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[[quoteright:320:[[Webcomic/ManlyGuysDoingManlyThings http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Magikarp_Power_7692.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:320:[[TheDogBitesBack And then the Gyarados just eats him.]][[note]]Just kidding. Mr. Fish is more docile than most dogs.[[/note]]]]

->''"I swear to god, when I evolve, I'm going to kill you all."''
-->-- '''Magikarp,''' via ''MemeticMutation''

A character, ability, or piece of equipment that seems [[WhatKindOfLamePowerIsHeartAnyway completely useless]] at first, but with repeated use and patience can be highly effective later. This can be an item/weapon [[InfinityPlusOneSword you need to explicitly power up]] or even an entire low-level character who gets some really awesome techniques later. Choosing the character usually involves taking the PathOfMostResistance so you can EarnYourFun.

The TropeNamer is Magikarp from ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'', a ubiquitous, dim-witted, carp-like Pokémon that only knows the move Splash, which, as the game gleefully informs you, 'has no effect'. It learns Tackle at level 15, the most basic attack move in ''Pokemon''. In short, [[JokeCharacter it's a complete joke of a Pokémon]]. Until you [[LevelGrinding painstakingly grind it up to level 20]], at which point it evolves into [[SeaMonster Gyarados]], a [[SeaMonster large, blue dragon-esque sea leviathan]] ready to wreak vengeance from high with its own lethal abilities, and can evolve further into a Mega form to steamroll just about anything that dares pick a fight with it. Magikarp is based on [[http://www.koi-pond-guide.com/koi-fish-meaning.html an old Japanese legend]] about [[LegendaryCarp a carp that manages to swim up a waterfall and becomes a dragon through sheer perseverance.]]

LeakedExperience can be very helpful in getting this to the appropriate point without weakening the party or putting the Magikarp's Power in danger.

Related to LevelGrinding in that the player is forced to drag an entirely useless item or {{NPC}} around for level after level, until it becomes useful.

A similar but distinct trope is the RetroUpgrade, where instead of upgrading the Magikarp itself, you earn or upgrade something else which makes the Magikarp much more powerful.

Compare FutureBadass, TookALevelInBadass (this trope implemented for a character), LinearWarriorsQuadraticWizards (for when wizards are treated as magikarp), LethalJokeCharacter (a JokeCharacter with hidden potential), DifficultButAwesome (for when a character/faction is set up to make the ''player'' a magikarp) and ChangingGameplayPriorities. Contrast BreakableWeapons, WhatKindOfLamePowerIsHeartAnyway and CrutchCharacter. Can sometimes be heard to ask, "WhosLaughingNow"

!!Examples in Video Games:


* Generation 1:
** [[TropeNamer Named]] from the ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'' Magikarp, which has horrible (but not the worst) overall stats and can only learn four moves outside of events,[[note]]Splash, Tackle, Flail, Bounce - with Flail being introduced in Generation II, and Bounce first becoming available to Magikarp beginning in ''[[VideoGame/PokemonDiamondAndPearl Pokémon Platinum]]'' (which was actually a paltry ''two'' moves at the time of its original debut appearance in ''VideoGame/PokemonRedAndBlue'')[[/note]] one of which does absolutely nothing, and it cannot learn anything else other than these moves. It eventually evolves into the dreaded Gyarados, which is one of the most powerful and versatile creatures in the game. Interestingly, Magikarp can evolve at level 20, which is actually much earlier than most final evolutions with comparable stats, but doing so is still a pain because the damn thing is so weak. Also played straight in ''VideoGame/PokemonGo'', where Magikarp is the weakest Pokémon in terms of potential CP and requires the most candies to evolve (400, four times the nearest competitor), but upon evolving into Gyarados, it becomes 15 times stronger. No other Pokémon in the game gets such a massive power boost.
* Generation II:
** Togepi starts out as a typical baby Pokemon: bad stats (aside from surprisingly good defenses) and a less-than-inspiring movepool. If you get its happiness high enough, it evolves into Togetic, which is... [[DamnedByFaintPraise better]]. But, starting in Gen IV, if you use a rare Shiny Stone on Togetic, it evolves into Togekiss, which gets a ''major'' boost to its stats and can learn a wide variety of moves.
** Larvitar is a teensy greenish mon found at level 20 in Mt. Silver, the final area of ''Gold and Silver''. It's sluggish, relatively weak, and has a very mixed bag Rock/Ground type, though it learns a small handful of semi-decent moves. Its evolution, Pupitar, is only slightly better. But when it evolves into Tyranitar, it gets massively boosted stats, trades its Ground-type off for Dark-type, and a better movepool.
** The move Return is this. It starts out rather weak, but since its power is tied to your Pokémon's Happiness stat, which increases with leveling up, winning, and even walking around, you can hit its max power of 102 eventually.
* Generation III:
** Shroomish, a silly-looking walking mushroom that starts with poor stats in everything but its defenses and HP. It evolves pretty early into a Breloom at Level 22, it gains a ''giganticí' boost for its Attack stats, from 40 as a Shroomish to 130 as a Breloom. In additional, it becomes a Grass/Fighting-type, gaining STAB from Fighting-type moves as well as a few type resistances, and plenty of good moves.
** Slakoth has poor stats and its ability is Truant, which doesn't allow it to act on every second turn, but at Level 18, it evolves into a Vigoroth, which no longer has Truant and has decent overall stats... which is nothing compare to when Vigoroth evolves into Slaking, it regains its Truant ability, but Slaking has one of the highest Attack stats in the game. Slaking's stat total actually matches the [[OlympusMons legendary]] [[MagmaMan Groudon]] and [[TheGreatFlood Kyogre]], and is the highest of any non-legendary Pokémon in the game.
** Magikarp's [[VideoGame/PokemonRubyAndSapphire third generation]] equivalent, Feebas, is a similar (if not ''quite'' as useless) case; it evolves into the defensive-based and beautiful Milotic. Thatís it, if you know [[GuideDangIt how to find it and evolve it in the Generation III and IV games.]] Though starting in Generation V, Prism Scale is introduced to bypasses the GuideDangIt and allows Feebas to evolve on a trade if itís holding one.
** Beldum can attest to Level 20's awesomeness, as it goes from a ridiculously hard-to-catch floating leg that can only learn Take Down, a move that deal recoil damage, to Metang, which becomes the defensive and powerful Metagross at level 45.
* Generation V:
** Tyanmo is cute Electric-type eel with no type weakness thanks to its Levitate ability, and thatís it. Its stats are unimpressive and it could only learn four moves until it evolves at Level 39. Additionally, it takes more experience per level-up than most Pokémon at the same level as it, making it a great pain to raise to level 39. But as soon as it evolves into an Eelektrik, the player can use a Thunder Stone on it to evolve into Eelektross, a MightyGlacier with a wide variety of moves to choose from.
** Litwick, a Ghost/Fire-type from Generation V, has terrible stats and doesn't evolve until level 41. However as soon as it does, it can be evolved again into Chandelure which has the second-highest Special Attack of any non-mega, non-legendary, ''less than 10 points shy of [[GameBreaker Mewtwo]]''.
** Larvesta begins with average or poor stats in everything except Attack, which goes to waste when you see that its evolution, Volcarona, has massive Special Attack instead. It doesn't even evolve until Level '''59''', but if you do, it gets a mountain of Special stats, Speed, and Quiver Dance, which boosts all three of those stats.
** Out of the pseudo-legendaries, Deino, is particularly notable because it evolves much later than the rest - it evolves at 50 (you can get Salamence, Metagross, and Garchomp, other pseudo-legendary, by this level) and then ''level 64'', the highest evolution level of anything in the ''entire series''. What's more, Deino and its evolved form Zweilous have an ability that ''lowers accuracy'', making them pretty unreliable to use. Once it evolves into a Hydreigon, it trades its Hustle ability for a far more reliable Levitate and itís a MagicKnight capable of learning tons of moves.
* Generation VI:
** Gen VI's pseudo-legendary, Goomyís stat is underwhelming at this point of the game, and its movepool is rather shallow. Even the Pokédex says it's the weakest Dragon-type ever. If you stick with it, however, it eventually evolves into Goodra, which a MagicKnight that has a staggering Special Defense stat and is the most adorable dragon ever.
** Noibat is pretty much a special attacking version of Zubat, while its evolution, Noivern, is a slighty slower, slighty harder hitting special version of Crobat. However, Noibat won't evolve until level ''48'', and its natural movepool is nothing to write home about. However, once it evolves, it becomes the fastest Dragon type in the game, with their typical movepool.
* Generation VII:
** Wishiwashi is a Water-type that gains vast improvements at Level 20 just like Magikarp, though through an Ability rather than evolution: At Level 20 or above, this sad-looking fish schools together into one conglomerate, which vastly improves its stats (except for Speed, which is slightly lowered). It is a more extreme jump than Magikarp, with its Solo Form being weaker than Magikarp (stats-wise, it has the lowest overall stats) and its School Form being stronger than some OlympusMons. However, it gets the drawback in which if its HP falls to 1/4 or below, it will revert back to its Solo Form. It can return back to School Form if its HP rises back above that point though.
** [[DirtyCoward Wimpod]] has extremely low stats other than its speed, a shallow movepool, and an ability which [[CowerPower makes it switch out when below half health]]. Raise it up to level 30, and it evolves into Golisopod, a MightyGlacier with a wide movepool. While Golisopod has [[BlessedWithSuck Emergency Exit]], which functions exactly like Wimp Out, it can take advantage of its SecretArt, First Impression. A powerful move that has priority, but can only be used on the first turn itís switched in.
** Bounsweet starts out as a pitiful JokeCharacter whose Pokedex entry states that she is often SwallowedWhole by other Pokemon. She evolves into Steenee at level 18, while Steenee is an improvement over Bounsweet, her overall stats are still terrible. And after learning the move Stomp, she will evolve into Tsareena, a MightyGlacier with a high Attack stat and nice bulk.
** From the defensive side of things, there's the Mareanie line. As a Mareanie, its overall stats are pretty underwhelming, especially for a Pokemon that can only be encountered if a rare Corsola tries to call for help. But once it evolves into Toxapex, it receives a huge boost in both its Defense and Special Defense stats (which is a flat 90 in each), turning it into a formidable StoneWall.
** Salandit is a somewhat weak Pokemon, a GlassCannon with more glass than cannon (it can easily be one-shot by neutral effective moves), and only females can evolve and females are somewhat rare. Stick with it through its rather rough training period with its low defense, and it evolves into a Salazzle. While her bulk is still terrible, she has a great Special Attack stat and sheís dangerously fast.
** [[spoiler:Cosmog]] is the case to end all cases. Statistically, it's a Psychic-type Magikarp with even lower speed, and can only learn Splash and Teleport, neither of which damage the enemy. Once you get it to level 43, it evolves into [[spoiler:Cosmoem]]... which, while it has improved defences, is still weak, and still knows no damaging moves. You have to baby it up for 10 more levels, but once it reaches level 53, it evolves into either [[spoiler:Solgaleo]] or [[spoiler:Lunala]], depending on the version.

[[folder:Action Games]]
* ''VideoGame/AnotherCenturysEpisode 2'', a mecha action game, gives players the Amon Duule "Stack", a red unit from ''Anime/HeavyMetalLGaim''. In both the game and the series, the unit is technically a flawed and defective piece of junk, despite having a stupid powerful beam cannon that would make Wing Gundam cry. However, after some minor upgrades and using the unit for a little while, the player can upgrade it into its true form: the L-Gaim Mk. II, the most ridiculously powerful unit that the good guys get in the L-Gaim series, and a very good power unit in ACE 2.
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Boktai}} Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django]]'' has the bare-handed punch which, in all likelihood you will use for the 14 second span between losing your gun and finding the Gradius sword and never use again. What a lot of people don't realise is that there is ''no'' recovery time for the attack; you can damage enemies as quickly as you can mash the B button. If you devote the time to level it up to 99 ''and'' raise Django's attack stat sufficiently, it becomes the ''single most devastating attack in your arsenal'' despite it's low range and non-elemental damage.

[[folder:Action-Adventure Games]]
* ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaPortraitOfRuin'':
** The game starts you off with a gimped version of the legendary Vampire Killer whip, and it is the weakest whip in the game. However, if you defeat its "memory" (AKA [[spoiler:Richter Belmont]]) in a BonusBoss battle, you unlock its true power and turn it into the most powerful whip in the game.
** The game also features two gag sub-weapons: the pie and paper airplane. They're functionally useless until you level them up to max level, when they suddenly become some of the most powerful subweapons in the game. Interestingly, these are particularly useful in unlocking the full potential of the Vampire Killer, since they're two of the very few weapons Jonathan can use that deal dark damage, which the whip's memory is weak to.
* ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaSymphonyOfTheNight'' gives us the UsefulNotes/{{Muramasa}}. A middling two-handed weapon whose obvious benefit is that it provides an automatic heal whenever an enemy bleeds on Alucard. Less obviously, the sword actually grows in power over time as it absorbs blood... the only limit to its power is the calculation algorithm of the game. However, in the time of actual gameplay, it's far easier to acquire a number of other game breaking weapons before leveling Muramasa to the point of it being of any real value. Players who do manage to power up Muramasa tend to just take advantage of a turbo controller in a specific location while leaving the game running over night.
* ''VideoGame/CaveStory'':
** Refuse to trade away your wimpy initial weapon until the near-end of the game, and you'll be able to upgrade it to [[InfinityPlusOneSword the almighty Spur]]. This is partially a reward for honesty, since said wimpy initial weapon technically doesn't belong to you, and you get the upgrade by returning it to its rightful owner.
** The Bubbline/Bubbler is another example. At level 1, it's similar to the above-mentioned wimpy initial weapon, but slightly ''less'' useful. At Level 2, it makes a decent substitute for the Machine Gun -- a weapon you can't get if you're going for the Spur. At level 3, it fires a cloud of bubbles as long as you hold down the fire button, which start popping rapidly and firing lightning bolts once you've built up enough... and once you release the fire button, they all pop and fire their lightning bolts at once. This is roughly as potent and deadly as it sounds.
** The Nemesis is actually an inversion; it starts off as possibly the strongest weapon in the game, but as it levels up, it gets progressively weaker to the point that at the maximum level, it shoots ''rubber ducks''. Did we mention this thing levels up ''insanely fast''?
* In ''VideoGame/TheGodfather: The Game'', the shotgun is a bit like this. With a two-shot clip size and 12 rounds to spare, 24 at the second level, it's outclassed even in assault situations by the [[HandCannon Magnum]] with six rounds per clip and 36 rounds (60 at level 2) to spare without sacrificing much power at all. Once you throw $450,000 at the right black market merchant to upgrade it to the level 3 "Street Sweeper", it goes up to ten rounds a clip and 100 rounds to spare with an automatic action, compared to the Magnum's level 3 "Python" with 8-80 and semiauto. Unless you are feeling the need to be stylish or are somehow running low, the shotgun is now the way to go.
* Cheap crew members in ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoV'' may seem to be either incompetent or inept at first, but can be of great use either through experience, like in the case of [[HollywoodHacking hacker]] Rickie Lukens and driver Karim Denz, or if used on later missions.
* Several weapons in ''[[VideoGame/{{Onimusha}} Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams]]'' are like this, one of which is the Onimaru, a katana for Jubei. It can be dropped by an early-game enemy, but its attack power is much lower than the other weapons you can get for her at that point. Level it up enough and it gains Attack +100, Normal Attacks +40% (basic physical combos get a major boost to attack power), and Generate Attack Wave (which shoots energy waves with every attack made with the weapon, thus increasing its range). Jubei will then be able to shred through nearly everything you come across and continues to be useful even in the second disc.

[[folder:Card Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/YuGiOhReshefOfDestruction'', the Winged Dragon of Ra has 0 Attack and Defense when you first receive it. It takes a plot-relevant battle to make it useful.
* Several cards in ''VideoGame/EternalCardGame'' start out weak, but power up through various means. The Ultimate mechanic as a whole is usually this, letting you buff a unit once for a large amount of power.
* The Stranger archetype gets exponentially more powerful the more Strangers you have, starting out unimpressive, but able of taking over entire games quickly if you can get out a lot of them.

[[folder:Fighting Games]]
* There are a number of characters in ''Franchise/BlazBlue'' that have to build up a unique personal resource over the course of the match in order to make themselves stronger, but the [[UpToEleven absolute king]] of this trope in the series would be Susanoo, from ''[[VideoGame/BlazBlueCentralFiction Central Fiction]]''. Susanoo starts each round with seven of his eight special moves ''locked and completely unusable'', and the player must unlock them with his Drive attacks. Additionally, some of his specials can be powered up even further if you "unlock" them when they're already unlocked.
* The bow and arrow in ''VideoGame/CastleCrashers''. Initially, the weapon fires arrows at an angle and at a very slow speed. Increase your character's Agility stat, however, and the angle lessens until it fires straight ahead and arrow speed shoots up considerably. With a high enough Agility, you can even juggle enemies with the bow!
* In the arcade game ''VideoGame/DungeonsAndDragonsShadowOverMystara'':
** A player may find the Cursed Sword. As the name suggests, it's cursed; every time the player tries to swing it, it damages the PlayerCharacter. However, if the sword is swung often enough, it becomes the most powerful weapon in the game, outmatched only by weapons that are specifically designed to kill certain types of enemies.
*** There's also the ''other'' Cursed Sword, which randomly can't be swung and isn't very powerful. Pick it up 8 times with a cleric, and it becomes the Holy Avenger, the second most powerful weapon in the game.
** If you time it correctly, you can interrupt the "knock-back" animation (and the damage!) from the curse by either jumping and swinging right before landing, or having someone else cast a targeted spell (like Cure Light Wounds, or Striking) on the Sword swinger. Cursed Sword 2 is much easier; have the Cleric (try to) pick it up enough times.
* [[FinalFantasyXII Gabranth]] in the ''VideoGame/DissidiaFinalFantasy'' series fits this trope. At the start of the match, he's severely underpowered, with a limited moveset and no HP-damaging attacks. However, upon entering EX Mode, he gains an entirely different moveset with multiple high-damage attacks, arguably becoming the game's strongest character second to Chaos. He is also the only character who can charge their own EX gauge at will.
* This describes [[PhoenixWrightAceAttorney Phoenix Wright]] from ''VideoGame/MarvelVsCapcom3'' in a nutshell. He starts with poor mobility, weak normal attacks, and a lack of moves in general. Collect evidence and put him in Trial Mode, however, and he gains access to a variety of projectile attacks and much better moves. And if you can get him in Turnabout Mode, he becomes one of the strongest characters in the game, doing immense damage with all of his attacks, having invincibility with some of his moves, and gaining access to one of the best level 3 Hyper Combos in the game - which is ''the'' single strongest attack in the game, no less. In other words, you start the match with a huge disadvantage and have to slowly gather evidence while playing keep-away until you can trigger a turnabout. Sound familiar? It should. It's the basic plot for nearly every case in ''Ace Attorney''.
* Pucci's moveset in ''VideoGame/JoJosBizarreAdventureAllStarBattle'' is based entirely on this. He first starts the match with his stand Whitesnake, which is rather versatile but underpowered. By speaking all 14 of Dio's secret words to Green Baby, his stand permanently transforms into C-Moon and gives him several new moves, including his GHA which allows him to further evolve his stand into Made in Heaven, which causes the enemy's speed to be to be lessened ''for the rest of the match''. Johnny also fits to a lesser extent, since he gains more moves the further Tusk evolves throughout the match.
* ''VideoGame/SonicBattle'': Emerl. At the beginning of the game, he has a full set of moves copied from Sonic -- but they're all "incomplete" and hugely {{nerf}}ed. In each battle, he'll copy a random move from each participant, but he still needs Skill Points to equip them -- and at the beginning of the game, you'll have ''very'' few, forcing you to make such decisions as "do I want Emerl to be able to walk or do I want to give him the second hit in his combo?" At the end of the storyline, you'll have enough Skill Points to give him a [[MasterOfNone full loadout of okay moves]], or a [[CripplingOverspecialization half-full loadout of good ones]], and ''then'' you can start unlocking his Ultimate moves. As he approaches the Skill Point {{cap}}, you'll eventually be able to go full AllYourPowersCombined EliteTweak.

[[folder:Hack & Slash]]
* In ''VideoGame/DynastyWarriors'':
** In the sixth game, the bow moveset shared by Sun Shangxiang and Yue Ying initially seemed dismaying - "They took two of the coolest women in the game and gave them a useless weapon!" However, once you level up that bow and arrow, it's a ''monster'' because you can spray tons of arrows into the crowd at once. It's also a bit of a GameBreaker in that you can snipe from a faraway enough distance that the computer AI generals don't realize they should block your attack.
** In ''DynastyWarriorsOnline'', it's actually part of the mechanics. No weapon ever starts out at full power in the first place. You have to temper weapons so they have better stats. This trope comes in, however, in that tempering only has a limited effect on the stats based on the weapon. If you grind a weapon, you have to use it so many times, you can change the stat spread on a weapon. On some weapons this is needless. On others, like the tonfa, this turns what is otherwise a horribly stated weapon into a competent one, with good combos as well.
* The Crystal/Big Star weapons in ''VideoGame/WarriorsOrochi 3''. Initially they start with low attack power (usually 9 or 10), but at max proficiency they gain a plus 54 attack increase, making them the most powerful weapons in the game, except for a select few 4-star weapons reserved for extremely badass characters.
* In the first DungeonSiege, the starting knife is required to get the [[LethalJokeItem chicken gun]].
* In the X-Box remake of ''VideoGame/NinjaGaiden'', the wooden sword is easily the most useless weapon in the game, and takes the most time/money to upgrade fully... but once you do, it becomes the most powerful weapon in the game: the [[NonindicativeName Unlabored]] Flawlessness.

[[folder:Platform Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/RatchetAndClankUpYourArsenal'', many of the weapons will be crap to start with, but after an upgrade or two, will become massively awesome. Particularly the Holo-Shield Glove. V1: blocks a few projectiles before it shorts out, and serves no secondary purpose. In a word: useless. V2: blocks more damage, and sucks the very lifeforce from your enemies to heal you. In a word: awesome.
** From the same game, the Infector. It's a complete bitch to upgrade, the hardest in the game and only ever has 15 ammo, 20 or so max. V1, shoots out a ball of goo that does small damage, V2 makes the infection last a bit longer by a few seconds, V3 has splash damage, V4 has slightly better splash damage and homing, and V5? Launches out a massive Infecto-Bomb, hence its name, that infects the blast radius and anything the resultant 6-8 globs of goo seek out and find, with phenominally better performance.
* ''Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog'':
** Tails, specifically ''[[VideoGame/Sonic3AndKnuckles Sonic 3 & Knuckles]]'': in both ''[[VideoGame/SonicTheHedgehog2 Sonic 2]]'' and ''Sonic 3'' without the S&K lock-on, getting all [[LuckySeven seven Chaos Emeralds]] didn't do squat for Tails other than rewarding the player with the [[MultipleEndings Good Ending]], unlike [[SuperMode Sonic]]. Oh, but that changed in S3&K: getting all 14 Chaos Emeralds (seven in the ''Sonic 3'' portion and seven in the ''Sonic & Knuckles'' portion) nets Tails' SuperMode, complete with super transformation sequence, glowing body, and the best part: [[FourIsDeath four birds]] (called Flickies) that home in on enemies and deal damage to them -- all Tails has to do is just stand and burn rings for energy. Oh, and the birds can damage almost any boss in the game. The bosses they aren't good for are one of the bosses in the Death Egg Zone,[[note]]which can only be damaged by its own bombs[[/note]] and the miniboss of Sandopolis Zone.[[note]]This guy must sink in some quicksand in the left half of the arena, but the birds don't know that and knock the boss all over the place.[[/note]]
** Sonic in Sonic 3 without Lock-On. His special abilities aren't nearly as useful as Tails' flying, but unlike Tails, he can transform into his SuperForm after you collect all Chaos Emeralds, which makes him invulnerable and faster and improves his jumping height.
** An example from ''VideoGame/SonicAdventure2'', the Mystic Melody power-up. On your first playthrough it will seem useless, and no characters can get it unless they go back on levels to find it (for some it's easy, for others you can't get it until the ''last level''). Then, when you finally HAVE Mystic Melody, you can use the power with small, slightly-hidden temples. The Melody can do everything from open portals to cause rings to magically appear, which you can use as shortcuts to later parts of a stage or pathways to other powerups...basically, an in-game cheat item.

