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Inventory Management Puzzle
Frig. Maybe if I put the knives beneath the wand, and move that potion up...

It sucks when you've narrowed down the candidates for being discarded forever between a magical gold-plated dragonfly that grants wishes and the holy grail.

How many things can you carry on your person? If your life depended on it, do you think you could manage just one more?

There are lots and lots of practical reasons that a game might want to place some bounds on your carrying capacity. For one thing, like everything else, there's only a finite amount of memory to track inventory, and only a finite amount of screen space to show it, in accordance with the game's particular idiom. Also, there's the matter of the Combinatorial Explosion. Limit what the player can carry, so that he isn't hauling around objects that will make the designer's life hard in the future.

And then, there are the games which limit your inventory because the game designers want to make inventory management a part of the game, to force players to manage another resource. At the simplest level, this is managed by simply limiting the number of items. So, you can carry around only a handful of items. A common abstraction is to define inventory in terms of weight, with (nearly) arbitrary weights assigned to each item. To make matters worse, if a notion of item size exists at all, it's sometimes very coarsely defined: either you can carry eight items, whether the items are paper clips or pianos, or you can carry eight "units" of equipment, but one unit is "anything smaller than a breadbox," and two units is "A BFG."

There are many reasons the game designer may have for imposing this inventory limit, such as:
  • Directly as a puzzle (the classic Inventory Management Puzzle is the brain-teaser in which you must transport a fox, a hen, and some grain across a bridge that will only bear the weight of one item at a time)
  • As an attempt to impose difficulty and complexity on a player. It forces the player to manage inventory as a resource, just as they have to manage HP, MP, and so forth.
  • To punish players by making them backtrack through a substantial portion of the game if the player made a poor choice to leave a Plot Coupon behind to carry more guns and ammo.
  • To achieve greater realism, even if it damages the gameplay and/or annoys players. Even if a person in the situation would find a place for that green herb if it meant the difference between life and death.
  • To encourage players to actually use items, rather than hoarding them forever for whenever they might come in handy.
  • To make sure the player cannot rely on items for things that can be done by other means. (Why ever use a healing spell if you can carry 99 of each of three types of healing potions and two types of party-healing ones?)
  • Lack of memory space. On the early platforms, memory was at a premium for both in-play and save data. This is probably the case for any arbitrary inventory limit on a NES game.

To make matters worse one of the things that keeps our limited carrying capacity in real life from being too onerous a burden is the fact that we can set things down. Far too often, a game will impose an inventory limit, but not implement any sophisticated notion of chucking stuff on a shelf or table, sticking it in a cupboard, or otherwise leaving it wherever you happen to be at the moment. Far more popular is to limit the player to only abandoning inventory items at certain special locations, or only giving the player the option to discard items outright, removing them from play altogether. If the designer decided to allow the player to drop things wherever he likes, dropped items may yet be subject to Everything Fades. The ability to transport more items in a vehicle is also often left out.

At least within the hobbyist community, game authors who impose an inventory limit to genres which usually do not feature them will often feel the need to justify this, claiming to have "always been bothered" by the blatant unrealism of unbounded carrying. Strangely, players who do not go on to write games which feature an unreasonable inventory limit never seem to have trouble with this.

It is also worth noting that not all inventory limits annoy the player. However, the absolute best a limited inventory can do in the mind of the player is to be noninvasive. A player may finish a game and say "The inventory was limited, but it never really bothered me," but it is exceedingly unlikely that a player has ever finished a game and said, "Wow, my play experience was really improved by the fact that this game had an inventory limit." Of course, as with many tropes, not every player appreciates their use even if they do enhance and improve the gameplay.

One positive effect of imposing inventory limits on a player is to limit hoarding. In general, when players find things, they keep them, unless they have an immediate need for money, in which case they sell them. Players only use items that are in limited supply when absolutely needed (and in the case of stuff Too Awesome to Use, not even then). A limited inventory is a way to suggest to a player that they should be using more stuff. That is, shooting more, using more health potions, etc. And even if the player can't acquire any more consumable items, it isn't a problem (with a sufficiently large inventory) because that means the player is well-stocked for the next portion of the game. Typically, the problem with inventory happens when you have to drop key items or drop a box of 10 shotgun shells knowing full well that you're going to need them in the next 5 minutes.

Remember, Tropes Are Not Bad.

The Inventory Management Puzzle is actually well known in applied mathematics and computer science circles where it goes by the name of The Knapsack Problem. The Knapsack Problem is defined as given a set of items, each with a weight and a value, determine the count of each item to include in a collection so that the total weight is less than or equal to a given limit and the total value is as large as possible. It derives its name from the problem faced by someone who is constrained by a fixed-size knapsack and must fill it with the most useful items. Unfortunately what makes the Knapsack Problem well known is that it an exemplar of a class of problems that are inefficient to solve in the general case. This means that the best method to solve the problem is to try every possible combination and see which one works best.

See also Grid Inventory and Limited Loadout.

Examples

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Video Games

    Action Adventure Games 
  • Darkstone has what seems to be a rather stringent limit on inventory space, particularly in light of the quest objects the player is expected to assemble. The inventory limits can be neatly circumvented by frequent return trips to the starting town, however, which is the only "safe" location in the entire game (that is, the only place where monsters are never found). Items can be stored there for safekeeping. Moreover, the inventory limit also enables the player to make use of an extremely helpful cheat, provided that no patches have been installed for the game; it allows the player to generate a literally unlimited amount of gold.
  • The classic Spectrum Dizzy series went through several inventory permutations. The second game, Treasure Island Dizzy, had an inventory of 3 items. If a fourth was picked up, it was added to the bottom of the inventory list and the top item was dropped. One section of the game involved Dizzy going underwater, which you could only do if you had the snorkel in your inventory. Players swiftly learned to ensure the Snorkel was at the bottom of the list before entering the water and attempting to pick up other things. Maddeningly, there were more objects under the water that you needed than your inventory could hold, so a player had to make several trips and re-arrange the inventory every time.
  • The PS2 game Disaster Report and its sequel, Raw Danger, had a backpack that carried all your stuff. Since the game was designed as a survival game where speed was more important that carrying everything you could find, you had to make hard choices about what you wanted to carry, as what seemed useful could be useless later. As the game progressed you can get better backpacks with more space, starting with an emergency field aid bag and ending up with a massive camping bag that still couldn't hold everything you wanted.
  • This is used as a type of puzzle in the Superior Software puzzle game Ravenskull. You can carry a maximum of three items, no matter what types: you can carry three scythes, but you can't carry four cupcakes. In general, you can retrieve dropped objects, but some areas require deciding what you need most and abandoning the rest for ever.
  • They made a whole game almost out of this alone in 2009's The Void. Most of the game is about collecting Color, which amounts to food for your soul, without which, you fade out of existence, processing it in your Hearts, turning it into Nerva which is then used to fuel your travel, planting and mining more Color, combat and feeding the NPC Sisters to get them to help you. And surprisingly enough it works, keeping you on edge constantly, because any resource management mistake can be lethal.
  • Some of Ultimate's early Isometric Projection platform adventures needed careful management of the three slot FIFO inventory to evade several tricky spots, including working out exactly where to put the blank spaces. (Common puzzle in Alien8: Stand on item to get enough height to clear eggshell wall, jump-carry to leap off item while picking it up, land, immediately drop new item to avoid being killed by clockwork mouse / whatever, jump-carry to clear next wall. Needs two items with the empty space in between the two, so you don't leave anything behind when you jump-carry.)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has a limited "Adventure Pouch" which can only hold a limited number of shields, bottles, spare ammo packs (his main items have their own small ammo packs), and medallions, initially set at four spaces and later upgradeable to eight. Any extra Adventure Pouch items he picks up or buys have to be left with Peatrice the Item Check Girl. (Fortunately, though, Link's main tools, Plot Coupons, and Item Crafting collectables are still subject to the usual Bag of Holding rules.)

