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Ability Required to Proceed
aka: You Must Be This Tall To Enter
"Master, I have completed the design for base security; these doors only open when you hit them with the Flaming Sword!"
"But no one in my army uses flaming swords."
"That's what makes it secure!"
— A conversation between a constructor of a Supervillain Lair and his boss in Zero Punctuation, Strider

One way to control the plot of a video game is to place barriers in the hero's path. A destination may be unreachable without access to water transport because the main character has Super Drowning Skills. You may need to become immune to fire before moving on because the next level is set in a Fire and Brimstone Hell environment. Perhaps you need to enlist the help of a specific NPC, or acquire a specific item, in order to get past the annoying guard.

Sometimes, the item, ability, or skill isn't needed again. But, in other cases, it becomes a key part of the main character's inventory, and gets used all the time. Another example: you can't get to the other island without a ship, so any plot event that happens on the other island can assume you have a ship. Thus, the game developers suddenly start throwing quests at you that require you to hop back and forth between islands like a bored tourist, and continue to do so for the rest of the game. In extreme cases, the entire game dynamic may change after you obtain this one critical item or ability, because you are now well-equipped/powerful enough to handle challenges that would have been insurmountable before.

This is a subtrope of Broken Bridge. While Broken Bridges railroad you to the plot by requiring that you complete certain tasks before new areas open up, this trope is about railroading you to the plot by requiring that you have the necessary skills and abilities to move forward and open up new areas. This trope is a staple of the Metroidvania genre of video games, though it shows up in other genres as well.

See also But Thou Must. For something that requires you to be at a certain level to proceed before it kills you, see Beef Gate. When used carelessly, this can result in Cardboard Obstacles. When this is combined with an offensive ability it's a Utility Weapon.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Action Adventure Game 
  • In the PC version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, you cannot get into some game areas until you are taught specific spells in class.
    • You cannot use Spongify pads to jump until you are taught the Spongify spell, but various Spongify pads outside the castle are visible throughout the game.
  • A literal example of this trope is the arcade game Bubbles. In this game you control a scrubbing bubble in a sink, and advance to the next level by sending your bubble down the drain. But you have to grow your bubble big enough before you can go down the drain; if the bubble is too small, it'll pop.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, there are several items without which you cannot proceed. For example, you can't get into the Forest Temple without a Hookshot. As soon as you get inside the Forest Temple, and for the rest of the game thereafter, you will see Hookshot targets all over the place. Many important puzzles are insoluble without the Hookshot. Good thing you never ran into one of those as a kid, before you found the Hookshot, huh? Let's not forget that You Must Be This Tall To Wield The Master Sword...Literally.
    • And as a series hallmark, every dungeon in the series will have puzzles that can't be solved without the item found in the respective dungeon, and bosses that needed that item to be beaten.
      • A further hallmark (used more in mid-series games and then abandoned recently in favor of standard Broken Bridges) is that one dungeon's item will be required to enter the next dungeon (or even sometimes the section of The Overworld it lies in).
  • Used very frequently in Ōkami. There are places very early on in the game that require some of the final Brush Techniques to enter.
  • Metroidvania games are built on this trope. High jumps (You Must Jump This High To Enter), narrow passages (You Must Be This Small To Enter), and especially the color-coded doors of most Metroid games.
    • In a Lampshade Hanging fashion, said games also force you to use the item/powerup you just got, merely to escape that room. Just got the High Jump? Why, look there. You can only get out of the room by using the High-Jump. Unless you do some Sequence Breaking techniques, that is.
    • Certain Metroidvania-style games have areas that must be entered by double-jumping. Usually, those areas are full of ledges (and Bottomless Pits) that can only be traversed by double-jumping.
  • Castlevania games generally tend to give you the double jump fairly early - you'll need it constantly for the rest of the game. However, many of the upgrades are also used only once or twice.
  • In Beyond Good & Evil there are locked doors and other obstacles that require a certain tool (or hovercraft equipment, or sidekick) to overcome. Sometimes, the item needed to escape from a room can be conveniently found in the same room.
  • Applies not to you, but to your minions, in Overlord. Can't pass fire without red minions, or poison without green ones! You can go through water, but only blue minions can safely follow you, and if there's a gate-opening wheel on the other side you're just too lazy to turn it yourself.
    • The same principle is used with the pikmin in Pikmin. Blue pikmin can swim, red pikmin are fireproof, yellow pikmin are immune to electricity, and white pikmin can breathe poison. The ability barriers go further in some cases; one boss in the game can only be damaged after getting hit by a purple pikmin.
  • Seen in the Onimusha series: the second and third games have certain doors protected by a colored, tumor-like Genma called Mozun. In order to unlock said areas, you have to find the right Oni Weapon and use it (examining the Mozun will always tell you what kind of elemental Oni Weapon you need). The fourth game, Dawn of Dreams has certain levels containing special locks or iron doors or walkways that can only be used by one of your party members.
  • The exploration gameplay of Aquaria is wholly built upon this. You spend most of the game collecting abilities and shapeshift forms that let you explore previously inaccessible areas, most of which are linked to the starting zone. This actually forces your progression into a more or less linear path. For example, near the beginning, you get a telekinesis-like ability, allowing you to explore passages blocked by boulders — by pulling them away. In some other passages, your path is blocked by currents streaming towards you; you move on to explore them after learning a form in which you can swim against currents.
  • In Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, Lara periodically has to receive skill upgrades (grip strength, running speed, etc.) to overcome obstacles as the game progresses.
  • Tomb Raider (2013) was set on one big island location. However, Lara was unable to explore new areas until she acquired the required gear to proceed. As these were found as the story went on, they could also count as Plot Coupons
  • In Hellfire (an expansion pack to the original Diablo), you cannot reach the insect hive until the farmer character knows you well enough to talk to you about his problems (and then to give you the explosives you need to create an entrance to the hive).
  • Happens several times in the Legacy of Kain series.
    • In Blood Omen, the Wolf and Mist forms could reach inaccessible areas, the Disguise and Beguile forms could be used to interact peacefully with humans, and the Energy Bolt and Control Mind spells could be used to press inaccessible switches.
    • In Soul Reaver, Raziel generally needed the ability gained from each of his brothers to reach the next one.
  • Strider for the NES: Flashing red wall? You need the Magnetic Boots to walk up it. HP-draining water? Requires the Aqua Boots, which you must Wall Jump to reach. Uncrossable spike pit? Jumping upgrade required to proceed. Low passageway? You need to acquire the sliding ability.
  • In Blaster Master, the passage to each subsequent stage requires an upgrade earned by defeating the Mutant Boss of the current stage.

