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Not Completely Useless
*YER INGENUITY SHALL BE REWARDED*

A video game offers you a variety of things to use against your enemies, you've been (or needed to be) making use of several and have been making progress just fine.

Then you meet a brick wall.

Whatever you use seems to get you slaughtered in the end, and the only viable way you can think of is either a long battle of attrition or a near-impossible precision strike. As a last resort before you throw the controller out the window, you try something (whether it be an item, spell, weapon, move or another thing) that you pretty much forgot about as it seemed utterly useless. Then you proceed to blast through the "difficult" moment without breaking a sweat, as this "useless" thing has just the right properties to get you through this situation... Then it remains utterly useless for 99.9% of the rest of the game.

This isn't something that you are "supposed", or necessarily need to use for that encounter, something Too Awesome to Use you were saving up, something that is genuinely useful in different situations or something that becomes awesome when upgraded; this is something you dismissed straight away (probably rightfully), whether because it sucked, or because of better alternatives, that just so happens to work perfectly (or, at the least, far better) for this specific situation, perhaps for some odd quality it has (that is sometimes also what makes it useless everywhere else), or some effect it has on an enemy. It almost goes without saying that this is a typical Guide Dang It moment.

Note that not all examples are as extreme as the one given at the start; this is any time where something is useless for most of a game but has an advantage over your main tools for some section or other, even if it is not a particularly large one.

Compare Chekhov's Gun and This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman. This is different from the Lethal Joke Item, which is actually useful for a broad range of enemies; it just appears useless at first, or requires something before becoming useful.

Expect gameplay spoilers in the examples.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Castlevania 
  • In Castlevania II Simons Quest, the Golden Dagger (obtained in the fifth mansion, right before the room with Dracula's Ring) is a powerful, straight-line projectile. However, it costs hearts to use, and by the time you get it, you have a ton of faster ways to deal with enemies. However, if you use it on Dracula, he'll be pinned to his starting location in the center of the room as long as you keep throwing them at him, becoming easy pickings (presuming you don't just use laurels to give yourself invincibility).
  • In Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, Sypha's flame spell is strong, but it has about the same range as Trevor's whip, so generally it's better just to use the whip. However, Trevor can only damage Dracula's first form by whipping his head, while Sypha's flame can damage Dracula's first form anywhere.
  • Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin has Johnathan's Cream Pie subweapon. It's dark element, in a game where you're mostly fighting demons, it does about as much damage as you'd expect a pie to, and it's thrown in an awkward arc that doesn't give it much range. About the only thing it has going for it is the negligible MP cost. And the fact that it makes a bastardly sidequest boss much easier: He's among the few enemies that are actually weak to dark damage, boosting the damage up to passable, and the throwing arc is such that you can reliably hit the boss from a position that doesn't leave you immediately open to counterattacks.
  • In Aria of Sorrow, there is one enemy, the Iron Golem. 9999 life and only takes 1 damage from any attack. It's also the same game that has a soul that (allegedly) swaps the target's HP and MP values. Take a guess how much mana the Iron Golem has...
  • Dawn of Sorrow has a similar use for the Imp soul, which temporarily effectively switches all enemies' HP and MP. Iron Golem, once again, has thousands of HP and about 15 MP. The multi-hit Lethal Joke Weapon Terror Bear (which, like its name implies, is a stuffed bear filled with iron sand which Soma swings by holding one of its arms) makes it even easier.
  • Flesh Golem soul in Aria and Ghoul soul in Dawn. They make thing like Rotten Meat or Spoiled Milk restore HP, rather than damage you. Suddenly Spoiled Milk becomes an alternative to Super Potion (at least in Aria).
  • The Scutum glyph in Order of Ecclesia is, for the most part, functionally useless - it's just a shield that appears above your head, and doesn't appear in front of you like it is expected to. Its later forms, Vol Scutum and Melio Scutum, both appear in front of you. However, Scutum earns its respect in three battles:
    • Goliath's punching attack to the ceiling causes rubble to drop. The rubble is easy to avoid on Normal mode, but Hard mode makes the ceiling drop much more debris, so Scutum is much more useful.
    • Barlowe's homing fireball attack. Just stand below him and use it. All the fireballs just hit it and do nothing. Again, on Hard mode, this is almost required as they are nigh impossible to dodge.
    • Finally, the Dracula fight, where it completely negates every shot that rains down during his Destruction Ray attack, which is quite tough to dodge otherwise. In combination with Melio Scutum, it can also effectively block his extremely deadly stream of bats attack.

    Final Fantasy 
  • Across the Final Fantasy series in general:
    • The status buff, Reflect can get this treatment. Reflect returns most magic spells back at the caster/caster's party. However, some enemies will cast Reflect on the player's party so that their healing or buffing spells are reflected back at the enemy party. Not only that, but most enemies that use elemental magic absorb what they are casting, thus reflecting magic back at them would just heal them. That is the main reason why Reflect is hardly used by the player, but if enemies cast Reflect upon themselves, the player party can cast Reflect on themselves and cast magic on themselves to bounce it back at enemies without a counter reflect (except for Final Fantasy VII where if the party and enemies have reflect, the spells will keep bouncing back and forth until Reflect fades for someone).
      • Azurah/Ashura/whatever of Final Fantasy IV was a Puzzle Boss on these grounds. She had a powerful counterattack, but her only non-counter actions were healing herself, buffing herself and reviving herself. That last one is the clue that you're meant to put a Reflect on her, poke her, wait for her to revive whoever she killed, rinse and repeat. And/or put Reflects on your own team and magic her face off, but at least on the SNES version white magic didn't cause Reflect to wear off, making the "touch and wait" strategy less risky.
      • Alternately, sometimes you can dispel the enemies' Reflect spells and let them get blasted by their own spells. One particularly funny instance is against the fight against Seymour on Mt. Gagazet in Final Fantasy X, where he tries to bounce a Flare spell off his Reflect barrier to hit you. If you dispel his barrier before he gets the chance, he'll hit himself and then the game will snarkily note that the "Combination Failed".