    Action RPG 
  • Avalon Code. Code management is a puzzle, and requires lots of patience, since you only have 4 reserve slots, and there are lots and lots of pages needed to turn to find what you need.
  • Deus Ex's inventory was based on the classic grid system. The designers explained prior to the release of the sequel, Invisible War, that they weren't happy with how that worked out (since you could happily tote around a rocket launcher, sniper rifle, shotgun, assault rifle, a couple of pistols and an assortment of grenades without any of them being obvious) and so they were going to change to a slot-based system. Which, in practice, meant that you could carry even more.
    • The prequel to Deus Ex, Human Revolution, sees a return to the grid-based inventory system. HR's system is quite a bit more difficult than the original, since there's less space (though it's possible to upgrade the size of your grid) and ammo and grenades are included separately. It is, however, slightly mitigated by the game's decent auto-sorting and willingness to rotate items through a right angle if necessary.
  • Rogue Galaxy lets you hold some five pages of items, which is well and good... until you realize how many "key items" the game drops on you. You also have access, however, to another five pages of storage accessed via Save Point. The irritating part is that consumable items have incredibly arbitrary limits. Fifty Heal Potions is understandable, but why can you only carry thirty Resurrections?
  • X-Men Legends 2 infuriated many players with its inventory management system. There were set limits on the number of pieces of equipment the player's party could carry, and there was a set limit on the number of pieces of equipment that could be stored, but taking up more than half the space in the storage inventory forced the player to run the risk of the game glitching in various and sundry ways. Making things worse, the player could not simply leave pieces of equipment laying on the ground, because those would also count toward the overall total, eventually resulting in the same glitch. Thus, the only way to keep the game from glitching out halfway through was to periodically sell off piles of equipment to Forge, the only way to eliminate a piece of equipment altogether.
  • An extreme case in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days with the panel system. While your actual inventory is nearly limitless, you can only take so much with you on missions. And because your level, skills, spells, weapon, backpack slots (temporary inventory for collected items), a ring that upgrades stats and upgrades to the above (such as allowing your Guard to block attacks behind you) are all stored as panels it takes some careful planning. You'll also often have to leave enemy drops, mostly synthesis Materials, behind due to limited backpack space because you're going to want the items from chests (as that is recorded and needed at various parts to unlock things) as well as healing items you pick up should the stock you brought with you run out.
  • Dark Cloud. Nothing stacked. Multiple different items keyed to curing one status ailment each. Each character has limited inventory space for his or her own weapons and can't carry anyone else's. You'll need multiple weapon repair items per dungeon floor or your weapons will break and be Lost Forever. Not to mention the ridiculous "thirst meter." It was a major reward to be able to carry 10 more items.
  • The first Dragon Slayer game was similar in a number of ways to Adventure, including only allowing the player to carry one item at a time. Coins and potions could be carried in unlimited quantities, but couldn't even be picked up if something else was being held.
  • Averted in Throne of Darkness where the inventory manages itself, there are up to seven characters each with an inventory of his own, AND the blacksmith and priest are available at all times, after they are brought back to their posts, so you don't have to run back and forth to reach them to give them your loot.
  • Each character in Odin Sphere begins with a pathetically small inventory, which can be upgraded by buying Small Bags or Large Bags. Upgrading from Small Bags to Large Bags when you've maxed out on bags adds even more complexity to the puzzle, since you now have to dump not only everything from the Small Bag into your other bags, but also the Small Bag itself, before replacing it with a Large Bag.

    Adventure Games 
  • I-0 is the rare example of an inventory limit that is minimally intrusive, or, at least, enforced. The player simply isn't meant to be using inventory items to solve puzzles in I-0, and the limit reinforces this: if you find yourself wishing you could carry a fourth item, you're really missing the point of the game.
  • Infocom's Planetfall: Picking up too many items causes the item you last tried to pick up, as well as a random item from your inventory, to go tumbling to the floor. If you try to pick them up again without doing something with the situation, it'll just happen all over again — with another item. More annoyingly, both in that game and Stationfall, its sequel, hauling a magnetic object around for too long while also carrying a magnetic ID card would blank the latter. Let's not even mention Stationfall's slowly evaporating explosive... which would invisibly evaporate if you have it inside a container.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy game (a Text Adventure) has several of these integrated into the story. There's the "thing your aunt gave you which you don't know what it is" which is a Clingy Macguffin and a Bag of Holding—anything at all can be stuffed into it. Another involves holding tea and no tea at the same time—yes, we know. That's why it's a puzzle.
    • Just to give a taste of the game's humor, the first is used to solve a puzzle (by putting a item you'd lose in it), and the latter requires you to remove your own common sense. Manually.
  • A lot of Infocom games (the Zorks in particular) had a more complicated inventory system, where not only the weight but also the bulk of the items were taken into account to determine how much you could carry. Some things were heavy, others large and unwieldy. Also, there were occasionally passages that you could only fit through while holding one or two items.
    • Zork: Nemesis suffers from a weird version of this- the game takes place in several "levels," each one being entirely self contained. However, as you could only put down items in places where you could pick them up, you were often stuck carrying a ton of items from completed sections, and with an interface that forces you to keep clicking for the "next item" in the list until you reach the one you actually want to be using.
  • Sierra's Quest for Glory series, being part adventure game and part RPG, effectively hybridizes the "bottomless pockets" philosophy of Sierra's other games with an RPG-style inventory capacity limit. In this case, the key factor is weight; your character can carry any number of items of any size, as long as their combined weight stays beneath your character's upper limit (determined by their strength). However, this is not a hard limit - you can, in fact, carry items above and beyond this amount. Doing so, however, physically strains your character, depleting your stamina much faster than normal (which kills you if it runs out). That being said, at no point will you ever come across enough stuff to weigh you down unless you do it on purpose (picking up far too many throwing rocks, for example). By the time you reach the hard limit for strength for the game, you can carry everything with ease. Wizards and thieves don't even need to get to the hard limit (unless the thief insists on carrying dozens of throwing daggers), and fighters and paladins have heavier equipment with swords and heavy armor and shields, but since they're expected to develop their strength, it's not a concern.
  • In the first two Discworld point-and-click games, Rincewind himself could only carry a few items... and for some areas where the Luggage couldn't go (such as up the tower) you had to make sure to bring the right things first.
  • The old Atari game Adventure only allowed the character to carry one item at a time. This was due to technological limitations (back then the ability to carry items at all in a non-text based game was groundbreaking) but it overall added a lot of real difficulty to the game. The biggest reason: the only weapon in the game counted toward your one-item limit.
  • Phantasmagoria had a strict eight-item inventory limit. This failed to be annoying for most of the game because (a) the puzzles were crafted such that only a very few items were ever in-play at the same time, and (b) This being the Interactive Movie genre, which was never really perfected, players usually had much worse things to get annoyed by.
  • Myst suffered from the "one item only" limit. Pretty ridiculous considering the only items in the game were single pages torn from books. The limit meant the player had to go through many areas one extra time in order to collect all the pages (and put together all the pieces of the story).
    • Myst: End of Ages justified this same one-item limit because there was only one item to carry in each Age. Being unable to carry these heavy slates up ladders was part of the puzzle, for some Ages.
  • In Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom, when you reach certain plot milestones you get a password. Some items can be kept afterwards, while others get "accidentally" lost, without any outward indication of which is which. This gets especially strange with multiple identical items, which take up a single space on the inventory; sometimes you will lose some, but not all, of them.
  • Uninvited is a rare inversion of this with an equal amount of management puzzling. The player is actually given an unlimited inventory to store anything and everything not nailed to the ground. The problem, however, is that while you can take nearly everything you see bar one shiny red exception, that is, only about an eighth of the items you find at most will have some use in the game. The idea was that if you loot everything imaginable, it comes back to haunt you as far as wading through hordes of items to try to find that one nifty MacGuffin when the time comes to use it. However, this is also averted if you drop all the useless loot or otherwise don't pick it up in the first place, and there are hardly that many timed missions to really haunt you if you do have everything and the kitchen sink in your pockets to sort through.
  • In Dream Chronicles the inventory is limited to ten items. Normally, this isn't much of an obstacle, as the objects get to be used pretty quickly, but there are a few puzzles with way more pieces than just ten: this would mean you can't avoid moving back and forth between several parts of the location when trying to solve them. One more generic example of this is the gate puzzle, where you need to use scales to find the correct items for unlocking the gates. After you have collected all of the items in the street, you will have to leave some of them on the gate pillars in order to be able to pick up the scales. At the same time, however, multiple identical objects only require a single space inside the inventory, implying that Faye can carry more than ten items, just that the game's interface won't allow collecting too much stuff.
  • Bookworm Adventures awards the player a new treasure in every chapter, with the total number of them being eighteen (not counting upgrades). Lex can only take three treasures to every new chapter, which can be tough choice: the treasure selection screen provides a guess at what is to be expected, but it doesn't neccesarily cover everything that you will encounter in the chapter, and sometimes fails to provide any meaningful advice at all.
    • Its sequel has 13 treasures (one of which is useless until the Final Boss is defeated) and six non-upgradable companions. Two treasures & a companion can be taken into every chapter.
  • Shivers tasked you to capture ten evil spirits haunting an abandoned museum, which required you to have the appropriate urn and matching lid for that spirit. However you could only carry one urn, lid or urn-and-matching-lid at a time; trying to pick up a new one would drop the old item in its place, so you usually had to make notes of where you left stuff. What's more, after you recaptured a spirit, the urn would be moved to a separate place on your task bar, implying that you could carry as many "completed" urns as you liked.
  • Most of the Might and Magic series does this, except that you can (sometimes) move items to different characters. If all your characters are full, though...
  • The Interactive Fiction game Anchorhead partially averts this: you can carry almost all the items you'll ever need in the pockets of your trenchcoat, but you can only hold so much in your hands at any one time.

