"We are certainly in great need," answered Caspian. "But it is hard to be sure we are at our greatest. Supposing there came an even worse need and we had already used it?"
"By that argument," said Nikabrik, "your Majesty will never use it until it is too late."It's flashy. It's unstoppable. It is also single-use and impossibly scarce. ...Yup, it's going to end up sitting safe and sound in your inventory until the very end. Games such as RPGs featuring an inventory system are prone to giving you items that are Too Awesome to Use. It could be an item that heals all your stats and makes you invulnerable for an extended period of time. It could be a special power that lets you fly, or a Status Buff that lets you destroy the universe with the snap of a finger. It could be a Superweapon with an extremely limited amount of ammo, or an ultimate sword that breaks after a certain number of uses. It's useful, awesome, and practical — unfortunately, you're never going to see the item in use outside of maybe the last boss (as you wouldn't need it afterwards), either because you're afraid to waste such a valuable treasure and will be waiting for that one good opportunity to use it,note or maybe because it simply pains you to imagine having it missing from your inventory. Another factor that contributes has to do with balancing the game. If you make a super powerful super rare healing potion, it'll be most useful in a similarly difficult battle but what if the player used the potion already? Do you make that fight easy enough that it's winnable without the potion (thus the optimal option is to fight without it because you didn't actually need it) or make it so difficult it's heavily recommended to use the potion (thus a player that did waste the potion hits a brick wall)? Of course you may save it until the last boss only to realize you can't use it during boss fights... If a Too Awesome to Use item sticks around long enough, it can sometimes become Awesome, but Impractical as it gets outclassed by a much more efficient or re-usable item; in a game with Character Levels, it may also just become useless as your characters' stats outstrip the item's power. In any case, the item may just become useful in the Bonus Dungeon if one exists in the game. Consequently, if there's an item duplication glitch in the game or some game mechanic that lets you obtain a spare or two, then of course you're going to be using it all the time.
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- Zombies Ate My Neighbors:
- A flamethrower is located in a hidden alcove. Despite being the strongest weapon in the game, the flamethrower is unique, only has 400 ammo and is best saved for the final boss.
- Other rare items, like Red Potions and Pandora's Boxes, may also qualify.
- And if you're smart you will never once use the Bazooka either to kill an enemy, even though it downs a lot of the otherwise Demonic Spiders in one or two shots. This isn't because ammo is scarce (quite the contrary), it's because the thing is simply too valuable for blasting open doors and cracked walls.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker:
- Elixir Soup refills all your magic and life AND doubles your attack power until you take damage (the only item in the game to do so), and you can do this twice with one bottle since she gives you two servings. Since getting a refill requires going all the way back to your house, an unpleasant task if you're in the middle of a dungeon, and since the game is relatively easy in the first place, you might opt to search for hearts and potions in grass and pots rather than using it, and you might beat the whole game without using it. (But you'll keep one with you anyway, since they're the best thing to have in your bottle.)
- The Fill-Up Coupon for Beedle's Ship Shop. It automatically refills all ammo-dependent items in your inventory, but you only get one... Because the game is obligated to give you ammo in areas where you need them, and because the game almost always prioritizes ammo when you're not already full, you'll always feel more justified in just scavenging some ammo, rather than using the coupon. Because the coupon can also only be redeemed at one of the Ship Shops, even if you were completely empty on all arrows, bombs, and running low on hearts, there's still no reason to go out of your way to find Beedle just to use said coupon.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, you are rewarded with a bottle of Fairy Tears for collecting 20 Poe Souls. These not only refill Link's health completely, but they increase his attack power temporarily as well (unfortunately, only for 10 seconds at best). However, in order to get more than just the one, you have to take Link on a quest through the "Cave of Ordeals". But again, they are refillable and free afterwards, and beating the entire Cave lets you refill on Fairy Tears in 5 different areas in Hyrule. Rare Chu Jelly does the same thing, but good luck getting them in a crush of ChuChu or finding where they spawn.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, you can buy a certain potion that makes you take half damage for a while. You can also upgrade it to make you invulnerable instead. The period during which the potion lasts is rather long, and unlike the attack-boosting soup/potions from Wind Waker and Twilight Princess it is not canceled after being hit once. Once you get a certain other item, the potion duration is further increased. So you got an item that makes you invincible for a few minutes? Nope, won't use it despite its power, maybe because it ironically enough it's too good and feels a bit cheap.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the game's durability system and lack of a way to properly repair weapons (excluding the 4 Champions weapons) makes this so. The player never wants to use powerful weapons on weak enemies (or even on powerful ones) because you want to save it for harder enemies, and it will inevitably break. Even the shields and bows break after use, meaning that oftentimes, players will forego combat entirely unless hunting for ingredients to upgrade clothing to avoid damaging their weapons. Jim Sterling even references the trope by name in a video discussing his dislikes about said system.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker:
- The Lightning in Medievil is the most powerful weapon in the game, but you have no way to recharge it if you run out. Most players never bother actually using it.
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has any number of powerful, one-shot items that most players will hang onto "until the right time". But as the game is relatively easy compared to later Metroidvania-style games (and possesses what many consider the easiest Dracula fight in the series), that time will never come. On the second or later playthrough of the game, it is possible to obtain an item called the Duplicator, making those single-use items infinitely reusable; still, it's easy to see why many of them became equippable (and thus infinite-use) subweapons in later games.
- Tomb Raider:
- Thanks to there being almost no hint of when it might be safe to use them, and being generally placed in arbitrary positions, the rarer-than-golddust save crystals in the PlayStation version of the 3rd game ended up suffering from this for a lot of people. Previous games encouraged/forced players to manage their inventory by striking a balance between using medi-kits and using ammunition for the better weapons when confronting dangerous enemies. The crystals created a third thing to manage, and the more obsessive-compulsive players could find this pretty stressful.
- The Rocket Launcher in the same game, whose ammo is obviously very limited, is best saved for the last two levels. To add insult to injury, you lose all your weapons and ammo in Area 51.
- Large health kits are rare to find, thus players will opt to use the small health kits to recover just half their health, even if they are near death and would benefit from a full heal.
- The Heart Pot you receive from Jenka in Cave Story: using it completely refills your Life Meter, and then it's gone. It does turn out that you can later go back to Jenka to get another anytime you want, but soon after getting the first one comes a long Plot Tunnel where you can't return to Sand Zone. On top of that, there are often sequences where you can't freely grab Heart Pots without resetting the level. And to a lesser extent, just going out of your way to go back to Jenka's house is a minor annoyance in general.
- Spiral Knights has the Mist Tank, which you only get once after passing the tutorial and refills your Mist Energy once, i.e. the "currency" you need to enter levels and craft equipment. The community has, however, puzzled out an optimal method of spending the bonus Mist and the original starting 100 that will leave a new player economically competitive without having to go through the traditional starting grind. Eventually averted, as it is possible to acquire more Mist Tanks throughout the game, though rarely, before being changed to have no Mist Tanks at all.
- This mechanic is used to play a cruel joke on players of Boktai 2 and 3. Deluxe Chocolate, which never expires and restores a good portion of health AND mp, can only be found once in the entire game. However the game never bothers to tell you that you can make Deluxe Chocolate whenever you want by positioning chocolate over another piece of chocolate in your item screen and waiting for it to melt. The game also plays this straight with the various tarot card items which do things such as automatically resurrect you when you die or fully restore your health and mp.
- The horror-based adventure game/first-person shooter/interactive movie Realms of the Haunting has a magic staff which has a very limited number of charges (something like 12 shots or so) and can't be recharged. It isn't noticeably more powerful than the game's other magic weapons, though, so you either never use it anyway, or use all 12 shots then forget about it. Sucks to be you if you did use it up killing common enemies, because it turns out this particular weapon pretty much insta-kills the otherwise very tough and annoying final boss.
- Two items in Candy box! seem like this but one subverts it. The Berserk Potion makes the player move twice as fast and deal much more damage, but there's a finite amount that one can find in the game. As for the Chocolate Bar, you only obtain one before the post-game which makes it invoke this trope, but its one and only use is to upgrade your sword.
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl:
- The Golden Hammers can automatically unlock a secret without having to do the challenge. You never use them. In the few challenges that really are exceptionally difficult (beating Boss Battles on Insane, for example), you can't actually use the hammers in the first place. Which makes them completely useless unless you're too lazy to complete the challenge yourself. Except in the PAL versions.
- The heart containers in boss battles. They completely heal you, but there are only three, and they can't be used mid-battle, which often results in death after deciding to try and tank an easy boss at high damage.
- The Golden Hammer conundrum returns for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS. In the 3DS versions, you can get up to nine Golden Hammers, but only 3 are usable on each page (there are 3 pages of 35 challenges and Golden Hammers can only be used on the same page it was unlocked on). The Wii U version only gives you 5 hammers on a single page of 140 challenges. Just like Brawl, there are a few exceptionally difficult challenges that you can't use hammers on (both games have a challenge of beating classic at Intensity 9.0 without losing a stock. Naturally, neither one can be hammered).
- In BlazBlue:
- BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger: The Barrier Burst gives you one shot at breaking free of a combo at the cost of lowering your defence for the rest of the round. For new players it is easy to fall into the trap of not using it because "it's not too late, I can still survive this combo and make a comeba—wait, what do you mean I lost?!" A good player has to learn when to bite the bullet and use Barrier Burst effectively.
- BlazBlue: Continuum Shift and its Updated Rereleases Continuum Shift II and Continuum Shift EXTEND continue this line but separates the Barrier Burst into two different versions (and is also renamed to Break Burst). Additionally, everyone starts with one Break Burst and gains the second one once losing the round. The Break Burst (or at least the original one) will also halve "Guard Primers" needed to block guard-breaking attacks as well. Then we have the "Gold" Burst which can only be performed if the character is not being attacked and will launch the opponent high in the air and allow for follow-up combos. Finally, Astral Heats, already Awesome, but Impractical by nature in all but a handful of select cases, are now tied to the Burst Icons, requiring the use of one to activate on top of all the other required factors, meaning that if the Astral Heat whiffs or is blocked, the player could find themselves in a combo that they would've been able to Burst out of... if only they hadn't gone for the grand finale to begin with.
- BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma alters the Burst mechanics a bit—instead of being given a set number of Bursts, you have a Burst Meter similar to the game's spiritual precursor Guilty Gear that refills automatically after the Burst is used, though it refills slowly enough that one still has to be careful when deciding to use it or not. In addition to this however, Gold Bursts have been removed entirely and changed to a new Super Mode mechanic called "Overdrive." Using it also uses up the Burst Meter and forces the player to decide if they want to go on the offensive and use the Overdrive for possible better offensive capabilities or to Burst and break out of any combos the opponent tries. On the plus side, Astral Heats are no longer dependent on Burst.
- Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon has a form of this in its Campaign mode. Basically, even if a Mobile Suit you take out for a mission is entirely undamaged during the course of it, once you get back to the map screen it'll still have an arbitrary number of HP depleted, as a deterrent to just taking the same suit out over and over again (much like real-world armored vehicles and jets can't go on more than one mission in a row without maintenance). As such, the titular Super Prototype will almost never be used — taking the Gundam out on a mission, even avoiding all damage, automatically drops it down to 25% health once it's over, which will not be fully repaired until after you complete multiple missions.
- The BFG9000 from all installments is likely to fall under this trope as well. The player is likely to use the BFG only rarely to save up on ammo better applied in the plasma gun, as each BFG shot costs 40 cells and is overkill against the majority of mooks. The "I can handle these with smaller weapons" effect comes to play, even though in 75% of fights against big groups, you can actually conserve ammo by using the BFG. Doom 3's version of the BFG uses its own unique ammo type, which should make it more viable to use but instead makes it feel even more restrictive despite the game giving plenty of BFG cells from that point on.
- The trademark Artifact (aka Heart of Hell) from Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil can stop time, turn the player invincible, and boost the damage of their weapon all at once depending on how many of the Hunter bosses they've killed. It's such a cool effect that the player is commonly tempted to conserve the artifact's energy and rarely use it, even though it can be recharged just about everywhere. Then again, its power depends on human souls stolen from corpses, so not using the artifact can fall into Video Game Caring Potential.
- First Encounter Assault Recon:
- The first game suffers from a form of this, where the three-weapon limit to the player's inventory meant that the rarer, more powerful weapons, like the multi-rocket launcher or the repeating cannon were often just left in favour of something simpler with more readily available ammo, which tends to be an assault rifle and the VK-12 shotgun.
