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The extra difficult Secret Levels that some games have. They exist largely so that the player can brag to his friends about how awesome he is for winning them. A subtrope of Secret Level, distinguished from its mother trope by the fact that the extreme difficulty is pretty much the only point of these levels. Examples of this trope are, naturally, almost always That One Level.

The idea appears to be that if you're good enough to get there, you're good enough for whatever the game decides to torture you with.

Can be set in Planet Heck, but not always. Won't necessarily have a sign at the beginning saying "Welcome to Hell!", but probably might as well.

For the boss version of this, check out Bonus Boss, or alternatively, True Final Boss.

Beware of unmarked spoilers.

Examples of Brutal Bonus Level include:
  • The Special World in Super Mario World, though some could be easily cleared with a cape. Tubular was a particularly insidious showstopper, if you try to play it properly.
  • The third Bonus mission in Battalion Wars where you play as the Solar Empire, forced to fend off Bombers with no Anti-Air support for the majority of the mission, then finally given three fighters...only for Xylvania to send a barrage of Bombers and Gunships.
  • Hell Temple in La-Mulana takes this trope about as far as it can go. 'This place is one that none should come to'. They aren't kidding.
  • Sacred Grounds in Cave Story. It even has a "Welcome to hell!" sign. Of course, completing this level (including the Bonus Boss) is the only way to get the good ending.
  • The Battle Arena in Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, and Training Hall and the Large Cavern in Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia.
  • Balue's Tower in Klonoa. It regularly hands out extra lives in packages of about 9. You will need all of them.
    • Also the House of Fun and House of Horrors bonus levels in Klonoa 2. You will need to have your full measure of wind-bullet shooting, enemy-head jumping, ear-floating skill, and be able to perfectly chain them all together to get through them. One slip up, and it's a life lost.
  • The Cow Level in Diablo II, mainly due to their sheer number. On the other hand, by the time you reach it as either class, you're more than likely to have some devastating skill at your disposal that will bring them down by the dozens in an instant.
  • Sector Z in Iji. One hit point, full armor, and the enemies are Goddamned Bats to some degree.
  • The advanced chambers in Portal.
  • Extra Stages in Touhou.
    • Perfect Cherry Blossom, the seventh in the series and the second of the Windows series, goes one step further by also having an even harder Phantasm stage, which pits you against Yukari Yakumo, probably the toughest Bonus Boss of the entire series.
    • In Imperishable Night you can unlock Last Word spellcards, which can each take hundreds of attempts to defeat.
  • The Pyramid of the Forbidden in Commander Keen 4. Made even worse by the fact that a player who saves there has to beat the level, use cheats or start over to be able to play the other levels again.
  • Not all of Guitar Hero's bonus levels are necessarily harder than the regular ones, but some definitely are. "Jordan" from the second game and "Through the Fire and Flames" from the third are the most famous ones.
    • Rock Band 2 has Visions. Then there's the DLC. Plus it seems some music is being written specifically for the game on RBN. Eep. And "Through the Fire and Flames" is now available for Rock Band.
  • World 8 in Eversion. Requires finding all gems and leads to the True Ending, as usual.
  • The Gorge in Death Smiles. The Mega Black Label upgrade adds the Ice Palace, which is a bit more beginner-friendly than the Gorge (especially if you're using Sakura).
  • The Bemani series is fond of these.
    • Dance Dance Revolution: In most games from DDR MAX onwards, clearing the last stage with a grade of AA or higher nets you an extra stage, which is usually rated a 10, scrolls at at least 300 BPM, has the x1.5 speed and Reverse mods in effect, and you can only miss 4-5 times before you get a Game Over. Clear and AA that, and you get the One More Extra Stage, a slightly easier song on which breaking combo is an instant fail.
      • Newer DDR games change this up a bit more, swapping out the non-recovering lifebar for a Challenge Lifebar with a variable number of lives on it and having the One More Extra Stage be even more difficult than the Extra Stage. Yes, we're looking at you, Pluto Relinquish!
        • X2 takes this even further; meet certain requirements and you go to the Replicant-D-Action folder for the extra stage. There's a total of six songs, all of which are hard (Anti-Matter, New Decade and Possession are almost twice as hard as the other 3 songs!). And then there's Valkyrie Dimension...