* ''VideoGame/AncientDomainsOfMystery'':
** The Farmer class, whose special powers are of very limited use compared to those of other classes. The exception is their final power, gained at level 50, which grants 30% resistance to all corrupting effects - possibly the best power in the game.
** Necromancers are generally played as wizards whose class power drains their magic, but when they reach level 50 they can ''come back from the dead''.
** Just getting Mindcrafters through the game relies upon this. They start unable to learn spells, no offensive abilities, awful equipment and may or may not have a damaging magic wand. If they reach level 6, they finally gain Mind Blast. That takes the heat off, but you're still unable to use your powers on undead and unlife, which is why levelling up still further to lvl. 15 is the make-or-break point, as you learn Telekinetic Blast: a physical attack that strikes remotely and ''never misses''.
* ''VideoGame/NetHack'':
** The [[Literature/{{Discworld}} Tourist]] character class. They start with a [[NerfArm handful of darts]] for a weapon, a [[HawaiianShirtedTourist hawaiian shirt]] for armor, and a jumble of [[AntidoteEffect seemingly-useless tools]]. Only an experienced player would know that in the endgame, an enchanted cotton shirt is one of those things everyone wants but are normally so rare that most of the time they're only obtainable via Wishing (in other words, Tourists get a free wish for starting with the shirt). They can acquire the Platinum Yendorian Express Card, one of the more powerful artifacts in the game. They also have the greatest selection of weapon skills of any class, and can become proficient in every weapon but clubs (which aren't a good choice for a weapon anyway).
** Less extreme but still eligible is the Wizard class. It starts with a quarterstaff for a weapon and a piddly little Force Bolt for offense (and one random other spell). By endgame, Wizard is by far the most powerful class in the game. Area effect magic, infinite death spells, instantly mapping dungeon levels, instantly identifying unknown items, teleporting at will... all with nigh-infinite MP because of their quest artifact. Oh, and their first sacrifice gift allows for unlimited, instant, semi-permanent Elbereth. And zaps enemies with status ailments. And blocks curses. And is powerful enough to let Wizards play melee, if they so choose. Did I mention they get bonuses to Magic Marker use, hungerless casting, self-healing, no-items-needed levitation, Very Fast speed... you get the picture.
* ''VideoGame/TheBindingOfIsaac'':
** Initially, Isaac starts the game with no usable items or accessories to give him a bonus at the start. After beating the game a certain number of times and meeting certain criteria, however, Isaac begins with a D6 which will allow him to reroll unfavorable item drops for a chance at something better, giving him better scope than the other characters for customized powerbuilds.
** The cube of meat item will initially only act as a shield, blocking attacks against Isaac and inflicting collision damage on enemies. Finding two will allow it to attack enemies in conjuntion with Isaac's tear attacks, three will turn it into a ''VideoGame/MeatBoy'' pet who will seek and destroy enemies, and four will up meat boy's size and damage.
** The sequel/UpdatedRerelease ''Rebirth'' adds a Magikarp Character: [[spoiler:The Lost]]. Good news: [[spoiler:he can get the items from Devil Rooms for ''free'', and, due to its mechanics, he's gonna get a lot of them]]. Bad news: [[spoiler:OneHitPointWonder. No, we don't mean that he starts with low health, we mean that '''one hit and you're out''']].
** The ''Afterbirth+'' expansion for ''Rebirth'' includes the item the Void. At first it does absolutely nothing. However, if you use it in a room with an item on a pedestal, it will consume that item. If it was a passive item or a single-use item, you get random stat boosts. If it was a reusable active item, Void permanently gains that item's effect. This absorption of active effects ''stacks'', and there is no limit to the number of active items that can be consumed by Void. Depending on what items it absorbs, Void can easily become the single most powerful item in the game.
* ''VideoGame/FTLFasterThanLight'':
** The Carnelian (Crystal Type B) suffers from this. You start out with no weapons, no drones, a three-Crystal crew, and a four-man teleport. Getting through the first sector or two requires more than a little bit of luck, since you have no way of destroying Rebel drones unless you sacrifice a crewmember, which is a spectacularly dumb thing to do. However, if you can keep it flying long enough to get some more crew and some backup weapons to shore up your offense, then it's far and away one of the most powerful ships in the game.
** The Basilisk (Mantis Type B) also suffers from this, but not as badly as the Carnelian. You start out with two Manti, two layers of shields, and a Defense Drone and Boarding Drone. While you're better equipped to shrug off enemy attacks, you have to leave your ship on autopilot while you send your Manti over to fight. Also, Manti naturally have horribly slow repairing speeds, meaning it's nigh-impossible to get a system running again in the thick of combat. Again, though, if you can get some additional crewmembers (preferably Engi to shore up your repair capacities) and some backup weapons, then you've got a powerhouse.
* ''VideoGame/DwarfFortress'':
** Wrestler dwarves. In general, a raw recruit tends to last a bit longer if they have a weapon to parry the occasional attack. Once they can consistently dodge or block attacks, and have adequate armor, they can easily cripple most enemies with their bare hands. Depending on the version, they can either render the enemy helpless against better-armed comrades, or do all the work themselves tearing enemies to bits.
** For a literal example in older version, [[ImprobablePowerDiscrepancy carp]]. And most other swimming creatures with any decent natural attacks. This came about by accident due to the game's skill- and stat-raising mechanic: skill levels increased by the act of performing the skill, and increasing a skill readily affected the relevant stats. Creatures like carp gained extremely high stats due to constantly training the Swimming skill, which translated into their becoming infamously lethal.
* Numerous Pokémon in the ''VideoGame/PokemonMysteryDungeon'' series are like this, only getting tiny stat gains at lower levels, but suddenly getting huge gains after crossing a certain level threshold. For the most part, if a Pokémon seems bad initially, it's going to end up improving greatly sooner or later.

[[folder:Eastern RPG]]
* Maya in ''[[VideoGame/LegendOfLegaia Legaia 2: Duel Saga]]''. When she first joins your party, she has very few hitpoints, has no offensive or defensive abilities, and at the most, she can use items on the player to help them. Otherwise, she's absolutely useless. However, halfway into the game, it is revealed she is actually an exceptionally powerful Mystic, and regains her natural abilities. She becomes [[HiddenBadass extremely powerful in magic and summoning abilities]] at later levels after this.
* The Gold Sword in ''VideoGame/AzureDreams'' is a pretty weak weapon that looks like VendorTrash at first glance until you realize that it's the only sword that can't rust. Give it plenty of Red Sand and you have an extremely powerful weapon. The Trained Wand is similar but much harder to find.
* ''VideoGame/{{Aveyond}}'': Lars has annoyingly low heath points and very poor melee damage, but level him up all the way to 99 and he is the most powerful magic user in the game.
* ''VideoGame/BreathOfFire'':
** Pecoros (Or Peco) from ''VideoGame/BreathOfFireIII'' is introduced fairly late in the game, and at level 1 to boot, meaning that most players ignore him and focus on their A team, however this also means that he arrives at a time where most of the game's masters, who can modify stat growth at level up, are available, meaning that he can be heavily customized as he levels.
** ''Videogame/BreathOfFireIV'' has a NewGamePlus mode in which you can obtain a rusted sword. It's not a particularly impressive weapon, but if you kill 1000 enemies with it, it gets transformed into a significantly more powerful weapon, the Slayer.
* In ''VideoGame/ChronoCross'':
** Self-proclaimed "hero" Pierre is far and away [[JokeCharacter the weakest character in the game]] - [[LethalJokeCharacter until you get the Hero equipment for him, and then he becomes a powerful character with an instant-death attack.]]
** Pip starts off as a cute little bundle of fluff and is as powerful as it sounds. You can evolve him using a not too complex, but tedious method into an Archangel, Archdevil, or Holy Beast form. They are also as powerful as they sound.
* The Healers in the Sega Game Gear title ''CrystalWarriors'' resemble this trope in that they are remarkably weak in melee combat. If you manage to get one to level 9 somehow, though, they suddenly turn into unstoppable killing machines. To put this in perspective: a level 9 Healer has 95 HP, 85 Attack and 80 Defense. By comparison, the game's FinalBoss has 98 HP, 97 Attack and '''12''' Defense.
* Xiao from ''VideoGame/DarkCloud'' is ridiculously weak when she joins your party. Her sole use seems to be getting past the occasional obstacle, and most players will only pull her out for those, ignoring her otherwise. And then comes a level where you have to play as her, and only her. If you then decide to level Xiao up a bit by taking her through some of the earlier stages, you will learn that (a) Xiao isn't actually that much weaker than Toan was at the same level; (b), her weapon is really fast; and (c), having a ranged attack is useful when facing monsters and (d), you can get her [[GameBreaker a slingshot that can steal items upon successful hit]]. There are also enemies that you ''do not'' want to get anywhere near melee range, and enemies that cause your weapons to degrade faster. Xiao is immune to all of these, given her weapon is ranged.
* ''VideoGame/DarkSouls'':
** The two most useless weapons in the first game are the Straight Sword Hilt (yes, a ''hilt''--blade not included) and the Broken Straight Sword. However, if you somehow arrive at the idea of upgrading either of them to +10 enchantment level and pay a pretty penny to a smith to enchant it further with the [[AmplifierArtifact Soul of Sif]], then what you get is the Greatsword of Artorias, which has the best Holy modifier in the game (allowing you to destroy otherwise endlessly reforming skeletons) and whose damage scales very well with all stats you need to wield it. It doesn't help that merging the Soul of Sif with any other sword nets you a cursed version of the same blade--a fairly mediocre weapon whose only real advantage is being able to attack ghosts (and there are better ways to do that).
** The club, starting weapon of the Deprived class. It might be unimpressive compared to a nice shiny sword, but it has some of the best stat scaling in the game.
** Deciding to go into a Faith build can end up like this. Faith primarily affects Miracles, a branch of magic that mostly consists of healing and utility spells, somewhat useful, but doesn't help in dealing damage at all. Only in the late game are offensive Miracles available... but they are a doozy, mostly consisting of chucking lightning bolts at your enemies, which does some hefty damage in addition to looking amazing. Faith builds also get access to Lightning Weapon, allowing them to temporarily buff their weapon with lightning damage, and Vow of Silence, which ''completely disables all magic'' for a short time. Equip a Holy/Blessed weapon (which scales with Faith rather than Strength or Dexterity), and a high-level cleric is a force to be reckoned with.
* ''Franchise/{{Disgaea}}'':
** In ''VideoGame/DisgaeaHourOfDarkness'', Angel Trainee Flonne only levels up well with a staff but learns no spells beyond her three special attacks, making her almost entirely useless... unless the gamer discovers that the apprentice system lets her learn other classes' spells, in which case she can effectively be turned into a ridiculously powerful tank-mage with an attack range that would make gunners weep.
** Then subverted when Majins become available (through a good bit of LevelGrinding); they have 110%/120% in aptitude in all statistics and "S" skill growth in all weapons, making the story characters, with their flat 100% aptitude (otherwise powerful among generics) and mediocre skill growths, completely irrelevant. (In an amusing case of game design whiplash, later games in the series [[{{Nerf}} tone down]] the Majin to such a degree that they're rather limited right out of the box.)
** Super-Robot Thursday, being a robot, cannot reincarnate and gain all the juicy stat bonuses it imparts; he makes up for this with 150% aptitude in most statistics and ability to steal stats, so give him some time and he can be a very powerful character. However, his lack of skills and inability to use a staff to enhance any spells he may learn from pupils relegates him to a distant second behind a properly levelled and transmigrated Divine Majin.
* The ''Anime/DragonBallZ'' game ''Dragon Ball Kai: Attack of the Saiyans'' has Gohan, who like his anime counterpart at that point in the series is a near useless runt, only gaining one point per stat whenever you level up, compared to the other characters who all have one or two stats that get extra points. That all changes once you get to level 35, where not only does Gohan start gaining two to three points extra on ''all'' his stats, but it makes him the single character in the game who can completely outdo Goku.
* ''VideoGame/DayOfTheIdea'': The Soroi uniform for Tomoko, it's very crappy and you cannot appraise it unless you have all 8 parts of the set. All of the equipment is scattered around the world.
** The Tanuki has rather crummy stats, and hides if injured and can easily be replaced by another pet, but when you find the Symbol of Courage, it becomes a more useful ally.
* ''VideoGame/DragonQuest'':
** In ''VideoGame/DragonQuestIII'', the most useless class, the Jester, can be upgraded to the most powerful, [[PrestigeClass the Sage]]. For anyone else this requires a unique item that can only be used once.
** ''VideoGame/DragonQuestV'' allows the player to recruit monsters as party members. One of the first monsters the player is likely to recruit is the basic, run-of-the-mill Slime, with a whooping 8 hit points and next to no attack power. By the time the Slime reaches level 20, it has more hit points than a similarly leveled main character, and is outclassed in attack by only the main character himself when properly equipped. Combined with learning an absolutely devastating spell at level 50, the slime is easily one of the best monsters in the game. And if you are lucky enough to be able to catch a ''MetalSlime'', they are even better!
** Slimes from ''VideoGame/DragonQuestMonsters'' fit the trope pretty handily. They're the classic DQ monster, you see a billion of them in every game, and they're pretty mediocre... but if you level them up high enough, they learn the [=MegaMagic=] spell. What does [=MegaMagic=] do, you ask? Why, it's one of the most powerful moves in the game, dumping every last one of your remaining magic points into a super-powerful magical explosion that absolutely nothing in the entire game, including those damned Metal Slimes and their upgraded versions, is immune to.
* ''VideoGame/{{Drakengard}} 2'':
** The game has a sword called Iron Butterfly, that starts off very weak and stays weak until Lv. 4, where it becomes super-strong and has a powerful magic attack. However, to even level it up to 4 requires a LOT of patience due to how much experience it needs.
** It also has a sword that deliberately inverts it. Beginning with very high attack power, and growing weaker with each level, its own level 4 being virtually useless.
** The first game had Hymir's Finger, a totally-not-the-[[{{Manga/Berserk}} Dragonslayer]] broadsword as tall as you are, that hits like a mountain (and just as slow, too, so enemies will often hack you before you can swing). But when you get it up to level 4...
* ''VideoGame/EternalSonata'':
** Claves is, when first encountered, extremely weak, with slow attacks that don't do much damage, and unimpressive specials, Presumably this is so you don't waste any time leveling her up, because she dies almost as soon as you meet her. If you go through the game's Bonus Dungeon, she can be re-recruited and leveled up properly, eventually becoming one of the game's strongest characters, placing first or second in every stat, and having some seriously powerful moves. But since she rejoins at the same level as she first left, and thus probably 30 or so levels behind, most people never find that out. The drawback to this is that said bonus dungeon can only be accessed once you defeat the second to last boss, and open a portal that would literally take you right to the final battle.
** There's also Frederic, who is noticeably weaker than many of the other characters owing to a high magic stat but a poor attack stat. Furthermore, most of his special moves are weak, up until roughly level 60, when he unlocks Phantom Pain, the best damage-dealing skill in the game, capable of inflicting upwards of 400,000 damage with the proper equipment.
** Jazz in the 360 version. He is at every point in the game inferior to all other characters available. At the end, however, he gets a next to final weapon with an ability called Burst. Burst doubles the power of attacks in exchange for defense. He's the only one with a REALLY strong burst weapon, and the lack of a third burst item means he is the only one who can use burst without one in your three man team. He already did massive damage but other characters had him outsped by far and thus got in more damage than him. In the [=PS3=] version there is now a third burst item and a new character that's a borderline gamebreaker. The existence of a third burst item greatly decrease his value in favor of everyone else.
* ''VideoGame/{{Evergrace}}'': Zul's Toy is a toy hammer which becomes a LethalJokeItem (and the most powerful weapon, capable of defeating the final boss in about two hits) when you upgrade it twice.
* ''[[FullmetalAlchemistCurseOfTheCrimsonElixir Fullmetal Alchemist: Curse of the Crimson Elixir]]'': The flare does little to no damage and is only good for stunning enemies....but if you can level Edward to [[{{Cap}} 99]], he can transmute the flare into an absolutely devastating smart bomb that wrecks everything in range.
* In the popular RPG Maker 2000 AffectionateParody game ''VideoGame/JaysJourney'', one of the hidden party members is... a slime. As in, the quintessential weak RPG monster, and indeed, the slime's stats are pathetic. ...at first. If you stick with it long enough to get it up to Level 50 and find the hidden "Slime Medal" item, all of its stats are maxed out, and it has a set of the most powerful spells in the game as well.
* In the original ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsI'' (and the HD remake) Sora can be a little like this - depending on the choices you make in the early dialogues, you can have an experience curve that starts off painfully slow, but, somewhere around level 45, overtakes the other experience curves and ends up higher level by the time you reach the final boss around level 60, and can reach the level cap sooner too.
* Weebos in ''TabletopGame/MagiNation''. One of the first Dream Creatures you can get, it starts out at level '''''one''''', with the sole ability to heal. BUT, and this is a huge gigantic but, if you raise it to level '''''NINETY''''', it learns the immensely powerful move Wreck, which is shared only by Ormaggon, the subject of ThatOneSidequest.
* In a mix between the EliteTweak and this, Aaron of ''VideoGame/LunarKnights'' starts off woefully underpowered (made worse by the fact that he can't fire without a Terrennial, and the first part of his chapter is a forced [[UselessUsefulStealth stealth segment]] because of this flaw). On the higher difficulties, however, further play as Lucian requires maxing your levels or having godly guard reflexes, as the enemies' damage output continues to rise, plus the direct-player-induced 999 damage limit. This ultimately puts Aaron on point, where his Solar Guns, coupled with energy levels on par with freakin' {{Naruto}}, help mitigate the risk of having to get close to such deadly attacks.
* In ''VideoGame/{{MARDEK}}'':
** Zach has one attack skill called sinstrike which deals armor piercing damage based on Zach's kill total. It seems utterly useless until you put some effort into kill grinding him, and after a few hours, which isn't too long for a MARDEK player, it becomes the most devastating attack in the game. That is, unless the enemey is immune to dark damage...
** [[SpoonyBard Elwyen]] also qualifies. She starts out at around level 10 (when most of your character levels are in the mid-late teens) with one of the lowest HP counts of any playable character, and a small number of somewhat counterintuitive abilities. Take the time to level her up and teach her the right skills, though, and she ends up with the strongest defensive reaction skill in the game, a decent party heal, powerful party buffs in a series where buff spells are usually mediocre to crappy, and the most effective attack against several dodging-focused DemonicSpiders.
* ''VideoGame/OracleOfTao'':
** Ambrosia. Unless you want to count her UselessUsefulSpell Trigrams (which can end up healing the target as part of random chance and otherwise is more or less a percentage effect), and her totally useless spell Predict, she has effectively no abilities for the first quarter of the game. Then she gets a holy spell, a defense spell, a slow, and a death spell (still in the UselessUsefulSpell territory). About the fifth spell, she starts getting various damaging effects. By the way, none of her spells use magic, so if you can bear the torture of waiting for proper plot events, she suddenly becomes a OneManParty.
** Tamashii, her daughter, is even more this, having bad stats as well until you get near level 99, when they're the best in the game. You also have to level up an evolving weapon to max out her weapon damage.
* ''VideoGame/RivieraThePromisedLand'' features this with Fia and the Rosaries. Normally, Rosaries heal every character in the party of all status effects--nothing special, as [[UselessUsefulSpell status effects aren't particularly worrisome]] in ''Rivera''. She also has to use the Rosary upwards of 15 times to learn their [[LimitBreak Overdrive]]. However, the Overdrive she learns is a Level 3 Skill that [[OneHitKO wipes out all opposing monsters]] at the cost of destroying the Rosary. Oh, and the Unleash text is different from her other Level 3 Overdrives.
* [=T260G=]'s original body in ''VideoGame/SagaFrontier''. It has stats of only 5 in every area, and the only piece of equipment it comes with is a piece of weak armor, while the other bodies you can switch to have a wide variety of extra gadgets, like lasers, repair kits, missiles, tougher armor, and more. However, all of these things take up equipment slots, and mecs like [=T260G=] gain stats by equipping items rather than leveling up; in his original body, he has seven slots free for stat-boosting equipment (as opposed to only 4 or 5 in any other body), so it has the potential to be the strongest of all in the late game.
* In ''VideoGame/SecretOfEvermore'', almost every damaging alchemical formula could be a sort of magikarp power, in that they almost all suck until you've used them a couple of dozen times, at which point the only thing stopping your rampage across the ages is the state of your wallet (as you need to money to buy reagents.)
* Spike, one of the titular ''VideoGame/SevenKnights''. He has one of the best passives in the game, which protects the party from debuffs and ailments, as well as increasing their critical rate. The problem, his skills can cause Freeze, which renders the inflicted unit unable to act, but also protect them from any kind of damage. In PvP mode, which is almost entirely RNG-based, this often results in him freezing a strong enemy unit and having it unfreeze unharmed, when your party is in shambles from the fight. However, if you Transcend him enough times (quite an effort, since 7 Knight units are really rare), he can deal enough damage to outright kill his targets, and if not, the freeze damage will finish them off. Combined with his excellent passive skill, he becomes a threatening LightningBruiser with little way to counter.
* ''Franchise/ShinMegamiTensei'':
** In ''VideoGame/ShinMegamiTenseiIIINocturne'', by keeping the very first demon you can recruit (the Pixie) in your party for the entire game (she becomes rapidly outclassed very quickly)[[note]]Fusing her with other demons is okay; her "DNA" carries over in everything but a sacrifice fusion where she or her "descendent" is the sacrifice[[/note]] and then presenting her to a door in the final level of the [[BonusLevelOfHell Labyrinth of Amala]], she transforms into a Lv.80 juggernaut with 30s in every ability score and some of the best spells in the game. Also note that that particular species of demon is an example of Magikarp Power to begin with, as leveling one up when your main character is around level 50 enables her to evolve into one of the best Night demons, Queen Mab.
** ''VideoGame/{{Persona 3}}'':
*** Odin is pretty unremarkable at first (well, by the standards of a [[OlympusMons level 63 persona]], anyway...) but a bit of grinding gets him Thunder Reign, an "extreme" tier Lightning spell. If that doesn't kill the enemy outright, it's also guaranteed to put them in Shocked status, meaning any subsequent physical attacks against them will critical. Level Odin a little more, and he gets Spell Mastery, which cuts his SP costs in half.
*** Daisoujou hardly seems worth the effort to fuse... until you realize it's the only way to get Samsara, the strongest light spell in the game, which has a high chance of delivering an instant KO to all enemies.
*** Junpei starts off as a decent tank, but quickly falls out of favor when nearly every boss uses his weakness element. Keep him leveled up, though, and he becomes a force to be reckoned with come endgame.
** In ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}'', Chie starts as a fairly basic attacker with access to weak Ice magic, but quickly falls behind compared to the rest of the party. Keep her levelled though, and by endgame she'll have some INCREDIBLE skills, including Power Charge and God Hand. Plus there's the fact that if you get her Social Link to level 3, her [[ATwinkleInTheSky Galactic Punt]] follow-up attack can [[OneHitKill oneshot]] any non-boss enemy. Including minibosses. The Golden gives her S.Link Dragon Hustle, a full party Heat Riser, when maxed.
** ''VideoGame/{{Persona 5}}'': The new "Sacrifice" fusion mechanic allows you to power up any low level Persona GuardianEntity to insane levels. However, as they only get part of the experience and one randomly selected skill from the sacrificed Persona, it will take dozens or hundreds of sacrifices to get them there.
** Atsuro of ''VideoGame/DevilSurvivor'' is primarily a physical attacker. Early on he is relatively useless due to magic being overwhelmingly more useful and powerful [[OneStatToRuleThemAll thanks to the magic stat governing MP, magic attack, and magic defense]] and being able to exploit elemental weaknesses. There are ''very'' few enemies with a weakness to Physical attacks. That some of the more powerful late-game enemies have passives that reduce, drain, negate, or reflect physical attacks does not help matters. But Atsuro redeems himself at later levels too. Provided you've cracked them (and you should), skills like Full Might, Attack All, Pierce, and Phys Jump/Rise will turn Atsuro into a PhysicalGod that can bypass all defenses except Phys Repel, strike all enemies at once, and ''always'' get critical hits (which can steal Extra Turns from enemies). If necessary, give Atsuro Phy Repel to ensure that he doesn't get hurt from rebounded attacks. His high Vitality also means that he can make good use of powerful hp-dependent attacks such as Deathbound and Hassohappa.
** ''VideoGame/DevilSurvivor2'' has two characters with this power: Daichi and Hinako. Daichi's parameters start out more [[JackOfAllTrades balanced]], which is a terrible build in this game, but with a slight favor towards Strength and Agility; Hinako has a similar build, but focuses more on Agility than he does. Both are okay-to-mediocre party members to have at first, but there are two skills that can be cracked rather early on: Multi-Hit and Multi-Strike, a single and party-wide attack, respectively, that hits between 2 - 7 times and depends on the character's Agility parameter. Slapping this on one of them will instantly make their rather unorthodox build a much better option. Unfortunately, most people will favor Hinako to Daichi, as she maxes her agility out much sooner and will hit harder.
* ''Franchise/ShiningSeries''
** ''VideoGame/ShiningForce''
*** Domingo, a jellyfish spellcaster whom you got late in the game with 1 low level spell. He eventually was able to spam cast the strongest ice magic in the game. He also gains such absurdly high HP, MP, and defense that at higher levels he literally shrugs off any enemy attacks, making even the game's resident [[StoneWall tank]] ''Guntz'' blush in envy. And he can fly. And the fact that he has very high priority from the game's AI targeting system makes him break the game.
*** Arthur starts off very weak and doesn't learn any spells despite having Mana for several levels. But once he reaches about level 20 unpromoted or level 12 promoted, his stats suddenly skyrocket and he'll learn the powerful Bolt spell. He's one of the best units towards the end of the game.
*** Adam from the first game is an extreme case. He has the potential to be an excellent offensive unit. Unfortunately he joins you very late in the game at a laughably low level (Level 10 '''unpromoted''') and is very slow, making him extremely difficult to level up.
*** Narsha in the Game Boy Advance remake zig-zags this. While she starts of quite weak at level one, you first get to play with her at the end of the first chapter. (When your characters aren't too far ahead), and she becomes ''quite'' useful due to her buffs. You get several more chances to level her and [[CrutchCharacter Zukia]] up, until they (and Mawlock) join the force, possibly close to the level of the rest of the Shining Force, and with enough time to use her. However, it takes a bit of babying in Narsha's first chapter for her to not get knocked out by the monsters, who are a little above her level.
** ''Shining Force II'' has the turtle (named Kiwi by default) later evolved from a potent character with mediocre attack and low HP, but disproportionately effective defense, to a much more impressive-looking monster whose defense advantage didn't amount to a hill of beans against higher level enemies. Not a good choice for late-game, especially since his high defense does nothing against spells which all do a set amount of damage within a small variance.
** In ''VideoGame/ShiningForceIII'' on the Saturn, Irene and particularly Cybel have ''awful'' HP, but persevering with them and allowing them to unlock their various specials allows them to become more effective in combat than even Dantares in the latter portions of the game.
* [[MysteriousWaif Fina]] from ''VideoGame/SkiesOfArcadia'' is a very skilled magic user, but has atrocious physical attack power... until you fully level up her [[InfinityPlusOneSword Infinity Plus One]] [[EmpathicWeapon Blob]].
* ''VideoGame/SummonNight: Swordcraft Story 1'' has a master blacksmith "tricking" you into smithing a ladle for him to cook with. You can use it as a weapon, but it breaks very easily and does pitiful damage. ''However'', if you forge another ladle with 50 of each material type available and use Mystic Ore on it, you get a... burning ladle. Which still does low damage but has the highest durability in the game, meaning it's ''ideal'' for breaking other opponents' weapons without knocking them out; which instantly wins the duel for you ''and'' teaches you a new smithing recipe. You will want to fight all weapon-bearing bosses with this, really.
** And to boot, if you dismantle it, you gain, instead of the common percentage of materials used initially, TWO Mystic Ores, a material that is often difficult to accumulate due to being grind-tedious to drop and [[LuckBasedMission luck-based]] to find the enemies which drop them. If you got no patience, and feel like burning through some money and/or surplus materials...
* In ''VideoGame/SuperMarioRPG'':
** It is possible to obtain an item called a Mystery Egg. When used in battle this item does one of two things: If used by Princess Toadstool while wearing the B'tub Ring, it forms a heart and makes a pleasant ring. If used by anyone else or Princess Toadstool without the B'tub Ring, it fails to produce the heart and makes a buzz sound indicating failure. If the Princess produces enough hearts, the egg transforms into the potent Lamb's Lure, an item which can instantly kill any one non-boss character in the battle by turning it into a sheep. Use this enough times, and it becomes the Sheep Attack. It works like the Lamb's Lure, but affects all enemies in the battle. Unfortunately, you earn no XP or Coins from enemies defeated with either version.
** Mario's Jump attack. For most players it will be completely overshadowed by the mighty Super Jump as soon as it becomes economical (i.e. you have plenty of Flower Points to spare). However, every time you use Jump (to a maximum of 125 times), it becomes permanently stronger. Eventually it is so useful as to be a GameBreaker, especially since it is still one of the cheapest moves in the game.
* ''Franchise/TalesSeries'':
** Klarth from ''VideoGame/TalesOfPhantasia'' starts off as TheLoad, being a [[SummonMagic summoner]] with nothing to summon, meaning he's reduced to just hitting enemies with a book. It doesn't take long for him to get his first summon, though, and by the time you get the first four summons he's a force to be reckoned with.
** ''VideoGame/TalesOfSymphonia'':
*** Colette is initially weak, slow, and all around bad. However, once a certain boss is defeated, and if you chose the right side of the T/S gauge (namely S), she becomes the single strongest melee attacker in the game. Her main problem is also that the AI doesn't play her that well either; usually not taking advantage of her pow-hammer techniques or [[ArtificialStupidity stupidly trying to use her magic with long-casting times on enemies that'll interrupt her.]]
*** The Devil's Arms from the same game are the weakest weapons in the game. After killing a large number of enemies (and defeating the BonusBoss), though, they are easily the strongest weapons the characters can equip, to the point where they'll be doing 10,000 damage per hit. The concept has been replicated in the Tales games developed by Team Symphonia. They were called Catalyst Weapons in ''VideoGame/TalesOfTheAbyss'' and the Fell Arms in ''VideoGame/TalesOfVesperia''. To unlock their power requires beating a very nasty secret boss. After that they power up by killing a large number of enemies.
* ''VideoGame/TerraBattle'':
** Jaguna is considered to be the worst character in the game, due to her terrible stat distribution and mediocre skills. For one, she has very low Attack and high Magic, whereas her only magic skill is a weak healing spell and the rest are physical. However, a later patch allows you to Recode her into Jaguna Lambda, with much better skills, and one of the highest total stats in the game.
*** Intrestingly, Jaguna Lambda herself is this. Her stat growth is pretty low, until she reaches level 70, where her stat growth increases a lot. A majority of her stats are gained during level 70 to 90.
** Bonna is valued for her ability to increase EXP gained, but being a [[StandardStatusEffects Remedy-type]] character, her other skills are too situational to be useful. Bonna Lambda, on the other hand, is considered one of the best units in the game. She gets a major boost in Attack and gets powerful Bow attacks which cover a lot of area, all of which can activate outside the pincer. Oh, and she retains her EXP increase ability along with her ailment skills, making her a very versatile unit who can still deal tons of damage.
** Gatz has the same fate as Bonna. His original form is used for his ability to increase item drop rate, but he's mostly a situational utility character with mediocre damage. Gatz Lambda gained an array of powerful Sword attacks, along with the [[GameBreaker game-breaking]] Augment skills. And just like other Recoded units, he retained his old skills.
** The two possible starter characters, Bahl and Grace starts out as somewhat strong Sword and Bow units respectively, but tend to fall out in mid-game when you have better characters. However, their usefulness suddely increases when they learn some of their final skills.
*** Bahl gets the skill Physical Damage x 1.5, a buff which stacks with every activation. With good positioning, she can activate the buff many times in one turn, and deal obscene amount of damage. She's considered the third best physical fighter in terms of pure damage, only surpassed by S'naip and Ma'curi, who also learn the same skill.
*** Meanwhile, Grace gets "Defense -20%, Dragon", which reduces the defense of all Dragon type enemies. Proper usage of this skill allows her to reduce any Dragon type enemies' defense to ''one'', basically making the next attack a one hit kill. Now, consider that this skill works on {{BonusBoss}} Bahamut and Leviathan... This skill was so broken that later patches gave a cap to debuffs, reducing her usefulness.
* In ''VideoGame/ValkyrieProfile'''s normal and easy modes, every character who joins you starts at an appropriate level for that point in the game. In hard mode, every character joins at level 1. Sound like a crippling disadvantage? Not when there are accessories that give extra skill points and maximum HP at each level up, you can equip both at once, and the difference they make over 30 levels or so is ''very'' significant. Bosses that, in Easy or Normal, require the use of the AutoRevive or LastChanceHitPoint skills to even survive, Hard mode characters will be able to straight up tank.
* ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou'' has Joshua, who's the only partner who can't block, only deals damage when his combo is complete (unlike the other partners, who actually land blows with each branch in the combo) and initially seems rather wimpy. However, he eventually gets the ability to levitate, in which mode he's much, much better at damage-dealing (including splash damage), hits with each button press and with enough hits on the same enemy before the finisher, hits every enemy for increased damage. Also, his most powerful special attack ''drops the moon'' on your foes and does at least 3 times as much damage as the strongest special attacks of the other 2 characters.
* In ''VideoGame/WorldOfMana'':
** ''VideoGame/SecretOfMana'': The Sprite's offensive magic starts out fairly weak, but if you spend the time to level it up, it reaches GameBreaker levels. Then there's the girl's magic: for a paltry 2 MP, Healing Water can restore 800+ HP to all members (you have a {{Cap}} of 999 for the Hero and 800 for the Girl and Sprite). That's ''forty-nine'' casts of full-party HP refill. Oh wait, you can also carry 4 Faerie Walnuts on you at any given time, so that's another 100 casts of that spell. The Sprite doesn't need faerie walnuts; it has MP-Drain which can totally drain most enemies when it is maxed out.
** In ''VideoGame/LegendOfMana'', many basic techniques are of little utility and some can be actively harmful at times. Spin can cause the main character to be disoriented, and Grapple often results in the character being squished by heavier enemies. These abilities must be used many times to unlock the powerful and devastating Special Techniques for each weapon.
* Chu-Chu from ''VideoGame/{{Xenogears}}''. Give her enough drives and she becomes the most powerful gear in the game. Of course, it takes a while to do it. Plus she's the only one who can heal gears in battle without burning fuel.
* Velvet's Homing Attack from ''VideoGame/OdinSphere'', her claim to fame, isn't particularly useful, only hits one enemy, will usually fly off and hit a nearby projectile or item if it's the closest thing to her, and takes half her POW Meter off for each use. After enough levelling up, though, it can now hit multiple targets with enough force to OneHitKill the weaker enemies (including [[KungFuProofMook slimes]]) and carve huge chunks of HP out of the stronger ones, making it perfect for crowd control.
* In ''VisualNovel/FleuretBlanc'', Salute gets a better rate of success the more you use it. It's initially not very impressive, but eventually you can weasel the maximum number of points out of the judges pretty consistently.
* Terry Hintz, the first companion you get in ''Videogame/{{Lisa}}: The Painful RPG'' is absolutely useless (having mediocre stats and incredibly weak healing abilities) when you first get him to the point that you're encouraged to simply sell him away the first chance you get. However, if he's leveled up enough he gains the most powerful attack in the game.
* In ''VideoGame/XenobladeChroniclesX'', the starting class, Drifter, has barely any skills of its own and can't use any notable weapons but it's the only class that has 5 passive skill slots. Since you can use a class' weapons in any other class once you master its most advanced form and what Arts you can use is determined by the type of weapon you're equipped with, you'll ultimately switch to Drifter permanently to make use of its 5 skill slots once you master every other class since at that point you have no limitations on what types of weapons you can use.
* The Celestial Weapons in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX''. When you first find them, they cannot be upgraded and only contain the ability [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin No AP]], the ''only'' negative equipment ability. Once you obtain the Celestial Mirror and each weapon's respective Crest and Sigil (and earning some of the sigils [[ThatOneSidequest is no mean feat]]), they become bar none [[InfinityPlusOneSword the strongest weapons in the game]].

