Mutually Exclusive Power Ups
The case in video games where picking up one weapon or powerup results in losing another. This makes control schemes simpler, but may be more annoying. This is particularly aggravating if the game allows you to increase the level of a weapon or powerup only to lose it later. In some scenarios, if the player is required to posess a certain powerup to proceed, other powerups must be avoided at all costs
, or else the player will have to backtrack to a previous area to swap for the correct one.
More merciful games allow the player to merely "drop" the old weapon rather than it simply vanishing into nothingness, allowing the player to easily swap between them (like an Inventory Management Puzzle
with a limit of one weapon).
This trope doesn't apply to cases that involve explicitly
choosing or trading between two weapons (like the choice of three starters in the Pokémon
Compare Inventory Management Puzzle
and Limited Loadout
- You cannot have both piercing bombs (which penetrate walls) and remote control bombs in Bomberman, with the exception of the first Super Bomberman game. The bomb kick and walk over bomb powerups are also mutually exclusive.
- The haircuts in Rocky Rodent.
- In the NES version of Contra, and its sequel Super C, the bullet speeds of all of your weapons can be increased with the "Rapid Bullets" power-up. However, this upgrade is lost when the player changes to another weapon. This doesn't apply to the arcade version of the first game, in which the increased bullet speed is carried over from one weapon to another until the player loses a life due to the rarity of the Rapid Bullets power-up in that version.
- In the arcade version of Super Contra, as well as Contra 4 for the DS, all of the weapons in the game can be upgraded once by picking the same power-up twice in a row. However, the extra firepower is lost when the player picks up a different weapon.
- In Contra Advance, the GBA version of Contra III, the player drops his previous weapon whenever he picks up a new one, allowing him to revert back to his previous weapon if the new one is not to his liking, much like in the post-Dracula X Castlevania games. This was mainly added to make up for the lack of dual wielding in the GBA port.
- Gunstar Heroes lets players carry two of its four weapon types at a time, which can be used individually or combined into a special weapon.
- The NES/Famicon Ninja Gaiden series. For the third game they let you see what the item was before you broke the sphere it was stored in, making it easier to avoid picking up an item you didn't want by mistake.
- Picking up a special weapon in Metal Slug would replace the current weapon. A couple later games allow the player to hold one weapon in reserve, though.
- You also can only have one type of bomb (normal or stones) and also only one type of shell for any Slug.
- Duke Nukem II. Duke can only carry one special weapon: (L)aser, (F)lame Thrower, or (R)ocket Launcher. Picking up a different weapon replaced the current one. Worse, there's also the infrequent (N) powerup, which returns you to Duke's default gun.
- The hats of Kid Chameleon.
- King's Quest: Mask of Eternity has a limit of one short-range weapon (dagger/axe/sword) and one long-range weapon (bow/crossbow). When you pick up the new weapon you drop the old one. Leave and come back, and the old weapon is still there, in an aversion of Everything Fades. However, there isn't really any functional difference between the different short- and long-range weapons except for their strength - except the warhammer, which takes an annoyingly long time to swing.
- Samus can only have either the Ice Beam or the Wave Beam at once in the original Metroid. The same principle applied in the sequel, where there were Ice, Wave, Plasma, and Spazer beams available to Samus, but she could still only have one at once.
- Likewise, the Spazer beam and Plasma beam in Super Metroid cannot be equipped at the same time without glitching the game irrevocably. Later side-scrolling iterations in the Metroid series just allow Samus to equip all beams at once.
- In the Castlevania games up to and including Harmony of Dissonance, you can only carry one subweapon at a time. In the games before Rondo of Blood, the subweapon you had before disappears. From Rondo on, you drop the previous subweapon onto the ground, and can pick it up again in the event you change your mind about changing weapons, or picked up the new one by accident.
- Also, in games where the Double Shot and Triple Shot items exist, you automatically lose these if you change subweapons. Sometimes just getting these items in the first place means that you have to stick with one subweapon for an extended period of time.