      • In both Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy IX, you can actually cast four spells on the enemies for the price of one. If all your characters have reflect status (through Wall Rings, casting Carbuncle, etc.) and you cast something like a Firaga-All or a Cura-All spell on them, every single one of those spells will be bounced back and hit the enemies. If there's only one enemy, he or she will take the full effects of all four spells at once. So much for That One Boss...
  • The Blood Sword in Final Fantasy II. In most battles, it sucks, both literally and figuratively (doing roughly one-eighth of the damage of the Infinity–1 Sword). But against the Final Boss, when the usual tactics are basically ineffective and Ultima doesn't work as advertised,note  the Blood Sword takes him out in eight hits.
  • Final Fantasy V: has numerous other almost-useless classes with useful abilities; mastering those classes will confer those abilities on the Freelancer and Mime classes. For this reason, many players will level-grind with those classes and then never use them again.
    • Geomancers' "Gaia" skill is incredibly useful for the first half of the game, thanks to it giving you a wide variety of potent attacks, all of which requires 0 MP. In particular using it while walking across a swamp has a decent chance of causing an 100% instant death effect on all enemies. Other than that, Geomancers don't have much to offer... except when you face a dungeon with pit traps and damage floors: Geomancers can reveal pit traps upon walking on them (allowing you to go around or choose to go in) and allieviate damage from these floors. Of course, these are both learnable abilities, so a Geomancer is only completely necessary in dungeons with both... and if you don't have anyone who's mastered the class already...
    • Requiem is a song for bards that will do impressive damage to Undead, but nothing else. Initially, it's a case of dealing with Undead easily and nothing more, but in the Second World, shortly after you get access to the song, this skill is crucial in getting Golem, a wildly useful summon. You have to save from two enemies that are...you guessed it...undead, giving you and option that both gives you a way to kill them off easily without endangering Golem, who counts as an "enemy" in that battle.
    • As for weapons, the Excalipoor was designed to be a useless joke, having high attack but always hitting for 1 damage. However, thanks to its unique damage mechanics, you can also use it as a replacement for its normal counterpart for Blue Mages. Since the game only looks at the internal damage value for weapons when calculating damage for attacks such as Goblin Punch, it does as much damage as you were wielding the genuine article. The same applies to the Ninja's Throw command, but once you throw it, you don't get it back. It has one more use, but that's covered under Lethal Joke Item.
    • Goblin Punch itself counts due to the fact that it does higher damage to an enemy when it's at the same level. Similarly, "Level X Status" spells, introduced in this game, always inflicts "Status" on any enemy whose level is a multiple of X.
  • Final Fantasy VI:
    • The Rasp spell, which eliminates enemy magic points. Most players overlook it for spells that do hit point damage - killing things the old-fashioned way, or for Osmose which, while weaker, also gives you those magic points, saving on Ethers. However, there are several enemiesnote  that die if all their magic is depleted. On top of that, several of these have either Desperation or Taking You with Me magic attacks; if their magic is drained, they can't do the attack and leave you untouched as they die.
    • Similarly, the Berserk spell doesn't tend to be much help because most enemies that you can't deal with more quickly just by killing them either have Contractual Boss Immunity or powerful physical attacks or both. One exception is the MagiMaster boss at the top of the Fanatics' Tower, who casts powerful spells, can change his elemental weakness, and casts a powerful Ultima spell as a Taking You with Me attack on death... unless he's Berserked, which turns him into a pussycat.
    • Then there's Relm's Sketch command, which most people ignore, given that it's even more unintuitive than Gau's rage and the attack depends on the (current) enemy you're targeting, not one from elsewhere you're (supposedly) imitating. (Unless you're trying to glitch the game). However, it's a One-Hit Kill against a few foes.note 
    • Similarly, you won't use Celes' Runic very often, but there are a few magic-dependent bosses that are significantly incapacitated by it. It counts on Celes outspeeding the enemy, however, and on you not using magic, as it absorbs the first spell cast after it's set (which is why people don't use it often).
    • Umaro. He's generally not considered very useful because he's The Berserker and you can never control him. However, that lack of control can actually be a blessing in disguise in situations where you don't have access to your Command Window; you can't screw with an interface when there's no interface to screw with:
      • In the Colosseum, your characters are subject to a frustrating A.I. Roulette, but if you send in Umaro, he will never waste his turns with pointless actions and will only ever attack. If you equip him with the right Relics, he'll actually do very well.
      • In the Fanatics' Tower, Umaro can still attack freely when everyone else is limited to Magic and Items. Many people will cast Berserk on the MagiMaster boss to prevent him from changing his weakness...but it's possible to Berserk him into an element like Earth or Wind that can't be hit with conventional spells. If you don't have non-elemental spells like Flare, and can't drain his MP, the fight becomes Unwinnable...unless you brought Umaro, who can still destroy the MagiMaster for you even if he has to do it by himself. note 
      • He's also useful when using Cyan's Bushido, since you can't input any commands for your other party members until Cyan is ready. Fortunately, Umaro doesn't need command input and will immediately attack whenever his turn comes up.
  • The Squire class from Final Fantasy Tactics: Tackle, Counter Tackle, and Rock Throw are all usually rather pathetic abilities as far as damage goes. What bumps them into Not Completely Useless territory, however, is their ability to knock the target back a square. This can enable you to open an exit path for that party member, force an attacker to come back rather than performing a hit-and-run, hit an opponent and shove them out of range for their own counter-attack...and send them plummeting off a sheer cliff to the tune of colossal, and likely fatal fall damage.
  • Final Fantasy IX has Ipsen's Castle, a dungeon where stairs and ceilings swap places, and your current weapons inflict Scratch Damage. Most of the treasures you find here are the lousy starter weapons for your party that they came with. This, along with the general "reversal" theme, is a clue that that's what you should be using, as weapons do more damage the weaker they are, making your starter weapons not useless after all.
