Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors

Fire burns Grass,Grass absorbs Water, and Water puts out Fire. The starters for Pokémon Red, Green, & Blue.
(Your rival always picks the one that beats yours...)

"If there's one thing I know, it's water beats fire. But grass beats water, and fire beats grass. Good God, it's like a never-ending circle!"

Many video games (and anime set in a Role-Playing Game Verse) use traditional magical "elements" to assign and define the powers of various characters. Energy for attacks or defense are based on these elements, and thus subject to the differing strengths and weaknesses.

There are two primary systems:

Western (European). Usually diagrammed as a square or an equal-armed cross. Elements opposite each other are "hostile", and those adjacent are "friendly". The four elements, in sequence, are:

  • Earth
  • Water
  • Air
  • Fire

Some systems of Western magic, most notably Wicca, also include Spirit as an element, and use a pentagram (five-pointed star) instead of a square/cross diagram. This might also be called Aether if the work has a Greek flavour, or just "the fifth element" note  note  if the author is feeling lazy. The native Japanese system also uses these four plus Void, but elemental usage in Japanese media varies widely.

Eastern (Asian) has five elements, called "Wu Xing", which appear in Taoist philosophy, the I-Ching, and Asian alchemy, among other traditions. They are:

  • Earth
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Wood
  • Metal

Unlike the Western elements, the Eastern elements are not in a static arrangement of opposition and alliance, but define a process or cycle that runs along a five-pointed star (and may well have influenced those European systems that also employ five elements).

The name of this trope comes from the tendency for each element, regardless of originating magical system, to be strong against some of the other elements, and weak against others. Which is which greatly depends on the individual universe and the system(s) from which the alchemical symbolism was lifted. And often, the interpretation of an element either in or out of context can change its attributes or purposes. (As can the needs of the story!) For example, water is a real-life strong conductor of electricity; this can mean that water is "good for" the electricity (electricity naturally "fills up" the water and destroys the watery creature) or "bad for" it (the electricity doesn't want to be conducted by water, and the electrical creature is sapped or short-circuited). The complexity of the system gets really fun when you come up with a coexisting "antimatter" set of elements directly opposed to the normal ones.

Some elements may have attributes strong or weak against something not necessarily primal.

Common strengths/weaknesses often include (but are not limited to):
  • Fire — usually strong against wood, ice, or the undead. Weak to water, and sometimes, wind. Sometimes weak to stone or earth (but just as often strong against the latter especially if plant life is included in earth).
  • Ice — May be either strong or weak against fire, depending on whether it's classified with or separately from Water. If it's separate, then Water will be strong against Fire while Ice is weak to it; if they're combined, Fire and Ice will be equally strong against each other (similar to Light/Dark, mentioned below).
    • Ice is also often effective against reptiles and amphibians who naturally have a poor tolerance for extreme cold.
  • Earth — usually strong against electricity and air, and utterly ineffective against wood although again this varies by the setting; when combined with plants it is weak to fire otherwise Earth is strong to fire and weak to water and/or ice, and sometimes it is weak against Wind/Air (also similar to Light/Dark).
  • Electricity — usually strong against water, but otherwise equal against fire and ice. Weak against earth. May be weak or strong against robots and machines.
    • Electricity can also be viewed as divine, and be effective against the undead for this reason (even if normal Light is not).
    • Can be pretty useless against grass elements, earth, rock, and every other related to mineral or with grounding capabilities.
    • Air and electricity can be the same element in some RPGs.
  • Water — usually strong against fire, weak to electricity, ice (if they're separate) and/or wood/grass. Sometimes strong against earth (since water erodes rock over time), or (instead of being weak to it) electricity.
  • Air — usually strong against fire, weak to earth and electricity. Sometimes however, wind spread flames around instead.
  • Nature — if it means plant life, then weak to fire and ice, and strong to water and earth. If it means 'what is natural or real', then usually particularly strong or weak to artificial, arcane, unreal, mechanical, or undead.
  • Metal — Strong against plant life, or the mystic and the "natural", weak against water (it rusts metal). May be strong or weak against fire and electricity (metal being both heat and electric insulator).
  • Time — weak against darkness, air, or gravity, strong against mostly everything. Makes sense versus earth, water, and undead.
  • Gravity — weak against water, electricity, or light in most cases, strong versus time and earth. Gravity and darkness are often on equal footing strangely enough.
  • Space — Is often on equal footing with Time. May overlap with gravity in some cases. May be weak or strong against air.
  • Light and Dark are usually conflicting forces who are equally strong against each other, but weak as a defense. Light is usually effective against the undead and other evil beings such as demons, while Dark is effective against "good" beings such as angels. Light and Dark may be the same element if the MCs are True Neutral or often to equal on footing to be strong or weak vs. each other in some settings; other times they are portrayed as weak/strong to each other equally.
    • Light may be weak against plant life (since they absorb light for their growth). Darkness might be weak against fire (since it produces light).

Elements are almost always immune or resistant to themselves; and can sometimes even heal the entity in question. Fighting fire with fire, for example, rarely works. (Except when it does.) Any Non-Elemental powers, as their name implies, will merely sit out in the corner of left field wondering why nobody else wants to interact with them. Sometimes they aren't the most important factors to have on mind, however; see Scissors Cuts Rock and Elemental Tiers for that.

The magic-specific subtrope of Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors. Related to Situational Damage Attack in which an attack of a superior element will do more damage against an enemy with inferior element. See Poor, Predictable Rock for when people totally fail to recognize the implications of this system. See also Field Power Effect for terrain and conditions that help one element and hinders others. May result in a Shapeshifter Showdown. Bypassed by wearing a Kryptonite-Proof Suit. Not to be confused with Fire/Ice/Lightning, which is only sometimes a case of Elemental RPS. Watch out for the Infinity+1 Element. Contrast Inverse Law of Complexity to Power, where this trope is applied between fundamental and abstract elements.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Naruto has this in their elemental jutsus. It's a somewhat different cycle though (element points to one it beats) Fire→Wind→Lightning→Earth→Water→Fire.) Also, this only appears to apply to the effect of jutsu on each other, not with regular materials.
    • To elaborate, each elemental jutsu has its own "theme"; for instance, Earth jutsu are mostly defensive (making walls, for example), and that plays into how they work. Fire attacks feast on Wind, so if you counter Fire with Wind you will simply make the Fire more powerful; Lightning disrupts and tears through Earth; Earth blocks Water; and Water obviously snuffs Fire out. Wind vs. Lightning is yet to be demonstrated, but presumably involves redirection. Other elemental clashes can still have bad effects — Lightning vs. Water, for instance, is usually bad for any ninja touching the water, except for the caster of the lightning jutsu.
  • In One Piece, a number of occasions show up that set two Devil Fruits against each other with surprising, yet still logical, outcomes. For a few examples, the abilities of 'Fire Fist' Ace and Commodore Smoker canceled each other out, the supposedly godlike abilities of God Eneru were completely canceled out by the allegedly weak powers of Luffy, and the previously unbeatable poison-based powers of Magellan were successfully blocked by the considerably weaker wax powers of Mr. 3.
    • At least until Magellan made an even stronger poison.
      • As of Chapter 573, we have learned of such an effect with Marine Admiral Akainu and his power to become magma: Magma has an advantage over regular fire. There is actual science behind this, as lava has both heat and mass (effectively smothering a weaker flame with its own) hotter than normal fire.
    • Furthermore, even non-elemental powers can be counteracted by others. Perona's Negative Hollow doesn't work on negative people, like Usopp. Hawkeye Mihawk's sword skills can't do a thing to Buggy's Chop-Chop powers.
  • Bleach: Hitsugaya points out that it doesn't matter how much water Harribel throws at him, his power is based on converting water to ice, so he can counter it every time. Harribel observes that logic works in reverse by using boiling water to melt Hitsugaya's ice into back into water she can exploit. Hitsugaya then clarifies he understands this and proceeds to demonstrate that he can control even her boiling water. However, since all they both have is ice and water, this doesn't change their stand-off.
  • Interestingly, the five Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Gundams were each given an elemental association in the design phase: Deathscythe is Wind, Heavyarms is Fire, Sandrock is Earth, and Shenlong is Water. Wing is unmentioned, but as the "unifying" aspect of the team as well as the only dedicated flyer, probably represents Void.
  • The original Mew Mews symbolise the four basic Western elements (Mint = Air, Lettuce/Retasu = Water, Pudding/Purin = Earth, and Zakuro = Fire), with Ichigo symbolising Light.
  • An episode of the Toei Yu-Gi-Oh! animé had Yami Yugi playing a magical game where he and his opponent controlled dragons that represented the five Eastern elements. A bit more complex than most examples, since the dragons not only had dominance against other elements; they could also be joined with complementary elements to gain more strength, like in the Chinese philosophy of the five elements.
  • Fairy Tail averts this trope for the most part. Fire mage Natsu Dragoneel and ice mage Gray Fullbuster often fight with Natsu having no apparent advantage due to his element. It's even outright stated at one point that Natsu can't melt magic ice nearly as easily as he can regular ice. It's worth noting that the one time it seems they're going to use this trope, it ends up being subverted. Gray is up against a woman who is literally made of water. Everyone thinks he'll just freeze her and score an easy win, but he ends up making her angry, which causes her to boil herself and melt his ice before it can hit her.
  • Compared to the games, the anime version of Pokémon actually downplays this. While type advantages are acknowledged to exist in-universe by the characters, it isn't uncommon for Trainers' Pokemon to be able to overcome them completely with the right strategies, moves, and brutal training.
  • In Tokyo Underground, the elemental effectivity chart is actually based on conventional physics and common sense: thus, for example, a water mage was easily able to win against a lightning mage due to the fact that pure water is a poor conductor of electricity.
  • The first season of Saint Seiya Omega featured the following dynamic: Fire→Water→Earth→Lightning→Wind.
  • Blazer powers in Chivalry of a Failed Knight can be oriented around elements, such as with Stella and Shizuku. Shizuku surpasses her weakness to lightning-oriented Blazers in an early battle with pure water, but later loses to the lightning-using student council president Touka.

