of faith at times, placing enemies around corners so they can ambush you, and forcing you to blindly run with awkward camera angles as you try to avoid boulders or other traps. The PlayStation version of the first one makes the difficulty more apparent by having Save-Game Limits via save crystals while the PC version lets players save anywhere. In the Crystal Dynamics series, Tomb Raider: Anniversary is quite a bit harder than Tomb Raider: Legend.
  • Viewtiful Joe 2 is substantially harder than the first game. There are more mooks, bosses have more health bars, and some have unblockable attacks. They did, however, add more savepoints, considerably easier puzzles, and you could Button Mash to kill just about every enemy.
  • Crash Bandicoot:
    • Zigzagged with Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped. For the most part, the game is notably easier than the previous two; even without the superpowers like the Double Jump, Devil Spin, and Fruit Bazooka, the levels would be easier and it's much less demanding to find the gems. However, the Time Trials are much harder than anything the previous two games tossed at you, as they require you to sprint through an entire stage on one life with a very strict time limit and no checkpoints, and these are mandatory to get not only 100% completion but also to earn all the gems and thus obtain the Golden Ending. They're made somewhat easier with the Crash Dash which you earn for defeating Cortex, but you still need to pull off a flawless run of the entire stage and the dash can't be used in the gimmicky levels where you ride vehicles or swim.
    • Played straight with Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time, which is widely considered the hardest Crash game ever made, even for people not going for 100% Completion. Some crates, namely in a few bonus rounds, require esoteric, borderline ROM hack-level finesse and critical thinking to reach, and some are just very well-hidden. Other than that, there's also a new type of Brutal Bonus Level and it's generally easier to die than ever; there's a reason it's the first Crash game that gives you the option of either playing with lives or foregoing them and going with a counter for how many times you've died, with no penalty if you pick the latter.

    Puzzle Game 
  • Hoshi Saga Dokuringo is both a compilation of Remixed Levels as well as modifying these levels to Guide Dang It! difficulty. It doesn't help that some puzzles rely on the player's own skills (like the Shell Game that has to be won five sequential times and a sudden Genre Shift Bullet Hell). Lag can be quite detrimental in such cases.
  • Oh No! More Lemmings, the sequel to Lemmings. While the original game was modestly difficult up until midway through Taxing, ONML jumps from laughably easy to god-this-is-hard in its second difficulty setting (of five) and goes up from there.
  • Although an Updated Re-release and not a sequel, Pokémon Puzzle Challenge gives an odd example. Easy, Normal and Hard are easier than they were in Tetris Attack, but the game adds Intense, which is even harder than the original's Very Hard — the AI can fill half the screen in one shot.
  • Portal 2 isn't exactly harder than the original, but it's significantly longer, introduces a host of new gameplay elements, and expects you to get up to speed with the first game's "advanced" portal techniques faster. Portal gave the player the now familiar concepts of portal movement early and took them as far as possible without adding many new variables. The added complications of all three gels, the laser-redirecting cube, the Aerial Faith Plate, and more means Portal 2 keeps hitting the player with new concepts to play around with every few tests, then crosses them together so the player never gets too comfortable.
  • The puzzles in the Professor Layton series tend to get more challenging in each game. Of course, they couldn't just rehash the same puzzles over again.
  • Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is an extremely difficult game with auto-difficulty on, especially if you breeze through the early levels, compared to its predecessor. The auto-difficulty weights wins more than losses, so by around Chapter 5 levels become very difficult very fast. Meanwhile, while not a snooze cruise (especially on certain levels) the original Puyo Puyo Tetris never gets very difficult.
  • Repton 2 requires completion of the entire game without passwords or the ability to save, and also includes the notorious luck-based meteor-dodging sections, making it by far the most demanding game in the series. Later games returned to the format of separate levels with passwords.
  • Riven: The Sequel to Myst was way, WAY harder than the first. Later games (especially the third, made by the the people behind The Journeyman Project while Cyan was busy with Uru) were more forgiving. The difficult generally comes from two directions. In all other Myst games, puzzles are localized in specific ages (except for one or two final puzzles that require info from different ages). Riven is all one single age, so the major puzzles in that game require a thorough exploration of everywhere. The clue you need to solve a puzzle could theoretically be anywhere. The other difficulty comes from the sheer complexity of the major puzzles in Riven. Because the puzzles use information from anywhere, they also require more association than in prior Myst games.
  • Super Puzzle World (went from normal puzzles to flat out requiring glitch use and physics manipulation to complete).
  • Tetris Attack, a Yoshi's Island-themed Dolled-Up Installment of Panel de Pon, has harder AI on the higher Difficulty Levels. Panel de Pon's Nintendo Puzzle Collection sequel and its dolled-up installment, Pokémon Puzzle League, are even harder than both due to improved AI and less slowdown.
  • Tetris: The Grand Master 2: The Absolute PLUS makes achieving Grand Master much harder due to the new grading system. The number of Western GM's in TGM1 is most likely in the triple digits, but there are exactly three Western TGM2+ GMs.

