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Rank Inflation
Oh, I sea what you did there.

In video games, rather than mark the player on a simple success/failure scheme, it is common to give the player some kind of rank (e.g. bronze, silver and gold medals, or grades A+ to F-), depending on their performance. This allows casual players to coast through and simply get the bare minimum required to pass, while those who want a challenge can aim for the gold medals.

But then what about the players who are really looking for a challenge for whom mere golds aren't enough? The solution — give them platinum medals to aim for. A-grade not good enough for you? Go for A+, or S. Sometimes, even these inflated ranks are subject to inflation, with A being about average and the real goal being a more different S rank: SS or even SSS.

Compare Harder Than Hard, Random Power Ranking, Score Screen, Pinball Scoring, Up to Eleven, Serial Escalation. When it's a reviewer doing this, it's Broke the Rating Scale (Type 1). Contrast with its inverse, F Minus Minus.

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The magical power scale used in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha: there's F for those without any magic power, and then E- for those with a bit, going up with plus and minus qualifiers through the alphabet until rank A, which is considered the elite, and going further to AA, then AAA, then S, SS, and SSS. The difference between AAA and AAA+ is canonically pretty substantial, which makes most of the cast of the first two seasons (who are estimated to be in the AAA ranks at the time) stupidly overpowered, because of this the next season had Power Limiters become a major element of the story.
    • Mage Rank covers skill, not just power. In Striker(s), Teana holds Rank B, however, she demonstrates the ability to create spells (specifically, the Variable Bullet) that are normally used by Rank AA mages.
    • Which is why Yuuno, despite being Non-Action Guy, The Medic, and a Stone Wall, is an A-ranked mage. This rank relative high even in universe, for example; Uno, Due, and Sein of the Numbers and Ginga Nakajima) are A-ranked, and pretty strong.
    • Interestingly, while the SSS rank exists, no known mage actually has that rank. The highest ranked mage that is known is StrikerS-era Hayate at SS, and she's got the full strength of the Book of Darkness behind her (though, admittedly, not a whole lot of skill). What a SSS rank would be capable of, then, is a scary thing to think about.
    • Fate's mother Precia, the villain of the first season, also has her rank given as SS in supplementary materials, and unlike Hayate her power is entirely natural. This can actually be seen fairly well in the series itself, as she was able to cast a spell powerful enough to disable a spaceship while she was in another dimension, which is quite possibly the single most impressive feat of magic in the entire series. And this was after decades of suffering from an Incurable Cough of Death and insanity from desperation to revive Alicia.
  • Power levels in YuYu Hakusho are ranked from D to S. However, anything above B is exceedingly rare (Toguro, one of the strongest characters in the series, was a B).
    • More specifically, those are the power rankings of demons, and anything higher than a 'C' is too powerful to travel between worlds; higher ranks were either from Earth originally (like Toguro) or started lower and trained themselves up on this side. The arc that takes place in the Demon World shows that 'A' and 'S' class isn't actually very rare at all.
      • Remember though, you happen to meet the most powerful ones by virtue of the plot taking the characters to the courts of the three rulers of Makai, where a lot of the most powerful ones would be recruited. Although there were thousands of entrants in the tournament (presumably the most powerful A and S class fighters); this is in a population larger than Earth's, so all of those really are a small drop in the ocean.
      • At one point, it's stated that one out of one hundred C class demons (fairly low ranking, really) has the potential to reach B class. There are presumably similar limits up and down the D-S scale, this one is just noted as when demons start getting more in the way of personality and goals than 'eat humans rawr.'
    • It is also worth noting that S Rank is actually a very broad spectrum that basically just means "Stronger than A".
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure ranks aspects of stands from E to A for things like Strength, Range, Learning (user's ability to fully exploit their stand's powers) and such. The scale isn't weighed on too heavily in the series, but in one notable exception, Giorno Giovanna's Gold Experience Requiem is so powerful that it's attributes are ALL ranked "unknown"; it is simply impossible to rank such broken powers off the scale. To put thing into perspective, Gold Experience Requiem's power is so broken that he could beat practically anyone from any other series (short of a Reality Warper and even then that's debatable) simply because he can nullify any attack/move that his opponent makes and has what is essentially a One-Hit Kill.
  • Ninja missions in Naruto are ranked anywhere from D (picking up trash, catching stray cats) to S (there's a very good chance you'll die.)
    • There was some confusion (and a bit of a Hatedom) when the third Databook came out and the mission to capture or kill Akatsuki members Hidan and Kakuzu- S-Class criminals- was classified as an A-Rank mission, the same as Team 7's first big mission against the weaker duo of Zabuza and Haku. The reason however was that missions are ranked not just by difficulty of the task but also the strength of the ninja assigned to the task; in this case, one had a team of three fresh Genin and a slightly out-of-shape Jounin, the other involved teams of seasoned Chuunin and a more in-shape Jounin with another such group behind them as back-up.
    • More typical Rank Inflation has been going on with the strength of jutsu: it starts with E (basic academy stuff like untying ropes, body replacement, One Thousand Years of Death) and goes up to S (which includes bringing one person back to life at the cost of another, making something get hit by a real lightning bolt, and regenerating all the parts of your body including organs), but recently even S rank attacks have been ineffective. In something of a subversion, more powerful attacks continue to be introduced, but new ranks have not.
      • Jutsu are not ranked by strength, but difficulty; Kakashi's Raikiri, for example, is the same strength as Kakuzu's Raiton: Gian, yet that is B-Rank while Kakashi's is S-Rank. Higher ranked justu are obviously as powerful as they are difficult- it would be a waste of time learning them otherwise- but there are easier jutsu to learn that are just as strong and useful. There are also several powerful jutsu that are not learned, but derived from unique bloodline traits, such as Amateratsu, Tsukiyomi and Susanoo which are jutsu unique to the Mangekyou Sharingan, and in and of themselves don't require any skill to use, though they do require practice to perfect.
      • Usually the stronger jutsus are either forbidden (I.E the first incarnation of "Fuuton: Rasen Shuriken") or new/not heard of, so they can't be easily categorized.
    • Internationally wanted ninja criminals or "missing-nin" are referred to as "S-class" (including everyone in Akatsuki), though there has been no indication of lower ranks or this applying to non-criminals.
    • In the Naruto D20 there are also Super-S class jutsus, which are usually forbidden as well.
  • In Kiddy Grade, the Nanomachines-based superpowers are ranked by class: C (Copper) is the lowest, S (Silver) is high, and G (Gold) is the highest. The protagonists of the show are C class but actually, they are G class, just suppressing their powers along with hurting memories that come with them. Their Da Chief is also G class, by the way.
  • Also used in Zoids: New Century Zero. Other Zoids series? Not so much.
  • A meta-example: Zettai Ryouiki is categorized into "Grades". Grade F encompasses ankle socks (ye Gods! Why would anyone bother?!), Grade E includes socks 16 cm high from the shoes (the standard), Grade D is 26 cm high, Grade C is 35 cm (but not above the kneecap), Grade B is 50 cm, and Grade A is 57 cm high ("the one sock to rule them all", as some put it). While the lowest Grades are usable by any gender, the top two are Always Female by definition. The highest level of all, however, is Grade S, which includes 57 cm high socks/stockings, Tsundere attitude, and twin-tail hairstyle (so far, only a good half-dozen characters have qualified for Grade S). Refer to this article for more info.
    • Some of these characters include Rin Tohsaka (the inventer), Sion Eltnam Atlasia and Kokoa Shuzen.
  • Suzumiya Haruhi joked about this in its first chronological episode, when Taniguchi ranked every Freshman girl from D to A. His favorite (Asakura Ryoko) was ranked AA+.
  • The Mahou Sensei Negima! manga alludes to a ranking system for combat Mages which promptly falls into this, with ranks going from an unspecified low end up to SA. The only AAA ranked fighter so far (Fate), apparently has a power level of around 3000, with Negi being at around 500 (an A class), and later 2600 or so. Naturally, soon afterward this turns out to be the low end of the spectrum, with Rakan ranking the demon from Kyoto at 8000 (and by extension Evangeline is at least 8000, probably higher) and himself at 12,000. Oh, and Fate is likely over 8000 as well. Then you have Nagi and the Lifemaker, who are both more powerful than Rakan. Of course, Rakan made up the Power Levels himself, and Chisame points out how arbitrary it is. But it doesn't change the fact that the Combat Rankings don't really mean much.
  • Fairy Tail has a sorta kinda version of this. Normal jobs are just jobs. No ranking whatsoever. There are really tricky ones ranked "S" though (no one seems to know what the S stands for). Later, to make a character seem that much cooler, they say he can also take "SS" jobs, and was assigned something even more impressive "The 100 year job" Unfortunately, he failed because of outside circumstances and had to go home. The interruption was a giant dragon of apocalypse eating some limbs and internal organs when he wasn't looking.
  • In Toriko, the Garagara Gator being capture level 8 was considered a big deal. Then the Troll Kongs are shown to be level 9. Next chapter, the Puffer whales are capture level 30.
    • Note that capture level refers to how easy it is to retrieve an edible sample; there are many fragile but harmless ingredients with high capture level. (Like the aforementioned Puffer Whales, which are like Fugu, but improperly removing the poison bladder make the whole body poisonous, and is located in a different spot in each one.
  • During a trip to an amusement park, Shana of Shakugan no Shana uses her powers to cheat at a swordfighting virtual reality game, maxing out the score counter and earning a rank of SSS.
  • Espers in A Certain Magical Index are ranked from Level 0 (failed to develop any powers) to Level 5 (One-Man Army). The strongest Level 5 (Accelerator) at one point claims that the only reason he's not ranked higher is because that's the highest the scale goes; the difference in power between him and the other Level 5's is enormous. Then the theoretical Level 6 is introduced, defined as the esper in question obtaining near-omnipotence, to the point that they could be considered "God". No esper has yet reached that level, but Academy City's best simulations projected that it was possible.
  • Connoisseurs in the Pokémon anime are ranked from C-Class to S-Class, with Cilan and Burgundy being A-Class and C-Class, respectively. It's Cilan's goal to reach S-Class.
  • At Tootsuki Academy, assignments are graded on a scale of A (excellent) to E (failure). Chef Chapelle (notorious for giving any assignment not worthy of an A an E) gives Soma and Tadokoro's first assignment an A, and regrets that he doesn't have the authority to give them a higher grade.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In Kyon Big Damn Hero Tsuruya gave an S rank to Kyon's speech when she asked him if she should learn about the supernatural in the SOS Brigade.
  • In the Daria/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover series Legion of Lawndale Heroes, the myriad powers are ranked on what's known as 'the Claremont-Byrne scale' (an obvious Shout-Out to one of the writers' favorite series). The C-B scale is based partly on the power scales used in the X-Men films (Classes One through Five), with an series of levels within each class (Marginal, Low-grade, Mid-range, High, and Extreme).
  • A Growing Affection takes the normal E-S ranks, and adds an "X" rank for missions and Bingo book entries. "X" rank is described as requiring the resources of two or more of the great villages.

