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Cool, but Inefficient

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"All right, yeah, it gets six miles to the gallon on the highway, and three miles around town... y'know, the air conditioner doesn't work so well, and it's not very comfortable, um... but I just look so damn good in it, y'know what I mean?"
Clem, about the department's new Hummer, Reno 911!

In the future, we will have Ray Guns, space-food, and all other manner of things replacing current day technologies. Sadly, they will also be far less efficient than what we have today, raising the question of why people invented them in the first place. Sometimes they don't work as well as what we already have, sometimes they work as well or better but require too much additional work, sometimes they're just annoyingly prone to Phlebotinum Breakdown.

Such technology is never useless in the show or movie's universe, and seeing it in action defines this trope. Sometimes its shoddiness serves to add drama to the plot; at other times, the only reason for it being there is to look cool and futuristic.

This is not in the least helped by a tendency not to do the research; futuristic rayguns also tend to lack some of the most common-sense niceties of modern firearms. The most frequent mistake is the lack of a trigger guard, anything vaguely resembling sights, a shoulder stock, or anything else to give you an edge over just firing from the hip, or indeed a rate of fire better than a flintlock.

Sci-fi spacecraft, in general, heavily tend to fall into this trope. Wings, fins, streamlined designs, and pointless projections stud the outside of spacecraft never intended to enter an atmosphere. Most modern portrayals are savvy enough to at least justify streamlined spacecraft. Star Trek leaves gaping voids in the middle of their spaceships, but in-universe, this is because the warp fields generated by the nacelles necessitate them being kept at some distance to the rest of the ship. Likewise, the Alliance ships in Firefly look nice because of their vertical ship alignment, but the placement of the engines is to keep the ships from ripping themselves apart every time they accelerate. Alternately, one could build along the lines of the Discovery from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but even its comparatively utilitarian shape doesn't account for gigantic radiator fins to bleed off heat from its gas-core nuclear reactor/main engine.note 

Notice that this is Truth in Television, as several armies through history have used awesome but inefficient weapons to lay fear among enemy ranks. See Zack Parsons' book My Tank is Fight! for some examples.

See also Awesome, but Impractical (which is where there actually is a genuine advantage to using the stuff, but the added drawbacks, conditions, and/or costs are so substantial as to limit its usefulness) and Cool, but Stupid. Compare Useless Superpowers. Contrast Boring, but Practical. Often the Required Secondary Powers are the underlying reason why something is Cool But Inefficient. And also see Crippling Overspecialization which overlaps with this trope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Initial D, Takeshi Nakazato sees drifting as unnecessary flashiness, instead favoring a more Boring, but Practical grip-driving style.
  • Discussed quite a bit in Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, where the Film Club are commissioned by the Robot Club to do a short film about a Humongous Mecha battle. The leader of the Robot Club is a big-time Real Robot Genre purist, and tries to take pains to make the film as realistic as possible (to inspire people in real life to build giant robots), but when realism ends up on the table, the Film Club start nitpicking the idea because the phrase "realistic mecha" is kind of a contradiction in terms. After all, a humanoid robot isn't very stable or agile once scaled up to the point where it can carry a pilot, and it can't carry very heavy weapons or armor, and it's really tall, which makes it an easy target — and even if a technologically-advanced culture did manage to solve all those problems, they could probably do a much better job throwing the resources needed to make a combat robot usable into making tried-and-tested vehicles like tanks even better. This causes the head of the Club to have a small breakdown, admitting that he knows his dream of combat-ready mecha will probably never come true, but being a giant robot pilot is his lifelong dream, so he wants to persist in the idea even if he knows it'll never come true.
  • Lampshaded in Episode 7 of Neon Genesis Evangelion, wherein a character points out that an ordinary nuclear-powered Humongous Mecha with conventional weapons is a much more practical solution to the Angel threat than using genetically engineered cyborg monsters piloted by mentally ill children and powered by the souls of the pilots' dead mothers. The only reason why the latter is used instead of the former is because conventional weapons cannot penetrate the Angels' AT fields, whereas mentally ill children and the souls of their dead mothers can.
  • Tiger & Bunny has Good Luck Mode, a "super mode" that does fuck all when it comes to actually enhancing the title duo's abilities — but doesn't it just look so cool?
  • In One Piece, Ganfor's mount Pierre, a large bird, ate the Horse-Horse Fruit, enabling it to become a pegasus-like creature. This serves no benefit whatsoever beyond looking cool, since it can already fly and carry Ganfor in its bird form. In fact, the Devil Fruit powers' drawback of making their users unable to swim ends up resulting in Pierre being unable to escape by itself after Shura knocks it into a lake.

    Comic Books 
  • A minor character in Empowered is a cowboy-themed hero, Single Action, who uses plasma-shooting revolvers. A frustrated Thugboy points out that manually cocking your guns went out of style for a reason; at that point, he has to put a lot of work into making a revolver's mechanisms play ball with making it an Energy Weapon, and all it does is make the gun worse. Single Action weakly defends himself by claiming he just thought it looked cool.
  • In Fables, magical artifacts native to the Homelands are capable of powerful and varied effects such as the Vorpal Sword being able to cut through anything or the Mirror on the Wall being the perfect spying device while on the same plane. However they cannot be mass produced and mundane weaponry is a serious threat to the Adversary's regime. The Adversary is well aware that mundane technology is Boring, but Practical by comparison, but eschewed it because allowing the spread of technology that could allow a peasant to kill a mage would have been all but inviting massive rebellion.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Mr. Hyde helpfully points out Lesson Three to the inhabitant of a Tripod — whilst the whole 'three-legged tripod of death' thing looks awesome, should something happen to one of the legs (like, say, a superpowered psychopath physically wrenching one of them off), then good luck remaining upright with only two.
  • The Remo The Destroyer comic featured at one point (in the hands of the bad guy) a prototype gun, intended by the manufacturers to be a standardized field weapon, that fired a nuclear explosive. Blast radius? 5000 meters. Range of a shot? 1800 meters... maybe... with the wind in the right direction. Suffice to say, it didn't sell.
  • Every Rube Goldberg Device from Rube Goldberg's comic strips. Even more so because of the need to create the darn things in the first place.
  • One of the stormtroopers in Twisted Toyfare Theatre built a three sided lightsaber. He ended up accidentally cutting his own hand.
  • A lot of Watchmen involves the idea that superheroes are this. Pretty much every time we actually see any of the characters busting criminals, they're shown to do that job very well... but as Dan points out in retrospect of his own career, you don't need an individual with years of martial arts training and expensive gadgetry to break up mob rings or catch purse-snatchers when a moderately funded police force can do the same dang thing. In a world where there aren't equally grandiose supervillains, a superhero is just a waste of talent and resources. The only superheroes shown to accomplish anything particularly meaningful are the ones to abandon crimefighting altogether in favor of government or corporate work.
  • An issue of Astro City features an actor and former stuntman who plays a superhero in a TV show try to stop a real-life robbery in progress, while in full costume. While he does manage to take down the guy, he realizes very quickly that his outfit was made to look cool on a TV budget, not actually fight in: the armor is mostly thick plastic, it includes jutting teeth on the chestplate that poke into his gut, and his Wolverine Claws snap right off when he throws a punch with them.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In The Black Emperor the Burai is touted as the first Japanese Knightmare Frame, but is noted by several to just be a Glasgow with improved armor on the forearms and a chest cannon. Unlike later models, Glasgows are fragile enough that an rpg can take one out and have such poor performance that Kallen, one of the best pilots in the world, struggles against average pilots in Sutherlands. As a result, when the Black Knights get a shipment of them, Zero strips them down to their cockpits and repurposes them as training simulators until his own Knightmares are completed.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: The boy chosen for Weiss' Arranged Marriage is very muscular, in that he has exercised in such a way to appear muscular and attractive. When he goes on a nature hike, it quickly becomes apparent that he has no real-world physical experience, and he is soon exhausted. In contrast, Sun and Weiss, who are training to be a Huntsman and Huntress and have much more slender builds, don't even break a sweat walking through the woods with heavy packs. Weiss, who is a Squishy Wizard by Huntress standards, ends up carrying the boy's pack in addition to her own with no apparent extra effort.
  • In Discordant Note, Harry derides swords as being worthless for anything but fighting a single unarmored opponent. Against an armored opponent you're better off using a club or axe which can injure them without having to target weak points. In open warfare, most uses spears or polearms which have far greater reach than a sword. In his words, people just like using swords because Heroes Prefer Swords.
  • Slade Princeton in Jaden's Harem: Return of the Supreme King uses a Duel Monsters deck constructed entirely out of ghost rare cards despite them having literally no benefit over their more common variations.
  • The Night Unfurls: Lampshaded by Kyril in Chapter 11 of the original regarding the Ancestral Weapon of the Pantielle family — the gilded sword is merely for ceremonial purposes rather than practical ones. Kyril preferred Boring, but Practical weapons actually used for killing, not something that would break over his knee in one go.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A League of Their Own: One of the things that annoys the female baseball players is having to wear miniskirts as part of their uniform for no reason other than fanservice, even though the skirts provide zero protection for their legs when they slide into bases. This led to one of the players getting a ginormous bloody bruise on her thighnote . Needless to say, women who play softball today naturally wear full-length pants just like their male counterparts.
  • Taken literally with Back to the Future Part III, when Marty helps Doc with a massive steam-powered machine built in the old west — that creates a single dirty ice cube.
  • In Demolition Man, the plasma gun used by Simon Phoenix is a subversion. At first it takes minutes to recharge; Simon uses it anyway, because he likes to see things blow up. However, this was because it had been in storage in a museum and had to reachieve fusion first. Once it had recharged itself it was firing plasma bolts as fast as a pump-action shotgun would be firing slugs.
  • In The Foreigner, Quan blows up a bathroom in Hennessey's building with a bomb that he intentionally designed to be flashy yet do minimal damage in order to send the message "If I Wanted You Dead...".
  • Galaxy Quest lampshades this. The ship that they use is based off the ship from the Show Within a Show, and it's designed with giant fans, fire pits, and gratuitous explosions. Why? To make it harder to get from point A to point B, for plot purposes.
  • In Iron Man, the arc reactor that powers Stark Industries is implied to be this, kept only as a publicity stunt, until Tony Stark is able to build a much more efficient prototype in a cave! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!
  • The Island featured weapons that fired barbed hooks, like a taser, used to stop escaped clones. Except the hooks were bigger and looked more painful, and the thing didn't give an electric charge to subdue the struggling victim, now in horrible pain from having two huge anchors shot into his skin.
  • Jack the Giant Slayer: The castle portcullis consists of two metal gates that slide together — which means it takes longer to close, and is much easier to force open, than a normal portcullis.
  • The attempt in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom to weaponize the Indoraptor was observed to be this in more than a few reviews. Basically, they engineer a Hybrid Monster that's incredibly dangerous in its own right, and direct it using a laser pointer that causes it to savagely attack anything that gets marked. Lethal, sure... but in what situation is lugging around a grizzly bear-sized Ax-Crazy monster, then bringing out the pointer and aiming it at your target at close range, and finally waiting for your pet monster to chase them down and attack them, more effective than just taking out a gun and shooting them?
  • Mystery Men has the Blue Raja, an Indian-themed superhero who can throw silverware with unerring accuracy... but not knives or other bladed cutlery. Just spoons and forks. Maybe a pie server if he was really pressed.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera has translucent sheets of plastic for paper. One wonders how exactly you can read only the top page and not the stuff underneath.
  • RoboCop (1987):
    • Acknowledged with the ED-209. The OCP Vice President Dick Jones mentions that he doesn't care whether or not ED-209 works, rather that it is marketable enough to be purchased by the military, and that OCP has an exclusive contract on repairs and spare parts. ED-209, while deadly (it's the first thing in the whole movie that could hurt RoboCop, who otherwise needs high explosives, mass concentrated gunfire, or being smashed under a ton of scrap metal to be impeded throughout the first movie), is extremely faulty; it is unable to distinguish a surrendering "hostile" (really an OCP employee in a demonstration), thus brutally killing the man, its arm cannons can swivel enough to blast each other off, its large feet and digitigrade legs render it unable to maneuver down stairs, it has a big vulnerable air intake at its front, and both of its hands are guns, rendering it incapable of doing something as simple as putting handcuffs on a criminal. Designer Craig Davis claims he intentionally designed ED-209 to make it look like its fictional designers were more concerned about making it look cool than making it work well— "just like an American car". The second film shows that when it was adopted, it had numerous issues, with one of the news clips showing it trapped by an open manhole. In the third film, it's easily reprogrammed by a child with a laptop.
    • The 6000-SUX car is top of the list when a small time criminal demands a new car which has reclining leather seats, goes really fast and gets really shitty gas mileage. The commercial for the 6000 SUX specifically notes - 8.2 mpg!
  • In Starship Troopers, the standard-issue Morita assault rifle of the Mobile Infantry features an underslung pump shotgun and fires a hefty round that can punch through two inches of solid titanium and blow an Arachnid's limb clean off with one shot. However because of the ridiculously overpowered round, troopers shoot like graduates of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy when firing on full-auto (which they need to do as Arachnids Feel No Pain and will keep fighting no matter how badly hurt they are) and worse, the guns seem to even lack basic iron sights.
    • Made more glaring as unit leaders like Rasczak use a carbine version that removes the shotgun and has sights, and looks much lighter and easier to wield to boot. In Real Life, the trend in modern military rifle development across all nations is towards shortening the weapon, reducing weight and improving mobility and handling (the military thinking says sheer volume of fire is nearly always what wins the day rather than range or stopping power, and a lighter rifle offsets overall carry weight when ammunition, armour and other equipment is thrown in). It raises the question why all soldiers are not equipped with the carbine variant.
  • Star Wars:
    • It perpetrates the same problems as Trek when it comes to force fields, like with forcefields replacing regular spacedoors. In this case, power failure would lead to explosive decompression of all landing bays. However, as Revenge of the Sith shows, there are typically emergency metal doors that quickly close in the event of such a power failure.
    • Perhaps the most garish example of Cool, but Inefficient technology is the Buzz Droid Missile in Revenge of the Sith. A missile is deployed which tracks its target, flies ahead of the target and then explodes to disperse small droids which then must attempt to tear apart an enemy starfighter from the outside in. Exactly how this is more efficient than simply packing the missile with high explosive and letting it hit the target first is not explained. While useful if you're trying to capture the target, they were not. Supplemental stories suggest that buzz droids are meant for use against larger capital ships or for setting up impassable areas, suggesting their use in that encounter was a desperation move, which makes a little more sense.
    • The lightsaber, which, while lethally effective, suffers the same drawback that rendered metallic swords obsolete when firearms came along: its maximum effective range is one yard plus the length of your arm. It is more effective in the hands of the people that favor them, considering their extreme reflexes and their ability to reflect your shots back at you... but only because their enemies are using the Awesome, but Impractical Slow Lasers instead of bullets despite knowing they can be reflected.
    • The Doublesided Lightsaber, which despite being more powerful and giving more slaughter-per-swing, is utilised by very few Jedi and Sith due to how insanely difficult it is to master. Without extensive training how to wield it, it's more likely the person using it will accidentally kill themselves rather than their enemies, by either impaling or bisecting themselves. The Expanded Universe once included a passing mention of a lightsabre that could suddenly double the length of the blade at the flick of a switch, which has similar problems, on top of which tended to lose power at inopportune moments.
    • Starkiller Base from The Force Awakens. Carved into a planet and given its own drive system, it's a Death Star cranked up, capable of destroying entire star systems in a single shot. However, to do so, it has to drain another star to have the required power to do so, which is an incredibly slow process, on top of which, it's stupidly expensive and manpower intensive. And it still has the same weakness as the original Death Star, albeit better armoured. Lampshaded in The Rise of Skywalker, where it's noted that whole thing was a massive waste of resources.
  • Lampshaded in Without a Paddle when one of the murderous rednecks advises the other against using a meat cleaver to try to kill the main characters. "The cleaver is scary, but inefficient".
  • Chappie: The MOOSE, much like the ED-209 from Robocop, is a walking tank that can shoot down aircraft and devastate entire city blocks with its firepower. The South African Police laugh at the thing when it gets pitched to them by the ex-military hard man Big Bad; the human-sized Scout robots that can move through buildings, pick up and use human guns and still adequately deal with 90% of perps are the much better buy.

  • Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars: Being able to move things with your mind is pretty neat, but there's no real advantage to doing so instead of just walking up to it and moving it with your muscles the way you normally would.
  • In John Steakley's Armor, during training the evolution of the Powered Armor is shown, how it got bigger and more complex and better armed and bigger and less mobile until finally it started getting smaller and simpler again. It was mentioned that the point of the change was due to the simple, spear-wielding natives discovering that their simple spears would fit into the waste evacuation port on the big suits, and through the waste tank into the solder's waste port while the soldiers inside tried to figure out how to use the highly complicated armor to kill them.
  • In the Childe Cycle stories by Gordon R. Dickson, this trope is subverted by the standard rifles: They are extremely refined bolt-action rifles, powered by mechanical springs and levers. This is explained as they are the most reliable and tamper-proof weapon imaginable, as anything higher-tech opens the opportunity for higher-tech countermeasures.
  • In the Deathstalker series by Simon R. Green, energy handguns take two minutes to recharge after one shot and are completely useless against standard issue personal shields. They're actually used because they're inefficient; the monarchy banned and hid knowledge of bullet weapons, since they were cheap enough to be used in uprisings.
  • That is defied in The Dresden Files — and getting muggles involved is something akin to nuclear strike in the supernatural community, and has been even back when humans waved torches and pitchforks around. Now, with powerful weapons, broad communications and mobilization, and fast, effective, heavy-duty transport, humans are a force to be reckoned with. A lot of technology will fail in the presence of powerful magic, but a bullet can kill a wizard or a gibbering monster just as easily as a ball of fire. (In the case of said monsters, sometimes many bullets.)
    • More directly, sparks and other special effects are a sign of inefficiency in handling magic. Harry remarks that, while his damaged-focus-based shield dripping sparks could look a little cool and his staff dripping Hellfire could look pretty impressive, all of the supernatural crowd knows that to be a sign of poor form.
  • In Dune, the onset of field-generator-shielding makes lasguns so Cool But Inefficient (firing a lasgun at a shield causes a small nuclear explosion) that nobody uses them. The fact that shields effectively stop normal ballistic weaponry as well means that all warfare needs to be conducted with swords. For that matter, even swords will be blocked by the shields if they are swung too fast.
  • A very literal interpretation in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles is the use of magic by wizards. Any lights or smoke that is not being used to produce the intended effect is excess magic that's being wasted. The more amazing and flashy their magic is, the less efficient it is, and thus the weaker their spells are. The deadliest wizards don't whirl away in a twinkling of light; they simply disappear.
  • In Christopher Anvil's short story "Ghost Fleet", the 'disrupter' weapon matched this trope: it required bulky and complex equipment, and could easily be counteracted. It hasn't been used in centuries... which means that modern spaceships no longer carry defences against it.
  • Halo EU emphasizes this point with the SPARTAN-II program. Of the 75 children conscripted, 30 were killed during the augmentation process and 12 were severely crippled. Factor in training time from age 7 to about age 14 and the costs of building and maintaining the MJOLNIR armor (each suit is said to be on par with the cost of a small starship), plus the very exclusive restrictions placed on candidates, and the Spartans are cool, but extremely inefficient, especially during the Human-Covenant War. Nonetheless, their exceptional effectiveness in ground ops is the only real edge the UNSC has for much of the war, but there are just too few of them to go around.
  • In the Potter Verse, the wizards tend to insist on doing everything by old-fashioned means and by magic, even though modern technology would often work better even than the magic.
    • Given the relative ease with which wizardly means of communication (owls, fireplaces) can be tampered with, it's astonishing that they don't just use telephones and email. Eventually the series does attempt to justify this through a combination of claiming that large amounts of magic will interfere with electronics and that enchanting technology that's too modern makes Masquerade breaches far more likely, but still... And owls for communication, how can that be anything but Rule of Cool?
    • Rowling has explicitly stated in an interview that the reason for the Masquerade is more or less that a muggle with a shotgun will beat a wizard with a wand almost every time. Which is also explored in this Sluggy Freelance parody.
    • Most of the magic-using folk are shown to be highly ignorant of the modern world. Magic has allowed their culture to stagnate at a far less-modern level; they haven't modernized because they haven't needed to. A lot of them pity people who don't live as they do — leading to a broad spectrum of opinions ranging from 'ahh, bless!' to 'do what you like with them — they are inferior'. Even Voldemort does not concern himself with 'Muggles' (they even have a derogatory word! How very White Wolf of them), just the domination of the magical community.
    • On the other hand, the series explicitly takes place in the 1990s (between 1991 and 1998, to be exact). Back then, phones were the size of tablets, computers couldn't do even one tenth of the things they can do now, there was no Facebook, no Twitter, you needed a modem to access what little existed of the Internet... But the worst part was that computers still used floppy disks. If you don't know what that is, look it up. In that light, the lack of technology is not so surprising.
  • Poul Anderson's The High Crusade took this subversion even farther: upon voyaging into space, medieval Earth knights find that the best weapon for sniper battles between space-suited infantry is their old reliable bow and arrow. It has no giveaway flash like a laser, it's a lot harder to patch a holed suit when there's an arrow sticking out of it, and the recoil sends the archer moving backwards after a shot, out of line of retaliatory fire.
  • In the first Honor Harrington novels a weapon is introduced that can bring down an enemy ships shields, which would be an in universe game-breaker, if its range wasn't so absurdly short that you're considered to be in 'point blank' energy range at roughly four times its firing range. And that doesn't even factor in the missiles which have orders of magnitude more range anyway.
    • She then proceeds to win an impossibly unbalanced fight with it. However, that is less because of the weapon than because it's Honor, who would really have preferred a full missile broadside instead, and she is quite annoyed when the developer attempts to use this event in their favor.
    • It is later revealed that the person who ordered Honor's ship outfitted with these weapons never expected it to be used in an independent deployment, and that the ship was just the testbed for using it as part of combined-arms tactics.
    • In a much later book, the Solarian League's Fleet 2000 program to modernize their fleet does provide some improvements in technology, but many of the changes are merely to make the tactical and astrogation displays more photogenic, which also impairs the actual usefulness to the SLN personnel trying to read them while in battle.
  • One of Roy Tappen's friends in The Leakey Establishment by David Langford is a computer programmer for an ancient MoD mainframe computer, who has written a program which slowly prints out an ASCII Space Invaders screen, and then at the touch of a button slowly prints out an ASCII Space Invaders screen with the gun moved to the right and the enemies progressed slightly, and so on. When Tappen asks how many centuries it takes to play a game, he says he's thought of that — the program can simulate a game without needing human involvement, and just print out your score once it's finished.
  • Similar to the Dune example, in Sergey Lukyanenko's Lord From Planet Earth trilogy, most weapons are rendered inert by neutralizing fields, resulting in armies armed with Absurdly Sharp Blades. Strange that no one thinks of using chemical or biological warfare, although given that said fields also stop destructive nuclear fission, fusion, and matter/antimatter annihilation, it isn't too farfetched to assume it also blocks these as well. Along comes a typical human male, who spent a few tours of duty in war zones on modern-day Earth, and almost immediately comes up with primitive weapons that still work in the field, such as a Deadly Disc and a gun that shoots small versions of it powered by a mix of compressed air and a magnetic coil. Cue the horrified reactions of Human Aliens used to honorable duels, when one such disc takes a man's head clean off. Definitely a case of Humans Are Warriors.
  • In the Merkabah Rider series, the Rider slays demons with an enchanted Volcanic pistol. In real life, the Volcanic was awkward to use and pathetically underpowered. The two-handed lever action never seems to impede the Rider, though, and even on the material plane the bullets are much more powerful than in real life.
  • This can also be used with the cool technology being 20th century. In Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, guns have become so dominant that everyone worth killing wears kevlar and uses metal-detectors. Anyone ready to use glass knives and bamboo spears can quickly qualify as the "ultimate badass". In a subversion, it is ultimately shown that these weapons aren't inherently superior and are effective only because no one expects them. Nevertheless, only a handful of characters learn either lesson... but one who does leads to a Double Subversion by breaking the enemy badass's glass arsenal with a sonic-boom shooting skateboard... then finishes him off with an old-fashioned shaving razor.
  • In Arthur C. Clarke's short story "Superiority", one side in an interstellar war comes up with a series of cutting-edge technological breakthroughs. Unfortunately, they are rushed into production before the bugs are worked out, and the resulting fiascoes more than cancel out the military benefits. The last straw comes when a device to stretch space around a ship (putting it far away from the rest of the universe, thus making it invisible and untouchable until the device is switched off) turns out to subtly distort everything on board, to the point where the fleet's parts are no longer interchangeable. The enemy (which has continued producing tried-and-true warship designs) then overruns their logistically crippled fleet.note 
  • The whole point of "Tomorrow Town", the short story by Kim Newman — an experimental community based on a 70's sci-fi vision of the future, full of impressive-looking but useless technology: 'nutritious' food pills that leave you hungry, modes of transport that travel at walking speed and often break down, a cleaning robot that's outclassed by any standard vacuum cleaner, and a Master Computer that can solve mathematics and technical problems but not the complexities of humanity and politics.
  • The Martian Tripod machines from The War of the Worlds. Yeah, they were scary and wreaked havoc on mankind, but their heat rays can only do so much damage at once. Though they do use chemical weapons as well (black smoke) and it's mentioned that they started building flying machines before succumbing to disease. One wonders why they didn't just use planes from the start.
  • World War Z:
    • Lampshaded when an angry veteran of the zombie war blames the loss of the Battle of Yonkers partly on the flashy, high-tech weapons used: Incendiary weapons and shrapnel were far less useful against zombies who could only be killed if their brain was destroyed. This is then subverted later on, where a number of energy weapons become the subjects of propaganda films which boost the morale of the surviving humans. Though they have no strategic value, they make a huge psychological difference.
    • The most effective weapon in the war turns out to be "The Lobotomizer"—a cross between an entrenching tool and a battleaxe, invented by Marine infantrymen.
    • One chapter mentions a kid on rollerblades, trying to fight zombies with a meat cleaver on a hockey stick. It probably looked very cool in his imagination. The actual fight didn't work out quite as well.
    • The Zombie Survival Guide cautions against many of the more photogenic resorts. Motorcycles, cars, and guns are noisy; flamethrowers and machine guns are designed to combat targets that stop moving when their muscles are destroyed; Kevlar vests only cover the torso; and so on. It's interesting to read that the person with the greatest chance of surviving is an unarmored man on a bicycle with a crossbow and crowbar.