[[folder:Massively Multiplayer Online RPG]]
* ''VideoGame/CityOfHeroes'':
** Several of the archetypes have this feature. Some types of Controllers, for instance, are fairly hapless at low levels when soloing but on reaching high enough levels (and with a selection of complementary powers) become unstoppable engines of destruction that can outdamage the dedicated damage-dealers.
** Dominators are a very good example. Often considered underdogs, perceived as one of the two weakest archetypes in the game... at least until somebody discovered that, with some careful (and prohibitively expensive) build planning, one could stay in their "Mr. Hyde" mode without having to recharge it between uses. A "permadom" Dominator is easily one of the strongest characters in the game.
* The (supposedly) lower-tier Agility heroes from ''VideoGame/DefenseOfTheAncients'' have this. Starting out, not only is their health and damage disappointing, unlike Intelligence heroes or higher-tier Agility heroes they don't have good spells for burst damage, making life difficult. By avoiding the enemy's assassination attempts and building gold and levels, though, they eventually become {{One Man Arm|y}}ies who eat mooks and their former oppressors like so much popcorn.
* ''VideoGame/GuildWars'': Mesmers. At their peak in the hands of a skilled player, Mesmers are hell on earth for enemies, due to the fact that the class's showcase style is turning an enemy's power against himself and making enemies die in a matter of seconds for no immediately obvious reason. However, in any campaign, it takes time for mesmers to find all the specialized skills they need to perform at peak efficiency, and even more time to get over the huge learning curve of the class-early mesmers, and unskilled players, are mildly annoying at best, and have minimal impact on anything.
** Necromancers would fall under this catagory as well. Initially, they seem like one of the weakest classes in the game, only able to deal weak hits and ''very slowly'' drain an enemy's health bar, while the Necromancer himself ''[[SquishyWizard takes damage like a newborn baby]]''. However, once you hunt down some of their more useful skills and start capturing elites, they become extremely versatile and devastating in both PvP and PvE.
** In [[VideoGame/GuildWars2 the sequel]], Mesmers again fall victim to this trope. Initially they are very off-putting. Most of the other classes have unique and useful class-exclusive mechanics, while the mesmer's only real power is to create very weak clones of himself, in addition to being a SquishyWizard. Later on, with the proper skill setup and trait point distribution, they become absolute monsters capable of piling on damage in many different ways, ''often all at once'', while creating mass confusion by pumping out identical copies of themselves capable of tanking and creating distractions, or exploding for massive damage.
* In ''VideoGame/PiratesOfTheBurningSea'', the Freetrader class is one of the weakest in the game at early to mid levels, having no decent specialised combat ships unlike the Naval Officer and Privateer classes. But once you reach max level, you get access to the Couronne Mastercraft Galleon, which is arguably the strongest single ship in the game. It possesses equal or greater firepower than the best warships that Naval Officers can sail, and its armor is much thicker and tougher. It also has the bonus of eight bow and stern cannons, making it quite deadly when approached from any angle, whereas almost all other ships in the game have only two bow and stern cannons.
* ''VideoGame/RagnarokOnline'':
** Although it became easier eventually, alchemists/creators were slow to level unless you had a large amount of money, but once they get one particular skill, they can one or two hit most players.
** Likewise, leveling a specific build for a professor is painfully slow and probably requires a lot of leeching exp, but once they reach very high levels, they have very high survivability in PVP situations, especially for a mage class, and they also have a vast array of overpowered support skills for large scale PVP.
** The 'Super Novice' class, which is only accessible if you refrain from switching classes until level 40. Even if they're a GlassCannon, they become extremely powerful in the endgame.
* ''VideoGame/{{Runescape}}'' has the Ivandis Flail (And later Blisterwood Weapons), which is of the only weapon capable doing full damage to vampyres. It's basically a sickle on a chain attached to a stick, and starts out about about as powerful as farming implement on a stick would be. But, if you kill enough vampyres, [[RedemptionEqualsDeath take their corpses to a sacred site and cremate their bodies to release their souls]], your skills with the flail magically improve and becomes an extremely powerful weapon (But only when used against vampyres). Blisterwood weapons, released in a later quest, are affected by this too. Only those start out powerful and become even more powerful.
* ''VideoGame/SpiralKnights'':
** The Sealed Sword, which is a 3-star sword that can be purchased following several battles against the Royal Jelly boss. While it is capable of causing random status effects, it only deals normal damage and has the same attack speed and damage as the Kamarin and Grintovec, sans their abilities to stun and freeze enemies respectively, and a far less useful charge attack than the two of them. If you can lug it around until it gets to level 5 (preferably with an extra weapon slot so you don't sacrifice carrying one of your actually useful special damage swords) it can be upgraded into the elemental-dealing Avenger and the shadow-dealing Faust, which can in turn respectively be upgraded into the Divine Avenger and Gran Faust, both of which are incredibly common among 5-star players for a reason.
** In comparison its handgun counterpart the Antigua, which can be upgraded into the Silversix and Argent Peacemaker or the Blackhawk and Sentenza, is a bit more useful because it deals piercing damage and it can fire off six shots before reloading.
** The Brandish is a 2-star sword that's basically a reskin of the Calibur with a unique charge attack. It can be upgraded into three elemental variations of it that can set fire to, freeze, or shock enemies, the Nightblade which is one of the only two shadow-dealing swords in the game (the other being the Faust), or the Cautery Sword, which is borderline useless due to CripplingOverspecialization; it's intended for destroying slimes, which shadow weapons already can do with ease.
* ''VideoGame/WorldOfTanks'': When first purchased, many tanks have weak engines and even weaker guns, forcing them to crawl across the battlefield to attack enemies they have little hope of damaging. Hanging in there and getting the experience required to unlock some upgrades, however, can make them into powerhouses. Perhaps the ultimate example was the Tier-5 [=KV=] Heavy, prior to the tech tree split in Patch 0.7.3. Incredibly slow and initially sporting a barely adequate 76mm gun, it could upgrade to some of the most powerful weapons available in its tier, including the [[{{BFG}} 152mm]] "[[FanNickname derpgun]]" which can one-shot many smaller tanks and a 107mm gun capable of penetrating heavy tanks two or three tiers up for significant damage.
** One of the biggest offenders is the Tier-6 KV-1S Heavy. The stock configuration results in a slow tank with unreliable armor usually using an outdated howitzer, and it stays this way until the user grinds out every single upgrade. The top configuration that requires over 40-thousand experience? [[LightningBruiser Medium-like mobility, armed with an extremely painful 122mm cannon]], and one of the most whined about tanks in the game.
** Also a benefactor of this trope is the Tier-4 [=JagdPanzer 38(t) "Hetzer"=] tank destroyer (prior to the introduction of the Waffentrager [=TD=] line in Patch 0.8.9). If to be accessed via the Tier-3 Marder II, absolutely nothing from the previous TD will be carried on to the Hetzer; while accessing it from the Tier-4 [=Pz 38(t) n.A=] light tank will only unlock the ''second'' out of the 4 compatible engines. Still, once fully upgraded and in the hands of a skilled player, the Hetzer becomes absolutely murderous on the battlefield, giving positive light to the infamous "''Hetzers gonna Hetz''" meme.
* Digimon Masters Online: Oddly enough, one of the most popular Digimon in the entire Digimon franchise, Renamon, most definitely falls under this. It's even more prominent in that she gets the 'power' part of this trope upon digivolving to her final form. In this game, Renamon's skills are incredibly lackluster compared to the skills of many other Rookie Digimon. They have long startup with low damage, which doesn't do justice to her original incarnation as being one of the most powerful Rookie Digimon to exist (but, to be fair, her normal attacking capabilities are very good). Evolve it into Kyuubimon, and her second skill's damage also isn't worth its cooldown and mana consumption. Evolve it into Taomon, and you'll quickly get turned off by the enormous startup of her second skill, which deals a little less damage than the typical second skills of Ultimate Digimon. Evolve it into Sakuyamon, and she gets even more pathetic! She sports one of the the longest startup and one of the weakest first skills in the game. And then she has one of the weakest final skills of all the obtainable Mega Digimon, sporting the weakest final skill damage with an above-average length of cooldown. Endure all that however (or find an alternative way to level her up), and you're rewarded with Kuzuhamon. Treated as a Burst Mode in this game and thus given the stats of a Burst Mode instead of a Side Mega, Kuzuhamon is considered the strongest non-Jogress Data Type Digimon in the entire game, capable of dishing out her first and second skills alternatively. While her skills are just slightly better than the average Burst Mode skills in the game, what makes it appealing is the fact that her normal attack stats are hard hitting but slow, in which the 'slow' part could be completely eliminated by using a skill, in which she can quickly rinse and repeat a cycle of dealing lethal blows and throwing out a good skill. She deals an incredible amount of damage in that she can actually KO Digimon in the hardest levels of the Digimon Labyrinth before they get a chance to hit her back. You get all of this by leveling your Renamon all the way up to 65, and leveling starting from level 41 is a very slow and painful process for all Digimon.
* The [[TheEmpire Terran Republic]] in ''VideoGame/PlanetSide 2'' starts off with some of the worst weapons and vehicles - a carbine that cannot hit anything past 5 meters, a [[TanksForNothing clumsy tank that loses every fight]], anti-armor [[PoweredArmor MAX]] grenade launchers that cannot kill ''anything'', a weak LMG, etc. However, Terran players can unlock some of the most powerful weapons in the game - said carbine can be replaced by a gun with laser-like accuracy, their SABR-13 assault rifle can out-snipe snipers, those crappy MAX grenade launchers are replaced by dual rotary rocket launchers that can kill enemies from a mile away, etc. The biggest change comes in their Prowler tank, [[LightningBruiser which becomes faster, more armored]], and can unlock the Lockdown ability, anchoring it in place while increasing its [[MoreDakka fire rate, projectile speed, and reload speed by 50%]], which when matched with an armor-piercing main weapon, allows it to kill anything within a mile - air, infantry, and ''especially'' vehicles. Infantry beware a [[InstantDeathRadius locked down Prowler loaded with high-explosive rounds]].
* The [[CatFolk Ecaflip]] from ''WesternAnimation/{{Wakfu}}'' are built on this. In the earlier levels, they are lackluster, mid-range close range fighters with a useless teleport, some very limited healing ability and chance-based attacks that do more harm than good. As they level up, however, they quickly turn into [[GlassCannon Glass Cannons]] who can heal if the party lacks an Enripsa, whose chance based skills become a lot more useful. For example, one of their special abilities, which in earlier levels could accidentally heal the enemy, does 1/2 the damage of the Ecaflip's previous attack with no cost when it is fully upgraded.

[[folder:Puzzle Games]]
* ''VideoGame/PuzzleQuest'':
** In ''Puzzle Quest: Challenge Of The Warlords'', the Broken Shield you receive at the beginning of the game becomes obsolete almost immediately. But if you complete all of the Great Machine subquests, [[spoiler: it is transformed into the powerful Shield of Albion, which can potentially make you immune to any spell using Yellow Mana]].
** In ''Puzzle Quest 2'', the Templar's first offensive spell ShieldBash becomes stronger as the Templar's defense increases. Improving defense will eventually make ShieldBash the Templar's most efficient and powerful means of inflicting damage.

[[folder:Racing Games]]
* In ''[[VideoGame/NeedForSpeed Shift 2: Unleashed]]'' The Toyota Supra starts as a C-rank retro car. Then you can install the Lexus LFA engine and tune it up to an eye-watering 230mph(370kph) or outright insane 277mph(446kph) for you Speedhunters. It has decent handling to boot! Just watch out for the torque steer.
* The FEISAR Prototype is this in [[{{VideoGame/Wipeout}} Wipeout 2048]]. The vehicle is unique in that it starts off slow, but with each speed pad boost, the speed is permanently increased until it collides with a wall or completes a lap.

