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Power Creep, Power Seep
A character who is designed in their own universe basically needs to be written to be effective against other characters featured in that universe. Generally, your main conflict won't be an eternal war between Super Jesus and his nemesis Bob.

However, a problem occurs once you try a crossover. If the crossover involves characters who were never created to work together and have an obvious difference in scope or power, you're stuck at trying to make sure each is effective. This usually involves two scenarios where you either nerf the powerful character or boost the "weaker" one, because you get the inevitable "Why are they even useful in this situation?"

Occasionally this fiddling with power levels sticks, and you essentially have a pseudo-Alternate Universe character. Sometimes characters will even get new powers just for balance, but once they go back to their own books these enhanced powers are quickly forgotten.

If this happens often enough, it can create an inflation in Power Levels across the entire fictional universe, and can sometimes push characters into the B- or C-list, as they simply can't compete anymore.

Another way to get around the same problem is to create a Plot Tailored to the Party.

See also Repower and Strong as They Need to Be. Compare CCG Importance Dissonance, PVP Balanced and Popularity Power. Sister Trope to Story-Breaker Team-Up.

Not to be confused with Power Creep, which happens to Games when new additional content is added that over-powers the previous one.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga 
  • From Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie, Knuckles the Echidna. In his first game appearance, Knuckles had pretty weak jump height, but could glide through the air. In this OVA, he can jump ridiculously high and hover in mid-air; at times he appears to be flying outright.
  • A crossover between Fairy Tail and Rave Master handles this by setting up the characters to imply that it's taking place fairly early in both stories, meaning none of the characters are too particularly powerful when they start to fight.
  • The One Piece x Toriko x Dragon Ball special, being a crossover special, brings out a truckload of these. Most of these problems are the result of having One Piece and Toriko characters fight along the Post-Buu Saga Dragon Ball cast, when Goku and his allies had already reached insane levels of power in canon.
    • Zoro and Zebra stalemating with Vegeta's Galick Gun. note 
    • Gohan being worfed before he gets to do anything.
    • And finally presenting both Luffy and Toriko with power-levels comparable to those of Son Goku. Luffy and Toriko are able to fight with Goku on even footing (though Goku, as opposed to his opponents, wasn't fighting seriously 'till the very end, and the fight was most of the time Luffy and Toriko vs Goku, instead of a Męlée ŕ Trois. Luffy, Toriko and their allies able to last against an enemy Goku and the Z-Fighters had difficulty against. Luffy and Toriko are also able to damage the Akami whereas Goku needs his planet-busting Super Saiyan forms to do so. Hand Waved by showing Goku as the most powerful of the three (if only marginally so) and saying that he's already fought some creatures and saved the Earth inmediately before these fights.
    • Toriko is at least catching up to Dragon Ball Z levels of power now, though its primarily its three strongest characters which have established themselves at Saiyan Saga levels of power. With Jirou stopping the entire planet for a second with his knocking and Midora's Meteor Spice raining around everywhere. One Piece is far behind both in terms of power, with them not even on the level of Saiyan Saga Dragon Ball Z levels.
  • The Pretty Cure All Stars movies hit this big time, especially with DX 2 and DX 3, seeing as Tsubomi and Hibiki, respectively in each movie, lament their uselessness over their seniors. New Stage and New Stage 2, however, avert this.

