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Super spin makes Superman stand still while spinning, letting enemies pummel him. Heat vision sends out a laser with the range and power of an ordinary punch. Super breath 1 looks like an ice crystal, and does absolutely nothing.
Sometimes this is just situational. Ice skates may work well on rinks but throwing at the player during the spy mission to make them lose their wall crawling boots means it still qualifies. For hazards disguised as useful power ups, see Poison Mushroom.
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In Batman: Arkham Asylum, one of the upgrades for the explosive gel is to go off automatically when an enemy passes by one. While this helps somewhat, it limits you to knocking over one inmate per explosive, one at a time, whereas without it you could make more elaborate traps that knock out a cluster of enemies simultaneously (which is important if you want to get takedowns before they get up). And once you get the upgrade, you can't turn it off. The upgrade, while absent in Batman: Arkham City, makes a reappearance in Batman: Arkham Origins.
The Golden Skulltula token collection quest in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. You spend all of the game collecting the tokens the stupid spiders leave behind, which sum up to a grand 100, and for what? An endless supply of huge golden rupees, worth 200. That's kinda useless in a game in which you hardly ever buy anything because you get everything in the dungeons. At least it's not the only prize you get, because if it was, it would have been just plain cruel. The Stone of Agony is a slap in the face for the players who didn't have a Rumble Pak, though. The Stone is even worse on the Virtual Console release — the Virtual Console doesn't include rumble, so the item does absolutely nothing!
The Golden Gauntlets is the final item you get in the game and they're literally only used for 2 stone pillars that must be chucked out of your path. They have absolutely no use anywhere else and come way too late to be of any use. Contrast that to their Titan's Mitt counterpart in A Link to the Past, where they busted the sandbox wide open.
The Couple's Mask from Majora's Mask. It takes you three Termina days to unlock and does absolutely nothing save earning you a Heart Piece and being required for 100% Completion. However the sidequest gives you a lot of other useful items along the way, such as other masks, a possible empty bottle, and a beautiful-yet-bittersweet romance subplot.
In the first Zelda game we have the Magic Book, supposedly a powerup for the Magic Rod. It turns the Magic Rod's projectiles into fire whenever they hit an enemy. The problem is that most late-game enemies are completely immune to fire, making the Book-powered Rod completely useless outside its piddling melee damage.
It does at least improve its damage against whatever isn't vulnerable to fire. The fact that some of the nastiest enemies are immune to the magic rod to begin with also makes both the rod and the book an example of this. Its main notable use is nuking the Lanmolas in Level 9.
The Spinner from the Arbiter's Grounds would be an awesome item if it retained its speed on the ground like it does on rails. Instead, it only carries Link a short distance before slowing to a crawl, and its attack has both low range and deals scratch damage. At least it's still somewhat useful throughout the game, but a huge letdown compared to how well it works during the boss battle of the Arbiter's Grounds.
The Dominion Rod is a contender for one of the most useless items in Zelda history. Its description makes it sound great, being a rod that can bring statues to life. In reality, all it basically lets you do outside the Temple of Time once Shad powers it back up again is move six obstacles — eight if you also take on the Cave of Ordeals in its entirety — throughout the entire rest of the game out of the way, and once that's done it has no more use at all.
The Light-Infused Master Sword as a dungeon 'item' in the Palace of Shadow. It's a "power up" to the master sword that only works in said palace and its main function is to clear out Shadow Crystal Fog, essentially making it a glorified dungeon key. True it kills twilit enemies in one blow, but that's a moot point since you don't encounter them at all past this dungeon.
The Horse Call. In theory, it would be great: a portable horse grass that you could use to call Epona anywhere in the game. Unfortunately, you don't get it until you're almost through the entire game, and by then you can just use Midna to warp almost anywhere. Adding insult to injury is the fact that you actually receive the item earlier in the Hidden Village, but at that point it is called Ilia's Charm and can't be used until you show it to her again.
Super House Of Dead Ninja features two of them. The flippers let you run on water, but are of only dubious usefulness as there's very little water in the game and you can usually just jump over it or have to swim through it anyway. The best reason to take the flippers when they're offered is so that the game will stop wasting valuable powerups on flippers! Still, they're better than the parachute, which slows the rate at which you fall. Falling doesn't harm you regardless of the height, but they can sometimes let you see something painful you're going to fall on and take evasive action... except you can generally achieve the same ends by grasping the wall and slowing your fall that way. So, really, it isn't of much positive use. Worse, the slow fall in certain rooms triggers nearby floor-snakes, making it impossible for you to get points for them, and can leave you vulnerable to certain enemies and bombs you would have otherwise sped past.
Toe Jam And Earl has the rocket skates: Incredibly fast, hard to steer, impossible to stop. When used, they immediately launch the player directly south, regardless of what direction they were facing, and one can only change direction 90 degrees from one's current direction. The skates are fast enough that one can cover a lot of ground in the time it takes to do a 180, and it's easy to wind up flying over the edge and falling to a lower level... multiple times. While there is a time and a place to use them, that time and place consists of "when there is absolutely no worse place to be than where you are right now."
You can control which direction you blast off if you're already moving when you open the items menu — the characters' idle animations are always turned towards the player.
The rocket skates can actually be used on the bottom level (mostly water) to reach a secret area. And then you can jump off the secret area and be teleported back to the highest level you were on.
The game has a few presents that can either be good or bad depending on the situation, complicated by presents being tough to identify.
The Force Unleashed has the Lightning Shield, which gives you a damaging aura. Unfortunately, it lasts far too short to be of any use, eats up force power like crazy, doesn't let you regenerate force power while it's active, and has a long wind up that leaves you vulnerable.
The Wii version has this in trope in spades. All of the powers that work off of lightsaber combos are not only very weak, but are hampered by the lightsaber being tied to poorly coded wiimote inputs. The one that takes the cake though is Dark Rage which makes you regenerate pathetic amounts of Force Energy when you hit with said useless lightsaber attacks. Not only has all of the problems of Lightning Shield but it also has a habit of going off on accident when you try to dash away or block after a combo and then start being spammed like crazy without any input from you. Just to reiterate, it's a Force Energy regenerating move that doesn't give you enough regen to compensate for the loss of natural regen and has a tendency to leave you wide open when you try to back off in a fight.
Beat 'Em Ups
In Dragon Ball Z: Buu's Fury, the Elder Kai powers up Gohan, making him much stronger but taking away his ability to go Super Saiyan, just like he does in the show. The problem is that in game terms, "powering him up" means giving him a lot of level ups, which could have easily been achieved through basic Level Grinding, while going Super Saiyan is THE way to actually win fights, because of its massive boost to speed. On top of that, the game's Boring but Practical weighted training clothes reduce your character's speed. Normally going Super Saiyan more than makes up the difference and grants a power boost to boot, but with the Elder Kai's "powerup", this becomes impossible. The obvious option of simply not using the weighted clothes means Gohan will level up slower, which means even his slight theoretical stat advantage soon falls apart. This "powerup" single-handedly turns Gohan into the worst character in the game.
What makes this even worse is that the early-game Great Saiyaman form gives Gohan a large speed boost just for being in the form, which is entirely determined by the plot, and never seen again past the World Tournament. The Elder Kai's boost does nothing of the sort. So we have a solid example of a way the developers could have easily avoided this powerup's massive suck, but for some inexplicable reason chose not to.
The irony being that in the manga/anime, the above power-up elevates Gohan into literally being the single most powerful non-fused being in existence such that he didn't even NEED super sayian to wipe the floor with anyone.
The Eyeclops helmet in Kid Chameleon has a default (green) beam that does no damage, but reveals invisible blocks, something that one can find for themselves through casual trial-and-error searching. Its secondary (white) beam does damage enemies...but only the Mooks you fight, only damages them the equivalent of one Goomba Stomp, and drains your gem total like candy. The only thing you might want from it 90% of the time is the extra unit of life it gives you, when there's no other Power Ups to be found.
That being said, it does have two uses. Due to the secret block mechanics of the game, it can reveal secret blocks which are otherwise impossible to see or activate, and in some levels, it will reveal bridges over spikes - and indeed, there are a couple levels where it is essentially mandatory for that reason. Sadly, this means you are stuck playing the entire level in the worst outfit in the game - indeed, apart from the life total issue, Kid Chameleon's base form is actually better than Eyeclops.
Super Smash Bros. Melee had the Cloaking Device, which blocked damage but still let people knock you around or throw you (how KOs happen in Smash Bros.), and made it hard for you to see yourself while not really causing the computer any trouble.note If you're playing with all humans, Cloak becomes useful. It still loses its initial purpose if you're using the names system to record stats for your many many fights: Names are permanently visible just above your character's location, utterly negating the point of being invisible. If you don't use names there is still the occasional P# marker, especially if you stand still for too long. The only purpose the Cloaking device serves is to negate damage buildup... which they probably did just to give it a purpose.
First Person Shooters
In Call of Duty: Black Ops, the Death Machine can be this. It's a helicopter turret you can walk around with... at a very slow pace, with a slightly faster killing time than other weapons, except it takes a bit longer to spin up than it does for most guns to aim down the sights and put three in your chest. It's even worse in Hardcore, where every gun is a one hit kill save a few at long range, so it doesn't even offer faster killing.
While the RPG Elements in Deus Ex were a lot of fun, many of them weren't very useful. Top (or, uh, bottom) among these would be environmental training, demolition, aqualung, run silent and energy shield. While some pointless items can be blamed on insufficient balancing in the campaign, the issue of which are best and worst is a hotly contested one. The devs seemed to be at least partially aware of this since they are cheap. Being so cheap, some of these marginal skills are worth a single rank for the improvement the first level gives you. The prequel Deus Ex: Human Revolution has it's own set of potentially useless or useful only in specific circumstances set of augments.
Blur Artifacts in Doom and Doom 2 when facing projectile shooting enemies. They make you harder to see, with the effect that monsters have a very poor aim when trying to shoot you. The problem is that most players will instinctively sidestep as soon as they see their attack animation, and are more likely to dodge into a stray projectile than get hit by a projectile aimed straight at them.
Fortunately, not all is lost; against the annoyingly lethal Chain-gunners, the "Blur" significantly reduces their accuracy rendering them (and all bullet-shooting monsters) far more manageable when fought in groups. So if you're expecting to fight an angry mob that will pump you full of lead, snag this power-up for that moment.
Shadowspheres are also dangerous in Heretic, more so than the Doom Blur Artifact example above. All attacks are slow projectiles, and enemies generally fire multiple projectiles at once. The most extreme example is D'Sparil who will sometimes summon additional mooks. These mooks will launch a 3-way spread attack, and if D'Sparil summons enough of them, will cause an entire area to be carpeted in shots. Not using the artifact is safer, since they only aim directly at the player. The artifact is still useful when dealing with Undead Warriors, because their thrown axes pass through you while you're ghost-like and inflict no damage on the player.
Mass Effect 1 has the high explosive weapon upgrade, which basically makes guns into rocket launchers. The problem is that they also instantly overheat your weapons, making them useless for a few seconds. That, combined with the fact that the game has plenty of grenades, makes high explosives fairly useless. It still works well with the shotgun; explosive rounds and a few other upgrades give it an absolutely monstrous knock-back effect, without increasing the cooldown time beyond the maximum. Since it takes longer for your victim to stand up than it takes for your Über-shotgun to cool down... It's also devastating with the sniper rifle, which very nearly overheats after every shot anyway.
Several of the actual powerups in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption are letdowns. In particular, beating the final Leviathan boss (Ridley, whose arrival is always a big deal) gets you the nearly useless Hyper Grapple. note To be fair, the Hyper Grapple doesn't have much use because it's the last powerup you get in the game and there isn't much you can do with it, but it's the only way to reliably vent Phazon at 99% corruption.