[[folder:Real-Time Strategy]]
* ''VideoGame/AgeOfEmpiresII:''
** The Turks have late game bonuses such as increased gold mining does little use early in the game, since the civilizations have no pikeman or elite skirmisher upgrades, lousy and their mangonels have no upgrades. Along with them missing a few important technologies in the earlier ages. However, if Turk players manage to age up to late Castle Age and Imperial is where they get their power. For example, their unique unit, the Janissary is the one of the two Castle Age gunpowder units available (The other being the Spanish Conquistador). Their gunpowder units are cheaper, have higher hp, and can be created faster. The Janissary is basically a stronger hand cannoneer with higher damage, better accuracy, and increased range. They also get free light cavalry upgrades, with expert Turk players advancing with hordes of Hussars, Bombard Cannons, and Jannissaries. Finally their unique technology "Artillery" increases the range of their Bombard Cannons, Cannon Galleons, and Bombard Towers.
** Do ''not'' let a Goth player take a heavy lead. Because if the Goth player does, the player will spam a shitton of ''cheap'' infantry units and swarm into your base (especially Huskarls where they can even shrug off arrows from castles and towers).
** Due to lacking long-term economic bonuses they are very difficult to start with, but once they reach Imperial Age the Saracens can kill anything at sight with their strong camels and various advanced ranged units. This is obvious in the second Saladin scenario, [[ThatOneLevel where the player starts in Feudal Age with little resources, restricted to the Castle Age and many soon-to-be Imperial Age foes trying to kill the player.]]
** The Koreans do not have any significant early game economic bonus, and their stone gathering bonus isn't that significant in the early stages of the game until the Castle Age. However, once they start building Bombard Towers, Keeps, and Castles and mass up War Wagons, they are incredibly hard to deal with lategame.
** The Magyars are considered to be one of ''the'' best lategame civilizations. The Magyars not only have access to cheaper Hussar units, but their unique unit costs no gold at all. In addition, they have a very versatile tech tree with mostly full archer upgrades (minus the Hand Cannoneer), full infantry upgrades, and full cavalry upgrades. Their only weakness is their mediocre siege weaponry and somewhat weak defense, and they don't have any significant early game economic bonuses across from the free Blacksmith upgrades for melee units. This is also highlighted in Honfoglalás scenario. The player starts out with a few villages where the Pechenegs come and attack the said villages. The Magyars then settled near the Khazars as a refuge from the Pechenegs, but the Pechenegs still continue to swarm the Magyars which forces them to retreat again. The Magyars then settled forward west with a few Pecheneg attacks, but the attacks were stalled when the Byzantine empire request help from the Magyars to defeat the Bulgarians. The Magyars defeated the Bulgarians which earns them a WorthyOpponent label from the Bulgarians. Then the Magyars are forced to retreat ''again'' from the Pechenegs. The scenario ends with the Magyars conquering Moravia, abandonned their nomadic ways, settled in, and adopted a lot of European customs (including Christianity).
** The Portuguese are incredibly weak early game since their gold discount bonus doesn't play into the later stages of the game and don't have any significant early game economic bonuses until they get the Feitoria building.
** The Vietnamese are very comparable to the Portuguese in retrospects. Both are team dependent civilizations that don't have any strong economic bonuses early game and many of their civilization bonuses only have a bigger impact in later stages of the game. This means the Vietnamese in 1v1 situations will get destroyed by early game civilizations such as the Malay, Vikings, and the Huns (not to mention, the Paper Money tech, where each Vietnamese ally get 500 gold, will be incredibly useless in 1v1 games). That being said, should the Vietnamese snowball the game, they are a very feared lategame powerhouse with not only tanky archers and Battle Elephants, but also having one of the best trash units with Imperial Skirmishers, meaning they can easily hold off in trash wars.
* The British civilization in ''VideoGame/AgeOfEmpiresIII'' is incredibly slow to start off with, but in the 4th and 5th ages their epic Musketeers and rocket artillery form some of the strongest armies in the game.
** The Dutch and the Portuguese as well with a dash of DifficultButAwesome. The former has a slow start since their settlers cost Coin instead of food but can build banks to balance it out. Later on, they get excellent ranged cavalry with only 1 population instead of the usual 2, enough coin to afford [[AwesomeButImpractical expensive mercenaries,]] unlocking the best halberdiers the game has to offer, and one of the best naval city card bonuses including the powerful fluyt unit. The latter has the lack of settler card bonuses, thus leading a slow economic build up but if players can memorize the map using the Portuguese explorer's ability to use the spyglass, and get a Covered Wagon with every advanced age. Meaning, experience Portuguese players in the late game can spread their base around for resources while having the best naval bonuses, excellent dragoons and [[GlassCannon light infantry,]] and their musketeers that rival the British.
* ''VideoGame/DawnOfWar'':
** An Imperial Guard Squad at the beginning of the game can't shoot, can't fight, dies like flies, and runs screaming in terror at the slightest problem. By the time you reach tier two, the 5 man squad is now 13 men, 5 of them have heavy weapons, and with a commissar, the IG Squad is unbreakable and can fire twice as quickly as normal. In this state it is the most powerful non-unique infantry unit in the game. Watch the Space Marine terminators die before they reach range...
** The Ork army is this. At first you only have Slugga and Shoota boyz, with minimal squad numbers and abilities that suck outside their namesake and are crap without backup. Fully upgrade them and outfit them, though, and a full squad of slugga-boyz can rip through any other unit in the game.
** While all commanders are no slouch during the campaigns, the Chaos Lord stands out in that he starts out squishy like the Space marine commander, but after obtaining his last upgrade (daemonic ascension) he permanently becomes a Daemon Prince, who is powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with any of the relic units in the game. Because he's your commander though, you get him as soon as the mission starts.
** For about the first half of the ''Dawn of War II'' campaign, Cyrus deals pathetic damage, dies easily and is the epitome of UselessUsefulStealth. Level him up, give him a sniper rifle and various explosives, and allocate the right traits to him (especially the ones that make his stealth ''incredibly'' useful) however and he becomes the single most versatile character, effective against all enemy types, and with careful player oversight is capable of soloing missions.
** A piece of equipment, the Heavy Bolter for both Space Marines and their Chaos counterparts. It trades off damage capacity for [[MoreDakka rate of fire]] and suppression. ''Squads'' carrying heavy bolters can be devastating, but equipping a single hero with it is underwhelming, as many times "kill it dead" outweighs "make it not be able to run at us as fast" as a strategy, especially since (typically) two of your other heroes are melee oriented. But the semi-random wargear drops (and one named drop) have a single effect that trumps all others: "Cause X% damage in an area." This coming from a gun with likely the highest rate of fire in the game, equipped to a character who has hopefully taken the skill that lets them ignore the "set up" timer before and after moving, and ''each shot fired'' causes a small explosion; suddenly those massive hordes swarming your lines are not so massive.
* In the PC strategy game ''VideoGame/DungeonKeeper'' (1997) by Bullfrog Productions, you must build training rooms to train up your monsters; and a few monsters will become far more powerful at maximum level. Demon Spawn, while moderately good fighters at low level, become Dragons at level 10. Thieves can be trained into Knights, identical to the Lords of the Land you've been fighting. Even the lowly [[WorkerUnit Imps]] get this. As workers, their fighting ability is pathetic, so most players won't bother. But at level 3, they get Haste, letting them mine through stone like a buzzsaw, and at level 10, they get the ability to Teleport.
* In Creator/ParadoxInteractive's ''VideoGame/EuropaUniversalis III'' and ''VideoGame/VictoriaAnEmpireUnderTheSun'':
** Germany starts out divided into loads of weak one province states that are effectively irrelevant compared to other monster countries like France, Spain, or Great Britain. However, with some skill (or just a constant series of wars) a player who conquers enough German states can create Germany who's sheer size and population can make it one of (if not THE) most powerful countries to play in the game, especially in ''VideoGame/VictoriaAnEmpireUnderTheSun'' where a united German state gains so many advantages it basically becomes a GameBreaker. That's right, a entire nation is a game breaker in this game.
** Kingdoms in India qualify. They start out with a far steeper technology curve than European powers, their religions (Sunni Islam and Hinduism) are statistically inferior to the Christian religions, and even the strongest powers are at best mid-weight by ''1399'' European standards (and they fall back further as time goes by). But! If an Indian prince grows strong enough, it can declare the Kingdom of Hindustan, which controls an area nearly as large as Ming China, without Ming's governmental flaws. And as for the technology issue, that can be solved by westernization, which will rapidly lead Hindustan to exceed Europe in tech level.
*** Punjab is one of the few Indian states that isn't under Britain's thumb, and thus stands a relatively good chance of working it's way up to GP status and kicking the British out of India. A good player can do this by around 1870. Heck, [[http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/showthread.php?568991-Subcontinental-Subtleties-An-experimental-comic-AAR one of the most critically acclaimed After Action Reports for the game was Punjab]].
** Japan. Anyone who knows anything about Japanese history will know that those backwards island fools with the [[KatanasAreJustBetter fancy swords]] might not look like much, but wait and see when they drop the traditions and start getting things like guns, railroads and factories. Indeed, Japan starts out as a small, uncivilised country in East Asia, but it gets a huge bonus to westernization and industrialisation. This combined with a disproportionately large and relatively well-educated population means that Japan stands a very good chance of becoming a modern, secondary world power, capable of dominating China, Southeast Asia and the Pacific rim. In fact, in the hands of a half-decent player, Japan can easily reach GP status.
** China, for all it's notorious status as a [[NintendoHard nigh-unplayable]] ButtMonkey, is an absolute ''monster'' once it finally gets it's shit together and gets past a plethora of hideous issues including widespread government incompetence and corruption, a hilariously backwards stance on scientific development and public education, constant rebellions and a terribly inadequate military that relies mostly on [[WeHaveReserves overwhelming numerical superiority]]. The AI will never manage it, but some good players can and have done.
* [[MadScientist Dr. Neurocide]] in ''VideoGame/EvilGenius'', who can be recruited very early in the game, is worthless in a straight fight and thus very difficult to level. On the other hand, both of her unlockable special abilities are ''spectacularly'' useful in certain situations; she can blast an area with a hallucinogenic gas that masks anything affected and keeps agents from noticing it, meaning they can walk through the middle of your ''morgue'' and not pick up on it, and she can also deploy a nasty knockout gas that'll plant pretty much anyone, Super Agents included, flat on their butts if they get stuck in it long enough.
* ''VideoGame/{{Majesty}}'' has an extremely annoying character type. The wizard. When first hiring the wizard, he will be extremely weak, going up against the weakest sewer rat is a death wish for a level 1 wizard. However, nurturing them to higher levels will make them unstoppable killing machines.
* This is the whole point of the Carry role in ''VideoGame/DOTA2''. To start with, Carries are utterly useless- hence the name, since they need to be "carried" by the rest of the team. But halfway through, assuming they have managed to farm enough, suddenly, they turn into lean, mean killing machines capable of winning 1v5 teamfights and singlehandedly felling an entire lane.
* ''VideoGame/RiseOfNations'' gives you the Lookout or Observation Post, a largely useless structure whose only purpose is to provide large LOS. It can't be moved, it has no ground attack and minor anti-air attack with normally no air units to shoot at, and you could just as easily use a couple strategically placed Explorer units or patrolling Cavalry. But once you reach the Industrial Age, it turns into [[AntiAir the Air Defense Gun]], which can destroy biplanes in four or so hits while costing little more than the Lookout. In the Modern Age it turns into the even-more-powerful Radar Air Defense, which has massive range in addition to being a superpowered airplane-killer, so you can make nine or ten and set up an ''impenetrable flak curtain'' that will effectively deny your enemies any form of air support. But its greatest evolution has to be in the Information Age, when it turns into the [[MissileLockOn SAM installation]]. These consist of three homing missiles arranged on a little tripod thing, which will be ripple-fired at the first sign of an enemy plane, and which then will be reloaded in seconds. Build multiple ones for a bomber-killing, fighter-vaporizing MacrossMissileMassacre. ''And all of these auto-target.''
* The Kol Battleship of ''VideoGame/SinsOfASolarEmpire'', [[OverratedAndUnderleveled despite its glowing description in lore,]] has poor antimatter reserves, unflattering damage and can be beaten by most other capital ships in a duel. However, with enough levels, its antimatter reserves grow to the point where it can use its abilities much more freely and the Finest Hour LimitBreak can dramatically turn a bad situation around. '''Then''' it becomes the beast the story claims it to be.
* The UNSC in ''VideoGame/SinsOfTheProphets'' initially have to outnumber the Covenant many times in order to win. By late game, the gap closes, such that the Orion Battlecruiser or Thermopylae Supercarrier only needs two-to-one odds to beat a Covenant capital ship.
* A few examples in the ''VideoGame/TotalWar'' series:
** ''VideoGame/RomeTotalWar'':
*** Parthia starts out with some of the most financially poor starting cities in the game which are separated by huge tracts of empty wilderness, making troop waypointing tedious and leading to high corruption. They are a FragileSpeedster faction with [[CannonFodder pitiful infantry]] (in a game where infantry is the backbone of any serious army) and their best units, their [[HorseArcher horse archers]], require serious practice and micromanagement to use effectively but even then are terrible at capturing cities. However, when powered up enough, they can become the ancient equivalent of [[LightningBruiser the Timurids]].
*** The Greeks start out with scattered territories and enemies all around them. In fact, it's not uncommon for them to be one of the first major factions to be eliminated. However, if they survive, they get some of the best MightyGlacier infantry and [[MoneyForNothing most profitable provinces]] in the game.
*** The Seleucids have good units (including overpowered [[MightyGlacier phalanx]] units in several varieties) but start with numerous enemies on all sides. If they survive until the late game, they get Silver-Shield Legionnaires, who are every bit as good as Rome's.
** ''VideoGame/MedievalIITotalWar:''
*** Portugal. Early game, laughable militia and light infantry. Late game, tied with Spain as the best overall army list.
*** Scotland. One fairly impoverished town province with Highlanders (admittedly fairly good light infantry), Peasant/Highland Archers (''terrible'' archers), no crossbow or gunpowder units at all, and only the bog-standrad knights along with Border Horse ([[FragileSpeedster fast but poorly armed and armored light cavalry]]). The Scotland faction usually just gets steam-rolled by England in the first few stages of the game. However, if you hang in there, you end up getting Highland Nobles, Noble Swordsman and Noble Pikemen (respectively: ''very'' good and cheap heavy infantry, Dismounted Chivalric Knights but cheaper and on steroids, and the second-best pikemen in the ''whole game''), access to Knights Templar and Hospitaller guilds, access to gunpowder and crossbow mercenaries, and the cheap and fairly-decent Noble Highland Archers unit.
*** In the popular ''Medieval II'' mod, ''VideoGame/ThirdAgeTotalWar'', the Free Peoples of Eriador. They can eventually become the fabled kingdom of Arnor, which has some of the very best units in the game. Well, [[BadassNormal by human standards anyway]].
** Russia in ''VideoGame/EmpireTotalWar''. Yes, 9 provinces sounds good, but most of them can't pay for their own upkeep, and you mostly just have crappy militia that can only win through ZergRush tactics. Get hold of a sea port, build up some infrastructure, encourage growth in your poor provinces, and research some technologies, and Russia becomes [[TheEmpire a very different beast]].
** ''VideoGame/TotalWarShogun2'':
*** The Otomo clan are Christians, which means everyone in Japan hates their guts. Their initial leader is dishonourable, adding to the public order penalties from Christian/Buddhist conflicts. They start with a matchlock unit, but it isn't very good and costs a ton of upkeep. They share an island with the extremely aggressive and expansionist Shimazu. They start at war with two factions, who also happen to be allied to each other. However, if you overcome all these downsides, you'll find yourself swimming in money (thanks to foreign trade ports), armies bristling with matchlocks (which are short-range, but MUCH more powerful than bows) and nigh-unstoppable fleets (thanks to European-style ships armed with cannon).
*** The [[ChurchMilitant Ikko-Ikki]], thanks to their Jodo Shinshu Buddhist faith and rejection of the feudal system, are also TheScrappy of feudal Japan, and as such don't have any samurai units besides the somewhat limited katana/bow/yari ronin. They do, however, have very powerful warrior monks, including ''matchlock'' monks, as well as the ability to take over provinces via rebellion! Their main problem is, however, the simple fact that monks take quite a while to acquire, moreso if you want to upgrade your blacksmiths and fletchers beforehand.
* The Night Elf Archer in ''VideoGame/WarcraftIII'' is the weakest of all basic units. However, once you reach the late game you can improve range and damage, make it ride a hippogryph, a flying anti-air unit greatly increasing HP and mobility and unaffected by melee attacks. And since they can dismount, attacking aerial units find themselves suddenly facing twice the targets dealing more than twice the damage.
** The Siege Engine starts off as a JokeCharacter that only works on buildings, but upgrade Plate Armor and Ranged Weapon damage (when ranged units generally use leather armor), add in its rocket upgrade and watch the enemy's entire air force disintegrate under a hail of missiles, while their weapons just bounce off its armor and then plough them straight into their base and destroy it.
* ''VideoGame/{{Starcraft}}'' has the Zerg. Due to their peculiar method of creating units, they are ''extremely'' vulnerable to early attacks, but if left alone long enough, they will bring forth armies of Ultralisks (highest HP of all ground units) and Guardians (a flyer that outranges ''every'' defensive structure and ground unit). In ''VideoGame/StarcraftII'', replace Guardian with Brood Lord (in addition to huge range, every attack will now spawn Broodlings).
** The humble Zergling. Made two-for-the-price-of-one (at 50 minerals, it's the same as every WorkerUnit and the Marine) and pretty much exists only to be spawned and die in large numbers. However, by end game it gets upgrades that increases its already impressive movement and attack speed, letting it ''shred'' apart armies... when spawned in large numbers.
*** The sequel takes it even further, by giving all Zerg units speed bonuses when on creep. It also gives them an invisible creep spreader that lets their armies move lightning-fast across vast distances. Oh, and they can now morph into {{Action Bomb}}s.
*** And ''even further'' in HeartOfTheSwarm's campaign (once you've progressed far enough), where Zerglings can now jump cliffs/spawn instantly and three at a time, while Banelings either split into smaller Banelings or gain the ability to jump into enemies over their aliies' heads. And just to put the cherry on top, one of Kerrigan's passive abilities lets you respawn killed zerglings at a steady enough rate that you can almost continually sweep large amounts of zerglings all over the map without fear of leaving your base defenseless.
* ''VideoGame/StarRuler'': Fabricator-type subsystems aren't much good when you first unlock them, but with enough research they can outproduce planet-based factories. Use them right and you have a massive AIBreaker that the computer has no hope of matching.
* The Panzer Elite Grenadiers of ''VideoGame/CompanyOfHeroes'' start out as very expensive for what they give, poorly armed, few in number, and quite vulnerable overall. However, they can be given a truly staggering number of combat upgrades, including weapon packages, new abilities, a squad size increase, and even more upgrades depending on the player's preferred tactical doctrine. Fully upgraded, Grenadiers are hands down the best core infantry choice in the game, comparable to the elite infantry of the American army.
* ''Videogame/WarlordsBattlecry'':
** Both Dwarven factions qualify. Their initial units ranges from average to rather bad, with Dwarven Infantry being rather underwhelming and Stone Golems being way too slow to use them much. Then, they unlock much better units: Crossbowdwarves are the best garrisons in the game, Dwarven Berserkers are almost indestructible to physical damage and Iron Golems can hit everything around them at a decent speed. Both factions unlock Siege Weapons around this time. And at the final stages of the game, both are essentially unstoppable: Dwarves get Runelords (dangerous magic units), Kazhrimi Guards (CriticalHit-spamming soldiers with a tanky streak) and Generals (extremely tough, and can rip buildings apart like no other), while Dark Dwarves get Bronze Golems (almost unkillable unless the enemy has lightning, and they hit like trucks), Hellbores (imagine a lightning-shooting AA cannon that could take down dragons) and Flame Cannons (the single hardest-hitting thing in the game aside from titans, they can incinerate an army and their base in seconds). The fact both get expensive but powerful armor and damage upgrades that span the whole tech tree only adds to it.
** Fey. Their units will remain {{Fragile Speedster}}s to the end of the tech tree, with cheap, tiny, zippy units that hit for very low damage, though quickly. However, they have a tremendously useful upgrade line in their Orb Of Wonder, which gives units extra experience right out of the assembly line. The upgrade line is ''enormous'', possibly the longest in the game, but leveling up mooks in this game will turn even a lowly pikeman into a menace. Due to the way upgrades work, these tiny units benefit even more from the extra experience, as the damage increase is a flat raise for everyone, even if they stab you five times per second. Not to mention they get even faster, and they remain just as spammably cheap as before. Thus, if you don't wipe out a Fey faction early in the game, you will be swarmed by tiny men and women with spears and magic bolts that will inflict a DeathOfAThousandCuts on you faster than you can wipe them out.
** Knights qualify as well, and have a similarly hard time getting to the levels where they can be useful. Their starting units are basically ''worthless'', and their mid-tier units (Knights and Dancing Swords) are just enough to keep them afloat. But once they get past the first few hurdles (easier said than done due to money problems) they get access to Knight Champions and Knight Lords, which are extremely tanky slayers of evil that can get upgrades to experience and thus level freakishly fast (see above for why this is dangerous), as well as Archons, literal angels with flaming swords that make short work of anything the Knights can't handle. While you need dozens and dozens of Dancing Swords to fend off most attacks, a tiny group of just five Archons and three Knight Lords can squash that attack ''and'' charge forwards to carve a hole in the enemy base right afterwards.