    Comic Books 
  • Various Marvel Comics heroes have used this trope at several points to defeat certain enemies, most often villains who either transform themselves into some giant elemental-type creature or otherwise use a certain type of energy in their powers.
    • Spider-Man villains Electro, Sandman, and Hydro-Man have all been defeated by being doused with water and/or some chemical compound that negatively affects them, like wet cement.
    • The X-Men hero Iceman once defeated the Human Torch despite the apparent weakness, using his ice powers to create steam and water vapors around Torch and extinguish his flames. Obviously, The Torch was struck dumb.
    • The Incredible Hulk has defeated some of his opponents this way, such as by spraying the villainess Vapor with oxygen when she had transformed herself into hydrogen, effectively turning her into water (which should have required burning it), or by beating X-Ray (a living field of radiation) with a lead pipe, which disrupts his radioactive body.
      • This is much more more fun if you realize that pure oxygen and pure hydrogen tend to explode when combined.
      • Vapor and X-Ray were both members of the U-Foes, a group of villains who tried to get superpowers by copying Reed Richards' flawed space flight. They ended up as direct analogues of the Fantastic Four (but evil, and therefore punchable), making them Elementals twice removed.
  • The Golden Age Green Lantern has an inverted version of the East Asian elemental relationships. He used the element of fire, was strong against metals, but was weak against wood.
    • The modern Green Lantern comics have this with the emotional/color spectrum rather than elements. For instance, Willpower/Green rings are vulnerable to Fear/Yellow rings, which are vulnerable to Hope/Blue rings, which depend on the aid of Willpower/Green rings to actually do anything.
      • Rage/Red rings give the user the user the ability to vomit blood that weakens other rings, the disadvantage is that most red ring users are unable to make constructs, and they also were vulnerable to blue.
      • Greed/Orange rings can store far more charge than normal rings and can absorb energy from other colors, but not blue.
      • Indigo/compassion can copy other colors.
      • Black/Death, which is the absence of color and life, normally can only be beaten by a combination of green plus one other color or by white.
      • White/Life is the combination of all other colors except black, and their combined abilities.
      • The First lantern was a Reality Warper and Emotion Eater who had an advantage over all the colors, although Orange was particularly resistant to him. His only vulnerability was against Black.

    Fan Works 
  • In With Strings Attached, during the Fourth Movement, the Raleka wizards plan to fight water-wielder John with fire and electricity. This might have worked if they hadn't been distracted into attacking a whole lot of other people first.
  • In Sailormoon Millennia Trilogy there is a part where Arseniru attacks the Sailor Senshi with fire. Sailors Mars and Leo, who have fire powers, are especially affected by it, while the ice warriors Sailor Mercury and Sailorgemini are immune.

  • Magic in Kaze no Stigma is divided into the four element set, each with its area of expertise. Fire is good at raw power and purification. Wind is good at reconnaissance and concealment. Earth can detect people touching the ground and cause earthquakes. No one cares about water. Fire mages can't be harmed by fire and can even stand on lava.
  • In one of Piers Anthony's Xanth novels, a literal game of Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors and different interpretations lead to the death of a merman. In this case, according to the dragon: Sand smothers fire, fire boils water, and water covers sand; while according to the merman: Fire melts sand, sand displaces water, water douses fire. The dragon's interpretation matches ours. The dragon threw Fire and the merman threw Water. Each thought he had won and an argument ensued with the dragon killing the merman in the scuffle. When the Dragon realizes the mistake, he decides to make it up to the widow.
  • In Codex Alera, it's less rock paper scissors and more three pairs of opposing elements: Fire vs Water, Air vs Earth, and Wood vs Metal. Keeping a craftsman with only an Earth Fury suspended in mid-air saps their powers, burying an Aircrafter saps theirs, dunking a Firecrafter in water or surrounding a Watercrafter with fire will cancel them out, and putting a Woodcrafter in a metal box will cancel out theirs. It's never seen, but it can be assumed that stuffing a Metalcrafter into a wooden crate would drain their powers. An exceptional craftsman can have multiple elemental pet Furies of varying types, though, which makes keeping them prisoner or nullifying them much more difficult.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series has four elements: Air, Water, Fire, Earth. The opposing pairs are Water-Fire and Air-Earth. This was particularly grim in Phoenix and Ashes.
  • Sharon Shinn's Troubled Waters novel, though written by a Western author, uses the Eastern elements. Each person is governed by one element, giving them certain personality traits and sometimes superhuman abilities, and some elements pair very well with one another and some are always in opposition. For example, the main character is a coru, governed by the water element; she eventually marries a hunti man, governed by the element of wood. Occasionally this subverts itself—the heroine's mother was a coru and her father was a sweela (fire element).
  • In The Wheel of Time, the One Power (magic) works on a yin/yang system: a system of equal opposites. Saidar, women's magic, is like a glacier: you make it work by submitting to (embracing) the power and then guiding it to do what you want. Women have a natural affinity for water and air. Meanwhile, saidin, men's magic, is like a flood: the only way you can harness this is by seizing it with your strength of will and then wielding it with the same. So men have an affinity for earth and fire. The end result is a system that can conflict with each other or complement themselves depending on how the two sides act on each other. Then you have Element Number Five, the rare Spirit element, that acts as an outlier versus the other four.
  • In The Girl From The Well series, every ghost is aligned with one of the five Eastern elements. Because Okiku drowned in a well, she is a spirit of Water, making her strong against spirits of Fire but weak against those of Earth. The ghosts of Aitou village are of Earth: strong against Water and thus Okiku; but weak to Wood, thus allowing Tark to exorcise them with wooden stakes. The woman in black is aligned with Fire, and Hiroshi Mikage is aligned with Wood.
  • Journey to Chaos: The magic system features ten elements and all of them have an opposite that they are both strong and weak against. For instance, water puts out fire but heat from the fire can be used to evaporate the water. During Mana Mutation Menace, Eric uses air magic to prevent someone from teleporting with lightning magic.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the reality gameshow series Endurance the Temple of Fate showdown were resolved by pitting Wood, Water and Fire against each other. Water doused Fire, Fire burned Wood and Wood floated on Water