    Film 
  • In A Christmas Story, Ralphie daydreams that his teacher is so bowled over by his essay that she ecstatically awards him an A++++ while his classmates cheer. When Reality Ensues, he gets a C+ and a comment that he'll end up shooting an eye out.note 

    Literature 
  • The hero of Decline and Fall applies for a job as a teacher and asks why the school that hires him is graded as just "School." The recruiter explains that there are four grades: Leading School, First-Rate School, Good School, and School. "Frankly, 'School' is pretty bad."
  • In Discworld there are eight levels of wizardry recognised by Unseen University, but some foreign wizards try to make themselves look good by inventing extra levels, sometimes as high as 23. (This is actually a Retcon to explain why a foreign wizard in The Colour of Magic described himself as level 15).
  • The Others (latent and practicing mages) in the Night Watch series are placed into seven categories from the weakest (seventh) to the strongest (first). And then, there are practicing mages who considerably exceed the requirements of the first category, who are dubbed "mage/sorceress beyond categories" or "Grand Mage/Sorceress".

    Music 
  • As denounced by the title, the hilarious and tongue-in-cheek Pearl Jam song "Olympic Platinum".
    My Olympic dream
    The gold's just not good enough
    And I don't even think of the bronze
    I'm living my life for olympic platinum

    Video Games - Role Playing 
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, you get rank improvements when you use item synthesis enough times. The best equipment doesn't become available until you achieve Rank S. Also, the rankings for the Gummi Ship levels can, for the second courses, go far beyond S Rank by adding numbers to the end (i.e. S++10).
  • In The World Ends with You, Noise battles are ranked from E to A, depending on how many hits you got in, how quickly you dispatched them, and how much damage you took, as well as other criteria. If you get a near-perfect rating, you get the Star (or S in the Japanese version) rank.
    • There's also pin ranks. There's the normal letters, which restrict how many identical pins you can equip - for example, two B's or one A of the same command type - and then there's the Reaper and Angel levels, of which you can only equip one, period.
  • Odin Sphere gives you a rank from D, C, B, A, to S, when you clear an enemy-infested area. Higher rankings give you more items from the treasure boxes, and portions of your score that are above the cutoff point can be applied to your score for the next area, giving you a better shot at a higher grade.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, a chocobo can enter into races at any rank from C to A. When an A-ranked chocobo graduates to the next rank, it goes to the highest class, S.
  • SeeD rankings in Final Fantasy VIII range from 1 to 30, followed by A.
    • Although SeeD ranking doesn't affect anything but your periodic pay (and there's almost nothing you can buy that's useful), getting an A rank isn't difficult, thanks to the way it's calculated (either fight a lot, with the requirement for fighting increasing at each rank, or complete a general FFVIII knowledge test for instant rank up). What is difficult is maintaining an A rank: unless you fight 50 battles between pay periods (the normal encounter rate would be about 25 to 30 battles), then, as soon as you get paid at your A rank grade, you'll drop rank.
  • The .hack GU games has this one. Depending on how many items you have, the number of enemies you killed and the number of times you got a surprise attack you can get anywhere from Rank E to Rank A after visiting an area. Usually the better your rank, the better your rewards.
  • Dragon Quest Monsters games use letter ranks for a battle arena of some sort and/or for the monsters themselves. In DragonQuest Monsters: Joker, ranks go from F (lowest) to A, then up to S and up again to X (highest). Few X-ranked monsters are available in normal play.

    Video Games - Music and Rhythm 
  • In rhythm games rank inflation is generally justified. While difficult songs tend to follow the A-is-good D-is-poor system, when it comes to easy songs without rank inflation an A could mean anything from a relatively poor to a perfect score, making the rank system pointless in those songs.
  • Dance Dance Revolution has AAA and AA rankings. Getting a regular A isn't that hard. Getting a AA required a full combo in 5th Mix. Getting a AAA (prior to DDR SuperNOVA 2), however, requires a perfect run.
    • DDR SuperNOVA 2 loosened the requirements on a AAA to 99% score, while a perfect run now earns you an AAA with a gold circle mark, plus the results screen will show "Perfect Full Combo" overlaid on it.
    • Official Stepmania builds under default settings go even further (AAAA rank awarded for "Marvelous/Fantastic Full Combo").
      • One particular 3rd-party build added another "timing judgement" known as "Ridiculous timing", which (again, under default settings) can be best described as "barely hitting the note on Justice judgement rank". Getting a "Ridiculous Full Combo" awards a rank of AAAAA.
    • a commercialized version of StepMania known as In The Groove had seven ratings above A+: S-, S, S+ and one to four stars (however, the percentage score does top out at 100.00%).
    • Avoided in Dance Dance Revolution 4thMIX and its derivatives (4thMIX PLUS, Extra Mix, and Konamix), which has a very narrow grading scale: D for failing a song, C for doing somewhat poorly, B for any good score that is not a Full Combo, A for a Full Combo, and AA for a perfect score; a mere five grades. If you miss a step and pass, you're guaranteed to get only a B or a C, whereas in newer mixes you can get any grade between D and AA even if you miss a step, since grade is determined by a hidden points system rather than combo.
  • The Nintendo Hard beatmania IIDX uses a similar ranking to DDR's, but you only need 88.8% of maximum "EX points" for a AAA. However, the timing judgments in this game are extremely strict (rendering perfect scores impossible on any song that is more than a complete walk in the park), and it's easy to be offbeat enough to get more "Great"s (worth half credit) than "Just Great"s. The US PS2 version does inflate your rank by 1 level unless you got less than 11% of the EX points in a song (half of the cutoff for "E" in all other versions)
    • Additionally, getting all High Ranks (A's and above and/or Full Combos) in the step ranking mode (Dan'inintei) will actually allow the person to skip a rank.
      • The step rank mode added a rank above 10th dan, Kaiden, in Distorte D (13).
    • The difficulty rating system itself went through this as well. Originally, songs were given a ranking from 1 to 7. Starting from 5th style, there were 7s displayed with a kanji meaning "forbidden"; these became "flashing 7s" in 6th style. 10th style went from 1 to 8, with flashing 7s now being 8s. IIDX RED, the next version, then had flashing 8s. Then, Happy Sky, the next version replaced it all with a scale that went from 1 to 12 and is still used.
  • Guitar Freaks and Drum Mania both have grading systems that go up to SS. The full grading scale is: E for failing a song, A-D for good to poor performance, S for great performance or a Full Combo with Goods, and SS for a Full Combo without Goods (i.e. a Perfect or Great on every note). In addition, hitting every note with a Perfect results in an Excellent, with the text overlaid on top of the SS.
  • jubeat has a grading system as follows: an E is a complete and utter failure, a D means you failed but weren't too far away from a clear, C means you cleared by the skin of your teeth (Final score between 700000-799999 points), a B requires you to already have a passing score before your Life Meter bonus is added at the end of the song (Final score between 800000-849999 points), then A (850000-899999 points), S (900000-949999 points), SS (950000-974999 points), SSS (975000 - 999999 points), and finally EXCELLENT for a completely perfect run (which actually replaces your grade and even your clear status, instead of being added on as in GuitarFreaks and DrumMania above).
  • Reflec Beat:
    • The series uses a letter grade system, but the inflation is pretty extreme. The 70% Achievement Rate you need to clear the song? That nets you an A. In other words, getting a B is a literal and justified B Grade because it results in a Game Over!
    • In the original Reflec Beat, difficulty ratings go from 1 to 10. Reflec Beat Limelight adds the "10+" rating.
  • Guitar Hero II and III rates your performances on a five-star scale, but will additionally depict golden stars if 100% of the notes are hit. Such a thing is to be expected, seeing as how it's actually impossible to get less than a 3 star rating.
    • It is in fact possible to get three gold stars, by hitting every note and inserting notes in between them to kill your multiplier. This works because the regular stars are score based, but the gold ones are accuracy based.
    • The fan ratings get crazier - having worked out the maths used to determine star ratings, Scorehero invented hypothetical fractional scales. The maximum rating attained so far is 8.7 stars (on the downloadable version of the Tom Morello battle).
    • And Guitar Hero 5 has changed it up again, with a max star rating of 9 (in Career mode) or 6 (in Quickplay). This is broken down as follows: 1~5 stars for performance, plus a 6th for Full Combo (you still get gold stars for a non-FC 100% run), and then (in Career only) up to three more for special instrument-specific challenges that the game throws out at you such as actually playing Hammer-On runs as written or tapping the slider notes. Not even Rock Band (mentioned below) is this generous.
      • It's made easier by the fact that the game keeps the best result for both the normal song score and the instrument-specific challenge. You do not need to nail them both on the same attempt.
    • With Warriors of Rock, it gets even crazier. With special abilities like multiplier boosts and streak savers, it's not hard to amass 20 stars from a single song.
      • To be exhaustive, once you have unlocked every Quest-mode power up from every band member, you can get 5 stars from overfilling your rock meter, 5 from maintaining a maximum multiplier, 5 from maintaining a streak, 5 for not dying (the first 5 times, you get resurrected), and then 20 for score (aided by increasing your standard multiplier to a maximum of 6, increasing your star power multiplier from double to sextuple, causing streaks to give a little Star Power boost, and causing Star Power phrases to fill your meter completely). 40 stars in total. And the game requires you do this for every song for 100% completion.
      • Plus in Quickplay, once said warrior powers are unlocked, you can do a "Power Challenge" where you get to pick two of the eight powers. On some songs you can keep star power (whose multiplier is sextuple) going for nearly the whole song and get up to 21 stars (20 for score, plus one more for a perfect run.)
  • In Rock Band, a score 50% above the cut-off for a 5-star performance - typically requiring a near flawless performance - will also garner you golden stars, but only if you play on Expert difficulty. The percentage above the cut-off for drums is slightly lower since drummers miss out on some notes during their overdrive activation.
    • Interestingly, Rock Band allows performances to garner ratings of just one or two stars, while Guitar Hero (before Guitar Hero 5, at least) has three stars as a passing cut-off point. It's easiest to manage with the vocals, easy difficulty, and the shortest songs.
    • A "zero-star" performance, however, is still impossible; even by playing Polly on drums, although you earn no stars during the song, you will still have one on the results screen. Similarly, the original Rock Band had one song where the vocalist could never get gold stars even with the most perfect performance possible since the overdrive was ill-placed.
    • Rock Band 2 as online "battles", where you perform a song against another player's star score, which makes sense considering the vastly different difficulty levels (pure points battles would be impossible between easy and expert, for example). In these battles, it's possible to average 6.18 stars per song; that is, enough points to get gold stars, and a little less than a fifth of the way to a non-existent seventh star.
    • Also, the difficulty scale goes from zero to five dots, then an "impossible" difficulty that replaces the five dots with little devil faces. The fan community calls this "devilheads."
  • In osu!, the grades of performance starts from D, then C, B, A, S, and SS at the highest (SS means 100% accuracy). And if one uses Hidden or Flashlight mod when playing, they can get a silver S or SS with the usual requirements, written as SH and XH (respectively) in the "Historical Statistics" section of a player's web profile.

