A change to a game that weakens a particular item, ability or tactic. It's usually done to fix something perceived as a Game Breaker, and is almost always a subject of controversy in gaming communities. Occasionally, it's not a change in one game, but rather a change in an equivalent item, ability, or tactic between one game and its sequel.
In the past, Nerfs for console games were all but impossible due to lacking the ability to patch them. Modern consoles, however, provide this ability, so they now join computer games in this. Many games, especially MMORPGs and other online multiplayer games, are constantly adjusted to maintain balance. Sometimes, that requires taking something powerful down a peg or two. Of course, users ofthat item will not be amused, and will inevitably flock to the forums to complain, resulting in a Flame War about whether or not the nerf was justified. On the other hand, rants from poor players that something should be nerfed are just as common. Either way, the subject is a touchy one.
A Buff is a change for the better. These are as controversial as Nerfs; a Buff to one unit's Hit Points is effectively a Nerf to the damage of anything attacking it. A Flame War can even develop on whether a given change is a Buff or a Nerf, much less an improvement in the game as a whole.
These days, the term has been expanded so that "Nerf" is any downward adjustment, not just an unduly crippling one; similarly, the "Nerf Bat" is no longer what the player is issued to take on The Empire with, but what the developer whacks him with.
Games with Fake Balance often cause flame wars due to nerfs and buffs implemented.
Has no relationship to "Narf".
As the series went on, the accessory that got you "infinite" MP has been brought down from "The MP bar doesn't go down" to "The MP bar fills up extremely fast" to "The MP bar fills up pretty fast", so that people cannot use obscene amounts of MP to become invincible, which was the case in some games that had seemingly game-breaking abilities such as healing on the spot.
Holy Water in the original Castlevania and Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse makes for an amazing subweapon against ground enemies, not only dealing continuous damage but also freezing enemies. Combined with triple shots, it might as well replace the whip as the Belmonts' main weapon. It was weakened in future installments; it loses its enemy-freezing capability and, in later titles, has its flame crawl forward a short distance to prevent it from lingering on an enemy.
In Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, the items you find in out of the way places, completing Bonus Dungeons and fulfilling Villager quests, with a few exceptions, are generally not that useful or helpful.. For example, while beating the Bonus Dungeon in Portrait of Ruin netted you the Tome of Arms X and the most powerful item crash in the game, beating Ecclesia's bonus dungeons gave ultimately gave you boots that let you move faster and a crown that boosts every stat by only 2 points. Also, beating the game on a level one cap...simply allowed you to be able to level up to 255 on subsequent play-throughs.
The Shadow Blade in Mega Man 3 is often considered the nerfed version of the game breaking Metal Blade from Mega Man 2 due to their similar appearances and capabilities, with the differences being that the Shadow Blade consumes more energy, can't be shot downwards, and only travels so far before boomeranging back to Mega Man.
Rush Jet was originally fine-controlled by the player. This proved too exploitable, so starting in Mega Man 4, he moved forward automatically and you could only adjust his altitude. Mega Man 8 nerfed Rush Jet even further by scripting his appearances — he shows up in stages designed for him, and Mega Man can't summon him anywhere else. Don't feel bad for Rush, though. He's always getting new modes to play with.
The Mega Buster was nerfed in 5 such that Mega Man loses his charge if he takes a hit. Then 9 came along and nerfed the Buster and the slide move clear out of existence!
In the X series, both X5 and X6 give X a nerfed armor from the previous game as starting equipment. X4 's Fourth Armor loses its Giga Attack, the benefits of the Head part, and the power to charge special weapons; X5 's Falcon Armor loses its utterly broken invincible flight mode (but does pick up special-weapon charging); and neither suit's Buster is quite as good as it was before.
Even other characters see the occasional nerfing. Bass has lost his charged shot as of Mega Man & Bass (he got multidirectional fire instead — great for levels, not great for bosses). Zero's buster, originally his main weapon, has been an occasional afterthought since X4.
In Tomb Raider III the M16 was replaced by the weaker MP5.
Merlins Revenge 3 nerfed the Energy Beam and Monster Summon spells from the previous game, renaming them Energy Pulse and Army Summon. Energy Beam was widely regarded as a game breaker(which it was not. It was the only way to defeat the Scarlet Wizard), but the creator never gave a reason as to why Monster Summon was changed. Firstly, Energy Pulse was pathetic mostly due to the fact that as the number of enemies approached 25, a rather limiting maximum, its hit chance would approach zero. It was in fact, nerfed again, halfing its firerate. Army Summon, was, on the other hand, useful during the beta version as it seemed to be pretty much exactly the same with a different choice of units to create, until it was toned down AGAIN when the final beta map was released by only allowing you to summon friendly units that you had collected from other screens. Apart from the spells, the blue potion was nerfed next, followed by the swamp region, allied dwarves, the levelling system, enemy spawners, and finally the map itself, which was changed to a 16x4 map, as opposed the the 15x9 map of the previous game and the 18x12 map of the beta(I don't know if the exact numbers are right, but you get the idea). The map removed the scrub and desert regions, replacing them with a larger Magical Alliance area.
The otherwise game-breakingSpread Gun got nerfed in the arcade version of Super Contra, due to the limited number of bullets on screen, you can only fire up to three bursts of three shots at a time. With the upgraded, this is reduced to two bursts of five shots.
Record Of Agarest War 2 gave the biggest Game Breaker of the first game and Zero the biggest nerf. Unleash All/Rile EX Skills usually required you to have your party members be at 25% HP which is easily achievable by having enemies go first and have all but one party member die, revive them which puts them at the 25% mark and feed either Plum or Routier the SP needed to activate their 2nd EX Skills to give the other party members the 250 sp to use their Limit Breaks. Not so in Agarest 2 where you have to a: be at 20% HP, b: manually activate the EX Skill from the character who knows said EX Skill so that other characters have the same EX Skill, and c: pray your enemy doesn't outright kill the character who has said EX Skill.
The Psychic type was horribly broken in the original games, on account of their huge Special stats, a glitch making the Ghost type weak to when they were supposed to be strong to them, and that the other type that was strong against them (Bug) had no decent attacks at all. Pokémon Gold and Silver introduced two new types (one immune to Psychic and the other resistant to it), fixed the Ghost-type glitch and buffed the Bug- and Ghost-type movesets, and split the Special stat into Special Attack and Special Defense.
One of the most prominent examples of this is Mewtwo. He was once regarded as the best pokemon in the entire game by far (if we take R/B/Y mechanics, he is one of the most powerful characters in the franchise), having a 130 base speed and a whopping 154 Sp Attack AND defense (the highest Special stat in the game), he could slaughter entire teams with a 135 Psychic attack (90+45 STAB bonus), cover up his somewhat lackluster defense with Barrier (doubling defense), and use Recover (a fairly rare move that healed 50% of the user's HP). And that was just the beginning: After a few level ups, he gains another rare move called Amnesia. In later generations, Amnesia doubles Sp Def, but using Gen 1 mechanics, it doubles BOTH Sp Def and Sp Atk. Mewtwo was THE Poke God. However, in Gen 2, the Special split gave Mewtwo a severe drop in Sp Def, gained three weaknesses (pretty much when Bug types became popular) and Dark types having an inmunity to Psychic. Some even say one of the main reasons of the Special split was for Mewtwo's OP presence itself, which is saying something.
From a less egregious example: the Ground-type move Dig had a base power of 100 in the original Red, Blue, and Yellow versions, but in later games, its base power was decreased to 60. Pokémon Diamond and Pearl then buffed it to a respectable 80 base power.
While Psychic types are most famous for being nerfed in sequels, it is far from unique. Water types have long been the most plentiful type in the game, and the ones who were strong against them were originally possessing pitiful damage potential (Grass) or a bit rare to actually use (Electric). Subsequent games have both increased the usefulness and number of Grass moves and increased the availability of both types of moves.
It's probably little surprise that Starmie, which is both Water and Psychic type, has been since the beginning among the highest of the Character Tiers. It helps that each nerfing comes with a subsequent buff (like increasing its already-impressive potential movepool).
Hyper Beam in the first Gen was horribly overpowered: though it required a turn to recharge after use, it has 90% accuracy and 150 damage when most moves with more than 100 power had 80% accuracy or lower, plus the recharge was mysteriously unneeded when the attack hit a Substitute or knocked the opponent out (so you can just OHKO the next one out). Come the next generation and it always requires recharging, so you have to lose a turn to get a move that is only slightly more powerful than average. The physical/special split dealt it another blow; most Normal-types are physical attackers, so unless your name is Porygon-Z or Blissey (or Togetic before Gen VI), it's even more useless. Bizarrely, many physical attackers like Gyarados, Dragonite, and Aerodactyl can still learn it.
Though Gen IV also introduced Giga Impact, which is a physical Hyper Beam.
Wrap and Bind. In Gen I, both prevented the opponent from attacking for 3-5 turns. They can switch out, but AI trainers never do this while other players basically had to switch, and as long as the attack's user was faster it was impossible to attack them until Wrap ran out of PP. Beginning with Gen II, they only prevents the opponent from switching out.
Over a decade later, Explosion and Selfdestruct lost their defense halving abilities in 5th Generation, cutting their power in half. Most likely this was done for double battles and triple battles, as in single battles they are simply annoying while in Double Battles they were insanely over-centralizing and would have been even worse in triple battles (which were introduced that generation). It's still the most powerful move in the game, though.
Another Generation V nerf was how Taunt and Encore went from lasting 4-8 turns to exactly 3 turns.
The move Hypnosis is an interesting case. It was buffed from 60% accuracy to 70% in Diamond and Pearl, but Game Freak later bumped it back down to 60%.
Hidden Power received a nerf with the special/physical split in Generation IV. It is purely a special attack, instead of the type dictating whether it'll be special or physical. It's also a buff for some Pokémon, but other Pokémon like Dodrio and others that relied on Hidden Power to get around its counters, it's a nerf.
Generation VI put its power at 60 instead of varying based on IVs.
The Pokémon Diamond and Pearl recategorization of Physical and Special moves is thought to have nerfed certain Pokémon such as Blaziken and Sceptile: their dominant offensive stat is Special Attack, while their movepools primarily consist of physical moves. Ironically, the split actually made Blaziken more powerful as of Generation V, as Smogon has placed it in the Uber tier (the reason, its hidden ability, has nothing to do with the physical/special split however).
Word of God says that the Fairy type (of all things) was introduced in Pokémon X and Y to balance out the overpowered Dragon type. Originally an Infinity+1 Element, they used to be rather rare, but as new dragons were introduced in later generations, they ended up becoming Game Breakers who could easily steamroll virtually anything. Indeed, Fairy-types are outright immune to Dragon-attacks while hitting them super-effectively, much like the Dark-type to the Generation 1 Psychics.