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ammo: When it comes to demons of elemental nature, Fire beats Water and Air beats Earth, but the opposite is also true.
  • The Time Travel-laden 'Verse shared by the Feng Shui Tabletop Games and Shadowfist card game also uses this variation. Coincidentally, the most significant "boss" NPC associated with the Shadow element also becomes a technological cyborg when travelling into eras that won't support her magic.
  • Downplayed in Yu-Gi-Oh!: Dungeon Dice Monsters (both the board game and Game Boy Advance adaptation). The order is Beast→Warrior→Dragon→Spellcaster→Undead→Beast, but having a type advantage only means gaining 10 ATK or DEF during the battle.
    • Averted in the actual card game itself, but some of the earlier video game adaptations used two tiers of Elemental RPS based on eleven elements: The first one is, in advantageous order: Fire, Forest, Wind, Earth, Thunder, Water, and Fire. Then you have Shadow→Light→Evil→Dreams→Shadow. The eleventh element, Divine, had no type advantages or disadvantages. A monster with a superior Attribute will automatically win a battle regardless of actual stats.
  • Dungeons & Dragons features the four classic Western elements as monster subtypes, Inner Planes, and fundamental building blocks of the Multiverse. The basic game had a notion of "elemental dominance" in which one elemental would deal extra damage and enjoy protection from another: Air has dominance over Water, Water has dominance over Fire, Fire has dominance over Earth, and Earth has dominance over Air.
    • In D&D Minis, some attacks had an elemental damage type; resistance or immunity to that type would reduce or prevent said damage (e.g. Red Dragons being immune to fire-type damage). However, vulnerability would double the damage instead, such as casting a Fireball on a White Dragon.
    • Some settings such as Planescape take the cosmology further with para-elemental planes where two of the elemental Inner Planes intersect: Air and Water form Ice, Fire and Earth form Magma, Earth and Water form Ooze (as unpleasant as it sounds), and Fire and Air form Smoke.
    • And now things get complicated. Aside from the classic Elemental Planes, there are two other Inner Planes: the Positive Energy Plane representing life and dynamism, and the Negative Energy Plane embodying (un)death and entropy. Combining them with the Elemental Planes results in the quasi-elemental planes. The positive quasi-elemental planes are Lightning (charged Air), Mineral (charged Earth), Radiance (charged Fire, in the form of blinding rainbow light), and Steam (charged Water, counterintuitively cold and clammy rather than hot). The negative quasi-elemental planes are Ash (entropic Fire), Dust (entropic Earth), Salt (entropic Water, i.e. salt water), and Vacuum (entropic Air). Several fansites have even come up with quasi-para-elemental planes, the planar equivalent of Sailor Earth.
  • Rolemaster (ICE) has an Elemental book with twenty-two elements. In alphabetical order: Aether, Air, Chaos, Cold, Dark, Earth, Electrical, Fire, Gravity, Heat, Ice, Inertia, Light, Nether, Nexus, Plasma, Spirit, Time, Vacid, Vibration, Water, Wind. Vacid appears to be some sort of mixture of ten other elements.
  • Magic: The Gathering has a stylized version of this trope with its Color Wheel. The game has five colors associated with land forms, creatures, and most importantly a style of play. Adjacent colors tend to share strengths and play styles (red and black are both great at killing creatures, for example), but are opposite/opposed to the two other colors (white likes to prevent damage, red likes causing it, while black will simply bring a dead unit back to unlife). But opposing colors are capable of finding common ground, and characters in the setting can have allies of opposing colors; Lorwyn's beauty-obsessed elves sport green and black members, while there's a group of white and red giants who oscillate between being extremely zen and extremely passionate. The game also has some "colorless" cards such as lands or artifacts, and a few that are multiple colors. As for the colors themselves:
    • White is associated with light, valor and order. On the attack it uses numerous weak creatures working together or a few powerful champions, all of which can be further augmented through spells. But White tends to show itself best in defense; White is where you most likely find creatures with Vigilance. White magic is partial towards life-restoring spells, or enchantments that prevent your opponent from doing damage to you or your creatures (Lifelink is most often seen in White creatures). But while White can deal with almost any threat, it does so only partially; its removal spells either give your opponent an out, or make an "equal" trade that destroys a lot of things, including your own. If a White spell doesn't destroy something, it more than likely only taps (temporarily disables) a target, meaning you need to coordinate such effects so as to take advantage of these openings.
    • Blue is the magic of air/water, deception, and intelligence, built around counterspells and altering the flow of the game. Blue magic tends to have the highest number of Flying creatures, but they are generally ill-suited for direct combat and instead employ indirect damage or disruptive abilities. While Blue is good at shutting down the enemy, it doesn't have many offensive options. Blue spells usually don't destroy cards but instead forces them back into the hand or Library.
    • Black is the color of death, night, and amorality, and its magic is designed to degrade enemy creatures and whittle down the other player's health points. It's also very strongly associated with the Cemetery so Black cards tend to have effects like Unearth and Deathtouch. This power usually comes at a price, but the payoff is generally worth it. However, Black magic struggles to deal with things that aren't living, such as enchantments, artifacts, and other Black creatures
    • Red magic is associated with earth/fire, destruction, and chaos. It's the most offensive color, boasting spells that do direct damage or destroy enemy artifacts and lands, and fast-striking creatures that do the same (Red creatures are the most likely to possess Haste). But like Black, Red has trouble with enchantments, and has to burn down big creatures with damage since its own creatures tend to fall short of Green's power.
    • Green is the color of nature, life, and raw power. It likes big and powerful creatures that trample the opposition, and its magic can buff them further or gather the resources necessary to summon them. But the only way Green can deal with opposing creatures is through direct combat; to help balance the opposition to Blue's Flying creatures, Green creatures are the most likely to possess Reach.
      • In a more traditional example of this trope, it's fairly common to see cards that are either more effective against enemy colors or are very efficiently costed but *only* work against enemy colors. For an example of each, Kor Firewalker is a white creature that can't be directly interacted with by red cards and gains its controller 1 life whenever an opponent casts a red spell (red has the most damage-dealing cards in the game, so gaining life works directly against it). Flashfreeze is an undercosted, easy-to-cast, counterspell (causes an opponent's card to be discarded without effect) that can only target a red or green spell.
  • Master of Magic adapts the same colors as Magic: The Gathering with a similar differentiation of available spells.
  • Creative and destructive cycles are given to the elements of Exalted (and about twenty more are hinted at), but elemental attacks generally don't interact such (for instance, fire elementals aren't necessarily hurt by water), although a few Dragon Blooded powers have elementally based weaknesses.
  • Steve Jackson Games' Illuminati! has players (various illuminati-level Chessmaster factions) vying for control of various groups of varying levels of oddness such as the Postal Service, the FBI, The Klan and Goldfish Fanciers, making these attempts either directly or through other groups they control. Groups have zero to three alignments, except for one group which has five. Most alignments are opposed to one other alignment, such as "Liberal" and "Conservative", "Government" and "Communist". "Criminal" has no opposition, and "Fanatic" is opposed to itself. To make the system more complex, trying to Control or Neutralize a group means attacks get a bonus when alignments match (except Fanatic) and a penalty when they oppose; attempting to Destroy (permanently remove) a group reverses the penalties and bonuses from alignment. Thankfully, players' core Illuminati groups themselves have no alignments.
  • The HERO System is interesting in that it completely averts all aspects of this trope in the core mechanics. An attack, whether it's a laser beam, a fireball, or a freezing blast, all gets boiled down to a damage type (Normal or Killing) and a damage class (how many dice the attack rolls). This is all handled through a concept called "Special Effects," where all aspects of an attack aside from the mechanical core concepts are simple tertiary traits. The game still incorporates Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors, though, in that being weak to attacks with certain elemental special effects is a trait of the subject of the attack, and it's not a hardwired rule; you're completely allowed to, for example, create an ice-based character who is able to resist fire attacks by virtue of being so cold that normal fire can't harm him.
  • In Scion, the titular children of the Gods can utilize Boons that fall under a variety of Purviews, which range from the elemental (earth, fire, sky, fertility) to the abstract (guardian, chaos, death, health). Although the different Purviews have no direct relationship with each other in normal gameplay, there is one aspect in which they do: dealing with monsters of the Greater Titans. As the chthonic embodiments of different elements, the creatures that dwell within the Greater Titans possess different templates depending on the Titan. In addition to specific skills and powers, these templates grant the monsters an immunity to their own element, but attacks of certain other Purviews are granted bonuses against them (e.g. Monsters dwelling in Musphelheim, the Greater Titan of Fire, have the infernal template, which renders them completely immune to the Fire Purview, but vulnerable to the Water and Sky Purviews).

  • Surprisingly averted in BIONICLE, besides light and shadow being equally weak to each other
  • in the 80s, Battle Beasts had a heat sensitive sticker on their chests which, when rubbed, would reveal their elemental strength. The symbols would represent either fire, wood, or water and could be used in a rock, paper, scissors game — fire burns wood, wood absorbs water, water extinguishes fire. Later a rare fourth emblem was added, the Sunburst, and it would beat all other types.
  • The semi-obscure "Fistful of Aliens" toy line from the early 21st century featured three monster races with incredibly subtle names - the muscular red Dredrocks, the insectoid green Gangreens, and the slimy blue Bluspews. Dredrocks beat Gangreens, Gangreens beat Bluspews, and Bluspews beat Dredrocks; clashes between creatures with the same color were resolved by looking at the number on the critters' feet. There were also mutants that combined two races, automatically killed members of the third race, and would often have a high enough point value to crush anything that shared a color; the Rare Alien Metallic Mutants, which would trample anything not a RAMM; and the Big Bad, Jangutz Khan, who was only available by special order, and not only murdered virtually everything else in the game, but let you bring a significantly more powerful lineup.

