Mercy Mode

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'Easy Mode Unlocked?' You died so much the game took pity on you? Man.

You've been playing this video game for the past three hours. Your controller has been smashed against the floor several times. Your screams of rage have caused your neighbors to seriously question your sanity. At last, your enemy lies broken before you, and the first level of your Nintendo Hard game is finished. What is your reward?

"Easy Mode Unlocked!"

That's right. The game has made its contempt loud and clear.

In most games, you have to unlock the hardest difficulties. But in today's modern generation of Nintendo Hard games, you actually have to unlock the easy mode. All you really have to do is just suck at the first level and the game will decide to let up on you. But you're not going to take its pity, are you?

...yeah, at this point, you probably will.

See also Rubber Band AI, Nintendo Hard. Contrast Harder Than Hard. Expect heavy Easy Mode Mockery. When it's applied dynamically to multiplayer, it's a Comeback Mechanic.

Examples of Mercy Mode include:

Action Adventure

  • In Enter the Matrix, if you die in the fight in the Dojo, the game skips to around the second to last level.
  • Ecco II: Tides of Time had three difficulty levels. Easy, Hard, and a middle level that initially started you off at Hard, but booted you off to Easy if you died a lot (which you usually did), then sent you back to Hard if you did well enough. Given that Easy mode skips a couple stages here and there, beating the entire game on this level is the hardest feat in the game.
  • In Alundra, there's a sword that can one shot any monster in the game and make short work of bosses. How do you get it? By dying so often that the spirit of its previous wielder pities you so much that he gives it to you.
  • The Simpsons Hit & Run let you skip a mission after about five failed attempts. However, you can't skip the final mission, which just happens to be the most difficult and frustrating mission in the game.

Action Game

  • Ninja Gaiden Black - A particularly brutal version of this trope, given that there's a cutscene insulting you, you're forced to wear a girly purple ribbon, and it's actually called "ninja dog" mode.
  • The Devil May Cry series
    • The most notable game would be the third one. For some reason, Capcom made Hard mode for the Japanese version into Normal mode for the North American and European versions, leading many to criticize the game for its difficulty. Things were so bad, that Capcom had to release a second version of the game with rebalanced difficulty. To understand how bad it was, look at the page quote.
  • The God of War series will give you the choice to play on Easy Mode, which makes combat easier, if you die at the same area more than three times in a row. The problem, of course, is the time you're most likely to die repeatedly is when you're forced to traverse over spinning, chainsaw-edged balance beams, which the Easy Mode has no effect on whatsoever. And in some cases, the only noticeable effect will be to make you die slightly less.
    • Triggering Easy Mode gives a trophy in the Play Station 3 re-release.
    • Another example from II: By obtaining hidden items called Urns, you could unlock different abilities, like Infinite Mana, Infinite Rage of The Titans, and costumes that enhance different stats (or, if you could beat God difficulty, all of them)... but only for the same difficulty or lower. Of course, if you were capable of beating the game without these enhancements on that difficulty in the first place...
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo opens with a dream sequence battle. Die during it, and the game offers you Easy Mode.
    • Actually you almost always die in the dream sequence, as it keeps hurling enemies at you until you face Agent Smith himself. It's the point at which you die that determines your difficulty level options (managing to defeat smith unlocks the Harder than Hard "The One" difficulty mode)
  • Lego Indiana Jones does this during the famous boulder escape in the first level of Raiders of the Lost Ark. If the boulder catches up to you, you have to restart the chase. Take too many tries and the game skips it, showing a different version of the next cutscene where Indy and his partner are stuck to the boulder, then dumped out of the cave when it hits the opening.

Adventure Game

  • In Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, if you lose a mini-game three times, you'll be given the Easy Mode option. If you still lose three more times, you'll be given the option to "wimp out" of the mini-game.
    • Although wimping out costs in-game currency, so they're not letting you away completely scot-free.

Beat Em Up

  • Spikeout: Battle Street for the Xbox initially offers no difficulty settings. Die three times on any level and it'll offer you the Easy mode. Thing is, though, this doesn't carry over if the system is reset - so you have to kill yourself three times every time you boot up the game if you actually want to play in Easy mode.
  • Grabbed By the Ghoulies has an option called "Butler's Brew" hidden in the back-sections of the various menus. It will, after multiple player deaths in a single room, offer assistance to the player. As the game puts it though, "this is only intended for younger players or those who are rubbish at games!"