     Comic Books  
  • This tends to lead to major issues when crossing the Marvel Universe and The DCU. Both companies have their share of characters ranging from Badass Unintentionals to Physical Gods, but the Earth-Based Marvel characters who are the most important in terms of both in-universe esteem and recognition and Real Life Popularity Power tend to be low on power levels in-universe compared to their DC counterparts, like Superman. This tends to lead to huge disproportionate power levels between the universes, at least when using the biggest names between the two, which tends to translate to stories that are mostly buildup to a bigger fight that can be used to muddle the individual fighters. One-on-ones are hit/miss; verses need buildup to get the weaker fighter either up to, or bringing the other down. Team-ups need stories where the more powerful will miss something important and therefore need the other to play the savior/tactician role. Fans are rarely happy with any outcome, even when they themselves were the ones voting on the outcome.
    • Marvel have been countering this by making their heavyweights, such as The Mighty Thor, who was already roughly equal to Superman at the time of JLA/Avengers, and Magneto (who can now do things like pull Kitty Pryde out of planet destroying bullets and easily fly decommissioned aircraft carriers from San Diego to San Francisco, then drop them on human sized objects with pinpoint accuracy) even stronger, making them smarter, in the case of the Green Scar personality of The Incredible Hulk creating new heavyweights (The Sentry, who puts even a souped up Thor to shame and even while weakened, stalemated Green Scar, and Hope Summers, who, under the right circumstances, could take the entire JLA at full power). Another appropriate point is that most of Marvel's hyperweight characters tend to be in their cosmic stable, which stays a long way away from Earth on most occasions, meaning they don't get involved in intercontinuity crossovers.
    • This is always a problem in Marvel vs. DC crossovers when it comes to Super Speed battles. Marvel speedsters rarely move much faster than the speed of sound, while DC speedsters are usually closer to the speed of light, a difference of six orders of magnitude (the difference between you and a jet is two orders of magnitude). Sometimes this difference is ignored, sometimes it's mocked, and sometimes it's justified.
      • Two crossover battles shown between Quicksilver and The Flash were played for the jokes that they were. The only times Quicksilver was able to land a punch were when The Flash turned his back to help innocents and, in the later crossover, when The Flash encountered Quicksilver in the Marvel universe (which apparently has no Speed Force). Sadly, if they had just done the first fight a few years sooner, it would have been an even match (Wally's speed was dropped to Quicksilver level in the years immediately following Crisis on Infinite Earths).
      • There was actually a Shout-Out to the enormous disparity in an issue of Quasar. A cosmic entity had gathered Earth's super-speedsters for a race from Earth to the Moon. At the last minute, all the contestants got blown past by an amnesiac man in a tattered red-and-yellow costume. (This was back when Barry Allen was still dead, after the Crisis on Infinite Earths.)
    • One notorious example of this happened in the Marvel versus DC crossover, where based on a fan poll, Wolverine beat Lobo. Wolverine had bone claws at the time, while Lobo is as powerful as Superman, this should have been impossible. The comic sidestepped the problems by not showing the battle — in fact the whole thing was less than a page, from the introduction of Lobo to Wolvie standing and dusting off his hands. And all the fighting happened behind a bar. It was later implied in Lobo's own comic that the Main Man was paid under the table to throw the fight.
    • JLA-Avengers, to fix the imbalance between the Justice League and the generally less powerful Avengers, establishes that some characters have different power levels depending on which universe they're in. So in the DC Universe, the higher levels of "chaos magic" make second-tier Avenger Scarlet Witch powerful enough to take down the whole Justice League, while in the Marvel Universe, the lack of a "speed force" makes the Flash nothing more than an ordinary human.
      Flash: She gets to be psycho-powerful over here, but I've got no powers over there? How fair is that?
      • The series also noted that while the power level of the heroes were lower in the Marvel Universe, the artifacts the Marvel heroes dealt with were far more dangerous (such as the Ultimate Nullifier).
  • In an extreme example, minor Legion of Super-Heroes villain Mano has an origin story in which he uses his disintegrating touch to destroy his entire homeworld and everyone on it simply by placing his hand on the planet's surface. However, he was never even remotely that powerful in any of his actual appearances, where plenty of characters can survive zaps from his hand. He's actually one of the weaker members of the Fatal Five.
  • In one issue of Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man, who's strong (lifts ten tons) but not one of the big hitters of the Marvel Universe, beat the cosmically powerful Firelord in a hand-to-hand duel. On comic boards this trope is often named Spider-man vs the Firelord.
    • Then again, when Spider-Man fights Silver Surfer, he tends to smack him around pretty well. He often fights beyond his limits. The same can be said for the likes of Wolverine or Captain America as well. Sometimes, Wolverine Publicity does that with characters who are popular but not very powerful.
  • One cross-company crossover between Spider-Man and Superman had Lex Luthor shoot Spidey with a "red-sun energy boost", making Big Blue vulnerable to his touch.
    • This happens a lot to Spider-Man. In preparation for Civil War, he had "The Other" story arc, which tied his powers to a mystical spider-totem. This gave him a major attribute boost and several new powers, ranging from enough speed and strength to catch bullets to spike weapons which protruded from his arms. This was done so that when he became a fugitive at the end of Civil War, he could feasibly fight off (and beat) more powerful heroes like Iron Man. Unfortunately, nobody bothered using Spider-Man's upgrades from "The Other" except Peter David so the storyline might as well not have happened. The only aspect of the story that anyone else bothered using was the Iron Spider costume.
    • The follow up crossover with Superman and Spider-Man is more realistic. Superman brushes off Spider-Man's offers of assistance at first believing that Spidey would just get in the way. Spidey is about to leave also believing he wouldn't be any help to Superman till he remembers that Superman might be flying into a trap and follows after to warn him.
    • And it was Double Subverted when Spider-Man crossed over into the original Marvel Transformers comics for an issue. He did succeed in wrapping Megatron in webbing ... but it only lasted a few seconds before Megatron busted free and swatted him aside like, well, a bug.
    • This happened again during the Transformers' crossover with the New Avengers. Heroes like Captain America, Wolverine and The Falcon were regulated to distractions or rescue work, while Iron Man needed a Humongous Mecha just to be able to have the slightest chance against Megatron.
    • Another crossover had a Venom/Superman fight in which Venom was smacking Supes around like a ragdoll. Not only is Superman way, way, way above Venom's level, but he also has powers (heat beams and supersonic voice) that are Venom's stated weaknesses. The writer tried to justify this by having Venom exclaim, "I've gone toe-to-toe with the Juggernaut!", which is even harder to believe.
    • Marvel vs. DC also had Storm besting Wonder Woman. Storm has a greater attack range, so this might have made sense if they hadn't actually shown her shrugging off a punch from Wonder Woman. (For reference, Storm's pretty toned for a being that's just one step above a baseline human, but Wonder Woman wasn't human to begin with.)
  • The finale of JLA/Avengers worked with this by having the JLA's cape, Superman, fighting on the front lines weilding Thor's hammer and Captain America's shield, while the Avenger's cape Captain America himself, used his tatical skills to direct everyone else in the battle, allowing him to contribute without trying to handwave the fact that he's nowhere near Superman levels of power.
    • This was also played with earlier when, when the two teams were fighting each other, Cap was pitted against Batman who he is much more evenly matched with.
  • Batman has appeared for decades simultaneously both in his own magazine, struggling against fairly normal muggers and crooks, and in Justice League of America, battling cosmic foes like Darkseid. This has been dealt with in various ways over the years, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. The default Silver Age solution seemed to be using the Bat-Anti-Cosmically-Powered-Villain Spray, while the default Modern Age solution tends toward emphasizing his willpower and intelligence, often in a Mission Control role.
    • In 2002, it was announced that there was a Batman Vs. Superman film in the works (like most Superman-related projects, it ultimately ended up in Development Hell and was abandoned), which provoked great uproar in the fan community about the inherently one-sided nature of such a conflict. Conan O'Brien put it best, saying "Superman is, well, Superman. He can fly, lift cars, shoot lasers from his eyes, go back in time, all that. Batman... Batman works out a lot." Though in that script, Batman used his Crazy-Prepared-ness intelligently, with Kryptonite armor and arrows, and a sonic whistle to paralyze Superman due to the latter's super-hearing. Though in the Batman: Hush comic books, Batman DOES wind up fighting the Man of Steel, who is under Poison Ivy's control due to kryptonite added to her mind-control lipstick. He still might have little chance in a straight fight, but in that story, he does manage to fight off Superman long enough to break him out of the trance. At one point, Batman states that he would have long been dead if Superman hadn't been resisting Ivy's control.
      • A similar thing happens in The Batman, where Supes is again under mind control (this time by Ivy's Mind Control Spores laced with Kryptonite dust). Batman not only cheats, he tries using a chunk of Kryptonite stolen from Lex Luthor, and when that doesn't work, he evens the odds a little by breaking out his Bat-Mecha and is still on the verge of losing, but Robin breaks Superman out of the trance. Unlike in Hush, there was no indication that Superman was fighting the mind control, despite moving very slowly and never actually trying to kill Batman.
      • Batman v. Superman again in Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Batman gears up all the way, breaks out all his reserve equipment, the story takes place right after Superman almost dies, and it is made clear that Superman is unwilling to try to kill Batman. It ends with Batman in a position where he can win, and instead, he fakes his own death.
      • In the end, however, the success rate for Batman's Crazy-Prepared-ness depends on a lot of good luck and calculations working out the way he planned it. And Superman is still a guy who can kill you by looking at you. None of the explanations and scenarios laid out by any writer for a Batman victory will be one hundred percent convincing.
    • In JLA Confidential, Grant Morrison lampshades this by giving Batman "the sci-fi closet" with all the toys for trans-galactic threats. "Did my flying saucer arrive from the factory?"
    • In JLA Classified, Warren Ellis justifies this with an observation that exotic radiation detectors are not especially useful for stopping muggers or tracking down Killer Croc in the sewers, so Batman has some tools that are useless unless he is facing a JLA-level threat.
  • This is particularly bad in comics where The Punisher is the central character, especially as of lately. A What If? was even written recently where Punisher managed to take out people like Magneto and The Mighty Thor.
    • The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe. On the other end of the scale, he teamed up with Archie.
      • In pretty much all the ...kills the Marvel Universe series, the protagonist uses a variety of tricky methods to take out nigh-immortal characters like Hulk (shoot him through the eye, wait until he's transformed into Banner) and Wolverine (atomic charged fence that melts him to the bone), which is fine...except that these methods are shown specifically *not* to work in their regular comic (Hulk is more vulnerable in the eye socket but can heal from it, and Banner Hulks out as a fail safe when he's being killed, Wolverine can heal from literally being melted down to the skeleton, etc).
  • Lobo's been mentioned a few times already, but he deserves some special attention. He has a noted knack for being just as powerful as whoever he's fighting. He's gone toe to toe with Superman in the past, but has also lost fights to Batman and other characters. It's to the point that his adaptable nature is actually part of his power set; one of his most notable features is his immune system, making him invulnerable to specific powers after being hurt by them at least once (the most promiment moment is when he's trapped in the body of a 'tweenager version of himself, because after being hit with the spell that de-aged him he immediately became immune to that type of magic, and thus counterspells wouldn't work).
    • Not to mention, while he is invulnerable and immortal, he can still get drunk (at least in earlier appearances, he gets so sloshed that Superman turns it to his advantage in one early battle).
    • Lobo is possibly a justified trope. He's generally depicted as being an incredibly powerful not-particularly-skilled brawler who rages easily. Often weaker foes can run circles around Lobo if they have honed martial skills and a good grasp of tactics.
  • In the Alien vs. Predator franchise, the Predators can take out Aliens in hand-to-hand combat with ease. This is strange because they only had one film appearance at the time — in Predator — where the monster only fought in hand-to-hand once. While it was certainly strong, it wasn't that impressive, with its unarmed strikes proving to be less than lethal. This is in contrast to the Alien, whose fighting style consists entirely of critically-damaging unarmed strikes. This example is unique because the Alien and Predator monsters arguably began as interestingly balanced — an unstoppable melee death-machine versus an invisible, cybertribal sniper —, but the Predators were given a large boost to serve the purpose the creators wanted for the comic, that being Anti-Heroism.
  • An interesting example is Hank McCoy, aka The Beast. If you pick up a comic in which he is in the X-Men, the writers tend to focus mostly on his intellect while his actual powers are secondary. When he was a member of The Avengers, his strength and agility were the main focus and his intellect was rarely brought up. This was because the Avengers had plenty of geniuses: Hank Pym, Iron Man, The Vision, Black Panther, etc. and didn't need another. McCoy was a Lightning Bruiser so his abilities were bumped up to the point where he was nearly as strong as Iron Man and could move so fast that Captain America had trouble following him. When he went back to the X-Men, there were already a couple strongmen (Colossus and Rogue) and agile people (Nightcrawler, Gambit, Longshot, etc.). Even his animalistic nature was covered by Wolverine. They didn't have any geniuses, though, so Beast became The Smart Guy nearly on the level of Reed Richards.
  • In The Seventies Phantom Lady power was increased from creating darkness, to invisibility and teleporting herself and the team. The last one fluctuated in the comics and in a lot of subsequent experiences as it was a Game Changer, that let them all get out of jail free. Her appearances out of Freedom Fighters have rarely brought up teleportation at all.
  • Teen Titans antagonist Deathstroke also suffers from this. He can be portrayed as someone who can hold his own against members of the Justice League, and be able to knock out the Flash, but also struggle against someone like Nightwing.
    • Although, given that Nightwing is essentially Batman-in-waiting, this could be a case of Nightwing rising to the challenge rather than Deathstroke getting a demotion. It also helps that Nightwing is more familiar with Deathstroke than probably any other hero...
    • Also, he's basically the evil Batman (to the point that one popular fan theory for his true nature in the Teen Titans animated series was that Slade really was Batman, testing Robin.) With the wide variety of tools he uses, it's most likely that he simply comes prepared for whatever foe he's facing. Which means he should go after Nightwing when armed for the whole Justice League and kill bird-boy in two seconds flat, but... well, that's not how it works in comicland.
  • This is actually done in-universe in Fables - when Frau Totenkinder faces Baba Yaga, the latter seems confident in her victory, because everybody knows her stories, and so her Popularity Power is great. Frau Totenkinder points out to her that Popularity Power is just a theory among fables, and not one that Totenkinder herself sets much store by, and then proceeds to thrash Baba Yaga. Word of God is that Popularity Power may be some kind of factor in determining the power of a fable, but that the truth is more complicated than just that.
    • The later-seen origins of Frau Totenkinder reveals that while Baba Yaga might be better known by name, Totenkinder herself is better known, period. As she's actually THE witch from most of the better known Fables.
  • Any given Crisis Crossover will be rife with this. The need to use as many characters as possible often leads to some crowd filler being far stronger than the main villain. The original Crisis on Infinite Earths, for instance, has the theoretically-omnipotent elemental transmuter Firestorm being forced to a stalemate by the Penguin's trick umbrella, or the obscure cosmic villain Maalor the Darklord, who once held his own against the entire Green Lantern Corps, getting killed in one hit by Krona. The strength of the Anti-Monitor's shadow demons generally hits the exact amount needed to give their opponent a tough fight in swarms, whether it's Alan Scott or Oliver Queen.
  • The effectiveness of Wolverine's Healing Factor has been subject to this as well. Originally, severe enough injuries could still put him out of action for a couple days or weeks, though still faster than anyone. Now, he can bounce back from being practically burned down to his skeleton within a matter of hours, if not minutes.
    • Once in his solo book, they established that if he took too many injuries, his healing factor would slow down accordingly. Of course, they've meddled with his healing factor so much at this point its impossible to tell what exactly are the limits anymore (presently it seems to be complete immortality, even from atomization, same for Deadpool, who possesses Wolverine's healing factor from Weapon X experiments.)
  • The nature of X-23's trigger scent has become subject to this. As a child, Laura was conditioned (read: tortured) into entering a berserk rage whenever she smelled a particular scent, which would make her black out and tear apart whatever was marked with it. It served two purposes: Not only did it allow her creators a measure of control over her in the event she attempted to refuse to kill a target, but her berserk state also made her an even more deadly fighter. Usually it was reserved for high-value targets or otherwise special (such as the gangster Fade). By the time of Avengers Arena, the scent is now driving her into a state in which she'll kill everything around her, whether they're specifically marked or not.
  • In the X-Men/Teen Titans crossover Apokalips Now, this trope is entirely averted; the two teams operate on similar scales and power levels already, and they're not in conflict for most of the story, so no adjustments are needed.