- Interestingly, and more noticeable in Extraction Point, this applies to the AT-14 pistols. They're remarkably good guns overall, especially when doubled up and used with Bullet Time, but are easily the best anti-apparition weapons, being exceptionally effective against the newly-introduced Shades even outside of Bullet Time and dispersing Nightmares in one shot with the large magazines allowing you to wipe even large flocks. There's barely one pickup on each level, so you better save up.
- The Spartan Laser in Halo 3's campaign. It will kill almost anything in the game with one or two hits, can hit multiple targets at once, and it's also really cool. The problem is, it takes a few seconds to charge up so it's a little hard to actually hit something, it only has 5 shots and can't be reloaded, and you only get one two or three times in the entire campaign (and one of those times, you get it for the sole purpose of killing 343 Guilty Spark). So, you probably won't be using it much.
- Halo 5: Guardians's REQ system lets players purchase packs with random weapons, vehicles, power-ups, etc. But all the items are single-use, and the only guarantee that you'll get more in the future is if you unlock a Certification for that specific item. Unlocked a single Prophet's Bane sword with bonus invisibility, a Nornfang sniper rifle with bonus damage boost, or a heavily armored and armed ONI vehicle? Without a certification, you might not see another for a very long time, and that rare REQ may end up instantly stolen, too late in the game to use, too high of a learning curve, or just plain bad luck... yup, it stays in the inventory forever.
- Half-Life: The Gluon Gun wastes away enemies with ease, even bosses, but drains your Nuclear Ammo extremely fast, so instead you end up picking and prodding at the enemies with your pistol.
- Half-Life 2 turns the .357 Magnum into this: the gun can one-shot all infantry enemies if you hit them in the head, but you can only carry a maximum of 18 bullets at a time and ammo pickups average about one per level.
- The second System Shock has Disruption Grenades, which are great against powerful enemies but always in short supply. Energy weapons, power armor, and implants could also qualify after a certain point, as there's an entire level full of powerful enemies and no rechargers at all, which can lead you to set aside some of your most effective gear because you're afraid of it running out of power and becoming useless.
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl:
- The game has several special weapons that can be found once and only once. Typically they have something that sets them above their normal counterparts. Problem is, the game has weapon degradation, and - if left unmodded - no way of repairing damaged items. Which is why many players save up the special weapons, only to find out later on that they become useless against the heavily armored foes of the later game, who require heavier firepower to be brought down.
- RPGs. As with all weapons in the game, they are realistically powerful, and thus (as the game's only rocket launcher) far deadlier than any other weapon you can acquire. The problem? The launcher alone takes up about 20% of your equally realistically limited carrying weight, and ammo is virtually nonexistent in the game: there are maybe three rockets you can find in the entire game, and that's if you really take the time to look.
- In Metro 2033, military-grade rounds serve this function for the first 2/3s of the game. They provide a welcome edge against tougher mutants like Black Librarians, but are also the game's money system – meaning if you want that tricked out Kalash 2012 that's only available in Polis Station, you'd better choose your priorities. They lose this status toward the end of the game, where there are no more stores and powerful mutants are ubiquitous, so you can feel free to put them to good use.
- Team Fortress 2:
- Medics can, over the course of about 2 minutes, charge up eight seconds of invulnerability called an ÜberCharge. Of course, this leads to the age-old dilemma of when you actually use your ÜberCharge... Saving it can be vital, as beginning it mere seconds before the enemy initiates theirs will make it all but obsolete. So you often end up waiting so long to initiate an ÜberCharge that you are killed before you can, and "drop" your Über. It's a bit more bearable thanks to the existence of the Vita-Saw - a weapon that allows you to keep 20% of your charge upon death – but still.
- This also applies to any of the various Limit Breaks that must be charged up by doing damage, healing teammates, or getting kills, like the Phlogistinator, Diamondback, or Buff Banner.
- The first three games all feature a superweapon that the player must rebuild by collecting parts hidden in secret areas (the first game actually has two superweapons, but only one must be built). All four of these guns can clear entire rooms of enemies with one shot, but two of them carry only tiny amounts of incredibly rare ammunition (the Fusion Cannon having a total of eight rounds in the entire game), and another, the Chronoscepter, is limited to only three shots that can never be refilled without cheats. The worst part of this comes when the player realizes that the final boss of Turok 2 is actually completely immune to the ammo-starved Nuke superweapon, and that saving those precious few shots accomplished nothing.
- Turok: Evolution multiplayer and single player gave us the Rocket Launcher's Swarm Bore and Nuke Attachments respectively. Nuke clears out the room, but then you would rather use them on That One Level or That One Boss. Swarm Bore... well...
- Left 4 Dead:
- First aid kits, even more so on Expert. Sometimes, people will absolutely refuse to use first aid to heal and will either be popping pills or just limp on and will only use first aid when the next knockdown is going to cause death. It's a common tactic on Expert to kill someone yourself so they can respawn with more health and save a kit.
- The sequel, Left 4 Dead 2, includes the M60, grenade launcher and chainsaw which are all very rare and come with limited ammo that cannot be refilled. There's also bile bombs and adrenaline shots, both of which are rare drops. Bile bombs can draw zombies away or even turn them on each other for a long duration, making them valuable during hordes, while adrenaline shots are the only thing in the game that give a speed boost and negate both fatigue and the zombies' slow-down attack. You can only carry one at a time, and it also means you cannot carry other kinds of bombs or pills (which are much more abundant). Thankfully, the areas where you must use these items are usually very obvious, but in certain maps (such as The Parish) where these locations are at the very end of the map, you're stuck holding onto them for several areas and unable to switch out.
- Deus Ex:
- The GEP gun is offered as an option to the player at the start of the game. Good enough to take out most bots with one rocket, it takes up a giant 8 out of 30 inventory slots, and ammo for it is relatively rare.
- HE ammo for the Assault rifle later on in the game is partially susceptible to this, as while it offers Heavy Weapon power for a Rifle specialist, ammunition is fairly rare.
- The Light Anti-tank Weapon is a one-shot rocket launcher that is guaranteed to destroy anything it hits directly, and also probably anything standing nearby. However, because it's only a one-shot gun and takes up four inventory spaces, it's impractical to carry around if you have other rifles or heavy weapons with you. Cue desperate thinking about how best to dispose of it along with some Inventory Tetris. On the bright side, the LAW was almost always found near giant military robots, so if you could spare the space for it you'd certainly have a use for it.
- LAMs (grenades that can be attached to flat surfaces and then double as promixity mines) are extremely useful for blowing up doors and other barriers or for setting deadly ambushes. However, they are relatively rare, if not as much as some other items. You can use other, easier-to-find explosives like the GEP Gun to reduce the need even more. This can lead to sudden moments of anger when you already have the maximum of 10 LAMs in the inventory and come upon a new one in the field. There actually IS a point in the game where having loaded up on LAMs pays off, though. At a later point, they also pretend you'll need at least 5 of them for a mission (with a character charging you thousands of credits to buy some) but actually, any explosive will work. So in the end, outside that one scene, you'll probably still only use them to lay impressive ambush grids, lure your enemies into that, enjoy the show, then load a savegame and get past the obstacle without wasting LAMs instead.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution you have multiple contenders for this, and frequently spend Praxis Points upgrading your inventory to keep it all in there.
- The Heavy Rifle earlier in the game, which is almost useless without error-correcting augs, and later on the laser rifle or grenade launcher. Masses of space, no ammunition for the latter two, and completely unnecessary when you can headshot everyone with a silenced/laserguided pistol.
- Those who pre-ordered or bought the applicable DLC pack will experience this through the grenade launcher; it can only be acquired about 2/3 into the plot and eats through boss health, but all ammo for it (save for the six grenades it comes loaded with) must be found, which means most players get little use out of it.
- The Diamond tiles from Bookworm are just worth so many points, that using them in almost any situation feels like a waste.
- The dual shotguns of the latter two installments of the Marathon trilogy, which would use up even a maxed-out load of ammo in a matter of seconds (and one ammo pickup contains only 2 shells, same amount you use up for one shot from single shotgun). And reduce anything in the game to a bloody pulp even faster.
- The flechette gun from the third game also qualifies. Is more powerful than the assault rifle and way more accurate, it works in vacuum and it's only weapon (apart from fists) working underwater. Unfortunately it burns through magazines faster than any other weapon (and you can hold only 8 reloads) and ammo pickups are quite rare.
- The Earthshaker missiles in Descent II. You'll need most of them for the Final Boss.
- In Wolfenstein (2009) the powerful experimental weapons you acquire early will have very little ammo available for scrounging until the weapons themselves become plentiful in the hands of the enemy. On the other hand, the Thule Medallion that gives you mystical powers appears even earlier, and energy refills are literally everywhere. Of course, the Medallion is an integral part of the game and story and you need to use it no matter what.
- The Browning Automatic Rifle in the Medal of Honor games packs a punch and has great accuracy at long range, but has very limited ammo (practically no pickups). You can get by with an SMG in most situations.
- The original Call of Duty has the BAR fall into the exact same situation for the exact same reason. It's accurate and it's powerful, but you only get it in one level, and the ammo you start out with for it is all you get - there's no pickups in the level and none of your exchangeable, replaceable allies use it.
- Quake II has the Quad Damage and Invulnerability, items that give the player an enormous upper hand for half a minute. The problem is that they are inventory items, meaning you can activate them whenever you want to use them. However, they're so powerful and you fight off so few enemies at once in the levels, you'll keep the things in reserve throughout the game until the final boss. When used together, they turn it into a joke. It doesn't help that the game pretty much throws Quad Damages at you, making you feel kinda guilty for hoarding the two little Quads you found in the first hub throughout the whole game.
- The Devastator from Duke Nukem 3D is a full-auto, double-barrel rocket launcher that's tiny explosions do as much damage as a single RPG round and can clear out a whole room full of baddies in seconds, but it burns through its ammo supply very quickly and replacement rockets are fairly rare, so most players just hang onto The Devastator until it's time to fight the given episode's boss, which will go down in about 5-10 seconds of sustained fire from it.
- Serious Sam's "I win" weapon is the Serious Bomb, which kills every enemy in an area, no matter how much health they have and it can be activated by merely pressing a button. Because of how powerful and handy it is, you'll usually be keeping it in reserve "in case" throughout the game. Serious Sam 2 and Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter make this even worse because you have to take it out as a regular weapon before using it, meaning that even if you do want to use it, you'll have to determine if you have enough time or space to take the thing out and use it without being mauled, and by that time you've probably managed to thin out the horde enough so that you don't need the Serious Bomb anymore. On the plus side, Serious Bombs are the only weapon other than the knife and revolver that aren't taken away at the end of a chapter.
- Painkiller Resurrection has an odd, unintentional case of this in multiplayer: attempting to fire the electrodriver weapon crashes the game immediately. This isn't the case with the original game, as all of your health and ammo is reset at the beginning of every level, and ammo is plentiful enough throughout the levels that every over-the-top weapon is viable to use freely for the entire game.
- Borderlands 2 has the Golden Keys which unlock the golden chest in Sanctuary. Said chest can dispense items of a purple rarity, but because their stats are based on the current level of the Player Character, they can effectively be obsolete after a while, so some players would tend to save their keys for a high-level character. The keys can only be obtained through preordering the game, purchasing the Mechromancer pack and through codes being periodically distributed on Gearbox's Twitter and Facebook.
- Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! also has golden keys (which have all the perks and drawbacks of the above) but also has a legendary gun, the Excalibastard. This gun is available as a pickup in Stanton's Liver, an area you can get access to roughly 1/8th of the way into the game. The gun as incredible stats for another gun of a similar build and has the special ability of instantly freezing anyone you get a critical hit on and causing them to explode in an ice nova if you melee them to death. The only catch to it is that you can only pick it up once per character. Once you pick it up, it instantly scales to your level. This means that picking it up early would be a huge boon due to being able to wipe the floor with enemies, but the gun will be quickly outclassed. Pick it up later and closer to the max level and you'll probably not have to worry about it being outclassed, but you would have spent nearly the entire game without it.
- Postal 2's Apocalypse Weekend DLC has the Nuclear Launcher, which some might only use on the final boss since its ammo only shows up in one place (unless you use cheats).