Card Game

  • Yu-Gi-Oh! Nightmare Troubadour - losing too many duels increases the chance of meeting Mokuba, one of the weakest opponents in the game.
    • Also in Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championship 2004, in which losing a certain number of duels in a row is the only way to unlock Mokuba... who you can't lose to unless you're really trying.

Driving Game

  • The item selection algorithm in the Mario Kart series works like this. If you're in first place, expect nothing useful. If you're in 8th/12th, the game will give you everything short of a instant-win button.

Fighting Game

  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl will hand out "pity Final Smashes" to players who are losing quite badly.
    • Even if the items are turned off, this can still kick in, making a planned out long match go sour.
    • Not a big deal in shorter matches, though, due to the conditions required. Basically, a player has to die three consecutive times without KO'ing anyone else. KO'ing includes finishing off weakened opponents as well.
  • Despite being the trope makers for SNK Bosses, a lot of SNK fighters actually offer you some sort of a handicap vs. the unrelenting AI when you choose to use a continue. These include giving you maxed out or infinite super meters, dropping the enemy's health to 1/3rd of the normal or making them unable to block your attacks, amongst other things.
    • Even then, it's still not enough.

First Person Shooter

  • In Brothers in Arms, your current health is saved whenever you reach a checkpoint. As there is no way to do healing, you can end up with a savegame that makes it night impossible to finish the mission. Fortunately, if you fail to reach the next checkpoint (or finish the mission) several times, the game will offer to heal and rearm you, giving you a fighting chance as you continue from the same location. This greatly reduces the difficulty as it sort of "bypasses" the need for watching your health and ammo. Of course, the game is usually quite difficult, and it also has separate low-difficulty modes which you can select freely anyway.


  • Drift City makes each mission slightly easier after you fail it. Make sure you don't crash once? Now it's make sure you don't crash two times. Or three. Etc. Same with time-based missions - the amount of time you have to complete it increases by a few seconds with each failure.
  • In the browser-based MMO Cyber Nations, the penalties you get for being in Peace Mode (in which nations cannot declare war on you or vice versa) don't apply to you for the first several days. Afterwards, however, your daily income and population happiness will start to suffer in if you stay in Peace Mode, with the penalties getting greater with each day as a peaceful nation.
    • It also cuts you off of much of the game economy, as you can no longer send cash or technology to other nations.
  • The Wild Hunt dungeon in Warhammer Online has a puzzle section that involves three pairs of players standing next to an engraved monolith and having their partner standing on a symbol that matches. If you fail, an increasingly powerful bolt of lighting strikes all players. If you spend five minutes without either solving the puzzle or dying (or, in the case of taking a 5-man team, simply being unable to complete the section) the boss of the dungeon take pity on you and mockingly sends giant eagles to carry you to the next area.

Party Game

  • In every Mario Party game, a character, often Bowser, will give a randomly-chosen bonus to whoever is in last place at the start of the last five rounds (though they may mix it up by giving a penalty to the leader).
    • Not strictly true of the first three games, where a random character would randomly "predict" a winner and grant them a (usually 10-coin) bonus. The chances did heavily favor the last-place player, though, but this troper has received such bonuses in first before.
  • The odd hybrid RPG / Party Game Dokapon Kingdom has its Darkling class: if a player is losing for long enough, they'll get a little bat flying over their head, and if the visit a particular square while the bat is present, they can choose to be transformed into a Darkling. This class is everything short of invincible in one-on-one combat, and has a whole host of powers designed specifically to screw with the other players. However, Darklings cannot capture towns (the primary scoring vector for the game) for themselves, so it generally tends to reduce everyone else's lead without adding anything to your own score.
  • The first three Bomberman Land lets you skip the minigame you are playing if you lose often enough

