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Competitive Balance

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"You know what does equal power? Power. Power equals power. Crazy, huh? But the type of power? Doesn't matter as much as you'd think. It turns out, everything is oddly balanced. Weird, but true."

In any game that offers the player a selection of multiple options to play as (whether it be characters in fighting games, cars in racing games, factions in strategy games, or whatever), Competitive Balance comes into play. Since these options are meant to compete directly against each other, they need to be roughly equally powerful, or else you run into the problems with Character Tiers.

Some common character builds are defined by their imbalance and have a foil to go with them:

Other common ways and gimmicks to competitively balance without a direct foil:

And this is all before you add in Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Competitive Balance necessarily exists as a relationship between stats in video games or characters in non-videogame settings. All super heroes are probably fast, strong, and sturdy compared to civilians, but interactions in context with their peer heroes may highlight particular strong suits and challenges. See Cast Speciation.

In a cooperative context, where each member of a team is balanced in how they contribute to the group's success, see An Adventurer Is You. If you apply Competitive Balance to factions or countries instead of characters or units, then you get A Commander Is You. When a former boss is Promoted to Playable, they will usually be retooled to fit one of the above.

This is especially important to encourage diversity in a game with loads of characters and different types to choose from without making all the characters just flat-out clones of each other. Not to mention from a development standpoint this is often hard to do and needs to be constantly readjusted to make sure players don't just spam the same character(s) and make almost every match a Mirror Match.

Super-Trope to Balance, Power, Skill, Gimmick which is usually a Power Trio of Jack of All Stats, Mighty Glacier, Fragile Speedster and something else for variety.

Video game examples:

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    Adventure Game 
  • In One Piece: Unlimited Adventure for the Wii there exists a 2P battle mode where characters can fight each other. The game is straightforward about who is the strongest, with the character tiers being ranked from 1 to 5 — however, the game's "competitive balance" is off. Usopp is only a 3, yet he's the only major character to have ranged attacks, close attacks, a useful "run away attack" (where he runs and drops Spikes of Doom), AND two unusually powerful ultimate attacks, making him a VERY lethal joke character if you're good enough with him and great for boss battles. We've also got the Lightning Bruiser Luffy himself, who's an unmatched Game-Breaker in Gear Second, and possibly the straightest Mighty Glacier EVER, Monster Chopper — he has just 3 incredibly powerful attacks but can only walk deathly slow. Finally, while not intentional, some characters who are meant to be weak can actually deal alot of damage, making several characters a Glass Cannon (Nami, aforementioned Usopp, Chopper, Bon Clay, etc.).
  • Each weapon type in Monster Hunter fits into a certain role:
    • Sword and Shield is Jack of All Stats. It allows running, hits fast, it has a guard — albeit a rather weak one, and high attack speed and elemental damage often make up for lack of raw physical power. Sword and Shield is the only weapon type that lets you use items while the weapon is drawn.
    • Dual Swords is Fragile Speedster. Dual Swords lack a guard, and damage-per-hit is still low, but between the high attack speed and the Demon mode that lets you unleash deadly combos and flurries of attacks, you'll be hitting a lot.
    • Great Sword is Mighty Glacier. Great Swords deal very high damage and have a stronger guard than Sword and Shield, as well as deadly charged attacks. However, the very slow attack and movement speed mean that an understanding of timing and positioning is crucial.
    • Lance is Stone Wall. Lances have a huge shield that can withstand plenty of punishment, and you can re-adjust the direction you're facing mid-guard, allowing you to fend off multiple attacks from different angles easily. However, the lance itself is slow and unwieldy, limiting possible attacks to the front of the player. Damage potential for Lances has been consistently nerfed with each game.
    • Hammer and Longsword are both Glass Cannon. Unlike Great Swords, Hammers do not limit movement, they hit far faster and have even more damage potential... but guarding is impossible. The Longsword trades raw hitting power for attack speed, and a Spirit Gauge which increases attack power for a time, but still no guard. Hope you're good at dodging.
    • Hunting Horn is a Squishy Wizard. Functionally, they are the same as Hammers but with less damage potential. However, they are a boon to a hunter group for their ability to play music which grants Status Buffs like attack or defense boosts.
    • Light Bowgun is a ranged Squishy Wizard. Light Bowguns offer the best mobility, and they can be drawn and reloaded quickly. However, they have the least damage potential of practically any weapon. They also have a tendency towards support ammunition such as stun, poison, healing, etc.
    • Medium Bowgun is a ranged Jack of All Stats. Medium Bowguns offer a compromise of raw damage and mobility, allowing running, but being slow on the draw.
    • Heavy Bowgun is a ranged Mighty Glacier. They're far too heavy to run with, and have a slow reload. Damage-per-shot is comparatively high, however, and they tend to be compatible with damaging ammunition such as crag, pellet, pierce, etc. You can even equip a Heavy Bowgun with a barrel shield, which allows a guard on par with the Sword and Shield.
    • Gunlance is a Magic Knight. They're much like Lances in that they allow good defence and long-reach attacks, but they also have a fire shot attack which is powerful but has limited range.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the Champions's blessings cover the four major stats: health (Mipha's Grace), offense (Urbosa's Fury), defense (Daruk's Protection) and mobility (Revali's Gale). Implied by their abilities and weapons, Daruk is the Fighter with the most raw power, Urbosa is the Mage with lightning attacks, Revali is the Thief with the most mobility and Mipha is the combat Medic. Then, there is Link who is able to use all the blessings and can switch between all four classes of weapons at any time, making him the Master of All.

    Beat 'em Up & Hack'n'Slash 
  • Devil May Cry 4: The Special Edition added Trish, Lady, and Vergil as playable characters alongside Dante and newcomer Nero. All 5 play very differently from one another, requiring at least moderate effort to use them all well.
    • Trish is a Close-Range Combatant. Her standard primary weapon isn't actually the Sparda sword this time around; it's her Bare Knuckle playstyle utilizing mostly her fists and kicks, which either do weak damage or have to be charged to be truly effective - both of which mean it takes her time to defeat enemies. Her moveset with the Sparda sword is akin to an alternate Style, but it's just as melee-focused. She also has her Luce & Ombra handguns and the Pandora briefcase as ranged weapons, but they have fewer moves than Dante's counterparts. Furthermore, she doesn't have a lot of options in mobility, instead having attacks which bring enemies to her, or keep them stationary to help give her time to attack.
    • Lady is a Glass Cannon and Long-Range Fighter. She doesn't have access to a Devil Trigger like other characters do, thus lacking their regenerating health in that mode. Her limited melee attacks are also incredibly slow and comparatively weak. To compensate, many of her long-ranged moves deal significant damage or involve a hailstorm of bullets and high explosives, and she has a meter in place of the DT Gauge which allows her to cover her surroundings with extremely deadly grenades.
    • Nero is the Jack of All Stats. He doesn't have access to other swappable weapons or Styles as the other characters do, but he also doesn't have a lot of glaring weaknesses in mobility or defence, as he has both a dodge move and the ability to move himself or enemies around with his Devil Bringer's Snatch. Furthermore, with his Red Queen's Exceed mechanic and his Devil Bringer's Buster, he can upgrade his modest abilities to do a lot more damage.
    • Vergil is a Lightning Bruiser. He loses a lot of the versatility he had with Dark Slayer Style in 3, but he more than makes up for it with a wide repertoire of attacks which come out very fast, hit very hard, and can cause him to positively zip around. In his Devil Trigger mode, he takes this playstyle further, even by the standards of this franchise!
    • Dante is the Master of All, who can switch between the first four styles from 3, plus allowing him to switch between seven different weapons, which altogether makes him very versatile without sacrificing anything. Effectively using all of his myriad attacks and mechanics to their fullest potential requires lots of time and practice.
  • All around the place in pretty much any Beat 'em Up game, with Final Fight likely serving as the Ur-Example. If the game has more than two playable characters, expect to see a Fragile Speedster, Jack of All Trades and Mighty Glacier among the roster, and possibly another character who's neither. In older games for two players, the second character was quite often just a Palette Swap of the first one.
  • Many of the beat 'em ups based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (e.g. the duology of arcade titles by Konami) follow this formula:
  • In Ninja Gaiden Sigma II, the three playable female characters — Ayane, Rachel and Momiji — all play differently from each other. Ayane is a Fragile Speedster, weak attacks that add up quickly and highly mobile. Rachel is a Mighty Glacier, able to inflict massive damage with her warhammer but lacking the agility of the other women. Momiji is a Jack of All Stats, faster than Rachel but stronger than Ayane, and uniquely the only one who can Double Jump.