    Video Games - Fighting 
  • Meta-example. Fighting game Character Tiers are often labeled as such with D usually being the lowest, then C, B, A and finally S for the highest of the high. Some games will have characters as low as F rank or characters considered so strong that they're ranked as S+ or SS rank. Please note that while characters ranked as high as S+ and SS can sometimes be considered game breakers, not all of them are banned from tournaments.
  • Garou: Mark of the Wolves had rankings that started at B, went up to A, AA, and AAA - but then went even further with S, SS, SSS, and eventually capping off at MIRACLE rank.
    • This ranking system was introduced back in Fatal Fury 3, and with exception of its immediate sequel, it actually affected who you would fight as a final/bonus boss, and if your character's ending could be seen.
  • While it doesn't affect gameplay at all, the story mode in Guilty Gear XX ranks its characters on a scale from D to S++, as well as a couple characters simply not given a ranking due to being entirely too dead to cause anyone any trouble. The only four characters that actually make S-Rank or higher are, in order of increasing power, The Dragon (I-No), the Author Avatar (Sol Badguy), an unstoppable Elder Vampire that founded the Assassin's Guild (Slayer), and a gentle, innocent girl who is a Person of Mass Destruction and possibly a Messianic Archetype (Dizzy). However, these rankings are not so much as based on power as they are a threat to the Postwar Administration Bureau.
  • In BlazBlue, Ragna the Bloodedge is considered an SS-Class Criminal by the Librarium.
  • Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike has a rating system going: G, F, E, D, C, B, A, S, XS, SS, SX, MSF.
    • There are also pluses. For those who are curious, the MSF grade stands for "Master Street Fighter."
    • If you lose the first match under any cirumstances, your overall grade is G (and your score is zero). It's possible to get a G for an single fight, but it has to be an absolute whitewash. MSF is a major plateau but far from impossible. There are no tricks to it; you just have to know the engine inside and out, be able to take on anybody and anything, and execute flawlessly. The grades get more generous the further you go, so if you dominate Gill, it's possible to get MSF for both that fight and overall.
  • Street Fighter IV ranks players AAA through F on Offense (landing hits and dishing damage), Defense (blocking, avoiding damage, minimizing damage), and Technique (landing successful combos) after the end of each match.
  • In Dissidia: Final Fantasy the game will rank how well you have leveled and equipped characters, with the lowest being H and the top being SSS. Individual accessories are also ranked, and the higher the letter, the fewer you can equip of the same one - the ones without letters only let you have one of them.
  • Dungeon Fighter Online's rank system for clearing dungeons is based on how well you can pull off combos, with the lowest being F and the highest being SSS.

    Video Games - Racing and Driving 
  • Both used and inverted in the later Project Gotham Racing games, which have not only platinum medals, but also steel medals ranked below bronze.
  • Crazy Taxi grades you on a E to A scale, with a Class S License being even better than that. And an "Awesome" is even better than that, with "Crazy!!!" is the highest possible rating.
  • Mario Kart Super Circuit for the GBA has E through A, then 1, 2, and 3 stars. This has since been used in Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii. After 1-star ratings, it's mostly for bragging rights - getting at least one star or all 3 in each cup will display stars next to your name online, but there is hidden content that actually requires getting at least one star in all cups in each engine class. Mario Kart 7 removed all scores below 1 star, leaving only four possible ranks (zero through three stars).
  • Trackmania Sunrise and Nations rank your track times with four medals: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Nadeo Developer.
  • Outrun 2006 ranks your racing from E to A to AAA.
    • Ditto for Sonic & Sega All-Star Racing.
  • Excite Truck gives out letter grades based on the number of points acquired in a given run. Depending on the difficulty level, an A or B is required to pass. Getting enough points yields an S grade, which can be used to unlock extras.
  • The racing game Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune allows you to, with a full-tuned car, go anywhere between 600 and 800 horsepower, which by real-life standards is rather dangerous and fatal, though thanks to the Rule of Fun, 600 is an extremely safe setup, 700 is "balanced," and 800 simply gives you poor handling. Maximum Tune 2 allowed you to reach 810 horsepower with an extra tuning point, and 815 with yet another point that required you to either beat Story Mode without losing or drive 5,000 kilometers. Maximum Tune 3 pushes the envelope yet again with a third tuning point, bringing you to a maximum of 820 horsepower and redefining 700 HP as a "grip" setting. Finally, its upgrade, Maximum Tune 3 DX, gives you a fourth bonus point that allows you to reach 825 HP, and now 760 horsepower, once classified as a "drift" setup on the brink of a "dangerous" one, is now a BALANCED setup.
    • Similarly, the class system undergoes this too: WMMT 1 has C, B, A, A+, S, then car-specific class. WMMT 2 has N, C7 -> C1, B7 -> B1, A7 -> A1, S7 -> S1, and SSS. WMMT 3 now has 9 levels for each letter class, then after S1 there's SS9 through SS1, and finally SSS. Oh, and it takes longer to go up one level now, and, assuming you use quarters to play, it will cost you at least $4,000 to reach SSS class! That's over FOUR THOUSAAAAAAAAANDD!!
  • Sonic Riders gives grades for any tricks that you perform during jumps, with C being for jumps where you don't land correctly, either because you're in the middle of a trick, or as a result of not doing any tricks during the jump. Subsequently, B is the lowest rank for a successful trick, followed by A, AA, S, SS, with X being the best. Sonic Free Riders changes AA and SS to A+ and S+, respectively, but otherwise keeps the previous rank structure.
  • The cars in Forza Motorsport (1) are ranked from "D4" (such as a typical Honda Civic) all the way to "S" (the rarest street legal cars) and then to "R" (cars designed for racing). Forza 2 also adds a 0 to 999 system rating the car, the faster and rarer (also a stat shown as 1 to 10) the car, the higher the number. Also, the "R" class is further divided into, in increasing performance, "R4" to "R1."
    • It is also possible to rank up a car in Forza, such as from "C2" to "B3" by upgrading parts.
  • Need for Speed High Stakes. The absolute lowest rank for cars in the game is a B (think BMW Z3 and equivalent), and the highest? AAA with an example being the Mclaren F1