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures only allow each player to have one item other than their sword at a time. If you pick up another one, the first item is dropped in its place
- Cave Story has two cases where choosing one particular item upgrade causes the other possibilities to be Lost Forever:
- There's three possible ways to upgrade your starting gun, the Polar Star. You can trade it for Curly Brace's machine gun, or you can trade it for the Snake with the Gaudi in the labyrinth shop, or you can wait and return it to the hermit gunsmith to get the Spur.
- If you speak to Professor Booster in the labyrinth, he'll give you the Booster 0.8. If you don't speak to him, he'll meet you later and give you the upgraded Booster 2.0.
- In Glider PRO, batteries and helium are mutually exclusive. Both are controlled by the same key, and helium wasn't in the initial release of the game.
- The old Arkanoid arcade game had this feature: when you acquired a new special ability by touching a power capsule, you lost whatever ability you currently had (if any). This had some annoying implications, as this includes any capsules that don't actually give you an ability (i.e. the slow and 1-up capsules, while not abilities, were mutually exclusive to anything you had at the time), as well as prevent you from getting ANY new capsules so long as the multiball capsule was in play.
- In The Tower of Druaga, the Green Ring, which protects you from one type of Invincible Minor Minion, is nullified by the Red Ring, which protects you from the other type of Invincible Minor Minion. Both are necessary pickups, because this game is just that cruel.
- Dissidia: Final Fantasy has this for Cecil's level 100 exclusive weapon. You can create either the Cimmerian Sword, which increases Dark Knight attacks, or the Lightbringer, which increases Paladin attacks. The catch is that following the exclusive weapon upgrade chain back to the beginning with the Dark Sword means that you can only have one or the other. No other character in the game has this restriction. That said, it is possible to obtain a second Dark Sword, if you know how to properly tweak the settings in custom battles against the CPU. In the sequel, he gets two new moves, each powering up one set of attacks. He cannot equip move attacks at once.
- Call of Duty games allows carrying two different weapons and no morenote . You can exchange a weapon in your hand with one that's on the ground, but you can switch them back if you regret your decision (assuming it's still there). The decision of whether or not to pick up certain weapons at any given time can seriously affect the rest of the mission, though in most cases what you need for any given situation is what you started the mission with (such as a sniper rifle for intercepting enemies at long range) or something you can find a stash of right when it becomes necessary (like rocket-propelled grenades when heavy armor arrives).
- Rise of the Triad seemingly lived this trope. Not only could you only have one active powerup at a time and grabbing a new one replaced the old one (apart from the bulletproof or asbestos vests, which were still mutually exclusive to each other), you could only have one missile weapon at a time. If you ran across a bazooka while you were holding an Excalibat, for instance, you would leave the Excalibat on the floor as you grabbed the bazooka.
- In Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2, you can only carry one weapon and item of each type and picking up a different one results in your old items being dropped on the ground in case another teammate needed it.
- Super Mario Bros. franchise:
- Super Mario Bros. 3 added the mutually exclusive raccoon/tanuki/frog/hammer suits to the original game's Fire Flower. In Super Mario World, the flower and cape are mutually exclusive (though the Select Button box makes this less problematic). In New Super Mario Bros., the flower, blue shell, and Mini Mushroom are mutually exclusive, and getting the Mega Mushroom deletes whatever powerup you had.
- A strange exception in Mario 3 was that if you got a Tanuki suit while using a P-Wing, the P-Wing effect would transfer from the Raccoon to the Tanuki.
- In Super Mario 64, the Wing Cap and Metal Cap are mutually exclusive to each other (as far as anyone can tell; the two powerups almost never appear in the same area), but the Vanish Cap is not. Indeed, one particular star requires using the Vanish and Metal Caps together.
- In Super Mario Galaxy 2, there's the various suits and Yoshi.