    Eastern RPG 
  • Parasite Eve, Squaresoft's hybrid of a Final Fantasy-style RPG and a Resident Evil-style Survival Horror, featured a limited inventory, the necessity to simply throw important items away, incredibly long stretches where it was impossible to swap out the chosen items for those in storage, and key items which could not be discarded even when they had no more use. You could increase your carrying capacity — by leveling in inventory (in exchange for not leveling other stats instead). Some armors had the ability to increase the size of your pockets if you wore it, but if you tried to swap armor and your pockets are full, you'll have to discard some items to make room.
    • Parasite Eve 2 separated normal items and key items into two menus. Normal items had a limit of 20. You could attach any item and weapon to your armor pockets since that became your inventory menu for battles, but doing so won't free up any space in your regular pockets. Pouch Belts increased your armor's carrying capacity by 1 and the max limit for armor pockets was 10.
  • Earthbound allowed each character to carry up to fourteen items, even when some of those items are being worn. However, there's also a storage facility that you can access (via delivery service) from any phone. It has a much higher limit, but item hoarders can still find themselves bumping up against it.
  • Pokémon has gone through various stages of this. Pokémon Red and Blue limited you to 20 unique items on your person, total. Pokémon Gold and Silver and Crystal introduced the bag system that separated items into different pockets according to purpose, but "normal" items still had the limit of 20. More extraneous pockets were added in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire (i.e., for berries and TMs), but by Diamond and Pearl the 20 item limit had been removed (though the pockets stayed in place). Of course, like Earthbound, there was a way to store items in the PC until Diamond and Pearl, but this also filled up rather quickly. The introduction of Mons being able to hold items allows Pokemon to be stored with those items, effectively allowing hundreds more (albeit non-unique) items to be stored.
    • In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl and Platinum, there's an Underground mini-game with its own inventory, which easily fills up with spheres. However, you can bury them anywhere to get rid of them, and if you bury multiple spheres in the same place, they'll consolidate into a larger sphere that takes only a single slot.
    • In Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team, you had a twenty-item limit on the stuff you could take into dungeons. That's fine. You can store extra items in Kangaskhan Storage, which has infinite space. I could live with that. But then when Mystery Dungeon 2 came along, you could increase your inventory capacity from sixteen to forty. But now, there's another issue: you can run out of storage. To increase your storage place, you have to go up ranks by earning points from completed missions, but the problem is that at some point you won't be able to complete missions fast enough before you have to start cleaning out your storage. Though, it does help that 75% of all items are fairly useless, and 75% of all useful items are given to you at a much faster rate than you using them up...
  • Suikoden was vaguely annoying in this regard. There was no party inventory; instead each of your six characters could carry eight items. This sounds generous, but about half of this would usually be taken up with multi-piece armour, because equipment counted towards this limit. It also made shopping a hassle. Not to mention switching characters. Two characters that each carry eight items can't even pass items between the two of them.
  • The original .hack games for PS2 were an inventory nightmare as well. Not only was your personal inventory limited, but even the bank to store excess items was quite limited. Extremely frustrating in a game where you often need to carry around multiple sets of weapons and armor and items to deal with different enemy resistances as well as the RPG staple of healing, reviving, and other utilitarian items.
    • Made even more infuriating when you finish the game's plot and get the "Item Completion Event" and have to collect one of every item. Since your inventory space is limited, you have to carry around rare Lost Forever items until the end of the game. No matter how useless they later become (because you get far better weapons/armour).
      • As long as you don't mind spending money on loads of cheap garbage to facilitate a tradeback with other party members, you can work around this by trading an item to a teammate and hoping they don't commit So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear.
  • Both Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door start you off with a limit of 10 usable items (not counting "Important Things"). The latter, however, lets you double your capacity with an item you find in the Pit of 100 Trials. Items may be discarded, but if you don't pick them up soon, they're subject to Everything Fades. In addition, shops let you store items in them without them fading. Those have limits, as well, but at least you may retrieve any stored item from any shop.
    • Super Mario RPG also had an inventory limit, and considering (unlike most console RPGs) each individual healing item counts as "one," your two-page limit got filled awfully fast.
    • Paper Mario: Sticker Star does this with the sticker album, which holds all the stickers used for attacks and puzzles. Thankfully, you gain new pages after each major boss battle and an auto-sort to help out.
  • Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter featured an incredibly tight inventory limit. You would begin the game with exactly ten slots in your inventory. You could get up to thirty extra slots, but they were entirely optional, and missable. Each slot could only hold one type of item (Heal Kits, Fairy Drops, Save Tokens, unappraised weapons, etc.). You could technically carry any number of a type of expendable item, but each slot could hold only up to 10; any more, and the excess amount would have to occupy a new slot (11-20 required two slots, 21-30 required three, etc.). Despite the above rule, only one piece of unappraised equipment could ever fit in an inventory slot. Equipment that you picked up in dungeons was therefore guaranteed to flood most of your inventory. You could leave your items and equipment with a character that acted as a storage service, but incomprehensibly, the amount of space they had available was usually less than what you had, making it nearly useless, except for carrying items over to a new game.
  • Vagrant Story had quite a limited repertoire of weapons you could carry (plain items weren't bad), making you store excess ones in "containers" which were magically linked to each other so you could pull any weapon out of any container. This wouldn't have been so bad if you couldn't do Item Crafting to change the stats of each weapon (and weapons have fifteen stats), meaning your inventory takes up a whopping three memory card saves. Every time you wanted to exchange items to/from your "saved" inventory it would take a good 15-20 seconds to save.
  • The Final Fantasy series has several examples:
    • The original Final Fantasy was especially bad in this regard: While the types of consumable items were limited and the game had room for all of them, there was only room for four weapons on each of the four characters, and even worse, four pieces of armor. This includes stuff equipped, which could be all four slots. As the game has equipment you can use in battle, as well as elemental protection, this could get problematic later in the game fast.
    • Final Fantasy II, III, and IV did this to some extent. The game only let you carry 40 items at any one time. This was ameliorated in the remakes for these games.
      • Final Fantasy II is arguably the worst; the items in your inventory did not stack at all (until its remakes).
      • In Final Fantasy IV, you could store items with the Big Chocobo, but that was it. This was even worse in the original hard-type version, as they had a good 8 items dedicated to healing individual status ailments. Combine this with needing stocks of various kinds of arrows for Rosa, specialized weapon swapping for certain elemental resistances, and you can easily run low on room.
    • Final Fantasy V was the first game to do away with this.
    • Final Fantasy X has a fairly large cap on the number of weapons and armor you can have, but near the endgame you will probably start feeling it.
  • From the third game onward, the Mega Man Battle Network games feature an optional (but very helpful) literal Inventory Management Puzzle in the Navi Customizer. You can use a number of programs to give Mega Man benefits with four rules: Textured programs may not touch the Command Line, non-textured programs must touch the Command Line, programs of the same color may not be touch, and all used programs must fit within the allotted space.
    • The third game required you to use one such part (the Press Program) to go certain places. The Press Program quickly became a Scrappy Mechanic, and and between it, an unholy amount of running to everywhere in the internet, and That One Boss Bubbleman, the entire chapter it was introduced in became a Scrappy Level too. The next game replaced it with an always-present key item. It should be noted that you never had to drop anything; the customizer merely determined which programs would be in use at a given time. The chip folders which are the focus of the game could themselves be considered the same thing: You always have all your chips, unless you sell them, but only thirty can ever be in your folder, where they can be used in combat, at any time, and there are a few simple restrictions on which can be in there at the same time.
    • The sixth game(s) arguably made the Navi Customizer easier to use by allowing blocks to extend past the edge of the "valid" field by one square. As long as a program still had one block on the standard 5x5 grid it counted, although placing any part of a program outside the grid caused bugs (which could be removed by the ever-popular BugStop program).
  • Riviera: The Promised Land allowed the party to carry only 20 items, with no external storage option. This limit gets especially frustrating when an item is won from almost every single battle, and almost all items have usefulness in raising character's stats. Even more frustrating in battles, when only 4 items were usable at all. On the other hand, abusing the training option enough makes it possible to ditch most weapon items since there will be stronger versions found soon anyway. The only items which should never be ditched are the Too Awesome to Use Fanelia and Longinus Lance.
  • Used in Grandia, each character has a specific, though generously sized inventory, and there's a large bag. And everything doesn't fade.
  • The Monster Hunter series of games has a set amount of items that you can carry to prevent you from bringing an entire arsenal into battle. It's handled pretty well, presenting the idea that you are a lone hunter (or hunters) out on a single quest that needs to use stealth and speed and not be bogged down with a kitchen sink. The use of alchemy in the game (though really it is more just combining equipment) also allows players to carry more of X than they normally would, at the cost of extra space going towards the raw materials required to make the desired item.
  • Hair-pullingly frustrating in Ys VI, in which Adol can only bring 9 of each and any item, including your lifesaving potions. Heck, there exists a cheat simply to raise the item cap to 50!
  • The Falcom action-RPG Brandish starts off looking like one of these, as you only have twelve inventory slots plus the three slots specifically for your currently-equipped armor, shield, and weapon. Experimentation (or perhaps just reading the manual) reveals just how many bones the game throws you to avoid being one of these:
    • You can dump items on the ground; these manifest as a green pouch icon. You can even dump multiple items in the same spot, in which case you pick them back up in a last-in-first-out hierarchy. Items discarded this way don't seem to be subject to Everything Fades, unless the limit is more than a floor or two. The downside is that you can't see the items' locations on your map, so you have to keep track of where you dropped stuff.
    • You can place items in treasure chests, which do show up on your map. But unlike the above tip, chests can only hold one item at a time.
    • Very early on, you can find a Dimensional Box which essentially gives you an extra page of inventory space. And from what I've seen, there seem to be three of these in the game. The downside is that items that automatically activate (such as a Ring of Life) don't work if inside of a box — and the ring's in-game description explicitly says so.
    • Once you find a box, opening one on your inventory screen lets you freely rearrange your items (ostensibly to give you a way to put them in the box). But this also lets you stack items by putting an icon of one type on top of another of the same type. Previously, you'd be in the odd situation where the "three health potions" you picked up would occupy a different slot than the "four health potions" you found elsewhere. Not all items can be stacked in this way, though, and if you're not careful, you can mix poisons and potions, which cancel each other out in a one-to-one ratio. Oh, and stacking gold bars slightly increases their total value.
  • The Legend of Dragoon gives you a hard inventory space of 32 individual "disposable" items (potions, revives, and so forth). Long battles such as the Divine Dragon battle and final boss aside, the fact that most of these have percentage-based effects might make it less grating... then you realize that your available equipment inventory is eight times this. If you want to be prepared for any situation, you'll only be able to hold two, maybe three of any given item type besides attacking items. Luckily, a handful of really useful battle items can be used repeatedly, but you're in trouble as far as healing goes.
  • Dubloon's inventory can hold up to 32 kinds of items (but their quantity can be infinite). Not to mention your crew, of which each member can equip only one item. Yes, wearing a glove makes you automatically unequip armour.
  • SaGa:
    • Makai Toshi SaGa has this in spades. Your characters have their own inventories of eight slots (including equipment), as well as a common party inventory of only eight slots. Only humans can use all eight slots of their inventory; mutants already have four reserved for innate abilities, leaving the other four for items. Monsters can't hold items at all.
    • SaGa 2 is a little better. Your common inventory has 16 slots, and you can prevent mutants from learning four skills to have room for more items. Mutants arguably fit this trope in and of themselves; how many slots do you allocate each towards skills, armor, weapons, and spellbooks?
  • Dragon Quest had this in varying degrees, generally getting more lenient over time.
    • In the first game it wasn't present at all; your inventory had room for every item, and every time you bought a new piece of equipment, you'd sell the one of that type you currently had.
    • Dragon Quest II was particularly bad with this, as if the rest of the game wasn't hard enough already. Each of your three characters can only hold up to eight items, including equipment, which could take up 4-5 of those eight slots. Most of the rest is taken up by key items. The items also don't stack.
    • Dragon Quest III had the same eight-items-including-equipment per character limit, but added a safe where you could store extra items; this same system is used in the next two games as well. V also upped each character's inventory to twelve items.
    • Dragon Quest VI and onward replace the safe with a common Hyperspace Arsenal that is always with your party, though only items in the characters' inventories can be used in battle.
  • Sweet Home has inventory management as one of its signature aspects. Each character has four inventory spaces: one for a character-specific item, one for an equipped weapon, and two more for any other items they find lying around. Nearly all of the game's puzzles are item-based, requiring you to juggle both the limited inventory spaces and all five characters. Even worse, if a character dies, you have to find a replacement item for whatever their unique equipment did, eating up even more inventory space.
  • The Gundam spinoff RPG MS Saga has this with its Grid Inventory system. Each mobile suit has its own personal weapon inventory. Weapons take up different amounts of space, generally matching up with their physical appearancenote . At the same time, weapons have different alignments based off of type: melee weapons are vertical while ranged weapons are horizontal, and any given MS' grid is arranged to suit its natural specialization. Thus the name of the game is virtual Tetris as you attempt to fit your desired weapons into the MS' grid.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, Hard Mode limits the amount of any item you can carry to exactly ten. Need 1-Ups? You can only buy/hold 10 of them at any one time. Same with any gear, beans or anything else in the game. It's not as bad as some of the others here (10 of each thing still doesn't mean much given how there's about 10 different types/strengths of healing items and what not), but it does make the early game hell and certain resources used for things later on rather easy to run out of (like the status healing Refreshing Herbs or the background enemy killing Taunt Balls).
  • Aeron's carriage bag in Pandora's Tower can initially support up to 30 items. This includes, yes, individual collectibles (so if 4 elixir potions are collected, 26 spaces remain; this differs from many other games which reserve one slot for an entire item or weapon regardless of its amount or ammunition). The bag can be expanded for a bigger capacity if the proper items are given to Elena.
  • Azure Dreams does this twice. You can't enter the dungeon with more than five items and can't hold more than 30. So do you rather want to take a returning device (which you may have the luck to find or not), equipment or an additional ally with you before going after monsters?