The Hyper Ball: as long as you don't spend Phazon or wait too long, you can freely move into and out of the invincibility-granting Hyper Mode without ever losing any health. Before getting the Hyper Ball, you can drop bombs that cost no Phazon while in hypermode. After you get the Hyper Ball, the bombs are replaced with an attack consisting of giant energy tendrils that don't really do anything aside from destroying Phazon growths in certain places. Without the hyperball, then, Morph Ball Bombs are essentially a way to deal damage while invincible. (This is a very useful property against Mogenar.) note Not eternally invincible. You have to time your movements in and out of Hypermode to avoid Terminal Corruption, but you can protect yourself well enough if you understand the mechanics. Of course, given Mogenar's the one who gives you the Hyper Ball in the first place...
The Hazard Shield, while giving you boosted defense, is supposed to protect you from hazardous substances, namely acid rain and fuel gel. By the time you get this item, there's barely anything that requires this power up anyway.
Metroid Prime has the Flamethrower, a secondary weapon to the Plasma Beam. Unlike the Super Missile (powerful with fast velocity) and the Wavebuster (automatically locks onto enemies for you), the Flamethrower has extremely short range and isn't powerful enough to kill anything quickly. Likewise, the Ice Spreader fires too slowly to be of any use and has a slight delay before the shot is made, though, unlike the Flamethrower, it's at least useful against the final boss. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes has similar problems with the Darkburst, Sunburst, and Sonic Boom.
The Black Tarot cards in Painkiller tend to vary between Game Breaker and this trope, especially considering how difficult some of these cards can be to collect. Some of the worst of these include Greed (which doubles the amount of gold found in breakable items, but which in itself already costs 2000 gold to place) and Divine Intervention (which allows the player to place any cards they want for free, but can only be earned at the very end of the game on the highest difficulty, by which point the amount of gold at hand is probably not an issue, and unequipping the card instantly removes all of the player's gold to boot).
In Star Wars: Battlefront II, you would gain access to certain elite weapons after doing well enough as a certain class overall and then, in the middle of a match, doing enough of a certain action (like getting enough headshots with a sniper rifle) in a single life. In general, these weapons were very useful - the elite pistol is one of the most deadly weapons in the game, for example, and the remote controlled missile is useful for hitting weapon weak points from a distance - but others are not. Particularly, the laser sniper, which, while supposed to shoot through units into others, is undermined by the fact that its hit detection is fairly terrible - things that look like direct hits are often not, and this is not helped by the fact that the trail of the laser is much wider than the laser actually is, making it difficult to tell exactly where you hit. Even body shots are wonky, while headshots are completely out of the question, and in general, it's more effective to hit enemies with headshots one at a time then try your luck with the laser sniper. Unfortunately, snipers can't switch back to the regular sniper after having switched to the elite one - if you do so, you have no choice but to either try your luck or kill yourself and respawn with the regular sniper, but, luckily, you don't have to use the elite weapons until you switch to them, meaning you can keep using the regular sniper by merely never switching to the pistol (leaving yourself relatively defenseless if ambushed) after activating the laser sniper.
The worst part of the laser sniper, however, is that it only has one level of scope zoom, unlike the regular sniper rifle which has two.
System Shock 2 featured an "exotic" bioweapon made from and reloaded with worms. It had two settings, one of which harmed annelids, one of which harmed humans, hybrid humans, or any other variation thereof... including you. It did a lot of damage, but that's not much consolation when only two kinds of enemies count as "annelids". As well, worms were extremely rare compared to other ammo, and with a certain implant, worms could be used to heal damage, which was usually far more valuable than throwing them at enemies so long as you had any other weaponry at all.
The Razorback item from Team Fortress 2. It's a Sniper item that prevents one backstab (and alerts the Sniper wearing it). The thing is...that's all it does. Protects from one backstab, and then it breaks, forcing you to go back to the Resupply Cabinet at your base for another one. Many Spies simply ignore the Razorback altogether and just shoot the Sniper with his revolver. Even worse, the other choices you may have are the trusty SMG (good mid-to-close range Emergency Weapon), the Cleaner's Carbine (also a decent Emergency Weapon, which can gain 3 seconds of crits on a kill), and the super-versatile Jarate which can extinguish burning teammates, reveal a cloaked/disguised Spy, and force any soaked enemies to take mini-critical hits!
The other backpack-based "secondary weapons" are a bit better, but not significantly. The Darwin's Danger Shield gives 25 more max health as well as a 15% bullet damage resistance, but increases explosive damage vulnerability by 20%. The Cozy Camper stops you from flinching when hit and gives slight (1 per second) health regeneration, but ramps up all damage taken by 20%, effectively lowering the Sniper's max health without outright doing so.
Actually averted in the case of the Danger Shield. There's a reason it's perpetually banned in every competitive league, as it gives you a massive advantage over counter-snipers, allowing you to tank a low-charged headshot or a fully-charged body shot.
The Classic, an alternate sniper rifle for the Sniper. Its biggest claim to fame is the ability to charge shots without being scoped. However, the Classic has one downside that absolutely kills its viability: it can only headshot when fully charged. This totally removes the ability to quickly eliminate enemies with a split-second headshot. Add on the fact that the "charge without being scoped" ability is nearly useless unless you're really worried about somebody sneaking up on you from the side or you think inching along hoping somebody appears is a viable tactic, and the Classic is a downgrade.
Happens fairly regularly in Borderlands. You can get a weapon that seems to be insanely powerful... except the shots are too slow to hit anything or travel in a strange pattern.
To a lesser extent, the Pentagram of Protection from Quake. It works as your run-of-the-mill invincibilty item... except it doesn't protect your armor. A not-so-savvy player will be tempted to pick one up as soon as it appears and run recklessly into the fray, only to be startled to find out afterwards that his protection is all gone when the effect wears off, and not just the pentagram's, but also that shiny Red Armor that he jumped through hoops and on pinhead-wide platforms to collect. In a game where even the most basic armor is the difference between living and dying, this can be catastrophic. This is only on the first game: the invulnerability power-ups in all following games cover the user's armor as well.
Put it this way: You're playing Bomberman Hero, and fighting Nitros for the fifth time. Once he's beaten, he'll reveal that he had been brainwashed and gives you his power. Does this "power" involve board-game-based attacks? No, it's extra bombs and blast radius plus fully restored health. By this point you're likely to have max of both, and it's a one-time-only event - which means that, even though it's a letdown, if repeatable it could still be very useful in case you ran out of continues during the last stages and lost all your bombs and blast radius...but no.
Tibia: A quest requiring the player to fight to the bottom of a dungeon of minotaurs rewards the player with an Iron Hammer. The hammer has no real sell value, and you can easily get a better for a few hundred GP.
In World of Warcraft, at one point Death Knights had a mechanic called Runic Empowerment, that gave their main attacks that cost runic power a chance to instantly recharge one of their depleted runes. At the same time, the Unholy talent tree contained a talent that allowed Death Knights to replace that mechanic with Runic Corruption, that instead caused all of their runes to recharge much faster. Problem was, the talent took two talent points, and if there's only one point in it, the effect is much less useful than the Runic Empowerment it replaced. The advice knowledgeable players gave was that if the Death Knight planned to invest in Runic Corruption, they shouldn't put any points into it until they had the two talent points to max it out immediately.
Unlike most specs the Dual Wielding fury warriors could pick from one of two 'ultimate' talents at the end of their talent tree. One let them simultaneously wield a two-handed weapon in each hand (with two-handed weapons doing more damage than one-handed ones), whilst the other gave a boost to damage when wielding a single-handed weapon in both hands. Even ignoring the Badass factor of having a BFS x 2, the one-handed talent was useless. If in any doubt the player could search online and find that the WoWPedia entry for the 1H talent was blank whilst the entry for the 2H talent consisted of a mathematical proof of why it was better...
With the introduction of Glyphs, some fall under this, or at least seem to, depending on how you play the game. In general, any glyph with the word 'but' in the description probably isn't worth it, since it takes up a glyph slot to help and hinder the player in equal measure.
One Glyph that isn't really subjective about this trope is the Monk's Glyph of Uplift, which replaces the Chi cost of one of the Mistweaver Monk's main multitarget heals with a (kinda steep) Mana cost. Players generally agree that there is absolutely no situation in which you want to do this. Perhaps for that reason, the glyph is slated to be removed in patch 5.4.
Assembling the Toaster Gun in Junk Yard changes the Video Mode from running away from Spike to attacking him with the Toaster Gun. The mini-game where you run away from Spike is not only easier, it yields more points. Hence, assembling the Toaster Gun actually hurts your overall score.
Some of the subweapons in the Castlevania games fall into this trope.
In almost every game, the throwing knife. It can be thrown faster than most of the other subweapons (and, in some cases, in clusters of three), but it does less damage than your whip, and in later games armored enemies are immune to it. They like to stash these in candles just before a boss encounter, so you'll be stuck with the weakest weapon in the game before your fight.
Later games did give the knife a powerful Item Crash called "Thousand Knives" that proves to be quite effective against most enemies. The only problem is that it keeps you stuck in one position while you're doing it, it takes a long time to finish, and you can't cancel out of it, so using it at the wrong moment can be deadly.
The knife can be useful early in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. At low levels, hearts are something of a precious commodity, and attacking at range is very useful given your weak starter sword. Also, an early almost-boss foe is very weak to all subweapons. On top of that, the Knife's one-heart cost and rate of fire means you can spam it like there's no tomorrow, an effect not dissimilar to firing a machine gun (every other knife in the series either has a slow rate of fire or heart/MP cost that stops you from doing this for too long). It's the exception to the rule, really.
Once you unlock the Shooter job class in Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, you can make daggers home in on enemies, which can actually be pretty handy. The Shooter also does more damage with daggers than the other job classes (but they still aren't as powerful as your whip).
The original style games had an occasional Cross, which killed almost every enemy on screen. But it's always placed where there are only a few enemies, which you could easily handle without it.
The axe subweapon is disappointingly situational. It does great damage, but has such a high arc that most enemies will simply walk under it, which makes it completely useless at anything less than extreme range or against flying enemies (which it's fantastic against).
In Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, to compensate for her many advantages, Maria has several absolutely worthless secondary weapons. She has the music book, which is like the throwing knife but lacks even a useful Item Crash, and a weapon that sends two birds diagonally upwards, which is totally useless except in certain rare circumstances (although at least it has a useful Item Crash).
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia features the Volaticus glyph, which is an awesome glyph that allows you to fly freely around the screen. So why is it a letdown? It's gained so late in the game that you barely get to use it unless you do the Bonus Dungeon Large Cavern. Does make Dracula much easier, though, reducing him to an easily-dodged flame pillar attack. It also allows you to fire Nitesco beams while moving, even backwards if you fired before moving.
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin's Owl Morph has a similar issue. Again, it's good in and itself, but not long after you get it, you find the Griffon Wing, which is a super jump that outclasses the Owl Morph in every way. You'll use the morph 3 or 4 times at most.
In fact, many of the upgrades in the DS Castlevania games are only useful in two or three areas, or are quickly outclassed by another upgrade.
Sequelitis argued that most of the weapons in Castlevania IV Super Castlevania were this, because the whip had gotten so heavily buffed that it was more effective than the majority of them. Why use the knife when the whip already reaches most of the way across the screen? Why use the axe when the whip can already reach airborne enemies? Why use the holy water, when the whip can stunlock enemies?
Earthworm Jim 2 features the Bubble Gun, which shoots harmless bubbles note The Bubble gun is often an outright Poison Mushroom — sitting in places where you needed More Dakka and have to avoid picking it up., and the Barn Blaster, which kills everything on screen - as long as you're not hit during the five seconds you spend immobile trying to fire the damn thing. Not to mention that you probably won't have a chance to use the good stuff either - you can only actually use your guns in about half the stages in the game, and you lose them all if you die in any stage.
The bubble gun is worse on the Sega Genesis \ Mega Drive, which didn't have the button to switch weapons (at least not on the common 3-button controller).
