The title character of Sailor Moon begins as this with Mercury by her side; the other senshi just have more strength and fighting ability, plus their attacks are offensive. As the seasons pass Moon levels up and passes over everyone else. The Outers then overshadow the Inners, and everyone overshadows Chibi Moon. At least Chibi Moon has the potential to be insanely powerful, according to the manga.
Bamboo Blade's Yuji Nakata qualifies for this. As if being The One Guy is not sad enough, it's clear that he has remarkable skills and discipline in Kendo, is one of the strongest students in the dojo as the few fights he has been in ended with him beating the opponent with little to no effort, but this show/manga is mainly about cute female kendo practitioners and their every day life; in the end Yuji is more of a possible love interest for Tama than anything else.
Dragon Ball Z does this a good deal, especially considering even "normal" characters like ChiChi still have unusual origins and are ridiculously powerful.
Krillin, the former Trope Namer, was once considered Goku's rival in the early parts of original Dragon Ball, and very much acting as the underdog fighter in many of the battles he took part in. This was overshadowed by the gradual introduction of demons, monsters and aliens in the series that Goku fought to much better success, and the introduction of the Saiyans once Goku was revealed to be member of them. The adult Krillin is (by Word of God) still one of the most powerful full-blooded humans in the series. Yamucha, during the Buu Saga, admits that Krillin is probably the most powerful human alive. It's just that compared to godly powerhouses like Goku, Vegeta, Gohan, Piccolo, Trunks, Goten, and Android 18, no human can compare. He occasionally lampshades this, bringing up the nature of characters introduced when the series began.
Yamcha is probably the one who suffers the most from this trope, despite being an experienced martial artist evidenced by each one of the Tenkaichi Budokai in which he took part. No matter how much he does to improve, he always gets to be one of the eight finalists and loses in the first round due to being put against a much more powerful opponent (Master Roshi, Tenshinhan and Kami-sama). At least he is Genre Savvy enough to know when to retire.
Tenshinhan was once on par with Goku, only to be completely outshined in a matter of days. Then again at the next tournament Goku defeated him without breathing hard or even using a Kamehameha. By the time everyone starts achieving the Super Saiyan state, the author almost completely forgot about Tenshinhan, giving him one scene for him to prove of some use.
This one scene in particular is a crowning moment of badassery that has earned him quite a lot of respect in the fandom because of it. He decided to stall for time and slow down Imperfect Cell with the improved version of his Tri-Beam (of Kikoho [Spirit Cannon]) technique. He would also provide a bit of a distraction later on during the Super Buu arc, but to not as great an effect.
Pretty much anyone who isn't at least part Saiyan hits a wall sooner or later and is never able to catch up again. Android 18, who along with her brother was strong enough to kill Super Saiyan Gohan and DESTROY THE WORLD in an alternate future, is never given a real chance to distinguish herself as a fighter once she becomes a good guy. Despite the fact that her alternate future version is stated to be weaker than her present self. She's still as strong as ever, just that, again the Saiyan characters got even more powerful.
At one point or another, everyone except for Goku and Vegeta gets this treatment (and even Vegeta isn't completely immune). Gohan was actually stronger than those two, both at the end of the Cell arc and during the battle with Buu when he gets his upgrade from Elder Kai, but he doesn't train. So even disregarding GT, Goku and Vegeta must have surpassed him by the Budokai at the end of the series. However, of all the Z fighters Goku and Vegeta are the only ones who truly enjoy fighting and will keep training not to fight some uber threat but because they feel the need to push themselves past their ever increasing limits; Gohan actually had greater potential than those two, but didn't utilize it. Of course, at the end of the canon series Gohan is the strongest character in this series (yes, that includes Goku, Vegeta, and Majin Buu)!
Dragon Ball GT takes this concept Up to Eleven. By the end of the Shadow Dragons Arc, Vegeta, Goku, Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta and Omega Shenron are THOUSANDS of times stronger than everyone else, with the sole exception of Super Android 17. GT was so unbalanced that no one but Goku mattered in the fights anymore.
Taken to absurd levels in the 2013 Dragon Ball Z movie, Battle Of Gods, where Goku falls victim to the trope. Even after becoming a Super Saiyan God and achieving the strongest canon transformation in the history of the series, he's still no match against Bill/Birusu and this was after Goku got absolutely owned when he first took on Bills... AS. A. SUPER. SAIYAN. THREE.. This is then further compounded when it is revealed Bills was on using 70% of his full power and Whis/Uisu, his attendant, is even stronger than he is. Damn.
Kaoru is stated to be as strong as a national level kendo champ (and trust this kendoka — that's badass) but she only really gets to show this off once in the manga against "designated female" Kamatari of the Ten Swords, though to her credit she manages to beat him with a broken bokken. She gets better treatment in the anime, where she's treated more as an equal member of the Kenshin Gumi and is given more to do. For example, in the anime version of the Megumi arc, she participates in the rescue mission at Kanryu's mansion along with the others, and gets to plow through waves of mooks. In the manga, she stays home for no apparent reason because Sanosuke tells her to have breakfast and a hot bath ready for when they get back.
Ironically, Kenshin's fighting partner Sanosuke is given the reverse treatment in the anime. In the manga he's an expert in hand-to-hand combat and wins more than his fair share of fights against impossibly strong opponents (often whilst heavily wounded). In the anime? He's mainly used to show how strong the villain of the week is before Kenshin saves the day.
Regardless, once opponents that are at Kenshin's level are introduced, the gap between Kenshin and Sanosuke, Yahiko, and Kaoru become much more apparent.
And of course, even Kenshin is overpowered by his master Hiko, who is so ridiculously powerful that the author stated he can't use him to deal with threats in the story because it would be too easy for him.
In Naruto, Hatake Kakashi was originally made up to be one of the most elite ninjas of Konoha, mainly due to his Sharingan's ability to copy any technique, earning him the nickname "Copy Ninja Kakashi". That was until other Uchihas turned up with two Sharingans, with much more advanced abilities. Then someone came out with lots of Sharingans, while others combined the Sharingan's powers with other powers, and still others started using disposable Sharingans. Then goes Beyond the Impossible and Obito gives both his Sharingans to Kakashi after death...and he can awaken Perfect Susano'o.
Kakashi still played an important role in the plot and in every battle his side was involved in due to his intelligence, experience and his Sharingan's unique ability. However, much later, during the Fourth Ninja World War, this too gets overshadowed when it is revealed that Uchiha Obito, who gave Kakashi his Sharingan, was still alive and had become much more adept at using his Sharingan.
During the Sasuke Retrieval Arc, Choji and Neji defeat jonin-level Sound ninja in one-on-one battles, but post-timeskip they get overshadowed by Naruto, Sasuke, Akatsuki members and other antagonists.
Post-timeskip, all characters except a handful of main characters and the antagonists get little or no screen-time and hardly contribute anything significant to the plot. Shikamaru gets A Day in the Limelight occasionally only to be instantly overshadowed by Sasuke or Naruto shortly afterwards.
Sakura, formally The Load of Team Kakashi, improved greatly over the timeskip and Took A Level Of Badass becoming a Combat Medic and learning Tsunade's Super Strength. She shows this off by catching Kakashi in the Bell Test and fighting near evenly with Sasori, the third or fourth (depending on how you rank Obito) strongest member of the Akatsuki. Then...she's put Out of Focus until the War Arc where she shows off again by mastering the Byakugo no Fuin, the same seal Tsunade has and causing more damage with a single punch than even Sasuke's Susano'o. Then...Naruto shows off his full power and Sasuke levels up his Susano'o. THEN they get powers from the Rikudo Sennin. Poor girl...she truly can't catch up despite all her efforts.
After the Pain arc, Kiba acknowledges that this happened to the entire Konoha village in comparison to Naruto.
During the Fourth Ninja World War, the entire world gets overshadowed by a handful of protagonists and antagonists.
During the later part of the same war, it happens in turn to each of the antagonists. Itachi and Sasuke do this to Kabuto, Big Bad Tobi is insanely powerful and gave the Shinobi Alliance a hard time, only to be overshadowed by Bigger Bad the real Uchiha Madara. The Bigger Bad in turn gets overshadowed by an even more insanely powerful Kaguya Ootsutsuki, which even makes Sasuke wonder if a person so powerful could even exist.
Sasuke himself is hit hard by this. Despite being one of the stronger Ninja in the first half of Part II, he quickly, and we mean quickly begins being overshadowed by Naruto once Naruto masters Sage Mode. Its only made worse within the War when Sasuke is comparing his Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan self to Naruto's Kurama Chakra Mode, not even knowing of Biju Mode. When Naruto brings out Biju Mode, powers up the entire army again and saves the entire Alliance...Sasuke steams angrily and jealously at how strong Naruto is. And even after getting powers from the Rikudo Sennin (Sasuke even gets the Rinnegan)...Naruto got more of a lion's share again and Sasuke has to designate himself as decoy against Kaguya since he is unable to even injure her.
A meta-example is the author, for whom this is an Inverted Trope. The author has a twin brother, who is also a mangaka himself.
Before the series began, the Kuno siblings were two of the three top martial artists in their district, with Kodachi taking on 4-to-1 odds and whipping them effortlessly. Despite being able to render a bokken, a wooden training sword, into an Absurdly Sharp Blade and use Razor Wind attacks, Tatewaki Kuno becomes a mere Joke Character — his sister Kodachi just barely escapes this by a combination of the fact she doesn't fight all that often, but when she does, she's willing to cheat and use paralysis or sleeping poisons to get the upper hand.
Akane Tendo, the remaining top martial artist in the district, is able to quickly defeat a mob of about thirty fighters from her school each morning in the beginning of the series; later, she only escapes becoming a Damsel in Distress through her default reaction being to try and solve her problems on her own, her actually being able to help Ranma and co on occasion, such as against Orochi, or Taro. She still gets abducted various times in both canons, occasionally overpowered or otherwise kicked around by rivals and challengers from out of town, but does appear to considerably increase her martial arts skill towards the end of the series.
Soun and Genma get something of this treatment as well. While partially due to just not even wanting to fight that often, the few times they do get the notion to fight, it's against something meant for Ranma to deal with. Especially weird as these two possess the ability to become Godzilla sized (And Soun seems to pull his Samurai armor and armaments out of nowhere as well).
Genma is just too lazy to be a decent fighter most of the time. On the extremely rare occasions that he gets serious, he can beat Ranma without trying too hard. He did train Ranma to the point he's at now, remember.
Ukyo Kuonji is an odd case of this as she is arguably the strongest of Ranma's fiancees, being the only one with a special Finishing Move in the anime and having a very intense, Ranma-esque fight near the end of the manga. However as strong as she is, she tends to be forgotten by Takahashi and is rarely involved in the serious arcs and when she is it's in a support role. Other times she is simply not mentioned and the other characters never think to ask her for help when something comes up. Presumably her self-owned restaurant takes up most of her time and after making up with Ranma she didn't feel much of a need to fight.
Kuwabara gets this treatment to a degree. While he's probably not as strong as fellow humans (and former Spirit Detectives) Shinobu Sensui and Kuroko Sanada, Genkai speaks very highly of his abilities, and damn right she knows what she's talking about. In the dub, she indicates he has the potential to be the strongest human alive. Though in terms of physical strength he's left in the dust by his demon and half-demon companions, Kuwabara does get to win several key battles against much more powerful demons so he isn't completely overshadowed by others in the strictest sense. He actually keeps up with Hiei and Kurama pretty well, possibly becoming stronger than them during the Chapter Black arc, but ultimately takes himself out of contention because he wants to get an education. Near the end of the manga, he's heavily outclassed by Hiei, Kurama, and Yusuke, who have all spent an entire year training in the demon realm, but they still can't complete their mission without Kuwabara... because, while Kuwabara can't beat any of them in a contest of strength, he does have other, specialized skills that they don't. Namely, he can cut through dimensional barriers.
Suezo from Monster Rancher has many characteristics of this, being practically a disembodied giant eyeball. Compared to his other Monster teammates who have much more powerful and useful attacks, Suezo comes up short with only a tail attack and tongue lash as his primary moves. And even then, most of the bad guys shrug off his attacks like they're nothing. Suezo is rarely portrayed as a heavy hitter and the instances where he does land blows on the bad guys is when he's already fighting alongside his friends as a team (their attacks help to make up for his). The only time Suezo managed to win a battle on his own was against a giant Zilla in one of the Grand Prix games. He does, however, have quite a unique ability of being able to teleport. It would be quite a useful ability if Suezo actually had some decent attacks to go along with it... which he doesn't.
In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Syrus, Alexis, Bastion and Hassleberry are all good duelists in their own right, but after the first season very rarely do any of them get to duel, with Jaden getting much more time to shine. The only non-Jaden main character that gets to duel on a regular basis is Chazz, and only because he's subject to The Worf Effect. This concept actually becomes central to Bastion's character — despite being built up in the first season as a dueling prodigy with genius-level intellect and the best duelist in Ra Yellow, he gets overlooked by the Big Bad as a potential minion because he's not good enough to be in Obelisk Blue where the top students get to go.
The reason for him not being targeted has nothing to do with Misawa not being good enough to get into Blue, because he *is* good enough. He was offered a promotion back in season one, he just chose not to take it then. Misawa has an ego and it wasn't being fed enough, that's why events fell out as they did. He was asking Kenzan, Shou, and Juudai if they wanted to join the SOL because it was where all the cool people hung out. They weren't interested and he couldn't fathom why, because he valued status more than friendship at the time.
The entire Team Dai-Gurren. While they're far better at destroying Ganmen and Mugans than the Red Shirts, they are nonetheless constantly eating the dust left by Kamina, and later Simon, as they go further up the Serial Escalation scale.
Subverted in the second movie when they spiral up and form Tengen Toppa versions of their own mecha and kick the crap out of the Anti-Spiral.
One Piece has Usopp, a guy who started out average but whose ace sharpshooting skills and ability to trick and outwit his opponents (when he's not hiding behind something) makes him a definite Badass Normal. The problem is that everyone else on the crew is insanely powerful, so much so that Usopp harbors a massive inferiority complex and frets constantly that he'll be left behind and that his crew doesn't really need or want him. This issue probably arises when Nami, his only comrade in relative normalcy, gains a significant power-up in the form of a weapon that Usopp himself makes for her. Ouch. (He gets better after he fights with Luffy, leaves the crew, and is finally convinced to come back because they really do need him because he's their True Companion. This also leads to his best awesome moment when he duels Luffy. He's been more confident since and actually participates in fights without using Zoro as a meat shield.)
Zorro and Sanji even have a conversation pointing out how strong Usopp has gotten, and that he could defeat virtually any normal opponent. Unfortunately, they're with Luffy so the enemies are anything but normal. They also never bother telling him (although Sanji does point out a moment when Usopp's unique skills are more useful than his own.)
Luffy himself suffered from this in his childhood. Due to his rough training, he's still able to keep up with his older brothers, but often got captured or easily subdued, forcing his brothers to save him.