[[folder:Turn-Based Strategy]]
* In ''VideoGame/FireEmblem'':
** The "Est archetype": a character that joins the party late and it looks like CantCatchUp is in full effect, since he or she is quite fragile, but if the player is patient and levels him/her up adequately, after promotion the character will become extremely powerful.
** ''VideoGame/FireEmblemJugdral'':
*** One non-Est example is Leif, who joins in the 2nd chapter of the 2nd half (that starts with a new group of characters) and starts out as a mere swordfighter, but can eventually use almost every weapon in the game.
*** Raquesis, who joins during the first half and is just as weak (though she has the benefit of being able to use healing staves along with swords), but promotes into the insanely powerful Master Knight (a class she shares only with Leif).
*** Also, Corple if you paired Sylvia with Levin, Azel or Claude! He joins you two chapters before the final battle as a level 1 priest but if you decide to put the effort into training him up (aka do a lot of pointless healing with a Recover Staff) he'll be one of your best spellcasters. (And if he's Claude's son a great frontline healer when you're facing a lot of Sleep or Silence Staves.)
*** Finn in ''Genealogy of the Holy War'' (much less so in ''Thracia 776'') zigzags between this and CrutchCharacter. In the First Generation, he starts off quite weak and is disadvantaged by the fact that he uses lances when the first chapters are full of axe-users, but because of his good growths, the Prayer skill and the Hero Lance Cuan gives him in chapter 2, he becomes a valuable asset to your army until he leaves (at the end of chapter 3). Then, in the Second Generation, he is normally much stronger than the characters he's protecting (Leif and Nanna) at the beginning of chapter 7, but because most of your army can be made of [[GameBreaker Game Breakers]], he ends up being outclassed in the last chapters.
*** Homer from ''Thracia 776'' is a prime example of a Magikarp Power. He joined underlevelled in a rather difficult and pretty late chapter, followed by a chapter with FogOfWar. He specializes in Light Magic, which is rare, and he can't even use the Resire tome that you acquired at the same time he joined the team, and he can't use Wind Magic. Then you realize that he has the ''Elite'' skill to double his exp gains, he has stats growth that is even better than Asvel, PCC of 5 which means on the second attack, he has massive chance for a critical hit. He also promotes into a Sage, which allowed him to use staves(a huge plus since the Staves are poorly ballanced in Thracia, although Homer is not expected to have a high staff rank in Endgame), an extra rank in the elemental magic and 2 rank in light which allowed him to use better tomes including Resire and the Wind spells. It helps that Sage have a promotion bonus that looks like something out of ''Genealogy of the Holy War'' which was REALLY massive when compared to the current standards and Thracia's standards alike.
*** By extension, a lot of unit who can promote into a Sage count in Thracia, this includes Asvel, Linoan and Sara:
*** Asvel started in better position as he joined earlier as a SquishyWizard with an extremely powerful personal weapon which helped him during the early stages and turns him into an amazing boss killer. The promotion into Sage increased his durability a lot, and with only 7 levels with the help of the Sety Scroll, he is guaranteed to have a maximum speed, and a good chance to have an acceptable magic and skill, both of which are boosted in high amounts by the promotion bonus. As far as offensive magic goes, the only character who can outdo Asvel is the GlassCannon Olwen, and the EleventhHourSuperpower Ced.
*** Linoan and Sara joins in a late chapter rather underlevelled with no personal weapon, and Linoan is forced to promote with a late game events. However, Linoan can use the Resire tome from the start and is likely the only person who can use it, and she can perform staves duty, helped by her solid stats growth. Sara later gained a personal weapon that is rather useless other than giving the acess to ThatOneSidequest, however she has better starting staves rank than Linoan, a massive stats growth, can promote earlier than Linoan, and her skillset are filled with three of the best skill in the game, which includes ''Elite''. And they happen to exist in a game where having a good staff rank right from the start is an equivalent of winning a grand prize in a SuperpowerLottery.
** ''VideoGame/FireEmblemElibe'':
*** [[MainCharacter Lyn and Eliwood]] possess Magikarp Power. They are pretty fragile units initially, and require special effort to level them up. However, their upgraded forms are rather strong. Eliwood actually gets his class up through a story event, but how strong ''that'' is ultimately depends on how much you were willing to use him before his class up, so it fits.
*** Eliwood's own son, Roy, is an even bigger example of this. Roy has mediocre bases and average growths. Like his father, his promoted is forced through the story; Roy's promotion, however, comes extremely late when the rest of your army will be well into their promoted class. If RNG is kind to Roy, then he can become very powerful when he promotes to Master Lord and obtains the Binding Blade, the most powerful weapon in the game and canonically the strongest weapon in all of Elibe.
*** Nino, who joins at level 5 about 5 chapters away from the end of the game. She also has some of the best growths in the game, and can be made very powerful if you're willing to slow yourself down. Less extreme, but also applies to the likes of Bartre, Rath, and Heath.
** ''VideoGame/FireEmblemTellius'':
*** Astrid in ''Path of Radiance'' is a definite example. She starts out so weak that she cannot take a hit from anything. She gets experience much faster than everyone thanks to a personal skill though, and if trained she rather quickly catches up and then passes the other characters in levels. Not only does she get great stats, but her promoted class, Paladin, [[GameBreaker is extremely broken]].
*** Sanaki from ''Radiant Dawn'' veers into this and GlassCannon territory. She joins very late in the game and has a few powerful weapons, but is marred because '''a)''' you've had three parts to train your other characters, '''b)''' Her strength is so low she takes a penalty from using her own special weapon and '''c)''' Has ''very'' low health, making her the GlassCannon. Despite this, she has the best growths in the game.
*** Also from Radiant Dawn, Edward is a Myrmidon who starts out frail, but has the best growths of any on-foot sword user in the game, being basically standard myrmidon growths... [[LightningBruiser but with extra STR]].
*** Laura from the same game also counts, but she takes the trope WAY too far. She's a WhiteMagicianGirl with insane growths in both MAG (third-best in the game, behind Micaiah and Soren) and [[OneStatToRuleThemAll SPD]] (tied for best with Elincia), but not only can she not use offensive magic until she promotes, ''she starts at level 1''. Staves also give ''painfully'' low EXP.
*** Vika is this. She has one of the ''worst'' availabilities in the game (if not the ''entire saga'', being a new character introduced to Radiant Dawn) yet she has pretty high growths for a Laguz. It takes a lot of babying, but she pays off. Her main problem is also that she joins very late, and in the rest of part 4, you have the Laguz Royals, so there's really no point in using her when you can take Naesala if you want a raven with you in the final battle.
*** Meg is an interesting case. Many people immediately write her off, but if raised patiently, her stats can turn her into a very effective MageKiller. However, like many Dawn Brigade units, her growths are at odds with her base class... which is Sword Armor. Between its low mobility and total lack of ranged physical weapons, this is perhaps the class least suited for mage-hunting, and Meg's mediocre HP and defense mean she can't do her class's traditional duties worth a damn. So while her numbers show a case of MagikarpPower, her usability remains questionable at best.
** [[VideoGame/FireEmblemAkaneia Archanea]]:
*** Gordin, in the Fire Emblem remake Shadow Dragon starts off as a fairly bad archer. His only notable strength is his above-average defense. If you have the patience to get him to around level 15, and then promote him...his promotion gains are VERY good, helping to overcome his early game issues.
*** His brother Ryan in ''New Mystery'' is pretty much the same, but better growths and less early-game issues. In fact, Archanea's Archer class itself is often considered this: it has bad base stats and movement equal to the game's MightyGlacier class even though Archers are supposed to be [[FragileSpeedster Fragile Speedsters]], and promotion to Sniper gets rid of both these flaws.
*** There's also Radd. You get him pretty early but his base stats are so bad that he is worse than regular enemies in the same level you get him. But if you level him up, he will become a LightningBruiser with unusually high defense for a myrmidon.
*** Wolf and Sedgar. Despite the fact that they join prepromoted and give signs of CrutchCharacter, if you look at their stats, you might be surprised because of how low their bases are. They actually have the best growth rates in the game.[[note]]especially in health, their growths exceed 100% meaning they're guaranteed at least 1 HP per level up and have a chance to get ''an additional'' point.[[/note]]
*** Sheema from ''Mystery'' joins at level 1 promoted into General. However, not only her stats are very decent for a prepromote, she's also possessing great growth rate that if you take your time to level her up in the short time she's in, you'll be able to make her tank damages easily or become a LightningBruiser on a certain forthcoming ThatOneLevel (if you haven't been training an Armor Knight/General).
** ''VideoGame/FireEmblemTheSacredStones'': A more straightforward Est is L'Arachel, the only Troubador in the game. When she's recruited, she's simply a mounted WhiteMagicianGirl, which is handy for mobile healing but no good for combat and therefore both vulnerable and agonizingly slow to level up. With the patience to finally get L'Arachel to level 20 and promote her into a mage knight or valkyrie, however, she has been known to clear the first floor of the BonusLevelOfHell ''by herself'', often gaining her remaining twenty levels and capping several of her stats in a single mission!
*** By the time that Amelia joins your army in either route, she will be woefully underleveled. She's a level 1 trainee unit with less than 20 HP when the majority of your units will be in the low to mid teens. She can easily be one-rounded by any enemy in the chapters she joins in. Training her requires a considerable amount of babying to feed her kills. Once she promotes to her next tier of classes, she may still require a bit of babying in the very early levels. Once she begins to catch up in level to the rest of your army, she has the potential to become the best unit in your entire army. If she doesn't cap her Strength, Skill, Defense, HP, and Speed, then she will end up with very high stats in all categories. She can turn into a General who takes little to no damage from every attack, if she doesn't dodge the attacks, and can double virtually every enemy in the game, including Swordmasters who are known for high Speed.
** ''VideoGame/FireEmblemAwakening'': Donnel (aka [[AffectionateNickname "Donny"]]) seems designed with this trope in mind. He joins with pathetically low stats and in the weak Villager class that can't even promote. His class, however, does give him access to a special skill that boosts ''all'' his growths by 20% with no penalty. Even his CharacterDevelopment reflects this trope; initially he sees himself as weak and useless and the whole point of his sidequest is to convince him otherwise by ''letting him get a Level-Up''. Unfortunately, he still manages to be a TierInducedScrappy due to factors besides his stats[[note]] Mainly the fact that the Villager class exclusively uses Lances, but none of the classes he can 'graduate' to can (they're the Mercenary and Fighter lines), meaning he has to spend ages building up a Lance rank for nothing.[[/note]], but luckily the 'Aptitude' skill can be inherited by his kids (who ''don't'' have his bad start), turning them into utter {{Game Breaker}}s.
*** The saddest thing about Donnel is that if he were in any other ''Fire Emblem'' game besides ''Awakening'', he'd be instant top-tier material, because he joins ''much'' earlier than other Est-archetypes (his mission becomes available after ''chapter 3''), and therefore he has the entire rest of the game to level up. But because ''Awakening'' lets you reset a unit's level as many times as you want ''and'' grind endlessly for experience, Donnel's growths don't matter nearly as much in the late game as his stat ''caps'', which are mediocre at best and easily outclassed by other units.
** ''VideoGame/FireEmblemFates''
** Mozu, who just like Donnel, starts with the Villager class. When she's first met, she was rather weak, but she can become one of the most powerful units. Unlike Donnel, she ''can'' promote, and her two class choices, Master of Arms and Merchant, both utilize lance-class weaponry, so her weapon rank isn't wasted. That said, the developers noticed what her combination of early availability (like Donnel, she's available almost from the word go), growth-boosting skill, and overall usability could result in, so she's doesn't get as powerful as many Ests.
** Elise is similar to L'Arachel above, only even more extreme. Starting off as a mounted WhiteMagicianGirl, her growths in Magic, Speed and Luck are insane, and once promoted to a class that can use offensive magic she's able to utterly ''demolish'' most physical enemies with even basic E-Ranked tomes. [[GlassCannon She still has the defense of wet tissue paper though]], but when she's fighting something she can one-round kill without fear of a counterattack, this hardly matters.
* In ''VideoGame/AgeOfWonders'' you can buy dragon hatchlings. They start off rather weak and are often targeted by the enemy, but if you can build their experience to gold medal rank they will grow into full size dragons.
* A hidden example in ''VideoGame/GalacticCivilizations'' where, if you have your race take the morally good path you find out about Telepathy - that almost all telepaths born with severe physical disabilities, they don't survive in the evil races, but if they do... What this means is that, as you're a good race and look after your people, then you get access to a series of telepathic defensive technologies which are far more powerful than anything else at that tech level.
* To get a wizard to learn the Arcane Omniscience skill in ''VideoGame/HeroesOfMightAndMagic V'', you need to let them learn a specific set of skills [[note]] Sorcery, Enlightenment, and War Machines[[/note]], which means neglecting their other skills and being forced to rely on their army and low level, low power spells for most of the early-to-mid game. Once they learn Arcane Omniscience, however, they instantly have every spell in the game added to their spellbook, and can cast them all at expert level mastery.
* ''VideoGame/SwordOfTheStars'':
** the Morrigi, who are also DifficultButAwesome. Their destroyer-class ships are fragile and strategically sluggish. Their population growth, terraforming ability, research speed and industrial growth are awful. However, if you know how to play them and get them to lategame, you find they have good to great chances at the best techs in the game, and their dreadnoughts are monsters.
** Liir did it first; they suck at start, being GlassCannon without the cannon due to their few weapon mounts with poor firing arcs. However, they have faster research speed than the rest and similarly good to even better chances at the best techs than Morrigi. A Liir player who can avoid getting crushed in early game will out-tech the opposition with frightening speed.
** In the sequel the Zuul are turned into this, with a weakened early game but the lategame goal of summoning the very powerful Suul'ka to aid them.
* Yggdra Yuril Artwaltz from ''VideoGame/YggdraUnion'' begins the game as a relatively useless character with stats well below every other character in the game (excluding the summonable extras). However, halfway into the game, she will gain an upgrade that not only turns her into a character on par with some of the strongest characters in the game, but also gives the Always Ace ability, the equivalent of arming her with the ability to abuse nearly every card in the game. That, added with the final equip Fanelia can turn her into a GameBreaker that can literally OHKO every single unit in the bonus stage by herself.
* Sniper class in ''VideoGame/XCOMEnemyUnknown.'' Unlike other classes at "Squaddie" rank, Snipers remain nearly as useless as rookies are. The sniper rifle is more accurate as range increases, but Squaddie snipers have only their own limited sight radius to work with, making them poor shots. Add to this that the sniper can't shoot or overwatch with their primary weapon after a movement, and you've got the limited mobility of a MightyGlacier without the stopping power to offset it. Once they gain their second rank up to Corporal however, they (potentially) gain "Squadsight" a true GameBreaker that lets the sniper fire at '''any enemy the squad can see,''' so long as the sniper's view to that enemy is unobstructed. A Colonel-level sniper with "Squadsight" and "In The Zone" perks can wipe an ''entire map'' clean of enemies in a single turn, given the right circumstances.
* Good old "useless" Colin from ''VideoGame/AdvanceWars''. He's the rookie who's units have reduced attack power in exchange for a meager 20% discount on manufacturing units, and his first major mission is a [[HoldTheLine Hold The Line Style]] setup which goes out of it's way to remind you he is useless. Of course, later in the game when the strong units (Like Battleships and Bombers) are in use, his weakness is suddenly a moot point since his units are ''still'' doing tons of damage and that discount means you're saving thousands of bucks on new units. [[GameBreaker Happy smashing!]]
** The sequel allows you to team him up with Kanbei, his polar opposite who has insanely strong units that are much more expensive to produce. This is one of the strongest teams in the game and the two don't even get a tag bonus.
* In ''Videogame/YuGiOhMonsterCapsuleGB'', some monsters are very weak at first, but can become very powerful if you level them up and use an Evolution Chip.
* In ''VideoGame/YuGiOhCapsuleMonsterColiseum'', some weaker monsters can evolve into stronger forms under certain conditions. Dark-type Monsters are this in general, as they start out weak and have costly summons, but if trained can prove very powerful.
* Orion in ''VideoGame/AtlasReactor'' is a character whose power is tied to how close he is to his [[LimitBreak ultimate ability]]. When Orion is at 0 energy, his moves are amongst the worst in the game with low [=AoE=] and healing/shielding potential. When Orion is at full energy all his moves are greatly powered up, making playing him a balancing act between knowing when to ult (which consumes all your energy) or staying with the ultimate ability on backburner to get the most out of his other moves.
* [[Anime/MobileSuitGundamWing Relena Peacecraft]] in the ''VideoGame/SDGundamGGeneration'' series is a practically a textbook example of this; since she's a politician and ActualPacifist in her home series, her initial stats are all incredibly low (except for her Charisma). But if the player is willing to tough it out, her late-level stat gains are so incredible that she becomes a [[OneManArmy One-Woman Army]], and she's an excellent candidate to power-level any new mecha since her stats can more than make up for any weaknesses or flaws in the machine.

[[folder:First-Person Shooter]]
* The first weapon obtained in ''VideoGame/{{BioShock|1}}'' is a wrench, the only melee weapon in the game, which does so little damage, even with the 4x multiplier of [[ShockAndAwe Electrobolt]], it is at first only good as an EmergencyWeapon. Then the player obtains the tonics that boost its attack speed and damage, as well as its damage against unaware opponents (which includes enemies stunned with Electrobolt or attacked by [[BeeBeeGun Insect Swarm]]), all of which stack with each other ''and'' the damage bonuses provided by the Research Camera and suddenly ''every single enemy in the game'' aside from Big Daddies and the final boss is dying in a handful of hits.
* In ''VideoGame/BioshockInfinite'', there's the Pistol and Machine Gun. The Pistol starts off as a fairly weak weapon which is good against minor enemies but not against other ones. Most gamers ditch it for other weapons. But if you stick with it and upgrade it fully, or have the correct gear, it becomes a weapon that provides fast fire, solid performance at all ranges, carries up to 31 rounds when you get to Soldier's Field and is an excellent sidearm overall. The Machine Gun is effective early on, but it isn't as good against tougher enemies. Fully upgrade it, and use the Bullet Boon or Ammo Advantage gear, and the Machine Gun will suddenly have a massive clip size, carrying even more bullets than the Crank Gun, is as effective as the Shotgun from close to medium range, can take out enemies with in a few shots, and will almost never run out of ammo because it's the most common weapon in the game.
* [[TalkativeLoon Krieg]] the [[AxCrazy Psycho]] from ''VideoGame/{{Borderlands 2}}'' is ''extremely'' underpowered at low levels. His skill choices are either extremely narrow in application at low levels or just not useful enough to carry him through like the basic skills of the other characters...or it might just kill him outright by delaying his shield recharging or setting himself on fire. Level him up high enough, though, and he can become a damage-dealing monster, able to slaughter entire hordes of enemies while healing himself or chaining enough damage to annihilate raid bosses in an ever-increasing rain of blood-explosions.
* ''VideoGame/NaziZombies'' has all the players start off with an M1911, a pistol which deals piddling damage which falls off hard only after a few rounds. However, if it is upgraded, it becomes [[GunsAkimbo dual-wield]] and fires grenades that explode on contact, each gun with the same fire rate of a normal M1911. Although it becomes [[AwesomeYetImpractical hard to see from all the smoke just what you're shooting at on top of the fact you can still hurt yourself by firing too close.]]
* Cid the Seer of ''VideoGame/{{Ziggurat}}'' has low initial stats, and his saving grace is a considerable boost to experience gains. He's very much DifficultButAwesome.
* Of all the weapons in ''Contra VideoGame/{{Doom}}'', the [[HomingProjectile Homing Missiles]] starts out being the weakest, which while the missiles home onto enemies, they otherwise act like the player's default weapon bullets in terms of damage and rate of fire. However, if you can find another Homing Missile pickup, you can fire ''two'' streams of homing missiles simultaneously, which makes the weapon more deadly. Couple that with both rate of fire upgrades and you have a monster on your hands. [[UnstableEquilibrium If you can keep a hold of them, that is]].
* The Dispersion Pistol from ''VideoGame/{{Unreal|I}}'' starts off as a RangedEmergencyWeapon that is quickly outclassed by other weapons you find early on. But if you keep finding [[EvolvingWeapon upgrades for it]], it goes from peashooter to PunchPackingPistol to HandCannon as the game goes, iwth the only drawback being that it fires uncharged shots slower and slower.

[[folder:Third-Person Shooter]]
* ''VideoGame/DarkForcesSaga'':
** ''Jedi Outcast'': Force Lightning and Force Grip start off very weak when you first get them, with Lightning barely doing any damage to enemies, and Grip only being able to stun enemies for a few seconds. At their highest level, you can clear out entire rooms with Lightning, and use Grip to fling enemies off of ledges and disarm them, which is useful for quickly ending lightsaber duels.
** ''Jedi Academy'': Force Rage. It makes you stronger while [[CastFromHitPoints eating your health]] and making you ''more'' vulnerable to damage for a few seconds after it ends. At level 1, health drain is HUGE and your strength increase is... not. It doesn't last very long, and the time spent doing the activation pose ''does count,'' and you can take damage during it. When it ends, and all or most of the enemies you were trying to use it against are all still there, [[PressXToDie you. Will. Die.]] So why invest in it? Because Force Rage ''3'' is another story. You'll hand out epic beatdowns and hardly notice the drawbacks.
* In ''VideoGame/DeadSpace'':
** Your starting weapon, the plasma cutter. Upgrading it improves it so much that it's entirely feasible to use no other weapon for the duration of the game. There's even an achievement for doing this.
** The Pulse Rifle chews up ammunition FAST, does barely any damage, and has a ridiculously small hit area. If you upgrade it though, it can become an incredibly accurate and ammo-economic limb remover from over 100 meters.
* The Grinder in ''VideoGame/RedFaction: Guerilla'' is somewhat like this; when you first get it it's AwesomeButImpractical with a slow fire rate and shots that sometimes aren't an instant kill (on hard at least), after getting the explosive upgrade (which between the higher damage, splash damage and building and vehicle damaging capabilities makes it FAR more versatile) and the fast shot upgrade (which fixes the weapons biggest flaw) it becomes a good all-round combat weapon.
* ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil4'':
** The Handcannon, which can't even be purchased until you've beaten the game at least once, and whose ammo is incredibly rare, making it pretty much a paperweight once you own it. Spending a ridiculous amount of money to upgrade it, however, gives it infinite ammo and a firepower rating that lets you one-hit-kill pretty much everything in the game. The only problem is you get access to it so late in the game and after so many proofs of prowess, it's at best a BraggingRightsReward.
** The 9mm handgun you begin the game with is arguably the weakest firearm in the game. However, once you max it out it becomes five times more likely to get a critical headshot which, so long as you hit enemies in the head, virtually turns into a one-hit-mook-killing machine.