    Driving Game 
  • Burnout 3: Takedown plays The Joke Character with a car. In most games, you can get yourself some multplayer bragging rights by picking a slow car, but Burnout 3 has a car that doesn't only have to be unlocked, but also doesn't move. At all. Now that's taking it to an extreme, people.
    • Most of the "older" cars (i.e., the Gangster/Carson Grand Marais; the Classic/Hunter Manhattan) aren't quite the fastest cars around, but they certainly have their good points. In the right hands, they can be a Lethal Joke Character.
  • Mario Kart's competitive balance is a bit different from other games:
    • While the first game was all about Balance, Power, Skill, Gimmick, the following installments made three big character classes:
      • The lightweights (also called feather in other games) are "quick to start but hard to catch up": they are the quickest to start, the easiest to control, the less vulnerable to off-road and they have the best turbos. However, because they are lightweights, heavier vehicles easily bump them out of the road and their top speed is not impressive.
      • On the other hand, the heavyweights are "slow to start but hard to stop": their weight allows them to bump opponents and their top speed makes them almost unbeatable when well-trained players control them. However, their weight also reduces their acceleration, their top speed makes them harder to control, going to off-road often means the race is over for them and they usually lack impressive turbos.
      • The balanced characters are a compromise between the two former examples.
      • Since Mario Kart 7, there are other classes in-between: the light characters have the size of middleweights, but are between them and feather characters while the cruiser drivers have the size of heavyweights, but are less powerful and more balanced.
    • Since Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, the vehicles' stats matter as much as the character inside it. This requires further explanations about vehicles' different characteristics:
      • The real speed stat of the game is acceleration; it also works as a recovery stat after having been pushed off-road or hit by an item.
      • On the other hand, top speed actually is more comparable to a power stat, being the privilege of Mighty Glaciers and Glass Cannons.
      • Mini-turbo, being on a line between acceleration and top speed, can be considered a magic stat: it is always Fragile Speedsters' weapon to compensate their low top speed, but it can also be Glass Cannons' power to increase their performances on the road; along with the latter, some heavyweight vehicles also have this power in Mario Kart Wii and are the slowest to start to compensate.
      • Weight is between power and defense, as it is as useful to push opponents to the side and to protect yourself from said attacks.
      • While not standardized, off-road is a recovery stat, being often linked to acceleration; however, other types of characters have this power without forcingly being so quick and/or actually being too heavy to be considered "fragile", making it a defensive stat for them.
      • Handling and drift can be considered agility stats.
      • Traction (also called grip) describes the stability of the vehicle and reveals its true efficiency on tricky environments; this is the strangest example, being a bonus for the lightest characters, but also for the heaviest vehicles in Mario Kart 8. Like off-road, it can be an agility stat for the former and a defensive one for the latter.
    • Mario Kart Wii probably is the more complex episode regarding of its competitive balance. First, alongside the light, middle, and heavy weights, every single character has hidden bonuses which give them subtle advantages. Second, alongside karts, the game introduces bikes, lighter vehicles which can't reach the super mini-turbo, but can go faster on straight lines by doing a wheelie, and are themselves divided between outside and inside drift, the former being more accessible and the latter being more precise. Third, each weight class has six karts and six bikes with radically different stats which can be classified into six categories:
      • Standard karts and bikes give a taste of their character classes without being too disadvantaged.
      • Starter vehiclesnote  focus on handling, acceleration, off-road and mini-turbo, but have a bad top speed and drift. Depending on the weight class, they can be either very light, very heavy, or well-balanced.
      • Skill vehiclesnote  focus on good drifts and turbos, but still have the advantages and defaults of their respective classes: this category is the most complicated to classify, as it includes the lightest kart and bike of the game (the latter even having inside drift), two slower and more skill-based versions of power vehicles, and an early game middleweight which, despite having great acceleration and subpar top speed, is still fairly balanced.
      • Power vehicles note  give up acceleration, handling, and off-road for the best mini-turbos, the most precise drifts (bikes take this further as they all have inside drift), and a good top speed. While all of them have decent weight for their categories, the lighter vehicles are Glass Cannons while the heaviers are Mighty Glaciers.
      • Off-road vehiclesnote  have average stats and mediocre drift, but an excellent off-road which gives them a greater stability on slippy tracks and allows them to take paths where the frontier between track and off-road is unclear. Large vehiclesnote  only subvert this category, as they either have all the stats except for the main advantage and default, or precisely these while being a starter vehicle otherwise.
      • Speed vehiclesnote  have an incredible top speed, a decent weight... and nothing else. While the lighter ones still are viable in manual, only determined players can control the heavier ones this way: otherwise, they are better in automatic mode. Like the power vehicles, lighter vehicles are Glass Cannons while heaviers are Mighty Glaciers.
  • The fanmade Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart balances its characters on a stat grid, with the X-axis being acceleration-to-speed and the Y-axis being weight-to-handling. For example, Sonic is fast but can't accelerate very well, and he has good handling at the cost of being lightweight. On the other hand, Eggman is among the heaviest characters and accelerates quickly, but his weak top speed forces him to rely on turbo boosts and his weight requires anticipation to take even the most simple corners.