    Live-Action TV 

  • The PPGs (Phased Plasma Guns) of Babylon 5 look cool especially when firing, but lack trigger guards, don't appear particularly accurate, and emit an audible whine when powering up (eliminating any possibility of stealthy approach). Indeed, several characters are alerted to an ambush over the course of the series by hearing the power-up whine. Hand weapons such as the Minbari pike or Good Old Fisticuffs are generally more effective at catching people unawares. However, the weapon does have some practical use in that it can do a lot of damage to organic targets and can be set to cut through reinforced doors, but its standard setting won't risk punching through the hull, unlike conventional bullets. Bullets are stated to be still be in use, but it's mainly private citizens and the occasional security force that live and operate planetside.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • Mostly inverted, as the series deliberately uses pragmatic old-fashioned technology. The Shiny-Looking Spaceships turned out to be far too vulnerable to hacking and were blown up right at the start. The choice of starship weaponry drew particular attention for its freshness and originality: it uses machine guns.
    • Played straight with the cornerless paper. Sure, it looks cool, but how do you store large quantities? On Earth, we put our cornered paper in rolls, what do they do? Although this might be more Alien but Inefficient. (Ron Moore stated in an interview that after several seasons of having to cut corners off every single sheet of paper shown in the series, which is a lot considering the ship can't use computers, he was ready to murder the art director who came up with the idea for the miniseries.)
  • The Blake's 7 episode "Weapon" had a weapon called the IMIPAK (Incipient Molecular Instability Projector And Key), a ray gun which induced incipient instability in the molecular structure of the target, after which you have to whip out and activate the Key to convert it to actual instability and thus destroy the target — except that if the target is a living being and noticed you firing the gun at him, you never get the chance because long before then, he's zapped you with his own less acronymic but far more practical weapon. It makes an excellent Explosive Leash, but as a sniper weapon it leaves much to be desired.
  • In Castle, the murder of a lottery winner leads the detectives to have a conversation about what they'd buy if they won the lottery, during which Detective Esposito says he'd buy a Ferrari. Castle, a millionaire mystery writer, points out that he has one, and it's not as great as you'd think. When Esposito insists that they're "hella fast", Castle points out that in rush hour traffic it's just as fast as any other car. Esposito and Ryan — not being millionaires — still frequently badgers and barters with Castle to get a turn driving the car at every possible opportunity.
  • In Doctor Who, the title Doctor is joined by the ex-time Agent Captain Jack Harkness who proceeds to show off his cool sonic gun which can even blow exactly square-shaped holes into whatever blocks its path, which impresses Rose, much to the Doctor's disdain. Ironically, its many extras make the gun run out of energy in a crucial moment, leaving the Doctor and his sonic screwdriver to save the day.
    • Whether or not the TARDIS falls under this depends entirely on era and writer, but at its worst, its a time machine that can miss its target by centuries and a travel machine that can miss its target by whole galaxies. It also happens to be stuck as a 1960s bright blue police telephone box that stands out everywhere it goes — sometimes. Again, its really dependent on the script as to whether this gets the Doctor nearly killed (as in the very first episode where it gets him noticed by hostile cavemen) or falls under Unusually Uninteresting Sight.
  • Firefly:
    • A run-down bar in an episode has holographic windows that don't even provide any sort of forcefield. This makes for the "window" is used as a parody/homage to the traditional cowboy movie barroom brawl, allowing the protagonist to be thrown through it without resistance. The advantage of making a hologram of something that's supposed to be transparent, though...
    • In a later episode there's a holographic set of pool balls which seem to be slightly less reliable than a real set. (In-universe example of Rule of Cool? Proprietor got tired of the regular sort getting thrown at people's heads every time there's a Bar Brawl? We may never know.) Presumably in both cases it was more about setting the scene, particularly in the window example which is at the beginning of the first aired episode which Joss explains in a commentary track was all about frantically trying to explain what was going on.
    • Laser guns apparently. One villain shows up with a fancy laser pistol that he uses to some effect, then it runs out of power partway through a fairly short fight. It's probably worth noting that neither most independent citizens nor Alliance soldiers bother with hand-held laser weapons, and this character was established as a rich idiot who liked to show off.
  • Spoofed in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Terror From the Year 5000": The Observers tell Mike that they've evolved beyond food, and get all their nutritional requirements from a tiny pill. It eventually gets revealed that they have to eat ten large bowls of them each day.
    • They also have become disembodied brains with no need for bodies... and will stubbornly assert this even when their bodies are standing there, holding their brains in trays (because their brains can't move about on their own, predictably) as well as talk and do everything else a normal person would. And of course having the brain physically separated from the rest of you invites yet another obvious risk, as happens when Professor Bobo mistakes one for sandwich meat...
  • Some of the myths tested by the MythBusters result in builds which fall into this category (those builds that don't qualify for this trope usually fall under Awesome, but Impractical). One of the best-known examples is the Lead Balloon — sure, you can build a balloon out of lead foil and have it float, but aluminum foil is stronger, lighter, safer to work with, and easier to get a hold of.
  • One episode of Reno 911! has the department blow unspent case settlement money on a kickass new Hummer for the department. It's honestly worse than the standard cars they use but it's still a police Hummer.
  • Stargate Atlantis: When the team finds a group of living Ancients in between galaxies, the reason they're still alive is that they've been in relativistic travel at 0.99999 times the speed of light for the past 10,000 years. McKay comments that flying that fast is a really impressive feat... but also not very useful in a universe where FTL Travel exists, as demonstrated by the fact that it took them 10,000 years just to get outside their starting galaxy (then again, it is eventually explained that the ship's FTL wasn't working, so they gunned the engines as hard as they could... not that it really helped them).
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Goa'uld staff weapons are highly inefficient. Eventually, we're explicitly told that they're created for terror, not for efficiency; humans find firearms (or zat guns) more useful. One episode even features a demonstration for the benefit of rebel Jaffa. The best marksman there manages to hit a stationary target two out of three times, resulting in a couple burn marks. Major Carter, on the other hand, is able to cut the log in half with a couple bursts from her P90 at the same range — then cut the rope holding it up with a single bullet.
    • There's an impractical prison that works by shifting the gravity horizontally and turning a long room into a deep pit. It has no door, fails during a power outage and could be escaped from by having a friend lower you a rope. But, dammit, it looks so cool!
    • The Goa'uld also use force fields instead of glass for windows on their spacecraft, which they attempt to justify as being necessary because glass would not hold up under the strain. Glass would at least try, unlike a force field in a power failure.
  • Star Trek's got examples by the ton:
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • An episode centers around a firearm Starfleet was planning to use when their phasers wouldn't work. The weapon was quite versatile: The person using it could not be found by normal means, and it was modified with a microtransporter so that it could shoot through walls. Even though the gun was shown to be incredibly efficient, they found a way around the phaser problem, so all work on it was dropped.
      • Another episode included Major Kira explaining why the Bajoran Resistance wasn't interested in Federation-made phaser rifles, instead opting for the Cardasian disruptor rifle. While the phaser rifle has all kinds of cool, neat gadgets and add-on features, in the field (when you don't have proper maintenance facilities and spare parts and the like) that's just more things to go wrong with it. A Cardasian disruptor rifle only has stun and kill settings, but you can lean it against a tree and leave it for ten years and it'll still work without trouble.
      • They introduced a holographic communicator (and extension of holodeck technology) to replace the viewscreen communicators, which sounds cool until you realize it needed a special podium retrofitted to send and receive from and having a person just blink into existence on the bridge or ready room gave everyone including Sisko a serious case of the creeps. It was quietly dropped as even the viewer could see that it offered no improvement over the viewscreens already in use.
    • Star Trek has also shown that forcefields are the primary means of keeping prisoners in their cells. There's no indication that a solid door wouldn't work just as well and there's no reason they couldn't use both forcefields and physical doors, like shuttle bays do. This is so prevalent an objection that the novel Spock's World revealed that prisons on Vulcan had no doors, being only accessible via transporter.
    • Star Trek: First Contact also features at least one Forcefield Window, though wisely covered with a shutter when not in use.
    • The Federation is not alone in this. The Romulans strongly favor a "warbird" motif in their starship design (their ancestors were dissident warrior Vulcans known as "Those who march beneath the raptor's wings"). Thus their D'deridex and Valdore class warbirds are actually larger than even Starfleet's Galaxy class. But much of that size is taken up by "wings" which are not needed in space and seemingly serve a purely aesthetic purpose. In terms of speed they are actually a bit slower than comparable Federation starships. They also tend to place an emphasis on Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon emplacements, rather than following Starfleet's adoption of phaser arrays which can fire in virtually any direction for which they have line-of-sight.
    • Phaser holster design. In the modern world, our holsters are ergonomically designed, with all manner of flaps and clips to keep the weapon as snug, safe and easy to draw as possible. The phasers on the first series of The Next Generation however resemble handheld vacuum cleaners and as such their holsters can be charitably described as a slot. In Star Trek Nemesis, even though the weapon is vastly smaller and neater than this version, the holster has barely changed and a light tumble across the bridge on Picard's part causes him to lose the weapon without his knowledge and nearly gets him killed when his rifle breaks. It is no exaggeration to say that we were using better equipment in the 18th century than the Federation is using in the 24th.
  • V (1983): The state of the art laser weaponry carried by the aliens in the original miniseries simply does not work. Throughout the course of the show we see people hit in the heart, the back, the side, the arm and the leg; and with the exception of a fairly impressive pyrotechnic display on impact, the only result is a grisly looking but nonetheless unimpressive little flesh wound that often fails to even slow the target down let alone kill them. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that the bows used by Alexander the Great three thousand years ago had more stopping power, had more range judging by the firing distances employed, and fired projectiles that were significantly faster as the laser bolts are laughably slow compared to arrows or bullets.

    Multiple Media 
  • The Legendary Mask of Time in BIONICLE that Makuta in disguise commissioned Vakama to create to speed up his Evil Plan. It's a mask that contains the universal force of time itself, being one of the only three Legendary Masks to exist. However, it doesn't allow Time Travel, only speeding up or slowing down a target, its power can only be controlled with excessive, torturous mental focus with a good chance it might affect the user too, and damaging the mask can cause a Time Crash, permanently wrecking reality. It constantly has to be kept safe. The mask's power is only used two times in different canon media:
    • When Vakama first uses the mask to slow down Makuta's attack in the animated film Legends of Metru Nui, he's too weak to control it and gets caught in the slowing effect. His perception speed remains normal but he can't dodge, forcing his mentor Lhikan to step in the way — and even he gets slowed down despite not being the target, barely managing to save Vakama.
    • Tahu uses it in a last ditch effort to stop the six Bohrok-Kal in the 2003 books, comics and online videos. The mask can't do that but it buys Tahu's team a few extra seconds to come up with a plan that does work. Even these few seconds exhaust Tahu greatly.
    • The most efficient use of the mask was as a bargaining chip in the book Time Trap; knowing he can't use its power, Vakama threatened to destroy it unless Makuta agreed to enter a short truce with him.
    • Even if Makuta managed to get the mask and use it as he intended to quicken the memory-erasing process of the islanders he's captured and awaken them pretending to be their god, it would have only saved him a few weeks' worth of wait. The people lose their memories anyway, so in the end creating the mask was pointless.
    • As a bonus negative side effect, using the Mask of Time signals the mutated monster Voporak who can zero in on the mask no matter where it is and steal it for his master, The Shadowed One.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin makes his snowballs into a high-effort works of art, with detailed thought put into aerodynamics, the moisture of the snow, and the composition of debris mixed in to produce maximum impact. However, when he goes to throw it at Susie, she instantly fires preemptively with a fast barrage of regular snowballs which effortlessly batter Calvin silly. A different strip shows another downside of such a detailed snowball composition; it makes it easy for Susie to confirm that Calvin was the one who threw the snowball at her just from inspecting his gloves.

  • The hosts of the engineering podcast Well There's Your Problem have a particular disdain for this kind of thinking. They often bring up how engineering is a science based on the Boring, but Practical whenever a Cool But Inefficient option is brought up as an updated or preventative measure to whatever is currently being discussed.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The BattleTech universe has a long and intricate history that attempts to justify why they bother at all with giant robots instead of conventional combat vehicles — in this case it's because of the flexibility of a humanoid form, and the durability of their modular design. They're regularly used in civilian work as well, so there isn't a shortage of competent pilots. The old Star League got past this trope and ended up nuking themselves back to the to the point where three centuries later much of their most advanced achievements still haven't been rediscovered, so most 31st century combat is deliberately kept like this to limit collateral damage. The rare incidences where nukes show up demonstrate why this is a good thing.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The splatbook Complete Arcane introduced the Warlock, a spellcaster with the ability to fire an "Eldritch Blast" from their hands at will, as well as use a small set of "Invocations", which were spell-like abilities with no restriction of use. One of these Invocations was "Hideous Blow", which allows you to make a single melee attack and add the damage from your Eldritch Blast to the damage roll. Eldritch Blast has the distinct advantages of being a 60' ranged touch attack, meaning that you can attack from a good distance and ignore most kinds of armor bonuses the target may have; both of these were lost when you used Hideous Blow. In addition, Warlocks are charisma-based casters, meaning they don't prioritize a high strength or fighter-style feats to let them actually be good fighters. The result was that Hideous Blow was much harder to score a hit with, and only doing a little extra damage, compared to just using Eldritch Blast (and saving that Invocation slot for something actually useful). When a later book added the Eldritch Glaive (a melee-attack Invocation that actually was useful), the number of HB-using players dropped from "very few" to "none".
    • The first attempt at adding early firearms in the game resulted in a musket and a pistol that were barely better than crossbows in terms of damage and range, were classified as exotic weapons and had ludicrously expensive ammunition. Crossbows were already pretty unpopular anyway since the only way to get a viable ranged character was with feats to spray enemies with arrows and only bows and repeating crossbows (the latter being exotic weapons) allow it.
    • In 3rd/3.5 edition, the Monkey Grip feat was infamously one of these. It allowed the user to either use a two-handed weapon as a one-handed weapon, or use a two-handed weapon from a creature one category size larger as normal, albeit either use gave a penalty to hit. Sure, it's cool to be swinging a sword around larger than yourself, but the extra damage is more than offset by the penalty to hit (good old Power Attack provides better scaling), and the reach rules, in an Obvious Rule Patch, made it so that you only had your normal reach even when using them. There are only two edge cases where it works — one involves a bit of Rules Lawyer interpretation on how polearms work (and can be held in check by narrow passages), and the other is only for creatures that are already categorized as Huge (i.e., over 16 feet tall) or larger in the game (none of which are listed as viable options for player characters, so only really suitable for foes).
    • In 5e, a number of subclasses in Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide are seen as this. Some require a specific race or background in order to be used. The Battlerager barbarian requires a specific armor in order for its abilities to be used, with the character also being a dwarf. The Purple Dragon Knight's special abilities use up its base Fighter abilities, with it's final special ability requiring it to fail the same saving throw as an ally in order to be used. The Crown Paladin's Divine Allegiance has less effective range than equivilent abilities of other paladins. In fact, in subclass ranking videos, as done by the Dungeon Dudes, subclasses from the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide tend to get a C ranking at best.
  • Heavy Gear actually lampshades how the titular Gears are unstable, easily damaged, and limited in striking power compared to tanks, but so much of Terra Nova's terrain is high mountains, swamps, and soft, sandy deserts that tanks just don't work in that they're worth the effort.
  • In the Iron Kingdoms Colossals were giant mechs that were made into smaller warjacks as they proved inefficient after the repelling of the Orgoth threat.
  • The Humongous Mecha from Macho Women with Guns is described as "...dominated the battlefields until people realized what a ridiculous idea they were."
  • Monopoly:
    • Hotels. They give a decent boost to rent, but you're far better off having three houses since there are only 32 houses in the game. If you have even one monopoly you've reduced the available houses for other players by about a third: not paying your opponents as much when you land on their properties is far more profitable than the roughly $100 or so extra you'd get from a hotel.
    • The green properties are expensive and generate a lot of rent, but only when your opponents land on them: statistically they are the least likely properties to land on so developing them is largely a waste. Since they're not landed on often, their best use is either mortgaging or letting your opponent burn money by developing them.
  • Traveller uses good old-fashioned slug throwers (guns with bullets) even in far future society. There are lasers and plasma rifles, but good old-fashioned guns are as good as the former, and the latter are big and heavy and require battle armor to use.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • It's in love with this trope, although it has some spectacular cases of boring but practical as well. Huge spaceships made to look like cathedrals? We got them. 300-meters-tall walking robots with castles on their shoulders? Elite close combat troops armed with chainsaw swords and 'shuriken pistols'? Tanks with guns so big they have other, smaller, guns strapped to them? Armies made up of 95% Cannon Fodder and a few good units and vehicles? Hordes of unarmed civilians supported by about 6 daemons? Oh boy, do we ever got them. Some armies even go as far as to make up reasons why these things have to be like this. For instance, the Chaos Marines (badass evil army whose cannon fodder is capable of withstanding a black hole) Codex explains that they only have weird symbols on walls and sharpened teeth because they feel cooler when they do. Also, asking them WHY they are evil is answered with "why not?" The Imperium of Man, meanwhile (they of the giant cathedral spaceships), lost all knowledge of why their technology works so long ago that a religion has built up to fill the void. They go and make everything super-ornate to please the "Machine Spirit" who animates their technology and think that if they lay off the pomp, everything will break.
    • The standard sidearm for military officers of the Imperium is the Bolt Pistol. It fires .75 caliber depleted-uranium rocket-propelled grenade rounds instead of bullets. Space Marines use the same gun but in the form of a sub-machine gun.
      • Note also that Bolt rounds are generally designed to penetrate armor and detonate inside the target, doing incredible damage to single targets, rather than being airburst munitions. Still, bolters are in use for a reason; Space Marines have high-quality Powered Armor that takes an armor-penetrating bullet to crack, but also have highly redundant organ systems that give them Super Toughness, so any bullet that does end up in their skin needs to do some serious damage to have any noticeable effect—one which merely goes in one side and out the other would at best stagger a Space Marine. They're still inefficient, though, given that standard laser weaponry can overwhelm the same armor's capabilities with sheer volume of fire, and each laser blast is basically free, while each bolt round takes painstaking labor and expensive materials to create.
    • Everything in the 40K universe operates by the principles of Rule of Cool and More Dakka (being the Trope Namer for the latter); with realism chucked right out the window at every opportunity.
    • Sadly not even players can escape this. In 9th Edition, you'll see very few players using Lord of War units (what the big robots and super-tanks are) not only because they have a prohibitively high points cost to field but you also need to put it in a special Super-Heavy Detachment which costs three Command Points, and CP is a very limited and valuable resourcenote . And what you get for the cost? A big target that interacts poorly with terrain rules and any opposing player with half a brain will unload on with everything he has the moment his turn comes around. And not only that, they are often exempt from army-wide special rules too. Leave the big stuff at home.
    • The Tau are actually fairly practical (at least in comparison to the other races), the only real problem being their Crippling Overspecialization in ranged combat.
  • In the D20 RPG based on The Wheel of Time series: Shocklances, supposedly the front line infantry weapon from the War of the Shadow, are statted out with huge damage, but only eight shots. They're not reloadable, either. Each shot comes back on its own, after an hour.
  • The Witcher: Game of Imagination has this relation with most of the combat maneuvers for ranged weapons and some of the signs used by witchers. But nothing can compare with One-Hit Kill moves - they use more Combat Points than some characters can even have. For a single attack. That can be dodged. Or simply miss.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • The early years were laden with "boss monsters" that could only be brought out with massive effort, but brought nothing to the table but high ATK: Valkyrion the Magna Warrior, Gate Guardian, Perfectly Ultimate Great Moth, Dragon Master Knight, and so on. Even at that point in the game, there existed equip spells like United We Stand, Mage Power, or Axe of Despair that could buff up a weak monster to similar scales for nowhere near as much work, making such big bosses unusable even in decks looking for big numbers. Later boss monsters tended to have actual abilities along with high stats, making them Awesome, but Impractical (or, occasionally, just flat-out good).
    • Chief among these worthless boss monsters were the metallized monsters, Red-Eyes Black Metal Dragon and Metalzoa. They required you to tribute a monster equipped with Metalmorph, but lost the most important effect of Metalmorph (namely, it providing a massive stat increase while attacking) in exchange for gaining 400 ATK instead of 300 when not attacking. Their only useful feature is having cool artwork.