    • Beatmania IIDX also has Extra Stage and One More Extra Stage songs, but of particular note is Mendes, the One More Extra Stage song from IIDX 15: DJ Troopers. If you can actually clear it on Another (the hardest normally available difficulty) on the console version, which itself is brutal, you unlock an even harder Black Another chart for it. See it here - the left side is Another, and the right side is Black Another.
  • The Lost Worlds in Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3.
    • Also, the Temple levels in each world of Donkey Kong Country Returns, all of which are required to unlock Mirror Mode. None of them have checkpoints, so when you die, you have to start the level from the beginning.
  • Bubble Bobble Part 2 (NES) with That One Guy named Barcelon.
  • Mile High Club in Modern Warfare.
  • Stage F-C in R-Type Final. One life, no continues, very long.
  • Any bonus course in the Jet Moto series, especially Nebulous in the second game.
  • Most of the Driving Missions in Gran Turismo 4, especially the final one.
  • Secret Level 3 in the original Descent. Possibly the hardest level in the entire series.
  • Boulder Dash has difficult intermissions before checkpoint levels that you may start on. They are individually Nintendo Hard, and while they don't cost a life if you fail them, you get kicked to the next level without a chance to retry it. The hardest is the second intermission, the "V-bonus level" where you need to make a mad dash while vulnerable to fast-moving square guardians. On the other hand, the third intermission is unwinnable on PAL systems.
  • Both Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog have a super hard mode as reward for getting all A-ranks.
  • All of the optional stages in the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Sonic Unleashed begin with medium-hard and go up from there. All of the downloadable stages kick things up a notch and are all comparable to the infamous Eggmanland. This includes Windmill Isle and its tutorial stage.
    • Some of the downloadable super-hard mode stages in Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 are pretty brutal as well, especially the ones where you play through the level in reverse order.
  • Jed's “Challenge”, complete with being set in a volcano. That has patches of ice.
  • The original Crash Bandicoot had three kinds of bonus levels, reachable through collecting sets of tokens through the level. Tawna's bonus levels are essentially breathers, where the player can collect extra lives and save the game or get a passwords. Brio's bonus levels consist of much more challenging jumping puzzles, with bigger rewards to match. Cortex's bonus levels are the absolute worst, with absolutely devious platforming challenges. Sadly, only Cortex's levels are oligatory for Hundred-Percent Completion, because beating them unlocks extra levels...but should you fail them, you'll have to restart the stage you came from for another chance, and one of the bonus levels happens to be located in the game's resident Scrappy Level, Sunset Vista.
  • Super Monkey Ball. To even reach the Extra stages, you must complete all of a difficulty's stages without continuing. Clear Expert Extra without continuing and you get to the Master stages. And if that wasn't enough, in Super Monkey Ball 2, clear those without using a continue and you get the Master Extra stages. Good luck pulling that off on Deluxe, where you can only reach the Master stages via Ultimate mode, where you have to play through all Beginner, Advanced & Extra stages(there's a save feature for the mode, but it's only a slight solace).
  • Although some bonus levels in Super Meat Boy are manageable or even easy, the other ones can be very difficult, including Minus World parody levels, some of the retro levels and the bonus chapter, Cotton Alley: Enjoy your pink, colourful, cheery, disco, sawblade-covered death!
  • Gauntlet (1985 video game): Dark Legacy has one bonus stage per world, that consists of trying to nab 25 coins in a maze before time runs out. Your reward for beating a bonus stage is a secret character; the secret characters have stat alignments similar to the base characters (Medusa excells at Magic like the Wizard and Sorceress, for example), but with more intriguing physical designs and overall higher stats. The problem? Said bonus stages range from antsy to teeth-grindingly brutal. Some of the more Egregious examples include: a two-in-one literal Bonus Level of Heaven and Hell where you're locked into unintuitive control physics not used anywhere else in the game, and you cannot go back for any coins; a deliberately-confusing psychedelic maze; a space station where you must use teleporters that don't always work perfectly, all in time limits that can generously be called 'fatalistic'. Your punishment for losing is to re-appear in the stage where you found the bonus entrance, but the bonus door will be gone, and you'll need to replay the stage for it to appear again. Considering some of these bonus doors appear very close to the end of lengthy stages, the player is wedged between quite the rock and hard place.