Largely averted in the 2001 series Cyborg 009, but still implied. Despite that the title character gets the most focus, pretty much all of the 00 cyborgs get their moment in the sun at some point. This is also a bit surprising considering that they name 009 as the most advanced cyborg of the bunch except for 0010-13, who kicked the bucket, doesn't always render the other cyborgs useless. 001, despite being a baby who is asleep 90% of the time, is arguably the most powerful Cyborg because of his near unlimited capabilities. Even 002, who is explained as a much more simplistic model than 009 can still fly whereas 009 can't.
Most of the kids and Digimon in any season of Digimon. In most seasons, don't expect to defeat any major opponent unless your partner is either the Goggle-Wearer, the Rival (aka Blue Digivice), or in later seasons the Third Hero. Heck, in Digimon Tamers, don't expect to defeat anyone important unless you're Takato&Guilmon, Henry&Terriermon, Rika&Renamon or Ryo&Cyberdramon, or even Beezlemon. For that matter... don't even expect to DO anything. (Did you know that Kazu is actually Gardromon's partner? I certainly wouldn't have)
These days, saving the main characters twice (Kenta and Marine Angemon) or just Takato (Kazu and Guardromon) from certain death or torture isn't worth anything. Also, it's apparently a good idea to have the seven years old or younger children fight directly an Eldritch Abomination who manages to equal, or outclass EVA in Break the Cutie moments.
Mahou Sensei Negima! has a huge number of Bad Ass people, but several (Rakan, Eva, Alberio Ku:nel Sanders, Fate, and especially Nagi) outstrip the main characters by several orders of a magnitude, and numerous characters comment that they're of "an entirely different level" from everyone else. One of Negi's main goals it to be powerful enough to be counted among them. Given recent events, he may very well have done so. Rakan has admitted that Negi is well on his way.
Bleach: Poor Chad. In any other show, this guy would be number one. Unfortunately for him, his ass-kicking arms are constantly overshadowed by Ichigo Kurosaki, the main character. When he does get to fight, he gets hit with the The Worf Effect. It's particularly bad when, after training against a bankai, it's stated that he had gotten roughly as powerful as what is generally expected from a basic captain, something that is particularly notable since he's neither a hollow nor a shinigami. His encounter with Nnoitra Gilga is particularly worthy of mention here, since the latter (in his base form) one-shots the former, and then gets killed at full power by a captain who's still fresh enough after the fight to take on another (more powerful) enemy. Particularly misleading since the captain in question is amongst the most powerful holders of the title, but not obviously enough to be viewed as "above captain classification" at first glance.
Matsuda is obviously competent enough to be on the task force, and has even helped the team a few times. But how can he look even somewhat intelligent next to supergeniuses Light and L?
Same thing with Misa Amane. The audience tends to join right in with Light and L denouncing her as stupid. In reality she pulls off some really complex plans, and her Shinigami eyes make her more deadly than any other Death Note user in the series; she's just not as smart as the four super geniuses who steal the show. Additionally, she has the disadvantage of being completely insane.
Lucy from the manga Fairy Tail fits this pretty well. She's fairly powerful as a Stellar Spirit mage, considering she has 10 of the 12 one of a kind zodiac keys, but she's constantly being eclipsed by the insane antics of Natsu, Erza, and the other upper level Fairy Tail members.
Reiichi in Air Master. He fights by using his bicycle as though it were part of his own body, the same way other fighters use their fists and legs, and the stunts he can pull could probably get him into any X-Games competition on Earth. But since he's not strong enough to get into the Fukamichi Ranking, he ends up looking hopelessly weak next to the rest of the cast.
In Captain Tsubasa, there is Misugi, who in the early chapters, was in par of skills with the eponymous character. Nowdays, it's impressive that he dribbles through people. But even then, Tsubasa overshadows the whole Japanese team.
And inside the aforementioned whole Japanese team, Hyuga, Wakabayashi, Misaki, and arguably Aoi and Matsuyama (in that order from most to less important) steal the spotlight to the rest of the team.
Saiyuki's Gojyo is a pretty good fighter and holds up well against generic cannon fodder. Then, when the time comes to kick it up a notch, Sanzo breaks out the sutra, Goku and Hakkai take off their limiters, and Gojyo... is screwed. (On the bright side, when the others are half-dead after these high-powered fights, Gojyo is generally still on his feet and able to get them help.)
Takayanagi. While the first two episodes basically states how incredibly super-strong he is, he gets owned by his own brother around episode 8, leaving him without anything to do the rest of the show. Really, he doesn't do anything. This all while the main character, whom Takayanagi beat the crap out of during their first encounter, keeps getting stronger and eventually surpasses everyone.
Actually his case is so extreme that Ogure Ito teased his fans with so many in-verse implications that one day he would reach True Warrior or God Tsukuyomi status only to in the end drop all this for the Human VS. God fight.
Let's not forget the female lead of the series, or her big sister. While the latter is super-awesome in the beginning, it does not take long for her to be overshadowed by her apparently cooler little sis.
Isidro of Berserk has a serious case of this, Yeah, he's a kid, and compared to Guts he's quite literally nothing, but he shows himself perfectly capable of holding his own against enemies that tear trained and heavily armoured soldiers to pieces, including killing at least a few Kushan Monsters assisted only by Puck. If this was a Shonen series, he'd be a full blown Badass.
Isidro is kind of intended to be a send-up of traditional Shonen heroes. But really, almost everyone except Guts and Schierke suffers from this.
Another example from Berserk would be Casca during the golden age arc. A very capable soldier and Griffith's second in command, but she doesn't compare to Guts on the badassery scale, and both she and Griffith know it.
Sayonara Zetsubo Senseiexamines this idea at one point; Krillin is specifically mentioned, along with how India's massive population gets Overshadowed by China's ginormous one. There's even a character who specifically attracts this: unless his baldness is revealed, he won't even be noticed as existing. As I recall, Kafuka assumes he's some kind of fairy.
Marie Curie is also brought up. Specifically, how her husband and children are also Nobel Prize winners, but all of them are overshadowed by Curie herself.
In The Prince of Tennis series, arguably the Fudomine Team. Despite starting out as Seigaku's first major rival and one of their closest as well as one of their strongest, they become overshadowed by Hyotei and Rikkaidai. Pretty much their only powerful member is Captain Kippei Tachibana, a nationally-ranked player. While Hyotei and Rikkaidai got rematches with Seigaku, Fudomine never gets the chance.
Yuma of the Seven Ghosts is a milder example. The former rank #40 (lower than any of the Pieta survivors save Claire) thought she existed on the other's sufferance, was probably correct in thinking she was the weakest of them, and remained convinced that she had not grown in power during the timeskip... until she faced four warriors (including a single digit) upon her return from the north and battered them into submission using the flat of her blade without even trying.
The entire source of Unsui's woobieness in Eyeshield 21. An extremely hard working person who's described as being "only a good player" and "the best of the average" who doesn't even come close to his brother's level as a football player or even stand out compared to the quirkier characters. Made all the sadder by the fact that he's Genre Savvy enough to know his skills only make his brother look even more talented by comparison.
Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple zig-zags on this: Kenichi is universally acknowledged to have no talent, but he's the main character and receives the appropriate amount of screentime/pagetime to show Training from Hell hard work does eventually pay off. Meanwhile, Action Girl Miu has to hold back when she and Kenichi spar, but she appears less often.
Lucrezia Noin from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is a pretty good Mobile Suit pilot, but when your teammates are five Gundam Pilots and the only Federation pilot who can match them, it's easy to be forgotten. Of course, this ignores a few facts: 1) Zechs says that during their academy days, she held back in order to make him look better (Zechs finished top of his class, for the record), and 2) in Endless Waltz, she lasts just as long the Gundam Pilots while using a Taurus, which is a good but still outdated machine when compared to the Serpents fielded by the enemy. This has lead to the fan theory that Noin is one of the best pilots in the show, held back only by the fact that she never gets anything better than a Taurus.
Similarly, in the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Sayla Mass and Kai Shiden are both very competent pilots and aces several times over. However, they have the misfortune to serve alongside Amuro "One-Man Army-personified" Ray, who upstages them at every turn, and be flying against Char Aznable, the series' most iconic badass.
The same can be said of Yzak Joule in Gundam SEED who talents seem insignificant next to those of his superior, Athrun Zala, and his enemy, Kira Yamato. This only gets worse when the two of them recieve their respective Mid Season Upgrades. Then in the finale he kills two Super Soldiers and you remember that oh yeah, this guy's a badass. Kira's Big Brother Mentor, Mu La Flaga is in a similar position, though his general cool factor tends to outshine his handicaps.
In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny Lunamaria Hawke suffers from this, often being decried as a Faux Action Girl, despite serving with competence throughout the war. This is largely because she's on the same team as Rey and Shinn, whom only Kira and Athrun stand a chance against.
In Zeta Gundam, Kamille's archenemy, Jerid Messa, is often viewed as a poor pilot due to his constant defeats at Kamille's hands. However, the thing to remember is that Kamille is an incredibly powerful Newtype in a Super Prototype handtailored to his specifications, and Jerid is a Badass NormalElite Mook in a mass-production suit. That Jerid is even still alive is a testament to his Ace Pilot status, and when facing off against anybody other than Kamille he tends to win more often than not.
Compared to normal people, Tiger & Bunny's Kotetsu Kaburagi would probably be considered very awesome: he has the ability to increase his abilities hundredfold for a brief period of time; he has cool, incredibly advanced Powered Armor; he dedicates his life to saving everyone he can, regardless of whether or not they deserve it. Unfortunately for him, the viewers of HeroTV aren't comparing him to normal people. They're comparing him to other superheroes, such as the ridiculously Ace-like Sky High, or the identically powered and armored (but younger and more marketable) Barnaby Brooks Jr. As a result, he tends to fall behind when it comes to points and ratings.
In Future GPX Cyber Formula, any racer who isn't Hayato or Kaga have fallen into this as the series progresses into the OVAs. Originally, Shinjyo and Randoll are very skilled racers and could be considered The Rivals to Hayato, but in the later OVAs, they are usurped by Bleed Kaga, who takes their place as the rival to Hayato.
Played with in Medaka Box. Zenkichi barring his parasite eyes is the only "normal" one out of all the main characters. Despite this, he manages to get most of the fights and somehow keeps up with all the super powered people in this series. Maguro even calls him "normal cool" claiming that he is unique because he is normal. However, in the Student Council Successors arc, Najimi sends 5 normal girls to compete in Medaka's treasure hunt where they not only do better than Zenkichi (who came in dead last being unable to solve the first clue), they actually manage to make it to the final round and briefly manage match Medaka. After noticing Zenkichi placing in dead last in the treasure hunt in comparison to the other normal people, Medaka throws him aside placing him directly under this trope in her eyes.
Klein in Sword Art Online went from being a clueless noob to leader of one of the top guilds in Aincrad, leading a 7-man Badass Crew with no casualties; not even the strongest guild can boast that. Unfortunately, Klein is friends with Asuna the Flash and the Black Swordsman Kirito.
Discussed by the narrator in Legend of Galactic Heroes with regards to Oskar von Reuenthal — he would have been a brilliant ruler of his own right if not for the fact that he was born in the same era as Reinhard von Lohengramm.
In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Miki Sayaka suffers from a crippling case of this. Despite getting right back up after an attack Kyouko predicted would floor her for months and obliterating H.N. Elly in one hit, the fandom still dismisses her as a "weak magical girl". Unfortunately for Sayaka, her fellow main characters are a veteran who has been fighting Witches for years, a Grief Seed hoarder who constantly replenishes her magical power, a timemage, and Jesus. By the time of The Movie, this is no longer the case, with Sayaka having developed powers of her own.
Kenshi Masaki is this compared to the rest of his family. Case in point: his brother note Tenchi is the avatar of their universe's God and is immensely powerful. His younger great-great aunt note Sasami is one of three goddesses as are her sisters via assimilation note Washu and Tokimi. Big brother can pull out Light Hawk Wings like they're going out of style and great-great aunt has a very powerful battleship that summons Light Hawk Wings at will. Kenshi? Can only summon a Light Hawk Sword in his Giant Robot by condensing a mountain.
And even by this, he's outshown by Tenchi's senpai. Said senpai? Pilots a giant robot powered by a Juraian tree seed that creates five Light Hawk Wings and can break the laws of physics.
Doug Ramsey, aka Cypher of the New Mutants. He had the mutant ability to decipher languages. In fact, he started out as a friend of the characters and Prof. X had no intention of telling him he was a mutant. Too bad none of the writers had figured out how potentially powerful his ability could be if used in a less conventional manner. To wit: his powers were instant total comprehension of any communication. This included the labels on buttons and controls of eons-dead aliens. He should also have been capable of matching Cassandra Cain in predicting his opponents' moves. Ramsey was later brought back to life, and as fans predicted he has indeed become a master computer programmer and hacker, as well as having the ability to read body language. Furthermore, he can now "read" the architectural structure of a building and determine its weakest point.
Anyone in Watchmen who is not Dr. Manhattan. And yet Rorschach still manages to come off pretty much universally as the most serious Bad Ass in the cast. Lampshaded/Emphasized during (the first) Night Owl's retirement banquet, when Dr. Manhattan and Night Owl are discussing his reasons for retiring — mainly that "You (Dr. Manhattan) can do anything and all I've (Night Owl) got is a good left hook." When asked what he was going to do now, the Night Owl said that he planned to work as a mechanic like his father — to which Dr. Manhattan replied that he plans to synthesize enough lithium to make electric cars practical, making his profession obsolete.
The Invisible Girl in the first few years of Fantastic Four was mostly just standing around watching the men fight, or being captured, getting to use her powers for the odd stealth scene once every five issues or so. She was eventually given force field powers to make her somewhat more useful. That may have been a more dramatic change than intended, as she is now broadly accepted as the most powerful member of the Fantastic Four, with her powers becoming effectively an invisible Green Lantern Ring.
Rick Jones, the perennial sidekick, was pointlessly outleagued by everyone he sidekicked for. Though he was touched with awesome a few brief moments, most of his days in the limelight simply let him show himself to be slightly more badass than normal.
Dick Grayson was this to Batman when he was the first Robin, and in his late teens decided to strike out on his own as Nightwing. Now, he's one of the leading heroes of the DCU. Hell, he even became Batman after Bruce's kind of death!
Jason Todd, the second Robin, constantly felt like he was living in Dick's shadow as well as Batman. It led to him being impulsive and angry.
The third Robin, Tim Drake, wasn't the "first", and wasn't the tearaway Bruce couldn't save. He was just kind of...there. More competent than Jason and even improving on Bruce's techniques. Bruce knows all of this, and admits that Tim'll eventually be a better detective than him.
The fourth Robin, Stephanie Brown, is often not even remembered as having been Robin out of universe because her tenure was so short. Whenever people in or out of universe discuss the Robin legacy, she's usually left out or glossed over. She's much better known for being Spoiler or Batgirl.
The fifth Robin, Damian Wayne, was never quite accepted by Bruce. Dick was much more of a mentor to him, and a lot of characters and fans plain didn't like him. He was also less competent than previous Robins, because he was only 10 years old and had to adapt his techniques from lethality to Bruce's no-kill approach, often mid-battle.