In Flimbo's Quest, the Superscroll. The point is to replace all the scrolls required for a level and send you straight through to the next level. However, it costs 2500, and a scroll costs 400, and the most scrolls you ever need for a single level is 6!
The axe in Ghosts N Goblins is extremely awkward to use and isn't any more powerful than the other weapons. It passes through enemies on impact, which is a terrible thing because all it does is leave you defenseless against an oncoming monster. The biggest kick to the balls is in the NES version: one of the bosses is immune to it. Its only redeeming feature is that it's rare. The torch has a shorter range (expecially in the later games), isn't any stronger than the other weapons, and if it touches the ground, it will stand there and burn the ground, which is useful if enemies run accidentally into it, but it also still counts as a bullet on screen, messing up with the weapon capping and leaving you defenseless against the other enemies.
Also, the Sleep ability in all the platformers. You sleep... and that's it. Upon waking up, you revert to normal Kirby. Sometimes you can restore HP, but usually only in the games with Scrolls, and at all other times Sleep is an outright Poison Mushroom.
Most of Mega Man games have at least one utterly unimpressive weapon.
Mega Man 1: Bombman's Hyper Bomb is extremely powerful, but the fuse is so long that the enemy will often move out of range before it can go off. Also, you can only throw one bomb at a time, so you're left wide open for a long time if you miss. Still, it is useful in situations where there is an enemy directly above or below you, and is stationary (Sniper Joes that can't see you, for example, or turrets).
Mega Man 2: Flash Man's Time Stopper drains energy rapidly, and the only way to turn it off is to switch to a different weapon. It does not damage enemies, and it disables your gun, so you can't even shoot while the foe is stunned. It's only really useful in Wood Man's stage and against Quick Man himself (who does take damage from it, but even then the full energy bar will only take about half his health). Theoretically it's useful in the Laser Gates section at the start of Quick Man's level, but unless you can find energy capsules to recharge it with, using it there means not using it against Quick Man himself.
Atomic Fire as well. Sure, it is very powerful when fully charged, but charging it takes forever AND you will most likely get hit while charging it, losing the charge. At least Atomic Fire can destroy things.
The Game Boy version, Mega Man II, has the pogo stick Sakugarne. Using it will damage you more than the enemies. AND it's the only weapon other than the Mega Buster that damages the final boss.
Mega Man 3 has a couple, thanks to Capcom rushing the game out to capitalize on the success of Mega Man 2. Top Man's Top Spin is often associated with this trope because it's an all-or-nothing weapon; either it will destroy an enemy in one hit, or it will do nothing, causing you injury, and furthermore will drain weapon energy if you try to attack again while your flickering sprite overlaps with the enemy's. This makes it frustratingly cumbersome when used against Shadow Man, the only enemy who's weak to it but doesn't die to it in one hit. Because he gets Mercy Invincibility just like you, he's alternately vulnerable and immune to it. At least Top Spin can actually destroy things though (including the final boss), while Spark Man's Spark Shock is beyond useless. It fires a spark that turns into a sort of electric cloud on contact, and anything in the cloud is stunned via electrocution. But the stunned enemies can still inflict collision damage on you, you can't switch to another weapon to finish them off, and if the screen is swarming with enemies, they'll push each other in and out of the cloud, making things even more chaotic.
Mega Man 4 has the Skull Barrier. One hit will destroy it, and although Dive Man is weak to it, using it against him only makes the battle harder!
Mega Man 5 has probably the largest collection of poor subweapons in the series:
Gravity Hold: Hits the whole screen-for only a single buster shot's worth of damage, consumes a lot of energy per shot, and enemies defeated by it are thrown off the screen instead of destroyed, so they will never drop any energy pickups or 1-Ups.
Napalm Bomb: Bounces slowly along the ground, ricochets off walls, and has a deceptively short blast radius when it goes off.
Water Wave: A second ground-based weapon that's worse than the Napalm Bomb. It's noticeably faster, but does only as much damage as an uncharged buster shot, is stopped by walls, and can't even be fired in midair.
Star Crash: The second in a series of useless shields, preceded by the Skull Barrier in Mega Man 4 and succeeded by the Plant Barrier in Mega Man 6. The star shield it creates can sustain only one hit and it inexplicably uses less weapon energy when fired as a projectile instead of when used like the shield it's supposed to be. It also seems to have unusually large range, making it prone to taking hits that would have missed you anyway.
Power Stone: Causes three rocks to quickly spiral away from your position. Due to being nigh impossible to aim anywhere, it's best used against enemies that are about to collide with you. Since it can inflict up to three hits in quick succession, it ironically makes a better assault shield than the Star Crash.
Charge Kick: Turns your slide into a kick, during which you are invincible, but besides being yet another ground-based weapon in a game that only needs one at most, you're more liable to throw yourself at enemies instead of attack them if you don't know the exact range of your slide. It's probably most comparable to the Top Spin from Mega Man 3; deadly when mastered, but why bother in the first place?
Mega Man X5: The Skiver's attack for Zero. The problem with it is how it's performed, attack while dashing. While this is well and good on its own, the problem arises in that it completely breaks a technique that is executed in a similar way (constantly attacking and dashing in place) that lets Zero do obscene damage to anything in front of him. It makes it worse than a letdown, to the point that it's an outright hindrance. Fortunately, you can potentially go without it by simply firing off the Shuttle without beating The Skiver, provided it works.
Mega Man X6: Defeating Ground Scaravich grants Zero the ability to perform a strong dive attack that cannot be cancelled, mapped to Up+Square. You will repeatedly kill yourself trying to attack enemies and grab ropes in the game's Platform Hell sections if you're foolish enough to get this. The only saving grace is that you can unlock the end game without defeating Scaravich. For added insult to injury, it turns out this technique, if you're using Zero, is Sigma's weakness after going One-Winged Angel.
Mega Man Powered Up: The Oil Slider; it is practically impossible to hit an enemy without taking damage yourself.
Mega Man II (Game Boy): Sakugarne is similar to the Oil Slider.
Mega Man Xtreme 2 has a borderline example: Each part of X's armor permanently takes up a slot that would otherwise be used to equip a different item. For most of the parts, that's fine, but the Head Part is only good for getting the Arm Part, and you can just complete that part of the task as Zero instead. You essentially make yourself weaker by getting it.
Many Metroid games include murderously hard puzzles whose reward turns out to be nothing more than a small increase to your missile or Power Bomb capacity. Even worse, the designers of fan hacks like Super Metroid Redesign take this as a challenge.
The Ice Beam from the first game immobilizes enemies-and does a piddly one damage. The wave beam is much superior-but you need the ice beam to complete the game. Later games soften the blow by not making them Mutually Exclusive Powerups, buffing the ice beam's damage, and making it so most frozen enemies take a One-Hit Kill from missiles.
Sonic Adventure 2 had Magic Hands. Basically they allowed Sonic, after coming to a complete stop, to turn one of his enemies into a sphere, and then throw that sphere at another enemy - but to use it, you had to scroll through an action menu, and thus could only be use it on an enemy that wasn't actively attacking you. Plus, it was impossible to aim the throw, which didn't even have much range or do much damage. The default homing attack was superior in every way. note It is actually useful on Point Runs. Magic Hands doubles the points earned from the enemy it's used on. Since points determine your Rank at the end of the level, using Magic Hands on high-point-value enemies (like Gold Beetles) is useful for getting A-Ranks on hard levels. It is good for insta-killing enemies with shields too, as they can block neither the Hands nor their thrown partner.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 has the Bubble Shield, which is a total waste of time from Mushroom Hill Zone on, if you are playing the game with Sonic & Knuckles locked on. After Launch Base Zone, there's no more water in any of the future levels, so the Bubble Shield is never needed unless you want it to make you bounce higher (Sonic only). This gets worse if you are playing Sonic & Knuckles as a stand alone, which has no water at all.
Only if you already have a shield. The bubble shield is still good for protection from ring loss for one hit, which is still better than no shield at all, even if its beneficial function (being able to breath underwater) is useless.
The Speed Shoes throughout most of the games tend to be useful when you got a long stretch of ground and loops to run through, but if you get the item before a set of platforms you have to jump around on, the item then loses its usefulness.
Hyper Sonic & Hyper Knuckles are this to some because they're a lot harder to control, they're a lot more susceptible to crushers that suddenly come from offscreen, & they sometimes die when they touch something that's not even lethal..
The Anchor stops the airship in each world from moving around if you fail to beat it. That's useless, because the airship only appears after you have cleared a path through most of the world getting to the castle in the first place.
Its only use is in World 5, so you don't have to go back and forth from the sky and the ground. There's also a Game-Breaking Glitch in the NES version that can make the airship fly off the World 5 map completely, making the game Unwinnable. The Anchor prevents this from happening.
The "storable" invincibility star can only be activated before you enter a level, and as it wears off pretty quickly, it's fairly useless (unless you were having trouble with one of the first few baddies).
Using the star on certain levels adds stars to some of the ? blocks, making it possible to be invincible throughout those entire levels.
It is also useful for defeating the wandering Hammer Brothers, since you can easily kill them before the star wears off.
The Music Box puts the wandering Hammer Brothers on the map to sleep for two "turns". The wandering Hammer Brothers are fairly easy to defeat and you always got a power-up for doing so, so this is pretty pointless. Though it can be useful to skip a mandatory Piranha Plant-filled mini-level in Pipe Land. (All you get is a Mushroom in the second Piranha Plant level.)
The Frog Suit makes traversing water levels easier, but on land, it hops as opposed to walking, which makes it much more difficult to control and prevents Mario from building up running momentum. The only way to circumvent this is by carrying an object, but nothing in the game can be carried indefinitely. Worse than that, though, is that it's impossible to crouch while wearing the Frog Suit, meaning if you encounter a low obstacle that requires you to duck and slide underneath, you're pretty well hosed if you can't find a way to lose it.
The good old Super Mushroom becomes this in Super Mario World. Why? Because you can still pick them up after gaining better stuff (whereas once you had a Super Mushroom in other games, you wouldn't get another one unless you became tiny again), and it will instantly replace the far more useful Fire Flower and Cape Feather power-ups you might have in reserve. The designers apparently noticed this too, since the game loves to constantly ambush you with free Super Mushrooms while Flowers and Feathers are usually only found in item boxes, effectively turning the Mushroom into another obstacle to avoid if you plan on keeping your better reserve power-ups.
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins has the Carrot, which gives Mario rabbit ears and let him fall very slowly and glide by holding the jump button. However, Rabbit Mario cannot spin jump, a very useful ability that really shouldn't be interfered with by his ability to glide.
Although it should be noted that tapping the button extremely rapidly effectively changes "glide" into "hover". You can essentially skip entire stages with the carrot (much like the Super Leaf and Cape Feather).
The Mega Mushroom makes you huge and lets you stampede through the level without fear of losing a life — except that as you go, you break pipes in half. Nine times out of ten you screw yourself out of 100% Completion that way. (At least the levels are replayable...) That is, when you don't die anyway because the level terrain is weak enough that your hulked-out protagonist literally breaks through the floor. If you can manage to get one into a boss fight, though, you have a one-hit kill. Unless it's Bowser Jr, who will just bounce off you until you revert.
The Mini Mushroom makes you tiny, which is good in that it allows you to enter areas that are otherwise inaccessible, increases your jump height and makes your jumps floatier and allows you to run on water... but it also slows you down considerably and makes it harder to stomp enemies (requiring a Ground Pound to hurt most of them). It also reduces you to a 1-hit kill, so if you were Fire Mario, picking this up is actually worse than touching an enemy. And if you want to get every bonus, you'll need to go some relatively long distances with the handicap in place. Have fun.
In order to get to each of the two hidden worlds, you are required to beat a boss with the Tiny Mushroom power-up. One of them likes to hide in the ground and disappear before you can ground pound him, and the other flies. This can be cheesed around a bit by keeping a Mini Mushroom in reserve and fighting the boss normally until it's one hit away from defeat, so you need only deliver one hit while tiny.