  • Droidquest, the Java port of Robot Odyssey, added a sixth level with even more insane puzzles than the Nintendo Hard fifth level. Originally, you could only get there after collecting a number of secret items in association with the original Developer's Room, but the latest version introduced a portal straight to the sixth level.
  • Wolfenstein 3D: The Episode 3 secret level is pretty brutal, but brilliant fun too, while the Episode 4 secret level is practically a death trap unless you know the exact route to the exit (or are just plain crazy!).
  • Plants vs. Zombies: The Bobsled Bonanza minigame, where you face almost nothing but Zombonis and Zombie Bobsled Teams, with 4 ice tracks laid down so that the bobsleds can start swarming immediately. Zombonis crush all your plants instantly and you'll use up Spikeweeds (their one weakness) as quickly as you put them down. The bobsleds themselves are a pack of 4 zombies which move fast on ice (helpfully provided by the Zombonis), will quickly overwhelm your peashooters, will spawn if there's so much as an inch of ice laid down, and are difficult to bring down without expensive bomb plants. You can only clear the ice with Jalapenos, which have a cripplingly slow recharge rate. The Imitater is almost a requirement for this level, or you simply won't have enough bombs to clear the level.
  • In the NES version of The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle, you can grab a no-carrot sign that sends you to one of four special stages, all of which are far more difficult than even the hardest of the normal stages. Beating one gets you three extra lives, but losing one sends you back three levels.
  • Terraria has hardmode, which is unleashed upon your randomly-generated world after defeating the Wall of Flesh, and, true to its name, it's stupidly difficult. Basically, your world takes two strips of land and turns them into Corruption and Hallow, adds underground versions of these levels, and dumps an insane amount of Goddamn Bats and Demonic Spiders into every biome. The least damage that any of these new monsters can deal to you in hardmode is somewhere around 10 hits points, and that's while wearing the most durable armor in the game. If that wasn't enough, most of the new powerful gadgets and weapons (including the most powerful armor in the game) can only be crafted with ores/items found in said underground areas. Which are teeming with the aforementioned Demonic Spiders. And that's not even taking into account the robotically-rebuilt bosses from pre-hardmode...
  • The Golems of Amgarrak DLC for Dragon Age: Origins consists of a single level filled with the meanest enemies you encounter in the entirety of the official DA:O content. In fact, it seems to exist solely for the purpose of finding out whether you are a bad enough dude/chick to take on four freaking boss-level enemies (plus two minor bosses) at once, on your own. The answer? You aren't, trust us. Unless you figure out that it's actually a Puzzle Boss. Oh, and that encounter is considered second worst to the Final Boss of the level.
  • While the main story of Fire Emblem the Sacred Stones was criticized for being uncharacteristically easy, the bonus dungeon Lagdou Ruins started out considerably harder than the end of the main story, and by its last few floors was unabashedly sadistic. The fact that you had to complete ten floors in a row with no saves in between didn't help matters, nor did the fact that most of the characters had low magic resistance and the latter floors were full of long-range casters that could twoshot them from across the map.
  • After clearing the final story boss in the old AD&D "gold-box" game Pools of Darkness, you probably had a party of 40th-level adventurers who were all dripping with powerful magical items. At this point, you had the option to take Dave's Challenge: a small dungeon with no safe spots that's crawling with every monster you hated fighting in the main game, as well as a few resurrected bosses.
  • Kuru Kuru Kururin has three bonus levels in story mode when you finish each of the other levels without getting hit. These aren't very difficult though. The real Brutal Bonus Levels are the 5 mini-levels you unlock in challenge mode by finishing each of the 50 normal challenge levels without getting hit which is quite a feat in and of itself.
  • The Ace Combat series has its share, mainly of Boss Rush variety:
  • In Persona 3, beating the Reaper lets you explore Monad, which is filled with extremely high level enemies who can easily wipe an unprepared party. On the other hand, they give out scads of experience, which is nice since the final boss is pretty much That One Boss.
  • Shin Megami Tensei has a long and proud tradition of including at least one of these. The Labyrinth of Amala in Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne and the second half of Sector Grus in Strange Journey are two good examples.