    Fanfic 
  • In Tails Of The Old Republic, Miles "Tails" Prower of Sonic the Hedgehog fame is much stronger and tougher here than is implied in the games or other media he regularly features in. It helps he's now 14 years old, up from his canonical age of 8, so he can more plausibly participate in the events of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. It's a good thing too, because he get's his ass handed to him on more than one occasion.
  • In The Swarm of War, when the Imperium encounters the Zerg for the first time, they are much easier to dispatch than one would expect from the earlier chapters. That’s because it’s a Lost Colony which lacks some of the upgrades.

    Film-Animated 
  • In The Lego Movie, Superman, along with dozens of other powerful and iconic characters, suffer a Curb-Stomp Battle defending the local Heroes R Us against ordinary mooks and are all captured easily. Granted, the mooks had The Dragon and the element of surprise, but many individuals at the base would have barely blinked at a bunch of robots with laser guns, and were very clearly nerfed in order for the scene to play out the way it did.

    Film-Live Action 
  • King Kong was enlarged several times his size and given electricity powers to match Godzilla for their crossover fight in King Kong vs. Godzilla. Understandable, since Godzilla shrugs off autocannons, rockets, missiles, tank shells, and lasers, while King Kong got killed by a few biplanes with machine guns.
  • In the first Alien vs. Predator movie, one Alien took out two Predators. Justified in the film because the Predators in question were only armed with spears and wrist blades made of metal that was not corrosion-resistant. The Predators also had to rely on applying blunt force trauma against the Aliens which were shown to be extremely tough and resistant to physical blows. When one Predator got hold of a shoulder cannon, the tables were immediately turned with scores of Aliens being blown to bits. Some viewers consider this to be retribution for the depiction of the Alien monster in the comics, while others consider it a spiteful blemish on the Predator. See the related example in the comics section above.
    • The second film inverts that change, calling on the comic-book example and reversing the situation in the previous movie. However, it should be noted that the Predators in the first AVP were rookies on a right a of passage, and the Predator in AVPR was an Ace among Predators.
    • In fact, this franchise in general alters the power scale to suit the needs of the plot and setting, although the Predator almost always gets the better deal. It does conflict with the Alien movies themselves, invariably making it an example of this trope.
  • In Kamen Rider Decade, all previous Showa and the base form Heisei Riders were placed on a comparable level of power, disregarding previous official stats, even ones presented in the shows themselves that would make some conflicts heavily lopsided. In-series, this can be justified by the fact that they're alternate universe counterparts of the original Riders, but that still doesn't cover everything. Power was entirely dependent on plot convenience throughout Decade, resulting in Dragons and Big Bads that took entire series to kill are now dispatched by Decade and the Rider Of The Fortnight within two episodes. That balance was carried on to later Kamen Rider crossover movies too.
    • The movies take all this Up to Eleven: Even if we leave aside the Decade half of Movie Wars 2010 and consider "Decade Fury" a completely new and all-powerful form capable of One-Hit KO-ing all other Riders and say he can't normally do that even if he sure looks like normal Decade, there's still Shadow Moon. In Kamen Rider Black, Shadow Moon was evenly matched with the series' one Rider However, in All Riders vs. Dai-Shocker, Shadow Moon was so powerful the combined might of Rising Ultimate Kuuganote  and Decadenote  couldn't scratch him. Then Kamen Rider Double easily beats him. This should rightfully make Double literally strong enough to destroy the world with one Rider Kick in his base form. Needless to say... he isn't.
    • Movie Wars 2010 has Double's power at sane levels, but its villain gets the Shadow Moon treatment: Doras, like Shadow Moon, was a strong major opponent of the one Super Mode-less Rider in his story, the movie Kamen Rider ZO. Decade's Doras easily clobbered all the main Riders from Kuuga through Kiva plus the Riders original to Decade in their base forms all at once (really think about the best non-Super-Mode Crowning Moment Of Awesome material from those series and imagine the kind of power that takes) and they don't beat him until all ten Riders go Super Mode, with Den-O and Kuuga breaking out Super Climax and Rising Ultimate, respectively - their Decade-only supermode-of-a-supermode forms. Once again, when you consider the greatest feats of the Riders, and how dangerous the never-seen maximum power of certain Riders is said to be, if it requires all ten, we're talking Doras going from being almost as strong as one Rider to "god of destruction" territory. Take the movies at face value, and Power Levels in Kamen Rider, from greatest to least, would be as follows: Double with his basic forms > Shadow Moon > Doras > God > Decade and Rising Ultimate Kuuga perhaps tie > Everybody else ever. That is... not reflected in the series, to put it mildly.
    • And then Kamen Rider X Super Sentai Super Hero Taisen comes and plays screwy with Doras's power level territory: He gets a scene where he smacks Gokai Blue around silly, only to die from a single gunshot in the chest courtesy Captain Marvelous. No, you didn't read it wrong: Doras gets killed with one bullet by Gokai Red in his unmorphed form.
  • This trope is in full effect in The Avengers, and a few of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe films.
    • Loki. In Thor, the guy survived the huge Bifrost explosion. In The Avengers, Hawkeye's grenades-on-a-stick and Iron Man's repulsors got an "ow" reaction out of him, he's lethally threatened by a fall from the Helicarrier at terminal velocity, and he is taken out of commission by being slammed into a floor by the Hulk.
    • The Incredible Hulk, fitting the comics, is wildly inconsistent across the movies in terms of what he can take, which fits the nature of his character in that his strength is dependent on how angry and in control he is. In his first movie, he was knocked out by a tank round and was at least hurt by grenade rounds. The Hulk in The Avengers, on the other hand, shows only annoyance to being shot by aircraft-mounted cannon; it takes Thor to give him a serious challenge and only a concentrated barrage by over a dozen Chitauri aircraft are even able to give him a bloody nose. Even falling from the Helicarrier at terminal velocity only knocks him out and reverts him to Bruce Banner.
  • In the comics, Sebastian Shaw's power is absorbing kinetic energy and turning it into physical strength and stamina, but he's still at least somewhat vulnerable to physical attacks, and his power has limits. He generally relies on Mooks and other mutants to do his dirty work. In X-Men: First Class he can absorb all kinds of energy, including Havok's blasts and nuclear radiation, and if he has limits they're set high enough to make him a credible threat to Magneto.