- In Super Mario Sunshine, you always have FLUDD's Squirt nozzle, and can have only one of the Hover nozzle (the default), Rocket nozzle, or Turbo nozzle at once.
- The shields of Sonic the Hedgehog 3. This applies to pretty much every Sonic game that has multiple shield types.
- Kirby can only have one power from a swallowed enemy at a time. Some games allow you to project that power in the form of a companion and swallow a different one.
- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards also allowed the pink blob to combine powers to create new ones, but only two at a time.
- Kirby Squeak Squad also lets you store up to 5 powerups in his belly at once, with a limited number of these being combinable (sword, fire, spark, ice & bomb, in certain combinations only).
- And only having one animal friend at a time in Dream Land 2. The same goes for Dream Land 3, but in that case, you can have two players at once, and only one of them can ride at a time — if an unmounted player teams up, the other player automatically dismounts.
- The hats in the first Wario Land. Of course, there weren't many levels that required specific hats to be beaten, it really just came down to the play style of the player.
- Two examples from the Mega Man X series:
- In Mega Man X3, you have the usual 4 capsules that give you new abilities, and each has an upgrade. They're normally mutually exclusive, forcing you to choose between a double air dash, auto-healing, increased defense, and a weapon that lets you fire Charge Shots continuously. There is, however, a secret way to get all of them at the same time, and get a nice golden color to your armor too!
- In Mega Man X4, when playing as X, there are two possible arm upgrades. Either you get the Plasma Shot (a larger than normal Charge Shot that, when it hits enemies, leaves behind spheres that will do damage to enemies on contact) or the Stock Shot, the ability to build up to 4 Charge Shots in one charge, which can be released at will. You can switch whenever you want, by going back to where the capsules are (a little easier said than done, but...), but you can't have both. Interestingly enough, when the Fourth/Force Armor shows up in X5, it has the Plasma Shot, but with the Stock Shot's color scheme.
- The later Mega Man Zero series zig-zags this for EX skills: saber-related skills can all be active at once, but buster-related skills are mutually exclusive. Same for the unique Cyber-Elf in the fourth game: normally, while it has up to seven different levels for each ability, the player can only get one bonus for each ability. However, if the player fully raises the Elf and sets one of its abilities to max level, or plays in Ultimate mode, they promptly gain every preceding ability.
- Drill Man and Dive Man's stages in Rockman 4 Minus Infinity have Mega Man temporarily get the Sakugarne and Mirror Buster respectfully. You won't be able to use the other weapons while you use them. Meanwhile, in the final Dr. Cossack stage, the Screw Crusher, Ballade Cracker, and Spark Chaser replace the Mega Buster for the rest of the stage, but collecting them is optional.
- In Purple, you can't pick up another weapon without losing previous one on the way.
- Bug! had the four kinds of Spit Wads. One was a regular shot, one was a double shot, one gave a shot that bounced along the floor, and the last was rapid fire. You could only have one at a time.
- In Athena, the different types of weapons, which are frequently dropped by mooks, automatically replaced your current weapon if you touch them. Switching weapons is annoying, as the new weapon will be on the lowest level, where it takes multiple hits to kill enemies and in most cases can't even destroy blocks.
- Luigi cannot use the Athletic Peach and the Fire Flower at the same time in Something Else.
- In the puzzle game Marble Blast Gold, the marble can only hold one powerup at a time. Partially averted as the powerup usually holds for a couple seconds after its use, so it's very easy to use several in rapid succession for extra effect (e.g. a super-speed followed by a super-jump, to get a very fast, long and high jump).
- In Diddy Kong Racing, running through a different-colored balloon will replace your current item, though hitting another balloon of the same type as yours will upgrade it instead.
- Likewise in LEGO Racers, hitting a powerup brick when you already have one loaded swaps them. But if you have any white bricks (powerup upgrades), they stay with you.