     Eastern RPG 
  • In the Dragon Ball Z Legacy of Goku 2 and Buu's Fury games for the Game Boy Advance, certain areas can only be entered by certain characters having reached certain levels. This is evidenced by the number they must be at, bearing a color associated with the proper character (blue for Vegeta, green for Piccolo, orange for Goku, etc.).
  • Final Fantasy III has a `you must be this short to enter' feature — certain areas are accessibly only through tiny doorways, only available once a member of the party has the `mini' spell.
  • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga also has some areas that are blocked off or otherwise inaccessible until the brothers have learned some ability.
  • Paper Mario has this with the obstacles cleared by partners' abilities.
  • In the Pokémon games, occasionally HM moves are necessary to reach plot-specific areas. Each game has certain cities and localities you can only reach once you have taught one of your Pokémon a certain HM and once you have the Gym badge that allows you to use it outside of battle. Surf is the most obvious, with Cut and Rock Smash being the other two main offenders.
  • A mainstay of the Wild ARMs series where characters use tools to pass certain obstacles. The location where they are introduced often requires extensive use of the tool which was never required before that point.
  • Phantasy Star III makes use of caverns to transport your party between various worlds. To keep you from advancing too far too soon, several of them are locked and require specific gemstones to enter; you acquire those either from Inexplicable Treasure Chests or from recruited party members.
  • Constantly in Radiant Historia. Need to defuse magically-hidden bombs? Swap timelines and learn to see invisible things. Need to sneak into a heavily-guarded area unnoticed? Swap timelines and trick a villain into showing off his Teleport Spam so you can copy it. Need to find a way to bypass an enemy's ability to paralyze you? Swap timelines again and talk someone who's beaten him into teaching you how they did it.
  • Chrono Trigger requires you to get the Epoch, a time machine that allows you to travel to a time period that has been otherwise sealed off from you. Once you have it, and especially after it is later upgraded, it allows you to clean up the remaining Side Quests and Bonus Dungeons much more quickly.
  • Golden Sun features various psynergy (psychic-magic) powers that are required to solve puzzles or remove barriers. Most notable is Grind from the second game, which is almost never used after it's first use to break the rock barriers that separate the oceans.
    • Similarly, Lift is used maybe once or twice to get into Magma Rock, which the first used quite a bit more.

     First Person Shooter 
  • Half-Life 2: Episode One used this relatively early. To make sure you have a gun, the door has a padlock just out of reach. Mainly done to ensure people picked up the gun right by the door, since it is a bit dark in there, and it could go unseen. The commentary reveals that the dev team calls this a "gate". And, ironically enough, there's an achievement in the game for grabbing that gun, hitting the padlock with it, and then never using it or any other bullet-shooting gun for the rest of the game - literally everything else that happens can be taken care of with controlled application of a crowbar, gravity gun, or explosives.
  • BioShock there certain points in the game that require you to find a certain plasmid in order to progress to another area.