  • Gold Plastic Syndrome is a fairly infamous term, which refers to certain Transformers toys. Essentially, certain batches of metallic plastic from 1989-1998, usually used in big, impressive toys, tended to degrade over time and fracture with ease. The end result? Pretty-looking, shiny toys that would shatter while being taken out of the box.
  • Similar to the above, BIONICLE had a similar fiasco with lime-green socket joints, which due to a cooling error with the batch caused them to break far easier than any other pieces, usually you couldn't even move them after assembling the models before they would just shatter in your hands. This managed to sour consumer relationship with so many sets afterwards (not to mention it seemed like the problem migrated to just about every type of joints regardless of color) that Lego had to completely drop the old ball-socket system for a new design. It didn't help that some of the most popular sets during this time were lime-green (especially the limited edition Lesovikk).
  • The Real Grade line of the Gunpla fame is a 1/144 scale plastic model kit that's essentially a Master Grade in a smaller scale and marketed as "what if the mobile suit were made in real world?". The figure introduces the Advanced MS Joint technology, which is a pre-assembled mechanical parts that make up the inner frame, where the majority of the building process is to assemble the plates into the inner frame. Because of the thinner plastic mold used for the pre-assembled inner frame on top of the PP plastic worn out overtime faster than a golden plastic, it makes the finished product a mechanically complex mobile suit that's very well articulated that has the stability of a hand grenade. The most infamous offender of this were the RX-78-2 Gundam and Zaku II, Gundam Zephyrantes and Full Burnern Variant, Zeta Gundam, and Sinanju. Newer Real Grades slowly foregoes the Advanced MS Joint system and slowly replaces it with the more traditionally assembled inner frame, which results in greater stability and more rigid structures overall. The Advanced MS Joints are now only reserved to parts that are difficult to mold in smaller scale.

