In real life, we obviously have to top up our car's fuel every now and then. But in video games, this isn't usually the case, no matter how jarring it would be. As an Acceptable Break from Reality, game developers tend to make use of this trope for practical reasons, mostly to simplify gameplay or to make it more accessible and keep things as well-paced as possible, though in some games fuel is implemented either as a glorified countdown timer, as in the case of arcade games where play time is limited to a few minutes, or to add immersion or realism and thus an element of strategy such as in a survival game where conserving resources is a must. Certain titles however would have vehicles slow down to a crawl instead of going to a complete stop, perhaps as a milder penalty compared to a Game Over or being stuck in a race. This is fairly common in most games, so only exceptions, inversions or non-standard examples may be listed. Compare Automaton Horses for when the same basic principle is applied to animals instead of vehicles.
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- Arcade Game Scramble (1981). Your ship has a limited amount of fuel. You can get more by destroying enemy fuel tanks.
- Arcade Game Zaxxon (1982). You fly through an enemy fortress with a diminishing fuel supply. You can refill by shooting fuel tanks.
- Apple II computer game Jumpjet (1983). Your jumpjet is refueled by connecting to the umbilical of a passing tanker plane, much the same way fighter jets do in Real Life.
- Armor Games' online Flash game Indestructotank. In all versions your tank has a limited fuel supply and you must complete the level before running out of fuel.
- Fuel is one of the important resources you have to manage in Kantai Collection so your ship girls can operate successfully.
- Infinite vs limited fuel for your aircraft is one of the many difficulty settings you can customize in the Il 2 Sturmovik series.
- The Bigfoot section of Duke Nukem Forever sees Duke drive his giant car to the Hoover Dam, having to disembark and look for gas three times due to how much fuel it guzzles. Running out of gas are prescripted events, however.
- In the classic Vertical Scrolling Shooter River Raid, the player must occasionally fly over fuel stations without accidentally shooting them (but can still shoot them after refueling for bonus points).
- Super Scope 6 has the game "Engage", where each level is timed by your ship's fuel. You have to shoot down all enemy ships before running out, and between levels a supply ship comes to fully refuel your tanks.
- In Lunar Lander, you use a limited fuel supply to fire rockets to control your landing.
- Ghostbusters (1984): There's a mechanic in the NES version's driving sections whereby the Ghostbusters have to refuel their car by running over barrels of gas laying on the road. Miss too many of them, and the guys will have to get out and push the car back to home base.
- Maryellen Rocket Rally for iOS also has fuel pickups strewn throughout the level similar to Hill Climb Racing. Collecting them allows the player to get their rocket even further into space.
- The vehicles in the Borderlands series mostly play this straight, but their boost meters are another matter entirely. Once you've depleted... whatever resource the boost is using, you have to wait for it to recharge before you can use it again, in defiance of all known laws of physics.
- Many racing simulation games such as Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport have limited fuel capacity as well as tire wear, so the player must strategize when to drive through the pit stop.
- The rather obscure PC and Game Boy game Harley-Davidson: Race Across America utilised a fuel gauge. For the most part it works, but it was poorly weaved into the game, and you have to crawl a dozen or so miles to the nearest gas station especially on the Sportster, though unlimited fuel can be enabled through a cheat. Later Harley-licensed video games did away with this, fortunately.
- Road Fighter made use of the aforementioned glorified countdown mechanic, or to put it another way, the leaky gas tank approach. The fuel meter runs down significantly quicker should the player go faster (not to mention that it presents a greater risk of crashing), and running out of gas would, unsurprisingly, lead to a Game Over.
- Fuel is a vital resource in the mobile game Hill Climb Racing, with jerry can pickups strewn throughout the course. It makes sense considering that the game's objective is to travel the furthest distance possible.
Real Time Strategy
- Rise of Nations: Played straight for land vehicles, but averted for aircraft, which have a maximum service range after being launched from an airfield or aircraft carrier. Their time over target is proportional to their distance from the airfield, and they will not respond to any orders while returning to base to refuel.
Role Playing Game
- In Mass Effect 2, you don't have to worry about fuel when traveling within the star system or between mass relays, but it becomes an issue when traveling between star systems within a cluster. Run out of fuel and you will have to expend some of your gathered resources.
- In Fallout 2, the Chosen One can buy a Highwayman after going through a Chain of Deals to get the parts and forking over $2000. The car runs on a battery (one of the few Pre-War cars that did while the oil in the world dried up) but requires a charge from Small Energy Cells (5 for max) or Microfusion Cells (2 for max). That said the fuel cell regulator, found in Klammath's rat caves, can squeeze double the power out of the battery before it needs a recharge.
- Orbiter, simulating spaceflights as realistic as possible, features limited reaction mass for spacecrafts. There is an option for unlimited fuel, but it introduces its own problems (as a spacecraft loses fuel, it also loses mass, giving it better maneuverability; with infinite fuel, your tanks possess maximum mass forever).
- One important thing in FTL: Faster Than Light to worry about is to not run out of fuel necessary for FTL jumps. If you do, you will have to wait for the opportunity to refuel while being a sitting duck for the ever-advancing rebel fleet. Fuel for sublight travel, however, is not an issue.
Text Based Adventure
- In the Star Trek Text Game, warp drive, shields, and phasers all drain energy. You have to dock at a space station to refuel.
Turn Based Strategy
- In Advance Wars, vehicles can only move for a certain number of turns before running out of fuel, though there exist supply units that can refuel and rearm them. Flying units will crash if they run out of fuel.
- Atari's Vindicators arcade games have player-controlled tanks with diminishing fuel. If the player's tank fuel supply empties out to nothing, the tank will remain mobile, albeit very slowly, for roughly twenty seconds. If, during that time, the player fails to collect any fuel or is shot by an enemy, the player's credit ends.
Wide Open Sandbox
- While vehicles in Grand Theft Auto in general, have bottomless gas tanks, certain missions like "Dildo Dodo" in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and "Supply Lines..." in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas have the player controlling aircraft with limited fuel supply. The original versions of GTA: San Andreas used the Road Fighter-esque fuel mechanic, but later editions changed this by having the fuel deplete on being used rather than over time, allowing players to use fuel sparingly and glide whenever possible. The mobile and remastered Xbox 360 ports had the fuel tank's capacity increased to make that mission easier.
- Grand Theft Auto V allows the player to shoot the gas tank on most vehicles, causing them to leak fuel and eventually come to a stop; Vehicles are for the most part run on infinite fuel, however.
- Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven and Mafia II also used a fuel gauge for the sake of realism, though unlike Race Across America the games are far less punishing when it comes to fuel consumption, not counting the Gas Guzzling Trautenberg side quest in the first game.
Non-Video Game Examples
Film — Live-Action
- In The Last Jedi, this trope is inverted—unusual for a pretty soft sci-fi work like Star Wars. During a Stern Chase in which the heroes must stay ahead of their enemies to remain outside effective weapons range, it's repeatedly noted that "fuel" is dwindling. This leads to not one, but two Abandon Ship incidents when smaller vessels run out of fuel. Their crews are safely transferred to the flagship.
- In SF Debris' review of the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Parallax", Chuck compares the episode's assertion that you can escape a black hole's event horizon by making a crack in it to saying that you can make your car go further after running out of gas by cutting a hole in the distance you traveled.