    Fighting Game 
  • Fighting games in general tend to include three character types: rushdown, zoner and grappler.
    • Rushdown fighters, fitting the Close-Range Combatant bill, close in quickly and smother their enemies in physical attacks. To compensate for unrelenting offense, the typical Rushdown fighter is a Fragile Speedster and Glass Cannon who really can't afford to take hits, but others have reasonable defense and frail offense, depending on Death of a Thousand Cuts. In rare cases where one is a Lightning Bruiser, they tend to have some technical weakness like poor reach, punishable attacks or high demand on Mana Meter.
    • Zoners, our Long-Range Fighter, keep themselves out of harm's way with ranged attacks . While some use traditional means such as magic projectiles, fired ammunition or long weapons, others are Puppet Fighter who send Assist Character in their stead, and yet others fit the Trap Master bill. Mind, most are fragile, like the Squishy Wizard, to punish them for failure to keep enemies at distance. But some few are actually quite durable, and in exchange, struggle to retreat when they've been closed in on.
    • Grapplers, finally, are typically a Close-Range Combatant group specializing in taking and punishing hits, while also having very threatening mixups up close with their command grabs. The Mighty Glacier describes most. The Stone Wall describes some. And given their dependence on scoring huge damage of painstakingly landed ripostes, they are quite often a Critical Hit Class. While in most fighting games grapplers struggle against zoners, some games allow them to reflect projectiles and inch in, though they still tend to struggle with getting in on characters as an intended weakness.
    • Mind, there are many Jack of All Stats. Ryu is the perfect example, while not able to outperform any of the archetypes in their designated strengths, he is able to perform decently well in any situation and can adapt to any matchup. He has Hadoukens for mid-long range (Zoner), Tatsu for combos and to close the distance (Rushdown), and Shoryuken is a very strong tool up close (Grappler, in the sense that it's a strong close range tool at least, it just happens to have very different functions to a command grab).
  • Street Fighter has not all that much of a balance gap (though occasionally you get some accidentally devastating characters, such as Guile in Street Fighter II and his mystical "Magic Throw" and "handcuffs" glitches, not to mention his great range and priority; Zangief could also apply, with his extremely powerful throws). Akuma, for instance, is actually fairly fragile, taking the most damage of any of the characters in most of the games where he's a standard character.
  • This is especially prevalent in games such as Tekken, where tournament play is the general focus: In Tekken Tag Tournament, while Ogre and True Ogre might be bosses of death, they're still balanced enough that you can generally beat them with anyone you know how to use correctly. The only exceptions to balance appear at the lower levels of skill, where certain characters are easier to use than others (try using Guile as a beginning player, without a good grasp of charging; and after THAT, you need to learn how to do jump in combos in order to really use him).
  • The plots of Type Moon's Melty Blood Fighting Games are driven by the reality-warping Night of Wallachia. This crazy phenomenon is used to justify Miyako's leap from martial arts student to prime Street Fighter candidate. More amusing is Kohaku and Hisui's transformation from simple maids into Martial Arts and Crafts masters capable of fighting half-demons and ancient vampires.
  • Marvel vs. Capcom: On one side, you have a Servbot, and on the other, you have the Hulk. Not to mention guys like Blackheart and Shuma-Gorath.
  • In the Deadliest Warrior game, you have Guerillas (e.g. Ninja and Apache) who can't get into a direct fight and have to use their agility to survive, Berserkers (e.g. Pirate and Viking) who have a deadly offense, but less in the way of defense, and Balanced fighters (e.g. Knight and Spartan) who can dish out a lot of damage and take it, but won't move very quickly.
  • Project M is a Super Smash Bros. Brawl mod designed with competitive balance explicitly in mind. As well as altering the mechanics of Brawl to more resemble Melee (which is generally considered the mechanically deeper of the two games), it seeks to re-balance characters from Melee to make them more competitively viable against established high-tier characters, as well as bring Brawl characters into a more Melee-esque environment while making them viable as well.
    • Super Smash Flash 2, another fan project, also aims for this as part of their goal for professional quality. In v0.9a, the Character Tiers are so close together that the official chart has the borders blurred. Very noticeable in some cases, such as Ichigo, one of the characters ranked lowest.note  having a clear advantage against all three of the characters in the S Tier.note 
    • Brawl− is another Brawl mod that aims to be more competitively balanced... by making every single character overpowered.
  • In Dragon Ball Xenoverse, each race for created characters has abilities and statistics that differentiate them from one another:
    • Earthlings are Jacks of All Stats, being overall well-rounded and benefiting from both regenerating ki and an attack boost when their ki gauge is at max.
    • Saiyans are Glass Cannons: low health, but high attack power that increases each time they revive. They also have Super Saiyan transformations that afford them unlimited use of ultimate attacks while active.
    • Namekians are Stone Walls: while their attack power isn't as high as the others, their defensive stats and health are higher, and they have regenerating health.
    • Majins are Mighty Glaciers: slow movement, slow stamina recovery, but defensive stats that exceed Namekians and get a boost when stamina is topped off.
    • Frieza's Clan are Fragile Speedsters: They have high speed, but low attack power. When their health drops under 50%, their speed increases.
  • Divekick has each character on either side of the balance of either Diving or Kicking sans three
  • BlazBlue has a bizarre roster of characters(that gets bigger with every incarnation) that tend to combine two or three types of classes. Most fighters can destroy the rest of the roster with ease, save for a handful of characters designed specifically to trump them.
    • Noel is a Fragile Speedster crossed with a Glass Cannon. Quick, decently hard hitting attacks combined with short cooldown and startup times, as well as having the only legitimate combo system in the series make her deadly on the offensive. However, she falls short against characters who can use her lack of long and medium range attacks, and she has a ridiculous stagger time that makes it easy to keep her on the defensive.
    • Tager is a Mighty Glacier and a Close Range Combatant. With punishing attacks, high defense, and one of the quickest recovery rates in the series, he's a difficult hurdle to those who can't keep him zoned or outspeed his recovery. However, he has an extremely short range, and is the equivalent of a walking tank, so characters like Hazama or Noel can take him down easily with enough skill.
    • Arakune is an odd combination of a zoner and rushdown character, thanks to his Crimson drive. Under normal circumstances, he's a fairly poor zoner or stone wall, due to his poor damage, neutral, screen control, oki...and pretty much everything else. However, once gets a few hits with his drive, a special mode called Curse activates for a short period of time, allowing Arakune to summon different bugs each time a button is released. This not only allows him to play rushdown, but makes him excel at it, more than making up for how bad he is normally when in the hands of a skilled player.