    First Person Shooters 
  • In Marathon, you can only carry a limited amount of any item at any time (although the limits are high enough that the gameplay isn't affected and is still patently unrealistic). The limit on weapons and ammo is bypassed on the highest difficulty level, however.
  • In E.Ψ.Ǝ.: Divine Cybermancy, your character has several holsters of varying size - a huge back slot for two-handed weapons, and four thigh/shoulder holsters for one-handed weapons, plus several smaller pouches for ammo and grenades. You can, for example, fit a Damocles sword and a pair of submachine guns in your back slot, but not a Damocles and a Sulfatum. Generally, the sheer weight malus imposed by large guns prevents this from being an issue, along with ammo taking up very little space. However, trying to carry around half a dozen (lightweight) weapons and their respective ammo types can require some careful inventory juggling.

    Massively Multiplayer Online RPG 
  • Ultima Online assigns a weight to each item. Carrying too much weight makes your character's stamina decrease as he walks. When the stamina hits zero, your character can't move until his stamina slowly recharges. However, since your character could move items within several tiles with no penalties, many players simply picked up a heavy item, put it down a few tiles away, and played leapfrog with it until they reached their destination.
  • Blizzard's World of Warcraft MMORPG limits the player to 5 bags of stuff to carry around with you. You can increase the size of your bags by buying better bags, but you eventually run into an upper limit. The frustration of this comes into play when you've got several entire sets of equipment to lug around because you might need each set for different tasks, between which you won't be able to go back to your bank (which is an additional storage area that's also limited in size by more expensive bags, but cannot be accessed except in large cities). This is frustrating because even the smallest items in the game (for instance, a single fragment of bone) takes up the same space in your bags as sword that's taller than your character. Small items can sometimes "stack" to varying degrees in one bag slot, but sometimes cannot (Warlocks can attest most loudly to this inconsistency). Changes to the mechanisms of the game over time have made this alternately better or worse. Some items such as mounts or companion pets (or keys) have their own (unlimited) storage grid and do not take up inventory space. On the down side, in an attempt to address the above Warlock problem, the game placed a hard cap on the number of shards that warlocks could carry ever, regardless of how much bag space they have free. Since a player may have up to ten characters on any single server at once (and 50 total characters per account), many players dedicate a single character on one account/server to being a bank alt, which first of all allows them to use a single character's allotment of space for pure storage, and secondly to have one character located in a city where bank and auction house are within a few seconds' walk of each other (usually Stormwind or Orgrimmar). This has been expanded upon somewhat by enterprising players who start their own guilds on bank alt characters purely to gain access to the massive (compared with individual bank space, anyway) guild bank tab system.
    • A few things have been ameliorated though over time:
      • High-capacity "soul bags" were introduced in the Burning Crusade expansion, which could hold only Soul Shards but could hold a lot more of them than a normal bag.
      • In the Cataclysm expansion, Soul Shards were removed as inventory items completely and instead became part of the UI; rather than being necessary for certain spells like Summons or Soul Fire, they enhance spells that are still castable without the shards (there's a shard limit of three).
      • In Mists of Pandaria, the Soul Shard system got slightly revamped again, being somewhat similar to the Cataclysm system except only available to Affliction Warlocks (the other two specs get new resource systems).
      • Ammunition was removed in Cataclysm. Characters that used ranged weapons (Hunters rely heavily on them, Rogues and Warriors can use them but they aren't that helpful) used to have to carry around a quiver, taking up one of the five bag slots. The quiver would hold their ammo; depending on the bag size, it could hold anywhere from 6000 to 28,000 arrows/bullets. Seems like a ton, but every single shot consumed a piece of ammo, meaning that with the smaller quivers, it was pretty easy to run out in the middle of a raid, forcing Hunters to have to manage their ammo. This was removed in Cataclysm, when it was changed so that all ranged weapons use unlimited ammo instead.
      • Furthermore, the need to carry around several different sets of gear is not nearly as prevalent as it once was. The main reason for multiple gear sets was the need for specific varieties of Spell Resistance. Normal "tank" sets are designed to reduce incoming physical damage, but certain raid bosses dealt Fire damage or Frost damage or Nature damage in melee instead. (Think of getting punched by a fire elemental.) So, traditionally, a tank character had to haul around not only his conventional (physical) tank set, but his Fire Resistance set for Molten Core, his Shadow Resistance set for heroic Mana Tombs, his Nature Resistance set for phase 1 of Hydross, his Frost Resistance set for phase 2 of Hydross, etc.. In Mists of Pandaria, spell resistance was removed from the game entirely, and no new raid bosses have been designed to do non-physical melee damage since Cataclysm.
      • Finally, several different types of high-capacity "crafting materials" bags (mining bags, leatherworking bags, gem bags, enchanting bags, engineering bags, and even cooking and fish bags) have reduced the burden of carrying around crafting mats to a small degree.
      • Warlords of Dranor will finally avert some of the more painful management. Quest items will finally be removed from bags. Fun little toys and Heirlooms (And poteinally tabards) will be stored in a separate UI interface. Crafting items will stack up 100, freeing up some much needed space for crafters. You'll also be able to craft items from stuff you have in your bank directly while at the bank, removing the need to swap the item or the bag holding them into your inventory/bag bar.
  • Final Fantasy XI starts players off with only 30 inventory slots on their person and another 50 in the "Mog Safe," which is only accessible via house or nomad mogs. Both upgrade to 80 spaces through quests. Later a "Mog Locker" was added with Treasures of Aht Urghan. Personal inventory and the mog safe are both expandable (up to a point) via quests. Unfortunately equipped armour and weapons still counts against the inventory space and in the beginning severely limits the amount of loot a character can carry. This problem increases exponentially once you have multiple high-level jobs, which in many cases can require 100% gear-swaps on the fly for their maximum efficiency. There is also storage, which is extra space that can range from 0 to over 100 spaces, by stuffing the items inside furniture in your house (this includes strange places like decorative crystal eggs and lamps). The catch is that the storage is only accessible in your own house, not any of the rent-a-rooms you stay in outside of your home nation, which is painfully inconvenient if you need to change jobs and gear for an experience party on a time limit.
  • In Second Life, Rezzing (placing in-world in a usable form) can often only be done on land you own or rent. The number of items a piece of land can hold is a function of the land's size and the complexity of the items, so it becomes an Not-in-Inventory Management Puzzle, instead. ("I can put up my castle if I pack away my space-station first, or I can have both if I choose simpler furniture.")
  • MapleStory has inventory limits that vary by class. Since Everything Fades (and other players can freely come and take your dropped items), this can get frustrating. Oh, and the less creative quests often require you to not only hunt 1000 monster drop items, but to hand them all in at once. So in addition to the hours and hours of grinding you need to reserve no less than five inventory spots...starting right around the time when you're high enough a level that you've amassed a full inventory of items. But never fear, as you can use real money to buy extra slots.
    • Mabinogi, another free MMORPG produced by Nexon, uses a similar grid inventory system. Since there are no character classes, inventory is identical across characters. Pets have variable inventory sizes; which, illogically, are not always dependent on the size of the pets. For example, two of the medium-sized dogs are tied for the largest inventory space; which is substantially larger than any other available pet, including Shire-type draft horses.
  • Doubly applied in Dark Age Of Camelot. Not only do you have a limited inventory, but items have weight, usually relevant to whether it's a lightweight consumable or heavy weapons or armor. Making matters worse (for some classes), your carrying capacity is based on strength, which is the same stat used for physical attacks. As a result any mage type class will be much less capable of carrying large quantities of goods than a melee class, especially relevant when crafting. Carrying too much weight, even within the bounds of your inventory capacity, snares and eventually roots the player.