    Video Games 
  • For PC Gaming, cranking up the graphics quality to the maximum more often than not barely improves the visual quality over the next lower quality setting while somehow managing to cause a noticeable drop in performance. You could probably make out differences in side-by-side comparisons, but they're so subtle you're likely not going to notice it in the heat of the action.
  • Advance Wars:
    • Naval combat on the whole. While naval combat is one of the coolest aspects to the game, it's largely seen as inconsequential because of the prohibitively high cost of naval units, that aerial units tend to be cheaper and outperform naval units, that all the properties to utilize and capture are on land, and that generally the only good reason to invest in a navy is to counter an opponent's navy (since both players know this, imagine how often that happens in competitive PVP) or if the map is tailor-made to rely on a navy (a rarity).
    • The best way to describe Neotanks is "Slightly more powerful Medium Tanks that cost way more" and thus there's only a few scenarios where they're actually useful (like with Colin, to compensate for his lower attack power). Pretty much any other time in the game if you're gonna drop 22000 bucks, you're better off going for a Medium Tank alongside an Artillery, an APC, or a couple of Mechs as you'll get far more mileage out of that than out of one Medium Tank with a slight power boost. Even if you absolutely need the extra fuel and ammo carried by the Neotank, you're probably better off just supporting a Medium Tank with an APC.
    • Stealth Fighters can turn invisible and can fairly effectively attack almost any unit (making it only one of two units that can do this), but with only 60 units of fuel even their 5 daily units of fuel to stay aloft makes them not capable of doing much without constant support from APCs, airports, or Black Boats, and when invisible they burn 8 units of fuel just to stay aloft. Damn they look and sound cool though, and they can be put to great use by Jess and her ability to replenish fuel and ammo with her CO Power.
    • Megatanks are brutally powerful and can one-shot pretty much any land unit, but they are expensive, only carry three rounds of ammo, only have a vision of 1, can only move 4 spaces, and only carry 50 units of fuel, meaning it takes them a million years to get anywhere and they require constant support from an APC (and a Recon or Flare unit in Fog of War) to be of any use. Trying to go on the offensive with these is practically a lost cause because your opponent will see you coming and pick it off with indirect units (especially with the introduction of the Anti-Tank unit in Days of Ruin that cuts these things apart like paper mache). Their main draw of overwhelming power only really works on land units, and Megatanks suffer a quick drop in power once they come under fire, and the repair costs are ruinous. Pretty much the only real use of these things is to park them on your HQ to prevent loss by capture or to block chokepoints, and even then you'd be able to mount a far better defense with the multiple smaller land units you could build for the cost of one of these behemoths. In competitive PVP, the Megatank has become something of a meme where the only time you see them used is in a way that's akin to saying "check" in Chess: build one, or a Piperunner or Carrier, to signal to your opponent that you have them so thoroughly outmatched at this point that they have no way of winning and should Yield.
  • In Arc Style: Baseball!! 3D, it feels so good to groove the strike zone with a fastball, but half the time it's hit for a home run on Hard difficulty (and powerful teams in general, like the Crystals). The same goes for slowballs, which can mess up the batters' swing timing but otherwise are easily hit.
  • Sabata's dark gun from Boktai looks badass and is the only weapon in the game to offer both S-level attack and stun while being a projectile. Unfortunately since it's dark-based it can't even stun, let alone harm, any dark based enemies, which make up over half of the menagerie out to get you. True it trashes all other kinds of enemies, but that's nothing using their elemental weakness against can't accomplish, and you will have all the other lenses since you need to find them all to beat the game, they carry over, and it takes four playthroughs to earn the dark parts. Finally you can't interchange gun parts or use spare batteries.
  • Castlevania games preceding Symphony of the Night often have a pocketwatch as one of the subweapons. It stops most non-boss enemies from moving for a few seconds, but almost any time it appears, it eats 5 hearts instead of 1 like the other subweapons do, except in Haunted Castle where it only consumes 2 hearts.
  • In Civilization 4: Beyond the Sword, the entry in the in-game encyclopedia for the assault mecha in the Next War official mod lampshades this, stating that the widespread use of the inefficient, unstable war machine instead of giant tanks is a result of its cool appearance, since awed politicians would be more likely to grant a budget to impressive-looking projects.
  • The Crusader games feature dozens of neat little death effects caused by exotic weapons that use molecular inhibition fields, chemical catalysts, microwaves, and so on... but when you get down to it, you're better off with the automatic shotgun and the rocket launcher, if only because there's a lot more ammo. Also, unlike the exotic weapons, standard ballistic weapons such as the automatic shotgun or submachine gun did not completely destroy an enemy's body, meaning you could search them for items and ammo afterwards.
  • Dark Cloud 2 gives us Monica's Monster Morph ability, which sounds fun at first... and then you actually use it and realize just how horrible it is. First of all, you don't get to become any of the big boss monsters or even the giant enemies - just basic, low-tier cannon fodder mobs with extremely limited move sets and pitiful stats. You can level them up by gathering ABS crystals and even attain new forms at certain thresholds, but the stat gains are so negligible that it still takes dozens of hits to put down even the weakest of enemies. Oh, and did I mention morphing runs off a very finite timer too? Needless to say, you'll probably use Monster Morph exactly once (when it's required to advance the plot) and then never touch it again. The worst part is unlike Steve, which is meant to be Max's equivalent to Monster Morph, it can't be used as an extra life- If Monica goes down while in a monster form, she's treated as KO'd, whereas if Steve goes down, Max can continue just fine. This isn't helped by the fact that Steve is actually useful from the get-go unlike Monster Morph which requires unnecessary amounts of grinding to even be slightly viable.
  • Dirge of Cerberus has the last level as Chaos. Chaos himself is very useful. All of his abilities are upgraded, and he uses the only weapon stronger than the Ultima Weapon. The thing is, the enemies are designed specifically to handle that weapon. That means, while your new melee combo is fancy, about twice as many hits in half as much time, and ends with a neat little mini-explosion, you're never going to hit anything with it. Even if you get close enough to try, you'll be pumped full of lasers, and the combo will be interrupted.
  • Throughout the Disgaea series, you can throw units, but Prinnies in particular explode when thrown. While they can be used as one-time weapons to clear out enemies, and it's funny as all hell to do so, you won't get most of the rewards you'd otherwise get if you use more conventional methods to defeat enemies; no unit EXP, no skill EXP, no weapon Mastery, no Bonus Gauge, etc. Also, since this kills the Prinny, and dead units count against the deployment limit, every Prinny tossed means one less unit on the field that can actually be doing something of value.
    • Later games made Prinny tossing more viable with supporting Evilities such as not using up your deployment limit when a Prinny explodes, but many bosses also gained Contractual Boss Immunity to non-attack damage.
  • Hymir's Finger in Drakengard is a literal BFS in a game which has done a good job of keeping the weapons relatively realistic, or as far as one can in a medieval-fantasy world. It is long enough to qualify as a jousting lance, and it does a lot of damage, enough to mistake it for the Infinity +1 Sword. Cool, but it takes forever to swing. If you time your attacks right, you can wipe out whole squads of enemies, but the sword requires too much work to use properly. And the actual Infinity +1 Sword is so much better.
  • Throughout The Elder Scrolls series, the Daedric artifacts tend to be among the Infinity +1 Equipment, most often earned by performing quests given by the Daedric Princes themselves. Those artifacts associated with Sheogorath, however, tend to fall into this trope. Most tend to be Joke Items, only good for having a bit of fun. For example, Wabbajack is a Magic Staff that randomly turns things into other things. It might turn a bandit into a sheep, or a wheel of cheese, or a Daedroth.
    • The ability to transform into a werewolf or a vampire lord in Skyrim are both touted as incredibly powerful and deadly, with deadly claw attacks or natural spells, as well as greater strength. But both have the drawbacks of completely locking out all regular equipment, as well as spellcasting (other than the lord's natural spells) and shouts. You can't wear armor, can't have enchantments, can't use weapons, can't drink potions or eat food, can't buff or heal. A competently equipped regular character will outstrip either so much, it's not even funny.
  • Cool but inefficient describes all the Big Guns in Fallout 3. Though they all have a higher damage rating, they either have a high spread or low rate of fire.
    • The Rock-It Launcher is the coolest of the bunch, and relatively efficient in that it can load any random junk and deal a hefty punch with it. It also suffers in that before a player can build one, they must first buy rather expensive plans. By the time most players have enough caps to make the purchase they have normally killed, looted and leveled enough that they now own more conventional weapons then they know what to do with.
    • The Gatling laser is like a laser minigun and is nearly the highest damage weapon in the game. But it is incredibly inefficient due to rarity of ammo (you can buy ammo for it eventually which costs a lot), near inability to land critical hits (a one-shot critical on a target's head will usually kill it, even from a small weapon; and big guns have a painfully low critical hit chance), and the gun breaks down fairly quickly from extended use: Each shot reduces a weapon's condition which lowers its damage per shot. The Gatling laser has a blindingly fast rate of fire which also makes it deteriorate blindingly fast.
    • The Alien Blaster is a unique weapon you can find that has an extremely high base damage and a 100% chance to land a critical hit with every shot. However it has an extremely limited ammo supply that cannot be replenished. Also, every shot will make it deteriorate by a sizable chunk until it becomes useless and the gun can only be repaired by NPCs which is expensive and very few NPCs can repair it up to 100% of its condition. It returns in New Vegas when you choose "Wild Wasteland" as a trait. As such, you only get the blaster and whatever ammo you can scrounge up off the captain of the spaceship. Even when you can repair it with the perk "Jury Rigging", the lack of ammo severely limits its use. It's better to get the YCS/186 Gauss rifle due to being easier to repair and having ammo you can buy.
    • The Experimental MIRV is a missile launcher that fires 8 mini-nukes at once. In addition, you could get caught in the blast. And the chances of actually needing to fire 8 mini-nukes in one shot are pretty low, if at all. The strongest in-game enemies can take around 2-3 mini nukes before going down, some of them like the Feral Ghoul Reaver can appear inside buildings or quickly close the gap between the player and them.
      • The standard variant, The Fat Man, is also this. Sure you can kill tough muties in a couple of hits, but the mini nukes are all hidden away across the entirety of the Capital Wasteland with only 70 in the main game and an extra 28 from all the DLC. The second problem is how it fires its payload; it lobs them. Like a mortar cannon, it's difficult to aim over long distances and can't be fired indoors without blowing yourself up in the process. It's ultimately cheaper, if more difficultnote , to kill Behemoth and Overlord Super Mutants, Feral Ghoul Reavers, and Albino Radscorpions with conventional firearms.
    • The standard variant of the Experimental MIRV, the Fat Man, returns in New Vegas and it's still very impractical to use in the base game with a meager amount of mini nukes (14, or 12 with "Wild Wasteland"). The Fat Man becomes this trope, however with Gun Runners Arsenal (and by extension Lonesome Roadnote ) installed, as you can buy mini nukes along with it's 4 other variants such as Low Yieldnote , Big Kidnote , Tiny Totsnote , and Timednote  though the new nukes require you to buy the GRA version of the gun. While you can eventually get the cash to buy them, vendors barely have any in stock and very few enemies require that amount of fire power to take down, and the ones that do are 2 of the 5 Legendary creatures note  and the X-42 giant robo-scorpion. They all live in tight caves (reducing launch distance) and can tank a shot from it, especially the Legendary Bloatfly.
  • Fallout 4 follows the proud traditions of its predecessors:
    • Most of the heavy weapons featured above in the Fallout 3 section return and with many of the same disadvantages. New ones however are:
      • The Cryolator. Its a cold version of the flamethrower (which tells you everything you need). However it uses fairly rare ammo and its ability to freeze enemies solid is unreliable at best. Can be upgraded to fire solid slugs of ice instead but these travel fairly slowly, making its almost impossible to hit far off or quick enemies.
      • The Broadsider is a man portable circa 1700 navel cannon that shoots cannonballs. Very powerful, but slow to reload, uses ammo that can only be found in shops (apart from a handful you can find a specific locations) and its projectiles have a noticeable arc. Cannons are more volley weapons than direct fire but the fact that combat happens at close range only makes it more apparent that sitting for 210 years hasn't done it any favors.
      • The minigun faces a new problem that makes it this trope: in addition to chewing through ammo like its going out of style, because of the way damage reduction is calculated it will deal half damage to most creatures you meet after about the first 5 hours or so, meaning it will take even more ammo to take things down. Explosive miniguns ease the ammo problem by dishing out more damage but there's a few problems: you have to get lucky and find it, you need a lot of ammo for it, and you need two very difficult to improve perks (Heavy Gunner to improve the bullet damage and Demolition Expert for stronger and bigger explosive blasts) which ultimately means you still have a heavy ammo hog that uses less bullets.
    • Power Armor alternates between this and bordering into a Game-Breaker. Unlike previous games Power Armour functions more like an actual suit of armor your character climbs into and pilots, and while it does turn you into a walking tank with incredibly high strength it also needs repairing, is expensive to upgrade (and become more expensive to repair once you have) and making sneaking much more difficult. It also requires the expensive to buy/hard to find Fusion Cores to run, which eventually run out of juice even with the max level of "Nuclear Physicist" making them last twice as long.
    • The Gamma Gun fires concentrated radiation at its targets and kills them through increasing their rads, rather than dealing any damage to them. Against heavily armored humans this is exactly as lethal as it sounds. Unfortunately humans only make up a about 25% of all the enemies you will fight in the wasteland, and against everything else it either does nothing (in the case of every single animal you meet and Super Mutants) or actually heals them (in the case of ghouls, both sane and feral). Like all guns it also demands Perks to keep it usable (Nuclear Physicist and Gunslinger) which means it gets overshadowed by regular pistols as their ammo works on everything.
  • Final Fantasy IV had the ultimate Black Magic Meteor which inflicts an impressive 9999 damage to all targets and ignores shell and reflect status, but requires a costly 99 MP to use and takes almost three times as long to cast as your high-tier elemental spells like Firaga (Fire 3). There are very few times where you're not better off using faster and far less costly spells in battles, such as Quake for crowds (casts in a tenth of the time) or Flare (Nuke) for a single target (Casts in under half the time), not to mention the only end-game character with access to the spell is Rydia who has an entire arsenal of summons which tend to be more practical. Tellah learns it, but can't even cast it ingame until his death scene, because he can never have enough MP to do so.
  • Final Fantasy XII gives you The Treaty-Blade and The Sword of Kings. These swords have the power to cut Nethicite, but, more importantly, have been bequeathed by the Gods themselves. Naturally, these swords'll be amazing, right? Wrong. They each have 30 attack. To give you an idea, the maximum attack a weapon can have is 150 — the kind of weapon your fighters will have at the time will have between 50 and 70. Admittedly, the swords good for dodging, but other than that, it's there to look pretty.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, you can zoom the camera all the way in on your units so that you control them like you would in a regular, third person, adventure game. This allows full 360 degree freedom within the character's movement range and lets you see their battalions moving along with them. While a neat and visually appealing feature, it offers almost no tactical benefit whatsoever since it significantly reduces your field of vision with the zoomed in camera. A mini map is displayed to help alleviate this but it is still much less useful than sticking to the traditional, zoomed out camera angle of the grid.
  • Grand Theft Auto V
    • The Buzzard Gunship is very much this in single player. It can be cool flying around in a helicopter armed with dual machine guns and homing missiles, but given how twitchy flying is in the game, it's really, really hard to fly and shoot at the same time. Especially the guns, since they aren't mounted on a turret and strafing is not easy to do. Plus, with the two million dollar price tag, there's almost no way to get enough cash to buy it before you beat the final heist, leaving you with little to actually do with it.
    • In multiplayer, military planes have little use beyond griefing other players. Yes they carry an impressive amount of firepower but at the same time they're ludicrously expensive, very fragile, and unusable for any mission taking place in urban areas. Helicopters are more useful in that they can land anywhere, carry same amount of firepower, and have much better protection. Likewise, armored cars and tanks are also more useful for being bulletproof.
  • The Great Ace Attorney has the "Red-Handed Recorders" that Sholmes set up around the Windibank pawn shop. They're surveillance cameras, in the early 20th century! That is to say, long before the tech was good enough for that. So instead they're just automated cameras that take a photo twice an hour, and do nothing the other 58 minutes. And that's before factoring in that taking pictures with early cameras is pretty damn expensive, so their upkeep is rather taxing on Windibank's finances. This being a game, the photos do end up coming in handy, but the massive shortcomings of the system are loudly and repeatedly complained about.
  • Guilty Gear: Dragon Install has never exactly been a competitively viable move. It gives Sol more speed, better frame data, and enhances his special attacks and potentially new moves, and in Xrd he gets an awesome Theme Music Power-Up, which all sounds great, but they have nasty downsides. It deletes your Tension gauge and leaves you stunned when it ends, and it prematurely ends if you get knocked down, so unless you can seal a win before Dragon Install expires, you're put into a losing state and possibly leave you open for a big combo. Ky's Dragon Install in -STRIVE- doesn't expire, but it requires him to be at 30% health or lower to use it, meaning a single good combo will end him by the time he can use it. In every game, most players would rather just use that 50% meter on something more reliable like a Roman Cancel or an Overdrive combo ender. (As a bonus, Sol's replacement to Dragon Install in -STRIVE- is also universally considered one of his worst moves!)
  • House Flipper: The flamethrower tool, added by the Cyberpunk Flipper DLC, instantly destroys garbage in a wide area and can be useful for clearing large quantities of trash quickly. It also needs to be refueled regularly, destroys furniture items as well, and will also obliterate your lawn if used outside.
  • The Krimzon Guard Hellcat cruisers in Jak II: Renegade easily qualify. On first sight, they're a flying tank, what's not to like? ...They're so large and slow they're nearly impossible to miss, they maneuver like a quadriplegic cow, their gun is no deadlier than that on the far nippier Guard speeder bike, and if you steal one, you'll piss off every Guard in the city. Just as an additional bonus, these annoyed Guard will come after you on speeders, crash into the back of your stolen Hellcat, and thoughtlessly explode, taking you down in an antigrav pileup... and if you're going along the ground, expect to have a dozen of these bikes hanging over your head raining fire while you try and fail to steer it around a corner without scratching the paintwork.
  • This was often cited as a weak point of the Kinect: it was certainly cool to be able to control games with nothing but your own hands and body, but with very few exceptions (i.e. dance games), a primitive joystick push or button press would be infinitely more responsive and accurate.
  • In Kingdom Hearts III, Fire and Thunder are Boring, but Practical to such an absurd degree that the other offensive spells fall into this trope:
    • The Water spells give the user invincibility before attacking with a projectile that deals splash damage. However, few players use it because it's extended invincibility isn't often more useful than a Dodge Roll/Slide and it's not much stronger than the same-level Fire or Thunder spell(and its long cast time making it awkward offensively), the former two of those options also costing less MP. There's some rare, specific instances where it can be useful, but in most cases it's not worth it to spend MP doing something you can also do for free, with the press of the Square button, at any time.
    • Blizzard is simply outclassed in whatever it tries to do. As a projectile, it's costlier and weaker than Fire; as area damage, it's slower and weaker than Thunder; and as a Flowmotion mobility tool, it's infinitely outclassed by Airstep, which does nearly the same thing as Blizzard's ice rail, but better in every way that matters and costing no MP.
    • Aero spells create a mini-vortex that sends caught enemies swirling inside, acting somewhat as a nerfed Magnet. The damage they deal is well below-average, though, and any combo potential the spells could have is nearly ruined by the jump pad the spells also create, which not only isn't useful for much by itself, but also interrupts and cancels any combo attacks you try to chain the spell into, making it extremely hard to use for its intended purpose.
  • In Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, a lot of charged attacks. They leave you wide open while charging, and a single hit cancels them. And getting hit usually leads to an enemy proceeding with their own combo that leaves you stunlocked for a couple seconds (or longer, if another enemy is lining up for their turn too). Plus, while the charged attacks for melee weapons can result in a flurry of blows, they're often much weaker than regular hits, making the entire thing a waste of time. Charged attacks also guarantee an elemental proc and usually include a full blown stagger or knockdown. A lot of them look pretty, though.
  • Max Payne 3: The Laser Sight attached to some of the weapons actually makes your aim actively worse. It may be realistic to have the laser jumping around when shooting, but still.
  • A lot of the Charged Attack versions of the Special Weapons in the Mega Man X series fall under this. While certainly flashy and effective while going through stages, against bosses they often do only one more point of damage than an uncharged shot, and even for the ones that take twice as much damage from a charged attack, it's often quicker and more efficient to fire two uncharged shots over wasting time charging up one shot. That said, the ones that don't fall under this trope like Sting Chameleon's charged attack range from Disk One Nukes to outright Game Breakers.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty features the giant battleship Arsenal Gear, which despite being sleek, enormous, nuclear capable and carrying a whole complement of MGs; without full land, sea, and air support, it's little more than "a gigantic coffin", as Solidus says.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Ocelot carries a revolver with detailed, ornate carvings... which, as Snake is quick to point out, offers him absolutely no tactical advantage unless he wants to sell the gun as a collector's item.
    • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain introduces the Metal Gear ST-84, aka Sahelanthropus. Armed with a rail gun and a whip sword, it can switch between two modes, one being a traditional Metal Gear and the other being an upright bipedal humanoid form. It also has a self destruct system that turns its own armour into a nuke in its own right. However, Huey states that he hasn't been able to get it to work yet, especially the upright form, and is hugely surprised to see it moving. Turns out that it actually doesn't work and is, in fact, being controlled by a psychic.
  • Long polearms in Mount & Blade fall under this trope. From horseback, lances are able to one-shot almost anyone with a couched charge, and in an open field, one can cleave down dozens of enemy soldiers with a halberd or bardiche. Of course, once a single infantryman gets in your face, you can't land any good blows because your huge polearm has just become a big clumsy stick. This echoes real life, as most long polearms are fairly worthless in close-quarters melee.
  • See that entry on the Hideous Blow invocation under Tabletop Games? When Neverwinter Nights 2 added the Warlock to its class choices, they included HB... and made it worse. It now takes two turns to make a single attack with it; one to activate the ability, and the other to make the attack. Apparently nobody asked themselves why you couldn't just use your Eldritch Blast twice. (Or attack twice with your weapon, in case you've mistakenly built your Warlock to be a competent Fighter rather than a Warlock.)
  • Noblemen: 1896 from Foursaken Media, has the Paladin. A warrior-priest in steampunk Power Armor and deals double damage to the undead is a cool idea. Unfortunately in practice, it leaves a lot to be desired. First, all melee units are hindered by how easy it is for a non-vehicle unit to escape a brawl by using the "flee" command (fleeing units can't be targeted for melee). Paladins have armor that rivals a Landship's but it's heavy so a Paladin is somewhat slow when running and plods when walking. Additionally the A.I. prefers to have Paladins walk unless you manually command them to move somewhere specific. But worse is how a Paladin does in an actual fight. Their main weapon is a warhammer which does good damage but has no armor-piercing capacity so many armored units can withstand their attacks. Their ranged sidearm is a measly Lemat revolver and the A.I. will sometimes have the Paladin stand and shoot instead of charging. Paladins, unlike many other units, don't have any equipment upgrades. Worst of all, Paladins are one of the rare non-vehicle units that never have additional members in a unit. They'll always fight solo, so it's fairly easy to overwhelm a Paladin with numbers. Officers who are Paladins are much better with greatly improved stats and also often having a different main melee weapon than the warhammer. However these heroes are still stuck using revolvers. So in the end, almost any other melee specialist unit works better.
  • PAYDAY 2 demonstrates why red dots or crosshairs on scopes or sights are preferred to a novelty scope using a drawing of a hand Flipping the Bird, because the funny options for your reticule make it harder to see and aim.
  • Pokémon:
    • Most of the time, if a move is locked to a specific family, it'll be amazingly powerful, or at least unique. Other times... not so much. Barrage, the trademark of the Exeggcute line, is a Normal-type move on a Grass/Psychic (or Grass/Dragon)-type, with subpar accuracy and randomized damage that is mediocre even when all five attacks hit and terrible otherwise. Kinesis, the signature move of the Abra line, lowers the opponent's accuracy by one stage, which would put it on the same level as moves like the Sand Attack that a generic level 5 Pidgey can throw around if the move didn't also have poor accuracy itself. It's not even the best accuracy-dropping move that the line can learn.
    • Hyper Beam in most games after the first generation falls right into this, especially after the physical/special split in the fourth generation. It may look awesome, sound awesome, boast 150 base power, and be learnable by a lot of Pokémon... but it also forces you to spend one turn after using it on recharging, meaning it's usually worse than two regular attacks would be. Aside from that assigned downside, it's a Normal-type move, meaning it doesn't provide any real extra coverage, and it's a Special move, when most Pokémon that get Normal STAB are physically-oriented—so most of the time, it actually does less damage than a standard move would. Even in the hands of Pokémon that do seem like they can use it, like Porygon-Z, it's Awesome, but Impractical at best due to the aforementioned downside. (That said, this was completely averted in the first generation, where Normal-type was much better, it was physical, and it didn't need to recharge if it killed something, making it a great move for one-shotting or finishing off opponents.)
    • Pikachu in Pokémon Sun and Moon gains a unique Z Move called Catastropika which has a base damage of 210note . However, using it requires Pikachu hold Pikanium Z, preventing it from holding other items, and the move can only be used once per battle. Contrast Light Ball which not only doubles Pikachu's offensive stats for the entire battle, it makes Volt Tackle (the move needed to use Catastropika) stronger than Catastropika is. So while powerful and awesome looking, pretty much no one actually uses Catastropika. And on top of that, while it may have an insane base power, it's coming off of Pikachu's base attack stat of 55.
  • [PROTOTYPE]'s Snap-Kick Launcher. Treats anything smaller than a Leader Hunter as a soccer ball. Now if only a single maxed Musclemass boosted Snap Kick would just send that annoying supersoldier to his death rather than having to go after him to repeat the process. In fact, most unlockable attacks qualify, as the majority of them are designed to do massive damage to a single target, when even basic attacks with the protagonist's Blade Below the Shoulder can cleave through a tank without effort. A large number of endgame attacks exist to cause ridiculous overkill in the name of Rule of Fun.
  • In Saints Row IV, you can get some really awesome vehicles, soup them up, equip them with pop-out Boadicea spikes and so on... but ultimately you will spend vastly more time using your super-speed and super-jump to get around, with vehicles mostly relegated to missions where you lose your superpowers and occasional trawling for collectibles.
  • Sonic Generations: Super Sonic. Costing 100 Skill Points(Of 100) to equip and burning rings at a significantly higher rate than he does in his other appearances, this golden wonder ends up doing more harm than help. His special ability-an auto-pilot flying boost-ends up screwing you over or not being of much use do to how quickly it eats through even the largest stocks of rings and replacing the basic boost in all but a few areas, which absolutely neuters Super Sonic's speed unless you want to use all of your rings in a matter of seconds. Thankfully, game mods have popped up that alter Super Sonic's ring consumption rates allowing his true potential to shine through, but even so, you're better off just setting up a bread and butter skill set if you want to set any good times.
  • The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series has the Gauss Rifle, an incredibly powerful weapon capable of killing nearly anything in one hit. On the downside of things, it has an incredibly low rate of fire, the ammunition is rarely found, and the few you can acquire are in such poor condition you only have a magazine or two worth of shots before it breaks.
    • Clear Sky dumbs it down even further by turning it into a prototype weapon that can only damage one specific enemy. Using it on the horde of fanatical mooks between you and him only gets you killed, very quickly.
    • Call of Pripyat compensates by making the Rifle a genuine one of a kind weapon which you pry from a miniboss's dead hands. But you need to go through a rather lengthy series of sidequests in order to make it usable, and once you can use it, the repair cost alone is worth a couple high quality artifacts, and you only get 10 shots for the cost of another artifact. Even better, the damage is now low enough that certain mutants will usually survive more then a direct hit, and some special mooks in the end-game level can take a round to the chest. When they attack in packs of 6 or more and you can only fire one round every 3 seconds, the Gauss Rifle starts to become a cool looking liability. Therefore, don't try using it as a close-quarters weapon. It does have the best handling of any sniper rifle, which can be surprisingly useful, and it's by far the best choice for the only sniper mission in the game. It's still inferior to the VSS Vintorez and/or Dragunov SVD in most cases though, in terms of reliability and firing rate. The Gauss Rifle isn't terribly inefficient though: the mechanic at the wrecked ship in Zaton can give you six homemade batteries, at the steep price of 2000 rubles each. This legitimately turns it into an Infinity +1 Sword in the game, so the inefficiency argument is made moot. It actually gets more efficient on higher difficulties, due to the way the game handles difficulty settings. On the max difficulty, you can kill just about anything you want with a shot or two. Unfortunately by the time you get it, you'll probably have more weapons than you can reasonably use anyway.
    • Bandits are commonly seen wearing Badass Longcoats instead of actual armour, because (as an in-game PDF message will tell you) they honestly just think they look cool. Bandits also, funnily enough, drop like flies when a gunfight breaks out. Hmmm, wonder why.
  • A number of special abilities in Star Ocean: The Second Story are Cool But Inefficient, but the king of the trope is Ashton: almost all of his abilities have an incredible execution time (one of his first abilities, Leaf Slash, takes five seconds to actually activate) and don't do much more damage than Claude's abilities. It's the primary reason Opera is considered better than Ashton.
  • Stellaris: gene clinics might be appealing because they improve pop growth while also producing some amenities. However their bonus to pop growth is terribly low, and colonies already slow down in growth because of diminishing returns after a certain amount of inhabitants so the clinics bonus (which is a multiplier) becomes even more negligible unless you also produce clone vats. You literally need to wait decades if not centuries of in-game time before gene clinics start to pay off their price in terms of new pops. Meanwhile the two workers they occupy could have been assigned to research centers or industries. And other structures produce way more amenities using less workers.
    • After 3.0 the gene clinics were a bit reworked and now they also provide a slight bonus to habitability, which could be situationally useful before you research technologies that also improve that.
  • Surviving Mars: Stirling Generators as starting prefabs. Yes, they net a lot of energy. Yes, you need energy to run your first buildings and Mars is energy-scarce. But they are totally not cost-effective, and piling them up as prefabs in your starting payload will only utterly drain your funding and limit your space. Many games failed just because inexperienced players fell into what is almost a Schmuck Bait (the game suggests them) and bought these power generators, thinking they would make a great start for the colony. They don't. You can bring the materials required to build them in site and it will be way cheaper. But before you research the tech required to build Stirlings, you can put online your outpost with some solar panels and batteries with good placements in many small electric grids. And it will wonderfully work, without spending all the money needed to bring in Stirlings and their manteinance.
  • Tibia has a tendency to introduce new gimmicky mechanics and then completely forget about them. A notable example, the enchanting system allows you sacrifice a gem to turn a weapon into a Flaming Sword or a weapon of some other element. Sounds awesome until you learn that the enchantment doesn't actually net you any significant increase of DPS, has unnecessary class/level requirements, and only a very small list of weapons can be enchanted. On top of it, the game discourages you from wielding your new flaming spiky sword by making the enchantment wear off after a certain number of hits. After six years of regular patches, the system still hasn't received any attention from the developers, not even expanding the list of enchantable weapons. Players still only enchant their weapons to create cool decorations for their house.
  • The Unreal series has several weapons which are potentially more harmful to you than the enemy (Razorjack/Ripper, Biorifle), and a Gatling gun (Minigun) that depletes your ammo after a few seconds.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Mists of Pandaria introduced the warlock talent Harvest Life, which increased the damage and healing of Drain Life while also turning it into an AoE ability that hit all valid targets near your target. While popular with beginners, most veteran warlock players considered it a subpar ability, only useful for the healing it provided as it did less damage than a normal AoE rotation. But because it was one of the first talents available, many low level warlocks chose it... only to get immediately killed by the ten enemies they just aggroed. If used in most dungeons, especially Scholomance, expect a Total Party Kill and to be kicked from the party.
    • Warlords of Draenor gave feral druids a talent that increased versatility, let them cast non-damaging spells while transformed, and turned their cat form into a Saberon: a humanoid saber-toothed tiger. While it certainly looked amazing and had some use, it was stastically far worse than the other two talents, in particular one that let feral druids cast Moonfire while transformed and which calculated damage based on their attack power.
  • Ritual monsters in early Yu-Gi-Oh! games usually required you to give up three monsters on top of a specific Ritual card, and their stats were barely better than most high-level monsters. Magician of Black Chaos was particularly unlucky in this regard, as its Ritual consistently required one of those monsters to be Dark Magician, who was only 300 points weaker. (In the original card game, these Rituals were Awesome, but Impractical due to being possible to rapidly summon with materials in the hand.)
  • In Zone of the Enders 2, the Vector Cannon was the coolest weapon in the game. Unfortunately, outside of a few isolated instances (destroying the battleship engines, the shield around Aumaan and as a spectacular ending to the final Anubis fight if your aim was good), the weapon was practically useless due to its long recharge time, the requisite that your mech's legs be touching the ground or another stable surface during the charging, and the inordinate amount of subweapon energy consumed by firing (though the latter was negated if you played as Naked Jehuty, which had infinite subweapon energy).