    First Person Shooter 
  • Generally used across most games, to prevent one weapon class outperforming others. Snipers will usually have infinite range, but are not suitable for spraying down enemies at close range, due to slower fire rates (semi-automatic or bolt-action) and poor hipfire spread. Shotguns, on the other hand, are potent up close, but their shots evaporate at a middle distance. Assault rifles sit between these two extremes as a Jack of All Trades class. Machine guns and launchers provide heavy firepower, but slows their wielders to a halt, while submachine guns and pistols hand out rapid lethality at the cost of per-shot damage.
  • GTFO has 4 melee weapons that all have advantages and disadvantages over each other.
    • The Sledgehammer has high base damage, and is generally useful in any situation, making it a good Jack-Of-All-Trades weapon that doesn't excel in any particular category.
    • The Spear has lower damage than the sledgehammer but has the longest reach out of any melee weapon and can pierce targets, allowing you to hit multiple enemies with a single thrust, making it a very low-risk weapon that excels in zoning enemies.
    • The bat charges attacks faster than either the spear or sledgehammer and consumes far less stamina than they do, and it excels in staggering enemies and breaking environmental objects (such as locks), but this is offset by low base damage.
    • The knife has the lowest base damage of any weapon, but it has a hidden 2x damage multiplier against sleeping enemies, has the fastest charge time of any weapon, and the attacks consume no stamina. Kills with the knife also make less noise than the other 3 melee weapons, so enemies are less likely to wake up if you kill sleeping enemies in close proximity. The knife excels in stealth situations and fights against smaller, weak enemies, but is the worst option for larger enemies.
  • In Team Fortress 2, the nine classes form a rather nuanced balance to one another.
    • Scouts are Fragile Speedsters who can deal intense close up damage but must avoid being hit, making them vulnerable to Heavies. They are also greatly limited when encountering an entrenched Engineer, because Sentry Guns have auto-aiming functions that take the guesswork out of hitting a Scout.
    • Soldiers are Jack of All Stats with high healthpools, great damage output with rockets, and excellent mobility with their rocket jumps, but are large targets with the second slowest running speed in the game, and can have their rockets reflected at them by Pyros.
    • The Pyro is a counter to Spies and projectile spam, but must rely on surprise or teammates to overcome their poor ranged options. This makes them weaker to Heavies, whose weapons cannot be deflected by the Pyro's special compressed air blast and who can out-damage the Pyro. The Pyro can also be shut down by the Engineer, whose Sentry Gun grossly out-ranges almost all available Pyro weapons.
    • The Demoman has high damage and the best zoning in the game, but Scouts will spell his end due to having no reliable close-range weapons (besides his melee weapon, anyway). The Demoman is also a victim of Crippling Overspecialization—while his play styles are powerful, none of them are nearly as well rounded as the Soldier, and they demand that he either use explosives and risk self damage or get extremely close to the enemy, making him weak to agile foe that can evade or deflect his attacks.
    • The Heavy is the Mighty Glacier with 300HP (the highest in the game, being more than double that of the Scout, Spy, Sniper, and Engineer and twice as much as the Medic) and an anti-aircraft minigun that mows people down in seconds, but his mobility is so poor that without careful positioning he cannot escape from damage dealt to him, making him vulnerable to Snipers, Spies, and reasonably accurate Demomen or Soldiers.
    • Engineers deploy and maintain a variety of utilities, including Teleporters, Sentries and Dispensers, but they all take significant time to deploy, and Spies can easily sap their sentries if they know what they are doing. Their equipment is also slow to build and relocate, meaning a Soldier or Demoman can quickly destroy an Engineer setup.
    • The Medic can heal people and deploy the game-changing Ubercharge, and the only counter to an enemy Medic's Uber is a ready Ubercharge of your own; however, an unprotected Medic is a fairly easy kill for fast or accurate opponents like a Scout or Spy, and generally at the top of the priority list.
    • Snipers defy the game's built-in long-range damage reduction by using their Sniper Rifle and delivering an instant death headshot from across the map, but have horribly low health and no one-on-one combat potential with any other class. In their constant zoomed-in state, Snipers are vulnerable to Scouts, Pyros, and especially Spies.
    • Spies can turn invisible, sap Engineer buildings and One-Hit Kill any class with a Back Stab, but are generally incapable of facing off against other classes in a straight-up fight outside of their revolver, including the Medics. They are also not particularly fast and easily discovered and eliminated with by Pyros and Scouts.
    • This also applies somewhat with the weapons choices themselves. All alternative weapons are fairly balanced, incoporating necessary drawbacks wherever a definite advantage is applied, and using unique effects instead of just stat fiddling. You could have a battle between two of the same class, with completely different loadouts, requiring a completely different playstyle for each, yet still being incredibly well-balanced.

    Game Console Specific 
  • The Atari 2600 provides competitive balance in two-player games by way of its difficulty switches, which gives novice players a slight gameplay advantage over stronger players or alternately gives stronger players a handicap to deal with novice players.

    Mecha Game 
  • Virtual-ON, a Vehicular Combat game with Humongous Mecha. The Jack of All Stats is the Temjin and Apharmd lines, with the former being simply well balanced and the latter being absolutely brutal at close range. Representing the Fragile Speedster are the Viper and Fei-Yin series, both of which are smaller and agile, but can't take hits very well. In early games, the Belgdor and succesors offer examples of Glass Cannon designs, being somewhat fragile but possessing great hitting power. Bal series are Squishy Wizard, with overall low stats but have nasty trick for those who can master their Attack Drone (including AI). Finally, the Raiden and Dorkas are clear Mighty Glacier most of the time, being among the largest and most powerful but least maneuverable designs in the series.
  • The Armored Core series sees just about every possible facet of this system, and (at least, after a bit of trial-and-error with regulations files) it generally avoids Game Breakers.
  • MechWarrior has four weight classes—generally speaking, it has its Fragile Speedster light 'Mechs, its Jack of All Stats medium 'Mechs, its semi-Lightning Bruiser heavy 'Mechs, and Mighty Glacier assault 'Mechs. The weight classes remain competitive by having different roles on the field and ensuring that bigger doesn't always equal better, especially in double-blind games.
    • Lights provide the greatest recon ability as well as the largest number of electronic-warfare options. They are usually the most agile option on the field as well. To balance this out, most lights carry limited weaponry with short ranges and equally limited armor, and most can be brought down fairly quickly. The class' exemplar is probably the Raven, which carries a suite of ECM and sensors that will give unprepared opponents fits, but can be brought down by one good hit and has only three light weapons.
    • Mediums provide a combination of speed, armor, and firepower to fill out a battle lance without slowing it down the way a larger 'Mech might. Most mediums have a good degree of each asset, though not the most. As a result they can be adapted to fight at almost any range and any role, but not as well as the designs tailored for it. The Griffin embodies the spirit of medium designs, having decent speed, decent armor, and decent ranged weapons, enough to fight almost anywhere, at least for a while.
    • Heavies are almost the natural choice for a competitive game. While moving slower than the lighter classes, their armor and weapons are inherently superior, and most of them aren't too slow. Heavy 'Mechs will likely end up in the thickest of the fighting, but must rely on their armor rather than their agility to survive. The Thunderbolt is a good example of a heavy 'Mech due to its thick armor and impressive array of weapons, hampered only somewhat by modest ground speeds and heat dissipation abilities.
    • Assaults are the largest, toughest, most well armed units on the field. Most carry large numbers of long-ranged weapons or devastating short ranged broadsides, but even the most agile examples of the weight class are sluggish at best and relatively easy to outmaneuver if against a smaller, faster opponent. While it may take lighter 'Mechs forever to chip through their armor, a sneaky one can do so with relative impunity. The Atlas is far and away the iconic assault—big, slow, and mean as hell.
  • S.L.A.I.: Steel Lancer Arena International has five standard manufacturers with differing design philosophies that play into the game's competitive balance—Justified, due to the game's setting being an arena combat sport. They have to appeal to the different tastes of various players in-universe.
    • Japanese manufacturer Kojima produces the Proton, a Fragile Speedster that relies on its fast ground speed and good jumping ability to evade destruction. Their weapons are generally focused on close range combat.
    • Russian manufacturer OMSK produces the KNT, a lightweight Glass Cannon that has low-to-average armor at best, but decent agility and camouflage values to make the most of its excellent long range weapons.
    • Italian manufacturer Ventuno produces the Carro, a Jack of All Stats machine that is extremely well balanced in all areas with a diverse spread of weapon choices, most notably a very large Vulcan cannon.
    • German manufacturer S&V Ma. Fabrik produces the Zwerg, a stronger but slower Stone Wall design with good armor but relatively medicore ranged weapons—its main strengths lie in its potent melee attacks.
    • American manufacturer American Stars produces the Hartman, an undisputed Mighty Glacier that suffers from slow ground speeds and short jumps, but boasts thick armor and hideous amounts of high-tech firepower.
  • Heavy Gear's video game adaptations feature a variety of machines, all of which generally fall into the typical arrangement of the Fragile Speedster light Gears, Jack of All Stats medium Gears, semi glacier heavy Gears, and Mighty Glacier walkers. There is some variation with individual designs, at least, such as the Naga walker being more of a Glass Cannon or the lightweight Gila being a tiny Lightning Bruiser for its size.