     Platformer 
  • Banjo-Tooie does this to limit progress through the Hub Level. You need to have learned Grip Grab to get into Plateau, Fire Eggs to get into Pine Grove, Split Up to get into Cliff Top, Talon Torpedo to get into Wasteland, Springy Step Shoes to get into Quagmire, and Claw Clamber Boots to enter the Cauldron Keep. Even the in-game cheats don't get around these requirements.
    • The Zubba hive in Cloud Cuckooland presents a variation. You're not allowed in unless you demonstrate you can shoot a target 20 times in 10 seconds, which effectively means You Must Be A Bee To Enter.
  • In the second level of Little Nemo The Dream Master, Oompi says, "You're going to need the lizard's help to get through this next area." This alludes to a passage that is otherwise too narrow for Nemo to enter.
  • In Mega Man 1, you don't need to pick up the Magnet Beam in Elec Man's stage to beat Elec Man, but you do need it to finish the first Dr. Wily stage. And since it's stuck behind some blocks that can only be broken with Elec Man's or Guts Man's powers, you either need to beat Guts Man first, or play through Elec Man's stage twice.
    • From Mega Man 2 on, any required item is earned by beating a Robot Master, thus ensuring the player has all the tools necessary to complete the game. Later games featured additional items the player can find or purchase, but they're not strictly required.
  • In The Adventures Of Rad Gravity, Volcania is accessible after completing Cyberia, but you can't progress there until you have the Teleport Beacon from much later in the game. Sauria and Turvia can be completed in either order, but the boss of Vernia can only be defeated with the Crystals from Sauria.
  • Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage had this in the form of swimming, climbing, and the headbash move. The abilities had to be purchased from Moneybags in order to complete each hub area, and some orb sidequests also required them, meaning you may occasionally need to backtrack to previous areas for 100% completion.

     Puzzle Game 
  • This is literally the case in the Katamari Damacy series; the larger your katamari becomes, the larger the stuff you can roll up. Levels frequently have barriers with signs on it stating a size number, which you can't roll up (or thus explore beyond them) until your katamari crosses that threshold.
  • Antichamber: Mostly played straight with the different block guns. Sequence Breaking is possible, but it tends to require considerably more ingenuity and dexterity than the intended solution.

     Roguelike 
  • To descend into the deepest parts of the main dungeon in Ancient Domains of Mystery, the player needs to pass a wall of fire blocking the down staircase, which requires an artifact called the Chaos Orb of Elemental Fire that is also required in the endgame. And it's just as well that the wall forces the player to be that tall get the Orb, because otherwise no sane person would enter the Tower of Eternal Flames where the Orb, massive equipment destruction, and rapid immolation for the newbie player resides.
  • Earlier versions of NetHack had an endgame set in Hell, and if you entered it without Fire Resistance you were instantly burnt to a crisp. There are many ways to obtain said fire resistance, but any means will work. (These days, getting anywhere near the endgame without a bucketload of resistances is merely mostly suicidal.)

     Survival Horror 
  • This happens all the time in various Resident Evil games, often with either a crank or valve handle.
  • The service elevator in Silent Hill 2's hotel only allows one person, not including baggage.

     Western RPG 
  • Different obstacles in the Fade in Dragon Age: Origins each require different alternate forms, obtained from lost souls somewhere in the dreamscape. The rat can go through rat holes, the spirit can go through portals, the golem can smash large doors, and the, er, burning corpse can walk through fire.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun, your party are unable to explore a particularly volcano-y cave without every member wearing Rings of Fire Resistance. Aside from their obvious advantages involving the resistance of fire, these items are only really necessary for this part. Take a ring off and your character will slowly burn to death.
  • Lands of Lore 2: Guardians of Destiny contains lots of areas that can only be accessed if the hero is in the form of a giant beast (allowing him to shove obstacles out of his way) or a tiny lizard (allowing him to slip through cracks). The hard part about this is that, for a good chunk of the game, you have absolutely no control over when he transforms, or which form he changes into if and when he does.
  • Played to some degree in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, where You Must Levitate To Enter a Telvanni mage tower. You can find, however, plenty of levitation potions around, you can make your own if you need to, and the main quest also gives you an enchanted item with a Levitate spell burned on it.
  • To enter the Fallout: New Vegas DLC Honest Hearts, you need to be carrying an inventory load of 75 pounds or less, 100 if you have Speech and Barter skills of 50 or more. In Lonesome Road, you need a Science skill of 75 to access the Hopeville silo mainframe and unlock the way forward.

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alternative title(s): You Must Be This Tall To Enter
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