- Paradise Lost has another of its own in the Revolver. More accurate and far more powerful than the default pistol, or even the assault rifle, and has a secondary fire mode that can One-Hit Kill pretty much any enemy in the game. It's also extremely rare, with only two pickups at the start of the game and only one or two more being added per day, and on top of that the secondary fire requires you to build up a meter by making kills with regular shots first. On top of that, there are some enemies, including most bosses, who are immune to the secondary fire. It isn't until the penultimate day of the game when its ammo becomes available for purchase.
- C4 charges late in Command & Conquer: Renegade. Lots of Nod structures to destroy, very few pickups, and Master Control Terminals are ammo sinks if you try to destroy them without C4. If you don't want to have a long, tedious and frustrating time in the last two levels, save those puppies as soon as you go through the Bag of Spilling mission.
- In Galactic Civilizations 2, it is possible to "get lucky" and find a rare Precursor battleship early on which is generally much stronger than anything currently out there. However, between fleet limits (a player at that point can generally only afford to field only that ship in a given battle) and a rather adaptive A.I., those ships may be held in reserve until they get surpassed by normal researched ships. Ironically, though, with the proper civilization traits, one can end up finding quite the number of such ships very early on.
- In 4X game Space Empires V there is a special Ancient Ruins tech you may find if you colonise a planet, called Shield Imploder. It will bring down the enemy shields and cause damage to the enemy ship (Best description is the Breen weapon in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), however it is rather weak at first, but eventually it will destroy with one shot ships relying on shields. So you end up keeping it secret so as not to let other players know you have it. A game can actually end before you get to the stage where it is a one shot kill weapon. Meanwhile it would have been quite good as it is to instantly remove enemy shields if you hadn't wanted to keep it a secret for later.
- In X3: Terran Conflict, you acquire the Xperimental Shuttle from X: Beyond the Frontier at the end of a plot chain. It's the second fastest M3 and has 200 MJ of shielding. It's also one of two ships that can never be reverse-engineered (barring mods or cheating). You'll either tuck it someplace safe and never touch it, or use it very sparingly as a personal yacht.
- The console-only (later ported to iOS) game Civilization Revolution gives you an ICBM once you build the Manhattan Project wonder. Unlike a typical Civilization nuke, this one can reach any city and wipe it off the face of the map without leaving any fallout. However, it's a unique unit that you only get once per game. You probably will end up not using it until the game ends.
- In Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, the ultimate weapon is the Planet Buster, a nuclear warhead that will crater a city (and most of the surrounding area) with the push of a button. You can even build one as early as the mid-game, but odds are you won't ever use it. Why? If you fire one, then you're expelled from the Planetary Council, and you will be in a permanent state of war with all the other factions. In addition, a Planet Buster will cause massive ecological damage, so the native Mind Worms will go bugnuts on you too.
Hack & Slash
- In Diablo II the jewels and runes are items that can be put into special "socketed" items for stat bonuses, but can only be used once. They are just rare enough, and special items with stat bonuses drop regularly enough, that it makes one hesitant to use them instead of just waiting for another special item to drop.
- Averted in Diablo III, where gems can be extracted from equipment they've been socketed into, either by paying the Jeweler a rather extravagant service charge, or by having the Blacksmith salvage the item (which consumes the item, but returns the gems).
- For the longest time, perfect gems were the currency of choice in multiplayer games. This is due to the game suffering from Money for Nothing.
- God of War has the Rage of the Gods in the first game. It takes maybe an hour or two of killing enemies to fill it up all the way, and once you activate it, you have about 10 seconds of mauling everything within 20 feet of you before it's gone. It can't be turned off if you activate it by accident either. From Rage of the Titans in the sequel on, there are orbs you can collect to refill the meter, and it can be turned off while active, averting this for the most part.
- Unlike its spiritual predecessor above, Dante's Inferno is incredibly stingy when it comes to using your Redemption due to the rate of Redemption regeneration being directly correlated to your combo lengths. Moreover, you can't turn it off once you turn it on (a lesson God Of War learned years ago), and you can only use it once you completely fill at least one tier on the potentially three-tier meter. If playing on Infernal difficulty, you will use your Redemption twice over the course of the game, and both times are against incredibly cheap bosses. For all practical purposes, your real berserk meter might as well be your
manaDivine Armor meter.
Massively Multiplayer Online RPG
- World of Warcraft has a lot of items like this, though Blizzard eventually changed them to be unreliable or useless against enemies over a certain level. Fortunately, many of them can still be sold to players that have less doubts about using them in a tight situation.
- The Holy Mightstone, an artifact that a level 50 paladin receives at the completion of a lengthy quest chain. It provides a 10-minute buff to damage vs. undead when used, but it can only be used once and can never be replaced since it's a quest item, so the end result is that most paladins end up never using it. Sadly it's fallen victim to power growth in expansions. At level 60 it would turn you into an death-machine by practically doubling your offensive stats. At level 80 - not so much. It gives the same boost, but by now it's a 5-10% power-up at most.
- Super Sticky Glue is an item you get from a quest in the Orc starting zone that allows you to immobilize the target. People always hang onto them in case they would ever really need one.
- A similar case with the unique "Light of Elune" potion (which grants full invulnerability for 10 sec and then it's gone forever). You get it as a mid-20s quest reward; people still have it in their lvl 70 character's inventory.
- A lot of the abilities with cooldowns over 5 minutes are seldom used except in times of utter desperation, waiting for that right moment... and sometimes in a dungeon or battleground run, never used at all. e.g. "Lay on Hands" (paladin) or "Recklessness" (warrior). Acknowledging this trope, Blizzard changed many of these skills to be somewhat less awesome, but with more manageable cooldowns, generally with the thought in mind that they should be available for every fight exactly once. Especially notable would be Shield Wall, a survival cooldown for warriors that used to have a 30 minute cooldown and make the user nearly invincible for its duration. Now it can be used every few minutes and still provides a significant damage reduction. Few abilities still exceed 10 minutes cooldown at this point, and many of those can be reduced significantly by talents.
- Flasks used to be like this in the original game. While they provided outlandish buffs (such as increasing player health by 1200, which for most classes meant a 30% increase in HP - an incredible amount, particularly for boss fights), they were also notoriously difficult to craft. Obviously, you needed to be a high-level alchemist (which in itself wasn't that big of a deal — many players would grind alchemy as it provided access to expendable mana and health potions). However, crafting flasks also required Black Lotus, a ludicrously rare herb (initially at any time there were a maximum of four in the entire game, up to one in each of the zones they could spawn) that wasn't tradeable: you had to find it yourself (good luck!) and in order to be able to gather it, you had to be a maxed-out herbalist. Since herbalism was considered a primary profession (of which you could only have two), if you chose any combination of professions other than "herba-alchy", you could not make flasks, period. To top off the ignominy, flasks could only be made in one place in the entire world (later two), which was smack at the end of a high-level dungeon. When C'Thun was first killed, most of the player community had problems wrapping their minds around the fact that the victorious guild expended forty flasks on this single boss fight.
- City of Heroes:
- There are several temp powers with a limited amount of use, many of which are earned for or after a specific mission and will never be retrievable again. Not surprisingly, these usually get hoarded for emergencies, and are still waiting to be used when your own powers are so far beyond them that there's no point any more. In some cases they don't make any sense using even when you do get them, a classic example being the Loa Bone, which lets you summon a zombie. Cool for most people, utterly redundant if you are a Mastermind who can already summon zombies.
Some of these temp powers became so popular that when the developers added Veteran Rewards, a shiny badge for every so many months the player has been subscribed plus an item like a special costume item or a free character rebuild, two of the rewards each gave a choice of two temp powers that would become permanent on that character. The player can make different choices of which powers to take on every character they have. The Sands of Mu and the Nemesis Staff are the two most popular choices.
- The Wedding Band hero-side springs first to mind. It granted a hefty resistance buff to all damage that lasted for two total hours of on-time (and maybe required an hour to get). Since it was only available to heroes, it quickly became the major target of villains and a fair issue of player-versus-player balance. The "Echo" version of the power now gives the same level of protection, but only lasts five minutes of on time, but can be stacked with the original version.
- Similarly, there's the Inspirations you build up as you play, basically the equivalent of potions in other MMORPGs that can be used at any time to heal health, restore endurance, or give a number of beneficial buffs. The thing is, you rarely need to use them to win most fights so the tray quickly fills up with Inspirations you hang on to for tougher fights and emergencies that never come.
- Many of the high-level powers take so long to recharge you can't use them in 99% of the fights. For example, an area-of-effect attack that lowers the defence, damage resistance and health regeneration of all enemies caught in the blast? Awesome. Too bad it has a several-minute recharge, and at the higher levels you tend to breeze through foes anyway, so the effect would barely be noticeable. Later on, many of the new sets had their "Tier 9" power not as Totally awesome, but usable much more often.
- There are several temp powers with a limited amount of use, many of which are earned for or after a specific mission and will never be retrievable again. Not surprisingly, these usually get hoarded for emergencies, and are still waiting to be used when your own powers are so far beyond them that there's no point any more. In some cases they don't make any sense using even when you do get them, a classic example being the Loa Bone, which lets you summon a zombie. Cool for most people, utterly redundant if you are a Mastermind who can already summon zombies.
- Kingdom of Loathing: Many, many one-use items, especially the ones that were available for a limited time in the past and most likely will never become available again.
- Many of the semi-rares fall prey to this trope. This may be later averted when diving Fernswarthy's Basement, where every little bit of stockpiled resistance and HP buff becomes more and more necessary. The items you receive as rewards while diving Fernswarthy's do qualify, though.
- Frosty's Iceball is an interesting variation. It does a large amount of elemental damage, even if you're low-level, and it isn't lost when used...the first two times. If you use it three times in one day, it vanishes. Getting it back is possible, but difficult, since it's a 20%-chance-drop from a certain boss in a multiplayer dungeon. The risk of accidentally destroying it by using it one too many times is a pretty strong deterrent against using it at all.
- (Literal) Easter Eggs in Nexus War, because they can only be found once a year, at Easter, and have variable effects which can't be determined before use. Later versions did this with Valentine's Day gifts as well.
- zOMG! has the power-ups (Superchargers to restore partial health & stamina, and Ring Polishers to temporarily increase the strength of your rings). Players get a couple of these from early quests in order to try them out. You can buy more, but the cost is in Gaia Cash, which requires spending real money (as opposed to Gaia Gold, which you can earn in at least a hundred different ways). Therefore, the power-ups earned as quest rewards can become Too Awesome to Use. Recent updates have attempted to mitigate this: power-ups are now rare loot drops, and power-ups bought from the store can be resold on the site's marketplace, which uses Gaia Gold as its currency.
- EVE Online has several extremely limited-run ships that were/are only handed out as a result of one-time events, such as the Alliance Tournaments. Since being able to say that you destroyed one of the five, say, Imperial Issue Apocalypses in existence is cause for immense bragging rights, the result is that these ships sit in their owners' hangars, never actually being flown.
- The Tiger Shark, one of the most powerful pieces of food in the game. It heals more Life Points than any other fishnote and it can even boost your life above its normal maximum. Of course, it can only be obtained with a near-maxed fishing level, requires a near-maxed cooking level to be edible, can't be traded with other players, and it's very rare, obtainable only through the Fishing Trawler minigame at an average catch rate of roughly one tiger shark for every hour of trawling.
- The Ancient Warriors' equipment used to be this. While chaotic weaponry and Nex armour surpass or at least rival them, Ancient Warriors' equipment has been around much longer. Ironically, the armour regained some popularity when they are given high damage soaking, as while they degrade into dust very quickly, individually they are cheaper than Nex armour and is less of a loss in high stakes PvP.
- In the "Sizzling Summer" promotion, players who had membership during a certain time period could redeem their fate cards for up to four extremely useful items, particularly the instant-kill darts, which could only be used on NPCs. The special items were removed from the game in the beginning of 2013.
- Final Fantasy XI is absolutely the king of this trope. Most items are extremely painful to get in this game and many of them are single-time use only. Many of the items below were extremely powerful when they were made available; their use has diminished somewhat since the level cap raise.
- Phantom Tathlum — mediocre one-time use multi-class throwing weapon that is dropped by a Notorious Monster (NM). The only reason to own this item is the rather useful +2 INT that it provides when equipped in the throwing slot. To spawn the NM, one must trade an iron ore (uncommon item) to a ??? marker that randomly pops up in a high-level zone every 15 minutes. The item drops approximately 15% of the time. Woe be to you if you accidentally push the "Use Ranged Weapon" button.