    Platform Game 

    Puzzle Game 
  • Mr. Driller has a total of 7 characters, each one with their own stats; it varies from characters with slow speed but slow air cost, to speedsters with fast air cost rate.
  • The (currently) 40 usable planets in Meteos differ in nearly every aspect, from the types and quantity of Falling Blocks present and the speed they fall to playing field width and quantity of garbage blocks both sent and received. There are many more differences dealing with game mechanics specific to the series, but suffice to say that separate strategies are needed playing as and against each planet. Each game to date has illustrated this by having the blocks take different appearances for each planet. In the original DS game, for instance, Freaze's blocks look normal but are frozen over, while Gigagush takes on an 8-bit style with animated blocks resembling Space Invaders. By Meteos Wars, every planet has been pretty well balanced with a few exceptions, under normal circumstances.

  • Being entirely Pv P and having a booming competitive scene, Dota 2 relies on multiple angles of balancing to keep the game in a stable state:
    • Carries start out weak but grow over the course of the game to become the strongest hero on the map. They typically have very low damage at the early levels, offer little to no utility for the team and are prone to dying when targeted. Give them some time to farm gold, however, and they become fearsome beasts capable of single-handedly winning the game. Playing against a team that has more "carry potential" than you do means you have a window to end the game quickly — but if you don't, you're screwed.
    • Mid heroes are typically a Lightning Bruiser with high-damage output and mobility, but rely on their snowball to keep rolling to dominate the game. If they are stalled out or get countered in their aggression, they can fall behind and become less useful.
    • Offlaners are Stone Walls who can absorb punishment and offer good crowd-control spells. They can charge recklessly into fights and lock down the enemies, but don't really offer the damage by themselves and rely on the team to follow up.
    • Supports are the strongest in the early game, and have game-changing spells with great utility. However, they are usually a Squishy Wizard who also doesn't get much gold, and end up having to be extremely careful as the game goes on or they could die without using any of their spells.

  • World of Warcraft has twelve character classes with an average of three talent trees each (one class has four, another has two), making for a total of 36 builds to balance against each other in small group PvE, large group PvE, arena PvP, and battleground PvP, across 110 levels and 15+ tiers of gear, and this doesn't even count variant builds and racial bonuses. That this task is impossible is mitigated only by Blizzard's determination to try, and balance has consistently improved over time despite the protests of the fanbase. Dueling, or one-on-one PvP, is the sole place they've disclaimed attempts to provide perfect balance, as that would inevitably lead to all classes being the same.
  • Pangya: Scout [Ken/Nuri] and Hana [Erika/Hana] — the Mario and the Ken (appropriately enough) as they are the starting characters for male and female players.
  • City of Heroes: The roles tend to be rather fluid, but generally the Blaster and sometimes Corrupters and Defenders fall into Glass Cannon, Brutes and some Scrappers fall under Mighty Glacier, Tankers and some Brutes tend toward Stone Wall, Dominators and Controllers come off as somewhere between Glass Cannon and Mighty Glacier, and Masterminds, depending on the quality of the build, can be either a Jack of All Stats, a Joke Character, or a Lethal Joke Character, or a straight-up Lightning Bruiser.
  • Nexus Clash has twenty endgame classes and a lot of build variation between them, making exact balance difficult. The series' status as a self-identified Perpetual Beta means that the developers are willing to regularly introduce changes that shift balance and adapt to those changes, so while they're dedicated to keeping classes from being bad, which one is the best is highly debatable and subject to change.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • StarCraft uses this as well. The Terrans are a mixture of Glass Cannons and Jacks; per unit cost, their units have less HP than any other, but they can do fearsome damage. The Protoss are a combination of the Mighty Glacier and Squishy Wizard; their units have the highest HP per-unit-cost, and their spellcasters can be game-changing. The Zerg are naturally Fragile Speedsters, but with some attributes of the Glass Cannon. Their units are cheap, fast, and fragile, but per-unit-cost, they do lots of damage over time. Their speed extends even into how they produce units. The Protoss and the Terrans have production buildings that can make one unit at a time each; the Zerg have a production building that can make 3 at once, and they'll have lots of them lying around since they need them to expand. The Zerg also produce all of their units from the same place, so they can quickly adjust strategies and change up their army.
    • Interesting in that their play speeds are inverted when it comes to building structures. The slow but strong Protoss have the easiest building method where only one unit needs to begin construction and then the building builds itself letting one unit set up all the buildings it can quickly then going back to work in seconds. Zerg on the other hand have their drones BECOME the building meaning each building costs one drone permanently making it the slowest and costliest method. And Terran SCVs must stick to constructing a new building until it is completed, and only after that can the SCVs be freed up for other tasks.
  • Impossible Creatures has 127,392 possible "characters", but these are simply specific combinations of two creatures, from a pool of seventy-five. Of the creatures, many fit into a character tier:
    • Cheetahs are the Fragile Speedster.
    • Scorpions and lobsters are Mighty Glaciers.
    • Dragonflies are Glass Cannons all the way.
    • Bombardier Beetles are the Squishy Wizard, but if combined with larger creatures, they can shoot poison up to 90 metres. Unlike most other ranged units, though, they don't have anything to fall back on if attacked at close range.
    • Magic Knight — chimps and porcupines can fight back if engaged at close range, and poison dart frogs poison enemies on contact.
    • The Ken — a few creatures are described as with higher stats and . Mountain lions, for example, are slightly tougher and slower cheetahs. Panthers are slightly larger cheetahs, lions are larger panthers that get bonuses for attacking in a group, etc.
    • Game-Breaker — moose. To put it in perspective, nearly every army fields some sort of moose combo by level 5 (while mammoths and elephants are The Ken to moose, so they might be used). Those that don't use moose combo either have a unit meant to kill the more common moose-lobster or moose-gorilla hybrids, and it's not unheard of for an evenly matched player to send an army of normal moose to war against genetic mutants. Their Game-Breaker status is only balanced by the fact that they cost a lot to summon, and it takes 10 minutes to reach the tech level to send out a moose hybrid even if you forgo base defense. But by this point, a single moose-lobster could take down most armies that a player would be using by the 10-minute mark.
  • Dawn of War: The first game game and its expansions eventually end up picking Competitive Balance over lore accuracy, much to the fans' displeasure.
    • The Eldar in particular were turned by successive patches into a Game-Breaker Lightning Bruiser faction in contrast of the Difficult, but Awesome Glass Cannon they are canonically supposed to be. Even worse is that despite the Eldar being supposed to be The Remnant in canon, they are one of the most Zerg Rush-heavy races in the game.
    • With the release of Dark Crusade, the firing accuracy of all ranged weapons has been severely nerfed for the benefit of melee-heavy factions like Orks and Chaos, further aided by the game automatically halving ranged damage against units currently locked in melee combat with someone else.
    • Also with the release of Dark Crusade, Ork Slugga Boys and Chaos Space Marines lost their anti-armor weapons in order to turn them from general-purpose Jack of All Trades units to dedicated anti-infantry, forcing both factions to rely on dedicated anti-armor units (Tankbustaz and Horrors) which would otherwise stay unused due to their Crippling Overspecialization. Space Marine squads retained their devastating anti-armor capabilities, since the faction does not have dedicated anti-armor infantry and of the other infantry units with anti-armor abilities, Assault Marines have a very long recharge time on their Melta Bombs and Assault Terminators are now hard-capped to one squad at a time due to being nigh-impossible to kill otherwise.
  • Pikmin Balances the nine types of Pikmin by having hazards that affect all but one type and have them differ in effectiveness in other areas.
    • Red Pikmin deal extra damage to enemies and gates and are immune to fire.
    • Yellow Pikmin can be thrown higher, are immune to electricity, can be used to conduct electricity, and can use Bomb Rocks in the first gamenote . They're also faster at digging in the third game.
    • Blue Pikmin can walk underwater without drowning. This is changed to swimming in 3. They also are the only Pikmin with average stats.
    • Purple Pikmin have the strength of ten regular Pikmin, deal more damage, have ground pound attacks when thrown, and are immune to being blown back by wind attacks. This is balanced by their rarity, slow speed, and awkward and low throw arc. 3 takes away the ground pound and increased damage.
    • White Pikmin are immune to poison, are poisonous themselves, can find buried items, and are fast. They're also rare.
    • Bulbmin are immune to fire, water, electricity, and poison. They're very rare and can't leave caves.
    • Rock Pikmin can't be crushed or impaled by enemies, carry objects faster, deal more damage when thrown, and can break glass and the shells of certain enemies. They can't grab onto enemies they're thrown at, however, and have to resort to a weak tackle after the initial throw.
    • Winged Pikmin fly and thus can avoid many hazards and can take shortcuts when carrying objects, and also slowly home in on enemies they're thrown at. They deal less damage, and carry objects slowly.