  • Final Fantasy X has several instances:
    • Seymour on Mount Gagazet is one of less than a handful of enemies to use the Zombie attack. You can fight this battle the long and hard way with Aeons and Overdrives, or you can just keep a few vials of otherwise useless de-zombify medicine handy.
    • Seymour's third encounter is one of the only bosses that can be poisoned in the entire game. The extra damage can pile up over time if you poison him at the beginning of the battle, and he never cures it on himself.
    • Yuna's Nul-spells, a low-cost spell that hits the entire party and will protect them from one attack that matches the nulled element (NulBlaze will protect you from fire, NulTide will protect you from water, et cetera), are considered useless by some players. However, they can be very handy indeed when you know exactly what kind of elements are coming. Flans and Elements, in particular, will attack with specific elements, and if you cast the appropriate Nul- spell in time you won't be hurt at all. They're also very helpful the first time you fight Seymour, since he repeatedly casts each elemental spell in a specific order. If you know what's coming next (and the Sensor ability will explain the sequence to you), you can make what would be That One Boss much more bearable.
    • Petrifying enemies doesn't usually count for much in many Final Fantasy games, but in Final Fantasy X it's another matter entirely:
      • Having Rikku use Petrify Grenades on underwater fiends will instantly kill them, as they sink to the bottom and shatter.
      • In the desert on the way to the Al Bhed Home, you'll run into these weird plant fiends that will automatically cast Confusion on you every time you hit them...unless you use Kimahri's Stone Breath on them. Who'd have guessed that it would be so hard to confuse someone when you're petrified and about to shatter?
      • You can also use Stone Breath to one-shot Seymour's Guado Guardian escorts, who have this nasty Cover-Protect-Auto Potion loop. You're supposed to steal a high potion from them to disable it, but this way is easier.
    • Speaking of Kimahri Ronso, many complain that he is redundant because there's no need for a multitasker in a game where switching inactive characters into the party at any time and vice versa is one of the main gameplay mechanics, but those people forget several things:
      • He can make a useful backup mage or provide additional status effects, which can complement the party member who is supposed to specialize in these things, or even take their place if that party member isn't available;
      • He's the only character besides Auron whose weapons normally have the Piercing trait. This is especially helpful at the start of the game, before Auron actually joins the party.
      • Similarly, Kimahri can be used as a thief as soon as you get your first Level 1 Key Sphere for the Sphere Grid, which is a lot sooner than when Rikku is found.
    • Rikku's Bribe attack seems virtually useless, given its obscenely high price against anything significant, until you realise that Bribed enemies can give you a truckload of crafting items.
  • Final Fantasy XI - The two hour ability (a supposedly extremely valuable job specific ability that can only be used every two hours) for Ninjas is Mijin Gakure. This ability kills the Ninja and deals damage based on their current HP. Due to the amount of health enemies have, this ability is basically useless. It does not inflict enough damage to be worth using in any situation where a two hour is justified. There are two uses for it.
    • Avoid the harsh penalty for death, since a secondary effect of Mijin Gakure is to remove all penalties for dying and being raised back to life.
    • A poor man's Warp, since you can return to your home point after you die and again there is no death penalty for doing it this way. This has become less useful due to how easy it is to Warp through higher level spells and items.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance:
    • Undead enemies rise again a few turns after being killed, unless a skill like Burial is used on their remains. Needless to say, those skills are completely useless anywhere else in the game. In the sequel the same goes for the Bard skill Requiem, which damages undead.
    • Oddly enough, the zombie status itself is rather useful - if you get zombified, you will automatically come back to life in several turns, without having to use Raise/Arise or a phoenix down!
    • The Viking class is an awkward combo of stealing skills and spells. The spells are, for the most part, not worth using, with the exception of Tsunami, which can only be used if the caster is standing in water.

    Other Video Games 
  • The Undead Slayer in AdventureQuest Worlds is amazing in Doomwood due to its unique quality of quickly becoming well over 9000 by a Spirit Power system that only works when fighting undead. Its normal power when out of its element is pretty Dismal
  • The Viy fight in La-Mulana. Going by how the rest of the game is set-up you are led to believe that Spears are your only option for this battle. However, as spears shoot directly downwards you must get right above the boss's eye to damage it, which also happens to be where all its most dangerous attacks comes from, making it one of the harder fights in the game. There is another weapon that turns out to be a savior; Throwing Knives seem pretty useless when you get them, so you tend to forget about them, as the shurikens do more damage and are faster horizontally and spears have better vertical damage and speed. However, the Knives property of "sliding" along the ground until they hit a wall allows you to just stand back (dodging some weak projectiles) and bombard Viy while coming under very minimal danger yourself, instantly turning it into a very easy fight. As a bonus, the Throwing Knives will damage the regenerating tentacles as well, making them much less of a hassle.
    • The Throwing Knives did have one other big use— Hell Temple. While the area may be filled with false floors, a thrown knife traces the actual path of the floor— Passing right through the "gaps" to show the real path.
    • Throwing Knives also make a small number of puzzles much easier than they would be with other, more obviously applicable weapons.
    • The throwing knives are actually significantly stronger than shuriken, and can hit sufficiently large enemies twice (they go through most enemies). It's just that shuriken have a (usually) far superior movement pattern. And you can throw more shuriken at once than you can knives.
  • The last boss of Mystic Defender: it could be trivially defeated by using the weapon that bounces balls off walls and crouching in the lower right hand corner of the screen. The balls would bounce and hit the boss in just the right spot. The weapon was otherwise useless for most of the game.