Platform Game

  • In Aladdin, if you die too many times in the Rug Ride level (which is a frustrating reaction test of a level bordering on Battletoads' level 3 in difficulty with no checkpoints and several spots where the game doesn't show which way to go like it usually does, making survival during these parts a Luck-Based Mission on the first time you attempt them), the game will automatically let you skip it, giving you the message "Nice Try".
  • In the Genie's level of Aladdin, the difficulty of the platforming is proportional to the number of lives you have left. If you have few or no extra lives, the Genie will primarily throw out clouds and playing card trampolines. If you have many lives, you'll be expected to swing off rings that are tied to balloons, and other obstacles that require more precision and skill to navigate.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, every time you die while facing a boss, Omochao will appear at the beginning of your next try, giving you increasingly obvious hints on how to beat the boss with each death. Most characters could also pick him up and throw him at the boss for massive damage, but that was probably not intentional.
  • In the Crash Bandicoot games, dying too many times in a given level will cause you to start re-spawning with mask power ups, which let you survive an extra hit.
    • Even more death, even with "pity masks", leads random boxes to turn into checkpoint boxes.
  • In Mickey Mania, failing the trolley level in the Mad Doctor stage enough times causes the game to let you through regardless, with the message: "Uh oh! Mickey has broken all the trolleys but he manages to continue..."
  • In The Lost Vikings 2, getting yourself killed in the first level unlocks new special abilities for all the characters. Although the game claims to be having mercy on you, it's really a subversion: there are no dangerous obstacles or enemies in the level at all, and so dying doesn't mean that you suck but rather that you found an inventive method of suicide. The trick is to have Olaf stand on high ground and hold up his shield, so Erik can take falling damage by jumping off the upraised shield and down to lower ground.
  • The Game Boy Mega Man games played this straight. IV gave the player a high velocity, rapid fire Arm Cannon to replace the default one if the player got a repeated Game Over. V upgraded the Rocket Punch twice in a row with higher flight speed.
  • In Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil, when you're down to 2 lives, an extra life is given to you as you respawn. It is only given twice in a row though.
  • New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem, and Donkey Kong Country Returns all have the "Super Guide", a system that allows you to let the game play a level itself for as long as you want after you fail it eight times (but you miss out on certain bragging rights). There's a reason for this.
    • Up to Eleven in Super Mario 3D Land. If you die five times, then you can use an invincible Leaf that makes Tanooki Mario invincible for the rest of the level. If you manage to die ten times, then the game gives you the option to just skip the entire level using a P-Wing.
  • Spyro: Year of the Dragon has this for its bosses, but it doesn't give you an option and in fact doesn't even tell you when it kicks into mercy mode.
  • Dying repeatedly in Eversion unlocks the ability to evert (backwards) at will. Just don't Evert past Layer 1, or the game will glitch out for a few layers and eventually crash (which can actually be quite amusing if you enjoy making games glitch out).
  • VVVVVV has a particular challenge required to obtain one of twenty 'hidden' disks. It's found behind no fewer than ten save points, it contains enough spikes to make I Wanna Be the Guy weep, and one room in the set (which you have to go through twice) is named 'Easy Mode Unlocked'. Shame that there isn't actually an easy mode.
  • Banjo-Kazooie Has this in it's sequel. After failing the timed jiggy challenges several times (Which are just jigsaw puzzles) to unlock new worlds, it will give you the option to remove the timer.

Puzzle Game

  • Die often enough on the same level in Chip's Challenge and the game ask you whether or not you want to go to the next level.
  • In Pushmo, the game gives you the option to skip to the next level if you spend enough time on one without clearing it. The time required to unlock the skip option is longer depending on the level's difficulty.

Real Time Strategy

  • Warcraft III - Losing any mission gives you the option to restart it or restart with a lower difficulty.
    • And yes, the "Easy" difficulty, which reduces all enemies' HP to 50% of their normal value, can only be accessed in this way. You cannot select this difficulty level from the campaign menu.
  • Lose any mission in EndWar on the handhelds, and you're given the option to try again with additional units.

Rhythm Game

  • In Guitar Hero III, if you fail too many times on a boss battle, the game gives you a particularly insulting message allowing you to skip it and get on with the career. You actually get a secret achievement for doing so.
    • Just to add insult to injury, the secret achievement is worth zero gamerpoints, and serves just to tell anyone looking at your achievements that you wimped out from a boss battle.
    • It does not work on the final battle, incidentally, unless it takes more than fifty tries for it to work, anyway...
  • If you fail a minigame in Rhythm Heaven a certain number of times, you can talk to the barista in the cafe, who will offer to let you skip that particular game and let you progress anyway.


  • Desktop Dungeons, a browser based roguelike, inverts this; The game starts out on 'easy mode' (enemy health and damage at 80%) and automatically switches over to 'normal mode' after the first time you beat it.