    Live-Action TV 

     Professional Wrestling  
  • Happens from time to time in the WWE and other promotions; where characters who are being pushed have power creep, and those who are acting as jobbers have power seep. For instance, the Big Show used to fit the role of the big guy who always lost to up-and-coming stars, then with little explanation, became the man who ended Brock Lesnar's title reign. Often combined with Badass Decay for the people who are jobbing.
    • It's even more funny when the "C-show" ECW was still on. The ECW champion can be treated as a worthy opponent to the other champions or as effective as a jobber, depending on the storyline needs.
    • It's especially noticeable in the Divas division. Due to very limited TV time, only the current champion and current challenger get wins. Combine this with a small roster and you can have someone coming off a title reign consistently losing to people she was beating regularly a few months before.

     Tabletop Games  
  • The Old World of Darkness suffered dearly from this trope. Vampire: The Masquerade establishes that vampires are in deep, deep trouble if they encounter werewolves. Guess what? Werewolves are playable (Werewolf: The Apocalypse), and if the games ever cross over the vampires are risking Final Death. Crossovers were a chore to work at the best of times, as the races were on (sometimes radically) different power levels.
    • The New World of Darkness simplifies things to a great extent: every supernatural race possesses a "supernatural tolerance" statistic (Blood Potency, Primal Urge, Gnosis, Azoth, etc.), which provides universal resistance against supernatural attack. Power levels are more streamlined. While this means the werewolves are not nearly as powerful as they once were, given that they're supposed to be besieged on all sides by enemy spirits, it was that or make their adversaries nearly unstoppable (and they usually are anyway).
    • Vampires also got the short end of the straw in the 1st edition of Old World of Darkness, where - since Vampires were counted as not living - Wizards with low levels of Prime and Matter powers could attempt a simple spell to transform even the most powerful of vampires into a lawn chair (or any other non-living thing, but due to an announcement in the book, the Running Gag is lawn chair) without even giving the vampire a saving throw. This was quickly remedied in all later incarnations of World of Darkness.
      • The related cliche was having a mage turn a werewolf's skin to silver, effectively burning himself to death. The original World of Darkness was never meant for crossovers, and certainly wasn't even remotely balanced - in any given meeting of two supernatural species, SOMEONE was getting the short end of the stick. Ironically enough, many older players consider the newer, more generic, better balanced system to be worse simply because it's less realistic. Life really shouldn't be fair, especially when you're living in a Crapsack World.
    • As an amusing example of oWoD's dodgy crossovers and clashing mythologies, vampires, werewolves, Pooka changelings, and mages all had powers which could let them turn into wolves. So what happened if you put one of each on a stage to perform this trick in front of mortal witnesses? The vampire gets the expected mundane reaction, the werewolf drives witnesses into hallucinations and denial, the changeling leaves all but the least banal of viewers remembering it as a vague dream, and the mage explodes because the universe doesn't like people turning into wolves.
    • In addition, the new system explains that Vampires, Mages and Werewolves have very different existences, so having them encounter each other, much less be in direct conflict, is supposed to happen only under very unusual circumstances. Sure, Werewolves can rip just about anything to shreds. But Vampires tend to be both very clever and very patient. Mages are often Crazy-Prepared to the extreme (or can use their magic in such a subtle way as to appear they were already crazy prepared).
    • People have also ran EXALTED crossovers with oWoD. Solars can radiate sunlight, making for a Curb-Stomp Battle with a vampire.
  • Solars Curb Stomp just about everything in their own setting too, given an equal amount of experience points. That's not a bug but a feature, since the default game is about playing a superhuman hero who is invariably the best there is at what she does. However, there are many other playable character types in EXALTED, and the difficulty of having a mixed group of player characters without the Solars outshining everyone else is a cause of much aggravation among fans.
  • The Palladium RPG Rifts was notorious for this. In the original book, Cyber-Knights (simply noble humans with cybernetic augmentations and the ability to create a moderately powerful blade of psychic energy) were respectable combatants, and the Glitter Boy was rightly feared as one of the most powerful war machines on the planet. By the time we get to the Phase World supplement, we get Cosmo-Knights, a playable class. These characters could fly through space at translight speed, were nearly invulnerable to non-kinetic energies (and very durable against kinetic ones), and could fire anti-starship level energy blasts.
    • Those particular examples could be justified due to the differences in scale of the respective settings (Post-Apocalyptic North America vs. Intergalactic Space Opera). But then there's the case of the Cyber-Knights' reintroduction in their own self-titled book, where to keep up with the stuff introduced between the main book and then, Cyber-Knights got bumped to nearly Jedi-like levels.
      • Another primary cause was the World Books written by CJ Carella, who tended to drift towards the higher MDC counts. This made sense with stuff coming from the milennia-old Space Opera civilizations, less justified when everyone from the southern half of South America could pretty much run roughshod over equivalents from everywhere else in the world for some reason.
  • Endemic in Star Wars Miniatures, since a player can set any faction from any era against any other and end up more or less balanced, depending solely on your team selection. So weapons were about as effective 4,000 years apart.
  • The Rogue Trader and Deathwatch role-playing games are based on the same rules as those of Dark Heresy, and there are rules for including characters from Dark Heresy in both systems. In the case of Rogue Trader, this involves boosting the characters from Dark Heresy to about 1/3rd of their maximum obtainable power in their home rules system. In the case of Death Watch, it involves boosting said characters to a level more powerful than the core Dark Heresy ruleset has rules for, and using the Ascension splatbook. In both cases the Dark Heresy characters are still overall weaker, but far more customizable and specialized.
    • Essentially, their stats are lower, true, but they tend to have far, far more raw skill and talent due to Dark Heresys very cheap skills and Ascensions cheap paragon talents/skills (essentially a collection of related skills purchased as a package that costs less than the skills combined). And that doesn't count the raw level of influence that these characters can have, which is hard to really quantify. And that doesn't count the Ascended Psychic Powers, which all Ascension classes can get with the right talents... such as being able to control time, or creating a completely and utterly impenetrable barrier able to withstand all types of damage and prevent all creatures from going through it. Even more mundane ones such as bloodboil or the army-destroying Inferno, or being able to utterly crush and banish daemons with a thought. Likely only the Grey Knights in Daemonhunters have more powerful psychic powers.
    • The Warhammer 40,000 meta-verse has this pretty bad throughout, but most players don't really bat an eye once they realize each codex is filled with in-universe propaganda.
  • This trope was at least partially the downfall of the anime CCG Ani-Mayhem. The base set used Ranma ˝, Tenchi Muyo!, Bubblegum Crisis, and El-Hazard: The Magnificent World. So far so good. The first expansion set had Project A-Ko, Dominion Tank Police, Phantom Quest Corp, and Armitage III. No problem here. The second expansion set? Dragon Ball Znote . The sheer power imbalance between both heroes and villains made it so there was little to no point to using any of the other characters, since the effort it took to bring them up to DBZ's level could have been better spent making the DBZ characters even stronger.
    • Which is kind of Ironic, as Tenchi Muyo! tends to have characters that are far stronger than just about any dragonball character.