One DC comics story, "Menace of the Mystic Mastermind", teamed up Wildcat and the Spectre. Wildcat, a boxer, was rather overshadowed by the Spectre, who embodies the Wrath of God.
Cyclops of the X-Men, though not to the same level as some examples. Cyclops has very powerful eye beams that could, in the words of Jean Grey, punch a hole through a mountain, he's got martial art skills on par with some of the best fighters in the world, and is a skilled enough tactician and leader that he's earned the respect of Nick Fury, the default Big Good of the Marvel Universe. However, Cyclops is on a team that includes Wolverine, Storm, and Phoenix. While In-Universe its canon that Cyclops is more badass than Wolverine, and its shown that he's a better leader then Storm, the fanbase, and many writers, seem to proffer the other two, leaving him in the dust. Phoenix, meanwhile, is an inverted example; she's so awesome, they had to kill her off because she overshadowed the rest of the team, and the plan to depower her backfired and made Jim Shooter demand she be killed instead. When she came back, her power was far more fluctuating. It doesn't help that both of them have a very vocalHate Dom.
Jessica Jones of the comic Alias (not an adaptation of the TV show) is a private investigator who has super strength, super durability and can fly. So why doesn't she become a superhero? Well actually she retired from being a superhero: you see, she lives in the Marvel Universe...yeah... Case in point: she quit being a superhero after enduring eight months of horrifying Mind Rape at the hands of the Purple Man and being beaten into a coma by the Avengers (who would have likely killed her if Ms. Marvel hadn't recognized her) after she attacked them under the Mind Control of the former...only to find at the end of the ordeal that during all this time no one noticed she was missing.
Loki and Ares from The Mighty Thor and The Incredible Hercules respectively. The former is one of the most powerful sorcerers and one of the most powerful gods in the nine realms and a brilliant schemer, but live in a society of warriors that value brawn more than brawn and brash heroics more than cleverly-laid schemes which they view as cowardice. The latter is a revamped anti-hero who personifies war that can "turn nations into empires, peasants into heroes, men into gods!" Both are overshadowed by their brothers whom they ridicule. Loki ridicules Thor for being a brainless oaf. Ares ridiculous Hercules for being a drunken, destructive, buffoon and is himself looked down upon for his violent nature. Hercules himself is sometimes this for Thor. Despite being one of the greatest heroes who ever lived and the strongest god on Olympus many, including Zeus, still view him as a second-string Thor and a walking joke.
The Guardians of the Galaxy, throughout the Abnett/Lanning run, were treated as being major underdogs who were completely and laughably outclassed by most of the threats they faced, and their name apparently commanded so little respect on Earth that Reed Richards didn't even know who they were. However, the Guardians roster included the extremely powerful magician Adam Warlock, universal defender Quasar, three powerful telepaths, and two super-strong assassins, and their leader was a former Four-Star Badass. By Earthly standards, they'd be one of the strongest teams out there - one of the team's weakest and most badly decimated incarnations was able to crush an alternate version of the Defenders in seconds (Cosmo took down the Hulk in one shot).The fact that they get no respect is really more a side effect of having to take on universe-threatening opponents every week instead of four to six supervillains.
Goggles is this is Racer and the Geek, compared to the other three guards. Telny is a proven fighter. Keffiyeh is obviously a veteran who has fought alongside Telny. Shades is doubtlessly a professional operator. Goggles knows more about weapons and fighting than the average pony, but it's acknowledged that if anything ever were to happen to Ponyville, that he'd be The Load compared to the others, even if he is technically capable of getting things done and taking care of himself. The comparison really is like between a special forces veteran and a fresh cadet from the academy.
In the sequel to Rainbooms and Royalty, it's brought up that several of the weather patrol members feel like this is the case regarding Rainbow Dash. They're good at their jobs, but Dash spends most of her time napping, blasts through her duties, and winds up with all the credit.
Avenger in Fate Stay Night: Ultimate Master; she is a remarkably powerful Servant (strongly hinted to be Joan of Arc), and go on par with Saber, meaning she is technically one of the strongest Servants in the War. The only problem is, her Master is no one else than Ben Tennyson, whose own power is much more unexpected and versatile than hers. As a result, most of the other Masters actually are more concerned with finding a way to defeat Ben than her.
Discussed in The Stalking Zuko Series with Suki, she feels compared to the rest of the Gaang: Aang is the Avatar, Katara is a Waterbending master and healer, Toph is a genius Earthbender, Sokka is marvelous strategist and Zuko is an exiled prince. She feels that she's only seen as Sokka's girlfriend because her skills are outshined by everyone else.
Akane feels like this due to having gone from one of Nerima's best to among the weakest of the Wrecking Crew. Thus, in Fist Of The Moon, she is actually a little embarrassed at how much Rei and Makoto fawn over her incredible strength and skill; she hadn't taken Ranma seriously when he said that she was still better than 95% of martial artists in the world. Her "super martial arts abilities" (as describes by actual ''superheroes'') are enough to let her beat Makoto or Haruka, and she is repeatedly notes as being exceptionally strong by any standard of measurement.
In Pirates of the Caribbean, Will is supposed to be the main character. He has the sympathetic perspective and gets the romantic subplot after all. The thing is, you just plain can't outdo Johnny Depp in a role like that.
Anguirus from the Godzilla franchise, a giant dinosaur whose only power is his huge size and strength (no flight, no transformations, no crazy energy beams), is the trope's kaiju equivalent.
This forms the basis of Amadeus's plot, with Antonio Salieri envious of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart because he looks mediocre in comparison despite his own formidable talent and thus seeks to destroy his career. This is of course more based on their places in history than their actual interactions, as they got along quite well in real life. In fact, Mozart was overshadowed by Salieri several times, a fact that is acknowledged in the film with Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro being overlooked by the Emperor in favour of one of Salieri's operas. Somewhat ironically, when the film was released much more praise was heaped upon F. Murray Abraham's performance as Saliieri than on Tom Hulce's as Mozart. Both men were nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars that year but Abraham won and his performance is now the one most remembered from the film.
This happens to Kick-Ass when he meets Hit-Girl and Big Daddy and understands that they are infinitely more badass than him. And then comes the climax of the film, where Kick-Ass straps on a jetpack with shoulder-mounted miniguns with a rocket launcher for good measure and proceeds to mess the Big Bad's shit up big time.
This happened to Master Liu in Ip Man. He was a competent martial arts teacher, and managed to win against the unnamed martial artists. However, he was defeated by both the titular character and the two antagonists, making him look like a weakling in comparison.
Captain America's portrayer Chris Evans himself joked on the Jimmy Fallon Show that when he watched the movie and realized superheroes he "had no business with this crew! The Hulk can rip jets in half, Thor is calling down thunder, Iron Man can shoot missiles, and I'm over here going, 'I'll take the stairs!'" Evans said Cap's superpower is 'heart'. "He'll help you move on a Sunday!" Similarly, Scarlett Johansson expressed fears of this happening to her character Black Widow (another Badass Normal) being swept aside an avenger.
Tony's bodyguard Happy Hogan is a fairly competent boxer, but he gets overshadowed by people who are much more skilled than he is. It's especially obvious in Iron Man 2, when he knocks out a guard and happily announces it to Black Widow, only to find that she's knocked out all the rest.
The granddaughter in The Wolverine IS badass, as she kicks Yakuza butt at one point and stabs a robot! It's just that when you have a viper woman, a samurai best friend, a ninja boyfriend, and a big part of the plot was Wolverine losing his healing... you look less cool.
Happens to Wolverine, of all people in X-Men: Days of Future Past. He's The Heart here, helping 1970s-era Charles Xavier deal with his issues. Against the various security guards and soldiers, Wolverine pulls his weight, but he's not nearly as effective as Quicksilver or Magneto without his adamantium bones and claws. Against Sentinels, he's not even as effective as Beast. Even when this takes away his normal vulnerability to Magneto, he's still quite outclassed.
The sidekick class in Sky High was made of this trope. Every one of them had super powers, which makes them a step above "ordinary" people, yet they were pretty mundane compared to the heroes. ("I'm glowing.")
Regular people in the Mistborn series suffer from this. In a world where certain people can manipulate metals to make deadly weapons, fly, give themselves superhuman strength, rapid healing and super-heightened senses, you can be very good at what you do but still not measure up to an allomancer by a long shot, let alone a mistborn. Many characters struggle with inferiority complexes due to this fact but they tend to find other means of making themselves useful. Or by becoming mistborn themselves in one case.
Case in point: Dockson. He has no allomantic powers but makes up for it by being a brilliant bureaucrat and generally organising everything for Kelsier's group.
The allomancers might even have it worse than the mundanes, given that they're often employed to guard against mistborn assassins since they do have a small measure of their powers. Still, a trained mistborn can wipe the floor with a skilled group of allomancers without breaking a sweat. They are really just meant to slow the mistborn down until their employers' own mistborn can get there to level the playing field.
One of the best bits of the 'Scouring of the Shire' segment is a version of this. While the hobbit characters are sometimes overshadowed in strength while traveling with the Nine, they command a lot of respect and sternness once they return and deal with the problems in their homeland. In general, hobbits subvert this trope, especially Bilbo, by being unexpectedly useful.
Return of the King is basically one big subversion of this trope: Merry helps kill the Witch King, Pippin saves Faramir's life, and apparently Sam and Frodo did something cool too. Just to hammer the point home, when Frodo and Sam finally get back from Mordor, Aragorn himself kneels in honor of them.
Despite the fact that Vlad Taltos of Dragaera fame is an assassin, mob boss, sorcerer, witch, and numerous other forms of Bad Ass, the presence of ludicrously more powerful characters around him tends to tone down his coolness from "Obnoxious" to "Awesome."
Ron Weasley. Chess and snark are about the only things he can do that his best friend, girlfriend, or siblings couldn't do better. He develops a complex about it. Arguably worse in the movies, where he's mostly reduced to comic relief. Also applicable to Rupert Grint, the actor who plays Ron. To the media, Daniel Radcliffe is the face of the franchise, Emma Watson is "that hot chick from Harry Potter" and poor Rupert is just sort of there. And yet, and perhaps because of this, he is the one of the three who has had the most consistent film work outside of the franchise.
Made into a Running Gag with Dawlish, an Auror who apparently got perfect scores on all of his O.W.L.s. He gets knocked out by Dumbledore twice, and later is hospitalized by Neville's grandmother.
A tragic Deconstruction of this is the backstory dealing with Harry's father James, and his friends Remus Lupin, Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew. The first three were brilliant and intelligent wizards, who were highly popular while Peter Pettigrew was regarded outside as a Tagalong Kid and behaved like an Extreme Doormat and cheerleader. This made him loyal only to "the biggest bullies in the playground" and after Hogwarts, he turned to Voldemort and betrayed his friends.
Strangely averted in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Luke's pretty much an instant Deus ex Machina, as befits his role as only being paralleled by other Skywalkers and being the most experienced Jedi in the galaxy, but TPTB always find some reason to not use him as such.
Doctor Watson, friend and helper of Sherlock Holmes, is a skilled medical practitioner, a former soldier, and is quite probably a good bit smarter and more insightful than your average man. When it comes to criminal investigations however, he is constantly struck silent by Holmes' deductive powers and his all round big-brainyness. Because of this, Watson is so often Flanderized into a bumbling idiot in adaptations of Sir Arthur's works.
Lots of non-channelers in The Wheel of Time, since the One Power is so powerful that there really isn't any way for them to compete, with the exception of Mat Cauthon, who has an Anti-Magic medallion. Also, Min, who is pretty good with her knives but is laughably out of her league compared with every single character in the series, realizes this in the later books and decides to become The Smart Girl instead by relentlessly studying the Prophecies of the Dragon. On a related note, when Mat protests that he's a lesser ta'veren compared to Rand, Verin tells him that in any other time, Mat and Perrin would be the strongest ta'veren in the world.
The titular heroine of Honor Harrington is noted to be as competent as her Grayson Armsmen in personal combat, if not more so, even though the Armsmen themselves are no slouches in the subject of dealing of death at the personal level.
Similarly, by any measure, Hamish Alexander is recognized as one of the most skilled military commanders in the known galaxy and an outstanding leader. And then Honor Harrington shows up, and he eventually realizes (without bad feelings) that he's no longer in the running for the best admiral in the Royal Manticoran Navy. And then more stuff happens and Hamish Alexander-Harrington isn't even the best admiral in his marriage.
Meanwhile, Michelle Henke would by almost any measure be among the greatest commanders of her generation — except that said generation happens to include her best friend and naval academy roommate Honor Harrington, who overshadows everyone. She's not at all put out by this, but it does mean that she spends quite a few decades underestimating her own considerable talents in the commander's chair.
Older Than Feudalism: In The Bible, John the Baptist. In any other era, he would have been a prophet of renown. As it is, he's a minor header to the life of Jesus. In fact, he lampshades it: "Now He must increase, and I must decrease."
Carrot in Discworld, he was originally meant to be the main, but that role eventually went to Vimes.
One of the many Tropes that are Deconstructed in A Song of Ice and Fire. Stannis Baratheon's bravery and courage during Robert's Rebellion went virtually unnoticed compared to those of his older brother's, and this lack of recognition has fueled his resentment, leading to an obsession to prove himself the rightful King of Westeros by allying himself with darker forces.
Live Action TV
Most characters in Doctor Who, often very capable individuals that are nonetheless totally overshadowed by the Doctor. This was particularly a problem with Martha Jones, who often comes across as completely redundant and useless in terms of the plot, despite being an extremely intelligent and capable character (though she did save the world basically by herself that one time), and Susan, who despite being the original Screaming Woman did some pretty cool stuff herself. Unfortunately for her popularity among fans, she was overshadowed by the Doctor, Ian, and Barbara, all three of whom tended to make it their priority to protect her.
While Willow becomes a powerful witch and Buffy is still… well, the slayer, Xander becomes an example of this. There's a whole episode in Season 3 ("The Zeppo") devoted to this trope.
Dawn becomes in the later seasons, as Xander becomes a Badass Normal and she is usually the Damsel in Distress. The Season 7 episode "Potential" is about her feeling like this, which is something Xander understood very well.
In Angel, Fred is an example, going so far as to get physically overshadowed by a more awesome creature when Illyria takes control of her.
Parodied in That Mitchell and Webb Look with the crime fighting duo of the BMX Bandit and Angel Summoner. In every situation it's just easier and less dangerous to summon angels to defeat the terrorists and eventually the BMX Bandit develops a complex about it and tries a 30 foot jump off a building without the help of the angels. With predictable results.
In Homicide Life On The Street, Bayliss is a brilliant detective who is constantly overshadowed by his more flashy partner Pembleton who treats him poorly and didn't want a partner to begin with. By Season Five, Pembleton had a stroke and realized upon returning to active duty that he wasn't as good as he thought without Bayliss, who was proving himself very good without a permanent partner. They eventually reunite when Pembleton swallows his pride and admits this and Bayliss admits he misses working with him.