    Video Games - Shoot 'Em Up 
  • The (in)famous(ly difficult to obtain) "S++" score ratings in Ikaruga. Interestingly enough, the lowest starts with only a C.
  • The Castle of Shikigami series of Shoot Em Ups uses a rank progression from F, E, D, C, B, A, up to S and SS ("the very best"). If you use a continue during a stage, a minus sign is appended to the front of the rank (-F, -E, -D, etc.), and the player is given a title such as "delicate" or "harsh".
  • Instead of scores, Star Raiders gives the player a rank and a class based on his performance and the difficulty level. While getting "Star Commander" is a noteworthy accomplishment, getting "Star Commander Class 1" definitely grants bragging rights.
  • Trigonometry Wars 3 Redux: The Revengeoning is somewhere between this and Harder Than Hard. It gives out "Threat Levels" to bosses; the first boss has a rating of "High", which is then followed by "Extreme", "Ridiculous", "Ludicrous", "Immeasurable", and "Infinite".

    Video Games - First Person Shooter 
  • Joanna Dark in Perfect Dark scored so well on her entrance exam that the Carrington Institute gave her the titular rank.
  • In Doom and Doom II, the end-of-level screen gives out three percentages: percent of secrets found, percent of items collected, and percent of enemies killed. However, Doom II's final level features a boss that continually spawns more enemies while you try to kill it with rockets. Once you beat the level, the enemies killed number just keeps going up, reaching well into the thousands.
  • Multiplayer players of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 earn medals for each weapon for racking up kills with them: Bronze, Silver, Gold 1 through Gold 10, and Platinum.
  • Halo Reach has a total of fifty ranks for you to progress through. You can find the full list here
  • The TimeSplitters series' challenge and arcade league have unlisted platinum medals for you to shoot for, along with the usual gold/silver/bronze medals.
  • In Crysis 2, you can't set the graphics to low or even normal; all you have is high, very high, extreme, and ultra.

    Video Games - Action-Adventure 
  • Rare's Donkey Kong games used a percentage completion rating that never stopped at 100%. DKC stopped at 101%, DKC2 stopped at 102%, and DKC3 wasn't complete until you had 103%. Collecting enough DK coins in Donkey Kong Country 2 elevates Diddy Kong above Mario in video game hero status.
  • Every Mega Man Zero game has the real prize being S. In the second and third games, you only needed an A or higher rank to see and learn the EX Techniques. Refreshingly, the fourth game kept the ranking but didn't require it to see the interesting stuff.
    • Mega Man X5 goes for a B, A, SA, GA, PA, MH ranking scale; X6 goes D, C, B, A, SA, GA, PA, UH. X7 sucks. X8 goes D, C, B, A, AA, AAA, S. It should be noted that getting a high rank in X6 has nothing to do with performance, though.
      • There's a lot of confusion in regards to what the various abbreviations in X5 and X6 beyond A class actually stand for. The general consensus is that it's Special A, Great A, Perfect A, and Master Hunter/Ultimate Hunter.
    • In X4, in Cyber Peacock's stage, requiring you to get S ranks on several annoying levels where you're timed, and how much damage you take is taken into consideration. In addition,some of the enemies in this area stun you for a few seconds while they drain about 1/3 of X's health (without upgrades). Completion of this with S ranks will grant you access to life tanks, lives, and even an armor capsule.
    • Battle Network and Star Force, interestingly, use a 1-10 plus S system. It determines the type and quality of chips, cards or money you get at the end of it. Occasionally, you can also get stars in addition to your rank, which correspond to extra requirements and rewards independent of the general rank/reward system.
      • Battle Network goes even further with this in 2, where you gain Official licenses with tests in the game that allow you access to higher areas and determine your success fleeing random encounters. They rank Z, B, A, S, SS, and SSS respectively. In addition, the Battle Chip Challenge spin-off rates the tournaments like this in scaling difficulty, going E, D, C, B, A, S, X, Y, Z.
  • The Devil May Cry games use this for the rankings of combos, with your grade going from D to A, followed by S. The third and fourth games added SS and SSS. The end-of-mission ranking also has a similar grading system, with extra bonuses beyond that for the Hardcores who pull off No Damage Runs and other Self Imposed Challenges. They also use Idiosyncratic Combo Levels:
    • Devil May Cry: Dull, Cool!, Bravo!, Absolute!, Stylish!
    • Devil May Cry 2: Don't worry, Come on!, Bingo!, Are you ready?, Showtime!!
    • Devil May Cry 3: Dope!, Crazy!, Blast!, Alright!, Sweet!, SShowtime!!, SSStylish!!
    • Devil May Cry 4: Deadly!, Carnage!, Brutal!, Atomic!, Smokin'!, Smokin Style!!, Smokin' Sick Style!
    • DmC: Devil May Cry: Dirty, Cruel, Brutal, Anarchic, Savage, SSadistic, and SSSensational.
  • Castlevania
    • The best ending of Symphony of the Night can only be obtained if you actually achieve 200% completion. However, the best possible score by "legitimate" means is the bizarrely arbitrary 200.6% and due to a glitch in how one sword works (which allows you to teleport forward, even through walls), it's actually possible to surpass 400% completion.
      • The 200% in Symphony was really just a method to hide the ENTIRE LAST THIRD OF THE GAME from the players. Once you've searched most of the castle (specifically, found three items before fighting the final boss), you would not get the bad ending and instead go through an inverted version of the entire castle. Still doesn't explain the .6%.
      • The .6% is essentially a math bug due to how some of the castle rooms wound up breaking apart because of the tile flipping and stuff. There are actually about 3-4 extra rooms on the inverted map, and one hidden room for Dracula's final battle.
    • Fully exploring Portrait of Ruin earns you 1000% completion, the sum of 100% of 10 different areas, in a Mythology Gag to Symphony of the Night.
  • Sonic Team revels in this. NiGHTS into DREAMS and second-generation Sonic the Hedgehog games starting with Sonic Adventure give out completion rankings for stages, from E to A, and then S rank, whose requirements for attainability in some stages can break your soul. Worse, most Sonic games since Adventure have the deliberately frustrating feature of resetting your score to zero when you die. Far too many controllers have died at the hands of players who fell into a pit after a ten-minute level with a near perfect score.
    • Both of the above mentioned also appear in another game by Sonic Team: Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. In later levels (particularly Circus Park and Giant Palace), the score-resetting mechanic becomes a real pain, due to the Surprise Difficulty.
    • Sonic Generations does things a little differently: Rank (which ranges from D to S) is based on how fast you complete a stage, and is slightly affected by how many rings you collect, and your rank goes up one letter if you completed the stage without dying. Dying in a level means that your time carries over (unless you're starting from the very beginning), and you can't get an S Rank (obtained by completing a level fast without dying).
  • Viewtiful Joe ranks the player on three different criteria (points, time, and defense), with grades from D to A, with V as the highest mark. And while you can get an overall V grade without being perfect everywhere, getting nothing but V ranks gets you a special rainbow-V grade.
    • Which is necessary for an infinite VFX meter. Combined with the old-school Nintendo Hard on the higher difficulties, this is something the truly Viewtiful strive for.
  • A very similar ranking system is used in Bayonetta (also designed by Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe creator Hideki Kamiya): each "chapter" is divided up into multiple "verses," for which you can earn stone, bronze, silver, gold, platinum or pure platinum medals or trophies. Again, you don't need a perfect run of platinum verse medals to earn a platinum chapter trophy, but only by completing every verse quickly enough, with a sufficiently high combo score, and without taking any damage, can you get the pure platinum trophy for that chapter.
  • Also done in a similar way in Ōkami (another game designed by Hideki Kamiya). Rank is divided into two categories: Time and Damage. And the ranks are shown by a tree's growth stage (a sprout being the lowest and a Cherry Blossom tree being the highest). The higher the rank: the more money rewarded at the end of the battle.
  • In Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, A-ranked items, equipment, characters, etc. aren't very useful at all compared to S-ranks.
    • This happens in-universe in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, in which Naked Snake, for defeating The Boss, is awarded the newly-created rank of Big Boss (even though she actually allowed herself to be killed by him, so he hadn't truly surpassed her at all).
  • Although it doesn't really affect gameplay one way or the other, the Striders rank their operatives from C Class to Special-A Class. While C Class Striders are the low men on the totem pole, by no means is that a marring of their skill; they alone are said to be the one-man equivalent of an entire special forces team, and it only becomes more and more crazily superhuman from there on. Strider Hiryu, the protagonist, is one of the Special-A Class Striders (the elites and the only members allowed to wield the group's signature Cypher blades) and is distinguished among his peers for being the youngest to attain such a rank.
  • Killer Is Dead has level ranks after completing each episode. The ranks are all based on time, how high your combo level is, how much damaged you received, along with various episode-specific bonuses that usually have extremely vague requirements. The ranks from lowest to highest are D, C, B, A, & AAA.