  • In Wild ARMs 3, a skill by Luceid called "Dark Luceid" pretty much deals very low damage, even when Luceid is using it against you when you need to obtain him. Afterwards, you can fight an upgraded Bonus Boss called Power Trask (basically, an upgraded "regular" Trask whom you defeated earlier). Now unlike regular Trask which can be defeated easily after knowing a trick, Power Trask suffers none such weakness. It is also highly defensive towards elemental magic (which your party has been relying on for a good chunk of the game). The non-elemental magic available doesn't hit hard enough and Power Trask is, quite simply, a pure Stone Wall that laughs at your physical attacks. Cue Dark Luceid saving the day due to its mostly heretofore unknown "deal damage according to how many elemental resistances the target has" property. This same property is what usually makes it deal pitiful damage: not many enemies have full elemental resistance thus making this skill useless for 90% of the game. Makes you think that The Dev Team Thinks of Everything doesn't it?
  • Completing a sidequest involving directing an easily-lost scholar home in Star Ocean: The Second Story earns you a stick called the Funny Slayer that instantly slays any enemies with "Funny" in their name when you hit them. Of course, the only enemies that fit that description(Funny Thieves) are The Goomba and pretty much go down in one hit even if you were Level 1 and unarmed. That is, until you hit the middle floors of the Cave Of Trials, which contain Metal Funnys and Funny Thief lvl99s (one of which is a floor boss.)
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Solid:
      • It is implied you must use your missile weapons for the battle against Vulcan Raven, which he can easily shoot down if you don't use them carefully. But, you can lay claymore mines around the arena and wait for him to step on them; this is one of the only good uses of claymore mines in the game.
      • In a similar manner, the relatively useless chaff grenades can be used to make the fight against the cyborg ninja much easier. They're also essential to taking out the M1 tank and can make the battle against Metal Gear Rex easier as well. Also, they can be helpful to walk around the staircase filled with survaillance cameras, which are deactivated for a while when you use a chaff grenade.
      • Remote-controlled Nikita rockets are slightly different: they are used for solving a puzzle near the beginning of the game, but after that see little use (as they aren't exactly especially stealthy). However, they are incredibly useful during the second Sniper Wolf boss fight (much easier than using a sniper rifle).
      • Snake's cigarettes at first appear to serve no purpose other than to slowly drain his health (while making him look cool). However, the smoke allows you to detect laser security sensors, although not as well as with infrared goggles. They also calm Snake's nerves and make his sniping aim more steady, although not as effectively as Diazepam.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2:
      • Repeats the cigarettes gimmick from the previous game exactly.
      • After Ocelot takes your mask, the Gurlukovich Soldier uniform seems pointless - guards immediately recognise you, and it has no effect on your stats. However, if you put it on before walking in an area where you leave footprints, the guards will recognise the bootprint as one of theirs and ignore it.
      • Pentazemin (a drug which improves sniper rifle accuracy) can be found on the Tanker, a stage in which there is no weapons beside the USP and the M9. It appears to serve no function, but taking it causes the disorientating up-down motion of the camera (stronger in higher difficulty levels) to stop for a while, explained as it helping with seasickness (via the Placebo Effect).
  • Space Megaforce has a few times that weapons that seem to be outclassed become life savers. In level eight, if you shoot the walls, pieces break off that can kill you. Most weapons, when upgraded, have bullet patterns that will hit the walls constantly. Your saving grace is the Sprite weapon, which is usually outclassed by the others. Also, when playing on Normal, Tricky, and Wild difficulties, weapons that don't do much damage per hit but can fill much of the screen with bullets tend to be good choices, but when you play on Hard or Hyper, the enemies become able to take much more damage before dying, which forces you to fight with weapons that do more damage to individual targets. Oddly enough, the weapon named "Multi-Direction Shot" turns out to be the best at this, making it excellent on Hard and Hyper but a poor choice for the other difficulty settings. (The game's difficulties, in order from easiest to hardest, are Normal, Hard, Hyper, Tricky, and Wild.)
  • In Maximo: Ghosts to Glory, Captain Cadaver is immune to all your attacks except for swinging your sword while crouching so you can hit his peg leg. This is one of the four times where crouching is useful. The other times occurs against bomb-throwing skeletons (attacking them normally causes their backpack of bombs to explode, whereas crouching and slashing at their legs causes them to collapse in a heap with a bomb still in hand and ticking), Hammer Devils (can be killed faster since their hammer is not getting in the way) and the crawling zombie torsos.
  • EarthBound:
    • Master Belch can either be fought the easy way, with the Jar of Fly Honey, or the really hard way, which involves the otherwise-meaningless HP Sucker and exploiting his weaknesses to Hypnosis and Paralysis. (You have to drain his HP from him because he won't take damage from attacks without the Fly Honey.)
    • Mondo Mole is one of the few bosses that is susceptible to PSI Paralysis Alpha.
    • Shroooom! can be a rather tough boss...unless you use the otherwise nigh-useless PSI Flash Beta against him, which will either paralyze or kill him in one shot.
  • In the Mega Man (Classic) series, the weakness of the (True) Final Boss corresponds either to the most useless weapon or to the weapon which is a pain to hit with.
    • The trend started with Bubble Lead in Mega Man 2; it ran along the ground, so it doesn't do well against most enemies. But it's the only weapon that works against the Final Boss. It also earns its pay earlier in the Fortress with the disguised holes in the floor.
    • Top Spin from Mega Man 3 is considered one of the most useless weapons in the series. However, any enemy that is weak against it has no invincibility frames against it. This includes Wily's final form. So, while it doesn't one-shot any of these enemies, it can be made to look like it does.
    • In Mega Man 7, you remember those Wild Coils? You will when you fight Wily!
    • In Mega Man 8, you can only use two weapons against... the first Fortress boss: Astro Crush, and the oft neglected Mega Ball that you got at the start of the game. It also replaces the Rush Coil and also permits you to perform multiple midair jumps if your timing is good.
    • Actually averted more often than not with Sigma in the Mega Man X series. In X1, he was weak to Rolling Shield, but the charged version actually shielded you, disqualifying it once you go either of the attack upgrades. In X2, he was weak to the Strike Chain, which had limited weapon use but was a good tool in several situations. In X3, he was weak to the X-Buster only.