Everything listed in Literature applies to Watson on Sherlock, and the episode commentary seems to indicate that the writers feel the same way about Lestrade. He's the best that Scotland Yard has to offer, and he's absolutely the guy you want working your case...unless Sherlock Holmes is available. (This is deliberate according to Word of God: they wanted to make Lestrade someone who would be capable of solving the crimes on his own if Holmes wasn't around). Well, if Watson was a female.
A similar thing applies to the American version of Sherlock's other police contact, Gregson, in Elementary.
Sherlock: "You always been this observant? *Beat* I’m asking that quite sincerely. I was wondering if exposure to my methods had helped you in any way."
Bell: "Actually, before you came along I had never solved a case before. Neither had the rest of the department. Most of us were thinking about packing it up, leaving, letting the city fend for itself."
Subverted by Watson herself, though; she's actually the one that formulates the plan that takes down Moriarty, not to mention identifies her weak spot in the first place. Holmes has no trouble with giving her the credit.
Humans in Babylon 5 are considerably overshadowed, especially by the Minbari. They were beaten quite easily in the Earth-Minbari war, and made a limited contribution to the Shadow War (as a whole; individual humans made quite a few contributions). Despite that, it is said a couple of times that Humans Are Special, but that can come off as Informed Ability .
The Mentalist: Patrick Jane has a tendency to do this to the other characters. Lampshaded on occasion; notably, when Jane attempts to leave the CBI, Lisbon points out they can close cases without him. Jane offers to finish the case with them, saying they're helpless without him.
Stottlemeyer from Monk and Lassiter from Psych are both actually quite competent when given the chance, especially compared to other similar Inspector Lestrade characters from other shows. However, they're simply overshadowed constantly by their respective supergenius Defective Detectives (Monk and Shawn). Lassiter also suffers from a generous helping of Leeroy Jenkins syndrome, although Shawn himself has a fair share of that as well.
Lassiter's personal resentment of Shawn's and his behavior is actually shown to make him a worse detective when Shawn is around. He gets so focused on Shawn's antics and trying to prove that he's wrong or not needed on the case that he gets tunnel-vision, fixating on the suspect/theory Shawn insists isn't correct because he doesn't want to listen to him. He gets better about it in later seasons, but still takes smug satisfaction anytime he finds evidence which disproves or discredits one of Shawn's theories.
Devon Woodcomb, adventure sports cardiologist. There's not really anyone on the show who can escape being this by comparison. Bonus points because his nickname is actually "Captain Awesome."
Subverted whenever he's drawn into helping Team Bartowski on a mission, though. Though initially eager, when it came down to it Devon just couldn't handle the spy game (he gets somewhat better later on, though). So in that regard Awesome is even overshadowed by Morgan, of all people.
On Suits, Louis Litt is a Harvard-educated lawyer who is considered a wizard when it comes to Forensic Accounting and legal matters dealing with high finance. However, in the firm of Pearson-Hardman he is overshadowed by legal mavericks like Harvey Spector and their boss Jessica Pearson. Even first year associate Mark Ross tends to upstage Louis because Mike has a Photographic Memory that gives him a massive edge when dealing with complex corporate paperwork.
Harold is the perennial Chew Toy among the associates and often gets berated for his incompetence. However, we later find out that he was at the top of his class at Harvard and he simply is not able to handle the Training from Hell the associates are exposed to at Pearson-Hardman. In a lesser law firm he would be a rising star.
Agent Ressler in The Blacklist is a tough, competent, intelligent, and brave FBI agent. Unfortunately, he's nowhere near Raymond Reddington's intellectual league, so he frequently looks rather silly in comparison.
In some cases, this applies to everyone except Sheldon. Despite most of them being literal geniuses, Sheldon's eidetic memory and obsession with concrete facts put him in another league with certain things. At one point he plays a trivia game against Leonard, Raj, Howard, and Leslie Winkle (the four of them on one team vs him alone). He loses by one question.
Heimdäl is leader of Justice, the top guild of the game up to Season 3/The third novel/Comic 7, can be assumed to be the best mage, is a good strategist and may possibly be in the top five. However, Fantöm, Amaras and Spectre, the three that outrank him, are the poster boys for Ultimate Gamer 386 and get to do most of the impressive stuff in the story, thus greatly limiting Heimdäl's opportunities to shine in comparison.
Mist, who was top player before Spectre and actually the first to even earn the title, is stated to have gotten overshadowed by him in terms of reputation in one of the novels.
Happened twice to Roman Reigns. First, he got one of the best debuts in WWE history, but fans were so focused on Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins that they didn't even know who he was. After all, Ambrose and Rollins were both stars on the independent scene; Reigns was not. The second is compared to his family. As a former college and CFL football player and former Tag Team Champion, he'd be a standout in any other family. But when you're an Anoa'ě, and your father, uncle and cousin are all WWE Hall of Famers, your brother is a former Tag Champion, and you're related to a certain electrifying one, it's hard to stand out.
Formula One has a history of domination by an exclusive elite. During Michael Schumacher's succession of championships, many good or even great drivers were entirely outshadowed such as Rubens Barrichello, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher, etc. Between the years of 1985 — 1993, you could kiss any chances of a championship goodbye if your name wasn't Prost, Senna, Piquet or Mansell.
While Indy Car was the pinnacle of American motorsport ever since the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, during the last twenty years it has become completely overshadowed by NASCAR due to the latter's bump-and-grind, down-n'-dirty-style racing. Where do Formula One drivers go whenever they retire in America? Here's a hint: It's the most watched sport in America.
This tends to happen in many racing events, whether it's auto racing, swimming, or track. Often a single heat/race will have two or three racers break the current world record — but only the winner will be acknowledged as doing so.
Scottie Pippen and the rest of the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan era. Except possibly Dennis Rodman, who got his own recognition, partly by being a good defenseman, and partly by being too weird to miss.
Speaking of the MJ era, LaBradford Smith.
The Utah Jazz might be the best example of this. Back in the 90s they had two superstar players in Karl Malone and John Stockton. They also had all the right role players to win multiple championships. Unfortunately, they had to deal with Michael Jordan's Bulls in both finals they reached. Karl Malone is even more of a tragic example. He would make the playoffs for majority of his career at the Jazz, only to lose to a better team (such as the Bulls or Hakeem Olajuwon's Houston Rockets). Then aiming for a championship ring, he went to the Los Angeles Lakers... who lost at the finals to the Boring but Practical Detroit Pistons, making Malone retire without a NBA title.
Quick, name a current Cleveland Cavalier or Los Angeles Clipper besides Blake Griffin.
Now averted in both cases. Cleveland picked up rising star Kyrie Irving, LeBron James came back to town, and the Cavs traded for Kevin Love to create their own "Big Three". As for the Clips, they have Chris Paul to pass to Griffin.
Dwyane Wade had already lead the Miami Heat to a title. Then LeBron James (and Chris Bosh, who ended up overshadowed as well) came to his team, and despite the ridiculous hype failing in the first attempt, "King James" won his first ring, plus the MVP and Finals MVP title, in 2012.
According to an interview Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder did, he confessed that during his basketball career so far, he's always been second best compared to someone else, and he's afraid this might be the legacy of his professional career, so he's fighting against it. Hopefully, he won't be a case of Hard Work Hardly Works.
Kevin Durant: "I’ve been second my whole life. I was the second best player in high school. I was the second pick in the draft. I’ve been second in the MVP voting three times. I came in second in the finals. I’m tired of being second. I’m not going to settle for that. I’m done with it."
During the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl years, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jerry Rice were the only players that any casual NFL fan could name. And maybe Dwight Clark.
This tends to happen on any NFL team with a superstar quarterback in any era.
The Baltimore Ravens were an example of this when compared to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL. While the Ravens did win a Super Bowl in 2000, they were mostly the second best team in the AFC North behind the Steelers, whom often beat them during their rivalry match-ups to seal the divisional title, and in two cases went on to win the Super Bowl. Not to mention a lot of players on the 2000 Baltimore Ravens team were once Steelers players. Furthermore, the Ravens modeled their playing style after the Steelers — a run-to-pass offensive with a strong defense. However, in 2010 the Steelers began to decline as seasoned players got old, while the Ravens slowly built up their team as Super Bowl contenders. They began getting wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers more often and reaching the AFC championship games as a result. It finally paid off in 2013, as they won their second Super Bowl in franchise history.
In any other year, stakes racer Sham would probably have been the star of his three-year-old season. Unfortunately for him, he had the bad luck to face off against world-renowned Secretariat — who is contested only by Man O' War as the greatest horse in American racing history. Today, he is mostly remembered for losing to Secretariat in all three legs of the Triple Crown. He paced Secretariat for the first three-quarter-mile of the Belmont — but then Secretariat kicked it into high gear and took home the Triple Crown with a 31-length-lead in Thoroughbred racing's finest moment ever, while Sham faded back to finish last. Poor guy.
And if that wasn't bad enough for Sham, he ended up being no better than the third-best American horse of his birth cohort... because after Secretariat was retired to stud, Forego, a big gelding who took time to come into his own, was named U.S. Horse of the Year the next three years.
In the 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, and 2012 London Olympic Games, the Australians, French, Czechs, South Africans, and Americans trotted out some of the finest swimmers in world history...all of whom had to compete against Michael Phelps, also known as "The Baltimore Bullet". Between having the perfect build for swimming, a Determinator personality, and Nerves of Steel, Phelps practically obliterated every opponent he came up against in individual events while also dominating the relays with an equally fantastic team of fellow Americans (Jason Lezak stands out the most). Even after not finishing first in two races at London 2012, which he admitted to not training very hard for, it was still assumed by much of the world that Phelps would outswim the vast majority of his competition. He did.
In terms of the whole Olympics, Phelps is all but the definition of a Tough Act to Follow. If they're willing to dare it, future Olympic swimmers will have the absolutely daunting task of defeating Phelps' record in Beijing 2008 of winning 8 gold medals in a single Olympics, something that even Phelps himself admits had quite a bit of luck and insanity behind it. And as of London 2012, with a grand total of 22 medals (18 gold, 2 silver, and 2 bronze) to his name, Phelps is the most decorated Olympian EVER in any event and in Olympic history.
This has happened in men's tennis over the past several years due to the dominance of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray (to a lesser extent). Together, the "Big Four" won 34 of the 36 Grand Slams from 2005 to 2013, with Federer and Nadal in particular overshadowing everyone else for much of the 2000s. To put the Big Four's sheer dominance into perspective: at the end of 2013, the Big Four member with the least impressive record was Andy Murray who had won 2 Grand Slams, reached 5 other Slam finals, and won 9 Masters 1000 titles. The four players who came the closest to challenging the Big Four (Ferrer, del Potro, Berdych, and Tsonga) had won 1 Grand Slam, reached 2 other Slam finals, and won just 3 Masters 1000 titles. Combined.
A prime example of an overshadowed player is Andy Roddick, a player with a devastating serve and several other weapons, who could have been a worthy successor to the likes of Sampras and Agassi despite his issues with focus and fitness... but managed to win only one Grand Slam before Federer took the tennis world by storm and beat him in every single Grand Slam final he managed to reach afterwards.
Stan Wawrinka used to suffer from a massive case of this, being known only as "that Swiss tennis player who isn't named Roger Federer" for most of his career until he broke through the Big Four's quadropoly to win the 2014 Australian Open title.
Even Nadal is overshadowed by Federer to a certain extent; aside from his status as the 'King of Clay', people never talk about his impressive Slam record on its own, but instead about the fact that in achieving his victories he became the only man able to consistently beat Federer. Interestingly, he had won 6 Grand Slams by the age of 23 but was still playing second fiddle to Federer in both rankings and media; comparatively, when Federer was 23 he had only won 5 Slams but was world no. 1 and already being hailed as one of the all time greats.
British men have had this problem: Tim Henman has been described as a good player in a time of great players, and Andy Murray a great player in a time of amazing players.
French tennis players also have this problem. They always produce solid players, but not ones good enough to win Grand Slams. Jo-Wilfred Tsonga is a modern example. He's the best French player, and has the talent to beat any of the top four players. But because of constant inconsistency in his playing, Tsonga is just as likely to lose to a less talented player during any given tournament match.
Women's tennis has had eras where one or two players have thoroughly dominated the field to an extent that even the men's Big Four can only envy: Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova won all but 3 Grand Slams in a 6-year span from 1981 to 1986, and Steffi Graf dominated the majors for nearly a decade immediately afterwards with Monica Seles as the only player on the planet capable of beating her (at least until her stabbing).
A modern example in women's tennis is Maria Sharapova. She's one of the best players of her generation who has won the Career Grand Slam, is renowned as one of the steeliest competitors on tour, and managed to make a successful comeback after suffering career-threatening shoulder injuries. Too bad she's also playing during the era of Serena Williams who is clearly the best women's tennis player of modern tennis and possibly the history of the game itself.
In fact, Serena Williams has this effect on everyone on tour: it's an axiom on the women's tour that everyone else is competing for second place when a healthy Serena is playing. It's just the most noticeable when it comes to Maria because she so clearly outclasses almost every other player on a regular basis and yet is so clearly outclassed by Serena in their matches that her not-inconsiderable achievements threaten to be overshadowed by her utter inability to even challenge Serena ever since 2004.
For those who are not followers of professional golf, name a pro golfer whose name isn't Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods.
Phil Mickelson, to whom this trope absolutely applies. If he'd played in an era that didn't have Tiger Woods, he'd be one of the most dominant golfers on the planet. In March 2011, Phil finally overtook Tiger for 5th best golfer in the world. Few outside of their home countriesknew who the top 4 at the time were.note Tiger returned to #1 in the world in March 2013... but still hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open.
If you're only a casual baseball fan, the name Hank Greenberg might not ring a bell. The Detroit Tigers first baseman was only a Hall of Famer, one of the all-time dominant sluggers, and notable for being the first Jewish superstar in American sports. Unfortunately, though, Greenberg's career neatly coincided with those of the two greatest first basemen of all time — Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. As a result, his All-Star invites were sparse, and he failed to become the household name he'd have been in any other era.
Duke Snider is a similar example: A Hall of Famer in his own right, Snider was only the third-best centerfielder in New Yorknote New York had three MLB teams during the first half of the 20th century before the Dodgers and Giants moved to California during the 1950s, as he had the misfortune of sharing both a position and a city with Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Also an aversion of First Installment Wins, as Snider's major league debut was four years before the others.
Dom DiMaggio is an interesting case. He was a great centerfielder for the Boston Red Sox who could've been a Hall of Famer (some actually argue that he is still). Unfortunately, he lost 4 years of his prime due to World War II and he just so happened to be the younger brother of one of the greatest players of all time: Joe DiMaggio.
The St. Louis Cardinals as a team qualify as well. Their 11 World Series championships are best in the National League and second-best in all of MLB. Unfortunately that's a distant second to the New York Yankees and their 27 World Series titles.
In a single game example: On May 6, 1998, Chicago Cubs rookie Kerry Wood struck out 20 batters and set a rookie franchise record which was 15 strikeouts and a rookie starting pitcher record which was 18 strikeouts, and a National League record which was 19 strikeouts. While this became the story of the game, Houston Astros opposing pitcher, Shane Reynolds, struck out 10 batters, but gave up two runs losing the game. What's even more unfortunate for Shane Reynolds was that one of the runs scored, happened because of a defensive error, not because of his pitching. Kerry Wood won Rookie of the Year because of that one game.