    Web Comics 
  • Invoked in El Goonish Shive. While building a deck for the card tournament at the comic shop, Tedd mentally declares one of the cards to be "not efficient, but pretty damn cool".
  • Cited and made symbolic in Narbonic:
    Mell: Catch me if I'm wrong, but this looks like an energy weapon that loads like a flintlock pistol. This crazy moon crystal drops into the chamber, it goes poom, and a mean little laser shoots out. Thing is, it doesn't work as good as a normal gun. What's awesome is this gun is like you! Like you and Helen and probably Dave someday! It's totally mind-blowingly brilliant, but on a common-sense level it's dumb as a box of rocks!"

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshaded in the Batman Beyond episode "Shriek", where Walter Shreeve, a sound expert, demonstrates his powerful sound weapon to the corporate head, Derek Powers. Shreeve finds he has a tough job selling his technology when Powers notes that for regular tasks like demolition, conventional tools like dynamite are just as effective and cheaper than some exotic new technology.
  • In the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: T.R.I.C.Y.C.L.E." the KND attack the Tommymobile by using the biggest ketchup bottle ever seen. The kids at the moon base drop ketchup on it using a giant hand to slap the bottom of the bottle. It looks awesome, but does absolutely nothing. It's immediately lampshaded by one of the operatives attacking the bike from a plane.
  • Lampshaded in Ed, Edd n Eddy in the episode "Ed, Ed and Away", when at the beginning of the episode the Eds are selling bikes. They manage to catch Kevin's eye with an impressive-looking 3-wheeler, which he takes out for a spin, only for it to quickly fall apart because it's made from hand-me-down kitchenware.
    Edd: He can't do that, Eddy! You said he wouldn't do that! You said build a bike that looks good! That's it! That's all!
    Eddy: Looking good is what it's all about, Double D. You just lie about the other stuff.
  • Discussed in the famous Jonny Quest episode, "The Robot Spy". In that episode, Quest is working on a new weapon called a "Para-Power Raygun", which, he hopes, gives a practical new military option: the ability to paralyse enemy war machines by removing their power from a distance, thus allowing them to be captured intact, or at least neutralize mechanized units efficiently. However, the gun is used to shoot down the robot, and destroys it. Quest is disappointed, considering that, in being that destructive, the gun is merely an exotic artillery piece that's impractical considering the external generator involved.
  • Happens on occasion in Miraculous Ladybug due to the fact that when Hawk Moth turns someone into a villain with the deal that they keep their powers if they steal the heroes' magical-empowering jewelry, some of the powers are actually counterproductive for that main goal.
    • Reflekta's only power is to make people look just like her. Not only does this make Cat Noir's Miraculous vanish when he's hit, but she can't do anything else to him and he's able to continue the fight, hampered only by the awkward clothing.
    • Timebreaker has the same issue, since her tagging Cat Noir to steal temporal energy means she can't grab his Miraculous once he's intangible and vanishing. She has to go back in time for a redo.
    • While powerful, Gigantitan is still just a toddler and impossible to direct to do anything, meaning Hawk Moth can't get him to say his name correctly (calling him "Hawk Moo"), much less defeat the heroes and steal from them. Plus he's so large that it's questionable if he could even remove the earrings and ring he's after.
    • Frightingale can freeze people if they don't dance and speak only in rhyme after hitting them with her whip. So Cat Noir and Ladybug remain unfrozen by rhyming their quips and doing the cha-cha and other dances while fighting her, rendering her powers useless and the whip just a normal weapon.
  • Ready Jet Go!: Zig-zagged with Jet 2. Jet 2 is rusty, always falling apart, and has a limited vocabulary. Jet explicitly states in "Sydney 2" that while Jet 2 looks cool, he doesn't do much useful stuff, and can hardly say anything. However, Jet 2 has been proven to be useful at times, most notably in Back to Bortron 7 where he causes a Convenient Eclipse.
  • In a Robot Chicken sketch with Richie Rich, we get a tour of his house where he stated he now owns a hybrid. The hybrid of it being a Bentley and a monster truck which got 3 feet to a full tank of gas.
  • The Simpsons:
    • One episode has the Simpsons visit a museum exhibit on the history of weapons, where they watch a documentary titled "Nunchucks: Cool but Useless". It depicts an ancient Chinese vase adorned with images of a monk playing with nunchucks, hitting himself, getting laughed at, and hitting the person laughing at him.
    • The Canyonero, a parody of gas-guzzling trucks like the Hummer:
    Can you name the car with four-wheel drive,
    Smells like a steak, and seats thirty-five?
    Canyonero! Canyonero!
    Well it goes real slow with the hammer down.
    It's a country-fried truck endorsed by a clown.
    Canyonero! Canyonero! Hey, hey!
    Twelve yards long, two lanes wide,
    ''Sixty-five tons of American pride!
    Canyonero! Canyonero!
    Top of the line for utility sports,
    Unexplained fires are a matter for the courts!
    Canyonero! Canyonero!
    She blinds everybody with her super high-beams.
    She's a squirrel-squashin', deer-smackin' drivin' machine.
    Canyonero! Canyonero! Canyonero!

    Real Life — Warfare 
Distant past
  • The Persian scythed chariot was an average war chariot with sharp blades mounted on the axles; the crew just had to plow through the crowd and the scythes would cut in half everyone within 1-2 meters. It wasn't very efficient, as casualties could be greatly avoided by letting it pass, and it could only work in open flat country with enough room to maneuver, but damn, there was nothing as awesome as seeing dozens of soldiers sliced by its might!
    • This was demonstrated on the "Persian Immortal vs. Celt Warrior" episode of Deadliest Warrior, where the Celt warfare experts simply said that it's pretty easy to jump over the scythe, which is exactly what the Celt warrior does in the final simulation before using a sling to take out the chariot driver. The Persian still wins, though.
    • The scythe chariot lasted through no more than one engagement with Alexander the Great. He invented the Mousehole, a simple modification to the formation of his heavy infantry that allowed them to easily trap one when it was driven at them, then kill the driver. Combine that with the fact that heavy infantry was already pretty resistant to the damn thing and Alexander's armies included enough archers to kill horses and crew well before the impact...
    • It was inefficient off the battlefield, as well. Besides the driver, it needed at least one person to maintain the chariot and someone to look after the horses, making it far more expensive to build and operate.
    • The ultimate humiliation for the scyted chariot (and the war chariot in general) came when it was deployed against the Romans, with Roman generals apparently getting off on inventing worse and worse humiliations every time they faced them. The first time (Magnesia) they limited themselves on hitting the charioteers and the horses with thousands of arrows and javelins, but at Chaeronea Sulla dealt with them by having his soldiers charge at them, stop and redeploy in a shield wall right before impact (the Roman soldiers reached the chariots when they were still slow and accelerating, and thus the result was that the chariots were stopped dead by the shield wall and the Romans asked for more to play), and at Orchomenus he had his soldiers move away and let the horses driving the chariots impale themselves on the posts behind them (that was the plan B. Plan A was to dig a ditch and force the chariots in a swamp, but the enemy general realized what was happening and attacked right as the Romans started digging). All of this happened when the Romans were for some reason without caltrops to throw in their path (they had invented them due the Celts of Northern Italy using a different model of chariot, and were so efficient that by Caesar's time the only Celts who still used it were the more isolated Bretons, who apparently had not yet gotten the memo).
  • One can add war elephants to this, once the Romans worked out how to stampede them into the user's own armies. Hannibal was the only one, after the first two encounters, to successfully use elephants against the Romans, with the first success happening because the Romans were completely caught by surprise at seeing a squadron of elephants coming down from the Alps (and indeed, the elephants would die of cold soon after) and the second because the elephants getting slaughtered was actually part of his plan.
  • One trick that Chinese archers used was to tie small fireworks to their arrows. This would increase the range and speed of the arrow, but make it unbelievably inaccurate. On the other hand, it added to how terrifying it was, which fit exactly with the way the Chinese used gunpowder in combat: as a means of scaring enemy horses and breaking cavalry charges.
  • The firearms in general were this for a long time. It took over a century after their development before they were considered battleworthy, and another century-plus after that before they fully replaced the bow and arrow. The cannon earned its keep much quicker.
  • The Nock gun, developed by the British in the late 1700's and used through to The Napoleonic Wars, is without a shadow of a doubt the coolest blackpowder gun ever devised. It has seven barrels which fire simultaneously due to exhaust vents connecting the central barrel to the surrounding six. The Royal Navy ordered five hundred and they soon developed a bad reputation among sailors for a number of reasons: it was very slow to reload all seven barrels, especially if the gun if question was one of the rifled early models, and it was very difficult to aim because of how broad the gun was. But the real drawback was the absolutely ridiculous recoil which was so bad that the British marines using them would often break their own shoulders firing it, and even when the recoil was toned down they would still find it very uncomfortable to use. Nevertheless, the undeniable coolness factor of the Nock gun means it appears in a lot of fiction for such a limited production weapon, including Sharpe, The Alamo (1960) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (usually as a BFG of some sort, such as on Sharpe).

WWI times

  • "Fisher's Follies", a group of light battlecruisers built on the orders of Lord Fisher during World War I. Combining armor that was light even for battlecruisers of their size with few but very heavy guns, they were intended for operations in the Baltic Sea (which in the event proved unfeasible) and the heavy guns caused structural damage to the ships themselves when fired. HMS Glorious, Courageous and Furious (nicknamed "Uproarious", "Outrageous" and "Curious") were eventually all converted to aircraft carriers, serving as such in World War II.
  • During World War I Italy produced the Villar-Perosa submachine gun. Designed for infantry use (for the usual logistical issues of Italy at the time, the infantry version was put in service after the modified version for aircrafts), it had two guns firing 1,500 rounds per minute each. Sadly it only had 25 rounds per gun, and its ergonomics were terrible (seriously, just click on that link, look the picture and try to imagine how you can fire it). In a silent acknowledgement of this, most Villar-Perosas were disassembled in their component guns, fitted with rifle stocks and modified to fire slower, obtaining a more usable weapon.
    • The aircraft version was just as bad. The ergonomics were not a problem anymore, but the combination of 25 rounds per gun and extreme rate of fire meant they could only fire for an incredibly short time. To make it worse, they used the 9mm Glisenti round, basically a weaker 9mm Parabellum round designed for the frail Italian semiautomatics of the time that would bounce on enemy aircraft.
  • The Paris Gun. It was an incredibly advanced piece of technology for its time—it had a range of some eighty miles, still a record for gun-type artillery, and its shells were the first man-made objects to reach the stratosphere—but was also tremendously expensive. The barrel (the longest ever on an operational gun) whipped around each time it was fired, the extreme muzzle velocity caused so much barrel wear that each shell needed to be slightly larger than the one before it, and it was impossible to aim at a specific target. A single lucky shot caused the roof of a church to collapse on the Good Friday congregation beneath, but aside from that it caused very little damage, randomly dropping shells (containing only fifteen pounds of explosives) all over Paris. Some German officers of interwar years (among them Heinz Guderian) wondered why the Germans didn't develop and build some more tanks of their ownnote  instead of this.