    Video Games - Other / Uncategorized 
  • This sometimes extends to military ranks in games that award their players with such, when general/admiral is not quite high enough.
    • Before PvP ranks were removed from World of Warcraft, Marshal, Field Marshal and Grand Marshal ranked above "Commander" in the Alliance, and Warlord and High Warlord above General in the Horde. All of these very high commissioned officer positions are, of course, deployable in the field.
    • Surprisingly averted in Final Fantasy XI with mercenary ranks. The highest possible rank is only Captain. However, this is debatable played straight with the campaign ranks, where one can go through 5 tiers of 4 medals each, all with more bombastic sounding descriptions than the last.
  • In The Bouncer, buying every power-up and ability for a character gives them Rank S.
  • SSX 3, being in a tournament setting, has bronze, silver, and gold. If you do really well, you'll get a platinum medal instead. Notable because the game never reveals the score needed for getting a platinum medal.
  • Super Robot Wars has a terrain expertise ranking (for both characters and mecha) which scales from D (practically useless) to A, and then S, although this is merely an aspect of gameplay and not an accomplishment.
  • "S"-rated weapons in most later Fire Emblem games, a ranking reserved for Infinity+1 Swords. (They go from E, D, C, B, A, then to S). Radiant Dawn adds "SS" to the list, with S pretty much becoming the rank for Infinity–1 Swords. With a few exceptions such as Ike, the S and SS rankings carry the restriction that any given unit can only achieve a single S-rank in a single weapon type, with all the other weapon types available to them able to go no higher than A as a consequence.
    • Radiant Dawn goes to eleven overall. More missions, more levels and class changes, more characters and the highest stats this side of the entirely broken Genealogy of the Holy War.
      • Thracia 776 and Shadow Dragon avert this, though. Their ranks stop at A.
    • Up until Genealogy, weapons were ranked from 1 to 20, and a character's rank in weapons in general was randomly increased on levelups as per their other stats. It was not the best system possible.
      • Not to mention legendary weapons had the highest rank of 12. Making getting 13-20 incredibly useless. Did we mention most characters had huge growths in this stat for some reason? The DS remake might be contested, but everyone agrees changing to the "regular" weapon ranking style was for the better.
    • In addition to weapon ranks, the later games tend to have rankings based on how well the player does during the entire campaign. The ranks typically start from the lowly 'E' and go up to 'S' as the highest rank.
      • Thracia 776 takes this even further, depending on the version of the game. The cartridge version of the game has 'AA' and 'AAA' as its highest ranks, and the ROM version has 'AA', 'AAA', 'S', 'SS', AND 'SSS' as the top ranks — with 'SSS' being the ultimate rank. Actually getting 'SSS' practically warrants emulation use.
    • In Awakening, there are C, B, A support levels, as in previous games, but you can also earn an S support level with one unit of the opposite gender, in which you two will be Happily Married.
  • The Advance Wars series also grades your achievements in every mission. There are 3 criteria (essentially number of turns, own casualties and enemy casualties) with 1-100 points each, which combined determine a ranking between E (which is really hard to get even intentionally, and past the first game the minimum is C instead) to A and then S (which requires near perfect scores). Furthermore, the whole campaign is rated in the end, and getting an S for it on the Hard mode isn't easy. Days of Ruin messes with the system abundantly but doesn't really change much as far as this trope is concerned, other than that S rank is possible at merely 2/3rds of the max score of 450, and 450 isn't even possible on some missions.
  • The second Boktai game ranks your forging abilities. Above S rank, it has R and super R rank.
    • The original rates you on dungeons, going up to S rank, and Lunar Knights ranks the shooter minigame, going up to S (I think).
  • The Ghost Rider movie game has rankings from D to A, then S with V at the top. Each rank has a suitable title (such as "Damned", "Brutal"), with the highest, unsurprisingly, being "Vengeance".
  • The Fate/stay night Visual Novel has a section with the stats for all of the Servants, from E to A with the usual plus/minus modifiers. Rank A is basically on the level of True Magic (impossible miracles). Above A++ is EX. The special armaments of Servants, the Noble Phantasms, also come with ranks; Canonically, a C-rank Noble Phantasm is about the same level as an A-rank regular weapon.
    • The novel prequel Fate/Zero also contain similar sections, and adds one more EX-rank Noble Phantasm; the original game had two (Ea and Avalon, which are basically the Unstoppable Force and the Immovable Object, respectively). The new one summons 2000 Servants. The entire "Grail War" only summons 7.
    • Databooks on the Nasu Verse state that the Mage's Association ranks its members from First to Seventh (seventh being the lowest). For people who have achieved feats beyond that, like the sisters Touko and Aoko, they get colors Orange and Blue, respectively. The closer your color to the primary colors red, blue, and yellow, the more amazing your achievement.
  • Trauma Center started out with operation grades ranging from C through A and an S grade, which requires fulfilling certain conditions in the operation as well as getting a high enough score. Games after the first add an even better XS grade (that you can only get on Hard or Harder Than Hard). Getting A is hard enough.
  • The Rogue Squadron games had medals for each mission based on time taken, kills, ally/wingman deaths, accuracy, player deaths etc. With levels that went from no medal (almost impossible for a competent player to actually get due to being that easy) to bronze through gold (generally quite difficult) to Ace/Platinum (depending on the game) which was next to impossible using the standard ships for most missions (though a couple of notable exceptions had easier requirements for ace than gold). In many cases, however, the bonus ships were Game Breakers, having weapons which could destroy large numbers of foes in one shot, boosting the accuracy, enemies killed and, occasionally, time stats hugely. And, in one game, these secondary weapons auto-regenerated, so you couldn't run out, unlike the secondaries on the other ships.
  • Mischief Makers ranks you on how fast you complete a stage with a grade from D through A, and then S which is descripted as "Perfect!". And trust me, you need to be perfect to get an S grade.
  • Tetris The Grand Master has grades going from 9 to 1, then S1 through S9, and finally the titular "Grand Master" rank. Tetris TGM2 adds the M grade between S9 and GM. Finally, TGM3 has, after S9, m1 through m9, followed by Master, Master K, Master V, Master O, and Master M, and of course, GM.
  • Top Skater is an arcade game that gives each trick AND your entire run a grade between E (lowest) and S (highest). The reward for an S-run is a reply of the "highlights" of the run.
    • Spiritual Successor Air Trix has this trope both ways; the possible grades range from G to A and then S, SS, SSS, S4, S5, and S6.
  • Sky Gunner has ranks from E (lowest) to SS (highest). Getting SS is necessary to unlock "Detached Camera Mode". Which is by no means an easy feat.
  • Averted in the translated version of Valkyria Chronicles. While in the Japanese version, the rank to strive for during missions was 'S,' the translators seem to have decided that was silly and renamed the best rank 'A' while also shifting all the other ranks down.
  • Blast Corps had this in spades. After completing the game and finishing every level including the ones on other planets, you are presented with the message "Now do it faster!" You could then go for gold medals based on completion time for every stage, including the normally untimed story levels (in which the carrier would inexplicably explode if you exceeded the time limit, even if it didn't run into anything.) Getting gold medals for every stage gives you the message "Now go for platinum!" and reveals new target times for the platinum medals. Some of these were pretty ridiculous, such as completing one of the vehicle training missions in four seconds.
    • Getting platinum medals on every stage earns you the highest rank in the game, amusingly titled "You Can Stop Now."
  • Tenchu has 5 ranks: Ninja dog, Thug, Ninja, Master Ninja, Grand Master. Grand master requires you to not be seen or kill an innocent (usually). You still have to kill most of the guards though, unlike many stealth games slipping your way to to the objective and out is actually less rewarding than killing everyone, albeit silently.
    • In the first two Tenchu parts, it is actually possible to get the highest rank without killing, there are no awards for kills/stealth kills either, but that changes with Tenchu 3.
  • In Ace Combat 5's Arcade Mode, how you played gave you a ranking. You start at E, progress up to A, the AAA, then S, then SSS. Normal missions were ungraded, C to A, then S. It should be noted that SSS wasn't even technically the highest you could get in the arcade mode; how close you were to ranking up was shown with a segmented bar on the score screen, and that bar would be completely filled by the time you get about 140,000 points.
    • The C-B-A-S ranking was also present in Skies of Deception and Joint Assault, the two portable titles.
  • The N64 wrestling games AJPW Virtual Pro Wrestling 2, and WWF No Mercy ranked all the attacks in the game this way, ranging from E grade for the weakest attacks to A and S grade for the Special Moves; the majority of submission moves were ranked C, which implied that the grades came from the INITIAL amount of damage dealt by the move, and most submissions were held for a prolonged period, dealing C-grade damage multiple times. Even many of the Special submissions were ranked C for this reason. In No Mercy, many of the moves were bumped up in rank to accommodate the addition of the S rank (which was not present in the previous two games) and a slew of new special moves. This would result in certain B-grade Strong Grapples (like Goldberg's Body Press Powerslam or the Vertical Brainbuster) being bumped up to an A grade and resulting in the almost certain possibility of a game-breaking move set.
  • The PS2 Contra games, Shattered Soldier and Neo Contra, grades the player's performance at the end of each stage based on the percentage of unique enemies and objects they destroyed thorough the entire stage, with a penalty based on the number of lives lost or continues used (if any were lost). Maintaining an A average is the only way to avoid the Downer Ending.
  • In Jet Force Gemini on Tawfret, if you have the Shurikens, you can actually obtain an obscene death count and accuracy rating. While the death count maxes out at 65,535, the highest accuracy rating is somewhere along 100,000%.
  • Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars had a simple system: completing each mission earns a bronze, silver or gold medal depending on the difficulty level with two extra distinctions for completing all secondary objectives and getting all intelligence entries (also awarded on a per-mission basis). The name of these distinctions are specific to the faction: the intelligence distinctions are named "InOps Specialist Ribbon" for GDI, "Order of the Grand Confessor" for Nod and "Archivist Prime" for Scrin; the other one is "Commendation of Valor", "Mark of Loyalty" or "Optimum Efficiency", respectively. The difficulty levels are very strange; at earlier levels, going on hard is actually easier whereas on later levels (especially on the last Nod one), you really have to earn that gold medal.
  • Riviera: The Promised Land had C to A, influenced slightly by damage taken (but heavily if a character fainted in battle), moderately by number of turns, and heavily by finisher move's level. The best ones to finish a battle with were Lorelei's and Einherjar's EX Skills.
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Red/Blue rescue team offers missions starting at difficulty "E" and going up to difficulty "A", then you start finding "S" missions, then "*" (star) tasks. The sequel, Explores or Time/Darkness/Sky puts numbers next to the * to make them seem even more impressive (the higher the number, the tougher the mission). However "*5" is roughly as hard as "S" from the previous game.
  • Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs grades you on how well you perform a capture, ether "B", "A" or "S".
  • Cross Edge takes this both directions—you can get an S rank above A, but also a rank below F, and it goes down at least as far as I, if you do bad enough.
  • Billy Vs SNAKEMAN ranks missions from D through A, then AA, then S. There are also mission ranks not named after letter grades, to indicate they tie into plotlines other than the initial "become Sannin" plot, which are (save for Reaper and Burger Ninja missions) as hard if not harder than AA and S rank missions.
  • StarCraft II ranks you based on multiplayer performance into different leagues. In addition to "Bronze, Silver, Gold", there is a Platinum league, and a Diamond league. At one point in the beta there was a Copper below Bronze, but they merged Copper and Bronze and split Platinum and Diamond. There also may be an even topperest tier league, an invite only "Pro" league.
    • Since Patch 1.2, even Diamond has been demoted, with the Master and Grandmaster leagues taking the top tiers. Diamond through Grandmaster is the top 20% of all players. The Grandmaster league is the top 200, Master is the remaining top 2%, and Diamond is the remaining top 20%. Platinum is merely "noticeably better than average", while Gold is a typical player with some skill (especially with more recent patches, which expanded Gold and shrunk Bronze).
  • Acceleration of Suguri awards ranks based on how well you do in a fight, going E, D, C, B, A, S, and P. Getting a P rank requires the player to take no damage during a fight, which, being a bullet hell/fighting game, is no easy task.
  • The Galaxy Angel Gameverse has an Intel option which displays the stats of every Ship, both yours and your opponent's, such as "Offense", "Armor" and "Evasion" with values going from E to A with the corresponding plus/minus modifiers.
  • Bit.Trip Runner would award a perfect rating for collecting all gold in a level, marking said level on the menu with an exclaimation mark. Getting all the gold in each level's retro challenge rewarded players with two exclaimation marks. Double perfect?
  • Clock Tower: While A is the best canon ending, it is possible to achieve a hidden Ending S, which is basically Ending A, except another girl gets to leave the nightmare with Jennifer, rather than being offed at the last hurdle.
  • Bishi Bashi has grades going up to SSS. You're going to need them, because as you go up stages, the minimum passing grade increases; in the endgame, even an S will cost you one life!
  • Tournament levels and monster rankings in Monster Rancher go from E to S, with "F" signifying a tournament anyone can enter without losing status if higher-ranked.

