Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels

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Even difficulty-selection menus are cuter with puppies.


Most video games have adjustable Difficulty Levels so as to provide more of a challenge to good players while allowing poor players the satisfaction of finishing and finding out how the story ends. Traditionally, they would just be called Easy, Medium, and Hard (and possibly Expert). However, a recurring clever idea is to name them in a way reflecting of your game's style or plot. Another widespread trend is to Title Drop one of the difficulty settings, typically the hardest one.

Of course, if you use more than one word, everyone will call them "Easy", "Medium" and "Hard", but it does help establish continuity and mis-en-scene.

For idiosyncratic "Very Easy" and "Very Hard" levels only, see Easier Than Easy and Harder Than Hard.

Only unusual examples should be added to this article.

See also Easy Mode Mockery, where the idiosyncracy extends to your treatment in the gameplay. For comments on your gameplay, see Idiosyncratic Combo Levels.

Examples of Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels include:

These examples should be the names of the levels only, since that's what the trope is about. The details of gameplay differences between levels are irrelevant unless they are related to the name. Examples are listed in order from easiest to hardest.

  • Full Spectrum Warrior for Xbox is a particularly boring example, as it has only two difficulties
    • Sergeant
    • Sergeant Major
  • Wolfenstein 3D
    • "Can I play, Daddy?"
    • "Don't hurt me."
    • "Bring 'em on!"
    • "I am Death incarnate!"
  • Doom
    • "I'm Too Young To die"
    • "Hey, Not Too Rough"
    • "Hurt Me Plenty"
    • "Ultra-Violence"
    • "Nightmare!"
      • Early alpha builds of Doom called the easiest skill level "I Just Want to Kill" and the menu graphic filename M_JKILL was retained for skill 1 in the final version.
      • There was once a fanmade difficulty mod called "Pray to God" that was even harder than Nightmare, which threw everything that Nightmare had at you, but limited you to just the pistol.
  • Doom 64
    • "Be Gentle!"
    • "Bring it on!"
    • "I Own Doom!"
    • "Watch Me Die!"
  • Alley Cat
    • Kitten
    • House Cat
    • Tomcat
    • Alley Cat
  • Heretic had Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe titles that are references to the Wolfenstein 3-D and Doom level names:
  • The sequels to Heretic, Hexen and Hexen 2, had difficulties named after your chosen class, depending upon whether you were a Fighter/Cleric/Mage.
    • Squire/Altar Boy/Apprentice
    • Knight/Acolyte/Enchanter
    • Warrior/Priest/Sorcerer
    • Berserker/Cardinal/Warlock
    • Titan/Pope/Archmage
  • Hexen 2 had four character types: Paladin, Crusader, Necromancer, and Assassin.
    • For the Paladin, it went Apprentice (easiest), Squire, Adept, Lord (hardest).
    • With the Necromancer, you had Sorcerer (easiest), Dark Servant, Warlock, Lich King (hardest).
    • The Assassin was Rogue (easiest), Cutthroat, Executioner, Widow Maker (hardest).
    • The Crusader's levels went Gallant (easiest), Holy Avenger, Divine Hero, Legend (hardest).
    • The expansion, titled Portal of Praevus, added a fifth type, the Demoness, whose levels were Larva (easiest), Spawn, Fiend, She Bitch (hardest).
  • Duke Nukem 3D
    • Piece of Cake
    • Let's Rock
    • Come Get Some
    • Damn I'm Good
  • Duke Nukem: Time to Kill
    • Wussy
    • Get Some
    • Let's Go
    • Death Wish
  • Shadow Warrior
    • Tiny Grasshopper
    • I Have No Fear
    • Who Wants Wang?
    • No Pain, No Gain
  • Devil May Cry, especially the fourth game.
    • Human
    • Devil Hunter
    • Son of Sparda
    • Dante Must Die
    • Heaven or Hell (Everyone, including you, dies in one hit)
    • Hell or Hell (Only you die in one hit)
    • Legendary Dark Knight
  • Viewtiful Joe
    • Kids (easy)
    • Adults (hard)
    • V-rated (very hard)
    • Ultra-V-rated (nigh impossible).
      • Since the latter two options were added later, some players are surprised to be offered an "Adult" mode in an T-rated game.
    • The PS2 version added a "Fresh" (very easy) mode.
      • I heard it was "Sweet". Might "Fresh" be the PAL equivalent? (In PAL releases, the names are less idiosyncratic, such as "Easy" and "Normal".)
  • Sid Meiers Civilization
    • Civ I:
      • Chieftain
      • Warlord
      • Prince
      • King
      • Emperor
    • Civ II
      • Added "Deity" level as the hardest
      • Has two different level systems (one for barbarian activity, and one for AI intelligence and game speed). The former ranges up to "Raging Hordes", and the latter runs from "Chieftain" to "Deity".
    • Civ III
      • Chieftain
      • Warlord
      • Regent (replaced Prince)
      • Monarch (replaced King)
      • Emperor
        • Demigod (in the Play The World expansion pack, available only in Conquests mode)
      • Deity
        • Sid (in the Play The World expansion pack, available only in Conquests mode.) The "Sid" level difficulty was marked as more or less "For you nutjobs who seem to be beating Deity difficulty, we've made a mode that aims to make all but the best players cry like a little girl." The AI blatantly cheats, all the difficulty settings are turned up to 9011, and so on.