Super Mario Galaxy has Spring Mario, which can jump really high but is a nightmare to control. It gets you both ways — the Spring is a requirement to reach certain areas, as well as to fight a boss that fires sorta-homing projectiles at you. But once you have it, you're stuck with it until you get hit. So, after being required to use it, if you want to precisely navigate some narrow platforms, you'll need to find an enemy to run into first!
In Valis III, the Heroine, Yuko, has her sword's power "fully released" by Older and Wiser Nazetti with the implication that it will kill her. This has no in-game benefit; all it does is give her a fancy new set of armor. (This is possibly to preserve game balance with the other two characters.) This does not stop the difficulty from jumping up to Nintendo Hard, though.
Platformer Xargon: Beyond Reality has the hero start with a laser beam weapon. One of the upgrades to this is throwing rocks, and once you pick up the rock "powerup" you can no longer fire your laser. Fortunately, it resets at the start of each level. Also, if you've grabbed enough gems by the time you get the stupid rock, you can buy back your laser right away.
Both the earthquake staff and sundial spells in the movie video gameWarlock are equally useless; the former causes an essentially non-damaging earthquake that's only good for bringing down rock platforms or float crystals, and is really only mandatory for one level. The latter has two uses: used as a normal spell, you get transported back to the spot you collected it in the level, allowing you to keep all the items you gathered up til then, while resetting all the items and enemies you encountered in the level before the sundial's use. Or, if you die while you have it in your inventory, it acts as a 1-Up, letting you restart the level with all your items replaced by a single full regeneration spell. Since the game has a password system, the latter use is, well, useless, and the game is sufficiently Nintendo Hard that it's more prudent to rush through the game rather than attempt to stock up on every level.
The Creepy Crag level in Plok has a snazzy looking cowboy outfit complete with a revolver you can get as a powerup. It does absolutely nothing but shoot out a flag with "BANG" written on it, and seems to exist only to regenerate Plok's limbs.
In Cave Story, enemies drop experience crystals that power up your weapons when you collect them and power down when you get hit, with three levels per weapon. Generally, you want to keep your weapons at the highest level possible, but with the Blade weapon you want to keep it at level 2. The Blade is a highly damaging weapon, but you can only have one shot of it onscreen at a time. The problem with the weapon's level 3 upgrade is that it passes through enemies, meaning that you have to wait for the shot to disappear before you can fire another. At level 2, the shot disappears after hitting an enemy, so you can fire as fast as you can press the fire button, more than making up for level 3's increased damage.
The Boots of Lava Walk and the Cloak of Darkness in Wizards And Warriors. All the former does is let you ride a spout of flames in level 3 (useful for saving you about 2HP in the entire game), and the latter turns you invisible but due to a glitch enemies can still see you just fine.
For many races in Gran Turismo 4, your prize is The Alleged Car, and you sometimes spend more money upgrading or purchasing a required car then you earn for the race.
In all Wipeout games, you pick up weapons by flying over a weapons pad. Usually you simply have access to all weapons, but in Wipeout Fusion you would unlock weapons as you went. However, the enemies got them as well when you did. Really all you ever wanted was shields, turbos, missiles (all available at the start) and quakes (unlocked after beating one race). However, as you beat more championships, more weapons would be added... all of them either bad ones that would dilute the weapon selection (autopilot, mines, flamer, rockets) or ones that were amazingly good but were far more likely to be used against you (gravity-bomb). Worst of all, unlocking your team's superweapon would give everyone else on the track their super-weapon as well, which is just great when you're flying a Van Über whose super is a useless slow straight line projectile and end up unlocking your EG-R opponents' swarm weapon that removes half of your health and is completely inescapable.
A tactical example: the actual weapon powerups in the first Wipeout game, in particular the shield. There is a reason why the second game added a "drop weapon" key and ensured you couldn't get the same powerup several times in a row, and why recent titles do allow you to shoot out of your own shield. The first game didn't even have a health bar and weapons were highly ineffective on the player, so you were involuntarily giving up the ability to shoot in exchange for immunity from the occasional enemy weapon hit, often for long stretches of time if you kept picking up shields and more shields.
The Spiny Shell/Blue Shell... depending on the game. It's a powerful homing missile that fires straight at the player in first place... which is all well and good, but you generally only get it when you're in 4th place or below. The shell may completely screw over the person in 1st, but if you're that far back, this often has no actual effect on your position in the race. It's often best to either get rid of it so you can try for another, more useful item, or hold it while you try to get close to the front of the pack so the unblockable hit will actually give you a chance to move up.
In Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart 7, the Blue Shell takes out any player that is in its path on its way to the leader, which can be quite useful, particularly in tracks where there is only one main lane people stick to. In all other games in the series, the shell just focuses on the leader and has no effect on anyone else (unless they're close to the leader, and therefore within the blast radius, when it goes off).
Note that it is possible to get a Blue Shell while you are in first place (either randomly as a remote possibility, or from certain item boxes that always contain Blue Shells). If you fire it, it will just hit you. Fortunately, in Mario Kart 64, you can drag it behind you by holding the weapon button to protect you from most attacks from the rear. Just remember to wait until the game registers the change in position before firing it at anyone who passes you.
The Thundercloud item in Mario Kart Wii plays out as a double edged sword. If you get this item, it's used right away so you can't store it. Under its effects, you get a slight boost in speed and you can go off road without slowing down. However, if it goes off while it's on you, you shrink and lose speed. You can pass it to another player by bumping into them, but it sucks to be you if there's no one in sight.
The coin item in Super Mario Kart is a let down since you have nothing to defend yourself with for a whole lap and the coin item just adds 2 coins to your total.
The Feather item, while a complete Game Breaker in specific tracks, is generally useless. While you can use it to avoid an item thrown onto the track, most of the time you can just go around it. Using the Feather while on a curve could throw you off the track due to momentum.
The Bullet Bill is supposed to be a powerful item you get when you're in dead last. It transforms you into a bullet that speeds around the track, damages any other player you hit, and tries to let you catch up with the rest of the pack, but it always follows the middle of the course, and doesn't take shortcuts or the best racing lines, so the speed boost you get struggles to match what you could have done anyway on some tracks. It's even worse in Mario Kart 7 because it was made slower, so a skilled racer can easily do just as well without it, and surpass it with much better items. The duration of the item is also a problem; more often than not it will last even after you pass the next set of item boxes, so when it runs out, you have nothing else to help you. Furthermore, depending on when you use it, it can run out in the middle of a sharp turn or difficult section of a course, dumping you there and giving you very little time to change direction or otherwise recover. It's better to get two good items than one Bullet Bill. And you have no choice but to use it if you have it. You can't waste it or cancel it or trade it in for a different item.
The Blooper item in Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart 7 is made entirely useless thanks to having a map on the lower screen. While the item did make the AI slow down, more skilled players can play without being hindered by ink on the screen.
Bowser and Bowser Jr's special item, the Giant Shell, in Mario Kart Double Dash!! was basically a green shell, but huge and with more speed. Its size and bounce speed is powerful enough to knock out players and course obstacles alike, but thanks to the unpredictability of the shell's path, you will more than likely hit yourself and it is hard to avoid because of its huge size.
In several of the Need for Speed games it turned out that all vehicle upgrades were pointless. If the player used an unmodified car then the opponents in any given race would do likewise. However, paying for expensive upgrades allowed the AI cars to equip comparable upgrades for free, negating the advantage. Then again the games had such bad Rubber-Band A.I. that having a more powerful car probably wouldn't have helped too much anyway...
In Ancient Domains of Mystery, once you meet certain requirements, you can pray to your deity to receive a pre- or post-crowning gift, a random artifact. While there are several extremely good artifacts you might receive, there are also some spectacularly terrible ones like Soaker note very mediocre damage, Celestrix note great armor rating, tons of great intrinsics and resistances, but dooms you when you put it on, Black Thumb note automatically slays plants, but there are barely any notable plant monsters, and has mediocre damage, or the Black Tome of Alsophocus note teaches a random spell when read, but corrupts when carried and gives massive corruption when read, generally considered the worst artifact in the game.
The Binding of Isaac has the Cat-O-Nine-Tails item. It is intended to be an upgrade to your shot speed, but ask any professional player and they'll tell you that more often than not, you won't be able to find a good enough use for it.
The "Special" attribute on some items, which actively skews the game away from getting more of such items, turns a few items into this. Getting something like Mom's Eyenote chance to fire backwards or My Reflectionnote shots gain a boomerang effect, at the cost of range becomes a lot less enticing when it means lowered chance of Mom's Contactsnote freezes enemies solid or Dr Fetusnote shots become bombs. This actually led to BoILeR, a competitive racing league, actually making an exception to its "No Reroll" rule for Toothpicks, an item room powerup that is effectively a Special Cat-O-Nine-Tails.
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn gives you a bunch of nifty powerups right before the final battle, after the point of no return, based on your alignment. One in particular however, is very lame. Good players get immunity to all +1 weapons or less. At this point in the game, all you have left to fight are demons and a powerful mage, none of which use nonmagical weapons anyway. Then in the expansion, you go back to facing normal foes again, to discover the Mook infantry is armed with +3 weapons. So much for that. note There is a caveat: if you're the right class/stat build. A Mage can cast the self-only spell 'protection from magic weapons' and thus render themselves immune to any kind of physical attack.
Though note, it makes you basically immune to all enemies except named ones, drow, giants, demons and dragons for all of the expansion pack, except for a handful of guards here and there. Also, if you activate it before finishing the trials, the trial of wrath is rendered harmless as he only has a +1 weapon. The massive Oasis in ToB battle is a joke with that power, as only the commander has weapons that can hurt you. The abilities are actually more a play through perk then anything. Much like the stat manuals in the first game allowing you to have ridiculously high stats starting in BG2, BG2 had the hell trial abilities, which a fresh character in ToB would completely lack, in addition to most of the best gear.
A depressing number of Perks from Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics fall into this category. An unnecessary number of Perks only give flat bonuses to skills (and you have more skill points than you know what to do with by level 12 or so). Others are incredibly situational (Silent Death has 6 separate prerequisites that have to be fulfilled for its double damage to take effect), useless in general (Adrenaline Rush maxes out the easiest stat in the game to max out normally, but only when you're on death's door), too weak to matter (Bonus Ranged Damage grants a measly +2 damage), or literally do nothing (one of which is ironically named "Break the Rules). In some cases, Perks did this between games—the version of Quick Pockets in Fallout 2 is vastly superior to the one in the original game, and the change of engine between 2 and Tactics made the formerly Boring but Practical Bonus Move useless 90% of the time (originally, it granted 2 AP that could only be used for movement. This allowed melee characters to close faster and all characters to move tactically while saving their real AP for attacks and items. The Tactics version increases how much ground a character covers per AP spent, which means it's only useful when a melee character is pursuing a new target).
Fallout 3 has "Nerves of Steel", a level 26 perk that boosts your AP regeneration by 1 point per 10 seconds - so inconsequential that it took slow-motion analysis and careful reading of the game's code to ensure that the perk even works. Compare to a level 20 perk, Grim Reaper's Sprint, which maxes out the player's AP every time they use AP to get a kill. This situation was somewhat improved in Fallout: New Vegas, where Grim Reaper's Sprint was heavily nerfed to grant only +20 AP for a VATS kill, and Nerves of Steel improved to speed up AP regeneration by 20% instead of a flat value.
"Swift Learner" gives a percentage boost to experience; great, right? Except that it's already incredibly easy to hit the Absurdly Low Level Cap, and it takes up a perk slot that could be used for something helpful, making it worse than useless.
Fallout: New Vegas has a few as well. Consider the mutually exclusive "Elijah's Last Words" and "Elijah's Rambling" perks. Either one is obtained by completing a very difficult DLC, finding a hidden message, and giving it to Veronica, one of your companions. The first increases her Melee Weapons speed and gives her a chance to knock down enemies with every melee hit while the second greatly increases your melee Critical Hit damage. Too bad she's an UNARMED specialist and her Melee Weapons skill can never rise above 18, making this promising-in-theory ability absolutely useless if given to her. You're better off just keeping it for yourself, given it comes with no karma or reputation loss.
