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A cloud enemy underwater? They didn't cheat like this in the first game!

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 Super Mario World hacks being good examples), or games like Ghosts N Goblins which started Nintendo Hard, and where the only direction to go for difficulty is up.

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

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

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

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

Contrast Sequel Difficulty Drop, Easier Than Easy.

Examples of Sequel Difficulty Spike include:

Action Adventure

Action Game

  • Ninja Gaiden 3: There are no infinite continues in as in the predecessors. This applies more to the western versions due to the Japanese version being much easier. See Difficulty by Region.
  • The first Devil May Cry was a challenging game. The 2nd, not so much but its not very well regarded. Devil May Cry 3 on the other hand definitely hits the Nintendo Hard standard and is easily the most difficult game of the series. It starts out hard and just gets worse from there. Thank god it's so awesome.
    • In a way, the third game is easier to actually play than the first. At minimum, it does away with the "yellow orbs = lives" system, making it genuinely impossible to screw yourself into an Unwinnable state based on an ill-advised save. As well, setting aside the notoriously spiked difficulty in the original NA release, the Special Edition brought back the second game's ability to continue indefinitely mid-mission (and turned yellow orbs into "instant resurrection" items), and made it possible to obtain an "infinite devil trigger" costume before tackling the hardest difficulty level.
    • Devil May Cry 3 definitely qualifies outside of Japan, since for whatever reason, Capcom moved the difficulties down a level - So the Japanese Hard mode ended up being Normal mode in the overseas versions, and so on. The Special Edition restored the difficulties to how they originally where.
      • A great deal of the cause of the third game's "higher difficulty", however, is due to a few early game bosses (Cerberus and the twins) being extremely large difficulty spikes. In the long run, the game isn't actually that much harder than the first game, but those two bosses set the difficulty bar near as high towards the beginning as the first game did towards the end. Once you manage to beat those bosses, the game isn't nearly so bad afterwards.
  • Mega Man Battle Network was occasionally quite vicious with this. The first game was very forgiving right up until the endgame, but the second didn't take long at all to ramp up, and the third went right for the throat with the very first boss. The Bonus Bosses in all six games were a steady increase from interesting-but-manageable to pure WTF territory with zero room for error.

Beat'Em Up

  • 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.

