Path of Most Resistance

"You know, normally, following a trail of bodies covered in blood is a sign you're going the wrong way. Follow the dead body road, follow the dead body road..."
Gordon Freeman, Freemans Mind

When a video game presents you with multiple paths or options, you should always take the most difficult looking one. Don't know where to go? Look for the door with the most Spikes of Doom near it. Need a Pokémon that can actually hurt something? Start leveling your Magikarp. Want the super powerful, glowing Infinity+1 Sword? It'll be at the bottom of a three thousand floor Bonus Dungeon, guarded by the Bonus Boss that takes three hours to kill. In the video game world, doing it the hard way is the only way to get the best rewards.

Often a cause of Useless Useful Stealth. See Short Cuts Make Long Delays for when the game actively punishes you for doing it the easy way, and Ridiculously Difficult Route for when the most difficult route is instead taken because there is no other choice. Related to Sidetrack Bonus. Experience Points can be one reason to do this; the more hard stuff you do, the quicker you'll level up.

(If the game allows it, or if you intrepidly convince it to, usually the best thing is to take both paths via backtracking.)

Compare and contrast Earn Your Fun. Contrast Beef Gate, where the path you're not supposed to take yet is intentionally ridden with too difficult enemies.

Inverting this trope can sometimes lead to Earn Your Bad Ending.


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     Action Adventure 
  • In plenty of The Legend of Zelda games, the door that's easy to get to will be locked. The hard thing to get to will be the Interchangeable Antimatter Key.
  • La-Mulana is made of this. The hard path will have pitfalls, deadly foes, and lasers. The easy path will have inescapable deadly spikes or just trap you forever.
  • In Bastion, you can invoke a whole pantheon of gods. Every god provides an your enemies. On the other hand, invoking all ten nearly doubles your rewards.
  • In Blaster Master, the longest path is always the correct path, no exceptions.

     Action Game 
  • Shinobi 3 has a level near the end in which taking the wrong door sends you back to the start of the level. As you can guess, all the safe looking ones just send you back, while the ones that actually take you closer to the end have all kinds of death traps, jumping puzzles, and ninjas in front of them.
  • Averted in Custom Robo Arena. You need to climb a mountain to meet an Old Master who will teach you an Awesome but Impractical skill needed to progress the story and are presented with 3 opponents, labeled easy, medium and hard. Given you are being tested, you'd expect you have to choose the "hard" foe to proceed. Regardless of you choice, the game moves on and all difficulties are as described. One interesting thing of note is the "hard" foe will have mixed words, telling you many people like you have died on battlefields, while also telling you the expected bravery stuff.

     Adventure Game 
  • In Sabres Of Infinity, taking the riskiest, most dangerous paths (such as taking command of the boarding party, instead of just participating or sitting it out), require high stat checks and can backfire badly if you fail, but they also offer the best opportunities to win medals and boost your reputation.

     Fighting Game 
  • In Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, the Story Mode has story junctions called "Ultimate Decisions", which branch the story into "Legend" and "Hero" modes. As a rule, the "Legend" paths are generally harder but net greater rewards and more satisfying story scenes. For example, during the fight with the Kyuubi, Naruto can choose via Ultimate Decision to either go it alone ("Legend") or have Killer Bee/Hachibi assist ("Hero"). Choosing "Legend" means a harder fight but better rewards, while choosing "Hero" has the Kyuubi mock Naruto for accepting outside assistance in what is essentially a Battle in the Center of the Mind.

     First Person Shooter 
  • In Deus Ex you do not receive experience for killing, just for getting further in the game via any of the alternative routes. There is nothing stopping you from visiting all the alternative routes to the same target and cashing the reward for all of them though.
    • Example: In Hell's Kitchen for the first time, your objective is to just find an NSF base and infiltrate. First of all, there's like a half-dozen ways in. Double-backing and going through multiple entrances can get you items and extra experience, but that's not all. 'I know we're all in a hurry here, J.C., but my buddy has been kidnapped.' 'Have you seen my daughter? She's around here somewhere.' 'I think that guy at the bar is a spy for the other side, J.C.' All of which nets you extra experience during a 'time-sensitive' mission to shut down the NSF's operations.
    • Deus Ex: Human Revolution continues the tradition with the "Ghost" experience bonus for completing objectives without alerting or touching enemies. It is often bigger than the amount of exp you get for hunting down all the enemies.
  • Deus Ex was, however, making a noble effort to avert the general RPG tendency to primarily reward fighting, and fighting harder foes more. That convention, in turn, gives all PCs a solid push to become Blood Knights - combat with the biggest of badasses really is the only way to improve, and using perfectly reasonable means to avoid it really does make you weaker.

     Hack and Slash 
  • In the eighth installment of Dynasty Warriors, completing a Hypothetical objective to save a character from Plotline Death is usually impossible when playing as that character. You have to choose someone else and head things off the hard way.