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

    Real Time Strategy 
  • Earth 2150 is fairly OK when in comes to difficulty but the standalone expansion pack Lost Souls is a nightmare. You start with two, maybe three buildings and no base defenses at all. The AI has a massive fortress that spans across the bottom of the map and is frighteningly aggressive, Zerg Rushing top-tier units at you right from the start. The only way to stop this is to destroy the bridges leading to your base, which eventually results in the AI running out of resources, but by that time, it accumulates sixty-plus units on the other side of the river with no way to take them out since they have more raw firepower and have enough rockets to strongly discourage air attacks (patching the game will give you artillery in this mission which makes your job somewhat easier). They also get periodic reinforcements endlessly in the form of over a dozen plasma cannon-armed mechs which spawn next to their base as well as aircraft which spawn right in the middle of your base. As for their base, it's surrounded by mountains that leave only one location for a ground attack... and that location is defended by a literal wall of towers and fortresses. The mountains themselves are full off AA and the entire base is a giant minefield so you can't use STEALTH tanks to gut it. And completing the mission will instantly dump you back to your main base without warning, losing you all those now highly experienced units you busted the base with without any chance to carry them over to the next mission. And the kicker? This is the third mission.
  • Gemcraft went from being one of the easier Tower Defense games to being the one of the hardest in its sequel, Gemcraft 0.
  • Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time has several levels that dwarf the first game in terms of difficulty. Not only is the gameplay faster-paced, there are also several enemies that can kill even your toughest plants with ease, and certain worlds (Big Wave Beach, Neon Mixtape Tour, Jurassic Marsh, Modern Day) have world-specific gimmicksnote  that are very frustrating. Finally, several levels have an Arbitrary Mission Restriction that needs to be strictly adhered to (such as a flower line that zombies cannot step on), otherwise the level is automatically failed.
  • StarCraft II: Legacy Of The Void was more challenging to complete than either of its two prequels: Wings of Liberty and Heart Of The Swarm.