[[folder:Western RPG]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Albion}}'':
** In principle, all spells work a little bit like this, because they only start to function properly as advertised after some practice (ie. dozens of castings). However, it's really exemplified by some of the most powerful spells, such as Demon Exodus (destroys all demons in a battle) and Goddess' Wrath (destroys all enemies). Yes, they'll do that eventually, but it takes a while before they do anything at all to speak of.
** Melthas, who is almost completely useless. His only offensive spell is Small Fireball -- the weakest offensive spell in the game. His healing spell isn't much better either. All of his other abilities are support spells which will almost never be used when you can just freeze the entire battlefield with Sira (who will ALWAYS be in your party if Melthas is). That changes when he gets Demon Exodus, and upgrades it to at least 50% of its full power, at which point it will instantly eliminate all demon type enemies (which include both the [[DemonicSpider most powerful]] and the [[GoddamnBats most irritating]] non-human, non-technological enemies in the game) on the field.
** Harriet's Wrath of the Goddess. When you first learn it, it will use up all of her energy (and quite a bit of her health if said energy is not on 100%), and disintegrates a single enemy at most. Develop it to 100% and it's an instant I Win button, as it will destroy everything except Ned's type 2 androids. Of whom you will only have to fight one.
* ''VideoGame/BaldursGate'':
** Dual-classing in general. You abandon your old class and start taking levels in a new one, which suppresses all of your old skills until your new class becomes a higher level than your old one (so if you, say, dual-class from thief to mage at level 7, you need to hit level 8 as a mage before you get your thief skills back). Dual-classed characters usually have to spend a lot of time playing 'catch-up' to the rest of the party and gain no HP until their new class bypasses their old one, and it is crippling if a vital party member (like a thief) does it while you have no spare, but the end result is a whatever you dual-classed into with the HP and skills of the first class stacked on top of its own. Applies less in the second game, where it's easy to just take some of the benefits of dual-classing without the cost; several potential party members are already dual-classed, and the PlayerCharacter could just switch right at the start of the game and catch up quickly, as the first dungeon gives a lot of experience (from spell scrolls).
** The sequel gave us the Sorcerer class. Initially it seems far weaker than a normal mage. Instead of learning spells from scrolls, it can only learn a total of 5 spells per level, which are slowly chosen over the course of level-ups. In other words, make any bad picks and you're screwed. Even the official strategy guide for ''Throne of Bhaal'' recommends against choosing a Sorcerer. However, the Sorcerer is able to cast an unprecedented 6 spells per day of every spell level (an amount only outdone by [[RulesAreForHumans Edwin]]) and can pick which spell to cast on the fly, flexibility only matched by a Reckless Dweomering Wild Mage (but without the [[PowerAtAPrice wild surge]]). In ''Throne of Bhaal'', where [[UpToEleven tenth-level spells]] learned by wizards as high-level abilities don't count against the Sorcerer's limit of learned spells, the Sorcerer dominates the Mage.
** The Monk (also in the sequel) starts the game almost crippled by high armor class (high being bad) and the fact his fists don't count as magical weapons. By the time he hits high levels, not only are these problems long cured, he also gains insane magical resistance and fists that can outdamage [[DualWielding Dual Katanas]].
** With the ''Ascension'' mod installed, that +2 Sword of Chaos that you've been carrying from the first dungeon in ''Shadows of Amn'' will become a +4 weapon with better special abilities if you give it back to its original owner [[spoiler:Sarevok]].
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'':
** An archer rogue, more so than any other class, fits this role, especially if you want to invest talents into lockpicking. While melee classes such as Warriors and Dual Wielding Rogues get access to decent weapons sooner and mages start out strong and just get stronger, an archer is...somewhat underwhelming in the early-game thanks to a lack of decent bows and relatively weak initial talents. However, archers have extremely powerful late-game talents such as Scattershot, which does better than normal damage to ''and'' stuns just about every enemy you're facing at once and is almost impossible to resist, and Arrow of Slaying, which can deal up to several hundred points of damage with one hit (up to 10 times normal damage in the right circumstances), and is perhaps the best way to deal with [[DemonicSpiders enemy casters]] before they get in range to do real damage. Several of the unique bows that are found later in the game are also very powerful. By the endgame, a properly built Archer Warden will be ''the'' best damage dealer in your party.
** The Bard specialization starts out rather [[SpoonyBard spoony]], as the base stat buff and initial skills compare very poorly to all other specializations. But the effects scale up with Cunning, which a smart Rogue develops to increase their lethality. Since the song effects the entire group, the value is multiplied by each conscious teammate. In the end, there is no specialization across all the classes is as powerful.
* ''Franchise/MassEffect'':
** ''VideoGame/MassEffect1''
*** Infiltrator Shepard is this, by sheer virtue of [[GameBreaker Immunity and Marksman]]. Sure, Soldiers get them too, but the Infiltrator has a plethora of debuff abilities to - by the endgame, allow him/her to [[LightningBruiser dash into a crowd of heavies, taking almost no damage, and then jam their weapons and cooldown times]], and then [[SniperPistol take them out with a highly-accurate machine pistol]]. But to pull this off, you need a good medicine mod in your armor; that same armor also needs a high defensive rating - don't worry about shields, you [[MadeOfIron won't need them]] - and to max out Immunity's level, and get the PrestigeClass that allows you to further rank Immunity up. [[CaptainObvious And then do so.]] [[WeaksauceWeakness Just watch out for Damping attacks from the enemy.]] Garrus [[OvershadowedByAwesome doesn't get Immunity. Just saying.]]
*** If you get party member Liara early enough, she's pretty weak. She can't be trained with any weapons and she can only equip light armor. However, if you get the party, and by extension her, up to level 60, and distribute her skill points appropriately, she will be the most powerful biotic party member with extremely fast recharge times on all of her skills.
*** Tali starts as just an engineer, however her Quarian Machinist Skill and another of Skill both improve her shields. If you max both, and give her proper Armor add-ons to further improve her shield and shield regeneration, she can be more durable than a Soldier/Infiltrator and second only to Wrex in sheer survivability (with the exception of [[GameBreaker Immunity]]). She'll have more shield than most heavy armor users.
*** Kaidan starts with only a weak throw and sabotage, but with levels and by maxing out his class skill, no other party member can compete with him in the sheer variety of ways he can screw with enemies, being able to single-handedly lock down anything that's not meant to be fought exclusively with a tank.
** In ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'', DLC party member Kasumi is extraordinarily weak, even more so than Jack. However, careful distribution of her skill points will turn her into a GlassCannon with abilities that can disorient enemies, overload their shields, and severely weaken most {{mooks}} (or one-shot them in the easier difficulties, where it becomes AwesomeButImpractical by virtue of sheer cooldown time.)
** Come ''VideoGame/MassEffect3'', the [[CoOpMultiplayer multiplayer]] [[HeroOfAnotherStory mode]] [[DownloadableContent added volus as playable characters]]. With weak shields, little in the way of offensive powers, and low carrying capacity for weapons, they look like [[JokeCharacter joke characters]] (hell, they [[BadassAdorable stand on boxes]] when you pick them) but they're [[LethalJokeCharacter lethal]]. You just need to [[LevelGrinding max out their level]], and find [[RandomlyDrops a good weapon for them]], such as the [[LightningGun Reegar Carbine]]. Then, you can maximise their carrying capacity, spec Shield Boost to [[StoneWall increase damage resistance]], give them a [[HitPoints shield-boosting mod]], [[DifficultButAwesome and get really really good at timing Shield Boost, their heavy melee Defensive Stance, their free cloak, and their other two powers along with shooting things and]] [[LagCancel reload-cancelling]]. But you, too, can be a [[MemeticBadass biotic god]]. Or TheSmartGuy, if you prefer.
* ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls'':
** ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIVOblivion Oblivion]]'':
*** At the start of the Dark Brotherhood questline you're given a crappy little dagger that is basically useless compared to everything else you have. At the end of the brotherhood quests, the dagger gets enchanted and becomes a fairly powerful enchanted weapon that, if nothing else, will get you a decent amount of money if you sell it.
*** There is also the Chameleon spell, which would make it possible to sneak well, but even with 97% Chameleon, you would be found by enemies after the first strike on them, seeing as they are all somewhat [[PsychicPowers psychic]] (which made it a waste of magic against multiple enemies). However, if you managed to get 100% Chameleon (which could be done permanently), you would essentially never die, as only scripted characters or monsters could find you. Add max sneak, and you could have [[GameBreaker 6x damage on every attack in addition to the invisibility]]. To get this with a spell, armor would often lower the percentage and ruin it, forcing you to become an InvisibleStreaker (if underwear had not been grafted on to your body).
** ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim Skyrim]]'':
*** Thief skills. These abilities initially are nothing impressive: with pickpocketing you can occasionally find good loot in someone's pockets, sneaking lets you avoid getting in fights, speech nets you slightly higher prices, and lock picking [[CaptainObvious makes opening locks a little easier.]] Invest in their perks, and once you've built up your experience with them, you can sneak during combat with an enemy, allowing you to steal his armor and weapons while he's trying to find you again, then drop a few bottles of poison in his pocket, causing him to die instantly, or you can use a dagger to slit his throat, which, due to sneaking's perks, will do as much damage as a Daedric warhammer to the face would (x15 sneak attack critical damage with a Daedric dagger is insanely powerful, and with an easily found enchanted item found in the Dark Brotherhood questline, you can easily make it x30). Then you can search whatever treasure chest he was guarding and get much better loot due to lockpicking's perks, which you can sell for drastically higher prices at the store.
*** Archery. Initially, the damage isn't impressive, but an Ebony bow and arrows will, from a base, unperked sneak attack, drop many foes in a single shot (Draugr Deathlords with Ebony bows can drop even a heavy armor-wearing character in a couple of shots). Sneak allows you to change the damage bonus for sneak attacks with bows from x2 to x3. This is enough to kill just about anything short of a dragon or high level dungeon boss with a single shot once you're using Ebony or higher.
*** Alteration magic, to some extent. Yes, the various armor buffs can be useful, but a Destruction-minded mage may prefer to StunLock her enemies so they never reach melee range, while a Conjuration specialist may let his summoned minions do the fighting while he hides in the next room. But once your Alteration skill approaches level 75 you can buy the Paralyze spell, which will render the majority of enemies helpless for ten seconds or more. Start a Wall of Fire underneath that Draugr Deathlord and watch him burn, and if he starts to get up, just zap him with Paralyze again.
*** Crafting. Sure, a little Smithing boost to your equipment is nice, but limited since you can't use it on enchanted gear, and at starting level, any Enchanting that you do yourself will be vastly overpowered by loot that you find in the world. Spend some time [[LevelGrinding power-leveling]] these skills and investing in perks, though, and soon enough you'll be smithing gear far superior to anything else available and laying down skill-boosting enchants that can make you an expert at melee, archery, magic, or thievery. And that's without [[GameBreaker abusing an infinite loop of Alchemy, Enchantment, and Smithing buffs that can create gear so powerful it crashes the game.]]
*** In the realm of follower characters, there's J'Zargo. An overconfident SquishyWizard when you meet him, he's the only character in the core game (and only one of four with all the official DLC) who never stops leveling up with the player. What holds him back, though, is the poor design of the Mage AI - J'Zargo will never get any better spells, the damage of spells doesn't increase with level, and he doesn't use any weapons you give him. While the player ought to be using weapons that far outscale the Master level spells, J'Zargo will contentedly throw his Novice and Apprentice level lightning magic until he runs out of magic and engages the dragon in fisticuffs.
*** Light Armor. The starting armor you get won't even give you 50 Armor points where the starting heavy armor (if you side with Ralof) will give near 100. But, when combined with smithing above will allow you to reach the armor cap with with only Elven armor, which is one of the lightest in the game, lighter than leather in fact. This will allow you to ambush most of your targets while taking only scratch damage from everything but giants and higher level dragons and draugr. You'll also be able to carry more loot/potions/backup weapons because the full set only weighs 9 pounds.
* ''VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas'':
** "Euclid's C-Finder", a thing that looks like a toy raygun and is indeed being used as such by a pair of kids in Freeside. Initially, you never find ammo for it. But once you power up [[KillSat ARCHIMEDES II]], the little gun becomes the targeting laser for it.
** The humble Varmint Rifle is the first weapon you get in the tutorial. You get it in poor condition, it suffers from low rate of fire and low clip size and its one good point, high accuracy, is largely useless with just the iron sights. But once it's fully repaired and upgraded, it turns into an extremely light-weight silenced sniper weapon that can take out even late-game enemies with a sneak attack headshot. On top of that, it's cheap to repair and maintain, ammo is plentiful and it can be loaded with AP ammo that'll go through most non-powered armor types without even slowing down in return for a barely noticable 5% reduction in damage.
** The Laser Rifle may possibly qualify, while it has low spread, can be found quite early (you can find two in Nipton in a rather poor state, and if you're really lucky, one of the diggable graves at the Yangtze Memorial.), and a respectable zoom, the rather low damage and the fact it uses Microfusion Cells doesn't quite allow it to be an amazing weapon out the gate early on, but if you are lucky and/or patient the town of Novac has a merchant that sells all three modifications for it, a scope that puts the zoom on par with that of the Gauss Rifle, Focus Optics, that give it +3 to damage, and finally a beam splitter that turns the one beam into three that can hit the same spot all at once, turning it into a weapon capable of carrying you through all of the game, save the Dead Money Add-On.
** In terms of character build, an [[ThrowDownTheBomblet explosives-based]] character is [[UpToEleven most definitely this]]. To wit: the best explosives-based weapon you can get at the beginning of the game is a single-shot grenade launcher reminiscent of the M79. Used carelessly, you will [[SplashDamage blow yourself to bits]], and its high damage and range is offset by the fact that you [[TooAwesomeToUse only get twenty shots for it]]. Oh, and you have to [[BribingYourWayToVictory buy the DLC in order to even have it in the first place]]. But once you get the right weapons [[note]]25mm APW, Thump-Thump, Annabelle, maybe a fat man or Esther[[/note]], take the right perks [[note]]Demolitions Expert, Splash Damage, Hit the Deck, Grunt[[/note]], and find the right vendor for your ammo [[note]]George Bardon at Hoover Dam[[/note]], you morph into what can only be described as the [[PersonOfMassDestruction angry fist of God]]. Anything that gets within the (very, very long) range of your weapons is either swiftly reduced to a [[LudicrousGibs pile of mangled body parts and blood]] or is [[KneeCapping slowed to a crawl due to explosives having a tendency to cripple limbs]]. Even the mighty [[DemonicSpiders deathclaws]] will not be able to get near a leveled explosives character.
* In ''VideoGame/FreedomForce'', Man-Bot is slow and clunky with a weak blast attack, although he has a powerful punch if he can connect. However, if you can bear with him, he eventually gains the ability to fly, and more importantly can be vital to the team by using his tremendous Energy X generation to transfer energy to his team mates, allowing them to use their own abilities much more frequently.
* ''VideoGame/JaggedAlliance'':
** If the player gives their custom IMP merc 85 (the max) wisdom (that affects how quick they improve) a merc that was "meh" everything, with a little practice, becomes perfect at everything.
** Same goes for some of the other mercs that you can hire, notably Ira, who is assigned to you at the very start in ''Jagged Alliance 2''. She seems like a mediocre medic and awful everything else... except for her 83 wisdom that allows her to quickly become one of your elite soldiers.
*** Gumpy. An overweight, unattractive dork who throws dated pop-culture references around with a speech impediment. He's okay-ish with explosives and terrible at everything else. However, his wisdom is ''93''. He can potentially [[TookALevelInBadass take several levels in badass]].
* ''VideoGame/NeverwinterNights'':
** The Monk character class. Most players avoid it because it doesn't exactly sound exciting - he can't wear any armor, and can barely use weapons. As expected, his initial attacks pale in comparison to those of sword-wielding warriors; however, level a monk enough and he becomes one of the strongest attackers in the game, hitting harder than most magic swords several times per round, and having ridiculous spell resistance above almost all items in the game, with great saves for anything that gets through.
** In the expansion packs, there are [[ShapeShifting Shifters]]. Their physical stats don't matter when they're shapeshifted, so you're pretty much encouraged to MinMax and up their Wisdom scores. The problem, unfortunately, is that they need to take 5 levels of the mostly-useless Druid to get them, and their forms are [[FragileSpeedster quick-moving but painfully frail]] until they reach level 7, for a combined level of 12 to turn a physically weak, magically inept character into an AwesomeButImpractical Fighter-wannabe in a game that you're expected to beat around level 15. In multiplayer and the expansions, though, you can get characters up to level 40, and past the "epic" level of 20 you can start learning to boost a character's base stats. If you got them a base wisdom of 16 or higher, and you invested every point gained from levelling up into wisdom, and for every point below a base 20 wisdom you used an epic feat to boost wisdom, then at the level cap you could get the ultimate feat for the class: turning into a dragon.
** The Bard class. While they manage to avoid being a SpoonyBard at the beginning, they're not particularly amazing. As they level up, though, they gain stronger and stronger songs like [[DamageIncreasingDebuff Curse Song]] (which affects multiple enemies at once), [[StatusBuff Legionnare's March]] (which affects your entire party), and [[LifeDrain Hymn of Requiem]] (which damages multiple enemies while healing your entire party). While they aren't GameBreaker status, a properlly-levelled Bard can be the best support character in the game.
* In ''VideoGame/PlanescapeTorment'', one of the spells you receive for [[spoiler:unlocking and interpreting the Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon]] is "Missile of Patience," which fires a single bolt of energy that does a negligible amount of damage. Until your mage reaches level 11, that is. Then it summons a giant repeating ballista that fires many bolts of (more powerful) energy at as many targets as you can hit before the spell ends. Of course, given the prerequisites necessary to unlock this spell, it's entirely possible that The Nameless One will already be above 11th level by the time he gets access to it.
* ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'':
** The Paladin class. Leveling up a Paladin was absurdly boring. A Retribution Paladin (the damage spec) didn't even get a damage strike until level 40, meaning that they basically threw up a seal and auto-attacked for 40 levels, tossing in a Judgement every 10 seconds. But at level 80 (in ''Wrath'', Retribution was basically non-existent till then), they were one of the strongest dps specs in the game, if not the strongest. They got toned down a bit, but thankfully in ''Cataclysm'', leveling was reworked so they get Crusader Strike from level 1 baseline and at level 10, either Holy Shock, Avenger's Shield, or Templar's Verdict depending on spec (any of those make leveling much easier than it used to be).
** Shadow Priests and Shaman. Even with the 4.0 talent changes that get them the fun abilities earlier, they both start out slowly and tediously, only to turn into one of the highest dps in the endgame if played well.
** The "Luffa" boss gave the whole raid a particulary nasty debuff which was uncurable and did stack over time. The intent was to just heal through. However there was this level 40 quest reward item... You get the point...
** Windwalker Monks start out with middling offensive capability, with them primarily relying on Blackout Kick and Tiger Palm to bypass enemy armor, then right before level 60 they learn Rising Sun Kick, which causes all enemies within 8 yards to take an additional 20% damage, and Tigereye Brew, which at 10 stacks from spending a total of 40 Chi on other attacks will grant a 60% damage increase. And when Tiger Palm, Rising Sun Kick and Tigereye Brew are used together...
*** Adding to Tigereye Brew's power, Windwalker's pre-''Legion'' Mastery gave you a chance to get an additional charge with a base chance of 20%. If you [[OneStatToRuleThemAll invested primarily in Mastery]], you could get 2 charges every other time you spent 4 Chi; the ability held a maximum of 20 charges and you could use 10 charges at once, so you could pop it as soon as you has 10 stacks or wait until you had 20 so you could activate both halves in succession. The results were quite bloody.
* ''VideoGame/UltimaIV'' has a quirky variation in the Shepherd class. The class itself (which has marginally better weapon and armor selection than the mage, no magic, and poor trap disarming ability) never really gets better, and to top it off you start off at a lower level and outside a demon-infested ruin instead of a city you could actually buy food in... but mastering the powers of the Avatar lifts restrictions on you regardless of class, like allowing you to equip anything or cast any spell, and due to how the party system is set up the ''party'' ends up overall stronger (you can't recruit the companion of your own class, and have to bring all recruitable companions with you at the end of the game, so you, who eventually can bypass the restrictions, being the Shepherd makes for better synergy).
* In ''VideoGame/TheWitcher3WildHunt'', it really takes a while for an Alchemy-heavy skill build to begin paying off due to spending time hunting recipes and ingredients for various items, but between the vast bonuses given by potions, decoctions and oils, along with huge boosts to survivability, it's alarmingly potent and many [[HarderThanHard Death March]] players swear by it.
* In ''Videogame/PillarsOfEternity'', the soulbound dagger The Unlaboured Blade gets ''worse'' with each level up. By the second-last level it is bar none the worst weapon in the game. Leveling it up one last time makes it one of the best. This is made more frustrating since the means of leveling up the dagger is by using it to deal ever higher amounts of damage. To get it to the final level, you have to deal nearly 2000 damage with a weapon that has severe accuracy and damage penalties.

[[folder:Final Fantasy]]
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyI'' has the Black Belt/Master; he starts off with access to crappy weapons and crappy armor (insanely weak knuckles/nunchaku and cloth, respectively), so he's pretty much useless at first. But his Absorb and Damage go up with level, so early on, you can drop the armor, and a little later, the weapons. By mid-game, he outdoes any other character on attack, and NEARLY every character on defense - he still has better dodge than the Ninja, even though the Knight can take more punishment. And at the end of the game? One hit kills the boss. God forbid you have a party of four of them.
* Gordon in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyII'' joins with the worst HP of any GuestStarPartyMember, easily starting off as TheLoad compared to your party members at that point. But he starts with 22 in all of his stats and Level 2 in all weapon skills, which lets him take any role you wish and catch up on HP/MP quickly.
* In the original version of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIII'', the Onion Knight is your characters' starting class, almost entirely useless in every way compared to all the other classes. Except that at late levels (if you [[LevelGrinding spend enough time]]), its stat growth suddenly skyrockets; it's also the only class allowed to use the obscenely powerful [[InfinityPlusOneSword Onion equipment set]]. This is even more prevalent in the NintendoDS remake.
* Edward from ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIV'' is initially useless until you get better equipment for him, whereupon he becomes the fastest character in the game. If you level him to around 90-99, he gets the best stats in the game, maxing out almost every one. In the GBA remake, the harp you can earn for Edward to take through the endgame dungeon does extra damage against dragons, which many of the enemies there are, and even against non-dragons he goes so fast he can take two turns and do as much damage as the team's main tanks get in their one turn. The harp he gets in the post-game dungeon does extra damage against ''every enemy type''; seeing 9999 damage becomes a common ocurrence. His only drawback is his auto-hiding when he's in critical health, which can spoil your healing rhythm, but which can also prevent a total party kill.
* Edward has a similar arc of usability in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIVTheAfterYears''. In his tale, he's mainly useful because the rest of his party (and all the monsters you face) are really low level; as a result, unless you take the extra time to grind the hell out of him, he'll start the last few chapters a good 10-20 levels below everyone else. And once he's on par as far as levels go, he's probably still going to have miserable attack power, and low HP. ''But'', if you stick with him into the final dungeon, he gains a harp that has an extra attack bonus against ''everything'' in addition to being on par power wise with everyone else's weapons, he becomes extremely fast, and by now you've got enough cash to fill your pockets with X-Potions, making Salve a faster, more reliable (not affected by the Moon) healing than any White Mage, especially if you've got the accessory that doubles potion effectiveness. Add in the fact that his Bardsong allows free buffs and debuffs, and his Escape move lets him avoid any attack, and the SpoonyBard becomes ''damn'' useful.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyV'':
** The game's Freelancer and Mime classes are rather unimpressive on their own, but 'absorb' a mastered class's passive abilities and stat boosts, with the result that by the endgame, they're easily the best classes, since you can have a character with the highest boosts in every stat, using any equipment, and any combination of active abilities you want.
** The Red Mage class, normally a Jack-of-all-trades class that's good in the beginning, gradually loses use as you go through the game. However, if you persist with the class, long after one would have abandoned it (its final skill level taking ''999'' points), you'll gain access to the absurdly powerful Dualcast ability, letting you cast magic twice per turn. The funny thing is that once you do this you'll never use the actual class again, as it has poor stats and forces you to waste one action slot for red magic spells.
** The Chicken Knife. It becomes more powerful the more times you run from battle. Unless you are intentionally trying to power it up, it is an extremely weak weapon, but once you flee from enough battles, it becomes the most powerful weapon in the game.
** The Dancer class doesn't seem to be much to write home about... at least until you find its special equipment like the Rainbow Dress and Lamia Tiara. Then it's much more likely to land Sword Dance attacks that deal x4 damage.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI'':
** Gau is seen as a Magikarp by most fans, simply because it takes forever to learn all his rages. (He's quite effective with just three, but which ones you get are up to the RandomNumberGod and it can take quite a bit of grinding to get the ones you want.) With enough rages, he can absorb all eight elements, hit with any element half the time and a simple physical the rest of the time, or even use the rare Charm status on enemies. If that's not enough, he's one of two characters to use the Snow Muffler, the single best equipment in the game.
** Strago is a Blue Mage, meaning he has to see the enemies' abilities to learn them. Unfortunately, he's a Blue Mage that you get late in the game, after you're well past the point where you'd normally run into the monsters using the blue magic he can learn. This means he's not a "set him aside, and he'll be good later" type, and more of a "If you want him to be useful, you have to go well out of your way and backtrack to get his abilities."
** Relm starts with no spells, weak physical attack power, an odd assortment of equipment, and the Sketch command which is useless at best and prone to crash the game at worst. Her endgame equipment, on the other hand, is among the best, and her Magic stat is the highest in the game so once you teach her some spells she will quickly surpass your other mages. As for Sketch, it remains useless in most circumstances, but if you don't mind some LoopHoleAbuse, it's the key to an [[GoodBadBugs easily exploitable bug]] in the original SNES version of the game. It's not until fairly late in the game that you get to the point where it's exploitable rather than game-crashing, but once you find the right enemy group you can reliably fill your inventory with vast numbers of the most powerful equipment in the game.
** The Cursed Shield - hits you with every status effect in the game, including Doom (which can't be blocked by a Ribbon, unlike the other status effects) - but take it into 255 battles, and it becomes the best shield in the game, negating or absorbing all elements of magic and avoiding most physical attacks, as well as teaching you the best ''spell'' in the game, Ultima (the only way other than the Ragnarok esper, which, incidentally, requires skipping the InfinityMinusOneSword, and by extension, the ability to bet it at the Colisseum for an [[InfinityPlusOneSword even better sword]]).
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII'': The Ultima, Shield and Full Cure materia. All do the same thing when initially equipped. Almost nothing, except muck around with your stats. Get them to their second level, though, and they give you a very powerful attack, a powerful defensive spell and the ability to heal a character and remove all status ailments from them. Nothing to sneeze at.
** [[PowerCopying Enemy Skill]] is even more of one. It starts out with no effects whatsoever, and can't even be leveled up. [[GuideDangIt If you know what enemies have what skills and how to copy them onto the Materia]], it can provide access to most of the game's best spells two discs before those spells will even become available. Even once you get those spells, the Enemy Skill techniques are usually stronger, more convenient, or both. Some of the skills can be LostForever if you're not careful, but even without those skills Enemy Skill is the best Materia in the game in terms of raw versatility. Not bad for a yellow rock that doesn't do anything when you get it.
** In-story example: Aeris says that her materia is "good for absolutely nothing." If she's referring to the White Materia, it turns out to be the key to saving the Planet, it's just that it's [[DangerousForbiddenTechnique not a good idea]] to use it until the GodzillaThreshold has been reached. If she's referring to the materia found in her front yard, there's a good reason why it was useless to her up until that point: it's the Cover materia, which [[PowerOfFriendship is only useful if you have at least two party members]].
* The Toy Gun from ''VideoGame/DirgeOfCerberus'' is pathetic at first, but can be leveled up into the ultimate weapon.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII'':
** The Diablos Guardian Force reduces opponents' hit points by a percentage equal to Diablos' level. At its starting level 9, this is starkly unimpressive compared to other summons and spells; grind it to level 100, and it's instant death for anything with [[{{Cap}} less than 9999 hitpoints]].
** The Cactuar Guardian Force. Its damage is calculated by the number of tens in its current level x 1000 (e.g. at level 43 it does 4000, at level 68 it does 6000). At level 100, it will do 10,000 damage to all enemies making it the second most powerful GF in the game. Unlike Diablos, bosses and other enemies immune to gravity damage are susceptible to this attack.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIX'':
** Zidane's ultimate ability gets more powerful the more you steal from enemies; steal enough times and it does [[{{cap}} 9999]] damage.
** Similary, Freya's Dragon Crest is useless at first, but powers up by killing dragons, eventually being able to do 9999 damage.
** Quina, the blue mage of the party, will become [[GameBreaker the most diverse and powerful spellcaster in the game]] if you take the time to learn [[AmbiguousGender his/hers/its/whatever]] spells. This requires going through the "capturing frogs" minigame, among other things.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'':
** Some [[InfinityPlusOneSword Celestial Weapons]] are harder to get than others, but all require you to go out of your way to complete a sidequest near the end of the game. All of them start out with an auto-ability that prevents the holder from gaining experience; you need to find two items to fully power them, at which point they triple the rate at which the wielder's [[LimitBreak Overdrive]] meter increases, increase the damage cap to 99,999, and gives up to a 100% damage boost based on the wielder's current health or mana, in addition to 2 other things that vary between weapons.
*** Tidus's Caladbolg comes with Evade & Counter and Magic Counter (in short, he will evade most physical attacks and counterattack everything thrown at him). It also scales his damage based on his current HP; more HP, more damage. It is also a strong contender for the hardest one to get; to fully power it, you must [[LuckBasedMission get a negative time in the Calm Lands chocobo race]].
*** Lulu's Onion Knight gives her Magic Booster and One MP Cost (the short version is that all of her spells hit 50% harder and only cost two MP). Its damage scales with her mana instead, and since it only costs 2 MP to cast anything (and considering that almost nothing in the game has a ManaBurn effect), she will hit for around triple the damage she would do without it for next to no mana. However, powering it up infamously requires that you dodge 200 lightning bolts in a row; this requires a lot of patience and focus and decent reflexes.
** In Blitzball, the Kilika Beasts starts out as the worst team but their players turn out to be the best with high stat caps at high levels. The Besaid Aurochs are roughly the same story. In fact, one of said Aurochs, Keepa, goes from lame-to-mediocre goalie to ''devastating'' shooter at high levels.
* In the ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX2'' blitzball minigame, Yuyui, recruited at Scout Level Max, starts off with 1 IN ALL HER IMPORTANT STATS. Not only that, she's very painful to train because her biorhythms NEVER go above 1, so you'll be eating up LOTS of Command Points just to let her rest. However, her max stats are all 99 (255 for those that go above 100), making her a total Game Breaker, given the opportunity to learn special skills like Corkscrews and Volleys.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXI'' has several versions:
** Blue Mages start out as a somewhat underpowered MagicKnight... until [[TookALevelInBadass level 40]], when they can create their own [[LimitBreak skillchains]] every two minutes. At level 30 (but not really useful until 44), a blue mage can set her support job to Thief and make use of [[BackStab Sneak Attack]] with a spell like Cannonball to ensure the spell lands with 100% accuracy and for massive damage. Which kind of makes them a FighterMageThief at this point. Can cross over into GameBreaker territory on a certain BonusBoss.
** Scholars start out as a wimpy, sub-par spellcaster that has low skill in all forms of magic, and unlike the magically similar [[MagicKnight Red Mages]], Scholars have no real way of taking a beating or giving one. This begins to change at level 10, when the job has the ability to optimize either White or Black magic, raising the low D skills to a much more impressive B+ skill. It only goes up from there, as by the time Scholar reaches level 75, the job becomes a borderline GameBreaker with the sheer variety of magic it can use and the myriad ways it can be used. While many of the jobs feature in this trope, Scholars are the best example of it.
** The [[SummonMagic Summoner]], ironically enough for the series. First, you need to [[DefeatMeansFriendship beat up at least half a dozen prospective summons to begin with in order to have enough spells]]. Then, most early Blood Pacts are [[AwesomeButImpractical cost-ineffective]] or even [[UselessUsefulSpell practically useless]], and avatar melee is even worse; some players have even threatened Summoners with being kicked out of the party if they don't basically act like half-powered [[HealingHands White Mages]] with big [[{{Mana}} MP]] pools! The only thing a Summoner is wanted for is boss fights, where their EleventhHourSuperpower comes in handy... until, that is, they hit level 70, when suddenly they get most of the ''good'' damaging pacts (most of the rest being gained at 65). It's even [[WordOfGod stated by the developers]] that Astral Flow is meant to be used against a lot of enemies at once, which is really obvious when the 70 Blood Pacts deal damage that's comparable to it.
** Red Mages are generally lack-luster White Mages until level 41 when they gain the spell '''Refresh''' that replenishes Magic Points when suddenly they become the [[EverythingsBetterWithPrincesses pretty pretty princesses]] (Or to some others who play Red Mage, [[HookerWithAHeartOfGold Buff/Cure whores]]) of Vana'diel. Their [[EleventhHourSuperpower two-hour ability]] '''Chain Spell''' is almost completely useless until around level 40 when they gain more MP, a slightly better set of spells, and the ability to swap their current HP with their current MP.
** The [[PuppeteerParasite Puppetmaster]]. Known to most of the playerbase as simply "lolPUP", with standard gear it is a weak DD, can summon a healing puppet with [[ArtificialStupidity bad AI]], although it can deal good damage against weak targets; when endgame gear is applied to it, it becomes a powerhouse. A [[InfinityPlusOneSword Mythic Weapon]] Puppetmaster with the [[AndYourRewardIsClothes Usukane armor set]], and the right attachments (which will run you a small fortune), can have nearly the damage output of a Monk and Black Mage ''combined''. [[EliteTweak It must be emphasized that there are probably only 2 or 3 players in the]] ''[[EliteTweak entire game]]'' [[EliteTweak that have the gear necessary to pull this off.]]
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIIRevenantWings'' rewards clearing a certain BonusDungeon with the Anastasia, a sword that has rather subpar stats compared to what Vaan can craft by then. Thing is, every subsequent time said dungeon is cleared, all of Anastasia's stats rise by 10, including Speed, which determines how fast a character attacks. Which means that after clearing it enough times, Vaan basically becomes a living blender capable of soloing most, if not all, of the game's levels.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII'':
** Hope. For a portion of the game, he has low hitpoints and attack power, though he pulls some weight when hitting elemental weaknesses. Turns out, once you get him leveled high enough, he has [[SquishyWizard the highest magic power of the entire party]], and quickly outclasses Vanille as your best Medic once he learns Curasa and Curaja.
** An entire role, the Saboteurs, suffer from this, as they start out slow and their debuffs aren't really game-changers. Once you get to Gran Pulse however, the game dumps a gigantic DifficultySpike and suddenly Deshell, Deprotect and ''especially'' Poison make things so much easier. Then Vanille (likely your main Sab) learns [[OneHitKill Death]] which, [[UselessUsefulSpell unlike in previous FF games]], ''[[AvertedTrope actually works on things now and deals good damage even if it doesn't, especially if switched to a three-Com paradigm during the casting animation.]]''
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII2'': Just about any monster ally with the "Late Bloomer" trait is a case of this, but none more so than [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Twilight Odin.]] Starts out weak, at Level 1, and doesn't really get any significant stat gains until Level ''80''. Once he gets there though, his stats ''skyrocket'', especially Strength, which tends to go from the low 400s to ''nearly 1000'' in the space of only 10 levels. He's also one of the few non-DLC monsters that can have the full 6 ATB segments. Granted though, it costs roughly 260 Crystals to get him there though, so many consider him AwesomeButImpractical, especially since his attack speed is much slower than most other high-end monsters and having 6 ATB segments doesn't matter much when he poses long enough after every 4 hits that his ATB bar is already half full by the time he can resume attacking.
** Cactuarama, a well-hidden Medic, starts out horrendously underwhelming, with low Magic and HP and the inability to learn any advanced Cure spells naturally. However, its [[LimitBreak Feral Link]], Uplift, not only restores HP to everyone, but is also the only way to bestow the Reraise buff. Good infusions and the right materials will make Cactuarama a force to be reckoned with.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTactics'':
** The Calculator is the slowest class in the game, and thus the slowest to develop its skills. Once the class is mastered (and all Calculatable spells learned), the skills learned from the class make it the best secondary class in the game, to the point where ''one'' well-rounded Math Skill user virtually guarantee victory against absolutely anything the game can throw at you, and the rest of the team may as well stand around using Accumulate.
** Closely related, the Bard and Dancer classes were extremely weak. But their abilities happen so frequently (sometimes two or three times per command action), and they get experience each time their abilities activate, meaning they both have a habit of power-levelling. Combining these Skills with a Calculator results in [[GameBreaker game-crushing]] power in a very small number of fights.
** A [[GuestStarPartyMember bonus character]] you can recruit is [[spoiler: Cloud Strife from FFVII]], who starts off way back at level 1, even though you're relatively far into the game when he can be recruited. Even after being leveled up, he probably doesn't seem like anything special; he's a good physical fighter, but you've got better ones, especially since his special attacks require him to use the fairly weak [[spoiler:Materia Blade]]. And many of his special attacks, including almost all the powerful ones, are too slow to be really useful. But not ''all'' of them; Finish Touch fairly quick, and it's a real GameBreaker: it has 100% accuracy, and inflicts a random selection of Stop, Petrify, or Instant Death. Even the least desirable outcome, Stop, puts an enemy out of action long enough for another character to take them out.
** Ramza's Squire class is also like this, only it gets more advanced depending on how far you are in the game. In chapter one, the only difference between it and the standard Squire is that it can equip robes but not axes and it gets the "wish"[[note]]which heals HP at the cost of inflicting half the healing on Ramza, while Ramza likely has the HP to take the blow better than whoever is being healed, but it's inferior to almost any other option for healing, but acceptable in a pinch[[/note]] and "yell"[[note]]increase speed by 1, actually somewhat decent[[/note]] abilities. In chapters two and three, Ramza's Squire gains a few new skills, better stats, and the ability to equip heavy armor and shields. By chapter four, however, Ramza's Squire class gains an ability that lets him temporarily boost all of his stats, has some of the best overall stats in the game, can equip Knight Swords (among the strongest weapons in the game), and can learn Ultima, making it one of the best classes in the game.
* Morphers in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTacticsAdvance'' shapechanged into monsters instead of learning skills. Problem was their powerlevel corresponded to the power of the monsters you had captured, meaning early game captures were useless fairly quickly. But if you invested huge amounts of money in feeding your captured monsters they would grow to ridiculous sizes & grant these ridiculous (read:[[{{Cap}} 999]]) abilities to the party Morphers.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTacticsA2'' -- The Sequencer Knightsword and the Peytral Armor can be obtained pretty early in the game, and usually they'll start off fairly weak. However, the sword and armor add a point to their respective attack and defense when an opportunity command is utilized in battle, and they can accumulate up to 99 points to get a total of '''131 attack''' and '''127 defense''' -- compare the next best Knightsword and Heavy Armor, at 72 attack and 58 defense, respectively. This crosses over into GameBreaker in that your characters don't have to equip them to get the points, and it works retroactively, so if you were to work up to 99 opportunity commands from the get-go...
* ''VideoGame/DissidiaFinalFantasy'':
** Onion Knight works quite similarly to his original ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIII'' incarnation. His default attacks are weak and hard to connect with, but as he levels up he gains the ability to chain them into other attacks and becomes highly versatile.
** [[VideoGame/FinalFantasyII Firion]]. At the start, he has exactly one HP attack (i.e. how you kill things, for those unfamiliar with the battle system): a projectile of medium speed with a charge time. As he levels up though and masters his Bravery attacks he learns the ability to chain them into Double Trouble, and learns the HP attacks Weaponsmaster and Lord of Arms, turning him into a mid-range ''god''.