Fairy types have also nerfed Sableye and Spiritomb as well. These two Pokemon used to hold the distinction for having no weaknesses at all (with the exception of moves and abilities that allowed Normal and Fighting moves to hit them). Fairy types are super effective against Dark types and have neutral damage against Ghost types. This makes the Eelektross evolutionary line the only ones in the game to have no weaknesses at all (with the exception of moves or abilities that cancel "Levitate").
Starting from Pokémon X and Y, Steel (the defining defensive type) has lost key resistances to both Ghost and Dark, in exchange for super-effectiveness and resistance against Fairy. This makes the Steel/Psychic types like Metagross, Bronzong and Jirachi gain two extra weaknesses.
The introduction of permanent rain and sun i.e. Drizzle Politoed and Drought Ninetales in the Pokémon Black and White OU metagame single-handedly turned the entire competitive battling into a weather war, so this is resolved in Pokémon X and Y when those abilities have the same duration as weather inducing moves, i.e 5-8 turns.
Some chips and Program Advances did less damage in later games. GutsShoot did a whopping 500 in the first game; it dropped to 400 in the second and 300 in the third.
Program Advances were the backbone of many a strong folder until BN5, when a new rule was imposed: any given Advance could be used only once per battle. The hardcore PvPers were ticked.
You could have ten copies of a single chip in your folder in the first game. This was reduced to five, then four. Tougher restrictions were placed on summon chips too.
Many of the popular NaviCust parts became more awkward and harder to combine. BN4 had a particularly obnoxious HubBatch that took up the whole Command Line.
The big exception to this trend was the final game, BN6, which was extremely generous — some even found it too generous. (180 damage from an M-Cannon! Everything in * code!)
In Boktai , The Gun Del Sol is your only weapon in the first game, but it's incredibly versatile, capable of blasting solar energy in all sorts of ways (as well as launching grenades and storing tons of backup energy). In the second game, you lose this weapon early on — and when you finally get it back, it's a shadow of its former self. It can't fire spreads, lacks all the extras, and consumes so much energy you can only use it a few times before refilling. It's explained that it was damaged and that there was only enough time for a sloppy repair job, explaining it's poor performance. By the third game, it was back to full strength.
Not quite up to full strength. The first game used batteries which were refillable, upgradeable, and you kept the old ones which you could swap in a pinch (You had 15 full meters of energy if you had all five batteries). The third uses an MP meter, so even though it's consumption is the same as the first, you have much less ammo before you're empty.
The "Chocobuckle" in Final Fantasy VII is an early obtainable enemy skill costing only 3 MP. It deals damage based on the number of times the party fled from battle multiplied by the user's level. It got nerfed in the Western and International versions for being a Game Breaker. Instead, the damage is equal to the number of times the party fled from battle.
Final Fantasy X: In the European/International Version, the ability Quickhit - an ability that allows the user to attack with virtually no recovery time, which (in combination with Haste) becomes a veritable Game Breaker - had its MP Cost raised significantly (from 8MP to 36MP), meaning it must be used much more sparingly (especially considering that Tidus and Auron, who have the lowest MP-stat, will be the first to learn it most likely). With weapons that reduce MP Cost to 1, this no longer becomes an issue.
From the sequel, the Catnip accessory. It basically rises all of the attack/healing numbers of the wearer to 9,999. When combined with the Gunner's Trigger Happy skill, this made for some serious game-breaking. Later releases made it so that the accessory also adds Auto-Berserk to the wearer, meaning they will only use the basic physical attack and cannot be controlled.
In Persona 3, having the Personae Lucifer and Satan together unlocked the Fusion Raid Armageddon, which at the cost of all o the protagonist's SP delivered 9999 damage to all enemies. It became a Game Breaker once Lucifer learned Victory Cry, which fully restores the protagonist's HP and SP after a win. The FES Updated Re-release made it so Lucifer, now renamed Helel, no longer learned Victory Cry naturally, though creative inheritance could fix that. The second Updated Rerelese, Portable, further Nerfed Armageddon by making all Fusion Raids consumable items, and giving Armageddon a ludicrous price to make it Awesome, but Impractical.
Support effects in the Fossil Fighters series were nerfed from the first game to the second. In the first, viviosaurs have their full effects no matter their level, making viviosaurs with crazy support effects—like Compso, who decreases an opponent's attack by 90%—insanely good even right out the gate, and a powerful addition to the team the instant they're available. In the sequel, however, support effects need time to grow to their full potential like any other stat does, meaning Compso is available in one of the game's first areas, and only starts out offering a 9% or so decrease.
There's also Sopteryx. In the original, Sopteryx boasted a skill that only cost 100 FP—quite moderately-priced by the time you can obtain it, and capable of being used every single turn—but which had a 100% chance of causing a powerful "gold" Confusion effectand did damage. In the sequel, the skill's cost skyrocketed to 240 FP, making it impossible to pull off with regularity.
The Super Smash Bros. series (and, indeed, fighting games in general) gets a bit of flak for this, since their preferred tactic for balancingcharacters is to weaken or strengthen the power/effectiveness of attacks, rather than balance the characters through speed, ability to combo/be combo'd, or attack changes.
Between Bleach: The Blade of Fate and Bleach: Dark Souls for the DS, several characters had a radical toning-down. Byakuya Kuchiki now uses up a Spirit Power bar for each Senbonzakura, preventing him from sitting on one side of the screen and spamming it until victory, and Aizen's moves were juggled to prevent him from being a Perfect Play A.I., among others. Sadly, in the crossfire several balanced characters took hits as well (sorry, Orihime).
Mortal Kombat II featured the then-new Kitana, whose telekinetic "fan lift" maneuver led to one of the most devastating and one-sided attacks in any fighting game — corner opponent, lift, then punch or kick the living crap out of said opponent. Most of the game cabinets were eventually revved with a fix that caused a player delivering an attack on the end of the fight screen to bounce back just out of range of the attack; the fan lift, while still crippling to an opponent, was no longer a game breaker.
In Mortal Kombat 3, Kabal was one of the strongest characters in the game, with his (dial-a-)combos being some of the most damaging of any character. In Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, the damage Kabal's combos dished out was cut by half.
When Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution was released, the characters very much had the balance of a normal Clash of Ninja game (IE, too powerful or too weak), when the sequel was released, most characters were more balanced, but there were still problems with some of the characters, when the third game was released, it apparently achieved the most balance of the three, as well as including characters after the Rescue Gaara Arc. The Japanese Wii games, unfortunately, avert this.
In SuperPunch-Out!!, Bald Bull was demoted to the champion of the Minor Circuit. He was notably much slower and easier to beat than in the original NES game. However this nerf was averted in the Wii version of the game where he was back to normal.
In Medal of Honor: Frontline, the BAR's firing rate was somewhat reduced from previous games.
In the video game version of The Darkness, the Darkness' weakness to sunlight was expanded to include all strong light, since the game was set entirely at night and the lack of any limitation on the main character's powers would make every fight a Curb-Stomp Battle.
The Needler was weakened somewhat in Halo 2, decreasing its homing capacity and making it a close-range weapon. And the shotgun too — it lost either magazine size or range in every game until Reach.
They even went so far as to nerf physics, revamping the vehicle collision damage system and completely removing fall damage, in order to cater to "inexperienced players". Those changes, along with a few others, completely removed the risk factor of run & gun techniques, which in turn made the game play more like an Unreal clone than a semi-innovative shooter. This has gotten progressively worse each game, with it being nearly impossible to ram someone with a Warthog in Halo 4.
They also removed the Rocket Launcher's homing ability in Halo 3, presumably to prevent it from breaking the game in multiplayer. It can again lock on in Reach (albeit only on aerial vehicles now) but the anti-vehicle niche has -been filled by the Missile Pod and the Spartan Laser, both of which require the user to be exposed for a bit longer to get a kill.
In Reaches multiplayer zombie mode, the pistols were meant to be a backup weapon to the shotgun. Of course, once people realised you could snipe zombies across the map with it, Bungie decided to nerf the game mode itself so the "survivors" didn't have them. And then Halo 4 gave the zombies shields.
Marathon: In the original game, the pistol could kill a guy with a rocket launcher on multiplayer. Not so in the later two games. Also, thanks to the addition of the Flechete gun, the Assault Rifle's primary fire is useless, though some would claim that the latter was less of Assault Rifle and more of a Grenade Launcher with the rifle attached to it for self-defense in close-range.
The Imperial Repeater Rifle could shoot very accurate blasts machine-gun style and pushing enemies back farther than any other weapon. Did we mention you can fire three barrels at once? The only drawback is you'll get so addicted to it you'll wonder where the heck your ammo went. The version seen in Jedi Outcast, though, has less accuracy, and the shots it fires are much, much weaker than they once were. The secondary trigger fires stronger blasts from a sort of underslung grenade launcher, but they're nigh impossible to aim. It even changed the Repeater from an Energy Weapon to a slugthrower (projectile weapon).
In addition, Dark Forces' Concussion Rifle was so powerful it was almost too strong—so powerful you could hurt yourself if you weren't careful. It was powered down for Jedi Knight, unable to trigger its concussion effect on multiple spread-out enemies, being more like an instant-hit rocket launcher but was still powerful enough to be useful—it even gained a secondary fire that used less energy, was more accurate, and targeted only a single enemy. It was one of a few weapons that couldn't be blocked by a lightsaber, though it could be Force pulled. About the only way this could be called a nerf is if the Dark Forces version wasn't broken. The gun was taken out of Jedi Outcast entirely. Jedi Academy brought it back, and while it still did hideous amounts of damage, the gun was very nearly nerfed. Rather than being instantaneous damage, it fired a projectile that, like rockets, could be Force pushed away—but it was much, much quicker, requiring split-second timing. Unless, of course, you try to use it on a computer Jedi...
In the Battlefield series, at least one character class or vehicle per game tends to be overpowered at release. In Battlefield: Vietnam, it was an American character that spawned with an M60 and a LAW, giving it the best anti-infantry and anti-tank weapon at the same time. In Battlefield 2, it was the Blackhawk helicopter, which had crazy powerful miniguns and captured points in seconds when fully loaded with soldiers. Both were toned down in subsequent patches.
One of the more noticeable nerfs in Battlefield 2142 was the steady decrease in the power of "podding," which is the practice of launching a player out of a tube in a pod, which is intended to be a way of getting players from one place to another. Aside from the pod-surfing debate (which was more of an Obvious Rule Patch closing a physics exploit), the damage of podding vehicles was severely reduced. In early versions, you could destroy APCs, damage tanks, and even kill aircraft, if you could manage the funky pod controls well enough to hit them. In later versions, trying to pod ground vehicles will usually kill the infantryman doing the podding, without hurting the vehicle much, and even the relatively weak aircraft can survive being podded.
Valve seems to be afraid of touching the damage and health values. Hence, the complaints about Soldiers and Demomen being too powerful were addressed by severely reducing their ammo (which doesn't do anything if said classes are camping near a dispenser). The Pyro on the other hand was buffed by means of a new alt-fire function for their flamethrower to deflect rockets and grenades. The alternative weapon did boost the health of the user, but that was removed shortly after.