    Rhythm Game 
  • Bemani series:
    • While DanceDanceRevolution usually does a lot more Sequel Escalation rather than spikes, there are still a few noteworthy examples:
      • The maximum BPM of the Paranoia series goes 180 → 190 → 200 → 270 → 290 → 300 → 360. (For non-BPM-related reasons, that last one is not considered a spike by most players good enough to beat them.)
      • Retroactively applying the 1-20 scale to older games for a fair comparison, the hardest song/chart in the first twelve games has gone 12 → 12 → 13 → 13 → 13 → 15 → 15 → 16 → 18 → 18 → 18 → 19. Any player good enough to pass these will tell you that the hardest chart in the game suddenly jumping up two levels is a gigantic difficulty spike.
      • While series of songs usually have a gradual ramp-up in difficulty, the Pluto series starts out with a huge spike between Pluto and Pluto Relinquish.
    • beatmania IIDX: Holic [Another] (3rd Style), V [Another] (5th Style), Mei [Another] (Happy Sky), many of the Black Anothers (DJ Troopers PS2 version)
  • Guitar Hero
    • Guitar Hero III is this to its predecessors, to the point that fan complaint forced Neversoft to ease up for World Tour. The presumed reason for the difficulty jump in Guitar Hero III was how it was Neversoft's first game in the series, and lacking the know-how on how to make a notechart fun to play by itself, they decided to just make the game ridiculously hard. Another explanation is that part of the Neversoft development team was comprised of former custom notechart authors, who had previously created some distinctly challenging custom note charts for Guitar Hero II to give themselves a good challenge, carrying that same difficulty level onward to Guitar Hero III.
    • After World Tour and 5, both of which were seen as drops in difficulty, Warriors of Rock brings back the high difficulty from III, especially for guitar. And the song that was made for Warriors Of Rock, Megadeth's "Sudden Death", was made to be extraordinarily challenging on guitar.
    • Guitar Hero: Metallica is considered by many to be a big step in difficulty compared to the previous band-centric installment in Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, with many songs being lengthier and more difficult, both from the band and the guest acts. Tellingly, "One", one of the hardest songs in III, is not even the last song in the final full tier on guitar. Going by the overall franchise, it also serves as this to World Tour, as not only the songs are more difficult, but the game also introduced the Expert+ difficulty for drums, and several Metallica songs have rather fast double bass.
  • If you thought "Run To The Hills" and "Green Grass and High Tides" were bad, Rock Band 2 will hit you with the 4-hit combo of "Battery", "Painkiller", "Panic Attack" and "Visions".
  • Parappa The Rapper was an already difficult game due to its extremely tight window for button timings. Spin off Um Jammer Lammy keeps the same precise mechanics and throws even more complex button pressing at the player as early as the second song, which also makes it even harder to achieve Cool rank. Parappa the Rapper 2 became a Sequel Difficulty Drop.

    Roguelike 
  • Played straight with Izuna 2, which is worrying since the first game was Nintendo Hard.
  • Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, compared to Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity. The leveling rate is much slower, dungeons are longer (to the point that even early-game dungeons have midway rest stops), you can't quick-save in a dungeon without using an expensive consumable item, bosses have gobs of HP and hit hard, the hunger mechanic returns to being always in place instead of being exclusive to the Bonus Dungeons, the wider Pokémon diversity means you'll be up against some nastier enemies, and the party size is limited to three.
  • Spelunky 2 is harder than the first one just by the virtue of having more content and things being rebalanced. Many of the new enemies are harder to hit and are way more punishing if you get hit, there are a lot more traps to watch out for - many of them the One-Hit Kill kind, and there are new Status Effects that are so brutal that you might as well start over if you get inflicted. Some of the best items in the old game like the Jetpack were given significant downsides like having counters or just being harder to find, and everything is topped off by how many familiar returning elements throw out their tricks in a slightly different way.