    Webcomics 

  • In Kubera, mages are graded similar to the American grading system; A+, B+, B, so on. The highest rank is AA. Asha is easily the most powerful mage in existence, breaking records left and right when she took her exam. However, in order to get the AA ranking, you need to be able to interface with a barrier stone, which in turn requires three matching elemental attributes. Asha insisted she could do it despite the fact that her attributes don't match, but they refused to let her try because that would be extremely dangerous. In order to celebrate her incredible achievements regardless, she was given the brand-new rank of A++. Technically, it's no different than A+, but everybody has heard about her, and treats her as befitting her skill. Then, during the siege of Atera, she proved that she is fully capable of interfacing with a barrier stone and keeping a barrier going (by changing the attribute of the barrier to match her own, which should be impossible). The title of that arc is AAA.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation has officially three object classes: "Safe" (e.g. a three-sided cube), "Euclid" (e.g. a three-sided cube that you can drop objects into and have them turned inside out (don't put your hand in there!)), and "Keter" (e.g. a three-sided cube that moves when you're not looking at it, sporadically sucks in surrounding air at a very high pressure, inverts objects like Euclid-class, and sometimes spurts out a highly bioactive substance filled with destructive microbes from another dimensional reality for no adequately explained reason). They also have a series of "K-class" scenarios, the most frequently-mentioned of which is the XK "end of the world."
    • To quote almost directly form their site: "Safe means we can put it alone in a room and it does nothing we can't predict. Euclid means we put it alone in a room and it might be a bit dangerous. Keter means we put it alone in a room and then send a retrieval team to collect the bodies and establish a containment perimeter." In general, a measure of how likely it is to cause casualties if unmonitored. Safe=5% or less, Euclid=5% up to whatever, Keter=virtually guaranteed.
  • The Anti-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society formerly ranked Sues and Stus on a scale of one to eight. Now, it operates on a one to ten scale, with ten being damn near omnipotent. For reference, one Level Nine Stu was able to whoop almost the entire Society. He was the weakest of the Level Nines.
  • Shown here as used in Chaos Fighters with F Minus Minus.
  • PolitiFact's scale runs from True to False to the "Pants on Fire!" rating, reserved for especially far-reaching or ridiculous claims.

    Western Animation 
  • The Starbucks example below was parodied in Animaniacs in an episode where Doctor Scratchensniff went to the movies with the Warners. Scratchensniff asks for a small popcorn; the attendant tells him that the popcorn only comes in Large, Super Chubby, and Double Super Chubby sizes. A frustrated Scratchensniff asks why they don't call the Large a Small then, and is greeted with "I'll have to ask my manager." Of course, it finally seems to sink in at the end; Scratchensniff says "Just give me a Large!" and the attendant hands him a truly colossal tub of popcorn.
  • The resident Sadist Teacher of The Fairly OddParents Denzel Crocker loves to invert this trope. He gave Timmy a Super F in Mind Over Magic and the first Jimmy Timmy Power Hour had him threaten to give Jimmy Neutron an F-. Naturally, this didn't go well with the kid genius.
  • In Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, Phil Ken Sebben has an Alert level system parodying the color based Terror Alert System used in the US. Above red was "Blackwatch Plaid," which he later pushed even further to "The cover of Rush's seminal album, "Moving Pictures"."
  • In the South Park episode TMI, the official average size was lowered so far that basically every guy had one that was above-average.
  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Homer became a restaurant critic for a newspaper. The editor eventually complained that all of his reviews were over-the-top gushing praise, and as an example pointed out a recent article he'd written where he gave a restaurant "9 thumbs up". This prompted Homer to get mean and snarky, and one of his later reviews (to Marge) said "I give this meal my lowest rating ever: 7 thumbs up."
  • A variation in one episode of Futurama: after Professor Farnsworth's latest invention is ridiculed by the scientific community, Wernstrom gives it "the worst grade imaginable...an A—!" note 