    Video Games 
  • AdventureQuest, DragonFable, and others from Artix Entertainment have various elements; while AQ has eight elements (fire, water, wind, earth, ice, energy, light, and darkness), DF has some which don't fit into the system; poison, metal, and bacon, for instance. There are also Non-elements; void and harm.
  • Angband has a slew of them, mostly based on the D&D one. You have the basic fire, ice, electricity, acid, and poison. Expanding on this is plasma, chaos, time, nether, nexus, inertia, gravity, force, sound, light, darkness, disenchantment, and shards. Some variants expand this with water, wind, and lava.
  • The combat for Arcana on the Super NES was centered on the idea of elemental strengths and weaknesses. Several spells either affected an element onto the target, changed the target to a given elemental alignment, or even combined several elements together to make spells that could affect multiple weaknesses; these were strangely given the name "Attribute X", with the X being the power level of the spell. The game based not only its gameplay but its world mythology around the interplay of the four elements. It also subverted some of the typical expectations of Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors, as each element was either strong or weak against the element next to it in the sequence, and was neither strong or weak against itself. Earth-elemental attacks, for example, were weak against Wind-elemental enemies but did a lot of damage against Water elementals, while being neither strong nor weak against Earth- and Fire-elemental enemies.
  • Arc Rise Fantasia has the 4 Basic Elements (Wind, Water, Earth and Fire); each Element can be combined with 1 of the other 3 to make a Combo Element (Thunder, Light, Dark and Ice). Some enemies and bosses take more/less damage from certain Elements.
  • Azure Dreams is about as explicit as you can get: Fire beats Wind. Wind beats Water. Water beats Fire.
  • A few Castlevania games in the Metroid Vania genre have weapons that deal elemental damage and enemies variously affected by it. The one that takes the cake is Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, which had a whopping ten elements (Fire, Ice, Electricity, Poison, Plants, Ground, Stone, Wind, Light and Dark), one for each of the Battle Cards. However, except for the elemental Armors and Devils, the strengths and weaknesses of the monsters to the various elements were never explicitly spelled out, and this added to the Guide Dang It-ness and the Fake Difficulty of the game.
  • Child of Light has Fire > Lightning > Water > Fire. Aurora's Light-elemental spells are also effective against undead and dark-aligned foes and aren't resisted by anything, making Light an Infinity+1 Element.
  • The console RPG Chrono Trigger uses a Fire → Lightning (divine form) → Water (including ice) → Shadow wheel, with a few quirks. In the original Japanese the Lightning element uses the kanji for heavens, which explains why Crono uses both lightning bolts and Luminaire; the DS retranslation goes with "Light" instead. Another oddity is that futuristic technology, including light-based lasers, deals Shadow damage, as do any Combination Attacks that mix different energy types, but if Light represents purity it makes sense that Shadow represents the opposite.
    • Interestingly, there are several in-game examples where Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors is replaced by "Fight Fire with Fire." The different-colored Scouts in the Ocean Palace absorb all elements besides the one they use. When you fight Magus, he also uses Elemental Shields which absorb all elements except the one he's currently throwing at you.
  • The sequel Chrono Cross is a bit weirder about it. Its elements, called innates ("elements" are the spells themselves), are white (holy/energy) versus black (shadow/gravity), red (fire/magma) versus blue (water/ice), and green (wind/plant) versus yellow (earth/lightning). All are strong against their opposite when attacking, but take extra damage in response. As a result, it's wise to build a party using different innates so that one character of the opposite color could deal extra damage to a boss, while another of the same innate as the boss could survive and heal as needed, and a third character with a neutral element played support. Especially when fighting that bastard Miguel.
  • Dinosaur King is quite literally Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors; it has six elements which roughly correspond to a dinosaur type, and two which don't: Fire (mostly tyrannosaurids and some carnosaurs), Electric (ceratopsians), Grass (mostly hadrosaurs), Earth (ankylosaurs and stegosaurs), Water (sauropods and a few spinosaurs), Wind (a theropod grab bag), Secret and Unknown as the element types, but the way to determine a battle's outcome is a rock-paper-scissors affair.
  • All over the place in Epic Battle Fantasy, which has ten elemental damage types (fire, lightning, ice, earth, wind, water, holy, dark, poison, and bomb). Oftentimes an enemy is weak to its own attack element (robots are weak to lightning and bomb), and sometimes it resists both its element and its opposite (fire and water do little to water monsters). What complicates things is that multiple-target attacks are of a single element, and monsters are often composed of varied resistances, so an attack might do huge damage to one enemy while healing the other, and your next attack do the opposite.
    • One of the more annoying-to-kill enemies are Mage Dogs and Mage Birds, which are holy-aligned. Like most holy-type enemies, they absorb holy damage. Unlike most other holy monsters, they also absorb dark damage.
  • Eternal Darkness uses this for its main trio of Eldritch Abomination gods and the magic associated with them. More than a simple RPS chain, the colors have gameplay effects: Red is the color of Chattur'gha, whose minions are tough, deal immense damage and can regenerate severed limbs; his mindless brutality batters through the madness of Xel'lotath, but falls victim to Ulyaoth's arcane skill. Blue is Ulyaoth's color, and his creatures deal magic damage in addition to their physical attacks and tend to have weird special abilities (his zombies explode if not decapitated, for example); he can out-think Chattur'gha easily, but his plans fall apart when confronted with Xel'lotath's sanity-blasting attacks. Green is Xel'lotath's color, and her minions aren't greatly impacted by the loss of limbs and drain your Sanity Meter quickly; her mind games put Ulyaoth in check, but have no effect on Chattur'gha.
    • And then there's Purple, the "nuke" option that's associated with Mantorok. His offensive spells deal extra poison damage that turns zombies and monsters to dust, his recovery spell restores both health, magic and sanity, and using his rune with a true seeing spell instead turns the user invisible. This makes perfect sense, as Mantorok's purpose is to keep the other Ancients in check.
    • Word of God is that there's a fifth Ancient, associated with the color yellow and Anti-Magic, and therefore the opposite of Mantorok.
  • EVE Online has kinetic, explosive, thermal and electromagnetic, which are roughly matched to the four races: Kinetic for Caldari, explosive for Minmatar, electromagnetic for Amarr and thermal for Gallente.
  • Final Fantasy is probably the most famous example, with its Fire/Ice/Lightning spells beating ice, fire, and water enemies. The most common arrangement is to have eight elements: Fire, Ice, Lightning, Air, Water, Earth, Holy, and Darkness; Fire melts Ice freezes Water puts out Fire; Lightning electrocutes Water; flying monsters, if not Air-elemental themselves, are untouched by Earth spells but battered by Air magic; undead are Shadow and hence weak to Holy (including most forms of healing magic - though not all monsters who are weak to Holy take damage from healing effects).
    • Despite the fact that most of these elements show up in every game, due to the Fire/Ice/Lightning nature of the Black Magic spell system, some of these elements are quite difficult to access. For example, Water, Earth, and Wind spells are often completely unavailable to most of your party, or only available in the form of one summon or the occasional elemental-based weapon, while Holy and Shadow damage spells are often unavailable until the end of the game.
    • Dragons in Final Fantasy II are about the only enemies that subscribe to this: Fire opposes Ice, and Lightning opposes Poison. More common (though less like to be exploited) is the Body and Mind elements; enemies resistant to one of these elements are typically vulnerable to the other.
    • Confusingly, in Final Fantasy X, Ice is weak versus Fire and Water is weak versus Lightning. Those were the only four elements in the game (except for Holy, but there is only one Holy damage spell, and monsters who are weak to it are so rare that Holy does not show up on the Weak/Resistant/Immune/Absorb grid that Scan and Sensor show you), so maybe it's understandable when they made each element weak versus its opposite. Even so, why is Lightning weak versus Water, again?
      • Water's being effective against electricity is also notable in earlier games, including Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy VII, or Final Fantasy IX, where machines or other monsters that use electricity could be shorted out by water.
      • Note that in the Final Fantasy series, there are no actual elemental weaknesses or strengths, but instead weaknesses and strengths are determined by the enemy. This makes it easier to, for example, make an enemy with weaknesses to everything instead of giving it one particular element.
    • In Final Fantasy XI, there is an elemental wheel with NPCs that explain how it works: "Water quenches Fire, Fire melts Ice, Ice blocks Wind, Wind erodes Earth, Earth absorbs Thunder, and Thunder boils Water. Light and Dark are in perpetual opposition because nothing can be both Light and Dark at the same time." Sadly, despite this explanation, the actual effects of elemental weaknesses are so slim that they're easily overridden by the level a spell is obtained:
      • The first rule of being a Black Mage in Final Fantasy XI is to know this wheel. When preparing an attack, you then must observe the element of the day, the weather, the moon phase, know what skill chain is going to be used, and the elemental weakness and strengths of the mob that you are fighting; then nuke with your strongest Thunder-based spell.
    • In Final Fantasy XII, the elemental conflict is warped again with Fire and Water opposing each other by having each weak to the other and absorb/resist itself (no surprise, as this is common), but making Lightning and Ice oppose each other with the same effect as the Fire-Water conflict (which is practically unheard of elsewhere due to its lack of feasibility). This is explained in the Bestiary as Lightning symbolizing energy/movement, while Ice symbolizes stillness.
    • In Final Fantasy XIII, the enemies that are based on an element are weak to their opposing elements. For example, fire bombs are weak to ice magic and absorb fire magic.
    • In Final Fantasy XIV, Water is weak to Lightning, Lightning is weak to Earth, and Earth is weak to Water. Fire is weak to Wind, Wind is weak to Ice, and Ice is weak to Fire. While there are weaknesses, resistances and absorption is non existent for enemies; you can attack a Lightning Sprite with a Thunder spell and they still take full damage, despite being a living element of lightning.
  • In addition to the weapons Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors, Fire Emblem has a magic triangle that tends to vary. Anima beats light, light beats dark, and dark beats anima is most familiar to recent players.
    • In FE 9 and 10, there are thunder, fire, and wind spells that form a triangle (these are all part of anima in the other games). FE 10 took the trope to a new level by having another triangle for light, dark, and anima, and within anima another triangle of fire, thunder and wind.
      • Never mind the fact that, in FE 10, there were maybe ten users of Dark magic. And Micaiah (light-wielding maiden who was also one of the main characters of the game) faced precisely zero of these.
      • The Thunder/Fire/Wind triangle from FE 9 was originally present in FE 4 and 5; the Anima/Light/Dark triangle replaced it in the GBA games.
  • Flight Rising has eleven elements: Earth, Water, Wind, Fire, Ice, Lightning, Light, Shadow, Arcane, Nature, and Plague. In the Coliseum, each element does extra damage to three other elements, does reduced damage to two elements, takes extra damage from three elements, and takes reduced damage from two elements. Except for the fact that dragons/enemies of a certain elements always deal reduced damage to and take reduced damage from their own element, these strengths and weaknesses don't necessarily correspond to each other (for example, Earth is strong against Lightning, but Lightning isn't weak against Earth). And there are different degrees of effectiveness, not just "extra damage" and "reduced damage", but also "really high damage" and "somewhat higher than average damage". It all balances out, but it gets complicated enough that even the simplified guides can be difficult to follow for new players.
  • In Fossil Fighters, water beats fire, air beats water, earth beats air, and fire beats earth. Neutral-type vivosaurs are unaffected by this.
  • Freedom Force is another game that uses binary opposition—fire and ice are each weak against each other, for instance. In practice, this means the lucky fellow in any elemental confrontation is the one who can get off the first shot.
    • Partially averted. The substance a character is made of (flesh, stone, ice etc.) sets their base resistances. But attacks and defenses are all bought with points, meaning that you can have a character made of ice who throws fireballs and has a passive defense vs fire. Attack types and resistances/vulnerabilities are largely arbitrary. Aside: Characters made of flesh are vulnerable to radiation attacks making a character with radiation attacks scarily effective. The assigned heroes are all balanced for this, but a custom can hit well above their weight class...
  • LucasArts's turn-based-strategy Gladius had a size-based example of this: where Heavies had an advantage over Mediums, Mediums over Lights, and Lights over Heavies. There was also a fourth class, Animals, which did have an unlisted size but had to obey a second set of rules on top of that size. As well, each gladiator did, indeed, have earth, air, fire, or water-aspected powers, for a more traditional take on the trope.
    • Battles of Prince of Persia also had a size triangle. Large > Medium > Small > Large. It also featured triangles based on weapon types, much like Fire Emblem.
  • Golden Sun is an interesting case. It has only four elements (Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire) and each one is both strong and weak against its opposite. For example, a fire enemy is (usually) weak against water attacks, but a water enemy is also (usually) weak against fire attacks. This does not apply to the Player Characters, who are roughly-equally weak (+/- 2%, hence how earth adepts are "weak" against fire and vice versanote ) to the elements that they do not have affinity with, versus a (starting) 30% (relative) resistance to their base element.note 
