In a single-player game with difficulty settings, it seems obvious for players to choose the easy difficulty setting. How can I make incentives for players to choose harder difficulty settings?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Classic and obvious answers are separate leaderboards, increased scoring, rarer drops, achievements/trophies, or the ability to unlock secrets like ultimate items, bonus levels/modes. or an alternate ending. Can you help us narrow down what kind of experience you're trying to create for players, and what kinds of audience you're trying to serve? That will help narrow down what incentives will fit your intentions best. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Dec 20, 2016 at 3:58

2 Answers 2


You assume it is "obvious," but that's a faulty assumption. For some players, increased difficulty alone is enough of an incentive. Players are driven by a variety of motivating factors, and while story and "experience" is one of those factors (such players may not like challenging gameplay and may thus opt for easier difficulty levels), there are certainly players that revel in overcoming challenging mechanics alone and will always pick the highest available difficulty level.

You can further incentivize players to do this by offering other rewards for completing the game on higher difficulty settings:

  • achievements
  • unlocks for cosmetic items
  • unlocks for new game modes or abilities
  • extra story content (the "true ending")

Note however that being too heavy-headed with putting content behind difficulty gates can result in a negative reaction from players, who may be offended by your giving apparent preferential treatment to the gamers who only want the hardest challenges, and thus considering the ones who prefer simpler experiences "beneath" your game.

It's an open question whether or not it's a benefit to lock the hardest difficulty mode behind a slightly-less-hard difficulty mode, as well. Some players will enjoy the discovery of an even more challenging mode, but some will not find the replay value sufficient.


Higher exp multiplier is a common simple incentive to implement. Is seen in games like fallout, project zomboid... This makes up for the time you spend getting killed and keeps the tension up

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Please avoid one liner answers. We like our answers more fleshed out. Could you expand on this? \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt
    Dec 20, 2016 at 10:56

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