     Miscellaneous Games 
  • The Glider PRO manual suggested that users of the Level Editor should strive to create the "Ultimate Room," which would have three possible ways for the player to cross it:
    One way is fairly obvious and simple, but there are no prizes to be had going this route.
    The second way is a bit tougher, but there is a clock you could get going that route.
    The third way is almost inconceivable, but you have placed an invisible 5000 point down there and an Extra Glider to boot.

     Platform Game 
  • Cave Story. You get the chance to get an upgrade of your single-shot, puny gun two times in the game. If you refuse both times you can later get a super gun which can deal upwards of 100 damage in one shot. Similarly, if you skip getting the jetpack 0.8, you get the 2.0 version later on.
    • It’s not entirely obvious during the booster scene that there even is another way to do things. The only real clue is an obscure hint in one character's diary that is called out with mysterious music. Or a FAQ.
    • In another example, the gap that lets you skip getting the Booster is juuuust not wide enough by pixels… unless you noticed the red bar, left by the creator of the game, showing you what pixel you need to jump from in order to cleanly make it across to the next room.
  • Sonic Colors challenges the player to follow hard routes which lets them finish the levels faster as opposed to the safer routes, and maybe earn an S-rank as a result. One notable example is Planet Wisp Act 3 where you have to know exactly when to jump and then double jump to avoid the Egg Chasers shooting lasers at you and when to boost to smash the Egg Pawns on the path and prey you don't fall down to the road below before you grab the Cyan Wisp on the upper road, then attempt to stay on the road all the way to the end so you can boost up the ramp at the end and grab the Red Ring in the air. If pulled off correctly you'll be able to use the Cyan Wisp on the prisms ahead when you land to rack up an enormous Color Bonus.
    • A general rule in Sonic games is that the highest route is the most difficult, but has the best power-ups, and is often the fastest route except for glitches.
  • Braid does this in one level, which has one key and two locked exit doors; one of the doors breaks the key but does not open, forcing you to restart the level. The correct door is much harder to get to than the other one, which was apparently meant as a clue for the Genre Savvy (some prefer to call it a "dick move.")

     Role Playing Game 
  • In the first gym of Pokemon Red And Blue, you can choose to either go through the easy way and avoid the trainer that guards Brock, or you can go through the hard way and fight the trainers and thus, be rewarded more so in the end by leveling up your 'Mons.
    • In that case, a similar argument can be made for Blaine's gym, in which you can answer a multiple-choice question to open the door to the next room — getting it wrong will force you to fight the nearby trainer, but you could just fight the trainer in the first place for the EXP.
      • Or you could solve the puzzle and then talk to the trainers to battle them anyway.
      • This was brought back in the Lumiose City Gym in Pokémon X and Y, but you fight the trainer marked with the answers rather than just selecting the answer. You can't challenge the other two trainers if you guess correctly, though.
    • In Sabrina's gym with the teleporters, if you go to the first teleporter and, from there, only use the teleporter directly above or below you, you will eventually make it to the gym leader. The trainers are in the middle of the room, so you won't trigger a fight unless you cross the room horizontally.
      • This is actually commented upon in the fourth generation; in Roark's (oddly similar to Brock's) gym the trainers praise you for taking the hard way, while in Fantina's gym, (where the right door is marked by a simple math problem, and you have an in-game calculator) a trainer guesses that you probably chose the wrong door deliberately to fight them.
    • This is a common element all throughout the Pokemon world. Most routes will have a number of trainers (or patches of grass) to avoid, and only a handful you have to pas through, but battling trainers and pokemon is good EXP. In addition, patches of grass might lead to useful items, while battling trainers might introduce a shorter route for backtracking later on in the game, and also give money.
      • Veteran players will, in fact, recommend fighting every trainer in the game. Done properly you should never have to worry about being under-leveled or short on cash.
  • Taking the back-door of the National Archives in Fallout 3 nets you much more loot (things you can sell to the person who gave you the mission, weaponry, ammo, other stuff), but is heavily infested with special super mutants.
  • Dungeon Siege 2, like the original, is a fairly linear game where all quests are lined up along a single road that runs from the beginning to the end of the game (with the occasional teleporter to transfer you to a different area, where the "road" continues). However, if you're looking for the really good rewards, especially the side-quests, you need to veer off the road whenever possible. Fortunately, detours are always either cul-de-sac (with loot at the end) or come back to the road not far from where you left off. Going straight all the time will normally cause you to end up with inferior equipment or experience level, unless you spend a lot of time running up and down the road many times to defeat the same enemies over and over again.
  • There are a few times you can avert combat in Dragon Age: Origins with the right dialogue options and high enough Coercion. You can avoid fighting the Bonus Boss Ser Cauthrien this way twice. Avoiding the fight deprives you of both exp and the Summer Sword, a powerful unique Greatsword with knockback.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey: From the character standpoint, the Neutral path is the hardest one - you turn your back on both the angels and the demons, siding with humanity alone. This means that you have to fight for all four Cosmic Eggs (whereas Law or Chaos means at least one will fall into your hands without resistance), as well as kill both Jiminez and Zelenin. However, this is the only path where humanity does not suffer the control of outside powers and is free to choose its own destiny. From the player's standpoint, on the other hand, the Law path feels this way, since you must fight both Gore and Mem Aleph, two of the hardest bosses in the game.
  • In ''DragonBallZ Gokuu Gekitouden, the only way to get the "true" ending (the one where Goku goes Super Saiyan and finishes Frieza in a secret ultimate optional final boss fight instead of the game ending when Goku drops the Spirit Bomb on Frieza) is to have everyone at around the power levels they were in the anime when you fight Frieza. This means fighting Frieza, at least up until Goku shows up, is EXTREMELY painful.
  • Happens in Fire Emblem. Many players will, when presented with a level objective that isn't to route the enemy, decide to kill them all anyway. This means killing every enemy before engaging the boss, or capturing the base, or even treating survival chapters as time limits to how fast they need to kill every unit. This is harder, but it gives you greater experience, which will eventually make the rest of the game easier.
    • One example in Fire Emblem Awakening has you deciding between which of two mercenary groups to side with to take the other one down. You could, however, opt to fight both of them, and though Chrom clearly thinks you're ridiculous for deciding so, this way allows access to all 4 villages and all the experience of killing every enemy.
  • Final Fantasy VII has the final dungeon, where the party splits up at one point when you reach a fork in the road. You have to decide which party goes where, though after you do so there is nothing stopping you from backtracking and checking both paths out.