    Platform Games 
  • Most Castlevania games past Symphony of the Night let you only stock 9 of one item. Harmony of Dissonance, however, lets you store up to 99 of an item. And since you can use these items at any time you have control of Juste (as opposed to having to wait your turn in RPGs), having 99 Hi-Potions can make the game damn near impossible to die in.

    Puzzle Game 
  • Somebody out there actually made a Tetris-style game called Inventory Tetris to satirize the whole thing.
  • The Flash game Help The Hero is this trope. The gameplay literally consists of managing the hero's (naturally, grid-based) inventory.
  • In the late 90s, some airplanes had rudimentary black-and-white video games built into the phones in each headrest. One such game was an inventory puzzler, where you had to fit various items in a suitcase, from golf balls to handguns.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • The various Best Way World War II RTS games, the most famous being Men Of War and its sequels and spinoffs, gives the soldiers and vehicles grid-based inventories that all items are placed on. This allows for soldiers to pick up and swap items and even salvage ammo from disabled vehicles (or take the machine gun off of a vehicle and use it on foot).

    Roguelikes 
  • In NetHack you have 52 inventory slots available, although identical objects stack. Players are more likely to be encumbered by the weight of the objects before they reach the inventory limit, however. Bags and other containers can store an unlimited number of items, and the Bag of Holding will even reduce the weight of the items it contains. However, removing an item from a bag takes up time during which you can be killed, and putting the wrong sort of item into a Bag of Holding will cause it to explode, destroying all the items it contained and damaging (and possibly killing) you. Or, if you're especially unlucky, you trip on the stairs while encumbered.... Nethack has persistent levels, so you can leave items on the dungeon floor and come back for them later: this is a common strategy (called caching) in the later stages of the game. However, some monsters might eat objects which are lying around, while other monsters can pick them up and use them against you....
  • Angband and its variants give you 21 inventory slots in your backpack. With 99 identical items maximum per slot, you could theoretically fit in 2079 ordinary suits of plate mail, although the weight would slow you to unplayability. Since the dungeons are non-persistent, it's a good thing you have a home for permanent storage, which has glorious 42 slots. It still tends to fill up pretty quickly, though.
  • The platforming Roguelike Spelunky allows you to only keep one item in your hands at a time. Sounds fair. However, you can only "store" bombs, flares, and ropes, meaning if you want both the Shotgun and the Gold Idol, you have to do some juggling back and forth. And God help you if it's a dark level and you need to use your flare too... However, it should be noted that items you wear (shoes, gloves, glasses, the cape or jetpack, the parachute) and a few other special items (the ankh and the Hedjet Eye) are "equipped" and take up no inventory space, as opposed to the "carried" items you can only have one of. And the game won't even stop you from wearing both gloves or both shoes at the same time.
  • The Diablo series had a pretty small Grid Inventory with very few stackable items, and the sequel adding a small trunk and Hypercube, which meant lots of trekking back and forth to sell ur lewtz (use somebody else's town portal and save scrolls!). One trick to get around this in a solo or less jerky server is to just drop things on the ground back at base (although you need to stuff everything away before logging out,) which also defangs the only real bite that the game's Death Is a Slap on the Wrist had.
    • In the original Diablo, money took space in your inventory. Sure, it stacked, but the richer you were, the less room you had left in your inventory. Even worse, due to a glitch it became impossible to buy the best armor in the game because carrying enough gold to pay for it meant there wasn't enough room for the item itself!
    • The Lord of Destruction Expansion Pack for Diablo II turned inventory management into a legitimate part of the game with charms. Charms are magical objects of varying size that bestow their (totally cumulative) enchantments on you simply by being carried. This means that a player can choose between having more free inventory space, or having more enchantments from charms.
  • The dungeons in Recettear invoke this. Fortunately any dropped item is recoverable (until you leave that level), so some swapping is possible.
  • Ragnarok only allows you to carry a finite amount of items and weight, though you can carry more if you can find a red bag, which gives you an extra 127 slots and makes items weightless when they are within the bag.

    Simulation Game 
  • In the Animal Crossing games you can only carry 15 items, you are free to set things down wherever you like, and Nothing Fades (although you have to watch out for Lost & Found making off with them). However, the game features additional storage "slots" in the form of letters and the letter-saving system, resulting in a lot of present-swapping for item hoarders.
  • Mechwarrior 3 is a Behind the Lines mission. Three destructible, unarmed vehicles, each can carry 2 mechs and 300 tons of equipment - and that includes armor and ammo.
  • The Harvest Moon games are notorious for this.
    • In the very first one, you can only have two tools equipped at a time.. and you can only ever carry ONE item, which made harvesting and gift-giving a real pain in the ass sometimes.
    • It didn't get much better from there. Harvest Moon 64 both provided you with, at the most, 8 slots in your rucksack... and items didn't stack.
    • In Back to Nature, you start off with a 4-slot rucksack (with two extra slots for an equipped tool and an item to carry), technically, you end up with 16 slots - eight for tools, eight for items.
    • Magical Melody starts you off with only 5 slots. You can upgrade to 15, and items don't stack there either. Plus, tools and regular items don't have separate slots. You get 15 slots, period. And you run slower when you're carrying items.
    • A Wonderful Life averts this. Your player character starts with the staggering ammount of 280 slots for items, right from the start. All the slots allow you to carry and stack all kinds of items, and even in the case you need extra space, you have another 500 slots between your fridge and your toolbox.
  • Minecraft: While 4 armor slots, 27 storage slots, and 9 hotkey slots combined with stacking up to 64 items per slot sounds generous, the constant consumption of resources (limited item durability, a hunger bar, etc.) during play means that the player must manage their inventory carefully or risk being stranded far from their home base in the middle of a dark, mob-filled cave or pit without a pickaxe, torches, and/or food. Have fun trying to beat off a horde of creepers and zombies with your bare hands or a block of dirt.