And the Demoman later got a severe Nerf that took them down from Game Breaker status: Their sticky mines can be broken by a single bullet. This is important, as the sticky mines (a) do more damage than any other weapon, (b) were indestructible and easily spammable, (c) could be detonated at any time (except during taunting) and (d) you could have eight of them out at a time. This was then updated so stickybomb damage was reduced for the first five seconds when the Demoman is less than 512 units away, making them less useful for immediate attacking.
The change in Demomen from QTF to the sequel Team Fortress 2 was even more drastic than any of the TF2 changes so far. In QTF, Demos could detonate their pipebombs (which were remote-detonate like stickybombs) at any time after they were fired. This allowed them to detonate pipebombs on top of or immediately beside enemies at any range from close to medium. TF2 demos can do this to an extent, but the tactic was more effective in QTF, as TF2 demos have to wait a second or so after firing before a sticky bomb will arm. This gives the enemy at least a chance of escaping the blast.
Stickybombs have been nerfed even further by introducing a damage ramp–up, which makes Stickies weaker when fired, only reaching full damage after 2 seconds.
And Valve changed it back again to the pre-nerf state after five days. Apparently, they either have some another solution on mind or are thinking about which part of the Broken Base they should please.
The most polarizing nerf in the game was the Dead Ringer. As originally implemented, the Dead Ringer could be exploited to live forever at the cost of doing absolutely nothing useful. Obviously this was a glaring problem (i.e. "Stop Having Fun" Guys complained loud enough), so Valve quickly nerfed it. The nerf was simple: When you uncloaked from the Dead Ringer, regardless of how much charge it had remaining, it would completely decharge, and require recharge from scratch. Unlike the other cloak watches, the Dead Ringer cannot be activated manually, requiring the Spy to be hit by an enemy attack while it is fully charged; also, it cannot recharge from ammo packs like the vanilla watch can. It only lasts for eight seconds on a full charge, and requires 24 seconds to fully recharge from empty. In short: totally worthless. Thankfully, Valve has since reached a compromise: when you decloak with the Dead Ringer, it either remains at its current charge level, or reduces to 60% charge, whichever is less. (It can also now be recharged with ammo packs, although this is less significant).
The Sandman has also been subject to a lot of this. When it started out it could stun anyone, even people who were Ubercharged, and the penalty was that you couldn't double jump while holding it. It was then nerfed slightly in the Classless Update where the penalty was changed to 30 less HP, and Ubers couldn't be stunned anymore. It was then nerfed again in the War Update, where the penalty was only -15 HP but only the longest possible range would cause a stun.
The Flamethrower's history is a mix of buffs an nerfs, the net effect of which is that compared to when the game was released its direct DPS is 10% lower, but it does higher damage near the edge of its range and it also gained airblasting. Indirectly, burning has been significantly nerfed by the number of new ways for enemies to extinguish fire: originally it could only be done by a Medic over the course of a few seconds, but now the Sniper's Jarate, Scout's Mad Milk, and other Pyro's airblast can each extinguisher multiple teammates instantly.
Several of TF2's unlockable items have been studies in gradual nerfing. The Spy's Ambassador, for example, was originally a perfectly accurate revolver that did mini-crit damage on headshots. This was apparently considered too powerful. Then, it became a revolver that did critical hits with headshots, but had bullet spread after the first shot or two—at which point people were making headshots in excess of 1 per second. They finally established a cooldown timer for headshots, a damage decrease, and fire rate reduction, and the Ambassador seems to have been left alone since.
Another, much more quietly executed example would be the Chargin' Targe or the Gunboats. Both originally offered better explosive damage defense buffs, but over time they have gone from reducing damage by 60% (the original value of the Chargin' Targe) to 50%, then 40%. The Gunboats were originally a 75% reduction from self inflicted blast damage (all the better to encourage Soldiers to Rocket Jump) but have been reduced to 60% as of this writing. Don't think these changes have gone unnoticed by those on the Steam Forums, though...
The Equalizer was an effective Soldier weapon added in early in the game's life. It disabled Medigun healing while equipped and had less base damage than the Shovel, but in exchange, the less health the Soldier had, the attacks became dramatically stronger, and allowed the Soldier to go faster; as well as adding a Kamikaze killtaunt that could be circumvented through several means. A considerable history of Nerfing went from removing the killtaunt's ability to be nullified by the Gunboats equip, to dulling the max damage the Equalizer could deal, to making the killtaunt unsurvivable through overheal, to making it immune to Healing Shiv weaponry, to dulling it again along with negating Medic callouts, and finally, at its climax at the Pyromania update, splitting its abilities in half, by removing the speed boosts and putting that quality (and original visuals) into a new weapon called the "Escape Plan".
The Enforcer is one of the more weird nerfs. Initially it did 20+ damage at the expense of making cloak activation longer. When the Spycicle was released this, along with the aforementioned Dead Ringer, created an almost invincible spy that could two-shot anyone from a distance, and almost completely negating the drawbacks of all three weapons (the Enforcer negated the loss of a knife when the Spycicle was melted, the Spycicle removed the afterburn caused by flame-related deaths, and the Dead Ringer ignored the Enforcer's Cloak penalty). The Enforcer then got changed so that instead of a cloak delay, it would not apply the damage penalty unless you were undisguised. It also gained a 20% slower fire and no random crits. This made it rather weird when paired with it's intended weapon, the Big Earner, as now both seem completely unrelated in terms of effects.
While the Pomson was the bane of spies and medics everywhere, It's nerf came because of a different reason: the gun needed no ammo and pierced enemies; combined with MVM, the game mode released with the nerf, the un-nerfed gun would devastate the robot hordes since they spawn packed together, a single upgraded shot can take out several robots at once, not to mention medics. This is evident as the Soldier has a similar weapon, but the Soldier's Rocket Launcher outshines it, while the Engie can pair his Pomson with his primary weapon; the sentry gun.
The Axtinguisher was also given a nerf so that it did only minicrits when attacking the front of an enemy (attacking from the back still does full crits).
The VS mode. People who play as the survivors would usually huddle together and spam their melee attack if they got mobbed by the infected. This prevented players using Hunters from being able to pounce on them without being shoved off. A patch now adds a fatigue effect to the survivor's melee attacks; survivors have to wait at least 1 or 2 seconds before being able to melee again. Another patch also reduced the damage done by the special infected in VS in order to keep the game balanced. Another changed the Hunter doing much more damage when on fire in VS to reducing the increased damage and only applying it to fire created by the Survivors.
Also not that the issue above was addressed in the sequel by allowing the stunable specials to get a free swipe at you when you shove them. It happens most often when you intercept a pounce and on harder difficulties causes a lot of damage that is near impossible to avoid.
When Survival mode was released, people started to get insane times, thus earning medals too easily, by using exploits (such as hiding in the corner of a wall or the like). To counter this, Valve released updates that corrected the problems by placing a random object like a soda machine in spots where people were abusing the exploits.
Additionally, in the sequel, getting to a place that was impossible for the Infected to get to in Survival would cause the director to fill the entire floor with Spitter acid.
While Valve does nerf things in VS and Survival to make things balanced, they also avert the trope by not touching the campaign mode so that people could exploit all they want. Most likely because it is a co-op game with zombies running after you and the players are not fighting against other players.
The sequel applies the melee cooldown to all modes for the sequel (except for melee weapons) and max ammo capacity for the shotgun and hunting rifle is reduced from the first game.
Additionally, three new Infected were introduced into the sequel with the stated purpose of making the defensive tactics developed by players in the first game less effective, along with staged events that demanded forward movement, as opposed to the "hit the button and hold out for 45 seconds" events of the first game.
The sequel also nerfed the damage Witches do to you. In the first game, a Witch can kill you in about 3-5 seconds while the sequel has her take about 10 seconds to kill. This is assuming you are not playing on Expert or Realism, where the Witch will just kill you in one strike instead.
A patch in the sequel nerfed damage done to Tanks with melee weapons. Originally, a melee weapon would do 10% damage per hit to a Tank, thus you could take a Tank down in 10 hits, which could be REALLY fast if everyone does it. This caused tons of frustration in VS where a Tank player could be quickly killed because everyone is running circles around him and smacking him with a frying pan. The patch now makes melee weapons do only 5% damage to a Tank or 20 hits to kill, so now players are better off running and gunning a Tank.
Spitters used to be able to incap or kill the whole survivor team by spitting acid into an elevator right before the survivors closed the door. This would kill or cripple the entire team while the survivors could do nothing about it while being trapped in a moving elevator. A patch changed the acid pool effect in elevators where it now fades a lot faster so survivors would have a fighting chance.
Droidekas were nerfed to the sequel game, especially in shield strength and duration.
Another was the Republic Gunship on Geonosis, especially versus the computer. They were barely able to hit it, Engineers repaired it constantly, flying near an ammo droid refilled your rockets, the AI was too dumb to destroy the final Republic command post, so a single engineer would be able to get a gunship at the beginning of the game and fly it all game and win, even after the droids had reduced the clones to 1 point.
Time Crisis 3 introduces secondary weapons such as the machinegun and shotgun. The machinegun inflicts more damage per shot than the handgun and is fully automatic, while the shotgun fires seven pellets while maintaining the same firing rate as the handgun. Time Crisis 4 nerfs these weapons; the machinegun and the shotgun now inflict less damage unless used on specific enemies, and the shotgun has a reduced firing rate.
The M590 shotgun was epic pwnage at a two-shot kill at medium range, and instant-death any closer than that. Then, in a patch, its power was drastically reduced down to a two-shot kill, even at close range. Suddenly it was almost worthless...
The communities problem with the nerf of the shotgun, along with the hundreds of other nerfs they have done, is usually not the nerf itself. The problem is that they purposely lie about what the changed weapon's stats in the shop. They don't release nerf information in the patch notes and hide it for as long as they can, having sales so that the weapons can be bought cheaply with NX cash, the points bought in real life to get in game weapons. They get your money, and once they have it, they nerf it. It is annoying.
The rocket launcher was pretty heavily nerfed between the first game and 2004: not only it can only fire three rockets at a time instead of the original six, damage was decreased as well so that it can no longer One-Hit Kill with direct hits. That however doesn't compare to the massive nerfing that befell the sniper rifle:
The original version was practically a camper's dream: semi-automatic which gave a very impressive rate of fire (compared to similar weapons, anyway), enough damage to kill players at full health with two shots and since UT doesn't have killcam, there's no way to tell where the shooter is firing from. Wide-open maps but especially CTF-Face often degenerated into stalemates due to 1) snipers spawncamping the entire enemy team from back home and 2) the only way to avoid enemy sniper fire is translocator Teleport Spam but once you have the flag, you can't use the translocator anymore or you'll drop the flag.