WWII times

  • Late in World War II, the Germans tried to develop "super weapons" to turn the tide of the war. A lot of them were expensive, inefficient, and had surprisingly short operational lifetimes.
    • The Vengeance weapons, the V1 cruise missile and the V2 theatre ballistic missile. The V1 was fairly effective for its day, but by the time it was operational the Allies had radar-equipped fighter aircraft and almost complete air superiority, and the majority were shot down long before reaching their targets. The V2 by contrast was impossible to intercept, but wasn't accurate enough to hit anything smaller than a specific city, making it strategically useless. Also, by that time, the Allies were recapturing more and more German-controlled territory, with the result that target cities like London were further and further away from the V2 launch sites. And the only way that the Nazis could improve the V2's range was by reducing the size of the warhead. The Nazis essentially paid several times more for a weapon that did less damage than a conventional formation of bomber planes.
    • The Me-262, the first jet fighter in active duty, which arguably could have affected the course of the war if the Germans had had the fuel to operate them or the time to train the pilots properly, additionaly their engines were horribly maintenance-intensive and they needed a huge runway to take off on. Hitler actually further slowed down the production of these, because he wanted them to be used offensively instead of as interceptors.
    • The Me-163 Komet. A rocket powered fighter which could fly nearly-supersonic in 1944, but since the fuel it used was both explosively unstable and toxic -the same stuff was used to run the aforementioned V2- it ended up killing more of its own pilots than the enemy.
    • The Sanger Silbervogel, an unbuilt orbital bomber which was intended to bomb the US. It was meant to launch by using a large cluster of V2 engines to hurl it down a lateral track fast enough to get it into orbit. If the g-forces from the initial acceleration didn't kill the pilot, he'd simply burn up on reentry, because the designers severely underestimated the effects of atmospheric shock heating on the airframe.
    • An explosive-driven sonic cannon that would use compressed air blasts to shoot down planes was researched — and the only working model had a range of a few dozen meters.
    • The P 1000 Ratte tank. The '1000' was to be the tank's weight, in tons. To compare, the largest tank ever built, the Panzer VIII Maus, another Nazi wonder weapon, weighed in at 188 tons. If you want an idea of how the thing would look, just imagine a Baneblade from Warhammer 40,000, and you wouldn't be far off (actually the P 1000 would've even bigger than the Baneblade, which is described at around 500-700 tons depending on the source). The tank was to have two 280 mm naval guns for main armament, with one 128 mm anti tank gun, two 15 mm autocannons, and eight flak guns. It was also to be powered by maritime diesel engines used in U-Boats. The thing would have been a disaster. As slow as an arthritic turtle, lacking in anti-air defenses — target practice for B-17 bombers. Even if the thing was able to defend itself from such attack, all you'd need to do to stop the tank in its tracks is knock out the enormous convoys of fuel tankers it'd need constantly following it. Albert Speer canceled this and the even larger P 1500 Monster, which would at least have been the largest self propelled artillery in history. Its sheer impracticality has led to never-ending speculation on whether the tank was ever seriously considered at any stage whatsoever, or if it was just a hypothetical that a couple engineers had fun drafting up.
    • Schwerer Gustav and Dora. Two 80-cm rifled artillery guns, each weighing over 1000 tons and firing 7-ton shells. They required twin sets of parallel train tracks to even move around, which sometimes had to be built in front of them. They were designed to be used against the Maginot Line, so they were rendered irrelevant very early in the war, but they each actually saw action in the Soviet front. However, the enormous cost of building, arming and fueling the guns was way out of proportion to the amount of damage they ever did. Still, the guns were arguably useful as some targets in the Siege of Sevastopol were invulnerable to all other types of artillery besides the enormous 800mm guns, such as the "White Cliff" ammunition magazine located 30 meters under the sea, with at least 10 meters of concrete protection. As such they could be said to have played a crucial part in bringing a siege that was tying up valuable units needed elsewhere to a quicker conclusion.
    • Perhaps the ultimate in ridiculous Nazi superweapons is the Sonnengewehr, or "Sun Gun": A 100-meter wide magnifying mirror made of metallic sodium orbiting the Earth that would focus the sun's rays and vaporize entire cities like anthills. A crew of astronauts would operate the whole thing wearing magnetic boots to overcome microgravity, with onboard pumpkin patches providing food and air. It never made it past planning stages.
    • You don't even have to look at their superweapons, but just as their regular tanks. Until Speer took over, every time the engineers came up with a new improvement in a tank design they would change the production line. While in theory this resulted in better tanks, in practice it was a mess because a unit could have tanks that didn't have interchangeable parts, making logistics a nightmare, even though the tanks would supposedly be the same model. Making this even worse was the German tendency to develop machines that were "more efficient, more elegantly designed, and needing five times as many parts". The Allies adopted a more logical approach, allowing proposed changes to accumulate until there was enough to justify a new model, and keeping things as simple as possible.
    • Even their own mass production vehicles suffered this issue. German tanks are infamous for their inter-weaving wheels, Schachtelllaufwerk ("checkerboard running gear"), which was meant as a way to getting more axles onto a smaller tank (and thus not only allow it to carry more weight on a smaller frame, but also ensure the ride was smooth and with less bumps, as well as be essentially extra armor). This is all good for an operational tank, but repairing them were a nightmare since you had to remove the outer wheels first, effectively doing up to three times the work depending on how deep the damage was. Combined with the above (where each tank was unique in design) meant that German repair crews often didn't even have enough parts to fix any one specific tank due to logistics not being able to ship enough of them fast enough to the front lines. The Allies resolved the "bumpy ride" issue by having a practical workaround - a gyroscopically stablized main gun.
    • The Fliegerfaust was to be used as a personal anti-air rocket launcher that launched nine rockets at a time. It never saw combat use since its spread was too great and it never reached the desired range. Sanya likes it though.
    • The FG 42 early model had most possibly the coolest design of any World War II small arm and it had been designed to combine the machine gun and rifle into one unit small enough to be carried by a paratrooper (it was as short as a modern AK-74, but had a 50cm barrel and fired full-power 7.92x57 ammo). Most of its cool features proved useless: it was too light to keep steady when firing full-automatic (half the weight of a BAR), too awkward to aim at distant targets (it was much shorter than a rifle), had too small a magazine for use as a machine gun, needed expensive alloys, and it could not mount a true bayonet, only a metal spike instead of it.
  • Although much has been made of the impractical nature of German weapons of the Second World War, their allies on the other side of the globe, the Japanese Empire, had plenty of these as well. Many of these never made it past the drawing board, or saw limited numbers.
    • The I-400-class submarine aircraft carrier. The I-400 series of submarines were designed for clandestine attacks utilizing three floatplane fighter-bombers, stored in a pressurized hangar built into the submarine's hull. The idea was to create an aircraft carrier that could attack a target and vanish without being detected. However, several problems kept these from being practical attack options. To start with, the I-400's were not that stealthy. The large size of the subs gave them an equally massive radar signature and made them easier to see from the air. They also took longer to dive than other submarines; roughly 54 seconds, which was almost twice the speed of U.S submarines, leaving them vulnerable in an emergency. Their small rudders made them difficult to maneuver and they could be blown off course in strong winds or waves when on the surface, while under the waves they had to be steered slightly starboard to go straight. By the time the war ended, of the eighteen planned I-400's, only three were made, with the last being converted to a tanker, never being used for their intended function. Despite the relative lack of use, they were an impressive feat of engineering and awesomely huge. Reportedly, when the I-400 surrendered to a destroyer of the U.S Navy, the destroyermen were in awe of the size.
    • Although the "cool" aspect is debatable, given that it was designed as a human-operated flying bomb, the MXY7 "Ohka" might still qualify. Powered by rockets, the "Ohka" was loaded with several hundred pounds of explosives and launched at enemy ships from the underside of a "Betty" bomber. Screaming at their targets at over 500 mph in a dive, the "Ohka" was intended to be too fast for Allied ships to target effectively. However, because the rockets were difficult to steer, the effectiveness of Allied anti-aircraft fire, and the potential for the much slower "Betty" bombers to get shot down before the "Ohka" were even launched meant that the overall damage to Allied ships was negligible. Of the about 20 to 40 "Okha" deployed in combat, they only managed to sink or damage seven U.S ships.
    • The Type 97 automatic cannon, a man-portable semi-automatic anti-tank cannon. Of course, "man portable" is probably pushing it, given that with a protective shield included (to protect the two-man crew from the gun, not the enemy, it should be noted) it weighed 68 kilograms (150 lbs). Firing 20mm rounds semi-automatically from a seven-round box magazine, it was capable of an impressive amount of firepower. Of course, all this awesomeness was rendered moot thanks to developments in tank armor. By 1942, it was obsolete. It was also the basis for the Ho-1 and Ho-3 aircraft cannons.
    • The "Banzai Charge". That is, a massed charge of riflemen equipped with bayonets... Against semiautomatic rifles and machine guns, and, after the first few times, against an enemy that had learned to expect them. It was so ineffective that one of the ways general Tadamichi Kuribayashi slowed down the Americans at Iwo Jima was by banning them, thus having his men not getting slaughtered early on and the Americans repeatedly stopping and preparing their machine guns for nothing.
    • The Type 30 bayonet, a sword bayonet designed to give their user a longer range against charging cavalry. For obvious reasons, Japan later put into production the shorter Type 2 bayonet... But still kept both into production until 1945.
    • The Type 96 and Type 99 light machine guns have a bayonet attachment. While bayonets in general maintained some use even during World War II, the weight of the machine guns (9 kilos for the Type 96 and 10.4 kilos for the Type 99. Both empty) made their use as bladed melee weapons next to impossible.
    • The guntō, translating as "military sword", for use in World War II by both commissioned and noncommissioned officers. To make things worse, the scarce number of properly trained swordsmiths and supply problems in the tamahagane steel traditionally used for swords forced the Japanese government to produce the so-called Shōwatō, made by blacksmiths with little to no knowledge of traditional Japanese swordsmithing with all sorts of shortcuts that made the swords less than effective and confiscable under post-war Japanese law.
    • One of the more interesting (and disturbing) Japanese weapons development avenues was research into what we would now consider "microwave" weaponry. Inspired by Nikola Tesla's theoretical "death ray" weapon, the "Ku-go" was a projected "microwave cannon" that utilized magnetron technology. Exact details are scant, but the weapon was apparently tested in laboratory conditions, with some reports suggesting it was used on lab animals. The ultimate goal of an area-denial weapon would have likely been impossible or impractical, given the technology of the era. Only recently have any developments in microwave weapons been considered practical, or even feasible.
  • The Nazis weren't alone in their crazy plans.
    • The Allies once tried to develop a large aircraft carrier made mostly out of frozen mulch. That's right, a gigantic ship made of icy wood pulp. It was designed to be much more resistant to German torpedoes and other hull breaches, since a block of frozen wood pulp is surprisingly resilient.
    • British scientists also played around with a grenade design that shot poisonous needles everywhere instead of standard shrapnel. It was scrapped early on due to the incredibly large sadism-to-usefulness ratio, and the fact that its use probably flies in the face of dozens of tenets of The Laws and Customs of War.
    • The Soviets in turn, featured swimming and airborne tanks (which however, due to weight constrains, proved to be too lightly armed and armored to be useful, though in the context of behind-the-lines partisan warfare/recon for which the tank was intended those factors were not actually that much of a problem, leading to the BMD line of airborne armored vehicles). As well as the MiG-3, an interceptor only effective at 3km altitude or higher (useful against high-altitude strategic bombers, but the Germans never managed to make any).
    • The Americans not only made a swimming version of the M4 Sherman, they actually used it at the Battle of Normandy. Granted, a number of them quickly sank as soon as they lumbered off the landing craft, but imagine you're a German machine-gunner watching a tank drive out of the ocean and aim its 75mm gun right at you and you can understand why they were used, despite the difficulties.
    • And just to prove that Those Wacky Nazis don't have a monopoly on ridiculous tank designs, there's the TOG. Armoured better than some small warships, a main gun that could reliably punch a hole in even the legendary Tiger... and a top speed of about eight miles an hour.