- Ambrosia — this nectar of the gods provides +7 to all stats for 4 hours. To obtain this item one needs to a) travel to a specific zone to kill enemies that have a 5% chance of dropping a specific craft item, b) travel to vendors that may or may not sell specific crafting supplies based on whether players control certain regions in the game, c) have nearly 100 cooking skill, d) cook a Cursed Soup item, e) travel to an high-level end-game zone where a Notorious Monster spawns every 2~6 hours and has a 33% chance to drop a 'Oblation Abjuration' item, f) give the abjuration and cursed soup to an NPC to receive the "Ambrosia" item. The item buffs used to not persist through death.
- Amrita — a drink which restores 500HP over 5 minutes. Follows the exact same creation process as the Ambrosia.
- The Abyssea expansions have Primeval Brew, an Abyssea-only one-use item that boosts all your attributes to 999, your HP and MP to 9999, gives you a 500 point HP and MP restoration and 50% TP every three seconds. The downside: It costs two million cruor (An abyssea-only currency that can't be traded for and is usually only gained in small amounts) to buy just one three minute dose. However, it goes from Too Awesome to Use to Awesome, but Impractical once you defeat the final boss of the Abyssea expansions, when you a receive a key item that drops the cost to a somewhat more palatable 200000 cruor. To put the Brew's power in perspective though: With normal abyssea buffs, an average damage-dealing job can do 3000-6000 damage with one weapon skill on a normal opponent. With a Brew-buffed Corsair with an Armageddon, one can do 75000 to 99999 damage with one weaponskill. And with the 50% TP/3 second gain, one can perform a weaponskill every six seconds.
- Final Fantasy XIV dips in and out of this trope. At the beginning of 2.0, X-Potions, X-Ethers, and Hi-Elixirs were difficult to obtain and craft, but as time went on, not only they were easier to get, but stronger potions were made in later patches. Similarly, a lot of gear used for glamouring purposes tend to be hard to craft, which drives up their prices in the player market, but over time, the items are easier to make and the prices fall. The Palace of the Dead has the Podmander of Rage, an item that transforms the user into a manticore and lets them become a One-Hit Kill machine to everything except bosses. Because RNG is fickle, you may barely get any, which causes people to either save them in a dire emergency or use them in conjunction with the Podmander of Fortune, which boosts the drop rate of coffers left behind by defeated enemies.
- Billy Vs SNAKEMAN has Consumable Kaiju Drops. They are moderately rare items that give a small bonus as long as you have at least one in your inventorynote but a massive bonus if you consume one. Naturally, the consume bonuses of such items are far less than the cost of obtaining them.
- The Lord of the Rings Online occasionally gives consumable items as quest rewards or as part of the in-game lotteries that are bound (can't be sold or traded) and give a significant benefit (stat boosts, or increasing the amount of XP you earn, or counting each kill as double for slayer deeds) for a strictly limited time. In most cases you can buy more of these in the Turbine Store, but in practice you're usually better advised to save your turbine points for stuff that's even better, like items that permanently boost your stats. Limited inventory space does help provide an impetus to actually use the items while they still confer a significant bonus, though (+150 HP is a game-changer when you normally have a couple hundred; by the time you reach the level cap it's a pretty pathetic tank who isn't boasting at least 10k).
- Prior to the Generation 6 update, SD Gundam Capsule Fighter had the OC 100% chip, which allowed players to level up their units to the next Over Custom level without fail, though only to OC 5. However, you could only obtain them via giveaways and events, so you'd only get 2-3 at a time and with dozens of Mobile Suits...
- There's also the special attacks all the Mobile Suits get. They're powerful attacks that let you take out a weaker opponent in one good hit or cut down an opponent's life a good deal. However, using it and missing cuts out a third of your special bar, forcing you to rebuild it to use it again and using it and connecting wipes out the entire bar, forcing you to rebuild it to restore your skills. Most players tend to keep it until they're down to their last sliver of health.
- In Marvel Heroes, various heroes' ultimate skills take a looong time to recharge, up to 20 minutes. You aren't just gonna use Deadpool's Server Lag to annihilate this group of mooks right? Definitely not even on this sub-boss or elite mob. Maybe not even against this stage's boss, what if you'll need it for the next one?
- Lucent Heart has two different healer type skills that are this. While they do boost damage by a sizeable chunk, they do not increase defense, have lengthy cooldowns, and force the user into melee. This is impractical for such classes.
- Aion has this in spades with the Spiritmaster class, who specializes in summons and in heaping effects on the enemy. Most of the Spiritmaster's spells are rather normal... and then there's the Cursecloud spell, an area - of - effect spell which has a cooldown of one hour, deals fair initial damage, but shines because it snaps away a good chunk of an afflicted unit's health whenever it casts a spell. Since not all enemies cast spells or have enough HP to require percentage damage, very few situations where Cursecloud is viable exist.
- Aside from the various rare and powerful items that players might be tempeted to hoard, Aura Kingdom interestingly uses this trope as the reason why the Big Bad Reinhardt came to being in the first place. He was a devout knight serving the bishop who had a miraculous artifact that could restore someone to perfect health even if they were inches from death. However, when Reinhardt's wife was ill with a seemingly uncurable illness, the bishop justified his unwillingness to use the artifact to cure her with this trope, believing the artifact should only be used to help save someone powerful and influential who was aiding with the fight against the darkness. When Reinhardt's beloved wife passed away, his anger and resentment toward what he thought was an avoidable tragedy led him to rebel and become the nation's biggest threat.
- A few heroes in Dota 2 have powerful area of effect ultimate abilities that have massive cooldowns. Many players would rather let themselves or an ally die than use these abilities in any situation other than a 5v5 teamfight - indeed, part of the game's massive learning curve is figuring out which situations it's okay to use a two or more minute cooldown ultimate in.
- It is likely to be the same for all MOBA's in existence; any player character with a single big ability that comes with a long cooldown is likely to always suffer from this.
- On a similar note, we have League of Legends's Flash, a summoner spell available to all champions. It is basically a short range Flash Step with a lot of utility, and it's a given that most summoners will equip it due to League's emphasis on positioning (it is rare to see a side with less than 4 players using Flash). But on the flip side it has a higher cooldown than most champions' ultimate abilities, and so it runs into the same problems of players saving the ability for 'the right moment'. All too often players will use Flash only after any advantage of doing so has been long lost.
- The Grenades in Metal Slug are rather powerful. You'll want to keep them the first time you play the game, thinking you're going to find a good use for all that power... The game soon obliges, and you'll usually end up wasting those grenades when you get killed. Of course, you get a fresh set on your next life, and hopefully a little extra insight on how things work in the game.
- P-wings in Super Mario Bros. 3 gives you infinite raccoon flight. This game also had some other items that fell prey to this effect, like the Hammer Suits and the Tanooki Suits. They were just too cool and rare to use anywhere. They're more usable in the All-Stars remake, where you can save items and regain items earned from beating worlds, meaning you can easily farm P-Wings by repeatedly beating World 1. The same goes with Lakitu's Cloud, which allows you to automatically skip a single stage.
- That said, while these items absolutely fall under this trope for a first time player, they have a lot more utility to speedrunners, who know enough about the game to know exactly where they would be most useful, and can allow them to achieve speeds that simply wouldn't be possible without using them.
- Mega Man:
- Mega Man 9 gives us a few of these, with shop items that are expensive, or of which you can only have one at a time. Eddie Call can give you items, including 1-ups. The M-Tank acts like Final Fantasy's Elixers: it refills your Hit Points and all your Weapon energy. But the biggest user of this trope has to be the Guard Power. It grants double armor for 1 level, but though you'd be tempted to use it against the Bio-Devil twins, you'd be far better off using it against the final level's Boss Rush and Wily's 3-stage battle.
- In Mega Man X3 you have the option to call in Zero to replace you. He has a few benefits on X, especially at first, but with two major drawbacks; if he dies, you cannot call him in again, and you can't use him for boss battles. Outside of one, anyways, which is how X gets access to the sword for his own use.
- Mega Man Zero's Cyber Elf system. Offering tons of one use power-ups that have a personality and die once you complete a level. This is averted in Zero 3 with Satellite Elves; but with so many Elves and abilities how could you limit yourself to just two?
- Bunny Must Die! Chelsea and the 7 Devils has both Bunny and Chelsea dolls. Bunny dolls are optional uses when Bunny bites the big one, and can reload the entire room with Bunny at full health. Chelsea dolls are automatically used when Chelsea gets slagged, and restore Chelsea to full health and Mana. Naturally, players will preserve as many of both of these as possible for the Final Boss battles in each game — Chelsea for Bunny, and Septentrion and Bunny and Dechronos for Chelsea.
- In the second and third Jak and Daxter games, it took so long to charge up your Dark Eco meter to use your Dark Jak Super Mode, and you could use up your entire meter in one kill-everything-on-the-screen spray of purple lightning (the same applied to the Peace Maker, a BFG lightning-death-cannon-thing due to its extremely low ammo capacity). As a result, it was extremely rare that you'd bother using either...until the end of Jak 3, in which the end boss was kind enough to provide Light and Dark vents, permitting you to Super Mode with impunity.
- In The Lost Vikings and its sequel you can find an item that kills every enemy on the screen. However, this item rarely comes into play as you can usually take out your enemies easily enough with your normal attacks.
- The question skips in The Impossible Quiz. You do actually need to stockpile every last one to get past the last question. Muhahahaha.
- Mojo! Has the bonus infusers, which allow you to change into the respective color at will. However, you must have all four in order to unlock a powerup for a ball at the end of the world, and those powered-up balls are MUCH more useful than a bonus infuser...
- In Mario Kart 8, the Super Horn. Sure, it can hurt all other racers in a wide radius, and destroy incoming red shells to boot, but its ability to destroy spiny blue shells means that if you're even close to first place, it's probably not going anywhere.
- The heroes in Warcraft II are almost always Too Awesome to Use, as in most missions if they die you lose the mission. Only the human side has healers, auto-healing doesn't exist, and you don't always have healers in every mission, so most of the time you keep your hero locked up tight in your base where no one can hurt it, so that you don't accidentally lose the mission by getting them killed. The expansion Beyond the Dark Portal made the heroes into souped-up versions of the regular units, so you might be tempted to use them; in vanilla Warcraft II, they're weaker than regular units and far too easily killed to ever be risked in battle. Except when you really need that spell only the hero can cast.
- Heroes were a big problem in most early RTS games, including Starcraft and Age of Empires. Generally the heroes only found use if they were either expendable or in a no-production mission. Newer games, especially Warcraft III, combat this by making Hero Units respawnable and able to be customised and levelled up (though since it has RPG-esque items, it runs into the same problem. Use the one-time Scroll of Resurrection now or wait for an emergency?).
- Starcraft II: Explicitly averted in Wings Of Liberty's secret mission- the loading screen actually tells you not to hoard the weapon powerups you find around the level you're being chased by an unkillable monster during the second half, most of the weapons are One-Hit Kill against mooks that get in your way... and yet you will very likely barely make it to the exit).
- Dawn of War:
- The Eldar's relic unit is the Avatar of Khaine, a Physical God with the most health of any unit, very high damage, and makes nearby units much more resistant to morale damage. And yet many players (and the AI) will keep it inside their base, where it can't get into combat. Why? Well, because it also makes every unit build faster, and increases the cap for for infantry and vehicles.
- You can call in Veteran units at any time in the campaign mode from the previous missions. You never will because you might need them when the AI decides you have won too many games in a row and starts to rush you with an unbeatable amount of units. Any recent DOW game has had the same problem for me.
- In the second game, the artillery strikes are hard to get and only work in incredibly specific situations (Tank traffic jams) but can win you the game. Averted when you play a longer game mode though, as you will probably get enough resources to use these strikes and other support abilities multiple times.
- Star Wars: Rebellion:
- The Death Star if you played as the Empire. Though costly and time-consuming, building one immediately helped your popular support, but if it left the sector, all the planets would slightly favor the Alliance. Furthermore, if you destroy a planet or if your Death Star is destroyed, you lose popular support throughout the galaxy. But if you've found the Alliance headquarters and have already captured Luke and Mon Mothma, it's a quick win.