    • Civ IV:
      • Settler
      • Chieftain
      • Warlord
      • Noble
      • Prince
      • Monarch
      • Emperor
      • Immortal
      • Deity.
        • And matching descriptions for each difficulty level, telling you what you can expect while playing it. The highest, "Deity", simply reads "Muuahahaha! Good luck, sucker!"
    • Civ V is the same with Noble removed and Monarch changed to King.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
    • Citizen
    • Specialist
    • Talent
    • Librarian
    • Thinker
    • Transcend.
  • Colonization
    • Discoverer
    • Explorer
    • Conquistador
    • Governor
    • Viceroy
  • My Little Pony Vs. Starcraft 2 (A Touhou alike)
    • Derpy
    • Filly
    • Pony
    • Trollestia
  • Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon
    • Investor
    • Financier
    • Mogul
    • Tycoon
  • Sid Meier's Pirates!
    • Apprentice
    • Journeyman
    • Adventurer
    • Rogue
    • Swashbuckler
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
    • Earth
    • Galaxy
    • Universe
    • Fourth Dimension
  • God of War
    • Mortal
    • Hero
    • Spartan
    • God
  • God of War II
    • Mortal
    • Spartan
    • God
    • Titan
  • God of War III
    • Spartan
    • God
    • Titan
    • Chaos
      • The hardest difficulty levels in each God of War game refer to Kratos' allegiance in each respective game.
  • Crusader: No Remorse and its sequel
    • Mama's Boy
    • Weekend Warrior
    • Loose Cannon
    • No Remorse or No Regret (depending on the game)
  • Suspended ends with Impossible level.
  • Tales games: Phantasia, Destiny 2, Symphonia, Rebirth, and Abyss all use:
    • Simple
    • Second
    • Mania
    • Unknown
  • Diablo I and II
    • Normal
    • Nightmare
    • Hell
      • Plus the Hardcore setting in II (and probably III), which makes death permanent (the game erases your character's save file).
  • Titan Quest features the same difficulty mechanism, with levels names Heroic, Epic and Legendary.
  • Supreme Commander has the original few "easy, normal, hard", but then gets certain ones such as "swarm, tech, and cheater" which describe how the AI acts.
  • The original PlayStation version of Resident Evil 1 allows the players to choose between two main characters, a female (Jill) and a male (Chris). In the Japanese version, the difficulty between the two character are actually labeled on the character select screen as "Easy" and "Hard" respectively.
    • When the player starts a new game in the GameCube version of Resident Evil, the difficulty settings are not so clearly defined at first. Instead, the player will be asked whether they prefer to "hike" or "climb" a mountain.
    • Resident Evil 4 has "Easy", "Normal", and "Professional". In case the player doesn't get the reference right away, the game also features a gun called Mathilda. For extra punniness: the main character of Léon: The Professional is named Léon.
    • While Resident Evil: Revelations offers up "Casual", "Normal" and "Hell". The joke here being that the game is stuffed with references to The Divine Comedy.
  • Scorched Earth has AI skill and tactics levels, although there was no clear hierarchy of easiest to hardest beyond that Morons played like, well, morons, and the Cyborg had better aiming skills and virtually always hit whatever he aimed at.
    • Moron (Shoots at random; randomly changes its aim following a miss.)
    • Tosser (Shoots at random; adjusts aim following a miss, but not very well)
    • Lobber (Tends to high, lobbing shots)
    • Chooser (Picks a target, stays on it, corrects aim fairly effectively)
    • Shooter (Picks a target, corrects aim very well)
    • Poolshark (Tends to make bank, bounce and wrap shots)
    • Spoiler (Takes out damaged opponents, steals kills, ruins your shot)
    • Cyborg (Very good aiming, virtually always hits what it aimed at, always corrects effectively in the rare case of a miss)
    • Unknown (One of the first eight types was chosen at random and clicking on the tank did not reveal which one it was.)
  • Scorched 3D AI opponents scale is Random, Target, Moron, Shooter, Tosser, Chooser, Shark, Cyborg.
  • Legend of Mana gives you the Forbidden Tome after beating the Mana Goddess for the first time, which lets you increase the game's difficulty.
    • Normal (first playthrough)
    • Nightmare (enemies are 20 levels higher than normal)
    • No Future (all enemies are level 99)
  • Ninja Gaiden
    • Ninja Dog
    • Normal
    • Hard
    • Very Hard
    • Master Ninja
    • Ninja Gaiden II has Acolyte, Warrior, Mentor, Master Ninja.
  • Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2:
    • Low risk,
    • Guarded risk
    • Elevated risk.
  • Blood:
    • Still Kicking
    • Pink on the Inside
    • Lightly Broiled
    • Well Done
    • Extra Crispy
  • Blood II:
    • Genocide
    • Homicide
    • Suicide
  • POed:
    • I Like to Watch
    • I'm Over 40 and Have Arthritis in My Trigger Fingers
    • I Don't Eat Quiche
  • Elite Beat Agents:
    • Breezin'
    • Cruisin'
    • Sweatin'
    • Hard Rock!