Role Playing Game

  • Similar to the Final Fantasy VII example below, Tales of the Abyss includes a brief stealth section. You're supposed to have your party sneak through a forest while avoiding soldiers and guard dog patrols. If you're caught, you fight off the enemies, but return to the start of the area. However, if you get caught too many times, the game will let you brute force your way through, fighting the enemies and not bothering with stealth.
  • In the Dragon Quest series spinoff Torneko: The Last Hope, the titular character's wife will give him the powerful Metabble Sword and Shield if he fails to clear the first dungeon eight times - not THE best equipment in the game, but if you still can't get through with those, you should probably just give up.
  • Repeatedly fail the awful Stealth-Based Mission in Summoner (and you will) and you'll unlock the chance to skip it by dressing as a maid.
  • In The World Ends With You, once you obtain the "Retry" sticker, losing a battle lets you retry (naturally), quit the game (which was the default action before getting the sticker), run away (if possible, of course), or retry on Easy Mode (this trope). Once the battle ended, your difficulty would be returned to normal, but your time and level wouldn't be recorded for that battle.
  • In one particular quest in Legend of Mana, you need to make your way through several rooms full of Shadoles (mook-like NPC's) and coming into contact with any of them sends you back to the beginning. Some of the later rooms can be a bit frustrating since the Shadoles turn invisible and you have to remember exactly where they all are. However, every time you're sent back, there's one less Shadole per room the next time you try. Do this enough times and you can get it down to one or two of them per room, making this mission really easy.
  • If you are defeated by specific bosses in Kingdom Hearts II, rather than restarting the battle or giving up, there's a chance you're given an option to instead continue the battle playing as Mickey Mouse, who is actually stronger than Sora. However, since Mickey has no combo finshers, he can't actually finish off the boss and so the real aim of playing as Mickey is to fill up the Drive gauge and use it to revive Sora. He can help you multiple times per boss, but the said chance of him doing so decreases from the initial 100% every time you use it, ultimately dropping down to 20% or so.
    • In 358/2 Days, dying gives you the option to Continue (exactly what it says on the tin) or Retire (leave the mission so you can go into the menu or shop). Dying repeatedly opens up a third option, "Easy Continue".
  • In the Fullmetal Alchemist game The Broken Angel, there's one section where Ed is required to jump into a rather small stone pillar that breaks down shortly after landing. Faling on reaching the other end forces the player to restore the pilar with alchemy and try again. After many attempts, the game will skip forward and show a cutscene where Ed comments on finally achieving it after thirty-something tries, and Al compliments him on being persistent.
  • At one point in Final Fantasy VII while infiltrating Shinra, the player must maneuver the characters behind statues to hide from guards. If the timing is botched enough times, the game cuts to Barret berating Cloud. At this point the guards are gone, and the player can simply walk past.
    • Basically every minigame in a Final Fantasy game that must be cleared to continue is either (near) impossible to lose or lets you skip it if you screw up enough.
  • Inverted in Demon's Souls, where every time you die in your real body, the games gets even harder. Because of this, and how hard it is to get the difficulty back to where it was before, some guides suggest killing yourself in the Hub Level, which is the only place Mercy Mode does not kick in.

Shoot Em Up

  • The NES shooter Dragon Spirit would determine whether you would play as the blue dragon (which goes through all levels) or the gold dragon (which skips most even-numbered levels and has perpetual auto-fire) depending on whether you won or lost at the intro level as the blue dragon.
  • Many Shoot'Em Up games have what is called a "rank system," a hidden value in the game's coding. The rank will slowly rise as the player goes without dying; the higher the rank, the more bullets will be onscreen, and the faster they'll come at you. In most games with the system, such as the fourth through sixth Touhou games, dying lowers the rank, making it easier to survive.
    • In addition, in Imperishable Night you unlocked the ability to start with more lives (up to seven) by getting bad endings a couple times.
    • Battle Garegga is notorious in that keeping the game humanly possible in the final two stages requires dying. On a semi-regular basis.

Simulation Game

  • You can skip any mission, even the final boss in Project: Sylpheed after failing it repeatedly. You miss out on upgrade points and achievements from the mission however.
  • The Descent: Freespace series gives you the option to skip any mission by dying three times in a row (but not by failing the mission objectives). However, any ships or weapons that may be unlocked by completing that mission becomes Lost Forever. There's also a "Do Not Show This Again" option for the more hardcore players.
  • Base success in any mission in Star Wars Starfighter allowed you to refly the mission (and unlock medals) with the other two fighters available in the game. Getting a Gold in all missions unlocked the (Obviously non-canon) Sith Infiltrator[2] which out gunned and out flew all the others (and all other fighters in the game), essentially making for an easy mode.

Sports Game

  • Losing 100 fights in the recent Punch-Out!!!!! sequel on the Wii lets players wear Glass Joe's headgear that allows them to take much less damage from all attacks... and reminds them that they suck just as bad (or worse!) as Glass Joe.
    • Well, hopefully they'll have more wins than Glass Joe at that point.