     Video Games  
  • Happens in crossover titles in video games as well, as evidenced in Capcom crossover games. This is something of a necessity; how else could you expect Dan Hibiki or Sakura to fight, say, the Hulk or Dr. Doom without having a serious upgrade in strength? (Dan, of course, doesn't have a chance even with the upgrade, but he's a Joke Character anyway.) The concept was (lovingly) mocked in a segment on X-Play where Blair Butler took a look back at the Marvel vs. Capcom series, noting in each game the number of fighters, adding that "none of them would stand a chance against The Hulk"; while not completely true, it gets the point across.
    • It's even worse in the earlier games in the series, where freakin' Apocalypse and Onslaught were the final bosses, and yet the likes of Chun-Li and Ryu were able to take them down.
    • Of course, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 ups the ante further with the Final Boss being Galactus.
      • Discussed in this hilariously uber-nerdy Gamesradar video about how ridiculously Capcom overcompensated the power levels of their characters to match the Marvel characters on their character profile pages. While some of the featured Cap Com characters are a lot stronger than many fans assume, if the official standards set down for reading the power charts and these levels are to be believed, Tron Bonne is an omniscient world-consuming Eldritch Abomination who crushes worlds with a flick of her pinky.
      • It seems that the dev team of the original Marvel vs. Capcom 3 didn't know how the ratings for the Marvel Power Grid should be issued for the Capcom characters (apparently believing that 4 was human average, when actually 2 is), so they've been changed to be more believable in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. For one example, Tron was originally issued a 7 in Intelligence. According to the rating system, a 7 in Intelligence means she's "Omniscient"... as in, like an all-knowing god. Capcom must have assumed it meant "really smart". Most likely, after reading about the ratings, Tron was issued a 6 in Intelligence (meaning "Super-Genius"), which makes more sense.
      • Considering that many of Capcom's characters seem MUCH stronger, this can double as Fridge Brilliance. For example: Ryu can fire a much bigger Shinku Hadoken in comparison to his SF incarnation. See this comparison.
      • It was only done to match with the over-the-top and frantic gameplay that has been present since X-Men: Children of the Atom, with the exception of Capcom vs SNK and Street Fighter X Tekken. It mainly applies for the Street Fighter characters.
      • Then, there's the inclusion of Dormammu, Shuma-Gorath, and the like as playable characters. In their own continuities, they could just blink once and delete all of their opponents from existence. Which makes it kinda of funny when you see humans with no superpowers like Chris Redfield or Hawkeye beat the snot out of an ultra-powerful, reality-warping god.
      • Phoenix Wright is now in the games. His ultimate attack? "The real culprit...IS YOU!" In other words, he can defeat a world-destroying horror by providing evidence of guilt and giving it the pointer finger!
      • Character weaknesses can't be exploited in this series. For example, Venom is no more weaker to fire-elemental attacks than any other character. In the comics, one of the symbiotes' major weaknesses are high temperatures. Sound vibrations are also another weakness of the symbiotes, but even with all of the loud sounds during battle, Venom isn't affected in the slightest by them.
      • If these games were more strict about characters' strengths and weaknesses during gameplay, optic blasts would be useless in Cyclops vs. Cyclops matches, no matter how powerful they are. They'd have to rely on martial arts. In the comics, Cyclops is resistant to his own powers.
    • The presence of Gold Lightan and the PTX-40A Vital Suit from Lost Planet in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom (both of whom are utterly massive) asked for a massive power creep to Alex (who is a grappler) as performing the Hyper Bomb on them can be translated as grabbing a giant robot's leg and effortlessly slamming him into the ground, including with an airborne drop. It has to be seen to be believed.
      • It has to be expected. The Final Boss is Yami, the God of Darkness, the Big Bad Final Boss of Ōkami.
      • Also done to especially, especially, especially Frank West. Whereas Alex did get the power creep, he could do that stuff against everybody, from his series or not. Frank, on the other hand, disregarding a few Street Fighter moves and a working Mega Buster, really is just a regular human. In Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, however, he can throw said giants to the other side of the screen, shoot them into the sky by way of hitting them with a baseball bat, and can survive the stronger hits of the game, most of which, in Real Life, would kill us normies. And in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, his arsenal of improvised weaponry (no Mega Buster and shooting people into the sky here) is more than a match for the superpowered beings of the Marvel Universe, and he can still tank hits.
      • Tekkaman Blade gets the short end of the trope. A guy who in his own series tanked a nuke. Note that while this feat is done at the beginning of the series before he even get numerous amount of power ups and his Super Mode. Theoretically at least, the only Capcom fighter who could fight him on even terms (if not defeat him) is Morrigan.
    • And then you have Project X Zone where you have quasi-realistic characters like Chris, Jill, Frank, and Akira fighting alongside fantasy-based characters like Morrigan, Ulala, KOS-MOS, and even Neneko.
  • The Final Fight characters such as Cody, Guy and Maki are noticeably more powerful when they appear in Street Fighter games than their own games. Of course if the characters had their Street Fighter abilities in the Final Fight series, the games would be pretty boring.
  • The Alien vs. Predator games — as with every other kind of media — are primes examples of this trope. Depending on the game and genre, the abilities of the Aliens and Predators can be vastly different.
    • In practically every game, especially those where Aliens are enemies onlly (like the Capcom brawler) Predators are more resilient than Aliens — despite the fact that Predators have been killed by falling logs and humans in melee combat, while Aliens have survived plasma thruster engines, the vacuum of space and tons of molten lead.
    • In the 1999 and 2010 games by Rebellion, Aliens have an easy time hiding in the shadows, but the 2001 Monolith game removes this ability from them. In addition, it severely neuters the effectiveness of their acid blood, reduces their health and simplifies their behaviour.
    • In the 1999 and 2010 games by Rebellion, the Predator's plasma caster is a lock-on, straight-shooting weapon that has variable degrees of power depending on charge. Monolith's 2001 game added the ability for those plasma blasts to turn in mid air.
    • In the 2001 Monolith game, Aliens dominated in melee combat. In the 1999 Rebellion game, melee combat in multiplayer was almost impossible due to the game speed (except for jousting) and Predators hold a melee advantage in the 2010 game.
    • For the sake of balance, player-controlled humans in the 2010 game can fight off both Aliens and Predators in hand-to-hand combat long enough to set them up for a volley of pulse rifle fire.
      • Another human example: the flamethrower. In the 2001 game, it was incredibly effective against Aliens. In the 1999 and 2010 games, it makes them explode — eventually. Until then, the Alien will continue trying to kill you — while on fire.
  • Another crossover title example is Jump Super Stars, its sequel Jump Ultimate Stars and its successor J Stars Victory VS. Massive quantities of power nerfing and boosting must have happened for characters like Ryotsu from Manga/Kochikame, a regular human police officer, to fare well against monsters like Goku, Seiya, Ichigo, Luffy and Naruto just to name a fewnote , but in one way or another all of them are fighters, are capable of fighting or have Toon Physics in their respective universes. The worst offenders worth mentioning are the Assist Characters, mainly composed of comical/normal characters who in their universes do not have any fighting skills and/or are bound to "realistic" physics. They tend to be sports- or romance-themed, so it's kind of insane seeing cute girls tripping and falling over or hand-slapping the aforementioned monsters, hurting them and somehow temporarily disabling their assist characters. It reaches plain unfair levels when some are UNBLOCKABLE and hard to dodge.
  • Almost any video game where Superman is a playable character, especially fighting games and beat'em ups, in which the normally invulnerable Man of Steel can be killed by the first mook on the first level. Justice League Heroes at least started the game with killer robots, and moved up from there.
    • JL Heroes at least Lampshaded it a bit with Supes' block animation. He sticks out his chest when you hit the button, and of course, enemy attacks do no damage as long as you hold it down.
    • The game based on Superman Returns actually gave Superman the kind of power seen in comics; he was functionally unkillable, it was the city that had the health meter you had to keep track of.
      • Superman: Shadow of Apokalips was very similar. You could be killed, but enemies did relatively little damage and you regenerated health constantly. But the moment a civilian died, you lost the level. In addition, many levels were based around preventing a disaster (sabotaged dam, volcano eruption, etc.), so that the risk from enemies was that they would slow you down rather than any risk that they would kill you.
    • Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is interesting about this, because it brings up the question of who is really getting the creeps and seeps respectively, since there's Superman on the DC side, a god (Raiden) and a supernatural undead (Scorpion) on the Mortal Kombat side, and a range of less powerful superheroes and flat-out humans scattered across both. The final explanation is that the merging of the two universes causes powers to fluctuate, strengthening some and weakening others. It gets lampshaded when, after The Joker defeats Sonya, Deathstroke asks in bewilderment, "Since when can you beat anybody?!" (The Joker promptly trashes him afterwards and then decides to use his newfound strength to defeat Batman. He does but then forgot the Bat's defining characteristic and got knocked out by a taser.)
      • As for Superman, remember that most of the Mortal Kombat cast are either inherently or powered by or using magic - and Superman is basically a mundane when it comes to magic (which he remarks after receiving a normal kick from Scorpion in the story). Only Sonya Blade, Kano and Jax as well as the other DC characters barring Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel are non-magical, so only they really need the Hand Wave above to face off effectively against the Man of Steel.