  • Ouendan's difficulty levels are commonly known to English-speakers as Easy, Normal, Hard, and Very Hard/Insane. They are actually called
    • Light-hearted Cheer
    • Bold Cheer
    • Burning Cheer
    • Graceful Cheer
  • The Ouendan / EBA clone osu! takes this to another level. Each beatmap has a difficulty name specified by the beatmap's author. For example, one set of beatmaps could have difficulty names "Easy", "Normal", "Hard", and "Very Hard", while another set by a completely different author could have the names "Normal", "Advanced", "Extreme", and "Insane".
  • Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard
    • Minimum Hazard
    • Major Hazard
    • Maximum Hazard
  • Matt Hazard: Blood Bath And Beyond
    • Wussy
    • Damn This is Hard
    • Fuck This Shit
  • R-Type Final
    • Baby
    • Kid
    • Human
    • Bydo
    • R-Typer
  • The N64 Mission: Impossible game had two difficulty levels - Possible and Impossible.
  • Serious Sam:
    • Tourist
    • Easy
    • Medium
    • Hard
    • Serious
    • Mental.
  • No More Heroes:
    • Sweet
    • Mild
    • Bitter
  • Dungeon Siege II:
    • Mercenary
    • Veteran
    • Elite.
  • Super Star Wars games on the SNES, may/may not be slightly averted with:
    • Easy
    • Brave
    • Jedi.
  • The CPU-controlled opponents in the multiplayer modes of Conker's Bad Fur Day could be set to one of the following:
    • Inbred
    • Crap
    • Normal
    • Bastard
    • Einstein
  • While the actual difficulty levels in God Hand are Easy, Medium, and Hard, the Dynamic Difficulty scale is 1, 2, 3, and Die.
  • Constantine licensed game:
    • Trickster
    • Demonslayer
    • Hellblazer.
  • Postal 2 took this to a ridiculous level. There are about 10 named difficulty levels, starting at "Leibermode" and ending at "Hestonworld", that actually changed the way the game was played. "Liebermode" had everyone armed with shovels instead of guns, "Hestonworld" had EVERYONE (including all civilians) armed with guns, "Insane-o" armed people with random weapons including scissors and grenades, and "They Hate Me" made everyone with a weapon attack the player on sight. The officially-recognized "A Week in Paradise" mod takes this even further, with a "Nightmare" difficulty that gives everybody guns and makes them all hate you, and further than that is "Really Fucking Hard" difficulty, which is the same as Nightmare but with the extra weapons from Insane-o mode - which now includes even more grenade types and high explosives, up to miniature nukes.
  • Averted for Minecraft itself but not when in it's pirate speak.
    • Smooth Sailin'
    • Deckswabber
    • RegulARRRR
    • True Pirate
    • Along with it's gamemodes...
      • Aimless Sailing (Creative)
      • Swashbuckler (Survival)
      • Captain (Hardcore)
  • Strikers 1945 for the PlayStation, had, below "Easy" in decreasing level of difficulty: "Very Easy", "Child", and "Monkey".
  • The Curse of Monkey Island has Normal and Mega Monkey. The latter is the real full game, while the former has some of the puzzles removed and is described as being for game-reviewing journalists.
    • In Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge you could choose between "Monkey Island 2" ("I want it all! All the puzzles! All the work!") and "Monkey 2 Lite" ("I've never played an adventure game before. I'm scared."). This is also described as being the "optional easy mode for children and magazine reviewers" on the back cover of the game.
  • Kane & Lynch: Dead Men:
    • Aspirin
    • Codeine
    • Morphine
  • LucasArts' western-themed Outlaws (1997 video game): Good, Bad, Ugly
  • A computerised version of Monopoly rated computer opponents as Calculator, XT Clone and 386/33 MHz. This was early in the PC's lifetime, when the 386/33 MHz was the most powerful computer around. Of course, as it transpires, the three difficulties all turn out to be synonymous to "stupid", even if the game had a remake that replaced the "386 MHz" with "Core i7".
  • Unreal Tournament had subtitled bot skill levels:
    • Novice (They won't hurt you... much)
    • Average (They know how to kill)
    • Experienced (Don't get cocky)
    • Skilled (You think you're tough?)
    • Adept (You'd better be good)
    • Masterful (I hope you like to respawn)
    • Inhuman (You are already dead)
    • Godlike (I am the Alpha and the Omega).
  • The Sega Genesis game Vectorman:
    • Lame
    • Wicked
    • Insane
      • Its sequel featured "Lame", "Cool", and "Wicked".
  • Rise of the Triad has three lists of names for its four difficulties (with a picture to go with each name):
    • First set:
      • "I am a Chew Toy." (see the page image)
      • "Will of Iron, Knees of Jell-O (TM)."
      • "I'm in my Element: Lead."
      • "Two Words: Reaper Man."
    • Second set:
      • "The Enemy Will Devour Me."
      • "Which Part is the Trigger?"
      • "I Have Pet Names For My Grenades."
      • "No One Shall Live."
    • Third set:
      • "Dig My Grave. Now."
      • "I Think I Left the Stove On."
      • "I'm a Freight Train O' Death."
      • "They Call Me 'The Cleaner.'"