Between the years 1984-1995, any given Minnesota Twins ball player compared to Kirby Puckett, but especially Kent Hrbek, whose career swinging some very heavy lumber — he holds the Twins' team record for grand slams — tends to be overshadowed.
Try to explain to any fan of English football that no, the Big Four of the English Premier League aren't the only ones that are going for the Premiership title and that the other sixteen teams are also trying to earn it and not at all wanting to be treated as an entire league of Washington Generals-type doormats. Sadly the English media hyperfocused on Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool and the lack of any revenue controls assure this situation will continue for the near future.
More recently, Liverpool have fallen by the wayside which, combined with the ascendance of Manchester City and to a lesser extent Tottenham Hotspur and possibly Everton, looks to shake things up a bit; the Manchester clubs won the 2012 & 13 seasons at a canter (City and United respectively) and Tottenham have caused Arsenal and Chelsea major worries in both, with Liverpool not even close to qualifying for the Champions League.
Almost two-thirds of The World Cup championships as of 2014 have been won by Italy, Brazil, or Germany, and only 8 countries out of 76 have ever won the championship. All of those 8 have been from either Europe or South America, to a point where nobody cares about any of the other continents.
There's a saying that goes "The World Cup is basically the European Cup plus Brazil and Argentina" (though the third South American champion, Uruguay, is seeing a resurgence).
Olympic-level gymnast Kerri Strug — coached by legend Bela Karolyi — spent her entire career overshadowed by his gymnastic prodigies Kim Zmeskal and later Dominique Moceanu. In a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, she finally got her moment in the 1996 Olympic games, vaulting a second time despite injuring her ankle on her first vault. She sprained her ankle on the landing, but stuck it — on one foot — and sealed the first women's team gold in USA history, becoming one of the most enduring legends of the Games in the process.
All of those really tall Himalayan mountains to the left and right of Mt. Everest that nobody ever climbs because they're a few feet shorter than Mt. Everest.
Ever heard of Jan Ullrich? He was a great cyclist in the Tour de France... who had the misfortune to be facing Lance Armstrong and his incredibly well-funded, unstoppable team during Lance's record-setting glory years. He won one Tour de France, before facing Lance and going down in history...as a footnote, Lance's "perpetual second".
Jan Ullrich was called the talent of the century in his native Germany. In the 3 years before Armstrong started his winning streak (which has been removed from the record), Ullrich won one, and could have won two others. He didn't win in 96 because he was holding back for his captain (Bjarne Riis) and in 98 he made a huge tactical mistake on a stage against Pantani, losing several minutes and the race. After being banned in 99, he returned in 2000, where he started coming to this and every Tour too heavy and out of form. 2003 was an exception to that, where he lost on plain bad luck (crashing on the final time trial). He also showed a great deal of sportsmanship against a well-known Combat Pragmatist that year.
Mario Lemieux, "The Magnificent One", widely considered one of the best players in hockey history... who had the misfortune of being a contemporary of the best player in hockey history: Wayne Gretzky, "The Great One".
What's sad is that if Mario did not have the health issues that he had (including cancer) he would have surpassed Wayne most likely. Hell, look at all the games he missed and then look at his overall stats and your head would explode with how he was able to get so many points.
Gretzky still had more assists than Lemieux had goals and assists combined. Even a healthy Lemieux would have been hard-pressed to compare to Gretzky.
Additionally, that assumes that Mario would keep up his point production. Unfortunately for him even if he had perfect health, Mario's height was fast-fading as hockey was entering a time period when defensive zone traps was king and huge goaltenders who mastered the butterfly became prevalent. Said goaltenders also became more knowledgeable about reducing scoring percentages by using larger gloves and wider shirts. While newer regulations have once again improved scoring so that 2-1 games are no longer the norm, it's pretty much given that barring a huge turnaround in the game rules, Gretzky's scoring records are pretty much never going to be close to being touched (also keep in mind that Gretzky had a really long career by staying healthy, today's bigger players and heavier hits are taking a toll on the length of a player's career).
Another one in Gretzky's shadow was Mark Messier. Once Gretzky left Edmonton for Los Angeles, "Moose" emerged as the heart of the team and one of the great leaders in any professional sport, taking them to the Stanley Cup in 1990 (something that was considered impossible without Gretzky's presence) and cementing his reputation when he took the Rangers to the Stanley Cup. Still, even though he had his number retired by two teams (the Rangers and the Oilers), a remarkable achievement, Gretzky's 99 was retired by the league. Some days you just can't catch a break...
There is a possible sub-trope here for sports, crossing this trope with Retirony. Team X has been terrible for the last few years, but there was a time when they were good, and their now-retired legend(s) represent their best years or championship seasons. What happens here is said player or players' legacy CONTINUES to overshadow the team. Textbook cases of this are...
Major League Baseball: Cal Ripken Jr., Baltimore Orioles; George Brett, Kansas City Royals; Tony Gwynn, San Diego Padres; Ken Griffey Jr./Randy Johnson, Seattle Mariners (Griffey even played with this when he came back to Seattle for his last season).
National Football League: Joe Namath, New York Jets (although the Jets are good again as of 2009-2010, they still can't seem to move past Joe); Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions; anyone who played for the Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders Super Bowl teams.
National Basketball Association: Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers (recently retired but the team is having trouble being successful without him)
Combining this trope with Kicked Upstairs are Nolan Ryan, who was enormously popular as a player for the Texas Rangers even though he only pitched five years with them. When the Rangers made it to the World Series for the first time in 2010, Nolan Ryan was STILL the first person a casual baseball fan could name, and he's the OWNER (Cliff Lee, or maybe Josh Hamilton, would come in a distant second). John Elway, another player-turned-executive could qualify as this for the Denver Broncos; they haven't been as good since his Super Bowl years and no quarterback since has reached the same stardom (except possibly Peyton Manning, and he achieved his stardom on another team before he came to Denver).
Gretzky, too, as the coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Australian leg spinner Stuart MacGill spent pretty much his entire career overshadowed by Shane Warne despite being good enough to get into many other national sides. Not to mention that he routinely outplaying Warne when they played. Then we have Warne himself, one of the greatest spinners of all time but not quite the greatest of his generation — that award would probably go to Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan.
The ultimate example from cricket is probably poor Andy Ganteaume, a West Indian wicket-keeper batsman who scored a century in his debut Test Match and never played for the West Indies again: they had so many talented batsmen at the time, and Ganteaume took too long to score his century. So he was dropped. He at least got the consolation of finishing on a higher Test average than Don Bradman.
Another example from cricket is Rahul Dravid, a world-class batsman acclaimed by the cricketing world as the most technically correct batsman of his time. He has played many an important innings for India, and was well known for batting long periods, but also had a tendency to get overshadowed by his faster scoring teammates. His hard work, selfless nature, and consistency did give him a fair bit of limelight though.
Wasim Akram was
Was sadly the story of Joe Frazier during the golden era of heavyweight boxing. Though he fought hard with no special sponsorships to become the heavyweight champion of the world. He was always overshadowed by the exiled, charismatic, people's champion, Muhammad Ali, which many fans still considered the true champion. After helping to get Ali's fighting license back so he could prove himself, he then dealt with both Ali and the pubic media mocking him. After beating Ali the first time, he didn't get any credit, because both Ali and the boxing media claimed it was because of ring rust after the three year lay off. He would go on to lose the trilogy to Ali, but would eventually gain respect because of the heart and determination he showed during his career. He's now considered a boxing legend and just as great as Ali for different reasons.
In The Beautiful Game, many exceptional players overshadowed their teammates and other great contemporaries — with the outstanding case being Pelé, which even caused his club, Santos FC, to struggle for a while in his absence.
Also from Brazil, Heleno de Freitas was considered the first idol of Botafogo, even though he didn't win a title there. Seven years later emerged on the team a striker with crooked legs nicknamed Garrincha...
The States even have an example of this: Kristine Lilly. Member of the U.S. women's national team (USWNT) for 23 years (1987–2010), making her first appearance when she was 16. More international appearances than any other player of either sex (352—only her longtime teammate Christie Rampone has gotten to 300, and no man has even reached 200). Played in nearly 80 percent of the games the USWNT had ever played by the time she finally retired (it was over 85 percent before her 2007 pregnancy). Retired as number 2 on the all-time list for international goals by a player of either sex. The kind of stats you'd expect to see from someone who's THE icon of the sport in a country where until recently, the women's game (or at least the national team) was bigger than the men's game, right? Well... not quite. She had a few more celebrated teammates...
For much of her career, Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers took most of the spotlight. When Pelé released his list of the top 125 living players in 2004 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of FIFA, they were the only two women on it. Oh, and remember seeing that Lilly was second on the all-time goals list? Guess who was first—Hamm.
After Akers and then Hamm retired, then there was Abby Wambach, who has now passed Hamm on the all-time goals list, and is still adding to her total.
By the time Lilly retired, the next face of American women's soccer, Alex Morgan, had made her international debut.
Heck, even the goalkeepers overshadowed her. For one, Hope Solo. Free-spirited, often outspoken, became enough of a celebrity to appear on the U.S. version of Dancing with the Stars.
Missy Franklin was this at the 2012 Olympic swimming to Ye Shiwen, despite winning more gold medals. However, this was put to rest a year later when Franklin absolutely dominated the World Championships.
Or, in 3rd edition, 3.5, and the various offbranches thereof such as Pathfinder, if someone plays a caster class above level 6 or so, thanks to Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards. The higher the level, the greater the disparity. Even if the non-caster seems awesome on paper, he's still massively outclassed by the magic users.
This is one of the reasons why the 3.5 Tome of Battle supplement (which introduced a brand of magical martial arts for melee classes to help balance them towards casters) was so loathed. Instead of giving new options to the existing Fighter, Monk, and Barbarian classes (melee fighters without magic access), Tome of Battle introduced three new classes to showcase the magical martial arts of the book that completely rendered the aforementioned core classes obsolete by being better in every conceivable way. The Kick Them While They Are Down moment was that the Warblade martial class was revealed to be statistically better than a Fighter even if you removed the new systems it was built to showcase.
Generally, Toughness 3 and an Armour Save of 5+ was suppose to be considered good, with 4+ being elite body armor and 3+ being the equivalent of a walking tank. However, with the popularity of Space Marines and variants, many of the other species that would have been considered "normal" have been demoted to "swarm" status. Doesn't help when GW seems to actively embrace this new image, releasing even more space marines while actively playing up the "swarms" part in other armies.
A high-powered laser that can take off an unarmored man's limbs in a single shot, can be recharged just by throwing it's magazine in a fire or keep it in sunlight and can be mass produced with such ease that a man who barely knows how to build a hut out of mud and wood would not only be able to operate one, but also make one? The US army would be clamoring for such a piece of technology. To 40k however, it is the humble lasgun, otherwise known as "flashlights". This is because every other gun in the setting is either a rapid-firing, one handed grenade launcher, fires mono-molecular edged ninja stars, flesh-eating worms, or just flat out rips you apart at an atomic level.
In the current Meta many units are often seen as "uncompetitive". This does not mean they're bad or underpowered, in fact most of them do very well at what they do and are quite appropriate for their cost. However there are many units who are more powerful than them, many of which share the same Force Organisation Slot, meaning you either choose between the balanced unit, or the overpowered one. It's not a hard choice.
In the actual lore, Luther would have been the single greatest hero of all time on Caliban, if one of the primarchs, Lion El'Johnson, didn't happen to land on that particular planet. At this point, it is almost bordering on a tragic subversion, since, while Lion El'Johnson is physically powerful, tactically brilliant, and very quick to analyze any situation, he is an absolute moron with dealing with people. Luther isn't quite at Lion's level, but his charisma ends up making him more effective than Lion in most situations. Several major issues caused accidentally by Lion El'Johnson probably would not have occurred under Luther.
What about the PDF? The Planetary Defence Forces? It's joked that their role is to be punching bags long enough for the Imperial Guard and Space Marines to arrive, but think that not all of them are backwater hired guns and mercs. The wealthier and more important worlds have huge and well-equipped PD Fs with competent officers, competent men, and have the money and industrial base to equip their men with the finest weapons and armour the Imperium can provide. Forge worlds are even more impressive, with lasguns, tanks and artillery that are produced by the Adeptus Mechanicus and actually superior to what the Imperial Guard get, not to mention they may be upgraded with the order's own cybernetics technology and turned into the Skitarii. Basically, a Forge World PDF will be the size and technology equivalent of the US military, a Badass Army in their own right. Yet in come the Orks, Eldar or Tyranids, and the PDF get utterly crushed. The PDF lack the one thing that make the Imperial Guard competitive: quantity. Even the most Badass PDF is not enough. Not even close to being enough.
The Lunar Exalted: Blessed by the goddess of the moon with the power to shapeshift, which includes the ability to assume the forms of anything or anyone they've killed and eaten, including demons and gods. They are the only Exalt type to have successfully and permanently altered their own Exaltations. This is on top of their own innate magic to become masterful charmers and hypnotists, brilliant sorcerors and scientists, and/or nearly unparalleled warriors; they are the protectors of all Creation. They are also completely overshadowed by the Solar Exalted, who were empowered by the sun god with sheer overwhelming skill and might. On top of that, each Lunar is magically bound toward a single Solar.
Dragon-Blood have it even worse. Even the Dragon-Blood book goes out of its way to point out that one Terrestrial in a mixed game is a bad idea; the Terrestrial Exalted are intended to work as a team, and outnumber the whole host of all Celestial Exalted nearly 30:1 for a reason.
Generally, in most Role-Playing Games, this happens to weapons and abilities. The weapons and abilities that are good early in the game are overshadowed by better ones you get later, especially if you get the Disc One Nuke. This makes some spells become rather worthless, especially status-inducing ones.
It's actually averted quite a bit when it comes to abilities. Some games make it so that abilities scale instead of having a set damage range, meaning that an ability that you have early in the game is still useful all the way to the endgame. A good way to avert this from a gameplay programming perspective are to use percentages, especially for healing items. (the Tales Series and The Legend of Dragoon are good examples of healing items that heal based on a percentage).
This turns out to be the plot catalyst in Live A Live: Straybow, whose best friend Oersted is the heroic knight protagonist, gets entirely fed up playing second fiddle and decides to become the villain instead. Everything goes to hell.
Dan Hibiki in Street Fighter is actually a good martial artist and is shown doing somewhat competently in a tournament. On top of that, he shoots fire out of his hands! In the real world, he'd be a superhero! It's just that in Street Fighter, everyone shoots fire out of their hands better than him. Some games even have him as a Lethal Joke Character. This is lampshaded in the ending of Capcom vs. SNK — which shows a newscast noting that Dan won the tournament (while the player character defeated M.Bison/Geese Howard and saved the world.) He's not even a playable character in the original version!
