It’s interesting to note that the video game console with the longest lifespan in gaming history (the Atari VCS/2600) orginally had a difficulty switch built right into the machine, situated on the front panel in early models and moved to the back of the console on the later models.
I’m not a gamer, but I imagine that difficulty settings in present-day games aren’t nearly as common as they once were — but I also doubt that games are as difficult as they were in the past. I mean, let’s consider the infamous, original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (pictured above), which was created with the sole intent of getting nine-year-olds to smash their NES consoles in a fit of unbridled rage at the sheer impossibility of getting past that DAMN UNDERWATER LEVEL WITH THE ELECTRIC SEAWEED. Twenty-two years later and I haven’t yet let go of that frustration and disappointment.
This brilliant video (below) shows what certain classic games might have been like if an “extra difficult” mode option had been available. Still not as hard as TMNT.