    • Regardless of which list shows up, they're alternatively called "Easy", "Medium", "Hard", and "Crezzy Man" by the game.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4 names its difficulty levels after the series characters.
    • "Liquid Easy"
    • "Naked Normal"
    • "Solid Normal"
    • "Big Boss Hard"
    • "The Boss Extreme".
  • The old PlayStation 1-based Vehicular Combat game Vigilante8:
    • "Unleaded"
    • "Super Unleaded"
    • "High Octane".
  • In the Japanese and PAL versions of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the player is whether they played the first Metal Gear Solid or not. The first three answers will start the game on the Tanker chapter, while the last two choices will skip to the Plant chapter.
    • "I've cleared the previous game multiple times, so bring on the action!"
    • "I managed to clear the previous game, but action isn't my strong point!"
    • "I didn't clear the previous game myself, but I watched everything!"
    • "I didn't clear the previous game, but bring on the action!"
    • "I didn't clear the previous game, and action isn't my strong point!".
  • Space Megaforce has Normal, Hard, Hyper, Tricky, and Wild. Tricky and Wild, which cause enemies to fire back when destroyed, are selected by pressing left (as if selecting an easier difficulty).
  • Bemani games tend to do this a lot:
    • Dance Dance Revolution, which is particularly notorious for changing its difficulty names:
      • Basic, Another, Maniac (1st to 2nd Mix)
      • Basic, Trick, Step Step Revolution (3rd Mix)
      • Basic, Trick, Maniac (4th to 5th Mix)
      • Beginner, Light, Standard, Heavy, Challenge[1] (DDRMAX to DDR Extreme, with Challenge added in DDRMAX2 and Beginner added in DDR Extreme)
      • Beginner, Basic, Difficult, Expert, Challenge (DDR SuperNOVA onwards)
      • And prior to Dance Dance Revolution 4th Mix, each difficulty rating had its own name: Simple (1), Moderate (2), Ordinary (3), Superior (4), Marvelous (5), Genuine (6), Paramount (7), Exorbitant (8), Catastrophic (9). It's implied that a 10-footer on this scale would be Apocalyptic (as referenced in the Achievements for DDR Universe) though never specifically stated as such.
    • Beatmania IIDX: Light 7, 7 Keys, Another (up to IIDX 11); Normal, Hyper, Another (IIDX 12 onwards)
      • In Troopers CS, they introduced Kuro (Black) Another, which make the original another charts look like Light 7s by comparison.
    • Pop'n Music:
      • 5-Button
      • Normal
      • Hyper
      • EX
    • Drum Mania, Guitar Freaks, and jubeat all currently use the names Basic, Advanced, Extreme. The former two games used to call them Normal, Real, and Expert Real in early installments.
    • Keyboardmania had Light, Normal, and Real. Normal was renamed Light+ in 2nd Mix.
    • Dance Mania X had Mild and Wild.
  • Pump It Up: Normal, Hard, Crazy (for single-pad charts); Freestyle, Nightmare (for double-pad charts)
    • Beginning on Fiesta however, it is completely averted, as rgw difficulty levels are no longer given names, and are instead referred to in-game by their level number.
  • DJMAX Technika:
    • Lite Pattern (LP)
    • Popular Pattern (PP)
    • Technical Pattern (TP)
    • Special Pattern (SP)
      However, Technika 2 switches out to slightly more traditional naming conventions: Star, Normal, Hard, and Maximum. The latter three are taken from older DJMAX games.
  • The Touhou games have the standard Easy, Normal, and Hard, but above Hard is Lunatic. In addition, there's the Extra Stage, and Perfect Cherry Blossom had two difficulties for it: Extra and Phantasm, Phantasm being the harder of the two.
    • Most of the games also have alternative level names to go with the standard ones -- Phantasmagoria of Flower View, for example, has difficulties named for different types of plants/flowers (Extra being the demonic cherry tree from PCB).
    • The difficulty levels in Imperishable Night, whose plot centers around a stolen full moon (don't think about it too much), are, fittingly enough, named after specific phases of the moon in japanese:
      • Easy: "Shingetsu", New Moon
      • Normal: "Mikazuki", Third Day Moon (waxing crescent)
      • Hard: "Uetsu Yumihari", Upper Bowstring Moon (waxing half-moon)
      • Lunatic: "Matsuyoi", Waiting Evening (waxing gibbous, specifically the day just before a full moon)
    • Subterranen Animism also has its own naming scheme:
      • Easy: Fairy Class
      • Normal: Kappa Class
      • Hard: Tengu Class
      • Lunatic: Oni God Class
    • Ten Desires has prayers for stuff that supposedly ranges from easy to impossible to achieve:
      • Easy: Pray for health and long life
      • Normal: Pray for traffic safety
      • Hard: Pray for business prosperity
      • Lunatic: Pray for IT data security
    • In addition, in all games the difficulty level comes with a subtitle, with Easy usually being toted as "for Sunday gamers" and Lunatic generally being titled "for weird people" or "not suited for anyone".