- Spelunky features both a literal version of this trope - you can't equip the jetpack and the cape simultaneously; picking up one causes you to drop the other - and a more figurative version: the Spelunker can only carry one item in his hands. Deciding whether you want to carry a pick or a pistol is challenging enough, but it can be a real pain in the ass when you're trying to carry around a Distressed Damsel and a flare as well.
- In The Binding of Isaac you can only carry one activated item, one pill or card, and one trinket at a time. As a result the d6, which lets you reroll items and can thus turn an activated item into a powerup item, is incredibly powerful. There's a powerup that lets you hold two trinkets, though. (Although to get to the final boss one of your trinkets has to be the Polaroid, which is near useless unless you're playing with only soul hearts.)
- Deus Ex does this with the Nano Machines, each only being usable in a specific slot. However, some slots came in multiples, allowing players to chose both the "mutually" exclusive augmentations if they wanted to. Only Legs, Eyes and Cranium were exclusive.
- Mass Effect 2:
- The game uses the inventory limit of 1 rule for your heavy weapons. However since your ship's fabrication unit never breaks, you never loses access to your list of heavy weapons, you just have to pre-select before each mission.
- Some point into the game, you find a stockpile of Infinity Plus One Weapons. You only get to take one with you. (If your class can't equip the weapon you want, you get one normal weapon training instead. You don't get to pick another on a New Game+ either.
- Several occurrences in World of Warcraft:
- Mages can only have one armor spell active (Frost, Mage, or Molten).
- Warlocks can only have one curse active on one target.
- Shamans can only use one of their weapon enchants (Flametongue, Frostbrand, Windfury, Rockbiter, Earthliving) per weapon. They can also only place one totem of each element (Earth, Fire, Water, Air) at a time.
- Rogues can only apply one Lethal poison at a time (either Deadly or Wound).
- Paladins can only have one Seal and one Blessing at a time.
- Hunters can only have one Aspect active at a time.
- All classes can only have a potion and an elixir or a flask active.
- City of Heroes used to have a similar occurrence, with Scrapper and Tanker defense powersets like Invulnerability, Stone Armor. All have powers that resist or defend against specific damage types (Smashing/Lethal, Fire/Cold, Psionic, etc.), and the first issue only allowed one shield to be toggled at one time...mercifully, this aspect was dropped fairly early.
- It still exists in a more limited form. Stone Armor's Granite Armor is still exclusive with all the other armors in that set, and its Grounded ability de-toggles running and jumping powers. More generally, certain abilities that fit in the same power "slot" can't be active at once (e.g., you generally can't have two different Flight abilities activated at once, or two different Stealth abilities, or two different Jumping abilities, etc).
Shoot 'em Up
- In various Super Robot Wars games, there are Mutually Exclusive Secret Characters and robots; for example, in Z, you can unlock either the Xabungle Unit-2 or Ray and Charles depending on your route split choices, and there are many secrets exclusive to one of the protagonists.
- Shin Super Robot Wars: Let the Taikuu Maryuu be attacked by the Shiki Death Squad in Scenario 25 of the Earth route to get Fortified Layzner in scenario 33 of the Earth route. Otherwise, get the Layzner Mk. II. Also, the upgrades to the V2 you'll get later depend on whether any shuttles get shot down in Scenario 21 of the Space Route.
- Gauntlet: Dark Legacy. The items seemed to be divided into ten groups, but there were far more than ten items. So you could easily end up replacing a very good item with a very bad one.
- Avernum 6 has a set of mutually exclusive buffs for each priest (mutually exclusive protections) and mage (mutually exclusive attack buffs) classes of spells. Even if this weren't a totally unexpected shift in gameplay, players weren't happy about the artificial restriction on top of already high casting costs.
- In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, there's the EX Mission "The Mecha Dragon's Secret," in which a crewmember tasks you with negotiating with Fafnir (a robotic dragon in Sector H) for a piece of itself so he can research its technology. If successful, Fafnir will gladly give up a fragment of its own body —either a Dragon Screw, a Dragon Scale, or a Dragon Circuit. The crewmember will then fashion that one item into a sword, a vest, or a ring, and (unless you farm the components for the Dragon Vest elsewhere) you can't have any other item unless you go through the game another couple of times and negotiate the other pieces from Fafnir again.