    Real Life 
  • CERO has five ratings from all ages to adults only. They are;
    • A (all ages)
    • B (ages 12 and up)
    • C (ages 15 and up)
    • D (ages 18 and up)
    • Z (ages 18 and up only)
  • When was the last time you saw a pizza advertised as "small"? At at least one local pizzeria the advertised sizes are "large, extra-large, and party-size"
  • Ah, Starbucks. Coffee sizes start at Tall, then Grande, then Venti, because apparently no one just wants a small goddamn coffeenote . Then they came out with a Trenta size, which is even larger than the Venti size. It holds 31 oz (910 mL) of liquid, or two-and-a-half the capacity of a typical human bladder. For true caffeine addicts!
  • At the height of the Cold War, both pro- and anti-nuclear campaigners were fond of pointing out "overkill factors" (how many times over the world's nuclear arsenal could kill all the people on Earth). The number peaked at around ninety.
    • A theoretical war that actually used all this firepower was apparently referred to in strategic circles as a "Bounce the Rubble" exchange.
    • One notable one still used to this day is the Doomsday Clock, where midnight represents all out nuclear war. How close civilization approaches to nuclear war is represented by how many minutes away from midnight the minute hand sits. It started at "seven minutes to midnight" and has since gone as high as seventeen minutes (The chance of nuclear war is practically negligible) to as low as two minutes (a pin drop could result in the destruction of civilization).
      • Particularly notable in that the clock was originally intended to have "fifteen minutes to midnight" as the safest possible setting, so its being set to seventeen minutes to midnight from 1991 to 1995 is the most direct application of this trope.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture food quality ratings can go up to grade AA.
  • Minor League Baseball originally ranked its leagues D, C, B, A. Now it's Rookie, Short Season, A, A Advanced, AA, AAA. (And this is all below the Major Leagues.)
  • The professional English football leagues used to run from first through fourth divisions, however as of 2004, leagues run 'Premier league', 'Championship', League 1, League 2.
  • Martial artists often want to stay a rank ahead of their students in order to maintain "master" status, leading to ranks as high as 15th dan becoming commonplace in more popular styles.
  • Some Free Masons have added an additional thirty degrees on top of the original three. Some even have ninety, altogether.
    • However the thirty-three ranks go back over two hundred years.
  • In many US states' high school sports, the schools are grouped into classes based on size, since most often the big schools with deep benches have a significant advantage over smaller ones with smaller talent pools. In most states these are A, B, C, D, etc with A at the top. Indiana was one of the last to implement one, and theirs go A, AA, AAA, AAAA, with A the smallest.
    • ESPN lists this year's high school football champions here (map still not filled in for all states). Many use D1, D2, D3, etc., but New York had one of these, with D, C, B, A, and AA (so did Montana). Oh, and apparently, AAAA is no longer the largest in Indiana—5A is (although 5A is only for the football classes).
      • Many states go up to 5A, apparently. Illinois starts at 2A and goes up to 8A. South Dakota has AA, A, B, then 9-man AA, 9-man A, and 9-man B. If it's about size, shouldn't a school large enough to field a team two full divisions better than a 9-man B team be large enough to field an 11-man team? Colorado, Iowa, and Idaho all top out at 5A, but have more than five divisions and nothing below A. Colorado has "A-8" and "A-6" as the two below 1A (A-6?), Iowa has a level simply called "A" (that's one level lower than 1A), and Idaho splits 1A into "1A Division 1" and "1A Division 2". Nebraska districts are labelled A, B, C1, C2, D1, and D2. (D2 schools are small enough, for example, that football is played with six players on a side, instead of eleven.
      • The "A-6" and "A-8" in Colorado's schools refer to the number of players on the football team by each side at a given time.
  • The NCAA has Division I split for into two subdivisions for football. Interestingly, they inverted the trend of more A's being better, since until 2007, the higher subdivision was called Division I-A and the lower one was called Division I-AA. Since this distinction only applies to football,the subdivisions were renamed before the 2007 season, though the lower subdivision still has the more prestigious-sounding name. I-A was renamed the Football Bowl Subdivision, while I-AA was renamed the Football Championship Subdivision.
  • Standard & Poor's use a rating code for debtors, AAA being the best and D the worst.
    • These also have plus and minus grades for a total of twenty-two different ratings, and the accepted "passing grade" for investments is BBB.
    • Of course, the revelation that these triple letter rankings were created to make bad debtors look better by moving the curve and allow some companies the opportunity to manipulate their value for profit at the cost of the debtor's credit value without suspicion (and be the major cause of the 2010 Global Financial Crisis) makes one wonder if that sort of thing should be allowed.
  • The US Homeland Security Advisory System was in use from 2002 to 2011. Over its lifetime, its lowest two levels were never used, making "Elevated" the system's current default level.
  • The Boy Scout of America ranks are Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle. Eagle Scouts can wear combinations of Bronze, Gold and Silver palms by earning merit badges beyond the twenty-one required for Eagle Scout (although gaining palms doesn't mean much as compared to becoming Eagle).
  • The English/Welsh GCSE system uses the usual A,B,C,D,E,F grades, with a A* over and above the A. Originally this was intended to indicate exceptional performance by an A-grade candidate, but is now universally considered the top grade. Since the introduction of the modular AS/A2 level to replace the A-level it has also become more common to attain several A grades at A-level too, leading some to call for the introduction of a A* at that level also.
    • A few GCSE's offer A* distinction now, but they are rare.
    • This perpetuates a fascinating annual cycle when the results are released in which the media will initially deplore grade inflation and the "dumbing-down" of British education, then castigate itself for doing so, thus providing a never-ending news story until something more interesting comes along.
      • This has became a joke among people in former British colonies in Asia, which more or less kept the old GCE grading curves—in their terms, GCSE's A* has became the "new A," A became the "new C," while C became the "new E."
    • In a partial inversion, GCSE grades actually go down to G, and if you want to be technical about it, G still counts as a pass. U is fail (standing for "ungraded"). Of course, most places ask for A*-C grades, and if they ask for pass they're after A*-D, but if they ask for GCSE's generally rather than "passes" or a specific grade range, as long as you got a G it counts.
    • After The New Tens, Hong Kong uses a modified GCSE system called HKDSE, which uses numbers instead of letters for grades in language subjects (Chinese and English). The former B grade is now 5, and A grade is 5* . They also keep the old A* thing, therefore you now have a 5** grade.
  • The STEP (used by Cambridge for maths students) has a scale going fail, 3, 2, 1, S.
  • British university degrees are awarded with one of the following honours classifications: first class, upper second, lower second, third, and ordinary. The "ordinary" class is now considered worthless enough that Cambridge has abolished it; you either graduate with honours or fail. In practice, it's common in many professions for job postings to demand at least an upper second.
  • Rampant in the auto industry; the usual practice is to introduce a new top-of-the-line trim level every few years (to much fanfare) and (quietly) drop base models that become unpopular- the 1957 Chevy Bel Air was the most extravagant car Chevy made that year; by The Seventies the Bel Air was a bare-bones fleet model. "LE" was originally the top trim level of Toyota Camry; currently it's the base model. Even legendary trim names are subject to this: the "R/T" name was, for a long time, the top-of-the-line trim for Dodge's muscle cars, but now this distinction is for the "SRT" models.note 
  • The United States military has added on higher ranks for generals and admirals as the need has arisen. George Washington himself only ever wore three stars. Ulysses S. Grant was the first to have four stars, but the title was such that would have made it five stars. The rank was retired after the last of the three generals died, reducing the max rank down to major general. World War II required creation of five-star ranks to be standardized. In 1945, the US government created, but never awarded, what would have been a six-star rank for Douglas MacArthur in anticipation of the invasion of Japan. George Washington was later awarded that rank posthumously and retroactive to July 4, 1776, meaning that no officer ever has or ever will outrank Washington.
    • It's a little more confusing actually. General John Pershing of WWI fame is considered to outrank General MacArthur. As MacArthur was a five-star general, this would technically make Pershing a six-star. Officially, Pershing's rank was "General of the Armies" and it never had an official insignia. He wore four gold stars instead of the usual silver (the proposed insignias were either six silver or five gold stars). Washington, being awarded supreme rank past, present or future, outranks even Pershing by statute. His official rank is "General of the Armies of the United States." This ALSO has no official insignia, but would be equivalent to a SEVEN star general, if we're keeping things in order by command level.
      • Not quite. It's not necessary to have a higher rank than someone to outrank them. First, there is the concept of "time-in-grade" meaning that, between two or more officers with equal rank, the one who has held that rank the longest is considered to outrank the others. Second, an officer of any rank may be placed in command of any other officer by order of the President. (As the President is Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of The United States, his whims are the final word in matters military. He could place a 2nd lieutenant just out of boot camp in the position of Commander in Chief, Europe, and all American forces in Europe would have to follow that lieutenant's orders.) Thus, there is no reason to assume a six-star rank for Pershing.
  • In certain schools, certain teachers don't give out "D" grades; fall below the cutoff for a C(-) and you fail.
  • Credit cards have added new prestige ranks (gold, platinum) as the old ranks became commonplace. Right now the biggest difference between a silver, gold, and platinum card is the color, with titanium looking to be the next level. Also both Visa and Mastercard have a level over Platinum (the Signature and World cards - guess they ran out of metals)
  • The final exams of Finnish high schools have gone through multiple iterations of this. Initially, there were three passing grades and maximum of six exams. Only a small percentage of the population took the exams so one who passed was considered a learned person and the getting the six Laudaturs (the best possible grade) was a sign of genius. The grade limits were based on percentages so when number of students grew new grades had to be introduced (Oddly, Laudatur remained the best, three were added below it) but the number of Laudaturs still grew. Then the students were allowed to take the exams over multiple years, enabling more foreign languages and improving grades from previous years. The final step was that the Real exam (i.e. everything that is not a language or mathematics) was split into multiple exams. As the result, the famous six Laudatur grade is now quite common and the current official record is ten (the unofficial eleven was split between too many years).