  • I Wanna Be the Guy:
  • Kirby's Avalanche has difficulty levels named after degrees of food spiciness:
    • Mild
    • Medium
    • Spicy
    • Hot
    • Cajun
  • Marathon:
    • Kindergarten
    • Easy
    • Normal
    • Major Damage
    • Total Carnage
  • Bungie's post-Marathon pre-Halo RTSes Myth : The Fallen Lords and Myth II : Soulblighter:
    • Timid
    • Simple
    • Normal
    • Heroic
    • Legendary
      • Additionally, the game had flavour text describing the difficulty levels.

Legendary: "You will brave the army of a Commander who has never known defeat, and the piled dead will reach the heavens; but should you succeed, in an age not yet dawned you will be spoken of as a god!"
Timid: "You will grow tired blunting your weapons on a poorly-led horde of mindless corpse-men; and once you have reduced them to so much sausage filler, the sweet taste of success will turn to ashes in your mouth"

  • Halo had similarly named difficulty levels.
    • Easy
    • Normal
    • Heroic
    • Legendary
    • In later games, a collectible skull exists that doubles enemy health called Mythic.
      • "Mythic difficulty" is a fan-made difficulty setting which requires turning on all of the various skulls that increase the difficulty of the game in addition to the normal hardships of the legendary setting. The skulls effects are: level restarts if you die, your shields can only renerate when you melee an enemy, enemies evade/throw grenades like crazy, no motion tracker, reduced ammo, enemy resistances increased, and of course enemy health doubled.
  • Carmageddon created some controversy with its lowest difficulty setting:
      • Easy - as killing bunnies with axes
      • Normal - everyday carnage
      • Hard - as french-kissing a cobra
  • Carmageddon 2 went a bit further:
    • As easy as stamping on kittens
    • Normal day-to-day depravity
    • As hard as fisting a Velociraptor
  • Carmageddon TDR 2000 made them less violent:
    • Sunday Driver
    • Boy Racer
    • Speed Demon
  • Blazing Lazers, a shooting game for the TurboGrafx-16, has a difficulty selector that is only available via a secret code at the opening of the game.
    • Normal Dog
    • Hard Human
    • Super Mania
    • God of the Game
  • Alien Soldier has only two difficulty levels: "Supereasy" and "Superhard".
  • Afro Samurai has two difficulties, with the second unlocked after a complete playthrough: Number Two Headband and Number One Headband.
  • Parasite Eve 2 has a few and each one gives bigger bonus multipliers at higher difficulties:
    • Normal:
    • Replay Mode (Easy)
    • Bounty Mode (Medium)
    • Scavenger Mode (Hard)
    • Nightmare Mode (Very Hard)
  • Sword of the Samurai names its difficulty levels after Japanese swords of increasing length.
    • Tanto (Easiest)
    • Wakizashi
    • Katana
    • No-Dachi
  • CnC Renegade
    • Recruit
    • Veteran
    • Commando
  • Mega Man 9:
    • Normal
    • Hero
    • Super Hero
  • Freedom Fighters:
    • Demonstrator
    • Rebel
    • Freedom Fighter
    • Revolutionary
  • Jade Empire:
    • Student
    • Master
    • Great Master
    • Jade Master
  • Overboard, for the Playstation 1, had levels that sounded like "Oohh!", "Ooohhh!", and "OOOHHH!".
  • City of Heroes and City of Villains used to take this a step further. You can change your difficulty at special NPCs who, for a fee, will spread word about you, affecting your Reputation (heroes) / Notoriety (villains). This affects the missions you will receive.
    • Heroic/Villainous (standard)
    • Tenacious/Malicious (more enemies)
    • Rugged/Vicious (harder enemies)
    • Unyielding/Ruthless (both)
    • Invincible/Relentless (standard sized spawns of even harder enemies).
      • The difficulty system was altered for Going Rogue. Now you can separately set what level the foes should be compared to you (from -1 to +4), how many foes should spawn in missions (from x1 to x8), whether you want to fight Bosses as Lieutenants, and whether you want to fight Archvillains as Elite Bosses.
  • Max Payne (1 and 2):
    • Fugitive/Detective (first/second game, respectively)
    • Hardboiled
    • Dead On Arrival (very hard + limited saves per level)
    • New York Minute (time limited)
    • Dead Man Walking (insane one-room enemy-spawning survival mode).
  • Painkiller:
    • Daydream
    • Insomnia
    • Nightmare
    • Trauma
  • Most Star Trek games:
    • Ensign
    • Lieutenant
    • Captain
    • Occasionally Admiral
  • Crysis has Delta Force difficulty, with an Easter Egg file name of Bauer for its most realistic, Harder Than Hard setting.
  • Golden Eye 1997 007 (007 mode is a customizable difficulty level where you can make it easy or hard as you want by adjusting enemy health, their reaction time, and accuracy):
    • Agent
    • Secret Agent
    • 00 Agent
    • 007
  • Revisited with Golden Eye Wii:
  • Perfect Dark:
    • Agent
    • Special Agent
    • Perfect Agent
    • Perfect Dark
      • Furthermore, bots in multiplayer mode have various difficulty levels, ranging from Meatsims that almost always miss to Darksims that almost always hit, spawn near weapon spawn points, and can teleport when the player isn't looking. Oddly, Meatsims are the second most dangerous sims when explosive weapons are available, thanks to their tendency to only just barely miss.
    • Perfect Dark Zero also has Dark Agent, which disables the Regenerating Health.