Most of the Tekken characters introduced from 4 onwards are overshadowed by those who have been established for longer. The simple reason is the Nostalgia Filter but also because there are too many characters now, and whereas people would have mastered the first 10 characters in Tekken 2 for example, now we're faced with about 30 at once and it's just too much. A much earlier example would be Jack-2 being overshadowed by P Jack in Tekken 2, whose ability to fly made him the Jack that all future ones would be based on.
An interesting Soul Series example — Sophitia is very popular amongst online players because she is the most balanced character in the whole game... which means she comes across as weak to most players in favour of 'strong' characters like Nightmare and Astaroth. They are in for a shock when they find out almost every Internet player plays as her because she is so much faster than them.
Like the Live A Live example above, in Henry Hatsworth In The Puzzling Adventure, it's revealed at the end that Cole, Henry's kid sidekick is the real Big Bad of the game, having been sick of (to him) being the one doing all the work of tracking down the treasure and getting no credit (as well as Henry's constant coddling). In fact, Weaselby, Henry's supposed Arch-Nemesis is actually an android controlled by Cole.
Every single character in the Metal Gear series who isn't Big Boss, even those whose achievements could be argued to have surpassed his. His place in the structure of the series basically equates him with God, and the symbolism in 3 and 4 strongly suggest this too. Even Ocelot, who was playing Naked Snake like a violin from the second he met him, who goes on to establish himself, briefly, as the most powerful man in the world (Big Boss only had a made-up country, and it didn't last that long), and who manages to keep up a double agent act in some way or another for his entire life and never get caught is still obsessed with doing Big Boss proud in 4. Also Raiden to Solid Snake (despite the challenges he faces mirroring exactly — by design — the ones Snake faced at Shadow Moses).
For fairness it needs to be said that this took place only after the release of Metal Gear Solid 3. Before this there were no plot points whatsoever that pointed to him being anything more than a generic run-of-the-mill Big Bad trying to take over the world; most evidence used nowadays from that time period are fairly shameless retcons or reinterpretations. Solid Snake proudly held this crown until that point which the biggest reason Raiden became such a Scrappy in the West.
The Xeno series has this as a recurrent theme:
In Xenogears, Hammer's Face-Heel Turn is catalyzed by the fact that he feels obsolete as an ordinary person surrounded by super people.
In Xenosaga this seems to happen to perennial Butt Monkey Allen Ridgely, but turns out to be the setup for a moment where he stands up to a villain with godlike powers and gives a speech about how even an ordinary person has to stand up for what they want to protect.
Xenoblade continues the trend with Reyn, who used to protect Shulk when they were young. Over the course of the story, though, Shulk becomes strong enough in his own right that he doesn't need his protection anymore. Thankfully, Reyn soon takes it in stride and decides that even if that's the case, he can still watch his friend's back (which he does soon after that scene).
The neighborhood kids in the Backyard Sports series have been overshadowed by the pros, who have much better stats than them, since they came in. The kids are actually very good athletes, as displayed in the first few games without the pros. The writers caught onto this in Hockey '05, but disregarded it in all the others.
In Ace Combat, you get to use 4th to 5th-gen fighters like the Eurofighter Typhoon, F-22 Raptor and Su-37 Terminator. However, with the exception of some of the birds in X: Skies of Deception, they will mostly fall short of the game-original superfighters.
In Fire Emblem, in "efficient" playthroughs, Low/Lower-Mid tier units often get overlooked in favour of... anyone else. Also, in Genealogy of the Holy War (the second Fire Emblem game for the SNES, which was never released outside Japan), characters with holy weapons or just holy blood really (see Lachke and Skashaha) tend to overshadow everyone else. Especially Aless and Shanan, who are both killing machines from the moment they're unlocked.
Some of these pre-promoted units you get around the middle of the game actually can be pretty useful. Unlike the Jeigans who join early-game but don't have very good growths, some of these guys actually do have decent growths that make 'em feasible. But some people who have been trained by experience to avoid these characters and stick with the non-promoted characters they obtained earlier may accidentally ignore 'em.
Marcus in Rekka gets hit on both ends. For one, he's clearly a Jeigan, which most people only really use a meat shield...and for people who had emulated Fuuin, they would know that he had terrible stat growths...in Fuuin! He's actually a lot better in Rekka, but that didn't stop people from abandoning him first chance because of the reputation.
It is also, however, worth mentioning that the Crutch Character stereotype begun to be subverted around Rekka. At least, widely subverted; (Oifey in Geneology is pretty much the first subversion; but because Eveyl and Fuuin Marcus play it so straight he was thought to be a one-time thing) Seth in Sacred Stones, Titania in Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, as well as Sothe in Radiant Dawn all act as Jeigans, but don't fully fulfill this role.
Wolf in Shadow Dragon just screams "Crutch Character"...however, he actually has some pretty good growths so that even despite being an early-game prepromote, he's feasible until the endgame.
Also from Rekka, we have Louise. While the other prepromotes that're considered useful (Pent and Hawkeye) are considered as awesome as they are, Louise often gets overshadowed by archers you obtained earlier.
Sacred Stones gives us Innes, Dussel, and Saleh. Saleh is overshadowed because by the time he joins, you already have Ewan (Unless you shelved him, not realizing the Magikarp Power), Lute, Artur, and maybe even L'Arachel promoted, and you don't need another magic user. Innes because you had Neimi earlier, and Dussel because, by the time he joins, you have at least three mounted fighters (Four depending on what you did with Amelia).
This trope may be the reason Eliwood of Blazing Sword is regarded, by some, as a weak character. While not as bad as the above examples, his stats are still considered weaker than the other Lords, Lyn and Hector, and lower than a good number of other Player Characters. This is rather jarring, as he is actually a well-balanced character, and after Unit Promotion he becomes considerably more useful.
A common rule of Fire Emblem is that the Jack of All Stats is almost always outclassed by a Lightning Bruiser. Eliwood is fast, strong, and has decent defenses, but there are enough units that are faster, stronger, and tankier that he can't seem to measure up.
In Radiant Dawn, Rolf suffers from a minor case of Magikarp Power but is otherwise one of the best characters in the game - he promotes to one of the game's best classes, his stat growths are ridiculously good, he comes on a team that gets tons of experience - and yet almost no one uses him. At the same time you get Rolf, you also get Shinon, who is essentially Rolf after the Magikarp Power kicks in and with even better growths (though Rolf has an incredible Strength Growth (75%) in Radiant Dawn, way better than Shinon's (40%), who originally had a 65% Strength Growth in Path Of Radiance). Even with his Strength Nerf, Shinon is arguably the best archer in the entire Fire Emblemseries, leaving poor Rolf completely outclassed. And both are way better than Leonardo, who has terrible Growth rates in both Strength and Speed, which are crucial caracteristics for an archer.
Again, in Radiant Dawn, because a lot of characters were featured, many of them ended up being overshadowed by the others, sometimes because of their team composition (such as the Rolf and Shinon case), sometimes because of the time they join (which means that you will already have better trained units by the point they join), sometimes because others characters of the same class are just that good. Edward as a Trueblade pretty much overshadow the others, thanks to his fantastics growth rates, though Zihark stay a very good one thanks to his innate Adept skill. Either way, Edward, Mia or Zihark will overshadow Stefan (who joins way too late, though he does have wonderful stats) and Lucia (who is just that bad, and joins very late your party). Tormod is overshadowed by every others Sages (or Archsages), since he doesn't show up until the very endgame. Also, pretty much every laguz unit will get overshadowed once their kings (and queen) join your party. Yeah, you get a pretty solid party of Badass in Radiant Dawn.
An especially cruel example is Sothe, a mandatory unit and one of three candidates for the S-rank Dagger, who is flat-out inferior to Volke in literally everything he can do.
Similar to Ace Combat, Crimson Skies, a flight simulator set in an Alternate Universe version of the 1930's, has a few Real Life planes from the time period in it. They are nothing compared to the planes thought up by the game designers.
Most Keyblades in Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep pretty much become this. A lot of them increase your magic stat more. Which is good for Aqua and to a lesser extent, Ventus; but for Terra, you typically want to emphasize his strength stat more. While magic is far from useless, physical attacks from him deal more damage anyways. And even on Aqua's campaign, you get a Keyblade that makes a good number of the magic-stat-increasing-only-ones inferior or equal mid-way through the game.
The Keyblade you receive from Neverland gets hit the hardest. Before the endgame worlds, Neverland is the last world you complete. Literally right after you complete it, you have to go start an event somewhere else. And most of the time? You get a better Keyblade that is essentially the Infinity–1 Sword. Unlike Kingdom Hearts 1 where you had some good reasons for using other endgame Keyblades, the Infinity–1 Sword is pretty much better in every way.
Kingdom Hearts II also has this happen a little, but mostly near the end, when you get Keyblades left and right. The Decisive Pumpkin and later Oblivion Keyblades are pretty much the Infinity–1 Sword, and around the end, you get plenty of Keyblades from completing worlds or doing sidequests that are most easily completed around that timeframe...pretty much all of which are inferior to those two. The only one(s) that are better are the Ultima Weapon and some in Final Mix, especially for the abilities.
Occurs regularly in Touhou, either because the Spell Card rules limit their effectiveness or simply because they are merely "very powerful" and going against someone who is "horrifically powerful". Hong Meiling and Cirno are the most obvious examples, the former an incredibly strong master martial artist in a realm where conflicts are settled with magical duels (and even her strength can't match the likes of Suika and Yuugi), and the latter perplexingly intelligent and powerful for a fairy but still ultimately a fairy, far surpassed by nearly everyone else.
Renko Usami is a human girl with the ability to know exactly what time it is and exactly where she is with Ludicrous Precision. Her friend Maribel Hearn? She originally just has the ability to see boundaries, but now is pretty much at the point where she can manipulate them. It is also heavily implied that she is (or will be)Yukari.
Vaan and Penelo in Final Fantasy XII. The reason is fairly simple — they're Tagalong Kids with little to do with the main plot, which is a story of political strife between conflicting nations and monarchs. Vaan and Penelo are merely the viewpoint characters, it's the adult characters around them who actually move the story forward. This includes party members Ashe, Basch, and Balthier, who besides doing more for the plot also have more interesting backstories and more significant character growth. It's a case of Americans Hate Tingle though, as Vaan and Penelo are much more loved in Japan than in the West.
Considering the situation when you meet him in Mass Effect 2, this is definitely the case. He had his own loyal to the endBadass Crew and together they took on the three biggest crime/merc groups in the galaxy. They got so deadly that the groups called a truce from their own war, recruited a ton of random mooks just to waste his ammo then launched an all-out assault against him when he was alone and cornered. And just to make sure they got him, they organized combat mechs and a gunship. The result? He holds out for three days before taking a rocket to the face from the gunship, and, even then, he's ready for action the next day.
An even clearer example is Liara; with Shepard's help in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, she's able to bring down the Broker. If Shepard doesn't go through the events of that DLC, then by the third game Liara took down the Broker, one of the most powerful spymasters in the galaxy, by herself.
Ashley/Kaidan are another example by the third game. S/he has been promoted to Lieutenant-Commander/Major respectively, commissioned as a Spectre and placed in command of the Normandy, and Shepard and Liara discuss how competent s/he's become in the first mission with her/him. But when Shepard is around, there's no question of who's in charge, or why.
It would be easier to single out members of Shepherd's crew who don't fit this trope.
Pokémon is starting to suffer from this in the competitive metagame, the two most obvious examples being the Generation V dragons, Haxorus and Hydreigon. While Haxorus is a Lightning Bruiser with high Speed and an Attack three points shy of the very mightiest Olympus Mons and Hydreigon is a fast attacker with a good movepool and high Special Attack as well as Attack, both are considered outclassed at best and "crappy" at worst because they cannot compete with previously banned dragons such as Garchomp, Salamence, and Latios and Latias. Many other Pokémon similarly find themselves in low tiers not because they aren't awesome but because they aren't awesome enough.
Garchomp can induce this trope in freaking legendaries. And it was briefly banned in meta again for Gen V.
Black Kyurem is a strange example. It was shown to be this in Ubers, where Pokémon of its type usually reside. In fact, Kyurem-B was so weak that Smogon allowed it to be used in OU standard play... where it's actually one of the deadliest threats in the tier, although it has to be played rather unconventionally to achieve its full potential note it's a Dragon-type with extremely high Attack, but one of its most common sets uses one non-STAB physical attack and two special attacks, none of them Dragon-type.
Most of the early Bug-type Pokémon from Gens I and II in general are outclassed by more recent additions to the Pokémon roster when it comes to stats and movepools. Scyther/Scizor, Pinsir, and Heracross are probably the only Bug Pokémon from the earlier games recommended for competitive gaming.
On the moves' side of the spectrum, we have Wing Attack since Gen III. Gen III brought us Aerial Ace, which has the same base power as Wing Attack, wider distribution, every single Pokémon that learns Wing Attack can learn Aerial Ace, and finally, Aerial Ace has the nifty bonus effect of never missing.
Poor, poor Pidgeot. The iconic "first Pokemon caught," its career is a long, long stream of being hopelessly outclassed by other Normal/Flying types. Even back in Generation I, its Master of None stats left it outclassed by Fearow and Dodrio, which were faster, had higher Attack, and learned Drill Peck. Since then, nearly every generation has released at least one Normal/Flying type, and Pidgeot's competitors for a team slot now include Staraptor, Togekiss, Swellow, Braviary, Unfezant, and Chatot. And that's just Normal/Flying; players looking for a generic Flying-type are even more spoiled for choice.
From the early videos seen, it seems Mega Latias and Latios are going to be heading into this trope soon. They're not utterly terrible (at least not to some people), but their stats have been noted as lower than those of their non-evolved forms with Soul Dew, and actually using them means wasting a Mega slot which could have been used much better for Mega Mewtwo X or Y, Mega Gengar, Mega Kangaskhan or numerous other much better Mega Pokémon. Possibly subverted, in that Soul Dew has been traditionally banned in standard play (even by in-game rules), while the Lati twins' Mega Stones aren't filtered out.
Smogon has an entire page of Pokemons that are outclassed competitively
Demons in Demi Kids other than the main one (Rand or Gale) can't level up, so you have to catch and breed stronger monsters once in a while, then sacrifice the weak ones to level up your demon partner.
But then, in the Dark version, you can fuse demon to another demon for same demon, but stronger. Considering how easily abusable the game's tournament was(win a tournament for a demon, rinse and repeat, and fuse), and combine this with skill parts that gives Multi hitting spells this translate into a lower tier monster capable of being on same level or stronger than the main one.
Due to the way the class system worked, however, this could just as easily hit Felix's party as Isaac's. Because the developers only made new base classes for the second party, if you switched any Djinn around, Felix's party would wind up in classes designed for their counterpart in Isaac's. Piers was hit the hardest by this, as he was essentially a Fighter locked into Mage classes. Jenna and Sheba could perform decently in Garet and Ivan's classes, but were still often overshadowed by their respective counterparts. Only Felix, who was for all intents and purposes a clone of Isaac with only small differences in their base stats, offered a competitive alternative. And this was assuming the game's rather easily exploited transfer system didn't put Isaac's party twenty levels higher than Felix's.