    Shoot Em Up 
  • DoDonPachi Dai Ou Jou plays this trope straight if you regard it as a sequel to DoDonPachi and ignore the not-developed-by-Cave DoDonPachi II; its first stage starts off somewhat challenging, and the first stage boss, rather than being a Warm-Up Boss, is the opposite.
    • In turn, DDP was a huge leap over the original DonPachi.
    • Dodonpachi Daifukkatsu would've been even harder than dai ou jou, but ends up being the opposite because if you use Bomb Style or Strong Style, you automatically bomb upon taking a hit, and if you use Power Style (which only lets you have a single bomb instead of 3-6), you fill up your Hyper Counter gauge rather quickly.
    • SaiDaiOuJou takes the gameplay of the already hard DaiOuJou further. So much so that the second loop present in all games after DoDonPachi is removed completely. One Cave staff member even hoped that it would take "7 years to clear".
  • Espgaluda is designed for beginners, featuring an Awakening mechanic that slows down bullets for the player, and a simple scoring system that revolves around killing enemies in Awakening. The same cannot be said of Espgaluda II, which features far more difficult patterns and a scoring system that makes absolutely no sense unless the player either consults community resources or plays the tutorial in the Xbox 360 port...if they can read Japanese.
  • Gradius III Arcade, said to be one of the hardest games ever. Most subsequent games were easier.
  • Lethal Enforcers II: Gunfighters is much tougher than the original Lethal Enforcers.
  • Raiden III was disappointingly easy, but Raiden IV's later stages venture into Bullet Hell territory. Raiden II was also a large leap in difficulty over the original, particularly with larger waves of enemies firing at you at a time, and an increase in the frequency of "sniper" enemies. The "normal" difficulty setting is harder than the first game's "hard" setting.
  • Sin and Punishment: Star Successor. Not only is it much longer than its predecessor, it is also shades harder, even though it doesn't have the limited number of continues it predecessor does. Amusingly enough, the game was initially thought to be too easy by the testers at Nintendo due to the Wii Remote control system fitting it better than they anticipated, causing Treasure to crank the difficulty up to what it is now.
  • Sky Shark is about standard in terms of game difficulty, but a dedicated player can beat it with some practice since the game is only about 15 minutes long. Its sequel Fire Shark is far, far harder due to enemies having much faster bullets, the Power-Up system taking 3 items to increase one shot level, the introduction of weapons that tend to be situational at best and a hindrance at worst, and weapon-change items that can not only switch you away from the ideal weapon for the situation but tend to stick around far longer than players want them mto. It is also about three times longer than Sky Shark, turning the game into a test of attrition on top of skill.
  • Super Zaxxon took the gameplay of Zaxxon and upped its speed to the point of frustrating many players.
  • Touhou: The series tends to go through loops: Ignoring the first three games, it started with the fairly easy Lotus Land Story. The next few games all got a bit harder, culminating with the fairly difficult Perfect Cherry Blossom. Then Imperishable Night dropped the difficulty back down, to be followed by a series of increasingly harder games of its own (albeit with some debate over whether Subterranean Animism or Undefined Fantastic Object is harder). With Ten Desires and the following games this went to something of an extreme, with the strikingly easy Ten Desires followed by reasonably challenging Double Dealing Character, followed by the maddeningly difficult Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom. Though all of this applies only to the Normal difficultynote .
  • Truxton (also known as Tatsujin) was already hard by Toaplan standards, but its sequel Tatsujin Ou is notorious for being downright cruel. The enemies are faster and more aggressive, they come up in every direction to blindside the player, including from behind, and to make matters worse, once you die, not only do you go back to a checkpoint, but you also lose all of your power-ups, making certain parts impossible to beat with a weak ship. It was so difficult that the overseas version Truxton II had its difficulty toned down by making the player's weapons stronger and reducing the amount of enemy bullets.

    Simulation Game 
  • Descent II: The Vertigo Series was an Expansion Pack Difficulty Spike. The main Descent II game was much easier than the first, but some can't even get past the first level of Vertigo on Insane (lots of Goddamned Bats and lack of powerful weapons). Descent 3 was also considerably more difficult, with increase in the dodginess and toughness of the enemies. Especially if you're trying to avoid dying, as Death Is a Slap on the Wrist there (you have unlimited lives, and restart from checkpoints instead of the beginning of the level, although your weapons still get scattered).
  • Papyrus' NASCAR Racing 4 over NASCAR Racing 3 due to the Grand Prix Legends-based Game Engine.
  • Played with in Wing Commander Secret Ops, the sequel to Wing Commander Prophecy. Originally, the game was offered as a free download by Origin/EA, but first you had to fill out a survey with name, address, email, etc. One of the questions asked you which Wing Commander games you'd played, and which ones you'd completed (if any). If you marked that you'd completed a Wing Commander game before, when you downloaded the game and put in your activation code, it would quietly set the difficulty to the appropriately titled "Nightmare" setting.
  • Played with in the X-Universe series. The early games infamously brutal Early Game Hell has steadily gotten easier and shorter as the series went on, but late-game combat became more difficult with every game starting with X3: Reunion and X3: Terran Conflict, with the introduction of more active space pirates and their own capital ships, missile frigates that can decimate sectors from afar and fighter-sized bombers that can maul capital ships. Of course, the player can use the same equipment against the AI, but often with a significant investment such as the heavy initial price for a missile frigate and the factories to build its munitions.
  • American Truck Simulator is more punishing than its predecessor Euro Truck Simulator 2. In Euro, speed cameras are usually highly visible with signs or the camera mount, allowing speeding players to simply slow down when they see the camera to avoid the fine, where as in American, there are speed cameras in addition to mobile police cars which will fine the player. The Hard Mode Perks are also more challenging; when Driving Stick, some trucks mount eighteen gears instead of the twelve from Euro, and manual trailer parking is usually far more cramped than the spacious loading docks from Euro
  • Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 is a lot harder than the first. The levels have twice as many goals, some of which require the use of specific tricks with precise timing. In only the second level "School II", getting the secret tape requires expert understanding of the game's physics engine. In addition, the game has a cash system replacing the automatic updating of stats as you complete goals in the first game. You have to find cash icons and buy both stats and decks to get max stats (some of which are pretty much necessary to complete every goal in the game).