      • Injustice: Gods Among Us received much grousing from fans when it was initially announced, mainly because some people found the thought of characters like Harley Quinn and Nightwing being able to punch out Superman and Wonder Woman to be absurd. Of course, nobody really plays fighting games for the plot or realism, do they? It's handwaved in-game with Kryptonian nanotech that makes the Badass Normal characters tough enough to go toe-to-toe with superpowered characters.
  • The Super Robot Wars games at least partially do this out of necessity. Enemies that can survive an attack from the planet-busting Ideon can die to a missile barrage from a squad of Valkyries.
  • Many of the Disney characters suddenly developed Implausible Fencing Powers, magic, or Kung Fu of some sort to put them on equal combat ground with the main characters of Kingdom Hearts. It's slightly jarring (and very awesome) to see Mickey Mouse with a Yoda-like fighting ability while retaining the personality he's had for the the past 50 or 60 years.
    • Mind, Mickey's always been a badass, most of the shorts he's in where he's depicted this way are just usually shafted with american airings.
  • Super Smash Bros.. is an example of most characters in the crossover having their power being taken up several notches. Except for Mewtwo, who is substantially weakened. This is justified in that the characters are supposed to be trophies and not the actual characters.
    • One of the examples of this is Rayquaza, one of the most powerful Pokémon in the series, being beaten by a monkey with a pop-gun.
    • Also Ganondorf, whose sorcery was replaced with punches and kicks. Powerful punches and kicks, sure, but nothing like what he demonstrated in the The Legend of Zelda series. Worse, one of his taunts in Brawl involves him pulling out a cool-looking sword, only to promptly put it away. The official site tries to justify this by saying that Ganondorf's so confident in his hand-to-hand abilities, he believes he doesn't need the sword. This justification is promptly beaten to death when the King of Evil gets beaten by Jigglypuff. Another taunt, appearing in both Melee and Brawl, has his float in the air for a few seconds, but never in his off-stage recovery does this happen.
    • It isn't just power levels that changes, but size as well, with Kirby and Olimar (eight inches tall and the size of a fifty-cent piece respectively) increased in size. Ridley and Bowser in particular have been resized substantially from some of their original appearances.
      • A lot of attention to detail went into the character's sizes. The characters in Smash Bros. are supposed to be figurines of the actual characters ranging in size from about 3-8 inches tall. Most of the characters stay roughly in the same scale of about one foot to one inch, except where it would make the character so large or small that they would be unplayable (Olimar, Kirby). This is especially noticeable in Brawl's Pikmin stage, Distant Planet, in which the stage is on a 1:1 scale with the Pikmin world, with the inches-tall characters towering over the minuscule Onions and bouncing on the leaves.
    • The Ice Climbers. Everyone else exists in settings where they could get the abilities or weapons they didn't originally have. Ice Climbers got cool freezing powers just because they were in a crossover.
    • Solid Snake can't even jump in Metal Gear's gameplay, but in Brawl, he can easily jump three times his height and fly with the assistance of a summoned Cypher (his enemies in his games), not to mention perform elegant suplexes, bend his spine almost all the way back... At least they have his normal jump cover a tiny distance, to show him being "realistic".
    • And there's also Ness and Lucas; they don't even have their own movesets in Brawl.
    • Everyone's held to the same swimming/drowning mechanics - even characters who can't swim, or conversely can't drown, such as Sonic and Charizard for the former, and Squirtle for the latter. At least it takes more for Squirtle to drown than for Charizard, but come on!
    • Samus is significantly weakened - she moves very slowly in the air (supposedly this was intentional, albeit via the logic of "her adventures take place in outer space, therefore she gets "floaty" controls because in space there is no gravity!"), and can only fire one blaster shot at a timenote . At least she does get a melee attack, something sorely lacking from her regular adventures.
    • Think about how chaotic battles would be if the type effectiveness system from the Pokémon games were in the Smash Bros. series. For some examples, Charizard would "faint" the moment he falls into a body of water, Wario's Bite wouldn't cause any damage to Lucario at all, and Jigglypuff would cower in fear from the large assortment of punches, kicks, and throws from the other characters. Luckily for the Pokémon (and their opponents, in some cases), the game mechanics aren't so strict.
      • Actually, it is used for the Pokemon Trainer. Not at all noticeable with Squirtle (two sources of "grass" attacks, and very few characters with lightning attacks) or Charizard (only three water-based attack sources, one being incredibly rare and another not doing damage), but it stands out with Ivysaur since there are a fuckton of fire attacks in the game! It doesn't help that Ivysaur is Difficult but Awesome as it is...
      • Interestingly, in the Pokémon series Jigglypuff was retconned as Normal/Fairy, so it now gets neutral damage from Fighting-type moves...
  • In the Nasu Verse, supposedly even the strongest of the Hero Servants from Fate/stay night are just "1/4th of the power of the vampire Arcueid" from Tsukihime, according to the writers. However, in the fan Cross Over Battle Moon Wars, the Servant Saber gets paired with the maid Kohaku, who proceeds to pump Saber up with all kinds of beneficial drugs power-ups to equalize things. This is the only one that's really explained however; Hisui the maid can match vampires as well for some reason.
    • Then there's the fact that Word of God states that any non-dead apostle Tsukihime character would be absolutely obliterated by a Servant. (Except for Aoko.) And even then, the stronger ones, such as Saber, could take down most of them. The villains at least get their power boosts explained...
      • It should be pointed out that when this is against an average Servant with an average noble phantasm. For example, Word of God also stated that Servant Caster could obliterate Aoko. Apparently, ancient witch from the era of gods > sorcery.
      • Word of God is also that certain Servants could beat even Arcuied, depending on their abilities. Lancer, with Gae Bolg; and Gilgamesh, with Gate of Babylon, are given as examples.
      • Said power boost is explained in Melty Blood itself; for some reason the presence of the Tatari/White Len projections is inducing powerups in the lesser characters such as the maids and Miyako. Why isn't exactly clear. In fact, in the manga, Shiki uses his full killing intent on the maids by accident. His first shock is that his instincts triggered him to do so; his second was that they were fine after.
  • Any Dragon Ball video game that features Yajirobe as a non-Joke Character takes this trope to hilarious excess. He could neither fly nor use Ki Attacks in the show, but in at least one game this is compensated by throwing rocks from nowhere and flying by waving his legs around like he's paddling through water. He also gets Sword Beams in some games.
    • Other non-flight and/or non-ki attack characters in Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi do this as well, depends of the game. In the first one, everyone flies. in the second one, people who can't fly don't and instead fall down like rocks. In the third game they instead fall down slowly (Which is actually closer to in-series behavior), air jump (This isn't) and you can give them a Potara that allows flying.
    • And in a few where Mister Satan/Hercule makes an appearance, he has a jetpack and explosives.
  • In LittleBigPlanet's Metal Gear Solid themed expansion pack, Liquid Ocelot's plan is to flood LBP with pointless trophy levels so that he can be loved, and the Metal Gear itself is essentially beaten by a Sackboy with a paintball gun.
  • Danny Phantom always gets the short end of the stick in in the Nicktoons Unite series. Nicktoons Unite gets around this with a game-long Plot Tailored to the Party (and even then he had to gain his abilities back), but then came Battle for Volcano Island, where he's stuck to throwing punches and shooting energy blasts. This got even worse in Attack of the Toybots which, outside of his Master Model areas, limits him to punching and using a goo gun (but so does everyone else) to the point that freaking Rocko can do as much damage as him. (Though at least that game justifies his weakness: Calamitous somehow managed to neutralise his ghost powers while leeching energy off the Ghost Zone to power his game-long Eternal Engine.) And then in Globs of Doom, he can generate temporary duplicates of himself... via gadgetry from the Hub Level, which is in the universe of Volcano Island. (Meanwhile, Dib developed implausible punching skills.)
  • Dengeki Gakuen RPG: Cross of Venus, being a crossover action RPG, delivers a nerf bat to everyone and everything from Shakugan no Shana, To Aru Majutsu no Index and Asura Cryin'' as well as to that good ol' psycho angel Dokuro-chan, and a buffing to just about everything pertaining to Toradora! (Yes, even Inko, who is a mook) and Kino's Journey. And most of the bosses are Evil Knockoffs of various characters, explaining their weakness (or in a few cases, strength) compared to the people they replicate.
    • At the same time though, it also averts power creeping with three plot characters: Index, Haruka and Misao aren't fighters in their canon and so they are not playable characters despite being in your party; instead, they are support characters who hold the cards usable in battle. They don't even have any in-battle sprites. (And hey, it fits Index's canon role.)
  • One example done due to the affected person being an Early-Bird Cameo Guest Fighter: Just from playing Soulcalibur IV back at its time of release, few would have guessed that Galen Marek is a Person of Mass Destruction in his own universe.
    • Another Soul Calibur example, Kratos is in the PSP version. Naturally he's pretending he can't kill them all with one punch by repeatedly punching them in the face as he did with Hercules and Zeus in God of War III.
  • This does not exist in Mobile Suit Gundam Climax UC. If you try to take on Char's Counter Attack stage with a GM, expect the enemy grunts to take several shots before dying. And expect them to take off half your health bar with every shot.
  • It does, however, exist in just about every other Gundam crossover game. Especially noticeable in those that contain the Turn A and Turn X, both of which, canonically speaking, should be able to turn any other mobile suit into dust (literally). Expect to see them beaten by such things as the RX-78-2 or Char's Zaku II.