Fighting Game

First-Person Shooter

  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. A lot of people never beat the Boost Guardian. The worlds were huge and pretty much all of the bosses were hard, and Dark Aether didn't help the situation much either.
  • Left 4 Dead 2 is a lot more difficult than the previous game (though some people even think the sequel got easier). 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 are so bad that the game just gets even harder. 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 a Charger comes along and snatches you up to push you into a Spitter's acid patch for more damage. If that wasn't bad enough, try some maps where the AI Director will say "fuck you" and toss a Witch or a Tank right in front of the safe room.
  • Halo 2. Thankfully (or not, to some fans), Halo 3 was toned down.
    • 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 plasma-raped, etc.
  • 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 causes a nearby pebble to bounce away and pass through your brain, killing you instantly.
  • Bioshock 2, despite playing as a 7-foot tall Big Daddy rather than a human as in the first game, the second game is harder, possibly due the Splicers getting stronger and more mutated, or more probably due to the fact that many of their weapons do more relative damage, and you're now expected to fight dozens of them at once instead of just 2 or 3 at a time.
    • The inability to backtrack might also have something to do with it. If you don't want the ADAM in each level to be Lost Forever, you have to collect it all while you're there, which means fending off several hordes of splicers, then facing the Big Sister. The hacking minigame is also harder, as you have to do it in real time, and it's reflexes-based instead of puzzle-based.
  • Soldier of Fortune II, mainly because the AI is much more of a cheating bastard.
  • The early levels of Jedi Outcast are a lot tougher than the equivalent non-Jedi, shooter-based levels in Dark Forces and Jedi Knight. This is largely due to the vastly improved A.I. of the Imperial Stormtroopers, which lets them strafe back and forth quickly while firing, making it much harder to hit them and turning them into an actual credible threat (at least until you get a lightsaber and the ability to reflect blaster bolts). Outcast is also more stingy with health and especially shield pickups, and the damage of the enemy's weapons also seems to have been jacked up a bit.
    • Likewise, certain elements of Jedi Academy have been made more difficult than its predecessor Jedi Outcast, most noteably combat against non-Jedi. The most obvious example is that the lightsaber no longer perfectly blocks enemy projectiles, with blaster bolts occasionally getting through, forcing you to dodge and go on the offensive much more. Jedi Academy also adds a number of special enemies, including Rocket Troopers, Hazard Troopers, and Assassin Droids, that are specifically designed to fight Jedi.
  • Star Trek Elite Force 2 is noticeably harder than the original game, but this is mostly because the first Star Trek Elite Force was unusually easy (with every enemy except the final boss doing very little damage individually, and very generous placement of health and shield refills), so much so that the Harder Than Hard difficulty was much closer to what most other FPS shooters consider Normal difficulty. The difficulty of Elite Force 2 is much closer to that of a mainstream shooter, and the later levels get genuinely hard even on the default difficulty.
  • STALKER: Clear Sky is noticeably tougher than STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, due mostly to the addition of many Fake Difficulty elements such as an enemy hit detection system that causes shots to randomly not register when you shoot someone, and magical homing enemy frag grenades. Thankfully, these (and many other interface and gameplay issues) were mostly corrected in the third game in the series, STALKER: Call of Pripyat.
  • Condemned 2: Bloodshot has a much more complex combat system than the original game, requiring you to use combos and time your attacks much more precisely to be really effective in combat. The sequel also no longer has infinite taser shots.
  • Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 on Veteran difficulty is insane compared to the second game. Not only can you survive much less damage, but enemies are suddenly psychic and have superhuman reflexes and perfect aim. The only concession is that they're not constantly spamming you with 6 grenades at the same time like in World At War.
  • Rainbow Six 3's Elite (read: Impossible) difficulty is much more frustrating than in previous games, due to the increased prescience, response speed, and accuracy of the AI, as well as level design that makes it easier to get blindsided by wandering tangoes.
  • Mission Pack Sequel DOOM II: Hell on Earth is noticeably harder than its predecessor, complete with new enemies that are more brutal than the ones before and former bosses the Cyberdemon and Spider Mastermind scattered like Giant Mooks, as well as larger levels filled with Malevolent Architecture. Case in point, the game's "normal" mode ("Hurt Me Plenty") is at least as hard as the original game's "hard" mode ("Ultra-violence"), if not harder.

Miscellaneous Games

  • Haggle Man 2 from Retro Game Challenge.
  • 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.


  • Guild Wars had a notable one from Prophecies to Factions. Prophecies wasn't that hard sans a few missions that were Luck-based (ie monk boss spawning in a very bad spot) and some difficulty spikes, but Factions did not screw around. It shoves you right into level 20 missions, and 90% of the missions are an Escort Mission. (But to be fair; Togo and Mhenlo do hold their ground and heal, they're actually not like Prince Rurik and run right on in. Given the nature of these missions you'll need the free healing.) While Vizunah Square may have been nerfed to not throw zillions of level 20 mooks at you, it doesn't get any easier. Vizunah square was worse in 2006 when Factions was new and people didn't know you were actually supposed to be level 20 before Vizunah Square so it wasn't uncommon to see people at level 15 or so trying to run the mission only to get chewed up by level 20s, and there were still plenty of people who went right to Factions instead of having beaten prophecies..
    • Nightfall is thankfully more merciful; it doesn't expect you to be level 20 until a point you might be at level 20 without doing sidequests despite that it does have its own difficulty spikes. Thankfully though they're much later in the game than Factions' were.
  • The Cataclysm expansion of World of Warcraft took (and is still taking) a lot of adjusting to given that the previous expansion had done away with limited mana for healers, crowd control, and target selection, at all but the highest levels of the game, before reintroducing them with a vengeance in the new expansion. Queue times spiked drastically as the combined result of tanks having to lead, healers having to be tactical, and dps having to pay attention to anything other than their rotation, and frustration with people not doing these things drove tanks in particular away in droves.