Outside of perks, this can also happen with the effect of skills on consumable items: most items have their effects multiplied by a value dependent on player skill in Medicine or Survival, including the negative ones. So, for instance, drinking Vodka in hardcore mode will increase dehydration by 25 at minimum Survival skill and 75 at 100 Survival.
Some DLC-added items and perks fall flat on their face given the degree of effort put into gaining them. For instance, the perk Broad Daylight from Lonesome Road allows you to sneak with your Pip-Boy light on. It accomplishes this by...treating your sneak level as though it were 15 points higher, negating the sneak penalty through brute force. You're better off turning off the light and simply chugging a bottle of inexpensive and nonaddictive Cateye than wasting the perk. Or the 'buck' shotgun shells from the Gun Runner's Arsenal DLC—on the surface, the lowered pellet count seems to be made up for by their larger size, allowing for more power in each pellet that hits...until you realize that the standard shotshells are actually more powerful in terms of sheer power, spreading out an only slightly smaller amount of individual damage between nearly twice as many projectiles. It's actually better just to use the widely available basic shotgun shells instead of spending the time looking around for Gun Runner-made buck shells.
Endless Frontier — When combat robots Nacht and Abend join your team they act as a Power-Up Letdown: they share a character slot with Gespenst whose provides the best support attack in game. Since the robots take turns to appear whenever you summon them, the support attack become less reliable. This is somewhat made up by the fact that after they join, Haken gains a new special skill that involves calling them to gang up on a single enemy. While this attack can't be comboed into or out of, it also isn't a subject to Forced Evasion and it does roughly the same amount of damage as Haken himself would've done with his full set of attacks, if not more.
Landsknecht's Arm Heal, which is more or less a trap to make ignorant players waste their skill points. Like any skill, one can place up to ten points in it, which is a lot considering all characters have a hard limit of 73-78 or so points total to spend on everything, including all their useful skills, stat boosts, and their prerequisites. Level 1 Arm Heal is a head skill (meaning it can't be used if the Landsknecht's head is bound) that self-cures bound arms for 2 TP. In other words, one uses it when their arms are bound, their head is not, and it's somehow deemed more useful to spend the Landsknecht's turn arm-healing instead of having the medic do it or simply using non-arm skill-requiring regular attacks. But hey, at least it's practically free. Needless to say, its being worth even a single point is hotly debated, but not even its most dedicated fans advocate maxing it, as the only additional perks are that the cost of using it drops to 1 TP at level 5, and 0 at level 10.
Protector's Provoke, a skill to goad enemies into attacking the Protector instead of anyone else, whose success rate is way too low even at level 10 to be reliably used for the usual keeping-everyone-else-alive tank purposes.
Medic's H. Touch, a skill that heals the party for very low TP, but can only be used outside of battle and can only heal up to a certain percentage of their maximum health — for example, if the cap is 10% and someone has 100 HP, it would only heal for as much as it would take to bring them up to 10 HP, and would be completely useless if they had more than that. The cap at level 10 is 40%.
Fortunately, Provoke and Arm Heal (renamed "Unbind" as it is now no longer arm-specific) were dramatically improved for the sequel, and H. Touch was removed entirely. (The Medic's Limit Break in the sequel is technically called "H. Touch," but the actual move and effect are extremely different.)
Protectors Anti(element) skills will completely block attacks of the corresponding element at level 5. If you upgrade them to 6 or higher, you will absorb the attack's damage and heal you, but will also let through any secondary effects. This has been fixed in various ways in other games: in 2 and Millennium Girl absorption prevents status effects and 3 required mastery just to completely nullify the damage.
The Gravity spells also fall into this. You got a spell that can cut an enemy's HP in half? Awesome! Oh, wait. Most of the enemies and bosses are immune anyway and any enemies that are not immune can easily be beaten with a few sword whacks.
In Final Fantasy III for the DS, one of the level 6 White Magic spells — the second highest level a normal white mage can get — is Stona. All it does is remove the petrification status effect, which you can easily remove with the appropriate item (which have been available for some time by this point). And due to the Level MP system the game uses (like with pre-GBA Final Fantasy I), this clunker shares MP with the more useful Haste spell.
Final Fantasy IV for the DS gives you Inferno after beating Rubicante. It does more damage than essentially any other spell in the game. The problem is, it also hits your own party, and hard enough that you can kill your entire party in one hit even from full health. Expert players will equip their characters with fire-resistant items and Cursed Rings to avoid this. Though the Cursed Rings are normally a Poison Mushroom, they upgrade "resist element" to "absorb element", so a properly equipped party can use Inferno to damage the enemy and heal themselves.
Due to a bug in the code, the Evade stat is never checked; the "Magic Block" stat is used to determine evasion rates for for both magic and physical attacks. Since shields primarily boost Evade, they're virtually useless. This was fixed in the GBA rerelease.
However certain shields are good for blocking elemental attacks, particularly the Paladin Shield (which adds at least 20% to the M Block stat on top of absorbing or blocking most elements)
If you max out Terra's Magic and then use her Morph skill, her most powerful spells will do very little damage due to an integer overflow in the damage calculation. (But then, her level 1 magic will hit for max damage, so you don't really need the powerful spells that much anyway.)
The Crusader Esper, the most powerful summoned monster in the game, can only be gained by fighting a series of eight dragons all around the world (two of which are in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon). Unfortunately, when you summon Crusader, it also damages your party, which makes it basically useless. There are other benefits to having it, though, since it's the only non-losable Esper that teaches Meteor, and the only Esper anywhere that can teach Meltdown — two of the most powerful spells in the entire game.
The Meltdown spell itself can be one of these, since it damages the party when you cast it. If your party members have Fire-absorbing gear, it's not such a problem. Quake is similar, but the can be mitigated by the Float spell. Probably the worst example, besides the aforementioned Crusader, is Whirlwind/Tornado; not only can it reduce your party members to critical HP, no equipment in the game will block it.
In the GBA port, they added the ability to run without having to equip the Sprint Shoes relic. The relic wasn't removed from the game, though, so equipping the Sprint Shoesand having autorun turned on made your character move uncontrollably fast. Some players rather like it, though, so it's unclear whether this was intentional or a Good Bad Bug.
If Sabin has learned the Soul Spiral ougi, which sacrifices his life to revive all dead party members, then you can no longer use him in the Dragon's Neck Colosseum (which allows you to enter your characters in automated one-on-one gladiatorial battles). He will almost always open with that move, making you instantly lose the match and, consequently, your wagered item. Similarly, if Strago has learned either Transfusion or Self-Destruct, you run the risk of blowing a round on a pointless suicide. Gau can also have a chance, depending on which Rage he opts to use.
Magic Defense is based entirely on the character's intrinsic "Spirit" stat; pieces of armor that supposedly boost magic defense actually do nothing. Luckily, the PC rerelease (2012) version fixes the glitch.
The Kjata summon. In theory, it should be fantastic; this is an attack which hits the Fire, Ice, Lightning, and Earth weaknesses on all of the monsters in the battle. However, the internal logic is actually reversed, and multi-elemental attacks use the strongest defense on the list — if even one of those elements is blocked or absorbed by a creature, then all the damage from Kjata is blocked or absorbed, no exception. In effect, multi-elemental attacks are worse than single-element attacks, because more creatures are left unharmed by them.
Aeris's final Limit Break, Great Gospel is one of these. While it's a great Limit Break, Aeris is lost so early in the game that you have to know what you're doing to actually get the power and train Aeris up to the point that she can use her level 4 Limit Break — and then you lose her and all that work was for nothing! note Unless you count the achievement added to the 2012 rerelease as something.
Final Fantasy XI has "Balrahn's Myriad Arms" (known as "Mythic Weapons" among the player base). Despite taking longer to complete than Relic Weapons, the true Infinity Plus One Swords of the game, Mythic Weapons are almost all significantly less powerful.
Mythic Weapons require you to clear a large number of one-per-day missions, get a huge amount of rare materials, and kill several difficult bosses to gather the materials for a single attempt at the final fight that earns the actual weapon. All of which adds up to nearly a year of playtime to earn the thing (or more if you fail the final fight several times). Compare to Relic Weapons, which require a fraction of the time, a few relatively easy fights, and a massive amount of Dynamis currency (which is expensive, but easy to get if you have the cash to just buy it). Somehow, Square Enix seriously thinks mythic weapons are easier to get than relic weapons.
In Pokémon Gold and Silver, Scyther was regarded as being better than its evolved form, Scizor. Scizor is the only evolution that does not increase the total base stats; instead, points are taken out of the Speed stat and reallocated into the Attack and Defense stats. In competitive battling, Speed is a major deciding stat for determining what tier a Pokémon fits into. Additionally, while changing its second type from Flying to Steel gave it a lot of extra resistances, it also lost its resistance to Ground and gained a double weakness to Fire. However, as of the third and especialy fourth gen, Scizor is no longer an example; in fact it is among the most used Pokémon in the game (As of October 2014, it is the 3rd most used Pokémon, followed by Latios and Landorus-Therian).
The mascot Pikachu is a minor case of Powerup Letdown. While its evolution Raichu has better stats overall, only Pikachu can make use of the damage-doubling Light Ball item. Even before this though, Raichu doesn't learn any moves through leveling up, meaning if you evolve Pikachu too early for the power boost, you'll miss out on the more powerful moves that it can learn, as Lt. Surge found out the hard way during the rematch against Ash in the anime.
This applies, with a few exceptions, to most Pokémon that evolve via evolution stones. Using a stone evolution boosts the Pokemon's stats, but greatly slows or stops the learning of new attacks. The best strategy is usually to get the Pokémon to the level of the last move it gains through level-up that you want before evlving.
The same is often true of evolution in general, particularly with starters. The starting form usually gains its attacks many levels earlier than the higher evolutions. This is not always the case, though.
The fifth gen added a lot more examples courtesy of its Eviolite item, which boosts the holder's defenses by 1.5x (but can only be held by a mon that has yet to evolve). While in many cases better stats overall tend to counterbalance the loss of Eviolite, there are some mons that are made substantially better by the item than their evolved form. One good example is Dusclops; its stats heavily lean it towards becoming a wall, which Eviolite helps massively, whereas evolving to Dusknoir increases all of its base stats by a mere five points except Attack which gains 30; admittedly useful, but nowhere near as much so as the defense boost which Eviolite can increase to up to nearly 200.
The fifth generation also introduced the concept of "Hidden Abilities", new abilities available to various Pokemon, but only ones obtained in a certain way (usually by catching them through Dream World). However, a number of these Hidden Abilities are considered useless, either because the ability itself is bad, or because what the Pokemon already has is considered much better. A couple examples:
Scizor is an example of both reasons at once. One of the main reasons it has become so popular is the synergy its moveset has with its Technician ability, so it would take a really good ability to outdo it. However, Scizor's Hidden Ability is Light Metal, whose only practical use is reducing the damage taken from Low Kick and Grass Knot, neither of which Scizor was particularly concerned about in the first place, meaning it's comparatively useless. Heat Crash, however, does hurt it a lot more than usual, but who's going to use it?
Metagross also gets Light Metal, but due to its immense weight and the way Low Kick and Grass Knot's damage is calculated, it still takes the maximum possible damage from both moves. Its only real effect is to increase the damage Metagross takes from opposing Heavy Slams and Heat Crashes, making Light Metal worse than useless for it.