    Stealth Based Game 
  • Assassin's Creed III made all but the easiest enemy types able to block if not outright counter at least one of your attack moves. It's still manageable if you keep a clear head on your shoulders, but definitely tougher than Assassin's Creed: Revelations, where even the toughest Elite Mooks could only block attacks. The DLC The Tyranny of King Washington steps it up even further, where most of the people you fight will be Elite Mooks.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. There are now higher difficulties to test your skills in. There are also more guards and hazards, and the overall improvement of game mechanics made it more difficult. Enemy bodies no longer vanish when killed so you'll have to hide them, the replacement for a guard you killed will constantly keep radio contact with HQ (if you take him out, you'll have about 10 seconds before reinforcements arrive to find out why communications have ceased), and if you run into a dead-end room to hide the guards will perform a very detailed sweep of the area to find you. The inclusion of "Caution Mode" also added more consequence as doing anything to alert guards to your presence (leaving bodies, attacking them, etc) puts them in a more alert state where they patrol in pairs for quite some time.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is more difficult than the first two games, due to the removal of the radar system and the lack of camera control. It's no longer possible to know if the area at the top of your screen is clear without significant use of first-person view, and enemies tend to have tighter patrols and more overall awareness. The Updated Re-release Subsistence added camera control, and the game's difficulty dropped (and made it feel much fairer).

    Survival Horror 
  • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis: The game reverses how easy the second game was, almost to the levels of the original game. Zombies do far more damage and soak up more bullets even on easy, several Demonic Spiders of the first game is back along with a couple of new ones, ammo is scarcer (though not to the levels of the original game), and the puzzles are much more complex than even the first game. On top of that there is a boss monster chasing you across the game who cannot be killed, something even the first game lacked.
  • Silent Hill 3 is more oppressive than Silent Hill 2 in practically every way, as it drops the (relatively) more relaxing outdoor segments in favor of immediately throwing you into claustrophobic mazes filled with enemies, where it's very easy to get knocked to the floor and swarmed relentlessly. A large portion of the game is spent going straight from one grotesque labyrinth to the next with barely any time to take a breather. It's also the first in the series to have an abundance of instant-death traps, many of which are barely telegraphed, along with death pits. Then you have the Dynamic Difficulty that affects items - hoarding resources will mean there's much less to find later, and it can be quite fickle at times as well.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's:
    • Five Nights at Freddy's 2: From the trailer alone, we can see that there are more killer robots to deal with than the first game and more ways for them to get into your office, especially since there's far fewer ways to protect yourself. The game itself has a lot more things to keep track of: the Marionette that kills you if you don't wind a music box, a mask that you have to use to keep most of the animatronics away (which still won't fool some of them), a teleporting Golden Freddy, no doors, the list goes on.
    • While Five Nights at Freddy's 3 dropped the difficulty to an extent, Five Nights at Freddy's 4 ups the ante once again and then some. Sure, there are only few animatronics to keep track of at all times, but now there are no cameras.

    Third Person Shooter 
  • MDK2 is much harder, much more frustrating than the original MDK.
  • Syphon Filter was a fairly difficult game. The sequel ups the difficulty even further. Every stealth sequence is long, filled with enemies, and requires the player to find the one path that will avoid instant failure. Combat sequences are long, filled with instant death scenarios and enemies armed with the multitude of instant death weapons. Bosses are spawned directly from Satan's codpiece.
  • The Hero Mode for the first Splatoon mainly served to get you used to the mechanics of the game, not really putting that much of a challenge until near the end. The Hero Mode for Splatoon 2 does much the same, but also seems aware that some players are coming in with some experience from the first game: while the stages are merciful up to the first boss, after that, the difficulty more or less picks up where Splatoon's left off. The stages are longer, enemy placement is denser, tough enemies like Octosnipers and Octolings are introduced far earlier, and you are placed in more disadvantageous terrain. In addition, you are required to use a variety of different weapons as you proceed, unlike in the first game where you are given one single weapon to use from beginning to end. The bosses fall into this curve too: the first game's bosses all telegraphed their attacks quite clearly and move in predetermined simple patterns, and once you learn how to dodge them, they'd fall quite easily. In the second game, after the Warm-Up Boss that is Octo Oven, the bosses have randomized sequences of attacks and will continue to put up a fight even after you've figured out how to damage them.