  • Although the storylines try to keep everything making sense (Yukari was just messing around, Sanae wasn't taking Cirno seriously, etc.), this is a continuous problem in the Touhou fighting Gaiden Games, with all of the playable characters (twenty, as of Hisoutensoku) relatively equal in gameplay despite their gargantuan power differences. The best example of Power Creep is Cirno, a little ice fairy that, while suggested to be fairly powerful for the setting, has to seriously struggle to hold her own against one of the protagonists is a fair fight. And the cast is taken almost entirely from characters on the protagonist's level or higher. On the other end of the scale is Yukari, the boss of the series' only Phantasm stage and generally considered to be the single most powerful character. Nothing stops you from beating up Yukari with Cirno aside from needing to link Hisoutensoku and Hisouten.
    • Then again, justified by the existence of the spellcard system, which forbids them from using their true powers and instead forces them to rely on lesser abilities, balanced against each other. There's still a difference, but with good enough tactics it is possible for weaker characters to win (as evidenced in Imperishable Night, since protagonists are equivalent to level 4 bosses, and they do take down level 6 bosses regularly).
    • Cirno's case is Fridge Brilliance on its own. She controls coldness and we first met her at the Misty Lake as a stage 2 boss and later in a winter land as a stage 1 midboss even. The misty lake is cold, winter wonderland is even colder. Later we fight her in places like a forest, a sunny mountain and a NUCLEAR FUSION REACTOR, all places much warmer. Her Power Level is directly proportional to the warmth around her and besides that she also had some years time to train her abilities.
      • Cirno's increase in power is officially aknowledged later on, she gets her own game (12.8 Fairy Wars). One of the main characters, Marisa, states that she may have been underestimating Cirno and that the fairy could really pose serious trouble in a battle.
    • Another good case is Hong Meiling, who focuses on martial arts, which canonically almost makes her a fighting game character in a Bullet Hell universe. Yes, she is present in Hisoutensoku and she's no less powerful than Yukari or the likes of her.
      • Many in the fandom consider this to make plenty of sense when one thinks about it. Meiling functionally specializes in Full-Contact Magic - next to useless in a danmaku shootout, but gives her an edge nobody else has in personal combat.
  • While one could see Cardcaptor Sakura's eponymous character matching the other mages in Magical Battle Arena power-wise, it's a little harder to imagine her being able to take hits as well as renowned members of a multi-dimension spanning police force or veteran adventurers of a fantasy world considering how she kinda has the durablity of an ordinary elementary school student.
  • In Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, Amazing Spider-Man takes out The Juggernaut in a fistfight. It's Hand Waved by suggesting that the power of the Tablet Fragment is messing with Juggy's Gem of Cyttorak-given power.
  • Various characters in the Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games series. For example, in his main series, Sonic the Hedgehog is referred to as "the world's fastest supersonic hedgehog", capable of running above the speed of sound without breaking a sweat. In the Olympic Games series, though he is still one of the fastest characters in terms of top speed, his other attributes are reduced to better balance him with the other characters.
    • Depending on player skill and/or the AI, it's possible for slow characters like Eggman and Bowser to outrun Sonic! It's hilarious to see.
    • It has been pointed out that holding back in the name of good competition is perfectly in-character for many of those with superior skills. Sonic, while proud of his running ability, has never been shown as arrogant and enjoys competition; and Mario, while having his jump as a defining feature, has displayed good sportsmanship in many other disciplines to date.
  • By extension to the above, literally any racing game that includes Sonic the Hedgehog as a character (e.g. Sonic R, Sonic Racing, Sonic Free Riders, Sega & Sonic All Stars Racing and so forth). Sonic is usually handicapped by being forced to ride a vehicle, and it's telling that in one racing game, his character-specific power up was to get out of the car and just run.
  • Super Mario Bros. series is full of examples. The most prominent examples are Mario and Luigi, whose only consistent abilities are that they jump really high and run at least moderately fast. Other than that, their strength, speed, and durability are HIGHLY variable depending on the game.
  • Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars does this with a lot of the crossover heroes. One of the most notable examples, Lina Inverse, can unmake creation with her Laguna Blade, which only does 1250 damage in-game. (Which, to be fair, is a lot of damage.)
  • In Asura's Wrath, one DLC has Asura facing off against Street Fighter's very own Ryu and Akuma and their respective Superpowered Evil Side Evil Ryu and Oni. It's a pretty cool idea, except for the fact that, in his own game, Asura is so overwhemlingly powerful that's he's up there with Capcom characters like those of the Darkstalkers series or the Ōkami series as one of the strongest characters made with Capcom's name attached to it.
    • In said DLC Ryu survives being punched all the way to the moon from Earth, Evil Ryu moves a mountain sized landmass and the battle with Akuma/Oni destroys the moon!
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Gears of Destiny threw in various justifications to explain why characters from different currently running installments of the franchise have roughly the same power levels when they shouldn't. Specifically, the Time Travel caused a malfunction on Thoma's Tome of the Silver Cross to explain why he can't just Anti-Magic his way through the unprepared cast, Vivio and Einhart are being greatly assisted by their Devices to explain why they could fly here when they couldn't in their series, and Reinforce Eins is slowly dying by this point to explain the nerfing she got in the game.
  • In the third Warriors Orochi game, Ryu Hayabusa of Ninja Gaiden joins the cast in their quest to defeat the Hydra. He accompanies them as they travel through different moments in time when the Hydra strike desperately trying to discover a way to beat the seemingly unstoppable monster. Thing is though Ryu in his own game series has fought and beaten numerous giant abominations all by himself and the Hydra really shouldn't have been that big a deal for him to handle by his lonesome.
    • It is suggested that the Hydra is truly Nigh Invulnerable and could not be killed by even the Physical God Mystic characters. They required Orochi's own power that is, the Yashi'ori powered by Shuten-dōji. Plus it is not like Ryu had the True Dragon Sword with him.
  • Probably would have been the case in cancelled fangame My Little Pony Fighting Is Magic. Say what you will, but it's pretty hard to imagine the physically weak Fluttershy taking on a superstrong, superfast powerhouse like Rainbow Dash, or a fashionista like Rarity defeating magical prodigy Twilight Sparkle, who as a child suffered from a bout of Power Incontinence strong enough to instantly overwhelm several teachers at the most prestigious magical school in the kingdom, and attract the attention of the immortal god empress of Equestria who then made Twilight her personal student. And that's when she didn't know what she was doing.
  • Inverted in Team Fortress 2's new PvE mode Mann vs. Machine, in which the classes had to be rebalanced to ensure that they would be more or less equally useful against against the robot hordes, mostly through the upgrade system. Most notably, the Scout starts out with the unique ability to gain health, up to a limitless overheal, by picking up money, and his Mad Milk item can be cheaply upgraded to slow bots' movement (as can the Sniper's Jarate). And on the flip side of the coin, some classes are denied upgrades available to their teammates; for example, the Heavy cannot boost his minigun's damage. The Engineer, meanwhile, has to contend with a special class of bot that hunts down sentry guns and then explosively self-destructs.
  • This can get pretty extreme in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale when you have a rapping puppy like Parappa The Rapper or a normal cat like Toro and put them against Heihachi, Big Daddy, DmC Dante or Nariko. This is taken to an insane level when you have an Action Survivor like Nathan Drake who fights with a good Indy Ploy and sheer luck or Fat Princess, a normally immobile glutton and set them against a vicious god-slaying berserker like Kratos or a super-powered monster like both Cole McGraths.
    • This applies somewhat to the weaponry as well: Colonel Radec's Level 2 Super should normally melt the flesh off its victims at the least or outright vaporize them into a red mist (not something even Kratos should be able to walk off). Raiden's sword meanwhile is an Absurdly Sharp Vibroweapon that should be able to slice people or Military Mashup Machines up several times over with ease. Neither of these do any lasting damage.
  • SD Gundam Capsule Fighter has this in spades. Thanks to its awkward ranking scheme, the Strike Gundam is the same level as Wing Zero Gundam, the Mermaid Gundam, which put up a big fight against Dragon Gundam in the Gundam Fight finals, is labeled a C-rank alongside grunt units like the Zaku, and the Nu Gundam and the F-91, while powerful units in their own right, are right up there with walking arsenals like the Double X
  • In the JJBA universe, Stands are only visible to those who have another Stand. In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle, the non-Stand users (and Baou) can presumably see them and avoid their attacks.
  • Everyone in Mushroom Kingdom Fusion has had this happen to them. Okay, the likes of Arthur from Ghosts N Goblins still dies in two hits at full health and the Mario characters have health systems based on the Super Mario Bros. series... but now they can take hits from and do significant damage to enemies from Mega Man (Classic), Doom and Halo among numerous others! You can even kill soldiers and things by jumping on them or using Sonic's spin attack or punching them in the face just once!
  • This is a problem that fans bemoan in Star Trek Online, especially towards the Federation: of the pre-STO Cruisers, the Excelsior-class is one of the oldest (at about 130 years) classes to get an Endgame-variation ship, yet it's Bridge Officer power layout and Console layout allows it to be one of the most powerful ships around. Compare this to the Galaxy-class, who is half that age and yet has half of the power the Excelsior does. And let's not get into the Scimitar for the Romulans, whose layout is so awkward, it actually allows players to effectively one man a five-man PVE match.