Light/Heavy Metal as Hidden Abilities are relatively useless for the aformentioned reasons- the only Pokemon who have the Ability usually don't worry about Heavy Slam, Heat Crash, Grass Knot, and Low Kick, since they're heavy enough it doesn't matter much and those moves are too gimmicky to use reliably. Bronzong also suffers because both of its regular Abilities remove one of its weaknesses (especially Levitate, against the omnipresent Ground-type moves). Aggron doesn't really benefit anyways, as it already has the maximum weight for Grass Knot/Low Kick to do most damage, and Heavy Slam gets full power + STAB even without Aggron's Ability; its original Abilities (Sturdy lets it get in at least one move without dying to Earthquake or a Fighting-type move, and Rock Head has only three recoil moves to work with, one of which is at least STAB Head Smash) are okay, but better than Heavy Metal.
Starmie gets the Hidden Ability Analytic, which increases the damage it does if it moves last. However, Starmie is a Fragile Speedster, so its widely agreed upon that this will rarely happen.
Tyranitar, like Scizor, is an example of both reasons. Its original ability is Sand Stream, which automatically causes a Sandstorm once it arrives on the battlefield, which is a highly useful ability in the metagame. Its Hidden Ability, however, is Unnerve, which prevents opponents from using Berries, and is widely considered to be situational at best.
Unnerve in general tends to be this on any Pokemon it's the Hidden Ability of. The metagame only equips Pokemon with berries in specific circumstances, preferring to use attack-boosting items or Leftovers, meaning that blocking the use of berries is rarely useful, and most Pokemon Unnerve is the Hidden Ability of already have an ability with a more readily useful effect (notably, the aforementioned Tyranitar). The only Pokemon this could be useful on is Aerodactyl, if only because it's original two abilities are terrible on it (It's too much of a Fragile Speedster to use Pressure effectively, and it has no attacks that make good use of the recoil-removing Rock Head).
That being said, due to the restriction in official tournament battling requiring every Pokémon to have a different Hold Item, and the fact that single battling has effectively stopped in these events since 2008, Berries are used more often in that environment, most notably Lum Berry. That being said, Berries are still only an occasional sight, and it's difficult to figure out which of the opponent's Pokémon may have a Berry as a hold item, making Unnerve still situational in this environment.
One other Pokemon that gets Unnerve is Mewtwo, whose other ability, Pressure, effectively halves the opponent's PP, much better against Pokemon with powerful moves that only have a few chances to use it anyway. Anybody who uses berries against Mewtwo just isn't trying.
At least the other sandstorm summoner with a hidden ability, Hippowdon, has some sort of use for Sand Force. Abomasnow (the Hail summoner), however, has Soundproof, which makes it immune to only 17 moves, only a handful of which see actual use.
Jellicent has the Hidden Ability Damp, which stops self-destruction moves like Selfdestruct and Explosion. Fine... but being a Ghost-Type, it No Sells both of those attacks anyway. Granted, this could still see use in Double Battles, but Jellicent's original two abilities are still considered too much better to bother.
Rotom's alternate forms now change type, keeping the Electric typing and adding a second. Rotom's Fan Form becomes Electric/Flying, a good typing, however it's ability remains Levitate. Both Levitate and the Flying-typing will cancel out Ground-type moves, effectively giving it a double immunity. Of course, you could also give it an Air Balloon to make it triple.
Togekiss gets Super Luck as its hidden Ability, which gives a 6.25% boost to the Critical Hit ratio. Which would be fine and dandy because you could just use a move with a high-crit ratio... but it doesn't get any moves with high crit-ratios. Its other usable Ability, Serene Grace, which has the immensely useful (and annoying) property of doubling the rate of additional effects, is far more useful than Super Luck.
The Ability Pickpocket steals items upon getting hit by a contact-based move. Only problem is, nearly all of the ability's users are Glass Cannons, so they wouldn't last long with their item; besides, they'd have to go into battle without an item (and virtually every Pokémon carries an item in advanced play). While Weavile doesn't really have a choice (it's much too fragile to use Pressure effectively), the Seedot line has the speed-doubling Chlorophyll and the reduced-sleep Early Bird to work from normally, which are better. Barbaracle is much better at taking hits, so it's better at it.
Pickpocket's counterpart, Magician, which activates upon hitting the opponent rather than being hit, has proven to be little better. Aside from the existing going-in-without-an-item issue, Klefki has a much better ability in Prankster, which has made it an indispensable support pokémon — without it, not so much. Hoopa would have been a serious Glass Cannon with mediocre speed and all of Psychic's prominent weaknesses doubled, so despite being a legendary in theory, would never last long enough to use it.
Wobbuffet gets Telepathy as its Hidden Ability, which makes it immune to ally attacks. While it does make it slightly more useful in double/triple battles, keep in mind that its original Ability Shadow Tag (prevents enemy from switching) was what made it a Game Breaker in the first place.
Medicham was also an example before Generation VI introduced Mega Evolutions. It has Telepathy as well, which is worse considering its natural Attack stat is terrible since its regular ability (Pure Power) doubles it. But since it got a Mega Evolution, Medicham's Telepathy Ability is Not Completely Useless; it turns into Pure Power anyway when it Mega Evolves, so you can switch it in while its ally uses a spread attack that would otherwise hurt it; Pure Power in its normal form wouldn't be of any use because you would Mega Evolve it right away. (Transformation Is a Free Action)
Any Steel or Ground-type Pokemon with Overcoat (nullifies damage from sandstorms and hail) as a hidden ability. Because of their typing, they're already immune to sandstorm damage, and Hail is basically unheard of in the metagame. This is averted in Generation VI, where Overcoat gained the additional effect of making the user immune to spore and powder moves, which is very useful considering those kinds of moves can cause crippling Standard Status Effects like Sleep and Paralysis.
Trapinch was given Sheer Force as its Hidden Ability, which doesn't look so bad considering its high Attack. However, after evolving a Trapinch to Vibrava and then Flygon, its Ability switches back to the default Levitate and you'd be pondering why Trapinch has a Hidden Ability in the first place. (Unless you're the kind who participates in Little Cup battles.)
The Rhyhorn line gets Reckless as its Hidden Ability, which increases the power of moves that inflict recoil on the user. What moves can the line learn that have recoil? Take Down and Double-Edge. The latter move can only be obtained through the defunct Dream World. And they're both Normal-type moves. If only the line could learn Head Smash...
In Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, the Super Rod is an example of this. Sure, it lets you fish up Pokémon unavailable via the Old Rod & Good Rod, but it also expands the games' fishing Scrappy Mechanic from a max of 3 "Oh! A Bite!" checks to 6, making fishing with it extremely tedious.
Mega Alazakam is stronger than before, definitely, but its ability becomes the situational Trace. This is not worth giving up the immensely useful Magic Guard Ability that players normally use, which Alakazam could abuse with things like Life Orb (which would let it hit nearly as hard as Mega Alazakam,) and be safe from entry hazards. There's also the risk of accidentally Tracing a useless or negative ability.
Mega Garchomp. Its item slot is used up by its Mega Stone instead a wide variety of useful items such as Yache Berrynote To reduce its Ice weakness., Choice Scarf, Choice Band, Rocky Helmetnote In conjunction with Rough Skin., etc. Most of its stats are boosted but for the cost of a slight decrease of Speed, meaning that it can no longer outrun the Pokémon it used to outrun. While its ability (Sand Force) is great, it relies on the nerfed weather effects to gain an advantage.
Phantasy Star Online has several rare weapons and armor that are upgradable. Usually this just makes them better (as is to be expected), but in the case of one or two of the weapons, it also makes them no longer able to do a combo attack.
Secret of Evermore has the Magic Gourd. To get it, you have to trade the merchant for a Chocobo Egg, a relic which boosts your hit points. And the Gourd's effect? Doing absolutely nothing. The creators couldn't even remember what the Gourd was supposed to do while they were programming it in.
Secret of Mana has a magic system where the player opens the Ring Menu and pauses the game, selects the spell, then the target - the target doesn't unpause until all of the spell components have hit, but you can still open the menu whilst the fireballs/crystals/spinny air knives are in mid air and basically spam spells on bosses until out of magic. The more you use the spells, the more they level up and get stronger. From about level six of nine, there's an increasing random chance to "critical" the spell for bonus damage - but during the special animation that plays, you can't open the menu, so by improving your spell you essentially cheat yourself out of being able to combo.
The Aestevalis mechs from Super Robot Wars W may be lacking in offensive power, but they have the Field Lancer attack which has the ignore barrier attribute in a game where many of the toughest bosses have barriers, so they'll often come in handy. When they're upgraded to Aestevalis Customs, they lose said attack. Even worse considering that all the Aestevalis Customs were Game Breakers in Super Robot Wars R.
Dependent on the stage, in Super Robot Wars GC, the Layzner's upgrade into Powered Layzner or the Layzner MK 2 becomes this. On one hand, its mobility (which was already very high) goes through the roof, and this is augmented by the power-up his unique ability gets (V-Max turns into either V-Max Powered or V-Maximum, both of which raise Mobility more and the latter of which raises movement range more). On the other hand, if you've been putting a lot of money into Layzner's weapons (which you want to, Layzner's ability to damage things is already very low), they get NERFED. And if you get the Mk 2, which is usually a better upgrade, you lose the only move that hits past range 4. If you aren't going to make use of his great movement range, Layzner upgrading destroys its ability to help you.
Ultima VI has numerous spells that don't actually seem to do anything useful, like lighting or dousing candles note later it is used to ignite powder keg fuses, making ordinary objects disappear, or even causing a solar eclipse. The game also has a spell that is the very definition of Awesome but Impractical: Armageddon, which kills everything in the game except yourself and Lord British. Great... except for the fact that the game is now Unwinnable — it must be beaten by diplomacy, not combat.
A lot of artefact items in Dungeon Crawl are even worse than their non-artefact counterparts.
The sub machine guns and assault rifles in Parasite Eve had very misleading x3 and x5 bullet modifiers. The total damage was actually divided among each bullet, and sometimes not all of them would hit. In a game of limited ammo, these are a liability. The actual ability that lets you perform two actions in one turn (allowing you to attack twice without having your power reduced) did not show up until very late in the game.
Weapons that have elemental modifiers are too situational to be of any use and you do less damage to enemies that resists certain effects. You are better off not using elemental effects at all.
Parasite Eve 2 had some pieces of armor that lets you see how much HP a targeted enemy has left. The armor pieces that have this feature tend to have poor HP bonuses and have very few pockets to carry items in. Naturally, all bosses are immune to having their HP being scanned.
The World Ends with You rewards good relationships with store clerks by unlocking hidden abilities in the equipment you purchase from them. Unfortunately, Square Enix felt that some of these unlockable abilities were so "awesome" that they should come with drawbacks. One example is Platform Shoes, an expensive late-game item that can only be purchased from one store in all of Shibuya. It grants a sizable defense boost, but unlocking its ability causes even the weakest enemy attacks to knock you down. By this point in the game, most enemies Spam Attack unavoidable projectiles guaranteed to Stun Lock you while wearing the shoes. The game power ups your expensive and rare equipment by making them suicidal to wear.
In the first Diablo, Mana Shield absorbs less damage at higher levels due to a bug. Also, leveling up Chain Lightning causes you to run into the sprite limit in one shot, causing disappearing lightning sprites and making it unreliable.
In Diablo 2, regular Lightning is vastly better than Chain Lightning in all aspects, all of the necromancer spells except the direct damage line get worse as you go down the tree, putting too many points into Energy Shield causes you to run out of mana, and Cleanse gets worse at higher levels due to a bug again. Putting too many points into Evade causes you to stunlock yourself. For a while Zeal used to add more hits as you put more points into it, until it locked your character in place for about five seconds while flailing away at nearby monsters - and if the first attack misses, all of them miss. No lifesteal, no way to cancel out of it, you're dead. GG.
In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, gaining access to the Master level spells of the Destruction school requires a lot of grinding, including through low levels where using spells as your main damage-dealer results in a much harder game, then finding and completing a special quest. When you finally get them, you find that they require two hands instead of one, take an insanely long casting time during which you're very likely to get interrupted by an enemy attack, and even if you do get one off, they do less damage for the magicka and less damage per second than lower-level spells, and since Destruction damage doesn't scale with level, Can't Catch Up to archery or swordplay. ...Congrats?