Everyone in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness once you unlock the Majin class. It's nearly impossible to do so without any guidance but once they become available it becomes technically pointless to use any other class and even the story characters because it essentially picks the best traits of every class and slaps into a single character.
Final Fantasy Tactics has Orlandu, who has better stats, comes with the best equipment you can get outside of Deep Dungeon and has all the skills available to Holy Knights and Divine Knights, as well the boss-only Dark Knight. To exemplify, he's perfectly able to defeat most enemies in a single blow (and even more than one at once) in his default class and with his default equipment as soon as you recruit him. Which is done automatically after a story battle.
To further clarify on this, his class has some of the greatest stat modifiers in the game, which means the only character that doesn't get overshadowed is Ramza and Beowulf(due to good unique skill) and females due to better range of equipment. Of course, this is only if you're talking about maximized stats. On a normal basis literally nothing can compete with him and his effectiveness.
Orlandu overshadows nearly everyone, but no one is hit harder by this than Meliadoul, who joins later than Orlandu, and whose special moves are all in Orlandu's moveset. The biggest advantage to Meliadoul over Orlandu is that she can use female-specific equipment. At least Agrias, who is similarly outclassed, is available much earlier in the game, meaning she'll probably have learned a bunch of useful skills by the time Orlandu joins.
In the original Pikmin game, one of the red Pikmins' main traits is their powerful attack. In Pikmin 2, however, they are overshadowed by purple Pikmin, who have a much stronger attack stat and make reds useless for just about everything except taking out fire hazards.
The TIE Advanced/Avenger starfighter in TIE Fighter. This was based upon Darth Vader's personal TIE Fighter in A New Hope, being the first TIE starfighter to have shields and hyperdrive. But not long after its introduction, it immediately gets overshadowed by the TIE Defenderandthe Missile Boat. The latter two were so tough that were intentionally excluded from the next game X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, once again making the TIE Advanced the most powerful Imperial starfighter.
If Hawke however is a Warrior or Rogue instead, most of Carver's resentment appears to be due to Hawke being the superiour swordsman, but this is not explored fully because he dies in the prologue instead of Bethany.
According to Capcom Dimitri Maximov is the main character of the Darkstalkers series. Now, when you think of Darkstalkers, who comes to mind first. Yup. Poor Dimitri is pretty much doomed to be overshadowed in popularity by the like of Felicia and especially Morrigan.
Although the constant balance changes mean character tiers can change with startling regularity in League of Legends, the bikini-clad, boar-riding, morningstar-wielding barbarian princess Sejuani the Winter's Wrath has always been overshadowed by several other champions who do the same thing she does only better, such as Malphite, Leona, Maokai and especially Amumu. She's a mediocre jungler but has to jungle since she can't lane and is a poor tank but has to tank because she does no real damage. She has a fantastic ultimate, but several other champs have ones that are nearly as good (or even better depending on the situation) and while she's playable she's generally regarded as always being an inferior pick.
This actually applies to quite a few champions in LoL who may be good at what they do, but other champions are simply better at it, or do the same thing and more — see Brand, Viktor, Varus, Fiora, Trundle, Ziggs, Volibear etc...
In the Sega CD version of Lunar: The Silver Star, not only does The Hero, Alex, get every single MacGuffin and special ability, by the end of the game, all of his attributes (HP, defense, attack, magical power, and speed, and he can cast one of the healing spells) overpower everyone else in the party. Given the nature that individual abilities are spread out throughout the party (Mia wielding Black Magic, Nash with onlyThunder Magic, Kyle as a hard hitter, Jessica as the White Mage, and, in the remakes, Luna casting weak Standard Status Effects) while Alex has all of that rolled into one, in addition to superior skills such as a Holy Hand Grenade spell among others, this is pretty poorly spread. In the remakes, this is toned down somewhat.
In the sequel, Lunar: Eternal Blue, this is thankfully averted. Hiro still has some edge, but everyone else's status and skills are much more spread out and on par with one another.
Alex is the Dragonmaster of his era and always had the potential to become it, which is what made him a one man army pretty much (Dragon masters could draw on all aspects of the dragons, which included all types of magic). Hiro is not nor is he ever named as such, even when they start freeing dragons. He's just an adventurer who wanted to help and was in the right place at the right time. Lucia's awakening made a dragonmaster unnecessary, since she carries the power of the dragons now.
In any of the Neptunia games, the human characters in any other medium would have been a powerful class on their own. Problem is, they're working with CPU goddesses. This is also brought up in Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 where IF is the only one who's bothered by this and thus trains in secret.
In SD Gundam Capsule Fighter, it's not uncommon to see lower ranks overshadowed by the higher-ups, especially in PVP. This is especially true for the A-Ranks, who are overshadowed by the stronger S-Ranks, despite A-Ranks giving opponents less of an point advantage and having full HP with their lives.
Valkyria Chronicles tries and ultimately fails to avert this trope through Gameplay and Story Segregation: there's a lot of hype about Alicia and how, because everyone is equally important and the power of teamwork will always be superior to individual excellence, Squad 7 doesn't have to depend on her alone. Problem is, Alicia is a Game Breaker almost from the beginning, and she can complete several stages by herself. The rest of the main cast's only function is to give the player more moves per turn so that Alicia has enough movement to wipe the stage clean in one or two rounds.
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team has the Luiginary Stack Bros. Attack. Does lots of damage to one target, fairly easy to use and gotten quite early... but then completely outclassed by Luiginary Hammer in just about two "dungeons" time and then made utterly worthless when Luiginary Wall and Luiginary Typhoon are introduced. Luiginary Ball too, which goes from being fairly useful to then completely useless in about a single "dungeon".
Similarly, the Fire Flower for real world battling. Damages multiple targets, can burn enemies weak to fire and would theoretically be useful in any other game... but completely outclassed by every other Bros. Attack you get. Heck, even its "multiple enemies hit" advantage goes away the minute you get the (ridiculously powerful) Zee Egg attack in the endgame.
Much of the gear too, especially anything you get for beating the Mad Skillathon or Battle Broque Madame challenges. Why? Because there's always a piece of gear that's just plain better which you can either get from a shop, expert challenges or enemy drops. This is especially true of the Flame Hammer, which has a DX version you can just pick up out of a treasure chest with double the power, making the "difficult bonus challenge" reward absolutely useless. Same with some badges, since the best ones are so overpowered that anything else just seems kind of pathetic by comparison (like the Mush Badge's healing effects against the Miracle Badge's Reality Warper ones).
Raptor: Call of the Shadows has the Deathray weapon. It is a very strong weapon, being able to fire out a powerful Wave Motion Gun that fries most Mooks, it's just that there's a weapon called the Twin Laser which fires out two of them, and only one of these primary weapons can be equipped.
In Maji De Watashi Ni Koi Shinasai this happens to pretty much all the male leads. Gakuto in particular is shown to be able to hold off 70 people attacking him at once with a broken leg, but is hopelessly outclassed against almost all the characters. It also happens to some of the female characters, like Fushikawa or, tragically, Kazuko Kawakami.
Majikoi is incredibly bad about this, to the point where nearly every character save for a select few is completely overshadowed by the main female lead Momoyo by a wide margin. To put this into perspective, all of the women on the main team are stronger than the men, but all of them save for one are significantly weaker than Momoyo.
Alex Hawke of Terra is a military-trained Action Girl and is thus a competent markswoman and hand-to-hand fighter. And she's paired with Grey O'Shea, a former special forces sniper, and Agrippa Varus, a seven-foot-tall Proud Warrior Race Guy and One-Man Army who's been described by commenters as an "alien space ninja". Oh, and Agrippa's training Grey, so...
In The Order of the Stick this occasionally happens when Vaarsuvius or, less frequently, Durkon, show what a 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons wizard or cleric is really capable of. At one point Malack (another cleric) Durkon and Vaarsuvius have a discussion about dealing with other people's "Tier envy". Elan on the other hand, knows how to cope.
Elan: I don't know why everyone complains about being overshadowed in combat. I always found it very relaxing.
In The Intercontinental Union of Disgusting Characters and its sequels, Ringman would by most rights be considered a very powerful character: a 9th level AD&D paladin with 18/92 Strength, + 5 plate mail, and an intelligent + 5 holy avenger at his disposal. However, he pales to insignificance next to the overly-muchnkinned-out characters who're the stars in that universe, one of whom eventually gets a literal + infinity sword.
In Homestuck, Dave Strider and his Bro get into a swordfight. Dave is awesome, but Bro is Crazy Awesome, starting off by beating Dave up with a marionette.
This is, however, part of Bro's Training from Hell. He knows Dave would always try to beat him, so he makes sure that while Dave can't beat him, he could beat anyone else. Then Bro dies and Dave becomes the arguably most powerful protagonist... only for John to go God Tier. Ouch.
Cale of Looking for Group is actually an aversion: He starts out overshadowed by everyone, but once he takes a level in badass, he's much better. Krunch, the one who is introduced by tackling a dragon, is one of a pair of brothers, a scholar and a warrior. They both think it's hilarious that anyone could ever mistake him for the warrior.
ThisDarken strip sums it up. Ones a rogue who hunts down giant abominations for fun, the others a worshiper of Mephistopheles and the last remaining member of the city guard of the Drow's second most important city. But when they're on the same side as a half-dragon high priestess and a disciple of the devil bearing one of the most powerful artefacts in the world?
In Orion's Arm, terragen civilization flourishes as it never has during the interplanetary age. Travel from one end of the solar system to the other is now possible. A resource based economy means undreamed of free time and availability of goods. Advances in genetic engineering, cybernetics, and other fields give rise to human-animal splices, animal-derived provolves, and the sapient robots known as vecs. As sophonts everywhere celebrate their newfound prosperity, diversity, unity, and technological mastery, the jubilant spell is rudely interrupted by the revelation of a covert war which has been taking place for some time: Superintelligent agents, called transapients, have been manipulating the world behind the scenes with supreme finesse for decades. As their numbers gradually increased, they formed into various opposing factions, divided by their respective ideological differences. A fierce power struggle develops between those who are friendly to humanity (and other lesser terragens), and those who are not. After much strife, the "pro-humans" are the victors. The survivors of the other factions, the hostile "anti-humans" and indifferent or isolationist "ahumans", depart for the stars in craft fashioned and propelled by technologies far in advance of anything known to the ordinary terragens of the day. Baseline society had been completely unaware of the conflict up until this point, and were dumbfounded by how small and inconsequential they seemed in comparison to the transapients, who now step up to take a leading role in terragen civilization.
The first comic of Yu Gi Oh Card Game Gusto Fan Comic shows Caam in a Corner of Woe because her fellow clan members have awesome Synchro-Monster forms: Daigusto Eguls (Windaar), Daigusto Gulldos (Wynnda) and Daigusto Sphreeze (Reeze)
Aquerna possesses the spirit of the squirrel. She can do a 25-foot standing broad jump. She's far stronger and quicker than any normal human her size. She has super-senses. She can talk to and command squirrels. And she's regarded as one of the biggest losers on campus.
For that matter, Phase is a good example. Phase has pounded Matterhorn, fought an interdimensional demon to a standstill, one-punched Fantastico, and still thinks of himself as being in the bottom half of his team. He's probably right, given who's on his team.
Gwen from Ben 10 is massively overshadowed by the Omnitrix on Ben's wrist. The writers apparently caught on to this, giving her magical powers and an interest in martial arts so that she didn't end up being completely useless. By the time Ben 10: Alien Force rolled around, her magical powers made her a far more valuable member of the new team.
Casey Jones from the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series straddles the line between Badass Normal and Overshadowed by Awesome depending on the situation. Being an important friend and ally to the Turtles, Casey Jones kicks all sorts of ass when he and his buddies are leaping from roof to roof, beating up Purple Dragons, Foot Soldiers, and your average Mooks. But when it comes down to battling against more powerful enemies such as Karai, Agent Bishop, the Rat King, General Khan, and the Shredder, it's made painfully clear that Casey isn't really in the same league as the Turtles and the bigger, nastier villains. Usually, he gets taken out quite early on while the Turtles are able to battle the Giant Mooks, Dragons, and Big Bads on more even terms.
The 2012 series addresses this in Newtralized! where Casey can handle the Kraang droids just fine but struggles against Slash and the Newtralizer to the point where Raph orders him to stay out of things. Somewhat justified as Casey is a human teenager going up against incredibly strong mutants who can toss him around like a ragdoll. Casey managed to prove himself in the end by using his slapshot skills to launch explosives at a mecha piloted by the Newtralizer, including getting one explosive into a very small hole to blow the whole thing up without getting physically involved in the fight.
Sokka was frequently overshadowed by the other main characters due to not having any bending powers — particularly during Book One. (Toph, being Toph, once excluded Sokka when considering the number of combatants, much to his annoyance.) Becomes subverted in later seasons, as not only does he become a more competent fighter — especially during Book Three — but he proves to be a much more capable strategist and tactician than all his friends combined, making him a crucial member by this point. Halfway through Book Three, he even uses his knowledge of physics to great effect and ends up causing the death of a major antagonist — with a boomerang!
Zuko is this within his own family. His sister Azula is a firebending prodigy who uses awesome blue fire and lightning, but he's not nearly as talented. This, among other reasons, is why he's The Unfavourite. But the one thing he has that his sister doesn't is sanity, and that eventually results in him learning to redirect lightning and become Fire Lord while his sis has a major Sanity Slippage so badly her skills grow sloppy and she gets put in a loony bin.
Katara also suffered a bit of this in the first book, being consistently outdone by Aang (who was basically new to the concept of waterbending, while Katara has been practicing for years). It motivated her to get better and was the plotpoint for a number of episodes, before she Took a Level in Badass at the end of Book One, mastering waterbending incredibly quickly once she got a teacher, surpassing even Aang and later becoming his teacher when she found herself a competent master.
Fry, Futurama's initial main character, has fallen victim to this as Badass Normal Leela and Do-Anything Robot Bender outclass him in practical means, and all the other employees (save for Amy, herself a minor character) have their own individual talents and professions whereas Fry... doesn't. His relationship with Leela, designated Chew Toy status (which is already shared by the more idiosyncratic Zoidberg) and hedonistic tendencies (again, already shared by a more dynamic character: Bender) leading him to Crazy Awesomesituations that any of the characters can (and do) partake in are the only things giving him screen time. However, Fry was slowly growing out of this role... emphasis on slowly.
The backstory of the series, told in the opening minutes of the first episode, is all about this trope. Equestria was ruled by two alicorn princesses: Celestia (who raised the sun each morning to create the day) and Luna (who raised the moon each night). Over time, Luna came to feel overshadowed by her sister, resenting the fact that ponies were active during the day and "shunned" her night, sleeping through it. Eventually, Luna transformed into the malevolent Nightmare Moon and attempted to overthrow Celestia, with the goal of banishing daytime entirely and creating eternal night.
In "Green Isn't Your Color," Fluttershy hesitantly agrees to model Rarity's dresses during a photo session with the famous fashion photographer Photo Finish. Rarity hopes that Photo Finish will want to promote her designs and her business, but Photo Finish fixates on Fluttershy instead, choosing to make the entire session all about her. In the days that follow, Photo Finish's promotion of Fluttershy turns her into a popular supermodel, while Rarity is forgotten. This makes both ponies miserable: Fluttershy hates being the center of attention, and Rarity is ashamed of how envious she feels.
