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 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. 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 and Blaze staying, with Adam returning to take Skate's place, 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.
- Konami's Violent Storm has Wade as the balance, Boris as the strength and Kyle as the speed.
- 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.
- Pit-Fighter's three playable characters fit the bill: Buzz moves slow but hits hard, Kato lacks strength but is quick, and Ty strikes a balance between the two.
- 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.
- Bounce: In Bounce Tales, Bounce can gain three forms - the red, default form he starts with is the Balanced, when he rendezvous with his old friend, Rock, he can gain a rock form being the Strength, and later in the circus stage when Bounce saves the Circus Ball, he'll gain the circus ball form as Speed.
- 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.
- Dark Souls II, or rather Crown of the Sunken King DLC, gives us a bonus Wolf Pack Boss dubbed "The Graverobbers", consisting of three NPCs fighting in a highly coordinated manner. Of them, the Afflicted Graverobber is the Balance, wearing Alva's armor set (which has good defense-to-weight ratio) and dual wielding katanas, Ancient Soldier Varg is the Strength, boasting all of the signature gear of Havel the Rock (a greatshield and a set of plate armor, all fashioned out of solid rock, and a dragon's tooth as large as a person for a club), and Cerah the Old Explorer is the Speed, clad in comparatively light Mirra armor, firing a greatbow from a distance and switching to estoc up close for a few fast pokes before retreating again.
- 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.
- Raiden V:
- The Azuma is the balanced ship, featuring modest speed and shield durability. Its subweapon is the homing missile, which chases enemies with decent firepower and tracking ability.
- The Spirit of Dragon is the strength ship, featuring a stronger shield and reduced speed. Its subweapon is a dumb-fire missile that doesn't track enemies, but inflicks more damage than the Azuma's.
- The Moulin Rouge is the speed ship, featuring faster speed and a weaker shield. Its subweaponis a fast aimed laser that can pierce through enemies, but deals weak damage and has trouble hitting faster enemies.
Turn Based Strategy
- The Fire Emblem series has the weapon triangle of swords, spears and axes. Spears are the balance with even stats in weight, strength and accuracy, swords are light, accurate but usually weak and axes are heavy, powerful but inaccurate.
- 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
- Black Clover: Asta, Yuno, and Noelle Silva fit this dynamic as the main trio. Asta is the Strength, relying on his physicality and swordsmanship to nullify other magic. Yuno is the Speed with Wind Magic that lets him move fast with quick spells. And Noelle is the Balance with her versatile water spells that can form powerful blasts or barriers.
- Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: Tanjiro Kamado, Zenitsu Agatsuma, and Inosuke Hashibara 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.
- Getter Robo: Each Getter combines from a set of three jets, taking one of three forms depending on which pilot is in control. Getter-1/Dragon and its successors are the balanced form, equipped with Flight, a Chest Blaster, and tomahawks which can be used in melee or thrown. Getter-2/Liger is the speedy one, capable of deceiving opponents with afterimages and using its arm-mounted drill to travel through the earth or create tornadoes. Getter-3/Poseidon is the strong one, often with tank treads instead of legs, and fights with judo throws and heavy missiles. These tend to line up with their pilots' abilities as well (e.g. Getter-3 pilots being Made of Iron).
- Naruto: Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura fits this trope almost perfectly. Though it gets highlighted more in Shippuden, Naruto has a balance of pure power along with speed, thanks to his Wind Release and Sage abilities. Sasuke can zip toward and away from his foes quite easily, striking with a lethal efficiency thanks to his Lightning Release and Sharingan abilities. Sakura however tanks with her pulverizing power, inherited from Tsunade. Sakura's jutsu may not be as flashy as her cohorts, but her healing mastery is no joke and she can shatter solid obstacles very easily.
- 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 (Tim Drake), Impulse (Bart Allen) and Superboy (Conner Kent/Kon-El). It also applied to Nightwing (Dick Grayson), speedster Jesse Quick (Jesse Chambers), and Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) when they were members of the Justice League of America.
Films (Live Action)
- Spider-Man: No Way Home has the three cinematic Spider-Men; MCU Peter is the Balanced One, able to juxtapose the physical-based fighting style of his Raimi-verse counterpart and the acrobatics of his Webb-verse counterpart but still maintaining a direct approach in combat. Raimi-verse Spidey is the Strong One, the Spider-Man with no fancy gadgets who mostly relies on his physical abilities and organic webbing.Webb-verse Spidey is the Fast One, being the one who performs all sorts of acrobatics and Deadly Dodging as Spider-Man and even performed two crucial life-saving events during the Final Battle.
- 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 Akumaizer 3 are comprised of Xavitan, the Jack of All Stats fencer, Evil, the nimble sharpshooter, and Gabra, the stocky bruiser.
- In general, when an Ultraman has Multi Form Balance, this is usually how the three basic forms are allocated:
- Ultraman Tiga, the first Ultra to have multiple forms, has the balanced Multi Type, the strength-focused Power Type and Sky Type specialised for speed and aerial battles.
- Ultraman Orb's main fusion forms are the balanced Spacium Zeperion, the strength-focused Burnmite and the speed-focused Hurricane Slash.
- Ultraman Geed has the balanced Primitive, the strength-focused Solid Burning and the speed-focused Acro Smasher.
- Ultraman Taiga offers an unusual example where three Ultras are bound to one host; Taiga's the balanced one, Titas focuses on strength and Fuma focuses on speed.
- As Ultraman Trigger: New Generation Tiga commemorates Tiga's 25th anniversary, Ultraman Trigger shares the same Multi Type, Power Type and Sky Type Multiform Balance as Tiga. After Ignis becomes Trigger Dark, he can use the Horoboros and Zaigorg Hyper Keys as an approximation of the speed form and strength form respectively.
- 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).
- Team BAD; Sasha Banks is the Balanced One (a traditional wrestler with power-based and submission finishers but could also perform aerial maneuvers), Naomi is the Fast One (plenty of aerial maneuvers being a former cheerleader), and Tamina Snuka is the Strong One (a Brawn Hilda who is a power-based wrestler).
- 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).
- Beast Machines carries on the tradition with Thrust (balance), Jetstorm (speed), and Tankor (strength) in Season 1, and Obsidian (balance), Thrust (speed), and Strika (strength) in Season 2.
- Quack Pack: Dewey is the Balance, Huey is the Speed, & Louie is the Strength.