[[folder: Other Video Games]]
* In the original ''Franchise/{{Digimon}}'' virtual pets, the amount of care taken in raising your pet determines its [[EvolutionaryLevels evolutionary path]], with bad caretaking resulting them digivolving into the pathetically weak Numemon, a bug-eyed slug-thing who attacks by throwing its own excrement. However, raising ''Numemon'' with perfect care will result in it Digivolving into Monzaemon, a giant teddybear who is capable of defeating any other Digimon with extreme ease.
** In the first ''Digimon World'' game for the Playstation, you didn't even have to raise Numemon well, just finish the [[ToyTime Toy Mansion]] to get the Teddy Bear Costume; then you can spam all the Monzaemon you want.
* ''Dungeon Explorer'', a {{VideoGame/Gauntlet}}-type game for the TurboGrafx16 console had the bard - a weak character that did low damage and had crappy spells (one of them ''changed the background music''.) However, midway through the game he could be transformed into a hermit - the most powerful character in the game.
* The first fighter you get in ''VideoGame/{{Freespace 2}}'' is pretty average -- not too fast, not too strong, can't carry a lot of missiles, moderate weapons compatibility and later on is usually passed over in favor of Interceptors or Assault Fighters. It's a strategic pick in multiplayer, however, because it's the only fighter that can carry the Helios antimatter torpedo. Most bombers can't even equip that weapon, which is capable of destroying a cruiser in one shot.
** The ability to carry this warhead is generally agreed to be [[GoodBadBugs unintentional]] on the part of the developers.
* In the Playstation survival horror game ''Videogame/HellNight'' (also known as ''Dark Messiah'' outside the U.S. - [[VideoGame/DarkMessiah not that one]]), you have a choice of four partner characters that can accompany you through the game. If you get attacked by whatever monster is currently stalking you at the time, you die, unless you have a partner, in which case they take the hit for you and die in your stead. You can then get one of the others if you're in the right place at the right time. The first partner you get has no weapon but can sense the location of the monster on your map, while the other three cannot; however, they do have weapons (with limited ammo, of course) that can stun the monster long enough for you to get away, but not kill it. If you keep the first partner (a teenage schoolgirl named Naomi) all the way through the end of the game, in the final areas of the game [[spoiler:she has a random chance to say, if you spam the "talk to partner" button while the monster is approaching, "I wish... I wish you were DEAD!", which stuns the monster just like an attack from one of the other partners would, and can be used an endless number of times.]]
* The second sword Lann smash in ''VideoGame/{{Vindictus}}'' is fairly useless at low skill ranks, with a small area, little damage, both only mitigated by a moderate knockdown. Once you max the skill however, the damage is improved immensely, the moderate knockdown becomes a high knockdown, and it gains a secondary dash attack, making it one of the more useful smashes for mobile bosses.
* Despite being a mandatory character, Ibis Douglas in ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsOriginalGeneration 2'' is like this. Her primary HumongousMecha is potent, but her stats are so low she lags behind... until you get around level 50, when her stat-gains start going out of control and she ends up the best character in the game. However, unlike many, this is frequently alluded to in-game, with multiple references to her "potential."
** She's also like this in her debut game ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsAlpha 2''. And she's also a main character.
*** In Alpha 2 she only gets a massive stat boost as part of a plot event in stage 32 (namely finally shaking off her self doubt and loathing. Before then leveling her to max won't help her any. In fact weak Ibis and strong Ibis have separate character data. Strong Ibis has a few different abilities (and loses a useful ability weak Ibis had that helped keep her alive though you no longer need it at that point) and her outfit in game is different.
** [[Anime/MobileSuitGundam0083StardustMemory Gundam 0083]]'s Kou Uraki's a more reasonable example, combining with TookALevelInBadass. Kou starts out underleveled and in an inferior machine. Between leveling up and getting the GP-03, you realize problems with him in the past didn't come from himself, but simply his machine.
*** And then he gets the [=GP03=] Dendrobium Orchis, [[LightningBruiser a Gundam with as much size, HP, and Armor as a typical super robot, while still being able to dodge like a normal Gundam]].
** The other traditional example in the later games is [[Characters/MazingerZ Boss]] from ''Anime/MazingerZ''. He starts off in a terrible machine with low stats and little value except a cheap repair cost. However, if you level him high enough (usually around 80) his subpilots get a ton of incredibly useful spells for dirt cheap and his stats go through the roof. In addition by this time you'll usually have ''Anime/{{Mazinkaiser}}'', which means that Boss can get out of his terrible machine and upgrade to Mazinger-Z. The trick is that level 80 is absurdly high in a game series where the final bosses rarely get above the mid-70s. There are ways to level him up that high, but they're generally inefficient or a lot of trouble.
*** The Borot itself is often a kind of Magikarp Power - while it starts out with terrible stats and no ability to hit airborne enemies, its weapons are extremely cheap to upgrade and become ''stronger'' than those on Mazinger itself. With four part slots, you can easily buff up its stats and give it flight, fixing its anti-air issues.
** ''Turn A Gundam'' is the most infamous one. In any game you get it it starts out underpowered, but after it unlocks some of its attacks and abilities, (like flying, moonlight butterlfy, HP regen) it's a powerhouse. Also Loran's stats start jumping when he passes around level 50.
** Also in Alpha gaiden, all the originals are pretty much useless. Except Ryusei, who starts out as the worst because him being in an MP mecha(unless you're on easy by the stage you first get him, then he starts in a MP Grungust. This trope is magnified if you're on hard where he gets a Gespenst, he gets a Huckibein MKII on normal)Most people don't use him because, 1. You only get him for like 2 stages [[spoiler:before the time jump]] and you get him back pretty late into the game. However, he has a VERY high melee stat from the start, and once he starts getting into the higher levels he learns incredible skills (his starting Psychic abilty can go up to the max level and he knows Guts, support and Sheild Def), a wonderful spirit list, and his stats start jumping up, he becomes one of the best pilots in the game. But he's still so-so until he gets R1-Kai, which has one of(if not the best)barriers, the TK field ability, and it has GREAT stats.
* ''VideoGame/MegaManX'' himself. At the start of each game, his abilities are mediocre at best, but collecting PoweredArmor and [[HeartContainer Heart Tanks]] turns him into a OneManArmy.
** For Zero in [[VideoGame/MegaManZero his own saga]], his weapons from the first two games all apply. Frequent use of said weapons increase their abilities (the Z-saber, for instance, unlocks skills and even enables a ChargedAttack with each subsequent level). There's also the PlatformingPocketPal from the fourth game: it has 21 different abilities that can only be unlocked by feeding it E-crystals, the Reploids' and EnergyBeings' equivalent to a power food.
* In MOBA (Massive Online Battle Arena) games such as ''VideoGame/HeroesOfNewerth'', ''VideoGame/DefenseOfTheAncients'', and ''VideoGame/LeagueOfLegends'' you have champions that are very frail and vulnerable in the early game, but have incredible endgame power because they scale really well with levels and items. These are generally known as "carries", as in "they carry the team to victory". If the enemy team does not stop them from progressing to this stage, carries can win 1v2, 1v3, and sometimes even 1v5 fights. Competent carries will play defensively, hold back from attacking the enemy champion, and focus only on defending their tower while killing enemy minions for gold in order to buy the items and acquire the experience they require to scale into late game.
** ''VideoGame/LeagueOfLegends'' has officially shied away from the "carry" term, feeling it unfair to put the burden of winning the game on a single player. The term, however, is still used among players for characters that tend to be very strong in late game, with "hyper-carries" being the most extreme examples. Examples of characters with scaling mechanics built into their core kit include:
*** Tristana begins the game with one of the worst basic attack ranges for a ranged marksman. Her passive increases her range as she levels up, ending with one of the ''best''.
*** Vayne starts out with nothing but a short-ranged basic attack that deals very little damage when she's still starting out, and her defense is so frail she can lose half her entire health with just a few blows. However, she has so much damage crammed into her ability kit (to begin with: ''percent-based unblockable damage''), she ends up becoming an incredible damage powerhouse in late game.
*** Nasus ''permanently'' increases the damage of his Siphoning Strike attack every time he kills a unit with it, with no damage cap. Leave Nasus alone and his Siphoning Strike will eventually hit with the force of a nuke.
*** Veigar ''permanently'' gains Ability Power every time he kills a unit with his Baleful Strike, again with no cap.
** In addition to champions, there are items which becomes stronger as the game drags on.
*** Sword of the Occult and Mejai's Soulstealer are both stacking items that grant additional attack power and ability power (respectively) each time you kill another champion. They begin as two of the least cost-efficient items in the game (read: horrendously expensive for the bonus you receive), but at maximum stacks provide the highest raw attack power of any item.
*** Rod Of The Ages gives additional bonus HP and MP every minute after it's bought; In other words, the HP and MP boost it provides increases with time.
* Shujinko, the "deceived" hinted at in ''VideoGame/MortalKombatDeception'''s title, has a whole story mode to unlock him. Once you've done that, you have to go through the realms to get his other moves, [[GuideDangIt without anyone to give you hints]]. But these moves are the best moves from the other fighters, so it works out well.
* Special weapon 5 from ''VideoGame/{{Zanac}}''. It starts off as a single small orb which slowly goes forward and them back. However, it ends up as a laser which goes through almost everything and is one of the most damaging weapons and won't even richoet off the capital ships.
* The PSP game ''VideoGame/DungeonMaker 2'' provides you with a pet who can change into a number of different monsters if you have their "memory." The memories for stronger monsters are found later in the game, but they all start at Level 1 (which is no more powerful than it sounds). This effectively makes all forms other than [[WhatMeasureIsAMook Human Ally]] a Magikarp, and also gives Magikarp Powers to players willing to level up a number of them just to learn their transferable abilities.
* ''VideoGame/SolForge'' has several cards which start out extremely weak at level 1 but become incredibly powerful at level 3. Chrogias, Scorchmane Dragon, and Scrapforge Titan are examples.
* ''VideoGame/MountAndBlade'': The Peasant Woman unit can only be recruited if they are rescued from another army's prisoners, they're abysmal fighters, and all they have on them are puny little daggers. Their chances of surviving battles are slim. However, if they grow in experience, they can end up becoming [[ActionGirl Sword Sisters]]. Sword Sisters are adept at combat and equipped with good swords, heavy crossbows and plate armor. They're on par with Mercenary Captains. Girl power.
* ''VideoGame/BattleNations'': "The Wimp" unit has lower stats than even the basic [[CannonFodder Trooper]]. Getting it to rank 6 and unlocking its two attacks requires a lot of effort, time and resources. The unit at this point now has very high stats and two attacks that are accurate and ''very'' powerful attacks that deal well over 200 damage each attack and have have unlimited ammunition.
* ''VideoGame/SidMeiersAlphaCentauri'' does this not with a unit but a terrain type. At the start of the game xenofungus is a useless nuisance that yields no resources for most factions (Gaians get a bonus nutrient and start with one of the Centauri techs), obstructs movement, and allows mind worms to spawn. Researching the "Centauri ___" line of technologies gives improvements to the resource yield up to the same as monoliths by endgame. The Xenoempathy Dome secret project means all fungus is treated as roads, allowing for very fast travel, the Pholus Mutagen grants impressive bonuses for fighting in fungus squares, and the Manifold Nexus boosts resource yield (with sufficient planet rating) past almost any other terrain.
* ''VideoGame/CookieClicker'' has the Cursor and the Grandma. In the early game, the Cursor is little more than wasted cash, with a pitiful 0.1 cookies per second, and the Grandma is a bit better at 0.5 but stops being useful after the farm. However, both of them get upgrades. Lots and lots of upgrades. Most other buildings get six upgrades - one increases base CPS, the other five double it until it's 32x its increased amount. Cursors start out with that... and then they get upgrades that let them boost their CPS by a number times every other building, which quickly stacks up to a massive amount. Meanwhile, grandmas start with the six standard upgrades... and then get access to nine of their own, making them one of the most powerful buildings in the game. And that's before you get into the boost added by portals, or the Bingo Center.
* ''VideoGame/KantaiCollection'' has this in the form of second remodels. Not all ships have them, and those who have them either get them at a fairly high level or needs a rare item named Blueprints (and some ships ''require both of those''). Once they attain that upgrade however, they get a myriad of advantages which makes the game easier for the players.
* ''VideoGame/ToukenRanbu'' has Iwatooshi of the Naginata class (currently the only naginata character), who starts out so pitifully weak that even at level 25 he does next to no damage. However, he happens to have the best attack range of any sword in the game: '''the entire enemy team'''. Level him up enough and max out his stats and he'll eventually be capable of taking down all enemies in one swing, making clearing maps [[https://youtu.be/BSiWpG_1SW8?t=18s a breeze]].
* ''VideoGame/AceCombat5TheUnsungWar'' has a "Kill Rate" system through which planes unlock variants. Most lines of planes improve modestly, but two of the lower-end aircraft unlock ''vastly'' superior aircraft. The first is the [=MiG=]-21 bis, which more or less equivalent to the starter F-5E, except its rocket launchers are arguably worse than the F-5E's unguided bombs. Through heavy use, it unlocks the [=MIG=]-21-93, which handles much better, carries [=QAAMs=], and performs at a similar level to the F-14D "Super Tomcat". The second is the F-4E Phantom II, which is a large fighter with poor handling and a unique weak and hard to use SP weapon in its napalm bombs. The F-4E unlocks the F-4G Wild Weasel, which handles even worse, but at least has a decent SP weapon in its unique [=LAGM=] anti-surface missiles. However, this, in turn, unlocks the F-4X, which remedies pretty much all of the performance issues of the earlier F-4 series and flies similarly to an F-15C or SU-27 with a better SP weapon. Other aircraft trees also get better with newer variants, some even substantially so, such as F-15C -> F-15 MTD/ACTIVE or SU-27 -> SU-35 -> SU-37, but few increase in performance so dramatically.
* ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolidVThePhantomPain'' has Quiet, a ColdSniper that can be deployed as an assistant for Snake on missions. While her scouting abilities are always useful, the problem is that as soon as Snake is spotted, she'll almost immediately snipe the foe that saw him. This may sound useful, but the player is generally encouraged to use [[PacifistRun non-lethal force]] against enemies (both to get bonus points and to send the enemies to join the Diamond Dogs [[PrivateMilitaryContractors PMC]]). In many cases where Quiet will snipe a guard, the player would have ample time to non-lethally dispatch the guard before they could call for support. In addition, Quiet's rifle is unsilenced - as soon as she fires, guards will enter alert and go off their standard patrol routes. As missions are performed with her and Quiet and Snake's [[RelationshipValues bond]] grows, the player can attach silencers to her rifles and trade off the lethal ammunition for tranquilizer rounds.

!!Other Examples:

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* Mako Mankanshoku from ''Anime/KillLaKill'' is actually remarked on in-universe in this regard. She's completely weak and useless,[[note]]a computer analysis' StatOVision gives her zeros in every category,[[/note]] but give her a [[ClothesMakeTheSuperman Goku Uniform]] of the same type used by every club captain, and she's suddenly a master of combat.[[note]]The computer analysis' StatOVision gives her [[{{Cap}} 9999]] in every stat [[TheDitz except intelligence.]][[/note]]
* The most basic ability granted to Issei Hyoudou from ''LightNovel/HighSchoolDXD'' from his Sacred Gear is Boosted Gear, which doubles his power every ten seconds. It's explicitly stated that this effect is enough to let him trump ''God'' if he gets worked up enough. However, this depends on Issei staying alive in combat for that long, when he starts the series so talentless the first few doublings have barely any effect. He also has to train his body so that it can handle the boosts or else he will suffer from HeroicRROD.
* In ''LightNovel/OnlySenseOnline'', the protagonist [[GenderBender Yun]] picks a lot of skills that are deemed as worthless by the community. The most prominent of this is the "Hawk Eyes" skill where it extends vision and grants night vision to the user; unfortunately, there are much better skills out there compared to this. However, thanks to an insight from his friend, Yun figures out that Hawk Eyes allows him to target anybody from a long range with ease. Furthermore, by leveling them up, it transforms into the "Sky Eyes" skill where he can perceive enemy attacks ''in BulletTime''.
* In ''LightNovel/KumoDesuGaNaniKa'' most basic skills start off weak and underwhelming but are very powerful at level 10. The most infamous example in-universe is "Appraisal" which at level 1 only rewards basic info like "wall" or "deer" while causing a massive headache with each use. Most people decide not to learn it as a result despite it being able to supply massively valuable information at higher levels.
** Taratects are incredibly weak right after hatching, having only an F-ranking. With time they can potentially evolve in the S-rank Arch Taratect, to say nothing of the legendary [[{{Kaijuu}} Queen Taratects]].

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Marvel's Wonder Man is mostly known as a 'brick' type character, with super strength and durability, but little else going for him compared to many of his teammates on the Avengers such as Thor and the Vision. However, in one Guardians of the Galaxy storyline, it was revealed that his unique physiology not only made him immortal but increased his power over time, so that a millennium into the future he was one of the most powerful heroes in the universe.
* Thor himself also qualifies, currently being in the mid-point of his evolution - when he was younger he didn't have access to Mjolnir or many of his more exotic powers, being essentially another brick-type character, and in the future he is destined to inherit the reality-warping powers of his father Odin.
* Superman, in his Post-Crisis incarnation, can also be considered an example, as the longer he lives exposed to Earth's yellow sun, the more powerful he gets. In the early years after COIE he was unable to fly faster than light and struggled with moving large asteroids, but could easily move planets and even stars and cross galaxies in minutes after a decade or so of sunlight exposure.
* One Fantastic Four story featured a future version of the Thing, who had lived for thousands of years, with his body constantly becoming stronger. He [[CurbstompBattle easily defeated]] [[FutureMeScaresMe his past self]].

* As always, the Gamer can be considered as this in ''Fanfic/CoOpMode'' - and to a lesser extent, to his teammates as well. Consider how in the initial parts of the story, James almost killed himself trying to escape a locker [[CrashIntoHello if it weren't for Taylor catching him in time.]] Several chapters later, James is sturdy enough to take blows from ''Lung'' and return them in favor.

[[folder:Board Games]]
* In TabletopGame/{{Chess}}, the [[WeHaveReserves ubiquitous]] and slow-moving pawn can be promoted to a stronger piece (usually the queen) if allowed to move all the way to the other side of the board.
* There are numerous examples in the Shogi (Japanese chess) family. In Tenjiku Shogi, there's the Drunken Elephant, which can promote into, essentially, ''a second king'', allowing you to survive your first king's death, and the Water Buffalo, which promotes into a Fire Demon, insanely useful because of its ability that allows it to capture a ''ton'' of enemy pieces in one move. There's also the Deva in Tai Shogi, which can only move one space in ''certain'' directions, but promotes into the Teaching King, which, depending on how you interpret the rules, can move as a Free King (a chess Queen) ''and'' with 3-step Lion power. (Lion power normally allows a piece to make two separate one-step moves, each counting as a move in its own right, in one turn. In this case, three.) Pawns don't get a lot of love though.
* In Chinese Chess, the soldier can only move vertically much like pawns in TabletopGame/{{Chess}}. Once it crosses the "river" into enemy territory it can move and capture pieces horizontally as well.

* The TropeNamer is inspired by a [[LegendaryCarp legend that a carp]] that manages to go UP a certain waterfall [[TheDeterminator (which naturally would require a huge amount of determination)]] will be transformed into a dragon.

