Video games are not unfamiliar with the Rule of Three, especially when it concerns characters. This is seen mostly in the Beat 'em Up genre and its sister genre Hack and Slash, in which the main trio is often composed of these three characters:
- The Balanced One: Usually The Leader, The Hero, The Protagonist, or Hero Protagonist. Exactly What It Says on the Tin, the balance between speed and strength, in most of the cases recommended for those who're new to the game. They are usually Strong and Skilled.
- The Fast-but-Weak One: This character is usually The Lancer or The Chick of the group, a (usually) skinny character that's also the fastest one of the group, having not just more speed and movement, but also being able to make the largest combos in the game. If it's not skinny, then it's Weak, but Skilled compared with the other two, probably a trained martial artist. Subverted by the Acrofatic who looks heavy, but moves like he's light.
- The Strong-but-Slow One: This character usually is The Big Guy, The Brute or the Boisterous Bruiser of the group, who can deal more damage than the rest of the characters, but also is the slowest one. This kind of characters usually are Difficult, but Awesome to manage in the game compared with the other two but is most likely to be Unskilled, but Strong. Subverted by the Glacier Waif who looks light, but acts like she's heavy.
While this is a video game trope, it can also be applied to other media, as well other video games genres besides the Beat 'em Up, like Shoot 'em Up and RPGs. In which case the idea of Speed vs. Strength can also come across as Light vs. Heavy. For instance a rapid fire light attack like a machine gun, vs. heavy ordinance that takes a long time to reload like a rocket launcher. Or an agile light vehicle that can turn on a dime, vs. a high horsepower truck with little maneuverability.
And it's not just for the good guys, this trope also can very well be applied to a Terrible Trio. Big, Thin, Short Trio also overlaps this, being the Big usually cemented as the strength, while the Thin and the Short vary between balance and speed.
If a fourth character joins the trio having abilities the others don't, then the group often becomes Balance, Power, Skill, Gimmick. If one of the trio is The Chick (usually the quick one), then it's the ¡Three Amigos!. And of course, if a couple of characters join the main trio during the adventure, then it's Three Plus Two.
Sub-Trope of Power Trio, Three Approach System and Video Game Characters. Compare and contrast other famous Rule of Three tropes seen in video games: Damager, Healer, Tank; Fighter, Mage, Thief; With a Friend and a Stranger and Three-Stat System.
Video Game Examples
Beat 'em Up
- Final Fight uses this trope in most of its games:
- Starting with the first one that has Cody Traversnote (balance), Guy (speed) and Mike Haggar (strength). In an interesting example, Haggar is Playing Against Type, since he's the Hero Protagonist of the series, later reusing this formula with another Capcom character: the barbarian-turned-lion Leo.
- The sequel Final Fight 2 has Cody and Guy being replaced by Carlos Miyamoto (balance) and Maki Genryuusai (speed), with Haggar still on the lead.
- In Final Fight 3 and the Arcade Mode of Final Fight: Streetwise, there's a fourth character added to the mixture which have different abilities than the aforementioned trio (Guy becomes this in the former, with Lucia and Dean being the speed and balance respectively; and Cody in the latter, leaving the balance to his brother Kyle), but the pattern is still there.
- About Capcom, the pattern repeats in Knights of the Round, where King Arthur is the balance, Lancelot is the speed and Percival is the strength.
- While you can't always manage the three of them, the usual setting of Battletoads is Rash as the balance, Zitz as the speed and Pimple as the strength.
- In Streets of Rage series, Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding stay in all games as the balance and speed respectively, having the character of strength variable between games (Adam Hunter in 1, Max Thunder in 2 and Dr. Zan in 3), with the addition of Eddie "Skate" Hunter in the last 2 games as a middle point between balance and speed. The recent 4 keeps the formula with Axel, Blaze and a grownup "Skate" with the addition of two new characters, one of them is the strength.
- Dragon's Crown has this dynamic for its three melee characters: the balanced Fighter, the nimble Amazon, and the sturdy Dwarf.
- Being an obvious expy of Final Fight, there's the SNK version of this game: Burning Fight, which have Duke Edwards (balance), Ryu Saeba (speed) and Billy King (strength).
- Technos Japan's The Combatribes, the three main characters follow this pattern with Berserker (balance), Blitz (speed), and Bullova (strength).
- The Ninja Warriors Again has the strong "Ninja", the balanced "Kunoichi", and the speedy "Kamaitachi". The remake in The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors adds two more.
- The famous Game Mod Beats Of Rage, a Freeware Game that mixes Streets of Rage with The King of Fightersnote , has Mandy (aka Blue Mary) as the balance, Kula as the speed and Max (aka Maxima) as the strength.
- Fight'N Rage has this dynamic with its three main characters: the balanced F.Norris, the nimble Lady, and the tanky Ricardo.
- The King of Fighters:
- While there're various teams that use this trope, the best known in all the series is the "Korea Team" or the "Kim Kaphwan Team", generally composed by Kim as the balance, Choi Bounge as the speed and Chang Koehan as the strength.
