Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about games that have different difficulty modes baked into the game rather than having a menu option. I’m currently reading Derek Yu’s book about Spelunky where he discusses his problems with difficulty sliders, such as asking the player to make a major decision before knowing anything about what that decision actually means, and how he more made difficulty options in Spelunky much more natural. New players can focus on unlocking the shortcuts and using them to practice later areas. More experienced players can work on completing the game from beginning to end and the most dedicated can make their way through the secret areas.
A lot of the traditional rougelikes Spelunky take inspiration from do a form of this as well. Generally the goal is to return to the entrance with an item found on a specific floor of the dungeon but if you want some games have additional items you may collect on additional floors to further improve your score.
I’m playing through Mario Odyssey right now and this is something Mario games have been doing for a while too. You could play the game until you see the credits or you could collect the extra collectibles to unlock the often difficult bonus levels. Odyssey takes this idea even further by allowing you to purchase moons. The final level of the game is locked behind a set number of moons and there is no real limit of the amount of moons you can buy, meaning you can skip any moons you find too hard or not fun but still see every level.
These two examples of this achieve pretty different things. Mario Odyssey’s take on this is in favor of accessibility while Spelunky and Rougelikes provide additional challenge to games that already pretty challenging.
So I’m wondering why this isn’t something we see more of? Are there a lot more examples that I’m not aware of? Is this possible in all genres or are some genres structured in a way that difficulty HAS to be behind a menu?