    • Likewise, the possible grades used to be Laudatur (excellent), Cum Laude (good), Approbatur (passed) and Improbatur (flunked). During the years, three new grades were introduced: Lubenter (passed decently), Magna Cum Laude (very good) and Eximia Cum Laude (almost excellent).
    • The Mathematics and Real exams have a choice of questions. Some of them are scored from 0 to 9 instead usual 6, so it is possible to have a score above the "maximum".
    • Since universities count only the relevant part of the grades into entry scores, the highest final exam grades are purely for bragging rights.
  • In most American Contract Bridge League events, the players are grouped into C, B and A ranks. At some national or international tournaments, the strata expand to D, C, B, A and X.
  • Inverted example: Traditionally, martial arts rankings start off at 10th kyu. The rankings for the board game Go, on the other hand, start as low as 30th kyu.
    • There is a system of Ninjutsu that goes up to 15th Dan.
  • PC enthusiast magazine Maximum PC stirred quite a controversy when it rated Half-Life 2 the only 11/10 rating the magazine has done.
    • This trope applies to game rating in general, to the point that it has its own trope. On a scale of 1 to 10, an average game that's nothing special but not particularly bad either ought to score 5, and as per normal distribution most games ought to fall in the 4-6 range, with only the exceptional scoring more or less.
    • All reviews of PC hardware and software (not just games) tend to be inflated. If the item in question didn't get at least a 7 out of 10, you can expect it to suck.
  • Due to advances in efficiency, the European Union energy label for some appliances had the grades A+ and A++, and later A+++, added on top of the usual G to A grades.
  • In Germany, for the most time pupils go to school, they're graded from 1 to 6 (1 being the highest). In the last two years however, a scale from 15 to 1 (15 the highest) is introduced, which are then reverted back into the original system. As the first three numbers on the second scale represent 1+, 1, 1- and so on, getting straight 15s reverts actually back into 2/3! It's still just displayed as 1.0, but it's there.
  • The Mikimoto system for grading pearls has A1, A, A+1, A+, AA1, AA, AAA1, and AAA.
  • Eggs in the US are rated C, B, A, and AA. The A grades are just slight differences in the consistency or quality of the egg white or yolk. B eggs have a few things you don't want to see. C eggs are basically aborted chicks.
  • In the earliest days of written music, there were three lengths of note: the maxima, longa and brevis. Over time, composers started creating shorter and shorter note values, with the longer ones falling out of use. By the end of the 16th century or so, when the inflation stopped, the longest note in common use was (and still is) the semibreve or whole note, which is half as long as the shortest of the original notes.
  • eBay evaluations : "will buy again, A+++++++++" is the minimum expected if the seller didn't abduct your family and mail them back to you one piece at a time.
    • And even then it depends on how much they charge for shipping on the pieces.
    • Similarly, giving anything other than a maximum rating on sites like Newgrounds or Youtube is interpreted as a vicious slam.
      • YouTube has changed this, swapping to a Thumbs-Up/Thumbs-Down system.
      • On Newgrounds this is actually considered good manners, after a fashion; five is "I liked it, thumbs up," and zero is, "I wish the creator had been aborted so I would have never seen this". Voting something in between, however, is apparently a sin that is beyond forgiveness.
    • This has became kind of an enforced in Taobao, the Chinese equivalent of eBay and Amazon Marketplace, especially due to press reports about many sellers actually harass buyers that gave a rating less than 4/5. So right now the average rating is usually somewhere between 4.5-5, and nobody look at the numerical rating that seriously—any criticisms would be aired in the comments that may accompany a 5/5.
  • In chess the title of Grandmaster was first officially created and awarded to the top 27 players. By 2009 there were over 1200 Grandmasters.
  • Dana Carvey joked that with condoms now going up to Magnum XL, 'regular' has become code for 'small', as no one wants to approach the counter and go "yeah, give me a pack of those 'teeny-weenys'" or something along those lines.
  • The Size of Marching bands are judged like so: A (for smallest), AA, AAA, AAAA, and AAAAA. You can also have a 6A band if a College Band enters at a High School Competition, which happens enough to have rules for it, but not enough for it to not be a spectacle, since a Single A College Marching band, is about the same size as 3A.
  • The Byzantine Empire got very, very good at creating pompous titles. Towards the end of its history "Augustus", the title of the old Roman Emperors, was being awarded to the equivalent of interns, while the people the emperor actually liked would get to be called things like Augustus First Class, Beyond All Augustuses or Emperogustus. In a strange inversion, however, the most prestigious title of all was simply Lord.
  • A few years ago, Burger King inverted this trope by changing the size labels of its meals from "medium", "large", and "king size" to "small," "medium," and "large." They didn't change the actual sizes, which led to some confusion when you ordered a medium coke with your meal and got something that won't fit in the cup holder.
    • Tim Horton's (a coffee chain predominantly in Canada) also did this in 2012, changing small, medium, large, extra large to extra small, small, medium, and large, and adding a new extra large.
  • In Australia, bushfire danger ratings were Mild, Moderate, High, Very High, and Extreme. Following the 2009 Victorian Bushfires, a new category of "Catastrophic - Code Red" was added.
  • Aggregate review website MetaCritic adjusts its scale specifically for games. Movies, TV shows, and music have a ranking division of 81-100, 61-80, 40-60, 20-39, and 0-19. The games on the other hand have a harsher division consisting of 90-100, 75-89, 50-74, 20-49, 0-19.
  • A joke for one of the reasons why the US will never go metric is this: What sounds more impressive, an 80 yard field goal, or a 73 metre one?note  This is of course facetious: although Canada went metric in 1973, Canadian Football—which is very similar to American football—still uses yards.
  • Before 1982, Disneyland required tickets to go on the rides. Originally there were three classes of tickets from A to C, with C being for the most thrilling rides. Over time, D tickets and then E tickets were introduced.
  • Many high schools have begun weighting their classes so that the most advanced classes grade on a 5-point GPA scale as opposed to the standard 4 point scale.
    • Some also have classes with a 6-point scale, usually reserved for those that come with college credit.
  • The Gamespot forums (although Gamespot itself doesn't count) are known to call a game scoring a 7.0 and 7.5 on the main Gamespot page an "A" game; an 8.0 an "AA;" and so on, with console exclusives such as Halo getting an E after it. What does Super Mario Galaxy 2, a Wii exclusive with a 10 by Gamespot translate into? An AAAAE game.
  • The Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai is often touted as a "7-star hotel".
    • Several other hotels also do this. In truth, hotel star ratings mean absolutely nothing unless you compare them to other ratings given by the same organisation (and it has an actual system for awarding them).
  • Brassiere cup measurements originally only had sizes from A through D. Smaller sizes are typically designated with multiple A's, going down to AAA in some training bras. Larger sizes sometimes repeat the D and sometimes go to higher letters, up to G in the United States or up to K within the UK.
    • This is worse in Japan, where cup measurements have finer granularity and don't use repeated letters. So a K cup might qualify as an M cup.
  • In a show of Genre Savvy, this is completely averted by the Gemological Institute of America when grading the color of diamonds: a completely colorless diamond is ranked D on a scale that continues downward to Z (prior to reaching the point where you actually want a colorful diamond). The logic was that, by starting with A, someone would claim an A+ to better it, and then you'd continue on to get this trope, but nobody in their right mind would go out of their way to claim a super-colorless diamond was ranked C.
    • Not quite. Before the GIA standardized diamond ratings, there were dozens of small, unregulated systems causing a lot of confusion. A common way of rating diamonds was A, B, or C. They began their system at D to avoid confusion with existing systems.
  • In Spain, it is possible to get up to 14 points in the university entrance exams, because it is possible to attend to a number of extra tests. As a result, the bare minimum needed to study medicine is 12.5, or even more depending on the university.
  • The rank of general. Before 19th century, "general" was simply the commander of the whole army on campaign while "marshall" was the overall commander of the whole military of the country. As the units and formations were regularized and ranks were formalized, "general" became now commander of an army corps, while the subformations were commanded by "lesser" generals: army corps by general lieutenant, division by general major and brigade by brigadier general. But in the 20th century, even larger formations materialized, and more ranks were needed: the German army had Generaloberst (colonel general) for army group and Generalfeldmarschall (general field marshall) for army theatre of operations. Therefore you may have a total of six ranks of generals and rank of Marshall for the supreme commander.
  • Computer power supplies are certified under the 80 Plus program, which originally gave 80 Plus, 80 Plus Bronze, 80 Plus Silver and 80 Plus Gold rankings for increased efficiency. Nowadays, as power supplies get better, the scale was extended to 80 Plus Platinum and 80 Plus Titanium to match.
  • Taiwan's new high school entrance system introduced in 2014 already suffered this before it was introduced. Originally the CAP test was meant only have three grade levels: A (Excellence), B (Basic) and C (Needs Improvement) and only limited to 40% of the decision. However, some top school are still highly impacted, even limited by catchment areas, so the test administrators were forced to sub-divide both A and B grades into three equally-sized subgrades each: A++, A+, A, B++, B+, B.
  • In Imperial Russia, the public servants, or chinovniks, were divided in the 14 degrees on the Table of Ranks, and the possession of a 'chin awarded personnal nobility to its holder, except for the ranks 8 — or upper, which gave hereditary nobilitynote ; given the advancement was done every three years in average, some low-ranking bureaucrats or soldiers ended with the hereditary nobility comung with the title of State Councilor. This was fixed by Nicholas Ist, who decided personnal nobility would come only with the 8th rank - Collegiate Assessor and Major - and the hereditary one only with the 5th - State Councilor and Kapitan and that, moreover, any promotion beyond the fifth degree would require imperial autorisation.
  • Notation for French public servants is such that any grade below 16/20 denotes a moron holding a grievous level of incompetence.


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alternative title(s): Grade Inflation; One Two Three Letter; S Rank
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