- Another good (and classic) example is the "Japan Team", especially its classic lineup with Kyo Kusanagi (balance), Benimaru Nikaido (speed) and Goro Daimon (strength).
- The '90s Banpresto Arcade Game Metamoqester is a Toku Boss Rush that has this setting with Tenchimaru, Yukihime and Kaiohmaru as the balance, speed and strength, respectively.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: The main Power Trio composed of Sonic (speed), Tails (balance) and Knuckles (strength).
- Kirby: The main three characters of this series fits this. Kirby is the balance being able to copy any ability, Meta Knight is the speed who is well known for his agility and fast swordplay, and King DeDeDe is the strength being the largest and slowest of the group but his trusty mallet being able to destroy almost anything.
- In the Cop storyline of Need for Speed: Rivals, you can choose every mission by choosing one of the three kinds of police vehicles: Patrol, Enforcer and Undercover. The former has the highest acceleration, the middle has more strength and durability, and the latter has the max control, being these three cars the speed (Patrol), the strength (Enforcer) and the balance (Undercover) respectively.
- The main characters of Legend of Legaia follow the trope to the letter. Vahn, The Leader and Silent Protagonist, balances speed and strength. Noa, Fragile Speedster whose physical damage output is so high she is also a Glass Cannon. Finally Gala, the Mighty Glacier who actually goes against the usual stereotype of The Big Guy by being the most intelligent member which makes him the party's most powerful magic user.
- Interestingly, in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, it does this with the main three heroes. Mario is the Balance, Luigi is the Strength, and Paper Mario is the Speed (being made of paper makes him the fastest to move of course).
Shoot 'em Up
- The starfighters you can control in the Rogue Squadron series often fall under these categories. Some examples include the X-Wing (balance), A-Wing or TIE Interceptor (speed) and Y-Wing or B-Wing (strength). Of course there are some ships that excel in speed, firepower and shields, like the Naboo Starfigher or the Buick.
- Unlike past games of the series, in 19XX: The War Against Destiny allows you to choose between three planes with different skills: Lockheed P-38 Lightning (balance), the series's staple and the most balanced plane of the three; de Havilland Mosquito (strength), returning from 1941 and focused on firepower; and Kyushu J7W Shinden (speed), a newcomer plane and the fastest and most maneuverable ship.
- In the Samurai Shodown's Pachinko Spin-Off "Samurai Spirits Gaiden: Cham-Cham", based on the Wild Child of the series and sister of Tam-Tam, there's the Terrible Trio of the game: the Three Robbers Laura, Gororo and Bobon, which are the balance, speed and strength respectively.
Non-Video Game Examples
Anime and Manga
- Tanjiro Kamada, Zenitsu Agatsuma, and Inosuke Hashibara from Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba fit each dynamic, respectively, with their breathing techniques. Tanjiro is the Balance who wields the versatile Water Breathing and Hinokami Kagura. Zenitsu is the Speed who cuts at the blink of an eye with the Thunder Breathing's first form, and Inosuke is the Strength who uses the Beast Breathing which emphasizes wild, but strong strikes.
- While this trope's archetype in DC Comics superheroes should be Batman, The Flash and Superman as the balance, speed and strength respectively when they're on the same team (as the Justice League), this trope is mostly seen in and applied to their disciples assembled in Young Justice and later in Teen Titans teams: Robin III/Red Robin II (Tim Drake), Impulse/Kid Flash II (Bart Allen) and Superboy (Conner Kent/Kon-El).
- As seen in many Robin Hood stories, it's assumed that Robin is the balance and Little John the strength, so the speed could be Will Scarlet or Much the Miller's Son, all depends of the story or the adaptation.
- The Spectrum Game: The first three male characters embody this trope. Makoto is the Balance (he has the highest Strength of the group, but when not using Arts, his blows are average in both strength and speed), Silas is the Strength (Strength lower than Makoto's, but he has ways of raising it, and his attacks tend to be slow but heavy), and Inigo is the Speed (the only one with higher Intelligence than Strength, and his Speed is high. He specialises in weak but fast blows).
- The Shield team had this kind of formation, with Dean Ambrose as the balance, Seth Rollins as the speed and Roman Reigns as the strength.
- Also seen in The New Day with Xavier Woods (balance), Kofi Kingston (speed) and Big E Langston (strength).
- And before these two, there's the famous Too Cool Power Stable during the Attitude Era in The '90s with Grandmaster Sexay (balance), Scotty 2 Hotty (speed) and Rikishi (strength).
- A common set-up in High Fantasy RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons, where players usually choose a knight or warrior (balance), a thief or ranger (speed) and a barbarian (strength). Same counts in the case of choosing races, in this case a human (balance), an elf or hobbit (speed) and a dwarf or half-orc (strength).
- While the three have similar powers, The Powerpuff Girls usually invoke this trope, Blossom being the balance, Bubbles the speed and Buttercup the strength.
- Beast Wars: The three Transformers that join the Maximals in season 1, Tigatron (balance) Airazor (speed), and Dinobot (strength).