2003 replaced it with the Lightning Rifle that has a pitiful rate of fire as well as a highly visible bolt of electricity between the target and the shooter, in order to give away the latter's position and attract counter-sniper fire.
Epic put the sniper rifle back into 2004 but while the rate of fire is faster than the Lightning Rifle, it still doesn't compare to the original weapon. Oh, and while it no longer gives away the shooter, each shot belches a large cloud of smoke that obscures the scope. Since the Lightning Rifle wasn't taken out between 2003 and 2004 (they use the same engine and 2004 has all of its predecessor's content), preference for either usually depends on which is available on the map (an whether the server has the swapping mutator on): maps ported over from 2003 have the LR, ones that debuted in 2004 have the SR, Assault and Onslaught maps usually have both.
Gauntlet bore witness to one of video gaming's first nerfs. The warrior and wizard both took reductions to their upgraded shot power in the nefarious 'Final Revision' of Gauntlet 1, and had their food allotment VASTLY reduced in Gauntlet 2. Annoyingly, they weren't 'too strong', people simply picked them the most often due to stereotypes of warriors and wizards in RPGs.
Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires nerfs Lu Bu, heretofore the most fearsome badass in the game. There is nothing quite like the emotional roller coaster of having Lu Bu defect to join your side ("HELL YEAH! Let the rampage begin!") only to see him get spanked by some generic NPC officer.
Capcom seems to have intentionally watered down Issen (One-Hit Kill) attacks in Onimusha 3. Now, rather than zipping through each level and timing your attacks correctly to kill everything in sight, it's a coin toss whether or not the Issen can be pulled off. Unfortunately, one of the game's unlockables requires beating twelve waves of increasingly-tougher enemies using only Issen. Under these requirements, even the Goombas can wipe you out.
Ultima Online is an early example. Developers made a change early in the game's life that turned all melee weapons down to a bare fraction of their former strength. Players compared fighting with the end result to hitting the enemy with a Nerf bat and disdained them for years afterward, heralding the age of archer/mage PKs.
Improbable Island's food system received a major overhaul in August 2012 to solve the problem that cooking the meat you get from monsters was much less effective than simply buying food from restaurants. One of the changes was that restaurant food was nerfed. It now gives less stamina, costs more and is not always available.
In Final Fantasy XI, which emphasizes cooperative play more than the average MMORPG, any perceived "nerf" of a job class can grossly affect that class's invitation rates for years to come, often far out of proportion to the actual impact of the change. The most infamous was the "Dragoon nerf", actually a nerfing of multi-hit weaponskills in general that prevented them from being spammed, which happened to hit the Dragoon's most famous weaponskill particularly hard. For years, despite the introduction of enemies that a Dragoon would work well against and some shoring up of the job's most glaring weaknesses, Dragoons had a very hard time getting invited to experience point parties; this state of affairs only changed with a controversially large Buff to all two-handed weapons.
"Enhancement Diversification" ("ED"). Pre-ED, you could enhance a given characteristic (damage, accuracy, etc.) of a superpower up to six times for the same cumulative boost (Totaling a tripling of the power's statistic in some areas, doubling with defensive powers). With ED, players started seeing a loss of returns at around the third enhancement (doubled effect for most offensive effects, about a 60% boost for defensive effects), in order to encourage players to spread the wealth around and enhance different characteristics. Naturally, a lot of strategies that relied on powers being pushed to their limitsor breaking the game no longer worked.
Later, Invention Enhancements were introduced; they could circumvent the limitations of ED in a variety of interesting ways, often resulting in characters much more highly customized and/or powerful than they were before ED with clever slotting. The Devs claimed this was the point behind previous nerfs; they needed to make the absurdly powerful heroes weaker to enable them to do neat things to power them up again.
And not too long before ED, there was a rather more straightforward nerf to nearly all defensive powers, officially described as a Global Defense Reduction. The lone upside of all this was almost all the defensive powers were reworked so that they stacked.
At around the same time, agro limits and AoE target caps were introduced. Before, one could herd/damage every enemy on a map, provided they stayed in range. Now, you cannot damage, mez, or affect more than 16 foes with the most massive AE power (caps usually range from 5-12 on most powers, though), and a single player cannot have more than 16 AI trained on him/her. (This can actually be an advantage in extraordinarily large fights).
While Champions Online goes through the same regular nerf and buff cycles as other MMORPGs, particularly notable was the Gadgeteering On-Next-Hit debacle. Developers weren't happy with the moves Sonic Device, Toxic Nanites, and Miniaturization Drive, because players could combine all three into a single, overpowered attack, and the abilities were too effective against multiple opponents. So, in a single patch, the two weaker abilities had their cooldowns raised to match the stronger Sonic Device, all three were given a shared cooldown(effectively removing any point in getting more than one), and they no longer triggered on attacks that hit multiple opponents(destroying their usefulness with numerous players, considering the emphasis CO puts on multitarget fights). Needless to say, no one liked any of these changes, much less getting hit with all three at once. Amusingly though, the announcement of these changes weeks earlier wasn't met with vitrolic hate, but with pages and pages of calm, rational discussion about much smarter ways they could've solved the same problems without rendering the three abilities completely worthless. Fortunately, it wasn't long before developers realized what a moronic move they made, and redid the changes, using some of the same suggestions users had provided, but had gone ignored.
At its release, and for at least two years afterward, it featured Mandalorian armor, a ridiculously overpowered set of equipment. All crafting relied on a combination of player stats and material stats. While this lead to no two pieces of equipment being the same, enterprising industrialists soon discovered methods to create armor with resistance to damage >90%. While fine in the beginning (the price of the armor meant meeting another player with a full set was a rare sight), the entire system of manufacturing the armor soon hit the point where full sets of 99% resistance Mandalorian Armor were (relatively) cheap to obtain. Players soon became immortal. Eventually, SOE responded and dropped the nerfbat in the hardest way possible, limiting resistances to 90% and making anything above 80% or so ridiculously difficult to obtain.
In an inversion of this trope, the game featured Bone Armor, a cheap pile of useless armor everyone wanted in the first weeks of the game. No one noticed when the armor was suddenly buffed so it actually resisted damage.
The game has had plenty of both kinds of changes since the launch. In particular, physical classes tend to receive nerfs fairly often, although it's arguably the wrong way to address the balance issue — the real problem is that physical stats scale far better than magical stats.
The prime example is Agility versus Intellect. Agility improves damage for rogues, hunters, feral druids, and enhancement shaman, critical hit chance, and pretty much every physical defensive attribute. Intelligence only increases mana and spell critical hit chance (at a much lower rate). Strength also being a strong attribute for Death Knights' parry also doesn't help matters.
Individual Cycles tend to be seen too. Spell functionality changes are common as one class becomes too dominate or one style becomes the one true style to play. It gets very strange when spells get nerfed for being too powerful but come back at a higher level. Sleep becomes a huge example as in Beta it was the end all be all Mez before being removed for being too powerful and was put back in the game a few years later.
Prior to the introduction of The Burning Crusade shaman were essentially designed to act as near counterparts to paladins in terms of functionality. While difficult, it was entirely possible to have a shaman cover all three roles in a party: Tank, heal, and dps. When paladins and shaman became available to both factions, the talents and stats required to make a shaman tank were removed, while the talents and skills required to make a paladin tank were brought up to a level near the Warrior (long considered the only "real" raid tank class).
With every expansion, each class in the game (and in fact some basic game mechanics) gets a complete overhaul, in preparation for the raising of the level cap. The developers try to balance these newly-changed classes on their Beta realms, but these Beta servers just don't have enough players to get a broad statistical sample. As a result, when the overhauls do go live, there is at first a great class imbalance (e.g. retribution paladins in 3.0, fire mages in 4.0), followed quickly by a flurry of nerfs, followed slowly by occasional buffs here and there until the game settles down.
An odd case of a perceived-nerf-that-was-actually-a-buff, shadow priests in 4.2 had their damage tweaked where direct damage spells were buffed by 12% and damage-over-time spells were reduced 12%. To the uneducated who assume shadow priests are wannabe affliction warlocks, it was assumed that shadow had lost its teeth. However, with the addition of Dark Archangel and stacking max shadow orbs implemented at the start of Cataclysm, direct damage spells grew in power exponentially with their buff while dots were nerfed linearly. Now, shadow priests can compete with other top-graded dps like hunters and mages.
Kingdom of Loathing has had nerfings, as with any game of its type, but it also makes fun of the concept with the "foam dart" item, which can be used on any player to give them the "Nerf'd" condition. The condition prints messages that makes it sound like you're doing less damage and getting less item drops, but it doesn't in fact actually do anything.
Because of its highly competitive and balanced PvP, skills in Guild Wars are almost constantly being tweaked, adjusted, buffed and nerfed to keep things balanced; some skills were even split into PvP and PvE versions to make them balanced in 2 totally different game modes. However, a controversial change saw the balance team blatantly destroy the PvP version of one skill (Smiter's Boon) by nerfing it as absolutely as is physically possible (maximum energy cost possible which is 5 times the previous cost, duration nerfed to 1/6th of its previous length and recharge changed to a ridiculous 45 times its duration). They openly admitted their intention was simply to stop people from using the skill in PvPat all and they succeeded since it is now completely and utterly unusable under any circumstances whatsoever. There was much rage. Heck, the S-Boon nerf became SO well-known that they turned it into an Ascended Meme and had one of the enemies use it on your characters!
A big one was the HAC speed nerf. This eliminated a tactic use by many 0.0 alliance to essentially be invulnerable to damage yet completely dominate targets.
Also the Falcon buff and revision. They decided that the best jamming ship in the game needed a boost. This led to fights where half or more of the opposing fleet was out of action because Falcons could jam tagets from far beyond engagement ranges. It took a year and very vocal opponets but they returned it to its orginal stats. Now if they'll just fix rockets...
In almost every update of the "Tiericide" ship-rebalancing initiative, some ships end up getting hammered. For example, prior to 2012, the Minmatar Hurricane was one of the most popular battlecruisers around (second only to the Drake, and preferred in PVP), capable of fitting very powerful autocannons or artillery, backed up by paired energy neutralizers that would flatten the capacitors of any ship that got close enough to threaten it. Then with the Retribution patch, suddenly the Hurricane didn't have enough powergrid for its traditional roles, and then battlecruiser rebalancing proposed yet another hit from the nerf-hammer...
Wizard 101: One of the few explicit examples of this being the Waterworks equipment compared to the best equipment from the the previous release. Previously in to balance Ice school's horrible attack power (literally less than the The Medic), Ice was the only school that could equip gear that granted resistance to all attacks. Other schools gear gave them resistance to spells that were either their own school or the other school in their on their side of the element/spirit line. Waterworks gear not only gave all other schools resistance to all attacks, but it also gave Ice less resistance to all attacks than the previous gear. Although Ice school still has greater resistance to attacks and blocking critical attacks than the other schools, the next closest schools resit is only 3% less and three other schools have a little under 2% less chance of blocking critical hits than Ice does. Compare to the boost other schools received from their gear.