    • Mega Man Battle Network brings a really odd one to the table. The Minibomb chip in the standard series games is useless - you can't hit with it worth a damn against most things and it barely does more damage than any of the many chips you do have that are way more accurate. For the series' platformer Gaiden Game, however, it became a Game Breaker that went largely unnoticed because of its terrible history in the other games. For this one game, it was extremely easy and efficient to use, cheap to maximize your stock of, available right from the moment you hit New Game, and because the explosion damaged enemies multiple times, was capable of one-shotting half the enemies in the game; and everything else could be taken down with a second one if it wasn't a boss or had an aura (as enemies in two endgame stages did).
  • World of Warcraft:
    • In the early days of raiding, Hunters received a new ability, Tranquilizing Shot. Its only use was to remove frenzy effects found on some of the bosses (which would make them much stronger). Ironically, due to issues Hunters had, this one trick made Hunters much more likely to even get into raids. The second expansion finally gives it a broader range of uses, even against other players. A similar case was the Mage spell Detect Magic (shows active buffs on the target) which was very helpful on some bosses that required the raid to dispel certain effects otherwise hard to see, but in this case, the spell was eventually removed (and buffs made always visible).
    • Another classic case of this is the Warlock spell Detect Invisibility. Until Mages got a corresponding skill this was completely useless (Rogues use Stealth, which is a different mechanic) with a few select locations that have invisible enemies. Even there it's not necessary to use the spell, but it avoids nasty surprises (especially in Naxxramas where the first player the monster spots usually gets killed in one hit.
    • Yet another rarely used skill is "Mind Soothe/Soothe Beast". What does it do? It reduces the radius of the target in which it attacks players. If the spell fails, it attacks the target. Nowadays almost forgotten, there were a few places where players could avoid some fights with it, and in a specific case it's often used as a means to let the Priest get close enough to the target safely to Mind Control it. Speaking of which...
    • Mind Control, while perfectly viable in PvP used to have the fatal drawback of making the target very pissed at the caster (a squishy Priest) when it breaks off. This was later changed along with the possibility to use the spell to force some enemies to cast very useful buffs on the Priest's party.
    • Yet another overlooked spell is "Dampen/Amplify Magic", a buff that either decreases or increases magic effects (both damaging and healing). Since healing is almost always required and magic damage all too common, it's pretty much restricted to a choice few bosses that predominantly hurt with physical damage as a means to make healing a bit easier. The dampening variant is reasonably useful for Mages playing on their own though, since they have no healing spells.
  • The Ice Spreader (the Ice Beam/Missile combo) from Metroid Prime fires far too slowly to be of any use against normal enemies and most bosses. However, it also can freeze the first form of the final boss with one shot, causing massive amounts of damage in the process.
  • One of the first weapons you get in Metal Mutant is some kind of lightning attack. It looks cool and is pretty strong in raw power, but it has an overly long charge time, its range is limited, and any hit will take you out of it. However, there is one certain enemy near endgame that is totally impervious to everything you have except for this weapon.
  • Most Einhänder strategy guides recommend the Endymion Mk. II and dismissed the Guns Akimbo Astraea fighter as Awesome, but Impractical. But, equipped with the right pair of gunpods (that seem fairly useless on the Endymion) the Astraea chews through mooks and bosses alike with ease.
  • Diablo II features a Paladin ability called "Holy Bolt". Virtually useless unless you're focusing on healing teammates or damaging Undead. Of course, only a 1/4 of all the monsters in the game are Undead so you're helpless against everything else, but Holy Bolt does smash the daylights out of Undead.
    • If you spec out a Paladin to maximize Holy Bolt's healing properties, you won't be able to hit any monsters past Act 3 Normal. On the other hand, with the right gear (Faster Cast Rate rings for the win) you can heal 500+ HP a second. Not bad for a game that allegedly doesn't have a healing class.
    • Though the Sorceress's Blaze (which makes fire appear where you walk) is mostly useless, it makes an effective kiting tactic against Duriel. More than most classes, the Sorceress desperately needs to stay out of his Instant Death Radius; with Blaze, you can get him to chase you around in a circle in your trail of fire until he eventually dies.
  • Digital Devil Saga:
    • Null Sleep/Avoid Sleeper (avoid any attack so long as you're affected with Sleep status) is completely useless against nearly every boss in the game. Except one, where it is, in point of fact, absolutely required to succeed. Oh, and that one specific fight? That would be Demi-Fiend, most definitively on the short-list for hardest boss ever in the history of gaming.
    • Cielo has mediocre stats and a weakness to any skill that inflicts status ailments. Virtually every enemy has an attack that inflicts status ailments, so Cielo is often times a bad choice, even against electric enemies who he is supposed to be most useful against. The one time he is legitimately useful is in the same fight where the aforementioned Null Sleep is required. The reason is because his weakness to status ailments means he is almost guaranteed to be hit with the sleep status ailment.
      He's also surprisingly useful for the second phase of the Ravana fight. Ravana likes to cast a spell that inflicts your entire party with the control-removing Hunger status and follow it up with an all-target Wind spell... which can be reflected back at him for huge damage. He also likes to cast the Hunger effect on his second action, letting him follow up with the Wind spell on the next turn with your reflect caster Hungry and unable to put the reflecting effect up. If you have Cielo on the field, though, Ravana will gain a press turn from Cielo's ailment weakness and cast that big spell immediately, before your reflect can wear off.
  • In Persona4 there are items that deal a fixed amount of damage, low even for the early parts of the first dungeon (and you don't find them till you get near the end of said dungeon!) make short work of Metal Slimes. Also good for exploiting elemental weaknesses without burning SP. Later on, however, you get the Magatama items, which deal 150 damage to all enemies; you'll likely find them useful on the bosses for the striptease and Void Quest dungeons.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV, Silent Prayer resets all stat changes to both sides of the battle. This isn't that useful for the most part, since by the time it's available, odds are you are making extensive use of Status Buffs for your allies, and you don't want that to reset. Merkabah, on the other hand, loves to increase his own stats while lowering yours, and the battle can go uphill for you in a hurry without Silent Prayer.