- The spaceship in R-Type could only hold one of the three lasers at a time.
- Double and Laser are exclusive in Gradius, as are Ripple and Laser in relevant sequels (In other games, Ripple is considered a type of Laser).
- In the Parodius games, Bell Power cancels your ship's shield equivalent.
- Fire Shark has three powerups, the blue which provided a weak but fast spread shot, green which provided a narrow but extremely strong laser, and red which give your plane the strong flamethrower which swept the entire area.
- Tyrian's Arcade Mode and Super Arcade Mode have this. In order to power up your weapon, you have to collect the same color powerup that your ship is using. Grab the wrong color (easy to do at times) and you're stuck with a new, low-level weapon.
- Most Shoot Em Ups by Compile feature a variety of weapons which can only be held one at a time:
- Blazing Lazers has four kinds of mutually exclusive options on top of four types of mutually exclusive weapons.
- Gun Nac for the NES features 6 upgrade paths for weapons, but only one can be upgraded at a time. Getting a different powerup doesn't upgrade, but resets your weapon type to the pickup's, at level 1. However, if you don't die you can keep swapping weapons and they'll retain their previous strength. This does not apply to bombs.
- Aversions: Guardic, The Guardian Legend and Spriggan Mark II allow freedom of weapon selection.
- Warblade, a very deep and complex shmup, allows you to keep one weapon at a time. If your ship either explodes or touches a skull, your weapon downgrades and your stats lower a bit. This leads to Unstable Equilibrium situations. It truly sucks when you're perfectly fine with your War 1 Plasma weapon and you pick up a double shot powerup by mistake. Weapons more powerful than Quadruple Shot must be bought from shops, where they're pretty darn expensive, too. The most expensive one costs 3000 credits, but that's still nothing compared to the cost of re-buying all your powerups if your ship explodes if you're well established.. Let me see... 30000 super autofire + 15000 alien lock +3000 weapon + 1625 stat bonuses. So about 50000 credits.
- Obscure NES game Twin Eagle had four different weapon power-ups—conveniently color coded—that could be powered up three times. Getting the same power-up would increase it, but getting a different power-up would change weapon type while keeping the equivalent level.
- Raiden Trad for Sega Genesis had this for both the player's main weapon (guns) and sub-weapon (missiles).
- For the guns, you have either the Spread bullets, which could fill the screen at max level; and the laser, which was tight but extremely powerful.
- For the missiles, you choose between hard-hitting unguided rockets and agile homing missiles.
- This allows a player to achieve a personal balance between focused firepower and maximum screen clearing. Given the fact that the game keeps throwing both swarm enemies and tough enemies at you all the way to the end, there is no clear winning combination.
- All Backyard Sports games except for baseball and football have this trait for powerups.
- Dawn of War 2 lets you pick one of between two and four different pieces of Wargear for each of your commander's three slots. You can change your mind later, but you'll have to pay for the new equipment, and it takes time to switch back.
- In Defense Of The Ancients some items have "Orb Effects" that increase the power of an item in some way. Heroes are only allowed to have one Orb effect at a time.
- This is actually a limitation of the Warcraft III engine. Effects that modify the appearance of a ranged attack's projectile don't stack. DotA decided to use this trait as a balancing mechanic for items.
- In Valkyria Chronicles, a fat enough wallet can purchase permanent stat upgrades to the Edelweiss, as well as additional mix-and-match parts. However, the final tier of upgrades gives you a choice: you can beef up its armor, its body or its targeting systems, but never more than one at once. And switching among them requires you to fork over the hefty R&D fee every single time.
- In Attack Of The Mutant Penguins, you can only hold one kind of special item at a time.