- Conversely, the Alliance has Luke: High in all stats except Diplomacy and Force-sensitive, his Force powers meant he could level up with a certain number of missions. If Vader or Palpatine were present, it would be that much quicker. (In fact, if you have Palpatine under blockade, you can have Luke powerlevel by sabotaging everything on the planet, and then abducting Palpy.) But if Luke encounters Vader or Palpatine, there is a chance he'd be captured instantly, one third of the Imperial victory conditions. But you need to encounter Vader to learn that Leia's Force sensitive.
- There's also the fact that the game randomly selects who will be Force sensitive (aside from the canonically required characters) each time you play. While there's no guarantee that your Force-sensitive characters will be any good, if you'll lucky enough to end up with a Force sensitive Thrawn, for example (who has naturally high stats to begin with, and Force training increases all stats), you'll probably not want to risk losing him. Especially since, unlike Palpatine and Vader, he can be killed in battle, thus eliminating the possibility of a rescue mission.
- Pikmin 2:
- Purple Pikmin. They have ridiculously high attack power and can stun enemies if they land on them, but they incredibly slow and lack any immunities like other Pikmin types, and on top of that they can only be created through rare Candypop Buds underground, unlike the primary Pikmin which come from Onions. Considering most bosses ingame either rely on a specific immunity or being able to get out of the of an attack quickly, some players prefer to use Red Pikmin than risk losing their Purples, due to only having slightly lower attack power than Purples, but are much quicker and plentiful. Also, there's the issue of requiring 100 Purple Pikmin to lift a dumbbell in Wistful Wild, which encourages players to save them until reaching that part.
- There's also Bitter Spray, which completely immobilizes enemies and makes even the toughest bosses complete jokes. To balance this out though, they are much rarer to come by they Spicy Spray, which just powers up a Pikmin's attack and speed, and the berry plants needed to make them are often in inconvient locations. As such, most players just save them for when they're really in a jam and there's no other way out. (Usually when faced with Spotty Bulbears.)
- When playing as Vegas or Pointman in Audiosurf, players may hold on to a paint or sort powerup until they get a large combo or the end of the song so they can get clean finish. Overfills that could have been avoided by using one of these powerups will ruin their plans, however, due to losing all power ups you were carrying when you overfill.
- NetHack: In the late game, certain expendable items do become almost useless - namely scrolls and potions. (No need to hurl potions of paralysis at a monster when you can smite it with Excalibur, after all.) Almost, because you can dip potions and scrolls in water to blank them out - and with the proper tools, bottled water and blank paper can be some of the most useful tools in the game.
- In Slash'EM, a NetHack variant, may come across the Houchou, an artifact-level spoon. Throwing this spoon at a monster results in an instant kill, after which the artifact is destroyed. Slash'EM mostly averts this trope, though, because just about every player has their own idea of which single creature in the game deserves skipping.
- This is especially true in Linley's Dungeon Crawl, as beneficial potions and scrolls are relatively common and safe to identify by trial-and-error (and it is easy to end up facing half a dozen rampaging orcs with three hit points left).
- Being based on the same principle, but adding in an overworld and the ability to buy storage houses... let's just say it is very common to have a ginormous amount of these in Elona.
- Summon feathers in Chocobo's Dungeon allowed you to replace your partner with far more powerful summon creatures. This meant calling to your aid allies that could take down the game's bonus boss singlehandedly while taking only pitiful damage in return. The downside is that, should they actually die, you lose the feather you likely spent hours trying to get your hands on. A random summon feather takes away that risk but doesn't give you the option of selection.
- In Castle of the Winds, you randomly find magic wands that can cast all kinds of spells, even the room-clearing Ball spells, with as much as a dozen charges. Even if you do put one in your belt, you'll probably forget you have it.
- Spells in The Consuming Shadow packs quite a punch in battle and have several beneficial uses outside combat. The problem is that they put quite a drain on the Sanity Meter, and you really don't want the protagonist to go insane before the end-game, especially since he can't cast spells with too low sanity.
- Bombs are very useful in Star Fox, and are instrumental in a few boss fights. You don't find yourself using them too often, though, do you? Doubly so because killing multiple enemies with a single Bomb does not offer the same cluster-kill bonus that doing the same with a charge shot does. It mostly comes down to a matter of only using it on enemies that you KNOW you can't clear out anyway, and memorizing the points where more bombs appear so you can be sure a replacement is right around the corner.
- The Climax Mode Limit Break in After Burner Climax, which gives you Bullet Time and a Macross Missile Massacre, does not come that rarely, but it's still possible to fall into this mentality as there's a chance you burn it on one enemy wave only for an even larger wave of enemy planes to show up.
- In Thunder Force III onwards, dying takes away your current weapon unless it's Twin Shot or Back Shot, your initial weapons. Less experienced players who are aware of this penalty may find themselves refusing to use the better weapons, out of fear of losing them.
- Splinter Cell: If you didn't realize you could use the Sticky-Cam to knock out people, you'd end up hoarding Sticky-Shockers and Airfoils right past the point where they'd be useful. (And the games would often have Sam inexplicably dump several of his items during loading screens, rendering all your hoarding moot.) Conviction rectifies this by giving players "Weapon Stashes" that top off all the player's ammo whenever they're used.
- The first two Thief games try to avert this by having the player lose all their equipment in-between missions, and all their money after they finish buying equipment for the next mission, to discourage hoarding and try to get the player to use all the resources they have available to them.
- Chaff grenades in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots release small strips of aluminium into the air that can interfere with enemy communications and confuse robotic enemies. There are only 5 places in the game where they can be found (1 of which is only available in a New Game+ and requires a very specific action to trigger).
- Resident Evil:
- Nearly all entries in the series have players finding themselves with dozens of magazines worth of ammunition for their weapons, and their larger guns all but unused by the time they meet the final enemy, which most likely cannot be hurt by any of those weapons, even the big-ticket firearms. Sometimes, though, they're nice enough to make it fairly obvious what you're saving them up for by making every other option you have practical suicide (e.g. by the fifth time in a row you've been decapitated by a Hunter or tentacle'd to death by Nemesis, it's pretty clear you can go ahead and start using that nice, shiny magnum now).
- Ink Ribbons. While most typewriters have at least one and possibly as many as three ribbons nearby, the prospect of running out and being unable to save is quite scary for many players.
- In Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, the SMG's and the assault rifle are too awesome. The Magnum you'll definitely need for the later bosses, and if you left the Fire Extinguisher (which you need to extinguish the fire blocking the path to it) behind in the security box, it'll be unobtainable. Best part? There are only eighteen rounds for it in the whole game, and six of those come with the gun.
- Fatal Frame: The Type-00 Film. It's the strongest film in the entire game and can dish out massive amounts of damage, even to the Final Boss. However, there is only a very limited supply in each playthrough and they tend to have to be found in random locations, so even if the player has it, they are unlikely to want to waste this precious film.
- Silent Hill:
- The more powerful weapons, such as the Rifle in the first two games and the Submachine Gun in the third, tend to have the scarcest ammo and should be saved for major boss fights. The Ampoule, an item that heals all of your health no matter how badly hurt you were, also suffers from the same scarcity and often ends up never used at all.
- Silent Hill 3: Your end game score will be reduced if you use any of the Extra weapons in a New Game+ (Beam Sabre, Gold and Silver Pipes, Flamethrower, Unlimited Machine Gun). Only a problem if you're trying for a perfect score
- Silent Hill 4:
- The game features unkillable Victim ghosts that haunt the player throughout the entire game. Your best defense are the Swords of Obedience (there's only five of them) and the even rarer Silver Bullets (there's only three, the last of which is a Bragging Rights Reward). Swords will pin down a fallen Victim for the remainder of the game; Silver Bullets will instantly "down" a Victim. Usually, players save the Swords for pinning down the four toughest Victims Cynthia, Jasper, Andrew and Richard, while hogging the Silver Bullets for the latter two, essentially bypassing two of the hardest fights in the game.
- Holy Candles and Saint Medallions. Both are effective means of defense against Victims, and come pretty early in the game, but players may choose to start saving them for the second half of the game, when the apartment starts suffering Hauntings whose exorcism directly influences the ending of the game.
- Silent Hill: Origins has one of the largest weapons' count in the series (including six kinds of firearms). Most of them, however, are commonplace depot appliances. The more powerful ones break after a single use, so players want to save them for boss fights and the like. But there's so many of them that Travis usually ends the game with dozens of TV sets, toasters, blenders and hammers in his pockets.
- In the Lovecraft-inspired Mystery-Survivalhorror game Eternal Darkness, you will, except for the first chapter, never use healing items since they have only a limited amount of uses and you will often very early find the Tome of Eternal Darkness, which lets you cast Healing Spells among others and your Mana recharges. The same can be said about your Guns and other weapons that require ammo, because the moment you find a melee weapon you wont use your guns on normal zombies any more and only save them for the arcane horrors and Gurdians. Or not even on them, but you will save them for the really big Eldritch Abominations at the end of the chapter, only to find that they are immune to bullets. Also, the chapters often end very abruptly, and your items do not get transferred to the present, so you will probably fight yourself through the chapter only with melee weapons and spells to save your ammo, and then see it all gone due to the chapter ending.
- Averted in Illbleed. There are several rare and valuable items that can only be found in levels, along with supplies you can buy in the hub zone. Aside from upgrade parts that roll over from stage to stage, all other goodies will disappear from your inventory once a level is cleared, so you have no reason to hang onto the stuff. In fact, it's recommended to use them up to fully heal yourself just before you beat a stage, since prize money is deducted if your stats fall under par.
- Deadly Premonition has Thomas' Biscuit. You're only ever given two in the game; they refill all of your hunger and tiredness, as well as your health and stamina, and keep them low for longer. The first one given to you by the game is shortly before the final boss fight, meaning most players will probably use it there, but the other one comes during a Boss Rush with ample opportunities for saving between, meaning the second biscuit is likely to sit around in player's inventories all through the Playable Epilogue.
- The Smart Bomb in Alien Swarm. When you unlock it, you can carry only one. It's pretty much the same as the Hornet Barrage, but 5 of them. It fires so many damn rockets that a huge swarm can easily be dispatched with the item. However, since you can only hold 1, you'll have a tough time figuring out when is the best time to use it.
- Resident Evil 4 has this with the rocket launcher, which is very powerful (can one-hit just about every boss in the game), but is still better to sell for cash and use that to upgrade one of your guns that gets more than one use.
- Resident Evil 5 ends up playing this trope semi-straight (or at least straighter than the previous game did) due to its more limited inventory system. With only nine slots available per character, space is at a premium and it's usually best to rely on the weapon you have the most ammo for, if only to keep your inventory from being clogged with four or five superfluous ammo boxes. Sadly, the ammunition for the best weapons in the game (magnums and the grenade launcher) are almost impossible to find. And even when you do find magnum and grenade rounds chances are you won't have either of those weapons in your inventory since you so prudently chose to store them away in your hammerspace inventory accessible only in between chapters. However, while there's nothing to be done about the inventory space, the game also doesn't think to take away items you picked up if you quit a chapter, so you once you find them you can stockpile magnum ammo, grenade rounds, and even rocket launchers with relative ease.
- Plants vs. Zombies: Most emergency plants, i.e. Cherry Bomb, Jalapeno, Doom Shroom, etc. Most of them get pretty expensive at 100 sun upward for an explosion, when you could be spending your sun on permanent attacking plants. They also take forever to recharge, so you can't use one back-to-back for multiple emergencies.
- Fire Emblem:
- The unique S-rank staves in various games (e.g. the Ashera Staff in Path of Radiance). They heal all your allies on the battlefield as well as removing all status ailments and give enough experience to the caster for a level up. But they only have three uses, and in order to use them at all you need an S-rank in staves (which has no other purpose and, in some games, stops you from S-ranking any other weapon type). This at least is not so much a problem in Radiant Dawn, because you only get the Ashera Staff from a character (whose method of recruitment approaches a Guide Dang It) that joins in the last chapter, and it can be freely used in the fight with the Final Boss.
- And in a similar case, the Hammerne staff, which can repair almost any item in the game. Again, three uses before it's gone forever. However, the Hammerne staff can be used to repair other Too Awesome To Use items and weapons.
- Most of the long-range magic items suffer from this trope. They're quite powerful and can be used from very far away, but are not common and have only 5 uses. In Radiant Dawn, if you have them blessed near the end of the game, they become infinitely usable making them partial Game Breakers.