     Simulation Game 
  • One mission of Ace Combat 5 has your squadron escorting a small convoy on the ground that has to reach an air base at a certain time. They come to several forks and each time you have to decide whether to take the short way or the long way. Always going the long way makes you fail the mission by being late, but the short way always has more enemies. Nothing a big bomb or two can't sort out, though.
    • Ace Combat: Joint Assault plays with this. One mission has you flying an unarmed 747 through a ravine, which splits up at one point. The longer, apparently safe route has proximity-triggered mines and flak guns. The shorter path, on the other hand, has you dealing with missiles. In a 747 in a ravine. This fact cannot be emphasised enough. Either way, you're still taking poison.

     Survival Horror 
  • The Awesome series video Resident Awesome- Leon is trying to go through a clear, safe path to an objective, but the game diverts him to a path filled with multiple zombies and the Yeti from SkiFree.
    • In Resident Evil 4 itself, there's a section where you can choose one of two paths; one has a bunch of mooks and a set of minibosses, while the other has a single El Gigante. Since all bosses in the game drop valuable items on death, skilled players will do both paths for the monetary gains. This is also a bit of a deconstruction- the ammo you spend doing things this way may not be worth the spare money, depending on your skill level.

     Non Video Game Examples 
  • Shows up on the "Detour" on The Amazing Race. Teams must choose between two tasks. In these cases, one is scary or physically challenging, but fast, while the other is safe, but tedious and time-consuming. Used very frequently on the first four seasons, but not too often anymore, as teams never took the longer option.
  • Dumnestors Heroes had 'Blackeye' Susan taking the apparently-disused path to avoid the grues.
  • Discussed and subverted in the comic strip FoxTrot. Jason (the video game fan) is having an impossible time getting past a certain boss, and Paige (who has very little interest in video games) discovers that if you don't attack, you can just walk right past him with nothing to stop you. Jason finds this quite hard to believe, and when he does believe it, he remarks that doing things the easy way is extremely counterintuitive.
  • Homestuck:
    • Eridan assumes that everything you encounter in a game is there to be killed for rewards and glory, and goes about his merry way slaughtering the angels living on his SGRUB planet. It says something about him that, when the first casualty failed to give any reward whatsoever, he kept killing until the angels started actively assaulting him. The idea that they were put there to help him, and not meant to be attacked, strikes him as ridiculous.
    • Later, nearly all of the trolls are revealed to have been guilty of this, to some extent. While they believed their Denizens were boss monsters, and received their grist hoards by killing them, the truth is that they were supposed to be given some sort of choice.
    • Caliborn takes this approach to just about everything, even if the alternative is far easier. It was so effective he ended up becoming the Big Bad with the power he received as a reward.
  • Hunter × Hunter had an odd subversion of this trope in which the group had to choose between two paths one of which would take hours to complete the other of which would only take minutes. The catch was that in order to take the short path you needed to leave two of your teammates behind. Seeing as they only had 20 minutes or so left to finish the maze it seemed like leaving people behind was the only option. However, they were all able to make it to the end by taking the true path of most resistance. They entered the long path and then, because the two paths were right next to each other, punched through the stone wall so they could go down the short path instead.
  • In Real Life, it's claimed to be the way to succeed - especially when you're entering a highly technical position or something that requires skill. However, it's subverted by those that bluff their way to gain a status position.