    Role Playing Game 
  • Odin Sphere: The faster paced and more action packed style introduced in Leifthrasir isn't some one-sided gameplay overhaul where the player characters become more versatile while the enemies remain the same as they were. The enemies were given more HP and they've become more aggressive and come in larger numbers, but the real notable changes were given to the bosses: In addition to having much more HP, they've turned into real sponges, and some have new attacks that are completely devastating. Then there's the exclusive bosses only found in Leifthrasir who've been made from the ground up with the new gameplay in mind, with a whole gallery of varied attacks that will annihilate those who aren't well prepared.
  • While Pokémon is an RPG, the standard battle only has one mon per side at a time, and tends to have a cross between these and the ones for RPG.
    • While official tournaments tend to just ban the major legendaries and call it a day, large portions of the fanbase have taken it upon themselves to create their own tier lists and rulesets, the most popular being Smogon's, which attempts to divide Pokémon up by usage statistics, with the special Ubers tier reserved for species that are deemed too powerful for the highest standard tier. In battles adhering to these rules, Pokémon above the chosen tier can't be used, in an attempt to give even weaker species a chance to shine against comparable foes; while the balance still isn't perfect, it does generally set things on a more equal footing.
    • Several new features were added in Pokémon Gold and Silver at least partially for the purpose of countering Psychic-types, which were overpowering in Generation I. The Dark and Steel types were introduced, which immensely helped the balance in the Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors, as Psychic-types were now weak against Dark-type moves and Psychic-type moves were now weak against Steel-types and completely useless against Dark-types. In addition, the bug that caused Psychic-types to be immune to Ghost-type moves rather than weak against them was fixed. Previously, thanks to this bug, the only attack type that Psychic-types were weak against were Bug-type moves, which were all very weak; had Ghost-type moves actually worked against Psychic-types, they would have been in the same boat, since the only variable-damage Ghost move (i.e. the only one that could benefit from the type advantage) was the very weak Lick. Gen II promptly introduced some stronger Bug-type and Ghost-type moves to compensate. Finally, there was the issue of the Special stat. Up until Gen IV, all types were either classified as Physical or Special, which would dictate the stats involved in damage calculations for moves of that type; the Physical types had separate Attack and Defense stats from the very start, but the Special types (including Psychic) used the single Special stat for both attacking with and defending against a move, so heavy hitters would automatically be able to take some punishment, and vice versa. Gen II wisely split this up into the Special Attack and Special Defense stats that the series has used ever since. This nerf to Psychic-types was also a huge buff to Fighting-types, which were nearly useless in Gen I. Aside from the huge nerf to a type they are weak against, the new Dark and Steel-types were now weak against Fighting-type moves, making them much more offensively viable.
    • The introduction of the Fairy-type in Pokémon X and Y was done at least partially for this purpose. Fairy's slot in the Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors diminish the Dragon, Fighting, and Dark types that were previously three of the most dominant types. On the flipside, Fairy's weakness provides more use offensively for the Poison and Steel types, which prior to the introduction of Fairy, were nearly worthless offensively, along with providing Fire a new defensive resistance where it had previously been very weak defensively.
  • Fire Emblem games have most or all of the main character types, with the challenge being creating a team that has the best mix for the current level. Certain characters can be gamebreakers. For example, in Path of Radiance, it is completely possible to solo the game with Ike, who after getting Ragnell, can best be described as a Lightning Bruiser on steroids, alone.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • Dragon Quest II has the three playable characters: the Prince of Midenhall has the higher offensive and defensive stats by far, but he knows exactly zero spells; the Prince of Cannock is weaker and definitely less resilient, but he can still deal decent damage and has access to several healing and attack spells; finally, the Princess of Moonbrooke has the lowest physical attack of the trio, but she learns the most powerful magic in the game.
    • Dragon Quest V has the three Heavenly Brides:
      • Bianca is a Jack-of-All-Stats Magic Knight, who learns the full Frizz and Sizz families of spells.
      • Flora is a Squishy Wizard Black Mage, with less physical strength and health than Bianca, but access to the powerful Kaboom spell, which Bianca can't use. She even has Midheal for healing options.
      • Debora is a Mighty Glacier White Mage, of all things, with only one offensive spell (Kasizzle) but much higher physical stats than the other girls and more powerful weapon options.
  • A weird instance with the Robot Girl class in Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny: They're based on the Majin/Android class, who used to be the Jack of All Stats Master of All that were gradually nerfed to being a Master of None, to the point they were removed by Disgaea D2. They received the Evilities that Sages from Disgaea 5 had, who were considered the best spellcaster class in the game. Combine the Majin's bad traits with the Sage's good traits, plus the changes to the game's systems (mainly the reduced impact on weapon levels), and you get a middle-of-the-road class that covers the Sage's supposed niche (huge AoE attacks) without outclassing others.

    Shoot Em Ups 
  • Shot types in general, especially in games where each character specializes in a particular shot type:
    • Spread Shot characters can vaporize swarms of simple Mooks no matter where they are on the screen, but in exchange such characters will often have the speeds of toy cars, and there's also the inherent property of spread shots having poor DPS against bosses. Some specific examples: Type-C from DonPachi, Sakuya Izayoi from Touhou Project, and Shinnosuke from Giga Wing.
    • Characters with linear shots are the opposite: They have concentrated firepower that can tear bosses and other armored enemies to shreds, and have higher speeds well-suited for sweeping across the screen to collect items and avoiding attacks, but crowds of enemies will make them particularly dangerous characters as moving away to safe areas will often force them to let up on whatever they're attacking. Some specific examples: Type-A from DonPachi, Marisa Kirisame from Touhou, and Ruby from Giga Wing.