Trixie's traveling magic show has wowed audiences elsewhere, but in "Boast Busters" she has trouble impressing anypony in Ponyville (home to Twilight Sparkle, the most powerful unicorn in Equestria). Trixie's desperate self-promotion includes the (untrue) claim that she has defeated an Ursa Major, which backfires when two young colts lure one (actually an Ursa Minor) into town so they can see her do it again. Trixie is forced to admit that she can't perform as advertised, and Twilight has to step in and solve the problem, humiliating Trixie even further.
Applejack is hit with this rather hard. Being an earth pony, she doesn't have the flight of a pegasus, nor does she have the magic of a unicorn, yet even her fellow earth pony Pinkie Pie has Toon Physics and Pinkie Sense at her beck and call. This is compounded in that even her own family tends to overshadow her in terms of characterization and abilities. Her practical and reserved personality makes her a good foil for others, but not a very interesting lead character. To a lesser extent, Fluttershy and Rarity are fairly average in terms of flight and magic power, but they're overshadowed by the likes of Rainbow Dash, a superb athlete, and Twilight Sparkle, who has prodigious magic skill. However, they make up for it with other talents.
One can argue nearly every pony is overshadowed to some degree as a result of Twilight Sparkle's ever increasing Super Power Lottery. Even Rainbow Dash, a Super Speed enhanced flier and Cute Bruiser who lays claim to the Sonic Rainboom, looks underwhelmed by Twilight, who can teleport at whim, lift or paralyse subjects or objects of large form without a sweat, and now also has the ability to fly following her ascension to princess. It is probably for this reason that all actionized two parters feature Twilight as the main hero, with the other demoted to assistants or bystanders.
The show itself overshadows every other show on The Hub, to varying degrees. Most people wouldn't be able to name any other shows on the network aside from reruns of already-popular cartoons like Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures. Dan Vs. has a decent following, but other than that, the Hub is basically "that channel with the ponies".
This trope gets brought up again in "For Whom The Sweetie Belle Toils," where Sweetie Belle reveals she's felt like this toward Rarity for a long time. It reaches its peak when Sweetie Belle writes, directs, and stars in a play that she performs for her friends, but nobody in the audience cares about it beyond the wardrobe that Rarity contributed. Sweetie Belle even briefly bonds with Luna about how it feels to be in your sister's shadow.
This is inverted in Beavis and Butt-Head. In any other show ButtHead would be the dumbest character, but Beavis somehow manages to etch him out.
In the Gargoyles universe, Brooklyn proved to be this for most of the series. Despite being characterized as the coolest of the young clan, Brooklyn's efforts resulted in him being second in most cases. He doesn't have the book smarts of Lexington or the strength of Broadway. Not to mention the females he fell in love with during the show, choose someone else over him. Maggie chose Derek/Talon because of him being a mutated human like her, and Angela choose Broadway because he's a Gentle Giant. He finally gets his shine in the end, after Goliath chose him as his successor for being the most level headed of the young clan.
Rufus and Amberley of The Dreamstone shown occasional Badass Normal qualities, however their strengths were completely eclipsed by both the Wuts and the Dream Maker's near unlimited magical powers (the nearest to the two having a distinctive ability was Rufus' sword, which was used only a couple of brief occasions in Season One and disappeared altogether afterwards). Frequent episodes would involve the Noops trying to stop the Urpneys and get overpowered or captured for the sake of plot suspense, until their peers took over and handily finished the job for them (to the point it came into question why they didn't just do it in the first place). The Noops also suffered characterization wise, since many episodes favored a Villain Protagonist dynamic with the more colorful and slapstick-prone Urpneys, with the heroes lucky to even get a side plot to themselves. The final episodes tried to give Rufus and Amberley more central spotlight, but even then the Urpneys' antics heavily padded stories.
In The Simpsons episode "Brother From The Same Planet" from season 4, for show and tell, Bart gets a cool if not completely dangerous weapon called a neural disrupter from his Bigger Brother, Tom, who's an F-14 pilot with the US Navy. What does Milhouse have as a follow-up to this crazy awesomeness? A small, plastic toy horse.
Milhouse: Uh, I have a horsie. *feeble fake neighing*
One episode of Doug has the title character placed into a talent show. He attempts to perform with a ventriloquist act, only for Chalkie] to come on first with two puppets. Doug is rightfully mortified (though some improvisation by Skeeter manages to make his performance stand out).
Done almost identically in an episode of South Park. Mr Garrison apparently held a life long grudge towards Kathy Lee Gifford over a school talent show, following up his comedy skit with Mr Hat with a huge song and dance number, at one point similarly performing with two puppets at once.
This happened to most of the Jackson family (The Jackson 5/The Jacksons) once Michael Jackson became a solo act, and from there a megastar with Thriller. Sister Janet subsequently becoming a big star in her own right served to further overshadow the other siblings.
George Harrison of The Beatles, who was overshadowed by the Lennon-McCartney songwriting powerhouse for most of the band's existence. Learning from and competing with them drove him to become a formidable songwriter in his own right, and his ballad "Something" became one of the most covered songs in the Beatles catalogue. Infamously, Frank Sinatra called it "the best love song written in the past 50 years"… and then promptly attributed it to Lennon and McCartney. Also to his credit his song 'Here Comes the Sun' is the most listened to Beatles song on YouTube (only being beaten in views by a small child trying to sing 'Hey Jude').
Simon Nicol is a skilled guitarist, excellent singer and not bad as a songwriter. Unfortunately, he had the misfortune to be in Fairport Convention in the era featuring the awe-inspiring guitarist/songwriter Richard Thompson, as well as the chillingly talented singer/songwriter Sandy Denny.
Marc Coppola is a nationally-syndicated DJ, whose uncle and cousin are Oscar-winning directors, his brother is an Oscar-winning actor, his late grandfather an Oscar-winning film scorer, and several other relatives are high profile actors and musicians. Once in an interview, Howard Stern remarked "in any other family, you'd be top of the heap, but in the Coppolas, you're kind of the nobody."
On a similar note to Coppola, there's John Michael Attenborough who has two brothers. Richard, an actor known for a few big films, and David who's perhaps the most famous nature presenter in the world. At least John's got something going for him as an executive of Alfa Romeo.
The Thespians at Thermopylae were overshadowed by the awesomeness of the Spartans and are not remembered enough. And considering that the thing they died for was at least partly that it would be remembered that Thespians had been as brave as Spartans it rather behooves us to remember.
Not to mention the Thebans.
Be honest with yourself, how many of you out there have suffered this? No matter how good you at are something, there is always that one person you run into that makes all your hard earned effort look like an amateur's work in compared to their own skills. Can be worse when you for the first time sign up for some club or class to specifically train yourself the area of your interest, but you're surrounded by people who have been there for years. So you're surrounded by a whole group of people that can be perceived better than you.
Especially when you've come from somewhere where you were one of a few with an interest in this something, e.g. a wannabe writer/musician/football player/etc, you go to a college, and you suddenly discover you are about average (or worse, bad) compared to everyone else.
Or how about being a B average student with a straight A for sibling?
Happened hundreds, if not thousands, of times across history. Scientists/Artists of all kinds/Politicians/etc... who would have been genius if a bigger one hadn't been born at the same time. Sometimes History does them justice and remembers them better than they were at the time (in which they were overshadowed), and sometimes they remain overshadowed for eternity...
Antonio Salieri and Luigi Boccherini are both excellent Classical composers, and well worth listening to. However, since they were contemporary and con-locational with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn, they pretty much faded into obscurity.
Salieri was a gifted composer, but Mozart was a rock star — wild and temperamental. Salieri composed with an ear for what was in-demand at court, in order to earn his pay and support his teaching. In the rare circulating piece where Salieri's playful side shows (26 Variations on La Folia de Spagna comes to mind), it becomes apparent that Mozart may have taken a couple of cues from him. In truth, Salieri should be remembered as a great teacher: his list of pupils reads like a short Who's Who of Classical Composition. Schubert, Liszt, and Beethoven all learned from the Maestro. But he's still overshadowed by Mozart...
How many people are even aware that Leopold Mozart (father of Wolfgang) was a fairly respected composer in his own right?
Or Joseph Haydn's brother Michael, who was also a prolific composer? (Organist at Saltzburg Cathedral.)
The vast majority of scientific breakthroughs build on the work of dozens, if not even hundreds, of other scientists (contemporary and past.) However, often only one person gets the limelight. A perfect example of this would be Albert Einstein. While his contribution to science has undoubtedly been absolutely invaluable, few people in the general population know that he didn't do all the work himself. If you ask the average person who, for example, Hendrik Lorentz (who worked out most of the special relativity equations that Einstein used) was, most people will give you a blank stare. Einstein himself, however, has entered popular culture as The archetypal scientist (although, to be fair, not entirely without merit.)
The rabbit hole gets even deeper than that. Out of the bands that weren't MBV, there were a slew of shoegazing bands that had moderate fanbases that even eclipsed some of the even more obscure bands of the genre. This resulted in a rare case of being doubly Overshadowed By Awesome. Some of these bands included Majesty Crush, Lilys, Telescopes, the Pale Saints, and most notably, Kitchens of Distinction. The later of the bands had heavy critical acclaim and have had a heavy influence on much music throughout the nineties but have been mostly forgotten by the masses.
This happens with modern bands as well, with even many early "Nu-Gaze" bands getting compared to My Vitriol. However, after that band became Reclusive Artist, MBV became the focus again.
Many chess experts consider Anatoly Karpov to be the second-greatest grandmaster ever to play the game. Guess who he's mainly remembered for spending his career as foil to.
And that guy in turn is remembered largely for being a foil for Deep Blue!
Most adaptations of Alan Moore films: they're actually pretty good films, if you look at them as separate from the comics they come from. But because they're compared to the comics they (very loosely) adapt, they're completely trashed because Alan Moore's comics are fuckingBRILLIANT.
John F. Kennedy once addressed a dinner of Nobel Prize winners at the White House: "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
Robert Kennedy of the three famous brothers, but really the entire Kennedy family was overshadowed by John.
Who himself was overshadowed by his eldest brother Joseph up until Joseph's death in WWII.
Try being Ted Kennedy. Youngest, not the brightest or best at school, chubby as a kid, and ascended to 'head of the family' only after all three of his older brothers died premature deaths. Even the television miniseries simply pretends he doesn't exist, having Rose (their mother) say how the "older boys" (Joe Jr. and Jack) were Joe's, but Robert was all hers. So Ted was the nanny's?
That said, Ted Kennedy did go on to carve his own niche of prominence within the family, becoming a Senator and serving as an elder statesman of Congress until his death. His star might have risen further than that, however, had it not been for the scandal that ruined his chances at such.
The name Phedon Papamichael might not mean much to people outside the film circle but he's made a respectable career as a cinematographer (being the regular cinematographer for Alexander Payne and James Mangold). However, his proteges JanuszKaminski, Mauro Fiore and WallyPfister have all managed to surpass him in recognition and acclaim (all three have won Oscars for their work, Papamichael has never been nominated). Also overshadowed by awesome in terms of family: his uncle was famous indie director John Cassavetes.
This is one argument made about the quality of The Godfather Part III. The first two films are absolute masterpieces. As a result, some people think that Part III isn't a bad film, as others argue, but is a good film overshadowed by its great predecessors.
Poor Nick Jonas. By most reasonable standards, he was quite good at the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables as Marius. Unfortunately for him, he was standing next to the likes of Alfie Boe and Ramin Karimloo, and he paled in comparison.
Ditto Samantha Barks as Eponine, who was good enough to be cast in the film version over dozens of big-name actresses, but who has the misfortune of being compared to legendary names like Lea Salonga and Frances Ruffelle and will therefore always come in third-rate no matter how good she is. (However, her situation is made quite a bit better by the fact that the aforementioned legendary names were cheering her casting like it was going out of style.)
Alexander the Great and Charlemagne. Their fathers would have easily been called "Great", if not for the sons.
Eratosthenes was called 'Beta' by his contemporaries for being second best at everything (beta is the second letter of the greek alphabet). This title is somewhat unearned, however, as he was (amongst other things) the first man to determine the circumference of the Earth, with an error margin that we can now recognize as being less than 2%. For more modern society, Eratosthenes is lost amidst more well known scholars of the time such as Plato, Socrates, and Pythagoras.
It is of course worth noting that his name didn't mean 'he was second best at the things he was good at'. It meant he was second best at EVERYTHING, excellent in every field, albeit not at the top, which is still a good position to be in.
Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson, to name only two of the many talented Elizabethan/Jacobean playwrights who weren't William Shakespeare. Which is funny, because for a long time it was the other way round and only really changed in the Victorian era.
This kinda happened to Charles IX of Sweden, the youngest son of Gustav Vasa I (Father of the Nation) and the father of Gustavus Adoluphus (founder of the Swedish Empire). Living between these two has made Charles IX a rather overlooked king, which's sad considering that he was a cunning and competent king that won the bitter power struggle the sons of Gustav Vasa fought after their father's death; a power struggle that killed Charles' older brothers Eric XIV and John III, and which Charles' nephew Sigismund barely survived.
This also happened to the English/British Royal family as for most people who either don't study the subject or are foreign, there are pretty much only four members who ever lived: Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Victoria I and Elizabeth II. Some might also recall William the Conqueror and Richard the Lionhearted, and theater lovers might recall the ones who appeared in Shakespeare's historical plays. Bearing in mind that love it or hate it this is one of the most influential countries in modern history it seems sad that the achievements of all the other great kings and queens are often entirely forgotten.
Genghis Khan is a name everyone knows. Not many people know the names of his sons (Ogedei, Chagatai, Tolui and Jochi if you're interested), even though the Mongol Empire continued to expand under their leadership.
Jaguar XJ220 is a 1992 supercar capable of going 213 mph or 343 km/h, it could go from 0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds, and it was crowned the fastest production car in the world. What happened? Just a few months later, McLaren F1 came out, stealing the title of fastest production car from the Jaguar and keeping that title for 12 YEARS until the Veyron came out, and to say it stole is dramatically and left it's buyers feeling hollow and ripped off would be an understatement — it could go 0-100 in 3.2 seconds, with a max speed of 386 km/h with a rev limiter, and 391 without it, and that's not all — it's fully capable of pulling a seventh gear, which means it could go even faster by just adding a seventh gear — possibly as fast as the first Veyron.
This is often considered to be one of the reasons why After Earth bombed both critically and commercially as whilst Jayden Smith is in no way as bad of an actor as his detractors like to make out he is (receiving significant praise for his role in The Karate Kid remake) he was absolutely overshadowed by his father Will Smith's abilities despite the latter being little more than a voice on the radio throughout a good portion of the running time. Bless him; if the fact that Will has decades more acting experience didn't defeat him, the fact that those who grew up in the nineties watching the likes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Men In Black tend to consider him the King of Cool certainly did.