  • GrimGrimoire - Glamour → Necromancy → Sorcery → Alchemy → Glamour. This overlaps with Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors somewhat.
  • In Guild Wars, the elementalist profession has the four classical elemental disciplines to draw its spells from. Typically, earth has strong defenses, air does heavy lightning damage to individuals and small groups, water slows and inhibits your enemies, and fire does widespread damage to large groups. Unlike some other models, there's not as much opposition between the elements though. For example, one water spell causes increased damage and blindness to an enemy set on fire, while an earth spell renders a character nearly immobile, but immune to all but lightning damage.
    • Some enemies do take more or less damage from some damage types, but overall the difference is minor. Rangers also have a bonus + 30 armor to elemental damage. Destroyers are an exception, in that they're immune to the Burning condition.
  • In Heroes of Might and Magic III, the magic system is like this. The castle of Conflux in the expansion is even based on this trope, with most of the units being elementals and a building that allows leveling up each of the elemental schools.
    • The Elementals provide a nice twist to the "rock-paper-scissors" aspect: Fire and Water are vulnerable to the opposite element's damage spells and immune to their own, while Earth and Air are vulnerable to their own damage spells and immune to the opposite's ones.
    • Heroes of Might and Magic V has the Dungeon Racial ability Elemental Chains, which lets Dungeon creatures and the elemental spells of the hero inflict additional damage if the target has the opposite element. Creatures change their element randomly when this happens.
    • From Might and Magic VI (which was developed in conjunction with Heroes III) onward, the technically main series used a related system, with the four western elements being the basis for the four Elemental or arcane/wizardly schools of magic. These Heroes-shared schools were supplemented by the three Clerical schools of Mind/Spirit/Body and the Mirrored Paths of Light and Dark.
  • Hoshigami Ruining Blue Earth has an eastern elements-inspired hexagon, in which elements both oppose and assist one another: Fire opposes Ice and assists Force; Ice opposes Wind and assists Earth; Wind opposes Force and assists Lightning; Force opposes Earth and assists Fire; and Earth opposes Fire and assists Ice. There's also the Light and Dark elements that oppose each other and assist Lighting and Fire respectively.
  • The many hundreds of Divine Beasts in Jade Cocoon 2 each belong to one of four elements; Fire, Wind, Water or Earth. Each element has its own specialties and attributes. Fire beasts generally have high Strength and Wisdom (measures of the strength of Skill and Magic attacks, respectively) and powerful Skill (melee) and Magic attacks, and are the strongest attackers. Wind beasts usually have high Speed (the beasts with the highest Speed value attack first) and a lot of special attacks (which induce status effects, like poison and sleep). Water beasts, as well as having some potent Magic attacks, also possess healing spells for restoring the HP and MP of your Divine Beasts and curing status effects, and are generally resistant to special attacks. Earth beasts specialize in defense, with high Vitality and Spirit (which dictate a Beast's Skill and Magic defense, respectively) and a variety of buffs (such as Defense and Speed increases), defensive spells (like damage-absorbing walls) and impressive attacks. As a rule of thumb, Fire's high attack power beats Water and Wind's low HP, Wind's high Speed and status effects beat Earth's general sluggishness and susceptibility to special attacks, Water's healing spells and resistance to special attacks beat Fire and Wind's primary abilities, and Earth's excellent defense beats the offensive power of Fire and Wind.
    • The original Jade Cocoon has a Fire—>Air—>Earth—>Water—>Fire sequence, plus a non-elemental foot stomp attack to which fliers are immune. Each spell in the game is tied to an element and, with the exception of the damage and elemental boost spells, unique to that element. You can combine your divine minions in such a way that they have two or more elements, but it reduces their elemental damage output accordingly and cuts them off from the boost spells.
  • In Jump Super Stars, power beats knowledge beats laughter beats power.
  • Kartia: The Word of Fate had a variant using the "qualities" of creatures you could summon, which were Common, Doll, and Shadow. Common beats Doll, et cetera. For those who couldn't keep the dynamic straight, these creatures also had a symbol by their name: rock, paper, or scissors.
  • Spoofed in Kingdom of Loathing, which features a set of five rather ridiculous elements: hot, cold, stench, sleaze, and spookiness. Each "element" is weak against two of the others, sometimes with little logic to those weaknesses (spooky-elemental monsters, for example, are weak against hot and stench attacks).
    • Well, the interesting thing is that "sleaze" seems to be defined as "oily" half the time. Bacon grease, motor oil, even a rotting fish (though that rather obviously also deals stench damage).
    • There are also a few minor elements like Bad Spelling that aren't part of the cycle, and it's possible to discover that the game supposedly has a sixth major element: Cuteness. Maybe.
    • The KoL element chart looks rather similar to that of Wu Xing, noted at the top of the page. Granted, some of the elements aren't in their strictly original positions, but the same general shape applies.
  • The Eastern variant is used in Kingdom of Paradise (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water). It also uses the complimentary and charging system. This is important when constructing your Freestyle Bugei to maximize damage. For example, if you wanted to defeat a Fire boss, you have several options. You can use a pure Water Bugei. You can also charge 9 Wood kenpu and finish it with a powerful Water Kenpu. Or you can do a cycle the system twice starting with Wood and ending with Water.
  • The Legend of Dragoon's cast of characters are all of a specific elemental alignment — Dart for Fire, Lavitz/Albert for Wind, Shana/Miranda for Light, Rose for Darkness, Haschel for Lightning, Meru for Water, and Kongol for Earth. Note that all elements except Lightning follow the Light/Darkness opposition scheme (Fire and Water being strong against one another and so forth), with Lightning's lack of an opposite mitigated by its lack of heavy-hitting skills.
    • There's also a neutral element, mostly possessed by enemies. Dart has this in his Divine Dragoon form.
  • The main character in Legend of Fae uses spells based on the four Western elements, however their relationship with each other is cyclic: Water —> Fire —> Earth —> Wind —> Water (each element counters the one on its right). Casting a spell that counters an enemy's elemental alignment increases the damage output and, if it kills them, also increases the score multiplier at the end of the battle.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Fire attacks one-shot Ice based enemies and vice versa. More subtly, electric weapons gain a powerboost around water whether rain or in a body of water, exploding into a dome field, while wood weapons gain a powerboost in fire and hot temperatures when they are literally lit on fire. Similarly bomb arrows instantly diffuse in water, and instantly explode in firey areas. The Master Sword, Ancient, and Guardian weapons also get a boost against Guardian enemies.
  • In Li'l Monster, each Mon has one of four suits. Spade has an advantage over Heart, which has an advantage over Club, which has an advantage over Diamond, which has an advantage over Spade.
  • The Game Boy/SNES series of Little Master SRPGs embodied this trope by featuring a three-element system, consisting of — wait for it — Rock, Paper, and Scissors. Yes, really.
  • Lords Of Magic has 8 elements representing 8 factions in an all-out war. They are:
    • Order: Knights, civilization.
    • Chaos: Barbarians, shamanism.
    • Fire: Giants, destruction.
    • Life: Elves, nature.
    • Air: Fairies, weather.
    • Death: Mercenaries, necromancy.
    • Earth: Dwarves, tradition.
    • Water: Merfolk, amazons?
  • The Franchise/Lufia series has mainstay elements of lightning, water, fire, and ice. The first game included a series of "Blast" spells with their own element type. The later games also added Light and Dark elements, though Light magic was typically exclusive to elven party members and Dark element attacks were even rarer (the most prominent means of inflicting Dark damage being the Gades Blade) not to mention ineffective against undead.
    • Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals gives each character an elemental affinity. Maxim is Fire, Tia is Water, Guy is Lightning, Selan is Ice, and Artea is Holy. Dekar, being a Jack-of-All-Trades, gets no innate elemental affinity. It's still possible to obtain spells and weapons of differing elements for characters (in fact, Guy and Artea don't obtain any weapons with spells of their respective affinity in normal gameplay).
  • Luigi's Mansion had the Poltergust 3000, which was able to suck up "elemental ghosts" after collecting a Fire, Water, or Ice medal (in that order). You suck up a certain elemental ghosts, and press L to expel that element. The mansion had candles, things that held water, and some iceboxes. Guess what did what.
  • Luminous Arc 2 has Fire, Water, Nature, Wind, Light, and Shadow Frostnote , the six of which are involved in a web of conflict (increased damage) and support (increased healing/buffs) links, though the difference is subtle enough to be ignored save for out-and-out immunity. The game also has non-elemental (neutral to everything) and silver magic, which resists any elemental attack and gain support boost from any elemental heal/buff.
    • Luminous Arc 3 develops the elemental relationships further. The six common elements (Fire, Water, nature, Wind, Light and Darknessnote ) are divided into two groups; Fire → Dark → Wind → Fire and Water → Light → Earth → Water, elemental opposites increases damage against each other, Non-Elemental is not affected by the six and Silver is effective against all including non-elemental. Healing and other support spells are excluded from the chart but considered non-elemental.
  • Mabinogi is unusual in that it has only 3 elements — Ice, Fire, and Lightning. Only about half the monsters, and nothing else, possesses elemental attributes, although they cannot be added to equipment. Another unusual factor is that instead of using a strictly oppositional Rock-Paper-Scissors type system, interaction between the elements is uneven, and governed by a comparatively complex formula.
  • The Magical Vacation games have this:
    • Magical Vacation has fifteen elements, but it's overall a lot simpler than Pokémon: twelve of these elements are each weak to one other element and strong to one other element, so those can be diagrammed in a circle. Then there's Darkness which beats those other twelve, Light which specifically beats Darkness, and Love which is neutral to everything.
    • Magical Starsign has Wood beats Wind beats Earth beats Water beats Fire beats Wood.
  • MARDEK RPG actually had a sensible explanation for all four interactions: Water extinguishes Fire, Fire consumes Air, Air erodes away Earth, and Earth absorbs Water.
  • Capcom likes this. Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX have a triangle of Lightning beats Fire beats Ice beats Lightning — and of course, bosses usually come in fours, one of each and one of a neutral (sometimes earth or plant themed, but never affected by the cycle) variety. Mega Man Battle Network also has a Fire>Wood>Elec>Water cycle, supplemented (in the sixth game only) with a secondary Sword>Wind>Targeting>Breaking cycle. The primary cycle was held into Mega Man Star Force; the secondary cycle was never heard from again.
    • Oddly, Mega Man X: Command Mission has a triangle of Lightning beats Water beats Fire beats Lightning. What's odd is that this game treats ice as Water (in agreement with Mega Man 1 and Mega Man & Bass), and the Zero series treats water as Ice (in agreement with Mega Man 6 and most of the X series). So at some point between the X series and the Zero series, the triangle inexplicably double-reversed itself.
    • The second rotation (Mega Man 6, many X games, and Zero and ZX series) is generally more logical, except for its infamous side-effect: Despite boss battles entirely underwater, Fairy Leviathan is weak to fire and resistant to lightning.
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes uses the Light-Dark dichotomy: the Light Beam slaughters Ing and other Darklings, and the Dark Beam is generally very effective against creatures on Light Aether. The first Prime game would have fallen squarely into this with its elemental beam weapons, but with the exception of a few fighting-fire-with-fire enemies and the Chozo Ghosts, the Plasma Beam kills everything dead, even the creatures in Magmoor Caverns.
  • Interactive Fiction game Mingsheng by Deane Saunders has an almost literal case of Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: in the climactic battle, the opponent takes battle stances named after the five Eastern elements, and the player has to type in the right element to make the PC carry out the appropriate battle stance to defeat him.
  • The Monster Hunter series has this: Fire, Water, Ice, Lighting, and Dragon. Players can only have their weapons elementally attuned to one for the duration of a quest (different weapons have different elements), or bowgunners can fire whichever element they please, if their bowgun supports it. Your armor has elemental strengths and weaknesses too, according to what you killed to make it. However, the rock paper scissors aspect is kind of strange. You'd think it'd go lightning > water > fire > ice or some such, but in fact fire works great against both water and ice (and even others), water works great against fire, dragon works great against elder dragons (usually) and is a general jack-of-trades (does decentish damage against nearly everything big), lighting is generally just a poor man's dragon, and when it's not any of that, it's ice. Which is to say rarely.
  • The magic system in the MMORPG Perfect World is this to a T, except it uses the Taoist elements: Fire>Metal>Wood>Earth>Water>Fire. Then again, since the game is developed in China, this isn't all that surprising.
  • In the final Wizard Mode of Plants vs. Zombies Pinball, Dr. Zomboss attacks by launching fireballs and ice balls; you defeat him by destroying each projectile with its opposite element.