  • Quantum of Solace:
    • New Recruit
    • Field Operative
    • Agent
    • 007.
      • This also carries this over to the achievements. Depending on which difficulty you play, you get "Octopussy", "Tomorrow Never Dies", "You Only Live Twice", or "The Name Is Bond, James Bond." No points for guessing which achievement goes with which difficulty.
  • The Jedi Knight series of Star Wars games uses various Jedi ranks in different methods in different games, ranging from Padawan up to Master.
  • Descent is pseudo-military:
  • The Atari 2600 game Laser Blast:
    • Cadet
    • Lieutenant
    • Captain
    • Commander
  • Corridor 7:
    • Corporal
    • Lieutenant
    • Captain
    • Major
  • The fourth Ratchet and Clank game had settings such as "Couch Potato" to "Exterminator". ("Exterminator" came with the warning "You don't need this kind of pain".)
  • The Conduit, in keeping with its conspiracy/terror theme, uses the five levels of the Homeland Security Advisory System:
    • Low
    • Guarded
    • Elevated
    • High
    • Severe
  • Titan Quest:
    • Normal
    • Epic
    • Legendary
  • Battle for Wesnoth has difficulty settings named marked by units of different levels and mostly named after them, customized per campaign:
    • "Horseman (Beginner), Knight (Challenging)", "Fighter (Easy), Commander (Normal), Lord (Challenging)", "Spearman (Easy), Swordsman (Normal), Royal Guard (Challenging)" or "Peasant (Easy), Outlaw (Normal), Fugitive (Difficult)" - Human; also "Civilian (Beginner), Recruit (Easy), Soldier (Normal)"
    • "Fighter (Beginner), Hero (Normal), Champion (Challenging)", "Fighter (Beginner), Lord (Normal), High Lord (Challenging)" "Soldier (Easy), Lord (Normal), High Lord (Hard)" - Elvish.
    • "Fighter (Easy), Steelclad (Normal), Lord (Challenging)" - Dwarvish.
    • "Grunt (Challenging), Warrior (Difficult), Warlord (Nightmare)" - Orcish.
  • The difficulty levels of the Duel Colosseum in Dissidia Final Fantasy take their names from the airships in the series:
  • Darkest of Days:
  • While they do have a few differences in special moves, the teams in Sonic Heroes are basically difficulty levels, with Team Rose being easy, Team Sonic being normal, Team Dark being hard, and Team Chaotix being "other" (usually having some sort of odd mission).
  • Muramasa: The Demon Blade
    • Muso - easy
    • Shura - crushing even to the average gamer who's beaten Muso
    • Shigurui - Shura, except One-Hit-Point Wonder
  • Wet
    • Cake Walk (easy)
    • Hired Gun (normal)
    • Fixer (hard)
    • Femme Fatale (very hard)
    • Golden Bullets (one-hit kills for everyone!)
  • Tetris the Grand Master 2 PLUS
    • Normal
    • Master
    • T.A. Death
  • Tetris the Grand Master 3
    • Easy
    • Master
    • Shirase
  • Tetris the Grand Master 4
    • Konoha
    • Master
    • Rounds
  • Tetris the Grand Master ACE
    • Normal
    • Hi-Speed
    • Hi-Speed 2
    • Another
    • Another 2
  • The original San Francisco Rush had audio Idiosyncratic Difficulties based on which car you picked. Each car handling class was accompanied by a car alarm which got gradually more intense the more a class traded handling for speed, topping off with Extreme's "It's dangerous!" followed by screaming. The N64 port added a few special cars that had difficulty levels of "Oooooh!" and "Yeah!"
  • DuckTales (1987): The Quest for Gold uses money puns:
    • Easy Money
    • Standard Wages
    • Hard Earned Cash
  • The Call of Duty series often uses:
    • Greenhorn[3] - "You will crush the enemy without effort."
    • Regular - "Your abilities in combat will be tested."
    • Hardened - "Your skills will be strained."
    • Veteran - "You will not survive."
  • 50 Cent Bulletproof:
    • Playa - Very Easy
    • Hustla - Easy
    • Thug - Normal
    • Gangsta - Hard
    • G Unit Soldier - Very hard.
  • Wipeout 3 Special Edition. Not just difficulty levels, but it counts.
    • Vector
    • Venom
    • Rapier
    • Phantom (hidden difficulty, unlocked by cheat)
  • Death Rally:
    • Speed Makes me Dizzy
    • I Live to Ride
    • I Got Petrol in my Veins
  • The World Ends With You only has a different name for its hardest difficulty, but each setting has a little one-liner to go along with it.
    • "Easy: Face the Noise"
    • "Normal: Erase the Noise"
    • "Hard: Hush the Noise"
    • "Ultimate: Crush the Noise"
  • Paperboy was one of the earliest video games to use this trope - your delivery routes are:
    • Easy Street
    • Middle Road
    • Hard Way
  • The NES version of Double Dragon II: The Revenge have fancily-named difficulty levels that affected not only the strength of the enemies and the movement of traps, but also the length of the overall game.
