Like From Software’s Dark Souls series and Bloodborne, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is already a pretty difficult game. But for those who really crave a challenge, Sekiro does something those previous games did not: offer a way to make things even harder. In typical From fashion, this doesn’t simply take the form of a Hard mode you toggle on in the settings; instead, you’ll need to know where to find it and what to do in order to make things tougher on yourself. And if you’ve finished the game, there’s an even more challenging option that awaits you. Here’s how to turn on these Hard modes with the help of a particular demo and a particular iron bell.
The Hard mode of Sekiro is actually an inventory item, called the Bell Demon, that you can find in a very specific place along your journey. You need to locate the Bell Demon’s Shrine–it’s on the road to Senpou Temple, near the Sculptor’s Idol for the Shugendo region on Mount Kongo.
As you climb the mountain and reach the wooden bridge at the top, you should see a shrine with an iron bell off to the left. From here, head toward the rocky outcropping beside the bridge, and look along the left side for a spot where you can drop down, near a tree stump grapple point. Drop as far down as you can go and look along the cliff’s edge for a wooden walkway you can jump over to. Follow the walkway around until you reach its end and look across and down at the cliff wall ahead. You should see a portion of the wall you can catch and ledge-hang from, but you’ll need to leap across the gap to reach it. Catch the ledge and climb up to reach the bell shrine above.
There’s another, possibly easier path to reach the location, and you can do it even earlier than Shugendo. In the Ashina Outskirts, fight your way to the Underbridge Valley Sculptor’s Idol. From here, climb back up to the broken bridge and go left along the outer wall of the fortress. You should see another wooden walkway with a note warning about the deadly Headless up ahead. Follow the path until you hit a dead end and look at the cliff wall for a place you can jump and catch a ledge. Keep following the ledge until you can jump down to a cave below. Inside you’ll find the Headless; run past it and look for a hole in the wall behind it. That’ll leave you to a Shinobi escape path door you can open by hugging the wall, which will take you directly to the bell shrine on Mount Kongo.
To activate Hard mode, just ring the bell. You’ll be afflicted with something called Sinister Burden, and in your inventory, you’ll have a Bell Demon item. This marks that you’re being possessed by the Bell Demon, who will make combat harder against all enemies, but especially bosses. The trade-off is that you get better rewards for winning fights, which can help you grind out upgrades against weaker foes in the early parts of the game.
You can also switch off the Bell Demon Hard mode at any time. Just open your inventory and find the Bell Demon item, and then activate it like you would any other consumable. That makes the possession disappear, which is useful when you’re about to encounter a boss that’s tough enough as it is. There’s a Sculptor’s Idol for the Bell Demon’s Temple as well, so you can quickly travel back and reacquire the demon if you need to get rid of it for a while.
A second Hard mode offering becomes available if you complete the game and start a New Game + run. This inherently increases difficulty, with enemies hitting harder along the way. But you can make things even tougher on yourself, however, if you decline to take the charm Kuro offers you early on. Without the charm, you’ll take even more damage, and you won’t be able to rely as much on blocking without parrying–enemies will now be able to deal you some damage even if you block.
We’ve got plenty more guides for Sekiro, including a rundown of where to find every Shinobi Prosthetic tool, how to beat Headless, and Headless locations. You might also want to read our Sekiro review while you’re at it.