  • In Namco's Tales of Destiny the bonus dungeon is definitely a Brutal Bonus Level coupled with a Guide Dang It. The tower is 60 floors high and special requirements need to be hit in order to get the treasure of each floor. Only a few of the levels actually offer you hints about what you should do, through randomly appearing cryptic messages throughout the game proper. Even worse is that, in order to even access this tower, you must hold onto a worthless item and, actually, waste a Rune Bottle on it. Most definitely the hardest of the three staffs to find.
  • From Devil May Cry 2 onwards, the Devil May Cry series has featured Bloody Palace, a Brutal Bonus Level Up to Eleven. There are always a minimum of 99 levels in which the player has to fight a ton of enemies repeatedly. You can't use health restores or anything else, you just have to pray that you avoid basically every attack, or that enemies drop a lot of health (which occurs rarely). Becomes doubly hard since you'll also have to fight bosses from stage to stage.
  • The Professor Layton games have Layton's Challenges, a collection of 15 post-game puzzles (typically five sets of three puzzles each) unlocked by completing certain objectives in the main game. All of them are much more difficult than anything you'll face in the main game, with at least one puzzle in each 3-puzzle set being a fiendishly difficult (not to mention frustrating) slide puzzle and/or an insanely hard(er) version of one of the main game's already brutally tough puzzles. To top it all off, the very last puzzle in every game is, without fail, a diabolically difficult slide puzzle. Last Specter makes it even worse by making the final puzzle two slide puzzles in one, with absolutely no hints for the downright evil second puzzle.
  • The Caverns of Hammerfest got Parallel Dimension 'Hell', located after a gate in level 54. The game, which is already pretty hard, takes it Up to Eleven there.
  • The Hope archive in Child of Eden.
  • Golden Sun Dark Dawn is possibly the easiest game in the Golden Sun series. Its version of Crossbone Isle is easily the most difficult Bonus Dungeon in the series. Every monster in there is tougher than most of the game's bosses, and they like showing up in groups. The Bonus Boss? Oh, just an upgraded version of the already Memetic Badass Dullahan from The Lost Age... If you didn't grind everybody to level 60+ in the Very Definitely Final Dungeon where it was easy to do so, you're gonna get your ass handed to you. A lot.
  • Rayman Origins has The Land of the Livid Dead. Words just... do not do it justice. See for yourself.
  • The Doom series presents two notable examples...
    • Final Doom had the secret level "Go 2 It" - absolutely masochistic number of monsters, including a LOT of unfortunately-placed Cyberdemons. Casual players will spend hours struggling through this level to absolutely no avail.
    • Master Levels for Doom II had "Bad Dream," a secret level in the file TEETH.WAD. While the solution to this level is actually quite simple, being confronted with dozens of Cyberdemons at once allows the level to live up to its name.
  • Night Sky has a reward for collecting all the bonus stars hidden throughout the game, a final chapter called "Slightly Nonsense," which features some real challenges that force you to battle and exploit the environment physics every step of the way. This chapter includes, among other things, a level where you can only get around by working the anti-gravity power on and off, trampolines, and surfaces where the friction and impulse physics are intentionally wonky.
  • Pokémon Black and White earns points in this category just for the placement of one Bonus Boss battle. Said trainer basically appears to be another NPC chilling in their vacation home in Undella City, who invites you to battle when you invade said vacation home looking for handouts. "Champion Cynthia would like to battle!" Talk about a Boss in Mook Clothing!
  • Marathon Infinity has the Vidmaster Challenge, a kind of bonus level of hell for each of the three Marathon games. The game designers took the hardest level from each of the games, and made them WORSE, and put them back to back. And to top it off, the level If I Had A Rocket Launcher..., already insanely hard in the original game, starts with you stripped of all your guns. You start that one with an arsenal composed in its' entirety of two shotgun shells, one rifle magazine and eight grenades. They also use this opportunity to introduce an entirely new type of enemy.
  • Spider-Man 2, after finishing the main game, you can then buy "Fight Arena", which allows you to fight hordes of enemies, and eventually, bosses. One of the bosses is Calypso, who doesn't appear anywhere else in the game. The final round of "Boss Arena" is fighting all four bosses at once (That's Doc Ock, Shocker, Rhino, and Calypso). Have fun.

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