    Simulation Game 
  • Star Wars: Squadrons has four classifications of starfighters, each with differing strengths and shortcomings:
    • Fighters (X-Wings and TIE Fighters): The Jacks of All Stats that can adapt to a variety of situations, but lack the overall power of more specialized starfighters.
    • Interceptors (A-Wings and TIE Interceptors): The Fragile Speedsters with the maneuverability and firepower to cut other starfighters down, but lacking in durability or the ordinance needed to take on capital ships.
    • Bombers (Y-Wings and TIE Bombers): The Mighty Glaciers that bring heavy ordinance and durable shields to a fight, allowing them to take on capital ships. Their lack of anti-starfighter weapons and mobility make them vulnerable to fighters and interceptors, however.
    • Supports (U-Wings and TIE Reapers): Combat Medic-esque ships with shields that are second only to bombers and decent mobility. What they lack in the firepower to excel in dogfights, they make up for in tools that can keep allies armed and alive while playing havoc on enemies.

    Sports Game 

    Stealth Game 
  • Of Guards And Thieves's classes are balanced this way, with each faction having different classes.
    • The Guards (thieves have night vision while the Guards don't) have the following classes:

    • The thieves (the guys actually playing a stealth game) have these classes:

    Third Person Shooter 
  • Starting with the third game, Earth Defense Force has had four classes of soldier for players to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses: the Ranger, the Jack of All Stats; the Wing Diver; the Fragile Speedster who favors energy weapons and aerial mobility; the Fencer, the Mighty Glacier that favors heavy armor and heavy ordinance; and the Air Raider the Combat Medic who can deploy health kits, force fields, and vehicles.
    • Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain changes things up a bit. All classes are now capable of using items and summoning, a privilege originally reserved for Air Raiders. Three of the classes are renamed versions of classes from previous games: the Ranger is now the Trooper, which can perform dodges and sprint indefinitely; the Wing Diver is now the Jet Lifer, which can now use some ballistic weapons; and the Fencer is now the Heavy Striker, which can project force fields. The Air Raider, meanwhile, is replaced with the Prowl Rider, who can use a BFS, zip around the battlefield with a grappling wire, and summon a giant insect to use as a mount for their Limit Break.
  • Monday Night Combat's six classes are pretty evenly distributed. The Assault is the Jack of All Stats, being mobile but not too mobile, powerful but not too powerful, etc. The Tank is the Mighty Glacier, existing to slowly plod his way through the level to the enemy base and then break stuff, which he does incredibly well. The Support is the Squishy Wizard, being a combination engineer and medic with some turret and bot buffs thrown in. The Assassin is the Fragile Speedster, having a frightening run speed and an absolutely brutal backstab attack. The Gunner is the Stone Wall, designed to shred enemy players that wander too close. Finally, the Sniper is the Glass Cannon, built around picking off enemies before they get into attacking range.
  • Splatoon balances main weapons based on how they control the space around them.
    • All players have a swift-to-deplete 100 HP, so main weapons are built with range and kill speed being inversely proportional to each other. Backline weapons, like certain Chargers and Splatlings, can attack from a long distance, but they take a longer time to splat opponents. Short-range weapons, like many Shooters and Rollers, can't approach a longer-ranged weapon head-on, but they use the maps' flank routes and cover — as well as concealment in their own ink — to safely get close enough to their opponents to deal lethal damage in a shorter amount of time.
    • Rollers, Sloshers, and Blasters have very low fire rates compared to other weapon classes, but those weapon classes are less aim-intensive and have big hitboxes that can hit over ledges. Blasters' are relatively small, but they have the unique ability to land indirect hits around corners.
    • The Rapid Blasters and the S-BLAST's long-range mode can poke at enemies from a long distance, so their explosions are smaller to compensate. Conversely, the Skill Gate Weapon of the class, the Clash Blaster, unstealthily alerts opponents with the fastest fire rate of Blasters and a short range, but it has the largest explosions too.
    • The weapon kits of the traditional long-range Chargers, either the Splat Charger or the extra-long-range E-Liter, each have an unscoped variant and a scoped variantnote . The unscoped Chargers can store a full charge in swim form (for added stealth to somewhat bypass their charge times with), and maintain their peripheral vision when charging; but scoped Chargers have slightly longer range and zoom in to their targets for added precision.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons, while not a PvP game, historically had issues with this trope. The theory was that clerics are stone walls, fighters are almighty glaciers, rogues are fragile speedsters, and sorcerers and wizards are squishy wizards. Outside of the four "basic" classes barbarians and monks are lightning bruisers, paladins and rangers are magic knights, and bards and druids are jacks-of-all-stats (and masters of none) to different extents. There's quite a bit of room for customization in there though. Unfortunately, this game brought us Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards and is in large part responsible for its spread — spellcasters were horribly overpowering for decades until the advent of 4th edition. 3.x (and its offbranch, Pathfinder) were the worst in this respect — characters were much more likely to survive into higher levels (where spellcasters quickly become gods if halfway competently played), spellcasters were stronger at low levels than they had been historically, and they had an unprecedented breadth of ability. It didn't help that PCs and NPCs were built using the same rules, meaning that spellcasting enemies were vastly more dangerous than anything else, and high level games degraded into a game of rocket tag, where whoever had their spell work first, won.
    • In 4th edition the archetypes were the basis for the class system's design, and monsters were designed using their own, separate system, resulting in the game working much better as the game no longer had to care about PvP balance — with the wonderfully ironic end result that the system ended up much more balanced for PvP combat than previous editions.
  • Magic: The Gathering has developed an elaborate metagame that is usually divided into three broad categories: Combo (the Fragile Speedster relying on IKEA Weaponry), Aggro (the Zerg Rush Glass Cannon), and Control (a Stone Wall relying on tossing a Spanner in the Works and often winning the game through incidental value). Typically, Combo kills Aggro before it can get started, Aggro overwhelms Control with sheer number of threats, and Control gets rid of Combo's keystone cards, though sometimes the wheel reverses depending on the metagame. (And, in practice, few decks can survive as purely one of these three archetypes.)
    • Second level archetypes are midrange, tempo, and ramp.
      • Midrange is a Mighty Glacier, based on playing the most impactful cards at each stop on its mana curve; it tends to handily beat control and aggro, lose to ramp, and be evenly matched with combo and tempo.
      • Tempo is a Squishy Wizard Glass Cannon. It relies on sticking some early threats and then disrupting the opponent long enough to close out the game. Tempo is good at getting and staying ahead, but bad at coming back from behind. Typically very good against Combo and Ramp, average against Midrange and Aggro, and weak to Control.
      • Ramp is a Magikarp Power Mighty Glacier that spends early turns powering up its mana base and then casting spells far more powerful than any other deck can cast at all, let alone on that turn (the most famous variant is Urza Tron, which aims to have seven mana on turn 3). It annihilates Midrange and Control, but is weak to Tempo and rarely has effective tools to fight Combo. Whether a Ramp deck is good against Aggro is highly contextual.
  • Games Workshop, the creators of Warhammer and Warhammer40000 appear to be almost utterly uninterested in paying attention to Competitive Balance, with the result that at times the metagame in both systems has been completely dominated by two factions.
    • For Warhammer it was the end of 7th edition, when Vampire Counts and Daemons of Chaos were functionally unbeatable by any faction except one of those two.
    • For 40K it was the period of time running from the release of 6th edition to September 2014 with Tau Empire and Eldar ruling the roost. Eldar in particular have drawn a lot of hate because, while the Tau Empire codex is very very strong, it is well balanced internally, with almost all units being usable. By contrast, the Eldar book is hideously powerful thanks largely to about 4 or 5 units (Seerstar, Wave Serpents, Wraithknights, Dire Avengers and Wraithknights) with most of the rest being overly expensive (Shining Spears), largely ineffective (the flyers), or both at the same time (Howling Banshees). The result of this is that a variety of differently-constructed Tau armies can be used to good effect (although Riptide spam remains the undisputed king of the heap), while Eldar armies tend to be endless clones of each other. The Wave Serpent in particular is hideously powerful, very durable, faster than average, and scoring, so it isn't going anywhere soon.
    • This kind of balance even finds its way into the lore. In some campaigns, GW decrees that the players' outcomes will become canon. Unfortunately, their best-selling armies are Space Marines, meaning a lot of inexperienced players buy them, meaning the Space Marines get steamrolled. Causing GW to declare the Marines had won moral victories, to the ire of non-Marine players.

