The brain is a remarkable device. With training, it is capable of processing and accumulating a practically unlimited number of skills.
In video games, this can be hard to simulate.
Either the controls of the game make it impractical to have access to more than a certain number of moves at a time, or having too large a selection of skills at one's disposal would simply make the game too easy. As a result, characters are forced to rely on a strictly limited move set, rather than being allowed to draw upon all the skills they have learned at any time.
Compare Limited Loadout
and Mutually Exclusive Power Ups
where your character's limits are defined by the amount of equipment they can carry on their person. In those cases, they still know how to use said equipment even when they don't have it; with a Limited Move Arsenal, they may still have the equipment
but have somehow forgotten how to use it.
- The Star Ocean games only allow a limited number of attack skills to be assigned to a character, but they can be changed mid-battle. Casters, on the other hand, can access their full repertoire from the menu, but in the third and fourth games, can also assign a limited number of spells to shortcuts where they can be used in combos for a damage boost.
- Monster Rancher 1 and 2
- The Tales games, starting with Phantasia have the main character equip four skills to use in battle among the dozens of techniques they learn. With the Combo Command item, they can use any of these by inputting a series of fighting game-style commands. Some of the games have late-game items that can double the number of attacks you can equip at a time, with the second set being available by holding down a button.
- In Tales of Symphonia, most moves/spells come in pairs and you can only know one of them at a time (for example, Genis's Thunder Blade and Spark Wave) depending on you exsphere configuration. (barring glitches).
- The first two Paper Mario games. You can only equip a limited amount of badges. You can increase the amount with level up bonuses. The first one had a cap of 30 badge points, while the second has a cap of 99.
- Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and Final Fantasy Tactics A2. Each job has a set ability, and you can set a second ability (either items or another job's set ability), a reactive ability, and a passive ability. Alchemists can equip both Items and a second job set, though the Items are locked in place and can't be exchanged for a third job set.
- Legend of Mana, with separate pools for combat maneuvers and special attacks.
- Final Fantasy V, with a system that probably formed the basis for the one in Final Fantasy Tactics.
- Final Fantasy IX, with regards to passive skills.
- Diablo presents a somewhat annoying case, in that one can only have two skills ready at any one time. For passive skills like Paladin auras, this makes sense, but for normal attacks and spells it's very limiting. The game also lets one assign skills to quick keys, but these only ready skills, actually activating them requires a press of the slot's button.
- The World Ends with You.
- SaGa Frontier and Saga Frontier 2.
- In Guild Wars, your skill inventory contains what you've learned of the average of 90 skills of your primary and secondary professions that you've bought, plus what you've captured of the ~25 elite skills for each profession, plus up to ~50 reputation-based Player Versus Environment only skills. And to make your choices larger, you can learn to change your secondary profession at will. You can equip: eight skills. Including only one elite and no more than three Player Versus Environment.
- Devil Survivor for humans limits the human character to a set number of spells/skills and support abilities, and you can only have one of any given ability between all of them.
- Final Fantasy does this a lot. In addition to the above I and III had limited spell slots (III three also restricting thing based on job), VII tied abilities to items (which in turn had slots dependent on equipment), VIII has limited command and passive slots (the abilities themselves gained from summons), and X-2 only lets you use the abilities of any one dresssphere at a time (with the ones you can switch to limited by plate you equip). Yeah, this is kind of Final Fantasy's Characteristic Trope.
- Then again, some of the games in the franchise avert this trope completely. Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XII allow every character to learn and equip every skill (with few exceptions), though X does allow one to equip only four weapon abilities each for offense and defense.
- Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter has 3 skills for each of 3 levels. Fewer on some weapons.
- Eternal Sonata initially limits you to having one active special move in light and one in shadow. Later the limit is increased to two of both.
- In Infinite Undiscovery, battle skills are limited to two slots. Even for the (friendly) AI characters who are not restricted by the lack of controller buttons. Magic spells are not limited.
- God Hand gives the player a limited number of slots for Gene's moves. It can be increased by purchasing Items from the shop.