Platform Game

  • Super Mario Bros. (at least the Japanese one branded 'The Lost Levels'). Note that the Lost Levels we got let you save after every level. In the original, you could only continue from the start of each world (assuming you know and don't mess up the code). Also, in the original version, you had to beat the game 8 times to get the secret levels. Without warping.
  • Yoshis Island (DS sequel's secret levels compared to the original's secret levels, and probably the same with the World 5 levels).
  • Kaizo Mario World 2 was this (Platform Hell games can arguably only go up in difficulty...)
  • Super Mario Infinity (second game had 90mph Bullet Bills and 100 floor Marathon Level dungeons).
  • The Second Reality Project (Second game was generally harder and longer than the original)
  • Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame is definitely harder than the first game. The enemies are tougher and more numerous, the jumping puzzles have forced two-story falls that hurt, and the Malevolent Architecture is as malevolent as ever.
  • Viewtiful Joe 2 is substantially harder than the first game. There's more mooks, bosses have more health bars, and some have unblockable attacks. They did get, though, more savepoints, considerably easier puzzles, and you could Button Mash to kill just about every enemy.
  • Jak II. Comes along with focusing more on combat.
  • Likewise, the Prince of Persia Sands of Time trilogy.
  • Donkey Kong Country 2. The back of the box even said something like "and they've put some challenge in it this time". The sequel, Donkey Kong Country 3, starts off easy, but ends up even harder than most of DKC 2's levels. And 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.
  • Tomb Raider 3. This happens throughout the series (with each of the later Core Design games being tougher than the first), but TR3 has by far the most extreme surge in difficulty.
    • In the Crystal Dynamics series, Anniversary is quite a bit harder than Legend.
  • Sonic & Knuckles continues the ascending difficulty curve from Sonic 3, although there's a noticeable difficulty drop between Launch Base and Mushroom Hill Zones when playing the two games back-to-back as Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Before that, Sonic 2 for the Game Gear. Oftentimes, you have to perform blind leaps, and there are several sections where timing must be nothing short of absolutely impeccable. Sometimes, both at the same time.
  • The original arcade version of Contra was 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.
  • Banjo-Tooie, the sequel to Banjo-Kazooie, is much more complex and challenging than its predecessor. To elaborate, the levels in Tooie were a lot larger and more complex, and the Jiggies were harder to find. There were no Jiggies out in plain sight like in the previous game's earlier stages. It also had much harder bosses, including the infamous Weldar of Grunty Industries. 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 those goddamned Musical Notes work.
  • 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. Hundred-Percent Completion is even more difficult with new requirements to never take damage or die while collecting everything in a level.
  • Super Star Wars was no walk in the park, but the sequel Super Empire was truly maddening.
  • Metal Slug and Metal Slug 2 / X are fairly difficult enough games in the series. Then came along Metal Slug 3, which is not only dramatically longer, but also pushes the challenge Serial Escalation.

Puzzle Game

  • Super Puzzle World (went from normal puzzles to flat out requiring glitch use and physics manipulation to complete).
  • Riven: The Sequel to Myst was way, WAY harder than the first. Later games (especially the third, made by the the people behind The Journeyman Project while Cyan was busy with Uru) were more forgiving. The difficult generally comes from two directions. In all other Myst games, puzzles are localized in specific ages (except for one or two final puzzles that require info from different ages). Riven is all one single age, so the major puzzles in that game require a thorough exploration of everywhere. The clue you need to solve a puzzle could theoretically be anywhere. The other difficulty comes from the sheer complexity of the major puzzles in Riven. Because the puzzles use information from anywhere, they also require more association than in prior Myst games.
  • Oh No! More Lemmings, the sequel to Lemmings. While the original game was modestly difficult up until midway through Taxing, ONML jumps from laughably easy to god-this-is-hard in its second difficulty setting (of five) and goes up from there.
  • The puzzles in the Professor Layton series tend to get more challenging in each game. Of course, they couldn't just rehash the same puzzles over again.
  • Although an Updated Rerelease and not a sequel, Pokemon Puzzle Challenge gives an odd example. Easy, Normal and Hard are easier than they were in Tetris Attack, but the game adds Intense, which is even harder than the original's Very Hard - the AI can fill half the screen in one shot.
  • Repton 2 requires completion of the entire game without passwords or the ability to save, and also includes the notorious luck-based meteor-dodging sections, making it by far the most demanding game in the series. Later games returned to the format of separate levels with passwords.
  • ~Tetris: The Grand Master~ 2: The Absolute PLUS makes achieving Grand Master much harder due to the new grading system. The number of Western GM's in TGM1 is most likely in the triple digits, but there are exactly three Western TGM2+ GMs.
  • Portal 2 isn't exactly harder than the original; but it's definitely longer, which requires more endurance.
    • It does reach the difficulty of the first game pretty quick, and keeps going from there. Plus there are more opportunities for added complexity in puzzle solving and player dexterity.
  • 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.

