Wordle Hard Mode: What Is It, Who Plays It, and Should You Play It Too?

Wordle hard mode versus normal mode

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It’s safe to say at this point that Wordle has become a staple word game right alongside Scrabble and The New York Times Crossword. The game’s daily challenge offers millions of people a proper dose of brain training. But, what if that isn’t enough of a challenge for you? That’s where Wordle hard mode comes in to offer a more mentally demanding way to play, an option that up to one-in-four Wordlers prefer. 

What Is Wordle Hard Mode, Exactly?

When you visit the NYT Wordle game page, you’ll find a settings icon at the top right corner of your screen. If you click on it, you’ll find the option to turn on Wordle’s hard mode. As it says in the settings menu: 

“Any revealed hints must be used in subsequent guesses.” 

What this means is that if you play a word and any letters are part of the Wordle solution, you must use those letters in subsequent guesses. Green letters must be in the correct locations and you must include every yellow letter you’ve correctly identified.

Example of Wordle's hard modeExample of Wordle's hard mode(CC BY-ND 4.0)

How Many People Play Wordle’s Hard Mode?

You might assume that the majority of people don’t play hard mode in Wordle. And you’d assume correctly. Though there is no perfect and complete ranking for player preferences, certain official and fan-generated sources can help us estimate a general player count. On average, it appears that somewhere between 7 and 30 percent of people prefer to play Wordle’s hard mode.

According to The New York Times

According to WordleBot, The New York Times’ official Wordle analyst tool, roughly 20 to 25 percent of people play using hard mode. We found this range based on information on the WordleBot site. It shows you the total number of Wordles it analyzes each day, separating them by normal and hard games. Dividing the Wordle hard mode games by the normal ones gives us that one-in-five or one-in-four figure.

From the Reddit Community

A poll posted in the Reddit Wordle community asked players to share whether they played Wordle on normal or hard mode. The poll received 265 total votes; 30 percent of Redditors indicated they play Wordle on hard mode. 

Wordle Stats on Twitter

Data from @Wordlestats, an automated account that tracks Wordle scores shared on Twitter, shows a lower percentage of hard mode players. By comparing the day-to-day scores and dividing the number of hard mode games by the number of normal mode ones, we found that hard mode accounts for slightly around 7 percent of games.

A tweet from Wordle Stats accountA tweet from Wordle Stats account

More Engaged Players Play Wordle’s Hard Mode

No complete statistics of Wordle players exist. At least, if they do exist, The New York Times does not provide them to the public. The sources for the information above reveal some interesting data about the frequency of Wordle hard mode play within certain demographics. It appears that the more engaged the subset of players, the more likely they are to play on hard mode. 

  • The @Wordlestats account only tracks the results of people who share their scores on Twitter.

  • The NYT WordleBot only sees the scores of players who use the tool to help with playing the game.

  • The Reddit poll was conducted within an online word game community, one that actively discusses the game on a regular basis.

What you’ll notice about these three sources is that each subsequent set has a more involved and dedicated user base. And, the more dedicated they are, the higher the percentage of hard mode players becomes. So, while we still cannot determine for certain the total number of people who play hard mode, it does seem that players with a stronger affinity for word games prefer it more than casual players do. 

Looking at all Wordle players, it’s reasonable to assume the actual number of hard mode players might be less than 7 percent.

Wordle Hard Mode Example

Here’s an example of how Wordle hard mode works:

  1. For your first turn, you guess the word “adieu” to play as many vowels as possible. This first guess reveals that E is in the fourth spot of the answer. It lights up as a green square. 

  2. The next word you try to play is “block,” trying letters you haven’t used before. But, the game tells you that the fourth letter must be E.

  3. You pick a different word, this time using “ropes.”

  4. The R lights up yellow, indicating that the letter is in the word but in the incorrect spot. The letters O and E turn green, indicating they are in the correct locations. 

  5. Your next guess must have O in the second spot and E in the fourth spot. It must also contain R somewhere. In other words, the pattern is ?O?E? and one of the missing letters is an R

  6. So, your next guess cannot be a word like “honey” because it does not contain the letter R

  7. You try words that match that spelling pattern until you find the correct answer, “foyer.”

While Wordle hard mode isn’t drastically more difficult than normal mode, you can see how it could deliver a greater challenge. If a hard mode puzzle ends up giving you too much trouble and you aren’t ready to lose your win streak to hard mode’s limitations, you can visit our Wordle answers page to bypass the frustration.

Pros: Advantages of Playing Wordle’s Hard Mode

Now that you know how hard mode in Wordle works, you need to figure out if playing it is right for you. There are questions you need to ask: 

  • Why would anyone actually want to make Wordle harder for themselves?

  • Is it even truly a harder version of the game? 

  • How will people even know I played on hard mode?

Fortunately for you, we are here to help you find your answers.

  1. A greater challenge: It is “hard mode,” after all. The restrictions of words you can play force you to put more thought into strategy. This gets your mind going, which pushes you to improve your overall puzzle-solving skills.