     Web Original  
  • The inevitable fate of Always-Powerful-On-His-Own-But-Gets-His-Ass-Kicked-In-Crowd-Scenes Boy of the Legion of Net.Heroes.
  • Death Battle averts this for the results of battles, although played slightly straight within the battles. Who ever has the highest recorded power and skills within their own universe will win, fanboys be damned. They make sure not all the battles are completely one sided, so some increase in power level in the animation is allowed, but the animation doesn't have true barring on who wins or loses anyway.

     Western Animation  
  • Mostly averted in the Batman/Superman crossover episode "World's Finest." The Joker sets up a kryptonite-filled death trap for Supes and Batman has to race over there to rescue him. Later, Lex Luthor sends a Killer Robot after Bats and all he can do is stall for time until Superman stomps it. Generally Superman used more brute strength while Batman used tactics and gadgets to survive.
    • The killer robot was also given a realistic way to stand up to Superman: Harley Quinn had gagged and duct-taped Luthor's bodyguard Mercy to the robot, making it impossible for Superman to hit it without killing her too.
    • The DVD Commentary points out that the animators would sometimes let Batman fly to his next destination. He has a cape, and as we all know, anyone with a cape can fly. Naturally those animations had to be redone.
    • Batman himself is the subject of this throughout the DCAU's time line. In BTAS he was actually slowed down by mooks, in The New Batman Adventures he only had to pause for high level super villains, by Justice League he was the most competent member and by JLU he was less of a man and more of a walking Deus ex Machina.
    • Worth noting the DCAU Superman is at relatively sane levels of power. The kinetic impact of gunfire (from something high-powered like a minigun anyway) and missiles can knock him back, he struggles to pick up particularly heavy objects, his super-speed is somewhat downplayed, he requires a supply of oxygen in space or underwater, etc etc.
    • Justice League makes this trope into an art-form. Obviously, Superman would upstage everyone else due to his powers, while the others are fairly mis-matched; this leaves the writers playing havoc with the power-meter in order to keep all the characters represented evenly. Typically, this takes more than a few contrived situations which play to the weaker character's strengths and the stronger one's weaknesses.
    • The Flash, too. His speed should make him literally untouchable, but he's always being tripped up by people who to him should look like they're moving underwater. For instance, he fought off a alternate-universe Superman by casually dodging punches and then throwing him out a window, only to then be too surprised to dodge when Supes throws a piece of furniture at him from several yards away.
    • Throughout the DCAU, this is Hand Waved by some heroes: specifically The Flash and Superman. Flash intentionally seeps speed in races, as in the comics, because "those were for charity". Superman meanwhile takes hits "so the others don't have to." Basically, they aren't trying, even though failure might mean somebody dies. The other heroes, *cough* Martian Manhunter *cough*, have no such excuse.
      • When Lex Luthor got control of Flash, he wiped the floor with basically the entire Watch Tower, showing powers the Flash never did. Of course, we learn why the Flash would never use them, since they could easily result in people dying.
      • The Lampshade Hanging by Superman himself in the final ep of JLU (his "World of Cardboard" Speech and afterwards) more than makes up for it, though.
      • Also somewhat justified by the episode "Only a Dream" where we find out that both The Flash and Superman are afraid of their power getting out of control. So they likely consciously or unconsciously reduce their abilities.
  • In Young Justice, pretty much all of the heroes and villains (including the Justice League) were noticeably weaker than their modern comic incarnations. Word of God from Greg Weisman is that they're more in line with pre-Creep interpretations and that this made the huge amount of super-powered characters more manageable.
  • With some of the various "vs" cartoons— most notably with the "David v. Goliath" type matches— to prevent outright mis-matches.
  • In Darkwing Duck, The Liquidator had extensive control over water - he could spontaneously generate it, change its temperature, and turn it into "hard water" (a yellow glue-like substance), and his body was entirely fluid. After his one solo appearance, his water temperature changing and hard water abilities vanished and his other abilities were scaled back.
    • In all honesty, they had to. Liquidator's very nature makes him Nigh Invulnerable, barring having his oxygen and hydrogen atoms being separated. And after someone that strong has been defeated once, you'll never see him as the super-being he was before.
      • The lowered powers also dodge a very pesky piece of Fridge Logic, namely that Liquidator could have just boiled Darkwing alive by heating the 70% water content of his body otherwise. Then you wouldn't have much of a show, at least not one Disney would have ever allowed for an afternoon kids' cartoon.
  • In a crossover between the '90s SpiderMan cartoon and X-Men cartoon, this is highlighted in a scene where Spidey winds up fighting Danger Room Sentinels.
    Storm: Power of Lightning, strike again!
    Spider-Man: Uh... Power of Webshooters! Get... real sticky!
     Sport 
  • In International Sportscar racing there is a system called balance of performance in which weight, fuel capacity, engine, air restrictors, and aerodynamics. This is to ensure that no one car dominates the races and is employed in Twenty Four Hours Of Le Mans, World Endurance Championship, GT 3, United Sports Car Championship and many other series.

Phlebotinum BatterySuperhero TropesPower Incontinence
Poorly Disguised PilotCrossover IndexRed Skies Crossover
Power Born of MadnessPowerPower Crystal

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