    Tower Defense 
  • Bloons Tower Defense 2 is harder than the first game even on its Normal mode — the first game could be beaten by only spamming Dart Monkeys, but 2's stronger bloon waves and introduction of Lead Bloons forces you to use the other towers at your disposal and manage your money and lives well. It also has a Hard mode on top of that, increasing tower and upgrade prices, reducing your lives, and adding a second track for bloons to come down.
  • Plants vs. Zombies is a fairly easygoing game, with the zombies coming slowly and giving you plenty of time to amass sun and plant a defense, except for a few levels. Its sequel, on the other hand, has stronger zombies come faster, with many more of them having special abilities to mess with your plants and several not having a plant that solidly counters them.

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, befitting its drastic tone shift, is a major step up from Dual Strike. While the campaign doesn't have a harder variant this time, it eventually throws some of the most brutally tough missions in the series at you, and unlike most of the others, said missions are not optional. The AI is improved enough to punish mistakes with laser precision, such that missions tend to devolve into useless 100-turn slugfests if you don't play carefully enough. Making matters worse, you have ZERO options on how to approach these missions - you use the CO the game wants you to use and that's it. The COs themselves are also very minimalist in design, with very few having anything close to the game-breaking abilities of past titles - as well as the fact that the CO mechanics don't even exist in the first half of the game. Compared to Dual Strike in particular, you no longer have unlockable skills nor the utterly insane Tag Break that lets you steamroll a map with two consecutive turns and superpowers.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War is considered pretty easy, due to its overpowered cast of units and most enemies not posing much challenge. Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 is a very significant step up, being probably the hardest game in the series to lack any kind of easy mode due to its very complex and Trial-and-Error Gameplay-heavy level design. Even the cheat Paragon Mode, which doubles XP gain, is considered at least fairly tricky.
    • Radiant Dawn, the sequel to Path of Radiance, was criticized outside Japan for its drastic difficulty spike, which made it difficult for new (and even a few veteran) fans to get into. This is especially pronounced because the prior game removed the highest difficulty and added a lower one in its international release—meaning that players who assumed they were playing Hard were actually playing the equivalent of Normal, and were blindsided by the actual Hard.
    • Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem zigzags this, but mostly ends up being harder than its predecessor on higher difficulties. After a hellish early game, the DS remake of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon levels off quite a bit, due to the presence of many Game-Breaker options. New Mystery makes the early game much more tolerable due to providing you with prologue chapters to serve as a training ground (in Shadow Dragon, these were reserved to Normal Mode), along with buffing a number of characters and providing the player with an incredibly strong customizable unit who can have a lot of XP funneled into them. However, enemy strength increases at a rapid rate, enemies in general are much more dangerous, and the Game-Breaker options that Shadow Dragon provided are either nerfed (forged weapons, the Hammerne staff) or absent (ballistas, the Warp staff on high difficulties). The game's highest difficulty, Lunatic Reverse, is considered one of the most challenging difficulties in the franchise (being a Rocket-Tag Gameplay mode where the enemy gets to hit you first), and certainly the hardest one to not rely on RNG.
    • Fire Emblem: Awakening has an easy-moderate difficulty curve, not that much harder or easier than the last two (and significantly easier than Radiant Dawn). The followup game Fire Emblem Fates, however, ups the difficulty significantly. Compared to Awakening, your units have less health (and lower health growths), enemies are stronger, mini-bosses just as strong as actual stage bosses in other games are present even if some can be avoided, and the AI has access to skills that work against you just as much as they do in your favour, when they aren't using skills you have no access to. For context, Fates includes an Easier Than Easy difficulty setting called "Phoenix", in which defeated units reappear at the end of the player phase. Conquest is considered a legitimate challenge even on Phoenix.
    • Fire Emblem Engage is significantly more challenging than the previous game, Three Houses. Due to Player-Phase oriented mechanics such as Break(any character attacked with a weapon that has an advantage on the Weapon Triangle cannot counterattack in that combat or the next) and chain attacks("Backup" units will launch additional attacks if an allied unit attacks an enemy in the backup unit's range), it is far more difficult for you to take out hordes of enemies on Enemy Phase. Furthermore, while Byleth and the house leaders from Three Houses were pretty much monsters in gameplay, Alear, the protagonist of Engage, is actually pretty weak without a ring helping them out, with their biggest asset being their ability to buff their allies.
  • Super Robot Wars: Original Generation on the GBA. The first game could be defeated by mindless rushing and having Latooni dodge and counter everything (since the enemies hit rate would frequently end up at 0). In the second game where the enemies stats were NOT complete crap and the game suddenly required about as much strategy as Fire Emblem. Oh, and the "game over trick" got nerfed too: Kills do not carry over, making secrets and ace bonuses harder to get, and losing makes you ineligible for the scenario's battle mastery, so unlocking the bonus stage is a worthy challenge.
  • Super Robot Wars Z 2 Saisei-hen, the game throws some truly nasty bosses at you, including a few returning bosses with levels of badass taken. It goes further if you get enough skill points for hard mode Lv 90 bosses 3/5 though the game?. The fact the game gives you a nice number of game breakers is but to even this out.
  • An example in the Total War series; players going from Medieval II: Total War to Total War: Shogun 2 are in for a rude shock, going from a game where the AI struggled to work out how to besiege cities effectively on the hardest difficulty to a game where the AI can quite mercilessly wipe you out on the first turn of the game. Empire: Total War and Napoleon: Total War were more difficult and the AI more aggressive, but didn't quite have the killer instinct of the Shogun II AI and tended to be easier due to odd AI limitations.