  • Pokémon has eighteen (formerly seventeen, even earlier fifteen) type. A super effective damage (deals double damage or more) occurs when the attack's type is good against the other's type while a not very effective damage (dealing half the damage or less) occur when the opposite happens. As for how type weaknesses work, most of them are pretty standard like Water beats Fire and Grass beat Water, but there are some unusual ones like Bug beats Dark and Psychic beats Fighting.
  • In Pop'n Magic, all enemies belong to one of three elemental types. Fire is strong against earth, which is strong against water, which is strong against fire.
  • Quest 64 plays this one in a less typical faction. In fact, every element interacts with each other in various ways, and there's no immunities, just resistances.
    • Earth - Does double damage to Wind, regular damage to Water, 50% damage to itself, and 75% damage to Fire.
    • Wind - Does double damage to Earth, regular damage to Fire, 50% damage to itself, and 75% damage to Water.
    • Fire - Does double damage to Water, regular damage to Wind, 50% to itself, and 75% damage to Earth.
    • Water - Does double damage to Fire, regular damage to Earth, 50% to itself, and 75% damage to Wind.
    • Neutral/Universal/Nonphysical: Does regular damage to everything, and resists all elements.
  • In Quest for Glory II, you use fire to beat an earth elemental, earth to beat an air elemental, air to beat a water elemental, and water to beat a fire elemental.
  • A modern variation occurs in Scurge: Hive. Creatures are divided by Biological, Mechanical, and Energy, and are respectively weak to Fire, EMP, and Diffusion attacks.
  • In Seiken Densetsu 3, air is used as the same element as electriticy, where Carlie's "Thunder Saber" spell is cast by summoning Jinn, the game's air elemental/god.
  • Septerra Core. Fire beats Earth, Earth beats Air, Air beats Water, Water beats Fire.
  • The Shin Megami Tensei games have all featured the elemental Roshambeau concept. Individual demons may be weak, resistant, or some degree of immune to the 4 elements (8 in some games) and the 3 (or more) types of weapon damage; there's also the Almighty damage type, which almost nobody is strong or weak against.
    • In addition to extra damage, recent games in the series award extra combat actions to the player for exploiting enemy elemental weaknesses, and penalize actions for hitting monsters with elements they're immune to.
  • Skylanders' PvP mode has the following cycle: Life > Water > Fire > Air > Earth > Tech > Magic > Undead > Life. A Skylander deals more damage if their opponent is weak to their element.
  • In Spectrobes, Corona->Aurora->Flash->Corona. Also, in the Wii game Origins, Fire->Plant->Earth->Sky->Water->Fire.
  • Exemplified in the Suikoden series of games — where using two highest-rank spells of compatible element in the same round would result in them combining into a single ultra-powerful spell, and in Suikoden IV, where shipboard sea-battles are fought using Elemental Cannons. Countering an enemy attack with the appropriate element would result in the enemy's attack being absorbed into your own, thus dealing damage to the enemy ship equal to each ship's attack power combined.
    • In Suikoden Tactics, the elemental wheel is more strongly emphasized, with each character having an innate elemental alignment. Characters are healed (and their attack and defense go up) when standing on terrain whose alignment matches their own, and are harmed (and attack and defense go down) when on their "enemy" element. The chain goes: Fire < Water < Lightning < Earth < Wind < Fire. While some of the relationships make sense (Water/Fire/Lightning), some are more esoteric and seem to rely on science (earth being a ground for lightning/fire burning up oxygen).
  • The Tales Series often uses Fire, Ice, Wind, Earth, Lighting, and Water, in a cycle, then has Light and Dark, which were both strong against each other.
    • Tales of Legendia had Fire-Ice, Lightning-Earth, and Dark-Water/Holy, which each being strong and weak toward each other. Of course, certain enemies were strong to both in the pair...
    • Tales of Vesperia and Tales of the Abyss only uses Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, Light and Dark. In Abyss, Lightning is lumped in with Wind while Ice is combined with Water. In Vesperia, Lightning attacks combine fire and wind, while Ice attacks often combine water and wind. Water and Earth create a not particularly impressive Wood spell, while Fire and Earth create a Gold spell.
    • Tales of Graces uses both physical and elemental ... elemtents. Enemies will carry many weaknesses and you get bonuses for hitting them, and more bonuses for hitting all of them. Most attacks have Two or Three elements, and spells can be charged up to add another 2 in the Updated Re-release. The elements are all represented somehow. Fire attacks hit the burn weakness. Ice hits Freeze. Wind hits poison (and aerial and/or bird sometimes). Earth hits petrify. Lightning hits Paralysis (and almost always hits Nova too). Water hits Slow (and sometimes aquatic). Light hits Nova (the evil element) and often blurs with Lightning. Darkness hits humans. The rest are just type of enemy (beast, reptile, etc) and how you hit them (slash, impact, etc).
    • Tales of Xillia uses a similar method to Vesperia. Fire and Wind create Lightning while Water and Earth create Ice. There is no Wood or Metal, though.
  • Tears to Tiara 2 has two sets. The European four (though Fire beats Wind, Wind beats Earth instead) in one. In the other, Holy beats Cosmic, Cosmic beats Darkness, and Darkness beats Holy.
  • In The Elder Scrolls, the elements are Fire, Frost, Shock (the three most prominent and obvious ones), Poison (sort of), and normal Magicka.
    • Every magical effect is considered to be Magicka, even if it is also fire or frost. So being vulnerable or able to resist magicka allows one to resist most magical effects, even if they have their own elements.
    • The Elder Scrolls games haven't really employed Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors that much, except with respective Daedra, atronaches (Daggerfall), and golems (Arena). All but two races experience at least one natural resistance but this is typically negligible during normal gameplay, unless it is the general resistance to magic type.
  • The Tone Rebellion includes a standard version of Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors with a twist. The four realms are physical, supernatural, ethereal, and natural. The level of dominance is determined clockwise instead of across (i.e. while physical and ethereal are opposites, one does not dominate the other; instead, physical dominates supernatural, supernatural dominates ethereal, ethereal dominates natural, and natural dominates physical). The two realm scales change with tides. The players must use the proper tides for the right moment to attack in order to gain an advantage. Conveniently, each of the four playable Floater tribes is in tune with one of the four realms (Tarks - physical, Zygons - supernatural, Cepheans - ethereal, and Dyla - natural). The Leviathan creates structures and creatures depending on the dominant realm on a particular island and is capable of building creature-producing structures of every realm.
  • Warriors of Might and Magic follows this scheme: Fire burns Earth, which blocks Air, which bests Water which beat Fire. Furthermore, Light and Darkness are efficient against each other and other two elements (Light against Fire and Air and Darkness against Earth and Water).
  • World of Mana tends to have elements that oppose each other in pairs: light versus dark, moon (cosmic) versus plant (terrestrial), fire versus ice, and earth versus air.
  • World of Warcraft has this in some places. Elemental creatures do exist, and will usually be immune to their own form of damage (Fire immune to fire; water immune to frost; air immune to lightning, etc.) Some elementals take extra damage from their opposite number and others do not; for example, the water elementals in Arathi Highlands are extremely vulnerable to fire damage, but Ragnaros the Firelord is not especially bothered by frost. The elements are Fire, Frost, Arcane, Nature, and Shadow. There's also Holy but players couldn't build resistance to it.
    • Well the original Ragnaros was totally immune to fire, so he has the strong against his own element aspect down pat.
    • The elementals in Arathi Highlands elaborate on this: they have all four types of elementals in different places around the zone, and each type will drop a special, one-use object that can be used to instantly kill one of the other types. For example, the water elementals drop "Crest of Water" which destroys a fire elemental, and so on.
    • Generally, WoW's Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors isn't much of one, since there are so few enemies that are weak to an element. The secondary benefits of elements (Fire burns for a while and can stun, Frost slows and freezes, poison (part of Nature) does damage over time, Shadow tends to cripple by lowering stats and defenses while doing damage over time) are far more important. Only elemental beings and some bosses (Notably Chromaggus, who changes his resistances and vulnerability at random) can take more damage from an elemental attack.
    • The Ascendant Council fight in the Bastion of Twilight raid instance has elements of this. You fight two sets of two elementals at the same time, and use the abilities of one elemental to negate some of the more damaging abilities of the other. Most notably, using an earth debuff from one elemental to prevent a one-shot kill from the wind elemental, and a wind debuff to prevent the one-shot kill from the earth elemental.
    • The idea of elements has been heavily downplayed. Aside from a few items that slipped through the cracks, elemental resistances are gone playerside.(And even if you get one of those items, they don't do anything and are no where near endgame level). Only a handful of monsters still have resistances (though exactly what ones do is hard to track). The reason being two fold: Stacking elemental resistance fell out of practice over time and was not fun, and it's not fun for say, a Fire Mage to run into something that resists fire. The elements are still in the game, and some spells do odd elements like "Shadowfire" or "Frostfire" which change depending on which is more effective.
    • That said, the game's fourth expansion pack introduced Pet Battles, a Pokémon-like minigame using the already existing collectible pets. Those are grouped into 10 kinds, some of them vaguely elemental ("Aquatic", "Magic", "Undead", "Mechanical") and others less so ("Beast", "Critter", "Humanoid"). Each of those groups is strong against two others (defense and attack separately), weak against another two. Thus forming two, not exactly Rock-Paper-Scissor graphs, one for defense and one for attack.
  • On the higher difficulties of Ys VI, there are color-coded enemies that can only be defeated with the corresponding elemental sword. Ditto for the Final Boss's first phase. Conversely, Ernst's fairies can only be KO'ed with a different element than their own.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monster Coliseum, a monster's attribute determines how strong it is against an opponent and whether certain fields give it a bonus.
  • ZanZarah: The Hidden Portal has a total of twelve elements, complete with a complex relationship table: Nature, Air, Water, Light, Energy, Psi, Stone, Ice, Fire, Darkness, Chaos, and Metal.
  • The Denpa Men has eight elements: Fire, Water, Electricity, Earth, Wind, Ice, Light, and Darkness. As far as standard elemental advantages go, Fire > Ice > Wind > Earth > Electricity > Water > Fire. Light and Dark are more complicated: Light Denpa Men resist Dark but are weak to Light. Light enemies are often weak to both. Dark enemies are often only weak to Light, but Dark-aligned Denpa Men strongly resist both Light and Dark, while being slightly weak to all other elements.
    • Dual-type attacks were introduced in the third game. All of them are very hard to get, but really powerful if you manage to get them. The six normal elements can all form dual-type attacks with each other (for example, Electricity + Ice = Thunder Blizzard), but Light and Dark can only mutate with each other.
  • The Logomancer has Logos > Ethos > Pathos > Logos. Interestingly, they aren't elements assigned to different types of enemies. Rather, they're status effects which you inflict on opponents by using certain abilities, which then make them weak to attacks of a certain element.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, this is a crucial gameplay mechanic. For example, a Fiend—no matter how weak—can destroy any Dream monster, no matter how strong. This becomes a lifesaver because it's one of the easiest ways to win the game, as most opponents will use monsters with the same attribute between them.
  • Monsters in Summoners War: Sky Arena can be either Fire, Water, Wind, or more rarely, Light and Dark. Fire beats and is resistant to Wind, Wind beats and is resistant to Water, Water beats and is resistant to Fire. Light and Dark beat each other, but they neither beat nor are resistant against anything else.
  • Gyromancer, to a limited extent. A monster's colour doesn't determine whether or not it beats its opponent (that's up to players), but it can give it a head start. For example, a blue monster (associated with water) is advantaged against a red monster (associated with fire), which is in turn advantaged against a green monster (associated with plants). There isn't perfect symmetry, though - for example, nothing is advantaged against purple (darkness).
  • Idols in Tokyo 7th Sisters do not use traditional elements, but their types still fit this trope. The order goes Player > Dancer > Vocalist > Variety > Model > Player.
  • In Moco Moco Friends, fire beats nature, nature beats water, water beats fire, and light and dark beat each other.
  • In Taming Dreams, each sentimancy (attack) has a rune and a sentiment associated with it. Each character has three runes and a sentiment associated with them. The closer the caster, target and sentimancy's runes and sentiment match, the more effective the sentimancy is. Additionally, each sentiment is effective against itself and one other. This is explained by the fact that the battles are against enemies without and the better you understand the enemy, the easier it is to defeat.
  • The Rick and Morty game Pocket Mortys uses this literally and figuratively, as "rock" "paper" and "scissors" are elemental types.
  • Daily Life With Monster Girl Online doesn't have "elements", but assigns each character one of five Personality Types that functions in the spirit of the trope. Passionate, Cute, and Cool types follow the standard X > Y > Z > X formula, while Devilish and Pure types cancel each other out but don't receive any bonuses against the other three.
  • In Club Penguin, this is basically how Card-Jitsu works: Water extinguishes Fire, Fire melts Snow, and Snow freezes Water.
  • In Legend of Fae fire beats water beats earth beats air beats fire.