Final Fantasy XIV has Holy, a powerful spell for White Mages that can do massive damage (if the user has Cleric's Stance on) and cause Stun to all enemies caught in the blast. People started to rely on Holy to clear out cluster of enemies, which outpaced some damage dealing classes like Dragoons and Black Mages. Square-Enix nerfed Holy's power so that White Mages would stick to their role as a healer instead of a damage dealer.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas
League of Legends exists in a constant state of nerfing and buffing champions, spells, and items. While mostly done to keep competitive balance, two champions with extended stealth options, Evelyn and Twitch, were deliberately overnerfed because their abilities were so frustrating for new players to deal with. More recently they've started reworking the abilities and/or lore of rarely played champions like Karma and Trundle.
The Balloon Adapter is a version of the Rush Jet Adapter, but Mega Man can only use it 3 times.
Hell Wheel is a zig-zagging. It was nerfed in one release, before getting buffed in the May 2011 update (namely, taking more projectiles and not getting cancelled by ladders). Still doesn't stop it from being a Game Breaker, though.
If you try to exit a level with Yoshi in the SomethingRom Hack series, you immediately lose him. Justified because Yoshi was a Game Breaker in the original Super Mario World.
In Sonic Generations some of the returning abilities got a nerf. The Boost's ability to draw rings was severely reduced, and the elemental shields lost their ability to deflect small projectiles.
Several spells in Puzzle Quest: Challenge Of The Warlords were drastically nerfed in the port from consoles to the PC. In particular the Knight's Stun and the Wizard's Fireball, which were both give two-turn recharge times and slightly reduced damage.
In Tetris DS, as well as some other "Tetris Guideline" games, offers a "T-Spin Triple" bonus for using a twist to clear 3 lines with a T piece. Said bonus came out to be more than for a Tetris.Tetris Zone and some other newer official Tetris games attempt to nerf this problem by simply not recognizing T-Spin Triples, counting them as normal Triples instead.
The Tetris The Grand Master series has combo multipliers that multiply the amount of "grade points" you get for a line clear. In TGM2, due to an off-by-one error, you can get this multiplier with single line clears. In TGM3, this was corrected so that single line clears will never have a multiplier.
Before the patch one could go into a road rage and the timer would go up forever so long as you kept taking down drivers. People would get in excess of 100 takedowns. After the patch, if you do a road rage, the timer will stop going up once you hit the target number of takedowns.
Another patching effect was to make beginner cars slower.
The infamous snaking technique. In the DS version, players snaked by quickly drifting left to right on straight roads and doing mini turbos. Only certain characters could drift this way effectively without losing control and the mini turbos they got were almost like a mushroom. Naturally, flame wars broke out over whether this technique was fair. The Wii version changes the drifting and mini turbo mechanic, making snaking near impossible to do.
The Red Shells are also tweaked from Mario Kart DS. In the DS game, Red Shells were smart and attacked drivers from the side instead of behind, making the "hold item behind you for a shield" strategy almost useless. In the Wii version, the shells go back to the old "follow directly behind the target" behavior.
Bikes for Mario Kart 8 can no longer pop a wheelie for speed boosts, due to everyone using bikes only in Mario Kart Wii sorely for the speed boost. Bikes still retain their sharp cornering ability, making them good for sharp turns.
The same game also changed how holding items work. In the past, people would hold a banana peel or green shell behind them and then grab another item box to have a second item on reserve, effectively giving them two shields. While items can still be dragged behind you, the items will still be in your inventory until you drop the item on the track.
Mushrooms were extremely overpowered in Super Mario Kart to the point where you could pass by several people at once. However, Mario Kart 64 nerfed Mushrooms too heavily, resulting in speed boosts becoming worthless. It took a few more games for the developers to find the right balance for the Mushrooms.
Being hit by bombs or shells were sometimes a death sentence because being hit by said items would send you tumbling sideways and sometimes off the track. Mario Kart 8 changed the tumble mechanic to have you simply fly upwards and cancels all momentum.
Missiles got nerfed in Diddy Kong Racing DS. In the original game, collecting a red balloon three times gave you a full supply of ten missiles, which could be fully replenished simply by running over a red balloon again. In the DS version, you only get five missles, and they've been reduced to the second-stage weapon, meaning hitting another balloon upgrades you multi-missiles into a single homing missile instead.
Warcraft III: Much like its successor, World of Warcraft, the game saw many units and abilities nerfed to balance online play. These occurred via patches and, especially, when the Frozen Throne expansion was released. A few notable examples include:
The cooldown time for the Demon Hunter's Mana Burn ability was increased in one early patch when it proved to be too overpowered. Prior to this, when attacked, the Demon Hunter could stand near the Night Elf Moon Wells (which instantly recharged mana,) allowing the DH to deal both damage and drain the mana of the enemy heroes using Mana Burn until the wells dried up.
The Witch Doctor's Healing Wards saw their HP reduced so that nearly any unit could destroy them in one hit. Prior to this, it was a popular technique to have a group of "docs" all place Healing Wards near the player's army, healing said army and forcing to the opponent to focus their fire on the wards to destroy them.
The additions of extra weapon and armor types in Frozen Throne were seen as nerfing a number of units. No longer could spellcasters, who now did magic damage instead of piercing damage, be relied upon for anti-air duties. (Air units being strong vs. magic damage.) Likewise, Huntresses went from medium armor to unarmored, making them useless as a primary melee unit. (Unarmored being weak to the "normal" attacks of most melee units.)
A buffed example in Frozen Throne is the ability of the Night Elf buildings to defend themselves without uprooting. A popular tactic prior to this was for attacking armies to "rush" the Night Elf player, forcing him to uproot his trees to defend himself and thus, cut off resource flow and unit production until the buildings were re-rooted. Unlike the Orc burrows and Human militia, which could each return to work immediately after the attack, the Night Elf player would be delayed waiting for his gold mine to become entangled once again.
Humans were gradually toned down and buffed in other aspects over time for Competitive Balance sake, but the most pronounced change was in the towers they can build; in counter-chronological order, the "Masonry Upgrade" (Building HP) effectiveness was reduced in half for all three tiers which also affects every building the Humans can build, the towers were nerfed to gain 1/2 the armor points from the same upgrade, the tower's initial phase (before an upgrade is selected) was reduced in hitpoints and given ZERO armor mitigation and in The Frozen Throne expansion's release, the towers were changed to an armor class that takes full damage from all attacks, but is vulnerable to magical damage. This was all likely an effort to nerf the effectiveness of using towers to fortify an attack on an enemy town and the annoyance of attacking a human town that is swarming with towers. The Sole EXCEPTION is the Cannon Tower upgrade, which was allowed to keep the "Fortified Armor" attribute.
Brutal Legend had some infamous exploits before the November balance patch. Ironheade's Single Player properties made the hero's army too powerful in Multiplayer. Eddie could use Facemelter to butcher the opponents units right when they walk off the base, they could summon animals anywhere they want with Call of the Wild, and of course, spam dozens of Fire Barons to wipe out enemies in a short amount of time. In response, Double Fine made all the Facemelter solos weaker and unavailable until Tier 2, Call of the Wild only summoned the animals at the base, and Fire Barons became weaker and more expensive. Ironheade was more severely nerfed than the other two armies.
The beta was horribly unbalanced. One particular unit was the GDI Offence Class Striker. Easily the fastest land unit in the game, it could jump cliffs, be upgraded to fire faster, more accuratly, and be faster. Plus its laser was strong aginst the heavy armor of the Crawler, your Base on Wheels. Yeah. That was patched VERY quickly, but it wasn't uncommon for whole teams of Nod Players to ragequit as soon as they saw ONE.
And even the full game is one big nerf. There was always a Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors system in the franchise, but even not responding types of units were able to deal moderate damage. Enough riflemen can take down light vehicles etc. However, in Tiberian Twilight, there is a new damage type system (laser/gun/blast etc. instead infantry/tank/aircraft) and damage dealt by not responding damage types was SO nerfed down that unit can fire for minutes and barely scratches themselves. But when unit is under fire from responding damage type, it will be pulverized in seconds...
The StarCraft games go through continuous buffing and nerfing to improve game balance, given the franchise's incredible popularity in the Professional Gaming scene. For example, StarCraft: Brood War's Corsair, an air-to-air Space Fighter flown by the dark templar, features a power called Disruption Web that targets an area on the ground and prevents ground units and towers from attacking while inside it, helping with airdrop deployments among other things. This ability's duration was severely reduced in the 1.08 patch, which also gave several nerfs to other protoss powers and units, buffs to the terrans, and a mixture to the zerg; the Corsair nerf is notable because it has noticeable effects on the difficulty of the unit's introductory mission in the protoss single-player campaign.
Some note charts can change noticeably when exporting songs between Rock Band and Rock Band 2, making them just a bit harder to pull off. This is especially noticeable in "Thunderstruck", which has an intro section consisting entirely of hammer-on/pull-off notes in the original Track Pack release (making it very possible to play nearly the whole intro with one hand), but in Rock Band 2 half the notes need to be strummed as normal.
In RayStorm, the R-Gray 2 is the better ship to use for scoring, as it can achieve 16 lock-on shots and a x256 point multiplier (in contrast to R-Gray 1's 8 lock-on shots and x128 multiplier). In RayCrisis, R-G1's counterpart Wave Rider 01R has the same number of lock-ons as WR 01R, but now the shot multipliers go up to x256 at the maximum of 8 lock-ons, making it a more effective scoring ship than 02R (R-G2's counterpart).
There is a special shot type called Strong Style that gives your ship broken firepower. In Dai-Fukkatsu Black Label, picking Strong Style will turn up the game to 2nd-loop difficulty to balance out your immense firepower.
DFK version 1.5 grants you auto-bomb, which fires a Smart Bomb for you every time you get hit as long as you have bombs left. In DFK Black Label, you can switch it off. In DFK version 1.51, auto-bombing will take away all of your remaining bombs instead of just your current one.
Asteroids Deluxe nerfed the original game's weakness (you could rack up points by leaving a large rock remaining from the first wave, sit in one spot and just pick off the saucers one by one) by having the saucers shoot at the rocks as well as the player ship.
In X3: Reunion the Split Python was one of the best destroyers in the game: average shields, top-of-class speed and maneuvering, and great weapons coverage. It was the victim of a serious nerf in X3: Terran Conflict that removed its ability to mount flak weapons, forcing it to use corvette guns for fighter defense.
In X3: Reunion, Paranid M3-class fighters could mount the Phased Shockwave Generator, a stupidly powerfulWave Motion Gun that could be used against ships ten times the size of the fighter and win. The Phased Shockwave Generator was nerfed so that only Paranid capital ships (frigates and above) could mount it.