  • Ancient Domains of Mystery hangs a lampshade on this with the "potion of uselessness." When drunk, it's... useless. When you throw it at a monster, it's... useless. If you dip an item in it... nothing happens. It's never an alchemical ingredient. And many, if not most, potions are useful for more than one of those reasons. But if thrown in the Slippy-Slidey Ice World, it propels you along like any other thrown object... and your god is impressed enough to give you an artifact for finding a use for it.
  • In Iji, the Resonance Reflector is normally too slow to recharge to be much use for you; you'd be better off blasting the enemies with a BFG instead of trying to reflect their own projectiles back at them. You'd think it would be good for a Pacifist Run (They're killing themselves, right?), only for gameplay reasons the reflected projectiles count as yours, so no it isn't. Then comes the final boss, who has immensely strong armor... and a weapon that does far more damage than anything you've got, and that can be reflected.
    • Version 1.6 changed the reflection mechanic so that deflecting an enemy projectile no longer counts as your kill. Unless of course, it's a projectile they reflected back at you, but with the reflector's load time, you probably won't be able to reflect it again anyway.
    • The Resonance Reflector is an upgraded version of the Resonance Detonator, which is even more useless since it shares the Reflector's absurdly long reload time but its effect is identical to your kick attack (which is always a keypress away and doesn't require you to switch weapons). Kicking also takes a lot less time than charging the Detonator does. The only advantage provided by the Detonator is that it fires instantly when you press the button, while the kick only deals damage about half a second into the attack animation. Enter Tasen Shredders, vehicles that both Iji and the Tasen can use. Most of them spawn with a Tasen rider, but you can kick them off without destroying the Shredder - if you manage to hit a fast-moving vehicle with your foot in the split second before it knocks you down. Resonance Detonators make this feasible.
      • The Resonance Detonator has another use. It fires in a small circle away from you, hitting opponents who are not close enough to kick. Usually this doesn't mean much, as the ability is still too week to justify having as your only weapon. However, there will be numerous occasions where Iji is standing on a platform right above an opponent who can't hit her since he is unable to jump. The detonator can be safely loaded and allowed to charge without risk of harm, and if fired when the opponent is right along the ledge the Detonator will hit him despite iji being above him and unable to kick. This can be a bit tedious to do, but it does give a free kill without wasting ammo or risking enemy fire.
      • And one more use: the Resonance Detonator is the easiest and cheapest way to destroy Skysmashers. Too bad these only show up in the final sector.
  • The Tractor Beam spell in Tales of Phantasia is largely useless. In practice, it's supposed to be a useful spell (being the only non-elemental spell Arche can learn for a good long time), but it only works on enemies on the ground. The problem is that many of ToP's enemies (roughly about 1/3) are flying enemies that are NEVER on the ground, while most of the rest are fond of jumping around like rabid monkeys. The result is a spell that so rarely deals damage (that has no other effect) that most players will turn it off so the computer-controlled Arche doesn't end up wasting half her turns. There's only ONE case where the spell is useful, being in Gnome's Dungeon against the Clay Idol monsters, land-based creatures that take damage from only one attack in the game. Care to guess which one?
  • In Tales of Vesperia, Estelle can potentially give you an item called the "Mother's Memento." It theoretically grants you unlimited healing, as it is never consumed when used, except that the healing it grants per use is incredibly small, and given that any item use in the game comes with a cooldown, there are far more efficient ways to heal. Eventually, you have to fight a brainwashed Estelle as a boss. Using the Mother's Memento during the battle grants her a brief moment of self-awareness, lowering her defenses and earning you the Secret Mission for it, which you can't get in any other way.
  • In Dink Smallwood: Mystery Island, you learn a spell called Duck Magic through a subplot involving a human-to-duck transforming magic fountain. This spell does nothing at all except summon ducks. The final boss is the only thing they work on, because it "forgot to put on feet armor".
  • In MediEvil, one of the earlier weapons you get is a wooden Club, which breaks boulders. The Club is unfortunately also the game's only breakable melee weapon, is almost as weak as the Short Sword you start with, and the Warhammer can also break boulders while being stronger, with a longer range and an awesome Ground Pound attack. However, the Club can also be used as a torch, and the Gangplank Galleon level at the end of the game has cannons with fuses...
  • The emerald swords of Lands of Lore cause little to zero damage to all enemies and seem to be of no use until you enter the White Tower, there they're pretty effective against the ghosts, who are impervious to normal weapons.
  • In Casper: A Haunting 3D Challenge you collect fool's gold coins throughout the game. Through most of the game they appear useless, until the final boss fight where you have to drop them around to distract Carrigan.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has many combat items that are mostly useless (due to the existence of skills and/or other items that make far superior alternatives), until you reach the final quest. There are 24 different Puzzle Bosses (originally 6 before ascension was implemented, then 12 until the NS13 expansion), of which the game will choose 6 randomly; each one can only be defeated using a specific combat item. There are many other items with similar unexpected usefulness, like the Antique Hand Mirror; using it normally just breaks it and gives you 7 turns of "bad luck" (which does nothing), but using it while fighting the absurdly powerful Guy Made Of Bees will kill him instantly. The Chaos Butterfly normally has minor, random effects, or gives a seemingly meaningless message. Yet, not only is the Butterfly one of the special deadly combat items mentioned above, but using it in any combat allows you to complete a certain unrelated quest in half the usual amount of time, if you choose exactly the right multiple-choice options.
  • In Wizardry IV, the most useless summoned monster in the game is also the only thing that can kill the final boss.
  • Champions of Norrath and its sequel have several spells that either only work on undead, or are much more effective on undead. For example, the dark elf shadowknight's Convert Undead is absolutely useless unless you're fighting a horde of undead. The high elf cleric has several Holy Hand Grenade spells that are only useful against undead.