Racing Game

  • In Forza Motorsport 3, the AI became more brutal and brake-check happy, even on Normal difficulty. Upped again in Forza 4 when the difficultly is set to max - the AI will now upgrade their cars (previous games, the AI would use stock, unmodified cars) to stay competitive with the player, and they are far more reckless when driving; it's not uncommon for them to brake-check the player, or use the PIT maneuver on them.
  • F-Zero GX. In difficulty terms, this game makes to look the previous console entries like a cakewalk.

Real Time Strategy

  • The Tower Defense game Gemcraft went from being one of the easier TD's to being the one of the hardest in its sequel, Gemcraft 0.
  • Earth 2150 is fairly OK when in comes to difficulty but the standalone expansion pack Lost Souls is a nightmare.
    • Here's an example. 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. Oh, and completing the mission will instantly dump you back to your main base without warning, losing you all those now highly experienced units you busted the base with without any chance to carry them over to the next mission. And the kicker? This is the THIRD MISSION.

Rhythm Game

  • Guitar Hero II
    • Guitar Hero III got even worse. 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 explaination is that part of the Neversoft development team was comprised of former custom notechart authors, who had previously created some distinctly challenging custom note charts for Guitar Hero II to give themselves a good challenge, carrying that same difficulty level onward to Guitar Hero III.
  • If you thought "Run To The Hills" and "Green Grass and High Tides" were bad, Rock Band 2 will hit you with the 4-hit combo of "Battery", "Painkiller", "Panic Attack" and "Visions".
  • Every Bemani series has a tendency to introduce more difficult songs every few installments, and as such needs to either add a new difficulty rating or rewrite the entire scale. Examples of songs that redefined difficulty:


Role Playing Game

  • Probably also Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi with the second games, at least statistically the vast majority of enemies were made more difficult.
    • Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door also introduced Stylish moves and the Superguard Action Command, which made statistically difficult enemies substantially easier, as well as letting you use your companion as a damage sponge in difficult situations.
  • Pokémon games themselves have had this trope invert but then play straight. The most notable difficulty spike was in Generation IV. Generation I could be trivialized by a Good Bad Bug, but even without it, it wouldn't be that hard to solo with your starter (or Mewtwo). Gen II actually had a Difficulty drop. Despite a few trainers like Whitney and her Miltank and Red (being high 70s-81) and that Gen II games had better AI than the first, they were a lot easier. Gen III brought the difficulty back to the Gen I level, and while it was somewhat noticeable, it could still be beaten fairly easily. Now Generation IV, however, THAT is when it started to get a lot harder. Not only was there the big Physical-Special split, but the changed movesets also made it so that Pokémon were more likely to know a move that'd utterly screw you (much more diverse movesets to deal with weaknesses). Despite that Gen III had some trainers like that (Winona's Altaria can and WILL use Earthquake on you if you have an Electric-type out), Gen IV has a lot more of them. And as an added bonus, because some types were so few in number in Gen IV, type-themed trainers like Gym Leaders and the Elite Four had to improvise instead of re-using the same type several times. Candice, for example, has a Medicham in her team (which isn't an Ice-type), Volkner has an Octillery in his team to screw any Ground types, and Flint, who is a Fire-user, only actually has two Fire-types in his team; the rest don't even have a common weakness with the Fire-types. No longer are you able to fight members of the Elite Four who simply repeated the same Pokémon and beat 'em by spamming the same actually had to have multiple ones!
    • The remakes and third-versions have also upped difficulty a little bit.
      • Generation I had Yellow, in which Koga suddenly tosses a level 50 Venomoth at you, and Sabrina has Pokémon in the mid 50s.
      • Emerald had a few difficulty increases, but overall, it wasn't that much harder than Ruby and Sapphire. If anything, it was a little more fair for those who picked Sceptile, the one starter who did not gain a secondary type when it evolved. Namely because not only was there Team Aqua (who used Water Pokémon), but also the Champion, Wallace, used primarily Water Pokémon. However, if you did fight Steven, he was significantly harder. And don't forget how difficult the rematches could get in Emerald!
      • Fire Red and Leaf Green were actually where rematches started. While the game itself was a lot like Generation I with some rebalances (ie, Sabrina wasn't that big of a threat because you could spam Bite on her Pokémon now), the rematches and the advanced Elite Four were notably harder than the originals, with some exceptions. (Poor Agatha still winds up using mostly Poison types...)
    • For Pokémon Black and White, people have noticed that the AI is a little better - there's a little more spread out use of Artificial Brilliance. For example, even standard trainer Mooks switch Pokémon out to absorb hits or spam stat-up or stat-down moves to annoy you. The gym leaders also use Pokémon with moves that are based around their team. (Lenora is a lot harder if you don't have a fighting type because her Watchog only shows up after you knocked out the previous Pokémon...and it has Retaliation.) While everyone has expected the more diverse movesets, it's a smaller spike than Gen III - IV was. (The main reason Gen IV struck a lot of people as harder was because how many people were caught off-guard) If anything; it Zig-zags this trope. That said, it also introduced the new EXP system, giving more EXP to KOs with underleveled Pokémon and less EXP to KOs with overleveled Pokémon...meaning they nerfed the tried-and-true strategy of "playing with only one Pokémon the whole game and winning through sheer level advantage" into the ground, since they wouldn't be nearly as overleveled thanks to the EXP reductions. It was still possible, but much more difficult.
  • If Spinoffs count, played straight in Pokémon Colosseum, which feature some actual AI and teams that didn't consist of crap Pokémon. Inverted in Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, though it still had better AI and teams than the portable games. Inverted later on as no game after Colosseum ever had the same level of AI.
  • Played straight in Dragon Quest 2. Inverted in Dragon Quest 4 and 5. Inverted with all of Dragon Quest Monsters sequels.
    • Dragon Quest IX was designed with this in mind. You had more freedom to choose which type of player character you wished to play as, however.
  • Final Fantasy I was already Nintendo Hard. The very first thing Final Fantasy II does is kill you. This is partly for dramatic purposes, and partly to let you know what it's going to be doing with considerable frequency the rest of the game. (The fact that its leveling up system practically encouraged masochism didn't help)
  • Even without using the newly added Hardcore Mode, Fallout: New Vegas is noticeably harder than Fallout 3. The game has a more "hardcore" stats and combat engine (i.e. armor is much more important, both for the player and enemy humans), combined with restricted character growth (no more reaching 10 in every stat and 100 in every skill in a single playthrough). Additionally, in contrast to Bethesda's Wide Open Sandbox philosophy where enemies level globally with the player and thus you can explore pretty much the entire game world from the beginning, ex-Black Isle uses a more traditional design where Beef Gate monsters will kill you to death if you try to explore an area of the game world before you've reached the appropriate level.
    • There are some more subtle changes, as well. While Fallout 3 made it possible to have 85% damage resistance from armor, New Vegas armor subtracts a flat rate from damage, but maxes out at 80% resistance (and that can be bloody hard against some hits, like the Anti-Materiel Rifle). V.A.T.S. gave an automatic 90% damage resistance (higher than was normally possible) in 3, but only gives a 25% boost in New Vegas, and the Grim Reaper's Sprint Perk was nerfed considerably, so staying in V.A.T.S. constantly is much less feasible and grants smaller rewards. Ways to treat broken limbs and radiation sickness were also reduced, making them a bigger danger (arguably to a greater degree than they had been in the original Fallout games, where the joke was that the 2 Rad-X needed to reach The Glow in Fallout 1 constituted 100% of the radiation treatment required in the first two games). Until DLC raises the Level Cap to ridiculous levels, the Courier had fewer skill points and Perks available than the Lone Wanderer, making resource allocation more important overall. All of this combined to make New Vegas considerably more challenging than its predecessor.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Birth by Sleep and, to some extend 358/2 punish the player for every oh-so-little attempt at Button Mashing and force them to carefully customize the Protagonist's abilities prior to each Boss Battle. Add the fact that you can't see the Secret Ending when you're playing on Beginner's Mode and you got yourself a perfectly good reason to bash your Handheld Console into the next available wall.
    • Many players would probably consider Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories to be drastically harder on the first playthough after playing the first game. You had to use a card for every action you took and carefully customize your deck (which some bosses would mess with a lot). The remake for the Playstation 2 was a lot easier, but still a challenge if you didn't know what you were doing.
  • Mother 3 is noticeably more difficult than Earthbound. The difficulty curve is evened out greatly and most regular enemies aren't that hard (for the most part, anyway), but the bosses will wipe the floor with you if you don't use every available ability.
  • Mass Effect 2 was noticeably harder than Mass Effect 1. With a greater focus on action and the removal of several Game Breakers, the game forced players to learn the cover mechanics, as opposed to simply loading up on regenerative items and equipment and taking a 'run and gun' approach. Then BioWare decided that Mass Effect 2 was too easy, so they ramped up Mass Effect 3 to the point that "Normal is the new Veteran" by making the enemies smart enough to use your reliance on cover againt you, forcing you to come up with better tactics then 'run and gun' or 'sit and shoot'.
  • There are a lot more Bottomless Pits in Dark Souls, and the standard enemies are even more of a threat. On the other hand, bosses aren't nearly as hair-pulling.
  • Baten Kaitos Origins took the mechanics from Eternal Wings and revamped them to remove a lot of the flaws the first game suffered from...and then made Origins a hell of a lot harder. The infuriating luck-central battle system, Guide Dang It loaded Item Crafting, and bothersome leveling mechanics were removed and replaced with a much more streamlined battle system and After Combat Recovery that eased Fake Difficulty, but the regular encounters took about seven levels in badass and the bosses were cranked up to truly vicious levels. It's rather telling that the game can give you items like the Book of Mana (which would be a total Game Breaker anywhere else) and it's still hard.
  • While Devil Survivor was by no means a cake-walk, it was still a decent challenge. Devil Survivor 2, however, is absolutely insane comparatively. Revised combat mechanics that nerf the old Game Breaker combos, more missions with side-objectives (enemy doesn't escape, Escort Mission, etc.), the enemy teams are much sturdier, and bosses that are ten or fifteen levels ahead of you. Yet grinding is as slow and ineffective as before.