* This was so prevalent in ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' that it got its own trope: LinearWarriorsQuadraticWizards. At low levels, a Wizard quickly runs out of spells (and thus, effectiveness) while a Fighter can deal consistent damage all day long. However, if you keep at it then the Wizard gains enough spells to hold their own, and access to a vast variety of offensive and utility spells that drastically increases their power and versatility. Then in the mid-game they start learning "[[OneHitKill save or die]]" spells. By the end-game, Wizards are on-par with {{Physical God}}s.
** Fourth edition made Wizards more balanced, with them more useful at level 1 and less broken at high levels. There is still the uber-broken Orb of Imposition optional class feature, however, which still exhibits this property.
** Healers (the Miniatures Handbook class, not the character type) are generally considered to be useless - until 17th level, when they get Gate, one of the most powerful spells in the game. However, many other casting classes get Gate by that level, which leads to the Healer going from "Not as good as a Cleric" to "Still not as good as a Cleric". The infamous Truenamer class also gets Gate at level 20, but the class was so [[WritersCannotDoMath badly-written]] that it takes a dedicated {{Munchkin}} to even keep it alive until level 20.
** The Samurai class from Complete Warrior is an unintentional example. It's strongest feature is the Samurai code of conduct, which makes you lose all your abilities if you break it ... because the class is so weak that losing it actually makes you more powerful! Specifically, breaking this code of conduct when higher than level 11 allows you to switch 10 class levels to the far-superior Ronin class.
** The Bard in First Edition required that you dual-class three times, and given how complicated dual-classing was then (each dual-classing would restart you at first-level), this was no mean feat. However, upon taking your first level, you then gained all your old fighter skills, all your old thief skills, druid casting, music that boosted allies and automatically charmed enemies, lore powers, and magic item-based powers. And you've got 23 levels to go...
*** The Fochlucan Lyrist, a prestige class in 3.5, was an attempt to update the original Bard's MagikarpPower. The easiest way to join was to take four levels in Bard, four levels in Druid, and two in Rogue, [[MasterOfNone a horribly disorganized build]]. However, the Fochlucan Lyrist advanced arcane casting, divine casting, and bardic music, and received six skill points and a warrior's Base Attack. [[SubvertedTrope Unfortunately]], the build it worked off of was so hideously weak that even such a powerful class could do little more than damage control; at full advancement, the Lyrist's main components would both be six levels behind.
** The shadowcaster of ''Tome of Magic'' seems designed for this.[[note]]Though WordOfGod -- the class' designer -- is that it was actually just not properly playtested. Considering one of the other classes in the book was the truenamer, the shadowcaster got off lightly.[[/note]] At low levels, you're an Apprentice shadowcaster, with the inflexibility and low spells per day of a wizard combined with the limited pool of spells of a sorcerer - you learn one Mystery per level, and can cast each one only once per day, essentially giving you six castings per day at 6th level. However, when you reach 7th level, you become an Initiate shadowcaster, causing all the Mysteries you learned as an Apprentice to upgrade, doubling in uses per day and becoming more versatile spell-like abilities, jumping you from six castings to thirteen castings. Take it all the way to 13th, and you become a Master Shadowcaster, causing the same thing to happen to all the Mysteries as an Initiate... and moreover, increasing the power of your Apprentice mysteries to be three-use-per-day supernatural abilities. Now the shadowcaster has an impressive thirty-one castings per day, ensuring that they'll almost never run out of their Mysteries... and it's around this point that many shadowcasters realize that their Mysteries are actually pretty dang powerful. Some guides point out the Caul of Shadows fundamental (cantrip-equivalent) as this -- it grants a decent buff to AC, but its short duration and only being usable three times a day keeps a lot of potential from it... but at level 14, fundamentals become usable at will, allowing Shadowcasters to keep it up more-or-less constantly.
* MagicTheGathering has a number of cards that function like this, starting out average or even worse than average in some cases but becoming very powerful when some condition is met.
** The Kamigawa block had a number of "flip cards" which are fairly weak, relatively useless creatures when first summoned, but can be "flipped" (rotated 180 degrees) when certain conditions are met, generally becoming a powerful legendary creature. The conditions required to flip these cards are sometimes quite easy. [[http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=78691 Student of Elements,]] for example, becomes Tobita, Master of Winds as soon as it gains flying, a task fairly easily accomplished with blue spells. Others are considerably more difficult to flip, but the results are worth it. For instance, [[http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=78600 Bushi Tenderfoot]] must first contribute to the death of another creature to flip, but as a puny 1/1 it isn't likely to kill much of anything without help, and will surely die if sent into combat without some sort of outside boost or protection. However, if you do manage this feat that puny Tenderfoot becomes the immensely powerful Kenzo the Hardhearted, who is capable of dishing out a whopping 10 damage to an enemy creature in combat.[[note]]To put it into perspective: a normal nonmagical human with a sword hits for 1. A grizzly bear hits for 2. A hill giant hits for 3. Most dragons hit for 5 and up. So a creature dealing 10 damage by itself is like two dragons mauling something at once.[[/note]]
** The recent Eldrazi set has brought along creatures that gain 'Level Counters' when ever you pay to do so. Their stats increase takes a while and it takes up resources that could be kicking out more cards instead, but some of them get REALLY good powers at max level. For example [[http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=198164 Lord of Shatterskull Pass]] - Wow.
** The latest set, Innistrad, introduces double-faced cards and the transform mechanic. Most of them are werewolves but one in particular, [[http://gatherer.wizards.com/pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=221179 Ludevic's Test Subject,]] is an egg. It has zero attack power, and is in fact completely unable to attack. However, once you use it's ability to give it five "hatch" counters, it becomes [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Ludevic's Abomination]], a 13/13 creature with trample, which is much better for attacking.
** The [[http://magiccards.info/m11/en/28.html Serra Ascendant]] starts out as a 1/1 with lifelink. If you manage to get your life total >= 30 (you start with 20) and keep it that high, the Serra Ascendant becomes a 6/6 creature with flying and lifelink. Naturally, Serra Ascendant is a solid addition to any deck that specializes in life gain.
** [[http://magiccards.info/m13/en/57.html Jace's Phantasm]] is normally a puny 1/1 flyer. It becomes a respectable 5/5 flyer (making it as powerful as the average ''dragon'') if an opponent has ten or more cards in his or her graveyard. Conveniently, a lot of blue cards (especially those related to [[PsychicPowers Jace Beleren]] like the Phantasm) force players to discard cards.
** [[http://magiccards.info/roe/en/169.html Tuktuk the Explorer]] starts out as a measly 1/1 with haste that costs three mana to summon. If he dies, he is replaced by a legendary 5/5 goblin golem artifact creature called "Tuktuk the Returned". Since the opponent probably isn't going to be in any hurry to kill Tuktuk for you, you'll need to find a way to hasten his demise yourself.
** This is seeing a return with the Theros block's Heroic mechanic. Heroic creatures gain a special effect when you target them with a spell, usually placing +1/+1 counters on them. It is quite easy to turn a 1/2 [[http://magiccards.info/ths/en/13.html Favored Hoplite]] into a complete monster that simply doesn't take damage and can bulldoze through enemy defenses.
** Primordial Hydra starts out relatively weak, with power and toughness equal to the X value when summoning it, which could conceivably be as low as 1. Every turn, though, it doubles its power and toughness, which, through the power of exponents, can make it unstoppable in, at most, 5 turns, and even less if extra mana is used when summoning it.
** This is also true for a lot of decks. A lot of multicolour decks, for example, have extremely slow early games since most of the lands they rely on for their mana base enter tapped. Then, when they have those lands out, they start casting multicoloured spells, which are usually more powerful than equivalently costed monocolour spells as a balancing effect for their requiring multiple colours of mana. Then there are delve decks, which have underwhelming early games since delve cards are very expensive to hardcast, but once they've spent the early game filling their graveyard, they can start exiling those cards to pay the colourless part of delve spells' costs, letting them cast multiple otherwise expensive spells in a turn.
* ''TableTopGame/YuGiOh'' has a similar monster group known as the Geminis, monsters that are treated as effectless Normal Monsters while on the field and in the graveyard, but if you're willing to waste a Normal Summon or card effect on them, become powerful Effect monsters. Considering that Normal Monsters ''themselves'' are {{Lethal Joke Character}}s requiring a proper build with the right cards to become powerful, and most of said cards can be used with Geminis, and well...you do the math.
** Longtime players may remember Maha Vailo, a Level 4 monster with mediocre stats (1550 ATK/1400 DEF). On its own, it was useless, but its special ability allows it to gain an extra 500 points of attack power for every equip card given to it. A simple Malevolent Nuzzler or Horn of the Unicorn(both of which provide a 700 ATK boost) now boost Maha's ATK by ''1200'', and the fun doesn't stop there. With the right equips, it could have an ATK over 4000, and easily be strong enough to take out ''more than half the opponent's life points in a single shot''. Bear in mind that this is a game where most high-end monsters have ATK power in the range of 2500-3000.
*** The strongest it can get? Five Monsters out including itself (easy using Scapegoat), three United We Stand, two Mage Power, and Luminous Spark. That would give it 22550 ATK - for comparison, Five-Headed Dragon, the physically strongest Monster out there, has 5000, and starting Life Points is 8000. Don't screw with Maha Vailo.
*** It now has a SpiritualSuccessor in Morphtronic Videon (1000 ATK/1000 DEF), which gets 800 per equip card when in attack postion. Using the above cards, it can get 23500 ATK.
*** Armed Protector Dragon also gains 500 attack for each equip card on it and prevent equip cards from being destroyed.
*** For a similar effect that lets you use cards other than equip cards to power it up, and also includes your opponent's cards, you can use Jester Lord, which gains 1000 attack for every spell and trap card on the field, and it starts off with zero attack, making it potentially even stronger than Maha Vailo or Morphtronic Videon. That is up to 10,000 attack, plus any effects from equip cards if you used them. The downside is that there can't be any other monsters on the field.
*** Armed Samurai - Ben Kei gets an additional attack for every equip card you put on him. With, say, Mage Power and Axe of Despair, he'll hit three times for 2500, very nearly enough to completely oneshot a player. Yes, there have been decks built around disabling your opponents magic and traps for a turn, then summoning this guy with three equip cards and winning the game.
** Mataza the Zapper - An effect monster card with a pretty dainty 1300 ATK and even worse defense. The catch? He can attack TWICE during the battle phase. Helloooo equip cards! Plus, he is immune from having his control switched, so you can't use cards like Enemy Controller on him and works effortlessly into any warrior based deck.
** Similarly, there's the combo with Chimeratech Overdragon, which is a Fusion Monster with ATK equal to 800 times the number of Fusion Materials. This can be combined with a card that lets you discard, from your deck, the Fusion Materials for one monster, and another card that lets you remove from your discard pile the Materials for a Fusion Monster and Summon it. Then you can use a card (Limiter Removal) and double Chimeratech's ATK, possibly leading to something along the lines of a 36000 ATK monster that can attack 20 monsters each turn.
*** Chimeratech Overdragon is not the only monster whose power is determined by how many cards are used to summon it. There also are Chimeratech Fortressdragon, Cyber Eltanin, Megarock Dragon, Evil Dragon Ananta, Worm Zero, Starduston, Kasha, Grandora The Dragon of Destruction, Prometheus King of the Shadows, and more.
** Yet another example might be the LV monsters. While they generally start as something like a LV3 1000ATK monster, when conditions (Ranging from as simple as surviving until the next turn to directly attacking your opponents life points) are fulfilled they level up, bringing out the next level, until they reach their final forms, with 2700 ATK or more and powerful effects such as negating all Magic cards or destroying all your opponents monsters by discarding a single card.
*** These also were a subversion- only the highest levels were required to be summoned by effect (mostly) so you could often just skip the lowest stage by playing the middle one first.
** You could also consider the Batteryman AA strategy an example of this. Batteryman AA (LIGHT Three-star(I think) 0 ATK/0 DEF) is a monster that for every Batteryman AA on the same player's field (meaning your opponent's don't count), they all gain 1000 ATK each if they are all in ATK position and 1000 DEF each if they are all in DEF position. The thing is, getting and keeping your Batterymen on the field would normally be a challenge. But with Inferno Reckless Summon, a card that when you special summon a card, your opponent selects a face up monster on their side of the field, and they summon all the cards of the same name from their hand, deck and graveyard to the field in face up ATK position, but you also do that with the card you special summoned. That mean if it was Batteryman AA, you get three 3000 ATK monsters on the field, ready to attack. Then, if you use the card Shot Circuit, whose effect is if you have three or more "Batteryman" cards on your side of the field, destroy all the cards on your opponents side of the field, you then deal 9000 direct damage to your opponent's life points, and they only start with 8000, thus winning the duel with a monster with 0 original ATK and DEF.
** Also consider monsters who gain attack equal to the number of cards removed from play. This troper once saw Inferno Tempest (which banishes almost all monsters each player has when you take at least 3000 damage from one attack) combined with Gren Maju Da Eiza, which gained 400 ATK and DEF for each banished card. As it was a four-way match with rather large decks, roughly 125 monster swere removed from play. All in all said monster ended up with [[ThereIsNoKillLikeOverkill 50,000 ATK!]]
*** The above mentioned cards that get more powerful with more cards removed from play are Helios The Primordial Sun, Helios Duo Megistus, and Helios Trice Megistus, the aforementioned Gren Maju Da Eiza, D.D. Dynamite, Golden Homunculus, Tyranno Infinity, Doomsday Horror, Number 92: Heart-Earth Dragon, Celestial Sword - Eatos.
*** There also are similar cards whose attacks are determined by cards in graveyard such as Chaos Necromancer, Worm Victory, Rage of the Deep Sea, Reaper Scythe - Dreadscythe, Rai-Jin, Pilgrim Reaper, and a few others.
** Another great one is The Calculator, whose ATK is determined by the levels of the monsters on your side of the field. On its own, it only has 600 ATK but with the support of a single high level monster, its attack shoots up to around 3000 or more, and with several high level monsters it can go over 10,000 and beyond. The Fortune Lady cards, Greed Quasar, and Montage Dragon also have [=ATKs=] determined by either their own or other monster's levels and can get very powerful.
** The Great Moth series is famous for being a bit ''too'' Magikarp. First, summon the pathetically weak Petit Moth (a caterpillar with Kuriboh-level stats), then equip it with Cocoon of Evolution, turning it into a somewhat poor StoneWall. From then on, you need to keep the Moth protected as long as possible, so you can use it as Tribute once a certain number of turns have passed. Two turns nets you the [[EpicFail completely useless]] Larvae Moth, four nets you the respectable ([[PowerCreep for its time]]) Great Moth, and six bestows upon you the Perfectly Ultimate Great Moth, the strongest Insect in the game by ATK. Unfortunately, the sheer difficulty of keeping any Monster alive for six turns, as well as the fact that PUGM is basically a highly vulnerable [[PowerfulButUnskilled beatstick]], means that the whole archetype was considered AwesomeButImpractical even when it was new, and time has not been kind to it.
** A non-monster example was Broken Bamboo Sword. This Equip Spell did ''absolutely nothing'' to the monster it was equipped to, and a lot of players wondered what Konami was thinking. Then in the next two sets, they released Golden Bamboo Sword and Soul Absorbing Bamboo Sword, Spell Cards that required Broken Bamboo Sword to use. They don't make Broken Bamboo Sword a particularly great card, but it does make it NotCompletelyUseless.
** The Sword of The Souleater, and a few other similar cards exist to grant magikarp powers to weak monsters. These cards have VERY powerful effects but they can only be used with monsters that are very low level and don't have any special abilities.
** Mokey Mokey is a very weak and harmless looking monster, but the card Mokey Mokey Smackdown raises it's attack to 3000, the same as a Blue-Eyes White Dragon.
** Similar to Mokey Mokey, Skull Servant is a very weak monster, but has several cards that make it devastating when used with it. Skull Servant is one of the oldest cards in the game and its devastating support cards with not released until much later. The game company probably released these cards just to be funny.
** Winged Kuriboh also is weak by itself but has several devastating cards to support it, including a very powerful OneWingedAngel form, Winged Kuriboh LV 10.
** Dark Flare Knight is a fusion monster that actually has LESS attack than one of the monsters needed to summon it, its only advantage in battle is a weak defensive ability. But when it is destroyed, it goes OneWingedAngel and becomes the devastating Mirage Knight.
** Ma'at starts out with 0 attack but by correctly guessing the top three cards on your deck (there are some cards that let you see what they are), it's attack greatly increases and you can do this one per turn, increasing the attack by up to 3000 each turn and adding the cards to your hand.
** Yubel has 0 attack but strong defensive abilities. It's OneWingedAngel forms, known as [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Terror Incarnate and The Ultimate Nightmare]] also have 0 attack but their abilities very powerful.
** Satellite Cannon starts with Zero attack but it's attack increases greatly with each turn and it can't be destroyed by low level monsters, although it's attack goes back to zero each time it attack.
** Unformed Void can gain attack equal to the total attack of your opponents XYZ monsters, once per turn, up to three times.
** Ranging Flame Sprite and Mucus Yolk both can attack the opponent directly and gain 1000 attack each time they do damage.
** Aitsu and Soitsu are extremely weak but gain high attack when united with their partners Koitsu and Doitsu respectively, who also are extremely weak on their own.
** Possibly the most well known example are the Exodia cards. Individually the five main Exodia cards are weak but if you get all five in your hand, you automatically win. If you manage to get all five in your graveyard, you can summon Exodia Necros, which is extremely difficult to kill and gets stronger every turn. There also is another card called Exodius the Ultimate Forbidden Lord, which starts out with 0 attack but rapidly gets stronger with every attack and can also cause you to automatically win if you use it with with the other Exodia cards.
** An anime-only example from the ''Anime/YuGiOh5DS'' anime: during the Grand Prix arc, Team Taio / Sun uses as the absolute ace of their deck a card so common that everyone possesses at least 1 copy of it, but no one bothers using it, due to its extremely hard to fulfill summoning conditions, requiring you to protect a weakling monster for 10 - 20 turns. The Twist? That common card is literally god-like and unstoppable in case the player is skilled enough to let it hit the field, said in-universe to rival the power of the [[GameBreaker Egyptian God Cards]]. This card's name: Zushin the Sleeping Giant.
*** Zushin has now become playable in the real life card game, and it is nearly impossible to beat once it is summoned. It is immune to card effects, and its attack is always 1000 more than that of the monster it fights with.
* In ''TabletopGame/BloodBowl'', Chaos and Lizardmen teams in particular depend on this. Instead of blitzers, they start with expensive 'musclemen' units (Saurus and Chaos Warriors) who have high natural stats but no skills (especially the all-important Block), which make them weaker than other factions' blitzers (and Dwarf linemen). Once those musclemen gain one-two levels and gain access to Block and Mighty Blow, they become terrors on the field (especially if your Chaos Warriors pick up a few mutations on the side).
** Chaos Pact and Underworld are two teams who depend entirely on this. Their starting players are sub-par and they suffer from expensive rerolls and high player turnover. However, their cheap players and insanely varied skill and mutation access (both have normal access to every skill in the game across their players, with Underworld having a better spread across players while Pact has ''incredible'' Marauders) means that a team of level 3+ underworld players are a JackOfAllStats team to be feared.
* Da Orks from ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'' are a 'n-ooniverse example! 'Ur av'rage Grot is puny and no match for 'nyone 'cept ''maybe'' one o' dem puny 'umie Guardsmen, but give 'im a few years an' he'll be a full-fledged Boy 'oo can crump a panzee 'umie easy and be a good enuff threat to a [[SuperSoldier Space Marine]]! Give 'em even more time an' he'll grow up to be a tough Nob, an' Space Marines may be dead-'ard, but even dey leg it from dose boyz! Wot Iz tryin' ta say iz, even da runtiest of Orks can grow up to be sumfink real big and 'ard! An' oo knows, maybe someday dat lad may even become a ''real'' big Waghboss, big and mean enuff to lead 'iz own boyz! WAAAAAAGH!!! [[labelnote:Translated to Human]]Orks get StrongerWithAge and constant battling, and start out rather weak, comparable only with a Guardsman, one of the setting's [[RedShirt reddest shirts to exist]]. If he manages to live through a few years of abuse from bigger orks, he gets a lot stronger, able to kill through axe and [[MoreDakka gun]], and will only get stronger from there if he manages to survive past ''that'', with isn't that easy as the ork will most certainly put his new acquired strength to use on targets both [[BloodKnight right]] and [[SuicidalOverconfidence wrong]]. A Nob, one of the older orks, can even put the pain on the local {{Super Soldier}}s, and if the ork has fought for it hard enough, with enough opponents, he may end up a warboss, giant green death machines that will crush anything that comes close, leading an army of everything already mentioned in this paragraph. To recap, this would only count as StrongerWithAge if it weren't for the fact an ork has to work real hard, and fight a whole lot, to make it in life.[[/labelnote]]
* ''TabletopGame/{{Mordheim}}'': Youngbloods are adventure-seeking lads who travel to Mordheim to seek fame and fortune, though most of them find only death in the damned city as they gravely overestimate their enthusiasm and underestimate the horrors they face. They are the cheapest heroes available to the Human mercenaries warband, and they are the weakest initially. They also have the highest stat growth. A Youngblood who walks and endures the path of trials can easily grow to surpass the mighty Champions and even their own Captains and actually become the heroes they aspire to be.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/{{Chaotic}}'' TCG, Stelgar both [[SubvertedTrope subverts]] and plays this trope straight. [[http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/chaotic/images/6/60/Stelgar01.png/revision/latest?cb=20090325183725 Normal Stelgar]] has fairly good stats and the typical underworld elements, fire and air, ''and'' it gains more in every stat except energy every time it wins. However, grow its power stat, which is normally its biggest one, too much, and Stelgar [[HoistByHisOwnPetard destroys itself.]] On the other hand, play Stelgar in a [[BrainwashedAndCrazy minion]] deck and it changes to gaining mugic counters every time it wins a battle, which, unlike the power stat, can be used to cast mugic, so it becomes a mugic casting ''machine''. In Stelgar's second card, [[http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/chaotic/images/e/e6/Stelgar.png.png/revision/latest?cb=20100219212100 Stelgar, Vicious Mutation]] it plays this trope ''extremely'' straight. It starts with the water element, which is unusual for Underworlders, and 20 in every stat. However it gains 10 in ''everything'' at the end of each turn. Protect Stelgar long enough and it will grow into a massive creature with over 100 in ''every stat.'' Then equip some element gaining battlegear on to it. Now you've got a complete ''monster''.

* Drift in ''Webcomic/AlienDice'' was very small and generally considered useless by Lexx at level one, but when he finally leveled up he grew bigger than even Epsy (though it seems that most of his mass is fluff).
* Subverted in ''Webcomic/ManlyGuysDoingManlyThings''. Mr. Fish, now a Gyarados, [[http://thepunchlineismachismo.com/archives/150 kicks a metric ton of ass]] as a Magikarp, if only because his trainer Jared used him [[ShamuFu as a bludgeon]] to win battles.
* In ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'':
** The Page class is pretty weak at first, but it's stated that it becomes [[GameBreaker Game Breakingly-powerful]] at high levels, though Vriska claims that Pages' own WeakWilled natures prevent them from fulfilling their potential on their own.
** Tavros's FLARP class, [[CallBack Boy-Skylark]], is also described by Aradia as having no really useful combat techniques until high level.
* In ''Webcomic/AGirlAndHerFed'', the Pocket President program was thought to be a failed attempt at untraceable, unblockable communications between federal agents. Chips that were repurposed into [[CyberneticsWillEatYourSoul free-will supressing]] RestrainingBolts. When [[ItMakesSenseInContext the ghost of Ben Franklin]] manages to give The Fed full control of his chip, he finds out not only can he communicate with any other agent from the program, he can communicate with any computer system on Earth, [[SuperPowerComboPlatter among other things]]. We later found that the chips were intentionally nerfed and the restraining elements added, to keep that kind of power away from the Agents.

[[folder:{{Western Animation}}]]
* ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'':
** This show's incarnation of [[VileVillainSaccharineShow Lord Tirek]] portrays him in this way. As a result of over a thousand years of imprisonment, Tirek starts out emaciated and weak, forced to sulk in dark alleyways and ManaDrain any straggling unicorns. Over the course of two episodes, however, he drains enough magic to become a NighInvulnerable PhysicalGod (in addition to gaining a [[OneWingedAngel massive, muscular form]] and a [[EvilSoundsDeep deep, booming voice)]].
** Spike from the same show is in the same boat, with some episodes treating him as TheLoad and the poor guy struggling with feelings of uselessness in the face of his more-powerful friends. Catch is, Spike is a baby dragon, so the show is pretty clear that his point of being useless is pretty temporary, as the few adult dragons shown have been incredibly powerful.
** Similar deal for [[TheHero Twilight Sparkle]] of the same show, who was apparently somewhat of an IneptMage in her childhood (or at least very far from her current power level). A [[EverythingsBetterWithRainbows Sonic Rainboom]] unlocks in her a [[TheRedMage talent for learning any and all magic]] [[TheChosenOne and a magical potential beyond any pony]]. When we meet her first, she is already pretty close to being TheArchmage.