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

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

    The second game, Justice for All, is infamous for its difficulty because, along with the insane logic you have to come up with in order to counter the witness's testimony, it has the harshest penalties in the entire franchise. Along with the "one mistake and you lose" scenarios, you'll have other occasions where you can lose anywhere from 40% to 95% of your life bar for simply picking the wrong answer or picking an obviously wrong answer just to see how the characters would react. The "Turnabout Big Top" case has a huge reputation of being the worst case to play through in the entire series because you'll be slapped with harsh penalities if you even so much as press the wrong statement in the testimony (this is due to the witness being a clown, and his forced attempts at humor have stretched the Judge's patience incredibly thin). "Damage" that occurs from the courtroom or the psyche-locks events carry over and are not undone, unlike in the first game where each new day fully restored the life meter. This caused a ton of Save Scumming and it wasn't until Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies where you were allowed to retry after a game over and your life meter would be fully restored after that.
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair starts off a lot harder than the first game, at least in the class trials. Whereas the first game's initial chapter had a fairly easy trial that essentially served as a tutorial, giving the player time to learn the gameplay mechanics without having to worry too much about actually deducing the mystery, the second one throws them straight into the deep end with a very complex case (which is arguably more complicated than the second trial of the first game). To make matters worse, the player will be dealing with the complicated mysteries on top of learning the new mechanics, including four entirely new minigames (well, three new minigames and a returning one which has been altered beyond recognition). Oh, and white noise shows up sooner in this game.
  • Zero Escape: Many of the puzzles in Virtue's Last Reward are radically more difficult than the puzzles in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, particularly those past the third set of Chromatic Doors. On top of that, 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors allowed the player to skip a few obsolete puzzles and still get the best ending after only two playthroughs; Virtue's Last Reward requires them to do every puzzle in the gamenote  in order to get the true ending, and were it not for the FLOW mechanic allowing players to jump to already completed events, the number of playthroughs needed to get the true ending would be in the double digits due to the vast amount of plot locks.