- Devil May Cry 3 allows Dante to use one of six Styles, sets of secondary actions used with the Circle button, including extra moves with his melee weapons or guns, evasive maneuvers, the ability to parry attacks and release the built-up energy, summoning a phantom that a second player can control, or slowing down time for everything but himself. The problem is that only one of these Styles can be used at a time, and you can only switch Styles at a pedestal where you use Orbs to buy items. DMC4 added the ability to switch Styles on the fly when playing as Dante.
- Immortals in Lost Odyssey can learn every skill in the game (except enemy-only skills), but can only use a limited number at a time, depending on the amount of "slot seeds" they've used and a few skills that give extra slots. The maximum number of skills the game allows per immortal is 30, but unless you want to end up with a severely unbalanced party due to using all the Slot Seeds on a single immortal, you're most likely to end up with 28 or 29 useable slots per character due to the need to equip skills that increase the number of available slots, although you can still give them up to 3 accessories on top of that.
- Dubloon lets each of your characters use only 4 spells in battle.
- Valkyrie Profile and its sequels. While the particular mechanics were different in each game, you could only equip a limited number of skills at once, although each character could potentially learn every non-weapon skill and each skill related to weapons that they could equip.
- In Epic Battle Fantasy, characters have both moves unique to them and others that are available to all but can only be given to one character. As of 4, you can have a character forget a common move so another can learn it.
- Every Pokémon game, including the spin-offs, limits each of your Pokémon to four moves at a time. Whenever one of them already has four moves and is preparing to learn another, you have to choose which move your Pokémon should forget, or just cancel learning the move.
- Junichi Masuda, game director and one of the composers for the Pokémon games, once stated that during the development of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, two things brought under consideration were potentially changing the number of moves that a Pokémon can learn and the number of Pokémon that a player can have with him/her at a time while traveling; however, none of these have been altered as of Pokémon X and Y and probably never will.
- The competitive Pokémon scene shows that this definitely falls under the "too easy" clause mentioned above. The more moves a Pokémon has available, the more roles it can potentially fulfill, but the four-move limit prevents any one 'mon from being too versatile in combat.
- This is parodied in the webcomic Manly Guys Doing Manly Things with Mr. Fish the Gyarados. His four moves are Shake, Roll Over, Fetch, and Don't Eat Jared. He forgets Shake to learn Hyper Beam.
- You can only have 20 skills on any given character or item in Phantom Brave. To learn more, you need to have a Witch remove older ones beforehand.
- Monster Rancher 3
- Shin Megami Tensei games have this. Each Demon/Persona can only have so many skills.
- Referenced in VG Cats comic.
- You were limited to 64 skills per character in Breath of Fire III. Not only that, but you could only have one copy of a skill on one person at a time, and you had to use a rather rare item (which could thankfully be farmed) to transfer skills.
- Final Fantasy II limits each character's magic spells to a certain number.
- The SD Gundam G Generation series limited mecha to four attacks until G Generation Spirits, which upped the number to six.
- Eien no Aselia limits each character to three attack skills, three defense skills, and three support skills, each with a limited number of uses between resting. Characters almost always fight in trios, splitting up the roles of attacker, defender and supporter, so that each character only activates one of their skills per encounter.
- In Last Scenario, each character that joins your party can initially equip only 2 spellcards, but key tablets that can be found can unlock their three other slots, allowing up to 10 spells.
- Enforced in Magic: The Gathering. There are five colors of magic, and each one represents a philosophy or ideology and thus specializes in particular things. While it is possible to run a deck with all five colors, the result is Cool, but Inefficient, as the colors of mana you have on table will rarely match the color of the spells you have in hand. Until you get used to the metagame, it's much wiser to run decks of two colors or even one.
- Almost any CCG without a maximum limit to deck size will be technically averting this, though. The laws of statistics encourage you towards this trope, but however poor a strategic choice it may be to do so there's nothing actually illegal about throwing a thousand or so unique cards into a single deck.