    Strategy RPG 
  • Annoyingly used in Fire Emblem, where each character can only carry 5 objects, and dropping 1 makes it vanish FOREVER!. However, you can leave items with merchants. The majority of the time items can be sent to the convoy on receiving them if the character doesn't have enough room to hold them, and items only get drop-lost when the character is manually directed to drop them... the uses for which are vanishingly small.
    • Path of Radiance lets you have 4 items and 4 weapons, whereas Radiant Dawn has a full 7 slots that you can use stuff with. Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776 had the same system as Radiant Dawn, whereas Mystery of the Emblem has the same system as Path of Radiance.
  • In the Genesis Shining Force games, each character is limited to four items. Including their weapon (there's no armor in either game) and their magic ring if they're using one. Fortunately, the first game allows you to store stuff in your Headquarters, and the second game lets you store items in the Caravan once you're about a third of the way into the game.
  • Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber, a unit could only carry up to ten consumable items. This doesn't seem so bad, except for the fact that units can be made of five characters, which averages to two items per character. To make matters worse, when a unit travels on a stage, a meter that measures fatigue fills up rather quickly. There are special items can be used to lower fatigue, but they take up item slots that could be used for healing items. This is nothing to say about the cost of the items relative to the amount of money you receive in this game.
  • Disgaea had a pretty large inventory limit, but as the game tended to give you many items for winning battles, as well as plenty of reasons to keep old items such as raiding them for specialists and keeping a lot of Gency's Exits on hand, it could fill up fast. Thankfully, a clever person could make a good 100 dummy generics to use their three slots each to hold extra items.
    • Disgaea also divides your loot into stuff in your "Item Warehouse", which is very big, and your "Item Bag", which is smaller. Your bag is what you take into battle, so you need to use that space for things you will actually require in battle, like power-ups. The warehouse if more for long term storage and inventory overflow.
  • If you want to farm for items in Makai Kingdom, be prepared to create a ton of level 1 generics to use as mules.

    Survival Horror 
  • Famously averted in the Silent Hill series, which allowed you to carry infinite items... at least until Silent Hill 4: The Room came out and imposed an inventory limit. Origins and Homecoming both followed suit.
  • The Resident Evil series is a prime offender, made worse by... Well, by everything. You needed to reserve inventory space for the typewriter ribbons used to save your game. Any pretext of "realism" was undermined by the fact that the games featured dimensionally transcendental footlockers where excess items could be stored — and any item placed in these boxes would be accessible from any other box.
    • However, in the Updated Re-release of the original Resident Evil there is a mode that makes those footlockers act like real life ones, taking away the advantage and making the player run all the way back to the first footlocker if that's where they left all the important equipment.
    • Resident Evil 4 changes the system somewhat by giving the player unlimited space for treasures and key items; it's only weapons, ammunition and health items that go in the player's manageable inventory. On top of that, the manageable inventory was changed from half a dozen or so discrete item slots into a grid made of small squares; different items took up different areas of squares based its size and shape. An herb, for example, is only two squares while a pistol might by take up a 2x3 rectangular area and shotgun 2x8. Occasionally, you end up having to reorganize your inventory to consolidate the empty space, especially when making room for something large like a new gun or a Too Awesome to Use single-shot rocket launcher.
    • Resident Evil 5 then takes a giant leap backwards, by replacing 4's "comfortable" inventory system with the player-unfriendly AI switch-and-match system from the Outbreak spin-off series, and all items take one inventory space on a 3x3 grid. There are at least some advantages, though, and the action-oriented nature of the game means that having to sift through a large grid of items could provide an unwanted break from the action; the downside to this is that it's also impossible to break from the action to switch items, since unlike previous games that allowed you to retreat into the safety of an inventory menu, enemies are still very much able to attack you you while you're reaching for that herb or shotgun. This, in turn, leads to another item management puzzle from the fact that four of the item slots can be assigned to shortcuts on the D-pad for quick access - do I want grenades on that button, or should I put an herb there?
    • The co-op item-swapping of Resident Evil 5 is also loosely present in Resident Evil 2, due to its two-disc storyline. Whomever you played first had the option of taking a police utility belt from the RPD locker which gave them 2 extra inventory slots. Unbeknownst to most players, you could leave that belt where you found it and pick it up as you played through the second disc as the other character. This made the second half of the game much easier.
    • Resident Evil: Code: Veronica smoothened out inventory puzzles by allowing the player to mix an herb from the inventory with an herb lying on the ground, as opposed to forcing you to pick it up before mixing them (requiring you to always have at least one empty item slot). On the other hand, the game switches between Chris and Claire a few times (with no prior notice), and the player is locked out of the preceding character's personal inventory until he/she becomes the PC again.
    • Resident Evil 0 did away with the magical lockers, but didn't need them as such both because the player had 2 characters, and also because that game allowed the player to place items in any room and pick them back up later. This allowed players to do things like drop an item, pick up an herb, mix the herb with another already in inventory, then pick back up their item. Or, drop an item, pick up a key, use that key to unlock a door, then pick their item back up.
  • Rule of Rose averts this beautifully. You can drop anything, anytime, anywhere, and it'll wind up in Jennifer's storage bin, of which there are several and all of which are magically connected. Essentially, you can discard items without actually losing them.
  • Kuon averts the trope as well. It has a limited inventory... but it's limited to the exact amount of items that can be picked in the game. Gameplay-wise, it's a handy meter for measuring how far you're into the game.
  • Shivers, by Sierra, limited inventory to one item. The only takeable items were a set of canopic jars used to contain evil spirits, so the general pattern of the game was "Find a jar. Find the matching lid (A jar and lid counted as a single item). Find the matching evil spirit." Not bad given the setup, but, since the jars and lids were randomly distributed, and approaching an evil spirit with the wrong jar led to them being re-shuffled, the game involved a lot of wandering around to find a matching set.
  • Stalker does this entirely based on realism, with a 50-kg carrying limit towards which all items count. What with clothing, food, first aid kits, and radiation meds, you'll probably be unable to carry more than two or three guns, typically of the same type as what your enemies are using since ammo counts towards the limit too. Among other things, this means that even if you get a good gun early on, once you run out of bullets you're better off selling it and using a weaker gun than lugging it around and waiting to find more ammo.
    • The actual inventory screen itself expands dynamically to fit everything you put into it, and certain armor and consumables can boost your carrying capacity. You can also cheat the limit by a small overload margin (approximately 10kg), though at the expense of being almost completely unable to run. The inventory system also does nothing to prevent you from overloading yourself completely, you will be unable to move until you shed enough weight. The stashes themselves also have no set size limit, letting you stuff even an entire battalions' worth of arms into even a tiny toolbox or backpack. Woe be to the stalker who accidentally clicks "Take All" on a massive stash while exposed.
    • Parodied in S.T.A.C.K.E.R., a Tetris-like game based on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and its inventory system.
    • On the other hand, if you're carrying more than two or three guns, you're engaging in Crippling Overspecialization. This mechanic is also there to promote immersion - one of your main sources of items (besides corpse looting) is looting stashes, caches of equipment that other Stalkers have hidden. Selling off excess gear is one of your main sources of money, but you'll find yourself stockpiling ammo, medicine, and possibly backup weapons in places across the map in an attempt to be Crazy-Prepared in case you find yourself bleeding to death or with a broken weapon. Congratulations, you're like a real Stalker now!

    Turn-Based Tactics Games 
  • The X-Com games gave each soldier a backpack, belt, shoulder and thigh straps, and two hands to hold their gear. Each location had a differently sized grid and varying TU costs to move to other locations. Then you had to factor in equipment weight (armour is curiously weightless) and its effect on stamina. Oh, and programming limitations only allowed you to bring 80 pieces of gear on a mission. This counts guns and magazines separately. The 80 item limit is egregious on base defense missions, when the available equipment is selected from the base's stores. If you've got a big pile of Earth weapons still, you won't be using your Heavy Plasmas. Or worse, a lot of clips but no weapons!
  • 7.62mm High Caliber has a variety of backpacks, tactical vests, and belts (with optional ammo packs that can be attached to some of them) that can be worn by mercs, all with their own unique grid system to represent differing sizes and shapes of pockets. The Blue Sun mod adds even MORE equipment in this category, and it's not uncommon for the inability to turn items to lead to players scratching their heads and going "But the pocket is the same size as the item, so why can't I just turn the damn cleaning kit and stuff it in the other way?"
  • Jagged Alliance imposes a general limitation on the equipment each merc can carry: several slots on the backpack, a number of smaller slots to represent pockets, load-bearing gear, and belts, and a few slots on the head for headgear like sunglasses or night-vision goggles. There's also armor slots for vests, helmets, and pants, and two slots for your hands. In practical terms, this limits each merc to only a couple of primary weapons, a knife, a sidearm, a first aid kit or two, and whatever specialist gear they carry like toolkits, medical kits, or heavy weaponry. The v1.13 mod, however, takes this to a whole 'nother level, as part of your equipment includes an array of load-bearing vests, backpacks, and leg panels, each of which has various numbers of various kinds of pockets and pouches for holding a wide range of gear. Load-bearing gear ranges from the cheap, light, and limited (i.e. standard-issue LBE, hunter's vests, and police vests) to the versatile (Tactical Tailor vests with many pouches, or Russian military vests carrying lots of assault rifle pouches) to the specialized (panels designed to hold odd-shaped magazines or rifle grenades, medical pouches, grenade pouches, SAW gunner vests, etc). You can even mount large backpacks able to hold a wide range of gear, but they slow you down, prevent climbing/vaulting, and retrieving items from them in combat requires you to stop and unzip it. You can alternately just drop the bag at the start of combat and move freely, assuming you didn't need what was in the bag, turning your accessible inventory into another tactical decision.
  • Gungnir is an odd case. While there's no inventory limit itself and characters can hold up to five pieces of gear in battle (which is enough), there's a weight system applied to everything, with stronger equipment typically weighing more. It's particularly jarring when a bikini that weighs more than a suit of armour.