  • There's a Disney game for the Sega Genesis called The Great Circus Mystery. In it you get several suits that allow Mickey and/or Minnie to solve puzzles, get items and open pathways. You know how you tend to forget about the first one or two weapons you get as the game progresses? Well, nothing will take down Level 5's boss except for the vacuum cleaner-suit from WAY back.
  • For Light Side players, the Drain Health Force Power in Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic is near useless for the brunt of the game, handicapped as it is. In the final boss fight against Darth Malak, however, it is the only way to make use of the comatose Jedis he has strewn around the room. While using the power on one of them does kill them, it also completely replenishes the player's health, and keeps Malak from using them.
    • The sequel had Mira's unique power: while she was your active character, your party wouldn't trigger mines. Normally mines in the KotOR series are widely-spread and easy enough to simply walk around (or through — they don't do very much damage). However, precisely one area in the game, not long after you recruit Mira in the first place, has dozens of mines in thick clusters, entirely unlike the usual arrangement.
    • The sequel also emphasized this with skills through the crafting mechanic. Usually you could rely on your party's skills, rather than your own — and a few, like Awareness and Stealth, were not very useful to begin with. However, they were the basis of the crafting system, and most of the time you were forced to use your own skills when determining what upgrades you could make.
  • Fina in Skies of Arcadia has a special move called Lunar Glyph that does a little damage and has a chance of petrifying the enemy. As you'd expect, all the enemies worth petrifying are immune to it...except for one boss that it's almost 100% effective against.
  • In theory, Arrows on Fire are an advanced attack in Trine, doing more damage in return for a bit of magical energy. In practice, normal arrows make up for quality with quantity. However, max-level fire arrows explode to damage nearby targets, allowing you to quickly take out the bat swarms that are hard to hit with most other attacks.
  • Starcraft II's campaign features one new unit in most missions, and typically the mission revolves around that new unit to a greater or lesser extent. This can make a number of these units Not Completely Useless, though which ones will depend on a given player's style. Battlecruisers, for instance, are generally held to be Awesome, but Impractical in terms of resources, but are essential to "Maw of the Void", the mission which unlocks them, since their health lets them weather the environmental effects better than other, more efficient units.
  • The 'mutate' perk in the Fallout universe. You can re-pick your traits, how grand. Too bad you pick your traits yourself in the beginning of the game and there are few, if any, traits that it would be worth a perk switching to mid-game. Meanwhile, in Fallout Tactics, your team-mates have pre-picked traits, and getting Gifted is worth the perk slot.
  • In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn:
  • The Collision Magnet command in Kingdom Hearts 3D. It's extremely slow, does mediocre damage, and can be easily interrupted if there's more then one enemy around, unlike most commands with a long start-up. However, in an aversion of Contractual Boss Immunity, the Spellican is susceptible to it and it knocks it down, giving you plenty of free time to beat on it before it runs away. You can also hit it with the move again before it gets up to keep it on the ground and even grab it out of its otherwise unstoppable teleport. This is especially useful in the rematch, where it loses its vulnerability to Zero Gravity.
    • In Kingdom Hearts coded, High Ethers are normally a waste of limited space, because all they do is increase your clock gauge by two units. However, when going for the Fatal Flawless trophy, you have to make yourself into a One-Hit-Point Wonder, and while the enemy mooks also have their HP set to 1, bosses still have their full HP. This is where the High Ethers come in: using one while you wield the Oathkeeper keyblade with activate Auto-Life, letting you survive one hit, and you can recast it as long as you have High Ethers.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time:
    • The Ice Arrows are surprisingly useful against Bongo Bongo. Their freezing effect can be used to distract the hands, letting you get a shot at the eye.
    • The Deku Nuts as well: They're probably forgotten about by the time you beat the Deku Tree, but they make Jabu Jabu's belly a cakewalk. They'll instantly kill every bubble enemy in the room, stun those annoying jellyfish (Which you can't otherwise harm until you find the boomerang), and will force the jet-ray creatures out of the ground so you can get the drop on them. They're also handy as an adult when fighting Blue Bubbles.
    • The broken Giant's Knife is intentionally meant to be useless, but it tears Dark Link to shreds since he is programmed to block against it as if it were still the full blade.
  • The Scrolls of Icarian Flight from The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind are really only useful for making a few quick trips across the game map. (They allow the player to jump incredible distances, but you'll die on impact unless you land in deep water, use a 2nd scroll, or cast a slowfall/levitation spell.) However, there are a few instances in the game where they can help the player avoid spending a lot of time and effort if used wisely.
    • In one particularly tall Daedric ruin, using one can allow the player to leap all the way up to the highest level in a single bound to acquire some valuable loot, skipping over all of the enemy mooks in the ruin.
    • Another useful spot is avoiding a certain deathtrap in Sotha Sil's clockwork city. Using one will allow the player to jump past the tricky trip to the exit right away.
    • They can also be useful during the few instances where fast travel is unavailable to the player, such as a Tribunal Temple quest where the player is forced to take an oath of silence while traveling to a shrine on the complete opposite side of the island.
    • Solstheim is another place where fast travel doesn't exist, so the scrolls allow the player to more quickly traverse the island. In particular, they can help with one East Empire Company quest that has a strict time limit. The person you need to find will be in one of three random places, so placing a Mark spell ahead of time won't work. Using the scrolls to jump there can get you there much faster than running, and will allows you to pass over any enemies along the way who would otherwise slow you down.
  • In Resident Evil 2, many of the weapons that suck for killing zombies are extremely effective against other specific creatures instead. Leon's flamethrower and Claire's flame rounds are excellent against Ivy monsters, the MAC 11 is great for taking out Lickers and keeping them from counterattacking, and Claire's Spark Shot does nearly as much damage to the boss enemies as Leon's Upgraded Magnum.
  • In Resident Evil 4, the knife is generally not used in boss fights due to its low damage. Cut to the fight against Krauser where the knife gets a massive damage boost and just a few slashes can end the fight in seconds.
