Unlockable difficulty levels

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Hard mode is unlocked in Super Mario Bros.

Unlockable difficulties is a video game term for when a game has alternate difficulty levels that are not available by default and must be unlocked through specific game play, usually by beating the game at normal difficulty. Games with this feature almost always unlock a harder difficulty to give superior players more of a challenge, but occasionally a game will feature an easier difficulty to allow players to better appreciate the game's art and music. Unlockable difficulties should not be confused with a new game plus or unlockable content feature.

The first time I ever saw an unlockable difficulty level was after beating Super Mario Bros. in the late 1980s. I thought it was pretty clever to see the slightly more complex levels, and also realized that the 100-lives trick would be possible all over the game now that the goombas were replaced by buzzy beetles.


This is a list of games that are important to me which have an unlockable difficulties.

Title Released Notes
Kirby's Dream Land 1992-04-27 After beating the game you get a code for "extra mode."
Mario Kart 64 1996-12-14 Getting 1st place on all tracks on 150cc unlocks "mirror mode" which lets you play the tracks in reverse making some tracks more difficult.
Super Mario Bros. 1985-09-13 After beating the game, goombas become buzzy beetles, some platforms are narrower, and random bullet bills occur in the tree levels.