    • Practice (which lasts only three stages)
    • Warrior (which has all the stages except the final one)
    • Supreme Master (the only difficulty where the final stage, and the ending, can be seen)
  • One Must Fall 2097:
    • Punching bag
    • Rookie
    • Veteran
    • World class
    • and after cheating:
    • Champion
    • Deadly
    • Ultimate

The tournament mode has:

    • Aluminum - The perfect difficulty setting for new players
    • Iron - Think you're ready to fight with the big boys?
    • Steel - To survive, you need ball bearing of steel.
    • Heavy metal - Prepare to be rocked!
  • Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2
    • Casual
    • Normal
    • Veteran
    • Hardcore
    • Insanity
  • Mass Effect 3 removes Veteran and adds Narrative below Casual.
  • Global Agenda ranked it's Player Versus Environment missions as Low, Medium, High, or Maximum security. Later patches first added a new level above maximum then removed the Low setting, leaving Artifact Difficulty Levels which are even more idiosyncratic. The current settings are:
    • Medium Security
    • High Security
    • Maximum Security
    • Ultra-Max Security
  • Stargunner uses military-style naming. Good luck beating the game even on the easiest difficulty.
    • Ensign
    • Captain
    • Admiral
  • Resonance of Fate has 10 difficulty levels with each more idiosyncratic than the one before.
    • Normal
    • Advance
    • Hard
    • Professional
    • Hurt Me Plenty
    • Ultimate
    • Supremacy
    • Legendary
    • Mythology
    • Zenith
  • Alien Rampage:
    • Like To Hide.
    • Shoot And Run.
    • Stand And Fight.
    • Just A Psycho.
  • Genetos:
    • Beginner
    • Standard User
    • Programmer
    • Hacker
    • Creator
  • Microprose's adaptation of Magic: The Gathering used wizard ones:
    • Apprentice - start with 10 life, one color, enemies have X life
    • Magician - start with 8 life, two colors, enemies have X+Y life
    • Sorceror - start with 6 life, three colors, enemies have X+2Y life
    • Wizard - start with 4 life, four colors, enemies have X+3Y life
    • You could further adjust difficulty by choosing your color; red, green, and white were easier than black and blue, just because of the low life totals.
  • Kingdom Hearts has:
    • Easy (later, "Beginner")
    • Normal
    • Proud (from Final Mix onwards; previously called "Expert")
    • Critical (beginning with Final Mix+ and BBS)
  • Alien Trilogy:
    • Acid Reign
    • Raging Terror
    • Xenomania
  • Guilty Party has:
    • Rookie (Easy)
    • Detective (Medium)
    • Super Sleuth (Hard)
  • Raiden Project:
  • Raiden IV:
    • Practice
    • Very Easy
    • Easy
    • Medium
    • Original (arcade)
    • Hard
    • Very Hard
    • Ultimate (Harder than Harder Than Hard)
  • Mushihime-sama and its sequel:
    • Original
    • Maniac
    • Ultra (in Mushihimesama Futari Black Label, this is replaced by God).
  • Okamiden
    • Greenhorn
    • Old Hand
  • Sniper Elite
    • Rookie
    • Cadet
    • Marksman
    • Sniper Elite
  • Haegemonia uses the usual names but each has a subtitle:
    • Easy - Come on! You are better than that!!!
    • Medium - Correct decision...
    • Hard - Are you completely sure???
  • Crazd
    • Beginner Mode
    • Awesome Mode
  • Do Don Pachi DaiFukkatsu Black Label.:
    • Bomb Style
    • Power Style
    • Strong Style
      The different Styles, save for Strong Style, do not equate to difficulty in version 1.5, but in Black Label, the upper two styles do due to varying gimmicks (forced Ura midbosses in Power, 2nd-loop-class patterns in Strong).
  • Crimzon Clover:
    • Simple—Simplified scoring system and no Break Mode.
    • Original
    • Unlimited
  • The Infocom text adventure Leather Goddesses of Phobos had "Tame", "Suggestive", and "Lewd". Didn't affect game difficulty, just the text descriptions of the action.
  • Rollercoaster Tycoon 3:
    • Apprentice
    • Entrepreneur
    • Tycoon
  • Sin and Punishment 2's difficulty descriptions:
    • Easy - "You will be sheltered."
    • Normal - "You will be tested."
    • Hard - "You will be punished."
  • Blue Wish Resurrection:
    • Heaven
    • Original
    • Hell
    • Accel, in which bullets accelerate as they move further. Changed into a setting in the options menu in Blue Wish Resurrection Plus
  • Aerobiz Supersonic featured:
    • Glider
    • Prop
    • Jet
    • Jumbo Jet
    • Supersonic
  • Ace Combat: From 04 on up, featured unlockable difficulty modes after beating it on Hard.
    • Expert
    • Ace
  • Storm the House 3
    • Has very typical level names (Easy, Normal, Hard) up until the last one: WHY GOD!?
  • Deus Ex Human Revolution
    • Tell Me A Story
    • Give Me A Challenge
    • Give Me Deus Ex
  • Quake III Arena
    • I Can Win
    • Bring It On
    • Hurt Me Plenty
    • Hardcore
    • Nightmare
      • Each level colors part of logo to red with first having none colored, and 5th having special "logo". 5th also plays SFX.