Likewise, in Terran Conflict a properly flown Split Panther frigate could solo a Standard Starship Scuffle against heavy capital ships (it does take fancy flying, mind you), since it has excellent weapons coverage and selection, average shields, more fighters than some full size carriers, and maneuvering and power generation stats equal to its fighterless sister design the Tiger. The weapons generators were nerfed in X3: Albion Prelude, to the annoyance of Panther-lovers.
Up to the 3.0 Terran Conflict patch, the Terran Tokyo carrier was somewhat of a Game Breaker because its weapons generators were strong enough for it to fire its anticapital guns indefinitely. The 3.0 patch nerfed said generators, but nobody really minded since carriers aren't supposed to be able to do that.
Fusion Cannon was significantly nerfed in Descent II, only dealing half the damage of its D1 counterpart, and losing its damage increasing glitch (fire through an enemy and it gets stronger). The Plasma Cannon and Mega Missiles were also weakened somewhat.
In the third game, the Vulcan and Gauss cannons were replaced by the Vauss cannon, which is weaker than the Gauss, but stronger than the Vulcan. The Gauss cannon was a major Game Breaker in Descent II.
There was a heated debate in the Oolite forums about the announced removal of the Energy Bomb from the next test version of the game. Ultimately it was left in, but only until the Mythical Next Stable Release.
The MechWarrior games have seemingly swayed back and forth on which weapons receive nerfs in a series update and which get buffs.
The first MechWarrior game saw the use of Hit Scan energy weapons and missile/ballistic weapons with some travel time to them. This made PPC-carrying 'Mechs a game-changer, especially since it was the game that also offered some of the the easiest cockpit kills in the series.
MechWarrior 2 rather literally changed everything; 'Mechs now had cockpit 'panels' rather than heads, to prevent a 100-ton monster from going down from five shots from a 20-ton light 'Mech's medium laser. All energy weapons now had a travel time, with PPCs in particular seeing a distinct speed and damage nerf. Most ballistics were nearly useless because of the way the game read damage, and missiles became a mainstay. Enemy 'Mechs now took considerable time and effort to bring down, above and beyond whatever the tabletop game or fiction mythos might have suggested, and your double-PPC rig could no longer reliably decapitate an 85-ton Assault 'Mech.
MechWarrior 3 changed several things again. While missiles went unchanged, lasers returned to their original Hit Scan status. Ballistic weapons saw a much-needed boost, and even the PPC class of weapons got improvements in speed and damage. Strangely enough, Mech survivability itself received a nerf as a result of the game's engine. While the second game allowed a Mech to survive (if futilely so) with just one leg, the third installment considered any 'Mech with a severed leg as 'destroyed' and out of the fight. This made the game both surprisingly easy or frustratingly tough, depending on what you were facing at the time (Operation 2-4, anyone?).
MechWarrior 4 changed things up once again. Strangely enough, the biggest nerf from a strictly canonical angle was the hangar phase. This was where you could go in and change the loadouts, armor, and equipment on your Humongous Mecha to suit your own tastes. Prior games since 2 gave you the ability to change your design considerably. 4, however, introduced the slot system, a move that was not universally beloved. Where previous games would allow, say, a six-PPC Assault 'Mech to be piloted, 4's system limited 'Mech loadouts by weapon type, and the multi-PPC machine was usually just a dream. This became most unusual when some of the largest 'Mechs in the series could only mount a single PPC while having weight for several more even when a design 25% lighter could carry four of them. Furthermore, the weapons in their entirety seemed to suffer from raw damage limitations while survivability has increased. For instance, the Autocannon-20 class weapons in 3 were nightmarish armor-slicing buzz saws, capable of shredding any 'Mech's armor with worrying speed and usually annihilating smaller 'Mechs outright with a single shot. By the end of the 4th generation games, an AC-20 shot could not penetrate the intact centerline armor of the smallest 'Mech in the game. A Mech that weighs just 6 tons more than the AC-20 itself. Similar damage nerfs followed practically all the weapons in the series' generation.
MechWarrior 5 is currently trapped in Development Hell thanks to lawsuits from Harmony Gold, but if the trailer is to be believed as gameplay footage (which is unlikely at best), Mech damage soaking might again be nerfed given how quickly two of the three major players in the trailer are destroyed, and how much damage the third absorbs. Oddly enough, machine guns, which have been uncommonly strong in the face of multi-ton armored war machines in all prior game incarnations, seem to have been nerfed as well.
Ace Combat had the Quick-Maneuver Air-to-Air Missile, starting in Ace Combat 04. While restricted to three aircraft, it was pretty much the Game Breaker anti-air missile, which could chase a plane constantly until the missile gave up or ran out of fuel. Later games had this weapon nerfed, though it's the weapon everyone likes to use in 6 because certain aircraft carry it in spades, up until Ace Combat: Assault Horizon where the missile finally got a needed re-buff.
SimCity 2000 had the hydroelectric power plants, which, unlike other power plants, didn't need to be replaced every 50 years. That meant that one could build a city dependent entirely on hydroelectric power plants and, as long as you had some sort of positive cash flow, leave the city running overnight and come back to find your treasury pleasantly loaded with funds from thousands of years of tax revenue. It was removed entirely in Sim City 3000, with its spiritual successor being the far less game-breaking wind power plant
Madden NFL 2006 added the QB Vision Cone, which Nerfed the players who overly relied on the mobile Michael Vick (because his Awareness stat was so low, he had one of the smallest cones in the game). Note that this backfired spectacularly - after enough practice, with a normal or small vision cone you could effectively deke a defensive back into covering the wrong player; players with large vision cones such as Tom Brady or Peyton Manning could not, effectively nerfing the best pocket passers in the league. The vision cone was removed two years later.
Lash's units in Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising gain an additional 10% attack for each level of defense they receive, meaning a unit on a city or mountain had nigh-impenetrable defense AND inflicted 1.5X the damage. If you used her defensively, she was UNSTOPPABLE. This bonus was dropped to only 5% in the sequel, and she's still the best CO in the game.
Every installment after Disgaea: Hour of Darkness seems committed to weakening the Gun as much as possible to the point that's it's becoming a Running Gag. The first two installments had the Gun relying on HIT to deal damage. While the weapon wasn't designed to deal out major damage, it was still marginally useful in Combos.
Disgaea 2 added a slight damage penalty compared to other weapons, as well as reducing it's attack range to a straight line. (Fair, given that only two classes properly specialized in the Gun and the best one had a trait that acted as an offset)
The Gun became a worse weapon once Disgaea 3 transformed it into a split-stat weapon, adding SPD to it's damage formula, and giving it some of the weakest skills in the game. (With one sole exception) While many of these skills became multi-target skills, the weakness the skills suffered from made them barely useful, even in Combos.
Disgaea 4 saw the Gun at it's weakest, having no skills stronger than 'C' Grade, and these skills were out-shined by pretty much any other weapon skill learned in the same time-frame. Come Post-Game, Guns were all but useless in any situation other than combo-starting.
Disgaea D2, whilst providing one skill above the Power Level of 'C,' (Which required a vast amount of in-game currency to retrieve) added a modifier based on how close the attacker was to the enemy. This means that Gun-toting characters, almost all of whom have low HP and DEF to balance their long-range and evasion prowess, had to be in direct danger to deal the most damage. This was devastating early on in the game, since counterattacks now applied to Special Skills as well as regular attacks. If your Gun-toter was fighting an enemy it was statistically on-par with it couldn't one-shot at close range, you better believe that character will be punished for it. This forces Gun-toting characters to fight at at least half of their strength if they aren't overpowered compared to their target (To be fair, the second-strongest Gun skill "Point-Blank Blaster" moved the Gunner out of harm's way.)
What brings all of these weaknesses home is the fact that Gun-Toters from Disgaea 3 and onwards tended to specialize in one required stat and be "meh" with the other. So adding to the Gun's inherent weakness is the chore of having to continuously customize and balance the character's HIT/SPD ratio, which further deteriorates the Gun's already horrid damage potential, which is little more than a handicap in a game that's about big numbers. (The only subversion to the rule is Asagi in Disgaea D2. note Relatively decent DEF, equalized HIT and SPD Aptitudes, and ability to attack more than once in a Combo. Oh, and she can be recruited mid-way through the main story instead of just the Post-Game. She's just short of a Game Breaker.
Mages are usually a combination of Fragile Speedster and Glass Cannon. The Tellius series downplayed both the Speedster and Cannon parts. This resulted in the massive lack of use of them and many Character Tiers having them very low.
The FE Nerf most fans remember is the Luna tome, a Dark Magic tome that negates the enemy's Magic Resistance. This is 'balanced' out by the weapon having 0 Might, so you're effectively doing fixed damage equal to your Magic stat. Except the spell also has an ungodly high critical rate (very rare for a magic tome), and the final two bosses have such massive Resistance stats that negating them makes a HUGE difference. Add the fact that Canas and Athos, the two characters who can use Dark Magic, are both Game Breakers, and you get, well, this. In Sacred Stones its critical rate was cut in half and its hit rate went from 90% to 50%, immediately taking it from game breaking to practically useless.
Another weapon nerf, Javalins went from 7 might in Shadow Dragon to 3 might in its sequel New Mystery. Their damage output is now comparable to actual Nerf Bats.
Awakening also nerfed the forging system from Shadow Dragon and New Mystery, where the amount you could buff a weapon was really only limited by how much money you had. Awakening imposed a hard limit of 8 'increments' per weapon (so you could buff Might 5 times and Critical 3 times, or Might 3 times and Critical 5 times, but not both 5 times) Of course, forged weapons used by enemies can and WILL break these rules.
The way parents pass on stats to children has also been nerfed from the Fire Emblem Jugdral games. Instead of Child's growths = same gendered parent's + 1/2 * opposite gendered parent's, their growths are now the average of their parent's growths and the child's "base growths", which means they may end up with worse stats than their parents in some areas. It also means that the difference in stats between pairings is nowhere near as dramatic as in the 4th game, so Shipping is more down to personal prefferance than gameplay benefits.
The famous Forseti tome from the Jugdral games granted its wielder +20 Speed and +10 Skill (+20 Skill in Thracia 776), instantly shooting whoever wielded it straight into their own "God" tier. In Awakening, you can fight two wielders of it, Lewyn and his son Ced, but in order to give you any chance at winning the fight Forseti lost that huge bonus and just gives +5 Speed instead. The other Crusader weapons were similarly nerfed.
MP starts out at 0 every fight, limiting the higher level spells such as summons. On the other hand, most abilities use up less MP now.
Standard Status Effects are much less powerful or much less likely to hit, prevent Mezzer classes from locking down enemies with ease (they are far from useless though).
Perhaps most importantly, Judges were nerfed. Only one law per battle, and breaking it only forfeits a few advantages, rewards and the ability to revive teammates during battle.
Thieves were toned down significantly. All it took in the first game was to inflict Stop on an opponent, and a Thief could steal every piece of equipment they had as well as their abilities, significantly weakening them. Now they can only steal loot and one accessory (you can still steal armor with a Viking though), and even then they can only steal up to 4 things from one person.