    Western RPG 
  • Most of BioWare's RPGs feature this to an extent. The Infinity Engine generation (Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale etc.) were the worst offenders, with Neverwinter Nights mostly getting around it through Bags of Holding (that's not to say it wasn't a problem there either). The games' inventory system featured a Grid Inventory; every item took up one slot, and there were sixteen slots. In addition, every item had a weight, and the "good" items tended to be the heaviest as well.
    • Baldur's Gate I was especially bad, because the game wasn't paused in the item screen. So you had to do inventory management in safe areas, and good luck actually using one of the items they want you to use unless you have it in a quick use slot. The sequel added container items such as gem bags and scroll boxes (and eventually even all-purpose Bags Of Holding), which allowed the player to compress their respective item types into a single inventory slot, as such items take up much less space than a sword. It is also worth noting that in addition to having a slot based inventory, each item also had its own weight, with the upper weight limit defined by each characters' respective strength attribute.
    • What was rather perverse about the Infinity Engine was that gems, which in tabletop, pencil-and-paper Dungeons & Dragons, were primarily useful to characters precisely as a way of carrying a lot of wealth in a small, light-weight form, take up an inventory slot and weigh you down, whereas cash apparently has no mass or volume. So you can carry an infinite number of gold coins, but only a very limited number of gems or pieces of jewelry. It will pretty quickly stop being worth your while to bother with any but the most valuable gems and pieces of jewelry.
    • Mass Effect 1 had an inventory limit of 150 items, which is about 10 times more than you'll ever need since items equipped on a character don't count and there are no non-equippable items. While the item limit was certainly higher than a player would need, the system did still have its share of other management issues. For example, if you opened an item container with a full inventory, you would be forced to reduce all the items inside into omni-gel, since you can't pick them up. The option of leaving them there or destroying some of the Vendor Trash in your inventory instead was not available. As well, just navigating the inventory interface was a hassle, requiring the player to jump about comparing items to make sure that each party member had the best equippment available. Still, when the inventory system was discarded in the sequel, there were many angry cries of throwing babies out with dirty bathwater.
    • Knights of the Old Republic was easier than a hooker on crack in this regard. It had a practically infinite Hyperspace Arsenal, and the inventory was shared between all characters at all times (except one point where the party is captured.)
    • The "Infinity" gameworlds were persistent, leaving items, doors and other objects exactly as you last saw them (even inside a thieves' guild!)? except that some major game events would be done by swapping the old "map" of an area for a slightly different one. Your dropped items still existed, but in an un-place that was no longer accessible.
    • A grid system similar to the one used in Neverwinter Nights is used in MS Saga: A New Dawn to manage weapons and shields, but made more puzzle-like by items all having different shapes.
    • Dragon Age: Origins has a completely arbitrary limit on the number of items you can carry (or stacks of items, in the case of single-use things like salves and whatnot). You simply can't pick up any more items if your inventory is full. The limit can be raised to roughly twice the starting one by buying backpacks.
      • And Dragon Age II has the same thing. While inventory's a bit easier to handle now that only Hawke can equip most pieces of armor (apart from rings, necklaces, and belts), it still fills up pretty quickly. Perhaps the most annoying bit is that randomly found rings, necklaces, and belts with randomly generated stats won't show you their stats until you put them in your inventory, meaning that with a full inventory, you either have to ignore the items, or discard your own items, which sucks when it turns out that the piece you picked up has worse stats than anything you have equipped.
  • The Elder Scrolls games have a character weight limit that can be extended by increasing strength or by use of spells. When this weight limit is reached, the overburdened character: can't add anything further to their inventory (in Daggerfall, with temporary ways around that), becomes stuck to their place (in Morrowind and Oblivion), or moves extremely slowly (in Skyrim).
    • In Daggerfall, any number of items could be dropped into random-graphics treasure piles that vanished whenever you loaded a new area. This was most obvious by the auto-respawning dungeons. The game, however, also featured items such as a cart to increase your treasure carriage capacity (ironically, you kept the cart and horse in your inventory), and a buyable house and a buyable boat which retained all information about items dropped into piles. You could, however, not drop money without losing it forever (but that is what banks are for).
    • In Morrowind, the game remembered all items dropped in all areas for a decent amount of time. For wilderness areas, the time was finite before all enemies respawned but for houses, city areas, all container objects, and dungeons the time was infinite. Items left in corpses would vanish when the corpses did (about three game days time). If the number of items in a game-world location became too great, the game ported all of them into a special container bag dropped somewhere in that location. The limit is much lower in the Xbox version.
    • In Oblivion, the limit includes any armor that the player is wearing, unless the player has high enough skill in the specific armor type. It is also possible to buy houses where an infinite amount of items can be stored indefinitely. Outside your houses there are other containers, but many of them reset after several in-game days. Items can also be dropped on the ground, where they disappear after several weeks. NPC's can also take items if you stored them in containers in their vicinity. Lastly, it's possible to carry around a single item outside your inventory, which doesn't count towards your encumbrance.
    • In Skyrim. the limit includes everything the player is wearing, unless they have either the Steed Stone blessing or a perk. You can store items indefinitely in any of the houses you can buy, and can store items inside horses or people who follow you, such as housecarls. You can put stuff in containers outside of your home, or drop them on the ground, but they will disappear after a time. Active quest items do not count towards your encumberance.
  • Ultima VII and Ultima VII Part II did this in an interesting way. Besides the standard numerical weight and size limits, the size of an object's sprite factored in. Inventory was not handled as a list or even a grid, but a huge pile of sprites that could be dragged freely around the (2-dimensional) interior of a container. The Inventory Management Puzzle was less Tetris and more Eye Spy.
  • In Wizardry 8 there's even "max items per slot" property for each item in ruleset. But sometimes it's disproportional, as 100/slot for arrows and any other ammo vs. 1/slot or 5/slot for small flasks and sometimes it's just puzzling: Ale is 1/slot, though it looks like the same yellow bottle and weights the same 0.2 lbs as most booze (and Potions of Stamina) that usually are 5/slot. Note that in Wizardry 8, each character had a limited inventory, while the party had (barring encumbrance) unlimited inventory space. While there's some degree of Fridge Logic inherent in this, it still makes more sense then many other examples here.
  • In Everquest 2, not only are you physically limited to the amount of slots you have for inventory, each item has a specific weight and the amount that you can carry is restricted to a factor of your current strength; carrying more slows down your movement speed. Therefore, in the early stages of your character you are severely limited to what you can carry, but after enough levels you'll be able to carry six steel strongboxes and several dozen suits of armor with little difficulty.
  • Amulets & Armor had a fairly generous five pages of 2D inventory slots, and some items even stacked. It quickly stops looking so generous, when you realize you can only buy/sell things at the end of missions (not levels!) and the game doesn't pause, making inventory management more about quickly grabbing items than carefully packing them. It doesn't help you to be able to stuff twenty more arrows into your inventory when you'll just get killed because you can't find your wand before you're eaten by a dragon.
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura combined weight limits with a Grid Inventory that almost made sense: Armour, large weapons (bows, rifles, swords, etc.), sheet metal, and the like were very large; gems, ammunition, and grenades were very small. And there were a lot of chests where loads of extra items could be stored securely indefinitely. Of course, hiking back to get those items is a real pain unless you're a mage and can teleport.
  • The Siege of Avalon anthology has a grid system, and allows items to be dropped and left perfectly safely, except that at some points in the game, certain areas are replaced with similar or identical areas and all items in the originals are lost. The grid inventory is also in the treasure chests and party members, and is in fact the main reason to take others with you. Oddly, bodies do not fade away, but items can be taken off them but not put on them, which often leads to dead enemies lying on the ground with no pants on or even stripped entirely and left naked. For the rest of the game or until the aforementioned map switches. Which only affect about six areas anyway.
  • In Fallout 3, there is a limit on how much you can carry in total. With the right perk, a character can carry 300 pounds without being hindered, roughly 200 of which will be free after counting armor and weapons. Weapons and armor are naturally very heavy items, but ammo and various healing items are weightless. Random stuff used for making new weapons and all food-related items have a small weight; however, this adds up quickly. If you exceed your carrying capacity, you can no longer run, jump, or use fast travel (warping) until you've gotten rid of the excess weight. Of course, you can always just leave the items in a safe place, warp back home to offload some stuff, then come back to grab the rest and repeat as necessary. You can also take some Buffout.
    • Earlier titles had an inventory weight limit based on your strength, and it could also be increased with certain perks. Drugs and money were weightless, but ammo had a weight by 'clip,' which was an arbitrary number of rounds completely unrelated to the actual magazine size of any weapon. Party members can be used as mules and you also get a car with a very large but still finite trunk. Items dropped on maps generated for random encounters are lost forever upon leaving the encounter, but items on permanent maps (like towns) will persist for quite some time.
    • Fallout: New Vegas, sharing the GameBryo engine with Morrowind and Fallout 3, continues the trend and adds Item Crafting, which uses borderline Vendor Trash to create ammo and consumables ("How many duct tapes did I need to make the weapon repair kit?") The optional "Hardcore" mode adds, among other things, weight to your ammunition, with values from 0 (BBs) to 5 (mini nukes). Fortunately, you can still use your party members as pack mules.
  • In AdventureQuest, you can only carry 8 weapons (the 1st of which is a default weapon, and can only be temporarily changed in certain quests or replaced by guardian equipment), 8 armors (same thing) 8 pets, 8 spells and 8 shields. Normally this isn't too much of a problem, since there are only 8 elements, and potions can be refilled between battles at almost any time (quests excluded). Plus the inventory can be increased by buying property.
  • Borderlands has this, though this is definitely an encouragement to travel light more than anything. Any item takes one slot, you can get up to 42 in one playthrough via upgrades, and as you don't need many weapons or health kits for efficient combat, the surplus is always loot. And since so much of the guns you pick up are cheap Vendor Trash...
    • One of the DLC provides a place to stash any loot that's cramping your style in one very specific location, accessible only by Global Airship. Yeah, stash your loot...or, as the menu for this function says, "Store your crap!" Rare is the player that ever uses more than the four guns you can equip at one time anyway.
  • Dungeon Siege doesn't even try to hide how cruel it is with this trope. Rather than giving you any way to expand the inventory of your characters, it lets you sacrifice a party slot for a pack mule that has a bigger inventory but cannot fight or level up. The expansion alleviated this somewhat with the introduction of inventory-expanding backpacks (then how were you carrying everything before?).
  • Castle of the Winds somewhat averts this as the player is limited by both weight and bulk (with each piece of equipment having a specific amount of weight and size). Thus you could carry lots of potions and magic rings, but only a few suits of armor (the carrying case could also be swapped for larger ones). In addition, it's also possible to set down any equipment on the floor at any place, and no one will steal them (not even the Sneaking Thief). Keep in mind this game came out in 1989.
  • Divinity II: Ego Draconis lets you carry 100 items (or stacks of up to 50 identical items) completely regardless of your strength, and you can extend it by spending skill points. Also, you cannot drop items (even though there are items on the ground you can pick up) nor can you put things back into containers; your only option is to destroy an item to make room. There is a roomy chest for storing stuff in the Battle Tower, but that isn't available until fairly long into the game. Curiously, the prequels (Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity) had standard item weight and a persistent world where you could drop stuff wherever you wanted.
  • The Gold Box Dungeons & Dragons computer games let you carry a limitless amount of equipment, as long as you stayed under your weight limit, which was determined by your strength score. Interestingly, the only consequence of carrying too much weight was that your movement rate in combat fell, so as long as you were willing to move like a snail while fighting, you could carry as much as you liked. Money also had weight in those games, so it limited how much cash you could carry; you could buy jewels as a light-weight way of storing cash, but you always took some loss in resale. Also, some locations had vaults that would store money for you, but you had to pay a fee for the service.