- The majority of S ranked, Brave, and special weapons tend to fall under this trope. For example, the Vague Katti is a decently powerful sword, but its true strength lies in its 35% increased chance of landing a Critical Hit. Too bad it only has enough uses to be good for one or two chapters. Such weapons tend to be hoarded until the final chapters, making the game up to that point harder than it needs to be, and making said final chapters sometimes laughable.
- Blazing Sword references this when a character warns not to put too much thought into who gets an item; 'holding onto a useful item does no one any good'. However, said NPC appears in Lyn's mode, and saving the item will help up your funds ranking. A higher funds ranking means Lyn has a better gem in her inventory in Eliwood/Hector mode, so ironically, this is the one time not using an item IS helpful (though it's debatable whether the better funds ranking and the extra gold later on outweigh the stat bonus from using the item right away).
- Sword of Seals actually forces this behavior. You have access to the game's ultimate weapons very early, but they have few uses, and in order to get the best ending they all need to be intact by the time you beat the Big Bad. Even though you technically CAN use them 1/3 of the way through the game, most players won't until the very end.
- Going for an overall A Funds ranking also enforces this kind of behavior, as it's based on the total monetary worth of all items in your posession. Expect the wast majority of Silver weapons to get hoarded in the convoy and never used. Also note many forum members consider this the only way to play.
- Myrrh from The Sacred Stones is an example of a character that is too awesome to use. She is a cute person that also happens to be an extremely powerful dragon, but she required her Dragonstone to attack. Every attack, even counterattacks, costs one charge. The problem is that it only has fifty charges, there's no way to repair it (outside of a Good Bad Bug) and the one in her possession is the only Dragonstone in the game. Use it up and Myrrh will become completely useless. (The trick is to learn when to start using her so her level is high enough to be useful—yes, part of those 50 charges must be used for leveling her up—and yet leave the Dragonstone with enough charges to maul the True Final Boss.)
- Lessened in Awakening with the Armsthrift skill, which stops weapons from eroding. It activates on a percentage chance using double the characters luck stat. When a character has a luck stat (plus bonuses) of 50 or greater, powerful weapons can be used to your hearts content.
- Awakening also has the added bonus that most items that have tended to be impossibly rare in the past, such as permanent stat-boosters, Brave Weapons, etc., often have some method of gaining more. Granted, they're often from rare means such as random merchants just happening to show up with them, or through paid DLC, but at least there's some way to get more, instead of them being lost. This is even more exemplified if one of the Spot Pass teams has it in their shop inventory; initially after the game's release one would need to wait over the course of several months for their release, but now that they're all out there (and can be resummoned an infinite number of times), a new player can bring these teams onto the map instantly and, provided they have the money, start buying Game Breaker weapons and spells immediately and infinitely.
- Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri's expansion pack introduced Battle Ogres. These are alien war machines left on Planet that really kick ass, especially the Mark 3. Problem? They are rare, and damage to them can never be repaired. So despite having very good weapons for when you pick them up, they tend to sit around as garrison units, because they have an ability that makes them better police. They're also good stopgaps in the case of mindworm swarms, as they have not only good defense but (in the mark 1 and 2 versions) additional defenses against psi attacks. Just be sure to never let them get into real combat.
- In most normal gameplay, you won't need to use the Jonathan Ingram card in Metal Gear Ac!d, despite it being one of the most powerful ones in the game. Ingram removes twenty COST from your character, far beyond the twelve COST removed by the most powerful conventional COST reduction card - but, because Jonathan Ingram is so powerful, it tends not to get used.
- In the older Super Robot Wars, there are consumable parts that fully repaired mecha, resupplied energy or ammunition, and restored pilot SP. Despite being relatively common or even purchasable, players abhorred using them and ended up with dozens of them by the end-game. This is averted post Super Robot Wars Z, where said items can now be used once per map without being consumed. Propane tank, in particular, is a godsend for gas-guzzlers like the Wing Gundam.
- The three one-shot ultra-weapons in Odium (a missile, a lightning and an energy beam). They cause colossal damage in a huge radius.
- Final Fantasy:
- The Samurai class in Final Fantasy Tactics has the ability to unleash area attacks from the different katanas available in the game. However, using them in this fashion had a chance of breaking them. While some of the weaker katanas were easily purchased (including, fortunately, one that restored allies' health), the most powerful ones were available only as rewards in battle (or via stealing from enemies). While you could just equip said katanas and use them for melee attacks to your heart's content, the special attack (which could break the katana) wound up never used.
- See that beautiful Allmighty Antilaw in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance? It allows you to completely nullify all laws in the battle. Which means that they are the ultimate anti-judge weapon. But then it should be noted that it is limited to very certain plot points of the game. This extends to a lesser extent to the R level law cards which are still rare, but they can keep returning to the card shop. But good luck on getting yourself to use them too because often times you will just stomach the laws to begin with.
- In Piratez, there are the Baby Nukes, which can only be found on certain difficult missions (and obviously do not exist).
- The Yamato's Wave Motion Gun cannot be used for most of Super Robot Wars V and is only usable for one stage (two if players get the "fierce battles ahead" route).
- L.A. Noire has Intuition Points that allow you to find all clues and ease questioning, you also only get a limited amount of them and can only have 5 at once. This is inverted after you have completed the story, which lets you go back to any previous case and always start with 5 Intuition Points. This encourages using them to achieve a perfect rank on that case.
- Grand Theft Auto:
- In most games, getting a vehicle you want to keep generally means it will stay in the garage forever, since if you take it to do a mission, you will likely have to get out of it and risk it disappearing, and they are ridiculously easy to destroy. Except the everything-proof variety. Everything meaning collision, fire, and bullets.
- This is taken to insane lengths in Grand Theft Auto III. Certain plot-involved cars are immune to certain things, such as bullets, fire, explosions, and wrecks. Most of these cars could only be obtained ONCE per game and often required hours of trial and error to get. Many players spent many hours collecting them, just to have them waste away in a garage, even though some missions almost require one to complete.
- Another notable mention of this trope are the combine harvesters in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. These vehicles had the unique and delightfully sadistic feature of turning crops of pedestrians into neatly bundled up bales of body parts. Unfortunately, the harvesters are rare, encountered only at certain times in rural areas. In addition, almost all of them are locked and can only be accessed by killing the driver of one already in use. Even after obtaining one, the size of the vehicle makes it difficult to move in populated areas and impossible to fit into a garage for safe keeping. Its slow speed and bad handling make the player easy for law enforcers (who inevitably start to show up after a few good mauls) to catch. Finally, if the player decides to exit the vehicle for any reason, the door locks behind them.
- No More Heroes has Anarchy in the Galaxy, the most devastating Limit Break move in the game that clears the entire screen of enemies. It's also the only Limit Break that can not only be triggered at will (thus avoiding every other one's problem of almost always being gained from the last kill in a room), but stacks as well in case you get more than one over the course of a level, and you get a sizeable cash bonus if you make it through the level without using it. The cash bonus increases on subsequent playthroughs. It also does squat to bosses.
- The original Golden Apples were the king of Minecraft's Too Awesome To Use throne. At the time, red apples alone were incredibly rare, only being found occasionally in dungeons — this only several updates after golden apples could found that way — or dropping off Notch, the game developer, should he grace your server. Then, you had to encase that red apple in 8 blocks of gold. A gold block takes 9 gold ingots. You would have to mine and smelt 72 blocks of the fairly rare gold ore in order to have enough material to make a single golden apple. And then, since hunger didn't exist yet, its only effect was to fully heal you, something you could get much more cheaply from cake. Later updates after the hunger system existed boosted the 8-block golden apple's power to better match its expense, made red apples easily farmable, and added a less-potent golden apple made from gold ingots, making the whole thing much more practical.
- Some consider diamond equipment to be this. A pick-axe made of diamond mines faster and lasts a lot longer than one made of iron or stone... but it still breaks eventually, and if you're killed by underground monsters or a lava flow, you risk losing it forever. Similarly, diamond armor offers a great deal of protection, and diamond swords deal 25% more damage than iron swords, but since they're only useful in combat, there's a serious risk of losing them long before their unparalleled durability runs out, especially when diamond armor provides not much more protection than iron, which is plentiful. Diamond is found deep within the earth, usually near lava, and is even rarer than gold. It can still be worth using with proper branch mining techniques, but it is time-consuming to hunt for.
- Ender Pearls. Endermen drop them when killed but they are difficult to kill quickly due to their Teleport Spam and the drop rate of the pearl is low. Throwing a pearl will teleport the player wherever it lands (but hurt you when used to prevent people from spamming the pearls nilly willy), making them excellent tools to climb hills or to cross large gaps, but since the pearls are not common, players will either store them up and never use them or wait for the worst possible scenario to happen before using them. On top of that, an ender pearl can be combined with blaze powder to create an Eye of Ender, and you'll need up to a dozen every time you want to activate a stronghold portal to The End, not counting however many you use up trying to locate the stronghold.
- Enchanted tools and armor. You can get some nifty effects for your items, such as setting mobs on fire or increasing the diamond drop rate. However, the enchantments you receive are pretty unpredictable, and the experience cost increases quadratically with the enchantment level. You'd have to kill 77 hostile mobs for level 10, 651 hostile mobs for level 30, or 1785 hostile mobs for the maximum, level 50. Furthermore, enchanted items can't be repaired without stripping the enchantment. They basically have all the drawbacks of diamond equipment taken Up to Eleven.
- Potions are risky to use at most. Health and regeneration potions are handy to have since they can directly restore your health regardless of your hunger level, swift potions boosts your speed, strength potions gives your damage a boost, and fire resistance potions makes you immune to fire and lava. However, most of the ingredients needed are difficult to find and the majority of them are found in the Nether where the most difficult monsters are found and hold drops needed to craft the potions. Once you actually get the ingredients and craft the potions, you may be tempted to not use them at all in fear of wasting their effects if you get killed.
- Depending on your playing style, the blunderbuss from Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare may qualify. Hands-down the most powerful gun in the game, it blasts zombies into a fine pink mist with one shot (several of them if they happen to be in a tight cluster). The ammo is made from dead zombie parts (ribs, eyes, ears, and tongues according to the RDR Wiki) and it takes ten zombie parts to make one unit of blunderbuss ammo. However, if you blast the undead apart with the blunderbuss you can't loot their bodies for ammo ingredients, which forces you to kill zombies normally. If you can kill 10+ zombies with conventional weapons you probably don't need the blunderbuss anyway.
- On a similar note, the Explosive Rifle from Red Dead Redemption may qualify as well; it is a powerful, experimental, single-shot rifle added to the game by a DLC pack. It takes a shitload of money to buy, and while it is available for half the price, this feature only comes when the player has a high enough honor (meaning they have to play throughout most of the game not taking advantage of Video Game Cruelty Potential). Furthermore, the rifle can only be purchased in the final region unlocked in the game. And if the player does get the rifle, they will find it to be an overpowered beauty which completely annihilates any enemies and animals, removing the ability to loot them, and has a maximum bullet limit of 15 bullets. Sure, they can expand this to 30, but to do so, the player requires the purchasing of an additional item-the bandolier. Thankfully, this item is available near the beginning of the game and is relatively cheap.
- Terraria has the Star Cannon. Shot for shot, it's the most powerful weapon in the game, and it can be crafted fairly early. The catch is that it uses Fallen Stars as ammo. Fallen Stars are dropped at a very low rate at night (you'll get maybe ten or twelve if you scour the earth), are used in many other crafting recipes (including the essential Mana Crystals), and can't be reused once fired. Furthermore, the Star Cannon has a ludicrously high rate of fire, so even with armor that reduces your ammo consumption, you'll end up burning through your star stockpile at a fairly quick speed.
- Mercenaries: World In Flames has this issue with its various Airstrikes/Supply drops. If you had a strike available you need only aim at the target area, and call down the thunder/goods. They can even be found at a decent frequency. But you are constantly in paranoia that your large mortar strike won't be as useful here clearing out a random enemy outpost, as it would there... the next enemy outpost. There's only one instance where an airstrike is necessary, and you use a nuclear bunker buster for that one. Aside from that, players are likely to have enough large munitions stocked up to support a small army.
- Some cards in Magic: The Gathering are specifically designed to invoke this trope, by giving you a small cheap effect and/or a large expensive effect. Good players will know when getting it out now is more important than making it more powerful; bad players will not.
- One such example is Kavu Titan; when they were playtesting Invasion and someone lent now-head Designer Mark Rosewater a deck to use without mentioning that the Grizzly Bears (a basic 2-mana card with two power/toughness, similar to Kavu Titan without its kicker) were supposed to be proxies for Kavu Titans. Mark went 4-0 the first week, and then upon being told that they were actually Titans, he went 2-2 the next week, wanting to hold back to use the Titan's improved version rather than just pouring on the aggression.