The stats themselves seemed to be nerfed as well. Offensive and Defensive stats could hit 400-500 points in Advance, but in A2, they don't go any higher than the 300 range. Damage is also nerfed, making a 999 damage hit impossible unless you use an ability of some sort.
The reaction ability Damage > MP from FFTA was broken where even if you had 1 MP left, all damage would be dealt to the MP and would not rollover to the HP. In the sequel (where the ability is now called MP Shield), the reaction ability uses MP to reduce damage and remaining damage transfers to the user's HP. Plus with the aforementioned "MP starts at 0" thing it doesn't effectively give you your entire Max MP in HP at the start of battle.
The Beastmaster class in FFTA could control a monster until the Beastmaster's turn came up again. Now a Beastmaster can only force a monster to attack immediately on that turn. This inadvertently nerfs the Blue Mage as well, since it is now much more difficult to teach him all the available moves.
Super Robot Wars usually does this in every single franchise. However, the most notable example is ''Second Original Generation where they make two important pilot skills (SP Regeneration and Attacker) skills be unavailable as a purchase for pilots. This means that SP is going to be limited to pilots and attacks are not going to be as powerful as what they should be. However, because of these nerfs, they are offset with new gameplay mechanics that do balance the game out like the ability slot system and the "Maximum Break" mechanic.
The "Invincible" Spirit Command in Jigoku-hen; unlike previous SR Ws, damage is automatically reduced to one-eighth of total damage taken instead of the minimum ten units of damage. Jigoku-Hen also took Valor away from a LOT of characters. Yoko, Darry, Asuka (who used to get Soul), Four (she has Valor, Love, or both), Ozma, Lasse (he had it in UX), Canaria (she doesn't have it in the Z games but she does in UX and L), Emma, Quatre (he and Hilde are the only Wing characters without it), Kurz, Mao, Clousseau, Tieria, and Shakko.
Galactic Civilizations 2: in vanilla, the Neutral alignment was very powerful because it could just skip the entire Terraforming tech tree and just use all of the squares on its planets from the get-go, leading to massively enhanced infrastructure from quite early in the game; having a really good research point generator, trade advantages, and a diplomacy bonus were just the icing on the cake. The Dark Avatar expansion modified it so that while the Terraforming upgrades would be applied without needing to wait for construction, you had to research the appropriate technologies first.
Charm and Dominate spells (which allow you to control enemies) last as long as the original D&D equivalents (ages in game time). Combined with an item that gave you infinite uses of Charm and an exploit that allowed you to use the item while invisible, a player could charm every enemy in the area, and use them to kill each other. Baldur's Gate 2 addressed this not just by removing the item and the exploit, but also by changing the charm and domination spells so that the choice of targets was highly limited, the spells became easier to resist, and the time they lasted was minuscule.
Summon wands in BG1 could spam massive hordes of weak monsters to help the player. Enough of those could either kill any major opponent, or distract them long enough for the player to kill them. BG2 not only removed summon wands from the game (there was one in the first dungeon, but by the later stages the creatures conjured by this were essentially useless cannon fodder), but also restricted the number of possible summoned monsters in game to five. Whether or not that was a good nerf is up to the individual player.
Between Morrowind and Oblivion, many changes were made to rein in the insanity. The biggest one was the Alchemy skill; In Morrowind, it was possible to use intelligence-boosting potions to give your character godlike intelligence, and since intelligence affected your alchemy skill, each subsequent potion only got stronger. But since all skills are affected the same way by their base stats, this could get ridiculous quickly. The changes in Oblivion are obvious from the start; You can only have four potion effects active at a time, skill boosts past 100 (the set maximum,) have no effect, and stats don't affect skills nearly as directly as in Morrowind, the sole exception being Speed.
And a minor example from Oblivion; Due to a glitch in the original game, paint brushes aren't affected by physics, and thus don't fall. They also have surface area to them, albeit a very small surface area. It is entirely possible for a player with a sufficient supply of paintbrushes and good hand-eye coordination to create a stairway made of paintbrushes, or to create the perfect sniper's nest for archers and spellcasters. Needless to say, this was patched up with the first wave of downloadable content.
In Morrowind the Fortify Skill spell could be used to increase the caster's Restoration skill for a short period of time. Because the Fortify Skill spell was a Restoration type spell, using subsequently increasing magnitudes of the Fortify Restoration spell (up to 800) could allow for the exploitation of the Enchant (or any other) skill. A ring could be enchanted to allow the caster to jump across half of the map. Using a combination of a damage effect and Fortify Enchant, the maximum amount of damage over the maximum range could be dealt hundreds of times with one charge of a ring. This was no longer possible in Oblivion because the stats were limited to 100 even with fortification effects.
It looks like spells got this treatment in Skyrim as a justification for the new Make Me Wanna Shout powers that you can unlock throughout the game.
The Realms of Arkania series removed the Dwarves ability to use two handed weapons and the Druids ability to use bows in the second game (turning them into second rate Squishy Wizards instead of competent magic wielding rangers). Quite a disappointment if you were planning on importing your old characters.
Biotic Abilities were often considered a Game Breaker in Mass Effect 1, so when the sequel was released it came as a shock to majority of the players that the powers were extremely nerfed. While not useless, the powers could no longer work on enemies who have any form of protection. Fair enough, but on the two highest level of difficulties EVERY enemy is protected in some form and by time you strip them of their defenses a Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? mentality takes hold. However this mentality mainly applies to the control powers that could incapacitate large groups of enemies. Warp's ability to deal damage was upgraded, especially with detonations, and Throw can now be curved around or over cover, giving you more control of the enemies that are vulnerable to it.
Several game-breaking weapons from Mass Effect 2 got nerfed for Mass Effect 3. The Viper semiautomatic sniper rifle had its ammo capacity cut, the Locust became very heavy and much less damaging, and the Mattock got a cap put on its rate of fire.
The multiplayer mode features balance changes whereby the developers nerf and buff weapons and powers on a weekly (now fortnightly) basis. The vast majority of changes have been buffs, but the few nerfs have been more controversial - in particular, the infiltrator's tactical cloak was shifted in a way that forced players to choose whether they wanted to use it to enhance their damage or go invisible, and the turian-designed Krysae sniper rifle was ruthlessly de-clawed when it was found to make certain types of enemy all but trivial.
In the earliest version of Fallout 1 a player with high Barter skill could buy/sell things for ridiculously low/high prices. This allowed buying something at half price and immediately selling it for full price, as long as the trader had anything left. It was possible to buy Tandy and all Garl's weapons and leave Garl with a single cap. The first patch nerfed that.
The Enclave's Advanced Power Armor Mk II in Fallout 3 is significantly weaker than its Fallout 2 counterpart, whose stats surpassed those of the T-51b.
In one of the first patches of Fallout: New Vegas, after the discovery of a game breaking trick to get perma criticals with sniper rifles, where one would get 10 luck, the finnesse perk (plus +5 to base critical chance), and wear Boone's Beret (another +5) and equip a sniper or hunting rifle, which had a 5x critical multiplier, a deathclaw was no longer more than a fast target, with a relatively easily displaced head. Since then, the hunting rifle has a 2x multiplier, and the sniper rifle a 1x.
Also in FNV, the Chinese Stealth Armor lacks the game-breakingInvisibility Cloak function it had in FO 3. The base-game Fat Man only has half the damage and blast radius of its FO 3 counterpart, although the Gun Runner's Arsenal version has the more powerful Big Kid mini-nukes.
In Icewind Dale, the druid spell Static Charge which shock all opponents in the room every round. In the sequel, it only shock one random monster per round.
In Neverwinter Nights 2, knockdowns have been nerf from the previous game. They no longer cause damage and now have a 2 rounds cooldown. On the upside, it longer has a -4 penalty to hit.
The complete disappearance of the Stoneskin spell in EotB2, even with an imported party from EotB1, for whom it vanishes from spellbooks (and a Stoneskin scroll can't be saved either). See the Game Breaker entry for why.
The Turn Undead function also get modified between the two games. In EotB1 it is an automatic function, as long as the character is holding a holy symbol. Starting with EotB2, it becomes an action like any spell-casting, though not limited in use.
In Saints Row 2, the Boss can automatically dual-wield pistols and submachine guns, kill a non-boss enemy with only three or four shots, take a bunch of damage before dying, and consume health power-ups if he/she starts running low. In Saints Row: The Third, the health power-ups were eliminated, the initial damage output of guns was severely reduced, and dual-wielding was no longer automatic, all to encourage the player to use the new character and weapon improvement systems.
Minecraft had several nerfs over the course of the game during its beta stage and even beyond the 1.0 release:
Fires caused by lava or the flint and steel used to be able to spread very quickly if the fire was on a flammable object like trees and this was made easy for griefers. An update slowed down how fast fires spread.
Swords did quite a bit of damage but once the enchantment system was introduced, swords became slightly weaker to encourage players to enchant them.
Golden Apples used to restore 5 units of hunger and gave health regeneration for 30 seconds. The crafting ingredients changed in the 1.1 update to make it easier to craft the Golden Apple, but the effects got nerfed to making hunger recover only 2 points and regeneration last only 3 seconds. They have continued to be changed for balance, now both types cost nine times more gold.
Money was also nerfed. GTA 3 had cash rewards from missions ridiculously high (the first mission, picking up someone and returning them home, paid $1000!) and you gained money from ramming other cars. This led to a huge dive into Money for Nothing since there was nothing to really spend money on other than weapons. Vice City reduced the monetary rewards to more reasonable levels and it reflected how people would pay you in the 1980s. San Andreas took it a step further by making some missions only reward you with respect points instead of money.
Two of the Crystal Ball modes in Jersey Jack Pinball's The Wizard of Oz are "Weak Flippers" and "No Catch Flippers", which temporarily nerf the player.
Fencing has an attack called a flick. A flick takes advantage of the flexibility of a fencing sword (a safety consideration) to whip the blade around and hit with the tip. The tip of two of the weapons (foils and epees) are actually spring-mounted buttons that complete a circuit when pressed, allowing an electronic scoring machine to register the hit. No real smallsword or rapier would bend like that, so a flick is a very strange attack. Flicks became so dominant in high level tournaments that the governing body, the FIE, actually changed the length of time the button must be depressed just to make flicks a less viable (but not useless) attack.
Major League Baseball did this to pitching after the 1968 season, which was dubbed The Year of the Pitcher due to some of the most ungodly numbers ever put up by pitchers (to the point that those numbers will most certainly never be touched again). The mound was lowered five inches and balance towards the hitters was restored. Some of the video-game-like numbers put up in 1968:
Bob Gibson setting a modern-era ERA record of 1.18 (in 300 innings!)
Denny McLain becoming the first pitcher since Dizzy Dean in 1934 to reach 30 wins (and due to the current structure of the game with five-man rotations and a heavier reliance on relief pitchers going along with the mound nerfing, suffice to say McLain will be the last pitcher to ever hit that mark)
Luis Tiant led the AL with a 1.61 ERA and set a record batting-average-against, with hitters hitting an anemic .168 against him.