Others

    Gamebooks 
  • The Lone Wolf gamebook series lets you have 8 backpack items and around 12 Special Items. It can get really hard to decide what to throw out, especially when you continue and find out that one of the things you threw out, thinking it was useless, is for a puzzle in the current book which you now can't do. Thankfully, some Special Items don't count toward your 12-item limit (for example, a sheath that hides the Sommerswerd from evil eyes), and while Meals count toward Backpack inventory, learning Hunting allows you to leave them behind entirely for most areas.
  • A choose-your-path book series set in a post apocalyptic Texas handles the situation rather egregiously, setting a backpack limit which would increasingly hinder your stealth abilities and forcing you to abandon items to replace them with new ones or regain said stealth. All this to a character who owns a vehicle he is never an hour's walk from, with no option to use, say, the trunk to hold the excess items!
  • Some books in the Time Machine gamebook series allow you to choose an item to take with you to the past. So, you can take a tiny compass... a tiny lockpick... OR a huge unwieldy scary mask, but only ONE of these. (And heaven help you if you choose the wrong one.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • The roleplaying game Paranoia sometimes plays with this by giving the PCs an impractically large amount of assigned equipment, which they have to take with them (or suffer hefty punishment for abandoning it).
    • In the sample mission in the 2nd edition rulebook, the warehouse staff (having heard a treasonous rumor that the PCs are being sent on a doozy of a deathtrap mission) gleefully unload all the crap taking up valuable warehouse space, including thousands of ball bearings, a 1000-kilogram Teela-O-MLY statue, a firkin of neutronium...
  • Dungeons & Dragons mostly gets by with a weight limit determined by your strength (and a few factors like your race's size and number of legs) and some common sense from the DM ("No you can't pick up the castle and bring it with you, I don't care how many 1 copper piece a day hirelings you can afford"). D&D is also the Trope Namer for Bag of Holding, which is bigger on the inside and reduces the weight of everything within.

    Web Comics 
  • While not technically a videogame, a lot of thought appears to have gone into making the inventory mechanics for Homestuck as complicated as possible. In some cases, the main character has had to "captchalogue" (pick up) useless items just to get the item he actually wants to use out of his "sylladex" (inventory stack) so he can captchalogue it AGAIN and then use it. Rules for which item a character can use vary depending on how many items they've picked up before or after the one they want to use, where the item falls in alphabetical order in relation to the other ones, or whether a value calculated by the number of consonants and vowels in the word matches the same value for the verb you want to use with the item, depending on the "fetch modus" used. Items forced out of the inventory system due to lack of space tend to shoot out with enough force to break or maim whatever is in their path, which has been used to great effect in Strife.
    • John's, Rose's, and Dave's Fetch Modi (Stack/Queue, Tree, Hash, and Array) are all based on computing data structures.
    • Jade's Fetch Modi are instead based on various popular board games, such as Jenga, Memory, and Pictionary. She deserves special mention since she figures out how to use the Pictionary Modus to trick the system into giving her free upgrades.
    • The trolls' assorted captchalogues are every bit as weird, including "encryption" (you have to decode it to get the item back), "chastity" (you'll coincidentally find the key to unlock it when the time is right), "ouija" (you get an item based on the whim of the spirits), "miracle" (so complex that getting anything out is a miracle) and "scratch and sniff" (exactly what it sounds like and is one of the most logical in the whole adventure: you pick a card and sniff it to learn what it actually holds. The catch is that its user is blind and that is exactly how she would see the contents anyway.)
    • Most blatantly, Jake English has the "Puzzle" modus, which functions... well, almost exactly like the Diablo example.
    • Subsequently, we get the Juju modus, which is shared between two people - each player's inventory can only be accessed by the other. This would normally be incredibly handy, except that the two people in question hate each other with a passion and as a result the inventory ends up closer to a garbage can than anything useful.
    • In an earlier adventure, Problem Sleuth and all the rest had a 4-slot inventory, with one slot for weapon and sometimes some special slots for places such as keeping something under your hat. In the Homestuck intermission, Midnight Crew had a similar system - only they had one inventory slot and four weapon slots. It didn't make it any harder for them, because their sole inventory slot was constantly occupied by a stack of cards... Which morphed into a big chest, wardrobe or the like at the moment it needed. Individual items also could have been taken as individual cards from the deck, bypassing the chest phase.

    Web Original 
  • Occurs in Unregistered, wherein the various inventory systems are needlessly asinine and are often very chance based. Often times, characters will hopelessly roll to get an item they desperately need out at the right time, only to finally prevail when they need it most.

    Real Life 
  • In Android (prior to version 4.4 and the Google Experience Launcher), the home screen typically sports 3 to 5 "pages", on which users can place icons/shortcuts for apps and widgets. You swipe from page to page and can arrange or add icons to each page (mostly) however you like, and each page's space is aligned to a grid (say, 5 x 5). However, some widgets like a clock or a music player take up a 1 x 4, 2x 2, 2 x 4 or even 4 x 4 space. Start managing!
    • Third-party launchers allow for bending of these limitations, such as an increased pages allowance, the ability to customize the size of the grid, the ability to resize widgets, and so on. (Of course, the more you cram onto those pages, the slower the device will run in its efforts to draw and update the icons and widgets.)
  • Ever click the buttons at the side of the screens on a Nintendo Wii? You see all the little "screens" on each page? Every VC game or other application takes up one screen. If you're one of those people who buys and plays everything Nintendo puts on them, you'll be hurting for screens pretty fast.
  • If you have a large, yet very full, flash drive or hard drive, maintaining space for new content or temporary files can be a chore in itself.
  • Getting that carton of milk in the back of a full refrigerator will require reorganizing many other goods in the way.
  • Anyone who needs to move a lot of furniture or pack a lot of stuff in a trunk, bed, or cabin of a vehicle. Doubly hard in that not only do you want your items to fit, you have to make sure they don't shuffle around or break anything squishy.

In-Vehicle InvulnerabilityOlder Than the NESInvincibility Power-Up
Interchangeable Antimatter KeysVideo Game Items and InventoryGrid Inventory
Diablo IIImageSource/Video GamesTiny-Headed Behemoth

alternative title(s): Inventory Tetris
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