  • Arcania - Gothic 4
  • Rock Band 3 has a three-dimensional matrix of difficulties. Two of those dimensions are simply named: modes available (on guitar, bass, keys, and drums anyway) are Basic and Pro, chart difficulties available are Easy, Normal, Hard, and Expert, but the third dimension, the difficulty for a given song on a given instrument, follows this scale:
    • Warmup
    • Apprentice
    • Solid
    • Moderate
    • Challenging
    • Nightmare
    • Impossible
      • These levels are present in the other games of the series as well, except the first game has two more song difficulty levels: Skilled and Blistering, with Challenging sandwiched between them.
  • The original Guitar Hero games, made by Harmonix before Activision took the license from them, also had idiosyncratic song difficulty levels:
    • Opening Licks
    • Axe Grinders (first game only)
      • Amp Warmers (second game only; replaces the previous one)
      • String Snappers (also second game only)
    • Thrash and Burn (absent from the Rocks the 80s version)
    • Return of the Shred
    • Fret Burners (first game only)
      • Relentless Riffs (second game only; replaces the previous one)
      • Furious Fretwork (also second game only)
    • Face Melters (absent from the Rocks the 80s version)
  • Trash Panic:
    • Sweets Course
    • Maindish Course
    • Hell Course
  • Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter has only "Realistic" and "Ultra-Realistic".
  • Soldier of Fortune II
    • Amateur: easy
    • Gun for Hire: medium
    • Consultant: hard
    • Soldier of Fortune: nearly impossible
  • Indie puzzle game Chromashift has normal level numbers, but a different description for each:
    • Level 1: For Beginning Players
    • Level 2: A Fairly Safe Bet
    • Level 3: Not Too Hard
    • Level 4: Getting Fairly Difficult
    • Level 5: Yeah, Good Luck With That
  • Far Cry tells you what to expect for each difficulty level:
    • Easy: A peaceful tropical island stroll. Enjoy your vacation.
    • Medium: You will be challenged, but adventure requires a little danger, right?
    • Challenging: Your enemies are smarter, more accurate, and really pissed off. Good luck. You'll need it.
    • Veteran: Serious jungle madness. We hope you have a high tolerance for pain.
    • Realistic: You must be amazingly skilled or incredibly foolish. Forget paradise - this is hell.
  • Death Smiles Mega Black Label
    • Level 1
    • Level 2
    • Level 3
    • Level 999
  • Loaded
    • Players Are Fairies
    • Players Are Boring
    • Players Are Confident
    • Players Are Brutal
    • Players Are Loaded
  • Galactic Civilizations: the individual races can be set to any of Fool, Dunce, Beginner, Sub-Normal, Normal, Bright, Intelligent, Gifted, Genius, Incredible, Godlike or Ultimate; Intelligent is the only one that's fair, with the earlier ones cheating in your favour and the later ones simply cheating. The game as a whole has the following difficulties:
    • Cakewalk
    • Easy
    • Simple
    • Beginner
    • Normal
    • Challenging
    • Tough
    • Painful
    • Crippling
    • Masochistic
    • Obscene
    • Suicidal
  • The Berenstain Bears' Camping Adventure:
    • Bear Cub (Easy)
    • Brown Bear (Medium, the default)
    • Grizzly Bear (Hard)
  • Air Zonk:
    • Sweet Mode (5 lives)
    • Spicy Mode (3 lives)
    • Bitter Mode (1 life)
  • Zigzagged in Commandos 2: Men of Courage, where the difficulty levels are Normal, Difficult and Realist (for Very Hard).
  • Desperados 2: Cooper's Revenge has Vaquero (Cowboy) for Normal and Pistolero (Gunslinger) for Hard.
  • Dungeons of Dredmor:
    • Elves Just Want to Have Fun (Easy)
    • Dwarvish Moderation - a practical approach to dungeoneering (Normal)
    • Going Rogue - because losing is fun! (Hard)
  • The Saboteur:
    • Easy
    • Medium
    • Hard
    • Fecking Hard
  • Legend Garden
    • Cake
    • Noob
    • Piggy
    • Master
    • Legend
  • Crimson Alliance
    • Easy
    • Normal
    • Hard
    • Immortal
    • Ridonkulous!
  • A Valley Without Wind has two sets of difficulty levels, one for platforming, and another for combat.
    • Combat:
      • Featherweight
      • Apprentice
      • Adept
      • Skilled
      • Hero
      • Master Hero
      • The Chosen One
    • Platforming:
      • I Have No Desire to Be The Guy
      • I'm Afraid Of Heights
      • I Can Jump, Thank You
      • I Get Mistaken for A Certain Plumber
      • I Am Not The Guy, but I Am Close
      • I Am Already The Guy

Non-video game examples[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In Stick Man Stick Man comic strip, strip 198 has a swordfight training robot that has difficulty settings including the following (we don't learn about the names of the easier levels)
    • Expert
    • Master
    • Impossible
    • Combine Harvester
    • No Seriously, Give Up Now
  1. Challenge was also known as "Oni" (Japanese for "demon", also the kanji used in the difficulty icon) in the DDR Extreme options menu, most likely done to make all the difficulties fit in one line on the screen.
  2. Fitting, as it takes place in the wee hours of the morning after you restore the true full moon to Gensokyo
  3. changed to "Recruit" in Call of Duty 4 and beyond