Beyond WWII

  • The MiG-19 fighter was cutting edge for 1954 due to supersonic speed, multiple heavy cannons, long range and good handling, yet it could not go above Mach 1.5, had a tendancy to overheat, and was tremendously hard to maintain or repair due to it's fuselage construction (very closely spaced ribs and small engine bays meant all work had to be done through small hatches above them).
  • The F-104 was inexpensive to buy and could fly at speeds above Mach 2, probably the closest thing to breaching the sound barrier by just strapping a rocket to your back. It also crashed so often it earned such unflattering nicknames as "lawn dart", "flying coffin", "tent peg" and "widow maker". It was especially bad in Germany, where 292 of the 916 they purchased were lost to crashes and mishaps, along with 119 pilots. Amazingly enough, Italy managed to create a working and reliable aircraft from this mess...
  • Stealth air superiority fighters. Invisible to radar... well, depends on distance, radar's type and wavelength. VHF and HF radars can detect them at tactically useful ranges. IRST can detect them as well, and are passive - so if a stealth fighter uses IRST to detect the enemy, it loses any advantage in detection range and if it uses radar, it is detected by enemy radar warners. They are also heavier and typically carry less payload than comparable non-stealth fighters (compare F-22 and F-15, F-35 and F-16, PAK FA and Su-27), as well as very costly and very hard to maintain.
    • Additionally the US has now developed 3 generations of stealth aircraft at a staggering cost to the tax payers, while other countries have only recently developed their 1st generation. Repeated upgrades when they were up against no competition, now that's inefficient.
  • It is an old saw that the M-16, for all its precision, is not remotely as reliable as the less-accurate Russian AK-47 (as aficionados will point out, a properly-maintained M-16 works very well, and a AK-47 — not a knock-off — with good-quality ammunition will shoot quite accurately; however, this remains the common perception). Most of the focus in the discussion was the Vietnam war, where most of the problems with the M-16 were because of several issues: First, it was put into production way too early (as such they were using a prototype,) they said the gun was self-cleaning (which it wasn't) and therefore didn't distribute any cleaning kits, the chrome plating on the barrel bore (which would've helped keep it clean) was eliminated as a cost-saving measure, and the casings were packed with the wrong kind of propellant. All this combined with the harsh conditions soldiers had to drag them through led to a slew of reliability problems.
    • Today, however, it is an excellent weapon for the US military. Indeed, one interesting factor of a great deal of US Military equipment is that it works excellently but requires proper maintenance and logistics backing it up. Ironically, this turns it into an advantage: captured equipment can't be used very long before it will stop functioning effectively. Moreover, developing countries can't duplicate the equipment effectively because they can't maintain or support it properly.
  • The Thunder and Maadi Griff 50 BMG handguns. Yes, handguns.
    • Most real-life examples Hand Cannon are this outside of specialist applications like defence against large predators. A normal human is just as dead if shot a couple of times in their centre of mass with an ordinary 9mm or .45ACP pistol as with a Desert Eagle in .50 Action Express or whatever, and the former do not require the shooter to spend several hours a week at the gym for the upper-body strength to control their substantial recoil and thus reliably hit a man-sized target beyond a couple of paces. Ammunition tends to be cheaper in bulk as well. They do have better armor penetration, but unlike in videogames, the Punch-Packing Pistol doesn't scale all that well next to a proper rifle, which also has better aim, range, rate of fire, capacity, and ease-of-use.
  • The virtues of lasers as a weapon system are heavily debated, with innumerable threads on forums, the old Usenet, etc. filled with heated discussions of their flaws, virtues, and relative expense versus shooting bits of metal at high speed. See Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better. One plausible use for lasers might just be to take advantage of the fact that a laser beam is just coherent, high-intensity light and blind your target(s). As in, quite possibly for good. That'd still be a far cry from having a proper futuristic ray gun. More of a terror weapon, in fact... to the point that the Geneva conventions specifically prohibit the use of lasers in this way.
  • Also consider the Gyrojet. Replacing regular bullets with small rockets meant the projectiles needed to travel something like 60 feet before they actually do any damage. In addition a manufacturing defect made them wildly inaccurate, the four angled jets spin the projectile through the entire flight instead of just in the barrel so early tests were more accurate than rifles but in later runs one of the jets was partially blocked off by accident.
  • The Ingram MAC-11 machine pistol. While it admittedly has tremendous rate of fire (up to 1600 rounds per minute), said ROF can quickly empty its 32 round magazine in an instant. Additionally many variants were sold with a 16 round magazine instead; better for concealment, but even less practical given the blistering rate of fire. Due to its short barrel, light weight, and top-heavy bolt, it is also horribly inaccurate. The all-sheet metal construction also gives it several sharp edges and uncomfortable angles on the grip, and it's not any easier to control in semi-auto fire thanks to the bolt's very aggressive back & forth rocking with every shot.
  • The Pancor Jackhammer automatic shotgun. While a favorite of movies and video games due to its futuristic appearance and amazing visual design, the real Jackhammer was notoriously over-engineered. Reloading the gun required the user to lock the barrel forward, eject the drum magazine, and either put in a new drum or remove the spent shells from the old one and put new ones in like a revolver. Either way made the weapon more time-consuming and problematic to reload than a regular automatic shotgun while also removing the ability to chamber specific shells as needed, one of the big reasons shotguns remain popular. Its unique shape also made it incompatible with the wide variety of attachments available for more mundane shotguns, like flashlights, which made it less versatile. It was also prone to breaking down - Of the three prototypes made, two of them were irreparably damaged in testing.
  • The GBU-43 Massive Ordinance Air Blast, or MOAB. It's a giant bomb with an explosive load equivalent to 11 tons of TNT, more than enough to leave behind a 150 meter crater. Yet aside from looking scary, the bomb has almost no tactical or strategic usage. In asymmetric warfare, the bomb's explosive radius would lead to excess collateral damage and friendly fire. In a conventional war against massive armies, the bomb would still be useless as its large size meant it can only be dropped from a C-130 cargo plane whose slow speed and relatively low altitude makes is a sitting duck for anti-air.
  • Holding a gun Gangsta Style is somewhat notorious for this: it looks pretty rad, but there's a reason it's named after people who mostly pose with their guns rather than firing them, as it's a good way to kill off your accuracy completely.
  • Though chemical weapons like sarin gas are seen as a Godzilla Threshold by most people, they're actually mostly in this category. While the mere idea of a creeping, gaseous threat that poisons on contact seems like an obvious powerhouse in warfare, and their side effects are notoriously horrific, it takes a lot of such chemicals to actually cause fatalities, which means chemical weapons usually yield far fewer deaths than conventional weapons of the same scale. They also make territory hard to control, due to sticking around, and are nullified by the relatively cheap gas masks that nearly any modern soldier will have access to and which governments can manufacture in bulk. Consequently, chemical weapons tend to only see serious use when both sides are relatively weak and disorganized (i.e. the Iran-Iraq War), and even then, they usually don't get good results. It's been surmised by some analysts that the real reason chemical weapons are so widely banned is not their brutality, but that no major nations actually want to use them when an old-fashioned bomb does the job better.

    Real Life — Other 
  • The Spruce Goose, which was the largest heavier-than-air aircraft in the world at the time of production. It was only an 'aircraft' in the technical sense once, and then only for a few hundred yards. Very pretty, though.
    • The reason it flew only a few hundred yards was the guy behind it, Howard Hughes, was trying to prove that it could, in fact, actually fly during Congressional hearings into the money he'd extracted from the US government to build it (and one criticism was that it wasn't able to fly). It wasn't a bad idea, it just turned out to be too late and not needed. During WWII, it was not always clear that it would turn out to be possible to stop U-boat attacks on Allied convoys sufficiently to keep supply shipments to Britain going, so Hughs proposed giant transport aircraft instead. The Spruce Goose was the prototype. As things went, it wasn't ready for testing until after the war ended and a whole bunch of things made U-boats themselves fall into this category before the end of the war anyway.
    • It didn't help that the B-29 (a long-range strategic bomber) could do the job the Spruce Goose was meant to do (i.e. delivering critical things from the US to Europe) faster while using substantially less fuel. It took 24,000hp and 8 engines just for the Spruce Goose to make its one and only flight. A B-29 had about 8,800hp, a 20,000lb payload, and a 3,250mi range. That's about 200mi short of New York to London and 250mi past what the Spruce Goose was intended to do. A fully loaded B-29 needed to stop in Iceland to refuel and could make something like a 5,600 mile long ferry flight.
  • The legendary Buick Grand National / GNX was the revenge for the Audience-Alienating Era of automotive design of The '80s, able to run from zero to 60 in just 4.7 seconds, faster than a Ferrari Testarossa. Which also proved its factory quoted horsepower were bullshit, it's mathematically impossible to run a heavy brick-shaped car so quick with just 276hp, the real figures might have been in the 330-370hp range. However, owners reported it was more like a "one-wheel drive", which would twist and raise rear wheels sideways upon launch, one by one like cartoon cars do.
  • The Beech Duke. Reasonably fast (for a piston twin), pressurized, and damn but it's pretty. It's also horribly unreliable and costs approximately the GNP of a small country to maintain. But you'd look cool in it.
  • Gas-turbine-powered railway vehicles. Sure, a turboshaft engine produces way more power in comparison to a diesel engine of the same size. But they also consume a lot more, and they do not consume notably less at idle in comparison to full throttle. So in order to operate a gas turbine economically, you have to run it at full throttle as much as possible and shut it down whenever you don't need it. However, in railway uses, a gas turbine spends only very little time at actual full throttle, namely while accelerating, and frequently starting it up doesn't do a gas turbine good. Cheaper, lower-quality fuel may reduce operational costs but at the same time harm the turbine more, and it isn't really "cheap" anymore nowadays anyway. Not hard to guess why almost everyone's back to piston diesels today.
  • Steam locomotives. You have to admit that they're pretty cool. But you also have to admit that their thermal efficiency is round about one-digit. And according to this page it takes around 8 hours to 'boot' from cold to ready to go.
  • The Flying Car. Cool? Yes. But there's a very good reason that, despite functional-enough designs going all the way back to the 1910s, there's never been a successful one; the contradictory requirements mean that you invariably get a short-ranged, ungainly, underpowered plane that can function as a cumbersome, fuel-hogging, inefficient car, all at a price tag that probably breaks five digits.

Other technology

  • Companies have always been sending spam everywhere and to everyone to boost their profit, using the infamous spambots to do so. Recently it turned out a bunch of Chinese people could do it cheaper and more efficiently.
  • The large expensive robots required to automate some of the boring drudgery in molecular biology, protein purification etc. A bunch of Chinese people can do it cheaper. Apparently two European people with a multi-pipetter could also do it cheaper, but it's easier to get a million Euros for a machine than for 15 years employment.
  • Tablet computers are essentially giant smartphones straight out of old sci-fi movies, but without the convenience of phone calls and easy messaging. Even their feature of size is being overshadowed by the production of larger smartphones. This could end up a subversion with the growth of tablet-laptop hybrids, or two-in-ones, which are more portable than the average laptop without being a pain in the ass when it comes to extensive typing work.
  • There was once a drill bit which drilled square holes (the cross-section was a Reuleaux triangle, a rounded triangle of constant diameter). The trouble with it was, it needed a template to be affixed to the drilling site and a special floating chuck to spin the bit. For most purposes, drilling a circular hole (or set of holes) and sawing/filing out the rest is a lot more practical.
  • Audiophile equipment tends to be this by design, for a number of reasons depending on component.
    • Class A amplifiers are considered to be the purest form of amplification, since they have the highest linearity and lowest signal distortion, but their always-conducting, single-transistor design puts them at a pitiful 30% efficiency, with the rest of the utilized energy being dispersed as waste heat - something that tends to kill off components not designed to withstand it for extended periods of operation. Classes B and AB were designed as more efficient compromises, with two transistors working in a push-pull configuration; the difference is that Class AB trades a bit of efficiency for a smoother crossover between the transistors, but still attains a noticeably improved 50% to 60% efficiency over the Class A design.
    • Higher-end drivers (that is, the elements of a speaker or headphone that produce sound) tend to be stiffer and less sensitive, thus requiring more energy to move, but also being less prone to distortion. Whether that energy is current or voltage depends on driver type; dynamic and orthodynamic drivers tend to demand current, but electrostatic drivers instead require excessive voltages anywhere from 230V to 600V and beyond, which in turn requires either transformers with powerful conventional amplifiers, or purpose-built electrostatic amplifiers.
    • Combine the above points with the occasional preference for vacuum tubes instead of transistors in amplifier design, and you end up with equipment that guzzles power, runs hot, and invokes Crack is Cheaper on components alone before you factor in any markups... all for the sake of high-fidelity sound. Bonus coolness points if you're using orthodynamic or electrostatic loudspeakers, which have an inherently planar design to their drivers that makes them look like large, sound-emitting panels rather than the big boxes that dynamic drivers reside in.
  • Speaking of, incandescent light bulbs have been an infamous example of this for years. Being only 5% efficient, they waste 95% of their energy as heat rather than lightnote . Thing is though, until we had the technology to make LED bulbs and they became reasonably affordable, incandescent bulbs were your only option unless you wanted to bust out some candles or a lantern.
  • This is what hurt the Game Gear and its bright color screen during its run and helped the Simple, yet Awesome Game Boy with its green monochrome reign supreme in the handheld market. Game Gear looked great, but it took six AA batteries and would drain them in about three hours, while the Game Boy only needed four AA's and would last a whopping thirty hours. Even the Game Boy Pocket which took only two AAA batteries lasted around ten hours to Game Gear's three, meaning unless you liked constantly buying batteries or sitting at home with an AC cable (thus defeating the purpose of a portable console), the Game Gear was just too darned inefficient.


  • Black fatigue-style uniforms; the quintessential staple of Hollywood and video game special forces teams for decades. Unfortunately that's because in fiction their enemies are only as vigilant as the script writer commands them to be. In real life it is quite possibly one of the worst shades you could wear short of something stupid like shocking pink. This is due in large part to the fact that there are very few blacks in either nature or man-made environments meaning that in daylight you stand out just about everywhere and at night colors such as dark blue or green work just as well if not better. Generally speaking the only way to make black genuinely useful is to pair it with something else; for example white and/or grey. In real life, black fatigues do have their uses, such as security, riot control, breaching/raid teams and the like, but note that these are all situations where the wearer wants to be visible, so as to intimidate potential troublemakers out of making trouble in the first place.
  • This is regarded as one of the main reasons why we don't have even a single piece of corroborated evidence as to the existence of extra-terrestrials. Even to a race immeasurably superior to our own technologically; the problems inherent in funding, building, powering, designing, stocking, defending and accelerating an interstellar (let alone an intergalactic) spacecraft are so hilariously large that any attempt to do so would probably be far more trouble than it is actually worth. Even less likely would be aliens willing to devote so much resources to send spaceships all over the galaxy, which is what it would take there to be any particular likelihood of one of their spaceships arriving at our ordinary little planet, orbiting one of the half a trillion stars in the Milky Way alone. One could also levy this exact same reasoning as to why we aren't being constantly bombarded with travelers from the future or from other universes assuming that either of those things are possible/exist obviously.
  • Fine dining is this for the end customer. Sure, going to that fancy schmancy restaurant with three Michelin Stars lets you experience some of the most finely-honed tastes and dishes that look like they could go in an art gallery, but unless you're filthy rich, it's not very efficient to pay hundreds of dollars a meal every time, and it's not like the dishes are jumbo portions or more nutritious than cheaper cuisine either.
  • Plague Doctors. Yup, you read that correctly. Many medical historians agree that the doctors' outfits were often full of bacteria because of lack of cleaning,note  making the belief that Plague Doctors spread disease instead of curing it a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  • Roman numerals. They're among the most iconic and visually appearing ways of writing numbers, which may be why they're often used in sequel titles, and after popes and monarchs' names. Despite that, it's often rather cumbersome to write large numbers with them, especially ones that have a 3 or 8 digit; for example, 3,888 would be written as MMMDCCCLXXXVIII.
  • A lot of fashion tends to fall into this trope:
    • The flamboyant dresses and suits you tend to see in big-name runway shows, looks absolutely gorgeous, but good luck putting it on in a reasonable amount of time without assistance, or wearing it on a trip to the grocery store, let alone around the house.
    • Wedding dresses look wonderful and really make the occasion...but they're very expensive, and unless you remarry or live in one of the very few countries that allow multiple marriages per person, you're only going to wear it one day in your life, ever.
    • Likewise, the magnificent and heavy dresses (and assorted gear) used by the royalty and nobility in the past, that would require several people to be put with the wearer often being literally sewn into one and would be used for balls, formal uses, portraits, etc.
  • The proposals to mine helium-3 in space. Helium-3 is a clean fuel for fusion reactors, and it's more abundant in space (e.g. on the Moon and in the gas giants) than on Earth, so isn't this a good reason to go to space? Well... not quite. Helium-3 is very rare even on the Moon, fusion of it isn't perfectly clean (it still produces neutrons), there are fusion reactions that don't use helium-3 (like deuterium + tritium or deuterium + deuterium, which are much easier to achieve, or proton + boron-11, which is cleaner than the helium-3 reactions), helium-3 can be artificially synthesized on Earth, and we don't yet have any fusion reactors that produce more power than they consume.
  • BattleBots entry Chomp, which as a walker is a marvel of engineering, but it is slow, the power source (compressed air) barely lasts for a 3 minute match, and even a moderate dent in the skirt protecting the legs (such as by any vertical spinner) presses against the leg, rendering it useless.
  • The legendary Pony Express was this, considering it lasted far briefer than fiction would give the impression of. Although it was more than twice as fast as the next best mail service of the day, death was expected for the riders, which were usually young boys (to reduce weight), and the postage was incredibly expensive (it was 250 times more expensive than standard shipping at the service's beginning, although the price dropped significantly near its end... to 50 times more expensive). Despite a government subsidy, it was a massive financial failure; for every dollar made, it lost more than two dollars, and it shut down after only eighteen months. Its death was assured by the invention of the transcontinental telegraph only two days before it declared bankruptcy.


Video Example(s):


Super Mario Sunshine Upwarp

Super Mario Sunshine speedrunner Stelzig uses a flashy upwarp glitch to collect a Shine Sprite in more time than the intended method. (From AverageTreyVG's "The World Record History of Super Mario Sunshine 100% (120 Shines)")

How well does it match the trope?

4.31 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / CoolButInefficient

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