There is one exception in Lightning Storm, which sends out a sustained lightning bolt that does high damage over time for an acceptable magicka cost, with extreme range and hitscan speed that make it perfect for destroying enemies like dragons at long range. Compared to spamming the lower tier thunderbolt, it deals somewhat less damage for a whole lot less magicka... which makes it great up until the point when your character can achieve -100% magicka cost and the formerly prohibitively expensive thunderbolt trumps it. Unfortunately, for many characters the free casting comes before achieving the master level destruction spells, relegating Lightning Storm to the same heap that Fire Storm and Blizzard reside in.
The reward for turning in the Skeleton Key in the Thieves Guild storyline. While the powers given in for turning in the key range from situational to very good, they can all only be activated once per day and require you to give up the only unbreakable lockpick in the game. The only reason to actually turn the key in would be because of the achievement/trophy, or because they have 100 Lockpicking and don't want to legendarynote reset the skill to fifteen and refund all perks the skill.
In Alpha Protocol the first level stealth armour actually lowers your Sound Dampening rating compared to casual clothes. You need the second level to even get parity, and the third, highest tier in order to exceed what casual clothes offernote The advantage that the stealth armor provides is mod capacity: even the basic stealth armor offers two mod slots, while casual clothing offers zero. With even a basic stealth bonus mod, first level stealth armor is just as sneaky as clothes, and provides an additional mod slot for you to add something such as a camera blinder or something to get even more stealth benefits.
Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has several backgrounds that give you free items or money. While this can potentially make early game easier, good equipment and funds aren't hard to acquire (even in the first town, if you're patient), so the initial "bonus" becomes useless almost immediately. You're better off with a background that improves your stats.
The Niezsche Poster Child background gives you a percentage bonus to experience points in exchange for increasing your critical failure rate. What Could Possibly Go Wrong??? For starters, unless you patch the game to remove the Absurdly Low Level Cap, it's easy enough to run out of character points halfway through even without it, especially on lower difficulty settings. Critical failures, on the other hand, have a tendency to damage or destroy your weapons, or inflict various injuries on you. The only character types who would want this background are pure talkers who never fight (and who are thus neither making hits nor receive the extra experience from hitting enemies), and even then it's more efficient for such characters to take a background that boosts Charisma.
Run And Gun
Fester's Quest for the NES. You play as Uncle Fester using various guns to kill invading aliens. If you can get past that premise, you discover your initial weapon is nearly useless and only serves to kill the odd enemy to get a power-up for a better one (which moves in waves, meaning it can pass by enemies and get blocked by obstacles). The second power-up gives you the third gun, which is bowling balls being shot in a spiral pattern (again it can miss enemies and be blocked), but at least it's stronger. The problem here is that you can still pick up power-ups that downgrade your gun into near uselessness!
The third gun is rather useless in many situations as well, considering its wide firing pattern and inability to pass through walls. In narrow corridors, you become unable to hit enemies at all, even at close range!
Certain games in Metal Slug series have guns that are counterproductive to fighting whatever boss happened after you pick up those guns. Case in point: the gun that fires bouncing metal balls when the boss is above you— the balls can't bounce higher than your character.
The "flamethrower" in the original might as well be a Poison Mushroom. It shoots "fireballs" that travel in a spiral pattern at a hideously slow rate across the screen, have a similarly slow rate of fire, and difficult to make accurate hits with and very easily to be blocked by obstructions. It's the one weapon in the game where it's better to keep your Boring but Practical loadout gun.
The Laser Gun in the NES versions of both the above and the sequel (Super Contra) can't be fired rapidly. A second shot will cancel the first beam if it's still on-screen. While it's destructive and pierces through most enemies, players who keep spamming the shoot button will find the weapon useless.
In the arcade version of Super Contra, the Spread Gun is already disappointingcompared to other games: normally, if firing another spread would overflow the maximum number of bullets on-screen, the gun will fire partial spreads or single shots instead. However, the Spread Gun in Super Contra only fires full spreads, and if it can't, you can't fire at all until a previous spread has completely cleared the screen. In addition to that, the Spread Gun "upgrade" makes it even worse — it increases the number of shots per spread from 3 to 5 and the number of bullets on-screen from 9 to 10, which means a drop from 3 spreads on-screen to 2. Thus, your effective firing rate becomes abominably low, which, in Contra, is likely to get you killed.
Battle Garegga: Anything that could be considered an upgrade to your ship will turn up the Dynamic Difficulty. Thus, in order to keep the game manageable, you'll need to keep your shot power and option count down.
This is mainly true of the early stages, for the last one or two stages, you'll need all the firepower you can get. That and small power ups raise it more than big ones.
The laser in Darius was like this. After you power up your regular shots, you get the laser... which is worse than regular shots because it's so narrow. Worse yet, you had to get the laser because powering it up would give you the legitimately good wave weapon. Later games in the series changed this, sometimes making the equivalent of the laser actually useful. And if you die? You'll lose upwards of six powerups! "Okay, I almost have the laser! What? A huge battleship "Fatty Glutton" is approaching fast?Nooooooooo!"
Gradius: the speed-up powerup is useful for the first few iterations, making your slow-as-molasses ship move more like a starfighter should. However, the last few levels make the ship fairly difficult to control, especially for new players. This is a hazard because everything, environment included, is trying to kill you. note Gradius III avoids these problems and so is not an example. It is possible to set up your ship to actually have a speed-down powerup, and Gradius V, on hitting maximum speed, turns the "Speed Up" icon into an "Initial Speed" icon that resets your speed.
Gradius ReBirth's hidden Type E configuration allows you to get the V. Shot which grants you the ability to fire simultaneously up and down...at the cost of being able to fire forward. It also has the Vector Laser, which can pierce through structures, but it's weaker than the main shot, and can't destroy combustible walls, which means if you get trapped by Stage 2's regenerating walls or go into a bonus stage, you're screwed. Double is this in most games up to Gaiden, because selecting it halves your fire rate.
About half the Edit Mode weapons in Gradius III AC, such as the hard-to-control Control Missile, the completely worthless Spread Gun, and a ! powerup that resets your primary weapon to the normal pea-shooter.
Some of the Raiden games have the Plasma Laser, which locks onto enemies, but does less damage than the spreadshot and regular laser.
Raiden Fighters has a special Slave formation that causes your Slaves to automatically seek out enemies and latch onto them, allowing them to be easily destroyed. But unlike other Shoot Em Ups, Attack Drones in this game have limited health (too many hits to a drone and it's destroyed). Not just that, but on some stages, they can destroy targets you don't want to destroy, such as the Miclus-hiding turrets in Raiden Fighters Jet Simulation Level 05.
In Sigma Star Saga, you could customize your cannon with different styles of firing, bullets, and effects on impact. There were multiple cannons (firing directions) which were basically devoted to firing only vertically, only backwards, etcetera. Usually, they all had one use somewhere, like in a mini-boss battle, but with these kinds of battles being random battles, you were usually best off with just your good old "Shoot Straight" cannon.
Tyrian has the odd property that if you boost the power of your main weapon above what your reactor can sustain, your firing rate drops to near-zero. Thus, until you get the best reactor in the game, you're better off not fully leveling all your weapons. Furthermore, the game contains a few "powerups" in arcade mode that turn your main weapon into something that doesn't shoot forward anymore (highly impractical) and one in story mode that turns your weapon into a hot dog. The hot dog, however, is actually a badass weapon.
In story mode, the game occasionally drops unbuyable special weapons. Just pray that you don't accidentally pick up one after you get the SDF Main Gun, making for a downgrade from arguably the strongest weapon in the game.
Heavy Weapon has your first level of Spread Shot. This changes your shot into a double shot, which makes aiming somewhat weird because you will not have a shot that goes straight. Not that big of a problem until the third level where you fight trucks, and aiming your gun directly straight at them will cause your shots to hit the ground if you are too far away.
In Adventures Of Dino Riki, one of the power-ups transforms Dino Riki into Macho Riki which lets him shoots psychic projections of himself at enemies and take a hit without losing health. Unfortunately, the fact that Dino Riki reverts back to using throwing rocks after getting hit and the fact that the fireball weapon is much, MUCH better make this power-up more trouble than it's worth.
Fire Shark has the common blue and green powerups. Once you get the rare red powerup (deadly flamethrowers that sweep the whole screen), these will replace it with the blue Spread Shot or the green wave laser (decent, but pale in comparison to the flamethrower). Worse still, once these powerups appear on screen, they will bounce all over the place a few times before disappearing. Which means you will want to avoid them along with the fast-moving enemy bullets!
Once you get the L (Orange laser) powerup in Soulstar for the Sega CD, avoid the C (circle laser) powerup at all costs. The circle laser has a faster rate of fire, but is very weak. Using it in the exploration levels is suicidal.
In Enigmata 2: Genu's Revenge, there are "rare" bonus weapons that can be upgraded to superweapons by collecting one of the three "common" bonus weapons. Of course, if you get it then touch another bonus weapon powerup, it gets overridden. Thankfully, this is one of the very few Shoot Em Ups that actually has a way to subvert the trope- a specific skill (Bonus Lock) prevents your bonus weapon from changing when the skill is turned on.
Stealth Based Games
In Splinter Cell: Double Agent for the GameCube it was possible to get a wood-carving knife in the prison level that would enable you to use lethal attacks. However due to a programming bug Sam used lethal attacks just fine without it; He would quite literally stab and slash with his balled up fist and kill enemies. Once you have the knife there is no getting rid of it, and since it is metal now you can't pass through metal detectors without triggering an alarm.
In most of the Metal Gear Solid games, you can get a pack of cigarettes. Smoking them drains your health, but allows you to see infrared lasers so you know how to bypass them. You typically get the thermal goggles fairly early, quickly making cigarettes useless.
Dawn of War II In Last Stand mode advancing your characters can be problematic. Your Space Marine Captain just got Fearsome Shout! Hurray! Now do you want to give up your jump-pack, 75 hit-points or your only close combat ability for it? The Ork Mekboy's Deffgun is even worse... I'd prefer a gun that actually kills my enemies instead of just suppressing them, thanks.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance/A2 can boast the Last Berserk/Crit:Berserk ability. Equipping makes the equipped unit lose control and attack enemies randomly, with only a slightly greater attack, when it has low Hit Points, which is basically the opposite of what you'd want. Equipping no ability is better than equipping Last Berserk.
The passive ability Doublehand lets you sacrifice using a shield or two handed weapons to increase attack power by... 8 points. In a game where the unarmed cap for attack is 249, and the average unit gains that much attack in four levels. To make it even worse, the Attack Up ability, that has no cost beyond using up that ability's slot, raises attack by 35.
Kieran's Gamble ability in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. It halves his accuracy and doubles his critical-hit chance, but he's already inaccurate and his crit chance is terrible (so doubling it will do almost nothing). Much better in the hands of a sniper.
Corrosion was also pretty useless. It had a chance equal to the user's skill to weaken the target's weapon durability by the user's level divided by 4. This meant that on a 20/20 character, Corrosion could take off 10 points of durability... When most weapons have at least 20. The odds that you would get enough Corrosion procs to actually break an enemy's weapon before you killed them were pitifully low, and if you did manage it... Well, assuming they aren't carrying a second weapon, you've just disabled a single enemy in a much less practical way than killing them would have been. Worse, Corrosion could potentially proc on droppable rare weapons like the Rune Sword, lowering the number of uses the player could get out of them.
Heroes of Might and Magic 3 had several skills that were mind-bogglingly bad, at least compared to other skills in the game. Note the existance of the Witch Hut, which taught a skill for free, chosen at random. Many a Load Game was used upon visiting one to find one of the following:
Learning increases the rate at which you gain experience. In other words, it's a skill you get while levelling up that makes you level up faster. Possibly viable, if it weren't for its atrocious scaling, which means you'll gain maybe one additional level throughout your hero's entire career for the three levels you spent training in this skill.