  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn makes a big deal about Micaiah's Sacrifice ability, which allows her to heal others without a staff, but in battle the ability is mostly worthless since it drains Micaiah's own HP when she uses it, and Micaiah is a Squishy Wizard who's death results in a game over. Since traditional healing items and staves are not hard to come by, you're usually better off using them. However the ability does have some niche use on a few select maps, since it removes all status ailments on the affected target, basically making it a free Recover staff. It also lets her get 10 exp every turn, provided that she has a wounded ally nearby and 2 or more HP. Considering Micaiah is one of the units that changes class at plot points and is required for the final chapters, you pretty much need a way to level her up to 20 while keeping her away from the fray.
  • The various Joke Weapons in Fire Emblem Awakening can be used where killing enemies too quickly can be hazardous. For example, if one of your units is hiding behind a bottleneck, enemies will usually body-block each other while trying to attack the unit, allowing you to pick them off one by one and heal the unit after each round. This doesn't work (and will probably get them killed) if your unit is strong enough to kill each enemy in one round. Give them a crappy weapon, however, and the bottleneck strategy works again. The joke healing staff (the Kneader) also is handy for certain builds that rely on being at low-but-not-minimum HP (e.g. those using Vantage, Vengeance, and/or Miracle).
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the final boss can be distracted by the Fishing Rod, leaving him vulnerable to attacks. Of course, the Fishing Rod is only needed for two small plot hurdles, so many players would have likely forgotten about it by the time they reached the final boss, and since it has no offensive capabilities whatsoever, the few who did remember wouldn't normally think to equip it for the fight.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the fifth boss, Cortez, summons a gigantic horde of flying swords to attack the player when he's in his third form. The swords do massive damage each turn, and are considered both aerial enemies and spiked enemies—meaning that only very certain special moves hold any chance of damaging them and thus removing them from the fight. ...Unless, of course, you use Flurrie's Hurricane move, which instantly blows any aerial enemies away from the battle. Normally it's useless because it doesn't give Star Points when used, but as these are minions summoned by a boss, it's not relevant and instead becomes a powerful way to weaken him.
  • Dragon Quest IX: The Have A Ball and Thunder Thrust skills allow you to fire eight weak attacks at random / have a 50/50 chance of scoring a critical or missing outright. Neither are exactly reliable in regular battles, until you realize it can do 1-8 damage to a Metal Slime (Metal Slash, the move that is designed to reliably do damage to metal monsters, does 1-2 per turn) or kill one outright (if it hits).
    • When you first get them, the various Fource moves don't really help much, as there is precious little information on who's weak to what short of Guide Dang It (unless you let AI characters learn them, since they 'know' what to use). However, since it increases damage proportionally, you can find yourself dealing bonus damage in the hundreds to grotto bosses (especially once you have the item that lets you apply the buff to all characters in a single turn).

     Non-Video Games 
  • "Magic Bullet" cards are fairly common in Collectible Card Games. In response to cards and game mechanics that could potentially unbalance the game, designers often include cards specifically to counter these effects. If done poorly, such cards are useless except if your opponent employs the tactic it's meant to counter; in this case it rarely works, because it generally just isn't worth putting a card in your deck that is only useful in one specific circumstance.
    • The Yu-Gi-Oh! card game had a few blatant examples of this, such as Gryphon Wing, White Hole, and Anti-Raigeki, whose only uses were to negate specific overpowered cards. Then they discovered banning, and these counter cards quickly became dead weight. A less blatant example is Kuriboh, a mostly-underpowered card that for a while was the only effective way of stopping several one-turn-KO combos.
    • The card game Doomtown was especially bad at this. In one of the later expansions, the cards in question really were Magic Bullets—"Bullet" type cards were designed to insta-kill various character types.
    • The Pokémon Trading Card Game uses "Magic Bullet" cards in place of banning. One recent example is Machamp, who could instantly KO any non-evolved Pokémon at a time when non-evolved Pokémon was the norm in tournament play. Most cases are subtler than this, however.
  • Magic: The Gathering
    • The card One With Nothing, whose entire effect was "discard your hand." It was completely useless until a competitive deck came out that relied on giving the opponent a stream of cards and using spells that dealt damage based on the number of cards in an opponent's hand compared to yours. Lions Eye Diamond was similar, with the bonus that you got 3 mana from using it.
    • Lifegain cards are almost completely useless, unless you have a card like Yawgmoth's Bargain, which lets you turn life into cards (though you can't draw cards the normal once-per-turn way). Lifegain also became nasty when they began adding specific cards that let you win the game if your life passed a certain extent. Felidar Sovereign springs to mind.
      Additionally, due to lifegain's perceived weakness, you can gain tons of it for very cheap with a number of black, green, or especially white cards. Then you have certain creatures like Serra Ascendant and Divinity of Pride, which both become ENORMOUSLY overpowered for their costs if you have 25-30 life on hand, and both have the powerful lifelink ability to convert any damage they do into more life. Combine that with an artifact recently spoiled from Innistrad that can tap every turn for 5 damage if you managed to get to 30 or more life and the aforementioned Sovereign...
    • Pick any card that's the centerpiece of a combo deck. Chances are the card is broken in half in the context of that deck, but completely useless anywhere else. Some of the best combo decks take two otherwise useless cards (say, Donate and Illusions of Grandeur) and turn them into a solid win condition.
    • Dralnu, Lich Lord is a classic example. It was largely dismissed as junk when Time Spiral was released and WOTC even featured it as part of a "reject rare" creative deckbuilding article where they essentially gave Word of God that Dralnu was mechanically interesting, but nowhere near competitive. Then the French pro Guillaume Wafo-Tapa used Dralnu in a highly successful blue/black control deck dubbed "Dralnu Du Louvre" that became a fixture of Time Spiral-era Standard. Later versions of DDL actually ended up cutting the deck's namesake card due to its riskiness, but Dralnu still picked up some serious respect for briefly seeing top-level play.
Non-Combatant ImmunityVideo Game Items and InventoryOrbiting Particle Shield

alternative title(s): Not Completely Worthless
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