I know that there are four difficulty levels in Diablo 3 as follows:

  • Normal
  • Nightmare
  • Hell
  • Inferno

Can the difficulty level be changed manually or does it automatically increase on subsequent play-throughs (i.e. moving from normal to nightmare, nightmare to hell) as in Diablo 2?

3 Answers 3


The 4-tier difficulty level is tied to progression throughout the game. To unlock "Nightmare" (the 2nd difficulty), you must first complete act IV on "Normal" difficulty. Nightmare is balanced based on the level you would be by beating through Normal, so it's not feasible to just skip ahead, even if you could.

The other factor is Hardcore, which is unlocked at level 10. Hardcore is, well, harder, and is separate from the game difficulty presented elsewhere. You want more of a challenge? Play Hardcore and try not to die!

  • Ah, so exactly the same as Diablo 2. I had hoped there would be another way to increase difficulty, since I am finding the game very easy. May 16, 2012 at 3:53
  • 1
    Is hardcore any different from normal other than death being permanent? Not really "harder", just a whole lot riskier.
    – Nick T
    May 16, 2012 at 3:56
  • Should you not point out the actual difference in hardcore mode - i.e. one life, one death? At the moment that part of the answer is a bit lacking, I think.
    – Alex
    May 16, 2012 at 8:51
  • 2
    I disagree with saying that Hardcore is harder. The difficulty of Hardcore - Normal is the exact same difficulty as Normal Mode - Normal except for the fact if you die its permanent.
    – Ramhound
    Jun 12, 2012 at 16:20
  • @RavenDreamer: The stash/artisans of hardcore games are not shared with softcore characters, but they are shared between your hardcore characters.
    – speakr
    Jun 12, 2012 at 22:43

You have to beat them in order to unlock the next one. There is no way to skip around. This goes for every character you make as well.


I had friends do some boss runs for one of my alts who ended up getting about 10 levels ahead of the quests they were normally running, and once I hit 25 (during act 2 I believe) a message popped up saying: "Nightmare unlocked" but it may have been because my character already "killed" diablo on normal. Even so, it doesn't seem like you HAVE to beat the entire normal mode to unlock nightmare, etc. Just some food for thought.

  • There is also a level restriction to Nightmare.
    – Ramhound
    Jun 12, 2012 at 16:21

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