    Other Media 

Anime and Manga

  • Invoked In-Universe in High School D×D. The Chess Motifs keep things balanced during a Ratings Game. Each powerful King gets a set of Evil Pieces to enhance their Peerage: Rooks are tanks, Knights are high-speed attackers, Bishops are magic specialists and frequently The Medic, the Queen get the best of all three. Pawns are grunts, but can Promote behind enemy lines to pick and choose their bonus. Particularly powerful Pawns may account for multiple pieces.
    The balancing effect of all of this is given center stage during the Gremory-Bael Ratings Game. Rias has a lot of powerful pieces, with Issei being all 8 of her pawns, but in a series of duels between squads of equal piece value, the more flexible Sairaorg is able to strategically pick her apart.
  • In One Piece, some Devil Fruits appear to be upgraded versions of other Devil Fruits. However, on closer examination, the "stronger" fruits either have extra drawbacks or lack certain secondary benefits.
    • The Dice-Dice Fruit allows the user to turn their own body into blades, while the Arms-Arms Fruit allows the user to turn their own body into all manner of weapons, such as blades, guns or even explosives. However, the Dice-Dice also gives the user the durability of steel blades even while untransformed, while the Arms-Arms does not.
    • The Kilo-Kilo and the Ton-Ton Fruits allow the user to alter their own weight, with a maximum weight of 10,000 kilograms for the former and 10 million for the latter. However, the Kilo-Kilo Fruit can also be used to reduce the user's weight; the Ton-Ton Fruit lacks this ability.
    • The Stone-Stone and Isle-Isle Fruits allow the user to fuse with stone and an entire island respectively. The latter is obviously more powerful, since the user can also fuse with non-stony islands and manipulate structures such as wooden houses; however, when fused, any damage inflicted on the land results in the user experiencing pain or discomfort.
  • Sword Art Online: In one episode, Kirito mentions that while SAO is horrible, it is essentially fair to all the players and gives everyone a chance to succeed. The fact that Kayaba (the one who trapped them) is a Fair-Play Villain is what leads Kirito to realize that Kayaba is actually in there with them, and they might be able to end the game early by challenging him.

Fan Works


  • In Babe Ruth: Man-Tank Gladiator man-tanks come in three styles: Heavy, the largest, strongest, and slowest style; Agile, the fastest and most nimble; and Long-reach, with extending tentacles capable of extending a good distance. The Heavy can withstand the most of the Agile's attack and lay it out easily if it hits. The Agile can dodge the Long-Reach's attack and slip in close enough to hit it almost unchecked. And lastly, the Long-Reach can easily attack the Heavy from a distance, leaving it unable to hit back.
  • Threadbare: The world of Generica is an RPG Mechanics 'Verse. While it is far from perfectly balanced, there is always something keeping the most overpowered Jobs from becoming too powerful, whether it be slow growth, narrow specialization, or just weird and bizarre requirements to unlock it. This is referred to in-universe as "nerfing."
    Mrs. Fluffbear: What is "nerfing?"
    Zula: Nerf. God of whiners, losers, and all-around suckage.
    Garon: Actually Mum, he's the god of honor and fair play.
    Zula: Dat's what I say.

Live-Action TV


  • A few pinball machines made by Stern allow the player to pick between different sets of rules (which are quite similar to picking characters or civilizations in video games), and the people who make these rules go to great lengths to make sure they are reasonably close to each other in potential for high scores. (Said balance is imperfect, of course, and leads the the unusual concept of pinball machines having Character Tiers):
    • AC/DC was the first such release: At the start, the game asks the player to pick a song. Although the Song Jackpots and multiballs function the same through all modes, the song affects how the player can initiate building the points value for the Song Jackpots, and how quickly they can build it up. For instance, "T.N.T." requires the most shots to light the rest of the playfield for more jackpot-building at 4 and has below-average jackpot build-up, but in exchange, it contains the game's earliest Album Jackpot (due to "T.N.T." being the band's earliest song used in the machine). "Hell's Bells," on the other hand, can begin with one shot to the bell in the middle, scores high, and will do double-scoring for the next 20 seconds once the bell has been shot the third time, but said shot is pointing at the center drain, meaning you have a high chance of losing the ball each time you shoot the bell. This machine has undergone many patches giving certain songs Nerfs and others Balance Buffs, meaning the songs are reasonably balanced.
    • Game of Thrones prompts the player to pick a house at the start (though doing nothing defaults to House Stark). Each house provides a different benefit, such as House Lannister providing higher Gold payouts and House Martell allowing you to add an additional ball to any multiball whenever the player wants; and the first mission you receive will be of the house you chose, with the rest having to be activated before they're ready. There have been very few balance patches to this game, however, so while the attempt is there, the tiers for Game of Thrones are farther apart than they are with AC/DC.

Western Animation

  • Briefly invoked in the credits of the Gravity Falls episode dealing with video games: Dipper, Mabel, Stan and Wendy are shown as sprites in a game. When the cursor moves to Stan, he mentions that he's slow but jumps higher.
  • The four Bending Arts in the Avatar: The Last Airbender series' follow this general balance.
    • Waterbending sits between Jack of All Stats and Stone Wall, focusing on being flowing, flexible, and able to transition from defense to offense. Earthbending is the Mighty Glacier, focusing on being as strong and unmovable as a rock. Firebending is the Glass Cannon, focusing on being aggressive and powerful. Airbending is the Fragile Speedster, focusing on being free and untouchable like the wind. While it is possible for a Bender to adopt a fighting style atypical of their element (i.e. an aggressive Airbender or a defensive Firebender) it is still necessary to have the base mindset down to get a decent grip on it.
    • This presents a challenge for the Avatar, the one person capable of all four elements, as they have to embrace a mindset opposite of the one they were raised on: Aang struggles with Earthbending and Firebending due to his passive, goofy, conflict-averse nature, while Korra's struggle to master airbending was one of the major plot points of the first season, having easily mastered the other three.
    • It's even present In-Universe with pro-bending, a six-player sport that requires a firebender, earthbender and waterbender to fill out different roles.

    Real Life 
  • Equipment and fighting styles in Roman gladiator matches were highly regulated to ensure an entertaining fight, and it was very common for a gladiator of one school to go against one of another — provided the two were compatible. For example, a common matchup had a retiarius — a Fragile Speedster armed with a trident and net — up against a secutor — a Mighty Glacier with a huge shield and small sword.