Shoot'Em Up

  • Do Don Pachi Dai Ou Jou plays this trope straight if you regard it as a sequel to Do Don Pachi 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 Warmup Boss, is the opposite.
    • In turn, DDP was a huge leap over the original Don Pachi.
    • 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.
  • The latest Touhou games (Subterranean Animism on up) are markedly worse than the earlier games, with the exception of Ten Desires, which seems to be easier.
  • Gradius III Arcade, said to be one of the hardest games ever. Most subsequent games were easier.
  • Sin and Punishment 2. 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 Wiimote control system fitting it better than they anticipated, causing Treasure to crank the difficulty up to what it is now.
  • Raiden III was disappointingly easy, but Raiden IV goes Up to Eleven, with its later stages venturing 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.
  • Super Zaxxon took the gameplay of Zaxxon and upped its speed to the point of frustrating many players.

Simulation Game

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

Stealth Based Game

  • Metal Gear Solid 2 - Well, sort of. There are now higher difficulties to test your skills in. There are also more guards and hazards.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3 is also significantly more difficult than the first two games, due to the removal of the radar system and the lack of camera control. It's no longer possible to know if the area at the top of your screen is clear without significant use of first-person view, and enemies tend to have tighter patrols and more overall awareness. The Updated Release Subsistence added camera control, and the game's difficulty dropped (and made it feel much fairer) but it was still far from easy.

Third-Person Shooter

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

Turn-Based Strategy

  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, the sequel to Path of Radiance, was criticized for its drastic difficult spike, which made it difficult for new (and even a few veteran) fans to get into.
    • Though that was mostly the localization team's fault, for renaming Radiant Dawn 's difficulty levels "Easy", "Normal" and "Hard" when they originally where "Normal", "Hard" and "Maniac", yet for Path of Radiance they had instead removed Maniac and added Easy (Which was, well, rather easy). Thus, it looked like it got harder, when actually they were about the same.
    • Fire Emblem 5 plays this trope very Straight. Then 6-8 get gradually easier.
  • Played straight in Super Robot Wars Original Generation on the GBA. The first game could be defeated by mindless rushing and having Latooni dodge and counter everything (since the enemies hit rate would frequently end up at 0). In the second game where the enemies stats were NOT complete crap and the game suddenly required about as much strategy as Fire Emblem. Oh, and the "game over trick" got nerfed too: Kills do not carry over, making secrets and ace bonuses harder to get, and losing makes you ineligible for the scenario's battle mastery, so unlocking the bonus stage is a worthy challenge.

Turn Based Tactics

  • X-Com: Terror From The Deep was much harder than the original due to an undetected bug-- in the original game. Specifically, loading a saved game reset the difficulty to the easiest level, no matter what difficulty had been chosen at the start. Reacting to complaints about the game being too easy, the easiest level of Terror from the Deep was made harder than the hardest level of the original game. To make matters worse, the original bug was fixed in the sequel, so if you were foolish enough to choose a difficulty level higher than the easiest one... well, hope you picked out a nice tombstone.

Visual Novel

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


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