Stealth Based Game

  • Normal and up modes in both Tenchu 3 and Kurenai force the player to start from scratch after being killed. Playing on Easy, however, gives the option to respawn on the spot at full health to continue the mission.
  • In the Tanker episode of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, you are supposed to take 4 pictures of the new Metal Gear prototype within a given time limit. If you run out of time, the game will actually give you some more. Also, if the time is running short, Otacon will settle for three photos.

Survival Horror

  • Interesting in that it also possesses not one, but ten Extreme Mode settings, Silent Hill 3 also has an unlockable "Beginner Mode" which it will announce to you in mid-gameplay after dying a few times.
  • Resident Evil 4 has multiple difficulty settings, hidden from the player. If you are doing well the difficulty will increase. But if you die and continue there are fewer enemies and more ammunition.
    • The first village fight you enter stops when you kill a certain number of Ganados. If you die and continue the threshold is lower. And the number of Ganados that exist simultaneously is decreased.

Third Person Shooter

  • In the online third person shooter S4 League, the fumbi will gradually decrease the skill points of whoever is holding it. If your team is losing badly enough, the penalty is much less harsh - you still won't regenerate skill points while hanging onto it, but they won't be automatically drained either. The playerbase refers to this as 'pity SP.' Also, the losing team gets steadily increasing damage until they cap out at doing 50% more damage with any hit.
  • In a PlayStation 2 Armored Core game, if you died or lost enough to go really far into debt, your character would undergo an experimental procedure (or something like that) which would give you a special ability. You could get several abilities in this fashion and it made the game considerably easier.
    • This is actually a series tradition going back to the first game. Once your account balance hits some ludicrous negative number (-50000, if memory serves correctly; getting blown up loses you about 7000 credits on average), your character ended up undergoing "PLUS" experiments, which, as mentioned above, gave you more and more abilities unavailable otherwise. Your Laser Blade gets a powerful Sword Beam, you're outfitted with built-in radar (as opposed to using a head-based or back-mounted radar), you're granted the ability to fire back-mounted weapons like the chaingun while standing (normally only possible with quad- or tank-style legs), and eventually, your energy meter (for boosters and firing energy weapons like the Karasawa) is drastically increased. Just one of these abilities can completely destroy the game's balance on its own.
    • Also, after beating the first game (and possibly all the subsequent ones) with One Hundred Percent unlock the ability to ignore weight restrictions when building your mech, a reward that, like many on this page, isn't something you need if you're good enough to unlock it.
  • The "fugitive" difficulty level of Max Payne employs this. The game constantly adjusts its difficulty based on the player's performance. So if you keep dying in the same spot, the game will go easier on you each time, until you can finally make it. Remember, however, that this works both ways; if you walk through the game with relative ease, you are going to encounter tougher enemies in the upcoming levels.
    • The second game mostly adjusted the number of health items laying around. If the player is constantly dying and limping around on the brink, there are pills all over the place. Blitz through levels without injury, and they might only find a couple of drops per level (not that they needed them, apparently).

Turn Based Strategy

  • In the first two X-COM games, if you fail miserably for two game months and your organisation is on the brink of being disbanded, suddenly some "X-COM agents" pop up and pinpoint one or two alien bases for you to destroy and save yourself.

Visual Novel

  • The games of the Yarudora series have a Hint Marker feature appearing after you get two or more Bad Endings, without getting a Normal or Good Ending beforehand. This feature points you out the good choices in the sequences where you have to give an answer to a question, or have to make an action, so you can reach a Normal or Good Ending. The Hint Marker disappears once this goal is fulfilled.

Wide Open Sandbox

  • Minor example in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which gives you the option of skipping the commute at the start of the mission after you fail it a few times. This is pretty much just an Anti Frustration Feature to make up for the fact that so many missions are set halfway across the map from where you have to go to begin them (and if you fail the mission, you'll have to drive all the way back again to restart...)
    • In addition, the rather overlong Final Boss (involving, in order, Storming the Castle, killing one boss, Outrunning The Fireball, chasing the next boss, tailing him to avoid injuring your brother, and finally running Samuel L. Jackson off the road) will eventually load from the beginning of the car chase section, if you repeatedly complete the first part but fail the mission.
    • In Vice City, if you are wasted or busted during a mission, there's a cab waiting outside the hospital or the police station. If you enter it, it will take you back to the mission trigger. You still have to do all the commuting within the mission, though.
  1. Check below for why this is a particularly egregious case.
  2. The canon Sith Infiltrator piloted by Darth Maul was a light freighter that was invisible to radar, not the visible, but tricked-out all-purpose fighter in this game.