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • Certain adventure maps for Minecraft got harder with each installment.
    • Herobrine's Mansion is already a decently challenging map, pitting you against armies of durable mobs and having bosses with special abilities, but the bosses generally aren't incredibly challenging, with Herobrine and the Wither both being anticlimactic. Its successor, Wrath of the Fallen, is mixed — the regular enemies are generally easier to deal with, but the bosses are much longer and more complex to fight, and will generally result in much more deaths than before. The final boss gauntlet is also much more challenging than the one in Herobrine's Mansion, consisting of a brutal Multi-Mook Melee against some of the nastiest monsters around, like Ghasts and Zombie Pigmen, while you destroy crystals and fight Withers.
    • Diversity 2's Adventure branch is a step up from the easy and simplistic one in the first Diversity, having some fairly challenging puzzles and parkour. The Dropper branch is harder to cheese and much larger in scale, and just landing at the bottom isn't enough now — you also need to find the single bit of Soft Water at the bottom, or suffer from Barely Missed Cushion and die. Similarly, the Survival branch demands more in the way of exploration and combat, and although you can find some unique loot items, they are nothing compared to the game-destroying ones available in the first map if you know where to look. Finally, the Boss Battle branch goes from an underwhelming fight against a single Wither in a cage to a giant Wither which attacks you from the background, with tricky attacks to dodge.

    Misc 
  • A rare non-video game example: The Amazing Race American version. On average, the first couple legs are learning-curve legs that feature relatively easy tasks. note . Later on, the tasks start to get harder, though not always at the same rate.
    • Season 6 as a whole was much harder than the previous seasons, with tasks including the infamous hay bale Roadblock, the Hungarian soup task, and a whole line of locks the teams had to go through to find the one that matched their key. Teams were also equalized at a rate higher than any other season.
    • Season 10 likewise was a much harder race, throwing normally mid-game challenges at the teams right off the bat. For that reason, it's considered to be the most physically challenging season.
    • Season 17 was a little harder than the previous two cupcake seasons, however the tasks got much harder later on, culminating in a Sadistic Choice in one of the later legs.
    • Season 18 not only featured an increase in the difficulty of the tasks, but they took out any learning curve, hitting the teams with difficult tasks right from the start, issued an automatic U-Turn for the team who finished last on the first task, created combination tasks (by taking what would normally be two separate tasks and making the teams do them either simultaneously, or as part of the same Roadblock), replaced two non-elimination legs with back-to-back Super Legs, had no (shown) Fast Forward, and hit the teams with two Roadblocks in the final leg. Part of the reason this was done was because it was another all-stars season, and the teams could handle it. The previous All-Stars was considered a tad too easy for all-stars, thus they engineered this to be one of the hardest races.
    • Season 19, which was a lot more abstract in the clues the teams were given and not putting them in the obvious red-and-yellow mailbox. While nowhere near as hard as 10 or 18, it's probably one of the hardest races in general, and one of the hardest starts of the race for first-time racers. And to top it off, there was a double elimination in the second leg of the race.
  • Pinball as a whole has been following this for some time, with the growing sophistication of computer-controlled rulesets and the boom in private collectors fueling the trend. When Twilight Zone was released in 1993, it was lauded as the most complicated pinball game ever made. It was surpassed ten years later by The Simpsons Pinball Party and The Lord of the Rings, which were in turn eclipsed by 2013's The Wizard of Oz. Home collectors relish these complex rules, as they help ensure that their multi-thousand-dollar tables will provide years of gameplay to discover all of the secrets and strategies possible.
  • This trope combined with Technology Marches On is why the Martian tripods keep getting more powerful in The War of the Worlds and its adaptations throughout the years. In the original story, a few tripods were damaged or destroyed by 1898-contemporary warships and artillery, though in the latter case only with a great deal of luck. What made the overall war so hopeless for humanity was a lack of mobile firepower and a lack of defence against chemical weapons (the Martian's "black smoke"). In the 1938 radio play, only one machine is destroyed in the whole war. In the 1953 film, the Martian war machines are introduced with impenetrable forcefields which render the concentrated fire from armoured divisions useless and even America's city-levelling sun bombs did nothing against them.
  • This happened with LEGO Masters's American edition, wherein the tasks became much much more complex with every season. The challenges in Season 2 were much more difficult than the first season, requiring things such as a LEGO hat (that had to stay on while you walked) and LEGO puppets to perform. Meanwhile the previews for the third season depicted categories such as having to actually make a racecar, a treehouse with no support bricks.

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