- Another example is the Chaos Orb, a card which is tossed from a specified height onto the gaming table and destroys any card it ends up touching. It is now banned entirely from tournament play, but in the early days a story went around about some players came up with the clever idea of tearing up the Chaos Orb card and scattering all the pieces across the opponent's side of the table. This was eventually deemed illegal, but anyone with the cojones to pull a stunt like that with an extremely valuable out-of-print rare deserves to get the win.
- There are also the Planeswalkers, which often have a small ability that keeps them alive, and more powerful abilities that can often kill them or leave them near-death, and they can use only one per turn. Garruk Wildspeaker, in particular, gets this treatment: "Do I untap two lands or Overrun?" is a legitimate question.
- Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has the legendary card Deathwing, a minion that, when played, will destroy EVERYTHING on the board on the spot. The catch is that doing so will costs 10 mana (the maximum the game allows at any point), and discard your entire hand to boot. Pretty much the only time you will see it getting played is when someone is desperate enough to destroy every other card they have just to wipe out the entire board instantly and hope beyond hope that the opponent doesn't have an effective answer.
- Certain cards in Munchkin: high-level monsters, particularly nasty curses, cards that empower enemies, etc. that are usually reserved until someone reaches high levels, at which point the other players unleash Hell to stop them from winning.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Asset management is a large part of the game, so this is common.
- The Wish spell (starting from Basic D&D), and its divine counterpart Miracle (much later) can do almost anything. In a normal campaign, however high-level, no-one will ever cast them, unless suicidally desperate. The cost and having to deal with possible twists simply aren't worth it. First edition encourages the DM to be as much of a jerkass literal genie as the wish wording allowed. Second and third edition restored some balance by adding "safe" uses of the spells, making them quite useful. For example, they can be used to imitate any other spell below certain levels, even granting access to spells that the character would otherwise never be able to cast.
- Spellcasters are limited by the number of spells they can cast throughout the day. Some players tend to underuse their high level spells, holding back just in case they get into another combat before they can recharge.
- Magic items, including scrolls, potions and items with charges, are often underused by most players, particularly in campaigns that where magic items are particularly rare.
- 4th edition attempted to avert this trope:
- Encounter powers are usable once per encounter, so it is a waste NOT to use them, as if they go unused you gain no benefit at all. Action points (which give you an extra action, though some characters can gain other uses for them) are restricted to being used once per encounter, you gain one every second encounter, and they reset after the adventure, encouraging players to use the resource. Sadly, many newbie players don't understand this and play this trope straight until it is explained to them; the optimal strategy tends to be to use all of your encounter powers straightaway, and to either use an action point in the encounter immediately prior to gaining another one (so the 2nd, 4th, ect.), as well against any sort of boss, or to save up for the first two fights, and then use an action point in the third, fourth, and fifth fights (assuming a standard 5-encounter adventure).
- Daily powers play this straight with many players as well; because they are usable only once per day (though they do reset), they tend to be saved for bosses. At low levels, you only have one, and thus often save it for the boss fight. At higher levels, you will have four daily powers, and possibly some daily utility powers as well, meaning that if you save them all for the final fight, even if you use them every single round in the fight, you still may not run out of them and will likely overwhelm the boss with insane firepower. Interestingly, many high-level monsters seem to be designed with the assumption that you'll drop a daily power in every fight, which is actually probably a good idea, because it helps you conserve healing surges for later in the adventure.
- In all editions of D&D, many limited-use magic items such as scrolls, potions, and wands may become this. Players save them, and then eventually realize that they have saved them so long they have become useless.
- Interestingly, in 3rd edition D&D, because almost all magic items can be bought or crafted pretty easily, this sometimes got reversed for cheap magical items; one of the most common accessories for experienced adventurers was the so-called healstick or curestick, a wand of cure light wounds which had 50 charges and thus could heal massive amounts of damage between fights at an extremely low cost. Once players got wealthy enough, they would start every fight at maximum hit points as a result, which lead to 4th edition allowing characters to simply heal for free between fights, and for limited-use healing items to heal using the same pool of healing as natural healing used, making them more of a convenience than anything else.
- All editions of D&D suffer from the "5 minute workday" issue to varying extents in order to subvert this trope; essentially, the players unload ALL of their best daily abilities up front, and then immediately go rest, so that they can spam them every single encounter. This was a much worse problem in earlier editions of D&D, where there were many ways of hiding in a safe space under pretty ridiculous circumstances.
- Avalon Hill's Third Reich (both the table-top and computer versions) has elements of this:
- The double move: With a little judicious spending, it's possible to move twice in a row, which can be a huge advantage. The only problem? It tends to set up the other side to do the same exact thing, so most players will never use it unless they can be pretty certain of knocking a major enemy country out of the war.
- American units: These are the best Allied units in the game, but they have a drawback. American units that get eliminated have to be rebuilt in the United States and then initially deployed to Britain (or France, in the unlikely event that France is still standing), but the United States can only initially deploy six units per turn, and those units cannot be strategically redeployed to any place outside of Britain until the next turn. So there's a temptation for the Allies to let the British carry the brunt of the fighting, since any British casualties can return to the front a turn earlier than any American casualties.
- French and British units in the Mediterranean theater: This is the same principle as the previous point. British units are generally stronger than French units, but British units require two nine-factor fleets to be transported to the Mediterranean front, whereas French units require only one (assuming the French navy has been based in Marseilles). So if the war in North Africa heats up while France is still standing (granted, it usually doesn't), there is a temptation for the Allies to let the French to bear the brunt of the fighting there.
- Magic items in the earliest edition of The Dark Eye could easily end up being this, since with the single exception of the eponymous "dark eye" all example items listed in the rulebook, from the obligatory healing potion over a belt that would temporarily boost a character's strength to a key that could open any lock, were single-use only. (The dark eye itself was limited in a different fashion — it was a crystal ball magically tied to the site of its creation, so even if you ever found one you couldn't take it with you.)
- In Warhammer 40,000:
- Several armies, most notably the Dark Eldar and Inquisitors of the Grey Knights faction, have weapons or items which are "one use" or "One Shot". They usually have a disproportionally high power compared to a reusable weapon/item of similar effect (such as a weapon that can simply negate something's existence as opposed to a really good, but still avoidable anti-tank weapon). However their one use means that you have to pick and choose your moments and, on top of that, because of the dice-based nature of the game you run the risk of having it not do anything at all. Certain items are also force multipliers, meaning you'll be trying to squeeze all your troops into it's area of effect before setting it off, but this runs the risk of squeezing your army into one neat and tidy ball for your opponent's massive weapon.
- Averted in the case of combi-weapons. Popular wisdom is to send a squad loaded with combi-weapons on a suicide drop to eliminate a big threat, fire the one-shot mode immediately, and not to worry about the inevitable retaliation.
- In-universe, the Custodes for the Imperium. They are bar none the mightiest warriors in the Imperium, even stronger than the Space Marines. However, the Bio-Augmentation process used to create Custodes is so taxing that each Custodes is a huge investment for the Imperium. As a result, the Imperium can't risk losing a single one for any reason save defending the Golden Throne itself.
- In-universe, Imperial Titans take centuries to construct, due to the veneration given to them by the Adeptus Mechanicus (The revered Emperor-Class Titan is implied to take a millenium or two to actually make). As a result, even though a single titan can turn the tide of battle in the Imperium's favour, they're seldom used outside of defending their Forge World homes, so the act of deploying even a single Titan Maniple (which consist of only three titans) is considered a Godzilla threshold just under that of Exterminatus. This also means that the Imperium will go to absurd lengths to recover even parts of a Titan, as repairing one is far quicker than building a new one. The only aversion to this are Imperial Knights, who are specifically created as cheap, mass produced versions of Titans for use in "small" scale engagements.
- A good number of one-use-per-game magic items that a player must carefully choose the right time to use. Frequently these will end up going unused in the hands of a cautious player, who is saving them for a later that never comes, just in case. Perhaps the most common such item in the 8th edition of the game is the Dispel Magic Scroll - a scroll which automatically dispels an enemy spell and stops it from working before it is cast. In previous editions of the game the Dispel Magic Scroll was ubiquitous — pretty much the only magic item that could be duplicated. This led to many players loading down their wizards with as many of the things as they could cram in, then using them liberally, to severely curtail the enemy's magic phase. This was rarely fun, especially if both sides were doing it, so in 8th edition the Dispel Magic Scroll has become a one-per-army item like everything else. Now that it represents your army's one chance to automatically counter a key enemy spell (other dispel attempts require the rolling of dice, and can fail) it has become a precious resource indeed. So precious that they frequently go unused nowadays.
- There's also an abundance of arcane items similar to the dispel scroll that either expands upon it's functions (such as dispelling all magic that phase) or does something equally effective to the enemy wizards that effectively shut them down for one turn. They're usually done so in such a way that they cost much higher than what the dispel scroll would be worth, even if the effect was technically worse; this is because the writers know that the simple fact that these item exist would unbalance the game, after all it no longer becomes a question of "which one to use" (as is the case with Magic Weapons and Armor) but rather "how many can I cram into my list". And indeed every such item is squeezed in alongside the dispel scroll whenever possible; even sometimes at the expense of actual troops. But since they too are one-use only, they seldom see use unless the perfect opportunity comes along. The most notable example is the Hellheart, which can nuke several enemy wizards in a large radius, but the owner would try to maneuver the holder into such a position, while the enemy (as they would be allowed to know if a Hellheart was taken and who has it) would try to lead him on a merry chase, invoking this trope so that he might not loose even a single caster to it.
- Subverted in Numenera: One-shot items called cyphers are found all over the place, but PCs are only able to bear carrying two or three or a time. So regardless of how awesome a given cypher is, the system encourages you to burn them and grab new ones after every encounter.
- Destiny points and, to a lesser extent, Force points in Star Wars: Saga Edition:
- Destiny points are extremely powerful character attributes - they can be spent to make any attack an automatic critical hit or any enemy attack an automatic miss (even after the dice has already been rolled and the results announced), they allow your character to act out of turn or take damage, and they can be spent to immediately generate three less-powerful, but still useful Force Points. The downside? You only get one at each level up, with no way to obtain more. Due to their extreme power, players tend to stockpile them and not spend them unless the situation is truly desperate. Some GMs houserule a hard cap on how many destiny points a character can have at one time in an attempt to avoid this (and to prevent the players from taking out the campaign's final boss by using destiny points to score 5 critical hits before said boss can even act).
- Force points allow a character to activate some special abilities, add 1d6 to nearly any d20 roll, and turn a fatal blow into a merely incapacitating one. That last one ensures that players always keep at least one on hand at all times. Because Force Points only regenerate at each level up, players usually stockpile a couple for emergencies and refuse to spend them until they're close to levelling up. An alternate, optional rule sees players get a far lower number of Force points (one for Levels 1-6, two for levels 7-12, and three for levels 13+) but have them regenerate daily. Though the game suggests using this rule for a campaign that uses Force points more frequently, the end result often sees less Force point usage, to the point where players under level 7 frequently won't use any Force Points at all, lest they be caught without one when a strong attack drops them to 0 HP.
Anime and Manga
- In Kantai Collection, Yamato is by far the most powerful ship girl in the entire fleet, wielding a massive array of BFGs capable of a One Hit Multi Kill. However, her power makes her an even larger drain on resources than Big Eater Akagi, forcing the Admiral to keep her in her base and out of combat unless it becomes absolutely necessary to field her.
- Izuku Midoriya of My Hero Academia eventually realizes his issues controlling the Super Strength of his power stem from this trope and the Centipede's Dilemma. Having only gotten his power in his teens, he viewed it as something special while his classmates, who have had their powers since kindergarten, used theirs as freely and naturally as they breathed. Midoriya begins to feel that to gain better control he has to use his power more often, rather than think of it as a trump card.
- Outlaw Star: Caster gun shells certainly qualify. Because they are either rare or expensive (often both), Gene will go through his conventional weapons and cheaper/more plentiful caster shells before resorting to the more powerful variety of techno-magic in his arsenal...unless a specific threat demands otherwise.
- In Carving Out a Future, most of the crew of Serenity are reluctant to use the new table Xander made for them because it was "too pretty to eat off of".