  • The mages in Whats Shakin have the powers of all elements, but excel in only one. In contrast to typical canon, ice and water elements are weak against fire as seen in the fight against Fred.
  • In Triquetra Cats, the main characters have control over the elements of Earth Fire and Water, their mother has control over the element of Air, (as they are all on the same side it has never been resolved if one is weaker/stronger than the other save for minor sibling rivalry squabbling, in which they use their powers in possibly the weakest strength possible anyway)
  • Adventurers!, in addition to the standard RPG elements, includes "Tastes Like Orange Tang", "Doesn't Taste Like Orange Tang", and even "Peanuts" (which Khrima apparently has an allergy to). The main quest has the party collect about a hundred elements from the periodic table.
  • Played with in this Slightly Damned comic.
  • In Bob and George, Ice Man's power to Fire Man.

    Web Original 
  • Taken Up to Eleven with RPS 101. Each 'element' is weak to 50 and strong against 50, and there are descriptions for why for each.
  • Demon Thesis has this to an extent, as elemental spells will affect each other differently. The creator of the game made a cheat sheet that lays out all the effects, as well as some other nuances. (For example, if a character standing on a grid that was frozen by an ice spell and you attempt to hit them with a fire spell, the ice and fie will cancel each other out, since the ice melts and the fire never get a proper chance to burn anything, and the character will be undamaged).