There were 339 shutouts in baseball that year; 30 of them came from the Gibson-led St. Louis Cardinals, which also set a 162-game season record of fewest runs allowed (472) that will never be eclipsed.
The AL hit a collective .231, the lowest in MLB history, and its .340 slugging percentage was the worst since the dead-ball era.
The Chicago White Sox set 162-game single-season records in fewest runs scored and times being shut out, both of which still stand.
Before 1968, baseball underwent two other major nerfs:
In the late 1890s, shortly before the American League was founded, a batter's first two foul balls were made strikes. Before that fouls didn't count against the batter, and a good one could tire out a pitcher by fouling marginal pitches until he got a hittable one (just as still happens when there's two strikes). That was even easier since they changed balls less frequently, and the balls were of lower quality than today's so they sometimes weren't even perfectly spherical anymore late in a game.
The infield fly rule, before which infielders could get cheap double plays in such situations with runners on first and second. With it, there's no force outs and you actually have to make the play.
The West Indies Cricket team complained that the "One bouncer per over" rule was designed to nerf their bowlers when it was introduced.
When the javelin throw reached a dangerous record (104.8 meters, 114 yards), the record was lowered and spears were redesigned to prevent potential danger to audiences (current record is 98m, or 108 yds).
The NFL does this every year, implementing new rules to keep the defense from bumping wide recievers, hitting W Rs in the head, hitting the quarterback, etc.
To see this taken to a ridiculous level, look at the Pro Bowl regulations, which include no blitzing.
Limiting bump-and-run pass coverage to a single bump within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage before the ball was thrown.
Stiffening the penalty for defensive pass interference from 15 yards to automatic first down at the spot of the infraction.
Allowing offensive linemen to extend their hands and use open palms to block on pass plays (essentially legalizing holding in those situations)
Adding the "in-the-grasp" rule to protect quarterbacks (the only one of these rule changes later repealed).
Changing the penalty for intentional grounding from 15 yards to 10 (later nerfed even further by making it only apply when the quarterback was between where the tackles had originally lined up).
What the rest of the world calls football (soccer to North Americans):
It was nerfed sometime in the past when the rules specified that every throw-in had to be made using two hands overhead, stepping forward as you did. This was in response to some English player who honed the skill of making long one-armed throws downfield distances that would be competitive with an NFL long bomb. It sort of took the "foot" out of "football."
Another ancient nerf happened when a certain goalkeeper started handling the ball, as was legal back then, all the way to the halfway line. This was adjusted with the limiting of a goalkeeper's ability to handle to the 18-yard box.
The 1990 World Cup, after complaints of being boring, led to the backpass rule, which prohibited players passing back to their goalkeeper and having them pick it up.
NASCAR originated with cars modified by their owners almost any way they liked: The first use of carbon fiber in a car was by Junior Johnson who happened to know someone working with it in the aerospace industry. As time went on restrictions were made limiting engine and aerodynamic technology, most infamously with Ford's 427 Cammer and Plymouth Superbird. Thanks to restrictions, today's cars are nearly identical and fuel injection won't be adapted until the 2014 season.
For Exalted, the Twilight caste's overpowered anima banner effect was nerfed in errata (and then totally rewritten into something more appropriate for the caste). The endless string of absurdly broken Charms in "Dreams of the First Age" wasn't so much nerfed as deleted entirely and replaced by a set that was actually balanced. Later, the combat system was rewritten to nerf perfect spam and lethality in one shot, so people can actually be hurt in Exalted without dying instantly and armour is actually useful.
In 3.5 Edition a primary source of argument is the haste spell, which was changed from being extremely useful to everyone to being mostly worthless to anyone who does not engage in conventional (melee or ranged weapon) combat — meaning most spellcasters have no reason ever to cast it on themselves. Of course, in this particular case, 3rd Edition was the only edition where haste was useful to spell casters in the first place. However, since it affected your caster-level worth of allies within a 30 feet radius, it made for a semi-decent group buff (albeit not nearly as good as it used to be) for the combat characters. Eventually, it was somewhat revived in the form of "Celerity" and its variants.
Wizards of the Coast also seems very, very afraid of polymorphing effects. They've reworked the rules so many times that this editor has completely given up on trying to keep track of them. Some of the changes were arguably good, such as changing the spells from Polymorph Self and Polymorph Other, the latter of which could be abused, to Polymorph and Baleful Polymorph. Other changes were to cover up such "abuses" as the possibility of parrots being able to pronounce command words for wands that the character could use in normal form. Despite all this, polymorph and similar effects (such as wildshape) are still really good.
One word: Shapechange. Bar none, the most powerful nonepic spell in existence and vastly powerful even on an epic scale. The overpowered nature of that spell is, in part, what led to the massive nerf on polymorphing.
Inversion: Clerics were seen as boring in 2nd edition because they had to use up almost all their spells healing their allies. In 3rd edition, they ended up being one of the most powerful classes in the game.
With the changeover to 4th Edition Wizards of the Coast definitively Nerfed Wizards and Druids from what they were before, where at certain levels, every other character was second fiddle to whatever scroll a Wizard had. Druids were healers, and Fighters, and Sneaky. The new versions in 4th edition are much lower in power and have a different gameplay purpose.
Paizo's Pathfinder, an update of D&D 3.5E, nerfed a great many things spammed by 3.5 players, including metamagic feats (especially Quickened Spell) and the ubiquitous spiked chain. They also nerfed some options indirectly, by improving everything, but improving some things less. For example, all Pathfinder base classes and monsters got upgrades compared to 3.5, but spell-casters generally got less new crunchy bits, effectively nerfing the casters by not buffing them as much. Likewise, letting players choose any base class as their character's favored class and giving them a bonus for sticking to it, then giving each base class a powerful bonus at max level made base classes more attractive. The effect was a nerf to Prestige Classes. Players are not always thinking of their first five levels as "filling in the checklist for my Prestige Class." Finally, eliminating Empty Levels, the high level bonus, and the favored class bonus nerfed 3.5's ubiquitous "dipping" into classes. How successful these changes are is entirely up to each gaming group.
Many cards in the Trading Card Game suffer through this every once in a while. Usually it comes in two flavors: either the card itself or the rulings for its use are changed to make it more situational and less powerful. It's become even more of a problem post-Invasion of Chaos, as Konami attempts to prevent another Envoy incident.
Many cards are nerfed in the transition from anime to real life cards. One of the most infamous examples is Card of Sanctity. In the anime, it allowed a player to draw until they had 6 cards in their hand (the legal hand size limit). To put that in perspective, konami banned a card that allowed a player to draw 2 cards while this one would have allowed a player to draw up to six. Instead of just not releasing it, konami made it so that you have to remove everything you controlled (hand and field) from play, and only draw 2.
Most cards were just banned instead of nerfed though. The only time cards are genuinely nerfed is when the cards are mistranslated, like with "Bazoo the Soul-Eater", "Kycoo the Ghost Destroyer", and "Skull Lair". Their very powerful effects were very easy to activate, kinda similar to the two Chaos envoys though not as powerful. However, the envoys were banned whereas these two cards were changed. Ironically, many people did not use "Skull Lair" despite it being broken since it was only a common card.
Subverted with "Yata-Garasu", it had the effect of making the opponent skip his next draw phase, making a lockdown possible, which essentially means an instant win. When launching the US version they decided to make it “a bit less playable” by having it return to the owner’s hand after the turn was over, making it actually stronger since it was very hard to destroy if it wasn’t on the field. Eventually it had to get banned.
Magic: The Gathering goes through this from time to time, with Wizards of the Coast banning or limiting cards that prove unbalancingly powerful.
In times past, Wizards would sometimes nerf overpowered cards by issuing errata. Most of them have since been changed back. The current policy is to make all cards function as originally designed (though they'll still issue errata to fix genuine errors, or to bring cards in line with new rules). There are a few different "formats" distinguished by which cards are banned, allowing players to choose what level of nerfage they want to deal with.
Occasionally, a de-nerfed card will immediately be banned thanks to their newfound power level. One short-lived tournament environment featured a newly-de-nerfed card that allowed very quick wins. With the right four cards in one's opening hand, the card could be used to win the game at the beginning of the first turn of the game - even if that turn was the opponent's.
Magic, because of its rotating set formats, can Nerf a card simply by replacing it with a new one. If Lightning Bolt is too powerful, wait for it to rotate out of the main format and then print Shock, which is the same cost for one less damage. Ditto Counterspell, which was replaced with Cancel - the same thing, but with a mana added to the cost. Lightning Bolt and Counterspell still see vintage and casual formats, but since a lot of things are in Vintage, they fit in the end.
It is more common for a strategy to be nerfed, rather than an individual card. This is often accomplished by releasing a card which is devastatingly effective against the currently dominant deck type, but of limited usefulness against other decks.
Back in 7th edition, Dark Elf Sorceresses were some of the best mages in the game due to their access to the Power of Darkness spell, which was easy to cast and granted bonus power dice. The spell has not been changed, but the 8th edition of the rules put a cap on how many power dice you can get each turn, making it much less useful.
Similarly, the entire army Daemons of Chaos was considered so broken that some tournaments banned it, and many players refused to play against it. Almost everything caused Fear/Terror, everything had some kind of Ward save, and the magic was atrociously undercosted for what it did; in short, you'd find your troops fleeing, dead, or otherwise incapacitated in short order without much chance to strike back. With the advent of 8th Edition, psychology has a much less damaging effect and magic has been capped in many ways. There's a reason 8th Edition has been called 'The Daemon Nerf' by some.
Earlier editions had a piece of equipment known as the Targeting Computer. This equipment not only made it easier to hit opponents, but also allowed for called shots, otherwise impossible in the normal course of play. Called shots usually took their shot at a penalty, but pulse lasers possessed a hit bonus largely negated the penalty when used for called shots. It has since removed this ability from weapons with hit bonuses to avoid Game Breaker status.
Another piece of equipment that nearly broke the game was the Null Signature system, which in its Maximum Tech incarnation forced opponents to take a +6 penalty to the target number (on a roll of 2d6!) at long range, and even at medium range was still a +3 penalty. This was quickly nerfed in later releases to just +2 at long range and +1 at medium range in the interests of not utterly destroying the range equations.
In the card game Munchkin, the Kneepads Of Allure got nerfed. Originally, they could compel anyone to help you in a fight. Now, they cannot be used to win the game, and the target cannot be lower-level than you.
For the Transformers Classics toy line, due to tightened gun laws preventing a release of a realistic toy firearm, Megatron was literally turned into a Nerf gun for his figure.
The Trope Namer "Nerf". The Nerf Brand is a group of toys made from squishy foam. Nerf "Blasters" that fire projectiles of the stuff are most famous, but the trope actually gets its name from another part of the toy line, squishy foam bats.