- In The Havoc Side of the Force, Harry Potter is very reluctant to use any of his potions since he's stuck in a galaxy far, far away from anywhere he could restock, making them irreplaceable.
Films — Live-Action
- In This Is Spinal Tap, Nigel Tufnel has a six-string Fender bass guitar, still in wrapping, which has never been played. He says to Marty DiBergi: "Don't touch it! Don't even point at it!" Truth in Television: that instrument is a Fender Bass VI, of which only some 300 were ever made. They are Too Awesome to Use even in the Real Life. Only two are known to exist in that Sea Foam Green colour scheme.
- Krull: the hero receives an awesome magical glaive weapon in the beginning of the film, but his mentor advises him not to use it until he needs it most. It sits on his saddle for the rest of the film until he faces the Big Bad.
- Fate/Apocrypha features Karna as one of the Servants, who by extension has access to the Vasavi Shakti, the javelin of the Sanskrit god Indra which he was promised one use of when he shed his armor and earrings, which made him invincible. This javelin is capable of killing gods, but to activate it he must permanently give up those same items, going from immortal to a Glass Cannon.
- In Fred Saberhagen's Books of Swords trilogy and the sequel Books Of Lost Swords octology, Farslayer had this problem: its wielder could use it to kill anyone, anywhere in the world, even a demon or a god. The only problem was that it would remained lodged in the victim's heart, meaning that it would now be in the hands of whoever was nearest the victim when the Sword struck. It also leaves a trail pointing to you.
- Invoked in Prince Caspian. Caspian is reluctant to use Susan's magic horn since there might be an even greater need for it in the future. Nikabrik points out that, by that argument, he will never use it until it is too late. note
- Sorcerous Overlord Longshadow provides a villainous demonstration of this trope in the The Black Company series. He is recorded as hoarding numerous gewgaws, knickknacks, what's-its and thingamabobs enough to leave your jaw unhinged. None of which are given greater purpose than collecting dust, even after his armies have been nigh obliterated, his fellow (allied) Shadowmasters have been offed (partly due to his Chronic Backstabbing Disorder), and he has the weight of the manhood of an Indian-esque scaling the walls of his incomplete mega doom fortress.
- The Lay of Paul Twister: In a flashback chapter, Paul Twister tells how he came to this realization. When he was abducted from modern-day Earth to a fantasy world, he was in his car at the time and it came along with him. Of course, In a World... with no gas stations, this marvel of modern transportation technology turned out to be useless. In true video game fashion, it ends up being saved for the final boss battle.
- This almost becomes the fate of Harry's Felix Felicius in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Having won it on the first day of class, Harry goes most of the year not using it, except in Magic Feather plot to help Ron play well in their Quidditch match. All throughout the year, the notion of using it for various purposes crosses his mind, but he holds back, until he does eventually use it to gather an important memory from Professor Slughorn - and even then, only a teaspoon or so, to make the rest last.
- In Mistborn: The Original Trilogy the metal atium can be this for Mistborn. It grants you Combat Clairvoyance and enhances your mind so well you're practically invincible, but it doesn't last very long, is incredibly expensive, and you need to swallow it to have access to it. If you swallow it and end up not needing to use it, good luck getting it back. While it doesn't happen in the series, it's a safe bet that a number of Mistborn have been killed trying to get through a fight without using their atium.
- In Wax And Wayne aluminum can't be detected or influenced through allomancy, making aluminum alloy guns and bullets the ideal materials for fighting allomancers. However, the process to cheaply produce aluminum has not yet been discovered, making the metal more expensive than gold. When a group of well-funded thieves find the place they're robbing defended by allomancers, none of them had their aluminum bullets loaded for fear of wasting them, and they have to spend crucial time switching over. The same thing happens to the main character when he has experimental bullets designed to be used against specific types of allomancers; he doesn't shoot at enemies because he doesn't want to use the bullets against the wrong person.
- Lensman has this as part of the perpetual games of one-upmanship between its two main powers. Civilization always holds its newly-developed weapon prototypes back for truly decisive moments because they know their Boskonian rivals are capable of duplicating and developing countermeasures for them.
- In Auction Kings, one seller brought in a motorcycle with only a couple miles on the odometer. This was the only time in the entire series that Paul was unable to test-ride a vehicle he sold.
- The Dutch version of The Mole introduced "jokers" in the later seasons that players can use to nullify incorrect answers on the test that determines which one of them will be executed, and they typically can hoard them to use on future tests when the margin of error is smaller. Many contestants have ended up executed when they still had a joker or two (or three or even four!) in their pockets because they either thought they were safe and didn't need them or wanted to save the jokers for when they'd really need them.
- The Amazing Race introduced the Express Pass in Season 17, which allows the team holding it to skip one task (or neutralize a U-Turn used on them) anytime in the first 8 legs of the Race. It generally averts this, as teams will use it the first time they think they're in danger of elimination (or on the 8th leg if they still have it at that point). However, in Season 22, Jessica & John won the Express Pass on the first leg and were actually eliminated without ever having used it because John insisted on saving it even when it was clear they were in last place and there was only one other team still racing.
- Survivor introduced the Hidden Immunity Idol in Season 11, which can be played at almost any Tribal Council to be safe if one feels they are in danger. Many a contestant has gotten voted out with an idol in their pocket when they mistakenly thought they were safe for that round and decided to save it for later. The most infamous example was in Survivor: China where one of the contestants, James Clement, was in possession of two hidden immunity idols and was blindsided with both of them in his pocket. It was regarded as the dumbest Survivor move ever, until next season.
- This is the basis for being "sponge-worthy" in Seinfeld. Elaine's preferred form of contraception, the contraceptive sponge, is being taken off the market, so she buys all that are available. But since her supply is limited, she has to choose which men are really worth sleeping with. She breaks up with her current boyfriend after deeming him to not be sponge-worthy.
- In Doctor Who Ashildr, having been made immortal, is given a single second dose of her Immortality Inducer so she can give it to someone to accompany her though the ages. Eight hundred years later, losing her mind from loneliness and lack of purpose, she still hasn't used it because, well, you'd have to be really sure.
- In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Borg became this for the show's creators. The Borg were so awesomely powerful (and impossible to negotiate with) that they only got used four times (6 episodes, because of 2-parters) over the entire 7 seasons of the show. It was just that hard to come up with a way to defeat the Borg without making them seem less awesome. Of those 4 times they face the Borg, they are saved once by essentially Divine Intervention, and once they are merely facing an individual drone and the challenge is to make him an individual, not to defeat him. So the Enterprise crew only actually defeated the Borg twice during the run of the TV series.
- RWBY: When Team CFVY arrives on the scene in Volume 2's finale to kick Grimm ass, Velvet Scarlatina can be seen holding on to a small box. Coco tells her to hold it off until later, claiming that it'd be a waste to use it on a whole host of evil creatures invading the city. Interestingly, Monty Oum surmised in a post-production livestream that Velvet's box is his favourite weapon, which speaks volumes when you consider the insane amount of impossibly cool weapons we're presented with throughout the series.
- As it turns out, her box is a camera that gives her the ability to perfectly copy the weapons and fighting style of every person she takes a picture of; its main weakness is that once she uses a copied weapon, she has to retake its picture to use it again, hence why Coco only gives her permission to activate her weapon in the most dire situations.
- In Adventurers!, Karn saves Fire Shards to use against the Final Boss, against whom they do only 213 points of damage. For clarification: at that stage even their standard attacks do 9999 damage, making 213 points a drop in a bucket.
- MS Paint Adventures' Problem Sleuth plays this repeatedly, with the same skill. When it is finally used, though, the move triggers an ending sequence that easily takes up the next 50 pages, if not more.
- In the early days of 8-Bit Theater, Red Mage treats everything like this. Even his own spell slots. This nearly gets him burned to death on at least one occasion.
- Discussed in this VG Cats comic.
- Used in this Awkward Zombie comic.
Eliwood: "What if we need them later?"Hector: "I'm bleeding to death now!"
- The SCP Foundation has a pill bottle with cure-all pills. There's a limited amount of them, there's no way to make more of them (not perfectly, at any rate. It's possible to duplicate them with SCP-038, but the duplicated pills are much less potent), and the re-usable alternative can turn you into an eldritch horror.
- Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation refers to this as the "But I might need it later" syndrome, and notes that with the advent of New Game+, "later" might not even be the final boss battle.
So we have scenarios where you're sitting on a nuclear stockpile to shame North Korea and are throwing peas at a giant robot crab on the off-chance that there might be a bigger giant robot crab just around the corner. No game illustrates this phenomenon better than Mercenaries 2, or as I like to call it, Airstrikes 2: Hooray for Airstrikes.
- Played with in The Transformers: The Movie. Each successive leader of the Autobots is the caretaker of the Matrix of Leadership, an ancient one-use-only artifact prophesied to "light their darkest hour" with its immense power. It turns out, however, that the artifact's holder cannot actually choose when it to use it, as the characters mistakenly believe at first. Later in the series, this is played straight when Optimus is forced to open the Matrix to eradicate the Hate Plague afflicting the galaxy; as the Matrix's accumulated eons of knowledge is what could ultimately destroy the plague, Optimus using it this way left it as nothing more than an empty metal container.
- Shortly before World War I, Britain and Germany began bulking up their navy fleet with a new class of powerful battleships called "Dreadnoughts". By the time the war started, both sides had dozens of them. However, the Dreadnoughts were so valuable that neither side was willing to risk them by putting them out to sea. Both sides mainly used them as a deterrent against the other, using their mere presence as a way to keep the other side from risking theirs. Only once during the entire war did Dreadnoughts fight each other, at the battle of Jutland in 1916. No Dreadnought from either side was sunk by enemy cannon fire or torpedos during the entire war, though one of them, the HMS Audacious, was sunk by a mine in 1914.
- Rare coins and dollar bills:
- The 2-dollar bill. Some people give them as gifts, knowing that the recipient will keep it for this reason. Even though they are rare in circulation, they aren't actually rare at all. The U.S. Treasury has been sitting on shrink-wrapped piles of them for years, but banks rarely ask for them. Strip clubs, on the other hand, love to use them to make change as it encourages bigger tips.
- On the other end of the scale are $50 and $100 dollar bills, to the point where most shops refuse to accept them. However, there is a good reason for this: the bills are worth so much that if a cashier were to attempt to make change for a $100 bill, it is likely that they would run out of lesser bills, so that the store cannot make any more change for the rest of the day. Also, larger bills like that are the main target of counterfeiters, as they obviously are more worth the effort.
- To hard-core numismatistsnote , Sacagawea and Eisenhower dollars are no different than the change we have in our pockets. However, there are other dollar coins made from precious metals that you would be an idiot to spend at face-value. A $3 gold coin (yes, they really exist) minted in 1854 and in near perfect condition (MS-67) is worth at least $95,000. A Flowing Hair Half Dollar minted in 1794 in MS-64 condition is worth over $450,000. There are even platinum coins out there. A platinum Eagle ($10) minted in 2000 is worth $7500 in perfect (MS-70) condition.
- This also goes for the Japanese ¥2000 note. Just having one is a conversation point, and no one ever spends them if they can avoid it.
- The same mentioned for the $50 and $100 dollar bills happens for €100, €200, and €500 notes. Quite a number of shops do not accept them, since they'd run out of change and especially the two last ones are so much money that is very hard to find themnote . Also, the European Central Bank has announced that the €500 note will be phased out as it is frequently used for money laundering.
- The British £5, £10 and £20 coins.
- The Canadian one and two dollar bills are still technically legal tender, even though they were replaced by loonies and toonies (one- and two-dollar coins) over twenty years ago since they are cheaper to keep in circulation because they stay in good condition for decades longer than paper banknotes. The bills are now kept by people old enough to have used them when they were still in circulation. Collector's coins, put out every year or so, are also carefully hoarded.
- Nuclear weapons are insanely powerful, but practically the only justification for using a nuclear weapon is someone else using one first. Thankfully, this still remains a valid trope in this context, though then again, once it's invalidated there probably wouldn't be anyone left to read TV Tropes...
- Food, bizarrely enough. Rare or prized foods such as expensive cuts of meat, ingredients like truffles, caviar or saffron, all get saved for special events. The problem with this is most foods have an expiry date, so sitting on them until the perfect occasion can result in a great deal of wasted food. This can also apply on a lesser scale to things like leftovers, where one waits until one needs them to eat them, by which point they've usually gone bad.