  2. Greater bragging rights: As someone who solves Wordle on hard mode, you get to join an “exclusive club” compared to average Wordle players. If we’re all being honest, we love the opportunity to show off our skills. That’s why seeing the asterisks at the end of your score (e.g., Wordle 305 4/6*), which signifies that you played on hard mode, is so satisfying when you share your score on social media.

  3. Training for your vocabulary: Since you need to play a word that uses the same yellow or green letters from your previous guesses, you must have an extensive vocabulary. Playing hard mode is a good way to push yourself to learn new words.

Cons: There’s a Reason It’s Called “Hard Mode”

Of course, we can’t ignore that there’s a reason why hard mode rules are not the standard rules for Wordle. Everyone has their preferred play style. We have our favorite Wordle starting words and our goals for streak averages. Considering that those change when you adjust the difficulty, you might decide that hard mode is not for you.

Loss of Favorite Starting Words

If you have a pair of favorite starting words that use different letters, you almost always lose one of them by playing Wordle’s hard mode. You might also need to reconsider what your first word is and pick one that has the greatest chance of uncovering the most letters. 

We recommend using the Startle Wordle word testing tool by developer Steve Hodges to find a high-value replacement. Here’s an example of how this can help.

  1. For your first word, you play “coals,” the first half of Startle’s suggested best starting pair.

  2. “Coals” reveals a yellow A and a yellow S.

  3. The second word to play in Wordle following “coals,” according to Startle, is “niter.” 

  4. Since you are playing on hard mode, you cannot play “niter” next. You must choose a word containing A and S. 

  5. After checking some words on Startle, you choose “arise” as your replacement word for “niter.” 

  6. “Arise” helps you avoid using C, O, and L in your second word, since you already included them in your first word. The A and S are also in different positions than they were in “coals.”

More Time-Consuming

Regular Wordle usually only takes a few minutes to complete. Many people enjoy it as part of their morning routine before starting the day. Hard mode can make doing that more difficult. Trying to find matching words can take a lot more time than you might expect.

Fewer Fellow Players

We’ll explain more a little further down, but the majority of players don’t play Wordle hard mode. This can make it hard to find people to discuss the specific challenges you faced (and the fun you had) with the daily Wordle game.

More Reliance on Luck

When you play normal mode, you can play words with completely different letters to eliminate more possibilities in one turn. You don’t have that luxury with hard mode. This means, when you’ve reached the point where you’ve found several required letters, you have to waste entire turns looking for the few that are left. The puzzle turns into a guessing game, one where you probably only have one or two chances left to win.

On that last point, if you’ve figured out that the Wordle answer ends in LACK, possible answers include CLACK, PLACK, SLACK, and BLACK. If you only have two turns left, how do you choose which ones to guess? 

Startle’s Steve Hodges on Wordle’s Hard Mode

Because Steve Hodges’ Startle utility is such a beneficial tool for anyone who needs help playing hard mode in Wordle, we decided to ask him about his thoughts on playing hard mode or normal mode. Here is what he had to say:

“Hard mode definitely ups the difficulty. It's more challenging for the player, as possible words for round two are limited, and it's much more difficult to get multiple greens or yellows after two rounds. Playing on hard mode requires more vocabulary and creativity.” 

If you ever feel that hard mode is giving you more trouble than it should, Steve’s words should be reassuring. Someone who has spent hours upon hours analyzing Wordle and creating a tool to rate word performance agrees that Wordle’s hard mode has earned its title.

Do Any Wordle-Like Games Have Hard Modes?

Yes. Many Wordle-inspired games did the right thing by including their own proper hard modes. Primarily, these games are the Wordle clones that use near-identical gameplay patterns. Games like Quordle and Octordle, due to having multiple puzzles at once, can’t have hard modes. Of course, those games are hard enough already, so that’s fine by us.

  • Canuckle: A Canadian-themed game with answers that all relate to the country. Find more information about the game in our interview with co-creator Mark Rogers.

  • Indle: A game inspired by Canuckle with answers related to India.

  • Hello Wordl: A Wordle clone with both a hard and ultra hard mode. The ultra hard mode requires you to place any yellow letters in a different spot than where they first appeared.

  • Hurdle: An Arkadium Wordle clone. The catch with Hurdle is that you have to solve five puzzles sequentially instead of just one.

  • Stardle: Similar to Indle, this game was inspired by Canuckle. All Stardle answers relate to astronomy.

  • WordHurdle: A Wordle clone that uses six-letter words rather than the standard five-letter words.

  • Word Master: This game is commonly regarded by Wordle fans as the best clone. Its gameplay is identical to Wordle’s, but you can also play as many games as you want in a single day.

Conquer Hard Mode With Our Wordle Solver

Whether you decide to play Wordle hard mode or not, you will always need to think carefully about the words you’ll use. You might have six chances to win, but one unhelpful word can cost you the game. To avoid such a fate and to find any word that will match your previous guess in hard mode, go to our Wordle solver for help. This easy-to-use tool will eliminate all irrelevant options and provide every word that will put you on the path to keeping your win streak. 

Zac Pricener has been a content creator for the past eight years. He’s a bit of an all-around nerd, and he has a bad habit of working movie and TV show references into conversations whenever possible.


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