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender is based on the four among others, ancient Buddhist elements, represented by the four nations. Although in 'real life' no element is shown to be particularly stronger than the others, they do have their own literal Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors, as in a game (earth beats fire apparently). It was also somewhat parodied in one of the chibi shorts, where they spent the episode arguing over "what beats what".
    • While the bending elements are all equal in terms of power, they do have very different mental aspects that put them in opposition of each other (Air vs. Earth, Water vs. Fire). For instance: Aang's easy going and adaptive nature as an Air Nomad works well for airbending, but does nothing for him when it comes to earthbending. Earthbenders need to be stubborn and direct to control their element, something Aang initially had trouble with. Avatar Roku, a Fire Nation native, went through the same thing when learning waterbending, which seems to indicate that this is a hurdle all avatars have to clear.
      • This is averted with Avatar Korra, though - she is a native Water Tribeswoman, but great at firebending. The element she has difficulty learning is air because she tends to be too forceful. This could possibly show that this hurdle is more of a case of opposing mentalities rather than a case of opposing elements.
      • Elemental bending usually involves taking on traits of that element, which is why natural oppositions exist. Air- and waterbending generally involve flow: taking what's there and gracefully guiding it, whereas fire- and earthbending are generally directed: forcefully generated or maneuvered by one's will and inner strength. It's a classic opposition of persuasion versus coercion.
    • Energybending, bending the very lifeforce within living beings, is the original and most powerful form of Bending. An Energybender can remove and return elemental Bending. However, energybending is useless in the heat of battle since it requires extended physical contact with a prone target and comes with the risk of corrupting the Energybender's soul if the target's will is stronger.
  • In an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Master Splinter defeats the Foot Mystics (who represent steel, fire, water, earth, and wind) by using the Sword of Tengu to turn their elements against each other, while using the following quote:
    Master Splinter: Fire melts metal, water quenches fire, earth swallows water, wind scatters earth, and I shall quell the wind!
    • The turtles themselves' personalities are based around the four elements - Leonardo as Water, Raphael as Fire, Donatello as Earth and Michelangelo as Air.
      • And it should be mentioned that pizza, the turtles' food of choice, contains all four food groups.