Eagle Eye gives your hero a chance to learn a spell cast by the opponent's hero in combat. Yes, you might get lucky and steal an opponent's Blind spell, but things like Expert Earth magic, and Prayer+Expert Water Magic just pale in comparison. Plus, you can't steal level 5 spells even on expert level, which are much harder to come by, and much more valuable to steal.
Navigation increases your movement speed over water. Very useful on water-based maps, completely useless on land-based maps.
Skeletal Mastery in Warcraft III, depending on your preferred strategy. Without it, necromancers raise two melee skeletons from a corpse, useful for raising large amounts of Cannon Fodder to get in the enemy's way. With it, one skeleton is a Squishy Wizard that can attack air, but far less durable. Seeing as the basic Undead ranged unit has the ability to immobilize air units and bring them down to earth anyway...
There is an option to reveal the entire map for all players during the game, which makes the Night Elves' Ultravision useless.
Resident Evil has the Flamethrower, an exclusive weapon for Chris' scenario. The Flamethrower isn't too powerful, its range is pitifully short, and there's no way to refuel it. The Flamethrower appears again in Resident Evil 2 and it also has the same weaknesses, along with it taking up two inventory slots.
The flamethrower in part II is only a straight example if the player wastes it on zombies and lickers, but it's extremely effective against the otherwise hard-to-kill ivy creatures.
The Assault Rifle in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. As an unlockable with infinite ammo, it's a decent weapon. However, you can also earn it as a final loot drop from Nemesis on Hard mode, but it happens very close towards the end of the game where you're probably packing the Magnum and Grenade Launcher.
The Self-Defense Pistol found in the GameCube remake of Resident Evil is quite literally a waste of code. It's a .22 Derringer with only one bullet, can never be reloaded, does only marginally more damage than the handgun you start with, and is found over half-way through the gamenote The intended use is against the huge shark enemy in the fishtank, where using it at exactly the right time results in a one-hit kill. The timing is so narrow, however, that it's actually much safer to ignore the shark entirely: getting the shot requires you to be about a second away from getting eaten by the shark, so if you miss, you're dead.
The Silent Hill series has some unlockable-for-New Game+ weapons and other things that aren't up to snuff as prizes for beating the game go. The Hyper Spray from 2 doesn't deal a lot of damage unless you got a 10-star End Rank (And hurts James to boot!). The Flamethrower from the third game doesn't deal as much damage as you'd think, and also completely lacks any stopping power, which means the monsters are free to keep moving closer and attack. It can't even be used to bypass the deadly moth puzzle / Fetch Quest. The costume code you get for beating the third game on EVERY difficulty setting including the masochist ones... Something like that should yield the most broken powerup-costume ever, right? Alas, no. The fourth game's chainsaw is similarly "Meh" for what you have to go through for it (And on the subject of Silent Hill 4, you can unlock an SMG for Eileen, but giving her any sort of weapon and thus putting her in "Attack" mode only makes you more likely to get one of the bad endings because of how Leeroy Jenkins she is and the fact that her level of possession is raised the more damage she takes. The SMG only makes it worse).
Third Person Shooters
Jet Force Gemini had a myriad of bombs that really didn't have any practical use and made scrolling through your weapons slower. It also has Fish Food as a weapon. Though Fish Food actually has a few uses beyond being a Joke Item.
In the first game, after turning enemies into chickens with the Morph-o-Ray, you could suck them up with the Suck Cannon. This lets you get Suck Cannon ammo from enemies too big to suck up normally. Plus, due to a helpful bug, this actually gave you more Bolts than just killing the enemy. The Gold Morph-O-Ray turned enemies into giant chickens, which could act as decoys but were too big for the Suck Cannon, cutting off your source of free ammo and extra Bolts.
In Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, the Lava Gun upgrades into the Meteor Gun, which while it hits harder and long-ranged, is vastly inferior in its primary utility of crowd control. There are better ranged weapons than the Meteor Gun, although it is at least somewhat effective on larger enemies if you use the Lock-On mod. Fortunately, Insomniac learned and changed the upgrade to the Liquid Nitrogen Gun in the sequel.
While it isn't technically an upgrade, the RYNO V from Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time disappointed many players by having a poor effective range and missiles that wouldn't lock on to enemies and instead fly about randomly, from a weapon line famed for being overpowered death guns for couch potatoes.
Perhaps as a reaction to fan responses over the aforementioned Lava Gun, the PS3 titles have many weapons that do not gain significantly useful functionality when they are upgraded, with effects that are usually unnoticeable and not very useful. They feel worlds away from the days where upgrading a shotgun would give it a beam of death, or a sniper would gain rounds that exploded.
Grand Theft Auto IV allows you to unlock remote-detonate car bombs, which at first appear like a very useful way to bypass the obligatory car chase scene that happens nearly every time you are sent on a mission to kill someone. But you have to place them in the car first and because of the mission design, there are only a few times where you get a chance to go to your target's still-standing vehicle before moving on, as they usually start out with it in a cutscene or have it placed in a position you can't access beforehand.
Satchel charges in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas fall into the same trap. They're only required for a few missions and they have very little use outside any mission where your target is already on the move. They're fun for a quick laugh if you want to screw around, but the money spent could have been used for other guns.
In the online Cartoon Network game The Fright Before Christmas, the player controls Billy, Mandy, and Grim to fight endless hordes of evil toys. Each interchangeable character gets a choice of five buyable weapons. The most expensive, and supposedly most powerful, of Mandy's weapons are a handful of marbles and a pan of popcorn. The marbles are a three-projectile weapon that moves in an arc, but are too small to hit more than three enemies, which becomes a major problem in the later levels with increasingly insane numbers of toys. The popcorn pan, to its credit, is more powerful, has a wider range and would be a better choice...if it weren't so difficult to control. To make matters worse, both of them are used up the minute they hit an enemy. Most players would just be better off sticking with the third weapon on the roster, a doll thrown like a ninja star that can slice through hordes of enemies like butter.
Wizards And Warriors: The Cloak of Darkness renders your character invisible to you, but apparently not to the monsters, if their uncanny ability to home in on the suddenly-disappeared Kuros attests to anything.
Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 features around 800 prestige classes - special classes that can only be taken after reaching a certain qualification. It should be no surprise, then, that a good number of these fall into this trope. In particular, any casting-based class that provides less than full advancement is rarely worth taking, because it's rare for any class features to make up for being behind. Other examples include the arcane archer, whose primary ability can be duplicated by a regular magic weapon, the duelist, who gets locked into an extremely poor fighting style to make use of any of their skills, and the reaping mauler, a grapple-centric class where qualifying for it means being a subpar grappler. (The class requires Clever Wrestling, which requires being being Small or Medium and therefore locks you out of most of the best grappling races, and its class features key off Wisdom, giving it MAD, and require you to wear light or no armor when you lose your Dexterity while grappling and need all the armor you can get.)
Auras tend to be this in Magic The Gathering. Auras come into play attached to another card, and unless another card effect specifically says so, are destroyed if the card they're attached to leaves play in any way. This results in a powerup that's typically rather easy to eliminate, and after nets the opponent a two-for-one card advantage (the opponent spends one card to destroy the attached card, with takes the Aura with it). It tends to be a better deal to use a more impressive one-shot instant or sorcery boost for the same cost in cards and mana instead.
Wizards does seem to be aware of this problem, if the totem armor mechanic, which saves the creature if it would be killed at the price of the aura, is any indication. There are also a few cards that return to your hand when the creature is killed, most notably Rancor, and there are some which can be "bounced" to your hand by paying a certain amount of mana. Auras are still typically useless in anything but a specialized deck, but there are notable exceptions.
Yu-Gi-Oh! has Jinzo - Lord. Remember Jinzo? One of the strongest monsters in the early years of the game, with a solid ATK for his level and the gamebreaking ability to negate all Trap cards? Well, he's got an upgraded form. And it sucks. Where Jinzo can be Summoned with one tribute and no other conditions, Jinzo-Lord can only be Summoned by sending a Jinzo to the Graveyard from the field. That means that if you don't have a Jinzo, he's useless. Well, if he's got such a tricky Summon condition, he surely has a massive ATK boost of... 2400 to 2600, so 200 points. (For comparison, one of the most basic Equip Spells in the game gives a boost of 1000.) Okay, so in that case, he must have a truly game-winning effect, right? Wrong. Lord has two effects. The first is exactly the same as the standard Jinzo. The second is the ability to destroy all face-up Trap cards and deal 300 damage for each one. Unless your opponent is weird, you'd be lucky if they have more than one or two face-up Trap cards on the field, and even if they did have a full field of Traps, they'd all be useless because of Jinzo's effect and there would be no point in destroying them. So he's essentially identical to the standard Jinzo, only with a miniscule power boost... oh, wait, Lord can't use Amplifier, so he's actually inferior. The only possible use for Lord is to sub in for a Jinzo that's about to die through Jinzo - Returner's effect, which is a pretty dang limited set of circumstances for what's supposed to be an ace card.
Red-Eyes Black Metal Dragon is Summoned by Tributing a standard Red-Eyes equipped with Metalmorph. A standard Red-Eyes with Metalmorph has 2700 ATK, and REBMD has 2800, so it's already barely an upgrade. What puts it into downgrade category is that Metalmorph has a secondary effect (which REBMD doesn't get) of heavily boosting your Monster's ATK when it attacks, meaning that Metal Dragon is actually a big step down from its lesser form in terms of offensive power, and only marginally better in terms of defense. On top of that, the standard Red-Eyes is also the centerpiece of a variety of support cards, such as Inferno Fire Blast or Red-Eyes Darkness Dragon, and a Normal Monster, which gives it even more support cards. Pretty much the only advantage REBMD has over the sum of its parts is that it looks pretty cool.
Life Stream Dragon was heavily hyped-up as the true form of Power Tool Dragon. Summoning it requires Summoning Power Tool, then Tuning it with a Level 1 Tuner... but on reflection, it's better to just keep Power Tool. Life Stream does have 600 more ATK, but Power Tool's effect allows you to add Equip Spells to your hand, meaning its ATK can be much higher. Life Stream can also make your LP 4000... but that's only useful if you're already on the verge of losing, since players start with 8000. Life Stream can also make you immune to effect damage, but there are plenty of cards, like Prime Material Dragon, that do it better. Life Stream attempts to duplicate Power Tool's destruction-dodging effect, but without the ability to search out Equip spells, it's much worse at it. Finally, Life Stream is a Tuner... but it's also Level 8, which makes the number of cards you can Synchro Summon with it sharply limited at best. The only real advantage is being immune to effect damage, and it doesn't outweigh the advantages of Power Tool at all.
Older White Wolf games like Exalted and Old Worldof Darkness tend to make how many dots you have in a Background more representative of how impressive the Background is rather than how useful it is. As such, it's usually better to take only 3 Dots in a background rather than a full 5 as the latter often dips in to Awesome but Impractical with mentors being nigh divine entities that are too busy to pay attention you, reputations being world spanning names for yourself that draw endless public scrutiny, and backers being massive conspiracies who pretty much own you.
Software updates for programs, mobile phones, and the like can sometimes be this. It is not at all uncommon to receive an upgrade, only to find said software or device is now slower, less compatible, and has no recognizable improvements other than a few cosmetic changes. This can even push into Poison Mushroom territory if the upgrade was intended to stop homebrew apps from running, of if a glitch in it causes it to not work at all.
Likely the most extreme case of this was the "Other OS" feature on early P S3s. It originally allowed people to install a Linux operating system on their PS3 for bonus functionality, and P S3s had even started to be used in computing clusters due to their low price-point for their high power. But then a hack was found using it, so Sony patched it out, and anyone who didn't upgrade would lose access to the Playstation Network, which handled essentially all of the online functionality of the native OS. A class action lawsuit was actually filed about this, though it ended up getting dismissed.